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The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

p. 297


Ceremonies to be observed at the birth and naming of a child. Of marrying, or leading a religious life. Choice of a wife. Different modes of marrying.

SAGARA then addressed Aurva, and said, "You have described to me, venerable Brahman, the duties of the four orders and of the four castes. I am now desirous to hear from you the religious institutes which men should individually observe, whether they be invariable, occasional, or voluntary. Describe these to me; for all things are known, chief of Bhrigu's race, unto you." To this Aurva replied, "I will communicate to you, oh king, that which you have asked, the invariable and occasional rites which men should perform: do you attend.

"When a son is born, let his father perform for him the ceremonies proper on the birth of a child, and all other initiatory rites, as well as a Śráddha, which is a source of prosperity. Let him feed a couple of Brahmans, seated with their faces to the east; and according to his means offer sacrifices to the gods and progenitors. Let him present to the manes 1 balls of meat mixed with curds, barley, and jujubes, with the part of his hand sacred to the gods, or with that sacred to Prajápati 2. Let a Brahman perform such a Śráddha, with all its offerings and circumambulations, on every occasion of good fortune 3.

"Next, upon the tenth day after birth, let the father give a name to his child; the first term of which shall be the appellation of a god, the second of a man, as Śarman or Varman; the former being the appropriate designation of a Brahman, the latter of a warrior; whilst Gupta

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and Dása are best fitted for the names of Vaiśyas and Śúdras 4. A name should not be void of meaning; it should not be indecent, nor absurd, nor ill-omened, nor fearful; it should consist of an even number of syllables; it should not be too long nor too short, nor too full of long vowels; but contain a due proportion of short vowels, and be easily articulated. After this and the succeeding initiatory rites 5, the purified youth is to acquire religious knowledge, in the mode that has been described, in the dwelling of his spiritual guide.

"When he has finished his studies, and given the parting donation to his preceptor, the man who wishes to lead the life of a householder must take a wife. If he does not propose to enter into the married state, he may remain as a student with his teacher, first making a vow to that effect, and employ himself in the service of his preceptor and of that preceptor's descendants; or he may at once become a hermit, or adopt the order of the religious mendicant, according to his original determination 6.

"If he marry, he must select a maiden who is of a third of his age 7; one who has not too much hair, but is not without any; one who is not

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very black nor yellow complexioned, and who is not from birth a cripple or deformed. He must not marry a girl who is vicious or unhealthy, of low origin, or labouring under disease; one who has been ill brought up; one who talks improperly; one who inherits some malady from father or mother; one who has a beard, or who is of a masculine appearance; one who speaks thick or thin, or croaks like a raven; one who keeps her eyes shut, or has the eyes very prominent; one who has hairy legs, or thick ancles; or one who has dimples in her cheeks when she laughs 8. Let not a wise and prudent man marry a girl of such a description: nor let a considerate man wed a girl of a harsh skin; or one with white nails; or one with red eyes, or with very fat hands and feet; or one who is a dwarf, or who is very tall; or one whose eyebrows meet, or whose teeth are far apart, and resemble tusks. Let a householder marry a maiden who is in kin at least five degrees remote from his mother, and seven from his father, with the ceremonies enjoined by law 9.

"The forms of marriage are eight, the Brahmá, Daiva, the Ársha, Prájápatya, Asúra, Gándharba, Rákshasa, and Paiśácha; which last is the worst 10: but the caste to which either form has been enjoined as lawful by inspired sages should avoid any other mode of taking a wife. The householder who espouses a female connected with him by similarity of religious and civil obligations, and along with her discharges the duties of his condition, derives from such a wife great benefits."


297:1 To the Nándímukhas. The Pitris, or progenitors, are so termed here from words occurring in the prayer used on the occasion of a festive Śráddha. As. Res. VII. 270.

297:2 With the Daiva tírtha, the tips of the fingers; or with the Prájapatya tírtha, the part of the hand at the root of the little finger. Manu, II. 58, 59. The second is called by Manu the Káya tírtha, from Ka, a synonyme of Prajápati.

297:3 The Śráddha is commonly an obsequial or funeral sacrifice, but it implies offerings to the progenitors of an individual and of mankind, and always forms part of a religious ceremony on an occasion of rejoicing or an accession of prosperity, this being termed the Abhyudaya or Vriddhi Śráddha. As. Res. VII. 270.

298:4 So Manu, II. 30, 31, 32. The examples given in the comment are, Somaśarman, Indravarman, Chandragupta, and Śivadása, respectively appropriate appellations of men of the four castes.

298:5 Or Sanskáras; initiatory ceremonies, purificatory of the individual at various stages.

298:6 Or the vow or pledge he has taken, that he will follow for life the observances of the student or ascetic; both of which are enumerated in the Nirńaya Sindhu, as acts prohibited in the Kali age; a man is not to continue a student or Brahmáchári, i. e. a cænobite, for life; nor is he to become a mendicant without previously passing through the order of householder. In practice, however, the prohibition is not unfrequently disregarded.

298:7 By this is to be understood, according to the commentator, merely a young girl, but at the same time one not immature; for otherwise, he observes, a man of thirty, by which age he completes his sacred studies, would espouse a girl of but ten years of age. According to Manu, however, the period of religious study does not terminate until thirty-six; and in the East a girl of twelve would be marriageable. The text of Yájnawalkya has merely the word Yavíyasí, 'a very young woman.' It is worthy of remark here, that neither that text, nor the text of Manu, nor the interpretation of our text, authorizes the present practice of the nuptials of children. The obligation imposed upon a man of a life of perfect continence until he is more than thirty is singularly Malthusian.

299:8 For the credit of Hindu taste it is to be noticed that the commentator observes the hemistich in which this last clause occurs is not found in all copies of the text.

299:9 See Manu, III. 5, &c.

299:10 These different modes of marriage a described by Manu, III. 27, &c.

Next: Chapter XI