Terrible Traditions - Famadihana
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Terrible Traditions – Famadihana



Famadihana, also known as the turning of the bones, is a unique funerary ritual of the Malagasy people of Madagascar to celebrate family ties. It is a festival celebrated every seven years or so, during which family crypts are opened up, the remains of dead ancestors are brought out to be re-wrapped in a new cloth, after which the people dance with the remains of the corpse around the tomb to live music. As a part of the celebration, animals are sacrificed and the meat is distributed to the guests and members of the family. Others may call it weird or morbid, but for the Malagasy people of Madagascar, Famadihana is a day to show your love and attachment to the family. It is the day, when the extended families get together and celebrate kinship wholeheartedly.



According to Malagasy belief, people are made from the bodies of the ancestors. Hence, they hold their forefathers in high esteem and the elders explain the importance of the dead to their children. They also believe that unless the bodies decompose completely, the spirit of the dead does not leave the body permanently and are able to communicate with the living. So until they are gone forever, they shower their love, affection, and blessings to the descendants through the Famadihana festival. In fact, the custom is based upon a belief that the spirit of the dead finally joins the world of the ancestors only after the body is completely decomposed, which may take many years.

The Famadihana band 02

Today, the practice of Famadihana is on the decline, since it has become a pretty costly affair to make elaborate arrangements for the lavish meals for the guests and new clothes for the living as well as the dead.


The Famadihana band
The Famadihana band

Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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