Summary of Recommended Dakshina
Please note — This is the MINIMUM recommended dakshina, the yajamana is encouraged to display his generosity and give to his capacity. Some priests may also require mileage (60c per kilometre) and tolls to be paid in addition to the dakshina, depending on where you live. This should be discussed with your chosen purohit.
For Punyaha vachanam (purification ceremony) — $200
For all general PUJAS not involving the use of Fire — $300 - $400
For all ceremonies involving Fire (HAVAN) — $350 - $450
For Satya-narayana puja — $300
For Griha-pravesh (vastu shanti) — $450 - $550
For all Samskaras — $350 - $500 (depending upon time taken)
For Shraddhas — $300 for the purohit and $150 each for the diners (bhoktas)
For Parvana Shraddhas ( involving Fire Oblations, Pinda-danam, Tarpanam, and feeding two Brahmanas etc. duration between 2-30- 3 hours) for the Purohit $450 and for Bhoktas $150-$200 each.
For Xmas Shraddhas / Hiranya Shraddhas / Swayam Pakkam, average duration 1hrs (Libation, (Pinda Danam also done in some family tradition ) Uncooked food items to be given. $ 200 for the purohit, $30 each along with the uncooked food items pl. refer bellow for details.
Absolute essential uncooked food i.e. Grains, Lentils, Jaggery or Raw Sugar, Vegetables, Bananas and few varieties of Seasonal fruits
Optional (recommended) extras : dry fruits and nuts, Vastra ( clothing)
For engagement ceremony — $400 ($200 each from both bride and groom's side)
For Wedding (Vivaha Samskara) — $900 - $1000 for the head priest and $300 for the assistant.
For pre-wedding ceremonies such as Gauri Puja — $250 (For Vratam - South Indian - $350)
(Plus mileage, parking and tolls, Certificate order etc. or Extra please speak to your celebrant)
Method of Giving
When giving Dakṣiṇa one should not just hand it to the priest as one pays a tradesman. The dakṣiṇa offering together with some fruit and betel-leaf and nuts, and a flower is placed upon a tray which one has prepared beforehand. The householder stands with his wife to his right side, holding the tray with both hands and humbly requests the priest to accept it. The priest recites some verses, receives the tray with one hand and then pronounces the blessing.
If there is more than one priest all should receive dakṣiṇa in the order of their seniority.
The Issue of Dakshina or Honorarium
Dakshina is the giving of a financial remuneration to the priests in exchange for their services.
This is a vexed issue which is constantly being challenged and questioned.
Many young people ask — "why should we pay the priests? Shouldn’t they being doing it as a spiritual act of service to the community? "Doesn’t the exchange of money demean the sacredness of the ceremony"? “How can you mix spirituality with money?”
It must be remembered that all the other religious communities through their organizations, churches, synagogues and mosques etc. employ their clergy. They have employment contracts, free housing or subsidized rentals, superannuation, Medical Insurance and all the other privileges of an employee.
Hindu priests are divided into two categories — Temple Priests (archakas) and Domestic Priests (purohits). Temple priests in Australia are usually hired in India and brought out to work under contract — they are paid a salary and all amenities are provided.
Domestic priests on the other hand are completely independent and have no organizational support. Most are householders with dependents to support — many of the priests in Australia and also supporting their extended family back in India. Unless they are working part-time as priests and have a day-job, they have no independent source of income. To survive, the priests rely on the generosity of the public. Everyone living in Australia is subjected to the same cost of living: rents, mortgages, insurance, travel costs, bills, schooling for their kids. All the priests are required to pay taxes and also make their own superannuation arrangements. Priests need to be self-sufficient in their old age and have an income stream via their self-funded Super. As there is no employer contribution, we need to save 20% of our gross income for the future.
How are the clergy supposed to survive and continue to serve the sacramental and ceremonial needs of the Hindu community if they are not supported generously by their client families?
Giving Dakshina to the priests is an act of generosity which is integral to all Hindu religious ceremonies. Through giving dakṣina one is supporting the priests who in turn are the upholders and the teachers of the Dharma. It is upon the householders that the priests and the monks (sanyasis) depend for their livelihood and ability to continue their work of teaching and promoting the values of Sanātana Dharma. Householders should express their heartfelt love of the Dharma and appreciation of the work of the priests and gurus through giving generously according to their financial means.
Giving Dakṣiṇa is an integral part of every religious ceremony as per the Scriptural quotes given below.
Rates of Dakshina
The Śāstra recommends a sliding scale of Dakṣina as a guideline, based upon the price of a dairy cow. In Australia given the price of milk yielding pedigree cows range from $1000-$2000, and taking $1000 as a baseline, we can calculate the estimated dakshina.
Therefore for any ceremony performed at home, a person of low income should offer only 1/5 of the price of a cow, a person of middle income should offer 3/5 and the higher income should offer the entire price of the cow.
Based upon the combined gross annual income of the husband and wife the following is the recommended minimum dakshina baseline:--
Low income household $26,000 — $50,000 = $200
Middle income household $50,000 — $100,000 = $600
High income household $100,000 + = $1000
(One should bear in mind that many Christian communities give 10% of their salary to the Church!
Rules of Dakṣina From the Śatapatha Brahmana
One who hosts a yajña without giving dakṣina to the priests obtains sinful reactions. (S.B i ;2;3;4; S.B.ii 2;2;2.
No oblation (homa) should be offered without dakṣina. (S.B. ix ;1;3;7.)
Let there be no haggling for the sacrificial fee, for by haggling the priests are deprived of their place in heaven. (S.B. ix 5;2;16.)
By means of dakṣina to the priests the yajña becomes successful; for this reason gifts are made to the priests. The glory of the yajña is the priests and their glory is the sacrificial fee (dakṣina), hence if the priest is given a dakṣina he must not (at least on the same day) give it away, lest he make over to someone else the glory that was due to him. But rather on the morrow or the day after, he can give it away after having acquired the glory; whatever it may be; gold, a cow, a garment or a horse. (S.B. xiv ;1;1;32)
As great as the yajña is, as large as its extent is; by so many dakṣinas does the yajamāna invigorate the yajña. (It means that the yajamāna should give as much as he can afford- yathā śaktyā) (S.B. ii 2;2;3.)
Such is the measure of the priests' fees, but the yajamāna may give more, according to the depth of his conviction. (S.B. ii 2;2;5.)
A priest must not accept a dakṣina (of kind) which has been refused by another priest; nor should the yajamāna offer it (the refused dakṣina) to anyone else; nor should he keep it; let him give it to some needy kinsman, this is the law concerning a refused dakṣina. (S.B. iii 5;1;25.)
From the Smṛtis
Let the yajamāna who has faith and controls his senses perform other meritorious acts (like pilgrimages, fasts etc), but let him on no account commission yajñas at which he gives dakṣinas which are less that those prescribed in the śāstra. (Manu Smṛti xi 39)
The sense organs, honour, bliss, longevity, fame, progeny and domestic animals are all destroyed by a yajña at which too little is given as dakṣina; hence a person of limited means should not offer a yajña. (Manu Smṛti xi 40)
By giving 16% of his produce to the king (in taxes), 5% to the Devas (upkeep of temples) and 4% to support the Brahmins a cultivator is exonerated from all sins. (Parāśara 2:14)
To the brāhmaṇa who has performed a homa (fire sacrifice) a pair of garments must be given. (Viṣṇu Smṛti xc 4.)
The yajamāna should not choose a priest who is unlearned in the Veda nor one who haggles about his fee. (Āpastambha Smṛti ii;5;10;8)
Any yajña (sacrifice) performed without direction of scriptural injunctions, without distribution of food, without Vedic hymns and without dakṣina to the priests and without faith must be considered to be in the mode of ignorance (tamas). (Bhagavad Gita 17;13.)
From the Purāṇas
Having performed a ritual one should immediately give dakṣiṇa; then only does one obtain the fruit of the ritual; this is the injunction of the Vedas.
If the yajamāna through ignorance does not give the dakṣiṇa to the brāhmaṇas the moment the sacrifice ends then the sacrifice is rendered completely futile and vain. The results of this sinful action are disease and poverty. If one muhurta (24 minutes) passes the evil results are doubled and if one night goes by without the dakṣina then the evil is multiplied sixthfold.
Lakṣmi departs from the yajamāna's house and curses him, the ancestors (Pitris) never accept anything that is offered by him in the śrāddha or tarpana.
The one who does not give the dakṣina and the priest who does not request it; both of them fall into hell just as a bucket falls into the well when the rope breaks.
The yajamāna who does not give the dakṣina when asked becomes devoid of all sense and certainly falls into the hellish realm called Kumbhipāka naraka. (Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa prakṛti -khaṇḍa )
A cow, a metal vessel and an unwashed (new) garment constitute the sacrificial fee [for post mortem rites]. Asvalayana Grihya Sutra 4:6:19
Dakṣiṇa however little it may be should always be given to the brāhmins and the devotees during the performance of yajñas, because any religious activity that is performed without sacrificial fees becomes fruitless and vain. Therefore a yajamāna should give according to his means with faith and devotion because dakṣina is a segment of the yajña. (Pancarātra - Pādma Samhita 11;267 - 269.)