Disposition of Remains

Local regulations require that the deceased must be cremated, buried or embalmed preferably within 48-72 hours of the death.  Only embalmed remains can be held in cold storage until further instructions are received from the next of kin for consignment of the remains. There are mortuaries at most private and government hospitals in India. There are no fees for storing the remains for a reasonable period of time in a government mortuary. However, charges may be applicable for storing remains in private hospitals and funeral undertakers.

Please be aware, however, that the standards applied in relation to storage temperature may vary from hospital to hospital within India. Unlike the US, most rural areas have no refrigerated mortuaries.  Given the extremely hot and humid weather in India, it is therefore important that decisions on storage and repatriation of remains be made quickly, particularly if the remains are to be preserved for repatriation to the US.

Embalming is only required when remains are to be exported, not for local burial.  Embalming facilities are available in two places in New Delhi – All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital.  Embalming procedures can only commence once permission from local authorities has been granted.   However, the Embassy has rarely, if ever, experienced any difficulty or delay caused by the absence of the local authorities when the casket is actually sealed.  The local customs and health department officials are cooperative in such emergencies.  Delays are encountered when deaths occur outside of regular business hours, when the death occurs in a place other than a hospital or when there is no medical attendant present.

In India open air cremation is common. The deceased is placed atop a funeral bier, usually adjacent to moving water, in full view of loved ones. Ashes may be disposed of immediately following cremation. The modern process of cremation occurs in a crematory (or crematorium), consisting of one or more cremator furnaces or cremation retorts for the ashes.  A crematorium may be part of chapel or a funeral home, or a service offered by a cemetery. Modern cremator fuels include natural gas and propane.  These cremators have adjustable control systems that monitor the furnace during cremation.  A cremation furnace is not designed to cremate more than one body at a time.  Cremated remains are returned to the next of kin in a rectangular container, contained within a further cardboard box or in an urn, if the family had already purchased one.  An official certificate of cremation prepared under the authority of the crematorium accompanies the remains.  If the funeral director is authorized by the family to bury or submerge the remains a permit for the local disposition of remains must remain with the cremated remains.  Regulations regarding this may vary with locality.

When the body of the deceased person is to be transported out of the country, the body is first embalmed and prepared for shipment.  The usual procedure is to place the embalmed remains in a zinc coffin within a wooden coffin, which is finally placed in a suitable packing case.  The cost varies with the quality of material used.  Export quality caskets and shipping containers, which meet the requirements, are available for shipment out of the country.

Remains may be exported when fully embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed container.

Human remains:  To export remains, the following documents are required:

  • A death certificate or Post-mortem report (which does not have to show cause of death);
  • Embalming certificate issued by the doctor;
  • Export authorization issued by the Health Officer, Department of Health;
  • Consular Mortuary Certificate issued by the Consular Officer;
  • Affidavit by the undertaker attesting to contents, the embalming and the hermetical sealing of the casket.

Human Ashes:  To export ashes, the following documents are required:

  • Cremation certificate issued by the crematorium;
  • Official death certificate;
  • Consular mortuary certificate issued by the consular officer (required by the airlines).

Last Updated 07 June 2023

The estimated charges shown below are based on U.S. Embassy exchange rate. All costs are approximate and are based on quotations received from the undertaker.

Local burial in cemetery:
Estimated local burial costs include land charges, a masonry grave liner, a coffin prepared to regulation specifications, legal documentation and undertaker fees.        $1000 – $1500

Cremation and disbursal of ashes:
Estimated cremation costs include transportation of remains to the crematorium facilities, land charges, the casket, use of a hearse, cremation/burial fees, funeral director’s fees, the cemetery plot, and the container for ashes.   $1000 – $1500

Cremation and shipment of ashes by air to U.S.
Estimated cost includes casket, use of a hearse, crematorium charges, container of ashes and undertaker fees.  Air shipment charges for cremated ashes are not included; the cost is calculated as per airway bill and destination.  $1500 – $2500

Embalming and shipment of remains by air to the U.S.
Price includes embalming, necessary packing cases (coffin Box, inner zinc box and outer packing case) sealing, labor, legal documentation, local transportation and charges of the undertaker.   $3500 -$4000

In addition to the cost indicated above, the following are the air shipment estimates for 80 kilos from New Delhi to:

East Coast (New York)       $4000
West Coast (Los Angeles)   $5000

NOTE: All prices quoted above are estimated shipping costs only and may be subject to change. In case of deaths outside New Delhi there would be an additional cost of transporting the body from the place of death to Delhi.

Bodies may be exhumed provided the required permits are obtained from the local magistrate. A statement is required to accompany the request for exhumation to indicate if the remains are being exhumed for reburial or cremation.

Autopsies, also known as postmortems or postmortem examinations, may be performed at the request of the authorities in cases of unexplained and suspicious deaths or where a physician did not attend the death. In other circumstances post-mortem examination may be performed only with the consent of the deceased’s family or with permission granted by the person himself before death. Generally, an autopsy is only done when there is some cause of doubt as to the cause of death, although the family of the deceased can always request an autopsy even if the hospital doesn’t think it necessary. The time taken to establish the medical cause of death may take up to one year and sometimes longer.

          U.S. Embassy New Delhi provides services to Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Rajasthan,                     Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and the country of Bhutan.

         The Consulate General in Chennai provides consular services for the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, and the                     Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

         The Consulate General in Hyderabad provides consular service to Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha.

U.S. Consulate General Kolkata provides service to: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim,              Tripura, and West Bengal

        U.S. Consulate General Mumbai provides service to: Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Diu and Daman, and Dadra and Nagar         Haveli


DISCLAIMER:  The U.S. Embassy/Consulates in India assume no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms.  Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance.  Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the funeral directors, morticians and other service providers.