The Concept of Death as personified is quiet ancient and Sanatana Dharma was the first to practice and is still practicing it.
The Cremation of the Dead spread from Sanatana Dharma to Sumeria,and later to Greeks.
Homer mentions thus,
‘Never again will I return from Hades when I have received my meed of fire”. ‘
–Patroklos,in Homer’s Iliad.
Patroklos, Doesn’t it resemble Pitrulok,the abode of Ancestors of Hinduism?
Now to the issue of Creation.
Early Sanatana Dharma cremated in a House made of Clay.
A Hymn on Varuna mentions this.
The dead walked towards Paradise,it was believed in the earliest Vedic period.
It was Yama,the God of Death was the First Man to walk towards Death.
Later He guided the Dead to Swarg/Narak,Heaven/Hell based on one’s deeds.
The Dead were offered to Fire God,Agni.
He conveys what is offered in homa fire used for the ceremonies to devathas ,through the Apri Devathas to Heaven.
‘When the remains of the deceased have been placed on the funeral pile, and the process of cremation has commenced, Agni, the god of fire, is prayed not to scorch or consume the departed, not to tear asunder his skin or his limbs, but, after the flames have done their work, to convey to the fathers the mortal who has been presented to him as an offering. Leaving behind on earth all that is evil and imperfect, and proceeding by the paths which the fathers trod, invested with a lustre like that of the gods, it soars to the realms of eternal light in a car, or on wings, and recovers there its ancient body in a complete and glorified form; meets with the forefathers who are living in festivity with Yama; obtains from him, when recognized by him as one of his own, a delectable abode, and enters upon more perfect life, which is crowned with the fulfilment of all desires, is passed in the presence of the gods, and employed in the fulfilment of their pleasure.”
Agni is worshiped thus in these ceremonies,
‘Make straight the pathways that lead to the gods; be kind to us, and carry the sacrifice for us”.
‘To Yama, mighty king, be gifts and homage paid.
He was the first of men that died, the first to brave
Death’s rapid rushing stream, the first to point the road
To heaven, and welcome others to that bright abode.
Sir M. Monier Williams’ translation. 1
Professor Macdonell gives a new rendering of a Vedic hymn in which Yama is referred to as follows:
Him who along the mighty heights departed,
Him who searched and spied the path for many,
Son of Vivasvat, gatherer of the people,
Yama the king, with sacrifices worship.
Rigveda, x, 14. 1.
Yama judged men as Dharma-rajah, “King of righteousness”; he was Pitripati, “lord of the fathers”; Samavurti, “the impartial judge”; Kritana, “the finisher”; Antaka, “he who ends life”; Samana, “the leveller”,
The path of humans is different,it was called Pitru Yana,while that of Gods was called Deva Yana.
These two terms also refer to seasons and in some contexts refer to Geographical locations, the Pitru Yana,the South ( Lemuria?)and Deva Yana,the North(Arctic).
Reference and citations.
Iliad, xxiii, 75.
39:1 Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, v. 302.
39:2 Rigveda, x. 51 (Arnold’s translation).
39:3 A History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 117.
40:1 From Indian Wisdom.
40:2 A History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 117.
40:3 Early Religious Poetry of Persia, Professor J. H. Moulton, p. 42.
41:1 A History of Sanskrit Literature, Professor Macdonell, p. 68.
41:2 Rigveda, x, 10.