The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Greatness of Gokarna Tirtha which is chapter 26 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 twenty-sixth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 26 - Greatness of Gokarṇa Tīrtha

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: This Gokarṇa Tīrtha is different from Gokarṇa Mahābaleśvara in Kanara district of Katnatak, Here Gokarṇas are the Brāhmaṇas who got Siddhi at a Tīrṃa in the Hāṭakeśvara area. The chapter gives a terrible description of the Narakas (21 according to this Purāṇa). The object is to make people lead a moral life by such deterrence.

Sūta said:

1-7. I have already recounted what is between the eastern and western borders. Now I shall recount what is between northern and southern borders.

There is a great city named Mathura on the earth. It is situated on the banks of Yamunā and many Brāhmaṇas reside there.

There was an excellent Brāhmaṇa well-known as Gokarṇa. He had acquired mastery in the study of the Vedas. He was well-versed in all scriptures.

Another Brāhmaṇa of the same name but of very advanced age also lived in that city. He was also very excellent and a master of all lores.

Some time Yama asked his servant who was hideous and terrible with hairs standing up and whose eyes were red and teeth black: “O messenger, go to the city of Mathurā now. Be quick. There is a Brāhmaṇa named Gokarṇa in that city. Bring him here. At midday today his life span comes to an end. There is another similar Brāhmaṇa there itself; he is of great longevity and so should be left alone.

8-17. The messenger hurried to that city at the bidding of Yama. But due to utter confusion, he brought Gokarṇa of great longevity.

Yama, with rage overpowering his soul, said to the servant: “O sinful one, fie upon you! This man of longevity has been brought here by you. What have you done? Take him back to the same place before his kinsmen burn his body with well-kindled fire on account of their grief.”

The Brāhmaṇa said:

I will not return there. It is my fortune that I have come to your presence. Afflicted by poverty I have always been desiring death.

Yama said:

If any man has yet to live even a minute (lit. wink of the eye) more, I will not fetch him here from the earth. O leading Brāhmaṇa, if anyone’s life span is full, I will not leave him too. That is why I am called Dharmarāja. I am equally disposed to all the creatures. I eschew partiality.

Hence, O Brāhmaṇa, go home before the body is burnt by your kinsmen who are grief-stricken. Nor can you stay here now. But, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, request for anything desired in your mind as your boon. No embodied beings should see me unnecessarily (i.e. prematurely).

The Brāhmaṇa said:

O Lord, if it is compulsory (essential) that I should go home, then tell me what ī ask for. It shall be my boon. Terribly hideous Narakas are seen where men of sinful activities go. Tell me which of those Narakas are attained by men and what the act is whereby it is attained.

Yama said:

18-28. O Brāhmaṇa, the Narakas are innumerable just like the groups of living beings on the earth. They cannot be completely enumerated even in the course of hundreds of years.

O excellent Brāhmaṇa, I shall enumerate them in accordance with their importance. They are twenty-one in number and have been specially created for sinning folk.


The first Naraka, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, is Raurava by name. There creatures are cooked (burned) in pots of boiling oil.

“Alas mother! O father! Ah son!” They make very fearful cries, the petty sinners who seek the cooked food of others and misappropriate the money of others.

O leading Brāhmaṇa, the second one (hell) is called Mahāraurava. It is resorted to (as punishment) by ungrateful ones and those who defile the preceptor’s bed. These sinners cry out utterly distressed by heat. They are roasted in fire and cut into many pieces by means of sharp weapons.

The third Naraka named Andhatamas is extremely terrifying. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, I shall tell you who those persons are who go here. Those base men by whom other men’s wives were looked at with evil eyes, get their eyes, pricked into by birds with steely beaks.

The fourth Naraka is called by the name Pratapta. After undergoing tortures here, they become pure once again. The sinners so destined are those who censure preceptors, gods and saints. Their tongue is uprooted frequently here, even as it comes up again and again.

This is another well-known Naraka, the fifth one named Vidāraka. Persons who had been guilty of treachery to friends are cut and pared by means of saw-blades.

29-38. The sixth Naraka is known to all as Nikuṃbha. It is terrifying unto all the people. It is Filled with heated sands and fire is perpetually burning here. Those men who had tortured other living beings without any fault of theirs earlier in their lives, are roasted here in heaps of (hot) sand.

The seventh foul Naraka is well-known as Bībhatsu. Urine, filth and rubbish abound therein. It is on the whole very despicable. Those men of evil souls who had indulged in calumny of the royal personages are kept here with their mouths filled with rubbish.

O Brāhmaṇa, the eight base Naraka is known all round as Kutsita. It is filled with offensive odour of phlegm, urine etc. Those who had taken food without offering it to the preceptors, deities and guests and more particularly to their own servants, are lodged here. O excellent Brāhmaṇa.

The ninth Naraka is named Durgama. It is full with sharp thorns and infested with serpents and scorpions. Those people who take food without first offering it to a fellow traveller of the same caravan unit, who shows symptoms of fatigue and languishes with hunger, are lodged in the Naraka.

This tenth Naraka is also known all round by the name Duḥsaha. It is surrounded with pillars of heated iron. Those sinners who are attached to the wives of others and are fond of tasty meat dishes are compelled to embrace red hot iron pillars in this Naraka.

39-49. Another Naraka here, the eleventh one, is called by the name Ākarṣa. O tiger among Brāhmaṇas, it is full of red-hot tongs and pincers. Those men who had misappropriated the wealth of a woman, a Brāhmaṇa, the preceptor and the deities are dragged here with heated tongs and pincers.

This twelfth Naraka is called Sandaṃśa. Base men who had eaten with relish prohibited foodstuffs are munched and crunched here by vultures with steel-like teeth and beaks.

This thirteenth Naraka is very well known as Niyantraka. It is fully infested with insects. The bondages here are firm and fixed. Sinners who misappropriate trust properties are kept in bondage here. They are eaten by worms, insects, scorpions etc., O excellent Brāhmaṇa.

The fourteenth Naraka is named Adhomukha. It stands topsyturvy. This is the most terrifying in form among all the Narakas. Those men who kill Brāhmaṇas are kept suspended from branches of trees, with their faces kept down and burned with fire.

This great Naraka, the fifteenth one, named Bhīṣaṇa is fully infested with lice, flies, bugs, etc., O excellent Brāhmaṇa. I have allotted this Naraka to men indulging in perjury, false statements and other evil activities.

This sixteenth Naraka is called Kṣudrada by name. It is filled with men distressed with hunger all round, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. Those Brāhmaṇas of great sin who had eaten tasty meat-dishes remain here. When distressed with hunger they eat their own body.

50-62. This seventeenth Naraka is remembered by the name Kṣāra. It is scattered with Sukṣāras (acid particles). It frightens all living beings. Those great sinners who violate their holy vows, heretics, etc. come here. They are crushed and pounded here with sharp weapons.

This eighteenth Naraka is noted by the name Nidāghaka. It is filled with burning coals. It is very difficult to be approached in the case of all embodied beings. O Brāhmaṇa, those men who censure and defile scriptural texts, good epics, Brāhmaṇas and virgins are placed under burning coals here.

This nineteenth Naraka is known very well as Kūṭaśālmali, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. It is filled with sharp thorns all round. Atheists, breakers of conventional curbs, slayers of Brāhmaṇas—all these men climb up and fall down in this Naraka.

This is the twentieth Naraka, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, named Asipatravana. Men of evil souls finds this very difficult to approach and resort to, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. Men who watch for vulnerable points of others, those who are engaged in deceitful actions and those who sell scriptural texts go to this hell.

This twenty-first one is the river named Vaitaraṇī. All people should pass through this, whether they are righteous or not. Those men who make gift of a cow when death is imminent, shall easily cross the river by holding her tail. Those who do not gift a cow and die, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, cross this impassable river by means of their hands etc.

Thus, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, everything that you asked me regarding the nature of the Narakas has been recounted to you in detail, out of love for you. Hence do go home quickly before the body is burned by the kinsmen who are distressed with grief. Do take with you whatever wealth you desire.

The Brāhmaṇa said:

63-70. O Lord, if it is decided that I should go back to my abode, then tell me what those acts are whereby a man can avoid going to Naraka.

Yama said:

A man who is always eager to undertake pilgrimage, who worships deities and guests, who is well disposed towards Brāhmaṇas and who deserves to be sought refuge in, can avoid going to Naraka.

One who is always eager to help others, one who is keen in performing Japa, and one who is engrossed in the study of the Vedas can avoid falling into Naraka.

O Brāhmaṇa one who is always engaged in digging wells, tanks and lakes and erects shrines for deities does not see Naraka.

One who offers warmth through fire during winter, one who offers water during summer and one who offers shelter during rainy season never sees Naraka.

A man who regularly observes holy vows and fasts, whose soul is quiescent (peaceful), who has conquered the sense-organas, who practises celibacy always and one who is constantly engaged in meditation does not go to Naraka.

A man who gifts food-grains and one who particularly offers gingelly seeds and one who practises non-violence as a rule, does not see Naraka.

One who has done regular study of the Vedas, one who is devoted to the scriptures, one with sweetness of speech and one who always gives religious discourses, does not see Naraka.

The Brāhmaṇa said:

71-80. Even a fool knows that a person regularly doing righteous acts does not fall into a Naraka and one who is engaged in sinful activities does not go to Svarga. Hence tell me how and by what means can a person of unrighteous acts dispell sin with a little effort and thereby attain Svarga.

O excellent one among Suras, tell me that Vrata or Niyama, Tīrtha, Japa or Homa that is contributory to the happiness of all the worlds.

Yama said:

In this context, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, I shall reveal to you a very great secret. At my instance it should be kept confidential always. It is a rite by performing which even a person defiled by great sins, can avert going to Naraka that causes pain.

In the land of Ānarta there is a splendid, auspicious and beautiful holy spot called Hāṭakeśvara which is destructive of great sins. It consists of all the Tīrthas. One who with devotion worships Hara there even for a fortnight, is honoured in Śivaloka even though he may be defiled by all sins.

Hence, go there quickly and propitiate Śaṅkara, whereby you will attain liberation along with ten members (generations?) of your family.

Sūta said

After hearing the advice of Dharmarāja he joyously proceeded towards his abode. By that time the messenger arrived there with the second Gokarṇa. He presented him to Dharmarāja quickly.

81-89. Dharmarāja joyously said to the messenger on Seeing the other Gokarṇa: “Since this Brāhmaṇa has been brought here by you after a delay, take him away quickly and leave him there.” Thus both the Brāhmaṇas of the name Gokarṇa were simultaneously released.

They assumed their respective bodies and the first Brāhmaṇa Gokarṇa who was benefited by Yama’s advice told everything in detail to the second one. Both the Gokarṇas left their homes and visited all holy centres abounding in holy shrines.

On the southern and northern borders two Liṅgas were installed by them. They reached Hāṭakeśvara Kṣetra and soon engaged themselves in penance. After performing the requisite penance and propitiating Śiva, they attained heaven along with their bodies, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

On the fourteenth day in the dark half of Mārgaśīrsa, they kept awake. One who devoutly does so, goes to Śiva’s abode. One without a son gets sons, one who seeks wealth attains wealth and a man with no desire attains salvation undoubtedly.

Sūta said:

90-98. Thus, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, everything concerned with the border has been narrated to you. The extent of the holy spot in all the four directions has been recounted.

Excellent Brāhmaṇas and men engaged in agricultural activities within the limits of these attain the great goal. In the case of persons of restrained souls, quiescent and self-controlled, persons who have conquered their sense-organs all the more so. Even insects and worms, animals, birds and beasts dying in that holy spot go to the heavenly world undoubtedly. Men who undertake fast unto death have still greater chances of doing so.

Those who have renounced and are endowed with faith in Janārdana in their heart will definitely attain salvation.

Hence with all effort that holy spot should be resorted to especially in Kaliyuga full of sins. All the Tīrthas sanctify through holy baths and Dāna rites but Hāṭakeśvara Kṣetra does so through mere residence there.

A man taking his bath in wells, tanks, lakes etc. and wherever there is water, O Brāhmaṇas, should be rid of all sins.

Of what avail are Yajña, Dāna, Vrata and Japa! It is better that people who desire heaven simply stay there.

This is sacred, conducive to longevity and auspiciousness and destructive of sins of those who listen to the greatness of Hāṭakeśvara Kṣetra.

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