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Cultural Approaches to Pediatric Palliative Care in Central Massachusetts: Hinduism

This subject guide is a collaborative project with the Children's Medical Center Pediatric Palliative Care Team, the Lamar Soutter Library, and Interpreter Services.



*3rd largest religion in the world

* Large populations in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh 


  • A wide variety of beliefs held together by an attitude of mutual tolerance and belief that all approaches to God are valid.
  • Humankind’s goal is to break free of this imperfect world and reunite with God
  • Reincarnation and karma (law of cause and effect)
  • One must perform his/her duties to God, parents, teachers and society

Daily practices

  • Personal hygiene very important and bathing is required every day, but bathing after meal may be viewed as harmful
  • Hot water may be added to cold, but not the opposite
  • Removal of shoes before entering a room

Dying and death

  • The atmosphere around the dying person must be peaceful
  • The last thoughts or words are of God; the Gita (scripture) is recited to strengthen the person’s mind and provide comfort. Religious chanting before and after death is continually offered by family, friends, and priest.
  • Prefer to die at home, as close to mother earth as possible (usually on the ground)
  • Active euthanasia viewed as destructive
  • No Custom or restriction on prolongation of life
  • Immediately after death priest may pour water into mouth of deceased and family may wash the body
  • Customary for body not to be left alone until cremated
  • Autopsy and organ donation acceptable
  • Cremation is common on day of death
  • Fetus or children under age 2 may be buried; no rituals observed

Facilitating practices

  • Provide supportive environment and privacy for rites
  • Involve family members in plan of care and determine which member will provide personal care
  • Father/husband is primary spokesperson to whom questions should be directed – women may not request special care
  • Special respect for elders


  • Usually vegetarian
  • If not vegetarian, may avoid beef or pork. According to dietary law, right hand is used for eating and left hand for toileting and hygiene
  • May fast on special holy days


  • Prayer for health considered low form of prayer, stoicism is preferable
  • Medications, blood and blood products, donation and receipt of organs:  See the following article--

           Thrane, Susan.  Hindu End of Life:  Death, Dying, Suffering, and Karma.  Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing.  2010;12(6): 337-342.


Holy days and festivals

  • Several which are observed at home; some take place in a temple
  • Must be barefoot during religious worship or any kind of religious celebration
  • Must sit at a lower elevation than where the image of the deity has been placed


Pregnancy and birth

  • Exact time of birth may be important to family
  • Circumcision is uncommon
  • May not want to name the newborn immediately
  • May be against abortion
  • Birth control, artificial insemination and amniocentesis acceptable


Rituals or ceremonies

  • On 10th or 11th day after birth, priest performs naming ceremony
  • Specific ceremonies vary according to local customs
  • Praying, meditating, scripture reading, and recitation is common

Spiritual instruments, structure, and symbols

  • Various sacred writings
  • Various objects for rituals- including sandalwood, incense, candle, symbols or pictures, fresh flowers, prayer beads
  • Not a church-based religion; no hierarchical structure religious practitioner is priest

 Reproduced by permission from George Handzo, BCC at 

Dictionary of Patients' Spiritual & Cultural Values for Health Care Professionals was developed by the Pastoral Care Leadership and Practice Group of HealthCare Chaplaincy, New York, NY. (Revision and update of earlier work by the Rev. Susan Wintz, BCC and the Rev. Earl Cooper, BCC)