by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes The Greatness of Agnitirtha: Dushpanya Relieved of His Ghosthood which is chapter 22 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 twenty-second chapter of the Setu-mahatmya of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Śrī Sūta said:
2. Agnitīrtha is highly meritorious. It is destructive of all great sins. It is the most excellent of all Tīrthas. It is the sole means of achieving all desired objectives. The man should devoutly takes his holy bath there for the purification of his own sins.
The sages enquired:
3-4. How did it become famous as Agnitīrtha, O great sage? Where is this Agnitīrtha? Of what nature is its glory? It behoves you to narrate this in detail to us because we have great faith.
Śrī Sūta replied:
5-10a. You have put an apt question, O eminent sages. Lis
ten. Formerly, after killing Rāvaṇa with all his followers, Rāghava installed his (Rāvaṇa’s) brother Bibhīṣaṇa (i.e. Vibhīṣaṇa) as the lord of Laṅkā. Accompanied by Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa, Rāma, the son of Daśaratha, came to the Gandhamādana mountain. He was eulogized by Siddhas, Cāraṇas, Gandharvas, Devas, groups of celestial damsels and multitudes of sages. He was of truthful desires and eager to visit Tīrthas. Rāma of irresistible valour held the bow sportingly. He was accompanied by groups of Devas including Indra, by sages, and by Pitṛs, Bibhīṣaṇa and all the monkeys. It was to accomplish his own purification and to purify Sītā that he came there.
Far away from Lakṣmītīrtha, Fire-god came up from the great ocean. Even as all the people remained watching, Fire licked up the waters.
12b-15. His eyes were copper-coloured. He was yellow in colour. He was clad in yellow robes. He held a bow (in his hand). With his seven tongues he began licking up the ten quarters. Looking at the scion of the family of Raghu, the (divine) hero who had sportingly assumed the form of a man, he spoke these charming words concerning the purity of Jānakī:
“O Rāma, O Rāma, the mighty one who instils fear in Rākṣasas, it was due to the chastity of Sītā that Your Honour killed Rāvaṇa. It is the truth. It is the truth. Again, I repeat, it is the truth. No doubt need be entertained in this respect.
O Janārdana, O lord of Devas, O lord of the universe, whenever you take up incarnations, she too assists you. When you were Bhārgava Rāma, she had been Dharaṇī (Earth). Now she has become Jānakī and she will be born as Rukmiṇī. In other incarnations too she assists Viṣṇu. Hence, O Rāghava, accept her at my instance.”
On hearing these words of Fire-god, Devas, great sages, Vidyādharas, Gandharvas, human beings, serpents and other groups of living beings again and again praised Rāma, the son of Daśaratha, and Jānakī, the daughter of the king of Mithilā. At the instance of Agni Rāma accepted Sītā who was devoid of impurities.
23-29a. Thus, for the sake of the purification of Sītā, Agni was invoked by Rāma of unobstructed activities. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, know that spot as Agnitīrtha, the spot far away from Lakṣmītīrtha, from the spot where Fire came up from the ocean. That is the excellent spot. It is called Agnitīrtha because Fire-god came out through it.
One should devoutly take one’s holy bath in the Tīrtha of Agni that bestows salvation. He should observe fast and then feed Brāhmaṇas. He should give them clothes, wealth, plots of land and a well-adorned girl. He shall be rid of all sins and attain Sāyujya with Viṣṇu.
Gift of food on the banks of Agnitīrtha is (meritorious) in particular. There has never been before nor will there ever be a Tīrtha on a par with Agnitīrtha. It was by taking his holy bath there, that Duṣpaṇya, a great sinner, abandoned his ghost-hood of highly dreadful nature and attained a divine form.
29b-35. Formerly there was a Vaiśya named Paśumān in Pāṭaliputra. He was always devoted to pious activities. He was interested in propitiating Brāhmaṇas. He always carried on agricultural activities and protection of cows. He sold gold and other things in the marketplace righteously.
This excellent merchant named Paśumān had three wives; all of them were devoted to the service of their husband. The eldest wife gave birth to three sons, Supaṇya, Paṇyavān and Cārupaṇya, who were capable of making that Vaiśya family flourish. The second wife gave birth to two sons, Sukośa and Bahukośa. That Vaiśya begot of the third wife three sons known as Mahāpaṇya, Mahākośa and Duṣpaṇya. Thus, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, that Vaiśya Paśumān had eight sons of his three wives.
36-38. All those sons, Supaṇya and others, grew up gradually. Playing about in the dust they delighted their parents. Those Vaiśya boys gradually became five-year olds. The eminent Vaiśya Paśumān trained those children ever since their childhood in their duties. They were trained step by step in all the activities connected with agriculture, breeding of cattle and business dealings.
39-41. All the seven, the chief of whom was Supaṇya, listened to (obeyed) the instruction of their father. Whatever Paśumān said they immediately carried it out. They obtained great skill in dealings in gold also.
But the eighth son Duṣpaṇya was always engaged in evil ways ever since his childhood. He did not pay heed to the words of his father. Since the day of his playful activities in the dust, he was always engaged in vicious acts.
42-47. Even as a boy that son harassed boys of other people. Though the father Paśumān noticed him engaged in evil activities, he remained indifferent saying that after all he was only a child.
All the eight sons of the Vaiśya became young men. Still the eighth son Duṣpaṇya did not improve. He became the strongest of all. He used to catch hold of the boys in the city and cast them off into wells, lakes and rivers. The people were not at all aware that this was his misdemeanour. (The cruel Vaiśya youth) held the children under water till they died. The fathers and mothers of the dead children used to search for them all over the city. On seeing their sons dead what the people could do was only to weep.
48-50. After finding out the dead bodies in waters the people did everything necessary (to dispose of them). Thus Duṣpaṇya continued to kill children in the city everyday. For a long time he carried on like this without being detected by the people. As the children died thus as a result of the activities of the Vaiśya youth, there was no rise in the population and the city became a void as it were. Thereupon, the citizens gathered together and intimated to the king everything.
51. On hearing their words (complaints) the king called together all the chief village officials and commanded them to investigate into the cause of the deaths of the children.
52. The village officials agreed and established themselves in different places. They looked into all the aspects of the problem of murder of children.
53. In spite of the fact that they probed deep into the matter, they could not find out the murderer of children. They came back to the king with great fear and reported in these words:
54. “Although we have searched thoroughly, O king, we are unable to find out the person who stays in this very city and goes on murdering the children.”
55. Again all the grief-stricken citizens went to the king and complained to him with tearful eyes that there had been further cases of murder among the subjects.
56-58. Unable to understand the reason thereof, the king kept quiet pondering over everything.
Once this Vaiśya youth came near a lake along with five children under the pretext of plucking lotuses. Even as they were crying piteously Duṣpaṇya caught hold of them forcibly. The cruel-hearted Duṣpaṇya drowned them in neck-deep water of the lake. Thinking that they were dead Duṣpaṇya went back to his abode.
59-64. The fathers of those five children began searching for the five children throughout the city. Even as they were searching thus, those five very small children, in spite of the fact that they were kept under the water, did not die. With their heads and hairs drenched in water all those five children came to the banks. As they were very small children, they could not go back to the city. They loitered to and fro (near the lake) there. On hearing their names being called out by their kinsmen from afar, all those five children responded by way of reply. On hearing their shouts in reply, their fathers came to the banks of the lake, saw their children alive and became excessively delighted. “What is this? How did this happen?” The children were enquired by their fathers and others. They related to their kinsmen the misdeeds of Duṣpaṇya. Thereupon the citizens knew all the details. They went over to the king and told him the details of the (cruel) action of Duṣpaṇya as recounted by the five (children).
65. Thereupon the king summoned the excellent merchant Paśumān. Even as the citizens stood hearing, he spoke these words.
The king said:
66-69. O Paśumān, know that this city of many subjects has been practically made a void by your vicious son named Duṣpaṇya. Now he had attempted to drown these extremely small children under water. By chance they have survived and they have come back to the city. As the incident has come up to this stage, tell me now what should be done? I ask you alone now, because you are virtuous and pious.
On being asked thus by the king, Paśumān who was conversant with virtue, replied suitably:
70-76. He deserves capital punishment as the entire town has been devastated by him. There is nothing to be asked (of me), O king, in this matter. He is no longer my son. He is definitely my enemy because he has been a great sinner. I do not find any means of redemption for him by whom the city has been entirely crippled. Let him be sentenced to death. He is a wicked-minded one. I am telling you the truth.
On hearing the words of Paśumān all the citizens praised the excellent merchant and spoke to the king thus: “Let not this vicious fellow be put to death. Quietly banish him from the city.”
Thereupon, the king summoned Duṣpaṇya and said thus: “O vicious one, now get away from this place immediately. If you continue to linger here, I shall punish you with death sentence.”
Thus the king rebuked him and exiled him through his messengers from the city limits. Duṣpaṇya became frightened. He left the land and went away to the forest fully populated by groups of sages.
77-79. There too he killed the son of a sage by drowning him under water. The sons of the other sages who had come there for playing games saw the dead child and informed its father with great distress.
Ugraśravas heard from them about the death of his child under water. By the power of his penance he knew that it was the work of Duṣpaṇya. Ugraśravas then cursed Duṣpaṇya, the son of the Vaiśya.
80-83. Since you killed my son after drowning him under water your death too will be likewise by sinking under water. After death you will become a Piśāca (evil spirit, ghost). You will remain so for a long time.
On hearing this curse, Duṣpaṇya became dejected in mind. Immediately he left that forest and went to another forest still more dreadful. When he reached that forest full of lions and other beasts of prey, a violent gust of wind blew there showering a great deal of dust and shattering and uprooting many trees. Even the mere touch of the storm was felt to be like the blow of a thunderbolt.
84-86. There was an unbearable downpour that pierced his body with its velocity. On observing it, Duṣpaṇya became excessively dejected. He began to ponder over it. Then he saw a dry, dead body of a huge elephant. Unable to bear the stormy downpour and violent gust of wind he entered the cavity of the belly of the elephant through its mouth. As soon as he entered the body, the rain increased enormously.
87-89. As the rain water gathered a great stream of water began to flow. That stream turned into a big river in the forest. The belly of that dead elephant was filled with rain water. It began to float in the big flood that ensued. All the openings became closed. Hence Duṣpaṇya could not get out of the belly of the elephant as it had been filled with water and there was no opening at all.
90. Then the flood caused by rainwater flowed rapidly and terribly. It carried the carcass of the elephant to the ocean along with Duṣpaṇya who was within its belly.
91. The moment he sank into the water, Duṣpaṇya lost his life. As soon as he died he was transformed into a Piśāca.
92. Afflicted with hunger and thirst, he went into an impassable forest. In the terrible days of summer he shouted and lamented dreadfully (and moved here and there).
93-103. He stayed in the dense forest experiencing much misery for thousands of crores of Kalpas and hundreds of crores of Kalpas. That Piśāca stayed in that dreadful forest in great misery. He ran from forest to forest and country to country. Everywhere he experienced misery. He then gradually came to Daṇḍaka forest. He wandered in the region not very far from the meritorious hermitage of Agastya. He cried in a dreadfully severe voice and spoke these words loudly:
“Oh! O ascetics, ye all listen to my words. Indeed all of you are kind and considerate. You are engaged in activities conducive to the welfare of all living beings. Bless me with your benign glances. I am extremely afflicted with miseries. Formerly I was a Vaiśya in Pāṭaliputra named Duṣpaṇya. I was a son of Paśumān. At that time I killed many children. I was, therefore, exiled by the king from that land. I went to the forest. There 1 killed the son of Sage Ugraśravas under water. That sage cursed me that I would also die under water. He had said that I would be transformed into a Piśāca with a lot of suffering. I have already experienced the state of a Piśāca in desolate forest regions for thousands of crores of Kalpas and hundreds of crores of Kaīpas. I am unable to bear thirst and hunger. Hence ye all do save me kindly. I have suffered much misery. O ascetics, kindly do that whereby I shall be liberated from the state of a Piśāca.”
On hearing these words of the Piśāca, the ascetics said to the Pot-born Sage accompanied by Lopāmudrā:
The ascetics said:
104-105. O holy lord, tell the excellent means of redemption for this Piśāca. You are capable of saving sinners like this.
Agastya heard their words and became extremely compassionate. He called Sutīkṣṇa, his favourite disciple, and spoke these words:
106-110. O Sutīkṣṇa, go quickly to the Gandhamādana mountain. There is a great Tīrtha there named Agnitīrtha. It is destructive of sins. Take your holy bath there, O highly intelligent one, for the liberation of the Piśāca. When you take the holy bath on behalf of that Piśāca there along with the requisite Saṃkalpa rites, he will cast off his Piśāca form and assume a divine form. Except resorting to that Tīrtha, I do not see any other means of redemption for him. Hence, O Sutīkṣṇa, protect this Piśāca.
On being told thus by Agastya, Sutīkṣṇa went to Gandhamādana. For the sake of the Piśāca, he performed the rite of Saṃkalpa. The sage, the storehouse of mercy, took the holy bath for three days there with due observances of the rules and restraints.
111-115a. He visited Rāmanātha and other deities and took with him the holy (water from that) Tīrtha. The excellent Brāhmaṇa Sutīkṣṇa went back to his hermitage and sprinkled the Tīrtha water on the Piśāca. Thereby he discarded the state of Piśāca. By the power of that Tīrtha he attained a divine form immediately. He got into an excellent aerial chariot attended by divine damsels. He bowed down again and again to Sutīkṣṇa, Agastya and other ascetics. With great delight he took leave of them and ascended to heaven quickly. He was honoured by Devas too.
115b-118. Thus, by the power of Agnitīrtha, Duṣpaṇya, the son of a Vaiśya, cast off the form and features of a Piśāca which he had got as a result of a curse and attained a divine form. Thus, O Brāhmaṇas, the glory of Agnitīrtha has been recounted to you.
He who reads this chapter or listens with devotion to this narrative of the liberation of a Piśāca shall be released from all sins. He will enjoy great worldly pleasures here and obtain happiness in the other world too.