SUMMARY: Sadgati is not denied to son-less parents and a daughter too can perform rituals, the unmarried daughter ranking higher than the married one. There are 12 types of sons and one can even adopt or appoint his daughter’s son. In any case the Garuda Purāṇa provides a remedy of performing Jeevita Shraadha or rituals for ones own Sadgati in ones lifetime.
1. Is Sadgati denied to Son-less Parents?
It is a common misconception that there is no sadgati if a son doesn’t perform the pitrmedha or shraadha rituals. The Garuda Purāṇa (Chapter 9.29-31) emphasises sadgati when the aurdhvadaihika rituals, vrisotsarga etc are performed and not merely by begetting a son. In fact as Rickross says shastras speak of having a girl child.
Yes, the shastras unanimously have the son as their first preference or a person of the sapinda relationship (where an unmarried daughter too is included) either in the father’s family or then in the mother’s family (Śrāddhakalpalatā Pg 8). Married daughters have the Sapinda relation same as that of their husband’s and hence are not counted in the father’s family. However in case no Sapinda relation performs, then the married daughters too have authority.
In this regard the Garuda Purāṇa says:
पुत्रः पौत्रः प्रपौत्रो वा तद्भ्राता भ्रातृसन्ततिः। सपिण्डसन्ततिर्वापि क्रियार्हाः खग ज्ञातयः ॥२॥
तेषामभावे सर्वेषां समानोदकसन्ततिः। कुलद्वयेऽपि चोच्छिन्ने स्त्रीभिः कार्याः क्रियाः खग॥३॥
इच्छयोच्छिन्नबन्धश्च कारयेदवनीपतिः।४ पू॰
The son, grandson, great grandson, the brother or children of the brother or a Sapinda descendent, or of the same jñāti. In the absence of these anyone of the Samanodaka relation. In both (the mother or father’s) families if these relations are not there then the women can do these kriyas. If he has broken relation with all his relatives then the king can perform the rituals. (Verse 8.2-4a)
By quoting Shankha rishi, the Śrāddhakalpalatā makes it clear explicitly (not implicit like the verse above) that the daughter in law (having same Sapinda relation as husband KP 23.55) acquires the authority to perform the rituals, second to the son, but before the brother and thereby we can safely say that after the male Sapinda members, their female counterparts (wives) have a right before the next male Sapinda member in the list. The reason for saying this is to show that by ‘women’, the above verse of the Garuda Purāṇa obviously means the married behen beti of the house. That is to say when no Sapinda relation (either male or female) performs, then the married women (having different Sapinda relation) too can aim for sadgati their parents.
It is pertinent to note here that the Garuda Purana mentions ‘Sapinda santati’ instead of Sapinda males and from the following verse of the Kurma Purāṇa it is very clear that an unmarried woman, is included in the ‘Sapinda Santati’ relation:
The women who are not married, their Sapinda relation continues upto seven generations of the family of their births, while that of a married woman is the same as that of her husband. This has been ordained by Brahma.
Kūrma Purana 23.55
There is a story of King Babhruvahana and a preta in Chapter 9 of the Pretakanda of the Garuda Purāṇa. Here the preta tells the king that:
न मेऽस्ति सन्ततिस्तात न सुहृन्न च बान्धवाः।
न च मित्रं हितस्तादृग्यः कुर्यादौर्ध्वदैहिकम्॥
I do not have any children (santati), loved ones or brothers. I do not have friends and well wishers and hence you should perform my rituals. - (verse 46)
As a result of the the king performs his rituals including the Vrishotsarga and the childless preta attains Swarga Loka
From this we can see that when a person can attain Swarga Loka with rituals performed by the king, the lowest in the hierarchy and the last resort, a married daughter who comes above the king in the hierarchy too can grant her parents sadgati.
(Also below is described is how a daughter can perform the celebrated Vrishotsarga ritual in the absence of a son.)
2. Remedies Offered
A. One has Multiple Options in Case of No Natural Son
Now the word ‘putra’ denotes not only one born of simple union between husband and wife but has indeed been stated to be of 12 types. From Śrāddhakalpalatā, as per the Yajnavalkya Smriti 2.128 the putrika suta or daughter’s son is the 2nd in hierarchy and as per 2.130, the adopted son stands 6th among the 12 ‘putras’.
As per 2.132, the daughter’s son has the right of performing the rituals, second only to the natural born son and thereafter the adopted one coming 6th in line.
So the word **‘putra’, ** the first preference, as stated by Garuda Purāṇa includes daughter’s son appointed for this purpose as well as an adopted son. These too can give their parents sadgati besides of course as stated above, the daughter herself.
B. Remedies by the Garuda Purāṇa
Now well the verse quoted in the question:
अपुत्रस्य गतिर्नास्ति नैव च नैव च। is from the Garuda Purāṇa itself but then as stated it’s not only a son which grants sadgati. Anyway, the Garuda Purāṇa also gives a remedy to perform one’s own rituals during one’s lifetime called as Jeevita Shraddha
When Garuda enquires about the case where the previously mentioned authorities to perform the rituals aren’t there. To this, Shri Hari says:
When there is no one among those authorised or they’re not able to decide on who shall perform the rituals, in such a case, one should do his own Jeevita shraadha during his lifetime. (Verse 8.10)
When a sonless person desires moksha, and especially a poor man, he must do his aurdhvadaihika rituals himself. Even with little money such rituals done with ones own hands gives undying benefits like the oblation of ghee into the fire. (Verse 14.9-10)
Among these rituals, the Garuda Purāṇa mentions the importance of Vrishotsarga or donation of a bull to avoid preta yoni:
For avoidance of preta yoni, the Vrishotsarga must be done and there is no other ritual on earth for this purpose. Whichever person performs Vrishotsarga either while alive or dead, he doesn’t attain preta-hood even if he hasn’t performed sacrifice, donation or fasts. (Verse 13.3-4)
पुत्त्रो वा सोदरो वापि पौत्रो बन्धुजनस्तथा । गोत्रिणश्चार्थभागी च मृते कुर्याद्वृषोत्सवम्॥१५॥
पुत्राभावे तु पत्नी स्याद्दौहित्त्रो दुहीतापि वा।
पुत्त्रेषु विद्यमानेषु वृषं नान्येन कारयेत्॥१६॥
The son, the real (uterine) brother, the grandson, the kin, those of the same gotra or any inheritor of wealth must definitely do the Vrishotsarga. **In the absence of a son*£, the wife, the daughter, the daughter’s son also can. When the son is there, no other should perform the Vrishotsarga. (Verse 13.15-16)
Also after the quoted verse in the question, the Garuda Purāṇa emphasises the benefits of charity to get sadgati.
To conclude, sadgati is not denied for son-less parents as there’s a whole hierarchy among which the daughter too finds a place. Also among sons, one can spot a son or have his daughter’s son perform rituals. Further in case of dissatisfaction, one can perform his own shraadha during his lifetime, including the Vrishotsarga ritual, and also perform charity work.
Note: Reference Garuda Purāṇa by Gita press and Shraadhakalpalata