The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Prakarakarna’s Story which is chapter 8 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 eighth chapter of the Kaumarika-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 8 - Prākārakarṇa’s Story

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: This chapter describes the great efficacy of Śiva’s worship with Bilva leaves.

Nārada said:

1. On hearing the words uttered by the crane Nāḍījaṅgha, the king became extremely miserable in the company of Mārkaṇḍeya.

2. On seeing the king miserable with tears in the eyes, the sage who too was equally sorry, spoke to the crane on his behalf:

3-4- “O highly fortunate bird, after creating hope in Indradyumna, I came here along with him to you, hoping that since we two are long-lived, we may know Indradyumna partially.

But his purpose is not achieved. He will give up his life by entering fire, since he has come to the stage of frustration and dejection.

5. He approached me. I approached you. But his desire was not fulfilled. So I shall follow him. I adjure you with death.

6. Good people cannot tolerate seeing that the person who has been given hope and allowed to come near is disappointed. Hence death is far better than life.

7. What he had in his heart was requested for by him and it was promised by me, keeping in my mind you, my friend of very long life, in the matter of knowing him.

8. There is no purpose in my long life since I was not able to accomplish what had been promised. O friend, now, it fulfils the hope and desire of those who request (for help) by deception alone.

9. If what is promised is carried out, the state of being a slave in the village of the meanest folk is praiseworthy in the case of (all) men as in the case of Hariścandra. Not sticking to truthfulness is not praiseworthy at all.

10-11. Mitra (‘Friend’) is a synonym of Sneha (‘affection’) and that is known as Saptapada (i.e. effected by speaking seven words or going seven steps together). Of what nature is that affection which is not perceptible towards a distressed friend?

Hence I shall gather together means of making fire along with (this king) for the sake of one whose body is renown. This is true, O friend.

12. Allow me (to go), O highly fortunate Nāḍījaṅgha, O most excellent one among birds. This is my last meeting with you.”

Nārada said:

13. He heard these words uttered by Mārkaṇḍeya, which were as unbearable as thunderbolt. He meditated for a moment. Then (apparently) pleased he spoke to them:

Nāḍījaṅgha said:

14. If it is so, O excellent sage, prevent this friend of yours from entering the fire now. There is a person who has lived longer than I.

15. He is an owl named Prākārakarṇa on the mountain Śivaparvata (i.e. Kailāsa). He will know king Indradyumna certainly.

16. Hence I shall go to that mountain, the abode of Śiva, along with you and this (king) for the sake of accomplishing the task of (our) friend.

17. After he had said this, those three leading Dvijas (‘twice-borns’)—a bird, a brāhmaṇa, a kṣatriya) went to Kailāsa and saw that owl (staying) in his own nest.

18. With due welcome and honour he received them. The Baka was asked about the other two. He then told him about everything that they wanted.

19. “You are long-lived. If you know king Indradyumna tell us. There is something to be done by knowing it. We (three) will then remain alive.”

20-21. On being asked thus, the owl became sad, because it had to accomplish the task of a friend (but could not do so). He said, “I do not know king Indradyumna. Twenty-eight Kalpas have passed since I was born on this earth. This king Indradyumna was neither heard of, nor seen on this earth.”

22-23. On hearing this, the king was surprised that the span of his life was so great. Although he was sad, he asked (the owl) about his longevity: “If your life is so long, say how it was obtained by you. How did you get this excessively contemptible state of an owl?”

Prākārakarṇa said:

24. Listen, O gentle Sir, how I got a long life. It was due to the worship of Śiva. This contemptible form of an owl is due to the curse of a great sage.

25. Formerly I was a Brāhmaṇa born in the family of Vasiṣṭha. I was well-known as Ghaṇṭa. I was engaged in the worship of Śiva at Vārāṇasī.

26. I habitually listened (to the discourses) on Dharma in the assembly of good men. I heard (the mode of worshipping). I worshipped Lord Śiva with unbroken Bilva (Aegle marmelos) leaves.

27. Neither jasmine nor Mandāra (Erythrina Indica) nor lotus nor Mallikā (Jasminum zambac) are such a favourite of the enemy of Madana (i.e. Lord Śiva) as Śrīvṛkṣa (i.e. Bilva).

28. If a single (i.e. three in a cluster) unbroken Bilva leaf is placed on the head of Śiva, the merit of (the worship with) a hundred thousand flowers is obtained.

29. One can live for a hundred-thousand years in heaven by worshipping the Liṅga faithfully with unbroken Bilva leaves brought by oneself.

30. Hearing this from good scriptures, I used to worship Īśvara faithfully thrice a day with Bilva leaves, each being a duster of three leaves.

31. Then at the end of a hundred years, the Moon-crested Lord became satisfied. He appeared before me and spoke to me in a voice as majestic as the sound of cloud:

Īśvara said:

32. O eminent Brāhmaṇa, I am satisfied and delighted with your worship with the Bilva leaves. Choose what you desire, which I shall give unto you even if it be very difficult to get.

33. I get extremely great satisfaction and delight (when I am worshipped) with even a single unbroken Bilva leaf; not so with crores of other (flowers etc.).

34. On being told thus by Lord Śaṃbhu, I chose the boon that had been in my mind. “O Lord, make me an immortal one, devoid of old age.”

35. Then the Lord with sportive grace said to me unhesitatingly, “So (it shall be)” and vanished. I derived great delight and pleasure.

36. I knew myself to be the most blessed and contented on the earth. At this time itself there was a certain Brāhmaṇa born in the family of Bhṛgu.

37. Virtuous and meritorious in the course of three births, he was an Akṣavit (‘conversant with the sense organs’) as well as Akṣarārthavit (‘one who knows the letters and their meaning or one who knows the imperishable one’). A chaste woman well-reputed as Sudarśanā was his beloved wife.

38. She was the daughter of Devala. She was unparalleled on the earth in regard to her beauty. She used to be joyous at the sight of her husband, on seeing his face.

39. In her he begot a daughter who was considered not different from her mother. She (i.e. the girl) ceased to be a child and was heading towards youthful (form and features).

40-41. The father was unable to give the daughter endowed with all good qualities, to anyone. She was seen by me at the time of transition from one stage to another (i.e. childhood to maidenhood). She was very charming due to the emotions and sentiments of the developing youthfulness awakening in her. The two stages had a happy mingling in her body like that of rice and gingelly seeds. All the other emotions and sentiments were being expelled from her body.

42-45. She was playing along with her friends. She was like a doll of excessive beauty. O Brāhmaṇa, on seeing the slender-waisted lady with shapes and features not to be found in others, I thought thus: ‘The creator by whom she has been made is a different one.’

Thereupon I was made an object of Sāttvika Bhāvas (i.e. external symptoms of inner feelings, such as perspiration, hair standing on end through thrill etc.) by the Flower-bowed (i.e. god of Love) after sportingly hitting me with arrows.

Then her friend was asked by me in faltering speech, “Whose (daughter) is she?” She said, “She is the daughter of a Brāhmaṇa belonging to the family of Bhṛgu. She has not yet been married to anyone. She has come here to play.”

46. Extremely struck and hurt by the Flower-arrowed (i.e. Lord Kāma) with volleys of arrows, I went to her father, a scion of the Bhṛgu family. Bowing down to him, I requested him (to give) her (to me).

47. On coming to know that I was equal (to them) in conduct and nobility (i.e. family-status) and that I was seeking her earnestly, he gave (her) to me verbally in the first instance.

48-50. Thereupon the daughter of Bhārgava heard that she had been given to an ugly Brāhmaṇa, from persons who were speaking (about it). Lamenting, she said to her mother: “See what has been done. By giving me to such a bridegroom, a very improper thing has been perpetrated by my father. I shall stir poisonous liquid and drink it or I shall enter fire. It is better.

I will never become the wife of an ugly husband at any cost.”

51. Afterwards the mother enlightened her daughter and spoke to Bhārgava with insistence, “Our daughter should not be given to an ugly man.”

52-53. After hearing the words of the beloved wife and after going through the treatises on Dharma Śāstra he decided thus: “If a better bridegroom arrives he can take away the girl offered (verbally). It is only after the foot has been placed on the rocky slab, at the seventh step, that there shall be the culmination (i.e. ratification) of the marriage ceremony.”[1] After deciding thus the Brāhmaṇa gave that daughter to another person.

54. On the day previous to the actual marriage the entire thing was heard by me. Therefore, I got extremely ashamed in front of the friends.

55. O gentle Sir, I was unable to show my face. Very much afflicted with lust, I abducted her late in the night when she was asleep.

56-58. I took her to a lonely place very difficult to be approached and performed the rite of marriage in accordance with the Gāndharva form of marriage and carried out what was desired in the heart.

Although the lass did not like it, I forcibly had sexual intercourse with her. Her father came closely behind. In the morning of the next-day, he came there surrounded by (some) Brāhmaṇas. On seeing his daughter married, Bhārgava who was infuriated cursed me, O gentle Sir.

Bhārgava said:

59. Since my daughter was married by you through the rite of a Niśācara (‘Night-wanderer’, i.e. demon), you shall, O sinner, become ere long a Niśācara

60-61. On being cursed thus, I bowed down to him after clasping his feet. “Alas! Alas!” said I in faltering tone and with eyes filled with tears. Thereafter I said, “Why do you curse me though I am free from blame? In fact your daughter was in the first instance given to me verbally by you.

62-64. The girl was married by me. Smṛti says that gifting away can take place only once. Kings speak out only once; learned men speak out only once; girls are offered (in marriage) only once. These three are to take place only once.

65-66. Your Honour cursed me in vain. Let this be pondered over. The evil-minded one who after having given away the daughter verbally, backs out (of his promise) later on, falls into a hell. This is decided in the sacred treatises.”

67. On hearing it, he came to the conclusion that my words were true. He mentally repented. The sage then spoke to me thus:

68. “My words cannot be otherwise. You will become an owl. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, even an owl is called a Niśācara (‘night-wanderer’).

69. When you become one helping in recognizing Indradyumna, O Brāhmaṇa, you will regain your original form.” So said he to me.

70. Simultaneously with the utterance of those words by him, I obtained this owl-hood. So many days (in human reckoning) have passed by equivalent to twenty-eight days of Brahmā (i.e. twenty-eight Kalpas).

11. Formerly I gained a very long life by means of worshipping the Moon-crested Lord with the leaves of the Bilva tree. Now due to this sage’s curse this contemptible form of a Niśācara (i.e. owl) became mine on the (banks of the river Mandākinī on the) montain [mountain?] Kailāsa.

Footnotes and references:


This seems to be based on Vasiṣṭha Dh.S. 17.73 and Manu VIII.165 and 168.

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