The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Killing of Vritra which is chapter 8 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 eighth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 8 - Killing of Vṛtra

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sūta said:

1-4. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, when Triśaṅku, the best of kings, reached Svarga thus, by the effort of Viśvāmitra, that Tīrtha became very famous in the entire range of the three worlds thereafter.

It became the bestower of virtue, wealth, love the salvation on all the people. It was untouched by the defects of Kali and also by minor sins. By the power of the Slayer of Tripuras, the sins of Brāhmaṇa slaughter etc. also never defiled it. One who casts off his life there with a mind filled with faith shall attain liberation even if the man happens to be great sinner.

5. Worms, birds and insects beasts, birds, and lower animals that die there, undoubtedly go to Śivaloka.

6. Those who take their holy bath there, with a mind sanctified by faith, will go to Svarga like Triśaṅku even if they happen to be irreligious.

7. Those who are distressed due to heat and those who are overwhelmed by thirst and plunge into the waters there shall go to the great place where Lord Maheśvara dwells.

8. On becoming aware of the excellent greatness of that Tīrtha, Viśvāmitra too left off Kurukṣetra and started to reside there.

9. Other quiescent sages abandoned their Tīrthas (of residence) which were far off and came there. Making their hermitages there, ultimately they attained the greatest region.

10-14. Similarly men from far-off lands, who had committed hundreds of sins hastened thither, had their holy bath and attained Svarga as a result due to the efficacy of the Tīrtha, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. In this manner, as the people attained heavenly abode easily, all the holy rites such as Agniṣṭoma etc., became defunct. No man cared to perform Yajña; no one wanted to observe vows and restraints. No on made gifts by way of Dāna; no one resorted to the holy Tīrthas. Everyone attended only to the holy bath in Liṅgabheda. Thereby he sat on excellent aerial chariots and went to Svarga.

15. Thereby, O Brāhmaṇas, the heavenly worlds became filled with human beings who competed with Brahmā, Viṣṇu Śiva, Indra and other excellent Suras.

16. At that all the groups of Devas, who were thus deprived of their shares of the Yajñas underwent a great deal of suffering. They took counsel with one another.

17-18. “The heavenly world is Filled completely, due to the greatness of Hāṭakeśvara, by the people of raised hands competing with us. Hence step should be taken to wipe out this Tīrtha named Hāṭakeśvara from the surface of the earth.”

19. Thereupon, at the behest of Śakra the Saṃvartaka Wind (the destructive storm at the time of the ultimate annihilation) filled the entire holy spot with dust particles, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

20. When thus that Tīrtha became ruined and bruied all the rites associated with Kratus became revived.

21. After a lapse of long time an anthill rose up in that#holy spot and it gradually reached down to Pātāla.

22-23. Thereafter, serpents came into the mortal world out of curiosity, through that path and wandered over the earth, where they enjoyed all human pleasures as they pleased and then went back to their own abode through the same path.

24. Therefore, O excellent Brāhmaṇas that anthill became well known all over the earth as Nāgabīla [Nāgabila?] (Serpent-hole) due to the to-and-fro movements of serpents.

25-26. After some time the Lord, the Slayer of Pāka (i.e. Indra) incurred the sin of Brāhmaṇa slaughter and became lustre-less. Thereafter, by the command of Pitāmaha, he entered Pātāla through that path and visited Hāṭakeśvara.

27. Instantly he became rid of sins, as a result of that visit. Regaining his splendour he went back to heaven.

28. Having thus become aware of the power of that Liṅga of the Trident-bearing Lord named Hāṭakeśvara, he became afraid of danger from human beings.

29-31. ‘If some man, like king Triśaṅku were to adore that Liṅga faithfully and become sinless, he will be sure to oust me from the heavenly abode. Hence I shall fill up this path to Pātāla.’ Hence he hurriedly prepared for the same. Śatakratu himself hurled the excellent mountain Raktaśṛṅga[1] (Red-peaked) into that hole.

The sages said:

32-33. How did Devendra incur the sin of Brāhmaṇā-slaughter? When did that noble-souled Devendra incur that sin? O Sūta, describe all this in detail to us. What is this mountain Raktaśṛṅga that was hurled there by him? Who was that particular group of men of whom the Consort of Śacī had the great fear?

Sūta said:

34-37. Formerly, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, the daughter of Hiraṇyakaśipu named Ramā was married by Tvaṣṭṛ. The lady was rich in beauty and other excellent qualities but for a long time she was not blessed with a son. Getting disgusted and detached, she performed a penance for the sake of a son. She began to meditate on Maheśvara, the Lord of Devas, the overlord of Suras. With perfect faith she offered oblations and other offerings and adored. She had perfect control and her diet was regulated. She had her holy baths regularly and performed Japa duly. To excellent Brāhmaṇas she offered different kinds of Dāna.

38-40. At the end of a thousand years, Maheśvara became pleased with her and said: “I shall grant you a boon you wish. Do choose it.” She pleaded: “O Holy Lord, with your favour, let a son be born to me. Let him be heroic adopting the from of a Brāhmaṇa and Dānava. He should not be killed by means of weapons. He should have studied the Vedas fully and always be active in sacrificial rites. Due to his splendour and fame he should be well-known among all the embodied beings.”

The Lord said:

41-42. There is no doubt about this. Your son will be learned and strong. He cannot be killed by any weapon. He will be endowed with great splendour. He will perform Yajñas and make gifts. He will be heroic with full mastery of the Vedas and Vadāṅgas. He will perform all the holy rites enjoined in the Brāhmaṇas. He will be invincible in battle unto all the Suras and Asuras.

43-44. Having said this the Lord of Devas vanished. After the next menstrual cycle she duly conceived from Viśvakarman. In the tenth month she gave birth to a splendid son marked with all characteristic features and splendorous shining like twelve suns shining together.

45. On the twelfth day, the father honoured excellent Brāhmaṇas and gave to him the well known name Vṛtra.

46. The boy grew up like the Moon in the bright half delighting the father and the mother. He was duly fondled by all the kinsmen.

47-48. Then the excellent Brāhmaṇa Śukra, formally initiated him in the Vrata of celebacy (Brahmacarya) befitting a Brāhmaṇa though he (Vṛtra) was a Dānava. Vṛtra was a favourite of his preceptors. Establishing himself in the holy Vrata of a celibate (religious) student Vṛtra studied by heart all the Vedas along with Vedāṅgas.

49. Attaining prime of youth, he conquered all the kings and brought the whole Earth under his control; thereafter he conquered Pātāla also.

50. Ambitious of conquering Indra, he went to the abode of Suras and routed the Devas including Indra in the course of a battel.

51-58. The Thunderbolt-bearing One fought eighteen battles with him but in none of them did he win, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

Along with the surviving Suras who were wounded and maimed in all their limbs, the frightened Lord Śakra started from heaven and went to Brahmaloka.

Vṛtra occupied position of Śakra and enjoyed the entire range of the three worlds after destroying all the obstacles thereto.

The mighty one employed the power-arrogant Dānavas in the different positions of the Devas facilitating their partaking of the shares in the Yajñas.

O excellent Brāhmaṇas, thus he attained the suzerainty over all the three worlds, yet he was not contented because he had an eye on Brahmaloka.

Thereupon he summoned Śukra along with four of his ministers. Bowing down humbly, he spoke these sweet words:

Vṛtra said:

O leading member of the family of my preceptor, Śakra has gone to Brahmaloka in fright. Tell me how one has to gain access thereto, so that I can kill Śakra, Viriñci and everyone else. I shall grant you Brahmaloka and enjoy Svarga myself.

Śukra said:

59. O excellent one among Dānavas, you will have no access thereto. So, it behoves you to be contented with the dominion of the three worlds.

Vṛtra said:

60-61. As long as Sutrāmā (Indra) is alive, I Will not be happy. Hence, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, I shall endeavour for the state of full riddance of all obstacles.

O scion of the family of Bhṛgu, how did Śakra get an entry therein? O highly intelligent one, tell me why it will not be possible for me.

Śukra said:

62-64. Formerly a penance was performed by him in the Naimiṣa forest, O excellent Dānava. He had been meditating on Śaṅkara for a period of one thousand years. By the power thereof, he has free access thereto forever along with his servants and followers. There is no other reason for that.

Another person who performs a similar penance in the Naimiṣa forest shall also have undoubtedly the access to Brahmaloka.

Sūta said:

65-70. On hearing it, he hastened to Naimiṣa the excellent Tīrtha, and performed a very severe penance meditating on Maheśvara. Earlier lie had assigned the protection of the three worlds to excellent Danujas who had great power and who were superior to even Śakra in valour.

During rainy season he remained under the open sky. During Hemanta (winter) he resorted to water-ponds. During summer he practised his holy rite in the midst of fires. He sustained himself by the intake of air only.

He continued the penance for hundreds of years. Therefore, Devas with Brahmā and Viṣṇu as leaders became frightened.

They could only take counsel together for destroying him. They tried to find loopholes and vulnerable points, but they could not. They became miserable.

Ultimately Viṣṇu decided in his mind, after giving deep thought for a long time to the means of destroying Vṛtra. He joyously said:

Viṣṇu said:

71-77. O Śakra, now I have found out a means to slay him certainly. There is no other means. Listen to this and act on it immediately.

He has been made immune to the fatal attack of all weapons by the Trident-bearing Lord. Hence for slaying him get the Vajra (thunderbolt) prepared out of bones.

Indra said:

O Lord, how is this Vajra to be created? What is that animal whose bones are to be used? Elephant? Śarabha(?) (eightfooted fabulous creature) or any other? Tell me.

Viṣṇu said:

O Lord of Suras, the bone should be hexagonal in shape and a hundred Hastas (cubits) in length. It should be thick at the sides and thin in the middle. It shall have frightening features.

Indra said:

O Lord of Suras, such an animal or being is not seen in all the three worlds from the bones of which the Vajra of these features can be created.

Viṣṇu said:

There is a Brāhmaṇa named Dadhīci. He is performing a severe penance in his hermitage on Sarasvatī. He is twice as long as the one we require. Go quickly and request him. He will give you his bones. Once he is requested he has nothing which he cannot give.

78-81. Then, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, Śakra went to his hermitage along with the Suras. His hermitage was at a Puṣkara on the banks of Prācīsarasvatī (modern Raunākṣī).

On coming to know that the Devas had come to his hermitage, Dadhīci became delighted and he hurried to meet them.

The excellent Sage bowed down to Indra and others and adored them with Arghya etc., thereafter. Then he stood by with humility after bowing down to Indra repeatedly. He said joyously:

Dadhīci said:

82. Why have Devas come here? May my duty be told quickly O slayer of Bala, I am blessed indeed, to whose house you yave [have?] come.

Śakra said:

83-86. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, all of us have been defeated by Vṛtra. By the power of the boon, he cannot be killed by any weapon. Hari says that he could be killed by means of a Vajra created out of a bone a hundred Hastas in length. There is no such being excepting you, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. So give us your bones so that a Vajra capable of killing him (Vṛtra) may be made. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, do this much to quell the distress of Devas. Otherwise all the Devas will be utterly annihilated.

Sūta said:

87. On hearing it, the holy sage Dadhīci joyously cast off his life for the sake of the welfare of the Heaven-dwellers.

88. Then the delighted Devas gathered all the bones and made a great Vajra in the manner explained by Viṣṇu.

89-93. Śakra took it with him and went towards Naimiṣa.[2] He had fear still lurking in his mind and he trembled awfully. Immediately after nightfall, the Lord of Devas standing far away struck Vṛtra who was in meditation, by means of the Vajra. Having done it he fled.

Vṛtra, a tiger among Dānavas, was reduced to ash due to the blow with the Vajra, like a fire-fly that falls into fire.

Still in his fright, Śakra fled to the middle of the Sea and climbed on to a mountain with high peaks, which could not be scaled easily.

He still was not sure that Vṛtra had been killed by the blow of the Vajra. He stood there watching the path by which Vṛtra could possibly come.

94-97. In the meantime the Devas saw that Vṛtra had been slain. They experienced horripilation due to joy and eulogized Indra.

They were unware that out of fear he had disappeared on the mountain in the sea. They began a search and with very great difficulty they got at him after some time.

The saw him sitting inside an inaccessible cave in the mountain. He was lustreless and a dejected state. Evidently he was overwhelmed by the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter. All the ten quarters were filled with the offensive smell from his body.

98-100. On seeing Śakra thus the Four-faced Lord stood aloof suspecting the sin and said to the groups of Devas: “O excellent Devas, this is Śakra overwhelmed by the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter. He should be kept at a distance. Otherwise you will also contract the sin. See, all the signs of the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter arc evident on his limbs. They are clearly visible. We shall go to heaven.”

101-103. The Lord of Suras had seen the Devas with Pitāmaha as the leader come there. But all of a sudden they were going away with faces turned. At this he was dismayed.

In great confusion he said: “O Suras, why do you go away. Even after seeing me, you go away without speaking to me. I hope everything is all right at home. Was that Dānava killed with my Vajra? I hope the wicked fellow is not on the lookout for me to fight with me.”

Brahmā said:

104-111. O Śakra, the Dānava has already been killed by the Vajra. The sinful fellow is under the control of the god of Death. You need not fear at all. But due to his slaughter the despicable sin. of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter has overcome you, O Śakra. You have become unworthy of being touched. We will not touch you.

Indra said:

Many Dānavas have been killed by me formerly but this sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter did not overtake me. How is it so now?

Brahmā said:

O Vāsava, they were killed by you in battle abiding by the duty of a Kṣatriya. All of them were pure Dānavas. Therefore no sin overtook you. But this fellow had been invested with the sacred thread. Moreover he was peforming a penance. O Śakra, you killed him treacherously. So you have become a sinner.

Indra said:

O Four-faced One, I am conscious that my body has become foul and sinful through the symptoms of the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaugluer. Hence tell me the means of purification whereby the sin due to Brāhmaṇa-slaughter may be dispelled quickly and I can be worthy of being touched by Devas, O Prapitāmaha.

Brahmā said:

O excellent one among Suras, for that purpose you have to undertake a pilgrimage. Without it your sin cannot be eradicated completely.

Sūta said:

112-123. Then, at his instance Śakra undertook the pilgrimage. He wandered over the entire earth taking a holy plunge in all the well-known Tīrthas, Nadīs and Nadas. The Thousand-eyed Lord went to Vārāṇasī, Prayāga, Prabhāsa, Kurujāṅgala and other holy places but did not get rid of his sin.

Utterly dejected thereby, he thought thus: ‘I have taken holy bath in all the Tīrthas on the earth. But I have not got rid of the sin. What shall I do now? Should I fall down from the peak of a mountain? Would I drink poison. Divested of the eminence of the kingdom of the three worlds, I am not eager to live.’

Thus in his utter disgust and dejection Vāsava climbed on the top of a mountain. In his resolve to die he was about to hurl himself down, when, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, a divine voice arose.

“Do not be rash, O Śakra, in your desperate state of mind. You have yet to reign for the period of eight Yugas in the heavenly kingdom. Hence, O Śakra, listen attentively to the means of expiation for the sin. Carry it out quickly. Otherwise there shall be no purification.

Formerly you had closed down a hole in the holy spot of Hāṭakeśvara by means of dust particles. It is a place where Lord Hara is present himself. O Lord of Devas, through an anthill there a serpent hole has been made which was used by serpents to come to the earth and return. Through that very path you should go to Hāṭakeśvara. Take your holy bath in Pātālagaṅgā and worship Maheśvara. Thereby you will undoubtedly be rid of sins. You will regain your dominion of the heavenly kingdom free from all obstacles.”

Sūta said:

124-132. On hearing the aerial voice, Śakra hurriedly went to the place where the serpent-hole (Nāgabila) was. Through it he entered Pātāla and took holy bath in the (Pātāla) Gaṅgā water. He then adored the Liṅga named Hāṭakeśvara. In an instant his body became free from impurities. The offensive small disappeared and the rediance increased.

In the meantime Suras led by Brahmā and Viṣṇu came there and joyously spoke to the king of Devas rid of all sins: “O Śakra, you have attained purity. You arc freed from the sin of Brāhmaṇa-slaughter. So come on, we shall all go to heaven together. O Śakra, fill up this serpent hole with dust particles once again. Otherwise human beings may pass through this and attain Siddhi easily. They will take the holy bath in the waters of Gaṅgā, worship this Liṅga and attain the greatest goal even though they may be great sinners.”

Thereafter all the Devas and Śatakratu bowed down to the Lord and went to the heavenly abode. There in heaven the festivities connected with the slaughter of Vṛtra were celebrated, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, when Śakra regained his status as the overlord of the Devas.

Sūta said:

133-134. Thus everything connected with the glory of Hāṭakeśvara has been recounted to you all. The greatness thereof, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, is destructive of all sins. One who recites this with devotion, one who listens to this with devotion, one who listens to this with attention shall go to the greatest region devoid of old age and death.

Footnotes and references:


Raktaśṛṅga: A mythical mountain, son of Himālaya. It was used by Indra [??] close the passage from the earth to Hāṭakeśvara Liṅga in Pātāla.


Here the story of killing of Vṛtra by Indra is different In Mbh, Śānti. 281.13-30, Indra fights with Vṛtra. But in this Purāṇa, Indra is a coward. Indra hurls his Vajra at Vṛtra while he was absorbed in meditation and instead of waiting for the effect of Vajra on Vṛtra, he immediately runs away and conceals himself in a cave in a far-off sea. Brahmahatyā closely followed him and overpowered him. When Bṛhaspati and Devas traced him, he was found as a leper, a victim of Brahmahatyā.

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