The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Procedure of Karttikasnana 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 Karttikamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 4 - The Procedure of Kārttikasnāna

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: Snāna (Bath) has a special religious significance in the life of Hindus. Apart from the compulsion of bath everyday and recommendation of bath twice a day to a householder and thrice a day to a recluse (Yati), there are special occasions and religious merit from taking bath at certain places (vide HD II, i, 658-669). The present chapter deals with the procedure, time etc. of holy bath in the month of Kārttika.

Brahmā said:

1. When a period of forty-eight minutes is still left for sunrise, the devotee should go to a water reservoir (a tank, a pond or a river) taking with him clay, Tulasī and clothes and a waterpot, O sage.

2-3. After coming to the bank he should place the vessel there on its bank. He should then wash his feet and repeat the name of the place, time etc. He should remember the rivers beginning with Gaṅgā and the deities beginning with Viṣṇu and Śarva. He should stand in navel-deep water and repeat this Mantra:

4. “O Janārdana, O Dāmodara, the Lord of Devas, I shall perform the early morning ablution in the month of Kārttika for propitiating you along with Mā (Lakṣmī).

5. O Keśava, the destroyer of sins, I shall perform the Nitya (daily) and Naimittika (to be done on special occasions) rites in the month of Kārttika and then take the holy bath. I shall then offer Arghya. Make it (the procedure of bath) free from obstacles.”

6. Thereafter he should offer Arghya etc. to the deities of the Tīrtha etc. in the proper order: “O Hari accompanied by Rādhā, accept the Arghya offered by me.

7. Obeisance to the Lotus-naveled Deity; bow to you lying in the waters. Obeisance to you, O Hṛṣīkeśa. Accept the Arghya. Obeisance to you.

8. I am observing the Vrata in the month of Kārttika. I have taken my holy bath duly. Accept the Arghya offered by me, O destroyer of prominent demons.

9. May the five rivers Kiraṇā, Dhūtapāpā,[1] Sarasvatī of meritorious waters, Gaṅgā and Yamunā sanctify me.”

10. The man should offer Arghya to the other rivers as well in accordance with the injunctions. He should remember Gaṅgā in every Tīrtha.

11. He shall never remember other Tīrthas in Gaṅgā. After uttering all these Mantras, he should take the bath for removing the dirt.

12. Thereafter he should perform the clay-bath,[2] the bath unto the manes and the bath unto the preceptor. After that he should sprinkle water on his own head (uttering Pavamāna hymns).

13. Repeating the Aghamarṣaṇa Mantra,[3] he should perform the water libation which is an ancillary to the holy ablution. Thereafter, he should sprinkle water on his own head repeating the Puruṣa Sūkta (RV X.90).

14-16. Then he should come out and place the Tīrtha on his own head. He drinks the Tīrtha three times, comes out of the water with Tulasī in his hand and squeezes out the water from his clothes outside the water reservoir:

“Since the water has been defiled by me through the mass of dirt from my body, I am propitiating Yakṣman (the deity of consumptive disease) to expiate for that sin.”

After squeezing out the water from the clothes, he should apply Tilaka (sacred sectarian mark on the forehead) etc.

Sūta said:

17. Listen ye all, O sages, to the merit arising from the holy bath during Kārttika. This has been related in detail by the Sun-god to Aruṇa.

Aruṇa said:

18. In which Tīrtha and holy spot is the benefit of the holy bath during the month of Kārttika the best? O Lord, tell this.

The Sun-god said:

19-22. During the month of Kārttika holy bath can be taken in any water whatsoever.[4] In any place bath can be taken in hot water during the month of Kārttika. (This is for invalids.)

If one takes bath in cold water, it has ten times the benefit of the bath with hot water. If the bath is taken in a small well outside, it has hundred times more benefit. The benefit arising from the bath in a tank is a thousand times that of the bath in a big well. From the bath in a lake that benefit will arise ten thousand times. By taking bath in a stream the merit shall be ten times of that. There shall be more benefit if the holy bath is taken in a river in the month of Kārttika.

23. The bath in a Tīrtha is proclaimed as one having ten times the benefit of the bath in a river, O excellent bird. Ten times more benefit accrues from the bath at the confluence of two rivers.

24-27. There is no end to the merit accruing from a holy bath taken at the confluence of three rivers. The following holy Tīrthas[5] are very difficult of access for holy bath during Kārttika: Sindhu, Kṛṣṇā, Veṇī, Yamunā, Sarasvatī, Godāvarī, Vipāśā, Narmada. Tamasā, Mahī, Kāverī, Sarayū, Śiprā, Carmaṇvatī, Vitastā, Vedikā, Śoṇa, Vetravatī, Aparājitā, Gaṇḍakī, Gomatī, Pūrṇā, Brahmaputrā, the excellent lake Mānasa (or Nārāyaṇa in Kaccha), Vāgmatī, Śatadru and Badarikāśrama. Know the other Tīrthas from me.

28. Āryāvarta is the besfower of merit more than all other holy spots. Kolhāpurī[6] is more excellent than that and it is said that the two Kāñcīs (i.e. Viṣṇu’s as well as Śiva’s) are still more excellent.

29-33. Anantasenavasati[7] (Residence of Anantasena), Varāhakṣetra and Cakrakṣetra[8] are respectively superior to the previous one. Muktikṣetra[9] is superior to that. Avantikā is more excellent than that. Better than that is Badarikāśrama. Ayodhyā is superior to it and Gaṅgādvāra is superior to that. Greater than that is Kanakhala and superior to that is Madhupurī (Mathurā).

If people stay at least for one Kārttika month at Mathurā, take regular baths in the waters of Yamunā, they remain in Vaikuṇṭha for a long time. Rādhā-Dāmodara himself took his holy bath therein in the month of Kārttika. Hence Madhupurī is the most excellent one. Particularly Yamunā is very excellent.

34-39. Dvārāvatī is more excellent than that. Everyday Keśava used to bathe there along with sixteen thousand women and other Yādavas.

One by whom a Tilaka with (local) clay (called Gopīcandana) has been applied at Dvārakā, should certainly be known to be a living-liberated soul. The greatness of holy bath taken at Dvārakā cannot be (adequately) described by me. To those who have dedicated their minds to Govinda, it is the brilliant Sun of merit. Beyond that is Bhāgīrathī which flows close to Vindhya (?) (Vindhyavāsinī Devī?). Ten times more merit than it comes from Tīrtharāja (Prayāga) here.

When ten thousand years of Kali Age pass by, Viṣṇu will forsake the earth. With regard to the waters of Jāhnavī the period is half of that and that of the groups of Devas is half of that again. As long as Gaṅgā remains, all the Tīrthas too remain. In their own respective places, they dispel the sins of men only till then.

40-43. ‘When Gaṅgā itself has passed off, who will dispel their sins?’ Thinking thus the excellent Tīrthas will go beneath the surface of the earth.

Hence, O ye all eminent sages, let holy rites be performed as long as Gaṅgā abides. Thereafter enter deep ecstatic meditation and be submerged within the earth till the advent of Kṛta Yuga. Otherwise a man of good intellect is likely to drop off and get polluted on account of Kali Age.

More excellent than that is Kāśī that has no destruction. It is with its support that Gaṅgā too dispels all the sins.

44. There is no destruction of Kāśī even if Brahmā passes away. It is to have a sight of Kāśī that Gaṅgā began to flow on the North. In Gaṅgā, the Tīrtha called Pañcanada (Pañcagaṅgā at Vārāṇasī) is well-known.

45-49. When the month of Kārttika arrives, those Pitṛs who have fallen into Raurava hell, begin to shout, “Will there be some fortunate one in our family who will go to the splendid Pañcanada and perform water libation unto us? Thereby we shall be taken across the ocean of hell.”

At the advent of the month of Kārttika Tīrtharāja (Prayāga) and other Tīrthas go to Pañcagaṅgā for their holy bath. There is no doubt about it.

Even if a hundred thousand sins have been committed, they all become destroyed instantaneously by taking holy bath in Pañcanada, the splendid Tīrtha, and by worshipping Bindumādhava.

If people take their holy bath in the splendid Tīrtha Pañcanada, the merit thereof shall be crores of times that of the holy bath in all the Tīrthas.

Brahmā said:

50. If in the month of Kārttika a person wishes to take his holy bath in Kāverī, he will be liberated from all sins by that itself and he will attain Sāyujya with (i.e. absorption into) Viṣṇu.

51 -53. Who can (adequately) recount the excellent greatness of Kāverī?

In this connection I shall describe unto you the ancient legend about Kāverī, O Brāhmaṇa, listen attentively.

Gaṅgā born of the lotus-like feet of Viṣṇu is on the northern bank of Gautamī. It is worshipped by all the worlds. It is destructive of all the sins of the three worlds. Once she became suspicious about her being sinful and thought thus:

54-57. ‘All the people come to me and leave their sins in me. How can those sins be dispelled?’

With this thought worrying her, she went to Kailāsa in order to ask Bhava (Śiva), the lover of the Daughter of the Mountain. After meeting Mahārudra there the (river) born of the feet of Hari submitted:

Gaṅgā said:

O Mahārudra, obeisance to you. It is to ask you (something) that I have come here. All the people come to me and discharge their sins in me. It is impossible for me to bear those sins, O Lord of Pārvatī. Tell me the means whereby those sins do not beset me.

58-61. On hearing these words of Gaṅgā Parameśvara (Śiva) replied:

“It was to dispel sins that at the outset you appeared from the lotus-like feet of Padmanābha, O gentle lady who are worried and distressed. The overlordship for destroying sins has been allotted to you by Viṣṇu, Still I shall tell you the means of dispelling sins polluting you. Kāverī, the most excellent river, the divine daughter of Kavi(?), is the most excellent among all due to the power of (given by) Hari. She has the power to dispel all the sins in her.

62. One who takes his holy bath in Kāverī in the month of Kārttika, shall be rid of all sins. He goes to the highest region of Viṣṇu.

63. Hence, O gentle lady, go to that (river). You will be liberated from sins.”

On being advised thus, Gaṅgā went to Kāverī, the dispeller of sins.

64. Merely by touching its waters in Kārttika, Gaṅgā, born of feet of Viṣṇu, became rid of all sins and went to her own abode.

65-66. Every year in the month of Kārttika Gaṅgā comes to Kāverī, the sanctifier of the three worlds, the dispeller of sins, in order to take bath with great devotion. Merely by touching her waters in Kārttika Gaṅgā, born of the feet of Viṣṇu, became rid of all sins and went to her own abode.

67-68. Hence holy bath in the month of Tulā (i.e. Kārttika) is praised by learned men. O sage, he who devoutly takes bath in Kāverī in the month of Tulā, becomes immediately liberated from sins and attains the greatest goal. Hence holy bath in Kāverī in the month of Kārttika is commended.

69. He who is devoutly engaged in Kārttikavrata obtains the merit of holy bath in Kāverī and then the greatest goal after hearing this legendary narrative.

70-71. The holy bath taken when a part of the night still remains, is the most excellent one. It causes satisfaction to Viṣṇu. It is of middling merit, if the bath is taken after sunrise but before the setting of the constellation Kṛttikā. It can be the holy bath (in the proper sense) (pertaining to Kārttika) only when taken in the stipulated time. Otherwise it is not so. The bath should be taken by women after receiving permission from their husbands.

72-73. Even a holy rite, if done without husband’s permission, will cause harm to him. Women have no holy rite to be done after forsaking their husbands. Even if she commits a thousand sins, a woman is still virtuous and holy if she carries out the behest of her husband. This position she cannot attain by means of Vratas etc. alone.

74. Even if the husband is poor, fallen, foolish or wretched, he is the refuge unto his wife. By abandoning him a woman falls into hell.

75. O dear one, there is slackness among men in Kali Age in regard to taking a bath. Still I shall tell you about the holy bath during the months of Kārttika and Māgha.

76. One who has perfect restraint of speech and mind, who has good control over hands and feet and who possesses learning, penance and renown, has the benefit from a Tīrtha.

77. The following five do not benefit from Tīrthas: One who has no faith, one of sinful soul, an atheist, a man of unbalanced mind and heart and one who enters into (unnecessary) disputation.

78. A Brāhmaṇa who gets up early in the morning and regularly takes his holy bath, shall be rid of all sins. He attains the Supreme Brahman.

79. Holy bath has been mentioned by learned men conversant with the same (procedure of bath) to be of four types, viz. Vāyavya, Vāruṇa, Divya and Brāhma.[10]

80. The Vāyavya bath is the bath with the dust particles of a cow. The Vāruṇa is the bath in oceans etc. The Brāhma bath is the bath to the accompaniment of the Mantras from the Brāhmaṇa portion of the Vedas. The Divya bath is one with rain water or the sun’s rays.

81. Of all the types of bath, the Vāruṇa type is the best. Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas should take the holy bath repeating the Mantras.

82-83. The bath prescribed for a Śūdra or women is one (to be) taken silently. A girl, a youthful woman, an old woman, a man or a woman or a eunuch—all these are rid of all sins by means of holy baths in the months of Kārttika and Māgha.

People who take holy baths in the month of Kārttika attain the desired result.

84-85. In the excellent Tīrtha of Puṣkara formerly, by the contact

of (the cow) Nanda, (King) Prabhañjana became liberated from the birth as a tiger. By the words of Nandā he attained the greatest (Brahman) in the Kārttika month.[11]

Thus the procedure of taking the holy bath has been recounted. What else do you wish to hear?

Footnotes and references:


Dhūtapāpā: A river with Himalayan source as per VāP 1.45.95, SkP V.ii.74-76. A tributary of Gaṅgā in Banaras (De 57).


A fashion of those days (see HD II, i, 663-64 for the usual procedure of bath). ‘Bath unto Pitṛs’ means reciting Pitṛ Sūkta during bath.


Aghamarṣaṇa ‘Sin-effacing hymn’ (RV X. 190.1-3).


VV 19-27 give gradation of merit-giving baths.


Some of the modern names of these Tīrthas:

Vipāśā—The Bias, Panjab;
Tamasā—Tonse, 12 miles west of Sarayū. It falls into Gaṅgā (VR 1.2.3);
Vitastā—The Jhelum, Kashmir;
Vāgmatī—Bāgmatī—A sacred river in Nepal. Rises in the Himalaya. [Varāhapurāṇa. 215.49]


Kolhāpurī: Mod. Kolhapur. A Devī-sthāna of Lakṣmī (Devī Bh. P. VII.38.5, PdP V. 176.42). Probably the author must have been a Maharashtrian. He records above Kṛṣṇā and Veṇī as two different rivers.


Prob. the same as Anantaśayana of PdP VI.110.8, VI.280.19. Padmanābha in Travancore (Kerala) (HD IV, 733).


If the same as Cakra-Tīrtha, it is variously located at Kurukṣetra, Tryaṃbaka in Maharashtra, Vārāṇasī and at Rāmeśvara (SkP III, Setu-Māhātmya Ch. 3) (De 43).


Muktikṣetra or Muktisthāna is difficult to pinpoint as SkP IV (Kāśīkhaṇḍa 6.21-23 enumerates 26 places as Muktisthāna such a Prayāga, Naimiṣa, Tryambaka (Maharashtra) etc.


VV 79-81 explain four types of bath.


The Comm, states how king Prabhañjana was cursed by a female deer to be a tiger as he shot an arrow at her while she was feeding her young one. By way of redemption she told him that while at Puṣkara he will attack a cow Nandā feeding her calf. He was dissuaded by her. He got redemption by performing bath at Puṣkara in Kārttika.

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