Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
There are certain rites common to all Hindus though they are not
included in the forty samskaras. The ears of a child must be pierced
ceremonially ( "karna vedhanam"
). Initiating a child into the alphabet
("aksarabhyasa") is another samskara.
Cremation is not included in the forty samskaras but, as already pointed
out, it is also a sacrifice, the last one, antyesti, and performed to
chanting of mantras by the son or a close relative of the deceased.
An ahitagnin’s cremation must be performed with the sacred fires he had
tended, that is by bringing together his grhyagni and tretagni. The four
fires will consume his body and transport his soul to a sacred world. If
person has not worshipped the tretagni and kept only the aupasanagni,
his cremation must be performed with that fire.
There is no cremation, of course, for a sannyasin.
Since cremation is regarded as the last sacrifice, it follows that it is
that belongs to all except the inwardly mature and enlightened who take
to sannyasa. If sannyasa were compulsory for all there would be no
dahana-kriya or cremation mentioned in the sastras.