The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Greatness of Valmikeshvara which is chapter 24 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-fourth chapter of the Avantikshetra-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 24 - The Greatness of Vālmīkeśvara

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: This Liṅga was installed by Vālmīki, a Brāhmaṇa-robber transformed into a sage-poet. This story is repeated in Skandapurāṇa, Vaiṣṇavakhaṇḍa (Vaiśākha Māhātmya chapter 21), Nāgarakhaṇḍa (chapter 124) and Pralhāsakhaṇḍa (chapter 298). The names of the robbers are Agniśarmā (in this chapter), Lohajaṅgha and Vaiśākha. These are credited with the authorship of Rāmāyaṇa.

Sanatkumāra said:

1. He who worships the Lord named Vālmīkeśvara after meditating silently on him, shall attain the status of a poet.

Vyāsa said:

2. Who is this Lord Vālmīkeśvara? What is the origin of such a Lord, the mere sight of whom bestows the power of composing poetry?

Sanatkumāra said:

3. O Vyāsa, formerly there was a Brāhmaṇa named Sumati, born in the family of Bhṛgu. His wife Kauśikī was richly endowed with beauty and youth.

4. A son was born to him named Agniśarman. Though admonished by his father, he did not feel inclined towards the study of the Vedas.

5. After a lapse of many years there occurred a drought. Hence he, a victim of that disaster, went in the southern direction.

6. Then Brāhmaṇa Sumati accompanied by his wife and son reached a forest in an alien country. He built a hermitage and stayed there.

7. Agniśarman came to be associated with Ābhīras and robbers. That sinner began to kill whoever came that way.

8-9. His memory (of being a Brāhmaṇa) was lost and Vedas, Smṛtis, Gotra etc. all were forgotten.

On a certain occasion, the Seven Sages of great holy vows came that way in the course of their pilgrimage. On seeing them, Agniśarman desired to kill them. He said thus:

10. “Give up these clothes, slippers and umbrellas. You all will be killed by me. You will go to the abode of Yama.”

11. On hearing his words, Atri spoke these words: “How can you think of committing the sin of torturing us. We being ascetics, are engaged in pilgrimage.”

Agniśarman said:

12. This is what I keep in my mind: I have a mother, a father, a son and a wife all important ones to me. I have to make provision for their food.

Atri said:

13-16. Immediately ask your father and others regarding what you earn through your (sinful) activities: “Whose is that sin which is being committed for your sake?” It is possible that they may say, “Do not kill living beings in vain.”

Agniśarman said:

Never before have they been asked like this (by me). It is due to your speech that sense has dawned on me. I shall go and ask all of them: “Who thinks and feels how?” All of you do wait here till I come back.

17-19a. After telling them this, he went to his father and asked, “A great sin is seen being committed by disregarding Dharma and injuring living beings. Whose is that sin of mine? May it be told.” The father and mother said, “The sin is not ours. You know what you commit. Hence what is done should be thought over (experienced) by you.”

19b-20. On hearing the words of the two, the wife spoke these words: “It is not my sin. All the sin is yours.”

He said the same words to his son and the son said, “I am only a boy.”

21-22. On realizing their feelings in the heart of hearts and their reaction too in the light of the fact, he felt thus, “I am doomed. The sages alone are my refuge.”

Then he cast off his black stick wherewith many creatures had been killed. Keeping his hairs dishevelled, he immediately went and stood before the sages.

23-24. He prostrated before them like a log of wood and spoke these words: “I have no mother or father. I have neither a wife nor a son. I have been abandoned by all of them. Hence I am seeking refuge in you. It behoves you to save me from hell by offering excellent instructions and words of advice.”

25-27. On hearing him speak thus, the sages said to Atri, “By your words sense has dawned on him. He should be favoured by you. O sage, let him be your disciple.” After saying to them, “Let it be so,” he (Atri) said to Agni (i.e. Agniśarman): “Practise meditation. By this practice of Dhyāna and the repetition of a great Mantra (i.e. name of Rāma[1]), seated at the root of the tree you will attain the great Siddhi, although you have been a slayer of people and perpetrator of many terrible crimes and sins very difficult to subdue.”

28. After saying thus, all of them went away as they pleased. He (Agni) became a Yogin remaining in the state of meditation for thirteen years.

29-31. As he remained motionless, an anthill grew over him. On returning by that path, the sages heard someone speaking in the anthill. They were surprised at it. With spikes fitted to logs of wood, they dug up the anthill. On seeing him the sages tactfully (skilfully) lifted him up. That Brāhmaṇa (Agni) bowed down to those eminent sages.

32-33a. With his radiance born of penance, he bowed down humbly and said: “Due to your favour, auspicious knowledge has been acquired by me now. Wretched as I was, I have been redeemed by all of you. I had sunk deep into the mire of sins.”

33b-34. On hearing these words of his, those excessively pious sages spoke these words: “O son, since you stayed within the Valmīka (anthill) with perfect concentration, your name Vālmīki will become well-known all over the earth.”

35-37. After saying this, the sages endowed with penance, went in the direction of their own (choice). When the eminent sages had gone, Vālmīki, the most excellent one among performers of penance, went to Kuśasthalī and propitiated Maheśvara and composed a pleasing epic poem, which they call Rāmāyaṇa. It is the first among narrative poems.

Ever since then the Lord of Devas named Vālmīkeśvara became well-known in Avantī bestowing poetic ability on men.

38. Thus the excellent Liṅga, Vālmīkeśvara has been described to you. Merely by visiting that Lord, ability to compose poems comes up naturally.

Footnotes and references:


MA-RĀ” in the case of Agniśarman (Vālmīki) as per traditional story.

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