The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Gangeshvara (ganga-ishvara-linga) 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 Caturashiti-linga-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 42 - Gaṅgeśvara (gaṅga-īśvara-liṅga)

Note: This is a modification of the legend of King Mahābhiṣak, a king of Ikṣvāku dynasty, who was cursed by Brahmā for looking at the naked part of Gaṅgā’s body (Mahābhārata Ādi, 96). Gaṅgā is said to have been cursed to go to the mortal world and marry Mahābhiṣak who was to be born as Śāntanu, of Kurū dynasty. Our Purāṇa is not interested in the follow-up of the curse but in giving the credit of Gaṅgā’s restoration to her heavenly form to the adoration of this Liṅga, called Gaṅgeśvara after this incident.

Śrī Hara said:

1-9. Listen to the Gaṅgeśvara Liṅga, the forty-second deity. Merely by seeing it one obtains the merit of (pilgrimage to) all the Tīrthas.

The foot of Nārāyaṇa, the source of origin of the universe, is the support of Dḥruva (Pole Star). The divine Gaṅgā, the river with triple course (in heaven, earth and Pātāla), originated from that foot. She then entered Soma (Moon-god), the source of origin of Sudhā (Nectar) and the basic support of waters. Being sanctified by the contact of the solar rays, she increased in size and fell on the peak (upper part) of Meru. Thereafter she flowed in four streams. The river of great fame falling from the peaks and ridges of Meru had no further support and fell down with waters spreading around. Then the waters flowed over Mandara and other mountains, shared equally by them. The river well-known as Sītā went to the park Caitraratha. The excellent river flooded it and went to Aruṇoda. In the same manner, the river named Alakanandā flowed over Gandhamādana to the south and reached the forest at the foot of Meru and flowed on to the park Nandana that delights the Devas. After flooding the Mānasa lake with great speed, she passed on to the King of Mountains with three peaks (Triśikhara). From there, O my beloved, all the mountains were flooded. After flooding all of them, the river reached the great mountain Himavān.

10-20. There itself, O Pārvatī, she was held by me in my Jaṭā (matted hairs). When Gaṅgā was not released by me, she became angry with me. O lady of excellent countenance, all my limbs were flooded. She was restrained by me in anger in the midst of the matted hair, O lady of renown. There alone she performed penance for a period of hundreds of Kalpas. I was propitiated by Bhagīratha by means of fasts and eulogies. Then, O goddess, Gaṅgā flowing in three paths was released by me. After flooding the Northern Kurus she reached Mahākāla. She became the chief queen of Samudra (Ocean), dearer to him than his own life. Gaṅgā was made the most excellent one among the rivers by Samudra. That Samudra, the Lord of rivers, sported about with her.

Once Suras performed the Upāsti (adoration) of Brahmā. So Arṇava (ocean) went to the eternal Brahmaloka along with Gaṅgā, O fair lady, for viewing the great festivity. Then Gaṅgā, the most excellent one among rivers, approached Pitāmaha. Her garment having the lustre of the moon was wafted by the wind. Thereupon groups of the Suras bowed down their heads. But Mahābhiṣa (?) [Mahābhiṣak], a saintly king, looked at the river unhesitatingly. Noticing his attitude, Brahmā condemned him and told him: “You will be born in the mortal world and thereafter will attain the (heavenly) worlds.” O lady of renown, Gaṅgā was cursed by the angry Samudra: “Leaving me you have become attached to another. Hence you will go to the mortal world of short life span. Distressed much, you will undergo there great miseries.” On hearing that terrible curse, Gaṅgā spoke these words:

21-30. “Why have I been cursed without any fault in the presence of the assembly of Devas? I am chaste, actually considering my husband as my very vital life. It is only a slight slip that the garment was lifted up by the wind who is present everywhere.” Thereupon, Brahmā replied to that river that sanctifies the whole world: “O divine one, O great river, you have been cursed by Samudra on account of the Vasus, in view of the inevitable future. Hence go quickly to the beautiful Mahākālavana resorted to by Siddhas and Gandharvas. There is an excellent Liṅga on the southern side of Śiprā. It is meritorious and it confers all Siddhis, It is destructive of all sins. Propitiate it assiduously. It will grant you the desire.”

On hearing the words of Pitāmaha, the river of triple stream became glad. The divine river thought thus: ‘I too desire to go there because my dear friend Śiprā too is there. She is meritorious and destructive of great sins.’

After thinking thus, she came to Mahākāla and saw the excellent Liṅga. With her divine water she adored the Liṅga in accordance with the injunctions. She saw Śiprā, her companion, and both merged with each other. Ever since then Śiprā became one flowing to the east. The deity is well-known in all the three worlds by the name Gaṅgeśvara because he was propitiated by Gaṅgā and is the bestower of the benefit desired. At that time Gaṅgā, the divine river, was eulogized by Devas, Gandharvas, by Vālakhilyas and other sages and saints joyously.

31-41. Samudra came there and that great river was honoured. Gaṅgā was told by the Liṅga: “May a sixteenth fraction (of Gaṅgā) stay here near the Liṅga that is highly meritorious, as long as the earth stays.” It was consented to by Samudra: “Let it be so.” After this, Gaṅgā returned after leaving behind one-sixteenth part of her. O my beloved, one who takes the holy bath in the waters of Śiprā and visits Gaṅgeśvara obtains undoubtedly the benefit of (gifting) a thousand cows. He will get the benefit of all Tīrthas and all the holy rites. He will get the benefit of all the Yajñas performed well and that of all the Dānas. O fair lady, he will certainly obtain the benefit of all the Yogas practised continuously. O beautiful lady, all the Tīrthas of the earth are present there, such as Dharmāraṇya, Phalgu Tīrtha, Puṣkara, Naimiṣa, Gayā, Prayāga, Kurukṣetra, Kedāra and Amareśvara. All the holy rivers, viz. Candrabhāgā, Vipāśā, Sarayū, Devikā, Kuhū, Godāvarī, Śatadrū, Bāhudā and Vetravatī are in confluence with Gaṅgā. All secret holy Tīrthas, Siddhakṣetras and all the spots are stationed there, O Pārvatī, by means of a Kalā (one-sixteenth fraction). He who views the deity Gaṅgeśvara with concentration and purity after taking the holy bath attains the benefit of these holy spots. A devotee shall visit the deity Gaṅgeśvara and the benefit is accrued. It is the truth that has been mentioned by me. Hence, O goddess honoured by the Gaṇas, this holy spot is praised as the most meritorious. Thus, O goddess, the sin-destroying power of Gaṅgeśvara Deva has been recounted to you. Now listen to the (story of) great deity Aṅgāreśvara.

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