Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes the prescribed disposal of articles of worship (dravya-vidhana) which is Chapter 5 of the English translation of the Parama Samhita, representing a manual of the Pancaratra school of Vaishnavism philosophy. These pages summarize ritualistic worship, initiation and other topics, as contained in the various Agamas belonging to the Pancaratra school

Chapter 5 - The prescribed disposal of articles of worship (dravya-vidhāna)


1. O, Bhagavan! For the purposes of worship what are the articles that are prescribed to be collected? How are they to be made clean? Please let me know.


2-3. Oneself, the place, the vessels, the darbha (the sacred grass, Poa cynosuroides), water, the image, sandal, flowers, ornaments, incense, lamp, uncrushed grain, water, food to be offered, etc., these make up, Pitāmaha!, the articles required for worship. Cleaning these first of all, offer your worship to Puruṣottama.

4. In worship, for external cleanliness a bath and the holy sip (ācamana) are prescribed. The bath, I have already described to you. I shall now describe, O, Lotus-bom, the holy sip.

5. The place at the root of the thumb is called Brāhma-tīrtha. Take three sips from this Brahmatīrtha, and then wipe off your mouth.

6. Then again sprinkle water over the left hand, and the soles of the feet; touch the heart with the palm of your hand, and the mouth with the fingers.

7. Placing on the thumb the ring finger touch the eyes with water; touch both the sides of the nose with the thumb on the fore finger.

8. Then placing on the thumb the little finger, touch both your ears. Placing on the thumb the middle finger in the same manner touch both your arms.

9-12. Then touch the navel with the thumb; with the thumb resting on all the fingers touch the head. This is what is called ācamana generally; the initiated however, should utter the pañcamantra in due order, take the sip, then wipe off the lips, making the ācamana in the same manner, and sprinkling water all over uttering the same mantra while doing so. Then begin the worship of Hari. Let the other form of ācamana be practised by the uninitiated. The bath may be by water; by earth, by sprinkling and sipping (ācamana); and a man cleanses his body both inside and out by this kind of bath. By speaking the truth and only words that please, one gains purity in speech.

13-14. Knowledge, composure, and joy bring about cleanliness of mind. That man who is always clean in the three ways described above is the person whose worship is ever pleasing to God. This is called cleaning (of the person). I shall then describe cleaning of the place.

15-16. Places used for games of dice and eating, as also those intended for evacuation, for sitting, for cremation and places occupied by Caṇḍālas, places infested by worms, places full of chaff, ashes, and bones, and places where people crowd, these are to be rejected for a place of worship.

17. Even if the ground be always clean, let it be cleaned with cow-dung which is fresh and taken out of the ground after coming from a cow.

18. The dung of a cow-calf, broken up dung, that of white colour and that in which worms have come in should be rejected. Then having sprinkled the plastered place with the astramantra leave aside the Water vessel (so far used).

19. Having washed his hands with water one who knows the mantra should rub the place over with his hand again uttering the vāyumantra, and then should sprinkle water uttering the jalamantra.

20. Uttering the mantra of eight. syllables, scatter grain. In this manner the place becomes clean for worship. Now, listen, I shall describe how to make vessels clean.

21. Wash gold and copper vessels in water soaked with, mango, and silver with soot or wood ashes.

22. Clean vessels of amalgam in water and ashes, and wash conch-shell and mother of pearl with salt.

23. Fruits, leaves, etc., with earth and water. The removal of the coating and smell ensures cleanliness in washing.

24. Fill one vessel with water mixed with sandal and flowers uttering the Pañcamantra in order; utter the Pañcopaniṣad mantra over this.

25-26. Sprinkle all the vessels with this water either together or separately. Water which is not brackish, which is clear, sweet-smelling and of good taste, which is untouched by unclean people, and in large quantity, makes all things clean for all holy work; then listen how to clean the image (b?ram).

27. For images made of metal the method for vessels of metal should be adopted. For images of stone, complete covering is prescribed for cleaning.

28-29. Similarly, for images of wood and those made of Jewels wiping completely; cleaning in this wise and collecting the required things, and having then touched the Śakra, (Śakra-Śāla, sacrificial hall, standing here for the space marked out for worship) understand that the image has become clean. For Kuśa, etc., wiping makes them clean. For other things cleanliness consists in these being unused.

30. Taking your seat with darbha (Kuśa grass) on a lower level than that of the place of worship, and wearing the darbha-ring in hand, clean the water with the Pavitra-mantra.

31-32. That sandal paste is considered best which is prepared, by mixing turmeric (kuṅkuma), aloe wood (agaru), and sandal, and grinding into a consistent paste with camphor. Else the natural red variety of sandal. Even other kinds of sandal wood are acceptable to Viṣṇu.

33-39. The following flowers, etc., are acceptable for Viṣṇu worship: Karavīra (oleander) red and white, lotus, red and white, Ketaki (Pandarus odoritissimus. Tam. Tālai), Jātimallikā (Jessamine), Utpala (water-lily) of 3 colours, Tagara (Tabernaemontana coronaria: Tam Nandiyā-vaṭṭai), Campaka (Michelia champaca), Droṇa (Tam. Tumbil),. Vānīra (Cane reed) (Calamus rotang: Tam. Vanji), Śamyaka (Cassia fistula, Tam. Koṅṛai), Śvetārka (white Calotropis Gigantea, Tam. Eṛukku), Kuṭaja (Koraiya; Tam. Pālai), Kandali (sweet potato: Tam. a kind of vaḷḷi-root), Vakula (Mimusops elengi: Tam Makilam), Tulasi (basil), Navamallika (double jessamine, Tamil: Iruvātehi), Asana (yellow Sal, T. Vengai), Tāla (Palm, Tam. Panai), Tamāla (Xantrocymus pictorius), Maruta (Trigonella eoruculata, Tam. Nākai), Śami (Acacia suma), Punnāga (Rottleria. T. Pinnai), Vaṃśa Punnāga (Kṣudra Punnāga), Mālati (Jessamine with large flowers. Tam. Jāti), Śveta Kumuda (white-lily), Devadāru (Pinus devadaru), Utpala (water-lily, 2 kinds), Kovidāra (mountain ebony), Nāga (Mesua ferrea, Tam. Śirunāgai), Sadā-bhadra (Deva-dāru or Kadamba), Priyaṅguka (Saffron), Bilva (Aegle marmelos, Tam. Vilva), Navamālā (a kind of Jessamine), Kayāhastī, 2 kinds, Āvira ([?]), Karṇikāra (Pentapetes auripolia [Pentapetes acerifolium?], T. Kongu), Vaiṣṇavī, Śaṅkha-puṣpikā, Kambu-puṣpika (Physalis flexuosa), Aśoka (2 kinds, Ionesia Āśoka, another name of Vakula), Kunda (a kind of Jessambe), Gandhapūrṇa (a kind of ketaki), Sepālika (Nebari, Tam. Karunocchil), Kurevaka (Barleria cristata, Tam. Kurinji), Pīta-koraṇḍa (Nandyāvarta, 2 kinds, Tamemae montana coronaria, Tam. Nandiyāvaṭṭai), Kṣudra ketaka (small ketaki). These are the flowers to be gathered for the worship of Viṣṇu (Puruṣottama).

40. Worship Him with day-flowers by day, and night-flowers by night. In times of emergency use whatever is available, the earlier mentioned being superior to those that follow.

41. First half is too corrupt for translation. Flowers not to be used, should be avoided even on occasions of emergency.

42-44. Flowers not to be used even on occasions of emergency: These are Koraṇḍa Kṛṣṇavarṇa (Koraṇḍa, Carissu Caraṇḍas, Tam. Kiḷa), Kapittha: (wood apple, Tam. Viḷā), Harikarṇikā (Cassia fistula and Calotropis gigantea), Ajñavibhītaka (Beleric myrobalanTerminalia belerica, Tam. Śami), Siriṣa (Mimosa Siriṣa, Tam. Vākai), Madayantika (Arabian jessamine, Tam. Mallikai), Nirgundi (Vitex trifolia, Tam. Nocchil), Sindhuvāra (Vitex trifolia, and etc), Kiṃśuka (Butea frondosa, Tam. Murukkai) Śālmali (silk cotton, Bombea heptaphyllum, Tam Ilavu), Japā (China rose, Hibiscus rose Tinensis, Tam. Śevvarattai), Ārka (Calotropis gigantea, Tam Erukku), Kanakamatha (Thorn apple, Datura metel and Fastuosa, several varieties, Tam. Ūmattai), Karanja (Galidupa arbores, Tam. Pungai), Viṣapādapa (Viṣapuṣpaka, Vangueria spinosa, Tam. Kānjori variety), Bandhūka (Pentapetes phoenicea, Tam. Mechi tilakam), Mādhavī (Banisteria bengalensis, Tam. Kurukkatti), Nīpa (Nanoba cordifolia, Tam. Peruṃkaḍambu), Arjuna (River Sāl tree, Tam. Āttu-marāmaram), Pāṭala (Bignonia suaveolens, Tam. Pādari), Caudāka [puṣpa?] (cloves), Śātaka, Atabu (long gourd, Cucurbita lagenaria, Tam. Śurai), Śigru (Hesparanthera murunga, Tam. Pū-murungai).

45-47. Those mentioned above among tree-and creeper-flowers should be avoided under all circumstances. Flowers broken, those in the bud or dried up, and those kept beyond time, those fallen on the ground or strung in bunches, fallen down and those kept on the floor, those remaining after part has been used, those faded, those touched by forbidden people; these flowers, though recommended for use, should be avoided even in times of emergency. Having washed your hands in water, gather flowers in a holder.

48. A wise man will place these afterwards in a cool place. Barley, moung, panic seed (T. tinai), linseed, none of these is acceptable for any worship.

49. Hariyāli grass (dhūrva), Bhūstṛṇa (Andropogon schae-nanthva, T. mattakāypul), Black pulse; of these gather the shoots provided these are green, have their ends intact and unbroken, for use in worship.

50. Leaves and shoots which are inauspicious should be avoided. Among roots lāmajja (root of Viraṇa grass: Tam. ilāmacchai) is very acceptable to the Supreme Soul.

51. Incense made from Devadāru. mixed with sandal and agaru, in fire without smoke, should be offered at worship.

52. Sāl sarjarasa (Vatica robusta, Tam. narumāmaram also marāmaram), Daṇḍa (Nāgasāra of Hedysarum lagopodioides), mixed artificial agaru and free from animal products of any kind, may be offered in a vessel for incense.

53. Lamps lighted with cow’s ghee, or fresh oil, with wick made of cotton thread should be used at worship; it should not be lighted in fire made by blowing through the mouth.

54. Silk cloth, either white (dukūla) or golden (kṣauma), or stuff woven of fine cotton thread, new and smoked with incense, should be offered to the deity.

55. The jewels to be used for the deity should be made of gold and jewels. Jewels with flaws, and those used by human beings should be avoided altogether.

56. Rice contaminated with animal remains, chaff, ashes, bones, pieces of wood or stone, with any omission or break in the process of purification, should be rejected (for use in the course of worship).

57. Offer gruel mixed with sugar (to God) prepared from rice, white as jessamine flower, clear moon, pearl and chank, well prepared from the Sāli variety of paddy and washed six times over.

58. Flour of śāli or “Sixty day’s” rice, wheat, barley, green pulse, uncontaminated by either kind of salt, and with a plentiful admixture of ghee, may be offered as food.

59. Food and other eatables should not be too warm or cold; food under-cooked and over-cooked, or not properly cooked, should be avoided.

60. All seasonal ripe fruits, sweet and free from worms etc., may be offered in worship at proper times.

61. Ghee, made from cow’s milk by boiling with juicy leaves, and carefully filtered should be used. It should be made fresh each time and accepted for use only after boiling it over fire.

62. Cleaning the vessel with touch of ghee first, divide the food put in it in two parts, and then putting over it a few drops of ghee again, offer the food.

63. Worship attendant deities with sandal and flowers; worship with offer of water and food should be reserved only for the deity.

64-66. Sticks of PalāśaAśvattaPlakṣaNyagrodha and other trees exuding juice, 12 inches in length, with unbroken ends should be offered at the fire, uttering the Pīṭha-mantra. In rites to bring about death, use sticks which are not straight, have smell and thorns, and are split; those obtained from poisonous trees, those which are quite dried up and have holes in them. Idhma (sticks thrown into the fire) should be one hasta (span) long. Paridhi (placed round the fire) one bāhu (one cubit).

67. (These articles, etc.) must have been grown by oneself with pouring of water, or obtained from a temple of Viṣṇu. These must be one’s own and auspicious to be used for worship.

68. (One who thus worships) carries the recollection of his good works through seven further births, and the result of the good deeds suffers no harm at any time.

69-72. Then (ultimately) one reaches the station where one experiences no sorrow or suffering. He who worships Janārdana with articles of worship given by others, whether for obtaining wealth or fame, his labour does him no good. Those who give of their wealth for worship of God, become entitled to their share when the worship is properly completed. Therefore making every effort to use a part at least of what you have earned in worship of God; never use wealth earned by others even on occasions of calamity.

73. If the articles of worship specified above should not be available, then offer worship with flowers alone. If even these should be unavailable then use water for worship. If even water should fail, offer your worship mentally.

74. If you are absorbed in making wealth, then get another Vaiṣṇava at least, to offer worship for you. A wise man would never break his fast without having offered worship to God.

75. Those who will not take food or drink, without having offered worship before, will find nothing unattainable in this world or in the other.

76. Whatever you do, do with clean things from day to day, and with devotion; that is really pleasing to Viṣṇu.

77. In this manner, I have described to you in brief, the articles of worship, the method of their purification (and the manner of worship?). O, Padmaja (lotus-born)! What would you have me to expound to you now.

In the Parama Saṃhitā of the Pāñcarātra, Chapter V, entitled “the prescribed disposal of articles of worship.”