The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,142,515 words

This page describes The Story of Indradyumna which is chapter 7 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 seventh chapter of the Purushottama-kshetra-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 7 - The Story of Indradyumna

Note: This king (Indradyumna) is different from the Indradyumna who was expelled from heaven for becoming obliterated from public memory (Mbh, Vana, Ch. 199). This Indradyumna is a legendary king of Avantī who built the temple of Jagannātha at Puri. His life story forms an essential part of this Purāṇa.

The sages asked:

1-3. O sage, in which Yuga did Indradyumna live? In which land was his (capital) city? How did he go to Puruṣottama and how did he cause the idol to be made? Describe all these truthfully and in detail, O great sage, O omniscient one. We have great eagerness (to hear).

Jaimini said:

4-5. Very well, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, what you ask for is relevant. His (Indradyumna’s) ancient anecdote helps to dispel all sins. It is meritorious and splendid. It yields worldly pleasures and salvation. I shall recount it as it happened in Kṛtayuga. Listen ye all, O sages, with great attention and with all the sense-organs under control.

6. There was a great king in Kṛtayuga, O Brāhmaṇas, (named) Indradyumna. That righteous-souled one belonged to the Solar race and was the fifth person (i.e. descendant) from the creator (Brahmā).

7. He was truthful in speech and of good conduct. He was of spotless fame and was the most prominent among sāttvika persons. He protected his subjects like his own children with justice.

8. He was expert in the Science of Spirit (i.e. perfect knowledge of Brahman). He was a hero with increasing (interest) in war. He was always active with devotion to his parents. He always worshipped Brāhmaṇas.

9. He had mastered the eighteen branches of learning and was like another Bṛhaspati (i.e. Preceptor of gods). In prosperity and glory he was another Indra and in the accumulation of wealth in the treasury he was (another) Kubera.

10. He was handsome with charming features and excellent grace. He was of good behaviour. He was charitable, an enjoyer of pleasures and one of sweet speech. He performed all Yajñas. He was friendly with Brāhmaṇas. He truthfully kept his promises.

11. He was the beloved of men and women like the moon on the full-moon day. (At the same time) he, being the exterminator of his enemies, was too dazzling to look at.

12-14. He was a devotee of Viṣṇu and very truthful. He had subdued anger and the sense-organs. He performed Rājasūya, the most excellent Yajña, and a thousand horse-sacrifices. He was highly glorious, desirous of salvation and devoted to virtue and piety. Thus endowed with all good qualities the king ruled over the earth at the (capital) city named Avantī situated in Mālava[1] country and well known all over the earth. He lived in that city which was rich in all kinds of precious stones and like another Amarāvatī (the capital of Indra).

15. Living there, the king carried on excellent and exceedingly wonderful devotional activities in regard to Viṣṇu mentally, verbally and physically.

16-18. While he was thus (devotionally) active, once, at the time of the worship of the Lord, the consort of Lakṣmī, within the sanctum sanctorum, he respectfully addressed his priest who was seated along with learned men, poets, Brāhmaṇas well-versed in the Vedas as well as Astrologers of great fame, “Let that excellent holy spot be known where we can see Jagannātha (‘Lord of the worlds’) with these (mortal) eyes.”

19. On being asked thus by the excellent king, a follower of Viṣṇu, the priest faced the assembly of pilgrims and spoke these words with humility.

20. “O, O ye virtuous ones, experts in the knowledge of holy spots, eager to undertake pilgrimages, what our Lord intends has been heard by you all indeed.”

21. After knowing his intention, a certain eloquent person who had visited a number of holy spots said to the king joyously, as he stood there with palms joined in reverence:

22. “O Lord, O king, I have travelled through many holy places on the earth ever since my childhood. These (Tīrthas) have only been heard of by others.

23. There is a land in the subcontinent of Bharata, famous as Oḍhra Deśa (i.e. Utkala, Orissa). It is on the shore of the Southern Ocean. The holy spot is Śrī Puruṣottama.

24-25. There is a mountain named Nīlagiri there. It is surrounded by forests all round. In the middle thereof is a Kalpa tree (i.e. a Banyan tree) extending to a Krośa (3 Kms.). If one enters its shade one dispels the sin of the slaughter of a Brāhmaṇa. To the west thereof is the famous holy pool named Rauhiṇa.

26-28. It is filled with primordial waters (kāraṇāṃbhobhiḥ). By means of its mere contact it bestows salvation. On its eastern bank is the body (i.e. idol) of Śrīvāsudeva made out of sapphires.[2] It is directly the bestower of salvation. He who takes his holy bath in the Kuṇḍa (holy pool) there and visits Puruṣottama acquires the benefit of a thousand horse-sacrifices and then becomes liberated.

There is an excellent hermitage there, famous as Śabara Dīpaka.[3]

29-30. It is on the western side of the Lord and is encircled by the abodes of Śabaras (hunters). There is a footpath leading to the temple of Viṣṇu. It is there that Jagannātha himself is present holding the conch, the discus and the iron club. The storehouse of mercifulness grants salvation to all living creatures who visit (the Lord).

31. O king, I spent a year there in Śrīpuruṣottama observing holy rites and staying in the forest for the propitiation of the Lord of Devas.

32-33. The divine scent, O great king, of the heaven-dwellers who came there every night for visiting the Lord, is superhuman. Different kinds of prayerful words are heard. Showers of the flowers of Kalpa tree are seen. This greatness is not revealed in any other shrine of Viṣṇu.

34-39. An ancient legend too is heard there, O king. After seeing Mādhava a crow, a being of lower species, became liberated, though it is not authorized to perform any meritorious deed and though it was devoid of knowledge, O king. Being thirsty it came to the Rauhiṇa Kuṇḍa in order to drink water. As the time had come, it gave up its life and attained Sārupya with Viṣṇu.

Formerly I had been stupid and ignorant. But thanks to his favour, now perhaps Śeṣa is second to me in the knowledge of the eighteen branches of learning. My mind has become free from impurities.

I do not see any Lord other than Viṣṇu. Since you are a devotee of Viṣṇu and are always steadfast in holy rites, I have come to you for the sake of instructing you. Neither wealth nor a plot of land is being requested from you now. This is understood by me as useless. Worship Śrīdhara dwelling there.”

40-41. After saying thus that man with matted hair vanished immediately even as everyone was looking on. The king was struck with great wonder. He became excited thinking, ‘How can I carry this on?’ He spoke to the priest in regard to the accomplishment thereof:

Indradyumna said:

42. This incident is superhuman. After hearing this from a superhuman person my intellect prompts me (to go) to the place where that Gadādhara is present.

43. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, my virtue, wealth and love are under your control. The three aims in life have been accomplished through your grace which was not against me (i.e. you were favourable to me).

44. If now, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, you go on this errand, all the four aims of my life shall be achieved by me.

The priest said:

45. Of course, I shall do this so that you will be able to see with your eyes covered with skin (i.e. your physical, human eyes) Keśava, the Lord who directly confers liberation (from Saṃsāra).

46. I shall endeavour in this matter (so carefully) that we all shall reside in the holy spot (called) Śrī Puruṣottama along with our associates and assistants.

47. What can be a better success than this, O king, in the birth of a human being, if you can directly perceive Mādhava, the Puruṣa beyond Tamas.

48. My younger brother named Vidyāpati will also go now along with your spies who frequently tour many lands.

49-50. He will go there and after visiting the Lord of the universe there on the mountain, he will make a piece of land fit for the residence of your camp. He will soon bring the news (that everything) has been fully arranged. It will be for our welfare.

On hearing his words the king said again:

Indradyumna said:

51-54a. Good, O Brāhmaṇa! Excellent arrangement has been thought of after due contemplation. Even at the outset, on hearing about this, I have decided that I will reside in that holy place in the presence of the Lord. So let your brother go. He will accomplish everything as desired.

After saying this the king entered the inner apartment joyously. At the behest of the king the priest honoured all of them duly and made them go to their respective hermitages.

54b-56. An auspicious hour was fixed by the astrologers. After performing the holy rites (called Svastyayana[4]) for his safe journey, the Brāhmaṇa bade him farewell. He got into a flower-bedecked chariot along with trustworthy emissaries.

Then, O Brāhmaṇas, seated in the middle of the chariot that Brāhmaṇa Vidyāpati thought thus in his mind:

57. ‘Oh! my life is fruitful. My night has dawned into a fine morning since I will be viewing the lotus-like face of the Lord that dispels sins.

58-59. Ascetics strive day and night through various means beginning with Śravaṇa (listening) etc. and then see the Lord dwelling in (their) lotus-like heart. i will now see that Discus-bearing Lord directly, the Lord who is residing on the peak of the Nīla mountain, who holds a physical form but who dispels all connections with physical bodies.

60. It is not possible to fix and visualize the form of the Lord through the words of Śruti, Smṛti, Itihāsas and Purāṇas. I will now see that extraordinary form of the Storehouse of Fortune and cross the ocean of worldly existence.

61. To-day I will directly visualize that Lord of the universe who is incomprehensible and immeasurable, who dwells on the mountain and by glorifying whose names the three groups of sins2 of those who remember him perish.[5]

62. In the case of one who does not meditate on the lotus-like feet of the Lord, the abundant darkness that has settled in his soul does not perish through his Karmas. At every step he will be acquiring more and more misery.

63. The Vedāntic passages say that one may propitiate the subtle spirit dwelling in the soul encased in five sheaths (i.e. those of Anna, Prāṇa etc.) and enclosed in its own cavity, but one may not realize it. I salute that Primordial Being that can be realized only by its own Vidyā (knowledge).

64. I seek refuge in that Lord of the entire universe, each of whose bodily hair supports a Cosmic Egg, who has a thousand (innumerable) heads, feet and eyes, who is ancient and eternal and from whose breath the mass of the Vedas has come out.

65-66. I seek refuge in that Lord who has Praṇava (Oṃkāra) for his body, who is devoid of all despicable forms fashioned or superimposed and through whose Māyā this illusory visible world has been created with creation, sustenance and annihilation as its nature. I will directly view that Lord near whom a being of the lower order came casually for the sake of quenching its thirst and attained the Sārūpya type of salvation with that very body.

67. Ah! How wonderful it is that one merit of mine acquired in the course of a crore of lives has cropped up indicating my good luck! With these mortal eyes I will see the bulbous root (i.e. cause) of the universe.’

68. Thinking thus, with a delighted mind, the Brāhmaṇa did not notice that a long distance had been covered, thanks to the speed of the chariot.

69-70. After midday had passed and a greater part of the day yet remained, the land named Oḍhra was seen ahead on the way itself. O Brāhmaṇas, this land is an ornament unto the universe.[6] It sanctifies the sphere of the earth.

Thus observing forest regions, mountains, forts etc. on the way he reached the banks of Mahānadī[7] at the time of sunset.

71. The Brāhmaṇa got down from the chariot and performed the daily religious rites with sincerity. After performing the evening Sandhyā prayer he meditated on the Slayer of Madhu.

72-75. He spent the night within the chariot itself Early in the morning, he concluded his daily religious rites and hurriedly crossed Mahānadī.

Contemplating on Govinda as he was seated in the chariot, he set out. On the way he saw, O Brāhmaṇas, the villages of those well-versed in Vedas, who performed Yajñas and were of fiery splendour. The villages were adorned with areca palms. After passing through the Ekāmraka forest[8] the Brāhmaṇa saw the people holding a conch, a discus, an iron-club and a lotus. He thought as though he had taken a new birth and had adopted a divine form.

76. He immediately got down from the chariot and prostrated with eight limbs touching the ground. His eyes became filled with tears of joy. He did not see anything else.

77-78. O Brāhmaṇas, he saw Viṣṇu mentally and externally. He proceeded thus seeing, meditating on and eulogizing Hari. He saw the Nīla mountain covered with forests and adorned with Kalpa and banyan trees. It scraped the sky and destroyed the sins of those who visit it.

79-80. It is the extremely wonderful abode of Hari in embodied form. Climbing on to the top of the mountain, the Brāhmaṇa who was eager to see Mukunda, sought the path all round but could not see one. Therefore he spread Darbha grass on the ground, and controlling his speech slept there.

81. For the vision of the Lord, he sought refuge in him alone. Thereupon he heard a superhuman speech behind the mountain.

82-84. It was the voice of those who were talking together on the subject of devotion to the Lord. Therefore, Vidyāpati became delighted and followed the voice, O Brāhmaṇas. He saw the seat of lighting of the holy shrine?[9] It was known as Śabaradīpaka. All round, it was surrounded by the houses of Śabaras (hunters). The Brāhmaṇa went there slowly and entered the premises with great humility. (There) he saw those devotees of Viṣṇu holding conch, discus and iron-club.

85-88. The Brāhmaṇa bowed down his head and stood there with palms joined in reverence. Then a Śabara called Viśvāvasu, whose body was covered with grey hair and who had completed the worship of Hari, came out from the middle of the mountain that very moment. He appeared splendid with the remnants of the worship (in his hand). On seeing him the Brāhmaṇa was delighted. He thought thus: ‘This leading devotee of Viṣṇu has come here from the abode of Hari. He is tired. He is bedecked with the remnants of the worship. From him I shall get the rare details of Viṣṇu.’

Even as the Brāhmaṇa was thinking thus, he was addressed by the Śabara:

The Śabara said:

89-90. From where have you come to this impassable forest region? You are extremely tired with hunger and thirst. Be pleased to sit here comfortably for a long time.

He gave him Pādya and a seat as well as Arghya. Viśvāvasu then said to the Brāhmaṇa with humility in his speech, explaining the thing under reference:

91-92. “How do you wish to sustain your life (i.e. satisfy your hunger)? O Brāhmaṇa, with fruits or with cooked food? Whatever is liked by you will be given to you by me, O Brāhmaṇa. It is my good luck, O holy lord. My life has become fruitful since you have come to my house like another Viṣṇu himself.”

93-99. As the Śabara said this, the eminent Brāhmaṇa said to him: “O great devotee of Viṣṇu, I have nothing to do with fruits or cooked food. O good Sir, see that the purpose for which I have come from a great distance is fulfilled. I am the priest of king Indradyumna, a resident of the city of Avantī. I have come here desirous of seeing Viṣṇu,

In front of the king there was an assemblage of pilgrims. At that time this was heard. In the context of Tīrthas and holy spots, this was referred to by someone. This holy spot was mentioned in front of the king by a person with matted hair. That Brāhmaṇa mentioned everything in the proper order. It is for this purpose, O gentle Sir, that I have been sent by the anxious king, i.e. to see Hari Nīlamādhava dwelling here. Until I see the Lord and take the news to the king, I shall be observing fast surely. Hence, O gentle Sir, show Viṣṇu unto me.”

Footnotes and references:


Modern Ujjain. Old Purāṇas used it as the name of a country up to circa 200 CE. Avantī came to be known as Mālava after 700-800 CE (AGP 158-59). The mention of Mālava as a country here shows that this portion of the Purāṇa was composed after 700-800.


The idol of Vāsudeva may as well be of black stone as ‘nīla’ means ‘black’ also.


Jagannātha appears to be originally a god of a hill-people called Śabaras.


An expiatory rite to avert evil. Benedictory mantras are used therein.


Sins committed by thought, word and deed.


Such complimentary references to Oḍhra or Utkala (a part of Orissa) throughout the work and a eulogy of that land in one complete chapter (Ch. 6) calling it ‘a Bhūsvarga’ (Heaven on earth), the ornament of the universe show that the author was a resident of Oḍhra.


A famous river in Orissa. Formerly it marked the border of Kaliṅga.


Forest area round modern Bhuvaneshvar.


Probably ‘the kṣetra shaped like a lamp’ (kṣetrasya dīpasaṃsthānam).

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