Brihat Samhita

by N. Chidambaram Iyer | 1884 | 135,584 words | ISBN-13: 9788171104215

This page describes indra-dhvaja (indra’s banner) which is the forty-third Chapter of the English translation of the Brihat-samhita. This work, written by Varahamihira in the 6th century, is classified as jyotisha literature, also known as Indian astronomy. It contains however, also content regarding astrology, palmistry, agriculture, gardening, perfumes, medicines and various other encyclopedic topics.

Chapter 43 - On Indra-dhvaja (Indra’s banner)

1. The Devas addressed Brahmā as follows—“Lord, we are unable to defeat the Asuras in fight and we have therefore come to you for help.”

2. Brahmā spoke to the Devas as follows—“The Supreme Viṣṇu of the sea of milk will give you a banner, at the sight of which the Asuras, your enemies, will cease to oppose you in battle.”

3-4. The Devas, including the great Indra, took leave of Brahmā and proceeding to the sea of milk, began to sing as follows the praises of Viṣṇu on whose breast shone brilliantly the Kaustubha gem—“O Lord of Lakṣmī, the unthinkable, You have no equal; You are omnipresent and You exist invisibly diffused through the bodies of all corporeal creatures; You are the Supreme Soul and You have neither beginning nor end.”

5. God Nārāyaṇa, pleased with the praise of the Devas, gave them a Dhvaja (flag-staff) which at the same time served both as the Sun and the Moon respectively to the lotus-like face of the Deva and Asura females.

6. Indra was mightily pleased to accept the gift of the Dhvaja which had its origin in the Tejas (light) of Viṣṇu and which was set with precious stones and mounted on an eight-wheeled car shining brilliantly as the summer Sun.

7. Planting erect the Dhvaja, which was adorned with a girdle or small bells, with garlands, with umbrellas and with a huge bell, Indra defeated his enemies in the field of battle.

8. Indra gave the Dhvaja, which was of bamboo wood, to Vasu, the ruler of the province of Cedi, who was gifted with the power of flight into celestial regions, and Vasu then performed pūjā to the Dhvaja.

9-10. Indra, pleased with Vasu’s pūjā (worship) spoke as follows—“Those princes who might go through a similar ceremonial worship shall become as prosperous and successful rulers as Vasu, the ruler of Cedi. The subjects of these rulers will also become happy and prosperous and be freed from fear and disease. The Dhvaja itself shall indicate the course and nature of future events.”

11. By command of Indra the ceremonial worship of the Dhvaja has been gone through by princes desirous of strength and victory. I shall now proceed to give a brief description of the same according to the Śāstras.

12. On an auspicious day and in an auspicious hour and Nakṣatra, the astronomer shall leave for the forest accompanied by the carpenter.

He shall not cut any tree growing in flower gardens, in temples, on cremation grounds, on public roads, on sacrificial fire-sites or trees of short growth, or dried trees or trees of stinted growth at the top, thorny trees or trees surrounded by creepers and parasitical plants.

13. He shall also reject trees with holes in which dwell numerous birds and trees injured by the wind or fire and he shall reject trees of feminine denomination, for all those trees are not fit for the staff of Indra’s banner.

14. The five trees—Arjuna,[1] Aśvakarṇa,[2] Priyaka,[3] Dhava[4] and Udumbara,[5] are suited for the purpose. Either one of these or some other well-known tree, or some tree growing on yellow or black soil shall be selected by the astronomer who, alone and at night, approaching the same, shall touch it and address it with the following hymns.

17-18. “Hail to all beings living in this tree! Salutation to you. May you change your abode after receiving this gift offered by me. O great tree, hail to you! The king elects you for (making) the banner of the Lord of Gods. Kindly accept this worship.”

19. At dawn, facing the east or north, the carpenter should cut the tree. A rough and creaking sound of the axe is not auspicious, but a soft and deep one is beneficial.

20. If the tree falls down unbroken and unbent, and without being entangled in other trees, it will confer victory on the king. So will one that falls with its tip towards the east or north. If it falls down under contrary circumstances, it should be abandoned.

21. Four digits of the tree at the top and eight digits at the bottom should be cut off, and then the trunk should be put into water. After being taken out it should be carried to the city-gate either through a carriage or by men.

22. If the spokes of the carriage were to be broken when the tree-trunk is put on it or carried by it, the king’s army would be shattered (i.e. there would be revolt), if the rim breaks, the army will be destroyed; if the axle, the king’s wealth would be lost; and if the axle-pin gives way, the carpenter will come to grief.

23-24. On the eighth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Bhādrapada, the king, accompanied by the citizens, royal astrologers, ministers, chamberlains and prominent Brāhmaṇas, all dressed in auspicious garments, should cause Indra’s Standard covered with a new cloth and beautified with garlands, perfumes and incense, to be brought into the town by the people to the accompaniment of the sounds of conches and musical instruments.

25-26. The town into which ṃe Banner is brought should be decorated with beautiful flags, triumphal arches and leafy garlands, have happy and gay people, the thoroughfares kept neat and tidy, as well as purified, and filled with gaily dressed courtesans, posses shops that are sanctified, be resounding with the loud chantings of the Puṇyāha and other Vedic hymns, and have the junctions of roads filled with actors, dancers and songsters.

27. Flags hoisted in the capital, if white, would lead to victory; if yellow, to outbreak of diseases; if variegated, to success; and if red, to clash of arms.

28. If the elephants or other animals carrying the Banner into the town allow it to fall down, there would be danger in store; and if boys clap their hands or if animals flight each other, at that time, there would be fighting.

29-30. Then the carpenter should place the trunk (of the tree) and mount it on a platform, so that it is kept horizontally with its tip resting on something. On the 11th lunar day of the same month the king should cause vigil to be observed at night. The royal priest dressed in white clothes and wearing a white turban should offer oblations to the sacred Fire with hymns addressed to Indra and Viṣṇu, while the astrologer should observe the auguries of the sacred fire.

31. If the sacred fire be fragrant, glossy, thick, full of flames and be possessed of the shape of auspicious objects (such as an umbrella), it would be beneficial. If it be otherwise, the result would be disastrous. This subject (of auguries) has been dealt with by me in detail in the work entitled Yātrā (Yogayātrā).

32. At the time of the Pūrṇāhuti (final oblation) if the sacred fire blazes forth by itself, is glossy and is full of flames turning to the right, the king will bring under his sway the entire earth with the oceans acting as her girdle and the waters of the Gaṅgā and Yamunā as her beautiful pearl necklaces.

33. Darkness will not find any place inside the king’s place, as it will be dispelled by the rays of gems, when the Sacred Fire is of the hue of gold, Aśoka flower, Kuraṇṭa flower, lotus, beryl or blue lily. The idea is that if the Fire shows the above characteristics, the king will soon conquer the entire Earth and become very wealthy and happy.

34. Those kings whose sacrificial fire emits sound similar to that of a group of chariots, oceans, clouds, elephants or drums, will in their march darken the quarters, being crowded with hosts of intoxicated elephants.

35. If the Fire were to look like a banner, pot, horse, elephant or mountain, the concerned kings would bring under their control the whole Earth having the rising and setting mountains for her lips and the Himalaya and the Vindhya for her bosoms.

36. If the sacrifice Fire emits the smell of elephant’s ichor, mud, lotus, fried grains, ghee or honey, the king will have the earth in front carpeted, as it were, with the rays of the crown-jewels of prostrate potentates.

37. Whatever good and bad omens, already delineated, are observed from the features of the sacrificial fire on the occasion of the installation of Indra’s Banner, should be taken into consideration also at the time of a person’s birth, sacrifice, propitiatory ceremonies for the planets, journeys or military expeditions and marriage,

38. On the 12th lunar day ruling the asterism Śravaṇa or any other asterism, the Banner should be raised and erected, after honouring the Brāhmaṇas with jaggery, sweet-meats, milk porridge and such other dishes as well as with dakṣiṇās (gifts of money).

39-40. Manu has laid down that seven or at least five minor Standards, called Indra’s Daughters, should be made by experts. Of these two called Nandā and Upanandā should measure respectively three-fourths and a half of the height of the main Standard. Four others named Jayā, Vìjayā, and two Vasundharās should be taller than the previous one by a sixteenth. In the middle of these, there should be one called Indra’s Mother, which is taller than the previous one (viz, Vasundharā) by an eighth.

41. The ornaments of various colours and shapes that were put on the celestial Standard by the Gods who were very pleased, in days of yore, should be applied to this Banner also in their order.

42-49. The first ornament made and offered to the Banner by Viśvakarman, the celestial architect, was red like the Aśoka flowers and of quadrangular form; the Creator and Śiva gave severally a girdle of many colours; the third ornament, octangular and bluish-red, was offered by Indra; Yama offered the fourth ornament viz. a dark and lustrous Masūraka (emerald?); Varuṇa gave the fifth ornament, a hexangular one which was like madder in colour, and resembled the waves of water; Vāyu (the Wind-God) bestowed the sixth gift, viz. an armlet, made of peacock feathers and as dark as the cloud; Lord Skanda gave it his own multi-coloured armlet for the seventh; the Fire-God offered the eighth, a circular ornament as brilliant as the flame of fire; Indra gave another ornament as the ninth, viz. a necklace resembling beryl; one of the Sun-Gods, Tvaṣṭā by name, gave a lustrous ornament looking like the wheel of a chariot, as the tenth; the Viśvedevas presented the eleventh ornament named Udvaṃśa, resembling a lotus; the Sages gave the twelfth ornament called Niveśa which shone like the blue lily; and lastly Jupiter and Venus adorned the head of the Banner with the thirteenth ornament with designs at both the ends (or which has a short bottom and tip) and broad at the top and shining like molten red lac. Whatever ornaments were created by the different Gods for the sake of the Banner, are to be taken as being presided over by the respective Deities.

50. The first ornament has a circumference which is a third of that of the Banner; and each succeeding ornament should be smaller than the preceding one by an eighth.

51. One who knows this science of Indra’s Banner should fill it with ornaments on the fourth day thereafter i.e. on the 15th lunar day, and chant with devotion the following hymns sung by Manu according to the scriptural tradition.

52-55. “Accept with a pleased heart these auspicious ornaments on this occasion of the Sacrifice in the same manner as you did, being worshipped with excellent gifts of brilliant forms by Siva, the Sun, Yama, Indra, the Moon, Kubera, Fire, Varuṇa, groups of great Sages, the Deities presiding over the quarters, nymphs, Venus, Jupiter, Skanda and the multitudes of Gods (or Maruts). You are without birth, imperishable, eternal, of immutable form, all-pervading, the Great Boar, the ancient Being, the God of Death, Destroyer of all things, fire, thousand-headed, Indra and the Adorable. I invoke the omniscient, Seven-tongued one (Fire), who is the protector; I invoke the mighty Indra, the ruler of the Gods, the destroyer of Vṛtra, and leader of a mighty army, who protects us carefully. May our heroes (warriors) be crowned with success!”

56. The king observing fast should recite the above auspicious hymns in front of the Banner of Indra, when it is decorated, erected, brought into the town, bathed, bedecked with garlands and when it is finally removed.

57-58. The Standard, bedecked with umbrellas, flags, mirrors, fruits, crescents, multicoloured garlands, banana trunks, sugar-canes, figures of snakes and lion, ornaments, windows and the images of the protectors of the eight quarters in their respective places, should be raised being fastened with strong ropes and hard wooden props on both sides, along with the minor standards called “Indra’s Daughters” made of strong and unbroken wood. The arch at the bottom must be fastened with tight nails.

59. The king should raise the Standard to the accompaniment of the unceasing shouts of the people drowning the inauspicious sounds through the auspicious benedictions and invocations, the loud sounds of drums, tabors, conchs, kettle-drums etc., and through the repeated loud chantings of Vedic hymns by Brāhmaṇas.

60. The king should cause the Standard to be erected for the destruction of his enemies, in such a manner that the tip of the Banner points to the city of the enemy, the Banner being surrounded by the citizens who bow their heads in homage and who invoke it with fruits, curds, ghee, fried grains, honey and flowers held in their hands.

61. The raising of the Banner is auspicious if it is neither too slow, nor too fast, not shaky, and if its garlands, decorations and ornaments are not spoiled. If it is otherwise, it forebodes evil, and the royal preceptor should mitigate it through expiatory ceremonies.

62-66. The wise opine that there is great danger in store for the king if a carnivorous bird, owl, dove, crow, or vulture sits on the Banner. If it be a blue jay, it is dangerous to the prince; an eagle sitting on it will prove harmful to the king’s eyes. The king will die if the umbrella on the Banner breaks or falls down. If honeybees cling to it, there will be increase of thieves; a meteor falling on it will kill the royal priest; a lightning augurs the queen’s death. The fall of a flag on it denotes the queen’s exit, while that of an ornament augurs drought. If the Banner should break in the middle, top and bottom, the ministers, king and citizens respectively will meet with their end. When the Banner is covered with smoke, there is danger from fire; when with darkness, mental aberration will be the result. If the figures of snakes fall or break, the minister will come to grief. If portents are sighted in the north and other quarters, Brāhmaṇas and classes in order will suffer. If any of the minor standards, called Indra’s Daughters’, breaks, courtezans will be killed. Should the ropes snap, there would be trouble to children. If the prop at the bottom breaks, the king’s mother will be troubled. Whatever good or bad is done by boys or actors (or wandering ministrels) at the time will have corresponding effects on the people.

67. After worshipping the erected Standard of Indra for four days, the king should discard it on the fifth day (i.e. the first day of the dark fortnight) after due worship in the company of his ministers for the rise of his own power.

68. Should a king observe this vow (or rule) established by Uparicaravasu and followed by other kings without a break, he would not experience any trouble from his enemies.

Footnotes and references:


Already explained.







Dhava—Acacia leucophloca.


Udumbara—The tree Ficus glomerata.

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