The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Glory of Gayatri and Sarasvati Kundas which is chapter 41 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 forty-first chapter of the Setu-mahatmya of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 41 - The Glory of Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī Kuṇḍas

[Full title: The Glory of Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī Kuṇḍas: Destruction of Kāśyapa’s Sin.]

Note: The story how King Parīkṣit was cursed to be bitten by Takṣaka for his insult of Sage Śamīka and how the Brāhmaṇa Kāśyapa who was going to save him from Takṣaka-bite was bribed by Takṣaka, is told in details in Mbh, Ādi Chs. 40 to 43. This Purāṇa borrows this story from Mbh and uses it to glorify the above Tīrthas by stating how that Brāhmaṇa Kāśyapa was absolved of his sin (complicity in Parīkṣit’s murder) by bathing in these Kuṇḍas and was respectably rehabilitated in social Brahmanical status.

Śrī Sūta said:

1-2. Henceforth I shall relate a story of great sanctity concerning Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī (Tīrthas).

A Brāhmaṇa named Kāśyapa took his holy bath formerly in these two Tīrthas, and became absolved of a great sin that would have sent him to Naraka.

The sages said:

3-4. O sage, what sin did this (Brāhṃaṇa) named Kāśyapa commit, from which he was instantly liberated by taking the holy bath in these two Tīrthas? Narrate this mercifully, O Sūta, to us who are faithful. Persons who are satisfied with the nectar of your words, do not feel even thirst.

Śrī Sūta said:

5. I shall describe the legendary story that illustrates the glory of Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī and that is destructive of the sins of those who listen (to it).

6. The son of Abhimanyu, the king named Parīkṣit, stayed in (occupied) the city of Hastināpura protecting the earth righteously.

7-8. Once when the king was sixty years old, he went to the forest for hunting. Wandering (here and there) he became afflicted with hunger and thirst. He was in search of a deer (which escaped after being hit). While searching for it enthusiastically, he saw a sage in bark garments engaged in meditation and spoke to him:

9-12. “A certain deer was hit by me in this forest now, O sage. It ran away in extreme fright, O learned man. Was it seen by you?”

As the sage was engaged in meditation and hence adopted silence, he did not say anything in reply. Thereupon the king became angry. With the tip of his bow (he lifted) a dead serpent and placed it on the shoulders of the great sage. The king went away to the city.

The sage had a son named Śṛṅgī. He had a friend named Kṛśa, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. That friend named Kṛśa said to his companion Śṛṅgin:

13-15. “Your father holds a dead serpent on his shoulders. O friend, do not be proud. Do not be haughty in vain.”

The infuriated Śṛṅgin desirous of cursing the king said thus: “Let that man of deluded mind, who placed the dead serpent on my father’s body, die within seven days, on being bitten by the serpent Takṣaka.”

Thus the son of the sage cursed Parīkṣit, the son of Subhadrā’s son.

16-21. His father named Śamīka heard that the king had been cursed by his son. The great sage said to his son Śṛṅgī:

“Why did you curse the king, the protector of all the worlds? How will we be able to stay properly in a world without the king? A sin has been committed by you in anger. You will not be happy. He who dispels the rising anger by means of forbearance attains great happiness here and hereafter. Only persons endowed with forbearance derive excellent welfare.”

Then Śamīka said to his disciple named Gauramukha:

“O Gauramukha, go to king Parīkṣit and tell him about this curse uttered by my son, that he would be bitten by serpent Takṣaka. Then, O highly intelligent one, come back to me quickly.”

22-25. On being told thus by Śamīka, Gauramukha went to the king. Approaching King Parīkṣit, the grandson of Subhadrā, he said to him thus:

“On seeing the dead serpent placed by you on the shoulders of his father, Śṛṅgī, the son of Śamīka, cursed you in anger: ‘On the seventh day from today, the son of Abhimanyu shall be bitten by the great serpent Takṣaka. He shall be burned by the fire of poison.’ O king, Śṛṅgī, the son of that sage, has cursed you thus. His father has sent me to you in order to tell you this.”

26-30. After saying this to the king, Gauramukha returned immediately.

After Gauramukha had gone, the grief-stricken king got a pavilion made in the middle of Gaṅgā. It had only one pillar. It was very lofty. It scraped the sky. It was capacious.

With great concentration and care he made every effort to get the poison of Takṣaka quelled by physicians who knew medicines and Mahāgāruḍa Mantra. He was accompanied by many excellent celestial sages, Brāhmaṇical sages and saintly kings. The king who had great devotion to Viṣṇu sat in that lofty pavilion.

At that time a Brāhmaṇa named Kāśyapa who was an excellent Māntrika (one well-versed in Mantras) set out in order to save the king from the great poison of Takṣaka on the seventh day.

31-34. The eminent Brāhmaṇa was poor. So he was (naturally) desirous of some wealth. In the meantime, Takṣaka too had set out assuming the form of a Brāhmaṇa. On the way, he met Kāśyapa and spoke to him: “O Brāhmaṇa, O great sage, where are you going? Tell me.”

On being asked thus, O Brāhmaṇas, Kāśyapa spoke to Takṣaka: “Takṣaka will bite Parīkṣit, the great king today, and burn him by means of the fire of his poison. I am going to him in order to quell it (the poison).”

As the Brāhmaṇa said thus, Takṣaka said to him once again.

35-40. “I am Takṣaka, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. It is not possible to cure a person bitten by me by means of ten thousand great Mantras in the course of a hundred years. If you have the power to cure one bitten by me I shall bite this banyan tree which is many Yojanas tall. Revive it. Then (I shall admit) that you are really competent.”

After saying thus, Takṣaka bit that tree. That tree which was extremely tall was reduced to ash. Earlier a man had climbed on it. He was burned by the poisonous flames of Takṣaka, but neither Takṣaka nor Kāśyapa was aware of it. Even as Takṣaka listened, Kāśyapa proclaimed thus: “O ye all Brāhmaṇas, witness the power of our Mantra now.”

41-46. After saying this, Kāśyapa, the most excellent one among Māntrikas, resuscitated by the power of his Mantra, that tree which had been reduced to ash by the poisonous flame. Along with the tree, that man too was revived. Then Takṣaka said to Kāśyapa who was an expert in the employment of Mantras: “O Brāhmaṇa, do everything in such a manner as not to falsify the utterance of the sage. I shall give you twice the amount that the king may possibly give you. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, return quickly.”

After saying this, Takṣaka gave him very valuable jewels and gems. Thus he made that Brāhmaṇa Kāśyapa who was an expert in Mantras, return.

With the power of the vision of knowledge Kāśyapa realized that the king was not destined to live long. So he quietly went to his hermitage after receiving the gems and jewels from Takṣaka.

At the same time Takṣaka called all the serpents together and said:

47-51a. “All of you adopt the guise of sages and go to that king. Give Parīkṣit fruits in the form of present.”

All those serpents said, “So it shall be”. They gave the king fruits as presents. Takṣaka assumed the form of worm and entered a jujube fruit in order to bite the king.

King Parīkṣit gave away all the fruits handed over by the serpents in the guise of Brāhmaṇas to those elderly persons efficient in the employment of Mantras. The king eagerly took up a big fruit in his hand. At that time, the sun set behind the Western mountain.

51b-55. All the men there, the Brāhmaṇas and the kings said to one another, “Will not the utterance of the sage be false?” Even as all of them were saying thus, a red worm was seen by all of them and by King Parīkṣit. The king then said: “Perhaps this worm may bite me now; will it?” After saying this, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, he placed that fruit on his ear along with the worm. Takṣaka who had concealed himself earlier within that fruit in the form of a worm, immediately came out of that fruit, and twined round the body of the king. When the king was encircled by Takṣaka all those who were at his side fled out of fright.

56-61. Thereafter, O Brāhmaṇas, the king was burned to ash by the poisonous flame of Takṣaka. He was reduced to ash along with his palace by the powerful poison of Takṣaka.

The ministers and the priests performed the obsequies of the king. They crowned his son named Janamejaya as the king in the realm, with a desire to protect the entire universe.

The Brāhmaṇa named Kāśyapa, O excellent sages, who had come to protect the king from Takṣaka, was condemned by all the people (because he did not do so). He wandered over the different lands. He was censured by all the honourable people. He did not get any (permanent) place (of rest) either in a village or in a hermitage. To whatever land he went, he was expelled by the leading public men of those lands.

Ultimately he sought refuge in Śākalya[1] Kāśyapa who was censured by the people bowed down to Sage Śākalya. He said these words to the noble-souled Śākalya:

Kāśyapa said:

62-66. O holy lord Śākalya, conversant with all holy rites, O favourite of Hari, sages, other Brāhmaṇas and friendly people censure me. I do not know the reason thereof. Why do these men condemn me? I have not committed Brāhmaṇa-murder, liquor-drinking, sexual intercourse with my preceptor’s wife or theft (of any sort). Nor am I defiled by association with these sinners at any place. Nor other sin has been committed by me, O sage. Still the people, the kinsmen and others, condemn me in vain. If you know, O Śākalya, tell me the fault committed by me.

On being told thus by Kāśyapa, the great sage Śākalya meditated for a short while, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, and spoke to Kāśyapa:

Śākalya said:

67-73. You proceeded (to Hastināpura) in order to save Parīkṣit, the great king, from Takṣaka. But on the way you had been prevented by Takṣaka. If a person, competent to cure one who is afflicted with poison, ailment, etc., does not save him due to covetousness, people call that person a Brāhmaṇa-slayer. O great Brāhmaṇa, he who does not save a man afflicted with poison or ailment because of anger, lust, fear, covetousness, jealousy or delusion, is (on a par with) a Brāhmaṇa-slayer, a drink-addict, a thief, a defiler of the preceptor’s bed and one who is contaminated by association with these. There is no means of atonement for him.

Indeed there is some means of expiation mentioned in the scriptures in regard to one who sells a girl, one who deals in selling horses and even an ungrateful person. But if a person competent to save does not save one who is afflicted with poison and ailments, no means of atonement has been laid down for him. He cannot make amends even by means of ten thousand expiatory rites. A meritorious person shall not take food along with him in the same row.

74-80. No one should talk to him. No one should look at him in any place. Merely by talking to him one will incur great sin.

That great King Parīkṣit was a righteous person of renown. He was a great Yogin and a devotee of Viṣṇu. He was a defender of the discipline of the four castes. He heard the story of Hari from the son of Vyāsa (i.e. Śuka) with great devotion.

At the instance of Takṣaka you returned without (even attempting) to save him. Therefore, you are abused and condemned by leading Brāhmaṇas and kinsmen. Although the great King Parīkṣit was one destined to be short-lived, it is essential on the part of learned men, to continue the medical treatment till death.

Persons who have mastered the ocean-like science of medicine as physicians have uttered this verse in days of yore: “In the case of a man on the verge of death, treatment should be continued as long as the vital airs are at his throat. The movement of god of Death is crooked (and unpredictable).”

Though you are capable of treating, you abstained from administering any antidote. You retraced your steps after coming half the way and thereby you killed him.

On being told thus by Śākalya, Kāśyapa replied:

Kāśyapa said:

81-86. O sage of good holy rites, tell the means of subsiding this evil of mine, so that my kinsmen and friendly people will accept me (respectfully), O Śākalya. O favourite of Hari, take pity on me.

On being told thus by Kāśyapa, the great sage Śākalya meditated for a short while, and then said sympathetically to Kāśyapa:

Śākalya said:

I shall tell you the means of dispelling this sin. That must be carried out by you immediately. O Brāhmaṇa, do not delay.

On the shore of the southern sea, on the Gandhamādana mountain, there are two Tīrthas, O Brāhmaṇa, named Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī. Merely by taking your holy bath there, you shall become pure instantly.

87-92. Men touched by the wind from the water of Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī get rid of all their sins. They are freed of their impurities and they go to heaven. Hence, O Brāhmaṇa, go quickly to Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī.

On being told thus by Śākalya, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, Kāśyapa bowed down to Sage Śākalya and took leave of him. When permitted by that eminent sage he went to the Gandhamādana mountain. After going there Kāśyapa bowed down to the two Tīrthas, Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī. He then bowed down to Daṇḍapāṇi (i.e. Kārttikeya) and Bhairava with great devotion. He duly performed the Saṃkalpa rite with strict observance of restraints. Then he took his holy bath in the Tīrtha. Merely by the holy bath in both of the Tīrthas, Kāśyapa became rid of all sins. He stayed for some time on the shores of both the Tīrthas.

At that time, O eminent sages, Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī appeared before him in physical forms adorned with all ornaments.

93-98. Kāśyapa prostrated devoutly before the two goddesses.

“Who may you both be (O goddesses) richly endowed with beauty and adorned with all ornaments?” So asked Kāśyapa who was delighted in his mind on seeing them. On being asked by him, Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī spoke to him thus:

Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī said:

O Kāśyapa, we are Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī, the beloved wives of Brahma. We stay here permanently in the form of this Tīrtha. Hence we two are pleased with your holy bath here now. Choose your boon from us both, O Brāhmaṇa Kāśyapa, whatever may be desired by you. We shall grant whatever is desired by those who take their holy bath in these two Tīrthas.

On hearing these words of Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī, Kāśyapa eulogized in excellent words, those two goddesses, the beloved wives of Brahmā.

Kāśyapa said:

99-103. I bow down to the two wives of the Four-faced Lord, the mothers of the universe.

Both these goddesses are splendid and auspicious. Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī are of the form of learning. You are the causes of the creation and annihilation of the universe. You are the mothers of the Vedas. You are of the form of Havya and Kavya with the Moon and the Sun for your eyes.

I permanently worship Vāṇī and Gāyatrī, the deity of all the Devas. The Daughter of the Mountain and Kamalā are you alone, O causes of welfare unto the universe. The creation of the universe, etc. take place by (the movement of) your very eyes: By the very winking of your eyes the annihilation of the worlds takes place. By the opening thereof the creation of the world takes place. O Gāyatrī, O Sarasvatī, I have become contented and blessed by your sight.

104-107. By taking the holy bath in the two Tīrthas, I have become liberated from sins. Let the excellent sages, Brāhmaṇas and kinsmen accept (and honour) me. Henceforth, let my mind not be inclined towards sinful actions. Let it be inclined towards holy rites and pious activities. O great goddesses, let this boon alone be given to me. I do not wish for any other boon.

Thus Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī, the two goddesses, were requested by Kāśyapa, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. Those two mothers of the universe who were delighted, said to Kāśyapa:

108-113. “O Kāśyapa, with our blessings let all these boons requested for by you, be yours ere long.”

After saying this, Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī, O Brāhmaṇas, instantly vanished in those two Tīrthas. Kāśyapa became contented and returned to his own native place. The kinsmen and all other Brāhmaṇas accepted Kāśyapa whose sins had been dispelled by his taking holy bath in Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī (Tīrthas). Thus, O Brāhmaṇas, it has been recounted to you all, how Kāśyapa was liberated from all sins by taking the holy plunge in Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī (Kuṇḍas).

He who reads this chapter and listens to it with great concentration, earns the merit of one who has taken the holy bath in Gāyatrī and Sarasvatī.

Footnotes and references:


Mbh does not know this Śākalya. But PE (667) records this episode and Śākalya advises Kāśyapa to bathe in the Godāvarī river (instead of Gāyatrī Kuṇḍa).

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