The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,142,515 words

This page describes Purana Texts Described which is chapter 1 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 first chapter of the Reva-khanda of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 1 - Purāṇa Texts Described

Obeisance to Śrī Gaṇeśa.
Oṃ obeisance to Śrī Puruṣottama.
Oṃ obeisance to Śrī Narmadā.
Oṃ obeisance to Hari, Hara and Hiraṇyagarbha.
Obeisance to Vyāsa, Vālmīki, Śuka and Parāśara.
Obeisance to Preceptors, Cows and Brāhmaṇas.

1. May the waters of Narmadā protect ye all—the waters which inebriate the swarms of bees with the fragrance of ichor washed off from the temples of elephants taking a dip in her, which are made tawny-coloured due to the saffron dissolved (and washed away) from the pairs of breasts of Siddha women while they take their holy bath in her, of which trees on either bank are strewn over with the flowers offered by sages every morning and evening, (the waters) the force of the waves of which is checked by alligators and trunks of elephants.

2. May Narmadā with sacred places on her both banks, who has washed off the masses of sins of all the worlds and is worthy of being venerated by Devas, sages and human beings, always dispel (our) sins.

3. Narmadā is possessed of meritorious waters. She has sanctified the entire earth. May she destroy all sins past, present or future, of the people taking birth on the earth.

4. Even ascetics desire her sandy banks. May Revā with Śiva as her deity, ever rendering service to multitudes of sages, be conducive to my welfare.

5. After bowing down to Nārāyaṇa and Nara, the most excellent one among men, to Goddess Sarasvatī and to Vyāsa one should recite Jaya[1].

6-16. In the meritorious place of Naimiṣa which was resorted to by many sages, Śaunaka who began a Satra (a sacrifice of long duration), asked Sūta in detail: “O Sūta, I believe that mastery of Dharma (holy rites and activities of piety) has been greatly esteemed always by you. As a disciple of Vyāsa, you alone are the propounder of the divine, nectarine stories of the Purāṇas. Hence, O Kavi (the seer of things beyond), I ask you something pertaining to piety and holy places. There are many holy spots and shrines. They have been heard by me too. The divine river pertaining to Brahmā (Sarasvatī), as well as the river pertaining to Viṣṇu (Gaṅgā) have been heard by me. The third excellent river (Narmadā) pertaining to Rudra has never been heard by me. O highly intelligent one, narrate unto me the details about that holy river having the Vedas as her sustaining basis—a river honoured and adored by the multitude of Devas and consecrated by (the presence of) excellent Tīrthas. What is that land which Revā has occupied? How has she originated from Śrī Rudra? Tell me all those Tīrthas which have resorted to Revā.”

Sūta said:

O Kulapati (Head of the families) of sages, you have put a pertinent question as to the nature of Narmadā. She is wonderful, sacred, destructive of faults when described or listened to, O excellent one. The son of Satyavatī, who had a sense of fulfilment after analysing, redacting and compiling the Vedas, Upavedas, Vedāṅgas etc. is the expounder of the eighteen Purāṇas. After bowing down to him, I shall narrate the Purāṇas in due order. By giving discourse on them, there will be welcome increase in piety and longevity. The Śruti and Smṛti texts have been proclaimed as the eyes of Vipras (Brāhmaṇas). One bereft of one of these two is a one-eyed man and one bereft of both is loudly proclaimed as blind. The Śrutis, Smṛtis and Purāṇas are the three eyes of learned men. He who sees through these three is considered as part and parcel of Maheśvara.[2]

17-28. The Vedic Vidyā (lore) of the Ātman was created by Īśvara himself. Then there is Śaunakīya lore (the Mantra lore such as Ṛgvidhāna, etc.). Then there is the Paurāṇikī lore in the form of Dharmaśāstra (treatises on ethics, piety and good conduct). These three lores are very important ones in taking definite decisions about all scriptural matters. This is the command of Brahmā that Purāṇa is (to be taken as) the fifth Veda. He who does not know the Purāṇa does not understand anything here, whether it is a holy rite or piety or an item of knowledge of any sort or anything else worthwhile. What is there that is not found in the Purāṇa?

The Vedas have been well-ensconced formerly in the Purāṇa. There is no doubt about it. The Veda is terribly worried about one with incomplete mastery of the Vedas apprehending, “He will distort me.”

This is the conclusion arrived at earlier by Itihāsas and Purāṇas that the Purāṇa constitutes the soul of the Vedas; the well-known six Aṅgas (ancillary subjects) are the different limbs; what is found in the Vedas is seen in the Smṛtis and what is seen in both is narrated in the Purāṇas. Among all scriptural treatises it was the Purāṇa that was remembered at the outset by Brahmā. Thereafter the Vedas issued forth from his mouths. In this Kalpa and Manvantara there was only one Purāṇa, O sage. It was the means of acquiring the three aims of life. The meritorious text consisted of a hundred crores of verses. The Four-faced Lord remembered it and proclaimed it to the sages.

Thereafter the Purāṇa functioned as the source of all the scriptural treatises. As time passed on the sage noticed the inability of the people to comprehend the Purāṇa (due to their deficient intellect). The Lord assumes the form of Vyāsa during every Dvāpara Yuga always and abridges the Purāṇa to eight hundred thousand verses. This again is classified into eighteen (separate Purāṇas) and put into currency in the world of mortals. Even to-day the Purāṇa extends to a hundred crore (verses) in Devaloka (world of immortals).

29-45a. Further, here it has been still abridged into four hundred thousand verses. These eighteen Purāṇas extant now are being enumerated here.[3] O excellent sage, listen; I shall mention them each by name.

The Purāṇa has five characteristic features, viz. creation, subsidiary creation, dynasties, Manvantaras and genealogical legends (of kings).

There in the collection, the first Purāṇa is Brāhma. There are ten thousand verses therein. It has a number of meritorious stories. Pādma Purāṇa is cited as consisting of fifty-five thousand verses. The third Purāṇa is Viṣṇu Purāṇa with twenty-three thousand verses. The fourth Purāṇa was originally proclaimed by Vāyu. It is remembered as Vāyavīya Purāṇa. Since devotion to Śiva has been propounded in it, the other name for it is Śaiva. O Śaunaka, there are twenty-four thousand verses in it. The fifth Purāṇa is cited as Bhaviṣya Purāṇa containing four Parvas (Books). There are fourteen thousand five hundred verses in it. The sixth Purāṇa contains nine thousand verses and it is glorified as Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa. Āgneya Purāṇa is the seventh one and it contains sixteen thousand verses. The eighth one is mentioned as Nāradīya Purāṇa. It consists of twenty-five thousand verses. The ninth one is Bhāgavata having two parts. The number of verses therein is eighteen thousand. The tenth Purāṇa, Brahmavaivarta, has been mentioned as containing the same number of verses. Liṅga Purāṇa should be known as the eleventh Purāṇa. It has eleven thousand verses. O eminent sage, that Liṅga Purāṇa has two parts. They know that the twelfth Purāṇa is Vārāha Purāṇa with twenty-four thousand verses. O most excellent one among the illustrious ones, Skanda Purāṇa is divided into seven Khaṇḍas. It is observed that the number of verses in it is eighty-one thousand. Then the fourteenth Purāṇa is Vāmana by name. O Kulapati, ever since early days it is declared to consist of ten thousand verses. Kaurma Purāṇa, the fifteenth Purāṇa, they say, has two parts. In Kali age, O Lord of Sāṅkhyas, it has seventeen thousand verses. Mātsya Purāṇa, the sixteenth one in the order, was narrated to Manu by the Fish (Lord in that incarnation). O most eloquent one, the verses number fourteen thousand. Gāruḍa Purāṇa is remembered as the seventeenth Purāṇa. It has nineteen thousand verses. The eighteenth Purāṇa is Brahmāṇḍa having two parts. The number of verses is twelve thousand eight hundred.

45b-53. Similarly there are Upapurāṇas which have been narrated by Vedhas (Brahmā).

The excellent Saura Upapurāṇa is a part of Brāhma Purāṇa. It has two versions. It is an easily accessible Upapurāṇa based on the meritorious story of Śiva. The first version is propounded by Sanatkumāra and the second one has been uttered by Sūrya. O great sage, it is well known by the name of Sanatkumāra. The second Upapurāṇa is Narasiṃha. It forms a part of Padma Purāṇa. Śaukeya (that of Śuka) is the third and is considered as a part of Viṣṇu Purāṇa. The fourth one is Bārhaspatya; it is always honoured as an ancillary to Vāyu Purāṇa. The fifth Upapurāṇa is Daurvāsasa. It is always ancillary to Bhāgavata. Nārada Upapurāṇa is mentioned by poets (learned men) as an ancillary to Bhaviṣya. (Then there are) Kāpila, Mānava and one narrated by Uśanas. Vāruṇa and the two Kālikā Upapurāṇas are ancillary to Brahmāṇḍa. Sāmba and Saura Upapurāṇas with the collection of all topics are Māheśvara (pertaining to Maheśvara—Śiva). Then there are Pārāśara, Bhāgavata and Kaurma the eighteenth. These eighteen Upapurāṇas have been enumerated by me in due order. He who listens to or recites this Purāṇasaṃhitā becomes sharer of infinite merit. On death he goes to the city of Brahmā.

Footnotes and references:


JAYA: This was the title of Mahābhārata. It was at first restricted to that epic but was adopted by the Purāṇas like Vāyu and Brahmāṇḍa. Finally Kalpataru, on the authority of Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, conceded it to Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa (VR), 18 Mahāpurāṇas and Manusmṛti.


VV 16-28 describe the importance of Purāṇas. It is possible that originally there was one compendium called Purāṇa. Due to later accretions, the original Purāṇa was divided into many independent works, now known as eighteen Mahāpurāṇas. But the exorbitant claim that the original Purāṇa consisted of a hundred crore of verses and is retained in heaven is an exaggerated glorification of Purāṇas.


In this list of eighteen Purāṇas, Vāyu and Śaiva Purāṇa are regarded as one and the same, though actually they are separate (Tagare, Intro to Vāyu Purāṇa, pp. XIX-XXV). Matsya (53.18-19), Agni (272. 4-5) regard Vāyu (and not Śiva) as a Mahāpurāṇa.

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