The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Legend of Yajnavalkya which is chapter 278 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 two hundred seventy-eighth chapter of the Tirtha-mahatmya of the Nagara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 278 - The Legend of Yājñavalkya

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sūta said:

1-2. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, the other shrines in the holy spot of Hāṭakeśvara are (those of) Bhāskaras (Sun-gods) installed by Yājñavalkya.

One who entertains something in his heart and devoutly worships them on Saptamī days (i.e. seventh lunar days) attains them. There is no doubt in it.

The sages said:

3. There is only one Sun to be seen in the sky. Then how are twelve suns installed in that holy spot? At what time and for what purpose were they installed, O Sūtanandana?

Sūta said:

4-5. Formerly there was a sage named Kṛti. He was the son of Śunaḥśepa. His son i.e. the grandson of Śunaḥśepa became a great sage. His son Cārāyaṇa also became an excellent sage.

6. Once upon a time, Brahmā, the grandfather of the worlds, was completely burnt down (as it were) by a curse pronounced by Sāvitrī. He took incarnation on the surface of the earth.

7. The curse was pronounced at the time when Gāyatrī was taken over as wife for the purpose of the Yajña rite, after rejecting (the wife) already he had. He did this in the assembly of all the Devas, thinking that there would be delay in the arrival of Sāvitrī.

8. Then, at his bidding, Gāyatrī, the daughter of a cowherd, endowed with all divine characteristics, was brought by Śakra.

9. Knowing that she was the daughter of a cowherd, the Lotus-born Lord pressed her through the mouth of a cow and dragged her out through the anus.

10. There is a single family in the case of Brāhmaṇas and cows, only separated into two. The Mantras are stationed in one (Brāhmaṇa) and the Havis (ghee for sacrificial oblation) in the other.

11. Thereby, she was made a Brāhmaṇa girl and Pitāmaha standing in front accepted her as his wife in accordance with the injunctions in the scriptures (Gṛhya Sūtra).

12. When she occupied the Patnī-Śālā (the chamber intended for the wife of the performer of sacrifice), O excellent Brāhmaṇas, Sāvitrī too came there surrounded by the wives of Devas.

13. On seeing her (Gāyatrī) bedecked in sacrificial girdle, she became grief-stricken due to her loss of conjugal felicity. She then cursed Vidhi.

Sāvitrī said:

14. O Pitāmaha, though I am blemishless, I have been adandoned by you. Hence for the purpose of physical contact, you are only my grandfather (not worthy of contact).

15. It is the practice of human beings to take another woman as wife. Since you have done this, you will become a human being.

16. At my instance (curse), you shall undoubtedly be one afflicted by lust.

17. After saying this, Sāvitrī left the pavilion of the Yajña. She climbed on to the peak of a mountain and performed a great penance.

18. Due to that curse, after a long time, Pitāmaha was born into the household of Cārāyaṇa.

19. When he attained the prime of youth in his human life, he became afflicted by the distress born of lust.

20. He became proud due to his handsome features and he began to enjoy indiscriminately any woman he saw, be she a virgin or a sage girl.

21. On seeing him indulging in vice, sage Cārāyaṇa angrily banished him from his hermitage.

22. Abandoned by his father, he began to roam about here and there and ultimately came to the city of Camatkārapura to the place where Śākalya stayed.

23. That tiger among Brāhmaṇas was a Nāgara who had mastered the Vedas. He was surrounded by a thousand disciples and he propagated the Vedic lore.

24. He (Cārāyaṇa’s son) devoutly bowed down to him and became his disciple. After a long time, he became a master of Vedic study.

25. In the meantime, the king of Ānarta came to the place himself where Hari was Jalaśāyin (lying in the water).

26. Before that deity, the holy rite of Cāturmāsya was adopted by him. O Brāhmaṇas, then Śākalya was requested by that king:

27. “As long as I stay here, kindly do me this favour. The rites of Śāntika and Pauṣtika [Pauṣṭika?] (one for peace, the other for prosperity) should be performed by you in our abode.”

28. He (Śākalya) said “Of course” out of courtesy, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. He then sent his disciples one by one to his (King’s) abode.

29. Every disciple performed the Śāntika rite and blessed the king. Accepting the monetary gift, he used to return to the Brāhmaṇa (Preceptor).

30. The monetary gift was handed over to the preceptor Śākalya and the disciple went to his own abode. This became the regular practice.

31. On another day Yājñavalkya was despatched to the king’s abode by Śākalya for performing the Śānti rite.

32. (On the previous night) the king’s beautiful wife Mantharā, a charming damsel, was enjoyed by this over-passionate youth.

33. She had indulged in various amorous acts with him as elaborately prescribed by Vātsyāyana beginning with close embraces, infliction of marks with finger nails (and precious stones?) etc. in the form of peacock’s foot on his lips and body.

34. (After the night-long escapade) the fellow came to Śākalya’s presence for the daily lesson but he was immediately sent to the abode of the king for performing the Sānti rite.

35. On being sent there by him, the disciple went to the abode of the king and performed the Śāntika rite in accordance with the injunctions in scriptures, O Brāhmaṇas.

36-37. At the conclusion of the Śāntika rite, the disciple (Yājñavalkya) took the water pot where the water charged with the Rudra Mantras with five ancillaries had been poured. He took also raw rice grains and flowers and went to the place where Ānarta was performing the Vrata.

38-39. The disciple duly uttered the Mantra dyāmālekhi etc. along with the names of the sage and the Chandas. He was about to sprinkle the holy water over the head of the king, when the king observed that the fellow had nail-marks over his body and that his lips had been cut. This made the king unhappy.

40-42. The king clearly observed that the fellow with the defiled garments was a debauchee. He laughed loudly and said, “O Brāhmaṇa, pour the water and the raw rice grains over the stump seen in the stable.” Yājñavalkya approached it angrily and poured there the water along with the raw rice grains. He went home without taking the monetary gift placed duly by the king.

43. In the meantime the stump of the Dhava tree had put forth sprouts. There were small branches of sprouts all round beautifying it.

44-46. On seeing it, the Ānarta king was wonder-struck. He regretted and said: “Fie upon me! I have committed this blunder. Indeed that was some divine being who had come here in the form of a Brāhmaṇa. The power of his Mantra is such as this!! If only I had accepted the Mantra charged holy water I would have become one free from death and old age.”

47. Even as the king thought thus with wonder and dismay, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, that single day became (i.e. was fell as long as) a hundred years.

48. The day was somehow passed by the king but the autumnal night appeared to be never-ending.

49. After daybreak the king got up and summoned Śākalya through trustworthy servants.

50-51. With humility and respect, the king stood with palms joined in reverence. He said: “O excellent Brāhmaṇa, yesterday one of your disciples had come to me for the Śānti rite. He should be sent today also. I feel drawn towards him with great devotion.”

52. He promised “So it shall be” and returned to his abode. He spoke to Yājñavalkya in sweet words referring to the Śānti rite:

53. “O dear one, today also do go to the abode of the king. He has invited you specially again.”

Yājñavalkya said:

54. O leading Brāhmaṇa, I will not go to his palace for the Śānti rite. I have been looked at with disrespect. My benediction was not accepted.

55. I poured the holy water etc. over the stump of a Dhava tree undoubtedly at his own instance. So, O preceptor, send some other clever disciple who may humour the king of Ānarta and bring some sense to him.

Śākalya said:

56. The command of the king should always be obeyed by persons living in the country, if only for one’s own gain and for acquiring and preserving things (so) acquired.

57. He who is against kings is dull-witted. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, he will never have happiness.

58. Begging for alms has been laid down as atonement for those who do not serve kings due to haughtiness born of higher birth etc.

59. Even as the preceptor (Śākalya) and the disciple (Yājñavalkya) were arguing thus, the servants sent by the king once again came there.

60. In their hurry they said to Śākalya with palms joined in reverence: “Do send that disciple quickly. The king is waiting for him.”

61. In spite of being repeatedly urged he did not go. Then he sent Uddālaka, the son of Āruṇi.

62-63. He was one of his humble (obedient) disciples and was (standing) by his side with palms joined in reverence. “Do go, O dear one, to the abode of the king at his bidding. After performing the Śāntika rite proceed with your self-study of the Vedas.”

64. He promised “So it shall be” and went to the abode of the king. He then performed the Śāntika rite in accordance with the injunctions for the rites.

65. Taking the holy water in the pot along with raw rice grains and flowers, he came to the place where the king was seated.

The king said:

66. O Brāhmaṇa, give the ablution uttering the requisite Mantras unto the stump of the tree which is seen high up in front of you.

67. Then he uttered the Mantras and sprinkled the water over the stump. Then he went home.

68. He saw the stump of the tree as it was originally. King Ānarta became sad and he regretted (for his previous conduct).

69. The king thereupon sent another efficient messenger to the abode of Śākalya for the sake of fetching Yājñavalkya:

70-73. “O excellent Brāhmaṇa, there is pain all over my body. Send the disciple previously referred to quickly for the purpose of the Śānti rite.

O excellent Brāhmaṇa, yesterday he was insulted by me. That accounts for my sudden ailment, as I did not express my wish for benediction directly.

Hence send him quickly to me so that I can feel relief.”

In spite of being urged repeatedly, Yājñavalkya did not go. So he said pleadingly to another disciple. Hence Madhuka Paiṅgya was sent to the royal abode.

74. What was performed by Uddālaka was performed by him too. According to the king’s direction the benediction was offered to the stump of the tree.

75. On seeing the stump of the tree unchanged in form, the king once again sent another man for fetching Yājñvalkya.

76. In spite of being repeatedly asked to go Yājñavalkya would not go. Then he sent another disciple of many qualities.

77. It was Pracūḍa Bhāgavitti (Son of Bhagavitti). He too went there like the other two earlier ones and performed the Śāntika rite as done by them before.

78. Thereafter, he poured the holy water of the Śāntika rite over the wood with due utterance of the Mantra. Yet it remained unaltered from its original form.

79. Then the king himself with due regret for his earlier misdemeanour went to the abode of Sākalya for the purpose of inviting, Yājñavalkya.

80. O excellent Brāhmaṇas, he bowed down to the excellent Brāhmaṇa Śākalya (and said): “Instruct your disciple to come to my palace in the morning for performing the Śānti rite so that, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, there shall be (restored) calmness and relief in my body.”

81. Thereupon, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, Śākalya said to Yājñavalkya once again even as the king Ānarta remained listening:

82. “O dear son Yājñavalkya, at my bidding do go quickly to the abode of the king and perform the Śāntika rite for the purpose of quelling the ailment of this king.”

Yājñavalkya said:

83. I will not go there, O revered Sir. Do not tell me to do so. O venerable one, I have been insulted by the king.

84. On hearing his words (Śākalya) became extremely angry. Then he rebuked Yājñavalkya and said:

85-86. “If a preceptor imparts but a single syllable to a disciple, there is no such article on the earth by giving which he (disciple) can get redemption from the indebtedness to him.

Since, after being my disciple (for a long period) you do not carry out my instructions, I am going to subject you to my Brahma-Śāpa (Brāhmaṇa’s curse).”

Yājñavalkya said:

87. O venerable Sir, if you are going to curse me unjustifiably, I will also curse you in return now.

88. He may be a preceptor but if he is haughty, does not know distinctly what should or should not be done and proceeds along the wrong path, it is laid down (in scriptures) that he be abandoned.

89. Hence you have been abandoned by me. You are no longer my preceptor since you pass orders to the disciple indiscriminately.

90. Within as many days as you have disciples here, I will either carry out your directions or else go away far off.

Śākalya said:

91. If you wish to go elsewhere then give up the knowledge that I have taught you, O sinful, evil disciple. You can go thereafter.

92. Holy water has been charged with the Atharvaṇa Mantra, kṣurikā muṇḍa etc. by me. Drink it. By its power you will soon cast off from your belly the knowledge taught by me and acquired by you earlier.

95. After saying this he charged the holy water with the Atharvaṇa Mantra. The excellent Brāhmaṇa then gave it to the disciple so that he might vomit it out.

94. Yājñvalkya quaffed off the holy water charged by him with Mantras. He then vomited his lore along with the food taken in. He cast off the lore.

95. Thereupon, he became deluded and ignorant. He went to the holy Viśvāmitra Hrada and took his holy bath in accordance with the injunctions. He thus became clean and endowed with concentration.

96. He made twelve images of the twelve Ādityas, installed them and worshipped them devoutly.

97. The twelve Adityas [Ādityas] are: Dhātā, Mitra, Aryamā, Śakra, Varuṇa, Sāṃba, Bhaga, Vivasvān, Pūṣan, the tenth one Savitṛ, the eleventh one Tvaṣṭṛ and the twelfth Viṣṇu.

98. The Sun-god was installed by the learned one in twelve forms. Then all the different Ādityas were propitiated by him everyday with sweet scents, flowers and unguents.

99. After a long time, Ravi appeared before him and said charming words to this sage:

100. “O Yājñavalkya, I am much delighted with you, O excellent Brāhmaṇa. I shall grant you what is desired. Tell me now whatever has been desired by you.”

Yājñavalkya said:

101. If you wish to grant me a boon, engage me in the study of the Vedas. O Lord, therefore, I shall become your disciple now.

Āditya said:

102. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, I have to be always moving about. It is to circumambulate the Meru, O Brāhmaṇa, and for the illumination of the whole world.

103. Hence, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, how can I engage you in the study of the Vedas.

104-106. So become small in form and stay in the ear of my chief horse at my instance. Thereby, O highly esteemed one, you will not get singed by my refulgence. Settled there you can study.

He promised, “It shall be so” and entered the ear of the horse of the Sun. From there he learnt all the four Vedas from his mouth with their Aṅgas, Upāṅgas and the Pariśiṣṭas (appendices).

107. When it was concluded he said: “O Lord, say to me. I shall undoubtedly give you the fee due to the preceptor.”

Āditya said:

108-109. You must propagate Sūktas of the Ṛgveda, Sāvanas of the Yajurved [Yajurveda?], Sāmans of the third and the Kalpoktas of the fourth, O excellent Brāhmaṇas. They all must be propagated with excellent exposition by you on the earth.

110. Those Brāhmaṇas who recite all of them before me will be relieved of sins. They will go to heaven.

111. Those who are devout and write further comments thereon, O Brāhmaṇa, will attain salvation. It is the truth that has been uttered by me.

Sūta said:

112. He learnt the Vedas, gave the Gurudakṣiṇā (fee in return for the study) to the Sun-god and returned once again to Camatkārapura.

113. He then approached Śākalya and said: “You have been my previous preceptor. O highly esteemed one, ask for Gurudakṣiṇā

114. The elder brother, father, mother and preceptor, even if these are opposed to oneself, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, should be revered. There is no doubt about it.

115-116. All the four Vedas were learned by me along with their Aṅgas and Upāṅgas. Further the meanings of all of them were understood. Hence, O highly esteemed one, speak out what Dakṣiṇā should I offer to you?”

Śākalya said:

117-118. Whatever secrets of the Vedas have been imparted to you by the Sun-god recount them to me quickly. If they are learned and commented upon, sins can be dispelled. This is my Gurudakṣiṇā.

Yājñavalkya said:

119. So do come along with me to the place where the twelve Ādityas have been installed by me. I shall expound everything in their presence.

120. On hearing it, Śākalya went there along with his disciples and excellent Brāhmaṇas. He stood there where the Bhāskaras had been installed by him (Yājñavalkya).

121. Then standing before them, he narrated the commentary. He expounded all the Vedāntas[1] as told by Ravi earlier.

122. At the conclusion Yājñavalkya was propitiated by those Brāhmaṇas born in families following the four Vedas and conversant with the Vedānta.

123. He was requested: “It is due to your favour that we have become conversant with Vedanta and well learned in Vedic study. Ask for the Gurudakṣiṇā.”

Yājñavalkya said:

124. My Gurudakṣiṇā is: Those Brāhmaṇas who expound the Vedas in front of these my Bhāskaras (i.e. Bhāskaras installed by me) should have access to heaven with your favour.

125. Those who are endowed with devotion and conduct discourses, shall attain the fourth region bereft of death and old age.

The Brāhmaṇas said:

126. In Kali Age, Brāhmaṇas will be ignorant. They will not be capable of even reciting, to say nothing of expounding, them.

127. Hence, O excellent Brāhmaṇa, mention the essence (gist) of the Vedas. Thereby even ignorant persons can recite them.

Yājñavalkya said:

128-135. (His advice in brief:) The Brāhmaṇas of Ṛk Śākhā should recite at least these Sūktas, the Sūkta beginning with rathaṃ yuñjanti: the Sūkta beginning with Triṣṭubh, that beginning with citram devānām (RV. I. 115), haṃsaḥ śuciṣat, etc. and also the Pāvamāna Sūkta commonly recited by Bahvṛcs (persons conversant with many Ṛk Mantras).

Yajurvedins should recite these Ṛk Sūktas, Sāmavedins shall recite the twenty-one Sāmans loved by Āditya. These shall be sung by those Sāmagas who are pure and stay here. Those who retain in memory the decisive meaning and eulogize Bhāskara will be able to pierce the solar disc.

Atharvapāṭhaka Brāhmaṇas who recite Sūryakalpa and Śāntikalpa in Kṣurikāsaṃpuṭa, will attain the greatest goal.

Even foolish (ignorant) persons should assemble together on Sunday and bow down to the Sun-god with great faith. Those Brāhmaṇas shall be relieved of the sins committed in the seven previous days and nights.

Sūta said:

136. When the Brāhmaṇas of the four Vedas promised saying, “So it shall be”, Yājñavalkya became well-known to all of them.

137. The Videha king named Ratna (Janaka?) came there to listen to all the Vedāntas.

138. He too realized the greatness of the Sun-god, O excellent Brāhmaṇas, and installed him at that spot.

139. A man who visits that idol on a Sunday, shall be relieved of the sins committed the previous week.

140. Thus the greatness of the Sun-god has been narrated to you all. A man who listens to it with devotion shall get the merit of a horse sacrifice.

141. By listening to the excellent greatness, one gets that merit which one gets by making a gift on the Saṅkrānti day of the Sun or by listening to the same.

Footnotes and references:


Probably a reference to Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad.

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