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Madhuparka In Hinduism

Madhuparka is a ceremony in Hinduism in which curd mixed with honey is offered to a guest. Offering of madhuparka to a guest or receiving the guest with madhuparka is considered the highest form of reception in Hindu religion.

Madhuparka finds reference in early Hindu literature like Nirukta of Yaska and Jaiminiya Arseya Brahmana, besides Kalpasutra.

There are differences of opinion among authorities as to the ingredients mixed in madhuparka.

According to Apastamba, curd and honey are mixed in a bronze or other vessel. According to commentators, honey can be mixed with milk, too. But it must necessarily be covered by a bronze lid bigger than the container. Apastamba is also of the opinion that some people add ghee (clarified butter) to these two and there are others who had grains and saktu (a flour preparation) to it (Apastamba Grihya Sutra (13.10-12).

Officiating priests in Soma rituals, one’s acharya, a king, a person who completes Vedic studies and returns from the teacher’s house (known as snataka), samvritha (bridegroom), bride, and one’s maternal and paternal uncles are the persons who deserve to be offered madhuparka.

If a person has been offered madhuparka, then he need not be offered it again (by the same person) within a year. But an officiating priest in a Vedic ritual has to be offered madhuparka as many times as he is invited for rituals.

A bridegroom is offered madhuparka when he is received at the bride’s place for marriage. This madhuparka is known as offering milk and fruit in Tamil Nadu (palum pazhamum tarutal).

When the bridegroom enters the marriage hall, it is offered to both the bride and the groom and they are also given this preparation when they enter the house after marriage.

In temples when the new image is consecrated or prana pratishta is done, madhuparka is offered to the deity. In the regular shodasa upachara pujas too,  madhuparka is an item offered to the deity as part of worship.

A seat of darbha grass with at least 25 darbhas, matted as a seat called vistara, is laid , water for washing the feet, arghya, (waters perfumed with fragrance, sandal, flowers or basil leaves, grains) for hands, water for ritual sipping, honey mixture and food are to be arranged in that order on the darbha grass. Upon the arrive of the guest, the person is offered the seat, asked to be seated facing east. The host offers every item of hospitality after announcing it thrice. The guest accepts them, uttering some sutras. While taking madhuparka, he scatters a few drops in all the directions and consumes a little with sutras and offers the remnant to another, fit to consume it, or pours it in a cowshed. Neither is madhuparka consumed fully nor does it suffer the pollution of ucchishta dosha (remnant). It is treated like the soma juice. The food is offered. Though generally all authorities are similar in the narration of the rite, the accompanying sutras differ in some cases.

The madhuparka has to be offered according to the sakha and gotra to which the guest belongs and not according to the host’s custom and convention. It shows the importance to be attached to the guest and the need of the host to be conversant with the custom of the guest.

Though the authorities agree in general about the procedure and importance of madhuparka, the place and the context of the description is not the same among these authorities. Ashvalayana and Gobhila describe it independently, while it forms part of the marriage in Manava grihya sutra. Apastamba describes it immediately after samavratana, since a bridegroom and bride is offered this universally.