The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Story of Kalmashapada: Greatness of Gokarna which is chapter 2 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 second chapter of the Brahmottara-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 2 - The Story of Kalmāṣapāda: Greatness of Gokarṇa

Sūta said:

1. Now I shall mention another (instance of the) greatness of the Enemy of Tripura, the mere listening to which immediately annihilates all doubts.

2. There is nothing more powerful than this in eradicating sins, bringing about delight to everyone, glorious and conducive to the acquisition of all desired objects.

3. The ardent propitiation of Maheśa with exclusive devotional fervour, bestows longevity, success, health, enjoyment of worldly pleasures and attainment of salvation.

4. This alone has been indicated as the most excellent atonement for all types of sins, intentional or unintentional, minor or major.

5. Through the excellent ways and means of expiation as pointed out by great sages, it causes the destruction of all those sins that appear to be ever ineradicable.

6. Devout worship of Parameśa causes the greatest prosperity; it has been decisively pointed out in all scriptural texts as the greatest cause of bliss.

7. Whatever and howsoever small an act may be, if dedicated to the Lord, it accords salvation, even if it is performed knowingly or unknowingly and with whatever motive.

8. Rare indeed is the observance of fast on the fourteenth day in the dark half of Māgha. There too, keeping fully awake during the whole of the night is also very difficult (to observe) to men, I think.

9. The viewing of the Śivaliṅga is also very difficult to get. I think, the worship of Parameśvara is still more difficult.

10. Then, the opportunity to worship the Lord with Bilva leaves is obtained only as a result of heaps of merit accumulated in the course of hundreds and crores of births.

11. By worshipping only once (the Liṅga) with Bilva leaves a man obtains that benefit which one acquires by taking holy baths in the waters of Gaṅgā for ten thousand years.

[v.l. for 11:]

Whatever different kinds of sins there be in various Yugas, they are completely annihilated on the fourteenth day in the dark half of Māgha.

12. All those merits lying latent for ages together, stand manifested on the fourteenth day in the dark half of Māgha.

13. The Suras including Brahmā, as well as Vasiṣṭha and other sages praise this fourteenth day in the dark half of Māgha all over the world.

14. A fast observed on this day by anyone, far exceeds hundreds of sacrifices. Keeping awake at night is meritorious and it surpasses the austerities extending over crores of Kalpas.

15. If the worship of Śivaliṅga is performed with even a single Bilva leaf, who can wish for an equivalent of that merit in all the three worlds?

16. In this context a splendid and highly brilliant Gāthā (traditional legend) is being sung. Though it is a great secret, it has been revealed by Gautama out of pity.

17. Born of the Ikṣvāku race, there was a glorious king named Mitrasaha[1] who was extremely virtuous. He was the most excellent one among all wielders of bow.

18. That king was conversant with the science of all miraculous weapons, well-versed in scriptural texts, master of the Vedas, heroic, highly powerful and ever energetic, an ocean of sympathy and always industrious.

19. His bodily form shone like a mass of merits, an embodiment of all splendour and the centre of all miracles.

20. His heart was full of mercy, his body had glorious brilliance and his feet reflected the rays of the crest-jewels of his vassal kings.

21. Once the lord of the earth who was fond of the game of hunting, entered a terrible forest, surrounded by his great army.

22. There he pierced with his arrows tigers, blue (wild) oxen, deer, stags, hogs, buffaloes and a number of huge lions.

23. Riding in his chariot, in his ardour for the pursuit of the game of hunting, he moved about in the forest well-protected in his coat of mail. It happened that he killed a demon blazing like a huge fire.

24. On seeing this from afar from his hiding place, his (i.e. the demon’s) younger brother was overcome with grief. On seeing his brother killed, he pondered over the matter in his mind.

25. ‘Indeed this king is my enemy. He is unassailable to the Devas and Rākṣasas too. The only way he could be conquered is through fraud and not otherwise.’

26. Coming to this decision, that evil-intentioned Rākṣasa took a human form and approached the excellent king like the embodied form of an evil phenomenon boding great calamity.

27. He saw the modest and humble figure that approached him with a desire to seek his service. Ignorant of the true nature of things, the great king made him the head-cook.

28. After sporting about for some time in that forest, the king stopped his game of hunting and returned to his city.

29. The queen of the chief of prominent kings was known by the name Madayantī. That chaste lady was dear to him as Damayantī was to Nala.

30. In the meantime, when the day of ancestors (Śrāddha) arrived, the king invited Vasiṣṭha, an eminent sage, and brought him to his abode.

31. Vegetable and meat dish was placed in front of him mixed with human flesh by the Rākṣasa in the guise of the cook. On seeing this, the preceptor said:

32. “Fie upon you; fie upon you, O king! Human flesh has been presented to me by you, a deceitful rogue. Hence you shall become a Rākṣasa.”

33. It was because he did not know that everything was perpetrated by a Rākṣasa. After cursing him the preceptor pondered over it and made the operational period of the curse limited to twelve years.

34. The infuriated king also said thus: “This has not been done by me. Without knowing this, I have been cursed unnecessarily. I shall also curse this preceptor.”

35. Saying this, he held water in the hollow of two palms and was about to curse the preceptor. Madayantī (the queen) fell at his feet and prevented him.

36. He then desisted from uttering the curse, giving weightage to her pleadings. He let the water fall over his own feet. The feet turned speckled (black and white in colour).

37. Thereafter, the king became known as Kalmāṣapāda. Due to the curse of his preceptor, he became a Rākṣasa roaming about in the forest.

38. Assuming a terrible demoniac form resembling that of that annihilator Kāla (Time, Death), he swallowed different kinds of animals, human beings etc., in the course of his wanderings through the forest.

39. On one occasion the Death-like demon saw a newly married teen-aged couple of sages, sporting about somewhere in the forest.

40. Distressed due to the curse, that Rākṣasa, habituated to eating human flesh, caught hold of the sage boy and was about to eat him like a tiger devouring a fawn of a deer.

41. On seeing her husband in the clutches of the Rākṣasa, the girl, his frightened wife, cried out piteously trembling with fear.

42-47a. “Oh! Oh! Do not persist in a sinful deed, you the glory of the Solar race. You are a prominent king, the husband of Madayantī and no Rākṣasa.

O lord, do not devour my husband, dear to me more than my vital breaths. You are the sole refuge unto all distressed people seeking refuse. Of what avail are my cursed vital breaths, as though they are groups of sins, without my noble-souled husband? The very body is a burden unto me. What pleasure is there in this foul body composed of five elements! This quiescent youth, a performer of penance, is conversant with the Vedas and knows many scriptural texts. Hence, by sparing his life, you will be protecting the entire earth. O great king, be kind and merciful towards a Brāhmaṇa’s wife, a mere girl. Indeed good people take pity on helpless, miserable and distressed persons.”

47b-51. In spite of having been requested by her thus, that man-eating, ruthless, wicked Rākṣasa bit off his head and swallowed the Brāhmaṇa boy. The chaste, emaciated lady lamented at the height of her grief. She gathered together the bones of her husband and made a big funeral pyre. Desirous of following her husband, she wanted to enter the fire. She hurled a missile-like curse at the king in the form of a Rākṣasa: “O sinful king, my husband has been devoured by you. Hence experience the serious ill effects of the curse of a chaste wife. Henceforth if you come into contact with any woman, you will immediately meet with death.” After saying this, the chaste lady entered the fire.

52. The king experienced the after-effects of the curse of his preceptor, within the prescribed time limit, and regained his original form. Highly delighted, he went to his own abode.

53. Having come to know of the curse given by the chaste wife of the Brāhmaṇa, the queen checked her husband who was eager to have sexual contact with her, as she was afraid of the eventual widowhood.

54. Childless, that king became disgusted with the pleasures of the kingdom. Discarding the entire glory of royalty, he went back to the forest.

55. For the perpetuation of the Solar line, Vasiṣṭha, the excellent sage, begot of Madayantī, an excellent son.

56. The king who had forsaken the kingdom, began to wander over the entire earth. He saw himself closely followed from behind by a vampire-like being of excessively terrible appearance.

57-58. It was the embodied form of the terrible sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter that could not be warded off (and which hovered round him) ever since the king, in his accursed state, had devoured the son of the sage. Due to his own action mentioned before, the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter closely followed him from behind. This the king understood from the utterances of eminent sages.

59. Desirous of expiation of her (the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter) the king dejected in his mind, wandered to various holy places for many years.

60-65. In spite of his repeated holy ablutions in holy places, the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter did not turn back. So he went to Mithilā and reached the garden outside the city. He was afflicted with great anxiety. He saw sage Gautama of a heart free from impurities. He appeared like a blazing fire. He was surrounded by an entire host of sages. He appeared like the Sun, the dispeller of thick darkness of clouds. He appeared like the moon undoubtedly shining in white brilliance, as he rose up. He appeared like Maheśvara wearing the digit of the glorious moon. He was quiescent and accompanied by his disciples. He was the sole resort of austerities. Approaching the sage the king bowed down to him again and again. Gautama, the excellent sage, warmly accosted the king born of the Solar race and smilingly spoke to him with love.

Gautama said:

66-68. I hope you are well, O great king. I hope, your position is stable. I hope, the subjects are happy and prosperous and the occupants of your Antaḥpura quite well. Why have you come here leaving off the entire royal glory? What are you brooding over? You are heaving sighs and gasping for hot breaths.

The king said:

69. Thanks to your kindness and compassion; all of us are happy. The riches of kings of excellent families are dependent on (the kind blessing of) Brāhmaṇas. But this vampire-like being of terrible appearance harasses me.

70. She is unobserved by others excepting me. She rebukes me at every step. A great sin has been committed by me in my accursed state. Even with thousands of expiatory rites, no mental peace has been acquired.

71. Various kinds of Yajñas have been performed with the entire treasury offered as monetary gifts. All adorable rivers and lakes all over the earth have been made use of for holy ablutions. All holy places have been traversed by me in the course of my wanderings.

72. All the Mantras have been repeatedly uttered by me; all the deities have been meditated upon, great holy observances and vows have been practised by me subsisting only on leaves, roots and fruits.

73-79. All those things never made me feel at ease. But today, it seems, my birth has become fruitful, because my soul is experiencing a great deal of bliss at your mere sight. The general talk among people that a man seeking (an object) for many years ultimately realizes his wish somewhere, has become true in my case.

It is the outcome of all merits accumulated over many births that Your Holiness, the protector of persons frightened by mundane existence, have come within the range of my sight.

From whence have you come to this place as the remover of fear of worldly existence? I presume that you (expect) rest after having wandered over far off lands and come here. On seeing you I am surprised. From the splendour of your face (I infer) that you are happy. You give delight unto my mind by your love as though through your talk. I have sought refuge in your lotus-like feet after having committed sins. O illustrious one, grant peace unto me whereby I can be happy.

Requested by him earnestly in this manner, Gautama, the storehouse of sympathy, indicated to him the excellent means of atonement for terrible sins.

Gautama said:

80-81. Well! O eminent king! You are blessed. Shake off your fear from great sins. When Śiva is at hand as a protector, where can there be fear for the devotees desirous of refuge. Listen, O great king, O blessed one, there is another well-established holy place.

82. It is Gokarṇa[2] by name, and it destroys great sins. It is charming to the mind. There is no place there for sins greater than the greatest.

83-87. Śiva who destroys all sins if remembered, is present there, just as on the peak of Kailāsa or on the top of the Manḍāra tree. In this manner, the residence of Śaṃbhu in the Gokarṇa region, is definite.

Darkness is not removed completely either by fire or by the moon or by big stars and planets as by the appearance of the sun. Immediate purification from sins cannot be achieved through other holy places or sacred shrines pleasing to the mind, as by visiting Gokarṇa. If, even after committing hundreds of sins like Brāhmaṇa-slaughter, a man just enters Gokarṇa once, he need not be afraid of sins anywhere thereafter. All noble-souled ones have acquired peace there through austerities.

88-93a. It is resorted to by Indra, Upendra, Brahmā and others (who are) desirous of supernatural powers.

If a holy observance or vow is practised there even for a day, it is on a par with what is done elsewhere in the course of a hundred thousand years.

With a desire for the welfare of the Devas including Indra, Brahmā, Viṣṇu and others, the Lord is present there himself under the name Mahābala.

That Liṅga was obtained by the Rākṣasa named Rāvaṇa by means of a severe penance. Gaṇanāyaka installed that Liṅga at Gokarṇa. Indra, Brahmā, Mukunda, Viśvedevas, Maruts, Ādityas, Vasus, Aśvinī Devas, the Moon and the Sun—these Devas who move about in their aerial chariots along with their attendants, attend at the eastern gateway of the Trident-bearing Lord of the Devas.

93b-98a. The other gods Mṛtyu himself, Citragupta, Pāvaka (Fire-god) along with Manes and Rudras do attend at the southern gateway.

Varuṇa, the lord of all rivers, along with a number of rivers including Gaṅgā serves the great Lord (resorting to the western doorway).

Vayu (Wind-god), Kubera, Bhadrakarṇikā, the goddess of gods, along with the Mothers including Caṇḍikā have resorted to the northern gateway.

Viśvāvasu, Citraratha, Citrasena and Mahābala along with the group of Gandharvas worship Lord Mahābala (at Gokarṇa).

Raṃbhā, Ghṛtācī, Menā, Pūrvacitti, Tilottamā, Urvaśī and other celestial damsels dance before Śaṃbhu.

98b-103a. Vasiṣṭha, Kaśyapa, Kaṇva, Viśvāmitra of great austerities, Jaimini, Bharadvāja, Jābāli, Kratu, Aṅgiras and we too—all of us pure Brāhmaṇa-sages attend and adore Lord Mahābala standing all around him, O eminent king.

Atri, along with Marīci, the eminent sages Dakṣa and others, Sanaka and other noble-souled ones attend and worship seated there.

So also sages, Sādhyas wearing deer skin as garments, staffbearing saints, sages of great vows with shaven heads, Snātakas, religious students, elderly sages having only skin and bone, those who have burnt sins by means of penance serve the Pināka-bearing Lord of the Devas with great devotion.

103b-107. Similarly Devas along with Gandharvas, Pitṛs, Siddhas, Cāraṇas, Vidyādharas, Kiṃpuruṣas, Kinnaras, Guhyakas, birds, serpents, vampires, ghosts, Daityas (demons) of great prowess, possessing different types of riches, having different kinds of ornaments and vehicles have surrounded the (Lord) with aerial chariots resembling the Sun, having the refulgent colour of fire and the lustre of the moon. Others resembled clusters of lightning sparks. They eulogize, sing about loudly, recite verses and bow down. In Gokarṇa, O king, they dance delightfully. They get everything they desire and sport about happily.

108. There is no other shrine like Gokarṇa in the whole of the cosmic sphere. It was there that a severe penance was performed by the noble-souled Agastya.

109-114. In the same manner Sanatkumāra, the sons of Priyavrata, Agni the most excellent god, Kandarpa, Goddess Bhadrakālī, the intelligent Śiśumāra, Durmukha, the leading serpent, the serpent named Maṇināga, Ilāvarta and other serpents, the powerful Garuḍa, Rāvaṇa the demon, the demon named Kuṃbhakarṇa and the pious Vibhīṣaṇa performed penance here.

These and other Devas, Siddhas, Dānavas, human beings propitiated Śiva, the Lord of the chiefs of Devas, at Gokarṇa with devotion, after installing thousands of Liṅgas marked with their names. They attained great supernatural powers and established holy shrines. O king, there are abodes of all the Devas here.

115-122. There are the abodes of Viṣṇu, the lord of Devas, Brahmā Parameṣṭhin, the heroic Kārttikeya, the Elephant-faced Lord, Dharma, Kṣetrapāla and Durgā, O highly intelligent king. There are crores and crores of Śiva-Liṅgas in Gokarṇa. There are innumerable holy shrines at every step. Why speak more? O king, all the stones found lying in Gokarṇa are Śiva-Liṅgas; all the waters holy lakes. The greatness of the Śivaliṅgas and the Tīrthas in Gokarṇa is oft-sung about in the Purāṇas by great sages, O king.

Koṭitīrtha is the most important of all the Tīrthas in Gokarṇa. Of all the Śivaliṅgas, Mahābala is the sole overlord. In Kṛtayuga Mahābala is white; in Tretāyuga he is excessively red; in Dvāpara he is yellow in colour; and will become black in Kali. Though Mahābala has completely overspread the seven Pātālas, he will become soft (even) when the terrible Kali age sets in.

The excellent sacred place Gokarṇa is on the shores of the Western Sea.

123-128a. There is no wonder that it burns the sins like Brāhmaṇa-slaughter. Those who have killed Brāhmaṇas, rogues inimical to all living beings, men devoid of all good qualities, those who are enamoured of other men’s wives, men of evil conduct and mode of life, men of evil habits and of miserly character, greedy people, ruthless rogues, foolish, deluded ones, thieves, lascivious persons—all these persons after reaching Gokarṇa have gone to the region of Śaṅkara after taking their holy dips in the sacred waters and visiting Lord Mahābala.

Those who worship Maheśāna there on meritorious lunar days, when the day of the week is auspicious, shall certainly become Rudras.

Whosoever the man may be, whensoever he enters Gokarṇa and worships the Lord, he reaches the region of Brahman.

128b-131. When the new-moon day occurs on Sundays, Mondays or Wednesdays, the devotee should take the holy dip in the ocean, make monetary gifts, offer water-libations to the Manes, worship Śiva, perform Japa, Homa, observance of vows and adoration of Brāhmaṇas—whatever insignificant act is performed shall yield endless benefit.

Worship of Śiva during the astronomical conjunctions like Vyatīpāta, transits of the Sun and Mahāpradoṣa (thirteenth day at dusk) occasions, bestows salvation.

I shall now mention a lunar day bestowing salvation, O king.

132-135. It was on this day that a great hunter attained the great region of Śaṃbhu. The month of Māgha, the meritorious fourteenth day of dark half, Śivaliṅga and Bilva leaf—the combination of these four is of rare occurrence.

Alas! (How powerful is Māyā) whereby the great Tithi (lunar day) of Śiva is not utilized for fasts by deluded people like the (recitation of) Vedas by dumb ones!

The following are the flight of steps unto men leading to the region of Śiva: observance of fast, keeping holy vigil at night, stay near the great Lord and Gokarṇa. Listen, O king, just now I have come from Gokarṇa.

136-141. On this holy Tithi of Śiva, I observed fast and witnessed the great festival. On this Tithi of Śiva, all are desirous of seeing the great festival. Common people of all the four castes have come from all the countries: Women, old men, boys, men of all the four stages of life—all these came, visited the Lord of Devas and got satisfaction.

These disciples, I and other sages, royal sages, the celestial saints Sanaka and others, have taken holy bath in all the sacred waters and adored attentively Lord Mahābala. We have made our lives fruitful and have gone to different directions. I have come from Gokarṇa as I have now been invited by king Janaka who is about to perform a Yajña. I have returned after seeing something wonderful on the way.[3] My mind is highly delighted and I am fully contented, O lord of the earth.

Footnotes and references:


This story is found in Śiva Purāṇa under Pañcākṣara-Māhātmya (PE 373).


This story is found in VR 1.70.39-40, Mbh, Ādi 175-181 and Śānti 234.30. But the story in Mbh, Ādi differs in some details from this story in SkP.


A famous sacred place in North Karnataka known for the famous Śiva (Mahābaleśvara) Shrine. But its glorification in this Purāṇa is noteworthy.


This introduces the next chapter on the importance of Mahāśivarātri.

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