By Swami Harshananda
Patitasāvitrīka literally means ‘one who has fallen from the sacrament of being taught the Sāvitrī mantra’.
In the ancient days, for a dvija class, viz., a brāhmaṇa, a kṣattriya and a vaiśya, to be initiated into the Sāvitrī or the Gāyatrī mantra was considered to be an absolute necessity. This initiation gave him the right to study the Vedas, perform Vedic sacrifices and attain some status in the society. Sometimes, due to some unknown or extraordinary reasons, a person might have missed this sacrament even after the proper or the permitted age is past. Such persons came to be known as ‘patitasāvitrīkas’.
Expiations for Patitasāvitrīka
They were deprived of the right to Vedic studies and were treated almost as out-castes. In case such persons wanted the upanayāna sacrament along with the teaching of the performance of Sāvitrīmantra, they had to undergo some prāyaścittas or expiations. Different writers of dharmaśāstras prescribed different kinds of expiations such as:
- Undergoing the disciplines of brahmacarya or studenthood for two months after which his upanayāna could be performed
- Performance of uddālakavrata
- Three prājāpatya penances
In case the father or both the father and grandfather of the patitasāvitrīka were also patitasāvitrīka, the penances were harsher.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore