Asaucam: (Contamination period)
Following a birth or death there is a period of contamination for the relatives of the person
born or deceased, the length of which depends upon the closeness of the relation, caste and age of the decesased. Wtih the
decease or birth of a close relative a brahmana has ten days of asauca, a kshatriya twelve days, a vaishya fifteen days and
a sudra thirty days. If the relation is distant the brahmana will have three days asaucam.
If a child of brahmana dies within ten days of birth, impurity is observed for ten days after
the birth by the father and mother only. If the child dies within two years, asauca is one day.
If the child dies before six years and three months, the asauca is three days for close relatives.
During the period of contamination one should not study scripture, or perform homa, Deity worship,
tarpana, entertain guests etc. If one is performing Deity worship one may perform, worship by manasa puja. However if one
has made a vow to perform worship of the Lord for his whole life, he should not break this vow, but should continue the puja
(but if some arrangement can be made that is nice).
Those performing sacrifice, students and realized souls, or one who has performed funeral rites
for a sannyasi does not obeserve asauca.
"One should not enter the temple in a contaminated state. (According to Vedic scripture, if
someone dies in the family the whole family becomes contaminated for some time, according to its status. For example, if the
family is brahmana their contamination period is twelve days, for kshatriyas and vaishyas it is fifteen days, and for shudras
thirty days.)(Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupada. Nectar of Devotion, page 69. - Offences to be avoided.)
"As far as these rules are concerned let me first say that in matters of asauca (contamination/ritual pollution)
Vaisnavas in general follow the same rules as all other followers of the Vedic Dharma Shastras. However in ISKCON Srila Prabhupada
definitely introduced some new and novel approaches to some of these problems. I was in Fiji for some time and Vasudeva Prabhu
and his wives (he has two, they are sisters) all of Indian (Gujarati actually) descent had some interesting things that they
did and told me about. Vasudeva asked Prabhupada how long should he stay away from the temple after a relative of his died.
If you look at NOD you will see that different numbers of days are given for different varnas. Vasudeva said that he was expected
to stay way for ten days. Srila Prabhupada told him that ONE day was enough. One wonders if he would have even said this had
Vasudeva not been of Indian descent. In general Srila Prabhupada relied on the purity of the Krsna's Holy Name in these circumstances.
In time of need even allowing women to perform deity worship or cook during their rtus. (Not that I am encouraging this.)
As the only male pujari in Fiji at the time I had sometimes to dress all the deities myself when all the ladies went sick
at the same time. And Indian women will take a week or ten days sometimes before they return to the temple. You don't even
see them, neither do they touch their japa malas, but chant on their hands (fingers). In South India the (Brahmin) ladies
cannot even enter the house, but must sleep on a mat on the front porch or in a special room on the roof or in the back yard.
Food is brought to them. All of this was NOT Srila Prabhupada's mood. (Although one could argue that this is part of Varnashram
and therefore eventually might be something he wanted to introduce.)
Let us not have a double standard where these things are concerned. When I was in Europe, based
on reading and discussing Srila Prabhupada's instructions we adopted a standard of 3 days off for lady pujaris during their
rtus. After the 3 days they were allowed to return to their service. Whether or not the rtu has actually finished. (By the
way ladies should take full bath before returning to pujari duties, including washing the hair. On normal days brushing is
enough for cleaning the hair. See Bhagavatam story of Devahuti and Kardama). So let us adopt a standard of cleanliness for
all men and women doing deity seva. And also let us NOT discriminate against women in the matter of entering the temple room.
Afterall we invite non-vaisnavas to come there in order to preach to them, so why not allow our Vaisnavis. At the same time
I would respect any lady who wishes to observe the ancient traditional systems of ritual impurity and asauca.(And I would
also have equal respect for those who choose not to.) It is their right to choose the way in which they observe these things,
while being careful to avoid as far as possible Deity seva aparadhas."(Gaura Keshava das. 1998. COM1415668.)
Srila Prabhupad also mentions that aspiring Vaishnavis unlike brahminis, or what to speak of
ordinary women can touch the Deity of the Lord, or cook when they are in their menses, but better that they don't.
To ensure that the soul does not remain in a subtle body hovering on this earth planet, but
will attain a comfortable body for enjoyment on pitr loka, offerings are made to the departed person and the pitrs. During
the asauca period daily offerings of sesame and water, and pinda (rice mixed with sesame, ghee and honey) are given to the
departed person. On the eleventh day (for a close relative of a brahmana) the house is purified, eleven brahmanas are fed
and offerings are made to the deceased. Beginning on that day, for the first year, monthly sraddha ceremonies should be held.
As well, in the sixth and twelfth month additional sraddhas should be conducted. Then every year, on the tithi of the decease,
annual sraddhas should be conducted.
According to Vaisnava scripture, the sraddha rites may be performed, but the priest performing
the rites should be Vaisnavas and the offerings to the pitrs should be Visnu prasada.
The inhabitants of Pitrloka are generally men of the karma kandiya or fruitive activities category,
who have been transferred there because of their pious activities. They can stay there as long as their descendants offer
them Visnu prasada.
SB 5.2.2 purport
The sraddha ceremony of oblations to the forefathers should not be performed on ekadasi tithi.
When the tithi of the death anniversary falls on the ekadasi day, the sraddha ceremony should be held not on ekadasi but on
the next day.
"While Govinda dasi was Srila Prabhupada's personal secretary in 1968, His Divine Grace endeavored to convince
her that it would be best to refrain from temple activities during the first three days of her menses, not just Deity worship.
Govinda dasi became very upset. Srila Prabhupada seeing the degree of her disturbance said, 'Never mind.'
Today she follows the rule that Srila Prabhupada wanted her to follow then.
She says, she just couldn't follow at that time, now she can.
Your Servant, Kusha devi dasi" [Text 1484553 from COM]
"According to smarta viddhi, a women in her period cannot touch the Deity. However, according
to Goswami viddhi, she can, but better she doesn't"
According to the smarta vidhi, women cannot touch deity during menstrual period but the goswami
viddhi allows. But it is better not to do it. One thing is that the seva can never be stopped for any reason. This also for
the cooking. (A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Letter to Amsu. Vrindavan August 13th 1974.)
For more see section below "Purifying the Body" from Pacharatra Pradipa, Iskcon GBC.
Impurities of the Self
Since contamination spreads by touch, the pjr must be careful to avoid touching impure items such as the holes
of the body, hair, the lower part of the body, the cloth covering the lower body, feet, the floor, or any impure substance.
Offered articles are considered impure for one who is going to offer fresh articles. Therefore the worshiper must be careful
to avoid touching offered items.
According to Manu, there are twelve impurities (mala) exuding from the body. A person must purify himself
by cleansing the body with earth (or soap) and water after he contacts the first six impurities: fat, semen, blood, marrow,
urine, or stool.
Water alone purifies a person after he contacts the second six impurities: nose mucus, phlegm, tears, perspiration,
ear wax, and exudations from the eyes.
Other contaminating agents are alcohol; low animals such as pigs, donkeys, dogs, and crows; low-class people
(caülas and mlecchas); hair; nails; bone; corpses (human or animal); the smoke from a funeral pyre; a menstruating woman;
eating; sleeping; sex; passing urine or stool; sinful activities; ucchiÉa (food remnants); and the birth or death of close
Contagious disease is also contaminating. A person suffering from a skin disease, such as eczema, should not
enter the kitchen or worship the Deity. If one has sores or wounds that could contaminate the paraphernalia or the Deity,
one should also refrain from cooking and worship. A person suffering from a respiratory disease should not enter the kitchen.
Purifying the Body
After waking, a devotee should cleanse his body and its orifices by employing water and earth (or soap), by
brushing the teeth, and by submerging himself in water. <See page ? for further details>.
When the parts of the body below the navel and the forearms become contaminated by wine or the first six bodily
impurities, one should purify them by scrubbing the affected area with earth (or soap) and water.
If the upper body is contaminated, one should purify the whole body with earth (or soap) and water and then
A person should bathe to purify himself after sex, a bad dream, shaving, vomiting, purging, or after touching
a dead body, a woman in her menstrual cycle, a caüla, or a dead animal or its fat or bones.
A woman purifies herself during her menstrual cycle by bathing on the fourth day.* A woman possessing a bad
mind is purified by her menstrual flow.
*If a woman's menstrual period lasts more than three days, it is better if the woman refrain from touching the Deity or
anything related to the Deity worship until her period is actually over. The reason for this prohibition is that, at the very
least, menstrual contamination is like having passed stool without bathing afterward. In a letter «rla Prabhupda writes that
for the worship of a Deity to continue uninterrupted it may be allowed, as an exception, for women to touch the Deity during
their menstrual period, but that ``it is better if they don't." This allowance should be understood to refer to a rare exception,
or to worship of household Deities. Temple managers should encourage male devotees to engage in the temple Deity worship,
minimizing difficult situations that may arise due to women devotees' periods of contamination.
One should perform camana after coughing or sneezing, after sleeping, eating, drinking, bathing, dressing,
spitting, or walking on a road, after urinating or passing stool, and after talking to caülas and mlecchas.
One should also perform camana before eating, studying Ćstra, or performing any religious activity.
The man of knowledge purifies himself of sin by endurance, by charity, by japa, and by austerity. A brhmaa
is purified by accepting sannysa.A devotee purifies himself of an uncontrolled mind by the decision to follow the path of
truth. He purifies himself of body consciousness by knowledge and austerity, and he purifies his ability to discriminate by
receiving spiritual education.
Purification of Consciousness (citta-Ćuddhi)
One's consciousness is purified first by VaiÉava initiation, by which one receives VaiÉava mantras for worshiping
the Lord; then it is purified by one's performing daily sdhana and practicing VaiÉava cra (proper VaiÉava behavior). Purification
of consciousness is very much interrelated with physical purification. The ViÉu-smŹti lists the purifying agents for the contaminated
body and mind as spiritual knowledge, austerity, certain prescribed activities (such as chanting Gyatr at the sandhys), fire,
certain eatables (such as pa˝ca-gavya), earth, water, cow dung, air, the sun, time, and cooked grains.
Among these, the foods are very important. If a person eats pure food he becomes pure, and if he eats impure
food he becomes impure. Even though a person undertakes other forms of purification, if he eats impure food he remains impure.
Therefore one must always be careful to partake only of pure food at all times.
``By performance of yaj˝a one's eatables become sanctified, and by eating sanctified foodstuffs
one's very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence finer tissues in the memory become sanctified, and
when memory is sanctified one can think of the path of liberation, and all these combined together lead to KŹÉa consciousness,
the great necessity of present-day society" (Bg. 3.11, purport).
A person does not need purification after contacting the following items, for they are considered pure: items
for sale in the market; goods received by begging; the mouth of a goat or a horse; mongooses; cows (except a cow's mouth,
which is impure); elephants; horses; bees; a calf taking milk; cow urine, dung, milk, yogurt, ghee, and rocana; fried or roasted
foods (other than meat, fish, or eggs); the hands of a craftsman, such as a potter; rays of the sun or moon; fire, wind, dew,
or running water; the shadow of a tree; kuĆa grass, honey, fruit, or essences; or anything certified as pure by an authoritative
Because Deity prasda is pure, a VaiÉava is careful to eat only Deity prasda if at all possible. Since prasda
is pure, after taking prasda one does not have to take a bath before worshiping the Deity.* If when taking prasda a devotee
does not touch his mouth with either his hand or a utensil, such as a cup or spoon (when taking a small portion of mah-prasda,
for example), then he does not have to change his cloth before worshiping the Deity. However, if his hand touches his mouth
when he is eating, he must put on clean cloth to worship the Deity.
*However, the pjr must thoroughly rinse his mouth and wash his hands and feet; then he must perform full camana. He may
not brush his teeth unless he takes a bath afterward. It is best not to eat prior to worshiping the Deity, since one may offend
the Lord by belching! Also, with a full stomach one cannot concentrate properly on one's services to the Lord. Service performed
directly in the Deity room should be done with full attention, not in a routine manner, for the pjr should always be aware
of being in the direct presence of the Lord.
Purification of Articles (dravya-suddhi)
Contamination occurs when an article contacts any of the impure items listed previously. Serious contamination
takes place when an article contacts the first six impurities from the body, or when it contacts any other heavily contaminating
substance, such as alcohol. Before touching an unoffered item during worship, the pjr should purify his hands by performing
samnya-arghya with water from the pa˝ca-ptra.
The left hand, which is considered impure, should not touch the Deity directly while He is being bathed. (If
the Deity is made of metal, during the polishing, the pjr may hold or touch the Deity with a cloth held in his left hand.)
Articles become free from contamination in different ways, depending on their nature. In the case of serious
contamination, things made of iron and similar metals are purified by fire (by bringing the object to a red-hot state); jewels,
stones, and conch shells by being buried for seven nights in the ground; objects of horn, ivory, and turtleshell by planing
the surface; and cloth by removing the contaminated portion. When things made of wood or earthernware are seriously contaminated,
however, they should be discarded.
When articles are mildly contaminated through contact with impure items such as food remnants, they may be
purified in the following ways: gold, silver, conch shells, jewels, stones, and spoons are purified by water; yaj˝a utensils,
such as the sruk and sruva (wooden ladles), by rinsing with warm water; other yaj˝a utensils by scrubbing with kuĆa grass
and water; an sana, bed, and vehicle by water; and grains, deerskin, cloth,* thread, linen, fruits, flowers, grass, and leaves
by washing them in water if extensively contaminated, or simply by sprinkling if the contamination is slight.
*Cloth washed by a dhob (professional launderer) is not considered Ćuci; it should not be worn by pjrs or Deity cooks.
Dry-cleaning is also not suci, since alcohol, which is most impure, is used in the process.
We continue with purification methods for mildly contaminated objects: Blankets are purified
by soap berries (rta-phala), silk by saline earth, linen by mustard seeds; cotton cloth is purified by washing with soap and
water, then drying in the sun and wind. Iron and bell metal are purified by ash; tin, copper, and lead are purified by tamarind
and water. Wood and floors are purified by planing or scraping. Liquids are purified by straining; containers of gourd or
coconut are purified by scrubbing with the hair from a cow's tail. Earthernware, if glazed, is purified by water; different
types of items altogether are purified by sprinkling with water. Raw rice is purified by discarding the bad part; boiled rice
is purified by discarding the impure part, chanting Gyatr, and sprinkling the rice with water. The ground is purified by sweeping
and smearing it with cow dung and water, by sprinkling with cow urine and dung, by burning, by the treading of cow hooves,
by time, and by digging. Boats, paths, grass, and brick constructions are purified by wind and sun. Water for one's own bath
or for Deity worship is purified by flowing water, which should be clear, sweet-tasting, and sweet-smelling. In order of preference,
water should be taken from the following sources: the Gag or Yamun, other trthas, a river that flows directly to the ocean
(that is, not a tributary), a tributary river, a natural spring, a lake, a pond, a large man-made reservoir, a small man-made
reservoir, a well, and a pot.(Pancharatra Pradipa)
Consideration of Purity and Impurity (Ćuddhi-vicra).
Vedic society is highly aware of purity, both gross and subtle. Objects have been classified according to
their grades of impurity and the methods necessary to purify them. This is called suddhi-vicara, an understanding of how to
maintain purity. What follows is a summary of these principles, as Lord Krishna outlines them to Uddhava in the «rmad-Bhgavatam
``O saintly Uddhava, in order to restrict materialistic activities, I have established that
which is proper and improper among all material things, including time, space and all physical objects.
``Among places, those bereft of the spotted antelope, those devoid of devotion to the brhmaas,
those possessing spotted antelopes but bereft of respectable men, provinces like Kkaa and places where cleanliness and purificatory
rites are neglected, where meat-eaters are prominent, or where the earth is barren, are all considered to be contaminated
``A specific time is considered pure when it is appropriate, either by its own nature or through
achievement of suitable paraphernalia, for the performance of one's prescribed duty. That time which impedes the performance
of one's duty is considered impure.
``An object's purity or impurity is established by application of another object, by words,
by rituals, by the effects of time, or according to relative magnitude.
``Impure things may or may not impose sinful reactions upon a person, depending on that person's
strength or weakness, intelligence, wealth, location, and physical condition.
``Various objects such as grains; wooden utensils; things made of bone; thread; liquids; objects
derived from fire; skins; and earthy objects are all purified by time, by the wind, by fire, by earth, and by water, either
separately or in combination.
``A particular purifying agent is considered appropriate when its application removes the bad
odor or dirty covering of some contaminated object and makes it resume its original nature.
``The self can be cleansed by bathing, charity, austerity, age, personal strength, purificatory
rituals, prescribed duties, and, above all, by remembrance of Me. The brhmaa and other twice-born men should be duly purified
before performing their specific activities.
``A mantra is purified when chanted with proper knowledge, and one's work is purified when offered
to Me. Thus by purification of the place, time, substance, doer, mantras, and work, one becomes religious, and by negligence
of these six items one is considered irreligious."
The Hari-bhakti-vilsa: provides further details concerning Ćuddhi-vicra:(Pacharatra Pradipa)