The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “glory of penance (tapas)” 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.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 12 - The glory of penance (tapas)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sanatkumāra said:—

1. The gift of drink is the greatest and the most excellent of all gifts. Water the enlivener is the most satisfying to all living beings.

2. Hence one should make gifts of drinking watersheds lovingly and unrestrictedly. Making of water bases, tanks etc. is the cause of great bliss.

3. It is truthful, really truthful. There is no doubt in this, here and hereafter. Men should cause tanks, wells and lakes to be dug therefore.

4. A well that abounds in water removes half of the sin of the man who causes it to be dug.

5. If cows drink and good men and brahmins make use of the water in a water-base dug by a man, the whole family is redeemed.

6. If there is plenty of water in the water-base dug by a man, during summer, he never suffers distress or mishaps at any time.

7‘I shall mention the benefits of lakes dug by men. He who has a lake to his credit is honoured in all the three worlds.

8. Or the digging of lakes is conducive to the advent of fame and attainment of friendship in the abode of the sun but without distressing heat.

9. He who digs a lake attains an endless merit. The wise say that it is the fruit of virtue, wealth and love.

10. The lake is the greatest resort of the four classes of living beings. The construction of the lake etc. indicates excellent glory.

11. The gods, human beings, Gandharvas, Pitṛs, serpents, Rākṣasas and the immobile beings depend upon water bases.

12. Brahmā says that the benefit of the sacred rite Agnihotra is derived by a man in the lake dug by whom there is plenty of water in the rainy season.

13. There is no doubt at all in this that the benefit of gifting away a thousand cows is derived by a man, in the lake dug by whom there is plenty of water in the Autumn.

14. If there is plenty of water in the lake dug during the seasons of early winter and late winter, he derives the benefit of that sacrifice in which plenty of gold is given as a sacrificial gift.

15. If there is plenty of water in the lake dug during the seasons of Spring and Summer, the wise say that he derives the benefit of the holy rites of Atirātra[1] and Aśvamedha[2] sacrifices.

16. O sage Vyāsa, the merit accruing from the digging of water bases, excellent and pleasing to all living beings, has been narrated to you. Now listen to the merits of planting trees.

17. If a man plants trees in the forests, he enables his ancestors and the successors of his family, to gain redemption. Hence one should plant trees.

18. There is no doubt that these trees become his sons. When he goes to the other world he attains the undying regions.

19. Trees honour and worship the gods through flowers, the Pitṛs through fruits, and the guests through shade.

20. The Kinnaras, the serpents, the Rākṣasas, the gods, the Gandharvas, the human beings and the sages depend upon trees.

21. While in bloom or when they bear fruits, the trees delight human beings. They are as sons by way of virtue in this world and hereafter.

22. These people never fail to attain heaven—viz. the digger of lakes, the planter of trees, the brahmin who performs sacrifices and those who speak truth.

23. Truth alone is the great Brahman, the greatest penance (tapas), the greatest sacrifice and the greatest learning.

24. When others sleep, truth is wakeful. Truth is the greatest base, it is truth alone by which the earth is sustained, everything is founded in truth.

25. Penance, sacrifice, merit, the worship of the gods, sages and the Pitṛs, the waters, theVidyās—all these things are established in truth.

26. Truth is sacrifice, penance, charitable gift, mantras, goddess Sarasvatī, celibacy and Oṃkāra. These are really truth.

27. It is truth whereby the wind blows, the sun blazes, the fìre burns and the heaven is upheld.

28. By upholding truth the people can attain the benefits of keeping up the traditions of all the Vedas and taking the ceremonial ablutions in all holy centres.

29. When weighed against truth in a balance, a thousand horse-sacrifices and a hundred thousand other sacrifices do not equal it. Truth alone excels.

30. The gods, the Pitṛs, the human beings, the serpents, the Rākṣasas and the worlds including the mobile and immobile beings are delighted by Truth.

31. They say that Truth is the greatest virtue, the greatest region, the greatest Brahman; hence one shall tell the Truth always.

32. After performing very difficult penance, it is by depending solely on Truth, by maintaining truthful virtue that the sages have attained Siddhis and reached heaven.

33. The sages have attained heaven travelling in aerial chariots along with the celestial damsels. Truth shall be ever spoken, for there is nothing greater than Truth.

34. In the deep, extensive and pure eddy, the holy centre of Truth, one shall mentally take one’s ceremonial ablution. That is said to be the highest bliss.

35. Men who never utter a lie whether for their own sake, or for other’s sake, or even for their own son’s sake, do go to heaven.

36. The Veda’s, the sacrifices and the Mantras exist in brahmins for ever. They are never visible to the untruthful. Hence one shall always speak truth.

Vyāsa said:—

37. O ascetic, please explain again with special emphasis on the fruit of penance for the brahmins as well as other castes.

Sanatkumāra said:—

38. I shall explain the section on penance (tapas) which is the means of achieving all the objects of desire, very difficult to be performed even by brahmins. Please listen even as I explain.

39. Penance is the greatest rite. Fruits are achieved by penance. Those who are engaged in penance incessantly rejoice along with the gods.

40. Heaven, fame and love are achieved through penance. Penance is the means of achievement for all objects.

41. One achieves great things through penance, One attains salvation, knowledge, perfect wisdom, good fortune and beauty by penance.

42. Man obtains different things through penance; he gets everything, whatever he wishes in his mind through penance.

43. Those who have never performed penance (tapas) do not attain Brahmaloka; lord Śiva is not accessible to those who have never performed penance.

44. After deciding on a particular thing, if a man performs penance he attains it here as well as hereafter.

45. The wine-addict, the defiler of other women, the brahmin-slayer, the defiler of teacher’s bed overcome all sins through penance and get rid of them.

46-47. Śiva, the lord of all, the eternal Viṣṇu, Brahmā, fire god, Indra and others are endowed with penance. The eighty-eight thousand sages of sublimated semen rejoice in heaven through penance, along with the gods.

48. Kingdoms are achieved through penance. Indra, the lord of gods and the slayer of Vṛtra, protects everything day by day through penance.

49. Due to penance (tapas), the lords Sun and the Moon are engaged in the welfare of the worlds. The stars and the planets too shine by virtue of their penance.

50. There is no happiness in the world that can be gained without penance. The knowers of the Vedas understand that all happiness is attained through penance alone.

51. Knowledge, perfect wisdom, health, beauty, good fortune and perpetual happiness are the offshoots of penance.

52. It is by penance that Brahmā creates the universe; Viṣṇu protects it without any strain; Śiva annihilates and Śeṣa upholds the entire earth.

53. O great sage, the Kṣatriya king Viśvāmitra,[3] the son of Gādhi, became a brahmin through penance. This is well known in the three worlds.

54. O intelligent one, thus the excellent glory of penance (tapas) has been mentioned to you. Now listen to the glory of the study of the Vedas which is far more excellent than penance itself.

Footnotes and references:


It is a part of the Jyotiṣṭoma sacrifice.


See P. 1506 note.


The sage Viśvāmitra was the son of Gathīn or Gādhi of the Kuśika race descended from Kuśika. He is called Gādhi-ja and Gādhi-nandana. He was born a kṣatriya but by intense austerities raised himself to the Brāhmaṇa caste and became one of the seven great sages.

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