The Shiva Purana (English translation)

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

This page relates “great sins (maha-papa)” 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 5 - The Great Sins (mahā-pāpa)

Note: Manu differs in regard to the number of sins (pāpa) arising from the misuse of the mind, tongue and body. According to him the sins of the mind are three, those of the speech are four and the those of the body are three (Manu 12.5).

Vyāsa said:—

1. O holy lord, son of Brahmā, obeisance be to you. Please describe those living beings who are engaged in sins causing their fall into great hells.

Sanatkumāra said:—

2. I describe to you in brief the living beings who are engaged in sins that cause their fall into great hells. Listen attentively.

3. Pondering over other men’s wives and wealth, wishing for the ill of others mentally, conception of various evil actions and ardent longing for various mean acts, these are the four types of mental activity.

4. Unconnected jabber, untruthful utterance, displeasing words and backbiting, these are the four types of verbal activity.

5. Eating forbidden food, violence, wild goose chase and pilfering of other’s property, these are the four types of physical activity.

6. Thus there are twelve types of activity intended to achieve three aims. I shall explain their further subdivisions, the results of which are endless and manifold.

7. Very great is the sin of those who hate lord Śiva who enables people to cross the ocean of worldly existence. They are sure to be immersed in the ocean of hell.

8. Those who censure the propounder of Śiva’s perfect knowledge, ascetics, preceptors or parents are mad. They fall into the ocean of hell.

9-10. The following six are the great sins attended with endless evil results, viz:—censure of Śiva, censure of the preceptor, censure of Śiva’s perfect knowledge, misappropriation of the wealth of the lord, destruction of the wealth of brahmins and the foolish stealing of the sacred text of Śiva’s perfect knowledge.

11-22. The following too are great sins and those who commit them are great sinners. Those who do not take delight on seeing a well-arranged worship of Śiva, who do not bow to or eulogise it on seeing his phallic image that is worshipped, those who do not scrub, clean and sanctify the spot of worship during festival days; those who do not duly cooperate with the preceptor in their sacred rites; those who misbehave as they please, play about mischievously and do not render service in front of Śiva or in the presence of the preceptor; those who eschew Śaiva course of conduct and discipline, those who hate Śiva’s devotees; those who begin to study or write about Śiva’s knowledge without worshipping; those who give without justice or justification; those who listen or recite indiscriminately; those who sport about covetously; those who pursue false knowledge or do not have proper rules and regulations; those who lie down and sleep in dirty uncleaned spots; he who abuses Śiva’s story and knowledge and begins to expatiate on other things; he who does not speak the truth; he who does notmake gifts; he who is bodily impure and begins to explain or listen to Śiva’s story in an unclean place; he who begins to listen without worshipping the preceptor; he who does not render service to him or pay heed to his behests with devotion; he who does not support the preceptor’s statement; he who retorts to his preceptor; he who conveniently ignores the most difficult task of his preceptor; he who deserts his preceptor when he is in distress, or when he is unable to maintain the disciple, or when he has gone abroad or when he is attacked by enemies; he who treats with contempt the teacher of virtuous activities and ability to discourse; he who disrespects the teacher’s wife, son or friends. O excellent sage, these activities are as sinful as censure of Śiva.

23. The murderer of a brahmin, the addict to wine, the habitual thief, the defiler of the preceptor’s bed and he who associates with these is the great sinner fifth in all.[1]

24. He who kills a brahmin out of fury, greed, fear or hatred or uses heart-rending taunts becomes the slayer of a brahmin.

25. He who invite? a brahmin and makes him some gift but later on takes it back and criticises him and rebukes him without any fault is the slayer of a brahmin.

26. He who, being arrogant of his gift of learning, puts to shame any good brahmin keeping silence and indifferent in the assembly is also a brahmin-slayer.

27. He who pretends to have the qualities he does not have and gains recognition for the same and he who conceals his bad attributes is a brahmin-slayer.

28. He who hinders cows when bulls mate with them or brahmins when they seek preceptors is called a brahmin-slayer.

29. He who forcibly occupies the land given in support of the temples, brahmins or cows, though the lease might have lapsed due to efflux of time, is called a brahmin-slayer.

30. The misappropriation of the wealth of the deity or a brahmin and wealth earned through injustice js no less than the sin of slaying a brahmin undoubtedly.

31. If a brahmin learns the Vedas and acquires knowledge of Brahman and Śiva, but eschews it later on he commits a sin equal to that of drinking wine.

32. The abandonment of sacred rites, worships and the five daily sacrifices,[2] after performing the same for some time is attended with a sin equal to that of the drinking wine.

33-35. These are terrible sins (pāpa) like the murder of a brahmin:—abandonment of parents, perjury, lying to brahmins, flesh-eating in regard to the devotees of Śiva, eating forbidden food, killing of innocent living beings in the forest, failure to use for charitable purpose the funds left by good men for the sake of brahmins and committing of arson in the forest or village or in the pathway of cows.

36-40. The following sins are equal to the theft of gold:—The forfeiture of the entire property of a poor man; the selling of these by a brahmin knowingly done except in a grave emergency—man, woman, elephant, horse, cow, land, silver, cloth, medicinal herbs, juices (or quicksilver) sandal paste, Aguru, camphor, musk, silk garments etc. and misappropriation of deposits kept in trust. The following are sins on a par with that of defiling teacher’s bed—the non-disposal of marriageable daughters by giving them in marriage to deserving hushands, having sexual intercourse with the wives of sons and friends or with the sisters, raping virgins; cohabitation with an intoxicated woman or a woman of one’s own caste. These are the great sins (mahā-pāpa) I have mentioned. Now listen to the minor sins.

Footnotes and references:


Cp. Manu 11.54 (?).


See P. 1123 note.