The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Nirgunatva of the Shiva Linga: The Manifestation of Bhavani which is chapter 20 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 twentieth chapter of the Kedara-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 20 - The Nirguṇatva of the Śiva Liṅga: The Manifestation of Bhavānī

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages said:

1. Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra were mentioned by you as (deities) possessing Guṇas. Similarly Īśa has Liṅga for his form. How is he beyond Guṇas? Tell us.

2. This universe consisting of mobile and immobile beings is pervaded by the three Guṇas. Whatever is great, pervasive or small—everything is of the nature of Māyā and appears so. Whence and through what does it appear without the Liṅga?

3. Whatever is visible whether great or small is perishable, O Sūta, because it is created.

4. Hence, O Sūta, it behoves you to ponder over everything, critically examine it and dispel our doubts. By the grace of Vyāsa you and none else, know everything.

Sūta said:

5. In this matter everything has been told (explained) by Vyāsa to Śuka.

Śuka enquired:

Śaṃbhu has Liṅga as his form. How is he described as free from Guṇas by you? O dear father, it behoves you to dispel this doubt of mine completely.

Vyāsa explained:

6. Listen, O dear one. I shall tell it. It was formerly explained by Nandī to Agastya who asked about it. O Śuka, everything was heard by him.

7. Know that the Great Ātman is devoid of Guṇas but it is in the form of Liṅga. Similarly Satī, the greatest and eternal Śakti, should also be known as devoid of Guṇas.

8. It is by her that this ultimately perishable universe consisting of mobile and immobile beings and evolved out of the three Guṇas, has been created.

9. The Ātman alone, the greatest unsullied Lord in the form of Liṅga (is eternal). Those three Guṇas got merged into it (the Supreme Ātman) along with Prakṛti.

10. It was hence called formerly Liṅga because of Layana (‘merging’). Even the Parā Śakti gots merged into the Liṅga. What of others?

11. At the instance of Rudra, the Guṇas whereby mobile and immobile beings are bound, become merged, O highly fortunate one. Hence one should worship Liṅga.

12. Know, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, that Liṅga is devoid of Guṇas. It is on account of the merging of the Guṇas that the Liṅga is glorified.

13. Śaṅkara is described by learned men as the bestower of happiness. He is called Sarva, O Brāhmaṇas, as he is indeed the support of all.

14-15. O Brāhmaṇas, he is called Śaṃbhu because he is one from whom auspiciousness originates. Thus all the names of the great Ātman are meaningful. The entire universe is enveloped by that Śaṃbhu, Parameṣṭhin (the Supreme God).

The sages enquired:

16-17. Satī of great fortune, the daughter of Dakṣa, fell into the sacred fire of the holy rite of Yajña of Dakṣa. When did she appear again, O Sūta? Let it be described now by you. How did the greatest Śakti rejoin Maheśa?

18. All these incidents of yore, O (Sage) of great fortune, should be described to us truthfully. There is no other person to recount it.

Sūta replied:

19-21. O Brāhmaṇas, when Dākṣāyaṇī got her limbs (i.e. body) burnt in (the fire of) the Yajña, Maheśa was left without Śakti.

Hence he performed a great penance on the Himālaya mountain with a body playfully assumed by hiṃ He was surrounded by Bhṛṅgī, Viśva, Nandī, Caṇḍa, Muṇḍa and other Baṭus[1] (young boys in the stage of religious students). He was surrounded by ten crores of Gaṇas (i.e. attendants).

22. The Bull-bannered Lord was surrounded by other Gaṇas numbering one crore and sixty thousand.

23. The Supreme Ātman thus engaged in penance suddenly went to the top of Himālaya surrounded by his Gaṇas, the chief of whom was Vīrabhadra. He was alone, being bereft of the Mūlavidyā.

24-26. In the meantime, Daityas were born of Avidyā. Bali was bound by Viṣṇu. Then those powerful Daityas became tormentors of Indra, O Brāhmaṇas. They were Kālakhañjas, the exceedingly terrible Kālakāyas (? Kālakeyas) and others. There were Nivātakavacas and those named Ravarāvakas. There were many other Daityas causing the massacre of the subjects.

27. Tāraka, the son of Namuci, propitiated Brahmā by means of a great penance. Brahmā was pleased with him.

28. He granted to the evil-minded Tāraka boons just according to his wish. He said: “Choose your boon. Welfare unto you. I shall give you all that your desire.”

29. On hearing those words of Brahmā Parameṣṭhin, he chose a boon that instilled terror in all the worlds:

30. “If you are pleased with me, grant me freedom from old age and death and give me invincibility too as you know it.”

31-32. On being told thus by the evil-minded Tāraka, (Brahmā) laughingly spoke these words:

“Wherefrom can you have immortality? Know it as a fact that certain indeed is death unto one who is born.” Then Tāraka laughed and said: “Then give me invincibility.”

33. Brahmā then said to the Daitya: “Invincibility has been granted to you, O sinless one, except from an infant. An infant will defeat you.”

34. Then Tāraka bowed down and said to Brahmā: “O lord, O lord of Devas, I am blessed and contented by your grace now.”

35. Having acquired the boon thus, Tāraka, the Asura of great strength, challenged Devas for war and fought with them.

36-38. Resorting to Mucukunda,[2] Devas became victorious. Although Devas were repeatedly attacked and tormented by Tāraka, they gained victory through the power of Mucukunda. ‘What is to be done by us? We are being continuously attacked and dragged into war.’ Thinking thus, Suras including Vāsava (Indra) went to Brahmā’s region. Going in front of Brahmā, they spoke thus:

Devas said:

39-40. Madhusūdana is staying in Pātāla along with Bali. Without Viṣṇu, all those, Vṛṣa and others have fallen on account of the enemies, the leading Daityas. O highly fortunate one, O lord, it behoves you to save us.

Then an ethereal voice spoke to them consolingly:

41-46a. “O Devas, let my suggestion be carried out exactly and immediately. O Devas, when an exceedingly powerful son is born to Śiva, he will undoubtedly kill Tāraka in battle. Take such a course of action that lord Śaṃbhu, dwelling in the cavity of the heart of everyone, takes a wife unto himself. Let a great effort be made by you all. These words cannot be otherwise. Know this, O ye Devas.” So said the unembodied voice. Struck with wonder, Devas spoke to one another. After hearing the ethereal voice, all the Devas of great fortune came to Himālaya keeping Bṛhaspati at their head. They spoke these words to Himālaya on account of the seriousness of the matter:

46b-47. “O Himālaya of great fortune, let our words be heard now. Tāraka terrorizes us. Render assistance in killing him. Be refuge unto us and to all the ascetics. It is for this that we have come here accompanied by Mahendra, O lord.”

Lomaśa said:

48-51. On being requested thus by Devas, Himavān, the most excellent among mountains spoke these words laughingly to Devas. Himavān, the most excellent one among those conversant with the (use of) words, was full of satirical laughter against Mahendra: “O Suras, it was by Mahendra himself that we have been made incapable of anything. What task of Suras can we do in this matter of killing Tāraka? If only we bad our wings, O excellent Suras, we would have killed Tāraka along with his kinsmen. I am an Acala (immobile; mountain). I am Vipakṣa (devoid of wings; belonging to the opposite side); what shall I do unto you all?”

52-53. On hearing his words, all the Devas spoke to him: “All of you and all of us are incapable of killing Tāraka, O highly fortunate one. Let the means whereby Tāraka, our enemy of great power, can be brought under control, be thought off.”

Then the highly refulgent Himavān spoke to Suras:

54. “By what means, O Devas, do you wish to kill Tāraka? Be pleased to tell me quickly so that I can understand the matter on hand.”

55. Then everything that had been previously declared by the (ethereal) voice in regard to their duty was mentioned by Suras. When it was heard by the Mountain, the Himalaya mountain spoke these words:

56-57. “When Tāraka, the Daitya of great soul, is to be slain by the intelligent son of Śiva, every objective of Suras shall be auspicious. What has been said by the ethereal voice shall become true. Hence let that be done by you, which makes Maheśa take up a wife unto himself. Who is that girl suitable to Śiva? Let that be ascertained by Suras now.”

58. On hearing his words, Suras laughed and said: “For the sake of Śiva and for accomplishing our task, a daughter has to be begotten by you.

59. O Mountain of great intellect, carry out the suggestion of Suras. You will undoubtedly become the support of Devas.”

60-63. On being told thus by Devas, the lord of mountains went to his house. He said to his wife Menā: “The task of Suras has become our responsibility. For the accomplishment of the task of Devas a good daughter has to be begotten. It is for the benefit of Devas, sages and ascetics. (Of course) the birth of a daughter may not be pleasing to women. Still, O lady of splendid face, a daughter has to be procreated.”

Menā laughed and spoke to her husband Himālaya: “What has been spoken by you (is true). Let my words be heard by you now.

64. O my lord, a daughter is the cause of misery unto men. So also, O highly intelligent one, she causes sorrow unto women. Hence ponder over this for a long time yourself with your keen intellect. Let what is conducive to our welfare be told, O lord of Mountains.”

65. On hearing the words of his wife, the intelligent Himavān spoke these words motivated by a desire to help others:

66. “By an intelligent person, that whereby others can sustain themselves, should be done.

67. The same should be done by a woman also, viz. that which helps others.” Thus his queen was made to comply by the Mountain. Then the lucky Menā conceived a girl in her womb.

68. She was the great Vidyā, the great Māyā, the embodiment of the highest intellect. She was Aṃbā, the great daughter of Dakṣa, Rudrakālī, Satī.

69. The chaste lady of beautiful eyes and excellent fortune, Menā, bore in her womb that highest glory of large eyes.

70. Then Devas, sages, Yakṣas and Kinnaras eulogized Menā of excessive fortune and the Mountain Himavān.

71-74. In the meantime, their daughter named Girijā was born. When the goddess, the bestower of happiness on all, manifested herself, divine drums were sounded; celestial damsels danced; lords of Gandharvas sang; Siddhas and Cāraṇas eulogized (her); Devas showered plenty of flowers. Then everything, the entire unit of the three worlds became delighted. When the great Satī, Girijā, incarnated herself, Daityas became excessively frightened. The groups of Devas, the great Sages, Cāraṇas and the groups of Siddhas attained great joy.

Footnotes and references:


V.L. Bahubhiḥ (‘by many others’).


Mucukunda: Son of King Māndhātā of the Solar Race. He helped Indra to defeat Asuras. He wanted a boon of sound sleep and the ability to bum whosoever disturbed his sleep. Kṛṣṇa while pursued by Kālayavana entered the cave of Mucukunda and lay concealed. Kālayavana, thinking Mucukunda to be Kṛṣṇa, kicked him and got burnt (BhP X.51.14-23). When Kṛṣṇa came forward, he praised him and went to Badarikāśrama for penance (BhP X. 52.1-4).

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