The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Greatness of Mahakalavana which is chapter 1 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 first chapter of the Avantikshetra-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 1 - The Greatness of Mahākālavana

Obeisance to Śrī Gaṇeśa. Obeisance to Śrī Jagadaṃbā (Mother of the universe): Henceforth the greatness of the holy places of Avantī is being described as a part of Āvantya-Khaṇḍa.

Vyāsa said:

1. May that first Lord of all the worlds named Śrī Mahākāla be victorious. He wears the crescent moon. His manifest Liṅga is encircled by serpents. He holds a skull. Though Devas are creators of the subjects, they make obeisance to him due to their great fear of repeated births in the world. He, the Lord, has permeated the unmanifest cavity of the minds of those who are engaged in meditation with excellent concentration.

Umā said:

2. May all the Tīrthas on the earth and the meritorious holy rivers be carefully described, so that faith in them may be engendered.

Īśvara said:

3. There is the river Gaṅgā which flows through heaven, earth and lower regions and is known in all the worlds. It is being resorted to by Devas and Gandharvas. It is also served by sages.

4-8. Yamunā, the noble daughter of Tapana (Sun-god), sanctifies all the worlds. It is favourite with the Pitṛs and it destroys great sins. [The other holy rivers are:] Candrabhāgā (Chinab), Vitastā (Jhelum) and Narmadā which is in Amarakaṇṭaka. There are these holy spots: Kurukṣetra, Gayā, Prabhāsa, Naimiṣa, Kedāra, Puṣkara, Kāyāvarohaṇa[1] and also highly sacred and splendid Mahākālavana, O goddess.

It is here that Śrī Mahākāla who is like fire unto the faggots of sins, is stationed. The holy spot extends over a Yojana (twelve Kms.). It is destructive of the sins of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter etc.

It accords worldly pleasures and salvation. It is a holy spot that destroys the sins of the Kali age, O goddess. It survives even Pralaya (the ultimate annihilation of the world). It is difficult of attainment even by Devas.

Umā said:

9-10. O Lord, let the efficacy of this holy place be narrated. O Maheśvara, I wish to hear about all the holy Tīrthas and Liṅgas that are to be found there. I am extremely eager to hear.

Mahādeva said:

11-16. Listen attentively, O goddess, to the sin-destroying power of the holy spot. O great goddess, it is the primordial holy place that destroys all sins. In its vicinity is the peak of Meru marked with jewels. It is the storehouse of many wondrous things and is full of trees. It is very excellent with diverse kinds of minerals. It has many Vedis (raised platforms) made of bright crystals. The blending of the colours and the beauteous forms is very excellent. It is noisy due to the various groups of sages. There are lions and lordly serpents therein. It abounds in groups of elephants. The sprays of the waters of mountain torrents and waterfalls make the spot profusely sprinkled. The flowers of the groves of trees are wafted by winds and they lie embedded there displaying diverse colours. The entire forest region is rendered fragrant with musk. It is the abode of Siddhas and Vidyādharas and it has many bowers of creepers serving as their rendezvous for amorous dalliance. The place reverberates with the sweet sound of Kinnara groups playing on their lutes (and musical instruments).

17. In that exquisitely charming forest is the mansion of Brahmā, the Parameṣṭhin. It is called Vairāja and all the landings and storeys thereof are highly splendid.

18-21. The celestial court of assembly that accords great delight to the Devas is also there. It is called Kāntimatī. It is resounded with the sweet notes of the songs of celestial damsels. It is rendered excellent through the garlands of the flower bunches of the groves of Pārijāta trees. The loud reports of many musical instruments echo and reecho there with pleasing tempos and time measures of the songs. Millions of pillars are erected there with bright mirrors heightening its splendour. Many things that capture the fancy of the onlookers abound there. The dances of celestial damsels with graceful, seductive footsteps increase its glory.

22. It is completely covered with the (settlements of) groups of seers (Ṛṣis) and is resorted to by hosts of sages (Munis). It is reverberated with the chanting of Vedic Mantras giving delight to all.

23-26a. The Brāhmaṇa-sage Sanatkumāra, a mind-born son of Brahmā, a master of eloquence, was seated there engaged in propitiating Śaṅkara. From among the sages Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana, Sage Vyāsa, the son of Parāśara, urged by devotion to Bhava (Śiva) bowed down to him duly and stood there with palms joined in reverence. His face was beaming with pleasure and the hairs stood on end all over the body. With great pleasure, he asked the sage about the greatness of Mahākāla, that destroys the delusion of living beings.

Vyāsa said:

26b-29. Why is this sacred place that is the most excellent of all, called Mahākālavana? O holy Sir, may the power and greatness of the holy spot be narrated. How did it come to be known as Guḥyavana (Secret Forest)? How does it have the status of a Pīṭha (a holy shrine associated with Mothers) (see v 30), though it is a saline arid (unproductive) land? What is the merit of those who stay here? What is the goal (hereafter) of those who die here? What is the merit of the holy bath therein? What is the merit of the monetary gifts made there? How is this Śmaśāna (cremation ground) mentioned as a holy spot? This is asked by me out of my devotion to Śaṅkara. You are an expert in the scriptural texts; do tell me.

Sanatkumāra said:

[Note: In vv 30-34, Sanatkumāra explains how the terms ‘Kṣetra’, ‘Pīṭha’, ‘Ūṣara’, ‘Guhya’, ‘Vana’, ‘Śmaśāna’ are applicable to Mahākālavana. The list of ‘divya-Śmaśānas’ favourite with Śiva are also Śivakṣetras. The scale of efficaciousness of these holy places in vv 38-42 is to show the holiest character of Mahākālavana.]

30-34. This spot where sins are destroyed is called Kṣetra (holy spot of pilgrimage). Since this is the abode of the Mothers (Brāhmī etc.), it is called Pīṭha.

People who die (here) are not reborn. Hence it is called Ūṣara (arid land). This place is called Guhya because it is always a favourite resort of the noble-souled Śaṃbhu. Since this is very much loved by Bhūtas (goblins) it is called Śmaśāna.

The following holy spots are called Divyaśmaśāna. (divine cremation ground): Mahākālavana, Avimuktaka, Ekāmraka, Bhadrakāla, Karavīravana, Kolāgiri, Kāśī, Prayāga, Amareśvara, Bharatha, Kedāra and the divine great abode of Rudra. They are always dear to Rudra.

35-36. The holy Lord sports about in all these Siddhakṣetras always.

Naimiṣa is a great holy Tīrtha on the earth. The holy spot Puṣkara is very excellent. Kurukṣetra is praise-worthy in all the three worlds. The sacred Vārāṇasī is considered ten times more meritorious than Kurukṣetra.

37. O Vyāsa, the excellent Mahākālavana is ten times more efficacious (in giving merits) than it, as well as all holy places all over the earth such as Prabhāsa etc.

38-42. (Out of all holy places) Prabhāsa is the first and foremost holy spot of the Pināka-bearing Lord. Śrīśaila is an excellent Tīrtha. Devadāruvana is also like that. O Vyāsa, the sacred Vārāṇasī is considered more excellent (and meritorious) than that. Ten times more efficacious than that is Mahākālavana because it is the most excellent among all Tīrthas and also because it is a mystic Vana, Siddhakṣetra as well as Ūṣara. Other holy spots are slightly Guhyas, Śmaśānas and Ūṣaras. But, O sage, Mahākālavana is very famous and reputed in all respects. Except in the case of Mahākālavana, all these five epithets—Śmaśāna, Ūṣara, Kṣetra, Pīṭha and Vana, are not applicable together to a single holy spot.

Footnotes and references:


Kāyāvarohaṇa: Modern Karvān in Baroda District of Gujarat. It is the birth place of Nakulīśa (2nd cent. C.E.), the 28th incarnation of Śiva. He is a historical founder of Pāśupatism.

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