The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Liberation of Pitris which is chapter 22 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 twenty-second chapter of the Vaishakhamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 22 - Liberation of Pitṛs

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Maithileya asked:

1-6a. What are the meritorious lunar days in the month of Vaiśākha? What are the different charitable gifts recommended particularly in those Tithis? What are those Tithis which are very popular in the world? Speak out in detail.

Śrutadeva said:

(All) the thirty Tithis are meritorious in Vaiśākha when the Sun is in Aries.

What is performed on the Ekādaśī (Eleventh) day is highly meritorious. It shall be crores and crores of times efficacious. He who takes a plunge in the water on the eleventh day attains the merit which is obtained by means of all charitable gifts and that benefit which is obtained in all the Tīrthas. Holy bath, charitable gift, penance, Homa, worship of the Deity, good holy rites and listening to the story: all these bring about salvation instantaneously. One who is afflicted with sickness etc., and assailed by poverty shall become contented and blessed by listening to this meritorious story.

6b-10. One who spends these auspicious days without taking bath and without charitable gifts is proclaimed as a big (sinner on a par with) a slayer of cows and parents or as an ungrateful fellow. Water reservoirs are within our reach. Our body is under our own control.

Mādhava is to be served mentally; the time is very excellent with very good qualities; and pious men are full of mercy. Who then does not serve Mādhava (the Lord, the month of Vaiśākha)?

Holy rites in Vaiśākha can be performed with the greatest ease by the poor, the rich, lame ones, blind ones, eunuchs, widows, men, women, teen-aged ones, youths, old people and those who are laid up with sickness.

11-15. At the advent of this month, perform all these auspicious rites. Who will not endeavour for this? Who is more auspicious than that man? One who does not perform these easy rites is a base man. There is no doubt about this that hells are easily within his reach.

Now I shall mention the Tithi that is the most excellent one in that month that dispels all sins. I shall mention the essence like butter that is taken from curds.

In the highly meritorious month of Caitra (?) when the Sun is in Aries, that Tithi has the Manes for its deity (new-moon day?). It is destructive of sins. It yields the benefit of crores of Gayās. In this connection an ancient story about Pitṛs is heard. Listen, O king, to that good story (which happened) when Sāvarṇi was ruling the earth.

16. At the end of the thirtieth Kaliyuga which is devoid of all Dharmas, there was a certain Brāhmaṇa well-known as Dharmavarṇa in the land of Ānarta.

17-18. The sage had already observed in the first quarter of that same Kaliyuga, O king, that the people were engrossed in sins. At that time of Kaliyuga which was devoid of Dharmas fixed for different castes, once he went to the holy place of Puṣkara where the noble-souled sages were engaged in a Sattra (sacrifice of a long duration) along with the observance of the vow of silence.

19. The sages held a discourse on scriptural topics. Some of them who were habituated to the performance of holy rites praised Kaliyuga.

20. The merit of propitiating Mādhava which could be accomplished in the course of one year in Kṛtayuga could be accomplished in a month in Tretāyuga, O king, and the same in a fortnight in Dvāparayuga.

21. Ten times that merit can be achieved through the remembrance of Viṣṇu in Kaliyuga. Even the least bit of meritorious deed in Kaliyuga will have crores of times the benefit.

22-24. In Kaliyuga which is devoid of mercy and meritorious deeds, which is bereft of charitable gifts and other holy rites, he who shows mercy and makes any gift after uttering the name of Hari but once, shall go up (to higher regions) certainly. So also the person who gives food during a famine.

While this topic was being discussed thus, Sage Nārada came there. He caught hold of his own penis with one hand and the tongue with the other and began to laugh like a madmen. The excellent sage began to dance too.

25-30. Those who were in the assembly asked him, “O Nārada, what is this?”

That highly intelligent sage replied to them all while continuing to dance and laugh: “On account of pleasure. Since it has been mentioned by you who have sanctified your own souls and who are dancing (?) There is no doubt about it. We are all (persons who have) realized souls. The meritorious Kali has arrived. It is true. There is no doubt about it that much is achieved through very little. Merely by remembering Keśava, the destroyer of pain, we can make him delighted.

Still I will have to tell you that two things cannot be accomplished definitely, dear sons, viz. curb on the penis (sex instinct) and check on the tongue permanently. If both of them are under the control of anyone, he shall become Janārdana. Hence, at the time of the advent of Kaliyuga, you all must not stay here. Leave off this heretic Bhārata[1] and go anywhere else as you please, to any of the lands where your mind feels delighted.”

31. On hearing these words of his, the honourable sages of holy rites concluded the Sattra and went away as they pleased.

32-36. On hearing them, Dharmavarṇa too felt inclined to abandon the country. He observed the holy rite conducive to increasing refulgence in order to survey the misdeeds in the Kali Age. He took up his staff and waterpot and proceeded wearing bark garments and matted hair.

With his mind struck with wonder, he saw cruel people and atrocious rogues indulging in the commission of sinful deeds.[2] All the Brāhmaṇas were heretic and the Śūdras became recluses. Wife hated husband and disciple hated preceptor. Servant became the murderer of master and son was engaged in slaying father. All Brāhmaṇas mostly resembled Śūdras; all cows resembled goats; the Vedas became folklore and auspicious holy rites (prescribed in Vedas etc.) became degraded like ordinary everyday activities.

37. Evil spirits, ghosts and vampires became deities bestowing benefits. Cruel people engaged in sinful activities worshipped them alone sincerely.

38. All the people were eagerly engaged in sexual intercourse, willing to abandon even their lives for that purpose. They committed perjury. They were all deceitful in their minds.

39. In Kali Age, there was always one thing in the mind, another in the utterance and still another in their action. To everyone Vidyā (higher learning) became only a means for achieving some selfish interest. That became worthy of adoration even in royal palaces.

40. In Kali Age, the fine arts including music and allied arts came to be liked and specially patronized by kings. The lowly and the vulgar ones became greatly esteemed and not the excellent ones.

41. In Kali Yuga, all the Brāhmaṇas well-versed in the Vedas would become poverty-stricken. Devotion to Viṣṇu generally becomes conspicuous by its absence.

42. Every holy spot generally became prominent resort of heretics. Śūdras became expounders of Dharmas. They became ascetics with matted hair in Kali Age.

43. All men were short-lived. All the people became ruthless rogues. All professed to be expounders of Dharma and all felt festive gaiety in pilfering and plundering.

44-45. People wish that they should be worshipped by others. They are engaged in futile accusations and censures of others. If the lord and master were to visit one’s house, others became jealous of it.

In Kali Age a brother may carnally approach his sister and a father, his own daughter. All people became enamoured of Śūdra women; all were fascinated by the charms of harlots.

46. People ignored good and honourable men. They honuoured those having committed many sins. Foolishly stubborn persons eagerly pointed out even a single defect of good men.

47. Defects and blemishes of sinners are spoken of as good qualities. In Kali (Age) all the people devoid of good qualities, take only defects into account.

48-51. People were endowed with the characteristic quality of the leech which drinks only blood and not milk, not even water. Medicines become devoid of (their) potency; the seasons have undergone reverse changes.

There is famine in all the kingdoms. No woman delivered children at the right time. In Kali Age, men take great pleasure and interest in the arts of actors and dancers.

Foolish and stupid persons looked upon honourable men as their servants—ṃose men who were superior in qualities and were engaged in the study of Vedas and Vedāntas.

People had abandoned Śrāddha rites. All the people left off the holy rites laid down in the Vedas. The names of Viṣṇu never occur on their tongues. The romantic sentiment of love gave them great bliss. They sang songs of erotic nature.

52. There was no service to Viṣṇu; no discussion of scriptural topics. There was no initiation for the purpose of sacrifices. There was not even the least consideration. No pilgrimage was undertaken; no charitable gifts were given; and no holy rites were performed by people during Kali Age. It was something surprising.

53. On seeing those things, Dharmavarṇa became exceedingly surprised and very much frightened. On seeing the whole race heading towards destruction, he went to another continent.

54-56. After wandering over all the continents and worlds that intelligent (Brāhmaṇa) went once to the world of Pitṛs out of curiosity. There he saw his own Manes and ancestors in a terrible plight. Due to their Karmas, they were exhausted and weary. They ran about here and there. They cried and lamented. Some of them had fallen into a blinding dark well. Some were about to fall therein.[3]

57-60. They were miserably suspended at the tip of a Dūrvā grass. They were suspicious and afraid of its snapping and giving way at any moment. Then there came a mouse to the very root of the Dūrvā grass. Three-fourths of the root were already gnawed and only one part remained. On seeing the root gradually wearing off, they were miserable with agony.

When they looked down, they saw the blinding dark well exceedingly terrible because of the impending fall of the embankment. It was very difficult to be surmounted. It was exceedingly terrible. It was brought about by their own Karmas. They were (therefore) extremely miserable. The space ahead too was unsurmountable and devoid of any support.

On seeing them the compassionate Brāhmaṇa was wonder-struck and he spoke these words:

61-66. “Who may you be? What is that insurmountable Karma whereby you have fallen into this? In whose Gotra were you born? How will you get a sure liberation? Tell this and it will be conducive to your welfare.” On being told thus, those Manes became exceedingly miserable on account of those words. They spoke to him in pitiable tone and words, they who kept Dharma and Śrutis ahead (of everything else).

The Manes said:

We belong to Śrīvatsa Gotra. We are (almost) devoid of progeny on the earth. We are denied the Piṇḍas (rice-ball offerings) and Śrāddha rites. Therefore, we are scorched and agonized. It was on account of the sins that our race became issueless in this Kaliyuga. As the race has become extinct, there is no one to give us the Piṇḍas. Therefore, we, the wretched ones, devoid of progeny, are about to fall into the blinding dark well. There is only one in our race, Dharmavarṇa of great reputation. But he is unattached to worldly affairs. He is single (unmarried). He has not adopted the life of a householder.

67. Thanks to this (single) progeny, we somehow hold on, being supported by the single blade of Dūrvā grass. Since (he) has no progeny the mouse gnaws at its root everyday.

68. Since only one is remaining a bit of the blade of grass is left. O gentle Sir, look (how) it is being gnawed by the mouse.

69. At the end of his life, O dear one, the mouse will take away the rest of the grass too. Thereafter we should fall into the blinding darkness of the well that cannot be surmounted.

70. Hence go to the earth and enlighten Dharmavarṇa, the sage who is averse to a householder’s life, through our words, as we are worthy of his compassion:

71-75. “Your ancestors are extremely agonized. They have fallen into hell. They were seen by me suspended by a Dūrvā blade and about to fall into the insurmountable blinding darkness of the abysmal well. That Dūrvā is symbolic of this family. O sage, the mouse is Time and it gnaws at its root everyday.

The family is gradually heading towards destruction. You alone are left. Hence, O sage, although three-fourths of the Dūrvā grass have perished, one part still remains, since you are present on the earth. As your life wanes away, the mouse goes on eating bit by bit. When you ultimately die, you and we will fall together in the deep well of blinding darkness as (the family) will be bereft of all progeny.

76. Hence adopt the life of a householder and raise a family. Thereby you and we shall undoubtedly have the uplift.

77-82. Many sons are to be sought after so that at least one of them may go to Gayā, or perform a horse-sacrifice or ritualistically discharge a dark-coloured bull.

Even if one of them performs on our behalf, holy bath, Śrāddha or charitable gifts in the month of Vaiśākha, Māgha or Kārttika, we shall be lifted up and be redeemed from hell. One of them will be a devotee of Viṣṇu. One of them may observe (fast etc.) on the day of Hari (i.e. on the eleventh lunar day). Or one of them may listen to the sin-destroying story of Viṣṇu. Thereby a hundred generations preceding him and a hundred generations following him will never see hell even if they are surrounded by sins.

Of what avail are many other sons devoid of compassion and holy rites, who, though born in the family, do not certainly worship Viṣṇu, Nārāyaṇa?

All people know that a man devoid of a son does not attain good world. There too, that progeny which is endowed with mercifulness is very rare.”

83-88. Enlighten him through these kind and sincere words. Though he is unattached to worldly affairs, make him inclined towards the life of a householder.

On hearing these words of the ancestors, Dharmavarṇa was exceedingly surprised and bewildered. He bowed down to them. He cried; he had a shivering sensation. With palms joined in reverence, he said: “I am a member of your family, Dharmavarṇa by name. I have been pertinacious. At the sacrificial chamber I heard the words of Nārada, the noble-souled (sage), that no one has control over the tongue or the organ of generation in Kaliyuga. On the earth, I saw those sinful people too. I became frightened and suspicious. Afraid of association with wicked people, I wandered over the world and stayed in other continents. Three quarters of Kaliyuga have passed off. Even in the last quarter, O Pitṛs, three and a half parts have passed off.

89-96. I am (was) not aware of your misery. My life has gone in vain. I did not pay off my debts to the Pitṛs of the family where I was bora. Of what avail is that son born to one, if that son is a burden unto the earth and an enemy unto one, if that son does not worship Viṣṇu, Pitṛs, Devas and sages? I shall carry out your behest. Command me so that there is no danger (evil influence) of Kali and there is no trouble due to worldly existence. Command me as to my duties in the world as a son.”

On being told thus by the intelligent Dharmavarṇa who belonged to their own family, (the Pitṛs) became pacified to a little extent in their minds, O king, and they said thus:

“O son, see this plight of your noble-souled Pitṛs. They are about to fall due to the absence of progeny. They have the support of only the Dūrvā blade. You do adopt the life of a householder and redeem us by means of progeny. Those who are attached to the stories of Viṣṇu, those who remember Hari always, those who are engaged in good conduct, are not harassed by Kali. Kali does not afflict that person in whose house there is a Śāligrāma stone, O bestower of honour, or in whose house there is Mahābhārata.

97. Kali does not afflict that person who is engaged in holy rites of Vaiśākha,[4] who is devoted to holy bath in the month of Māgha and who offers lamps in the month of Kārttika.

98. Kali does not afflict that person who listens everyday to the story of Viṣṇu, the Supreme Ātman, the story that destroys sins, that is divine and that bestows salvation.

99. Kali does not oppress that person in whose house Vaiśvadeva sacrifice is performed, in whose house there is a splendid Tulasī plant and in whose courtyard there is a splendid cow, an auspicious cow.

100-102. Hence there is nothing to be afraid of in this Yuga, though it is full of sins. Do go to the earth quickly, O dear son. This month named Mādhava (Vaiśākha) is conducive to the help of everyone, when the Sun is in Aries. All the thirty lunar days, when the Sun is in Aries, are meritorious. A meritorious deed performed in each of these Tithis shall have crores and crores of times the merit. There too the Amāvāsyā (new-moon day) in the month of Caitra is a bestower of salvation on men.

103-108a. It is something that causes delight to Pitṛs and Devas. It brings about salvation immediately.

Those who perform Śrāddha on behalf of Pitṛs on that day, along with the offerings of rice-balls and a pot of water, will attain inexhaustible benefit.

O son, if Śrāddha is performed on the new-moon day in the month of Caitra, it is as good as Śrāddha performed in the sacred place of Gayā and the benefit will be crores of times more.

Even if the Śrāddha is performed on the new-moon day in the month of Caitra with mere greens, it is as good as a crore Śrāddhas are performed by him at Gayā. There is no doubt about it.

If a person does not offer a pot filled with sweet drinks rendered fragrant with camphor and agallochum on the new-moon day in the month of Caitra, he is a murderer of Pitṛs. There is no doubt about it.

He who offers a bamboo shoot along with sweet drinks on the new-moon day in the month of Caitra and performs Śrāddha rite with great devotion, causes uplift of the family.

108b-112. Thanks to the gift of the water-pot, a nectar-shedding river shall flow in the world of the Manes, with cooked rice, pulse, ghee, sweet pie, foodstuffs to be licked and sipped as well as milk-puddings forming the marshy bed of that river, in regard to those who offer Śrāddha, charitable gift etc.

Hence, do go quickly and when the new-moon day arrives, O highly intelligent one, perform the Śrāddha and the offerings of rice-balls along with a pot of water. Adopt the life of a householder for the purpose of helping all. Become satisfied in respect of Dharma, Artha and Kāma. Beget excellent progeny. Thereafter you shall adopt the life of ascetics and wander over all continents as you please.”

On being commanded thus by the Pitṛs, the sage hurriedly went to the earth.

113-115. In the meritorious month of Caitra when the Sun was in Aries, he took his holy bath in the morning. He performed water libations to Manes, Devas, and sages. He performed the Śrāddha rites with the offerings of water-pot destructive of sins. Thereby he brought about the salvation of the Pitṛs without return. He married a chaste woman and begot sons. He made that Tithi that is destructive of sins very famous in the world.

116-117. He himself then joyously went to Gandhamādana. Hence this Tithi named Darśa (new-moon day) in the month of Caitra, is exceedingly meritorious. No other Tithi equal to this is seen or heard.

Footnotes and references:


The strange belief is that the influence of Yuga-System is limited to Bhārata.


For the gruesome picture of the Kali age compare Mbh, śānti 69.80-97; BdP I.ii.29.5-21; BhP XII.1-2; VP VI.1.


The birth of a son for the continuity of the family was looked upon as essential for providing food and water to the departed forefathers (vv 77-83). This figurative description of manes about to fall in abysmal depth is found in Mbh and other Purāṇas.


VV 97-102: Vaiśākha Vratas nullified the effects of Kali.

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