By Swami Harshananda
putra (‘one who saves [the father from the hell called] pum’)
The desire for a worthy son (or sons) is a universal phenomenon noticed in almost all societies, ancient or modern. The Hindus believed that he would save the father from a special kind of hell called ‘pum’. Hence the name ‘putra’. A son born from a sacramentally and legally sanctioned marriage, as per the dictates of the dharmaśāstras, was called ‘aurasa-putra,’ a son born out of one’s own bosom.
These dharmaśāstras describe twelve kinds of sons, many of whom have been considered as illegitimate. Only the aurasa and the dattaka (adopted son) are legally eligible for recognition.
If it was the duty of the parents to bring up the son by giving him proper education, training and culture, it was equally the latter’s duty to take care of them while living and perform all the obsequial rites properly after their death.
As regards the inheritance of the parental property by the sons, some of the dharmaśāstras (Manusmrti 9.112; Yājñavalkyasmrti 2.114) gave a greater portion to the eldest son, though many others recommended that it be distributed equally among all the sons.
It was the duty of the sons,
especially the eldest one, to take care of the parents.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore