The Concept of Purification in Hinduism
In the Hindu Religion, taking “bath” is considered the most important daily ritual. “Bathing” is defined in almost all Vedas, Upanishads, Suthras, etc. in many ways. The early morning is considered the most auspicious time in the Hindu Religion. It is known as “Pratha Kala” or “Brahma Muhoortham” or the most auspicious time. Most of the “Rishis” (Saints) in Olden days used to take bath in this hour and attained the sainthood.
The Vedas and Upanishads further advise the Married people to take bath twice daily and insist Saints for bathing thrice a day. However, the bachelor is allowed to bathe once a day.
Daily Three Bathes for Hindus
Brahmins Chattaris have to take bath three times every day. The first is in the morning since the light of morning begins to appear until the sun rises. The second is in the middle of the day, when the sun becomes in the middle of the sky. The third is in the evening, the time of this bath begins one hour before the sunset and ends when the sun sets. If a person missed the last bath, he has to make an ablution by pouring some drops of water on his head while reciting the prescribed prayer.
In addition, there are three types of bath in Hinduism that are regarded causes of blessing and success.
Goumaya Bath: Goumaya bath refers to a bath among Hindus with cow dung. They should take some cow dung and rub it on the body this is called Goumaya bath. The dung of the mother cow is considered an abode for Lakshmi (blessing).
Panchagavya Bath: This type of bath refers to a bath is taken by Hindus with five things come from the cow; like; cow dung, cow urine, cow milk, yogurt of cow milk, ghee and cream of cow milk. The bath which is taken with all these five products of cow is called Panchagavya Bath. This bath has many spiritual, religious and medical benefits according to Hindu faith.
Wayvya Bath: This type of bath refers to a special bath according to Hindu religion. The bath includes usage of sand touched by the hoof of a cow. The method of this bath is that a Hindu takes the soil beneath the cow’s hoof and dissolves it in the water and then rubs it on the body.(1)
Bathing in Ganges River
During the Kumbhmela at Prayag Raj (Allahabad) millions of Hindus from all parts of India take a dip in the Ganga River believing that this act will bring them untold merit. Some say that on festival days the water of the Ganga River transforms itself into nectar and anyone who bathes in it will erase all his sins. Recently, biologists are talking about the contamination of river water from industrial effluents and the unhygienic condition of such waters, but this has not undermined the belief of people in the magical properties of Ganga water.(2)
Bath before and after Sexual Intercourse in Hinduism
Additionally, there is an authentic proof on the necessity of bath for husband and wife after intercourse. Most of the Hindus view that taking a head-bath after sexual relationship is not necessary.
However, Tantra teaches that a bath before sex can enhance pleasure. At times, taking a bath can also be associated with the joy of freedom, privacy and understanding the passage of time. A cold bath releases negative ions, refreshes the body and strengthens psychic forces. Once it was customary for Indians to wash their hands and feet before entering their homes, but modernization has made such rituals rather difficult to sustain.
According to Manu Shastr, taking bath is necessary for a person who had sexual intercourse with a woman.
Manu Shastr says: “Bathing is prescribed for him who has had intercourse with a woman.”(3)
This ruling is similar to the Islamic ruling mentioned in Islamic jurisprudence. In Islam, taking bath after sexual intercourse is compulsory specially when a person intends to do some compulsory worship, like; prayer, entering the mosque or touching the Glorious Qur’an. However, there are many exceptions in this issue, specially, when a person is out of water or fears of harms on his health. In these situations, a person can do tayammum or dry ablution and bath that is to put both palms of the hands on pure earth or sand and to wipe the face and both arms thus he becomes pure. The Glorious Qur’an says:
And if you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes after answering the call of nature, or you have been in contact with women (by sexual relations) and you find no water, perform tayammum with clean earth and rub therewith your faces and hands (tayammum). (An-Nisa’4:43)
What is Tayammum?
Tayammum means to put the hands on the earth and then pass the palm of each on the back of the other and then blow off the dust from them and then pass (rub) them on the face, this is called in Islamic jurisprudence tayammum.
Tayammum is one of the merits and distinctions of the Islamic Shari`ah. We do not find anything similar to this in Hinduism. Purification through tayammum is a manifestation of divine mercy on the human-being. What will a patient do if the usage of water harms him? What will a person do if he does not have water? In such situations, a person can do tayammum and can perform whatever worship he wants.
There is a bath after some situations and conditions, that is called “Nimittika Shnan”.
What is Nimittika Shnan?
Nimittika Shnan is performed after completion of certain types of situations like after eclipse, vomiting, haircutting, bad dreams, sex, touching bones, visiting cemetery, touching women after pregnancy, touching women at the time of menstrual period, touching a dead person.(4)
Bath during Kumbh Mela
Hindus men and women gather to dive in Ganges River on the occasion of Kumbh Mela, where Naga Babas attend this feast while they are totally naked. Their pictures and videos are available online. But Islam is completely free of such a tradition that brings men and women in this impudent manner. This type of tradition cannot be a source of purity; rather a source of impurity if we judge on the basis of free logic and philosophy.
The system of worship and purification in Islam is unique and distinctive through many aspects: religious, spiritual, physical and medical.
This includes the prayer, fasting, hajj, zakah, and charity. The system of purification for the prayer, like; taking bath after janabah, and wudu’ for the prayer or reciting the Glorious Qur’an is a complete system in Islam.
If there is no water or water is harmful for a person, he can make tayammum instead of wudu’ and bath.
After presenting and studying the religious and philosophical views and rulings on the purification, ritual bath and ablution in Hinduism and Islam, and come up with the following results:
(1) Hinduism regards a menstruating woman as impure and everything touched by her during the period as impure. However, in Islam, a menstruating woman is allowed to do all types of devotion except for touching the Qur’an, entering the mosque, and prayer. And nothing becomes impure by her touching.
(2) According to Hindu traditions, news of birth causes impurity for the relatives just when they receive the news in another city. But in Islam, no impurity moves with the news of birth, however, a woman after childbirth is allowed to exercise all types of devotion except for touching the Qur’an, entering the mosque, and prayer. And she can touch everything and nothing will become impure by her touching. After forty days, she has to take a bath and after that she can perform all types of prayers and devotion.
(3) In Hindu culture, death of a person causes impurity for the whole tribe and relatives from twelve to sixteen days. In Islam, there is no impurity caused by the death. However, it is obligatory to wash the dead-body before the funeral prayer and burial. This is a symbol of honor and respect for the dead-body.
(4) All types of excreta and feces including; cow-dung and cow-urine are impure in Islam. However, cow-dung and cow-urine are pure and purifier according to Hinduism, and they are a divine gift for Hindus and sometimes they give the cow-excreta more importance than its milk. Hindu philosophy is the only philosophy in the world that regards animal excreta pure and purifier and Hindus are the only nation in the world that kills human-being to protect (Gau Mata or) the mother-cow.
(5) We did not find any concept of tayammum (or dry purification) in Hinduism, contrary to Islam that has complete philosophy of tayammum (or dry purification) a symbol of mercy and kindness for human-beings especially when they are in dire need. Absence of tayammum causes problems for the person who does not have water or usage of water harms him.
(6) Both cultures, Hinduism and Islam, are equal in prescribing a full bath for the man who had a sexual intercourse with a woman, but the text of Manu Shastr is silent about the bath for woman. However, in Islam bath is obligatory for both man and woman after sexual intercourse when they intend to perform the prayer.
(7) In Hinduism, there is no proper method for man and woman for purification after urination. Generally, a Hindu man wipes with his dress after urinating. They prefer urinating standing as well as they are against the tradition of circumcision. All these reasons cause pollution and impurity and create unhealthy situations across the country. In India, at train stations especially in small towns, people urinate in the corner of the road on the walls and urine spots are seen everywhere. It seems as if Hindu brothers do not regard human-urine as unclean and impure rather, they regard it pure and purifier like the cow-urine.
But the issue in Islam is an entirely different as the purity from urine is a key issue. This purity can be achieved by using water, or by wiping with odd numbers of small stones or sandy balls that can absorb the drops of urine and other means of cleaning and disinfection.
The Messenger of Allah (May peace of Allah and His blessings be upon him) said: “Keep away from urine, for verily most of the punishment of the grave is due to it.” (Ad-Daraqutni)
(8) Hindus regard bleacher or washerman, Dalits and other castes as impure by birth. Their impurity could not be removed by any mean; they born impure and they will remain impure always. They are not allowed to enter the worship place of upper castes. But in Islam, there is no caste system; the real impurity is the impurity of wrong faith, bad habits, and hurting others. When a person abandons the wrong faith, bad habits and bad actions and decorates himself with true faith, good behavior and righteousness he becomes equal to his brother in humanity. Bilal Al-Habashi was a slave but when he accepted Islam he became equal to the senior companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
(9) Perfection in the purification system in Islam is one of the proofs that prove the finality of the message of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent when humanity was in its full maturity. The message of Islam is the last and final revelation that cancels and terminates all previous scriptures, specially the jurisprudential issues. Every religion of the world religions: Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity were changed and altered, but Islam represented in the Qur’an has been preserved as it was revealed. Nothing of it was changed or altered.
(1) https://puridunia.com/जानिये-कैसे-कैसे-होते-हैं/2411 (Last accessed on 8/8/2016).
(2) http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=1624 (Last accessed on 8/8/2016).
(3) The laws of Manu translated by G Buhler, The Clarendon Press 1886, p. 194.
(4)http://theancientindia.blogspot.com/2013/12/bathing-ancient-method-of-body-cleaning.html (last accessed on 8/8/2016).