by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes Special Efficacy of the Gift of Lamps 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 Karttikamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
1. O Lord, I am one who has fulfilled his objectives by resorting to your feet. There is nothing to be heard further by me, O excellent Deva.
2. Still, O Lord, there is something lurking in my heart that remains to be asked. I am not yet fully satisfied by drinking the nectar of your speech.
3. O Lord, I wish to hear the special efficacy of gifting lamps. O Four-faced Lord, tell me who they were, by whom this gift was made formerly.
4. A devotee should take bath early in the morning. Remaining pure in body and mind, he should offer the lamp assiduously. Thereby sins shall perish like darkness at the rise of the sun.
5. Whatever sin has been committed by a man or a woman ever since birth, shall perish by gifting lamps in the month of Kārttika.
6. In this connection I shall describe to you a legendary story. By listening to it it destroys all sins. It yields the merit of the gift of lamps.
8-12. As an ill consequence of his contact with her, his life shortened and he died. Even when the husband was dead, the wife continued to be engaged all the more in misdemeanour. She was never ashamed even of the ill-repute of hers in the world. Having no sons or kinsmen, she used to have her meals by way of alms received. She never had any opportunity to take consecrated food. She regularly ate stale food. She was addicted to food cooked by others. She never undertook pilgrimage etc. She never listened to the holy narratives and legends, O Brāhmaṇa.
Once, a certain learned Brāhmaṇa named Kautsa who was devoutly engaged in pilgrimage to sacred places, came to her house. On seeing that unchaste woman engaged in improper conduct, the excellent Brāhmaṇa Sage became furious. With his eyes red (with anger) he spoke to her:
13-15. O foolish woman, I am going to tell you something now. Listen attentively to my words. O woman running errands! Why do you nourish this body (of yours) constituted of five elements, which is filled with putrid blood and is the cause of misery? This body is like a bubble of water. It will certainly perish. Depending upon this transient body, you consider it permanent in your heart.
16. Therefore, O stupid woman, eschew your internal delusion and begin to think. Remember the Lord who is the most excellent of all. Do listen to holy books respectfully.
17. When the month of Kārttika comes, perform the rites of holy bath, charitable gift etc. In order to propitiate Dāmodara make the gift of lamps.
18-20. You should have a hundred thousand wicks etc. and a hundred thousand lotuses etc. ready. In the month of Kārttika, circumambulate the Lord and make obeisance to him.
Perform the rites of observing and conducting the Vrata with devotion. This Vrata is for all women with or without husbands.
It suppresses all sins. It destroys all calamities. There during the month of Kārttika, let an excellent lamp be gifted.
21. Lamp is a cause of delight to Hari certainly in the month of Kārttika. Even a person who has committed great sins becomes liberated through the gift of lamps (or lighting of lamps).
22-28. Formerly there was a good Brāhmaṇa named Harikara. That Brāhmaṇa became sinful and attached to sensual objects. He always visited prostitutes. He squandered the wealth of his father. He was an axe as it were in cutting down his own family. Once, O widow, much wealth of his father was lost by him in gambling because of his association with wicked people. Therefore he became grief-stricken.
Once he came into contact with some saintly people who were engaged in pilgrimage to holy places. In the course of pilgrimage, O dear one, that highly sinful Brāhmaṇa came to Ayodhyā.
In the month of Kārttika he reached the house of a very prosperous Brāhmaṇa. Always under the pretext of gambling(?), a lamp was immediately lighted in front of Hari by him. Thereafter, the Brāhmaṇa, in course of time, became dead and attained salvation.
Though he was a perpetrator of great sins, he sought and got refuge in Hari. Hence, you too make gifts of lamps and light lamps in the month of Kārttika. Similarly make other charitable gifts too with great devotion.
Having commanded her thus, Kutsa, the Brāhmaṇa, went to another house.
29. That (woman) repented after hearing the words of Kutsa. She resolved to perform the holy rites in the month of Kārttika.
30. In the course of the entire month of Kārttika, she took bath in (cool) water at the time of sunrise and also observed the Vrata of lighting lamps.
31-32. When her span of life was over, she died after some time. Though she had committed great sins, that woman went along the path of heaven due to the great efficacy of lighting of lamps. In due course she attained salvation too. Hence, O Nārada, who can (adequately) recount the efficacy of offering lamps?
33-35. Gift of lamps and lighting of lamps in the month of Kārttika yields exceedingly meritorious fruits.
He who strictly adheres to the Kārttikavrata, he who lights lamps, shall attain salvation on hearing this legendary narrative of lighting of lamps.
Who can (adequately) recount the efficacy of the lighting of lamps?
Now, O Nārada, listen to the efficacy of lighting other people’s lamps.
36-38. If one has no capacity (to light lamps), one can lighten other people’s lamps. He who does so also attains the benefit. There is no doubt about this.
He who offers wicks, oil, vessels, etc. for the lamps or he who (physically) renders help to those who offer excellent lamps, attains salvation. There is no doubt about this. Who can (adequately) describe the efficacy of lighting lamps in Kārttika.
39. If there is no capacity in oneself one should lighten other people’s lamps. He too obtains the benefit thereof. There is no doubt about it.
41. Hence by all means one shall brighten the lamps of others. Thereby one should attain salvation like the mouse (in the courtesan’s house) undoubtedly.
42. O sage, if the benefit of brightening other people’s lamps is like this, by whom can the greatness of directly gifting lamps be described?
43. The great efficacy of offering lamps in Kārttika has been heard by me. The greatness of lightening other people’s lamps also has been heard. Now, I wish to hear about the greatness of Vyomadīpa (beacon lights on poles).
44. Listen, O son, with concentration to the greatness of beacon lights. Merely by listening to it one will be inclined to offer lamps.
45. I shall describe the merit of that person who is devoted to taking bath in early morning on the advent of the month of Kārttika and who offers beacon lights on poles.
46. He will become the overlord of all the worlds and be endowed with all types of riches. He will enjoy happiness in this world and attain salvation in the end.
47. After the holy bath and (offering) charitable gifts and other rites, the beacon should be lighted on the top of the temple of Hari for the whole of the month of Kārttika. On the full-moon day, in the month of Kārttika, it should be ceremoniously discharged in accordance with injunctions.
49. In this connection I shall describe unto you an ancient legend, merely by listening to which one shall get the benefit of lighting the beacon.
50-51. Formerly there was a fowler named Niṣṭhura. He was a thorn unto the world. He was like another god of death. He lived on the banks of Yamunā. He used to wander over the forests, kill all animals and sustain himself. Wielding a bow he used to harass wayfarers by robbing them.
52-53. Once in the month of Kārttika, O sage, the fowler went to a certain village for the purpose of stealing. At that time the king in the city of Vidarbha was Sukṛti by name. At the instance of a Brāhmaṇa named Candra Śarmā, the intelligent king lighted a beacon on top of the temple of Hari.
54-56. After offering the light the king listened to the sacred story at night with great devotion. At that time itself (the fowler) came there for the purpose of stealing. He stood for a moment gazing at the beacon offered by the king.
At that time a vulture came there, swiftly snatched the pot of oil along with the lamp, carried the same in its beak and then perched itself on the top of a tree.
57. That kingly bird drank up the oil and placed the lamp on the top of the tree and rested itself there for a moment.
58. At that time a cat came there by chance. In order to catch the excellent bird, it climbed up the tree where the bird was perching.
59-62. Seeing the lamp in front of him, the cat paused for a short while. At that time Candra Śarmā was expounding the efficacy of beacon lights to the king named Sukṛti. The bird and the cat heard those words. The cat then (tried to) catch the bird that was perched on another branch. Due to the defect of being unsteady (by nature) both of them fell on a rock from the tree as if urged by fate. The bird and the cat got their bodies smashed on the ground and both of them died. They got divine bodies. Riding in an aerial chariot, they went to heaven.
63-70a. The fowler who had come for stealing saw everything. With his vicious intention vanished, he went to the sage who was expounding the narrative. Addressing Candra Śarman, he spoke these words:
“O Candra Śarman, the fascinating beacon offered by king Sukṛti has been seen by me who had come here for the purpose of stealing something.
At that time, by chance, a certain bird took off the pot and drank away the oil. Thereafter, it placed that fascinating pot along with the lamp on the top of a tree and stayed there for a short while.
A certain cat came there in order to seize the big bird. Urged by fate as it were, they resorted to two (different) branches.
They heard for a moment the story that was being narrated by you. Afterwards, on account of the defect of his own fickle-mindedness, the cat seized the bird.
Both of them fell down and died instantaneously. Both assumed divine forms and seated in an aerial chariot, they went to heaven. On seeing this wonderful thing I have come here to ask you:
70b-78a. Who were those, the cat and the bird, formerly? O Brāhmaṇa,
tell it. How did they come to be born as lower animals? By which holy act were they released?”
On hearing these words of the fowler, Candra Śarmā said then:
“Listen, O fowler, I shall presently speak in details. This cat was formerly a Brāhmaṇa, born of Śrīvatsa Gotra. He was called Devaśarmā. He used to steal temple properties. He got the post of the worshipping priest of Ahobala Nṛsiṃha.
He used to steal the oil, money and materials that came to the temple and used to maintain his family thereby.
He spent the whole of his life thus and ultimately met with his death. On account of that great sin he fell into the following hells one by one: Mahāraurava, Raurava, Nirucchvāsa and Asipatravana. He was chopped by the huge-bodied terrible messengers of Yama. After experiencing all these tortures, he became a Brahmarākṣasa. Then he was born as a dog. Thereafter, due to his evil Karmas, he became a Cāṇḍāla. After taking a hundred such births, he became a cat on the earth.
78b. Now by a lucky chance, he has listened to the efficacy of beacon lights. He has been rid of all sins and he has gone to the place of Hari.
He had association with women servants and courtesans. Due to that great sin, when he died, he fell into the exceedingly terrible hell Kumbhīpāka and stayed there for four Yugas. With the residue of his Karmas, he was born as a vulture.
Urged by his own fate, the vulture came here for drinking the oil. After having offered a beacon (?) and after having heard the story of Hari, he was also absolved of all his sins and went to the place of Hari.
84-85. Thus, O fowler, everything has been recounted to you. Return happily.”
On hearing his words the hunter went back to his abode. He observed the Ākāśa Dīpa Vrata in accordance with the injunctions, O sage. He spent the remaining part of his life there and went to Hari’s abode.
86. The great king Sunanda (Sukṛti) became wonder-struck. In accordance with the injunctions, he did everything for a month under the guidance of Candra Śarmā.
87-92. In the month of Kārttika, the king took his early morning bath. With purity of body and mind, he worshipped Janārdana with tender Tulasī leaves. At night the king offered beacon lights with this Mantra: “After making my obeisance to Dāmodara, the universal and Cosmic-formed Lord, I offer the beacon light which Had likes much. O Lord of Devas, make it (this Vrata) devoid of obstacles till the month is over. O Lord of Devas, let my devotion to you increase by performance of this Vrata.”
By means of this Mantra, the king made the offering of the light. Again in the Brāhma Muhūrta (the hour before dawn) he offered beacon light. Viṣṇu’s worship was performed, O dear one, and he took his early morning bath.
93-96. O excellent sage, by the power of that merit the king enjoyed for a hundred thousand years enchanting pleasures along with his kinsmen, sons, grandsons and his wife.
At the end, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. O sage, he got into a charming aerial chariot along with his womenfolk and went along the path to salvation.
In the world of Viṣṇu, he assumed the form of Viṣṇu with four arms. He had yellow garments. He held the conch, the discus and the iron club. He was always called Viṣṇu by the immortal ones. There the lofty-minded king sported as he pleased.
97. Hence, after attaining human birth which is rarely to be achieved, one should offer the beacon light in the month of Kārttika in accordance with the injunction. It is a thing which Hari likes.
98. Those men who offer beacon lights for the propitiation of Hari in the month of Kārttika, O eminent sage, never see Lord Yama having exceedingly cruel face.
99. Henceforth, I shall recount another (instance of) the efficacy of the beacon light. It was narrated formerly by Vālakhilyas. Listen to that, O excellent Brāhmaṇa.
100-102a. (Defective Text) May the excellent sages perform the
rite of Ākāśadīpa (beacon light on the top of a pole) either in the month of Vaiśākha or in Kārttika according to the calendar which begins the month with the dark half (Pūrṇimānta-māsa calendar), from the beginning of the month previous to Kārttika i.e. Āśvina (i.e. from the full-moon day of Āśvina).
In the month of Tulā, the devotee should offer beacon lights on poles with gingelly oil at dusk. He who offers this continuously for a month to the Lord of Śrī accompanied by Śrī, is never separated from glory and prosperity.
102b-103. A pole of twenty hastas (in length i.e. height) is the excellent one for beacon light, one of nine Hastas is the middling one and one of five Hastas is the lowest one. It shall be so fixed that the light is seen by the people standing far off.
104-105. The offering of light in lanterns of mica or glass is specially recommended. There must be a flag, the length of which is a ninth of the pole.
Above it a bunch of peacock feathers or a pot should be placed. This lamp causes delight to Viṣṇu. It uplifts the Pitṛs.
106-107. The lamp should be offered on the eleventh day or on the full-moon day when the Sun is in Libra. To Dāmodara the lamp is offered in Śrāvaṇa. In the month of Tulā, the lamp is offered (to Viṣṇu) along with Lakṣmī: “I am offering you the light. Obeisance to Ananta, to Vedhas.”
There is nothing else like the beacon light on the pole which uplifts and redeems the Pitṛs.
109-111. The following Mantra should be recited: “Obeisaṇce to
Those men who repeat this Mantra and offer to the Manes beacon light on the poīes, attain the excellent goal. Even those who have gone to hells attain this excellent goal.
Thus the offering of light has been described to you.
One should offer beacon lights for the purpose of getting fortune and good progeny.
112-116. This Nīrājanāvidhi (procedure of offering and waving lights) is to be done in the dark half of Kārttika month for five days beginning with the twelfth day, in the earlier part of the night.
There must be special arrangement for the lights in the temples of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva etc. and the following places: tops of grain stores, pavilions (for sacrificial purpose), assemblies, river banks, rampart walls, gardens, tanks, bylanes in villages, house-gardens, stables, lonely places, elephant yards etc. Lamps should be offered in the beginning of the nights. They must be charming.
Those who are seen in the world making use of gems and jewels and are glorified, are those who had (in their previous births) offered lamps in accordance with the injunctions in the month of Kārttika.
If one is incapable of offering lamps, one should protect and preserve the lamps offered by others.
117. Is there a man in the world who stands ready to recount the merit of the person who respectfully offers oil for the lamps of the students (and reciters) of the Vedas?
118-120. In the month of Kārttika, the devotee should offer various kinds of lamps in the presence of Viṣṇu.
After the advent of the month of Kārttika, when the sky is clear and bright with myriads of stars, at night Lakṣmī comes to view the cosmic spectacle.
Wherever the Ocean-born Goddess (Lakṣmī) sees the lamps, she is exceedingly delighted with iī, but never so in darkness. Hence, lights must always be fixed (prominently) in the month of Kārttika.
121. It is declared that those who seek fortune and beauty should
offer lamps particularly in temples, river banks, and more particularly on highways.
122-124a. The glory of one who offers light at the place of sleeping is all-pervasive. One who sees the abode of a (financially) weak person, whether he be a Brāhmaṇa or one of another caste, without any lamp and then offers lamps, is honoured in the world of Viṣṇu.
He who places lights in an inaccessible and rugged place or an impassable place infested with insects and thorns will not go to any hell.
124b-128. If a person offers lamps in Pañcanada at night according to the injunctions, the boys born in his family will be the illuminators of the race.
By lighting and kindling anoṃer person’s lamp in the month of Kārttika, one gets the same benefit as is obtained by gifting food in the Pitṛpakṣa (the dark fortnight of Bhādrapada pertaining to the Manes) or by giving water in the months of Jyeṣṭha and Āṣāḍha.
Formerly there was a Brāhmaṇa Harikara who was always engaged in sinful activities. For the sake of gambling, lamps were lighted by him during the month of Kārttika. Due to the power of that meritorious deed he became an excellent Brāhmaṇa and attained heaven.
129. Formerly King Dharmanandana got into an excellent aerial chariot and went to the world of Viṣṇu as a result of offering beacon lights.
130. I shall recount the merit of that person who offers camphor-light in front of Viṣṇu in the month of Kārttika and particularly on the day of awakening called Prabodhinī (Ekādaśī) (eleventh day in the bright half of Kārttika).
131. Men born in his family will be favourites of Hari. After sporting about for a long time, they attain salvation in the end.
132. A person who keeps lights burning day and night in the abode of Hari, particularly on the eleventh lunar day, goes to the place of Hari.
133-134. Even a fowler offered lamp on the fourteenth lunar day (in the dark half of Māgha) in the temple of Śiva and on the great Liṅga and went to the world of Śiva even without any special devotion.
A certain cowherd kindled the lamp of the Śārṅga-bearing Lord on the new-moon day and repeated “Be victorious, be victorious” frequently. He became king of kings.
Footnotes and references:
VV 35 ff describe the efficacy of brightening other people’s lamps in Kārttika.
Sāroddhāra tells us how a female mouse happened to brighten the lamp in Indumatī’s house while the mouse drank up the oil in the lamp and happened to circumambulate the god unintentionally and thereby got salvation.
VV 44ff describe the importance of Vyomadīpa (beacon lights on poles).
A famous sacred place of Nṛsiṃha to the east of Cuddapah in Sirvel Taluka in Karnool District (Tamil Nadu). The temple is on a hill. It was visited by Śaṅkarācārya and Caitanya Mahāprabhu. (De 3)
Vālakhilyas: A class of (60,000) thumb-sized sages attending the Sun’s Chariot. They were born of Kratu, son of god Brahmā. (Mbh, Ādi 66.4-9; Anuśāsana 141.99-102; 142.33 ff)
VV 102-105 describe the details of the beacon light (Ākāśa-dīpa).
SKS gives the following details of this story: Helika, a Brahmin in the Vindhya mountain, had two sons—Citrabhānu and Manojava. They became vicious and ultimately resorted to forest. A Bheel girl named Nanānī kept them in her house where they saw Nanānī offer Ākāśa-dīpa for her deceased father. Manojava died but his sentence in Tamisra hell was exonerated due to his help in Ākāśa-dīpa and became a Piśāca. He possessed Nanānī but Citrabhānu took her to Vārāṇasī where due to Ākāśa-dipa-dāna, Manojava was absolved and he was born as a son of Nanānī. The three stayed at Vārāṇasī and got salvation.
VV 127 ff give some examples of yore showing the efficacy of Ākāśa-dīpa in Kārttika. Out of these vv 133-134 give the story of a fowler offering lamp in a Śiva temple.