1. The question of law which calls for decision in this Rule is one of some novelty and relates to the right of a Brahmin of the Agradani class to the offerings to the dead at a sradh ceremony. The circumstances, under which the question arises for decision, are fairlylclear upon the evidence on the record. One Chandra Kumar Chakravarty, on the occasion of the sradh of his mother, invited the plaintiffs who are Brahmins of the Agradani class as priests. The food intended for disembodied spirits was taken by the plaintiffs, but 'when the time came for the distribution of the valuable offerings, the zemindar of the village, Jugut Prasanna Roy, who was present, interfered and by his direction, Chandra Kumar made over the articles to the defendants who also were Brahmins of the Agradani class and who had been invited not as priests but as men of the same village. The plaintiffs thereupon commenced this action against the defendants for recovery of the price of the articles in question. They did not join as parties defendants either Chandra Kumar, who had invited them on the occasion of the ceremonies, or Jugut Prasanna, who had persuaded Chandra Kumar to give away the articles to the defendants. The learned Small Cause Court Judge decreed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs had a vested Interest in the articles in question and the defendants, in accepting them as a gift from Chandra Kumar, acquired no valid title thereto. We have been invited by the defendants to set aside this decree on the ground that the plaintiffs never acquired any title to the articles, that the defendants acquired a good title under the gift made in their favour by Chandra Kumar and that even if it be assumed that the plaintiffs can successfully claim damages against the person who invited them or the person who interfered in the matter to their injury, they have no cause of action as against the defendants. In our opinion, this contention is well-founded and must prevail.
2. The term Agradani literally signifies an acceptor of first gifts and is applied to a class of degraded Brahmins in Bengal who accept funeral gifts. As pointed out by Dr. Jogendra Nath Bhattacharyya in his Treatise on Hindu Castes and Sects (p. 123), by the religious. Codes of the Hindus, the acceptance of certain kinds of movables, such as elephants and horses, is strictly forbidden. In actual practice, no doubt the degradation which results from the acceptance of prohibited things, is sometimes condoned; but there are certain kinds of gifts, which good Brahmins never accept and which only certain classes of degraded Brahmins are allowed to accept. Amongst these, are funeral offerings which are accepted only by the degraded class known in Bengal as Agradanis and in different parts of India by other similar names. They generally take a part in the ceremonies which have to be performed within the first ten days after a man's death, and a great many of them claim also the wearing apparel of the deceased and his bedding as their perquisites. The true position of Brahmins of the Agradnni class is made clear in various passages in Sanskrit works by writers of great authority to some of which we shall now refer.
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3. The following is a fairly accurate version of the texts quoted above.
1. A covetous Brahmin accepted first gifts of the Sudars; by accepting the gifts to the dead, he became an Agradani or an acceptor of first gifts.
(Brahma Baibarta Parana)
2. A covetous among the Brahmins accepted first gifts of the Sudras; in consequence of acceptance of gifts of sesamum, he became an 'Agradani.'
3. Accepting the bed, ornament, and clothing of the dead and also a cow made of sesanaum, they never return from hell.
(Bhabisyotora quoted in Suddhitatwa of Raghunandan.)
4. An acceptor of the bedding of the dead ceases to be a man: if it is accepted by him, he requires again purificatory rites.
(Padma Puran quoted in Dharma Sindhu).
5. The man who accepts an elephant, a horse, a chariot or a vehicle (of other sort), the bedding and seat of the dead, a black skin of antelope, a cow with faces in two directions (that is a cow when being delivered) is a sinner, is degraded in this world and becomes a goblin.
(Agni Parana quoted in Commentary in Suddhitatwa).
6. Therefore a polluted bed should not be accepted by a good Brahmin; such bed being accepted, the acceptor again requires purificatory rites. The bed of the dead is everywhere condemned in the Vedas and the Puranas, it being accepted, they become liable to go to hell.
7. Therefore, that polluted bed should not be accepted by a good Brahmin; it being accepted the acceptor requires again fresh purificatory rites.
8. On accepting the bedding of the dead, he requires again the purificatory rite.
9. It(bedding) should be given to one only; it being divided or sold, causes the giver to be cast into hell.
10. On the second day after the termination of the period of impurity, a bed and a golden human figure with fruit and clothing should be given according to prescribed rites. A Brahmin couple adorned with various ornaments should be duly worshipped and caused to sit on a bed, and a mixture of honey (with curd) should then be offered to them. After offering the honorific gift on a dish with curd and milk, reduced to fine powder a bone of the forehead (of the deceased) and make the Brahmin couple drink it, filled with respect to the manes. This injunction is observed by the twice born people dwelling in the mountains.
4. These texts make it fairly clear that while the person who performs the sradh is enjoined to make certain gift's, the acceptor of the gift becomes degraded by the very act of acceptance. There must consequently be a gift and an acceptance and there is no foundation for the position assumed by the plaintiffs that an Agradani Brahmin has a vested right in the offerings to the dead. It is clear, therefore, that before the title of the Agradani Brahmin accrues, there must be a gift accepted by him, for as stated by Jimutabahana (Dayabhaga, Chapter I, Para I, 21), 'in the case of donation, the donee's right to the thing arises from the act of the giver, namely, from his relinquishment in favour of the donee who is a sentient person.' The defendants in the present case, consequently, acquired a valid title to the offerings as soon as the performer of the sradh made a gift thereof to them, and as against them, the plaintiffs have no cause of action. There is no suggestion that there was any interference in the matter on their part, and there was nothing to prevent them from accepting the gift from the performer of the sradh. It is needless to examine whether the plaintiffs, have any legally enforceable claim for damages against the man who had invited them or against the person who had interfered, in the matter to their prejudice, or whether the performer of the sradh has been merely guilty of a sinful act contrary to the religious precepts on the subject. We may add that the learned Vakil for the plaintiffs placed reliance upon the decision of the Judicial Committee in Tiru Krishnama Ghariar v. Krishniswami Tata Ghariar 6 I.A. 120 : 2 M. 62, in support of the proposition that a suit will lie to recover dues for certain religious services performed. This case, however, is clearly distinguishable, because assuming that the plaintiffs are entitled to be paid by the person who invited them, they have no cause of action against the defendants.
5. The result, therefore, is that this Rule must be made absolute and the decree of the, Court below discharged. As the plaintiffs appear to have been somewhat harshly treated, each party will bear his own costs both here and in the Court below.