By Swami Harshananda
Bālakṛcchra literally means ‘the small penance’.
Two widely discussed topics in the smṛtis and dharmaśāstras are :
Sins may be major (mahāpātakas) or minor (upapātakas). The prāyaścittas prescribed for the mahāpātakas like killing a brāhmaṇa or incest, often end by the death of the sinner. But those prescribed for the upapātakas like minor thefts or abandoning the Vedic fires, are tolerable and purify the sinners eventually.
Krcchra is a very general name given to most of these prāyaścittas. Bālakṛcchra also called śiśukṛcchra or laghukṛcchra—is one variety prescribed for upapātakas in which the expiation is light and easy. If kṛcchras are usually spread over 12 days, bālakṛcchra is observed only for 4 days.
- It consists of eating once only in day time on the first day.
- Eating only once in the night on the second day.
- Eating food that comes unasked that too only once on the third day.
- Fasting on the fourth day.
Other general rules as applicable to kṛcchras like bathing thrice daily, speaking the truth and so on, should also be followed.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore