The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Daksha’s Insolence which is chapter 1 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu tradition in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the first chapter of the Kedara-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana

Chapter 1 - Dakṣa’s Insolence

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Obeisance to Śrī Gaṇeśa. Om, obeisance to Lord Vāsudeva. Om. After bowing down to Nārāyaṇa[1] as well as to (Sage) Nara,[2] the most excellent one among men, and to goddess Sarasvatī (the goddess of learning), one should narrate the Jaya.[3]

Vyāsa said:


1. Obeisance to that Lord, the wielder of Pināka bow, at whose bidding Viriñci (Brahmā) creates the universe, Hari (Viṣṇu) protects it and the god named Kālarudra annihilates it.

2. There, in the Naimiṣa[5] forest which is the holiest among all holy places and sacred-most among all the sacred spots (in the world), ascetics with Śaunaka[6] as their leader—ascetics who were (usual) performers of sacrifices and whose minds were (always) inclined towards holy rites, started a sacrifice of along duration.

3. The excessively (highly) intelligent disciple of Vyāsa, an ascetic of great austerities, named Lomaśa[7], came there with an ardent desire to see them.

4. As soon as they saw him coming, all the sages engaged in that sacrifice of long duration, stood up simultaneously with great eagerness to receive him, with materials of worship in their hands.

5. After offering him water for washing his feet and presenting him respectfully materials of worship the sinless sages received him with due hospitality. The sages of exalted nobility then asked him to explain in detail Śivadharma (pious activities pertaining to Śiva).

The sages said:

6. Recount, O sage of extraordinary intellect, the greatness of the Trident-bearing Lord of Devas. O exalted one, describe everything along with the modes of meditation and worship.

7-11. What is the benefit in sweeping (the temple premises)? What is the benefit in making (mystic diagrams) of various colours, in making gifts of mirror, chowries etc. (or in offering these to Śiva), in constructing canopies as well as fountains? What will be the benefit in offering lamps? What will be the fruit of the worship? What are the meritorious results in worshipping Śiva? Men read and recite the Itihāsas and Purāṇas in front of the idol of Śiva. They study (recite) the Vedas in front of him, and make others do the same. What benefit do those men derive? Let it be mentioned in detail. There is no one else in the world, O sage, more devoted to the narratives about Śiva.

12. On hearing these words of those sages of sanctified souls, the disciple of Vyāsa recounted (to them) the excellent greatness of Śiva.

Lomaśa said:

13. In all the eighteen Purāṇas, Śiva is sung about as the greatest (lord). Hence no one is competent to recount the greatness of Śiva (adequately).

14. Heaven and liberation (from Saṃsāra) will be attained by those people who repeatedly utter the two-syllabled name Śi-va.[8] Not otherwise.

15. Munificent indeed is Mahādeva, (the great god), the lord of Devas, the Supreme Ruler. Since everything has been given by him, he is named Sarva.

16-18. Blessed are they, noble-souled are they, who always worship Śiva (or the ever-auspicious god). A person who wishes to cross (the ocean) of worldly existence without Sadāśiva, is indeed foolish and confounded. There is no doubt that he, the hater of Śiva, is a great sinner. It was by him that (Halāhala) poison was swallowed, Dakṣa’s sacrifice was destroyed, Kāla (god of Death) was burnt down and the king was released.

The sages requested:

19. We are very eager. Recount unto us how the poison was swallowed and how Dakṣa’s Yajña (sacrifice) was destroyed.

Sūta narrated:

20. Formerly at the instance of Brahmā Parameṣṭhin, Dākṣāyaṇī (Dakṣa’s daughter) was given (in marriage) to noble-souled Śaṅkara by Dakṣa, O brāhmaṇas.

21-22. Once, by chance, Dakṣa came to the Naimiṣa forest. On arrival, he was duly honoured by the sages as well as by all Suras and Asuras by means of eulogies and obeisances. Mahādeva who was present there, did not stand up nor did he offer any reverential salutation to him. Therefore, Dakṣa became furious and he spoke these words:

23. “Everywhere all the Suras and Asuras as well as excellent brāhmaṇas repeatedly bow down to me with great eagerness. How is it, then, that, like a vicious fellow, this noble-souled one does not pay obeisance to me now. Accompanied by vampires, goblins and others, he is a shameless permanent resident of the cremation ground.

24. Heretics, wicked people and habitual sinners become haughty and arrogant on seeing a brāhmaṇa. Indeed, people like these deserve killing of excommunication by good people. Hence I am intent on cursing him.”

25-27. After saying thus that (Dakṣa) of great austerities, became angry and spoke to Rudra these words:

“May these excellent brāhmaṇas listen to these words of mine. It behoves you all to carry out my words. This Rudra is considered by me as banned out of all Yajñas because he has gone beyond the Varṇas (castes) and has transgressed the discipline of the Varṇas.”

Nandin, son of Śilāda, became furious on hearing those words. He promptly said to Dakṣa who had great refulgence but who uttered that curse:

Nandin said:

28-30. Why is my lord Maheśa excluded from Yajñas? Merely by remembering him all these Yajñas become fruitful. Sacrifice, charitable gift, penance, different kinds of holy spots of pilgrimage—all these became sanctified by his name. Why has he been cursed now? He has been cursed by you foolishly and improperly due to your brāhmaṇical rashness, O evil-minded Dakṣa. It is by the noble-souled Śarva that this universe is protected. How is it that Rudra has been cursed, O sinful base brāhmaṇa?

31. On being rebuked thus by Nandin, Dakṣa, the Prajā-pati, became furious and he cursed Nandin:

32-33. “All of you devoted to Rudra have been completely excluded from the Vedas. You are indeed cursed by the followers of the Vedic path and excommunicated by the great sages. You all ding to heretical doctrines. You are out of the pale of refined breeding and good conduct. All these Kapālins (followers of the skull-cult) are black-faced and addicted to drinking liquor.”[9]

34. Thus the servants of Śiva were then cursed by Dakṣa. Then the infuriated Nandin began to imprecate Dakṣa:

35. “O brāhmaṇa, although we, the servants of Śiva, are good and pious, we have been cursed by you improperly (and unnecessarily) out of your brāhmaṇical rashness. Now I shall curse you.

36-39. Arguing that there is nothing else you all adhere to Vedic doctrines. (But) you are lustful, desirous of heaven, greedy and deluded. Keeping a follower of the Vedas in front, brāhma-ṇas will perform sacrifices on behalf of Śūdras. They will always be impoverished and greedy of monetary gifts. O Dakṣa, some brāhmaṇas will become brahmarākṣasas (brahminical demons).”

Lomaśa said:

Those brāhmaṇas were (thus) cursed by Nandin who had become excessively angry.

On hearing the words of Nandin, Sadāśiva smilingly spoke these sweet enlightening words:

Mahādeva said:

40. It does not behove you to be angry always towards brāhmaṇas. These brāhmaṇas, devoted to Vedic doctrines, are always our elders and preceptors.

41. The Vedas are full of mantras and of sūktas (hymns). The ātman of every embodied being is established in the hymn.

42-43. Hence those who have realized the ātman should not be censured. I am the ātman myself, no one else. Who is this? Who are you? Where am I? Why are the brāhmaṇas cursed? Avoid the concept of diversity, O highly intelligent one, and become enlightened. Manage (everything) through the knowledge of reality. Be established in your own self and avoid anger etc.

44. On being advised and instructed thus by Śaṃbḥu, the Supreme Being, Nandin (Śilāda’s son) of great austerities, became aware of true knowledge and discernment. Closely associating himself with Śiva, he became immersed in (the ocean of) great bliss.

45. Overwhelmed by anger, Dakṣa went to his abode accompanied by the sages. He entered his abode still indignant.

46. Abandoning his great faith in those who worship Śiva and engaged in censuring them, he became the basest of men. Reaching that place along with all the great sages, he continued to censure lord Śiva. He never became calm.

Footnotes and references:


Nārāyaṇa—It is significant that a Purāṇa specifically compiled for the glorification of Śi va begins with an obeisance to Nārāyaṇa.

Etymologically ‘Nārāyaṇa’ means ‘one whose abode is waters’ (Manu I. 10, Mbh, Śānti 328, 25). But Purāṇa-writers ascribed a number of meanings to Nāra, e.g. in the Brahma-Vaivarta Purāṇa it means ‘a form of liberation called Sārūpya’, ‘final beatitude’ (Mokṣa), ‘sins committed’. Thus Nārāyaṇa=Destroyer of sins.

In early Viṣṇuism, Viṣṇu and Nārāyaṇa are not identical. The Vedic god Viṣṇu was later amalgamated with Nārāyaṇa of the Pañcarātra system. See J. Gonda, Aspects of Early Visnuism; G.V. Tagare, Intro, to BhP, pp. XIII-XIV).


Nara=An incarnation of Viṣṇu, the son of Dharma and Mūrti, a daughter of Dakṣa; a permanent companion of Nārāyaṇa while performing penance at Badarikāśrama. They are supposed to have incarnated as Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna in Dvāpara Age.


Jaya—Originally this epithet was restricted to the Itihāsa called Mahābhārata (Mbh, Udyoga 136.18; Svargārohaṇika 5.51). Later some Purāṇas like BdP (III. iv. 4.47-54), VāP (11.41.48-51) claimed the epithet ‘Itihāsa’ to themselves. Some Purāṇas like BhP 1.2.4, VāP 1.1.1 adopted the verse Nārāyaṇaṃ namaskṛtya etc. along with the epithet Jaya. Kalpataru (Brahmacāri-Khaṇḍa, p. 25) on the strength of Bhaviṣya Purāṇa states that the appellation Jaya is applied to 18 Purāṇas, Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and Manusmṛti. Hence our Purāṇa is justified in adopting the epithet Jaya.


Vyāsa—Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana, the son of Satyavatī and Parāśara, out of wedlock. He was dark in complexion and was brought up in an islet in the river Yamunā by Satyavatī (Mbh, Ādi 63.86). His great achievement was the arrangement of the floating Vedic Mantras into Saṃhitās. Hence he came to be known as Vyāsa (‘The Arranger’). Purāṇas use Vyāsa as a title and state that in every Dvāpara Yuga, there is born a Vyāsa whose job is to arrange the Vedic Mantras and there have been 28 Vyāsas (VP III.3; KP 1.52.1-11; VāP 11.23.107-213; BdP I.ii. 35.116-126). Some Purāṇas, however, give less than 28 Vyāsas (e.g. KP) while some give more than 28 (e.g. BdP).


Naimiṣa forest—The ancient site at modern Nimsar at a distance of 20 miles from Sitapur and 45 miles northwest of Lucknow.


Śaunaka—Name of various authors of important works like Ṛgveda-prātiśākhya, Bṛhad-devatā. One is identified with the Vedic Seer Gṛtsamada. Mbh states that the Śaunaka at whose sacrificial session Mbh was recited by the Sūta Ugraśravas belonged to the Bhṛgu clan (Ādi 1.19) and was the son of Śunaka (Anuśāsana 30.65).

Purāṇa-writers have adopted him as the listener of their Purāṇas.


Lomaśa—A sage from the North who associated closely with Pāṇḍavas during their long stay in forest and narrated ancient legends and importance of sacred places etc. to them (Mbh, Vana, Anuśāsana). But Mbh does not regard him as the disciple of Vyāsa as claimed by the SkP here. Our Purāṇa-writer substituted him for the usual Sūta due to Lomaśa’s story telling throughout Mbh, Vana and automatically Sūta’s discipleship of Vyāsa was attributed to him.


God’s name is regarded as highly efficacious in the Bhakti-cult, the roots of which go back to the Ṛgveda (See H.D. Velankara, Bhakti in the Vedas, pub. in Kauśika Lectures Series in Marathi).


Kāpālikas were then beyond the pale of Vedism (like Jainas and Buddhists). This episode reflects the conflict between orthodox Vedism and heterodox followers of Śiva. The obnoxious practices of Kāpālikas offended orthodox Brahmanism so much so that they were not allowed even to have a look at Śrāddha food lest it should get polluted. (Vide Gautama DhS 15.25-28, Manu III.219-42, KP 11.22.34-35; also G.V. Tagare’s Introductions to BdP and VāP.)

The prejudice against Kāpālikas is found even in classical Sanskrit literature.

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