Purification

Purification

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On an excavation of the Mohenjo-Daro and Dholavira, in modern day Pakistan, archeologist stumbled upon a civilization, thriving in the Indus Valley from 2500 BCE to 1500 BC. They named the civilization, Harappan. Though archeologists found little conclusive evidence of temples in the Harappan cities, the assumed advanced, ancient Sanatana Dharma (preferred term of people commonly referred to as Hindu, meaning “ageless way of moral order, duty, and natural law of cosmos.” (Fisher 61)) had plumbing and irrigation systems. Bathing rooms, wells, and built in latrines equipped houses, and brick drains carried away waste. However the most striking discovery was the “Great Bath,” a large lined tank, 39 feet long, 23 feet wide, and 8 feet deep. Today, this is assumed to be a ritualistic purification center for the people. From the time of the Harappans, up to today, purification is essential part of Sanatana Dharma life.
Purification is an essential part of worship. Before starting the puja, the honor, respect, or worship of a deity, the murti, a statue of the deity in the home, must be bathed in running water. However to show purity, the worshipper must sip a little water, three times. Washing the murti is important, because as a royal guest (the worshipper considers the murti a royal guest) after arriving from a long journey, wherever the god or goddess comes from, a bath is needed. The feet, face, and teeth receive special attention, considering the dustiness of Indian streets. Sometimes this washing is symbolic, a flower dipped gently in the water is lightly touched to the deity’s face. The act of bathing the deity both purifies and shows servitude. In another aspect of worship, worship at the temple, the worshiper must be pure to enter. That means the worshiper must remove their shoes, because “leather is a highly polluting material, as is the street dust attached to them” (Fowler 48). Worshipers also must not be menstruating or dalits, the untouchable caste. An additional aspect of worship is a pilgrimage to a sacred body of water. The most famous, Benares is at the tributary where the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers join, because of the asrams, the homes of famous sages, and the belief that the god, Siva lived there as an ascetic. Prayers are also considered a form of purification, because prayer helps to absolve the soul, giving better samsara. Worship for Sanatana Dharmas deeply embodies purification.

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Purification is part of the life cycle of Sanatana Dharmas. People living near and pilgrims bath, wash their clothes, drink, etc in the Ganges River, one of a few sacred places, believed to purify. A woman after her menstruation or after the birth of her child is expected to purify herself, though the text does not specify how. Worshiper, as stated above, purify themselves and their murti before worship. On festival days, a purification bath is taken and new or at least clean clothes are worn. Some sects of Sanatana Dharmaism have various spells, or mantra related to purification of various kinds. For example, after urination, the person says, “A golden penis and silver flow. Oh Earth Mother, I salute you.” (Singer 77). Another example, before washing the mouth in the morning, the tooth twig (toothbrush), that is about 8 inches long (12 finger breadths) is greeted then put in the mouth, and the person says, “Golden tooth twig and silver vessel, dear R&#257;dh&#257; is washing her face.” (Singer 78) Then during the morning bath, “Ga&#328;g&#257; Jamun&#257; Sarvasvat&#299; Bh&#257;g&#299;rath&#299; God&#257;var&#299; Trivivent&#299;, the tortoise averts sins. Bless my body. Sins will be averted, Hari Vi&#351;&#326;u Hari Vi&#351;&#326;u.” (Singer 78) and “(to the sun) o luminous sun of Ka&#347;yapa, you are like the jab&#257; flower. I salute you giver of daylight.” (Singer 78) There are also prayers for pouring water from the joined palms in the tank, coming home from the tank, offering water to the tulsi manca, purifying dinner food, bedtime, and placing your feet on the ground upon waking. In death, because Sanatana Dharmas believe the “Soul is immortal but the body not so,” (Fowler 59) they normally cremate their dead. Death like life is impure; therefore, people wash the body of the deceased, wrapped in a cloth, and carried to the cremation ground in a procession led y the eldest son. The corpse is placed in the funeral pyre and covered with wood and ghee. (Ghee, as well as all cow byproducts, including dung, is purifying. Sandalwood and turmeric absorb impurities.) After cremation, the bones of the cremated are thrown in water, important because water is both purifying and cooling. During the process of purifying and cooling the water releases the spirit from this world. If a person dies at the Ganges and their ashes are thrown in to the Ganges, release from samsara is achieved.
Sanatana Dharmas differ from one sect and caste to the next. However, in death, in life, in worship, purification is important and vital. Purification may be even a central idea of Sanatana Dharma.

Works Cited

Krishna: Myths, Rites and Attitudes. Ed. Milton Singer. Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1966.
Fisher, Mary Pat. Living Religions. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Inc., 1999.
Fisher, Mary Pat, and Lee W. Bailey. An Anthology of Living Religions. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Inc., 2000.
Fowler, Jeaneane. Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices. Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 1997.
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