Atithi Satkara (अतिथिसत्कारः)

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Atithi Satkara (Samskrit: अतिथिसत्कारः) refers to the hospitality offered to guests which is given great importance in the Bharatiya Parampara (tradition).

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

The Taittiriya Upanishad says,

देवपितृकार्याभ्यां न प्रमदितव्यम् । devapitr̥kāryābhyāṁ na pramaditavyam ।[1]

Meaning: Never swerve from the rites due to the devas and pitrs. (Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli, Anuvaka 11.2 ).[2] The rites due to devas and pitrs manifest in the form of the Panchamahayajnas prescribed as a part of the Varnashrama Dharma. One among the five yajnas is Nru Yajna and Atithi Satkara is one of its important constituents along with Bhikshadana. It is said that,

नृयज्ञोऽतिथिपूजनम् | nr̥yajño'tithipūjanam ।[3]

Meaning : The honouring of Guests is ‘offering to men’ (Nru Yajna). (Manu. Smrt. 3.70)[4]

It refers to respectful reception of brahmanas[5] - ब्राह्म्यं हुतं द्विजाग्र्यार्चा | brāhmyaṁ hutaṁ dvijāgryārcāis |[3] (Manu. Smrt. 3.74)

Talking of respect towards people, the Taittiriya Upanishad further says,

मातृदेवो भव । पितृदेवो भव । आचार्यदेवो भव । अतिथिदेवो भव । mātr̥devo bhava । pitr̥devo bhava । ācāryadevo bhava । atithidevo bhava ।[1]

Meaning: May your mother be to you a worshiped; may your father be a worshiped to you; may your teacher be a worshiped to you, and so also may a guest be a worshiped to you (Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli, Anuvaka 11.2 ).[2]

Therefore, in the bharatiya parampara a guest is equal to the supreme deity and hence, the behaviour towards a guest is of atmost importance and is considered a yajna.

आतिथ्याधिकारी ॥ Who is entitled to hospitality ?

Manusmrti provides the following discussion on Atithyadhikara (आतिथ्याधिकारः), that is entitlement to hospitality.

  • A Brahmana staying for a single night has been mentioned as a guest. Because his stay is not long, therefore he is called 'Atithi' (guest).[4]

    एकरात्रं तु निवसन्नतिथिर्ब्राह्मणः स्मृतः । अनित्यं हि स्थितो यस्मात्तस्मादतिथिरुच्यते । । ३.१०२ । ।[3]

    ekarātraṁ tu nivasannatithirbrāhmaṇaḥ smr̥taḥ । anityaṁ hi sthito yasmāttasmādatithirucyate । । 3.102 । ।

  • A Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, personal friend, relative or a teacher who comes to the house of a Brahmana is not called as guest (atithi). However, if a Kshatriya comes to the house of a Brahmana in the manner of a guest, the house-holder may feed him according to his desire, after the above-mentioned Brahmanas (guests) have eaten. (Manu. Smrt. 3.110, 111)[5] Others also, that is the friends and the rest, who may come to his house out of affection, he should feed on food specially prepared, to the best of his ability, together with his wife. Manu. Smrt. 113).[4]

    न ब्राह्मणस्य त्वतिथिर्गृहे राजन्य उच्यते । वैश्यशूद्रौ सखा चैव ज्ञातयो गुरुरेव च । । ३.११० । ।

    यदि त्वतिथिधर्मेण क्षत्रियो गृहं आव्रजेत् । भुक्तवत्सु च विप्रेषु कामं तं अपि भोजयेत् । । ३.१११ । ।

    इतरानपि सख्यादीन्सम्प्रीत्या गृहं आगतान् । प्रकृत्यान्नं यथाशक्ति भोजयेत्सह भार्यया । । ३.११३ । ।[3]

    na brāhmaṇasya tvatithirgr̥he rājanya ucyate । vaiśyaśūdrau sakhā caiva jñātayo gurureva ca । । 3.110 । ।

    yadi tvatithidharmeṇa kṣatriyo gr̥haṁ āvrajet । bhuktavatsu ca vipreṣu kāmaṁ taṁ api bhojayet । । 3.111 । ।

    itarānapi sakhyādīnsamprītyā gr̥haṁ āgatān । prakr̥tyānnaṁ yathāśakti bhojayetsaha bhāryayā । । 3.113 । ।

  • If a king, priest, snataka, teacher, close person, father-in-law or maternal uncle, come after a full year since their last visit, they should be honoured with the honey-mixture (Madhuparka). A king and a shrotriya (knower of the vedas), who come on the occasion of a sacrifice, must be honoured with the honey-mixture (even if they arrive within the lapse of one year). If not, they need not be honoured.[5]

    राजर्त्विक्स्नातकगुरून्प्रियश्वशुरमातुलान् । अर्हयेन्मधुपर्केण परिसंवत्सरात्पुनः । । ३.११९ । ।

    राजा च श्रोत्रियश्चैव यज्ञकर्मण्युपस्थितौ । मधुपर्केण संपूज्यौ न त्वयज्ञ इति स्थितिः । । ३.१२० । ।[3]

    rājartviksnātakagurūnpriyaśvaśuramātulān । arhayenmadhuparkeṇa parisaṁvatsarātpunaḥ । । 3.119 । ।

    rājā ca śrotriyaścaiva yajñakarmaṇyupasthitau । madhuparkeṇa saṁpūjyau na tvayajña iti sthitiḥ । । 3.120 । ।

दानवस्तूनि ॥ Offerings to a guest

According to Manusmrti, the offerings that one should make to a guest include,

  • Asana (आसनम् | a seat to sit)
  • Udaka (उदकम् | water to quench his thirst)
  • Anna (अन्नम् | food to pacify his hunger)

It says,

संप्राप्ताय त्वतिथये प्रदद्यादासनोदके । अन्नं चैव यथाशक्ति सत्कृत्य विधिपूर्वकम् । । ३.९९ । ।[3]

saṁprāptāya tvatithaye pradadyādāsanodake । annaṁ caiva yathāśakti satkr̥tya vidhipūrvakam । । 3.99 । ।

Meaning: To the guest who has happened to come, one should offer; according to rule, water and seat, and also food prepared to the best of one's ability. (Manu. Smrt. 3.99) However, (even if there is no food to offer) grasses, place, water and kind word as the fourth, never fail in the house of good people.[4]

तृणानि भूमिरुदकं वाक्चतुर्थी च सूनृता । एतान्यपि सतां गेहे नोच्छिद्यन्ते कदा चन । । ३.१०१ । ।[3]

tr̥ṇāni bhūmirudakaṁ vākcaturthī ca sūnr̥tā । etānyapi satāṁ gehe nocchidyante kadā cana । । 3.101 । ।

आतिथ्यधर्माः ॥ Principles of hospitality

Some of the Principles of hospitality as enumerated in the Manusmrti are as follows.

  • The guest brought by the sun in the evening should not be driven away by the house-holder. Arrived in (an appropriate) time, or not, the guest shall not stay in the house without partaking food (enjoying hospitality).[4]

    अप्रणोद्योऽतिथिः सायं सूर्योढो गृहमेधिना । काले प्राप्तस्त्वकाले वा नास्यानश्नन्गृहे वसेत् । । ३.१०५ । ।[3]

    apraṇodyo'tithiḥ sāyaṁ sūryoḍho gr̥hamedhinā । kāle prāptastvakāle vā nāsyānaśnangr̥he vaset । । 3.105 । ।

  • If a guest arrives after the Vaishvadeva offering has been finished, the householder must make food and give him and not from the Bali offering.[5]

    वैश्वदेवे तु निर्वृत्ते यद्यन्योऽतिथिराव्रजेत् । तस्याप्यन्नं यथाशक्ति प्रदद्यान्न बलिं हरेत् । । ३.१०८ । ।[3]

    vaiśvadeve tu nirvr̥tte yadyanyo'tithirāvrajet । tasyāpyannaṁ yathāśakti pradadyānna baliṁ haret । । 3.108 । ।

  • One should, without hesitation, feed newly married girls, maidens, sick persons and pregnant women immediately after the guests. The foolish man, who eats before giving food to these, does not understand, that, in eating thus, he is himself devoured by dogs and vultures (after death).[4]

    सुवासिनीः कुमारीश्च रोगिणो गर्भिणीः स्त्रियः । अतिथिभ्योऽग्र एवैतान्भोजयेदविचारयन् । । ३.११४ । ।

    अदत्त्वा तु य एतेभ्यः पूर्वं भुङ्क्तेऽविचक्षणः । स भुञ्जानो न जानाति श्वगृध्रैर्जग्धिं आत्मनः । । ३.११५ । ।[3]

    suvāsinīḥ kumārīśca rogiṇo garbhiṇīḥ striyaḥ । atithibhyo'gra evaitānbhojayedavicārayan । । 3.114 । ।

    adattvā tu ya etebhyaḥ pūrvaṁ bhuṅkte'vicakṣaṇaḥ । sa bhuñjāno na jānāti śvagr̥dhrairjagdhiṁ ātmanaḥ । । 3.115 । ।

  • The husband and wife should eat what is left after the Brahmanas, one's own people and servants have dined.[4]

    भुक्तवत्स्वथ विप्रेषु स्वेषु भृत्येषु चैव हि । भुञ्जीयातां ततः पश्चादवशिष्टं तु दम्पती । । ३.११६ । ।[3]

    bhuktavatsvatha vipreṣu sveṣu bhr̥tyeṣu caiva hi । bhuñjīyātāṁ tataḥ paścādavaśiṣṭaṁ tu dampatī । । 3.116 । ।

  • One should not eat what one does not offer to one's guest. In fact, the honouring of guests is conducive to wealth, fame, longevity and heaven.[4]

    न वै स्वयं तदश्नीयादतिथिं यन्न भोजयेत् । धन्यं यशस्यं आयुष्यं स्वर्ग्यं वातिथिपूजनम् । । ३.१०६ । ।[3]

    na vai svayaṁ tadaśnīyādatithiṁ yanna bhojayet । dhanyaṁ yaśasyaṁ āyuṣyaṁ svargyaṁ vātithipūjanam । । 3.106 । ।

अतिथिनिरादरफलम् ॥ Fruit of disrespecting a guest

According to Manusmrti, if a guest is not honoured, he takes away all the spiritual merit (punya) even of a man who subsists by agriculture and offers oblations in five fires.[5]

शिलानप्युञ्छतो नित्यं पञ्चाग्नीनपि जुह्वतः । सर्वं सुकृतं आदत्ते ब्राह्मणोऽनर्चितो वसन् । । ३.१०० । ।[3]

śilānapyuñchato nityaṁ pañcāgnīnapi juhvataḥ । sarvaṁ sukr̥taṁ ādatte brāhmaṇo'narcito vasan । । 3.100 । ।

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli, Anuvaka 11.2
  2. 2.0 2.1 Swami Sharvananda (1921), Taittiriya Upanishad, Madras: The Ramakrishna Math.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Manusmrti, Adhyaya 3
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Ganganath Jha (1920-39), Manusmrti (Vol.4), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Pt. Girija Prasad Dvivedi (1917), The Manusmriti, Lucknow: Naval Kishore Press.