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A term for a specific restorative action, or penance, designed to atone for infringements of dharma. The systematic application of prāyaścitta is a major topic in the Dharmasūtras, and in Dharmaśāstra literature in general. The whole of Manusmṛti Ch. 11 is given over to it, as is one of the three chapters of Yajñavalkyasmṛti. Typical penances (which may be voluntary or imposed) include reciting mantras, making offerings, gift-giving (dāna), and, in particular, fasting, or tapas. (The last points back to the Vedic origins of the concept as an adjunct to ritual.) In this way individuals hope to remove the sin incurred by their transgression, and to purify themselves. Similarly, prāyaścitta rituals of reparation and purification have to be carried out by pūjāris if temple images are perceived to have been polluted in any way.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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