Kapitel 2

Anhang D: A Brāhmans day / von Alice Margaret Stevenson (Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson)

Herausgegeben von: Alois Payer

Zitierweise / cite as:

Stevenson, Alice Margaret (Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson) <1875-1957>: A Brāhmans day. -- (Manusmṛti 2, Anhang D). -- Fassung vom 2008-10-13. -- URL:    

Erstmals publiziert als:

Stevenson, Alice Margaret (Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson) <1875-1957>: The Rites of the twice-born / Mrs. Sinclair Stevenson. -- London [u.a.] : Oxford Univ. Press, 1920. -- XXIV, 474 S. -- (The religious quest of India ; 7). -- S. 209 - 251. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2009-10-10. --  "Evidence reported by alyson-wieczorek for item ritesoftwiceborn00steviala on March 2, 2007: no visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1920."

Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-10-13


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung HS 2008

©opyright: "Evidence reported by alyson-wieczorek for item ritesoftwiceborn00steviala on March 2, 2007: no visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1920."

Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library


[S. 209] WE have studied in outline the life story of a Brāhman, and now we have to learn the detail of his day, his duties and its worship.

So important are his morning and evening devotions to a Brāhman, that one who wilfully neglects them for three days ipso facto slips back to the ranks of a Śūdra, and so highly is the right to perform them valued, that one of the titles that distinguishes a Twice-born from other ranks of society is: 'He who has the prerogative of performing Sandhyā'. [S. 210]

The writer accounts it no small privilege that her intimate friends amongst the Brāhmans told her the order and meaning of this deeply-prized worship.

Multifarious as are the duties of the day, it is well worth our while to study them in detail, for. perhaps, in no other way can we learn how much of toilet and etiquette amongst our fellow-citizens is of religious import : even dining is a sacramental act. And we shall not feel that we have entirely wasted the day that we spend with our Brāhman friends, when we find how many of its happenings point back to the time when we and they, as children of an undivided family, played together on the shores of time.


A Brāhman is expected to get up two hours before sunrise, but even before rising he should think of his Iṣṭadevatā. This would probably be the god Śiva, at any rate in the writer's part of India, for there are comparatively few worshippers of Viṣṇu to be found amongst  Brāhmans there.

Next, with the object of gaining a happy day, the man looks at his right hand, remembering, as he looks, that the tips of the fingers represent Lākṣmī, that Sarasvatī dwells in the palm of the hand, and Brahmā at the back of it.

It is of great importance that the first thing that a man sees in the morning should be auspicious, so some people wear a gold ring, with a pearl to represent the liṅga, and look first at that ; others arrange a silver coin bearing the likeness of the king, so that that may be the first thing they see, or else they try to meet some auspicious person : their father, mother, husband, an unwidowed, unbereaved wife, a maiden, a cow, or a little child. (The writer's servants used to go about their work in the morning with their eyes half shut till her tiny daughter appeared.) Photographs and pictures of the gods are hung round bedrooms with the same object.

A Hindu is very careful not to look first at a widow, a scavenger, a broom lying in a corner, a miser, a barren [S. 211] woman, at a man with tawny eyes, or reddish moustache, or at one on whose chest no hair grows. A childless man is so unlucky, that even if he were a king, the lowest outcaste would not willingly look first at him on rising in the morning. It is, however, quite lucky to see one's own face in a looking-glass.

People are just as careful that the earliest thoughts that they think should be auspicious. In Kāṭhiāwār there are two villages whose names Brāhmans are careful not to remember first thing in the morning ; in one a Brāhman was murdered, and the inhabitants of the other are miserly.

It is amusing to compare the care with which, when rising in the morning, a Brāhman puts his right foot first on the ground with the saying so common in English nurseries: 'You didn't put your right foot first out of bed this morning'. Perhaps, too, it shows that in the nursery days of the two races they all 'minded' the same nursery rules.

Before putting his foot on the ground, however, a Brāhman asks pardon from Pṛthivī (mother earth) for treading on the earth, and so touching that goddess with his foot.

As soon as a man is up, he sips a mouthful of water three times in order to cleanse his mouth, but does not swallow it, and then he washes his face. (Not only is every detail of the toilet and the bath part of a religious ritual, but much of it does also undoubtedly make for health and hygiene.)

Next, the position of the sacred thread has to be changed ; ordinarily it is worn over the left shoulder, but now it is wound round the neck and then put over the right ear. The right ear is the most sacred part of the body with a Brāhman, since it first heard the holy gāyatrī mantra ; in fact, so sacred is it, that it can even remove sin. For instance, if a man tells an untruth, or looks on something he should not, he is told to sip water, but if no water is available, he removes the pollution he has contracted by just touching his right ear.1 So now the sacred thread is wound round the ear to preserve it from all defilement, and the Brāhman goes to some desert place to [S. 212] answer the calls of nature. He must look neither at sun, moon, sacred trees, tilled field, temple, nor ant-hill, and must be at least one hundred yards distant from any house.

1 Touching the right ear is also a sign of very strong assent.

He then cleanses his left hand ten times with clay, his right hand seven times, and lastly both together five times, before cleansing the soles of his feet three times. Twelve mouthfuls of water are also sipped and ejected.

This done, the sacred thread can be removed from off the right ear and worn suspended from the neck, as though it were a necklace. Now, and only now, is a Brāhman at liberty to speak ; from the moment when he rose till now he has had to maintain the most absolute silence.1

1 Nowadays many of these rules are relaxed. They are chiefly observed by old retired men, or by the very orthodox amongst the younger men.

The teeth-cleaning follows, and so successful is it, that toothache used to be almost unknown amongst the Hindus.

They never, of course, use a brush, but break off a twig freshly every day from one or other of about nine specified trees, all of which possess thorns and milky juice.

The twig must also be of prescribed length and thickness, i. e. the length of twelve fingers and the thickness of the little finger (say ten or twelve inches long, and one-third of an inch thick) for a man. They must be careful, too, to see that the twig still has its bark on it. A student should rub salt and trifolā2 on his teeth with the tooth-stick.

2 There is a proverb that that man will never get ill who cleanses his teeth with salt, his eyes with trifolā-water, sleeps on his left side, and never fills all four corners of his stomach light with food.

A man does not mind being seen whilst he cleanses his teeth, but a young woman will never allow any man to watch her as she does it ; though an older woman, or the chief lady of a house, is not so particular.

After the teeth are cleaned (and they rub each tooth separately, as though determined to make that one the brightest jewel in the British crown), the twig is broken in half, and the tongue cleansed with one part ; then both bits of [S. 213] the twig are thrown away, for the European idea of using the same tooth-brush day after day fills a Hindu's mind with horror. But before throwing it away, the twig is addressed in prayer and besought to grant long life, strength, fame, the halo of learning, sons, cattle, wealth, knowledge of Brahma, and intelligence.

Then the mouth is cleansed with water, and the man bows to the sun, asking that that great luminary may do good to all his neighbours and friends.

Next follows the bath (Snāna). The man has, of course, to bathe wearing a loin-cloth, since no Brāhman may ever be naked, once he has received the sacred thread. If possible, he should go and bathe in a river that flows directly into the sea ; if, however, the nearest river be only a tributary to another river, he must take five lumps of earth out of it and then bathe. (Taking away these lumps is supposed to purify the tributary, which is impure compared to an ocean-going stream.)

If there is no river near at hand, a man may bathe in the courtyard of his house, pouring water over himself from a copper pot. As a rule he bathes in warm water in the cold weather, but he must use cold water on certain special occasions, such as the Saṅkrānti festival, a Śrāddha, his own birthday, his son's birthday, after an eclipse, after attending a funeral or hearing of the death of some friend, and after touching an untouchable.1

1 Some Hindus are much more meticulous than others about bathing, and in Kāṭhiāwār the most meticulous of all are the Marajādī. Those folk bathe in cold water after touching any one, even a man of higher caste, and their other Hindu friends say jestingly of them: 'Poor things, they are just like fish, they spend all their time in cold water, and if they go and fetch water from a river, they sprinkle so much of it on the road to purify that, that they arrive home with an empty jar'. Very few Brāhmans are Marajādī, but some men of low castes, such as shoemakers, belong to this class. A Brāhman who is a Marajādī can take water from a Marajādī of lower caste than his own.

If a man is ill, he can bathe, as it were, spiritually and purify his body by repeating mantras ; by putting some purified clay from the Ganges or Jamnā on his forehead ; by rubbing [S. 214] sacred ashes on his person, or by smearing himself with the dust made sacred by the feet of cows.

If a man is well and is bathing in a river, he should stand, or sit up to his waist, in the water. If it is a main river, he should face its source ; but if it is only a tributary, or if he is bathing at home, he should look at the sun. He takes some water in the cavity of his hand, bending down the first finger and putting back the fourth finger, and then, pouring the water into the river (or at home on the ground) he says: 'I (...) on this day (. . .) of the year (. . .) of the month (. . .) at the hour (. . .) take this bath to remove my sins of body, mind, speech, and touch, and to gain success in everything I undertake to-day '. Next he invokes the rivers Ganges, Jamnā, Sarasvatī, Narbadā, &c. to take up their abode in the river, or in the vessel beside him, as the case may be. Putting his fingers in his ears and nose, and holding them there, he should, strictly speaking, dive thus into the river if possible. (As a matter of fact, he probably dives European fashion.) After massaging his body with his hands, he dives a second time, and after this follows the essential, religious part of the bath.

A busy Brāhman would very likely omit the diving, but he would never omit the rite called Mārjana. which only takes two minutes. Holding water in his left hand, he sprinkles water on his head with his right hand, praying the water all the time to remove his sins, to give him strength, and to keep him holy.

He then dives a third time, or, if bathing at home, pours water over himself again from a copper vessel.1

1 It is most interesting to the Western reader to note that, where there is immersion, affusion is considered also necessary and the more important part.

The Tarpaṇa of the bath follows, when the bather prays to the Sages, the gods of the three worlds, and to his ancestors, asking them to be propitiated.

He then comes out from the river and dresses, removing, of course, his wet loin-cloth. But even here he must observe the [S. 215] correct ritual, for if he slip the wet cloth down instead of lifting it upwards, he would have to bathe all over again.

He is now ready to begin his morning devotions,1 or Prātaḥ Sandhyā.

1 The exact order of these devotions and the ritual acts vary very much. At the moment of writing, the writer has before her three different accounts : One given by her Śāstrī, which follows the elaborate classic ritual ; one by a busy man, who had only time to follow a shortened form ; and the third by a schoolmaster in another part of Kāṭhiāwār ; they all differ slightly. The description which follows should therefore be checked by each student in his particular district.

Morning sandhyā should be performed whilst the stars are still showing, and before the sun has risen ; failing that, it may be done at sunrising, when the sun is half over the horizon ; but if the worshipper is later than that he has to do penance.

Strictly speaking, sandhyā should be performed three times a day: in the morning, at midday, and in the evening. In the morning the gāyatrī, which is repeated at each sandhyā, is thought of as a child ; at midday, as a young woman ; and in the evening, as an old woman. As a matter of fact, however, most people have only time for morning and evening sandhyā.

The worshipper prepares for the ritual, either by purifying the ground from the touch of low-castes or the unbathed, which he does by sprinkling water on it ; or by placing a low stool on which he may sit. The stool should be covered by the skin of an antelope, or by a mat made either of darbha-grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf], of sheep's wool, or of silk. The worshipper sits on the purified ground, or on the covered stool, in such a way as to face the sun, or else the north, which is the direction of the gods.

Whichever way he may have faced in the morning, he would look in the same direction at midday ; but in the evening he would almost certainly face the west.

After his bath he dons a silken, a woollen, or a freshly-washed loin-cloth, and wears either a clean towel round his [S. 216] shoulder, or a thin sacred cloth. His sacred thread hangs from the left shoulder, and he sits with back erect and legs folded (right over left), each heel being pushed well into the groin.

Some Brāhmans1 begin with Smārta Ācamana. Taking a brass vessel2 in his left hand, the worshipper puts it on the ground, and then takes water from it with a spoon, still with his left hand, and puts it in his right hand. (The right hand is held in what is known as the cow's ear position, i. e. the first finger is bent over to touch the second knuckle of the thumb.) Next, laying down the spoon, he puts the first finger of his left hand to the side of the right hand and sips three times from it. If he belongs to certain sects, as he sips, he mentally takes one of the names of Viṣṇu, either Govinda, Mādhava, or Keśava, and desires that the water should make him holy. Each time he sips, he only takes one drop of water sufficient to cover a sesamum seed. (It will be noticed that he only takes the name mentally. Hindus declare jestingly that sandhyā is only half audible, and so they call it the thief which no one can detect ; whereas the Veda, they say, is an honest man and should be said loudly and clearly, and not as though one were afraid of detection.)

1 Others, holding that ācamana has already been done when bathing, would pass directly to bhasma.

2 The vessels required for sandhyā are : two shallow dishes, one vessel, two small pots, two small spoons, one arghya.

Then follows Bhasma3, the application of ashes. If the worshipper is at home, he goes into the room set apart for worship ; if on the river bank, to some lonely spot, and there opens the little box4 in which he keeps the ashes he has taken from Durgāṣṭamī or some other great sacrifice. These ashes5 have previously been washed three or four times and reduced to fine dust ; they are now for the morning sandhyā mixed with water, at midday they are mixed with sandal-wood, and in the evening dry ashes are used. The worshipper puts the ashes in his left hand, and covering them with his right, [S. 217] repeats a mantra, whose symbolic explanation was given to the writer as follows: 'Fire is equivalent to ashes, wind is equivalent to ashes, water is equivalent to ashes, sky is equivalent to ashes, everything, mind, eyes and other senses, is equivalent to ashes. With those ashes I mix water which represents light, essence, nectar, Brahmā, the earth, the intervening space between the earth and the sky, and Om.' The repetition of this verse sanctifies both the ashes and the water. Next, he lifts up his right hand, pours the water and ashes on to the left, and, after rubbing his two hands together, he extends his arms above his head and, holding his palms out flat towards the sun, says in Sanskrit 'Salutation to Śiva. We worship Śiva, who has three eyes and is the giver of all sweetness and strength, and who will deliver me from rebirths, even as the upper stem of a sugar-melon snaps and lets the melon fall.'

3 With a busy man this begins the sandhyā.

4 The ashes may be kept pressed together in the shape of a ball.

5 If the worshipper has no ashes, he may use water instead.

Whilst repeating these words, he encircles his head with his right hand, and certain Brāhmans1 at this point make the auspicious Viṣṇu mark upward with the right thumb. Next, the worshipper draws with the ashes three lines, across his forehead, the bridge of his nose, and his eyelids, with three fingers2 from left to right, and then with the fingers of his other hand back again from right to left, and similarly he marks with three lines his biceps, his arms near his elbow and near his wrist, his ribs, and his knees.

1 Strict followers of Śiva object to the Viṣṇu mark being made. It is interesting to notice that it can only be made with the right thumb.

2 Sometimes two fingers only are used.

Between each act of the morning devotion water has to be sipped (Ācamana), and so, when the marking with sacred ashes (Bhasma) is completed, water is sipped, before the worshipper proceeds to tie the sacred lock of hair.

Abb.: Cāmuṇḍā, Halebidu (ಹಳೆಬೀಡು), Karnataka
[Bildquelle: Wikipedia, Public domain]

Even in the way this Tying of the Hair (Śikhā-bandhana) is done there are grave ritual differences. One worshipper told the writer that, as he tied a knot in the lock, he asked the goddess Cāmuṇḍa3 to take up her abode there and protect him. [S. 218]

3 A form of Durgā.

Other Brāhmans, however, told her that nothing would induce them to ask a flesh-eating goddess like Cāmuṇḍa to take up her abode in their bodies, so they repeated the gāyatrī mantra as they tied the knot.

Once the knot is tied, however, the worshipper again sips water (ācamana), saying in Sanskrit, as he takes the three sips: 'May my soul as connected with this world be purified, as connected with intervening space be purified, and as connected with the upper world be purified '.

Amongst certain Brāhmans this is followed by Mārjana. Water is taken from the water-vessel and held in a spoon in the left hand. If darbha-grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf] is procurable, three unknotted blades are dipped into the spoon and thrown over the head. If there is no grass, the three biggest fingers of the right hand are dipped into it, and the water sprinkled over himself by the worshipper. As this is done, a mantra is said, praying Viṣṇu that outwardly and inwardly the worshipper may be purified, whatever condition he is in.

The sipping of water (ācamana) of course follows, and then the worshipper proceeds in the same way to purify the ground, or the seat on which he is sitting (Āsana Śuddhi), sprinkling water over it, either with darbha-grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf], or with his three fingers. As he does this, he prays to Pṛthivī to purify the seat.

But all the previous acts are merely preparatory to the great rite of Prāṇāyāma which is now to follow.

The worshipper sits all the time that he is doing it with crossed legs, his left foot on his right thigh, and his right foot on his left thigh. He first presses the third and fourth fingers of his right hand against his left nostril, whilst through his right nostril he exhales all the bad gasses of his body. Next, he closes the right nostril with the thumb of his right hand, and opens the left nostril by removing the fingers that had been against it, and then he inhales air very slowly through his left nostril, mentally repeating, as he does so, the famous gāyatrī mantra once (or, according to others, thrice) and the names of the seven worlds. [S. 219]

Until this has been done, he must not bend his back, but now he hangs his head down and keeps both nostrils closed, whilst four times he repeats the gāyatrī and the names of the seven worlds. Then he looks up and slowly exhales through his right nostril, contracting his stomach till it has no breath left in it, and whilst he does so he mentally repeats the same mantra and the names twice over.

Next he inhales through his right nostril, doing the mental repetition once. And after that he again hangs down his head, closes his nostril and repeats the formula four times.

Looking up, he breathes out, this time from his left nostril, and goes through the mental repetition twice.

All these separate in-breathings, out-breathings, and suspensions of breathing go to make up one prāṇāyāma, and it is repeated till altogether three prāṇāyāma are performed every morning.

Of course the manner in which the act is performed varies considerably. In one account with which the writer was furnished the dissenter from the established mode actually went so far as to breathe in first through his right nostril! But this constituted grave error, for the left nostril is the moon, and the right is the sun, and the breath must first be inhaled through the moon nostril, in order that it may have nectar in it.

But there is no doubt that, as with the toilet rules, so these deep breathing exercises do make for health and hygiene.

The next act of worship, Saṅkalpa, expresses the worshipper's intention. In his right hand he takes some water and says: 'To-day (Saturday) an auspicious day in the month (---) on the (third) of the (bright) half of the moon, the conjunction being (so and so), I (so and so) will perform morning sandhyā, to remove my sins past and present, big and small '.

This time the worshipper does not sip the water, but pours it down into a shallow copper or silver dish in front of him.

Abb.: Gāyatrī / von Rājā Ravi Varmā (1848 - 1906)
[Bildquelle: Wikipedia, Public domain]

Gāyatrī Āvāhana, the invitation to the goddess Gāyatrī, follows. As we saw, she is thought of in the morning as [S. 220] a young virgin, the śakti (female energy) of Brahmā ; at midday, when grown older, as the śakti of Śiva ; and in the evening as an old woman, the śakti of Viṣṇu.

Abb.: loṭā
[Bildquelle: Wikipedia, GNU FDLicense]

The worshipper seats himself and, with his two hands placed together, says: 'In your name there are three syllables ; you are a child ; you are wearing the sacred thread and carrying a loṭā ; you are wearing a rosary of sacred seeds and also red clothes ; you have four faces ; you are sitting on a goose ; you are Brahmā's Śakti and divinity : you live in Brahma-loka ; we call you from Sūrya maṇḍala to illuminate our intellects. You are Brahmā's yoni. We salute you.' He then worships her mentally, believing her to have left the sun and to have taken up her abode in his heart.

Jaladhārā is next performed. The worshipper takes some water in a spoon in his right hand, encircles his head with it and throws it away to the left. This is done to keep off demons, who would otherwise run away with the merit acquired, steal the things that are offered to the gods and defile everything that has been made holy.

A mantra is said as the water is waved round the head, and this mantra gives the water such force, that it shoots off demons and scatters them abroad.

A further mārjana is performed to purify the worship. Water is sprinkled in the same way as before, and the following mantra is said: 'O water, protect us and give us strength, nourishment and light of intelligence. You do good to all ; let us have some of your most beneficent essence. Protect us, as a mother protects her children.'

A special act (Aghamarṣaṇa) is next performed in order to get rid of the sins of the previous night. Water is sipped as in ācamana (save that it is sipped only once), and the following mantra is repeated mentally: 'O sun, burn up my sins of the night : sins of thought, word, or deed, committed by hand, foot, stomach, or by the senses. I throw all these sins into the sacrificial fire of the gāyatrī, which is lit in our hearts, that they may be burnt up.' [S. 221]

The sins have to be got out of the worshipper, so he takes up some water and holds it in his right hand. Next, closing his left nostril with his left thumb, he breathes hard down his right nostril into the water, whilst he says the mantra just quoted., and then throws the water and all the sins which it contains violently to the left.1 As he throws it, he says inwardly: 'May all sins and wicked demons be destroyed '. He throws it with such violence, indeed, that the water is dashed into a thousand fragments, and all the time he keeps his eyes firmly closed, in order that he may not even look at the sinful liquid. Afterwards, too, he is extremely careful to cleanse his right hand, that no defilement of sin may remain on it.

1 Some Brāhmans vary the order of this most interesting act, throwing the water away and repeating the mantra afterwards.

(Showing how literally they take the destruction of the demons by this rite, one Brāhman told the writer that, whereas between every other ritual act he performed one ācamana, at the close of aghamarṣaṇa he performed two ācamana and one prāṇāyāma, in order to get rid of the sin that accrues to the worshipper through the destruction of demons.)

After the inevitable ācamana has been performed between the ritual acts, Argha pradāna follows. The worshipper picks up a long copper spoon, which has a sort of tiny trough running down it. He fills it from the loṭā of water, marks it with the auspicious mark and drops flowers and rice into it. These preliminaries all show that a very important rite is going to be performed, and indeed that is the case, as we shall see, for it is nothing less than the rescue of the sun. The spoon is held in both hands, and the water tipped out along the trough, whilst the gāyatrī mantra is mentally repeated. (If the worshipper has not one of these special spoons at his side, he pours the water from his joined hands, special care being taken that the first -- the pitṛ's -- finger does not touch the thumb.) As a rule the argha is offered and the gāyatrī [S. 222] repeated three times, but if the worshipper were late in beginning his devotions, and the sun had already appeared above the horizon, the argha would have to be offered four times as a penance. Each separate time that water is poured from the spoon, the mantra is mentally repeated. The reason for performing argha is that at sunrise demons strive to prevent the sun rising and to shut up its road, and this water keeps them off and opens a road for the sun. If the morning devotions are being performed on a river bank, the worshipper must go down into the river to do argha, and if it is a deep river, he must so stand (or if a shallow one so sit) that the water is up to his waist. As he repeats the gāyatrī, he pours the water, of course, into the stream.

If morning devotions are being done at home, however, the worshipper either stands or kneels to perform argha, and the water from the spoon is poured into a special cup. The worshipper also puts some drops of it which he has taken from the end of the spoon on his eyes, in order to gain some of the power of the gāyatrī for himself.

Next, the worshipper takes some water in his right hand, waves it round his head and throws it away (Pradakṣinā). This he does to protect himself against the attacks of demons. After that he performs one more breathing exercise (prāṇāyāma). Strictly speaking, he should at the same time walk round the seat with his right hand towards it, but this is often omitted.

A prayer to the sun (Upasthāna) follows the circumambulation.

According to some Brāhmans, the worshipper when reciting it should stand on tiptoe facing the sun, and with uplifted arms, and palms turned towards the sun, should repeat four mantras.

Other Brāhmans declare that this is the midday position, and that when the prayer is said in the morning, the worshipper should cross his arms and hold the first finger of each hand against its own thumb in what is called the Jñāna mudrā (the mode of holding the hands which symbolizes knowledge and is the correct attitude for the hands whilst preaching). [S. 223]

In the evening, when the prayer to the sun is said, the hands should be so held that they represent a half-opened flower.

In the mantras the worshipper prays that the sun, which gives light to all three worlds and life to all living things, may protect him and keep him from all sins.

The worshipper then proceeds to the Telling of his Beads. Sitting down, he either thrusts his hand into a bag of special shape, resembling a fingerless glove, or else hides it in the corner of his upper scarf. If he uses a rosary, he tells the beads by passing them between his thumb and second finger, the rosary itself depending, not, of course, from the inauspicious first finger, but from the second. The rosary has one hundred and eight beads. The worshipper repeats the gāyatrī one hundred and eight times, or three, or five, or ten times as often ; for the rosary may be told only once, or again three, or five, or ten times. Up to three times it is accounted as duty, above three there is merit in doing it. Sometimes a rosary is not used, but instead the worshipper tells the knuckles and joints of his fingers, beginning with the third finger.

In any case, the hand should be held close to the body, whilst the beads are told : in the morning near the stomach, at noon close to the heart, and in the evening close to the nose. The periods during which the rosary is said should be divided into four. For instance, if a man is going to spend an hour over it, he should tell his beads very loudly for the first fifteen minutes, whisper slowly and quietly for the next fifteen, repeat the mantra silently in his heart for the next fifteen, and for the last fifteen he should be so completely absorbed in it as not to know where he is.

It is worth while spending special care on telling the rosary, for, though charity is meritorious, and merit can also be gained by acts of mercy and offerings made to fire, yet the merit gained by telling one's beads is the highest of all.

When the telling of the rosary has been completely finished, the gāyatrī itself is given leave to return to Brahma-loka in a ceremony known as Visarjana. [S. 224]

The worshipper stands up,1 and, with hands pointed to the sun, he repeats a mantra, asking that that gāyatrī, which lives in the summit of the highest mountain in Brahma-loka, and which is worshipped by Brāhmans, may go in peace.

1 At noon Visarjana he also stands, but in the evening he sits.

Then the head is bowed to the hands in salutation, and the hands touch the earth (Namaskāra).

Finally, the morning devotions are brought to a close by the worshipper performing Ācamana twice and repeating a mantra, declaring that he offers the sandhyā to the gods.

Certain Brāhmans, after repeating the rosary, perform eight Tantric Mudrās with their hands.

  1. Surabhi Mudrā. First the worshipper places his hands in such a way that the fingers represent the udder of a cow, and then he prays that his cows may be protected and that he may get milk.

  2. Jñāna Mudrā. The second is Jñāna Mudrā, when the worshipper, putting his thumb and first finger together, prays that he may obtain Knowledge (Jñāna) and Liberation (Mukti).

  3. Vairāgya Mudrā. For the third Mudrā the worshipper puts his hand in the Jñāna position against his heart, and prays to be freed from all worldly care and joined to Īśvara.

  4. Yoni Mudrā. The fingers are arranged in a special way to represent the female organ, and the worshipper prays to the female powers. Some also ask at this time that in their next birth their mother may be of a noble family, or of high caste.

  5. Śaṅkha. The fingers are folded to represent a conch-shell (one of the fourteen things churned from the sea and sacred to Viṣṇu), and the worshipper prays for protection from demons, especially from those who would steal his merit. (Viṣṇu has four special weapons to use against demons, of which the conch-shell is one.)

  6. Kamala Mudrā. The worshipper joins his two hands together to represent the petals of a full-blown lotus flower. [S. 225] A lotus is another of the four weapons of Viṣṇu which guard against demons.

  7. Śiva Liṅga. The hands are twisted to represent the phallus of Śiva, and the worshipper prays that Śiva may be favourable.

  8. Nirvāṇa. The hands are arranged in a way that reminds one of the English nursery game: 'Here 's the church and there 's the steeple'. This represents Nirvāṇa, and the worshipper prays that he may obtain final emancipation and be freed for ever from the terrible shackles of death followed by rebirth.

The Midday Sandhyā is a shortened form of the morning sandhyā. The worshipper's special object in performing it is to burn up the sins that he has committed since daybreak ; to protect himself from demons ; to protect the sun, too, which is in constant danger from their attacks ; and to gain forgiveness for any defilement accruing from the food that he has taken. As the sun is more powerful, and the demons less powerful, in the bright noontide than in the twilight hours, midday sandhyā can be omitted or postponed by a busy man with less risk to himself or to the sun than would be the case if the morning or evening devotions were passed over.

As a matter of fact, most Brāhmans in Government service combine the midday worship either with the morning or with the evening worship, in the latter case performing the noon sandhyā first. The midday rite contains only one argha ; in the Evening Sandhyā it has to be performed three times. As the sun in the evening transfers its powers to the fire, the worshipper asks the fire (not the sun) to burn up all the sins of the day. The ritual follows that of the morning sandhyā, but in a shortened form, and is preceded by ritual bathing on the banks of a river, or at home.


The next daily duty that awaits a Brāhman, after morning sandhyā in all its parts has been successfully performed, is [S. 226] Homa, the offering made to the fire. This offering is made twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, before the worshipper himself breakfasts or dines, the idea being that Agni, having done the cooking, must be fed first. The offering consists of clarified butter, curds, rice, or grain. If no man is present, a woman may make the offering, for it must be done before any one eats. The altar (broad at the top and narrow at the base) is made of copper and was bought originally in the bazaar, but when it was brought home, it had to be purified by having water sprinkled over it from leaves of darbha-grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf].

Before making the oblation (Nitya homa), the worshipper sips water three times (ācamana) and inhales and exhales (prāṇāyāma) in the prescribed fashion.

Then he declares his intention of performing homa, mentioning his own name and the exact date. The mantra asking Agni to come and take up his abode in the altar fire is next recited.

The fire for the altar, in the case of an ordinary Brāhman, is brought from the common hearth, but an Agnihotṛ brings fire from the special room.1

1 The fire must be absolutely clear, but the smouldering embers must not be kindled into a flame by flapping at it with a cloth, or fanning it. Any encouragement it needs must be given by blowing through a hollow bamboo, or the hand arranged funnel-wise. The reason given is that Agni resides in our mouth, as we can tell by diving into water (if we speak with our mouth under water, no sound is heard, because the water has extinguished the Agni) ; and it is by the Agni that lives in our mouth that we must help the fire in the altar. Every day the auspicious mark is made on the altar, and flowers are offered to it. In this connexion it is interesting to remember that Brāhmans believe that the source of water is fire, and the source of earth is water.

Then the worshipper stands up, takes three blades of darbha-grass  [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf] in his hand, and puts them into the fire, asking the god Agni at the same time to be ready to receive the oblation. Following this, water is poured all round the altar, and then two oblations are made, consisting of clarified butter, rice, rice pudding, or milk. The oblation, whatever it is, is carefully covered with fire, that all may be thoroughly cooked, otherwise the god would have indigestion. [S. 227]

Every morning two oblations are made, one to the sun and one to Prajāpati (the Creator and Protector). The object of the oblation to the sun is to procure its favour ; of that to Prajāpati to ask forgiveness for any imperfection in the sacrifice.

This done, the worshipper prays to the sun, standing with both arms extended and hands outstretched towards it, and saying: 'May all in this world be happy, may they be healthy, may they be comfortable and never miserable. May the rain come down in the proper time, may the earth yield plenty of corn, may the country be free from war, may the Brāhmans be secure, may the sonless gain a son, may those who have sons gain grandsons, may those without wealth gain wealth, and all live for hundreds of years.'1

1 It throws an interesting light on the supreme importance of the monsoon to the well-being of India to notice its place in this kindly, comfortable, genial daily prayer.

The worshipper then makes a mark on his forehead with some of the ashes and, bowing to the altar, gives the god permission to depart, saying: 'Depart, O thou best of gods, to thine own place. Fire, go thou to that place where Brahmā and other gods dwell. May the Sun be pleased with this homa.'

In the evening also homa is performed before the evening meal, but then the mantra is said, not to the sun, but to Agni, who takes care of the night, and the oblations are made to Agni and Prajāpati. But at the end of both morning and evening homa Viṣṇu is asked to forgive all imperfections.

Whenever homa is performed at the thread-giving, haircutting, or marriage ceremonies, an offering is made to Prajāpati towards the end of the rites, asking for forgiveness for all mistakes, and then Viṣṇu is asked to forgive. The word at the end of the mantra is svāhā. Agni has two wives, Svāhā and Svadhā. : Svāhā carries to the different gods the oblations offered to them, Svadhā carries the offerings to the dead ancestors. So at the end of an inauspicious offering to the dead the word Svadhā is used, but in an auspicious offering like the present the word Svāhā is employed.

Almsgiving (Dāna).

[S. 228] Every day also before breakfasting something should be given or done in charity. To fulfil this duty, uncooked flour, rice, sweet pickles, or a little clarified butter may be given to a Brāhman, but religious instruction given to any one is also included under Dāna.1

1 The writer, for instance, found it quite impossible to make one of her paṇḍits take any fee for the instruction he gave her year after year about Brāhman rites and ceremonies, as he held that, since she was anxious to learn in a spirit of sympathy, it was his duty to lecture to her as part of his daily dāna.

Reading the Scriptures (Brahmayajña).

The devout Brāhman also reads the Scriptures2 every day.

2 Another name for this reading is the Svādhyāya.

He first sits down, and then, taking water in his hand, promises to do Brahmayajña, and throws the water on the ground. He next does Nyāsa by holding his right hand successively in front of his mouth, two eyes, two ears, nostrils, lips, top of the head, chin, two forearms, navel and back, praying the while that the different gods who protect the different parts of the body may each take up his abode in his special limb or position, and that Īśvara may protect the whole body.

He then takes three blades of darbha-grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf], puts them and a little water in his left hand, and placing his right hand over it and resting both hands on his right knee, he repeats the gāyatrī mantra three times.

Some Brāhmans at this point would only repeat two mantras, the first mantra and the last from the Yajur-veda ; they would then consider that they had repeated the whole Veda, and throwing away the water and the grass to the north, they would end the rite by bowing to Brahmā. Most of the writer's friends, however, arrange to repeat or to read through some religious classic every year, so that by the end of their lives they shall have read through at least the four [S. 229] Vedas, the great Commentators, the Mahābhārata, the Rāmāyaṇa, and the famous Grammar by Pāṇini.

Whatever book they have chosen for the year (it might very likely be the Bhagavadgīta), it must be finished by the date in mid-August when the sacred thread is changed. If the worshipper has been hindered in the earlier part of the year, he will 'cram' hard to get the book finished by the end of the time. A busy man often only reads for two minutes, whereas a man with more leisure should read for thirty. If, instead of reading, the worshipper is repeating what he has learnt from his guru, he holds in his right hand three blades of darbha-grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf], and two in his left, whilst he says the mantra.

At the end of either the reading or repetition some Brāhmans repeat the mantra: 'O Viṣṇu, thou art pleased with the sacrifice of speech : show favour to me ', and then, 'I give the abode of Brahmā (i. e. my heart) to that supreme good (i. e. Viṣṇu), who lives in the centre of the sun, and who is a witness to all that is done in this world '.


The worshipper, after sipping water (Ācamana) declares that he is now about to offer water to refresh gods, sages, and dead ancestors. It is interesting to notice the position of the sacred thread and of the hands during each different oblation.

During all three the man sits on darbha-grass [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf] and wears a ring of darbha-grass. Beside him is a copper vessel containing water, darbha-grass, and barley grains.

First, he offers Deva-tarpaṇa to the gods. To do this, the worshipper sits facing the east, with his sacred thread in the auspicious position over his left shoulder, and pours the water which he has taken from the copper vessel once over the tips of his straightened fingers.

Then, facing the west, he offers refreshment to the great sages (Ṛṣi-tarpaṇa). His sacred thread is now suspended like a necklace from his neck, and he pours water twice through the gap left between the little [S. 230] fingers of his joined hands, which he has arranged like a bottomless cup.

But in order to offer water to the manes (Pitṛ-tarpaṇa or Yama-tarpaṇa) the worshipper faces the dread south, his sacred thread hangs over his right shoulder in the inauspicious position, and the water is poured three times from the part of the right hand that lies between the base of the thumb and the base of the first finger.

This threefold refreshment is offered to keep all three (gods, sages, and dead ancestors) happy, and to guard against their injuring the worshipper, and, in especial, to prevent their drinking his blood.

If the worshipper's father is dead, and he is the head of his family, after performing Yama-tarpaṇa by which Yama and his attendants have been summoned, he invokes his dead ancestors for three generations back, mentioning the name of his dead father, his dead grandfather, and his dead great-grandfather, and then bows to them. (If the worshipper has a father alive, he need not trouble to do this ; his own father will do it, and that will be sufficient.)

The water he offers the dead can be transformed by them into anything that they need, and it is given to them to show the worshipper's gratitude. If the mother be dead, the worshipper in the same way offers water to three generations of female ancestors.

Similarly, the worshipper will pour libations of water to his dead cousins, aunts, uncles, guru, and wife's relatives. The rule runs that a man should offer water for all those dead whom, if they had been living, he would have wished to make happy, especially for the dead who were blind, dumb, deaf, or deformed in this life, or who died in their mother's womb before they came to the birth.

The way in which water is offered to little children who died before they were eighteen months old, and so were buried and not burnt on the funeral pyre, is especially noteworthy. Instead of pouring the libation over his hand near his thumb, [S. 231] the worshipper dips a corner of the cloth which he is wearing over his shoulder and wrings it out on to the ground.

At the close of tarpaṇa the worshipper traces two triangles in sandal-wood paste on a shallow copper dish, in such a way that the triangles face one another.

Six gods (Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Mitra, Sūrya, Varuṇa) are invited to take up their separate abodes in each of the six corners of the triangles. The worshipper fills the cavity of his joined hands with water, and offers it to the sun, praying to the sun with hands stretched out towards it.

Next, he bows to each of the gods in their separate corners, and washes the outside of his lips with water taken from the copper vessel, but takes care not to taste or swallow the water, which, having been offered to gods, cannot now be used by mortals. Then he says: 'By this tarpaṇa may all my ancestors and Viṣṇu' (whom at this point he regards as the embodiment of his dead ancestors) 'be pleased', and then: 'May this be accepted by Brahmā : I do it for his sake, and not for my own'.


There are five gods : Gaṇeśa, Śiva, the wife of Śiva, Viṣṇu, and Sūrya, any one of which may be the special god (Iṣṭadeva) of a Brāhman, but in Rājkot1, at any rate, the most usual Iṣṭadeva of a Brāhman is Śiva.

1 The writer would like to take every opportunity of emphasizing the fact that she is only writing of Brāhmans in her own town of Rājkot, Kāṭhiāwār, and the student must be on the look-put for local variations in his particular district.

Every morning the worshipper offers his special god special worship; as we have seen, much of his worship can be performed on the banks of a river, but this special Private Worship must be done either in a house or in a temple.

Supposing that Śiva be the worshipper's special god, he may place the phallic symbol, the liṅga, in the centre of a group of the other four gods, or he may worship it alone. In either case, to begin his worship, he first meditates on Gaṇeśa, then [S. 232] declares his intention that he, so-and-so, on such-and-such a date, will worship Śiva ; and then he ceremonially sips water (Ācamana) and inhales and exhales (Prāṇāyāma).

Next he performs Nyāsa, asking each god to take his seat and protect his special part of the worshipper's body.

From this he passes on to worship all the apparatus of worship. The conch-shell, bell, and copper vessel are worshipped by marking with sandal-wood paste and offering flowers. Then water is sprinkled over the apparatus, but this water itself is first sanctified in the most interesting way.1

1 The same means should be used in temples also to sanctify the water.

The worshipper bends the first finger of his right hand over the water and moves the hand up and down, mentioning the names of the places of pilgrimage and of the holy rivers, for these names sanctify the water ; and then nectar is brought down into it by arranging the fingers of the hand in the mudrā that represents the udders of a cow, and holding it thus over the water. This holy water is sprinkled both over the apparatus of worship and over the worshipper.

A lamp is then lighted, and the usual prayer to the light made.

Abb.: Bilva-Blätter -- Aegle marmelos (L.) Corrêa
[Bildquelle: J. M. Garg, Wikipedia, GNU FDLicense]

Abb.: Tulasī-Blätter -- Ocimum tenuiflorum L.
[Bildquelle: Wikipedia, Public domain]

Devanyāsa follows. If the worshipper's special god be Śiva, he takes a bilva leaf [Aegle marmelos (L.) Corrêa] (if it had been Viṣṇu, he would have taken a tulasī leaf [Ocimum tenuiflorum L.]) and repeating the Puruṣasūkta hymn from the Ṛig-veda, he drops the leaf on the liṅga (or, in the other case, on the śālagrāma), being careful not to let his fingers touch the object of his devotion.

He then worships the liṅga in the sixteen ways, repeating during each ritual act one mantra from the same hymn (the Puruṣasūkta), which contains sixteen special mantras. The worship ends with the waving of a lamp fed with camphor.

This done, the worshipper frequently prays to Kubera, the treasurer of the gods, asking him to bestow wealth.

Afterwards, with his hand hidden either in his scarf of ceremony or in the special bag-glove, the worshipper tells his one hundred and eight beads, each time saying 'Salutation to [S. 233] the god Śiva '. Finally he prays: 'May my god be pleased, not for my sake, but for the sake of the whole world '.

If the particular worshipper be wealthy, he may worship his special god with Royal Worship (Rājopacāra), i.e. with all the pomp and paraphernalia of a king : kettle-drums, umbrella, fly-whisk, music and a fountain ; but that is more usually done when worshipping Viṣṇu, the kingly god, than Śiva, the ascetic.

If the man cannot afford to offer the sixteenfold worship, he would just perform the fivefold, and if he has not time to do even that, he would content himself with repeating five mantras to himself and offering mentally the sixteenfold worship and the royal paraphernalia.

For the ordinary devapūjana in the house, however, he may substitute Temple-Worship, since more merit is gained by worshipping a god in his temple ; and if the worshipper has performed all his morning worship up to this point on the bank of a river, he is nearly sure to wend his way to one of the temples of Śiva near the river.

When we come to discuss temple-worship, we shall study the ritual more in detail, but in order to get our bird's-eye view of a Brāhman's daily worship complete, we will just take a look at what he does, remembering, however, that it is only a passing glance, and that we are now concerned more with the man than with the temple, its idol, or its priest.

The worshipper, clad only in loin-cloth and sacred thread, and bearing a small brass pot in his hand, enters the temple courtyard. Since no one may enter the presence of a god empty-handed, he has probably brought with him some rice from home and an incense-stick, and as he walks through the little temple-garden, he picks some flowers and some bilva leaves [Aegle marmelos (L.) Corrêa].

He pours water over the liṅga, marks it with sandal-wood paste (which is on the platform beside him), drops the flowers and the leaves on it, and perhaps red and white powder, lights the incense-stick and waves a lamp.

At the commencement and at the end of the worship, he rings a bell to draw the god's attention. But since the god [S. 234] Śiva is an ascetic and often lost in contemplation, he also touches the stone bull in the outer shrine, that the animal, shaking its head, may thus shake the invisible rope which is tied to the god's hand and so draw the god's attention also.

Besides this, he circumambulates the temple as far as the water drain and back again.

Whether he has performed his devapūjana in a temple or in his own house, he often completes his worship by saying: 'O great god, forgive my sins, whether done through hands, feet, speech, body, act, hearing, eyes, or mind, and my sins of omission and commission. Forgive all such sins. Victory, victory to you, O ocean of mercy, great god Śiva. I commit thousands of faults from day to day, but regarding me as your devotee, forgive me all these sins. There is no other shelter, you alone are my helper ; so out of mercy, O Lord of the Earth, protect me. You are my mother, father, brother, friend, wealth, learning, everything to me !'

By going to a temple in the morning, a worshipper gains merit ; he gains more by going at midday, but most, as we shall see later, by going at night.

Instead of devapūjana either at home or in the temple, the worship of a Clay Liṅga (Pārthiva Pūjana] is often performed. The worshipper brings with him to the river bank some black earth, which must be absolutely free from stones. He takes it, mixes it with water, sanctifies it with mantras, and rolls it into the phallic symbol of Śiva, the liṅga, being very careful to leave no crack. He makes an image also of the female organ, the yoni, into which the liṅga is set, and over the liṅga he fashions a snake's hood.1

1 The snake is often found twined round the liṅga. One (fanciful ?) reason given is that man, the image of God, is also entangled and twined round by Māyā (illusion), as poisonous a thing as a snake.

The worshipper then puts a flower to his nose and breathes on it. This brings the spirit of the Supreme Spirit, which is in the worshipper's body, into the flower. This flower he puts on the little earthen liṅga, and so transforms it into a divine image. [S. 235]

Sometimes he also makes five small balls of black earth, rather oval in shape, each of which represents one of the five mouths of Śiva, and on each of these five balls a grain of rice is placed. Then the liṅga in the yoni and the five balls are arranged on a bilva leaf on a copper dish.

When all is ready, the worshipper sprinkles water over the earthen images and does the sixteenfold worship to them. Worship thus offered is more efficacious than either temple-worship or devapūjana done at home and is sure to bring the worshipper his heart's desire, provided only he remembers this desire all the time that he is worshipping.

After the sixteenfold worship is finished, the god has to be removed from the earthen liṅga. First, the man sniffs the flower, on to which he had before breathed the god from himself, until he has, as it were, inhaled the divinity back into himself; and then he holds his hands over the liṅga and moves them in certain twinings and interlacings (very much like the position of the hands in the old nursery game 'Here 's the parson going upstairs').

A devout Brāhman gentleman begins his morning devotions about three o'clock, and the various acts, grouped under the five duties of Snāna, Sandhyā, Homa, Svādhyāya, and Devapūjana, take him till about six or seven. He then pauses a little, but before he can breakfast he has to perform his sixth duty, which consists of two parts, Vaiśvadeva and Ātitheya (hospitality).


About breakfast-time (i. e. about ten) a Brāhman bathes again and puts on the special cloth which he wears to dine in ; he then performs a most interesting ceremony to propitiate all the gods.

The worshipper must wear a ring, either of darbha-grass  [Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf], of gold, or of twisted copper wire, on the third finger of his right hand. He begins by sipping water (ācamana), and then declares his intention that he so-and-so on such-and-such a date will perform the rite to remove the guilt of life [S. 236] taken inadvertently in any of five ways : by using pestle and mortar ; or the grinding stone ; by cooking on the hearth ; by crushing insects in the room kept for the water-pots ; or when sweeping the floor. The woman who has cooked the breakfast, whether she be the mother, aunt, or wife of the worshipper, brings some fire from the kitchen hearth and puts it in the copper altar which has already been arranged on some freshly plastered ground.

This fire has to be brought from the kitchen in a covered pot. (Supposing the pot were uncovered, some one might burn his hands in it, and if by chance a piece of burnt skin fell in the pot, the fire would become as unholy as the fire that burns a dead man !)

But this covered fire that is brought is holy, and is called the Pāvaka or sanctifier.1

1 It may be interesting here to note the names of the other fires that we have either studied already or shall later study.

The fire at śrāddha is called the Aditi, the mother of gods and the aunt of the demons ; the marriage fire is the Yojaka, the uniter ; the fire lit at a house-warming is the Śatamaṅgala, the bringer of hundreds of auspicious things ; the fire lit at the funeral pyre is the Kravyād, the eater of human flesh ; and the fire lit to propitiate the planets is the Varada, the fulfiller of desire.

Sandal-wood paste is sprinkled on the edge of the altar and on the fire itself, and flowers are put beside it. Next, three blades of darbha-grass dipped in clarified butter are thrown into the fire, and water is poured round it. At this point the worshipper stops for a moment and meditates on Agni, who has four horns, three legs, two heads, and seven hands, and then he again offers sandal-wood paste and flowers to the fire.

Rice is now ordered from the kitchen, and the worshipper sprinkles water over the rice and sanctifies it by repeating mentally the gāyatrī mantra, and then pouring over it clarified butter.

Out of this rice the worshipper proceeds to make five little balls, each the size of a marble. The first is offered to Brahmā, and as the worshipper casts it into the fire, he says: [S. 237] 'Brahmaṇe Svāhā', and then: 'This is for his sake and not for mine'. The remaining four balls are successively offered in the same way to Prajāpati; to Gṛhyā (the goddess who guards the house), to Kaśyapa (the great sage), and lastly to the goddess Anumati.

The worshipper may add any other offerings to any god he chooses. But the greatest care is taken that all the offerings shall be completely consumed, and to ensure this, clarified butter and bits of sticks are put on the top of them.

If Agni eats them right up, he will take them to the sun, who will send down blessings in showers to water the earth, which will cause corn, the life of men, to grow.

Another part of Vaiśvadeva is called Balidāna. The worshipper draws on the ground with water either a square or an oblong, and in this he arranges little heaps of rice one by one. He puts one for Dhātā, who created and supports the world, and one for Vidhātā, who guides the destiny of men ; then he makes four heaps for the goddess of wind, and again four for the four cardinal points; next one for Prajāpati, one for Brahmā, and one for the Lord of the Intervening-space, one for all gods, one for all creatures, and one for all saints.


As he offers the heap to all saints, a dish is arranged containing some of all the sorts of food prepared for the meal, and this dish is then given to any Hindu ascetic who may happen to be outside the house, or, failing one, to a cow. As a rule, an ascetic is to be found begging outside the house at breakfast-time, so many are there in India.

(At this point another offering, Naivedya, is also got ready, but it is not offered till a little later.)

The offering to dead ancestors follows the gift to the ascetic. The worshipper places a little heap of rice in the square and says, as he does so, that he gives it to his dead ancestors.

The pot that has held the rice for these various oblations is [S. 238] then emptied and cleansed with water, the water itself being thrown to the north-west as an offering to Yakṣma.

This done, some fresh rice is brought and put apart on a dish for a cow (Gogrāsa). The rice will probably not be actually given to the cow until after the meal, but as he sets it apart the worshipper says: 'O cow, you are the incarnation of Viṣṇu's power. You are the mother of all. You stand constantly by Viṣṇu's feet. I give you this Gogrāsa. O cow, accept it.'

At this point the worshipper may go outside and make the offering to crows, dogs, and ants, or he may defer it till after breakfast. If he goes out now, he throws some rice to the crows, saying, 'You are Yama, you are also the messenger of Yama. O intelligent crow, take this oblation, and take away with it too all the sins that I have committed either by day or by night.'

He then throws rice or bread to a dog, saying, as he does so: 'I give food to the two dogs, Śyāma and Śabala, born in the Vaivasvata family (i. e. the two dogs of Yama), so that they may protect me on my way (to the kingdom of Yama) '.

After feeding the dogs, the worshipper gives some grains of rice to ants and other tiny insects, saying: 'I give this food to hungry ants to feed them and other insects that have been brought to that condition by their evil karma, and who by their evil karma are tied thereto '.

This done, the worshipper comes back into the house, but before entering it he washes his hands, mouth, and feet.

He next takes ashes from the altar and makes an auspicious mark with them on his forehead, and then gives the fire permission to depart, by bowing to it and saying: 'Oh fire, thou best of gods, go to that place where Brahmā and the other gods dwell '.

He then takes a little water in the palm of his hand and says: 'May Nārāyaṇa himself be pleased by this ceremony of Vaiśvadeva. This is done not for my sake.'

Finally, some of the women of the house gather up all the [S. 239] oblations that have been arranged on the square or oblong piece of ground and give them either to crows or to cows.

This ends the Vaiśvadeva rite, which, according to some authorities, is considered the sixth duty of Brāhmans. (According to another computation it is the twelfth.)

It will be about 10.30 a.m. by now, and some Brāhmans at the end of Vaiśvadeva proceed to perform the midday Sandhyā. Others, as we have seen, combine their midday with their evening Sandhyā.


But even now the Brāhman is not at liberty to breakfast, until he has first offered Naivedya.

In the old days no one broke their fast till after Naivedya had been offered, but in modern times an exception is made for early morning tea. If a little child is hungry, it can be given food that has been left over from the day before. Milk and uncooked sweets can be eaten without any offering to the gods.

As a rule, however, the woman who has cooked the meal, or the first person to eat it, places on a tray a specimen of each dish that will be served at breakfast and carries it to the room of the five gods (Viṣṇu, Śiva, Gaṇeśa, Sūrya, and Devī). Besides the food, she also places a tulasi leaf [Ocimum tenuiflorum L.], some areca-nut [Areca catechu L.] and betel-leaf [Piper betle L.] on the tray, which she deposits on a stool in front of the gods, and then rings a bell, both to attract the attention of the gods; and also to ward off evil demons who might try to steal the food.

Certain Brāhmans then cover their own faces with a specially holy cloth, which is always kept in the room of the gods, and stand opposite to the gods in absolute silence for about two minutes. (Others stand thus silently with eyes averted, but without covering their faces.) During this time the gods do not actually eat the food, but imbibe the sweet savour of it, and the whole meal becomes hallowed. (Indeed, in some Vaiṣṇava houses tiny portions from the god's tray are put [S. 240] on the trays of each diner, to sanctify their food and to cleanse their minds by allowing them to share the meal of the gods.)

The worshipper finally himself takes water three times into his own hand and throws it on the ground, with the intention of providing the gods with water in which to cleanse their hands.


At long last, the worshipper1 himself is free to breakfast, between eleven and twelve.

1 Only the senior member of the family has time to go through all this ritual ; when he has performed it, the others are free to breakfast.

Breakfasting itself is a religious duty. Every day the ground on which the breakfast is taken is freshly besmeared with cow-dung and clay, and very often marked with chalk or lime in red or yellow designs, sometimes texts, or the English word 'Welcome', being also written there.

On this purified space low wooden stools are arranged, and the senior man of the house is the first to take his seat.

Boys too young to wear the sacred thread can dine as they choose with the women or the men, but those who have been initiated must dine with the males.

If possible, all the men should wear silk clothes to dine in, but if they cannot afford them, they buy a very small woollen cloth (Gujarātī Dhābaḷī) which they only wear when dining. At the right side of each man a water-vessel (loṭā) is placed, with a cup on the top of it, and he is also provided with a plate of brass and two brass cups (without handles), all of which are coated with tin. (In very rich houses these vessels are of silver, not brass.) As a rule, amongst Hindus uninfluenced by English rule, spoons and forks are not used, but the writer's friends permit her to bring her own with her when she dines in their houses. If there are many guests, plantain leaves and plates and cups fashioned from the leaves of the 'Flame-of-the-forest' [Spathodea campanulata P.Beauv.] tree are used by every one. Before the meal is begun, all the dishes are arranged on the floor. [S. 241]

It is unnecessary to say that of course meat is not served, neither are vegetables whose juice is red, such as beet-root or tomatoes. No strict Brāhman would eat onions or garlic.

Many experienced missionaries never allow beef1 to be brought into their houses, and never eat it themselves, in order that there may be no bar to their sympathetic social intercourse with their Hindu friends.

1 While flesh-eating generally is disapproved of, the eating of beef is regarded with horror by most Hindus, including those who freely eat other meat.

On the other hand, in nearly every large town now there are 'hotels' with private back entrances, where Brāhmans can go undetected and eat 'red curry', as they call meat dishes.

Such Brāhmans would, of course, be held in the greatest abhorrence by the orthodox, but their number is steadily increasing.

As a rule, it is not a servant (unless in a very rich family) but a lady of the house who brings in the meal. Generally the first things served are thin capātī, unleavened bread in the pancake form. This is put in the middle of the plate, and into a cup at the right side is put curry made of potatoes, cabbage, and Indian vegetables.

The women do not serve pickles and chutney, but these are put in a big vessel, which is passed round from man to man. Cooked food cannot be passed round in this manner, but a separate portion has to be given by the lady serving to each separate person. Clarified butter cannot be handed round either ; it is brought in separate spoons from the kitchen and put on the bread on each person's plate.

Curried pulse is next served, in cups, since it is liquid.

And lastly rice, which has been previously mixed with clarified butter, is put on each plate. The serving of the rice is a sign that all is on the table.

Before beginning his meal, each diner (if one may so call a breakfaster) should notice whether his five limbs are still damp from his pre-prandial bath, and, if not, he must moisten with water his hands, his feet, and his mouth. [S. 242]

This done, the senior member of the household takes some water in his hand and says: 'I, on such-and-such a date, considering this food as part of Brahmā, offer it to him '. The other diners take some water in their hands with the same intention, though they need not actually say the words. (The water is considered a witness.) A little square of ground is moistened with water, and then each diner mentally repeats the Gāyatrī to sanctify his food1 and sprinkles a few drops of water over his plate. (If the family priest is dining, he takes the first seat and repeats the Gāyatrī.) Every man also sprinkles water round his plate to keep off the demons, who would otherwise snatch food from off it, saying: 'I sprinkle truth with knowledge'.

1 It is interesting to notice how closely this resembles the Christian fashion of saying grace.

Then he makes three little balls of rice, dedicating each to a different god. As he makes the first, he says: 'I bow to Bhūpati, the king of the earth '. (Many Hindus believe King George to be the representative of Bhūpati.) 'I bow to Indra, king of the three worlds, I bow to the Lord of all Creatures (Brahmā).' A little water is sprinkled on these three balls, and they are made into one. They are left on the ground during the meal to satisfy the demons, (who, if they have this food at hand, are not so tempted to snatch from the plates), and at the end of the meal they are thrown away.

After the three balls have been made, each diner takes water in the cavity of his right hand and, pressing the ground with his right foot, says: 'Food is Brahmā, its essence is Viṣṇu, the eater is Śiva. He who dines realizing this is free from the sins appertaining to eating' ; and then to the water he says: 'You are the covering of nectar', and sips it.

Every diner eats the first five morsels of rice and pulse in silence (these five mouthfuls are called Prāṇāhuti), each morsel being looked on as an offering successively to the [S. 243] five prāṇa, or vital airs, of the body: prāṇa, apāna, samāna, udāna, vyāna. Just as the clarified butter was offered to the fire during Homa, so now these five morsels are offered to the body.

The diner must touch his plate with his left hand, whilst taking these five morsels in his right hand, and then, washing his left hand, must touch his eyes with it.

After these first five mouthfuls have been eaten in silence, the diners can converse, but often during the monsoon an elderly man takes a vow never to speak at meals during the rainy months. (It is amusing to notice that these vows are scarcely ever taken by young people !) The advantage, so the writer's friends told her, of taking this vow was that, however tasteless the curry, or badly cooked the bread, the diner vowed to silence was saved from the sin of grumbling. (Would it be possible tactfully to draw the attention of certain choleric old gentlemen in England to this interesting Indian custom?) At the end of the monsoon, when released from silence, the vower presents a bell to the temple of Śiva, thus restoring the balance of sound!

As the meal proceeds, if the diner feels thirsty, he must content himself with water, for he is of course debarred by his religion from whisky, wine, or beer.1 (This is, of course, also the case with Jaina and Muḥammadans, so the more stringent Temperance legislation is made in India, the more it accords with the religious principles of the people.) But even water he must drink in a special way. He must take the brass loṭā in his left hand, supporting it also by the back of the right hand, and then pour the water from the loṭā in a stream right into the interior of his mouth, being meticulously careful that his lips2 do not touch the vessel itself. [S. 244]

1 A Brāhman is also debarred from smoking.

2 Tea is generally taken by itself, not at meal-times, and not with food cooked in the house. It may be drunk from a cup which the lips may touch. It is not necessary to bathe or go through any ritual before drinking tea.

Each diner is also extremely careful that no morsel from his own plate falls on any one else's and vice versa, as such an accident would defile him. It is for this reason that they sit so far apart (more than a foot at the very least) from each other.

We noticed a family resemblance in the way Hindus and English both say grace before meals. Another interesting point in common is the care they take that no salt shall be spilt between two diners ; if it were spilt, they believe, as we do, that quarrels and enmity would arise between the two. To avoid this, they never help their neighbour to salt, but very carefully pass him the salt-cellar to help himself. Perhaps this dislike to spilt salt points back to the long-ago time when in the same home they and we were taught at the same board 'to behave mannerly at table'.

At the end of the meal rice is again served, but this time not with the clarified butter, but with milk in some form or other, very likely a sort of rice pudding (dūdha-pāka).

Some of this rice must be left on the dish, and some of it put on the ground.

(All the other rice that had clarified butter in it must be completely consumed.)

At the close the diner takes water in his right hand, pours half of it from near his thumb on to the ground, saying: 'You are a cover of nectar to this (food)', and then drinks the rest of the water.

He ought to wash his hands and his feet at the completion of the meal, and should also throw rice to the crows, but very often these things are omitted.

Servants, or the women of the house, replaster the ground, and then the women dine, the senior lady ('She-who-must-be-obeyed') sitting in the senior gentleman's place.

After the midday meal the leisured retired gentlemen of the house sleep, lying on their left sides to promote digestion, whilst the younger members go to office or school.

If the older gentlemen are very devout, they engage in [S. 245] Svādhyāya before going to sleep, reading the Veda (probably the Yajur-veda) for an hour.

At twilight evening Sandhyā is performed, and afterwards the worshipper goes to the temple.

About eight o'clock he is ready to take his evening meal, for this cannot be taken whilst the sun is setting, or in the twilight, but the diner must wait till the lamps are lit.1

1 A Jaina, on the other hand, cannot dine after the lamps are lit, for fear of destroying life.

When the lamps are brought into the room, all the junior members bow to the senior members, sometimes saying: 'O, God, lead me from darkness to light (i.e. from ignorance to knowledge), from falsehood to truth'.

This rite is performed more ceremonially if a ruler be present. The writer will never forget the first time she saw this pretty little rite. Her husband and she were touring in a native State, and the splendid old Kāṭhiāwār chief a Rājput of the old type was calling on them at their tent, when the lamps were brought in, and instantly his whole retinue did obeisance to him, whilst he explained the quaint custom to her.

There is a reference to a similar Christian custom in one of Moira O'Neill's songs, 'The Grace for Light'.

The first lamp to be lit is one filled with clarified butter, which is put before the tutelary deity (Iṣṭadeva), and then kerosene or other lamps are brought in for mortal use.

Not only must Brāhmans wait for the lamps, but very often they cannot dine at all. For instance, they can take no meal on the day of an eclipse. (If the sun or moon sets during an eclipse, they must fast the next day also.) If a death occurs in a house near by, they must not dine till the corpse has been carried away, even if the dead person belonged to another caste.

The scrupulous care that Brāhmans exercise about food, and the caste rules that surround it, are well known, but it is not always understood that it is cooked food they treat with such especial care. [S. 246]

Clarified butter, uncooked grain, and vegetables they can buy in the market from Baniās or Muḥammadans, but once such food has been cooked, it becomes Brahmā, and so must be treated with sacramental care.

For instance, if Brāhmans want to go on a picnic, they either take uncooked food with them and cook it at the picnic place, or else they content themselves with fruit, or with milk-sweets, and other sweets made without water, which they can buy at a Brāhman shop in the bazaar. If they have to take cooked food from one place to another, water is sprinkled along the road in front of the carrier.

But if water can avail to purify, it is also through water that caste defilement arises most easily ; so one can sometimes persuade a Brāhman to accept medicine, such as quinine, in a powder, who would hesitate to take it in fluid form.

During dinner they are most careful not to drink from one another's water-vessels. Supposing some one who was very fussy were to do so by mistake, he might confess to his guru and perform penance by giving a cow (i.e. five rupees) to a Brāhman and repeating the Gāyatrī one hundred and eight times. (As with the Jaina, so with the Brāhmans, no absolution is given after confession. The penance is laid down, and it is left to the penitent to do it or not.)

Water from a pipe is not so defiling as water from the vessel of some one belonging to another caste. Of course, when drinking from the tap, they let the water stream straight into their mouths, being careful not to touch the tap with their lips.

When the writer and her husband have dined with high-caste friends, all the diners have sat at separate tables, and care has been taken that these did not stand on the same carpet, so that there should be no apparent connexion or link between them.

The food served during the evening meal is very much the same as that eaten at breakfast, though less elaborate.

A Brāhman family, except on a fast or a festival, generally retires about ten. [S. 247]

Before getting into bed, a Brāhman often repeats some favourite hymns or verses, that the day may close with the sound of sacred words.

A Woman's Day.

In an ordinary Brāhman household the wife gets up about four a.m. to grind. This done, she sweeps the house, brushing the dust outside the courtyard door, where the Sweeper may come and fetch it, for so unclean a being is not allowed to step inside the house itself ; she then cleans the cooking-vessels with ashes and puts her bedding in the sun. Not till all this is finished does she bathe.

Bathing, in the case of a woman as of a man, is a religious rite, and is carried out with great ceremony. If the woman is bathing at home, she invokes the sacred rivers Ganges, Jamnā, and Sarasvatī to take up their abode in the water which she is going to pour over her. Then she takes some water in her hand, and, mentioning the day of the week, the day according to the moon, and the name of the month, she pours it on the ground, repeating a mantra as she does so. She bathes by pouring water over herself. Whether she bathes in the river or at home, she should wear some clothes whilst bathing (though, as a matter of fact, she often does not wear clothes when bathing at home). She cleanses her teeth with the tooth-stick in the same way that a man does. If a junior member of the household, she is particular to do this in private.

An Indian lady washes her hair very frequently ; but if she has not time to do this, she can render herself ceremonially pure from any ritual defilement she may have contracted by combing her hair. If loose hairs come out on the comb, she is as ritually pure as soon as she has thrown these away as if she had washed her hair, and may proceed to worship. Of course during the days that she is ceremonially impure she may not worship, any more than she may immediately after child-birth or a bereavement.

But if nothing prevents her, she first worships the sun. If [S. 248] she has bathed at home, she puts on dry clothes (at the river she still wears her wet clothes) and proceeds to worship by throwing sandal-wood paste from her thumb and third finger towards the sun, repeating a mantra (vernacular, not Sanskrit) to it and doing four circumambulations towards it.

After worshipping the sun, she worships the tulasi plant [Ocimum tenuiflorum L.], pouring water on it, marking it with sandal-wood and circumambulating it five times. (A tulasi plant is to be found in practically every Brāhman house.) She very often worships a pīpal tree [Ficus religiosa L.] in the same way with water, sandal-wood, and five circumambulations. Many of the old missionaries, such as the well-known James Smith of Delhi, planted these particular trees in shade-less places, relying on the fact that watering a pīpal is a religious duty.

If she had time, she would do more circumambulations, perhaps thirteen times, or one hundred and eight. But she still has the worship of the five gods in the house to perform. These may be kept in a special room, or, if the house be small, in a wall-shrine like a cupboard. On ordinary days she washes the gods with water, on great days with milk, curds, honey, clarified butter, and sugar. Next, she marks them with the auspicious mark with her third finger, and offers flowers, incense, lights, and rice, going through the ordinary fivefold worship.

Not until all this is completed does she wake her husband. She stands at a distance from his bed (after the first four or five months of married life they sleep in separate beds, and after the first child is born in separate rooms) and, doing obeisance to him with folded hands, rouses him by saying some such salutation as Jaya, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Jaya. (Brāhman women have often as much devotion for Kṛṣṇa as for Śiva.) Then, if he is going to bathe at home, she gets the water for his teeth-cleaning ready. If she be not pressed for time, when r husband rises she may worship the big toe1 of his right [S. 249] foot by bathing it, marking it with sandal-wood and offering incense, lights, rice, &c., just as if her husband were a god.

1 It is interesting to compare this with the worship offered to the occupant of the See of St. Peter's.

However strange this worship may seem to western eyes, there is often something very beautiful and almost sacramental in the whole relationship of an Indian wife to her husband. No one who has been honoured with the close friendship of an Indian lady can fail to realize that in a home where divorce is unknown, where children are longed for and treated, not as encumbrances, but as royal gifts from the gods, and where the wife's whole thought is how to please her husband, some exquisite, old-world graces bloom that are almost inevitably lost in the bustling western world.

The dark side of the picture is doubtless also true : the husband too often regards his wife as no relation, but merely the mother of his children, and those children are often utterly spoilt and undisciplined till me age of six or seven ; and, of course, in a sheltered spot tyranny can be utterly merciless, especially if the young bride has been so unfortunate as to offend her mother-in-law, who may then deliberately try to make mischief between husband and wife. But as one compares the beautiful unselfish faces of the true home-makers with the bold eyes of some 'emancipated' Indian women who have not substituted for the old discipline of the home the discipline of Christ, one is sorry that something so rare and beautiful should be lost.

After worshipping her husband, the wife gets everything ready for him to use in worship, cleansing the vessels she herself had used when worshipping the gods.

Then, if she is the senior lady of the house, she cooks, preparing for breakfast the things her husband or her servant have brought from the bazaar, for an old-fashioned Brāhman lady would not herself go to the bazaar to shop.1 If she has [S. 250]

1 In Kāṭhiāwār, for instance, the women would not, if they could possibly help it, go to buy cloth, as they might in some other places ; but under no circumstances would they buy vegetables or grain, any more than in England old-fashioned Black-country women would buy the Sunday joint.

become ceremonially impure, she bathes again before offering Naivedya. The men of the family breakfast, and, after waiting on them and replastering the ground, she and her children have their breakfast. Breakfast over, she replasters the hearth on which she has cooked and cleanses all the vessels. This done, she finds time, perhaps, to sleep a little during the great heat of the day, perhaps to sew. As a rule the women of the family do the mending, but most of the sewing-machine work is done by male tailors. (The writer once in her early days reduced a whole family of children to tears by presenting a toy sewing-machine to a girl instead of to a boy!)

The war has taught many Indian ladies to knit, but old-fashioned Brāhman gentlemen dislike wearing stockings themselves and would never permit their ladies to wear them.

After sewing and resting, the wife very probably gets all ready for the evening meal, grinding again, if there is a large party to provide for, and cleansing the rice and the grain. Cleansing the rice and the grain is leisurely work, often occupying two or three hours, but it affords a fine time for domestic gossip.

When all is in readiness, she feels at leisure to enjoy herself, and most Indian ladies see their friends between the hours of four and six in the afternoon and pay visits of condolence or congratulation. In some parts of India (Kāṭhiāwār, for example) among Hindus it is only Rājput ladies of position who, strictly speaking, keep purdah, and even they often go out in a carriage, or after dark. Other Hindu women keep the letter of purdah by pulling their saris across their faces when they meet a man older than their husbands.

At sunset the women worship the household gods again, removing dead flowers, whose essence has by now been enjoyed by the gods. In the morning they offer them cooked food, but in the evenings it is generally uncooked food, such as sugar and milk, that is put before them. They then sometimes perform āratī (the ceremonial waving of a lamp), and afterwards allow the gods to sleep.

After worshipping the gods, the women cook the evening [S. 251] meal, but this is a less elaborate business than the morning cooking. If a senior male member of the family be at leisure, he performs the evening worship, and the women only go to ome temple. It is not usual to say good night to each other on retiring, the evening greeting, as we have already seen, being made when the lights are brought in ; the women then often say to their elders: 'Jaya Śrī Kṛṣṇna'.

The writer was reading these notes over to a charming Brāhman lady, who agreed to all that she had said, but added laughingly: 'Madam Sāhibā, that is the way, no doubt, that we ought to pay our reverence to our husbands, but we have not time nowadays. Look at us. My husband is a head master, but I am also a head mistress, and I have a lot of work to get through before school ; so in the mornings all I have time to do is to stand at the bottom of his bed and say: "Uṭha-Uṭha!" (up you get !), and after that I am far too busy cooking for him to have any time to waste in worshipping him !'