The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Curse to Brahma and Others which is chapter 6 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 sixth chapter of the Kedara-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 6 - Curse to Brahmā and Others

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages enquired:

1. How did the pre-eminence of Liṅga, exclusive of Śiva, come to be established? O highly fortunate sage, let this be narrated to us who are eagerly desirous of learning it.

Lomaśa said:

2-4. Lord Śaṃbhu wandered about in the forest Dāruvana for the sake of begging alms.[1] The sole lord of the worlds with quarters for his garments (i.e. naked), having the cluster of his matted hair loosened, that lord who can be understood only through Vedānta (i.e. Upaniṣads), the great lord, the greatest among leading Yogins, the sole supporter of the group of worlds is greater than the greatest. He is the great lord of the worlds with exalted dignity. That noble-souled Īśvara assumed the form of a mendicant; begged for alms in the Dāruvana forest.

5. At midday the sages, O brāhmaṇas, went to the sacred places (for bath) from their hermitages. At that very time, all the wives of those sages came there.

6-8. On seeing Śaṃbhu they spoke to one another, “Who is this personage of uncommon appearance, who has come here in the form of a mendicant? We along with our friends shall give him alms.” Saying, “So be it”, they went home and joyously brought various kinds of food as alms. They were fine and delicate. They offered everything in accordance with their capacity but with due honour and gentle behaviour. The alms begged for by the Trident-bearing Lord of Devas were (duly given to him).

9-12. One of the ladies who was struck with wonder asked Śaṃbhu who endeared himself very much to her: “Who are you, O excessively intelligent one? Why have you come here as a mendicant? This is the sacred hermitage of sages. Why do you not sit here in our hermitage?” On being asked thus by her, Śaṃbhu said laughingly:

“I am Īśvara, O lady with excellent tresses; I have come to this holy place.” On hearing the words of Īśvara (Śiva) the wife of the sage asked him:

“(You say that) you are Īśvara (Śiva), O gentle Sir, of exalted fortune. You are the lord of the Kailāsa mountain. But, O lord, how does it happen that you are begging for alms alone and single?”

13-14. On being asked thus by her, Śaṃbhu said to her once again these words: “I am bereaved of Dākṣāyaṇī. Hence I wander about nude for the purpose of begging alms, O lady of excellent hips. I am free from any wish or desire or any expectation of advantage from anybody. O beautiful lady, without Satī all the women in the world do not at all appeal to me. I am speaking the truth to you, O lady of large eyes.”

15-16. On hearing the words spoken by him, the lotus-eyed lady said: “There is no doubt that women really accord pleasure by their touch unto man. Such pleasurable women, O Śaṃbhu, have been eschewed by a learned man like you!”

17-21. In this manner all young women gathered together at the place where Śaṅkara was (standing). The alms-bowl of Śaṃbhu was filled with cooked food of very good quality. Four types of foodstuffs with all the six tastes filled his bowl.

When Śaṃbhu was desirous of returning to the Kailāsa mountain, all those wives of brāhmaṇas joyously followed him forsaking their domestic duties. With their minds attached to him, they walked on and on (after him).

When all those wives (of sages) had left thus, the excellent sages reached their hermitages and found them empty and vacant. They spoke to one another, “Where have all these women (our wives) gone? We do not know by what damned fellow they have been abducted.” Pondering and deliberating thus they searched here and there.

22. Thereupon they saw that they had been following Śiva. On seeing Śiva, the sages angrily closed in upon him.

23. Standing in front of Śiva, all of them said with impetuosity, “What has been done by you, O Śaṃbhu (who profess to be) detached and noble-souled? You are no doubt the kidnapper of the wives of others, i.e. of us, the sages.”

24. Although rebuked thus, Śiva silently went on towards his mountain. Then that immutable Mahādeva was overtaken by the sages. (They then cursed him thus:) “Since you are the abductor of (our) wives, be instantaneously a eunuch.”

25. Thus cursed by the sages, his penis fell down on the ground. As soon as it reached the ground, it became very large immediately and it increased in size (enormously).

26-31. From beneath and above, the Liṅga covered the seven Pātālas in an instant. Then it pervaded the entire earth and enveloped the firmament. All the heavens were covered. Then it rose beyond the heavens. There was no earth, no quarters, neither water nor fire, neither wind nor ether, neither Cosmic Ego (Ahaṃkāra) nor the Great Principle (Mahat), neither the Unmanifest One (Avyakta) nor the Time and no great Primordial Matter (Prakṛti). There was no dualistic division. Everything became merged in an instant. Since the entire universe became Lina (merged) in that Liṅga of the great Ātman (it came to be called so).

Learned men say that it is called Liṅga because of Layana (merging of the universe). On seeing such a Liṅga rising further and further, the celestial sages, Brahmā, Indra, Viṣṇu, Vāyu, Agni and the Guardians of the Quarters and the serpents were filled with surprise in their minds. They spoke to one another:

32. “What is the length (of this Liṅga)? What is its girth? Where is its top? Where is its pedestal?” All the Suras who were worried with thoughts like these then said to Viṣṇu:

Devas said:

33. Its root must be seen by you, O Viṣṇu. O lotus-born Brahmā, its head must be seen by you.[2] Then you can justifiably be called protectors.

34. Viṣṇu and the Lotus-bora god Brahmā both of whom were (gods) of exalted fortune, heard this. Viṣṇu went to the nether worlds and Brahmā went to heaven.

35. When he reached heaven, Brahmā eagerly looked (everywhere) but that clever (lord) did not see the top of that Liṅga.

36. So the Lotus-born (Lord) returned along the path he had gone and reached the top of Meru. There he was seen by Surabhi (Divine Cow).

37. She was standing in the shade of a Ketakī plant and spoke to him in sweet words. On hearing her words, the grandfather of all the worlds spoke laughingly to Surabhi in deceptive words:

38-41. “An extraordinarily wonderful Liṅga which has pervaded the entire region of the three worlds was seen; I was deputed by Devas to see its top. I am extremely worried as to what I should report in the presence of Devas as the top of that all-pervading Liṅga of the noble-souled (lord) was not seen. Though it is untrue, you should tell Devas that the top of the Liṅga has been seen. If all the groups of Devas like Indra and others were to ask you, ‘Have you witnessed?’, you shall say quickly, ‘In this matter, O Devas, there are witnesses’. In this matter, O lady of good holy rites, you do be my witness along with the Ketakī flower.”

42-43. Accepting the suggestion of Brahmā Parameṣṭhin with her head (bent down respectfully), Surabhi in the company of the Ketakī flower honoured it. Arriving thus in front of Devas, Brahmā spoke:

Brahmā said:

44. I have seen the wonderful top of the Liṅga, O Devas, It was duly worshipped by me with Ketakī petals. It is large, soft and spotlessly pure.

45. It is beautiful and fascinating. It is wonderfully lustrous and excessively refulgent.

46. Such a Liṅga was seen by me. Like that I have not seen anything else anywhere else.

On hearing the words of Brahmā, Devas were struck with wonder.

47-52. Even as the groups of Devas beginning with Indra stood thus filled with wonder, Viṣṇu, the lord of all, the bestower of spiritual illumination, came there from Pātāla. Immediately he reported to all: “(Although) I was eager to see its end, it (the end of the Liṅga) has not been seen by me. As I was moving further from Pātāla, I was struck with great wonder. I went through Atala, Sutala, Nitala, Rasātala, Pātāla and Tala and Talātala. Everything appeared empty and void. Even the most vacant place of all was examined well. But it has neither root nor middle nor fop. Mahādeva by whom this universe is sustained is the one in the form of Liṅga. It was due to his grace that you and the sages were born.”

53. On hearing his words Suras and sages honoured him. Then Viṣṇu spoke thus laughingly to Brahmā:

54. “If, O Brahmā, the top has been truly seen by you, who are the witnesses you have had in this matter?”

55-58. On hearing the words of Viṣṇu, Brahmā, the grandfather of the worlds, hurriedly said, “Ketakī and Surabhi. O Devas, these two may be known as my eye-witnesses.” On hearing the words of Brahmā, all Devas hurriedly sent for Surabhi along with Ketakī. The two instantaneously came there for the work of Brahmā.

Thereafter Surabhi was asked by Devas beginning with Indra. She said thus together with Ketakī: “Indeed, O Devas, The top of the Liṅga was seen by Brahmā and worshipped with the petals of Ketakī.”

59-60. Even as all of them listened, an ethereal voice was heard from the sky: “Understand, O gods, that what is deposed by Surabhi and Ketakī is a false statement. Its top has not been seen (by Brahmā).”

61. Then all Devas along with Indra and Viṣṇu angrily cursed Surabhi who was intent to utter falsehood:

62. “O splendid one, today a lie has been thus uttered by your mouth, “Let your mouth be unholy and impure. Let it be excluded from all religious rites.

63. Even though fragrant, O Ketakī, you shall be unsuitable for the worship of Śiva. There is no doubt about it, O good lady, that you have lied.”

64-68. Then the ethereal voice cursed Brahmā: “O stupid one, why has falsehood been uttered childishly by you? (Why have you done this) along with Bhṛgu, the sages and the priest? Hence you will never be worthy of worship. You will suffer from pain. The sages (who ought to be) virtuous will be excluded from truthful statements. They will be deluded, engaged iṇ disputes, jealous and unaware of true knowledge. They will be beggars and worthy of being cut to pieces. They will perpetually ruin their own knowledge. They will boast iof themselves. They will be stubborn and will censure one another.”

Thus Devas beginning with Brahmā, as well as the sages were cursed. All of them, cursed by Śiva sought refuge in Liṅga.

Footnotes and references:


The story of Śiva’s visit to Dāruvana and dropping of his Phallus, when cursed by sages, is found in other Purāṇas also (e.g. KP II.3.8-39, BdP I.ii. 27). The peculiar behaviour of Śiva is called Dvāra in Pāśupata Sūtras.


This legend explains why the leaf of Ketakī is not used in Śiva’s worship and why god Brahmā is not generally worshipped. This legend has no basis in Mahābhārata and Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa. Here gods requested Viṣṇu to trace the root of the Liṅga as he was a Varāha and due to Brahmā’s association with swans, the latter was sent to explore the top. In other Purāṇas we are told that Śiva appeared in the form of a column of fire to resolve, the conflict between Brahmā and Viṣṇu about personal superiority and showed them that he was superior to them both.

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