The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Special Injunctions regarding the Pilgrimage which is chapter 227 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 two hundred twenty-seventh chapter of the Reva-khanda of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 227 - Special Injunctions regarding the Pilgrimage

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

1-10. Thus, succinctly and in accordance with their importance these Tīrthas have been recounted to you. O son of Pāṇḍu, no one is competent to enumerate in detail all the Tīrthas.

This river Narmadā is sacred and pure. It is well-known in all the three worlds. She is the most excellent of all the rivers, and a favourite of Mahādeva.

If anyone always remembers mentally and reflects on Narmaḍā, O king, he obtains quickly the excellent benefit of a hundred Cāṇḍrayaṇas.

Persons who have no faith, those who are atheists fall into the terrible Naraka. So said Parameśvara.

Lord Maheśvara himself resorts to Narmadā always. Hence the river should be known as meritorious and destroyer of the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter.

This river born from the person of Maheśvara is mentioned as Māheśvarī Gaṅgā (Gaṅgā of Maheśvara); O Yudhiṣṭhira, she is called the Southern Gaṅgā of Bharata.

Jāhnavī is the Vaiṣṇavī Gaṅgā, Sarasvatī is Brāhmī Gaṅgā. There is no doubt about this that Revā is Māheśvarī Gaṅgā.

Just as in the form of the Supreme Puruṣa (Being) the Lord has adopted Traimūrtatva (trinity-hood, being three gods) i.e. Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśa in one and there is no difference among them, so also, O son of Kuntī, do not think that there is any difference among the three rivers.

On the two banks of Revā, there are Tīrthas in thousands, hundred thousands and crores, O descendant of Bharata.

The Tīrthas are situated in water, on ground and in firmament and among trees. Who is competent to decisively fix their number, be he the Lord of Speech or Maheśvara?

11-19. By remembering Revā, sins committed in the course of a single birth perish. By visiting it the sins of three births perish. By taking the holy plunge into Revā, the sins committed in the course of seven births perish.

If a devotee takes his bath in Revā, it is as good as a task of Devas performed by him, Homa in the sacrificial fires duly performed and as the four Vedas fully studied by him.

The Tīrthas have been recounted to you succinctly and in accordance with their importance.

O son of Kuntī, the details can neither be recounted by me nor heard by you.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Tell me the procedure, the Yamas (restrictions) and Niyamas (regulations). Tell me further how to understand the meaning of expiation.

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

You have asked pertinently, O great king, regarding what is conducive to welfare in the other world. Listen attentively. I shall tell you everything as I know.

One should perform acts of a permanent nature by means of the body that is non-permanent. The Prāṇas (vital airs) shall surely go away like guests. One should extract the essential from the inessential viz. Dāna from wealth, truth from the word (speech), piety and glory from life and benevolence from the body (through physical activity).

It is heard that Kāla (Eternal Time, god of Death) cooks living beings in this big cauldron of deep-rooted illusion by means of fire in the form of the sun, where night and day serve the purpose of fuel, tossing and stirring with the ladle in the form of months and seasons.

It behoves you to carry on your duties hereafter completely knowing what is prescribed by the injunctions of the scriptural texts. Neither this world nor the other one can bring in happiness to a person of suspicious, hesitating nature.

20-29a. The achievement of result from the following is correlated with the faith of the person concerned: Mantra, Tīrtha, Brāhmaṇa, godhead, astrologer, medicine and preceptor.

If a Homa is performed without faith (and scrupulous care) gift is made, penance is performed and pious act is done similarly, without faith, O son of Kuntī, it is called Asat (false). It has no value either here or hereafter.

He who disregards the procedure laid down in the scriptural texts and acts capriciously, does not achieve fulfilment, nor happiness nor the greatest goal.

Of course, there are diverse means for the purification of the bodies of men. But no means of purifying one’s body can be on a par with resorting to Tīrthas.

Purification is possible (Firstly) through Kṛcchra, Cāndrāyaṇa and other observances or secondly by resorting to Tīrthas.

When a person proceeds towards a Tīrtha, O king, Devas and Pitṛs too follow him moving in the sky. They follow him with great delight.

The devotee performs all these rites: Śrāddha for the purpose of prosperity, taking leave of the deity and beloved kinsmen, the adoration of Viṣṇu and Śaṅkara and of the Lord of the Gaṇas etc.

After being formally permitted by Brāhmaṇas he should take up the regulations of the vows and proceed ahead. Only one who practises these restraints can attain the benefit of Tīrtha, O excellent king: eating food once a day, celibacy, lying down on the ground, truthful speech, avoidance of food from other people, abstention from accepting monetary gifts, avoidance of hatred, deception etc.

He shall adopt the guise of a saintly person; he should be modest and free from hypocrisy and arrogance.

29b-38a. He whose hands, feet and mind are under control, and possesses learning, austerity and fame attains the benefit of the Tīrtha.

O eminent king, one who is free from anger, addicted to truth, steadfast in vows and regards himself equal with other living beings attains the benefit of the Tīrtha.

Except in the case of Kurukṣetra, Viśālā, Virajā and Gayā, tonsuring of the head and observance of fast is universally applicable in all the Tīrthas.

Holy bath, adoration of the deity, offering of balls of rice during Śrāddha and feeding Brāhmaṇas in accordance with one’s capacity is the general practice in all the Tīrthas.

Listen attentively, O son of Kuntī, I shall recount the procedure in regard to one who sets out on pilgrimage for the sake of expiation with the mind fully restrained.

He shall take food only once a day. He shall be celibate. His food shall be without salt. After taking bath (elsewhere) he should proceed towards the Tīrtha (for another bath). His sole food should be Haviṣya (sacrificial food cooked in ghee). He should avoid conversation with a fallen person. He shall not indulge in talking too much.

He should eschew calumny, association with base ones and food from others. He should wear two cloths but be barefooted. He should be clean.

He should make the Saṃkalpa (ritualistic affirmation of intention) mentally and set out after formal permission. After going to the Tīrtha and taking the bath he should perform the adoration of the deity. If he is in a mood to repent and regret he shall be rid of all evil actions.

38b-49. The achievement of results and fulfilment in regard to the following is in accordance with the faith: Vedas, Tīrthas, Deities, astrologers, medicine and preceptor.

In Purāṇas and Smṛtis, the benefits of visiting a Tīrtha have been stated, O leading descendant of Bharata. A devotee should not suspect that such statements are Arthavādas (euphemistic utterances). He shall then reflect upon what is stated in the scriptural texts and come to a proper decision.

In regard to persons incapable of performing Kṛcchra rites physically the procedure for purification is as follows: He shall perform expiation after knowing the (efficacy of) a particular Tīrtha.

Listen, O great king, to that inasmuch as it is relevant to Narmadā. If the man sets out from a distance of twenty-four Yojanas, he shall obtain the auspicious benefit of twenty-four Kṛcchras.

In regard to the Yojanas beyond this Pādakṛcchra (one-fourth of the Kṛcchra) is proclaimed for one who sets out with a desire for purity (sanctity) as to the place within this range, the expiation occurs at every Yojana space according to learned men.

O great king, in the Tīrtha named after Praṇava i.e. Oṃkāreśvara Tīrtha, in the confluence of Revā and Urī and in Bhṛgukṣetra the benefit is remembered as double the previous one. In the confluence of the celestial river, in Sūlabheda as well as in the confluence of Karajā, O excellent king, it is a quarter less than the double.

Some say that it is thrice in the confluence of Eraṇḍī, the confluence of Kapilā and also in the confluence of Kubjā and Revā.

O great king, in Oṃkāra also that shall be proper and relevant. Similar is the case in the confluences of other rivers also with Revā.

O Yudhiṣṭhira, they say that the previous benefit is (on a par) with two Kṛcchras. In the confluence of Revā and the ocean, he attains (the benefit of) thrice the Kṛcchra.

50-59. O Yudhiṣṭhira, the Kṛcchra in the Śuklatīrtha is mentioned as four times (in benefit). Going by the stages of a Yojana, a devotee should stay there for some time, O excellent king. Thus he shall cover twenty-four Yojanas. Thus continuing the sendee unto Revā, perfectly united in the Yogic state, the devotee should be devoid of hypocrisy and arrogance and equipped with pure intellect for the purpose of sanctity. He shall be liberated.

Thus, O son of Kuntī, the characteristics of the topic of expiation have been recounted to you. The procedure regarding the pilgrimage to Revā should be guarded as a secret.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

O sage, tell me the measure of Yojana. By understanding it, it will certainly cause the purification of my mind.

Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya said:

Listen, O son of Pāṇḍu, I shall describe the extent of the measure of a Yojana. So also I shall describe the special features regarding the Kṛcchra with reference to the concerned pilgrimage.

They say that the measure of an Aṅgula is the length of eight Yava-grain or more placed obliquely or three Vrīhis (rice-grain). Twelve Aṅgulas make one Vitasti. Two Vitastis make one Hasta (Hand, about 18 Inches). Four Hastas constitute one Dhanus (bow). The same is called Daṇḍa by those conversant with the specialities of measurements. Two thousand Dhaṇus constitute one Krośa. Four Krośas make one Yojana. Thus, O bull among the descendants of Bharata, the measure of Yojana has been recounted to you.

Thereby the devotee making his pilgrimage understands the measure of the benefit too acquired by him.

O Excellent king, the benefit of Kṛcchra has already been recounted in respect to the Tīrtha in the form of water. As and when special features crop up I shall mention them in those contexts. Even as it is being mentioned to you who have faith, O king, listen to it.

60-67. The benefit of Kṛcchra etc., has been mentioned in the Tīrtha. There too the devotee attains the benefit of Kṛcchra through Upoṣaṇa (fast) also. One obtains the benefit of Kṛcchra through Dinajāpya (uttering of the names of the deity in the day time) also within one’s capacity.

After taking the holy bath in the Tīrtha and visiting, worshipping and bowing down to the Lord of Devas well-known there, a man obtains the benefit of the Kṛcchra, O son of Kuntī.

The main benefit of a Tīrtha is through the holy bath. The second benefit is through fasts. The third benefit is through the visit, adoration etc. of the well known deity cited. The fourth benefit is through Japa day and night within one’s physical capacity. The fifth benefit in regard to all the Tīrthas has to be reckoned on the basis of the distance.

One who has come within a range of a Yojana from the banks obtains a tenth of the benefit accruing from the Tīrtha concerned. No hesitation need be felt in this regard.

Taking a plunge in a Mahānadl (big river) together with observance of fast (even if) within a range of a Yojana, shall accord the benefit of Kṛcchra to men, O son of Kuntī.

Kulyā is a stream flowing to a distance of six Yojanas. Those that flow twelve Yojanas are called Alpanadīs (small rivers). Those that flow twenty-four Yojanas are Nadīs. Mahānadīs are rivers that flow to a greater distance.

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