Citragupta (heavenly scribe)
Citragupta (heavenly scribe)

1. Citragupta

Citragupta (Sanskrit: चित्रगुप्त, 'rich in secrets' or 'hidden picture') is a Hindu deva assigned with the task of keeping complete records of the actions of human beings and punishing or rewarding them according to their karma.

Upon their death, Citragupta has the task of deciding Heaven or Hell for humans, depending on their actions on the earth.

Citragupta is the 17th Manas-putra (mind-born son) of Lord Brahma.

Citragupta is believed to have been created from Brahma's soul and mind (chit) and thus, allotted the right to write Vedas like Brahmins with the duty of a Kṣatriya.

Citragupta accompanies Yama, the god of death.

2. In scriptures

According to the Vedic scriptures, the souls of men after death receive rewards and punishments according to their sins and virtues, and hence it is believed that good and bad deeds of men are not destroyed.

The souls of men after death go to Yamaloka, which is presided over by the deities called Yamadūtas who keep records of men's actions and accordingly give them their dues.

The principal deity of Yamaloka is Yamarāja — the ruler of Yamaloka, and the king of laws.

The Yama Saṁhitā, an extract from the 9th chapter of Ahalyā Kāmadhenu, a work of Hindu Law, says that Dharmarāja complained to Brahma about his difficulties in performing his most responsible duties of keeping records of the deeds of men and doing justice to them.

Brahma went into meditation.

Citragupta sprang from his body and stood before him bearing an inkpot and a pen.

The god Brahma (creator) said:

Because you are sprung from my body (kāya), therefore you shall be called Kāyastha and as you existed in my body unseen I give you the name of Citragupta.

Let the Kṣatriya dharma be followed by you and your progeny.

He then assumed charge of Yamaloka.

Yama setup marriage of his daughter Irawati with Citragupta.

Vaivasvata Manu, son of Lord Sūrya, set up his daughter Nandinī's marriage with Citragupta.

Citragupta had 8 sons from the former and 4 from the latter and these 12 sons became the progenitors of the 12 subdivisions of the Citraguptavanṣi Kāyasthas (a community in North of India).

According to Padma Purāṇa,

Citragupta was placed near Yama to register the good and evil actions of all sentient beings, that he was possessed of supernatural wisdom and became the partaker of sacrifices offered to the gods and fire.

It is for this reason that the twice-born always give him oblations from their food.

As he sprang from the body of Lord Brahma he was called Kāyastha of numerous gotras on the face of the earth.

Bhaviṣya Purāṇa states that God, the Creator, gave the name and duties of Citragupta as follows:

Because you have sprung from my body, therefore, you shall be called Kāyastha and shall be famous in the world by the name of Citragupta.

Oh my son, let your residence be always in the region of the God of justice for the purpose of determining the merits and demerits of men.

The same is the enjoinment of Brahma to Citragupta according to Bṛhat Brahma Khaṇḍa:

He was named Kāyastha having sprung from the body (kāya) of Brahma. He was directed to perform all saṁskāras and to have writing as his profession.

Garuḍa Purāṇa describes the imperial throne of Citragupta in Yamaloka holding his Court and dispensing justice according to the deeds of men and maintaining their record, in the following words:

There Dharmarāja, Citragupta, Śrāvaṇa and others see all sins and virtues remaining concealed in the bodies of men.

The Mahābhārata (Anuśāsana Parva, chapter 130) recites the teaching of Citragupta requiring men to do virtuous and charitable acts and performing Yajña, saying that men are rewarded or punished according to their good or bad deeds.

3. Legends

Citragupta came into being after Brahma, the creator,

having established the 4 Varṇas

  1. Brāhmin (The Learned),
  2. Kṣatriya (The Warriors),
  3. Vaiśya (Merchant & Farmers)
  4. Śūdra (Labourer)

— ordained Yama to keep record of the deeds — good and evil — of all life-forms born and yet to be born on earth, in the heavens above and in the lands below.

Yama, however, complained, O Lord, how can I alone keep record of the deeds of the beings born into 84 lakh yonis (84 000,000 life-forms) in the 3 worlds?!

Brahma went into meditation for 11 000 years and when he opened his eyes he saw a man holding pen and ink-pot in his hands and a sword girdled to his waist.

Brahma spoke:

Thou hast been created from my body (kāya), therefore shall thy progeny be known as the Kāyasthas.

Thou hast been conceived in my mind (Citta) and in secrecy (gupta), thy name shall also be Citragupta.

Let the role of a Kṣatriya be followed by thee and thy progeny.

Brahma then enjoined him to dispense justice and punish those who violated the dharma.

In the Garuḍa Purāṇa, Citragupta is hailed as the giver of letters.

In the legends of Citragupta as well as in the Vedas, he is referred to as the Greatest King, while the rest are Rājakas, or little kings.

citra ida rājā rājakā idanyake yake sarasvatīmanu।
parjanya iva tatanada dhi varṣṭyā sahasramayutā dadata॥

/ Ṛig Veda Book 8/ Hymn 21/ Stanza 18 /

The Ṛig Veda mentions an invocation to be made to Citragupta before offering sacrifice.

There is also a special Gāyatrī invocation to Citragupta as Dharmarāja (Lord of Justice) to be made at the performance of Śraddhā or other rituals:

Om tat puruṣāya vidmahe
Citragupta dhīmahi
tena lekha pracodayāt.

Citragupta is the Devatā for Ketu, one of the Navagrahas, and those who worship Citragupta, would be bestowed with prosperity. Also the evil effects of Ketu during its transit period would be mitigated.

There are also many temples dedicated to Citragupta.

Citragupta is traditionally portrayed holding:

  1. Lekhani (Pen),
  2. Katani (Ink)
  3. Katar (dagger)

His 2 wives are: Nandinī and Śobhavatī.

Citragupta mantra is:

ॐ श्री चित्रगुप्ताय नमः
Oṁ Śrī Citraguptāya Namaḥ