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The Significance of a Cemetery Headstone

Death has always struck fear in the mind of people and bereavement among loved ones since time immemorial. Some believe it as the love or wrath of God and some as the spell of evil. In every community the deceased body is disposed according to their religious belief, faith, custom, rituals and sometimes influenced by social status.

To seek condolence in the memory of dead, people in different ages and culture have built Pyramids, monuments, mausoleums and large architectural tombs where the dead were buried in stone coffins. A tombstone gets its name from the stone cover of a stone coffin.

In accordance with the Christian context, during 17th and 18th century the church was predominantly powerful. At that time, the clergy or parish of a church, were buried in churchyards and common people buried the dead in the backyard of their houses or in their family farm.

The problems of scavengers, body snatchers, grave robbers, issues relating to public health and hygiene, spread of epidemic and several wars in the 18th and 19th century led to the formation of cemetery, which were mostly located outside the city. Cemetery is an area specifically demarcated for burial purposes.

Cemetery headstones were erected in the cemetery grounds just above the burial place. It was an indication to where the coffin is rested. These headstones bear inscriptions stating the deceased date of birth, place of birth, date of his death and a short biographical history of the person.

People belonging to the upper strata of the society make the cemetery headstones more decorative with various emblems:
  • Angel of Grief symbolizing sorrow
  • Birds symbolizing the soul
  • Dove symbolizing love and purity
  • Crown symbolizing reward and glory
  • Arch depicting joining with partner in heaven
  • Cross, Anchor and Bible showing trial, victory and reward
  • Book symbolizing faith and wisdom
Some even erected statues. Thus the significance of the cemetery headstones can be seen as a mark of love and respect, a chronology of family history, achievements of the members of a clan or family and sometimes depicting nobility and social status as well.

Several kinds of stones are used to erect cemetery headstones.
  • White marble with satin finish looks good and carvings can be etched out well.
  • Sandstone gives a soft and durable effect.
  • Granite is a hard stone and can be carved by hand as well as machine. It is durable and has bright texture.
  • Slate has a soothing finish and calming effect but it is porous and in course of time its texture can fade. Hence, it's not widely preferable.
It is advisable that before buying a cemetery headstone one should look into the rules, regulations and norms practiced in a cemetery. The bereaved should enquire about the size of the headstone that can be raised. The color of the stone is also a vital matter of consideration. The bereaved should also enquire if any extra charges are to be borne.

Cemetery headstones can be bought from the cemetery management authority as well. It can also be bought from local headstone or monument dealers. Nowadays cemetery headstones can also be purchased online. Whatever be the form of purchase, it should be noted that the laying of headstone must be done by a qualified professional.



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