The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Service Rendered by the Merchant Class (Vanik or Vaishya) 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 Dharmaranya-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 10 - The Service Rendered by the Merchant Class (Vaṇik or Vaiśya)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Vyāsa said:

1. Listen, O king, to what happened at Dharmāraṇya. It is considered splendid and destructive of all sins. I shall narrate it in the manner it occurred.

2-6. Then, O king, Kāmadhenu was called by the unborn Lord Viṣṇu directed by the self-born Lord Brahmā. He spoke to her, “O mother, kindly give these Brāhmaṇas attendants of pure souls, two attendants per Brāhmaṇa. Be pleased with me.” Saying “So be it” the great Cow drenched the ground with her milk. From her vibrant Huṃ sound, men with tufts and sacred threads emerged.

Thirty-six thousand Vaṇiks (Merchants) of great strength came out. They had their sacred threads. They were experts in all scriptures and extremely clever. They were devoted to the Brāhmaṇas and eager to render service unto those Brāhmaṇas. They had the inherent power of penance. They were conversant with the Purāṇas. They were righteous and of good conduct. They used to feed the Brāhmaṇas.

7-10. The Devas in heaven praise the inhabitants of Dharmāraṇya. (They are) devoid of lethargy at all times in the matter of performance of penance, study of the Vedas and giving liberal gifts. For each one of the Vāḍavas two servants were given. O king, the same is the Gotra of the servant as that of the Vāḍava mentioned before. After having made this arrangement, they made their residence in the lands there. Then the status of discipleship was granted to the servants by the Devas. Everything conducive to their welfare was spoken by Brahmā:

11-17. “Carry out the instructions of these people. Whatever they desire, give it unto them. Bring sacrificial twigs, flowers, Darbha grass etc. everyday. Behave according to their behests. Do everything with their permission. Do not insult them at any time. The post-natal rites, naming ceremony, feeding-rite that is auspicious, tonsure rite, investiture with the sacred thread, the rite of Mahānāmnī (in which the Mahānāmnī verses are recited) etc., all types of observances and holy rites, charitable gifts, fasts etc.—all these should be performed only with their permission. Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva have said thus: ‘If anyone performs without their permission any rite such as the new-moon day rite, Śrāddha rites etc., whether the rite be auspicious or inauspicious, he shall always be faced with penury, death of a son, loss of reputation, affliction with bodily ailments etc. He will never be happy at all.’” Then the excellent Devas including Śakra said, “So it shall be.” Then the Devas Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara became contented on realising their desires. They stood in front of Kāmadhenu and eulogized her:

18-20. “You are the mother of all Devas. You are the cause of all Yajñas. You are the holiest of all holy spots. Obeisance to you who are always faultless. The Moon, the Sun and Aruṇa (the charioteer of the Sun) are in your forehead; the Bull-bannered Lord and Sarasvatī are in your Huṃkāra (the sound of Huṃ); all the serpents are in the hairs on your body; Gandharvas are on the back of your hoof. The four Vedas, all the holy spots and all the mobile and immobile beings are at the tip of your mouth.”

21. The Holy Cow who was propitiated with many words of praise like these became delighted and said, “What shall I do?”

The Devas said:

22. All these splendid attendants have been created by you, O mother goddess. O auspicious one, the Brāhmaṇas have become happy with your favour.

23. Thereupon, O king, the Divine Cow of great renown went to heaven. Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Maheśa and others vanished there itself.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

24. Those attendants of great brilliance who were born of the Divine Cow were without wives. O holy Sir, when were they united in wedlock and when did they beget sons?

Vyāsa said:

25. Gandharva damsels were brought and given as wives unto them by Rudra and Yama.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

26. Tell me who was that Gandharva king? What was his name? Where did he reside? How many were his daughters? What was their mode of behaviour?

Vyāsa said:

27. The lord of Gandharvas was well-known as Viśvāvasu, O king. There were sixty thousand girls in his abode.

28. His splendid Gandharva city in the sky was his abode. The girls born of that Gandharva were splendid and lovely. They were (ever) in their prime of youth.

29. O king, Nandī and Bhṛṅgī, the auspicious-faced attendants of Rudra, spoke to Śiva about those girls seen (by them) previously:

30-3la. “O Lord Mahādeva, thousand, nay, innumerable girls were seen previously (by us) in the Gandharva city, the abode of Viśvāvasu. Bring them even by using force and give them to those attendants created by the Divine Cow.”

31b-36. On hearing these words, Lord Sadāśiva, the destroyer of three cities, sent a messenger named Vijaya, O descendants of Bharata. He went to the place where Viśvāvasu, the suppressor of enemies, was seated. He communicated these words of wholesome import as spoken by Śiva: “O blessed one, Brāhmaṇas were created by Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva in Dharmāraṇya. They were masters of the Vedas and Vedāṅgas and were established there. The Divine Cow, Kāmadhenu, was requested for attendants on their behalf. Vaiśyas not born of any womb were created by the Divine Cow. They are young men of righteous conduct, great strength and their number comes to thirty-six thousand.

I have been sent by Śiva to you. I have approached you, O blessed one, for the sake of those girls. Give them. Give them immediately.” So said he.

The Gandharva said:

37. O highly intelligent one! How can I ignore all Devas and Gandharvas and give them unto human beings in the mundane world?

38. On hearing his words, Vijaya returned and reported fully the activities (and speech of) of the Gandharva to Śiva.

Vyāsa said:

39-42. Thereupon, Lord Sadāśiva, the benefactor of the worlds, became very angry. With his trident in his hand he rode on his bull surrounded by the Bhūtas (spirits), Pretas (ghosts), Piśācas (vampires) and other beings in thousands. Then the Devas, Serpents, Bhūtas, Vetālas (evil spirits) and other sky-walkers came there in their thousands extremely infuriated. When that great army moved ahead, there was a tumultuous sound. Goddess Earth trembled. The Guardians of the Quarters became afraid; Wind became turbulent and violent; the Elephants of the Quarters began to trumpet.

Vyāsa said:

43. On seeing that great army approaching all the people fled to the ten quarters from īhe Gandharva city in their great fright.

44-45. The king of Gandharvas abandoned his city and went to Meru, O king. (The lord) took the girls who were in their prime of youth and endowed with beauty and liberal-mindedness. He gave all of them to the Vaiśyas. O king, he gave them (in marriage) according to the manner laid down in the Vedas, in the presence of the Devas.

46-47. Then the sons of the Divine Cow gave the respective shares in the ghee-offerings to the Gandharva, the Devas, the ancestors, the Sun, the Moon and to Yama, the god of death. After the due offerings of shares in the clarified butter, they wooed the girls of splendid observances.

48. Thenceforth whenever a Gandharva type of marriage rite (i.e. rite of marriage when a bride and a groom love each other and unite themselves in wedlock) is imminent (the lords) take their due shares in the clarified butter.

49. The thirty-six thousand young men, of whom mention has been made, had hundreds and thousands of sons and grandsons.

50. Therefore all ṃose girls too were held in bondage. Kṣatriyas of great heroism too were created for service.

51. Then all the Devas went away as before, O king. When the Devas had gone, all those Brāhmaṇas continued to stay in this region.

52. In the company of their sons and grandsons, O king, they lived without any fear from any quarter. Those who were conversant with the Vedas recited the Vedas and held hermeneutical discussions in some places.

53. Some of them recited the prayers (Sūktas) of Viṣṇu, some those of Śiva and others of Brahma. Some recited hymns to Yama.

54. O virtuous king, sacrificial priests performed sacrifices. Some performed Agnihotra along with Svāhākāra, Svadhākāra and Vaṣaṭkāra (i.e. different symbolic sounds).

55. The three worlds consisting of mobile and immobile beings were filled with those sounds. The Vaiśyas of great cleverness were eager to serve the Brāhmaṇas.

56-57. Those Vaiśyas, the sons of the Divine Cow, began to dwell in the divine and splendid Dharmāraṇya with great steadfastness (in holy activities). They regularly supplied the Brāhmaṇas with everything such as food and drink, sacrificial twigs, Darbha grass, fruits etc.

58-60. Wreathing of the garlands of flowers etc., washing of bath-garments etc., preparing of dung cakes etc. (for burning), purifying activities like scrubbing etc., cutting, pounding etc. were done by the womenfolk of the Vaiśyas. They thus rendered services to those Brāhmaṇas in accordance with the behests of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva.

All the Brāhmaṇas were then very happy and peacefully settled. They continued the worship of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva during days and nights and at dusks and dawns.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: