Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Pitri-tirtha included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Pitṛ-tīrtha

The Kumbhīpākanaraka (the hell of Kumbhīpāka) in the land of the manes is called Pitṛtīrtha. There is a story about this in Devī Bhāgavata:

Once the sage Durvāsas with his body smeared with ashes and wearing sacred berries went to Pitṛloka muttering "Śivaśaṅkara sarvātman śrīmātar bhuvaneśvari". The lord of the Pitṛloka received him with respect and worshipped him. While they were talking, Durvāsas heard cries of agnoy from somewhere and the sage then asked Pitṛnātha thus: "Oh lord of the Pitṛs, I have heard you described as a very virtuous man. How can then such painful cries of distress be heard from here? "Oh, I am dying beaten", "Oh, I am being killed" "Oh, I am dying" and "Oh, I am being burnt" are some of the woeful shrieks I hear. What is the reason for this?"

Hearing this Dharmarāja said: "Great sage, this is in fact a land of virtue. Nothing but righteous things are done here. I can tell you from where you hear that wail. The Yamapurī named Saṃyamanī is nearby. There Yama sits to punish the sinners. Yama is a dispenser of Justice and he has got several cruel and mighty servants to carry out his orders. There are eighty-six hells to punish the sinners and of these Kumbhīpāka is the most horrible. Great sinners like those who insult the gods, fornicators and those who insult their parents are put in this hell and punished. You are now hearing the cries of such sinners from that hell."

Durvāsas was curious to see the hell and the lord of the Manes gave permission and asked his servants to show Durvāsas the Kumbhīpākanaraka. The hell was found to change into a heaven. The residents were laughing, singing dancing and doing such acts of happiness.

The servants of Yama were astonished and they went and reported to Yamarāja this sudden change. Yamarāja was also amazed to hear the news. He immediately rode on his vehicle, the buffalo, to the hell to learn the details personally. He could not find out the cause for the change. The place looked like the Svargaloka of Indra. King Yama sent a messenger to Indra with the news and Indra at first thought that it must be due to some māyā and so came to the place swiftly on his Airāvata. The news spread and one by one Brahmā, Viṣṇu, the Aṣṭadikpālakas (the eight guardians of the quarters) and all such people came to Kumbhīpākanaraka. Nobody could find an explanation for this change and so Mahāviṣṇu accompanied by a few devas went to Kailāsa and reported the matter to Śiva and Śiva said smilingly "Oh Viṣṇu, all this happened because of the greatness of the holy ashes. When the sage Durvāsas bent down to have a good look at the hell, particles of ashes from his body fell into the hell. From that moment onwards Kumbhīpākanaraka became a holy place for the Manes. This hell will henceforth be known as Pitṛtīrtha and those pitṛs who bathe in the holy pond there will become virtuous people. Do install on the shore of this pond an idol of mine, a Śivaliṅga, and by my side the idol of Umā, which is my power in an embodied form." The devas returned and did as they were directed.

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