By Swami Harshananda
Aghamarṣaṇa-vrata literally means ‘a religious rite prescribed for destroying sins’.
No man, however careful, can avoid sins of omission and commission in life. Recognizing this fact, the dharmaśāstras have provided prāyaścittas (expiation), which can obviate or at least minimize the effect of sins. Aghamarsana-vrata is such a prāyaścitta. It is referred to in ancient dharmaśāstra like by Gautama, Baudhāyana, Manu, Yājñavalkya and others, as an omnibus penance for all sins.
The person performing it must fast for three days, recite the Aghamarsana-sukta three times every day at the time of bath, standing in the water of a river or tank or pond, spend the days standing and nights, sitting. At the end of the vrata he should gift a milch-cow. This penance is said to be equal in sanctification to the avabhṛthasnāna (ceremonial bath) taken at the end of an Aśvamedha sacrifice.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore