The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Anecdote of King Kirtiman which is chapter 11 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 eleventh chapter of the Vaishakhamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 11 - The Anecdote of King Kīrtimān

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Maithila said:

1. The holy rites pertaining to Vaiśākha are easily accomplishable. They bring about abundance of merits. They directly cause delight to Viṣṇu and are the means of realizing the great aims of life.

2. Why are they not well-known in the world in spite of their being eternal and laid down in the Śrutis, though many Dharmas of Rājasa and Tāmasa nature are very well-known?

3-4. They (i.e. the latter) are very difficult to perform and they involve a lot of effort. They require great expenditure. Some people praise the month of Māgha. Others praise the four months (of rainy season). They extol in various ways the Dharmas of Vyatīpāta etc. I am desirous of hearing about the distinction of these cases. Explain it in detail to me.

Śrutadeva said:

5. Listen, O king, I shall recount why these are not popular. I shall explain how the other rites are well-known in the world.

6-8. There are many people in the world of Rājasa and Tāmasa types (nature). They are lustful. They wish for worldly pleasures, sons, grandsons, riches etc. Somewhere and somehow you may find with great difficulty some people who may endeavour for heaven. Hence they perform good holy rites such as Yajña etc. with great effort. No man seeks and strives for salvation (Mokṣa). People with petty hopes and desires go in for desired benefits and engage themselves in great many holy rites.

9. Therefore, the Dharmas of Rājasa and Tāmasa types have become popular and well-known and not these Dharmas of Sāttvika nature, (though) they are pleasing to Hari.

10. These Dharmas of Niṣkāma (desireless) type are (certainly) the bestowers of worldly pleasures and heavenly benefits too. But the foolish people deluded by the Māyā of the Lord do not know that.

11-12. When one attains lordship, one’s desires are entirely realized. If one succumbs to temptations, one is deprived of the lordship.

I shall tell the reason for keeping this a secret in the world scrupulously, in regard to the Dharmas pertaining to Vaiśāhha. They are of the Sāttvika type and are intended for men of Sāttvika type here.

13-15. Formerly there was an emperor in Kāśī well-known as Kīrtimān. He was an ornament unto the family of Ikṣvāku. He was an illustrious son of Nṛga.[1] He had conquered anger as well as the sense-organs. He was a patron of Brāhmaṇas. He was the most excellent one among all kings.

Once he was engaged in hunting and he came to the hermitage of Vasiṣṭha. The month was Vaiśākha, fierce on account of the oppressive heat (of the sun). While proceeding ahead, he saw on the way the disciples of that noble-souled sage constantly engaged in various activities.

16-20. In some places they were setting up Prapās (free-water stalls) and shady pavilions. Some were engaged in repairing tanks by stopping the breaches in the embankments. In other places, they were engaged in fanning some persons comfortably seated at the foot of trees. Some were seen offering sugarcane stumps in some places, sweet scents in some other places, and fruits in still other places. At midday they made the gifts of umbrellas and of Pānaka (sweet drinks) in the evening. In some places they offered betel-leaves and in some camphor ointments for the eyes. Some were seen spreading smooth sands in shady places in the forest and in the well-swept courtyards. O king, some were seen tying up swings suspended from branches of trees. (When) he asked them, “Who are you?”, they replied, “We are Vāsiṣṭhas (i.e. disciples of Vasiṣṭha).”

21-23. “What is this?” (“What are you doing?”), He asked. They told the excellent king, “These are the holy rites laid down for the month of Vaiśākha. They are the means of attaining the aims of life. These rites are being performed by us scrupulously at the bidding of Vasiṣṭha.”

The king then asked, “What is the benefit that men attain by performing these? Who is pleased (thereby)? Say this in detail in the manner you have heard.”

On being asked thus by the king, they replied to him:

24-27. “We are carrying out the orders of our preceptor. We perform the various holy rites on the path. Hence we have no time (to spare). You would better ask our preceptor in a befitting manner. That sage of great renown understands these Dharmas thoroughly and correctly.” On being replied thus by the disciples of Vasiṣṭha, the king quickly proceeded to the meritorious hermitage of Vasiṣṭha well-known for imparting knowledge of various sciences and Yoga.

On seeing the king coming, Vasiṣṭha became pleased in his mind. He duly entertained the noble-souled king along with his retinue. After receiving the hospitality and having seated himself comfortably, the delighted king asked that preceptor:

The king said:

28-33a. On the way a great, wonderfully auspicious thing was observed by me. It was the splendid work performed by your disciples. I asked them about the auspicious rites which were being performed by them. Nothing was explained by them. They said, “We do not have sufficient leisure to explain these holy rites (adequately). We have to carry out the work as directed by our preceptor. You would better ask our preceptor.”

When this was said by them, I have approached you. Since I am engaged in hunting, I have become tired. Desirous of some hospitality (I halted here). There this meritorious work performed by your disciples was seen by me on the way. O eminent sage, I have a great desire to know more of these holy rites. You are the first (sage) and inasmuch as you perform all the holy rites from the beginning, O eminent sage, explain them in detail to me. I am desirous of hearing about them. I am your humble disciple and I have faith (in these rites).

33b-36a. On being asked thus by the king belonging to the dynasty of Ikṣvāku, the sage of great reputation was very much pleased in his mind to note that he had been properly asked by him then. (He said) “O king, your intellect is well employed and well trained. Since your mind is enthusiastically interested in the talk about Viṣṇu and the performance of holy rites pertaining to him, your merit has come to fruition.” After remarking thus with great delight, he spoke to the king thus:

36b-41a. “Listen, O king, I shall speak what I have been asked by you now. By listening to that, one is liberated from all sins. Granting that a person abandons all (other) holy rites and is completely engrossed in sensual pleasures, if he is engaged in the holy bath during the month of Vaiśākha, he becomes a favourite of Viṣṇu. Even if a person performs all other holy rites along with their ancillaries but Vaiśākha is not duly honoured by means of holy bath, charitable gifts, worships and other meritorious deeds, Hari is far way from him.

If Vaiśākha is passed without taking the holy bath and making charitable gifts, he becomes a Cāṇḍāla through this omission. There is no doubt about this.

If Hari is propitiated by means of the great holy rites laid down for the month of Vaiśākha, he becomes satisfied and grants whatever is desired.

41b-45. The Lord of the universe, the Consort of Lakṣmī is the destroyer of the entire mass of sins. He is pleased with the subtlest of holy rites and not with gross (physical) efforts or expenses in terms of money. If he is devoutly worshipped, Viṣṇu grants whatever is desired.

Hence, O king, devotion to Viṣṇu should always be practised. Even if he is adored with water, Hari, the Lord of the universe, dispels all pain and strain. He becomes satisfied like a thirsty man with water.

Even a great Karma may yield only a small benefit. Even a small Karma may yield a great benefit. The greatness or smallness of the Karma is not the cause of the greatness or smallness of the benefit (accrued). But the nature of the Karma (is the cause). The way of Karma is inscrutable.[2]

46. These holy rites prescribed for the month of Vaiśākha can be performed with very little effort. They are auspicious and pleasing to Viṣṇu. They prevent increase in expenses.

47. Hence, O king, you too perform the holy rites laid down for the month of Vaiśākha. Make all the people in your kingdom perform these auspicious rites.

48. The base one who does not perform the holy rites laid down for Vaiśākha should be rebuked in various ways, O king. (If he does not perform even then) he should be punished by you.”

49. Thus (the sage) clearly explained to him the necessity of performing those holy rites by expounding the scriptural texts. Afterwards he described to him the nature, procedure etc. of the Vaiśākha holy rites completely.

50. After hearing everything about all the rites, he devoutly revered the preceptor. The king thereafter returned to his abode and performed all the rites.

51. O king, he was a great devotee of Keśava, the unsullied Lord of Devas. The king did not see (i.e. worship) anyone other than Viṣṇu (Padmanābha), the Lord of Devas.

52-55. A great Bherī-drum was placed on an elephant and this was proclaimed throughout his kingdom through soldiers:[3] “If anyone over the age of eight years and under eighty does not take early morning bath when the Sun is in Aries, all those people will be liable to be punished by me. They may be executed or banished from the kingdom surely. Even if it is (my) father or son or wife or an intimate friend, if he shuns (the performance of the holy rites in Vaiśākha), he should be bound over by me like a robber. After taking the holy bath in the splendid water, gifts should be made over to eminent Brāhmaṇas. O sinless ones, perform other holy rites too, such as establishing Prapās etc. in accordance with your capacity.”

56. He appointed a Brāhmaṇa expounder of holy rites in every village. He appointed a special officer for every five villages.

57-60. That officer was entrusted with the duty of punishing those who had forsaken their Dharmas. He had at his disposal ten horses (i.e. ten soldiers from the cavalry).

The tree of Dharma and pious activity thus planted everywhere at the bidding of the emperor flourished in every land profusely. All those men who died in the realm of that king, went to Hari’s abode, O excellent king.

O excellent king, even those who go to Hari’s abode (temple) accidentally, go to Hari’s abode (Vaikuṇṭha) after death. Certainly the world of Viṣṇu is attained by men quickly. One who takes a bath but once in the morning under some pretext when the Sun is in Aries, shall be rid of all sins and go to the great region of Viṣṇu.

61-64. By taking the holy bath in Vaiśākha even once one does not go to the world of Yama. O king, at that time the son of the Sun-god (i.e. Yama) had nothing to record. Then Citragupta got complete rest from his writing and accounting (of Karmas etc.). The previous records about the sins of people were erased quickly in a moment by the people who went to the world of Viṣṇu for their own (good) Karmas.

All the Narakas (Hells) became empty as they were devoid of sinful creatures. By the power of Vaiśākha the path (to hell) became devoid of all traffic. All people became free from impurities and of brilliant form and went to the region of Hari.

65-68. All the abodes of the heaven-dwellers became empty similarly. When the heaven became empty, when all the Narakas too became void, Nārada went to Dharmarāja and spoke thus: “O king, no usual lamentation is heard in Naraka; nothing is being written about the evil-doers. Citragupta is observing a vow of silence like a sage. Tell me the reason, O king, why men of evil actions, great imposters and tricksters do not come to your abode.”

69. When these words were spoken by the noble-souled Nārada, the king, the son of Vivasvān (i.e. Yama) said thus somewhat helplessly:

70. “O Nārada, the king who is ruling the earth now, is a great devotee of Hṛṣīkeśa, the ancient excellent Puruṣa.

71-73. He enlightens the people in the holy rites of Vaiśākha by means of Bherī sound: ‘He who is over eight years and under eighty and who does not perform holy rites of Vaiśākha will be undoubtedly punished by me.’ Because they are so afraid, therefore all the people never transgress. By means of that Karma, O Nārada, they go to the abode of Viṣṇu. People will go to the abode of Hari by resorting to holy rites of Vaiśākha.

74-78. The path to my place has been destroyed by that king now, O excellent sage. All the Narakas have been evacuated. So also the worlds of heaven-dwellers. The accountant Citragupta has taken rest. What has been already written has been now erased by people. The greatness of the holy rites of the month of Vaiśākha is of such (efficacy), O sage. O Brāhmaṇa, people have been rid of the sins like that of slaughter of Brāhmaṇas. By performing their duties in the month of Vaiśākha, they go to the great region of Viṣṇu. I have now become a mere log of wood (unable to punish or bless people). I shall fight with him and kill him (though) he is very mighty in every respect. The (servant) who does not carry out the tasks of his master, who remains inactive but who yet receives his wages, certainly goes to Naraka.

79. If he is indestructible by a Deva, I will go to Brahmā, intimate to him everything and afterwards will be free from worry.”

80-86. After saying this he took leave of the Brāhmaṇa. Kāla lifted up his terrible staff, rode on his buffalo and went to the earth along with his followers.[4] He was surrounded by his excessively fierce attendants like Mṛtyu, Roga, Jarā etc. and the messengers numbering fifty crores. He immediately besieged the entire capital of that saintly king. He then blew his exceedingly fierce conch that instilled fear in all the worlds.

On hearing it, that saintly king knew that it was Yama, the son of Vivasvān. He got ready with all preparations and angrily set out from the city.

The fight between those two was terrifying and caused hair stand on end. Within a trice that saintly king subdued Mṛtyu, Kāla, Roga, Yama and Dūtapati. He routed them in great anger. Thereupon the infuriated king Yama himself approached him and fought with him with many arrows. He roared like a lion. With three arrows the king cut off his bow.

87-91. Taking up his sword and shield, Yama came down to kill him. On seeing him, the king became furious. He cut off the sword and the shield and planted in his forehead an arrow that had the lustre of a black serpent. On being struck by it Yama became furious and took up his staff. He charged it with the Mantra of a Brahmā missile and discharged it towards him (the king). The onlookers shrieked “Alas!” At that time, for the sake of the protection of his own devotee, Viṣṇu hurled his Discus. The Discus hurled by Viṣṇu came to the battleground, quickly clashed with the staff of Yama and checked that Brāhma missile. The devotee of the Lord (i.e. the king) became frightened and immediately eulogized the Discus.

92-94. “O Thousand-spoked (Discus), the ornament of the hands of Viṣṇu, obeisance to you. Formerly you were held by Hari for the sake of protecting all the worlds. I beg of you today to protect Yama, the highly powerful devotee of Viṣṇu. You alone are the deity of death unto men who are inimical to Devas. No one else. Hence, O lord of the universe, be merciful. Protect this Yama.”

95. The Discus that was eulogized by the king thus left Yama and came near the king, O great king, even as the Devas stood watching in the firmament.

96-100. Then Yama who was exceedingly dejected went to the abode of God Brahmā.[5] There he saw the Grandfather of all the worlds seated, surrounded by embodied and unembodied beings. He is the support of Dhruva, the seed (creator) of the universe. He was attended upon by all the Devas, the Guardians of the Worlds and Lords of the Quarters, Itihāsas, Purāṇas and other (sacred texts) assuming the bodies of Devas, oceans, rivers and lakes in embodied forms, all the trees such as Aśvattha etc. having physical bodies, tanks, wells and lakes as well as mountains with physical forms, the units of time such as days, nights, fortnights, months, years, Kalās, Kāṣṭhās, Nimeṣas, seasons, Ayanas (transits of the Sun) and Yugas.

101-103. He was surrounded by Saṃkalpas (resolve), Vikalpas (doubts), winkings and openings of the eyes, stars, Yogas, Karaṇas (astrological positions), full moons, declinings and wanings of the moon, happiness, misery, fears, profits, losses, victories, defeats, Satīva, Rajas, and Tamas, Śānta (calm), Mūḍha (deluded), Atiprauḍha (mature), the effects of Prakṛti, Vāyu (Wind-god), the lord of Devas, phlegm, bile and others.

104-110a. In the middle of all these, Yama entered like a bashful bride. He was glancing at the floor and he exhibited a pale face. On seeing Yama entering and standing nearby along with his followers, all those beings became surprised. They said to one another:

“Why has Yama come here? Why has he come here to see Lord Brahmā, the creator of the worlds? This son of Ravi never remains inactive even for a moment. Why has he come? Are the Heaven-dwellers hale and happy? This is the greatest wonder that his scroll is without any writing. The writer also has come with him. He is also exceedingly dejected. His scroll is never kept without any writing (clean) because he is afraid of Dharma. What has never been seen or heard is present now.”

Even as those beings were commenting thus, Yama, the chastiser of living beings, the son of Sun-god, fell on the ground in front of Brahmā like a tree uprooted. He cried, “Save me, save me!”

110b-112. “O Lord of Devas, I have been humiliated. My scroll has been rendered clean (without writing). O Lotus-seated One, when you are the Lord, I have never seen hitherto any defeat or failure.”

After saying this, O excellent king, he became motionless. Thereupon a tumultuous sound arose in the assembly.

113-117. “Yama, the son of Vivasvān, who makes all mortals, mobile and immobile beings sad, is himself miserable now and he cries. Why does he cry? He who distresses people shall ere long meet with mishaps and calamities. A man who commits evil deeds does not gain auspiciousness.” Then Wind-god prevented them from talking. Brahmā took note of the opinion of all those beings present there. Warding off the other people, Wind-god lifted up Yama slowly with his brawny arms as stout as Sāla trees. The liberal-minded Wind-god made him occupy his seat as he was utterly agitated and thoroughly helpless. Then Wind-god asked Yama as he sat on his seat:

118-120. “By whom have you been attacked? By whom have you been prevented from your office. O lord, by whom was this scroll wiped off? Tell me everything. What for have you come? O dear one, he who is the Lord of all is your maker and my maker too. Whence is this misery in your heart?” On being asked thus by Wind-god, Yama told him the truth and said these words. On seeing the face of the son of Kuśaketu his words were choked. He was greatly agitated.

Footnotes and references:


Nṛga was the younger brother of Ikṣvāku. He was famous for performance of sacrifices and charity (Mbh, Vana 88.5-6; Anuśāsana 76.23). He was cursed to be a chameleon and was redeemed by Kṛṣṇa (Mbh, Anuśāsana 70. 2-28). But no son called Kīrtimān is attributed to him in Mbh and BhP.


The discussion in vv 41b-45 indicates that though Vratas in Vaiśākha appear easy, they are great in their efficacy.


VV 52-58 show the king’s efforts to popularize (even by compulsion) the Vaiśākha Vratas.


Conquest of the god of Death (Yama) and his torturous realms (Narakas) is looked upon as the highest efficacy of a Vrata. It is attributed to Ekādaśī in NP and to Vaiśākha-Vratas here. It is a device of popularizing a Vrata, used here in vv 52 to the end of the Chapter and Chapters 12 and 13 later.


VV 96-103 describe the assembly of God Brahmā. It is supposed to be attended by even impersonal principles in their embodied forms.

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