Kathasaritsagara (the Ocean of Story)

by Somadeva | 1924 | 1,023,469 words | ISBN-13: 9789350501351

This is the English translation of the Kathasaritsagara written by Somadeva around 1070. The principle story line revolves around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the Vidhyādharas (‘celestial beings’). The work is one of the adoptations of the now lost Bṛhatkathā, a great Indian epic tale said to have been composed by ...

Notes on Śrāddha and the rite of feeding the spirit

Note: this text is extracted from Book I, chapter 5:

“... Brāhman, I assign to you the duty of presiding at a śrāddha on the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight, in the house of King Nanda; you shall have one hundred thousand gold pieces by way of fee, and you shall sit at the board above all others; in the meanwhile come to my house”

Śrāddha (Sanskrit, śraddhà = faith, trust, belief) is the most important ceremony connected with Hindu ancestor-worship. It is a development of the ancient custom of eating at funerals and providing food for the dead. Manu (. Institutes, iii, 267 - 271) gives a detailed list of the offerings of food and drink which are to be made, with regulations for the correct ritual to be observed. The modern śrāddha is most intricate and elaborate. It has been described by nearly every Indian scholar since the days of Dubois and Colebrooke. The most recent and comprehensive account is in Mrs Sinclair Stevenson’s The Rites of the Twice-born, 1920 , pp. 158-192. See also the article, “Ancestor-Worship (Indian)” by W. Crooke, in Hastings’ Ency. Rel. Eth., vol. i, p. 453, and Sir Charles Eliot’s Hinduism and Buddhism, 3 vols., 1921, vol. i, pp. 338, 339.

Space will not permit any detailed account here of the various rites performed on the different days. I shall merely describe shortly the rite of feeding the spirit which extends for ten days, from the second onwards, as described by Crooke (op. cit.).

Grains of rice (for Brāhmans) or barley-flour (for Kṣatriyas and illegitimate sons of Brāhmans) are boiled in a copper jar, mixed with honey, milk and sesamum. The mixture is made into a ball (piṇḍa), which is offered to the spirit with the invocation that it may obtain liberation, and reach the abodes of the blessed after crossing the hell called Raurava (Manu, Institutes, iv, 88). By this rite the creation of a new body for the disembodied soul begins. On the first day one ball is offered, on the second two, and so on until, during the observances of the ten days, fifty-five balls have been offered. Various invocations are made, for which see Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, v, 297.

By these ten days’ rites the spirit has been enabled to escape from the same number of different hells, and gradually a new body with all its members has been created. The order in which the new members of this new body are formed is sometimes thus defined. On the first day the dead man gains his head; on the second his ears, eyes and nose; on the third his hands, breast and neck; on the fourth his middle parts; on the fifth his legs and feet; on the sixth his vital organs; on the seventh his bones, marrow, veins and arteries; on the eighth his nails, hair and teeth; on the ninth all remaining limbs and organs and his manly strength. —n.m.p.

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