The Brahmanda Purana

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | 319,243 words | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes propitiation of pitris which is Chapter 9 of the English translation of the Brahmanda Purana: one of the oldest puranas including common Puranic elements such as cosmogony, genealogy, ethics, geography and yoga. Traditionally, the Brahmandapurana is said to consist of 12,000 verses metrical Sanskrit verses.

Chapter 9 - Propitiation of Pitṛs

Summary: Rules and Regulations regarding the Ritual concerning Pitṛs.

The Sages Said:

1. Bhavānī had been Satī in the previous birth as the daughter of Dakṣa. How was she born for the second time as Umā?

2. The king of the mountains begot her of Menā, the daughter of the Pitṛs. Who are these Pitṛs of whom Menā became the mental daughter?

3-4. Who are those beings called Pitṛs whose grandson was Maināka and whose granddaughters were Umā, Ekaparṇā, Ekapāṭalā and Gaṅgā the most excellent one among the rivers? Who was the eldest of all the daughters of Himālaya? All this has been desired to be pointed out by you. Narrate it to us.

5-7. Good fortune to you. I wish to hear the excellent injunction regarding Śrāddha.[1] Who are laid down in Smṛtis as their sons and how are they Pitṛs (manes). How were they born? What were their names? Of what nature are they? Are these Pitṛs who are deities unto the Devas, in heaven? Thus I wish to understand the excellent creation of the Pitṛs and how the Śrāddha performed by us propitiates the Pitṛs.

8. What is regarded (in Smṛtis) as the reason why they (Pitṛs) are not visible? What (type of) Pitṛs stay in the heaven and what type in the hell?

9-12. How do these Śrāddhas proceed to the Pitṛs, the Śrāddhas that are offered after uttering the names of the father, father’s father and great-grandfather against the three Piṇḍas (Rice-balls)? How are they if stationed in the hell, capable of bestowing benefits? Who are these beings named Pitṛs? Whom shall we worship again? We have heard that the Devas also worship the Pitṛs in the heaven. I wish to hear in detail although it has been heard of many times and the designations are also very clear. It behoves you to recount it.

Sūta Said:—

13-15. I shall tell you in detail in accordance with my intellect and what has been heard by me. The Pitṛs, the sons of the Devas are born in (all) the Manvantaras. Those who have gone and those who are yet to come are the seniors and the juniors respectively. Those Pitṛs have gone by, along with the Devas in the other Manvantaras. I shall decisively recount to you those (Pitṛs) who exist now. It is Manu the Śrāddha-Deva[2] the presiding deity of Śrāddhas who will initiate the ceremony of Śrāddhas unto them.

16. Thinking that they (gods) will worship me that lord Brahmā created the Devas.[2] But they forsook him and worshipped themselves because they were desirous of the fruits (thereof).

17. They were cursed by Brahmā—“You will become deluded and devoid of consciousness. Hence, you do not know anything. Become deluded in the worlds.”

18. Again and again all of them bowed down to him and requested god Brahmā (for pardon). In order to bless the worlds, the lord spoke to them again.

19. “Make atonement as a sin of transgression has been committed by you all. Ask your sons. Therefrom you will acquire knowledge and wisdom.”

20. Thereafter, desirous of comprehending the (mode of) atonement (and to perform it) they asked their sons in secret with their selves duly well controlled.

21. To them the sons conversant with, virtue and piety and possessed of complete control of their souls, explained the different kinds of atonement of sins originating from the mind, words and actions.

22-26. Regaining their consciousness the delighted heaven-dwellers spoke to their sons—“Indeed, you are our Pitṛs (fathers)[3] because we have been enlightened by you in regard to virtue, wisdom and disinterestedness in the worldly pleasures. What boon should be given to you?”

Again Brahmā spoke to them—“Indeed, you are truthful in speech. Hence, what has been mentioned by you shall be so and not otherwise. This is what is uttered by you—your own sons have been mentioned as your Pitṛs (fathers).” They will become (your) Pitṛs. Let this boon be given to them. On account of these words of Brahmā, the Parameṣṭhin, the sons attained the status of the fathers (Pitṛtva) and the fathers attained the status of the sons. Hence, those sons are the Pitṛs. This is the status of Pitṛtva declared about them (in Dharmaśāstra).

27, After declaring in this manner the sons to be the fathers and fathers to be the sons, Brahmā said once again to the Pitṛs for the development of their selves.

28. “If anyone were to perform the Śrāddha rites with undesirable Pitṛs, the Rākṣasas and the Dānavas will attain the fruit thereof.

29. On being developed by means of the Śrāddhas, and strengthening further the imperishable moon day by day, all the Pitṛs will increase.

30. Soma, the moon god, strengthened and developed by means of the Śrāddhas, will develop the people too and the entire world along with the mountains and forests, surrounded by the mobile and immobile beings.

31. If men, desirous of nourishment and development, were to perform Śrāddhas, the Pitṛs will always bestow on them nourishment and progeny.

32-33. Those Pitṛs and Pra-pitāmahas (great grandfathers) to whom (the younger members of the family) offer three balls of rice in Śrāddha against the utterance of (i.e. mentioning) their Gotras and names are present everywhere. They strengthen the subjects (their progeny) by that offering of Śrāddha. Such a behest had been formerly declared by Brahmā the Parameṣṭhin.

34. Thereby all these viz. charitable gift, self-study of the Vedas and power of penance can be achieved. There is no doubt about this that the Pitṛs are the bestowers of wisdom on you all.

35. Thus these Pitṛs are the Devas and the Devas arc the Pitṛs. The Devas and the Pitṛs are mutually the Pitṛs (fathers) of one another.

36. On hearing these words of Brahmā from Sūta who had completely understood the Brahman (Ātman), all those sages once again asked Sūta as follows.

The Sages said:—

37. How many are the groups of Sages[4] (Muni-gaṇāḥ[4])? At what time did those groups (come into existence?). They were the ancestors and the- most excellent ones among the Devas. They were those who developed and strengthened the Soma (moon) on behalf of the Devas.

Sūta said:—

38. Unto you all, I shall relate this most excellent creation of the Pitṛs, about which Śamyu formerly asked his father Bṛhaspati.

39. The son Śamyu equipped with the good quality of modesty, put this question to Bṛhaspati who was seated nearby and who was an expert in all the subjects worthy of being known.[5]

40. “Who are these beings called Pitṛs? How many are they? What are their (respective) names? How were they born? How did they attain the status of the Pitṛs?

41. Wherefore do the Pitṛs perpetually nurture and develop the Yajña? All the holy rites of noble souls have the Śrāddha rite at the outset (why is it so?).

42. To whom are the Śrāddha offerings to be given? What is the great benefit when they are offered? What are those holy centres and rivers where Śrāddha performance is everlasting in merit.

43. What are those places where an excellent Brāhamaṇa attains everything after performing Śrāddha? What is the prescribed hour for the rite of Śrāddha? What is the injunction that governs it?

44. O holy lord, I wish that what has been enquired by me is explained in detail and in the proper sequence.”

45. Bṛhaspati of great intellect, who was asked thus, explained the problem very well and in the due order as he was the most excellent one among those who could unravel questions and problems.

Bṛhaspati said:—

46. “O dear one, I shall explain the solemn excellent question which you, with due propriety, ask me with proper humility.

47-48. None of these was in existence then, none—viz. the heaven, the ether the earth, the stars, the (four) quarters, the sun, the moon, the day and night. The universe was in complete darkness. Brahmā, who was the sole Being (in existence) performed a very austere penance difficult for others to perform.”

49. Once again, Śamyu spoke to his father who was the most excellent one among persons conversant with Brahman, who had mastered and performed all the Vedic rites and who was the most excellent among those who know everything that should be known. “Of what sort was the penance which Prajāpati, the lord of all living beings, performed?”

Bṛhaspati replied:—

50. He performed that penance which is the most excellent one among all kinds of penance (which is called) Yoga. Meditating and contemplating, the holy lord created the worlds then by means of that Yoga.

51. The knowledge and wisdom of the living beings of the past and future, the worlds, all the Vedas, and the immortal Yogas were created then by Brahmā who is the eye of the worlds.

52. Those worlds are called Santānaka. It is in them that the brilliant ones well known as Vairāja gods abide. They are the gods of the gods in the heaven.

53. Even as the outset, Lord Brahmā, equipped with the power of Yoga and penance had created the Devas, the eternal ones, endowed with Yogic potentiality.

54. They are well known as Ādidevas (the primordial Devas). They have great inherent strength and vigour. They are worthy of being worshipped by the Devas, the Dānavas and the human beings.

55. Among them, it is mentioned that there are seven groups honoured and respected by the three worlds. Three of them are formless (Amūrtis) and four of them are (Samūrtis) embodied ones.

56. The three sets (Bhāvamūrtis) who have conceptual forms (i.e. formless ones) are above. Beneath them are the four sets of subtle forms (Sūkṣmamūrtis).

57. Thereafter are the Devas and thereafter is this earth. This is the series of the worlds. They shower water on. this world. It is in them that the clouds take their origin.

58-61. Rice and other food-grains grow through rain, therefrom is the origin of the worlds (peoples). Since they develop and strengthen the Soma (moon) and the rice (food grains) due to their Yogic power (or by means of their contact), they call them Pitṛs (fathers) of the worlds. They are the most excellent ones in the worlds; they have the speed of the mind; they have Svadhā for their food, they have sublimated all their desires; they have got rid of greed, delusion and fear; they are devoid of cares and anxieties, they have got rid of their griefs.

After having discarded their yogic power, they have attained those worlds of very pleasant and beautiful sight. They become divine, meritorious, sinless and noble-souled. Thereafter at the end of a thousand Yugas, they become expounders of Brahman.

62-64. The Amūrtis (formless ones) attain liberation after regaining their Yogic power. After discarding Vyaktāvyakta (the manifest and the unmanifest), due to their great Yogic power, they disappear like the meteor in the sky (or) like the flash of lightning in a trice. After casting off the multitudes of the bodies through their Yogic power, they attain the state of being worthy of being worshipped and that of namelessness just as the rivers that get submerged in the ocean. By means of holy rites and worship of the preceptors, they strenuously perform Yogic exercises.

65. Propitiated in the Śrāddha, the Pitṛs adopt their yogic power and through that yogic power develop and strengthen the Soma whereby the three worlds sustain their lives.

66. Hence Śrāddhas should be offered with great effort (for the acquisition) of the yogic power. Indeed Yoga is the source of the strength of the Pitṛs. Soma (the moon) functions through the Yogic power.

67. One may feed a hundred thousand Brāhmaṇas[6] or everyone who comes (at the time of Śrāddha). But hear me, one person who is conversant with Mantras deserves all of them (i.e. feeding one knower of Mantras is on a par with feeding a hundred thousand Brāhmaṇas).

68. One may feed many of these Mantrajñas who may come (to his house). But one Snātaka (i.e. an initiated householder) who is propitiated, hear me, deserves all of them (i.e. feeding a Snātaka is on a par with feeding many Mantrajñas).

69. If a thousand Mantrajñas or a hundred Snātakas or a single master of Yoga, are fed what is taken in by them saves one from a great danger [a master of Yoga is so great that he is on par with a hundred of Snātakas etc.]

70. Yoga alone (i.e. a man equipped with Yogic power) excels a thousand householders, a hundred Vānaprasthas (forest dweller hermits) and a thousand Brahmacārins (the celibate religious students).

71. Prajāpati has said: An atheist, an evil-doer, a person mixed of castes or a thief cannot have redemption from anything else except (by offering) a charitable gift unto those who have Yogic power.

72. If the son or a grandson feeds a Dhyānin (one who meditates), the Pitṛs become delighted like the farmers who become delighted when there is plenty of rain.

73. If persons engrossed in meditation are not available one should feed a Brahmacārin. If he is not available one may feed a householder who is Udāsina (indifferent to worldly pleasures).

74. This is what is ordained by Brahmā—“A Dhyānayogin (one who meditates) is greater than one who stands on a single foot for a hundred years subsisting only on the air.

75-76. Thus this first set of Pitṛs of unmeasured vigour has been recounted. This set remains forever, sanctifying all the worlds.

Hereafter, I shall explain once again all the sets and the Santati (the unbroken line or race) Saṃsthiti (the existence) and Bhāvanā (conception) in their due order.

Footnotes and references:


Chs. IX to XX of the present Purāṇa describe the Śrāddha-Kalpa or the procedure of ancestor-worship in ancient India. It js an important topic and forms an integral part of Hindu Dharma Śāstra. It is rooted in the belief in after-death survival of the deceased ancestors and their residence in a particular region or world called Pitṛ-loka. This belief is pre-Vedic as it dates from the Indo-Iranian period (vide S.B.E. Vol. IV, p. 262), for the Iranian Fravarshes of Yima-Yama Ancestor-worship for continuation of one’s race and prosperity is found in the ṚV. The Gṛhya Sūtras and old Smṛtis (like Manu and Yājñavalkya) prescribe the procedure of Śrāddha which is generally followed in the Purāṇas. For example, The Śrāddha procedure is found in different Purāṇas such as A.P. 163.2-42, G.P.I.210, K.P.II 22.20-62, N.P. Ch. 28, Vā.P. Chs. 71-90.

It is noteworthy that in VV. 3-12 all questions, doubts etc. about the perfornance of Śrāddha are raised.


The proper name of Indra in this Manvantara.


V. 22 explains the paradox why Pitṛs who were the Sons of gods became the ‘fathers of their own fathers’. Manu III. 201 differs from this text and states that Pitṛs sprang from Sages and from the Pitṛs were born gods and human beings.


This should be Pitṛgaṇāḥ as in Vā.P. 71.36.


In order to explain the full procedure of the performance of Śrāddha Śamyu is shown to have raised the points in VV 40-44.


VV. 67-74 describe the importance of feeding a Yogin—a point emphasized again by him in the following chapters.

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