Prithvi requested lord Varaha to define the meaning of ‘Pitra’ yagya (rituals pertaining to last rite) and its significance. Lord Varaha replied- “Sage Nimi was the first person to perform the the rituals of pitra-yagya after the death of his son Atreya. Sage Atreya is famous for his penance which he did for ten thousand years. When Atreya died, his father-Nimi was filled with grief. Nimi tried his best to overcome his sorrow but to no avail. He mourned his son’s death for three consecutive nights. He thought that perhaps the performance of ‘shradha’ rituals would be the best means to get rid of his sorrow. So he decided to perform the ‘shradha’ rituals on the twelfth day of ‘magh’. On that day, he invited many brahmins and fed them with the same delicacies which Atreya would have liked to eat. He performed all the rituals well within a day which would otherwise have taken a week to perform. He also performed the rituals of ‘pinda dan’ by donating cereals, vegetables and fruits. While performing the rituals of pinda-dan, he took some kusha grass in his hands and after pointing it towards south chanted Atreya’s name and gotra. In the night, Nimi sat on the seat of deer-skin underneath which kusha grass had been spread. He then tried to concentrate on the tip of the nose. But in spite of all his efforts there was no sign of mental peace he was so desperately seeking and thought of his dead son continued to torment him.”

“Nimi was troubled by a guilt that perhaps he had set a bad precedent by performing the rituals of pinda dan because nobody in the past had ever performed the rituals. He was worried as to what would the coming generation think of him. He was so much troubled by the thought that he could not sleep for the whole night. Next morning he got up, still worried. He remained in a disturbed state of mind for many days. At last, when it became too much for him to handle, he decided to end his life. In the meantime, sage Narada arrived there and assured him that there was nothing to be worried about as whatever he had done was most appropriate. Narada also convinced him that even his (Nimi’s) dead father would vouch for this fact.”

“Nimi remembered his father who had died long ago. His father revealed to him that the rituals which he had performed were in fact the rituals of ‘pitra-yagya’. Describing the importance of pitra-yagya Nemi’s father told him- ‘The name pitra-yagya’ was given by none other than lord Brahma  himself  who  was  the  first  one  to  perform  the  rituals.  Later  on,  lord  Brahma  had described the rituals to Narada and this is why Narada was convinced that you had committed no wrong. Nemi’s father then described as to what should be done with regard to the person who lay dying- ‘When the death approaches a person looses his consciousness and becomes extremely fearful. At that time, a brahmin should constantly study the scriptures so that he could die in peace.  Donating  a  cow  helps  to  pacify  the  soul  of  a  dead  person.  If  sacred  mantras  are whishpered in the ears of a dying person he dies peacefully. When the death seems imminent, a morsel of ‘Madhupark’ (mixture of curd, water, honey and clarified butter) should be kept in the mouth of the dying person. While doing this one should pray to the almighty to liberate the dead man’s soul.’  ‘The dead body should then be carried and kept under a tree where it is purified by smearing ghee, oil, perfumes, etc. It is then carried to cremation ground and kept at the bank of a river-feet pointing towards south. After this, the dead body should be bathed by remembering all the sacred places of pilgrimage. It should then be kept on the pyre-feet pointing south. The pyre should be lit and the following prayer should be said-O Agnideva! I pray to you to burn all the sins committed by this person so that he attains to heaven. Now, circumambulation around the pyre is made and the pyre is lit towards the head side.’

‘After consigning the dead body to flames, the rituals of ‘tarpan’ and ‘pinda-dan’ are performed. All the people assembled there should purify themselves before returning home. The period starting from the time the dead body is consigned to flames till the next ten days is called

‘Ashaucha’. It is applicable to all the relatives coming from the same gotra of the deceased.’

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