The Vishnu Purana

by Horace Hayman Wilson | 1840 | 287,946 words | ISBN-10: 8171102127

The English translation of the Vishnu Purana. This is a primary sacred text of the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism. It is one of the eighteen greater Puranas, a branch of sacred Vedic literature which was first committed to writing during the first millennium of the common era. Like most of the other Puranas, this is a complete narrative from the cr...

Chapter XIV - Of occasional Shraddhas, or obsequial ceremonies

Aurva proceeded:—

"Let the devout performer of an ancestral oblation propitiate Brahmā, Indra, Rudra, the Āśvins, the sun, fire, the Vasus, the winds, the Viśvadevas, the sages, birds, men, animals, reptiles, progenitors, and all existent things, by offering adoration to them monthly, on the fifteenth day of the moon's wane (or dark fortnight), or on the eighth day of the same period in certain months, or at particular seasons, as I will explain.

“When a householder finds that any circumstance has occurred, or a distinguished guest has arrived, on which account ancestral ceremonies are appropriate, the should celebrate them. He should offer a voluntary sacrifice upon any atmospheric portent, at the equinoctial and solstitial periods, at eclipses of the sun and moon, on the sun's entrance into a zodiacal sign, upon unpropitious aspects of the planets and asterisms, on dreaming unlucky dreams, and on eating the grain of the year's harvest. The Pitris[1] derive satisfaction for eight years from ancestral offerings upon the day of new moon when the star of the conjunction[2] is Anurādhā, Viśākhā, or Svāti; and for twelve years when it is Puṣya, Ardrā, or Punarvasu. It is not easy for a man to effect his object, who is desirous of worshipping the Pitris or the gods on a day of new moon when the stars are those of Dhaniṣṭhā, Purvabhādrapadā, or Śatābhiṣā. Hear also an account of another class of Srāddhas, which afford especial contentment to progenitors, as explained by Sanatkumāra, the son of Brahmā, to the magnanimous Purūravas, when full of faith and devotion to the Pitris he inquired how he might please them. The third lunar day of the month Vaiśākha (April, May), and the ninth of Kārtika (October, November), in the light fortnight; the thirteenth of Nabha (July, August), and the fifteenth of Māgha (January, February), in the dark fortnight; are called by ancient teachers the anniversaries of the first day of a Yuga, or age (Yugādya), and are esteemed most sacred. On these days, water mixed with sesamum-seeds should be regularly presented to the progenitors of mankind; as well as on every solar and lunar eclipse; on the eighth lunations of the dark fortnights of Agrahāyaṇa, Māgha, and Phālguna (December—February); on the two days commencing the solstices, when the nights and days alternately begin to diminish; on those days which are the anniversaries of the beginning of the Manwantaras; when the sun is in the path of the goat; and on all occurrences of meteoric phenomena. A Śrāddha at these seasons contents the Pitris for a thousand years: such is the secret which they have imparted. The fifteenth day of the dark half of the month Māgha, when united with the conjunction of the asterism over which Varuṇa presides (Satābhiṣā), is a season of no little sanctity, when offerings are especially grateful to the progenitors. Food and water presented by men who are of respectable families, when the asterism Dhaniṣṭhā is combined with the day of new moon, content the Pitris for ten thousand years; whilst they repose for a whole age when satisfied by offerings made on the day of new moon when Ārdrā is the lunar mansion.

”He who, after having offered food and libations to the Pitris, bathes in the Ganges, Satlaj, Vipāśā (Beyah), Sarasvatī, or the Gomatī at Naimiṣa, expiates all his sins. The Pitris also say, ‘After having received satisfaction for a twelvemonth, we shall further derive gratification by libations offered by our descendants at some place of pilgrimage, at the end of the dark fortnight of Māgha.’ The songs of the Pitris confer purity of heart, integrity of wealth, prosperous seasons, perfect rites, and devout faith; all that men can desire. Hear the verses that constitute those songs, by listening to which all those advantages will be secured, oh prince, by you. ‘That enlightened individual who begrudges not his wealth, but presents us with cakes, shall be born in a distinguished family. Prosperous and affluent shall that man ever be, who in honour of us gives to the Brahmans, if he is wealthy, jewels, clothes, land, conveyances, wealth, or any valuable presents; or who, with faith and humility, entertains them with food, according to his means, at proper seasons. If he cannot afford to give them dressed food, he must, in proportion to his ability, present them with unboiled grain, or such gifts, however trifling, as he can bestow. Should he be utterly unable even to do this, he must give to some eminent Brahman, bowing at the same time before him, sesamum-seeds adhering to the tips of his fingers, and sprinkle water to us, from the palms of his hands, upon the ground; or he must gather, as he may, fodder for a day, and give it to a cow; by which he will, if firm in faith, yield us satisfaction. If nothing of this kind is practicable, he must go to a forest, and lift up his arms to the sun and other regents of the spheres, and say aloud—I have no money, nor property, nor grain, nor any thing whatever it for an ancestral offering. Bowing therefore to my ancestors, I hope the progenitors will be satisfied with these arms tossed up in the air in devotion.’ These are the words of the Pitris themselves; and he who endeavours, with such means as he may possess, to fulfil their wishes, performs the ancestral rite called a Śrāddha."

Footnotes and references:


p. 320 We may here take the opportunity of inquiring who are meant by the Pitris; and, generally speaking, they may be called a race of divine beings, inhabiting celestial regions of their own, and receiving into their society the spirits of those mortals for whom the rite of fellowship in obsequial cakes with them, the Sapiṇḍīkaraṇa, has been duly performed. The Pitris collectively, therefore, include a man's ancestors; but the principal members of this order of beings are of a different origin. The Vāyu, Matsya, and Padma Purāṇas, and Hari Vanśa, profess to give an account of the original Pitris. The account is much the same, and for the most part in the same words, in all. They agree in distinguishing the Pitris into seven classes; three of which are without form, or composed of intellectual, not elementary substance, and assuming what forms they please; and four are corporeal. When they come to the enumeration of the particular classes they somewhat differ, and the accounts in all the works are singularly imperfect. According to a legend given by the Vāyu and the Hari Vanśa, the first Pitris were the sons of the gods. The gods having offended Brahmā, by neglecting to worship him, were cursed by him to become fools; but upon their repentance he directed them to apply to their sons for instruction. Being taught accordingly the rites of expiation and penance by their sons, they addressed them as fathers; whence the sons of the gods were the first Pitris. So the Matsya has ‘The Pitris are born in the Manwantaras as the sons of the gods.’ The Hari Vanśa makes the sons assume the character of fathers, addressing them, ‘Depart, children.’ Again; the Vāyu P. declares the seven orders of Pitris to have been originally the first gods, the Vairājas, whom Brahmā, with the eye of Yoga, beheld in the eternal spheres, and who are the gods of the gods. Again; in the same work we have the incorporeal Pitris called Vairājas, from being the sons of the Prajāpati Viraja. The Matsya agrees with this latter statement, and adds that the gods worship them. The Hari Vanśa has the same statement, but more precisely p. 321 distinguishes the Vairājas as one class only of the incorporeal Pitris. The commentator states the same, calling the three incorporeal Pitris, Vairājas, Agniṣvāttas, and Varhiṣads; and the four corporeal orders, Sukālas, Āṅgirasas, Suswadhas, and Somapās. The Vairājas are described as the fathers of Menā, the mother of Umā. Their abode is variously termed the Sāntānika, Sanātana, and Soma loka. As the posterity of Viraja, they are the Somasads of Manu. The other classes of Pitris the three Purāṇas agree with Manu in representing as the sons of the patriarchs, and in general assign to them the same offices and posterity. They are the following:—


When the Yogatāra, or principal star seen, is the chief star or stars of these asterisms or lunar mansions respectively, see the table given by Mr. Colebrooke: As. Res. IX. p. 346. The first three named in the text are stars in Scorpio, Libra, and Arcturus: the second three are stars in Cancer, Gemini, and Orion: and the third are stars in the Dolphin, Pegasus, and Aquarius.

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