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The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

p. 314


Of Śráddhas, or rites in honour of ancestors, to be performed on occasions of rejoicing. Obsequial ceremonies. Of the Ekoddisht́a or monthly Śráddha, and the Sapińd́ana or annual one. By whom to be performed.

AURVA continued.--"The bathing of a father without disrobing is enjoined when a son is born; and he is to celebrate the ceremony proper for the event, which is the Śráddha offered upon joyous occasions 1. With composed mind, and thinking on nothing else, the Brahman should offer worship to both the gods and progenitors, and should respectfully circumambulate, keeping Brahmans on his left hand, and give them food. Standing with his face to the east, he should present, with the

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parts of the hand sacred to the gods and to Prajápati, balls of food 2, with curds, unbruised grain, and jujubes; and should perform, on every accession of good fortune, the rite by which the class of progenitors termed Nándímukha is propitiated 3. A householder should diligently worship the Pitris so named, at the marriage of a son or daughter, on entering a new dwelling, on giving a name to a child, on performing his tonsure and other purificatory ceremonies, at the binding of the mother's hair during gestation, or on first seeing the face of a son, or the like.

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[paragraph continues] The Śráddha on such occasions, however, has been briefly alluded to. Hear now, oh king, the rules for the performance of obsequial rites.

"Having washed the corpse with holy water, decorated it with garlands, and burnt it without the village, the kinsmen, having bathed with their clothes on, are to stand with their faces to the south, and offer libations to the deceased, addressing him by name, and adding, 'wherever thou mayest be 4.' They then return, along with the cattle coming from pasture, to the village; and upon the appearance of the stars retire to rest, sleeping on mats spread upon the earth. Every day (whilst the mourning lasts) a cake or ball of food 5 is to be placed on the ground, as an offering to the deceased; and rice, without flesh, is to be daily eaten. Brahmans are to be fed for as many days as the mourner pleases, for the soul of the defunct derives satisfaction accordingly as his relatives are content with their entertainment. On the first day, or the third, or seventh, or ninth (after the death of a person), his kinsmen should change their raiment, and bathe out of doors, and offer a libation of water, with (tila) sesamum-seeds. On the fourth day 6 the ashes and bones should be collected: after which the body of one connected with the deceased by offerings of funeral cakes may be touched (by an indifferent person), without thereby incurring impurity; and those who are related only by presentation of water are qualified for any occupation 7.

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[paragraph continues] The former class of relatives may use beds, but they must still refrain from unguents and flowers, and must observe continence, after the ashes and bones have been collected (until the mourning is over). When the deceased is a child, or one who is abroad, or who has been degraded, or a spiritual preceptor, the period of uncleanness is but brief, and the ceremonies with fire and water are discretional. The food of a family in which a kinsman is deceased is not to be partaken of for ten days 8; and during that period, gifts, acceptance, sacrifice, and sacred study are suspended. The term of impurity for a Brahman is ten days; for a Kshatriya, twelve; for a Vaiśya, half a month; and a whole month for a Śúdra 9. On the first day after uncleanness ceases, the nearest relation of the deceased should feed Brahmans at his pleasure, but in uneven numbers, and offer to the deceased a ball of rice upon holy grass placed near the residue of the food that has been eaten. After the guests have been fed, the mourner, according to his caste, is to touch water, a weapon, a goad, or a staff, as he is purified by such contact. He may then resume the duties prescribed for his caste, and follow the avocation ordinarily pursued by its members.

"The Śráddha enjoined for an individual is to be repeated on the day of his death (in each month for a year) 10, but without the prayers and rites performed on the first occasion, and without offerings to the Viśwadevas. A single ball of food is to be offered to the deceased, as the purification of one person, and Brahmans are to be fed. The Brahmans are to be asked by the sacrificer if they are satisfied; and upon their assent, the prayer, 'May this ever satisfy such a one' (the deceased) is to be recited.

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"This is the Śráddha called Ekoddisht́a, which is to be performed monthly to the end of a twelvemonth from the death of a person; at the expiration of which the ceremony called Sapińd́ana is to be observed. The practices of this rite are the same as those of the monthly obsequies, but a lustration is to be made with four vessels of water, perfumes, and sesamum: one of these vessels is considered as dedicated to the deceased, the other three to the progenitors in general; and the contents of the former are to be transferred to the other three, by which the deceased becomes included in the class of ancestors, to whom worship is to be addressed with all the ceremonies of the Śráddha. The persons who are competent to perform the obsequies of relations connected by the offering of the cake are the son, grandson, great grandson, a kinsman of the deceased, the descendants of a brother, or the posterity of one allied by funeral offerings. In absence of all these, the ceremony may be instituted by those related by presentations of water only, or those connected by offerings of cakes or water to maternal ancestors. Should both families in the male line be extinct, the last obsequies may be performed by women, or by the associates of the deceased in religious or social institutions, or by any one who becomes possessed of the property of a deceased kinsman.

"Obsequial rites are of three descriptions, initiative, intermediate, and subsequent 11. The first are those which are observed after the burning of the corpse until the touching of water, weapons, &c. (or until the cessation of uncleanness). The intermediate ceremonies are the Sráddhas called Ekoddisht́a, which are offered every month: and the subsequent rites are those which follow the Sapińd́ikarańa, when the deceased is admitted amongst the ancestors of his race; and the ceremonies are thenceforth general or ancestral. The first set of rites (as essential) are to be performed by the kindred of the father or mother, whether connected by the offering of the cake or of water, by the associates of the deceased, or by the prince who inherits his property.

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[paragraph continues] The first and the last rites are both to be performed by sons and other relations, and by daughter's sons, and their sons; and so are the sacrifices on the day of the person's death. The last class, or ancestral rites, are to be performed annually, with the same ceremonies as are enjoined for the monthly obsequies; and they may be also performed by females. As the ancestral rights are therefore most universal, I will describe to you, oh king, at what seasons, and in what manner, they should be celebrated."


314:1 The offerings of the Hindus to the Pitris partake of the character of those of the Romans to the lares and manes, but bear a more conspicuous part in their ritual. They are said indeed by Manu (III. 203), in words repeated in the Váyu and Matsya Puráńas and Hari Vanśa, to be of more moment than the worship of the gods: These ceremonies are not to be regarded as merely obsequial; for independently of the rites addressed to a recently deceased relative, and in connexion with him to remote ancestors and to the progenitors of all beings, which are of a strictly obsequial or funereal description, offerings to deceased ancestors, and the Pitris in general, form an essential ceremony on a great variety of festive and domestic occasions. The Nirńaya Sindhu, in a passage referred to by Mr. Colebrooke (As. Res. VII.), specifies the following Śráddhas: 1. The Nitya, or perpetual; daily offerings to ancestors in general: 2. The Naimittika, or occasional; as the Ekoddisht́a,or obsequial offerings on account of a kinsman recently deceased: 3. The Kámya, voluntary; performed for the accomplishment of a special design: 4. The Vriddhi; performed on occasions of rejoicing or prosperity: 5. The Sapińd́ana; offerings to all individual and to general ancestors: 6. The Párvańa Śráddha; offerings to the manes on certain lunar days called Parvas, or day of full moon and new moon, and the eighth and fourteenth days of the lunar fortnight: 7. The Gosht́hi; for the advantage of a number of learned persons, or of an assembly of Brahmans, invited for the purpose: 8. The Śuddhi; one performed to purify a person from some defilement; an expiatory Śráddha: 9. The Karmánga; one forming part of the initiatory ceremonies, or Sanskáras, observed at conception, birth, tonsure, &c.: 10. The Daiva; to which the gods are invited: 11. The Yátrá Śráddha; held by a person going a journey: and 12. The Pusht́i Śráddha; one performed to promote health and p. 315 wealth. Of these, the four which are considered the most solemn are the rite performed for a parent, or near relative, lately deceased; that which is performed for kindred collectively; that observed on certain lunar days; and that celebrated on occasions of rejoicing. Nirńaya Sindhu, p. 271.

315:2 Manu directs the balls to be made from the remainder of the clarified butter constituting the previous oblation to the gods. III. 215. Kullúka Bhat́t́a explains, however, the oblation to consist partly of Anna food, or boiled rice. The latter is the article of which the balls chiefly consist. Yájnawalkya directs them to be made of rice and sesamum-seeds. The Váyu P. adds to these two ingredients, honey and butter: but various kinds of fruit, of pulse, and of grain, and water, frankincense, sugar, and milk, are also mixed up in the Pińd́as. Their size also differs; and according to Angiras, as quoted by Hemádri in the Śráddha Mayúkha, they may be of the dimension of the fruit of the jujube, or of the hog-plum, of the fruit of the Bel, or of the wood-apple, or of a fowl's egg. Some authorities direct Pińd́as of a different size for different Śráddhas; prescribing them no larger than the wood-apple at the first or pure funereal ceremony, and as big as a cocoa-nut at the monthly and annual Śráddha. In practice the Pińd́a is usually of such a magnitude that it may be conveniently held by the hand.

315:3 We have here the authority of the text for classing the Nándímukhas amongst the Pitris (see p. 297): the verse is ###, and the same Gańa or class is presently again named: ### The Mantra of the Vriddhi or festival Śráddha is also said, in the Nirńaya Sindhu, to be ###. According to the authorities, however, which are cited in that work, there seems to be some uncertainty about the character of the Nándímukhas; and they are addressed both as Pitris and gods: being in the former case either the ancestors prior to the great grandfather, ancestors collectively, or a certain class of them; and in the latter, being identified with the Viśwadevas, or a class of them called also Úrddhavaktra. The term Nándímukha is also applied to the rite itself, or to the Vriddhi Śráddha, and to one addressed to maternal ancestors. Nirńaya Sindhu, p. 268, &c.

316:4 "An oblation of water must be next presented from the joined palms of the hand, naming the deceased and the family from which he sprang, and saying, 'May this oblation reach thee.'" As. Res. VII. 244. The text has, ###.

316:5 The proper period of mourning is ten days, on each of which offerings of cakes, and libations of water, are to be made to the deceased, augmenting the number of cakes each day, so that on the last day ten cakes are presented. When the period is shorter, the same number of ten cakes must be distributed amongst the several days, or they may be all presented on one day. Nirńaya Sindhu, p. 429.

316:6 It should be, more correctly, on that day on which the mourning ceases, or, as previously mentioned, the first, third, seventh, or ninth; but the authorities vary, and, besides these, the second and fourth days, and certain days of the fortnight or month, are specified. Nirńaya Sindhu, p. 432.

316:7 They are no longer unclean. The Sapińd́as, or those connected by offerings of cakes to common ancestors, extend to seven degrees, ascending or descending. The Samánodakas, or those similarly connected by presentations of water, to fourteen degrees.

317:8 That is, a mere guest or stranger is not to partake of it. The food directed to be given to Brahmans is given in general only to the relatives of the deceased, who are already unclean. In this respect our text and the modern practice seem to differ from the primitive system, as described by Manu, III. 187. The eleventh or twelfth day is the term on which the Śráddha which crowns the whole of the funeral rites is to be performed, and when Brahmans are to be invited. Nirńaya Sindhu, p. 437.

317:9 The number of Pińd́as, however, is for each case the same, or ten. Nirńaya Sindhu, p. 429.

317:10 So Manu, III. 251. It may be doubted if the monthly Śráddha was part p. 318 of the ancient system, although Kullúka Bhat́t́a supposes it to be referred to (v. 548), and supplies the fancied omission of the text.

318:11 Púrva, 'first;' Madhyama, 'middle;' and Uttara, 'last.'

Next: Chapter XIV