[Some prayaschittas like kruccha vrata in reference to Brahma Hatya and Go hatya have already been discussed in the Chapter on Principle of Dharmaacharana above] Maharshi Angirasa defined Prayaschitta as follows: Praayo naama tapah proktam chintam nischaya ucchyate, Taponischayasamyuktam Prayaschittam taduchyatey/ (‘Tapo nischaya krutya’ or any act as firmly resolved in one’s inner conscience by deep meditation is known as Prayaschitta). This act is to undergo penance as prescribed by Scriptures; this is to offset nitya-naimittika-kaamya papa krityas or of lapses of regular duties, incident oriented momentary and emotional offences of very serious nature and degree as also blemishes due to non performance of desirable acts. Now, atonement of such actions do involve sacrifices of considerable physical, mental and psychological endurance, proportionate to the sins committed; some of the prayaschittas might entail extreme penances, total loss of social respect and of even existential circumstances ranging from boycotts to deaths! Thus prayaschittas are proportionate penances some being even comaparable to experiencesof Narakas or hells! Manu and great Rishis like Yagnyavalkya asserted that prayschittas executed on earth might somewhat appease the impact of far worse and severe tribulations in hells after the termination of the lives of the sinners: Akaraney pratyavaascha Manunaa darshatah: Charitavyamatonityam praayaschittam vishudhaye,Nindourhi lakshanouryuktaajaayante nishkrutainasah/ Further Yagjnyavalkya described ‘eka vimshati’ or twenty one narakas as follows: Prayaschitta makurvaanaah paaeshu nirantaa naraah, Apaschaantaapinah kashtaan narakaan yaanti daaruram/Taamishram Lohashanku Mahaairaya shalmali, Rouravam Kumbhalam Puti mritthikaam Kaalasutrikam/ Sanghaatam Tohilodakamcha Savisham Sampra taapanam, Mahaa Naraka Kaalolam Sanjeevana Mahaapatham/ Avichourandhataamishram Kumbhopaakam tathahivacha, Asipatravanam chaiva Taapanam chaika vimshikam/ (The details of the twenty one hells are Taamishra, Lohashanku, Maha Niraya, Shalmali, Rourava, Kumbhala, Puti mrittika, Kaala Sutra, Sanghata, Tohiloda, Savisha, Samprapaatana, Maha Naraka, Kaakola, Sanjeevana, Maha Patha, Aveechi, Andhataamisra, Kumbheepaaka, Asipatravana, and Taapana. In case, prayaschittas are not already executed in one’s life time in lieu of Maha Patakas and Upa patakas perpetrated on earth in the previous birth, the accumulated sins of dreadful nature would entail much more severe penalties and retributions).
The retributions are on account of non-performance of ‘Vihita Karmas’ or prescribed duties and perpetrating ‘nishiddha karmas’ or prohibited acts. For example, avoiding Garahana Snanas involves attacks of leprosy for seven births. Committing ‘Brahma hatya paataka’ and such grave sins and not resorting to prayaschitta would definitely lead to payback reprisal like being pushed down from mountains of high altitudes or being consigned to engulfing poisonous flames mercilessly. Persons who are normally susceptible to continous attacks by ‘Arishad Vargas’ viz. Kama-Krodha-Lobha-Moha- Mada-Matsaras viz. Deep desires, terrible anger, passionate possessiveness, excessive attachments, incorrigible arrogance and unpardonable jealousy; one’s misdoings of serious nature are therefore sure to lead them to Ati Pataka, Maha Pataka, Anupataka Upa, Paataka, Upa pataka, Jaati bhramsha types of retributions as also Sankarikarana, Apaatri karana, Malaavaha, and so on. Matru -Putrika-Swashru-Sunsha gamana are considered as Atipatakas and Brahma Hatya-Suraapaaa-Brahmana Dhana harana- steya or stealing-guru bharya gamana are Maha patakas. Rajaswala-Garbhini-Asphuta baala gamana and Sharanaagata Shatru vadha are as dreadful as Brahma hatya; providing wrong or misleading evidences and murder of friends are as heinous as Suraa Paana; Para daaraa gamana especially with closely related women is stated to be as appalling as Guru Bharya gamana; ‘Sharanaagata stree gamana’ is stated as Anupataka or as deplorable as Maha Pataka. Go Vadha, Para Stree vikraya, Matru/Pitru dushana and bahishkarana, Brahmana Vidhi parityajana, Vrata parityaga, Kanya dushana and nastikyata are of the rank of Upapaata dosha. Para ninda, Madyaadi vikraya, Neecha sahavaasa and such other traits demand Jaati bhramsha. Pashu samhara and Heena vritti demand sankarikarana. Asatya sambhaashana, nishkarana nindaaropana, kriki keeta pakshi jalachara vadha are considered as Malaa vaha; heena jaati seva, nindita dhanaarjana and such acts of depravity including Urbandhana maranas or forced deaths and anti-social activities are called prakeerna-avikeerna paapas. Among the Atipatakas are listed Matru-Putrika-Sahodari gamana or with such other blood relations both knowingly or ignorantly, the Prayaschitta is Sishna-chedana and three Kruccha prayaschitta and three chandrayana vratas.Para stree gamana demands a series of Chandrayana Vratas like Rishi Chandrayana-eating three fistful havishaanna a day for a month, Sishu chandraayana or consuming a one year old boy’s four-fistfuls of cooked food a day for a month or Yati chandrayana or eight fistfuls of cooked bhojana on a mid-day for ever! There after, a cow and calf are to be donated to a Veda Brahmana.
Paraashara Smriti in the Prayaschitta Kanda takes up the description of prakeerna-avikeerna papas now.Prayaschittas for ‘Urbandhana marana’ or forced deaths or suicides occur due to extreme anguish, frustration, self-pity and hatred due to problems created by one’s own family members or associates; it is stated that such deaths end up in the most abject existence of thousands of years in Andhatamisra Naraka full of blood, raw flesh and pus.The prayaschitta vidhana in such cases of Atma hatya would be that the dead body is to be buried but nor burnt as such deaths do not deserve Agni dahana, Udaka daana, Ashru paata or tearful cries, Asthi sanchayana, udaka nimajjana, Anteshti Pinda udaka daanaadi kriya, shraaddha and so on. However if a person of very old age who is extremely diseased being unbearably pained and forces own death, then the Kartha- a son or any one eligible to perform obsequies should perform the Agni dahaadi Antya kriyas, observe Tri-Ratraa Asoucha, Asthi sanchayana on the second day, Udaka daana on the third day, Shraadhaadi kriya on the fourth day and perform ‘Tapta kruccha dwaya prayaschitta’ to redeem the soul; Yetaani patitaanantu yah karoti vimohitah, Tapta krucchayenaiva tasya shuddhirna chaanyathaa/ In the event of such antya kryas are not done by the sons or whosoever eligible, then the ‘pretaatma’ would be hovering around like birds on the sky for several years, cursing the eligible Kartas and their families to face similar situations or worse. Also if for reasons of deaths in wars, or in foreign lands and such other reasons when persons eligible to perform the antya kriyas properly, then the karta would have to formally perform the antya kriyas like dahana-pindadaana daanaadi karmas, asoucha Narayana bali, Shraddha kriyas etc. with retrospective effect as per advice of the Purohitas and also perform Praajapatya prayaschitta, which can be performed within a period from first upto six years. Till the prayaschitta is not performed, the preta swarupa is retained on the Antariksha and perish thereafter without redemption.
Durmarana Shava vahana Prayaschitta: Those dwijas who happen to carry dead bodies, take part in Agni samskaraas or untie the ropes of the bodies get surely purified by observing Kruccha Prayaschitta as assured by Prajapati. Minor blemishes like Shava sparsha can be purified by oneday’s upavasa or fasting, but to those who partake in the preta kriya of those who committed suicide out of affection or respect would get purified only by observing Tapta kruccha prayaschitta.
Tapta kruccha swarupa: Fasting by way of consuming hot water for three days, hot milk for three more days and hot ghee for yet another three days successively and observing complete fast on the following day is called Tapta kruccha prayaschitta. Similarly ‘Seeta kruccha’ is fasting as above by consuming cold water, milk and ghee likewise on three consecutive days.The measures for water is six ‘palaas’ while milk and ghee are to be one pala each a day. Praajaapatitya swarupa: Eating food in the mornings only for three days, in the evenings only for three evenings, one meal a day each for three days by begging and three more days by keeping total fasting thus observing the food restrictions for a fortnight in all is called Praajaapatiya kruccha prayaschitta. Saantapana swarupa: This has duration of two days, or seven days, fifteen days and three weeks in each case. Yagjnyavalkya explained the ‘dwi raatra santapana’or of two nights by consuming Go mutra-Gomaya-Go ksheera-Go ghrita-Go dadhi-kushodaka on a day-night basis and full fasting till the next night; the ‘sapta ratra santapana’is like wise for seven day- nights till the seventh night followed by fast on eighth night. Yama Dharma Raja mentioned about Maha Saantapana comprising ‘Pakshaashana’or consumption for fifteen days by way of consuming three days of Go Mutra, three days of Gomaya, three days of Go ksheera, three days of Go dadhi, and three days of Goghrita.But Jaalali amended Maha Saantapana as of Eka Vimshati Raatra ie. for eighteen days of consumption by adding Kushodaka too and the last three days of ‘Purnopavaasa’ or total fasting! Tapta Kruccha might be for Sapta Ratra, Dasha Ratra or Dwadasha Ratra too.
Paraaka krucchra swarupa: Manu Smriti suggested Paraaka Kruccha or the Tapta Kruccha for Dwadasha Ratra; Paraka denotes ‘Indriya nigraha’ or Self restraint of Indriyas / Physical restraint; Yataatmaano –pramatthasya Dwadahaahamabhojanam, Paraakonaama kruccheyam sarva papa pranaashanam/ (Paraaka krucchra prayaschitta with utmost self-control for a period of Twelve days without bhojana but for the prescribed eating of cow products is sure to destroy all sins.
Prayaschittas for family lapses: Ritu snaana tu naari bhartaaram nopasarpati, Saa mritaa yaati vidhavaa cha punah punah/ Ritu snaanaantu yo bharyaam sannidhou nopagacchati, Ghoraayaam bhurna hatyaayaam ujjatey naacha samshayah/ Dardram vyaadhitam dhurtam bhartaaram yaavamanyatey.Saa shuni jaayate mrutwaa sookari cha puna punah/ Patyo jeevati yaa naari uposhya vratamaacharet, Ayushyam harate bhartruh saa naari narakam vrajet/ Tripushthaa chaiva bhartaaram naari kurute vratam, Sarvam tadraakshasaan gacchedityevam Manuravreet/ Baandhavaanaam sujaateenaam durvrittim kurute tu yaa, Garbbha paatascha yaa kuryaana taam sambhaashayet kachit/ Yata paapam Brahma hatyaayaa trigunam garbhapaataney, Praayaschittam na tasyaah syaat tasyasyaagovidheeyate/ Nakaaryaa maavasathyena naamagnihotrena vaa punah/ Sa bhavet karmachandaalastostu Dharma paraangmukhah/ ( In case a house wife consents for union with her husband during her menstrual period, the woman on her death would surely experience Naraka and experience widowhood for several ensuing births. If however she does not consent for congress with her husband after the period even as he is healthy and desirous, then she would be liable with ‘bhruna hatyaa dosha’ and in her ensuing births would become the wife yet again to a ‘daridra murkha bharta’ with diseases during several successive births! If the wife maltreats and nags her husband consistently, then after her death she would be a bitch or a pig in successive lives. If a housewife resorts to perform a Vrata without the husband or without his consent, then not only his longevity would be affected but she would have to suffer narakas after her death. If a woman tries to harm a relative on her husband’s side or her own, she should be not only kept boycotted always and if she resorts to abortion, she is liable to attract Brahma hatya dosha.In case a house holder seeks to exist without snaana-sandhya vandana-agnihotraadi vidhis he is to be rightly called as a karma chandala and ‘Dharma paraanmukha’ and is indeed unavailable for prayaschitta).
Otherwise the prayschitta for the woman who refuses union with her partner soon after the period or vice versa must resort to Artha Kruccha prayaschitta; alternatively, the husband would have to perform two hundred Pranayamas, besides thousand tila homas; the wife is however liable to perform hundred Prana yaamas and join half the homa with the husband. This atonement is only for healthy persons. Para purasha gamana by a house wife demands a kruccha prayayaschitta. Garbha patana prayaschitta however requires the sasntapana kruccha vrata for a year.In the event of the elder brother not marrying before the wedding of the younger brother, then the latter is called Parivetta and the non marrying elder brother is known as Parivitti. Now both Parivetta and Parivitti are both need to undergo prayaschitta by way of two Krucchaas; not only that: the Kanya being married to the younger brother who is called Paravedi, the Kanyadaata or the bride’s father called Paridaayi, the Yagnika or the Brahmana who performs the wedding called Pariyashta also need to undergo Prayaschitta of Kricchhaatikruccha and chandraayana. Krutyaatikruccha is to fast twenty one days by way of consuming milk only.Similarly Agre ddidhishaadi prayaschittha meaning that the younger sister marrying before the elder sister too demands prayaschitta; the jyeshtha kanya is called didhishu and the younger kanya is Agredidhishu. The bridegroom of the younger sister is called Agredidhishu pati.
Dispensations of Prayaschittas in respect of various other Prakeerna Papas pertaining to relatives as also other human beings have been enumerated fairly exhaustively in the Parashara Smriti as annotated further in the Parashara Madhaviya Bhashya.
A few more Prakeerna Papaas related to the touch and even attack by biting etc. of some animals like dogs, fox, pigs and so on and their Prayaschittas have also been enumerated in the Parashara Smriti: Vrikascha shrugaalaadrashtoyastu Dwijottamah, Snaatwaa japet sa Gaayatrim Pavitraam vedamaataram/ Gavaam shrungodake snaanam mahaanadyastu sangamey, Samudra darshanaadyaami shunaadashtah shuchirbhavet/ Vedavidyaa vrata snaatah shunaa dashto dwijo yadi, Sa hiranyodake snaatwaa ghrutam praashya vishuddhati/ Suvratastu shunaa dashto yastriraachamupaavaset, Ghrita shrungodakam peetwaa vratasesham samaapayet/ Avratah Suvrato vaapi shrunaa dashto bhavedwijah, Pranipatya bhavet pooto Vipraschakshurnireekshatah/ Shunaa ghraataavaleedhasya nakhour visnaswitasyaha, Angih prakshaalanam proktamagninaa bhuri taapitam/ Shunaa tu Braahmano dashtaa jambukena vrikena vaa Utitam graha nakshatram drushtaa sadyah shuchirbhavet/ Krishna pakshe yadaa Somo na drushye kadaachana,Yaam disham vrajate Somastaam disham vaavalokayet/Asad Braahmanake graame shunaa dashto dwijottamah, vrisham pradakshanee krutya sadyah snaatwaa shuchirbhavet/ (In the event of attacks and bites of fox, dogs etc. a Brahamaa should at once bathe and recite the Veda Maata Gayatri Mantra hundred and eight times. Dog bites are purified by cow horn full of water or better still bathing in Maha Nadis or Samudra darshana-snaana. Those whob are unable to do so ‘Goshrungodaka snaana’ atleast. Praajaapatya Agneya Soumya Vaishwa deva Vrata or atleast ‘Snaanantara Ghrita praashana’ and hundred times of Gayatri Mantra Japa would surely bring about purification as per another view. Severe dog bites call for fasting for three days, Ghrita-kushdaka praashana, cleaning of the place of bites with application of fire burning, Chandraadi Graha darshana, Nakshatra darshana and pancha gavya praashana are stated to be the remedies and prayashchittas. Pradaksina of Sadbrahmana should be done around atleast of Vrishabha with shuchi and faith). ‘Malini karana paapa prayaschitta’ deals with the killing of birds like cranes, swans, hen, parrots, doves, sparrows and so on. The atonements range from day long fasting for the killing of cranes and hens; fasting till night in the case of parrots, doves and kites, go daana for killing swans; performing pranayama till evening while in water for killing crows and garuda; killing of sheep, goats, pigs etc. call for godaana with calf, besides fasting for three days except eat for uncooked food like raw vegetables and so on. ‘Sankalikarana prayaschitta’ is demanded in the case of killing rats, mongoose, cats, frogs, serpents, and so on. The prayaschittas range from Brahmana bhojana with tilas and dals called ‘Krisraanna’ and daana along with iron rods in the case of serpents besides observing sapta raatra vrata or bhojana at seven nights. Prayaschitta for killing frogs, rats, mongoose, cats etc. requires Dwadasha raatra kruccha vrata, while killing domestic animals like cattle, horse and donkey besides daanas including iron rods and homa prakriya and gayatri japa as also brahmana bhojana and daanas.
Parashara Smriti also described many other prayaschittas such as follows: ‘Suryodayaadikaala- astama kaala shayana’ -or waking up after Sun Rise and sleeping at the Sun set- Prayaschitta; this sin is as imperfect as ‘Brahmana dhana harana’ or like stealing the material of a Sadbrahmana. This blemish requires to under take Gayatri Japa by ten thousand times and observe Upavasa till the evening for Sunrise in respect of late rising and upavasa and japa for sun set sleeping. In case of failure to perform Sandhya vandana and agnikarya, the atonement would be double of Gatri Japa in addition to the lapse of late risig and Sunset sleep. ‘Veda Vedangaadi Vikraya’ or sale of Scriptures demands Chandrayana Vrata; Vedanga vikraya requires Kruchha vrata; Purana Itihaasa vikraya demands Saantapana-Pancha raatra vratas. ‘Anruta vachanaadi upapataka’or the habit of speaking lies is stated by Manu as also Yagjnyavalkya Maharshi to be as serious as ‘Brahma Hatya’ and ‘Suraapana’and the prayaschitta should be on similar lines. ‘Veda-Smrityadi Ninda’, ‘Nitya Karmanushthana tyaga’ and ‘Veda Pramaana tiraskarana’ tantamounts to ‘Nastikata’and as severe as a Maha Pataka and the only Praayaschitta could be ‘Sangha bahishkarana’.
Prayaschittas once performed in faith always certainy yield results and Rishi Vakyas can never go fruitless; the person committing the sin of small or huge nature gets his or her conscience clear and clean. But the atonement so performed must be under the direction of a dharmaachara and learned Brahmana as affirmed by Apastamba; indeed, in the tasks of Japa-tapa-homa-daanas with the blessings of a Brahmana would attain perfection, guidance and inspiration. More so, if the performing Karta is not physically fit and psychologically untuned to the prayaschitta vidhana, the entire effort might really get wasted. The Karta need not be egoistic to feel that he knows everything but needs moral support even to a Pandita and subjecvity must be replaced with objectivity any way! In the performance of a Prayaschitta, there has to be evidence even to Almighty, besides his own conscience! Vedas emphasize that Agni-Brahmana-and Kavi are always pure and sacred and can not be rejected! Devatas too approve the Brahmana Vaakya since they are the only Agents of Dharma who can interpret as per Desha-Kaala maana- achaara vyavaharas in the contemporary Society!
A brief sum up of Vishnu Smriti on Prayaschittas is as follows: The person with blemishes seeking penance is to start with performing ‘upavasa’ or fasting for a day or more as per the intensity of the sin as per one’s own self-assessement. He or she may perform three snaanas a day by muttering ‘Aghamanshana’ mantra three times: Hiranya shringam Varumam prapadye teerthammey dehi yaachitam, Yanmayaa bhukta masaadhunaam pratigrahah/ Tanme Manasaa Vaachaa Karmanaam dushkrutam kritam, Tatra Indro Varuno Brihaspatih Savitaacha punantu punah/ Namognepsumate Nama Indraaya namo Varunaaya namo vaarunyai namadbhyayah/ Then the person may eat in the evening only for three days, for three another day times and another three days by way of unsolicited food and finally undertake fasting for additional three days an this kind of penance is called Prajapatya. Then let the person drink hot water for three further days; for three other days’ hot ghee, for three days more fast totally which is called Tapta Kriccha. Taking the same kind of consumption for the same duration is known as ‘Seeta kruccha’. Subsisting on milk for twenty one days is called ‘Kricchaatikriccha’; sustaining for a full month with barly water is called ‘Udakakruccha’; eating nothing but Lotus fibres for a month is ‘Moola kruccha’while eating only ‘bel’fruit’ for a month is ‘Sriphala kriccha’. Eating a month of lotus seeds is called Paraaka kriccha. Subsisting for one day on ‘Pancha gavya’ or of Cow’s five products as boiled in Kusha grass is noted ‘Saantapana’ vrata to be concluded by fasting on the next day. Swallowing each of these for three consecutive days is ‘Maha Santapana.’ Swallowing oilcakes, boiled rice foam, butter milk, water and ground barley, each for one day with a fasting in between-every two days- is called ‘Tula purusha’ or the weight of the person concerned performing the penance. Drinking water boiled with kusha grass, leaves of Palaasha (bastard teak), Udumbara (fig) tree, lotus, Shankha pushpi a herbal medicine for mental development, besides the leaves of banyan tree is called ‘Parna kruccha’ each day for three days. The Krucchas concerned need to be observed with shaven heads and beard, three snaanas a day and lying on ground with Brahmacharya without conversing with women, low caste persons, observing silence and reciting mantras. Apart from these Kruccha Vratas, the Prayaschittas also refer to Chndrayana Vratas viz. eight mouthfuls of cooked barley food a day for a month called Samamanya Chandrayana, or eight mouthfuls a day and night for a month known as ‘Yati Chandrayana’ or four mouthfuls in a day as also in night a month called ‘Sishu Chandrayana’; the Vrata involves the rate of consumption a day at the rate mentoned above depending on the increased or decreasing the rate at which the Moon travels from each fortnight from Pournami to Amavasya and vice versa. Maha Vratas are required to be observed in respect of major sins for twelve years and these involve dwelling in forests, carrying out tri snanas daily, collecting alms declaring the sins, sleeping on grass, and strict brahmacharya. Unintentional killings of Brahmanas, of Kshatriya-Vaishyas in the course of Sacrifices, pregnant women or women in courses or even in women other wise and of close relatives and friends demand observance of Maha Vrata for the full period of twelve years normally. Unintentional killings of Kings require the observance of two Maha Vratas viz. for twenty four years. Such killings of Kshatriya, Vaishya and of Lower sections call for the Vratas for nine, six and three years respectively. But in all these prayaschittas, the Karta needs to be duly publicized to all in the concerned Societies especially in his neighbourhood and relatives; they have to necessarily derecognised as notorious as the Karta has to carry the skull of the victim, if not a stick or flag or placard with the description of the sin. The offender is also required to be unshaven, serve the family members of the killed and a herd of cows during the period of the Maha Vrata, and besides subsist on Pancha Gavya for a month in each year. While serving the cows, he has to stand as the cows stand and rest when the animals do; he has also to safeguard from the attacks of tigers etc. and during winters, rains and diseases. Killing of elephants intentionally or otherwise demand charity of black bulls to Vedic Brahmanas; garments against killing of horse; charity of a bull against killing of an ass or a goat; gold against a camel; three days fast against killing a dog; charity of milk dishes, sesamum, rice and an iron hoe besides a day’s fast against killing a mouse, cat, frog, non poisonous snake; three days fasting in a row and go daana against killing an owl or crow, or fish; go daana against killing a swan, crane, ape, falcon, vulture, or a duck; charity of an iron spade against a poisonous snake; a load of straw against cattle or birds; a pot of butter for killing a boar; sesame against a partridge; a two year old calf for killing a parrot; a milch cow against killing wild animals; hundred times of Gayatri Japa be performed against cutting trees, shrubs, plants with fragrant flowers; and daana of butter for killings of flies, and insects.
Prayaschittas for performing Gupta-Doshas or secret sins: Molestations of under-age or old women demand Ati Kruccha Vrata Brahmana hatya sin requires Aghamaharshana Snaana in a running water flow, Pranayama sixteen times, single meal a day for a month, daana of a milch cow and so on as above. Drinking spirituous liquor and stealing golden items require Aghamarshana Snaana and Gayatri Japa by a thousand a day for ten days.Illicit relationship with Guru’s wife calls for fasting for three days, reciting Purusha Sukta and Praaschitta homa. In fact, Ashwamedha Yagnya removes all kinds of Maha Patakas. Even as a routine, Brahmanas are advised to perform aghamarshana snaana, pranayaamas, Gayatri japa and paakayagnas daily as per Vishnu Smriti. Griha Sutras of Kaushika, Paraashara and Sankhyayana under-score, the need for Paaka Yagnas in favour of Devas, Pitrus, Manushyas, Bhutas and Atithis besides Baliharana.