The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Fight between Virabhadra and Vishnu and Others which is chapter 4 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions 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 fourth chapter of the Kedara-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 4 - A Fight between Vīrabhadra and Viṣṇu and Others

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Lomaśa said:

1. On hearing the words uttered by Viṣṇu, Dakṣa spoke these words:

“O slayer of Madhu (Viṣṇu), you have made it appear that Vedas are not authoritative (pramāṇa).[1]

2. How can one forsake the Vedic rite and accept the doctrine of the authoritativeness of Īśvara? Let this be explained, O Mahāviṣṇu, by whom Dharma has been established?”

3-5. On being asked by Dakṣa, Mahāviṣṇu said to him consolingly: “The Vedas have the three Guṇas for their object.[2] They cannot be otherwise. How can the rites mentioned in the Vedas become fruitful without Īśvara? They definitely become fruitless. Hence seek refuge in Īśvara by all means.”

Even as Govinda (Viṣṇu) was saying thus, the ocean of an army, similar to Vīrabhadra’s came there. All the Suras (Devas) saw it.

6. Indra laughed at Viṣṇu,who was engaged in explaining the doctrine of Ātman then. With the Vajra (thunderbolt) in his hand, he became desirous of fighting, accompanied by the Suras.

7. He was made to go hurriedly by Bhṛgu who was bent upon routing (the Gaṇas). Then, the Gaṇas in the formation of groups fought with the Suras.

8. They struck one another with arrows, iron clubs and sharp-pointed missiles. In the course of that great festival of war, many conchs were blown.

9. So also drums like Dundubhis, Paṭahas, Diṇḍimas etc., were sounded. Thanks to that great sound, the.Suras considered themselves flattered. Accompanied by the Guardians of the Quarters, they killed the servants of Śiva.

10. Some were killed by means of swords. Some were smashed by means of iron clubs. All of the hundreds and thousands of the Gaṇas were entirely routed by the Devas.

11. It was by the power of the Mantras of Bhṛgu, that those Gaṇas were instantaneously defeated and driven back by the Guardians of the Quarters headed by Indra.

12. Their extermination was effected by Bhṛgu who performed the Yāga as the fire-worshipper. He was initiated in this for the sake of the worship, on behalf of the Devas and for their pleasure too.

13. By that alone did the Devas become victorious at the very instant. On seeing the defeat of his own army, Vīrabhadra became angry.

14-15. He made the goblins, ghosts and vampires go to the rear and the bull-riders advance at the front. The leader of great strength took up a sharp trident and struck down the Devas, Yakṣas, Piśācas, Guḥyakas and Rākṣasas in the battle. Striking with spears, all the Gaṇas began to kill the Devas.

16. Some of them were split into two by means of swords. They were smashed with iron clubs. In the course of the battle, some were cut into pieces with battle-axes.

17. Hundreds were pierced with spears; some were torn to pieces. Thus, all of those being defeated, began to run away.

18. Embracing each other, they went back to heaven. Only the guardians of the worlds led by Indra remained there, eager (to fight). They consulted Bṛhaspati, “How can we have victory?”

19-22. Bṛhaspati immediately replied to Indra thus:

Bṛhaspati said:

What had been spoken by Viṣṇu formerly has become true today.

If there is īśvara as (bestower of) the benefit of a holy rite, he assigns it (the benefit) to the performer (of the rite). He is not powerful over one who does not perform (the rite). Neither Mantras nor all the medicinal herbs, neither black magic nor secular rites, neither holy rites nor the Vedas, nor the two systems of Mīmāṃsā are capable of understanding īśvara. He can be known only through unswerving devotion. By calmness and great contentment, Sadāśiva should (i.e. could) be known.

23. It is through him that the entire universe with happiness and misery as its characteristic features, takes its origin. But I shall speak further with a desire to explain (what are the) right and wrong actions.

24. O Indra, you have been foolish in accompanying the (other) guardians of the worlds here. What can you do further now with the self-same folly?

25. These extremely splendid Gaṇas, the assistants of Rudra, have become infuriated. Those persons of exalted fortune cause nothing to be left over.

26. On hearing these words of Bṛhaspati, all the heaven-dwellers and all those great gods, the guardians of the worlds, became anxious.

27-28. Then Vīrabhadra who was very closely surrounded by the Gaṇas, said:

“On account of your ignorant nature, you have come here for the sake of Avadāna (glorious achievement). For the sake of your satisfaction, I shall immediately give you Avadānas (cutting into pieces).”

After saying this, he furiously hit them with sharp arrows.

29. Hit by those arrows, all of them fled in all the ten directions.

30. When the guardians of the worlds had left the place and when the Devas had fled, Vīrabhadra came into the sacrificial enclosure accompanied by the Gaṇas.

31. At that time all those sages who were desirous of intimating everything to Janārdana (Viṣṇu), the god of gods, said to him all at once:

32-33. “Protect the Yajña of Dakṣa. Indeed, there is no doubt that you are Yajña incarnate.”

On hearing these words of the sages, Janārdana, the all-pervading lord, the illuminator of spiritual faculties, became desirous of fighting and stood there ready for the battle. Vīrabhadra of powerful arms spoke these words to Keśava (Viṣṇu):

34. “Why have you come here, O Viṣṇu, you who know the great strength (of mine)? How will you be victorious by taking up Dakṣa’s side? Tell me that.

35. Did you not observe? What has been done by Dākṣāyaṇī, O sinless one? You too have come for the sake of a share in the course of the Yajña of Dakṣa. O lord of powerful arms, I shall give oblation to you also.”

36. After saying this, at the very outset, he bowed down to Viṣṇu whose form was similar to his. Vīrabhadra then went in front of Viṣṇu and spoke these words:

37. “You are to me just like Śaṃbhu.[3] There is no doubt about this. Still, O lord of powerful arms, you face me with a desire to fight. If you continue to stay here yourself, I shall give you liberation (Apunarāvṛtti).”

38. On hearing those words of the intelligent Vīrabhadra lord Viṣṇu, the lord of all lords, said laughingly:

Viṣṇu said:

39-41. O highly intelligent one, you are born of the splendour of Rudra. You are very pure and holy. I had been requested by this (Dakṣa) before repeatedly for attending this Yajña. I am subservient to my devotees. So also is the case of Maheśvara. It is for that reason that I have come to this sacrifice of Dakṣa, O Vīrabhadra, born of the wrath of Rudra. Either I shall restrain you or you shall restrain me.

42. When Govinda said this much, that (Vīrabhadra) of mighty arms laughed and after bowing down humbly said this to Janārdana (Viṣṇu):

43. “Just as Śiva, so also you. Just as you, so also Śiva. All of us are servants both of you and of Śaṅkara.”

44. On hearing his words, Acyuta, Viṣṇu, the greatest lord, spoke these important words laughingly:

45. “Fight with me unhesitatingly, O lord of powerful arms. I shall go to my own abode when I am surfeited with your arrows and missiles.”

46. Saying “so be it”, Vīrabhadra, the hero of great strength, took up the greatest of his missiles and roared like a lion.

47. Viṣṇu too blew his conch of loud report. On hearing it, those Devas who had fled away from the battlefield, returned once again.

48-50. All the Guardians of the Quarters including Indra made an array (of their soldiers). Then Nandin was struck by Indra with his Vajra (thunderbolt) that had a hundred spikes. Śakra was hit in the middle of his chest by Nandin with his trident. Bhṛṅgī was struck by Vāyu and Vāyu was struck (in return) by Bhṛṅgī. Standing well prepared with his trident of sharp edge, Mahākāla, endowed with great strength, fought with Yama holding the heavy rod.

51-55. The lord of Kūṣmāṇḍas clashed with Kubera. Muṇḍa of great strength fought with Varuṇa. He fought with such a great strength as surprised the three worlds. The exceedingly powerful Caṇḍa clashed with Nirṛta and fought with a very great missile, mocking his demoniac nature. Bhairava, the great leader, accompanied by the circle of Yoginīs tore through all the Devas and drank their wonderful blood. All the Kṣetrapālas, Bhūtas, Pramathas, Guhyakas, Śākinīs, Ḍakinīs, the terrible nine Durgās, Yoginīs, Yātudhānīs, Kūṣmāṇḍakas and others roared, drank blood and devoured a lot of flesh.

56. On seeing that his army was being devoured, the king of Suras left Nandin behind and challenged Vīrabhadra.

57. Leaving off Viṣṇu, Vīrabhadra engaged Devendra. The battle between them was as terrible as that between Mars and Mercury.

58-61. When Śakra was desirous of killing Vīrabhadra and hastily prepared for the same, Vīrabhadra became furious and filled Indra who was seated on his elephant, with a mass of arrows. The extremely mighty Vīrabhadra who was unrestrainable, was immediately struck by Indra with his Vajra of a hundred spikes. Then he (Vīrabhadra) attempted to swallow Indra along with his elephant and thunderbolt. All the Bhūtas who saw Vīrabhadra like that desirous of killing Indra, raised the loud shouts of “Hā-Hā” (Alas-AIas). Seeing Vīrabhadra desirous of killing Indra, Viṣṇu came there in a hurry and stood in front of Vīrabhadra.

62. He pushed Śakra behind and fought with Vīrabhadra. The battle between them was very tough.

63-64. They then fought with various kinds of weapons and missiles. Seeing Nandin once again, Śakra who was an expert in battle, engaged him in a tumultuous duel.

There was a great clash between Devas and Pramathas. Pramathas were smashed by Devas and all of them fled from the battle.

65. On seeing the Gaṇas turning their faces away (from the battle), all those (bacterial) ailments[4] that had originated from the fury of Rudra rushed against Devas.

66. On seeing Devas afflicted with the fevers, Viṣṇu laughingly seized Devas alive separately.

67. He called Aśvinī Devas in order to quell the ailments. The highly intelligent (lord) made them carefully work out and consider the requisite nourishment (medicine) and sustenance, and gave the same to them.

68. Aśvinī gods caught hold of the fevers and Sannipāta (fevers) as well as other inimical elements and quelled them. They joyously made Devas free from fever and rejoiced for a long time.

69. The Yoginī Cakra also was subdued by them. With sharp-pointed arrows, they toppled down Bhairava who was highly excited and felled the Gaṇas too.

70. On seeing his army routed by Suras and felled down by them, Vīrabhadra became furious and spoke these words to Viṣṇu:

71. “You are a heroic warrior, O mighty one. Indeed you are the protector of Devas. If you think so, come on, fight with me strenuously.”

72. After saying thus, Vīrabhadra of great strength, approached Viṣṇu, the lord of all lords, and showered him with sharp arrows.

73. Then the lord attacked Vīrabhadra with his discus. On seeing the discus coming, it was instantaneously swallowed (by Vīrabhadra).

74-75. On seeing that his discus was swallowed, Viṣṇu, the conqueror of the cities of his enemies, stroked and pressed his mouth. Thus the (discus) was caused to be spitted out by Viṣṇu.

Taking his discus, Viṣṇu of exalted nature, the sole lord of the universe, went to heaven. On understanding everything that had been done and was unbearable to the enemies he became-satisfied (of having done his job).

Footnotes and references:


This shows a stage of conflict between the traditional Vedic religion and Śaivism. Vedic tradition prohibited its followers from even speaking with the non-Vedic Śaivas and Pañcarātras. These Śāstras were regarded as authoritative so far as they are not opposed to the Vedas (Sūta-Saṃhitā IV.4.16-18). Pārijāta as quoted in the Kṛtyaratnākara (p. 37) states the view of the mediaeval writers on Dharma Śāstra as follows:

pañcarātrapāśupatādīnyapi śāstrāṇi vedāviruddhāni pramāṇam


Cf. traiguṇya-viṣayā vedāḥ—BG U.45.


The Purāṇa reiterates the identity of Śiva and Viṣṇu. Vīrabhadra calls himself the servant of both Śiva and Viṣṇu and bows down humbly to Viṣṇu before fighting (vv. 42-43 below).


An imaginative precursor of modern bacterial warfare?

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