Brihat Samhita

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

This page describes portents or public calamity (utpata-adyaya) which is the forty-sixth 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 46 - On Portents or Public Calamity (utpāta-adyāya)

1. I shall now proceed to state the laws relating to portents (utpāta) which Bhagavān Garga taught to Atri; what follows is a summary of the same.

A. Portents (utpāta) related to Kings, Mankind and Beasts:

2. Mankind, because of their sins, suffer misfortunes, and the approach of these is indicated by portents, stellar, atmospheric and terrestrial.

3. Mankind, by their misdeeds, offend the Devas, and the Devas send down portents to indicate their displeasure; the king shall perform expiatory rites for the redress of the miseries which otherwise are sure to befall mankind.

4. Unusual phenomena connected with the planets and stars are known as stellar portents. Meteors, thunderbolts, tempests, halos, cloud-castles, rainbows and the like are known as atmospheric portents.

5. Any unusual phenomena connected with both movable and immovable terrastrial objects are known as terrestial portents. The effects of these can be avoided by means of expiatory rites, whereas the effects of atmospheric portents can only be softened by such ceremonies, and in the opinion of some the effects of stellar portents cannot be avoided by any means.

6. Our own opinion is that even stellar portents can be assuaged in the rigour of their effects by large gifts of gold, food, cows and lands, and by drawing down the milk of on the temple floor and by a crore of Āhutis in the sacred cows fire.

7. The king, in consequence of his sins in his former birth, will be afflicted in his own person, in his children, treasury, vehicles, citizens, wives, priests and subjects at large.

8. If the Liṅga and the idols of the Devas in the temple should for no apparent cause break, move, perspire, shed tears, fall down, speak or do the like, the king’s country would suffer miseries.

9. If on festive occasions the car, the axle, the wheel, the yoke, or the flag should break or fall, or if any of them should be found to have been removed from its place and another put in its stead, or if the tie should break and the parts get loose or if the car should stick into the ground and refuse to move, the king will suffer with his country.

10. Portents (utpāta) connected with the idols or statues of the Ṛṣis, of Yama, the Pitṛdevas and of Brahmā will affect the Brāhmaṇas, the Kṣatriyas and the Vaiśyas. Those connected with the statues of Rudra and the Dikpālas will affect the lower animals.

11. Portents connected with the statues of Jupiter, Venus and Saturn will affect the family priest. Those connected with the statue of Viṣṇu, will affect mankind at large. Portents connected with the statues of Skanda and Viśākhā will affect the provincial rulers.

12. Portents connected with the statue of Vedavyāsa will affect the ministers; those connected with the statue of Vināyaka will affect the commanders of armies; those connected with the statues of Dhātā and Vidhātā indicate the destruction of the world.

13. Portents connected with the statues of the sons, daughters, wives and servants of the Devas will affect the king’s sons, daughters, wives and servants.

14. Portents connected with the statues of the Rākṣasas, the Piśācas, the Yakṣas and the Nāgas will affect as before the king’s sons, daughters, wives and servants. The above will all take effect within eight months.

15. When any unusual phenomena portentous in their nature occur in connection with the statues of Devas in temples, the priests shall bathe and fast for 3 days, and with a pious mind also bathe the statues in water and adorn them with flowers, sandal paste, cloth and the like.

16. He shall satisfy the Devas by the offer of Madhuparka[1], sweet meats and cooked rice, and he shall throw āhutis of boiled rice into the fire, chanting mantras appropriate to the several Devas.

17. That king who for seven days shall perform Homa, feed Brāhmaṇas and worship the Devas accompanied by music and dance, and who shall donate large sums of money to the Brāhmaṇas, shall be freed from the effects of all his sins.

B: Portents (utpāta) connected with fire:

18. That prince will suffer with his kingdom in whose province a fire breaks out where there is no fire or fire ceases to burn even when fed with fuel.

19. If either water or flesh or any wet substance should catch fire and burn, the king will suffer miseries; if weapons of war should catch fire and burn, there would be war in the land.

20. If temples and palaces of kings or the mansions of the rich, archways or gates, flag-staff and the like should catch fire and burn, or if these should do so being struck by lightning, there would surely be a foreign invasion of the land six months after the occurrence.

21. If smoke should appear in a place where there is no fire, or if a dust storm or darkness should cover the land during day time, or if the stars should be invisible at night when the sky is cloudless, or if the stars should be visible during the day time, mankind will be subject to various fears.

22. If fire should break out for no apparent cause, towns, quadrupeds, birds and men will suffer. If beds, clothes or the hair on one’s head should be seen to smoke or with sparks of fire, there would be deaths in the land.

23. If weapons of war should be seen to catch fire, or become like snakes, or should sound or come out of their case or quiver, there will be fearful wars in the land.

24. When portents (utpāta) connected with fire occur the king shall satisfy god Agni by Homa ceremonies, throwing into the fire āhutis of the twigs of milky trees, of mustard seed and of ghee and he shall present gold to the Brāhmaṇas.

C: Portents (utpāta) connected with trees:

25. If the branches of trees should break and fall down for no apparent cause, there would be wars in the land; if the trees should be heard to laugh, the king would quit his dominions; if they should be heard to weep, diseases would increase.

26. If the trees should bear fruits or flowers in the wrong season, the country will be attacked by the enemy; if young trees should blossom, children will perish; if the juice of trees should ooze out, all articles will suffer.

27. If wine should ooze out from trees, the king’s vehicles will suffer injuries; if blood should ooze out, there will be wars in the land; if honey, mankind will suffer from diseases; if oil, there will be famine, and if water, there will be great fears.

28. If a dead tree should sprout and grow, or if a living tree should suddenly die, there will be decrease of strength and food in the land; if a tree which has fallen should rise of itself, there will be fear from diseases.

29. If the superior trees should bear blossoms or fruits in the wrong season, or if such trees should catch fire or smoke, kings killed.

30. If trees should grow like serpents, mankind will suffer death. In the case of portents (utpāta) connected with trees, the effects will begin to be felt after ten months.

31. For the expiation of the evils the priests shall honour the tree with flowers, sandal paste, perfumed smoke, clothes and the like, and hold an umbrella over it, and placing a Sivaliṅga at its foot shall perform Rudrajapa and offer to the fire six āhutis in honour of Rudra.

32. The king shall feed Brāhmaṇas with rice cooked in milk, with honey and with ghee. In the case of portents connected with trees, the Ṛṣis have directed that the king shall make gifts of land to the Brāhmaṇas.

D: Portents (utpāta) connected with Crops

33. If the stem or stock of the lotus, barley and the like should be found to divide into branches or if crops should bear double fruits or double flowers, the owner or proprietor of the land will die.

34. If crops should grow over-luxuriantly, or if a single tree should bear a variety of fruits or flowers, the country will be invaded by the enemy.

35. If the gingelly should yield double the usual quantity of oil, or if such seed should contain no oil, or if rice should be found without flavour, mankind will suffer from great fears.

36. Flowers or fruits portentous in their nature should be removed beyond the limits of the village or town. In such cases, the priests shall satisfy God Soma by the offer of rice āhutis to the fire or by animal sacrifices.

37. In the case of any portents (utpāta) connected with crops, both the crops and the land should be presented to the Brāhmaṇas. In the middle of the very land the king shall satisfy the Earth by the offer of rice āhuti to the fire: the evils will then disappear.

E: Portents (utpāta) connected with rainfall

38. Drought forebodes famine; excessive rain forebodes suffering from hunger and foreign invasion; rainfall in the wrong season forebodes disease and rainfall from a cloudless sky forebodes the king’s assassination.

39. When the seasons are otherwise good, the presence of heat in the place of cold or that of cold in the place of heat, or the absence of either, forebodes that six months after and through supernatural means the kingdom will be in danger and mankind will suffer from diseases.

40. If there should be continued rain for seven days in a wrong season, the chief minister and the sovereign will die; if there should fall a shower of blood, armed men will engage in fight; if there should fail a shower of flesh, bones or marrow, mankind will suffer from pox or plague.

41. If there should fall a shower of grain, gold, skin, fruits, flowers or the like, mankind will suffer from various fears, and if there should fall a shower of charcoal or dust, the town will perish.

42. If when the sky is cloudless, there should fall a shower of stones or of creatures of unusual appearance, or if there should be either a drought or excessive rain, the crops will suffer injuries.

43. If there should fall a shower of milk, ghee, honey, curdled milk, or warm water, the country will meet with ruin; in the case of a shower of blood, the king will be at war.

44. If when the sun shines bright and when he is not hid by clouds or the like, objects should be found to cast no shadows at all, or if the shadows should be of wrong shapes, the country will suffer from various fears.

45. If when the sky is without clouds, the rainbow should appear at day or night in the east or west, there will be a great famine in the land.

46. In the case of portents (utpāta) connected with showers, the priest shall perform Homa in honour of the Sun and of the deities presiding over the clouds and the winds; and the king shall also give to the Brāhmaṇas grain, rice, cows and gold.

F: Portents (utpāta) connected with Water

47. If rivers should in course of time, recede from towns, or if deep lakes in the neighbourhood should become dry, such towns would be deserted by the inhabitants.

48. If rivers should be seen to run carrying oil, blood or flesh, or if the water should be found very muddy, or if they should be seen to run in opposite directions, there would be foreign invasion of the country after six months.

49. If wells should be found to blaze, to smoke, to boil, to weep, to call, to sing or to spring, mankind would suffer from plague or pox.

50. If water should be found to spring from places undug, or if its smell or flavour should suffer change, there would be great fears in the land; if any unusual phenomena should occur near places of water, there would also be great fears. The king shall perform expiatory rites in the very places as prescribed below.

51. In the case of portents (utpāta) connected with water, the priest shall perform Homa in honour of Varuṇa, reciting the mantras sacred to him.

G: Portents (utpāta) connected with Births

52. If two, three, four or more children should be born to a woman at a time, or if the offspring should be of defective organs, or if it should be born with extra organs, the country would suffer miseries as well as the family.

53. If a mare, a she-camel, a buffaloe or a cow should bear twins, these animals would perish after six months; in the case of portents (utpāta) connected with births, Garga has prescribed, in two stanzas, certain expiatory rites:

54. He (the husband) who desires prosperity should banish the woman to foreign lands and should satisfy Brāhmaṇas by the gift of what they are fond of, and shall also perform expiatory Homa ceremonies.

55. In the case of quadrupeds, they too shall be separated from the herd and expelled to foreign lands; if not, the ruler of the towns as well as the herd of cattle would perish.

H: Portents (utpāta) connected with Quadrupeds

56-57. Among quadrupeds, if an animal of one species should copulate with one of another and procreate issues, cows and birds would suffer. If either bulls or cows or dogs should suck each other, there would be foreign invasion of the country after three months. Garga has prescribed, in two stanzas, certain expiatory rites:

58. The animals shall either be rejected or expelled to foreign lands or given away to others. The Brāhmaṇas shall also be satisfied with presents. Japa and Homa ceremonies shall also be performed.

59. The priest shall satisfy God Dhātā by the offer of rice to fire and by animal sacrifice by means of the Prājāpatya mantras; Brāhmaṇas shall also be fed largely and given money.

I: Portents (utpāta) connected with the Wind

60. If vehicles should move when not drawn by horses or other animals, or if they should refuse to move when so drawn, the country would suffer from various fears and the army would perish.

61. If, when unstruck, instruments of music should be heard to sound, or if they should not sound when struck or produce wrong sounds, there would be foreign invasion or the reigning sovereign would perish.

62. If vocal or instrumental music or the sound of the drum or any other mysterious noise should be heard in the sky, or if moving objects should refuse to move and immovable objects begin to move, or if a drum should be found to be mute when struck, the ruler would suffer death, disease or defeat in battle.

63. If monkey (apes) should be seen to copulate, or if ladles, winnowing baskets or other utensils should be heard to sound in an unusual manner, or if a jackal should be heard to howl, there would be wars in which armed men would engage in fight, according to the sages.

64. In the case of portents (utpāta) connected with the wind, the king shall worship a representation of God Vāyu made of the flour of barley, and shall have the five mantras beginning with “Āvāyo” recited by the Brāhmaṇas.

65. He shall satisfy the Brāhmaṇas by feeding them with rice cooked in milk and by the gift of money to them, and Homa ceremonies shall also be performed and the officiating Brāhmaṇa shall be paid liberally.

J: Portents (utpāta) connected with Animals and Birds

66-67. If country birds should begin to dwell in woods, or if wild birds should begin to dwell in towns, or if day birds should be found to move about at night or if night birds should be found to move about during the day, or if either animals or birds should be found to move in circles either immediately before sunrise or after sunset, or if they should heard together and howl in the direction of the sun, the country would suffer miseries.

68-69. If dogs should be found to cry at the gates of houses in a weeping tone, or if jackals should be found to howl facing the sun, or if a dove or owl should enter the palace of the king, or if the cock should be heard to cry soon after sunset, or if the cuckoo should be heard to cry in the Hemanta (cold) season, or if the hawk and the like birds should be found to move in circles from right to left, there would be misery in the land.

70. If birds should swarm about houses, places of worship, towers or gates, or if honey-combs or ant-hills or lotus should be found to be formed or to grow in such places, there would be misery in the land.

71. If dogs should bring within human dwellings bones or limbs of dead bodies, there would be plague in the land. If animals and weapons should be found to speak, the king would die; and the Ṛṣis of old say as follows:

72. In the case of portents (utpāta) connected with birds and animals Homa (fire) ceremonies shall be performed and the officiating Brāhmaṇas shall well be paid. Five Brāhmaṇas shall be appointed to recite the mantra beginning with “Devāḥ kapota.”

73. A large number of cows shall be presented to Brāhmaṇas, each gift being made by the recitation of the mantra beginning with “Sudevā.” The Brāhmaṇas shall also be made to recite Śākuna hymns as well as the Upaniṣads and the Śivasaṃkalpa mantras.

K: Miscellaneous portents (utpāta)

74. If Indra’s banner, bolts, pillars or gates should break or fall down, or if doors, towers, flag-staffs should break or fall down, the king would die.

75. If both the morning and evening sky should appear to be burning, or if there should be smoke in the forest where there is no fire, or if ditches should appear in places where there were none before, or if earthquakes should occur, there would be misery in the land.

76. That country would suffer miseries whose ruler respects heretics or atheists, or who refuses to follow the rules of life observed by the great and holy men of the land, or who is of an irascible temper, or who is jealous or fearful, and who is inclined to quarrel with his subjects.

77. That country will also suffer in which children are found with weapons, pieces of wood or sticks in their hands beating (animals) and uttering such expressions as beat, kill, cut, break and the like.

78. That house will meet with ruin in whose walls figures of dead men or of the master of the house is drawn with charcoal or red chalk.

79. That house will also suffer miseries in which is seen the spider’s web or which is not swept clean and adorned with flowers both morning and evening, or in which there is constant quarrel between persons, or where the lady of the house is forever dirty.

80. If goblins are seen, there will be plague in the land. Garga has prescribed ceremonies for the expiation of the evils of all miscellaneous portents (utpāta).

81. The eighteen Mahāśānti ceremonies (great ceremonies of expiation) prescribed in the Atharva Veda must be performed. Bali (food) shall also be offered in honour of Indra and Indrāṇī (Indra’s queen) who shall also be worshipped in every month.

L: Phenomena which are not portents (utpāta):

82. If after the occurrence of a portentous phenomenon, either the king should die or the country should suffer miseries, or if a comet should appear, or a solar or lunar eclipse should occur, or if the phenomenon is one due to the particular season, the evils described for such phenomenon would not come to pass.

83. What phenomena are not portents (utpāta) but are due to the particular seasons are briefly stated by the sons of Ṛṣis (in the following 12 stanzas.)

84-85. If in the Vasanta (April-May) there should occur a thunderbolt or an earthquake, or if the roar of thunder should be heard immediately before sunrise and after sunset, or if the appearance of a halo, dust-storm or smoke should be seen, or if the Sun should appear very red both at rising and setting; or if trees should yield food, juice, oil, honey, flowers or fruits, and if cows and birds should appear lustful, there would be prosperity in the land.

87. If in the Grīṣma (summer) shooting stars and meteors should fall, and the discs of the Sun and Moon should appear brown, or if things should appear to burn or smoke or covered with sparks, in the absence of fire, or if the sky should be full of dust or disturbed by the wind; or if the red sky of the morning and evening should appear disturbed and agitated as the sea, or if rivers should fall or become dry, there would be prosperity in the land.

88-89. If in the winter season such appearance as the rainbow, halos and lightning should mark the sky, or if a dead tree should sprout and grow, or earthquakes occur, or elevated grounds should become hollow or hollow grounds should become elevated, or if mysterious noise should be heard from below the earth, or if ditches should be formed on the surface of the earth; or if tanks, rivers, ponds and the like should be flooded with water, or if such water should overflow the banks, or if landslips occur or houses should break and fall, there would be no cause for fear.

90-91. If in the Śarat (October and November) the wives of the Devas, oṛ the Demons, the Gandharvas or the vehicles of the Devas, should appear in the sky, or if during the day the planets, the constellations, or any of the stars should become visible; or if music, vocal or instrumental, should be heard in forests or on hills, or if crops should thrive or water decrease in quantity, there would be no cause for fear.

92-93. If in the Hemanta (December and January) cold winds should blow or snow should fall, or if animals and birds should be heard to cry, or if Rākṣasas and Yakṣas should be seen or voice should be heard in the sky; or if the horizon, the sky, the forests and mountains should appear dark as if covered with smoke, or if the Sun should be invisible both at rising and setting, there will be prosperity in the land.

94-95. If in the Śiśira (February and March) snow should fall or portents connected with air should occur, or any unusual or wonderful appearances should be seen, or if the sky should appear black as collyrium, or if shooting stars or meteors should fall; or if women should give birth to children of unnatural form, or if cows, sheep, horses, deer or birds should do the same, or if leaves, sprouts or creepers should be of unnatural appearance, there would be prosperity in the land.

96. If unusual phenomena, due to particular seasons, occur in such seasons, there would be prosperity in the land, and if they occur in other seasons, there would be misery in the land.

97. The vernacular songs of lunatics, utterances of children and the words of women will never fail to come to pass.

98. Words of truth are to be found in the Devas, from them they come to men; human words are, therefore, prompted by the Devas and are therefore true.

99. Even though ignorant of astronomy and astrology, if a person should be well learned in the laws of portents, he would become famous and would be liked by the king. I have thus stated the secret views of the Ṛṣis by thorough study of which one acquires a knowledge of the past, of the present and of the future.

Footnotes and references:


Madhuparka: a mixture of honey and clarified butter.

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