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putra


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A Sanskrit term for which the traditional, but probably false, etymology is ‘preserving (tra) from the hell called Put’. It reflects the fact that, according to the Brahmanical legal texts (Dharmaśāstra), only an eldest son can perform his father's funeral rites (antyeṣti/ śrāddha), and so ensure that a body is created for him in the next world, where he can be united with his ancestors. Failing this, the deceased will wander as a homeless preta, or be reborn in the hell called Put, to which those without male children are condemned. This belief is frequently used as an explanation for the widespread and continuing obsession with producing a male heir, and the concomitant devaluation of female offspring.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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