Ashoucha Nivritti Prakarana

Following are the general regulations applicable to ‘Ashoucha’ to the ‘Chatur Varnaas’ of Brahmana-Kshatriya-Vaishya and Lower Classes or ‘Chatur Ashramas’ of Brahmachari-Grihastha-Vanaprastha- Sanyasins of the Hindu Society. In reference to the demise of Mother-Father-Brothers and close relatives of ‘Sagotra-Sapinda’classification, Brahmanas are required to observe Ashuchi for ten days, Kshatriyas for twelve days,Vaishyas for fifteen  days, and for the lower class one month: Jaate Vipro Dashaahena dwaadashaahena Bhumipah, Vaishyah panchadashaahena Shudro maasena shuthyati/ Special dispensations for Brahmanas are as follows: Ekaahaachudhyate Vipro yogniveda samaanvitah, Tyahaat kevala Vedastu dwi heeno dashaabhi dinouh/ Those extreme Brahmanas who practise daily Agni Homas an d Veda Paatha would be exempt from Ashuchi within a day while only those who observe only Veda Paatha without daily Agni Homa might observe Ashuchi for three days only. Janma karma bhrashtah Sandhyopaasana varjitah, Naamadhaaraka Viprasya dashaaham sutakam bhavet/ (Those Brahmanas simply on account of birth and without performing all the prescribed Six Duties of Brahmanas must however observe ten days of Ashuchi).

Also, besides just born domestic cattle as also house wives with just born child already during the ‘Prasuti’ time might observe ‘Mrityaashoucha’ for ‘dasha raatrena’ instead of ‘dashaaham’or ten nights in place of ten days. Eka pidaastu daayaadah pruthak daara niketanaah, Janmanyapi vipattou cha bhevetteshaancha sutakam/ (Those who need to observe ‘samaana pinda’, ‘daaya bhaagyadaari’ and in reference to wife’s close relatives like her parents and brothers are all in the similar scope of Ashoucha). Ubhayatra dashaahaani kulasyaannam na bhujyate, Daanam pratigruho homah swaadhyaayascha nivrittate/ ( In either of these cases as mentioned above, cooking and eating bhojana by those subjected by Ashuchi is forbidden and also are disallowed to give or accept Daana or charities, let alone perform homa, swaadhyaa and Veda pathana. As regards the general restriction that Asoucha requires forbidding of normal duties of a Brahmana, there is a view that except Sandhya Vandana and perhaps Nityagnihotra in essential forms, which might secure time-bound temporary dispensation, all other activities are forbidden, especially Pancha Yagnas viz. Deva Yagna, Brahma Yagna, Pitru Yagna, Bhuta Yagna, and Nara Yagna. During Jaataashoucha and Mritaashaucha, Sandhya Vandana and Ishti Charu movement should not be dispensed with; as regards, pranayaaa  be avoided and other Mantras be uttered mentally. During ‘Shutaka Asoucha’, Gayatri Mantra Japa –Arghya pradaana-Pradakshina-Surya Dhyana-Namaskara are allowed as per Sage Paitheenasi. Marjana Mantras be recited mentally and Arghya Pradaana by way of Vaachaka or vocally; but certainly not homa and swadhyayana. During the Ashuchi period, saha bhojana by those with other gotras are forbidden to eat. Praaptena sutakam gotrey chaturtham puruyshena tu, Daayaadwicchetamaapnoti panchamo vaatma vamshajah/ (The ‘sagotras’ need to observe the Ashuchi for four generations and the links of ‘gotra daayatwa’ be discarded thereafter). In fact the ‘gotra daayatwaa’or of the links of gotra get thinned down by the Ashuchi observance from ten days to eight to six and so on and the further generations would not be eligible for Shraaddha bhojana. Deaths in foreign countries, as also those of children and Sanyasis too would attract instant Asuchi. In case, the news of death after the prescribed ten days is communicated thereafter within a year, then the Ashuchi has to be observed. However, after a year this late news would ask for immediate bathing with the same clothes as that would suffice Shuddhi Snaana or Purifying Bath. In case, a sagotriya Brahmana is stated to have died without knowing the details of the death, then tarpana and panda be offered on any Krishna paksha Ashtami, Amavasya or Ekadashi. In case there is a death of a child just born or upto the time of teething, no Agni samskara, or Ashuchi or jala kriya is warranted. In case there would be ‘garbha nashta’ or ‘garbha sraava’, Ashuchi is called for as many days as the months of the pregnancy. If a child dies in the birth itself, only the mother needs to observe Ashoucha or otherwise if the child survives some days, and then the Ashuchi happens for the entire period as prescribed. Birth of a child in the night and survival after Sun rise, the ten day restriction becomes valid for the Ashoucha. Death of a child after teething and after chooda karma or prathama kasha khandana on the completion of the first year or of the Samskara there after whichever is earlier, there would be the requirement of Agni Samskara and three days of Ashuchi. From the time of Chooda Karma till Upanayana, the Ashuchi is for three days. Brahmachaari grihey eshaam hyuyate cha Hutaashane, Samparkam na cha kurvanti na teshaam sutakam bhavet/ (In any household, where there is a Brahmachari and the house holder both are in the regular observance of daily Agni homa, then in that household, there cannot be any Ashuchi as long as there is no contact with those who have Ashuchi! Samparkaadi dushyate Vipro naanyo doshosti Brahmane, Samparkeshu nivritthasya na pretam naiva sutakam/ (It is only any kind of contact that a pure Brahmana suffers, otherwise there could be neither Pataka nor sutaka!). Shilpis, workers, physicians, servants, barbers and Kings would secure instant Shoucha or purification. Ashouchaantara Ashoucha: Antaraa tu dashaahasya punarmarana janmani, Taawat syadaadashuchih vipro yaavattah syaadanirdeesham/ While already during the Ashoucha of say the full or part duration of Ashoucha, if another Ashoucha occurs either on account of death or birth, there is no need to observe another Ashoucha and Suddhi or purification would take place on the tenth day itself. Anaadham Brahmanam pretam ye vahanti dwijaatayah, padey padey yagjna phaloamaanupura- llabhanti te/ (Those dwijaas or twice born on account of Upanayana Samskaara viz. Brahmana, Kshatriya, and Vaishyas perform the respect of carrying a dead body of a poor and helpless brahmana, then such a dwija reaps the fruit of yajgna phala for each step of his carrying the body till the cremation ground! Such dwijas in return from the cremation grounds would purify themselves with mere praanayam after bathing on the return. Even if such dwijas merely accompany a dead body-whether related or not- to the cremation and return thereafter would have to be purified with snaana, Agni sparsha and some eating. In the event of a dwija touches or so accompanies a dead body of a lower class, then snaana and Surya darshana would purify him. Atimaanaad atikrodhaatsnehaadwaa yadi vaa bhayaat,Udandhaneeyaat stree pumaan vaa gatireshaa viddheeyate/ (Either on account of respect, anger or friendship or even out of fear, anybody is responsible any to have a person directly or otherwise lead a person to gallows and death would receive the same fate, besides shashthim varsha sahasraani narakam  or experiencing hell for six thousand years!

Vishesha Ashoucha Nivritti: Nashoucham nodakam naagnim naashrupaatamcha kaarayet, veedhaarogni pradaataarah paashaccheda karaastathaa/ Tapta krucchhena shudhhyantyevamaaha Prajaapatih/ (Prajapati states that one’s Ashuchi is countered by Tapta kruccha Shuddhi  or fasting on three days by consuming hot water, hot milk and hot ghee in the daily measures of a pala – six-three-one measures respectively). Praayaschittas in general: Triratram  prathame pakshe dwitiye krucchamaacharet, Triteeye  chaiva pakshe tu kruccham santapanam charet/ Chaturthe Dasha raatram syaat paraakah panchame matah, Kuryaa chhaandraayanam shashthe saptame tvyandadwayam/ Shuddhyarthamashtame chaiva shanmaasaat krucchamaacharet, Paksha samkhyaa pramaanena suvarnyaapi dakshina/ (Depending on the severity of Ashuchi or impurity, the prescription of Prayaschitta ranges from Upavasa or fasting three nights, or secondary kind of Prayaschitta involves Kruccha vrata, the third one Saantapana Prayaschitta-viz. bhakshana or consumption of Pancha Gavya viz. five cow products of milk, curd, ghee, cow’s urine and dung, besides kushodaka or purifying water of kusha grass for two days or seven days or a fortnight or three weeks; the fourth prayaschitta comprises fasting of ten nights in a go, the fifth prayaschitta is observance of paraaka vrata or fasting of twelve days from Amavasya; the sixth prayaschitta is chandrayana vrata or increasing fistful meals a day from Amavasya to Purnami and decreasing fistful meals from Purnima to Amavasya; the seventh type is to perform two chandrayana vratas; the seventh and eighth prayaschittas is to observe kruccha vrata for six months and a year respectively). For each fortnight, gold coins are required to be given as Daana to deserving Brahmanas).

Pancha gavya vidhana: Panchagavya: Gomutram gomayam ksheeram sarpih kushodakam, Nirdrushtam pancha -gavyantu pavitram papa naashanam/ (Cow’s sacred urine, dung, milk, curd and ghee besides kushajala constitute the Panchagavyas which uproot multiple sins). These items are to be mixed in the prescribed  proportion of one pala or eight tolas of urine, three palas of curd, one pala of ghee, half-ring finger measure of gomaya, one-seventh of the mix to be added by one pala of ‘kushodaka’. Gayatraa gruhya gomutram gandhadwaareti gomayam, Aapyaayasweti cha ksheeram Dadhikraavneti vai dadhi/ tejosi shukramotyaajyam Devasya twaa kushodakam, Panchagavyaamruchaa putam syapayedagni sannidhou/ Aapohishtheti chaalodya maa nastoketi manrtayet/(Explanation of the above is as follows: Cow’s urine along with Gayatri mantra; cow dung with Gandhadwaaraam dhuraadarsheem nitya pushtaam kareeshineem Ishwareegum Sarva bhutaanaam taamihopahvayeshriyam/ Cow’s milk: Aa pyaayasva sametute te vishwatayh soma vrishniyam, bhavaa vaajasya sangadhe/ Cow’s curd: Dadhikravinno akaarisham jishnorasvasya vajina, Surabhi no mukhaa karat Prana ayoogumshi taarishat/ Cow’s ghee: Tejosi shukramasi jyotirasi Devovah savitotpunaatwacchidrena pavitrena vasoh Suryasya rashmibhih/ Kushodakam: Devasya twaa savituh prasave Ashwinoh baahubhyaam pushno hastaabhyaam/ All these are mixed reciting: Aapohishthaa mayobhuvah taana urjyedadhaatana maheranaaya chakshuse yovasshiva tamorasah tasyabhajayatehanah ushiteeriva maatarah tasmaa aranga maamavo yasya kshayaaya jinvadha apojana yathaachanah/ Then perform ‘abhi mantra’ to the mix and recite: Maana- stoke tanaye maana ayushimaano goshumaano ashwureerishah veeraanmaano Rudrabhaamito vadheer havishyanto namasaa vidhematey/) Later on, the upper portion of the mix likened to a parrot of bright green of about the size of seven kusha grass pieces be lifted up and be offered to Homaagni with the Mantras of Rig Veda like Iravati, Ivam Vishnurvi chakramey, Maana nasteke tanaye etc. and the remaining portion be consumed by the Karta by reciting Pranava Mantra. On entering the body of the Karta, the Pancha Gavya should dissolve his hardened mass of sins from his bones, blood stream and skin pores like the offerening made to Agni Deva by of the Homa thus performed! Pavitram trishu Lokeshu Devataabhiradhishthitam, Varunaschiva domutrey gomaye Havyavahanah, Dadhin Vaayuh Samudrishtah Somah ksheere dhrutey Ravih/ ( The Devas who are present in all the Tri-Lokas are represented in the Pancha gavya as follows viz. Varuna in Go mootra, Agni in cow dung, Vayu in the curd, Chandra in the milk and Surya Deva in the ghee!)

A few corrective measures: Duswapnam yadi pashettu vaante vaa khurakarmani, Maithuney preta dhume cha snaanameva vidheetate/ ( In the cases of viewing disturbing dreams, after vomittings for whatever reasons, after shaving and haircuts, after the act of feminine congress, and nearing and touching a dead body, one ought to purify by Snaana. Snaanaani pancha punyaani keertitaanui Maneeshibhih, Agneyam Vaarunam Braahmam Vaayavyam Rajasaa smritam/ (Five kinds of Sacred Bathings are stated as Agneyam with Bhasma or with Ash, Varuni by entering deep into the running stream of water, Brahma Snaana with Mantras such as Apohishthaa mayo bhuvah taana urgey dadhaatana Maheranaaya chakshasey yovah Shiva tamo rasah, tasya bhaajayatehanah ushiteeriva maatarah, tasmaa arangamaamavo yasya kshayaaya jinvath, Aapojana yathaachanah/ and Vayavya snaana by sand to wash off external and internal cleanliness.) Snaanaartham Vipramaayaantam Devah Pitruganaih saha, Vaayu bhutaa hi gacchanti trushaartaah salilaarthinah/ (As Devatas along with Pitruganas visit for bathing in Sacred Rivers, Brahmanas bathe as the former approach them in the form of Vayu and this kind of bathing is called Divya snaana.). Snaatvaa peetwaa kshute supte bhhukte shayopasarpine, Achaantah punaraachaamedwaaso viparidhaayaa cha/ (Perform Achamana twice after bathing, drinking any liquid or even water, throat clearing, sleeping, after eating, outing on roads, and changing dresses.) Kshute nishtheevite chaiva daantocchishte sambhaashe dakshinam shravanam sprushet/ (Always one should touch one’s own right ear, after sneezing, loud spitting, throat clearing, teeth cleaning , gossiping and telling lies too). Brahmaa Vishnuscha Rudrascha Somah Suryonilastathaa, Tey Sarve hyapi tishthanti karney Viprasya dakshinah/ (Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Chandra, Surya and Vaayu all reside at Brahmana’s right ear!). Divaakara karaih putam diva snaana prashasyate, Aprashastam nishi snaanam Raahoranyatra darshanaat/ (Bathing during day time or the early evenings is commended but not in late nights unless when Surya Grahana takes place and Rahu Deva is sighted). Maruto Vasavo Rudraa Adityaah cha adhidevataah, Sarvem Somey vileeyantey tasmaat snaanantu tad grahey/ (Forty nine Marut Ganaas, eight Vasu Devatas, eleven Rudra Devas, twelve Aditya Devas, and the rest of all other Devas are all present when Chandra Deva is absorbed in Rahu Deva and it is essential to take sacred bath at the time of the elipses). Khala yagne Vivaahecha Sankraantou grahaneshucha, Sharvayyaam daarameteshu naanyatreti vinishchah/ (It is compulsory to perform purificatory Sacred Bath in connection with Khalihaan yagna, at the time of weddings, Sankranti and Solar or Lunar Eclipses surely). Putra janmaani, Yagne cha tathaa cha atyayakarmaani, Rahoscha darshane daanam prashasta naanyathaa nishi/ ( Even in the nights, Sacred bathing becomes essential when there is a child birth, Yagnas, death related news and deeds, eclipses, any daana prakriyas, bathing becomes inevitable.) Mahaa nishaatu vigjneyaa madhyastha prahara dwayam, Pradosha paschimou yaamou dinavat snaana maacharet/ (There is a distinction between night and post mid night say at the time of two praharas and in the latter case, bathing be postponed till early mornings. Asthi sanchayanaat purvam ruditwaa snaanamaacharet, Antar dashaahe Viprasya hyurdhva maachamanam smrutam/ (Purificatory bathing be undertaken after ‘Asthi Sanchayana’ or collection of the burnt bone remains and after the session of cryings on the deaths as also on the tenth day duties as prescribed). Kusha putantu yatsnaanam kushonopaspurshed dwijah, Kushonodbhuta toyam yat somapaana samam smrutam/ (Kushaagraasa snaana is considered as sacred and hence dwijas or the twice born Brahmana-Kshatriya-Vaishyas are advised to keep the kushas on the head for bathing as that kind of bathing is as purificatory as consumption of Soma Juice!). Agni karyaat paribhrashtaah Sandhyopaasana varjitaa, vedanchyaivaan dheyaanaah sarve te vrishalaah smritaah/   (All the dwijas are required to observe to Yagnya karma, Sandhya Vandana and Vedaadhyana and those who do not observe these are Vrishalas or those belonging to very inferior class; literally meaning bulls). Tasmad vrishala bheetena Brahmanena visheshatah, Adhyetavyopyekadesho yadi sarvam na shakyate/  (Those are ashamed of being dubbed as Vishalas, especially among the Brahmanas of the dwijas ought to learn at least a little of Vedas if not much). Those belonging to the dwija community ought not to mix socially, nor dine and much less marry into the low class society! Bhaajaneshu cha tishthisdtui swasti kurvanti ye dwijaah, Na Devastripyati maanaasti niraashaah Pitarastathaa/ (Those dwijas who dine with the other classes could neither please Devatas nor receive approval and blessings of Pitru ganas).

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]