The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Procedure of Preta Shraddha which is chapter 204 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 two hundred fourth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 204 - Procedure of Preta Śrāddha

Ānarta said:

1-2. O Brāhmaṇa of excellent holy rites, the mode of performing the purificatory rite for those hailing from Nāgara families has been explained to us by you in full detail in response to our question.

Now explain the same for the conduct of one with the family untraceable. In the case of one who does not know his grandfather and also his maternal grandmother but who says that he is a Nāgara, how should the purification be conducted?

Viśvāmitra said:

3. For the very same purpose, O King, on behalf of a Naṣṭavaṃśa (one whose family remains untraced), Bhartṛyajña was earlier asked by the Nāgaras in the same manner as I have been asked by you.

Viśvāmitra said:

4. If a person of untraceable family comes and says in the assembly. “I am a Nāgara”, his conduct should be ascertained and then purity is to be proclaimed.

5. If the person habitually confines himself to those customs and mores of the Nāgaras, he should be considered a Nāgara.

6. For the sake of his purity, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, Dhaṭa (ordeal by balance) should be administered in his case. If he comes out successfully in the Dhaṭa ordeal, he shall be deemed to have attained purity.

7. He is a deserving person in a Śrāddha rite: he can be offered a bride in marriage; he can be considered worthy of Somapāna and he deserves a position of equality in all the rites performed in the holy spot.

8. Thus, O excellent one among men, everything that I was asked has. been explained as to how the second mode of purity is administered in the case of a Brāhmaṇa who cannot trace the members of his family. Hence, O great king, tel] me what you desire to hear further.

Ānarta said:

9. How is it that though they too are Nāgaras, the Brāhmaṇas hailing from the Aṣṭakulas (eight eminent families) have become the most excellent of all and have been taken to be the most important?

10. Is it the power of their penance? Or born out of Yajña? Does it arise from their learning, O Brāhmaṇa, or from their readiness to make gifts?

Viśvāmitra said:

11. All of them are endowed with good qualities like the other Nāgaras. But their special quality is that they have been established by Śakra.

12. Therefore, they attained this eminence among all the Brāhmaṇas.

Ānarta said:

13. At what time were those Brāhmaṇas thus set up here? For what purpose? O highly intelligent one, explain to us in detail.

Viśvāmitra said:

14. Formerly, there was an excellent Dānava well-known as Hiraṇyākṣa. There ensued a great fearful, battle between him and Śakra.

15. O great king, in that battle between Devas and Asuras, many heaven-dwellers and Dānavas were killed while they were vying with one another for victory.

16. When those Dānavas were overthrown (killed) in the course of the battle by Śakra, Śukra resuscitated them by means of the power of his Vidyā (power of re-suscitating).

17. But the Devas who were killed never regained their life. Once the Slayer of Vṛtra said to Viṣṇu:

18. “O Lord Janārdana, tell me the Gati (the goal) proclaimed in the case of those who were killed in Dhārātīrtha (Battlefield), through blows received directly from the front.

19. O Acyuta, tell me the Gati (goal reached), however it may occur, of those who were killed while engaged in fleeing with faces turned away.”

Viṣṇu said:

20. Those who were killed in the Dhārātīrtha in the course of the great battle with faces (daring the enemies) have no rebirth as in the case (of trees etc.) when the seeds have been destroyed.

21. O Lord of Devas, those who are utterly frightened and are killed from behind and those who are captured as slaves by the enemies will become Pretas (ghosts).

Indra said:

22. Some Devas were killed while fighting with faces straight (towards enemies). Others were also seen by me who had averted their faces (turned back) and were killed. O Lord, will there result ghost-hood in the case of all the Dānavas? Or not?

Viṣṇu said:

23. Undoubtedly, O Thousand-eyed One, those persons killed in the battle with faces averted (while running) become ghosts whether they are Devas or human beings.

24. Ghost-hood is inevitable in the case of those who meet with death due to poison, fire, action of those who kill members of their own family, suicide, and attacks by fanged and horned animals. This is the truth. There is no doubt about it, O Lord of Suras.

Indra said:

25. O Lord, how can they have salvation from the terrible state of ghost-hood? Mention this to me fully so that I can endeavour for it.

Śrī Bhagavān said:

26-27. Śrāddha at Gayā is enjoined in their case when the Sun is in Virgo, O Lord of Suras, on the fourteenth day in the dark half of Nabhasya (Bhādrapada). They shall perform it devoutly as laid down by Pitāmaha. Thereafter, they attain salvation.

Indra said:

28. O Slayer of Ṃadhu, why is Śrāddha performed on that day in the case of those who are killed with weapons? State this in detail.

Śrī Bhagavān said:

29-30. On that day Śaṃbhu was formerly requested by Bhūtas, Pretas, Piśāscas, Kūṣmāṇḍas and Rākṣasas: “For one day, to-day, O Lord, when the Sun is in Virgo grant us the permission so that we will have a year-long satisfaction when Śrāddha is offered by the members of the family. Do take pity on us, the wretched ones.”

Śrī Bhagavān said:

31-32. If a member of the family performs the Śrāddha on this day, on the fourteenth lunar day in the dark half of Nabhasya (Bhādrapada), you will have great satisfaction lasting for a year. When the member born in your family goes to Gayā and performs Śrāddha you will have salvation thereby.

33-34. Pitāmaha says that if no Śrāddha is performed on that day unto the Pitṛs who were killed by weapons those Pitṛs will be miserable. They will be distressed due to hunger and thirst continuing for a year even when they are in heaven.

35. Hence with all efforts one should perform Śrāddha on that day. Whatever is performed with another in view goes to Pretas.

36-57. Thereupon, that lunar day was granted to them by the Lord (Here the text is corrupt). When the Śrāddha rite is performed in the case of someone other than the one killed with weapons (the desired result occurs). A person may fight in battle with straight face but sometimes his mind wavers when he is struck with sharp weapons.

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