The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,142,515 words

This page describes Mode of Life in Mahakalavana which is chapter 7 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 seventh chapter of the Avantikshetra-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 7 - Mode of Life in Mahākālavana

Vyāsa said:

1-4. O holy Sir, how should men desirous of going to Rudra’s world, live in the holy spot? What should be done by men or women who stay in hermitages for the sake of Siddhi? Narrate all this to us. Men and women of all castes and stages of life should be eagerly engaged in the performance of righteous deeds. They should be devoid of arrogance and delusion. They should be devotees of Rudra physically, mentally and verbally. They must control their sense-organs. They should not be petty-minded. They should follow the Śruti (injunctions). They should be always engaged in the welfare of all living beings. Tell us (how) devotion to Rudra (can be enhanced). What holy rites should they perform?

Sanatkumāra said:

5-6. Rudrabhakti (devotion to Rudra) is said to be of three kinds: mental, physical and verbal. Another division is: Laukikī (popular), Vaidiki (based on the Vedas) and Ādhyātmikī (spiritual). Remembering Rudra through Dhyāna (meditation), Dhāraṇā (concentration) and Buddhi (intellect) enhances devotion to Rudra. This is called mental Bhakti.

7. Observance of Vratas, fasts and restraints by which (people) control and check their sense-organs is called Kāyikī Bhakti (physical devotion) to Rudra. It includes knowledge and meditation also of religious people.

8-11. With Maheśvara in view, the worship performed with all these (following) things is known as Laukiki (popular) Bhakti: (They are) Cow’s milk, cow’s ghee, curds, water with scented Kuśa, sweet-smelling garlands, diverse kinds of minerals. Incense, fragrant gum-resin mixed with ghee, fragrant black agallochum, ornaments of gold and gems, garlands of variegated flowers, heaps of smelling powders, hymns, raised flags and fans, dances, instrumental music and songs delightful to all, various kinds of edible stuff and beverages, rice grains etc. are to be offered by men throughout the Pūjā.

12-16. Holy rites and Yāgas performed with Vedic Mantras and offerings of Havis are called Vaidikī Bhakti. Agnihotra should be performed during the new-moon and full-moon days. All rites associated with Yajñas intended for Rudra should be carried out (rites such as—feeding, giving of monetary gifts, Puroḍāśa offerings, holy rites, sacrificial operation, drinking of Soma, chanting of the Mantras from the Ṛg, Yajus and Sāma Vedas, recitation of the Saṃhitā texts etc.). What is performed thus is proclaimed as Vaidikī Bhakti. All the rites performed with Agni, Earth, Wind, Ether, Moon and Sun in view will be Daivika (‘pertaining to Devas’). O sage, Ādhyātmikī Rudra Bhakti is of two types.

17-22. One of them is called Sāṅkhyā[1] and the other Yaugikī.

Listen to these types. There are twenty-four Tattvas (basic entities) in number, beginning with Pradhāna. They are insentient. Puruṣa is the twenty-fifth entity. It is sentient. It is the enjoyer. But it does not act. Rudra is the twenty-sixth entity. He is the sentient, omniscient Lord. He is unborn and eternal. He presides over the Unmanifest. He is the one that induces. Puruṣa is Nityavyakta (Ever Manifest). Maheśvara shall be the cause. Tattvasarga (creation of the entities) shall be the direct creation. Bhūtasarga (creation of the elements/living beings) shall be through the Tattvas.

Pradhāna constituted of Guṇas is conducive to the creation through Saṅkhyā (deliberation). There is Sādharmya (‘similarity of characteristics’) of Īśvara with Ātman. Pradhāna is Vidharmī (dissimilar). The cause is the will of Rudra. In every respect Kartṛtā (doership) is in Rudra and the absence thereof (Akartṛtā) is in the Puruṣa.

23-29. In Pradhāna the Tattva (principle) is known as Acaitanya (‘absence of consciousness’). The Kārya (effect) and the Kāraṇa (cause) are liberated by another Tattva. After realizing the dissimilarity in respect to the cause through Asaṅkhyā (non-reckoning), it is mentioned as Saṅkhyā by wise men, the persons who ponder over the Rudra Tattvārtha. Thus is its Tattva-hood. The reckoning of Tattva is through reality. Wise men know that Jñānatattva is superior to Rudratattva. This Bhakti performed through Sāṅkhya is considered to be Ādhyātmika (spiritual) Bhakti. O great Sura, listen to the Bhakti of the Yogins[2] too from me. The following is known as the great mental Rudra-Bhakti originating from Yogic activity. The devotee is engaged in Prāṇāyāma (control of breath) and restrains his sense-organs. He is engaged in perpetual meditation of Maheśvara with Dhāraṇā (fixation of his image) in the heart. Maheśvara is conceived as seated in the pericarp of the lotus-like heart. He has five faces and three eyes. He has within him the lustre of the moon. His waist is encircled by serpents. He is white in complexion. He has ten arms. He is gentle (assuring) showing the gestures of freedom from fear and granting of boons.

30. He who has devotion only to Rudra is called Rudrabhakta. Listen, O Vyāsa, from me what is enjoined for the residents of the holy spot.

31. It has been laid down by Rudra himself in the assembly of Brahmā and others. It has been explained in details before there in the presence of everyone.

32-34. Listen to the benefit of those who die in Mahākālavana. They should be Nirmamas (free from the sense of my-ness i.e. sense of possession); they should be free from egotism and undue attachment to others. They should desist from accepting and possessing properties; they should be devoid of too much of affection for kinsmen. They should view alike a lump of clay, a stone and a piece of gold. By means of their threefold (i.e. verbal, mental and physical) activity they should bestow freedom from fear on all the living beings. They should be conversant with the regulations concerning Sāṅkhya and Yoga; they should know what is righteous and they should be bereft of all doubts and suspicions. Those Brāhmaṇa-resiḍents of the holy spot should perform different kinds of Yajñas.

35. They attain everlasting Sāyujya (identity) with Brahman, usually very difficult to attain. After attaining the eternal salvation, they are not reborn.

36. They eschew the return, and abide by the injunctions of Maheśvara. The return (is inevitable) in the case of those who live in the Prapañcāśrama (worldly life).

37. Those who adopt the injunctions governing householders are always engaged in the Ṣaṭkarmas (six mandatory activities e.g. Fire-worship). They perform Homas duly and perfectly bound and guided by the Mantras and Stotras (Vedic recitation).

38-41. They attain more benefit and are devoid of all miseries.

Such a man has unimpeded movement elsewhere in all the worlds. In view of the divine prosperity and mastery, he along with his family climbs himself in a refulgent aerial chariot having the lustre of many suns brought and accepted by himself. Surrounded by thousands of women, he goes to any abode he wishes to go. Unhesitatingly he traverses all the worlds of the heaven-dwellers. If he slips down from heaven, he is reborn as a handsome fellow in a great family. He will be the most covetable of all men, the most excellent one among all castes and very rich.

42-43. He will be conversant with the principles of Dharma. He will be a Rudrabhakta. He will master all the lores and topics of discourse. He will be fully equipped with the practice of celibacy, desire to serve the preceptor and the regular study of the Vedas. He will adopt begging for alms for his maintenance. He will conquer his sense-organs. He will always maintain the Vrata of truthfulness. He will take delight in doing his own duty.

44-46. On dying in due course, he will be able to move about in an aerial chariot richly equipped with all means of enjoying pleasures. The aerial chariot will appear like another sun. There is a Gaṇa of Rudra named Guhyaka. He is extremely honoured and worshipped by Devas and Dānavas. He has immeasurable power and prosperity. The (above-mentioned) devotee will be on a par with the members of that Gaṇa. He will have an equal prosperity and glory. He will be most highly honoured and adored among Devas, Dānavas and human beings.

47. Equipped with power and prosperity thus, he will be honoured in the Rudraloka for a period of hundreds and thousands of crores (of years).

48-53. After living there with great affluence and power, when he slips down from the Rudraloka, he will undoubtedly reside on the earth in the holy spot Mahākālavana, continuing in the stage of a celibate religious student. He will always be devoted to Maheśvara. He may continue to stay there or die. If he dies, he will travel by a divine aerial chariot having the lustre of the sun. He will possess the radiance of the full moon. He will be pleasing to the sight like the moon. After reaching Rudraloka, he will rejoice along with the Guhyakas. He will enjoy great power and affluence. He will be the lord of the entire universe. Enjoying all these things, he will be honoured in Rudraloka for thousands of Yugas. Gradually slipping down from that Rudraloka, he will be joyous forever, enjoying the world free from ailments. He is then born in a great aspirant family of twice-borns.

54. He will abide by human values and holy rites. He shall possess superb handsomeness. His person shall be covetable unto women. He will be a master of great pleasures.

55. Performing the rites as a Vānaprastha (retired recluse) he will eschew herbs and vegetation growing in the forest. He will sustain himself through withered and scattered leaves. He will partake of fruits, flowers and holy water.

56. Or he may sustain himself by eating bits of grains. He may pound grains with stone (for chewing thereafter), or he may use his teeth as mortar and pestle. Some means of sustenance he may adopt. He may wear only old bark garments.

57-58. He wears matted hairs and takes bath thrice a day with hairs untied. He holds an excellent staff. He stays in water. He performs five penances (e.g. staying in the midst of five fires). During rainy season he has only open sky as shelter. He lies down on the ground full of worms, thorns and stones. He sits in the posture of Vīrāsana. He shares (things with others). He is steadfast in his Vratas.

59. He eats and partakes of the herbs of the forest. He grants freedom from fear to all living beings. He is devoted to righteousness always. He observes silence. He has conquered anger and controlled all his sense-organs.

60. A Rudrabhakta in Mahākālavana is a sage residing permanently in the holy spot. He abandons all contacts. He takes delight in himself. He is free from desires.

61-62. O Vyāsa, listen to the goal reached by one who stays here. A Rudrabhakta moves about in an aerial chariot that can go anywhere at will, that is as bright as the rising sun and that shines with a raised platform and pillars. He shines in the sky like a second moon.

63. Surrounded by groups of celestial damsels having melodious voice, singing and playing on musical instruments, he is honoured in Rudraloka for hundreds of crores of years and more.

64. Slipping down from Rudraloka, he is honoured in Viṣṇuloka. Falling off from Viṣṇuloka, he goes to Brahmaloka.

65. Slipping down from that region too, he is born in the (different) continents. He enjoys pleasures as he pleases in heaven and other places.

66-69. After having enjoyed the fortune and power, the man is born among mortals or immortals. He may be a king or someone on a par with a king. He is born happy and rich, handsome and comely, brilliant and famous. He is blessed by Rudra. Whether they are Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas or Śūdras, the residents of the holy spot are fully occupied with their own duties and pious rites. O Vyāsa, they sustain themselves through their own wages. Rudrabhaktas invariably bless all living beings perfectly with all sincerity. Those who are desirous of liberation and stay in the holy spot Mahākālavana go to Rudra’s abode after death by splendid aerial chariots that can go as they please, that can take any form they please and where groups of celestial damsels are also present.

70. Or a meditator on Rudra who consigns his body to the fire of Saṃvid (knowledge) becomes a Mahāsattva (‘a man of great strength’). He will stay in the abode of Rudra.

71. To them Rudraloka becomes permanent and never-ending, along with the Guḥyakas. It becomes the most excellent of all Lokas and facilitates the achievement of all desired objects.

72. If men cast off their vital airs in Mahākālavana through the observance of fast, O Vyāsa, Rudraloka becomes permanent to those noble souls.

73-74. Those Sāṅkhyas devoid of all miseries eulogize Lord Rudra accompanied by Nandin and groups of Devas. Men of Śūdra caste who die in Mahākālavana by abstaining from intake of food, go about in aerial chariots resembling the sun fitted with lions.

75. They may be of various colours and fitted with gold. They are rendered fragrant with delightful scents. They are charming with incomparable virtues and resonant with the vocal and instrumental music of the celestial damsels.

76. Flags and banners are displayed therein. They are resonant with the tinklings of various bells. They have excellent lustre. They are richly endowed with all good qualities. Excellent peacocks move about there.

77. All those wise men who die through fasts go to Rudraloka. After spending a long time there and after enjoying pleasures as they please, they are born in the mortal world as rich people in the families of Brāhmaṇas. They enjoy pleasures.

78. A man who does Karīṣa (cow-dung?) sādhanā in the Mahākālavana goes to Rudraloka freed from all enjoyments of pleasures.

79-80. He shall stay in Rudraloka till the end of the Kalpa. After enjoying great pleasures, he is born as king of the entire earth. He shall be handsome and comely.

Footnotes and references:


This is obviously ‘Seśvara-Sāṅkhya’. It shows the later stage of the doctrine.


It is a peculiar blend of Yoga and Bhakti in which Bhakti dominates over Pātañjala Yoga.

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