The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Hermitage of Agastya which is chapter 3 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 third chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 3 - The Hermitage of Agastya

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sūta said:

1. O holy Sir, O Acyuta (Viṣṇu in the form of Vyāsa), the Lord of the past and the future, O great receptacle of all knowledge and lores, what was done by the Devas after reaching Kāśī. Kindly tell me.

2-4. After learning this divine story, I did not feel fully satisfied. Agastya is the storehouse of austerities. How was he requested by the Devas? How did Vindhya who rose to such a height attain his original form? My mind is eager to take its ablution in the nectarine ocean of your speech.

After hearing this fully, Sage Vyāsa, the son of Parāśara, began to narrate everything to his faithful disciple.

The Son of Parāśara said:

5. O highly intelligent Sūta endowed with devotion and faith, listen. Let these young boys like Śuka, Vaiśaṃpāyana and others too listen.

6-8.[1] After reaching Vārāṇasī, the Devas accompanied by great sages, at the outset, took without delay their holy bath in Maṇikarṇikā duly along with their garments. Then they performed Sandhyāvandana and other holy rites. They then performed the offering of water libation to the primordial Pitṛs with Kuśa grass, sweet scents, gingelly seeds and water. They then delighted and propitiated all the permanent residents of the holy spot severally offering them various things such as jewels, gold, clothes, horses, ornaments and cows.

9. (They gave them) different kinds of vessels made of gold, silver etc., cooked foods tasting like ambrosia, milk puddings with sugar.

10. Food was given with curds and other milk-products. Different kinds of grains were given as gift; sweet scents, sandal-paste, camphor, betel leaves and beautiful Cāmaras (chowries) (were given).

11. Soft beds with cotton and bedspreads, lamps, mirrors and seats, palanquins, male servants, female servants, aerial chariots, cattle and houses (were provided).

12. Flags and banners of diverse colours, canopies as charming as the moon were given and arrangements for a regular distribution of food for a year along with all domestic appurtenances (were made).

13-14. The ascetics and saints were given leather and wooden sandals, new befitting silken cloths, different kinds of shawls and blankets of variegated colour, staffs, water-pots, hides of deer, loin cloths, cots sufficiently high and golden pieces intended for the attendants.

15-16. Students’ hostels were provided with supply of food, collections of great books. Livelihood was arranged for scribes and clerks and ample funds for guesthouses. Arrangements for providing different kinds of medicines and liberal bequests of all sorts were made. Funds were provided for constructing water-sheds for travellers during summer as well as iron ovens with adequate fuel during winter.

17. Umbrellas and protective cloths against rain in rainy season were made abundant. At night facilities for lamps enabling people to read, were provided. There were unguents etc. for massaging feet and many other similar articles.

18. Money provisions were made in every temple to retain expounders of the Purāṇas. Adequate provisions for dance and music in temples were made in different ways.

19. Provisions were made for whitewashing, plastering etc. (of the walls) of the temples and for repairing ruined and dilapidated temples. Costs of painting with pictures and decorating pavilions were met.

20. Waving of lights with many wicks, aromatic fragrant gum-resins, Daśāṅga incense (ten constituents including lac, treacle etc.), camphor, wicks for the adoration of deities were arranged.

21. Bathing of the idols was done with Pañcāmṛta etc. as well as with sweet scents; perfumes were used for sweetening the breath of the deities and provisions for temple gardens were made.

22. (Provision for) big wreaths and garlands for the prominent adorations on the three occasions and conchs, drums, kettle-drums and other musical instruments to be played in the temple of Śiva was made.

23. Vessels facilitating the holy ablution such as water-jars, Bhṛṅgāras (big pitchers) etc., white cloths for wiping and drying, sweet scents such as Yakṣakardama etc. (camphor, agallochum, musk etc., mixed together in specific proportions) were provided.

24. Adequate provision for Japa, Homa, recitation of hymns and prayers, loud utterances of Śiva’s names, Rāsakrīḍās (dance-games) and circumambulations was made.

25. The Suras spent five nights in all these various prescribed sacred rites and rituals and had their holy ablution in the sacred rivers and tanks.

26-27. They made the wretched and helpless destitutes satisfied (by their donations etc.) and then bowed to Lord Viśveśvara. They strictly observed the regulations regarding vow of celibacy etc., and duly concluded all the requisite formalities of visiting holy spots. They frequently visited (the Liṅga of) Viśvanātha, prayed and bowed to him and proceeded to that place where Agastya was present in his eagerness and readiness for helping others.

28. He had installed a Liṅga after his own name and made a Kuṇḍa (a sacred pit) in front of it. Reciting Śatarudriya[2] hymn, he sat there with a steady mind.

29. From afar, the Devas saw him blazing like a second Sun. He was brilliant all round with his limbs resembling a blazing fire.

30. Is this the submarine fire itself who performs a penance in personified form? He was quite immovable like a post. He was pure like the mind of a saintly person.

31. Or perhaps, all the fiery refulgences have resorted to this Brāhmaṇical body and practice for the attainment of the greatest abode that is quiescent.

32. Due to the severe penance of this sage, the Sun is able to blaze brilliantly and fire also to burn brightly. Capalā (Lightning) has (as if) become Acapalā (not fickle, steady).

33. In his hermitage here, these beasts of prey are seen around in perfect Sattva (good) form after eschewing their natural enmity.[3]

34. The elephant having become fearless scratches the lion with his trunk. With his manes lifted up, the lion sleeps on the lap of the Aṣṭāpada (Śarabha, a fabulous animal of eight legs).

35. The powerful hog with its hairs rigid and stiff has abandoned its herd and roams about in the midst of wild dogs (or jackals or tigers) having its eyes fixed on the Mustā grass.

36-38a. Bhūdāra (‘the hog that digs up the earth’) does not dig up the earth here unlike in other places. Because the entire Kāśī is full of Liṅgas, it is afraid of it and so has restrained itself. The hyena has taken up the young one of the hog and is playing with it. The fawn of the deer has pushed out the cubs of the tiger and it is sucking the udder of the tigress with foams coming; out of its mouth while the tail continues its wagging.

38b-41. While the hairy bear goes on sleeping, the monkey carefully examining them with its eyes picks up the lice with its moving fingers and bites them with the tips of its teeth.

The leaders of the herds of various kinds of monkeys, Golāṅgulas (‘Cow-tailed’), Raktamukhas (‘Red-faced’) and Nīlāṅgas (‘Blue-limbed’) have abandoned their natural rivalry and are sporting about together in one place.

Rabbits play along with the wolves rolling on their backs frequently.

The mouse scratches the ear of the cat with its mouth moving (all over its body).

The cat nestles itself close to the peacock’s tail and takes a pleasant nap.

42-45. The serpent rubs its neck against the neck of the peacock.

The mongoose abandons its hereditary enmity and rolls on the top of the hood of the serpent after sportively jumping and leaping about.

Though distressed and blinded with hunger, the serpent sees the mouse running about in front of its mouth. It does not catch it, nor the other one is afraid of this.

On seeing the hind calving, the tiger is moved with pity reflected in its eyes. He avoids looking at it further and moves away.

The tigress and the hind behave like joyous companions and they communicate to each other the conduct of life of the tiger and the deer (their respective mates).

46. Even after seeing the hunter wielding the powerful bow, the Śambara deer stubbornly sticks to its path (without moving) while he (the hunter) begins to scratch it (lovingly).

47. The Rohita deer fondly touches the wild buffalo unperturbed. The Camarī hind measures its tail against the tresses of hairs of the Śabara woman.

48. Abandoning their acute rivalry and enmity because they have been restrained by the brilliance of the sage, the Gavaya (a species of ox) and the porcupine continue to stay together at one place.

49. The pair of rams, though desirous of victory, do not get ready for a straight head-on fight. The jackal touches the fawn gently with its paw.

50. The beasts of prey here eat only grasses and hedges. Indeed eating meat is the cause of disaster in both the worlds (here and hereafter). Fie upon it!

51. If a person deluded by sins cooks meat for his own sake, he shall remain in hell for as many years as there are hairs on his body.

52. Those evil-minded persons who nourish their own lives through the lives of other living beings suffer the tortures of hells till the end of the Kalpa. Thereafter, they will be preyed upon by them.

53. Even if the vital breaths come upto the throat (i.e. on the point of death) no one should eat flesh. If it becomes essential, then one should eat one’s own flesh and not that of others.

54. These beasts of prey that have no inclination towards injuring others because of their service unto Maitrāvaruṇi (i.e. Agastya) are far superior to men prone to violence.

55. In the small puddle here, the crane does not eat the fish though they swim about in front of it. Even the big fishes do not swallow the smaller fry.

56. On one side are all the types of meat, on the other side the meat of fish: Was this Smṛti text remembered by these (cranes) and therefore they avoid fish?

57. Even after seeing the quail, this falcon (a bird of prey) turns away its face.

It is surprising that even here (i.e. in Kāśī) Madhupas (bees, those who drink liquor) hover around with dark hearts.

58. Those who are much addicted to imbibing liquor experience the pains of hell for a long time and become Madhupas (bees) once again humming away in their ignorance (hoverings) (Bhrānti—ignorance, hovering around).

59. That is why after completely comprehending the truth about the Pināka-bearing Lord those who are conversant with the Purāṇas, thus sing a song pregnant with meaning.

60. Where is flesh and where is the devotion to Śiva! Where is liquor and where is the worship of Śiva! (What a great difference between these!) Śaṅkara stands aloof from those who are addicted to liquor and meat.

61. Without the favour of Śiva, Bhrānti (ignorance, wandering) cannot stop. That is why these bees devoid of Śiva (i.e. comprehension of the truth of Siva) hover and wander around.

62-63. Seeing thus the lower creatures moving about in the penance-grove like sages, it was understood by the gods that such a miracle had arisen from the holy shrine itself, since, even the lower creatures living here should be liberated by Viśveśvara at the time of their death by imparting the Tāraka Mantra.

64. If after realising the greatness of the holy place anyone resolves to stay here, Viśveśa redeems him, whether he be alive or dead.

65. Men of wisdom who are conversant with the secret of Avimukta (i.e., Kāśī) are liberated. Even the lower creatures without knowledge are liberated because their sins have vanished.

66. This realisation made the Devas wonder when they went within the hermitage. On seeing the flocks of birds, they rejoiced again.

67. The crane (swan) has rested his neck on the neck of the goose. We think, it is not sleeping but meditating on Viśveśvara.

68. The female swan scratches the male swan with the tip of its beak; but when he expresses his desire for mating, she wards him off by means of the fluttering wings.

69. On being held by the male ruddy goose, the female of the species appears to say in its Kreṅkita (goose like) utterance: “O foremost one among the lascivious! Why do you exhibit your sexual desire here?”

70. The pigeon from the clusters of hedges chirps sweetly but, it appears, as if it is being warded by the female pigeon saying, “The sage in meditation will hear.”

71. The peacock does not utter its Kekā sound. It keeps silent perhaps out of fear for him. The Cakora (a kind of Partridge) bird that imbibes moonlight appears silent as if to observe the Naktavrata vow (taking food only at night).

72. The Sārikā (female parrot) reciting the truth seems to address the parrot, “Śiva takes one across the sea (of worldly existence) that extends without any limit.”

73. By means of its sweet cooing sound the cuckoo seems to utter, “Kali age and Kāla (Death) do not adversely affect the persons staying in Kāśī.”

74. After observing these activities of the animals and the birds, the Devas disparaged their heaven that was subject to unexpected calamities and the sufferings thereof.

75. These birds and animals, the residents of Kāśī, are far superior, because they have no return (to the worldly existence); not so in the case of the Devas who are liable to rebirths.

76. “We the heaven-dwellers are not at all on a par with even the fallen ones residing in Kāśī. There is no fear of downfall in Kāśī but there is a great danger of downfall in heaven.

77. Residence in Kāśī with such observances as monthly fasts etc. is far better. Nowhere else can there be a kingdom free from enemies, with the extensive shade of various kinds of (royal) umbrellas.

78. The position (the final region) that is easily and sportively acquired by rabbits and mosquitoes in Kāśī cannot be acquired even by the Yogins elsewhere even through regular practice of yogic postures etc.

79. Even the beggarly wretch in Vārāṇasī is better since he is free from the fear of Yama. Not so in our case. We the Tridaśas (‘gods having only the three states of infancy, teenage and youth’) are not so, because our daśā (plight) is so miserable on account of a mountain.

80. When the eighth part of a day of Brahmā is over, the region of Indra perishes along with the Guardians of the world, Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars.

81. Even when two Parārdhas (i.e., the entire life of Brahmā) come to an end, no one staying in Kāśī perishes. Hence, one should strive for perfection and welfare in Kāśī.

82. The happiness one derives by residing in Kāśī here cannot be had in the pavilion of the whole Cosmic Egg. If that can be had, how do you account for the fact that all are desirous of residing in Kāśī?

83. The chance to reside in Kāśī here can be obtained by an exchange of all those merits that one has earned in the course of thousands of previous births.

84. Even if the chance can be had, the resident will not acquire Siddhi (fulfilment), if the Three-eye Lord were to get angry. Hence, one should always seek refuge in Viśveśvara worthy of being resorted to.

85. The four aims of life named piety, love, wealth and salvation can be had in Kāśī in their entirety. Not so anywhere else.

86. Even if one proceeds to the temple of Viśveśvara from one’s house lazily, one shall acquire more than the benefit of a horse-sacrifice at every step.

87. There is no limit to the welfare and prosperity of one who takes the holy dip in the current of the river flowing towards the north and proceeds to visit Viśveśvara with great faith.

88-93. The devotee shall attain more and more merit by the following pious activities: by visiting, touching, bathing in and drinking the waters of the celestial river (i.e., Gaṅgā); by offering Sandhyā prayers, Japas, water libations, worship of the Lord; by visiting the Pañcatīrthas (the five holy spots i.e., (i) Kapālamocana, (ii) Pāpamocana, (iii) Ṛṇamocana, (iv) Kulastaṃbha and (v) Vaitaraṇī; by visiting Viśveśvara, faithful touch and adoration, arranging for incense, lights etc., circumambulation, repetition of prayers, prostrations, dances, uttering the names of the Lord such as Devadeva, Mahādeva, Śaṃbhu, Śiva, Dhūrjaṭi, Nīlakaṇṭha, Īśa, Pinākin, Śaśiśekhara, Triśūlapāṇi, Viśveśa and imploring “Save me! Save me!”; by sitting for even half a moment in the Muktimaṇḍapikā (Pavilion of salvation); by narrating the sacred stories, listening to the Purāṇas, practising the daily routine ritualistic activities, receiving and honouring guests and helping others and such other activities.

94. Just as the moon increases digit by digit in the bright half of the month, so also the accumulation of piety of the inhabitants of Kāśī takes place step by step.

95. This Dharmavṛkṣa (‘the tree of piety’) is praiseworthy. Faith is its seed. It is watered by the water (used for) washing the feet of Brāhmaṇas. The fourteen lores are the branches. Riches constitute its flowers. The two fruits are the subtle one of salvation and the gross one of love.

96. Here Bhavānī is the bestower of all riches, Ḍhuṇḍhi (Gaṇeśa) shall get all the desires fulfilled. Here Viśveśa shall liberate all creatures at the time of death, by imparting the Mantra into the ears.

97. Dharma (Righteousness) stands on all its four feet (viz., Truth, Penance, Mercy and Religious gifts) here in Kāśī; Artha (wealth) in Kāśī is of various kinds; Kama (Love) in Kāśī is the sole base of all happiness. What is the Śreyas (salvation, welfare) elsewhere which is not in Kāśī here?

98. All these are not surprising, because where there is Viśveśvara there is nothing strange. He is the personification of piety, wealth, love and salvation for bestowal. He is of the Cosmic Form. Hence in all the three worlds, there is nothing on a par with Kāśī.”

99-101. While saying all these things, the Devas (went ahead and) saw the hut of the sage. It was full of the fragrance of the smoke arising from the Homas. There were many religious students moving around.

It was rendered beautiful by the fawns with piles of Darbha grass in their mouths, following the maidens of the penance-grove seeking handful of Śyāmāka rice.

Many wet bark-garments and loin cloths were seen hanging from the branches of the trees, thereby creating the impression that nets were kept spread all over in order to capture the deer of Vighnas (obstacles, hindrances).

102. On seeing the frontyard of the hut marked by the imprints of the feet of Lopāmudrā, the crest-jewel of chaste women, the Suras devoutly bowed down.

103-104. Agastya, the sage, had concluded his meditation and had worn the rosary around his ears. Then he occupied his Bṛsī (i.e., special seat of a sage). On seeing Agastya thus seated in front of them, appearing grand like Brahmā himself, all the Devas including Indra (bowed to him) with delighted beaming faces and uttered loudly “Be victorious! Be victorious!”

105. The sage stood up and made them occupy their seats befittingly. He greeted them with blessings. He then asked them the purpose of their visit.

Vyāsa said:

106-107. One who devoutly listens to this meritorious narrative, or reads or teaches this to those who have faith in these vows, can shake off all sir s committed knowingly or unknowingly and certainly proceeds to the city of Śiva by means of a vehicle having the colour of a swan.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

VV 6-27 describe the various ways in which the Devas propitiated those who were present in the holy shrine. It was a part of their performance of the pilgrimage to Kāśī.

[2]:

A hymn in Yajurveda in praise of Rudra.

[3]:

VV 33-57 show how even birds and beasts forgot their natural animosity and played together, due to the spiritual influence of Agastya. The same influence curbing the instinct of mating is noted in vv 67-71.

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