The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Bhagavata Dharmas which is chapter 20 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 twentieth chapter of the Vaishakhamasa-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 20 - The Bhāgavata Dharmas

The hunter said:

1-2. Why were Jīvas (individual souls) created by the Lord in thousands and crores? They are seen engaged in different activities, diverse paths and pursuits. They are eternal. They are not of the same nature. Why is it so, O highly intelligent one? Describe everything in detail to me truthfully. I earnestly request for it.

Śaṅkha said:

3-6. Indeed the groups of Jīvas are of three types with Rajas, Sattva and Tamas as their Guṇas.[1] Those of Rajas perform Rājasa activities. Those of Tamas pursue Tāmasa activities and those of Sattva pursue Sāttvika activities.

Sometimes there occurs difference in Guṇas during their transmigration (from one birth to another). For this reason they do acts of higher and lower kinds and experience the fruits thereof.

In some cases they obtain happiness, in some instances they experience miseries and in some cases they get both (happiness and miseries). These they attain on account of difference in their (share of) Guṇas. Being bound by the three Guṇas, these Jīvas abide in Prakṛti.

7. The diversity in regard to the fruits of actions occurs in accordance with Guṇas and Karmas. Again these individuals (i.e. individual souls) attain Prakṛti and conformity to the Guṇas.

8. (Obscure) Those who abide in Prakṛti and those who follow it are excited (abhimūrchitāḥ?) by Prakṛti and ṃey attain Prakṛti as their goal. There is no question of opposition to Prakṛti.

9. The Tāmasas (those with dominant Tamoguṇa) mostly experience pain and misery. They have always Tāmasa pursuits and activities. They are merciless and cruel. They live in the world activated by hatred alone.

10-11. Beings beginning with Rākṣasas and ending with Piśācas attain the Tāmasa goal. Those with dominance of Rajas quality are of mixed temperament. They commit sins as well as meritorious deeds. They attain heaven as a result of meritorious deeds. They undergo sufferings in certain places due to sins. Hence these unfortunate ones repeatedly come and go (in this world).

12. Persons habituated to perform pious deeds, the merciful ones, those who are faithful and those who are devoid of jealousy are the Sāttvikas. They continue to follow the activities of Sattva type (of good nature).

13. Persons of great prowess and devoid of impurities, go upwards when the Guṇas are dispelled.

Thus different activities have different feelings and different modes.

14. Viṣṇu, the great Lord, makes them do acts in accordance with their inherent Guṇas and Karmas for the purpose of attaining his own form.

15. Since Viṣṇu is Pūrṇakāma (‘one who has achieved all desires’), there is neither Vaiṣamya (inequality or partiality in the dispensation of fruit) nor Nairghṛṇya (ruthlessness) in him. He impartially performs the work of creation, sustenance and annihilation.

16-17. All of them obtain the fruits of their actions in accordance with their own Guṇa.

A cloud showers rain equally on all the trees planted in a garden; similarly the same canal supplies water to all the trees alike. Hence we cannot accuse the planter of the garden of partiality and ruthlessness in any manner whatsoever.

The hunter enquired:

18-19. When will the salvation of these persons who have completely experienced (the fruits of their Karmas) take effect, O sage? Will it be at the time of the creation or of the annihilation of the established order? Or does it occur at the juncture of creation and annihilation or during the steady state? Explain this in detail, O Brāhmaṇa, and describe to me the activities of the Lord.

Śaṅkha said:

20. A thousand sets of four Yugas make what is called a day of Brahmā. He has a night also of the same duration. The day and night together make one full day.

21. Fifteen such full days make a Pakṣa (fortnight). A month consists of two such Pakṣas. They call two months together as one Ṛtu (Season) and three such Ṛtus make one Ayana.

22. Two Ayanas make one Vatsara (year). If hundred such years pass by, it is known as one Kalpa of Brahmā.

23-24. According to the opinion of those conversant with the Vedas the duration of Pralaya is that much (like that of a Brāhma Kalpa).

Pralaya (Annihilation) is of three types:[2] (1) Mānava when a Manu’s period becomes complete; (2) Dainaṃdina (Daily) i.e. occurring at the end of a day of Brahmā; (3) Brāhma Pralaya occurring when Brahmā passes away.

25-29. Manu’s Pralaya is known to take place at the end of a Muhūrta of Brahmā. When fourteen such Pralayas take place in due order, they call it Dainaṃdina Laya.

Now (I shall recount) the situation during the Pralayas. After a Manvantara only three worlds are destroyed. (The other) worlds are not destroyed. Only the sentient beings perish. The space shall be filled with waters. After a Manvantara is over and when another Manvantara starts, the sentient beings will be born once again. During Dainaṃdina Laya, O hunter, everything perishes. When the Four-faced Lord is asleep, all the worlds except Satyaloka perish along with their presiding deities. The sentient beings along with the elements face dissolution. All the inanimate beings too perish.

30-33. The presiding deities of the Elements and some sages are left out. All those established in Satyaloka remain asleep. They continue to sleep till the end of the Kalpa. They are beyond the pale of sense-organs. Again, at the end of the night, Brahmā creates everything as before. He creates the sages, the Devas, the Pitṛs, the worlds, the Dharmas and the different castes separately. Again the ten incarnations of the discus-bearing Lord Viṣṇu take place. All these are created invariably. The Devas and the sages live till the end of the Kalpa of the Lord of Sarasvatī (Brahmā).

34-39a. They are born again and they attain salvation along with Brahmā. Pious persons and honourable kings, those persons who had attained Siddhi, those who had reached the supreme stage and those who are established in Satyaloka, move about along with him. Those who belong to that group, go again and are born in the different Gotras with their respective names. They adhere to the Śrutis. They are always engaged in their different actions. In regard to all the Daityas (their salvation occurs) when Kali Yuga comes to a close.

Those who have hell as their abode, attain their goal along with Kali. Those who are established in their group and others with their names (?) are reborn according to their Karma and then perform their respective duties.

I shall now tell the time of creation and the time of salvation of the Devas including Brahmā. Listen with an attentive mind.[3]

39b-44a. One Wink of the Lord of Devas is considered to be equal to a Kalpa of Brahmā. At the end thereof occurs opening of the eyes of the Lord, the crest-jewel of Devas. At the end of the Wink, he will have the desire to create the worlds existing in his belly. He then glances at all those many groups of Jīvas within his belly, those Jīvas that are worthy of being created, those that are liberated and all those who have met with Liṅgabhaṅga (the break-up of the subtle body—Liṅgaśarīra?)

Those who are asleep, all those who are on the path (sṛtisthāḥ?) all those engulfed in darkness, those who had met with the break-up of the subtle body in the previous Kalpa beginning with Brahmā and ending with Manus, the individual souls, the living-liberated ones, those that have attained liberation, those that were liberated in the previous Kalpa beginning with Brahmā and ending with Manus stay within the belly of Viṣṇu, still absorbed in meditation.

44b-50. During the earlier part of the period of ‘opening of the eyes’, the Lord assumes the four-fold manifestation (Vyūhas). On the basis of the previous accumulation of good qualities, he grants the Sāyujya type of salvation to Brahmā through a Vāsudeva, a manifestation of the Vyūha (obscure).

Thereafter he grants Sāyujya to the noble-souled ones conversant with reality. Then the Lord grants Sārūpya to some, Sāmīpya to others and Sālokya to still others. Thereafter Lord Janārdana espied all the worlds that had been under the control of (the manifestation called) Aniruddha. Handing them over to Pradyumna, he became inclined towards creation. Through the fourfold set of forms with the full complement of good qualities, Han, beginning with Vāsudeva himself married Māyā, Jāyākṛti and Śānti respectively. In collaboration with them, the Lord of the nature of the four-fold manifestation produced the world of diversified actions and temperament, though he himself is Pūrṇakāma (‘one who has realized all the desires’). At the end of Unmeṣa (‘opening of the eyes’), Viṣṇu once again resorted to Yogamāyā.

51-52a. Through Saṅkarṣaṇa who is a manifestation in the Vyūha, he destroys this (universe) consisting of mobile and immobile beings. Thus every activity of the Great Ātman that could be thought of, has been recounted. What cannot be ṃought of is very difficult to be imagined or conceived even by Yogins including Brahmā.

The hunter said:

52b-53a. What are the Bhāgavata (pertaining to the Lord) rites? What are those whereby Viṣṇu becomes pleased? I wish to hear about them now. O sage, describe them to me.

Śaṅkha said:

53b-55. Know that to be a Sāttvika Dharma[4] whereby there shall be purity of mind, which shall be helpful to good people and which is not at all censured by anyone.

They know that Dharma to be Sāttvika, the Dharma which is laid down in Śrutis and Smṛtis, provided it is not attended with ardent desires (for worldly pleasures) and is not antagonistic to worldly pursuits.

Those Dharmas are of four types according to the castes and the stages of life.

56-59. They are classified into three other groups, viz. Nityas (daily duties such as Sandhyā prayers etc.), Naimittikas (occasioned by astronomical positions and other causes) and Kāmyas (performed for the attainment of specific ends).

All those different duties (of the different castes) should be known as Sāttvika Dharmas when they are dedicated to Viṣṇu. They are the auspicious Bhāgavata Dharmas.

The holy rites with other presiding deities are considered to be Rājasas (of the Rājasa type).

The wicked and atrocious rites with Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Piśācas etc. as the presiding deities, which are censured (by good people) and which involve violence and injury (to others) are known as Tāmasas (having Tamoguṇa as the basis).

Those are known as Bhāgavatas who strictly adhere to Sattva Guṇa and perform the auspicious Sāttvika Dharmas that cause delight unto Viṣṇu and who perform them regularly without any specific desire.

60. Those are indeed Bhāgavatas whose mind is always attached to Viṣṇu, in whose tongue the name of the Lord is present and in whose heart the feet of the Lord are enshrined.

61. Those who are engaged in good conduct, those who render help to all and those who are always free from Mamatā (sense of “my-ness”, self-interest) are known as Bhāgavatas.

62. Those who have full faith in the scriptural texts, their preceptor, pious and honourable men and good activities, and those who are always devoted to Viṣṇu are known as Bhāgavatas.

63. The Dharmas esteemed by Bhāgavatas, those that are ever dear to Viṣṇu, and which are laid down in Śrutis and Smṛtis are considered eternal.

64-68. In regard to ṃose people whose mind is attracted by sensual pleasures, wandering over all the lands, seeing (performance) of all holy rites and listening to all Dharmas does not serve any purpose like an excellent young women in regard to a eunuch.

Merely by looking at pious and honourable men the mind of good people begins to melt like a slab of the moon-stone (Candrakāntaśilā) that comes into contact with the rays of the Moon.

In some places, by listening to excellent scriptural texts, the mind of good men being unaffected by sensual pleasures remains pure and refulgent like a sun-stone (Sūryakāntaśilā) due to contact with the rays of the Sun.

A Dharma always liked by Viṣṇu and faithfully resorted to by the people devoid of desires is considered to be a Bhāgavata Dharma.

69. Many holy rites observed by them yield benefit here and hereafter. They give delight to Viṣṇu. They are subtle and conducive to liberation from all miseries.

70. Just as one takes out the essence, butter, from curds, so also the Lord, residing in the Milk Ocean, has taken out the Dharma pertaining to Vaiśākha and recounted it to Ramā with a desire for the welfare of all.

71-75. The following are the holy rites destructive of sins: Making cool shady places along the roads, endowing free-water booths for distributing drinking water, fanning with hand fans, offering of utensils and furniture, gift of umbrella and shoes, gift of camphor and sweet scents, digging of tanks, wells and lakes if one has the money and other facilities, gift of sweet drinks in the evening, gift of flowers, gift of betel leaves and that of milk products are particularly destructive of sins. Gift of butter-milk with a pinch of salt to one who is weary on the way, applying oil to the body, washing of the feet of Brāhmaṇas, gift of mats, blankets and cots, gift of cows and of gingelly seeds mixed with honey are destructive of sins.

76-78. Giving sugarcane stumps in the evening, gift of sweet concoction from cucumber and medicine and offerings to manes: these are the holy activities particularly mentioned for this month which is a favourite month of Mādhava.

A devotee should take his holy bath early in the morning at sunrise. He should listen to the chanting (of the Vedic Mantras) done by Brāhmaṇas. He should then perform his daily round of duties and then worship Madhusūdana. With great concentration he should listen to the story pertaining to the month of Vaiśākha.

79-85. The devotee should avoid applying oil to the body; he should not take meal in a bell-metal vessel; he should not take forbidden food. He should not indulge in idle talk and gossip. He should abstain from eating bottle-gourd, garlic, carrot, gingelly seed-cake or eatables prepared from gingelly powder, gruel made by fermentation of boiled rice, burnt rice, Ghṛtakośātakī, Upodakī, Kaliṅga, Śiśuśāka, pterygosperma, potherb, Dolichos lablab, horsegram, Masūra pulse, eggplants, Wrightia antidysenteria, the grain eaten by poor people viz. Paspalum scrobiculatum, Amaranthus polygonoides, safflower prepared as potherb, radish, Ficus religiosa, Aegle marmelos, and Cordia latifolia. A wise devotee should avoid all these in this month much liked by Mādhava.

By eating any of these he shall definitely be reborn as a Cāṇḍāla and then in hundreds of animal wombs (species). There is no doubt about it. Thus the devotee should perform the Vrata for the whole month for propitiating the Slayer of Madhu. When the Vrata is concluded, the devotee should make an image of the Lord.

86. The image of Lord Madhusūdana should be given to a Brāhmaṇa along with clothes, monetary gifts etc. after duly being worshipped with all necessary offerings.

87-88a. On the twelfth day in the bright half of Vaiśākha the devotee should eagerly give curd-rice (boiled rice mixed with curds) along with a pot full of water, fruits, betel leaves and monetary gifts (saying) “I give this unto Dharmarāja. May Yama be pleased with it.”

88b-91. It should be given with the sacred thread worn over the right shoulder after uttering the name and Gotra of the fathers and manes. Thus the devotee should give rice mixed with curds for the sake of the pleasure of the manes. Similarly he should give to the preceptors too and afterwards to Viṣṇu.

“I give unto you, O Viṣnu, excellent cool water and rice mixed with curds. It is kept in a bell-metal vessel. It is offered along with betel leaves and monetary gifts, edible foodstuffs and fruits. I wish to go unto the world of Viṣṇu.”

After offering this he should give a cow in accordance with his capacity, to a person having a large family.

92-95. If a person performs this monthly Vrata with sincerity, he shall be rid of all his sins. He shall redeem a hundred generations of his family. Even as all living beings keep in looking at him, he shall pass beyond the sphere of the Sun and go to the highest abode of Viṣṇu inaccessible even to Yogins.

When the excellent Brāhmaṇa went on explaining thus the holy rites pertaining to Vaiśākha, recounted by Viṣṇu, asked by the hunter and (considered) exceedingly good, a banyan tree with five big branches fell down even as all of them were looking on. From that tree a very long cruel serpent that was hidden in a hollow left aside his body and sinful birth. He stood there with palms joined in reverence and with his head bowed down.

Footnotes and references:


VV 3-17 discuss the theory of Karmavāda. Jīvas are characterized by their guṇas and they receive the fruits of the action according to their Guṇa and Karma. Hence God cannot be charged with partiality (Vaiṣamya) and ruthlessness (Nairghṛṇya). Lord Viṣṇu is Pūrṇakāma and treats all equally like a showering cloud or a flowing canal.


VV 24-38 describe the three types of Pralaya. It should be noted that Daily (Dainandina) Pralaya occurs at the end of Brahmā’s day and not of ours as is believed by some.


VV 39b-50 describe the process of creation of the world and also the exposition of the functions of four Vyūhas.


VV 53-92 define and describe Sāttvika Dharmas, who are Bhāgavatas and allied topics. The Vaiśākha Dharmas included here too, are stated in a nutshell (vv 71-92).

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