Garuda Purana, Chapter 9


Translated by Ernest Wood and S.V. Subrahmanyam

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An Account of the Rites for the Dying.

1. Garuḍa said: You have spoken fully about the gifts for the diseased. Tell now, O Lord, of the rites for the dying.

2. The Blessed Lord said: Listen, O Târkṣya, and I will explain the rites for one leaving the body, and by what rites men after death reach a good condition.

3-5. When, by the effects of karma, the embodied leaves his ordinary body, then, near to a holy basil tree one should make a ring with cowdung. 1

Next, having scattered sesamum seeds, he should strew darbha-grass, and then have the Śâlagrâma stone placed on the cleaned platform.

Liberation is certain for the being who dies near the Śâlagrâma stone, which removes all ills and sins,

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6-9 Where is the shade of the holy basil tree, which removes the pain of being, there is always liberation for the dying, difficult to obtain by gifts.

The house in which the holy basil tree is enshrined is like a holy bathing place,--the servants of Yama do not come to it.

Yama is not able to see him who gives up his life while having a holy basil shoot, though he have hundreds of sins.

The man who dies with a leaf of it in his mouth, upon a seat of sesamum and darbha-grass, goes to the city of Viṣṇu, unfailingly, though he have no son.

10-13. Sesamums, darbha-grasses and holy basil are three holy things, and they prevent an ailing man from going to a miserable condition.

Because the sesamum is produced from My sweat it is holy; hence Asuras, Dânavas and Daityas run away from sesamum.

The darbha grasses, my riches, O Târkṣhya, are produced from my hairs; hence by the mere touch of them men attain heaven.

Brahma is seated at the root of the kuśa-grass; in the middle of the kuśa is Janârdana; 1 at the tip of the kuśa is Śaṅkaradeva 2--three shining ones are seated in the kuśa grass.

14-15. Hence kuśa, fire, mantras, holy basil; Brâhmiṇs and cows do not lose their purity by being used again and again.

Darbha-grass becomes unclean with rice-balls; Brâhmiṇs, by eating the offerings for the departed; mantras, cows and holy basil, when basely used; and fire, on a cremation-ground.

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16-20. One should lay the dying man on the ground cleaned with cow-dung and spread over with darbha-grasses; not support him in the air. 1

Brahmâ, Viṣṇu, Rudra 2 all the shining ones, and Sacrificial Fire stand upon the ring,---therefore should one make a ring.

The ground must he pure everywhere, with no stain to be seen. If there is a stain it should be cleaned away by further plastering.

Demons, goblins, elementals, spooks, and the followers of Yama enter an impure place, and a cot above the ground.

Hence without this ring one should not perform oblations to the fire, Śrâddha, the feeding of Brâhmiṇs, the worship of the Holy Ones; nor place the dying man upon the ground.

21-22. Next, placing him on the cleaned ground, one should put gold and jewels upon his lips, and give him the Water of the Feet of Vishnu in the form of the Śâlagrâma.

He who drinks even a drop of the water of the water of the Śâlagrâma stone 3 is absolved from all sins, and goes to the residence Vaikuṇṭḥa. 4

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23-30. Then one should give him the water of the Ganges, which is the effacer of great sins, and gives fruit of merit equal to bathings and gifts at all the sacred waters.

He who performs a thousand times the Chândrâyaṇa fast which purifies his body, and he who drinks the water of the Ganges, are both equal.

Just as, O Târkṣya, a bundle of cotton is destroyed by falling into the fire, so, by his drinking the water of the Ganges, is his sin reduced to ashes.

He who drinks the water of the Ganges, heated by the rays of the sun 1 is freed from all births and goes to the abode of Hari.

By bathing in other rivers men are purified,--so also by merely touching, drinking or calling upon the Ganges.

It sanctifies meritless men by hundreds and thousands. Therefore should one drink of the Ganges, whose water helps one over the ocean of transmigration.

He who calls, "O Ganges, Ganges" while life is flickering in the throat, goes when dead to the city of Viṣṇu, and is not born again on earth.

And the man who, when his life is leaving, contemplates with faith the Ganges, goes to the highest goal.

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31-33. Therefore he should contemplate, salute, keep in mind the Ganges, and drink its water. Then he should listen, however little, to the Bhâgavata, 1 which is a giver of liberation.

He who in his last moments repeats a verse, or half or quarter of a verse of the Bhâgavata never returns hither from the world of Brahmâ.

The repeating of the Vedas and the Upaniṣads; the hymning of Viṣṇu and Śiva--these bring liberation at death to Brâhmiṇs, Kṣattriyas and Vaiṣyas.

34-35. At the time when the breath is leaving the body, he should make a fast, O Bird. Dissatisfied with worldly things the twice-born should take up relinquishment. 2

He who says, 3 while life is still flickering in his throat, "I have relinquished," goes at death to the city of Viṣṇu, and is not born again on earth.

36-39. Then, of him who is righteous and has thus performed the rites, O Bird, the life breaths easily pass out through the higher opening. The mouth, eyes, nostrils and ears are the seven gateways through which go those of good deeds. Yogins go through an opening in the head.

When the rising and descending life-breaths, which are joined, become separate, then, becoming subtle, the life-breath departs from the inert body.

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When the Lord of Breath departs, the body falls like a tree unsupported and stricken by time.

40-41. The motionless body, left by the vital breath, becomes detestable and unfit to touch; foul smells soon arise in it, and it is disliked by everybody.

How can men, who perish in a moment, be proud of the body, with its three conditions,--worm, dung and ashes?

42-43. Earth is dissipated to earth; likewise water to water; fire is dissipated in fire; also air in air.

And, similarly, ether to ether: and the Self that is in the bodies is happy, all-pervading, eternally free, witness of the world, birthless and deathless.

44-45. The individual, possessing all the senses, surrounded with sense-objects of sound and the rest, clinging to desire and love, environed by the sheath of karma,

Endowed with good tendencies, enters a new body created by his own karma, as does a householder whose house has been burnt.

46-47: Then the messengers of the Shining Ones, resplendent with flashing plumes, arrive, bringing a chariot wreathed with countless bells,

And they, knowing the true righteousness, wise, always beloved by the righteous, carry him, who has performed the rites, away in their own chariot.

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48. That great man, in a resplendent body, with shining garments and garlands, possessed of gold and diamond ornaments, by virtue of gifts attains heaven, and is honoured by the Holy Ones.

Next: Chapter X. The Collecting of the Bones from the Fire

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Suggestions for Further Reading


76:1 Cowdung is extensively used in India as a purifier and antiseptic.

77:1 Viṣṇu.

77:2 Śiva.

78:1 When the people of the house are aware that one is about, to die they remove him from the couch to the ground.

78:2 Siva.

78:3 Water is poured over the stone, and thus consecrated to Viṣṇu.

78:4 The heaven of Viṣṇu.

79:1 Here is a mystical suggestion.

80:1 The Bhâgvata Purâṇa.

80:2 Sannyâsa, giving up attachment to worldly life and its objects.

80:3 That is, truly says.

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.