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Atikricchra In Hinduism

Atikricchra, which translates to 'extremely difficult,' is a rigorous penance prescribed in the dharmashastras and puranas for the expiation of sins in Hinduism. Within the category of prayascittas, or expiatory rites, Atikricchra stands out as one of the most demanding. It is classified as a kricchra, a type of penance that entails significant hardship and difficulty for the individual performing it.

This particular expiation requires a twelve-day observance and is believed to cleanse the practitioner of sins, excluding those categorized as 'mahapatakas,' such as killing innocent beings, incest, or theft of rightfully earned possessions. For mahapatakas, the expiatory rite is entering fire and committing suicide.

During the twelve-day period, the individual is subjected to strict dietary restrictions and ascetic practices:

  • First Three Days: The practitioner is allowed only one morsel of food each morning.
  • Second Three Days: The intake is reduced further, permitting one morsel of food in the evenings only.
  • Third Three Days: The individual may consume one morsel of food, but it must be obtained without explicitly asking for it.
  • Last Three Days: Complete fasting is mandated for the final phase of the penance.

Some variations exist in the prescribed dietary allowances, with certain texts, like that of Yajnavalkya, permitting a handful of food instead of just one morsel.

Overall, Atikricchra serves as a profound act of self-discipline and austerity, aimed at purifying the soul and atoning for past transgressions, thereby guiding the practitioner towards spiritual growth and enlightenment.