The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Worlds of Nirriti and Varuna which is chapter 12 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 twelfth chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 12 - The Worlds of Nirṛti and Varuṇa

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Śivaśarman said:

1. O excellent men with the forelocks rendered grey with the dust particles from the lotus-like feet of Puruṣottama (Lord Viṣṇu), describe in due order the worlds of Nirṛti and others.

The attendants said:

2. Listen, O illustrious one, about this city beyond (to the west of) Saṃyaminī. This is the city of Nirṛta, the Lord of the (South-West) Quarter. It is meritorious and is occupied by Puṇyajanas.

3. In this city, Rākṣasas who never hurt others, live. They are Rākṣasas only by birth, but by conduct they are Puṇyajanas (religious-minded).

4-10. Those who live here now were (good people on the earth with the following excellence in behaviour): They follow the path of Vedas approved in the Smṛtis. Even in regard to those born in lower castes, they never encourage the conduct of life not approved in the Smṛtis as regards food and beverages. They are averse to other men’s wives and possessions. They never trouble others. Even those born in inferior castes followed meritorious conduct of life. They nourish themselves by means of the wealth and objects acquired through devotion to the twice-born. They shrink their limbs themselves while talking to Brāhmaṇas. When summoned, they approach (Brāhmaṇas) with the ends of their clothes covering their mouths and talk thus in the presence of Brāhmaṇas. They constantly address: ‘Be victorious’, ‘Be long-lived.’ ‘Bhoganātha’ (O Lord), ‘Svāmin’ (Master) etc. They are devoted to holy ablutions in sacred spots; they are humble towards Brāhmaṇas, announcing their own names (before talking). All these good qualities contribute to the piety of everyone: self-control, liberal-mindedness, kindness, forbearance, cleanliness, restraint of the organs of sense and actions, non-stealing, truthfulness and non-violence. Wherever these people are born, they are always engaged in essential activities. Here in this world, they enjoy all the luxuries and pleasures in plenty.

11. Those who die in excellent holy spots without commit' ting suicide, enjoy the pleasures here, even if they are Mlecchas (barbarians and uncivilised people). This excludes Kāśī which accords salvation itself.

12. Those people who kill themselves will enter (the world of) blinding darkness. After experiencing the tortures in a thousand hells, they are born as village pigs.

13. Therefore, suicide should never be committed anywhere by a wise one. Nothing auspicious will befall those who kill themselves, here in this world or in the other worlds.

14. Some persons who know the truth lay down permitting death as one pleases at Prayāga that is the king of all holy spots, and that fulfills all desires.

15. Even Śūdras who follow pious and merciful practices and who invariably help others are excellent persons and they live here.

16-17. We shall describe the features of this Lord of the Quarter. Listen for a moment.

Formerly there was a king of hunters’ tribe living in the middle of the Vindhya forest. He was the most excellent one among those inhabitants of Pakkaṇas (villages of the hill tribe). This ruler of the Śabara village was very powerful and was well-known as Piṅgākṣa. He lived on the banks of the river Nirvindhyā[1]. Though strong and heroic, he was averse to cruel practices.

18. Though he might be far away, he used to kill those who were the obstructors (looters) of travellers. With special efforts, he used to hunt down tigers and other wicked (carnivorous) animals.

19-20. He maintained himself as a fowler by profession. Even in that (profession), he was merciful. He never used to kill birds and animals resting confidently, sleeping, engaged in mating, eager to drink water, very young in age or having visible signs of pregnancy. He was very pious and averse to the evil practices of the people of his caste.

21. He gave shelter to the travellers who became weary. He removed the hunger of those who were distressed with hunger. He gave footwears to those who did not have them.

22. He used to distribute among those who had no clothes, very soft deer-hides. He used to accompany and follow travellers along desolate, impassable roads in the forest.

23. He never desired to take any remuneration from them. He used to grant them freedom from fear by saying, “Upto (the boundary of) the Vindhya forest, my name should be taken (uttered) as one who removes the fear from wicked people.”

24. Everyday he used to visit pilgrims along with his son. They too blessed him at every holy spot.

25. While Piṅgākṣa remained like this, that forest became a city as it were. No powerful wayfarer attacked weak travellers out of fear of Piṅgākṣa.

26. Once, a long caravan of pilgrims equipped with many articles and making a lot of noise was heard by Piṅgākṣa’s uncle who was staying in a nearby village.

27. The fowler was covetous of the wealth of that caravan. The petty fellow attempted to kill them. He went ahead and very secretly blocked the path.

28. Because he was destined to live longer, Piṅgākṣa who had gone ahunting spent that night very near the path in that forest.

29. Let not the evil intentions of those persons who act in hatred of others become fulfilled. It is, therefore, that the universe protected by Viśveśa is happy.

30-31. Hence no wise person should have evil intention at any time. Only what is destined to happen will happen. But by having evil intentions, only sin will-result. Hence, one who wants to get the happiness of the soul should not think of good or bad. If he is to think about anything, he should think about the means of salvation and nothing else.

32. When the day dawned, there was a great hue and cry with chaotic sounds like “Kill; throw him down; make him naked; O soldiers, be quick.”

33-35. “O soldiers, do not kill. Save us; we are pilgrims. You can easily rob us. Take away whatever we have. We are travellers without leaders. We depend upon Viśvanātha. We have our saviour in him. But he is far off. Who else can be our protector even if we pray for it? We had faith in Piṅgākṣa. Therefore, we always travel to and fro on this path without any fear from anywhere. But he is far away from this forest.”

36. On hearing this utterance of the pilgrims, Piṅgākṣa, the hero, came there from a distance saying: “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.”

37. The Bhilla (tribal man, here Piṅgākṣa), fond of the pilgrims, hastened to that place in a trice like their own long life.

38. (He said:) “What is this atrocious act? What is this, while I Piṅgākṣa, am alive? Who is desirous of robbing and killing the travellers, who are like the Liṅgas, my vital breath?”

39. On hearing these words, Tārākṣa, his sinful uncle, thought evil of Piṅgākṣa out of avarice for wealth.

40. (He thought thus:) ‘This defiler of the family is behaving like this, discarding the traditional practice of the family. I have been thinking about it for a long time. Today, I shall certainly get him killed.’

41. After thinking thus that wicked one angrily commanded his servants, “You should kill this man at the outset, then the pilgrims.”

42-44. Thereupon, all those evil-doers fought with him who was alone. (Piṅgākṣa) somehow took those pilgrims near his abode. (By that time) his bows and arrows were broken and his body was wounded with arrows. Then he wished thus in his mind, ‘If only I had been powerful, I would have killed these.’ Thinking thus he discarded his life for the sake of others. Those pilgrims too (somehow) reached the colony of hunters and became free from fear.

45. The fate (after death) conforms with the thought that is foremost at the time of death. Hence, the lord of the hunters attained the lordship of the quarter in the South-West and became the lord of Nairṛtas (Puṇyajanas).

46. Thus the form and features of this (Nirṛti) have been narrated to you by us. The world beyond this is the wonderful world of Varuṇa.

47. Those who dig wells, tanks and lakes in this world are honoured in Varuṇa-Loka. They have the same refulgence as that of Varuṇa.

48-56. (The following meritorious persons can attain the region of Varuṇa:) Those who give water during drought (or in a waterless region); those who remove other persons’ distress; those who give various kinds of umbrellas and waterpots to the persons who request for them; those who construct free waterstalls (where wayfarers are given water for drinking) with the equipment of all essential utensils and articles (that improve the quality and taste of the water supplied); those who offer free of charge, pots filled with sweet-smelling water; those who regularly water the holy fig tree; those who grow trees along the pathways; those who build rest-houses and waiting halls; those who remove the distress of the weary travellers; those who distribute in the beginning of summer hand-fans of various kinds and colours, embellished with peacock feathers and capable of dispelling the heat of summer; those who, in the summer season, scrupulously give beverages, sweet-smelling, juicy and icy cool, to complete satiety of the travellers; those who perform the Saṃkalpa rite and place at the disposal of Brāhmaṇas, fields of sugarcane as well as many different varieties of sugarcane products; those who give milk products, cows and buffaloes; those who make Dhārāmaṇḍapas (water stalls mechanically showering water); those who erect Chāyāmaṇḍapas (cool shady groves); those who make arrangements in the temple for many Dhārāgalantikās (water-pitchers with holes in the bottom through which water-drops fall down on the image or Liṅga kept below); those who remove dust and sweep holy spots; those who water and clean the pathways in holy spots; those who lift their hands and offer freedom from fear to those who are frightened. All these people stay fearlessly and shine remarkably in Varuṇa Loka.

57. They who remove the ropes around the necks of (innocent people) tied by evil-doers, live in this world of Pāśapāṇi (Varuṇa) as meritorious persons without fear from anywhere.

58. Those who take travellers across the rivers etc., by means of boats and other means of transport, O Brāhmaṇa, became citizens here, redeeming (people) from the ocean of misery.

59. Those men who make landing places and steps on the banks of holy rivers by means of slabs of stones and bricks to provide convenience to those who want to take water, enjoy here.

60. Those meritorious persons who dispel the thirst of the thirsty (travellers) by means of cool waters, enjoy series of pleasures in Varuṇa Loka.

61. This Pracetā (Varuṇa) is the sole and chief lord of all waterways and receptacles; he is the lord of aquatic beings and the witness of all (our) activities.

62-63. Listen to the origin of the noble-souled Varuṇa, the lord of this world. There was a sage of immeasurable (very large-hearted) soul, well-known as Śuciṣmān. He was the son of Kardama, the Prajāpati. He was very humble and polite by habit. He was enriched by good qualities such as steadfastness, sweetness, courage etc. He was beneficent to all.

64. He went to a lake of pure waters in order to take his bath along with other boys. While he was engaged in aquatic sports an alligator carried him away.

65. When the son of the sage was taken away, the other children came there and recounted to his father the great calamity.

66. His mind did not stray away from Lord Śiva, although he heard about the calamity that befell the son, as he was seated ready for the worship of Hara and kept his mind unmoved in concentration.

67-69. He pondered over the three-eyed, omniscient lord all the more. Near Śaṃbhu, he saw the fourteen worlds, various kinds of living beings within the Cosmic Egg, the Moon, the Sun, the stars, mountains, rivers, trees, promontories, seas, groups of forests, lakes, many kinds of godly beings, many cities of heaven-dwellers.

70-75. (He saw) tanks, wells, lakes, rivulets and many lotus ponds. In a certain lake somewhere there were many sons of sages engaged in playing about in water, sometimes submerging and sometimes emerging, showering one another with water columns splashed by their own hands, as though through mechanical contrivances, the sound of their beating the water reverberating through the quarters and indulging in various other sorts of sports. In their midst, Kardama who was in the state of Samādhi (contemplation) saw his child being taken away by an alligator in a greatly excited state. He then saw that the child was forcibly seized from that cruel aquatic being by a certain water nymph and handed over to the Ocean. The Lord of the rivers was rebuked by a certain Trident-bearing Spirit in the form of Rudra, whose face was copper-coloured due to anger in the following words:

76-80. “O lord of Jala (water, stupid persons), without knowing the power of Śiva, how is it that the boy of a devotee of Śiva, Kardama, the illustrious, intelligent Prajāpati, was kept by you for a long time?”

On hearing these words, the Ocean was frightened; he found that alligator, adorned that child with jewels, brought him near the lotus-like feet of Śaṃbhu and handed him over. After bowing down to him he submitted: “O Lord, I am not guilty. O Viśveśa, O lord of orphans, O destroyer of the calamities of the devotees, O Śaṃbhu, O wish-yielding Kalpa tree unto the devotees, this child of a devotee of yours was brought by this wicked aquatic being and not by me.”

81. Understanding the desire of Śaṃbhu, that Gaṇa (attendant) tied that aquatic being with a rope and handed it over to the child.

82-85. While the Pārṣada (the attendant) was saying at the behest of Śaṅkara, “O dear one, take this son of yours. Go to your house,” Kardama, the liberal-minded (sage), heard all this at the time of his contemplation. He gave up his contemplation and opened his eyes. As he looked on, he saw the child in front of him holding the alligator at his side. His ears were adorned. His forelocks were wet with water. The extremities of his eyes were reddish brown in colour. He was a bit less smooth (in his body). The skin was throbbing and the whole mind was perturbed.

86. When the child bowed down, he embraced him and sniffed the lotus-like face. Looking over the child repeatedly, he considered him born again as it were.

87. While Kardama was engaged in contemplation and worship of Śaṃbhu, five hundred years elapsed.

88. Kardama felt that period to be momentary, because Kāla (Time) does not operate in the presence of Mahākāla.

89. Then the son took leave of him and bowed down to his father. Then he hastened to the glorious city of Vārāṇasī for performing penance.

90. There he installed the Liṅga of Śaṃbhu and performed a terrible penance. For five thousand years, he remained motionless like a stone.

91. Mahādeva who was delighted with his penance, appeared before him and said: “O scion of the family of Kardama, say what excellent boon shall I grant to you?”

Kārdama said:

92. O Lord compassionate to devotees, if you are pleased, grant me the overlordship of all waters and aquatic beings.

93. On hearing this, the great Lord, the bestower of all wishes, crowned him there in the great position of Varuṇa.[2]

94-95. “Be the overlord of all jewels issuing from the ocean, of the rivers, of the lakes, of the puddles, of all water-sources, nay of all those places where water collects and also of the Western quarter. Be the favourite of all gods. You shall be called Pāśapāṇi (‘having noose in the hand’).

96. I shall grant you another boon beneficial to all. This Liṅga, installed by you, will be known after your name.

97. It will become famous as Varuṇeśa. It will be the bestower of excellent powers in the city of Vārāṇasī. It shall be stationed in the south-west direction of Maṇikarṇeśa Liṅga.

98. When propitiated it shall always be the destroyer of sluggishness of all persons. Those who are devotees of Varuṇeśa, will never have any fear from waters.

99. Never will they have fear from distress and heat, nor premature or accidental death. They need not be afraid of dropsy or acute thirst.

100. Foods and beverages devoid of good taste will become juicy and tasty by remembering Varuṇeśvara. No doubt need be entertained in this regard.”

101-102. After saying this Śaṃbhu vanished. Varuṇa adorning this world ever since then, has stayed here, O Brāhmaṇa. Thus the nature of Varuṇaloka has been explained to you, on hearing which no man anywhere is afflicted by evil dangers.

Footnotes and references:


Modern Newuj, a tributary of Chambal.


Mbh, Ādi 65.15 differs. There Varuṇa is the son of Kaśyapa and Aditi. He is one of the twelve Ādityas.

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