The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Greatness of Pancakshara (Five-syllabled) Mantra 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 Brahmottara-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 1 - The Greatness of Pañcākṣara (Five-syllabled) Mantra

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Obeisance to Śrī Gaṇeśa. Obeisance to the venerable preceptors.

Now begins the Uttara Khaṇḍa of Brāhma-Khaṇḍa.

Om obeisance to Śiva.

1. Obeisance to the quiescent Śiva, the Brahman (Absolute) in the form of the Liṅga, whose form is the eternal flame alone, and who has the faultless knowledge as his eye.

The sages said:

2. O Sūta, the excellent greatness of Viṣṇu has been narrated by you. What is meritorious and destructive of all sins in their entirety, has been succinctly heard by us.

3. Now we wish to hear about the greatness of the enemy of Tripura[1] as well as that of his devotees, (both) destructive of all sins.

4. Further, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, recount in detail the greatness of his Mantras and the powerful efficacy of the devotion unto him as well as of his story.

Sūta said:

5. The highest good of mortals, of a permanent nature, consists in this much alone that devotion to his story is generated (in them) spontaneously, without any ulterior motive.

6. Hence the greatness of a particle of devotion unto him is being described by me. No one is capable of describing it fully, even if he were to have a life-span of a whole Kalpa period.

7. Japayajña (the holy sacrifice in the form of repeated utterance of the sacred name) is proclaimed as greater than all the Yajñas of meritorious nature[2] and cause of excellent welfare.

8. There, at the outset, the benefit of Japayajña is (its being) the great means of securing prosperity. Great sages say that the six-syllabled Mantra of Śiva is of divine nature.

9. Just as the Slayer of Tripura is the greatest of all Devas, so also the six-lettered Mantra of Śiva, oṃ namaḥ śivāya is the greatest of all Mantras.

10. This five-lettered Mantra (the above Mantra without oṃ) is the bestower of salvation on those who repeatedly mutter it. It is resorted to by all excellent sages desirous of supernatural powers.

11. Even the four-faced Brahmā is not competent to describe the greatness of this Mantra of (five) letters. The Śrutis reach the ultimate principle therein and became fully satisfied.

12. The omniscient perfect Śiva, characterised by existence, knowledge and bliss, revels in the auspicious five-lettered Mantra of Śiva.

13. It is through this greatest Mantra, evolved out of all the Upaniṣads, that all the sages attained the Supreme Brahman, free from all ailments.

14. Through offering obeisance (bowing down) the individual soul becomes one with Śiva, the Supreme Ātman. Hence this Mantra is of the nature of Supreme Brahman.

15. With a desire for the welfare of all embodied ones fettered by the noose of worldly existence, Śiva himself uttered the primordial Mantra oṃ namaḥ śivāya.

16. If the Mantra oṃ namaḥ śivāya is fixed in the heart, of what avail are many other Mantras, many of the holy places, penances and sacrifices to him?

17. As long as embodied beings do not utter this Mantra even once, so long do they move round and round in the terrible mundane world infested with miseries.

18. This six-syllabled Mantra is the supreme king of the kings of all the Mantras, the crest-jewel of all the Vedāntas, the storehouse of all spiritual knowledge.

19. This Mantra of six-syllables is the illuminating lamp on the path of salvation, the submarine-fire unto the ocean of ignorance, the forest-fire of great woods of heinous sins.

20. Hence this five-lettered Mantra is declared as the bestower of everything. It may be practised (muttered) even by women, Śūdras and men of mixed caste and nativity desirous of salvation.

21. There is neither special initiation in regard to this Mantra nor Homa; neither consecration nor water-libation (or other means of propitiation); neither a special occasion nor special process of instruction. This Mantra is ever pure.

22. The set of two letters ‘śi va’ accompanied by the word indicating obeisance (i.e. śivāya namaḥ) is capable of destroying great sins and granting salvation.

23. What wonder is there if this Mantra taught by a good preceptor and repeated in a sacred place accords immediately every supernatural power desired (by the devotee)!

24. Hence this leader of Mantras should be acquired after resorting to an excellent preceptor, and should be repeatedly muttered in holy places. It gives inordinate powers instantly.

25. Preceptors are free from impurities, quiescent, well-behaved men of few words. They are free from lust and anger. They have control over their sense-organs and their conduct is good.

26. The Mantra mercifully given over by these bears fruits quickly. I shall briefly mention (enumerate) the holy places that are proper for the Japa (of this Mantra).

27. Prayāga, Puṣkara, the charming Kedāra, Setubandha, Gokarṇa and Naimiṣāraṇya are conducive to the attainment of Siddhis.

28. In this context, an ancient anecdote is narrated by saintly people; it is conducive to auspiciousness to those who listen to it once or on many occasions.

29-31. At Mathurā, there was a king well-known as Dāśārha,[3] the most excellent one among Yadus. He was intelligent, mighty and enthusiastic. He was brave, conversant with the different scriptural texts and expounder of good policy. He was very courageous and immeasurably brilliant, unassailable and grave, never retreating from battles. He was a great warrior; wielded a great bow. He was an adept in interpreting the different types of sacred texts. He was liberal-minded, youthfully handsome and endowed with all good features.

32. He married the sweet-faced daughter of the King of Kāśī, named Kalāvatī. She was fully endowed with comeliness, good conduct and auspicious qualities. She was attractive.

33. After the marriage, that eminent king came back to his palace. At night, as she lay down on her bed, he beckoned her for sexual dalliance.

34. Requested and invited by her husband many times, she did not feel inclined and so she did not go near him.

35. When his beloved did not approach him though she was oft-courted for sexual intercourse, the king got up, desirous of taking her by force.

The queen said:

36. Do not touch me, O great king. I know the reason thereof; I am under a vow of observance. You do know what is Dharma and what is Adharma. Do not be rash to me.

37. Learned men do approve enjoyment by a lover on certain occasions. Sexual union increases pleasure, if both husband and wife are equally keen and desirous.

38. You can have union with me when love is aroused in me. What pleasure, what happiness do men get by forcible cohabitation with young women?

39. No man should lustfully approach a displeased woman, a sickly woman, a pregnant one, one who is observing religious fasts and vows, one in her monthly course, and one who is not keen in love-sport.

40. A loving husband should carnally approach his youthful wife after fondling and pleasing her, after a great deal of coaxing and cajoling, and after looking into her requirements with sympathy and smoothness. A man desirous of getting pleasure out of a maiden and a flower should do like this.

41. Though admonished thus by that chaste lady, the king who was overwhelmed with passionate love, dragged her forcibly by the hand and embraced her with a desire to sport with her.

42. Hardly did he touch her, when he found her to be like a heated lump of iron, scorching him. Hence he cast her off in great fright.

The king said:

43. Ha! what a great miracle! O my beloved, this is bewildering. How did your body, tender like a sprout, become red-hot like fire?

44. The king was struck with wonder and fear. The beloved queen smiled modestly and spoke thus with a broad grin.

The queen said:

45. O king! Formerly during my childhood, the eminent sage Durvāsas had kindly imparted to me the five-syllabled Vidyā of Śiva.{GL_NOTE::}

46. By the efficacy of that Mantra my body has become free from sins and impurities. Sinful persons bereft of good luck, cannot touch me.

47. O king, whores, harlots and other women habitually imbibing liquor are resorted to by you as a matter of course.

48. You do not take bath everyday. Nor do you repeat the Mantra with purity of mind and body. Īśāna is not propitiated by you. How can you be fit to touch me?

The king said:

49. O fair lady of excellent buttocks, initiate me in that splendid five-syllabled Vidyā of Śiva. O my beloved, I wish to enjoy you after eliminating all sins through the Vidyā.

The queen replied:

50. I cannot instruct you. You are senior to me. O king, approach the preceptor Garga, the most excellent one among those who know Mantras.

Sūta said:

51. Conversing thus, the couple approached Garga and bowed down to his feet and stood with palms joined together in veneration.

52. Then the king worshipped and revered the preceptor again and again. Humbly he revealed his secret desire.

The king said:

53. With your mind melting with pity, O my preceptor, make me successful in my endeavour. It behoves you to impart to me the five-syllabled Vidyā of Śiva.

54. O preceptor, give unto me that Mantra which will eradicate all those sins committed by me knowingly and unknowingly in the course of my royal duties.

55. On being requested thus by the king, Garga, the eminent Brāhmaṇa, took them to the excellent banks of Kālindī, conducive to great merit.

56-58. The preceptor seated himself at the foot of a sacred tree. The king was asked to observe fast and take the holy bath in the sacred waters. He was asked to sit facing the East, after bowing down to the lotus-like feet of Lord Śiva. The preceptor placed his hand on the king’s head and imparted the Mantra of Śiva, auspicious in its characteristics. Due to the retention of that Mantra and to the contact with the hand of the preceptor, hundreds and crores of crows flew out from his body.

59. Their wings were burnt. Then the crows began to scream and fell down on the earth. Thousands of them were seen being reduced to ash.

60. On seeing the flock of crows being burnt, the king and the queen became surprised. They asked the preceptor:

61. “O holy Sir, how did this miracle happen? A flock of crows has been seen coming out of the body. What is this phenomenon? May it be clarified.”

Śrī Guru said:

62. O king, there are innumerable heinous sins accumulated over thousands of births you have gone through.

63. What merits had been there in those thousands of births, had preponderated in some cases resulting in births in meritorious species.

64. Similarly, you were born in sinful wombs due to your sins. When the merits and sins were balanced, you were born as man.

65. When the five-lettered Vidyā of Śiva entered deep into your heart, crores of sins came out in the form of crows.

66. Crores of sins of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter, crores of sins of carnally approaching prohibited women, crores of sins of theft of gold, imbibing liquor and foeticide and so on, were committed and there were other heaps of sins in the course of thousands and crores of births.

67. When the five-lettered Mantra of Śiva is received and retained, all these became reduced to ash. O eminent king, crores of your sins have become burnt today.

68-71. Now that your soul has become sanctified, you sport about along with this (your wife) happily as you please.

Saying so and concluding the process of instructing the Mantra, he went back to his abode accompanied by the wonder-struck couple. They became delighted; took leave of the preceptor and returned to their palace shining lustrously. Closely embracing his queen now cooled down like sandal-paste, he derived exquisite satisfaction like a penurious wretch after acquiring wealth.

This five-lettered Mantra is an ornamental jewel unto the entire range of Vedas, Upaniṣads, Purāṇas and other scriptural texts. It spells destruction of all sins. The excellent power and efficacy of this Mantra has been succinctly recounted by me.

Footnotes and references:


The first two sections of this Khaṇḍa describe the greatness of Viṣṇu (his incarnation as Rāma). To counter-balance it, as it were, the redactor of SkP adds a section on the glory of Śiva.


Cf. yajñānāṃ japayajño’ smi / (BG X.25)


This is the family-name of the descendants of Daśārha, a great king of Yadu dynasty. The family name is used as a personal name.

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