Some frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Apara Karma:
(This "Excerpts' is taken from the section titled APARA KARMA from book THE GREAT HINDU TRADITION authored by Sarma Sastrigal in English)
** Are there any do’s and don’ts, on enquiring of a person
who is bereaved?
Answer: Yes. Some basic rules are still valid, though a lot
has changed now. These are:
• We should not “dress for the occasion”.
• We should not touch the ‘karta’, the person who is doing
‘karma’ for the departed soul.
• Once karma has commenced, it is not advisable to leave
the place till the body has been taken out for cremation. Of
course, one can leave the place before the karma starts.
• During the first ten days starting with the day of death, it
is better for non-jnatis to avoid eating or drinking in the
house in which the death has taken place.
• It would be most appropriate to visit the bereaved person
on the day of the demise itself, and ask if he needs any help.
If you are knowledgeable about the karmas and rituals to
be observed, you can advise the karta.
But imposing your views on the priests or interfering in their
methods should be avoided. You should show sensitivity to
the persons involved and their feelings.
While on the subject, some visitors advise the karta to do a
simplified version of the karma to keep the effort and the
costs down. This practice is condenmable, and apart form
confusing the karta who would have done the karma
properly, this accumulates as a sin for the adviser. We
should encourage the Karta to do it as prescribed, to the
extent possible; or just keep quiet.
** Who are the Jnatis?
Answer: Jnatis can be divided into two kinds: Sapindas and
Samanodakas. Sapindas are 10-day daayaadis, and
Samanodas 3-day dayadis.
** What is ‘Aasaucha’?
Answer: Aasaucha is the Sanskrit word for the Tamil word ‘
theettu’. This can be roughly translated as an impurity or a
taint and arises at the time of death (or birth) that happens
in a family to the relatives of the person dying or being born.
This impurity is temporary and its period has been
determined for different relations. On completion of the
period fixed, the taint goes with a bath. If the asocuchi - the
person concerned - is not well and cannot take bath,
someone else can take bath ten times, on his
behalf, touching him each time. With Punyahavachana the
impurity gets cleared completely.
** What are the observances associated with aasaucha?
a. Aasauchis, viz. people affected by the impurity or
aasoucha, cannot go to a temple.
b. They cannot make obeisance (namaskara) to or accept
obeisance from an unaffected person.
c. If the taint is because of a death in the family, they
should bathe daily in the morning, sleep on the floor and
d. If there is an eclipse midway through aasaucha, the
theettu does not apply during that period i.e. till the eclipse
is over for jnatis. The japas, danas and tarpanas to be done
can however be done during the eclipse.
e. The aasaucha applies to a person’s house and other
f. People who observe Ekadasi vrata should not observe the
vrata if they are asauchis.
g. Aasaucha does not affect brahmacharis.
h. Aasaucha does not affect Sandhyavandana, which has to
be performed. But Veda Adhyayana should not be done during aasucha.
i. Aasauchis cannot make or accept dana.
j. Deva puja, sraaddha and tarpana are also to be avoided
** How does one keep count of the period of asaucha?
Answer: If the birth or death occurs at night before 1:30
a.m. (18¾ nazhigai) it is considered as the same day (even
though in common parlance the day ends at midnight).
Some Purohits keep count of the time from sunrise and
decide the starting day. Both the methods are acceptable –
it depends upon the custom of the concerned family.