The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Sanctifying Power of Papavinasha which is chapter 10 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 tenth chapter of the Setu-mahatmya of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 10 - The Sanctifying Power of Pāpavināśa

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: Pāpavināśa Tīrtha is in Vethilai Maṇḍ`apam (Mandapam Railway Station) near the seashore.

Śrī Sūta said:

1. After taking the holy bath in the Vetālavarada Tīrtha, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, the man (i.e. the pilgrim) should slowly go to the Gandhamādana mountain.

2-8. The mountain Gandhamādana which is like a bridge on the sea, is the pathway to the world of Brahmā, built by the maker of the universe. There are hundred thousands and thousands of crores of lakes and rivers. There are highly sanctifying seas, forests and hermitages. There are meritorious groups of holy spots such as Vedāraṇya[1]. The following dwell here: Sages including Vasiṣṭha and others, Siddhas, Cāraṇas and Kinnaras, Lord Madhusūdana with Lakṣmī and Dharaṇī (Goddess Earth), the four-faced lord Brahmā with Sāvitrī and Sarasvatī, Heraṃba (Gaṇeśa), the sixfaced lord (Kārttikeya), Devas with Indra as their leader, Planets including the Sun, the eight Vasus, Pitṛs, the Guardians of the Quarters as well as other groups of Devas. O Brāhmaṇas, all these live there on the mountain Gandhamādana which sanctifies the worlds and which is destructive of the masses of great sins. They stay there day and night. The delighted Gaurī dwells there always with Hara.

9. There the lively sports of Kinnara ladies go on continuously. Merely by witnessing them, people get mental satisfaction.

10. The young women of Siddhas and Cāraṇas who reside on its top, always worship Śaṅkara, Kāla, the Lord of the Daughter of the Mountain (Pārvatī).

11. If the gusts of wind coming from Gandhamādana come into contact with the limbs (of one’s body), crores of the sins of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter and crores of the sins of carnal approach to forbidden women perish.

12. Standing in the middle of the great ocean with surging waves, this Gandhamādana was formerly served by groups of sages.

13. When the Setu came to be built by Nala at the behest of Rāma, Gandhamādana which was accessible in the middle (of the sea), became worthy of being served by human beings.

14-16. The devotee should pray to Gandhamādana, the mountain in the form of the Setu: “O mountain of great merit, who are bowed down to by all the Devas! Even the Devas including Viṣṇu serve you with faith. O excellent one among mountains! I am treading upon you with my feet. Kindly pardon me who am a sinner, for my striking you with my feet (by placing it upon you). Show me Śaṅkara who has made his abode on your top.”

17. After praying to the excellent mountain in the form of the Setu, the man should gently step on the sacred Gandhamādana.

18. He should take his bath in the sea and offer rice-balls on the mountain Gandhamādana even if they were to be only as small as mustards.

19. The manes shall be delighted with it till the Yuga is concluded. Or the pilgrim should give the Pitṛs the rice-balls equal in measure to a Śamī leaf.

20-21. Those who are in heaven will attain salvation and those who are the denizens of hell will go to heaven.

There is a great Tīrtha above it, well known in all the worlds. It is the most excellent of all the Tīrthas. It is sanctifying. It is called Pāpavināśana. That extremely meritorious Tīrtha. O Brāhmaṇas, is on the sacred Gandhamādana.

22. Merely by remembering it, one will cease to have rebirth. After going there the pilgrim should take his bath for dispelling the dirt of the body. By taking his holy bath there, the pilgrim goes to Vaikuṇṭha. There is no doubt about it.

The sages said:

23. O Sūta, tell us the glory of the Tīrtha called Pāpavināśa. Indeed, enlightened by Vyāsa, you understand everything, O great sage.

Śrī Sūta said:

24. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, I shall recount to you the splendid story of events that took place in the penance-grove on the auspicious slopes of Himavān.

25. The penance grove is auspicious and the hermitage meritorious. It is full of different kinds of trees on the auspicious slopes of Himavān.

26. It is full of many kinds of hedges, bushes and creepers. It is frequented by deer and elephants. It is reverberated by the sound of Siddhas and Cāraṇas. It is beautiful with the forest in full bloom.

27. It has a number of enclosures. It is rendered brilliant by the presence of ascetics and distinguished Brāhmaṇas resembling (in brilliance) the Sun and Fire-god.

28. It is fully occupied by ascetics pursuing holy observances and vows. The ascetics are initiated for performing sacrifices. They have restrained their diets and are self-possessed.

29-31. The hermitage is full of followers of Vedas who have studied the Vedas. There are persons of all the stages of life, i.e. religious students, householders, forest-dwellers and recluses. They are devotedly engaged in conduct preculiar to their respective stages of life. They regularly perform the rites laid down for their respective castes. Even the Vālakhilya sages and the Marīcis come there.

Once a certain Śūdra named Dṛḍhamati who was daring and jolly came to those Brāhmaṇas, O Brāhmaṇas.

32. The Śūdra named Dṛḍhamati came to the hermitage and was honoured by the ascetics. He prostrated in front of them with the eight limbs (touching the ground).

33. That Śūdra was much delighted to see multitudes of sages endowed with great refulgence and on a par with Devas, performing different kinds of sacrifices.

34. Then he felt inclined to perform an excellent penance. So he approached the Kulapati (Head sage of the hermitage) and spoke these words:

Dṛḍhamati said:

35-37. O ascetic, obeisance to you. Save me, O ocean of mercifulness. I wish, O eminent Brāhmaṇa, to engage in righteous conduct with your guidance and favour. Hence I have come here. O sage of good holy rites, initiate me in the Yāga rite. O Brāhmaṇa, I belong to the Śūdra community, O excellent one. I wish to render services to you. Be pleased with me who have sought refuge in you.

When this was spoken by the Śūdra, the Brāhmaṇa spoke to him:

Kulapati said:

38-41. A Śūdra being of low birth cannot be initiated in a sacrifice. Be pleased to listen. If you are so inclined, be engaged in service. No (religious) instruction is to be given to one of low caste. In instructing him, the preceptor incurs great sin.

A learned man shall not teach a Śūdra, nor should he perform a Yāga on his behalf. He shall not teach a Śūdra any of the following subjects: the scriptures including Grammar, Poetry, Drama, Rhetorics, Purāṇa, Epic, myths and legends.

42. If a Brāhmaṇa were to teach a Śūdra these subjects, the other Brāhmaṇas shall banish him from the village, from Brāhmaṇa community.

43. One shall abandon like a Cāṇḍāla, the Brāhmaṇa who instructs a Śūdra. One should avoid from afar a Śūdra who is literate.

44. Hence, welfare unto you. Render service unto Brāhmaṇas with reverence. Service to the twice-born has been prescribed by Manu and others (as the duty) of a Śūdra.

45. It does not behove you to forsake your natural duty.

On being told thus by the sage, the Śūdra thought thus:

46-47. ‘What is to be done by me now? My faith in the holy rites is very firm. I shall strive in such a way as to acquire perfect knowledge.’

After resolving thus mentally, the Śūdra named Dṛḍhamati went a long distance from that hermitage and built a splendid hut.

48. There he built a temple and many holy shrines. He constructed flower-gardens and lakes, etc.

49. He constructed these as an aid for the attainment of (success in) penance. He performed ablutions (to deities), observed Niyamas (self-imposed religious vows) like fasts, etc.

50-51. After preparing Bali (food such as rice) and offering it into fire, he worshipped deities duly. With resolve and regulation he subsisted on fruits only and controlled his passions and senses. With fruits, roots and bulbous roots he duly honoured the guests who visited him.

52. Thus a great deal of time passed by. Once a Brāhmaṇa named Sumati came to his hermitage.

53a. This Brāhmaṇa was born of the family of Garga. He was truthful and he had controlled his passions and senses.

53b-55. (The Śūdra) honoured the sage with due (formalities of) reception. He pleased him with fruits and other things. Narrating holy stories he enquired about his welfare.

Honoured thus by means of various courteous actions such as prostrations, etc. (the sage Sumati) blessed him, received his hospitality, took leave of him with great delight and went back to his own hermitage.

56. The Brāhmaṇa developed great partiality and affection for that Śūdra. He visited his hermitage every day in order to see that Śūdra.

57. The association of the Brāhmaṇa with the Śūdra continued for a long time. Influenced by his affection he never refused any request of the Śūdra.

58-61. (Once) the Śūdra said to the Brāhmaṇa who had been won over by means of friendship, as he came (to his hermitage): “O great sage, recount to me the entire procedures regarding the offering of Havya and Kavya to Devas and Pitṛs respectively. Teach me the requisite Mantras to be uttered and the procedure to the adopted during Mahālaya (holy festival in honour of Pitṛs to be performed in the dark half of Bhādrapada). Tell me the duties regarding Aṣṭakā-śrāddha and whatever other Vedic rites there may be (apart from these). Say what the secret doctrines are and also all the details. Indeed you are considered to be my preceptor.”

On being requested thus by the Śūdra, he taught him everything. He made him perform all the rites of the Pitṛs and other rites as well.

62-64. After the rites of the Pitṛs had been performed by him (the Śūdra) bade farewell to him and the Brāhmaṇa went away.

Thereafter, for a long time, he was maintained by the Śūdra. So he was abandoned by the Brāhmaṇa community. (Later) he passed away. He was taken away by the soldiers of Yama and cast into the hells. He experienced the tortures of the Narakas for thousands and crores of Kalpas, for hundreds and crores of Kalpas and at the end of that period, he became an immobile being.

65. Then he was born as a donkey; again a pig eating feces. Then he was born as a dog and then a crow.

66. Then he was born as a Cāṇḍāla and thereafter as a Śūdra. Thereafter he became a Vaiśya and later on a Kṣatriya.

67. As a result of very powerful Karmas he became a Brāhmaṇa then. In the eighth year of his life reckoned from the day of conception, the Brāhmaṇa was invested with the sacred thread by his father.

68. He continued to stay in his father’s abode. He was given to follow his own will in his actions. Once, when he went deep into the forest, he was haunted by an evil spirit known as Brahmarākṣasa.

69. He began to cry and wander (here and there). He faltered in his steps. He was deluded. Sometimes he cried and sometimes he laughed. Sometimes he began to lament. He always shouted “Alas, Alas!”. He abandoned Vedic rites.

70. On seeing the son turned so, the father was afflicted with great misery. He affectionately took his son with him and sought refuge in Agastya.

71. The father of that son bowed down to the sage with great devotion and intimated to him the problem of his son.

72-77a. Then the Brāhmaṇa said to the great Pot-born Sage: “O holy Brāhmaṇa, this my son has been caught by a Brahmarākṣasa. O holy Brāhmaṇa, he is not at all happy. Protect him with your benign glance. I do not have any other son for the sake of repaying the debts unto the Pitṛs. Tell me the means of quelling the suffering of this (son of mine), O Pot-born Sage. There is no other ascetic on a par with you in the three worlds. Indeed you have been described as the leader of the devotees of Śīva [Śiva?] by great sages. Without you my son cannot be saved at all. Be merciful towards (an unhappy) father. Indeed good people are habitually kind and merciful.”

Śrī Sūta said:

On being entreated thus by him, the Pot-born Sage began to meditate. After meditating for a long time, he spoke to the Brāhmaṇa then:

Agastya said:

77b-81. O highly intelligent one, in a previous birth your son was a Brāhmaṇa named Sumati. That Brāhmaṇa imparted instruction to a Śūdra. He taught him all the Vedic rites. Hence he had to experience tortures in hells for a period of thousands and crores of Kalpas. At the end of that period he was born in different species beginning with one of immobile beings. Now he is born as a Brāhmaṇa and your son due to his remaining (good) Karma. He was caught by a Brahmarākṣasa sent by Yama. It was due to a terrible sin committed in the course of a previous birth (that this happened). I shall tell you the means of destroying the Brahmarākṣasa.

82-85. Listen with great faith and with great concentration of mind. There is a great mountain in the form of a Setu, O Brāhmaṇa, in the Southern Sea. It is the sacred Gandhamādana worthy of being served even by Devas. There is a great Tīrtha named Pāpavināśana on it. It is meritorious, famous and destructive of even great sins.

That Tīrtha is known as the destroyer of Bhūtas, ghosts, evil spirits, vampires, Brahmarākṣasas and of great ailments too. Take your son and go to that Tīrtha in the middle of the Setu.

86. Be self-restrained and make your son bathe in the Tīrtha named Pāpavināśana. By taking holy bath for three days there the Brahmarākṣasa perishes.

87. There is no other means on the earth for destroying it. So go there quickly to Rāmasetu, the bestower of salvation.

88. There bathe your son in the Tīrtha called Pāpavināśa. Do not delay here. O Brāhmaṇa, go quickly.

89. On being told thus, that Brāhmaṇa prostrated flat on the ground before Agastya. Permitted by him, he went to Gandhamādana.

90-91. After going to Pāpavināśana along with his son, the great Brāhmaṇa performed the rite of Saṅkalpa and made his son bathe there for three days, O eminent Brāhmaṇas. He himself took his bath. Then his son was let off by the Brahmarākṣasa.

92-93. He became free from ailments. He attained normalcy and he assumed a beautiful form. He became richly endowed with all prosperity and enjoyed various kinds of pleasures. Due to the holy bath in Pāpavināśana, he attained salvation on death. His father too, by taking the holy bath, attained salvation on death.

94-98. The Śūdra who was instructed by him experienced the tortures of hells in succession. Then he was born in various despicable species. Ultimately he became a vulture on the Gandhamādana mountain.

Once he went to the Tīrtha called Pāpavināśanā in order to drink water. He drank water and sprinkled his own body. Instantaneously he got a divine body. He was adorned with all ornaments. He wore divine garlands and garments. He smeared himself with red sandal-paste. He got into a divine aerial chariot. He was made splendid by means of umbrellas and chowries. Surrounded by excellent ladies he went to the abode of the immortal ones. Śrī Sūta said:

99-101. This Tīrtha has such a great power. Pāpavināśana Tīrtha bestows heavenly pleasures and salvation. It is meritorious and it causes atonement (of sins). It is resorted to by all the Suras, by Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. O Brāhmaṇas, it is called Pāpanāśa because it destroys sins. Hence a man seeking ultimate welfare should take bath in Pāpavināśana.

Thus, O eminent sages, the secret has been told. The glory of Pāpavināśana has been narrated. It is by taking bath there that the Brāhmaṇa and the Śūdra of censurable activities were at once liberated.

Footnotes and references:


A forest in Tanjore, the hermitage of Agastya.

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