The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Genesis of the Name Avanti which is chapter 42 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 forty-second chapter of the Avantikshetra-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 42 - The Genesis of the Name Avantī

Note: As verses 41-43 explain, the name of the city is derived from the root √av, ‘to protect’. The city protected the seeds of gods, animals etc. in every Kalpa. Hence the name Avantī.

Sanatkumāra said:

1-3 Listen how the city came to be known as Avantī formerly in the Īśāna Kalpa. In the days gone by, when the Suras were defeated by hosts of Daityas, (gods went to) the summit of Meru full of caves and covered by forests abounding in bulbous roots. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, they went there and began to consult one another. Approaching and greeting one another, the groups of the Suras went to the place where Brahmā, the patriarch, was present.

4-11. They related to him the whole reason of their visit. On hearing the words of those Devas, that Lord of the subjects went to Maheśvara, the Lord of Devas, along with the Tridaśas (Devas). He too went to that region of Vaikuṇṭha that was resorted to by the sages and the Cāraṇas always. It is the bestower of prosperity and spiritual achievement. Kinnaras sing about it. Celestial damsels resort to it in groups. All these were present there, viz. the sages beginning with Bhārgava, the excellent celestial sages such as Nārada, the chiefs of Siddhas and Gandharvas, Sanaka and other Kumāras (eternal bachelors), the groups of Prajāpatis (Patriarchs), the fourteen Manus, Vasus, Viśvedevas and excellent groups of Pitṛs. It was worthy of being served (and inhabited) by people of great merits and excellent conduct. It was beautified with divine places and divine trees. It was gracefully adorned with steps and rungs set with jewels. It was full of Swans and Kāraṇḍava (aquatic birds) birds. It shone with the radiance of gems. It is a place devoid of the six infirmities of human beings (viz. grief, delusion, hunger, thirst, old age and death). It abounded in birds. With a desire to see Vāsudeva, all the Suras went there and began to praise and eulogize the Lord of the universe, the Lord of Devas.

The Devas praised:

12-14. Obeisance to Ananta (the infinite one), to the supreme one, to the Kūrma (divine Tortoise). Obeisance to the fierce one in the form of the Man-lion. Obeisance to the deity in the form of the Boar. Obeisance to Brahman (Absolute) of infinite power, to Rāghava, to Rāma, to Vāsudeva, the quiescent one; obeisance to the Lord of Yadus. Obeisance to the pure Buddha (Enlightened One), to Kalki the destroyer of the Barbarians.

15a. Even as they were engaged in eulogy thus, an unembodied voice spoke:

15b-24. “Listen ye all, O Suras, with single-minded attention. In the beautiful forest of Mahākāla that is resorted to by groups of Brāhmaṇa-sages there is a meritorious city that bestows all the desired benefits. Its name is Kuśasthalī. It is very charming and is resorted to by Siddhas and Gandharvas. Hara is present there in the beginning and in the middle of the Kalpa. When the Kalpa comes to a close, all the mobile and immobile beings perish. Even the Tīrthas and all the meritorious shrines (elsewhere) perish. All the rivers, all seas, the lakes and the parks, medicinal herbs, trees and creepers, Yantras (mystical drawings), Mantras, the auspicious and the inauspicious, the luminaries, the moon and the sun—all the world becomes Viṣṇumaya (merged and identical with Viṣṇu). Lord Śaṅkara then at the close of the Kalpa conserves the seeds thereof, the Puṇyas and the Jīvakarmāśayas (good and bad Karmas the activities that cause pleasure and pain) and stays there. Gaṅgā is Sarvatīrthamayī (identical with all the Tīrthas). Hari is identical with all the Devas. The Veda is identical with all the Yajñas. Dayā (compassion) is identical with all righteous activities. Revā is the most excellent one among rivers. It is highly meritorious. O excellent Suras, even more beneficial than it is Kurukṣetra. I consider Prayāga as ten times more meritorious and excellent Tīrtha (than Kurukṣetra). Kāśī is ten times more efficacious than it and Gayā is ten times more efficacious than Kāśī. Kuśasthalī is the bestower of merit and is said to be ten times more efficacious.

25. Thousands of Uparāgas (Eclipses), ten thousands of Vyatīpātas and a hundred thousand Amāvāsyas (new-moon days) do not deserve even a sixteenth part of this (i.e. Kuśasthalī).

26-28. A religious gift of a hundred thousand at the time of a lunar eclipse, a gift of a thousand at the time of the two Ayanas (transits of the Sun), a gift of ten millions in the Vyatīpāta and indefinite (infinite) gifts on the full-moon day—are all meritorious and beneficial. But this divine city Kuśasthalī is more beneficial than that. Even something given as a religious gift is reckoned as infinite and of infinite benefit. O excellent Suras, all those things shall be of everlasting benefit. Hence ye all go there assiduously. Do not delay.

29-30. Your merits have become exhausted, O Suras. Hence you are being harassed. This beautiful city of Kuśasthalī is in the charming Mahākāla forest. Go there on the earth and perform holy ablutions, donations etc. in accordance with the injunctions. Due to the merit thereof you will attain heaven.”

31-34. On hearing these words from the sky, of that unembodied voice, all the Suras with Brahmā and Īśāna as their leaders went to the place where there was the forest of Maheśvara. They went to the city, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, that bestows all desired benefits. It was full of the people of all the four castes. It was resorted to by sages and Gandharvas, Siddhas and Cāraṇas and filled with meritorious men. No sluggish, stupid, sick or envious man was seen there. Neither the impoverished nor the ailing, neither the unhelpful nor the revengeful were seen anywhere there.

35-36. Men and women who live there are quiescent, well-behaved and devoid of old age and sickness. They have perfect control over their sense-organs. They are engaged in their duties and good conduct. They are fond of (i.e. hospitable to) guests. The women are chaste. There were great festivities and good music. In every house there were Havya and Kavya offerings.

37-39. On seeing a city like this, the Devas were delighted very much. There the Tīrtha was known by the name Paiśācamocana. It was worthy of being resorted to always by meritorious persons. It was resorted to (lit. served by) by all the Tīrthas. The gods took their holy bath there, performed Japas and Homas and made gifts too. After attaining everlasting merit they went to heaven once again. After defeating the excessively vicious Asuras, they attained their respective places.

40. If people of great merits perform at Avantī holy ablution, charity, adoration, Havana (oblations to fire), water libations to the Pitṛs—all those rites shall be of infinite benefit.

41-45. Hence this should be performed by wise men with all efforts. Since the protection of seeds of gods, holy Tīrthas, medicinal herbs is carried out here in every Kalpa, the city is remembered as Avantī till today.

“From now onwards Kuśasthalī will be known by the name Avantī.” After saying this the Devas went to their great abode. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, since then Avantī has become very renowned on the earth.

44-46. He who listens to or recites this divinely meritorious, excellent story that destroys sins, shall be rid of all sins. A man without a son gets a son; one without wealth obtains wealth. After obtaining merit more than that of thousands of Vājapeyas and hundreds of Rājasūyas, the man is honoured forever in Śivaloka.

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