Sri Satyanarayana Puja Folktales from the Skanda Purana


This story is read during Satyanarayana Puja, a Hindu prayer practice throughout Indian communities. The text is from the Skanda Purana. Puranas are stories that are included in Hindu scriptures. During the puja, some of those attending the puja participate by reading a chapter. See also the article, Satyanarayana Puja in South Louisiana, by Daria Woodside.

Chapter One

Once upon a time, the various sages assembled at the Naimisha forest and approached the great sage Soota, and asked him, "By doing which worship of penance can one's desires be fulfilled? Please tell us." The great sage Soota replied, "Earlier the great sage Narada asked the same question to Lord Vishnu, the consort of Lakshmi. Let me repeat what Lord Vishnu told Narada. Please listen intently."

Once, Sage Narada, while traveling for the benefit and upliftment of the various worlds, arrived on earth. There, he saw mankind going through the various cycles of birth and suffering as a result of their past deeds. Anxious to find a solution to this endless cycle of rebirth, and to find a way for salvation for humanity, he went to the abode of Lord Vishnu. He found the dark-complexioned Lord holding his conch, disc (chakra), mace (gadha), and lotus in his four hands. He had a garland draped around his neck. Sage Narada prayed saying, "Having an unimaginable and indescribable form, infinite power, omnipresence though formless, yet having attributes, you are the foremost in this universe. I pray to Lord Vishnu, who is the savior of the devotees." Hearing Sage Narada's prayer, Lord Vishnu replied, "O Narada, why have you come here? What is your desire? Tell me, I will fulfill all of your wishes." Sage Narada replied, "O Lord of the three worlds, people on earth are suffering in various ways as a result of their past sinful deeds. Bestow your grace and bless me with a solution to relieve their suffering." Lord Vishnu replied, "Son, you have asked a good question. The concern you have for all the worlds is worth mentioning. There is a worship that is very powerful in the heavens and on the earth. I will reveal it now to you because of our affection for each other. That is the Satyanarayana Puja (worship). Those who perform this worship in the required way, according to religious rites, will enjoy all the happiness in this life and attain salvation beyond."

On hearing this, Narada asked again. "O Damodara (a name for Lord Vishnu), with your infinite grace, please tell me in detail the fruits of the worship. What is the procedure for doing it? Who has performed it before? And how do you perform it? Lord Vishnu replied, "This Satyanarayana worship removes sorrows, grants wealth, grain, and clothes. It increases prosperity and grants progeny. One who performs it will be victorious in all conditions and situations. One can do this worship on the months of Vaishaka (April-May Taurus), Maagha (January-February Aquarius), Karthika (October-November Scorpio) or on any auspicious day. While preparing for a battle, when afflicted with sorrows or struck with poverty, it is beneficial to do this puja. This worship can be done every month or once a year depending on one's conditions. It can be performed on full moon day, Ekadashi (eleventh day of each of the two fortnights of the lunar month), and Sankranti (the holy day marking the Sun's entry into Capricorn)."

Lord Vishnu continued explaining how to perform the puja. "One should get up early in the morning and finish his daily ablutions and tasks. Then with a pure mind and body the one performing the puja should pledge, 'O Lord Satyanarayana! To receive your blessings, I am performing this worship with devotion and concentration.' He should finish his daily activities, bathe again in the evening and perform the puja when night starts. The place of worship must be anointed with cow dung, decorated with Rangoli (colorful designs made with rice flour) of five colors, and a new cloth must be spread. Rick should be poured on the cloth and a Kalasha (a holy urn or vessel made of silver, copper, bronze or mud, and filled with water) should be placed on the rice. Another new cloth should be laid out, and on it should be placed an idol of Lord Satyanarayana. This idol can be made of any material based on one's status. It should be bathed with the five nectars (milk, curds, ghee, sugar, and honey), and then placed on the cloth."

Lord Vishnu then went on to tell how to perform the puja. "After praying first to the Lords of the five worlds, Ganesha, Brahma, Visnu, Shiva, and Parvati (Pancalokapalakas), the nine planets (Navagrahas), Indra and the other lords of the eight directions (Ashtadikpalakas) along with their presiding deities (adhi devatas and prayadhi devatas) should be worshiped."

As Lord Vishnu continued speaking to Sage Soota, he said, "First, on the main Kalasha, Lord Varuna (the God of rain) should be invited. Lord Ganesha and the Pancalokapalakas must be worshiped and invited from their respective directions. Afterwards, the eight deities representing the eight directions should be invited and worshipped. Then, Lord Satyanarayana, represented by the main Kalasha, should be invited and worshiped.

Lord Vishnu concluded by saying, "People of any caste, man or woman, can perform this puja. Brahmins can worship according to the puranas and the Vedas. Others should worship according to the Puranas. This puja can be performed in the evening on any day. One should invite Brahmins and relatives and perform this worship by offering a mixture of bananas, ghee, milk, wheat grains or rice grains, sugar, or jaggery. After the final offering, offer gifts to the Brahmins, hear the story of the worship and have a feast with everyone. In this Kaliyuga, this worship is the easiest way to fulfill one's desires."

Chapter Two

After telling the gathering of sages about Satyanarayana Puja, Sage Soota continued his tale. "O great ascetics! I will now tell you who all observed this worship in the past. Listen."

Once there lived a very poor Brahmin in the city of Kashi. Plagued by acute hunger, he used to wander about in search of food. Knowing his plight, Lord Vishnu appeared before him in the guise of an old Brahmin and asked, "O Brahmin, being a Vedic scholar why are you suffering like this and wandering aimlessly?" The Brahmin replied, "O great sir! I am very poor. Unable to bear the pangs of hunger, I beg for alms. No matter how hard I work, I can't find a way out of this misery. If you have any solution, please tell me."

The old Brahmin (who was really Lord Vishnu) replied, "O Brahmin! Lord Satyanarayana is another form of Lord Vishnu. The Lord of Lords fulfills the wishes of his devotees. Hence, reap the benefits of performing the Satyanarayana Puja, by which all suffering will be removed." Saying this, the old Brahmin explained the details of how to perform the puja and disappeared.

The poor Brahmin decided to perform the Satyanarayana Puja the very next day. In anticipation, he couldn't sleep the night before and got up early the next morning and performed the required bath and pledged to do the puja that very day. He then went to beg for alms.

That day, he received a lot of money. He called Brahmins and relatives and performed the worship. As a result, by the grace of Lord Satyanarayana, all of his suffering vanished and he obtained riches and lived a contented life. Not only did performing the Satyanarayana Puja bring him wealth, but also his sins were all removed and he finally attained moksha (salvation). Whoever performs this puja will be rid of all of his sorrows immediately."

The great Sage Soota continued speaking to the gathered ascetics, "I have described to you in detail what Lord Vishnu told Sage Narada. What else do you want to know?" The sages asked, "O Soota! Please tell us about those who performed the worship after hearing about it from the Brahmin." "O Sages," Soota replied, "I will tell you who else performed this worship. Once the Brahmin decided to perform the worship according to his means, all of his friends and relatives came to participate. When the Brahmin began his worship, a woodcutter arrived on the street and came inside the Brahmin's house seeking a cup of water, but when he saw that puja was being performed, he stayed and observed the whole affair. Desiring to know what was happening, the woodcutter asked, 'O Great Soul! What worship is being undertaken? What are its benefits? Please tell me in detail.' The Brahmin replied, 'This is the Satyanarayana Puja. It fulfills all desires, grants wealth, grains and prosperity.' The woodcutter was delighted to hear this, drank some water, ate the Prasad that was offered and left for his home.

The woodcutter decided to perform the puja in his home the very next day. Early that morning, he pledged to use all of the money he earned selling wood that day to perform Satyanarayana Puja and left for the city. He went to the wealthiest part of town and made twice his normal profit selling wood. Delighted, he bought bananas, sugar, ghee, milk, and wheat grains on the way home. Later, he invited his relatives and performed Satyanarayana Puja. Due to the merit he obtained doing this worship, he gained wealth, progeny, happiness, and prosperity. In fact, he was prosperous for all of his remaining life and attained salvation.

Chapter Three

Sage Soota told the gathering, "O Best of the Ascetics! I will tell you another story, please listen."

In the olden days, there lived a wise king named Ulkhamukha. He had mastered all of his senses and always spoke the truth. He used to go to the temple every day and offer gifts and riches to the Brahmins. His wife was a pious and beautiful woman. One day, the royal couple was performing Satyanarayana Puja on the banks of the river, Bhadrasheela.

Just at that time, a merchant by the name of Sadhu sailed by with his boat filled with merchandise. He saw the king performing the worship, and as he reached the shore, approached him and asked, "O Mighty King! Kindly tell me in detail the worship you are performing with such devotion and concentration." The king replied, "We are performing Satyanarayana Puja so that we may be blessed with children." Sadhu replied, "O Mighty King! I too don't have any children. I will surely perform this worship and fulfill my desire."

After this, the merchant completed his business, reached his hometown, and informed his wife Leelavati about the Satyanarayana Puja, which would fulfill their wish of having children. He pledged to perform the worship after the birth of the child.

Through divine grace, Leelavati conceived and in due course gave birth to a daughter named Kalvati. One day, Leelavati reminded her husband, "You pledged that you would perform the Satyanarayana Puja once we have children. Why are you still not performing the worship even after our wish has been fulfilled?" Sadhu comforted his wife saying, "Dear! I will perform the worship during our daughter's marriage," and with that he left the city on business.

In the meantime, Kalavati blossomed into a lovely maiden and Sadhu sent a messenger in search of a suitable groom. The messenger found a good-natured, handsome, and able boy in a merchant family from Kanchana Nagar. Sadhu found the boy as a suitable match for Kalavati. He celebrated his daughter's marriage with great pomp and ceremony. Engrossed in the festivities, he forgot to perform Satyanarayana Puja. This angered Lord Satyanarayana.

One day, Sadhu went on a business trip along with his son-in-law to the seaside town of Ratnapura. Later, they went to the city of King Chandraketu. Seeing that Sadhu had completely forgotten his promise, Lord Satyanarayana placed a curse on Sadhu, saying "Let him be afflicted with great sorrows and hardships." During the night, some thieves robbed the king's treasury and ran to the place where Sadhu and his son-in-law were staying. The royal soldiers were in pursuit of the thieves, and when they arrived they mistook Sadhu and his son-in-law for the criminals, chained them and brought them to the king's assembly. The soldiers said, "We have brought the thieves along with their loot. Please punish them accordingly." Without even deliberating, the King declared the merchants should remain in chains and be thrown in prison. Due to the illusion created by Lord Satyanarayana, no one paid heed to the ardent appeals of the two merchants. King Chandraketu confiscated all their merchandise.

Because of the Lord's curse, Leelavati and Kalavati were also afflicted with sorrows. Their house was robbed and their mental distress increased. Leelavati became ill, and because they had no money to buy food, they had to begin to go begging.

One day, Kalavati arrived at a Brahmin's home to beg for food. Observing the Satyanarayana Puja being performed, she watched the worship and prayed to the Lord, ate the Prasad, and left for home. When she arrived home, her mother asked her why she was late. Kalavati replied, "Mother! I saw the Satyanarayana Puja being performed at the Brahmin's house. I listened to the story and had the Prasad." Hearing this, Leelavati decided to do the worship.

Leelavati called friends and relatives and performed the Satyanarayana Puja along with them. She prayed, "Lord, Please forgive all of our sins. Please let my husband and son-in-law come home soon."

Lord Satyanarayana was pleased with Leelavati's worship. He appeared to King Chandraketu that night in a dream and told him, "Release the two merchants. Give them back their wealth. If not, you will lose your kingdom, sons and wealth."

The king told the assembly the next morning about his dream and ordered the release of the two merchants. The soldiers brought the Sadhu and his son-in-law to the assembly. The merchants bowed to the king, but hesitated to speak, remembering their earlier ordeal when nobody would listen to them. The King then said, "The Gods being against you, you had to face great difficulties, but don't be afraid anymore." He removed their chains, gifted them with expensive clothes and ornaments and doubled the merchandise he returned to them. He told them to go home in peace.

Chapter Four

Sage Soota continued his tale. "Later Sadhu and his son-in-law departed for a pilgrimage to various holy places. They gave gifts to Brahmins and then headed for home."

After they traveled for some distance by sea, intending to test them further, Lord Satyanarayana appeared in the guise of an ascetic and questioned Sadhu. "O Merchant, What merchandise are you carrying in your boat?" Hearing this, Sadhu and his son-in-law answered the holy man in a proud and mocking tone. "O! Ascetic! Why do you need to know what merchandise we have in our boat? Are you planning to steal our wealth? There is nothing except leaves in our boat." The ascetic replied, "So be it," and walked off of the boat and stood on the shore watching the pair.

As Sadhu finished his daily ablutions, he became uneasy as he realized that the boat was feeling lighter than it had been. Quickly he went to check his stock, shocked to find only leaves where his stash of valuable merchandise had been, he almost swooned and began a loud lament. "Why are you lamenting?" his son-in-law asked. "This happened because of the ascetic's curse. Only he has the power to regain our riches. Let's go and beg for his forgiveness. That's the only way back to our wealth."

Immediately Sadhu and his son-in-law went to the ascetic and bowed at his feet again and again. They humbly prayed, "O Great Person! Being foolish we ridiculed you. Please forgive us this grave error and protect us!" The ascetic pacified them and said, "Since you did not fulfill your promise to perform my worship, you had to go through these hardships."

On hearing these words of Lord Satyanarayana, Sadhu prayed, "Lord! The whole world is drowned in your illusion (Maya). Even Brahma and the other Gods cannot comprehend you. How can I, with my limited knowledge, comprehend your various forms? Lord! I will worship you. Please bestow your compassion on me. Please return my wealth and protect me." The Lord, pleased with Sadhu, granted all his wishes and disappeared.

Sadhu returned to his boat and noticed that all of his riches were returned. He made a prayer of thanks to God. He told his son-in-law to send a messenger ahead to their hometown of Ratnapura to let their wives know they were coming home, and headed his boat in that direction.

The messenger reached Leelavati just as Sadhu was about to land. He told her, "O Mother! The master has arrived along with your son-in-law. The boat has just reached the shore."

Leelavati was delighted to hear that her husband had returned. She hastened her daughter to finish the Satyanaryana Puja that she was at that time performing. Both of them finished the worship and raced to the shore to meet their returning husbands, but in her haste Kalavati forgot to partake of the Prasad. Because Kalavati forgot this most important part of the puja, Lord Satyanarayana sank the boat and all of the merchandise was lost and the son-in-law was drowned. The people waiting at the shore were shocked and saddened as they helplessly watched the tragedy.

Leelavati was distraught and embraced her daughter. "My son-in-law has drowned and our boat is lost right before our eyes," she wept. "All of this is the power of Lord Satyanaryana!"

Kalavati was crazed with sorrow and believing that her husband was dead, she took his shoes that had washed ashore in her hands, and began to walk into the sea to kill herself.

Sadhu, watching the scene, realized that it was only a drama created by God, and he began to pray to Lord Satyanarayana. He invited all those gathered there to join him. The Lord was pleased and said, "O Sadhu! Your daughter did not partake of the Prasad from the puja she was performing in her haste to see her husband. Hence, you cannot see your son-in-law. Everything will be fine if she returns home and takes the Prasad. When she returns from doing this she will regain her husband and all will be well. You will all be happy!"

Upon hearing this message from heaven, Kalavati rushed home and ate the Prasad and came back to the shore. Upon her return, her husband and the boat full of merchandise reappeared on the water's surface in good shape.

The young couple and their relatives were extremely happy. Then Kalavati asked her father, "Father, why are you delaying? Let's go home." Immediately upon returning to their house, Sadhu and his family performed Satayanarayana Puja in gratitude for their safe return.

Later, Sadhu performed the Satyanarayana worship on every full moon and Sankranti without fail for the rest of his life. By the Lord's grace, he enjoyed all the comforts in this world and finally attained salvation."

Chapter Five

Sage Soota continued, "Revered Sages, I shall narrate one more story. Please listen."

There was once a king by the name of Thungadhvaja, who ruled over his people like a parent. One day the king went hunting. He killed a lot of animals and notice some cowherds performing Satyanarayana Puja under a Bilva tree. Because of his great pride he ignored the cowherds and, without acknowledging Lord Satyanaryana or bowing to him, the King left the area.

Later, when the puja was finished, the cowherds approached the king and placed the Prasad before him and returned to the site of the puja for a feast. Again, the king's pride kept him from partaking of the holy dish and he left it where it had been placed. This angered Lord Satyanarayana, and all of the king's 100 sons died, his wealth and belongings were destroyed, and he became extremely poor and was afflicted with various hardships.

The King pondered his plight and realized his error. He thought, "My kingly pride prevented me from accepting the Lord's Prasad since it was offered by the cowherds. This has angered God and he has destroyed my whole family. This is what happened. I have no doubt."

So the king went to the cowherds, performed Satyanarayana Puja with them and immediately regained his kingdom, riches, and sons. He lived happily as long as he was alive and later attained salvation.

Whoever performs this powerful and simple Satyanarayana worship and listens to the story will obtain riches and wealth and will live happily. The poor will become wealthy, prisoners will be free, and the timid will become courageous. All of his desires will be fulfilled and after death he will obtain salvation.

Sage Soota continued, "I have narrated the necessity, procedure, importance, and results of performing Satyanarayana Puja. In this Kaliyuga, the Satyanarayana worship is special and a simple way to obtain results. In the Kaliyuga, the Lord is known as Satyeshwara, Satyanarayana, or Satyadeva. In this Kaliyuga, the omnipresent Lord Narayana appears in various forms and fulfills the wishes of all his devotees."

Even if one does not perform the worship, but observes someone performing it, listens to the story towards the end, and takes Prasad, by the grace of God all of his sins will be destroyed.