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

p. 332


Things proper to be offered as food to deceased ancestors: prohibited things. Circumstances vitiating a Śráddha: how to be avoided. Song of the Pitris, or progenitors, heard by Ikshwáku.

AURVA continued.--"Ancestors are satisfied for a month with offerings of rice or other grain, with clarified butter 1, with fish, or the flesh of the hare, of birds, of the hog, the goat, the antelope, the deer, the gayal, or the sheep, or with the milk of the cow, and its products 2. They are for ever satisfied with flesh (in general), and with that of the long-eared white goat in particular. The flesh of the rhinoceros, the Kálaśáka potherb, and honey, are also especial sources of satisfaction to those worshipped at ancestral ceremonies. The birth of that man is the occasion of satisfaction to his progenitors who performs at the due time their obsequial rites at Gaya. Grains that spring up spontaneously, rice growing wild, Panic of both species (white or black), vegetables that grow in forests, are fit for ancestral oblations; as are barley, wheat, rice, sesamum, various kinds of pulse, and mustard. On the other hand, a householder must not offer any kind of grain that is not consecrated by religious ceremonies on its first coming into season; nor the pulse called Rájamásha, nor millet, nor lentils, nor gourds, nor garlick, nor onions, nor nightshade, nor camels' thorn, nor salt, nor the efflorescence of salt deserts, nor red vegetable extracts, nor any thing that looks like salt, nor any thing that is not commendable; nor is water fit to be offered at a Śráddha that has been brought by night, or has been abandoned, or

p. 333

is so little as not to satisfy a cow, or smells badly, or is covered with froth. The milk of animals with undivided hoofs, of a camel, a ewe, a deer, or a buffalo, is unfit for ancestral oblations. If an obsequial rite is looked at by a eunuch, a man ejected from society, an outcast, a heretic, a drunken man, or one diseased, by a cock, a naked ascetic 3, a monkey, a village hag, by a woman in her courses or pregnant, by an unclean person, or by a carrier of corpses, neither gods nor progenitors will partake of the food. The ceremony should therefore be performed in a spot carefully enclosed. Let the performer cast sesamum on the ground, and drive away malignant spirits. Let him not give food that is fetid, or vitiated by hairs or insects, or mixed with acid gruel, or stale. Whatever suitable food is presented with pure faith, and with the enunciation of name and race, to ancestors, at an obsequial oblation, becomes food to them (or gives them nourishment). In former times, O king of the earth! this song of the Pitris was heard by Ikshwáku, the son of Manu, in the groves of Kalápa (on the skirts of the Himálaya mountains): 'Those of our descendants shall follow a righteous path who shall reverently present us with cakes at Gaya. May he be born in our race who shall give us, on the thirteenth of Bhádrapada and Mágha, milk, honey, and clarified butter; or when he marries a maiden, or liberates a black bull 4, or performs any domestic ceremony agreeable to rule, accompanied by donations to the Brahmans 5!"


332:1 See Manu, III. 266, &c. The articles are much the same; the periods of satisfaction somewhat vary.

332:2 The expression Gavya implies all that is derived from a cow, but in the text it is associated with 'flesh;' and, as the commentator observes, some consider the flesh of the cow to be here intended: but this, he adds, relates to other ages. In the Kali or present age it implies milk and preparations of milk, The sacrifice of a cow or calf formed part of the ancient Śráddha. It then became typical, or a bull was turned loose, instead of being slaughtered; and this is still practised on some occasions. In Manu, the term Gavya is coupled with others, which limit its application: 'A whole year with the milk of cows, and food made of that milk.' III. 272.

333:3 Nagna is literally 'naked,' but, as explained in the following chapter, means a Jain mendicant. No such person is included by Manu (III. 239, &c.) amongst those who defile a Śráddha by looking upon it. The Váyu contains the same prohibition.

333:4 Níla vrisha; but this animal is not altogether or always black. In the Bráhma P., as quoted in the Nirńaya Sindhu, it is said to be of a red colour, with light face and tail, and white hoofs and horns; or a white bull, with black face, &c.; or a black bull, with white face, tail, and feet.

333:5 Very full descriptions of the Śráddha occur in almost all the Puráńas, especially in the Váyu, Kúrma, Márkańd́eya, Vámana, and Garud́a. The Matsya and Padma (Śrisht́hi Khańd́a) contain descriptions which are much the same as that of the Váyu. The accounts of the Bráhma, Agni, and Varáha are less full and regular than in some of the others; and in none of them is the subject so fully and perspicuously treated as in our text. For satisfactory information, however, the Śráddha Mayúkha and the Nirńaya Sindhu should be consulted.

Next: Chapter XVII