The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Importance of Gajacchaya which is chapter 220 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 twentieth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 220 - Importance of Gajacchāyā

Ānarta said:

1-3. Why does the family become extinct if Śrāddha is performed on the Trayodaśī day? O great sage, tell me the reason in detail entirely.

Bhartṛyajña said:

O king, this Yugādi day marking (the beginning of) Kali Age is highly sacred. It has everlasting benefit in regard to holy ablution, Dāna, Japa, Homa and Śrāddha. This should be noted.

O king, if on this Tithi (i.e. Trayodaśī) in conjunction with Maghā constellation, the Sun is in Hasta (i.e. zodiac Virgo) it is called Gajacchāyā. The Śrāddha, then shall have everlasting benefit.

4. He who offers milk along with honey on that day with the Pitṛs in view and he who offers the meat of Vādhrīṇasa (rhinoceros) are both on a par with each other.

5-6. The satisfaction derived through (the meat of) rhinoceros extends to twelve years. It drinks three times more than elderly (aged) goat that has grown feeble in its sense-organs. It is such a leader of herd that one should know a Vādhrīṇasa (obscure).

Alternatively, one can offer the meat of a Khaḍga (a species of rhinoceros). They (Pitṛs) will have satisfaction lasting twelve years. There is no doubt. My words are not untrue.

7. Formerly, in the Rathantara Kalpa, there was an excellent king named Sitāśva.[1] He hailed from Pāñcāla Deśa. He was extremely devoted to the Pitṛs.

8. He used to perform Śrāddha on the Tryodaśī day with honey, Kālaśāka (kind of greens), the meat of a Khaḍga (rhino) and milk pudding.

9. He used to offer Śrāddha devoutly with the (entire) lunar race in view.

10. Once, all the Brāhmaṇas took their food as much as they wanted. They were urged by curiosity and they asked the king.

11. After the Śrāddha they found him extremely faithful and engaged in massaging their feet and bowing to them duly.

The Brāhmaṇas said:

12. O great king, after the performance of the Śrāddha, Dakṣiṇā (gift) should be offered to the Brāhmaṇas. Then the Śrāddha (the benefit thereof) reaches the Pitṛs.

13. That has been arranged by you, O king, but not given to us till now. Leave off both precious and non-precious metals and give the Dakṣiṇā to us quickly.

Bhartṛyajña said:

14. On hearing it, the king said with a delighted mind: “I am blessed. A great favour has been shown to me by the Brāhmaṇas.

15. It is a blessing that the Brāhmaṇas request me for what they desire after partaking of the food at the Śrāddha pertaining to the Pitṛs. Hence, O highly esteemed ones, tell me what shall I offer to you all?

16. Shall I give you excellent elephants in the height of their rut, belonging to the breed called Bhadra? Or shall I give you very valuable horses having the speed of mind and wind?

17. Shall I give you plots of various kinds, villages and cities? I say this because I have nothing which is not worthy of being given with the Pitṛs in view.”

The Brāhmaṇas said:

18. We have nothing to do with horses, gems, elephants etc. We have nothing to do with lands, big villages or anything else similar to it.

19-20. O great king, O excellent king, give us the Dakṣiṇā that destroys doubts and for the sake of which you had been requested by us and we put questions incited by our curiosity.

The king said:

21. Noble-souled Brāhmaṇas alone have the right for instructing others, O followers of the Vedas. A person of lower caste has no right either to give or to receive.

22. I am a mere king. I am not omniscient, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, so that I can impart instructions to you all who are yourselves omniscient, O wise ones.

The Brāhmaṇas said:

23. This activity of imparting instruction is based on (the relationship of) preceptor and disciple. We are only requesting for something. Do not become over-frightened

24. If you can speak out to all of us, the Brāhmaṇas, who are roused by curiosity, O king, we shall put a question.

25. Hence tell us, O highly esteemed one, if you know really and if it is not something to be kept as a great secret. We are asking you out of curiosity.

The king said:

26. If you have any doubt, O Brāhmaṇas, I shall undoubtedly reply to your question even if it is something kept as secret. So, speak out unreservedly.

The Brāhmaṇas said:

27-28. There are diverse kinds of foodstuffs. There are various types of lambatives, O king; all beverages are nectarlike. Still on this day you offer Madhu (honey, wine) that is despised and is something not worthy of being taken in by the Brāhmaṇas in particular.

29. Although there are many types of meat preparations, why do you serve the tasteless meat of rhinoceros (Khaḍga)?

30. O great king, there are vegetable dishes entirely sacred. All of them are highly tasty and can be had as side dishes.

31. Why then do you serve this kālaśāka variety of vegetable which is very pungent and which causes mouth sore? Yet you are endowed with very great devotion!

A partaker of food must not refuse anything served at the Srāddha.

32. Nor should he (partaker of food) leave off anything as Ucchiṣṭa. Hence we eat everything. So there must be a weighty reason in this matter since you insist on these. Perhaps this is conducive to Siddhi.

35-34. Hence tell us everything. We are very eager to hear why a tasteless thing that too very despicable, should be offered, O tiger among kings, as you offer it with great faith?

35. On hearing those words of those noble-souled Brāhmaṇas, the king replied shame-faced by displaying a feeble smile attended with mental chagrin.

The king said:

36. Although this is a great secret kept in our heart, although it cannot be divulged, yet I shall speak. Listen with great concentration.

37. In an earlier birth, I was a sinful hunter, killing all sorts of creatures and eating them indiscriminately.

38-40. I used to roam about with my bow in the forest engaged in hunting. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, neither a lion, nor a tiger, neither a huge elephant nor a Śarabha remained alive once it became the target of my arrows.

Once I was roaming about on the earth, O highly esteemed ones. It was midnight and I was afflicted with hunger and thirst. I happened to come to the hermitage of Agniveśa, an excellent sage.

41. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, he was surrounded by his disciples to whom he was explaining the procedure of the rite of Śrāddha.

Agniveśa said:

42. When the Moon is in the Pitṛya (Maghā) constellation and the Sun is in Hasta and it is the thirteenth day, it should be known as Gajacchāyā.[2]

43. When the Moon is in Maghā and the Sun is in Hasta Nakṣatra and the Tithi is Vaiśravaṇī or Trayodaśī it is Gajacchāyā.

44. When Saiṃhikeya (Rāhu) swallows the Moon at the Parvasandhis (i.e. Full Moon) that should be known as Gajacchāyā and one should perform Śrāddha on that day.

45. If a person performs Śrāddha then, with great devotion, even with mere water, his Pitṛs will be propitiated for twelve years.

46. When the Moon is in Vanaspati (i.e. during the New-Moon day) and the shadow is towards the East, that should be known as Gajacchāyā. Whatever is offered to Pitṛs then becomes everlasting in benefit.

47-48. There is no doubt therein. The Tithi pertaining to Pitṛs shall accord merit. Śrāddha should be performed then. The requisites gathered together in the morning shall undoubtedly be conducive to the satisfaction of the Pitṛs. They may be greens, Iṅguda fruits, Bilvas, Badaras and Cirbhaṭas.

49. Whatever the man eats, the deities too shall have the same diet.

They (disciples) said “So it is” and went to their respective abodes.

50. All the blessed disciples with Nārāyaṇa as the leader went to their abodes. Agniveśa bade the excellent Brāhmaṇas good-bye and went to sleep.

51. What was being expounded by him at night was heard by me and I resolved that I would perform Śrāddha in the morning.

52-53. ‘I would kill a Khaḍga (rhinoceros) and bring its copious and splendid meat, then honey as well as Kālaśāka from my kinsmen. Thereby, I shall propitiate the Pitṛs.’

54-55. After deciding thus mentally I went to sleep, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. When it dawned and the bright sun rose up, I collected together honeycombs and Kālaśāka in plenty.

56. Bringing everything together I cooked everything immediately. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, after taking my bath, everything was offered devoutly to the hunters with the Pitṛs of our class in view.

57. Thus everything was offered by me with my Pitṛs in view. Nothing was offered by me to any one at any time, O Brāhmaṇas.

58. After a long time, I met with my death, O Brāhmaṇas. Thanks to the power of that Dāna, I was born in a royal family.

59-60. I had the power of remembering the previous birth, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. They, the Pitṛs, who were propitiated with the meat of Khaḍga and honey, attained great pleasure extending to twelve years. It is for this reason, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, that I perform the Śrāddha regularly.

61. I perform it through honey, Kālaśāka and the meat of Khaḍga usually. No regular procedure was observed. No Brāhmaṇas presided. Gingelly seeds and Darbha grass were not used.

62-63. Such a Śrāddha was performed by me. This has been the result thereof Now-a-days I am performing the Śrāddha perfectly in accordance with the injunctions under the aegies of Brāhmaṇas who have mastered the Vedas. They are honourably seated and I perform the Śrāddha with great faith, making use of Darbha and gingelly seeds. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, Mantras too are chanted.

64-65. I do not know what the benefit will be now. Hence, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, understand this and do propitiate your Pitṛs on the Gaja day (i.e. Gajacchāyā) when the shadow of the elephant falls?

66. Thereby the Pitṛs will have satisfaction extending over twelve years. You too will have the perfect attainment of the goal as in my case now.

Bhartṛyajña said:

67. On hearing his words, all those excellent Brāhmaṇas became pleased. They congratulated the king.

68. Ever since then, those excellent Brāhmaṇas devoutly performed the Śrādḍha on the Trayodaśī day of the dark half of Nabhasya.

69. Propitiated through honey, Kālaśāka and the meat of Khaḍga, the Pitṛs attained great Siddhi seated on excellent aerial chariots.

70. Thanks to the power of what was offered by the descendants, the Pitṛs began to vie with the excellent Suras.

71. The Devas understood the purpose of the Śrāddhas and consulted one another, O king; the Devas viz. Ādityas, Vasus, Rudras and the Nāsatyas consulted one another.

72. They did not want the Śrāddha to be performed on that day. They thought, ‘Thanks to the power thereof, we are being subjected to a clash and discomfiture with the men who resort to Śrāddha. So we shall curse them.

73. From now onwards, if anyone performs Śrāddha on the Trayodaśī when the Thousand-rayed One (Sun) is in Virgo, his family shall become extinct.’

74-76. Thus the great Tithi was burnt (ruined) by the curse of the Devas. Ever since then this excellent Śrāddha is not being performed on this day. If anyone inadvertently performs it, his family will become extinct. So, frightened due to this, people do not perform Śrāddha on the Gajacchāyā day. Only rice-ball offering is pursued on the Gajacchāyā day.

Footnotes and references:


The story explains the details of Trayodaśī Śrāddha and the curse it received from Devas (see vv 73-76).


Gajacchāyā is explained in various ways in vv 42-44. P.V. Kane, HD, IV. 371, n, states: “Gajacchāyā is a conjunction that occurs when the Moon is in Maghā Nakṣatra and the Sun is in Hasta and the Tithi is 13 in the rainy season.” Viśvarūpa on Yājñavalkya II.218 quotes: “If the Moon is in the Pitṛya Constellation (i.e. Mahgā) and the Sun is in Kara (i.e. trunk of the elephant i.e. Hasta), if it be 13th Tithi in the rainy season, it is Gajacchāyā.”

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