The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Procedure for Performing Shraddha which is chapter 206 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 sixth chapter of the Prabhasa-kshetra-mahatmya of the Prabhasa Khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 206 - Procedure for Performing Śrāddha

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Īśvara said:

1. Henceforth, I shall explain the procedure of Śrāddha called Pārvaṇa in due order. Listen, O great goddess, with concentrated mind.

2. After wearing the sacred thread in Apasavya form (from right shoulder to left) a householder should invite the Pitṛs at the outset: “Your good selves should be pleased. May our rites for the Pitṛs (i.e. Śrāddha) be fulfilled.”

3. In order to invite Brāhmaṇas, he should send trustworthy persons (his own kinsmen) of the same (own) caste.

4. Brāhmaṇa’s food should not be eaten by those who were invited through Kṣatriyas and others. Similarly Brāhmaṇa’s food (should not be eaten) by those not invited through a Brāhmaṇa.

5. If a Śūdra offers food (on behalf) of a Brāhmaṇa or a Brāhmaṇa offers food (on behalf) of a Śūdra—these two are ones whose food should not be eaten. If eaten, one should perform the Cāndrāyaṇa rite as expiation.

6. If a Brāhmaṇa cooks food on behalf of a Śūdra in the manner of Upanikṣepa[1] that food shall also be Abhojya (unfit for consumption) and the Brāhmaṇa falls down.

7. The food of a Śūdra, the association of a Śūdra, occupying the same seat as the Śūdra, and learning a lore from a Śūdra—these will cause the fall of even the resplendent one.

8. Brāhmaṇas affected and vitiated by the food of a Śūdra, become agitated and they hanker after sexual intercourse. Even if they (such Brāhmaṇas) are angry, what can they do? They are like serpents devoid of poison. (They have lost their spiritual power.)

9. One with a dirty garment shall be (considered) nude. One who wears only a loin cloth is nude. So also one with two hems of under-garments tucked in but no upper garment, one with no Kaccha (tucking in of the hem of under-garment) and one with no garments.

10-12. One in Kāṣāya (red-dyed) garments shall be remembered as nude. One with half a cloth is also nude.

A cloth the tip of which is not cut, that which is washed with clay(?), that which is not beaten (while washing), that which is dyed with minerals—these are holy ones. This is the situation.

A fool may be sitting in front but a person with good qualities may be sitting away from him. Offers should be made to a man of qualities. There is no question of upsetting the order in the case of a fool. If a person of foolish activity transgresses (i.e. neglects) a Brāhmaṇa of good qualities, who is not a fallen one, and worships (honours) a Brāhmaṇa sitting away even if he be one with good qualities(?), he will go to hell.

13. If a Brāhmaṇa who has taken the valedictory bath after the Vratas in the acquisition of Vedic knowledge, comes to the house, all the herbal plants play joyously (saying): ‘We shall attain the greatest goal.’

14-15. One should observe silence in the following circumstances: when Japa is performed during dusk or dawn, while washing the teeth, while taking food, when the Pitṛ’s rites are performed or adoration of gods is going on, while passing urine, or defecating, in the presence of elders, while making a gift and during the practice of Yoga in particular. The man shall go to heaven.

16. If there is a slip while observing restraint of speech during Japa and other occasions, one should utter Vaiṣṇava Mantra or remember the immutable Viṣṇu.

17. During the rites of Dāna, Snāna, Japa, Homa, Bhojana (taking food) and adoration of deities the Darbhas of the deities shall be straight. In the case of the Pitṛs twice the number of the Darbhas should be used.

18. In the case of eities [deities?], they (Darbhas) should point to the north and in the case of Pitṛs, to the south. There shall be no Paṅkti Doṣa (defect due to violating the rule of row), if there is fire, ash, Yava (Barley) or water in between or the door is turned.

19. In the course of Iṣṭa Śrāddha, Kratu and Dakṣa are the Vṛddhas (Elders); in Vṛddhi Śrāddha, Satya and Vasu are the presiding persons. In the Naimittika rite Kāla and Kāma and in Kāmya Śrāddha rite Adhva and Virocana.

20. Purūravas and Ārdrava are cited in the case of Pārvaṇa rite. If Nyagrodha (vessel) is used there shall be Puṣṭi (nourishment), Prajā (progeny), Buddhi (intellect), Prajñā (prescience), Dhṛti (fortitude) and Smṛti (memory).

21. Kāśmīrya (Birch) vessel is said to be destructive of Rākṣasas and conducive to renown. In Madhūka vessel excellent conjugal felicity in the world is cited.

22. One who performs the rite in Phālguna (a cup of the leaves of Arjuna tree) vessel shall attain all desires. In Arka vessel is the greatest splendour and illumination in particular.

23-24. If the rites are performed in Bilva vessel the devotee obtains glory, fortune, power of penance, intellect and permanent longevity. If the rites are performed in holy spots, parks and lakes all vessels are allowed. When there is continuous downpour, a devotee shall perform the rites in a bamboo vessel. If gold and silver vessels are used for the rites one obtains the benefit of all these.

25-26. These trees are recommended in particular for using as Samits (sacrificial twigs): Palāśa Phala, Nyagrodha, Plakṣa, Aśvattha, Vikaṅkata, Uduṃbara, Bilva, Candana, all Yajñīya (pertaining to Yajña) trees, Sarala, Devadāru, Śāla and Khadira.

27. These trees are despised (censured) in the Śrāddha rite: Śleṣmātaka, Naktamālya, Kapittha, Śālmalī, Niṃba and Bibhītaka.

28. One should censure (eschew) for the purpose of Śrāddha the following types of land: where there is unpleasant noise, that which is crowded and impure, rough and rugged, full of worms and insects and one that has obnoxious odour.

29-30. Traiśaṅkava land to the extent of twelve Yojanas should be avoided. A land to the north of a great river, to the south of an ordinary river is called Traiśaṅkava land(?) It is avoided in the rite of Śrāddha, The lands of Kāraskara (Karkal, S. Kanara), Kaliṅga (Orissa) and those on the north of Sindhu should be assiduously (scrupulously) avoided because they have discarded the duties of the different stages in life.

31. Kṛta Yuga is called Brāhmaṇa, Tretā is remembered as Kṣatriya. They say that Dvāpara is Vaiśya and Kali Yuga is remembered as Śūdra.

32. In Kṛta Pitṛs should be adored; in Tretā Suras; in Dvāpara sages are to be adored and Pākhaṇḍas (heretics) are to be adored in Kali Yuga.

83. A wise devotee should perform Śrāddha in the forenoon of bright half and one should not transgress Rauhiṇa (Muhūrta) in the afternoon of dark half.

34-36. The consecrated Pitṛtīrtha is of the extent of a Ratni (a cubit, the distance between elbow and closed fist). Near the root well-cut excellent Kuśa grass is kept for spreading. Śyāmāka, Nīvāra and Dūrvā too are kept similarly.

Formerly Prajāpati, the most excellent one among the renowned, had plenty of hairs. When his hairs fell on the ground, they became Kāśa (grass). Hence Kāśa grass is always considered sacred and honoured in the rite of Śrāddha.

37. Balls of rice should be placed thereon and offered by the devotee who wishes for prosperity. In the case of the twice-born ones, cooked rice which is hot should be placed.

38-39. Except in the case of fruits and flowers and Pānaka (special consecrated drink) a wise devotee should not offer anything on the hand. If oil, salt and pickles are offered on the hand or in an iron vessel, only Rākṣasas will partake of them. After offering the cooked food in the vessels (plates) of the Brāhmaṇa, the devotee should perform the rite of Saṃkalpa silently.

40. Since their association with Darvī (holy ladle) is not seen, if the Brāhmaṇas were to eat out of palm like a boar, the Pitṛs will not partake of them. The same (is true) if the Brāhmaṇas were to take food while speaking.

41. It has been stated by Vyāsa that the size of the Piṇḍas (balls of rice) should be so made as they can enter the mouth of a cow-calf of two years without difficulty.

42. No woman shall remove them (i.e. the plates where the Brāhmaṇas take food). Neither one devoid of knowledge nor one refraining from Vrata should do so. So it is to be done by the son himself or one whose great prosperity is desired by him.

43. If the Brāhmaṇas utter the Svasti Vacana even as the plates remain there, the food served will be eaten by Asuras and the Pitṛs will go away disappointed.

44. One Piṇḍa is to be put into water, one to be given to the wife and one is to be put into the sacred fire. These are the three ways of disposal.

45. In a Śrāddha, one should feed a Chandoga, i.e. Sāmavedin. In the Vaiśvadeva, one should feed Bahvṛca (Ṛgvedin). In the rite for Puṣṭi (nourishment), one should feed an Adhvaryu (Yajurvedin) and in a Śānti rite one should feed an Atharvaṇa.

46. One should seat two Atharvaṇa Brāhmaṇas facing the east in a rite for deities. In a rite for Pitṛs the devotee should seat the Bahvṛca (Ṛgvedin), Adhvaryu (Yajurvedin) and Sāmaga facing the north.

47-48. All these are to be gifted: All kinds of Jāti flowers, Mallikā, white Yūthikā, all flowers grown in water, Caṃpaka, Madhūka, Rāmaṭha, Karpūra, pepper, jaggery, salt and tin. They are recommended in a Śrāddha rite.

49. A Brāhmaṇa, blanket, cows, the Sun, Fire, guest, gingelly seeds, Darbhas, and time—these nine are remembered as Kutapas.

50. Śrāddha should not be performed during adversity, without fire, during solar and lunar eclipse, on a holy spot, in Saṅgraha (in a group) and when the Sun has set.

51. A woman after monthly course shall be deemed pure after her bath on the fourth day in the case of a rite for deities, and on the fifth day in the case of a rite for Pitṛs.

52. One should perform Āmaśrāddha if there is no Brāhmaṇa available, if one does not possess the requisite materials and wherewithal, when one is away from the house and when a son is born. A man whose wife is in her monthly period shall also do so.

53. Śrāddha is not to be performed for those killed by serpents and Brāhmaṇas, those bitten by fanged animals, horned animals and reptiles and those who have committed suicide.

54. Only sinners meet with death in water, by shock of lightning and attacks by Cāṇḍālas, serpents, Brāhmaṇas and fanged animals.

55. If the rite is performed by the eldest brother alone with the assent of others and when the materials (or expenses) are shared (by all) it is considered to have been performed by all.

56. If the churning is done on a New-Moon day, or on a Pitṛśrāddha day, the butter milk thereof is on a par with liquor and the ghee is remembered as one on a par with cow’s meat (beef).

57. The sin is incurred by those in order and by those who partake of a portion of the Piṇḍa. A Brāhmaṇa invited for a Śrāddha shall not go to bed with a woman.

58. One who is to partake of food during Śrāddha should get up at dawn and clean his teeth, but a sensible man who is to perform a Śrāddha should not clean his teeth.

59. The annual Śrāddha that is performed every year on the days of the death of mother and father, should not be performed in Malamāsa (intercalary month) as stated by Vyāsa.

60. The rule regarding Adhimāsa (intercalary month) does not apply to the rites connected with conception, taking and repaying debts, death, servant, monthly rites and the annual Śrāddha.

61. In the case of marriage etc., the Solar calendar is followed, in Yajña etc. Sāvana calendar; in annual Śrāddha rite of Pitṛs, the lunar month is recommended.

62. On the anniversary of the day of death, the rite for the Pitṛs is to be performed during the same Rāśi (sign of Zodiac, the period thereof) on which the Sun was when the death or danger occurred in the case of a Brāhmaṇa.

63. Vaṣaṭkāra, Homa, Parvan and Āgrāyaṇa should be performed even in Malamāsa (intercalary month) but one should avoid Kāmya Iṣṭis sacrificial rites for things desired).

64-65. The following should be avoided during Malamāsa: Agnyādhyeya, Pratiṣṭhā (Installation), Yajña, Dāna, Vrata, Vedavrata, Vṛṣotsarga (letting lose a bull in honour of the deceased), Cūḍākaraṇa (tonsure rite), Mekhalā rites and auspicious Abhiṣeka rites. During Malamāsa the devotee with purity should perform Nitya and Naimittika rites, holy bath in a Tīrtha, Gajacchāyā and Preta Śrāddha.

66. This is the characteristic feature of a Rākṣasa Śrāddha: If Rasas (spirituous juice) are recommended, if the partakers are kinsmen and persons of the same Gotra and if there is tumult due to Royal (Governmental) tidings.

67. After performing one Śrāddha, if a person eagerly partakes of the food in another Śrāddha his Pitṛs fall down losing (becoming devoid of) all rites connected with Piṇḍas and libations.

68. Oil bath, application of unguents, cleaning of the teeth, cutting of the hairs and nails etc., should be postponed to the next day.

69. If the excellent Brāhmaṇas duly invited in Havya and Kavya rites transgress even slightly, the sinner attains the status of a pig.

70. When pollution (Āśauca) due to birth or death occurs in the course of a rite for deities or Pitṛs, the Śrāddha is offered at the end of the Āśauca.

Concluding Part of a Śrāddha:

71-75. At the conclusion of a Śrāddha the benedictions are to be offered.

Serpents are long. So also rivers and the three steps of Viṣṇu. Thus, in accordance with the dimensions (magnitude) of these, may I attain longevity.

The Devas are stationed in waters. Everything is established in waters. May the waters placed in the hand of the Brāhmaṇa be auspicious unto us.

Lakṣmī stays in flowers. Lakṣmī stays in Puṣkara (Lotus). May Lakṣmī stay in my abode. May she bestow on me Saumanasya (mental delight and satisfaction).

May my merit be unimpaired. So also let there be (my) peace, nourishment and fortitude. Let me have forever whatever there is in the world contributory to welfare and prosperity.

As for the monetary gifts everywhere, let us have plenty to offer.

They should say “Let it be so”. He must accept the same by means of (lowered) head.

Disposal of Piṇḍa Śrāddha:

76-78. A man who seeks enjoyment of pleasures always consigns the Piṇḍa to the fire. If he seeks progeny he should give the middle (Piṇḍa) to his wife along with the utterance of the Mantras.

One who seeks excellent radiance and brilliance shall always offer the third Piṇḍa to cows. If he wishes for best knowledge, fame and renown, he should cast the Piṇḍa into waters. If he wishes for a long life, he should offer the Piṇḍa to crows. Desiring the world of Kumāra (Kārttikeya), he should offer the Piṇḍa to cocks.

79. Or the devotee stands facing south and throws it up into the sky. The abode of Pitṛs is the sky and the southern quarter.

80. One should avoid performing a Śrāddha at night except when Rāhu is seen (Gajacchāyā). On seeing Rāhu the Śrāddha should be performed immediately even if it involves spending everything one has.

81. He who does not perform Śrāddha at the time of eclipse, sinks down dejected like a cow in quagmire. One who performs it (Śrāddha) surmounts sin. She (the cow) is like a boat in the ocean.

82. Black Māṣa (pulse), gingelly seeds, Yava (barley) and Śāli (Paddy), Mahāyavas, Vrīhiyavas and Masūrikās (pulse) are excellent.

83-88. In the Śrāddha rite, both black and white varieties are always employed. Many of these fruits are recommended in the rites of Śrāddha: Bilva, Āmalaka, Mṛdvīka, Panasa, Āmrāta and Dāḍima. Pārāpata (pigeon?), Kharjjūra and Karamardaka are good. Badarīs should be inclusive of the buds. So also Tālakanda and Bisa. Tamāla, Asanakanda, Mavella, Śatakandalī, Kāleya, Kālaśāka, Mudgānna and Suvarcala are also recommended. Some meat is recommended. So also milk, curds, greens, Vyoṣa and Vetrāṅkura (shoot of the cane variety). Kaṭphala, Vajraka, Drākṣa (grapes), Lakuca, Moca (banana), Priyāmalaka, Durgrīva, Tinduka, Madhusāhvaya, Vaikaṅkata, Nālikera, Śṛṅgāṭaka, Parūṣaka, Pippalī, Marica, Paṭolī, Bṛhatīphala are all good. In fact, everything grown within a garden-limit can be used in Śraddha [Śrāddha?].

89-90. These and other types of flowers are recommended in the Śrāddha rite: Masūra, the flower of Śatapuṣpī can be called the abode of Śrī(?). Svātiyavas are always excellent. So also Vṛsayavas and Asaka, Vaṃśa, Karīrā, Surasā, Mārjitā and Bhūtṛṇa.

91. I shall mention things which are fit for being avoided in Śrāddha rite always: Laśuna (garlic), Gṛñjana (carrots), Palāṇḍu (onion), Piṇḍamūlaka (radish). Mogara (variety of radish) and the long radish of Videha.

92. The Śrāddha performed in the eighth part of the day when the Sun has become dim shall be Āsura (demoniac). It does not reach Pitṛs.

93. When in the fourth Prahara (watch) a man performs Śrāddha, that Śrāddha is futile and one who offers it shall go to Naraka.

94-96. First three Muhūrtas beginning with Lekhā constitute Prātaḥ [Prāta?] (Morning). Learned men say that its later part is Bhaga. Saṅgava consists of three Muhūrtas. This is midday. Three Muhūrtas thereafter are called Aparāhṇa (afternoon). The fifth part of day is remembered as Sāyāhna (evening). In this connection there is a Śruti passage:

97. When Āditya (Sun) rises it is Vasanta (spring). When there is Saṅgava it is Grīṣma (summer). When there is midday it is Varṣā (rainy season). Aparāhṇa is Śarat (autumn). When it sets, it is Hemanta (winter).

98, A wise man should perform Śrāddha starting it at Kutapa (eighth Muhūrta) and continuing till Rauhaṇa (Muhūrta). The devotee conversant with the injunctions should abide by the injunctions. He should not transgress (the Muhūrta) Rauhina.

99. The eighth Muhūrta is called Kutapa and the ninth one is Rauhiṇa. Those who know Śrāddha are conversant with this.

100-109. The Ekoddiṣṭa rite is to be performed at midday and for Jātakarman (postnatal rites) morning (is recommended).

Cooking should be separately done for Pitṛs and Vaiśvadeva. Pitṛ preparation should not get mixed with Vaiśvadeva preparation, nor vice versa.

O great goddess of excellent countenance, it is after concluding the Śrāddha and bidding farewell to the Brāhmaṇas that the devotee should perform Vaiśvadeva and other rites.

It shall be particularly performed in a well-kindled fire with plenty of Havyas and fuel. The rite should be performed in fire without smoke. It should have leaping flames. Such rite is conducive to fame and perfection.

If a Yajamāna (householder) performs Homa in unkindled fire emitting smoke, he certainly shall become blind and his son may become wicked.

If there is foul smell (from the fire) and if the fire is black or blue in colour and if the flame appears to penetrate the ground, one shall know for certain that adversity awaits one.

A fire of the following features shall be conducive to the fulfilment of the task: It should be pleasing to the sight. It shall move specially clockwise.

One shall apply collyrium and inhale sweet scents and chant Mantras.

If the rite is performed with Kāśa flowers one shall attain the fruit of a horse-sacrifice. There are flowers of eight types. Collyrium should always be there.

Gingelly oil should be carefully extracted from black gingelly seeds and well preserved. sandal-paste and agallochum should be used. Tamāla, Uśīra and Padma (lotus) are to be used. The incense produced from Guggula, and that from Turuṣka land is excellent, while flowers are excellent, so also lotuses and lilies.

110-113. Flowers with fragrance are suitable and proper. Others too are on the whole suitable. Niśigandhā, Japā, Bhiṇḍirūpaka and Kuraṇṭaka are the flowers to be avoided in a Śrāddha rite always.

Golden, silver and copper vessels are considered vessels proper to the Pitṛs. A slight glance of silver bestows merit. The presence, vision and gift of Kṛṣṇājina (hide of a black antelope) is destructive of Rākṣasas. It gives brilliance and radiance. It redeems cattle and sons.

Now I shall mention the Mantra composed by Brahmā, (which is) on a par with Amṛta (nectar).

The Mantra:

114. “Obeisance to the deities, to the Pitṛs, to the great Yogins. Obeisance, obeisance forever to Svadhā and Svāhā.”

115. This has to be chanted three times at the beginning and conclusion of Śrāddha. It yields the fruit of a horse-sacrifice. It is honoured by the Brāhmaṇas after full understanding.

116. During the offering of Piṇḍas also the devotee should utter this Mantra with great concentration and mental purity. The Pitṛs come quickly and Rākṣasas flee away.

117. I shall now mention Saptarcisa (a septet of verses) that yields auspicious fulfilment of desires:

118. “I shall pay obeisance to all the Pitṛs of brilliant splendour whether embodied or unembodied. I shall always make obeisance to those Pitṛs of divine vision who are always engaged in meditation.

119. Dakṣa, Marīci and others are the leaders of Indra and others. I shall pay respects to all of them and also to Pitṛs and Oṣadhīs (medicinal herbs).

120. With palms joined in reverence I shall always make obeisance to the Constellations and Planets, to the Wind-god and Fire-god, to the Pitṛs and to Dyāvāpṛthivī (Heaven and Earth)

121. Obeisance to the seven Pitṛs. Obeisance to those who are in seven worlds. We shall pay respects to the Self-born Lord, to Brahmā of yogic vision.”

122. This (hymn) uttered by you is resorted to by the Seven Sages and the groups of Brāhmaṇa-sages. It is extremely true. It is glorious. It is destructive of Rākṣasas.

123. The man should repeat these three times in accordance with the injunctions. He should be endowed with great devotion. He should have faith and he should control the sense-organs.

124. He who remains pure and always performs the Japa of this Saptārcisa Mantra shall be the sole monarch of the earth containing seven oceans.

125-127. He who reads Śrāddhakalpa shall be the sanctifier of the row (of Brāhmaṇas). He is remembered as the master of all the eighteen lores. The delighted Pitāmahas bestow on men honour, nourishment, memory, intellect, kingdom and freedom from illness always. In this manner a devotee shall perform Śrāddha in the Prabhāsa Kṣetra of great refulgence at the confluence of Sarasvatī and the ocean, O fair lady.[2]

Footnotes and references:


The editor of the text explain: If a Brāhmaṇa cooks food in the house of a Śūdra, the material should be supplied through a Brāhmaṇa.


The framework of actual procedure of Śrāddha is given in the ancient Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa ( It is slightly modified in the Sūtra period. (For details see HD IV Ch. IX.) This Purāṇa does not give such details but notes some customs current at Prabhāsa.

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