The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Rites to be Performed on Vatsadvadashi, [...] Dipavali which is chapter 9 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 ninth chapter of the Karttikamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 9 - Rites to be Performed on Vatsadvādaśī, [...] Dīpāvalī

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Summary: Rites to be Performed on Vatsadvādaśī, Yamatrayodaśī, Narakacaturdaśī and Dīpāvalī.

Vālakhilyas said:

1. Kṛṣṇa described to Dharma (i.e. Yudhiṣṭhira) (the holy day) named Vatsadvādaśī.[1] The twelfth lunar day must be in conjunction with the time of sunset in worshipping a calf.

2-3. “On the first day, worship of a calf is to be performed under the shade of a banyan tree. One should apply sandal paste etc. to a domesticated milch cow along with its calf of the same colour. Then he should worship them with flower-garlands.

On that day, O Yudhiṣṭhira, the devotee should abstain from foodstuffs deepfried in oil, cooked in pots, cow’s milk, cow’s ghee as well as mixture of curds and milk.

4. At the time of sunset, either one ghaṭikā (24 minutes) before or one ghaṭikā after the disc of the sun is half-set, the rite of Nīrājana should be performed and it should be ascertained whether the omens are auspicious or inauspicious.[2]

5-6. At the outset many lamps are lit. They are then placed in golden vessels etc. Then the rite of Nīrājana should be performed and the omens observed. Then he should take all the lamps and place them facing the North. The important lamps are said to be nine. He should have others too.

7. If the flame is brilliant with sparks and if it shoots towards the South, (it is a good). If the flame is steady, it indicates happiness. If it is otherwise, it forebodes misery.

8. It is laid down that the rite of Nīrājana for men is (to be performed) in the earlier part of the night on the five lunar days beginning from the twelfth day of the dark half of Kārttika.

9. The first lamp indicates the fortnight; the second, the month; the third, the season; the fourth, the Ayana (i.e. north and south transits of the Sun); and the fifth lamp, the year. Thus the lamp shall indicate auspiciousness and inauspiciousness.

10. ‘Lamps are born of parts of the Sun. They are the dispellers of darkness. Let them illuminate me in all the three units of time and let them indicate auspiciousness or otherwise.’

11-12. After consecrating it with the above incantation, the Nīrājana rite should be performed in due order to the following: Devas at the outset, then Brāhmaṇas, elephants, horses, elders, excellent people, lower people and the women, the chief of whom is mother.

13. After performing the Nīrājana rite, the lamps should be placed in their respective places. If the flames are rough, there is loss of wealth; if white, there is destruction or shortage of food; if they are dark-red, there shall be wars; if the flames are black, there is death.

14. A cowherdess named Ekāṅgī[3] first performed this Vrata. Within three years she became endowed with wealth and food-grains.

15-16. Hence the worship of cows must be performed on the twelfth day in the month of Kārttika. After hearing about the greatness of this Govrata those men who perform this rite will never be wanting in cows due to the power of Govrata. If any offence has been committed by him against cows that shall perish due to this Vrata.”

Vālakhilyas said:

17. The devotee should perform this Vrata on the fourteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina near about the festival of light.[4]

18-19. On the thirteenth lunar day the devotee should cleanse his teeth and take early morning bath. Then with great devotion to Govinda, he should make the resolution of observing the pious rites for three nights. At the end of this Vrata the festival of Govardhanotsava should be celebrated. Trayodaśī which extends to more than three Muhūrtas (3 x 48 = 144 minutes) is permitted. Overlapping by the next Tithi does not amount to transgression (and consequent deficiency).

20. On the thirteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina, the devotee should offer Yama Dīpa[5] (lamp facing the South) in the early part of the night with oblations too. Premature death can be avoided (thereby).

21. Formerly the infant son of Hemanaka[6] became liberated from the calamity of premature death on the thirteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina, due to the mercy (of the Lord).

The Messengers (of Yama) said:

22. O Yama, take pity on us and tell the means whereby one will not fall off from life in this type of great festival.

Yama said:

23-26. “May the son of Sun (Yama) be pleased along with Mṛtyu (god of Death) along with the noose and the rod, Kāla as well as MĀ (Lakṣmī) be pleased, because a lamp has been offered on the Trayodaśī day.”

If after reciting this Mantra, a person who offers (lights) excellent lamp at the entrance of the house in the early part of the night on the thirteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina every year, O messengers, such a person should not be brought here during the festival of light, even in the case of premature death. Let my order be carried out.

Reciting this Mantra he who keeps the lamp at the door of his house, need not be afraid of premature death during the (Dīpāvalī) festival.

Vālakhilyas said:

27. On the fourteenth day mixed with the thirteenth too, in the dark half of the month of Āśvina, one should try to take his bath early in the morning.[7]

28. If a man takes his bath, except at dawn, on a Rikta day (i.e. fourth, ninth and fourteenth days in the lunar fortnight), all his holy rites for the whole of the year perish undoubtedly.

29. Similarly, O Suras, taking oil bath at sunrise on the fourteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina (i.e. in last watch of the night) is considered excellent.

30. (Partially defective text) When there is no Caturdaśī (fourteenth day) for two days at moonrise, or when it occurs on two days the first one alone is taken.

31. If one does not take oil bath due to compelling circumstances, stubbornness or out of courteous nature on the fourteenth day, one shall fall into Raurava hell.

32. There is Lakṣmī in the oil and Gaṅgā in the water. He who takes early morning bath on the fourteenth day i.e. on Dīpāvalī day, does not see Yama’s region.

33-35. For the destruction of Naraka, the devotee should stir and whirl Apāmārga (the plant Achyranthes aspera), Tuṃbī (pot-gourd) or Prapunnāṭa (Cavia alata) in the water kept for bath. The following excellent Mantra should be repeated nine times:

“O Apāmārga, you are endowed with thorny leaves and you are in contact with the lump of clay from the furrow. Dispel sin even as you are being whirled again and again.” He should then move round Apāmārga and Prapunnāṭa above the head.

36. After taking bath, the devotee should, with the wet clothes on, offer lamp to the sons of Mṛtyu:

“The two canine brothers Śyāma and Śabala are the sons of Mṛtyu and attendants of Yama. May they be pleased by this offering of lamp on the Caturdaśī day.”

37. One should perform this holy ablution along with dear and near relatives. Then by performing the libation of water which is an ancillary to the holy ablution, Yama should be propitiated.[8]

38-40. “Obeisance to you, to Yama, to Dharmarāja, to Mṛtyu, to Antaka, to Vaivasvata, to Kāla, to Sarvabhūtakṣaya (destroyer of all living beings), to Audumbara, to Dadhna, to Nīla, to Parameṣṭhin, to Vṛkodara, to Citra, to Citragupta.”

These fourteen shall be the Mantras severally with namaḥ (obeisance) added on to them (such as yamāya namaḥ etc.). With each mantra three handfuls of water with gingelly seeds should be offered.

41-42. While performing this Tarpaṇa (libation), the devotee may wear his sacred thread in the usual manner or in the opposite direction because Yama has the two forms, viz. that of a Deva and a Pitṛ. Even a person whose father is alive can offer libation to Yama and to Bhīṣma.

After worshipping the Devas, Dīpa (Lamp) should be offered to Naraka.

43-45. In this context itself, the procedure for taking bath in the case of one who desires fortune is being spoken by me.

If on the fourteenth day of the dark half of Āśvina, or on the new-moon day (of the same month) or on the first day of the month of Kārttika, one takes the holy bath, he should take it with oil or unguent applied at the time of moonrise.

A man who takes the auspicious bath on the second day in the month of Kārttika, in conjunction with Svāti constellation, is not separated from fortune. There is Nīrājana rite with lamps. Hence this is remembered as Dīpāvalī.

46-47. Even if the moon sets, even after the transit the sun has set and the day has come to a close, taking oil bath then will not incur any evil. But in the morning for the purpose of dispelling sins, the devotee should eat Māṣaparṇī leaf (Glycine debilis). By taking oil bath on the Caturdaśī day called Preta-Caturdaśī, the devotee is liberated from all sins.

(On the whole there shall be three days of the festival of lights).

48-49a. On the fourteenth day in the dark half of the month of Āśvina, on the new-moon day and on the first day (of Kārttika) which is in conjunction with Svāti constellation, one should take these three days as the festival days of lights.[9]

49b-55. Bali, the great king, was told ṃus by Hari who was delighted: “Welfare unto you. Choose your boon, whatever may be in your mind.”

On hearing these words of Viṣṇu, Bali spoke these words:

“What is there to be requested for, for my own sake? Everything has already been given over by me. For the sake of the general public I shall request. If you are competent, grant it unto me. Today the earth was gifted to you who are in the false guise of a Dwarf. Since that has been taken over by you by means of three steps in the course of three days, let there be my rule on the earth for three days, O Hari.

Let this lady, your wife (Lakṣmī), stay permanently in the house of those people who offer lamps in my kingdom on the earth.

Let the continuous darkness of the shadow of Lakṣmī fall on that house in my kingdom where there will be darkness due to want of lights.

56. If people offer lamps to Naraka on the fourteenth day, all their forefathers shall cease to be in Naraka (Hell).

57. O Keśava, how will there be bright illumination of lamps in the house of those people by whom rows of lamps were not lit after reaching the kingdom of Bali?

58-60. (Defective Text) There is no doubt about this that there shall be perpetual grief in the house of those people who do not show enthusiasm and who are always glo??y [gloomy?] and dejected in the kingdom

of Bali (i.e. during the Dīpāvalī days). Let the reign of Bali be for three Caturdaśī days.”

This should have been the request(?)

Formerly, in the form of a dwarf the Lord requested for this earth and handed it over to Indra the guest(?) and by Hari thus three days were given to Bali, the Lord of the Daityas rendered a resident of Pātāla. Hence great festival should be celebrated (during these three days).

61. O great sages, a goddess called Mahārātri[10] was born (appeared) on the fourteenth day (of the dark half of Āśvina). Hence those who are devoted to worship of Śakti should celebrate her festival.

62-64. After coming to the kingdom of Bali, Yakṣas, Gandharvas, Kinṇaras, medicinal herbs, ghosts, Mantras, magic crystals etc., all of them get delighted. They dance in the early part of the night. There is no doubt about this that those Mantras will be accomplished in the kingdom of Bali. Just as the people coming to the kingdom of Bali are highly delighted, so also on that day the people should be full of delight.

65-68. When the sun is in Libra, on the nights of Caturdaśī and new-moon day, men should celebrate the festival of “showing the path unto the Pitṛs” with firebrands in their hands. The dead men and ghosts who are in hell see the path, due to this Vrata always. No doubt need be entertained in this respect by leading sages.

In the month of Āśvina three Tithis have been glorified beginning with Caturdaśī. They should be taken when they spread over the midday for the rites of offering lamps etc.

If these three Tithis fall before Saṅgava (second of the five divisions of the day), the celebrations of offering lamps etc. should be conducted when they are in conjunction with the previous Tithis.

The sages enquired:

69-71. O Brāhmaṇas, we wish to enquire about the greatness of Kaumodinī festival. What is to be eaten on that day? Whose worship is to be performed? Why is it performed? Which is the deity thereof? What is to be given specially as charitable gift on the day? What in particular should not be given? What rejoicing is indicated in this? What sport is glorified? May the excellent sages recount the benefit from the Festival of Lamps (Dīpāvalī).

Vālakhilyas replied:[11]

72-71. At the time of daybreak on the new-moon day, O leading sages, one should take bath and devoutly worship and bow down to Devas and Pitṭs. He should then perform the Pārvaṇa Śrāddha with curds, milk, ghee etc. None but children and sick persons should take food during the day time.

Then, at nightfall, he should worship the splendid Goddess Indirā (Lakṣmī). He should then erect a clean and beautiful pavilion for Lakṣmī by means of various kinds of cloths.

75. It should be wonderfully decorated with various kinds of sprouts and flowers of various colours. There he should worship Lakṣmī as well as Devas.

76-77. Goddesses (such as Sarasvatī, Kālī, Gaurī) too should be worshipped with many types of offerings and services. He should devoutly massage the feet of Lakṣmī and others. Formerly it was on this day that Devas were set free from the prison of Bali. Lakṣmī too was released (therefrom).

78-83. Thereafter, the Devas went to the Milk Ocean along with Lakṣmī. They slept soundly for a long time. Hence, O great sages, the cots are to be made with twines within and there should be fine cotton beds. They shall be covered with excellent sheets resembling milk and foams. The devotee should install those Suras and Lakṣmī in the proper directions to the accompaniment of Vedic chants. Freed from the fear of Daityas, Lakṣmī slept soundly within the lotus. Hence, here too, all amenities for sound sleep should be made.

If a person makes a bed of lotuses on that day, for increasing the happiness of Lakṣmī, she will not go anywhere else leaving his house.

If persons do not provide such amenities for the sound sleep of Lakṣmī, can those men sleep at night without being worried about money? Hence a man should worship Lakṣmī making all efforts.

84-85. He should be rid of poverty and become well-established among the members of his own community.

Cow’s milk should be boiled along with nutmeg, cloves, cardamoms and camphor. Sugar should be added as much as is necessary. Laḍḍukas (ball-shaped sweets) shall be made thereby and dedicated to Lakṣmī.

86. All the four types of foodstuffs also should be made and offered saying, “May Śrī be pleased.” Even before Hari wakes up, Lakṣmī should be wakened through women devotees.

87. If a woman or the man wakens Lakṣmī at the (proper) time and then takes food, Lakṣmī never forsakes her or him for the whole year.

88-90. Demons became frightened of Viṣṇu. After getting shelter and immunity from fear from Brāhmaṇas they went to the Milk Ocean. After knowing that Lakṣmī who had resorted to the lotus was asleep, they eulogized her: “You are the refulgent splendour of all the luminous bodies like the sun, the moon, fire, lighting, gold and stars. You are the splendour of all luminous bodies. Obeisance, O Goddess stationed in the (bright) flame of the lamp. May that Lakṣmī who is present on the meritorious day of Dīpāvalī on the earth, and in the cowpen on the Kārttikī day be the bestower of boons to me.”

91-93. Thereafter the lamp should be offered in the early part of the night. A firebrand should be whirled round one’s own head. It is preventive of all calamities and misfortunes.

‘Light-trees’ should be made according to one’s capacity in temples etc., quadrangles, cremation grounds, rivers, mountains, houses, roots of trees, cowpens, levelled square-shaped plots of sacrifice, etc. The grounds along highway should be decorated and beautified with cloths and flowers.

94-97. After decorating the entire city at nightfall, the king should feed Brāhmaṇas as well as all hungry persons. Then he should take food, decorating himself with new clothes and ornaments. Then in the afternoon (of the next day) the king should announce thus: “O people, today, this is the kingdom of Bali. Sport as you please. O children, play as you please.” After commanding thus, the king should provide them with toys. Therefrom, he shall find out the auspicious and inauspicious features. In the kingdom of Bali one is at liberty to do whatever one may think about.

98. O great sages, five (sinful deeds) are said to be gateways unto hell, viz. violence to living beings, drinking liquor, carnal approach to forbidden women, theft and breach of trust. One should abstain from these five in the kingdom of Bali.

99. Then at midnight the king himself should go round the city slowly on foot in order to survey the beautiful kingdom of Bali and the gaiety therein. After seeing the same, he should return to his abode.

100. After the midnight passes thus, when men are asleep with half-closed eyes, the delighted women of the city begin to drive away Alakṣmī (Ill-luck, Misfortune) from their respective courtyards with winnowing baskets and small Ḍiṇḍima drums.

101-103. If there is Daṇḍaikarajanī Yoga(?) the new-moon day has to be fixed for the next day. At that time the previous day is discarded and the festival of Sukharātrikā[12] (Happy Night) is celebrated on the following day.

If Vaiṣṇavas or non-Vaiṣṇavas do not celebrate this festival of the kingdom of Bali, their pious and holy rites shall be futile undoubtedly.

At night people should keep awake by reading the Purāṇas etc. or playing at dice in front of Hari or reciting the Gītā.

Footnotes and references:


This Vrata is a relic of the pastoral stage in our social evolution. Cows have been regarded as ‘sacred’ since the Vedic times due to their importance in agricultural economy. Gopāla Kṛṣṇa, the cowherd boy-god came to be identified with the Vedic god Viṣṇu and the worship of cows and their calves assumed the status of a Vrata pleasing to Viṣṇu and came to be included as an item in the Vratas to be performed in Kārttika, a month ‘dear’ to Viṣṇu.


VV 4-13 indicate the ancient belief in divination of the future by the movements and colours of the flames of the lamps in Nīrājana on this evening. The identification of lamps with units of time and the Dīpa-Mantra (v 10) poetically attributing the parentage of lamps to the Sun-god and the prognosis from them (vv 13), an example of the beneficiary (14) and Phalaśruti—all this is the Purāṇic way of draping old customs as a Vrata.


As an instance of a person benefitted by this Vrata, the Purāṇa mentions the name of an Ābhīra girl Ekāṅgī who, though expelled by her father on his Priest’s allegation about her character, was able to reunite with her father and got happily married due to the observance of this Vrata for three years. The story appears in the SKS.


VV 17 ff describe the Vrata connected with Dīpāvalī days.


It is our practice to light a lamp facing the South in the evening of the 13th day in the dark half of Āśvina. It is called Yama-dīpa. The Vrata-aspect of the practice is described in vv 20-26.


The story how Hemanaka’s son was saved from premature death is given in SKS.


VV 27-35 describe the procedure of bath on the Dīpāvalī day. VV 43-47 also give a special procedure for the same.


VV 38-42 describe Yama-Tarpaṇa for which even a person with his father alive is eligible and can do it with Savya (the usual) way of wearing the sacred thread.

Bhīṣma-Tarpaṇa is described in Bhīṣmapañcaka Vrata (Ch. 32).


The festival of lights is celebrated fo??hree [for three?] Dīpāvalī days as these three days are of the regime of King Bali on the eart Viṣṇu (Vāmana), after depriving Bali of his kingdom granted these three days fo??he [for the?] enjoyment of all in Bali’s kingdom.


A deity associated with complete destruction of the world. The deity is worshipped in left-handed manner as described in Devī-yāmala-Tantra.


VV 72 ff describe the Kaumodinī or Kaumudī festival and the procedure of celebrating it. According to the commentator Kaumudī is derived from Ku, ‘The earth’ and ^mud, ‘to be delighted’.

It means ‘festival of delight on the earth’:

kau modante janā yasmān nānābhāvaiḥ parasparam |
hṛṣṭās tuṣṭāḥ sukhāpannās tenaiṣā kaumudī smṛtā ||


Sukharātrikā is the name of a special Vrata for conjugal happiness.

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