The Taj Mahal in Agra, India was built by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor in memory of his favourite wife.

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Are the following Italian mourning traditions TRUE or FALSE?

White Marble floral relief panel

A sample of the white marble floral relief panels carved on the exterior walls near the entrance to the building.

1). Friends gave food to the family of the deceased.
2). Women wore black for a long time.
3). Mourners brought flowers to the church.
4). People spoke about the deceased during the funeral service.
5). Mourners laid a rose on the casket after it was lowered into the grave.

Does your family observe any of these traditions? Regardless of ancestry, I imagine at least one would be applicable. An answer key is at the end of the blog.

Death is a timeless connection we share and a universal theme explored in The Inheritance. The novel is set in Calabria, southern Italy from 1897 to 1913. It is threaded with historical facts and mourning traditions help illustrate family dynamics, belief systems and the different social classes.

A wandering soul

In the novel, Clorinda, a peasant girl from Cetraro, dies tragically. Her family cannot find her body and give her a proper burial. As a result, they believe her soul is doomed to wander the earth and never enter Heaven. Padre Valentine attempts to convince them otherwise prove futile. Superstition battled against religion in Calabrian society; a conflict this situation demonstrates.

Some Italians believed that burying a cherished possession with a loved one comforted them on their journey to Heaven. Did your family have any superstitious beliefs?

Harishchandra Cremation Cha on te Ganges River

Harishchandra Cremation Ghat on the Ganges River in India where the Hindu’s have celebrated their sacred rite of passage for thousands of years.

Do you visit your family’s gravesite?

Caterina is born into an inheritance of loss. Her mother dies at birth and she is raised by her father in a single-parent family. Chapter sixteen opens at the peasant cemetery in Cetraro where graves are marked with wooden crosses. Sixteen-year-old Caterina and a little girl are placing roses on the graves of family and friends who’d died long ago. As they do this, they recite their names out loud and express how everyone still mourns their deaths. Caterina puts the last rose on the grave of the mother she never knew and contemplates her wish to have a child someday.

This scene shows the profound grief felt despite the passing of years and though it occurs in 1913, the emotions revealed are timeless.

Do you place flowers on the grave of someone who died long ago?

Have you ever been in a funeral procession?

In chapter twenty-four, a horse-drawn wagon carries Anna Marino’s casket to her gravesite; a procession led by her husband, Santo and Padre Valentine follows. Their sons, Benito, Caesare and Lorenzo along with Anna’s goddaughter, Francesca walk behind them.
Francesca’s inclusion speaks to the importance of a goddaughter in family dynamics and the inclusion of this mourning tradition helps build authenticity in The Inheritance. Walking processions were typical in the past and served as a precursor to the modern tradition of following the hearse in vehicles.

Do cars in your city stop and let a funeral procession pass as a sign of respect and compassion? They do in
my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

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Answer Key: The statements are true.

How does your family mourn the loss of loved ones? I’d welcome your comments.

I hope you enjoy my photographs related to mourning traditions in India.

I will always treasure this picture of my husband and me.

Taj Mahal and fountain

The garden-tomb was completed in 1643; 12 years after Mumtaz Mahal’s death.

Girls selling diyas

Mourners purchase these diyas at Varanasi and set them on the Ganges River to honour loved ones who have died.

Marianne and her husband infront of the Taj Mahal

I will always treasure this picture of my husband and me.