The Skanda Purana
by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes The Regions of Celestial Damsels and of the Sun which is chapter 9 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 ninth chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Chapter 9 - The Regions of Celestial Damsels and of the Sun
[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]
1. Who are these ladies, the storehouse of beauty, radiance and conjugal bliss, wearing divine ornaments and enjoying divine pleasures?
The attendants said:
2. These are the glamorous courtesans, the beloved ones of the Devas. They are conversant with music, experts in dance and very efficient in the art of playing musical instruments.
3. They are adepts in the art of love making; very clever at the game of dice. They appreciate the beauty of things. They understand the innermost feelings of others. They are very clever in suitable repartees.
4. They are experts in knowing the specialities of different countries and have mastery over the languages spoken in different lands. They are skilful in probing secret news. They move about delightfully at their sweet will in groups, and not alone.
5. They are experts in coquettish gestures exciting amorous feelings and expressions of love and amorous sports. They are adept in continuous light talk. They always delight the minds of the youths through their coquettish gestures and seductive charms.
6. Formerly these celestial ladies emerged from the Milk-Ocean while it was being churned. They are the fascinating weapons of the mind-born god of Love, the conqueror of the three worlds.
7-12. They are: Urvaśī, Menakā, Raṃbhā, Candralekhā, Tilottamā, Vapuṣmatī, Kāntimatī, Lilāvatī, Utpalavatī, Alaṃbuṣā, Guṇavatī, Sthūlakeśī, Kalāvatī, Kalānidhi, Guṇanidhi, Karpūratilakā, Urvarā, Anaṅgalatikā, Madanamohinī, Cakorākṣī, Candrakalā, Munimanoharā, Grāvadrāvā, Tapodveṣṭrī, Cārunāsā, Sukarṇikā, Dārusañjīvinī, Suśrī, Kratuśulkā of splendid countenance, Tapaḥśulkā, Tīrthamedhikā, Rājasūyārthinī, Aṣṭāgnihomikā, Vājapeyaśatodbhavā.
These celestial damsels number sixty thousand.
13. In this world of celestial damsels other women too live. Their radiance never fades and dims. Their youth never diminishes.
14. Their garments are divine; their garlands are celestial; their scents and unguents are divine; they are richly endowed with heavenly means of enjoyments; they can assume any form they like.
15-16. (Some women in the world) observe the monthly fasts but violate the vow of celibacy once, twice or thrice as
ill-luck would have it. It is such women who come to Apsarāloka and stay there enjoying divine pleasures and possessing the rich beauty and refulgence. They realize all their desires.
17. After following the holy vows and observances in accordance with the injunctions along with their ancillaries with a view to obtain their desires, some ladies become adulteresses. Such women come to this world as the objects of enjoyment of the Devas.
18. There are some women of great fidelity but some powerful man might have raped them and they might have enjoyed sexual dalliance with him, wrongly taking him to be their husband. Such women are these, O Brāhmaṇa.
19. When the husbands were away from the homes, some women who had always been observing celibacy, may by chance or due to cruel fate err and fall. These are such ladies of beautiful eyes.
20-25. There are various things to be given as gifts such as sweet-smelling flowers; fragrant sandal-paste; exquisitely white camphor; garments of very fine texture; betel leaves that are symmetrical and long, that are ripe and firm, that have golden hue at the tips, that have thick and blue nerve-like lines running through and that are accompanied by sweet-smelling nuts and other ingredients; beds with various kinds of ornaments; all fanciful objects befitting the chamber of love-play and other things too. A lady of excellent complexion should honour a Brāhmaṇa couple and give them the gifts mentioned above. This gift of objects of pleasure is something to be desired. At the time of the monthly transit of the Sun or on the days of Vyatīpāta (New Moon in combination with Sunday), these gifts should be made and continued for a year. The lady should repeat the Mantra (“ko’ dāt, kasmā adāt, kāmāyādāt kāmo dātā, kāmaḥ pratigrahītā, kāma etatte”) (of the Vedas) (or any other similar Mantra) and say “May the Lord in the form of god of Love be pleased” and give the things to the Brāhmaṇa couple. She will become the most excellent one among the celestial damsels and stay there for a Kalpa.
26-27. A beautiful virgin was carnally enjoyed somewhere by someone in the form of a Deva. Ever since then that girl continued to be celibate meditating upon the same incident (and not marrying anyone else). That girl attains a divine form and is born here sharing divine pleasures.
28-32. Hearing the origin of the Apsarāloka (the region of Apsarās) in this manner the eminent Brāhmaṇa reached the Solar World in a moment, travelling in an aerial chariot.
Due to the rays of the Sun, the world was shining brilliantly all round like a Kadaṃba flower surrounded by its filaments.
From a distance he saw the Sun sporting two lotuses. He could know that it was the Sun through the wonderful fast chariot of a single wheel drawn by seven horses. It was nine thousand Yojanas in size. It was driven by Anūru who held the reins in front. The celestial damsels, sages, Gandharvas, serpents, Yakṣas and Rākṣasas were there. Then he joined his palms in reverence and bowed down.
33. Lord Sun acknowledged his obeisance with a slight knitting of the eyebrows and traversed a great distance along the path of the sky in a moment.
34-35. When the Sun had gone afar, Śivaśarman joyously spoke to the devotees of the Lord: “How is the region of the Sun to be attained? I wish to hear this. Kindly recount it to me. Friendship among good people is created by a mere exchange of seven words. Urged by friendship for me, you should narrate the same to me.”
The attendants said:
36. Listen, O Brāhmaṇa of great intellect. There is nothing that should not be spoken to you. It is through the contact of the good people that a good discourse takes place.
37-39. The Absolute Being is the controller of all living beings. It is the ultimate cause. It is nameless and devoid of a family. It has no form or anything like that. The manifestation and the disappearance (of the universe) takes place when his brows move. That absolute source or originator of the Vedas, the immanent soul of all says thus: “It is clear that I am identical with the Puruṣa (Person, Being) who is in the Āditya (Sun). Those who worship another being (deity) enter blinding darkness.”
40-41. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, Brāhmaṇas comprehend the meaning of this irrefutable Vedic passage and worship that single Being. He who, having acquired the great deity in the form of the Sun, does not worship it thrice a day, undoubtedly falls in seven days.
42. The devotee should continue (to stand) repeating the Japa while facing the Sun in the morning as long as the disk of the Sun rises up half. In the evening he should perform the Japa silently sitting down till the stars appear (in the sky).
43. The devotee should continue the Japa even as the setting Sun is present in the sky. During midday he should repeat the Japa facing the Sun. The time should not be missed. It should rather be waited for.
44. Plants bear fruit at the proper time. Trees bloom at the proper time. Clouds shower at the proper time. Hence one should not transgress the proper time (of performing Sandhyā prayer).
45. At the time of his rise and setting, the Sun wishes for three handfuls of water inspired by the Mantra and offered by the Brāhmaṇas, for the purpose of the destruction of the demons named Mandehas.
46. Is it not equivalent to the gift of three worlds if three handfuls of water sanctified by the Gāyatrī Mantra are offered to the Sun at the stipulated time?
47-48. Worshipped duly at the proper time, what is it that the Sun does not yield? He bestows long life, good health, prosperity, wealth with cattle, friends, sons, wives, different kinds of fields, the eight types of pleasurable things (viz. sweet scents, women, garments, music, betel-chewing, foodstuff, vehicles and mansions, heavenly pleasures and salvation).
49-50. Among the eighteen esteemed lores, Mīmāṃsā is the greatest; the system of logic is still greater; Purāṇa is greater than it; Dharmaśāstras are still greater, O Brāhmaṇa. The Śruti is greater than they; the Upaniṣad is still greater and Gāyatrī is superior to it.
51. Among all the Mantras, Gāyatrī with Praṇava is the most rare and hence worthy of respect. No Mantra greater than Gāyatrī is sung in the Vedas.
52. It is true. It is true again and again that there is no Mantra on a par with Gāyatrī. There is no city equal to Kāśī. There is no Liṅga on a par with Viśveśa.
53. Gāyatrī is the mother of the Vedas. Gāyatrī gives births to Brāhmaṇas. Since it saves him who sings (performs Japa of) it, it is described as Gāyatrī.
54. The relationship between the two, the Sun and Gāyatrī is that of the word and the object signified by it. Gāyatrī is the great expression and the Sun is the expressed object.
55. It is through the power of Gāyatrī that Kauśika (Viśvāmitra), the Kṣatriya of good control over his sense-organs, discarded his status as a royal sage and attained the status of a Brāhmaṇa sage.
56. He attained another miraculous power of high order, i.e. that of creating a new world. What is it that Gāyatrī served and resorted to very well in this manner, does not bestow?
57. A man becomes a Brāhmaṇa neither by reciting the Vedas nor by learning philosophical texts. One becomes a Brāhmaṇa by repeated utterance of the goddess (i.e., Gāyatrī). Indeed not otherwise.
58. Gāyatrī alone is the great Viṣṇu; Gāyatrī alone is the great Śiva; Gāyatrī alone is the great Brahmā. Therefore, Gāyatrī alone is the triad of Vedas (which are identical with Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva).
59. That Lord, the creater of the day (i.e. Sun) with rays as a garland, is identical with the triad of the Devas. He is the mass of all lustres. He is Time, the prime mover of time.
60. Residents of our world (i.e., Vaikuṇṭha) who can discriminate between what is essential and what is non-essential, always cite this Śruti with the Sun in view.
61. This refulgent one penetrates all quarters and interior of quarters (sideways, above and below). He is without beginning or end. He is within the womb of the mother. He is the born. He will be the born. O people, he stands pervading every object with faces everywhere (like the Puruṣa of the Puruṣa Sūkta—Com.)
62. Those who are active and alert and worship the Sun with the hymns pertaining to the Sun (Saura hymns) constantly and those who bow down, are the real Brāhmaṇas and those Brāhmaṇas are on a par with the Sun.
63. Whatever task is undertaken on a Sunday in conjunction with the constellation of Puṣya, Hasta, Mūla or Uttarā does become fruitful and not otherwise.
64-65. The devotee observing holy vows should take his holy bath at sunrise on a Sunday in the month of Pauṣa, and perform the rites of Dana (gift), Homa and Japa. He should adore the Sun with faith and devotion. He should be free from lust and anger. He shall thereby become brilliant and live here along with the celestial damsels enjoying all pleasures.
66-69. Liberal gifts should be made at the time of the Ayana (i.e. during the transit of the Sun to the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn). Viṣuva days (equinoxes of Meṣa and Tulā), Ṣaḍaśīti etc. (during the transit of the Sun in Dhanus, Mithuna, Kanyā and Mīna Zodiacs) and Viṣṇupadī (i.e. during the transit to Vṛścika, Vṛṣa, Siṃha and Kuṃbha Zodiacs).
Gingelly seeds soaked in ghee should be used for Homa. Brāhmaṇas should be fed. Śrāddha should be performed with the manes in view.
Great Pūjās should be performed and great Mantras should be repeated. Those scholars who do like this attain the world of the Sun and get a lustre on a par with that of the Sun.
Those who perform devotional rites during the transit of the Sun to the various Zodiacs, never become poor, distressed, afflicted with ailments, ugly or unfortunate.
70-71. If gifts are not made, holy bath is not taken in the sacred waters, special Homa is not performed with gingelly seeds soaked in ghee from the milk of a tawny-coloured cow, the men guilty thereof, shall become blind and very poor and will be uttering piteously beseeching “Give, give” at every door wearing rags.
72. A blessed man who makes a gift of a gold piece even as small as a Guñjā berry at the time of solar eclipse in Kurukṣetra shall become meritorious and stay here.
73. When the Sun is swallowed by Rāhu (i.e., during solar eclipse) all waters are on a par with Gaṅgā, all Brāhmaṇas are on a par with Brahmā and everything gifted equal with gold.
74. Whatever holy thing is performed by way of gifts, Japas, Hoṃas, holy baths, Śrāddha etc., at the time of solar eclipse shall be the cause of the presence of the Sun-god.
75. If the transit of the Sun falls on a Sunday or if there is a solar eclipse then, the merit acquired at that time becomes never-ending.
76. If the Sunday coincides with sixth or seventh lunar day and a meritorious holy rite is performed, then that will be enjoyed here itself.
[Seventy names of the Sun god]
92. Thus, O excellent one, an aspect of the Solar world has been recounted. Who can comprehend the special characteristics of this (god), the storehouse of great refulgence.
93. Having attentively listened to this meritorious story, (the Brāhmaṇa) espied the great city of Mahendra soon.
94. By listening to this story pertaining to the Sun along with that of the world of Apsarās, the devotee will never be afflicted with poverty. He will never engage himself in unrighteous activities.
95-96. This excellent narrative should always be listened to by Brāhmaṇas. It accords the merit that accrues from Vedic study and recitation.
Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas listening to this excellent chapter abandon all their sins here, and attain the excellent goal.
Footnotes and references:
This Mantra is untraced in Lanman’s standard Vedic Concordance. Probably, it is a Purāṇic Mantra.
VV 49-58 extol the importance of the Gāyatrī Mantra.