The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 750,347 words

This page describes The Burning of Kala which is chapter 32 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 thirty-second chapter of the Kedara-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 32 - The Burning of Kāla

Note: This chapter illustrates Śiva’s kindness and alertness in protecting his devotees. Kāla, the supreme destroyer of the world, was burnt down by Śiva in order to protect his devotee, King Śveta, and he was resuscitated at the request of the victim-King.

Lomaśa said:

1. Thus all the rites pertaining to the worship of Śiva (Śiva-dharmāḥ) were narrated by him, O Brāhmaṇas. It was out of grace that the Pāśupata doctrines were explained in details in particular.

2. Doctrines enshrined in various Āgamas were declared truthfully in accordance with the principles. The different sects of Kāpālikas were described succinctly as well as in details.

3. Various kinds of holy rites were recounted to Nandin then.

The sages said:

4. The highly auspicious story of Kumāra which has nothing to surpass it, has been completely heard by us, O highly fortunate one. We shall enquire of something more.

5. The narrative of the leonine king Śveta is wonderfully mysterious. By means of his boundless devotion, Śiva-Rudra has been gratified by him.

6. Those who worship Lord Mahāśaṃbhu devoutly, are great devotees of noble souls. They are experts both in the path of spiritual knowledge (Jñāna) and of religious rites (Karman),

7. Hence all of us enquire of you about the story of Śaṅkara as you and none else know everything through the favour of Vyāsa.

8. On hearing the words of those sages, Lomaśa said:

Lomaśa said:

9. Let that wonderful anecdote be listened to, O highly fortunate ones. Even as that king was enjoying all sorts of royal pleasures, the mind of that noble-souled Śveta was directed towards virtue and piety.

10. He protected the subjects righteously and ruled the earth. He was heroic and truthful in speech. He was well-versed in the Vedas. He was a constant and faithful devotee of Śiva.

11. That king administered the kingdom in accordance with his capacity. With devotion, he always worshipped Śaṃbhu, the great lord, the Supreme Being, greater than the greatest, the quiescent one, the ancient lord in the form of the Supreme Spirit.

12-14. His whole life was spent in worshipping the Supreme Lord. Let the story of this highly fortunate (king) be listened to. My words cover Śiva’s story and are full of wonders. Neither mental agonies nor physical ailments harassed the king. No natural calamity afflicted him. The people were free from all the Ītis[1] (i.e. abnormal calamitous phenomena such as excessive rain, drought etc.) and were devoid of afflicting distresses.

15. In the realm of that king medicinal herbs grew naturally without being cultivated. Ascetics and Brāhmaṇas and common people adhered to the discipline of the four castes and stages of life.

16. No one had, at any time, the misery due to the death of a son. No one was insulted. There were no deadly (diseases). No one ever suffered from poverty.

17. Thus a great deal of time passed even as that noble-souled king successfully engaged himself in the worship of Śiva, O Brāhmaṇās.

18-19. Once, Yama sent his messengers to that king who was worshipping Śaṅkara, the bestower of the greatest aim in life (i.e. salvation). At the instance of Citragupta, the messengers were deputed and instructed, “Let Śveta be brought.” Thinking that it should be so, the messengers came to the temple of Śiva.

20. Desirous of taking the king away, the messengers of Yama who had nooses in their hands and were very frightful, came there and looked for the king hurriedly.

21-23. Then the messengers could not carry out the command of Dharma. After knowing this, Yama himself came there. He suddenly lifted up his baton and was desirous of taking the king away. The deity of great arms saw the king engaged in the meditation of Śiva. He was endowed with great devotion to Śiva. He was qui escent and possessed of pure spiritual knowledge. On seeing the king, Yama became highly excited.

24-26. Immediately the king of dead ones became excessively agitated and remained (motionless) as though he was painted in a picture.

The deity who in the form of Kāla, caused perpetual destruction of the subjects, came very furiously to that king at that very same instant. (He was armed) with a sword of very sharp edge and a big shield.

He (Yama) overwhelmed by fear was standing at the entrance. Kāla spoke to Yama, the son of the Sun:

27-28. “Why was this great king not taken away by you, O Dharmarāja? O Yama, (though) you are assisted by your messengers, you appear to me to be frightened. Do not delay, O deity of good holy rites. At my instance do everything quickly).”

On being told thus by Kāla, Dharma spoke these words befitting the occasion:

29. “I shall do according to your command. There is no doubt about this. This devotee of Śiva caṇnot be tackled by us.

30. Due to fear from the Trident-bearing Lord, we stand (motionless) as though painted in a picture.”

On hearing Yama’s words, Kāla became infuriated. Hurriedly he took up the sword intending to kill the king.

31-36. As he furiously entered the temple of Śiva, resembling twenty-four Suns, he was seen by Śiva, the Pināka-bearing Lord (who thought): ‘This (deity) is desirous of killing my devotee, the excellent king Śveta. He is absorbed in his own soul by way of meditation. His mind has become purified by the bright light of pure knowledge. Without any differentiation he meditates upon his Ātman in the form of the innermost Ātman. He is self-luminous. He is greater than the greatest standing in front of him. The king is thinking about the foot of Śiva who is of the nature of the Supreme Being, the cause of salvation and complete identity in form.’ Kāla was rushing at him and was seen by Sadāśiva, the slayer of Kāla. The rogue was approaching him undeterred arrogantly. When he was seen midway between himself and Nandikeśvara by Śiva, the lord of the universe, the affectionate kinsman of devotees, he was stared at with the third eye by the great Lord who wanted to protect his devotee. He became reduced to ash in an instant.

37. He burned Kāla who had many colours, who had opened his month very wide, whose form was extremely terrible and frightening, whose sole food was the universe and who was very fierce. He was burned by a series of flames.

38-40. The groups of Devas who had gathered together along with Yakṣas, Gandharvas, Piśācas, Guhyakas, Siddhas, groups of celestial damsels, all the sky-walkers, serpents, birds and the Guardians of Quarters, saw Kāla enveloped in flames and stationed in front of Īśvara.

The king then regained consciousness and looked again and again at Kāla who had come to kill him and who was then being burnt by fire. Without being excited, he prayed to Rudra who resembled the fire of Kāla:

The king said:

41. Obeisance to Rudra the quiescent one, who is the moonlight unto himself, is the creator of himself, who is perpetual and subtle. I bow to the lord of the luminaries.

42. You alone are indeed the saviour, O Lord of the universe. You are the father, mother, friend and comrade. You alone are the kinsman and relative. You are Īśvara, the lord of people and of all the worlds.

43. What has been done by you, O Śaṃbhu? Who is this who has been burned in front of me? I do not know what has taken place here; what great thing has been carried out and by whom.

44. On hearing this expression of the pain of that (king) who was praying thus, Śaṅkara spoke these words enlightening that king:

Rudra said:

45. This Kāla was burnt by me in front of you for your sake. He was seen being burnt and overwhelmed by a great mass of flames.

46. On being told thus by Śaṃbhu that excellent king became humble before Śiva and spoke these words to him:

47. “What misdeed has been committed by this (Kāla), O Śaṃbhu? Tell me exactly. O Bhava, what for has he been reduced to this plight, ending with his death?”

48. On being requested by him the Supreme Lord said: “O great king, he is one who swallows all living beings.

49. O lord, it was for the purpose of swallowing you that this cruel one had come near me now. Hence, O lord, O great king, he was burnt by me.

50-51. Desiring the welfare of many persons, I have killed him particularly.

Those who are sinners, those who engage themselves in unrighteous activities, those who cause the annihilation of the worlds and those who propagate heretic doctrines—all these are to be killed by me.”

Oṇ hearing the words of Rudra, Śveta spoke thus:

52-53. “It is on account of Kāla that the whole world always performs meritorious deeds: Some abide by righteous activities; some are endowed with great devotion; some are engaged in Upāsanas (‘devotional rites’); others become Jñānins (‘possessors of knowledge’); some practise spiritual pursuits; and some are liberated,

54. Indeed Kāla is the annihilator of all mobile and immobile beings. Similarly, he is the matchless protector too (of all). He is the creator as well of the vital air of all living beings. Hence revive him back to life.

55-56. If you are intent on creation, resuscitate Kāla quickly. If you are inclined to annihilate all living beings, then (revive him) and give this work, O Śaṃbhu, to the noble-souled Kāla. Without Kāla nothing will take place, O Śaṅkara.”

57. On being requested thus by that valorous king, Śaṃbhu carried out his suggestion. He did what his devotee desired (him) to do.

58. Śaṃbhu, the great Pināka-bearing Lord, resuscitated him and made his form as it had been before. He was then fixed by him in his place, in the middle of the messengers of Yama.

59. Approaching (the Lord) with shyness, he eulogized the Bull-bannered Lord. After bowing down to the fire stationed in front, this Kāla spoke these words in great dismay:

Kāla said:

60. O slayer of Kāla, O lord of Tripura, O destroyer of the three Puras. Indeed Madana was made Anaṅga (bodiless) by you, O lord of the universe.

61-62. A very wonderful feat was perfromed by you in destroying the sacrifice (Yajña) of Dakṣa. Kālakūṭa, the poison, unbearable to everyone, the great poison that caused destruction of all, was swallowed by you, O Śaṃbhu, as it was unbearable to all. The whole range of the three worlds was pervaded in the form of Liṅga by the great lord.

63. It is called Liṅga by all the Suras and Asuras because it absorbs the world within it. Devas with Brahmā and Viṣṇu at their head do not know its limits and extremities.

64. They do not know the greatness of the Liṅga as well as the great lord of Devas.

Hail to you, the Supreme Lord. Obeisance to you, O cause of the auspiciousness of the universe. I bow to you, the blue-throateded one; I salute that lord with matted hair.

65. Repeated obeisance to you, the cause of causes. Salutations to you, the auspicious soul of all auspicious things. Obeisance to the lord in the form of knowledge of all the learned ones conversant with knowledge. You are the primordial God. You are the ancient Puruṣa.

66. You are everything, O sole kinsman of the universe. You can be comprehended only through the Vedāntas; you are of exalted magnanimity; you are worthy of being glorified by all magnanimous persons. You alone are honoured by the whole universe, O lord of the universe.

67. You protect; you annihilate all the three worlds, O great lord. You are the creator. You and none else, are the lord of all living beings.

68. Thus the lord of the universe was eulogized by Kāla.

Kāla then said to king Śveta enlightening him as it were:

Kāla said:

69. In the whole of the mortal world, there is no one greater than you by whom the lord who is invincible in all the three worlds, has been conquered.

70. This universe of the mobile and immobile beings has been killed by me. I am the conqueror of all the Devas. I cannot be transgressed by anyone.

71. I have now become your follower, O great king. Grant me protection from fear of the trident-bearing Parameṣṭhin, the lord of the Devas.

72. On being addressed thus by Kāla, Śveta laughingly spoke in a voice as majestic as the sound of clouds:

The King said:

73. There is no doubt about this that you are the greatest form of Śiva. You are Kāla in the form of sustenance and annihilation of all living beings.

74. Hence you are the most adorable of all. You are the controller of all. It is on account of their fear of you that all those who perform rites seek refuge in Parameśvara with various emotional feelings, desirous of dedicating themselves.

Sūta said:

75-76. Kāla who was thus saved by the excessively righteous king regained consciousness by the grace of Śiva alone. The lord was eulogized by Yama in the company of Mṛtyu and messengers of Yama.

After bowing down and praising Śiva and the king Śveta, (Kāla) went to his abode, O Brāhmaṇas. He considered himself as born once again.

77. In the company of his wife Māyā, he frequently recollected the great story of Śiva and became surprised more and more-

78-79. He said to all the messengers himself: “O messengers, let my words be heard quickly; what I suggest in my speech should be carried out scrupulously. It should not be otherwise.”

Kāla instructed:


80-83. The following persons should never be brought to my region: Those who apply Tripuṇḍra (upon their forehead); those who have matted hair; those who wear Rudrākṣa; those who are called by the names of Śiva; those who assume the guise of the men of Śaiva cult either for the sake of livelihood or out of fear; even men who have committed sins or practised evil conduct if they are wearing Śaiva garments. All these should never be brought to my region by you. They should be scrupulously avoided even if they are always sinful. What then about others, O messengers—others who worship Sadāśiva, Śaṃbhu, with great devotion? They are undoubtedly Rudras themselves.

84. He who wears even a single Rudrākṣa on his head and the Tripuṇdra mark in the middle of the forehead, the good persons who repeat the five-syllabled Mantra—these are to be honoured by you all and never otherwise.

85. The nation, the country or the village where no wise devotee of Śiva is seen—is it different from a cremation ground? They (may) call that nation (rāṣṭra) deśa—a small place. I speak the truth unto you.

86. The persons in that village where there exist no persons who practise devotional rites of Śiva, should be chastised well.

87. Thus Yama commanded his servants. Thinking that it should be so, they remained quiet on being much surprised.

88. Such is Sadāśiva, the sole lord of the worlds, the sire of the worlds. He is one and only one. He is the bestower and the chastiser, possessor of his supreme powers (Bhāva[3]), emotional feelings. He is eternal, the sole kinsman of the universe.

89-90. After burning Kāla, lord Mahādeva granted freedom from fear to Śveta, the king of kings, the most excellent one among the rulers of the earth.

Having attained freedom from fear, the lofty-minded king Śveta resolved (to strive for salvation) and by means of supreme devotion became liberated.

91. On being honoured by Devas, sages and Serpents, this Śveta, the most excellent one among kings, attained Sāyujya (identity) with Śiva.

92. Thus Siddhi (liberation) is within the palm (i.e. within the reach) of those persons who are devoted to Maheśa, the Sire of the universe. I am speaking the truth unto you.

93. Even a Cāṇḍāla can become an excellent man by the favour of Śaṅkara. Hence Śaṅkara should be worshipped with all efforts.

94-95. It is only after the end of many births that devotion to Śiva is born in Jñānins with great intellect. Śaṅkara should be worshipped in every birth. Of what avail is too much talk on my part? Sadāśiva should be worshipped.

96. In this context they cite this ancient mythological legend in regard to the wonderful hoīy rite performed by a Kirāta (forester) by whom the whole universe consisting of mobile and immobile beings was redeemed.

Footnotes and references:


Īti: Plague or any calamity of the season such as drought, excessive rainfall, swarms of locusts, foreign invasions etc.—MW, 17.2.


These instructions are intended to show the great efficacy of Śaivism.


MWp. 754.

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