The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 1,763,776 words

This page describes Dharmaranya Established as a Holy Place which is chapter 4 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 fourth chapter of the Dharmaranya-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 4 - Dharmāraṇya Established as a Holy Place

Vyāsa said:

1. Henceforth, I shall narrate the acts of Dharmarāja, on hearing which one becomes free from the fear of the messengers of Yama.

2-3. That Vardhanī, the most excellent one among the celestial damsels, was seen by Dharmarāja. (He thought:) ‘Who is this beautiful lady of exquisite limbs in this great forest? This forest is devoid of human beings. It is extremely terrible due to lions and tigers.’ Realising that it was extremely mysterious, Dharmarāja spoke thus:

Dharmarāja said:

4-8. Why do you move alone in this forest devoid of people, O respectable lady? Where have you come from? O lady of excellent beauty, whose wife are you? O beautiful lady, whose daughter are you? You are indeed very beautiful and auspicious in form. Are you a human being, a Gandharva woman, a goddess, a Kinnarī, an Apsaras, a Yakṣiṇī, a sylvan nymph, a demoness or a Khecarī (‘one that moves in the sky’)? Tell me whose wife you are. Tell me the truth, O lady of exquisite eyebrows.

The son of Sun-god (further) said:

What do you wish? O fair one, what is it that you have to do? Whatever you may wish, O beautiful lady, I shall grant you your desired object.

Vardhanī said:

9. It is in Dharma (righteousness) that everything mobile or immobile is established, O lord. That Dharma is an act difficult to accomplish. O sinless one, why do you do it?

Yama said:

10-13. O beautiful young lady, I wish to see the real form that Īśāna has. I am performing this penance to see the real form of Śaṅkara in the company of Śivā. This is my ambition that I will (thereby) attain fame and happiness. I am, therefore, doing this difficult act (penance) so that my renown shall last for Yugas and Yugas—nay for Kalpas and Mahākalpas. It is for this reason, O fair lady, that the great penance is being performed by me.

Why have you come, O fair lady? Tell me truly. What is to be done by you? What is the reason thereof? It behoves you to tell (me) the truth.

Vardhanī said:

14-15. It is of your penance that the Lord of heaven is afraid. I have been directed by him to this place with a desire for causing disturbance in your penance. I have been sent to the presence of Hari (i.e. Yama), O illustrious one, by Hari (Indra) who is afraid of losing his throne. It is the truth that I am telling.

Sūta said:

16. The son of the Sun-god was pleased at these truthful words. He told her, “I am highly blessed, a bestower of boons. Let me know (your desired boon).

17. I am Yama (‘The Restrainer’) unto all those beings who carry on evil activities. I am (available) in the form of Dharma (‘The Righteous One’) unto all those men who have attained mastery over their selves.

18. O fair lady, the foremost one among the celestial damsels, I, Dharma, shall give unto you everything that is very difficult to get. You just ask for all that.”

Vardhanī said:

19. O lord who are the foremost among righteous ones, give unto me for the sake of the good of all the worlds, a permanent position in the abode of Indra, which is always a delightful place.

Yama said:

20. Let it be so. Further, ask quickly for another boon as well. Delighted by your song, I shall grant you another boon also.

Vardhanī said:

21-23. O lord of great intellect, let there be, in this holy place, a sacred Tīrtha well-known and named after me, that will destroy all sins. Whatever is offered in fire there, or given away in charity or performed as penance or recited as a Mantra, shall bring about everlasting benefit.

One who resorts to the lake Vardhamāna for five days, may his ancestors become pleased on being offered a daily libation of water.

After saying to her, “So it shall be”, Dharma became silent. She circumambulated Dharma thrice, bowed down to him and went to heaven.

Vardhanī said:

24. 0 lord of Devas, do not be afraid of Yama, the son of

Lord Sun. He aspires only for a personal benefit and performs his penance for the sake of righteous renown.

Vyāsa said:

25-27. Vardhanī of glorious countenance was honoured by Śakra. (He said,) “Well done! Well done! O illustrious one, the task of Devas has been accomplished by you. O fair one, you will be free from fear for ever and live happily. You will attain renown, happiness and gracious glory.”

The Devas too said to her “So be it” with a mind highly delighted due to the prospect of fearlessness. Bowing to Indra, she went to her own auspicious abode.

Sūta said:

28. O great king, after the departure of the celestial damsel, Dharma resumed his arduous penance that caused great anxiety unto the entire universe.

29. In the month of Śukra (May-June), when the sun blazed brightly, he performed the Pañcāgni (‘standing amidst five fires’) penance, very difficult for even gods to perform.

30. Thereafter, when a hundred years elapsed Antaka (Yama) resorted to silence. He remained motionless like a wooden statue and was covered up by many anthills.

31-32. Many kinds of birds built their nests therein. Then remembering the Lord of Devas, the praiseworthy Consort of Umā, he undertook an observance which was never seen anywhere, O king.

Thereupon Devas along with Gandharvas and Yakṣas became agitated in their minds and they again came to the top of Kailāsa, to the vicinity of Śiva.

The Devas said:

33. O great Lord Śrīkaṇṭha, Lord of the universe, save us, save us. Do save us, O lord of the past and the future. Protect us, O Bull-emblemed Lord. O lord of compassion, you are really merciful. O Śaṃkara, remove all obstacles and fears.

Īśvara said:

34-35. O Devas, by whom has an offence been committed against you? By whom have you been dishonoured? Is it in the human world or in heaven? Is it in the region of serpents? Tell me quickly. Do not delay. With this trident or the skull-topped club or the Pāśupata missile, I shall kill him in a fight. Tell me quickly the cause of your visit to this place.

The Devas said:

36-38. O lord of Devas, O ocean of compassion, O delighter of the universe! We have no fear now from human beings, nor from serpents nor from Devas or Dānavas. It is certain that Pretanātha (Yama) of very huge form is tormenting himself very terribly for personal ends in the human world, O great lord. He exerts himself by means of a terrible penance. Hence, O Sadāśiva, all of us Devas are agitated. We have sought refuge in you. Do whatever you think fair.

Sūta said:

39. On hearing the words of the Devas, the Bull-emblemed Lord mounted his vehicle, the bull. He donned his charming coat of mail and took up his weapons and went to that place where Dharma was staying.

Īśvara said:

40-41. O Dharma, my mind is delighted by this penance. Tell me the boon you wish to have. Oh, tell me the boon. (He continued.) I shall grant unto you just now whatever you wish to have, whatever desire you may have in your mind or whatever you request.

Sūta said:

42. On seeing Lord Maheśvara who was speaking thus, O king, he came out of the anthill, joined his palms in reverence and eulogized the lord of the worlds, the destroyer of foes, by means of pure words of prayer.

Dharma said:[1]

43. Obeisance to you, the Lord. Obeisance to you, Yoga embodied. Obeisance to you of the form of brilliance. Bow to you, O Blue-necked One.

44. Obeisance to you who favour those who meditate on you. Obeisance to you who can be approached through devotion. Hail to you in the form of Brahmā. O Lord in the form of Viṣṇu, obeisance to you.

45. Obeisance to the gross one and to the subtle one. Obeisance to one in the form of the minute atom. Obeisance to you who can assume any form as you please. Obeisance to the lord who are the cause of creation, maintenance and dissolution (of the universe).

46. Hail to the eternal one, to the gentle one, to Mṛḍa and to Hari. Obeisance to you, the heat, and to the cool-rayed one.

47. Obeisance to you in the form of creation. Obeisance to you, O protector of the world. Obeisance to Ugra, the terrible. Obeisance to you of tranquil form.

48. Obeisance to you of infinite forms, of cosmic form. Obeisance to one whose limbs (entire body) are smeared with ash. Obeisance to you, O Moon-crested Lord. Obeisance to the Fivefaced Lord. Obeisance to you, O Three-eyed One.

49. Obeisance to you (who are) adorned with serpents; obeisance to you who wear the Kakṣāpaṭa (i.e. garment tucked under the legs to cover nakedness). Obeisance to the destroyer of Andhaka, to the remover of the sins of Dakṣa. Obeisance to you who have burnt Kāma. Hail to you, the foe of the three Puras.

50-53. I have uttered forty names. One should read them or listen to them three times everyday with (physical and mental) purity. Even if he were to be a killer of cows, an ungrateful fellow, a drink-addict, a defiler of the preceptor’s bed, a slayer of a Brāhmaṇa, robber of gold or an illegitimate husband of a Śūdra woman, or a sinner and killer of women and children, a person who utters lies, a bad-charactered one, a thief, one who carnally approaches another man’s wife, one who scandalises others, one who hates others or one who deprives others of their means of livelihood, a perpetrator of prohibited deeds, one who destroys what is done by others, a hater of Brāhmaṇas, a base Brāhmaṇa or any other sinner, he becomes free from all sins and goes to Kailāsa.

Sūta said:

54-55. Eulogizing thus with great devotion and bowing down his head frequently Dharmarāja prayed to the Lord.

Satisfied thereby, Śaṃbhu said these glorious words: “O highly blessed one, ask for any boon, whatever may be the desire in your mind.”

Yama said:

56-58. If you are delighted, O lord of Devas, be compassionate towards me. O illustrious one, create the three worlds including mobile and immobile beings in such a way as this region becomes well-known in the world after my name.

May it be impregnable and indestructible, holy and destructive of sins. O great lord, O Bhava, if you are pleased with me, make this region like this.

O king, then that place was given to him and rendered equal to Kāśī. After giving it, he said again, “O excellent one, choose another boon.”

Dharma said:

59. It you are delighted, O lord of Devas, do a favour to me, O illustrious one, and create the three worlds including mobile and immobile beings in such a way that I become famous in every age.

Īśvara said:

60. Say, O Kīnāśa (Yama), I shall do everything as desired by you. I am delighted by your penance. I shall grant you any boon desired by you.

Yama said:

61-62. O Lord Śaṃkara, if you decide to grant me what I wish remain by my name in this great holy region for ever. O great lord, see that it gets a great renown in all the three worlds consisting of mobile and immobile beings, by the name Dharmāraṇya.”

Īśvara said:

63. This shall always become known as Dharmāraṇya in all the ages. It will become known by your name. Is there anything else? I shall grant it too.

Yama said:

64-68. Let this excellent holy place bearing my name extend to two Yojanas. Let it be sacred unto all living beings and be a permanent place for attaining liberation.

Be they flies or worms, animals or birds, locusts, evil spirits or vampires, Piśācas, serpents or demons, men or women, if they die in my holy place called Dharma, let them attain perpetual salvation.

Lord Śarva (Śiva) said, “It will be so.”

The Devas including Brahmā showered flowers and became

highly delighted. Divine drums were beaten. Eminent Gandharvas

sang. Sacred winds blew and groups of celestial damsels danced.

Sūta said:

69-70. Sadāśiva who was propitiated by Yama with great devotion spoke these highly pleasing words to that lord: “O dear one, allow me to go back ere long to the excellent mountain Kailāsa with a desire for the benefit of the Devas.”

Yama said:

71. O Maheśvara, it does not behove you to leave off my holy place. O lord, it is far superior even to Kailāsa by your own words.

Śiva said:

72-73. What is said by you is indeed well and good. It is but proper for me to stay here with a part of mine. Your pure and holy region has not at all been abandoned by me. The great Liṅga here will be known after me as Viśveśvara.

After saying thus, the great lord vanished there itself.

74-75. Then that wonderful Liṅga appeared there in accordance with the words of Śiva. On seeing that (Liṅga) springing up as the name was uttered, the excellent Suras created their own respective Liṅgas in Dharmāraṇya. The Liṅgas of the respective Suras became famous by their respective names.

Sūta said:

76. The Liṅga installed by Dharma is reputed as Dharmeśvara. By remembering and worshipping it, one is absolved of all sins.

77. The Absolute Brahman that can be comprehended only by Yogins and that is immanent in everyone’s heart, has a Liṅga established for it and it is called Svayaṃbhuva.

78-80. By worshipping Bhūtanātha (‘the lord of the living beings’) people become rid of ailments. Thereafter he created the beautiful tank called Dharmavāpī.

He brought water from ten million sacred places and let it out into that tank. It assumed the form of Yamatīrtha. It is highly pleasant to take a holy dip there. It is also intended for the holy bath of gods and of the sages of sublimated souls. By taking the holy bath and drinking the water thereof, one is rid of all sins.

81. If a man takes his holy bath in Dharmavāpī and visits Śiva called Dharmeśvara, he is released from all sins. He will never have the occasion to enter the womb of any mother.

82-84. After the holy dip there, one should offer water libation to Yama for the sake of the annihilation of the evil in the form of ailments, as well as for the cessation of the evil in that of pain together with uttering these (following) names. “Obeisance to Yama, the lord of Dharma, to Mṛtyu (god of Death), to Antaka (the destroyer), to Vaivasvata (the son of Sun), to Kāla (Time), to Dadhna, to Parameṣṭhin (Supreme Being), to Vṛkodara (wolf-bellied one), to Vṛkka (averter of disease), to Dakṣiṇeśa (lord of the South). O Citra (one of diverse nature), O Vaicitra (wonderful being), obeisance to thee, to Nīla (Blue one), to Citragupta.”

If a man offers water libation along with Akṣatas (raw rice grains) to Yama in Dharmavāpī, he will not have any calamity.

85-88. Different kinds of fever such as the one occurring once in (every) three or four days, or those which affect periodically and fevers with (an attack of) chillness will never afflict those who have their minds inclined thus. Nor the evil spirits such as Revatī etc. and malevolent Planets, or Ḍākinī, Śākinī etc. will trouble him.

He will be prosperous with plenty of wealth and grains. His family flourishes always, if a person, with his sense-organs under control, takes his bath properly and worships Bhūteśvara and recites the Rudra Mantras with all their ancillaries. He shall be rid of the bad effects of ailments. It is laid down in Smṛtis that men should perform Śrāddha rites there on the new-moon day, on Mondays, on the days of Vyatīpāta and Vaidhṛti Yoga (special planetary positions), on Saṃkrānti (days of transit of the Sun) as well as on eclipse days.

89. Even if a man performs Śrāddha for a thousand years, the Manes shall reject it and partake of the water libation mixed with gingelly seeds offered (at this sacred spot) by a well-known man.

90. Offering of balls of rice (to Pitṛs) at Gayā twenty-one times leads to the same everlasting benefits (satisfaction) to Pitṛs if they are offered only once at Dharmeśvara.

91. The well-known sacred tank Dharmavāpī that serves as a flight of stairs unto heaven, is situated on the west of Dharmeśa, a little away from Viśveśvara.

92-93. It was built formerly by Dharma, the righteously inclined one, for Śiva. If one takes one’s holy bath there and drinks the water thereof and offers libations to the Manes and gods, they become pleased.

If a man offers a ball of rice (even) of the size of a leaf of Śamī (Mimosa suma) in the highly sacred tank Dharmavāpī, he shall never have rebirth.

94. There is no doubt about this, O king, that he is released from the hells called Kuṃbhīpāka, Mahāraudra, Raurava and Andhatāmisraka.

Sūta said:

95. An excellent person should offer water libations for a year at Dharmavāpī. There may be changes in the seasons, months and fortnights.

96. By the water libations at the tank, the Manes, viz. Barhiṣads, Agniṣvāttas, Ājyapas and Somapas, attain the highest satisfaction.

97. There are many holy spots leading to salvation, such as Kurukṣetra, cities such as Ayodhyā and (lake like) Puṣkara etc.

98-102. All these are similar (in power) but Dharmakūpa (i.e. Dharmavāpī) shall be superior. Mantras, Vedas, Yajñas, holy rites and religious gifts become everlasting, O lord of men, when offered there.

The rites of Abhicāra (black magic) as well as others mentioned in Atharvaveda become effective on being performed there, O excellent one among kings. The sacred place Ādi-Tīrtha is resorted to by Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Īśvara. The holy spot Susaumya too is resorted to by Brahmā and others.

Fruits are derived (if holy rites are performed) all through the Yuga in Kṛtayuga; for five hundred thousand years in Tretāyuga; for a hundred thousand years in Dvāpara and for one day in Kaliyuga.

Thus, O Brahmā, I have narrated the origin etc. of the holy forest Dharmāraṇya. The benefit thereof is narrated by Dvaipāyana.

Sūta said:

103. Henceforth, I shall narrate the statement of Dharma that is highly pleasing. It was for the sake of the Devas that he spoke this authoritatively.

Dharma said:

104-109. Even in this holy spot, some people confused by Viṣṇu’s Māyā do perform evil acts such as adultery, theft of gold etc. One who does these and other evil acts, goes to hell.

Sins committed elsewhere perish in Dharmāraṇya; but a sin committed in Dharmāraṇya becomes fixed as though with adamantine cement.

Like merits sins also, the good and the evil alike increase daily for hundreds of years. The holy spot fulfils the desires of those who crave for things, grants salvation to Yogins and success (or supernormal powers) to Siddhas for ever. One who has no son gets sons; the poor becomes rich.

This holy narrative formerly narrated by Dharma, gives the merit of gifting a thousand cows if a man or a woman listens to it or recites it (to others) devoutly. In the end he or she goes to Viṣṇu’s abode.

Footnotes and references:


The prayer of Śiva in vv 43-49 contains forty names of Śiva. Śiva is equated with the Upaniṣadic Brahman. Hence he possesses contradictory qualities.

Since the days of the Rudrādhyāya in Taittirīya Saṃhitā a series of names (epithets) became a traditional way of worshipping a deity, be it Śiva, Viṣṇu or the river Gaṅgā. The efficacy of reciting these 40 epithets of Śiva is given in vv 50-53.

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