The concept of sin (pātaka, pāpa, agha, enas) is as old as the Ṛgveda itself. Later literature like the smṛtis and the dharmaśastras have dealt with it in great detail. Among the several remedies, austerities of a particular class are given the general name ‘kṛcchra.’ The word means ‘that which cuts, causes pain and suffering.’
Of the several kṛcchras mentioned, brahmakṛcchra is also one. It is difficult to say what exactly the word ‘brahma’ connotes here. Out of the several secondary meanings of the word, ‘tapas’ (austerity) and ‘bhogatyāga’ (renunciation of objects of pleasure) may be more appropriate here. It is an austerity involving the giving up of objects of pleasure.
Brahmakṛcchra is a penance spread over twelve days. It consists in sustaining oneself during that period, by drinking at noon, a little pañcagavya—a preparation of the five products of a cow, viz., milk, curds, ghee, urine and dung—in a temple or a cow-pen, after offering it with mantras in fire. Meditation on Viṣṇu, sleeping near an idol of Viṣṇu and abjuring certain luxuries like betel leaf and unguents—these are the other disciplines mentioned.
Different kṛcchras are prescribed as expiations for different kinds of sins. The details can be obtained from the relevant dharmaśāstras.
See also KṚCCHRA.