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MARKANDEYA PURANA

Bhagwan Shiv

Varnashrama Dharma with emphasis on Brahmanas

Devi Madasala described to her son Alarka the broad Principles of Varnashrama Dharma. ‘Daan’(Charity), ‘Adhyayan’ (Learning) and Yagna (Ritualistic Sacrifices and Agni Homams) constitute the three major duties of Brahmanas; the derivative duties are to facilitate Yagnas to be organised by other’s Yagnas implying the acceptance of Danaas, ‘Adhyapan’ (Teaching) and farming for his family. In addition to Daan, Adhyayan and Yagna, the Kshatriya community has to ensure the security of the Society internally and from outside forces/enemies, assume the responsibility for its Peace, Finances and Administration.

The Vaishya Community has the duties of trade, commerce, agriculture and Cattle nurture in addition to Daan, Adhyanan and Yagnas. Shudras have responsibility of assisting the tasks of the other communities afore mentioned, especially Service to Soldiers, cattle care and retailing.

As Brahmanas are concerned, they might be free from the restrictions in a comparative manner till their ‘Upanayana Samskaras’ or the Ritual wearing the Yanopaveet (the HolyThread) in respect of ‘Ahaar’ and ‘ Vyavahar’ ( Food and other General Matters). Thereafter however, restrictions become operative through the day and night. A Brahmachari moves to his Guru’s residence and follows a disciplined routine like ‘Swadhyaya’ (Study the self), ‘Agni Susrusha’, ‘Snaana’, ‘Bhikshatana’ (Soliciting food grains by moving around), assisting Guru in  the tasks assigned, learning from him, and after achieving the stage of Perfection, for seeking the permission of the Guru entering ‘Grihastashram’ through Vedic Wedding, earning by one’s own earning capacity and fortune, look after wife and children, parents, other dependents, destitutes, animals, birds etc; perform daily rituals of Pancha YagnasViz. Deva Yagna (Worship of ‘Ishta Devata’ or Deity of choice); Brahma Yagna (Study of Vedas, Scriptures and religious books to enhance Divine Knowledge); Pitra Yagna (Contemplating of theTeachings of Fore-fathers, Family Gurus, Sages and well-wishers to preserve family traditions); Bhuta Yagna (Extending help and sympathy to the needy, including animals and other species); and Nara Yagna (respect to elders, ladies, and co-human beings to maintain social and cultural ties). The Grihastis (House Holders) must also give away charities according to one’s ability and aptitude. He should also satisfy Athithis (Guests), relatives and servants, again as per maximum possibility. In fact Athithi Yagna is an important off-shoot of Nara Yagna, as turning away Atithis who turn up unannounced need to be fully cared for, since their curses take away a good stock of the ‘Punya’ and more over the sins of Atithis are passed on to the hosts! Thus after the daily Yagnas are executed earnestly, the Grihastis redeem their debts and augment the stock of their virtues.  Thereafter the Grihasti (House-holder) gets old and retires from active life and would enter Vanaprastha Ashram by ensuring upkeep of health and worship to Almighty, as a stepping stone to the next Ashram of Sanyasa (Renunciation).

Devi Madalasa continued further as follows : The general expectation of Devas, Pitras, Brahmanas and various others is that Grihastas would perform Rituals, provide Anna (food) and fulfill other needs.In fact, Grihasti is normally looked upon as the unique provider and fulcrum of all pious acts of life, especially in the context of Vedas and the Dharma in the form of ‘Dhenu’ (Cow) embodying the Rig Veda as her stomach, Yajur Veda as her middle portion, Sama Veda as her Face, Ishtapurti ( Fullfiller of Desires) as her neck, her horns as Sadhu Sukta; Shanti and Health her body-sides, and milk-yielding ‘Stanas’ ( breast-nipples) represent Swahaakar (Deva Ganas), Swadhakaar (Pitruganas), Vashatkaar (Rishiganas) and Hantakaar (Manushyaganas). Thus Grihastis (especially Brahmanas) should worship sincerely the Suraganas, Pitruganas, and Muniganas. They have to offer ‘Jala tarpanas’ and Pujas to Devas, ‘Agni Tarpana’ and ‘Bali’ (offering of cooked rice with Akshatas) to Brahma. ‘Bali daan’ (Sacrifice) is offered to Dhanvantari at the East but showing North of ‘Homakunda’, Indra in the direction of East, Yama and Varuna to the West, and Chandra towards North. Vaiswa Deva Bali is also to be performed in the morning and evening in favour of helpless animals, birds and other species like ants and flies.

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