Into the Company of Manes

Brief Summary

Garuda askes Sri Hari to explain to him further the procedure of sapinda rites and how they erase the sins of the departed ones and how daanas of various kinds ensure the welfare of the beings who departed from the earthly life and its bonds. Vishnu explains to his devout mount how the performance of the rites would enable the preta shed its heinous, terrible form and enables it to join the company of manes, pitrudevatas, the forefathers who attained the blissful condition.

Shlok 3-57

The ancestors foremost are the great grandfather, grandfather and the father. They become Vasu, Rudra and Aditya respectively. All the three, in the present forms they acquired are to be worshipped. If the three are not worshipped by the living son who is performing the rites, the ceremonies become useless. Purity is acquired in ten days for a Brahmin, tweleve days for a kshatriya and fifteen for vaisya and a month by a shudra. ‘Sapinda relatives’ are those who are related upto to the seventh line on the father’s side. These are purified after ten days, The sakulya relatives get purified in three rights; those with the same ‘gotra’’ are purified just by bathing after listening to the news. The farther the relationship, the shorter the time for getting purified, getting relief from ‘asaucha’. If one dies in a foreign land and his death is only heard of, in the case of sapindas the impurity lasts for the remaining period beginning from the time of the death. If one listens to the news after ten days, he is ‘impure’ (in asaucha) only for three nights. If a whole year elapses after the death and then one hears the news he is purified just by bathing. If a second asaucha should come within the ten days, the purification, comes from the first pollution.

If a little boy who has not yet cut teeth dies, purification is immediate; if he dies before mundan, the asaucha is only one night. If he dies before upanayan (taking the Vow or investiture with the sacred thread) three nights and afterwards, ten nights. If a girl child dies between birth and mundan, purification is immediate and this is so in all castes. Upto betrothal (in the case of the death of a girl) it is only a single day. Upto old age only three nights are the limit. If the girl dies after betrothal (sagaayee) the period of asaucha is three days for families on both sides. If after marriage the girl or woman’s death occurs, of course the asaucha is only for the husband’s family. If the foetus dies before the sixth month, the asaucha is for as many days as the months of its stay in the womb. If the embryo dies the purification of sapinda relatives is immediate. In kaliyug, (at present) shastras declare that ten-days asaucha is the norm for all castes. While in asaucha, agnihotra, holy fire, cannot be lit and there can be no reception of guests, offering salutations, lying in bed (only one should sleep on the ground). During the period of asaucha (‘sullied’ state) Sandhya ritual is not to be performed, there is no fire ritual, religious study or offering of prayers. If one were to do any of the above, the merit acquired for observing and performing rites upto that day would be totally lost. Certain people are exempt from ‘asaucha’’ They are ascetics, the king and those Brahmins who are in the pursuit of obtaining Brahmajnaana, the knowledge of absolute reality. Manu declared that food prepared before the pollution, or asaucha, can be eaten. If a mendicant or a beggar accepts innocent food from a housholder while the later is in asaucha he suffers no evil, but the giver suffers. To get free from asaucha one must perform the sapinda ceremony so that his father would join the company of his forefathers. This ceremony is to be performed on the twelfth day, the third fortnight, the sixth month and at the end of the first year. The scriptural prescription is that for all the four castes the twelfth day is to be the day for the sapinda ritual. This is so for the conditions prevailing in kaliyug.

If a Brahmin housholder dies, no ceremonies like the sacred thread ceremony or marriage can be performed for twelve days. This is so because of asaucha. The house should not provide alms or make guest offerings. All ceremonies need to be stopped.

Since neglecting or omitting rites results in incurring sin, the sapinda ceremony with or without fire (agnihotra) should be observed on the twelfth day. Great merit accrues by performing the twelfth-day ceremony which equals taking a holy dip in sacred rivers. Hence it is essential for the son to perform this ceremony in all purity. He should offer worship with foot-water (paadya) for ablutions and achamana. Then he should sip in water (do achamana). Worship must be offered with sandalwood paste (gandha), tulsi (Basil leaves), incense, (dhoopa), lamp (deepa) and naivedya (food offering). Then betel leaves and supari should be offered as mouth freshners (tambula) and new clothes. Having divided the food into three balls with a bar of gold, the food must be rounded up into balls and given to father, grandfather and one’s great grandfather. Sapinda needs to be done for the mother along with the grandmother. If the father dies while the grandfather is alive, three rice-balls (pindas) should be offered to the great grandfather. If the mother dies before the grandmother, one should perform the mother’s shraaddha in the same way as the father’s. If a woman has no son, her husband should perform sapinda ceremony for his wife, along with that of his mother-in-law. The sapinda rite needs to be done with that of the husband, his father and grandfather, the wife being half of her husband. If the husband and wife get on to the funeral pyre at the same time their bodies should be separated-with grasses put between them, and the son should perform the ceremony with that of the mother-in-law and father-in-law. Only one son need perform the rites-first offering the rice-ball (pinda) for the father and then bathing again, offer the pinda for the mother. If a woman dies during the first ten days of her husband’s death the gift of the bed (shayyaa daan etc.) should be done on the same day along with the offerings for her husband. After performing sapinda the son should utter Vedic mantras and say “Let there be swadha.” Then the Brahmin guest must be fed till he says “hanta”, which is a benediction. This would please the forefathers, sages, agnihotra and even dtynavas. A mouthful is called ‘alms’ and four such are abundance called ‘hantakara.
During ‘sapinda’ the Brahmin’s feet have to be ceremonially washed and after that he should be given maintenance for a year, a cow or a horse or an elephant or a chariot or a plot of land. Then with appropriate mantras he should worship Devi, Vinayaka and the planets. Then the preceptor having bound a thread upon his hand (deeksha kankan) should present akshatas cause consecrated with mantras. Then a feast should be offered to Brahmins and presents along with twelve pots with water and food should be made. After this, water, weapon, scales and a rod should be touched severally by the castes which purifies them all.

Shlok 58-80

After the sapinda ceremony the son or the performer should cast off the clothes worn during the performance of the rites. He should wear white clothes to make the shayyadaan, gift of bed. All devatas headed by Indra, their Lord would praise the gift of cot. The cot should be made of the choicest wood, decorated, copied with silk and the bed be stuffed with swan’s down and the coverlet is made fragrant with perfumes. An umbrella, a row of silver lamps, and fan, a seat, a vessel, a water pot and mirror also should be given away with the cot and the bed. On the cot, before giving it away, the images of Lakshmi and Narayana have to be placed with all the accoutrements of both. Then a Brahmin and his wife should be seated on the bed facing the divine couple Laksmi and Narayana. The couple should worship the deities. The son should utter a mantra while holding flowers in his hands. The meaning of the mantra is: “O Krishna, Your bed is the ocean of milk, like that may this bed ever full in my future births also.” The bed is to be given only to a deserving man. He (the recipient) should never give away or sell it. If he does, the giver is dragged down to suffer. By giving away the bed following the procedure to the minutest detail with devotion, the giver would surely get his desires and wishes fulfilled. The power of this ‘gift’ is such that the one who gives away, would be happy and blissful in the kingdom of both Indra and Yama. He would ride in splendid chariots. Celestial damsels wait on him till the end of the Yuga.

Shlok 81-97

The charity of bed earns the person who makes it merit (punya) which is more and superior to bathing in all the holy rivers in sacred places. After the charity of bed, the son must offer pada daan, which involves the charity or giving away of a staff, a copper vessel, rice (uncooked), foods, valuables and sacred threads. The seven articles are: an umbrella, foot wear, clothes, a signet ring, a water pot, a seat, a set of five vessels. These should be given away according to the means of the one who is performing these rites. By the performance of this rite, the one departed who goes on Yama’s way is made happy and comfortable: The gifts are significantly useful even for the one departed, making his journey comfortable. Each item given in charity to Brahmin in the world, would immensely help the one who travels on Yama’s way. After this pada daan, many Brahmins and people of other castes too should be fed. After sapinda and before the end of the year ceremony, every month, a water-pot with rice-balls (pindas) should be given. For the sake of the departed the daanas may be done again for further satisfaction.

Shlok 98-127

Sri Hari explained to Garuda the procedures and the rules to be followed in the performance of the fortnightly, monthly and annual ceremonies (according to the lunar calendar). If one dies at the full moon his rites should begin on the fourth day. If he dies on the fourth day the rites should begin on the ninth day. If one dies on the ninth day, the rites should begin on the fourteenth day. In these cases the fortnightly shraaddha should be performed on the twentieth day. When in one month two sankrantis occur, one according to the solar and the other according to the lunar calculations, the shraaddha has to be performed only on the first, the regular one. When there are two months in one month (one extra and the other regular in some areas called adhika maasa or malamaasa or nija maasa) the thithi comes twice and the rites need to be performed twice. The sapinda ceremony should be done when there is no sankranti, (in malamaasa) rice-balls (pindas) are not used. When there is solstice, rice-balls (pindas) should be given. Thus annual shraaddha should be done in both (the adhika and nija maasas). At the end of the first year, one should perform the annual shraaddha and in that, Brahmins should be fed. After the first year, one should offer three balls at the shraaddha. These are for the father, grandfather and the great grand father. The ceremony for only one should never be performed since it causes the destruction of one’s forefathers. The shraaddha at a holy place near a sacred river, the ceremony at Gaya and such places or rites should not be done before the end of one year. They should not be done at eclipses on special days like Gajachchaaya Yog a day when there is a unique yoga!) When the moon is in makha star, the sun is in Hasta and the day is Trayodashi andyuga days. One can do these only after one full year. Performing shraaddha at Gaya should be with devotion. With Vishnu’s blessing if this is performed at Gaya the forefathers are liberated from this ocean of existence on earth. During the performance of shraaddha on unique days and holy places the son or the performer should worship Vishnu with leaves of Basil and in proper form offer rice- balls (pindas) arranged around Sri Hari’s feet. The one who offers at Gaya a rice-ball (pinda) even the size of a Shami leaf helps seven gotras and one hundred and one families. The life of one performing the ritual at Gaya would be a fulfilled, accomplished one. The forefathers hear a song sung by Manu’s son in Ikshwaku’s garden as to whether there is any in his family who has performed Gaya shraaddha?

For that reason, like Kaushika’s sons, the son would become liberated and fulfilled.

Bharadwaja’s seven sons killed a cow and were guilty of gouhatya, killing a cow. They were liberated through several stages first as seven hunters in Dasharna then the deer an mountain of Kalinjara, and the Chakravaka birds and swans in Manasa sarovar. These were born as learned Brahmins by their devotion to their forefathers. Therefore devotion to forefathers makes one happy in this world and the world to come. Thus Sri Hari describes to Garuda all the ceremonies, rites and other practices which would yield merit to the son or the performer and liberation to the manes. The one who is poor and hence unable to perform the rites and ceremonies would be absolved from all sins by merely listening to this account. He who performs the rites and he who listens to this Garuda Puran gets immensely benefited and blessed. His father gives him good sons. His grandfather gives him wealth of cows and his great grandfather gives him affluence. The great-great grandfather gives him plentiful food and all the three extemely gratified and pleased would grant the son all his desires. Finally the son who performs the rites, ceremonies would go by the way of rectitude and righteousness to Yama puri and to the mansion of the king of Justice, Yamadharmaraja. There he would be highly respected in the great assembly of the righteous. Soota Mahamuni concluded the narration to the sages and seers assembled at Naimisharanya sying that Garuda having listened to Sri Hari’s narration was extremely happy and contented.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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