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 41 - Nāgatīrtha a Holy Centre

(description of Naga-tirtha)

Brahmā said:

1. The holy centre well known by the name of Nāgatīrtha is auspicious. It bestows all cherished things. Here the lord is Nāgeśvara. Listen to the detailed description of the same.

2. In the city of Pratiṣṭhāna[1] there was a king known as Śūrasena. He was a prosperous intelligent king born of Lunar Dynasty. He was an ocean of virtue.

3. In the company of his beloved wife he made great efforts for getting a son. After a long time a serpent of very terrible features was born as his son.

4. Śūrasena, the king, nursed and brought him up. No man ever knew that the king’s son was a serpent.

5. Excepting his mother and father, no one whthin or without knew (this secret). Neither the nurse nor the chief minister nor the priest knew it.

6. On seeing that terrible serpent the excellent king and his wife were acutely distressed everyday. (They thought) that having no sons is far better than having a serpent for a son.

7-8. There was a special thing in this instance. The great serpent used to speak like men. That serpent said to his father, “Perform the holy rites of tonsure as well as Upanayana (sacred thread) and the study of the Vedic texts. Till he studies the Vedas a twice-born is considered equal to a Śūdra.”

Brahmā said:

9. On hearing these words of his son Śūrasena was extremely distressed. He fetched a certain brahmin and got the consecratory rites duly performed. After learning the Vedas the serpent said to his father.

The serpent said:

10. Celebrate my marriage, O king. I am desirous of a woman, O excellent king. This is my opinion that your duties will not be fulfilled otherwise.

11. One should beget sons in accordance with the injunctions of the Vedas and perform all consecratory rites. There is no redemption for one who does not become a father and perform such rites.

Brahmā said:

12-13. Being surprised the father said to that son with the shape of a serpent:

Śūrasena said:

Who will give his daughter in marriage to a person whose voice frightens even brave men? Tell me my son. What shall I do?

Brahmā said:

14-16. On hearing those words of his father the clever serpent said.

The serpent said:

There are many types of marriages of kings, O king, O ruler of men. Forcible abduction, with the use of weapons, is also a type of marriage. When the marriage of the son is celebrated the father can be contented.

If you are not celebrating my marriage I shall undoubtedly die in Gaṅgā.

Brahmā said:

17. On realizing the decision of that son, the excellent king without a (human) son called his ministers for discussing the marriage and said.

Śūrasena said:

18-22. My son Nāgeśvara is the heir apparent. He is an ocean of virtue. He has good qualities. He is intelligent. He is heroic. He is invincible. He scorches the enemies. If Nāga is seated in a chariot with his bow he becomes incomparable in the whole of the earth. His marriage is to be celebrated. I am becoming old. I want to be carefree after placing the burden of my kingdom on his shoulders. My beloved son will not get rid of his childish nature till he marries. Hence all of you approve of this. All of you, engaged in what is conducive to my welfare, may kindly make efforts for the celebration of his marriage. Once my son is married I will not have any worry at all. Those who have fulfilled their worldly duties place the burden on their sons and go to forest for performing penance.

Brahmā said:

23. On hearing the words of the king the ministers humbly joined their palms in reverence. Delightedly they spoke to the king of profound brilliance:

The Ministers said:

24. Your son is superior to all in virtue. You are renowned everywhere. Therefore in the matter of your son’s marriage what is there to be deliberated upon? What is there to be worried about?

Brahmā said:

25. When the ministers said so, the excellent king of grave features did not mention to the ministers the fact that his son was a serpent. They too did not know it (from other sources).

26-28. The king said to them again: “Who shall be the bride richly endowed with virtues? Who will be that prosperous king, born of a great dynasty and abode of good qualities, worthy of alliance with us? Who is that heroic king whose alliance shall be praised by all?

On hearing those words of the king the Chief Minister of great intellect, a man of noble birth and excellent conduct who was ever engaged in what was conducive to the welfare of the king and his affairs, spoke thus. He had understood the mind of the king and he was aware of his wishes.

The Minister said:

29. O great king, there is a king named Vijaya in the Eastern land. He has countless horses, elephants and jewels.

30. That intelligent great king has eight valorous sons. Their sister Bhogavatī is precisely like another Lakṣmī. She is a suitable wife unto your son, O king.

Brahmā said:

31-34. On hearing the words of the old Minister the king replied to him:

The King said:

How can his daughter be (the wife) of this son of mine? Tell me that.

The old Minister said:

You have been understood, O great king. I have observed what (thoughts are there) in your mind. Permit me to carry out the duties of a Śūrasena (i.e. one who has heroic soldiers in his army).

Brahmā said:

On hearing the words of the old Minister, he honoured him with ornaments, garments and words (of praise). He then sent him with a great army.

35-41. He went to the Eastern land and met the great king. He addressed him by a variety of respectful words in accordance with the requirements of polity and strategic means. The highly intelligent (minister) made an alliance for the marriage of Bhogavatī, the daughter of the great king, and Nāga the intelligent son of king Śūrasena. The alliance was contracted through false and true utterances. He honoured the king with ornaments, garments etc. After receiving the due honour the king said then, “I shall give”.

After returning from there the extremely intelligent old minister informed Śūrasena about the marriage proposal.

Afterwards when a great deal of time elapsed the highly intelligent old minister went there along with a great army. He was adorned with ornaments and garments. He went there quickly surrounded by all other ministers. The great intelligent minister, the old minister surrounded by other ministers spoke everything connected with the marriage to the great king.

The old Minister said:

42. The intelligent son of king Śūrasena, well known by the name of Nāga, the ocean of virtue, docs not wish to come here.

43-44. The marriage rites of Kṣatriyas, O king, are of various types. Hence the marriage shall be through weapons and ornaments, O extremely intelligent one. Indeed Kṣatriyas and brahmins do speak the truth. So let this marriage through weapons and ornaments be permitted.

Brahmā said:

45-46. On hearing the words of the old minister the excellent king Vijaya considered the utterance of the minister and the king truthful. The king celebrated the marriage of Bhogavatī elaborately with a weapon (by proxy). Then he sent her in accordance with (the injunctions of) scriptures.

47-51. Vijaya who was much delighted entrusted his own ministers with many cows, gold coins, horses, etc. (to be given to Śūrasena). Those ministers with the old Minister at their head took her (the bride) to Pratiṣṭhāna and intimated to Śūrasena that she was his daughter-in-law. They conveyed the message of Vijaya too in so many words. They became contented after handing over to Śūrasena the different types of ornaments, maid-servants, garments and other things. King Śūrasena received with great honour those ministers of Vijaya who had arrived there along with Bhogavatī and bade farewell to them (after giving them some presents) so that Vijaya could be pleased.

52. The young maiden of excellent waistline, the youthful pretty daughter of Vijaya engaged herself in serving her father-in-law and mother-in-law everyday.

53-54. The great and extremely terrible serpent who was the husband of Bhogavatī was staying in a deserted house in an isolated place. It had been rendered splendid by means of jewels. Fragrant flowers had been scattered there. The abode was (thus) pleasingly cool. That serpent used to say to his father and mother again and again (thus):

55. “Why does not my wife, the princess, come near me at all?” On hearing these words of her son, the mother of the serpent said:

The King’s wife said:

56. O Nurse, of great beauty and fortune, go quickly and tell Bhogavatī, “Your husband is a serpent”. (Tell me) what she says thereupon.

Brahmā said:

57. After saying “so be it” and approaching Bhogavatī she said to her in secret very humbly. She said so in a manner fit for reporting an unprecedented thing.

The Nurse said:

58-63. O extremely fortunate lady of gentle manner, I know your husband to be a deity. Nowhere should this be mentioned by you that he is a serpent and certainly not a man.

Brahmā said:

On hearing these words of that (nurse) Bhovavatī said this.

Bhogavatī said:

Normally the husband of a woman of the mortal world is a man of the mortal world. A husband of the divine species is obtained only by merit.

Brahmā said:

She reported these words of Bhogavatī entirely to the serpent, the mother of the serpent and to the king in the due order. The king cried when she said this because he remembered the effect of Karmans. Bhogavatī said to the female companion mentioned before:

Bhagavatī said:

Welfare unto you. Show me my beloved husband. My (youthful) age passes in vain.

Brahmā said:

64-65. Then she pointed out that terrible serpent. Bhogavatī went to the bedchamber filled with fragrant flowers. On seeing her husband in secret (that is) the terrible serpent embellished with jewels, she immediately joined her palms together in reverence and spoke to her husband.

Bhogavatī said:

66. Blessed am I, honoured am I whose husband is a deity.

Brahmā said:

67-68. After saying this and remaining there on the bed the lady of slender limbs made the serpent sport about through songs delightful to serpents as well as contacts with his limbs. She pleased her husband by means of fragrant flowers and beverages. Due to her favour the serpent was able to recollect, O sage. After remembering everything perpetrated by fate the serpent said to his beloved wife at night.

The serpent said:

69. Though you are the daughter of a king, O my beloved wife, how is it that you are not afraid on seeing me?

She said (in reply) “Who is competent to transgress what is laid down by fate? To women, the husband alone is the refuge.”

Brahmā said:

70. Then the extremely intelligent and delighted Nāgendra said to his wife.

The serpent said:

71. I am pleased with your devotion. What is it that you desire? What shall I grant you? O lady of beautiful limbs, it is due to your favour that I have regained the ability of remembering everything.

72-74. Formerly I was a powerful serpent, a son of Śeṣa, coiled round the arm of Maheśvara. I was then cursed by the angry Pināka-bearing lord of the Devas. I was your husband, and you my wife named Bhogavatī. Once Śiva was delighted at the words of Umā in secret. Therefore he laughed boisterously. O gentle lady, I too laughed in the presence of the lord. Then Śambhu became angry and cursed me thus:

Śiva said:

75-78. You will be born of human womb. You will be endowed with knowledge and wisdom.

The Serpent said:

Then O gentle lady, Śambhu was pacified by you along with me. And this was said by him, O gentle lady: “You shall perform my worship in the Gautamī when you are in the form of a serpent. I shall endow you with knowledge and wisdom. Then you will be freed from the curse due to the grace of Bhogavatī.” It is for this reason that I have acquired this state and you too, O lady of splendid face. Now take me to Gautamī and perform the worship along with me.

79. Then I will be released from the curse. Both of us shall goto Śiva once again. Śiva alone is the ultimate resort unto all distressed persons always.

Brahmā said:

80. On hearing the words of her husband, she went to Gautamī along with her husband. After taking bath in Gautamī she performed the worship of Śiva.

81. Then the lord became delighted, O sage, and granted them the divine form. The serpent took leave of his parents and got ready to go to Śiva’s world along with his wife. On coming to know of it the extremely intelligent father said.

The father said:

82. The eldest son (of a king) holds the rank of Crown Prince. You are my only son. Hence rule over the entire kingdom. Beget many sons. After I proceed to the supreme abode, go to Śiva’s city.

Brahmā said:

83-86. On hearing these words of his father the king of serpents said—“So be it”. Along with his wife, father, mother and sons he ruled over the vast kingdom after attaining the beauty of Cupid. When his parents went to heaven he placed his sons in his own place. Accompanied by his wife, ministers and others he went to Śiva’s city.

Thenceforth that holy centre is well known as Nāgatīrtha. A holy dip and distribution of charitable gifts in the place where lord Nāgeśvara was installed by Bhogavatī bestow the benefit of all sacrifices.

Footnotes and references:


(a) An ancient city near modern Allahabad, situated on the eastern side of the confluence of Gaṅgā and Yamunā. (b) The capital of Sālivāhana on the Godāvarī.

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