by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes The Greatness of Asmahaka Tirtha which is chapter 146 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 one hundred forty-sixth chapter of the Reva-khanda of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:
1-7. Thereafter, a devotee should go to the excellent Pitṛtīrtha named Asmāhaka where by (offering) a single ball of rice ancestors are liberated from the state of ghost.
Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:
At the end of a month (i.e. on Amāvāsyā day) Pitṛs look up to their human progeny to ascertain whether someone will offer them Piṇḍa here in this Tīrtha. So also do Prapitāmaha (great-grandfather) and Ādityas. This is (mentioned in) the eternal Śruti. So say Devas and sages and ascetics.
Those who perform the rites of Snāna, Dāna and Tilatarpaṇa (libation with gingelly seeds and water) unto the Pitṛs become free from all sins. They attain all their desired objects.
In the midst of water, O king, there is Agnitīrtha as well. By visiting that Tīrtha a heap of sins gets dissolved. Through a holy bath alone, O leading king, one dispels the sin of the slaughter of a Brāhmaṇa.
A person should always wear white clothes with self-restraint and subduing of the sense-organs. He should stay in the vicinity of the Tīrtha for a month taking food only once a day. Thereby he obtains in full, the merit arising from the gift of a hundred virgins adorned with gold. He is honoured in Pitṛloka.
15-20. He shall be a lordly enjoyer of all pleasures on the earth encircled by oceans. He shall be endowed with wealth and food-grains and become righteous and munificent.
One who remains pure and observes fast shall obtain the world of Brahmā. One who casts off his life after coming to Asmāhaka is honoured in Rudraloka for crores of thousand years. Thereafter, slipping down from heaven when the meritorious Karmas dwindle, he shall be born in a family rich in gold, jewels and pearls and will be endowed with handsome features.
After performing the ceremonious bathing in accordance with the injunctions, he shall attain the merit of performing a horse-sacrifice. He shall be wealthy, handsome, alert, clever, munificent and righteous.
By taking the holy bath there in that Tīrtha, a devotee attains that merit which is acquired by the study of the four Vedas and by speaking only the truth. This Tīrtha that is greater than all the other Tīrthas, was created by Śaṃbhu formerly.
21-32. Viṣṇu himself, the Lord of the heart, performs the Japa of Maheśvara. So also do Gandharvas, celestial damsels, Maruts, Mārutas, Viśvedevas, Pitṛs, Moon, Sun, Marīci, Atri, Aṅgiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Pracetas, Vasiṣṭha, Bhṛgu, Nārada, Cyavana, Gālava, the great sage Vāmadeva, Vālakhilyas, Gandhāras, Tṛṇabindu, Jājali, Uddālaka, Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, Vasiṣṭha, Sanandana, Śukra, Bharadvāja, Vātsya, Vātsyāyana, Agasti, Mitra, Varuṇa, Viśvāmitra, Munīśvara, Gautama, Pulastya, Paulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Sanātana, Kapila, Vahni, Pañcaśikha and many other sages of esteemed holy rites. All the Devas, sages, ascetics, human beings, Yogīndras, Pitṛs, along with Pitāmahas etc. stay in Asmāhaka. There is no doubt about it.
Everything offered to them whether good or bad is permanent. Whatever is done in Yodhanīpura is everlasting.
One forsakes his mother, father, all kinsmen, friendly folks, wealth, food-grains, dear sons and even very body, O excellent king, and goes in the form of air accompanied solely by Śubha (merit) and Aśubha (demerit). He is invisible to all living beings like the greater supreme Ātman. By means of his own Karmas, O king, he attains good and evil states.
33-45. What is the reason for this? Neither Śubha nor Aśubha befalls kinsmen. A creature at birth is alone. It is alone when it gets dissolved (dies). He solely enjoys the meritorious benefits and alone he experiences the evil effects (of his actions).
Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:
This great question put by you is remembered by me. What is uttered by the very mouth of Pitāmaha, I shall recount to you. It was known from Pitāmaha formerly in the Assembly of Sages.
(Really) no one is mother, father, kinsman or friend unto anyone at any time. As the embodied being becomes aerial in form, his form is not known to anyone.
If such were not the case in the world, O dear king, everything would have gone beyond proper limits. The mobile and immobile beings would have perished.
This was realized even very early by the creators of the worlds, O king; Norms have been established lest Dharma (piety, righteousness) should perish in the world.
If Dharma perishes the unrighteousness of men will prevail. As a result thereof people will go astray from their path and it inevitably leads to downfall into hell.
All people are uncontrolled by nature. All are intent on (i.e. love) transgressing the norms of decency. Hence the bounds of decorum were established by the great sages in the light of the scriptural texts.
The various righteous acts are: Snāna, Dāna, Japa, Homa, self-study of the Vedas, worship of the deities, offerings of libation and balls of rice (to Pitṛs) and hospitality unto guests. The Pitṛs, Pitāmahas (grandfathers) and Prapitāmahas (great-grandfathers) are to be remembered as well as the three deities Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara.
All of them were adored by men of esteemed worth. So also the three (generations beginning with) maternal grandfather. Hence by means of all endeavour a devotee should follow the acts of righteousness urged by the Śruti and Smṛti texts. By practising piety for ever, one is not defiled by the particles of sin. One should not even think of transgressing the pious rites laid down in the Śruti and Smṛti (Texts).
46-56. If one desires for one’s own welfare in this world as well as in the other, one should scrupulously practise pious rites. Father and son are always identical, the original and its replica, whether (living) together or separately. This is the implication of the Śruti and Smṛti passages.
One should lift oneself up by one’s own effort. One should not allow oneself to sink in dejection and suffering, O son of Kuntī, by not offering libations and balls of rice. There is no doubt about it. After realizing this one should be a person regularly offering libations and balls of rice. Thereby longevity, piety, fame, refulgence and progeny flourish.
I shall mention unto you all the Pitṛkṣetras (holy spots specific for the Manes) all over the earth encircled by the oceans, where things offered yield great benefits. They are Gayā, Puṣkara, Jyeṣṭha (?) Prayāga, Naimiṣa, Sannihati, Kurukṣetra and Prabhāsa, O scion of the family of Kuru.
Undoubtedly, by means of the offering of libations and balls of rice in Asmāhaka on Narmadā one obtains the benefit proclaimed by learned men in the case of all those holy spots of the Manes.
There all these are present: Brahmā, the Slayer of Mura (i.e. Viṣṇu), Rudra along with Umā, Devas beginning with Indra, all the Pitṛs, sages, oceans, rivers, mountains, clouds and the Manes too. Hence it is the Supreme Tīrtha of all the Tīrthas.
Brahmaśilā (stone-slab of Brahmā) is also there, O king, and it resembles the forehead of an elephant. It is not visible in Kali age. It is the most important part, the Gayāśiras. On the new-moon day in the month of Vaiśākha, the holy rock resembling the forehead of an elephant, pervades the Tīrtha to an extent of a Gavyūti (six Kilometers). That is cited as the Tīrtha.
57-66. If a person goes there on that day and performs Śrāddha, the Pitṛs will become perfectly satisfied for a hundred years.
One may take his holy bath there on any other new-moon day as well. With sense-organs under control, one should perform Śrāddha duly reciting the prescribed Mantras.
The fathers, grandfathers on the paternal and maternal sides detained in all hells beginning with Raurava, if offered a ball of rice or libations of water at least once, sport about in the Pitṛloka until all the living beings are annihilated. There is no doubt about this.
Those who regularly performed their pious rites or those who performed the opposite thereof and those who have become ghosts and spirits due to sins—all these are liberated undoubtedly through a single Piṇḍa (ball of rice).
A divine rock resembling an elephant stands in the Asmāhaka Tīrtha. It was created by Brahmā formerly and it is destructive of all sins. Upon this rock, O descendant of Bharata, a wise person should offer balls of rice placed on Darbha grass with the tips pointing to the south. They shall offer these with the Pitṛs in view.
The cooking of the food intended for the Śrāddha shall be done on the ground below duly (not on the rock). With the Pitṛs in view, O descendant of Bharata, various kinds of monetary and other gifts should be made to Brāhmaṇas invited for the Śrāddha, such as a pair of clothes, umbrellas, shoes, water-pot etc.
67-78. Listen to the meritorious benefit of the person who offers these to an excellent Brāhmaṇa. The Pitṛs undoubtedly become contented for a period of twelve years.
O great king, Pitṛs and Pitāmahas assuming aerial forms (at Asmāhaka) eagerly wait for a member of their family to arrive there. “The son shall arrive here at the Tīrtha, take his holy bath and offer the libation. He may perform Śrāddha or offer balls of rice. Thereby we shall attain sadgati (good position) (i.e. Mokṣa).”
The drops that fall from the garments after taking the holy plunge shall delight the Pitṛs staying in Naraka. There is no doubt about it.
If any member of the family was not properly cremated in funeral fire after death, the drops of water falling from the hairs (of the performer of Śrāddha) and other things wet therewith will propitiate them.
When Amāvāsyā coincides with a Monday, the man need offer only a single ball of rice. The Pitṛs attain everlasting worlds. There is no doubt about this that everything becomes everlasting if performed or offered there.
Persons performing the Japa of Pitṛsaṃhitā redeem immediately the Pitṛs from Naraka.
Even Vācaspati is not competent to recount the meritorious benefit of a person who ritualistically discharges a Nīla Bull perfect in every limb, after duly bathing it in the Tīrtha on an Amāvāsyā day with the Pitṛs in view, O descendant of Bharata. Because you have been listening attentively, O descendant of Bharata, I shall recount the merit that accrues by ceremoniously discharging a bull in Asmāhaka. He shall redeem twenty-one generations of the members of his family who have been baked in Narakas beginning with Raurava.
A bull that has a pink-coloured face, grey tail and tawny-coloured hoofs and horns, is called Nīla Bull.
79-89. A bull that is tawny-coloured in all the limbs and white in tail and hoofs is called Piṅga Bull. It increases the delight of Pitṛs.
A bull resembling a pigeon in colour, that has a Tilaka (freckle mark) on the forehead is called Babhru. It should be perfect and splendid. A bull that has the same colour all over the body but has a tawny-coloured tail and hoofs is called Khura-piṅga. It gives a good position to Pitṛs.
Some say that a bull that is blue in colour throughout the body is a Nīla Bull. His eyes are bright red in colour.
Nīla Bull is of five types: A Nīla Bull bred in the house of a Vaiśya is the best of the lot.
A calf bred in the house should never be yoked to a plough. The rite of Vṛṣotsarga should be performed only through it in order to become free from indebtedness to Pitṛs.
If a twice-born yokes to a plough, a calf bred in his house, the Pitṛs slip down even if they have attained the world of Brahmā.
After drinking (water) the bull should shake its head. By drinking the bull delights Pitṛs. By shaking its head it redeems the Pitṛs from Naraka. When it shakes the tail and the drops of water reach the shoulder the Pitṛs of the family of the person fallen into Naraka are redeemed.
In rainy season, it may bellow and scratch the ground with the horns. It pleases the sages through the mud kicked up by the hoofs.
By drinking, the bull delights Pitṛs. Through eating (grass etc.) and scratching (the ground) it delights Suras and by roaring and bellowing, sages and human beings. O son of Dharma, the bull is Dharma personified.
90-97. One possessed by spirits or vampires or affected by quartan fever should go to Asmāhaka Tīrtha, the destroyer of the anguish of all.
After taking the holy bath in the pure waters, a piece of Darbha grass should be tied on the head, armpit, navel or round the neck.
He should then approach the deity Keśava and circumambulate him. After uttering the Gāyatrī or any Vaiṣṇava Mantra, he should eulogize Nārāyaṇa, the Lord of persons worthy of being sought in refuge, the Lord saluted and venerated by all the Devas.
(Prayer) “Obeisance to you, O Lord born of a part of Yajña. Obeisance to you, O omnipresent one. Obeisance, Obeisance to you, O Lord of Devas, O eternal Lord with the lotus as the womb. O Dāmodara, be victorious. O infinite one, protect me who have sought refuge in you.
You are the maker. You are the annihilator in this world consisting of mobile and immobile beings. You protect living beings. You support the universe. Be pleased, O Lord of the chiefs of Devas. Waken the sleeping (paralysed) limb. I am always engaged in meditative absorption in you. I consider devotion to you as the greatest. O Lord Acyuta, you have been eulogized thus. Be pleased with me. Protect, protect me who have sought refuge in you. Save me from sins.”
He should then feed Brāhmaṇas. After taking the holy plunge in accordance with the injunctions laid down in the Vedas and after duly offering the balls of rice, the person should recite Svastika prayer.
This rite is repeated thrice. After making them repeat the blessings, the Brāhmaṇas should be sent off.
What is uttered there should be mentioned to the Brāhmaṇas. After taking the holy bath in the Tīrtha the devout man or woman should give monetary gifts after Śrāddha is performed duly.
When the devout person duly bathes the deity with milk, honey, curds, or cold water, the Pitṛs drink water in Puṣkarapātras (ethereal vessels).
A devotee who worships the Lord of Devas with flowers and offers Naivedya at the time of Ayana (transit of the Sun), Viṣuva (equinox), Yugādi (beginning of the Yugas) and Sūryasaṅkrama (passage of the Sun to various Zodiacs) derives the full benefit of an Aśvamedha sacrifice.
A man who performs rites connected with solar eclipse there in the Tīrtha, O king, goes to Viṣṇuloka by means of vehicles resembling solar splendour and is honoured there.
A dutiful son who performs the Śrāddha unto the Pitṛs there at the Tīrtha has attained the benefit of his very birth (as a son).
108-117. On hearing this, all the Devas with Śakra as their leader, Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara installed the Lord who subdues all ailments and destroys all sins.
If a person remains pure and offers balls of rice on Amāvāsyā days throughout the year in the Asmāhaka Tīrtha, O king, he obtains here itself that benefit (merit) which performers of Śrāddha attain in Tripuṣkara, Gayā, Prabhāsa and Naimiṣa.
A person, facing the south, should offer water mixed with gingelly seeds and Darbha grass on holy days such as Manvādi, Yugādi, Vyatīpāta and Dinakṣaya (evening). He who offers thus to the fathers and mothers shall obtain the benefit of an Aśvamedha.
A man who takes his holy plunge in Asmāhaka and adores Hari, Brahmā and Śaṅkara with devotion and keeps awake at night, shall be liberated from all sins and get the hospitality of Śakra in heaven.
If a man takes his holy plunge there in the Tīrtha and visits Janārdana and adores with special procedures and bows down again and again, he is considered a good son. The salvation of the Pitṛs has been effected by him.
There is only one Mūrti (image) for the three deities Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara. They are associated with good results and causes. They are subtle and yield great benefits.
Thus, O king, the greatness of Asmāhaka has been recounted to you. It is destructive of great sins. What else do you ask?
Footnotes and references:
Verses 22-26 contain repetition of names, probably inadvertently done by the redactor of Skandapurāṇa.
The term is explained in verse 78 below.