Since a person’s spirit/soul (atman) is believed to be permanent, and live beyond the body it leaves behind, there are three phases in a Hindu funeral that help the soul move through this journey.
Wake (Visitation) Done within 48 hours
Mukhagni (Cremation) Done within 3 days
Shraadh (Liberation) Done after 13 days
Hindu babies, children, and saints are typically buried instead of cremated because they're believed to be pure and unattached to their bodies.
The term used when referring to the soul continuing its journey after death.
During the Wake period, the unprepared jivatma does not know it is dead. Therefore, it tries its best to re-enter the body it has just left through any of the body's nine orifices.
This is why we immediately tie the dead body's two big toes, place cotton inside the nostrils, ears, and close their eyes and mouth.
Funeral Pyre Procession
That portion of the mind which exits with the jivatma doesn’t have the ability to discriminate between "happy tears" or "sad tears." Anything happening around the corpse -- be it pleasant or unpleasant -- will be multiplied 100x. Therefore, "the best practice" is to think good thoughts, chant, and sing hymns instead of weeping and wailing.
You often hear people chanting "Ram Ram Satya Hai" as the body is carried to the pyre. This phrase is meant to remind us that God is the only truth and immortal, while everything else is meant to be gone.
In addition to the actual death anniversary respective to each individual, Pitru Paksha is a 16–lunar day period in the Hindu calendar when we collectively pay homage to our ancestors (Pitrs), especially through food offerings.
If shraadh is not performed, the soul's desires remain unfulfilled, making them susceptible to be enslaved by negative energies.
Skeptics believe that acts of charity -- on behalf of our beloved -- were devised as a means to get people to donate to those less fortunate.
Why we donate for Shradd
For example, if Mona wants to send a money order to Maya, she pays the required amount to her local post office. Mona represents the living family members.
Mona's local post office in USA accepts the payment slip she provides. The post office represents those people in need of donations.
When Maya visits her local post office in India, that same payment slip is not physically received. However, Maya withdraws the same amount in cash, as sent by Mona. Maya represents the soul of the departed.