tasya khila bhAho


harivamsha parva
ch 16

shrAddha kalpa vidhi
beatification of manes



janamejaya uvAcha - janamejaya asked:

kathaM vai shrAddha-devatvam Adityasya vivasvataH |
shrotum ichChAmi viprAgrya shrAddhasya cha paraM vidhim ||1-16-1
pitR^INAm Adi sargaM cha ka ete pitaraH smR^itAH |
evaM cha shrutam asmAbhiH kathyamAnaM dvijAtibhiH || 1-16-2

"How vivasvat, the son of Aditya, the sungod, got the godhood of shrAddha-deva, the lord of beautification of manes? How best we can beatify manes? What is the origin of manes and why they are reckoned as manes? All these things I would like to listen in detail...

shrAddha is not actually a funeral, or a funerary rite. Funeral or its rites fall under the category of antyeShTi - antima iShTi - end-time rituals. And shAddha is a never ending process.

That which is done with shraddha is shrAddha; anything done deferentially is shrAddha, doing which, you will keep somebody supremely happy. So, beatification, beatifying, from L. beatus "supremely happy, blessed" + ficus "making, producing" would be the nearest word. The sense of ecclesiastical beatification i.e. "to pronounce as being in heavenly bliss..." as a "first step toward canonization..." etc, is for some supreme-souls. But, to ordinary people, keeping their manes happy is the main concern.

svar gasthAH pitaro ye cha devAnAm api devatAH |
iti veda-vidaH prAhuH etat ichChAmi veditum || 1-16-3
ye cha teSAM gaNAH proktA yat cha teSAM balaM param |
yathA cha kR^itam asmAbhiH shrAddhaM prINAti vai pitR^In ||1-16-4
prItAH cha pitaro ye sma shreyasA yojayanti hi |
evaM veditum ichChAmi pitR^INAM sargam uttamam ||1-16-5

Vedic scholars say that the manes ascended to heaven are the presiding dieties of gods themselves.... but how? What actually are the consistories of manes and their capabilities? What actually is to be done to beatify them with which they will be highly pleased? And if they are pleased, what fruits they will accord to us? I would like to listen to all these things related to the epochal legend of manes..." thus janamejaya asked vaishampAyana.

vaishampAyana uvAcha - vaishampAyana replied:

hanta! te kathayiSyAmi pitR^INAM sargam uttamam |
yathA cha kR^itam asmAbhiH shrAddhaM prINAti vai pitR^In |
prItAshcha pitaro ye sma shreyasA yojayanti hi ||1-16-6

"Oh, my... I will tell you about the consistories of manes, how we have to please them by beatification..., and what benefits they accord when they are pleased...

mArkaNDeyena kathitaM bhISmAya paripR^ichChate |

Once sage mArkaNDeya detailed all these topics to quizzical bhIShma...

apR^ichChat dharmarAjo hi shara-talpa-gataM purA |
evam eva purA prashnaM yat mAM tvaM paripR^ichChasi ||1-16-7
puShTi-kAmena dharmaj~na kathaM puShTiH avApyate |
etat vai shrotum ichChAmi kiM kurvANo na shochati || 1-16-9

When bhIShma is laid on the bed of arrows, dharma-rAja put the very same questions to him... same questions you just now asked me... dharmaja asked bhIShma, "oh, grandsire, doing what the well-wishing posterity can flourish, and can remain without disconcertment..."

tat te anupUrvyA vakShyAmi bhISmeNa udAhR^itaM yathA |
gItaM sanatkumAreNa mArkaNDeyAya pR^ichChate || 1-16-8

That I will narrate from the start all that bhIShma has elucidated to dharmaja... originally sage sanatkumAra narrated these topics to sage mArkanDeya; then mArkanDeya related this to bhIShma, and then bhIShma reiterated the same to dharmaja...

yudhiSThira uvAcha - yudhiSThira aske bhIShma:

puShTi-kAmena dharmaj~na kathaM puShTiH avApyate |
etadvai shrotum ichChAmi kiM kurvANo na shochati || 1-16-9

"Oh, righteous one, how the well-wishers of manes derive prosperity..., and doing what those well-wishers can remain unremorseful... I would like to know about them all..."

bhIShma uvAcha - bhIShma replied:

shrAddhaiH prINAti hi pitR^In sarva kAma phalaiH tu yaH |
tat paraH prayataH shrAddhI pretya cha iha cha modate ||1-16-10
pitaro dharma-kAmasya prajA-kAmasya cha prajAm |
puShTi-kAmasya puShTiM cha prayachChanti yudhiShThira ||1-16-11

"Manes are beatified just by performing obsequious rites, oh, yudhiShThira, and they accord all fruits of action to the performer to thrive well on this earth as well as in heaven... iha-para-loka-sukham... and they accord a righteous living to him who desires it... progeny to childless... all-round success to the unavailing few...

yudhiShThira uvAcha - yudhiShThira again asked:

vartante pitaraH svarge keShAMchit narake punaH |
prANinAM niyataM vApi karma-jaM phalam uchyate ||1-16-12
shrAddhAni chaiva kurvanti phala-kAmAH sada narAH |
abhisandhAya pitaraM pituH cha pitaraM tathA || 1-16-13
pituH pitA-mahaM chaiva triShu piNDeShu nityashaH |
tAni shrAddhAni dattAni kathaM gachChanti vai pitR^In || 1-16-14

"We hear that some manes are heaven-oriented while some others dwell in hell... for mortals the fruits accrued are owing to their karmic cycle, or owing to their own actions... aren't they! Then, by which reason manes have been categorised as hell-bound and heaven-bound manes, and if they are different, who are the beneficiaries of our offertories? We offer triple offertories in a single instance aiming at three generations, namely fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers... isn't it? Then, how each offertory reaches each individual defied soul of manes?

kathaM cha saktAH te dAtuM narakasthAH phalaM punaH |
ke vA te pitaro.anye sma kAn yajAmaH vayaM punaH ||1-16-15

When they themselves have fallen into hell, how the hell-bond manes are capable of according benefits to mortals, which mortals' fate of reaching hell or haven is yet undecided... if this category of hell-bound manes do not yield any benefit to mortals, who are the other manes to whom we can make offertories... ultimately, whom we have to adore...

devA api pitR^In svarge yajanti iti cha naH shrutam |
etat ichChAmi ahaM shrotuM vistareNa mahAdyute ||1-16-16
sa bhavAn kathayatva etAM kathAm amita buddhimAn |
yathA dattaM pitR^INAM vai tAraNAya iha kalpate || 1-16-17

We hear that even gods welcome manes in thseir assemblages, oh, grandsire, all these topics I would like to hear in detail from you, hence please tell me all about it... what is to be done to the manes, according to the kalpa-s, corpuses of bodhayana, parAshara et al, in order to negotiate a clean pathway to the obstacle, called this life...

bhIShma uvAcha - bhIShma asked:

atra te kIrtayiShyAmi yathA shrutam ariMdama |
ye cha te pitaro anye sma yAn yajAmo vayaM punaH |
pitrA mama purA gItaM loka antara gatena vai ||1-16-18

"What all I have heard I will relate to you... who are the other mans, whom we should propitiate... I have heard these topics from my father, king shantanu, who by that time departed to other worlds...

shrAddha-kAle mama pituH mayA piNDaH samudyataH |
taM pitA mama hastena bhittvA bhUmim ayAchata ||1-16-19
hasta AbharaNa pUrNena keyUra AbharaNena cha |
raktA~Nguli talena atha yahA dR^IShTaH purA mayA ||1-16-20

At one time when I was undertaking beatification ritual and when I was about to offer piNDa, a food offertory, then cleaving the earth my father's hand surfaced asking me to handover the food oratory in that hand... there is nothing to doubt that hand because it belonged to my father wearing the very same bracelets, bicep-lets, and a ring with blood red stone which I used to see on his arm when he is alive...

na eSha kalpe vidhiH dR^iShTa iti sa~Nchintya cha api aham |
kusheShu eva tapaH piNDaM dattavAn avichArayan ||1-16-21

Construing this as odd and going against corpuses of beatification, I laid the food offertory on kusha-grass in usual way, without a second thought...

Why use kusha, or also called as darbha, grass blades in rituals... Because these grass blades are the only objects on earth that touched amrita. When garuDa brought amrita from indra' abode for the sake of his mother, he placed that vessel on a mat of kusha grass, in order not to humiliate amrita by placing it on ground. In a scuffle for that vessel, some drops of amrita spilled on kusha grass beneath the vessel, thus whole genre of kusha is sanctified with amrita. No other earthly object has come into contact with amrita. Hence they alone are sacred.

king shantanu said to bhIShma:

tataH pitA me suprIto vAchA madhurayA tadA |
uvAcha bharatashreShTha prIyamANo maya anagha ||1-16-22

Then my father is gladdned and spoke to me in a soft tone while I obsequiously served him...

tvayA dAyAdavAn asmi kR^ita arthaH amutra cha iha cha |
sat-putreNa tvayA putra dharmaj~nena vipashchitA ||1-16-23
mayA tu tava jij~nAsA prayukta eShA dR^iDha-vrata |
vyavasthAnaM tu dharmeShu kartuM lokasya cha anagha ||1-16-24

"With you I have achieved the true definition of fatherhood... in you true sonship and righteousness are rooted firmly... I tested you by stretching my hand for offertory, oh, assertor, just to elicit your assertiveness... but, you stood firm in the system, which you would like to establish in the world, because you are scriptural...

yathA chaturthaM dharmasya rakShitA labhate phalam |
pApasya hi tathA mUDhaH phalaM prApnoti arakShitA ||1-16-25

Either the protector of merit or the perpetrator of sin will reap one-fourth of the result of their respective actions...

pramANaM yat hi kurute dharma AchAreShu pArthivaH |
prajAH tat anuvartante pramANa AcharitaM sadA ||1-16-26

Whatever a king does in pursuit of dharma, people bent on dharma will automatically follow it, taking the action of that king as their role model...

tvayA cha bharatashreShTha veda-dharmAH cha shAshvatAH |
kR^itAH pramANaM pR^ItiH cha mama nirvartita atulA |1-16-27
tasmAt tava ahaM suprItaH prItyA cha varam uttamam |
dadAmi taM pratIchCha tvaM triShu lokeShu durlabham ||1-16-28

I am glad that you have become the foremost torch-bearer of the everlasting principles of Vedas; therefore, I wish to accord a boon to you, which in all the three worlds is nonpareil... take it...

na te prabhavitA mR^ituH yAvat jIvitum ichChasi |
tvattaH abhyanuj~nAM samprApaya mR^ityuH prabhavitA tava || 1-16-29

As long as you wish to live the Death does not have its influence on you... it lays its icy hand on you only if you consent to it....

kiM vA te prArthitaM bhUyo dadAmi varam uttamam |
tat brUhi bharatashreShTha yat te manasi vartate ||1-16-30

Besides this, I am ready to accord whatever boon you seek from me... as such, tell me what your heart would wish for..." So said king shantanu to bhIShma.

iti uktavantaM tam aham abhivAdya kR^itA~njaliH |
abruvaM kR^ita-kR^ityaH ahaM prasanne tvayi sattama ||1-16-31
yadi tvat anugrahaM bhUyaH tvattaH arhAmi mahAdyute |
prashnam ichChAmi vai ki~nchit avyAhR^itaM bhavatA svayam ||1-16-32

"When I am said like this I obediently spoke to him with folded-palms, 'I feel fulfilled as you are pleased with my manner... If you are kind enough please provide some information for these queries of mine... whether or not I seek answers explicitly or implicitly..." So said bhIShma to king shantanu.

saH mAm uvAcha dharmAtmA brUhi bhIShma yadichChasi |
ChettAsmi samshayaM sarvaM yat mAM pR^ichChasi bhArata || 1-16-33

"Oh, yes, I will clear all your doubts, bhIShma... you may ask whatever you wish to ask me..." So said king shantanu to bhIShma.

bhIShma continued:

apR^ichChaM tam ahaM tAtaM tatra antarhitam eva cha |
gataM sukR^itinAM lokaM kautUhala samanvitaH ||1-16-34

"Then I curiously asked my father who long back left for merited worlds, yet available there in an invisible form..." Thus bhIShma continued narration to dharmaja.

bhIShma uvAcha - bhIShma asked his father shantanu:

shrUyante pitaro devA devAnAm api devatAH |
devAH cha pitaro.anye cha kAn yajAmo vayaM punaH ||1-16-35
kathaM cha dattam asmAbhiH shrAddhaM prINAtyatho pitR^In |
loka-antara gataN tAta kim nu shrAddhasya vA phalam || 1-16-36

"We hear that manes are reckoned as gods even by gods proper... then what is the difference between gods and manes... which gods do we worship and which manes do we propitiate... how the manes existing in next-world are beatified with offertories we accord here... all said and done, oh, sire, what is the result of our beatifying the manes...

kAn yajanti sma lokA vai sa deva nara dAnavAH |
sa yakSha uraga gandharvAH sa kinnara mahA-uragAH || 1-16-37

Gods, humans, demons, yakSha-s, uragaa-s gandharvA-s, kinnaraa-s, including mahA-uragA-s and suchlike multitude is there... but, which god or gods they worship...

atra me saMshayaH tIvraH kautUhalam atIva cha |
tat brUhi mama dharmaj~na sarvaj~no hi asi me mataH |
etat shrutvA vachaH tasya bhIShmasya uvAcha vai pitA ||1-16-38

"In this matter my vacillation is wide and inquisitiveness high... kindly clarify me because I deem you alone as a trustworthy and knowledgeable entity in these matters..." On listening to the words of bhIShma, his father shantanu started to clarify his son's doubts.

shantanuH uvAcha - shantanu replied:

saMkShepeNa eva te vakShye yat mAM pR^ichChasi bhArata |
pitaraH cha yatha udbhUtAH phalaM dattasya cha anagha ||1-16-39
pitR^INAM kAraNaM shrAddhe shR^iNu sarvaM samAhitaH |

"I will explain all that in a nutshell as to how manes have come up, what fruits they yield, origination of manes... listen to it carefully...

Adi devaH tu tAta pitaro divi devatAH||1-16-40
tAn ajanti sma vai lokAH sa deva asura mAnuShAH |
sa yakSha uraga gandharvAH sa kinnara mahoragAH || 1-16-41

God a priori is the root cause and everybody like manes, heavenly gods, worlds with respective gods, humans, demons, yakshaa, uraga, gandharva, kinnara, mahA-uragA-s have emanated from him... why this breed and that... everything is a posteriori to him...

Thus, Adi devaH, the god a priori becomes the first and foremost of the manes.

ApyAyitAH cha te shrAddhe punaH ApyAyayanti cha |
jagat sa deva gandharvam iti brahma anu-shAsanam ||1-16-42

As such, all beings like gods, humans, gandharva-s et al will firstly appease that foremost god... and if he is assuaged, all the gods, manes and the rest feel assuaged... whatever is offered in the process of beatification in this world thus belongs and reaches the god a priori, say, via the intermediary manes and gods... in turn they accord benefits to the offerers in some kind or the other to keep up give-and-take syndrome... this is the cycle brahma has ordered...

tAn yajasva mahAbhAga shrAddhaiH agryaiH atandritaH |
te te shreyo vidhAsyanti sarva kAma phala-pradAH ||1-16-43
tvayA cha arAdhyamAnAH te nAma-gotra Adi kIrtanaiH |
asmAn ApyAyayiShyanti svar gasthAn api bhArata ||1-16--44

As such, you have to firstly worship manes unindolently with shrAddhaa-s, whereby they accord all sundry benefits, because they are the accorders of fruits of actions... whether they are upward bound or downward, they receive your offerings... hence, you adore them extolling their names and ancestries - nAma gotrA-s...

agryaiH= mukhya kalpa anuSThitaiH = as said in primary scriptures; atandritaH= analasaiH - without alasatvam- not indolently. Prescription of scriptures is for upper castes. Then lower castes need not perform these rites? Not so. Lower castes perform them, even today, with more shraddha - dedication. Whenever these shraddha-s are cited they are viewed as the orthodoxy of brahamaNa-s alone. But, lower castes are more particular about these rituals. They call it donating rice, or any edible grain, in the name of elders, seeking their blessings. And they perform this simply without raising hell and heaven.

mArkaNDeyaH tu te sheSham etat sarvaM pravakShyati |
eSha vai pitR^i-bhaktaH cha vidita-AtmA cha bhArata || 1-16-45
upasthitaH cha shrAddhe adya mama eva anugrahAya vai |
enaM pR^ichCha mahAbhAgam iti uktvA antaradhIyata || 1-16-46

Here is sage mArkanDeya arrived here to bless me by attending the beatification ceremony you are offering to me... this highly knowledgeable sage is renowned to be a son absolutely devoted to his father... oh, bhIShma, rest of the topics he will narrate to may put all your queries to him..." Saying so king shantanu vanished from there...


iti shrImahAbhArate khileShu harivaMshe harivaMshaparvaNi shrAddhakalpaprasa~Ngo nAma ShoDasho.adhyAyaH

Thus, this is the sixteenth chapter of first canto called harivamsha-parva, in harivamsha-purANa, the sequel of mahAbhArata, narrating the prominence of shrAddha-s, beatification of manes.


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verse-transliteration:  ks ramachandran
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verse-rendition advisor : gilles schaufelberger
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page maintained by : Harindranath Avaroth :
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translation : desiraju hanumanta rao
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E&OE - content is subject to revision : dated 9-8-07