The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Procedure of Shraddha which is chapter 58 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 fifty-eighth chapter of the Avantikshetra-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 58 - The Procedure of Śrāddha

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Vyāsa said:

1-3. The narration by you of the excellent greatness of Gayā is wonderful. O holy Sir, everything is known to you of cosmic form. Hence I wish to hear from you completely the excellent benefit of performing Śrāddha. O ascetic, O most excellent one among Brāhmaṇas, I also wish to hear the fruit of visiting the holy place in detail. How many Pitṛs go to heaven gratified everyday. Of whom were they declared formerly to be the Pitṛs and who are they? O sinless one, what was their purpose?

Sanatkumāra said:

4. You are blessed. You have fulfilled your duties because your mind is filled with steadiness of devotion. Even then, O dear one, listen to the excellent procedure of performing Śrāddha.

5. The worlds are established in Śrāddha. Dharma is well-established in Śrāddha. Yajñas indeed abide in Śrāddha. They yield the fruits of all Karmas.

6. What little is given with faith (Śraddhā) for propitiating the deity, Brahman and sacred fire, know that as Śrāddha. It has been proclaimed by the great sage.

7-8. Men, sages, all the Suras and Siddhas, Rākṣasas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, Nāgas, Brahmā, Īśāna, and Sureśvara should with concentration and mental purity, offer Śrāddha with the three (generation of) Pitṛs in view. They attain all their desires cherished in their minds, O Vyāsa.

9-12. Thus they keep the continuity of the traditional eternal path. Still these Pitṛs are the most famous ones on the earth. I shall relate everything as has been heard by me. You also listen to it. Those who are the Pitṛs are Devas. And the Devas are Pitṛs. The Pitṛs and the Devas are mutually related. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, this question was asked formerly by Mārkaṇḍa. Listen what has been said and understand it thoroughly with great concentration and mental purity as to how many are the groups (categories) of Pitṛs that have gone to that world.

Sanatkurnāra said:

13-19. All these seven are proclaimed as groups of Pitṛs, the most excellent ones among those who perform Yajñas. Four of them have no Mūrtis (corporal form). Three of them have corporal forms. I shall proclaim their world and Visarga (creation). Listen to it, its influence and its greatness in detail, O ascetic.

Those among them who assume Dharmamūrtis have attained the great penance. I shall announce their names and worlds. Listen to it.

Those worlds are eternal ones. They are Sanātanas where the refulgent ones stay. Pitṛgaṇas have no forms. They are the sons of Prajāpati Virāja. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, we have heard that they are Vairājas. Groups of Devas worship them by means of the rites prescribed as per injunctions. Those who have slipped off from the path of Yoga attain the Sanātana worlds. Then at the end of a thousand Yugas, they are born as Brahmavādins (expounders of Brahman). They regain that recollection of excellent Sāṅkhya-Yoga. (Becoming) Siddhas, they attain the goal of Yoga from which their return (to Saṃsāra) is impossible.

20-21. O dear one, these shall be the Pitṛs who increase the Yogic power of Yogins. It is they who nourish Soma at the outset by means of yogic power. Hence, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, Śrāddhas are to be offered to Yogins. This is the first excellent Kalpa of (Pitṛs called) Somapa.

22-27. The mental daughter of these (Pitṛs) is Menā by name. She is the excellent wife of the great mountain Himavān. Maināka was born of her. The glorious son of Maināka is the great mountain named Krauñca. The refulgent groups of Pitṛs called Agniṣvāttas stay there. The (Pitṛs called) Barhiṣads were in the south and the Yamas in the western quarter. Somapas reached the northern quarter presided over by Dhanada (i.e. Kubera). Kavyavāṭ and Anala are in the sky. They have no form. On the earth, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas and Piśācas of purified souls worship them. Sādhyas worship Devas. Viśvedevas worship the sages similarly. Human beings worship Śrāddhadeva and the sages, the eternal Brahman. Thus the eternal holy rite of Śrāddha is handed down traditionally.

28-32. The rite of Pitṛs is more efficacious than that of Devas.

The seven sons of Bharadvāja were devoted to the rite of Śrāddha. They could remember the (incidents of) previous births and they attained the path of salvation.

Previously these seven had killed the milch cow of the preceptor. Hence they became base Brāhmaṇas and Yogabhraṣṭas (‘fallen from Yogic Path’). Famished with hunger all of the them ate (the beef of their preceptor’s cow) with the Pitṛs in view. Due to the efficacy of that merit (of performing Śrāddha) they attained heaven even though they were fallen from the path of Yoga.

All those seven, by means of Yogic practice became capable of remembering the incidents of previous births. Hence Śrāddha has been mentioned as the greatest rite by the teachers (saints) of pure minds.

All the worlds are well-established in Śrāddha. O Scorcher of enemies(?)[1], Yoga is stabilized in Śrāḍdha. Thus the Pitṛs have been expounded to you. Listen to the order of the procedure of Śrāḍdha.

33-40. A performer of Śrāḍdha should be devoted in observance of celibacy, self-control. He should not be wrathful and jealous (of others). He should scrupulously observe purity and good conduct, be intelligent and looking through scriptures as his eye and have his sense-organs subdued. If one performs Śrāddha thus the Pitṛs will be propitiated. If Śrāddha is performed in a Tīrtha it has special significance. O Vyāsa, if it is performed during the period of waning moon, the satisfaction of the Pitṛs is greater still. It is said so on behalf of Vṛddhiśrāddha (performed during delightful occasions such as the birth of a son etc.) It has hundred times more power and benefit than that performed in Mahālaya. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, if it is performed in Prayāga, its benefit is ten times more. The satisfaction (of Pitṛs) at Kurukṣetra is ten times that at Prayāga, O excellent one. O Vyāsa, Gayā is proclaimed as ten times better than Kurukṣetra. Ten times more than that, O Vyāsa, is the Śrāddha performed in the splendid Mahākālavana. That (Śrāddha performance) in Avantī is more meritorious than all and that in the Gayā Tīrtha is always meritorious. This Tīrtha is very rare (difficult) in accessibility in the matter of redemption of those people whose Pitṛs have fallen into hells in the course of many births. Even by remembering (this Tīrhta) once what is offered to Pitṛs becomes everlasting. “For the redemption of the following people let the Śrāddha be performed here”:[2] those men who died in the course of a battle; those whose paternal family has become extinct; those who died at the time of abortion; those who are fallen due to the absence of Nāma (Name) and Gotra (Family); and those who died in one’s own Gotra or another Gotra by committing self-immolation.

41-42. Śrāddha is performed here for the redemption of those people who died due to suicide by hanging themselves, who died by the administration of poison or wounding with a weapon, who were killed by animals with fangs, who died when limbs were cut off and who died on account of activities not proper for Brāhmaṇas.

43-49.[3] Śrāddha is performed here for the redemption of the following souls: those who were consumed by fire; those others who did not get cremated by fire; those who died due to stroke of lightening; those who were struck down by mallets; those who had fallen into Raurava, Andhatāmisra and Kālasūtra; those who have gone to the world of ghosts and suffered many tortures; those who have gone to Asipatravana (hell) and the terrible Kumbhīpāka; those who were born among non-human creatures; those who were born among birds, worms and reptiles; those who died by drowning and those who died during parturition of women; those who were killed by horses, boars, worms, fanged animals, horned animals and vehicles; those whose teeth were shattered (killed) by weapons, missiles, tigers, serpents, elephants and kings; and those who were killed by locusts, scorpions, fanged ones and robbers.

50-51. Śrāddha is performed here for the redemption of those who died due to the eight types of Śalyas (distress; splinters): those who were devoid of cleanliness and conventional good behaviour; those who died of cholera, or of dysentery; those who died due to possession by Śākinī and other evil spirits; those who died in the midst of waters; those who had watery grave; those who committed sins by coming into contact with those who were not worthy of being touched; and those who had no issue.

52. May the Śrāddha be performed for those who had human birth rendered unobtainable and those who wander through thousands of other births, due to their Karmas.

53. Śrāddha is performed here for the uplift of those who had no kinsmen in the previous birth, those who had been kinsmen in the previous birth, those who were closely related in the previous birth, those who were friends and those who were enemies.

54. Śrāddha is performed here for the redemption of those who died in the family of the father, those who died in the family of the mother, or in the families of the preceptor, father-in-law and kinsmen and those other kinsmen who died.

55. (A performer of Śrāddha should say:) “Śrāddha is performed for those in my family who were deprived of the customary balls of rice, who are devoid of sons, wives etc., and those who could not have avoided the loss of sacred rites.”

56. “Śrāddha is performed for those who were lame, humpbacked, deformed and of immature conception and died, those who had died within our knowledge or otherwise.”

57. “Śrāddha is performed here for the redemption of those who had unnatural deaths anywhere beginning with Brahmā’s world.”

58. “Śrāddha is performed here for the redemption of those who died being distressed with thirst and hunger, who were expelled, who had entered the category of ghosts and barbarous tribes etc.”

59. Thus, O Vyāsa, the devotee should perform Śrāddha in that Tīrtha in accordance with the injunctions. Freed from the three types of debts, he shall obtain the desired objects. After reaching Gayā, the Suras with Indra as their leader did everything duly as mentioned by the divine voice.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Probably a quotation as Vyāsa was not parantapa or a scorcher of enemies.

[2]:

This is the burden of every verse which lists causes of death.

[3]:

This line is the burden of every verse listing those for whose redemption Śrāddha is performed here.

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