Romesh Chunder Dutt.

A history of civilization in ancient India, based on Sanscrit literature online

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Besides the order of the student and that of the
householder, there were two other orders of life, viz,^
those of the ascetic (Bhikshu), and that of the hermit
(Vaikhdnasa). We learn from later Sanscrit literature
that a typical or perfect life was the life of a man who
belonged to these four orders in successive periods of
his life. Apastamba, too, who is one of the latest of
the SOtrak&ras, says that " if he lives in all these four
(orders of life) * * he will obtain salvation." (II, 9,
21,2.) But this was not probably the original idea, and
in early times a man might have chosen to spend the
whole of his life in one of tliese four orders. Thus
Vasishtha says that a man after completing his educa-
tion may, according to his choice, embrace one of the
four orders for the rest of his life (VII, 3), and Baudhd-
yana too quotes a rule that a man on finishing his
education may be an ascetic at once (II, 10, 17, 2). It
is needless for our purpose to dwell on rules laid
down for an ascetic and a hermit respectively. It will
suffice to state that an ascetic shaved his head, had no
property or home, practised austerities, fasted or lived
on alms, wore a single garment or a skin, slept on the
bare ground, and wandered about from place to place,
discontinued the performance of all religious cere-
monies, but never discontinued the study of the Veda
or the contemplation of the Universal Soul ( Vasishtha^

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X). A hermit, on the other hand, though living in
woods, living on roots and fruits and leading a chaste
life, kindled the sacred fire and offered the morning and
evening libations ( Vasishihy IX).

Numerous are the sacraments which have been pre-
scribed for householders who form the best of the four
orders. For the householders, and not hermits and
ascetics, formed the nation, and " as rivers, both great
and small, find a resting place in the ocean, even so
men of all orders find protection with householders "
{Vasishtha^NWl, 15).

No less than forty sacraments have been prescribed
for the householder {Gautama, VIII, 14 to 20), and as we
will describe some of these rites in the next chapter, it
is necessary only to enumerate them here.

Dotnestic Ceremonies, — (i) Garbhddhdna (ceremony to
cause conception) ; (2) Pumsavana (ceremony to cause
the birth of a male child) ; (3) Sfmantpnnayana (arrang-
ing the hair of the pregnant wife) ; (4) jatakarman
(ceremony on birth of a child); (5) ceremony of
naming the child ; (6) the first feeding ; (7) the ton-
sure of the head ; (8) the initiation ; (9 to 12) the four
vows for the study of the Veda ; (13) the bath or com-
pletion of studentship ; (14) marriage, or, as it is called^
the taking a helpmate for the performance of reli-
gious duties ; and (15 to 19) the five sacrifices to gods,
manes, men, goblins, and the Brahman or Universal

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Grihya religious rites, also called Pdkayajnas. — They
have been already alluded to in Chapter I of this Book,
but for facility of reference, we will again enumerate
them here, (i) Astakd, or rites performed in winter ;

(2) P4rvana, or new and full moon rites ; (3) Sr^ddha, or
funeral sacrifices ; (4) Sr4vani, a rite performed on the
full moon of SrAvana month ; (5) Agrahdyanl, performed
in the Agrahdyana month ; (6) Chaitri, performed in the
month of Chaitra ; and (7) Asvayugi, performed in the
month of Asvina.

Srauta religious rites, — These are again divided into
two classes, viz., Haviryajna, performed with offerings
of rice, milk, butter, meat, &c. ; and the Somayajna, per-
formed with libations of the soma juice. There were
seven rites of each class, and they have been described
before in Book II, Chapter VIII, of the present work.
We >yill again name them here.

The Haviryajnas are — (i) Agny4dh4na, (2) Agnihotra,

(3) DarsapArnamisa, (4) Agrayana, (5) Chaturmftsya,
(6) NirAdhapasubandha, and (7) Santr4man!.

The Somayajnas are (1) Agnishtoma, (2) Atyagnish-
toma, (3) Ukthya, (4) Shodasin, (s) VAjapeya, (6)
Atir&tra, and (7) Aptorydma..

Such were the forty sacraments prescribed for house-
holders ; — ^but far above the performance of these
sacrifices was esteemed the possession of virtue and
goodness which alone led to heaven. A living nation
could never forget that, — however much sacrifice inight

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be esteemed and rules for their performance might be
multiplied, — it was virtue which held society together
and smoothed the path of progress. So long as
society was progressive, it commended virtue more than
the rites it enjoined, and punished vice more than the
breach of caste-rules or the omission of rites. Compas-
sion, Forbearance, Freedom from anger, Purity, Gentle-
ness, the Performance of good actions, Freedom from
avarice and Freedom from covetousness, are esteemed
as the eight good qualities, and Gautama says :—

" He who is sanctified by these forty sacraments, but
whose soul is destitute of the eight good qualities, will
not be united with Brahman, nor does he reach His

" But he, forsooth, who is sanctified by a few only
of these forty sacraments and whose soul is endowed
with the excellent qualities, wil} be united with Brahmaii
and will dwell in His Heaven." (VHI, 24 and 25.)

Further on Gautama concludes his account of the
duties of a householder with these pregnant rules : —

" 68. He shall always speak the truth.

" 6g. He shall conduct himself as becomes an Aryan.

" 70. He shall instruct virtuous men.

"71. He shall follow the rules of purification.

" 72. He shall take pleasure in the Veda.

''73- He shall never hurt any being, he shall
be gentle yet firm, ever restrain his senses and be

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" 74. A sndtaka who conducts himself in this man-
ner will liberate his parents, his ancestors, and descend-
ants from evil, and never fall from Brahman's heaven.*'

Similarly Vasishtha says : —

" 3. The Vedas do not purify him who is deficient
in good conduct, though he may have learnt them all
together with the six Angas ; the sacred texts depart
from such a man even as birds when full fledged leave
their nests.

" 4. As the beauty of a wife causes no joy to a
blind man, even so all the four Vedas together with
the six Angas and sacrifices bring no blessing to him
who is deficient in good conduct.

" 5. The several texts do not save from sin the
deceitful man who behaves deceitfully. But that Veda,
two syllables of which are studied with due observances
of rules of conduct, purifies, just as the clouds in the
month of Asvina." (VI.)

It was but one short step from this to Buddhism
which eschewed all sacred texts and sacred rites, and
was essentially a religion of holy lifCy which could
create for man a heaven in this earth.

Gautama's list of the sins which led to loss of
caste confirms the same impression that so long as
Hinduism was the religion of a living nation, im-
morality was despised and punished more than breach
of artificial rules. Murder, drinking spirituous liquor.

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violation of a guru's bed, incest, theft, atheism, a per-
sistent repetition of sinful acts, harbouring criminals
and abandoning blameless friends, instigating others
to such sinful acts, and associating with outcasts, giv-
ing false evidence, bringing false charges, and similar
acts, involved loss of caste, (XXI, i to 10.) Vasish-
tha's list of Mahdpdtakas is shorter, but equally points
to the abhorrence for sin and immorality rather than
the breach of artificial rules. The violation of a guru's
bed, the drinking of spirituous liquor, murder and theft,
and spiritual or matrimonial connexion with outcastes,
were the five greatest of sins. (I, 19 to 21.)

It is permissible for a historian to turn from ancient /^
customs to modern facts ! Ancient Hinduism, which
was a living religion, laid down rules for the conduct
of Aryans, but detested crime and immorality far more
than the breach of artificial rules. Long subjection
and political lifelessness have made modern Hindus
lose sight of the spirit of the ancient faith, and cling
to dead forms, or fabricate new-fangled and hurtful
rules. Immorality, the use of spirituous liquor^ and^
even crime, do not involve loss of caste in modern
society ; that penalty is reserved for the re-marriage of
widows which was permitted in ancient days, for inter-
marriage and social intercourse among people descend-
ed from the same old Vaisya stock, for voyage and
foreign travel which were permitted to Northern Hindus,
Caste was a valuable institution when it repressed *

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crime and ordained a pure life. Modem caste represses
harmless or even meritorious acts, and has become
valuable in its loss moire than in its preservation !

The taking of food cooked by men of inferior castes,
which is a principal reason of loss of caste in modem
times, does not seem to have entailed the same conse-
quences in the Rationalistic Period. On the contrary,
there are directions for keeping Sddra cooks, provided
the cooks had cleanly habits Apastamba^ II, 2, 3, 4
to 9), and the food thus prepared was considered fit
even for religious rites. Thus the ancients allowed
between Aryans and Sddras a degree of social inter-
course which the modems will not permit among differ-
ent professions descended from the same Vaisya stock.

Elaborate rules have been laid down in the Stitras
on the subject of food, and animals and birds which
may be used as food have been carefully distinguished
from those which should not be so used. Beef was
still used as an article of food, but was gradually fall-
ing into disuse on account of the growing disinclina-
tion to kill animals except at sacrifices. On this point
Dr. Buhler has drawn attention to a remarkable pas-
sage from Manu's Dharma Sflitra, which has been
quoted by Vasishtha. Manu's Dharma S^tra exists
no longer, having been replaced by the later metrical
code of Manu, which is no doubt based on the old
Dharma SOtra. The extract is therefore of the utmost
interest to all Sanscrit scholars.

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CHAP. VII.] SOCIAL u:fe. ioj

"5. The Minava (Siitra states), *onIy when he
worships the manes and the gods, or honours guests,
he may certainly do injury to animals.*

" 6. * On offering a madhuparka (to a guest) at a
sacrifice, and at the rites in honor of the manes, but
on these occasions only may an animal be slain, that
rule Manu proclaimed.'

" 7. * Meat can never be obtained without injuring
living beings, and to injure living beings does not pro-
cure heavenly bliss ; therefore the (sages declare) the
slaughter at a sacrifice not to be slaughter.'

" 8. * Now he may cook a full-grown ox or a full-
grown he-goat for a Brdhman or Kshatriya guest ; in
this manner they offer hospitality to such a man.' '*
VasishthUy IV.

With regard to the above four Siitras S to 8 from
Vasishtha, Book IV, Dr. Biihler makes the following
remarks, which are worth quoting : ** The fact that
Vasishtha gives in IV, 5, a prose quotation from Manu,
may therefore be considered as certain. Moreover,
several of the best manuscripts shew by adding the
particle * iti ' at the end of SCitra 8, that the quotation
from the MAnava is not finished with Siitra 5, but in-
cludes the two verses given in SCitras 6 and 7, and the
second prose passage in SCitra 8. Among the verses the
first is found entire in the metrical Manu Smriti, and
the second has likewise a representative in that work,
though its concluding portion has been altered in such a

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manner that the permission to slaughter animals of
sacrifices has been converted into an absolute prohibition
to take animal life. SCitra 8 which again is in prose has
no counter-part in the metrical * Manu Smriti ' as might
be expected from its allowing ^full-grown ox^ or^ a full-
grown he-goat ' to be killed in honor of a distinguished
Brdhmana or Kshatriya guest, " The Italics are our
own, and they shew, if Dr. Buhler*s supposition be
correct, how the ancient and now lost Mdnava Sdtra
has been changed into the modern metrical Minava
Sastra to suit the changes in the customs and manners
of the Hindu nation.

Dr. Rajendra Lala Mitra has in his paper on Beef
in Ancient India pointed out that in several religious
rites the slaughter of artimals formed a necessary part.
One is called the SUlagava or "spitted cow," i,e.
Roast Beef, and it was performed in the autumn or
spring season. Another was called GavAmanayana or
the sacrifice of the cow, otherwise called, ekdshtakd.
KAtySyana recommends the sacrifice of a barren cow
to the Maruts and seventeen oxen to Praj&pati in con-
nection with the Atirdtra rite. Similarly the NirMha
Pasubandha rite required the sacrifice of oxen. The Ma-
dhuparka or honey-meat of which mention is made be-
fore, and was offered to a respectable guest, — a priest,
king, bridegroom or Vedic student, a teacher, a father-in-
law, an uncle or a man of rank, — had to be accompanied
with the sacrifice of a cow in honor of the guest. Dr.

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Mitra rightly thinks that the use of beef went out
when sacrifices themselves fell into disuse, and was
finally abandoned in consequence to the Buddhist ap-
peal to humanity.

But though beef as well as the meat of various other
animals was allowed in the Rationalistic Period, the use
of spirituous liquor was most strictly prohibited, and
was, as we have seen, a MahApAtaka both according to
Gautama and Vasishtha. The penance was death, —
hot liquor of the same kind being poured into the
sinner's mouth till he was scalded to death {Gautama^
XXIII, I ; Baudhdyana, II, i, i, i8). But as we have
said before, these laws indicate the state of society
which was aimed at by priests, and not the state which
was ever actually secured. But nevertheless it is some-
thing to know the good results which were aimed at
by ancient rules and restrictions. For they have now
been replaced by new rules and restrictions which aim
at no good results, and reveal neither sense nor reason
to the most solicitous inquirer !


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We have seen that the forty sacraments prescribed by
Gautama included domestic ceremonies, Grihya rites,
and Srauta rites. The Srauta rites are described in
detail in the Yajur Veda and the Brdhmanas, and also
in a condensed form in the Srauta Siitras, as we have
stated before. These rites and sacrifices throw little
light on the manners and customs of the people, and are
therefore not of very great importance for our historical
purpose. The domestic ceremonies and Grihya rites
on the other hand give us glimpses which are of
inestimable value into the manners of the ancient
Hindus, and indeed give us perfect pictures of the life
that they lived and the habits and customs they follow-
ed. These ceremonies and rites form the subject of
the Grihya Sutras, and to them we must now turn.

We will first treat of the domestic ceremonies, the
Samskdras^ as they are called, and afterwards speak of
the Grihya religious rites. The most important of the
Samskdras are Marriage, Ceremonies during pregnancy
of wife. Birth of child, Annapr&sana or the first feeding
of a child, Tonsure, Cutting of beard. Initiation, Return
from school, and the Building of a house, Funeral

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ceremonies and SrAddhas. As we read accounts of these
domestic ceremonies, we think we survey the whole
life of our ancient ancestors ; — and the ceremonies are
all the more interesting to us, because we continue to
practise many of them to the present day, after a
lapse of over two thousand years.

Marriage, — The bridegroom sends messengers to the
house of the girl's father, reciting verse X, 85, 23, of the
Rig Veda which we have translated before. If the
proposal pleases both parties, the promise of marriage
is ratified, and both parties touch a full vessel into
which flowers, fried grain, barley and gold have been
put, and recite a formula. The bridegroom then per-
forms a sacrifice. On the appointed day, the bride's
relations wash her with water fragrant with the choicest
fruits and scents, make her put on a newly dyed gar-
ment, and cause her to sit down by a fire while tl>e
family Ach&rya performs a sacrifice. The bridegroom
who has also bathed and gone through auspicious
ceremonies " is escorted by happy young women who
are not widows to the girl's house." Sdnkkdydna,

The actual marriage ceremony varied in detail in
different localities, but agreed in the essential points.
•'Various indeed are the customs of the different
countries, and the customs of the different villages.
♦ * What however is commonly accepted, that
we shall state." Asvaldyana. The bridegroom holds
the bride by the hand, and leads her three times round

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a fire, reciting some verses as " Come, let us marry.
Let us beget offspring. Loving, bright, with genial
mind, may we live a hundred autumns." Each time
he makes her tread a millstone, saying " Like a stone
be firm." The bride's brother or guardian fills her
hands with Ajya or fried grain, and she sacrifices it to
the fire. The bridegroom then causes the bride to step
forward seven steps, reciting some suitable words, as
" For sap with one step, for juice with two steps, for
thriving of wealth with three steps, for comfort with
four steps, for offspring with five steps, for the seasons
with six steps, be friend with seven steps. So be
thou devoted to me. Let us acquire many sons who
may reach old age." The going round the fire, tread-
ing the stone, sacrificing the fried grain and stepping
forward seven steps, constituted the principal forms of the
marriage ceremony. " And she should dwell that night
in the house of an old Br&hman woman whose husband
is alive, and whose children are alive. When she sees
the polar star, the star of ArundhatJ, and the Seven
Rishis (ursa major) let her break the silence, and say
May my husband live, and I get offspring." Asva-
lAyana, SAnkhSyana says " Let them sit silent, when the
sun has set, until the polar star appears. He shews her
the polar star with the words, — * Firm be thou, thriv-
ing with me.' Let her say * I see the polar star ; may
I obtain offspring.* Through a period of three nights
let them refrain from conjugal intercourse." The last

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injunction leads to the supposition that girls were
generally married after they had obtained maturity, in
spite of the rules to the contrary which were coming
into fashion. Piraskara says the prohibition against
conjugal intercourse may extend to three nights, or to
twelve nights, or to six months, or to a year.

Gobhila lays down a rule about the selection of a
wife, which will sound strange in these modem days of
courtship and free choice ! Eight lumps of earth were
to be taken from different places, from an altar, a
ploughed field, a lake, a pasture field, a meeting of
roads, &c., and a ninth was to be formed by mixing
portions of the other eight. These nine were to be
placed before the girl, — and she was to be considered a
suitable bride or otherwise according to her blind choice t

Pregnancy, — Various were the rites performed during
the pregnancy of a wife. In the first place there was the
Grabhalambhana rite, which was supposed to secure con-
ception. The Pumsavana rite was supposed to deter-
mine the male sex of the child, and the Anavalobhana
or Garbharakshana secured the child in the womb from
dangers. The Stmantonnayana, performed according to
Asval4yana in the fourth month, and according to
S4nkh4yana in the seventh month of pregnancy, is a
more interesting ceremony. Gobhila says it may be
performed in the fourth, sixth, or eighth month, and it
consisted in the husband affectionately parting his wife's
hair with certain rites.

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Birth of child, — The rites performed on this occasion
are called JAtakarman^ or birth ceremony, MedhAjana-
nam^ or the production of intelligence, and Ayushya
or rite for prolonging life. On this occasion the father
gives the child a secret name, — of an even number of
syllables if the child is male, and an uneven number if
it is female, and only the father and mother know that
name. On the tenth day when the niother gets up
from childbed a name for common use is given to the
child, "The name of a Brdhman should end in
Sarman (^.^., Vishnu Sarman), that of a Kshatriya in
Varman, (^.^,, Lakshml Varman), ^A^/ ^/^ Vaisya in
Gupta {e, g,^ Chandra Gupta)'* Pdraskara^ I, 17, 4.

First feeding of the child with solid food, — This is the
well-known Annaprdsana ceremony, which is observed
to the present day. Only the child seems to have been
allowed a greater variety of food in the olden days.
*' Croat's flesh, if he is desirous of nourishment, flesh of
partridge if desirous of holy lustre, boiled rice with
ghee, if desirous of splendour," Asvaliyana and Sdnkhd-
yana. "Flesh of the bird called BhdradvSjt if he
wishes fluency of speech ; Fish, if swiftness was de-
sired, &c., &;c. P&raskara.

Tonsure of the child s head, called Kaula or ChMA
Karancu This was performed when the child was
one year old according to S4nkh4yana and PAraskarsi,
or when the child was in his third year according to
Asval4yana and Gobhila. The child's head was shaved

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with a razor with certain mantras, (without mantras
in the case of a girl,) and some hair was left and
arranged according to the custom of the family.

Cutting of the beard, — The ceremony called Goddna
Karman, or KesdntUy was similar to the tonsure of the
head, but was of course performed at a later period.
Asvaldyana says it v/as performed in the sixteenth year
of the boy, Sdnkhdyana says in the sixteenth or
eighteenth year, and Gobhila says in the sixteenth
year after initiation.

Initiation or Upanayana, — This was an important
ceremony, and was performed when a boy was made
over by his father or guardian to the teacher for
education. The age of initiation, as we have seen before
varied in the case of Brdhmans, Kshatriyas and
Vaisyas, and the sacred thread was worn on this occa-
sion by all the three castes.

A garment, a girdle, and a staff of appropriate
materials were then assumed by the student, and he
approached the teacher.

" He (the teacher) fills the two hollows of his own

and the student's joined hands with water, and then

says to him (/. ^., to the student) : * what is thy name ' ?

" * I am N. N., sir, ' says the other.

" * Descending from the same Rishis,* says the


" 'Descending from the same Rishis, sir,' says the

R. C. D., A. I.— II. 8

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" * Declare that thou art a student, sir.'

" * I am a student, sir,' says the other.

"With the words *Bh(ir Bhuvah Svah'the teacher
sprinkles thrice with his joined hands water on the
joined hands of the student.

"And seizing the student's hands with his own
hands, holding the right uppermost, he murmurs : —

" By the impulse of the god Savitri, with the arms

of the two Asvins, with Pftshan's hands, I initiate thee,.


» # ♦ ♦ ♦

" After one year the teacher recites the SAvitrt (Rig
Veda, III, 62),

" or after three nights,

" or immediately.

" Let him recite a GSyatr! to a Brdhman,

" a Trishtubh to a Kshatriya,

" a Jagatt to a Vaisya.

" But let it anyhow be a verse sacred to Savitri.

"They seat themselves to the north of the fire,

"the teacher with his face turned eastward, the
other westward.

" After the student has said * Recite, sir,*

"the teacher having pronounced the word OM,
then causes the other one to say * Recite the SAvitri,

" He then recites the SAvitri to him, the verse,
•That glorious splendour of Savitri' (Rig Veda, III,

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62, 10), firstly pada by pada, then hemistich by
hemistich, and finally without a stop." Sdnkkdyana,
II, 2 and 5.

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