Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

p. 320


Of occasional Śráddhas, or obsequial ceremonies: when most efficacious, and at what places.

AURVA proceeded.--"Let the devout performer of an ancestral oblation propitiate Brahmá, Indra, Rudra, the Áświns, the sun, fire, the

p. 321

[paragraph continues] Vasus, the winds, the Viśwadevas, the sages, birds, men, animals, reptiles, progenitors, and all existent things, by offering adoration to them

p. 322

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 Anurádhá, Viśákhá, or Swáti; and for twelve years when it is Pushya, Ardrá, 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 Dhanisht́há, Purvabhádrapadá, or Śatábhishá. Hear also an account of another class of Sráddhas, which afford especial contentment to progenitors, as explained by Sanatkumára, the son of Brahmá, to the magnanimous Purúravas, when full of faith and devotion to the Pitris he inquired how he might please them. The third lunar day of the month Vaiśákha (April, May), and the ninth of Kártika

p. 323

[paragraph continues] (October, November), in the light fortnight; the thirteenth of Nabha (July, August), and the fifteenth of Mágha (January, February), in the dark fortnight; are called by ancient teachers the anniversaries of the first day of a Yuga, or age (Yugádya), 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 Agraháyańa, Mágha, and Phálguna (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 Śráddha 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 Mágha, when united with the conjunction of the asterism over which Varuńa presides (Satábhishá), 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 Dhanisht́há 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 Árdrá is the lunar mansion.

"He who, after having offered food and libations to the Pitris, bathes in the Ganges, Satlaj, Vipáśá (Beyah), Saraswatí, or the Gomatí at Naimisha, 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 Mágha.' 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,

p. 324

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 Śráddha."


322:1 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 Sapińd́íkarańa, 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 Váyu, Matsya, and Padma Puráńas, 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 Váyu and the Hari Vanśa, the first Pitris were the sons of the gods. The gods having offended Brahmá, 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 Váyu P. declares the seven orders of Pitris to have been originally the first gods, the Vairájas, whom Brahmá, 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 Vairájas, from being the sons of the Prajápati 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 Vairájas as one class only of the incorporeal Pitris. The commentator states the same, calling the three incorporeal Pitris, Vairájas, Agnishwáttas, and Varhishads; and the four corporeal orders, Sukálas, Ángirasas, Suswadhas, and Somapás. The Vairájas are described as the fathers of Mená, the mother of Umá. Their abode is variously termed the Sántánika, Sanátana, and Soma loka. As the posterity of Viraja, they are the Somasads of Manu. The other classes of Pitris the three Puráńas 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:--

Agnishwáttas--sons of Maríchi, and Pitris of the gods (Manu, Matsya, Padma): living in Soma-loka, and parents of Achchodá (Matsya, Padma, Hari Vanśa). The Váyu makes them residents of Viraja-loka, sons of Pulastya, Pitris of the demigods and demons, and parents of Pívarí; omitting the next order of Pitris, to whom these circumstances more accurately refer. The commentator on the Hari V. derives the name from Agnishu, 'in or by oblations to fire,' and Átta, 'obtained,' 'invoked.'

Varhishads--sons of Atri, and Pitris of the demons (Manu): sons of Pulastya, Pitris of the demons, residents in Vaibhrája, fathers of Pívarí (Matsya, Padma, Hari V.).

These three are the formless or incorporeal Pitris.

Somapás--descendants of Bhrigu, or sons of Kavi by Swadhá, the daughter of Agni; and Pitris of the Brahmans (Manu and Váyu P.). The Padma calls them Ushmapás. The Hari V. calls the Somapás, to whom it ascribes the same descent as the Váyu, the Pitris of the Śúdras; and the Sukálas the Pitris of the Brahmans.

Havishmantas--in the solar sphere, sons of Angiras, and Pitris of the Kshatriyas (Manu, Váyu, Matsya, Padma, Hari Vanśa).

Ájyapás--sons of Kardama, Pitris of the Vaiśyas, in the Kámaduha-loka (Manu, &c.); but the lawgiver calls them the sons of Pulastya. The Pitris of the Vaiśyas are called Kávyas in the Nandi Upapuráńa; and in the Hari Vanśa and its comment they are termed Suswadhas, sons of Kardama, descended from Pulaha.

Sukálins--sons of Vaśisht́ha, and Pitris of the Śúdras (Manu and Váyu P.). They are not mentioned in the Padma. The Matsya inserts the name and descent, but specifies them as amongst the incorporeal Pitris. It may be suspected that the passage is corrupt. The Hari Vanśa makes the Sukálas sons of Vaśisht́ha, the Pitris of the Brahmans; and gives the title of Somapás to the Pitris of the Śúdras. In general this work follows the Váyu; but with omissions and transpositions, as if it had carelessly mutilated its original.

Besides these Pitris or progenitors, other heavenly beings are sometimes made to adopt a similar character: thus Manu says, "The wise call our fathers Vasus; our paternal grandfathers, Rudras; our paternal great grandfathers, Ádityas; agreeably p. 322 to a text of the Vedas:" that is, these divine beings are to be meditated upon along with, and as not distinct from, progenitors. Hemádri quotes the Nandi Upapuráńa for a different practice, and directs Vishńu to be identified with the father, Brahmá with the grandfather, and Śiva with the great grandfather. This, however, is Śaiva innovation. The Vaishńavas direct Aniruddha to be regarded as one's-self, and Pradyumna, Sankarshańa, and Vásudeva as the three ancestors. Again, they are identified with Varuńa, Prájápatya, and Agni; or, again, with months, seasons, and years. Nirńaya Sindhu, p. 284. It may be doubted how far any of these correctly represent the original notions inculcated by the texts of the Vedas, from which, in the most essential particulars, they are derived.

322:2 When the Yogatára, 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.

Next: Chapter XV