by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,142,515 words
This page describes The Merit of Making a Gift of Water which is chapter 16 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 sixteenth chapter of the Venkatacala-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
[Praise of the Gift of Water on Śrīveṅkaṭādri]:—
Śrī Sūta said:
1. One who does not offer water particularly to the thirsty on the highly meritorious mountain named Veṅkaṭa shall be born amongst lower animals.
2. Hence on the prominent mountain Veṅkaṭa a gift of water should be made in accordance with one’s capacity. It is a great thing that instils life in all.
3. In this connection they cite this ancient legendary story of an exceedingly wonderful conversation between a Brāhmaṇa and a house-lizard.
[Hemāṅga Becomes a House-Lizard for not Offering Water]:—
4. Formerly there was a king named Hemāṅga in the family of Ikṣvāku. He was hospitable to Brāhmaṇas and deeply engrossed in meditation on Brahman. He had conquered enemies and had perfect control over his sense-organs.
5. He had gifted away as many cows as there are particles of earth, drops of water or stars in the sky.
6. The earth is known as Barhiṣmatī (‘abounding in Darbha grass’) on account of the Darbha grass used (and strewn in) the Yajñas performed by him. Many Brāhmaṇas had been satisfied by him through the gift of cows, lands, gingelly seeds, gold etc.
7. It is heard (i.e. reported) that there are no (kinds of) gift not distributed by him. But, O Brāhmaṇas, water was not given by him because he thought that it was easily available.
The lord of dull understanding still did not offer water. He reasoned thus, ‘There shall be merit in gifting away what is rare to get.’
10. He adored and worshipped Brāhmaṇas who were mutilated or physically handicapped in one or more limbs and who were poor and unable to sustain themselves for want of means of livelihood. He did not honour Brāhmaṇas well-versed in the Vedas, who were knowers and expounders of Brahman:
11-12. ‘All people will worship renowned persons with due veneration and honour. But what about helpless persons, persons devoid of learning, persons with defective limbs and poor householders? So they are the objects of my mercy.’ Thus he gave whatever he possessed to (physically) defective recipients.
13-15. On account of that great sin he was born as a Cātaka bird in three births, as a vulture in one birth and as a dog in seven births. Afterwards this king became a house-lizard, O Brāhmaṇa, in the abode of Śrutakīrti, a king of Mithilā.
He lived in the street near the threshold of that king feeding himself on insects and worms. That wicked soul thus lived for eighty-eight years.
[Hemāṅga Recollects the Previous Birth as a Result of Being Sprinkled with Water with which the Feet of Śrutadeva were Washed]:—
16. Once an excellent sage well-known as Śrutadeva came to the abode of the king of Videha at midday. He was utterly tired then.
17-18. On seeing him the king was much delighted. He got up instantaneously with Madhuparka (i.e. respectable offerings to an honoured guest); he received him respectfully. The water with which his feet were washed, was sprinkled by the king over his own head. As fate had destined its timing, some of the drops of that water thus sprinkled fell on that house-lizard.
19. Immediately the lizard remembered the previous births. It was dejected on account of what had been committed. “Save me, save me”, cried it aloud to the Brāhmaṇa who had come to the house.
20-21. On hearing the sound of a lowly creature the Brāhmaṇa became surprised. (He said,) “Whence do you cry, O lizard? What was that action that has resulted in this plight of yours? Are you a god or a demi-god, or a king, or an excellent Brāhmaṇa? O highly fortunate one, who are you? Tell me. I shall redeem you today.”
22-27. On being told thus the king told Śrutadeva: “I was a great king born of the family of Ikṣvāku. I was an expert in the art of wielding weapons. I had gifted away as many cows as there are dust particles on the earth, drops of water in the ocean and stars in the sky.
I had performed all sorts of Yajñas. I had arranged for Pūrtas (i.e. works of public welfare, viz. building of rest-houses, tanks etc.) as well. Many gifts were offered by me. Pious rites were well-performed. Despite that I have fallen in a hellish condition, O holy lord; I have not attained heavenly worlds.
Three times I was born as a Cātaka bird, once as a vulture and as a dog in seven births. While this king was sprinkling the water with which your feet were washed over his head, a few drops were scattered away. I was sprinkled somehow with them. Thereby my sins were destroyed and I recollected previous births.
28-29. O Brāhmaṇa, I have yet to take twenty-eight births as a house-lizard. They are ordained by fate. I am much afraid of those (too) many births. I do not see the reason thereof. Explain to me that in detail.”
On being requested thus the Brāhmaṇa told him what was seen by him through the eye of perfect knowledge.
[Hemāṅga is Liberated from the State of House-Lizard Through the Merit Offered by Śrutadeva]:—
30-31. “Listen, O king, I shall tell the reason for your miserable plight. Water was not offered by you on the mountain named Veṅkaṭa. Thinking that water is easily available, you came to the conclusion that it had. no value. Ignorant that you were, you did not give water to Brāhmaṇas and other wayfarers even during the summer season.
32-35. You left out deserving persons and showered gifts on the undeserving. Homa is not performed on the ash after setting aside the blazing fire. Is the holy basil plant abandoned and the eggplant worshipped? The state of being helpless, mutilated or completely devoid of limbs cannot be the ground (of charitable gifts). The lame one and others who are helpless are only objects of compassion.
Those who are engaged in penance, those who possess knowledge (of the Supreme Being) and those who are devoted to Śrutis and Śāstras are persons in the form of Viṣṇu. They are always to be worshipped and never the others. There too the Jñānins (i.e. persons with spiritual knowledge) are extremely dear to and favourites of Viṣṇu always.
36. O king, even to the persons with knowledge it is Viṣṇu alone who is the most favourite. Hence a person with knowledge is always worthy of being worshipped. It is laid down in Smṛtis that he is more venerable than the most venerable ones.
37. Water was not offered nor good men were served by you. Therefore, you attained this miserable plight, O scion of the family of Ikṣvākus.
38. I shall give you the merit acquired on the Veṅkaṭa mountain for the quelling of your (sinful) Karmas, past, present and future by means of that.”
39-40. After saying this, he touched water and bequeathed his excellent merit of the holy bath performed (by him) on one day. With what was given by the Brāhmaṇa all its (house-lizard’s) sins were destroyed. Hence the house-lizard abandoned the terrible form befitting its action. Immediately a man was seen (there).
41-42. He was seated in a divine aerial chariot. He wore divine garlands and garments as well as ornaments. Even as good men were watching within the abode of the king of Mithilā, he joined his palms in reverence, circumambulated and bowed down (to the Brāhmaṇa). On being permitted the king (started from there) and went to heaven, eulogized by the immortal ones.
43-47. There he enjoyed great pleasures for ten thousand years without any weariness. He himself was reborn as the mighty warrior Kakutstha in the family of Ikṣvāku. That great king was the protector of the seven continents. He was hospitable to Brāhmaṇas and honoured by good men. He was on a par with Deveṇḍra and was a part of Viṣṇu.
Enlightened by Vasiṣṭha he performed all the good holy rites and thereby destroyed all inauspiciousness etc. He acquired divine knowledge and attained Sāyujya (identity) with Viṣṇu.
Hence Veṅkaṭa mountain is meritorious and destructive of sins. Offering water therein bestows the world of Viṣṇu.
Thus, O Brāhmaṇa, the importance of the gift of water on the highly meritorious Veṅkaṭādri which is destructive of all sins, has been recounted by me.
Footnotes and references:
The Purāṇa is advocating a strange doctrine. Instead of appreciating the humanitarian attitude of the king in helping the helpless and physically handicapped people, he is made a house-lizard. Probably scarcity of water on the Veṅkaṭa hill in summer may be the reason for inventing the story to persuade people to make arrangement of potable water on the Tirupati hill.
A famous king of the Solar race. His real name was Purañjaya. He promised to help Indra against Asuras provided he carried him on his shoulders. Indra assumed the form of a bull. Purañjaya occupied the bulī (Indra) and defeated the demons. Hence he became known as Kakutstha, ‘the occupant of the hump’ (Vide Raghuvaṃśa 6.71).