The Shiva Purana (English translation)

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “description of good conduct (sadacara)” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 13 - Description of good conduct (sadācāra)

The sages said:—

1. Kindly tell us the mode of good conduct (sadācāra) whereby the sensible man quickly attains higher worlds. Please tell us about virtue and evil that cause attainment of heaven or hell.

Sūta said:—

2. A brahmin endowed with strict adherence to good conduct is perfectly wise. A brahmin learned in Vedas and of good conduct is called a Vipra. A brahmin endowed with only one of these two is a mere Dvija.

3. A brahmin following some of the prescribed rules of conduct and with a smattering of the Vedas is a Kṣatriya brahmin, at best a royal servant. Very careless in following the rules of conduct the brahmin is really a Vaiśya brahmin. One engaged in agriculture and trading activities is also likewise.

4. A brahmin ploughing the field himself is a Sūdra brahmin. One of envious and spiteful temperament is a degraded Dvija.

5. A Kṣatriya who rules over a kingdom is a “King”; others are mere Kṣatriyas. A merchant dealing in grains etc. is a Vaiśya and others of his caste are mere “Vaṇiks”

6. A person rendering service to Brahmins, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas is called a Śūdra. A working agriculturist is a Vṛṣala and the others are Dasyus.

7. It is the duty of everyone of the four castes to get up early in the morning and sit facing the east and meditate on gods. He shall then think about the various acts of virtue, of matters regarding monetary dealings, the problems connected with them, the sources of income and the items of expenditure.

8. The direction in which one casts one’s first glance on waking up indicates the good or bad that is likely to attend one on that day—the eight effects in order are—longevity, hatred, death, sin, fortune, sickness, nourishment and strength.

9. The last yāma (3 hours) of the night is called Uṣā and the latter half of it is sandhi (period of conjunction). A brahmin shall get up at that hour and answer the calls of nature.

10. It must be in a place far off from the house. It must be a covered place. He shall sit facing the north. If it is not possible due to any obstacle he can sit facing other directions.

11. He must never sit in front of water, fire, a brahmin or the idol of any god. He must screen the penis with the left hand and the mouth with the right.

12. After evacuating the bowels, the faeces should not be looked at. Water drawn out in a vessel should be used for cleaning (i.e. no one should sit inside the tank or river-water for cleaning purpose).

13. Any way no one shall enter the holy tanks and rivers dedicated to deities, manes etc. and frequented by the sages. The rectum must be cleaned with mud seven, five or three times.

14. The penis must be cleaned with mud as large as a cucumber fruit and the quantity of mud for the purification of the rectum shall be Prasṛti (half a handful). After the purification of the excretory organs, hands and feet must be washed and gargling shall be done for eight times.

15. For gargling, the water can be taken in any vessel or a wooden cup; but water shall be spit outside (not in the river or tank). Washing of the teeth with any leaf or twig must be without using the index finger and outside the water.

16. After making obeisance to the gods of water, the twice-born shall perform the ablution with mantras. Sick or weak persons shall take bath upto the neck or hips.

17. Sprinkling water upto the knees he shall perform the Mantrasnāna. He shall propitiate deities etc. sensibly with the water from the holy tank or river.

18. A washed dry cloth should be taken and worn in the form of paūcakaccha (wearing of the lower garment in a special way). In all sacred rites the upper cloth should also be used.

19-20. While taking bath in the holy river or tank, the cloth worn shall not be rinsed or beaten. The sensible man shall take it to a separate tank or well or to the house itself and beat it on a rock or on a plank to the gratification of the manes, O brahmins.

21-23. The Tripuṇḍraka[1] shall be drawn on the forehead with the Jābālaka mantra. If anyone enters water otherwise, he will surely go to hell. According to scholarly authorities the mantrasnāna is as follows: Repeating the mantra “Āpo hi ṣṭhā”[2] etc. water shall be sprinkled over the head for suppressing sins. Repeating the mantra “Yasya Kṣayāya”[3] etc. water shall be sprinkled over the joints in the legs. The order is as follows:—feet, head, chest; head, chest, feet and chest, feet, head for sprinkling with water thrice.

24. It is enough if one performs mantra snāna when one is slightly indisposed, or when there is danger from the king or when there is civil commotion, or when there is no other way or when one is about to undertake a journey.

25. He shall drink by way of Ācamana reciting the mantras from Sūryānuvāka in the morning or from Agni-Anuvāka in the evening and perform the ceremonial sprinkling in the middle.

26. O brahmins, at the end of the Japa of Gāyatrī-mantra[4] Arghya shall be offered thrice to the sun towards east and once also thereafter.

2 7. The offering of Arghya in the morning is by lifting both the hands high up; that in the midday by letting off the water through the fingers and that in the evening by letting the water over the ground facing the west.

28. In the midday the sun is to be viewed through the fingers reciting the mantra prescribed for that. The circumambulation of oneself is performed (in the prescribed manner) and the pure Ācamana (without mantras) is performed.

29-30. Sandhyā prayer performed before the prescribed time is ineffective. Hence Sandhyā shall be performed at the prescribed time. The expiatory rite for the omission of Sandhyā prayer for a day is the repetition of Gāyatrī a hundred times more than the usual number of times for ten days. If the omission is for ten days or more, Gāyatrī must be repeated for a hundred thousand times as atonement.

31-32. If one omits Sandhyā for a month one has to be re-invested with the sacred thread.[5] For the sake of prosperity deities shall be propitiated such as Īśa, Gaurī, Guha.[6] Viṣṇu. Brahmā, Candra (the moon) and Yama. Thereafter the entire rite shall be dedicated to the supreme Brahman and pure Ācamana shall be performed.

33-34. Towards the right of the holy water, in a splendid prayer hall, temple or a common Maṭha, or in a stipulated place in one’s own house, one shall sit firmly with the mind in concentration and perform the Gāyatrī Japa after due obeisance to all gods. He shall not omit the practice of the Praṇava mantra.

35-37. While practising the Praṇava he shall realise fully the identity of Jīva (the individual soul) with the supreme Brahman. The full implication of the Gāyatrī must be borne in the mind when the Japa is performed. “We pray to Brahmā, the creator of the three worlds, to Acyuta the sustainer and Rudra the Annihilator.[7] We meditate on the Self-luminary that prompts us in the activities of virtue and wisdom bestowing enjoyment and salvation, the Self-luminary that is the driving force behind the sense-organs, mind, intellect and acts of volition.” The devotee who dwells thus on the meaning constantly attains the Brahman.

38. Or if incompetent to dwell on the meaning let him at least continue the recitation of the mere mantra to keep his Brahminhood in tact. An excellent brahmin must repeat the mantra a thousand times in the morning every day.

39. Others shall repeat as many times as they can. In the midday Gāyatrī shall be repeated a hundred times; in the evening at least twenty times along with Śikhāṣṭaka [A set of eight as the tuft i.e. eight times more than stipulated.]

40-41. He shall meditate on Vidyeśa, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Īśa, Jīvātman and Parameśvara stationed in the twelve esoteric centre of the body from Mūlādhāra (basic support) to the Brahmarandhra (the mystical aperture at the crown of the head), as identical with Brahman with the conception of Soham (I am He) and continue the Japa. He shall then meditate on them as stationed outside the body as well.

42-43. From Mahat tattva (the cosmic principle) there are a thousand extraneous bodies each of which is to be passed by each mantra slowly and the Jīva must be unified with the Supreme. This is the principle on which the Japa is based. This Japa for the sake of the extraneous bodies is for two thousand times with the Śikhāṣṭaka.

44. This is the tradition regarding the Japas. Repetition for a thousand times accords Brahmahood and that for a hundred times accords the region of Indra.

45. Repetition for less number of times may guard the soul to a certain extent and bring about rebirth in the family of a brahmin. After the worship of the sun, the brahmin shall practise thus every day.

46. A brahmin who has completed one million two hundred thousand repetitions becomes a full-fledged brahmin. A brahmin who has not completed at least a hundred thousand repetitions of Gāyatrī is not authorised in Vedic rites.

47. Till he completes his seventieth year he shall follow these rules. Afterwards he can take to renunciation. After renunciation he shall repeat the Praṇava twelve thousand times in the morning every day.

48. Omissions and deficiencies of one day must be made good the next day. If the omission is continued for a month, the atonement is repetition for one hundred and fifty thousand times.

49. If the omission extends beyond this, he shall take the order of Sanyāsa afresh. Then only can the defect be fully effaced. Otherwise he is sure to fall into Raurava, the terrible hell.

50. Only the person who has a cherished desire shall endeavour for virtue and wealth and not others. A brahmin shall seek salvation and practise the ways of realising Brahman for ever.

51. From virtue wealth is derived and from wealth enjoyment. Vairāgya (non-attachment) is the outcome of enjoyment. That is to say, when one fully enjoys the pleasures by means of wealth acquired by virtuous means one comes to the stage of Vairāgya (Detached State).

52-53. If the enjoyment is through the wealth acquired by other means, the result is the increase of passion alone. Dharma is twofold: one through the sacrificial offering and the other through the body by performing ceremonial ablutions in a sacred river etc. One can earn wealth through virtue and divine form through penance.

54. A person freed from desire gains purity and by purity he acquires knowledge. There is no doubt about it. In the ages of Kṛtā, Tretā and Dvāpara penance was recommended for attaining Dharma; but in the age of Kali it is the sacrificial offering that secures Dharma for us.

55. In the Kṛta age knowledge was acquired through meditation; in the Tretā through penance; in the Dvāpara through sacrifice and now in the Kali age it is through the worship of idols.

56. The fruit is in accordance with the nature of merit and sin. Deficiency, increase, decrease etc are due to the difference in the articles employed and the part of the body and items of rites.

57. Evil is of violent character and virtue is of pleasant nature. A person becomes miserable due to evil and secures happiness on account of virtue.

58. It must be known that bad conduct leads to misery and good conduct to happiness. Hence it is the duty of everyone to acquire virtue for the sake of worldly enjoyment as well as salvation.

59. If any one regularly offers sufficient material means to a brahmin with four members in his family, for a hundred years he will remain in Brahmaloka.

60. The rite of Cāndrāyaṇa performed a thousand times yields Brahmaloka. It is the duty of a Kṣatriya to establish and sustain a thousand families.

61-63. It yields Indraloka to him. If he maintains ten thousand families he attains Brahmaloka. According to scholars in the Vedas, a man attains the region of that deity in meditation of whom he makes charitable gifts. A man devoid of wealth shall endeavour to accumulate penance and austerities. Everlasting happiness is achieved by pilgrimages to holy centres and penances. Now I shall expound the mode of acquiring wealth through pure and lawful means.

64. A brahmin shall earn wealth without cringing or exerting himself too much. He can accept monetary gifts and fees for presiding over sacrifices duly performed.

65. A Kṣatriya shall earn wealth by valorous exploits and a Vaiśya by means of agriculture and cattle-breading. The charitable gifts of wealth acquired by lawful means alone, are attended with good results.

66. Salvation is achieved by the acquisition of Perfect knowledge by every one with the blessings of the preceptor. Salvation is realisation of one’s own real form and the perfect bliss.

67. O brahmins, men realise all these things only if they cultivate the association of good people. A householder shall make charitable gifts of everything like money, grain etc.

68. A person who desires permanent welfare for himself shall give to Brahmins fruit, grain or other articles especially when the need for the same arises.

69. Water shall always be given to the thirsty. Food shall be given to the hungry and the sick. Gift of food is of four types—field, unhusked grain (or seed), uncooked food and cooked food.

70. A giver of food receives half the merit of the receiver which he accumulates till the time that food is digested or as long as the glory of lord Śiva reaches his ears.

71. The receiver of a gift must expiate for his sin by means of austerities or by making gifts to others. Otherwise he will fall into the Raurava hell.

72-73. Everyone shall set apart a third of his wealth for Dharma, another third for Vrddhi (flourishing) and the rest for his Bhoga (enjoyment). With the part intended for Dharma he shall perform the three rites of virtue viz. Nitya (daily prayers etc.), Naimittika (casual acts of piety) and Kāmya (specific rites for the fulfilment of desires). By means of the second part he shall increase his wealth. By utilising the third part he shall enjoy with restraint in pure and wholesome ways.

74. One tenth of the wealth acquired by agricultural operations must first be given in charity (before making the three-fold divisions) in order to wipe off the sin. He can utilise the rest as mentioned before. Otherwise he shall fall into Raurava.

75. Or he is sure to be evil-minded hastening towards his own certain ruin. Sensible persons acquiring much wealth by way of usury or trading activities must likewise give away a sixth of that wealth in charity (before making the threefold divisions).

76. Excellent brahmins, accepting monetary gifts from decent people, shall give away a fourth of that wealth in charity. They shall likewise give away half in charity in case of an unexpected windfall.

77. If a brahmin accepts a monetary gift from an indecent fellow he shall give away the entire amount in charity. A defiled gift shall be thrown into the sea. It is more creditable if one invites persons and makes gifts to them. One’s own enjoyment gains by it.

78. A man must give others what they beg of him according to his ability. If a thing requested for is not given he will be indebted to that extent even in his next birth.

79. A sensible person shall not proclaim others’ faults. O brahmin, whatever is seen or heard should not be spitefully repeated.

80. An intelligent man shall not speak words wounding the hearts of others. For achieving prosperity he shall perform sacred rites in the fire at dawn and at dusk.

81-82. Persons unable to perform the same, both the times, shall do so once, worshipping the sun and the fire duly. Raw rice, other food grains, ghee, fruits, bulbous roots, cooked food soaked in ghee for sacrificial rites—all these things shall be duly used as prescribed in the sacred texts. Sthālīpāka (offerings of cooked food in the vessel itself) shall be performed at the stipulated time in the manner laid down. If there is no Havya (cooked rice offering) the main sacrifice alone shall be performed.

83. Thus the daily rites have been narrated. These shall be performed always; or repeated muttering of mantra alone or the worship of the sun shall be performed.

84-85. Those who seek welfare of the soul shall do like this. A person who seeks wealth also shall do likewise. All persons devoted to Brahmayajña, worship of gods, worship of fire, reverence to preceptors and gratification of brahmins deserve to attain heaven.

Footnotes and references:


Three lines horizontally drawn over the forehead with the ash slightly pasted with water.


VS. II.50.


VS. 11.53.


Three-footed sacred mantra of the Ṛgveda well-known after its metre Gāyatrī. It is addressed to the sun (savitar) and is therefore called Sīvitrī. It runs—

“Tatsaviturvareṇyaṃ bhargo devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayat.”

—We meditate on that excellent light of the sun. May he illuminate our minds.”


It is one of the purificatory rites prescribed in the Dharma-sūtras and explained in the Gṛhyasūtras in which the boy is invested with the sacred thread and thus endowed with second or spiritual birth and qualified to learn the Veda by heart. A Brāhmin is initiated in the eighth year, a Kṣatriya in the eleventh, a Vaiśya in the twelfth; but the term could be delayed. Cf. MS. 2.36-38.


Guha, literally the mysterious one, is Kārttikeya, so called because of his mysterious birth. According to a legend he was the son of Śiva produced without the intervention of a woman. Śiva cost his seed into fire which was afterwards received by the Ganges: Kārttikeya was the result. He is therefore called as the son of Agni and Gaṅgā. When born he was fostered by the six Kṛttikas and these offering their six breasts to the child he became six-headed.


Cf. Devi Bhāg. I.3.3-4

“brahmā viṣṇuśca rudraśca trayo devāḥ sanātanāḥ |
nātaḥ parataraṃ kiñcid brahmāṇḍe'sminmahāmate ||
brahmā sṛjati lokānvai viṣṇuḥ pātyakhilaṃ jagat |
rudraḥ saṃharate kāletraya pate'tra kāraṇam ||”

also ŚP. VS. 10:

“tridhā vibhajya cātmānaṃ trailokyaṃ sampravartate |
sṛjate grasate caiva vīkṣate ca tribhissvayam ||”

The idea is often repeated in the Purāṇas.