The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Bilveshvara (bilva-ishvara-linga) which is chapter 83 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 eighty-third chapter of the Caturashiti-linga-mahatmya of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 83 - Bilveśvara (bilva-īśvara-liṅga)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: Bilva is one of the Kalpa Vṛkṣas and is known as Śrīvṛkṣa. Brahmā after meditation found a sublime person under a Bilva tree. He made him a king. Indra promised to lend his Vajra when “remembered”. Kapila, a learned Brāhmaṇa, became his fast friend. Once an argument developed out of a pleasant talk and Bilva struck Kapila with Vajra on the head. Kapila reunited his head by his Brahmavidyā. He went to Brahmā and got invincibility against Vajra. Again Bilva and Kapila became friends and in another quarrel Bilva struck him with Vajra to no purpose. Kapila refused to be cowed down and say: “I am afraid.” Bilva propitiated Viṣṇu and Kapila defied him, Viṣṇu hurled his discus Sudarśana which became ineffective due to Śiva’s blessing. Kapila challenged Viṣṇu to fight, took a handful of Kuśa grass, charged them with Mantra and hurled it at Viṣṇu. The Mantra-charged Kuśa and Viṣṇu’s missiles had such a terrific fight that Brahmā requested Viṣṇu to stop it. Bilva felt humiliated. He was advised by Indra to go to this Liṅga. While Bilva was propitiating it Kapila came there. He saw Śiva in Bilva’s person. He uttered to the god “Submit”. The king was delighted. They became friends again. But as this Liṅga was propitiated by Bilva, it became known as Bilveśvara.

Śrī Hara said:

1-10. O beautiful lady, listen to the greatness of Bilveśvara. Merely by listening to it one is liberated from all sins.

In the Ādikalpa, O Mahādevī, while Brahmā was meditating out of compassion for all the worlds, the Kalpa trees were born. Among them the Bilva tree is praised as Śrīvṛkṣa. Beneath that tree there was seated a gold-lustred being. He was seen by Brahmā, the creator of the worlds. He was joyously and heartily eating different kinds of soft fruits as well as leaves. His fingers were protected with Godhā-skin gloves. He had a bow and arrows. He was adorned with a crown and earrings. He wore a coat of mail and held a sword. He was a young man with a broad chest and leonine body. He was full of enthusiasm. The famous name Bilva was assigned to him by Brahmā. Indra wooed him: “You do become the king on the earth. Though you are stationed on the earth and I am stationed in Svarga, you can be my dear friend. I shall give you a garland of victory (Vaijayantī) with never-fading lotuses. By its power no weapon shall afflict you in war.”

He said: “If you give me your weapon Vajra (Thunderbolt), I shall be the king on the earth; otherwise it (kingship of the earth) does not appeal to me. On that condition I shall protect the earth truthfully.”

Indra said:

11-21. Let it be so. Welfare unto you. Be king doing what is beneficial to the subjects. On being remembered, the Vajra shall come over to your hand. It will not do so otherwise.

On being told thus, Bilva, the brilliant one, became the king. An excellent Brāhmaṇa-sage, a pious-souled master of the Vedas and Vedāṅgas, named Kapila, became the companion of Bilva. O lady of excellent countenance, associating with him, he remained comfortably seated and held discourses of wonderful purport with him repeatedly, and derived much pleasure thereby. But in the course of the discourse there arose a dispute between them. Bilva said: “Dāna and Tīrtha are important things.” He said so repeatedly. But Kapila said: “Brahman is the most excellent thing. Tapas is the most excellent thing.”

Bilva said:

Through Dāna kingdom, happiness, pleasures, prosperity, everlasting heavenly pleasures—all these are obtained, O tiger among Brāhmaṇas. How is it that you praise Brahman?

Kapila said:

Through Veda Yajñas function; through Veda Iṣṭi (sacrifice) for the achievement of desired things functions; through Veda holy rites function. The entire universe has Veda at its root.

Bilva said:

In the world, kings are the most excellent ones. They are efficient in the protection of the world. They are comparable to the Guardians of Quarters in this world. Why do you praise Brahman?

Kapila said:

Brāhmaṇas are reputed as chief ones who can curse or bless. They are the parents of kings. Why don’t you accept it, O Bilva?

Thus when the eagerness was aroused, Kapila, the excellent Brāhmaṇa, was struck on the head by Bilva with the Vajra having bent joints. Kapila who had been cut into two with the Vajra, unified his body through Brahmavidyā and then came to me.

22-36. I was eulogized with various kinds of prayers. I was perfectly propitiated. Immutability from Kuliśa (Vajra) was granted by me to the Brāhmaṇa. The Brāhmaṇa returned to Bilva and their friendship was renewed. Again such a dispute arose, O Daughter of the Mountain. Bilva kicked the Brāhmaṇa with his left foot. Further he raised the Vajra and hit him very hard. But the Vajra did not cause death or even pain unto him. Realizing that the noble soul could not be slain, Bilva approached Nārāyaṇa and prayed to him to grant him what he desired. The delighted Viṣṇu said: “I am the bestower of boons.” He was joyous. O goddess, the lofty-minded one bowed down to Viṣṇu and said this:

Bilva said:

There is a Brāhmaṇa-sage named Kapila. He cannot be killed or injured. O Hṛṣīkeśa, he is a friend of mine. He says thus always: “I am afraid neither of a Deva nor of a Rākṣasa, nor of an Asura, neither of a Piśāca nor of a Yakṣa nor of anyone else.” It behoves you to do something to make him say to me “I am afraid.”

On being told thus by Bilva, Lord Puruṣottama said: “It will be so,” and went to the hermitage of Kapila. The Lord entered the hermitage. He was highly adored by Kapila. Janārdana spoke thus gently to Kapila: “O holy Sir, O most excellent one among Brāhmaṇas, O master of the Vedas and Vedāṅgas, I will choose a boon now. O leading Brāhmaṇa, it behoves you to grant it (to me). I have been propitiated by Bilva, the leading king, repeatedly. I told him, ‘I am the bestower of boons.’ O great sage, he chose the boon that you should utter, ‘I am afraid.’ Hence say so to bless him. You are not afraid but, O holy Sir, say so for my sake.” On being told thus by Viṣṇu sweetly, Kapila said again and again: “O Janārdana, I am not afraid. I will not say, ‘I am afraid.’ What is said by him will not be uttered by me.” On hearing the words of Kapila, Janārdana lifted the discus to terrify the Brāhmaṇa. He said:

“If you don’ts say, ‘I am afraid,’ I will strike you with the discus.”

Kapila said:

37-46. O Viṣṇu, why do you wish to give painful strain to your dear discus? With the favour of the Three-eyed Lord, I am not an easy target to your discus.

Thereafter Kapila took a handful of Kuśa grass, approached Vāsuḍeva and said, “Stop, stop. Today I shall destroy your pride, arrogance and your miraculous power, everything. Wait, O Janārdana.” Then a tumultuous fight took place between Kṛṣṇa and Kapila. It caused hairs to stand on their ends within a moment. A pitched battle between divine weapons and Kuśa grass took place in the supportless firmament, O goddess. The Devas were bewildered. In the meantime, the highly distressed Brahmā came there surrounded by Suras. He spoke to Kṛṣṇa these words: “O holy Lord, O Lord of the past and the future, O Lord, O dispeller of the fear of worldly bondage, O Hṛṣīkeśa, O Lord of the sense-organs, O cause of creation and annihilation! It is by propitiating you, O Lord of the universe, that the heaven-dwellers beginning with Śakra live joyously. All of them get what they desire. The three worlds, including mobile and immobile beings, beginning with Brahmā and ending with a blade of grass, are produced, sustained and pervaded by Viṣṇu, the powerful one, the only pure, omnipresent and noble-souled one. This is what all sages, excellent sages, say.

47-57. They say that Janārdana is the cause of the three worlds. O Garuḍa-emblemed Lord, you are adored by excellent persons seeking boons, by Devas, Dānavas, Daityas, sages, Cāraṇas and serpents. Then why you yourself, O Govinda, fight with the Brāhmaṇa? Don’t you know fully about Brāhmaṇa Kapila who has secured boons from Hara? Don’t you know that with the favour of Parameśvara he has secured the boons of invincibility in battle and impossibility of being slain? O Lord, people like you do not act against Brāhmaṇas. You yourself have earlier conceded that Brāhmaṇas are the basis of Brahman. Hence, O Lord, consider him a Brāhmaṇa and do withdraw quickly.” On hearing the words that issued from the mouth of Brahmā and having understood the Yogic power of Kapila, the Lord of Devas went to the great world of Śaṅkara where he was adored by the heaven-dwellers. When Janārdana went away Bilva lamented repeatedly on hearing about the terrible fight between Kṛṣṇa and Kapila: “How will I defeat Kapila? How will I have felicity? Who shall I take refuge in? Who will be my protector? Kapila was not defeated in the battle by Viṣṇu, the powerful one. He competes with me always. How can I defeat him? Brāhmaṇas can curse and bless. They are invincible. They may reduce everything to ash, including Devas, Asuras and human beings. The Brāhmaṇical splendour is inordinate and unapproachable even to Devas.” Even as he was lamenting thus, Vāsava came there.

58-70a. On seeing the lean Bilva holding the Vajra and lamenting, Purandara felt his heart captivated by a sense of kinsmanship and said thus: “Enough of grief, O king; listen to my great advice. When I was assailed in battle by Śaṃbara, the haughty and powerful, evil-minded one, I asked my preceptor, the highly refulgent Bṛhaspati. He said then, O king: ‘At my bidding, O Śakra, do go to the splendid Mahākālavana where there are divine Liṅgas of various sorts. They bring about worldly pleasures and salvation. They bestow the desired objectives. O consort of Śacī, propitiate one among those Liṅgas. Merely by visiting it you will become audacious.’ O Bilva, at his instance perfect adoration of the Liṅga was performed by me with delight. Śaṃbara was defeated then. That deity became famous by the name Indreśvara. Hence you go to the western quarter of that holy spot. Propitiate assiduously the Liṅga that was adored by Varuṇa. That Liṅga will become well-known in all the three worlds after your name. Kapila, your friend, the Brāhmaṇa, will say: ‘I have been conquered.’ Due to the greatness of that Liṅga, he will maintain friendliness (with you).” After saying thus, O lady of renown, Śākra went back to Devaloka. King Bilva went to the splendid Mahākālavana. On the western side, he saw the Liṅga worshipped by Devas. He worshipped it with pure feelings, offering divine flowers of great fragrance, pearls, jewels, garments and ornaments. In the meantime, Kapila too came there. He saw King Bilva repeatedly worshipping my excellent form. In the body of Bilva, he saw my excellent form. Considering it Mahādeva the Brāhmaṇa said, “I have been defeated. In the presence of Śiva, I seek an endless friendship with you.”

70b-75. On being told thus by the noble-souled Kapila, Bilva became delighted. With palms joined in reverence, he spoke to the excellent Brāhmaṇa Kapila: “Let it be so. I am contented and blessed. Let the friendship with the noble-minded one be the same as you have been saying always and thinking about.” They said so to each other and their excellent friendship was established. With great delight they enjoyed themselves for a long time. Bilva administered the realm once again, due to the greatness of that Liṅga. He rejoiced along with his friend. Ever since then the deity became well-known all over the earth as Bilveśvara, because it was propitiated by Bilva. The deity bestows the objects desired. O lady of wide large eyes, those who visit the great Lord Bilveśvara will become contented and blessed, relieved of all sins.

76-83. O Daughter of the Mountain, those who take delight in the practice of visiting the deity will also become rid of sins and go to my palace. By visiting that Liṅga, a man takes ten thousand members of his family, the past as well as the future, to my world quickly. By visiting the Liṅga, the Pitṛs become rid of terrible sins, of lethargy, and they go to my world. By visiting Śrī Bilveśvara, a man gets his sin dissolved even after committing terrible sins such as Brāhmaṇa-slaugh-ter and the like. O goddess, the thirteenth lunar day in the dark half of a month is said to be dear to the deity. It is destructive of all sins. If men adore the deity Bilveśvara, O my beloved, on that day, they will never have a return into the terrible cavity of worldly existence. This deity, ardently adored on that lunar day, washes off all the sins acquired mentally, verbally and physically.

Thus, O goddess, the sin-destroying power of Bilveśvara Deva has been recounted to you. Let Uttareśvara be listened to.

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