Indispensable Obsequies

Brief Summary
In this chapter Sri Maha Vishnu tells Garuda as to how even those who are not offered pindas and tarpans by sons too may get release from their ‘preta’ forms if the obsequial ceremonies are performed by some others, by anybody in fact. To cite an example, Sri Hari relates to his mount, the Lord of Birds, the tale of the King Bhabruvahana, who causes the release of a Vysya by performing the obsequial rites for him. Sudeva remained a preta (a spirit before obsequial rites are performed for his release) though he had been a very virtuous, charitable and compassionate one. He had no sons and there was none to perform the rites and cause his release. The tale of Bhabruvahana and the Vysya Sudeva bear evidence to the fact that even those without a son can still get release from the ‘preta’ form.

Shlok 1-16
(Having heard Sri Hari’s narration of how the sinful, who were not offered rites, would go to hell, the mighty Garuda trembled with fear). Suta muni continued his narration to the assemblage of seers and sages in Naimishaaranya. Garuda, trembling like a leaf, asks his Lord another question, the answer to which would benefit all men. What means are there for sinners to evade punishments in hell? These sin out of their ignorance and get attached to sense- gratification. Are there any puranas which have dealt with the ways of attaining the condition of bliss?

Shlok 5-14
Sri Hari told Tarkshya, the glorious bird Garuda, that the answer to what he had asked would be a favour for all men and continues His answer. Those without sons and those who are not offered tarpanas etc would roam as ‘prets’. Those who have sons who are righteous and are on the right path would be liberated from ‘preta’’ form. Begetting a son is important. Every effort must be made. Listening to the Purana Harivamsa, performing Shata Chandi Yaga or worshiping Shiva with great devotion could be some of those efforts. The vedas declared that by seeing the face of a son one would succeed in discharging his duty to his forefathers. If one touches a grandson, the person would be released from his three-fold debt.With the help of his progeny, grandsons and great grandsons he would go to heaven. Illegitimate sons only drag one down and so one must avoid consorting with a woman of a lower caste. A legitimate son, born out of wedlock of a man and a woman of the same caste is eligible to offer pindas and tarpans to his dead father. Even if someone else (other than a son) offers pindas the ‘preta’ would be released from that form. So saying Sri Hari gives Garuda the example of gifts from a higher body, that is a human body. (as opposed to ‘preta’).

Shlok 17-48
Long ago, in Tretayug there was a great city called Mahodaya ruled by a Raja called Babhruvahana. He was righteous, strong and very powerful. He was very kind and performed his kingly duties befitting a kshatriya. He protected the good and punished the wicked. Once he went for hunting along with his retinue. The King chanced to see a deer and shot an arrow. The injured deer escaped leaving a trail of blood behind in the grass. The King went on and on and he became hungry and the thirsty. His followers lagged behind and lost him. The tired King saw a lake and had a cool bathe and drank refreshing water. Thus Babhruvahana came into the forest and tried to rest under a tree. He saw a ‘pret with a dreadful appearance. But the departed one spoke in a very soft and polite way. “O great King armed as a hunter! I am really fortunate in being able to see you in the wilderness. When I was alive I did all good deeds and led a life of righteousness. I was a vysya and my name was Sudeva.” The King was surprised to see the black open-mouthed one and asked him as to what he had done to deserve that. Sudeva narrated how he had none to offer pinda, tarpan or any other oblations and as such had to remain a horrid ‘preta’. He did not fail in his duties, pious and worldly but not having a son he came to be in that wretched condition. He prayed the King who appeared to be merciful and compassionate to perform the rites required to liberate him. If the King performed the sixteen monthly ‘shraddhas’ at least then, he would be able to shed the form of a ‘preta’ Sudeva, after making his entreaties, offered to gift Babhruvahana, the King, a precious and invaluable diamond. He pleaded for mercy telling the King as to how he had been starved and left parched in spite of the forest having sweet water and ripe fruit to satisfy his needs. He appealed to the King to perform for him the rite called Narayana bali with the mantras from the Veda which would destroy his pathetic condition of roaming about as a heinous and horrid ‘preta’

Shlok 49-56
The preta described the method of performing the rite called Narayana bali. This is a performance in the worship of Vishnu, the one who destroys the condition of being a preta. Two pieces of gold earned honestly should go into the making of Narayana’s image. Then the image has to be dressed in a pair of yellow clothes and washed and decorated with ornaments and then be worshipped in a specified way. Then the form of Vishnu is to be put to the east of the image, Madhusudana to the south, Vamadeva to the west and Gadadhara, wielder of the mace, to the north. Maheswara and Pitamaha are to be in the middle. All these should be worshipped with chandan (sandal wood paste) and flowers. Then the one performing bali or sacrifice should perform the ceremony to the upper body, the form of the one above the preta. He has to cultivate a state of mind where there is no greed or anger and perform vrushotsarjana the release of a bull. Then the one who performs the rite has to give away thirteen sets of pots to Brahmins and make a gift of a bed. Then a pot of water has to be consecrated for the departed.

Shlok 57-63
Listening to all this attentively King Bhabruvahana asked the preta for the details of preparing the pot which act would secure release for the preta. Then the preta, the departed one, gave the King the details of the good gifts which release the ‘preta’’ from his horrible form. The pot for the departed is described as the destroyer of all evil. It is impossible for a preta to find and get one who would be able to drive away his evil condition. A pot of pure gold needs to be consecrated to the trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Eesha and then has to be given away as a gift to a deserving, righteous, twice-born (Brahmin). Even a hundred gifts other than this would be of little use. One should worship the pot: the middle being Brahma, the top and the bottom being Vishnu and Shankara and the neck the Guardians of the universe and then fill it with milk and ghee and give it away in charity. This gift made earns great merit, if it is done with devotion and faith.

Shlok 64-69
Sri Hari went on. While the King had been holding a conversation with the preta the King’s army arrived there with elephants, horses and chariots. Then the preta vanished giving the King the invaluable diamond. After returning to his city, the King performed the ceremonies and rites to the upper body, voordhva deha. The ‘preta’ (the departed one) was released immediately by the gifts and attained the higher world.

When a stranger performs shraddha, if the ‘preta’ gets release, how much good would it be if one’s own son performs them! The one who listens to this holy tale being read, or reads it himself, would never go to the ‘departed condition’ or become a preta even though he might have committed some sins.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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