By Swami Harshananda
puṣyasnāna (‘bath during the presence of the nakṣatra Puṣya’)
If there are evil forces in nature manoeuvred by goblins and ghosts to disturb the peace of man, there are also supernatural remedies, good enough to neutralise them or even frighten them away! This was the discovery of the ancient ṛṣis or the sages of India. The
remedies they have prescribed go by the general name ‘śānti’.
Out of several such śāntis prescribed by them, the puṣyasnāna (or puṣyābhi-ṣeka) is also one.
Bṛhaspati, the guru or the teacher of the gods, is said to have performed this śānti rite for Indra, the king of gods. Hence it is also known as ‘bārhaspatya-snāna’.
This rite is reserved for the kings, whose well-being is of primary importance for the welfare of the whole country ruled by them.
Though it may be performed on any day that is associated with the Puṣya nakṣatra, the purṇimā or the full-moon day is the best.
The Brhatsamhitā (47.1-87) of Varāhamihira (6th century A. D.) and the Visnudharmottarapurāna (2.103) give a fairly detailed description of this rite.
Some of the more important steps of this rite may now be listed as follows:
Choosing a proper date; selecting a suitable spot for the performance of this rite which should be full of trees and plants with fragrant flowers as also ponds inhabited by swans; drawing a maṇḍala (geometrical diagram of mystical significance) to keep the various articles needed for the rite; ceremonially establishing the fire for offering oblations with appropriate mantras; homa proper; seating the king on a golden throne at a suitable place in the site of the ritual; sprinkling clarified butter and holy water from the kalaśas (sacred pots) on him with mantras to purify him; the king taking a ceremonial bath and then wearing two special (cotton) garments for the occasion; special oblations
into the fire for the welfare of the king; the king honouring all the priests involved in the rite; release of animals meant for slaughter; release of all prisoners except those who have tried to harm him or rebelled against him.
Sometimes, the puṣyasnāna has been described as a part of lakṣahoma also.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore