The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Greatness of Dashashvamedha Tirtha which is chapter 180 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 eightieth chapter of the Reva-khanda of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 180 - The Greatness of Daśāśvamedha Tīrtha

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

1-8. Thereafter, O king, a person should go to the great Tīrtha Daśāśvamedhika endowed with all good features. It is destructive of all great sins.

After going there, taking the holy bath and worshipping Iśvara, a man derives the benefit of ten horse-sacrifices.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Aśvamedha is a great Yajña requiring many requisite things and much wealth for distributing monetary gifts. It cannot be performed by ordinary men. How can they get the benefit thereof? What has been mentioned by you is very astonishing. Do tell me in such a way as to create credence in me and impart to me longevity of life.

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

This is indeed astonishing. The Three-eyed Lord was asked the same by Gaurī. Even as you have cleverly put the question, I shall recount it to you.

Formerly, seated on his bull, Śaṅkara, the Lord of Devas, accompained by Umā, was roaming about on the earth. He reached the banks of Narmadā.

On seeing the Daśāśvamedhika Tīrtha the three-eyed Maheśvara reverently joined the palms facing the Tīrtha and made obeisance.

On seeing the Lord with palms joined in reverence, the goddess said thus:

The Devī said:

9-18a. What is this, O Lord of the chiefs of Devas bowed down to by mobile and immobile beings? You appear to be endowed with great devotion with palms joined in reverence and head bowing down. This is a great surprise without a parallel. O Lord, tell me everything.

Īśvara said:

See the benefit from the Tīrtha directly. Do not be surprised. Even as I remain on the ground watch me steadily remaining in the air itself.

After saying this, the Lord of Devas became a fair-complex-ioned Brāhmaṇa. He was completely dried up with the veins visible on the body everywhere. He had matted hair and he appeared emaciated due to hunger with the throat parched.

He sat on bare ground and repeated Vedic Mantras in a sweet tone. Mahādeva, fond of Krama Pāṭha (a mode of Vedic recitation) delighted everyone with the sweetness of his voice.

On hearing that sweet voice of the Deva Brāhmaṇas who had all come there for their baths became agitated and confused.

Everyone forgot his own daily routine due to the confusion created by what they heard. On seeing him going on with his recitation though afflicted by hunger and thirst, a certain Brāhmaṇa, invited him for food with great devotion: “O Brāhmaṇa, may you be pleased to take your food in my house. Today my life has become fruitful. Today all my sacred rites have become fruitful. All my delighted grandfathers will grant me my cherished desires if you take food, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. Be pleased with me certainly.”

18b-28. On being told thus, Mahādeva who was in the guise of a Brāhmaṇa laughed and replied in sweet words to the Brāhmaṇa:

“Penance was performed by me for a thousand years without food. Now, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, I will take food in the house of that person by whom ten horse-sacrifices have been performed and Pāraṇā (ritualistic breaking of the fast) as well.”

On being told thus by the Lord of Devas, the Brāhmaṇa became surprised. He shook his bead and went away to his house.

Thus when the invitation was not accepted many Brāhmaṇas turned away. Many Nāstikas (non-believers) who did not know the implication of the Purāṇa, went away.

Ultimately a certain Brāhmaṇa who was highly learned and conversant with the sense of the Purāṇa and the reality thereof, invited Śiva in the form of a Brāhmaṇa.

He was also told the same thing by the Lord. He mentally reflected on the meanings of the Purāṇa. The excellent Brāhmaṇa decided thus: ‘What has been mentioned in the Smṛtis, Vedas and Purāṇas should be really so’ and said to the Brāhmaṇa laughingly: “O Brāhmaṇa, wait till I return.” Saying this, the Brāhmaṇa went to the great Daśāśvamedhika Tīrtha. Holy bath, Mahālaṃbhana (the great seizing, touching, killing etc.) rite etc. were performed by that Brāhmaṇa. Japa, Śrāddha, Dana etc. were performed in accordance with the pious rites. He then performed the Saṃkalpa of a Kapilā (tawny cow intended for Dāna) and hastened to the place where the other Brāhmaṇa was waiting.

29-38. After coming there he said to the Brāhmaṇa: “The horse-sacrifice has been performed by me. Get up. Let us go to our beautifull house for taking food.”

On being told thus by that Brāhmaṇa, Śaṅkara became surprised. The Lord said to the Brāhmaṇa: “You went from this place just now, O excellent Brāhmaṇa: How were the stipulated ten Yajñas involving great amount of money performed?”

The Brāhmaṇa said:

You need not worry. Undoubtedly the Yajñas have been performed.

If the Vedas are valid and also Brāhmaṇas are Devas on the earth, if the Daśāśvamedhika Tīrtha is real, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, if what has been stated in the Vedas and Purāṇas shall happen undoubtedly, then everything has been attained by me. No doubt need be entertained in this respect.

On being told thus, the Lord of Devas pondered over his faith and belief in his mind but did not say anything by way of reply.

He went to his beautiful house reciting the eternal Vedic passages. On reaching the house, the local Brāhmaṇa adored the other Brāhmaṇa (Śiva) devoutly with Pādya and Arghya. Afterwards a good meal with dishes of all the six tastes was also given by him duly.

Then when Mahādeva, identical with all the Devas (Śiva wholly consisting of all the Devas) finished his meal, a shower of flowers fell on his head from the firmament. On observing his faith and belief, Śaṅkara became pleased and said:

Īśvara said:

O excellent Brāhmaṇa, tell me, I am the bestower of boons. What shall be done for you? Certainly even that which cannot be given ordinarily, I shall give you who are single-minded.

The Brāhmaṇa said:

39-49. O Lord, if you are pleased with me, if a boon has to be granted to me, O Mahādeva, you will have to stay in this Tīrtha always for helping (the world). O Lord of Devas, this shall be an ideal boon unto me.

After saying so, the excellent Brāhmaṇa climbed on to an aerial chariot that could grant all desires (that could be loved by all) and that was fully crowded with Gandharvas and Apsarās. Being eulogized he went to that place where all the people were free from ailments.

Mārkaṇḍeya said:

On seeing this unprecedented miracle, the goddess was extremely surprised. With the eyes beaming with wonder, she asked Śaṅkara:

Pārvatī said:

How can this be true? Why, this is unreasonable? O Maheśvara, many do bathe here. Do they go to Svarga like this Brāhmaṇa who has gone to heaven now? How did this happen? Tell me, great is my surprise.

On hearing this, the Lord of Devas laughingly said to her: “None should express incredulous surprise in regard to a Vedic passage, the meaning of the Purāṇa, the idea conveyed by a Smṛti and the utterance of a Brāhmaṇa. It is a valid means of testimony. If some people take up only one of the sides (regarding it doubtful) and consider what is sung about in the Purāṇa as impossible, O Pārvatī, they will not get Siddhi. There is nothing surprising.

If the people are non-believers, if they break the bounds of decorum and convention, they will never have Siddhi. If there is belief, if there is faith, it will certainly happen.”

After hearing this narration, the goddess bowed down to the excellent Tīrtha that is established on Narmadā, that is meritorious and destructive of great sins.

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

50-59. O great king, Daśāśvamedha is the most excellent one of all excellent Tīrthas. It possesses all good qualities. It is destructive of great sins.

Sarasvatī is a meritorious river. It is the foremost one of all meritorious rivers. It is the most excellent one among all rivers.

Merely by means of its name one is rid of all sins. Those who take their holy bath in it, go to heaven. Those who die therein, are not reborn.

That river Sarasvatī too comes to Daśāśvamedha with a desire to have the holy bath. O king, she observes the vow of Brahmacarya. By propitiating the Lord of Devas, she attains the greatest relief in salvation.

In order to wash off the sins accumulated in the course of a year, the river born of Brahmā comes here on the tenth day in the month of Āśvina.

After observing fast for the night and worshipping the Slayer of Tripura, she becomes free from sins and on the morrow attains the eternal region.

Yudhiṣthira said:

Sarasvatī, the most excellent one of all the rivers, the highly meritorious river, comes once a year to Daśāśvamedha in order to bathe. Will the Tīrtha have some special effect on Daśamī (tenth) day?

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

O king, in the month of Aśvayuja on the tenth day, it becomes augmented (in sanctifying power). In all the Tīrthas of the earth, it is the most perfect one.

In Daśāśvamedhika, O king, Daśamī (tenth lunar day) is always auspicious. Especially in the Āśvina month, the tenth day of the bright half is destructive of great sins.

On that day, a devotēe should be engaged in the; observance of fast after taking the holy bath and worship Devas. After performing the Śrāddha rite in accordance with the injunctions, he should worship Śiva.

60-70. He should also adore the divine river Sarasvatī present there and desirous of taking the holy bath (and address): “Obeisance, obeisance to you, O goddess of Devas, born of the body of Brahmā! O divine river, destroy the sins. Redeem me from the worldly existence.”

He should adore with sweet scents and incense again and again. After circumambulating ten times, he should encircle it with a thread. (A Kapilā cow should be encircled?) Without any ill feeling, the devotee offers the Kapilā to a Brāhmaṇa.

After gifting the Kapilā possessing all good features and offered along with the appurtenances to Brāhmaṇas, the devotee need not repent for his omissions and commissions.

Thereafter, he should light the lamps with ghee and keep awake for the night reading the Purāṇas, dancing and singing. He should worship the Moon-crested Lord by means of Jāpyas mentioned in the Vedas.

When the Sun has dawned clearly, he should take his holy bath in the Narmadā water and devoutly feed Brāhmaṇas and Yogins who are devotees of Śiva.

By doing thus, O king, he shall obtain the benefit of the Tīrtha perfectly.

A man who takes his holy bath there in the Tīrtha and worships Śaṅkara, obtains the excellent merit of the Avabhṛtha (valedictory bath) of ten horse-sacrifices.

With the soul purified by that merit, he goes to Rudraloka riding on a great (aerial) vehicle that is very splendid and that can go wherever it desires to.

There, the divine Apsarās fan him with chowries and raise auspicious sounds of ‘Be victorious’ etc. He thus sports for a long time.

In due course of time, he comes down to the earth here and certainly becomes a king who will scorch his enemies, enjoy great pleasures and be richly endowed with elephants, horses and chariots.

71-81. The Dāna made over to Śivayogins at the Daśāśvamedha

Tīrtha shall undoubtedly be on a par with ten Aśvamedha sacrifices.

Of all Yajñas, Aśvamedha is the most excellent one. It is inaccessible to men of meagre wealth and more so in the case of men of sinful activity.

Śaṅkara has said, O great king, that though it is inaccessible to Suras and Asuras, it shall be attained through the holy bath and offering of Dāna in that Tīrtha.

Whether he is desirous of it or not, O Lord of men, one who dies there shall attain the status of a Deva. No doubt need be entertained in this respect.

O excellent one among men, one who enters fire there at the Tīrtha shall stay in Agniloka until the annihilation of all living beings.

O Lord of men, one who meditates on Mahādeva and gets drowned there in the Tīrtha, shall attain Varuṇaloka.

This is the statement of the Śruti that if anyone were to cast off his body in Daśāśvamedha in a heroic activity, his goal shall be everlasting.

Neither those who fall off precipices nor the staff-bearing Daṇḍin Sannyāsins nor Sāṅkhyas and Yogins obtain that goal obtained by persons dying in a great battle reverberating with the sounds of Dundubhi drums and conchs and having the banners chaotically fluttering therein. A heroic man who is encircled by enemies and killed by them but never utters a pathetic cry, will attain everlasting worlds as reward.

If one adopts life of a recluse (Sannyāsa) at the Daśāśvamedha Tīrtha, he will never ruturn from Rudraloka. O Yudhiṣṭhira, the merit accruing from Daśāśvamedha has been succinctly recounted with devotion (by me). It is destructive of all sins.

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