The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Fall of Uparicara Vasu which is chapter 6 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 sixth chapter of the Vasudeva-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 6 - Fall of Uparicara Vasu

Sāvarṇi said:

1. That King Vasu was a great devotee of the Lord. What lie (deceitful statement) did he utter, whereby he went down from heaven to the bowels of the earth?

2. Who lifted him up again on the earth? Why was he cursed by his faṃers. How was the king redeemed then? O Skanda, please narrate it to me.

Skanda replied:

3. O Brāhmaṇa, listen to the story of Vasu who had the brilliance of God Indra. By hearing it, there will be instantaneous destruction of all sins.

4. Formerly, in the Svāyaṃbhuva Manvantara, Indra, by name Viśvajit, began a great sacrifice called Aśvamedha, O sage.

5. Beasts like goats and others were tied there and they were bleating frequently. All the multitudes of Devas were desirous of the taste (of their flesh).

6. By a lucky chance great sages having the refulgence of the sun, came there in the course of their touring of the world for the welfare of the people.

7. They were respectfully received with Pādya, Arghya and other items of (formal) welcome. Those sages saw the multitude of bleating sacrificial beasts.

8. Seeing the violence involved in the paraphernalia of the sacrifice to gods who were of Sāttvika nature, they were extremely wonder-struck.

9. Observing the travesty of Dharma, those paraphernalia, the Brāhmaṇas of virtuous mind, out of compassion, asked the Devas, among whom Mahendra was prominent:

The great sages said:

10. O Mahendra, listen to our speech along with Devas and sages. We declare the essence of the eternal Dhrama as it stands.

11. At the time of the creation of the world, you were created by the great god Brahmā out of Sattva, and you are the upholders of Dharma standing on all the four feet.

12. By means of Rajas and Tamas, he created Manus, kings, rulers of Asuras, the supporters of Dharma.

13. For the guidance of you all regarding the procedure of performance of sacrifice etc., he created the Veda, the conferer of all the desired fruits for the welfare of all.

14. There, in the Veda, Ahiṃsā (non-violence) alone has been glorified as the supreme Dharma. The direct killing of a beast is not definitely approved by the Veda.

15. The Veda has the aim of establishing the Dharma of four feet, and not of the destruction of Dharma by committing violence.

16. Kings, rulers of Asuras, however, due to the fault of Rajas and Tamas, and dullness of intellect, take ‘a he-goat’ etc. as the meaning of “Aja” in the injunction “sacrifice should be performed with a sacrificial Aja.” They did not know Vrīhi (rice) etc. (which is its meaning).

17. In your case, who are created out of Sattvaguṇa, the true meaning of the Vedas should be accepted. Otherwise, that kind of performance (involving violence) is not at all proper.

18. The nature of a person conforms to his Guṇa. One’s attitude in the performance of a ritual conforms to one’s own nature.

19. To you who are Sāttvikas the god is directly Viṣṇu, the consort of Ramā. For his gratification one is authorised to perform a Yajña which does not involve any violence.

20. The performance of a sacrifice by actually killing a beast, is contrary to Dharma in your case, O excellent Suras.

21. These performers of sacrifice on your behalf have resorted to Asura type of performance due to their being subjected to Rajas and Tamas Guṇas. They are ignorant of Vedas.

22. It is due to your association with them that such perversity has token place just now. Certainly, it is due to this, that ṃis performance has been commenced by you.

23. For Asuras and human beings, characterised by Rajas and Tamas Guṇas, there are deities like Bhairava and oṃers, worthy of being propitiated according to the Guṇas (of the devotees).

24. In this world, for the gratification of one’s deity of suitable guṇa, conforming to one’s own (i.e. devotee’s) guṇa, the performance of sacrifice involving violence is enjoined for them.

25. Even out of them, for the Daityas, Rākṣasas and human beings who are devotees of Viṣṇu, Yajña involving violence is not proper. How can it be so, in your case?

26. It is only in accordance with (the injunction of) the Veda that the remnants of the sacrifice are permitted to be eaten by all who have performed the sacrifice.

27. Consumption of liquor and eating of flesh by Sāttvika deities is neither seen by us nor heard from the mouths of saintly people anywhere.

28. Hence this sacrifice should be performed with rice, milk, ghee and other foodstuffs fit for being used in sacrifices, and not with the killing of beasts.

29. Even out of them (the grain of rice etc.), (sacrifices should be performed) with seeds which have attained the state of A-ja by their being ṃree years old and from which there occur no germination again.[1]

30-31. It has been proclaimed that non-injury, non-covetousness, self-control, mercifulness to beings, penance, celibacy, truth, non-hypocrisy, forbearance and courage, constitute the form (and content) of the eternal Dharma.[2] He who transgress it, is the destroyer of Dharma and falls.

32. Though they were thus respectfully advised in good moral conduct by the great sages, the knowers of the secrets of the Veda, they (Devas), though acknowledging their authority, did not accept their advice due to its being against their avowed declaration.

33. Self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and other ‘descendants’ of Adharma, keen to find out (moral) deficiences, entered into them, due to their disregard for the great (sages).

34-35. Now, while they (Devas) were arguing that the term ‘Aja’ means ‘a goat’ and not ‘seeds’, and while the disconsolate great sages were again admonishing them, the glorious King Uparicara (Vasu) came there by chance. That intimate friend of Indra was illuminating the quarters by his brilliance.

36. Having seen Vasu passing through the atmosphere coming there all of a sudden, the Brāhmaṇas told the Devas: “He will remove your doubts”.

37-40. “This lord of the earth formerly performed ṃousands of great sacrifices according to the procedure laid down in the Sātvata Tantra and in Āraṇyakas, in any of which (sacrifice) killing of (sacrificial) beasts never took place. There was no adoption of a substitute for sacrificial fees. Nor was there even indirect homage paid to spirituous liquor. The king is known everywhere for his protection of Ahiṃsā (non-violence) and Dharma. He is the leader (i.e. most prominent one) among the devotees of Viṣṇu. He is an observer of the vow of having one wife only. How will this great Vasu, who is such a great religious person, speaker of the truth and expert in the knowledge of the Vedas, speak a word other than the truth?”

41. Having reached such an agreement in opinion (about Vasu), Devas and sages who were eager, immediately approached King Vasu and asked him:

Devas and great sages asked:

42. O king, with what should a sacrifice be performed—with a (sacrificial) beast or with plants, herbs (their products such as grains)? Since Your Honour have been regarded as an authority, please completely remove this doubt of ours.

Skanda said:

43. Vasu folded his palms in reverence and enquired: “Tell me with due deliberation, the truth as to what view is approved by whom.”

The great sages said:

44. O ruler of peoples, our view is that a sacrifice is to be performed with grains. But the opinion of Devas is (that it should be performed) with a beast. O king, please tell us your view (in the matter).

Skanda said:

45. Having known the opinion of Devas, Vasu due to his support of their views then told that sacrifices are to be performed with beasts like goats.

46. He ṃus supported the view of those who believed in the wrong and evil. Though he was the knower of Dharma, the king spoke the untruth, which was violatory to the Veda.

47. At that very moment the king fell down from the sky due to his faulty (untrue) speech, and immediately entered the earth.

48. The king lying in the bowels of the earth experienced great distress. But due to his refuge in Nārāyaṇa, his memory did not fail (abandon) him.

49. The Devas, residents of Svarga, then set at liberty all the beasts, and being afraid of (perpetrating) violence to living beings, went to heaven and the great sages to their (respective) hermitages.

Notes regarding animal sacrifice:

The story of the fall of Uparicara Vasu for deciding in favour of hiṃsā (killing animals) in a sacrifice is repeated in Vāyu 1.57.89-114; MtP 152; Mbh, Śānti 337.13-16. It shows the spread of the influence of Ahiṃsā. The original procedure of this Yajña prescribes animal-slaughter (vide HD II.ii. pp 1229-1236 for the procedure of Aśvamedha).

The Purāṇa-writer’s tirade against this in vv 14-20 and affirmation that hiṃsā in sacrifice is against Dharma, shows the social change of attitudes to Hiṃsā in the name of religion. Though the present Purāṇa advocates Pāñcarātra doctrine, it differs from the strange belief of Pāñcarātra which advocates animal slaughter in sacrifice on the ground that as the animal attains better world, it is not Hiṃsā but protection (rakṣaṇa).

A great Vaiṣṇava advocate of Pāñcarātra like Rāmānuja states in this connection:

atiśayitābhyudayasādhanabhūto vyāpāro’lpa-duḥkhado’pi na hiṃsā, pratyuta rakṣaṇam eva (Śrī-bhāṣya III.1.24).

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Footnotes and references:


Cf Vayu 1.57.100-101.


Cf Vāyu 1.57.116.

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