The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Kalaratri Annihilates the Universe which is chapter 14 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 fourteenth chapter of the Reva-khanda of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 14 - Kālarātri Annihilates the Universe

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Yudhiṣṭhira asked:

1-10. Then all those illustrious sages with austerities as their asset went to the highest world. What miracle did happen thereafter?

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya replied:

After those residents of the banks of Narmadā had gone, there ensued the terrible annihilation causing the destruction of all living beings.

By means of Ṛk, Yajuḥ and Sāma passages, Brahmā and others eulogized Lord Śiva, the eternal great Lord seated on the peak of Kailāsa:

“O Lord, annihilate the universe along with Devas, Asuras and human beings. The end of a thousand Yugas has arrived. It is capable of destroying (them).

Adopting my form, all these visible worlds have been created by you. Assuming the form of Viṣṇu these have been sustained. The same form has become trichotomized as Brahmā, Śiva and Viṣṇu for the purpose of creation, sustenance and annihilation, O great Lord.”

On hearing these truthful words of Viṣṇu Parameṣṭhin, the great Lord Śiva pierced through the Cosmic Egg, greater than the greatest, beginning with Bhūrloka and ending with Brahmaloka. He was then accompanied by those two (Brahmā and Viṣṇu) and Umā and all his retinue. Lord Nīlalohita pierced through the seven worlds and entered the beginningless divine region of Śiva along with them.

There was no wind there; there was no firmament there; there was no fire; no surface of the ground where Śaṅkara, the Lord, was present along with Umā. There was no sun, no planets, neither constellations nor the quarters.

11-22. There were no Guardians of Quarters, O excellent king, nor even pleasure and pain. Wise men called it the region of Brahman; they call it the region of Śiva. Others call him Īśa and Kṣetrajña (the immanent soul). Sāṅkhyas praise him as the primordial liberation (Ādimokṣa).

Some call it the pre-eminent Brahman. Some call him Śarva, the age-old unborn Īśāna. Some call him single-formed; some, many-formed, the first and Avyaya (the immutable one). It is an entity having no colour, no name or lineage; the wise knowers call it the fourth state (Turyaṃ Padam)

It is of the nature of Vijñāna (perfect knowledge), the object of meditation. It is the subtlest one resting in Ātman, the most excellent Īśāna, the greatest one.

Then all those three came up to Lord Īśa and amalgamated themselves into one form. They alone in their separate forms protect the entire universe.

In the form of Rudra, the Lord causes the annihilation of all living beings; in the form of Viṣṇu he protects the worlds; he is the cause of creation in the form of Brahmā.

The great Lord becomes Kāla on being united with Prakṛti. The multi-formed, esteemable Prakṛti abides at his side.

People conversant with it, who know the meanings of words, call it Prakṛti. It is Parameśvara who is the cause (of the distinction between) Prakṛti and Puruṣa.

From him issued forth the entire universe, the mobile and immobile beings. When the end of the Yuga arrives, it gets merged into him.

Everything marked by Bhaga and liṅga is pervaded by Parameṣṭhin: Viṣṇu is in the form of Bhaga and Maheśvara is in the form of Liṅga.

Viṣṇu is remembered as Bhaga[1] because he shines (Bhāti) in. all the worlds and is sung about (Gīyate) in the worlds. He has penetrated all the living beings in Bhuḥ and Bhuvar Loka.

He is said to be Viṣṇu because of Viśana (entrance). He is the great Lord identical with all the Devas. The appellation Bhaga is proclaimed due to Bhāsana (shining) and Gamana (moving about).

23-33. Learned men know it as Liṅga[2] because it is that in which everything in the world beginning with Brahmā and ending with a blade of grass gets merged and unified.

Thereupon Mahādeva said to the goddess who was standing nearby: “O splendid lady, do not delay. Annihilate the entire universe. Eschew this gentle form, resplendent like the white rays of the Moon. Assume a terrible form and annihilate the mobile and immobile beings.

O lotus-eyed goddess, be surrounded by the terrible and hideous groups of goblins and devour the entire world of living beings.

Thereafter I shall destroy the universe and make it flooded. After converting everything into a vast expanse of water I shall happily go to sleep along with you.”

Śrī Devī said:

O highly brilliant Lord, I would rather not annihilate this universe. Having beeṇ its mother I would not devour it as it is motionless and extremely distressed. Due to the innate womanly nature, my heart melts with pity. O Lord of the universe, how can I burn down this universe? Hence, O Śaṅkara, you yourself do annihilate this universe.

On being spoken thus, Dhūrjaṭi Nīlalohita became angry. He rebuked the goddess Maheśvarī with a gruff, hissing HUM sound. With his eyes blazing with anger, he said thus: “Oṃ hum phaṭ tvaṃ saḥ[3]. O descendant of Bharata, on being slighted with Huṃkāra, the wide-eyed goddess of plump thighs and hips became instantly hideous like Kālarātri (Nightmare). Producing hissing, gruff sounds of loud report, she made the ten quarters reverberate. Like a lightning streak of excessive hideousness, she increased in size.

34-46. She was too dazzling to be seen, like a lightning streak. She was swiftly moving as clusters of lightning streaks. She was excited and enraged like the flames (streaks) of lightning. Her eyes resembled the fiery lightning.

Her hairs were dishevelled and her eyes were wide; her neck and her belly were lean. She was clad in the hide of a tiger and a python served as the sacred thread. She was bedecked with scorpions and lizands [lizards?] blazing like the mass of flames. In height and magnitude she covered the three worlds. Her limbs shone and the black serpents served as earrings. She kept a stout stick of various colours raised aloft. She had covered herself with the hide of a tiger. Causing the destruction of the universe the highly terrible deity increased in size, licking the corners of the mouth. She hissed making the sound Hum. She opened her mouth wide making gruff sounds and causing excitement unto the entire universe. The goblins following her began to gambol and frisk. She took deep breaths exhibiting her anger. Laughing boisterously, she distorted the nostrils. Her eyes resembled a pit of fire. Making shrill sounds she burned the entire universe.

Being burnt thus, Suras fell on the earth. So also did Yakṣas, Gandharvas and Kinnaras along with the great serpents. The multitudes of Bhūtas crying Hāhā and Hai-Hai fell down. They tumbled down with loud lamentations and cries of distress. The entire universe with all the three worlds became filled with these howls and squeals. All the world became filled with these falling, flying and blazing beings. The entire earth was covered with the tumbling peaks of mountains making noise like Caṭacaṭā (crackling sound). In that violent festival, she heightened the delight of Rudra.

Injuring and torturing the living beings, munching and crunching the immobile beings, she inhaled the odour arising from the various things that were consumed by the fire. She howled like a vixen.

In that violent destructive activity of annihilating the universe, Caṇḍī became all the more ferocious with the face rendered gory with streams of blood oozing out and the entire body smeared with blood gushing in currents.

47-57. Hundreds of the Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas and others and the great sages beginning with Bhṛgu who had reached the Mahar Loka began to perish. Devas and Asuras became terrified. So also Yakṣas, Uragas and Rākṣasas. Same of them entered Pātāla and got them concealed in the caves and lakes.

That goddess pervaded all the quarters and stationed herself like death personified. She had been engaged by the Lord in that period of destruction of the Yuga.

Originally single, she transformed herself into nine and then into ten forms. Bursting into boisterous laughter she assumed sixty-four forms and then a hundred forms. Śivā, the goddess, became thousand-formed and then assumed millions and crores of bodies. Her forms were numerous, her sizes were diverse and she had innumerable weapons. Her movements were of various sorts. At the behest of Śiva the goddess assumed these forms, O king. The groups of the followers of Maheśvara wielded hideous weapons in the firmament in all the quarters checking and restraining the fleeing beings. Armed with tridents and Paṭṭiśas they wandered everywhere accompanying her.

Then some of the excessively fierce groups of Mātṛs in the company of Vināyakas rose up in size and started the act of annihilating the universe.

Thereupon her curved fang-like teeth resembling Kunda flowers and the moon lengthened into thousands, ten thousands and billions of Yojanas. The rows of fangs and the nails were sharp and rough. They ruthlessly scraped the sky and the quarters and overspread the earth consisting of the seven continents. The forests and the mountains were smashed to smithereens when struck with those fangs. The rocks and boulders crumbled into thousands of pieces.

58-66. Himavān, Hemakūṭa, Niṣadha, Gandhamādana, Mālyavān, Nīla, the great mountain Śveta, the centre of Meru, Ilāpīṭha, all the seven continents and the oceans and also the mountain Lokāloka trembled and quivered, O excellent king. Great trees became shattered on being hit with the curved fangs resembling thunderbolt. Terrible evil portents overshadowed the quarters around along with the stars, planets and groups of beings moving about in aerial chariots. Surrounded by thousands of vixen and the great Mātṛgaṇas she wandered over the entire universe at the conclusion of the Yuga.

They were whirling, shouting and howling. Soṃe were thrashing and some were blazing. All the ten quarters were pervaded by the Pramathas. The extensive range of mountains became shattered. The main entrance to the palatial buildings became broken. Hairs and dry bones lay scattered in confusing masses. The villages and cities stood razed to the ground by the conflagration. Ashes lay in heaps above them. All the three worlds consisting of the mobile and immobile beings were filled with the ashes of the funeral pyres. Laments and loud cries of Hāhā and Ahāhā spread everywhere. This universe lay helpless and bereft of refuge.

Footnotes and references:


A popular etymology of ‘Bhaga’ and ‘Viṣṇu.’


A popular etymology of the word ‘Liṅga’. This is accepted in Vīraśaiva Texts.


These are the “Seeds” of Mantras (Mantra-bījas) of a destructive nature. Using these Mantra-bījas, Śaṅkara transformed the motherly Umā into a devouring ogress in order to destroy the universe.

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