The Skanda Purana

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

This page describes The Great Efficacy of Shivaratri which is chapter 16 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 sixteenth chapter of the Vastrapatha-kshetra-mahatmya of the Prabhasa Khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 16 - The Great Efficacy of Śivarātri

The King said:

1. That Brāhmaṇa, Vāmana, who was alone, entered that dense forest. I have curiosity (to know) what he did there. (Please) tell it to me.

Sārasvata said:

2-3. Then that Brāhmaṇa Vāmana, having gone to the Raivataka mountain, and having bathed in the water of the river Svarṇarekhā according to rule, having devotedly worshipped the deity with fragrant flowers, incense etc., remained all alone, in front of him, in the lonely forest,

4. which was full of all animals, crowded with reptiles, resounding with many voices, filled with the sounds of peacocks,

5. charming with the cooings of cuckoos, had sounds of wild cocks, was illuminated fire-flies, and tossed about by monkeys,

6. which was calm at places with the fire of bamboos, having at places trees with flowers, trees which had touched the sky, was without the sun’s heat,

7. in which pigs and deer, being frightened by the hunters were confused, which was able to give room to the groups of delighted Kṣatriyas,

8-9. He mentally remembered Han, full of many wonders. Knowing him to be just afraid, Narasiṃha came (there), and remaining in front of the Brāhmaṇa, for his protection said: “O Brāhmaṇa, do not be afraid; tell me what I should do for you.”

The Brāhmaṇa said:

10-11. If, O Narasiṃha, if you are pleased, then grant me a boon. You should always give protection to all those who live in this holy place. You should always remain before the god, as long as the fourteen Indras exist. Saying “let it be so”, Hari then did like that.

12. Therefore Narasiṃha is worshipped in front of Dāmodara. He has made the forest pleasing; he protects the holy place.

13. Ghosts and departed ones do not stay in the forest. Due to the prowess of Narasiṃha the fear from lions etc. has gone.

14. On the twelfth day in Kārttika, the fast was broken, and he then went to see Bhava.

15. Having bathed, and having worshipped Bhava with devotion, the sin due to the existence in the world was burnt to ashes by the worship of Bhava.

16. By seeing the God, the stock of his sins diminished. He remained calm in front of Bhava and so also Vastrāpatha.

17-18. Having well worshipped Kālamegha, he went to Vastrāpatha from there. That Vāmana, having duly worshipped the God with Vedic hymns, he did everything with incense, lamp and offerings. Having gone round (the deity) he remained in front of Bhava.

19-20. When he saw everything, he saw the mountain, the excellent mountain, Ujjayanta, the brother of (i.e. come up with) Maināka, that was well-known in Surāṣṭra country, and that stood first in the beginning of the age. It was accompanied by other mountains and was decorated with stones and trees.

21. Seeing it Vāmana thought about subtle rules, which required little trouble to follow, were very many, and the givers of sons and wealth.

22. When the rules are definitely followed, righteousness is produced in one. On seeing the river flowing to the ocean, and having bathed in it, one is freed from sins.

23-24. Householders are freed from all sins (after bathing in the river), touching a cow, saluting a Brāhmaṇa, properly worshipping deity-like preceptors, one who has practised penance, an ascetic, a calm, learned celibate Brāhmaṇa,(so also) his father, mother, sister, her husband, his daughter and her husband, his sister’s son, his daughter’s son, friends, kinsmen and relatives. Having fed them householders are freed from all sins.

25. A king, an elephant, a horse, a mongoose, a chaste lady, a bull, a mountain, ādarśa (common name of four trees viz. nyagrodha, udumbara, aśvattha and madhūka) trees are always givers of food.

26-28. These, just seen purify those who are always truth-speaking. By listening to a Vedic, religious story giving enjoyment and salvation to men, remembering Han, Hara and Gaṅgā, bathing at her bank, going for keeping awake (in honour) of Viṣṇu, giving gifts according to one’s capacity, so also a tāmbūla, a flower, a lamp, a leaf tulasī, doing singing, dancing and instrumental music in the temple of god (one is freed from the worldly existence).

29. These are said to be subtle practices. When practised they cause great prosperity. Therefore, I shall see the mountain, the auspicious abode of all gods.

30. Heaven is on the palm of (i.e. easy to attain) for those who go to the peak (of the mountain).

31. Realising this, Vāmana climbed on the top of the mountain, where water had come out due to the planting of the foot of Airāvata.

32. Then Vāmana went up to the summit (of the mountain) touching the sky to see Bhavānī, Skanda’s mother, who had ascended the peak.

33. As human beings climb the excellent mountain, they all are freed from sins.

34. Thinking like this, the Brāhmaṇa went up to the top of the mountain. He, the devotee of Bhava, saw Bhavānī, the mother of Skanda.

35-36. Skanda addresses her as ‘Ambā’. Therefore all other deities, all human beings on the earth, all serpents in the nether world (address her like that). So she is well-known as Ambā, and is worshipped on the top of the mountain. The Brāhmaṇa, having worshipped (her) with various important kinds of fruits, got full of curiosity, and remained on the peak touching the sky. He, all alone, with his hands folded remained on the peak.

37-41. When, having observed the whole earth along with mountains and oceans, the Brāhmaṇa saw the first ancient god Bhāskara (i.e. the Sun) having three qualities (viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), full of all lustre, the god of all, saluted by gods, wandering without, a prop, causing the measure of time, just saw Śaṅkara, God Bhava, naked, encircled by clouds, having figure like that of Buddha, omniscient, endowed with virtues, of a thin body, having matted hair, mild and himself remaining in the sky path.

Śrī Śiva said:

42. Listen, O Vāmana, I am pleased with you. I shall give you various boons. Your enlargement will pervade the three worlds. There is no doubt about it.

43. The Vedas will manifest themselves to you; so also whatever dancing and singing there is (in the world) You will have a stable power securing what cannot be secured. Go to Vastrāpatha and see the sacred place.

Vāmana said:

44. O great god, please tell me especially about the holy places at Vastrāpatha, if you have pity on me.

Rudra said:

45-46. In the north-west corner of Vastrāpatha, there is a divine lake. To the west of it, there is a thicket thick with leaves (and full of Bilva trees). In the midst of it there is an image of the phallus, made of clay, where formerly the pious hunter, went to my city.

47. Merely by seeing him, (the sin of) the murder of a Brāhmaṇa perishes. Indra, the killer of Vṛtra got freed from (the sin of) the killing of a Brāhmaṇa there.

48. To the northern direction of that there is an image of the phallus established by Kubera, and well known in the three worlds. The Goddess having a Triśūla (trident) stays there.

49. By merely seeing her, his son, Nalakūbera, became one whose hands were clung to nooses. He fashioned God Śiva.

50. In the south-west comer of Bhava there is (the image of) the attendant of Śiva known as Heramba. Yama first established him while fashioning the image of the Phallus.

51. Its greatness is wonderful. Citragupta was very much wonder-struck. Formerly he came to see (that image of) the god made of clay.

52. O best Brāhmaṇa, he too fashioned an image of the Phallus, known as Citragupteśvara and well known in the three worlds.

53. In the west Brahmā, of a noble mind fashioned an image of the Phallus, high up, remaining on the Raivataka mountain. On the peak of the mountain Brahmā himself stayed.

Rudra said:

54. I shall (now) tell you (about) the greatness of god Indreśvara. Listen to it. I know that it is situated in the northeast comer of Bhava.

Vāmana said:

55. For what purpose did Indra come there? How did Hari (Indra) fashion the image of Hara? O Lord, tell this story to me in detail.

Rudra said:

56. Formerly, the hunter, due to keeping awake on the Śivarātri, became a semi-divine being. At that time an aeroplane, along with the attendants, reached Śiva’s world.

57. It moved everywhere; it was very charming and resounded with the songs of divine ladies. Getting into it, he went to see that city of Hara.

58a. In it there took place a battle of the attendants of Śiva with Yama’s servants.

58b. Seeing him coming the King of gods thought:

59-60. ‘He is venerable like Hara to all like Citragupta, Yama and others.’ Indra mounting the elephant, and Yama, mounting the he-buffalo, (went to him). Citragupta, keeping the pen on his ear, (also went there) by Yama’s order. Then all attendants were invited. They were taken from the surface of the earth.

61-62. Afflicted by their own offence, they went towards the south. ‘The worship of the guest must be done when the hunter comes to my house. If he goes unhonoured Hara will curse me. So I shall worship him in such a way that Śaṅkara will be pleased.’

63. He saw him who had come to see the God, and who remained not far, who remained in the aeroplane, who had the figure of Hara, who had the lustre of a crore of suns.

64-65. He was being extolled with acts of the Śivarātri and of Śiva, in the month of Māgha on the fourteenth of the dark fortnight. O Lord of gods, like this everything took place on the earth. Thus some divine lady, of charming eyes, setting aside the Lord of elephants (Airāvata), was telling Indra:

66. “What is the use of giving many gifts? What is the use of vows? What is the use of worship of gods? What is the use of deep and abstract meditation? What is the use of penances? What is the use of celibacy, O Lord of gods?

67. “What is the use of the presentation of the obsequial rice-balls at Gayā? What is the use of dying at Prayāga? What is the use of visits to Sarasvatī at Someśvara on the Full-Moon or the New-Moon day?

68. “What is the use of visits to Kurukṣetra when the Sun is eclipsed by Rāhu? What would happen by the gift of gold equal to one’s weight? What is the use of recitaton of Vedic texts?

69. “What is the use of presenting a bull by means of which all sins are washed off? What does the gift of a cow do? So also (what does) giving of water (do)?

70. “What kind of fruit would be obtained by making a present during the time from one solstice to another, on the equinoctial point, or during the time of the passage of the Sun from one Zodiacal sign to another or by keeping awake on the fourteenth day of the month of Māgha?”

71. Yama, seated on a he-buffalo, speaks aloud: “See the greatness of Rudra, O Citragupta, and remember.

72-73. “This is that hunter who formerly worshipped Hara. Listen: There is a well-known holy place Vastrāpatha in the Surāṣṭra country. There is the mountain Ujjayanta; so also (there is) the mountain Raivataka. I have heard that there is a great thicket between them.

74. “There is an image of the Phallus made of clay. He worshipped it at night. For that reason he had come to keep awake.

75. “How should it be disclosed by people like us? The gods themselves know it. The excellent ladies solicit one another to see the choice. They have come from Indra’s abode very speedily and are in Indra’s garden.

76. “Some man, with a body having the lustre of Brahmā, Viṣṇu or Śaṅkara comes to see the city of the Lord of gods. Is he my husband or yours?

77. “In the dwelling of the King of gods, the ladies awakened by the eulogies made by the sounds of tabors, lutes, drums, saw god Hara and said: ‘He is not a man having Hara’s figure. Is he your lord or of both of us?’

78. “Some sing (songs), some speak in many sentences containing words of victory in the presence of the preceptor.

79. “Someone eulogizes ‘Śiva’, and someone else asks (another lady): ‘Is it the fruit of (observing) a fast? Or is this your fruit due to the loss of sleep?’

80-81. “Various kinds of words of (i.e. uttered by) them were heard in Indra’s garden. Having talked about Brahmā’s world etc., the Lord of gods, full of curiosity, again said to the hunter: ‘Show in which place on the mountain the image of Phallus in the thicket exists.’

The hunter said:

82. The country Surāṣṭra is well known. In it Sarasvatī, holding the subamarine fire on her head, has entered the Salt Ocean.

83. There flows the river Gomatī; there is the Gandhamādana (mountain) there is the best mountain Ujjayanta; there is the Raivataka mountain.

84. There in the holy place Vastrāpatha Bhava is well-settled. O best god, there in the thicket of trees is the clay image of the Phallus (of Śiva).

Indra said:

85. Together we shall go there. I shall myself worship Bhava, and, O hunter, show me the image of the Phallus in the thicket.

86. Sin like molesting someone else’s wife, the sin committed due to Vṛtra’s murder while destroying the demons—I shall wipe out all that.

87. Saying so all together reached the top of the mountain. Abandoning their vehicles, they started (going there) on foot.

88-89. The Lord of elephants (Airāvata) arrived on the top of the mountain. Then for (some) reason he put his forefoot on the top (of the mountain). The best mountain trampled by that (forefoot) let flow pure water. “The water rising from the foot of the mountain would always be stable.”

90. Indra thus addressed (them) with a desire for the wellbeing of the people. All came there where the thicket remained.

91. On the fourteenth day of Māgha having worshipped the deity with various flowers, and having kept awake on that night Hari (Indra) became pure.

92. Having worshipped Bhava at Vastrāpatha and Hari (Viṣṇu) on the Raivataka mountain and having established Lord Indreśvara, he returned home.

93. The hunter too reached Hari’s abode by an aeroplane. Thus speaking that god Bhava vanished there only.

94-95. Then Vāmana too remembering Śiva in his naked form seated in Padmāsana position and benign in appearance, plunged in the holy place. Having installed the great figure he worshipped it by that day.

96. Then, he secured a divine power for securing what was desired by his mind. Vāmana, named that figure Neminātha-Śiva.

97. On the ground in the vicinity of the western side of Bhava, in the holy place Vastrāpatha, Vāmana then took his abode.

98a. Therefore the sacred place is called Yavādhika by gods along with Indra.

98b-99. Having arrived in front of Bhava, Indra fashioned his image. This holy place is superior by a yava (a very small measure) to Prabhāsa due to Bhava’s order and due to Śiva’s order it will be six times superior to other holy places.

100. Thus I have told you everything. What else do you ask?

The King said:

101. This efficacy of the (vow of) Śivarātri is said to be incomparable. It is heard that formerly the hunter ignorant (of its efficacy) observed it.

102. O Lord, now say how other people should observe it. Tell me what should be accepted and what should be rejected on the Śivarātri (day).

Sārasvata said:

103. Having obtained human birth, and having known god Maheśvara, the (vow of) Śivarātrī, giving enjoyments and salvation, should always be observed.

104. O King, such religious merit is produced by observing this vow alone. The religious merit of those who always observe this vow is unending.

105-106. This is a twelve-year vow. It should be observed every year. Life of men is fickle. (So) if it cannot be observed (for twelve years) then this vow can be completed within twelve months. O King, its commencement is done on the fourteenth day in the month of Māgha.

107-108. Thereafter, it should be observed every month. It should be completed at the end of Pauṣa. If accidentally some difficulty comes up, there would be no breach of the vow; it should be observed without any pause. Twelve (such vows) should be observed, especially counting the number.

109-110. In the world, nothing auspicious or inauspicious (ever) perishes. On the fourteenth day of the dark half, having performed the duties of the earlier part of the day, the observance of a fast should be taken up. Bathing in a river is enjoined. In its absence one should, according to one’s capacity, bathe in a lake etc.

111. The body should not be anointed with oil. (So also) one should not go anywhere. One should resort to a sacred place. Arrival into a holy place is auspicious.

112. Men should always observe the Śivarātri-vow (in the vicinity of) a self-existent image of (Śiva’s) Phallus. In its absence (in the vicinity) of a very meritorious image of the Phallus more than a hundred years old.

113. That which has just remained of its own accord, there only—on a mountain, in a forest, near an ocean, or a river is the self-existing image of the Phallus.

114-115. The image of the Phallus made with sand etc., if worshipped, is said to be fruitful. A man having worshipped it carefully by day with flowers, incense etc., should avoid liquor, gambling, (the company of) a woman, and cutting off nails. Intent on celibacy, and being calm a fast should be observed.

116. Having, at night, gone in front of a deity, seven mountains should be fashioned. They should be smeared with cooked food, tāmbūla, flowers, incense etc.

117. The lamp should have clarified butter in it for destroying sins, since the greatness of a lamp should be known to give liberation.

118. Men should always light a lamp in the house, in a temple. A lamp should be kept by day or during night according to one’s capacity

119. With (even) a little light gods are pleased on the earth. In a śrāddha ceremony a lamp should be first kindled in honour of the dead ancestors.

120. At night men should keep awake in such a way that sleep does not overcome them. This glory of the Śivarātri should be listened to in the presence of listeners.

121. The story of Śiva fully detailed should be listened to at night. Singing, dancing, playing on musical instruments should be done in the vicinity of Śiva.

122. The night is passed like this since keeping awake is the main (object). While keeping awake at night gifts should be given according to one’s capacity.

123. Again, taking a bath in the morning worship of Śiva should be done. Ascetics also should be honoured by giving them food, covering etc.

124. Householders should give a meal to ascetics. Twelve, or eight or four, or even one should be fed.

125. Even one celibate, who is devotee of Śiva, is equal to a thousand ones when given a good meal in one’s house.

126. They (i.e. the householders), controlling speech, should eat (food) which is not juicy or saltish, from a plate. He should first give food to his son, friends, wife.

127-128. In this way Śivarātri should always be observed by men. When these pots are filled with sesamum seeds, then only twelve (pots) should be given to the preceptor, a Brāhmaṇa, or members of his caste. At the end of the vow, a strong cow, with her calf, should be given.

129-130. She should be given along with garments and ornaments, and decorated with a decorative bell A ring, clothes, an umbrella, shoes, water-pot, should be given.Gifts should be given to one’s preceptor and Brāhmaṇas according to one’s capacity. Doing like this, meal should be given to ascetics. Having given sweet food of various kinds, he should give them leave after begging their pardon.

131-132. Truly there is no sin of him who does like this. Obtaining excellent progeny, enjoying excellent pleasures, he is taken to Śiva’s abode, after he gets into a divine aeroplane and is surrounded by divine ladies, accompanied by the sounds of songs, musical instruments.

133. (Thus) I have narrated the holy vow of Śivarātri, having done which all the sins of men are exhausted.

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