The Gautami Mahatmya

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 127,137 words

This is the English translation of the Gautami-Mahatmya, which forms the fourth part of the Brahma-purana. The Gautamimahatmya narrates the legends and merits of the various holy places (tirthas) situated around the bank of the Godavari river in 105 chapters. It can be seen as distinct work by itself, and was declared as a “highly meritorious puran...

Chapter 5 - Vināyaka and Gautama

Nārada said:

1. How the River Gaṅgā stationed in the water-jar reached the matted hair of Lord Śiva, has been heard. Kindly tell me how it reached the mortal world.

Brahmā said:

2. O highly intelligent one, there are two divisions in the waters stationed in the matted hair of Maheśvara, because of two persons who took them away.

3. One part that is well known in the world was brought by the brahmin Gautama who used to perform holy rites, donate charitable gifts and practise meditation after worshipping Śiva.

4-5. The other part was taken away, O extremely intelligent one, by the powerful Kṣatriya monarch Bhagīratha after propitiating Śaṅkara by means of penances and holy rites. Thus O excellent sage, the Gaṅgā had two different forms.

Nārada said:

6. For what reason was Gautama the conveyor of the water stationed in the matted hair of Maheśvara? Tell me, by which Kṣatriya was it brought.

Brahmā said:

7. For your pleasure, O dear one, I shall recount in detail how the river was brought by the brahmin or the other one.

8. O sage of great lustre, Gaṅgā became the beloved of Śambhu at the very time when Umā became the beloved of the lord of Devas.

9-10. Śiva was thinking about the means of dispelling my sin. Accompanied by Umā the glorious lord observed the goddess particularly. Since he was indulgent in pleasant activities he created the excellent juice. It was excellent because he was fond of its beauty and sweetness, feminine qualities as well as holy nature, and

11. Gaṅgā was the most beloved of all, O excellent brahmin. He kept her on his head (as a token of honour). Since Umā knew this, Maheśvara was always worried over it.

12. Gaṅgā alone came out of the matted hair for some other reason. Śiva had concealed Gaṅgā in his matted hair.

13-14. On knowing that she (Gaṅgā) was held by him in his head, Umā was not able to bear it. On seeing her stationed in the matted hair, again and again Gaurī spoke to her lord in anger thus: “Send her away, O lord of aesthetic taste.” However, the lord declined to send her away.

15. On account of that misery Umā said “Oh, I am helpless.”

On reflecting that the lord was concealing Gaṅgā in his matted hair, she spoke these words in secret to Vināyaka, Skanda and Jayā.[1]

16-17. “This lover, the lord of Devas will never forsake Gaṅgā. Now she too is the beloved of my lord. How will my lord abandon her, his beloved?” After reflecting thus many times, Umā spoke to Vināyaka.

Pārvatī said:

18. The lord will never abandon Gaṅgā even if attempted by Devas, Asuras, Yakṣas, Siddhas, including yourself, kings or others.

19-20. Either I shall go to Himavān and perform penance once again or I shall entrust the job to holy brahmins who have dispelled their sins by practising austerities. Requested by them Gaṅgā may go to the Earth.

Brahmā said:

21-23. On hearing these words of his mother Gaṇeśa, the lord of obstacles said to his mother:

“It is proper to consult my brother Skanda and Jayā (and do everything). We shall do that whereby my father will cast off Gaṅgā from his head.”

O brahmin, in the meantime there was a drought lasting for twenty four years. It caused great fright to all living beings in the mortal world. Then the whole universe consisting of mobile and immobile beings perished.

24-27. (There was great disaster everywhere) except the sacred hermitage of Gautama that bestowed all desired things.

Formerly, I desired to create the mobile and immobile beings, O dear son. A sacrifice was performed by me on the mountain Devayajana. Thereafter that mountain became well known as Brahmagiri associated with my name.

That Gautama has resorted to that excellent mountain and is staying there ever since. Neither mental worries nor physical ailments, neither famine nor absence of rain, neither fear nor grief, neither poverty nor misfortune are ever heard of in his excellent and highly meritorious hermitage on the auspicious Brahmagiri.

28. Excepting his hermitage in no other place the offering was made to Devas or manes. O dear son, there was neither a donor nor a Hotṛ[2] nor a person performing sacrifices.

29. The propitiation of Devas in heaven was accomplished only when the brahmin Gautama made offering or performed a sacrifice.

30. Sage Gautama became well known in the world of Devas and in the mortal world. People knew that he alone was the donor and the enjoyer of pleasant things.

31. On hearing about this the sages of different hermitages enquired about the hermitage of Gautama and went there.

32. Sage Gautama devoutly nourished all those sages as if they were his disciples, sons or fathers.

33. Whatever was desired by them was provided by him. The sage rendered service to all of them in the proper order, in accordance with their ability and in a manner befitting them.

34-35. At the bidding of Gautama, the herbs and other vegetables became the mothers of worlds. Again Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara were propitiated by him. Then the herbs and other vegetables grew up and were used by the people then and there. They were thought of and sowed by the power of penance of Gautama.

36-38. Whatever was thought of by Gautama was realised. All prosperities were achieved. Everyday Gautama addressed the sages like sons, disciples or fathers. He asked them, “What shall I do for you?”. He nurtured them for many years as a father would do his sons. Thus, O dear son, Gautama acquired great renown.

Then Vināyaka spoke to his mother, brother and Jayā.

Vināyaka said:

39-42. Mother, the brahmin Gautama is being sung about in the abode of Devas: “Gautama has done that which can be achieved by Devas only with effort.” O goddess, thus the power of penance of the brahmin has been heard by me. Dear mother, that brahmin may be able to dislodge Gaṅgā stationed in the matted hair after worshipping the three-eyed lord by means of penance. He alone can plead to the beloved of my father, who is stationed in the matted hair of my father. Some means should be employed so that the brahmin may plead to her. Due to his power the excellent Gaṅgā will descend from his head.

Brahmā said:

43. After saying this to his mother, the lord of obstacles[3] went to the place where the lean Gautama who was wearing the holy thread was present. He was accompanied by his brother and Jayā.

44-46. After staying for a few days within the precincts of Gautama’s hermitage, the lord of obstacles said to the brahmins: “We must not stay there. Let us go to our own abodes, clean and pure hermitages. We have been nourished by Gautama’s food. Let us ask sage Gautama”. After discussing among themselves thus the excellent sages took leave of the sage. Due to his fond feelings he prevented the sages severally.

Gautama said:

47. Gautama said humbly with palms joined in reverence: Stay here alone ye all. O leading sages, I shall serve your feet.

48. While I stand by here, ready to serve you all, it is not proper for you, Devas on the Earth to resort to another hermitage.

49. In my opinion this hermitage alone is the holy penance grove for all. O sages, please do not go to any other hermitage.

Brahmā said:

50. On hearing these words of the sage, Vināyaka remembered his duty of causing obstacles (in secret). With palms joined in reverence he said to the brahmins.

Gaṇādhipa said:

51. We have all been bought over by the food offered to us. Why then should Gautama not forbid us? We are not allowed to go to our own abodes by peaceful means.

52. Nor does this excellent brahmin who has helped us deserve any punishment. Hence I shall endeavour in an intelligent manner. Let that be approved of by you all.

Brahmā said:

53-56. Then the brahmins replied: “Let it be done for helping this brahmin with a desire for the welfare of the world. Do anything which will do good to all the brahmins.”

On hearing the words of the brahmins Gaṇādhipa (Lord of gaṇas or attendants of Śiva) approved of them and said.

Vināyaka said:

What is particularly good for Gautama is being done.

Vināyaka of liberal mind coaxed and cajoled the brahmins again and again. He bowed unto them. He took the guise of a brahmin himself. Gaṇeśvara who sided with his mother habitually, said to Jayā.

Vināyaka said:

57. O Lady of splendid face, do everything in such a manner as no one else comes to know. Assume the form of a cow and go to the place where Gautama is present.

58. Consume the paddy. O beautiful lady, destroy them and distort them. If you are beaten, or shouted at or even looked at do something (by way of retaliation). Bellowing loudly remain in a struggle between life and death.

Brahmā said:

59-60. Vijayā (Jayā) who sided with Vighneśvara did so. Jayā assumed the form of a cow and went to the place where Gautama was present, eating the paddy plants (on the way). Gautama saw her. On seeing the cow in a state of aberration, the brahmin prevented her by a blade of grass.

61. On being forbidden by him, the cow cried aloud and fell down. When the cow fell down there was a great hue and cry.

62. On hearing the cry and on seeing the action of Gautama the brahmins became distressed. Keeping Vighnarāja at the head the brahmins said.

The Brahmins said:

63. All of us are going away from here. We should not stay in your hermitage. We all had been nurtured by you like a son. O leading sage, we are taking leave of you.

Brahmā said:

64. On hearing these words of the brahmins who were determined to go from there, he was as though struck down by the thunderbolt. He fell down in front of the brahmins.

65. The brahmins said to him: “See this goddess mother of the Rudras, the beloved deity of the worlds sanctifying them, fallen an the ground.

66. When due to the power of fate, this cow whose form and features are like those of gods and holy centres has fallen down O excellent sage, what remains for us to do is to go away.

67. If we continue to reside in your hermitage (the merit of) the holy rites performed by us will dwindle down and waste away. O brahmin, we do not have any other asset. We are only ascetics whose only assets are their penance.

Brahmā said:

68-72. Standing humbly in front of the brahmins, Gautama said.

Gautama said:

Your holinesses alone are my refuge. It behoves you to make me pure.

Brahmā said:

Then Lord Vighnakṛt (Gaṇeśa, the creator of obstacles) surrounded by the brahmins, said.

Vighnarāja said:

This cow neither dies nor lives. In this extremely doubtful situation we shall mention the expiation and the goal.

Gautama said:

This cow will never gain sense. She will certainly die. How will this cow get up? It behoves you to tell me the way of expiation. Undoubtedly I shall do everything.

The Brahmins said:

73. This intelligent (brahmin) will speak in accordance with the opinion of all of us. His statement is (as good as) our statement. It should be considered authoritative by you, O Gautama.

Brahmā said:

74. Induced by the brahmins as well as the powerful Gautama, Vighnakṛt (i.e. Lord Gaṇeśa) in the guise of a brahmin spoke these words to all.

Vighnarāja said:

75. I shall speak truthfully on behalf of all. Let the sages as well as Gautama accept my suggestion.

76. We have heard that the water that had been in the jar of Brahma born of the unmanifest one, is now staying within the matted hair of Lord Śiva.

77. Bring it quickly by means of austerities and holy rites. O holy sage, pour that water over this cow that has fallen on the ground. After that all of us shall stay in your house as before.

Brahmā said:

78. When that leading brahmin said thus in the assembly of the brahmins, there was a shower of flowers there. Cries of “Victory” rose up. Then the humble Gautama spoke these words with palms joined in reverence.

Gautama said:

79. Let the desire in my mind be fulfilled due to my power of penance, by the grace of Fire god, by the grace of gods and Brahmā as well as by your grace.

Brahmā said:

80. After saying “Let it be so,” the brahmins took leave of the leading sage and went to their abodes that were now rich in food and water.

81. When those brahmins had gone, Gaṇeśvara returned accompanied by his brother and Jayā. After fulfilling his task he was extremely delighted.

82-83. After the brahmins had returned, after Gaṇeśa had gone, the excellent sage Gautama whose sins had been dispelled by his penance, began to ponder over the same incident. “What is this that has befallen me?” After a great deal of reflection the brahmin understood it by his powerful intuition.

84-88. He came to the firm conclusion that the affair was made-up for the task of the gods. “I consider everything conducive to welfare. It is a help unto the worlds. It is (a task) most pleasing to Śambhu and Pārvatī. It is the task of bringing, Gaṅgā on the Earth. There is no sin in me at all”. Thinking thus in his mind, the excellent brahmin became extremely delighted. After consulting his wife the excellent brahmin said: “After propitiating the bull-bannered three-eyed lord of the worlds, I shall bring the excellent river. I shall delight Pārvatī, the consort of Śiva. The co-wife of the mother of the Universe is stationed within the matted hair of Maheśvara.” After determining thus in his mind the excellent sage Gautama departed from Brahmagiri with a desire to please Śambhu who was staying in Kailāsa, who is worshipped by the mighty Devas and whose power is most terrible.

Footnotes and references:


Wife of Puṣpadanta, a gaṇa (attendant of Śiva).


An officiating priest reciting Ṛgvedic hymns during a sacrifice.


Lord Gaṇeśa who is supposed to be the creator as well as the remover of obstacles is propitiated at the commencement of all important undertakings.

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