by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 1,344,335 words
This page describes Redemption of Sudarshana and Sukarna which is chapter 9 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 ninth chapter of the Setu-mahatmya of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
1-2. Then that Brāhmaṇa in the company of his wife and (the other) son Aśokadatta began to lament on account of the grief for the (elder) son in the morning. On seeing the lamenting Brāhmaṇa Govindasvāmin, O Brāhmaṇas, a merchant named Samudradatta brought them to his house.
3-5. After bringing them there, he consoled them. The compassionate merchant-leader made him the guardian of all his assets.
The Brāhmaṇa frequently remembered the words of the great sage. He was eager to see his son once again. Thus he stayed in the house of the merchant along with his wife and son.
The second son of the Brāhmaṇa, named Aśokadatta, became a great expert in the use of weapons and also in the scriptural literature.
6. Similarly in the other lores too there was none like him on the earth. After the completion of his education, the son of the Brāhmaṇa became very famous in that city.
7-8. In the meantime, a certain powerful wrestler, the lord of Kāśideśa, came (as a challenger in wrestling) to the king named Pratāpamukuṭa. In order to defeat that wrestler, King Pratāpamukuṭa invited through his attendants that Brāhmaṇa’s son of very great strength.
9-15. On seeing him arrived, Pratāpamukuṭa said: “O Aśokadatta, indeed you are the most excellent one among powerful persons. Defeat this invincible wrestler who is proud of his strength. Conquer him in a fight. If this great wrestler from the southern region is defeated by you, I shall give you whatever is desired by you. There is no doubt about it.”
On hearing these words of his, the powerful son of the Brāhmaṇa struck the king of wrestlers from the southern region. That powerful wrestler, on being struck by that powerful son of the Brāhmaṇa, fell down dead on the ground with the eyes suddenly rolling back. This act of the son of the Brāhmaṇa was something that was very difficult even for Devas.
On seeing it, Pratāpamukuṭa became very delighted in his heart. He gave him much wealth and many villages. Thereafter, he kept him near himself.
Once, that great king accompanied by the son of the Brāhmaṇa was riding a horse in a lonely spot at the time of dusk.
16-19. Accompanied by the son of the Brāhmaṇa (ṃe king) heard a piteous appeal: “O king, my offence was very slight. On account of the repeated instigation of my enemies, the magistrate has impaled me on the spike ruthlessly. This is the fourth day since I have been impaled and I still continue to be alive. In the case of men of vicious deeds, the vital airs do not go out happily and easily. An unquenchable thirst oppresses me; satiate it, O king.”
On hearing these piteous appeals the king spoke to the Brāhmaṇa’s son named Aśokadatta who was very bold.
20. “O son of a Brāhmaṇa, water should be given by you to this innocent creature that has been impaled on the spike and that is exceedingly thirsty.”
21. Immediately after being commanded thus by the king, the son of the Brāhmaṇa took a pot filled with water and hurried off.
22-23. He went to that cremation ground infested with evil spirits and Vetālas. He was eager to give water unto that (creature) impaled on the spike.
There he saw a woman in the prime of youth. The Brāhmaṇa saw that refulgent lady who appeared to be Rati (wife of the god of Love) in a bodily form.
24-25. On seeing her, the bold son of the Brāhmaṇa said: “O gentle lady, O beautiful lady, who are you? Why are you standing here in this lonely spot in the cremation ground? Why do you stand beneath this fellow who has been impaled on the spike?”
On hearing these words of his, that lady of charming countenance said:
26-29. “This man is my lover. He has been impaled on the spike by the king. Just as a miser does not leave off his wealth, so also he does not leave off his vital airs. He is about to die and I am here to fellow him. He is thirsty and begs of me to give him water. This gives me incessant pain. He is on the top of the spike. My lover is about to die. I am not able to make him drink water standing as I am beneath him in a lower position.” On hearing these words, Aśokadatta who was an ocean of mercy, spoke these words befitting that occasion:
30-31. Mother, step on my shoulder and give him the cool water.
Saying “This I will do” the young maiden, in a great hurry, stepped on the shoulder (of that Brāhmaṇa) and got up. Thereupon the son of the Brāhmaṇa saw fresh blood trickling down.
32-34. Wondering what it was, he lifted up his face and stared. He saw that (the body of the impaled man) was being eaten by her. On realizing this, the son of the Brāhmaṇa, Aśokadatta, caught hold of her foot along with the anklet. Thereupon, she left the valuable anklet studded with many jewels and went away.
Aśokadatta took that anklet studded with many jewels and started from the cremation ground to the presence of the king.
35. He reported to the king the incidents of the cremation ground and handed him the anklet studded with very costly jewels.
36. On coming to know of his heroic activities that could not be performed by others, the king gave him his daughter named Madanalekhā.
37-40. Once, gazing at that anklet, the king eagerly thought thus: ‘From where can I get another anklet on a par with this?’
Aśokadatta came to know the desire of the king. He began to think of the ways and means of getting another anklet. ‘It was from the cremation ground that this anklet was obtained by me before. Where else can I look for getting another anklet?’ After considering various alternatives, the highly intelligent one came to a decision:
41-43. ‘I shall go to the cremation ground and sell human flesh. The Rākṣasas, Vetālas, Piśācas and other beings can be invoked by means of Mantras. As they come, that demoness too will come there. As soon as she comes I shall catch hold of her and seize that anklet per force. A thousand Rākṣasas, ten thousand Piśācas and ten million Vetālas are very insignificant to me: now I am powerful enough.’
44-45. After making up his mind thus, he at once went to the cremation ground. After invoking the Rākṣasas by means of Mantras, he began to hawk human flesh.
He wandered in all the quarters shouting loudly “Take ye! Human flesh is on sale! Take ye, this ‘great’ (human) flesh. Take ye”, and he made (the spirits in all quarters) hear it.
46. The Rākṣasas and the Vetālas, skeletons and ghosts and other evil spirits flocked there together with great delight.
47-52. “All of us shall consume the meat which is most desired by us”, said they in great glee.
As all the Rākṣasas arrived, that Rākṣasī too came there surrounded by Rākṣasa girls eagerly desirous of eating that flesh. The Brāhmaṇa was on the lookout for her. When he espied the Rākṣasī, he immediately recognized her as the one seen by him formerly. The son of the Brāhmaṇa said to her, “Give me the other anklet”.
On hearing his words, she was pleased. She spoke these words with great delight: “O leader of heroes, it was my anklet that was taken away by you previously. Accept this second anklet also very beautiful on account of the jewels.”
After saying this (the Rākṣasī) gave him the anklet as well as her beloved daughter. The Brāhmaṇa was highly delighted on obtaining the beloved lady named Vidyutprabhā who was endowed with beauty and youth and was given (in marriage) to him by Vidyutkeśī.
53-55. Vidyutkeśī gave a gold lotus too to her son-in-law. After getting Vidyutprabhā, the anklet and the golden lotus, he took leave of his mother-in-law and came again to the presence of the king.
Delighted with the acquisition of the anklet, Pratāpamukuṭa praised the son of the Brāhmaṇa endowed with heroism and courage. Once the Brāhmaṇa spoke to Vidyutprabhā, his beloved, in secret:
56. “O my beloved, from where was this golden lotus obtained by your mother? From where can I obtain other (flowers) like this, O lady of excellent countenance?”
57-59. Vidyutprabhā spoke in secret to the son of the Brāhmaṇa, her husband: “O lord, there is a divine lake belonging to the king of the Vetālas named Kapālasphoṭa. It is adorned with golden lotuses. This golden lotus has been brought by your mother-in-law who was engaged in aquatic sports therein.”
On hearing these words, he said: “Take me there.” Immediately she took that Brāhmaṇa to the golden lake.
60-61. As that son of the Brāhmaṇa was about to pluck the golden lotuses, many Vetālas and others prohibited (caused obstacles to) him and he killed all of them. After all the soldiers had been killed, he himself saw the lord of the Vetālas named Kapālasphoṭa and set about to kill him.
62-69. In the meantime, the highly refulgent lord of the Vidyādharas named Vijñaptikautuka came there in his aerial chariot and spoke to him: “O Aśokadatta, O eminent Brāhmaṇa, do not be rash in your activity.” The son of the Brāhmaṇa heard it and immediately saw the refulgent lord of the Vidyādharas in the firmament. He was seated in an aerial chariot. The moment he saw him, the son of the Brāhmaṇa became rid of his curse. He abandoned his human form and attained a divine form.
Vijñaptikautuka said to Sukarṇa who had been liberated from the curse, was seated in an excellent aerial chariot and was adorned with divine ornaments:
Since you were an abettor of his crime you too were cursed by him. Since your offence was of a minor character the curse was operative only till you saw me. This was ordained by that sage himself. But he has not granted any redemption from the curse to (your brother). Therefore, come along. You are free from the curse, O Sukarṇa, ascend to heaven.” Thereupon Sukarṇa said to the overlord of the Vidyādharas:
70-71. “O lord of Vidyādharas, without my elder brother I am not eager enough to go to heaven, although it is full of all kinds of pleasures. Tell me the means whereby the curse of my brother may come to an end.”
The highly brilliant Vijñapatikautuka said to him:
72-79. “This curse is very difficult to be counteracted. Who else can stop it? But I shall tell you a very great secret. This was told by Brahma formerly to the sages including Sanaka. On the meritorious shore of the Southern Sea which is the receptacle of all the Tīrthas, there is an exceedingly great Tīrtha near Cakratīrtha. Merely by visiting it, masses of great sins perish instantaneously. I do not know the benefit of taking the holy bath. If your brother goes there and takes his holy bath in that exceedingly great Tīrtha, he shall certainly be rid of the state of a Vetāla which is a result of the curse of Gālava.”
On hearing his words, Sukarṇa immediately went to the shore of the Southern Sea along with his brother in the form of Vetāla.
“O Brother, for dispelling the dreadful curse of Gālava, take your holy bath immediately in this Tīrtha which is the most excellent of all the excellent Tīrthas.”
80. At that time, O Brāhmaṇas, the sprays of water from that Tīrtha brought by wind fell on. his limbs.
81. On account of the contact with the spray of water, he abandoned the state of Vetāla and regained the state of human being, i.e. that of the son of the Brāhmaṇa.
82. Thereafter with the ritualistic Saṃkalpa for dispelling his state of human being, the son of the Brāhmaṇa took the holy plunge in the most excellent one of all the excellent Tīrthas.
83-91. Rising up immediately, he attained divine form. He got into an excellent aerial chariot. Sudarśana was surrounded by celestial ladies. He was adorned with all ornaments. Accompanied by his brother, he praised that Tīrtha and bowed down to it repeatedly. Keeping Vijñaptikautuka at the head, he went to heaven.
Ever since then that Tīrtha came to be called Vetālavarada because the state of being Vetāla was dispelled merely with the touch of its sprays.
Those who come to this Tīrtha to the south of Cakratīrtha and take even a casual bath become living-liberated souls.
There has never been nor will there ever be a Tīrtha as meritorious as this Tīrtha.
He abandoned the terrible form of Vetāla and attained divine state.
The devotee should perform Saṃkalpa rite and take the holy bath in the splendid Vetālavarada and offer rice-balls to the manes with due observances. Thus, O Brāhmaṇas, the glory of that Tīrtha as well as how this Tīrtha came to be called by the name Vetālavarada has been recounted to you. He who reads or listens to this chapter becomes liberated.
Footnotes and references:
It appears that South Indian athletes were famous in Purāṇic times. The wrestlers maintained by Kaṃsa and used against Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma were also southerners.