Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 3 - Chapter 13

Chapter XIII

Of Śrāddhas, or rites in honour of ancestors, to be performed on occasions of rejoicing. Funeral ceremonies. Of the Ekoddiṣṭa or monthly Śrāddha, and the Sapiṇḍana 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 Śrāddha offered upon joyous occasions.

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 parts of the hand sacred to the gods and to Prajāpati, balls of food, with curds, unbruised grain, and jujubes; and should perform, on every accession of good fortune, the rite by which the class of progenitors termed Nāndīmukha is propitiated.

A householder should diligently worship the Pitris so named, at the marriage of a son or daughter, on entering a new dwelling place, on giving a name to a child, on performing his tonsure and other purification ceremonies, at the binding of the mother's hair during gestation, or on first seeing the face of a son, or the like.

The Śrāddha on such occasions, however, has been briefly alluded to.

Hear now, oh king, the rules for the performance of funeral rites:

"Having washed the corpse with holy water, decorated it with garlands, and burnt it outside 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.'

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 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) sesame-seeds.

On the fourth day 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.

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; and during that period, gifts, acceptance, sacrifice, and sacred study are suspended.

The term of impurity for a Brahman is ten days; for a Kṣatriya, twelve; for a Vaiśya, half a month; and a whole month for a Śūdra.

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 should 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 Śrāddha enjoined for an individual is to be repeated on the day of his death (in each month for a year), but without the prayers and rites performed on the first occasion, and without offerings to the Viśvadevas.

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.

"This is the Śrāddha called Ekoddiṣṭa, 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 Sapiṇḍana is to be observed:

The practices of this rite are the same as those of the monthly mourning, but a lustration is to be made with four vessels of water, perfumes, and sesame:

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 Śrāddha.

The persons who are competent to perform the mourning of relatives connected through 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 mourning ceremonies may be performed by women, or by the associates of the deceased in religious or social institutions, or by anyone who becomes possessed of the property of a deceased kinsman.

"Mourning rites are of three descriptions, initiative, intermediate, and subsequent:

The first are those which are observed after the burning of the corpse until the touching of water, weapons, etc. (or until the cessation of uncleanness).

The intermediate ceremonies are the Śrāddhas called Ekoddiṣṭa, which are offered every month:

and the subsequent rites are those which follow the Sapiṇḍikaraṇa, 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.

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."