The topic over at skittles today is “first” if you call heads or “last” if you choose tails. The words first and last have so much significance in our lives, we give so much importance to the “first” or to the “last”, not just us but even in times of our ancestors.
Thinking about ancestors I remember a discussion I had with my father, about the importance of first and the last son in “Hindu” rituals. In particular the “tithi” or the “shradda” which is a ceremony performed every year. In layman terms, [this is what was told to me when I had asked about it as a 6 year old], its a way of offering food to my tata [grand father] who was dead, ones every year. So the obvious question was that we eat every day, so why once a year for them, to that the answer was that our one day is equivalent to their one year. In reality it is a way of offering our gratitude and thanks, and more importantly remembering the ones who parted us, mainly performed by their sons.
You can read more about it here shradda.
The discussion started with the fact that the whole ritual is performed mainly by the first son, and the rest of the sons are a mere part of the ritual. This looks so unfair for the rest of the siblings I thought. so I probed further, thus began our discussion on the first the last and the middle. Heres a comprehension of what we discussed.
In Hindu philosophy, the First son is called “Aatmaja”, which is a Sanskrit word which means Born from the soul [aatme jayati iti aatmaja – one who is borm from the soul]. He is supposed to carry forward all the laurels of the family, not just materialistic ones [ones earned in iha loka], but also the ones which has been passed on by ancestors from generation to generation, births and rebirths [ones earned and across the lokas].
Scientifically I would love to find out if any research has been done in this regard, is it true that the first offspring carries higher percentage of genes from the parents.
Logically too, it made sense to me when I think in retrospect, being the eldest always means more responsibilities, the oldest one, because of being older has higher chances of having better experiences with dealing with the world, and he can take care of the legacy better.
Emotionally as well, being the eldest he deserved the respect of all the younger siblings, as an act of respect to the eldest brother, the others let him perform the rituals.
So what if the first son cannot perform the ritual due to some inconvenience, may be he is not well, or out of the station or something. I was surprised to know that its not the next son in the ladder who gets to perform the ritual. Instead its the youngest of the siblings.
The youngest son is referred to as preetija, or the one who is born because of the love. In modern days of family planning it may not really hold good, but in the olden days people did have children late in their life. As one became older, it is out of pure love and not lust[kama], they made love to each other. So most of the cases, the youngest one is the most loved in the family. Even if not the reason what I mentioned earlier, just being the youngest, gets lots of liberties at home, normally people are more patient, more forgiving and more affectionate towards the youngest. They get loved more than the rest by everyone.
So in an effort to please the elders, it is the duty of the youngest to perform the rituals, someone close to us, offering us gratitude will be truly cherished is the idea.
Logically too, I got convinced, anytime we meet, all cousins together, the youngest get priority, whatever they say we generally don’t argue, thinking that they are small, they should be happy. So it does make sense to give them an opportunity to do things, which they never get to do otherwise.
I don’t know if it is right or wrong, the first and the last son getting privileges in the rituals, but have to admit fascinating for sure.