The Shiva Purana (English translation)

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “incarnation of shiva as bhikshuvarya” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 31 - The incarnation of Śiva as Bhikṣuvarya

Nandīśvara said:—

1. O excellent sage, I shall now narrate the incarnation of Śiva in which he dispelled the suspicion of a brahmin woman.

2. There was a king in the land of Vidarbha, named Satyaratha. He was virtuous, regularly observing truthfulness and a favourite of great devotees of Śiva.

3. O sage, as the king ruled over the kingdom virtuously observing piety to Śiva, a long time elapsed very happily.

4. Once a great fight ensued between that king and the Śālvas who laid siege to his city with many armies puffed up with their strength.

5. The king of Vidarbha had a terrible fight with them. But his armies were destroyed and he was killed by Śālvas due to adverse fate.

6. When the king was. killed in the battle by the Śālvas, the terrified soldiers who survived death fled along with the ministers.

7. His crowned queen who was pregnant and who had been imprisoned by the enemies escaped from the city, O sage, during the night,

8. Coming out of the city the grief-stricken crowned queen slowly went very far in the eastern direction with her heart set on the lotus-like feet of Śiva.

9. Early in the morning next day after she had traversed a long way, the queen saw a pure lake, thanks to the mercy of Siva.

10. After reaching the banks of the lake the distressed beloved of the king, of tender body, resorted to a shady tree for rest and stay.

11. Fortunately in an auspicious and meritorious hour the queen gave birth to a son endowed with all divine characteristics.

12. The thirsty mother, the wife of the king, entered the lake for drinking water but as willed by fate she was devoured by a crocodile in the water.

13. The son bereft of father and mother, distressed by hunger and thirst at the time of birth, cried out.

14. O sage, when the new born babe was weeping and wailing in the forest, lord Śiva, the immanent soul and protector, was moved to pity.

15. A wandering beggar woman came there accidentally, urged mentally by Śiva, the dispeller of fear.

16. She was a widow and was herself carrying her one year old son. She saw an orphaned child weeping there.

17. O sage, on seeing an infant boy in the desolate forest that brahmin woman was surprised and pondered over the situation in diverse ways.

18. “An extremely wonderful thing has been seen by me now. It cannot be conceived by the mind or explained in words.

19. This infant whose umbilical cord has not been cut lies on the bare ground. He has no mother. He is weeping but he is very brilliant

20. He has no parents or persons to help him. What might have caused this? Alas, how strong is power of fate l

21. I do not know his parentage. There is none who knows him. Whom can I enquire about the details of his birth? But I feel drawn towards him.

22. Without knowing his birth and parentage I shall not touch him[1] although I wish to nourish him and bring him up as a child born of me.”

Nandīśvara said:—

23. While the excellent brahmin lady was musing thus, Śiva favourably disposed to his devotees, took pity.

24. Lord Śiva of great sports, bestower of happiness on devotees in every respect, unconditionally for ever, by himself assumed the form of a mendicant.

25. The mendicant who was lord Śiva himself suddenly came to the place where the doubting brahmin lady, desirous of knowing the details, was standing.

26. The lord whose ways are unscrutable, who is the storehouse of mercy and who assumed the form of the leading mendicant, laughed and told the brahmin lady.

The mendicant said:—

27. O brahmin lady, do not entertain any doubt in your mind. Do not be sorry. Protect this pure boy, your adopted son, lovingly.

28. Ere long you will attain a great glory through this infant. Nourish this extremely brilliant infant by all means.

Nandīśvara said:—

29. That brahmin lady respectfully and lovingly asked Śiva, the storehouse of mercy, in the form of a mendicant who spoke thus.

The brahmin lady said:—

30. At your behest I shall nourish and bring up this boy as though he is my own son. There shall be no; doubt in this. You have come here by my good fortune.

31. Still I wish to know the particular details and facts about him. Whose son is he? Who are you, that have come here?

32. O lord, O excellent mendicant, again and again the thought occurs to me that you are Śiva, the ocean of mercy and this infant had been your devotee formerly.

33. Through some defect in his past actions he has attained this plight. After experiencing it he will surely attain glory, thanks to your bliss.

34. It is by your Māyā that I have been deluded. I had lost my way. In order to protect him I have been urged by you to come over here.

Nandīśvara said:—

35. Śiva in the guise of a mendicant spoke to the brahmin lady who had attained perfect knowledge by seeing him and who evinced the desire to know the details.

The mendicant said:—

36. O brahmin lady, listen with pleasure to the antecedents of this boy. O sinless one, I shall mention all the details to you.

37. This boy is the son of Satyaratha, king of Vidarbha a great devotee of Śiva and devoted to his duty.

38. Listen, the king Satyaratha was killed by his enemies in the battle. His excited and distressed wife set out from the palace at night.

39. She came here in the morning and gave birth to this boy. Due to thirst she got into the lake and as fate would have it, was seized by the crocodile.

Nandīśvara said:—

40. Thus he narrated to her all the details, the manner of his birth, the death of his father in the battle and that of his mother due to the crocodile.

41. O great sage, then the brahmin lady who was surprised asked the mendicant of perfect knowledge in the form of a Siddha, again.

The brahmin lady said

42. O mendicant, how was his father, the king, killed in the midst of his enjoyment of excellent pleasures, by his enemies the Śālvas in a few days?

43. How was the mother of this infant devoured by the crocodile so suddenly? How did he happen to be orphaned and helpless ever since his birth?

44. How is it that my son too is very poor and a beggar? O mendicant, how will these two sons attain happiness? Please tell me.

Nandīśvara said:—

45. On hearing these words of the brahmin wife, the delighted mendicant, lord Śiva himself, said laughingly.

The mendicant said:—

46. O brahmin lady, I shall answer all questions in detail. Listen with attention to this excellent narrative.

47. The father of this boy, the king of Vidarbha, was the excellent king Pāṇḍya[2] in his previous birth.

48. That king was a devotee of Śiva. He ruled over the entire earth virtuously. Quelling all disturbances he made all the subjects happy and contented.

49. Observing fast and other rites in the day and night on a Trayodaśī (thirteenth) day, once he worshipped Śiva, the lord of all, at dusk.

50. As he was worshipping Śiva at dusk in the course of his holy rites there arose a great noise, in the city, hideous in every respect.

51. On hearing that noise, the king left the worship of Śiva unfinished and went out of his palace suspecting the arrival of enemies.

52. In the meantime his powerful minister came near the king catching hold of the enemy king.[3]

53. On seeing the enemy king, he was extremely agitated by anger. Disregardful of the right course he caused him to be beheaded.

54. Without concluding the worship of Śiva, the defiled king, confused in mind and bereft of auspiciousness, took his food at night with pleasure.

55. He was born as the king of Vidarbha. He observed holy rites of Śiva during this birth also, since there was a hindrance to his worship of Śiva (during the previous birth) he was now killed in the midst of his enjoyment.

56. His son in the previous birth was born as his son in this birth too but he was bereft of riches due to the break in the worship of Śiva.

57. The mother of this boy had killed her co-wife in the previous birth. Hence due to that sin, she was devoured by the crocodile in this birth.

58. Thus their activities have been narrated to you. People having no devotion to Śiva and not worshipping him attain poverty.

59. This son of yours was an excellent brahmin in his previous birth. He spent his life in accepting gifts but he did not perform holy rites, like sacrifice etc.

60. O brahmin lady, hence your son has incurred poverty. Seek refuge in Śiva in order to ward off that sin.

61. Let the worship of Śiva be performed by these two sons. Only after the investiture with the sacred thread will Śiva bestow glory.

Nandīśvara said:—

62. After instructing her thus, Śiva in the form of a mendicant, favourably disposed towards his devotees revealed his real self to her.

63. On coming to know that he was lord Śiva the brahmin lady bowed to and eulogised him with choking words full of devotion.

64. Even as the brahmin lady stood watching, Śiva who had taken the form of a mendicant vanished there itself.

65. When the mendicant disappeared, the care-free brahmin woman took that boy and her son home.

66. She took up residence in the beautiful city Ekacakrā[4] and nourished the prince and her own son with excellent food.

67. Their sacred rites and the investiture with the sacred thread were performed by the brahmins. They grew up thus devoted to the worship of Śiva in their own house.

68. O dear, at the behest of the sage Śāṇḍilya they observed vows and restraints and performed the worship of Śiva during dusk.

69. Once when the prince went to the river for his bath without the brahmin boy, he found an excellent pot of treasure.

70. Thus four months elapsed as the two boys continued their worship of Śiva.

71. As they continued the worship of Śiva again with great joy, a year elapsed in the very same house.

72-73. O sage, after a year had elapsed, the prince once went to a forest along with the brahmin boy. There a Gandharva came by chance and gave his daughter in marriage to the prince. The prince ruled over the kingdom without any check or hindrance.

74. He considered the brahman lady who brought him up as his mother and the brahmin boy as his brother.

75. In name of Dharmagupta he continued to propitiate the lord of gods and enjoyed pleasures along with the princess in the kingdom of Vidarbha.

76. Thus the incarnation of Śiva as the Bhikṣuvarya bestowing happiness on the prince Dharmagupta has been narrated by me now.

77. This narrative is pious, extremely sanctifying and holy. It is an instrument for attaining virtue, wealth, love and liberation. It yields all pleasures.

78. He who listens to this tale or narrates this to others with pure mind enjoys all pleasures here and goes to the region of Śiva hereafter.

Footnotes and references:


Read maṃspraṣṭuṃ for saṃpraṣṭum of the printed Skt. text.


The Purāṇa does not mention the Pāṇḍya king by name.


Read gṛhītaśatru for gṛhītaśastra of the printed Skt. text.


It was the town of Kīcakas according to the Mhh.