Expiatory Rites in Keralite Tantra

by T. S. Syamkumar | 2017 | 59,416 words

This page relates ‘Purificatory Rites in Dharmashastras and Kerala Tantra’ of the study on Expiatory Rites in Sanskrit literature and ancient Indian religion and society, with special reference to Keralite Tantra. Further references to texts include those found in Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism as well as Dharmashastra literature. This study also investigates temple records and inscriptions of Kerala in order to demonstrate the connection between social life and expiatory rites and its evolution.

5.3. Purificatory Rites in Dharmaśāstras and Kerala Tantra

The Dharmaśāstra authorities considered that the feet of a Brahmin and urine of cow are major purifiers. Manu, Yājñavalkya and Viṣṇu proclaim that sprinkling with water is a method of purification.[1] Yājñavalkya also provides that fire, earth (soil) and water are purifiers.[2] Besides, Yājñavalkya recommends gifts, recitation of Vedic Mantras as purificatory agents.[3] The Dharmaśāstras give the details of purification of the ground; Baudhāyana-dharmasūtra recommends sprinkling of water with earth and cow dung, cow’s milk, and urine in the affected ground for purification.[4] Vasiṣṭha provides that the burning, digging and stay of cow in affected place are purificatory actions. Manu also mentions smearing the cow dung, sprinkling, digging, the stay of cow in affected ground will leads to purity.[5] The above ideas of purificatory actions are also seen in Tantric manuals of Kerala. For the removal of impurity affected in temples, Prayogamañjarī, Viṣṇu-saṃhitā, Tantrasamuccaya and Kuḻikkāṭṭupacca follow digging, burning and sprinkling. The expiatory chapter of Kuḻikkāṭṭupacca indicates Godohana as a custom related to cow, which is stayed at the polluted area.[6] In this manner the Dharma legal authorities and Tantric authorities of Kerala give a prominent role to the concept of Dravyaśuddhi (Purification of things). According to Olivelle, Gautama is the first author to use the expression Dravyaśuddhi.[7] In Gautama-dharmasūtra, it can be seen that the different methods for cleansing using articles made of metal, clay, wood etc.[8] Manu also states the importance of cleansing of things in a detailed manner.[9] Tantrasamuccya and Kuḻikkāṭṭupacca have given a prominent role to Dravyaśudhi in Tantric rituals.[10]

Īśānaśivagurudevapaddhati considered that the touching or eating of the Ucchiṣṭa (left over of food) causes for impurity.[11] In a general sense Indian psyche has considered Ucchiṣṭa is an impure thing, and it assumes one who contacts with it, becomes impure. At the same time the tradition has recognized that wife may eat the leftovers of husband and the student may eat the leftover of his teacher. The notion of impurity and Ucchiṣṭa is a serious issue in Dharmaśāstras. The Dharmaśāstra authorities such as Baudhāyana, Manu, Āpastamba, Vasiṣṭha, Viṣṇu, Vaikhānasa and Yājñavalkya repeatedly used the word Ucchiṣṭa and related it to the notion of impurity.[12] Thus it is obvious that the Dharmaśāstra has influenced the Tantric ritual manuals of Kerala and the expiatory rituals. Puṇyāha (sprinkling water) is a major expiatory ritual as prescribed for the removal of impurities affected in the temple or sanctum sanctorum. Both the Tantra and Dharma literature prescribe sprinkling of water as a major expiatory action. Caste system and priesthood are also the result of the concept of impurity. The Brahmins proclaim that only their body and spirit are pure. In course of time, it happens to cause untouchability and inapproachability. Slowly but surely, it causes to the spread of landlordism and casteism all over Kerala.

Footnotes and references:


Manusmṛti, 5.118; Yājñavalkya-smṛti, 1.184; Viṣṇu-dharmasūtra, 23.13.


kālo'gniḥ karma mṛdvāyu jñānaṃ tapo jalam |
paścāttāpo nirāhāraḥ sarve'mī śuddhihetavaḥ || Yājñavalkya-smṛti
, 3.31.


Yājñavalkya-smṛti, 3.32-34.


Baudhāyana-dharmasūtra, 1.9.11, 1.6.16-20 and 1.11.38.


Vide Viṣṇu-dharmasūtra, 3.57 and Manusmṛti, 5.124.


For a detailed description of these rituals, see the third chapter of the present study.


Gautama-dharmasūtra, 1.29-34.


Gautama-dharmasūtra, 1.29.


Manusmṛti, 4.110-147 and 4.127.


śuddhistakṣaṇadāhabhasmakamṛjānirṇejanaṃ dārumṛttejastantumaye tathotpavanadarbhodyotane sarpiṣī |
tāmre'mlodamṛjā śakṛñjalamṛjā durvarṇaśaṅkhādike vastre kṣārajalokṣaṇaṃ ravikarasparśaśca paṭṭāṃśuke ||
dhānye śūrpaparibhramastadavadhātau lepagandhāpāyaḥ sakale samitkusumadarbhādyeṣu samprokṣaṇam |
puṇyāhaṃ salilāśaye śikhiśikhoddyotaśca rātryāṃ kṣitau karṣollekhanaviprabhojanamathāstrāṇūkṣaṇaṃ vākhile ||
ajugupsitarūpā cedupahatirakhileṣu sādhanīyaivam |
tacchuddhiranyathā cet tyagaḥ śreyānakupyato'nyeṣu || Tantrasamuccaya
, 10.102-104. See Kuḻikkāṭṭupacca, pp. 336-338.


Medhātithi, the commentator of Manusmṛti determines the meaning of Ucchiṣṭa. Manusmṛti, 4.80. (1) due to the contact with the inside of mouth while eating, the eater, the eaten food and the plate from which one eats become Ucchiṣṭa (2) food left on the plate after eating is Ucchiṣṭa (3) food which is left in the dish, from which food has been served to someone, is also Ucchiṣṭa (4) a person is considered as Ucchiṣṭa after voiding urine or excrement and before purification.


Baudhāyana-dharmasūtra, 1.8.28; 1.3.35-36; 2.1.26; 2.8.10; 3.6.5; 3.8.10; 1.8.32; 1.13.27; 1.14.2; 1.13.26, 1.14.1; 1.14.17; Manusmṛti, 2.56; 2.209; 3.245; 3.249; 4.80; 4.211; 4.212; 1.125; 11.26; 11.152; 11.159; Viṣṇusmṛti, 68.36; 70.17; 23.53; 23.55; 21.3; 21.15; 28.11, 28.33, 51.10; 51.46; 51.47; 51.50; 51.51; 51.52; 51.53; 51.54-56; 54.19; 71.49; 73.17; 73.25; 81.22; 91.18; Yājñavalkya-smṛti, 1.155; Āpastamba-dharmasūtra, 1.16.11; 1.3.27; 1.3.37; 1.4.1; 1.4.2; 1.4.11; 1.4.5; 1.6.36; 1.7.27; 1.7.30; 1.15.23; 1.17.3; 1.21.17; 1.31.22, 2.9.7; 2.18.11; 2.20.2; Viṣṇu-dharmasūtra, 3.27; 3.42; 11.10; 11.21-23; 14.20-21; 18.14; 23.9; 23.11; 3.43; Vaikhānasadharmasūtra, 3.2-4.

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