by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes The Merit of Visiting Setu which is chapter 2 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 second chapter of the Setu-mahatmya of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Obeisance to Śrī Gaṇeśa
Obeisance to Veda-Vyāsa
1a. For the prevention of all obstacles one should meditate upon the four-armed, moon-complexioned Lord Viṣṇu, clad in white garments, whose kindly disposed countenance exudes pleasure (everywhere).
1b-6. In the highly meritorious forest of Naimiṣa conducive to liberation, their abode, many sages of noble souls such as Śaunaka and others performed great penance. They were engaged in the practice of Yoga consisting of eight limbs (i.e. stages). They were interested solely in the realization of Brahman. They were desirous of attaining salvation. Those great souls were free from the sense of ‘mine’. They were the expounders of Brahman. They were conversant with Dharma and free from jealousy. They were devoted to observance of the vow of truthfulness. They had conquered the sense-organs and anger. They were compassionate towards all living beings. They worshipped the eternal Lord Viṣṇu with great devotion.
Once, those noble-souled sages convened an excellent assembly.
They were engaged in telling highly meritorious stories destructive of sins. They were eager to know the means for the achievement of both worldly pleasures and salvation. They were discussing that matter mutually. There were twenty-six thousand sages of purified souls. It is impossible to mention the number of their disciples and disciples’ disciples.
8. On seeing the sage coming, refulgent like a blazing fire, the sages, Śaunaka and others, honoured him with Arghya etc.
9. When Sūta was comfortably seated on a splendid seat, the sages, with a desire to bless the world, asked him (questions about) highly esoteric matters.
10-15a. “O Sūta, O great sage conversant with the principles of Dharma, welcome unto you. You have heard the Purāṇas from Vyāsa, the son of Satyavatī. Hence you know the contents of all the Purāṇas, O great sage. Which of the places are holy? Which Tīrthas are meritorious on the earth? How will salvation be obtained from the ocean of worldly existence by individual souls? How is Bhakti (devotion) to Hari or Hara generated (in the minds) of men? By what means is the benefit of the three types of Karma obtained? O son of Sūta Romaharṣaṇa, be pleased to narrate this and everything else. Preceptors should disclose even secret doctrines to an affectionate disciple.”
On being asked thus by the inhabitants of Naimiṣa forest, Sūta, at the outset, bowed down to Vyāsa, his preceptor, and began to recount:
Śrī Sūta said:
15b-18a. Your questions are very well put, O Brāhmaṇas, regarding what is conducive to the welfare of the universe. I shall speak out this secret to you. Listen respectfully, O great sages. This has never been disclosed to anyone before by me. Having controlled your minds, O eminent Brāhmaṇas, listen with devotion.
There is a sacred spot named Rāmeśvara in Rāmasetu. It is the most excellent one among holy places and Tīrthas.
18b-19. There is no doubt about it that the moment one sees Rāmasetu, one gets liberation from the sea of worldly existence, that devotion either to Hari or Hara will be generated, that one will have abundance of merit and that the fruit of the three types of Karma will be achieved.
20. Listen, O great sages, I shall tell the merit of one who, in the course of his life, devoutly visits Setu.
22. The dust particles on the earth can be counted. The stars in the firmament can be enumerated. But the merit resulting from a visit to Setu cannot be estimated even by Śeṣa.
23. Setubandha is glorified as the form of all the deities. Who is competent to reckon the merit of the man who has visited it?
24. By visiting Setu, O Brāhmaṇas, a Brāhmaṇa is declared (in Smṛtis) as one who has performed all sacrifices. He is on a par with one who has bathed in all the Tīrthas or with one who has performed all kinds of penances.
25. If anyone tells anyone else “Go to Setu”, he too attains that benefit, O Brāhmaṇas. Of what avail is much talk?
26. A man who has taken his holy bath in Setu goes to the abode of Viṣṇu accompanied by seven crores of the members of his family and becomes liberated there itself.
28. Accompanied by a hundred thousand crores of members of his paternal and maternal families, he goes to the abode of Viṣṇu
and becomes liberated there itself. He stays in the region of Śaṃbhu for a period of three Kalpas and becomes liberated there itself.
30. One who performs ablutions in Setu never sees (the hells) Taptaśūla, Taptaśilā, Purīṣahrada and Śoṇitakūpa.
31-32. One who visits Setu does not fall into the hells Śālmalyārohaṇa, Raktabhojana, Kṛmibhojana, Śvamāṃsabhojana, Vahnijvālāpraveśana, Śilāvṛṣṭi, Vahnivṛṣṭi, Kālasūtraka, Kṣārodaka and Uṣṇatoya.
33-34a. A man who regulary bathes in Setu, O Brāhmaṇas, may have committed five (great) sins. Yet, accompanied by a hundred crores of the members of his maternal and paternal families, he stays in the region of Viṣṇu for three Kalpas and becomes liberated there itself.
34b-36. A person who regularly bathes in Setu never sees the hells Adhaḥ-śiraḥ-śoṣaṇa (where the sinner is kept topsy turvy and dried), Kṣārasevana (where alkaline liquid is administered), Pāṣāṇayantrapīḍā (where pain is inflicted through stone-machines), Maruprapatana (where there is a desert precipice), Purīṣalepana (where filth is smeared), Krakacadāraṇa (where sinners are cut with saws), Purīṣabhojana (where sinners are compelled to eat faeces), Retaḥpānam [Retaḥpāna?] (where sinners are compelled to drink semen), Sandhiṣu-dāhana (where the joints are burned), Aṅgāraśayyābhramaṇa (where a sinner has to roll on a bed of fires) and Musalamardana (where a sinner is thrashed with threshing rods).
37-41. If anyone thinks like ‘I will take my bath in Setu’ and takes a hundred paces (towards it), he shall, even if he has committed great sins, become free of sins. He will not fall into any of the following hells: where a sinner is pulled and stretched between many wooden machines, where a sinner is pierced with weapons, where he is thrown up and made to fall, where he has to be crushed with iron clubs and staffs, where he is hit with the tusks of elephants, where he is bitten by different kinds of serpents, where he has to inhale smoke, where he is bound with nooses, where he is pierced with spears and lances of various kinds, where acrid and corroding liquids are poured into the mouth or nostrils, where saltish water is drunk and where heated iron needles are thrust into the mouth.
42-47. One who bathes in Setu does not see the following dreaded hells: where a sinner has to enter holes and pits filled with alkaline fluids, where a sinner is compelled to eat faeces, where sinners are cut, where sinners are burned, where bones are crushed, where phlegm is eaten, where bile is drunk, where extremely bitter liquids are administered, where a sinner is forced to drink very hot (boiling) oil, or to drink corrosive alkaline liquids, where a sinner has to drink astringent water, where he has to eat heated pebbles, where a sinner is showered (bathed) with extremely hot sand particles, where the teeth of a sinner are shattered, where a sinner has to lie on red hot iron, where a sinner’s eyes, mouth and joints are pricked with needles, where weighty iron pieces are tied to the penis and the testicles, where a sinner is compelled to fall down from the top of a tree into a pit filled with foul-smelling (rubbish), where a sinner has to lie down on a bed of sharp-edged weapons and where a sinner has to imbibe semen virile.
48-51. If a person lies on the sand of Setu and the particles of sand stick to his body, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, as many sins of killing Brāhmaṇas as there are sand particles sticking to his body are destroyed. There is no doubt about it.
If anyone’s body is completely in touch with the wind blowing from Setu, ten thousand sins of drinking liquor perish immediately.
If hairs are cut and they remain in Setu, ten thousand sins of defiling the preceptor’s bed perish immediately.
If the bones are consigned to Setu by the sons or grandsons of anyone, he is rid immediately of ten thousand sins of stealing gold.
52. If a person thinks about someone and takes the holy bath in Setu, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, the sin of that one due to contact with one who has committed great sins shall get dissolved.
53-58a. A wayside plunderer, one who cooks for oneself only, a person who censures ascetics and Brāhmaṇas, one who eats too much, and one who sells the Vedas—these five are (regarded as) murderers of Brāhmaṇas.
If a person invites Brāhmaṇas and promises to give them monetary gifts, etc., but afterwards refuses to give them anything, he is also declared as a Brāhmaṇa-slayer.
If a person gets instruction in Dharma from someone, and begins to hate that one, or if a person insults Brāhmaṇas, he is also mentioned as a Brāhmaṇa-slayer.
If a person prevents a herd of cows that has come to drink water near a tank or river, O Brāhmaṇas, he too is said to be a Brāhmaṇa-slayer. All these persons are liberated from sins and defects once they visit Setu.
O excellent Brāhmaṇas, all those persons who are on a par with Brāhmaṇa-slayers are liberated on arrival at Setu. There is no doubt about it.
58b-60. One who abandons the holy rite of Aupāsana, one who feeds himself on the food-offering intended for a deity, one who is in close contact with a woman liquor-addict, one who consumes the cooked rice of a prostitute, one who feeds himself with the food of a guild and one who eats the food of a fallen man—all these are said to be Surāpins (liquor-addicts). They are excluded from all holy rites. But, by taking holy bath at Setu, all these get rid of their sins and are liberated.
61-63. Others who are on a par with drink-addicts are liberated by taking a plunge at Setu.
Those who steal bulbous roots, roots and fruits, musk, woven silk, milk, sandalwood, camphor and areca nuts, honey, ghee, copper, bell-metal and Rudrākṣa-beads should be known as equal to those who steal gold. On arriving at the holy spot Setu they are liberated. There is no doubt about it.
64. Other thieves too, O Brāhmaṇas, are absolved of all sins by taking holy bath at Setu. There is no doubt about this.
65-67. He who carnally approaches his own sister, son’s wife, a woman in her monthly period, wife of a brother, wife of a friend, a woman addicted to liquor, other person’s wife, a woman of low caste and a widow, should be known as a defiler of preceptor’s bed, He is excluded from all holy rites. These and others who are on a par with those who defile preceptor’s bed become liberated by taking holy bath at Setu, O Brāhmaṇas.
68. Those who are in close contact with these and other sinners as well, shall attain salvation by means of the highly sacred bath at Setu.
69. O Brāhmaṇas, those who are desirous of enjoying Ghṛtācī, Menakā and other celestial damsels in the world of Devas without performing a sacrifice, should take their holy bath at Setu, the dispeller of sins.
71. Let those who wish for heaven without making gifts of gingelly seeds, plots of ground, gold, grains of corn and rice, O Brāhmaṇas, take their holy bath at Setu.
72. Let the men who are desirous of heavenly pleasures without giving any strain to their physical body by means of fasts and all other holy rites, take their holy bath at Setu, the bestower of salvation.
73-76. Indeed the holy bath at Setu bestows purity of the mind as well as salvation. It is mentioned in detail in the Purāṇas that sacred bath at Setu is superior to Japa, Homa, charitable gifts and even sacrifice and penance. It has been declared that holy bath performed without any desire at Setu, the destroyer of sins, causes cessation of rebirth. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, the truth has been spoken.
A man who joyously takes the holy bath at Setu with riches in view, shall attain abundant wealth, O great Brāhmaṇas. If one takes bath at Setu for the sake of purity, he shall obtain purity.
77. If one takes the holy bath for the sake of sexual pleasure with celestial damsels in heaven, he attains the same.
78. If one takes the holy bath at Setu, the bestower of salvation, for the sake of salvation, he attains salvation which is devoid of the necessity to return (to the world).
79. There shall be Dharma as a result of the holy bath taken at Setu. There shall be the destruction of sins due to the holy bath taken at Setu. The holy bath taken at Setu, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, is the bestower of all desired benefits.
83-87a. One who desires long life, good health and wealth, super-handsomeness and good qualities, mastery of the four Vedas with their ancillary subjects, ability to understand all sacred texts or becoming conversant with all the Mantras, should take his bath at Setu, the bestower of all objects. It is true. There is no doubt about it.
In this world, those men who are afraid of poverty or falling into hell, should take the holy bath at Rāmasetu, the bestower of salvation. Whether the man is endowed with faith or is devoid of faith, the man who regularly takes his holy bath at Setu, does not meet with any misery in this world or in the other world.
87b-94. The mass of sins of all perishes by virtue of the holy bath at Setu. The mass of piety and virtue enhances and flourishes like the Moon in the bright half (of a month). Just as different kinds of jewels increase in the ocean, so merits increase and flourish, O Brāhmaṇas, due to the holy bath at Setu.
Just as Kāmadhenu (wish-yielding cow) bestows all desires in the world, just as the Cintāmaṇi stone (philosopher’s stone) grants all the desires of men or just as the wish-yielding celestial tree grants the desires of men, so also the holy bath at Setu yields all the desires of the men.
If anyone is unable to undertake a pilgrimage to Setu on account of poverty, he should request good people for the sum and perform the rite of the holy bath at Setu. There the donor (of the said amount) attains merit equal to that of taking holy bath at Setu. So also the recipient attains the full benefit.
With pilgrimage to Setu in view one should receive the sum from Brāhmaṇas. If the Brāhmaṇas do not give him the amount, he should borrow it from a Kṣatriya. If the kings do not give him, he should take from a Vaiśya.
95-96. The man shall not accept the requisite amount from a Śūdra. The man who gives money, foodgrain or clothes, etc. and encourages a man to go to Setu attains the excellent merit of a horse-sacrifice and other Yajñas.
97-99. He shall attain the merit of reciting the four Vedas. He shall obtain the merit of offering charitable gifts, the chief of which is Tulāpuruṣadāna. The sin of murder of a Brāhmaṇa and similar sins shall perish. There is no doubt about it. Of what avail is much talk? He obtains all the desired things. Similarly the recipient too attains a benefit equal to that. If one were to beg for the sum for the sake of pilgrimage to Setu, it does not involve him in the sin of acceptance of monetary gifts.
100. After assuring a person by promising, “Go to Setu; I shall give you the required amount”, if one says afterwards, “I do not have (money)”, they call him a Brahmaghātaka (murderer of a Brāhmaṇa).
101. If out of greed a rich man were to beg the money like a poor man for the sake of pilgrimage to Setu, learned men call him a thief.
102. If by saying “I will go to Setu” a man accepts some sum but, out of greed, does not go to Setu, they call him a murderer of Brāhmaṇa.
103. By any means whatsoever, a man should joyously go to Setu. A man who is unable to go himself should make monetary gifts to an excellent Brāhmaṇa and make him go (to Setu).
104-106. Just as there is no sin in performing a Yajña after raising the required amount by begging, so also there is no harm in undertaking pilgrimage to Setu by raising the amount of expenses by begging.
A man should raise some amount by begging and give it to another for undertaking pilgrimage to Setu and the holy bath thereat. Like the man who takes the holy bath, he too shall attain the merit thereof.
In Kṛtayuga, they attain salvation by perfect knowledge. In Tretāyuga, sacrifice alone is the bestower of salvation. Similarly in the other two Yugas, they say that charitable gift is very excellent. But in all the Yugas holy bath at Setu is excellent for all men.
Footnotes and references:
This text elevates the status of the Purāṇa-narrator Sūta. He is called Śrī Sūta and a sage, though his father Romaharṣaṇa was killed by Balarāma as a punishment for occupying a higher seat in the assembly of Brāhmaṇa-Sages, while narrating the Purāṇa. Romaharṣaṇa was a disciple of Vyāsa, but this Sūta (Ugraśravas) also is called a disciple of Vyāsa.
Performed by body, speech and mind (of physical, oral and mental types).
This is a sandy elevation on the shore of the ‘Southern Sea’. It is at a distance of a mile and half west of Rameswaram temple. There is a storeyed Maṇḍapam on this. This is different from the Gandhamādana of Mbh, that is a part of Rudra Himalayas.
Places of torture and punishment after death. Their number is generally regarded twenty-four but twenty-eight in 30.3-8. There is some difference of names in the list. This chapter however gives a list of about thirty hells. VV 29-47 give a terrible description of tortures in hells.
VV 58b-60 state what acts come under the sin of liquor-drinking.
VV 61-63 list the acts which are as sinful as stealing gold.
VV 65-67 enumerate the acts equivalent to the sin of defiling the teacher’s bed.