Harivamsha Purana

by Manmatha Nath Dutt | 1897 | 293,872 words | ISBN-10: 8178542188 | ISBN-13: 9788178542188

This page is entitled “the origin of pitris and fruits of sraddhas” and represents Chapter 16 of the first book (‘Adi Parva’) of the Harivamsa (English translation in Prose). The Harivamsha Purana narrates the lineage and life-story of Krishna (Hari). Although not officially mentioned in the list of Puranas, this book includes topics such as geology, creation theory, time (manvantaras), ancient historical legends and accounts of royal dynasties.

Chapter 16 - The Origin of Pitris and Fruits of Sraddhas

1. Janamejaya said:—How did the illustrious Aditya become the (presiding) deity of Sraddhas? What is the most excellent mode of performing them? I wish to hear all this, O Vipra..

2-3. What is the origin of the Pitris and who are they? We have heard from the conversation of the Brahmanas that the Pitris (ancestral manes), stationed in heaven, are even the gods of the gods. This is said by those well read in the Vedas. I therefore wish to know this.

4-5. I wish to hear of the most excellent creation of Pitris, their various orders, their great strength, how are they propitiated by the Sraddhas performed by us, and how they, delighted, shower benedictions on us.

5-9. Vaishampayana said:—I will now describe to you the most excellent creation of the Pitris; how they are propitiated by Sraddhas performed by us and how they, being pleased, pour blessings on us. Markandeya described this when he was accosted by Bhishma. The question, that you have asked me, was put to Bhishma by the pious king (Yudhisthira) when the former was lying on the bed of arrows.

9. Yudhisthira said:—O you conversant with virtue, how people, seeking nourishment, get it? By doing what do they not grieve I wish to hear this.

10-11. Bhishma said:—O Yudhishthira, he, who propitiates the departed manes by the performance of Sraddhas that secure all desired for objects, who always performs them with a concentrated mind, attains to delight both in this world and in the next. The Pitris confer virtue on him who seeks it, children on him who wants them and nourishment on him who desires for it.

12-14. Yudhisthira said:—The departed manes of some persons live in heaven, and those of others live in hell. The fruits of Karma, it is said, eternally exist with people. Persons, in expectation of fruits, perform Sraddhas for their father, grand-father, and great-grand-father. How those offerings reach the ancestral manes?

15. How can they, while living in hell, grant them the fruits (thereof)? Who are those ancestral manes Who else are others? To whom do we offer our offerings?

16. We have heard that even the gods, in the celestial region, dedicate offerings to the ancestral manes. I wish to hear all this at length O you of great effulgence.

17. You are endued with immeasurable intelligence, do you describe to me, how by making gifts to the ancestral manes we are released (from worldly trammels).

18. Bhishma said:—O slayer of foes, I shall describe to you what I have heard on this subject from my deceased father—who are those ancestral manes and who are others to whom we dedicate our offerings.

19. When on the occasion of my father’s Sraddha I was about to offer him Pinda[1] my father, rending assunder the earth, begged it of me with his hand.

20. His arm was adorned with bracelet and other ornaments—his fingers and palm were as red as I had seen them before.

21. Thinking that no such practice is seen in Kalpa[2] I offered the Pinda at the Kusa grass, without any consideration.

22-23. O sinless one, then my father delightedly said to me in sweet accents:—"O foremost of Bharatas, I have been blessed with a son like you, both in this world and the next-a good son, pious and learned as you are.

24. You are also of firm vows, O sinless one; with a view to lay down the religious practices of people, I issued this command.

25. As a man, observing the religious practices, is entitled to a fourth part of the virtue thereof, so a stupid person, transgressing them, is visited by one fourth of the sin (consequent thereon).

26. The subjects follow the example set by the king in religious practices.

27. O foremost of Bharatas, you have observed the practices laid down in the eternal Vedas and incomparable is my satisfaction therefore.

28. Greatly pleased with you I will confer upon you a most excellent boon—do you pray for it which it is hard to get in the three worlds.

29. As long as you will wish to live Death will not be able to extend his influence on you. When you will permit him he will overpower you then only.

30. O foremost of Bharatas, if there is any other boon which you wish to pray for, tell me and I shall grant it."

31. On (my father) saying this, I, saluting him with folded hands, said "O most exalted person, with your being propitiated I have achieved all my objects.

32. O you of great effulgence, if I am again entitled to a favour, I wish to put a question which I desire you to answer yourself."

35. My virtuous-souled father then said to me "O Bhishma, tell me whatever you like. O Bharata, I will remove your doubt about what you will ask me".

34. Filled with curiosity I asked my father who had repaired to the region of the performers of good deeds and who then disappeared from that place.

35. Bhishma said:—"I have heard that the ancestral manes are the gods of the gods. Are they the gods or they are others to whom we offer our adoration?

36. How the Pindas offered at Sraddhas propitiate the Pitris who have gone to the other world? What are the fruits of a Sraddha?

37. To whom the people, accompanied by the gods, Danavas, Yakshas, Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras and huge serpents, dedicate their offerings?

38. O you conversant with virtue, I consider you as omniscient—I have grave doubts in this and great is my curiosity—do you explain it to me." Hearing these words of Bhishma his father said.

39-40. Shantanu said:—Hear, O sinless descendant of Bharata, I will describe in brief the origin of the Pitris and the fruits of Sraddhas. Do you hear with a concentrated mind the object of performing Sraddhas for the Pitris. The sons of the Prime Deity are known in heaven as Pitris.

41. The gods, Asuras, men, Yakshas, Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras and huge serpents, dedicate offerings to them.

42. Propitiated by Sraddhas they please the world with the gods and the Gandharvas—such is the command of Brahma.

43. Therefore, "O great one, worship them with excellent Sraddhas. They grant all desired-for objects and they will encompass your well-being.

44. When you will worship them by reciting their names and families, we also, O Bharata, will be welcomed by them in heaven.

45-46. Markandeya will explain to you the remaining portion. O descendant of Bharata, this ascetic, devoted to his father and having a knowledge of atman, is present to-day at the Sraddha for extending his favour unto me. Ask him, O great one, about this." Saying this he disappeared.

Footnotes and references:


An oblation to deceased ancestors as a ball or lump of meat or rice mixed up with milk curds, flowers etc and offered to the manes at the several Sraddhas by the nearest surviving relations.


One of the six Vedangas and comprehending the description of religious rites. It is called Kalpa Sutra.

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