The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Birth of Mahakala: The Arrangement of Four Yugas which is chapter 40 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 fortieth chapter of the Kaumarika-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 40 - The Birth of Mahākāla: The Arrangement of Four Yugas

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Arjuna asked:

1-2. Who is this Mahākāla[1]? How did he attain Siddhi, O excellent sage, in this holy spot? I have been surprised very much. Narrate all this to me. I ask you in all sincerity and faith.

Nārada said:

3. After bowing down to Mahākāla, the immutable Sthāṇu, the bestower of boons, O scion of the family of Pāṇḍu, I shall narrate his story in accordance with my capacity.

4. Formerly in the city of Vārāṇasī, there was an excellent devotee of great fame named Māṃṭi. He was the most excellent one among those who muttered the holy names; he regularly performed the Japa of Rudra and was highly fortunate.

5. Being sonless, he used to perform the Japa of Rudra Mantras. When a hundred years elapsed, Śaṅkara became pleased with him and said:

6. “O Māṃṭi, your son will be intelligent. He will have my power and valour. He will be the redeemer of your entire family.”

7-9. On hearing these words of Rudra, Māṃṭi became highly delighted. After a lapse of some time Caṭikā, the wife of the noble-souled Māṃṭi, became pregnant. She appeared as though penance itself had taken a physical form. Four years passed and yet the foetus did not come out after leaving the belly of the mother. Thereupon Māṃṭi, addressed it in conciliatory words:

10-13. “O dear one, even an ordinary son gives perpetual pleasure to his parents. You are born of me and of a pure mother. Why do you inflict excessive pain on me? Why is it that you have no desire for residence among human beings? The living beings of various other species bewail thus, ‘When will we be born as human beings? It is the state where there is uninterrupted continuity of (all the Puruṣārthas, viz.) virtue, wealth, love and liberation. In that state the different holy rites pertaining to Pitṛs and Devas are performed and worship yields great fruits.’ The state of being born as human beings is matchless and worthy of being desired even by Heaven-dwellers. Why have you disregarded it? How is it that disregarding it you stay in the belly itself?”

The Foetus replied:

14. O dear father, I know that all these things are very rare; but I am all the while extremely afraid of the Kālamārga (‘the path of time’, i.e. death).

15. Two paths have been mentioned in the Vedas, viz. Kāla and Arcis (flame, light). They go to salvation through (the Path of) Arcis and to (the world) of action through the path of Kāla.

16. One who goes by the path of Kāla, whether he reaches Svarga or remains in Naraka, does not get happiness, like a deer hit and injured by a hunter.

17. For the same reason, a learned man should, with concentration, exert himself so as to ward off the misery on account of Kāla who is of a very majestic and terrible form.

18. Therefore, O dear father, if my mind had not been deluded and confounded through various kinds of defects, I would have had the rare human birth immediately.

19-20. Thereupon, his extremely frightened father, O son of Pṛthā, sought refuge in Maheśvara, the Lord, saying “Save me, save me, O Maheśvara. O Lord, excepting you, who is the other person who can bestow on me what I desire? A son has been given by you. You do make (him) take birth.”

21-22. Maheśvara who was delighted by his great devotion, said to his Vibhūtis (‘super-human powers’), viz. Dharma (Virtue), Jñāna (Knowledge), Vairāgya (Detachment), Aiśvarya (Exalted might) and their opposites, Adharma (Evil), A jñāna (Ignorance), Avairāgya (Absence of detachment) and Anaiśvarya (Absence of exalted might): “Let the son of Māṃṭi be enlightened quickly.”

Then those lustrous Vibhūtis spoke to the foetus:

23-24. “O highly intelligent son of Māṃṭi, no fear need be entertained by you in your heart. Four of us beginning with Dharma will not forsake your heart.”

Then the other four beginning with Adharma said, “We will not be like that. Your mind (will not be influenced by us). From us you have no fear.”

25. On this assurance by the Vibhūtis, the infant came out immediately. He trembled and cried excessively.

26-27. Then the Vibhūtis said, “O Māṃṭi, even now this son of yours is afraid of the path of Kāla. He trembles and cries. Hence he will be well-known as Kālabhīti.” After granting this boon, they went near Mahādeva.

28-31. That boy grew up like the moon in the bright half of a month. He was duly consecrated by means of consecratory rites.

The intelligent boy became observer of the holy vow (Path) of Paśupati.

He began to mutter the five Mantras, viz. tat-puruṣāya vidmahe etc.[2] He remained pure. He was devoted to pilgrimage. O descendant of Bharata, he took his holy dip in Rudrakṣetras (i.e. holy spots presided over by Rudra) muttering (all) these Mantras.

On hearing the excellence of the secret (Gupta v.l. Śubha—auspicious) shrine Kālabhīti went there. He took bath in the waters of Mahī, repeated the Mantras crores of times and returned.

Not far away (from it), he saw a Bilva tree. On seeing it, he repeated the Mantras a hundred thousand times underneath it.

32. As the Brāhmaṇa performed the Japa of the Mantras, all the sense organs disappeared. Within a moment he attained the form of the great Bliss (i e. was absorbed therein).

33. There cannot be anything in heaven etc. comparable with hīs bliss. Just as the sacred water of Gaṅgā can be compared only with itself, so also (his bliss can be compared only with itself as nothing else is comparable with it).[3]

34. He was merged therein for a short while. Again he regained his previous state (of consciousness). Thereupon, O son of Pṛthā, Kālabhīti was surprised. He said:

35. “I did not have such a great bliss in Vārāṇasī, or Naimiṣa, or Prabhāsa or Kedāra or even in Amarakaṇṭaka.

36. Neither in Śrī-Parvata nor at any other place was there anything (blissful) like what is going on today. My sense-organs are devoid of aberrations. They are as clear and pure as the waters of Gaṅgā.

37. I have great love for all living beings. All the three worlds shine clearly (i.e. appear distinctly). My mind understands the one great Dharma.

38-40. Oh, (what a great) influence of this place? It is clearly stated (as follows): ‘If the place (of stay) is devoid of defects, if it is pure and free from all types of troubles the Dharma and Artha of the person staying there shall increase in a thousand ways.’

Hence, on account of this influence, I know this in my mind that this region is superior to the other holy spots, among which Kāśī is the chief one. Hence I shall stay here itself and perform excellent penance.

41. ‘This is definitely the holy spot.’ He who always says this and runs about in great thirst (covetousness) will never attain Siddhi. He shall die with great pain and strain.”

42. After thinking thus, he stationed himself underneath the Bilva tree. Standing on the tip of the big toe (for his support), he performed the Japa of the Mantras of Rudra.

43-44. He began to observe this rule and drank only a drop of water like fire (?) in the course of a hundred years. When a hundred years passed thus in his performing the Japa, O descendant of Bharata, a certain man came there holding a pot filled with water.

He bowed down to Kālabhīti and spoke thus to him with great delight:

45. “O highly intelligent one, your holy observance and vows are complete today. Accept this water. It behoves you to make my exertion fruitful.”

Kālabhīti enquired:

46. Who are you by caste please? Tell me what is exactly your occupation and conduct? After knowing your caste and occupation and conduct, I shall accept it and not otherwise.[4]

The man said:

47-48. I do not know my parents.[5] I do not know whether they are absolutely lost for me or not. I see this that I have always been thus, the same man. I have nothing to do with conducts and religious activities. Hence I will (can) not say this nor do I do according to this.

Kālabhīti said:

49-51. If this is so, I will not take water at all from you. Listen in this context to the words recorded in the Vedas and expressed by my preceptor:

“If the family background of anyone is not known, if it is without the purity of the seed (heredity), a good man taking food or drink from him, goes to ruin at that very instant.

If a person does not know Rudra, if he is not a devotee of Rudra, one who takes food or drink from him shall be a sinner. There is no doubt about it.

52. He who takes food without knowing Śiva, is called Brahmahā (‘slayer of a Brāhmaṇa’). A murderer of a Brāhmaṇa wipes off (all the merits) of the person who takes his food. Hence one shall not take his food.

53. Just as the water of Gaṅgā kept in a pot (becomes) impure and defiled by even a drop of wine falling into it, so a person (though knowing Śiva becomes defiled) if he takes food from a person who does not know Śiva.

54. He who is of a low caste is not a devotee of Śiva. Hence good qualities must be accepted. The two persons must be observed (well) i.e. cautiously avoided in regard to the acceptance of anything from them.”

The man said:

55. My laughter is provoked by this statement of yours. Oh, you are silly and foolish! You are a Her. You are stupid and devoid of the power of recollection.

56. Śiva resides in all beings always. A statement may be true or false. But it does not mean that Śiva is censured thereby.

57. If a person makes any difference between the Supreme Ātman and Hara, he is a person with a vision of difference. Mṛtyu (Death) causes great fear unto him.

58. Or what is the impurity in water? Tell me. This pot is made of clay. It has been baked in (purifying) fire too.

59. It is filled with water. In which of these is there impurity? Why?

60-61. If due to my touch impurity is inferred, then I am stationed on this earth. Tell me, where do you stand? Why do you walk over the earth? Why don’t you walk in the firmament? If (everything) is pondered over in this manner, your utterance will be like that of a silly person.

Kālabhīti said:[6]

62. If it is said that Śiva exists in all living beings (equally), why do atheists not eat clay along with their food?

63. For the sake of the purity of the universe, an arrangement has been established by him. It is sustained through the fruit (of the acts done). It is not otherwise. Listen to it(?)

64. The creator created this universe consisting of forms and it is tied with a variety of names, like a cow with a rope (to the peg).

65. The variety of names consists of four kinds. Dhvani (sound), Varṇas (letters), Pada (word) and Vākya (sentence)—these are the four.

66. Dhvani is of the nature of Nāda (sound). Varṇas (letters of the alphabet) are those beginning with the letter A. Pada is what is called Śabda (word); a Vākya (sentence) is an aggregate of words, for example Śivam bhajet (‘One should worship Śiva’).

67. It is the opinion of the Vedas that a Vākya will be of three kinds. One is Prabhusammata (‘an authoritarian utterance like that of a lord and master’) and the other (is) Śuhṛtsammata [Suhṛtsammata?] (‘friendly utterance’).

68-75. (The last one) is Kāntāsammata (‘loving utterance like that of a wife’). Thus they know that sentence is of three types.

Just as the lord and master commands (the servant saying “Do this” so also) do Śruti and Smṛti. They call these two Prabhusammatam.

(Statements in) Itihāsa, Purāṇa etc. are called Suhṛtsammata. Like a friend these (texts) enlighten and advise him (i.e. the layman) truthfully.

Kāvyālāpa (poetry and drama) is called Kāntāsammatam.

Prabhūvākya (words and utterances of the Śrutis) and Smṛta (what is laid down in the Smṛti texts) are pure externally and internally. The utterance of a friend also which is pure, should be followed with a desire for obtaining heavenly pleasures.

All these should be followed by persons born on the earth, so says the Veda.

If this is spoken by you in accordance with the utterances of the (school of) atheism, do Śrutis, scriptures and Purāṇas become useless on account of this? Formerly Brāhmaṇas beginning with the Seven Sages, Kṣatriyas and all those who had been silly before, became clever and perfect when they followed the Vedas—so is the statement in the Vedānta: those who adhere to Sattva go up; those who are of Rājasa nature stay in the middle and those of Tāmasa nature go down.[7]

By taking in Sāttvika food and by means of Sāttvika activities and conduct one shall go to heaven.

76. Not that we enviously grumble that Śiva is not present in the living beings. Definitely he abides in all the livings beings. Listen to the analogy in this connection.

77-79. There are many kinds of ornaments made of gold. Some of them are pure in form and some are base and low. There is gold in everyone of (those ornaments). Similarly, Sadāśiva (is present in everyone). The base one on being purified becomes pure but not identical. Similarly this body on being purified becomes clean and clearly goes to heaven. Hence in every respect, nothing should be taken by an intelligent person from a base one.

80-82a. Even if one purifies this body, it cannot be taken up (accepted) in every respect. One that is acceptable in every (other) respect is not so in the matter of evacuation (of the bowels) as well as that of taking in food. This stone shall be pure in few days. It becomes clear(?) Hence by all means it is clear that I shall not take the water. Whether right or not the great Śruti is our authority.

82b-86. When this was said, that man laughingly scratched the ground with his right thumb. Thereby he made a great and excellent pit. There he poured that water whereby the pit was filled. There was some surplus water. He drew a line with his foot (toe). He filled up a lake with the surplus water. Even after seeing this great miracle, the Brāhmaṇa did not wonder at it, since miracles of many kinds are possible in the case of those who perform special worship etc. of the Bhūtas (spirits) etc. Hence merely on account of a miracle, one shall not abandon the eternal path of Śruti.

The man said:

87-88. O Brāhmaṇa, you are a great fool. But you speak learned words. Was not this verse uttered by those who know the ancient tradition, heard by you? “The well belongs to one. The pot belongs to another. The rope is also of another man, O descendant of Bharata. Some people offer the drink and some others do drink. All of them have equal shares.” Therefore, why do you not drink the water (offered) by me, though you are one conversant with Dharma?

Nārada said:

89-90. Thereupon, the verse about equal shares was pondered over by him in various ways. Unable to come to a decision, he thought again (and decided).

If (in a sea) many boats and ships are launched and much money defrayed, there may be equal sharing. Thus again and again if someone does the same thing, he may have share in the benefits.

91-95. Remaining pure and meditating on Śiva, Kālabhīti came to this decision: “In regard to the builder of the palace and digger of the well, there is no question of accepting water. Hence the benefit is similar in the case of one who drinks.”

After deciding thus he said to that man: “It is true; but in the case of filling the pit with the water from the pot, after having seen it directly, tell me, how can a person like me drink it? Whether it is right or not, I will not at all drink.”

On seeing his firm decision like this, O scion of the family of Kurus, that person laughed and vanished within an instant.

Kālabhīti was exceedingly surprised. ‘What is (the meaning of) this incident?’ He thought over this again and again.

96. While he was pondering thus, a great and excellent Liṅga sprang up from the ground beneath the Bilva tree. It illuminated all the quarters.

97-99. At the time of the manifestation of that great Liṅga, O descendant of Bharata, groups of celestial damsels danced in the firmament. Gandharvas sang in sweet tones, agreeably and charmingly. Indra released a shower of Pārijāta flowers. Devas and sages eulogized with different kinds of hymns and shouted, “Be victorious”.

When that great festive celebration was going on, O descendant of Kuru, Kālabhīti who was highly joyous, bowed down and uttered this prayer:

Prayer (by Kālabhīti)[8]

100. “I resort to Mahākāla, the Dark-throated Lord, the destroyer of sins, the dispeller of the dirt of worldly existence, full of Kalā (the Śakti of consciousness evolving all thirty-six principles), the destroyer of the Kālamārga (‘Path of Kāla’), the Lord in the form of the annihilator of worldly existence.

101. I bow down to your (first) face, O Īśāna. The Śruti eulogizes you. You are the Lord of Bhūtas. You are the greatgrandfather. Obeisance to you, the great Lord.

102. I resort to that Lord whom the Veda eulogizes. I take refuge in that second one (face) named, Tatpuruṣa. We know you, O Śrīrudra. Grant that unto us, O Lord of Devas, obeisance and salute to you.

103. I resort to the third face Aghora, served and worshipped by the Atharva Veda. Your forms are non-terrible as well as terrible. I always bow down to you as well as to the extremely terrible Bhūtas (goblins).

104. I resort to the fourth face[9] always. Obeisance to you, Sadyobhijāta. In every birth of mine in different places, O Bhava, O Śiva, you be my source of origin, you without beginning, you without birth.

105. Obeisance to you, to Vāmadeva, the eldest Rudra, to Kāla, to one who changes and modifies Kalā, to you who cause Bala (strength) as well as who suppress Bala (i.e. the demon of that name), to the slayer of living beings, to the developer of mind.

106. We worship you, the three-eyed one, who increases prosperity and welfare, through meritorious (sacrificial) scents. Just like the ripe Urvāruka (cucumber fruit) which is easily separated (from the stalk), save me from the terrible bondage, O Tryaṃbaka, save us from the path of Death.[10]

107. You are pleased with those sages devoid of passionate attachment, who repeat your six-syllabled excellent Mantra (viz.Om namaḥ śivāya), O Īśa. We shall also repeat that Mantra, viz. Namaḥ śivāya with the Oṃkāra prefixed to it (‘Oṃ obeisance to Śiva’).”

108. On being eulogized thus, O descendant of Bharata, Mahādeva emanated from the Liṅga. Illuminating the three worlds by his brilliance, he appeared before the Brāhmaṇa and said to him:

109. “O Brāhmaṇa, O dear son, since I have been very well worshipped by you, here in this great Tīrtha, i am extremely delighted with you. Kāla is not at all the lord.

110. It was I who came to you in the form of a man. On seeing your adherence to Dharma, I am gratified that the path of virtue is being maintained by people like you.

111. With the holy waters of all the Tīrthas, the pit as well as the lake was filled by me. This highly meritorious water has been brought for your sake by me.

112. The hymn that you sang in my eulogy has the esoteric teaching of seven(?) Mantras. If this is recited or repeated, one shall get the benefit of the seven Mantras.

113. Choose from me the boon wished and thought of by you in your mind. I have been extremely delighted with you. There is nothing which cannot be given to you.”

Kālabhīti said:

114. I am blessed. I am contented since, O Śaṅkara, you are pleased. All the Dharmas become fruitful if you are satisfied. Otherwise, they are considered as involving exertion.

115. If you are satisfied, may you be pleased to be for ever present here in this Liṅga. Whatever is done at the shrine of this Liṅga—may it be of everlasting benefit.

116. May the merit of men on visiting this Liṅga be the same, O Lord, as is obtained through ten thousand repetitions of the Pañca mantras (five mantras mentioned above).

117. Since I have been liberated from the path of Kāla, O Maheśvara, let this Liṅga be well-known as Mahākāla.[11]

118. If a man takes his holy bath in this well and offers water libations to Pitṛs, let him get the benefit of all the Tīrthas. Let the Manes attain everlasting state.

119. On hearing his words thus, Śaṅkara was delighted and said: “I always reside where there is a Self-born Liṅga.

120. There are different types of Liṅgas, viz Self-born Liṅga (that one found in Narmadā and called) Bāṇa; Liṅga made of gems and jewels, made of minerals. The former ones are ten times more efficacious than the latter ones.

121. In the sky there is the Tāraka Liṅga (Liṅga made of constellations); in Pātāla there is Hāṭakeśvara and on the earth there is that Self-born Liṅga—all these three are on a par with one another.

122-124. If anything is specially requested for, it will be wholly realised. In this holy spot (offering of) flowers, fruits, Naivedya (food offerings), eulogy, charitable gifts and everything else shall be of everlasting benefit.

On the fourteenth day in the dark half of the month of Māgha, while there is Śīva Yoga, i.e. Vyatīpāta, O dear son, if a devotee takes his holy bath in the well to the east of the Liṅga and offers water libations to Pitṛs, he will attain the benefit of all the Tīrthas. The Pitṛs will have everlasting state.

125-126. He shall worship Mahākāla in every Yāma (i.e. watch of 3 hours) on that night. He who throws (holy flowers) on all the Liṅgas, shall attain the merit of keeping a holy vigil.

If a devotee conquers the sense-organs and always worships me in the Liṅga here, worldly enjoyment and liberation are not far from him, O excellent Brāhmaṇa.

127. He who takes his holy bath in the lake and worships this Liṅga on the eighth and fourteenth days in Māgha, on Mondays and on Parvan days, shall go to (i.e. attain) Śiva.

128-131. Charitable gifts, repetition of Rudra Mantras and penance—everything will be everlasting (in benefit). You will be second to Nandin as my doorkeeper with the name Mahākāla, O dear one, because you have conquered the path of Kāla.

The saintly king Karandhama[12] will come here ere long. You will preach Dharma unto him and then come to my world.”

After saying thus, Lord Rudra became merged in the middle of the Liṅga. Mahākāla rejoiced and performed a great penance there.

Thus ends (the section) of the appearance of Mahākāla.

[Note: Some editions conclude the 40th chapter here.]

Nārada said:

132-133. Then, after a lapse of some time, O son of Pṛthā, king Karandhama who was desirous of understanding excellences in pious activities, heard about the great qualities of the Tīrtha and Mahākāla’s story. Therefore, he came there, took his holy bath in the waters of Mahī and the ocean and worshipped the Liṅgas.

134. After reaching Mahākāla, he experienced great pleasure. The Lord of the people did not reach the point of satiety while looking at the excellent great Liṅga.

135. On seeing Mahākāla, he considered his life fruitful as in the case of a poor and wretched person after obtaining a pot full of valuable treasure.

136-139a. By visiting the shrine of Mahākāla one shall attain the merit of ten thousand Japas of the five Mantras. With great reverence and adoration, he worshipped, bowed down to and eulogized the excellent Liṅga and then approached Mahākāla.

Recollecting the words of Rudra, Mahākāla smilingly welcomed the king and offered due reverence and Argha (materials of worship).

After the (due preliminary) enquiries about the welfare etc. and at the end of the dialogue, the king addressed Mahākāla and spoke these words as he remained there with a calm expression on his face.

Karandhama said:

139b-143. O Holy Lord, this doubt perpetually haunts my miad. The water libation called Tarpaṇa is performed by men. The water (offered) goes into the water, but how do the ancestors become delighted and contented thereby? In this manner, the offering of rice balls etc. and the worship—everything is observed only here. How can we presume (think) that it is enjoyed by Pitṛs and others? Is it not that nothing reaches them(?) In dreams beggars are seen attacking a man. Direct visual experiences of Devas are always had- But how do they accept them? My mind is confused in this regard.

Mahākāla replied:[13]

144. The form of existence of those Pitṛs and the heaven-dwellers is of this nature. They can be talked to from afar; they can be worshipped also from afar and they can as well be eulogized from a distance.

145-147. They know the past, the present and the future. They assume the form of subtle elements. Their physical body consists of nine principles, viz. the five Tanmātras (subtle elements of sound etc.), the mind, the intellect, the ego and the Jaḍa (i.e. Prakṛti); Puruṣa is considered to be the tenth one. Therefore, they are satisfied with the subtle essence of smell, taste and sound. They take the essence of touch. They are contented on seeing a pure and clean thing. O king, there is nothing false in this.

148-149. Just as grass unto animals and food-grains unto human beings, so also the subtle essence of foodstuff forms the diet of the species of deities.

The powers of all living beings in regard to knowledge cannot be even thought of. Hence they take up the essences of the principles. The rest is seen here itself.

Karandhama asked:

150. Śrāddha is offered to Pitṛs. They are under the control of their own Karmans, whether they are stationed in heaven or in hell- How is it enjoyed by them?

151-152. (If you say) that they are stationed in heaven or in hell and are controlled by the Karmans, how are they competent to grant these boons? How is it that they are capable thereof?

May the grandfathers (ancestors) delighted with men grant longevity, progeny, wealth, learning, heaven, salvation, pleasures and kingdom.

Mahākāla answered:

153. It is true, O excellent king, that Pitṛs have to abide by their Karmans, but Devas, Asuras, Yakṣas and others are unembodied.

154. The embodied Pitṛs of the four castes are remembered as (i.e. said by scriptures to be) of seven kinds.[14] They are competent to grant everything desired and they do grant it.

155. Thirty-one groups of those Pitṛs are very powerful, O king. Śrāddha performed shall propitiate those great Pitṛs.

156. Those propitiated ones propitiate his ancestors at the place where they are stationed. In this manner Śrāddha shall be taken unto one’s own people. They grant the boons.

The king said:

157. How is it that (oblation) is not given unto Suras and others, O Brāhmaṇas, just as in the case of the Bhūtas (spirits) etc. it is given by indicating their names?

158. Why should there be elaborate offerings such as “This is to the Pitṛs, this is to the Brāhmaṇas and this is to the fire”? This involves strain of the mind, body etc.

Mahākāla replied:

159-161. Specific respectful statement should be offered always in the case of everyone. Without this relevant mark of distinction, they never accept it. A dog standing at our very door may accept whatever is offered to it. But, O king, does a very important person accept things like a dog? In this manner, Devas never accept (the offerings) like the Bhūtas. They arc very well fond of the pure ones but they do not accept the Havis offerings from one who does not have faith.

162. Those beings bereft of impurities do not accept anything offered without Mantras. Even Śruti says this, O king, in the matter of the Mantras.

163. Mantras are the deities. Whatever a learned man does with (uttering) the Mantras, does it with (i.e. through) the deities. (Whatever) he gives with Mantras gives it with deities. Whatever he accepts with Mantras, he accepts along with the deities. Hence one should not take up or accept what is (given) without Mantras.

164. Hence everything should always be given along with Mantras from the Purāṇas or the Vedas. Otherwise they will not accept it. It may go to the Bhūtas (ghosts).

The king asked:

165. How is it that charitable gift is offered along with these things, viz. Darbhas, gingelly seeds, raw rice grains and water? I wish to know the reason thereof.

Mahākāla replied:

166-168. Formerly plenty of land gifts were, made (to Pitṛs). But Daityas forcibly entered and seized them. Thereupon, Devas and Pitṛs spoke to the ūotus-borṇ (Lord): “O Lord, even as we stand watching, everything is taken away by Daityas. Accord protection against them, lest we should perish.”

169-170. Then, after pondering over this, Brahmā made the means of protection. In the case of Pitṛs, it (the gift) is accompanied by gingelly seeds; in the case of Devas it is accompanied by raw rice grains. Water and Darbhas are used in all the cases. (If it is done) like this, Asuras do not seize it. If they are given without these, the fruit thereof is appropriated by Daityas.

171. Pitṛs and Devas will heave a deep sigh (of grief) and go. The donor does not get any benefit (of the gift). Hence in all the Yugas the rite of charitable gift is performed in this manner.

Karandhama said:

172. I wish to hear the arrangement of the four Yūgas correctly.[15] I have been always entertaining this desire.

Mahākāla narrated:

173. Know that the first Yuga is Kṛta; thereafter Tretā Yuga is remembered. Then Dvūpara and Kali. Thus in brief they are four.

174. The Yuga-vṛtta (i.e. the main characteristics of the Yugas) are as follows: Kṛta Yuga is Sāttvika (i.e. people will be of Sāttvika nature). Tretā is Rājasika. Dvāpara is a mix of Rājasa and Tāmasa (i.e. people therein will have both types of nature), while Kali Yuga should be known as Tāmasika.

175. In Kṛtayuga, Dhyāna (Meditation) is the supreme thing; in the Tretā it is said to be Yajña. Good, truthful conduct in Dvāpara is supreme, while Dāna (‘charitable gift’) alone is so in Kaliyuga.

176. In Kṛta Age, creation is mental and the conduct has pleasure as the aim. The subjects are brilliant and lustrous. They are contented and always delighted and keen in the enjoyment of pleasures.

177. In Kṛta Age there was no such difference as low or high (status) among the subjects. They were all auspicious without any distinction. They have equal span of life, happiness and beauty.

178. They have no loss of happiness or affection. Nor have they any dispute or hatred or physical exhaustion. Devoted to compassion as they were, they lived on the mountains or in the sea (islands).

179-180. At that time there was no caste distinction or the discipline of the different stages in life. There was no question of mixed castes. They always meditate solely upon Śiva, the great god, and not on others. In the fourth quarter of that Age joyous conduct disappeared. Thereafter there appeared trees, horses and abodes(?)

181-182. (Those trees) yielded garments, ornaments and fruits. On the same trees was produced the excellent honey made by bees in every leafy cup. It had sweet smell, fine colour and exquisite taste. At the end of Kṛta Yuga, those subjects maintained themselves with that (honey).

183-185. The subjects grew up well-nourished and delighted. They were devoid of ailments. After a lapse of some time their sense of taste increased in intensity. In view of the nature of the Yuga, meditation on Śiva became further reduced (in frequency and depth). They seized (to extort more products from) those trees forcibly. On account of this misdemeanour on their part, actuated by the defect of greediness, those Kalpa trees were destroyed in some places along with the product of honey.

186. Even when that Sandhi (junction between the Kṛta and Tretā Yugas) was almost over with only a short period yet remaining, rivalry and disputes arose. On account of chillness and hot sunshine as well as due to mental miseries, they became extremely dejected.

187. For the sake of protective covering (shades) they made houses and abodes here and there. Thereafter, in Tretāyuga, Siddhis once again manifested to them.

188. On account of rain, fourteen types of rural and sylvan medicinal herbs and (other vegetables) grew up. Since there was (plenty of) water on the earth (the products of agriculture) ripened in unploughed land without the seeds being sown.

189. Trees, creepers and hedges grew up along with the seasonal fruits and flowers. By means of them as well as with the grains, fruits and flowers, they (people) maintained themselves.

190-191. Thereafter, lust and greediness were once again engendered in them in every respect. Taking possession of the rivers, fields and mountains and making their use with great vigour and power, they forcibly (appropriated the products of) the trees, creepers and medicinal herbs. Thereby the fourteen types of medicinal herbs and other vegetation were ruined contrary (to their expectation).

192. After bowing (?bending) down, those medicinal herbs entered the earth. The subjects were afflicted. For the sake of the welfare of all living beings, Pṛthu, the son of Vena, milked the cow (in the form of the earth).

193-198. Ever since then, medicinal herbs and other vegetables are cultivated by means of ploughshares. The subjects sustained themselves by means of agricultural occupations and were protected by Kṣatriyas. The organization of castes and stages of life and the institution of Yajña characterize Tretā Yuga. The senseless subjects abandoned salvation in the form of meditation on Sadāśiva and resorted to flowery speech. Through attachment they attained heaven.

Thereafter, in Dvāpara Yuga, different men begin to have different views and opinions mentally, verbally and physically. Agricultural and other pursuits are carried on with great difficulty. They have greediness and lack of fortitude. They abandon Śiva. There is a mixture of Dharmas (religious rites). In Dvāpara Yuga the discipline of castes and stages in life begins to be destroyed. The Vedas are divided into four by Vyāsas. One Veda is divided into four sections for the sake of Brāhmaṇas. Itihāsas and Purāṇas differ (or become many?) due to the importance of the people (lokagauravāt?)

199-202. The eighteen Purāṇas are Brāhma, Pādma, Vaiṣṇava (i.e. Viṣṇu), Śaiva, Bhāgavata, Nāradīya, Mārkaṇḍeya the seventh, Āgneya which is mentioned as the eighth, Bhaviṣya which is declared as the ninth, Brahmavaivarta which is remembered as the tenth, the Laiṅga which is the eleventh, Vārāha which is the twelfth, Skānda which is the thirteenth; Vāmana the fourteenth, Kaurma which is remembered as the fifteenth, Mātsya which is mentioned as the sixteenth, Gāruḍa the next one and Brahmāṇḍa after this.[16]

203-208. Listen to the Vyāsas in this Vārāhakalpa.[17] They are: Ṛtu, Satyabhārgava, Aṅgiras, Savitṛ, Mṛtyu, and the intelligent Śatakratu. The further ones are Vasiṣṭha, Sārasvata, Tridhāman, Vedavit, sage Trivṛta, Śatatejas who is remembered as Viṣṇu Nārāyaṇa himself, Karaka the intelligent Āruṇi, Lord Ṛtañjaya, Kṛtañjaya, Bharadvāja, Gautama, Kavisattama, sage Vājaśravas, sage Yuṣmāyaṇa. Tṛṇabindu, Ṛkṣa, Śakti, Parāśara, Jātukarṇya, sage Dvaipāyana who is Viṣṇu himself. All these, the chief of whom is Aśvatthāman. have been indicated as the future ones. The Dharmaśāstras (composed) for the sake of the world are different in Dvāpara.

209-210. The following are the Law-givers of Dharmaśāstras[18]: Manu, Atri, Viṣṇu, Hārīta, Yājñavalkya, Uśanas, Aṅgiras, Yama, Āpastaṃba, Saṃvarta, Kātyāyana, Bṛhaspati, Parāśara, Vyāsa, Śaṅkha, Likhita, Dakṣa, Gautama, Śātātapa and Vasiṣṭha.

211. After the twilight of Dvāpara, when Kaliyuga begins to function Śaiva yoga becomes extinct and Yoganandanas[19] were born.

212-216. In the first, Śvetakali, the propagator of the Śaiva cult was Rudra himself. Thereafter, the following: Sutāra, Tāraṇa, Suhotra, Kaṅkaṇa, the great sage named Loka, Jaigīṣavya, Lord Dadhivāhana, Sage Ṛṣabha, Dharma, Ugra, Atri, Sabālaka, Gautama, Vedaśīrṇa, Gokarṇa, Śikhaṇḍibhṛt, Guhāvāsī, Jaṭāmālī, Aṭṭahāsa the terrible, Lāṅgalī, Saṃyamī, Śūlī, Diṇḍī, Juṇḍīśvara himself, Sahiṣṇu, Somaśarmā, Lakulīśa of Kāyāvarohaṇa. O king, these and others are the future masters of Yoga (Yogeśvaras) in order. In Kali Yuga these will summarize the Śiva cult and expound it, O king.

217. Thus is mentioned the summary of the Śāstra (system of philosophy) in Kali age. Listen to the functioning of the Kali age which causes delight as well as anxiety.

218. In Kali age[20] men with their sense-organs overwhelmed by Tamas, begin to acquire deceit and jealousy and they will be envious of the ascetics and kill them.

219. In Kali age attachment (to worldly objects) is tormentingly overpowering. There is perpetual fear of hunger and drought. The adversity in all the countries is very terrible.

220. Śruti is not (considered) an authority, because people resort to unrighteous activities. They are impious, of improper behaviour, excessively hot-tempered and deficient in refulgence and splendour.

221-222. Greedy persons utter lies, are evil and have predominantly female progeny. On account of evil worships, wrong studies, misconducts, blasphemous scriptures and defective Karmans of the Brāhmaṇas, subjects begin to dwindle. Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas become extinct. Śūdras and Brāhmaṇas, increase (in number).

223. Śūdras sit along with Brāhmaṇas and take their food. They lie on the same bed as they (i.e. Śūdras). Śūdras conduct themselves like Brāhmaṇas and Brāhmaṇas behave like Śūdras.

224. Thieves pursue the activities of kings and kings behave like thieves. Chaste wives become rare and Abhisārikās (i.e. women going to their paramours in rendezvous) increase in number.

225. Then the earth (land) yields less fruit and other products. In some places it yields excessive fruits. Kings do not protect (the subjects). They plunder them because they are fearless on account of their sinful nature.

226. Persons not born as Kṣatriyas become rulers. Brāhmaṇas subsist on Śūdras. All the Śūdras become persons who argue, dispute and expound. They are congratulated (v.l. bowed to) by Brāhmaṇas.

227-230. On seeing Brāhmaṇas seated, persons of very deficient intellect do not begin to move (to give respect).

With great humility Brāhmaṇas keep their hand over their mouths and whisper (various) words into the ears of even a base Śūdra. Even when Brāhmaṇas are present Śūdras occupy high seats, even while they are looking on. Although a king knows this, he does not punish them. See the power of the (changed) Times.

Brāhmaṇas of meagre learning but endowed with power and fortune, embellish Śūdras with splendid white flowers and other decorations. Brāhmaṇas accept base monetary gifts from heretics.

231-232. Thereby the vilest Brāhmaṇas fall into the Ṛaurava hell which cannot be crossed. Brāhmaṇas begin to sell the fruits of their penances and Yajñas. There will be crores of such yatis (ascetics) in Kali age. People (at that time) will have less of male progeny and abundance of female children.

233. They censure Vedic statements and the subjects dealt with in the Vedas. The sacred texts composed by Śūdras themselves (will) become authorities.

234. There will be predominance of the beasts of prey and dwindling in the number of cows. There will be no purity in the holy rites of anyone, such as charitable gifts etc.

235. There will be destruction of good persons. Kings will not be adequate defenders. People will sell foodstuffs in the country. Vedic texts will be sold on the highways where four roads meet.

236-237. Young women will sell their hair in Kali age. Women will be the chief and important persons in households. They will be hard and rough as well as ill-clad in dirty garments.

They will be arrogant and greedy, swallowing much food like the evil spirits called Kṛtyās. The general public will be merchants and interested in business deals. Vāsava (Indra) will shower rain indiscriminately.

238-240. People will be beggars of many things. They will be surrounded by persons of evil activity, conduct and habit as well as heretics in false and deceptive guises. They will be interdependent. People will be undaunted in committing sinful acts. They will rob others of their gems and jewels and outrage the modesty of other men’s wives. Towards the end of the Yuga, men aged less than sixteen will beget children and girls aged twelve will bear children.

241-244. There will be thieves robbing other thieves. There will be other robbers taking away everything from these robbers. When pursuit of knowledge and holy rites cease to be in vogue, when the world becomes devoid of devout activities, worms, mice and serpents will harass and torment human beings.

O King, at that time there will be an increase in the number of those other heretics whose attitude is antagonistic to the system of castes and the discipline of the four stages in life.

In Kali age, since people will be over-fond of sinful deeds, miseries on account of children, wives etc., ruin and decay of the body and sickness will occur as a result of the Tamas quality.

Though Kali age is thus a storehouse of defects, yet listen to its great good qualities.

245-248. Persons belonging to the three Yugas, the blessed ones who perform holy rites say thus[21]: “At that time (in Kali age) human beings attain Siddhi in the course of a very short time. Those human beings who perform holy rites mentioned in Śrutis, Smṛtis and Purāṇas with faith and devotion in Kali age attain Siddhi in a short while.

Holy rites (fructify) in a period of a year in Tretā, those performed in Dvāpara require the course of a month. These benefits are attained in a day in Kali age, if an intelligent devotee performs the holy rites strenuously.

O King, in the age of Kali, persons performing the holy rites of Hari and Hara and attaining Siddhis are as many as those attaining Siddhis in the course of all the other three Yugas.

You do understand from me what is going to happen in the twenty-eighth Kali Yuga.

249-250. When three thousand two hundred ninety years elapse (pass) in Kali Yuga[22] there will be born an overlord of heroes named Śūdraka on this earth. He will be the remover of the burden of the earth. He will propitiate (the Liṅga) in the place discussed (by us) and will attain Siddhi.

251. Thereafter in the year three thousand three hundred ten of the Kali era, the kingdom of the Nandas will come into being[23] and Cāṇakya will kill them.

252-254. He will attain liberation from all the sins in the Śuklatīrtha. In the year three thousand twenty only(?) the kingdom of Vikramāditya will come into being.[24] Thanks to the grace of Durgās, he will attain Siddhis. He will redeem poor people.

Thereafter in the year three thousand one hundred there will be (a ruler) named Śaka who will remove the excessive poverty (of the people).[25]

255-256. In the year three thousand six hundred, Lord Budha (Buddha?) himself a part of Viṣṇu and protector of virtue will be born in Magadha[26] as the son of Hemasadana and Añjanī. The activities of that noble-souled person will be many.

257-260. He will slay crores of fierce persons, the chief of whom will be Jyotirbindu. He will enjoy the seven continents for sixty-four years. He will leave behind him his reputation among his devotees and will go to heaven. Since he will be superior to all other incarnations on account of his good qualities, they will speak of him as Budha the dispeller of all sins.

In the year four thousand four hundred (of Kali Era) there will be a great king named Pramiti in the line of the Moon.[27] He will be a strong leader of many armies.

261. He will slay crores of Mlecchas and all heretics. He will then revive the pure and excellent Vedic Dharma without any admixture.

262-266. That king will pass away in the middle of Gaṅgā and Yamunā.

After some time the subjects will be extremely afflicted. They will resort to terrible holy rites with knavish tendency. They will be unbridled. They will be extremely greedy. They will join in groups and attack one another. They will be excited and afflicted with great strain.

When the holy rites laid down in Śrutis and Smṛtis become extinct, they will be killed by one another. They will be unruly and transgressers of the norms of propriety. They will be devoid of mercy, affection and bashfulness. They will be short in stature. Even at the age of twenty-five, they will forsake their houses and wives. Grief-stricken and agitated in their sense organs, they will be moving crying aloud “Alas! Alas”! Struck and harassed by (repeated) absence of rain, they will become miserable and will abandon their cultivation and other activities.

267. Leaving off their own country-parts they will resort to the borderlands, river-banks, seashores and mountains.

268. They will be in wretched and dejected states. They will sustain themselves by means of raw flesh, roots and fruits. They will be clad in bark garments or hides of deer. They will be devoid of possessions and devoid of holy rites.

269. Śālva, the Mleccha will destroy all abodes of pious activities. He will be the perpetrator of terrible deeds without caring for the superior, middling and inferior statuses.

270-272. In order to kill him, Viṣṇu, the Lord of the universe, himself, O excellent king, will be born as the son of Viṣṇuyaśas[28] in (the village of) Śaṃbhala. Surrounded by excellent Brāhmaṇas, he will slay Śālva after slaying crores, billions and one hundred millions of sinners.

He will protect that Dharma which keeping the Veda in front closely follows it.

273. After carrying out many noble tasks Parameśvara (the Supreme Lord) will make a boat in the form of Dharma on behalf of good people. He will then go to the other world.

274-276. Then, O King, Kṛta Yuga will begin to function once again. The first Kṛta Yuga is superior to the others.

The twenty-eighth Kali will begin to function from the other (?) Then in the Kṛta Yuga the solar race and the lunar race will function from the Maru king and Devāpi. Brāhmaṇas will originate from Śrutadeva.

Thus, O king, is the arrangement of the four Yugas. In all the four Yugas those are blessed who worship Hara and Acyuta.

Footnotes and references:


Mbh, Sabhā 10.34 merely mentions Mahākāla, an attendant of Śiva, as being a member of the assembly of Kubera. SkP supplies his history here.


The complete Mantra is:

tat-puruṣāya vidmahe mahādevāya dhīmahi 
|tan no rudraḥ pracodayāt ||

It is in Taittirīya Āraṇyaka, Mahānārāyaṇīya Up. 17.4. The five Mantras of this Up. 17.1-5 form the basic Pāśupata Sūtras on which Kauṇḍinya wrote a lucid Bhāṣya. Bloomfield gives 3-1a, 2a, 3a, 4.15a, 17.4a as the 5 Mantras.


An example of Ananvaya alaṅkāra.


The whole episode shows how caste-system had become hardened at the time of SkP.


Such double entendre about Śiva is used in Kedārakhaṇḍa 22.50-33, KK, Supra 25.57-67.


Much of what follows is obscure.


Cf. BG. XIV. 18.


The eulogy echoes Rudrādhyāya from Taitt. Saṃhitā IV.v.


It should be Vāmadeva as per serial order in Śruti. Our text gives Īśāna, Tatpuruṣa, Aghora, Sadyojāta and Vāmadeva as the order of the Mantras designating the heads of Rudra.


Cf. RV VII. 59.12, Vāj. Saṃhitā 3.60, Tait. Saṃhitā


The temple of Mahākāla stands on the bank of the Lake Mādalā and the building is like Kumāreśvara and Staṃbheśvara temples.


Karandhama—A king of Ikṣvāku race. Son of Khaninetra and father of Avikṣit. His original name was Suvarcas. But once when surrounded alone by armies of hostile kings, he created an army by the clapping of his hands and defeated the enemy. Thenceforth, he became famous as Karandhama (Mbh, Āśvamedhika 4.2-19).


VV 144-171 give a brilliant explanatory defence of the rites called Tarpaṇa and Śrāddha in the dialogue between Karandhama and Mahākāla.


Cf. RV VI.22.2. Probably the author follows Manu (III. 195-197) and gives the following list of Pitṛs: (1) Somasads (of sādhyas), (2) Agniṣvāttas (of Devas), (3) Barhīṣads (of Gandharvas and demigods), (4) Somapās (of Brāhmaṇas), (5) Havirbhuj (of Kṣatriyas), (6) Ājyapas (of Vaiśyas) and (7) Sukālins (of Śūdras). SkP VI.216.9-10 adds (8) Raśmipas and (9) Upahūtas.


The topic of Yugas, though not logically connected with Śrāddha is included here. Yugas—A description of their characteristics, the gradual deterioration of physical, mental capacities, and moral conducts of the people from Kṛta to Kali form an important topic in many Purāṇas e.g. VāP 32, 58, 59, MtP 142-145, BdP 27-34. Pnrāṇic description of the evolution of the present food-growing economy from the old food-gathering economy with equality of all men in the Kṛta age is interesting.


Vāyu Purāṇa is not included in this list.


The belief that in every Dvāpara, a Vyāsa is born to arrange the floating Vedic hymns in to four Saṃhitās is found in other Purāṇas such as VP 111.3, BhP I. 4.24-25, KP 1.52, VāP 23.107-213 where the 28 incarnations of Śiva are co-ordinated with the Vyāsas. The names of the Vyāsas are also different in different Purāṇic lists. For example, in BdP we find Svayaṃbhū (Brahmā), Prajāpati, Uśanas, Bṛhaspati, Sanadvāja, Antarīkṣa, Dharma, and Ṛjīṣa—which are not included in the SkP list. KP I.52 gives Ṛṣabha, Sutejas, Sucakṣu, Nārāyaṇa and Vālmīki, who do not find a place in the SkP and BdP lists. The latter gives a list of 32 Vyāsas, though avowedly it is of 28 Vyāsas.


The author has given an old list, as Devala Smṛti is not included herein. This does not mean that Devala Smṛti did not exist at the time of the author of SkP or the author did not know it. As the notes show, SkP quotes a number of verses from that Smṛti which Aparārka positively states to be quotations from Devala.


This list of Yoganandanas or Teachers of Śaivism, though called “future”, precede the SkP. Most of these are mythological persons except Lakulīśa who was born at Kāyāvarohaṇa or Kāyarohaṇa near Debhoi in Gujarat. He is the founder of the Pāśupata sect. His Pāśupata-sūtras commented upon by Kauṇḍiṇya have been published at Trivendrum. A comparison of this list with that in VāP I.23 shows that the lists, with the exception of Bhṛgu, Vālī and Dāruka of VāP are identical.


Almost all Purāṇas and Mbh depict a disconcerting picture of the Kali Age, e.g. Mbh, Vana Chs. 188, 190; Śānti 69.80-97; BhP XII. 1, 2; VP VI.1; VāP I.58.30-70. There are many verses common in these descriptions of different Purāṇas. R.C. Hazra states that such was the actual condition of the Hindu Society after Aśoka and before 200 C.E. (Puranic Records on Hindu Rites and Customs). But the description is applicable even today and as such is prophetic.


Good points of Kaliyuga, prompt results of good actions are described in vv 245-248.


In C.E. 1986, Kali Era is 5087. Hence this Śūdraka must have lived in C.E. 188-189 in the reign of Rudrasiṃha I of Kṣatrapa dynasty. In The Age of Imperial Unity (BVB Vol. II, p. 264) he, i.e. Śūdraka is regarded as a legendary figure and not a historical person.


Inscriptional and other evidence shows 3101 B.C. as the beginning of Kali Age. The Author is ill-informed on this point. Kali Age 3310=C.E. 209. But Nanda dynasty was founded in 364 B.C. (vide chronology in The Age of Imperial Untiy, pp. 31-35). If we accept that Megasthenes, the Greek Ambassador, was at the Court of Pāṭaliputra of Candragupta I of the Gupta dynasty and not Candragupta Maurya, the date of N anda must be shifted back by centuries.


Kali Age began in 3101 B.C. 3020 years after Kali means C.E. 81 as the beginning of Vikrama Saṃvat!


This means the Śaka Era began in 1 B.C. (beginning of Kali Age 3101-3100 Kali). If the Purāṇa means Śālivāhana Śaka it began in C.E. 78.


This Budha is not Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The Purāṇa author puts Budha’s birth in C.E. 499 (3600 after Kali, i.e. 3600-3101 B.C. =499) which is unhistorical. The names of his parents too are not the same as those of Gautama Buddha, the great promulgator of Ahiṃsā, and a recluse is credited with slaying crores of people.


The date of Pramati comes to C.E. 1299 (4400 after the Kali—3101 B.C., the beginning of Kali age). History does not know such a king. Some scholars try to identify him with Candragupta II of Gupta dynasty, but the dates conflict.


This incarnation of Viṣṇu is mentioned in VāP, MtP and BdP. Some scholars identify him with King Viṣṇuvardhana (Yaśovarman) of Mandsore and some with Candragupta II. But the dates of the Incarnation of Viṣṇu and of these kings do not tally.

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