By Swami Harshananda
Aghamarṣaṇasukta literally means ‘the hymn that destroys sins’.
It is natural for human beings to commit sins, either knowingly or unknowingly. Very often they realize their mistakes and repent for it. As the ṛṣis (sages) knew this human psychology, they have prescribed certain rituals that help in the eradication of these sins.
The Aghamarsanasukta is one such Vedic hymn (of prayer) prescribed for this purpose. It forms an integral part of the Mahānārāyana Upanisad.
Water is a great purifying agent and should therefore be considered as an aspect of the Divine. Varuṇa is the presiding deity of water. This sukta has to be chanted before taking bath in a river or lake or tank. The gist of the whole sukta can be stated as follows:
I take refuge in Varuṇa. Pardon me for having accepted gifts from unworthy persons. May Indra. Varuna, Brhaspati and Savitā destroy the sins committed by me. My salutations to them. Through the power of this mantra, let all the impurities in this water (where I am to bathe now) be destroyed. May Varuṇa purify me. I invite the seven sacred rivers— Gaṅgā, Yamunā, Sarasvatī, Godāvarī, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaverī to be present here in this water. May Varuṇa, capable of effacing all sins, purify all the beings dwelling on the earth, in the atmospheric region and in heaven. Similarly may the Vasus also purify us. I am the Supreme Light which projected itself as the universe. I am the same light that shines as the inmost essence of all that exists. Varuṇa, the regent of waters and effacer of sins, absolves the sinners of all types. Though I am the ground of sins and am made to weep, wise men can favor me by destroying my sins. The Supreme Lord is infinite like the limitless ocean. He dwells in the hearts of devotees. He delights the individual souls by guiding them and offering the fruits of their action.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore