The Shiva Purana (English translation)

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

This page relates “rite of sacrifice” 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 27 - The rite of sacrifice

Upamanyu said:—

1-2. I shall mention the sacrificial rites in the fire to be performed in sacred pits, or raised ground or in altar Fire shall be taken in an iron vessel or a fresh mud pot in accordance with the injunctions and transferred to the actual place of sacrifice. After due consecration he shall propitiate the lord and commence sacrifice.

3. The pit may be one or two Hastas wide. The altar shall be made in the form of a circle or a square.

4. In the altar he shall make the eight-petalled lotus. It shall be two or four Aṅgulas high above the altar.

5-6. The navel within the altar shall be two Vitastis high One Aṅgula is the distance between the middle and the first knot in the middle finger. Twenty-four such Aṅgulas constitute a Hasta. Three, two or only one Mekhalā (circular girdle) shall also be made.

7-8. The altar shall be made with smooth clay. In the middle of the Mekhalā to the west or south the passage shall be made like the leaf of the Aśvattha tree or like the lower lip of an elephant. It shall be beautifully made slightly lower than the fire. It shall close in gradually.

9-10. The Mekhalā shall be left out a little where it faces the pit. There is no stipulated height for the altar. It shall be made of clay or sand. The circular ground shall be smeared with cowdung and water. The measurement of the basin is not stipulated. The Kuṇḍa shall be made of clay. The altar shall be smeared with cowdung and water.

11. The vessel shall be washed and warmed in fire The sacrificial material shall be sprinkled with water. The devotee shall draw lines on the pit etc. in the manner prescribed in his own branch of learning.

12. The scat of fire shall be made after due sprinkling, with Darbhas or flowers. He shall gather the material for the purpose of worship and sacrifice.

13-15. Things to be washed shall be washed and to be sprinkled shall be sprinkled and purified. Then he shall fetch fire in a supporting vessel. The fire may be one produced from crystals, lens etc. or from wood. It shall be brought from the house of a Vedic scholar. It shall be whirled round the sacrificial pit thrice repeating the Bīja mantra of the fire. The fire shall be placed in its seat through the passage or straight in front.

16-18. Seated near the passage the devotee shall survey the fire and think that the internal fire stationed in his umbilicus has risen in the form of flames and has merged in the external fire in the form of a disc. The expert devotee shall repeat the basic mantra in the manner prescribed in his Sūtra and shall perform the rites of Anvādhāna[1] and Ājyasaṃskāra. To its south he shall worship the idol of Śiva, perform the rite of Mantranyāsa with the butter and show the Mudrā of cow.

19-20. The sacrificial spoons shall be metallic but not of bell metal, iron or lead. These shall be made of sacrificial wood as mentioned in Smṛtis and approved by artisans. The leaves of the Brahmā tree shall be holeless. They shall be raised in the middle.

21-22. The leaves shall be scrubbed with Darbhas, warmed in the fire, then sprinkled with water in the manner prescribed in his Sūtra, repeating the name of Śiva. He shall then make offering to the fire with the eight Bīja mantras. The seven Bījas for the seven flames are respectively Bhrum, Stum, Brum, Śrum, Pum, Ḍrum and Drum.

23-24. The middle tongue has three flames. The flame in the east is yellow. The flame in the south-east is red; that in the south-west is black and the other one is refulgent. As its name implies it is brilliant. It is the flame in the northwest.

25-26. After repeating their Bīja mantras the tongues shall be mentioned and the rite concluding with Svāhā performed in due order. The Ājya shall be used for Āhuti with the mantras of the tongues one by one. In the middle he shall perform three Āhutis repeating ‘Ram Vahnyeti Svāhā’ either with ghee or with sacrificial twigs. Then the rite of Pariṣecana shall be performed.

27. When this is performed it becomes fire of Śiva. The devotee shall conceive it as the seat of Śiva. The lord shall be invoked there and worshipped, in the half-male and half-female form. After sprinkling everything ending with the light he shall perform the sacrifice with the sacrificial twigs.

28-29. The sacrificial twigs shall consist of Palāśa or other trees worthy of sacrifice. They shall be twelve Aṅgulas in length. They shall not be crooked. They shall not be dry by themselves. The bark shall be intact, even and without cuts. Or they shall be ten Aṅgulas in length, as thick as the small finger or they may be of the length of Prādeśa.[2] If they are not available any kind of twig shall be offered in the fire.

30. The Ājya Āhuti shall be made with the leaf four Aṅgulas wide, shaped in the form of a Dūrvāpatra. Afterwards, cooked rice of the size of an Akṣa shall be offered.

31. Fried grains, mustard seeds, barleys, gingelly seeds, foodstuffs soaked in ghee etc. shall be offered if possible.

32. The number of Āhutis shall be ten, five or three according to capacity. It is enough even if one Āhuti is made.

33. The butter shall be offered with the wooden spoon and the articles with the wooden ladle or with hand. The Homa shall be performed at the divine or saintly spot.

34. If full articles are not available only one material shall be offered with devotion. As an expiation he shall perform three Āhutis repeating the mantra.

35-36. He shall fill the Sruk with the ghee that has been left after Homa and put a flower on it. The Sruva shall be placed above it upside down along with the Darbha. Through the root of the Darbha the ghee shall fall in drops of the size of a barley grain repeating the mantra ending with Vauṣaṭ.

37. Performing the Pūrṇāhuti he shall perform the rite of sprinkling water. He shall ritualistically dismiss the lord and preserve the fire.

38-42. Or it can also be discharged and placed in the umbilicus of the altar and worshipped everyday. Or, bringing the fire along the path prescribed in Śaivite scriptures it shall be conceived as torn of the womb of the goddess of speech, consecrated duly and worshipped. Sacrificial fuels shall be put on the fire again and the sacred sticks laid round the fire covered with a cloth. The vessels shall be placed in pairs. Śiva shall be worshipped then. After purifying the Prokṣaṇī vessel the vessels shall be sprinkled with the water. The Praṇītā vessel shall be filled with the water and placed in the north-east. Then come the rites concluding with the consecration of ghee. After the Sruk and Sruva are purified, the rites of Garbhādhāna Puṃsavana and Sīmantonnayana[3] shall be performed with the rites of Homa in each case. Then he shall think of the fire as born.

43-45. Agni shall be conceived in the form of having three feet, seven hands, four horns, two heads and three eyes, as tawny as honey, having the matted hair, with the moon for his crest, of red colour, red garments and red unguents, bedecked in garlands and ornaments, richly equipped with all characteristics, having the sacred thread and three girdles, holding the Sruk and Sruva in the right hand, iron club, fan and the vessel of ghee in the other.

46-50. After meditating on the fire thus with these features he shall perform post-natal rites. The umbilical cord shall be removed and the purificatory rite for the post-natal pollution shall be performed. The rite of naming shall be performed by giving him the title of Śivāgni with due Āhuti. The rite of ritualistic dismissal of the parents as well as of tonsure, sacred thread shall be performed till the end of Āptoryāma. As a consecratory rite the Homa of ghce-pouring shall be performed. Agni shall be conceived as Sviṣṭakṛt. With the Bīja mantra “Raṃ” the water shall be sprinkled all round. The worship of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva, Īśa and of their miraculous missiles shall be performed in due order. Then for the sake of incense and lamp, fire shall be taken out by the expert devotee.

51-52. The devotee shall collect the materials of worship, ghee etc., think of the seat of the lord and the goddess, invoke them in the fire and perform the rites until the Pūrṇāhuti. Or the devotee following the Śaivite conduct of life shall perform the rites in fire as prescribed in his scriptural code dedicating the same to Śiva. There is no other injunction there.

53-54. The ashes from Śivāgni shall be collected and preserved. Similarly the ashes of Agnihotra rite or from the fire connected with the celebration of marriage. The fire shall be ripe, pure and sweet-smelling. The dung shall be of the cow, tawny in colour. It is commendable if collected as it falls from the cow before it reaches the ground.

55. If he collects the dung that has already fallen or the ground the upper and the lower portions shall be eschewed. The dung shall not be too watery nor too solidified nor dried up It shall not emit foul smell.

56-58. It shall be made into balls and the balls shall be consigned to Śivāgni or other types of fires repeating the basic mantra. The portions over-burnt or under-burnt shall be eschewed and the white ashes shall be gathered and ground into powder. It shall be preserved in receptacles made of metals, wood, clay or stone or any other material. The receptacle of water shall be pare. It shall be kepi in a pure auspicious, even place and guarded like valuable wealth.

59. It shall not be handed to any undeserving person. It shall not be kept or thrown in any unholy place. If the hands or limbs are dirty it shall not be touched. It shall not be neglected nor shall one jump over it.

60. Hence after taking the ashes it shall be utilised with the mantras on occasions previously mentioned and not otherwise. It shall not be given to others.

61. The ashes shall be collected before the ritualistic dismissal of the lord. After the rite of the ritualistic dismissal it becomes Caṇḍabhasma.

62. After the rites in the fire have been concluded he shall perform the oblation rite according to the injunctions in the Śaivite scriptures or as mentioned in his own Sūtra.

63. Then after conceiving the scat of Vidyā on the well-smeared Maṇḍala he shall install the sheath of Vidyā and worship the same with flowers etc. in due order.

64. In front of the seat of Vidyā, the seat of the preceptor too shall be conceived. After assigning the seat there, he shall worship the preceptor with flowers etc.

65. Thereafter the venerable persons shall be worshipped and the hungry shall be fed. The devotee shall take the wholesome food at leisure, comfortably.

66-67. What has been offered as Naivedya or what is left over he shall partake of, with full faith and not out of covetousness. It shall be for the purity of the Ātman. Out of covetousness he shall not partake of what is offered to Caṇḍa. The injunctions about scents, garlands etc. are the same. But the expert devotee shall not have the conception “I am Śiva”.

68. After taking meals he shall perform Ācamana and meditate upon Śiva in the heart repeating the basic mantra. He shall spend the leisure thereafter in discussing Śaivite philosophy and legends.

69. At night he shall perform worship and then make out bed for Śiva and Śivā.

70. He shall offer mentally or physically various foodstuffs, garments, unguents flower-garlands, etc. all performed in a charming way.

71. The devotee shall go to bed at the feet of the lord and the goddess. The householder shall sleep there with his wife. Others shall sleep alone.

72-73. He shall wake up before dawn and utter the first Mātrā. After bowing mentally to the lord accompanied by Ambā and his Gaṇas he shall attend to his morning duties. After washing himself he shall awaken the lord and the goddess by the divine sounds of conch and other instruments.

74. He shall perform the worship of Śiva and Śivā by means of fresh blown fragrant flowers and begin the rites as mentioned before.

Footnotes and references:


It is the rite of depositìng fuel on the sacred fire.


I.e. from ṃe tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger with both of them stretched.


On the Saṃskāras Garbhādhāna, Puṃsavana, Sīmantonnayana. Jātakarma, Nāma-karaṇa, Caula and Upanayana (verses 42. 46. 17) see ‘Hindu Saṃskāras’.