Purohita

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purohita (‘one who is engaged in rites that give their fruits here and hereafter’) Right from the most ancient days, the Hindu sages had recognised the need for a king or a ruler to protect and control the society. Similarly they had also recognised the need for the king to be guided by a purohita (chaplain of the State), not only in matters of religion but also in other fields like the dispensing of justice. Their philosophy behind statecraft was that only a balanced combination of the kingly and the priestly powers could guarantee the complete well-being of the State. A king was to select a purohita endowed with the following qualities: He should be a brāhmaṇa from a good family, possessing great learning, eloquence and pure character. He must be a handsome person of middle age. He should also be well-versed in the science of portents, and, the rites to be performed to offset the evil effects indicated by the portents. His position was often hereditary; hence the term ‘kulapurohita’. (Incidentally, even the devas or the gods and the asuras or the demons are said to have had kulapurohitas! The names of Bṛhaspati and Sukrācārya are often mentioned in the Vedas and the purāṇas as the two kulapurohitas of these two races.) His status was considered as even superior to that of the mantrins or the ministers. If and when a king wanted to perform a Vedic sacrifice, the advice of the purohita was of supreme importance in selecting the ṛtivks (priests). Even in the modern days, the Hindu society very much depends on the purohita or the priest for the performance of religious rites whether at home or in temples or in public/social functions. Some of these rites are: performance of the sarnskāras (sacraments) like upanayana (thread-ceremony) vivāha (marriage) and śrāddha (obsequial ceremonies); all cere¬monies connected with the temple worship; religious rites like homa performed for the good of the society. Though these ceremonies include Vedic mantras, they are based more on the āgamas and purāṇas.