The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Genesis of Yajnas involving Himsa 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 Vasudeva-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 9 - Genesis of Yajñas involving Hiṃsā

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Skanda said:

1. O sage, under the influence of Time leading to the perversity of Dharma in future, he (Durvāsas) said, “I will not forgive” and went to Kailāsa.

2. Goddess Śrī also then disappeared from the three worlds into the sea. All the celestial damsels in a body left Indra and followed Śrī.

3. Penance, Purity, Mercy, Truth, Pāda (?), True Dharma, Prosperity, Supernatural Powers, Strength, Sattva (quality of goodness)—all of them followed Śrī.

4. Vehicles, elephants and others, ornaments of gold etc., precious stones etc. and metal implements decreased.

5. Within a short time foods, plants, herbs, oils, greasy substances became scanty. No milk was generated in the udders of milk-giving beasts of which cows, she-buffaloes were prominent.

6. From the mansion of Kubera, even the nine treasures[1] disappeared. Indra along with multitudes of Devas became like ascetics.

7. All materials of enjoyment came to an end in all the three worlds. Devas, Daityas and human beings were afflicted with poverty.

8. The moon became devoid of its lovely brightness, and became like water in the ocean. There was a terrific drought which ruined completely seeds and grains of corn.

9. Repeatedly crying out ‘Where is food,?’ men emaciated with hunger and bereft of strength, left villages and towns and resorted to forests and mountains.

10. Being overwhelmed with hunger, some of them killed animals, both wild and domesticated, and ate their flesh, either cooked or uncooked.

11. Learned men and sages who followed the true Dharma did not eat flesh, even though they were being starved to death.

12. Seeing them taking to fasting and starvation, old sages along with Manu taught them Dharma to be followed in adversity as proclaimed by the Vedas.

Most of the sages whose sense-organs had become confused due to hunger gave perverse interpretation of the Vedas.

13-15. They took a word like Aja to means as a goat and exhorted, “O Brāhmaṇas, perform (animal) sacrifices. The violence (Hiṃsā) prescribed by the Vedas is not a fault or violence resulting in sin[2]. Therefore, kill auspicious (sacrificial) beasts in the name of Devas and Pitṛs. Enjoy the flesh (of any animal) desired by you after it is consecrated with sprinkling of water and dedicated to deities and manes as Naivedya. But do not kill animals for your own sake.”

16. Then Devas, sages, kings and men who were thus taught by them performed according to their capacities sacrifices, except those who were solely devoted to Hari.

17-18. They performed sacrifices like Go-medha (bull-sacrifice), Aśvamedha (horse-sacrifice) and sacrifices of which human-sacrifice[3] was prominent and enjoyed the flesh that was left over after the sacrifice.

19. Some performed sacrifices for wealth that is lost. Some performed for obtaining women (wives), sons and house and some for (the prosperity of) their profession.

20. Those who were unable to perform great sacrifices, killed on various occasions animals intending them for their Pitṛs (manes) in Śrāddhas and ate them and made others do so.

21. Some people living on the shores of seas or banks of rivers, caught fishes with nets and became eaters of them (fish).

22. O sage, by killing animals of which cows (bulls) and goats were prominent for the sake of distinguished guests, they served it to them.

23. At that time, in the absence of wealth, houses etc., and due to promiscuous mixture of Dharmas, no rule of marriage between individuals belonging to the same caste was observed.

24. In accordance with the damands [demands?] of times (and new trends), for the sake of enlargement and continuity of one’s race, Brāhmaṇas married daughters of Kṣatriyas (and oṃer castes) and Kṣatriyas and others married daughters of Brāhmaṇas.

25. Thus in that great calamity, sacrifices involving Hiṃsā were commenced. Dharma itself followed Goddess Śrī (to the bottom of the sea), while a semblance of Dharma remained.

26. Adharma along with its consequents pervaded all the three worlds and thrived within a short time. It was extremely difficult to be checked by the wise and learned people.

27. There were numerous children produced by those poverty-stricken people and the extensions of their families increased greatly in the world.

28. Those who became learned among them regarded it (i.e. Adharma, the then prevalent practices) as the real Dharma, and wrote treatises accordingly.

29. Those treatises became authoritative in due course by the power of tradition. In the first Tretā Yuga Dharma took such an evil turn.

30. Then onwards, killing of animals in Yajña (sacrifices) and on other (religious) occasions gained currency. It was only in Satya (Kṛta) Yuga that there prevailed the eternal Dharma.

31. After a long time, Indra, the Lord of Devas, along with Devas, propitiated Lord Vāsudeva and regained his prosperity, O sage.

32. Then through the grace of Hari, the Lord of Śrī and the seat (refuge) of Dharma, the real Dharma spread about in the three worlds.

33. Still there are some Devas, sages, and men whose good minds are adversely affected by sex, anger, greed and relish for (non-vegetarian) taste, who regard the Āpad-dharma (i.e. practices allowable in time of distress) as the main Dharma.

34. Devotees of the Lord, who have conquered their passions, and who are solely devoted to the Lord, do not take to them (those practices) even while under duress. What to say of other occasions!

35. Thus, O brāhmaṇa, I have narrated to you how in the first Kalpa, sacrifices involving Hiṃsā (violence) became prevalent.

Footnotes and references:


The following are the nine treasures of Kubera: Padma, Mahāpadma, Śaṅkha, Makara, Kacchapa, Mukunda, Nanda, Nīla, and Kharva. They are also personified as the attendants of Kubera or Lakṣmī.


This has been the stance of Mīmāṃsakas, Pāñcarātrikas i.e. Vaiṣṇavas like Rāmānuja.


The Purāṇa-author seems to be ignorant of the fact that human-beings were never killed in the so-called Nara-medha. Western scholar like A.B. Keith and others have specially pointed out that this Nṛ-Yajña or Manuṣya-Yajña is ‘Honouring Guests’. For details vide Kane, HD, H.ii, Ch.XXI, pp. 749-56.

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