by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,142,515 words
This page describes The Greatness of Vishnuhari which is chapter 1 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 first chapter of the Ayodhya-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Obeisance to Śri Gaṇeśa
The narration of the glory of Ayodhyā is begun.
3-14. Rāma, the noble-souled king, performed a Sattra (sacrifice) lasting for twelve years in the great holy spot named Kurukṣetra. Holy sages from various places had been invited and they had assembled there. All the sages who had mastered the Vedas and were the inhabitants of Himalayas, the residents of Naimiṣa forest (had come there with their disciples).
(Sages) who were great souls, knowers of all the three times (i.e. past, present and future), those who resided in Arbuda (Mt. Abu) forest, Daṇḍaka forest, Mahendra mountain, Vindhya mountain, Jaṃbū forest, banks of Godāvarī, Vārāṇasī, the residents of Mathurā, celibate ones, those dwelling at Ujjayinī, those who had resorted to Dvārakā and Badarikāśrama, the residents of Māyāpurī (Haridwar) and Kānti (Kāñcī)—all these and many other sages devoid of impurities had come there along with their disciples.
All of them were pure in mind. They had mastered Vedas and Vedāṅgas. After their holy bath they performed Japa and other holy rites duly with Bhāradvāja (? Bharadvāja), the master of Vedas and Vedāṅgas as their leader, they occupied different kinds of seats such as Bṛṣī etc. in their due order.
They discussed different kinds of Tīrthas during the intervals between two holy rites. Seated comfortably they talked to one another freely.
Towards the end of the discussions of those sages of purified souls, Sūta, the highly intelligent sage of great refulgence, came there. His name was Romāharṣaṇa. He was a disciple of Vyāsa. He was conversant with the Purāṇas.
After making obeisance to those sages in their proper order and after being permitted by the sages, he too sat down. The pure and excellent sages, Bhāradvāja (?) and others, asked the excellent sage, Sūta Romaharṣaṇa:
The sages said:
15. O highly fortunate one, many stories concerning different Tīrthas have been heard from you. O highly intelligent one, all the Purāṇas along with their esoteric teachings have been heard (by us).
16. Now we wish to hear about the greatness of the great city of Ayodhyā which is splendid due to its good qualities, along with its eternal secrets.
18. What is the situation of that city? Who were the kings there? What are the meritorious Tīrthas (there)? What is their importance?
19. What sort of benefit is obtained by men by resorting to Ayodhyā? O Sūta, what is its history? What are the rivers and the confluences (there)?
20-21. What is the merit acquired by taking the holy bath therein and of making charitable gifts there, O highly intelligent one? O Sūta, superior to everyone in merits, we wish to hear all these from you. We wish to hear everything in due order. You know all the facts about them. It behoves you now to recount the greatness of the great city Ayodhyā.
22. O ascetics, I know all the Purāṇas along with the legendary anecdotes and the esoteric doctrines truly with the favour of Vyāsa.
23. After bowing down to him, I shall recount to you all, the glory of the great city of Ayodhyā as it actually exists along with all the secrets.
24. I always bow down to the great man Vedavyāsa, son of Parāśara, the excellent and calm-minded sage who is endowed with learning, is bestower of noble and great intellect, can be understood through Vedas and Vedāṅgas, has subdued all (desires for) sensual pleasures, who has pure and extensive refulgence, is always modest and whose sole origin is (Lord Viṣṇu) who is to be venerated by all.
25. Oṃ, obeisance to that holy lord Vyāsa of unmeasured splendour, with whose favour I know this glory of Ayodhyā.
26-28. May all the sages with their disciples hear with attention. I shall recount the splendid glory of the city of Ayodhyā. It was heard by Skanda from Nārada. Then it was narrated to Agastya. Formerly it was recounted to Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana by Agastya.
30. Great and holy is the city of Ayodhyā which is inaccessible to perpetrators of evil deeds. Who would not like to visit Ayodhyā wherein Lord Hari himself resided?
32-34. It is full of elephants, horses, chariots and foot-soldiers. It tops (all cities) in its richness and prosperity. It has numerous broad roads and great rampart walls and golden arched gateways resembling mountain-ridges and peaks. The squares and crossroads are well planned and neatly maintained. There are many-storeyed palaces with numerous (artistic) alterations and modifications in the walls. It is rendered splendid by many tanks with excellent water abounding in full-blown lotuses. It is well-adorned with shrines of deities possessing divine splendour and is resounded with the sounds of the chanting of the Vedas (which can be heard everywhere).
35-36. The sounds of lutes, flutes, Mṛdaṅga drums etc. make it very excellent. It has different kinds of parks and gardens abounding in trees bearing fruits in all the seasons. There are Śāla trees (Vatica robusta), palmyras, coconuts, jack trees, Indian gooseberry trees, mango trees, wood-apple trees, Aśoka and other trees.
37-38. There are many flowering plants such as jasmine, Jāti (another variety of jasmine), Bakula (Mimisops elengi), Pāṭalī (trumpet flowers), Nāga (variety of citron), Caṃpaka (Michelia campaka), Karavīra (oleander), Karṇikāra (Cathartocarpus fistula), Ketakī (Pandamus odoratissimus) etc. There are great fruit bearing trees like Niṃba (margosa), Jambīra (a variety of citron), Kadalī (plantain) and Mātuliṅga (pomegranate). There are Nāgaras (Cyperus pertenuis) having the fragrance of sandalwood.
39-42. It has many kinds of citizens of high accomplishments such as princes having the refulgence of Devas, excellent women of great beauty who are on a par with celestial damsels, eminent poets of great excellence, Brāhmaṇas equal to Bṛhaspati (in intelligence), merchants and other citizens who are like the Kalpa-trees.
Horses there are on a par with Uccaiḥśravas and elephants are like the elephants guarding the cardinal points. Thus in various ways and features that city is equal to the city of Indra.
It was here that the kings of the Solar race with Ikṣvāku as the foremost one, were born. All of them were exclusively devoted to protection of the subjects.
43. The city is built on the banks of the river Sarayū whose waters are meritorious. Its banks are echoed with hummings of bees and chirpings of birds. It is a sparklingly clear and beautiful river with Mānasa lake as its source.
44. It is full of holy water. The touch of this river is as excellent as that of Gaṅgā. Great sages have resorted to its banks. It is wakeful and watchful. It is the loftiest in the world (in sanctity).
45. Gaṅgā issued forth from the big toe of the right foot of Hari, O excellent sages, and the splendid Sarayū issued forth from the big toe of his left foot.
46. Hence these two rivers are exceedingly meritorious and are bowed to by Devas. Merely by taking the holy bath in these two rivers one gets rid of the sin of the murder of a Brāhmaṇa.
47. Agastya, the pot-born sage, knew the efficacy of this Tīrtha with the favour of Skanda. Thereafter the sage went to Ayodhyā on a pilgrimage.
48-50. He performed the rites of the pilgrimage in due order. He took the holy bath in accordance with the injunctions and offered libations to the Pitṛs. He performed the worship of all the deities in the prescribed manner. He made obeisance to all the Tīrthas duly. Having seen the glory of the Tīrtha directly, he derived a great deal of happiness strengthened with the feeling of having fulfilled his duty. Agastya experienced the emotion of ecstatic delight (with hair standing on end all over his body).
51. The excellent sage stayed there for three nights. Having completed the pilgrimage duly, he praised the great city of Ayodhyā and started from there.
52. On seeing him beaming with excess of delight, Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana Vyāsa asked him what the cause of his great delight was.
53-54. O great Brāhmaṇa, whence are you coming back? O excellent sage, you are experiencing abundance of supreme bliss now. What is the reason for which this extreme delight has occurred to you? O Brāhmaṇa, speak it to me. Seeing your delight, my heart too feels exceedingly delighted.
55-56. Oh! It is a great wonder. It is highly surprising, O excellent sage. On seeing the glory of Ayodhyā, O ascetic, I have attained this excessive bliss today.
On hearing the words of Agastya, Vyāsa said to that sage:
57-58. O holy lord, tell me accurately and in detail, the greatness and glory of the great city Ayodhyā along with its secrets and its superior qualities. What is the procedure of the pilgrimage? What are the Tīrthas? What is the method of performing the Yātrā? What is the benefit of the holy bath therein? O great sage, what is the benefit of the charitable gift (given there)? Recount all this in detail, O excellent one among eloquent persons.
59. Oh! Blessed indeed is your intellect, O ascetic, for you are enquiring about the glory of Ayodhyā.
61. Since this city is not reached by all (major) sins like the murder of a Brāhmaṇa etc. along with minor sins, it (the city) is known as Ayodhyā. (i.e. The city is beyond the pale of sins.)
62. O Brāhmaṇa, this is the first city of Viṣṇu. It does not touch the earth. This city that causes merit on the earth is stationed on Sudarśana, the Discus of Viṣṇu.
63. By whom can the glory of this (city) be (adequately) described, O ascetic? It is here that Lord Viṣṇu himself dwells respectfully.
64-67. The holy place is situated thus: Beginning from Sahasradhārā, a distance of a Yojana constitutes the eastern part. Similarly in the west too, the limit is Samata (?) up to one Yojana. In the southern and the northern parts Sarayū and Tamasā form the boundary. This is the situation of the holy place. This is the place wherein stands the sanctum sanctorum of Hari. This city of Viṣṇu is said to have the shape of a fish. Its head is in the west between Gopratāra and Asita, O Brāhmaṇa. Its back is in the east and its middle portion lies from north to south. In this city, O highly fortunate one, the Lord designated as Viṣṇu-Hari dwells. His power is already well-known.
68. O holy lord, what is the power of this Lord who is glorified by you as Viṣṇu-Hari? O tiger among sages, how did he become famous? Describe all this in detail to me.
69-78. Formerly there was an excellent Brāhmaṇa well-known by the name Viṣṇu Śarmā. He was a knower of the essence of Vedas and Vedāṅgas; he was devoted to pious and holy rites. He regularly practised Yoga and meditation. He was engrossed in devotion to Viṣṇu. That excellent Vaiṣṇava came to Ayodhyā once in the course of his pilgrimage.
The heroic Brāhmaṇa Viṣṇu (Śarmā) thought that Viṣṇu must be present there directly and personally. (For that purpose) he began to perform penance. He started his austerities with green roots and fruits forming his diet.
During summer he performed penance seated in the midst of five fires. During rainy season he had nothing to protect him (to ward off the rain). During early winter he used to take his holy bath in the excellent lake and perform the worship of Viṣṇu according to the injunctions. He brought under his control all the sense-organs and kept his mind free from impurities.
He fixed his mind on Viṣṇu and restrained his vital airs. He repeatedly uttered “OṂ” and made the lotus of his heart blossom. Within it he imagined the circles (spheres) of the Sun, Moon and Fire-god duly. There he conceived the eternal Lord Hari in a personified (embodied) form. He conceived the Lord as one wearing yellow robes and holding a conch, discus and iron club. He worshipped the Lord with flowers and dedicated his mind unto him. He meditated on Hari in the form of Brahman and repeated the twelve-syllabled Mantra. The Brāhmaṇa stayed there for three years.
Thereafter the excellent Brāhmaṇa bowed down to Hari, the lord of the universe, the sire of mobile and immobile beings, and meditated on him. Viṣṇu Śarmā eulogized Hari Nārāyaṇa alertly.
Viṣṇu Śarmā said:
79-83. Be pleased, O Lord Viṣṇu; be pleased, O Puruṣottama; be pleased, O lord of the chiefs of Devas; be pleased, O lotuseyed one. Be victorious, O Kṛṣṇa; be victorious, O inconceivable one; be victorious, O Viṣṇu; O immutable one; be victorious, O lord of Yajñas; be victorious, O Lord Viṣṇu; O lord, the all-powerful one.
Be victorious, O infinite one; O dispeller of sins, be victorious; O dispeller of the ailment of births. Obeisance to the lotus-navelled one; obeisance to the lord with lotus garlands; obeisance, O lord of all, O lord of all living beings; obeisance, O slayer of Kaiṭabha; obeisance to the lord of the three worlds; O root of the universe, O lord of the universe. Obeisance to the overlord of Devas; obeisance to Nārāyaṇa. Obeisance to Kṛṣṇa, to Rāma. Obeisance to the lord with the discus as his weapon.
84-87. You are the mother of all the worlds. You alone are the father of the universe. You are the sincere friend of those who are frightened and distressed; you are the father, you are the grandfather. You are Havis. You are Vaṣaṭkāra; you are the master. You are the Fire-god. You alone are the instrument, cause and the creator; you alone are the greatest lord.
O Mādhava, wielding the conch, discus and iron club in the hands, redeem me. Be pleased, O supporter of the Mandara mountain; be pleased, O slayer of Madhu; be pleased, O lover of Kamalā; be pleased, O lord of the worlds.
88-91. As he eulogized with great devotion in his mind, Viṣṇu, the soul of the universe appeared before that noble-souled (Brāhmaṇa). He was seated on Garuḍa, holding the conch, discus and iron club in his hands and wearing yellow robes.
Acyuta, the immutable one, who was delighted in his mind said to Viṣṇu Śarmā:
Śrī Bhagavān said:
O dear one, I am pleased with your great penance now. O (Brāhmaṇa) of excellent intellect, all your sins have perished now on account of this prayer. Choose your boon, O eminent Brāhmaṇa. I cannot be seen by anyone who has not performed penance.
Viṣṇu Śarmā said:
92-94. I am contented and blessed, O Lord of Devas, with your vision now. O Lord of the universe, grant me unshakeable devotion to you.
Śrī Bhagavān said:
May your steadfast devotion to me be the bestower of salvation. May your Vaiṣṇava devotion to me be firm. Let the river Jāhnavī, the bestower of salvation, be present here itself. O highly fortunate one, this holy spot will become renowned with your name.
95-98. After saying thus, the Lord of the chiefs of Devas dug that spot with his discus and made the water of Gaṅgā manifest itself from the sphere of the nether worlds.
The Lord, the storehouse of mercy, made the ground free from sin in a trice mercifully, by means of that sacred water. Ever since then, O Brāhmaṇa, that became renowned as Cakratīrtha. That became a splendid Tīrtha destroying mass of sins and renowned in all the three worlds. By taking the holy bath there, and making charitable gifts, one shall go to the world of Viṣṇu.
99. Then Lord Viṣṇu, Acyuta, who is friendly and favourable to Brāhmaṇas, became filled with great compassion and said to Viṣṇu Śarmā:
Śrī Bhagavān said:
100. Let my idol stay here, O Brāhmaṇa, with your name prefixed. It shall be well-known as Viṣṇuhari. It shall be the bestower of salvation.
101-105. On hearing these words of Vāsudeva the intelligent Brāhmaṇa installed an idol of the Discus-bearing Lord with bis own name prefixed. Ever since then, O chief one among Brāhmaṇas, the Lord stationed himself there under the name Viṣṇuhari, holding the conch, discus and iron club in his hands and wearing yellow garments.
The annual festival will begin from the tenth day of the bright half of the month of Kārttika and conclude on the full-moon day. By taking his holy bath in Cakratīrtha a man is liberated from all sins. He is honoured in heaven for many thousands years. If people offer rice-balls, with Pitṛs in view, the Pitṛs shall become contented. They will go to the world of Viṣṇu. There is no doubt about it.
106-109. By taking holy bath in Cakratīrtha and by visiting Lord Viṣṇuhari, one shall get all the sins destroyed and shall be honoured in heaven.
The man who is freed from sins shall make charitable gifts in accordance with his capacity. That intelligent man shall stay in the world of Viṣṇu as long as fourteen Indras reign.
On other occasions too men can take bath in Cakratīrtha. By controlling the sense-organs and seeing Lord Had but once, one is liberated from all sins.
Thus Hari who is the ocean of all good qualities, whose image must be meditated upon and who is the conscious soul, has stayed there in his great idol for the sake of salvation (of all).
One who worships him with great devotion and takes the holy bath in Cakratīrtha shall dwell in the world of Viṣṇu. He will be an embodiment of meritorious deeds.
Footnotes and references:
Narottama may mean Vyāsa also—Commentary.
This benedictory verse shows that the author wrote this independent work on a par with Mbh. ‘Jaya’ originally was restricted to Bhārata but was later used to indicate a Purāṇa or a Pūraṇic work like a Māhātmya of a Tīrtha.
Kurukṣetra; Thaneswar and the area including Sonepat, Panipat, Karnal in Haryana. It was a land situated between Sarasvatī on the north and Dṛṣadvatī on the south (Mbh, Vana 83.204-205). Like Naimiṣāraṇya, Kurukṣetra is associated with Sattras (sacrifices of long duration). The Māhātmya-writer is innocent of the geographical limits of Rāma’s kingdom. So he makes Rāma, a performer of a Sattra at Kurukṣetra. VR ends with Yuddha-Kāṇḍa (the Uttara Kāṇḍa is spurious). VR up to the end of Yuddha Kāṇḍa does not give the credit of such a sacrifice to Rāma.
Naimiṣa Forest: Generally taken as Nimsar, near the Nimsar Station of the former Oudh-Rohilkhand railway (De 135). But V.V. Mirashi has shown it to be somewhere in Sultanpur District, some 40 miles from Ayodhyā (Purāṇa X.I.14). VāP 126.96.36.199 records a Naimiṣa forest at Kurukṣetra where Adhisīma Kṛṣṇa performed a Sattra.
Sūta: It is the name of the subcaste of the Purāṇa-narrator Romaharṣaṇa. A Sūta is an offspring of a Brāhmaṇa female and a Kṣatriya male (Manu X. 11; Yājñavalkya 1.93). He was not eligible for Vedic Studies but could recite Itihāsa and Purāṇa. At the time of Kauṭilya, the reciter of a Purāṇa, “Paurāṇika”, had a higher status as a sage (Arthaśāstra III.7). Later Purāṇa-writers (like the present writer) confirmed his status. Romaharṣaṇa is probably his title due to the thrilling effect of his oratory.
Vide Note 1 on p. 139. The verse listing these cities is as follows:
Ayodhyā, Mathurā, Māyā, Kāśī, Kāñcī, Avantikā |
Purī, Dvārāvatī caiva saptaite mokṣadāyakāḥ ||
Sarayū: The river rises in Kumaun mountains and came to be called Sarayū after its confluence with the Kālinadī (De 182). But Mbh (Ādi 169.20-21) regards that it is one of the seven streams of Gaṅgā from Himalayas. Later in Anuśāsana 155.23-24, the Mānasa lake is said to be its source.
A Purāṇic etymology attributing meaning to every syllable of A-yo-dhyā.
Boundaries of Purāṇic Ayodhyā.
The story is meant to explain the name of the deity ‘Viṣṇu-Hari’ which was so-called as it was installed by Viṣṇu Śarmā, vv 101-105.
Cakratīrtha: De 43 records one Cakratīrtha at (1) Kurukṣetra, (2) Prabhāsa, (3) Tryambaka, (4) Vārāṇasī and (5) Rāmeśvara but none at Ayodhyā. Kane adds Āmelaka-grāma, Kāśmīr, Mathurā, Asthipura (HD IV, 742) but none at Ayodhyā. But the author gives us the details and the importance of the Cakratīrtha at Ayodhyā. As in other places, this Cakratīrtha was created by Viṣṇu’s discus.
The annual celebration of this deity takes place from the 10th Tithi to the 15th Tithi (full-moon day) of the bright half of Kārttika.