The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Description of Various Holy Places at Arunacala which is chapter 6 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 sixth chapter of the Arunacala-khanda (Purvardha) of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 6 - Description of Various Holy Places at Aruṇācala

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: This chapter tries to enhance the importance of Aruṇācala by showing in it the concentration of all important Tīrthas in the world. These Tīrthas are located on the way of the Parikramā or circumambulation of Aruṇācala.

Gautama said:

1. Once upon a time, formerly, in another Kalpa, Nārāyaṇa was lying on his serpent couch in the vast ocean and he did not wake up.

2. The eternal Sūris (i.e. great sages) saw that even at the end of the Kalpa the universe was enveloped in darkness, lying concealed and featureless. They were deeply grieved at this.

3. ‘Alas! the form of this darkness enchants and deludes the entire universe whereby even now at the end of the Kalpa, Viṣṇu does not get up.

4. When the perfect luminous Puruṣa cannot be seen, how can Suras get peace from the darkness that attacks (them)?’

5. After resolving thus in their mind they thought of the Lord of Umā, the Lord of Devas, the unsullied mass of refulgence, stationed in the Ātman.

6. Then Lord Maheśvara, the mass of refulgence, became pleased. He was requested to protect the universe by the eternal wise sages who bowed down.

7. Then thirty-three crores of Devas emanating from the rays of the flames of Śaṃbhu in the fiery form came forth.

8. On being awakened by all the Devas, the Lord of Ramā got up, found that it had completely dawned and thought thus in his mind:

9. ‘Since Tamas (i.e. darkness) had predominated I slept at a wrong time. For the sake of waking me up Sadāśiva himself, the great luminary, had to be seen.

10. He himself attempts to carry out the duties of creation of the universe. What other function has to be carried out by me in this matter or by the Self-born Lord Brahmā?

11. Fie upon me who remained ignorant of the Ātman, with the mind overpowered by sleep! I shall seek refuge in Śaṅkara, the maker of all.

12. The vision of Śaṃbhu quells all defects. It bestows all the desired benefits. It is sacred. It is difficult for the persons deficient in merit to get it.’

13. Meditating thus on Sadāśiva, the fiery Liṅga stationed in the Ātman, Hari devoutly bowed to the Lord frequently with the eight limbs (touching the ground).

14-20. Then Śaṃbhu in the form of refulgence, the Lord who was worthy of being sought refuge in, blessed (Lord Viṣṇu) who had sought refuge, by means of benign glances and spoke to him, “Get up.”

After getting up, he eulogized Śaṃbhu, the Lord who had created the universe, who dispelled sins, who was full of mercy and who had the crescent moon on his crest:

“Obeisance to the Lord of the three worlds, to the Lord who has three forms corresponding to the three Gūṇas. Obeisance to you with the body of the three Devas, to the Lord with three eyes, to the enemy of the three Puras.

You alone are the Lord of all worlds. You perform all acts through your own parts in the forms of Devas, by way of cause and effect.

You have engaged me in the act of protecting the universe, but you have deluded me by means of the Māyā. But you do not wish to eschew the defect (of Māya) or even the intention (viz. my assignment of protecting the world).

What shall I do? I have placed all the burden on you, the Lord having the universe for your form. You do not wish to find fault with me for this untimely sleep. O Hara, O Śaṃbhu, remove the agony and distress of Hari.” On seeing Han’s distress thus, the glorious Hara directed the expiation for Hari in this form:

21-24. “I stay on the surface of the earth in the form of Aruṇācala. Merely by visiting it, your Tamas will be destroyed.

To a previous Viṣṇu a boon had been granted by me formerly. It was at that time itself that this fiery Liṅga named Aruṇācala (came into being). For the purpose of protecting the worlds this effulgent form has become subdued and quiescent, since it is unmanifest and fiery as well as it has unlimited wealth of good qualities. Since it is internally fiery in form, the waters of the rivers, streams and those shed by clouds are seen merging with it.

25-26. It abides as the bestower of all Siddhis—such as regaining eyesight to the blind, the ability to walk on (one’s own) feet to the lame, begetting a son to the childless, ability to talk (fluently) to the dumb, conferment of all types of siddhis, dispelling all ailments and quelling of all sins.”

27. After saying this, Śaṃbhu vanished. Hari came to Aruṇācala, performed penance and adored Śoṇācala.

28. After surveying the mountain all round, Hari made the Suras resort to the forests. He established the sacred hermitages of the sages. He established the Vedas along with their ancillary subjects and Upaniṣads all round, causing them to take up physical forms.

29. He created a hundred families of celestial damsels with divine beautiful form and commanded them: “You serve (the Lord) by means of dances, songs, and instruments of music.”

30. After taking his holy dip in the Brahma lake, the lotuseyed Viṣṇu circumambulated the mountain Aruṇācala that was worshipped (by him).

31. He became free from sins and acquired the overlordship of all the worlds. He is always accompanied by Ramā who is beautiful, delightful and suitable to him.

32. On the advice of Brahmā, Bhāskara (i.e. the Sun-god) who is a mass of refulgence but who was harassed by Asuras, devoutly worshipped the Lord of Aruṇācala.

33. After plunging into the sanctifying pure Tīrtha created by Brahmā, he circumambulated Aruṇācala, the Lord himself.

34. After gaining victory over all the Daityas and (the privilege of) circumambulating Meru, he gained supreme refulgence that destroys the brilliance of enemies.

35. Somā (i.e. the Moon-god) overpowered by the fire of Dakṣa’s curse, worshipped Aruṇācala and regained his (original) form on the strength of Śiva’s words.

36. Agni (the Fire-god) was afflicted with tuberculosis on account of the curse of a Brāhmaṇa sage. Although he was impure, he became pure due to the service he rendered to Aruṇācala.

37-40. Formerly Śakra had killed Vṛtra, Bala, Pāka, Namuci and the haughty Jaṃbha, the Daityas who had obtained boons from Śiva and become lords of the worlds. So he became exhausted due to sins and resorted to the objective of the world (viz. Śiva). He propitiated Śiva by means of penance. Directed by Śiva, he worshipped Aruṇācala. Thus the Lord of Suras became absolved of sins. He propitiated Śaṅkara by the performance of a horse-sacrifice. After attaining the position of Indra, the glorious Śakra directed a group of one hundred celestial damsels to serve (the Lord) through the service (i.e. beating) of celestial Dundubhi-drums.

41. After commanding the flower-clouds, he regularly worships Śoṇādri (i.e. Aruṇācala) by means of divine showers of flowers and salutes (it) from heaven.

42. At the bidding of Śiva Śeṣa worshipped the Lord of Śoṇaśaila and attained the ability of having any form he wished. He became the supporter of the globular earth.

43. Others too, Nāgas, Gandharvas, Sìddhas, groups of celestial damsels and Guardians of the Quarters worshipped him and obtained the expected boons.

44. Aruṇācala, the bestower of desired boons, was prayed to by all the Devas who had attempted to fight, because they were desirous of defeating Daityas and others. They prayed to the Mountain, standing all round it.

45-48a. Āditya whose shape was formed by Tvaṣṭṛ blazed with his brilliance. The Lord of Planets attempted to cross Śoṇādri. The horses of his chariot lost their power and became tired. Due to the refulgence of Śoṇādri he became devoid of glory. Even with all the (attempted) motion of the possessor of cluster of rays (i.e. Sun), he became unable to go to the heaven. On the advice of Brahmā he propitiated Aruṇācala. When the Lord was pleased, he obtained the path of the sky and splendid horses.

48b-49a. Ever since then the Sun never crosses the mountain named Śoṇa but goes circumambulating him.

49b-51a. Formerly the Devas who were either killed or became mutilated in their limbs, propitiated Aruṇācala and obtained fresh limbs. Pūṣan got back his tooth, the Fire-god his hand, Bhaga his eye and Vāṇī the unbroken nose by serving Aruṇācala.[1]

51b-53. When he obstructed the flow of water at the time of the gift of the earth by Bali (to Vāmana), Bhārgava (i.e. Śukra) lost his eye on being pricked with the tip of the Darbha grass held in his hand by Viṣṇu (i.e. Vāmana). He went to Śoṇācala and performed a very difficult penance. With his soul purified, he regained his eye.

He (i.e. AruṇaGaruḍa’s brother) was stationed on the mountain named Bhāskara. By serving the Lord of Aruṇācala, he became the charioteer of the Sun-god.

54-56. A king named Pratardana[2] became eager to abduct a celestial maiden who was singing the songs of the Lord of Aruṇācala. Instantaneously he became monkey-faced. Urged by his ministers, the king returned her and gave other girls to the Aruṇa mountain. Thereupon by the grace of the Lord of Aruṇācala he became handsome in his face. On account of his devotional feelings the Lord gave him complete Sāyujya.

57-59. Formerly a Gandharva named Puṣpaka, weak in knowledge and devoid of devotion, went to the vicinity of the Lord of Aruṇācala. Then the attendants saw him as one with the face of a tiger. With great surprise they asked oṇe another, “What is this?” Thereupon, when pointed out by Nārada, he realized that it was the result of his insult (to Aruṇācala). He then worshipped Aruṇācala and became handsome in his face (as before) once again.

60. The ground all round to the extent of two Yojanas is well-known as Śiva-Bhūmi. There is no destruction of the persons who die there. They get salvation.

61-63a. Formerly, the Seven Sages who had been cursed, served Aruṇācala on the earth. The glorious Lord understood their resolve and granted salvation to the noble-souled Seven Sages. The Tīrtha made by the Seven Sages is seen near Śoṇācala. It is auspicious, sacred and destructive of all sins.

63b-64. A certain lame sage came there in order to regain his feet through (the blessings of) Śoṇaśaila. The object of his desire was kept suppressed in his mind. He was holding two wooden spoons. Crawling eagerly on his knees, he reached the banks of the Śoṇa river.

65-69. He left the wooden spoons at the Tīrtha for the sake of thirsty people. While he was crawling on his knees, a certain rogue wanted to drink water. Somehow the wooden spoon reached Śoṇācala. Eager to pick up a quarrel he(?) rushed at him asking “What is this?” Suddenly he regained his feet and went back to his abode but did not see that man. The wooden spoons were in front. Seeing them he took them himself and saluted Aruṇācala. Having regained his feet and handsome form the great sage became pleased. On his getting back his feet he was worshipped by the noble-souled devotees of Śiva with the eyes beaming and bulging due to surprise. He then went back the way he had come.

70. Vālī, the glorious son of Indra, attempted to go from the peak of the mountain of the rising sun to the mountain of the setting Sun.

71. He saw the Aruṇācala mountain in the middle, bowed to by Devas. (Though) he attempted to cross it, he lost his vigour and fell on the earth.[3]

72. Urged by his father who came into contact with him, he worshipped the Śoṇa mountain, the fiery Liṅga, and once again regained his vigour.

73. The righteous-souled Nala worshipped (Aruṇācala) formerly and protected the beloved ones of Manu created by him (i.e. men, his subjects). He was equipped with the essence of the science of ethics and politics.

74-75. Ila[4] suddenly entered the untransgressed forest of Gaurī and became a woman. He asked his priest. On being directed by Vasiṣṭha he worshipped Śoṇādri. After propitiating the Lord of Devas he regained manhood.

76-77a. Then on the advice of Soma (i.e. the Moon-god) he devoutly remembered Aruṇācala. By the blessings of Īśa, he attained redemption from the curse. He possessed increased power of penance and attained the greatest abode inaccessible even to the immortal ones.

77b-79. Since he remembered a fawn at the time of death, Bharata did not attain salvation through Yoga. He was born in the species of deer.

Hari (i.e. Rāma) had to meet with immeasurable sorrow and pain arising from the separation from his wife. On the advice of Bhṛgu he worshipped Śoṇādri. (Thereby) he dispelled all sorrows in all of his incarnations.

80. Sarasvatī, Sāvitrī, Śrī, Bhūmi as well as the rivers worshipped the Lord of Śoṇaśaila and surmounted adversities.

81-82. The deity Bhāskara on the eastern side, Viśvāmitra on the southern side, Varuṇa on the western side and Triśūla (the trident) resorting to the north—these are stationed in the mountains as the boundaries to the extent of two Yojanas(?). These four deities serve the Śoṇa mountain.[5]

83. They are stationed on the edges of the borders. The four Devas bow to Śiva in the form of Śoṇācala, the Lord of the Śoṇa mountain stationed there.

84. On the northern peak of this (mountain) a certain banyan tree is seen, at the root of which stays Maheśvara perpetually in the guise of a Siddha.

85. Its shade is very extensive and is always circular in shape. It is always seen by Devas and human beings overwhelmed with surprise.

86. It shines splendidly on being served by eight Liṅgas all round, worshipped by the eight Guardians of the Quarters and stationed in the eight directions.

87. It was here alone that a great abode was created by the primordial Lord for the. sake of the kings who are devotees of Śaṃbhu and who carry out the behests of Śaṅkara.

88. There is a great Bakula tree (Mimusops elengi) there. It always bestows whatever is requested of it. At its root it is resorted to by Vāmadeva, conversant with the topics in the Āgamas.

89. Agastya and Vasiṣṭha worshipped Aruṇācala, installed two Liṅgas free from impurities and performed a similar penance.

90. Formerly the manly Śoṇanada, the son of Hiraṇyagarbha, performed a severe penance here and flowed in the direction of Gaṅgā.

91. Here flows the holy and meritorious river Śoṇa with waters free from impurities. Veṇā, the sacred river, serves the mountain all round.

92. In the quarter pertaining to the Wind-god (i.e. north-west) shines splendidly the Vāyutīrtha. It was here that formerly the Wind-god took his holy bath and attained the status of Jagatprāṇa (‘the vital breath of the universe’).

93-95. To the north of this mountain, there is a Tīrtha shining brilliantly with golden lotuses. It is full of the divine Saugandhika flowers. It is charming with swans and bees. It is the Kaubera Tīrtha.

In the north-east there is the excellent Aiśānya Tīrtha (‘Holy spot pertaining to Īśāna’).

To the western side of the same, the lotus-eyed Viṣṇu took his holy bath and attained the status of Viṣṇu. His features were fondled by Kamalā (goddess Lakṣmī).

96. Formerly the nine Planets took their bath there and attained the position of the Planets. Those who take their holy dip there obtain the favour of the nine Planets.

97-100. Durgā. Vināyaka, Skanda, Kṣetrapāla and Sarasvatī—these protect his Brāhmya (pertaining to Brahmā) Tīrtha all round continuously (without any break).

Gaṅgā, Yamunā, Godāvarī, Sarasvatī, Narmadā, Sindhu, Kāverī, Śoṇa and Śorṇa river(?)—these always serve this holy spot in the different quarters beginning with the East. They lie concealed. They destroy all the sins pertaining to their respective regions.

By the favour of the Lord of Śoṇācala other rivers too, both divine and terrestrial, came up suddenly with splendid waters.

101. In the southern side a great Tīrtha has been spoken of, viz. Agastya Tīrtha. Those who take their holy bath there attain the ability to understand all languages.

102. Always in. the month of Bhādrapada Agastya surrounded by groups of sages comes there, takes his holy bath and worships Śoṇādri.

103. In the northern side is the divine Tīrtha of splendid prosperity namely Vāsiṣṭha. By taking the holy bath there one attains the ability to know the meanings of all the Vedic (passages).

104. The holy lord and saint Vasiṣṭha comes there from Meru in the month of Āśvina and serves the Lord of Śoṇādri.

105. There is a great Tīrtha located in the north-eastern quarter named Gaṅgā. By taking holy bath there, all the sins of men are destroyed.

106. All the rivers beginning with Gaṅgā gather together in the month of Kārttika and respectfully serve the Lord of Aruṇādri.

107. There is a great Tīrtha named Brāhmya in the presence of the Lord of Aruṇādri. Due to the contact with it (the sins of) Brāhmaṇa-slaughter etc. are immediately dispelled.

108. In the month of Mārgaśīrṣa Brahmā comes here from his region, takes his bath everyday and worships Lord Aruṇācala.

109. In the month of Pauṣa Mahendra comes here and takes bath in the Tīrtha along with his Suras. He worships Śaṅkara, the Lord of Śoṇaśaila.

110. There is a great Tīrtha nearby named Śaiva Tīrtha. It was here that Rudra took his plunge along with the skull of Brahmā.

111. In the month of Māgha Śaṃbhu occupies this place along with his Gaṇas and is delighted. He makes all the expiatory rites of men on the earth fruitful.

112. The Āgneya (i.e. pertaining to Fire-god) Tīrtha is in the south-eastern side. It bestows Good fortune. Formerly Agni took his holy bath here and became happily united with Svāhā.

113. Smara, devoid of body, took his holy bath here in the month of Phālguna and became united (with Rati). After worshipping the Lord of Śoṇaśaila, he became the lord of all happiness.

114. In the south-eastern quarter there is the wonderful Vaiṣṇava Tīrtha. Brāhmaṇa sages stay there always with great enthusiasm.

115. In the month of Caitra, Viṣṇu, the Lord of Ramā, comes there, takes his holy bath and worships the Lord of Aruṇādri. (Thus) he became the Lord of the worlds.

116. In the northern quarter there is a Tīrtha named Saura Tīrtha. By taking holy plunge there, one gets all the ailments dispelled.

117. In the month of Vaiśākha, the Sun-god takes his bath there and serves Īśa. The glorious Lord is accompanied by the Vālakhilyas and the Vedas.

118. The sacred Tīrtha of Āśvina is situated to the north of Īśa and Brahmā. The physicians Dasras (i.e. Aśvinīkumāras) took their holy bath and became sanctified thereby.

119-120. The Aśvins come here regularly, take their bath and worship Śaṅkara.

Near the Śoṇaśaila, to the south of it, is the splendid Tīrtha named Pāṇḍava. It bestows love and salvation. Indeed, formerly, by taking their plunge therein, the Pāṇḍavas became lords of the earth.

121. In the month of Jyeṣṭha, the Earth equipped with all medicinal herbs and fruits worships Aruṇācala along with Devas.

122. The Viśvedevas of great strength, who had been abandoned, worshipped the Lord of Śoṇaśaila in the month of Āṣāḍha and attained the worthy quality of being propitiated in the course of sacrifices.

123. The great Tīrtha Vaiśvadeva (i.e. pertaining to Viśvedevas) is situated to the north of the Tīrthas pertaining to the Moon and the Sun. By taking holy bath therein one attains the incomparable overlordship of the entire universe.

124. All round iṇ the splendid quarter of east is Seen a Tīrtha. Formerly Lakṣmī took her bath there and obtained the excellent Puruṣa (i.e. Viṣṇu).

125. In the northern quarter is situated the holy Skanda river. By taking his holy bath here Skanda obtained enormous strength.

126. In the western quarter is the exceedingly splendid and famous Kuṃbhanadī. Agastya, Kuṃbhaka and Kumbha are always present there.

127. Gaṅgā is stationed at the root. Yamunā is in the sky. Somodbhavā (‘arising from the Moon?’) is at the top. All these serve the Śoṇa mountain.

128. There are many Tīrthas that have come up all round. Formerly, Mārkaṇḍeya (despite his long life) was unable to understand their difference.

129. By means of many austerities he made the Lord of Śoṇādri delighted. The lord of the sages prayed to him for a boon when he was delighted.

Mārkaṇḍeya said:

130. O Lord of Aruṇādri, there are thousands of different Tīrthas. They are famous. They shine but are very difficult for persons with deficient mental ability to comprehend.

131. How can men get their presence in one place on the earth? It is not enough, if they are separately resorted to.

132. Your refulgence is hidden within. See to this that you are worshipped by all the Suras who are afraid of touching Śoṇādri.

133. I worshipped Śaṃbhu. I propitiated Aruṇācala by means of penance. For the sake of helping all the worlds, I worshipped the subtle Liṅga.

134. I mentally offered the divine aerial chariot made by Viśvakarman. It was endowed with various kinds of festivities. It caused all kinds of eternal enjoyment of pleasures.

135. Leading sages got different kinds of Dharmaśāstras. With great devotion, they performed all the holy rites of Śiva.

136. After worshipping Śaṃbhu, seven beautiful virgins born(?) of the Āhutis made in the fire were engaged for the purpose of worship.

137. The Lord of Śoṇaśaila was formerly worshipped through different offerings by kings whose hosts of enemies were killed and who regained their kingdoms.

138. Worship this excellent Śivaliṅga in the form of a mountain. His greatness is experienced. He is of a variegated nature. He dispels sins. He is devoid of impurities. He is the excellent Lord of Aruṇādri. His name is inaccessible(?).

139. Obtain the great (opportunity of) worshipping Aruṇācala, the blessed one, who is accustomed to protect the people who bow down, who dispels all sins merely by recollection. Obtain it through the mass of unmeasured merit.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

These gods suffered these injuries during the destruction of Dakṣa’s sacrifice by Vīrabhadra.

[2]:

This is a king totally different from Pratardana, a Vedic Seer of RV, a philosopher-king in Kauṣītaki Upaniṣad and the king of Kāśī, the vanquisher of Haihayas, the celebrated philanthropist of Mbh (Śānti and Anuśāsana). None of these great personages stood so low as this Pratardana of SkP.

[3]:

This episode about Vālin in unknown to VR.

[4]:

The story is based on VR VII.87-89, though Śoṇādri is not mentioned there.

[5]:

VV 81 ff. give the special features (or places worth seeing) at Aruṇācala. Most of the holy spots are met while circumambulating Aruṇācala.

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