The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast told me in full of those from whom food may be accepted and of those from whom it should not be taken. But I have grave doubts on one point. Do thou, O sire, enlighten me, do thou tell me what expiation a Brahmana should make (for the sin he incurs) upon accepting the different kinds of food, those especially offered in honour of the gods and the oblations made to the manes.'
"Bhishma said, 'I shall tell thee, O prince, how high-souled Brahmanas may be absolved from all sin incurred by accepting food from others. In accepting clarified butter, the expiation is made by pouring oblations on the fire, reciting the Savitri hymn. In accepting sesamum, O Yudhishthira, the same expiation has to be made. In accepting meat, or honey, or salt, a Brahmana becomes purified by standing till the rising of the sun. If a
[paragraph continues] Brahmana accepts gold from any one, he becomes cleansed of all sins by silently reciting the great Vedic prayer (Gayatri) and by holding a piece of iron in his hand in the presence of the public. In accepting money or clothes or women or gold, the purification is the same as before. In accepting food, or rice boiled in milk and sugar, or sugarcane juice, or sugar-cane, or oil, or any sacred thing, one becomes purified by bathing thrice in the course of the day, viz., at morn, noon and eve. If one accepts, paddy, flowers, fruits, water, half-ripe barley, milk, or curdled milk, or anything made of meal or flour, the expiation is made by reciting the Gayatri prayer a hundred times. In accepting shoes or clothes at obsequial ceremonies, the sin is destroyed by reciting devoutly the same hymn a hundred times. The acceptance of the gift of land at the time of an eclipse or during the period of impurity, is expiated by observing a fast during three successive nights. The Brahmana who partakes of oblations offered to deceased ancestors, in course of the dark fortnight, is purified by fasting for a whole day and night. Without performing his ablutions a Brahmana should not say his evening prayers, nor betake himself to religious meditation, nor take his food a second time. By so doing he is purified. For this reason, the Sraddha of deceased ancestors has been ordained to be performed in the afternoon and then the Brahmana who has been invited beforehand should be feasted, The Brahmana who partakes of food at the house of a dead person on the third day after the death, is purified by bathing three times daily for twelve days. After the expiration of twelve days, and going through the purification ceremonies duly, the sin is destroyed by giving clarified butter to Brahmanas. If a man takes any food in the house of a dead person, within ten days after the death, he should go through all the expiations before mentioned, and should recite the Savitri hymn and do the sin-destroying Ishti and Kushmanda penances. The Brahmana who takes his food in the house of a dead person for three nights, becomes purified by performing his ablutions thrice daily for seven days, and thus attains all the objects of his desire, and is never troubled by misfortunes. The Brahmana who takes his food in the company of Sudras is purged from all impurity by duly observing the ceremonies of purification. The Brahmana who takes his food in the company of Vaisyas is absolved from sin by living on alms for three successive nights. If a Brahmana takes his food with Kshatriyas, he should make expiation by bathing with his clothes on. By eating with a Sudra from off the same plate the Sudra loses his family respectability; the Vaisya by eating from off the same plate with a Vaisya, loses his cattle and friends. The Kshatriya loses his prosperity, and the Brahmana his splendour and energy. In such cases, expiations should be made, and propitiatory rites should be observed, and oblations offered to the gods. The Savitri hymn should be recited and the Revati rites and Kushmanda penances should be observed with the view of destroying the sin. If any of the above four classes partake of food partly eaten by a person of any other class, the expiation is undoubtedly made by
smearing the body with auspicious substances like Rochana, Durva grass, and turmeric.'"
Next: Section CXXXVII