Birthday of Chitragupta, the assistant of Yama
The full moon day in the lunar month of Chaitra or Chitra is known as Chitra Pournami. This year, 2022, it falls on Saturday, 16th April. This day is said to be the birthday of Chitragupta, the assistant of Yama, the Lord of Death, who is also known as Dharmaraja or the one who upkeeps dharma. Of course Yama has to have a clear picture of the actions and motivations of every human being in order to mete out rewards and punishments as and when necessary so Chitragupta’s work was invaluable for him. The word gupta also has the added meaning of an “accountant.”
Interestingly the Sanskrit word chitragupta means “hidden pictures.” The name is most appropriate to a god who has been assigned the task of keeping a complete record of the actions of human beings.
He keeps a very secret account of all the good and bad karmas of every single person in the world. He does not miss anything good or bad that the person has either thought or done. In fact, he is like a CCTV camera kept by Yama in each human being. Everything is recorded. His very name suggests this. Chitra means picture and gupta means secret. So you see that our ancients were fully aware of the necessity of getting secret pictures of everyone’s thoughts and deeds long before the modern generation started using secret cameras! In fact, we had gone one step ahead since Chitragupta was fully aware of every single thought and not merely actions!
The Puranas give different accounts of his birth. He is said to have emerged from a painting drawn by Shiva. Once Shiva and Parvati were discussing about the need for someone who could accurately monitor the inner thoughts of all the people on earth. Shiva took a golden plate and drew a picture on it. Parvati was impressed and added a few extra details. Shiva breathed life and intelligence into the portrait. This was how Chitragupta was born. Some say he was born from the celestial cow, Kamadhenu. He was supposed to be brought up by Indra, king of gods and his wife, Indrani.
According to the Yama Samhita, it is said that Yama told Brahma of his difficulty in keeping track of all the good and bad deeds of the people born on earth. Brahma meditated and many sages were born out of his mind. These are known as his manasa putras. Finally when he opened his eyes he saw a person standing in front of him carrying a pen, paper and ink pot. Because a chitra or portrait was formed in his mind he called him Chitragupta. He immediately asked Brahma as to why he was created. Brahma replied that his purpose was to stay in the minds of all people and record their thoughts and deeds. The judgement meted out to them by Yama would depend on his records. Thus, Brahma appointed him as the one who would write down all the details of every human being’s actions and thoughts and thus determine the merits and demerits of each person. He was given the task of dispensing justice and punishing those who violated dharma. He is supposed to be the 17th manasa putra or mind-born son of Brahma.
All of us who have a vague knowledge of Hindu mythology will be aware of the fact that Yama or Dharmaraja is the one who decides where the jivatma or embodied soul goes after death. Actually, this is not quite true. Yama and his attendants are said to come to invite the jivatma at the time of departure from this world. Where the jivatma is taken depends totally on Chitragupta. As Yama’s chief accountant and minister in attendance, he keeps a complete record of all the deeds of human beings from birth to death. He is thus omniscient and omnipresent. He is said to keep a log to record this and the place to which the jivatma goes at death depends entirely on this log.
Yama judges the jivatma on the basis of this log. The actions and thoughts are classified under the headings of dharma and satya – righteousness and truth. Yama’s messengers are said to be a pigeon, an owl and two brindled dogs, each with four eyes.
As usual with all Hindu gods there are many stories connected with him. Once Indra, Lord of the Gods, had an argument with his teacher Brihaspati and he chose to ignore his teacher’s commands. Brihaspati immediately retired from the scene and went into seclusion and Indra started making mistake after mistake. He went and begged his guru to return. Brihaspati asked him to make a pilgrimage to the earth and pray to Lord Shiva. He made a Shivalingam and started worshipping it with golden lotuses on Chitra Pournami day because of which his bad karmas were absolved.
As is usual with all Hindu festivals and special days, this day is closely connected with the planets especially the sun and moon. Astrologically speaking, on this day, the sun will be in the sign of Aries and the moon in the sign of Libra. Chitra, the brightest star at this time will be transiting. The ancient Hindus knew that the moon being closest to us has the most effect on our minds. This can easily be seen in the rise and fall of the tides depending on the pull of the moon. Our bodies consist of 72% water so you can imagine how much pull the moon will have on us. Of all the lunar days, the day of the full moon and new moon have the greatest significance. The full moon promotes creativity and positive sentiments and new moon negativity. On this day, as has been said, the sun is in an exalted position in Aries and this can bring the most beneficial effects on the earth.
As we have seen, this day has been linked with Chitragupta, the keeper of our karmas because if we worship God through him and beg him to remove our past bad karmas, there is every possibility of them being reduced, since both sun and moon are in favourable positions and both have positive effects on our minds. So the scientific fact is that the influence of these planets on this day when they are both in such favourable positions, will help to erase our negative tendencies and acquire positive thought vibrations.
As is usual in Hinduism, an interesting story is always woven round the dry scientific facts to keep our minds interested and focused. The whole idea is to help us dissolve our negative karmas as well as to stop us from committing further negative karmas. If our prayers are sincere, the high energy of the planets will help strengthen our resolve to not commit negative actions in the future and it will also help to dissolve our past negativity.
The Garuda Purana states that Chitragupta was the first person to make use of letters. It is also said that he was responsible for bringing the knowledge of Sanskrit or the language of the gods, into a script capable of being read by humans. He was the first to use a pen!
He is most meticulous in his work since he knows that a person’s fate would be decided by what he recorded. These are known as the “akashic records” and have to be perfect. These are the diaries of the life of every human being ever born on earth.
The Garuda Purana describes the imperial throne of Chitragupta in Yamapuri, the palace of Yama. He sits to the right of Yama who has his own throne. He dispenses justice according to the deeds of human beings recorded in the akashic records.
According to this Purana, Chitragupta is said to have married Irawati and Nandini. Irawati is also known as Shobavati and they had eight sons. Nandini’s second name is Dakshina and she is said to have four sons. The Kayastha families trace their origin to Chitragupta.
There are only a few mandirs in Bharat dedicated to Chitragupta. Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu is famous in the south. In Rajasthan, Kayastha devotees have built a grand mandir in Udaipur to him. Mandirs to him are also found in Alwar and Ujjain, all of which are over three hundred years old.
The mandir at Kanchipuram was constructed in the 9th century by the Cholas and renovated later by other dynasties. In this mandir Chitragupta is seen seated with a pen in his right hand and some paper in his left. Next to him is seated his wife, Karnika Ambal. He is considered to be the presiding deity of the malefic planet “Ketu.” Hence, those who have problems connected with Ketu worship him at this place. But Ketu is actually only one part of the two shadow planets of which Rahu is the other part. The Shiva Mandir of Sri Kalahasti in Andhra is the place which is known for propitiating Rahu so the person who wants to get rid of the ill effects of both these planets would have to visit both these mandirs!
Many people visit the mandir on all full moon days but of course the full moon day of the month of Chaitra is supposedly his birthday so hordes of people throng to his mandirs on this day.
He embodies the four cardinal virtues, of justice, peace, literacy and knowledge. So you find that strange items like paper, pens, ink, honey, betel nut, matches, mustard, sugar, sandalwood and frankincense are offered to him at these mandirs. In most places he is worshipped on Chitra Pournami but the Kayastha group of people perform a puja to him on the same day as Bhaiduj which is the day after Diwali.
The Skanda Purana states that he is one of the fourteen Manus or progenitors of the world. This year, 2022, Chitra Pournami falls on 16th April which also happens to be Hanuman Jayanti.
Aum Sri Chitraguptaayai Namaha!
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