(Last Updated on : 24/09/2009)
Prayaschita means Penance and is the ceremony of general cleansing or general expiation, performed when a Brahman is at the point of death.
Prayaschita is accomplishing after the administration of Panchakarya. This is done by the Purohita and chief mourner, going up to the dying man and making him recite within himself, if he cannot articulate the proper mantras. He chants the mantras by the efficiency of which he is delivered from all his sins. Prayaschita is followed by another ceremony, which can scarcely be described with gravity.
In this ritual a cow is introduced with her calf. Her horns are decorated with rings of gold or brass, and her neck with garlands of flowers. A clean cloth is laid over her body. Bedecked, the cow is led up to the sick man, who takes hold of her tail. Mantras in the meantime are recited or sung, the prayer of which is that the cow would conduct him by a blessed path to the next world. He then makes a gift of the cow to a Brahman, on whose hand a little water is poured while he accepts the present, which is the ordinary ratification of a gift.
When the soul leaves the body for the abode of Yama it has to pass a river of fire. The people who have presented a cow to a Brahman are met on the banks by a cow sent from Yama, and by enabled to cross the fiery stream without injury.
According to the custom a Brahma should die on the ground, not on a bed, nor even on a mat. The reason in this is that his soul being disengaged from his body must enter another, which will carry it to the world that is destined for it. And if he should die on his bed or on a mat, he must carry those movables, wherever he goes, which would be very tormenting.