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Sprinkling Water Around Before Eating In Hinduism – The Mantras And Symbolism

The rite of sprinkling water drops of sanctified water over and around before eating is Parisecana. The sprinkling of water around before eating in Hinduism combines and symbolically invokes the three powers of water, fire and Surya, the sun god. By being honored through this invocation, the three powers contribute towards the well-being and prosperity of the performer.

The mantra for the evening meal is rtam tva satyena parisincami “Order, you are sprinkled around with truth”) and for the daytime is satyam tva rtena parisincami “Truth, you are sprinkled around with order”). (The word ‘Order’ – rta – stands for the eternal order that governs the Universe.

These mantras are originally mentioned in Taittiriya Brahmana (11.11.1) in the context of performing the Agnihotra rites which begin in the evening and conclude the following morning.

Drops of water received in the palm of the hand are sanctified by the recitation of these mantras and then sprinkled around the food in a pradakshina manner (clockwise direction) before eating.

The word ‘parisecana’ is normally reserved, by custom, for this sprinkling around and over the food. Before the parisecana, the food to be eaten should also be sanctified by uttering mentally the maha-vyahrtis (the mystic syllables which are preceded and followed by om). The meal must also be sanctified by the mental recitation of the Gayatri Mantra. This is then followed by the appropriate parisecana mantras.

After this, one again takes a few more drops of water in the palm and sanctifies it by reciting mentally the Vedic formula amrtopastaranam asi, (May this water become immortal.”) The water should then be swallowed.

After this, each of the five sacred breaths that govern the different functions of the body are addressed mentally and individually with the Vedic expressions ‘om pranaya swaha,’ ‘om apanya swaha,’ 'om udanaya swaha',  'om vyanaya swaha' and 'om samanya svaha.'

As each is addressed, a small token quantity of food is taken, from the palm of the hand, in offering to the devata of that breath; prana devata, the breath that comes in and goes out; apana devata, the breath that descends; udana devata, the breath that ascends; vyana devata, the breath that circulates; samanya, the breath that digests.

This is concluded with the phrase: “brahmani me atma amrtatvaya. (The individual self is one with the Universal Self). Then the meal is eaten. At the conclusion of the meal, the mantra : Amrita apidhanam asi (The gift of this elixir) is recited while, again, taking a few drops of water in the palm and swallowing them.