The Padma Purana

by N.A. Deshpande | 1951 | 1,261,945 words | ISBN-10: 8120838297 | ISBN-13: 9788120838291

This page describes the vow (vrata) for prostitutes (veshya) which is chapter 23 of the English translation of the Padma Purana, one of the largest Mahapuranas, detailling ancient Indian society, traditions, geography, as well as religious pilgrimages (yatra) to sacred places (tirthas). This is the twenty-third chapter of the Srishti-khanda (section on creation) of the Padma Purana, which contains six books total consisting of at least 50,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 23 - The vow (vrata) for Prostitutes (veśyā)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Bhīṣma said:

1. O lord of brāhmaṇas, tell me what kind of practices in honour of Viṣṇu are (observed), as Rudra had told them, and. what their fruit is.

Pulastya said:

2-4. Formerly, in the Rathantara Kalpa, Mahādeva (i.e. Śiva), the trident-holder (who was), living on Mandara, was asked by Brahmā, the great-souled one, himself: “How can men always have good health, endless prosperity and salvation by (practising) little penance, O god? O Adhokṣaja[1] what is that knowledge, which (obtained) through your favour even by little penance is said to be very fruitful in this world?”

5. Thus asked by Brahmā, (Śiva), the lord of Umā, the universal soul, the creator of the worlds, said this (that) delights the mind:

The god said:

6-9. When from this Rathantara Kalpa, there again will come the twentieth Varāha Kalpa, and when the seventh auspicious Manu-period called Vaivasvata will arrive, and when there will be a yuga numbering twenty-seventh called Dvāpara, at the end of it, Vāsudeva Janārdana (i.e.) Viṣṇ U will be born in three ways for taking down the burden (i.e. for destroying demons etc.) as the sage Dvaipāyana, Balarāma and Keśava (i.e. Kṛṣṇa called) Kaṃsāri, Kesimathana, Keśava and Kleśanāśana.

10-12. O Brahmā, Tvaṣṭṛ will, at the order of the lord of the world, fashion a city, which is now called Kuśasthalī, named Dvāravatī, endowed with divine splendour, for the residence of Śārṅgin (i.e. Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa). Sometime he, of an unlimited lustre and killer of Kaiṭabha (would) be seated in his assembly, along with his wives, Yādavas, many learned men (receiving) large (fees), Kurus, gods and Gandharvas.

13. When old and religious stories would be going on, he, the valiant one observing distinctions (i.e. a keen observer), on being asked by Bhīmasena, will explain the religious practices (about which a question is) asked by you.

14-17a. O Brahmā, he will be the founder of the practices and the very mighty Vṛkodara, Pāṇḍu’s son, will be the propagator. He, the religious-minded one, is (called) Vṛkodara because in his belly lies the sharp fire called Vṛka. The great one, who would have the strength of a myriad of elephants, would be a great eater, (for) even the fire of hunger of a religious but weak person is sharp while fasting.

17b-19. This vow is superior to all (other) vows since Vāsudeva, the lord of the world will tell (so). The vow gives the fruit of all sacrifices and destroys all sins. It subdues all evils; it is honoured by all gods. It is the (most) pure of the pure (objects); and the (most) auspicious of the auspicious things; it is the best among the future and the past things.

Vasudeva said:

20-21. O Bhīma, if you are not able to observe a fast on the eighth or fourteenth or on other days (with the rise) of auspicious stars, then having fasted on this excellent day, tḥe destroyer of sin, according to the proper rite, reach the highest position of Viṣṇu.

22-28. When it is the tenth day of the bright half of Māgha, anointing his body with ghee, a man should bathe with sesamum; similarly (saying) ‘(My) salutation to Nārāyaṇa’ he should worship Viṣṇu. Worshipping the feet (of the deity he should say) ‘My salutation to Kṛṣṇa’; worshipping the head (of the deity he should say) ‘My salutation to Kṛṣṇātman’; worshipping the throat (he should say) 'My salutation to Vaikuṇṭha’; and worshipping the chest (he should say) ‘My salutation to Śrīvatsadhārin, to Śaṅkhin, Gadin, Cakrin and Varada’. Thus having worshipped Sava Nārāyaṇa, invoking (him by various epithets) in due order, he should further worship the belly (saying) ‘My salutation to Dāmodra’; he should worship the waist (saying) ‘My salutation to Pañcajana’; he should worship the thighs (saying) ‘My salutation to Saubhāgyanātha’; he should worship the knees (saying) ‘My salutation to Bhūtadhārin’; he should worship the shanks (saying) ‘My salutation to Nīla’; he should worship the feet saying ‘My salutation to Viśvabhuj’. (He should also say), ‘My salutation to Devī, to Śānti, to Lakṣmī, to Śrī, to Tuṣṭi, to Puṣṭi, to Dhṛti, to Vyuṣṭi’. He should worship Garuḍa (saying), ‘My salutation to the bird, viz. Vihaṅganātha (i.e. the lord of birds), Vāyuvega (i.e. having the speed of wind), and Viṣapramathana’.

29-32. Having thus worshipped Govinda (i.e. Viṣṇu), and Śiva and Vināyaka (i.e. Garuḍa) with sandal, flowers, incense and eatables of various kinds, and having eaten with ghee, the (boiled) mixture of rice and peas with a few spices,[2] sprinkled over with ghee (prepared from the milk) of cow, and having gone to another place, should take a piece of stick of nyagrodha or khadira and clean his teeth; and facing the north-east direction he should offer the evening prayer at the sunset; he should say, ‘My salutation to Nārāyaṇa; I have sought your refuge.’

33-35a. Going without food on the eleventh day and having worshipped Keśava, and remaining that night by him, who lies on the bed of Śeṣa (i.e. Viṣṇu) and having offered (an oblation) to fire with ghee through best brāhmaṇas, (he should say), ‘I shall have the food with sweetened milk on the twelfth; let me have it without any difficulty’.

35b-38. O king, having said so, he should sleep on the ground; having heard a historical story and having, when the dawn has broken, gone to the river and having taken a bath he should avoid heretics.

Having offered the Sandhyā (prayer) according to the proper procedure and having offered libation to the manes, and having saluted Hṛṣīkeśa, lying on a bed, the wise one should get fashioned a pavilion in front of his house; and also, O killer of enemies, he should fashion an altar four hands (in length and breadth).

39-41. There he should put an ornamental arch of the length of four hands; in the middle he should put a pitcher with a hole of the size of a bean and full of water; sitting on the deer-hide, under the pitcher, he should sustain (i.e. allow to fall) the stream of water with (i.e. on) his head for the whole night. Since those who are well-versed in the Vedas know that many streams give great fruit, therefore, O best of the Kurus, a restrained brāhmaṇa should get it done.

42-44a. He should get fashioned a crescent moon in the south, a circle in the west and the figure of an aśvattha-leaf in the north; the brāhmaṇa, devoted to Viṣṇu, should get fashioned a lotus-figure in the centre; and also at various spots to the east and south of the altar; and being intent on Viṣṇu, he should sustain on the head the stream of water (i.e. allow the stream of water to fall on his head).

44b-45a. The second altar is of (i.e. meant for) the deity; there he should fashion a lotus with a pericarp; in the centre of it he should install (the image of) the god viz. Puruṣottama (i.e. Viṣṇu).

45b-46. He should, having made there a basin, having three girdles (i.e. parts), and having the face like the female organ of generation, offer into the fire in it, barley, ghee and sesamum through brāhmaṇas, (to the accompaniment) of (the recital of) sacred texts.

47-48, Having done (this) he should perform there a sacrifice in honour of Viṣṇu. He should carefully offer (i.e. drop) a stream of ghee into the central (part of the) basin; he should drop a stream of milk on (the image of) the god of gods and that water on himself. He should drop the stream of pure ghee of half the size (of the water stream).

49-51a. O you of great might, he should also (drop) the streams of water and milk if he so desires for the whole night. Having put thirteen water-pitchers along with eatables of various kinds, decorated with white garments and with vessels having udumbara-shoots and jewels of five kinds, he should get a sacrifice performed by four brāhmaṇas knowing many Ṛgvedic verses and facing the north.

51b-53. He should also get the Rudra (-prayers) repeated by four brāhmaṇas well-versed in Yajurveda. He should get the songs of praise of Viṣṇu recited by four brāhmaṇas well-versed in Sāmaveda. Thus he, free from the vanity of wealth, should honour the twelve brāhmaṇas by (giving them) clothes, flowers, anointment, rings, bracelets, golden chains, and also garments and beds.

54. He should thus pass the night with songs and auspicious sounds. All these (presents mentioned above) should be (given) in duplicate to the (family-) preceptor.

55-56. Then O best of the Kurus, having got up in the clear (i.e. bright) morning, he should give thirteen good-natured milch cows with their horns covered with gold, with udders, (adorned) with bell-metal, with their hoofs (decorated) with silver, with calves, and decorated with sandal.

57-58. Having given these (cows) to the brāhmaṇas, pleased with (their having eaten articles of) food, and having given various kinds of umbrellas to them, and himself having eaten food without salt, he should allow (the brāhmaṇas) to go, following them, with his sons and wife for seven or eight steps.

59-61a. (At this time he should say) ‘May the lord of gods viz. Keśava, the destroyer of sufferings, be pleased here (i.e. with this)’. In this way, by the order of his preceptor he should send the pitchers, the cows, the beds, the garments to the houses of all (the brāhmaṇas). O Bhīma, in the absence of many beds, a householder should give (at least) one fully furnished bed.

61b-63. O foremost of the Kurus, he who desires ample wealth, should pass that day having read (i.e. by reading accounts in) history and Purāṇas. Therefore, O Bhīmasena, mustering courage and being free from jealousy, observe properly this vow as told by me to you through love. This vow observed by you will be (known) by your name.

64. This is that auspicious Bhīmadvādaśī which destroys all sins and which was called Kalyāṇinī in former Kalpas.

65. O you best among the great heroes, be the first observer (of this vow of Bhīmadvādaśī) by remembering and telling (about) which all the sin of the lord of gods was destroyed.

66. Having seen her (i.e. Śacī) dear to the celestial nymphs and made a prostitute (veśyā) in other existences, (the lord favoured her and) though she was born in a Vaiśya family, she, the daughter of Puloman[3], became the wife of Indra.

67. There (i.e. in that existence) also she (i.e. Śacī, wife of Indra) had an attendant who is now my (wife) Satyabhāmā. She formerly did this very auspicious thing; and so became (i.e. was born as) Vedavatī, a brāhmaṇa’s daughter.

68. Formerly the Sun, of a thousand rays, bathed with a thousand streams on this auspicious day; he then having reached the lustrous orb, became the lord of the stars and planets.

69. This vow (alone) was observed by great Indras, and many crores of gods and their enemies. Even though there be myriads of tongues in the mouths it is not possible to describe the fruit of this (vow).

70. Even the son of the lord of Yādavas will tell that the (observance of this) vow destroys the sins in the Kali age and (gives) unending (fruit). He, who observes this (vow), is able to emancipate his manes even though they have gone to a hell.

71-72. O sinless one, he who listens to (the account of) this (vow), or talks about it, or recites it with devotion for obliging others, would be Viṣṇu’s devotee and would be honoured by Indra. O sinless one, that twelfth day of the bright fortnight of Māgha, which was called Kalyāṇinī in a former creation, will be observed (as auspicious) by Pāṇḍu’s son, will give inexhaustible merit and will have (its name) preceded by (the word) Bhīma (i.e. will be called Bhīmadvādaśī).

Brahmā said:

73-74a. O revered one, in (i.e. from) the Purāṇas, I have heard about the origin of the castes and the stages of human life; and also I have learnt about good conduct along with the details of the branches of the science of religion. I (now) desire to hear the true account of the conduct of prostitutes.

The Lord said:

74b-77. O Brahman, born from the lotus, in the same city there will be sixteen thousand wives of Vāsudeva. Kṛṣṇa, the universal soul, having eyes like those of a deer, the dignified scion of Yadu family, who had put the garland of Mālatī flowers on his head, and being adorned with his praiseworthy wives, will enjoy with them in a garden rich with flowers, and situated on the bank of a lake, in the spring season abounding in cuckoos and swarms of bees.

78-79. Sāmba, Jāmbavatī’s son, adorned with all (kinds of ornaments), going along with the path nearby, really of the form of Cupid, will be longingly seen by the ladies and passion will be aroused in the hearts of them who will be tormented by the arrows of Cupid.

80-83. He, the lord of the world, the omniscient master, having perceived it with his eye of contemplation, will say to them: “The evil being will kidnap you, since you have thus entertained the passion of love (for Sāmba) in my presence.” Then the revered lord, the cause of beings, the holder of the bow made of horn, being propitiated (by the ladies) tormented with the curse, will say this: “(You will observe) the vow, beneficial in the future, which sage Dālbhya, emancipator of the fishermen living in the north and of an unlimited (generosity of) mind will tell you.”

84-87a. Saying so and leaving them, the lord vanished. Then after a (long) time when the burden (on the earth as a result of the great Bhārata war) will be lightened and when the fight with clubs[4] (among the Yādavas) will be over, when Keśava will have come back to the heaven, when the entire Yadu-family will be no more, when even Arjuna will be defeated by the thieves, when Kṛṣṇa’s wives will be kidnapped and will be enjoyed by the fishermen for a hundred million years and when they will be (thus) tormented, a devout soul, Dālbhya by name, with great penance (to his credit) will come there.

87b-90. Having honoured him with a respectful offering, having saluted him again and again, (and) being frequently talked to, with their eyes full of tears and remembering various enjoyments and divine flowers and anointment, and also their husband, the undefeated and endless lord of the worlds, (also remembering) the (Dvārakā) city of a divine prowess, and the many jewelled houses, as well as all the residents of Dvārakā and the boys of a divine form, they, standing before the sage, will put to him this question:

91-93. “O revered sir, all of us have been per force enjoyed by the evil beings; we have slipped from (i.e. erred in) our duty. You are our refuge. O brāhmaṇa, you have been formerly instructed by the intelligent Keśava. Why have we become prostitutes after having come in contact with the lord? O you, whose wealth is penance, explain to us the duties of the prostitutes.”

I shall tell you what Dālbhya Caikitāyana said to them.

Dālbhya said:

94-95. Formerly Nārada approached you, who were proud, while (you were) sporting in the water of the Mānasa lake. All of you were daughters of Agni and were the nymphs in olden days. Not saluting Nārada through haughtiness you asked the sage conversant with deep and abstract meditation:

96-99. “Advise us as to how Nārāyaṇa will be our husband.” From him, this boon and this curse came forth (i.e. Nārada gave this boon to and prouounced this curse on the ladies) in ancient days: “By giving a couple of beds with articles of gold (to a brāhmaṇa) on the twelfth day of the bright fortnight of Caitra and Vaiśākha, Nārāyaṇa will certainly be your husband (i.e. you will obtain Nārāyaṇa as your husband); (and) since, you asked me (a question) without saluting me, due to your selfish addiction to your beauty and good fortune, you will be kidnapped by thieves and will become prostitutes.”

100-106. Thus, due to the curse of Nārada and also that of Keśava, all of you, deluded by passion, have become prostitutes (veśyā). O you excellent ladies, listen, even now, to what I shall say. The lord of lords, the best speaker, formerly said to the hundreds and thousands of thousands of the wives of the demons, the asuras (the evil spirits—enemies of gods), the sons of Diti and the goblins, when these (ladies) were married and enjoyed by force (by the gods), after hundreds of the asuras and demons were killed by the gods in the war between gods and asuras (that took place) in ancient days: “O you devout and beautiful ladies, now live as prostitutes in king’s residences and in temples of gods; you will obtain your livelihood from the king and the master; and all of you will have good fortune as per your capacity. He, who enters your house with the fee should be served by you with attitude of love void of deceit.

107. When the days auspicious to deities and manes approach, you should give, according to your capacity, cows, land, gold and grains.

108. Observe fully the vow which I shall tell you (now). Those who are conversant with the Vedas say that this vow is powerful enough to get one across (the ocean of) mundane existence.

109. When (the rise of the constellation) Hasta, Puṣya or Punarvasu falls on a Sunday, a lady should bathe properly with (her body anointed with) herbs.

110. At that time, he, having the five arrows as his soul (i.e. Cupid), will go (i.e. remain) near Hari. She should worship the lotus-eyed (god i.e. Viṣṇu), followed bv eulogies of Cupid.

111-117a. She should worship the feet (of the image of the deity saying:) ‘My salutation to Kāma’; (she should worship) the shanks (saying:) ‘My salutation to Vaimohakārin’; (she should worship) the generative organ (of the image of the deity saying:) ‘My salutation to Kandarpanidhi’; (she should worship) the waist of (the image of the deity saying:) ‘My salutation to Prītimān’; (she (should worship) the navel of the deity’s image saying:) ‘My salutation to Saukhyasamudra’; similarly (she should worship) the belley (of the deity’s image saying:) ‘My salutation to Vāmana’; (she should worship) the heart (of the deity’s image saying:) ‘My salutation to Hṛdayeśa’; (she should worship) the breasts (i.e. the chest of the deity’s image saying;) ‘My salutation to Ālhādakārin’; she should worship the left shoulder (of the deity’s image saying:) ‘My salutation to Puṣpabāṇa;’ (she should worship) the head (of the deity saying) my salutation to Mānasa’; (she should worship) the hair (of the deity’s image saying) ‘My salutation to Vilola’; similarly she should worship the head of the god of gods (saying:) ‘My salutation to the soul of all’. (She should also say:) ‘My salutation to Śiva, Śānta, Cāpāṅkuśadhara (the holder of a bow and goad), to Gadin (holder of a mace), to Pītavastra, and Śaṅkhacakradhara (holder of the conch and disc).’ ‘My salutation to Nārāyaṇa, to Kāmadevātman. My salutation to Śānti, Prīti, Rati, Śrī, Puṣṭi, Tuṣṭi, and Sarvārthasampadā (i.e. having all kinds of wealth)’.

117b-121. Having thus worshipped Govinda, the lord of the form of Anaṅga, the lady having made an offering with sandal, flowers and incense, and then having invited a brāhmaṇa knowing customary observances, who has mastered the Vedas and who is without any deformity, and then having honoured him with adoration of sandal, flowers etc. she should give the brāhmaṇa rice of the measure of a prastha[5] along with a pot of ghee, (saying:) ‘May Mādhava be pleased’. She should bear in mind that the best brāhmaṇa, who has eaten well according to his sweet will, is Kāmadeva meant for Rati. The lady should do whatever the best brāhmaṇa desires.

122-123a. She, speaking with a smile, should offer herself with all sincerity (to the brāhmaṇa). In this way she should do all this on a Sunday. The offering of rice of the measure of a prastha (should be made) for thirteen months.

123b-130a. Then when the thirteenth month arrives, the wise lady should give the brāhmaṇa a furnished bed, well-arranged with a pillow and an auspicious coverlet, along with a lamp, shoes, an umbrella, and wooden shoes. Having adorned him, along with his wife, with golden strings and rings, fine garments with bracelets, and incense, flowers and anointment, she should give the brāhmaṇa with the accompaniment of the sacred text, ‘As I never see any difference between Kāma and Keśava, so like that only I should always have my desires fulfilled’, the image of Kāmadeva with that of his wife, fixed on a pitcher (full) of jaggery, and seated on a copper pot, with golden eyes and covered over with (a piece of) cloth, along with a pot of bell-metal and a sugar-cane, and also and complete cow. Similarly the best brāhmaṇa should accept the golden (image of the) deity and should recite the Vedic text ‘Who gave it? Kāma gave it’.

130b-132a. Then having circumambulated and allowed the best brāhmaṇa to go, she should take all (the articles) like the bed, the seat, to the brāhmaṇa’s house. Since then whosoever comes to her house for sexual enjoyment should be similarly honoured on a Sunday and should always be adored.

132b-135. Thus till the thirteenth month arrives, she should gratify a brāhmaṇa and then send him to his house; with his permission (she may entertain) a handsome (person) till he arrives (to her residence). When she has a difficulty as a result of impurity due to child-birth or abortion or from the king or a difficulty due to divine or human (forces) or due to an eclipse, then she should offer herself according to her capacity, for fifty-eight times.

136-142. This (vow) I have especially narrated to you, since this is the duty that should be always performed by the prostitutes (veśyā) in this world. (She should pray to God:) “O god, as you are never abandoned by (i.e. as you are always in contact with) your bed, similarly, O Madhusūdana, may my bed be always occupied.” She should also get produced (i.e. have) the sound of songs and musical instruments. I have told you this entire practice (to be followed) by prostitutes, which was formerly narrated by Indra to the demonesses. Therefore now it is proper for you too (to follow it). She, the auspicious lady, who serves this exalted vow, destroying all sins and giving an unending fruit, and which is said to be difficult to be observed by auspicious ladies, establishes herself in the world of Mādhava. Being honoured by all the hosts of gods she goes to Viṣṇu’s position, causing delight.

Having told the ladies this vow called Anaṅgadāna, that (sage) whose wealth is his penance, will go to his place; and O you superhuman being, the ladies will observe this full vow.

Footnotes and references:


Adhokṣaja—an epithet of Viṣṇu.


Kṛsara: a dish consisting of sesamum and grains, mixture of rice and peas with a few spices.


Puloman: Name of a demon, the father-in-law of Indra (Puruhūta).


Mausala: The civil war among the Yādavas.


Prastha: a particular measure of capacity equal to 32 palas.

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