The Shiva Purana (English translation)

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

This page relates “fruits of righteous war” 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 21 - The fruits of righteous war

Vyāsa said:—

1-2. Brahminhood is difficult to be achieved. Brahmin is born of the face of Śiva; Kṣatra, of the arms; Vaiśya of the thighs and Śūdra of the feet of the lord—so says the Veda.[1] But do people attain salvation from the lower position? Please tell me.

Sanatkumāra said:—

3. O Kāleya, men fall off their status due to evil deeds. Hence, after attaining the high status, the learned man shall preserve it.

4. He who forsakes brahminhood and is born as a Kṣatriya falls off the status of a brahmin and assumes the status of a Kṣatriya.

5. Due to his resorting to evil, the foolish fellow goes on changing thus. He takes thousands of births and plunges himself into gloom.

6. Hence after attaining the highest status one should not err or destroy it. Even in the face of adversity one shall always preserve his status.

7. After attaining the auspicious brahminhood if a person disrespects brahminhood and does not differentiate between what could be eaten and what could not be eaten he becomes a Kṣatriya.

8. I shall explain to you entirely that which gives a higher caste whereby an intelligent Śūdra becomes a Vaiśya.

9. Being born a Śūdra, one shall take up the duties of Śūdra as ordained, viz, the due service to the people of the other three castes.

10-15. By doing this regularly and aspiring for Vaiśya-hood, even a Śūdra attains it, A Vaiśya who uses his wealth for sacred rites, who performs sacrifices duly, who performs the Agnihotra and partakes of the remnants of food therefrom, is reborn in a Kṣatriya family. There is no doubt in this. He is born as a Kṣatriya by means of consecrated sacrifices with proper gifts. A Kṣatriya shall do like this. He shall study the Vedas desirous of heaven. He shall maintain the three sacrificial fires. He shall wash his hands and feet before entering shrines. He shall protect the earth virtuously. He shall cohabit with his wife during the prescribed period after the monthly menses. He shall remain devout and pious. He shall be hospitable to all. He shall fight and get killed in battle for acquiring facilities to achieve the three aims of life (virtue, wealth and love) to all living beings or for the sake of cows and brahmins. Thus when his soul is purified by fires and mantras he becomes a brahmin. After becoming a brahmin, if he follows the rules he becomes a priest in a sacrifice.

16. Strictly observing his rites, speaking truth and controlling the sense-organs he derives vast pleasures of heaven. He becomes a favourite of the gods.

17-18. O great sage, brahminhood is very difficult to achieve. It is attained by men who undergo hardships. Salvation is achieved after attaining brahminhood entirely. Hence a brahmin shall be virtuous. With great effort he shall preserve his excellent brahminhood which is a good means of achieving all the aims of life.

Vyāsa said:—

19. O excellent sage, you have mentioned about the glory. O foremost among the eloquent, I wish to hear this. Please mention.

Sanatkumāra said:—

20-21. Those who know the principles, who understand sacrifices and sacred rites say thus—“By performing the Agniṣṭoma and other sacrifices with profuse gifts one does not attain that benefit which is attained through battle.” Hence I shall explain to you the fruit attained by those who maintain themselves by means of weapons.

22-24, The hero who offers battle subduing the army of the enemy attains virtue, wealth and fame. He achieves the fruit of a sacrifice with due gifts and the three aims of life, virtue, wealth and love. He who faces the enemy, kills him and gets on to the enemy’s chariot goes to Viṣṇuloka. He who is not defeated in war, nor killed in it attains the fruit of four horse-sacrifices.

25. He who dies in the war-front without surrendering his weapons attains heaven from which there is no return.

26. The king, or prince or the general who heroically fights and is killed by Kṣatriya attains everlasting regions.

27. He attains as many worlds as the number of his hairs split by arrows in the battle. All of these will be wish-yielding and eternal.

28. O Vyāsa, both here and hereafter he will have heroic seat, heroic bed, heroic status and heroic stability always.

29. Those who die for the protection of cows, brahmins, status and the master go happily to the other world like virtuous persons.{GL_NOTE::}

30. Even a slayer of a brahmin fighting for his master in a battle and dying there attains heaven which becomes his permanent abode.

31. The goal realised by the person who dies for the brahmins, cows and his master, being killed by carnivorous beasts or tusked beasts is excellent. It yields him extensive and never-ending benefits.

32. A man may be competent to perform hundreds of sacrifices, but it is very difficult to renounce his own body in a righteous war.

33. A righteous war is conducive to the attainment of heaven. It is sanctifying. It makes known the multi-faced beauty of a man. This is the case with the people of all castes,[2] particularly so in the case of a Kṣatriya.

34. Now I shall explain clearly the eternal virtue concerning war, as to who can be attacked and hit and who shall be spared.

35. Even if a brahmin well-versed in Vedānta doctrine were to attack one violently with lethal weapons one can fight him in return. He will not become guilty of brahminicide thereby. [3]

36. Even a murderer shall not be attacked and killed if he is thirsty and begs for water. O Vyāsa, by killing the sick and the distressed even in battle a man becomes guilty of brahminicide.

37. One becomes a murderer of a brahmin by killing the sick, the feeble, the child, the hen-pecked, the miserly and one whose bow or bowstring is broken.

38. After considering all this, an intelligent man shall strenuously indulge in battles. He will achieve the purpose of his life and rejoice here and hereafter.

Footnotes and references:


Cp. Rv. X. 90.12.


Cp Pañcatantra Mitrabheda 208, 424.


According to the laws of the caste as laid down in the Dharmaśāstras, the profession of fighting is assigned exclusively to the people of Kṣatriya caste. But ŚP. probably following the contemporary practice allows it for all the castes.


Cp. Manu viii, 350, 351.