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What is Daan? Significance of Donation in Hinduism

DateDecember 8, 2023

All religions talk about the importance of Daan or donation. To give food, clothes, money, and other necessities to the needy is not just our duty or obligation to society but also a way to earn divine grace. For nothing pleases God more than an act of kindness or charity.

In Hinduism, there are 3 kinds of giving. They are Dakshina, Bhiksha, and Daan. Dakshina signifies repayment. For instance, we give Dakshina to our Guru or a priest. Bhiksha means giving alms. Daan is donation or giving to charity. It has to be done voluntarily and wholeheartedly. One should not boast about it or regret it later. It is like a loan that you don’t expect to get back. The person who receives it should also accept it wholeheartedly.

Offering Daan can bring Moksha. But the money we donate has to be earned in an honest and ethical manner, according to the Garuda Purana. Otherwise, the donation will not give us any results.

We should not expect anything in return for our donations. If we donate something, expecting something in return, it is not a donation at all. We should donate without any conditions. Many people donate to obtain relief from their sins. However, it is the Daan that one performs without any expectations that has the greatest merit.

daan

Stories about Daan

One can offer food, land, knowledge, and protection as Daan. According to the Rig Veda, the best kinds of Daan are offering food to the hungry and sharing knowledge (teaching someone). Hindu mythology has many stories about Daan and its importance in human life. One of the most well-known comes from the Mahabharata epic. But there are other stories as well.

Let us find out about some famous people who excelled in giving Daan.

Karna

Karna was the illegitimate son of Kunti and the Sun god. He was called Daan Veer, as he performed many acts of selfless charity. Karna had an armor that could protect him from all harm. Lord Indra asked him for the armor to save his son Arjuna’s life. Karna gave it to him without any hesitation.

Harsha

Harsha, a great emperor of the 7th century, was known for his administrative skills as well as generosity. He belonged to the Pushyabhuti dynasty and ruled the whole of North India from 606 to 647 CE. It is said that once every 5 years, he would distribute the wealth he had gained.

Bali

Mythology describes Bali as the king of all the 3 worlds. He was known to be a very generous king. When Vishnu, as Vamana, asked him for 3 paces of land, an unsuspecting Bali agreed. Little did he know that Vamana would grow in size until he had covered all of earth and heaven in 2 steps. For his 3rd step, he put his foot on Bali’s head and pushed him into the netherworld.

What the Garuda Purana says

The Garuda Purana places great emphasis on Daan. It talks about the benefits of different kinds of Daan. Let us see what they are:

  • Offering water to a thirsty person brings satisfaction
  • Offering light or an earthen lamp bestows good eyesight
  • Offering til (sesame seeds) bestows healthy progeny
  • Offering land bestows all the things one desires
  • Offering gold bestows long life
  • Offering rice bestows everlasting happiness
  • Offering lotus bestows beauty
  • Offering a house bestows a palace
    • Significance of Daan

      The Bhagavad Gita says that those who have surplus income should give Daan. The Bhavisha Purana claims that donating a cow can bring wealth. Donating land brings more income. Those who donate knowledge will be blessed with prosperity. In Kumarika Kand (Skanda Purana), Narada tells Arjuna that one should perform Daan with devotion and that it pleases Lord Shiva. Narada explained that Daan is of 3 kinds. They are:

      • Donating money or Dhana Daan (the most popular)
      • Donating land or Vastu Daan
      • Donating clothes or Vastra Daan

      He added that based on the purpose behind the Daan, there are 6 types of Daan. They are:

      • Dharma Daan – when one does it out of virtue
      • Artha Daan – when one does it for the purpose of utility
      • Kama Daan – when one does it as a favor to a woman
      • Laaja Daan – when it is due to compulsion
      • Harsha Daan – doing Daan after hearing some good news
      • Bhaya Daan – when one gives Daan due to fear or to avoid risk

      Other Types of Donation

      Donations that are given in expectation of progeny, victory, prosperity, and to attain heavenly abode is called dharmavetta rishigana daan. Donations meant to please God are Vimala daana. This type of daan can bestow welfare.

      People die and are reborn. This life and death cycle ends when we attain Moksha. To be liberated from this cycle, Garuda Purana recommends donating a fertile plot of land to a Brahmin or Vedic scholar.

      Garuda Purana also talks about the greatest donation, which is the Daan of land. No other Daan equals it. Land is one of the greatest assets that we own. Hence, to give it away is the noblest Daan in Hindu scriptures. To offer knowledge or education to the needy also confers immense merit. It grants one a place in heaven and also removes one’s sins.

      Donations for Overcoming Fear

      Donating ghee, rice, and water in Baishak month (April-May) can eliminate all fears. During the Dwadashi Tithi (2nd day of the Hindu calendar), one should fast and worship Vishnu for erasing all sins.

      To get happiness in the afterlife, one must donate one’s favorite things. Uttarayan, Dakshinayan, Maha Vishuvatkaal, solar eclipse, and lunar eclipse are good times to donate, and the donor may gain fruitful results. Donations given to religious places have great significance as well.

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