The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes Procedure of the Pilgrimage (Yatra) which is chapter 28 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 twenty-eighth chapter of the Prabhasa-kshetra-mahatmya of the Prabhasa Khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 28 - Procedure of the Pilgrimage (Yātrā)

The Devī said:

1-2. Thus, O Lord, this wonderful narrative has been heard by me from you entirely. Now it behoves you to narrate duly and in detail the greatness of Maheśvara, the Lord of Soma. How should men proceed to visit him? How is the religious pilgrimage to be performed? At what time, O great Lord? And what are the regulations?

Īśvara said:

3-4. Whether in Hemanta (early winter) or in Śiśira (late winter) or in spring, O beautiful lady, if a person feels inclined and has also the requisite money on hand and the festival season falls, the Yātrā (pilgrimage) should be performed. It is the keenness of the devotion that is the criterion. O lady of excellent complexion, the devotee himself should observe some sort of (religious) rules and regulations in his own house.

5. He bows to Rudra mentally and performs the Śrāddha in accordance with the injunctions. He circumambulates the holy spot, observing the vow of silence with great concentration.

6. He should be self-restrained. He should observe full control on the diet. The devotee should be rid of lust, anger, covetousness and delusion.

7. He must be free from rivalry, malice and indulgence. Thus the men should start on their religious procession. Undertaking pilgrimage (yātrā) is highly meritorious. It excels even (performance of) Yajñas.

8. By performing Agniṣṭoma and other Yajñas with plenty of monetary gifts, one gets that benefit which one acquires by means of pilgrimage to holy places.

9. In the extremely terrible Kali Yuga with its full complement of sinfulness, one cannot obtain piety and heavenly pleasures through any other means. O great goddess, there is no doubt in this that there is no other means except pilgrimage (yātrā).

10. In the Kali age, men who undertake pilgrimage (yātrā) with purity and faith, shall be ones who have achieved their objectives. Others are useless.

11. Just as there is no reservoir of water on a par with the great ocean, so also there is no Tīrtha equal to Prābhāsika Kṣetra.

12. One not observing the holy fast for three days, not undertaking pilgrimage to holy spots and not gifting gold or cows definitely becomes indigent.

13. If a devotee is desirous of the benefit of all the Tīrthas, but these are inaccessible and impossible places of pilgrimage, he should visit them mentally.

14. If one’s hands and feet and the mind are fully under control, if one has learning, penance and fame, one attains the benefit of (pilgrimage to) holy spots.

15. A man of self-control, one with full diet control, one keenly interested in holy ablution and Japa, and one regular in observing holy vows and fasts, attains the benefit of pilgrimage to holy spots.

16. O goddess of Devas, one who is never angry, one who is habitually truthful and steadfast in vows and one who views all living beings on a par with his own self, attains the benefit of pilgrimage to holy spots.

17. A Brāhmaṇa should undertake pilgrimage to places like Kurukṣetra which can be traversed by means of chariots. There is no fault in making use of vehicles therein.

18. Those good men who have ample wealth and who constantly think of visiting Tīrthas, will have more benefit through making gifts in holy spots as well as by Yoga.

19. Those poor people who have no money but who are interested in pilgrimage, will have the acquisition of the benefit of Yajñas even without possessing ready cash.

20. It should be known that a Tīrtha bestows benefits to persons of all Varṇas and stages of life. No hesitation need be there in this matter.

21. If a person goes to a holy spot for some other task (of his own) but incidentally takes his holy ablution, he does not acquire the benefit of the pilgrimage [i.e., yātrā-phala] but gets only that of the holy bath.

22. Undertaking pilgrimage on foot is considered the greatest penance. If the same is undertaken by means of vehicles, one gets only the benefit of the holy ablution.

23. O goddess, if anyone pays another the expenditure (for the Yātrā) and also places his vehicle at his disposal for the pilgrimage, he gets four times the benefit.

24. Having undertaken pilgrimage, O great goddess, if people control their sense-organs and subsist on alms, they acquire ten times the benefit.

25. A Brāhmaṇa (who undertakes a pilgrimage) without using umbrella and shoes, who subsist himself on alms and keeps his sense-organs under control, he is rid of all terrible results arising from committing Mahāpātakas.

26. Taking alms is not on a par with taking other people’s cooked food. Accepting alms is not acceptance of gifts. Taking alms is on a par with imbibing Soma juice. Hence one should beg for alms.

27. In this world there are two types of holy spots: one type is created by self-willed ones; the other type is self-born (natural) like Prabhāsa etc. or created by deities.

28. In a great Tīrtha that is self-born i.e. natural and is by nature more exalted, a Pratigraha (gift) taken is as good as accepting all Pratigrahas.

29. In the case of one refraining from Pratigraha the benefit of the pilgrimage (yātrā) is ten times that of the pilgrimage. All gifts are made by him. The Devas are propitiated by means of Yajñas.

30-31. It is as though after reaching the holy spot great restraint is indulged in by him. If anyone is inclined to take Pratigraha because of his liking for the object, he is a wicked soul. He has neither this world nor the other world. But if a Brāhmaṇa weak for want of an avocation, accepts Pratigraha he shall make a gift of a tenth of what he got thus. Thereby he never become a loser.

32. If a Śūdra assumes the guise of a Brāhmaṇa and takes the Pratigraha of anything like grass or wood, he meets with a downfall.

33. He falls into crores of great hells such as Kūṃbhīpāka etc. He remains there, O lady of excellent countenance, till fourteen thousand Indras reign.

34. Hence no Pratigraha should be accepted in both the types of Tīrthas, Kṛta (created) or Akṛta (natural) even by other Brāhmanas.

35. One who is fully endowed with Bhāva (emotional purity) attains the full benefit. But one who goes (on pilgrimage) with another man’s food, attains only a sixteenth (part of the benefit).

36. In the case of a blind man, a man of failing health and weakness, a lame man and a Yāyāvara (one who moves about from one village to another every night), a vehicle has been permitted for cogent reasons. Why should there be (such a concession) in the case of an Acchidra (having no holes, i.e. weakness, healthy, with no weakness) Brāhmaṇa?

37. One who visits Tīrthas, gives away the benefit of ablution, eating and drinking to those who bear him. But the benefit of the Tīrtha, he acquires entirely.

38. If he does not give away the entire sixteenth fraction of what he has acquired with effort, he shall give unto Brāhmaṇas a fifth (of this sixteenth).

39. If honouring the good wishes of preceptors, parents and deities, one gives away one’s merit the person gets the same multiplied eight times as the benefit.

40. Whether in the case of holy ablution, Dāna, Japa, Homa, self-study of the Vedas and adoration of deities, it is the Puṇya (merit) that has to be given, demerit is never given.

41. If a pilgrim dips in a Tīrtha with his father, mother, brother, friend, or preceptor in view, that person gets a twelfth of the merit.

42. O great goddess, if a pilgrim makes an image of anyone and gets it immersed in the waters of a Tīrtha, that person gets one-eighth of the merit.

43. Those Brāhmaṇas deficient in learning who accept great gifts (Mahādāna) are reborn as trees or as Brahmarākṣasas.

44. One should not take interest in Pratigraha on the strength of Vedic knowledge. Whether due to ignorance or due to mistake, Karma burns, not the other things. (?)

45. On touching a log of wood in a funeral pyre or a Yajña Yūpa (sacrificial post) or one who sells Veda, bath is prescribed (by way of atonement).

46. One who reads command and the one who gives it—both of them are sinful ones, residents of the nether worlds (i.e. hells).(?)

47. He who reads command with a desire to collect Pratigraha, particularly in a holy place, is Brahmaghna (slayer of Brāhmaṇas), none else. One may be staying at the entrance to the palace of a king but one should not make a sale of the Vedas.

48. A base Brāhmaṇa may very well kill a cow and eat its flesh, or one may live like fish, but one shall not sell the Vedas. There has never been and there will never be a sin like Brāhmaṇa-slaughter.

49. O goddess, one may commit that sin but one shall not make a sale of Vedas particularly in a holy spot, so also in a Mahākṣetra.

50. A person undertaking pilgrimage renders the Tīrtha holy and sacred if he abandons (refrains from accepting) a gift offered. He sanctifies his ancestors.

51. A sin committed elsewhere becomes reduced in Tīrtha. But what is committed in the Tīrtha is never destroyed anywhere.

52. A pilgrim shall guard himself like a pot filled with oil by not letting it spill. That Brāhmaṇa of self-control attains the benefit of the Tīrtha.

53. If a pilgrim eats cooked food from anyone whether in a large quantity or only very little, he gives a moiety of that benefit of bath to him.

54. If a Brāhmaṇa pilgrim does not beg for alms despite being in difficulties, if he is truthful and resolute in meditation, he renders service to the Tīrtha itself.

55. Puṣkara in Kṛta Yuga, Naimiṣa in Tretā Yuga, Kurukṣetra in Dvāpara and Prābhāsika in Kali Yuga (are most important and sacred).

56. A man may stand on a single leg for a thousand Yugas. Another performs the pilgrimage (yātrā) to the Prābhāsika Kṣetra. The latter may or may not be equal to the former.

57. O lady of excellent countenance, after reaching the centre of this holy spot a man must leave off his vehicle and walk on foot.

58. He should roll on where even the deities had rolled. Then as a true pilgrim, he should go to Lord Someśvara after visiting Kapardin. He should proceed ahead dancing, laughing and singing.

59. On seeing such a man standing before Someśvara, the Pitṛs always become pleased and the grandfathers shout for joy.

60. “One belonging to our family has set off towards Lord Someśvara, in order to redeem us.” O goddess, after going to Someśvara, a devotee should get himself (i.e. his head) shaved.

61. In the Tīrtha the requisite Upavāsa (fasting) should be observed. Understand the procedure from me. There is no Tīrtha on a par with Gaṅgā. There is no resort on a par with a Kratu (Yajña).

62. There is no Jāpya (Mantra) like Gāyatrī; no Homa like that with the Vyāhṛtis (Om bhūḥ etc.). Within water there is nothing that quells sins more than the Aghamarṣaṇa (Mantra).

63. There is no meritorious act like non-violence. There is nothing greater than Dāna. There is no greater austerity (penance) than observing fast or resorting to Tīrthas.

64. O goddess of Devas, there is nothing superior to fast observed in a holy spot as a means of quelling sins and causing pleasure to the good.

65. Fast has been particularly prescribed in holy spots of deities. In the case of a Brāhmaṇa abstinence from food is called the greatest austerity.

66. Taking food once in three days is mentioned as the greatest austerity in the case of a Śūdra. In the case of persons born as a result of mixture of castes, one day is glorified (as an interval between two meals).

67. If at all anywhere a Śūdra performs a penance greater than (taking food) once in three days, it should be known that there is loss unto the nation and a great danger befalls the king.

68. A Śūdra should perform austerity within his capacity by regularly taking food once in three days. A Śūdra shall never pull out or uproot Darbha grass. He should never drink the milk of a Kapilā (tawny-coloured) cow.

69. O beautiful woman, he should never take food in the middle leaf of Brahmavṛkṣa (Mulberry or Palāśa tree). He should not utter the Praṇava Mantra (Om), nor shall he eat Puroḍāśa (sacrificial oblation).

70. He should not have a tuft of hair on the head ṇor should he wear the sacred thread. He should not even utter Saṃskṛta language. He should not read a Vedic passage nor should he resort to Trairātra (fast for three nights).

71. Certainly the fulfilment of the holy rites in the case of a Śūdra is with a mere, bow of salutation. If he does anything prohibited he sinks down (in hell) along with his Pitṛs.

72. One by whom the organs (of sense and action) numbering eleven have been controlled obtains the merit of (pilgrimage to) Tīrthas. The other one shall meet only with pain and distress.

73. One should take the holy bath in the same Tīrtha where Pitṛ Śrāddha is performed. He shall be one doing what is beneficial to all living beings. He shall attain the benefit of the Tīrtha.

74. A person who is a religious impostor, who is always covetous and is enamoured of other men ‘s wives shall be a sinner even if he undertakes pilgrimage.

75. O great goddess, one should know all these and then undertake pilgrimage (yātrā) in accordance with the injunctions. At the outset, he should observe fast at the pilgrim centre. He should be faithful and steadfast in his holy vows.

76. If he wishes for his welfare he should not take food at all on that day. No Brāhmaṇa should ever take another man’s food.

77. One may accept elephant, horse, chariot, other vehicles, plot of land, cow, gold etc. but shall not take food.

78. Through uncooked food, one gets hundred times the merit of one who offers or takes food. Hence, O lady of excellent countenance, one should observe Tīrthopavāsa (fast at a holy spot).

79. O goddess, in the case of one who has undertaken holy vows, a pilgrim and a widow in particular, if food is taken from another persons the merit goes to that person whose food is partaken of.

80-82. I shall mention the procedure of pilgrimage (yātrā) to be followed by a widowed woman. She has to eschew Kuṃkuma, sandal, betel-leaves, garlands, all red garments, bedsheets, conversation with the uncultured, taking meal two times a day, seeing men, engaging in jokes in darkness. She has to avoid creaky sandals, dance and music.

83. She should not tie up tresses of hair nor should she apply collyrium to the eyes. No unguent is to be used. She will dissociate with unchaste women. She should not revel in too much of scholarship (scholarly discussions).

84. An ascetic, a religious student and a widow in particular, should take bath everyday and wear white clothes.

85. They (learned men) consider betel-leaves, honey and meat on a par with imbibing liquor. By avoiding these, O goddess, the merit of the pilgrimage (yātrā) will be complete.

The Devī said:

86. What are the austerities recommended in the holy place Prābhāsika? What types of gifts are made? How? In what holy spot?

Īśvara said:

87. Austerities are of a very great importance in Kṛtayuga. It is knowledge that is sought after in Tretā Yuga. In Dvāpara, performing Yajña is praised. Only Dāna (is regarded so) in Kaliyuga.

88. Sages and other people go to Prābhāsika Kṣetra and perform austerities called Kṛcchra Cāndrāyaṇa etc. in Kṛtayuga.

89. In Kali Age, gifts are made over to Brāhmaṇas duly. After reaching Prabhāsa Kṣetra the merit of the austerities is obtained.

90-94. At Prabhāsa, a king should make sixteen Mahādānas namely: Tulāpuruṣa, Brahmāṇḍa, Pṛthvī, Kalpa tree, Kāmadhenu, Gaja (elephant), Vāji (horse), Ratha (chariot), Ratna (jewel), Dhenu (cow), Hiraṇya (gold), Aśva (horse), Sapta Sāgara (seven seas), Mahābhūta (great elements), Ghaṭa (pot), Viśva (universe), Cakra (wheel), and Kalpalatā (wish-yielding creeper).

The following ten are remembered as Parvatas (mountains): Dhānya (grain), Ratna (jewel), Guḍa (jaggery), Svarṇa (gold), Tila (gingelly seeds), Kārpāsa (cotton), Śarkarā (sugar), Sarpis (ghee), Lavaṇa (salt) and Rūpya (silver).

The following ten are remembered as Dhenus (cows): Guḍa (jaggery), Ājya (ghee), Dadhi (curds), Madhu (honey), Aṃbu (water) (?), Salila (water) (?), Kṣīra (milk), Śarkarā (sugar) and those called Ratna in their own form.

One of these gifts is to be given at each Tīrtha separately. Or all should be given once in a place at the confluence of Sarasvatī and the sea.

95. To a great-learned man should be given everything or a house with all the necessary paraphernalia; something whether it is much or little should be given to Brāhmaṇas in a social gathering.

96. Rites in the sacred fire are to be performed in that Tīrtha where Liṅga is obtained and where the waters are devoid of impurities. Thereafter the Dāna is to be made.

97. There is a definite injunction laid down that in every Tīrtha, propitiation of the Devas, offering oblations of water to the Pitṛs, Śrāddha and Dāna together with the monetary gifts and the gift of cows should be performed.

98. In regard to the Liṅgas well-known as extraordinary, Vṛsadāna (gift of a bull) is prescribed. Ablution, smearing of unguents and the adoration of the deities should be performed.

99. The Jagatī (Precincts of a temple) should be devoutly plastered and then the worship performed. The palace (temple) should be made white with lime and if it is ruined, it should be renovated.

100. A person who undertakes Vratas should keep the flower garden and the well for bathing pure and clean. Plenty of gifts to Brāhmaṇas as well as the priest worshipping the deity (be given).

101. In all pilgrimages everywhere, this injunction holds good. A Tīrtha in ruins should be renovated and swept clean. The merit of such good work is to be mentioned (to all).

102. In a well-known Tīrtha, one should give Mahādāna; in a medium type moderate type of gift. Gift of cows is made in all the Tīrthas. Gold is the means of expiation. The gift of gold is the best of all gifts.

103. By doing thus with devotion, a man’s birth becomes fruitful. I shall now explain the gifts in various Tīrthas—what should be given, where and on what lunar days.

104. In Prabhāsa Kṣetra pure gold should be given on the first lunar day; garment on the second lunar day; a plot of land on the third day (should be given).

105. On the fourth day, food-grains are to be gifted and a Kapilā (tawny-coloured cow) on the fifth day. A horse should be given on the sixth day and a buffalo on the seventh day.

106. A bull is to be gifted on the eighth day. It shall be blue-coloured and endowed with all characteristic features. On the ninth day, the devotee should give a house, a discus, a conch and a club.

107. All types of sweet scents are to be gifted on the tenth day and pearl on the eleventh day. On the twelfth day cooked food etc. and corals are to be duly offered to a person of excellent Vratas.

108. Women (slave girls) are to be given on the thirteenth day and wisdom (knowledge, learning) is gifted on the Bhūta (fourteenth) day. On the Amāvāsyā day all Dānas are to be made.

109. By making these gifts one will get ten times more merit (benefit).

The Devī said:

110. Tell me the result experienced by those who have come to Prabhāsa Kṣetra without devotion and without making gifts and also those without holy baths and utterance of Mantras.

Īśvara said:

111. Irrespective of their being wealthy or without the utterance of the Mantras all those who meet with death at Prabhāsa proceed to Śiva’s abode.

112. O my beloved, I allot a great chariot to those persons who die without utterance of Mantras and performance of sacred rites.

113. Men obtain the highest status in a manner befitting the holy bath and Dāna. Some men get it as a result of Snāna and some men by means of Dāna.

114. Some get it by means of bowing down to the Liṅga and some by means of the adoration of the Liṅga; some as a result of the power of meditation and some due to the power of Yoga.

115. O splendid lady, some (obtain these) due to the Jāpya (muttering) of the Mantra and same through penance; some as a result of renunciation in the Tīrtha and some in accordance with their devotion.

116. All these and many others, whether exalted, middling or the lowest, go to the city of Śiva by means of chariots resembling the Sun.

117. Their hands are marked by tridents. All of them have bulls for vehicle. By my power they sport about in the midst of divine groups of Apsarās.

118. Thus, in accordance with their devotion I grant perpetual benefit. This holy place Prabhāsa is stainless. It is not adversely affected by Dharmas or Adharmas.

119. Whether they perform holy rites or unholy acts they undoubtedly go to Śiva.

120. O goddess, a man may be blind ever since his birth. Meeting with death in my Kṣetra, he too, is honoured in the world of Rudra.

121. O goddess, a man may be devoid of both of his ears ever since his birth but meeting with death in Prabhāsa he shall be in my company (an attendant).

122. Now I shall mention the rules regarding Sparśana (touching or ritualistic imbibing) of the Tīrtha waters. Charged with a Mantra a Tīrtha comes near.

123. At the outset the devotee touches the Tīrtha, the pure water uttering the Praṇava. Thereafter, he should take the plunge and take his bath uttering this Adhyātma Mantra (the Mantra of spiritual efficacy):

124-125 “Om, obeisance to the Lord of Devas, to Śitikaṇṭha (Blue-throated Śiva) holding a staff and having the discus in the left hand. Obeisance to Vedhas (creator).

O Sarasvatī, O Sāvitri, O mother of the Vedas, O Vibhāvarī (night), be present here in this Tīrtha, O destroyer of sins”.

In the case of all the Tīrthas, this same Mantra is cited.

126. Uttering this Mantra, a pilgrim makes the salutation and takes the holy bath in accordance with the injunctions. O lady of holy vows, he should observe fast on that day.

127. For a whole year, the devotee should observe fast on that lunar day.

The Devī said:

128. O great god, tell me in detail. After coming to Prabhāsa Kṣetra, in which Tīrtha should the devotees take their holy bath?

Īśvara said:

129. So, I shall tell you about the first Tīrtha of great lustre, where men should take their bath at the outset.

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