The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Marks of Vishnu’s Devotee 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 Venkatacala-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 6 - Marks of Viṣṇu’s Devotee

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

[Detailed Information about Padmāvatī Reported to Bakulamālikā by the Attendants and Friends]:—

The young maidens said:

1. We are females from the inner apartment of King Ākāśa. We are the friends and attendants of Padmālayā, the daughter of that king.

2. Some time back we went inside the forest (park) with the princess at the head. We were eagerly gathering flowers for the princess.

3-6. While we were seated at the root of a tree we saw a man dark in complexion like a sapphire. His chest was (as if) a temple of the goddess of glory and fortune. A gentle smile spread on his face. He had a pair of beautiful, plump, muscular and long arms. He wore a well-washed yellow cloth. He had golden arrows and a golden bow. He wore a gold crown. He was adorned with necklaces, armlets and other ornaments. Our friend Padmālayā, a lady with lotus-like eyes and a body resembling molten gold, saw him and blurted out, “Look, look (there)”. Even as we were watching him, he vanished immediately.

7-8. Our friend swooned. She was then brought to the royal palace (while still in swoon).

[Questions put to the Astrologer by King Viyat Regarding Padmāvatī]:—

On seeing his daughter unwell the king consulted an astrologer:

“O prominent Brāhmaṇa, O sage, describe the effects of transits of various Planets on my daughter.”

9-12. The Brāhmaṇa (who was) equal to Bṛhaspati (the preceptor of gods) (in intelligence), thought within himself (the positions of) the Planets and said: “All the Planets are favourable to your daughter, O excellent king. But the stable (?total) effect of the Planets is slightly confusing, O King.”

Again the intelligent (Brāhmaṇa) pondered over the time of the question. He calculated the Chāyā (length of the shadow of a gnomon) and the Liṅga (Planetary position) and thought over the effects thereof and said: “The Moon who is the overlord of the Lagna is in the Lagna. Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) is in the Kendra (Centre). The diurnal bird is asleep. The Praśnapakṣin (the bird of astrological inquiry) is in the kingdom(?). O King, listen to its effect. There will certainly be normal health (in her case).

13. An excellent man has come towards the girl. Your daughter has swooned at his sight. She will be united with him.

14. A certain maiden deputed by himself will come. The words she will be uttering shall be conducive to your welfare and prosperity.

15-17. Carry out (her suggestion), O great King. It is the truth and nothing but the truth that I am saying. Further, I shall suggest another thing that will fulfil all her desires and is destructive of all ailments. Carry it out. It is conducive to the happiness of your daughter. Ask Brāhmaṇas to perform the holy bathing rite of Agastyaliṅga.” After saying this to the king the astrologer returned to his house.

[Brāhmaṇas are Deputed for the Worship of Agastyaliṅga in Accordance with the Suggestion of the Astrologer]:—

18-22. King Ākāśa invited Brāhmaṇas well-versed in the Vedas, welcomed and honoured them and requested them thus:

“O Brāhmaṇas, go to the temple and perform the holy rite of grand ablution of Śaṃbhu with recitation of Mantras.”

After allowing them (to go), O splendid lady, he called us and said: “O girls, gather together all the essentials for the great ablution.” On being commanded thus by the king himself we went to the temple. Now tell us, O fair lady, about your sudden visit. Whence do you hail? Where do you wish to go? On whose errand? You seem to have come here from the world of Devas riding on this divine horse.”

Śrī Varāha said:

23. On being asked thus by them the delighted Bakulamālikā spoke these sweet words enhancing the delight of those girls:

Bakulamālikā replied:

24-25. I have come from Śrī Veṅkaṭādri. My name is Bakulamālikā. I have come riding on this horse with a desire to see (Queen) Dharaṇī. Will it be possible to see the gentle lady there in the palace?

On hearing these words of hers those maidens of the king said:

26-31. “O splendid lady, you will see Dharaṇī along with us.” On being told thus by them she accompanied them to the palace of the king.

[The Reply of Pulindinī to the Inquiries made by Dharaṇī]:—

While the ladies were on their way, Dharaṇī saw a Pulindinī[1] (i.e. a woman of the Pulinda tribe) coming along the street. She was adorned with the berries of Abrus precatorius (Guñjā) and shells. An infant of sucking age was kept tied to her back by means of the end of her cloth. She was heard proclaiming in the street thus: “Listen all of you; I speak the truth. I will tell past, present and future.”

With pure smile (on her face) Dharaṇī called her. She ordered for a golden winnowing basket and placed pearls in it. She made them into three heaps of three Prastha measures and placed the whole thing in front of her. Thereafter Queen Dharaṇī asked her, “O Pulinda woman, tell me the truth, future or past.” After saying this she stood by.

32-33. She told her about what she had been thinking in her mind. “O graceful lady, speak straight away if it was the middle heap that was thought of by you.” Dharaṇī, the beloved queen of the king, said, “Oṃ (Yes).”

Dharaṇī said:

The heap has been said. Predict the effect. I shall give you a heap of money.

Pulindā said:

34-36. I shall speak the truth. O lady of excellent eyebrows, give some food to my child.[2]

On being requested thus Dharaṇī took some food in a golden vessel and handed it over to the Pulindinī and said, “Tell me the truth.” The young woman received the food along with milk and fed the child with it.

Then the lady with excellent eyebrows spoke the truth: “It was due to the arrival of a man that the body of your daughter has withered away and become emaciated, O timid lady. Since she is not able to see his face once again, her body has become scorched. She is afflicted by the arrows of Cupid.

37-42. It was the Primordial Lord of Devas himself who came from Vaikuṇṭha. Hari, the bestower of whatever is desired by devotees, sports about on the peak of Śrī Veṅkaṭādri on the banks of Svāmipuṣkariṇī. He assumes the forms and features of the god of Love. He is the Supreme Bliss. He wields Māyā. He is the Lord of Ramā. He sports about along with Śrī.

(One day) riding on his horse and roaming about in the forest, O Queen, he came to the park and saw your daughter. On seeing her as (beautiful as) Ramā he came under the control of the god of Love. The Lord will be sending his attendant Lalitā to your presence. On being united with him like Ramā she will enjoy herself for a long time. These words of mine are true. See this today itself, O Princess! Give some (more) food to my son.” After saying this, the Pulindinī kept quiet.

43-46. Once again she gave her ample food and dismissed her. When the Pulinda woman had gone away, the uncensured (i.e. praiseworthy) lady got up from the courtyard and entered the splendid inner apartment. It was there that her daughter Padmālayā was seated surrounded by her own attendants and friends.

She went near her daughter who was sick with love (and said), “What shall I do for you, daughter? O splendid girl, what is the object that is most pleasing to you?” On being asked thus by her mother, the wise and virtuous girl spoke slowly:

47-49. “O Mother, my mind is attracted towards that object alone which is comely and pleasing to the eyes and to the minds of good people in the world; which Brahmā and others are desirous of seeing; which is very great and omnipresent; which is the most resplendent among all resplendent things; which is the deity unto all the Devas; which can be attained here by good people and devotees and never by non-devotees. It bestows all desired things on devotees. O mother, let that be sought after.”

Śrī Varāha said:

50. On hearing this Dharaṇī asked her daughter once again, “Describe the characteristic marks of the devotees by whom, O girl of beautiful eyes, that can be attained.”

[The Characteristic Marks of the Lord and Devotees of the Lord as Related by Padmāvatī]:—

Padmālayā said:

51-54. Listen to the marks of the devotees attentively, O Mother. It is a secret, O Dharaṇī. They have permanent marks of conch and discus on the pair of arms.[3] Their special characteristic is Ūrdhvapuṇḍra (sectarian mark in a vertical V-like form) with a gap in the middle. Others have twelve such Puṇḍras on the forehead, heart, neck, belly, two sides, two elbows, two arms, back and back of the neck. When they apply the mark they recite the twelve names beginning with ‘Keśava’ and ending with ‘Vāsudeva’ and say ‘Obeisance to you’. When they apply it on the head, they say ‘Vāsudeva’.

55. I shall tell their observances which are really fascinating. Listen, O Mother. They engage in reciting the Vedas regularly. They perform all the Vedic rites.

56. They speak the truth, O gentle lady. They are never jealous of or malicious to others. They do not insult others. They never take away other people’s possessions.

57. Know those people to be Vaiṣṇavas (‘devotees of Viṣṇu’) who never remember, see or touch the beautiful wives of others.

58. They are kind and merciful to all living beings. They are always engaged in what is beneficial to all living beings. They always sing about the Lord of Devas. Know these to be devotees (of the Lord).

59. They are contented with whatever they have. They are faithful to their own wives. They are devoid of attachment, fear and anger. Know them to be the devotees and followers of Viṣṇu.

60-64. One who is endowed with qualities like these must have the (indelible impressions of) five weapons made by his father or preceptor or any other honourable gentleman. The learned devotee shall kindle fire in accordance with the injunctions in his own Gṛhyasūtra. He should offer sixteen Āhutis (oblations) reciting the Mantras of the discus etc., first with the original Mantra, then with the Puruṣasūkta and one hundred and eight times with the excellent Mantra of Jātavedas. After performing the Homa with Mahāvyāhṛtis (i.e. the great utterances, viz. Oṃ Bhūḥ Bhuvaḥ Svaḥ) he should heat the discus etc. The learned devotee then shall bear the impressions when they have been heated well by the preceptor and the heat can be borne.[4] The impressions shall be received like the Mantras. The conch should be imprinted on one arm, the discus on the other, the Śārṅga bow with the arrow on the head, the mace on the forehead and the sword on the heart (chest).

65-68. These five impressions should be borne by the devotees of Viṣṇu desirous of salvation or the impressions of conch and discus shall be borne on both the arms. They must be of good shape and clear. Those who have impressions like these are known as devotees and followers of Viṣṇu. The Supreme Brahman can be realized only by them endowed with good conduct. My love is for him alone. My mind yearns to obtain him. O Mother, except Viṣṇu, I do not desire anyone else. I remember the dark-complexioned Viṣṇu. I speak about Hari, Acyuta. I sustain my life thereby alone. Let the means of being united with him be thought of.

Śrī Varāha said:

69. After saying this to her mother the lotus-faced lady became dejected and stopped speaking. On hearing her words, the mother thought, ‘How should Viṣṇu be propitiated?’

[Arrival of the Friends and Attendants (of Padmā) Near Dharaṇī Along with Bakulamālikā]:—

70-73. In the meantime the girls accompanied by Bakulamālikā came to see Dharaṇī after worshipping Agastyeśa.

She fed the visiting Brāhmaṇas heartily with good food after duly worshipping them. She gave them monetary gifts in full along with garments and ornaments. She received their blessings for the purpose of achieving the desired objectives.

After bidding farewell to all those Brāhmaṇas she asked her young maidens, those high-minded attendants who had come back after worshipping Agastyeśa.

Footnotes and references:


The whole episode of consultation with a woman of Pulinda (Forester) tribe is textually similar to a great extent to the one in VrP II (Uttara) 6.28 ff. The method of selecting a particular heap as the basis of the prediction is the same. Such belief in tribal women is still common to uneducated women even in Maharashtra.


Unfortunately the tragic condition, want of food etc., of these tribals, has not changed since the days of the SkP.


It is a common practice of Vaiṣṇavas (followers of Rāmānuja as well as of Madhva) to stamp their bodies with Viṣṇu’s weapons. The Ūrdhvapuṇḍra is characteristic of the followers of Rāmānuja. From this mention it seems that the author probably belonged to that sect.


The practice of branding one’s body with the heated metal seals with the marks of the discus, conch, mace etc. is still found among orthodox followers of Madhva. Their procedure does not include the Śārṅga-bow impression but they have the name-seal (nāma-mudrā) instead. The MS of Tapta-mudrā-vidhāna at Rāghavendra Svāmī Maṭh at Miraj (in Maharashtra) prescribes Paurāṇic verses describing the particular weapon (e.g. discus, mace) for recitation before branding, as ‘mantra’.

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