The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Indradyumna Performs a Thousand Horse-sacrifices which is chapter 17 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 seventeenth chapter of the Purushottama-kshetra-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 17 - Indradyumna Performs a Thousand Horse-sacrifices

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages enquired:

1. After the idol had been installed in that holy spot of Narasiṃha, O sage, what did the king do? Relate it as we are very eager.

Jaimini said:

2-8. At the outset he invited all the Devas beginning with Indra. Then he invited thousands of sages and Brāhmaṇas, persons who had studied the four Vedas along with their six ancillaries, those who could recite the four Vedas by Padapāṭha and Kramapāṭha, those persons who were experts in the performance of Yajñas, persons who had mastered Mīmāṃsā system of philosophy, those who had very good practical experience in the various holy rites along with the knowledge of Kalpasūtra texts and their glosses, those who were experts in the eighteen lores, those who were proficient in religious texts, those who were spotlessly pure on account of their good conduct, men of noble families, truthful persons. He particularly invited Vaiṣṇavas respectfully. All the kings, Siddhas, Seven Sages, Brāhmaṇas, good Śūdras and the lords of the continents were invited.

The Assembly Hall of the king extended to two Krośas. It had been constructed with stones and plastered with lime and mortar.

In some places the ground was set with precious stones. In some places it was covered with gold plates. In different places the surfaces of the ground were suitably paved with crystals or silver plates.

9-14. There were huge columns of gems covered with silk cloths. The Assembly Hall had a beautiful awning. Garlands of sweet smelling flowers and chowries (were kept there for decoration) with pearl necklaces in between. There were splendid and beautiful windows. The Hall was sprinkled with oil scented with black aloe-wood and water with sandal paste.

Flowers of all the seasons were scattered everywhere. There were gardens on either side of the chamber with flowers of all the seasons available therein. The tanks had crystalline steps leading into the water adorned with red and white lotuses. Different kinds of aquatic birds such as Cakravākas (ruddy geese), Plavas (a variety of ducks), swans, Sārasas (cranes) etc. moved about here and there in the lakes chirping sweetly. There was cool, sweet, pure, clean and fragrant water in the lakes. There were hundreds of such lakes all round, O Brāhmaṇas. They (had steps etc.) so that people could comfortably get into them and come up. They were splendid in design and pattern. They had plenty of shade. This sacrificial hall of king Indradyumna was exactly like that of Marutta[1], O excellent Brāhmaṇas. It was beautifully planned and constructed by Viśvakarman.

15-23. On an auspicious day in conjunction with an auspicious constellation the king accommodated the members of the assembly in different places. The kings were seated on thrones. The sages, Siddhas and groups of Brahminical sages were seated on very valuable carpets. The Devas were seated on golden pedestals. The (ordinary) Brāhmaṇas were seated on their befitting seats. Others were seated on excellent seats in accordance with their status very comfortably. Śacīpati (Indra, the husband of Śacī) was seated on his own throne set with diamonds and the insignia of his imperial majesty. He was seated in the middle of Devas, kings and sages.

King (Indradyumna) adored and honoured them at the outset by means of divine garlands, scents, clothes, seats etc. along with the priest for the sake of prosperity.

Like an humble and wretched person, the king worshipped him so that even the Lord of the three worlds considered it surprising.

By worshipping the Siddhas, Devas and sages he, like Indra, caused surprise even to Kubera of great affluence. Then he worshipped the Devas who too had much of wealth themselves by means of various services and offerings of presents. The king of the earth was not at all excited in his mind. He adored and honoured the kings with royal dress befitting kings, and they thought, ‘Now we shall be kings. It is true that a realm had been acquired by succession but not so lavish a dress as these.’

24. Again he honoured the Vaiṣṇavas by means of presents and offerings as a result of which, though quiescent themselves, they thought that the acquisition of objects was surprising.

25-27. Then, the king in whom Sattvaguṇa predominated, duly worshipped the Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas along with the sages. With great excitement he made the ministers worship the others too. He was then delighted. Accompanied by Nārada and his own priest, he humbly approached Mahendra. With palms joined in reverence he spoke to him loudly:

Indradyumna said:

28-33. I seek your favour. This is my wish, O Lord of Devas. Be pleased with me. I wish to worship the Yajñapuruṣa (i.e. Viṣṇu) by means of horse-sacrifice.

Permit me, O Lord. You are the overlord of sacrifices. All those who live in the three worlds obediently carry out your orders. Until the thousand sacrifices are concluded you stay here and be in the middle of the assembly along with the Devas.

O Lord of Devas, I do not wish to perform Yajñas with a desire for your position. O Lord of Devas, you always know the attitude of everyone.

Lord Mādhava was seen by you all here before in physical form during your worship. Now he has vanished beneath the sands.

I will perform a thousand horse-sacrifices in order to get him manifested once again, O Indra, at the bidding of the Four-faced Lord. If the Lord becomes manifested once again, it will be conducive to your welfare too.

34-42. When this was announced by the king, Suras, the chief of whom was Mahendra, remembered the ethereal utterance that was heard immediately after the Lord had vanished and then spoke thus with great delight:

“O Indradyumna, you are a great soul on the earth. Really you are truthful. Your activities now have already been foreseen by us as future occurrences. We shall assist you in this task of sanctifying all the three worlds, in which the creator of the worlds himself has become engaged. While the Lord was entering the inner bowels of the earth here itself, he had sympathetically told us, ‘I shall create a wooden body once again’.

Now this is settled. There is nothing displeasing, disagreeable to us or to Indra in this matter. Your endeavour for our good luck is pleasurable to us. Comfortably worship Viṣṇu who is fond of his devotees, O eminent king, by means of the horse-sacrifice to be repeated a thousand times. Though the Lord is fond of his devotees, it is very difficult for us to propitiate him. We shall forsake Deva-hood and with great devotion propitiate the Lord in this holy spot humbly in the form of human beings. A pleasing act performed in the human world brings prosperity

Jaimini said:

43. When this was spoken by the Devas along with Indra, the king worshipped the Lord with a delighted mind for the sake of beginning the sacrifice.

44-46. He worshipped the Lord and made a thousand offerings in the manner prescribed. Then with great reverence, the king looked at the groups of Pitṛs (Manes), the Brāmaṇas present in the assembly and the performers of the Yajña who had been duly adorned. He kept the tutelary deity Viṣṇu in front along with the sacred fire. He waited thus for the auspicious hour stipulated. When the rite of Svastivācana (ceremonial rite preparatory to a sacrifice or any religious observance) was concluded, he stood nearby along with his wife with pure and auspicious apparel.

47. After making the pure Brāhmaṇas perform all the holy rites of Svastivācana, Puṇyāha and Vṛddhikarman,[2] the king who had got ready all the requisite things, formally nominated the Ṛtviks.

48-50. On being chosen they initiated the excellent king along with his wife. When they were urged by the members of the assembly they worshipped the desired objects separately for the sake of initiation (?)

The blazing sacred fire named Āhavanīya was brought to the altar. It appeared like the refulgence of Viṣṇu himself, which is the cause of auspiciousness unto all the three worlds.

They then sprinkled the sanctified water charged with holy spells on the chief horse which had all the splendid characteristics in its limbs. After taking the ceremonial permission of the Lords of the Quarters, they released the horse.

51. The king who had been properly initiated, observed the vow of silence. He sat on the skin of a Ruru deer in the middle of the Assembly Hall like Lord Mṛtyuñjaya (Śiva) himself.

55-57. With a meaningful glance the king ordered that the invitees be fed. At the bidding of the king the minister had got ready all types of vessels for the purpose of their meals. Very valuable vessels studded with gems and jewels were made ready for the Suras to take their sumptuous food.

Vessels of pure gold were brought afresh everyday for the sages, Brāhmaṇas and kings to take their food, O Brāhmaṇas. For ordinary Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas splendid silver vessels were brought, O Brāhmaṇas. For Śūdras, to take their food, vessels of pure bell-metal were brought.

Everyday after taking their food the people dropped those vessels in pits as though they were the leaves on which food had been served and taken in.

Not only those who had been invited to take their food in that Yajña festival but also their sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, nay, everyone in the line, were respectfully fed with cooked food of five flavours at the behest of King Indradyumna.

58-63. All those persons stayed there as though they belonged to one family till the great sacrifice was concluded. The officer-in-charge (for the supervision of all arrangements regarding reception etc.) of the people from a territory was the king of that land. The person to look into the requirements of the kings was Nārada who was impartial in his outlook, was eager to help others and had been particularly requested for that purpose by Indradyumna.

The person to look into the requirements of the leading Suras beginning with Indra and the celestial sages was the excellent king himself.

The king himself ran about here and there to see that the sacrifices were duly completed.

Six different kinds of foodstuffs and beverages were prepared in two ways by men.

In the case of Devas, it was done by men who were experts in the use of magic and spells. In the case of men it was done by those who were well-versed in the culinary art.

Indeed the heaven-dwellers are never aware of hunger or thirst. Their diet is nectar. Even to them that food (served at the festival of Indradyumna) was a wonderful thing because they had not tasted it before.

64. In the mortal world such a food as was distributed in the abode of Indradyumna was rare for men (elsewhere). The only difference between Indradyumna and Indra was that the former’s residence was in the mortal world.

65-70. This extremely wonderful show recurred everyday with ever new features. The foodstuffs, their honour and the eagerness for them increased everyday, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

The different things mentioned below increased as though they competed with one another: sweet scents, flower garlands, musk and other unguents, silk garments and cloths of fine texture and variegated colour, pillows, seats, cushions, bejewelled palanquins and couches, beds, fly-laps with gem-set rods, betel leaves along with nutmeg, cloves and comphor, sweet charming songs, different kinds of dances produced by experts of the school of Sage Bharata[3] etc., hundreds of panegyrists and bards fully conversant with the fame and pedigree of their respective royal families. These and other rare objects were eagerly enjoyed by Devas and human beings.

71-78. Things in one place were more wonderful than elsewhere. There were no inferior things anywhere.

The foodstuff served to the residents of the nether worlds was superior to nectar. After consuming it they never desired to go back to Pātāla (nether worlds).

The cities in Pātāla are illuminated by clusters of gems. They have no necessity for the light of the sun. (They are devoid of sunlight.) The king, therefore, lodged them in cities of that sort for their residence, so that they thought that they were still in Pātāla. They comfortably seated themselves. They ate, played and lay down joyously.

As for Devas, they do not touch the earth elsewhere but in the city of Indradyumna, which was more fascinating than even heaven. They were eagerly engaged in happy sports as they pleased. There they never left the ground.

They say that in Svarga one gets happiness after eagerly desiring for it. But here (in the city of Indradyumna) there was happiness everywhere even without wishing for it.

Men were respectfully and earnestly honoured and fed there. No person was entreated or begged of. How could anyone have been turned back?

The abodes provided by the Emperor were like their own houses for the people. Only in their houses everything that was always available here was not so (readily available) there.

79-80. Whatever object was beyond (even) their expectations there (in their houses) was easily available here in plenty.

When the Yajñas were thus joyously performed for the propitiation of the Lord of Yajñas, every (valuable) thing that the earth had was taken away in the horse-sacrifice of the king. Whatever there was originally was replenished when the earth was adorned with a shower of gold.

81-85a.Thus charitable gifts, honouring and feeding of all the people staying in the three worlds went on everyday in accordance with the injunctions. The people commended the horse-sacrifice and repeated the following verses of praise to one another:

“There has never been such a collection of the materials of a sacrifice like this before. This is exactly in accordance with the injunctions of Brahmā as well as the scriptural texts.

There was never a sacrifice like that of King Indradyumna before. There will never be one like this. There are neither suppliants nor unwilling donors. They have not been invited there.”

O Brāhmaṇas, no desire remained unfulfilled even in the case of Devas. The excellent sacrifice of the king with such abundance of supply went on thus. Each of the subsequent sacrifices was better furnished and performed with more ardent faith than the previous one.

85b-90. Those who had written Smṛtis, those who had composed the liturgical texts, those who had expounded the sacred treatises, those who were experts in the performance of Yajñas and those who were adorned with (i.e. possessed) good conduct celebrated everything beginning with fetching the sacred fire and ending with the valedictory bath in the proper order.

The sacrifice performed with the permission of the members of the assembly, O Brāhmaṇas, was conducive to the delight of the king.

There was neither a fault of omission nor of commission in regard to the accent or syllables of the Mantras. Indeed those who had laid down the injunctions were themselves performers of the rites. The atonement has been mentioned in those cases where there is reasonable cause for the same. But there (in the king’s sacrifice) there was no mistake in the holy rites, because the Yogins and Karmayogins (those who are well conversant with holy rites) performed the same. The divine Seven Sages were the Sadasyas (Members of the Assembly) watching the proceedings of the sacrifice. They could discriminate between merits and demerits and they conducted the holy rites properly. Yājñavalkya and other sages were chosen and nominated as Ṛtviks.

91-94. Those sages were present in the sacred assembly. In the course of their mutual discourse they recited, recounted and related Nyāya Texts, secret Upaniṣadic Mantras, folk-tales and songs with devotion to Viṣṇu as their main theme and anecdotes of Hari’s (exploits) that dispel all sins. They expounded them in the assembly of the king.

The joyous Devas, O Brāhmaṇas, the leader of whom was Mahendra, imbibed the Havis in that Yajña personally standing in the middle of the sacrificial fire. They forgot Amarāvatī. They had been away from it for a long time.

95. It is Amṛta (Nectar) that Brahmā had formerly allotted to them as Havis. The Devas were joyous, vigorous and long-lived after consuming it.

96. In other places, apart from the site of the performance of sacrifice, many other objects of pleasure were furnished by Indtadyumna. Devas enjoyed all of them.

97. Kings of serpents, the residents of the bottom of Pātāla, enjoyed more worldly pleasures in the human world than in their own place.

98. They too never desired to go back to Pātāla even mentally. Thus the Yajña proceeded affording great pleasure to everyone in the three worlds.

99-100.In this holy place Puruṣottama at the behest of Brahmā King Indradyumna performed Yajñas in order to propitiate the Lord of the universe. In due order the king concluded a thousand sacrifices short by one. All of them were duly performed in accordance with the injunctions.

101-103. Then the king began his thousandth horse-sacrifice. Day by day, the king acquired more and more spiritual merit. On the night of the sixth day from that of the extraction of Soma juice during the fourth prahara (prahara = period of 3 hrs.) he meditated on the immutable Viṣṇu.

Very fortunately in the course of his meditation the king saw, as if in direct perception, the island of Śvetadvīpa made of bright crystals.

104-106. He saw the Milk Ocean that stood encircling the island all round. There were great Kalpa trees (all round) that had rendered all the quarters fragrant by the sweet scent of the flowers.

Everywhere within and without those trees, on their fruits, sprouts and barks, there were the bright red-coloured idols of the Lord which were marked with conch and discus and which were brilliantly adorned with all the ornaments. In the middle he saw an excellent Pandal (Maṇḍapa) made of divine jewels.

107. The Pavilion was refulgent with a throne in the centre that shone like the sun and that was studded with gems. It was very fascinating as a gentle, cool breeze blew over the waves of the Milk Ocean.

108-109. In its centre he saw Lord Viṣṇu holding conch, discus and iron club. He resembled a blue cloud. He was adorned with garlands of sylvan flowers. Divine ornaments were worn by him. He seemed to surpass and put to shame all the abodes of loveliness and the houses of beauty and splendour by means of his body.

110-113. To his right he saw Ananta standing, supporting the earth. He had the splendour of a crore of moons. He had the lustre resembling that of the mountain Himālaya. He was charming with the crowned hoods spreading over him like an umbrella. He had a pair of jewel-set ear-rings. He had put on a beautiful blue upper garment. In his four hands shone palm tree (lāṅgala?), plough, conch and discus. He was adorned with necklaces, armlets, bangles and rings. He had a waist-band and a girdle. He had decorated himself with divine jewels. His physical body was inebriated due to divine liquor called Hālā. He had pleasing smiles and brilliant eyes.

114-115. He saw Lakṣmī of splendid features stationed on his right side. She had a lotus in her hand and held her fingers in the position of granting of boons as well as freedom from fear. She had the lustre of saffron. She had bright eyes. Her wonderful body was a model for all the young women in the three worlds. He saw her seated in a lotus. She was a pet daughter of the Salt Ocean.

116. He saw Pitāmaha (Brahmā) standing in front of him with palms joined in reverence. He saw the discus of the Lord full of gems stationed on the left side of the Lord.

117. On seeing the Lord of the universe eulogized by Sanaka and other prominent sages in his dream, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, the king became extremely delighted.

118. Standing there in contemplation, he eulogized in words choked with (tears) of joy, the infinite Lord of a fiery form never seen before.

Indradyumna said:

119. Obeisance to you, O support of the universe. Obeisance to you, O soul of the universe. O (cause of) salvation transcending the three Guṇas, O Lord shining with good qualities, obeisance to you.

120. Salute to you with the form of very splendid perfect knowledge devoid of impurities. Obeisance to you having the appellation Śabdabrahman (Brahman in the form of sound), O Lord with the universe as your form.

121. Hail to you, O destroyer of the miseries of those who have fallen into (the ocean of) worldly existence and therefore are weary. Obeisance to you who cuts the knot in the heart very difficult to be untied.

122. Obeisance to you, the main pillar of the structure of the fourteen worlds. Salute to the discus-bearing Lord, the architect who fashioned crores of Cosmic Eggs.

123. Obeisance, obeisance, to the Moon rising from the ocean of the nectar of kindness. Obeisance to the ocean of compassion, the sole secret uplifter of the poor.

124. Obeisance to the illuminator of the Sun and other luminous bodies. Hail to the Lord who blazes with a loud report within every heart and burns the sins within.

125. Repeated obeisance to the purifier, to the purest of all pure ones. Obeisance, obeisance to the weightiest one, to the most excellent one, to the longest one.

126. Obeisance, obeisance to the nearest one, to the most distant one, to the minutest one. Obeisance to you, O Nārāyaṇa, the most excellent one, the holiest one.

127. Save me, O Lord of the universe. Obeisance to you, O kinsman of the poor. After obtaining you as a comfortable boat, I have crossed the ocean of worldly existence.

128-131. When you are seen, O Lord of Ramā, all my distress has disappeared. O Lord, it is certain indeed that those who have attained you having consciousness and bliss for your form, will get their miseries destroyed. It shall be the cause of the outcome of supreme delight.

Save, save me who have sunk in the ocean of worldly existence, whose mind is in a wretched state. When the midday sun blazes in the sky, how can there be darkness!

Still in contemplation, he bowed down to the Lord of the universe eulogizing thus.

At the end of the meditation he woke up and understood everything. At the end of the dream Indradyumna remembered the Supreme Soul by means of his own soul.

132-135a. After seeing this extremely mysterious dream the eminent king considered himself to be one who has fulfilled his task. He thought that all his thousand horse-sacrifices had become fruitful and his good luck was imminent. He thought thus: ‘Indeed the words of the Celestial Sage can never be in vain. Now how will the Lord be directly perceptible to me?’ In this anxious state the king spent the remaining part of the night. Then he told Nārada the details of the dream experienced by him.

135b-136. Nārada told him: “O king, your grief has come to an end, since you saw the Lord at the time of dawn. A dream at that time, O excellent king, yields the benefit within ten days.

137 139. At the end of the sacrifice the Lord will be visible to you here as Brahmā, the sire of the mobile and immobile beings, conveyed to you through my words.

That Creator of the universe also was seen by you in this dream. Therefore, let the Yajña be performed. Do not divulge this to anyone else.

O tiger among kings, this dream has been brought about by Hari in an inscrutable manner. But only to a fortunate one shall a dream like this occur.

Footnotes and references:


Marutta, son of Avikṣit: His richly performed sacrifice was personally attended by god Indra and others. God Siva gave him a Himalayan peak of gold. In his sacrifice all utensils, beds etc. were of gold. His sacrifice became an ideal for successive generations. (vide Mbh Droṇa 55.37-49.)


According to Āpastaṃba Dh.S.I.4.13.8 the three Svastivācana etc. mentioned here are a part of Puṇyāhavācana and not separate rites. The performer of an auspicious rite worships Brāhmaṇas and requests them to declare the day to be auspicious (Puṇyāha) for the performance of the rite. The performer of the rite requests Brāhmaṇas to announce Svasti, Puṇyāha and ṛddhi and they declare ‘Oṃ svasti’, ‘Oṃ puṇyāham’ and ‘Oṃ (karma) ṛdhyatām’. But the elaborateness and separateness of the performance of these shows the late nature of the Text leaning to Saṃskāra-ratnamālā.


This refers to Bharata’s Nāṭya Śastra (circa 400 CE).

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: