The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Construction of 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.

Chapter 2 - The Construction of Setu

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages said:

1-2. O illustrious Sūta, how was Setu (the bridge) made by Rāma of unimpaired activities, in the deep sea, the abode of Varuṇa?

How many Tīrthas are there in Setu, in the Gandhamādana mountain? O most excellent one among those conversant with the Purāṇas, recount this to us who have great faith and who listen with great attention.

Śrī Sūta said:

3. O eminent sages, I shall relate to you how Setu was built by Rāma in the abode of Varuṇa.

4. At the bidding of his father, Rāma stayed in Pañcavaṭī in the Daṇḍaka forest with a composed mind. He was accompanied by Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa.

5. While the noble-souled Rāghava was staying therein, O Brāhmaṇas, his wife was abducted by Rāvaṇa by deceiving him through Mārīca.

6. Searching for his wife, Rāma, the son of Daśaratha, went to the banks of Paṃpā. He was overwhelmed by grief and delusion.

7-10. Rāghava, the son of Daśaratha, saw a certain monkey there.[1] He was asked by the monkey, “Who are you, respectable Sir?”

He recounted his own particulars from the beginning, to him truly. Then the monkey too was asked by Rāghava, “Who are you?”

He informed the noble-souled Rāghava thus: “I am a monkey named Hanumān. I am the Minister of Sugrīva. He wishes to secure the friendship of both of you. Deputed by him, I have come to you. Welfare unto both of you. Do come immediately to the presence of Sugrīva.”

11-17. Saying “So be it”, O eminent sages, Rāma went to Sugrīva along with him and pledged friendship (with Sugrīva) with Fire-god as the witness. Rāma promised him that he would kill Vāli, O Brāhmaṇas, and Sugrīva promised to bring back Vaidehī (i.e. Sītā).

After making this mutual agreement and creating confidence in each other, the lord of men and the lord of monkeys experienced great joy. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, they then settled down on the Ṛṣyamūka mountain. In order to convince Sugrīva Rāghava hurled the body of Dundubhi to a distance of many Yojanas (1 Yojana = 12 Kms) with the big toe of his foot. The seven palmyra trees were pierced (with one arrow) by the noble-souled Rāghava.[2]

Then much delighted in his mind, Sugrīva, the warrior, said to Rāma, “O Rāghava, I am not at all afraid of the Devas including Indra, since I have secured you as my friend of such great valour and I have made your friendship. Killing the lord of Laṅkā, I shall bring back your wife.”

18. Then accompanied by Sugrīva and Lakṣmaṇa, Rāmacandra of very great power went immediately to Kiṣkindhā protected by Vāli.

19-25. Thereafter Sugrīva roared challenging Vāli to come (out for fighting). Unable to brook the challenging roar of his younger brother, Vāli came out from the inner apartment and fought with his younger brother.

Hit with his fist by Vāli, Sugrīva became extremely afflicted. He went away immediately to the place where Rāma of great strength was present. Thereupon, the mighty Rāma tied a creeper round the neck of Sugrīva as a mark of recognition and urged him to fight once again.

Sugrīva challenged Vāli again with a roar. Encouraged by Rāma, he fought a close hand-to-hand fight with him. Then Rāghava killed Vāli with a single arrow.[3]

After Vāli had been killed, Sugrīva returned to Kiṣkindhā. When the rainy season passed off, Sugrīva, the ruler of the monkeys, gathered together the vast army of monkeys quickly, in order to bring back Sītā. He came to the princes.

26-29. With a desire to search for Sītā, he sent the monkeys (to various places). After Sītā had been found in Laṅkā and the crest jewel was given to him by the son of Wind-god (i.e. Hanumān), Rāghava was both delighted and sad.

Rāma started under the auspicious influence of Abhijit[4], O Brāhmaṇas. He was followed by Sugrīva, brother (Lakṣmaṇa), the intelligent son of Wind-god and other monkeys, the chief of whom were Jāmbavān and Nala.

After crossing many lands, he went to the mountain Mahendra. Thereafter he went to Cakratīrtha and stayed there.

30. It was there that the virtuous-souled Vibhīṣaṇa, the brother of the lord of the Rākṣasas, approached him accompanied by four ministers.

31-32. Rāma received him with a large-hearted welcome. Sugrīva feared that he might be a spy. But by his activities and perfect conduct, Rāma found him free from (suspicious) defects and only then did he honour him.

33. He crowned Vibhīṣaṇa as the ruler of the kingdom of all the Rākṣasas[5]. He made him his chief minister equal in importance to Sugrīva, the son of Sun-god.

34-39. The glorious Rāma, the scion of the family of Raghu, who was staying at Cakratīrtha was plunged in thought. Then he spoke to Sugrīva and others thus in the presence of prominent monkeys: He spoke these words befitting the occasion: “What is the means by which you will cross this sea? This army is vast. The sea is impassable. This mass of water is blue with surging waves. The fishes jump about. It is exceedingly agitated by huge crocodiles, conch-shells and oyster-shells. In some places the submarine fire assails it. It is exceedingly terrible on account of foams. The violent gusts of wind blowing over it, toss the blue clouds (here and there). Its sound is like that of the clouds at the time of the great deluge. It is powerful on account of the stormy winds. How can we cross the ocean, the abode of Varuṇa, the imperturbable (vast sheet of water)? All of you are surrounded by the armies of the exceedingly powerful monkeys.

40-45. (Let us find out) means whereby we can cross the lord of rivers. How can we go beyond the abode of Varuṇa along with our armies without any delay? It is a hundred Yojanas wide. It is inaccessible even mentally. There are many obstacles. How can Sītā be redeemed?

We are without any support now. We have come to a miserable plight. We are in the stormy sea, a huge mass of water without any shelter. What means shall we employ for crossing by the monkeys? I was banished from the kingdom. I came to the forest. My father died. Sītā was abducted.

More unbearable than all these is the difficulty involved in crossing the sea. Fie, fie upon your roars, O sea! Fie upon your watery mass! How can the words of the great Pot-born Sage (Agastya) be false? ‘After killing Rāvaṇa the sinner, go immediately to the holy Gandhamādana for dispelling the sins.’ This is what he had said.”

Śrī Sūta said:

46-50. On hearing these words of Rāma, Sugrīva and other prominent (monkeys) said with palms joined in reverence to Rāghava of great strength: “We shall cross this by means of various kinds of boats and rafts.”

Then in the midst of the crores of monkeys Vibhīṣaṇa spoke thus: “It behoves King Rāghava to seek refuge in the sea. This sea, the abode of Varuṇa, has been dug by Sagaras. It behoves the sea to co-operate in the task of their successor Rāma.”

On being told thus by Vibhīṣaṇa, the learned Rākṣasa, Rāghava pacified all the monkeys and said thus:

51-55. “All the monkeys cannot cross the exceedingly dreadful sea, a hundred Yojanas in width, by means of rafts, canoes and boats.

O great monkeys, there are not many ships and big boats sufficient for a large army. How can a person like me cause loss to the merchants? Our army is very large. The enemy may strike at vulnerable points. Hence the crossing by means of rafts and canoes does not appeal to me. O monkeys, what is said by Vibhīṣaṇa gives me delight. I shall worship this sea for the purpose of getting a way across. If he does not yield the path, I will burn him up by means of unobstructable great missiles blazing like fire urged by gusts of winds.”

56-59. After saying this, Rāghava ceremoniously sipped water and lay on a bed of Kuśa grass along with the son of Sumitrā waiting for the favour of the sea.[6]

Rāma, of very powerful arms, lay on the shore of the sea over which Kuśa grass had been spread.

He (shone) like sacred fire in sacrificial altar. The scion of the family of Raghu kept his own arm as a pillow, his arm that resembled the body of Śeṣa. Keeping his right arm as the pillow, the clever (prince) propitiated the Sea.

For three days and nights Rāma lay like this on the ground over which Kuśa grass was spread. He never swerved from observance of restraints.

60-66. Rāma, who was conversant with good policies and was devoted to pious activities, spent three days thus and propitiated the Sea for the purpose of getting the pathway. Still the dull-witted Sea did not reveal himself to Rāma, although he was duly worshipped by Rāma with purity. When the Sea did not appear before Rāma, Rāma with extremities of the eyes reddened became infuriated. He spoke to Lakṣmaṇa who was near him: “O son of Sumitrā, within a moment I shall restrain the Sea through with my arrows. Along with its conchshells and oyster-shells, along with its fishes and sharks, the Sea shall be dried up by me by means of arrows and unfailing missiles. I am endowed with forbearance but this Sea regards me incapable of doing anything. Fie upon the forbearance in respect of such people! The Sea does not reveal himself to me by peaceful means.

67-70. O Lakṣmaṇa, bring me my bow and arrows resembling serpents. I shall dry up the Sea. Let the monkeys cross the Sea on foot. I shall wipe out with arrows the boundary of this Sea that is agitated with thousands of waves, as it has transgressed the limits of propriety. I shall dry up the great Sea agitated by great Dānavas, possessing great sharks and crocodiles and turbulent with enormous waves.”

After saying this, Rāma took up the bow in his hand. With his eyes full of anger, Rāma became dreadful like Śiva, the destroyer of the three Puras.

71. He bent the bow with anger, he shook the world with his arrows and he discharged fierce arrows like Bhava (Śiva) on the three Puras.

72. The brilliant and dreadful arrows brightened the ten quarters and entered the waters of the Sea fully agitated by haughty Dānavas.

73. The Sea then got frightened. As he had no other refuge, he trembled with fear and with palms folded in reverence, he came up personally from the nether world.

74. He sought refuge in Rāghava, the cause of salvation. Having become (very humble) he eulogized Rāghava with pleasing words.

The Sea said:

75. O Rāghava, I bow down to your lotus-like feet. O Lord of Sītā, you are the bestower of happiness to those who serve your feet. I bow down to the dust of your glorious feet that absolved the wife of Gautama (from the curse) and that are worthy of being served by groups of Devas.

76. Obeisance, obeisance to you who pierced the body of Tāḍakā, who guarded the sacrifice of Viśvāmitra. Obeisance to you who broke the bow of Mahādeva. Repeated bows to the destroyer of multitudes of Rākṣasas.

77. O Rāma! O Rāma! I bow down (to you) the bestower of what is desired by devotees. You have incarnated in the family of Raghu with a desire to carry out the task of Devas.

78. You are Nārāyaṇa without beginning and end. You are the bestower of salvation, the auspicious one, the imperishable one. O Rāma, O Rāma of great and powerful arms, protect me. I have sought refuge (in you).

79-82. O great king, restrain your anger. O abode of mercy, forgive. The earth, the wind, the ether, the water and the fire, O scion of the family of Raghu, retain their respective natural characteristics with which they have been created by Brahmā Parameṣṭhin. Fathomlessness is my natural characteristic. Shallowness will be an aberration. This is the truth I am saying. I dare not at all to give up my ancestral quality on any account, out of covetousness, love, fear or attachment, O scion of the family of Raghu. But I will render help in getting your army across.

83-84. When the Sea, the lord of rivers, said thus, Rāma said to him: “I will go to Laṅkā protected by Rāvaṇa, along with my army. So do dry up yourself so that I may cross now.”

On being told thus the Sea, the abode of Varuṇa, said to Rāghava again:

85-86. “Listen attentively, O Rāma. After hearing, do whatever you want to do. If I dry up at your bidding, because you are desirous of crossing along with your army, others also will command me on the strength of their bows. I shall tell another means whereby your army can cross.

87-90. There is a monkey here (in your army) named Nala. He is a highly respected architect. O descendant of Kakutstha, he is the powerful son of Tvaṣṭṛ, the architect of gods. Whatever he casts into me, a blade of grass, a log of wood or a piece of boulder, I shall hold it up and that shall be your bridge. By that bridge you go to Laṅkā ruled by Rāvaṇa.”

After saying this the Sea vanished. Rāma said to Nala: “Construct a bridge over the sea, O highly intelligent one. Indeed you are competent to do it.”

Then Nala spoke these words to Rāma, the most excellent one among the virtuous:

91-93. “I shall build the bridge over the fathomless sea. Boons have been granted to me by my father. I am equal to him in capacity. A boon was granted to my mother by Viśvakarman on the mountain Mandara: ‘Your son will be on a par with me in Arts and Crafts.’ I am his bosom-born son and I am on a par with Viśvakarman. Let the great monkeys build the bridge today itself.”

94-97a. Commanded by Rāma, the extremely powerful monkeys of huge bodies and the velocity of Garuḍa and Wind-god, brought mountains, peaks of mountains, grass blades, creepers and trees and Nala built the great bridge in the middle of the sea. It was a hundred Yojana long and ten Yojana wide. Rāma, the Lord of Jānakī, thus got the bridge built by Nala, the great monkey, the son of Viśvakarman.[7]

97b-102. Resorting to this Setu built by Rāma, all men who have committed sins, are liberated from their sins. Śiva is not pleased so much with Vratas, charitable gifts, penances and Homas, as he is pleased with the holy plunge at Setu. Just as there is no other splendour comparable to the refulgence of the Sun, so also there is nothing equal to the holy bath at Setu. A tip of Setu is in Laṅkā where Rāma desired to go and therefore began the construction by the monkeys. It (the tip of Setu) is meritorious and destructive of sins. Afterwards it became well-known by the name Darbhaśayana. Thus, O Brāhmaṇas, the construction of Setu has been recounted by me. There are many meritorious Tīrthas here.

103. Even Śeṣa is incapable of counting all of them and telling their names. But I shall describe a few of those Tīrthas.

104-106. In the main there are twenty-four Tīrthas at Setu.[8] The first one is Cakratīrtha and then Vetālavarada. Then is the Tīrtha named Pāpavināśārtha which is famous in all the worlds. Then is the meritorious Sītāsaras and Maṅgalatīrtha then. Thereafter is the Tīrtha named Amṛtavāpikā which is the destroyer of all sins. Beyond that is the Tīrtha Brahmakuṇḍa and thereafter the Tīrtha (Pool) of Hanumān.

107-109. Thereafter is Āgastya Tīrtha. Rāma Tīrtha is beyond that. Then Lakṣmaṇa Tīrtha and Jaṭātīrtha is beyond it. Beyond it is the great Tīrtha of Lakṣmī and Agnitīrtha is further beyond that. Away from it is the meritorious Cakratīrtha and beyond it is Śivatīrtha. Then is the Tīrtha named Śaṅkha and Yamunā Tīrtha is beyond it. Gaṅgātīrtha is further away and Gayātīrtha is the next one.

110-111. Beyond it is the Tīrtha called Koṭitīrtha and thereafter is the Amṛtatīrtha of the Sādhyas. Beyond it is the Tīrtha named Mānasa and Dhanuṣkoṭi is further.

These are the important Tīrthas. They are destructive of great sins. Thus the Tīrthas in Setu have been recounted, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

112. How the great Setu was built across the sea by Rāma has been recounted, O leading Brāhmaṇas. It is meritorious and destructive of sins.

113-114. By listening to this and reading this, the man on the earth is liberated.

The man who reads this chapter or listens to this with great devotion, O leading Brāhmaṇas, attains infinite success in the other world. He shall never experience the distress of rebirth.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Vide VR IV, cantos 2 to 5.

[2]:

Vide VR IV.11.84-93 and 12.1-5.

[3]:

Ibid. IV. 16.35-39.

[4]:

This was on the 8th day of the dark half of Mārgaśīrṣa (infra Dharmāraṇya 1.30-42).

[5]:

Vide VR VI.17-19. Dharmāraṇya 1.30-46 states that this was the 4th day of the bright half of Pauṣa.

[6]:

Vide VR VI.21. Rāma started his Satyāgraha on the 6th day, bright half of Pauṣa as per Dharmāraṇya. The place of Rāma’s Satyāgraha against the Sea-god is now called Darbha-Śayana or Darbha-Śayyā or Tiruppullani. It is a coastal village about 7 miles from Rāmanāthapuram Railway Station.

[7]:

Cf. VR VI.22.44-62.

[8]:

VV 104-111 give a list of important Tīrthas on Setu.

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