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Avakirnin – Penance For Brahmachari Who Has Had Sexual Intercourse

In the ancient Vedic culture, a student who dedicated himself to the study of the Vedas and related sciences while living in the house of a guru was known as a 'brahmacharin.' This period of education was characterized by a strict routine, adherence to a prescribed code of conduct, and the undertaking of specific vows. Violation of these vows, whether intentional or unintentional, required expiatory rites or prayashchittas to atone for the transgressions.

One of the most severe violations was the breach of the vow of brahmacarya, which pertained to celibacy. A brahmacharin who willfully engaged in sexual intercourse with a woman was termed an 'avakirnin.' The consequences and expiatory rites for this act were outlined in the Dharmasutras of Apastamba and Vasishtha, as well as in the Manusmriti.

According to Apastamba ( and Vasishtha (23.1-3), the avakirnin was required to perform a specific set of rituals to atone for the breach. This involved sacrificing an ass to the deity Nirrti, symbolizing the foolish lapse, and wearing the skin of an ass for an entire year. Additionally, the avakirnin had to beg for his food from seven houses, publicly announcing his lapse. He was restricted to eating only once a day and had to bathe thrice a day. These rituals and penances were believed to purify the individual from the impurity caused by the violation of celibacy.

It's worth noting that different texts provided variations in the expiatory rites. For example, Vasishtha suggested substituting the sacrifice of an ass with an oblation of boiled rice. The severity of these rites underscored the significance placed on maintaining celibacy during the period of brahmacharya in Vedic education.