The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “the exposition of virtuous custom” which forms the 34th 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 34 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XXXIV - Alarka’s Education: The exposition of Virtuous Custom


Madālāsā mentions the benefits of the observance of Virtuous Customwhich consists in the pursuit of righteousness, wealth and love—She mentions a large number of general rules regarding religious worship, eating, social behaviour, private actions, and marriage—She gives general rules regarding the sacrifices, and describes the portions of the hand to be used therein—and mentions how one’s residence should be chosen.

Madālasā spoke:

“Thus, my son, should the gods and pitṛs be worshipped by a householder with the oblations to the gods and the oblations to the pitṛs; and with food should guests and kinsmen, living creatures, all dependants, cattle, birds and ants, beggars and other petitioners be worshipped by the dweller in a house, who observes the good customs and performs the domestic sacrifices, my child. He incurs sin if he neglects the periodic ceremonies.”

Alarka spoke:

“Thou hast declared to me, mother, the threefold ceremonies to he observed by men, the perpetual, the occasional, and the periodic.[2] I wish to hear, O lady who gladdenest thy family, about Virtuous Custom by practising which a man gains happiness in the next world and in this.”

Madālasā spoke:

“A householder must ever maintain Virtuous Custom thoroughly: for one who has lost Virtuous custom has no happiness here or in the next world. Sacrifice, alms-giving and austerities do not tend to the welfare of a man here, who habitually transgresses Virtuous custom. For a man who follows had custom does not find long life here. One must earnestly follow Virtuous custom; Virtuous custom destroys what is inauspicious.

“I will expound to thee my son, the nature of that virtuous custom. Hear it from me with single mind, and even so maintain it.

“A householder who performs the domestic sacrifices must strive to accomplish the three-fold objects of life:[3] in full success therein lies the householder’s own success here and in the next world. With a quarter of his Wealth let him, master of himself, lay up a store for the next world; and with half let him support himself and perform the periodic śrāddhas; and treating a quarter as his capital, he should increase it, by exerting himself on his own account. Thus, my son, Wealth ought to he fruitful according to Virtuous custom. Similarly a wise man must practise Righteousness in order to withstand sin; and so also the third, Love, yields fruit here indeed on account of the next world. And the third, Love, is not impeded through fear of diminution. Love also is said to be two-fold from its not being opposed by this three-fold class. Let a man consider all these successive correlations.

“Hear from me those opposite correlations, such as Righteousness, &c. Righteousness aims at a succession of righteousness.[4] Righteousness is not destructive to one’s own Wealth. And Love is diverse from both; and those two again are diverse from it.

“At the Brāhma moment a man should think of and ponder over Righteousness and Wealth, after rising up and rinsing out his mouth, standing towards the east, self-restrained, pure: let him worship the twilight with the constellations in the east, the twilight with the sun in the west, as is right: he should not neglect it even when free from adversity.

“He should eschew conversation with the wicked, falsehood, and harsh speech, evil books, evil words and the homage of evil, my son.

“Evening and morning, with soul restrained he should offer the homa oblation.

“He should not gaze up at the orb of the sun at sunrise or at sunset.

“He should look in a mirror in order to dress his hair; he should wash his teeth; and delight the gods in the very foremoon.

“He should not defecate or void urine in a path leading to the villages, to temples, to places of pilgrimage or to the fields, nor on cultivated ground, nor in a cattle-pen.

“He should not gaze at another’s wife naked. He should not look at his own ordure. He should avoid seeing, touching and talking with a woman in-her-courses.

“He should not void urine, or defecate, or engage in sexual intercourse in water.

“He should not step on ordure, urine, hair, ashes or potsherds: and a wise man should not step on husks, charcoal, bones or decayed things, or on rope, clothing, &c., whether on a road, or on the earth.

“Moreover a householder should do reverence to the pitṛs, gods and mankind, and to living creatures, according to his capability, and afterwards eat himself. And a man should always eat his food, facing the east or the north, with his mouth well rinsed out, restraining his speech, pure, with his mind intent on his food and with his face between his knees.

“An intelligent man should not divulge another’s fault except in the event of injury.

“Food should be avoided in which salt is visible, and which is very hot.

“A man of self-control should not defecate nor void urine while walking or standing.

“And he should not eat anything at all while rinsing out his mouth. While he has remains of food in his mouth, he should not carry on any conversation and he should cease his reading, and he should not touch a cow, a brāhman, fire, or his own head:

“Nor should he look at the sun or the moon or the constellations with passionate desire.[5]

“And he should avoid a broken seat and bed and cup.

“He should offer a seat to gurus, accompanying the offer with rising up and other respectful acts; and he should salute them respectfully and converse with them agreeably; and he should follow them. He should not speak about them adversely.

“And when clad in a single garment he should not eat nor engage in the worship of the gods.

“An intelligent man should not carry dvijas, nor should he void urine in fire, nor should he ever bathe or sleep naked.

“And he should not scratch his head with both hands; nor should men wash their heads frequently without cause. And when his head is washed he should not touch his body with oil at all.

“And he should cease his own reading, when every one is abstaining from reading.

“He should never void urine against a brāhman, the wind, cattle or the sun; facing north by day, and facing south by night, he should do his voidance of urine and fæces during illness[6] whenever he desires.

“He should not talk of his guru’s evil-doing, and he should appease him when angry. He should not listen to abuse when others utter it.

“And he should yield the path to brāhmans, to the king, and to one who is ill with pain, to his superior in learning, to a pregnant woman, to a man labouring under a burden, to a younger man, to the dumb, blind and deaf, to a drunken man, and to a mad man, to a prostitute, to an enemy, to a child and to an outcaste.

“An intelligent man should respectfully circumambulate a temple, and a fig-tree standing on a sacred spot, and a place where four roads meet, his superior in learning, a guru and a god.

“He should not carry shoes, clothes, garlands &c. that others are carrying.

“He should avoid the sacred thread, an ornament, and the water-pot on the fourteenth, eighth and fifteenth days of the moon and at its four changes. He should also eschew rubbing his body with oil, and sexual intercourse with his wife, on those days.

“And a wise man should never stand with his foot or his leg extended: nor should he throw out both his feet; nor should be press one foot on the other.

“He should eschew deadly attacks, abuse and calumny. A clever man should not display deceit, self-conceit, or sharpness. He should not disgrace with ridicule fools, insane persons, or those in calamity, the deformed, or magicians, or those who have limbs deficient or superfluous.

“He should not inflict punishment on another in order to instruct a son or disciple.“Likewise the wise man should not draw his seat towards him and sit down.

“He should not prepare a cake, khichree or flesh for himself. He must have his food evening and morning, after doing reverence to his guests.

“Facing eastwards or northwards, restraining his voice, he should always wash his teeth, my child.

“He should eschew the prohibited vegetables.

“A man should certainly not sleep with his head to the north, nor with his head to the west; he should sleep, placing his head to the north east or east.

“He should not bathe in perfumed water, nor at night; bathing except by day is declared to he most potent for calamity; nor when he has not bathed, should he wipe his limbs with a cloth or with his hands. Nor should he shake his hair, nor should be shake his clothes.[7] Nor should an intelligent man, when he has not bathed, ever apply unguents..

“Nor should he wear red clothing, nor even variegated or black clothing: nor should he make a complete change of his clothing or in his ornaments. And transparent[8] raiment should be avoided, and also whatever is very much damaged, and whatever is infested with lice, or has been trampled on, or has been looked at by dogs, and has been licked or thrown down, or has been befouled by the extraction of pus.

“He should never eat flesh from the back, or flesh unfit for the gods and pitṛs, or prohibited flesh, my son, or things which are visibly salt. Pood that is long stale or that is not fresh must be avoided, my royal son, because of the changes that occur in flour, vegetables, sugarcane and milk; and meat long stale must be avoided, because of the change[9] that occurs in it.

“He should avoid lying down at sunrise and sunset,

“Hot when unbathed, nor when reposing, nor while thinking of other things, nor when sitting on his bed or on the earth, nor when making a sound,[10] nor when clad in a single garment, nor when speaking, nor without giving to spectators, but when bathed a man should eat evening and morning according to rule.

“A wise man should not resort to other men’s wives. Adultery destroys the religious acts and the life of man. Nothing indeed is so short-lived in the world, as a man’s intercourse with another’s wife here.

“Let him perform the worship of the gods, and the cere monies to fire, and the respectful salutation to his guru, and also the ceremony of eating his food, after duly rinsing out his mouth. Facing eastwards or northwards he should reverently rinse out his mouth, my son, with frothless, inodorous, pure and holy water. He should avoid the five earths from beneath water, from a habitation, from an ant-hill, from ground infested with mice, and where purificatory actions &c. have been carried on. After washing his hands and feet and sprinkling water on them he should, with his face between his knees, and composed mind, rinse out his mouth. He should drink water three or four times after twice wiping the sides of his mouth, the apertures of the body, and his head. After duly rinsing out his mouth with water, being pure, he should perform the ceremony to the gods, the ṛṣis, and the pitṛs diligently. A man should always perform the ceremonies, preserving a composed mind. A wise man should rinse out his mouth, after he has sneezed, or spitten out, or donned his raiment. After a sneeze, and licking, and a vomit, and spitting &c., he should rinse out his mouth, touch a cow’s back, and look at the sun; and he should holdup his right ear, since this is in his power; in the absence of the former, he should do the latter; if the former be wanting, it is desirable to do the latter.

“He should not gnash his teeth, nor beat his own body.

“He should also avoid sleep, reading and food at both twilights; and sexual intercourse and setting out on a journey at the evening twilight.

“In the fore noon, dear son, he should in faith perform his worship to the gods, and at noon to men, and in the afternoon to the pitṛs. And with head bathed, he should perform the ceremonies to the gods or the pitṛs. And he should trim his beard facing eastwards or northwards.

“He should eschew a maiden although well-born, if she is deformed, or sickly, or disfigured, or tawny-coloured, or talkative, or contaminated by everybody. And one who is free from deformity, who has a beautiful nose, and is marked with all the auspicious marks—such a maiden as that should a man always marry who desires welfare. He should marry one who is in the seventh or fifth degree distant from his parents: he should guard his wife, and he should shun jealousy, by day, in sleep and in sexual intercourse.

“He should avoid a deed that causes pain[11] to others, and the infliction of pain on living creatures.

“A woman, during menstruation, should be avoided by all the castes for four nights. He should avoid just the fifth night of the moon in order to avoid the birth of females: then let him approach his wife on the sixth night, that night is the best among the even nights, my son. Sons are begotten on the even nights, daughters on the odd nights: therefore a wise man who wishes for a son should always cohabit with his wife on the even nights. Lawless men cohabit with their wives in the morning, and eunuchs at evening.

“After shaving, and vomiting and sexual intercourse, my son, the wise man should resort to the place where bodies are burnt[12] and should bathe, keeping his clothes on.

“One should not revile or ridicule the gods, the Vedas, or dvijas, good, truthful or magnanimous men, a guru, or devoted and virtuous wives, or persons who are sacrificing or performing austerities, my son. One should never listen to those unmannerly persons who do such things.

“One should not mount on a high bed or seat, nor on a low one.

“One should neither dress unbecomingly, nor speak unbecomingly. One should be clad in pure white raiment, and adorned with white flowers.

“Neither with the haughty, nor with the insane, nor with fools, nor yet with the unmannerly should a wise man form friendship; nor yet with those of bad disposition, nor yet with those who are corrupted with thieving and other vices, nor yet with spend-thrifts, nor with the covetous, nor yet with enemies, nor with prostitutes, nor with inferiors, nor with the husbands of prostitutes. He should never make friendship with the mighty, nor with inferiors, nor with reprobates, nor with the ever-timid, nor yet with fatalists. He should contract friendship with good men, with those who always observe Virtuous custom, with the wise, with the honest, with the powerful, with those who are resolute in action.

“In company with one’s friends, the initiated, the king, Snātaka brahmans, and one’s father-in-law, one should do reverence to the Ṛtvij priest, and the five other venerable persons and to guests. One should do reverence, my son, to dvijas, who have dwelt for a year, with an offering of honey and milk according to one’s ability and with alacrity at fitting times. Aud the brahman who desires bliss should observe their governance, and if intelligent he should not contradict them even though always scolded by them.

“Having performed the household worship properly in the fitting place and in due order, he should next worship the fire and offer it the oblations in due order. He should make the first offering to Brahmā, and then to to the prajāpati, and the third to the Guhyas, and the next to Kaśyapa. Then having offered to Anumati[13] he should next offer the household bali and the constant oblations, that I have already explained to thee, according to the ritual. Next he should make the offering to the Viśvadevas, then the offerings to all creatures, and separately to the gods according to place and apportionment. And he should make the three oblations to Parjanya, the Dharitrīs, and to Māṇaka,[14] and to Vāyu in every direction, to the east and other regions of the sky in due order; and to Brahmā, to the Air and to the Sun in order, and to the Viśvadevas and to all beings; and then he should offer to the Dawn, and to Śiva northwards; and southwards to the pitṛs, exclaiming ‘Svadhā, reverence!’ Having done it on the right and to the north west, saying, ‘Q Yakṣma,[15] this is for thee!’ he should, if he wishes, offer the remains of the food and the water from the vessel according to the rule. Then taking up the first part of the food, he should offer it with the benediction Hanta to the brahman according to the rule and justice.

“He should perform the ceremonies to the gods and other objects of worship, with each one’s special portion of the hand according to rule; and he should perform the ceremony of rinsing-out the mouth with the portion of the hand sacred to Brahma. This is called the portion of the hand sacred to Brahmā for the purpose of rinsing out the mouth, viz., a line drawn to the left of the thumb of the right hand. The pitṛs’ portion of the hand is said to be the part between the forefinger and the thumb; by that he should offer the water and other oblations to the pitṛs, except in the nāndīmukha śrāddha. And the gods’ portion of the hand is at the tips of the fingers; the ritual of ceremonies to the gods should be performed therewith. The prajāpati’s portion of the hand is at the root of the little finger, his ceremony must be performed[16] therewith. Thus always with these portions of the hand sacred to the gods and pitṛs, he should always perform the ceremonies, never with any other portion of the hand. It is proper always to rinse out the mouth with the portion of the hand sacred to Brahmā; and to offer the oblation to the pitṛs with the portion of the hand sacred to the pitṛs; and that to the gods with the portion of the hand sacred to the gods; and the offering to the prajāpati with his own portion of the hand. A wise man should perform the cake-and-water ceremony to the nāndīmukha ancestors, and whatever is offered to the prajāpati, with the portion of the hand sacred to the prajāpati.

“A sensible man should not carry water and fire at the same time; nor should he thrust out both his feet towards guru and the gods.

“He should not look at a heifer sucking.

“He should not drink water with the hands joined together.

“At all periods of personal purification whether important or unimportant, he should not delay for the sake of purification.

“He should not blow the fire with his mouth.

“One ought not to take up one’s abode, my son, where four things do not exist, viz., a person who pays debts, and a physician, a brāhman learned in the Vedas, and a river full of water. Where there is a king who has vanquished his foes, who is powerful, and who is devoted to righteousness, there should a wise man always dwell: whence can come happiness, when the king is worthless? Where the king is unassailable, where the earth is prolific, where the citizens are well governed and always practise justice, where folk are charitable, there does residence bestow happiness. In a country where the husbandmen are not generally gluttonous, and where all medicinal herbs are procurable, there should a sensible man dwell. One ought not, my son, to dwell there, where these three things are constant, a person desirous of conquering, and a former enemy, and folk who are always holding festival. A wise man should always dwell among good-tempered neighbours.

“Thus, my son, have I, thy well-wisher, expounded this to thee.”

Footnotes and references:




Nitya, naimittika, and nitya-naimittika.


Dharma, kāma and artha.


Or, brings wealth as a consequence of righteousness.




For ābādhāṣu read ābādhāsu.


For vāsasī read vāsāmsi?


For vidaśam read viśadam? I do not find vidaśa in the dictionary.


For vikārāṃśca read vikārācca?


For śabdavat read śābdayan?


Upa-tāpaka; not in the dictionary.




The fifteenth day of the moon’s age, personified.


This is said to Arum Indicum, the Beng. mām-hachu, the stems and tubers of which are generally eaten (Roxb., p. 625).


Pulmonary disease.


Read kāryam for kāyam?

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