By Swami Harshananda
Niṣedha literally means ‘prohibition’.
Vidhis and niṣedhas or pratiṣedhas are common in Vedic rituals. They are also seen in the dharmaśāstras. If a vidhi ordains a person to do something which will benefit him, a niṣedha prohibits him from doing something which will harm him. Such niṣedhas are indicated by the negative particle ‘nañ’. For instance:
‘na anṛtaiii vadet, na māmsam aśnīyāt,’ ‘One should not speak what is false, nor eat flesh’.
Here uttering falsehood and eating flesh have been prohibited. In the dharmaśāstra works, the particle ‘nañ’ is used in the sense of paryudāsa or exception. For instance, a snātaka should not say anything to another which hurts him unless there is a specific reason. It does not altogether prohibit speaking an unpleasant thing if and when necessary, as in the case of a parent chastising an erring son. In some cases there may be two negatives or niṣedhas opposed to each other causing confusion. Then one has the choice to accept one and reject the other subject to certain conditions.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore