The Padma Purana

by N.A. Deshpande | 1951 | 1,261,945 words | ISBN-10: 8120838297 | ISBN-13: 9788120838291

This page describes the merits of varanasi which is chapter 33 of the English translation of the Padma Purana, one of the largest Mahapuranas, detailling ancient Indian society, traditions, geography, as well as religious pilgrimages (yatra) to sacred places (tirthas). This is the thirty-third chapter of the Svarga-khanda (section on the heavens) of the Padma Purana, which contains six books total consisting of at least 50,000 Sanskrit 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 33 - The Merits of Vārāṇasī

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

1. O sage, you have described in brief the importance of Vārāṇasī. (Please) tell it in detail. Then (only) my mind is (i.e. would be) pleased.

Nārada said:

2. Now I shall tell you the account based on the merits of Vārāṇasī, merely by hearing which a man is absolved of (the sin of) killing a brāhmaṇa.

3. Formerly, goddess (Pārvatī) having gone to the seat of the lord asked Mahādeva, the enemy of Tripura, on the peak of Meru:

The goddess said:

4-7. O Mahādeva, god of gods, remover of the affliction of your devotees, how can a man see you soon (i.e. in a short time)? O Śaṅkara, in the world (the path) of Sāṃkhya or Yoga or (of) meditation or Karmayoga laid down in the Vedas are full of great exertion; so. also are other (means). Tell me this most secret knowledge which is practised by Indra and others and which destroys the fire of passion, for the good of all beings, by which you, the revered one, who are (so) subtle, can be seen by human beings, the meditating saints with tranquil minds, and those who practise the path of duty.

The lord said:

8-26. I shall now tell you the knowledge which is properly explained by the great sages, which special knowledge is excluded by the ignorant and which should not be told. The city Vārāṇasī is my most secret holy place. It helps all the beings to cross the ocean of the worldly existence. O great goddess, the magnanimous ones observing great restraint live there devoutly practising my vow (i.e. a vow sacred to me). That holy place Avimukta is best among all holy places, is best among all abodes, is thy best knowledge among all (kinds of) knowledge. There are other holy places and sacred abodes situated in crematory and found in divine land. My abode is not at all connected with the world; it is in the Intermediate Space. Those that are not liberated see there; those that are liberated see mentally. This is a famous crematory well-known as Avimukta. O beautiful lady, being Kāla (the god of death) I destroy this world. O goddess, this place is dearer to me of all secrets. My devotees go there and enter me only. Whatever is given there, muttered there, offered or performed there, whichever penance is practised there, and also meditation, study or knowledge (gained) there becomes inexhaustible. All the sin of a man collected in the former thousands of births perishes when he enters Avimukta. Men—brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, śūdras, mixtures of castes, women, mlecchas, other mixed tribes of low birth, insects, ants, other beasts and birds, when they die at the proper time at Avimukta, O beautiful lady, are born in my auspicious city as having crescent moon on their heads, three eyes, and having great bulls as their vehicles. No sinner who dies at Avimukta goes to hell. Being favoured by the lord all of them go to the highest position. A man thinking that salvation is difficult to obtain and realising that the mundane existence is extremely terrible, having broken his feet with stone, should live in Vārāṇasī. O goddess, the path liberating from the mundane existence one who dies here or there is difficult to be obtained even by penance. O daughter of the (Himālaya) Mountain, by my favour (everything) takes place duly. Those who are immature do not see as they are deluded by my illusory power. They again and again live in feces, urine and semen. A learned man, though smitten by hundreds of dangers, goes to the highest place, going where he is not unhappy. He goes to Śiva’s abode free from birth, death and old age.

27-28. The position of those who desire salvation is the same as of those who do not die again, and reaching which, the learned think, one is blessed. The position that is obtained on (reaching salvation) is not obtained by gifts, penance, sacrifices or knowledge.

29-35. The wise know that Avimukta is a great medicine for the people of various castes or having no castes, the caṇḍālas that are condemned, with their bodies filled with blemishes and big sins. Avimukta is great knowledge; Avimukta is a great seat; Avimukta is a great fact; Avimukta is highly auspicious. I give them who, having firm dedication, live at Avimukta, that highest knowledge, that highest position. Prayāga, Naimiṣāraṇya, Śrīśaila, Mahābala, Kedāra, Bhadrakarṇa, Gayā and Puṣkara, also Kurukṣetra, Bhadrakoṭi, Narmadā, Mrātakeśvarī [Āmrātakeśvarī], Śālagrāma, Kubjāmra, the excellent Kokāmukha, Prabhāsa, Vijayeśāna, Gokarṇa and Bhadrakarṇa—these holy places are well-known in the three worlds. Men who die (here) do not go to the highest principle as those who die at Vārāṇasi.

36-56. If a man enters (i.e. bathes in) Gaṅgā, flowing in three streams, especially at Vārāṇasī, it would destroy the sin committed in hundreds of his former births. Gaṅgā is easy to reach at other places. Śrāddha, gifts, penance, muttering (of a deity’s names), vows—all this is very difficult to be found at Vārāṇasī. A man living at Vārāṇasī would mutter (names of deities), would offer oblations, gives gifts everyday, worships gods, always eats (i.e. subsists upon) air. Even if a man is a sinner or a rogue, he purifies the entire family on reaching Vārāṇasī. Those, who worship and extol Mahādeva at Vārāṇasī, are free from all sins and should be known as the lord of Śiva’s attendants. At other places the highest place is reached only after a hundred births by means of the practice of yoga (i.e. deep meditation), knowledge or other things. But O you wife of the lord of gods, those devotees who stay at Vārāṇasī, obtain the best salvation in one birth only. Where the path of yoga and the path of knowledge (are combined), salvation is obtained in one birth only. A man having reached Avimukta would not desire (to go to) any other penance-grove. Since I have not abandoned it, it is said to be Avimukta. That is the secret of secrets. This is said to be wisdom. O you beautiful one, that position which is got by those that are devoted to knowledge or ignorance, and are desirous of the highest joy, is obtained by him who dies at Avimukta. Vārāṇasī is more holy than all the places that are seen in the body of Avimukta where the lord Mahādeva himself explained for Avimukta the liberating Brahman. A man would obtain in Vārāṇasī, that which is said to be the higher principle Avimukta, in (just) one birth. As between the two eye-brows, as in the navel, in the heart or the head, in the sun, so Avimukta is well-established in Vārāṇasī. Vārāṇasī city is (situated) between Varaṇā and Asī. There only is well settled the principle of Avimukta. There was never, or there never will be a higher place than Vārāṇasī, where (live) god Nārāyaṇa, and Mahādeva, the lord in heaven. There gods with gandharvas, yakṣas, serpents and demons always worship him, (who is) the god of gods, the grandsire. O goddess, the great sinners, those who are greater sinners than they are, go to the highest position after having come to Vārāṇasī. Therefore, he who desires salvation, should, being restrained, stay at Vārāṇasī till death. Getting knowledge from Mahādeva he is liberated. But difficulties may come up in the case of one whose mind is smitten with sin. Therefore one should not commit a sin by body, mind or speech. O you of a good vow, this is the secret of gods and Purāṇas. Nobody truly knows (i.e. has) the knowledge about Avimukta.

Nārada said:

57-65. The god of gods told the entire (account) that destroys all sins to the deities and sages and the spiritual teachers that were listening. As Viṣṇu is the greatest among the gods, as Śiva is the greatest among lords, so is this place the best of all places. Those who have propitiated Rudra in a former birth, obtain (i.e. visit) the great holy place Avimukta, the abode of Śiva. Those whose mind is taken away due to having been born in Kali age, are not able to know that great place of the spiritual teacher. The sin of those who always remember and talk about this city, quickly perishes in this world and the next. God Śiva having time as his body would destroy all those sins which those who have taken an abode here commit. A man should come to (i.e. visit) this place resorted to by those who desire salvation; those who die would not be again born in the ocean of the mundane existence. Therefore by all efforts a man, whether he is a yogi or no yogi, whether a sinner or the most virtuous one, should live in Vārāṇasi. The thought about (visiting) Avimukta should not be changed even by the words of the people, or of the father, or of the preceptor.

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