The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Boon to a Chaste Lady: Dirghika which is chapter 135 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 one hundred thirty-fifth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 135 - Boon to a Chaste Lady: Dīrghikā

Note: The main object of this chapter is to describe the spiritual power of a chaste lady.—The object of Chapters 135 to 138 is to glorify the Dīghikā Tīrtha. Dīghikā, an old lady, marries an old leper. She carries him on her head to make him perform the pilgrimage of 68 Tīrthas. She reached Hāṭakeśvara at night. In the darkness she inadvertently dashed against sage Māṇḍavya who was impaled there. Due to excruciating pain, he cursed that her husband? ground and a spring of water appeared where they quenched their thirst. The next morning the Sun did not rise. Devas approached her. She allowed the Sun to rise. The Devas made her husband who died due to Māṇḍavya’s curse, live again. They made both of them young. The spring of water created Dīrghikā became known as Dīrghika-Tīrtha and is still efficacious.

Sūta said:

1-2. Further, there is another very splendid lake there named Dīrghikā. It is well-known all over the world and is destructive of all sins.

A man who takes his holy ablution there properly at the time of sunrise on the fourteenth lunar day in the bright half of the month of Jyeṣṭha is liberated from all sins.

3. Formerly, in the excellent city of Vardhamāna there was a well-renowned Brāhmaṇa named Vīraśarman. He was a very efficient scholar of the Vedic lore and holy vows connected therewith.

4. Once he had a daughter without good features. She was too tall, beyond the normal size. Thereby she caused popular derision.

5. In the same form, the girl attained youth. Remembering the scriptural injunction, no one came forward to marry her:

6-7. “A man who deluded by lust, marries a girl who is too tall, too short or with very short tresses of hairs, shall certainly meet death within six months.” Such was the scriptural passage and for this reason, everyone avoided that girl.

8. All men avoided her on seeing her excessive height. Thereupon, she became dejected and performed a very severe penance.

9. She performed the expiations named Cāndrāyaṇa, Kṛcchra, Parāka and Sāntapana as laid down in the scriptures.

10. Whatever Vrata there was, she observed it. So also Niyama, Saṃyama (control) and all other meritorious rites.

11. Even as she observed all these Vratas, old age overtook her. Still there was augmentation of refulgence caused by her penance.

12. Due to excessive curiosity, she always used to attend the court of Mahendra in order to listen to the opinions of the celestial sages and Devas in particular.

13. Whenever she vacated her seat and went homewards, Śakra’s servants used to sprinkle it with water.

14. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, on a certain day she herself saw the seat being sprinkled upon.

15. Thereupon, the aged virgin Dīrghikā became furious. Knitting her eyebrows, she said to Indra:

16-17. “What fault did you notice, O Śakrā? Why was the seat sprinkled with water? Is it a defect caused by another or is it mine? Hence tell me my sin. Otherwise, I will pronounce a terrible curse. There is no doubt about it. On this solemn truth, I vouch myself.”

Indra said:

18. O splendid lady Dīrghikā, except a single one you have no other fault. It is for this reason that the seat is sprinkled with water.

19. Though you are a virgin, you do experience the despicable monthly menstrual cycle. Hence, you incur the defect. There is no other reason.

20. Hence even now, if any sage is prepared to marry you take him on as your husband so that you will acquire purity.

21. That aged virgin Dīrghikā became ashamed thereby and hurriedly went to the excellent city Vardhamāna on the earth.

22. Wandering here and there, in places where four roads or three roads meet, with her right hand lifted up, she began to proclaim with a loud cry:

23. “If anyone, Brāhmaṇa by birth, comes forward to grasp my hand in marriage, I shall give a moiety of the accumulated benefits of my penance.”

24. On hearing her blurting out thus day and night, the people thought her to be mad and cut jokes about her among themselves.

25. Thus Dīrghikā carried on for many days when a Brāhmaṇa afflicted with leprosy heard her.

26. He called the distressed woman and spoke to her slowly:

27. “If you carry out all my behests I shall grasp your hand and marry you.”

The virgin said:

28. I shall carry out your instructions, O leading Brāhmaṇa. There is no doubt about it. Grasp my hand duly in accordance with the scriptural injunctions.

Sūta said:

29. Then he grasped the right hand of the virgin in the presence of Devas, fire and preceptor in accordance with the scriptural injunctions laid down in the Gṛhya Sūtras.

30. After the auspicious rite of marriage, she spoke again: “O my lord, command me, I shall carry it out now."

The husband said:

31. O beautiful lady, I wish to take the holy ablution in sixty-eight Tīrthas with your help. If you can, kindly do so.

32-33. She said, “So it shall be”. Then the chaste lady made a beautiful small hut of bamboos befitting his size. She placed soft cotton pieces therein and then spoke to her husband with great delight, standing with palms joined in reverence:

34. “For your sake this beautiful hut of bamboos has been made ready, O my lord. Get into it quickly. I shall carry it on my head and take you to all splendid holy spots.”

35. The leper was pleased in his heart. As she lifted him up, he slowly got up from the ground, went into the bamboo-structure and slept there.

36. She carried him comfortably on her head. She wandered over all the holy spots and made her husband bathe in all the Tīrthas.

37. As the leper performed the holy ablution in the Tīrthas, the refulgence in his limbs went on increasing.

38. In the course of her slow wandering over the earth, the chaste lady reached Hāṭakeśvara Kṣetra at nightfall.

39. Burdened with the weight the chaste lady became weak and tired. Overcome with blinding sleep and heaving deep sighs, she faltered at every step.

40. It was at that spot that the leading sage Māṇḍavya was kept pinned down to the spike in a miserable state.

41. The great chaste lady groaning under a heavy burden, was passing by the spike at night.

42. She dashed against the leading sage shaking him slightly. Experiencing great pain, the miserable sage said:

43. “Who is that sinful one by whom the spike within me is shaken? Already miserable, I have been forced to bear greater pain!"

Dīrghikā said:

44. O highly esteemed one, my eyes have been blinded by overwhelming slumber. Hence you were not noticed. You are the most sinful one and so cannot be even touched. But you were touched.

45. There is no other single soul on the earth like you. Though the stake has pierced through your head, you have not met death!

46. I am a chaste lady, O deluded one, I bear my beloved husband on my head for the sake of pilgrimage as he is disabled.

47. In spite of all these, you despise me cruelly. Human beings are likely to err unwittingly. Still you were foolish to despise me.

Māṇḍavya said:

48-49. O cruel lady, your husband caused me acute pain, very nearly killing me. If that husband of yours continues to live in the morning, then undoubtedly I am, what you say, a sinful soul, one of deluded intellect and unworthy of being touched by all embodied beings.

50. Hence this lover of yours has been cursed by me. On being touched by the rays of the Sun, he will give up his life.

Dīrghikā said:

51. If thus the death of my husband should take place in the morning, then the Sun will not rise at all.

52. After saying thus, she placed the bamboo structure along with her husband on the ground and sat there.

53. Then the leper said to her: “I am thirsty. Fetch me cool water to drink."

54-55. On hearing the command of her husband, she eagerly moved about for water, but could not see. Nor did she go very far because she did not want to leave her husband in that plight in the forest, because she was afraid of the beasts of prey. She, therefore, sat on the ground. Touching the feet of her husband the distressed Dīrghikā spoke these words in high pitch:

56. “If I am perfect in my adherence to chastity and fidelity to my husband, let splendid water come out from the ground on the basis of this truth.”

57. After saying thus she stamped her foot on the ground, remembering her devotion to her husband and desiring his life.

58. In the meantime, even as Māṇḍavya was watching, pure and tasty water sprang up after stamping the foot.

59. Then she made her weary and sick husband bathe in the water. Thereafter, she made him drink the water. She herself had her bath and drank the water.

60. In the meantime, due to the fear of the chaste lady’s vow of fidelity, the Sun did not rise up. Much time elapsed then.

61. On noticing the prolongation of the night, all lascivious men and immoral unchaste women became delighted.

62. The owls, Rākṣasas, thieves and paramours embraced one another joyously and said:

63. “Today the fate is pleased with us. So also Manmatha, for the night has been prolonged and the Sun is made to vanish.”

64. But in the case of Brāhmaṇas, quiescent and devoted to the rites of Yajñas, all of them became miserable due to the absence of the Sun.

65. No excellent Brāhmaṇa performed Yajña himself or made others perform a Yajña. None of them performed Śrāddha rite, Saṅkalpa (ritualistic proclamation of intended rite) or Svādhyāya (self-study of the Vedas).

66. None took the holy ablution, none made a gift; no one got engaged especially in worldly business or dealings with others. None carried out virtuous and sacred rites.

67. In the meantime, all the Devas with śakra at their head experienced great inconvenience and misery, because they were deprived of their shares of Yajñas.

68-70. Then they approached Bhāskara and said in great sorrow: “O Divākara, why don't you rise, O Lord? without you all this universe has become agitated. Hence, for the benefit of all the worlds rise up as usual, so that Yajñas including Agniṣṭoma can be performed on the earth.”

Sūrya (Sun) said:

71. ī have cancelled rising at the bidding of a chaste lady. Hence may all the Devas go to her and plead on my behalf.

72. Then at her behest I can resume my activity comfortably. Otherwise, the infuriated lady may curse me. Indeed she is a chaste lady loyal to her husband.

73. O excellent Suras, endowed with the power of penance, she possesses the great and extraordinary power of chastity.

74. So who is powerful enough to transgress her behest. I am afraid to rise up at all.

75. Those who worship by means of a thousand Kratus cannot even aspire to attain that merit which naturally accrues to a lady equipped with the power of chastity.

76. Then all those Devas went to that excellent holy spot, stood before the chaste lady Dīrghikā and spoke these soft words:

77-78. “O chaste lady, in forbidding the Sun to rise, you have not done anything auspicious, since all the splendid holy rites are doomed. Hence, O sensible lady, let the Fierce-rayed One rise at your behest whereby the rites of Yajñas can earnestly be carried out on the earth.”

The chaste lady Dīrghikā said:

79. If the solar disc comes up, immediately my husband who is dearer to me than my own life, will meet his death, O Devas.

80. He (my husband) has been cursed by this wicked and sinful Māṇḍavya. He (my husband) has been unnecessarily pointed out for this dire end (death). So how can I tell Bhāskara (to rise)?

81. How can I urge Bhāskara to rise. Without my husband, I have nothing to do with Yajñas or other rites such as Śrāddha, Dāna etc.

Sūta said:

82. Thereupon all the Devas looked at one another for a long time with great sorrow. Then they said to her humbly:

83. “O fair lady, may Ravi (Sun) come up. Let your beloved husband meet his death. This leading sage shall be revived again.

84. Even if he meets death, we shall resuscitate him for your sake, O lady endearing to your husband.

85. You will see him as a young man of twenty-five years, another veritable Kāmadeva. His limbs will be shining. He will be marked with all good features.

86. You will become a lady with large eyes resembling the petals of a lotus. You will be one aged fifteen years. You will enjoy all worldly pleasures as you please.

87. O splendid lady, let this tiger among sages be freed from his sins. Let him be released from the torture at the stake. Let him be reasonably happy.”

Sūta said:

88. O excellent Brāhmaṇas as soon as she said, “So be it", Lord Sun rose up speedily at the moment.

89. Touched by the rays of the Sun, the leper died. Touched by the hands of the Devas, he rose up alive.

90. He was a young man of twenty-five years. He stood like another Kāmadeva. He joyously remembered the previous birth entirely.

91. Touched by Lord Śaṃbhu himself, Dīrghikā became endowed with youth and divine features.

92. She was beautiful with eyes resembling petals of a lotus. She was slender at the waist. Her limbs were fair-complexioned. Her breasts were thick and protruding.

93. The excellent Devas got that tiger among sages down from the top of the stake and spoke to him with respect and great delight:

94-96. “O sage, the words uttered by you were made true. The leper, the Brāhmaṇa, died on being touched by the rays of the Sun. Of course, he was resuscitated by us and made a young man again along with his wife. So, go back to your hermitage. (The act of) seeing us cannot become fruitless at any cost. Hence, ask for whatever you have cherished in your heart always.”

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