The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Origin of the River Kapila which is chapter 21 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 twenty-first chapter of the Reva-khanda of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 21 - The Origin of the River Kapilā

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

1-2. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, with your favour different narratives of miraculous import have been heard by me. I wish to hear further, O Brāhmaṇa, about good holy vows. Do tell me. How did this meritorious river named Narmadā, the most excellent one among all the rivers, become well-known? Tell me again, O sinless one.

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

3. Narmadā is the most excellent one among all rivers. It is destructive of all sins. It shall redeem all living beings, both mobile and immobile.

4-5. I shall recount to you the greatness of Narmadā which has been heard by me from my predecessors. O king, listen with concentration of mind. Gaṅgā is auspicious in Kanakhala; Sarasvatī in Kurukṣetra; but Narmadā is auspicious everywhere, whether it be a village or a forest.

6. The water of Sarasvatī sanctifies one in three days; the water of Yamunā in seven days; the water of Gaṅgā sanctifies one immediately; but the water of Narmadā does so through the very sight.

7-8. It is meritorious and beautiful at every step, in all the three worlds. In the region to the west of Kaliṅgadeśa on the mountain Amarakaṇṭaka, O great king, Devas, Gandharvas, sages and ascetics have performed penance and attained great Siddhis.

9. After taking his holy bath there, strictly controlling the sense-organs and scrupulously observing restraints and observing fast for a night, a man shall redeem a hundred members of his family.

10. O dear one, since the mountain Amarakaṇṭaka is a great Siddhikṣetra, it has been resorted to by all the Devas and served by sages.

11. Siddhas, Vidyādharas, Bhūtas and, Gandharvas both visible and invisible, desirous of Siddhi, serve and resort to this excellent holy place.

12. Ever since then I too have resorted to the great holy spot. Indeed in this holy spot the Consort of Umā is stationed in the form of Praṇava.

13. Śrīkaṇṭha (Śīva) and his Gaṇas have been served by groups of all living beings. O king, I shall recount the details of this Tīrtha extending from this excellent mountain.

14-15a. O excellent king, even Brahmā is not competent to fully extol all the meritorious Tīrthas situated on either side of Narmadā.

15b. O leading king, it is heard that the excellent river is more than a hundred Yojanas long.

16-17. It is half a Yojana in width. There are sixty crore sixty thousand Tīrthas undoubtedly on both the banks of the river from the mountain upto the sea.

18. The Wind-god has mentioned that the Tīrthas number sixty-seven crore sixty-seven thousand sixty-seven hundred.

19. But, only in Kṛtayuga they become visible, O king. All pious-minded men see them always.

20. As Kali becomes severe and terrible, men become short in stature and deficient in intrinsic strength.

21. They say, O king, that Jāleśvara and other Tīrthas on this mountain accord satisfaction to the Pitṛs on whom they as well bestow heavenly pleasures and salvation.

22. The holy spot Dāruvana[1] is very excellent. There the confluence of Carukā is auspicious. On the north (bank) of Narmadā the holy spot of Carukeśvara is the most excellent.

23-25. Dārukeśvara Tīrtha, Vyatīpāteśvara, Pātāleśvara Tīrtha, Koṭiyajña—these, O excellent king, are on the northern bank of Revā. Near the side of Amareśvara there are one hundred eight Liṅgas, the chief whereof is Varuṇeśvara. They dispel all sins.

26. Near Māndhātṛpura are Siddheśvara and Yameśvara. To the east of Oṃkāra is the excellent Tīrtha of Kedāra.

27-28. Near it, O great king, is Svargadvāra (‘Gateway to Heaven’) that dispels sins. It is the meritorious Tīrtha named Brahmeśvara. In front of it is Saptasārasvata.

Then there are the Rudrāṣṭaka, Sāvitra and Somatīrtha. These are the Liṅgas, O Bull among the descendants of Bharata, on the southern bank of Revā.

29. O dear one, crores of Rudras are stationed on this mountain. They can be propitiated through ablutions, scents, garlands and unguents.

30. O king, the Rudras shall undoubtedly become pleased here. Sins can be wiped off by means of Japa. One attains infiniteness (Mokṣa) through meditation.

31. One obtains worldly pleasures through Dāna: So said Śaṅkara. In the region towards the west of the mountain, Lord Maheśvara himself, the eternal Lord, the primordial cause of the Cosmos, is stationed in the form of Praṇava.

32. A devotee should control his sense-organs and remain celibate. After taking his holy bath, he shall remain pure and perform the libation and other rites of the Pitṛs as enjoined by scriptures.

33. He should propitiate Pitṛ-gods with the water mixed with gingelly seeds. O son of Pāṇḍu, members of his family up to seven generations including himself rejoice in heaven.

34. He remains happy and enjoys different kinds of worldly pleasures. He rejoices for sixty thousand years (in heaven) duly adored by Suras.

35-36. He rejoices for a long period. After coming down from heaven, he is reborn in a family devoid of impurities, when he shall be rich, liberal in gifts, devoid of ailments and honoured by laymen. Again he remembers the holy spot and makes pilgrimage thereto.

37. During the second birth he will be very enthusiastic (in eagerly resorting to the eddy) in the performance of the Vrata with celibacy, observance of fasts and subduing of sense-organs.

38-46a. Withdrawing from all forms of violence he attains excellent merit. O king, know the meritorious benefit of the devotee who practises piety in this manner and gives up life. O son of Pāṇḍu, he rejoices in heaven for a hundred thousand years full of groups of Apsarās and reverberating with divine words and sounds. He shall be smeared with divine scents and unguents and adorned with divine ornaments. He plays about along with gods. He will be eulogized by Siddhas and Gandharvas. After coming down (again) from heaven he becomes (is born as) a very powerful king possessing elephants, horses, chariots and other vehicles. He shall be conversant with holy rites and eagerly devoted to scriptural texts. He will dwell in a house full of gold and silver supported by hundreds of columns. It will have seven or eight storeys with excellent doorways and abounding in male and female servants and slaves.

Like the world of Indra, his abode shall be astir with the sighs and deep breaths of elephants in rut and the neighing sounds of horses. He shall be a glorious leader of kings of kings and a dear lover of all womenfolk. He shall stay in such a house for more than a hundred years enjoying pleasures and amusements. He shall be devoid of all ailments.

This is what will happen in case of those who die in Amareśvara:

46b-47a. He who devoutly enters into funeral pyre on Amarakaṇṭaka shall attain heaven after death (ultimately) reaching the greatest goal.

47b-49 It is known from the Purāṇa that everything regarding holy ablution, Dāna, Japa and Homa, whether auspicious or inauspicious, shall have a crore of times more of its benefit. The trees also growing on her banks and falling down after a lapse of time attain the greatest goal on being touched by the waters of Narmadā. His departure (death) thereto is without return (to Saṃsāra) like that of the wind in the firmament.

50-52. O king, if the devotee falls down (offers his body) into the Tīrtha, he will enjoy pleasures in Pātāla. Three thousand maidens stand in waiting in his abode seeking errands from him. Richly endowed with divine enjoyment of pleasures, he amuses himself for as long as he wishes (to do). On the whole of the earth stretching upto the sea, O excellent one among men, there is nothing like mountain Amarakaṇṭaka.

53. To the west of the mountain, it should be known that there is a Tīrtha; the eddy named Jāleśvara well-known in all the three worlds.

54. By offering balls of rice there and performing Sandhyā prayers, the Pitṛs become propitiated and satisfied for a period of twelve years.

55-57a. On the southern bank of Narmadā there is the great river Kapilā[2] overgrown with Sarala (pine) and Arjuna trees, rendered beautiful by Khadiras and adorned by the creepers of Mādhavī and Sallakī. O king, it is always delightful with roaring beasts of prey, other beasts like jackals, monkeys etc., and chirping of different kinds of birds.

57b-58a. We have heard that there are more than a hundred crores of sages there. After performing penance there they have attained liberation. They have no rebirth. They never came back (to Saṃsāra).

58b-60a. Since the noble-souled Kapila performed penance there, a meritorious Tīrtha has sprung up there. It was resorted to formerly by the sages following Kapila; it has been praised by the name of Kapilā. It is destructive of all sins.

60b-62a. There in Amareśvara there are more than hundred crores of Tīrthas. One who stays for a night and day there, is rid of all sins after offering Dāna duly to an excellent Brāhmaṇa in accordance with one’s capacity. Due to the favour of Īśvara everything shall become a crore of times more meritorious.

62b-64a. O descendant of Bharata, here the form of Praṇava is Anakṣara (not in the form of a syllable). It is in the form of Śiva himself. It will be one made with syllables and Mātrās(?). Creatures and animals, trees, hedges, creepers etc. meeting with death there undoubtedly attain heaven.

64b-65a. There itself is a great river named Viśalyā. By taking holy bath and offering Dāna duly there also, one will become meritorious.

65b-66. All the groups of Devas along with Kinnaras, great serpents, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Gandharvas, sages and ascetics come there and visit her in Amareśvara.

67a. Those two auspicious Kaṭas (ridges) were bowed down to by all of them after coming there.

67b-68. In the earlier awful Yuga that terrifies all the worlds, the son of Narmadā, who had been Saśalya (one with a, dart within, i.e. one who suffers from pain) was rendered Viśalya (free from Śalya) by all the Devas and sages. Hence it is remembered as Viśalyā.[3]

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

69-70 How did Viśalyā rise up, O dear one. How did Kapilā? O sage, how did the son of Narmadā become one with Śalya? This is something mysterious to the people. O sage of good holy rites, I wish to hear.

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

71. Formerly, O king, the daughter of Dakṣa i.e. Dākṣāyaṇī (Gaurī) sported about in the waters of Narmadā with great joy along with the Trident-bearing One.

72. After rising up suddenly from the water she changed her clothes. The wet clothes of the goddess were sportingly squeezed and pressed by the attendants.

73-74a. When the clothes were being squeezed dry, drops of coloured water resembling a rainbow fell down. Hence the great river named Kapilā issued forth.

74b-77. The tawny-coloured water issuing from the clothes got mixed with the unguents. Due to the Kapila colour the river became Kapilā by name too. The water was mixed with the scented Rasas (unguents) of different kinds of flowers and rendered fragrant. Splendid hands as tender as sprouts squeezed the clothes and the water that issued forth became tawny-coloured with mixtures of different colours.

78. Hence the excellent river is called Kapilā by persons conversant with the topics of the Purāṇas. This excellent river Kapilā originating from the waters of Narmadā dropping from the clothes should be considered highly meritorious.

Footnotes and references:


It is some local spot on the bank of Narmadā. It is different from Dāruvana (area round the famous Jyotirliṅga Āvandhyā Nāganātha) in Marathwada region of Maharashtra.


De (p.4) states that Kapilā is an affluent (tributary) of Narmadā. This Purāṇa traces the name to Sage Kapila who is said to have performed penance on the banks of Narmadā.


A popular etymology. Another such etymological episode is given in vv 71-77 below:

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