The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Efficacy of the Holy Ash which is chapter 15 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 fifteenth chapter of the Brahmottara-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 15 - Efficacy of the Holy Ash

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sūta said:

1. The majestic power of Ṛṣabha, the Śivayogin, has been described. Now I shall narrate the supernatural power of another Śivayogin.

2. I am describing briefly the greatness of the holy ash too, on hearing which sinful people will become contented.

3. There was a Śivayogin named Vāmadeva.[1] He had performed great austerities. He was free from the mutually opposing pairs (like pleasure-pain). He was free from the adverse effects of the Guṇas. He was quiescent, free from contaminating contacts and impartial (in viewing things and persons).

4. He took delight in his own soul. He had subdued anger. He was devoid of wives and household. His movements used to be unpremeditated. He used to observe silence. He was contented. He had no possessions of his own.

5. He used to apply ash all over his body. He was adorned with matted hair. He wore bark garments or deerskin. He used to accept only alms.

6. Once, while he was moving about in the world out of the desire of blessing all people, he entered by chance a very terrible forest named Krauñcāraṇya.

7. In that forest devoid of human beings, there was a certain awful and terrifying Brahmarākṣasa who was perpetually distressed with hunger and thirst.

8. On seeing that auspicious-souled Yogin entering, the Brahmarākṣasa who was overwhelmed with hunger, rushed at him in order to eat him.

9. The eminent Yogin did not move even after seeing him terrifyingly rushing towards himself with his open mouth, terrible, curved fangs and an unwieldy huge body.

10. That terrible forest-dweller rushing on towards the unruffled Śivayogin seized and squeezed him with his arms.

11. The moment he touched his limbs, all his sins were destroyed. The terrible Brahmarākṣasa recollected something and became distressed.

12-14. Just as by touching Cintāmaṇi an iron piece transforms itself into gold, just as by entering the river Jaṃbū even clay becomes gold, just as by approaching the Mānasa lake crows become swans, just as by drinking once the divine elixir a man attains god-hood, so also by their vision, personal touch etc., noble souls suddenly sanctify sinful persons. Hence the contact with the good is very difficult to attain.

15. The forest-roaming terrific being who was previously distressed with hunger and thirst, suddenly became contented and full of bliss.

16. When a small particle of the holy white ash sticking to his (sage’s) body touched him, the thick mass of his sins and Tāmasic (cruel) traits of character got annihilated. The Brahmarākṣasa of terrible misdeeds was reminded of his previous birth. Thereupon he fell down at the lotus-like feet (of the Yogin) and spoke:

The Rākṣasa said:

17. O great Yogin, be pleased with me; be pleased, O storehouse of mercy; be pleased, O ocean of the nectar of bliss, with those who are distressed with worldly existence.

18. Where am I, the terrible one of a sinful mind striking terror into all living beings? Where is the vision of yours, the noble-souled, merciful sage of great magnificence and brilliance?

19. Lift, lift me, for I have fallen into the sea of misery. Merely by your presence at hand great bliss is increasing further.

Vāmadeva asked:

20. Who are you, a forest-roaming terrible Rākṣasa? Why are you staying here? How did you get into such a painful and excessively terrible plight?

The Rākṣasa replied:

21. I am now a Rākṣasa but in my twenty-fifth previous birth, I was the ruler of the Yavana country (? Greek). I was called Durjaya, the heroic one.

22. I was vicious-souled and highly sinful. I was arrogant and self-willed, a man of wicked conduct out to punish everyone, a fierce, ruthless, mischievous person.

23. In my youth I was excessively lecherous, without any control over my passions, though I had many wives. Further, I was guilty of another heinous, sinful act.

24. Everyday I wanted to enjoy a fresh woman. At my bidding, my servants brought women from all countries.

25. Everyday I used to enjoy a woman and throw her into the inner apartment, ready to catch hold of another woman for the morrow.

26. In this way, women were brought from my own and foreign countries, from all excellent countries, villages, cities and colonies and were enjoyed day-by-day. A woman once enjoyed was never enjoyed again.

27. The women enjoyed by me were not enjoyed by others at all. Kept within the four walls of the inner apartment, they used to bewail day and night.

28. When women of Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra castes were carried away by me, Brāhmaṇas residing in my kingdom ran away along with their wives.

29. Women having husbands alive, virgins, widows, nay women in their menses too, were brought and enjoyed by me, a damned lustful soul.

30-32. Three hundred Brāhmaṇa women, four hundred women from royal families, six hundred Vaiśya women and a thousand Śūdra maidens, a hundred Cāṇḍāla women, a thousand Pulinda (hill tribes) girls, five hundred Śailūṣīs (actresses), four hundred Rajakīs (washerwomen) and innumerable prominent harlots were enjoyed by me in the course of my wicked life. Still my lust was not satisfied fully.

33. Even in the prime of my youth, great ailments such as pulmonary consumption etc. entered me (my body) bent upon enjoying evil worldly pleasures, haughty and addicted to imbibing liquor.

34. Having fallen a prey to foul diseases, harassed by enemies, devoid of sons and forsaken by the servants and the ministers, I died as a result of my (evil) Karmas.

35. It is definite that if a man goes astray from the path of virtue, his span of life gets reduced, ignominy is enhanced, fortune dwindles into nothing and he undergoes a very wretched life. All the ancestral Manes certainly suffer a downfall from heaven.

36. Then I was taken to the abode of the god of Death by the servants of Yama. Then I was hurled into a deep pit in a terrible hell.

37. There in that terrible hell I remained for thirty thousand years drinking semen and tortured by the servants of Yama.

38. Then as a result of my remaining sins I was born as a Piśāca with a thousand penises in a desolate forest. I was perpetually agitated by hunger and thirst.

39. After being born as Piśāca I spent a hundred divine autumns. In my second birth I became a tiger terrifying to living beings.

40. In the third birth I became a python, and a wolf in the fourth birth. In the fifth birth I became a pig in the rubbish heap of faecal matter, and a chameleon in the sixth birth.

41. In the seventh birth I became a dog and in the eighth one a jackal. In the ninth a terrible Gavaya (blue ox) and in the tenth I became a deer.

42. A monkey in the eleventh, I was born as a vulture in the twelfth birth. I was born a mongoose in the thirteenth birth, and a crow in the fourteenth.

43. (I became) a bear in the fifteenth, a jungle cock in the sixteenth. I was bora as a donkey in the seventeenth, and a cat in the eighteenth birth.

44. A frog in the nineteenth, and a tortoise in the twentieth birth. A fish in the twenty-first birth I became, and a mouse in the twenty-second birth.

45. I was born as an owl in the twenty-third, and a wild elephant in the twenty-fourth (birth). In this my twenty-fifth birth I have now become a Brahmarākṣasa.

46. Having nothing to eat I have become oppressed with hunger and I stay in this great forest. Now on seeing you come, I became eager to devour you, but at the mere contact with your body, I have remembered my previous births.

47. Now in your vicinity, I remember all the thousands of births gone before. I have become extremely disgusted but my heart is delighted.

48. How was such a power acquired by you, O highly intelligent one? By means of a severe penance or by frequenting holy places?

49. Is it by means of Yogic practice or is it due to the power of the Devas or by means of Mantras possessing infinite power. O holy sire, tell me the fact. I seek refuge in you.

Vāmadeva said:

50. This is the great power of the holy ash smeared on my body. Due to the contact with it your mind has become excellent, although your behaviour (so far) was Tāmasic.

51. Excepting the great Lord who else can know the efficacy of the ash? Just as the greatness of Śaṃbhu is inscrutable, so also is that of the ash.

52. Once there was a Brāhmaṇa in the Draviḍa land, devoid of all piety like you. He was foolish and deluded. He was reduced to Śūdra-hood due to his vile deeds.

53. He used to practise thieving. He was devoid of good holy rites. He became enamoured of a Śūdra woman and became her paramour but at night he was killed by the Śūdra (husband).

54. Casually a dog with Bhasma clinging to its legs, walked over the dead body of that Brāhmaṇa that had been thrown out of the village.

55. Though he had fallen into a terrible hell, Siva’s servants attacked Yama’s servants and took him away in an aerial chariot.

56. Approaching Śiva’s messengers Yama asked, “Why do you wish to take this man, a great sinner?”

57-58. Those messengers of Śiva then replied: “See the dead body. The chest, the forehead and the armpit have been marked with the excellent Bhasma. Hence, at the bidding of Śiva, we have come to take him away. You cannot prevent us. Do not have any doubt in this regard.”

59. After saying this to Yama, even as all the worlds were watching, the messengers of Śaṃbhu took the Brāhmaṇa to the world free from all ailments.

60. Hence this Bhasma, an ornament unto Śaṃbhu, the perfect destroyer of all sins in a trice, is always being applied by me.

61. On hearing the greatness of Bhasma thus, the Brahmarākṣasa became more eager to know the greatness with further details and he spoke thus:

62. “Well said, well said, O great Yogin. I am blessed by seeing you. O pious-souled one, release me from this terrible evil birth.

63. It seems that there remains a little merit earned by me formerly. Hence, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, with your favour I have become free.

64. In a certain birth as a king, a plot of land full of groves of plants was given to a devotee of Śiva by me, giving him thereby a means of sustenance.

65. The same thing was mentioned by Yama too: ‘In your twenty-fifth birth, due to the contact with a certain Yogin, you will be released from the worldly existence.’

66. That merit has borne fruit today, which was acquired in previous births, albeit very little. Hence I was brought into touch with you in this desolate forest.

67. So kindly give me the Bhasma along with its Mantras. O ocean of mercy, lift me up though I had committed terrible sins and am undergoing worldly births and deaths of evil nature.

68. How is the Bhasma to be smeared? What is the requisite Mantra? What is the auspicious procedure? What is the proper time? Which place is proper? O preceptor, tell me everything.

69. Noble souls like you are always engaged in what is beneficial to the worlds. They do not wish for their own benefit. They are of the nature and quality of the divine wish-yielding Kalpa trees.”

Sūta said:

70. On being requested thus by that terrible being roaming in the forest, the eminent Yogin, the knower of the truth, explained to him further the greatness of Bhasma.

Footnotes and references:


This Vāmadeva is different from the Vedic seer and the one mentioned in Mbh, Vana 43-48.

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