The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Efficacy of Dhatri which is chapter 12 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 twelfth chapter of the Karttikamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 12 - The Efficacy of Dhātrī

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Śaunaka said:

1 -2. The eulogy of Kārttika is the bestower of great merit. When did Dhātrī originate? How did it attain fame? Why is it holy? Why is it destructive of sins? By whom was Āmardakī (Emblica officinalis) made? Tell it in detail.[1]

Sūta said:

3. I shall narrate it, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, how it is a bestower of merit. The devotee shall worship Dhātrī on the fourteenth day in the bright half of the month of Kārttika.

4-5. The great tree of Āmardakī is destructive of all sins. On the fourteenth day named after Vaikuṇṭha, the man should resort to the shade of a Dhātrī tree and worship there the Lord of Devas, Lord Hari accompanied by Rādhā. Then he should circumambulate it one hundred and eight times.

6. With a hundred and eight pieces of gold or silver or the fruits of Emblic myrobalan, he should severally make a hundred and eight circumambulations.

7. After prostrating with eight limbs touching the ground, the devotee should pray to the great Lord. Resorting to the shade of the Dhātrī tree, he should listen to this story.

8. Afterwards he should feed Brāhmaṇas, paying them Dakṣiṇā in accordance with his capacity. If the Brāhmaṇas are satisfied, Hari, the bestower of salvation, is also satisfied.

9. In this connection I shall recount to you the story that gives merit. Even Brahmā is not competent to recount the benefit of Āmardakī (lit., that which destroys sin all round).

10-11. Formerly when everything was turned into a vast sheet of water, when mobile and immobile beings had been destroyed, when the types of Devas and Asuras, Serpents and Rākṣasas had been annihilated, the eternal supreme soul, the Lord of the chiefs of Devas (Brahmā) performed the Japa of the great and immutable Brahman (Mahāviṣṇu) transcending his own soul.

12. As he performed the Japa (mental repetition of the holy names) of Brahman, a deep breath came out of him. Due to the affection on seeing it water came out of the eyes.

13. Drops of tears of love burst out and fell on the ground. The great tree of Dhātrī grew from those drops.

14. It had plenty of branches and twigs. It was laden with fruits. It is glorified as the first among all the trees.

15. Brahmā created it at the beginning and then all the other subjects (such as) Devas, Dānavas, Gandharvas, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas and Serpents.

16. The Lord then created human beings devoid of impurities. Devas came to the place where the Dhātrī, the favourite of Hari, stood.

17. On seeing it those highly fortunate ones were struck with great wonder. They thought and pondered over it frequently, “We do not know what this tree is.”

18-19. Even as they were thinking thus, an unembodied speech said: “This is the Āmardakī tree. Since it is an excellent Vaiṣṇava tree, one will get the benefit of making the gift of cows merely by remembering it. By seeing it one gets twice that benefit and by eating (its fruits) three times the benefit.

20. Hence Āmardakī should always be resorted to by all means. It is Vaiṣṇavī and said to be the destroyer of all sins.

21. Viṣṇu is stationed at its root.[2] Brahmā is stationed above. Lord Rudra Parameśvara is stationed on its trunk.

22. The twelve Suns are stationed on its branches, Devas (the Guardians of the Quarters like Indra and others) are stationed on its twigs. The (thirty-three crores of ordinary) Devas are on its leaves and Maruts are on the flowers.

23-24. All the Prajāpatis (Patriarchs like Dakṣa) are established on its fruits. This tree has been mentioned by me as full of all the Devas.

Hence it should be worshipped for the purpose of attaining all the desired objects.

Once Nārada, the Yogin, stood in front of Brahmā. He bowed down to the Lord of the universe and with great wonder asked thus:

Śrī Nārada said:

25. Just as a grove of excellent basil plants is always liked by Hari, so also a grove of Dhātrī trees is liked by Śrī Hari in the month of Kārttika.

Brahmā said:

26. If anyone performs the worship of Hari in the forest of Dhātrī and takes food under the shade thereof in the month of Kārttika, his sin perishes.

27. When the Sun is stationed in the Zodiac Libra, all the Tīrthas, sages, Devas and Yajñas resort to the Dhātrī in Kārttika and abide themselves here.

28. Whatever meritorious deed a man performs here in the shade of Dhātrī trees, shall become increased crores of times. There is no doubt about it.

29-30. In this context they cite this ancient legend. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, there was a certain Vaiśya in the city of Ayodhyā. He had no wife or sons as ill luck would have it. He was afflicted with poverty.

31-35. He used to assuage the fire of his hunger by begging for alms, O Nārada. Once, he was afflicted with hunger and begged of some merchants. By begging he got some whole grams. He took it and went to the shade of a Dhātrī tree. It was in the month of Kārttika, O Nārada, and he ate the grams there.

Some of the grams which had been left over were given to a Brāhmaṇa by the Vaiśya who was hungry and emaciated. Thanks to the power of that merit, he became a rich king on the earth. Hence, charitable gifts should be made always in the month of Kārttika in a park of Dhātrī trees, O excellent sage, for the achievement of all desirable objects.

One who resorts to the shade of Dhātrī and listens to the story of Hari in the month of Kārttika will be released from all sins like the son of a Brāhmaṇa.

Nārada asked:

36. O Brahmā, who was this son of a Brāhmaṇa? What sin did he commit formerly? How did he attain liberation? Tell these in detail.

Brahmā narrated:

37-40. Formerly there was an excellent Brāhmaṇa on the northern bank of Kāverī. He was well-known by the name Devaśarmā. He was a master of Vedas and Vedāṅgas. He had a son of vicious conduct. The father advised him for his welfare:

“It is the month of Kārttika now. This month is a favourite of Hari. During this period take the holy bath, make charitable gifts and perform holy rites and observances. Dear son, perform the worship of Hari with flowers and Tulasī leaves. Make several offerings of lights, obeisances and circumambulations.”

41. On hearing these words of his father the infuriated wicked-souled son spoke to his father censuring him with his lips throbbing (through anger).

The son said:

42. O father, I will not store merit in the month of Kārttika.

On hearing these words of his son, he angrily spoke to his son:

43. “O evil-minded one, be a mouse in the hollow of a tree in the forest.”

Frightened on account of this curse, the son bowed down to his father and said:

44. “O my Sire, tell me how I can have liberation from the evil species.”

On being propitiated thus, the Brāhmaṇa told him the means of expiation and redemption.

45. “When you hear about the merit accruing from Kārttikavrata which Hari likes much, you will have your liberation, O son, by listening to the story.”

46-47. On being told thus by his father, he became a mouse instantly. He stayed in a cavity for thousands of years in the forest. Once, during the month of Kārttika, Viśvāmitra came there along with his disciples. He took his bath in the river, worshipped Hari and resorted to the shade of the Dhātrī.

48-50. He expounded to his disciples the greatness of the Kārttikavrata. At that time, a hunter of vicious conduct came there ahunting. On seeing the groups of sages that slaughterer of living beings (at first) wished to kill them. By their very sight he became pious-minded. He bowed down to the Brāhmaṇas and asked: “What is being done by you all, O Sirs?”

On being enquired by him thus, the eminent Brāhmaṇa Viśvāmitra spoke to him:

Viśvāmitra said:

51. Kārttika is said to be the most excellent of all months. Whatever holy rite is performed during this month increases like the seeds of a banyan tree.

52. One who, in the month of Kārttika, takes holy bath, makes charitable gifts and performs worship and then feeds Brāhmaṇas shall have everlasting benefit thereof.

53. The Brāhmaṇa (the mouse) heard about the virtue as told to the hunter by the sage. Then he cast off the body of a mouse and adopted a divine body.

54. He bowed down to Viśvāmitra, spoke the details about himself and on being permitted by the sage went to heaven seated in an aerial chariot.

55. The son of Gādhi (Viśvāmitra) and the hunter in particular became very much surprised. The hunter then performed the Kārttika Vrata and went to Hari’s world.

56. Hence making all possible efforts, one should resort to the shade of a Dhātrī in the month of Kārttika and listen to the holy story in front of Keśava.

57. Even a mouse was liberated from the evil species by listening to the story about Kārttika. He who listens to or he who recites the story, shall undoubtedly be entitled to salvation.

58-59. One should have open-air meals in a forest (or a park) after resorting to the shade of a Dhātrī. At the outset, the devotee should take his holy bath in the water in the forest. After performing the usual routine religious duties he should worship Mādhava. Then he should sit in the shade of the Dhātrī with devotion to Hari and listen to the divine story in praise of the month.

60. Thereafter, he should feed, with great devotedness, Brāhmaṇas, the most excellent ones among those who have realized Brahman. Then he himself should take food, O great Brāhmaṇa, remembering Hari.

61. Listen with great attention, O son, to the sins that perish when the Vrata that Hari likes much, is performed thus in the month of Kārttika.

62-65. The sin[3] arising from enjoying what has not been dedicated to Hari, from looking at the Sun while taking food, from taking food from a sinner listening to the words of a woman in her monthly course, the sin of touching another person at the time of taking food, from taking prohibited food, the sin arising from taking food which is defiled and the sin accruing from abandoning pure food in the auspicious hour liked by Hari—all the sins like these will certainly perish. Hence, making all possible efforts one should take food under a Dhātrī tree.

66. If a Brāhmaṇa wears a garland of Dhātrī as well as one of Tulasī in Kārttika month, his merit is infinite.

61. If any man resorts to the shade of a Dhātrī tree and offers in particular a row of lamps, his merit is infinite.

68. Rādhā and Dāmodara are to be worshipped particularly under a Tulasī plant.[4] If Tulasī is not available, the splendid worship should be performed under Dhātrī.

69. If a man takes food at least once under a Dhātrī tree in the month of Kārttika and feeds a couple he is liberated from all evils of food.

70. At the conclusion of the Kārttika Vrata, one should worship the splendid Āmalakī (Emblic myrobalari), feed a couple for the propitiation of Rādhā and Dāmodara and take one’s own food later. His prosperity and glory will never wane.

71. O sage, if any devotee of Viṣṇu in the world wears the fruit of Dhātrī he becomes a favourite of Devas. Of human beings he is much more so—it is needless to say.

72. A person who smears his body with (the paste of) the fruit of Dhātrī, whose diet consists of the fruit of Dhātrī and who is endowed with the fruit of Dhātrī becomes Nārāyaṇa.

73. If a person holds the fruits of Dhātrī always within his closed hand, Lord Nārāyaṇa grants him the desired boon.

74-75. A man who desires prosperity and glory should always take his bath with Āmalaka fruits. Viṣṇu is delighted with the Āmalaka fruits particularly on Ekādaśī days.

One should avoid taking bath with Āmalaka fruits on the seventh and ninth lunar days, on a new-moon day, on Sundays, on a day when the Sun moves from one zodiac to another, on a day of lunar or solar eclipse.

76. If a man resorts to the shade of Dhātrī and offers rice balls (to Pitṛs), the Pitṛs attain liberation with the favour of Mādhava.

77-78. If a man wears the fruit of Dhātrī on the head, hands, face, arms and the neck, O dear one, if he is embellished with the Dhātrī fruits, Keśava lovingly rolls on his body as many times as the garland of Dhātrī moves to and fro round his neck.

79. Fruitful indeed is the life of that man in whose house these three exist, viz. a fruit of Dhātn, Tulasī and the clay originating from Dvārakā (called Gopīcandana).

80. A man can reside in Vaikuṇṭha as many thousands of Yugas as the number of days he wears a garland of Dhātrī (flowers) in Kali Yuga.

81. A man who wears round his neck the two garlands, one of Dhātrī and the other of Tulasī, shall stay in heaven for crores of Kalpas.

82-83. If a person resorts to the shade of Dhātrī on the twelfth lunar day, worships Hari, feeds Brāhmaṇas there itself and himself takes cooked pulses and other stuffs as his food, he does not return (to the world) even after hundreds and crores of Kalpas.

84-86. One should worship Hari with leaves and fruits of Tulasī and Dhātrī; If a Tulasī (plant) is watered along with Dhātrī in the month of Kārttika, all the sins like that of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter perish as in the case of the Brāhmaṇa Dharmadatta[5] who attained salvation formerly.

Nārada said:

87. Previously this has been said by you that it should always be resorted to by men in the month of Kārttika and worshipped. It should not be used in the four (rainy) months. Please tell everything completely to me.

Brahmā said:

88. O Brāhmaṇa-sage, beginning with the splendid Daśamī (tenth day) in the bright half of the month of Kārttika, it should be resorted to in all the holy rites of the deities or Pitṛs.

89-91. Men who worship Madhusūdana with its leaves and fruits from the tenth day pass on to Vaikuṇṭha.

When the Kārttika Vrata is concluded one should perform Vanabhojana[6] (taking food in the open air in a park or a forest). O highly fortunate one, one should celebrate Vanabhojana on the fifth, tenth or twelfth day or on the full-moon day.

Equipped with all condiments and ingredients and accompanied by old men and young children, an intelligent person should enter the park rendered splendid by Dhātrī trees.

92. There should be the following trees all round, beautifying that park: mango, Baka (Sesbana grandiflora), Aśvattha (the holy fig tree), Picumanda (Azadirachta indica), Kadamba, banyan and tamarind.

93-96. After going there, O highly intelligent one, the devotee should perform Puṇyāha rite (purificatory rite) at the outset. The Vāstupīṭha (pedestal of the holy site) for the sake of worship should be made at the root of Dhātrī. A square-shaped altar should be made. It shall be splendid and a Hasta long as a seat of deity. There shall be an Upavedikā (smaller altar) in front of the Altar: O highly intelligent one, the place should be beautified by means of minerals.

To the west of the Altar, he should make the pavilion for the Kuṇḍa (holy pit). It must have three Mekhalās (girdles, circular rings) and a vaginic-shaped frontal inlet. O gentle one, it should extend to one Hasta.

97. Afterwards he should take his bath, perform Japa and worship of the Lord. Thereafter, he should gather fire and perform Homa in accordance with the injunctions.

98-101. The Homa should be with milk-pudding, ghee, jaggery, pulse-soup and Palāśa twigs. Caru should be carefully prepared for the sake of the Planets and the deities of the house-rite. Then Rakṣā-Homa (Homa for the sake of protection) should be begun repeating the synonyms of Dhātrī viz. Dhātrī, Śānti, Kānti, Māyā, Prakṛti, Viṣṇupatnī, Mahālakṣmī, Ramā, Mā, Kamalā, Indirā, Lokamātā, Kalyāṇī, Kamalā, Sāvitrī, Jagaddhātrī, Gāyatrī, Sudhṛti, Antajñā, Viśvarūpā, Sukṛpā and Abdhisaṃbhavā.

The Homa should be performed along with the principal deity.

102. Repeating the Mantra beginning with Saṃsṛṣṭa (Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa) as well as Ṛṣabhaṃ (Ṛg Veda X. 166.1) the devotee should make the offerings of Apūpa (sweet pie) mixed with jaggery and cooked pulse.

103. After performing one hundred and eight Homas with milk-pudding while repeating the Mūla Mantra, he should perform the Homas for the presiding Devas of the Planets etc. respectively.

104-109. In the Homa for Dhātrī, O highly intelligent one, and in Rakṣā-Homa, milk-pudding should be offered. Then the Homa for Sviṣṭakṛt (Fire-god of that name) should be performed. Then oblations should be made. The Rakṣā-Homa and worship should be performed for Indra and other Guardians of the Quarters carefully and scrupulously.

Afterwards oblation should be offered to Dhātrī tree along with the altar everywhere with cooked pulse mixed with jaggery. Then he should pray thus: “Obeisance to you, O goddess Dhātrī. Accept the excellent oblation with a mixture of jaggery and cooked pulse. O deity, the bestower of all auspiciousness, give me highly intelligent sons. Grant me auspicious renown, intelligence, prescience, presence of mind, good luck and devotion to Viṣṇu. Make me free from diseases forever and rid of all sins perpetually. O goddess, make me refulgent and rich.” After praying, he should circumambulate and place the oblations.

110-111. Those who circumambulate at the time of offering oblations attain Sālokya (residence in the same world) with Viṣṇu along with the Manes. Then he should perform the Pūrṇāhuti (offering with ladleful of ghee) and conclude the remaining part of the Homa.

112. Those who see with their own eyes the smiling Lord of Ramā stationed at the root of Dhātrī tree attain Sāyujya with Viṣṇu.

113-116. Thereafter the rite of Vaiśvadeva should be performed and the sylvan deities should be worshipped. Then, O son of Brahmā, perfumes and raw rice grains should be offered to Brāhmaṇas. He should feed the Brāhmaṇas then. Thereafter, he should take his own food along with kinsmen. Afterwards he should take old people and children to their respective houses. At night, he should maintain perfect celibacy and sleep on bare ground.

The excellent rite of Vanabhojana should be celebrated by the learned man himself or in the company of other people in the village for ridding himself of all sins. After celebrating all these rites, he should dedicate everything to Kṛṣṇa.

117. In the rite of Vanabhojana the benefit is the same as that of a thousand horse sacrifices or a hundred Rājasūyas.

118. Hence, O highly fortunate one, Dhātrī is sacred. It is destructive of sins. Dhātrī (i.e. tree) is the Dhātrī (supporter and sustainer) of men. It acts like a Dhātrī (nurse).

119. If water (i.e. juice of Dhātrī) is drunk, it bestows longevity. If people take bath using Dhātrī they can secure more religious merit. It is destructive of Alakṣmī (Ill-luck). Merely by taking the bath, one shall attain salvation. By taking regular bath using Dhātrī men will never meet with obstacles.

120. Hence, O Nārada, O great Brāhmaṇa, try to take regular bath using Dhātrī. You will go to the abode of Hari after attaining Devahood.

121. Wherever one takes bath using Dhātrī (water), whether it is in a Tīrtha or in a house, Hari is present there.

122. O Brāhmaṇa sage, O excellent ascetic, if the bones in the body of a man are washed with the use of Dhātrī while bathing, he will never stay in any womb.

123. If, O great Brāhmaṇa, the hair of anyone is washed with Dhātrī juice, he goes to Keśava after getting rid of the dirt of Kali.

124. The fruit of Dhātrī is highly meritorious. The bath is stated as still more meritorious. O dear one, O excellent sage, if it is eaten, it is more meritorious than other meritorious things.

125. Even one single fruit of Dhātrī on the day of Mādhava (i.e. the eleventh lunar day) is more meritorious than Gaṅgā, Gayā, Kāśī, Veṇī and Puṣkara.

126. Bath with the use of Dhātrī, the name of Hari, Ekādaśī (eleventh lunar day) and Śrāddha at Gayā, O dear son, all these are on a par and the sages know it.

127. One who touches Dhātrī everyday, gets rid of all his sins of mind, body and speech.

128. O excellent sage, one should never take bath with Dhātrī fruit on new-moon days or seventh and ninth days or on Sundays or on the days of the transit of the Sun from one Zodiac to another.

129. Ghosts, evil spirit known as Kūṣmāṇḍa or Rākṣasas do not enter that house where, O excellent sage, Dhātrī grows.

130. He who does not wear round his neck a garland made of Dhātrī fruits, should not be considered a Vaiṣṇava or one who is engaged in devotional duties towards Viṣṇu.

131. Neither a garland of Tulasī nor of Dhātrī in particular nor that of lotus seeds should be abandoned by those who desire virtue, wealth or love.

132. One can stay in Vaikuṇṭha as many thousands of Yugas as the number of days on which the man wears Dhātrī garland in the Kali age.

133. Dhātrī is full of all Devas. It is a favourite of Vāsudeva. It should be planted, resorted to and worshipped always by men.

134. Thus the excellent greatness of Dhātrī has been entirely recounted to you. It yields the fruits of all the four great aims of life. It should be always listened to by devotees.

135. If a person resorts to the shade of Dhātrī in the month of Kārttika and takes food, the sin arising from contact with food for one full year perishes in his case.

Footnotes and references:


Tree-worship is an age-old custom in India. Trees like Banyan, Pippal (Aśvattha), Bilva, Tulasī etc. have been objects of worship since hoary antiquity. Purāṇic writers have invested them with interesting legends like a beautiful drapery and we have such stories about religious importance of Dhātrī (Emblica officinalis) etc. A picnic and open air food under the shade of a tree is a happy social function but it is converted into a religious function by the Purāṇa writer here.


VV 21-24 describe how Dhātrī is occupied by all Devas.


VV 62-65 enumerate the social norms current then. The violation of those norms or etiquettes is regarded as ‘sins’.


The cult of Rādhā-Dāmodara and the deification of Tulasī plant were well established before this Purāṇa.



The story of Dharmadatta is given in details in Ch. 24.


Vanabhojana is really a picnic in a park but in vv 90-1 17, we find its transformation into a religious rite.

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