The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “description of the parvana sraddha” which forms the 31st chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 31 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XXXI - Description of the Pārvaṇa Śrāddha

Madālasā mentions the seven sapiṇḍa ancestors, and the lepa-bujas, and the remoter ancestors—She explains how the celebrant of the śrāddha nourishes them all—She enumerates the times for the śrāddha, and the persons who should and who should not be invited to it—She describes how the śrāddha should be performed.

Madālasā spoke:

“After, the performance of the śrāddha to deceased sapiṇḍas, he who is the father’s great-grandfather passes to the class of those who feed on the lepa,[1] having lost his share in the piṇḍa offered to the pitṛs. He, who is the fourth there-above among those who feed on the lepa bestowed by the deceased’s son, ceases to eat thereof and obtains the satisfaction that is freed from the relationship.

“The father, and grandfather, and also the great-grandfather—these truly must be known as the three males who are related by the piṇḍa.[2] And those who are related by the lepa are said to be the three others reckoning upwards from the grandfather’s grandfather: and the celebrant is the seventh among them. Such have Munis declared this seven-ancestral relationship tobe, reckoning from the celebrant upwards. And there-above are those beyond participation in the lepa.

“Next are classed all the other ancestors, both those who dwell in Naraka, and those who have become animals, and those who reside within living creatures and other things.

“By what several means the celebrant, while performing the śrāddha rightly, nourishes all those ancestors, hear that, my child.

“Now truly those ancestors who have become piśacas obtain satisfaction from the food that men scatter on the ground. Those ancestors, my son, who have become trees, receive satisfaction from the water that drips from the bathing garment on the ground. But the drops of water, that fall from the limbs on the ground, minister nourishment to those ancestors in the family who have attained divinity. And when the piṇḍas are taken up, the particles of food that fall on the earth,— those ancestors in the family who have become animals gain nourishment therefrom. The children moreover in the family who, being capable of performing religious ceremonies but not having undergone the purificatory rites, are burnt on their death, they in their distress subsist on the scattering of the food and the water used in scouring. And the water, both that which is used by brahmans for rinsing out the month after meals, and that which is used ly them for sprinkling the feet,—the other ancestors likewise gain satisfaction indeed therefrom. So whatever water and food is scattered by the celebrant and by those dvijas, whether it he unsullied or fragmentary, that, my child, in the family of those who duly perform the śrāddhas, nourishes the other ancestors who have been born among the several creations. With the śrāddhas, which men perform with ill-gotten wealth, are satisfied those ancestors wha have been born as caṇḍālas, pukkaśas and other men of degraded castes.

“Thus many here derive nourishment, my child, through their relations who perform the śrāddhas, by means of the casting away of food and drops of water. Therefore a man should perform the śrāddha in faith according to rule even with vegetables: no one perishes in the family of one who performs the śrāddha.

“I will mention the periodic times for it; and learn of me by what rule men perform it.

“The śrāddha must necessarily be performed on the night of the new moon, at the moon’s waning every month, and on the eighth days[3] also.

“Learn of me the voluntary seasons. On the arrival of a distinguished brāhman, on an eclipse of the sun or moon, at the solstice, at the equinox, at the sun’s passage from one sign into another, and on the occasion of a portent,[4] my son, on acquiring property worthy of a śrāddha, and on seeing a bad dream, and at occultations of the constellation or planet under which one is born, one should perform the śrāddha according to one’s inclination.

“A distinguished brāhman learned in the Veda, a yogi, one who knows the Veda, one who has mastered the Jyeṣṭha-sāman, one who has thrice kindled the fire Nāciketa, one who knows the three verses which begun with ‘madhu,’[5] one who knows the ‘tri-suparṇa’ hymns, one who knows the six Vedāṅgas, a daughter’s son, a Ṛtvij priest, a daughter’s husband, and a sister’s son, and a father-in law also, and one who is skilled in the business of the five sacred fires, and one who is eminent in austerities, a maternal uncle, and one who is anterior to one’s parents, a disciple, a relative by marriage, and a kinsman—these brāhmans are all worthy of invitation to a śrāddha.

“A religions student who has been incontinent, and a sick man, and one who has a limb superfluous or deficient, the son of a widow remarried, and a one-eyed man, an adulterine son, and a widow's bastard, my son, a traitor to his friends, one who has bad nails, an impotent man, a man with brown teeth, a brāhman negligent of his duties, a man cursed by his father, a slanderer, a vendor of soma juice, one who has deflowered his daughter, a medical man, and one who has discarded his guru and father, a hired teacher, a friend,[6] and the husband of a previously-married woman, one who discards the Vedas, and one who abandons the sacred fire, a man who has been corrupted by the husband of a low caste woman,[7] and others who habitually practise improper acts, —all these persons are verily to be shunned in ceremonies to the pitṛs, (O brāhmans.)

“The celebrant should invite the above-mentioned brāhmans on the day before, to the function performed in honour of the gods and pitṛs, and should fetch them also.

“And both he, who shall perform a śrāddha that ought to be performed by those self-controlling men, and he, who indulges in sexual intercourse after having offered the śrāddha and eaten the food,—the ancestors of these two men verily lie down in that semen a month. Moreover he who eats at a śraddha and he who goes to a śrāddha after intercourse with a woman,—the ancestors of those two men feed on semen and urine for that month. Therefore a wise man must first issue an invitation; and men who have intercourse with women before the day arrives must be shunned.

“With- his mind controlled he should feast those who have come seeking for alms, or ascetics who control themselves at the proper times, after first propitiating them with prostrations and other reverential acts. Just as the time of the waning moon is dearer to the pitṛs than that of the waxing moon, so the afternoon pleases the pitṛs more than the forenoon. One should do reverence to these dvijas, who have arrived at his house, with a welcome; and with the pavitra in hand he should seat those, who have rinsed out their mouths, on seats. In the case of the pitṛs the number of brāhmans should be uneven, and in the case of the Gods[8] even; or, according to the circumstances of the celebrant, there should be one brāhman for the pitṛs and one for the Gods. In like manner for the maternal ancestors the number of brāhmans should be uneven or only one. The brāhmans intended for the Viśvadevas may be identical on the side of the pitṛs and maternal ancestors; but some other men desire that they should be distinct. He should place the brāhmans intended for the Gods with their faces toward the east, and those for the pitṛs toward the north.[9] The ceremony due to the maternal ancestors has been similarly expounded by the wise.

Let the intelligent man giving kuśa grass for a seat, and worshipping with the arghya and other offerings, giving things pure and such like, and obtaining permission from them,—let the wise dvija perform the invocation to the gods according to the mantras. And having also given the arghya offering to all the deities with barley and water, and having duly given perfume, garlands, water and incense accompanied with a lamp, let him both perform the whole of the dextral circumambulation for the pitṛs; and having given a double quantity of darbha grass, and having obtained permission from them, let the intelligent man perform the invocation to the pitṛs, prefacing it with the mantras. And let him also perform the dextral circumambulation and give the arghya offering and barley and money and sesamum seed, intent on pleasing the pitṛs. Then permitted by the dvijas who say, ‘Perform the ceremonies in the fire!’ let him offer rice unmixed with condiments or salt according to rule. The first rite consists in uttering ‘Svāhā!’ to fire, the bearer of oblations to the pitṛs; and let the next be ‘Svāhā!’ to Soma who is esteemed by the pitṛs; and the third offering is ‘Svāhā!’ to Tama, the lord of the departed. And let him put the remains of the offering into the vessels of the dvijas; and taking hold of the vessels let him give the rice according to rule. He should say affably “Ho, do ye enjoy yourselves happily!”[10] and then they also should eat happily, with their minds attentive thereon and observing silence. And a man should leisurely give them whatever food they like best, displaying no wrath and alluring them appropriately. And let him utter the mantras which vanquish the Rākṣasas, and let him strew the ground with sesamum seed and with white mustard: for the śrāddha possesses abundant devices for protection. And let the man, permitted by the dvijas who say “Ye are satisfied and we are satisfied by those who are nourished and satisfied,” scatter food everywhere on the ground. Similarly then having obtained permission, let him, with voice body and mind controlled, give the dvijas severally water[11] to rinse out their mouths. Then, my son, let him with his left hand put the piṇḍas with rice and sesamum-seed on the darbha grass, near the remains of the food, for the pitṛs. Let him composedly also give them water with the part of the hand[12] sacred to the pitṛs, since O prince! he celebrates the sacrifice with faith for the pitṛs. Similarly he should, after giving the piṇḍas on behalf of the maternal grandfathers according to rule, then give water for rinsing out the month together with scent, garlands &c.; and having given the brāhmans’ fee according to his ability, address them “May Svadhā be fortunate!” and let him cause them, who being satisfied say “Be it so!” to pronounce the Vaiśvadevika mantras. Let him say “May they be pleased!” “Hail to you, O Viśve devas.” And on those brāhmans, saying, “Be it so!” he should request their benedictions. He should dismiss them, addressing them pleasantly and prostrating himself in faith; and he should attend them as far as the door, and he should return, a gladdened man. Then he should perform the continual ceremony, and should also feed guests. And some very good men wish for a continual ceremony to the pitṛs, and others do not wish it for the pitṛs. He should perform the remainder as the first part: some think ‘not with a separate cooking vessel,’ some prefer it repeated exactly in the same order.[13] Then the celebrant should eat that rice in company with his servants and others.

Thus should the man skilled in religious law perform composedly the śrāddha to the pitṛs, or so as satisfaction accrues to the brāhmans. There are three pure things in a śrāddha, sesamum-seed,[14] sacrificial grass, and the sesamum-plant;[15] and they say these, (O princely brāhman,) are to be avoided, anger, journeying, haste. A silver vessel is also commended at śrāddhas, my son. How silver is for use, for looking at and for giving away; for when the offering to the pitṛs is milked out in a silver vessel, the pitṛs give ear to the earth;[16] hence the pitṛs desire silver, which increases their affection.

Footnotes and references:


The wipings of the hands after offering the funeral oblations to the three sapiṇḍas,




Of three months.


For vyatipāte read vyatīpāte. This word has several other meanings, which are admissible.


Rig-V. I. 90. 6—8.


Bhṛtakādhyāpako mitraḥ. This seems strange.


For vṛṣalī-pati-dūṣitaḥ read vṛṣalī-dūṣitā-patīḥ, one who has married a low-caste woman or a deflowered girl?


For devai read daive.


The text is very obscure, and seems corrupt. For this translation I am indebted to Babu Harimohan Vidyābhuṣan, the Pandit of the Bengal Asiatic Society.


For yathā sukham read yathā-sukham?


For āpaḥ read apaḥ.


Pitṛ-tīrtha, the part between the forefinger and thumb.


The text seema obscure.


Dauhitram, see note ‡, p. 84.




The text seems incorrect.

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