By Swami Harshananda
Dattaka literally means ‘a son given to oneself by others’.
Importance of Dattaka System
The ancient sages gave much importance to life in the next world, pitṛloka - the world of manes, compared to the present life. Hence they always hankered after an auraṣaputra or a son born from the wife married as per the rules given in the dharmaśāstras. This son (or sons) had the right to the property of his father. He can also perform the śrāddha ceremony after his death. If a person had no children from his wife, he was permitted to adopt a son, who was called ‘dattaka.’ In course of time elaborate rules were framed for the process of adoption.
Rules To Dattaka (Adopt) A Son
- Every male person who is a major and of a sound mind can adopt a son if he himself had no sons, grandson or near (male) relative who is eligible to perform the śrāddha after his death.
- The boy who is to be adopted must be from the same varna
- The primary right given to a son for adoption rests with the natural father
- The mother can also do so provided if she gets the consent of her husband or is a widow
- Persons having more than one son only can give a son for adoption by others
- They should not, however give the eldest son
- If there is only one son, he should not be given away in adoption
- However, even this has been sometimes allowed on the condition that the boy should be considered as the son of both the natural father and adopting father. In such cases, the adopted boy is called ‘dvyāmuṣyāyaṇa’
Procedure For Dattaka (Adoption)
The procedure of adoption given in the dharmaśāstras has several steps. The more important ones are:
- Fasting by the adopter the previous day of adoption.
- Offering madhuparka to the officiating priest.
- Performance of the dattahoma using Ṛgvedic verses.
- Holding both the hands of the boy symbolic of receiving him into ones own family
- Offering of boiled rice
Implications of Dattaka (Adoption)
- By such an adoption, the boy now becomes like an aurasaputra or natural son, enjoying all the rights and privileges and also bound to discharge all the duties and responsibilities.
- If a natural son is born to the adopter later on then the dattaka gets only one-fourth share in the property.
- Though adoption was confined mostly to boys, girls too could be adopted. The two famous examples in our epics are those of Sāntā the adopted daughter of Romapāda and Kunti of Kuntibhoja.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore