Garuda Purana, Chapter 8


Translated by Ernest Wood and S.V. Subrahmanyam

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An Account of the Gifts for the Dying.

1. Garuḍa said: Tell me, O Lord, all the rites for those in the other worlds who have done good, and also how these rites should be performed by the sons.

2. The Blessed Lord said: O Târkṣya, you have done well in questioning me for the benefit of mankind. I will tell you all about the rites proper for the righteous.

3-4. The good person, finding his body, in its old age, afflicted with diseases, and the planetary conditions unfavourable, and not hearing the sounds of life,

And knowing his death to be near, should he fearless and alert, and should make reparation for any sins committed knowingly or in ignorance.

5-8. When it is near the time to die he must perform his ablutions, and worship Viṣṇu in the form of Śâlagrâma.

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He must worship with fragrant substances, with flowers, with red saffron, with leaves of the holy basil, with incense, with lamps, with offerings of food and many sweetmeats, and other things.

He should give presents to Brâhmiṇs, should feed them with the offerings, and should recite the eight and the twelve syllabled mantras.

He should call to mind, and listen to, the names of Viṣṇu and Śiva. The name of Hari, coming with the range of hearing, takes away the sins of men.

9. Relatives, coming near the diseased, should not mourn. My holy name should be remembered and meditated upon repeatedly.

10-11. The Fish, the Tortoise, the Boar, the Man-lion, the Dwarf, Paraśurâma, Râma, Kṛiṣṇa, Buddha, and also Kalkî 1:

These ten names should always be meditated upon by the wise. Those who recite them near the diseased are called relatives.

12-16. Of him who gives voice to the auspicious name "Kṛiṣṇa" tens of millions of great sins are quickly reduced to ashes.

Even the dying Ajâmila reached heaven by pronouncing the name Hari, which had been given to his son. 2 How much more then is its effect when it is pronounced with faith!

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Hari, meditated upon even by one who has evil thoughts, takes away sins: fire burns, even though accidentally touched.

The sinful man is not able to sin while the power of the name Hari is uprooting the sins, O Twice-born.

Yama said to his servants: "Bring the man who denies, but O messengers, do not bring the man who meditates on the name Hari."

17-20. One should worship the Achyuta, Keśava, Nârâyaṇa, Kṛiṣṇa, Dâmodara, Vâsudeva, Hari, Śrîdhara, Mâdhavam, Gopîkâvallabham, Râmachandra, the Lord of Jânakî. 1

"O servants, do not go near those sinless people who take refuge in the lotus-eyed Vâsudeva and Viṣṇu, who is the supporter of the earth, and carries in his hand the conch and discus.

"Bring those sinners who always turn away from time nectar of the lotus-feet of Viṣṇu,--which are served by the race of Paramahaṅsas, who know the true essence of things, and are without possessions,--and those whose desires are bound up in the household, which is the path to hell."

"Bring them whose tongues do not pronounce the qualities and name of the Lord, whose minds do not meditate upon His lotus feet, whose heads never bow to Kṛiṣṇa, who do not offer worship to Viṣṇu."

21-23. Know, then, O Lord of Birds, the hymning of Viṣṇu, which bestows welfare on the universe, to be the best expiation for even great sins.

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The performance of penances does not purify the wicked man, who has turned his face away from Nârâyaṇa; just as even rivers cannot purify a liquor-pot.

By the name of Kṛiṣṇa one is riddened of sins, and never sees, even in dream, Yama nor his servants.

24-25. The man, having a body of flesh, bones and blood,--who, towards the end gives cows to the twice-born, uttering "Nandanandanam," never falls into the Vaitaraṇî.

Hence one should remember the name of Mahâ Viṣṇu, which effaces multitudes of sins, and should read or listen to the Gîtâ and the Hymn of the Thousand Names.

26-27. The fast of the eleventh day, the Gîtâ, the water of the Ganges, the leaves of the holy basil, the foot-water and names of Viṣṇu--all these are givers of freedom at the time of death.

Then he must dedicate food, with clarified butter and gold, to a learned twice-born and. also give cows with calves.

28-31. Whatever a man gives in his last days, little or much, if it is approved by his Son, is exempt from decay, O Târkṣya.

In these last days a good son should make all the gifts. It is for the sake of this that the wise pray for a righteous son in this world,

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The sons, seeing their father lying upon the ground with eyes half-closed, should not covet his earned wealth. 1

A good son will make such gifts as will prolong his father's life, and free him from misery when he goes into the next world.

32-34. In disease and calamity two gifts rank above all others. They are indispensable--the eight-fold gift of sesamum and other things.

Sesamum, iron, gold, cotton stuff, salt, the seven grains, a plot of ground, a cow,--every one of these is said to purify.

The eight great gifts are the effacers of great sins, and should be given in the last days. Hear now their good effects:

35-36. There are three kinds of holy sesamums generated from my sweat. Asuras, Dânavas and Daityas 2 are gratified by the gift of these sesamums.

White, black and brown are the three kinds of sesamums. The gift of these removes the sins gathered in speech, thought and action.

37-40. A gift of iron-ore should be made with the hands touching the ground,--then he does not go within the domain of Yama, nor tread his path.

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Yama holds in his hands, for the punishing of the sinful, an axe, a threshing-pestle, a rod, a sword and a dagger.

This gift is considered propitiatory to these weapons of Yama. Therefore should be made the gift of iron, which is the bringer of happiness in the world of Yama.

Because of this gift of iron, happiness is bestowed by these great messengers of Yama:--Uraṇa, Śyâmasûtra, Śuṇdâmarka, Udumbara, Śeṣa and Bala.

41-44. Hear this great secret, O Târkshya, about this most supreme gift, by which are pleased the dwellers in Bhû, Bhûvar and Swar worlds. 1

Brahmâ and others, sages, shining ones, and those who are in the assembly of the King of Justice are gratified by the gift of gold, and become granters of boons.

Therefore a gift of gold should be made for the uplifting of the departed. He does not go to the world of Yama, O child, but reaches heaven.

He dwells for a long time in the world of truth and is then reborn here as a king, handsome, righteous, eloquent, prosperous, and of unexcelled strength.

45. By the gift of cotton-stuff one is freed from fear of the messengers. By the gift of salt one is freed from the fear of Yama.

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46-48. By gifts of inn, salt, cotton-stuff, sesamum and gold, Chitragupta and the others who dwell in the city of Yama are propitiated.

And by gifts of the seven grains the standard-bearer of the King of Justice and others who stand at the gates are propitiated.

Rices, barley, wheat, kidney beans, mâṣa, 1 panic seeds; dwarf-peas: these are called the seven grains.

49-52. It has been observed by the sages that the gift of a plot of land of the size of a cow's hide, in accordance with the rites, to a proper person, absolves one from Brahmicide.

Not by vows, not by holy pilgrimages, not by any gifts but by the gift of land is a great sin committed in kingship expiated.

He who gives to the twice-born land filled with grains goes to the abode of Indra and is worshipped by divinities and demons.

All other gifts, O Kâśyapa, are producers of little fruit. The fruit produced by the gift of land increases daily.

53-55. He who, having become a king, does not give land to the twice-born, is reborn for many times as a beggar, without even a village hut.

The king who, through pride, does not make gifts of land, shall dwell in hell as long as Śeṣa 2 supports the earth.

Therefore shall a king especially make gifts of land; though for others, I say, the gift, of a cow is equal to a gift of land.

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56-57. Towards the end, a cow should be given. He should give a cow to overcome death, another to absolve himself of debts, another for the gaining of liberation.

With special rites, O Bird, should the gift of a cow for Vaitaraṇî be made. The cows verily carry the man beyond three kinds of hells.

58-61. The sins committed in boyhood, in youth, in manhood, in old age and in previous births;

The sins committed in the night, in the morning, in the forenoon and the afternoon, in the twilight;--of action, speech and thought,

Having given even once a tawny cow, milkgiving, with the calf and other necessary things, to a well-conducted and austere Brâhmiṇ, learned in the Vedas,--one is absolved of all these sins. The giver is released by her at the end from the accumulated sins.

62-63. The gift of one cow while one is in full vigour of mind, the gift of a hundred cows while suffering from diseases, the gift of a thousand when dying and bereft of mental faculties,

And the gift of one hundred thousand cows after death 1, are equal. A gift made to a deserving person, who has bathed at the sacred waters, increases a hundred thousand fold.

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64. A gift made to a deserving person multiplies a hundred-thousand-fold. It brings unending fruit to the giver and does not harm the recipient.

65-68. One who has studied the scriptures and made fire-offerings to the shining ones and who does not eat food cooked by others is not polluted by receiving even the earth filled with precious stones.

Mantras and fire, the removers of cold and poison, do not themselves partake of these evil qualities. The cow given to an undeserving person leads the giver to hell,

And it troubles the recipient's people for a hundred generations. A gift should not be made to an undeserving person by the wise who desire their own welfare.

One cow should be given to one only, and never to many. If he either sells it or shares it his family will he troubled to the seventh generation.

69. I will tell you about the gilt of a cow, which is a means for crossing the Vaitaraṇî River, of which I have spoken to you already.

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70-76. One should decorate a black or reddish cow, tip its horns with gold, silver its feet, and milk it into a bronze vessel;

Cover it with a pair of black cloths, hang a bell round its neck, and place the covered bronze vessel upon some cotton-stuff,

Put there a golden image of Yama, and an iron rod; place clarified butter in the bronze vessel and put all upon the cow;

Make a raft of sugarcanes, fastening it with silk threads; make a hole, fill it with water, and in it place the raft:

Having placed the things which are born from the body of the sun in it, dedicate the cow there in accordance with the scriptures. 1

Present the cloths, with ornaments to a Brâhmiṇ; properly worship with fragrances, flowers, and coloured rice 2,

Take hold of the tail of the cow, place a foot in the boat, and, having honoured a Brâhmiṇ, recite this mantra:--

77-82. "O Lord of the Universe, compassionate to those who seek refuge in Thee, Thou art verily the saviour of those who are immersed in the ocean of existence, made miserable by the waves of sorrow and remorse.

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"O Best of the Twice-born, the very form of Viṣṇu, God upon earth, uplift me. I have presented this gift to you. Salutations to Vaitaraṇî!

"I have presented this to you, being desirous of crossing that river, which is a hundred yojanas in extent, and lies on the very dreadful way of Yama. Salutations to Vaitaraṇî.

"O Cow, look upon me, for the sake of my passing through the gateway of Yama on the great path. Salutations to thee, Vaitaraṇî, Queen of the shining ones!

"May cows be in front of me; may cows be behind me; may cows be in my heart 1; and may I dwell in the midst of cows.

"May she who is the Goddess of Prosperity for all creatures, who is the mainstay of the shining ones, its the form of a cow remove my sins."

83-84. With hands together having invoiced, with these mantras, Yama in the form of a cow, and having walked round all these things, he should give them to the Brâhmiṇ.

He who, with these rites, gives the Vaitaraṇî cow, goes by a righteous path into the assembly of the King of Justice.

85-86. Whether the body is well or ill one should carry out the Vaitaraṇî observance. The wise man, desiring to cross that river, should make a gift of a cow.

That river, O Bird, does not appear in the Great Way after the gift of a cow. 2 Therefore it is necessary to give a cow at all sacred times.

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87-88. At all the sacred bathing-places, like the Ganges, and in the dwelling-places of Brâhmiṇs; at the eclipses of the sun and moon, at the crossing over 1, on the day of the new moon.

At the equinoctial and solstitial points, at Vyatîpâta, 2 on Yuga days 3 and at other sacred times,--the supreme gift of a cow should be made.

89. That verily is called the sacred time, in which faith is produced, and when a proper person is present,--thence flows unending benefit.

90. Bodies are transitory; possessions are not eternal; death is always near;--one should accumulate righteousness.

91-92. So one who desires his own welfare should make unending gifts, according to his wealth, to a learned Brâhmiṇ.

The gift of even a little wealth, presented with one's own hand:--this is unending, and the time is effectual.

93-94. He who has gifts as provision, goes happily on the Great Way. Otherwise--without provision--the man suffers pain on the path.

All the gifts made by human beings in this world clear the way for them on the path of the world of Yama.

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95-96. By the power of great merit, birth as a human being is obtained. He who, having gained it, follows righteousness, reaches the supreme goal.

The man who neglects righteousness, goes and comes in misery. The fruitfulness of birth as a human being depends upon the pursuit of righteousness alone.

97-99. Wealth, sons, wife and fancily, body, kinsmen,--all these are transitory. Therefore righteousness should be sought.

So long as a man is alive he has a father and other relatives; but when they have known him to be dead, their affection soon fades away.

He should constantly remember that the true kinsman of the self is the Self. If not to the living, much less will anyone give to the dead.

100. Knowing all this, one should give with one's own hand, while still alive. Life is transient; and who can give afterwards?

101-102. The relatives turn away with averted faces leaving the dead body on the ground, like a lump of wood or earth, but righteousness goes with him.

The wealth disappears from the house, and the relatives from the cremation-ground. The good and evil karma he has made goes with him.

103-104. When his body has been destroyed by fire his karma remains and wherever he is the man experiences it, be it good or bad.

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Nobody has a relation in this changing ocean of sorrow. He is born by the attraction of karma, and goes again upon its exhaustion.

105-106. Like creatures in a water-tank, and like the motion or sticks in a river is one's contact with mother, father, son, brother, kinsman, wife and the others.

Whose are the sons, and the grandsons? Whose is the wife, or the wealth? In the world of change nobody belongs to anybody. Therefore one should make gifts himself.

107-100. As long as one is in possession of wealth, so long should one make gifts to a Brâhmiṇ; but when the wealth becomes another's one can have nothing to say.

On account of gifts made in a former birth much wealth is obtained in this. Hence should wealth be given, by one knowing this, for the sake of righteousness.

Wealth is born of righteousness; by righteousness desire is conquered. Righteousness verily is the cause of freedom. Therefore should righteousness be pursued.

110-111. Righteousness is supported by faith, not by large piles of wealth. The wise, though in poverty, leave faith, and go to heaven. From him who offers to Me, with devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water--from him, the self-subdued, I accept that, presented with devotion.

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112. Therefore, by all means, a gift should be made, and as prescribed. Whether it be small or great does not count with me.

113-114. A righteous son is honoured even by the shining ones. He should cause his ailing father to make gifts on earth.

If the wealth made by the father is given to the deserving by the sons--then, by that, himself, his sets, grandsons and great-grandsons are ennobled.

115. What is given through the father has a hundred-fold merit; through the mother, a thousand-fold; through the sister, ten-thousand fold; through the brother, incalculable.

116-118. For him who makes gifts there are no troubles and no torments of hell, and no fear caused by the messengers of Yama at the time of death.

All those sinful-misers, O Bird, who, because of greed, do not make gifts at the time of illness come to grief when dead.

Sons, grandsons, brothers, kinsmen and friends who do not make gifts on behalf of a dying man are without doubt slayers of Brâhmaṇ.

Next: Chapter IX. An Account of the Rites for the Dying

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Suggestions for Further Reading


62:1 The ten avatâras, descents or incarnations of Viṣṇu, which appeared in archaic and ancient times, except Kalkî, who is still to come.

62:2 Ajâmila was a man of very evil life, who named his son Nârâyaṇa, and happened to call him as he was dying.

63:1 Names of Vishnu.

65:1 They may expect ancestral property, but not that earned by the father.

65:2 Classes of non-human beings.

66:1 Physical, astral and lower mental worlds.

67:1 A kind of spotted grain.

67:2 The eternal serpent.

68:1 That is, given by another for one.

70:1 Probably the afore-mentioned cow, ghee, gold, silk, etc. are closely connected with sacrifice and therefore with the sun.

70:2 Akṣata, whole rice coloured with turmeric and saffron, and used to honour persons by sprinkling over them.

71:1 Note here, that the cow is merely a symbol.

71:2 Note the subjective character of the "river."

72:1 The passing of the sun from one constellation to another.

72:2 When the sun and moon are on opposite sides of either solstice, and the minutes declination are the same.

72:3 Every month there is a day called Yuga--the last or last but one.

Source: Originally Scanned at, June 2006. Proofed and formatted by John Bruno Hare. The text has been reformatted and rearranged for this online edition at by Jayaram V. This text is in the public domain in the United States because it was published prior to January 1st, 1923. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact in all copies.