(Last Updated on : 12-09-2009)
Of all the nations in the world, it is the Hindus, who attach very great importance to gifts. The life of a true Hindu should be one of continuous giving and not grasping. It is ordained in the Dharma Sastras of the Hindus that a portion of the earnings of every man should be set apart and devoted to charity all the time. Looking into the past, it can be found that the ancient Hindu Rajas devoting a large portion of the public money as well as a high percentage of their private money in charity. Apart from the actions of the Government and the community in this direction during the early ages, the action of individuals and individual families bestowing gifts on important occasions deserves special notice. The instances of these by thousands of persons can be seen in the inscriptions recorded on the stone walls of temples.
In every family, when an Upanayanam or thread-wearing ceremony, marriage, Seemantam or any other joyous occasion is celebrated, Bhoori, Dkakskana or whatever name you may give to the gifts bestowed on people on the occasion, plays a very prominent part. In fact, an Upanayanam or marriage performed without gifts of money and other things would be an unheard of event in the annals of the Hindus. Free feeding on all festive occasions is a well-known thing and hence needs no comment on it. But special gifts always deserve notice.
Animals such as elephants, horses, cows and even rams are considered suitable objects of gift on all occasions. Tula bhara or the gift of gold and other precious metals or coins equal in weight to the individual is another recognized form of gift. These are not within the reach of ordinary men. Only very rich people can afford to give valuable gifts. But there are also various gifts within reach of even very poor people.
The gift of a cocoanut is considered to be equal in efficacy to the gift of a cow. This is the case when people are too poor to bestow a cow in gift. The gift of sandals, fans, beds, cots, new cloths, ghee, oil, etc., are also considered meritorious. The belief is that the soul after parting from the body at death has to pass through several regions before reaching its destination. The several gifts made while alive made it easy for the soul to cross the several regions on the homeward journey. When an individual is about to die several gifts are given. Even during the ten days of funeral ceremony, gifts of different kinds are made especially on the tenth day.
A cow given as a gift at the time of an individual's death is said to help that individual's soul in crossing a river called Vaitharani. Similarly oil, mirror, etc., are considered to be favourable for the easy passage of the soul over barren deserts and difficulties due to illusions. Fans, cloths, beds, sandals, etc., are also given as gifts at the time of the death of an individual. In all cases of gift, the spirit with which it is made is the only thing that counts and not the objects given, is the belief of the learned in bygone days.