The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,142,515 words

This page describes Norms of Good Conduct for Householders which is chapter 6 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 sixth chapter of the Dharmaranya-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 6 - Norms of Good Conduct for Householders

Vyāsa said:

1. I shall duly recount how righteous conduct should be practised for the benefit of good householders.[1]

2. O dear one, a man feeds and nourishes the entire universe after becoming a householder. Thereby he wins the coveted worlds.

3-4. Manes, sages, Devas, human beings and other living beings, worms, insects, moths etc., birds and Asuras live on the householder. They eagerly look up to him to see if he would give water to them.

5. O dear one, this cow in the form of the three Vedas[2], is the support of everything. The universe is established in this. It is considered the cause (source) of the universe.

6. Ṛgveda is its back; Yajurveda constitutes its joints. Sāmans form its belly and udders. Iṣṭāpūrtas form its horns. The excellent hymns form its hairs.

7. (Mantras for) Śānti (Peace) and Puṣṭi (Nourishment) are its faeces and urine. It is stabilised in its Varṇas (syllables) as its Padas (feet). It is worthy of being depended upon through the Pāṭhas (‘modes of recitation’), namely Pada, Krama, Jaṭā and Ghana.

8. O dear son, Svāhākāra, Svadhākāra, Vaṣaṭkāra and Hantakāra constitute its four teats.

9-11. Devas always suck the teat of Svāhākāra; Manes, the teat of Svadhā. Sages and the lords of Devas, Bhūtas and Suras suck the teat of Vaṣaṭkāra and human beings that of Hantakāra. Thus, one should teach and maintain the study of the three Vedas everyday.

A person who breaks them is a perpetrator of endless sins. He will sink beneath the pitch darkness of the hell Andhatāmisra.

12. The man who worships at the proper time this cow (in the form of Veda) along with the celestial calves (viz.), Devas etc., deserves heavenly benefits.

13. Hence, dear son, Devas, sages, Manes and human beings as well as all living beings should be sustained by a man everyday, in the same manner as his own body.

14. Hence, with all faith, he should duly take his bath, remain pure and perform the Tarpaṇa rite for Devas, sages and Manes with water, at the end of Brahmayajña.

15. The man should worship Devas with fragrant flowers, propitiate Fire-god and offer Balis (oblations).

16. He should offer the oblations to night-prowlers and living beings through the sky (open space). Similarly, he should offer oblations to the Manes facing the South.

17-19. A householder should have all attention centred on them, and keep the mind well under control. Taking water duly, the intelligent man should offer at their respective places the oblation to deities indicating them by their names.

After giving the domestic Bali thus, the lord of the house should perform the Ācamana rite and remain watching at the door. He should await a guest for a period of an eighth part of a Muhūrta (i.e. six minutes).

20-24. On arrival, the householder shall duly honour the guest with Arghya and Pādya (materials of hospitality). They say that a Brāhmaṇa who is hungry, weary and poor and who has come abegging, is the true guest. He should be worshipped by learned men in accordance with their capacity. The learned man should not question his conduct of life nor ask him about his study of Vedas. Whether he is of auspicious features or not, he should regard him Prajāpati (Brahmā) himself. Since he does not stay permanently, he is called Atithi.

He who offers him food and then takes his meal, is really a partaker of nectar. If, being disappointed, a guest leaves the house of a householder, he actually gives his sins to him and takes away all merits (of the householder). The man should honour him by offering even water or some vegetable, according to his capacity. Thereby, he gets freed (from worries).

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

25-26. Marriages are of various types:[3] (1) Brāhma, (2) Daiva, (3) Ārṣa, (4) Prājāpatya, (5) Āsura, (6) Gāndharva, (7) Rākṣasa, and (8) Paiśāca said to be the eighth type. Kindly recount to me the modes and functions of these and further, mention in detail to me the various duties of the householder.

Pārāśara (Vyāsa) said:

27. Brāhma type of marriage is that wherein the bridegroom is invited and then bedecking one’s daughter well, she is given in marriage. Their son shall sanctify twenty-one generations.

28. If the bride is given in marriage to a Ṛtvik presiding over sacrificial rite, the marriage is called Daiva. The son born of them saves fourteen successive generations of descendants. If the girl is given in marriage after receiving two cows (or a cow and a bull), the marriage is called Ārṣa. The son born of them sanctifies six successive generations.

29. (The father addresses the couple.) “Both of you carry on your prescribed duties” (and unites them in wedlock). This is called the Prājāpatya type of marriage. The Gāndharva type of marriage is the union of the bride and the bridegroom on the basis of their mutual love in accordance with their own wish. Forcible abduction of a girl is the Rākṣasa type of marriage. It is despised by all good persons.

30. Kidnapping a girl by deceitful means is called Paiśāca type of marriage. It is the eighth type and is also despicable. The three types of marriage—Gāndharva, Āsura and Rākṣasa are usually followed by Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas.

31-34a. The eighth type is the most sinful of all and the birth of sinful persons is a sure result. If the girl is of the same caste (as that of the bridegroom, implying here the Brāhmaṇa caste) she grasps the hand of the bridegroom. (In case of a mixed marriage) an arrow is to be held by a Kṣatriya girl, a goad by a Vaiśya girl and the end of the garment by a Śūdra woman. This rule is applicable to the bride of a different caste from that of the bridegroom. This is found in Smṛti texts in regard to marriage (intercaste).

All brides of the same caste should grasp the hand (of the bridegroom of their own caste). This is the rule. In (case of) righteous marriage, the progeny is righteous too and the children live up to a hundred years. But of an unrighteous marriage, the children become devoid of righteousness. They are unfortunate, deficient in wealth and in longevity.

34b. (As for sexual approach) the following is the supreme religious instruction[4]. It is righteous for a householder to approach one’s wife on the stipulated days (in Ṛtukāla, after monthly course).

35. Remembering the boon given to women, one should (carnally approach) as impelled by (the wife’s sentiment of) love (but) such approach during the day time is regarded as extremely harmful to the life (longevity) of the man.

36. On days of Śrāddha rites and on all Parvan days, an intelligent man shall not approach his wife carnally. If he, out of infatuation, were to approach her, then he falls down from Dharma (meritorious and righteous conduct).

37. A householder who as a rule approaches his wife sexually only in the Ṛtukāla period, he who is always devoted to his own wife, should always be known a Brahmacārin (a person who observes the vow of celibacy).

38. In the Ārṣa type of marriage, the offer of two cows (or a cow and a bull) has been mentioned. It is permitted (nay even praised). But even an iota of fee (or price) taken on behalf of the girl causes the sin of selling the bride.

39. If one sells one’s child, one shall have to stay for a Kalpa in the hell Viṭkṛmibhojana (i.e. the hell where the condemned persons have to feed themselves on the worms in the faeces). Hence not even a bit of the property of one’s daughter has to be made use of by a man.

40-41a. Thereby Mahālakṣmī becomes pleased and stays there along with Lord Viṣṇu.

(1) Adopting trader’s profession, (2) service of base people, (3) not studying the Vedas, (4) base marriage and (5) omission of one’s duties: these are the causes of the downfall of families.

41b-42. A householder has to perform five Mahāyajñas everyday.[5] He should perform daily act of purification (expiation) as a householder has to perform five acts involving killing.

43. In the kitchen there are the utensils Kuṇḍanī (pot), Peṣaṇī (pestle), Cullī (oven etc.), Udakuṃbhī (waterpot) and Mārjanī (broom). Some sort of killing is involved in their use. In order to ward off the adverse effects of these, five Yajñas have been prescribed. They enhance the glory and prosperity of the householder.

44. The five Yajñas are as follow: Recitation (of the Vedas) is Brahmayajña; Tarpaṇa (offering water libation to the manes) is Pitṛyajña; Homa is Devayajña, Bali (oblation) is Bhūtayajña and hospitality to guests is Nṛyajña.

45. One who comes while Vaiśvadeva is being performed, is known as a Sūryoḍha (one who arrives at the time of sunset). He is also considered to be a guest. They are to be fed even before (ordinary) guests. There should be no hesitation in this.

46. A householder who takes his food after offering oblations to the Manes, gods and human beings really partakes of nectar. One who takes food without offering these, is a filler of his own belly (i.e. a brute).

47. The twice-born ones, despite their having mastered the Vedas, should be known as Śūdras, if they are bereft of performance of Vaiśvadeva and hospitality to guests.

48. Those base Dvijas (twice-born ones) who take food without performing the Vaiśvadeva rite will be denied food in the world and shall be born as crows after death.

49. One should, without lethargy, perform everyday the holy rites laid down in the Vedas. If one does so within his own capacity, one shall attain the highest beatitude.

50. If oil bath is taken on the sixth or the eighth lunar day, if meat is taken at any time, if shaving is done or sexual indulgence is carried on the fourteenth and fifteenth lunar days, there is sin in these acts.

51. One should not see the sun directly when it rises,[6] when it sets, when it is directly overhead, when it is swallowed by Rāhu (i.e. during an eclipse) nor when it is in the Aṇḍa (? in elliptical form or is about to rise).

52. One should not look into one’s own reflection in water. One should not run through muddy marshy places. One should not stare at a women in the nude, nor should one enter (water for bath) naked.

53-54. While going ahead one should circumambulate a temple, a Brāhmaṇa, a cow, honey, clay (a big heap?), the elders of the community, persons older in age, persons better educated, an Aśvattha tree, a tree growing in a temple of a holy place, the preceptor, a pot filled with water, cooked rice, curd and Siddhārtha (variety of mustard).

55. One should not have intercourse with a woman in her menses; one should not take food along with one’s wife (in the same plate?). One should not take food wearing a single cloth, nor shall one take food seated on a high seat.

56-59. One should not look at an unclean woman if one wishes for brilliance. An excellent twice-born should never take food whether cooked (vegetarian) or meat (non-vegetarian dish) before performing the Tarpaṇa rite to the Manes and Devas, if one desires to live for a long time. One should never pass urine in a cowherds’ colony, nor on an anthill, nor on ash. One should never pass urine in pits abounding in living insects. One should not pass urine while standing or walking. One should not answer calls of nature facing a Brāhmaṇa, the sun, fire, the moon, the stars or elder ones. One should not blow on fire with one’s mouth. Nor should one stare at a naked woman.

60. One should not warm one’s feet in fire, nor should one throw impure things into it (fire). One should never harm or injure any living being. One should not take food during dusk or dawn.

61. No wise man should have sexual intercourse at dawn or dusk or in morning or in evening. No one shall look at a cow suckling or should point out a rainbow.

62. No one should sleep alone in an isolated place. No one should wake up a sleeping man. No one should proceed on a journey alone. No one should drink water by means of the palms.

63. During day time one should not consume curds with the essence removed, nor should one eat curds at night. One should not speak directly to a woman in her menstruation. One should not eat to one’s full satisfaction during nights,

64-65. No one shall be too fond of the triple symphony of song, dance and instrumental music. One should not cause one’s feet to be washed in a bell-metal vessel. If a man, devoid of wisdom, partakes of another Śrāddha after performing one, the donor does not derive the benefit of the Śrāddha and he who partakes of it shall become a sinner. One should not wear clothes or shoes worn by another.

66-68. One should not take food in a broken vessel, nor should one take up a seat spoiled by fire etc. One who is desirous of living for a long time should avoid riding on cows (bulls), smoke from a dead body (funeral pyre), river bank, early morning rays of the sun and sleep during day time. One should not wipe off the limbs after taking bath nor should one let loose (the hairs from) the tuft on the path.

One should not shake the head or the hands, nor should one drag the seat with the foot. One should not wipe off the body with the hand or with the cloth worn at the time of bath.

69. The body (thereby) becomes impure like food defiled by contact with a dog. It becomes pure again by taking bath once more. One should never pluck out hair or nails by biting them with teeth.

70. For one’s own good, one shall avoid paring the nail with another nail. One shall strenuously avoid doing anything that one will be compelled to leave off at a future time.

71. Even in one’s own house, one should never enter except through the (main) door. One should never play with those who are ignorant of the rules of the game. One should never sit with the unrighteous or the sick.

72. One should never lie down or sleep naked. One should not take food off one’s own palm. One who takes food with wet feet, hands and mouth shall not live long.

73. A twice-born should not lie down with wet feet. One should never proceed on a journey after being defiled by the leavings of food (i.e. without washing hands and mouth). One should not take food or drink water while lying down on the bed.

74. A person desirous of freedom from ailments should never sit with shoes on, nor should he drink water while standing up. He should not eat any foodstuff containing only sour articles (i.e. exclusively sour food).

75. One should not look at faeces and urine, nor should one touch one’s head (with hands) defiled by remnants of food. One should not step upon charcoal of husk, ash and broken pots.

76-78. Close association with fallen people is but conducive to one’s own fall. One should never offer a higher seat or rostrum to a Śūdra. (Thereby) a Brāhmaṇa becomes deficient in his Brāhmaṇical powers and a Śūdra in his merits. Instruction in Dharma to Śūdras shall obstruct one’s own progress and glory.

Serving the twice-born is considered the highest duty of Śūdras.

Scratching the head with both the hands is not considered auspicious.

79. One should never teach a Vedic Mantra to a Śūdra. (Thereby) the Brāhmaṇa becomes deficient in his Brāhmaṇical powers and the Śūdra in his merit.

80-85. Clapping both the hands, shouting loudly, plucking the hairs, behaviour constantly transgressing the scriptures and acceptance of monetary gifts from a miserly person—by doing these a Brāhmaṇa goes to twenty-one hells.

Days on which Vedic study is not to be performed:

One should not study the Vedas during the following prohibited occasions: when there is untimely thunder; during rainy season; when there is a shower of dust; when children are making a loud noise (?) and at night. These are stated to be the times when no study (be undertaken). Further, when there is fall of a comet, earthquake or preternatural redness glowing the horizon or quarters, during the middle of night, at dawn and dusk, in the vicinity of a Śūdra, when there is (revolutionary) commotion in the realm, when one is polluted due to child birth, during the ten Aṣṭakā days (eighth lunar day), on the Bhūta day (fourteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month), on the Śrāddha day, on the Pratipad (the first day of the lunar fortnight), on the full-moon day, on the eighth day, when there is faecal matter scattered, when there is rebellion in the country, on the day of Upākarma rite after the Utsarga rite, on the anniversary of the beginning of Kalpas and Yugas, after reciting the Āraṇyaka portion and on hearing the sound of Sāman recitation or the sound of an arrow (?).

86-87. On the eighth, fourteenth and fifteenth day of a lunar fortnight, one should always observe the vow of celibacy.

Carnally approaching another man’s wife leads to loss of longevity. Hence it has to be avoided altogether. Nor should one resort to one’s enemies. One should not consider oneself low, if one is forsaken by previous prosperity and glory, because glory and learning are not inaccessible to persons of perseverance.

88. One should speak the truth. One should speak what is pleasing. One should not speak the truth that is not pleasing. One should not speak the untruth that is pleasing. This is laid down as Dharma.

89. One should curb sudden outburst of vehement speech, ṃought and (temptation of) eating. One should not touch the hair (on the private parts) as one becomes impure by touching them.

90. One should throw out far from the house water with which the feet are washed, urine, water that is defiled by leavings of food, spits, and phlegm.

91. A twice-born can recall his previous birth by repeating the Vedic Mantras day and night, by resorting to codes of good conduct and cleanliness as well as by the intellect not at all disposed to evil.

92. One should endeavour to respect elderly persons and offer them one’s seat. He should always bow down to them and follow them politely.

93. One should never censure the Vedas, Brāhmaṇas, gods, kings, good people, sages and chaste women.

94-96. One should take bath in other men’s ponds etc. after removing five balls of clay (from the pond). The monetary gift that is given at the proper place and time and in the proper manner to a deserving person will be endlessly beneficial, whatever the gift may be (in kind and quantity).

A person who makes a land-gift becomes the ruler of a zone; one who makes a gift of food becomes happy everywhere; one who makes a gift of water shall become handsome; one who gifts food shall become well nourished; one who makes a gift of a lamp shall become clear in vision; one who makes a gift of a cow enjoys the region of Aryaman.

97. A donor of gold attains longevity; a donor of gingelly seeds gets good progeny. One who gifts a house becomes lord of a mansion and a donor of garments attains the lunar region.

98. One who gifts houses attains a divine body; he who gifts bulls becomes wealthy. One who gifts a tent or a good palanquin gets a good wife.

99. Both of them—he who accepts with faith and he who gifts with faith—attain heaven. If they do not have faith, they fall down.

100. Sacrifices perish due to falsehood; penance diminishes due to arrogance; reputation perishes without liberal gifts and longevity suffers by slighting Brāhmaṇas.

101. Scents, flowers, Darbha grass, cows, greens (vegetables), meat, milk, curds, jewel, fish, abode and grains—these should be accepted when they are offered.

102. Honey, water, fruit, root, fuel and monetary gifts for granting freedom from fear—all these may be accepted when offered even from a lowly person.

103. Among Śūdra classes, Dāsa (servant), barber, cowherd, a family friend and Ardhasīrin (a cultivator who shares half the crop for his labour) and one’s informer—these should be fed with food.

104. Thus, O Yudhiṣṭhira, the code of good conduct for the residents of Dharmāraṇya has been recounted as mentioned in the Veda.

Footnotes and references:


VV. 1-4. The stage of a householder is highly praised by ancient Dharma Śāstra writers. Manu (III.77-78; VI.89-90) regards it as the support of all other Āśramas. Cf Viṣṇu Dh.S. (59.27-29), Vasiṣtha Smṛti VIII. 17 and X.31. Mbh, Śānti 270.16-7 and Vasiṣṭha Smṛti VIII. 16 regard this Āśrama as the ‘mother of all living beings’.

Gautama (III. 1.35) states that householdership is the only Āśrama:

aikāśramyaṃ tvācāryāḥ pratyakṣavidhānād gārhasthasya /

Gautama and Baudhāyana regard other Āśramas as secondary.

VV 1-4 echo the view of ancient writers on Dharmaśāstra.


VV 5-12 describe the ‘Cow-form’ of the Vedas.


Vide Āśvalāyana Gṛ S. 1.6, Manu III.21. For details vide HD, II.1.516-524. This Purāṇa is not in favour of intercaste marriages.


VV 34b-37 prescribe the restriction on man-wife relations and a man observing them is treated as ‘Celibate’.


The Five Mahāyajñas are described in vv 42 ff. V 43 is quoted in Jaina works to enumerate the five sins in a householder’s life.


The ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s recorded here are the views and practices of the Śiṣṭas at the time of this Purāna.

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