The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Gandhavati and Alaka which is chapter 13 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 thirteenth chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 13 - Gandhavatī and Alakā

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The attendants said:

1. Look at this meritorious city, Gandhavatī of Vāyu, O Brāhmaṇa, the storehouse of great fortune. It is stationed to the north of Vāruṇī (Varuṇa’s capital).

2. In this world lives Prabhañjana, the vital breath of the universe, the Lord of the (North-Western) quarter. It was by propitiating Śrīmahādeva that he achieved the guardianship of the quarter.

3-4. Formerly, the son of Kaśyapa, well known as Pūtātmā[1], performed a profound and elaborate penance in Vārāṇasī, the capital city of Dhūrjaṭi. The illustrious one had installed the great and holy Liṅga named Pavaneśvara and performed penance for ten thousand centuries.

5. Merely by viewing this (Liṅga), a man shall become a purified soul. Eschewing the garment of sins, he shall stay in the city of Pavana.

6. Thereafter, due to his fierce penance, Śiva, the bestower of the benefit of austerities, the great lord in the form of Jyotis (Refulgence), manifested himself from the Liṅga.

7-8. The ocean of the nectarine juice of Karuṇā (mercy) (Śiva), said with delighted mind: “Rise. Get up, O virtuous Pūtātman, choose your boon. As a reward of this severe penance and the propitiation of the Liṅga, O Pūtātman, there is nothing that cannot be granted to you in all the three worlds consisting of mobile and immobile beings.”

Pūtātmā said:

9. O Great lord, O Lord of the Devas, O bestower of freedom from fear unto the Devas, O bestower of the positions to all the Devas including Brahma, Nārāyaṇa, Indra and others!

10. O Lord, the Vedas do not know of which nature you are. Though they have attained a hundred pathways (Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa of the Vājasaneyins of the Yajurveda school), they repeatedly say ‘neti neti’ (not this, not this).

11. You are not an object of the words of (i.e. cannot be described by) Brahmā and Viṣṇu or even Vākpati (Bṛhaspati). O Lord, how can a man like me be capable of eulogizing Pramatheśa (‘the lord of the Pramathas—spirits’).

12. O Lord, my devotion to you compels to eulogize you. What can I do, O Lord of the universe? The sense-organs are not under my control.

13. There is no difference between you and the universe, because you are one and omnipresent. You alone are the one to be eulogized, the eulogizer and the piece of eulogy. You are both possessed of attributes and attributeless as well.

14. Before creation you were one and single, devoid of form and name. Even Yogins do not comprehend your real nature (which is beyond the ken of words and mind).

15. O Lord moving independently, since you could not by remaining single sport about, therefore your Icchā (Divine Will) took its origin, that became your Śakti that is dependent on you.

16. (Though) you are single you became twin-natured as Śiva and Sākti. You are the Lord in the form of knowledge; and your Icchā is in the form of Śakti.

17. By both of you, Śiva and Śakti was created Kriyāśakti through your own sport; therefrom (arose) this entire universe.

18. O lord, you are the Jñānaśakti (‘the power of knowledge’); Umā is regarded as Icchāśakti (‘the power of will’); this universe is Kriyāśakti (‘the power of activity’); therefore you are the cause thereof.

19. Your right part of the body is Vidhi (Brahmā) and your left part is Acyuta (Viṣṇu); the Moon, the Sun and fire constitute your eyes; the three Vedas are your exhaled breath.

20-21. The storehouses of water (i.e. oceans) originate from your perspiration; the wind is your ear; your arms are the ten quarters; Brāhmaṇas are remembered as your face; the excellent kings are your arms; Vaiśyas are born out of your thighs; O Īśāna, Śūdras are born of your feet; O lord, the clouds are your hairs.

22. You in the form of the Puruṣa and Prakṛti, formerly created the Cosmic Egg. This entire universe consisting of mobile and immobile beings is within the Cosmic Egg.

23. Hence, O Lord in the form of the universe, I don’t consider anything different from you. All the living beings are in you. You are in the form of all living beings.

24. Obeisance to you, obeisance to you, obeisance to you, again and again, obeisance, obeisance. O Lord, this alone is the boon. Let my mind be stabilised in you.

25. When Pūtātman said thus, the Lord of Devas, assigned to him the state of being his own form and allotted to him the post of the Guardian of the Quarter.

26. “As a form of mine you will be all-pervader and knower of all principles. You alone will be the main form (or feature) of the life of all.

27. Those men who see this divine Liṅga of yours will become richly endowed with all pleasures; they will enjoy happiness in your world.

28-30. If a man, at least once in the course of his life adores the Pavamāneśvara Liṅga, in accordance with the injunctions, by bathing it with sweet scents etc., and with flowers and sweet-smelling sandal-paste, he is honoured in my world.

The Liṅga is stationed to the west of Jyeṣṭheśa and north of Vāyukuṇḍa. One who propitiates the Pavamāna Liṅga becomes purified instantaneously.”

After granting the boons thus, the Lord merged himself into that Liṅga.

The attendants said:

31-32. Thus the characteristic form of the city of Gandhavatī has been explained to you. To the east thereof is this glorious and prosperous city of Alakā of Kubera. The lord of this city has acquired the friendship of Śaṃbhu through loyal devotion. Through the worship of Hara (Śiva) he became the donor and enjoyer of the treasures, the chief of whom is Padma.

Śivaśarman said:

33-34. Who is he? Whose (son) is he? Of what nature is his devotion to Sadāśiva? Whereby did he attain the friendship of Dhūrjaṭi, the Lord of Devas? Thus my mind wishes to hear about the fact that has reached my ears. My mind is steady, because it is satisfied due to the appreciation of your nectarlike words.

The attendants said:

35-36. O very wise Śivaśarman, the master of excessively pure sense-organs, who have washed off all the great sins of all the births in the excellent holy spots and rivers! There is nothing that cannot be said to you, a friend full of love. Conversation with good people is conducive to the increase of all excellences and benefits.

37. In the city of Kāṃpilya[2], there was a Dīkṣita named Yajñadatta who was an expert in the technique of the performance of Yajñas and he was born in the family of those who had performed Somayāgas.

38. He knew the Vedas, Vedāṅgas and meanings of the Vedic texts. He was an expert in the pious practices mentioned (in the Scriptures). He was honoured even by the kings. He was wealthy and munificent.

39. He was engaged in maintaining sacrificial fire. He was devoted to the study of the Vedas. His son Guṇanidhi[3] had features similar to those of the disc of the moon.

40. After he was invested with the sacred thread, he acquired knowledge of many branches of learning but, unknown to his father he became fond of the game of dice.

41. He regularly took much money from his mother and gave it to gamesters with whom he cultivated friendship.

42. He eschewed all Brāhmaṇical pious practices. He became averse to holy ablutions during the Sandhyās (dawn, noon and dusk). He censured the Vedas and scriptures, Devas and Brāhmaṇas.

43. Devoid of the regular practice of the rites enjoined in the Smṛtis, he adopted singing and playing musical instruments as a pastime; he had intimate friends among dancers, heretics and cheats.

44-47. Though urged by the mother, he never went near his father. Whenever Dīkṣita who had been busy with the other domestic activities asked his wife, “O dear, Guṇanidhi is never seen by me in the house. Where does he go? What does he do?” she used to reply: “Just now he has gone out after taking his bath and worshipping the Devas so long. After memorising the lessons, he has gone out along with two or three of his friends for further study.” Thus the mother who had only one son, used to deceive the Dīkṣita.

48-50. The Dīkṣita was not aware of any of his activities, or his behaviour. He performed the rite of tonsure (of his son) during the sixteenth year and then the marriage ceremony in accordance with the injunctions of the Gṛhya texts. Everyday the mother of great affectionate heart used to admonish the son Guṇanidhi gently. “It is enough if I say that your father is one of bad temper. If he knows your behaviour, he will thrash you and me.

51. I am concealing your vicious activities from your father. Your father commands the respect of all people, not because of wealth, but because of his pious practices.

52. O my son, good learning and association with good people constitute the wealth of Brāhmaṇas. The Dīkṣitas are good Brāhmaṇas well-versed in the Vedas and all lores. They regularly perform Somayāgas.

53. Your grandfather and ancestors have attained celebrity due to this. (Hence) abandon evil practices and association with the vicious. Be engaged in having close contact with the good

54-55. Divert your mind towards good learning. Practise the rites of Brāhmaṇas. This (girl) is worthy of you in all respects, in beauty, age, family and behaviour. You are not yet twenty and she is sixteen years old. Dear Guṇanidhi, your wife is chaste and sweet-voiced.

56. Protect this well-behaved girl. Be affectionate and devoted to your father. Your father-in-law too is worthy of honour and esteem everywhere on account of his good qualities and habits.

57. Therefore, why don’t you feel ashamed? O my child, abandon viciousness. Your maternal uncles, O my son, are unrivalled in learning, habits, descent and such other things.

58. You are thus pure on account of the two families. You are not afraid of them also. Look at the Brāhmaṇa boys of the neighbourhood.

59-61. Even in our house look at these disciples of your father. How humble and polite they are! Dear son, if the king hears about your vicious habits, he will lose confidence in your father and deprive him of his livelihood. Till today the people were saying: ‘Oh! Its only childishness.’ Later they will laugh at us. Let the status of Dīkṣita be maintained. All of them will disdain and ridicule your Brāhmaṇa father and me.

62-67a. They will rebuke me saying, ‘The son adopts the habits of his mother.’ Your father is not at all a sinner. Is he not following the paths of Śrutis and Smṛtis? Lord Śiva is witness unto me whose mind is intimately devoted to his feet. No face of a vicious man has been seen by me after the menstrual bath. Indeed the fate that caused your birth is powerful.”

Every now and then he used to be admonished by his mother thus. Still that infatuated fellow did not give up his evil habit, because an indulgent fellow cannot be taught sense. Who is not undone and ruined here by vices such as hunting, drinking wine, slander-mongering, whoring, thieving, playing games of dice and chasing other men’s wives?

Whatever the wicked fellow saw in the house, even base metals and clothes, he took it away and handed over to the gamesters.

67b-70. Once, while his mother was sleeping, he took away his father’s ring set with nine jewels and handed it over to a gamester. Later, once, when the father was returning from the royal palace, the ring was found in the hand of the gamester and recognised by the Dīkṣita who asked him, “From where did your get this ring?” On being repeatedly asked by him he said, “Why do you insult me openly, O Brāhmaṇa? Has this ring been obtained by me stealthily? This has been given to me by your son.

71-73. On the previous day he had won my(?) mother’s (embroidered) Saree and taken it away. It is not to me alone that he has given the ring. Much money has been given by him to the other gamesters too. Jewels, base metals, silk cloths, golden vases etc. too have been given away by him. So also vessels of various kinds made of brass and copper. When stripped, the gamesters pledge many things daily.

74-76. In the entire world, O Brāhmaṇa, there has never been such a gamester as he till today. How is it that the fact that your son is a crest-jewel among gamesters, has not been known by you till today? He is proficient in discourteous and immodest behaviour.”

On hearing this, the Brāhmaṇa hung down his head due to the weight of shame. He covered his head with a cloth and entered his abode. He made his chaste wife sit down and said to her:

77-78. “O Dīkṣita’s wife! Where are you and where is your son Guṇanidhi? Or let him go. Of what use is he? Where is that excellent ring of mine?

At the time of massaging my body with oil, that ring was removed by you from my finger. Fetch me that ring of nine jewels quickly.”

79-81. On hearing these words of his, the wife of the Dīkṣita became frightened, but she said: “Kindly conclude your midday rites. I am busily engaged in getting things ready for the adoration of the Lord. You are fond of guests; it is possible that there may be delay in getting things ready for the guests.

Just now I had placed it in some pot somewhere, as I was busy in preparing the sweet-pudding. I don’t know where I have forgotten it.”

Dīkṣita said:

82-83. O mother of an excellent son, ever speaking the truth, whenever I ask where your son has gone, you invariably reply, “O Lord, he has been memorising lessons; now he has gone out for further study along with two or three friends.”

84. O my wife, where is that red petticoat given by me which used to be suspended from the rope holding clothes? Tell me the truth. Do not be afraid.

85. That gold-vase embellished with jewels is not to be seen now. Where is that Tripaṭī (special silk robe of distinction with three-folds) presented by the king?

86. Where is that southern brass vessel? Where is that copper pot from Gauḍa country? Where is that fancy bedstead of ivory?

87. Where is that big statue made of lunar crystals brought from the mountainous region, with a girl holding a lamp?

88. Of what use is too much of talk? O lady born of a noble family, it is futile to be angry with you. I shall take food when I marry again (I won’t accept food from you).

89. I have no son in him, that wicked wretch who has defiled the family. Get up, bring water and Darbha grass. I shall offer him libation with gingelly seeds and water.

90. It is better for a man to be issueless rather than have a vicious son defiling the family. This is the eternal good policy. A person shall abandon one for the sake of the family.

91. The Dīkṣita took his bath, concluded his daily rite and on that very day took the hand (in marriage) of the daughter of a Brāhmaṇa well-versed in the Vedas.

92. The son of the Dīkṣita heard what had happened. He cursed his earlier activity and set out (from the house) going towards some direction.

93. He went into deep reflection and became worried: ‘Where shall I go? What shall I do? I am not a learned man. Nor do I have ready cash.

94. In an alien land, a man with ready cash and a learned man enjoy happiness. But the man with ready cash has to fear a thief, though the learned man has nothing to fear from anywhere.

95. How incongruous: This is my birth in the family of those who regularly perform Yajñas on one side and this is my indulgence in vices on the other. Alas, the fate is all-powerful! It is what decides one’s future.

96. I do not know how to beg. I have no acquaintance here anywhere. Nor do I possess any wealth. What shall be my refuge?

97. My mother used to give me ample good food always even before sunrise. Whom shall I request? That mother of mine is not here.’

98-99. Even as he was reflecting thus, the sun set. In the meantime a certain man, a devotee of Maheśvara came out of the city with a great deal of foodstuffs as presents in order to worship Īśāna after his fast during Śivarātri.

100. Inhaling the sweet scent of puddings and sweetmeat that hungry fellow followed him hopefully thinking, ‘This foodstuff should be taken by me after it has been offered to Śiva at night.’

101. With this wishful thought, he sat near the entrance to the temple of Śiva. He witnessed the great adoration performed by that devotee.

102. After concluding the dances and songs, all the devotees went to sleep. Then he entered the sanctum sanctorum in order to take the Naivedya (i.e., the foodstuff).

103. When he found the lamp dim, he tore a piece of his cloth, turned it into a wick and lit it brightly in order to see the sweetmeats.

104. He took the sweets and was hurriedly coming out, when hit by the sole of his foot, one of those sleeping persons woke up.

105-106. “Who is this? Who is this man in a hurry? Let this thief be caught.” By the time he could say this, the city guards came there and struck him as he was fleeing. In a moment he fell down dead. Because of the power of the future merit, he did not eat the Naivedya offering.

107. With nooses and hammers in their hands, the formidable soldiers of Yama bound him and went about to take him to Saṃyaminī.

108. By that time the trident-bearing attendants of Śiva came there with a divine chariot embellished with strings of tinkling bells in order to take him away.

109. On seeing the attendants of Śaṃbhu, the servants of Yama became frightened. After bowing down they said: “Oh Gaṇas, this Brāhmaṇa is vicious in his habits.

110. He violated the noble practices of the family. He was averse to the words of advice of his parents. He swerved from the path of truth and purity. He remained without holy ablution during the Sandhyās.

111. Let his activities be kept apart. He took away the Nirmālya (remnants of adoration) of Śiva which you have seen directly. He is not worthy of being touched by people like you.

112. The very touch of these persons causes loss of merit: those who enjoy Śiva’s Nirmālyas, those who transgress Śiva’s Nirmālya and those who give away Śiva’s Nirmālya.

113. One can stir and drink poison; observing fast is more conducive to welfare, but Śiva’s possession should not be resorted to even when the very vital breaths are near the throat (i.e. about to die).

114. You are the ultimate authority regarding piety. We are not so. O Gaṇas, if there is a vestige of piety in this man let us hear about it.”

115-116. On hearing these words, the attendants of Śiva said: “O servants (of Yama), the pious practices of (a devotee of) Śiva are very subtle. How can they be viewed by you of gross vision? They can be viewed (and realised) by only men of subtle vision. Listen to what has been done by this sinless one.

117. The shadow of the lamp falling on the top of the Liṅga was prevented by him, for he added a wick to the lamp at night from the corner piece of his own cloth.

118. O servants (of Yama), another great act of piety has been added to his credit by him, as he listened to the names of Śiva repeated casually by someone.

119. The worship that was being performed duly by a devotee was witnessed by this man with steady mind, who had observed fast on the fourteenth lunar day.

120. This excellent Brāhmaṇa whose sins have been dispelled shall now become the king of Kaliṅga. O messengers (of Yama), you all may go in the manner you have come.”

121-125. Thus that Brāhmaṇa was released from the messengers of Yama by the attendants (of Śiva). He became Dama, the son of Arindama, the lord of Kaliṅga.

In due succession, when the father passed away, the young prince acquired the kingdom. King Dama who could not be suppressed, does not know any other pious practice than the lighting of lamps in all the temples of Śiva, O Brāhmaṇa.

He called together all the leaders of the villages within his kingdom. He gave an order thus: “He who does not carry out my behest, will be duly punished by me. In all the temples around in the village concerned, lamps should be lighted always unhesitatingly. If anyone is guilty of disobeying my order, I shall undoubtedly cut off his heaḍ.”

126-128. Thus for fear of his punishment the lamps were lighted in every Śiva temple. By means of this pious practice throughout his life, King Dama obtained great legitimate prosperity and ultimately died. This practice of lighting lamps having been steadily continued by him, he became the lord of Alakā possessing many lamps of jewelled flames. Thus even very little that is done for the sake of Śiva bears fruit at the proper time.

129-131. After knowing this, the worship of Śiva should be performed by those who seek their own happiness. Where is that son of a Dīkṣita who was averse to all pious practices? Where is this status of the Guardian of a Quarter? Look O Śivaśarman.

He illuminated the wick of the lamp for his own selfish purpose, but thereby he dispelled the darkness on the top of the Liṅga. He acquired the kingdom in the Kaliṅga country and was always interested in pious practices. As a result of his earlier (of the previous birth) practice, he caused lamps to be lighted in Śiva temples. Now he, who had been a mere human being, enjoys great status as the Guardian of a Quarter.

The Gaṇas said:

132. Please listen to the story how he attained the constant companionship of Śiva with concentration of mind. We shall narrate.

133. In the Padma Kalpa formerly, O Brāhmaṇa, Viśravas was born of Pulastya, a mental son of Brahmā. His son was Vaiśravaṇa.

134. This city of Alakā created by Viśvakṛt was enjoyed by him by propitiating Lord Tryaṃbaka (three-eyed) formerly, by means of severe austerities.

135. When that Kalpa had passed by and Meghavāhana Kalpa began, this son of Yajñadatta (i.e., Guṇanidhi), the donor of wealth, performed a severe penance.

136-140. After understanding perfectly the power of the devotion to Śaṃbhu through the lighting of the lamps alone, he went to Kāśikā, the city of Purāri that illuminates cit (full consciousness). There he brightened the lamp of Cittaratna (‘the jewel of the mind’) having Śiva for its sole wick. It has devotion that never turns elsewhere for its oil supply. It was motionless due to the meditation on his splendour. The great vessel was the union with Śiva. It was enhanced through the fire of penance. It was free from the attack of fire-flies in the form of lust, anger and other obstacles. It was windless, because the vital breath has been stopped and it was free from impurities, because of pure vision. Then he installed Śaṃbhu’s Liṅga adored with the flowers of the feelings of devotional fervour.

He thus performed the penance for ten thousand centuries until his body was reduced to mere skin and bones.

141-142. Thereupon, Lord Viśveśvara himself accompained by Goddess Viśālākṣī manifested with a delighted mind. He glanced in the direction of the lord of Alakā, who was standing motionless like a post directing the mind towards the Liṅga. The Lord said, “I am the bestower of boons. Enough of your penance, O lord of Alakā.”

143-145a. The ascetic opened his eyes and when he looked ahead, he saw in front of him the Moon-crested Consort of Umā, Śrīkaṇṭha whose lustre was more than that of a thousand Suns. This bright splendour dazzled his eyes and he closed them. Then he spoke to the Lord of the chiefs of Devas, who was beyond the comprehension of the mind:

145b-147. “O Lord, give unto me the capacity of the eyes to see your feet. O Lord, this alone is the boon that you are being seen directly. O Lord, of what use is any other boon? Obeisance to you, O Moon-crested One.”

On hearing his words, Umāpati, the Lord of Devas, granted him the ability to see by touching him with his palm.

148-152. After opening his eyes, he looked at Umā at the outset. “Who is this woman near Śaṃbhu, beautiful in every limb? Has any penance been performed by her even greater than my penance? Ha! What a beauty! Ha! What love and conjugal bliss! Everything is at its height!”

While he espied with a ruthless eye, saying this repeatedly, his left eye burst asunder, because he was looking at a woman.

Then the Goddess spoke to the Lord, “Why does this wicked sage look at me frequently disrespecting the lustre of my penance? He looks at me repeatedly with his right eye. He seems to me jealous of my beauty, love and assets of conjugal bliss.”

153-154. On hearing the words of the Goddess, the Lord laughed and said to her: “Oh! Umā, this is your son. He does not see with cruel eyes. But he over-describes your glorious penance.”

After telling this to the Goddess, the Lord spoke to him again:

155-158. “O dear one, I shall grant you boons, because I have been propitiated by this penance. Be the lord of the Nidhis (Treasures) and the overload of Guhyakas. O virtuous one, you shall be the king of Yakṣas, Kinnaras and kings too. You shall be the lord of the Puṇyajanas, and the bestower of wealth on all. Your friendship with me shall be constant. I shall stay near you, O friend, and very near Alakā for the purpose of increasing your pleasures. Come, fall at the feet of this lady. She is your mother.”

After granting the boons thus, Lord Śiva spoke to Umā once again, “O goddess of the Devas, grant your favour to this sage, your son here.”

The Goddess said:

159. O dear one, let your devotion to Śiva be steady always. Be one with a brownish eye with your left eye lost.

160. Let those boons granted by the Lord to you be so. Be Kubera (‘one with ugly body’) by name, O son, because you were jealous of my beauty.

161. The Liṅga installed by you, shall be (known) after your own name. It will bestow Sìddhis on all aspirants and it will be destructive of all sins.

162. A man who visits Kubera Liṅga (Kubereśvara Liṅga) shall never be without wealth, friends or kinsmen.

163. The devotee should worship Kubereśa in the southern side of Viśveśa. That man shall never be touched by sins, poverty or unhappiness.

164. After granting boons thus to Dhanada, Lord Maheśvara entered the great abode of brilliance of Viśveśvara along with the Goddess.

The attendants said:

165-166. Thus Dhanada attained the close friendship of Śrīśaṃbhu. Kailāsa, the abode of Śaṅkara, is very near Alakā. Thus the features of the city of the lord of Yakṣas have been explained to you, on hearing which a man shall become released from all sins.

Footnotes and references:


Vāyu was born out of the breath of the Viśvapuruṣa (RV X.90). The Pūtātman legend is the contribution of this Purāṇa.


Modern Kampil in Farukkhabad District, U.P, The legend of the precious birth of Kubera recorded here is a contribution of this Purāṇa.


The legend of Guṇanidhi is another contribution of the Skanda-writer, who grafts it on the Purāṇic Kubera.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: