Why is talking about Death Taboo in Indian Society?

Just the other day, I made an egregious faux pas at a friend’s house by jokingly referring to the violent demise of his spouse. In my defense, we had just finished watching the movie seven whose entire theme is about this psychopath who goes around killing people gruesomely and my comment was made while discussing the movie afterwards. The room fell silent and even I could make out that I had committed a blunder. I sure got a earful from Anupa while going home. I also apologized to my friend the next day if I had said something to hurt his feelings.

Discussing Death is Taboo

Discussing Death is Taboo

This incident got me thinking – why are we so touchy about the subject of death in general? Anupa assures me that the hesitancy is pretty widespread and that I’m the anomaly for not minding. Perhaps it has something to do with both my parents being doctors. We discuss death all the time at home. Just the other day, my mother and I were discussing the best way to commit suicide without pain and expense in case my parents get so old and pain ridden than life is just not worth living anymore. In fact, whenever my mother used to go on a trip somewhere, she would pull us aside before leaving and tell us where the important keys and documents were kept just in case she never came back. I have a file in my Google docs which has all these important details so that we don’t have to go into a flap in case someone in the family dies.

So as a person who’s quite comfortable talking about death, I find the tendency to avoid the topic in Indian society pretty puzzling. I mean sure, no one wants a loved one to die. But talking about it won’t cause it to happen. Keeping quiet about it won’t prevent it either. Unless of course it’s a superstition, in which case I understand. We’re all superstitious about something or the other I guess. But if it’s not superstitious, what is it?

Strangely, I find that it’s Indians who dislike talk of death more than people here in the US for example. It’s strange because Hinduism is arguably a very chill religion when it comes to the final end. Other religions postulate that there’s a final judgement which is pretty scary if you ask me. Hinduism on the other hand simply treats death as shedding your clothes. The soul finds a new body and things go on as usual. Krishna told Arjun not to grieve for loved ones because they’re not really dead.

If anything, it should be the Atheists who hate discussing death because everything literally ends for them. No rebirth, no heaven…nothing. But I’ve met quite a few Atheists who don’t mind discussing their death or the death of others in public. But I don’t know whether it’s a religious thing, or a cultural thing here. Perhaps the problem is philosophical and people feel that since death is a horrible and bad thing, then talking about it is in poor taste.

It’s like the elephant in the room. Every knows it’s there but no one wants to acknowledge it. We all know we’re going to die and everyone we love is going to die and yet we don’t talk about it. This despite that fact that talking about death can be very interesting since it presents concepts such as the soul, mortality, God, the value of life etc. One of the most important distinctions between humans and animals is that we seem to be the only creature who is aware of our own mortality.

Could someone who is more clued into this help me understand this recalcitrance?

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  1. Also there is no word in Bible that imply existence of a HELL.

    Regarding two other words sometimes translated “hell,” A Dictionary of the Bible (1914), edited by William Smith, notes: “Hell . . . is the word generally and unfortunately used by our translators to render the Hebrew Sheol. It would perhaps have been better to retain the Hebrew word Sheol, or else render it always by ‘the grave’ or ‘the pit’. . . . In the N[ew] T[estament], the word Hades, like Sheol, sometimes means merely ‘the grave’ . . . It is in this sense that the creeds say of our Lord ‘He went down into hell,’ meaning the state of the dead in general.” Similarly, theologian Clark Pinnock remarks: “This concept [that the human soul is immortal] has influenced theology for a long, long time but it is not biblical. The Bible does not teach the natural immortality of the soul.” Ezekiel 18:4, 20 and Matthew 10:28 confirm this. Moreover, Jesus himself spoke of his dead friend Lazarus as having “gone to rest,” or sleep. Jesus said that he was “to awaken him from sleep.”

    The people who translated the Bible inserted the word Soul to makes things in accordance with there diluted beliefs. A good example is the King James Bible, It translates the word Sheol as “Pit”, “Grave” etc in most place but in specific places use the word “Hell” to support the church doctrines diluted with other religious beliefs. To avoid this confusion many modern translation leave the word “Sheol” as it is, and allow the reader to interpret.

    The teachings of church is mostly in contradiction to Bible, an excellent example is Trinity which established in 3rd century AD to make Christianity more adaptable to Greek philosophies. The Greeks believed in Trinity, most ancient religions including Hinduism believe in Trinity. Sir Issac Newton (who did more research in Bible than in Physics) described worshiping Jesus’ as Idolatry, Since its like worshiping a creature than the creator.

    What God said to Adam is “You are dust and you will go back to dust”. In simple words God said you are made of particles with his active force being owned by God and you will go back in to dust once the living force cease. Life exist in humans only when they have a body, when the bible use the word “Soul” it means the whole living body itself. A Soul cannot be separated from body. That is a common misconception widespread among most religions.


  2. I can discuss death all the time for that matter but yeah I dont find many people doing so non-chalantely.


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