The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Dialogue between Narada and Arjuna which is chapter 4 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the fourth chapter of the Kaumarika-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 4 - Dialogue between Nārada and Arjuna

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Summary: Dialogue between Nārada and Arjuna: Different Kinds of Charitable Gifts.

Nārada said:

1. Then I began to think: ‘How can this place come in my possession? For, this earth is always under the control of kings-

2. If I go to Dharmavarman[1] and beg for the land, he will surely hand it over to me but what is acquired by begging is not very decent.

3. Indeed, it has been so declared by the sages. Wealth is of three kinds:[2] The most excellent one is Śukla (‘white’), the mediocre one is Śabala (‘of variegated colours’) and the basest one is called Kṛṣṇa (‘black’).

4-5. What is obtained from disciple through the teaching of the Vedas is Śukla.

What is obtained through a daughter, usury, business operation, agricultural activities or begging is called Śabala by good people.

What is acquired through gambling, stealing, daring adventures and fraudulent" means is regarded as Kṛṣṇa.

6. If a person performs a holy rite by means of Śukla wealth with great faith and sincerity, in a holy spot and on behalf of a deserving person, he will enjoy the benefit thereof as a Deva.

7. If one were to offer charitable gifts to those who seek them with Rājasa emotions and feelings, by means of Śabala wealth, one enjoys the benefit thereof as a human being.

8. If a man, the basest among men, is actuated by Tāmasa emotions and feelings and offers charitable gift by means of Kṛṣṇa wealth, he enjoys the benefit thereof after being reborn as an animal after death.

9-10. The wealth acquired by me by begging will clearly be of the Rājasa nature- Or, in the capacity of a Brāhmaṇa I may request the king for monetary gift. That also is very bad for the same reason, in my opinion. This Pratigraha (‘acceptance of monetary gift’) is terrible. It may taste like honey, but it is comparable to poison in its injurious effects.

11. Distress and affliction is always associated with Pratigraha and it affects the Brāhmaṇa.’ Hence, I refrained from the sinful Pratigraha.

12. Then I began to think again and again: ‘We shall make the region come into our possession by any of the means, by either of the two means.’

13. Just as the husband of a vicious wife never ceases to worry, so also pondering and deliberating on this I never came to the end of my anxious thoughts.

14. In the meantime, O son of Pṛthā, many sages came there to take their holy dip in the sacred Mahīsāgarasaṅgama.

15-16. I asked them all: “From where have you come?” They bowed down to me and said: “O sage, there is a king named Dharmavarmā in the land of Saurāṣṭra. He is the over-lord of this territory. Desirous of knowing the truth of Dāna, he performed penance for many years.

17-18. Then an ethereal voice pronounced a verse[3]: ‘O king, listen. It is said that Dāna has two Hetus (causes, motives), six Adhiṣṭhānas (bases), six Aṅgas (ancillaries), two Pākas (places of fruition), four Prakāras (varieties), three Vidhis (procedures) and three Nāśas (destructive factors or agents).’

After pronouncing this verse the ethereal voice stopped.

19. In spite of being asked, it did not explain the meaning of the verse, O Nārada. Thereupon, King Dharmavarmā announced through the beating of drums:

20. ‘I will give the following things to that person who gives the correct interpretation of this verse that has been acquired by me through penance.

21. I will give seven million cows, gold (coins) to that extent and seven villages to the person who explains this verse.’

22. On hearing the important announcement of the king through the drum, O sage, crores of Brāhmaṇas of many countries came.

23. But the words of the verse were difficult to understand, O sage. Those prominant Brāhmaṇas could not explain it like a dumb man who could not express (the taste of) treacle.

24. But out of covetousness for the prize, we too went there, O Nārada. But since the verse was very difficult to understand, we gave it a low bow and came to this place.

25. As this verse was inexplicable, the prize was not obtainable by us. How are we to conduct this pilgrimage? Thinking over all these things, we came away to this place.”

26. O Phālguna, on hearing these words of those noble souls, I was much delighted. After bidding them adieu I thought thus.

27. ‘Oh! I have got the means to acquire the place. There is no doubt about it. By explaining the verse, I will get the place and the prize from the king.

28. I will get them as a price of my learning. Thus (the question of) begging or accepting monetary gifts does not arise. Truthfully did Vāsudeva, the ancient sage, the preceptor of the universe, say:

29-31. If one has faith in holy rites, that faith is never unfulfilled; if one has great keenness for sinful activities that too is never unfulfilled: Thinking thus, learned men do according to their taste. This statement of the lord is true. Though ray desire was great and very difficult to be fulfilled, it has germinated, grown up and borne fruit clearly. I know clearly (the meaning of this verse which is inscrutable (to others).

32-33. This had formerly been explained to me by the unembodied Pitṛs.’ Thus, O son of Pṛthā, I thought over it frequently. After bowing down to the Tīrtha Mahīsāgara-Saṅgama repeatedly, I started from there in the guise of an old Brāhmaṇa. Then I went to the king.

34. I told him thus, “O king, listen to the explanation of the verse. Please increase the gift which you have announced by beating the drums.”

35. When it was said (by me) thus, the king said: “Crores of excellent Brāhmaṇas have said thus. But they are not able to explain its meaning.

36-37. What are the two causes? What are those bases mentioned to be six? What are those six ancillaries? What are those regarded as the two places of fruition? What are those four varieties? What are the three types of Dānas, O Brāhmaṇa? What are said to be the three destructive agents of Dāna?Explain this clearly.

38-41. If you clarify these seven questions, O Brāhmaṇa, I will give you seven million cows, gold (coins) to that extent and seven villages. If not, you will (have to) go back to your house.”

When the king Dharmavarmā, the lord of Saurāṣṭra, spoke these words I said to him:

“Let it be so. Listen attentively- I shall clearly explain the verse.[4] Hear the two causes of Dāna. Śraddhā (‘faith’) and Śakti (‘capacity’) are the two causes of growth and imperishability of the act of charitable gifts. The quantity of the thing gifted away (is immaterial). It may be small or great. Both of them cause prosperity.

42-43. There are some verses about Śraddhā:

Dharma (‘virtue, piety’) is subtle. It is not acquired through many bodily sufferings or physical strain. Nor is it obtained through heaps of wealth. Śraddhā is (the cause of) Dharma. It is a wonderful penance. Śraddhā is both heaven and liberation (‘Mokṣa’). Śraddhā is the entire universe.

44. Even if one gifts away one’s entire assets, nay, the very life itself, without Śraddhā (‘faith and sincerity’) one will not obtain any benefit. Therefore, one should be faithful and sincere.

45. Dharma is achieved through Śraddhā and not through great heaps of wealth. Indeed, the sages who were poor and intelligent went to heaven as they were endowed with Śraddhā.

46. Listen, Śraddhā is inherent in the nature of the embodied beings. It is of three types, viz. Sāttvika, Rājasa and Tāmasa.[5]

47. Persons of the Sāttvika type worship Devas. Those of Rājasa type worship Yakṣas and Rākṣasas. People of the Tāmasa type worship ghosts, goblins and spirits.’[6]

48. Hence, lord Rudra is gratified with that charitable gift offered by a faithful one and given to a deserving one. The wealth must be one that is acquired through fair, justitiable means. It does not matter even if it is of a very small quantity.

Verses about Śakti[7]

49. The surplus that one has after having properly fed and clothed the members of the family, may be given as gifts. If it is otherwise, the Dharma of the donor is like honey in taste but poison in effect (afterwards).[8]

50. When one’s own people are leading a life of hardship, if one offers any gift to other people who are well-off, one is acting like a person who swallows poison thinking that he is drinking honey. His charitable gift is only a semblance of righteousness.[9]

51. If one performs the funeral rites and obsequies with great deal of trouble and disturbance to the servants, the same will ultimately cause unhappiness to one who is alive as well as to the dead man.[10]

52-54. Even during emergency the following nine things should not be given away as gifts by wise men[11]: Sāmānya (i.e. a property shared with others or commonly or jointly owned by many), Yācita (i.e. what has been obtained by begging), Nyāsa (‘deposited amount’), Ādhi (i.e. what is pledged or mortgaged), Dārāḥ (‘wife’), Darśana (‘bail-amount’), Anvāhita (‘security deposit’), Nikṣepa (‘amount held in Trust’), and Sarvasva (‘the entire property’) when one’s family is not extinct. A man who gives these as gifts is a foolish person. He will have to perform Prāyaścitta (i.e. expiatory rites for it).

Thus, O king, the two causes have been mentioned.

Be pleased to listen. Now I shall mention the bases. They are six in number. Hear them.

55. Dharma, Artha (‘wealth’), Kāma (‘desire’), Vrīḍā (‘shame’), Harṣa (‘delight’) and Bhaya (‘fear’): They say that these six are the bases of Dānas.

56. If a gift is made to a deserving person everyday without expecting anything in return (here or hereafter), only with the idea that it is one’s duty, it is called Dharmadāna (i.e. gift based on Dharma).

57. After tempting a rich man with the offer of some money if one gains a lot of wealth, the money so offered (? a bribe) they call Arthadāna. Henceforth (I shall mention) Kāmadāna. Listen.

58. Expecting something in return, if a gift is made on certain occasions with great attachment (but) to undeserving persons, it is called Kāmadāna (i.e. Dana based on a desire).

59. Out of shame, if, in the open assembly, one promises to the suppliants something and offers a gift, the Dāna so given is well known as Vrīḍādāna (i.e. Dāna based on sense of shame).

60. If, after seeing or hearing something pleasing, one is pleased and offers a present as a token of his delight, this Dāna is called Harṣadāna (i.e. Dāna based on delight) by people who discuss (the problems of) Dharma.

61. If something is given to persons who never help, in order to avoid rebuke or revilement, censure or injury, it is called Bhayadāna (i.e. Dāna based on fright).

62-64a. The six bases (of Dānas) have been mentioned. Listen to the six anciīīaries (of Dāna viz.) Dātā (‘donor’), Pratigrdhītā (‘the recipient’), Śuddhi (‘purity’), Deya (‘the thing gifted’), Dharmayuk (‘the thing associated with Dharma’) and Deśa-Kāla (‘place and time’). These are known as six ancillaries of gifts.[12]

The donor is highly praiseworthy on the basis of six counts:

(1) he should be free from sickness; (2) he should be a righteous soul; (3) desirous of giving; (4) free from vices or danger; (5) pure in conduct; (6) his vocation as well as activities should be free from reproach.[13]

64b-66. The donor who is not straightforward, who entertains no faith, whose mind is restless and disquiet, who is insolent and cowardly, who is dishonest (lit. who gives false promises) and who is always sleepy is the meanest one of Tāmasa nature. A Brāhmaṇa who is white (i.e. pure and exalted) in three[14] respects, viz. family, learning and behaviour, is of meagre means of livelihood, who is kind and considerate, whose sense-organs are unimpaired, and who is free from the defects of source of origin, is called Pātra (‘a deserving person’).

If the donor’s immediate reaction on seeing suppliants is one of excessive pleasure with delighted face, if he shows hospitality and absence of malice, it is called Śuddhi (‘Purity’).

67. The wealth that has been earned by one without harassing others or by giving undue pain to others (and by) one’s own effort, is called Deya (i.e. that which deserves to be gifted). It may be small or large in quantity.[15]

68-70. If the gift is associated with some holy rite or pious activity, it is called Dharmayuk. If there is dejection (in the heart), the benefit is nil. (If a rare thing is gifted it has special merit. If a thing out of season is gifted it has special merit. If a gift is made when the recipient is in need of if, it has special merit.) Therefore the place and time should be chosen properly for Dāna. If they are befitting they are excellent and not otherwise. The six ancillaries have been mentioned. Listen to the two places of fruition. They say that the two places of fruition are this world and the other world.

71. If anything is gifted to good people, the benefit thereof is attained in the other world. If any gift is made to bad people, the benefit thereof is enjoyed here (in this world) itself.

72. The two places of fruition have been pointed out thus. Listen to the four varieties[16]: They are in order Dhruva, Āhustrika, Kāmya and Naimittika.

73-76. This is the Vedic path of charitable gifts. It has been divided into four as explained by Brāhmaṇas. Gift of water booths, parks, lakes etc. where the fruit is desired (and enjoyed) by all is called Dhruva.

What is given everyday they call Āhustrika (i.e. gift without any motive or desire).

What is given with a desire to obtain progeny, victory, prosperity, wife and children is called Kāmya. It is based on a desire.

In the Smṛti texts the Naimittika (dāna) is mentioned as threefold, viz. Kālāpekṣa (i.e. caused by a particular time), Kriyāpekṣa (i.e. necessitated by a certain holy rite) and Guṇāpekṣa (based on certain qualities). Always these rites are performed without Homa (i.e. ghee offerings in the sacred fire). Thus the varieties have been described to you. The three types are (being) mentioned now.

77. The three types are Uttama (‘best’), Madhyama (‘mediocre’) and Kānīyasa (inferior)[17]. There are eight Dānas of the superior type in accordance with the injunction; four Dānas of the mediocre type and the remaining ones are of the inferior type. This is the Trividhatva (i e. three types of dāna).

78. The Uttamadānas are the following: (The gift of:) houses, palaces, learning, earth or land, a cow, a well, marketplace and saving lives by means of medicines, foodstuffs or by way of withstanding attacks on them. They are called Uttamadānas because excellent things are offered as gifts.

79. Food grains, resting places, garments and vehicles such as horse etc: These are the Madhyamadānas because these mediocre things are offered as gifts.

80-81. The gifts of footwear, an umbrella, vessels etc., curds, honey and seats, lamps, staff, (precious) stones etc. are called Kānīyasas. The last one is of the duration of many years (?). Listen to the three destructive agents of Dānas.

82-83- If the donor regrets much after making a gift it is called Āsura (‘demoniac’). It is devoid of benefit. If the donor gives without faith or sincerity, it is called Rākṣasa. This is also fruitless. If the donor rebukes and then makes the gift, or if after giving, the donor reproaches the Brāhmaṇa, it is called Paiśāca (‘pertaining to ghosts and vampires’). It is also fruitless. These three are the destructive agents of Dāna.

84. Thus the excellent greatness of Dāna connected with the seven words (i.e. questions) has been explained, O king, according to my capacity. Tel! me whether it is correct or not.”

Dharmavarmā said:

85. Today my birth has become fruitful. Today my penance has borne fruits. O most excellent one among persons of good actions, I have been made contented and blessed today.

86-88- If a Brahmacārin studies the whole of his life, his life is fruitless. If a person gets a wife after undergoing great deal of sufferings and she happens to be one speaking displeasing words it is vain. If one digs a well with great strain and the water happens to be saltish, the digging is vain. If life is spent without pious activities and many sufferings are undergone, the life is vain. In the same manner my name had been vain but now it has been made fruitful by you. Hence obeisance to you. Repeated obeisance to the Brāhmaṇas.

89-90. Truly did Viṣṇu say to Sanatkumāra and others in the abode of Viṣṇu:

“When I partake of the offerings of ghee in the sacrifice through my mouth, i.e. the Fire-god (I am happy but it is not as much as) I get from the mouth of a Brāhmaṇa who gets satisfaction while eating every morsel (of food) with all his holy rites and fruits thereof dedicated to me. (When I see him taking food I am happy. This happiness is more than in the previous case.)”

91. I have done something not pleasing to the Brāhmaṇas-Hence I am not happy. Brāhmaṇas are the lords of all. Let them forgive my misdemeanour. I entreat them.

92. Who are you, holy Sir? You are not an ordinary person. I bow down to you for the favour you have shown! Reveal yourself, O Sage.

When told thus, I spoke to him then:

Nārada said:

93. O excellent king, I am Nārada. I have come here for the sake of a plot of land. Give me the money and the land for erecting a holy shrine as promised (by you).

94. Although this earth and wealth belong to Devas, O king, it is necessary that the king of the day and of the place should be requested.

95. He is the incarnation of Īśvara. He is the lord and the bestower of freedom from fear. Similarly I request you to attain the purity of the wealth. At the outset give me an abode, because you are the person to fulfil my request.

The King said:

96. If you are Nārada, O Brāhmaṇa, let the entire kingdom be yours. Undoubtedly I shall render service to your Brāhmaṇas.

Nārada said:

97. If you are a devotee of ours, you must carry out our suggestion.

98. Give me all the amount that you have promised. But give me land only to the extent of seven Gavyūtis (7x3=21 kms). Its protection is only through you.

He agreed to it. I began to think about the remaining affairs.

Footnotes and references:


This king of Saurāṣṭra is not mentioned in other Purāṇas.


For the classification of wealth into Śukla (i.e. white, pure), Śabala (i.e. dark-white, mixed) and Kṛṣṇa (i.e. dark) cf. Nārada Smṛti, Ṛṇadāna vv. 40-43; Viṣṇu Dh. S. ch. 58 also divides wealth in the same way.


For explanation of the verse, see below vv 41-84.


This discussion on Dāna shows considerable influence of BG, ch. XVII.


Quotation from BG XVII. 2.


Quoted from BG XVII. 4.


Śakti is the capacity of the donor. The verses here summarise the limits to generosity laid down in Dharma Śāstra.


Verse from Bṛhaspati, quoted in Aparārka (p. 780).


Quoted from Manu XI. 9.


Vide Manu XI.10.


Quoted from Dakṣa III. 19-20; cf, Nārada, Dattapradānika 4-5.


Cf. Devala quoted by Hemādri in caturvargacintāmaṇi, Dāna Section.


Quotation from Devala in Aparārka, p. 199.


Triśukla—(i) exalted in family pedigree, (ii) in learning and (iii) in behaviour; vide infra 5.120.


Cf. Devala as quoted in Aparārka, p. 288.


Normally dānas are classified into three types, viz. Nitya, Naimittika and Kāmya but our author, probably under the influence of Devala, adds Āhustrika (called Ājasrika by Devala) for nitya (i.e. everyday gifts such as food after Vaiśvadeva).

The lines from: Prapārāmātaḍāgādi (v.73b) to sadā homavivarjitam (v.76b) are a quotation from Devala; vide Aparārka, p. 289 where he quotes these lines of Devala.


Although v. 81a is a quotation from Devala, the classification of dānas given here is somewhat different from that of Devala. Vide Aparārka. pp. 289-90.

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