by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes Salvation of a Pishaca (Goblin) 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 Vaishakhamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
1. On seeing that miracle the king of Mithilā was very much surprised. With palms joined in reverence, the most excellent one among those conversant with Dharma (Virtue), spoke these words to (the sage) who was comfortably seated.
2-3. This great miracle as well as the act of a saintly man has been witnessed. I am eager to hear in detail about that Dharma whereby this king, a scion of the family of Ikṣvāku, became a liberated soul. O learned one, I am endowed with faith. Kindly describe it in detail.
4. On being specifically asked thus by the king the noble-minded Śrutadeva said, “Good! Good!” and then addressed the excellent king thus:
5. O most excellent one among saintly kings, you are well-resolved. You have decided well, since you are inclined to hear about the holy rites well-liked by Vāsudeva.
6. Without merit acquired in the course of many births no embodied being can be interested to hear anecdotes of Vāsudeva.
7. (Even though) you are a young man and a king of kings, yet, your mind is inclined like this. Therefore, I consider you a pure Bhāgavata (a devotee of the Lord), the most excellent one among good people.
8. So I shall recount to you the holy Bhāgavata rites, O gentle Sir. By knowing (correctly understanding) these splendid rites a living being is liberated from the bondage of births and worldly existence.
Without performing the holy rites in the month of Vaiśākha in vernal season one cannot rise up (to heaven etc.). Among all holy rites there is nothing on a par with Vaiśākha.
11. There are many other rites. They are like subjects without a king, who are assailed by calamities (i.e., these rites being easily violable yield only adverse results). There is no doubt about it.
12-21. But those laid down for being performed in Vaiśākha are easy. They are: offering of water pot, construction of Prapās (sheds for free distribution of water), construction of shady places etc. (for travellers) on the way, gifts of footwear, umbrellas and fans, gingelly seeds in honey, milk-products for the alleviation of fatigue, erection of shelters for pedestrians, digging of wells, lakes, tanks etc., gift of coconuts, sugarcane, camphor and musk, sweet scents and unguents, gift of beds and cots, tasty mango fruit, sharbat (sweet drink) made of lemon juice, gift of Damana (Artemisia indica) flowers, gift of treacle juice in the evening, varieties of cooked rice on the full-moon day and cooked rice mixed with curds everyday, gift of betel leaves, gift of water pot on the new-moon day of Caitra, early morning bath everyday before sunrise, worship of Madhusūdana etc., listening to the story of the Lord, avoidance of oil bath, taking food on leaves, fanning off and on those people who are weary, daily worship of Hari by means of tender fragrant flowers, Naivedya, offerings of fruits and cooked rice mixed with curds, offerings of incense and light everyday, morsels of grass to cows, washing of the feet of Brāhmaṇas, gift of dried ginger mixed with jaggery, gift of powdered Emblic officinalis, shelter to wayfarers and gift of rice and vegetables. These are the holy rites praised and recommended for the month of Vaiśākha which is liked by Mādhava.
22. Offering flowers to Viṣṇu, worshipping Hari by means of sprouts etc. peculair to the season, and offering cooked rice as Naivedya is the cause of the destruction of all the masses of sins.
23. O noble-souled one, if a woman does not worship Mādhava either in a temple or in her house with the flowers growing in that season, she will never obtain a son or happiness anywhere. She will end the life of her husband or of herself.
24-26. In order to test the bridge of Dharma of the subjects in the month of Vaiśākha Viṣṇu goes to their abodes accompanied by Ramā, Devas and the sages. If at that time any stupid fellow does not worship him with flowers, he is a deluded soul. He falls into the Raurava hell. Afterwards he is reborn in the wombs of demonesses five times.
In this (month) cooked rice and drinking water should be given always to those who are afflicted with hunger. It is the cause of sustaining the vital airs.
By not giving drinking water he is reborn as a creature of lower species. By not giving cooked rice he is reborn as an evil spirit. I shall tell you a strange experience that I had in connection with non-gifting of cooked rice or food.
27-28. My father was born as an evil spirit on the banks of Revā. He ate his own flesh when he became utterly exhausted with hunger and thirst. Due to lack of food he became too weak to move about. He was staying at the root of a silk cotton tree devoid of any shade. On account of excessive hunger and thirst and due to his past Karma the opening of the food pipe in his throat was very small. Pieces of flesh sticking to his throat gave him a lot of pain threatening his very life.
29-32a. By chance, on my way to Gaṅgā, I reached the bank of that river. He looked upon the cool water of a well as well as of a lake like Kālakūṭa poison. At the root of the Śālmalī tree I witnessed the surprising thing of his eating his own flesh cutting it bit by bit and lamenting in diverse ways. He was afflicted with hunger, thirst and sickness on account of his own Karmas.
I pitied him but on seeing me, that spirit of sinful activities rushed at me to kill. He was restrained on account of my splendour. He began to run away. With my mind melting with pity I told him: “Do not be afraid. I have given you freedom from fear. O dear one, who are you? Tell me immediately the reason for this. I shall set you free from this difficult situation. Do not be distressed.”
32b-40. On being told thus, he said to me without knowing that I was his son: “Formerly I was in the city named Bhūvara (‘most excellent on the earth’) in the land of Ānarta (Northern Gujarat). My name was Maitra. I belonged to the Saṅkṛti Gotra. I regularly performed penance, Yajñas, charitable gifts etc. and I was learned too. All scriptures were learnt and taught by me. I took my holy baths in all the Tīrthas. Out of greediness food was not given by me in the month of Vaiśākha; not even alms were given at that time. I now bemoan my lot after being born a Piśāca (Evil Spirit). There is no other cause. Oh! I have told you the truth. Now my son named Śrutadeva is in my house. He is very famous. My plight should be reported to that son of mine: ‘Your father has become a Piśāca for not giving food in the month of Vaiśākha. He was seen on the banks of Narmada. He has not gone up (to heaven). He is still at the root of the tree. He eats his own flesh and laments over it. For the sake of liberating your father you must take early morning bath in the month of Vaiśākha. After worshipping Viṣṇu and offering water libations to me (your father) sincerely, cooked food should be given to an excellent Brāhmaṇa possessing good qualities. He shall then be liberated and go to the region of Viṣṇu.’” He further said, “Speak this to him; he shall have mercy on me. There is no doubt about it. Let there be welfare in every respect. Let there be auspiciousness in your case.”
On hearing the speech of my father, I became miserable. Excessively agitated, I prostrated before him at his feet for a long time. With tears in my eyes and cursing myself I said: “O my father, I am your son. I have come here by chance. Since my manes have not been liberated from distress, I have fallen off from my duties. I deserve the censure of Brāhmaṇas. Tell me. What is that holy rite whereby you will be liberated? O eminent Brāhmaṇa, I shall perform it.”
41-42. Then he whose mind was completely satisfied told me: “After performing your pilgrimage you should return home quickly. At the advent of the month when the Sun is in Aries, you should offer excellent cooked food as Naivedya to Viṣṇu. O noble-souled one, make some charitable gift to an excellent Brāhmaṇa. Thereby the whole family shall attain salvation.”
On being commanded by my father, I completed my pilgrimage and returned home. I made gift of food in the month of Vaiśākha.
43-44. Hence my father was liberated. He came to me and blessed me. Seated in an aerial chariot he went to the world of the Lord of Śrī—the world that cannot be easily seen and from which those who have gone there once do not return.
Thus the charitable gift that has been enjoined in all the scriptures has been recounted to you. It is the essence of all Dharmas. It is highly virtuous.
What else do you wish to hear? Tell me. On hearing it I shall tell you everything. This is the truth.
Footnotes and references:
VV 12-21 enumerate the various Vratas to be performed in Vaiśākha.
VV 27-44 describe the story how a Brāhmaṇa Śrutadeva redeemed his own father from the state of Piśāca.