After the death of a person, many a time it is seen that the funeral rite is performed merely as a formality or as a part of fulfilling duty towards the family. If post-death rites are performed as prescribed by our Scriptures, then the linga-dēha (subtle-body) of the deceased person, without getting trapped in Bhulok (Earth region) or Martyalok (In the region of the dead), acquires a positive momentum and moves on to higher regions. Consequently, the possibility of the deceased person (Ancestor) tormenting the family members reduces. The possibility of such a linga-dēha being enslaved by negative energies reduces too.
1. Why is a dead body placed in the north-south direction ?
Death signifies cessation of activities of the five vital energies in the body and other sub-vital energies related to the gross body. When an individual loses life, the transmission of various waves within the body almost comes to a standstill and the body gets converted to a state known as ‘kalevar’, meaning the factor which shows inability for spreading of any waves related to the physical body. In this state, the release of subtle putrefying gases in the body is on the rise. When the dead body is placed in the north-south direction, the Yama (Deity Yama) waves that move in that direction are attracted towards the corpse. These Yama waves form a sheath around the corpse, which facilitates quick disintegration of the subtle putrefying gases within. Likewise, a part of the subtle putrefying gases are released into the outer environment through the nostrils and excretory openings of the corpse. This frees the dead body of putrefying gases contaminated with Raja-Tama(see glossary) attributes, simultaneously making it very difficult for the negative energies to take control of the corpse. This is the sole reason for keeping a dead body in the north-south direction.
2. After a person dies, while the dead body is placed in the house, why should the feet be towards the south ?
While the dead body is placed in the house, the feet should be towards the south. The reasons for this are as follows :
The putrefying waves emitting from the dead body are attracted more towards the southern direction. South is the direction of Deity Yama. When the prān (Vital energy) of a person is leaving the body, it is pulled towards the direction of Yama. Once the prān leaves the body, other putrefying gases are released from the body. The velocity of the emitted waves, as well as their natural attraction is greater only in the south direction.
To facilitate the emission of putrefying gases from the dead body, the feet of the deceased are placed in a way that they are towards the direction conducive for it, that is south. The body region below the waist emits desire-oriented waves in a greater proportion. It is a custom to keep the dead body with its feet facing the south direction that is charged with Yama waves for facilitating the emission of such desire-oriented waves. This action makes more and more putrefying waves to be pulled in the downward direction from the body towards the feet with the help of Yama waves. As emission of the gases occurs to a maximum extent due to this action, the dead body becomes maximally empty before it is put on the pyre. The southern direction is maximally conducive to emission of putrefying gases in an outward direction from the body.
Since the abode of Deity Yama is in the south direction, maximum efforts are made to make the process of dissolving the putrefying gases emitting from the dead body into the environment blemishless in His presence. Else, if the direction maintained is not conducive to the excretion of putrefying gases, it is likely that the waves of these gases will remain converged in the house for a longer period. Hence, in order to direct the flow of these gases precisely in the direction of Deity Yama, it is a custom to keep the dead body while it is still in the house, with its feet facing the south.
Due to ignorance about the science in the act of keeping the dead body with its feet facing the south, a wrong practice of keeping the dead body with its feet facing the north while it is in the house is being followed at some places.
However, it should be noted, that once the dead body is taken to the crematorium, it is important that it be placed on the pyre with its feet facing the north.
Reference : Sanatan’s Holy Text, ‘Death and post-death rites’