Mrta-Asoucha (मृताशौचम्)

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Determining Mrta-Asoucha (Samskrit: मृताशौचनिर्णयः) involves various factors with varying number of days of Asoucha prescribed for each kind of situation. Factors involved in the Asoucha vidhis are one or a combination of the following

  • whether death was of a family (maternal or paternal) member or of a relative
  • the generation to which the person belongs to in the lineage
  • the ashrama of the person
  • the gender of the person (male or female)
  • whether the dead was cremated (दहनम्) or buried (खनन्म्)
  • whether the person who died has undergone has undergone any samskara such as Namakarana, Chudakarma and specifically the Upanayana samskara
  • time of hearing the news of death (number of hours or days elapsed since death)
  • place where the death of the person happened (nearby or far off in distant lands)
  • natural or unnatural death (falling off, snake-bite, drowning etc)

Further Mrta- Asoucha is of many kinds of which a few are mentioned as follows[1]

सद्यश्शौचं तथैकाहस्त्र्यहश्चतुरहस्तथा षड्दशद्वादशाहश्च पक्षो मासस्तथैव च। मरणान्तं तथा चान्यद्दश पक्षास्तु सूतके।

Asoucha is ordained to be one of instant removal (सद्यश्शौचम्) one (एकाहाशौचम्), three (त्र्यहः), four (चतुरहः), six (षडहः), ten (दशाहः) twelve days (द्वादशदिन), fifteen days (पक्षाशौचम् , one month (मासाशौचम्) etc and persists even until the death of a person (मरणान्ताशौचम्).

सद्यश्शौचम् ॥ Sadyasoucha

Asoucha is removed almost instantly in some situations. Example, in cases of non-sapinda relatives, on hearing the news of the death of a family member, asoucham is removed on taking a sachela snanam - snana (taking a bath) with the clothes at that instant on hearing the news. Another example is when relatives visit a family in the ten-day bereavement, upon returning home their Asoucha is removed with a bath immediately.

भृग्वग्निमरणे चैव देशान्तरमृते तथा । बाले प्रेते च संन्यस्ते सद्यः शौचं विधीयते ॥ ३.12 ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.12)[2]

A rshi undertaking penance in forest, due to age or inability to continue the tapas (due to health reasons) may choose death either by jumping off a cliff (भृगुमरणम्) or by entering fire (अग्निमरणम्). In the above two situations (of भृग्वग्निमरण), death in places far off from non-native country, in infant's and sanyasi's death, shuddhi happens on taking a bath instantly on hearing the news.

दशरात्रेष्वतीतेषु त्रिरात्राच्छुद्धिरिष्यते । ततः सम्वत्सरादूद्र्ध्वं सचैलं स्नानमाचरेत्॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.13)[2]

If the news of death arrives anytime after the tenth day has passed (i.e., on the 11th day) but within one year, then asoucha has to be observed for three days. But according to present day aacharas, this rule is not being followed and people are opting for sadyasoucha only instead of observing the three-day asoucha. If news of death is heard after a year of passing of the person then sadyashuddhi is by Sachela snanam.

देशान्तरमृतः कश्चित्सगोत्रः श्रूयते यदि । न त्रिरात्रं अहोरात्रं सद्यः स्नात्वा शुचिर्भवेत् ॥ ३.१4 ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.14)[2]

If information arrives that a person of the same lineage (sagotra) has died in a country other than his native land — then the rule of three days or of one day does not apply, the relatives are purified by bathing themselves on that very day.

एकाहाशौचम् ॥ Ekaaha Asoucham

Asoucha is for one day.

एकाहाच्छुध्यते विप्रो योऽग्निवेदसमन्वितः । (Para. Smrt. 3.5)[2] A Brahman who has studied the Veda, and likewise keeps the sacred household fire, is restored to soucha in a single day.

Such a situation is extremely rare in the present society as Brahmanas who are studying Vedas and maintaining the Agni at home are extremely few in number. As it is extremely uncommon many in the general society are unaware of such situations.

त्रिरात्राशौचम् चतुरहाशौचम् षण्णिशाशौचम् च॥ Asoucha for three, four and six days

Asoucha is for three, four and six days respectively in the following cases.

त्र्यहात्केवलवेदस्तु द्विहीनो दशभिर्दिनैः ॥ ३.५ ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.5)[2]

He who has the knowledge of the Veda alone will recover purity in three days ; while he who is without either the Veda or the fire, will remain with Asoucha till ten days are over.

चतुर्थे दशरात्रं स्यात्षण्णिशाः पुंसि पञ्चमे । षष्ठे चतुरहाच्छुद्धिः सप्तमे तु दिनत्रयात् ॥ ३.10॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.10)[2]

For the fourth generation person, ten days of sutaka is to be followed. For the fifth generation person he should observe six nights of Asoucha (i.e., 7th day). For the sixth generation person, shuddi will be after four days (i.e., on the 5th day). For the seventh generation person, shuddhi will be after three days (i.e., on the 4th day).

दशदिनाशौचम् ॥ Dasadina Asoucham

Asoucha for ten days is presently the widely followed system.

एकाहाच्छुध्यते विप्रो योऽग्निवेदसमन्वितः । त्र्यहात्केवलवेदस्तु द्विहीनो दशभिर्दिनैः ॥ ३.5 ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.5)[2]

A Brahman who has studied the Veda, and likewise keeps the sacred household fire, is restored to purity in a single day ; he who has the knowledge of the Veda alone will recover purity in three days ; while he who is without either the Veda or the fire, will have Asoucha till ten days are over.

जन्मकर्मपरिभ्रष्टः संध्योपासनवर्जितः । नामधारकविप्रस्तु दशाहं सूतकी भवेत् ॥ ३.6 ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.6)[2]

A Brahman who has never received the purificatory rites prescribed from the day of birth, who neglects to perform the threefold daily prayers (sandhya), who is a Brahman in name alone — must observe ten days of Asoucha on account of a birth or death.

एकपिण्डास्तु दायादाः पृथग्दारनिकेतनाः । जन्मन्यपि विपत्तौ च तेषां तत्सूतकं भवेत् ॥ ३.7 ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.7)[2]

Even if the Dayadis (one who are sagotras and sapindas) have separate homes and their families are not living in joint families, they have the same rules of ten days of sutakam.

प्राप्नोति सूतकं गोत्रे चतुर्थपुरुषेण तु । दायाद्विच्छेदमाप्नोति पञ्चमो वात्मवंशजः ॥ ३.9 ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.9)[2]

The aforesaid sutaka applies upto four generations (son, father, grandfather and great-grandfather) and the dayadi relationship ends with the fifth generation person of the same family.

पञ्चभिः पुरुषैर्युक्ता अश्राद्धेया सगोत्रिणः । ततःषट्पुरुषाद्यश्च श्राद्धेऽभोज्या सगोत्रिणः ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.11)[2]

There is no shraddha vidhi, from the fifth generation person onwards even if they are sagotras. A sixth generation person should not partake the prasada of shraddha, even if he is a sagotra.

Infants and Children

Male child

According to Dharmasindhu, after the tenth day Jananaasoucha of a male child, if the child dies anytime before Namakarana samskara, then the parents of the child have three days of Mrtasoucha and the sapindas have shuddi after a bath. According to Dharmasindhu, the dead child is either buried or cremated as per the achara in the family.

  • Before Namakarana upon death an infant is buried.
  • After Namakarana before Chudakarma or if Chudakarma is not performed upto three three years of age - child may be cremated or buried based on family tradition.
  • If child dies after Chudakarma samskara (either at one year or third year), cremation has to be performed.
Mrta-Asoucha Nirnaya in Infants and Children of Dvijavarnas
Mother Father Sapindas Remarks
Death of child after 10th day before Namakarana Three days of Mrtaasoucha Snanashuddhi Namakarana is normally regarded as 11th day feature.
Between Namakarana (12th day) - Teething (End of 6th month) Three days of Mrtaasoucha both on burial and cremation. Snanashuddhi on burial or One day Mrtaasoucha if cremated. Dantotpatti or teething is normally regarded as 7th month feature.
Male child Between Dantotpatti (7th month) - Chudakarma or end of third year Three days of Mrtaasoucha both on burial and cremation. One day Asoucha on burial or Three day Mrtaasoucha if cremated. Chudakarma is regarded as a samskara in 3rd year of child.
Male Child Death occurs after Chudakarma when performed before child's first year - up to 3 years of age Three days of Mrtaasoucha on cremation. In some traditions Chudakarma is performed before the male child completes one year.
Male child Death occurs after Chudakarma up to Upanayana Samskara Three days of Mrtaasoucha for mother, father and sapindas. For Sodakas no Mrtaasoucham but snana is shuddhi is present. Here the child has not undergone Upanayana samskara but the age is considered.
Male child News of death of a child (who did not have Upanayana samskara) received after a year No Mrta Asoucham for parents and others but shuddhi after snana is ordained. In case of Aurasa putra the parents have three days of Mrtaasoucham even if they heard the news of death after one year of passing of the child. Such cases are seen in adoption of sons.

अजातदन्ता ये बाला ये च गर्भाद्विनिःसृताः । न तेषां अग्निसंस्कारो नाशौचं नोदकक्रिया ॥ (Para. Smrt. 3.16)[2]

For infants from birth till the time the teeth had yet to grow, and for such who are still-born, no cremation (अग्निसंस्कार) is ordained, neither is there any time of Asoucha, nor are given tarpana of water (उदकक्रिया). This vidhi applies to the relatives and not the mother.

मृताशौचविधयः ॥ Mrtaasoucha Vidhis

तत्र मृताशौचवतामस्पृश्यत्वं कर्मानधिकारश्च॥

References

  1. Shama Sastry, R. (1921) Smritichandrika, Asaucha Kaanda by Devanabhatta. Mysore : Oriental Library Publications. (Pages 1 -25)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 The Smriti Sandarbha (1988) Collection of the Four Dharmashastric Texts by Maharshies. Vol. 2. Delhi: Nag Publishers. (Page 633-)