Śrīmad Devi Bhāgavatam | Book 11 Chapter 9
THE ELEVENTH BOOK
On the rules of Śirovrata
1-43. Śrī Nārāyaṇa said:
The Brāhmaṇas that will perform duly the Śirovrata, to be described in the following, are the only ones who will attain very easily the highest knowledge, destroying all Avidyā or Ignorance.
So much so that the rules of right living and right conduct as ordained in the Śrutis and Smriti are not necessary to be observed by those who duly and devotedly perform the Śirovrata (i.e., vow of the head; i.e., vow to apply ashes on the forehead).
O Learned One! It is through this Śirovrata that Brahmā and the other Devas have been able to get their Brahmāhood and the Devahood.
The ancient sages glorified highly this Śirovrata. Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra and the other Devas all performed this Śirovrata.
O Wise One! Those that performed duly this Śirovrata, all became sinless though they were sinful in every way.
Its name is Śirovrata, inasmuch as it is mentioned in the first part of the Atharva Veda. Only this vrata (vow) is called Śirovrata; no other thing is denominated by this name. By no other merit can this be acquired.
O Muni! Different names are assigned to this vrata in different Śākhās; in fact, they are all one and the same.
N. B. — Pāśupata vrata, Śivavrata, etc., are the different names assigned to it.
In all the Śākhās, the One Substance, Intelligence solidified named Śiva and the knowledge thereof is mentioned. This is “Śirovrata.”
He who does not perform this Śirovrata, is irreligious and he is banished from all religious acts, though he is well-qualified in all branches of learning. There is no manner of doubt in this.
This Śirovrata is like the blazing fire in destroying wholly the forest of sins. All knowledge fleshes before him who performs this Śirovrata.
The Atharva Śruti expounds the subtle and particularly incomprehensible things; this Śruti declares the above Śirovrata as daily to be done; so it is one of the daily observances.
“Fire is ashes,” “water is ashes,” “earth is ashes,” “air is ashes,” “ether or Ākāśa is ashes,” “all this manifest Universe is ashes.”
- These six mantras stated in the Atharva Veda are to be recited; after this, ashes are to be besmeared all over the body. This is named the Śirovrata.
The devotee is to put on these ashes named Śirovrata during his Sandhyopāsanā (practising Sandhyā thrice a day); so long as the Brahmā Vidyā (the knowledge of Brahmā) does not arise in him. One is to make a Sankalpa (resolve) of twelve years before one starts with this Vrata.
In cases of incapability, a period of one year or six months, or three months or at least twelve days are to be adopted.
That Guru is considered very cruel and his knowledge will come to an end who hesitates and does not impart the knowledge of the Vedas and other things to him who is purified by observing this Śirovrata.
Know him certainly as a very merciful Guru who illumines the heart by Brahmā Vidyā just as God is very merciful and compassionate to all the living beings.
One who performs one's own Dharmas for many births, acquires particular faith in this Śirovrata; others can have no faith in this. Rather he gets animosity for this vrata, because of the abundance of ignorance in him.
So one ought never to advise on spiritual knowledge to an enemy who has no faith, rather who has hatred for any such thing.
Those only that are purified by the observance of Śirovrata are entitled to Brahmā Vidyā; and none others.
So the Vedas command Those are to be advised on Brahmā Vidyā who have performed Śirovrata.
Even the animal becomes freed of his animalism, as a result of this vrata; no sin occurs in killing that animal; this is the decision of the Vedānta.
It has been repeatedly uttered by Jabālā Ṛiṣi that the Dharma of the Brāhmaṇas is to put on the Tripuṇḍra (three curved lines of ashes on the forehead).
The householders are instructed to put on this Tripuṇḍra by repeating the mantra “Traiyambakā”' with Om prefixed.
Those that are in the stage of the Bhikṣus (Sannyāsi, etc.,) are to put on this Tripuṇḍra uttering thrice the mantra “Om Hasaḥ.” Such is regularly stated in Jabālā Śruti.
The house holders and the Vānaprasthīs (foresters) are to put on this Tripuṇḍra, uttering Traiyambakā mantra purified with “Haum” the praṇava of Śiva prefixed.
Those that are the Brahmāchāri are to use daily this Tripuṇḍra uttering the mantra “Medhāvī,” etc. The Brāhmaṇas are to apply the ashes in three curved lines on the forehead.
The God Śiva is always hidden under the cover of ashes; so the Śaivas, the devotees of Śiva are to use the Tripuṇḍra.
The Brāhmaṇas are to use daily this Tripuṇḍra. Brahmā is the Prime Brāhmin. When He used Tripuṇḍra on His forehead, what need to tell, then, that every Brāhman ought always to use it!
Never fail, out of error, to besmear your body with the ashes as prescribed in the Vedas and worship the Śiva Lingam.
The Sannyāsins are to apply Tripuṇḍra on their forehead, arms, chest, uttering the Traiyambakā mantra with Om prefixed and also the five lettered mantra of Śiva “Om Namaḥ Śivāya.”
The Brahmachāri should use Tripuṇḍra of ashes, obtained from their own fire, uttering the mantra “Triyāyuṣam Jamadagneh,” etc., or the mantra “Medhāvī”, etc.
The Śudras in the service of the Brāhmins are to use the ashes with devotion, with the mantra “NamaḥŚivāya.”
The other ordinary persons can use the Tripuṇḍra without any mantra.
To besmear the body all over with ashes and to put on the Tripuṇḍra is the essence of all Dharma; therefore this should be used always.
The ashes from the Agnihotra Sacrifice or from Virajāgni (Virajā fire) are to be carefully placed on a clean and pure basin.
Cleansing hands and feet, one is to sip (perform Āchamana) twice, and then, taking the ashes in the hand, utter the five Brahmā mantras “Sadyojātam prapadyāmi,” etc., and perform short Prāṇāyāma thrice;
he is, then, to utter the seven mantras “Fire is ashes,” “water is ashes,” “earth is ashes” “Tejas is ashes,” “wind is ashes,” “ether is ashes,” “All this whatsoever is ashes” and purify and impregnate the ashes with the mantra by blowing out air through the mouth.
Then one is to think of Mahā Deva, repeating the mantra “Om Apojyoti,” etc., and apply dry ashes of white colour all over the body and become sinless.
After this he is to meditate on the Mahā Viṣṇu, the Lord of the universe and on the Lord of the waters and repeat again the mantras “Fire is ashes” and mix water with the ashes.
He is, then, to think of Śiva and apply ashes on his forehead. He is to think of the ashes as Śiva Himself and then, with mantras appropriate to his own Āśrama (stages of life) use the Tripuṇḍra on his forehead, chest and shoulders.
By the middle finger and ring-finger he is to draw the two lines of the ashes from the left to the right and by his thumb draw a third line of ashes from the right to the left. These Tripuṇḍras are to be used in the morning, midday and in the evening.
Here ends the Ninth chapter of the Eleventh Book on the rules of Śirovrata in the Mahāpurāṇam Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam of 18,000 verses by Mahāṛṣi Veda Vyāsa.