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 56 - The holy centre Tapastīrtha and others

(description of tapas-tirtha)

Brahmā said:

1. The holy centre well known as Tapastīrtha excessively increases Tapas (power of penance). It bestows all cherished desires. It is sacred. It increases the happiness of the manes.

2. Listen to what happened in that holy centre. It is destroyer of sins. There arose a controversy amongst the sages as to the greatness of waters versus fire.

3. Some considered waters the most superior. Others considered fire the most superior. The controversy among the sages on the subject of fire versus water proceeded thus.

4-8. Without fire where can life exist? It is so because fire is the very essence of life. It is the soul. It is offerings. Everything is born of fire.

The world is sustained by fire. Fire illuminates the world. Hence there is no greater deity than Fire-god. He alone is the inner light. He alone is the great flame. Nothing exists without fire whose abode is the entire set of three worlds. Therefore, there is nothing other than Fire-god which has the superiority over all other living beings. The semen deposited by a man in the womb of a woman has more power than its physical form. That power is of fire and not anything else. Indeed fire is the mouth of Devas. Hence they know none superior to this.

9-12. Others who expound the Vedas advocated the superiority of water. Indeed food is produced from water. Fire is produced from water. Everything is sustained by water. Waters are remembered as mothers. Those who know the ancient lore say that water is the very life of the three worlds. Nectar is produced from water. Medicinal herbs are possible only through water.

Thus some said that the Fire-god is superior. Others said that Waters are superior. Those expounders of Vedas, those sages who were voicing mutually opposed views approached me and said.

The sages said:

13-17. Tell us whether fire or water is superior. You are the lord of the three worlds.

Brahmā said:

I too said to all those sages, the regular performers of holy rites who came there: “Both of them are worthy of being worshipped in the world. The world is evolved out of both. Havya, Kavya and Amṛta are produced from both. Life in the world is sustained by both. The sustenance of the body (is through both). There is no special difference between the two. Their superiority is considered equal. This is my emphatic pronouncement that neither is superior to the other.

But the excellent sages considered that one of them must be superior. They were not satisfied with my words. Those sages went to Vāyu (the Wind-god).

The sages said:

18-22. Who is the superior of the two, O Vāyu? You are the vital air. Truth is rooted in you.

Brahmā said:

Vāyu said: “Fire is superior. Everything is founded on fire”. Saying “No” amongst themselves those sages went to the Earth.

The sages said:

Speak the truth, O earth, as to who is superior. You are the support of the mobile and immobile beings.

Brahmā said:

The Earth humbly said this to the sages who came there.

Bhūmi said:

The waters, the eternal goddesses are the supports even unto me. Everything is born of waters. Hence superiority is well established in waters.

Brahmā said:

23. After saying ‘No’ amongst themselves the sages went to the lord lying down in the ocean of Milk. By uttering prayers they eulogized the lord holding conch, discus and iron club.

The sages said:

24-27. We seek refuge in that true entity which knows the entire universe, future, present and that which is hidden in the cavity and which the entire set of three worlds of diverse and variegated forms enter on death. We seek refuge in that truthful entity which is imperishable, permanent, and immeasurable, which the sages mention as one that is comprehensible through the Vedas and those resorting to which obtain what they desire. The Yogins do not get the form of Viṣṇu which is (identical with) the elements and which is the most important entity in the universe consisting of the great elements. We, the sages, have come here to say it. O abode of the universe, tell us the truth. You are the immanent soul of all the embodied beings. You alone are everything, O lord, everything is in you. Still alas, no one anywhere knows you on account of the influence of Prakṛti (i.e. Māyā). No one knows you though you are within, without and everywhere and you convert yourself in the form of the universe.

Brahmā said:

28-29. Then the divine voice, the unembodied one, the support of the universe spoke.

Divine voice said:

Let both these (i.e. water and fire) be propitiated by means of penance, devotion and regular observances. That element can be said to be superior; from which one attains fulfilment first.

Brahmā said:

30-31. Saying “So be it” the sages worshipped by the worlds went away. They were weary, inwardly depressed and extremely detached.

All of them went to Gautamī, the sole mother of all the worlds, the sanctifier of the three worlds, for performing penance. They observed holy rites with self-control.

32. Then they were ready for the worship of the Water-god and Fire-god. Some were the worshippers of Agni and some adhered to the worship of waters. Then the divine voice, Sarasvatī, the mother of the Vedas, spoke.

The Divine voice said:

33-35. Waters are the source or origin of fire. Purity, cleanliness are obtained through water. Without water how can the worship of fire be accomplished? When water is made ready one becomes authorized to perform holy rites. A man becomes impure, dirty and unfit for holy rites till he faithfully plunges into cool waters, even if he be a scholar of the Vedas. Hence waters shall be the superior ones since they are remembered as mothers. Therefore, the superiority belongs to waters since they are the mothers particularly of fire.

Brahmā said:

36. Those sages, the expounders of the Vedas, heard these words. Thereupon they came to the conclusion that the superiority must be of the waters.

37. The holy centre where this happened, O Nārada, is called Tapastīrtha. The holy centre where the two Satras of the sages took place is called Satratīrtha.

38-40. It is also called Agnitīrtha. So also they know this as Sārasvata (Tīrtha). A holy plunge and the distribution of charitable gifts there is splendid and it bestows all cherished objects.

There are one thousand and four hundred holy centres there. They are the bestowers of merit. A holy plunge and distribution of charitable gifts here bestow heavenly pleasures and salvation.

The place where the doubts of the sages were dispelled by the divine voice is the source of the river Sarasvatī which flows into Gaṅgā. Who indeed could fully describe the glory of that confluence!

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