As stated in one of the answer here: There is a variation in the thread count of yajñopavītam. Bachelors wear a single thread, married men wear 2, and married men with children wear 3. Each thread contains 3 strands as well.

The three strands signify three debts:

  1. Debt to one's teacher(s).
  2. Debt to one's parents and ancestors.
  3. Debts to sages and Rishis.

My question is: how to clear off these debts? Is there any other debt not stated here?

Most answers below state that: One can be freed from debt of Pitris by providing a son. What if a person has no son but daughter then he is not freed from this debt or is there an alternative for that? We can take an example of Raja Janak father of Sita, I think he had no son so wasn't he mukt of this debt?

Please cite references from some authentic resources.


3 Answers 3


There are three types of debts as of Pitris, Devas and Rishis. One can be freed from debt of Pitris by providing a son, from debt of Devas by doing sacrifices and from debt of Rishis by pupil-ship.

It is stated in Satapatha Brahma 1.7.2.

  1. Verily, whoever exists, he, in being born, is born as (owing) a debt to the gods, to the Rishis, to the fathers, and to men.

  2. For, inasmuch as he is bound to sacrifice, for that reason he is born as (owing) a debt to the gods: hence when he sacrifices to them, when he makes offerings to them, he does this (in discharge of his debt) to them.

  3. And further, inasmuch as he is bound to study (the Veda), for that reason he is born as (owing) a debt to the Rishis: hence it is to them that he does this; for one who has studied (the Veda) they call 'the Rishis' treasure-warden.'

Same thing has been said in Yajur Veda, Kanda 6, Prapathaka 1.

A Brahman on birth is born with a threefold debt, of pupil-ship to the Rishis, of sacrifice to the gods, of offspring to the Pitrs. He is freed from his debt who has a son, is a sacrificer, and who has lived as a pupil: this (debt) he performs (ávadayate) by these cuttings off', and that is why the cuttings-off (avadána) have their name.

And for those who have no son but only daughter(s), there is a concept of appointed daughter in which son of a daughter is also considered a son. Apart from the Manusmriti 9.127, there are other scriptures too which say the same.

  1. Both a son's son and the son of an appointed daughter cause a man to attain heaven. Both are pronounced to be equal as regards their right of inheritance and the duty of offering funeral balls of meal (Pindas). Brihaspati, 25.37
  • 1
    Good answer.. I was going to answer but then I saw ur answer.. :) EDIT - Ok let me add my answer too from Manu.
    – Rickross
    Oct 23, 2018 at 6:03
  • 1
    @Rickross Yes, good answer from you too :) our answers are slight different. Oct 23, 2018 at 6:33
  • @TriyugiNarayanMani: One can be freed from debt of Pitris by providing a son .... what if a person has no son but daughter then he is not freed from this debt?
    – Just_Do_It
    Oct 23, 2018 at 12:05
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    @TriyugiNarayanMani Haha I just now realized that I hv missed adding one imp verse..
    – Rickross
    Oct 23, 2018 at 13:20
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    @Rickross Important verse :) Oct 24, 2018 at 4:58

The three debts (as already said in the other answers) are: Deva Rina, Rishi Rina and Pitru Rina.

Manu Smriti 4.257. When he has paid, according to the law, his debts to the great sages, to the manes, and to the gods, let him make over everything to his son and dwell (in his house), not caring for any worldly concerns.

The method of clearing these debts is performing Deva, Pitri and Rishi Tarpana/Yajna:

Manu Smriti 3.81. Let him worship, according to the rule, the sages by the private recitation of the Veda, the gods by burnt oblations, the manes by funeral offerings (Sraddha), men by (gifts of) food, and the Bhutas by the Bali offering.


It is stated: ‘A Brahmin is born carrying three debts––of sacrifice to the gods, of offspring to the ancestors, and of studentship to the seers. That man is free from debts who has offered a sacrifice, fathered a son, and lived as a student’ (cf. TS - Vashishta Dharmasutras 11.40

This verse 3.81 is actually talking about the Pancha Maha Yajnas (the five great sacrifices).


If the person has a daughter and no sons then also there is a way for him. He has to make his daughter an "appointed daughter". This method was employed by Prajapati Daksha.

So, now, instead of the son, the sons of his daughters are qualified to perform his funeral rites. So, even now he gets freedom from the debt that he has to his ancestors.

See the following verses from Manu Smriti:

9.127. He who has no son may make his daughter in the following manner an appointed daughter (putrika, saying to her husband), ’The (male) child, born of her, shall perform my funeral rites.

9.128. According to this rule Daksha, himself, lord of created beings, formerly made (all his female offspring) appointed daughters in order to multiply his race.

9.129. He gave ten to Dharma, thirteen to Kasyapa, twenty-seven to King Soma, honouring (them) with an affectionate heart

  • thanks for updating the answer, 1 more ques. what if the person dies before his daughter gets married?
    – Just_Do_It
    Oct 23, 2018 at 12:53
  • Oh that's a difficult one.. I don't hv an answer at the moment.. will update further if possible @Just_Do_It also in ancient times daughters were given to marriage at a very early age so I doubt if the scripture will discuss this or not but still I will chk.
    – Rickross
    Oct 23, 2018 at 12:58
  • I guess there must be another alternative because there are cases where a couple has no children, so whatever is applicable in that case will be applicable in the case i stated above...no? Hope it makes sense.
    – Just_Do_It
    Oct 23, 2018 at 13:15
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    When there is no children the couple can adopt one... There is the concept of Dattak Putra.. @Just_Do_It
    – Rickross
    Oct 23, 2018 at 13:19

The 3 debts are actually :

Deva Runa - debt to Devas (who give us rains, food). Fulfilled by doing Yagnas. In modern day, sandhya-vandana and aradhana. Service to Divya Kshetras, Temples, Bhagavatas & Brahmanas.

Rishi Runa - debt to Rishis (who give us mantras, vedas). Fulfilled by brahmacharya (celibacy) and chanting, learning & teaching Vedas, Itihasa, Puranans, Smritis.

Pitru Runa - debt to Piturs (ancestors who gave us birth & life). Fulfilled by marriage and begetting son & raising him according to shastra.

There are also 5 sacrifices that need to be done daily - Panchamaha Yagna:

Deva Yagna - see above

Brahma (Rishi) Yagna - see above

Pitru Yagna - doing Tarpana & Shraddha

Manushya Yagna - athithi satkara - feeding unannounced guests, helping relatives & neighbours, charity to poor.

Bhuta Yagna - avoiding meat (hence killing of animals), feeding stray cats, crows, dogs. donating to SPCA

Yagna (sacrifice) is a way to repay Runa (debt), so these two are sometimes combined. Anyways, it seems we took lot of loans to get human birth :)

  • What about a person who has no kids? Is there an option for such people to pay off pitr debt?
    – Just_Do_It
    Oct 24, 2018 at 20:02
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    @Just_Do_It, if they take up sanyasa, they help 21 generations (10 before, 10 after, 1 included) attain good afterlife. with son, they help 7 (3 before, 3 after, 1 included). they can have their daughter's son do pitru karyam, or they can adopt a son.
    – ram
    Oct 24, 2018 at 20:05

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