Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 3 - Chapter 16

Chapter XVI

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

AURVA continued:

"Ancestors are satisfied for a month with offerings of rice or other grain, with clarified butter, 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.

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 Kālaśāka 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 mourning 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, sesame, 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 Rājamāṣa, nor millet, nor lentils,

nor gourds, nor garlic, nor onions, nor nightshade, nor camels' thorn, nor salt, nor the efflorescence of salt deserts, nor red vegetable extracts, nor anything that looks like salt, nor any thing that is not commendable;

nor is water fit to be offered at a Śrāddha that has been brought by night, or has been abandoned, or 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 mourning 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, 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 sesame 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 a mourning oblation, becomes food to them (or gives them nourishment).

In the past, O king of the earth! this song of the Pitris was heard by Ikṣvāku, the son of Manu, in the groves of Kalāpa (on the skirts of the Himālaya 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 Bhādrapada and Māgha, milk, honey, and clarified butter; or when he marries a maiden, or liberates a black bull, or performs any domestic ceremony agreeable to rule, accompanied by donations to the Brahmans!"