Prayascita,Prayaschitta ia a process prescribed in Hinduism to atone for wrong actions performed by an individual
There are these types of Broad classification for wrong actions.
1.Relinquishing one’s duty allotted to him according his disposition by the Sastras.
2.Performing the duties meant for other Varnas’ Dispositions.
c)Coveting other’s property.
d) Coveting other’s wife.
e)Not feeding children first.
f)Not feeding Guests.
g)Killing others, including animals-exception for Hunters, Kshatrityas and Sudras.
i)Infanticide, Matricide, Patricide,Fratricide.
j)Killing a Cow.
k) taxing more than 6% of the Subjects Income(by the king)
The list is exhaustive.
Of the atonement prescribed the atonement process is sever by 10% more for a Vaisya than a Sudra,100 % for Kshatriya and 1000 % for a Brahmana.
There are strict procedures concerning the list of actions classified and the same action may be correct for a Varna, not for the other,
For example, Begging to sustain one self is the duty for a Brahmana but a sin for the Kshatriya, Vaisysaand Sudra.
Prayascita is for exceptional cases only.
Now many, especially Brahmins, perform Prayascita, for even a normal action which they should have performed, like delayed Sandya Vandan, or Srardha.
These are not meant for atonement except in rarest of rare cases, not as a regular measure.
As to children. children do not need to perform Prayascita for actions performed till the age of Three.
“Prāyaścitta (Sanskrit: प्रायश्चित्त) is the Hindu term for atonement and, along with vyavahāra (legal procedure) and ācāra (customary law) makes up thedharmaśāstra. It is the word used for the portion of Hindu law and the dharmaśāstra that has to do with the expiation of sins. It “denotes an act or rite…intended for the destruction of sin.Though the sins it pertains to is often punishable by the king as well as through legal proceedings, it is considered a different sphere of the law…
It is disagreed upon within the smṛtis whether prāyaścittas are applicable and capable purifying if the sins were done intentionally. Manu says that some believe that passages from the Vedas indicate that all sins, whether intentional or otherwise are demolished by prāyaścitta, while his own belief is that unintentional sins are expiated through Vedic recitation and intentional sins can be obliterated by performing various prāyaścittas. At the same time, Yājñavalkya suggests that the results of sins committed intentionally cannot be undone through prāyaścittas. However, he continues with the thought that this will cause social contact with the sinner to be permitted. Alternative interpretations of this verse suggest the opposite, and that the purposeful perpetrator will be saved from Hell upon performing penance, but will not be allowed contact with upstanding citizens. There is also distinction made between a single occurrence of a sin and repeated infractions.
The classification of sins varies between sources. Some state that there are only two types of sin, that which will result in a loss of caste (patanīya) and that which taints the soul, yet allows one to remain a part of their caste (aśucikara). Other sources have divided it between mortal sins (mahāpātakas), minor sins (upapātakas), and those committed by ordinary sinners (enasvins). The mortal sins are numbered five according to some sources. These five are engaging in intercourse with the wife of a guru, drinking spirits, killing a learned Brahmin, stealing from a Brahmin, and associating with an outcaste. The minor sins include abandoning the Vedic fires, atheism, earning a livelihood through atheists and the selling of soma, an important ritual plant.
In P.V Kane’s well known work, the Literary History of the Dharmaśāstras he outlines the means for reducing the consequences of sin. It is important to stress that these means are a sort of methodology for penance. The do not outline specific penances for specific crimes. The literature on that topic is extensive in its own right. The reasons for reducing sin are as varied as the dharmasastric literature that they come from, however, the most important ways include confession, repentance (anutāpa), restraint of breath (Prāṇāyāma), austerity (Tapas), sacrifice into fire (Homa), muttering of Vedic passages as prayers (Japa), gifts (Dāna), fasting (Upavāsa) and pilgrimages..
Check for Prayaschita Details here.
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