Atithi or Guest Reception (study)

by Sarika. P. | 2022 | 41,363 words

This page relates ‘Atithi-saparya of Vanaprasthins’ of the study on Atithi-Saparya—The ancient Indian practice of hospitality or “guest reception” which, in the Indian context, is an exalted practice tracable to the Vedic period. The spirit of Vedic guest-reception (atithi-saparya) is reflected in modern tourism in India, although it has deviated from the original concept. Technically, the Sanskrit term Atithi can be defined as one who arrives from a far place with hunger and thirst during the time of the Vaishvadeva rite—a ceremony that includes offering cooked food to all Gods.

Part 10 - Atithi-saparyā of Vānaprasthins

Atithi-saparyā is the duty of not a gṛhastha alone, vānaprastha has also to perform atithi-saparyā. Atithi-saparyā is included in the duties of vānaprastha. Vānaprasthins live in the forest and they had to be contented with the forest products like roots, fruits etc. They had to perform pañcamahāyajñas as daily routine. Gautama Dharmasūtra says that they shall pay homage to gods, ancestors, humans, spirits, and seers and entertain atithis from all classes, except those who are proscribed.[1] This is also again seen in the fifth chapter of the first praśna. Every day he shall perform his private Vedic recitation, the offering of water to his ancestors, and other rites, according to his ability.[2] This shows that not only the gṛhasthas and but also vānaprasthins also had to perform atithipūjana.

Ritualistic practice of receiving atithi is also observed by the vānaprasthins. The rules of Vānaprastha are described in the Āpastaṃba Dharmasūtra According to this, he should use only wild produce to offer fire sacrifices, to sustain himself, to attend to atithis, and to clothe himself.[3]

The duties of Vānaprasthins are also included in the Vasiṣṭha Dharmasūtra When atithis come to his hermitage, he should honour them with alms food of roots and fruits. He should make offerings to gods, ancestors, and men. He will thus attain an endless heavenly abode.

Yājñavalkyasmṛti also points out than a Vānaprasthin cannot eschew the atithipūjana. In Vānaprasthaprakaraṇa of prāyaścittādhyāya, a hermit should satisfy the pitṛs, fires, deities, atithis and servants by offering them cereals like nīvāra, veṇu, śyāmaka etc. grown on an uncultivated field. Bearing nails, matted locks and beards, he should meditate on his own self.[4]

Footnotes and references:


devapitṛmanuṣyabhūtarṣipūjakaḥ || Gautama Dharmasūtra, 1.3.28, p.35
sarvātithiḥ pratiṣiddhavarjam || ibid., 1.3.29


devapitṛmanuṣyayajñāḥ svādhyāyaśca balikarma || ibid., 1.5.8, p.50


tasyā''raṇyenaivā'ta ūrdhvaṃ homo vṛttiḥ pratīkṣācchādanaṃ ca || Āpastaṃba Dharmasūtra,


aphālakṛṣṭenāgnīṃśca pitṛndevātithīnapi |
bhṛtyāṃśca tarpayet śmaśrujaṭālomabhṛdātmavān || Yājñavalkyasmṛti
, 3.3.46

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