The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Yudhishthira’s Enquiries which is chapter 1 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 first chapter of the Dharmaranya-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 1 - Yudhiṣṭhira’s Enquiries

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Obeisance to Śrīgaṇeśa

(1) I bow down to that Supreme Lord Śrīrāmacandra who is free from impurities. He has natural brilliance. The Lord’s (Rāmacandra’s) name is a boat unto the three worlds for crossing the ocean of worldly existence. Due to his power this entire universe manifests itself always as born, steady and running its course; he is Caitanyaghana (full of consciousness), and is beyond the (common) sources of valid knowledge and he can be known through the Upaniṣaḍs only.

(2) Wife, sons, wealth, attendants, relations, dear ones, mother, brother, father, father-in-law and all the members of the family, servants, wealth and prosperity, learning, beauty, pure abode, youth and multitudes of youthful maidens—all these are of no use at the time of death. Dharma alone is the helping friend.

1. In Naimiṣa, in the holy place of Nimiṣa,[1] Śaunaka and other sages performed a Sattra (Sacrifice) lasting for a thousand years. They performed the sacrifice for the attainment of the heavenly world.

2. Once, those sages including Śaunaka, saw Sūta coming and became extremely happy. They began to drink him in (as it were) by means of their eyes and excellent mind. The ascetics surrounded him in order to listen to wonderful stories.

3. After those noble-hearted ascetics had taken their seats, the son of Lomaharṣaṇa humbly occupied the seat offered to him.

4. On seeing him comfortably seated and on noting that no disturbing factors were around, the sages enquired about a few introductory things.

5-6 “O dear one, your father learned the entire Purāṇic literature formerly; O son of Lomaharṣaṇa, has it been entirely learned by you too?

O Sūta, narrate that (i.e. such a) meritorious story that destroys all sins, by listening to which, the sin accumulated in the course of a hundred births, will be dissolved.”

Sūta said:

7. After duly bowing down to the pair of feet of the glorious Goddess Sarasvatī, the pair of feet of the Lord of the Gaṇas as well as those of all the Devas, I recount (now as follows):

8-10. I bow down to Śaktis, Vasus, Grahas (Planets), deities of Yajñas etc. I bow down to the auspicious Brāhmaṇas and all important poets. I bow down to the beloved deities as well as to the excellent preceptor. I bow down to the splendid Devas, to Rāma and others in particular, by remembering whom one is undoubtedly liberated from all the sins of the three types. With their favour I shall recount the merits of all the Tīrthas, after bowing down to the Lord, the soul of Dharma, the controller of everyone.

11. May that Lord of Bhavānī save you all from sins. He is the Lord of Dharmāraṇya.[2] He is the eternal Lord of heaven. He is the Lord of Dharma, easy of access through steady practice of Yoga. He bestows permanent pleasures. He has pervaded the heart of everyone by means of Jīvakalā (? the digit in the form of the Individual Soul) for ever. By meditating upon him men cease to enter the prison of worldly existence.

Sūta said:

12-14. Once (Lord) Dharma went to the Assembly of Brahmā. On seeing that Assembly, he became devoted to knowledge then. On seeing the Assembly occupied by Devas and excellent sages, he became surprised. That Assembly was occupied by Devas, Yakṣas, Serpents, Cobras, Asuras, Sages, Siddhas and Gandharvas. They had occupied proper seats. O Brāhmaṇas, that Assembly was very comfortable, neither too cold nor too hot.

15. (Those who attend it) never feel hunger or thirst or exhaustion. That Assembly has been adorned with excellent jewels of diverse shapes and sizes.

16-18. That eternal Assembly is supported by columns. It is undecaying. It has unmeasured splendour because of various divine things that shine brilliantly. It is situated on the top of the heaven. It is self-luminous and it surpasses the moon, the sun and fire. It appears to deride the sun as it were (by its splendour).

It is there that Brahmā, the grandfather of all the worlds, stays always and rules Devas and human beings of different kinds single-handedly.

19-27. The lords of subjects (Patriarchs) worship this lord. Dakṣa, Pracetas, Pulaha, Marīci, Lord Kaśyapa, Bhṛgu, Atri, Vasiṣṭha, Gautama, Aṅgiras, Pulastya, Kratu, Prahlāda, Kardama, Atharvāṅgiras, Vālakhilyas, Marīcipas (a mythical race of sages), Manas (Mind), Antarikṣa (Ether), Vidyās (Sciences), Vāyu (Wind), Tejas (brilliance), water, earth, sound, touch, colour, taste, smell, Prakṛti, Vikāras (evolutes), the cause that is Sat as well as Asat, Agastya of great splendour, the powerful Mārkaṇḍeya, Jamadagni, Bharadvāja, Saṃvarta, Cyavana, the illustrious Durvāsas, the righteous Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, the holy lord Sanatkumāra, Yogācārya of great penance, Asita, Devala, Jaigīṣavya, the knower of reality, Āyurveda (the Science of longevity and health) that has eight sections, Gāndharva (Science of Musicology), the Moon along with Constellations, the Sun equipped with rays, Winds, Tantus (a succession of sacrificial performances), Saṃkalpa (Determination), Prāṇa (Vital Air) and all the noble souls in embodied form and engaged in great Vratas (holy observances and vows)—these and many others worshipped Brahmā.

28-36. Wealth, Virtue, Love, Delight, Hatred, Tamas (Guṇa), Dama (Control of mind and sense-organs) etc. came to that Assembly. Groups of Gandharvas and celestial damsels came to that Assembly collectively.

The Planets including Śukra (Venus), those near it, the Mantras Rathantara, Harimān and Vasumān, the honoured Viśvakarman, all the Vasus, all the groups of Manes, all the Havis-offerings, Ṛgveda, Sāmaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda, all the Scriptures, the Itihāsas, the Upavedas, all the Vedāṅgas (Ancillaries to the Vedas), Medhā (Intellect), Dhṛti (Courage), Smṛti (Memory), Prajñā (Wisdom), Buddhi (Intelligence), Yaśas (Fame), Samās (Years), Kāla (Time, the cycle of time) which is divine, perpetual, everlasting and never-ending, all the wives of the Devas, all of whom had the speed of mind, Gārhapatyas, Pitṛs who wander in the heavenly worlds and who are well-known in the worlds, Somapas, Ekaśṛṅgas and all the ascetics, Nāgas (Serpents), Suparṇas (‘excellent-winged beings’) and animals worship Pitāmaha (God Brahmā). The immovables and the movables, the great living beings (or Mahābhūtas, Great Elements), Purandara, the lord of Devas, Varuṇa, Kubera and Mahādeva, the bestower of everything along with Umā go there.

37-40. All the Devas, Nārāyaṇa as well as the sages go there always. The sages, Vālakhilyas, those who were born of wombs and those who were not born of wombs (go there). He observed that whatever (all) movables and immovables are in the three worlds were present there in that Assembly. On seeing that Assembly occupied by the Devas and the excellent sages, that (lord) conversant with Dharma, became excessively surprised. He felt great delight. He experienced thrill and had his hair standing all over his body.

There Dharma of excessive splendour heard the sin-destroying story (of Dharmāraṇya) recounted by Vyāsa, of unmeasured brilliance.

41-46. He heard the fascinating divine story of Dharmāraṇya: the story that bestows virtue, wealth, love and salvation, the story that gives sons and grandsons etc. by being retained (in memory), by being listened to, by being read or seen.

On hearing that vast story encompassing the entire Cosmic Egg, he became very glad and his eyes became like a full-blown lotus.

Having accomplished his task, the virtuous-souled (Lord) Dharma became desirous of returning. He bowed down to Brahmā, the grandfather (of the worlds) (and took leave of him).

On being permitted by him, he went to the region of Yama. With the favour of Brahmā, he heard tṇe divine story of Dharmāraṇya, the story that is holy, destructive of sins and bestower of merits. Along with his followers, he went towards Saṃyaminī (his capital).

47-54. Yama entered his city along with his ministers and followers. In the meantime, the prominent sage Nārada of excessive brilliance, who could not be looked at directly, an ascetic of impartial views, who was endowed with mercifulness and had burned his body by means of penance (came there). He was engrossed in devotion to Viṣṇu; he went everywhere. The omniscient and ever pure sage, a regular reciter of the Vedas, came there to that Assembly.

On seeing him unexpectedly, Dharma became greatly delighted. Accompanied by his wife and followers, he gladly hurried to his presence (and said): “Today my life has become fruitful. Today my family has become blessed. Today my piety has become fruitful, because you, rich in penance, have come here.”

He duly worshipped and honoured him by offering Arghya, Pādya etc. in accordance with the injunctions. He fell at his feet like a log of wood.

With due deference, he made him sit in an extremely splendid seat adorned with gold and jewels. The entire Assembly (remained motionless) as though painted in a picture, or like flames of lamps remaining steady in a windless place.

He enquired after his welfare. He duly welcomed him. Remembering the story of Dharmāraṇya, he derived matchless delight.

55-56. With a highly delighted mind, he worshipped Nārada. Nārada was surprised much on seeing Yama extremely joyous. He mentally thought thus: ‘Why is Yama delighted so much?’

On seeing (Lord Dharma) in the form of Yamarāja in great delight and surprised in mind Nārada asked him then:

Nārada said:

57-59. Have you seen some astonishing thing? Or have you attained a higher position? (You are always) wicked. You are evil in action. You are malevolent in mind. You are always wrathful. You control sinners. Your (usual) form is domineering. But how have you assumed a gentle form? O lord, this is my doubt.

What is the reason whereby you appear to be endowed with (full of) great delight today? O (lord) of a huge body, tell me the reason for your joyfulness.

Dharmarāja said:

60-63. O son of Brahmā, I shall undoubtedly tell you. Let it be heard. Formerly I had been to the abode of God Brahmā to pay my respects (to him). There, I occupied my seat in the Assembly which was solely honoured by all the worlds. Many kinds of stories concerning pious activities were heard by me. They were charmingly meritorious and virtuous. These were heard directly from Vyāsa. They concerned Virtue, Wealth and Pleasure. They were destructive of all the multitudes of sins. O sage, by listening to these stories, people are liberated from all sins, (even) from that of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter. The listeners thereby redeem hundred and one generations of their ancestors.

Nārada said:

64. Of what nature was that story? Recount to me the story heard by you, O mighty-armed Yama. I am desirous of hearing that story.

Yama said:

65-70. Once I went to the world of Brahmā in order to bow down to the grandfather (of the worlds). I went to that region in the course of my quest for what should be done and what should not be done.

An astonishing thing was seen and heard by me there, O excellent sage. I heard the divine story of Dharmāraṇya recounted by Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana.

O Brāhmaṇa, I heard the highly meritorious and splendid story concerning the entire Cosmic Egg. It is full of good qualities and truth. So I am extremely delighted.

Further, O excellent sage, the cause (of my delight) is your visit. It is conducive to auspiciousness, happiness, welfare and victory.

Today I am blessed and contented, O sage. Today I am meritorious. Today I have become true to my name of Dharma, because I have seen the pair of your feet.

O Nārada, I am worthy of honour and adoration today. I am blessed and contented today. With the grace of your feet, I have become worthy of adoration in all the three worlds.

Sūta said:

71. The excellent sage was satisfied by words like these. With great devotion he asked (the lord) about the splendid story of Dharmāraṇya forest.

Narada said:

72. O Dharma, the splendid story of the Dharmāraṇya forest has been heard (by you) directly from Vyāsa. Recount the whole of it to me truthfully and in detail.

Yama said:

73-75. O Brāhmaṇa, I am always busy in awarding to all beings who experience pleasure and pain, the state (fate) that is happy or otherwise in accordance with their Karinas. Yet, the association with good people is indeed for the (development of) virtue. It is conducive to the happiness and welfare both here and hereafter.

For the sake of the benefit of mankind, I shall recount everything that has been directly narrated by Vyāsa and heard (by me) in the presence of Brahmā.

Sūta said:

76. Whatever had been heard in the Assembly of Brahmā was recounted by Yama entirely from beginning to end leaving nothing in the middle. There is no doubt about it.

77-84. In the interim period between Kali and Dvāpara, Nārada went to the kingdom of the son of Dharma i.e. Yudhiṣṭhira in the mortal world.

As he approached, Nārada, a part of Śrī Hari, appeared like a blazing fire. His eyes were (brilliant) like the rising sun.

He had a huge tuft of hair matted perfectly with a twist to the left. He wore two cloths as white as rays of the moon. He was adorned with gold ornaments.

His Vīṇā (Lute) named Mahatī (or a big Vīṇā) was like a companion unto him. He kept it tucked up beneath his arm. A hide of black antelope formed his upper garment. He had a golden sacred thread.

He carried with him a staff and a waterpot in his hand. He was just like another Fire-god himself. He was comparable to Guha (Lord Kārttikeya). He was the exposer of all secrets in the world and of all quarrels.

He was the most accomplished of all the great sages. He was a great scholar well-versed in the Science of Music. This Brāhmaṇa had perfected (the art of) playing with (i.e. playfully provoking) the enmity (of people) like a fine art. He was like another Kali but a Brāhmana.

He was the primordial speaker among Devas and Gandharvas of all the worlds. He had perfect control (over the sense-organs). He was a singer of the four Vedas. He sang (songs praising) the good qualities of Hari.

The Brāhmaṇa-Sage Nārada, the one always wandering in the world of Brahmā, joyously came to the city protected by Dharmarāja.

85-87. As noble-souled kings were seated there and great Gandharvas had occupied their seats, that lord of great sages came there in the course of his wanderings in all the worlds. Accompanied by sages, Nārada of very great brilliance came there.

On seeing the sage arrived, that (Lord) conversant with all the Dharmas, rose from his throne and proceeded towards him (to receive him).

88-89. Bowing down humbly and delightedly, (the king), conversant with Dharma, made his obeisance. He duly offered him a befitting seat. He offered Argha and Madhuparka along with (sweet) words (of welcome[3]) (gām). He honoured him with gems and other desired objects.

90-91. On receiving the adoration, the sage was satisfied. (Dharmarāja then asked:) “O illustrious sage, I hope you are quite all right and your penance is going on well. I hope that no wicked Daitya harasses the lord of heaven. O sage, O son of Brahmā, O storehouse of mercy, you are auspiciousness incarnate. You are bowed to by Suras and Asuras. You go everywhere and you know everything.”

Nārada said:

92-95. With the grace of Brahmā, all is well with me now. O Yudhiṣṭhira, son of Dharma, O illustrious one, I hope you are happy along with your brothers. O great king, I hope your mind revels in piety and virtue. I hope you are happy along with your wives, sons, servants, horses and elephants. O son of Dharma, you do virtuously protect the subjects like your own bosom-born sons. What wonder is there? Indeed the subjects are blessed and contented. Manu has said that by protecting and sustaining men one will certainly produce Dharma. You will be the enjoyer (of the fruits) of those pious activities.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

96-98. The whole of my kingdom is happy by the contact of your feet. O illustrious one, I have become free from sins on having your sight. I am blessed. I am contented. I have discharged all my duties. I am fortunate in this world. As the son of Brahmā has come to my abode, I have become meritorious.

Where are you coming from, O Brāhmaṇa, O excellent sage? Is it for blessing the good ones? Or is it for any (other) specific purpose?

Nārada said:

99-103. O excellent king, I am coming from the presence of Śamana (Dharma). The divine story concerning Dharmāraṇya, the splendid mythological story that dispels all distress, was recounted by Vyāsa in the presence of Brahmā.

The divine story pertains to Dharmāraṇya. It dispels all troubles. By listening to it, one is liberated from the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter, from all sins.

By listening devoutly to this story that destroys the three types of distress and that suppresses ten thousand (sins of) murder, the hard shall become soft. After listening to it, it was related to me by Dharmarāja.

The lord of immeasurable soul (ameyātmā) asked him about that story which delighted and interested (even) Dharma.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

O excellent Brāhmaṇa, be pleased to tell me the meritorious story concerning Dharmāraṇya with a desire for welfare of all the worlds.

Nārada said:

104. This is the time for bathing for us. I have no time for discourse. But, let this be heard. O king, I shall offer you this advice.

105. Māgha is the most excellent of all months for the purpose of holy bath, charitable gift etc. He who takes his holy bath in the month of Māgha, is liberated from all sins.

106. O king, go immediately to Gaṅgā now for the sake of your holy bath. O excellent king, the arrival of Vyāsa is to take place today.

107-109. O blessed one, ask him. He will recount to you the wonderful fruit and merit of visiting all the Tīrthas. He will narrate everything that is past, present or future, high, low or middling. He will tell them from Itihāsa (mythological texts). Vyāsa, the son of Satyavatī, will tell you everything concerning all ancient traditions of Dharmāraṇya.

Sūta said:

110. After saying thus, the son of Brahmā vanished there itself. When he had gone, that king began to sport along with his ministers.

111. In the meantime, the son of Satyavatī came there. Then Vidura informed the son of Pāṇḍu.

Sūta said:

112-115. On hearing that the sage had arrived, all were thrilled with delight. All of them including Bhīma stood up along with Dharma. (Yudhiṣṭhira) faced him with his head bowed down and rejoiced. Accompanied by his brothers, he prostrated before him like a log of wood. He duly worshipped him splendidly with Madhuparka. He made him sit on his throne and enquired about his health. Thereupon, the knower of Dharma made him recount the divine and meritorious story. At the end of the discourse he spoke these words to the tiger among sages.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

116-119. With your favour, O Brāhmaṇa, excellent stories have been heard by me. Duties during emergency, duties of the king, various pious activities leading to salvation, the virtuous rites prescribed in the Purāṇas, many kinds of holy Vratas (vows and observances), many Tīrthas and all shrines have been heard from you.

Now I wish to hear about the splendid story of Dharmāraṇya, on hearing which sin including the one of slaughter of a Brāhmaṇa perishes.

I wish to hear the details of all the Tīrthas situated in Dharmāraṇya. By whom was this holy spot created? Why has this been created?

120. By whom has this been guarded and protected? At what time was it created? What things took place here before? Narrate this to me as I ask.

121. Narrate everything that happened, is happening and will happen in that holy spot. Tell (us) everything regarding the situation of the Tīrthas.

Footnotes and references:


This is the usual background of all Purāṇas. It is on Gomatī, in Sultanpur District, some forty miles from Ayodhyā.


Dharmāraṇya: This name is associated with many places. But this Dharmāraṇya, as mentioned in the text, is Moharpur (ancient Moherakapura), 14 miles to the north of Vindhyācala Town in Mirzapur District.


This is more appropriate than offering a cow in the Assembly. Hence this translation of gām as ‘speech, words’.

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