The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Krishna beheads Barbarika: Greatness of Guptakshetra Concluded which is chapter 66 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 sixty-sixth chapter of the Kaumarika-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 66 - Kṛṣṇa beheads Barbarīka: Greatness of Guptakṣetra Concluded

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sūta said:

1 -2. Thereafter, when the thirteenth year in the stipulated period was over, when at Upaplava[1] (a suburb of Virāṭanagara), all the kings gathered together, Pāṇḍavas, the mighty warriors, stood in Kurukṣetra ready for battle. The Kauravas too with Duryodhana as their leader, stood there.

3. Yudhiṣṭhira heard through his men, the number of chariots and charioteers (told) by Bhīṣma in the midst of kings and then spoke these words:

4. “O Kṛṣṇa, chariots and charioteers were described by Bhīṣma. Thereafter, Duryodhana asked thus of his own leading warriors:

5. ‘Who, within what period of time, can kill these Pāṇḍavas along with their armies?’ Bhīṣma promised that he would do it in a month. Kṛpa too promised so.

6. Droṇa said that he would do it in a fortnight. Aśvatthāmā, the son of Droṇa, said that he would defeat them in battle within ten days. Karṇa who used to instil fear in me always, said that he would do it in six days.

7. Therefore, I too ask you, my own people, ‘Who, within what time limit can kill (the enemies)?’”

On hearing these words of the king, Phālguna spoke these words:

8. “What has been promised by Bhīṣma and others is highly improper, O Yudhiṣṭhira. Any (pre-)judgment about victory and defeat is futile and false.

9. See the tigers among men, the kings who stand ready for battle on your side. They are on a par with Kāla (‘the god of Death’). They are unassailable.

10-11. Have a look at them, namely, Drupada, Virāṭa, Dhṛṣṭaketu, Kaikaya, Sahadeva, Sātyaki, Cekitāna, the invincible Dhṛṣṭadyumna, Ghaṭotkaca of great prowess along with his son, Bhīma and others, the wielders of great bows, and Keśava the unconquered one.

12-14. I think I can kill this army of the Kauravas single-handed.

Many charioteers (i.e. warriors who can fight from chariots) beginning with Bhīṣma are seen standing ready. But you need not be afraid of them. They are worthless and feeble like deer.

With the sound of our bows, O descendant of Bharata, now itself the Kauravas will flee like deer afraid of a lion.

15. What fear need be entertained there from Bhīṣma, an old man, from Droṇa and Kṛpa, old Brāhmaṇas, from the son of Droṇa, childish and a simpleton, and from the wicked son of the charioteer (i.e. Karṇa)?

16. Or if you wish to know for your own mental satisfaction, O descendant of Bharata, listen to my words that are addressed against the armies of the enemies:

17. Let all those mighty warriors stand there in battle. I single-handed shall, in a single day, slay all the Kauravas accompanied by their armies.”

18. On hearing these words of Arjuna, Dāmodara said smilingly, “What Phālguna says is true. It is never false.”

19. Thereupon hundreds of conchs, wardrums and kettledrums (were sounded). Stopping them, Barbarīka who was seated in the midst of kings, spoke these words:

20. “Let what is said by him be heard by the person by whom penance has been performed in Guptakṣetra, by whom the.goddesses have been propitiated very well and whose strength of arms is unparalleled.

21. O rulers of men, listen to the truthful words I speak compatible with my prowess but not out of arrogance.

22. I do not put up with what has been promised by my noble-souled sire Arjuna. Those words, even this (time-limit), is a great wastage of time.

23. All of you stand by along with Arjuna and Keśava. Within one Muhūrta I shall despatch everyone beginning with Bhīṣma to the abode of Yama.

24. While I stand erect, O Kṣatriyas, no one should take up any weapon. Let it be a solemn vow on your own Dharma. When I am dead, it (the weapons) can very well be taken up.

25-27. See the prowess of my arms that I have acquired through the propitiation of the goddess. (It is due to) the greatness of Guptakṣetra and the devotion to the Pāṇḍavas.

Have a look at my frightful bow and the inexhaustible quivers as well as the sword given by the goddess. Therefore, (on the strength of these) I speak these words.”

On hearing those words of his, the Kṣatriyas were surprised. Arjuna became ashamed and so he looked at Kṛṣṇa with a side glance.

28-29. Kṛṣṇa spoke these great words to Phālguna in a delicate (smooth) tone: “What the son of Ghaṭotkaca says is what is useful to us. This wonderful news is heard that formerly Pālāśī who had been accompanied by nine crores (of Rākṣasas) was killed in a moment by him in Pātāla.”

30. Arjuna then, said to him, “Let us ask him now: ‘By what means do you (say that you can) kill the Kauravas in a few minutes? Tell us.’ Let him be asked.”

31-34. Thereupon the leader of the Yādavas (i.e. Kṛṣṇa) spoke to the son of Ghaṭotkaca:

“How will you kill in a moment the army that is well protected by Bhīṣma, Droṇa, Kṛpa, Aśvatthāmā, Karṇa, Duryodhana and others—an army that cannot be conquered even by the three-eyed Lord Śiva. This is a great surprise which arises from your words, O grandson of Bhīma, to all the kings and to the intelligent Phālguna. Therefore, tell me, by what means will you slay the Kauravas in a few moments? After knowing the power of your means, let us also think about it.”

Sūta said:

35-40a. On being asked thus by Vāsudeva, the Lord of all living beings, Barbarīka spoke out. He had the chest like a lion. He resembled a huge mountain. He was bedecked in different kinds of ornaments. His face resembled a pot. The sound of his laughter resembled the sound from a pot. The hair on his head stood up. He had great refulgence. His eyes shone like lightning streaks. He had the velocity of the wind. If he wished he could destroy the universe. He had unparalleled strength granted by the goddess. He spoke out thus, “O warriors, if you are inclined to see the means (to be) used, I shall exhibit it. All of you together with Keśava witness it.”

After saying thus he strung his bow and hurriedly fitted the arrow thereto. The entire portion of the dart was filled with ash resembling saffron. The ash fell on the soldiers of both the armies exactly on the vulnerable spot. (If they were hit there they would die instantaneously.)

40b-43. The ash fell[2] on the hair of Bhīṣma; on the neck of Karṇa and Droṇa; on the thigh of Duryodhana; on the chest of Śalya; the brilliant ash fell on the necks of Śakuni and Bhagadatta; on the sole of the foot of Kṛṣṇa; on the necks of Drupada and Matsya; on the hip of Śikhaṇḍin; on the neck of the commander-in-chief of the army (Dhṛṣṭadyumna). The red ash fell on the vulnerable spot of everyone. But the ash did not touch the Pāṇḍavas, Kṛpa and Aśvatthāmā.

44-46. After doing thus, Barbarīka spoke once again: “Was this noticed by you all how the vulnerable spot was located by me? Now I shall discharge sharp arrows on the vulnerable spots of these, the arrows that will never fail, the arrows that the goddess granted me. Thereby, they will die in a moment. There is a solemn oath on the Svadharma—your own Dharma. No weapon should be taken up by any of you. I shall make these enemies fall down (dead) within a short while by means of these sharp arrows.”

47. Then there arose a loud sound of ‘Well done! Well done!’ as everyone beginning with Yudhiṣṭhira began to praise with his mind struck with surprise.

48. The infuriated son of Vasudeva cut off his head even as he was saying thus, by means of his sharp discus. It fell down.

49. The entire circle of kings became frightened and distressed for a moment. They looked at Keśava in great surprise.

50. They said: “What is this? Why was Barbarīka killed?” The Pāṇḍavas shed tears along with the kings.

51. Lamenting ‘Alas! my son!’ and faltering in his steps the pitiable Ghaṭotkaca swooned and fell over his son.

52-54. In the meantime, the fourteen goddesses came there, viz. Siddhāṃbikā, Kroḍamātā, Kapālī, Tārā, Suvarṇā, Trilokajetrī, Bhāṇeśvarī, Carcikā, Ekavīrā, Yogeśvarī, Caṇḍikā, Traipurā, Bhūtāṃbikā and Harasiddhi. They came and stood there causing, great surprise to the kings. Śrī Caṇḍikā consoled Ghaṭotkaca and spoke these words in a loud tone:

55. “Listen ye all kings why the mighty Barbarīka was slain, by Kṛṣṇa who knows his own mind.

56. Formerly, while the Heaven-dwellers (Devas) assembled on the top of mount Meru, the Earth who had been over-burdened requested them, “May the burden on me be removed.”

57. Thereupon, Brahmā said to Viṣṇu, “O Lord, listen to this. The Devas will follow you. O Lord, remove the burden of the Earth.”

58-61. Thereupon, the immutable Viṣṇu accepted that request, saying “So be it”.

In the meantime, a Yakṣa leader named Sūryavarcas, lord of eighty-four crores, lifted his hand and spoke loudly: “What for do you promise to take birth in the human world which is a receptacle of many defects (and that too) while I am alive? All of you may rejoice in the heavenly worlds along with Viṣṇu. I alone shall incarnate and kill these people who become burden to the Earth. There is a solemn oath on your Dharma, if you take up birth.”

62-65. When he spoke these words, the infuriated Brahmā spoke to him: “O evil-minded one, you say that you can accomplish (the removal of) the great burden unbearable to all the Devas. It is only due to your delusion. O childish fellow, you are worthy of being cursed. Without pondering over what is relevant to the time and place, one’s own power and that of the enemy, if anyone says anything in the midst of lords and masters, he deserves punishment. Hence at the start of the battle for the purpose of removing the burden, you will undoubtedly meet with the destruction of your body at the hands of Kṛṣṇa.”

On being cursed thus by Brahmā, he requested Viṣṇu as follows:

66. “If my death must occur thus, O Lord, I make a single request. Grant me an intellect that accomplishes all tasks, ever since my birth.”

67. “So be it”, said Keśava in the assembly of the Devas. “People will worship your head. You will be worthy of being adored by goddesses.”

68-69. After saying this, Hari took his incarnation along with the Devas then. This Kṛṣṇa is indeed that Hari and all of you those Suras. The son of Bhīma’s son who is killed (now) is Sūryavarcas. It was on remembering the earlier curse of Brahmā that he was killed by this noble-souled (Kṛṣṇa). Hence Kṛṣṇa should not be found fault with by all the kings.”

Śrīkṛṣṇa said:

70-72. O king, what is said by the goddess is true. There is no doubt about it. If I had not killed him now, the words of Brahmā would have been falsified. Remembering this, he has been struck down by me. At Guptakṣetra it was by me alone that he was engaged in the recollection (i.e. meditation) of the goddess, since I remembered the boon granted formerly by myself in the assembly of the Devas.

73. When this was told, goddess Caṇḍikā sprinkled the head of the devotee (i.e. Barbarīka) with nectar immediately and made it unageing and immortal

74. It was immortal like the head of Rāhu. Then that head bowed down to them and said: “I wish to see the battle. Let it be permitted.”

75-79. Thereupon, with words majestic in tone like thunder, Lord Kṛṣṇa spoke thus: “As long as the earth, the stars, the moon and the sun exist, O dear one, you will remain worthy of being adored by all the people and all the worlds. You will move about like the goddess in all the worlds of the Devīs. You will offer abode to your devotees in the worlds of the Devīs. On being worshipped, you will easily remove the tumours, swellings etc. of children caused by gas, phlegm and bile. Climb on to this peak and witness the battle when it begins. The Kauravas rush at us Let us rush at them.”

When this was said by Vāsudeva, the Devīs entered the sky.

80-83. The head of Barbarīka went up the peak of the mountain. The purificatory rites were performed on the earth for the body alone and not for the head.

Then a great battle took place between the armies of the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas.

Droṇa, Karṇa and others were killed within eighteen days. When at the close of the eighteenth day the cruel Duryodhana was killed, Yudhiṣṭhira spoke to Govinda in the midst of the kinsmen: “O Puruṣottama, we are able to survive this battle only because of you as the (the protector and) leader. O Hari, O Puruṣottama, obeisance to you!”

On hearing his words, Bhīma spoke these words disdainfully:

84. “O king, it was I who destroyed all the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra. But you have excluded me. Why do you, like a deluded person, speak of Kṛṣṇa as the best among men.

85. You speak (highly) of a charioteer after disregarding Dhṛṣṭadyumna, Phālguna, Sātyaki and me, O son of Pāṇḍu. Fie upon you, O Yudhiṣṭhira!”

Arjuna said:

86-87. Don’t, don’t say thus, O Bhīma. You do not know Janārdana. Neither by me, nor by you nor by anyone else, O son of Pṛthā, have the enemies been killed. I used to see a Nara (‘man’) always at the head of the battle-front killing the enemies there. I don’t know who he was.

Bhīma said:

88. You are mistaken and stupefied certainly, O son of Pṛthā. There is no other person as the slayer here. If at all there is one, I shall ask your grandson staying at the top, Alas, as to who it was.

89. Thereafter, Bhīma approached Barbarīka and asked him, “Say, by whom were these enemies, the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra killed?”

Barbarīka said:[3]

90-94. One man was seen by me fighting with the enemies. On the left side he had five faces and oṇ the right side he had only one face. On the left, he had ten hands holding trident and other weapons aloft; on the right he had four hands holding discus and other weapons aloft. On the left he was having matted hair; On the right, a large crown. On the left side, he had smeared ash and on the right he had applied sandal paste. On the left he wore the moon and on the right there was the lustre of Kaustubha jewel. On seeing him even I was frightened much. Such a man and ṇo other person, who killed them (the enemies) was seen by me.

When this was said there was a shower of flowers of very great lustre from the sky.

95. The divine musical instruments were sounded. They said, “Well done! Well done!” The sons of Pāṇḍu became surprised. They bowed down to Puruṣottama.

96-99a. Bhīma became ashamed and heaved deep sighs. Lord Keśava took a firm hold of his hands and said, “O tiger among the descendants of Kuru, come.” After saying this he remembered Garuḍa, the son of Kaśyapa. As he (i.e. Garuḍa) approached the moment he was remembered, he (Kṛṣṇa) mount-ed Garuḍa accompanied by Bhīma. They went through the sky to the southern quarter. They crossed the sea and the great mountain Suvela. On seeing a lake near Laṅkā, Kṛṣṇa spoke these words:

99b-104. “O tiger among the descendants of Kuru, see this lake extending to twelve Yojanas. If you are a bold warrior, quickly fetch some mud from its bottom.”

On being told thus, the mighty one immediately leapt down into the water. With the speed of wind he went down a Yojana and still did not see the bottom thereof. Disappointed and with shattered strength, Bhīma came out and said: “This great lake is fathomless. I was well nigh eaten up by some powerful fellows. Somehow I came out.”

On being told thus, Kṛṣṇa laughingly lifted up the great lake. The refulgent Lord lifted it up with his thumb. It was reduced to a fourth of its original size. On seeing this, (Bhīma) was surprised. He said, “O Kṛṣṇa, what is this? tell me.”

Śrīkṛṣṇa said:

105. Formerly there was a demon well-known as Kuṃbhakarṇa. He was killed by the arrows of Rāma and the head of the evil-minded fellow was cut off.

106. This is a piece of its palate(?), O Vṛkodara. It has an extent of twelve Yojanas. It is soft and shattered. It has been cast all round.

107-108. Those by whom you were held up are the Suras(?) called Sarogeya who had been crushed into powder in crores by the rocks of Trikūṭa. They were the enemies of the universe and were killed by means of stratagem. O Bhīma, we shall go back to the Pāṇḍavas. The son of Droṇa is certainly in a hurry.

109-113. Then Bhīma bowed down and said: “O Keśava, forgive all the evils committed by us ever since birth, mentally, verbally and intellectually. O Puruṣottama. O Lord, be pleased with me (who had been) childish.” Then Hari said, “It is forgiven.” He went back to the battlefield accompanied by Bhīma and spoke these words to Barbarīka:

“O Suhṛdaya, always move about like this in all the worlds. You will be worshipped by all the worlds. Grant them the boons chosen by them. This Guptakṣetra which is the most excellent among all the excellent holy spots should never be abandoned. Residing in Dehisthalī[4] (? modern Delhi) forgive the evil actions committed by them.”

On being told thus, the son of Ghaṭotkaca bowed down to them and went away joyously to move about as he pleased.

114-115. Vāsudeva made them perform all the subsequent (funeral) rites.

Thus, O Brāhmaṇa, the origin of Barbarīka has been expounded to you. I shall say out a prayer whereby the king of Yakṣas will be delighted.

Prayer to Sūryavarcas (Barbarika [Barbarīka?])[5]

“Be victorious, be victorious, O Lord with eighty-four crores of attendants, named Sūryavarcas! O king of Yakṣas, be victorious! O Lord who has determined to remove the burden of the Earth, who was born in the womb of a demoness on account of a minor curse, be victorious! O royal swan born of the belly of Kāmakaṭaṅkaṭā, be. victorious! O Lord who increased the delight of Ghaṭotkaca and is named Barbarîka, be victorious! O Lord who attained incomparable vigour and vitality by means of the propitiation of the goddess at Guptakṣetra as advised by Kṛṣṇa, be victorious! O bestower of Siddhi on Vijaya, be victorious! O Lord who resembled the forest fire in consuming Piṅgalā, Repalendra, Duhadruhā and Pālāśī, the Lord of nine crores (of attendants), be victorious! O Lord who avoided the serpent-maidens in the intervening space between Bhūmī and Pātāla, be victorious! O Lord who suppressed the pride of Bhīma, be victorious! O Lord who exerted himself in slaying the entire army of the Kauravas in a short while, be victorious! O Lord who acquired the ability to grant boons unto all dus to the boon got from Śrīkṛṣṇa, be victorious! Be victorious, O Lord saluted by the age of Kali! Obeisance! Obeisance to you! Save, save [me].”

116. With this prayer, a devotee should worships Suhṛdaya, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, on the new-moon day in the month of Śrāvaṇa or on the thirteenth day in the dark half of Vaiśākha. He should worship with a hundred lamps, Pūrikās (‘fried pancakes’) as food offerings and then eulogize him. He will be delighted with the devotee.

117. Then the Brāhmaṇas and Nārada propitiated Maheśvara and installed Śaṅkara at the holy place Mahīnagaraka.

118. For the benefit of all the worlds, he installed the excellent Kedāra Liṅga in the northern part of Atrīśa. It is destructive of great sins.

119-122a. A man should take his bath in the Kuṇḍa here and perform Śrāddha in accordance with the injunctions. After bowing down to Atrīśa, he should visit. Kedāra. He will never drink a mother’s milk thereafter. He will attain liberation.

Then Rudra Nīlakaṇṭha granted a boon to the noble-souled Nārada. After granting the boon, he himself remained in the splendid Mahīnagaraka.

One should take bath in Koṭitīrtha and visit Nīlakaṇṭha. After bowing down to Jayāditya, he shall attain Rudra’s world.

122b-123. The excellent men who take bath in the well and worship Jayāditya will never meet with the extinction of their family, by the favour of Jayāditya. There will never be ailments, poverty or stigma in their family.

124. They will be endowed with sons and grandsons, wealth and food-grains. After enjoying many pleasures here, they reside in the world of the Sun-god.

125. Thus, O Brāhmaṇa, the Guptakṣetra has been succinctly described by me. Its extent was formerly mentioned by the Self-born Lord as seven Krośas (i.e. 7x3 kilometres). This holy spot is the bestower of all desired objects.

126. Thus, this sacred Mahī-Sāgara-Saṅgama has been extolled to you.[6] One who listens to this or glorifies this is liberated from all sins.


127. A scholar who narrates this great and excellent glory (of this holy place) shall be freed from all sins and will go to Rudraloka.

128. If anyone narrates completely the greatness of Guptakṣetra, he attains all riches. He dispels the sin of the slaughter of a Brāhmaṇa.

129. He who listens to or narrates the greatness of Koṭitīrtha and Mahīnagaraka becomes capable of realizing Brahman.

130. If a man takes his bath in Koṭitīrtha, performs Śrāddha elaborately and offers charitable gifts in accordance with his ability, listen from me (as) to his merit.

131. That merit is obtained by men which one gets after offering charitable gifts in all the holy spots that are in heaven nether worlds and the mortal world.

132-133. In Koṭitīrtha, O Brāhmaṇa, there is no doubt that one gets that Puṇya (merit) which is obtained by means of Yajñas beginning with horse-sacrifice, by means of sacrifices with due monetary gifts as well as by performing all holy rites and penances.

134. This is sacred. This always yields merit. It imparts fame; dispels sins. It is greater than the greatest. The man who listens to it with devotion attains merit. When he dies, he goes to the same world as Rudra.

135. It is conducive to wealth and fame. It is invariably meritorious. It yields heavenly pleasures and salvation. It dispels the sins of men. The man who is always pure and listens to this passes beyond the Sun and goes to the region of Viṣṇu.

:: End of Kaumārikākhaṇḍa::

Footnotes and references:


Upaplava—Spelt also as Upaplavya. It was a suburb of Virāṭa’s capital. Pāṇḍavas stayed here after their Ajñātavāsa (‘living incognito’) for war preparations etc. (Mbh, Virāṭa 72.14 etc.). Virāṭa’s capital is located 105 miles south of Delhi and 40 miles north of Jaipur (De 38).


VV 40b-43 pinpoint the vulnerable parts of warriors of both sides in the Bhārata war. The actual vulnerable points mentioned in Mbh are enumerated here in a prophetic vein.


VV 90-94—an attempt to synthesize Vaiṣṇavism and Śaivīsm by combining Hari and Hara in one person.


Dehisthalyām—interpreted by the editor of Venk. Press as Dehalyām ‘In Delhi’. This is probably an interpolated verse. If authentic, it shows the late date of the Purāṇa.


VV 114-124—The prayer of Barbarīka (Sūryavarcas) and a brief guidance for performing the pilgrimage of Guptakṣetra. Its area is stated to be seven Yojanas.


VV 126-135—Phalaśruti verses. The benefits accruing from telling or listening of KK.

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