by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes The Story of Hunter Vasu: The Greatness of Padmasaras which is chapter 9 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 ninth chapter of the Venkatacala-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
1-2. In Kali Yuga, O Lifter of Earth, O my darling, by whom are you seen? By whom is your Vimāna (Temple) made on this mountain? By whom is Śrīnivāsa of graceful and charming features seen? Relate this, O Lord, out of love for me. I am eager to hear.
Śrī Varāha said:
3-8a. I shall (fore-)tell what is going to happen. Listen, O gentle lady, to what I say.
There was a hunter named Vasu on this holy and meritorious mountain. He was a devotee of Puruṣottama. He was keeper of a forest of Śyāmāka. He used to cook Śyāmāka rice. After pouring honey into it he used to offer it as Naivedya to the Lord of Devas accompanied by Śrī and Bhūmi. The wife of that devotee was a splendid lady Citravatī. She gave birth to an excellent son named Vīra. Vasu (lived happily) in the company of his son and wife who was highly devoted to her husband. On a certain day he entrusted his son with the duty of protecting Śyāmāka and went deep into the forest along with his wife in search of honey. He moved quickly with a desire to look out for beehives.
8b-11. The boy took cooked Śyāmāka grains, fried them in fire, ground them and offered them to the Lord of Śrī at the root of a tree. This food offering Vīra consumed joyously.
In the meantime Vasu also returned with honey. On seeing that the Śyāmāka grains had already been consumed he threatened his son. He raised up his hand with a sword in it to slay him.
[The Lord’s Address to Vasu who was Intent on Killing His Son]:—
12-14. Viṣṇu who was present in the tree then caught hold of the sword with his hand. In order to see by whom the sword had been seized he looked in the direction of the tree and saw the Lord holding the conch, discus and iron club with half of his body seen mounted on the tree. Vasu cast off the sword and bowing down to Keśava said to him: “Why is this act being done by you, O Lord of the Chief of Devas?”
Śrī Bhagavān replied:
15-16. O Vasu, listen to my words. Your son is devoted to me. He is a greater favourite of mine than you. So I became visible to him. I am present everywhere on the banks of lake Śvāmisaras.
On hearing the words of the Lord thus Vasu became delighted.
He reached Nārāyaṇapurī and bowed down to Śrī Varāha. There he heard that Śrīnivāsa, the self-born Lord worshipped by the Lords of Devas, was staying on Veṅkaṭādri. On hearing about it he started from that place. He reached (river) Suvarṇamukharī and had his holy bath therein. He crossed it and took bath in the lake named Kamalā, the lake that yields merit. He bowed down to Lord Kṛṣṇa who was installed on its banks along with (Bala) Rāma. Thereafter he went to the forest abounding in herds of elephants. Gradually he came to Śeṣādri and saw the spring and the mountain-torrent.
22-26a. Having reached near it he went to Śiva worshipped by the tawny-coloured cow. The holy Tīrtha in front of it is Cakratīrtha. It is very deep and destructive of sins. After taking his bath there he went to Veṅkaṭādri slowly in order to propitiate the Lord, where he was joined by an anchorite who was proceeding to Veṅkaṭādri for performing worship. Raṅgadāsa, a boy of twelve years, climbed (the mountain), reached Svāmipuṣkariṇī and took his holy bath with great devotion. He visited the lotus-eyed Hari accompanied by Śrī and Bhūmi staying at the root of a tree in the middle of the forest on the banks of Svāmipuṣkariṇī. (There) the Lord had been worshipped by the sage and anchorite Gopīnātha.
26b-28. He saw Garuḍeśāna (Lord Garuḍa) of splendid yellowish blue colour, stationed in the sky with his wings spread over the head of the Lord like a canopy. He was attended upon by the conch, discus, iron club and sword standing nearby. Behind them he saw (the bow) Śārṅga as well as the arrow.
[Construction of a Divine Park, Pavilion etc. by Raṅgadāsa in Honour of Śrīnivāsa]:—
29-34a. On seeing Śrīnivāsa thus Raṅgadāsa was much surprised. He thought, ‘I shall make a park for this Lord.’ Taking this decision in his mind thus, the intelligent devotee stayed at the root of the tree. He made the Vaikhānasa prepare the Naivedya offering to Viṣṇu everyday.
After clearing the terrible forest gradually he cut off the trees at the sides. On being commanded by the Lord he avoided cutting two trees resorted to by the Lord himself, viz. the Ciñca (Tamarind) tree that was the place of residence of the Lord and the Caṃpaka tree of Ramā.Then he built a wall of stones on the ground all round the Lord.
He made flower gardens all round the wall outside. He planted all the flowering creepers and shrubs of Mallikā, Karavīra, lotus, varieties of jasmine (Mandāra, Mālatī) etc. as well as groves of basil plants and Caṃpakas.
34b-38. He got a well dug up there and made the parks and gardens flourish with its waters. He plucked and gathered flowers from the parks and wreathed them into garlands himself. After making garlands of variegated colours, he handed them to the priest worshipping there. The priest used to take those garlands and tie them round the head and shoulders of Lord Śrīnivāsa accompanied by Śrī and Bhūmi.
Thus that liberal-minded devotee remained there rendering service to the Lord. Staying thus he spent about seventy years. Raṅgadāsa, the noble-souled devotee, gathered flowers and served the Lord for such a long period.
[Raṅgadāsa Forgets his Duty of Serving the Lord on Seeing the Amorous Sports of a Gandharva]:—
39. A certain Gandharva came to that park in order to bathe in the lake in the company of youthful maidens of royal Gandharva families.
40-44. He had left his aerial chariot in the sky and carried on his amorous aquatic sports.
Observing him sporting about in the lotus-pond along with the beautiful girls this Śrīraṅgadāsa forgot his duty of wreathing the garlands. Though he had perfect control over his sense organs, he had an emission of the semen virile on seeing their sports.
Even as Raṅgadāsa was watching, that Gandharva youth rose up from the lake, smilingly covered himself with the divine robes and got into the charming aerial chariot along with those lovely ladies. Then he went back to the abode of Dhanada (i.e. Kubera).
When the king of Gandharvas departed, Raṅgadāsa who had been under delusion, felt ashamed. He left off the garlands, took bath in the lake and fetched more fresh flowers. Then he went to the temple slowly.
45-46. On seeing him arrive after the period of worship was over the Vaikhānasa asked him, “Friend, why are you late in coming? The garlands too have not been wreathed by you. What were you doing in the park?”
Śrī Varāha continued:
47. On being asked thus Raṅgadāsa did not speak anything because of his shame. As Raṅgadāsa remained ashamed, Madhusūdana spoke to Raṅgadāsa:
[Śrīnivāsa’s Words to Raṅgadāsa who was Ashamed on Recollecting his own Condition]:—
Śrī Bhagavān said:
48-52. Why are you ashamed, O Raṅgadāsa? You have been deluded by me. Indeed you are one who has conquered his lust. O highly intelligent one, have courage. You will become a king on the surface of the earth like the Gandharva king. You will always be devoted to me. After enjoying all great worldly pleasures you will construct outer walls and pavilions for me then. I will be extremely delighted and will grant you salvation. You render service unto me here itself till you cast off the mortal body. It is thus that my devotees who are desirous (of pleasures) will get salvation.
After saying this Lord Viṣṇu did not say anything else. On hearing this Raṅgadāsa made that garden more splendid.
[The Story of the King Named Toṇḍamān]:—
53-57. That intelligent (devotee) served and worshipped the Lord for more than a hundred years and then went to heaven. He was born in the great Lunar race and became well-known as Toṇḍamān. The hero was the son of Suvīra and Nandinī.
He was extremely intelligent. He had Devotion to Viṣṇu engendered in him even at the age of five. He was a mine of many good qualities such as good behaviour, heroism, boldness, virility etc. He married Padmā, the charming daughter of the Pāṇḍya (king). Afterwards the king married a hundred girls of different lands in Svayaṃvara (‘Self-choice’) type of marriage. He sported about like the Lord of Devas living in Nārāyaṇapura on the earth. He obtained permission from his father to go for hunting. The son of leonine valour went near Veṅkaṭādri for hunting.
[King Tondamān goes to Śrī Śesācala for Hunting]:—
58. He was moving about on foot accompanied by his attendants, when he saw the leader of a herd of elephants. He was in the rut, shedding ichor profusely.
59-62. On seeing him he was surprised and he pursued him in order to catch him. He crossed Suvarṇamukharī and bowed down to Śuka, the excellent Brahmarṣi. After being permitted by him, he went from forest to forest.
He then saw goddess Reṇukā who was stationed in the form of an anthill. She is the bestower of desired things on favourite devotees. She stayed in the divine garden always accompanied by her attendants. She was adored even by Devas. Toṇḍamān bowed to her and then went to the west.
[The Story of the Parrot of Five Colours Staying Near Śrīnivāsa]:—
63. He saw a parrot of five colours and pursued it with a desire to catch it. The parrot quickly flew towards the mountain chirping out Śrīnivāsa! Śrīnivāsa!
64. Closely following it the king too climbed the lord of the mountains, observing closely the different caves and crevasses and the peaks all round.
65. Searching for the parrot he came to the Śyāmāka field. He did not see the excellent parrot but saw the keeper of the forest.
66. Welcoming hurriedly the king who was coming towards him, he humbly bowed down to him and stood by with palms joined in reverence.
67-68. Toṇḍamān too duly honoured the forester and asked him: “Did any parrot of five colours come here? Was any such parrot seen by you? Where must have it gone chirping Śrīnivāsa! Śrīnivāsa! O forester?”
The forester replied:
69. That five-coloured (parrot) is a permanent favourite of Śrīnivāsa and remains at his side always. It has been brought up by Śrī and Bhūmi.
70. It stays always in the presence of the Lord on the banks of Svāmipuṣkariṇī. That glorious parrot cannot be caught by anyone.
71. After sporting about as it pleases on this excellent mountain, at the end of the day it invariably comes back to the Lord and remains near him.
72-75. O Prince, I shall now go to propitiate that Lord. Be pleased to take rest at the foot of this tree till I return. You can happily play with this son of mine.
The king said:
I shall come with you in order to visit Lord Janārdana. Show me the Lord of Devas residing on Veṅkaṭādri.
On hearing the words of the king the forester took some Śyāmāka grains mixed with honey in a cup made of mango leaves-and went to Had along with the king.
[King Toṇḍamān goes near Śrīnivāsa Along with the Niṣāda]:—
76. Watching and observing the rocky surface they went a long way. In a short while they reached the splendid Svāmipuṣkariṇī.
77-82. They, the leader of the Niṣādas (foresters) along with, the king, took their holy bath in the prescribed way. To the noble-souled king he pointed out the Lord of Devas stationed on the banks of Svāmipuṣkariṇī at the root of Śrīvṛkṣa (sacred bilva tree?). The Lord shines like Atasī (Linseed) flower. His eyes are large (and longish) like lotus (petals). He has four arms, magnificent limbs, and lotus-like face with a gentle smile. He shines brilliantly with a crown and bracelets. He has worn a divine yellow garment. He is accompanied at his side by Śrī and Bhūmi of very beautiful forms. He is attended upon all round by the conch, discus, sword, iron club, Śārṅga bow and arrow. He is served by other divine weapons too as well as heavenly garlands. He is propitiated by Skanda during the three junctions (i.e. dawn, midday and dusk). The Lord Puruṣottama has his lotus-like feet hidden under an anthill up to the knees. On seeing. Lord Puruṣottama thus they joyously bowed down to him.
83. With his eyes beaming like a fall-blown (lotus) due to wonder, the king stood with palms joined in reverence. He was in a state of ecstasy and could not see or understand anything else.
84. The forester offered as Naivedya the Śyāmāka grains mixed with honey. Half of that he handed to the king and himself ate the other half.
85. Accompanied by the king, he drank the waters of Puṣkariṇī and went back to his sacred cottage in the forest of Śyāmāka plants.
86. The king spent a night there and got up early in the morning. Accompanied by his army, he returned to his city.
[Reṇukā Speaks to King Toṇḍamān]:—
88-89. He offered ghee and best cooked rice along with many condiments and articles for seasoning food. Sacrificial offerings of animals were also made to the accompaniment of incense and lights. A hundred pots of liquor flavoured with jasmine and saffron were also offered. The Goddess who was worshipped thus became pleased and granted boons to the king.
90-92. A certain man possessed by the deity spoke to the excellent king: “Listen, O king, to your future. Your kingdom will be rid of all thorns. O king, the capital here will be named after you alone. You will rule for a long time, O great king, in my vicinity. O sinless one, you will get the favour of the Lord of Devas.” After granting the boons to him the man possessed by the deity returned to (his) normal state.
[The Greatness of Padmasaras as Described by Śuka]:—
93-94. Then the king who received the boons went to sage Śuka once again. He made obeisance to the sage and honoured by him he joyously requested, “O sage, recount to me the greatness of the lake named Kamalā.”
Śrī Śuka said:
95. Formerly due to the curse of Durvāsas, O king, Padmā, the beloved of the lotus-eyed Lord, descended from heaven along with Viṣṇu.
96. The great Goddess Ramā reached this lake abounding in golden lotuses. She performed penance for ten thousand years according to divine reckoning.
97-98. Devas looked for Śrī accompanied by Viṣṇu. Devas in the company of Purandara saw the Goddess holding the lotus and sitting in a golden lotus along with the lotus-eyed Lord in this excellent lake, O king.
On seeing her they were delighted. After bowing down to her they stood with palms joined in reverence. Devas along with Indra eulogized the mother of the worlds.
[Eulogy of Śrī Lakṣmī by Devas and Others]:—
99. Obeisance to Śrī, the mother of the worlds. Obeisance, obeisance to the mother of Brahmā. Hail to you, to the lotus-eyed one. Obeisance, obeisance to the lotus-faced one.
100. Repeated salutes to the Goddess with delighted lotus-like face, having the lustre of lotus. Bow to the deity residing in the forest of Bilvas. Obeisance, obeisance to the consort of Viṣṇu.
101. Obeisance, obeisance to the deity wearing wonderfully variegated silk robes, to the deity with large buttocks. Obeisance, obeisance to the deity with protruding breasts as plump as the ripe Bilva fruit.
102. O splendid deity with hands and soles having the lustre of the petals of deep red lotus, O deity shining with bejewelled armlets, bracelets, waistbands (girdles) and anklets, O lady whose whole body is smeared with the fragrant Yakṣākardama ointment, O deity who shines with bangles.
103. O deity adorned with auspicious ornaments and wonderfully variegated pearl-necklaces, O lady whose lotus-like face shines with ear-rings and other ornaments.
104. O goddess with lotus-like hands (or with a lotus in your hands), obeisance to you. Be pleased, O beloved (consort) of Hari. Obeisance, obeisance to you, the (Vedic) lore in the form of Ṛk, Yajus and Sāma.
105. Be pleased, O daughter of the Ocean; look at us with your benign glances. Those who are seen by you shall attain the status of Brahmā, Rudra and Indra.
[The Words Addressed to Indra and Others by Lakṣmī Who was Pleased by the Eulogy]:—
Śrī Śuka said:
106. On being eulogized thus by the Devas, the delighted: Ramā having the chest of Viṣṇu for her abode, who should be seen only with Viṣṇu spoke to the Suras:
107-109. You will immediately go back to your own regions after killing the demons. Those who do not have any position (of importance), those men on the earth who have been dislodged from their own positions, shall regain their own positions by eulogizing me with this hymn.
O Devas, those men on the earth who worship me with unbroken Bilva leaves, those who eulogize me with the hymn composed by you, shall become the receptacles of virtue, wealth, love and salvation.
110-111. Those men on the earth, O Devas, who come to this Padmasaras (‘Lotus-pond’) and take their holy bath (herein) and eulogize me, the beloved of Viṣṇu, shall obtain prosperity, long life, learning, brilliant sons, and all worldly pleasures. After enjoying all pleasures they shall attain salvation in the end.
112. After granting the boons thus the Goddess mounted Garuḍeśāna along with Lord Viṣṇu and went back to the abode, in Vaikuṇṭha.
Notes regarding tree worship:
Though the chapter tells the story of Vasu, a Niṣāda, Raṅgadāsa, a Śūdra and Prince Toṇḍamān, it indirectly records the Brahminization of tree worship of the simple hill tribe, Niṣādas (probably the present Kuruvas), into that of Veṅkaṭeśa. Their usual Naivedya to the tree-god was Śyāmāka (boiled) rice mixed with honey (vv 4-5). It was offered at the root of the tree (v 9). It was a Tamarind tree. The Lord had prohibited Raṅgadāsa from cutting down the Tamarind tree (v 31), for the Tamarind tree is Viṣṇu’s abode and the Caṃpaka, that of Lakṣmī. The Bilva tree has a special place of honour with Śrīnivāsa as he manifested himself under a Bilva tree (vv 77-78). Bilva leaves are used in the worship of Veṅkaṭeśa (v 108). A temple was built there of Veṅkaṭeśa and of Lakṣmī by a Pallava Prince called here Toṇḍamān (which is really the name of the country around Kāñcī).
As noted by Dr. N. Ramesan, The Tirumal Temple, Ch. 3, the age of Pallavas constitutes the first important landmark in the history of Toṇḍamaṇḍalam. (In the text the name of the region is transferred to the Prince.)