The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Origin of Shraddha which is chapter 216 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 sixteenth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 216 - Origin of Śrāddha

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Ānarta said:

1-2. O Brāhmaṇa, there are various other auspicious hours. How then is Śrāddha specifically enjoined at the time of the waning of the Moon (New-Moon day)? O great sage explain this in its details entirely.

Bhartṛyajña said:

3. It is true, O great king, that there are many auspicious hours that accord satisfaction and delight to Pitṛs.

4. They are Manvādis (annual day signifying the beginning of the Manvantaras), Yugādis (annual beginning day of yugas); Saṅkrāntis (days of the transit of the Sun), Vyatīpātas, Gajacchāyā, the eclipse of the Sun and the Moon in full.

5. On these occasions, it is proper to perform Śrāddha for the satisfaction of the pitṛs. Further, it is all the more proper (fruitful); if performed in a Tīrtha or an auspicious and sacred shrine.

6. Even on non-Parvan (festival) occasions, sensible persons should perform Śrāddha always with the collaboration of Brāhmaṇas eligible for Śrāddha duly through the requisite articles readily available or liked by Pitṛs.

7. The time of the waning of the Moon (New Moon) is specifically suitable for it. O king, listen with concentration. Amā is that portion of the Sun near (consisting of) the thousand rays (obscure).

8. It is through the refulgence thereof that the Sun is called the lamp of the three worlds. Because the Moon stays there at that part called Amā that it is called Amāvāsyā (obscure).

9-12. That day (Amāvāsyā) is of everlasting benefit in all religious rites and particularly in the rites of the Pitṛs.

Nine groups of Pitṛs of divine origin are well-known: (1) Agniṣvāttas, (2) Barhiṣads, (3) Ājyapas, (4) Somapas, (5) Raśmipas, (6) Upahūtas, (7) Āyantunas (those invoked by the utterance āyantu (let them come), (8) Śraddhabhuks and (9) Nāndīmukhas. O king, Ādityas, Vasus, Rudras and the two Aśvins named Nāsatyas propitiate these Pitṛs excluding Nāndīmukhas. O excellent king, they are the Pitṛs ordered by Brahmā.

13. The Lotus-born Lord begins (work of) creation after propitiating them.

14. Other Pitṛs of human begins [beings?] too stay in heaven. They are viewed as of two kinds: the happy ones and the unhappy ones.

15. All those are called Saṃhṛṣṭas (Happy Ones) to whom Śrāddhas are offered in the mortal world by the descendants. They stay there happily.

16. Those to whom the descendants do not offer anything, remain distressed due to hunger and thirst. They appear very unhappy.

17. Once upon a time, all the Pitṛs viz. Agniṣvāttas and others (regularly) adored by Suras approached the Lord of Devas.

18. O great king, they were devoutly welcomed and adored by the Thousand-eyed Lord as well as by all the other Devas. Then they started for their own abode.

19-20. O great king, on seeing them proceeding towards Pitṛloka, rarely accessible even to gods, those Pitṛs who originated from human beings were afflicted with hunger and thirst. They spoke piteously after eulogizing them with divine hymns and Pitṛ-Sūktas.

21. Thèy eulogized through other Sūktas too causing satisfaction to the Pitṛs mentioned in the Veda. Thereupon, the Pitṛs originating from Suras spoke to them joyously:

22. “O (ye Pitṛs) of praiseworthy vows, all of us are glad. Hence speak out what is cherished in the heart. We shall grant it.”

The Pitṛs (of human origin) said:

23. We are well-known as the Pitṛs of human beings. We have come here to the heavenly world as a result of our Karma. We stay with Suras always.

24. We go in all directions seated in aerial chariots of various kinds. We go to the desired worlds (in those chariots) decorated with flags and banners.

25. To the aerial chariots are yoked swans and peacocks. They are attended upon by groups of celestial damsels. Gandharvas sing about us. Guhyakas eulogize us.

26. But, despite our stay along with Tridaśas (Devas), we are afflicted excessively with terrible hunger and thirst.

27. Due to that we feel in our mind as though we are in the centre of fire. Sometimes we think thus: ‘Shall we swallow these different kinds of birds such as swans etc. chirping sweetly, or even the groups of celestial damsels.’

28. But, if one (of us) afflicted with hunger seizes some birds secretly, he is still unable to kill for the sake of eating.

29. The birds in the heavenly world are devoid of death and old age. So also are the charming trees in the parks, Nandana etc.

30-31. We have easy access to these fascinating trees that appear laden with fruits. But when we (the Pitṛs) try to pluck the fruits thereof, they cannot be cut or split even when tossed and crushed with effort. If we try to drink the water of the celestial Gaṅgā when thirsty, the water does not touch our hands.

32. Further, no one is seen here eating or drinking. Hence this stay in heaven is extremely unbearable to us.

33. All these groups of Suras and the others such as Guhyakas etc. are seen seated in aerial chariots. All of them seem to be delighted in their minds.

34. They are bereft of hunger and thirst. They can and do enjoy various pleasures. Shall we be like them at any time?

35. Can we also be without hunger and thirst, enjoying the height of satisfaction? So, what is the cause that brings about hunger and thirst?

36. We get accidental and unaccountable affliction. It never leaves us off. Do something whereby there shall be satisfaction. Welfare unto you.

37. Let our satisfaction be permanent as in the case of other Devas and Heaven-dwellers. Indeed, you are the Pitṛs of Devas of the purified souls.

38. We, on the other hand are the Pitṛs of human beings. So we seek refuge in you.

The Pitṛs (of celestial origin) said:

39. We too have such troublesome plight. When Śakra and other Devas are distracted and do not offer Śrāddha to us, we approach them all and request them.

40-42. Then the Devas propitiate us and we feel satisfied.

Your descendants in the family do offer Śrāddha with concentration. How are you not satisfied when propitiated by them?

If they are not being propitiated (with libations) in any way by their blundering descendants, there is no doubt that all of them will be overwhelmed with hunger and thirst. All the more so in the case of those who are staying in hell in the abode of Dharmarāja.

43. This is the reason cited for the unbearable sufferings of yours arising from hunger and thirst as said by you now.

44. Therefore, O excellent ones, if all of you (agree to) offer share in the Kavya offered (to you) we shall render auspicious benefit unto you.

45-47. We shall ourselves go to Brahmā and request him to do so.

When they said “So be it”, the Pitṛs of divine origin went to the excellent abode of Vidhi (Brahmā) taking human Pitṛs too with them. They kept at their head the Pitṛs called Nāndīmukhas whom Vidhi, the Lord of Suras, propitiates at the time of creation as he is desirous himself of prosperity.

Then all of them eulogized the Lotus-seated One and bowed down to him. All the Pitṛs then stood with modesty.

48. O eminent king, when those modest Pitṛs bowing down in due respect stood thus, Vidhi spoke to them consoling them with smooth, soothing words:

Brahmā said:

49. Why have all the Pitṛs approached me? You are worthy of the adoration of all the Devas including myself.

50. Further, others are also seen associated with you, they have the form and features of human beings but their refulgence is inferior.

The Pitṛs said:

51. These are the Pitṛs of human beings. They have come to heaven through their karmas. They stay in the midst of Devas but they are afflicted with hunger and thirst.

52. When due to negligence the descendants do not offer Kavya, they are not satisfied though they move about in aerial chariots like Suras.

53. Then they made this request to us for permanent satisfaction. But we are unable to offer them. So we came to you.

54. When Devas are (otherwise) busy, O Lord of Suras, our state too will be similar due to the absence of Kavya.

55. Hence, O Lord of Suras, be favourable to us as with them and do manage things so that we shall have permanent satisfaction while we are in our own abodes.

56. These (Pitṛs) will offer us (share in) the Kavya offered to them by their own descendants. That is why, O Lord, we have come to you.

57. The Kavya offered by the Devas does not satisfy us because it is devoid of holy rites. They do not perform the holy rites.

58. The Kavya offered to Brāhmaṇas with the Pitṛs in view by human beings wearing washed clothes after having their ablution shall be conducive to great satisfaction.

59. O Lord of all the Devas, that shall be conducive to the satisfaction of the Pitṛs. So says the Vedic utterance. Unlike the twice-born (Brāhmaṇas) the Devas are not entitled to the holy ablution

60-61. So, even the Pīyūṣ (Nectar) offered by them to us is not conducive to our satisfaction as with the Kavya offered by them, O Lord.

Hence, do manage it in such a way that even stationed in Svarga, we shall have great satisfaction along with these (Pitṛs).

Bhartṛyajña said:

62. On hearing it, Brahmā, the grandfather of all the worlds, meditated for a long time, O excellent one among kings, and said to all those Pitṛs:

Brahmā said:

63. The term Havya or Kavya was used in the Tretā Yuga. It will be used in two Yugas (viz Tretā and Dvāpara). It will not be effective in Kali Age (Defective text).

64. As and when the Yugas become reduced (quantitatively and qualitatively) people will become more and more wicked with devotion turned elsewhere.

65. They Will not at all offer Kavya as stipulated. Thereupon, the plight of Pitṛs will be more and more pitiable.

66. Hence I shall suggest an easier means of happiness in the case of embodied beings. Then, on being propitiated thereby, you will attain great satisfaction.

67-68. O Pitṛs, all the Pitṛs upto my own self shall be extremely delighted through what is offered devoutly to the Brāhmaṇas with the father, grandfather and his father (i.e. great-grandfather) in view. The same manner is to be adopted in the case of maternal grandfathers also. There is no doubt in this matter.

69-71. When the three (preceding) generations are propitiated, all those Pitṛs upto my own self are also propitiated. O highly esteemed ones, even as I expatiate now, listen to the easy means conducive to your satisfaction. With the Pitṛs in view, the descendants shall propitiate the excellent Brāhmaṇas by means of cooked rice. With that very cooked rice, they should offer Piṇḍas (rice-balls) unto you all. Thereby under that name, you will have permanent satisfaction.

72. Hence, O ancestors, go back to your own abodes fully satisfied.

75. Thereupon, O excellent king, they all went to their abodes together by means of aerial chariots as refulgent as the sun.

74. As time passed on, O king, men did not offer even that Śrāddha covering three generations.

75. O king, many here did not offer the Śrāddha every day with the Pitṛs in view. They did not offer shares in the Kavyas as before.

76. As before, O king, they experienced great pain arising from hunger and thirst. This happened to the Pitṛs of divine origin too, O excellent king.

77. Again all of them collectively sought refuge in Brahma. In their desperate plight, they bowed down and spoke loudly to Prapitāmaha:

78-79. “O holy Sir, O Lord, our descendants do not offer the daily Śrāddhas. Therefore, we have been (reduced to) wretchedness and languish much. O Lord, think of some means as before, whereby even poor people can propitiate the Pitṛs.”

Bhartṛyajña said:

80. On hearing their words Prapitāmaha (Brahmā) was moved with pity, O great king. He spoke to all those groups of Pitṛs:

81. “O highly esteemed ones, it is true that people meet with miserable plight every day as the excellent Yuga recedes back.

82. Yet I shall, for your sake, arrange an easy means whereby you will have satisfaction.

83. What is called Amā is stationed very near the thousand-rays of the Sun. Since Indu (Moon) resides therein it is called Amāvāsyā.

84. Those men who perform Śrāddha devoutly on that day with their Pitṛs in view, shall become well-settled.

85. You have my word for it undoubtedly that they will be equipped with wealth and foodgrains. They will be rid of all enemies. They will never meet with premature death.”

Bhartṛyajña said:

86. On hearing his words, the Pitṛs became delighted in their minds. On getting (an opportunity for) Kavya, they were all the more delighted.

87. Sent off by the Lotus-born Lord, they went to their own abodes. On the Amāvāsyā day (New Moon) Śrāddha was offered by the descendants of their families.

88. They felt satisfied for a month and remained glad in their minds.

As time went on, men on the earth became wretched. Some of them did not regularly offer Śrāddha even on the Darśa (New-Moon day)

89. Thereupon, all the groups of Pitṛs both of divine and human origin, were again afflicted with hunger and thirst. They then sought refuge in Brahmā.

90. They collectively bowed down to Pitāmaha and spoke loudly in their excessive grief and wretchedness in words choked with tears:

91-93. “O Lord, it was said by you that men will be performing the Śrāddha for our propitiation lasting for a month.

On account of wretchedness and poverty, O Pitāmaha, they do not perform even that usually. Therefore, our affliction due to hunger and thirst is excessive.

Hence, O Lord of Suras, be favourably disposed towards us as before, so that even the most miserable ones will propitiate us now.”

Bhartṛyajña said:

94. Then Brahmā, the compassionate one, thought over the matter and spoke to them: “O Pitṛs, an easy means has been thought of by me for your sake.

95. O leading Pitṛs, thereby you will attain great satisfaction even if you do not get the Śrāddha on the Amāvāsyā day for a whole year.

96-97. Listen with concentration how you will attain it with my favour.

In the fifth fortnight from Āṣāḍhī (Full-Moon day in the month of Āṣāḍha) when the Sun is in Virgo devout man shall offer Śrāddha on the day of death (i.e. the lunar day anniversary of the death). Certainly his Pitṛs will be satisfied for a full year.

98. By realizing, thus, men on the earth will perform Śrāddha in the Pretapakṣa (the fortnight of the departed). There is no doubt. You will become well propitiated.

99-101. O excellent ones, as a result of that single (Śrāddha) you will attain a year-long satisfaction. Even on that day if a wretched man does not perform Śrāddha unto you with at least some green vegetable, he will attain Antyajatva (Sūdra [Śūdra?] status). Men who are in contact with them by sitting together in the same seat, lying on the same bed, taking food with them, touching them or holding conversation with them, shall be great sinners. Their progeny will never flourish.

102. They will have no happiness, wealth or foodgrains by any means. Hence, O Pitṛs, do return to your abode without (mental) agitation as quickly as possible.

103. Even in Kali Age that is horrible, even when they are penniless, men shall perform at least one Śrāddha at the end of a year.

104. Thereby, you will have excellent satisfaction throughout the year.”

Bhartṛyajña said:

105. On hearing it, the Pitṛs became delighted. They went to their respective abodes. Getting a Śrāddha at the end of a year at least they never felt hungry.

106. But, Alas! those miserly fellows, the wicked souls deluded by Kali, unhesitatingly abstained from performing Śrāddha even at the end of a year,

107. Once again their Pitṛs accompanied with celestial Pitṛs sought refuge in Brahmā. Grief-stricken in their minds, they spoke to him:

108. “O Lord, even at the end of a year when the Sun is in Virgo, our descendants, the wicked souls, do not offer Śrāddha.

109. Thereby, O Lord, we are extremely afflicted with hunger and thirst. We do seek refuge in you. Do arrange for the remedy thereof.

110. As before, O highly esteemed one, do tell an easy means whereby, through a single day Śrāddha we will have permanent satisfaction.

111. If the family becomes extinct it is sure that we will be faced with downfall.”

Bhartṛyajña said:

112. On hearing their words, Pitāmaha was overwhelmed with great pity. He meditated for a long time and then spoke solicitously.

Bhahmā said:

113. Another means has been thought of by me for the purpose of your satisfaction. It is a very easy one and thereby you will have permanent satisfaction.

114. If they go to Gayāśiras and offer a single Śrāddha you will have permanent satisfaction. By its power you will attain divine goal.

115-116. A person may be very sinful. An embodied one may be the slayer of a Brāhmaṇa. A person may be stationed in the hell Raurava or Kumbhīpāka. He may be in the state of a ghost. But if the descendant of his family offers him Śrāddha at Gayāśiras he will be liberated.

117. After hearing these words of mine, men on the earth now will perform a Śrāddha there in Gayāśiras even if they are penniless. It is obviously conducive to your liberation.

Bhartṛyajña said:

118. On hearing those words of Parameṣṭhin and permitted by him, they resorted to their own abodes.

119. Ever since then Śrāddhas began to be performed on the earth with the offerings of rice-balls for upto three generations of ancestors.

120-121. O king, in accordance with their capacity, with all the members of the family in view, those who, beginning with Brahma, had gone to the other world, they used to give to leading Brāhmaṇas whatever they desired and their number was equal to that of the number of members of the family who passed away. This Śrāddha with no deity (to preside over) is conducive to the happiness of poor people. (obscure)

122. It accords excellent satisfaction to Pitṛs, Devas and human beings. Hence Śrāddha should be specially performed by a sensible person.

123. If one wishes for the satisfaction of the Pitṛs one should perform the Śrāddha on these specific occasions with proper effort. If he wishes for prosperity in both the worlds, he should specifically perform it at Gayā.

124. If a man does not offer Śrāddha unto the Pitṛs during the waning of the Moon (New-Moon day) his Pitṛs will be very miserable and overwhelmed with hunger and thirst.

125. Just as farmers await clouds day and night without relaxation, so also the Pitṛs eagerly wait for the Pretapakṣa (the fortnight of the Pitṛs i.e. the dark half of Bhādrapada) with great eagerness.

126. They desire that the Śrāddha should be offered by their sons (and descendants) during the period till the Sun is in the zodiac Virgo after the expiry of the Pretapakṣa.

127. O king, some of the Pitṛs who are agitated due to hunger and thirst desire that Śrāddha should be performed by their descendants even while the Sun has entered the zodiac Libra.

128. If that period passes off and the Sun enters Scorpio the Pitṛs become disappointed and distressed. Then they go back to their abodes.

129. Resorting to the threshold of their abodes, the Pitṛs of men remain waiting for two months. Distressed due to thirst, emaciated due to hunger, they remain thus in gaseous form.

130-131. Thus, O king, Śrāddha should be offered always by one who wishes for the satisfaction of the Pitṛs as long as the Sun is in Virgo and Scorpio, on the Darśa (New-Moon) day in accordance with the utterance of Brahmā.

O king, libation with water mixed with gingelly seeds is also specially recommended on the authority of Brahmā’s words.

152-133. Even when he has no wealth, a learned man should offer Śrāddha on the Darśa day. If that is missed the Śrāddha is performed when the Sun is in Virgo. If that too is missed Śrāddha should be performed once in Gayā, thereby, one attains the benefit of the Śrāddha offered daily.

134-135. Thus, O king, whatever I was asked has been told by me. Why Śrāddha is performed by the people devoted to the Pitṛs particularly on New-Moon day and especially during Pretapakṣa, was the question and I have answered it.

136. He who listens to this meritorious narrative of the origin of Śrāddha or reads it shall be rid of all blemishes and attain the benefit of offering Śrāddha itself.

137. If a man reads this origin of Śrāddha on the occasion of Śrāddha that Śrāddha will become everlasting and also free from all defects.

138-139. In case the materials used are defective and impure, the Brāhmaṇas are unworthy, the food is consumed without relish, or there is no chanting of the requisite Mantras everything shall be rectified and be deemed complete, O excellent king, if this origin of Śrāddha is recited or listened to.

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