The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Greatness of Sharmishtha Tirtha which is chapter 62 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 sixty-second chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 62 - Greatness of Śarmiṣṭhā Tīrtha

Sūta said:

1. That king decided thus, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. He did not abandon that Viṣakanyakā though advised by the astrologers.

2. She became well known by the name Śarmiṣṭhā as she was like spittle (Ṣṭhīvana) of happiness (Śarman) that had been thrown out by the father. She was being given by the king lovingly but none accepted her.

3. In the meantime the enemies of that king angrily attacked him and the kingdom from all sides.

4. The enraged king set off from his place surrounded by his army for a fight thinking that if he were to return it would be (no better than) death.

5. He fell upon the enemies and fought a great battle with his army consisting of four divisions and increased the population in the country of Yama (by killing enemies).

6. On the tenth day all his enemies encircled him and killed him.

7. The men of that king who survived the battle, were frightened and distressed. They fled to the city quickly.

8. All the hosts of the enemies were highly delighted. Desirous of gaining further victory they besieged the city in order to exterminate his sons.

9. In the meantime all the citizens in the height of their grief rebuked and reviled the wicked Viṣakanyakā with very harsh words.

10-13. “It was the result of the (ominous) defect of this sinful girl that the king died. The annihilation of the country will follow the ruin of the (capital) city. The king too had been told then by the learned Brāhmaṇas: ‘Abandon this censured Viṣakanyakā who is full of many defects.’ But the noble-minded, compassionate king was fettered by bonds of affection. So he did not abide by the advice even of those well-wishers. Hence, at least now, let this sinful girl be killed quickly or banished from the city lest the city should be ruined.”

Sūta said:

14. She too heard the diverse kinds of derogatory remarks of the people. She became disgusted much and censured herself.

15. Filled with terror and grief, she went out at night and proceeded towards the forest where she had determined to die.

16. Then the great sacred place of Hāṭakeśvara was seen by her. It gave much solace to her mind as it was filled with sages.

17-18. Thereupon, she recollected the incidents of the previous birth: “As a Cāṇḍāla woman I had quenched the thirst of a cow. By its power I was reborn in the palace of a king. It was due to the power of this holy spot. Hence I shall stay here only.”

Sūta said:

19. In the previous birth she was a despicable Cāṇḍāla woman distressed with poverty and overburdened with many children.

20. In the course of her ramblings she came to this holy spot. She was overcome with thirst. It was the time when the Sun was overhead at midday in that terrible (very hot) month of Jyeṣṭha.

21. She saw a small well with very little water. Near it she saw a tawny-coloured cow standing by.

22. In the height of her compassion she left off all thoughts of love to her children and her own life. She made (allowed) the cow to quench her thirst.

23. Her mind had been swayed by devotion to the cow. Due to the lack of water she met with death along with the children.

24. Then, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, she was reborn in the palace of a king by the power thereof; but she was born as a Viṣakanyakā as an inevitable result of the previous Karma.

The sages said:

25. What was that Karma as the inevitable result of which she was reborn as a Viṣakanyakā? She had exterminated her own family. O Sūta, narrate everything to us.

Sūta said:

26. O Brāhmaṇas, even as she was rambling as a Cāṇḍāla woman, she went into a temple where there was a splendid gold image of Gaurī.

27. That being a deserted place, she got hold of the gold image joyously and went to another country. The despicable woman wanted to cut the image into pieces for selling. Even as she was engaged in it the officers of the king who had been searching for her overtook her.

28. On meeting her they rebuked hex repeatedly and hit her with their fists, pelted with clods and struck her with sticks.

29. They seized the gold and left her in a pool of blood. Thinking that she (being a woman) should not be killed thus, they returned to the city.

30. She had touched (and defiled) the image of Pārvatī. Further she cut it into pieces. It was a result of this evil deed that she was reborn as a Viṣakanyā.

31. She then recollected the incidents of this previous birth. Pondering over the greatness of the gift of water drunk by the cow she now dug a big lake of clear water in the place of the earlier small well.

32-33. It was a big lake like a sea. It was beautifully embellished with clusters of lotuses. Fish and turtles abounded in it and porpoises added to its glory. Many swans, cranes anḍ ruddy geese resorted to it all round. The water was unfathomable and the aquatic creatures took delight therein.

34. With great devotion she got a charming mansion lofty like a peak of Kailāsa erected near it pleasing to the eyes of the good.

35. Then she devoutly installed Gaurī and performed a penance. Before the goddess she observed the Vrata as laid down in the scriptural texts.

36. Even in Hemanta (early winter) she used to take bath in the morning and worship Gaurī devoutly with adoration and offerings of oblations and making gifts to Brāhmaṇas and the like.

37. That princess used to take bath both in the morning and in the evening during Śiśira (late winter) with great mental concentration and purity. She used to observe fast on alternate days.

38. During spring season the pious lady propitiated Pārvatī through dances and songs. She used to take food only once in six times (i.e. in three days). She was engrossed in making gifts of food-grains.

39. The daughter of king Vṛka endowed with great faith performed penance in the midst of five fires during summer. Fruits alone constituted her diet.

40. During rainy season water constituted her intake. The Viṣakanyā abandoned her hut and lay down under the open sky.

41. Then she spent autumn by taking in only air. She was always engaged in Japa with her mind meditating on Pārvatī.

42. Even as she continued to propitiate thus, the goddess, the daughter of the Mountain, a long time elapsed; but she did not obtain any desired benefit.

43. Continuing her state of virginity, her face was full of wrinkles and her head was marked with greying hairs; but the Beloved of Hara did not get pleased (with her).

44. After some time had elapsed, once the goddess adopted the form of Śakrāṇī in order to test her. Thus she appeared before the princess.

45-46. She was seated on a great elephant with four tusks and a very long trunk. It could be compared to the peak of Kailāsa. It resembled the Sun in lustre. It was as white as lime powder and in the state of rut.

She was surrounded on all sides by the wives of Devas. She was adorned with necklaces and bracelets and she wore a crown on her head.

47. A white umbrella was held above her head. She was attended upon by celestial damsels and was eulogized by Kinnaras.

48-50. She was sung about by Gandharvas. She then spoke respectfully, “O daughter, I shall grant a boon unto you. Request for whatever you desire.”

I am the wife of the Lord of Suras and am glorified as Śacī in all the three worlds. Now I am pleased with this excellent penance of yours. Taking pity on you, I have myself come to you.

A great penance has been performed by you meditating on the Beloved of Hara. Yet the highly ruthless Bhavānī has not become pleased by your penance (so seek a boon from me).”

Sūta said:

51. On hearing the words of Śakrānī the Viṣakanyakā bowed down to her, standing with palms joined in reverence and spoke thus:

The Viṣakanyā said:

52. O goddess, I don’t intend to request you for anything. Similarly, O Indrāṇī, I don’t wish to request other deities too. There is no doubt about it.

53. O beloved of Indra, I may go to a hideous Naraka by the command of the wife of Hara; but I will not go even to heaven by your command.

54. I will choose a boon from that goddess who is adored by Devas, who has neither a beginning, nor a middle nor an end and who is endowed with glory and perfect knowledge.

55. I will choose a boon from that goddess whom Viṣṇu, Brahmā, Rudra and Vāsava propitiate. I will seek the object I desire from that goddess alone.

56. I will choose a boon from that goddess by whom the entire range of the three worlds consisting of mobile and immobile beings, is pervaded by means of diverse kinds of female forms.

Śrī Devī said:

57. I am the wife of the Lord of Suras. I am dearer to him than his life. Devas, Dānavas and Pannagas obey my order.

58. Kinnaras, Guhyakas and Yakṣas too obey. Then why not those of mortal activities? So, O bad ascetic woman, why don’t you receive a boon from me?

59-60a. Hence I shall certainly shatter your head with a blow of the thunderbolt.

60b-64. O Brāhmaṇas, on hearing her words the ascetic woman took enough courage to tell the goddess of Suras once again: “You are the mistress of Devas. This is undoubtedly true. I am propitiating that supreme goddess from whom you have received your power and glory. O goddess of Suras, even the least of a fault has not been perpetrated against you by me. Still, if you consider me as one deserving death, do hurl the weapon. O Śakrāṇī, do listen attentively to another word of mine also. On hearing it, you ponder over it fully and do what is beneficient. Neither you, nor your husband Śakra nor the other Suras and Asuras are capable of slaying me, as I have sought refuge in Pārvatī. So hasten to heaven kindly; do not waste your fury over me, O goddess of all Suras, as I strictly abide by the right path.

Sūta said:

65. After saying this to Śacī, the miserable Viṣakanyā decided to die and thought thus:

66-70. ‘Since the goddess, the Daughter of the Mountain is not pleased with me, and if this Śakrāṇī too does not kill me, I shall certainly resort to the burning fire immediately.’ Thereafter she saw presently the elephant Airāvaṇa turning all of a sudden into the Bull having complexon like milk, jasmine and moon. She saw Goddess Pārvatī seated on it along with Śambhu. The goddess had four arms. Her face was beaming pleasantly in her divine form. She was wearing white garlands and garments. The crettent moon adorned her forehead. Then the Viṣakanyā looked at her closely and realized that it was Pārvatī the unborn. Then she repeatedly bowed down and eulogized.

Prayer of Viṣakanyā:

71. “Obeisance to you, O goddess of the chiefs of Devas. Obeisance to you, O goddess abiding in everything, O truthful goddess devoid of old age and death, O bestower of everything desired.

72. O goddess, even Śakra and other gods do not know how to extol your real form. How can I, a mortal woman, do it?

73. You are the goddess from whose person was born the Cosmic Egg constituted of Earth, Ether, Water, Fire and Air and consisting of Devas, Asuras and human beings.

74. Brahmā is not competent to give birth to her; Maheśvara is not competent to destroy her; and Govinda is not competent to protect her. How can I adequately eulogize you?

75. You are the goddess who are the possessor of the highest eightfold perfection by your very nature; which has nothing superior to it in the world, and is always the most desirable thing.

76. You are the goddess whose diverse forms the sages engaged in perfect meditation think of devoutly and obtain what they desire.

77-78. The Yogins who are determined to attain salvation conceive your form in the heart and adore it by means of the flowers of genuine sentiments. Being a human being, how can I eulogize that Maheśvari?

The Devī said:

79. O daughter, I am happy with you. O lady of excellent Vratas, choose your boon. I shall grant you certainly what has been cherished for ever in your heart.

Viṣakanyā said:

80. It was for the sake of (obtaining) a husband that I endeavoured thus, O goddess, by means of the penance. Now that I have been overcome by old age, what can I do with him?

81. Hence I shall have to stay here in this hermitage for ever along with you. O Pārvatī, at my instance and for the welfare of all women you must stay here always.

Śrī Devī said:

82. O fair lady, from now onwards, I shall make my hermitage in this excellent and auspicious penance grove of yours. (I Hope) this has been thought of by you within the heart.

83. A woman who takes her holy bath here on the third lunar day in the bright half of Māgha, shall, due to my favour, obtain the desired benefit.

84. Even after committing great sins, a woman or a man shall,with my favour, be free from sins after taking the holy bath here.

85. If men make gifts of fruit here, all their hopes and expectations shall become fruitful undoubtedly.

86. Even after killing a woman, a man who takes his holy bath here on the third lunar day in the bright half of Māgha, shall become free from sins.

87. O fair lady, a girl who takes her holy bath on that day with great devotion shall undoubtedly obtain an excell ant husband.

Sūta said:

88. After saying this, Gaurī touched her with her hand. Thereby she instantly became one possessing a divine form.

89. Old age disappeared from her. She had divine garlands and unguents. With protruding thick bosom, she became a woman with the gait of an elephant in rut.

90. Then she made her own maid. Taking her she went to Kailāsa, the excellent mountain, along with Hara.

91. Ever since then that Tīrtha is called Śarmiṣṭhā Tīrtha. It is well-known in all the three worlds as one that destroys all sins.

92. Hence, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, one should duly take one’s holy bath there assiduously on the third lunar day in the bright half of Māgha.

93. This narration of mine of the greatness of the Strītīrtha is sacred, conducive to longevity and destructive of all sins.

94. A man who gets up early in the morning always and reads this, shall obtain all desires of his mind.

95. Similarly a man who reads this or listens to this on festive occasions with devotion, shall go to Śiva’s palace.

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