Single is each man born; Single he dies: Manu (Post No.3359)

Compiled  by London Swaminathan


Date: 16 November 2016


Time uploaded in London: 5-14 am


Post No.3359


Pictures are taken from various sources; they are representational only; thanks.









13 Day Hindu Funeral Rites- Part 1


Recorded by The Rev. J E Padfield B.D., year 1908, in his book The Hindu at Home.



(Uttara Kriya)


Manava Dharmasastra, the greatest and first comprehensive Law book in the world describes the death of a Hindu in the following couplets:-


“Single is each man born; single he dies: single he receives the reward of his good, and single the punishment of his evil deeds.


When he leaves his corpse, like a log or a lump of clay, on the ground, his kindred retire with averted faces; but his virtue accompanies his soul.” (Manu, iv, 240-1.)


“A mansion with bones for its rafters and beams; with nerves and tendons for cords; with muscles and blood for mortar with skin for its outward covering.


A mansion infested by age and by sorrow, the seat of malady, and harassed by pains, haunted with the quality of darkness, and incapable of standing long; such a mansion of the vital soul let its occupier always cheerfully quit.


As a tree leaves the bank of a river, when it falls in, or as a bird leaves the branch of a tree at his pleasure, thus he, who leaves his body by necessity or by legal choice, is delivered from the ravening shark, or crocodile, of the world.” (Manu vi, 76- 8.)

Why do good people die?


There is a curious passage in Manu where the question seems to be raised as to how death can have any power over such holy beings as Brahmins, especially those learned in the Vedas and who undeviating perform the duties laid down for their guidance. A reason is given for the mortality of a twice-born who may have been remiss performing religious or has offended in the matter of diet.


The fifth chapter of “Manava Dharma Sastra,” which opens with the passage referred to, is largely composed of the most minute rules and regulations as to diet. It is difficult to conceive the possibility of a mortal man’s avoiding some offence named and thus rendering himself amenable to death. The passage is as follows:


“The sages, having heard those laws delivered for the conduct of house-keepers, thus addressed the high-minded Bhrigu, who proceeded in a former birth from the genius of fire.


How, Lord, can death prevail over Brahmins, who know the scriptural ordinances and perform their duties as they have been declared?

Then he, whose disposition was perfect virtue, even Bhrigu, the son of Manu, thus answered the great Rishis (seers):-


‘Hear, from what sin proceeds the inclination of death to destroy the chief of the twice-born’


“Through a neglect of reading the Véda, through a desertion of approved usages, through supine remissness in performing holy rites and through various offences in diet, the genius death becomes eager to destroy them. (Manu, v.1-4)

Panchagavyam, Just before dying!


When amongst the Hindus of all castes and of both sexes est a person the point of death, the family priest is summoned to administer the last sacrament (Jivanamaskaram) which is administered in the following manner:–


The sick person is lifted from the couch upon which he may be lying, and is made to recline upon the ground, supported by a low stool. A couch is not considered a pure place (madi) and the friends of a sick person will not even feed him whilst lying on it, unless he is too ill to be moved. The priest then approaches with the Panchagavyam. This is a mixture of five products of the cow: milk, curd, butter, urine and dung.


The dying person is first asked to recite after the priest certain Mantras, and if he is too weak to articulate, he is desired to recite them to himself.

Afterwards the vessel containing the Panchagavyam mixture is placed to his lips and some of it poured into the mouth. This whole is called Prayachittam or the ceremony expiation. Of the various texts recited, two are given below as specimens:–


“I take this sacrament of panchagavyam for the absolution of my sins, both those committed voluntarily and involuntarily”

Jnana ajnana krta dosha prayachittartham panchagavyasamskaram karishye


“Whatever sins adhere to the skin and bone now present in this body,

May the partaking of this panchagavyam

Destroy them as fire destroys fuel.”


Yatvagastigatam papam  dehe tishtati mamake

Prasanam panchagav dahatyagnirivendhanam


Must die on the Ground!

The sick person is then replaced upon the couch to await the end though sometimes he may recover. If from sudden death or any other cause, this ceremony cannot be performed, the death is not considered a happy one.


When it is evident that death is very near, the dying person is laid on the ground, which has been previously prepared by smearing it with cow dung and by placing some of the sacred grass (darbha). It is very important that a person should breathe his last on the earth. Indeed, it is a common way of cursing to say, “When you come to die may there be no one to place you on the ground”


Not allowed to die inside the house!


There are certain phases of the moon during which would be considered a serious calamity for anyone to die inside the house. Should death draw near at such a period, the patient is carefully taken outside to die in some outer verandah. If, through a misfortune, he should die inside the house during a period, the whole dwelling is considered polluted. It must be entirely vacated for some time, after which a ceremony called “punyachavachanam” is performed in the place to purify it before it can be re-occupied. Sometimes when such a calamity does befall a house hold, in order to avoid the trouble and cost of moving out entirely, a hole is made in the sidewall of the house, near the room where the death took place, and the body is passed outside through the hole. In such a case, only that side of the house will be impure and need purification; the other part can be inhabited usual. This mode of action, however, is not considered proper or respectable and it is thought to reflect dishonour upon the dead.



When an orthodox Hindu is at the point of death, a Brahmin brings a cow, marks its forehead with vermillion (kunkum) and salutes it. A little Ganges water is poured into the mouth of the dying man. Alms are given to Brahmins and to beggars; and just at the moment of dissolution he is removed into the open air or conveyed to the river bank.


To be continued………………..






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