by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,142,515 words
This page describes The Greatness of Gaya Tirtha which is chapter 59 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 fifty-ninth chapter of the Avantikshetra-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
1-8. Thereafter, all the groups of the Suras rid themselves of their sins and became pure. They regained (their) Yogic power as well as their former (official) position(?).
(So are) Ādigayā, Buddhagayā, what is remembered as Viṣṇupadī, Gayākoṣṭha that has been said, the feet (footprints) of Gadādhara, the Vedikā that has been mentioned as Ṣoḍaśī and also Akṣayavaṭa. The rock that brings about liberation from ghosts has been mentioned. The river Acchodā has been mentioned and also the excellent Āśrama of the Pitṛs. Similarly (there are) the best Āśramas of Devas, Dānavas, Yakṣas, Kinnaras and Rākṣasas and of all the Pannagas.
11. Ever since then, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, Gayā has become established there. The great Asura was felled down by the kicks of Gadādhara.
12. The greatness has been brought to that region by Janārdana.
14. But, O Vyāsa, in the whole year one day alone is fixed definitely. When the Sun is in the Zodiac Virgo in combination with the constellation Hasta, it is called Mahālaya. What is offered to the Pitṛs then becomes everlasting.
15. Gayāśrāddha is performed always and at any time.
16-17. But, O Vyāsa, one day alone in the whole year is
well-established. On the Anvaṣṭaka days (i.e. 9th of Pauṣa, Māgha and Phālguna in the dark halves) they perform the excellent Śrāddha of the Mothers. The satisfaction of the Pitṛs becomes everlasting in Kalpa reckoning. Thus, O Vyāsa, the city is beautiful for the rites of Snāna, Dāna etc.
18. Again I shall expound the wonderful greatness. Listen to that as narrated by me. It is holy and destructive of sins.
19-23. The wives of seven sages, the chaste wives of the sages, got polluted due to the faults of Svāhā. They were defiled by Pāvaka (Fire-god). Hence they were forsaken by the sages. They wandered from forest to forest.
When a long time elapsed, Nārada of divine vision came into that forest desirous of doing something beneficial and pleasing to them. He was received and honoured by them. The sage who always observed sacred vows, sat there. Words befitting the occasion and the place were uttered by him blandly and sweetly.
“What unnatural (incident) took place (resulting in) the humiliation of respectable ladies (like you)? You are chaste mothers of the world. Why were you abandoned by the sages?”
The wives of the sages replied:
24-27. O dear one, we do not know our fault on account of which we have been forsaken suddenly by the sages who maintain sacrificial fires. Arising in the context of Kārttikeya as bad luck would have it, something sinful originating from popular rumour has immediately come out. What shall we do? Where shall we go? What shall be the expiatory penance? What is the deity the propitiation of whom may bring in the merit enabling us to regain the proximity of our husbands? O holy Sir, tell us this decisively. You know everything accurately.
On being asked by those wives of the sages, Nārada meditated for a long time and said what should be conducive to their welfare.
28-30. O great ascetic ladies, may the expiation be heard. In the beautiful Mahākālavana, there is the excellent Gayā Tīrtha. There itself is the Nyagrodha (fig tree) named Akṣaya, the most excellent one among trees. Merely by going to that place you all will be free from sins. The Tīrtha dispels all faults. It bestows the boon of (fulfilling) desires. It is meritorious. It causes all happiness. Go there. Do not delay.
31-33. On hearing the words of Nāraḍa, the wives of the sages were prompted. O Vyāsa, desirous of their own welfare, they came to that forest (area) in Mahākālavana where there was the Tīrtha called Gayā.
On being purified by going there, they performed holy acts like (sacred) bath, charity etc. On the fifth lunar day in the bright half of Bhādrapada called Ṛṣi (i.e. Ṛṣi-Pañcamī), a Vrata (called Ṛṣi-Pañcamī) was properly observed by those meritorious ladies.
34-39. They fasted for a night (i.e. day) and along with it kept awake at night too. As soon as the Vrata was performed by them, O Vyāsa, they were rid of all sins instantly.
They shone well. They who had been degraded due to the anger of their husbands, immediately regained their Gṛhāśrama (the stage of a house-wife) offered by the sages along with the sacred fire as before, O excellent sage.
Ever since then this Pañcamī was named after the sages as Ṛṣī Pañcamī. Men or women should perform Vrata on that day by remaining pure and mentally concentrated. They should take in only Nīvāra (wild rice that grows without being sown) as food. They will never have any adversity or unhappiness. Women will never become unfortunate (e.g. widow) or distressed. They shall never be separated from mothers, sons, wealth etc. Thus, O Vyāsa, what was asked by you has been narrated.
40-42. On the earth in Avantī, O excellent one, there is a Tīrtha like this. Such a merit-yielding Tīrtha does not exist in the universe. If a man performs great Dāna rites in this Tīrtha, everything will be free from destruction. He is honoured in Viṣṇuloka.
He who observes restraint and listens to this story and reads it always, O Vyāsa, shall obtain the benefit of a horse-sacrifice.
Footnotes and references:
The Purāṇa claims the original Gayā at Avantī (?)
Metrically mahimānan is not correct. If Mahi is emended as Mahī—,Mahīmānam will mean ‘the extent of the earth, that is of Gayākṣetra’. The emendation suits the next verse. (Translator)
As verse 24 explains: This refers to Agnī’s transfer of Śiva’s semen to the wives of the sages. Arundhatī was the only exception as she refused to warm herself. It is a part of the legend of Skanda’s birth.