The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 1,763,776 words

This page describes The Greatness of Ganga (continued) which is chapter 28 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 twenty-eighth chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 28 - The Greatness of Gaṅgā (continued)

Umā said:

1. O Lord, I am thinking of asking something to get rid of my doubts. O Lord, O knower of the three divisions of time, please tell me if you have no difficulty.

2. Where was King Bhagīratha and where was Gaṅgā (Bhāgirathī) then, when Viṣṇu performed austerity on the banks of Cakrapuṣkariṇī?

Śiva said:

3-4. O possessor of large eyes, O ever pure one, no doubt need be entertained in this respect. Three divisions of time are mentioned in the Vedas, Smṛtis and Purāṇas, viz. past, future and present. Do not have any doubt needlessly.

After saying this, Īśa again narrated the excellent greatness of Gaṅgā.

Agastya requested:

5. O son and delighter of Pārvatī, narrate again in Full the greatness of the celestial river as was recounted to Hari by the Lord of Devas then.

Skanda said:

6. O son of Mìtra and Varuṇa, listen to the sin-eradicating greatness of the triple-streamed river as recounted by the Lord.

7. If on approaching the three-currented river, anyone offers balls of rice, at least once, along with the water libations with gingelly seeds, the Pitṛs are redeemed by him from the ocean of worldly existence.

8. The Pitṛs will stay in heaven as many thousands of years as there are gingelly seeds taken by the men in the course of the pious rite of the Pitṛs.

9. Since the Devas are always stationed in Gaṅgā along with the Pitṛs, neither the ritualistic invocation nor the dismissal-rite need be performed unto them there.

The following types of men go to heaven after being offered libations with the waters of Gaṅgā:

10. those who are dead in the family of father, as well as those in the family of mother; the other kinsmen of the preceptor, father-in-law or other relatives who are dead;

11. those who died before cutting the teeth; those who had become afflicted even while in the womb; those who had been killed by fire, lightning or by thieves or by tigers or other fanged animals;

12. those who had committed suicide by hanging themselves; those fallen ones; those of self-inflicted death; those who sell themselves; thieves; those who perform the sacrificial rites unto those who are not eligible for them;

13. those who sell Rasas (juices); those who suffer from diseases arising from sins (such as leprosy); those who are guilty of arson and administration of poison; those who kill cows; those belonging to one’s own family;

14. those who have gone to the following five hells: Asipatravana, Kuṃbhīpāka, Raurava, Andhatāmisra and Kālasūtra;

15-16. those who wander through thousands of other births as a result of their own karmas; those who have been born as birds, animals, worms, trees and creepers of innumerable types; those who are not of very good and auspicious features even among those who can be counted; those who had been taken to the world of Yama by the terrible servants of Yama;

17. those who are not kinsmen; those who are so; those who were kinsmen in the course of other births; those whose names are not known; those of one’s own family but without issues;

18. those who died due to poison; those who were struck by horned animals; ungrateful persons; slayers of preceptors and elders; those who had harassed and betrayed friends;

19. those who killed women and children; those who are guilty of treachery; those who were violent and untruthful; those who have always been sinful;

20. those who sell horses; those who take away other people’s wealth; helpless ones; the wretched and miserable; those incapable of being born as human beings.

21. If these are offered libations even once with the waters of Gaṅgā in accordance with the injunctions, they go to heaven. After being the dwellers of heaven, they shall attain liberation.

22. He who utters the Mantras and offers the libations of the Pitṛs unto these people and offers Śrāddha and balls of rice, is called as one who is conversant with the procedure.

23. Whatever holy places are there in the three worlds bestowing cherished desires, they resort to Gaṅgā that flows towards the north at Kāśī.

24. O Viṣṇu, the celestial river is sacred everywhere, capable of dispelling the sin of even Brāhmaṇa-slaughter. It is particularly so where its current flows towards the north at Kāśī.

25-26. Devas, sages and groups of Pitṛs sing (i.e., wish): “Will Gaṅgā flowing towards the north at Kāśī be ever seen by us? We can be satiated through the Amṛta (nectarine water) there and be free from the three types of distresses. Presently, with the grace of Viśvanātha we shall attain salvation too.”

27. O Hari, Gaṅgā alone is surely conducive to liberation, particularly so in Avimukta, due to the added weight of my presence.

28. After realising that Kali age is excessively terrible, the devotion to Gaṅgā is well-guarded. Ordinary men do not get (the benefit of that holy river) Gaṅgā, the sole bestower of the path of salvation.

29. Without the worship of Jāhnavī who can expect liberation after wandering through various wombs in the course of many thousands of births?

30. O Viṣṇu, Gaṅgā alone is the greatest antidote to men of meagre intelligence, ailing with the ailment of worldly existence, bewildered and distracted on account of sins.

31. If anyone repairs and rebuilds temples on the banks of Gaṅgā, O Hari, he will have never-reducing (everlasting) happiness for a long time in my world.

32. If anyone intends to go to Gaṅgā for his own sake or for other’s sake but does not go due to delusion, he will fall (in hell) along with his ancestors.

33. Those embodied human beings who carry out all their (holy) rites by means of the waters of Gaṅgā are immortal ones, O Hari, even though they stay on the earth.

34. He who resorts to Gaṅgā, the celestial river, at least during the last days of his life, shall attain excellent goal even after committing many sins.

35. Men are honoured in the heavenly world for as many thousands of years as their bones rest in the waters of Gaṅgā.

Viṣṇu said:

36-37. O Lord of Devas, O Lord of the universe, O Lord and benefactor of the worlds, if the bone of a wicked, evil-intentioned person were to fall casually in the sinless (sanctifying) waters of the heavenly river, how will he attain the great goal, after his premature accidental death? O Īśa, let this be clearly enunciated.

Maheśvara said:

38. In this regard I shall recount an old anecdote, O Adhokṣaja (Viṣṇu). O Viṣṇu, listen with concentration of mind to the story of the Brāhmaṇa (Vāhīka)[1].

39. Formerly in the land of Kaliṅga, there was a Brāhmaṇa who used to sell salt. He was devoid of even a syllable from the Vedas. He avoided regular ablutions during dusks.

40. His name was Vāhīka. He had only the Yajñasūtra, the sacred thread (to indicate that he was a Brāhmaṇa). The wife of a weaver who became a widow immediately became his wife.

41. Without a means of sustenance of life, the Śūdra woman accompanied by her husband tormented by famine, left the country and went to another country.

42. In the middle of the Daṇḍaka forest that Vāhīka, emaciated with hunger and devoid of associates, was killed by a tiger fond of human flesh.

43. A certain vulture seized his left leg and flew up. In the sky it had a fight with another flesh-eating vulture.

44. While the two vultures desirous of the meat were fighting together with a desire to vanquish each other, the ankle of the leg fell down from the beak of the vulture.

45. While the vultures were engaged in their duel, the ankle of the Brahmaṇa Vāhīka who had been killed by a tiger, casually fell into Gaṅgā.

46. As soon as the tiger killed that Vāhīka travelling through the forest, the cruel servants (of Yama) bound him with nooses.

47. He was lashed much with whips; prodded all round with iron rods. He began to shed blood from his mouth. He was thus taken to the presence of Yama.

48. Then, O Consort of Lakṣmī, Citragupta was asked by Dharmarāja: “Tell me after due consideration the merits and demerits of this Brāhmaṇa quickly.”

49-50. On being asked by the son of Vivasvān (i.e., Yama) Citragupta of wonderful intellect, who knew all the activities of all the creatures always, told Yamuna’s brother (i.e., Yama) all the inauspicious activities of the Brāhmaṇa Vāhīka of foul deeds, ever since the day of his birth.

Citragupta said:

51. The sacred rites[2] of Garbhādhāna etc. have not been performed on his behalf before. O Hari (Yama), Jātakarma (post-natal rite) was not performed by his ignorant father.

52. On the eleventh day, the naming ceremony was not duly performed for him: It is that rite which is the cause for subduing the sins since conception and which bestows happiness throughout the life.

53-58. On the fourth month, the slow-witted father did not perform the Nirgama (going out from the lying-in chamber) rite, the most sacred of all rites whereby he (the son) would have become famous. The father did not perform the Nirgama rite on an auspicious lunar day with other auspicious features also. It would have prevented the departure to foreign lands.

On the sixth month, the rite of Annaprāśana (feeding with cooked rice) was not performed duly, O son of Bhāskara (i.e., Yama), whereby he (the son) would have always eaten plenty of wholesome food.

On the completion of a year, the rite of Cūḍākaraṇa (‘making tuft of hair’) was not performed befitting the family, through which rite his hairs would have become smooth and glossy and showering flowers.

The rite of Karṇavedha (boring the ear) was not performed on an auspicious day by his father, by which rite the ears could have borne gold (earrings) and grasped excellent learning.

O Hari (Yama), it was (only) after the eighth year had passed that the rite of Mauñjībandha (binding with the Muñja grass or thread-ceremony) was performed, which rite is intended for learning the Vedas and is conducive to the enhancement of celibacy.

The very mentioning of the rite of Mauñji-Mokṣaṇa (Release from the Mauñjī i.e., Samāvartana ceremony) was not performed by his father, after which rite the excellent performance of the duties of a householder would have taken place.

59. Some wife who had discarded the tradition of the family and had become a harlot, was married by this consort of a Śūdra woman, who abducted another man’s wife.

60. This fellow had become a pilferer of other men’s wealth ever since his fifth year. He was addicted to the game of gambling and he always practised misdeeds.

61. While he was staying in a Rumā (salt-producing marsh) a year-old cow was hit by him with a stout stick when it licked salt. And the cow died.

62. He used to kick his mother many times. His father’s words were never heeded to by him.

63. He was fond of quarrels. Many times he even ate poison. He habitually harassed people, tearing up their stomach.

64. This evil-minded fellow used to swallow on many occasions small poisons such as Dhattūra, Karavīra etc., even at the time of a playful quarrel.

65. O son of Sūrya (i.e., Yama), he was burnt with fire; he was bitten by dogs; hit by horned animals with the tips of their horns.

66. This wicked fellow, despised by all good people, the committer of sins, has been bitten by venomous reptiles. With wooden pieces and lumps of clay, he inflicted injury on himself frequently.

67. His head was struck by himself many times. This evil-minded fellow (violently) shook off his head, the best of all limbs of men which is always revered by good people.

68. Though he was a Brāhmaṇa, this silly fellow did not know even the Gāyatrī. This evil-minded fellow ate fish and flesh as he pleased.

69-70. Many times he got milk pudding cooked for his own sake. This silly fellow used to sell lac, salt, flesh along with milk, ghee and curds, poison, iron (hardware) and weapons, girl-slaves, cows and horses, hair and hides too.

71. His limbs became nourished with the cooked food from Śūdras. He used to indulge in sexual intercourse on festival days and even during the day-time. This wicked-souled fellow was averse to the holy rites pertaining to Devas and Pitṛs.

72. Birds were killed by him and hundreds of animals too. This cruel-minded fellow always cut off trees without any purpose.

73. Untruthful in speech and always engrossed in violence, he caused disgust incessantly even to his kinsmen.

74. O Ravija (son of the Sun i.e., Yama), of what avail is talking too much? He was a slander-monger deeply indulging in the activities pertaining to the stomach and the organ of generation. He never made any monetary gift. He was a living personified form of sins.

75-77. May he be cast into each of the following hells for the period of a Kalpa: Raurava, Andhatāmisra, Kuṃbhīpāka, Atiraurava, Kālasūtra, Kṛmibhuj, Pūyaśoṇitakardama, Asipatravana, the terrible Yantrapīḍa, Sudaṃṣṭraka, Adhomukha, Pūtigandha, Viṣṭhāgarta, Śvabhojana, Sūcībhedya, Sandaṃśa, Lālāpa and Kṣuradhāraka.

78-79. On hearing those words from the mouth of Citragupta, Dharmarāja rebuked the misbehaving Brāhmaṇa and commanded his servants. With a gesture of Yama’s eyebrows he was bound and led to the hell by them. The loud screaming and wailing of the sinners caused horripilation.

Īśvara said:

80-81. In the course of the very severe tortures Vāhīka expired. Since (the ankle) had fallen from the mouth of the vulture into the pure waters of Gaṅgā that yielded benefit at once, there came an aerial chariot from heaven at the same time, O Hari, for the Brāhmaṇa Vāhīka.

82-83. There were many bells hanging down from the aerial chariot. It was divine and full of hundreds of celestial damsels. The Brāhmaṇa who had assumed a divine form and dress climbed on to the divine vehicle. Divine scents and unguents he had applied (to his body) and he was fanned by groups of Apsarās, O Hari, due to the fact that a bone of his had fallen into Gaṅgā.

Skanda said:

84. O Pot-born Sage, the power of certain things is (inexplicably) wonderful. This is a mighty power of Sadāśiva in liquid form.

85. Indeed, it is for the sake of uplifting the worlds that Gaṅgā is made to flow by Śaṃbhu, the Lord of Devas, full of the nectar of kindness.

86. This triple-steamed (Tripathagāminī) Gaṅgā should not be considered by good people on a par with thousands of other rivers in the world (though) filled with water.

87. The syllables of Śruti were squeezed out of mercy, O sage, by Śaṃbhu. This Gaṅgā was created by Gaṅgādhara through the liquids arising therefrom (i.e., the water of Gaṅgā is the Brahma-rasa squeezed out of Upaniṣads—Com.)

88. Due to his compassion for all creatures Śaṅkara extracted the essence of Yogic and Upaniṣadic texts and created the most excellent one among rivers.

89. The regions where the celestial river is not present are like nights without the moon and trees bereft of flowers.

90. The regions and quarters devoid of the waters of Gaṅgā are like riches devoid of fairness and sacrifices without monetary gifts.

91. The directions devoid of Gaṅgā are like the courtyard of the sky without the Sun, like a house at night without a lamp and like Brāhmaṇas without Vedic study.

92. Of the two, one of them doing the observance of a thousand Cāndrāyaṇas purifying the body and the other drinking the water from Gaṅgā, the one that drinks Gaṅgā water is superior.

93. Of the two, one of them standing on a single foot for a hundred of thousand years and the other drinking the water of Gaṅgā for a year, the one who drinks the water of Gaṅgā is superior.

94. O Hari, a man who lies down on the sandy banks of Bhīṣmasū (Gaṅgā, the mother of Bhīṣma) as on a bed is superior to a man who hangs down with the head downwards for a period of a hundred years.

95. Since Jāhnavī Gaṅgā is the destroyer of the distress resulting from sins of all the living beings suffering from the distress of sins, so there is nothing else like it in Kali age.

96. Just as serpents become rid of their venom by the mere sight of Garuḍa, so also sins become devoid of lustre (power) at the sight of Gaṅgā.

97. A man who keeps on his head the clay from the banks of Gaṅgā certainly bears on his head the solar disc for the purpose of destroying darkness.

98. Gaṅgā alone is spoken as the refuge of that sinner who is devoid of wealth and assailed by many vices. It cannot be otherwise.

99. There is no doubt about this that Gaṅgā shall redeem both the families (father’s as well as mother’s) of men, if Gaṅgā is heard about, desired, seen, touched, drunk or plunged into.

100. The acts of glorification, seeing, touching, drinking and plunging into with respect to Gaṅgā are successively ten times more effective in increasing merit and destroying demerit.

101. Neither by sons, nor by riches nor by any other excellent activity is obtained that benefit which is derived by men after resorting to Gaṅgā.

102. Those who never take the holy bath in Gaṅgā that accords liberation even though they are hale and hearty (capable) are cogenitally blind, lame and dead even if they (breathe and) are alive.

103. O Hari, listen to the Śruti that glorifies Gaṅgā. After listening to that Śruti of decisive meaning, an excellent man should resort to Gaṅgā.

104. Those who resort to the heaven-born Gaṅgā go to heaven. She is identical with these five rivers: Irāvatī, Madhumatī, Payasvinī, Amṛtarūpā and Ūrjasvatī.

105. Those who have resorted with all their heart to Jāhnavī rising from the foot of Viṣṇu and reaching the world, having meritorious current, being very ancient and resorted to by sages, go to the abode of Brahmā.

106. Gaṅgā should always be devoutly approached by spiritually inclined if they yearn for the covetable position of Brahmā. Like a mother leading her sons, Gaṅgā always takes the worlds (people) to heaven. She is endowed with all good qualities.

107. One who is desirous of the purity of himself should resort to Gaṅgā that is worthy of being served by good people. She is immortal, and is identical with Sāvitrī Mantra. She is the mother of Guha and is fully equipped with splendid rays. She is desirous (of granting boons), and is Cosmic-formed and possessed of Irā (Earth and Speech).

108. A man who takes his holy dip in Gaṅgā, practises celibacy and remains pure with mental concentration, becomes rid of all sins and he obtains (the benefit of) Vājapeya sacrifice.

109. If they (sinners) resort to her, Gaṅgā shall always redeem those persons who are overwhelmed by inauspicious activities, who sink in the great ocean (of worldly existence) and who are about to fall into hell.

110. Just as the world of Brahmā is the most excellent one among all the worlds, so also Jāhnavī is the most excellent one among rivers and lakes.

111. Within half a Ghaṭikā (i.e., 12 minutes) one gets the benefit that is obtained elsewhere after performing penances for three years with a firm resolve, if one does the same in Gaṅgā.

112. A man staying in heaven and enjoying everlasting pleasure cannot have as much satisfaction as what people get on the banks of Gaṅgā at night when the moon rises.

113. One can assuredly cast like a piece: of grass into the waters of Gaṅgā, the dead body of an old person afflicted with sickness. It will enter Amarāvatī (heavenly city).

114. The lunar disc is always washed by the flood of waters of Gaṅgā. Hence at the end of the day it has added lustre.

115. The sin of a person who plunges into the waters of Gaṅgā perishes immediately. At the same moment, he attains the greatest welfare.

116. O Acyuta, the waters of Gaṅgā if faithfully offered to the Pitṛs by their descendants, accord them great satisfaction for three years.

117. She redeems people of the earth, reptiles residing beneath and dwellers of heaven. Hence, O Viṣṇu, she is called Tripathagā (‘going along the three paths—in three worlds’).

118. Gaṅgā is the most excellent Tīrtha of all Tīrthas: she is the most excellent of all rivers. She bestows heavenly goal to all creatures, even to the greatest sinners.

119. O Viṣṇu, in the heaven, on the earth and in the atmosphere there are millions and millions of Tīrthas resorted to by the people everywhere. All of them are present in Jāhnavī entirely.

120. One who regularly takes the holy bath in Gaṅgā and meets with death without committing suicide (i.e., is not a committer of suicide), shall become a heaven-dweller. He never sees hells.

121. Gaṅgā herself is all the Tīrthas. Gaṅgā herself is a penance-grove. Gaṅgā alone is the holy spot of supernatural powers. No doubt need be entertained in this respect.

122. O Pot-born Sage, people taking the holy baths in Jāhnavī dwell where trees bear all desired fruits, where the ground is golden (i.e., in heaven).

123-124. He who adorns with clothes and ornaments a milch cow of excellent behaviour and gives it to a Brāhmaṇa on the banks of Gaṅgā, enjoys heavenly pleasures for as many thousand years as there are hairs on the body of that cow and her calf.

Footnotes and references:


The legend of Vāhīka is an illustration of the sanctifying nature of Gaṅgā.


VV 51-58 record various Saṃskāras to be performed on every individual since birth.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: