by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes Eminence of Agni Tirtha which is chapter 30 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 thirtieth chapter of the Arbuda-khanda of the Prabhasa Khanda of the Skanda Purana.
1. Then O king! one has to go to that supremely pure centre of pilgrimage known as Agni Tīrtha. Fire had become obsolete there but the gods brought it back.
The King Yayāti said:
2. O best of Brāhmaṇas! how could and what for the fire get completely obsolete? (And if so) how could the fire be brought back again there? Please tell as I have the curiosity in this regard, O great Sage.
3. In old times, once it had stopped to rain on earth for twelve years and beyond any doubt, the condition of all in the world had become pitiable with hunger.
4. Almost all living beings were dead and those who were left out were on the brink of death. Forests, villages, animals, birds and deer—all were ruined.
5. Seeing such hardships befalling the mortal world, O king! the best of sages Viśvāmitra became very apprehensive.
6. Given the scarcity of water, the left-over medicinal herbs appeared as if they were fanning out in the air waiting for a spark of fire. On another day, while roaming about in another direction, he saw the parched land having dust enough to cause sneezing.
7. Then being excessively affected by hunger and thirst, the sage reached the house of an outcaste [Caṇḍāla-nilaya]. There he saw a dog lying dead on the dry earth giving an impression as if it was characterised by some good actions.
8. Taking hold of it, he brought it home and washed it with water. Hungry as he was, he then put it on fire so as to make it digestible.
10. With the vanishing away of medicine and water from the world, it appeared that whatever was available as per time could be deemed as appropriate food for fire.
11. “I may better give up this land, but shall never eat the uneatable. By my doing so, Indra and other gods will have that painful situation of a high order.”
12. Thinking like this and with heightened anger in mind, the Fire God ascending onto his bearer disappeared completely from the mortal world consisting of the living and non-living.
13. With the disappearance of fire, all religious activities specially connected with offering of oblations into fire like the sacrificial fire and the Agniṣṭoma Yajña disappeared immediately. With ruination of such activities people specially became apprehensive.
14. As a result, all gods receded into a state of severe doubt. Deprived of their share accruing from the conduct of sacrificial fires, i.e.,.Yajña, all gods, grouped together began to chalk out a plan clandestinely amongst themselves.
15. They began to deliberate that with the desertion by fire, men have gone to a state of ruination in the mortal world. We are left out awaiting destruction and there is no doubt that we will be destroyed.
16. Hence let fire be looked for at the moment wherever it may be. Let a law be worked out by which, it may move about in the mortal world.
17. After deliberating like this, all gods along with Indra, then spread themselves out in all directions of the earth in search of fire.
18. Then seeing a parrot before them, the gods tired as they were, asked it with due regards to say, if at all, it has seen the fire.
The parrot said:
19. I have seen the great and lustrous fire disappearing only in this burnt out log of big bamboo lying in the front.
20. With the parrot saying like this the Fire God got argry [angry?] and then cursing it saying that ‘You would have a stammering voice’, he left quickly.
21. Then he entered deep into the middle portion of the auspicious pipal tree which is usually stated to contain fire deep within itself. This was brought to the notice of gods by the king of elephants.
22. Then cursing the elephant that let its tongue turn upside down, the Fire God entered into the pool in the mountain called Arbuda.
23-25. The Fire God entered there without the gods noticing. A frog coming out from there brought it to the notice of the gods by saying, “With the fire putting up there in the mountain brook, all living bodies in the water got burnt out with the water becoming hot. O gods! I have extricated myself from the face of death in that painful fire.” After learning this, the Fire God then entered into the sacrificial oblation to fire with all care.
26. O king! then the Fire God cursed the frog that you be deprived of your tongue.
27. Then O king! all gods stepped out of that pool and encircling it began to recite hymns of Veda to please the Fire God.
The gods said:
28-31. O Fire! you precede others in staying inside all beings. Without you, everything in the world will get destroyed fast. You are the giver of happiness to all gods. On you are founded the worlds. With your giving up the earth, all of us along with Indra will meet with destruction. Hence you save us. You are the Brahmā. You are also the Viṣṇu, the Mahādeva and the Sun. You are also the Lord of Moon, wealth and the wind. O Fire! Indra etc. as well as all other gods are your inheritors. Why have you placed yourself here leaving the mortal world? O God! what for do you intend to leave innocents like us?
32-34. When the gods, thus encircling the mountainous brook were singing hymns with all sincerity, the Fire God appeared on the shore of the brook and said, “O Indra! you have propelled me to eat the non-edible. Due to that the God of gods! I have stopped it to rain in the mortal world. I have entered into the brook here giving up the land. With the drying up of water in the human world I am left with no will to put up there.”
35-37. O Fire! listen, as to why have I stopped it to rain. Devāpi, the king so named and a learned man in the field of scriptures was instrumental behind spreading the fame of Kṣatriyas. His son Prateepa [Pratīpa?] was a noble soul and was best among those bearing good nature. (But) with Devāpi’s passage to Heaven, putting aside his eldest son, Śantanu, his younger son began to rule over his kingdom. Due to this reason, I have expelled rains from his kingdom. However, O Fire! as per your orders, I will actuate rains there.
39. Ordered so by Indra, rows of heavily thunderous clouds with lightning began to fill the surface of earth with abundant water. O king! it appeared as if they were out to fill with all intensity the surface of earth with water with themselves ablaze with lightning.
40. Then the Fire God became supremely satisfied and as per gods’ wishes made the earth pleasurable by settling down on it.
Then the gods said:
41. O Fire! as per your wishes rains have been brought into action i.e. restored. If you have any other work dear to you, please plead for the same hurriedly.
42. Let this pool yield goodness and be a good centre of pilgrimage named after me. Let it attain fame on the surface of earth by all of yours grace.
The gods said:
43. This centre of pilgrimage will acquire fame by your name. By having a bath here man will proceed to the world of fire.
44. The fruit of sacrifīcial fire called Agniṣṭoma Yajña will happen to that man who makes the offering of sesame with all sincere application of mind.
45. Having said so all gods went back to their respective places. And the Fire God also, O king! remained present there for having no other way out.
46. One who after getting up in the morning regularly reads the hymns in honour of Fire here becomes free from all sins by virtue of the greatness of Fire.
47. By listening to the same day and night, one also gets free from the sins so committed.