The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Observance of the Vow of Uma-Maheshvara which is chapter 18 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 eighteenth chapter of the Brahmottara-khanda of the Brahma-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 18 - Observance of the Vow of Umā-Maheśvara

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: The chapter aims at describing the efficacy of Umā-Maheśvara-vrata. The Vrata proper is described in vv 26-64 and the fruit i.e. Phalaśruti of the Vrata in vv 65-67.

Sūta said:

1. Now I shall explain the holy observance named Umāmaheśvara. It is the bestower of all supernatural powers. It is the most excellent one among all excellent holy rites.

2-3. In the land of Ānarta, there was a certain Brāhmaṇa named Vedaratha. He was a great scholar hailing from an excellent family. He had a wife and children. He continued his householder’s life and later on a daughter of lotus-like eyes named Śāradā was born to him.

4. When she was aged twelve years, the girl had beauty of form and all good features. A Brāhmaṇa named Padmanābha whose wife had passed away, requested for the hand of the girl.

5. The Brāhmaṇa had plenty of wealth. He was calm and quiet. He was a permanent companion of the king. So the father of the girl did not dare to refuse. He gave the daughter to him.

6. The marriage was celebrated at midday. In the evening, the Brāhmaṇa went to the lake in the vicinity of his father-in-law’s house to perform Sandhyā rites.

7. When it was very dark and while he was returning after performing the Sandhyā rites duly, in accordance with his previous Karmas, the Brāhmaṇa was bitten by a snake on the way.

8-9. When the newly married Brāhmaṇa died suddenly, the kinsmen bewailed and the parents-in-law became grief-stricken. After cremating him the kinsmen returned to their respective abodes. Śāradā after her widowhood stayed in her father’s house.

10. Bereft of her husband and deprived of adequate food and clothing, the chaste girl spent some months in her father’s house.

11. Once a certain very old, blind sage named Naidhruva came to that house holding the hands of his disciple.

12. When the old man came to the house, the kinsmen were away. That girl considered him her veritable god and went near him.

13. She said: “Welcome to you, O glorious one. Be pleased to sit on this pedestal. Obeisance to you, the lord of sages. What can I do to propitiate you?”

14. Saying this with very great devotion, she washed his feet and fanned him as he was weary. Thus she made the sage pleased.

15-16. She made the tired sage sit on a pedestal and massaged him with her own hands. When the sage had concluded his ablution and worship of the Lord, she worshipped him with the offerings of incense, garlands and unguents after he was comfortably seated. Then she respectfully fed him with excellent food.

17. He took his food well but slowly. He became satisfied. The delighted blind sage offered her his great blessings.

18. “Sport about with your husband. After getting a son through him endowed with all good qualities and great glory in the world, become one deserving the favour of deities.”

19. On hearing these words uttered by that blind sage, the girl was struck with wonder. With palms joined in reverence she replied:

20-22. “O holy Brāhmaṇa, your words must be true. They cannot be false at all. But I am very unfortunate.

Like a heavy downpour falling on the top of a rock, like hospitality offered to a bitch, even the words of blessings of knowers of Brahman will be futile to my unfortunate self.

O Brāhmaṇa, I am a widow reaping the fruits of my own evil deeds. How can I deserve these words of blessings of yours?”

The sage said:

23. What has been now said by me, by a blind man without seeing you, I shall certainly accomplish. O splendid lady, carry out my instruction.

24. If you observe the holy vow of Umāmaheśvara you will immediately enjoy welfare by the power of that holy vow.

Śāradā said:

25. Even if it is very difficult to perform, I shall strenuously observe the vow as instructed by you. O holy Sir, explain that vow. Tell me its procedure in detail.

The sage said:

26. One should start the observance of the holy vow on an auspicious day in the bright half of Caitra (March-April) or Mārgaśīrṣa (November-December) duly with the permission of the preceptor.

27. After duly performing the Saṃkalpa on a full-moon day, new-moon day, eighth day or fourteenth day (of both fortnights) the devotee should perform the rite of early morning ablution.

28. After offering water libations to Pitṛs, Devas and others, the devotee goes back to his abode and erects a splendid pavilion adorned with canopies etc.

29. It must be decorated with fruits, sprouts, flowers etc. as well as festoons. In its middle, a mystic diagram of lotus design should be made by means of powders of five colours.

30-31. The external design should have fourteen petals. The design within it shall have twenty-two petals. The design further within should have sixteen petals and that within that should have eight petals. Thus the lotus design should be beautifully made in five colours. Then there should be a square and within it an excellent circle.

32. A heap of rice or other grains should be spread over it and a bundle of Kuśa grass kept thereon. A pot filled with water is to be placed on the bundle of Kuśa grass.

33. On the pot a coloured cloth is spread. Upon it there should be placed splendid idols of Śiva and Pārvatī made of gold. The devotee should adore them sincerely as elaborately as funds allow.

34. The idols are bathed first in Pañcāmṛta and then in pure water. The eleven Rudra Mantras shall be recited and then the five-syllabled Mantra (namaḥ śivāya) one hundred and eight times.

35. After consecrating (the idols) with Mantras and placing them in the middle of the pedestal, they should be worshipped. The wise devotee should be seated on a pure seat wearing washed white clothes.

36. The pedestal should be charged with Mantras. Then he should perform Prāṇāyāma. Before the deity he should remain with palms joined in reverence and then state the Saṃkalpa (as follows).

37-38. “I am beginning the worship of Śiva for the purpose of the destruction of whatever terrible sins have been committed by me in hundreds of my births. I shall perform the worship of Śiva for the enhancement of blessedness, success, good health, virtue and prosperity and for the attainment of the heavenly world and salvation.”

39. After uttering the Saṃkalpa duly with concentration, the devotee performs the Aṅganyāsa (ritualistic touching of the limbs), and meditates upon Īśa and Pārvatī.

40-44a. (Dhyāna or the form of Īśa for Meditation) The Lord is as white as a jasmine flower and the moon. He is adorned with ornaments constituted of serpents. He poses his fingers in the gestures of granting boons and freedom from fear and holds in his hands axe and deer. He resembles ten million suns (in lustre). He is the cause of delight to the whole universe. He wears long and tawny-coloured matted hair due to coming into contact with the waters of Gaṅgā. He is embellished with a crown studded with jewels coming from the hoods of great serpents. His crown of matted hair shines with the crescent moon. He has arm-lets and other ornaments. His eye in the forehead is open. He has the sun and the moon as his other eyes. He is blue-necked and has four arms. He is clad in the hide of a lordly elephant. He is seated on a throne set with jewels. Serpents constitute his various ornaments.

44b-51. (Dhyāna or the form of the Goddess for Meditation) The goddess had divine garments and the lustre of ten thousand rising suns. She has the guise of a young girl with small and tender limbs. She has the crescent moon as her crest jewel. She has four hands holding a noose and a goad and showing gestures of conferring boons and freedom from fear (with the other two hands). Aṃbā is pleasant-faced, sportive in spirit. She decorates herself with the blossoms of Kurabaka, Aśoka, Punnāga and fresh Caṃpaka. Fully blown jasmine flowers adorn her forelocks. Her big hips are adorned with a girdle of many strings. Her pair of feet is embellished with anklets having many tinkling bells. Her shining gemset ear-rings brighten her cheeks and surrounding areas. Her bud-like teeth shed lustrous rays upon her red lips. She is adorned with necklaces and garlands set with costly jewels. Her bangles, armlets and rings shine remarkably with rubies. She is clad in red garments. Her garlands and unguents are red. Her protruding plump breasts surpass lotus buds. Her side-glances are playfully glamorous. She is ever ready to bless her devotees.

52. After meditating on Śiva and Pārvatī, the parents of the world, in the lotus-like heart and after reciting the requisite Mantras he should begin the external worship.

53. After invoking the deities in the two idols, the devotee offers the seat etc. He should offer Arghya to both the deities by means of this Mantra after knowing fully the import of the Mantra:

54. “Obeisance to you, O Lord of Pārvatī, the most excellent one among the bestowers of boons in all the three worlds. O great Lord with three eyes, accept the Arghya; obeisance to you.”

55. “Obeisance to you, O goddess of the chiefs of Devas, the remover of the fear of those who resort to you. O Mother, O bestower of boons, accept the Arghya, O goddess, O beloved of Śiva.”

56. These two Mantras should be repeated thrice and the Arghya be offered with concentration. He should then offer sweet scents, flowers, raw rice grains, incense and lamps.

57. The food offering should be soaked in ghee along with milk pudding. He should perform the Homa of ghee a hundred and eight times repeating the Mūlamantra.

58. After taking away the food offering, he should offer incense, lights etc. Then a betel leaf should be offered. The devotee then makes obeisance with mental and physical purity.

59-60. Then a Brāhmaṇa couple should be fed after duly offering them the requisite services. After concluding the evening worship thus, the devotee takes food permitted by the Brāhmaṇa. He should take in only Haviṣya soaked in milk at night, remaining silent (while eating).

61. Thus the learned devotee should perform the holy vow in both the fortnights throughout the year. Then when the year is complete, the Vratodyāpana rite (successful completion of Vrata) should be performed.

62-64. The Śatarudra Mantra should be recited when the idols are bathed in water. After worshipping Girijā and Śiva with the Mantra mentioned in the Āgama text, the pot along with the idols, cloth and gold should be given to the great Ācārya (preceptor) always engaged in good conduct. The devotee should devoutly feed the Brāhmaṇas after honouring them in accordance with his capacity. Cow, gold, garments etc. should be given as gifts to them. After being permitted by them, the devotee should take his food along with dear and near kinsmen.

65-67. He who devoutly performs the holy Vrata well-known in all the three worlds in this manner, shall be able to redeem twenty-one generations of his family. He shall enjoy all the pleasures as he desires. He shall certainly sport about in the regions of the Guardians of the worlds like Indra etc. Then he enjoys in the world of Brahmā and then in the eternal world of Viṣṇu. Then he attains Śiva’s world and enjoys all pleasures there for a hundred Kalpas and attains Śiva ultimately.

68. This is the great Vrata mentioned by me. You should perform this with great faith. You will realize even the most difficult of all your desires.

69. On being instructed thus by the eminent sage, that girl was very much happy. With full faith, she accepted his sound and pleasing advice.

70. Then her parents and brothers returned. They saw the sage seated comfortably after taking food.

71. Promptly they prostrated before the noble-souled sage. Repeatedly requesting “Be pleased, be pleased”, they adored him.

72. On hearing that the great sage had already been adored by the chaste lady and that he had blessed her after instructing the details of the Vrata, they were extremely delighted.

73-79. With palms joined in reverence, all of them said to the great sage: “All of us are blessed today by your arrival. The entire family has become sanctified. The household has become fruitful. This girl Śāradā had unfortunately become a widow due to unavoidable Karma. She has sought refuge in your lotus-like feet. Save her from the unbearable ocean of misery. You should kindly stay in our own house, in the adjoining apartment entirely suitable for ablution, adoration, Japa etc. This girl, O Brāhmaṇa, shall continue to adore you and perform the Vrata in your very presence, O great sage, till it is successfully coneluded. Stay with us till then and make our objectives fulfilled.”

80. On being requested thus by all of her brothers and kinsmen, the excellent sage consented and stayed in the splendid apartment.

81. That chaste lady, devoid of impurities, worshipped Girijā and Śiva along the lines indicated by him (the sage) and performed the Vrata duly.

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