The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Birth of Suvarnamukhari which is chapter 32 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 thirty-second chapter of the Venkatacala-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 32 - The Birth of Suvarṇamukharī

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

[An Etherial Voice Urges Agastya to Cause a River to Flow There]:—

Bharadvāja said:

1. Once that excellent sage concluded the holy rites of forenoon and entered the temple to propitiate Siva.

2. The Goddess of Speech of invisible form brilliantly revealed herself in clear syllables and it was heard by that noble-souled sage equipped with wonderful (power).

3-8. The etherial voice spoke to Agastya, the most excellent one among those who performed Japa:

“Indeed this land devoid of a river does not look nice, although it is famous. (It is) like a Brāhmaṇa who is averse to knowledge and wisdom, though he may have (Brāhmaṇical) features; (or) like the initiation (in a holy rite) without monetary gifts; (or) like the night without moonlight.

O excellent Brāhmaṇa, this piece of land without a river does not appear splendid. With a desire for the welfare of all the worlds, cause a river to flow.

It shall have power to release (everyone) from the fear arising from great sins. This is conducive to the welfare of multitude of Devas. This is what is sought by excellent sages. This is beneficial to human beings. Kindly do this, O sage of good holy rites. Cause a great river to flow—a river that is conducive to the welfare of Devas, excellent sages and people of the earth, a river that will destroy the mire of sins.”[1]

Śrī Bharadvāja continued:

9. On hearing those words the Brāhmaṇa became engrossed in thought for a short while. After concluding the worship of the deity he came to the quadrangular spot in the courtyard and sat there.

10-12. He then brought together all those sages residing in that hermitage. To them he related the utterance made by the Divine Speech.

On hearing that wonderful utterance the sages became delighted in their minds. After saluting Maitrāvaruṇi (Agastya), the excellent sage, they spoke (these words):

[The Great Sages Request Agastya to Create Suvarṇamukharī]:—

The sages said:

13. O storehouse of mercy, your acts are divine and splendid. Your life is the greatest wonder of all wonderful mysteries. It is the most auspicious of all auspicious things.

14. Merely by your Huṃkāra (i.e. a noisy grunt of anger) Nahuṣa was brought down from the overlordship of Devas.[2] He then attained the state of a worm. There is nothing more wonderful than that.

15. Is there anything more wonderful than that (by you) the entire ocean was made a mouthful of water, the ocean that encircles the whole of the earth and strikes the sky with its waves?

16. The Vindhya mountain that attempted to obstruct the path of the Sun was subdued by you. What can be greater than this?

17. Who is competent to praise adequately your wonderful activities on the earth? It is by my (our?) good luck that you have come here in this embodied form.

18. We have become the greatest of all blessed ones in the three worlds, O great sage, that we stay here iṇ the precincts of this hermitage with you as our leader and guide.

19. (Defective Text) Though this land is worthy of being praised, it is far from being excellent, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. Though it is full of all (desired) objects, it does not shine, as it is devoid of a river.

20. Of what avail is this damned life that has not obtained the opportunity to bathe in a river? Not being born at all is far better than residing in a land without a river.

21. The time of fructification of our fortune is imminent, since you have been directed by Devas to cause the great river to flow.

22. When will we take our holy bath, and be blessed, in the great river caused to flow by you in this land, O sinless one?

23. Of what avail is much conjecturing and deliberation? Let the endeavour be made certainly to bring down the excellent river that is worthy of taking refuge in and that should be saluted by the entire universe.

Śrī Bharadvāja said:

24. That great Brāhmaṇa honoured their sincere words (of request) and made the resolve, ‘I will bring the river’.

[Agastya’s Penance for Making Suvarṇamukharī Flow Out]:—

25-26. He was (formally) accorded permission by the eminent sages. He worshipped Suras after performing a special worship of Śiva. He undertook an intensive observance of holy rites, unbearable on account of the excessive strain involved. With a great effort he performed a very severe penance (which is) not at all easy for anyone else.

27. During the hot and fierce days of summer he stayed in the midst of four fires with his eyes fixed on the Sun. Still he did not experience any strain or fatigue.

28. During rainy days he was lashed at by torrential downpours of rains accompanied by unbearable violent gusts of wind. Yet he did not feel disturbed in the heart.

29. During early winter he stood in the waters coming up to his neck and proceeded ahead with his Japa and meditation. Yet there was no change in his (steadiness or mental peace).

30. On realizing that there was delay in achieving what he desired, he adopted a procedure still more intense, that terrified all the worlds.

31. He controlled all his mental activities. He abstained from taking food. He conquered his sense organs. Without being conscious of external (world) he stood like a stone.

32. While he was thus engaged in penance, a terrible fire sprang up from all his limbs. Blazing with furious flames it scraped the sky.

33. All the quarters were covered with mysteriously wonderful clusters of flames. Greatly tormented by fear multitudes of people cried out.

34. After bowing down to him Devas informed the Lotus-born One about such a terribly great agitation of the whole universe that had taken place.

[Arrival of the Four-Faced Lord to the Hermitage of Agastya]:—

35. Brahmā reassured them. He was attended upon by Siddhas and Gandharvas. He appeared in front of the Pot-born Sage who was engaged in penance.

36. On. seeing that Brahmā the great (Lord) had come, the Brāhmaṇa bowed to him. With his mind fixed on him alone he propitiated him with different kinds of hymns and prayers.

37. Then looking at Agastya who bowed to him humbly, the Lotus-born Lord, with his countenance beaming with great delight, spoke these sacred words:

Brahmā said:

38. O sinless one, I am highly pleased with your penance (which is) very difficult to be performed. Choose your boon. O (sage) of good holy rites, I shall grant you whatever is desired by you.

Agastya said:

39. By your favour, O Lord, everything is readily accomplished by me. If you desire to give me whatever I wish, I beg for this unhesitatingly.

40. On seeing this region devoid of a river my mind is pained as (it would be) at the repetition of the Vedic passages almost without understanding the meaning.

41. O Lord of Devas, be pleased to grant a great river that has power to sanctify and protect the earth. This alone is what I desire.

[At the Request of Agastya the Four-Faced Lord Urges Gaṅgā]:—

Śrī Bharadvāja said:

42. On hearing the words of Agastya Brahmā said: “It will so happen.” He then remembered the river flowing through the celestial path (i.e. Gaṅgā).

43. Then the celestial Gaṅgā appeared and stood in front of Brahmā resplendent with her crown and palms joined in reverence.

44. Brahmā then spoke these words to that mother of all the worlds who had come to him at his bidding and (stood there) with the head bent down in humility.

Brahmā said:

45. O Gaṅgā, you have to be directed by me in a matter that is helpful to all the worlds. Like me you too invariably stand ready in all matters concerning the protection of the worlds.

46. The Pot-born Sage wishes to cause the flow of a river for the sake of the welfare of all the worlds in this land devoid of rivers.

47. Hence you descend down to the earth. Sanctify the people of the earth with a portion of yours. You go to the earth by the path pointed out to you by this (sage).

48. When the current of water begins to flow in the terrestrial world, all those who desire for spiritual achievement, the excellent Suras and the leading sages will resort to it.

49. Be the most excellent one among (all) the rivers; protect the people resorting to you; do what is pleasing to Agastya. O gentle one, go ahead happily.

Bharadvāja said:

50. After saying this, Brahmā vanished. He was specially honoured and adored by that river and that (sage) by obeisance, veneration and eulogies.

[In the Presence of Agastya Gaṅgā Accepts the Responsibility of Causing the Flow of a River as Her own Part]:—

51. Then Gaṅgā revealed in front of the eminent sage a divinely resplendent form born of her own part and spoke these words:

Gaṅgā said:

52. O dear sage, a part of mine will come to the earth after assuming the form of a river and will fulfil your desire.

Bharadvāja said:

53. After saying this the heavenly river went away. The river urged by Gaṅgā asked the sage, “Which way should we go?” The sage replied to her:

Agastya said:

54-56. O auspicious one, I shall go in front of you and show you the way to be followed. You may flow after me.[3]

On being told thus by the sage that auspicious river said delightedly: “O sinless one, I shall do as you please.”

The sage with great joy in his mind brought her who had taken the form of that river down, from the great mountain with its peaks scraping the sky. He went ahead showing her the approved path.[4]

Footnotes and references:


It seems that according to old tradition the birth of the river is due to human effort. Here the credit is given to Agastya.


This refers to Agastya’s curse to Nahuṣa who made him carry his palanquin to Indra’s wife.


It seems that Agastya had detonated powerful explosives to reach the water-level.


Cf. Mbh. Vana, Ch. 109 where Bhagīratha leads the river Gaṅgā to some channel prepared for the flow of the river in advance.

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