Death Rituals


The Ho people pay highest regards to the corps and departed soul. It is believed by the Ho community that the departed soul of their ancestors remains as a guiding force and protects them from all kind of evils. From the date of death the soul is treated as their “bonga” (spirit).

Rituals followed immediately after death

Immediately, after death of a person the village old people sit together and send few people from village as messengers to the relatives of the deceased. The messengers inform the relatives about the sad demise and ask them to remain present during the funeral rites. After that the villagers divide work among them such as some people collect the woods and make coffin box, some people dig the burial hole and some neighbors arrange the food for the aggrieved family. The village women bath the corps and change with the new clothes. They anoint turmeric and oil pest to the corps.  The relative male members cut the nails, hair and shave symbolically. Then all the family members come with thali full of paddy, rice, ramba( a local variety of pulse) and each member offers all these items in the hand of the deceased in a receiving posture and takes away some of it. This process in Ho language is called “Biti Atang Ruwe”. The literary meaning of “Biti Atang Ruwe” is to inherent the wealth from the deceased and at the same time they also strongly believe that s/he will be happy if everything is offered to him/her which s/he required as a living being. The people who come to pay the last visit anoint oil, put new clothes on the corps and offer some penny. As a part of the rituals, the family & relatives bring the corps out-and-in for seven times in their house. Then they shoulder the corps and progress towards the burial ground followed by a procession of mourning crowd. Reaching at the burial ground again they take seven rounds around the hole. After that they put the corps in the wooden box kept inside the hole. They place her/his clothes, ornaments, utensils, rice, including sukul (khaini) & ili (country liquor) inside the burial hole. As last rites all the people put handful of soil in the hole. Then rest of the hole of filled with soil. A bamboo is erected at south of the hole and at the top a torn cloth of white body and red border is put. This colour is considered as religious symbol. The death brings pollution to the family and the people who attended the funeral process. So the villagers and relatives who attend the funeral ceremony are purified when they go back to their home after completion of funeral process.

Rowa Keya ader

The very next day of the mortuary rituals Rowa Keyaader (calling back the divine soul) is conducted. In this process lupu:h (finally pulverized grain), ass is spread in Ading (kitchen) and two person are seated inside the house. The family members of the deceased go the burial ground, take a round and call the divine soul to come back to their home. It is repeated many times till the departed soul came back to the home. The rowa may enter inside kitchen in the form of animals, mammals, birds etc. The people who are seated inside the home keep careful watch on the kitchen and conform it by noticing the footprints of above said creatures. Ading holds special space in the rituals of Ho people. It is believed that soul of ancestors stay there and protects the family members from all kinds’ of evil impacts. In every festivals and rituals ancestors are worshiped in the ading. That is why it is treated as most sacred place of Ho community.

Pollution and Death

In the Ho community there is no notion of permanent pollution or purity. The concept of pollution, Bisi:e in Ho language is different from the pollution concept of other mainstream societies. There are two kind of Bisi:e in Ho community. One is janam bisi:e and another is gon:e bisi:e. Immediately after birth of child the couple and their living room are considered to be polluted for few days which is known as jonom bisi:e. During that whosoever touches the new born baby or enter the room where they stay became polluted. There are some methods for their purification after few days. The other one is immediately after death of a person. It also continues for few days till some purification work is done at home. The people who visit the dead body became polluted, so they are take bath before entering their home after coming back and some purification methods are followed.

Diri Or & Diri Dulsunum  

The death ritual of Ho community does not end with immediate burial of corps & rowa keyader. The burial place is covered with big flat stone. It is to protect the departed soul from rains and other natural calamities. At the same time it is also to demark the place as sacred memorial so that it can’t be used for any other purpose later on. The process of fetching stone from jungle and placing it over the buried corps is called Diri Or.

Date and role of villagers in Diri Or

Diri or can be done any time after the death of person as per the connivance of family members. It is considered as one of the most important rituals of Ho community. When the family is ready for Diri Or they inform the Dakua to call a meeting of villagers and tell them about their plan for Diri or. After mutual consultation final date is fixed for diri or. Death of a person is end of many relationship so all the relatives, including distance one of the family are invited to Diri or. The neighboring villagers are informed about the date and are requested to extend helping hand in Diri Or process. Prior to the date of Diri Or the villagers help the family members collect the leaf and fuel wood which are required in huge amount during Diri Or and Diri Dulsunum. To bring long flatted stone all the villagers along with people from neighboring villages go to the jungle. Even the numbers cross 100 if the stone is bigger one and the family is powerful. Earlier they used to fetch the stone manually but with advancement of technology they are using truck and tractors.

Rituals after bringing stone

Immediately after reaching home the people from each village are given diang, sukul and chakna separately for the painstaking job of fetching stone. After bringing the stone it is washed and purified before placing over buried corps. After that all the male relatives and family members cut/bald their hair, cut nail and shave than take bath. Similarly female members also take bath. After coming back from taking bath family members of deceased are offered new clothes by their relatives. Than grand feast known as kanda is offered to the relatives, villagers and neighboring villagers who helped in fetching the stone from jungle. The relatives who visit the aggrieved family for this process bring rice, diang, cooking items along with them. Thus lots of cooperation is extended to the family of departed soul by the villagers and relatives. It is rarely seen among other communities, it makes Ho community different from others.

Note: The deaths like suicide, accident are considered unnatural in Ho community. They are not buried in the same place as others. It is believed that they don’t find place in ancestral world and remain dissatisfied soul.


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