by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes Gift of a City to Brahmanas which is chapter 11 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 eleventh chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Note: King Camatkāra of Ānarta built and gifted a city to Brāhmaṇas. The city was named “Camatkārapura” after the name of the donor. It is called “Ānandapura” and “Nāgara”, synonyms of modern Vadnagara. It is the home of Nāgara Brāhmaṇas of Gujarat.
The sages said:
1-3. O sage born of Sūta, how was King Camatkāra rid of leprosy? In what way did he perform penance? How long was it performed by the king? Who were those Brāhmaṇas by whom Śaṅkha Tīrtha was recommended for the purpose of the riddance from the ailment of the miserable noble-souled king? What is this Śaṅkhatīrtha? Where is it situated? What is its efficacy. Do explain in detail without leaving anything.
4-7. I shall recount to you all, this fascinating story, O Brāhmaṇas, of King Camatkāra. It is destructive of all sins.
For the sake of curing the disease, he used to consult leading physicians about medicinal herbs frequently and the knowers of Mantras about the curative incantations.
He did not get any desired (effective) Mantra or medicine or a holy spot whereby the tiger among kings could eradicate the foul disease.
8-11. Hence the excellent king became extremely disgusted. In a holy place of great merit shining (teeming) with all sorts of living beings, he continued to stay alone for a long time with his mind and soul under perfect control.
His food intake consisted of withered leaves and fruits. At night, he used to lie down on bare ground. Everyday he resorted to a new tree for the sake of food and rest. He fully eschewed pride and arrogance.
After roaming about a few days, the king saw many excellent Brāhmaṇas who were on their pilgrimage.
When those Brāhmaṇas sat down for rest near the hermitage of Viśvāmitra, he bowed down to them with great humility and requested:
The king said:
12-15. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, I am a king of the Solar race, Camatkāra by name, the ruler of Ānarta. I have been affected by leprosy. Is there any remedy, divine or human, any medicine or Mantra, whereby leprosy can be cured?
O excellent Brāhmaṇas, take pity on me and do tell me. My body defiled by this foul disease, leprosy, suffers a great deal. Or if you do not know (any remedy) I will enter fire or water and cast off my life or will take in poison to put an end to it.
16-20. On hearing his words, all the excellent Brāhmaṇas were moved with pity and they spoke to the Lord of the Earth: “O tiger among kings, not far from this place there is a holy place well known as Śaṅkhatīrtha. It is conducive to the destruction of all ailments.
Those men who are suffering from a disease, blind ones, those who have squints, sluggish ones, those deficient in limbs or those who have superfluous limbs, hideous ones, those who have deformed faces—all these should take their holy bath and observe fast at the beginning of the dark half of Caitra when the Moon is in the constellation Citrā.
We have seen hundreds of such persons who instantly became free from ailments and became endowed with refulgence of twelve Suns and handsome features like Kāmadeva (god of Love).”
The king asked:
The Brāhmaṇas said:
A younger brother of his was born. His name was Śaṅkha. He later became well conversant with scriptural texts. He perpetually performed penance with bulbous roots, roots and fruits for food.
After some time, he went to the hermitage of Likhita. On being afflicted with great hunger, Śaṅkha wanted to taste some sweet fruits. He entered the vacant hermitage of the noble-souled Likhita. Considering that the fruits belonged to him as well, he took many sweet fruits and ate them. In the meantime, Likhita came there along with his disciples.
On coming to know that Śaṅkha had already plucked the fruits, he said angrily:wO sinful one, you have yourself plucked the fruits not offered by me. Why did you take them like a thief? Why did you not wait for permission?”
29-33. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, what you have spoken is true. The fruits have been plucked from your hermitage when there was no one here. Hence give me punishment due for the act of theft, so that my life in this world as well as in the other one may be happy.
Thereupon he caught hold of the hands of Śaṅkha instantly. In his great rage, though he was prevented by the ascetics, he cut off the hands. Śaṅkha who got his hands amputated, performed a severe penance after going back to his own hermitage.
After some time Mahādeva became pleased with him. Appearing before him, he spoke to the eminent sage Śaṅkha:
34. O sage of great inherent strength, you have done a very difficult job. Receive from me any boon conceived of in your mind.
35-37. O Lord, if you are pleased, if you wish to grant me a boon, O excellent one among Suras, may two hands similar to the former ones, spring up again. Further, O excellent one among Suras, let this Tīrtha bear my name and be well known in all the worlds as destructive of all sins of men. If one has deficiency or superfluity in one’s limbs, if one is afflicted with any foul disease and if one takes one’s holy bath here, one shall become fresh (normal) once again.
The Lord said:
38-45. O eminent Brāhmaṇa, this Tīrtha will become well known after your name. It shall be destructive of the sins of embodied beings from today. Any person having deficiency of superfluity of limbs, who takes his holy bath here in the bright half of Caitra when the Moon is in the constellation of Citrā and observes fast, shall undoubtedly become perfect in every limb and very brilliant. O leading Brāhmaṇa, if he has any desire and then meditates, he will attain handsome features.
If he has no desire he will attain the great region of Śiva of great auspiciousness. If Śrāddha is performed here, O Brāhmaṇa, on the fourteenth lunar day when the Moon is in the constellation of Citrā, the Pitṛs will attain the most excellent satisfaction.
O tiger among Brāhmaṇas, today we have the excellent period of the close (last day) of the bright half of Caitra. In the afternoon the Moon will be in conjuction with constellation Citrā. Then you take your holy bath and observe fast. Instantly you will have the perfect pair of hands as before.
After saying this the Lord vanished. Śaṅkha performed the holy ablution in the Kutapa (about noon) period. Instantly his hands sprang up as before. They resembled a red lotus and shone well. They were marked with piscine signs.
The Brāhmaṇas said:
4648. It was thus, O excellent king, that by the power of the Moon-crested Lord of Devas that auspicious Tîrtha came into being on the surface of the earth.
Hence you too, O leading king, do take your holy bath there on the fourteenth lunar day in the bright half of the month of Caitra when the Moon is in the constellation Citrā.
There is no doubt about this that you will be rid of all ailments. We shall show it to you when the time arrives as mentioned.
49-52. A few days thereafter the day previous to the dark half of Caitra arrived, when the Moon was in the contellation Citrā, the fourteenth lunar day. Presently those Brāhmaṇas, the well-wishers of the king, took the king towards the Śaṅkhatīrtha.
Then he deeply meditated on the utter eradication of the foul disease of leprosy and duly took his holy bath with great faith.
He came out of the water completely rid of leprosy, dazzling with the lustre of twelve Suns. He was extremely delighted.
53-57. Afterwards he bowed down to all those Brāhmaṇas who had mastered the Vedas. With palms joined in reverence, he spoke these words:
“It was indeed due to your favour that, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, I have become rid of the foul disease of leprosy which had made me despicable unto all embodied beings for a long time.
Therefore, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, I will no longer rule the kingdom. I shall perform great penance for ever here at this Tīrtha. Let excellent Brāhmaṇas take over this kingdom, this whole land, whatever I have, the elephants, horses etc., for blessing me, the wretched one devoted to them. As a favour to me let them take great pity on me now that I have become completely detached.”
The Brāhmaṇas said:
58-63. O excellent king, we are incapable of protecting the kingdom. Then why should we take it up when it is going to become utterly chaotic?
The king said:
O excellent Brāhmaṇas, I will protect your interests though I will continue to perform the penance. In this matter none of you need have any fear.
The Brāhmaṇas said:
Of course, if you have faith in making munificent gifts, build an excellent city in this highly meritorious holy spot and give it to leading Brāhmaṇas, equipping it with ramparts, moats etc., then we can stay there comfortably taking the holy baths in the different Tīrthas, carrying on our duties as householders and proceeding with our study of the Vedic texts.
64-70. On hearing it, the king became delighted. He accepted their suggestions and constructed a vast city at that holy spot. It was surrounded by lofty ramparts, a deep moats etc. It was charming. Its diameter extended to a Krośa. Triangular and quadrangular market-places shone splendidly. Banners fluttered. Big palaces glittered with fresh whitewashed walls, ornamental gates and attics. Buildings had many floors and good people praised the structures. The king filled the houses with gold, jewels, pearls and various articles of household utility.
He washed the feet of the excellent Brāhmaṇas well-versed in the Vedas, having perfect control over the senses, in accordance with the injunctions in the scriptural texts with due regard for the age and excellence of each and offered those houses to them.
Footnotes and references:
Śaṅkha and Likhita are two ancient Smṛti-writers. The legend how arms were cut and were restored is found in Mbh, Śānti 231.16.36. The difference between the legend in Mbh and this Purāṇa is as follows:
(i) Likhita himself cuts the arms of Śaṅkha in this Purāṇa whi1e in Mbh Likhita lodges a complaint wiṃ king Sudyumna who ordered the amputation of the arms.
(ii) Śaṅkha regained his arms after bath in River Bāhudā (the granter of arms), modern Burha Raptī or Dhumila (De p. 6). This Purāṇa gives the credit to a Tīrtha at Camatkārapura obviously for the glorification of this holy place. The Tīrtha came to be known as “Śaṅkha Tīrtha”.