Chitragupta is a god in Hindu mythology, responsible for tracking people through their lives to determine where they go after they die. He is the son of Lord Brahma, the creator of the Universe, and holds a fairly special place in the Hindu pantheon because of the order of his birth. An important puja, or Hindu religious ritual, is done to Chitragupta.
Lord Brahma had many various sons and daughters in various myth structures, including many seers born of his mind, such as Vashishta, Narada, and Atri, and many sons born of his body, such as Dharma, Delusion, Lust, Death, and Bharata. The story of the birth of Chitragupta is related in different ways, but he is nearly always delineated differently from the other children of Lord Brahma, and a common thread is that he is born directly of Lord Brahma’s body.
In one popular version of the creation myth of Chitragupta, it is said that Lord Brahma gave the land of the dead over to the god Yama, also known as Dharamraj or Yamraj. Yama would become confused sometimes when dead souls would come to him, and would occasionally send the wrong souls to either heaven or hell. Lord Brahma commanded him to keep better track of everyone, and Yama declared that he could not reasonably be expected to keep track of the many people born of the eighty-four different life forms in the three worlds.
Lord Brahma, determined to solve this problem for Yama, sat in meditation for many thousands of years. Finally he opened his eyes, and a man stood before him with a pen and paper. As Chitragupta was born of Lord Brahma’s body, or kaya in Sanskrit, Brahma declared that his children would forever be known as Kayasthas. As he was first conceived in Brahma’s mind, or chitra, and then made whole in secrecy, or gupta, away from the other gods, he was named Chitragupta.
Chitragupta is sometimes also referred to as the first man to use letters, and is hailed that way in the Garud Puran. He is known as being incredibly meticulous, and with his pen and paper he tracks every action of every sentient life form, building up a record of them over the course of their life so that when they die the fate of their soul can be easily determined. These perfect and complete documents are referred to in mystical traditions as the Akashic records, and as they contain the actions of each person from birth to death, they can be said to contain every action taken in the universe.
Items associated with Chitragupta in his puja include the paper and pen, ink, honey, betel nut, matches, mustard, sugar, sandalwood, and frankincense. A puja is often performed to Chitragupta in reverence of the four virtues he is seen to embody: justice, peace, literacy, and knowledge. Part of the Chitragupta puja also includes writing down how much money you make in your household, and how much you need to make to survive in the following year, while making offerings of turmeric, flowers, and vermilion.