By Swami Harshananda
Atikṛcchra literally means ‘extremely difficult’.
Sins (pāpa) and their expiations (prāyaścitta) have been discussed in detail in many of the dharmaśāstras and purāṇas. kṛcchras are one class of prāyaścittas that are often recommended is performed with difficulty and cause a lot of hardship to the performer.
Atikṛcchra is a special expiation of this class. It is said to purify all the sins except the ones listed under ‘mahāpātakas’ and is observed for twelve days. This expiation can be performed as follows:
- The person who is observing this penance should eat only one morsel of food in the morning for the first three days.
- During days 4-6, he can eat one morsel in the evenings only.
- During days 7-9, he is permitted to eat one morsel, provided it is got without asking for it.
- During days 10-12 he should fast completely.
Some writers like Yājñavalkya allow a handful of food instead of one morsel only.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore