by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes Greatness of Eight Nagara Families which is chapter 199 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 ninety-ninth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
The sages said:
1-2: O Sūta, thirty-five million Tīrthas are said by leading sages as existing all over the earth. O highly esteemed one, how can (man) of limited life span obtain the benefit of taking holy ablution in all those Tīrthas at the advent of the Kali Age?
3-4. O Brāhmaṇas, three sacred places (Kṣetras) have been extolled here. So also three great Araṇyas (forests), three Purīs (Cities), three Vanas (sylvan parks), three Grāmas (villages), three other Tīrthas along with three Parvatas (mountains) and three Mahānadīs (great rivers). These are all destructive of all sins.
5. They are situated in the mortal world and they accord the benefit of all the Tīrthas. He who takes his holy bath in all these, shall attain the benefit of all.
The sages said:
7-8. O highly esteemed one, what are the three Kṣetras? What are the three Araṇyas? What are the three well-known Purīs? What are the three Vanas? What are the three Grāmas? What are the Tīrthas? What are the Nagas (mountains)? What are the Sarits (rivers)? O Sūta, describe all these in detail citing their names.
9-10. The first excellent Kṣetra is well-known as Kurukṣetra. Hāṭakeśvara Kṣetra is glorified as the second one. Prabhāsika (Prabhāsa) is the third Kṣetra, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. All these three Kṣetras are meritorious and destructive of all sins.
11-12. By visiting these in accordance with the injunctions thereof, a man is rid of sins. If a devotee takes his holy bath in these Keṣetras with any cherished mental desire, the same is attained. O Brāhmaṇas, he becomes one having the ablution in all the twenty-four (cited before).
14. He who bathes in these three attains (the benefit of bath in all the twenty-four holy places).
16. A man who takes his holy bath in these Purīs gets the benefit of all the twenty-four.
18. He who takes his holy bath in these three Vanas, attains the benefit of all the twenty-four.
20. He who takes his holy bath in these three Grāmas attains the benefit of all the twenty-four.
22. He who takes his holy bath in these three Tīrthas has the benefit of all the twenty-four.
24. He who takes his holy bath in these three, attains the benefit of all the twenty-four.
26. He who takes his holy bath in all these attains the benefit of all the twenty-four.
27. A man who takes his holy bath in all these (twenty-four) shall attain the entire benefit of all the thirty-five million (sacred places),
28. A man who bathes in one of a set of three, attains the benefit of the entire Trika.
29. Thus, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, everything that I was asked, i,e. about the benefit from the Tīrtha that is obtained by men on the earth, has been told succinctly.
30. Now what should I tell you? Tel! me without delay.
The sages said:
31. O Sūtaja, all the Tīrthas situated in Hāṭakeśvara Kṣetra have been described by you to us in full detail.
32. So also the innumerable Āyatanas (shrines). It is not possible to take holy bath in all these even in the course of a hundred years.
33. No man can take bath in accordance with the injunctions. It is clear. O highly intelligent one, it is equally not possible to visit all the shrines.
34-35. The benefit one derives is only for the day on which he takes the bath. Even in Kṛta Yuga, men are said to be short- lived. So also in Tretā and Dvāpara. There is hardly any need to say about Kali Age. O Sūtanandana, know that men are short-lived (in all Yugas).
36. How can they, therefore, obtain the benefit of the holy ablution in all the Tīrthas? How can they obtain the benefit of viewing the deity (everywhere)—especially if they are poor?
57. Is there any remedy in this respect. Human or divine, whereby merit can be acquired by all easily.
The king said:
39. O holy Sir, there are innumerable Tīrthas here. Procedures enjoined in the case of the holy ablution in all those are distinct and separate.
40. The difference is in respect of month, day of the week or lunar day in different Tīrthas as explained by excellent sages. Rules regarding Dāna are also mentioned differently as in the case of holy ablution.
41. A visit to the deities has also been proclaimed separately. O sage, it is not possible to obtain the benefits of all of them by any one person, O sage.
42. It is impossible to achieve (this) even in the course of a hundred years. It is all the more so in the course of a few days. Hence, O highly esteemed one, do mention an easy means for all embodied beings.
43. Can any man taking his holy ablution even in one Tīrtha obtain the benefit arising from the holy ablution in all the Tīrthas?
44. Similarly, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, can men attain the benefit of viewing all the deities, when a single deity has been viewed?
45. On hearing it and after meditiating for a long time, the great sage Viśvāmitra said: “Listen, O leading king, I shall tell you everything including the secret.
46. There are four superior and most important Tīrthas here. The benefit arising from the holy ablution in all the Tīrthas is attained if the holy ablution is taken and Śrāddha is performed later in all the four of them.
47-49. Further, there are twenty-seven Liṅgas situated here itself beginning with Siddheśvara Liṅga. They are destructive of all sins. If all of them are viewed with devotion and sanctified mind, the benefit of viewing all the deities (of all the worlds) will be attained. If a devotee views and adores one excellent deity it is as efficacious as though all the twenty-seven Liṅgas have been adored by him.”
The king said;
50. O excellent sage, what are those four important Tīrthas by taking ablution in which a man obtains the benefit of all (Tīrthas)?
53-54. He who, with perfect faith, performs Śrāddha there on that day, O leading king, redeems the Pitṛs. The second Tīrtha is remembered as Śaṅkha Tīrtha.
56-57. The third Tīrtha named after me (i.e. Viśvāmitra) has also become important. After bathing here, a devotee should visit Hara installed by me, named Viśvāmitreśvara, on the eighth lunar day in the bright half of Nabhasya (Bhādrapada). He attains the benefit of all.
58. The fourth Tīrtha is well-known as Śakratīrtha. It is Bālamaṇḍana (?). A devotee should bathe there on the eighth lunar day in the bright half of the month of Āśvina and visit Śakreśvara for five days. He attains the benefit of all.
The king said:
59. O highly esteemed Brāhmaṇa, tell me the procedure concerning Gayākūpī in full detail. My faith therein is great.
60. On a New-Moon day when the Sun is in the zodiac Virgo, a devotee should perform Śrāddha devoutly. He shall redeem his Pitṛs.
61-62. The Śrāddha should be performed in accordance with the injunctions of Bhartṛyajña through Brāhmaṇas hailing from the same holy spot. If the procedure enjoined by Bhartṛyajña is neglected and the man performs Śrāddha in accordance with another (set of) injunctions excluding the Brāhmaṇas hailing from the same holy spot or retaining the impure ones though hailing from the same spot, he is a deluded soul. His aforesaid Śrāddha becomes futile.
63-64. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, if one gets Śrāddha performed through ignorant Brāhmaṇas or through Brāhmaṇas hailing from other holy spots, that Śrāddha becomes futile like a dance shown before a blind one, or a song sung near a deaf person or like rain showered on arid land.
It is the truth that is mentioned by me. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, one may very well perform Śrāddha through (local) foolish Brāhmaṇas but even those who are well-versed in all the four Vedas should be excluded if they hail from another holy spot.
65. In the course of divine rites or the rites regarding Pitṛs and in the rite of Somapāna, particularly a man going over to another land has to perform Śrāddha. He should do so in front of the sacred fire and not before another Brāhmaṇa (i.e. one hailing from another holy spot).
67-69. O excellent king, just as a water-pot filled with Pañcagavya becomes spoiled even by a drop of liquor falling into it, so also the Śrāddha is destroyed if a local Brāhmaṇa who is not pure, although conversant with the four Vedas, sits in the centre of many pure Brāhmaṇas. O king, the Śrāddha shall become spoiled by one outsider sitting in the middle of many (local pure ones).
70. Hence by all means one should call only pure Brāhmaṇas.
71. If men of good qualities are not available, one may fetch a local foolish Brāhmaṇa, one with deficiency in limbs or having superflous limbs. But he should not be an impure, spoiled one or an outsider.
72. When a virgin is given away in marriage or when a Śrāddha is performed, only a noble (pure) Brāhmaṇa should be fetched always, if one wishes for one’s welfare and prosperity, O excellent king, he too shall be one endowed with purity.
74. The Aṣṭakulodbhavas (Brāhmaṇas of eight families) are the principal ones among the Brāhmaṇas of excellent holy spots like Vajra (Thunderbolt) among weapons and the ocean among lakes.
76. An Aṣṭakulika is the most excellent one among all: Brāhmaṇas of the same holy spot like Gaṅgā among rivers and Arundhatī among chaste women.
77. The Aṣṭakulika is remembered as the most excellent one among Brāhmaṇas of the same holy spot like Bhāskara (sun) among planets and the Moon among stars.
78. The Aṣṭakulika is the most excellent one among the Brāhmaṇas hailing from the same holy spot like Meru among mountains and excellent Brāhmaṇa among, bipeds (men).
79. The Aṣṭakulika is the most excellent one among the Brāhmaṇas hailing from the same holy spot like Garuḍa among birds and lion among denizens of forests.
80. After understanding this perfectly, O king, an Aṣṭākulodbhava should be employed in Śrāddha and Yajña rites and even more so in the rites of marriage.
81. O king, on seeing a Brāhmaṇa from Aṣṭakula at the foot of the altar, his Pitṛs dance and Pitāmahas shout excitedly.
82. Again they say delightedly: “What will our daughter’s son give us? Only water mixed with Darbha and gingelly seeds, and that too anticlock-wise.”
The king said:
83. O highly intelligent one, the excellence of Aṣṭakulas has been mentioned by you. Do tell us. Is the excellence in all the Nāgaras?
84. The reason thereof will not be insignificant, O excellent one among Brāhmaṇas.
85. O great king, the words uttered by you are true. There are other Nāgaras too who have mastered the Vedas and Vedāṅgas.
86-87. They deserve prominence in Śrāddha and they deserve eminence in Yajñas. Especially they are worthy of being given one’s daughter in marriage but they (the Aṣṭakulas) have been set up there by Indra himself as the most important of all Nāgaras. Therefore, they have attained this pre-eminence in this holy spot.
88. Therefore, Śrāddha should be performed through those hailing from the eight families. If none of them is available, it can be performed through the (average) Nāgaras.
89. It should not be performed through Brāhmaṇas hailing from other holy spots even if they happen to be conversant with all the four Vedas. This stipulation has been laid by the noble-souled Bhartṛyajña.
90. If anyone performs here either Śrāddha or Yajña through anyone other than a Nāgara Brāhmaṇa it shall be futile.
The king said:
91. There are numerous other Brāhmaṇas who have mastered the Vedas and Vedāṅgas. They hail from the Madhyadeśa (Middle Land) and are quiescent. Others do hail from (other) Tīrthas.
92-93. But these have been excluded by Bhartṛyajña especially from Śrāddha and Yajña. But the following have been cited as deserving Śrāddha: those deficient in limbs, having superflous limbs, the doubly nude ones, dark-teethed ones, those having defiled nails, lepers, foolish ones and despised ones. Do clear this doubt of mine.
94. O tiger among men, I shall state the many reasons. I shall mention how they incurred downfall due to the gifts of the wife of (the king of) Camatkārapura.
95. The Brāhmaṇas were away from the place when their wives accepted the gifts. Due to this the rift occurred between insiders (those who are within) and outsiders (those who are without).
96. Then they were cursed by Durvāsas who was furious like a serpent. Due to the arrogance arising from learning and affluence they were cursed down, i.e. became fallen through the curse.
99. Thinking about the life and activities of Rāma, he honoured Kuśa’s behest. He surveyed the city of Laṅkā at the bidding of Rāma’s (son).
100. The tormentors scattered over the ten quarters. With great fear they went to the world of Gandharvas.
101. Afraid of Vibhīṣaṇa they became unable to stay there. They came to the mainland and overran many holy spots.
102. Irī the administration of Kuśa they became highly frightened. They assumed the guise of Brāhmaṇas and came there.
103. Due to the greatness tīf the Vāḍavas (the Brāhmaṇas) they could not stay among them. Then they went to Camatkārapura, the resort of the fallen.
104. Staying among them they, due to their expertise in Māyā and their wealth and learning, they consumed half (the population of) the city.
105. Ever since then, they assumed the form and nature of Rākṣasas. At every step, they began to indulge in ruthless activities.
106. Therefore, O king, they are to be scrupulously avoided in the rites of Yajña and Śrāddha, O tiger among men, they may cause one to fall into Naraka.
107. O sinless one, I shall point out another defect of those people. O king, owing to their quelling of the fear from serpent-poison, Trijātas (illegitimate people) settled then.
109-110. For these reasons they were excluded by Bhartṛyajña. A further reason is the fact that all cease to be pure by their contact. Cāṇḍāla-hood (the state of being a Cāṇḍāla) befell due to the birth from Kuṃbhaka.
The king said:
111. O Brāhmaṇa, do the favour of citing this reason. You have the knowledge of the entire universe consisting of mobile and immobile beings.
112. In this context I shall tell you another story of a past incident for which all the other excellent Brāhmaṇas were excluded by Bhartṛyajña.
113. In the city of Vardhamāna there was a Cāṇḍāla named Kuṃbhaka. He belonged to the meanest caste. He was a merciless practitioner of sinful activities.
114. Once he begot a son. Though he (Kuṃbhaka) was hideous, the son was very handsome as a result of the previous Karmas.
115. The father was tawny-eyed and very dark-complexioned, O king. He was in the prime of youth. The son was an expert in all activities and was characterized by all good features.
116. Like the moon in the bright half of a month, he grew up fast. Further, the boy of handsome features was praised by all the people. Having observed the people of his family for a long time, he became detached and disgusted.
117. Out of distress, he wandered over other lands and ultimately reached Camatkārapura in the guise of a Brāhmaṇa. In the course of all rites, he used to have regular bath. He sustained himself through the food received as alms.
119. He was a Nāgara who had mastered the Vedas and Vedāṅgas. He used to perform Yajña throughout the year. A daughter was born to him with twice the usual number of teeth.
120-121. Further she was hideously terrible with three breasts. She had a circle of curly hairs on the back. O king, even a poor miserable man of no high family did not accept the girl when offered, because she was sure to devour her husband within six months.
122. Sāmudrikas (persons who could foretell future through marks on the body) say that a girl with twice the usual number of teeth will cause the death of her husband. There is no doubt that a girl with three breasts will cause the destruction of the family of her father-in-law. Hence she must be avoided from afar.
123. One who has a circle of curly hairs on her back shall certainly become unchaste and she will commit many sinful deeds. Hence one should avoid her.
124. On seeing her growing up, Brāhmaṇa Subhadraka became utterly worried. He never had peace of mind.
125-128. “What shall I do? Where shall I go? How can she get a husband? Even after repeated requests no one accepts her.
Even a poor man, a sick and old Brāhmaṇa never accepts her because it has been laid down in the Smṛti texts by the great sages formerly in regard to a girl:
On seeing a virgin turn into a Rajasvalā (without being married) all these three, namely the mother, the father and the elder brother, fall into Naraka.”
129. Even as he was thinking thus, the low-caste one in the guise of a Brāhmaṇa came to the house for alms. He was seen by the noble-souled one.
130-131. On seeing his extraordinary features, he became surprised and so asked thus: “O Bhikṣuka (mendicant), where have you come from? Where will you go?
īn spite of being endowed with such handsome features, why have you adopted the Mādhukarī vṛtti (the practice of bees i.e. begging for alms)? Tell me what is the name of your Gotra? What is your Pravara (lineage)?”
A Brāhmaṇa named Mādhava lived there. He was master of the Vedas. He is well-known as belonging to Vasiṣṭha Gotra and of Ekapravara. I am his son remembered as Candraprabha. When I was in my eighth year observing Vratas, my father, a master of the Vedas, met with his death. My mother entered fire along with him. Thereupon, I had Vairāgya (detachment) and set out from my own house.
I am wandering through the Tīrthas. Thus I have come to your city. Now I will be going to the excellent holy spot Prabhāsa. It is the place where Lord Someśvara arrived after abandoning Kailāsa. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, neither the Vedas nor the scriptural texts have been learned by me. In the course of my pilgrimage I am begging for alms as well.”
139-140. On hearing his words, he thought thus in his mind: ‘This is a Brāhmaṇa of excellent native place. His features are very fine and handsome. If he accepts my daughter, I shall definitely give her to him. Before the base girl becomes a Rajasvalā and destroys my family utterly, I have to give her away.’
141-142. He consulted his wife and spoke to that outcaste: “O Brāhmaṇa, if you are ready to accept I shall give my daughter to you. Further, I shall maintain both of you always.”
143. On hearing those words, the delighted low-caste fellow spoke to the excellent Brāhmaṇa: “I shall carry out your behest, O Brāhmaṇa, give me your daughter.”
Í44. Saying “So be it” he went away. His own daughter was given over to him in accordance with the injunctions in the Gṛhya Sūtras and the marriage was duly celebrated.
145. He considered himself blessed as one who had concluded his duties and gave him wealth, foodgrain, fields and cattle. He became delighted.
146. After marrying her, he continued diverse dalliances with her by means of foodstuff, beverages, excellent garments, ornaments and scented garlands.
147. But whichever path he took barking dogs pursued close behind him.
148. The dogs behaved with him as though with other low-caste people. If at any time anywhere he were to chant Vedic passages, blood used-to fall down from the mouth of that evil-minded one.
149-150. In the meantime, all the people became suspicious and they spoke to one another: “Undoubtedly, he is a Cāṇḍāla. See these barking dogs going after him.”
On hearing these words, Subhadra became worried.
151-152. Thinking that what they were saying was true, he was distressed much. He said: “Certainly, the husband of my daughter belongs to a low caste. Through his activities, it is known that what people say is true.”
153. That man of good intellect thought thus day and night. He became the object of the scandals of the people for a long time thus.
154. On another day the foremost excellent Brāhmaṇas came to the Brahmasthāna (Resort of Brāhmaṇas) accompanied by the Madhyaga. They told him to prepare for the purification so that their suspicion might be quelled.
155. Then those excellent Brāhmaṇas spoke to him through the Madhyaga even as he stood with a pale face in the centre of Brahmasthāna.
156. “Mention the name of your family, Gotra and the Pravara in particular, your native place and land so that the purificatory rite of the Brāhmaṇas can be performed in your case.”
157. He joined his palms in reverence. He was trembling completely with a sweating face. Looking down he spoke in flattering words:
158-162a. “In the eighth year after my conception my father passed away. My chaste mother entered the funeral fire along with him, abandoning me to wretchedness and grief.
I became disgusted with worldly life and undertook pilgrimage even during my boyhood, along with the other sages. I was moved by the misery due to the death of my father.
The Veda was not studied by me. The scriptural text was not read and discussed by me. In the course of my pilgrimage, I came to your city.
Through the evil-minded unholy Subhadra, my father-in-law, I know this, O Brāhmaṇas, that my Gotra is Vaśiṣṭha [Vasiṣṭha].
162b-163. Thereupon, the Brāhmaṇas said: “If nothing about the family antecedent is known, the means for his purity is Dhaṭa alone (ordeal by balance).
So, you shall get on to the Dhaṭa for the sake of (confirming) your Brāhmaṇahood. After getting purified, enjoy the pleasures staying here itself.”
164-166. He ventured to reply to all the excellent Brāhmaṇas: “I shall very well take up the ordeal of Taptamāṣaka (heated black gram pulse); or I shall jump into the fire or even swallow poison. I little care for the ordeal of balance which is very pleasant to carry out. I have no hatred or contempt for Brāhmaṇas, O Brāhmaṇas.”
167. Those Brāhmaṇas laid down Dhaṭārohaṇa as the purificatory rite in his case. They fixed the next Sunday for the same. Then, O Brāhmaṇas, all of them went to their respective abodes. So also the Brāhmaṇa (Subhadra) and the low-caste one.
168. Then, O excellent king, he spoke in secret to his wife: “I have been found out as having been born in the caste of a mean fellow. I am going out of this land. You too come along with me.”
The wife said:
169-170. I would rather jump into fire. I will not come with you, O wretch of sinful intellect. I will not fall into the fire of Naraka knowingly.
I will not serve you who have been born in a low caste. O sinful wretch, this excellent holy spot has been completely defiled by you.
171. Further you have defiled the mansion of my father who performs Yajña throughout the year. Hence, go away before anyone detects you.
172. If not, O wretch of sinful conduct, you will meet with great danger.
173. Then at nightfall, due to the fear for his own life, he vanished in the desired direction wearing only the loin cloth.
Footnotes and references:
Near Deoband, Saharanpur District, Uttar Pradesh—De p. 58.
Nandgaon in Oudh, 8 miles south of Fyzabad, U.P.—De p. 138.
Mount Girnar near Junagadh, Gujarat.
The author of the Purāṇa guards the economic interests of the local (Vādṇagar) Brāhmaṇas.
Dvimagna—Fallen from the Varṇāśrama and Vedas and Śāstras. Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa states:
yeṣām kule na vedoeti
na śāstraṃ naiva ca vratam
te nagnā kīrtitāḥ sadbhiḥ
teṣām annam vigarhitam //
The editor of this Purāṇa gives two more quotations which means “utterly fallen from the path of dharma.”
Bhojakaṭa was the capital of ancient Vidarbha (i.e. Eastern Maharashtra) Gauḍa is Bengal, its capital Gauḍa was near Malda—De, p.33, 63.