The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Greatness of Vasordhara which is chapter 90 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.

Chapter 90 - Greatness of Vasordhārā

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages said:

1-2. O highly intelligent one, Agnitīrtha and Brahmatīrtha have been mentioned by you earlier, but their origin and greatness have not been told. Hence describe each one separately and in detail. We are not fully satiated by listening to your nectar-like words.

Sūta said:

3. In this context I shall relate to you a story that is destructive of sins. It refers to Agnitīrtha. It is auspicious and contributes to the happiness of everyone.

4. Formerly there was a king named Pratīpa. He hailed from the lunar race. He was endowed with heroism and was expert in the knowledge of Brahman.

5. He had two sons having all (good) features. Of them, O Brāhmaṇas, the first was Devāpi and the second was Śantanu.

6. When the excellent king Pratīpa went to the region of Śiva, Devāpi abandoned the kingdom and went to forest for performing penance.[1]

7. Thereupon Śantanu, his younger brother, was immediately installed in the hereditary kingdom by all the ministers.

8. In the meantime, while he was ruling the kingdom, Śakra who had become angry, did not shower rain for a period of twelve years.

9. So the entire world was afflicted by hunger and experienced great difficulties and sufferings. One who did not meet with death was like Cāmuṇḍā (ferocious).

10. Women were abandoned by their husbands; sons by their own fathers: mothers were abandoned by their sons. Others need not be mentioned.

11. By good luck or by chance, if at all any vestige of vegetation could be seen at any one’s place, be it raw or cooked, it was carried away forcibly by others.

12. All the trees became parched and all the water reservoirs became dried up. Even Gaṅgā and other rivers contained only very little water.

13-14. When there was the absence of rain thus and religious observances vanished, the entire world was filled with heaps of bones and columns of ashes. No one performed Yajña, Svādhyāya (self-study of the Vedas) and Vrata. Those who were agitated through hunger simply gazed at the sky for rain.

15-16. At that time the great sage Viśvāmitra became so distressed with hunger that only skin and bone remained in his body. Wandering here and there he reached a certain village from which everything had been completely drained and extracted. All round the entire region was covered with heap [heaps?] of bones of dead men.

17. Wandering about in the desolate region filled with stinking small and covered with bones of cows he reached the hut of a Cāṇḍāla.

18. There he saw near the residence a dog long dead, dry and rigid and odourless.

19. The sage resorted to a practice only befitting an occasion of excessive calamity and gathered it. He washed the dead animal with water and cut it up later.

20-22. Overwhelmed with hunger he cooked it over a well-kindled fire for the purpose of eating. He took a bit of the cooked meat, propitiated the Pitṛs and consigned it to the sacred fire. Instantly the fire left the entire earth and vanished from the view of all the inhabitants of the earth with a great anger in the mind against Śakra.[2]

23. In the meantime, when fire went out of the mortal world, those who remained on the earth were all the more troubled.

24. In the meanwhile Devas with Brahmā and Viṣṇu as their leaders wandered all over the earth in their search for the Fire-god.

25. While they were wandering thus, a great elephant was seen by them. Scorched and distressed by Vahni (Fire) he fell on the ground and breathed heavily.

26. On seeing the elephant, the Devas hurriedly asked it, “O elephant, we hope Fire-god was seen by you in the forest.”

The elephant said:

27. The Fire has entered this thickly grown cluster of bamboos now. I have been almost burnt by him. With some difficulty I have come out of it.

28. Hutāśana (Fire) was thereupon surrounded by the Devas in the cluster of bamboos. He cursed the lordly elephant and came out of it later.

29. “O base elephant, since you pointed me out to the Devas, the tongue in your mouth will be inverted.”

30. After cursing the elephant thus, Vaiśvānara (Fire) vanished instantly. The Devas closely followed him to find him out.

31. Then a parrot was seen by them as they were wandering further in the great forest. They asked, “O parrot, if Vahni is seen by you, do tell us”

The parrot said:

32. Yonder is seen a Pippala tree, O excellent Suras, in the midst of the Śamī grove. Vahni is present within this Aśvattha.

33. My nest was amongst its branches. It has been completely burnt along with my young ones. I was able to escape with great difficulty.

34. On hearing it Pāvaka (Fire-god) stationed within Śamī was immediately surrounded by all the Suras. He cursed the parrot and went away:

35. “O sinner, my presence was divulged to the Devas (by you). Hence, O Śuka (parrot), your voice will never be clear.”

36-37. After saying this Jātavedas (Fire) desired that he should not be seen by the Devas. He saw a deep water pond situated on the north-eastern side of the holy spot Hāṭakeśvara of lord Parameṣṭhin. He entered it and remained there quietly.

38. In the meantime the fishes, turtles and frogs thereof were scorched by the heat of Vahni. Hundreds of them were found dead.

39. One of the frogs partially burnt because he was destined to survive, came out of the water and it was seen by the Devas from afar.

40. “O Bheka (frog), tell us whether you have seen Hutāśana. It is for that purpose that all the Devas including Vāsava have come here.”

The frog said:

41. Now Vahni is staying in this water pond. On account of him many aquatic animals are dead under water itself.

42. O excellent Suras, our families have been destroyed. It was with very difficulty that I was able to escape from this watery expanse.

43. On hearing it, all the Suras surrounded that water pond. Thereupon Vahni cursed the frog:

“Since, O foolish frog, I was pointed out by you to the Devas, you shall become one without a tongue on this earth”

45. After saying thus Vahni came out of that spot. He was then addressed by the noble-souled Brahmā himself:

46-51. “O Vahni, why do you run away on seeing the Devas. Originally you have been their very mouth. If an Āhuti is duly offered to you it goes to Āditya (Sun). From Āditya is born rain, from that the food-grain and from it subjects arise. Hence you have become Dhātā (creator) and Vidhātā (dispenser) of the universe. If you are pleased the universe is sustained. If you are angry it will perish.

All the Yajñas beginning with Agniṣṭoma are established in you. Then all the living beings sustain themselves through your support.

O Agni, you move about always within all living beings. Thereby the food and beverage taken is become digested.

Hence be pleased with all the Heaven-dwellers. Speak out the reason for your anger whereby you leave them and move out.”

Sūta said:

52. On hearing those words of Lord Parameṣṭhin, Agni pretended to be angry because of his love, bowed down to the Lotus-born One and said:

Agni said:

53. I was angry with Śakra, O Lotus-born One, and so left the universe and vanished. Listen to the reason thereof.

54. Since Mahendra held back the downpour of rain, it resulted in damage to vegetation and medicinal herbs. As a result thereof I was offered the flesh of a dog by Viśvāmitra.

55. For this reason I vanished, not out of capriciousness or because of any mistake. I was afraid of eating the forbidden stuff. The truth has been told by me.

56. On hearing it the Four-faced One said to Śakra “What Śikhin (Fire) says in cogent? Why don’t you send down rain?”

Śakra said:

57. O Pitāmaha, Śantanu has been installed in the hereditary kingdom out of turn by transgressing his elder brother (Devāpi).

58. It is for this reason, O Lord, that the rain has been held back by me. Do tell me what shall I do now? O Pitāmaha you are the ultimate authority.

Pitāmaha said:

59. The sin of that irregularity has been already incurred and the result experienced by that king by way of the drougḥt. Now do shower the rain quickly.

60. Do everything at my behest, O Devendra, lest the three worlds perish ultimately through the want of vegetation and the attack of hunger.

61. In the meantime Śakra hurriedly ordered the Puṣkarāvartaka clouds to pour down rain on the earth.

62. At the bidding of Śakra they began to rumble and display lightning. In an instant, they filled the entire earth with water.

63. Then Brahmā along with the Devas spoke again to Hutāśana: “O Pāvaka, be visible to the Brāhmaṇas in the course of the Agnihotras. Now, do request me for any desired boon.”

Agni said:

64. O Four-faced One, may this watery expanse become meritorious and well-known all over the earth as Vahnitīrtha after my name.

65. If any devotee endowed with faith gets up early in morning, takes his holy bath, recites Agnisūkta and sees you respectfully, O Lord, you should be pleased with him. Do this kindly at my instance.

Śrī Brahmā said:

66-67. If a Brāhmaṇa, conversant with the Vedas, gets up early in morning, takes his holy bath, recites Agnisūkta and then sees me, he will obtain the entire benefit of Agniṣṭoma Yajña. O Pāvaka, sins originating from many births will perish.

Sūta said:

68. After saying thus, Lord Pitāmaha stopped, Pāvaka too stationed himself in the Agnihotras of Brāhmaṇas.

69. Thus the highly miraculous Vahnitīrtha originated there. A man who takes his holy bath (therein) in morning is liberated from all sins.

Agni said:

70. O Lord of the worlds, I remained unpropitiated for twelve years. As the mortal world was afflicted by hunger, I never got Havis anywhere.

71. Of course, Yajñas will be performed in future, O lord, in the course of a long time with herbivorous and other types of animals which afterwards will be born on the earth.

Śrī Brahmā said:

72-73. O Hutāśana, the few Brāhmaṇas who reside here will offer Vasordhārā (continuous flow of Havis etc., into the fire) day and night for ever. They will propitiate you and you will get nourished. They too will be requitted with all desirable things when their wishes are realized.

74-75. O Anala (Fire-god), when Homa is being performed at the time of Saṅkrānti (transit of the Sun), those who offer Vasordhārā may be sneezing. The sins of such persons committed knowingly or unknowingly ever since their birth and until the death, will be destroyed.

76. When you are satisfied all this will take place. Later on a well-known king named Śibi will be born in the land of Uśīnara.

77. He will be endowed with perfect faith. He will be performing a Sattra lasting for twelve years. He will offer you Vasordhārā day and night through the mouth of a water-pot with continuous flow of the current.

78. Thereby you will be fully satisfied and get completely nourished. You will be worshipped on the surface of the world by all the most excellent of those conversant with the Vedas.

79. From now onwards, whatever holy rite may take place either Śāntika (contributory to peace) or Pauṣṭika (nourishing) should be accompanied by Vasordhārā. All those will cause great satisfaction unto you.

80. The Vaiśvadevīya holy rite of the Brāhmaṇas will be futile if it is devoid of Vasordhārā.[3]

81. Since Yajña and other rites, the Śāntika, Pauṣṭika and Vaiśvadevīya become perfect and complete it is called Pūrṇāhuti.

82. One who is endowed with faith and offers Vasordhārā shall entirely attain his desire mentally cherished.

Footnotes and references:


Vide Mahābhārata, Ādi 94.61-62, also Udyoga 149.15-28. It is stated there that Devāpi was disinherited because of his skin-disease and hence he became a sage. Naturally Indra punished people for their illegal act (vv. 8-15 below).


Mahābhārata, Śānti ch. 141 records this but there the sage steals’ the dead dog and after offering some of its part to Pitṛs, he gets good food. Here the Fire-god abhorred the oblation of a dead dog and disappeared completely as a reaction against it.


The above legend is an explanation of the origin of the rites ‘Vasordhārā’ on Pūrṇāhuti,

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