The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Efficacy of Bhishmapancaka Vrata which is chapter 32 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 thirty-second chapter of the Karttikamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 32 - The Efficacy of Bhīṣmapañcaka Vrata

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Vālakhilyas said:

1. On the eleventh day in the bright half of the month of Kārttika, one should take one’s early morning bath and take up this Vrata which lasts for five days. He shall have proper restraint (on his senses).

2. The duties pertaining to a king, those conducive to salvation and those concerning charitable gifts were recounted by Bhīṣma, the noble soul, who had been lying on a bed of arrows. The Pāṇḍavas and Kṛṣṇa listened to them.

3. Then the delighted Lord Vāsudeva spoke: “Extremely blessed are you, O Bhīṣma. The pious and virtuous duties and rites have been recounted by you.

4. On the eleventh day in the month of Kārttika, you requested for water. With the speed of an arrow the water of Gaṅgā was brought by Arjuna.

5. Your body was rendered contented. Hence let all the people offer libations to you and propitiate you beginning from today and ending on the full-moon day.

6. Hence let them perform this Vrata named Bhīṣma Pañcaka with full exertion, which will give me satisfaction.

7. After performing the Kārttika Vrata, one should not perform the Bhīṣmapañcaka Vrata. His entire Kārttika Vrata may become futile.

8. If a man is incapable of performing or he has no means to perform the Kārttika Vrata, he can perform Bhīṣmapañcaka and obtain the merit of Kārttika Vrata.

9-10. Persons of all castes are eligible to offer libation with the sacred thread in the usual position. They will offer the same with this Mantra: ‘I offer this Arghya (handful of water) to the noble-souled Bhīṣma who was the son of Gaṅgā, was steadfast in his vow of truthfulness and was a celibate throughout his life.’

11. The gift of Pāpapuruṣa[1] (i.e. idol representing his sins) should be made, because it is an essential part of the Vrata. It is to be given on the full-moon day. At any cost, this Vrata should be performed by a person who has no son.

12. One who performs this Vrata, Bhīṣmapañcaka, for the sake of a son, shall do so along with his wife. After giving away the Pāpapuruṣa, he will get a son within a year.

13. Hence the Bhīṣmapañcaka Vrata should necessarily be performed. This Bhīṣmapañcaka has been mentioned by me as causing delight unto Viṣṇu.”

Sūta said:

14. May all the sages listen to the special feature of Bhīṣmapañcaka. Formerly it was related to Kārttikeya in detail by Rudra.

Īśvara said:

15-16. O most excellent one among those who undertake Vratas, I shall explain a highly meritorious Vrata. This Vrata, lasting for five days, was received by Bhīṣma from Vāsudeva. Therefore, it is called Bhīṣmapañcaka[2] by him. Who except Keśava is capable of recounting the good qualities of this Vrata?

17-21. Listen. This ancient pious rite was performed in the bright half of the month of Kārttika by Vasiṣṭha, Bhṛgu, Garga and others in the earlier days of Kṛtayuga. With offerings etc. (to the Lord), this was performed in the earlier years of Tretāyuga by Aṃbarīṣa. This was performed by Brāhmaṇas observing the vow of celibacy, through Japas, Homas, holy rites etc., by Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas who were devoted to truthfulness and cleanliness. It is very difficult to perform for those who are devoid of truthfulness. It is impossible for men of puerile minds. Since it is difficult to be performed they call it Bhīṣma (terrible). It cannot be performed by ordinary people. If a person (successfully) performs it, O great Brāhmaṇa(?), everything is achieved by him.

This Vrata is highly meritorious. It is destructive of great sins. Hence Bhīṣmapañcaka should be performed by men with great effort.

22. On the eleventh day in the bright half of Kārttika, one should take bath and take up this Vrata of five days’ duration perfectly in accordance with the injunctions.[3]

23. The person who undertakes the Vrata should (at the outset) take an early morning bath. At midday he should smear himself with cowdung and then take bath in a river or in the waters of a stream.

24. He should duly offer libations to the Pitṛs successively with barley, rice-grains and gingelly seeds. After the bath, the man, steadfast in his Vrata, should wear a washed cloth silently.

25. He should offer libations and Arghya to Bhīṣma carefully. Worship of Bhīṣma should be performed and gifts should be made scrupulously.

26. Especially five precious stones should be given carefully. Lord Vāsudeva accompanied by Lakṣmī should always be worshipped.

27-28. By performing the worship in the course of the five (days), the devotee shall become contented for a crore of births.

If a man makes a gift of anything made of five metals, he gets the entire benefit of all the Vratas spread over a period of a year.

29-31. After offering libations, the man should offer Arghya with the following Mantra. He deserves to be liberated.

“I offer libations to issueless Bhīṣma whose Gotra was that of Vaiyāghrapāda, whose Pravara was Sāṅkṛtya, who was an incarnation of a Vasu, who was the son of Śantanu, to Bhīṣmavarman (a Kṣatriya named Bhīṣma) who was celibate throughout his life. I offer him Arghya”.

This is the Mantra for Arghya.

32. He who concludes the Pañcaka (period of five days) in this manner, shall certainly attain merit equal to that of a horse-sacrifice.

33. The holy observances and restraints should be maintained on all the five days. A person of superior caste should never be without the restraints.

34. Bhīṣma was without Uttarāyaṇa (no span of life extending to Uttarāyaṇa?). But Hari gave it to him. He was highly pleased and so gave him a pure Lagna (auspicious hour) despite his not having Uttarāyaṇa.

35. Then the devotee should worship Lord Hari, the destroyer of all sins. Thereafter, the Bhīṣmapañcaka Vrata should be carefully performed.

36-37. He should bathe very devoutly Keśava with water, then with honey, milk and ghee. Similarly he shall bathe with Pañcagavya and then with scented sandal water. The Garuḍa-emblemed Lord should be anointed with sweet-smelling sandal-paste, saffron and camphor mixed with Uśīra (a fragrant herbal root of Andropogon muricatus).

38. The devout man should worship the Lord with beautiful flowers along with sweet scents and incense. He should devoutly offer aromatic resin mixed with ghee.

39. There should be a lamp burning day and night on all those five days. The Naivedya to the Lord of Devas is Paramānna (rice boiled in milk and sugar).

40. He should worship the Lord thus meditating upon him and bowing down to him. Then he shall perform the Japa “Oṃ. Obeisance to Vāsudeva” one hundred and eight times.

41. He should perform Homa with gingelly seeds, rice-grains, barley etc. soaked in ghee while reciting the six-syllabled Mantra accompanied by the utterance of Svāhā. (Thus the Homa-mantra is: oṃ namo viṣṇave svāhā.)

42. After saying the evening prayers, the devotee should bow down to the Garuḍa-emblemed Lord. After reciting the Mantra as before he should always lie down on bare ground.

43. All these rites should be performed on all the five days. There is a special feature in this Vrata which should not be omitted. Listen to it.

44. On the first day the devotee who has undertaken the Vrata shall worship Hari’s feet with lotuses. On the second day he should worship the knees with Bilva leaves.

45-46. Thereafter, he should worship the head of the Discus-bearing Lord with Mālatī (Jasmine) flowers.

On the eleventh day in the month of Kārttika he should worship Hṛṣīkeśa, the Lord of Devas, with great devotion with the mind fully centred on the Lord. Succinctly speaking, after taking in cowdung he should fast on the eleventh day.

47. On the twelfth day the devotee sitting on the ground and reciting the Mantra, should drink cow’s urine, drink milk on the thirteenth day and curds on the fourteenth day.

48. He should eat or drink these things for the purpose of purifying the body. Apart from these, he should abstain completely from food for the (first) four days. On the fifth day he should take bath, duly worship Keśava and feed Brāhmaṇas with devotion. He should give them monetary gifts too.

49. He should eschew sinful thoughts and inclinations. He should take to celibacy. The intelligent devotee should abstain from liquor, meat and sexual intercourse—all causes of sin.

50-51. Only vegetables should be taken along with the cooked rice of sages. He should be devoted to the worship of Kṛṣṇa. Then he should take his meal at night beginning with Pañcagavya. Thus it should be concluded well. He should (thereby) attain the benefit as mentioned (before).

52. Even a drink-addict who has been drinking liquor from birth till death, shall attain the highest region by performing this Bhīṣmavrata.

53. This Vrata can be performed by women at the instance of their husbands. It should increase virtue and piety. This Vrata should be performed by widows for increasing the happiness of salvation.

54. Formerly in Ayodhyā there was a king named Atithi. At the suggestion of Vasiṣṭha he performed this rare Vrata. After enjoying all worldly pleasures here he went to the city of Viṣṇu in the end.

55. Thus one should always perform the Vrata called Bhīṣmapañcaka. He shall observe fast along with the restraints. Only Pañcagavya, milk, fruit and Haviṣya food shall be consumed by the person devoted to the Vrata.

56. On the full-moon day he should perform the worship as before, feed Brāhmaṇas with devotion and make the gift of a cow along with its calf.

57. The Vrata which is famous (on the earth) as Bhīṣmapañcaka has been described. It should be observed from Ekāḍaśī (eleventh day) till the full-moon day. It is not intended for one who is eager to take food. Taking food is prohibited in this Vrata. Viṣṇu grants auspicious fruit (reward) (to the observer of this Vrata).

Footnotes and references:


Pāpapuruṣa-dāna: The idol has iron fangs, is sword-handed and terribly dressed. It is to be placed on gingelly seeds and covered with a black cloth. After offering red flowers and reciting the names of Dharmarāja the idol is to be given to a Brāhmaṇa.


The etymology of the Vrata: (i) Vrata taken up by Bhīṣma; (ii) A Vrata which is terrible i.e. difficult for performance, VV 17-21 mention the important persons who performed this in ancient times.


VV 22ff describe the detailed procedure of this Vrata. It is called Pañcaka as its duration is of five days.

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