The Linga Purana

Suta and Other Sages 


We first pray to Brhama, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. We also pray to the sages Nara and Narayana and Sarasvati, the goddess of learning. Our prayers are due to the sage Vedavyasa. It is only after these prayers that we can begin to read the sacred texts.
A tirtha is a place of pilgrimage. The sage Narada visited several such tirthas and eventually arrived at the forest known as naimisharanya. At that time, many other sages had assembled in naimisharanya. They greeted Narada warmly and offered him their respects. While all this was going on, who should arrive there but the suta Lomaharshana? (Sutas were a class of raconteurs. They were cross-breeds who were the offspring of kshatriya fathers and brahmana mothers. A kshatriya fathers and brahmana mothers . A brahmana belonged to the first of the four classes and a kshatriya to the second.)
The sages greeted Lomaharshana and said, “You had studied the Puranas under Vedavyasa himself. Please recite for us the Purana that describes the glory of Shiva’s linga (image). It is our great good fortune that the sage Narada is also here. He has just returned after worshipping many tingas at many tirthas. What better occasion can there be?”
Lomaharshana agreed. He began with the account of the creation.


Creation
The divine essence is known as the brahman. In the beginning, the only object in the universe was the divine essence. There was nothing else. It was this brahman which divided itself into three different parts, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma became the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer.
There was only water in the universe then. In the water, a gigantic egg (anda) appeared. Brahma emerged from this egg. Inside the egg were also all the worlds that would be created.
During Brahma’s day , creation flourishes. But during Brahma’s night, there is destruction (pralaya). When Brahma merged out of the primordial egg, that constituted the original process of creation (sarga). But the following the process of destruction that takes place during Brahma’s night, there is also a periodical process of re-creation (pratisarga).
Time is divided into four different eras – satya yuga, treta yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga. Satya yuga lasts for four thousand years of the gods, treta yuga for three thousand, dvapara yuga for two thousand and kali yuga for one thousand. A mahayuga is the period from the beginning of satya yuga to the end of kali yuga. It thus lasts for then thousand years of the gods. But in addition, there are intervening periods (sandhyamsha) between satya yuga and treta yuga is seven hundred years, that between treta yuga and dvapara yuga five hundred years, that between dvapara yuga and kali yuga three hundred years and that between kali yuga and the new satya yuga five hundred years. This adds another two thousand years. Thus a mahayuga really lasts for twelve thousands years of the gods.
How long is one year of the gods? To understand that, one needs to know a little bit about the measurement of time.
The smallest unit of time is a nimesha. That is the length of time it takes to blink one’s eyes. Fifteen nimeshas constitute a kashtha, thirty kashthas are called a kala and thirty kalas make up one muhurta. There are fifteen muhurtas during the day and fifteen muhurtas during the night. Thirty muhurtas make up night and day, known as ahoratra. One year for humans is equivalent to one ahoratra for the gods. The six months during which the gods have their day is called uttarayana and the six months during which the gods have their night is called dakshinayana. Three hundred and sixty human years are equivalent to one divine year. Thus, twelve thousand divine years are equivalent to 4,320,000 human years and this is the length of a mahayuga.
Satya yuga lasts for 1,440,000 human years; treta yuga or 1,080,000; dvapara yuga for 720,000; and kali yuga for 360,000. This adds up to a total of 3,600,000 human years. Once one adds 720,000 years for the sandhyamshas, one obtains the figure of 4,320,000 human years in a mahayuga.
There are a little over seventy-one mahayugas in a manvantara. Seventy-one mahayugas would add up to 296,720,000 human years. There are actually 306,720,000 human years in a manvantara.
One thousand mahayugas make up one kalpa. There are thus 4,320,000,000 human years in a kalpa. Equivalently, fourteen manvantaras constitute one kalpa. A kalpa corresponds to Brahma’s adhoratra.
One thousand kalpas are one year for Brahma and eight thousand such years are one yuga for Brahma. One thousand of Brahma’s yugas are equivalent to one of Vishnu’s days. Nine thousand of Vishnu’s days are equivalent to merely one day for Shiva. (This is an attempt to establish Shiva’s supremacy. In a Purana that glorifies Vishnu more, the relative rankings of Shiva and Vishnu would be reversed.)
At the end of one of Brahma’s days, the entire universe and all the beings in it are destroyed Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are not however destroyed. There is darkness and water everywhere and Vishnu sleeps on this water. Since nara means water and ayana means resting -place, Vishnu is also known as Narayana.
When the day dawns, Brahma begins creation afresh.
Brahma first created three sons through his mental powers. Their names were Sananda, Sanaka and Sanatan. (In other Puranas, a fourth son named Sanatakumara is mentioned.) These sons became sages and performed intense meditation. Brahma also created another nine sons through his mental powers. Their names were Marichi, Bhrigu, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Daksha, Atri and Vashishtha.
To ensure that creation progressed further, Brahma next divided his body into two halves. The male half was known as Svayambhuva Manu and the female half was known as Shatarupa. These two married and had two sons and two daughters. The sons were Uttanapada and Priyavrata and the daughters were Akuti and Prasuti.
Daksha married Prasuti and they had twenty-four daughters. (The number of Daksha’s daughters is sometimes given as twenty-four, sometimes as fifty and sometimes as sixty.) One of Daksha’s daughters was named Sati and she was married to Shiva. When Sati died, she was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas, She was married again to Shiva as Parvati.
In fact, before starting to create, Brahma told Shiva, “Please help me out by creating some beings, I can not cope on my own.”
Shiva gladly agreed and started to create beings who were just like him in appearance. These came to be known as the rudras.
“What are you doing?” exclaimed Brahma. “Don’t create immortal beings who are like yourself. Create beings who are mortal.”
“That I flatly refused to do,” replied Shiva.
“Then please desist from creating,” requested Brahama. “I shall take care of creation myself.”
Shiva complied, but the rudras whom he had already created, remained.




Yoga
The sages told Lomaharshana, “Please tell us about yoga.”
Lomaharshana complied.
(Yoga literally means union. It is a technique of meditation that enables one to realize the union between the divine soul (paramatman) and the individual human soul (atman or jivatman).)
Shiva is also known as Pashupati. The technique of yoga that Shiva taught is known as pashupata yoga. To teach this yoga, Shiva has an incarnation (avatara) in every kali yuga. In the present kalpa, there have been twenty-eight kali yugas and there have accordingly been twenty-eight incarnations of Shiva, all known as Yogeshvaras. Their names are as follows.
(1) Shveta.
(2) Sutara.
(3) Madana.
(4) Suhotra.
(5) Kanchana.
(6) Lokakshi.
(7) Jaigishavya.
(8) Dadhivahana.
(9) Rishabha.
(10) Muni.
(11) Ugra.
(12) Atri.
(13) Vali.
(14) Goutama.
(15) Vedashirsha.
(16) Gokarna.
(17) Guhavasi.
(18) Shikhandabhrit.
(19) Jatamali.
(20) Attahasa.
(21) Daruka.
(22) Langali.
(23) Mahakaya.
(24) Shuli.
(25) Mundishvara.
(26) Sahishnu.
(27) Somasharma.
(28) Jagadguru.
Every one of these Yogeshvarasas had four disciples each.
In fact, it is also Shiva whose incarnation is born as Vedavyasa in every dvapara yuga. Since there have been twenty-eight dvapra yugas, there have also been twenty-eight Vedavyasas upto now.
Their names are as follows.
(1) Kratu.
(2) Satya.
(3) Bhargava.
(4) Angira.
(5) Mrityu.
(6) Shatakratu.
(7) Vashishtha.
(8) Sarasvata.
(9) Tridhama.
(10) Trivrita.
(11) Narayana.
(12) Tarakshu.
(13) Aruni.
(14) Deva.
(15) Kritanjaya.
(16) Ritanjaya.
(17) Bharadvaja.
(18) Goutama.
(19) Vachashrava.
(20) Shushmayani.
(21) Trinavindu.
(22) Raksha.
(23) Shaktri.
(24) Dhimana.
(25) Shatateja.
(26) Parashara
(27) Jatukarna.
(28) Krishna Dvaipayana.
(The names given in these lists do not always agree wth the names given in similar lists in the other Puranas.)
Yoga has eight components. These are known as yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Yama is preparatory to meditation, it has to be backed up by the practice of non-voilence. Niyama means certain rules that have to be followd. These include truthfulness, celibacy and lack of jealousy. The rules also encompass cleanliness, the donation of alms and fasting at appointed times. Pranayama signifies the control of the breath of life. This must always be attempted in a proper asana (posture). Pratyahara implies the withdrawal of the mind from addiction to sensual and material pursuits. An image has to be decided on for purposes of meditation. When this image is fixed in one’s mind, that is known as dharana, and the actual process of meditation is called dhyana. Samadhi is the final stage of meditation, when the union between the paramatman and the atman is realized.
Yoga must always be practiced in an appropriate place. One must not be close to a fire, nor must the place chosen be a cremation-ground or a location frequented by wild beasts. There must not be any noise or insects that are likely to distract one’s attention. For example, a cave is a very good place to practise yoga in.
Do not imagine for a moment that yoga is easy. There are numerous distractons and disturbances that make one deviate from the right path. One has to fight laziness and sloth. As one progresses, there are illusions that one hallucinates from. Demons are seen . There are powers that one attains and these also cause distractions. But if somehow one manages to conquer these, true bliss can be attained.



The Linga
The sages said, “We know that a linga is Shiva’s image. But why is Shiva worshipped in the form of a linga?”
Lomaharshana recounted the following story.
Many years ago, at the end of a destruction, there was water everywhere in the universe and the universe was shrouded in darkness. Vishnu slept on the water in his form of Narayana.
Brahma discovered Vishnu sleeping thus and woke him up. Failing to recognize Vishnu, he asked, “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Vishnu woke up and noticed Brahma standing there. He smiled and said, “How are you, Brahma? Is everything well with my son?’
“How dare you call me your son?’ demanded Brahma. “I am Brahma, the lord of everything. I am the creator of the universe. How dare anyone call me his son?”
“You seem to have forgotten everything,” said Vishnu. “I am Vishnu and you were born from me. That is the reason why I addressed you as my son.”
Brahma did not accept this and started to fight with Vishnu. While the two were thus grappling, a shining linga suddenly appeared. It was almost as if the linga had emerged to settle Brahma and Vishnu’s dispute. The linga rose way up into the sky and it seemed to have no beginning or end.
“What on earth is this pillar of fire doing here?” Vishnu asked Brahma. “Let us investigate it. Why don’t you go up and see where it ends? As for me, I shall proceed downwards. Let us meet after a while and compare notes.”
Brahma agreed to do this. He adopted the form of a swan and flew up. Vishnu adopted the form of a boar and went down. No matter how further down Vishnu went, he could find no end to the linga. Nor could Brahma discover its upper extremity.
They returned and were amazed to find that neither had been able to find the end of the linga. They realized that they must be in the presence of a power that was greater than their own. They therefore began to pray to the linga and the sound of the mantra (incantation) om echoed all around the linga. Shiva appeared from within the linga in the form of a sage named Vedanama. He told them that it was the linga which was the origin of the universe. It was from the linga that the primordial egg (anda), the origin of the universe, had been created.
Shiva also taught Brahma and Vishnu the sacred gayatri mantra. He told Brahma and Vishnu, “We are all three part of the same supreme brahman. Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver and I am the destroyer. Don’t fight amongst yourselves.”
Ever since that day, Shiva has been worshipped in the form of a linga..
Brahma and Vishnu
“But why did Vishnu address Brahma as his son?” asked the sages. “Please explain that.”
Lomaharshana told them the following story from the kalpa known as padma kalpa.
At the time of the destruction that came at the end of the earlier kalpa, there was water everywhere in the universe and Vishnu slept on this water. Vishnu felt slightly bored. So he made a gigantic lotus sprout out of his navel and started to play with it. The stalk of the lotus was made of diamonds and it shone with radiance like the sun.
While Vishnu was thus playing with the lotus , Brahma appeared.
“Who are you?” asked Brahma. “What are you doing here?”
“I am Vishnu,” replied Vishnu. “I am the lord of everything. But who are you and where have you come from?”
“I am Brahma,” responded Brahma. “I am the lord of everything in the universe. Every object that will be created in the universe is already present in embryonic form, inside my body. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you enter my stomach and see for yourself?”
Vishnu entered Brahma’s body through the mouth. He marvelled to discover the fourteen regions (lokas) of the univerise and the beings who would populate them all, inside Brahma’s stomach. Vishnu wandered around for a thousand yeards, but could find no end to the vast expanse of Brahma’s stomach. Finally, he emerged through the mouth and told Brahma, “I am completely bowled over by what I have seen. But I can also show you wonders. There are many worlds inside my body as well. Enter for yourself and see.”
Brahma agreed to this and entered Vishnu’s body through the mouth. Inside Vishnu’ stomach, he saw many worlds. He wandered around for a thousand years, but could not find the extremities of the stomach. Meanwhile, Vishnu had closed all the points of exit and Brahma could find no way of coming out. He eventualy came out through the lotus that sprouted out of Vishnu’s navel and seated himself on the lotus. Since padma means lotus and yoni means place of birth, Brahma thenceforth came to be known as Padmayoni. And since Brahma emerged out of Vishnu’s body, he came to be regarded as Visnu’s son.
While Brahma was thus seated on the lotus, Shiva arrived. Such was the speed of Shiva’s arrival that tidal waves were created in the water. The lotus started to tremble and Brahma was showered with drops of water.
“Stop shaking the lotus so,” said Brahma. “You are scaring me.”
“Who speaks from my navel?’ asked Vishnu. “And why do you sound so angry?”
“I am Brahma,” replied Brahma. “I have every right to be angry. Don’t you remember? You had entered my body and had marvelled at the worlds I had shown you there. You had then asked me to enter your body. But once I had done that, you had closed all the points of entry so that I had not been able to get out. I had to emerge through the lotus and now now seated on it. Apart from your earlier transgression, you have now started to shake the lotus. Why should I not be angry?”
“Please pardon me,” replied Vishnu. “I had no desire to offend you by closing all the points of exit. I merely wished to play with you for a while. Please forgive me. And as a token of your friendship, please grant me the boon that you will henceforth be known as my son. But as for the lotus, I have no part in shaking it. Can’t you see that Shiva is approaching? These tidal waves must have beeen caused by his arrival. Let us pray to him and pacifiy him.”
“Who is Shiva?” asked Brahma. “I am Brahma the lord of everything. I refuse to pray to any upstart who approaches.”
Vishnu quietened Brahma down and persuaded him that the two of them ought to pray to Shiva. Shiva was pleased at these prayers and offered grant Brahma and Vishnu boons. Vishnu wished the boon that he might always be devoted to Shiva. Brahma desired the boon that Shiva might be born as his son.
Subsequently, when Brahma began his task of creation, he was not happy with the beings he initially created. From this sorrow were born the eleven rudras, manifestations of Shiva. They cried as soon as they were born. Since the word ruda means to cry, they acquired the name of rudras. It was thus that Shiva was born as Brahma’s son.
(This seemingly contradicts the earlier account of the Linga Purana that Shiva had created the eleven rudras himself. The story of the rudras being born from Brahma’s sorrow is given in many Puranas in much greater detail. The Vishnu Purana and the Padma Purana are examples.)
The Linga Purana next describes the rituals that have to be followed in worshipping Shiva’s linga.



The Devadaru Forest
Deva means god and daru means tree (or wood). A devadaru is a special sort of tree (a sort of pine tree) that is loved by the gods.
Many years ago, there used to be a forest that was full of devadaru trees. In this devadaru forest there lived many sages and their wives. The sages were devoted to Shiva and performed very difficult tapasya (meditation) so as to please him.
Shiva was pleased at these prayers. But he decided to test the sages. He therefore adopted a very ugly appearance and came to the devadaru forest. He wore no clothes, his complexion was completely dark and his eyes were terrifying. The wives of the sages began to follow Siva around. But the sages were disgusted that their wives should follow such an ugly and deformed creature. They used many harsh words to insult Shiva and Shiva promptly disappeared.
The sages then went and reported what had happened to Brahma.
“You stupid idiots,” exclaimed Brahma. “Don’t you realize what you have done? That ugly creature was Shiva himself. He was merely trying to test you and you have failed in the test. He was your guest and you have treated him badly. A guest is a guest regardless of whether he is handsome or ugly. He must be treated with the utmost respect and consideration. You have failed in this miserably. Don’t you know the story of the sage Sudarshana?”
There used to be a sage named Sudarshana. He took great pains to instruct his wife that a guest must always be treated well and must never be refused. In fact, a guest is like Shiva himself. To refuse a guest is tantamount to refusing and insulting Shiva. On one particular occasion, the god of righteousness, Dharma, desired to test Sudarshana and his wife. He adopted the disguise of a brahmana and came to visit Sudarshana. Sudarshana was away at the time, but his wife treated the guest really well. Dharma then blessed Sudarshana and his wife that they would surely go to heaven.
The sages regretted what they had done and looked for a way so that they might please Shiva. They sought Brahma’s advice and Brahma told them the story of Shveta.
Shveta
There was a sage named Shveta who was devoted to Shiva. He prayed to Shiva throughout his life. Eventually it was time for Shveta to die and Yama, the god of death, came to claim Shveta. Shveta was not at all disturbed at the sight of Yama. He thought that death would not be able to do him any harm if he prayed to Shiva. He went about making preparations for these prayers.
“Come, come,” said Yama. “Is this the time to pray to Shiva? Your time on earth is over and you are under my powers now. What is the point of praying to Shiva now?”
Yama then tied up Shveta and prepared to take the sage to his abode. But Shiva, accompanied by Nandi, Parvati and several of his companions, arrived. At the mere sight of Shiva, Yama fell unconscious and died. The gods marvelled at this and showered down flowers from the sky.
Shveta was saved in this fashion. (The story of Yama’s revival is not recounted.)
Brahma told the sages, “Now you know what can be gained by praying to Shiva. That is what you should do.”
That is what the sages did. After they had prayed faithfully for an entire year, Shiva appeared before them. He was smeared with ashes and his visage was terrible. He wandered around the devadaru forest. But the sages had learnt their lesson. They were not repelled at Shiva’s ugly appearance. They and their wives welcomed Shiva with flowers and incense.
Shiva was pelased. He gave the sages plenty of good advice. Amongst other things, he taught the sages the wonderful properties of bhasma (ashes).
Dadhicha
There was a sage named Dadhicha (alternatively Dadhichi). (The Mahabharata states that Dadhicha was the son of Shanti and the sage Atharva.)
Dadhicha had a friend named Kshupa. Kshupa was a king. Since Kshupa was a king, he belonged to the kshatriya class. Dadhicha was a brahmana.
The two friends once began to argue about the superiority of brahmanas vis-a-vis kshatriyas. Kshupa maintained that kshatriyas were superior, while Dadhicha held the opposite view.
Indra has a wonderful weapon named vajra. (This is sometimes identified with thunder, sometimes with a club.) Once upon a time, the demons (asuras) became very powerful and threatened to defeat the gods. The gods sought Kshupa’s help and Indra gave Kshupa the vajra to fight with.
When Dadhicha and Kshupa had argued for a while, they came to blows. Dadhicha struck Kshupa a blow on the head with his fist. In retaliation, Kshupa struck Dadhicha with the vajra and sliced the sage in two. Dadhicha died. But before he died, he called upon Shukracharya, the preceptor of the demons, to come to his aid. Shukracharya knew the art of mrita sanjivani, that is, the technique of bringing dead people back to life. Shukracharya arrived and resurrected Dadhicha.
Shukracharya told Dadhicha, “Why don’t you pray to Shiva? If you can please Shiva, by his grace you will become immortal. Where do you think I learnt the art of mrita sanjivani? From the great Shiva,. Pray to him.”
(The story of Shukracharya’s obtaining this wonderful knowledge from Shiva is related in the Harivamsha.)
Dadhicha began very difficult tapasya so that he might please Shiva. When Shiva was pleased, Dadhicha obtained three boons from him, The first boon made Dadhicha prosperous. The second boon made his bones as hard as the vajra itslf. And the third boon was that Dadhicha could never be killed.
Thus armed, Dadhicha went to visit Kshupa and gave Kshupa a mighty kick on his head. Kshupa naturally picked up the vajra and hurled it at Dadhicha. The vajra struck Dadhicha a resounding whack on his chest. But such was the power of Shiva’s boon that the vajra did the sage no harm.
Kshupa was amazed to see this. He resolved that he would pray to Vishnu to obtain still greater powers. Finally, Vishnu appeared before Kshupa and said, “I am pleased with your prayers. What boon do you desire?”
“Please grant me the boon that I may be able to defeat Dadhicha,” replied Kshupa.
“Dadhicha has been fortified by Shiva’s boons,” said Vishnu. “I therefore fear that what you ask is quite impossible. Nevertheless, I will try.”
Vishnu adopted the form of a brahmana and went to Dadhicha’s hermitage.
“Welcome, great Vishnu,” said Dadhicha. “But why are you in the disguise of a brahmana? Did you think that I would not be able to see through your disguise? Or did you think that I would not refuse what a brahmana asked for? Anyway, please give up this pretense. Adopt your own form and tell me what you want.”
Vishnu adopted his own form and said, “I am going to bring Kshupa to your hermitage. All you have to do is to tell Kshupa that you are scared.”
Vishnu brought Kshupa to Dadhicha’s hermitage. But instead of saying what Vishnu had asked him to utter, Dadhicha said, “I am a devotee of Shiva’s. How can I be scared of anything in the universe?”
These words angered Vishnu. Vishnu has a divine weapon known as the sudarshana chakra. He flung this at Dadhicha. But Dadhicha’s powers were such that the chakra merely struck him on the chest and fell harmlessly to the ground.
“Oh dear, Oh dear,” exclaimed Dadhicha. “Whatever has happened to the great Vishnu’s chakra? Perhaps Vishnu would be better advised to use some other divine weapon. Like the brahmastra perhaps.”
Vishnu hurled a brhamastra at Dadhicha, but nothing happened to the sage. Vishnu used several other divine weapons, But all in vain. The other gods arrived to help Vishnu in his fight with Dadhicha. But the numerous weapons that the gods used on Dadhicha were all rendered harmless by the sage. Dadhicha then picked up a handful of straw and flung this at the gods. As if magically, each of the straws became a flaming trident and threatened to burn up all the gods.
The gods fled in desperation. As for Vishnu, he created several beings who were just like him in appearance. But Dadhicha burnt all of these up. Vishnu next adopted a gigatic and wonderful form. This form was known as vishvarupa. The entire universe and all the beings in it could be seen in this vishvarupa.
But Dadhicha only laughed. “Who are you trying to impress?” he asked. “Look at me. You will find the entire universe and all the beings in it inside my body as well. I too can play with illusions. Give up this tomfoolery. If you really wish to fight, let us do so by all means.”
At this stage, Brahma decided to intervene. He advised Vishnu to pray to the sage instead of fighting with him. Vishnu did this and was forgiven by Dadhicha. As for Kshupa, he acknowledged the superiority of brahmanas and begged Dadhicha’s forgiveness.
The place where these wonderful things happened is a tirtha named Sthaneshvara.



Nandi
There was a sage named Shilada. He performed very difficult tapasya so that he might have a son. After many years had passed, Indra appeared before Shilada and told him, “I am pleased with your meditation. Ask for the boon that you desire.
“Please grant me the boon that I may have a son who is not normally born and who will be immortal,” answered Shilada.
“That is impossible,” said Indra. “It is beyond my powers to grant you such a boon. I can at best give you a mortal son. An immortal son? I fear that not even Brahma can grant you such a boon. The only person who may be able to grant you such a boon is Shiva. Why don’t you try to please him?”
Shilada started to pray to Shiva. For a thousand year of the gods he prayed ceaselessly. He was completely immobile, so that the termites built a nest on his body. His body could no longer be seen. The termites ate up all Shilada’s flesh and drunk up all his blood. But Shilada continued to pray. When only bones were left in Shilada’s body, Shiva appeared before him.
“Enough of this meditation,” said Shiva. “I know what you desire and I will grant you the son you want. I myself will be born as your son and be known as Nandi.”
Having said this, Shiva vanished. But not before he had revived Shilada with his touch.
Shilada now started a yajna (sacrifice) so that the son might be born. And Nandi emerged from the fire that had been lit on the occasion of the sacrifice. Nandi had three eyes and four arms. He held a trident and a mace in two of his hands. And his body was clad in armour made out of diamonds. The gandharvas (singers of heaven) sang songs to celebrate the occasion, the apsaras (dancers of heaven) danced. The gods showered down flowers from above.
The word ananda means joy. Since the boy’s birth brought everyone joy, he was named Nandi.
But as soon as Nandi was taken home by Shilada. Nandi’s divine appearance vanished and he assumed the form of an ordinary human child. Moreover, he forgot all about his divine origin. Shilada was greatly disappointed at this happening, but there was nothing that could be done. He devoted himself to his son’s education. By the time Nandi was seven years old, he had become well-versed in the Vedas and other shastras (sacred texts).
One day, the two gods Mitra and Varuna came to visit Shilada. They took one look at Nandi and said, “Strange indeed are the ways of the world. Nandi bears all the auspicious signs on his body. And yet, he is not going to live for long. He is going to die before he is eight years old.
Shilada was mortified to hear this and started to weep. Nandi could not bear to see his father weep thus and started to pray to Shiva.
Shiva appeared and said, “What is all this talk of your dying? Stuff and nonsense. You are going to be immortal and you will always be by my side.”
Shiva took off the necklace that he was wearing and hung it around Nandi’s neck. Immediately, Nandi assumed a divine form with ten arms and three eyes. Nandi was adopted as a son by Parvati.
Shiva’s companions are known as the ganas. And their leaders are known as ganeshvaras or gananpatis. It was resolved that Nandi should be made a ganapati. This was formally done at an august ceremony. The gods and the sages all came to attend this ceremony.


The Yugas
In satya yuga, people were always happy. There were no inferiors or superiors. All individuals were equal. The climate was neither hot nor cold. Hatred and jealousy were unknown. Hunger and thirst were not felt. The earth yielded an abundant supply of juices and mankind lived happily on this. There was no need to build houses. People lived on the shores of the oceans and in the mountains. There was no concept of sin (papa) and store of merit (punya), no need of heaven or hell. People were naturally righteous.
In treta yuga, things changed somewhat. Clouds formed in the sky and it started to rain heavily. The earth no longer yield a plentiful supply of juices. But because it rained so much, trees began to grow and people lived on the sap of these trees. But individuals slowly turned evil and started to fight over the possession of these trees. The trees no longer provided sap. But they did provide fruits that humans could live on. They used the barks of the trees for clothing. But when people continued to fight over the possession of the trees, the trees started to wither away and disappear. Heat and cold became manifest. Houses now had to be built so that one might protect oneself from the heat and the cold. Earlier, there had been no need to build houses. When all the trees completely disappeared, people learnt to practice agriculture so that they might live. The first practice of agriculture and animal husbandry goes back to treta yuga. But irrigation was not needed. The land irriaged itself. Artificial irrigation became required much later, when people grew even more evil.
Mankind really started to suffer from the time of dvapara yuga. Most evil traits like hatred, jealousy, quarrels and fraudulence can be traced back to that time. Famine and drought were first felt on earth in dvapara yuga.
Kali yuga is the worst period of all. This is a time when holy men are not revered. No one pays any attention to the shastras and it is evil that prevails. People are habitually liars. The shudras are the last of the four classes. As such, their duties are to serve the other three classes of brahmanas, kshatriyas and vaishyas. But in kali yuga, the shudras lord over everything. Even the kings are shudras and oppress the brahmanas. Kings are thieves and thieves become kings.
Kali yuga is such an evil period that people will start to lend money so as to earn interest. The evil has its effects in terms of reducing the productivity of the land. Life expectancy is reduced to only sixteen years. The only redeeming feature of kali yuga is the fact that a minor righteous deed in kali yuga brings undying punya.
But kali yuga will not last for ever. When its duration is over, Pramiti (more usually referred to as Kali) will be born so to re-establish righteousness one earth. For twenty years he will travel around the world, killing the evil and protecting the good. He will destroy the shudra kings and bring back the religion prescribed by the Vedas.



Geography
The universe is divided into fourteen regions (lokas). Seven of these form the upper regions and seven others constitute the nether regions.
The seven lokas of the upper regions are named bhuloka (the earth), buvarloka, svarloka or svarga (heaven), maharloka, janaloka, tapoloka and satyaloka. The seven regions of the underworld are mahatala, hematala, rasatala, talatala, sutala, atala and patala, (The names of the seven regions of the underworld differ somewhat from Purana to Purana.) In the underworld live the demons and the nagas (snakes). That apart, there are many hells (naraka) in the universe. The sinners are punished in these hells.
The earth has many oceans and mountains. The land mass is divided into seven regions (dvipas) named Jambudvipa, Plakshadvipa, Shalmalidvipa, Kushadvipa, Krounchadvipa, Shakadvipa and Pushkaradvipa. The seven major oceans (samudra) that surround these land masses are Lavana, Ikshu, Sura, Ghrita, Dadhi and Jala. (The name of seven oceans differ from Purana to Purana. The missing name is that of the ocean known as Sarpi.
You will remember that Svayambhuva Manu had two sons – Priyavrata and Uttanapada, Priyavrata had ten sons. Their names were Agnidhra, Agnivahu, Meda, Medhatithi, Vapushmana, Jyotishmana, Dyutimana, Havya, Savana and Putra. After Priyavrata died, the earth was divided up into seven regions and seven sons inherited a region each. Agnidhra received Jambudvipa, Medhatithi Plakshadvipa, Vapushmana Shalmalid-vipa, Jyotishmana Kushadvipa, Dyutimana Krounchadvipa, Havya Shakadvipa and Savana Pushkaradvipa. (The Linga Purana does not specify why Agnivahu, Medha and Putra did not obtain any shares to their father’s kingdom. According to the Vishnu Prana, three of Priyavarata’s sons were not interested in material pursuits and became hermits.)
The Linga Purana describes subsequent subdivisions of these dvipas. But since we are primarily interested in Jambudvipa, let us consider what happened to Jambudvipa alone.
Agnidhra, the ruler of Jambudvipa, was devoted to Shiva. He had nine sons and each of these sons was also devoted to Shiva. These sons were named Nabhi, Kimpurusha, Hari, Ilavrita, Ramya, Hiranmana, Kuru, Bhadrashva and Ketumala. After Agnidhra, Jambudvipa was divided into nine regions (varshas) and ruled over by one of these sons. Nabhi ruled over Hemavarsha, Kimpurusha over Hemakutavarsha, Hari over Naishadhavarsha, Ilavrita over Meruvarsha, Ramya over Nilachalavarsha, Hiranmana over Shvetavarsha, Kuru over Shringavarsha, Bhadrashva over Malyavanvarsha and Ketumala over Gandhamadanavarsha.
(This is not the usual nomenclature of the Puranas. More usually, Nabhi ruled over the region that subsequently came to be known as Bharatavarsha after one of Nabhi’s descendants. As for the other eight regions, they were named after the first kings who ruled after them. Thus, Hari ruled over Harivarsha, Kimpurusha over Kimpurushavarsha and so on and so forth. Each of these varshas had several mountains. The nomenclature of the Linga Purana names the varshas after the mountain ranges that were in them.)
To return to the account of the Linga Purana, Nabhi’s wife was called Meru. Nabhi and Meru had a son named Ridhabha and Rishabha’s son was Bharata. It was after Bharata that the region that Nabhi ruled over came to be known as Bharatavarsha. Bharatavarsha is bounded by the Himalaya mountains to the north and by the ocean to the south.
Right in the centre of Jambudvipa is Mount Sumeru or Meru and on all sides of Sumeru are many other peaks. Mount Sumeru is so high that it touches the solar circle. It is encrusted with snow and is full of gold and jewels.
Many are the gods who live on Mount Sumeru. Amaravati,the place where Indra lives, is on the eastern slopes of Sumeru. This city is full of beautiful places, bejewelled gates and golden pillars. There are crystal steps that lead down to limpid pools of clear water. The pools abound with lotuses of every hue that can be imagined.
At another corner of Sumeru is the fire-god Agni’s abode. This city is known as Tejasvini. Yama’s residence is named Vaivasvati and lies towards the south. There are many other cities designed to be the residences of other gods. There are special landing strips for the vimanas (space vehicles) of the gods.
Most remarkable of all is Brahma’s residence, located right in the centre of Sumeru. A river named Jambu flows past the region. It is from this river that Jambudvipa acquires its name.
As mentioned before,there are mountain ranges on all sides of Sumeru. The Nilachala mountains are to the north, the Shveta mountains further north and the Shringi mountains still beyond. To the east of Sumeru lie the mountains Jathara and Devakuta. The Nishadha mountains are to the south, the Hemakuta mountains further south and the Himalaya mountains still further away towards the south. The mountains Malyavana and Gandhamadana are to the west of Sumeru.
There are four beautiful lakes (sarovara) around Sumeru. Arunodaya is to the east, Manasa to the south, Sitoda to the west and Mahabhadra to the north.
To the east of Bharatavarsha live the kiratas and to the west live the yavanas. Bharatavarsha proper is populated by brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras.
The hells are located below the underworld. There are twenty-eight of these. There the sinners are made to suffer for their evil deeds.



Astronomy

The sun’s chariot was built by Brahma himself. It is made completely out of gold.
There are twelve months in a year. Their names are Madhu, Madhava, Shukra, Shuchi, Nabha, Nabhasya, Isha, Urjja, Saha, Sahasya, Tapa and Tapasya. (These names of the months are slightly unusual. More common is Vaishakha, Jyaishtha, etc.) Two months constitute a season (ritu) and there are therefore six seasons in every year. These are grishma (summer), varsha (monsoon), sharat (early autumn), hemanta (late autumn), shita (winter) and vasanta (spring). Madhu and Madhava are the months of grishma, Shukra and Shuchi are those of varsha, Nabha and Nabhasya those of sharat, Isha and Urjja those of hemanta, Saha and Sahasya those of shita and Tapa and Tapasya those of vasanta.
In every season, two adityas (gods), two sages, two gandharvas, two apsaras, two rakshasas (demons) and two nagas (snakes) ride on the sun’s chariot to keep the sun company. Their names are as follows.
(i) Grishma – the adityas Dhata and Aryama; the sages Pulastya and Pulaha; the gandharvas Tumburu and Narada; the apsaras Kritasthala and Punjikasthala; the rakshasas Rakshoheti and Praheti; and the nagas Uraga and Vasuki.
(ii) Varsha – the adityas Mitra and Varuna; the sages Atri and Vashishtha; the gandharvas Haha and Huhu; the apsaras Menaka and Sahajanya; the rakshasas Pourusheya and Vadha; and the naga Takshaka. (The name of the second naga is not given.)
(iii) Sharat – the adityas Indra and Vivasvana; the sages Angira and Bhrigu; the gandharvas Vishvavasu and Ugrasena; the apsaras Pramlocha and Anumlocha; the rakshasas Sarpa and Vyaghra; and the nagas Elapatra and Shankhapala.
(iv) Hemanta – the adityas Parjanya and Pusha; the sages Bharadvaja and Goutama; the gandharvas Suruchi and Paravasu; the apsaras Ghritachi and Vishvachi; the rakshasas Apa and Vata; and the nagas Dhananjaya and Iravana.
(v) Shita – the adityas Amshu and Bhaga; the sages Kashyapa and Kratu; the gandharvas Chitrasena and Urnayu; the apsaras Urvashi and Purvachitti; the rakshasas Vidyut and Diva; and the nagas Mahapadma and Karkataka.
(vi) Vasanta – the adityas Tvashta and Vishnu; the sages Jamadagni and Vishvamitra; the gandharvas Dhritarashtra and Suryavarcha; the apsaras Tilottama and Rambha; the rakshasas Brahmopeta and Yakshopeta; and the nagas Kambana and Ashvatara.
The moon (Chandra) has a chariot that has three wheels and is drawn by three horses. The horses are competely white in colour. The sun drinks up the energy of the moon for a period of fifteen days. This period is known as krishnapaksha (the fortnight during which the moon wanes). The sun then replenishes the moon’s energy over the next fifteen days. This period is known as shuklapaksha (the fortnight during which the moon waves).
Budha (Mercy) is Chandra’s son and rides a chariot that is drawn by eight horses. The horses are yellow and the chariot is made of gold. Brihaspati (Jupiter) also has a chariot that is made of gold and is drawn by eight horses. But Shani’s (Saturn) chariot is made of iron.
Just as Indra rules over the gods, the sun rules over the planets and the moon rules over the nakshatras (stars) and the herbs. But all of these revolve around Dhruva (the Pole Star).


Dhruva
Svayambhuva Manu had a son named Uttanapada. Uttanapada had two wives, Suniti and Suruchi. Dhruva was Suniti’s son.
King Uttanapada was once seated on his throne. Dhruva happened to come there and clambered up onto his father’s lap. He was a mere child then, being only seven years old.
But Dhruva’s stepmother, Suruchi, objected to this.
“How dare you sit on the king’s lap?” she demanded. “That is a place that is reserved for my son. Get down at once.”
Although Uttanpada did love Dhruva, he dared not object. He loved Suruchi much more than he loved Suniti and he did not have the courage to go against Suruchi’s wishes.
Dhruva began to cry and went running to his mother. Suniti did her best to console her son. “Don’t cry, my son,” she said. “The king loves Suruchi more than me and so loves her son more than you. There is nothing that can be done. We are unlucky. We must have committed many sins in our earlier lives and this is the punishment that is being meted out to us. There is nothing to be gained by crying. One must try to perform good deeds in this life so that, in the next life, we are more fortunate. Forget about the king’s lap. Why don’t you instead try to attain a place that would be impossible for Suruchi’s son to achieve?’
Dhruva resovled that he would do this. He went away to the forest to meditate.
In the forest, he happened to come upon the sage Vishvamitra’s hermitage. He told the sage the story of his misfortunes and about his mission. “Please tell me how I can attain the highest place of all,” he said.
“The solution is to pray to Vishnu,” replied Vishvamitra. The sage also taught Dhruva a powerful mantra (incantation) that he could use for praying to Vishnu.
Dhruva started to pray to Vishnu. He faced the east and began to chant the mantra. For an entire year he continued to do only this. He lived only on fruits and roots. Demons and wild animals roamed all around him, but he paid no attention to them. One particular ogress adopted the disguise of Dhruva’s mother and came to Dhruva from his meditation. But Dhruva saw through this disguise and would not be distracted.
Finally, Vishnu appeared before Dhruva. “I am pleased with your prayers,” said Vishnu. “What boon do you desire?”
“Please grant me the boon that I may attain the highest place of all,” replied Dhruva.
Vishnu earmarked a place for Dhruva in the sky. Dhruva became the Pole Star. All the other stars revolve around Dhruva.


Daksha’s Descendants
You probaby remember Brahma’s son, Daksha. Daksha married Prasuti. (In some Puranas, she is referred to as Asikli.)
Daksha and Prasuti had five thousand sons known as the Haryashvas. But the sage Narada came and told the Haryashvas that there was nothing to be gained by being addicted to material pursuits. They would be better off if they went away to meditate. Persuaded by Narada, the Haryashvas went off to meditate and have never been heard since. Daksha and Prasuti next had a thousand sons named the Shavalashvas. But Narada persuaded the Shavalashvas also to go away and meditate.
Daksha and Prasuti next had sixty daughters. Ten of these daughters were married to the god Dharma, thirteen to the sage Kashyapa and twenty-seven to Chandra.
The thirteen daughters who were married to Kashyapa were named Aditi, Diti, Arishta, Surasa, Muni, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha, Ila, Kadru, Tvisha and Danu. (The names of the minor wives often vary from Purana to Purana.)
Aditi’s sons were known as the adityas (gods). There were twelve of them, named Indra, Dhata, Bhaga, Tvashta, Mitra, Varuna, Aryama, Vivasvana, Savita, Pusha, Amshumana and Vishnu.
Diti had two sons, Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu. These two and their descendants were known as the daityas (demons). Danu had a hundred sons, chief amongst whom was Viprachitti. They and their descendants were known as the danavas (demons).
Tamra was the mother of all the birds. Vinata had two sons, Aruna and Garuda. Garuda became the king of the birds. Surasa was the mother of snakes (sarpa). (Most other Puranas state that Surasa was the mother of the rakshasas (demons). Kadru gave birth to snakes (nagas). Chief amongst them were Ananta, Vasuki and Takshaka. Krodhavasha was the mother of rakshasas and Surabhi gave birth of all cattle. Muni was the mother of the apsaras and Arishta was the mother of the gandharvas. From Ila were born the trees and the herbs. And from Tvisha were born the yakshas (demi-gods).


Parashara
There used to be a rakshasa named Rudhira and there used to be a king named Kalmashapada. The rakshasa entered the king’s body, so that Kalmashapada became a demon.
The sage Vashishtha had a son named Shaktri. As a demon, Kalmashapada ate up Shaktri and his brothers.
(The story of how this happened is not given in the Linga Purana. But it is a story that is recounted in the Mahabharata and is as follows. King Kalmashapada belonged to the Ikshvaku line of kings. He had once gone to the forest and had become very thirsty. While looking for some water, the king met Shaktri. There was a very narrow path along which even two people could not walk abreast. Since he was very thirsty, Kalmashapada asked Shaktri to give him the right of way.
But Shaktri insisted that, as a brahmana, he possessed the right of way. Kalmashapada thereupon struck Shaktri with his whip and Shaktri in turn cursed the king that he would become a rakshasa. Kalmashapda’s first act as a rakshasa was to eat up Shaktri and his hundred brothers.
To return to the Linga Purana, the sage Vashishtha could not bear the shock of his sons being killed. Vashishtha’s wife was Arundhati. With Arundhati, the sage climbed a mountain and the couple flung themselves down from the peak so that they might die.
But the earth had no desire to permit the death of such great sage. She adopted the form of a woman and broke the couple’s fall. “Please do not kill yourself,” she told Vashishtha. “You are needed by the world.”
Shaktri’s wife was Adrishyanti and she too tried to dissuade her father-in-law from committing suicide. “I am expecting,” she informed Vashishtha. “If the two of you kill yourselves, who will look after the son when he is born? He is, after all, Shaktri’s son. Please stay alive for his sake.”
While this conversation was going on, the baby who was in Adrishyanti’s womb began to recite the Vedas. This was a miracle indeed and Vashishtha did not at first realize where the sound of the recitation was coming from. But Vishnu appeared and told the sage, “You will have a grandson who will bring glory to your line. He will be a great devotee of Shiva’s. It is he who is reciting the Vedas. Please stay alive for his sake.”
Vashishtha was dissuaded.
In due course, Adrishyanti gave birth to Parashara.
When Parashara grew up, he asked his mother, “Where is my father? Why do I not have a father like other children do?”
“Your father Shaktri was eaten up by a rakshasa,” replied Adrishyanti.
“Eaten up by a rakshasa,” exclaimed Parashara. “I will pray to the god Shiva. Through my tapasya. I will attain great powers. And with my powers I am going to burn up the entire universe. There is no point in retaining such an evil universe where one’s father is eaten up by a rakshasa.”
Vashishtha persuaded his grandson that such a general destruction of the universe would not be in anyone’s interest. The universe had done no particular harm. If anyone had committed a crime, it was the rakshasa who had performed the dastardly deed. Parashara resolved that he would use his powers to destroy the rakshasas.
With this end in mind, Parashara started to pray to Shiva. Shiva was pleased at these prayers and granted Parashara some amazing powers. With these powers, Parashara got to see and talk to his dead father. And he used the powers to burn up all rakshasas.
“Please stop this destruction,” Vashishtha told his grandson. “There has been enough of killing. If Shaktri died, that was written in his stars. The rakshasa was merely the instrument of what fate had decreed for my son. Do not kill any more rakshasas. Anger serves no purpose.”
Parashara followed his grandfather’s advice and was blessed by the sage that he would become well-versed in all the shastras. Vashishtha also blessed Parashara that he would compose the Purana samhita and the Vishnu Purana.
(Krishna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa was the sage Parashara’s son.)
The Linga Purana now catalogues the kings of the solar and lunar dynasties. But these we will skip, as they are mostly a collection of names and are better described in other Puranas. It also gives Shiva’s thousand names. These are repeated again later.


Tripura
There was a demon named Tarakasura who oppressed the gods. He was eventually killed by Skanda or Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati.
(Tarakasura’s story is not given in the Linga Purana. It can be found in the Shiva Purana and in the Devi Bhagavata.)
Tarakasura had three sons named Vidyunmali, Tarakaksha and Kamalaksha. These three resolved to avenge their father’s death and started to perform very difficult tapasya so that they might obtain boons that would make them invincible. After a long period of mediation, they managed to please Brahma.
“You have pleased me,” said Brahma. “What boon do you desire?”
“Please grant us the boon that no being in the universe may be able to kill us,” requested the demons.
“That is a boon that cannot be granted to anybody,” said Brahma. “If you so desire, set fairly difficult conditions for your death. But immortality is a boon that I cannot possibly grant you.”
The three brothers consulted and arrived at the following condition which seemed to be fairly impossible to satisfy. Each of them would build a city (pura) and the three cities would normally be distinct. But once every thousand years, the cities would come together. (The cities were in the sky.) When the cities came together, if anyone could manage to shoot down the cities with a single arrow, that would be the appointed method of death for the three demons. This seemingly impossible condition Brahma agreed to.
A danava named Maya was the architect for all the demons and he built three cities for Tarakasura’s sons. Tarakaksha’s city was made of gold. Kamalaksha’s of silver and Vidyunmali’s of iron. Inside each of the cities, Maya built several wonderful palaces. The three brothers lived in these cities happily, with their companions, the other demons. Incidentally, the demons were great devotees of Shiva.
But the gods were not at all happy. They were oppressed by the demons of Tripua. (The word tri means three and since there were three cities or puras, they were collectively referred to as Tripura.) The gods sought Vishnu’s help so that Tripura might be destroyed.
“I understand your problem and you have my sympathies,” said Vishnu. “But unfortunately, I can do nothing. The only person who can destroy Tripura is Shiva. But there is a problem. The demons are devoted to Shiva; they are not evil. Under the circumstances, Shiva will not take up arms against them. We will have to resort to some trickery. Why don’t all of you go and start praying to Shiva? I will think of a way whereby the demons can be dislodged from the righeous path.”
The gods went away to meditate. And Vishnu used his powers of illusion (maya) to lead the demons astray. He sent Shakyamuni (the Buddha) to preach tot he demons. Shakyamuni was so glib of tongue that he made ready converts among the demons. They all became his disciples and gave up worshipping Shiva.
This was the moment that the gods had been waiting for. They prayed to Shiva that the evil demons might be destroyed and Shiva agreed.
Vishvakarma, the architect of the gods, built a chariot for Shiva to ride in. Brahma himself offered to be the charioteer. Shiva ascended the chariot and rode into battle. Nadi joined him with the ganas and the gods accompanied the army to aid in the fight. Numerous were the weapons that the gods took with them. They rode on elephants, horses, lions and buffaloes. Shiva graced this army of gods the way the mooon graces a collection of stars.
The army advanced and came to where Tripura was. Shiva raised his bow and applied the divine pashupata weapon to his bow, waiting for the three cities to come together. As soon as this happened, Shiva let fly the arrow and the flaming arrow burnt up the three cities of the demons.
All the gods, including Brahma and Vishnu, worhsipped Shiva.
The words art means enemy. Because Shiva destroyed Tripura, he is known as Tripurari.
The Linga Purana next describes the rites that must be followed in worshipping Shiva. In particular, a special rite named pashupata vrata is described in great detail.



Omens
There are some omens which are sure signs of impending death.
There is a nakshatra (star) named Arundhati. (This is in the constellation Ursa Majoris.) A person who cannot see Arundhati, the Pole Star or the Milky way (Chhayapatha) is sure to die within a year. A person to whom the radiance of the sun seems to be diminished, will die within eleven months. One who dreams of vomiting gold or silver has but ten months to live. A dreamer who dreams of golden trees, cities of the gandharvas or ghosts or demons will die after nine months. If you suddenly lose or put on weight, you have but eight months to live. A person who leaves an incomplete footprint on dust or mud will not live for more than seven months.
A maximum lifespan of six months is indicated if a crow, vulture or dove alights on one’s head. A person w ho is surrounded by crows when he walks or a person who is surounded by dust does not live for more than four or five months. This is also the case if one’s reflection happens to be distorted. A person who hears thunder when there are no clouds in the sky or a person who sees a rainbow in the water has but three months to live. If the reflection is incomplete, or if the reflection has a severed head, the person will die within a month.
An individual who reeks of the smell of dead bodies will die within fifteen days. Ten days of life is all that is left for someone who has smoke billowing out of his head. Death is nigh if one dreams of travelling southwards in a chariot drawn by bears or monkeys. This is all the more the case if one happens to be singing or dancing while thus travelling. The implications are the same if the dreamer dreams of being submerged in a cesspool of mud. One will die soon if one dreams of being set upon by warriors dressed in black. Death is also indicated if jackals greet one at the stroke of dawn. When a lamp is extinguished, a smell of burning lingers in the air. If you cannot smell this, you will die soon.
There are several more omens. The only salvation, if such omens are seen, lies in praying to Shiva.


The City of Varanasi

The city of Varanasi is very sacred. Shiva himself lived here with Parvati and Ganesha. Varanasi is one of the six greatest tirthas on earth. The other five are Kurukshetra, Shriparvata, Mahalaya, Tungeshvara and Kedara.
The sins of someone who worships Shiva in Varanasi are immediately forgiven. Any living being who dies in the city goes immediately to heaven. Several are the lingas and sacred ponds in Varanasi; some of them were set up by Vishnu and Brahma themselves.
The river Varuna winds through the city and unites with the holy river Ganga. At the confluence of the Varuna and the Ganga, Brahma established a linga known as Sangameshvara. Amongst other famous ingas in Varanasi are Shailesha, Svarnilesha, Madhyameshvara, Hiranyagarbheshvara, Goprekshaka, Vrishadhvaja, Upashantashiva, Shukreshvara, Vyaghreshvara and Jambukeshvara.


Andhaka
There was a demon named Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha was killed by Vishnu. But Hiranyaksha had a son named Andhaka.
Andhaka started to perform very difficult tapasya. He pleased Brahma through his prayers and obtained the boon that he could never be killed. Armed witht his boon, Andhaka went about conquering the three worlds. He drove the gods out of heaven.
Indra and the other gods fled in desperation to Mount Mandara. They were joined in their flight by Visnu. But Andhaka pursued them there as well.
Shiva lived on Mount Mandara. The gods went to Shiva and said, “The king of the demons, Andhaka, is oppressing us. We do not known what to do, He has followed us here as well. Please save us from Andhaka’s depredations.”
Shiva ventured out to tackle Andhaka. Andhaka was not alone, he had millions of demon-soldiers with him. But Shiva burnt up all these soldiers. He then pierced Andhaka with a trident (trishula) and raised the trident up into the sky. The demon hung there, transfixed with the central prong of the trident.
The gods were delighted at this. They showered down flowers on Shiva and began to pray to him. All beings in the three worlds heaved sighs of relief.
As for Andhaka, the moment he was transfixed by Shiva’s trident, all though of evil vanished from his mind. He started to pray to Shiva.
Shiva was pleased at these prayers and said,” Son of Hiranyaksha, I am pleased with you. What boon do you desire?”
“If you are indeed pleased with me,” replied Andhaka, “please grant me the boon that I may be always faithful to you. And please make me your constant companion.”
Shiva agreed to this. He lowered Andhaka from his trident and made Andhaka a lord of the ganas. Andhaka is Shiva’s constant companion. (According to some other Puranas, he was renamed Bhringi.)
(The Andhaka story, like most stories, is rather cursorily treated in the Linga Purana. Far greater details are given in other Puranas. According to some of these accounts, Hiranyaksha had no sons. Andhaka was the son of Shiva and Parvati and was adopted as a son by the childless Hiranyaksha. According to the Harivamsha, Andhaka was the son of Diti and the sage Kashyapa. Since all of Diti’s sons were killed by the gods, Diti prayed to Kashyapa that she might have an immortal son. This son was Andhaka.)


Hiranyaksha and the Boar
The sages said, “You have mentioned Hiranyaksha and you also said that Hiranyaksha was killed by Vishnu. But we do not know the story. Please tell us about Hiranyaksha.”
Lomaharshana recounted the following story.
Diti had two sons named Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu.
Hiranyaksha was very powerful. He defeated all the gods and drove them out of heaven. As for the earth, he captured her and imprisoned her in the underworld. He then started to oppress anyone who still happened to be around.
“Let us go and visit Vishnu,” said Brahma. “He should be able to deliver us from this evil demon.
Vishnu heard the story of the woes of the gods and agreed to help. He adopted the form of the gigantic boar (varaha) and went down into the underworld. He discovered the demon Hiranyaksha there and slew him with his tusks. Vishnu then raised up the earth on the tusks of the boar and placed her in her rightful place on the top of the waters.
But when Vishnu gave up his form of the boar. The earth, which was transfixed to the tusks, started to float around. Shiva released the earth from the tusks so that she might stay in one place. What do you think happened to the tusks of the boar? Shiva wears them always around his neck.)


Hiranyakashipu and Narasimha
“What happened to Hiranyakshipu, Hiranyaksha’s brother?” asked the sages.
Lomaharshana told them the following.
Hiranyakashipu had a son named Prahlada. From his birth, Prahlada was devoted to Vishnu. He prayed to Vishnu all the time.
But Hiranyakashipu could not stand this. He hated Vishnu. It was, after all, Vishnu who had killed his brother Hiranyaksha.
Hiranyakashipu told Prahlada, “I am ashamed of you. Does your behaviour become a son of the king of the demons? Who is this Vishnu? Is he superior to me? How dare you worship Vishnu? Stop this nonsense at once.”
But Prahalada would not listen. He continued to pray to Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu could not bear to stand this any longer. He instructed his demon soldiers to kill Prahlada. The demons set upon Prahlada with all sorts of weapons. But by Vishnu’s grace, nothing happened to Prahlada.
While this was doing on, Vishnu appeared. He adopted his narasimha incarnation, a being who was half-man and half-lion. (Nara means man and simha means lion.) Narasimha grabbed hold of Hiranyakashipu and slew the demon with his claws.
(So far the account is fairly usual, although it misses out on the interesting details given in texts like the Vishnu Purana. The Linga Purana now introduces a further twist, in an obvious attempt to glorify Shiva.)
After killing Hiranyakashipu, Vishnu did not give up his form of a lion. The lion raged everywhere in the universe, threatening to destroy everything.
The gods, led by Brahma, fled to Shiva on Mount Mandara. “Please save from the scourge of this lion,” they pleaded
Shiva assured the gods that he would take care of narasimha.
Shiva created a being known as Virabhadra from his own body. Virabhadra was another manifestation of Shiva himself. Virabhadra had three eyes and he held several weapons in his hands. His teeth were as sharp as the crescent moon, his eyebrows were like rainbows and his beard was as dark as the clouds.
“What would you like me to do?” asked Virabhadra.
“A being named narasimha is causing havoc,” replied Shiva. “It is Vishnu who has adopted this form. The universe must be rid of narasimha. First, try to persuade him to give up this form. If that fails, kill him.”
Virabhadra went to Vishnu and told him, “Vishnu, you are the preserver of the universe. There are several occasions when you have adopted incarnations so as to save the world. Why have you adopted this narasimha form? Please give it up at once. It is threateneing the existence of the universe.”
These words merely served to anger Vishnu. “I don’t need any advice from you,” he said. “Return to whence you came. I will destroy the universe; who are you to decree otherwise? I am the lord of everything. Brahma, the creator, was born from my body. Therefore, go away and leave me in peace.”
“Haven’t you forgotten Shiva?” asked Virabhadra. “It is Shiva who is supreme. He is the destroyer. And if you do not come to your senses, he is going to destroy you as well. Be forewarned. I am Virabhadra. Have you forgotten that I severed your head at the time of Daksha’s yajna? Have you forgotten from where you obtained your sudarshana chakra (Vishnu’s weapons, a bladed-discus)?”
These words angered Vishnu even more and he attacked Virabhadra. Virabhadra adopted a strange form that was half-deer and half-bird. It had a thousand arms and the crescent moon shone on its head. The wings were huge, sparks issued out of the eyes, and the claws were exceedingly sharp. Virabhadra grasped Vishnu and rose up into the sky. He flung Vishnu down repeatedly on the ground and picked him up again.
Vishnu came to his senses and started to pray to Shiva. He called upon Shiva by his one hundred and eight names.
But Virabhadra killed Vishnu. He sliced off narasimha’s head and skinned the pelt. This did not mean that Vishnu died. It was narasimha who died. Vishnu merged into Shiva. Narasimha’s pelt is worn by Shiva as clothing. And you will find narasimha’s skull among the garland of skulls that Shiva wears around his neck.




Jalandhara
There was a demon named Jalandhara. He obtained tremendous powers through tapasya. Such were these powers that he managed to defeat the gods.
(The story of Jalandhara’s orgin is not given in the Linga Purana, but can be found in the Padma Purana. Indra once went on a visit to Mount Kailasa and met Shiva there. Failing to recognize Shiva, Indra hit him on the head with his vajra. A fire issued out of Shiva’s head and threatened to burn Indra up. Indra pacified Shiva and contrived to avoid destruction. But Shiva flung the fire into the ocean and from his fire a boy was born. Since jala means water and since he emerged from the water, the boy came to be called Jalandhara. Alternatively Brahma discovered and adopted the boy. But the boy tugged so hard at Brahma’s eyes. Brahma therefore named the boy Jalandhara and also granted himt he boon that he could be killed only by Shiva.)
To return to the Linga Purana, after having defeated all the other gods, Jalandhara challenged Vishnu to a duel. This duel lasted for sometime, but eventually, Vishnu too, met his match.
Jalandhara then told his companions, the other demons. “I seem to have defeated everyone that there is to fight with. The only one who is left is Shiva. Let us go and thrash Shiva, Nandi and the others.”
The demon army trooped to Shiva’s residence.
“What do you want?” asked Shiva. “Why have all of you come here?”
“We have come to fight with you,” replied Jalandhara.
Shiva inserted his big toe into the ocean and started to churn the water. From this churning, the terrible weapon known as the sudarshana chakra was created.
“I shall certainly fight with you,” said Shiva. “But first you must raise this chakra with your big toe. I will fight with you only if you succeed.”
Jalandhara tried to do this. With a great deal of difficulty, he managed to raise the chakra and place it on his shoulders. But as soon as he did this, the weapon sliced off his head. Jalandhara’s flesh and blood cluttered up the universe. Shiva had all of this sent to Yama, the god of death. Yama constructed a hell (naraka) named maharourava with this flesh and blood.
Thus it was that Jalandhara met his end. As for the demon’s companions, they were burnt to ashes by Shiva’s rage.


Shiva’s Thousand Names
Many years ago, a flierce war raged between the gods and the demons. The gods received a sound thrashing and fled. While they were running away, they encountered Vishnu.
“Why are you running away?” asked Vishnu. “What on earth has happened?”
“The demons have defeated us,” replied the gods. “They have acquired all sorts of divine weapons, largely thanks to the boons that you have granted them. These weapons have made them close to invincible. You are our only hope now. Do you remember the wonderful weapon that was known as the sudarshana chakra? It was created by Shiva to kill Jalandhara. That is what is required now. Nothing esle will work.”
“I will help you,” promised Vishnu. “But we must first obtain the weapon, and to get it, we have to pray to Shiva.”
Vishnu and the other gods started to pray to Shiva. They called upon Shiva by his thousand names. For convenience, we preproduce the names in groups of ten names each.
(1) Bhava, Shiva, Hara, Rudra, Purusha, Padmalochana, Arthitavya, Sadachara, Sarva, Shambhu.
(2) Maheshvara, Ishvara, Sthanu, Ishana, Sahasraksha, Sahasrapada, Variyana, Varada, Vandya, Shankara.
(3) Parameshvara, Gangadhara, Shuladhara, Pararthaikaprayojana, Sarvajna, Saradevadi, Giridhanva, Jatadhara, Chandrapida, Chandramouli
(4) Vidvana, Vishvamareshvara, Vedantasarasarvasva, Kapali, Nilalohita, Jnanadhara, Aparichedya, Gouribharta, Ganeshvara, Ashtamurti.
(5) Vishvamurti, Trivarga, Svargasadhana, Jnanagamya, Dridaprajna, Devadeva, Trilochana, Vamadeva, Mahadeva, Pandu.
(6) Paridrida, Vishvarupa, Virupaksha, Vagisha, Shuchi, Antara, Sarvapranayasvadi, Vrishanka, Vrishavahana, Isha.
(7) Pinaki, Khattangi, Chitravesha, Chirantana, Tomohara, Mahayogi. Brhamangahrita, Jati Kalakala, Krittivasa.
(8) Subhaga, Pranavatmaka, Unmattavesha, Chakshushya, Durvasa, Smarashasana, Dridayudha, Parameshthiparayana, Anadimadhyanidhana, Girisha.
(9) Girivandhava, Kuberavandhu, Shrikantha, Lokavarnottamottama, Samanya, Deva, Kodandi, Nilakantha, Parashvadhi, Vishalaksha.
(10) Mrigavyadha. Suresha, Suryatapana, Dharmakarmakshama, Ksehtra, Bhagavana, Bhaganetravida, Urgra, Pashupati, Tarkshya.
(11) Priyabhakta, Priyasvada, Dantodayakara, Daksha, Karpadi, Kamashasana, Shmashananilaya, Suksha, Shmashanastha, Maheshvara.
(12) Lokakarta, Bhutapati, Mahakarta, Mahoushadhi, Uttara, Gopati, Gopta, Jnanagamya, Puratana, Nita.
(13) Sunita, Shuddhatma, Soma, Somavrita, Sukhi, Somapa, Amritapa, Mahaniti, Mahamati, Ajatashatru.
(14) Aloka, Sambhavya, Havyavahana, Lokakara, Vedakara, Sutrakara, Sanatana, Maharshi, Kapilacharya, Vishvadipti.
(15) Trilochana, Pinakapani, Bhurdeva, Svastida, Sadasvastikrita, Tridhama, Soubhaga, Sarvasar-vajna, Sarvagochara, Brahmadhrika.
(16) Vishvasrika, Svarga, Karnikara, Priya, Kavi, Sahakhavishakha, Goshakha, Shiva, Naikya, Kratu.
(17) Gangaplavodaka, Bhava, Sakala, Supatisthira, Vijitatma, Vidheyatma, Bhutavahana, Sarathi, Sagana, Ganakarya.
(18) Sukirti, Chhinnasamshaya, Kamadeva, Kamapala, Bhasmodvulitavigraha, Bhasmapriya, Bhasmashayi, Kami, Kanta, Kritagama,
(19) Samayukta, Nivrittatma, Dharmayukta, Sadshiva, Chaturmukha, Chaturvahu, Duravasa, Durasada, Durgama, Durlabha.
(20) Durga, Sarga, Sarvayudhavisharda, Sutantu, Adhyatmayoganilaya, Tantuvarddhana, Shubhanga, Lokasagara, Amritashana, Bhasmashuddhikara.
(21) Meru, Ojasvi, Shuddhavigraha, Hiranyareta, Bharani, Marichi, Mahimalaya, Mahahrada, Mahagarbha, Siddharvrindaravandita.
(22) Vyaghracharmadhara, Vyali, Mahabhuta, Mahanidhi, Amritanga, Amritavapu, Panchayajna, Prabhanjana, Panchavimshatitattvajna, Parijataparavara.
(23) Sulabha, Suvrata, Shura, Vangmayanidhi, Nidhi, Varnashramaguru, Varni, Shatrujita, Shatrutapana, Ashrama, Kshapana.
(24) Kshama, Jnanavana, Achalachala, Pramanabhuta, Durjneya, Suparna, Vayuvahana, Dhanurddhara, Dhanurveda, Gunarashi.
(25) Gunakara, Anantadrishti, Ananda, Danda, Damayita, Dama, Abhivadya, Mahacharya, Vishvakarma, Visharada.
(26) Vitaraga, Vinitatma, Tapasvi, Bhutabhavan, Unmattavesha, Pracchanna, Jitakama, Ajitapriya, Kalyana, Prakriti.
(27) Kalpa, Sarvaloka, Prajapati, Tapasvitaraka, Dhimana, Pradhana, Prabhu, Avyayaya, Lokapa, Antarhitatma.
(28) Kalpadi, Kamalekshana, Vedashastrarthatattvajna, Nityama, Niyamashraya, Chandra, Surya, Shani, Ketu, Virama.
(29) Vidruchhavi , Bhaktigamya, Parabrahma, Mrigavanarpana, Anagha, Adrirajalya, Kanta, Paramatma, Jagadguru, Sarvakarmachala.
(30) Tvashta, Mangalya, Mangalarata, Mahatapa, Dirghatapa, Sthavishtha, Sthavira, Dhruva, Ahaha, Samvatsara.



(31) Vyapti, Pramana, Tapah, Samvatsarakra, Mantra, Pratyaya, Sarvadarshana, Aja, Sarveshvara, Snigddha.
(32) Sarvadi, Agnida, Vasu, Vasumana, Satya, Sarvapapahara, Hara, Amritashashvata, Shanta, Vanahasta.
(33) Pratapavana, Kamandaludhara, Dhanvi, Vedanga, Vedavit, Muni, Bhrajishnu, Bhojana, Bhokta, Lokaneta.
(34) Duradhara, Atindriya, Mahashaya, Sarvavasa, Chatushpatha, Kalayogi, Mahanada, Mahotsaha, Mahavala,, Mahabuddhi, Mahavirya.
(35) Bhutachari, Purandara, Nishachara, Pretachari, Mahashakti, Mahadyuti, Anirdeshyavapu, Shrimana, Sarvaharyamitagati, Vahushruta.
(36) Vahumaya, Niyatatma, Bhavodhava, Narataka, Ojastejodyutikara, Sarvakamaka, Nrityapriya, Nrityanritya, Prakashatmapratapa, Buddhaspashtakshara.
(37) Mantra, Sammana, Sarasamplava, Yugadikrita, Yugavarta, Gambhira, Vrishavahana, Ishta, Vishishta, Shishteshta.
(38) Sharabha, Sharabhadhanusha, Apangnidhi, Adhishtanavijaya, Jayakalavit, Pratishthita, Pramanajna, Hiranyakavacha, Hari, Virochana.
(39) Suragana, Vidyesha, Vibudhashraya, Valarupa, Balonmathi, Vivarta, Gahanagruru , Karana, Karta, Sarvavandhavimochana.
(40) Vidvattama, Vitabhaya, Vishvahbarta, Nishakara, Vyavasaya, Vyavasthana, Sthananda, Jagadadija, Dundubha, Lalita.
(41) Vishva, Bhavatmatmasthita, Vireshvara, Virabhadra, Viraha, Virabhrida, Virata, Virachudamani, Vetta,Tivrananda.
(42) Nadidhara, Ajnadhara, Trishuti, Shipivishita, Shivalaya, Valakhilya, Mahachapa, Tigmamashu, Nidhi, Avyaya.
(43) Abhirama, Susharanya, Subrahmanya, Sudhapati, Maghavana, Koushika, Gomana, Vishrama, Sarvashasana, Lalataksha.
(44) Vishvadeha, Sara, Samsarachakrabhita, Amoghadandi, Madhyastha, Hiranya, Brahmavarchasi, Paramartha, Paramaya, Shambara.
(45) Vyaghraka, Anala, Ruchi, Vararuchi, Vandya, Ahaspati, Aharpati, Ravivirocha, Skandha, Shasta.
(46) Vaivasvata, Ajana, Yukti, Unnatakirti, Shantaraga, Parajaya, Kailasapati, Kamari, Savita, Ravilochana.
(47) Vidvattama, Vitabhaya, Vishvaharta, Nitya, Anivarita, Niyatakalyana, Punyashravanadkirtana, Durashrava, Vishvasaha, Dhyeya.
(48) Duhsvapnanashana, Uttaraka, Dushkritiha, Durddharsha, Duhsaha, Abhaya, Anadi, Bhu, Bhulakshmi, Kiriti,
(49) Tridashadhipa, Vishvagopta, Vishvabharta, Sudhira, Ruchirangada, Janana, Janajanmadi, Pritimana, Nitimana, Naya.
(50) Vishishta, Kashyapa, Bhanu, Bhima, Bhimaparakrama, Pranava, Saptadhachara, Mahakaya, Mahamadhanu, Janmadhipa.
(51) Mahadeva, Sakaalagamaparaga, Tattvatativavivekatma, Vibhushnu, Bhutibhushana, Rishi, Brahmanavida, Jishnu, Janmamrityujaratiga, Yajna.
(52) Yajnapati, Yajva, Yajnanta, Amogha, Vikrama, Mahendra, Durbhara, Seni, Yajnanga, Yajnavahana.
(53) Panchabrahmasamutpatti, Vishvesha, Vimalodaya, Atmayoni, Anadyanta, Shadavimsha, Saptalodhaka, Gayatrivallabha, pramshu, Vishvavasa.
(54) Prabhakara,Shishu, Girirata, Samrata, Sushena, Surashatruha, Aristamathana, Mukunda, Vigatajvara, Svayamjoti.
(55) Anujyoti, Atmajayoti, Achanchala, Kapila, Kapilashmashru, Shastranetra, Trayitanu, Jnanaskandha, Mahajnani, Nirutapatti.
(56) Upaplava, Bhaga, Vivasvana, Aditya, Yogacharya, Brihaspati, Udarakirti, Udyogi, Sadyogi, Sadasanmaya.
(57) Nakshatramali, Narakesha, Sadhishtana, Shadashraya, Pavitrapani, Papari, Manipura, Manogati, Hritpundarikasina, Shukla.
(58) Shantavrishakapi, Vishnu, Grahapati, Krishna, Samartha, Arthanashana, Adharmashatru, Akshashya, Puruhuta, Purushtuta.
(59) Brahmagarbha, Vrihadagarbha, Dharmadhenu, Dhanagama, Jagatahitaishi, Supata, Kumara, Kushalagama, Hiranyavarna, Jyotishmana.
(60) Nanbhutadhara, Dhvani, Aroga, Niyamadhyaksha, Vishvamitra, Dvijottama, Vrihajyoti, Sudhama, Mahajyoti, Anuttama.
(61) Matamaha, Matarishva, Nabhasvana, Nagaharadhrika, Pulastya, Pulaha, Agastya, Jatukarna, Parashara, Niravarana.
(62) Dharmajna, Virincha, Vishtarashrava, Atmabhu, Aniruddha, Atrijnanamurti, Mahayasha, Lokachudamni, Vira, Chandasatya.
(63) Parakrama, Vyalakalpa, Mahavriksha, Kanadhara, Alankarishnu, Achala, Rochishnu, Vikramottama, Vegi, Ashushabdapati.
(64) Plavana, Shikhisarathi, Asamsrishta, Atithi, Shatrupramthi, Papanashana, Vasushrava, Kavyavaha, Pratapta, Vishvabhojana.
(65) Jarya, Jaradhishamana, Lohita, Tananapata, Prishadashva, Nabhahyoni, Supratika, Tamisraha, Nidaghatapana, Megphapaksha.
(66) Parapuranjaya, Mukhanila, Sunispanna, Surabhi, Shishiratmaka, Vasanta, Madhava, Grishma, Nabhasya, Vijavahana.
(67) Angira, Muni, Atreya, Vimala, Vishvavahana, Pavana, Purujita, Shatru, Trividya, Naravahana.
(68) Manovriddhi, Ahamkara, Kshetrajna, Kshetrapalaka, Tejonidhi, Jnananidhi, Vipaka, Vighnakaraka, Adhara, Anuttara.
(69) Jneya, Jyestha, Nihshreyasalaya, Shaila, Naga, Tanu, Deha, Danavari, Arindama, Charudhi.
(70) Janaka, Charuvishalya, Lokashalyakrita, Chaturveda, Chaturbhava, Chatura, Chaturapriya, Amnaya, Samamaya, Tirthadevashivalaya.
(71) Vahurupa, Maharupa, Sarvarupa, Charachara, Nyayanirvahaka, Nyaya, Nyayagamya, Niranjana, Sahasramurddha, Devendra.
(72) Sarvashastraprabhanjana, Munda, Virupa, Vikrita, Dandi, Gunottama, Pingalaksha, Haryaksha, Nilagriva, Niramaya.
(73) Sahasravahu, Sarvesha, Sharanya, Sarvalokbhrita, Padmasana, Paramjyoti, Paravara, Paramfala, Padmagarbha, Vishvagarbha.
(74) Vichakshana, Paravarajna, Vijesha, Sumukhasumahasana, Devasuragurudeva, Devasurananmaskrita, Devasuramahatra, Devadideva, Devarshidevasuravaraprada, Devasureshvara.
(75) Divya, Devasuramaheshvara, Sarvadevamaya, Achintya, Devatatma, Atmasambhava, Idya, Anisha, Devasimha, Divakara.
(76) Vibudhagravarashreshta, Sarvadevottamottama, Shivajnanarata, Shrimana, Shikhishriparvatapriya, Jayastambha, Vishishtambha, Narasimhanipatana, Brahmachari, Lokachari.
(77) Dharmachari, Dhanadhipa, Nandi, Nandishvara, Nagna, Nagnavratadhara, Shuchi, Lingadhyaksha, Suradhyaksha, Yugadhyaksha.
(78) Yugavaha, Svavasha, Savamsha, Svargasvara, Svaramayasvana, Vijadhyaksha, Vijakarta, Dhanakrita, Dharmavardhana, Dambha.
(79) Adambha, Mahadambha, Sarvabhutamaheshvara, Shmashananilaya, Tishya, Setu, Apratimakriti, Lokottara, Sfutaloka, Tryamabaka.
(80) Andhakari, Makhadveshi, Vishnukandharapatana, Vitadosha, Akshayaguna, Dakshari, Pushadantahrita, Dhurjati, Khandaparashu, Safala.
(81) Nishfala, Anagha, Adhara, Sakaladhara, Mrida, Pandurabha, Nata, Purna, Purayita, Punya.
(82) Sukumara, Sulochana, Samageya, Priyakara, Punyakirti, Anamaya, Manojava, Tirthavara, Jatila, Jiviteshvara.
(83) Jivitantakara, Nitya, Vasureta, Vasukiya, Sadgati, Satkriti, Sakta, Kalakantha, Kaladhara, Mani.
(84) Manya, Mahakala, Sadbhuti, Satyaparayana, Chandrasanjivana, Shasta, Lokaguda, Amaradhipa, Lokavandhu, Lokanatha.
(85) Kritajnakritibhushana, Anapayakshara, Kanta, Sarvashastrabhutasvara, Tejomayadyutidhara, Lokamaya, Agrani, Anu, Shuchismita, Prasannatma.
(86) Durjaya, Duratikrama, Jyotirmaya, Nirakara, Jagannatha, Jaleshvara, Tumbavini, Mahakaya, Vishoka, Shokanashana.
(87) Trilokatma, Trilokesha, Shuddha, Shuddhi, Rathakshaja, Avyaktalakshana, Avyakta, Vishampati, Varashila, Varatula.
(88) Mana, Manadhanamaya, Brahma, Vishnu, Prajapalaka, Hamsa, Hamsagati, Yama, Vedha, Dhata.
(89) Vidhata, Atta, Harta, Chaturmukha, Kailashashikharavasi, Sarvavasi, Satamgati, Hiranyagarbha, Harnia, Purusha.
(90) Purvajapita, Bhutalaya, Bhutapati, Bhutida, Bhuvaneshvara, Samyogi, Yogavida, Brahmanya, Brahmanapriya, Devapriya.
(91) Devanatha, Devajna, Devachintaka, Vishamaksha, Kaladhyaksha, Vrishanka, Vrishavardhana, Nirmada, Nirahamkara.
(92) Nirmoha, Nirupadrava, Darpaha, Darpita, Dripta, Sarvartuparivartaka, Saptajihva, Sahasrachi, Snigddha, Prakritidakshina.
(93) Bhutabhavyabhavanatha, Prabhava, Bhrantinashana, Artha, Anartha, Mahakosha, Parakavyaikapandita, Nishkantaka, Kritananda, Nirvyaja.
(94) Vyajamardana, Sattvavana, Sattvika, Satyakirti, Stambhakritagama, Akampita, Gunagrahi, Suprita, Sumukha, Naikatmanaikakarmakrita.
(95) Sukshma, Shukara, Dakshina, Skandhadhara, Dhurya, Prakata, Pritivarddhana, Aparajita, Sarvasaha, Vidagddha.
(96) Sarvavahana, Adhrita, Svadhrita, Sadhya, Purtamurti, Yashodhara, Varahashringavrika, Vayu, Valavana, Ekanayaka.
(97) Shrutiprakasha, Shrutimana, Ekavandhu, Anekadhrika, Shrivallabha, Shivarambha, Shantabhadra, Samanjasa, Bhushaya, Bhutikrita,
(98) Bhuti, Bhushana, Bhutavahana, Akaya, Bhaktakayastha, Kalajnanai, Kalavapu, Satyavrata, Mahatyagi, Nishthashantiparayana.
(99) Pararthavritti, Varada, Vivittana, Shrutisagara, Anirvinna, Kalankanka, Kalankaha, Svabhavarudra.
(100) Madhyastha, Shatrughna, Madhyanashaka, Shikhandi, Kavachi, Shuli, Chandi, Mundi, Kundali, Khadgi.
(A few of the names are repeated more than once.)
Vishnu and the other gods prayed to Shiva by calling upon him by these thousand names and offering him lotus flowers. Shiva wished to test Vishnu. So he quietly removed a lotus from the ones that had been offered.
Vishnu realized the deception. He plucked out one of his own eyes and rendered it to Shiva as an offering in place of the flower. This pleased Shiva and he appeared. Such was his radiance that the gods, other than Vishnu, could not bear to look at him.
Shiva presented Vishnu with the divine sudarshana chakra. He also restored Vishnu’s eye.




The Linga Purana

Daksha’s Yajna
Daksha’s daughter was Sati and Sati was married to Shiva. Daksha was thus Shiva’s father-in-law.
Daksha once organized a yajna (sacrifice). To this, he invited all the other gods and the sages. But he did not invite Shiva. Sati went to the sacrifice and was insulted by her father. Thereupon, she immolated herself in the fire of the yajna.
Shiva was stricken with grief. He sent Virbhadra to destroy the yajna. The sacrifice was being held in the foothills of Himalayas, in a place named Kankha. Virabhadra completely destroyed the sacrifice. His companions killed many of gods and the sages, and flung their bodies into the water of the Ganga which flowed nearby. Virabhadra plucked out the eyes of the god Bhaga, smashed the teeth of the god Pusha and gave the moon-god a resounding kick. He sliced off Indra’s head and the arms of the fire-god Agni. As for Vishnu, a mighty battle raged between Virabhadra and Vishnu. But Vishnu more than met his match and had his head cut for his pains. Daksha’s head was also severed by Virabhadra. Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, lost her nose.
Brahma was thunderstruck at all this destruction and started to pray to Virabhadra and Shiva. Shiva was pacified and forgave the gods and the sages. Everything was restored to what it had been prior to Virabhadra beginning his process of destruction.
(The story of Daksha’s yajna is one of the more interesting stories in the Puranans. But like most stories, the Linga Purana treats it cursorily. If you are interested int his story, you should read the Mahabharata or the Bhagavata Purana.)


Parvati
Sati was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Mena (or Menaka) and the Himalayas. She had two sisters named Ekaparna and Ekapatala, although she was the eldest. Parvati was also known as Aparna.
When Parvati was twelve years old, she began to perform very difficult tapasya so that she might attain Shiva as a husband.
At that time, there was a terrible demon named Tarakasura. He was the son of the demon Tara. Tara himself was so powerful that he managed to defeat all the gods. Fora thousand years Vishnu fought with Tara, but to no avail. Tara simply picked Vishnu up and flung him far away. Finally, Vishnu prayed to Brahma and obtained all sorts of wonderful powers. With these powers, he managed to kill Tara.
But Tarakasura was still around. He defeated the gods and drove them out of heaven. Vishnu fought with Tarakasura for twenty thousand years, but could do nothing to the demon. The gods fled in desperation to Brahma.
“Don’t be so disconsolate,” Brahma assured the gods. “Sati has been reborn as Parvati. She will marry Shiva, and she and Shiva will have a son named kartikeya. He will be your general and will defeat Tarakasura.”
(According to the Shiva Purana, Tarakasura had obtained a boon from Brahma that only Shiva’s son could kill him.)
Meanwhile, Parvati had been meditating so that she might marry Shiva, and Shiva was pleased at these prayers.
The marriage took place amidst a lot of fanfare. The first son to be born was Ganapati, the second was Skanda or Kartikeya.
(More commonly, Skanda is regarded as the elder. The story of how Skanda killed Tarakasura is recounted in the Shiva Purana.)
Upamanyu
There was a boy named Upamanyu who was once taken on a visit to his maternal uncle’s house. Compared to his cousins, Upamanyu got inferior and diluted milk to drink.
He therefore told his mother, “Why can’t I have better milk to drink?’
His mother started to weep. “My son,” she said, “we are poor. We do not have the money to buy you good milk.”
But so insistent was her son, that the mother ground some rice with water and gave it to her son to drink, pretending that it was milk. As soon as he tasted what his mother gave him. Upamanyu realized that it was not milk and began to cry even more profusely.
Finally the mother told the son, “Please do not cry. Unfortunately, we are poor. The only option left for those who suffer from misfortune is to pray to Shiva. Perhaps we are amiss in that we did not pray to Shiva in our earlier lives. Why don’t you pray to Shiva now?”
Upamanyu started to meditate. He built a hermitage in the Himalyas.
Shiva decided to test Upamanyu. He appeared before the boy in the guise of Indra and said, “I am pleased with your tapasya and will grant you a boon. What boon do you wish for?”
“I am indeed fortunate that the king of the gods has come to visit me,” replied Upamanyu. “Please grant me the boon that I may be devoted to Shiva.”
“Who is this Shiva?” asked the fake Indra. “I am the king of the gods, I am much superior to that upstart. Worship me instead.”
Upamanyu was not prepared to hear such insults hurled at Shiva. He thought that he had committed a great sin in allowing such insults to be uttered in his presence. He therefore prepared to kill himself. Shiva now appeared before Upamanyu in his own form and blessed the boy. Through Shiva’s grace, Upamanyu never suffered from a lack of milk to drink.
Subsequently, Upamanyu taught the pashupata vrata to Krishna.
The Linga Purana now has some section on the virtues of being devoted to Vishnu. It also describes various rites that must be observed in praying to Shiva.


Epilogue
Lomaharshana completed his recital of the Linga Purana and the assembled sages were thrilled with what they had heard. They bowed down in obeisance before Shiva.
The Linga Purana is most sacred. Brahma himself has said that a person who reads it is forgiven all his sins. Reading this text is far superior to meditating, performing sacrifices, or donating alms. Brahma cannot possibly be wrong.
The sages thanked Lomaharshana for his pains and went their several ways.


End of Linga Purana










Skanda Purana (Kartika Purana)

 

It is the largest of all the Puranas. Contains eighty eight thousand and one hundred Shlokas (stanzas). Has seven parts- Maheshwar, Vaishnava, Brahma, Kashi, Avanti, Nagar and Prabhasa. Purana got its name from Skand (Kartikeya) the son of Lord Shiva. Birth of Skand; its reason and effects constitute the main theme. Kartikeya was the commander of the gods’ army and had killed the demon Tarkasura.


Maheswara Khand
DAKSHA’S ANIMOSITY TOWARDS LORD SHIVA
Skanda Puran begins with the eulogy of Lord Shiva–
YASYAGYA JAGAT SRISHTA VIRANCHIH PALKO HARIH;
SANHARTA KAALRUDRAKHYO NAMASTASMAI PINAKINE.
(Meaning)— Salutations to Lord Shankar who has entrusted the job of creation to Lord Brahma–Who has instructed Lord Vishnu to nurture the world and who himself acts as the supreme annihilator.During ancient times, once, Sage Shaunak had performed a grand ‘yagya’ at his hermitage in Naimisharanya forest. Many sages had thronged Naimisharanya to attend it. One of them was Sage Lomesh.After the yagya was over, all the assembled Sages requested Sage Lomesh to narrate the divine tales of Lord Shiva.
Sage Lomesh said–Daksha-Prajapati had got his daughter, Sati married to Lord Shiva. Once, he had performed a grand yagya in which he had invited everybody except his own son-in-law.When Sati learnt about the yagya, she sought Lord Shiva’s permission to attend that yagya. Lord Shiva tried to convince her that it was not proper to attend a ceremony in which one had not been invited. But Sati did not pay any heed and was bent upon attending that yagya. Ultimately, Lord Shiva had no option but to give his conscent. But he did not forget to send his ‘Rudraganas’ with her for her protection.


SATI JUMPS INTO THE SACRIFICIAL FIRE
When Sati reached her father’s place, she saw a grand yagya being performed. A large number of people had been invited–the deities, the sages and the hermits.
Sati became sad because Daksha had invited everybody except her husband. She knew quite well that it was a deliberate decision on part of her father, not to invite Lord Shiva. But, she got infuriated when she found that Daksha had not even kept Shiva’s share in the yagya while the ‘shares’ of other deities had been kept.
When Daksha saw Sati, he was enraged—How dare you come here? Your husband is an embodiment of inauspiciousness. He is the Lord of the spirits, ghosts and all types of mean powers. This was the reason why I did not invite him.’
The insult heaped on her husband in front of everybody devastated Sati. She felt so humiliated that she decided to give up her life. Before any one could understand, she jumped into the sacrificial fire and was charred to death. All the deities present there were stunned by this sudden development. All the ‘Rudraganas’ mourned Sati’s death with deep sorrow.Meanwhile, Lord Shiva got the sad news from Narad. He got mad with anger and uprooted some hair from his scalp. He then dashed the hair against a mountain. There was a thundering sound and Veerbhadra manifested within a split second. Lord Shiva ordered him to punish Daksha for his evil deed, which caused the death of Sati.Veerbhadra proceeded with a huge army of spirits, ghosts and marudganas to punish Daksha. When he reached the oblation site, Daksha and all the other deities became scarred. But, Sage Bhrigu came at the deities’ rescue and told them not to worry. He then chanted few mantras, which helped the deities to win the first round of the battle.
The defeat of his army enraged Veerbhadra to such an extent that he created havoc in the ranks of deities’ army. He showered volleys of arrow on them, which forced the deities to make a hasty retreat from there. Veerbhadra dashed Sage Bhrigu against the ground and uprooted his beard. He then severed the head of Daksha and threw it in flames of sacrificial fire.Lord Brahma took the refuge of Lord Shiva and requested him to stop Veerbhadra from causing further death and destruction. Lord Shiva told Brahma–’Nobody else but Daksha himself was responsible for his death.But, Lord Brahma requested Lord Shiva to make Daksha alive once again. Lord Shiva then went to Daksha’s place and fixed a goat’s head on the trunk of Daksha’s body. This way Daksha became alive once again albeit with a goats body. He was very ashamed of his behaviour and requested Lord Shiva to forgive him. Lord Shiva blessed him and said–
“Salvation can not be attained merely by performing the rituals. If you are desirous of salvation then engage yourself in virtuous deeds with.”


VIRTUES OF WORSHIPPING LORD SHIVA
Sage Lomesh told the assembled sages— One who brooms the courtyard of Shiva temple attains to Shiva loka. Those who make offerings of incense to lord Shiva not only liberate himself from the bondage of this world but also both his ‘Kulas’. One who gets constructed a Shiva temple or renovates it, attains incomparable virtue. One who chants the holy mantra ‘OM NAMAH SHIVAY’ daily and begins his day by visiting Shiva temple in the morning becomes absolved of all his sins.


CHURNING OF THE OCEAN

Sage Lomesh narrated the tale, which described how Indra lost heaven after he showed disrespect to Vrihaspati–
Once, Indra was enjoying the songs sung by Gandharvas when sage Vashishth arrived. But, Indra was so engrossed in music, that he forgot to welcome his distinguished guest. Sage Vashishth was enraged by his behaviour and went away fuming with anger.When the demon King Bali–the lord of Patalloka, learnt about this incident he attacked Indraloka with a large army. A fierce battle took place in which all the deities were defeated. Bali and his army brought all the wealth to Patalloka. But the demons were not destined to be the owner of this plundered wealth for too long as the whole wealth got submerged into the ocean. Bali was surprised and asked Shukracharya about the reason. Sage Shukracharya revealed to Bali that he could not enjoy the splendours of deities’ wealth because he had not performed 100 Ashwamedha yagyas.
The deities, after being defeated went to seek Lord Vishnu’s help. Lord Brahma was also present with them. After giving a deep thought to the whole issue, Lord Vishnu advised them to patch up with the demons so that all the wealth could be retrieved from the ocean bed.The deities went to Patal-loka and convinced the demons to participate in the churning of the ocean. When the process of churning of the ocean began, Mandarachal mountain was used as a churner and the serpent -Vasuki as the rope.Both the parties immersed the Mandarachal mountain into the ocean but it sank down, as there was no base upon which it could be placed. So, Lord Vishnu took the form of a tortoise and held the mountain on his back.
Churning of the ocean resulted into the emergence of many things like Chandrama, Surabhi (cow), Kalpa tree, Kaustubh, Uchchaihshrava (Horse), Eravat (elephant), goddess Laxmi, poison, ambrosia, intoxication etc.When poison emerged from the sea bed, neither the deities nor the demons made any claim for it. The poison was so venomous that the whole world started getting inflamed by it. Lord Shiva then drank the Halahal poison and thus the world was saved.Lord Vishnu accepted goddess Laxmi as his consort.


THE EMERGENCE OF AMBROSIA
When Dhanvantri appeared with a pot of ambrosia in his hands, a demon named Vrishparva snatched it from him. All the demons then fled to Patal loka with the pot of ambrosia.Lord Vishnu disguised himself as an enchanting beauty and went to Patalloka. There, he found all the demons quarrelling among themselves. Each of them wanted to have his own share of ambrosia.The demons were stunned by Mohini’s beauty the moment they saw Lord Vishnu in the form of a beautiful lady. Mohini took control of the ambrosia pot and summoned the deities to Patal loka.
All the deities and demons were made to sit in separate rows. Mohini then started distributing ambrosia to the deities. A demon named Rahu, who had disguised himself as a deity was also sitting among the deities. Hardly had Rahu gulped down some ambrosia then Mohini severed his head on the information given by chandrama (Moon).The severed head of Rahu tried to take revenge by swallowing chandrama, who took the refuge of Lord Shiva. Shiva kept chandrama within the lock of his hair. Meanwhile, Rahu too came chasing chandrama and Lord Shiva wore his head as a garland in his neck.


LORD BRAHMA’S BOON TO TARAKASUR
After the death of Sati, Lord Shiva became aloof and engaged himself in an austere penance. His lack of interest in performing his duties resulted into the predominance of sin in the world.A demon named Tarakasur had received a boon of invincibility from lord Brahma. Only a child and nobody else could kill him. Tarakasur, being drunk with power started to torment the deities.
All the deities eulogized Lord Brahma and they heard a heavenly voice saying—
‘Nobody can kill Tarakasur except Shiva’s son. So you must put all your efforts to help Shiva get married.’
The deities were aware that after the death of Sati, Shiva had lost all interest in life and was living like a recluse. Nevertheless, they wanted to give a try. So they went to Himalaya, who had no progeny at that time and requested him to beget a girl. Himalaya agreed, as he was aware of the misdeeds of Tarakasur.In course of time, Himalaya’s wife, Mena gave birth to a girl child who was in fact the reincarnation of Sati. The girl child was named Girija.Girija was brought up with great love and care. When she attained the age of eight, Himalaya once took her to the cave where Lord Shiva was doing penance. Initially, Shiva was little hesitant to meet Himalaya because Girija was accompanying her father and he had vowed never to put his glance on any woman after the death of Sati. But, Later on he relented and allowed both of them to meet him whenever they liked. Now, Girija made it her habit to visit Lord Shiva regularly. She used to look after all the needs of Shiva while he was engrossed in his penance.
Even after the passage of a long time the deities’ wishes did not look like getting fulfilled, as Shiva remained as nonchalant as ever. So, the deities requested Kamadeva’s help in sowing the seeds of love and passion in Shiva’s heart.Kamadeva went to the place where Lord Shiva was doing his penance. He tried to sow seeds of compassion in Shiva’s heart only to receive his wrath. Lord Shiva was infuriated by the efforts of Kamadeva. He opened his third eye as the result of which Kamadeva was charred to death.Rati started wailing inconsolably at the death of her husband but Girija assured her that she would try to bring Kamadeva back to life.Girija commenced her penance to please Lord Shiva. There was a great turmoil in the world on account of her penance. Lord Vishnu led the deities to Shiva and requested him to marry Girija so that the world could be protected from the torments of Tarakasur. Finally, Shiva gave his conscent and went to the place where Girija was doing penance.


SHIVA TEST’S PARVATI’S DEVOTION
After reaching there, Lord Shiva found Parvati engrossed in her penance. Parvati was surrounded by her few trusted companions.Lord Shiva decided to test Parvati’s devotion towards him. So he disguised himself as a hermit and asked her companions about the reason why Parvati was doing such a severe Penance. Jaya, one of Parvati’s companions informed him that her friend was doing penance in order to get Lord Shiva as her husband. Jaya also informed Lord Shiva that her friend Girija was the daughter of Himalaya.
Lord Shiva, who was in the guise of a hermit said—’Why is this tender girl so eager to marry Shiva who is an embodiment of inauspiciousness–who carries a skull in his hand and who lives in a crematorium. How can your friend think of marrying one who has been expelled by Daksha from the yagya ceremony? Does your friend know that Shiva wears a snake around his neck and is surrounded by numerous spirits and ghosts?’
Parvati, who had been listening to all those nonsensical utterances, told Jaya—’This fellow seems to abhor Shiva. We should not talk to this evil person. Tell him to leave at once.’Lord Shiva was extremely pleased by Parvati’s unwavering devotion towards him. He appeared in his original form and said–’You can ask for anything you wish.’
But Parvati replied— ‘O Supreme Lord! I am the same Sati for the sake of whom you had destroyed Daksha’s yagya. Don’t you recognize me? There is a great purpose behind my reincarnation. A son born to us would kill Tarakasur. So go to my father and request for my hand in marriage.’But Lord Shiva refused to make a request to Himalaya considering it as an undignified act. He then returned to the place where he had been meditating.After a while, Himalaya and Mena arrived there and asked Parvati how her penance had been progressing. Parvati narrated the whole incident how Lord Shiva had finally given his conscent to marry her.Himalaya and Mena were extremely pleased by this good news.


THE ARRIVAL OF ‘SAPTARISHIS’
Later on Lord Shiva sent the Saptarishis with the proposal of marriage to Himalaya. Himalaya received his distinguished guests with respect and enquired about the purpose of their visit. The Saptarishis replied–’We have come to request you to give your daughter’s hand in marriage to Shiva.’After consulting his wife, Mena and other mountains, Himalaya agreed to accept Shiva as his son-in-law. The Saptarishis then returned and conveyed the good news to Shiva.The preparation for marriage ceremony started being made. Finally the marriage procession proceeded towards the bride’s home. The marriage procession consisted of all the deities, apsaras, gandharvas even spirits and ghosts.
Sage Garg Supervised the rituals of marriage ceremony. Vishwakarma constructed the canopy, where marriage ceremony was supposed to take place.After the marriage was over, Himalaya performed the ritual of Kanyadan and this way Shiva returned with his consort.


BIRTH OF KARTIKEYA
Lord Shiva and Parvati lived happily at Gandhamadan Mountain enjoying every bit of their conjugal life. Once it so happened that a small quantity of Shiva’s sperm fell on the ground while he was enjoying intimate moments with Parvati. As a result, tremendous amount of heat was generated and the whole world started burning.Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu instructed Agni to employ some means so that the destruction caused by Shiva’s over flowing sperms could come to an end.Agni went to Gandhamadan mountain in the guise of a hermit. He requested Parvati by saying—’O Mother! Please give me something as alms. I have nothing but my hands as a begging bowl’
Parvati kept Shiva’s sperms on his palm, which was eaten up by Agni. Parvati was enraged to see this and cursed Agni–”You have shown disrespect to me. From today onwards you would become omnivorous. The sperms which you have devoured would cause unbearable inflammation in your body.”
As the result of Parvati’s curse, Agni really started experiencing unbearable inflammation in his body. He requested Lord Shiva to reveal the means by which his pain would come to an end. Lord Shiva instructed Agni to implant those sperms in any woman’s womb to get rid of the unbearable inflammation.Thus, Agni, who was suffering from extreme heat that generated in his body, sat at a lonely place waiting eagerly for a woman to arrive there.He did not have to wait for too long, as six Kritikas, shivering with cold arrived there to warm themselves. The sperms of Shiva entered into their bodies through the pores. These six Kritikas became pregnant.
When their respective husbands learnt about their pregnancy they cursed them. As a result they got transformed into ‘Nakshatras’ and established themselves in the sky. But, they aborted their respective foetus at Himalaya mountain before getting transformed into six constellations. The holy Ganges carried that foetus to a secluded place, which was covered with dense bushes of reeds.In course of time, Lord Kartikeya manifested from those reed bushes. He had six heads. The deities were delighted at the birth of Kartikeya. Lord Shiva along with Parvati went to the place where Kartikeya had incarnated. Parvati took young Kartikeya in her embrace.


KARTIKEYA KILLS TARAKASUR
Lord Shiva assured the deities, who were also present there that Tarakasur’s days were numbered. The deities’s army then proceeded towards the battlefield.On their way, the deities heard a heavenly voice–’You can defeat the demons only if you fight under the leadership of Kartikeya.’
Now all the deities requested Kartikeya to become their leader. Menawhile, Devasena–the daughter of Mrityu arrived there and requested Kartikeya to become her husband. Kartikeya accepted Devasena as his wife. This is the reason why he is also known as Deva senapati.Karitkeya was leading the deities’ army, mounted on an elephant. The army had all the deities in its rank- Indra, Varun, Vayu, Kuber, Dharma Raj, etc.Both the rival armies met at an island situated between Ganga and Yamuna. Tarakasur had come with a large army, which boasted of many brave and mighty warriors.
The battle commenced and the first phase was dominated by the demons. The deities could not stand up to the might of demons. Even Indra was severely wounded when Tarakasur attacked him with his deadly weapon- ‘Shakti’. On seeing the level of destruction caused in the deities’ army, King Muchkunda, who was on the side of the deities’ attacked Tarakasur. In the ensuing battle Muchkunda got injured and fell down on the ground. He got up furiously and tried to kill Tarakasur with his Brahmashtra. Sage Narad told him that Brahmashtra would be of no use as Tarakasur had been blessed with invincibility against mortals. Narad said–’Only Kartikeya is capable of killing Tarakasur. So, you all need to have patience till Kartikeya accomplishes his mission.’
Meanwhile Veerabhadra was fighting a dual bought against Tarakasur. He had already caused indescribable losses to the demons. While the fight was going on, Tarakasur realized that it was not easy to defeat him. So, he decided to use his illusionary powers, which helped him in acquiring ten thousand hands. The deities ran away from the battle field, when they saw ferocious Tarakasur approaching them.Lord Vishnu instructed Kartikeya to kill Tarakasur before it was too late. Kartikeya chased Tarakasur with his deadly weapon- Shakti in his hand. A fierce fight took place between both of them. Kartikeya attacked Tarakasur with his Shakti. Tarakasur retaliated by hitting him with his own Shakti. The assault was so severe that Karikeya lost his consciousness for few moments.
When Kartikeya regained his consciousness, he got up quickly to fight against Tarakasur. Once again a fierce battle commenced. Kartikeya remembered his parents in reverence and released his Shakti in the direction of Tarakasur.Tarakasur died instantly. The deities were delighted at the death of their tormentor.


VIRTUES OF OBSERVING FAST ON ‘SHIVARATRI’
Sage Lomesh eulogizes the virtues of Shivaratri in the following words–’The fourteenth day of the dark half of a month is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and is famously known as ‘Shivaratri’. It destroys all the sins committed by a man.Sage Lomesh then narrated a tale, which emphasized the greatness of Shivaratri–
Once upon a time a brahmin widow developed an illicit relationship with a ‘Chandal’ (a low caste man). Later on she gave birth to a son who was named Dussah. Her son had all the bad qualities one can think of– a gambler, a drunker, a thief, a murderer, etc.
One day, Dussah went to a Shiva temple with the intention of committing robbery. It was the festive night of Shivaratri and people had thronged the temple in a large number. So, he did not get an opportunity to steal temple property. He remained awakened for the whole night waiting for an opportune moment but his wishes remained unfulfilled. He spent his time listening to the divine tales of Lord Shiva that was being narrated by the temple priest. Though he was a sinner yet he took his next birth in a royal family on account of his two virtuous deeds–he had remained awakened for the whole night of Shivaratri and he had listened to the tales of Shiva. In his next birth, he was born to a king named Chitrangad and he himself was named Vichitraveerya.Vichitraveerya was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He ultimately united with lord Shiva and manifested as Veerabhadra at the time when Lord Shiva had shaken his head violently after hearing the sad news of Sati’s demise.There are numerous instances of people attaining salvation by observing a fast on Shivaratri. The names of some great devotees to do so are King Bharat, Mandhata, Dhundhumar, Harishchandra etc.


KARTIKEYA’S SORROW
While the deities hailed the glory of Kartikeya for having killed Tarakasur, Kartikeya himself was saddened by his act. He told the deities–’I regret for having killed Tarakasur because he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Is there any way to atone for my sin?’
Lord Vishnu consoled him—’Killing a wicked person, who nourishes himself on the blood of innocent people, is not a sinful deed. But, still, if you feel guilty then there is no better way to atone for your sin than worshipping Lord Shiva. Install Shivalingas and worship them with deep devotion.’Kartikeya instructed Vishnukarma to make three divine Shivalingas. Later on Kartikeya installed these Shivalingas at three different places and worshipped them with appropriate rituals. In course of time these three holy places came to be known as Pratigyeshwar, Kapaleshwar and Kumareshwar. Kartikeya, while worshipping at Kapaleshwar sprinkled holy water on the Shivalinga and prayed so that Tarakasur’s soul rested in peace. He also offered sesame seeds to lord Kapaleshwar and prayed –
‘May my offerings made in the form of sesame seeds reach Tarak–the descendant of Sage Kashyap.’
This way, Kartikeya was absolved of his sins.


KILLING OF PRALAMB
A demon named Pralamb had escaped unharmed in the battle fought between the deities and demons. As the deities were busy installing Shivalingas at different places, Pralamb started to torment their families in their absence. The deities got this information from Kumud who appeared at the time when the deities were digging up a reservoir near ‘Siddheshwar’ temple.All the deities requested Kartikeya to do something. Kartikeya released his fiery weapon, Shakti in the direction of Pralamb. Shakti pierced the heart of earth and went right up to Patal loka where Pralamb lived with the surviving demons. All the demons were killed within few moments.
A long tunnel had been created as the impact of Shakti’s penetration of the earth. This tunnel was later on filled up with the water of Patal Ganga and became famous as ‘Siddha-koopa.’


KAALBHITI’S AUSTERE PENANCE
There is an amazing tale related with the birth of Kaalbhiti. During ancient times there lived a sonless brahmin named Manti in Kashi. He did an austere penance to get a son. At last, lord Shiva became pleased by his devotion and appeared. Lord Shiva said–’You will be blessed with an enlightened son who would liberate your whole clan.’
In course of time Manti’s wife became pregnant but amazingly did not deliver a baby even after a long time. Four years passed like this but Manti’s wife did not deliver the child. Manti was perplexed by this unusual event so he asked the baby, who was still in his mother’s womb as to why he was hesitant to come out.The child replied that he feared ‘Kaal’ and this was the reason why he was not taking birth. The child said–’If you can assure me of protection from ‘Kaal’ then I shall certainly take birth.’ How could have Manti given such an assurance. So he took refuge in Lord Shiva.Lord Shiva ordered four of his ganas to go and convince the baby. The names of these five ganas were Dharma, Gyan, Vairagya Aishwarya and Adharma. They assured the baby by saying–’Get rid of your fear. We assure you that each four of us (Dharma, Gyan, Vairagya and Aishwarya) will never abandon you.”
The fifth gana named Adharma on the contrary promised not to caste his evil Shadow on the baby. These assurances were enough for the baby to come out from the womb. But, even after taking birth the child was trembling and wailing in fear.The ganas said–Manti! Your child is still fearful of the Kaal. He is trembling and crying inspite of the best of our efforts to drive away is fears. So he will become famous as Kaalbhiti (one who is fearful of Kaal).
Kaalbhiti grew up to be a virtuous person. He used to engage himself in various kinds of austerities. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva.One day, as Kaalbhiti was meditating under a ‘bael’ tree (wood apple), he went into his trance. The joy experienced during trance period was something, which he had never experienced before. He decided to regularly meditate under that tree. He did penance for one hundred years standing on his toe.Lord Shiva became pleased by his devotion and appeared in the guise of a human being. Lord Shiva said–’O Great soul Please discontinue with your penance. I have brought some water for you! Please quench your thirst!’
But Kaalbhiti refused to take water from an unknown person. He requested Lord Shiva to reveal his identity. Kaalbhiti also inquired Lord Shiva about his religion and conduct. Lord Shiva told him that he was beyond any religion or conduct.When Kaalbhiti refused to have water, Lord Shiva dug up a large pit and emptied the pot into it. After that he disappeared.Kaalbheeti stood fixed at that place, being stunned by the disappearance of Lord Shiva. Suddenly, an effulgent Shivalinga appeared under that bael (wood apple) tree. Kaalbheeti worshipped that shiva-linga which was radiating light in all directions.Now, lord Shiva appeared and blessed Kaalbheeti to become free from the fear of Kaal(Death). From that day onwards the Shivalinga situated there became famous as Mahakaal. Before disappearing once again, Lord Shiva instructed Kaalbheeti to preach Sage Karandham who was expected to visit him shortly. Kaalbheeti himself became renowned as Mahakaal because he had been successful in conquering death.



KARANDHAM’S QUERIES
As predicted by Lord Shiva, king Karandham arrived at the place where Mahakaal (Kaalbheeti) was staying. First of all he worshipped Lord Mahakaal and subsequently went to meet sage Mahakaal (previously Kaalbheeti).King Karandham had numerous doubts regarding the rituals of Shraddh so he asked Mahakaal–’How does the rituals related to ‘tarpan’ satisfy the dead ancestors?’
Mahakaal replied–The souls of dead ancestors are capable of accepting whatever is offered to them. Time and distance does not matter to them. They accept only the essence of whatever is offered to them and not the gross materials as such.Karandham posed his second query–’I think a soul, after it has abandoned the mortal body is bound by its own karma. Then, how, can the dead ancestors be expected of giving us blessings and changing our fortunes.’
Mahakaal replied—Not all Pitras (dead ancestors) are bound by their karma. Pitras belonging to different classes like deities, ‘asuras’ and ‘yaksha’ are unembodied and formless (amurta). Similarly, the dead ancestors of all the four castes are called ‘murta Pitras’ (with form). These seven types of Pitras are considered to be eternal and powerful. They also transcend the law of Karma. A total number of 31 ganas are subordinate to them. The rituals of Shraddh are performed for the pacification of these seven eternal Pitras. These seven Pitras are the ones who shower blessings on the performers of Shraddh rituals.’Karandham’s next question was–’Some people are of the view that one can attain salvation only by taking refuge in Lord Vishnu. While some think that only Lord Brahma is capable of giving salvation. There are many people who consider Lord Shiva as the supreme liberator. What do you have to say on this?’
Mahakaal replied–’God is one. The three deities you have named even they eulogize each other. It is nothing but foolishness to grade them as superior, average or inferior. The thing, which matters most in the path of salvation, is individual’s unflinching faith and devotion. Any deity in whom he has total devotion is capable of giving salvation.Karandham then requested Mahakaal to describe the appropriate rituals related with the worship of Lord Shiva.
Mahakaal replied—A devotee who puts on ‘tripund’ mark on his forehead, chest and both the shoulders while worshipping Lord Shiva is blessed to see the divine appearance of Lord Shiva. He should enter the temple premise with a pure heart. After entering the temple he should purify the Shiva linga by removing all the unnecessary articles which may be lying there. He should then fill up four ‘Garuas’ (drinking pot with a curved spout) with water. Articles like milk, curd clarified butter, honey and Sugarcane juice are kept to the left side of Shiva linga.The devotee should then come out of the temple and worship the ‘dwarpalas’. After that, deities like Kuldevta, Nandi, Mahakaal Dhata and Vidhata are worshipped.
Once again he should enter the temple and sit in front of the Shivalinga and meditate on Lord Shiva. While performing ‘ardhya’ he should make offerings of articles like water, akshat, Kusha grass, sandalwood, flowers, mustard seeds, milk, curd and honey.Having offered ardhya, a devotee should perform the ritual of ablution with water, milk, curd, honey, clarified butter, and sugarcane juice in the given order.
While performing this ritual the devotee should also offer dhupa (incense) and chant
‘OM HOOM VISHVAMURTAYE NAMAH’.
Some other deities whom a devotee must worship along with the worship of Lord Shiva are Ishan, Tatpurush, Sadryojat etc. A devotee must also not forget to worship Shiva’s trident. While doing this he should chant
TRISHUL DHANUH KHADGA KAPAL KUTHAREBHYO NAMAH.
A devotee should conclude his worship by begging for Lord Shiva’s forgiveness for any mistake that he might have committed while performing the rituals.


ARUNACHAL SHIVA LINGA
Once, Sutji had gone to Naimisharanya. All the sages residing there asked him about the manifestation of Arunachal Shivalinga.Sutji recounted a tale when Sage Sanak had posed the same query to Lord Brahma — ‘Lord Brahma had told Sanak-Son, once Lord Vishnu and I witnessed an effulgent Pillar. It had manifested from nowhere and was limitless in size. It’s radiance put the whole world ablaze. Both of us worshipped that marvelous pillar by chanting vedic mantras.’Actually, that effulgent pillar was a Shivalinga. Lord Shiva manifested from it after being pleased by our devotion. We requested him to minimize his size and establish himself in the form of Arunachal Shivalinga.’
‘Lord Shiva agreed to minimize his size as well as his effulgence by establishing himself in the form of ‘Arunachaleshwar’.The holy place of Arunachaleshwar remains untouched while the whole world gets submerged in water at the time of deluge.


LORD SHIVA–THE SOVEREIGN CREATOR
The sages then asked Sutji how Lord Shiva had created the universe.
Sutji replied—Lord Shiva commenced creation by his own will. Vishnu manifested from the left side of his body while Brahma from the right side. He then attributed the qualities of ‘Rajas’ and ‘Satva’ to Brahma and Vishnu respectively. From then onwards Lord Brahma took the responsibility of further creation and Lord Vishnu became the preserver of the world.Later on Lord Brahma created his ten Manasputra (Marichi etc,) by his will and Daksha Prajapati from his right thumb. He also created the brahmins from his mouth, Kshatriyas from both his arms, Vaishyas from both his thighs and Shudras from both his feet respectively.Both, the deities and demons came from the lineage of Sage Kashyap, who himself was Marichi’s son. Not only that Kashyap also fathered different species like Marut, Nag, Yaksha, Gandharva and apsaras.
Similarly, Lord Brahma had also created Manu who is believed to be the person from whom human race originated. All the sages as well as the Kshatriyas are the descendants of Sage Atri. Yakshas originated from Pulastya whereas Rakshashas were the descendants of Pulah. Agni as well as Sages like Chyavan was the descendant of Bhrigu. Many famous sages came from the lineage of Vasishth. These are the names of few prominent sages, whose descendants have populated the earth.Thus, Lord Shiva is the Sovereign creator because he created Brahma–the creator.


EXECUTION OF SHUMBH NISHUMBH & MAHISHASUR
The demons named Shumbh and Nishumbh had received boons from Brahma according to which no deity, demon or Man could kill him. Shumbh and Nishumbh became excessively arrogant and started tormenting the deities. All the deities including Lord Vishnu went to Lord Shiva and requested for his help. Lord Shiva assured them that both the demons would be killed at the opportune time. The deities were satisfied and returned back to their respective abodes.Parvati was of dark complexion. She thought that Shiva would be more affectionate towards her if she somehow discarded her dark skin. She eventually discarded her dark skin at a place and it instantly got transformed into ‘Kali Kaushiki’. She then did an austere penance at Vindhyachal mountain. At that time, Shumbh and Nishumbh lived there. When both the demons saw goddess Kali Kaushiki her divine beauty infatuated them. But Goddess Kali Kaushiki ultimately killed both of them.
Having accomplished her mission, Kali Kaushiki did a tremendous penance at ‘Gauri-peak’ and regained her fair complexion. In course of time she became the mother of Ganesh and Kartikeya. Once, goddess Parvati went to Arunachal mountain where Sage Gautam was doing penance. She was so enchanted by the scenery over there that she decided to do penance. She instructed goddess Durga to stand guard till she accomplished her penance. She also ordered the two goddesses Subhaga and Dhundhukumari to keep a watch in all directions.
Mahishasur–the demon sent a female messenger to convince Parvati into marrying him. The female messenger disguised herself as a female hermit and tried to impress all the three goddess who were keeping surveillance by praising the glory of Mahishasur–
‘O beautiful ladies! Why is your mistress living in such a secluded place? She is worthy of living in a royal palace. There is nobody among the deities who is fit enough to marry her. But, Mahishasur–the lord of all the three worlds is certainly fit to become her husband.’But all the three goddesses drove the female messenger away. Ultimately, Mahishasur came accompanied by a large army to forcibly abduct goddess Parvati. The commotion caused by the demons disturbed Parvati’s meditation. She instructed Durga to kill all the demons.Goddess Durga transformed her appearance. Now she looked ferocious in her new appearance. She was well equipped with all sort of lethal weapons and was mounted on a lion. She thundered loudly and challenged Mahishasur. Countless ‘yoginis’ manifested from her body. These yoginis attacked Mahishasur’s army and killed many demons. The whole battlefield was splashed with blood.
Goddess Chamunda (Durga) severed the heads of ‘Chand’ and ‘Mund’ with her chakra. Mahishasur was enraged and he attacked goddess Durga. Some other demons like Prachanda, Chamar, Mahamauli, Mahahanu, Ugravaktra, Vikataksha and Dahan also came forward to help him but each one of them was killed by goddess Durga.Now, Mahishasur’s anger crossed all limits and he menacingly ran towards goddess Durga. A severe battle was fought between both of them. When Mahishasur realized that the goddess was dominating the battle, he started changing his guises frequently. He tried to dodge goddess Durga by transforming his appearance into that of a boar. But, goddess Durga kept on chasing him. Then, Mahishasur became a lion. This way he kept on changing his appearances frequently to avoid getting killed by goddess Durga. Once he transformed himself into a buffalo but goddess Durga attacked him.
This way, Mahishasur was forced to change his appearance frequently on account of relentless attack by goddess Durga. Ultimately Durga killed him. Goddess Durga picked up his severed head and danced in joy. The deities were relieved at the death of Mahishasur.


PARVATI RECEIVES ARUNCHALESHWAR’S GRACE
Goddess Durga then went to the place where goddess Parvati was still doing penance. She held Mahishasur’s head in one hand and a sword in the other.Goddess Parvati said—’O Vindhyavasini! You have accomplished an impossible act. If it were not for you I would not have been able to accomplish my own penance. Now, you should get rid of this skull and create a holy spring bathing in which would destroy your sin acquired by killing Mahishasur.’
Goddess Durga hit ferociously at a huge rock breaking it into pieces. A large pit was created which was soon filled up with underground water. She then took her bath in it by chanting NAMAH SHONADRINATHAY.
In the meantime, an amazing incident took place. While goddess Durga was taking her bath with Mahishasur’s skull in her hand, a Shivalinga, which was struck in Mahishasur’s throat fell down. This Shivalinga later on became famous as ‘Papanashan Shivalinga’. She then released the skull and came out from the pond.Arunachaleshwar (Lord Shiva) became pleased by Parvati’s devotion and appeared before her. Lord Arunachaleshwar then made Parvati to sit by his left side. The next moment Parvati’s identity mingled with that of Lord Arunachaleshwar. The place where this incident took place, there is situated a grand temple of goddess Apitastani and Lord Arunachaleshwar.


Vaishnava Khand
LORD VARAH SATISFIES PRITHVI’S CURIOSITY
Sutji then narrated the tale of Lord Varah to the sages, which he had heard from Sage Vyas—
Once, while Narad was wandering about, he reached Meru mountain where he saw the abode of Lord Brahma. He also saw a giant sized entity, just next to Brahma’s abode. The person possessed four arms and his face resembled a boar. The person held a conch and a chakra in his two hands–The remaining two hands were in the postures of giving blessings. Narad was very surprised to see that divine person being surrounded by Sages like Vashishth, Atri, Markandeya and Bhrigu. After paying his eulogy to him, he stood in a corner.In the meantime, Prithvi (earth) arrived there with her two companions–Ila and Pingla. She was curious to know about the identities of various mountains, which Lord Varah had established on her.Lord Varah told Prithvi about the prominent mountains—Mountains like Sumeru, Himavan, Mandarachal, Vindhyachal, Pariyatrak, Mahendra, Malay, Sinhachal and Gandhamadan are situated to the north of Himalaya.
The mountain ranges situated to the south of Himalaya are Arunachal, Hasti, Gridhachal and Ghatikachal. Sages believe that in Satyayuga Lord Vishnu had his abode at Anjan Mountain, while in tretayuga, dwaparyuga and Kaliyuga he has his abode at Narayangiri, Sinhachal and Shrivenketachal respectively.Lord Varah and Prithvi flew away towards Venkatachalgiri mounted on Garuda.



LORD VARAH MANTRA
On their way, Prithvi requested Lord Varah to reveal the sacred mantra, chanting of which makes him pleased.
Lord Varah said–’The secret mantra that pleases me to no limits is —OM NAHAM SHRIVARAHAY DHARANYU UDDHARNAY SWAHA. This mantra is capable of liberating a man and also brings all sort of worldly accomplishments to him.In the first Krita yuga, a Manu named Dharma had realized me by continuously chanting this mantra. Even Indra regained the control of heaven by chanting it. Anant–the lord of all serpents, chanted Varaha mantra and as a result became capable of holding the earth on it’s hood.’


MANIFESTATION OF PADMAVATI
Lord Varah then narrated the tale of Padmavati’s manifestation to Prithvi. He also revealed to her that Padmavati was the reincarnation of Vedavati and had manifested so that she could become his (Vishnu) consort.Lord Varah said—Once upon a time there lived an emperor named Akash. One day he ordered his men to get the land situated at the bank of Arani ploughed so that a grand yagya could be organized there.As the land was being cultivated, the plough suddenly struck against something. People ploughing the field dug up that place and were surprised to find an infant girl, crying loudly.The news of girls’ manifestation spread like a wild fire. The emperor became extremely happy since he had no progeny. He brought up that child as his own daughter. This way the baby girl was brought up like a princess. She was named Padmavati. Padmavati proved very lucky for the emperor, as the emperor, who was still sonless till then was blessed with a son. This male child was named Vasudan.
One day, Narad visited the palace and met both the children. He was impressed by Vasudan’s intelligence but Padmavati appeared to be shy and absorbed in her own thoughts. Narad lovingly called her and instructed her to spread her left palm. Narad was amazed to find signs, which predicted Padmavati’s marriage to Lord Vishnu. Everybody living in the palace became happy after getting this news.Narad then went away.


PADMAVATI BECOMES LORD HARI’S CONSORT
Continuing with the tale, Lord Varah said– One day, while Padmavati and her companions were playing in the garden, they saw an equestrian approaching them. He held a bow and arrows in both his hands.The stranger asked all the girls whether they had seen a wolf. Apparently the stranger was on his hunting spree. Padmavati angrily reminded the stranger that hunting was strictly prohibited in that area and hence he should go back home.The stranger was stunned by Padmavati’s beauty and said–’I am Ananta from Venketachal mountain. People also call me Veerpati. Can I have this beautiful lady as my wife.’
Padmavati’s companions angrily rebuffed Anant who then galloped back on his horse. These unfortunate girls were unable to recognize Lord Vishnu who had come disguised as Anant.After reaching his palace, Anant found it very difficult to concentrate on his work. His mind was occupied by the thoughts of Padmavati. One day, while he was sitting in a thoughtful mood, Vakulmalika (a maid servant) arrived there and requested him to come down for lunch. But, Sri Hari (Anant) was lost in the thoughts of Padmavati. On being asked by Vakulmalika, Sri Hari narrated the following tale to her —
In treta yuga, when I had incarnated as Ram, Ravan had deceit- fully abducted my consort–Sita. But fortunately she was not Sita but Agni’s consort Swaha. Before this incident could occur,Agni had already taken Sita to Patalloka and kept his own wife ‘Swaha’ in her place. Indra’s act had special purpose behind it–to avenge Swaha’s death,who was Vedavati in her previous birth and who had committed suicide after being touched by the same demon.Actually, Agni’s consort ‘Swaha’ was ‘Vedavati’ in her previous birth. So, in reality Ravan had abducted Vedavati instead of Sita. Later on, I thanked Agni and promised him that I would make Vedavati my consort in Kaliyuga. The same vedavati has taken birth as Padmavati. You must go and convince Padmavati to become my consort.Vakulmalika went to Narayanpur and informed the king about Sri Hari’s desire. Emperor Akash was extremely delighted at the prospect of having Sri Hari as his son-in-law. An auspicious day was chosen for the marriage and thus, Lord Sri Hari got Padmavati as his consort.


KING PAREEKSHIT
Once, Sutji narrated the tale of king Pareekshit to all the assembled sages—
Pareekshit ruled over Hastinapur. One day he went into a forest on a hunting spree. He saw a deer and managed to injure it with his arrow. But the injured deer disappeared from his sight. Pareekshit chased the injured deer in the direction it had disappeared.He reached a place where sage Shamik was engrossed in his meditation. Pareekshit enquired sage Shamik if he had seen that injured deer. Bur sage Shamik being in deep meditation did not respond to Pareekshit query. This made Pareekshit extremely angry and he wrapped a dead snake around Shamik’s neck as a punishment for not having answered his question. But, it made no difference to Sage Shamik and he continued with his meditation. Pareekshit went back fuming in anger.
Shringi was the son of Sage Shamik. When he saw a dead snake coiling around his father’s neck, he cursed–’Whoever has tried to insult my father will not live to see the seventh day because a takshak nag would bite him to death.’
When sage Shamik learnt about his son’s curse, he reproached his son and sent a disciple named ‘Daurmukh’ to inform Pareekshit so that he (Pareekshit) could take some preventive measures. Daurmukh went and narrated the whole incident to king Pareekshit.Pareekshit became very scarred and he started living on a canopy that had been constructed in the middle of river Ganges on his instructions. Now he felt secured and safe.Meanwhile a poor brahmin named Kashyap came to know about the curse that poor Pareekshit had received. He knew how to cure a person bitten by snake. So he thought that it was an excellent opportunity for him to receive monetary awards from the king. So, he proceeded towards the place where Pareekshit was staying.
On his way, Kashyap met a brahmin who in reality was takshak in disguise. Takshak was on his way to kill Pareekshit. He asked Kashyap about the reason he was going to meet Pareekshit. Kashyap revealed to Takshak that he could neutralize the influence of poison in any person bitten by a snake. Takshak wanted to examine the authenticity of Kashyap’s statement, so he inserted his poisonous fangs into the trunk of a huge tree. A man was sitting on the branches of that tree. The tree as well as the man was charred to death within no time.
Kashyap, really brought the tree and that man back to life. Takshak was stunned by this unbelievable act. He asked Kashyap how much he expected as reward from the king. Kashyap revealed the amount, which he expected from Pareekshit in lieu of giving him a fresh lease of life. Takshak gave lot of wealth to him as a bribe and Kashyap went back home satisfied.Takshak then summoned all his companions and instructed them to go to the place where Pareekshit lived, disguising themselves as hermits. All the serpents went to meet Pareekshit impersonating as hermits and offered fruits to him. According to his plan,Takshak had hidden himself within a plum fruit. He bit Pareekshit as soon as he got a chance. Pareekshit died instantly.Janmejaya was crowned as the next king. Meanwhile, people started criticizing the treacherous conduct of Kashyap, which had resulted in the death of king Pareekshit. He decided to make a pilgrimage to Venketachaleshwar so that he became liberated from his sin.


KRISHNA TEERTH
Sutji narrated a tale to all the assembled sages–During ancient times, a brahmin named Ramkrishna did an austere penance at Venketachal mountain. He remained immobile during the entire course of his penance resulting into the development of mole hills all over his body.Indra was scarred by Ramkrishna’s penance and caused a heavy downpour for a week. All the mole hills were washed away from Ramkrishna’s body.Lord Srinivas became pleased and appeared before him. He blessed Ramkrishna by saying–’This holy place, where you have performed a great penance will be named after you as Krishna teerth. Anybody who makes a pilgrimage to this place will be liberated from all the sins.’
Eulogizing Lord Venketashwar, Sutji says—
‘A man, who has the good fortune of seeing the divine appearance of Lord Srinivas even for a moment, attains salvation.
SOME OTHER PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE ON VENKETACHAL MOUNTAIN
All the sages then requested Sutji to tell about some other places of pilgrimage situated on Venketachal mountain.
Sutji replied—There are about one hundred and eight holy places situated on Venketachal mountain. Among all these holy places, six are considered to be capable of bestowing salvation—Swami pushkarini, Akash ganga, Papvinashan, Panduteerth, Kumar dharika teerth and Tumbu teerth.


ANJANA’S PENANCE AT AKASHGANGA TEERTH
Describing how Vayudeva had once assured Anjana that he would take birth as her son, Sutji told the sages—Anjana, being issue less even after a long married life, decided to do penance in order to beget a son. Sage Matang advised her to go to Akashganga teerth where her wishes would get fulfilled. Sage Matang also described the geographical location– ‘At a distance of ten yojans towards south is situated Dhanachal mountain, which is believed to be the abode of Lord Nrisimha. Brahma teerth lies in its vicinity. At a distance of ten yojans south of Brahma teerth, flows river ‘Suvarnamukhari’. Venkentachal mountain is situated to the north of this river and the holiest place called Swamipushkarni is situated among its numerous peaks. You should visit that place and take a holy dip in its water. After that you should seek the blessings of Lord Varahaswami and Lord Venketeshwar. You should then go towards north of Swami teerth and you would reach Akashganga.’
Acting as per Matang’s instructions, Anjana went to Akashganga teerth and did her penance. Finally Lord Vayudeva appeared before her and promised to incarnate as Hanuman.


LORD VISHNU ADVISES LORD BRAHMA TO GO TO PURUSHOTTAM KSHETRA
The Sages asked—’O revered sage! We would like to know more about Purushottam Kshetra, where there is a majestic wooden idol of Lord Vishnu.’
Sage Jaimini replied–The sacrosanct place of Purushottam Kshetra is graced by the presence of Lord Jagannath. During ancient times, Lord Varah had rescued Prithvi from the clutches of Hiranyaksha–the mighty demon who had abducted her to Rasatala. After Prithvi had been established in its original position, Lord Brahma commenced his creations. Lord Brahma wondered about the means by which human beings could get liberated from three major types of sorrow—Adhyatmic (spiritual), Adhidaivik (deities wrath), Adhibhantik (related with this world). He sought the help of Lord Vishnu who eulogized the greatness of Purushottam Kshetra and advised him to go there. Lord Vishnu said– ‘Purushottam Kshetra is situated at the sea-shore, to the south of river Mahanadi. This sacroscant place of mine does not get affected by deluge. I dwell at this holiest place as ‘Lord Purushottam’. There is a holy pond called Rohin in the vicinity. Anybody who takes a holy dip in that pond gets absolved of all his sins. O Brahma! You must pay a visit to Purushottam kshetra where spending a day bestows virtues greater than all the austerities combined together.’
This way,Lord Brahma went to Purushottam kshetra as per the instructions of Lord Vishnu.



MARKANDEYA EULOGIZES VISHNU
Lord Brahma soon after reaching Purushottam kshetra sat down and started meditating. He was so engrossed in his meditation that he remained in that state for a very long time. This resulted into total chaos as Yamaraj found that his power of causing death had no effect on people living in Purushottam kshetra. Worried as he was, Yamaraj rushed towards Neelachal mountain and sought Lord Vishnu’s intervention in the matter.
Lord Vishnu smiled and signaled goddess Laxmi to say something. Goddess Laxmi said–’O Suryanandan! Anybody residing at this holy place is freed from the vicious cycles of birth and death after becoming absolved of all his sins. This is the reason why you are experiencing this unusual problem. The whole world except this holy place will come into your jurisdiction.’
Yamaraj was amazed by this revelation so he asked Laxmi–’I would like to know why such a privilege is being given to this place?’
Laxmi replied–’O Ravinandan! At the time of deluge when the whole world was submerged in the water sage Markandeya was struggling to find a secure place for his survival. Although he was blessed with an unusually long life of seven kalpas but still he needed a place to live in. He started swimming and finally managed to reach Purushottam kshetra, which had remained unscathed by the turbulence of the deluge. There he saw a divine tree called ‘Akshay Vat’. Markandeya continued to swim along the coast wondering how that place had managed to remain unaffected by deluge when the whole world had been submerged. Suddenly he heard a voice, which appeared to be coming from the direction of the Akshay Vat–’O Markandeya! Don’t worry! Take my refuge and you shall be protected.’
Markandeya was very surprised and looked all around. He kept on swimming and saw Lord Vishnu, who was engrossed in his yoga nidra in ksheer sagar. I (Laxmi) was also present there. Markandeya eulogized Vishnu in the following way–’Salutations to the supreme lord- the source of all creations! O Jagannath! Protect me from getting drowned.’
Lord Vishnu opened his eyes and found Markandeya gasping for breath. On realizing the gravity of the situation he said–’Raise your head and look at the top of this Kalpa Vat. You would find an infant sleeping on a leaf of the Kalpa Vat. The infant is none other than Kaal himself. You should enter inside his (Kaal’s) body through his opened mouth and live peacefully as there is no other place for you to live in.’
Markandeya entered into Kaal’s body as per the instructions given by Lord Vishnu and was amazed by the expanse of his belly, which appeared like a bottomless pit. He also saw all the fourteen Bhuvans existing within Kaal’s belly including all the creatures-deities, sages, siddhas, gandharvas, etc. Markandeya wandered all over the place and after getting tired came out through Kaal’s opened mouth. He found Lord Vishnu was still present there accompanied by his consort-Laxmi. Markandeya made salutations to both of them and narrated his experiences he had inside Kaal’s belly.Lord Vishnu blessed him and made a revelation–’ The place you had visited few moments ago is beyond the limits of creation or deluge. The name of this holiest place is Purushottam kshetra and it is my permanent abode for I do not leave it even for a moment.’Markandeya was very impressed and requested Lord Vishnu to allow him to live there. Lord Vishnu replied–’ O Brahmarishi! I shall remain at Purushottam-kshetra till the end of this kalpa. I shall also create a sacrosanct place, which would enable you to become immortal.’
Sage Markandeya then dug up a reservoir with the help of Vishnu’s chakra. He did an austere penance to please lord Maheshwar as the result of which he was indeed blessed with immortality. In course of time, this reservoir became famous as ‘Markandeya kund’.


HOLY PLACES IN THE VICINITY OF PURUSHOTTAM – KSHETRA
Dwelling in length upon the majesty of Purushottam kshetra, goddess Laxmi said–Purushottam kshetra resembles a conch in shape and is graced by the presence of lord Shiva. Towards its north is situated a temple of lord Neelkanth. A famous shiva linga named Kapal mochan is also situated in the vicinity. One who makes a pilgrimage to Kapalmochan becomes liberated from gravest of sins. A temple of goddess Vimla devi is also situated nearby.
Purushottam kshetra is considered to be supreme among all the places of pilgrimage and for this very reason it is aptly named ‘Teerth Raj’. A divine pond called Rohin kund is also situated nearby. Anybody who takes a holy dip there is freed from the vicious cycles of birth and death. It is believed that the increased level of water at the time of deluge ultimately recedes and disappears into this pond.
Goddess Laxmi said–’ O Dhanraj! This holy place is beyond your jurisdiction because people living there never experience death. It is well protected by eight goddesses from all the eight directions. The names of these eight goddesses are Mangla, Lamba, Kaalratri, Marichika, Vimla, Sarvamangla, Ardhashini and Chandrupa. How can lord Rudra be absent when Rudrani has manifested herself in eight forms, so, he has manifested himself in eight different forms as well- Kapalmochan, Kshetrapal, Yameshwar, Markandeyeshwar, Ishan, Bilveshwar, Neelkanth, and Vateshwar.While describing the majesty of Purushottam kshetra, goddess Laxmi revealed to lord Brahma–’ In the coming satya yuga there would be a king named Indradyumna and would be famous for his unflinching devotion in lord Vishnu. Being pleased by the king’s devotion, lord Vishnu would ultimately manifest himself from a wooden structure to bless him. Vishwakarma would then carve out four idols (Jagannath, Balbhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan chakra) from the wooden block all of which would be installed by none other than you (Brahma).’
Once, while sage Jaimini was describing the greatness of Purushottam kshetra to the assembled sages, all of them curiously asked him–
‘ Where is Purushottam kshetra situated ?
Jaimini replied –’ Utkal is situated at the eastern coast of Bharatvarsha. At the time of deluge, when everything gets submerged in water Utkal remains unaffected and it is the very place from where the knowledge of the Vedas spread in all directions. The residents of Utkal are not only learned but also very prosperous. There is not a single person in this land who is not a devotee of lord Vishnu. All the people belonging to the four prominent castes (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra) diligently follow their respective dharma. This holy place never experiences natural calamities of any kind.’
Sage Jaimini then went on to narrate the tale of king Indradyumna to all the assembled sages –
‘In satya yuga there lived a noble and virtuous king named Indradyumna, who ruled over the province of Malva. He was a great devotee of lord Vishnu. One day, while worshipping in a temple, he asked the priest-I have a wish, which still remains unfulfilled. I have a deep desire of seeing lord Jagannath with my mortal eyes. Is there any means with the help of which I can get my wish fulfilled?
The royal priest had no answer to the king’s query so he kept quiet.Suddenly, he saw a group of pilgrims coming towards the temple. He thought that perhaps one of them might be having an answer to the king’s query. When the pilgrims arrived at the temple, the royal priest posed the same question to them. One of the pilgrims answered–’ There is a place called Odhra, where is situated a grand temple of lord Jagannath. This sacrosanct place is also famously known as Purushottam kshetra and is situated at the foothills of the Neelachal mountain. There is a holy pond called Rohin situated nearby. At the eastern bank of this pond is situated a majestic temple of lord Vasudev. The idol of lord Vasudev is made of ‘Indraneel’ diamond. To the west of this temple lies ‘Shabardeep’ hermitage, from where starts a path leading to Jagannath temple.’
Having said this, the pilgrim disappeared from everybody’s sight. Not only Indradyumna but all the pilgrims were equally amazed by his sudden disappearance. Indradyumna was convinced that lord Jagannath had himself come there in the guise of a pilgrim. Now, his desire of visiting Purushottam kshetra became even more intense. Indradyumna instructed his priest to find out the exact location of Purushottam kshetra by sending somebody over there. Later on, the priest went home and sought the help of Vidyapati-his younger brother in this regard. Vidyapati readily agreed to help his brother and one fine day he proceeded on his journey with a select group of his trusted friends.
After a long and arduous journey all of them reached ‘Ekamravan’ forest, situated at the foothills of Neelachal mountain. The thought of being so near their destination made everybody extremely excited. But, despite their best of efforts they could not find Shabardeep ashram. Being tired, all of them decided to take rest for a while and then recommence their efforts to find out the location of Shabardeep hermitage. Finding a huge tree, all of them took rest under the shade of that tree. Suddenly, they heard a heavenly voice, which appeared to be coming from the western direction. They followed the voice and reached Shabardeep ashram in a short time. There they saw a large gathering of devotees. One of the devotees, whose name was Vishvavasu, curiously asked Vidyapati–’It is not easy to reach this place. From where are you coming and where do you intend to go? You must be tired–wait, till I return with some refreshment for all of you.’
Vidyapati was not in a mood to waste his time, as he was aware that Indradyumna was eagerly waiting for him to return. He told Vishvavasu– I have a difficult mission to accomplish so, I am not in a position to waste my time. I am the younger brother of the royal priest of king Indradyumna. The king has vowed not to have a single morsel of food till he makes a pilgrimage to Purushottam kshetra. He has sent me with a specific purpose of finding the exact location of Purushottam kshetra and the easiest route leading to it. So, help me reach the temple of lord Jagannath as soon as possible.’


VIDYAPATI EULOGIZES LORD NEELMADHAV
Vishvavasu told Vidyapati–’ I have heard this prophesy of Indradyumna’s possible arrival at Purushottam kshetra in the near future. Not only that, I have also heard that Indradyumna would become so impressed with Purushottam kshetra that he would settle down there for good after renouncing everything.’
Vishvavasu then requested Vidyapati to follow him and started negotiating the steep heights of Neelachal mountain. Vidyapati followed him through the curvy and arduous paths of the mountain. Having walked for sometime, Vishvavasu pointed towards a pond and said–This pond is famously known as Rohin kund. The kalpa vat that you see towards the east of this pond is considered to be so sacrosanct that a sinner becomes liberated of all his sins once he comes under its shade. Lord Jagannath’s temple is situated between Rohin kund and the kalpa vat. Go ahead and have a darshan of lord Jagannath for whom you have undertaken such an arduous travel.
Vidyapati’s joys knew no bounds as he had been waiting for this moment for a long time. First he purified himself by taking a holy dip in Rohin kund and then went inside the temple to worship lord Jagannath. He worshipped lord Jagannath by chanting the sacred pranav mantra.After the worship was over, Vishvavasu requested Vidyapatito visit his place which was nearby. Vidyapati agreed and accompanied Vishvavasu to his place. Vidyapati was given a royal treat by his host, which made him wonder as to how could Vishvavasu arrange all the luxurious things at such a remote place. He could not control himself and asked Vishvavasu– Even a king would have found it difficult to treat his guest as lavishly like you! I am amazed how you could make arrangements for all these things at a remote and secluded place like this! How do you manage this?
Vishvavasu replied– It is not as difficult as you believe. Since Purushottam kshetra is a sacrosanct place and it is frequently visited by the deities who make divine offerings to lord Jagannath. I collect the residuals of whatever is offered to Jagannath from the temple and bring it home. So, I really don’t have to make any special efforts to accumulate divine food stuffs. On account of eating these divine food stuffs, not only we have been blessed by eternal youth but also we are never troubled by old age.Vidyapati was very impressed and requested Vishvavasu to become his friend. He also reminded Vishvavasu that he wanted to return as soon as possible so that the king could go on a pilgrimage to Purushottam kshetra. But, Vishvavasu made a shocking disclosure to Vidyapati and said– King Indradyumna will never be able to have a divine glimpse of lord Jagannath as the lord is soon going to disappear. But, don’t disclose this fact to the king otherwise he would get disheartened and abandon his plan of making a pilgrimage to Purushottam kshetra. Finally, when the king in his utter frustration would try to end his life after not being able to have a divine glimpse of Neelmadhav, the most gracious lord will appear in his dream and instruct him to get constructed four wooden idols of Jagannath, Balbhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan chakra.
Having accomplished his mission, Vidyapati proceeded on his return journey and once again he visited Purushottam kshetra, which fell on the way. He picked up a garland, which had been offered to Neelmadhav by some deity.Finally, when he reached Malwa he found king Indradyumna eagerly waiting for him. After presenting the garland to the king, he narrated his experiences he had at Purushottam kshetra–’ O king! Lord Jagannath’s idol is made of Neelmani diamond and is very ancient. Even the deities have deep regards and undiluted reverence for lord Jagannath and are frequent visitors to Purushottam Kshetra. The garland, which I have given you, was in fact had been offered to Lord Jagannath by the deities- these flowers do not wither and have fragrance lasting for eternity. Purushottam kshetra remains untouched by old age, sorrow or disease and gives salvation to anybody, who goes on a pilgrimage over there.’


INDRADYUMNA LEAVES FOR PURUSHOTTAM KSHETRA
Indradyumna had been waiting for this moment for a long time- the moment when he would get a chance to go on a pilgrimage to Purushottam kshetra. Revealing his great plan to Vidyapati, he said–’ Now, the time has finally come for me to go on a pilgrimage to Purushottam kshetra. I also intend to develop that holy place as a prominent place of pilgrimage. I would shift my subject to that holy place and perform one hundred Ashwamedha yagyas once I reach there. I also intend to devote rest of my life in the worship of Lord Jagannath.’
While the conversation was going on, the ever wandering sage-Narad, arrived there and informed Indradyumna how pleased were the deities after learning of his holy intention of developing Purushottam kshetra into a major place of pilgrimage. Narad also dwelt on length on the virtues of Jagannath’s worship. Indradyumna, thinking that Narad might prove to be of great help during the course of pilgrimage because of his vast travelling experience, requested him to accompany him to Purushottam kshetra. Narad readily agreed to accompany the king and said–’ O king! I shall reveal to you the importance of all the holy places that we come across in the course of our pilgrimage.’
Finally, king Indradyumna left for Purushottam kshetra followed by a large procession, that consisted of his subject, all the ministers and army officers. The entourage touched the bank of river Mahanadi by evening. Deciding to take rest and spend the night there, king Indradyumna first took his bath and then worshipped Lord Jagannath. After the king had taken his bath, all the rest of the people also took their bath and then everybody sat down to have their dinner. After the meal was over, while Indradyumna was busy discussing with his ministers on the future course of action, somebody came with the news that the king of Utkal had arrived. Indradyumna ordered the messenger to bring the esteemed guest with all the honour and respect. The king of Utkal arrived and broke a disturbing news– ‘ Indradyumna, I am afraid your intention of having a divine glimpse of Lord Jagannath is not going to fructify as lord Neelmadhav has presently concealed himself beneath a huge heap of sand caused by a ferocious sandstorm. The fallout of this inauspicious incident has been extremely adverse on my kingdom– as my people are experiencing acute famine.
Indradyumna was shocked, especially the thought of not getting a chance to have a divine glimpse of lord Neelmadhav made him dejected- he saw all his efforts going in vain. But, Narad consoled him by saying –’ Don’t worry! Lord Neelmadhav is extremely merciful and he will certainly give you an opportunity to have his divine glimpse.’



INDRADYUMNA REACHES ‘EKAMRACHHETRA’
Continuing with the tale of Indradyumna, sage Jaimini told all the sages–’ Next morning, Indradyumna and his entourage crossed Mahanadi on boats and reached Ekamrachhetra where they worshipped lord Purushottam. After that they worshipped on their onwards journey and reached Kotishwar Mahalaya where they worshipped lord Tribhuneshwar with appropriate rituals. Lord Tribhuneshwar appeared after becoming pleased and blessed Indradyumna that his wish of seeing lord Jagannath was soon going to be fulfilled. Lord Tribhuneshwar then instructed Narad–’ O great soul! After reaching Purushottam kshetra, help Indradyumna perform one hundred yagyas as per the instructions given by lord Brahma. I along with goddess Durga, dwell at the entrance of conch shaped Purushottam kshetra. Although, presently lord Jagannath has concealed himself beneath a heap of sand yet very soon he is going to manifest himself. Indradyumna should get constructed a magnificent temple of lord Jagannath at the same place, where once existed his idol and presently which is hidden beneath the heap of sand. Later on, Vishwakarma would then carve out four idols from a single piece of wood, which would subsequently be installed by Lord Brahma himself. Finally, Indradyumna’s wish of seeing lord Jagannath would get fulfilled.
Narad assured lord Tribhuneshwar that all his instructions would be followed in letter and spirit. The procession then left for the place indicated by Lord Tribhuneshwar.


INDRADYUMNA EULOGIZES LORD NEELMADHAV
After reaching the temple of Neelkanth-Mahadev, all of them worshipped Mahadev and Durga. They then visited the temple of lord Nrisimha, situated under a sandalwood tree at the foothills of Neelachal mountain.King Indradyumna was anxiously waiting for the moment he would have a divine glimpse of lord Jagannath. He requested Narad to take him to the place where Jagannath had hidden himself beneath the heap of sand. Narad took him near a Banyan tree and said–’ Look at this huge Banyan tree that is two yojans in height and whose trunk is spread in the area of one yojan. To the north of this Banyan tree and to the north of Nrisimha temple lies the place where lord Neelmadhav used to have his dwelling sometime ago but who has presently concealed himself. Now, the time is not very far when you would see lord Jagannath with your mortal eyes.’
Indradyumna bowed in reverence to the place where lord Jagannath was supposed to re-manifest himself in the near future. He eulogized the lord as if he were already present there and this was true as Jagannath’s idol was indeed present there albeit hidden beneath heaps of sand. He prayed–’ O lord! You are the one in whom every living creature ultimately takes refuge. My only wish is to be able to see your idol, which is presently hidden beneath heaps of sand.’Hardly had Indradyumna finished his prayer when he heard a heavenly voice–’O king! Do not worry! The day is not far when you would see me with your mortal eyes. You just need to follow Narad’s instructions and your wish will be fulfilled.


NARAD INSTALLS THE IDOL OF NRISIMHA

Narad told Indradyumna–’ Now, we should install an idol of lord Nrisimha near Neelkanth’s temple for this is the very place where you will be performing one thousand Ashwamedh Yagyas in the days to come. So, your first priority should be to get constructed a magnificent temple of lord Nrisimha. I plan to stay here for five more days as Vishwakarma will be needing my help in carving out the idol of lord Nrisihma.’
Leaving Narad alone near the Neelkanth temple, Indradyumna went near the sandalwood tree, which was at a little distance from the temple, and was surprised to find Sughat- Vishwakarma’s son waiting for him. He requested Sughat to construct a grand temple with its main entrance facing west. Sughat constructed the temple within four days. On the fifth day, Narad arrived there with an idol of lord Nrisimha, which had been carved out by Vishwakarma. An auspicious day was chosen for installing the idol. After the idol had been installed, every body including king Indradyumna, Narad as well as the people accompanying the procession worshipped Lord Narsimha.


INDRADYUMNA PERFORMS ASHWAMEDHA YAGYAS

Sages, who had been listening to the tale narrated by Jaimini with rapt attention till then asked–’ What did Indradyumna next do after the idol of Lord Nrisimha had been installed?’
Sage Jaimini replied–’ After the idol of Lord Nrisimha had been installed, Indradyumna began making preparations for Ashwamedha yagya. He sent invitations to all the deities, learned brahmins and sages. When everybody arrived, he made a special request to Indra to remain present at the oblation site till the completion of one thousand Ashwamedha yagyas.Indra assured Indradyumna of his full cooperation and advised him to go ahead with his plan of accomplishing one thousand Ashwamedha yagyas. Finally, Indradyumna performed the first yagya under the supervision of learned priests. This way, he was able to successfully accomplish nine hundred and ninety nine yagyas without any problem. Finally, when the last Ashwamedha yagya was being performed, Indradyumna had a divine glimpse of Lord Vishnu while he was engrossed in his meditation. Indradyumna narrated his experience to Narad to which he got a reply that it was a good omen, which proved that the king was going to see Lord Jagannath with his mortal eyes.


JAGANNATH IDOL IS CARVED OUT
After the rituals of final yagya ended, Narad advised Indradyumna to perform the rituals of ‘Purnahuti’ to mark the end of Yagya ceremony. Narad then went on to say–’ A tree is considered to be the partial incarnation (Ansha avatar) of Lord Vishnu for each of his hair that falls on the earth gets transformed into a tree.’ Narad, then pointing towards a tree told Indradyumna– ‘ The almighty Lord has manifested himself in the form of this tree. Now, you should make preparations to get this tree installed on the great altar inside the temple.’
The tree to which Narad had pointed was unique in the sense that it had only four branches on it. Indradyumna, following the instructions ordered his men to uproot the said tree and then install it on the ‘Mahavedi’ inside the temple. But, at the same time he was wondering as to who would carve out the four idols of Jagannath, Balbhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan chakra. Suddenly, a heavenly voice was heard–’ Lord Vishnu would manifest himself on the sacred altar on his own. An old carpenter, who is standing among you, should be sent inside the temple premise. The main door of the temple should then be shut and nobody should try to enter the temple till the idols are ready. One more thing to be kept in mind is that all of you should keep on beating drums so that nobody hears the sound emanating from the carving of the idols. Anybody, who hears this sound, is doomed to become deaf. Similarly, anybody who tries to see the act of idols being made shall loose his power of sight.’
Indradyumna made elaborate arrangements as per the instructions given by the heavenly voice. The old carpenter was sent inside and the main door of the temple shut. On the fifteenth day, Lord Jagannath manifested himself along with Balbhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan chakra. Once again heavenly voice was heard which said–’ O king! Get all the four idols coloured on the basis of the complexion of the respective deities. The colour of Jagannath’s idol should be dark blue similar to that of dark clouds. Similarly, the idol of Balbhadra should be coloured in white just like his fair complexion. The colour of goddess Subhadra’s idol should be reddish just like the rising Sun. Sudarshan chakra should be painted deep red. Either the descendants of Vishvavasu or your royal priest are entitled to participate in the consecration ceremony of the idols in future events.’
Indradyumna, once again following the instructions, got the idols coloured in the way specified by the heavenly voice. After that, all the four idols were adorned with beautiful apparels and ornaments. Now, they really looked divine in their new looks. Looking at the divine idols of Jagannath, Indradyumna went into trance. Seeing his condition, Narad advised not to waste time and seek any boon from lord Jagannath because the sole purpose for which Jagannath had manifested himself was to bless him and to fulfill his wish. Indradyumna immediately realized what Narad meant to say. He eulogized lord Jagannath in the following way–’ O Jagannath! Help me out from the sorrows of this world. I don’t aspire for anything else.’
Subsequently, Narad and the whole entourage, which had come along with king Indradyumna worshipped lord Jagannath, Balbhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan chakra. Lord Jagannath was worshipped amidst the chanting of dwadashakshar mantra while Jagannath was worshipped with Purush sukta. Similarly, Subhadra and Sudarshan chakra were worshipped amidst the chanting of Devisutra and vedic verses respectively. Finally, donations were made to the brahmins and everybody was sent off with respect.


CONSECRATION OF THE IDOLS
King Indradyumna was anxious to get performed the rituals of consecration as soon as possible, so he asked Narad–’ I am not aware of the proper rituals that are employed in the consecration of an idol. I need your help in this regard.’Narad then made a list of articles required for the consecration of idols and instructed Indradyumna to make arrangements for all those items. He also instructed the king to get constructed a grand palace for Lord Brahma, who was supposed to arrive shortly to perform the consecration ceremony. Narad said–’ Get constructed three chariots for all the three deities. The chariot meant for lord Jagannath should have a mast on its top with the figure of Garuda on it. Similarly, Balbhadra’s chariot should have a mast with a plough drawn on it whereas Subhadra’s chariot should have a mast with a beautiful lotus drawn on it. The number of horses pulling the chariots of Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra should be Sixteen, fourteen and twelve respectively.’
It did not take much time to construct the three chariots as per the instructions given by Narad. Very soon lord Brahma arrived there, accompanied by all the deities, to perform the consecration of the four idols. On seeing Lord Brahma, Indradyumna’s joys knew no bounds and he paid his obeisance to the creator. Lord Brahma said–’ See how fortunate you are. All the deities and sages have come here to help you in your cause.’
Lord Brahma then performed the rituals of consecration on the auspicious day of ashtami of the bright half of the hindu month Vaishakh. The day was Thursday and the Nakshatra was Pushya.


RATH YATRA
Dwelling on length about the auspicious days on which Rath Yatra should be taken out, sage Jaimini told the assembled sages–’ The combination of ‘Teej’ falling in the month of Vaishakh (bright half) and Rohini nakshatra, is considered to be extremely auspicious. A king should get constructed three chariots on the above mentioned day. The entire path along which the chariots as well as the procession is supposed to pass should be decorated with beautiful flowers and banners. On the second day of the bright half of the hindu month-Ashadh, all the three deities are worshipped and subsequently installed on their respective chariots, which are then pulled by the devotees. The procession then passes through the major routes of the city so that people can pay their obeisance. After reaching Gundicha Nagar, the procession should stay there for seven days on the bank of Bindu teerth. On the eighth day, all the chariots should begin their return journey. This famous Rath yatra lasts for nine days.


SOME PROMINENT PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE
Once, sage Shaunak asked Sutji about the means, which enabled human beings to attain salvation in Kaliyuga.
Sutji recounted a tale — Once, Kartikeya had posed the same question to kartikeya. Emphasizing on the importance of pilgrimages, Lord Shiva had told him that in kaliyuga anybody could attain salvation by going on pilgrimage to holy places. Giving names of some prominent holy places and rivers, Lord Shiva had told Kartikeya that some of them were capable of fulfilling any wish of a man, while some gave salvation. The names of some prominent rivers Lord Shiva had given were Ganga, Godavari, Narmada, Tapti, Yamuna, Kshipra, Gautami, Kaushiki, Kaveri, Tamraparni, Chandrabhaga, Sindhu, Gandaki, Sarswati, etc. According to Shiva all these rivers were not only capable of fulfilling any wish of a man but also giving salvation. Naming some prominent holy places, Lord Shiva had told Kartikeya that Ayodhya, Dwarka, Kashi, Mathura, Avanti, Kurukshetra, Ramteerth, Kanchi, Purushottam kshetra, Pushkar kshetra, Varah kshetra and Badrikashram were capable of liberating a man from the sorrows of this world.’
Lord Shiva had told Kartikeya– ‘Anybody who goes on a pilgrimage to Ayodhya becomes absolved of all his sins. Lord Hari dwells at Dwarka and does not abandon it even for a moment. A devotee, who takes a holy dip in river Gomti and then pays obeisance to lord Krishna, attains salvation even if he is ignorant. In the same manner, one who takes a bath in the holy Panchganga at Varanasi, becomes free from the cycles of birth and death. Anybody, who goes on a pilgrimage to Kashi and pays obeisance to lord Vishwanath, is freed from all the bondage of this world. Great importance has been attached to the performance of ‘tarpan’ at Vishramteerth and anybody who performs the rituals of tarpan with sesame seeds and water, his ancestors are freed from the tortures of the hell. Taking a holy dip in Kotiteerth at Avantipuri, in the hindu month of Vaishakh and worshipping lord Mahakaleshwar too absolves a man of all his sins. Donating gold either at Kurukshetra or Ramteerth, on a solar eclipse day, helps a man in attaining salvation. Going on a pilgrimage to Purushottam kshetra and worshipping lord Jagannath after taking a holy dip in Markandeya sarovar, bestows incomparable virtues. Badrinath, the dwelling place of lord Vishnu, is considered to be the supreme place of pilgrimage and even its remembrance is capable of giving salvation. Virtues attained by the performance of various deeds (tapa, yoga, samadhi), appear to be insignificant as compared to virtues attained by going on a pilgrimage to Badrikashram.


THE MAJESTY OF BADRIKSHETRA
Kartikeya asked lord Shiva–’ How did this sacrosanct place originate? Who is the presiding deity of this place?’
Lord Shiva replied–’ Badrikashram is an eternal city and lord Narayan is its presiding deity. A mere sight of Badrikashram is enough to free a man from all the bondage of life. There are numerous other holy places situated in the vicinity, Kedarnath being one of them.’
To emphasize the significance of Badrikashram, lord Shiva narrated the following tale to Kartikeya–’ In Satyayuga, lord Vishnu existed in his physical form at Badrikashram for the benediction of human beings. But, in Tretayuga, only sages had the privilege of perceiving him with the help of yoga. At the advent of Dwapar things changed drastically and lord Vishnu just disappeared from Badrikashram. Deities became worried and asked lord Brahma about the reason that made lord Vishnu disappear. Even lord Brahma had no answer to this question. Thinking that lord Vishnu must have gone to Ksheer sagar-his eternal abode, all the deities led by Brahma went there. They eulogized Vishnu, who emerged from the Ksheer sagar. But, none of the deities except lord Brahma could see him. Lord Vishnu told Brahma that the main reason why he disappeared from Badrikashram was the flawed intelligence and arrogance of the deities. Brahma informed the deities whatever Vishnu had told him. All the deities were ashamed of themselves and returned to heaven with long faces. Feeling pity on the deities, I (Shiva) disguised myself as a sanyasi and carried lord Vishnu’s idol from Naradteerth to Badrikashram and installed it over there to uplift the sagging morale of the deities. This is how lord Vishnu once again graced Badrikashram with his presence. Even a grain of ‘prasad’ had at Badrikashram is enough to liberate a man from all his sins.


THE IMPORTANCE OF HINDU MONTH ‘KARTIK’
Once, on being asked by some sages about the significance of the hindu month- Kartik, Sutji narrated the following tale– ‘Once, Narad had asked lord Brahma the same question. At that time Lord Brahma had revealed to Narad that ‘Kartik’ was supreme among all the months just as lord Vishnu is supreme among all the deities and Badrikashram is the crown of all the places of pilgrimage. According to Brahma all these three would have greater significance in Kaliyuga as compared to any other yuga. Kartik is very dear to Lord Vishnu and any virtuous deed done during this month never goes without being rewarded. One important characteristic of this month is that all the deities live in the proximity of human beings for the entire period of the month and accept everything that is offered to them. Penance done in this month or donations made during this month is believed to give Imperishable virtues. There is a special significance of donating food grains during this month. Similarly, worshipping Shaligram during this month also has great significance. Observing austerities during this month or worshipping lord Vishnu with appropriate rituals liberates one’s ancestors from the tortures of the hell. Worshipping lord Vishnu with petals of Lotus helps him to become absolved of all the sins committed in his previous many births. Worshipping lord Vishnu with tulsi leaves helps one in getting cured of incurable diseases.



THE IMPORTANCE OF ‘ HOLY DIPS’ IN MARGASHIRSH
Continuing with the description of the significance of various months, Sutji said– ‘Once, while lord Vishnu was engrossed in his ‘yoganidra’ at Shwetdweepa, lord Brahma arrived there and requested him to describe the importance of Margashirsh. Lord Vishnu had told him that a devotee aspiring for unification with him, must observes austerities during this month. Describing the proper method of observing austerities lord Vishnu had said that one should get up early in the morning and after performing the ritualistic ‘achaman’, he should remember me by chanting my one thousand names. Next, he should take his bath according to the rituals mentioned in the scriptures, as follows– He should remove some soil from near the roots of tulsi plant and pluck few tulsi leaves. Holding both the things in his hand, he should chant either Gayatri mantra or the mantra, ‘om namo narayanay’, so that they become sanctified. While taking his bath, it is a must to eulogize Ganga in the following way- ‘ O Ganga! Though have manifested from Vishnu’s feet and hence called Vaishnavi. Myself being a devotee of lord Vishnu, you should protect me from all the possible sins I am likely to commit in my whole life.’ A devotee should say this prayer for seven times and take the same number of holy dips in the river. He should then put on tidy clothes and perform ‘tarpan’ in the names of all the deities sages as well as ancestors.


THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHARITY MADE IN ‘VAISHAKH’
Continuing with his tales, Sutji said–’ Once, king Ambarish asked Narad about the reason why lord Vishnu had special liking for the hindu month-Vaishakh. Narad’s answer was that Vaishakh had been given special privilege by lord Brahma himself and is believed to fulfill all the wishes of a man. No other month is as dear to Lord Vishnu as Vaishakh. The sin raises its ugly head only till a devotee has bathed before sunrise in the month of Vaishakh but once he has taken his bath all his sins just disappears. This is also the period when all the deities are believed to dwell in all the rivers, ponds, lakes, apart from the holy rivers. Great significance has been attached to doing charitable deeds in this month, especially providing water to thirsty. Similarly, donating certain articles like umbrella, fans, shoes, all have their own importance. One who gets constructed an inn for the comfort of the travelers and provides water to them attains imperishable virtues. No charitable deed can ever match the virtue of donating food grains and one who accomplishes this great act can be aptly called a ‘Pita’ (Father).


AYODHYAPURI
Once, on being asked by sage Bhardwaj and few others about the grandeur of Ayodhya, Sutji replied–’ Ayodhya, a sacrosanct city is based on the bank of river Saryu. It is the very city where the famous king Ikshavaku ruled once upon a time. The term Ayodhya means unconquerable and consists of three root letters: a- symbolizing Brahma, y-symbolizing Vishnu and dh-symbolizing Rudra. It is a place where lord Vishnu has his abode for eternity and does not leave it even for a moment. According to the scriptures Ayodhya is based on Sudarshan chakra. It is well expanded in the radius of one yojan. Its eastern boundary stretches up to one yojan from a place called ‘Sahastradhan’. Similarly, the western front stretches up to one yojan from a place called ‘Sama’, the southern up to one yojan from the bank of Saryu and its northern boundary up to one yojan starting from the bank of river Tamsa. In ancient times, a brahmin named Vishnu Sharma had performed an austere penance at Ayodhya. Lord Vishnu had appeared after becoming pleased by him and had created a holy place by digging up the earth with his Sudarshan chakra. Anybody, who takes a holy dip in Chakrateerth becomes absolved of all his sins.



Brahma Khand


RAMESHWAR KSHETRA
Once, Shaunak and few other sages asked Sutji as to how could a man become free from the bondage of the world. They also inquired whether there was an existence of any such holy place capable of liberating a man from heinous of sin.
Sutji replied–’ Ramteerth is supreme among all the places of pilgrimage. A mere sight of this holy place is enough to free a man from the bondage of this mortal world. Going on a pilgrimage to Rameshwar gives virtues similar to what is attained by performing all the yagyas. One, who takes a holy dip at Setu Rameshwar, attains to Vishnuloka. Merely by sleeping at the sea shore of Rameshwar a man gets absolved of heinous of sins like brahmhatya, etc. A man is blessed if his remains are consigned to the holy waters at Rameshwar after his death. Scriptures say that five types of sins are as grave as the sin of brahmahatya–
One, who criticizes sages
A selfish person who cooks food only for himself,
One who destroys well laid path making it difficult for people to tread upon,
One who accepts food from a ‘chandal’ and
One who sells food grains to a chandal. But, all these just disappears once the sinner reaches Rameshwar.


SETU BANDH
All the sages were curious to know about the holy places in the vicinity of Rameshwar. Sutji replied–Sri Ram replied went into exile accompanied by Sita, his consort and his younger brother, Laxman. Ravan, the demon king who ruled over Lanka deceitfully abducted Sita. Subsequently, Sri Ram befriended Sugreev and killed Bali, who harboured enemity against him. Sugreev sent monkeys in all directions to find out where Sita had been kept by Ravan. Later on Sri Ram reached Mahendra Parvat accompanied by Laxman, Hanuman, Sugreeva, Jambavan, Nal and may more brave warriors. They stayed for a brief period at Chakrateerth, where Vibhishan came to see Sri Ram. Eventually Vibhishan was nominated the king of all the demons by Sri Ram to the great displeasure of his brother Ravan.
Sri Ram and his army faced an uphill task of reaching Lanka for they had to cross the ocean, which lay as a great barrier between them and their destination. Samudra (ocean) revealed to Sri Ram that Nala had divine powers and whatever he would throw in the Ocean would not sink down but keep on floating. Nala tried to check the authenticity of Samudra’s statement by throwing a huge rock into the ocean, as he himself was not aware of his powers. To the sheer amazement of everybody present there the rock started floating on the surface of the ocean instead of sinking down. All the rest of the monkeys tried to emulate Nala’s feat by throwing huge rocks into the ocean and to their own surprise found that the rocks did not sink. This was how a bridge was built and across the ocean which made it possible for Sri Ram and his army to cross the ocean. Then length of Setu Rameshwar Bandh is hundred yojan and it is ten yojan broad. There are many holy places situated on the bridge prominent among which are Chakra-teerth, Paap-vinashan teerth, Sita -sarovar, Mangal- teerth, Amrit-watika, Brahma-kund, Hanumat- kund, Agastya-teerth, Ram-teerth, Laxman-teerth, Jaya-teerth, Laxmi-teerth, Agni-teerth, Shiv-teerth, Shankh-teerth, Yamuna-teerth, Ganga-teerth, Koti-teerth, Manas-teerth and Dhanushkoti teerth.


RAMESHWAR LINGA
Describing how Sri Ram had installed Rameshwar linga, Sutji said–’ After killing Ravan, Sri Ram enthroned Vibhishan as the king of Lanka. While returning to Ayodhya he made a brief stop at Gandhamadan mountain. Since the thought of having killed a brahmin (Ravan) kept on tormenting him, he decided to atone for his sins. So, he installed the idol of Rameshwar linga at Rameshwar setu. Rameshwar linga is so sacrosanct that all the holy places, sages and ancestors are believed to exist within the temple premise of Maheshwar linga. Being installed by Sri Ram himself, this particular linga has special significance attached to it. One who goes on a pilgrimage to this holy place is certain to attain salvation even if he were a ‘Mlechha’ (born in a low caste).


DHARMARANYA KSHETRA
Once, sage Vyas went to meet Yudhisthira, who requested him to describe the significance of Dharmaranya kshetra.
Sage Vyas replied– ‘ O king! Once, Dharmaraj-Yudhisthira did an austere penance to please lord Shiva. As usual, Indra became scarred because he thought that Dharmaraj was doing penance with the intention of acquiring Indraloka. He and other deities went to seek the help of lord Brahma, who did not have any clue. So, all of them went to Kailash mountain to seek Lord Shiva’s help. Since Shiva was aware of Dharma’s motive, he explained to the deities that there was nothing to worry about. But, Indra was not satisfied and the thought of loosing his kingdom continued to torment him.
Indra then instructed a beautiful Apsara named Vardhini to go to the place where Dharma was doing penance and disturb him by corrupting his thoughts. Vardhini went to the place where Dharma was engrossed in his penance and was successful in disturbing him. When Dharma opened his eyes he found a beautiful Apsara in front of him. Vardhini asked Dharma–’ O Lord! What is the objective with which you are doing such an austere penance? Being an embodiment of virtuosity yourself, you prevail in the whole world. So, in a sense you already the lord of the world – what else do you need?’
Dharma told Vardhini that he was doing penance with the objective of having a divine glimpse of lord Shiva. Vardhini informed him that Indra was scarred of losing his kingdom and hence had sent her to disturb his penance. Dharma was pleased by her truthfulness and wanted to reward her for that. Vardhini expressed her desire of having her abode in Indraloka for eternity and also of having a place of pilgrimage named on her. Dharma blessed her after which she returned to Indraloka.
Dharma once again engrossed himself in penance. Ultimately, Lord Shiva became pleased and appeared before him. ‘ Ask for any boon and it shall be bestowed to you’, said Lord Shiva. Dharmaraj replied -’ O lord! I want this place to be named after me. I also request you to grace this place by your presence.’ Lord Shiva blessed him and fulfilled both his wishes. This was how Dharmakshetra got its name. Subsequently, lord Shiva appeared in the form of Dharmeshwar linga in accordance with the second wish of Dharmaraj. After his penance was over, Dharma also had created a holy reservoir over there which is believed to absolve a man of all his sins.



LOSS OF MORAL VALUES IN KALIYUGA
On being asked by Yudhisthira about the life-style of people in Kaliyuga, sage Vyas replied– ‘There will be a widespread prevalence of sinful deeds and lack of moral values in Kaliyuga. People would become untruthful and would become critical of revered sages. Moral values would decline to such an extent their minds would be preoccupied by nothing else but the thought of sex. In Kaliyuga women will feel most insecure and even her near and dear ones would become untrustworthy – men belonging to their own gotras would try to exploit her. Brahmins would be criticized because of their inappropriate conduct- They would become arrogant, would start trading their knowledge and would not follow the teachings of the Vedas.
Similarly, Kshatriyas would become cowards and a mere reference of battle would be enough to scare them. Majority of people would indulge in immoral deeds like gambling and consume variety of intoxication. They would always look out for an opportunity to grab other’s wealth by deceitful means. Married women would not fulfill their obligation towards their husbands. Cows would give lesser milk and trees would bear fewer fruits. Young girls would become pregnant at the raw age of eleven years. Brahmins, by their conduct would undermine the importance of holy places and would indulge in excessive eating and drinking. In Kaliyuga, people would not give any importance to caste system. Kings would loose their kingdoms and Mlechhas would become the rulers. Treachery, enemity and disrespect towards elders would become the norms of the day.


THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHATURMASYA VRAT
Once, on being asked by Narad about the importance of Chaturmasya, lord Brahma said–’ Chaturmasya is the period of four months during which lord Vishnu is believed to take rest in ksheer-sagar. So quite naturally, all the oceans, rivers and ponds are believed to attain divinity due to the presence of Lord Vishnu in ksheer-sagar during this period. This is the reason why great importance has been attached to taking holy bath during this period. A devotee, who observes austerities related with Lord Vishnu during these four months, becomes absolved of all his sins. All the deities are believed to dwell within Lord Vishnu during this period. Going on pilgrimage to holy places and taking holy dips in rivers bestow indescribable virtues.
A devotee must not forget to perform the rituals of ‘Tarpan’ after taking his daily bath. He should also observe abstinence and avoid indulging in sensual pleasures during this period of four months. There is special significance of making donations during this period, especially donating food-grains.


IMPORTANCE OF ABSTINENCE DURING CHATURMAS
Continuing with the importance of austerities observed during Chaturmas, Lord Brahma said–’ Human-beings are bundle of desires and long for worldly things. So, there is a great importance of abstinence and forsaking things, which one is very fond of. One who relinquishes his most favourite thing during this period gets the same thing in abundance in the next world. A householder, who renounces his family life for the sake of his devotion during this period, becomes free from the tortures of recurring births and deaths. Similarly, relinquishing the use of chilly in one’s food during this period helps him to acquire great fortune. Renouncing silk cloths during this period gives imperishable joy. One should avoid wearing black cloths during this period. Combing and shaving are prohibited during this period.
A devotee should worship Lord Vishnu on the auspicious day of Kark sankranti. Normally black plums are offered to Lord Vishnu while worshipping. Celibacy is believed to be the best austerity and anybody who observes it during the period of chaturmas, never experiences sorrow in his life.


RITUALS PERTAINING TO SHODASH UPACHAR
Once, on being asked by Narad about the proper methods of performing Shodash upachar rituals, lord Brahma said –’In normal circumstances, when lord Vishnu is worshipped by employing the rituals of Shodashopachar it is considered as ‘Tapa’. But, when the same rituals of shodashopachar are employed to worship lord Vishnu during chaturmas, it is considered as ‘Mahatapa’. In the same manner, all the austerities that are observed during Chaturmas attain greater importance.
Lord Brahma then went on to elucidate the proper method of performing the rituals of ‘Shodashopachar’–’ “A particular ‘mahasukta’ of Yajurveda consisting of sixteen ‘ richas are chanted while worshipping Lord Vishnu. Similarly richas like ‘sahastra-sheersha purushah’ and fifteen others are considered to be most appropriate for the worship of almighty Vishnu. First of all, a devotee should perform the ritual of ‘nyas’ by mentally associating all the sixteen richas with different organs of the body as per the instructions given in the smritis. The same rituals of ‘nyas’ are then performed on the idol of lord Vishnu or Shaligram. After that an invocation is made to Lord Vishnu by chanting the first richa of Purush sukta–’Sahashtra sheersha Purushah’ with a slight modification i.e. by adding ‘om’ in the beginning of the mantra. Similarly, Lord Vishnu and other ‘Parshads’ should be installed at the place of worship by chanting the second richa- ‘Purush evedam’. With the chanting of third richa, Lord Vishnu’s lotus feet are washed after which ‘ardhya’ is offered with the holy water collected from all the seven seas and other holy rivers. Subsequently, the ritual of ‘achaman’ is performed amidst the chanting of fifth richa. The ritual of ablution is then performed in which the idol of Lord Vishnu is bathed amidst the chanting of the sixth richa. The idol is adorned with beautiful apparels amidst the chanting of seventh richa.
Similarly, a sacred thread is offered to Lord Vishnu amidst the chanting of eighth richa while sandalwood paste is smeared on the idol amidst the chanting of ninth richa. Subsequently, amidst the chanting of tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteen richas, flowers, incense, lighted lamp and naivedya are offered to the deity respectively. Naivedya should consist of cereals. While performing ‘aarti’ the fourteenth richa should be chanted. A devotee should then circumambulate around the idol amidst the chanting of fifteenth richa. Imagining himself as an inseparable part of lord Vishnu, he should meditate amidst the chanting of the sixteenth richa.”



Kashi Khand
VIDHYACHAL OBSTRUCTS THE PATH OF SURYA
Once, sage Vyas narrated the following tale to all the assembled sages– ‘ Once, while wandering about, sage Narad arrived at Vindhyachal mountain. He was received with great honour and respect by Vindhyachal mountain. But, when the time arrived for Narad to take his leave, he took a deep sigh, which made Vindhyachal extremely perplexed and he asked Narad if anything was wrong. Narad replied–’ Your rival-Meru mountain is superior to you in every respect and this is the fact I am lamenting about. My deep sigh is just the indication of my worried state of mind.’
Vindhyachal mountain was filled with inferiority complex and started waiting for an opportunity when he could prove his superiority to Meru mountain. He thought–’ Perhaps Narad was right for even Lord Surya has great respect for Meru’s might and this is the reason why he circumambulates my adversary. If I am able to beat Meru in height then may be Lord Surya would start circumambulating me and this way I shall prove my superiority to Meru.’
Now, Vindhyachal started increasing his height and in a short time its peaks became invisible. The fallout of this amazing incident proved to be quite catastrophic for the world because even Lord Surya was left stranded at a particular point in the horizon. As a result, one part of the earth became too hot for any life to exist. Similarly, the other half of the earth became unbearably cold. The time became still and everything went haywire in the world.
All the deities became extremely worried and went to Lord Brahma to seek his help. Lord Brahma advised them to go to Kashi and seek help from sage Agastya. Deities were pleased at their good fortune of getting a chance to visit Kashi. Deities, after reaching Kashi paid a visit to ‘Manikarnika teerth’ and took their bath. Subsequently, they went to Vishwanath temple and worshipped Lord Vishwanath. At last, they reached the hermitage of Agastya where he was busy worshipping a self made Shivalinga. The entire hermitage was crowded with young pupils of Agastya. After the pleasantries having been exchanged, sage Agastaya asked the deities about the purpose of their visit.


AGASTYA ORDERS VINDHYA TO DIMINISH ITS SIZE
When Agastya learnt of the problem created by Vindhyachal, he agreed to help the deities despite fully aware of the fact that once he left Kashi it would not be possible for him to see his dearest Kashi once again at least in his present birth. Before leaving for Vindhyachal, he sought permission from Lord Bhairav. He then reached the place where Vindhyachal had obstructed the path of Surya. Lopamudra, his wife accompanied him.
When Vindhyachal found Agastya starring angrily at him he became scarred and immediately minimized his size. Sage Agastya was pleased that his objective had been achieved without making any effort but he knew quite well that once he left the place Vindhyachal would regain his mammoth size. So he decided to do something so that Vindhyachal could not obstruct the path of Surya. He worked out a plan according to which he instructed Vindhyachal to wait for him until he returned after accomplishing his pilgrimage. Vindhyachal agreed assuming that Agastya would return in a short time.
Vindhyachal thanked his good fortune of escaping Agastya’s wrath, which could otherwise have threatened his very existence. Sage Agastya then went away never to return and Vindhyachal kept on waiting for his arrival. This way, the path being cleared, Surya was once again able to move freely on its orbit without any problem and as a result normalcy returned to the world.
On the other hand, Agastya who was not at all happy leaving his dearest Kashi was desperate to get there back as soon as possible. But, he knew that his wish was going to remain unfulfilled. While wandering about, he reached Kolapur where he worshipped goddess Mahalaxmi. When goddess Mahalaxmi appeared, he asked her whether he would ever be able to reach Kashi in his present life. Goddess Mahalaxmi replied–’ Your wishes will be fulfilled in the coming nineteenth dwapar, when you would incarnate as Vyas and would contribute a great deal in the propagation of the Vedas and Puranas. There is a sacrosanct place of Kartikeya not very far from here. Go there and pay your obeisance to Lord Kartikeya and he would unravel the mysterious aspects of Kashi to you.’
Sage Agastya and his wife Lopamudra then went to the mountain called Sri Shail, where Kartikeya lived at that time.



KASHI -THE SACROSANCT PLACE OF PILGRIMAGE
After travelling for sometime, both of them arrived near Sri Shail mountain. Pointing his finger towards the mountain, Agastya told his wife–’One, who has a good fortune of seeing the peaks of this mountain, never takes a second birth.’
Lopamudra replied in amazement–’ If the sight of this mountain was capable of giving salvation then why do you long for Kashi?’
Sage Agastya then went on to clarify that there were many other holy places capable of giving salvation. Prayag is one such place. It is capable of bestowing all the four ‘Purusharth’ to man-Dharma, Arth, Kaam and Moksha. Apart from Prayag, there are many more holy places like Naimisharanya, Kurukshetra, Gangadwar, Avanti, Ayodhya, Mathura, Dwarka, Badrikashram, Purushottam kshetra which are capable of giving salvation to a man. But none of these places can match Kashi because Kashi is incomparable.


LORD KARTIKEYA DESCRIBES THE MAJESTY OF KASHI
Sage Agastya and his wife Lopamudra circumambulated Sri Shail Mountain and climbed up Lohit mountain where they found Lord Kartikeya. Both of them eulogized kartikeya by singing vedic hymns in his praise. Lord kartikeya was extremely pleased by their devotion and said- O revered sage! You can understand Kashi’s importance by the fact that, though I am capable of reaching any place according to my wish but still, here I am doing this austere penance for the attainment of Kashi. I must confess that I have not been successful in my efforts till date. If any body thinks that he can attain to kashi just by performing austerities than he is totally wrong. Kashi can never be attained to until and unless one has the blessing of Lord mahadeva. And one who is fortunate enough to have reached Kashi must under no circumstances leave it till he is alive. O Agastya! You are blessed because you had the good fortune of residing at Kashi. Please allow me to touch your body, which has acquired holiness due to its proximity to Kashi.’ Having said this, Kartikeya touched different parts of agastya’s body as if he were touching the sacred soil of Kashi.


THE ORIGIN OF KASHI
Sage Agastya asked Lord Kartikeya how the sacrosanct place, Kashi came into being. He also asked how Kashi became famous as a place capable of giving salvation to a man.
Lord Kartikeya revealed to Agastya that once Parvati had asked Lord Shiva the same question. Lord Shiva had told her–’ At the time of deluge when every thing had submerged in the ocean and darkness prevailed everywhere, only BRAHM-the embodiment of truth existed at that time and nothing else. BRAHM, the absolute truth is indescribable and inexpressible. No name can be attributed to HIM. HE is the absolute truth, the ultimate knowledge, the infinite, the omnipresent and the eternal bliss. Though basically formless HE attained a form on account of HIS own wish. That form is none other than me. Later on I created Prakriti from my body. All three of us (Shiva, Parvati and Kashi) manifested simultaneously by the grace of ‘Aadi purush’ (The Almighty God).’
Continuing with the tale of Kashi’s greatness, Kartikeya told Agastya-’ There is no holy place as dear to Lord Shiva as Kashi, which is not abandoned by him as well as his consort-Parvati even at the time of deluge. Lord Shiva named this holy place- Ananda van, because it gave immense joy to him. Subsequently, Lord Shiva and goddess Jagdamba put a glance on the left portion of their respective bodies as the result of which a divine entity manifested himself who was none other than Lord Vishnu and who was named Purushottam by Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva after blessing Purushottam went away. Later on, Lord Vishnu created a divine reservoir with his sudarshan chakra and filled it up with his sweat. He then engaged himself in an austere penance. Lord Shiva once again appeared along with Parvati and blessed Vishnu by saying-’ This holy place will become famously known as Manikarnika because this is the very place where I had once lost my diamond ear-ring.’
Lord Vishnu made a request to Shiva –’ May this place fulfill the wishes of those who seek salvation. Since it is blessed with your eternal presence hence its another name would be Kashi.’
Lord Shiva assured Vishnu by saying- ‘ This sacrosanct place is very dear to me and no event takes place here against my wish. Even if a person living here happens to be a sinner he has nothing to fear because I protect him. One who lives far from Kashi but remembers it with reverence becomes absolved of all his sins.’
There is a magnificent Shiva-linga at Kashi famously known as Kashi Vishwanath. Here is situated one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. Just as the Sun is visible in the whole world despite its presence at a particular point in the horizon, in the same manner Kashi has its influence throughout the length and breadth of the world.


Avanti Kshetra Khand


SANAT KUMAR GLORIFIES MAHAKAAL TERTH
Once, goddess Parvati requested Shiva to describe the significance of Mahakaal teerth. Lord Shiva replied-” Once, Sanatkumar- one of the manasputras of Lord Brahma had gone to his father’s abode, situated at a place near Meru mountain. Sage Vyas arrived there and asked him the same question. Sanatkumar had revealed to him that all kinds of sins loosed their evil influence at Mahakaal teerth. He had also told him that it was called ‘Peetha’ because Matrikas had their abode over there. Anybody, who is fortunate of leaving his mortal body at this holy-place, is freed from the vicious cycles of birth and death. This place is very dear to Lord Shiva and is also called by various other names like Ekamrak-van, Mahakaal-van and Vimukti-kshetra.


KAPAL MOCHAN

Once, lord Shiva arrived at Mahakal forest with a skull in his hand. All the trees and vegetation were delighted to find him in their midst. They requested lord Shiva to remain their forever. Lord Shiva told them that it was not possible for him to stay there forever but on being requested once again agreed to stay there for at least a year. After one year, when the time for departure came he released the skull from his hand as a memorial.
When lord Brahma came to know of this incident, he instructed all the deities to reach Mahakal forest without wasting any time so that a grand yagya could be performed at the place where Shiva had left the skull. All the deities went to the said place and worshipped Lord Shiva by employing the rituals of Pashupat vrata, which Lord Brahma had taught them. Lord Shiva became pleased by their devotion and said–’ Perhaps you all are not aware that there was a specific objective behind my act of releasing the skull from my hand. This act of mine was done to protect your lives but it seems you are unaware of its significance. In a way, all of you have already received my blessings in advance for your deep devotion. What else do you wish for ?’
Deities were amazed by Shiva’s statements and were wondering what Shiva was trying to convey. So, they requested Shiva to unravel the mystery so that they could understand what he meant to say. Lord Shiva told them-’ The followers of Maya were planning to kill you while you were busy doing penance but no one of you was aware of their evil motive. I came to know about this in my deep state of meditation and dropped the skull from my hand. As soon as the skull touched the ground a thunderous sound was made as the result of which all the demons were killed instantaneously.’
All the deities thanked Lord Shiva for protecting their lives. In course of time this particular place became famous as Kapal mochan temple and is presently situated in Ujjain.


VARIOUS NAMES OF UJJAINIPURI
Once, sage Vyas requested Sanatkumar to reveal why Ujjainipuri was known by various names like Kanakshringa, Kushasthali Avanti and Padmavati.
Sanatkumar replied-’ Once, Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva arrived at Ujjainipuri in search of Lord Vishnu, who had disappeared from his abode. To their pleasant surprise they found Lord Vishnu staying there. Both of them requested Vishnu to allow them to stay at Ujjainipuri and said-’ O Lord! When did you create such a magnificent place with golden mountain peaks? Allow us to live in this beautiful city for we can not live in your separation.’
Lord Vishnu requested Brahma to make his abode in the northern part of the city while Shiva was told to make southern part as his abode. Lord Vishnu then told them-’ Since you have referred to this place as a city of golden mountain peaks therefore from now onwards it would become famous as ‘Kanchan Shringa’ (golden peaks)’.
Sanat kumar then went on to explain why Ujjainipuri was also called Kusha sthali-’ Having created the world, Lord Brahma requested Lord Vishnu to nurture it. Lord Vishnu agreed on the condition that Lord Brahma provided him a pious place on the earth from where he could perform his duty. Brahma then picked up a handful of kusha grass and threw down on the earth. This way Lord Vishnu performed his duty as the nurturer of the world sitting on the seat of Kusha grass. This is the reason why this place came to be known as Kusha sthali.’
Sanat kumar then described how Ujjainipuri also came to be known as Avanti puri-’ Once, after being defeated by the demons, deities fled to Meru mountain. Later on they went to Lord Brahma and sought his help. Lord Brahma took all the deities to Lord Vishnu. Hardly had they reached the abode of Vishnu and offered their obeisance, then they heard a heavenly voice- ‘There is a sacrosanct place called Kushasthali in the forest of Mahakal van. This holy place is graced by the presence of Lord Mahadeva. Go there and engage yourself in austerities and you will certainly become the master of the heaven once again.’
Subsequently, all the deities went to a place called Paishachmochan situated in Kushasthali and engaged themselves in various austerities. As prophesized by Vishnu, the deities indeed defeated the demons and became the ruler of heaven. The term ‘Avan’ means ‘the protector’ and since it had protected the deities hence it became famous as Avanti.
Sanat kumar also described how Kushasthali also came to be known as Ujjaini-’ Once, a demon named Tripur did an austere penance to please Lord Brahma. When Brahma appeared he expressed his wish of becoming immortal. Lord Brahma fulfilled his wish as the result of which Tripur became arrogant and started tormenting the deities. The deities sought the help of Lord Shiva, who assured them that he would kill the demon. Subsequently, Lord Shiva did kill Tripur with his most lethal weapon ‘pashupat ashtra’ after a fierce battle. The place where this incident took place became famous as Ujjaini because of the fierce battle fought between Shiva and Tripur.
Continuing with the tale which described the reason why Ujjainipuri also came to be known as Padmavati, Sanatkumar told Vyas-’ During the time of ocean churning ambrosia had also emerged from the ocean bed along with many other valuable things. The demons wanted to drink ambrosia so that they could become immortal but the deities were against this idea. Very soon, the arguments turned into a major dispute and both the sides started quarrelling. Narad requested Lord Vishnu to do something in this regard. Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a beautiful lady and was successful in infatuating the demons. Finally, he started giving ambrosia to the deities who after drinking it became immortal. A demon named Rahu was sitting in the rows of the deities after changing his guise. Lord Vishnu was unable to recognize Rahu and gave some ambrosia to him mistaking him to be a deity. But, hardly had Rahu gulped down Ambrosia and before it could reach down his throat, Vishnu severed his head. Rahu’s head became immortal as the result of ambrosia’s influence. This incident had taken place at Mahakal forest. Later on all the deities distributed the whole wealth, which had emerged from the ocean among themselves. This is the reason why Ujjainipuri came to be known as Padmavati because Padma is another name of Goddess Laxmi.



THE GRANDEUR OF AVANTIPURI
Sanatkumar says-’ Once, Parvati requested Lord Shiva to explain why Avantipuri was considered so holy by the devotees. Lord Shiva told her that it was so because there were numerous holy places situated over there. Lord Shiva had told her-’ There are four holy rivers flowing through the different regions of Avantipuri- Kshipra, Divya-nav, Neelganga and Gandhavati. There are temples belonging to eighty four shiva lingas, eight Bhairavas, eleven Rudras, Twelve Aadityas, six Ganeshas and twenty four goddesses. Not only this there are also temples of Lord Vishnu and Brahma. Avantipuri is spread in the radius of one yojan. There are temples belonging to ten different incarnations of Lord Vishnu- Vasudev, Anant, Balaram, Janardan, Narayan, Hrishikesh, Varah, Dharnidhar, Vaman and Lord Vishnu himself taking rest on Sheshnag. Apart from these there are many other holy places situated at Avantipuri, which enhances its sanctity and holiness.



THE DESCENT OF NARMADA
Explaining the reason why Narmada had to descend down to earth, Sutji narrated a tale to the assembled sages-’ Once, sage markandeya was taking rest at the bank of river Narmada where Yudhisthira accompanied by Draupadi arrived there. Yudhishthira curiously asked Markandeya about the reason he had chosen the bank of Narmada as his resting place when there were so many other holy places of greater significance. Sage Markandeya recounted a tale, which said how some sages had requested king Pururva to bring down river Narmada to the earth so that the whole world becomes liberated from its sins. Describing the holiness of Narmada, sages had told Pururava- ‘ The holy Narmada is capable of liberating the whole world from its sin. So, you should find means so that Narmada descends down to earth.’ Later on, Pururva did an austere penance to please Shiva. When Lord Shiva appeared before him, Pururva expressed his wish. Shiva instructed Narmada to descend down to earth but she told him that she needed a base for that to happen. Lord Shiva then instructed Paryank- the son of Vindhyachal mountain to hold Narmada while she descended down to earth. Prayank agreed to do that and this was how Narmada came down on earth. Initially, the whole world was flooded with the waters of Narmada but at the request of the deities she minimized her size. Narmada blessed Pururva and instructed him to perform the rituals of tarpan in the name of his ancestors so that they became liberated from their sins. Pururva complied and thus by performing tarpan liberated all his ancestors.’
Having finished his tale, Markandeya told Yudhishthira that one who takes a holy dip in Narmada attains virtues similar to that of performing Ashwamedh yagya.


NARMADA MARRIES PURUKUTSU
Markandeya says-’ O Yudhishthir! King Purutkutsu was Samudra in his previous birth and had been cursed by Brahma. The descent of Narmada on earth made the deities extremely delighted and they requested Narmada to give them the privilege of experiencing her divine touch. But, Narmada refused to give them that privilege on the pretext that she was still unmarried and it would not be proper for her to do so. All the deities then requested her to become the consort of Purukutsu to which she agreed. This way, Narmada married Purutkusu. After getting married, Purutkutsu requested her to liberate his ancestors so that they could attain to heaven. Narmada readily obliged and this way Purutkutsu contributed in his ancestors’ departure to heaven.


MANU RECEIVES A BOON FROM NARMADA
Markandeya says-’ Manu ruled over Ayodhya during Swayambhuva manvantar. One day, while he was going to sleep, he heard a peculiar sound, as if numerous small bells were ringing. He was perplexed and could not ascertain the cause of that sound so he asked sage Vashishth about this. Sage Vashishth made a revelation by which Manu was startled. Sage Vashishth told him- There is a holy place called Tripuri situated at the bank of river Narmada. The sound that you heard last night emanated from the small bells attached to number of aircraft kept on the roofs of the residences of such people who are virtuous. O king! Only Narmada is capable of giving salvation to lowly of sinners.’
Manu was highly impressed and decided to go to Tripuri along with his whole clan. All of them took holy dips in the Narmada and became liberated from all their sins. Manu performed a grand yagya at the bank of Narmada to which all the sages and hermits were invited. Narmada became pleased by his devotion and expressed her willingness to fulfill any wish that Manu desired.
Manu requested her help in bringing down Ganga and other holy rivers to earth. Narmada blessed him and said- In the first half of tretayuga, one of your descendants named Bhagirath would accomplish this great feat of bringing down holy Ganga to earth. In the second half of the same era other holy rivers like Kalindi, Saraswati, Sarayu, and Mahabhaga would also manifest themselves.


JAMDAGNI RECEIVES KAAMDHENU
Markandeya told Yudhishthir-’ Sage Jamdagni was a great devotee of Shiva and he lived in Narmadapur. He spent his day chanting mantras in the praise of Lord Shiva. Once, he performed an austere penance, which lasted for a month. Ultimately, Shiva manifested himself from the Siddheshwar Linga and appeared before him. Lord Shiva asked Jamdagni to ask for any thing he wished for. Jamdagni expressed his desire to have Kaamdhenu so that he could perform his rituals and other religious obligations without any problem. Lord Shiva blessed Jamdagni and disappeared. The next moment, Jamdagni found Kaamdhenu standing in front of his hermitage.
Now, Jamdagni got everything that he wished for. This way, he was a happy and contented life until one fateful day when he was killed by a greedy king named Kartaveerya, who subsequently took Kaamdhenu along with him. While the greedy king was still on his way, Kaamdhenu cursed him that very soon not only he but the whole caste of Kshatriya would be liquidated by Parshuram- Jamdagni’s son, as punishment for having committed such a ghastly sin of killing an innocent sage. After cursing Kartaveerya, Kaamdhenu went to her original abode-the heaven. Later on, when Parshuram learnt of his father’s slaying, he liquidated Kartaveerya and the whole caste of Kshatriya as had been prophesized by Kaamdhenu.


DESCRIPTION OF HELL
Yudhishthira requested Markandeya to describe what a sinner had to go through in Yamaloka and also that what kind of a person should be considered as the most ghastly sinner.
Markandeya replied- ‘ Donating food to needy people is an extremely virtuous deed and there is no virtuous deed greater than this. A person who donates cereals can be aptly called ‘Annadata’- one who provides food. One who has never donated cereals in his lifetime is definite to go to hell and has to tread an arduous path leading to it that is ridden with prickly thorns, pointed nails and other sharp objects. The entire path leading to hell is extremely dark and covered with large pits. The path is also covered with unbearably hot sand spilled all over the place. The sinner is forcibly taken by the Yamdoots despite their reluctance. The sinners repent for the sins they have committed but it is of no use to them, as they will have to reap the fruits of their evil deeds. They have to undergo all sorts of painful experience- they are forced to pass through fire and pits full of filth.
Those sinners who have atoned for their sins are not treated so harshly by the Yamdoots. After they appear before Yamraj, Chitragupta reminds them of all the sins they had committed. Thereafter, Yamraj orders his attendants to purify the sinners by putting them into the ocean of the Hell. There are Twenty-eight types of hells- Atighora, Raudra, Ghortama, Dukhjanani, Ghorrupa, Tarantara, Bhayanaka, Kaalratri, Ghatotkata, Chanda, Mahachanda, Chndakolahala, Prachanda, Varagnika, Jaghanya, Avaraloma, Bhishni, Nayika, Karala, Vikarala, Vajravinshti, Asta, Panchkona, Sudirgha, Parivartula, Saptabhauma, Ashtabhauma and Deerghamaya. Each of the latter hell is more horrific than the former.Sinners have to undergo unbearable pain and sufferings in the hell. They are tied up by very hot iron chains and hanged down from trees. Yamdoots attach hot and heavy iron balls to their feet and thrash them with hot iron rods. They are then put into wells of filth. The tongue of a liar is rooted out with brute force and a person, who shows disrespect to his elders and teachers, his mouth is filled with hot sands and boiling oil. Similarly immoral women, who do not fulfill their obligation towards their husbands, are thrown into a horrific hell named Lohakumbh. O Yudhishthir! A man’s life is too short and uncertain. One is not sure when his final call would come. So, one should try to lead a virtuous life to the best of his ability.’







Naagar Khand

TRISHANKU CURSED BY VASHISHTH’S SONS
Sutji once narrated the following tale to the assembled sages- In ancient times there lived a mighty king named Trishanku. He belonged to Suryavanshi dynasty. One day, he asked sage Vashishth whether there was any such Yagya by performing which, he would be entitled to go to heaven with his physical form. Sage Vashishth laughed at his naive query and told him that there was no such Yagya by performing which a man could go to the heaven with his mortal body. But, Trishanku was not satisfied by Vashishth’s answer and so he went to ask the same question to Vashishth’s sons who were one hundred in number. But even they corroborated their father’s statement. Trishanku got infuriated and threatened them that he would appoint somebody else as his royal priest to get the same yagya performed as they all lacked the required knowledge and competence. Vashishth’s sons also got angry and cursed him to become a ‘chandal’ (a low caste person). The next moment Trishanku indeed became a ‘chandal’ and was so much ashamed of himself that he decided to go to the forest after relinquishing his throne. He called his son -Harishchandra and narrated the whole tale of his misery. Before going to the forest he appointed Harishchandra as his successor.
One day, while wandering in the forest, Trishanku met sage Vishwamitra and narrated his miserable tale to him. Since Vishwamitra was a competitor of Vashishth, he took it as a golden opportunity to prove his superiority to his adversary. So, he assured Trishanku that he had the requisite power to send anybody to heaven and said- ‘ I shall help you perform a grand yagya, which would allow you to attain to the heaven with your mortal body. But before that you will have to go on a pilgrimage so that you become pure once again.’ Both Vishwamitra and Trishanku set out on a pilgrimage and reached ‘Arbudachal’ where they met sage Markandeya. After the pleasantries were over, Markandeya asked Vishwamitra about Trishanku, who was standing quietly. Vishwamitra revealed everything to Markandeya and said – I had taken a vow not to take rest until Trishanku got absolved of the evil influence of the curse given by Vashishth’s sons’. I have not achieved success in my objective till date, so I have decided to renounce the world.
Seeing Vishwamitra in such desperation, Markandeya consoled him and instructed him to go to Haatkeshwar where taking a holy dip in Patal Ganga would purify Trishanku and solve all his problems.Both Vishwamitra and Trishanku reached ‘Haatkeshwar’ and bathed in the holy Patal Ganga. To his pleasant surprise, Trishanku found that he had indeed become purified and all the lowly qualities had vanished within no time. Vishwamitra was delighted as the first condition for Trishanku’s departure to Heaven had been met. He decided to go to Brahma loka to request Lord Brahma to be present at the Yagya which was to be performed for the success of Trishanku’s departure to heaven. But before leaving, he instructed Trishanku to make all the necessary preparations before his return.
After reaching Brahma loka, Vishwamitra narrated the whole story to Lord Brahma and requested him to grace the Yagya by his presence. Lord Brahma told him that it was just impossible for any mortal to attain to heaven in his physical form but he added that if Trishanku performed the rituals diligently then he would certainly attain to heaven after his death. Vishwamitra did not like Brahma’s words and challenged him that no power on earth could stop him from sending Trishanku to Heaven.


VISHWAMITRA COMMENCES NEW CREATION
Vishwamitra then instructed Trishanku to make preparation for the Yagya. After everything was ready, Vishwamitra initiated Trishanku into the rituals of Yagya. Trishanku made offerings in the sacrificial fire at the instruction of Vishwamitra. The deities readily accepted all the offerings that were made to them. This way, the yagya continued for twelve long years but still there was no sign of Vishwamitra’s desire of sending Trishanku to heaven getting fulfilled. Trishanku became dejected and told him about his decision to renounce everything and spend rest of his life doing penance as chances of attaining to heaven appeared impossible. He was also sure that Vashishth’s sons would make fun of him if he went back to his kingdom without achieving his objective. But, Vishwamitra consoled him and said–’ No power on earth can stop you from going to heaven with your physical form. You just need to have some patience and your desire will be certainly fulfilled.’
Vishwamitra decided to please Lord Shiva as he was convinced that Shiva was the only deity who could help him achieve his goal. He eulogized Shiva by singing hymns of praise in his name. At last, Shiva appeared before him and expressed his desire of fulfilling any wish of Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra requested Shiva to bestow on him the power of creation just like Brahma had. Lord Shiva blessed him and disappeared.Now, Vishwamitra was eager to test his powers so he began creating different things. He created Sun, Moon, Stars, oceans, Rivers, so on and so forth. In a short time the whole world was filled by his creations resulting into chaos all over. As the result of his creations, every natural thing became double in number- one that had already been created by Brahma and the second created by Vishwamitra. Now there existed two suns, two moons, so on and so forth. Vishwamitra’s amazing deeds had catastrophic fallout on the natural course of events.
Deities were scarred and rushed to seek the help of lord Brahma. They told Brahma that if Vishwamitra was not stopped the whole world was doomed to destruction. Lord Brahma appeared before Vishwamitra and ordered to stop doing creations. Vishwamitra told him that he was ready to do that if Brahma helped Trishanku attain to heaven with his mortal body. Seeing no other option, Brahma accepted Vishwamitra’s condition. This way, Vishwamitra was able to send Trishanku physically to heaven with the help of Lord Brahma.


Prabhas Khand


DESCRIPTION OF PURANAS AND UP- PURANAS
Once, while describing the origin of puranas, Sutji told the sages who had assembled at Naimisharanya-’ Lord Shiva had first revealed the contents of Skanda puran to Parvati at Kailash Mountain. Lord Brahma and few other deities were also present there at the time when Shiva was narrating the tale. Subsequently, Parvati narrated this tale to Skanda, Skanda to Nandi and Nandi to sages like Sanak, etc. and finally Sanak narrated it to Vyas. Now I am going to tell you the same tale which Vyas had narrated to me.’
Sutji began by saying-’ During ancient times, Lord Brahma once did a very austere penance resulting into the manifestation of all the four Vedas. Later on, all the eighteen Puranas too appeared from his mouth. These eighteen Puranas were- Brahma Puran, Vishnu Puran, Shiva Puran, Bhagawat Puran, Bhavishya Puran, Narad Puran, Markandeya Puran, Agni Puran, Brahma vaivarta Puran, Linga Puran, Padma Puran, Varah Puran, Skanda Puran, Vaman Puran, Kurma Puran, Matsya Puran, Garuda Puran and Vayu Puran.Apart from these eighteen main Puranas, there are also similar number of secondary Puranas known as Up- Puranas. These Up- Puranas are – Sanat kumar, Narsimha, Skand, Shiva Dharma, Durvasa, Narad, Kapil, Manu, Ushana, Brahmand, Varun, Kalika, Maheshwar, Saamb, Saura, Parashar, Maarich and Bhargava.’
Sutji then went on to describe the other features of each Purana-’ Brahma Puran contains ten thousand shlokas in it whereas Padma Puran contains fifty-five thousand shlokas. Similarly, there are twenty-three thousand shlokas in Vishnu Puran. Vayu Puran contains the tales related with Lord Shiva and it contains twenty-four thousand shlokas in it. Similarly the remaining Puranas like Bhagawat, Narad, Markandeya, Agni, Bhavishya, Brhmavaivarta, Linga, Varah, Skanda, Vaman, Kurma, Matsya, Garuda and Brahmanda Puran contain 18,000, 25,000, 9,000, 16,000, 14,500, 18,000, 11,000, 24,000, 81,100, 10,000, 17,000, 14,000, 18,000 and 12,200 shlokas respectively.’
Sutji told the sages that all the Up- Puranas owe their origin to the main Puranas which are eighteen in number. He also revealed to them that they could be categorized into three main types- Satvik, Rajas and Tamas. Satvik Puranas contain the tales of Lord Vishnu while Rajas Puranas contain the tales of Brahma and Tamas Purans contain the tales of Agni and Rudra. One of the chief characteristics of Puranas is that each of them is divided into five sections- ‘Sarg’ (Description of how creation began), ‘Pratisarga’, ‘Vansh’ (Description of prominent dynasties), ‘Manvantar’ and ‘Vanshanucharit’ (Tales related with the descendants of the famous sages).


PRABHAS TERTH
On being asked by the sages about the prominent places of pilgrimage, Sutji named many holy places but according to him Prabhas Teerth was the crown of all the places of pilgrimage and was incomparable. Recounting a tale when Parvati had once asked Lord Shiva the same question, Sutji said-’ At that time Shiva had told Parvati that Prabhas Kshetra was supreme among all the holy places and capable of liberating a man from all his sins. He had also told her that due to prevalence of sins in Kaliyuga people would not attain virtues despite going on pilgrimages. Shiva had also told her that this was the reason why he had created numerous holy places and kept them secret so the holiness of these places remained intact. I have manifested myself in the form of a divine Shiva linga at Prabhas kshetra. The whole universe has originated from it and merges into it ultimately at the time of deluge. The Shiva linga is called Somanath and very few people are aware of it’s existence. This Shivalinga continue to exist since it’s manifestation in a particular kalpa named Bhairav long ago. Unfortunately, people of kaliyaga under the influence of all pervading ignorance would fail to recognize the importance of holy places. Such people would try to demean the value of holy places and make fun of those people who go on pilgrimages. Being blinded by their superficial intelligence they would try to find faults with rituals and religion. Such would be the condition of the mortals in kaliyuga that they would criticize everything that is religious and spiritual in nature. How can one expect from these unfortunate people of kaliyuga to understand the significance of Prabhas kshetra and which is revered even by me ?’
Parvati, who had been listening to the tale with rapt attention, became even more curious to know about Prabhas kshetra. So she requested Lord Shiva to shed more light on the other important aspects of this sacrosanct place. Lord Shiva, continuing with his description of Prabhas kshetra, said- ‘ This sacrosanct place has temples of three deities on it’s three sides. To its east is situated a grand temple of Surya Narayan while there is a magnificent temple of Madhav to it’s west. In the same way there is a beautiful temple of goddess Bhavani to the north of Prabhas kshetra and towards it’s south lies the ocean. This holy place is spread in the area of five yojans and is divided in three major areas- Maheshwar, Vaishnav and Brahma. There are about one crore temples related with different deities in Vaishnav and Brahma kshetras while Maheshwar kshetra contains one and half crore temples. As the name implies, each area has been named after one God forming the Trinity. Anybody who has the good fortune of living in the central part of Prabhas kshetra becomes absolved of all his sins even if he has committed most abhorrent sins. The significance of this holy place can be understood by the fact that a man born there does not take a second birth and attains salvation. One whom scholars of the Vedas call ‘Kaalagni Rudra’ is famously known as Bhairav in Prabhas kshetra.



SOMNATH LINGA
Emphasizing on the significance of Someshwar linga and its deep association with the Vedas, Lord Shiva told Parvati-’ The divine Someshwar linga exists since time immemorial and will remain for eternity. This revelation descended on me while I was engrossed in a deep state of meditation. Someshwar Linga has deep association with the Vedas and it enhances their sanctity by establishing itself in each of them at different periods of time during the day. During morning time Someshwar linga establishes itself in the Rigveda, during noon in the Yajurveda, during afternoon in the Sama veda and during evening time it establishes itself in Atharva veda.


DIFFERENT NAMES OF SOMNATH
Parvati curiously asked Lord Shiva about the reason why Somnath was known by so many different names. Lord Shiva said- ‘ Since the time this divine linga first manifested itself very few blessed souls had the knowledge of it’s existence. Brahma has a life span of one kalpa at the end of which even he ceases to exist giving way to his successor- a new Brahma. In the same manner this divine Linga acquires a new name at the end of each kalpa. The present kalpa is seventh in order as six kalpas have already passed. The name of the present Brahma is Shatanand and this divine Linga is presently famous by the name of Somnath. Similarly it was famous as Mrityunjay during the time of Brahma named Virinchi. During second kalpa this Linga was famous as Kalagnirudra and the name of Brahma was Padmabhu. The third kalpa had Swayambhu as Brahma and the Linga was famous as Amritesh. The name of the fourth Brahma was Parmeshthi in fourth kalpa and the linga was famous as Annamay. In the same way the names of the fifth and sixth Brahma were Surajyeshtha and Hemagarbha respectively and the names of the Linga during their periods were Kritiwas and Bhairav Nath respectively.’
Lord Shiva also revealed to Parvati that the next kalpa- eighth in order would have Chaturmukh as Brahma and the divine Linga would be known as Pran Nath.Goddess Parvati then asked Shiva about the exact location of the Linga in Prabhas Kshetra. Lord Shiva told her that the sacrosanct place of Prabhas Kshetra was situated between the plains of two rivers Vajrini and Nyankumati. He also told her that the eternal Linga was not very far from the sea coast. Dwelling at length about the good fortunes of those living in Prabhas kshetra, Lord Shiva told her-’ Anybody who does not abandon this holy place despite his hardships and troubles is certain to attain to my abode. One who has the good fortune of dying at Prabhas kshetra attains salvation. There will be prevalence of sins in Kaliyuga. As a result of this people would experience all sorts of hurdles and problems in their lives. To minimize their sorrows and to lessen their miseries, I have personally instructed Ganesh not to abandon this place even for a moment. Of all the Lingas present on the earth, Somnath is specially dear to me.’


SIDDHESHWAR LINGA AND SIDDHA LINGA

Describing the reason why this sacrosanct place was named Prabhas, Lord Shiva told Parvati- ‘ I dwell in the entire area stretching between the ocean in the south and river Kaureshwari. Being situated at the western coast, this entire area is radiated by Surya’s light for a relatively longer period of time and hence it has been named ‘Prabhas’ meaning luster. This is the reason why there is situated a grand temple of Lord Surya in Prabhas Kshetra. Not far from this Surya temple is situated a magnificent temple of Lord Siddheshwar, which was famously known as Jaigishavyeshwar in ancient times.’
Lord Shiva then went on to describe why Siddheshwar was called Jaigishavyeshwar during ancient times-’ There lived a sage named Jaigishavya in previous kalpa. He used to daily worship a Shiva linga named Mahoday, which had manifested on its own. Keeping in view Shiva’s fondness for ashes, he used to smear it on his body hoping to please his deity. Not only this he even slept on ashes. He thus led an extremely austere life. At last he was able to please Lord Mahoday by his devotion. When Lord Mahoday appeared before him and expressed his willingness to fulfill anything he wished but Jaigishavya wanted nothing but total devotion in his deity (Mahoday). Lord Mahoday blessed him with immortality and said-’ There would be nobody as powerful as you. Your feats achieved in spiritual things will be unmatched and you would become famous as ‘Yogacharya’ or teacher of Yoga. One who regularly worships this particular Linga which you have been worshipping with such deep devotion till now is certain to get absolved of all his sins.’ Having blessed Yaigishavya thus, Lord Mahoday disappeared from his sight. After this incident, Mahoday linga also came to be known as Yaigishavyeshwar. In course of time, when the Kaliyuga of that Kalpa arrived, some sages named ‘Balkhilyas’ had gone to the same place and worshipped Lord Mahoday. Similarly, many more sages went there and attained ‘siddhi’ or accomplishment. This is how this Linga came to be known as ‘Siddheshwar’ (the lord of all accomplishments). There are many holy places in the vicinity like Siddha linga, which was installed by lord Surya. Anybody who worships this linga on the auspicious day of trayodashi of the bright half of the hindu month Chaitra attains virtues similar to the accomplishment of ‘Pundareek Yagya’.


CHANDRA DEVA EULOGIZES SHIVA
Parvati asked Lord Shiva about the reason Chandra deva had to install a Shiva linga at Prabhas Kshetra. Lord Shiva replied that Daksha had got married twenty seven of his daughters to Chandra Deva. Chandra Deva was very attached to Rohini, who was one of them and neglected others. When Daksha came to know about this he cursed Chandra Deva as the result of which he lost his luster and started waning day by day. The worried Chandra Deva did an austere penance for thousand of years to please Lord Shiva. At last Lord Shiva became pleased and appeared before him. Subsequently, Chandra Deva got a divine Shiva linga installed by Brahma and worshipped it for thousand of years. Lord Shiva appeared once again and expressed his willingness to fulfill any wish Chandra Deva expressed. Chandra Deva requested Lord Shiva to dwell in the very Shiva Linga he had been worshipping till then. Lord Shiva revealed to him that there was no question of dwelling in the Shiva Linga as he had never abandoned it in the first place. Chandra Deva had regained his luster on account of his arduous penance. Lord Shiva blessed him and said- ‘ Since you have regained your luster (Prabha) by dint of your austere penance, this holy place will become famous as ‘Prabhas Kshetra’. This Linga would be named upon you and become famous as Somnath Linga.’
Having blessed Chandra Deva thus, Lord Shiva disappeared. Later on Chandra Deva instructed Vishwakarma to build a magnificent temple at the sight. He also built a city nearby so that all the priests who were supposed to supervise the rituals of worship could live there.



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GETTING ONE’S HEAD TONSURED
Dwelling on length about the significance of getting one’s head tonsured at holy places, Lord Shiva told Parvati-’ A man should get his head tonsured whenever he gets an opportunity to visit a holy place because hair are believed to contain all the sins he has committed. There is a holy place called Padma teerth, not far from Somnath temple. A devotee should first get his hair removed at Somnath teerth and then immerse them at Padma teerth. This way he becomes absolved of all his sins. Women should have a symbolical cut of their hair. It is necessary to perform the rituals of tarpan in the names of ancestors after the head tonsuring ceremony. According to the scriptures, an ocean is considered holy and nobody should its holy water in an impure state. While bathing a devotee should chant the following mantra-
‘Om namo Vishnu guptaaya Vishnu rupaaya namah;
Saannidhye bhava devesh saagare lavanaambhasi.’
There are about five crore Shivalingas submerged in the ocean near Somnath. There are also other holy places situated nearby like Agnikunda, Padma sarovar etc.


THE EMERGENCE OF SARASWATI IN PRABHAS KSHETRA
On being asked by Parvati about the emergence of river Saraswati at Prabhas Kshetra, Lord Shiva narrated the following tale to her-’ The holy Sarswati flowing in Prabhas kshetra constitutes of five different streams- Harini, Vajrini, Nyanku, Kapila and Saraswati. Lord Vishnu once instructed Saraswati to carry ‘Badwanal’ (Submarine fire) and dump it in the ocean near Prabhas kshetra. After taking permission from Lord Brahma, her father Saraswati flew towards her destination. Ganga became sad at her departure so she asked her as to how could she have a glimpse of her now that she was going to such a distant place. Saraswati consoled Ganga by saying that she would be able to see her whenever she looked eastwards. The swift currents of Saraswati penetrated the earth and reached Patal Loka carrying Badwanal along with her.She continued to move beneath the ground towards her destination. As she reached Prabhas Kashetra, four learned sages, who were well versed in Vedas arrived there and invoked Saraswati to give them the privilege of separate bath by dividing herself in four different streams.
The names of these sages were Hiranya, Vajra, Nyanku and Kapil. While Saraswati was about to comply with their request, suddenly Samudra arrived there and he too expressed the same wish. Thus Saraswati divided herself into five different streams- Harini, Vajrini, Nyanku, Kapila and Saraswati. Eventually, when Saraswati reached near the ocean, Badwanal whom she was carrying was surprised to see the high tides rising in the ocean. He thought that the Samudra was frightened of his fury so he asked Saraswati- Why is the ocean scarred of me? Saraswati inflated his ego by saying that who would not be scarred of him. Badwanal was pleased and wanted to grant her a boon. Saraswati remembered Lord Vishnu, who instantly gave his divine appearance in her heart. She narrated the whole story and sought his advise. Lord Vishnu advised her to ask Badwanal to make his appearance small like the eye of a needle. Saraswati, following the advise of Lord Vishnu asked Badwanal to become small like a needle and keep sucking the ocean. Subsequently, Saraswati summoned Samudra and told him to accept Badwanal to which he agreed. This way Samudra devoured Badwanal, who continues to suck the water of the ocean even today as per the instructions given by Saraswati. It is believed that tides are nothing but the manifestation of Badwanal’s exhalations. This was how Saraswati emerged in Prabhas kshetra.


PRABHAS -THE ABODE OF TRINITY GODDESSES
Lord Shiva revealed to goddesses Parvati that Prabhas kshetra boasted of possessing many more Shiva lingas apart from the famous Somnath Shiva linga. He also gave names of some of the prominent Shiva lingas situated over there and said- ‘ To the North-East of Somnath temple is situated a grand temple of lord Sarveshvar Deva, who is also famously known as Siddheshwar. The reason behind this is that Shiva linga over there had been installed by the ‘siddhas’ (accomplished ones) in ancient times. People who are desirous of acquiring siddhis throng this holy place and engage themselves in austere penance. To the east of Siddheshwar temple is situated one more temple called Kapileshwar. It has been named after sage Kapil, who had installed the Shiva linga over there. A Shiva linga named Gandharveshwar is also situated nearby. This particular Shiva linga had been installed by a gandharva named Dhanvahan. To the east of Gandharveshwar temple is situated Vimaleshwar temple. It is believed that anybody suffering from tuberculosis gets cured after he worships in that temple. Dhandeshwar linga was installed by Kuber, who was bestowed with the lordship of wealth on account of his austere penance.’
Lord Shiva told Parvati that there were also temples of three goddesses in Prabhas Kshetra apart from Shiva temples. These three goddesses were Mangla, Vishalakshi and Chatwar representing the three types of power-will power, power of action and power of knowledge. Lord Shiva said-’ The pilgrimage to Prabhas kshetra is believed to be incomplete until and unless these three goddesses have been worshipped. Goddess Mangla represents the power of lord Brahma (Brahma shakti) while goddess Vishalakshi that of lord Vishnu. Goddess Chatwar represents my power. Goddess Mangla holds the privilege of getting worshipped first. During ancient times Chandrama did an austere penance for thousand of years and all the deities including Lord Brahma had gone there to witness his amazing feat. At that time goddess Mangla had blessed them and this was how she got her name.’
Lord Shiva then went on to describe how goddess Vishalakshi got her name-’ A fierce battle had taken place between the deities and demons during Chakshus manvantar. Lord Vishnu fought along with the deities and helped them in defeating the demons. Demons fled towards the south but were chased by the deities. Realizing that it was not easy to annihilate the demons, Lord Vishnu remembered goddess Mahamaya and sought her help. Mahamaya appeared instantly and looked at Lord Vishnu with her large eyes. This is how she got her name. In the present kalpa she is also known as Lalitoma. To the south of Vishalakshi temple is situated the temple of goddess Chatwarpriya. Goddess Chatwarpriya is the saviour of people living in that area. Anybody who worships her on the auspicious day of Mahanavami with appropriate rituals is blessed.



PRABHAS -THE ABODE OF TRINITY GODDESSES
Lord Shiva revealed to goddesses Parvati that Prabhas kshetra boasted of possessing many more Shiva lingas apart from the famous Somnath Shiva linga. He also gave names of some of the prominent Shiva lingas situated over there and said- ‘ To the North-East of Somnath temple is situated a grand temple of lord Sarveshvar Deva, who is also famously known as Siddheshwar. The reason behind this is that Shiva linga over there had been installed by the ‘siddhas’ (accomplished ones) in ancient times. People who are desirous of acquiring siddhis throng this holy place and engage themselves in austere penance. To the east of Siddheshwar temple is situated one more temple called Kapileshwar. It has been named after sage Kapil, who had installed the Shiva linga over there. A Shiva linga named Gandharveshwar is also situated nearby. This particular Shiva linga had been installed by a gandharva named Dhanvahan. To the east of Gandharveshwar temple is situated Vimaleshwar temple. It is believed that anybody suffering from tuberculosis gets cured after he worships in that temple. Dhandeshwar linga was installed by Kuber, who was bestowed with the lordship of wealth on account of his austere penance.’
Lord Shiva told Parvati that there were also temples of three goddesses in Prabhas Kshetra apart from Shiva temples. These three goddesses were Mangla, Vishalakshi and Chatwar representing the three types of power-will power, power of action and power of knowledge. Lord Shiva said-’ The pilgrimage to Prabhas kshetra is believed to be incomplete until and unless these three goddesses have been worshipped. Goddess Mangla represents the power of lord Brahma (Brahma shakti) while goddess Vishalakshi that of lord Vishnu. Goddess Chatwar represents my power. Goddess Mangla holds the privilege of getting worshipped first. During ancient times Chandrama did an austere penance for thousand of years and all the deities including Lord Brahma had gone there to witness his amazing feat. At that time goddess Mangla had blessed them and this was how she got her name.’
Lord Shiva then went on to describe how goddess Vishalakshi got her name-’ A fierce battle had taken place between the deities and demons during Chakshus manvantar. Lord Vishnu fought along with the deities and helped them in defeating the demons. Demons fled towards the south but were chased by the deities. Realizing that it was not easy to annihilate the demons, Lord Vishnu remembered goddess Mahamaya and sought her help. Mahamaya appeared instantly and looked at Lord Vishnu with her large eyes. This is how she got her name. In the present kalpa she is also known as Lalitoma. To the south of Vishalakshi temple is situated the temple of goddess Chatwarpriya. Goddess Chatwarpriya is the saviour of people living in that area. Anybody who worships her on the auspicious day of Mahanavami with appropriate rituals is blessed.


DWARKA MAHATMYA
SAGES’ QUERIES TO PRAHLAD
Once, few sages asked Sutji about the means by which Lord Vishnu could be realized in kaliyuga- the era dominated by sin and decaying moral values.
Sutji started by describing how Lord Vishnu on seeing the prevalence of sin in Dwapar yuga had to take incarnation as Krishna to liberate the world from the sinners. He also described in detail all the incidents culminating into the killings of many cruel demons -Kaaliya serpent, Chanur, Shishupaal and ogress like Putna. He gave in depth description of the events leading to the war of Mahabharat and how the infighting among the mighty Yadavas led to their destruction. He told them how a fowler mistook Krishna’s feet to be a deer and killed him.
Sutji also told the assembled sages how the magnificent city of Dwarka had been submerged in the ocean ultimately. He revealed to them that the passing away of Krishna marked the advent of Kaliyuga and the situation became even worse. On finding how difficult it was to realize lord Vishnu in the Kaliyuga- the era dominated by sin, some prominent sages decided to seek Lord Brahma’s help in this regard. After reaching Brahma loka, they eulogized Brahma and received his blessings. Lord Brahma told them to go to Patal loka and meet Prahlad, the supreme devotee of Lord Vishnu who according to Lord Brahma was in a better position to help them.
All the sages went to Patal loka as per the instructions given by Lord Brahma. There they not only found Prahlad but also the most charitable king-Bali. After the pleasantries were exchanged, they came to the real issue and said-’ We are very much distressed by the prevailing situation where it appears that the evil forces have overshadowed the virtuous ones. The ways shown by the Vedas are no longer in practice and the Brahmins are being tormented by the Shudras, who have become the rulers. We have come with a request and a desire to know whether there was any possibility of realizing Lord Vishnu in this dark era of ‘Kali’. If yes then where can we find Lord Vishnu?’


THE SANCTITY OF DWARKAPURI
Prahlad, being an ardent devotee of Vishnu himself, understood quite well, the desperation with which a devotee seeks his Lord. So he told them-’ By the grace of Almighty Vishnu, I am revealing to you the name of that sacred place which has remained a secret till now. Kushasthal Puri is a divine city situated on the western coast. Nearby is the place where river Gomti meets the ocean and at this convergent point is situated the sacrosanct city called Dwarawati Puri, where you can find Lord Vishnu in all his glory of sixteen kalas. Blessed be the Dwarka Puri, which The almighty Vishnu has chosen as his abode and where he dwells in his glorious Chaturbhuj form. This is the very place, which even liberates the most fallen sinner from all his sins. There is a famous temple of Lord Trivikram at the bank of river Gomti and not far from this temple is a divine pond. Anybody desirous of salvation must bathe in this pond for the fulfillment of his wish. It is believed that before leaving for heaven, Lord Krishna had transferred all his divine powers into the Trivikram idol. So, there is no place as holy as Dwarka and if you are desirous of having a divine glimpse of Lord Krishna then you must visit Dwarka.’
All the sages thanked Prahlad for sharing his secrets with them because nobody else except Prahlad was aware of the fact that Lord Vishnu had given Dwarka the privilege of being his abode. These revelations made them more curious about Dwarka, so they requested Prahlad to disclose how the holy Gomti descended down to Dwarka.
Prahlad began by describing the virtues of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka-’ The mere resolution of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka is enough to liberate one’s ancestors from the tortures of the hells. Each step that a devotee takes towards Dwarka gives virtues similar to what is attained by performing Ashwamedh Yagya. One who encourages others to go on a pilgrimage to Dwarka certainly goes to Vishnu Dhaam.’
Prahlad then switched over to the second part of the sages’ question and said-’ There is an interesting tale describing how sage Vashishth had brought down Gomti from the heaven to earth. At the time of deluge when the whole world had submerged in water, a lotus flower manifested from Lord Vishnu’s navel on which was seated Brahma. Lord Vishnu instructed him to perform his duty as a creator to which Brahma agreed. First of all Brahma created his ten manasputras (Sanak, Sanandan,etc.) and sought their help in increasing the population of the world by becoming householders. But, all of them were extremely virtuous and did not show any inclination towards getting married. Ultimately all of them went to the western coast and engaged themselves in austere penance. Their penance continued for a number of years after which ‘Sudarshan chakra’ appeared before them. As all of them looked up in bewilderment, they heard a heavenly voice -’ O sons of Brahma! Very soon the almighty Vishnu is going to manifest himself. The ‘Chakra’ you are seeing is his. You all must perform the rituals of ‘ardhya’ in the name of Lord Vishnu to show your reverence towards him.’ All the Manasputras eulogized Sudarshan-Chakra with deep devotion. All of them wished that there were a holy river, with whose water they could perform the rituals of ardhya. But to their utter dismay there was no such holy river nearby. They then remembered Lord Brahma, who immediately understood what they desired. Lord Brahma instructed Ganga by saying-’ Ganga! Go to the earth, where you would be known as Gomti. Sage Vashishth will lead you to your destination. Just follow him like a daughter follows her father.’
Finally, when sage Vashishth followed by Gomti reached their destination, all the Manasputras were delighted. They eulogized Ganga and expressed their gratitude to Vashishth for bringing Ganga on earth. All of them thanked Vashishth by saying-’ Since you have brought Gomti on earth, you would be considered as her father.’ They offered ‘ardhya’ to Gomti and subsequently eulogized Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu appeared after being pleased and blessed them-’ Your unflinching devotion in me has pleased me no bound. Since you did this penance with the objective of Moksha (salvation), this place would become famous as Moksha Dayak (giver of salvation). This sacrosanct place would also be called Chakra teerth because of Sudarshan chakra, who informed you all of my manifestation at Dwarka Puri. I assure you that I won’t abandon this sacrosanct place even for a moment.’
This way, all the Manasputras were finally successful in their objective of offering ardhya to Lord Vishnu with the holy water of Gomti. At last, Gomti having fulfilled her mission for which she had descended down to Earth merged with the ocean. Lord Vishnu disappeared from there and Manasputras continued to live there.
END OF SKANDA PURAN








The Agni Purana

The Agni Purana is a mahapurana. It usually figures eighth in the list of eighteen. There are about fifteen and a half thousand shlokas in the Agni Purana.
The Agni Purana is a tamasika purana. The others in this group are the Matsya, Kurma Linga, Shiva and Skanda Puranas.
The narrator of the Agni Purana is the fire-god Agni. Agni related the subject matter of the Purana to the sage Vashishtha, who in turn, passed on the knowledge to Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva’s disciple Suta learnt the Purana from his teacher.
Many sages had assembled in the forest naimisharanya. The most important of these sages was Shounaka. All these holy men wished to hear what the Agni Purana had to say. And that is how Suta came to relate the Purana.
The Agni Purana has no separate sections as such. It is simply split up into three hundred and eighty-three adhyayas (chapters). One of these chapters, chapter number 380, is rather interesting. It gives in capsule form the essence of advaita brahmajnana. The brahman is the divine spirit and brahmajnana means the knowledge of the brahman. Advaita means one. Advaita brahmajnana teaches of the union of the individual human soul (atman) with the brahman. The sections in the Agni Purana are nothing but a summary of the teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishadas. These holy texts were difficult to understand, there were restrictions on who might read them and who might not. The Puranas were available to everyone. Anyone could read them or listen to their recitations. Thus, this supreme knowledgeof brahmajnana was summarised for the general population through the Puranas.
The Agni Purana is full of rituals. Its chapters are generally not long, they are very brief. And even when the stories are given, they are in greatly summarized form. They can be obtained in far more fascinating detail in the other Puranas. For example, you will wonder why so much has been missed out about Rama. But that is because you are familiar with the story of the Ramayana. And you will also wonder why so much has been missed out about the Kauravas and the Pandavas. But that again is because you are familiar with the story of the Mahabharata.
This is no doubt partly due to the fact that the Agni Purana was written much after many of the other Puranas. It was a supplement to the other Puranas. The stories were already there in the other Puranas, what was missing in them were the rituals. And the rituals are very much part and parcel of the Vedic tradition. The Agni Purana was also written at a time when the brahmana religion had become much more ritualistic. The supremacy of the brahmana as a caste is much more pronounced in the Agni Purana than in the other Puranas.
Tradition too says that the Puranas differ in character because they were written in different kalpas (cycles). The Agni Purana itself with tell you later what a kalpa is.
Preliminaries
In the forest that is known as naimisharanya, Shounaka and the other rishis (sages) were performing a yajna (sacrifice) dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. Suta had also come there, on his way to a pilgrimage.
The sages told Suta, “We have welcomed you. Now describe to us that which makes men all-knowning. Describe to us that which is the most sacred in the whole world.”
Suta replied, “Vishnu is the essence of everything. I went to a hermitage named vadrika with Shuka, Paila and other sages and met Vyasadeva there. Vyasadeva described to me that which he had learnt from the great sage Vashishtha, Vashishtha having learnt it from the god Agni himself. The Agni Purana is sacred because it tells us about the essence of the brahman (the divine essence). I learnt all this from Vyasadeva and I will now tell you all that I have learnt.”
Avataras
Do you know what an avatara is? An avatara is an incarnation and means that a god adopts a human form to be born on earth. Why do gods do this? This purpose is to destroy evil on earth and establish righteousness. Vishnu is regarded as the preserver of the universe and it is therefore Vishnu’s incarnations that one encounters most often. Vishnu has already had nine such incarnations and the tenth and final incarnation is due in the future. These ten incarnations of Vishnu are as follows.
(1) Matsya avatara or fish incarnation
(2) Kurma avatara or turtle incarnation
(3) Varaha avatara or boar incarnation
(4) Narasimha avatara – an incarnation in the form of a being who
was half-man and half-lion
(5) Vamana avatara or dwarf incarnation
(6) Parashurama
(7) Rama
(8) Krishna
(9) Buddha
(10) Kalki ¾ this is the incarnation that is yet to come.
The Agni Purana now describes these ten incarnations.



The Fish
Agni told Vashishtha the story of the fish incarnation.
Many years ago, the whole world was destroyed. The destruction in fact extended to all the three lokas (worlds) of bhuloka, bhuvarloka and svarloka. Bhuloka is the earth, svarloka or svarga is heaven and bhuvarloka is a region between the earth and heaven. All three worlds were flooded with water.
Vaivasvata Manu was the son of the sun-god. He had spent ten thousand years in prayers and tapasya (meditation) in the hermitage vadrika. This hermitage was on the banks of the river Kritamala.
Once Manu came to the river to perform his ablutions. He immersed his hands in the water to get some water for his ablutions. When he raised them, he found that there was a small fish swimming in the water in the cup of his hands.
Manu was about to throw the fish back into the water when the fish said, “Don’t throw me back. I am scared of alligators and crocodiles and big fishes. Save me.”
Manu found an earthen pot in which he could keep the fish. But soon the fish became too big for the pot and Manu had to find a larger vessel in which the fish might be kept. But the fish became too big for this vessel as well and Manu had to transfer the fish to a lake. But the fish grew and grew and became too large for the lake. So Manu transferred the fish to the ocean. In the ocean, the fish grew until it became gigantic.
By now, Manu’s wonder knew no bounds. He said, “Who are you? You must be the Lord Vishnu, I bow down before you. Tell me, why are you tantalising me in the form of a fish?”
The fish replied, “I have come to punish the evil and protect the good. Seven days from now, the ocean will flood the entire world and all beings will be destroyed. But since you have saved me, I will save you. When the world is flooded, a boat will arrive here. Take the saptarshis (seven sages) with you and spend the terrible night that will come on that boat. Don’t forget to take the seeds of foodgrains with you. Will arrive and you will then fasten the boat to my horn with a huge snake.”
Saying this, the fish disappeared.
Everything happened as the fish had promised it would. The ocean became turbulent and Manu climbed into the boat. He tied the boat to the huge horn that the fish had. He prayed to the fish and the fish related the Matsya Purana to him. Eventually, when the water receded, the boat was anchored to the topmost peak of the Himalyas. And living beings were created once again.
A danava (demon) named Hayagriva had stolen the sacred texts of the Vedas and the knowledge of the brahman. In his form of a fish, Vishnu also killed Hayagriva and recovered the Vedas.



The Turtle
Many years ago there was a war between the devas (gods) and the daityas (demons) and the gods lost this war. They prayed to Vishnu to rescue them from the oppression of the demons. Vishnu told Brahma and the other gods that they should have a temporary truce with the demons. The two sides should get together to churn the ocean. Vishnu would ensure that the devas benefited more from this churning of the ocean than the daityas did.
The truce was agreed upon and the two sides got ready to churn the ocean. The mountain Mandara was used as a churning rod and the great snake Vasuki as the rope for churning. The devas grasped Vasuki’s tail and the daityas grasped Vasuki’s head. But as the churning began, the mountain Mandara which had no base, started to get immersed in the ocean. What was to be done? Lord Vishnu came to the rescue. He adopted the form of a turtle and the peak was balanced on the turtle’s back.
As the churning continued, terrible poison named kalakuta emerged from the depths of the ocean and was swallowed by Shiva. Shiva’s throat became blue from this poison and he is therefore known as Nilakantha, blue of throat. The goddess Varuni, the goddess of wine (sura), came out next. The gods readily accepted her and thus they came to be known as suras. But the demons rejected Varuni and were therefore known as asuras. She was followed by the parijata tree, a beautiful tree that came to occupy the pride of place in Indra’s garden. A jewel named koustubha emerged and was accepted by Vishnu as his adornment. Three wonderful animals came out next – the cow Kapila, the horse Ucchaishrava and the elephant Airavata. They were followed by apsaras, beautiful women who became dancers of heaven. They were known as apsaras because they emerged from ap (water). The goddess Lakshmi or Shri came out next and was united with Vishnu.
Finally, Dhanvantari emerged with a pot of amrita (the life-giving drink) in his hands. Dhanvantariwas the originator of medicine (ayurveda). The daityas led by Jambha gave half of the amrita to the devas and departed with the remaining half.
But Vishnu quickly adopted the form of a beautiful woman. So beautiful was the woman that the demons were charmed. “Pretty lady,” they said, “Take the amrita and serve it to us. Marry us.”
Vishnu accepted the amrita, but he had no intention of giving it to the demons. He served it to the gods instead. There was only one demon who was somewhat clever. His name was Rahu. He adopted the form of Chandra, the moon-god, and succeeded in drinking some of the amrita. The sun-god and the moon-god noticed what was happening and reported it to Vishnu. Vishnu thereupon cut off Rahu’s head with a sword.
But Rahu had drunk the amrita, so he could not die. He prayed to Vishnu and Vishnu granted him a boon. The boon was that occasionally Rahu would be permitted to swallow up the sun and the moon, since these were the gods who had complained about him. You can see this happening at the time of the solar and the lunar eclipses. People who give alms during such eclipses are blessed.
The gods obtained the amrita and the demons did not. Thus, the gods became more powerful than the demons. They defeated the demons and regained heaven.
The Boar
Vishnu’s next incarnation was in the form of a boar.
The sage Kashyapa and his wife Diti had a son named Hiranyaksha’s meditation pleased Brahma and Brahma granted him the boon that he would be invincible in battle. Thus armed, Hiranyaksha went out to fight with the devas. He comprehensively defeated Varna, the god of the ocean. Thus, Hiranyaksha became the king of the heaven, the earth and the underworld.
But the asura was not particularly fond of the earth. He himself had begun to live in Varuna’s palace under the ocean. So he hurled the earth into the depths of the ocean.
The gods went to Vishnu and prayed that something might be done about Hiranyaksha. They wished to be restored to heaven and they wished that the earth might be brought back from the depts of the ocean. In response to these prayers, Vishnu adoptd the form of a boar and entered the ocean. Who should he meet there but Hiranyaskha himself?
Hiranyaksha of course did not know that this boar was none other Vishnu. He thought that it was an ordinary boar and attacked it. The two fought for many years. But finally, Hiranyaksha was gored to death by the boar’s tusks. The boar raised the earth up once again with its tusks.
Vishnu thus saved the gods and the principles of righteousness or dharma.
Half-man, Half-lion
Hiranyaksha had a brother named Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakshipu was furious to learn that his brother had been killed and he resolved to kill Vishnu. But this could not be done unless he himself became powerful and invincible. Hiranyakashipu, therefore, began to pray to Brahma through difficult meditation. Brahma was pleased at these prayers and offered to grant a boon.
“I want to be invincible,” said Hiranyakashipu. “Please grant me the boon that I may not be killed by night or day; that I may not be killed by man or beast; and that I may not be killed in the sky, the water or the earth.”
Brahma granted the desired boon. And Hiranyakashipu was happy. He thought that he had taken care of all possible eventualities. And since he had become so powerful, he conquered all the three worlds and kicked the gods out of heaven.
Hiranyakashipu had a son named Prahlada. You no doubt remember that Hiranyakashipu had resolved to kill Vishnu. But strangely enough, Prahlada became devoted to Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried to persuade his son. That did not work. He tried to kill his son. That too did not work since, each time, Vishnu intervened to save Prahlada.
Meanwhile, the gods had been driven off from heaven. They had also been deprived of their shares in yajnas by Hiranyakashipu. These shares now went only to the asura king. In desperation, they went and prayed to Vishnu and Vishnu promised them that he would find a solution.
One day, Hiranyakashipu called Prahlada to him. “How is it that you escaped each time I tried to kill you?,” he asked.
“Because Vishnu saved me,” replied Prahlada. “Vishnu is everywhere.”
“What do you mean everywhere?,” retorted Hiranyakashipu. He pointed to a crystal pillar inside the palace and asked, “Is Vishnu inside this pillar as well?”
“Yes,” replied Prahlada.
“Very well then. I am going to kick the pillar,” said Hiranyakashhipu.
When Hiranyakashipu kicked the pillar, it broke in two . And from inside the pillar, Vishnu emerged in his form of half-man and half-lion. He caught hold of Hiranyakashipu and placed the demon across his thighs. And with his claws, he tore apart the demon’s chest and so killed him. Brahma’s boon had been that Hiranyakashipu would not be killed by man or beast, it was half-man and half-beast. The boon had said that the asura would not be killed in the sky, the water or the earth. But Hiranyakashipu was killed on Vishnu’s thighs, which were not the sky, the water or the earth. And finally, the boon had promised that Hiranyakashipu would not be killed by night or day. Since the incident took place in the evening, it was not night or day.
After Hiranyakashipu died, the gods were restored to their rightful places. Vishnu made Prahlada the king of the asuras.


The Dwarf
Prahlada’s grandson was Vali and Vali became very powerful. When he was the king of the asuras, there was a war between the devas and the asuras. The gods were defeated and were driven off from svarga. As always, the gods fled to Vishnu and began to pray to him to save them. Vishnu assured the gods that he would do something about Vali.
Accordingly, Vishnu was born as the son of Aditi and Kashyapa. The son was a dwarf.
King Vali had arranged for a huge sacrifice and had announced that, on the occasion of the sacrifice, he would not refuse anyone a boon. The dwarf arrived at this sacrifice and began to recite the Vedas. Vali was so pleased at this that he offered the dwarf a boon. Vali’s guru (teacher) was Shukracharya and Shukracharya thought that there was something fishy about the way the dwarf had arrived. So he tried to restrain Vali.
“No,” said Vali. “I have offered a boon and I shall stick to my word.” What boon do you desire? I will give whatever you want.”
Before a boon was actually granted, a small rite had to be performed with holy water. Shukracharya was still trying to do his best to prevent the boon from being given. So he entered the vessel in which the holy water was kept to seal the mouth of the vessel and prevent the water from being taken out. To get at the holy water, the vessel was pierced with a straw. This straw also pierced one of Shukracharya’s eyes. Ever since that day, the preceptor of the demons has been one-eyed.
“Give me as much of land as may be covered in three of my steps,” said the dwarf. “I need this as dakshina (fee) for my guru.”
Vali agreed. But the dwarf adopted a gigantic form. With one step he covered bhuloka. With another step he covered bhuvarloka. And with the last step he covered svarloka. The three worlds were thus lost to Vali and Vishnu returned them to Indra. Vali had no option but to go down to the underworld (patala). But so pleased was Vishnu at Vali’s generosity that he granted the asura the boon that he would bear the title of Indra in the future.

Parashurama
The kshatriyas were the second of the four classes. It was their job to wear arms and protect the world. And rule. The brahmanas were the first of the four classes. It was their job to pray, study the sacred texts and perform religious rites. But the kshatriyas became very insolent and began to oppress the world and the brahmanas. Vishnu was then born as the son of the sage Jamadagni and his wife Renuka. Since this was the line of the sage Bhrigu, Parashurama was also called Bhargava. Parashurama’s mission was to protect the brahmanas and teach a lesson to the kshatriyas.
There was a king named kartavirya who had received all sorts of boons from the sage Dattatreya. Thanksto these boons, Kartavirya had a thousand arms and conquered and ruled over the entire world.
One day, Kartavirya went on a hunt to the forest. He was very tired after the hunt and was invited by the sage Jamadagni to rest at the sage’s hermitage. Jamadagni had a kamadhenu cow. This meant that the cow producted whatever its owner desired. Jamadagni used the kamadhenu to treat Kartavirya and all his soldiers to a sumptuous feast.
Kartavirya was enamoured of the kamadhenu that he asked the sage to give it to him. But Jamadagni refused. Kartavirya then abducted the cow by force and a war started between Kartavirya and Parashurama. In this war, Parashurama cut off Kartavirya’s head with his axe (parashu) and brought the kamadhenu back to the hermitage.
After some time, Parashurama was away when Kartavirya’s sons arrived at the ashrama and killed Jamadagni. On the death of his father, Parashurama’s anger was aroused. He killed all the kshatriyas in the world twenty-one times. On the plains of Kurukshetra, he built five wells which were filled with the blood of kshatriyas. Eventually, Parashurama handed over the world to Kashyapa and went and lived on Mount Mahendra.



Rama
Brahma came out of Vishnu’s navel. Brahma’s son was Marichi, Marichi’s son Kashyapa, Kashyapa’s son Surya, Surya’s son Vaivasvata Manu, Manu’s son Ikshvaku, Ikshvaku’s son Kakutstha, Kakutstha’s son Raghu, Raghu’ son Aja, Aja’s son Dasharatha, Dasharatha’s sons were Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Since Rama was descended from Kakutstha and Raghu, he was also called Kakutstha and Raghava. Since his father’s name was Dasharatha, he was also called Dasharathi. Rama’s story belongs to the solar line (surya vamsha), since one of his ancestors was Surya.
Vishnu himself wished to destroy Ravana and the other rakshasas (demons). He therefore divided himself into four parts and was born as Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Rama was Koushalya’s son, Bharata Kaikeyi’s. Lakshmana and Shatrughna were the sons of Sumitra.
The sage Vishvamitra came to Dasharatha and pleaded for Rama’s help in defeating the rakshasas who were disturbing his yajnas. Rama killed these demons and Vishvamitra was so pleased that he taught Rama the use of all divine weapons. Rama broke a bow of Shiva’s that had been in the possession of the king of Mithila, Janka. This was the task that had been appointed for marrying Sita, Janaka’s daughter. Rama married Sita, Lakshmana married Urmila, Bharata married Mandavi and Shatrughna married Shrutakirti. On the way back to Ayodhya, Rama also beat Parashurama in a duel.
Dasharatha resolved that Rama should be made yuvaraja, that is, the heir apparent to the kingdom.
But Kaikeyi had a servant named Manthara who plotted otherwise. When he was young, Rama had pulled at Manthara’s feet and ever since that day. Manthara had not been kindly disposed towards Rama. She reminded Kaikeyi of the two boons that had been promised to her by King Dasharatha. Years ago, the gods had been fighting with the demon Shambara and had asked Dasharatha for his help. In fighting with Shambara, Dasharatha had been injured. He had been nursed back to health by Kaikeyi. Dasharatha had promised two boons to Kaikeyi as a reward and Manthara’s suggestion was that Kaikeyi should now ask for these two boons. By the first boon Rama would be banished to the forest for fourteen years and by the second boon Bharata would become yuvaraja.
Kaikeyi listened to Manthara. At Manthara’s instance, she asked for these two boons. Dasharatha was very angry, but Rama insisted that he would indeed go to the forest for fourteen years. Rama, Lakshmana and Sita first went to the banks of the river Tamasa. From there they went to the kingdom of Guha, the king of the hunters (nishadas). They crossed the river Jahnavi and arrived in Prayaga, where the sage Bharadvaja had his hermitage. Their final destination was the mountan range of Chitrakuta, on the banks of the river Mandakini.
Meanwhile, back home in Ayodhya, King Dasharatha who could not bear to be parted from Rama, died. Bharata and Shatrughna had gone on a visit to their uncle’s house and were recalled. But Bharata refused to be king. He went to the forest to try and persuade Rama to return, but Rama insisted that he would not return before the fourteen years were over. So Bharata brought back Rama’s sandals. He placed these sandals on the throne as a token of Rama’s kingship. And he began to rule the kingdom in Rama’s name from Nandigrama, rather than from Ayodhya.
Rama, Lakshmana and Sita then went to the forest that is known as the Dandaka forest, dandakaranya. This forest was on the banks of the river Godavari and there was a beautiful grove inside the forest known as Panchavati. They built a hut there and resolved to live there.
There was a rakshasa woman named Shurpanakha. She happened to come to the place where Rama, Lakshmana and Sita had built their hut. Shurpanakha liked Rama so much that she wanted to marry Rama and eat up Lakshmana and Sita. But Lakshmana cut off Shurpaakha’s nose and ears with his sword.
Shurpanakha fled to her brother Khara and demanded revenge. Khara and fourteen thousand other demons (rakshasas) attacked Rama, but they were all killed by Rama. Shurpanakha then went to her other brother Ravana, the king of Lanka. Ravana asked the rakshasa Maricha to adopt the form of a golden deer and roam around in front of Rama’s hut. Sita was so charmed by the deer that she asked Rama to capture it for her. Rama was long in returning and Lakshmana went to look for him. Taking advantage of Rama and Lakshmana’s absence. Ravana kidnapped Sita. Jatayu, the king of the birds, did try to stop Ravana, but he met his death at Ravana’s hands.
Rama and Lakshmana were greatly distressed to find Sita missing and they looked for her everywhere. Rama made friends with the monkey Sugriva. He killed Sugriva’s brother Bali and made Sugriva the king of the monkeys. The monkeys were sent off in all the four directions to look for Sita.
The monkeys who had gone towards the south learnt that Sita was in Lanka, across the ocean. One of these monkeys was Hanumana. Hanumana leapt over the ocean and arrived in Lanka. He discovered the lonesome Sita in a grove of ashoka trees, the ashokavana. Hanumana introduced himself and assured Sita that he would soon be back with Rama. Hanumana caused some general havoc in Lanka and was captured by Meghnada or Indrajit, Ravana’s son. Ravana ordered that Hanumana’s tail should be set on fire. But Hanumana used his burning tail to set fire to all the houses of Lanka. He then returned to Rama with the news that Sita had been found.
Rama, Lakshmana and the army of monkeys arrived at the shores of the ocean. There they built a bridge over the ocean so that they could cross over into Lanka. There was a terrible war in which Rama killed the giant Kumbhakarna, Ravana’s brother. Lakshmana killed Indrajit. Rama killed Ravana with a powerful divine weapon, the brahamastra.
The fourteen years were by now over and Rama, Lakshmana and Sita returned to Ayodhya. There Rama was crowned king and he treated his subjects as his own sons. He punished the wicked and followed the path of dharma. During Rama’s rule there was no shortageof foodgrains anywhere and the people were righteous. No one died an untimely death.
On Rama’s instructions, Shatrughna killed the asura Lavana and built the city of Mathura in the place where Lavana’s kingdom had been. Bharata was sent by Rama to kill a wicked gandharva a singer of heaven named Shailusha, who lived on the banks of the river Indus with his sons. Bharata killed them and built two cities there, Takshashila and Pushkaravati. In Takshashila Bharata established his son Taksha as king and in Pushkaravti he made his son Pushkara the king. Rama and Sita had two sons named Kusha and Lava. Rama ruled for eleven thousand years before he died.
This is the story of the Ramayana as recounted in the Agni Purana. It was written by the sage Valmiki after he had heard the story from the sage Narada.
Rama was the seventh avatara of Vishnu. Krishna was the eighth.


The Harivamasha
As you have already been told, Brahma emerged from Vishnu’s navel. Brahma’ son was Atri, Atri’s son Soma, Soma’s son Pururava, Pururava’s son Ayu, Ayu’s son Nahusha and Nahusha’s son Yayati. Yayati had two wives, Devayani and Sharmishtha. Devayani had two sons, Yadu and Turvusu. And Sharmishtha had three sons, Druhya, Anu and Puru. The descendants of Yadu were known as the Yadavas.
Vasudeva was a Yadava. His wife was Devaki. Vishnu was born as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki in order to remove the wicked from the world. The seventh son of Vasudeva and Devaki was Baladeva. And the eighth son was Krishna himself. Krishna was born in the month of Bhadra in the thick of the night. Scared that the wicked Kamsa might kill the newly child, Vasudeva left him with Yashoda, the wife of Nanda.
Nanda was the king of the cowherds and he brought up Baladeva and Krishna. Kamsa sent a rakshasa woman named Putana to kill Krishna, but Krishna killed her instead. In Vrindavana, Krishna subdued the terrible snake known as Kaliya. He killed several other rakshasas named Arishta, Vrishabha, Keshi, Dhenuka and Gardhabha and made the country safe from the attacks of these demons. He also stopped the worship of Indra. This led to a fight between Indra and Krishna , Indra tried to destroy the inhabitants of Gokula by sending down torrents of rain. But Krishna held aloft the mountain Govardhana and saved the inhabitants of Gokula.
Kamsa’s capital was in Mathura, Baladeva and Krishna went there. Kamsa let loose a mad elephant named Kuvalayapida on Krishna. But Krishna killed Kuvalayapida. Baladeva and Krishna also killed two strong wrestlers, Chanura and Mushtika, whom Kamsa had instructed to kill Baladeva and Krishna. Finally, Krishna killed Kamsa and made Ugrasena the king.
Kamsa was Jarasandha’s son- in-law and Jaradsandha became furious when he learnt of Kamsa’s death. He attacked the Yadavas and laid siege to the city of Mathura. After a prolonged war, Krishna managed to defeat Jarasandha. Krishna also defeated another evil king named Poundraka. On Krishna’s instructions, the Yadavas built the beautiful city of Dvaraka or Dvarakati. The Yadavas began to live in Dvaraka.
There was an asura named Naraka who was killed by Krishna. Naraka had imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the devas, gandharvas and yakshas (guards of heaven’s treasury). These women were freed by Krishna and Krishna married all of them. Among Krishna’s other exploits were defeating the daitya Panchajana, killing Kalayavana, seizing the parijata tree from Indra and bringing back to life the sage Sandipani’s dead son.
Krishna had several sons. Shamba was born of Krishna’s wife Jambavati and Pradyumna was born of Krishna’s wife Rukmini. As soon as Pradyumna was born, he was abductd by the asura Shambara. Shambara threw the baby into the sea, but a fish swallowed the baby. A fisherman caught the fish and brought it to Shambara’s house. When the fish’s stomach was cut open, the baby came out. There was a woman named Mayavati who lived in Shambara’s house and Shambara handed over baby Pradyumna to Mayavati so that he might be brought up well. When he grew up, Pradyumna killed Shambara and married Mayavati. They returned to Dvaraka and Krishna was happy to see his lost son.
Pradyumna and Mayavati had a son named Aniruddha. Aniruddha secretly married Usha, the daughter of King Vana, Vana himself being the son of Vali. Vana’s capital was in a city named Shonitapura. Vana had pleased Shiva through hard and difficult tapasya, so that sometimes he was called the son of Shiva. Vana loved to fight and he had wanted a boon from Shiva that he might get the chance to fight with someone who was his equal in battle. A flag with a peacock on it used to fly from the ramparts of Vana’s palace. Shiva told him that the day this flag fell down, Vana’s desire for battle with an equal would be satisfied.
With the help of a friend of Usha’s, Aniruddha and Usha used to meet secretly in Vana’s palace. Vana’s guards informed him about this and there was a fierce battle betweeen Vana and Aniruddha. At the same time, the flag with the peacock on it fell down. Krishna got to know from Narada about the fight between Vana and Aniruddha and he, Baladeva and Pradyumna arrived in Vana’s capital. Shiva came to fight on Vana’s side, accompanied by Nandi and Skanda or Kartikeya. But after a duel that lasted for a long time, Krishna triumphed over these enemies. Krishna’s arrows also cut off the thousand arms that Vana had. But at Shiva’s request, Krishna spared Vana’s life and gave him two arms with which to make do.
All of these stories about Krishna are related in detail in the Harivamsha. The Agni Purana merely gives a brief summary of the Harivamsha. But stories about Krishna, the eighth avatara of Vishnu, also crop up in the Mahabharata. The Agni Purana, therefore, next summarises the Mahabharata.




The Mahabharta
The Pandavas were merely a pretext. Krishna used the Pandavas to rid the world of evil men.
You have already learnt that one of Yayati’s sons was Puru. In Puru’s line were born Bharata and Kuru. One of Kuru’s descendants was the king Shantanu. Shantanu married Ganga and Bhishma was born from this marriage. But Shantanu also married Satyavati and had two more sons, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. Bhishma never married. Chitrangada died young. When Vicitravirya grew up, Bhishma defeated the king of Kashi and brought two of the king’s daughters, Ambika and ambalika, as brides for Vichitravirya. Vichitravirya was also quite young when he died of tuberculosis.
Since Vichitravirya had left no children, Vyasadeva was brought to Hastinapura. Vyasadeva and Ambika had a son named Dhritarashtra and Vyasadeva and Ambalika had a son named Pandu. Dhritarashtra married Gandhari and they had a hundred sons, of whom the most important was Duryodhana. Pandu had two wives, Kunti and Madri. Kunti’s sons were Yudhishthira, Bhima and Arjuna and Madri’s son were Nakula and Sahadeva. But Yudhisthira was really the son of the god Dharma and not Pandu’s son. Similarly, Bhima was the son of the god Pavana. Arjuna the son of Indra and Nakula and Sahadeva the sons of the two Ashvinis. Earlier, Kunti had had a son named Karna from the sun-god. This was before she had got married to Pandu. Karna became a friend of Duryodhana’s. Because of a curse imposed on him by a sage, Pandu died in the forest.
Duryodhana tried his best to kill the Pandavas. He set fire to a house of lac (jatugriha) in which Kunti and the five Pandavas were staying. But the Pandavas were saved and fled to a city named Ekachakra. There they lived, diguised as brahmanas. In Ekachakra, they destroyed a rakshasa named Vaka. They then won the hand of the daughter of the king of Panchala. Her name was Droupadi and all five Pandava brothers married her. When Duryodhana learnt that the Pandavas were alive, he handed over half the kingdom to them.
Meanwhile, the forest Khandava had to be burnt and Krishna and Arjuna did this together. Krishna had befriended Arjuna. When Arjuna successfully defeated the god Agni at the burning of the Khandava forest, Agni gave him several divine weapons. Arjuna had also obtained divine weapons from his guru Dronacharya.
On the Pandava side, Yudhishthira had become king. The Pandavas organised a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice) in which they conquered several kingdoms and accumulated a lot of wealth. This made Duryodhana envious. He arranged a game of dice (aksha) between Yudhishthira and Duryodhana’s uncle Shakuni. Shakuni did not play fairly and Yudhisthira lost the game. As a penalty for the loss, the Pandavas were to spend twelve years in the forest and one additional year without being detected. Droupadi went with them to the forest, as did the Pandava’s priest, Dhoumya.
After the twelve years were over, the Pandavas came to the kingdom of King Virata where they proposed to spend the additional year that had to be spent in disguise. Yudhishthira pretended to be a brahmana, Bhima cook, Arjuna dancer, Nakula and Sahadeva stable-hands. Droupadi became the queen’s maid. The queen’s brother Kichaka tried to molest Droupadi, but was killed by Bhima. When the year was over, the Kauravas attacked King Virata to rob him of his cattle. But Arjuna defeated all the Kauravas and saved Virata’s cattle. After this success, the identity of the Pandavas could no longer be kept a secret. But thankfully, the one year during which identities had to be kept a secret, was over.
King Virata’s daughter Uttara was married to Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son. Abhimanyu’s mother was Subhadra, whom Arjuna had married. Subhadra also happened to be Krishna’s sister.
The Pandavas now demanded their rightful share of the kingdom, but Duryodhana refused. A war was imminent. A huge battalion of soldiers was known as an akshouhini. Duryodhana collected eleven akshouhinis for the war and Yudhishthira collected seven. Krishna was sent as a messenger to Duryodhana to try and preserve the peace, Krishna told Duryodhana that the Pandavas would be satisfied with a mere five villages. Duryodhana refused to give them even this without a fight.
So the armies gathered for a war on the plains of Kurukshetra. Noticing that elders and relatives like Bhishma and Dronacharyas were fighting on the side of the Kauravas. Arjuna was reluctant to fight. But Krishna gave Arjuna lessons which have come down to us as the Gita. He taught that there was no reason for sorrow if Bhishma or Dronacharya died. That true identity of a person was his atman (soul) which never died, but passed from one body to another. True bliss was obtained when the atman united with the brahman( divine essence) or paramatman (supreme soul). This was always the goal of a yogi, that is a person who sought union with god.
Thus instructed by Krishna, Arjuna started to fight. With the help of Shikhandi, he defeated Bhishma. This happened on the tenth day of the fighting. Bhishma did not however die. He had earlier received the boon that he would only die when he actually wished to do so. For many days, he lay there in the battlefield on a bed of arrows. After Bhishma’s defeat, Dronacharya became the general of the Kauravas. Dhrishtadyumna was the general on the Pandava side. Dronacharya killed Virata, Drupada and several other kings and soldiers on the Pandava side. Dhrishtadyumna also killed many Kaurava soldiers. On the fifteenth day of the fighting, a rumour gained currency that Ashvatthama, Dronacharaya’s son, had been killed. Dronacharya abandoned his weapons on hearing this bad news and Dhrishtadyumna faced not problems in killing him. Karna now became the Kaurava general and lasted for two and a half days before he was killed by Arjuna. Shalya was the last Kaurava general. He fought for only half a day and was killed by Yudhishthira.
Bhima and Duryodhana fought the last duel of the war with maces. Bhima broke Duryodhana’s thighs and killed him. Ashvatthama had been fuming ever since his father Dronacharya had been killed by unfair means. In the dead of the night, he entered the Pandava camp where he killed Dhristadyumna and the five sons of Droupadi. Droupadi was disconsolate and demanded revenge. Arjuna and Ashvatthama let loose divine weapons at each other. Since this might destroy the world, they were asked to withdraw these weapon. Arjuna could withdraw his weapon, but Ashvatthama could not. Ashvatthama’s weapon killed the baby that was in Uttara’s womb, but when the dead baby was born, Krishna brought it back to life. This baby was Parikshita.
Many kings and soldiers died in the course of the Kurukshetra war. The only ones left alive were Kritavarma, Kripacharya and Ashvatthama on the Kaurava side and Satyaki, Krishna and the five Pandavas on the Pandava side. After the war was over, Bhishma taught Yudhishthira the duties of a king. It was only after this that he died.
As a king, Yudhishthira performed many yajnas and gave a lot of alms to brahmanas. When Yudhishthira learnt that the Yadavas had been destroyed, he no longer wished to rule. He handed over the kingdom to Parikshita and the Pandavas left on a pilgrimage, in the course of which they died.
It was Krishna who had used the Pandavas as a tool to rid the world of evil kings and establish the good ones. Realizing that the Yadavas were also evil, Krishna also ensured that the Yadavas would be destroyed. He then gave up his life at the place of pilgrimage that is known as Prabhasa. After Krishna died, the city of Dvaraka was swallowed up by the sea.
This was the story of the eighth avatara of Vishnu.


Buddha and Kalki
The ninth avatara of Vishnu was Buddha and the tenth will be Kalki.
Many years ago, there was a war between the devas and the asuras in which the demons managed to defeat the gods. The gods went running to Vishnu for protection and Vishnu told them that Mayamoha would be born as Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana. Such were the illusions that Buddha created, that the asuras left the path indicated by the Vedas and became Buddhists. These dastardly creatures performed ceremonies that were a sure ticket to naraka. Towards the end of the Kali era, all people will be dastardly. They will oppose the Vedas, become robbers and will be concerned only with wealth. The disbelievers will then become kings and these kings will also be cannibals.
Much later, Kalki will be born on earth as the son of Vishnuyasha. He will take up arms to destroy these disbelievers. Kalki’s priest will be the sage Yajnavalkya. The norms of the four classes (varna) and the four stages of life (ashrama) will be stablished yet again. People will honour the sacred texts and become righteous. It will then be time for the dawn of a new satya yuga, a fresh period of righteousness.
In every cycle (kalpa) and in every era (manvantara Vishnu is thus born in various forms. It is sacred duty to listen to the stories of then ten avataras. The listener atttains his desires and goes to heaven.


Creation
Agni next told Vashishtha the history of creation.
Vishnu is the Lord of creation, preservation and destruction. Before creation, it was only the brahman that was everywhere. There was no day, night or sky.
First Vishnu created the waters. And in the waters he sowed the seeds if brahmanda, the great egg. From this seed there developed a golden egg which began to float on the waters. From the egg Brahma created himself. Since he created himself (svayam sambhuta). Brahma is also known as Svayambhu. Having created himself, Brahma stayed inside the egg for an entire year. And at the end of the year, he split the egg into two. One part of the egg formed the heaven, the other the earth. And in between the two parts of the egg, Brahma created the sky.
Brahma next established the earth on the waters and made the ten directions. He created time, lightning, thunder, clouds, rainbows, words and anger. To ensure that yajnas could be performed, texts of the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda emerged from his body. Holy people use the Vedas to perform ceremonies meant for the gods.
From the powers of his mind, Brahma created seven sons. Their names were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Vashishtha.
Prithu is recognized as the first king. Prithu was descended from Dhruva. And Prithu’s father Vena was also a king. But Vena was an evil king; he was simply not interested in protecting his subjects. The sages therefore killed Vena with a straw. And after Vena had died, they began to knead the dead body’s right hand and it was thus that Prithu emerged. He wore armour and carried bow and arrows when he was born. He ruled well, as per the dictates of dharma. He looked upon all his subjects as his own sons. From Prithu the earth came to be known as prithivi.


How to Pray, How to Build Temples and Idols
The Agni purana next has several chapters on how to pray and on how to build temples and idols. The techniques of praying to Vishnu, Shiva, Surya and the other gods and goddesses are decribed, including the special mantras (incantations) that must be used so as to please specific gods and goddesses. Prior to prayers one must bathe and there are prescribed forms for such bathing as well.
A person who builds temples is blessed. Even if one merely thinks of building temples, the sins of a hundred lives are forgiven. The ancestors of a builder of temples are rescued from hell. A builder of a single temple goes to heaven (svarga). A builder of two temples goes to brahmaloka, a builder of five to shivaloka, a builder of eight to vishuloka and a builder of sixteen temples is freed from the shackles of being born again and again. What is the point of earning money if one does not build temples? Money is also meant to be donated as alms to brahmanas, but the punya or merit earned from building a temple is greater than the punya earned from donating alms. The merit earned by a builder of temples is greatest for a golden temple, lesser for a stone temple, still lesser for a wooden temple and least for an earthen temple.
More punya is acquired from building an idol than from a temple, Idols of gods and goddesses should always be set up so that they face the city; they should not face away from the city. The east is best for Indra’s idol , the south for Chandi’s, the centre for Brahma’s, Vishnu’s idol can be set up anywhere at all.
Different idols of Vishnu must have different forms. Consider, for example, idols or images of the ten incarnations of Vishnu. The matsya (fish) avatara must naturally look like a fish and the kurma (turtle) avatara must look like a turtle. But the varaha (boar) avatara will have four arms like a man and will hold a gada (mace), a padma (lotus flower), a shankha (conch shell) and a chakra (bladed discus) in these four arms. The narasimha avatara should have two arms holding a chakra and a gada and should wear a a garland. The vamana (dwarf) avatara should hold an umbrella and a stick in his two hands. Parashurama will have four hands with a bow, arrows, a sword and an axe in these hands. Rama’s image can have either two arms or four. If there are four arms, the four hands will hold a bow, arrows, a conch shell and a chakra. Balarama’s image may also have either four arms or two. If there are two arms, the hands will hold a plough and a mace. If there are four arms, the hands will hold a plough, a conch shell, a club and a chakra. Buddha’s image should have a calm appearance. It should be seated one lotus. The ears should be elongated. Kalki’s image is that of a brahmana, seated on a horse and holding a bow and arrows, a conch shell, a sword and a chakra.
Krishna’s image may be either two-armed or four-armed. Three of the four arms will hold a gada, a chakra and a shankha. The fourth palm will be opened out in the act of granting a boon. On either side of Krishna’s image, there will be images of Brahma and Shiva. Brahma has four faces and four arms and the image should have a pronounced stomach, a beard and matted hair. Brahma rides a swam. On either side of Brahma’s image, there will be images of Sarasvati and Savitri.
Visnu’s image has eight arms. Seven of the arms hold a sword, a mace, arrows, a bow, a shield, a chakra and a conch shell. The eighth palm is spread out as if Vishnu is granting a boon. Vishnu should be shown riding on Garuda. Garuda will also have eight arms. To the right of Vishnu’s image, there should be images of Lakshmi and Sarasvati, Lakshmi holding a lotus and Sarasvati holding a veena ( a musical instrument). There has also got to be an image of Vishnu exhibiting his universal form (vishvarupa). The Vishvarupa image has four heads and twenty arms.
Chandi’s image has twenty arms. The ten arms on the right hold a spear, a sword, a shakti (a small spear), a chakra, a pasha (noose), a shield, a drum and any two other weapons. The tenth arm on the right should be in the act of granting a boon. The ten arms on the left hold snakes, a rod, an axe, an amkusha (used for driving elephants), a bow, a bell, a flag, a mace, a mirror and a club. In front of Chandi’s image there will be the image of a buffalo with its head cut off. The image of an asura will be shown emerging from the body of the buffalo. The demon’s hair, eyes and garland will be red in colour. It will be shown to be vomiting blood and it will hold weapons in its hand. The demon’s neck will be bound up in a noose and Chandi’s lion will be attacking it. Chandi’s right leg will be on the lion and her left leg will be on the demon’s back. Images of Chandi may sometimes also have ten, sixteen or eighteen arms.
Shiva’s image (linga) may be made out of earth, wood, iron, jewels, gold, silver, copper, bronze or mercury.
Places of Pilgrimage
A visit to a place of pilgrimage (tirtha) brings the same punya that is obtained from performing a yajna. It is because people had not gone on pilgrimages or donated gold and cows in their earlier lives that they were born poor in their next lives.
The best place of pilgrimage is Pushkara. Brahma, other gods and sages who wish to go to heaven live there. The best time to go to Pushkara is in the month of Kartika. In Pushkara itself there are two other places of pilgrimage known as Jambumarga and Tandulikashrama.
It is difficult to go to Pushkara. But there are several other tirthas as well. One such is Kurukshetra, where Vishnu and the other gods keep on coming. The river Sarasvati flows near Kurukshetra. If one bathes in the Sarasvati, one attains brahmaloka.
Any region through which the river Ganga flows also becomes a tirtha. Even if one sees the Ganga, the punya of performing yajnas is attained. A person who bears earth from the bed of the Ganga on his head is freed of all sins.
Prayaga is another famous place of pilgrimage. Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and the other gods, gandharvas, apasaras and the sages are always there in Prayaga. This is because the two holy rivers, Ganga and Yamuna, come together in Prayaga. There are many tirthas inside Prayaga itself. The sages have said that, in the month of Magha, if one bathes for three days in Prayaga, that is better than donating crores and crores of cows. If one donates alms in Prayaga, one goes to svaraga and is born as a king in one’s next life. If one dies in Prayaga, one goes straight to vishnuloka.
Shiva himself had told Parvati that Varanasi was a very holy tirtha and that Shiva never left the city. Varanasi is so named because it is located at the junction of two rivers, Varana and Asi. Varana is also known as Kashi.
The river Narmada is also sacred.
There may be several holy tirthas, but Gaya is the holiest of them all. A demon named Gayasura once started to perform tapasya and such were the powers of his tapasya that the gods began to suffer. They went to Vishnu and asked him to save them. Vishnu agreed and appeared before Gayasura. “Accept a boon,” said Vishnu.
“Grant me the boon that I may become the most sacred of all tirthas,” replied the daitya.
The boon was granted and Gayasura disappeared. The gods returned to svarga, but felt that the earth seemed to be deserted now that Gayasura had disappeared. Vishnu then instructed Brahma and the other gods to perform a sacrifice. He also asked them to go to Gayasura and ask for his body so that the sacrifice might be performed on it. Gayasura readily agreed, and as soon as he agreed, his head fell off from the body. Brahma then proceeded to perform the sacrifice on Gayasura’s headless body. But as soon as the sacrifice started, the body began to shake. This meant that the sacrifice could not be properly performed and a solution had to be found. The solution was the gods should all enter a stone which would be placed on Gayasura’s body so that the body would not shake. The sacrifice could then be performed. Vishnu himself also entered the stone. It is because the gods and Vishnu are always there in Gaya that Gaya is sacred.
In fact, there is a story behind this stone as well.
The sage Marichi was Brahma’s son and had married Dharmavrata. One day, Marichi went to the forest to collect wood and flowers and returned extemely tired. He called Dharmavrata and said, “I am very tired. Today you must wash my feet for me.”
Dharmavrata began to wash Marichi’s feet when Brahma suddenly arrived. Dharmavrata did not know what to do. Should she finish washing her husband’s feet? Or should she first attend to Brahma, since Brahma was Marichi’s father? She decided to attend to Brahma first. At this, Marichi became very angry and cursed Dharmavrata that she would turn into a stone. Dharmavrata was greatly distressed at being cursed for what she though had not been a fault at all. So she performed tapasya for many years. When Vishnu and the other gods were pleased at Dharmavrata’s meditation, they appeared and offered to grant her a boon.
Dharmavrata wished that the curse imposed on her by Marichi might be waived. The gods explained that this was impossible, since Marichi was a very powerful sage. What they would however, do was to make Dharmavrata a very holy stone desired even by the gods. The god promised to be always inside this stone. It was this stone that was placed on Gayasura’s body.
Once the sacrifice was over, Gayasura himself desired a boon from the gods and the gods granted him that Gaya would become the most sacred of all tirthas. It was in Gaya that the Pandavas had prayed to Vishnu.



Geography
The world is divided into seven regions (dvipas). Their names are Jambu, Plaksha, Shalmali, Kusha, Krouncha, Shaka and Pushkara. The seven dvipas are surrounded by seven oceans and the names of these oceans and the names of these oceans are Lavana, Ikshu, Sura, Sarpih, Dadhi, Dugdha and Jala.
Right in the centre of Jambudvipa is Mount Meru. Mountains named Himavana, Hemakuta and Nishada are to the south of Meru and mountains named Nila, Shveta and Shringi are to the north of Meru. Jambudvipa is known by that name as there are a large number of jambu (jamun) trees in this area. On the top of Mount Meru is Brahma’s famous city.
Under the earth is the underworld. This too, consists of seven regions and their names are Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala. The daityas and the danavas live in the underworld. Vishnu is also there in the underworld, in his form of the great snake Shesha. The snake Shesha holds up the earth on its hood.
That part of the sky which is lit up by sun-rays is known as Nabha. Above the earth is the sun, above the sun the moon, above the moon the stars, above the stars Mercury, above Mercury Venus, above Venus Jupiter and above Jupiter the constellation of the great Bear (Saptarshimandala). Beyond this constellation is the world of Dhruva.


Astrology

The Agni Purana next gives a lot of information on astrogy. It states when marriages should take place and when they should not. For example, marriages are never to be held in the months of Chaitra and Pousha or under the signs of Libra or Gemini. If one is going on a trip, then Friday is the best day to start on. Medicine should not be taken if one of the nakshatras (stars Pushya, Hasta, Jyeshtha, Shravana or Ashvini is not in the sky. If one wishes to have a bath after recovering from an illness, then Saturday is the best day for such a bath.
The first time a child’s head is shaved should never be on a Tuesday or a Saturday. Ears should be pierced on Wednesday or Thursday. New Clothes should not first be worn on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. A new house should not entered into in the months of Chaitra, Jyeshtha, Bhadra, Ashvina, Pousha or Magha. It is best to reap grain on a Wednesday.


Manvantaras
Each manvantara (era) is ruled over by a Manu.
The first Manu was Svayambhuva. Shatakratu held the title of Indra during this manvantara.
The second Manu was Svarochisha. Vipashchita held the title of Indra during this manvatara.
The third Manu was Uttama and Sushanti was Indra then.
The fourth Manu was Tapasa and Shikhi held the title of Indra then.
The fifth Manu was Raivata and Vitatha was Indra then.
The title of Indra was held by Manojava during the sixth manvantara, the Manu being Chakhusha.
Next came Shraddhadeva, the seventh Manu, Purandara being the Indra.
Th eighth Manu’s name is Savarni and the eighth Indra’s Vali. The eighth manvantara has not yet come.
The ninth Manu will be Dakshasavarni and the ninth Indra will be Adbhuta.
During the tenth manvantara, the Manu will be Brahmasavarni and the title of Indra will beheld by Shanti.
During the rule of the eleventh Manu Dharmasavarni, the Indra will be Gana.
The twelfth Manu will be Rudrasavarni and the twelfth Indra will be Ritadhama.
Rouchya will be the thirteenth Manu and Divaspati will be the thirteenth Indra.
The fourteenth Manu will be Bhoutya and the title of Indra will then be held by Shuchi,.
Durng each of Brahma’s days, ther are fourteen such manvantaras. After that comes Brahma’s night, when all these living beings are destroyed.


Varnashrama Dharma
All the Manus practised the precepts of dharma (righteousness). This meant non-violence, truthfulness, piety, going on pilgrimages, donating alms, serving devas and brahmanas, tolerance of all religions and the following of the sacred texts. It also meant the practice of the system of the four classes (varna) and the four stages in life (ashrama).
The four varnas are brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. Performing sacrifices, donating alms and studying the Vedas are duties that brahmans, kshatriyas and vaishyas must perform. In addition, the kshatriyas must protect the good and punish the evil. The vaishyas must take care of trade, agriculture and animal husbandry. The dutites of shudras are to serve the brahmanas and artisanship. When brahmanas take up the upavita, the sacred thread that is the mark of the first three classes, it is like a second birth for them. So brahmanas are known as dvijas (born twice).
An anuloma marriage is a marriage where the husband is from a higher class than the wife. The offspring of such a marriage belong to the mother’s class. A pratiloma marriage is a marriage where the wife is from a higher class than the husband. Chandalas were born this way from brahmana women, Sutas from kshatriya women, Devalas from vaishya women, Pukkashas from kshatriya women and Magadhas from vaishya women. Chandalas are executioners, Sutas charioteers, Devalas guards, Pukkashas hunters and Magadhas bards. Chandalas should live outside the villages and should not touch those belonging to any other class.
The best name for a brahmana is that which ends in Sharma. Similarly, the best name for a kshatriya ends in Varma, for a vaishya in Gupta and for a shudra in Dasa. The sacred thread ceremony is to be held at the age of eight years for brahmanas, eleven years for kshatriyas and twelve years for vaishyas. No sacred thread ceremony should be held beyond sixteen years of age.
The first stage in life is that of brahmacharya (studenthood). A student should never eat honey or meat and should never indulge in singing or dancing. He should completely give up violence and speaking to women. His duties are to discuss the shastras (holy texts) and associate with leanred men. Apart from that, he will meditate in solitude on the true nature of the brahman.
The next stage of life is that of garhasthya (householder stage). A brahmana may have four wives, a kshatriya three, a vaishya two and a shudra one. The husband and the wife should be from the same varna. Marriage across varnas is to be avoided. A woman can marry again provided that her husband has disappeared, is dead, has become a hermit or is such a sinner that he is expelled from his own varna. If her husband dies, a widow is permitted to marry her late husband’s late younger brother.
A householder should get up at dawn and pray to the gods. He should always bathe in the morning. He should not talk impolitely. He should not bite his nails. He should not laugh at those who are inferior. And he should never reside in a place where there is no king, no doctor or no river. He must not insult his elders. He should never criticise the Vedas, the shastras, the devas, the sages and the king. And he must never travel without a light at night.
The third ashrama is vanaprastha (forest-dwelling stage). Such a person should always sleep on the ground and wear skins as clothes. He should wear his hair matted and give up the company of other people. He has to serve gods and guests and live on fruit and roots.
In the final stage of life (sannyasa) a person becomes a hermit. In this ashrama, a person attains true knowledge and is completely freed. But he should becomea hemit only when he is convinced that he has completely lost all interest in material pursuits. Such a person is not affected by birth or death. He realizes that the physical body is transient, that it is of no concern at all. It is the knowledge of the atman (soul) that is the best form of knowledge. When one gains this knowledge, one realizes the identification of the atman with the brahman, one understands that the brahman is everywhere.


Sins and Their Atonement
If one commits a sin, one has to atone for it. This is known as prayashchitta. If one does not atone for the sins that one has committed, it is the king’s duty to punish the sinner.
If one drinks from a well where the dead body of animal has been floating, one has to fast for three days. The worst possible sins are the killing of a brahmana, the drinking of wine and theft. Others sins are criticising the Vedas, the bearing of false witness, killing a friend, killing a cow, forsaking one’s parents or sons, the selling of ponds, murder, lying, killing animals and the cutting down of green trees for fodder.
A killer of a brahmana has to build a hut in the forest and live there for twelve years. He has to beg for a living and give up all that he possess to another brahmana. A killer of cows has to live on just coarse for one month. He has to live with cattle and follow them around during the day. All his possessions have to be given up to brahmana and he has to bathe in cow’s urine for two months.
If a brahmana steals gold, he should go and report his crime to the king. The king will then hit him with a club and this will be the brahmana’s prayashchitta.
The sin of killing a kshatriya is one-fourth the sin of killing of brahmana. If one kills a vaishya, the sin is one-eighth the sin of killing a brahmana. And if one kills a shudra, the sin is one-sixteenth of the sin of killing a brahmana. Killing a cat, a mongoose, a frog, a dog, a lizard or a crow is as sinful as killing a shudra.



Vratas
Depending on the tithi (lunar day), the day of the week, the nakshatras (stars), the month, the season and the position of the sun, certain specific religious rites and ceremonies have to be performed. These are known as vratas.
The first day of the lunar fortnight is known as paratipada. The day of pratipada in the months of Kartika, Ashvina and Chaitra are Brahma’s tithis. It is then that the worship of Brahma must be done.
On the second day of the lunar fortnight (dvitiya), one should eat only flowers and pray to the two Ashvinis. This makes the supplicant handsome and lucky. Shuklapaksha is that lunar fortnight in which the moon waxes and krishnapaksha is thatlunar fortnight in which the moon wanes. Shuklapaksha dvitiya in the month of Kartika is earmarked for the worship of Yama. If one performs this vrata, one does not have to go to naraka (hell). This is also the day for praying to Balarama and Krishna.
It was on the third day of the lunar fortnight (tiritiya), in shuklapaksha and in the month of Chaitra, that Shiva married Parvti or Gouri. Rites performed on this day are thus known as gourivrata. Shiva and Parvati have to be given offerings of fruit. The eight names of Parvati have to be recited. These are Lalita, Vijaya, Bhadra, Bhavani, Kumuda, Shiva, Vasudevi and Gouri.
Chaturthi vrata is performed on the fourth day of the lunar fortnight, in shuklapaksha and in the month of Magha. This is the day for worshipping the common gods (gana devata). The offerings on this occasion are to be wine and fragrant perfumes.
On the fifth day of the lunar fortnight, one performs panchami vrata. This grants good health and takes care of bad omens. Particularly auspicious for panchami vrata are the shukapakshas in the months of Shravana, Bhadra, Ashvina and Kartika.
On the sixth day of the lunar fortnight one performs shashthi vrata. One has to live only on fruit and if one performs this vrata, the fruits of any action that one performs live forever. Shashthi vrata should be observed especially in the months of Kartika and Bhadra.
Surya is to be worshipped on the seventh (saptami) day of the lunar fortnight. If saptami vrata is observed in shuklapaksha, all sorrow disappears. Sins are atoned for and all one’s desires are attained. Women who have no children can have sons if they observe these rites.
The eighth day of the lunar fortnight (ashtami) is very significiant. Krishna was born on this tithi in the month of Bhadra when the nakshatra Rohini was in the sky. Ashtami is therefore auspicious in the month of Bhadra. If one fasts on that day and prays to Krishna, the sins of one’s earlier seven lives are atoned for. But this vrata is to be observed in krishnapaksha and not in shuklapaksha, since Krishna was born in krishnapaksha. Together with Krishna, Rohini and the moon, Devaki, Vasudeva, Yashoda, Nanda and Balarama are also to be worshipped on the occasion. Since Krishna took birth (janma) on this ashtami tithi, this particular day is known as janmashtami.
The eighth day of the lunar fortnight can be important even if it is not the month of Bhadra. For example, the eighth day of the lunar fortnight might be a Wednesday (budha vara) in both suklapaksha and krishnapaksha. Irrespective of the month, such an ashtami is important and is known as budhashtami. On that day one has to live only on molasses and rice and perform the vrata.
There used to be a brahmana named Dhira whose wife was named Rambha. Dhira’s son was Koushika, his daughter was Vijaya and Dhira’s bull was named Dhanada. Koushika would go with the other cowherds to graze the bull. Once when Koushika was having a bath in the river Bhagirathi and the bull was grazing, some thieves came and stole the bull. Koushika and his sister Vijaya looked everywhere for it, but could not find it. In searching for the bull, they came to lake where some women were bathing in the course of performing a vrata. Brother and sister were tired and hungry and they craved for some food. The women agreed to give them food, but only after Koushika and Vijaya had also performed the budhashtami vrata. And as soon as Koushika performed the ritual, the bull was miraculously returned to him. Such were the powers of the vrata that Koushika could get his sister Vijaya married off to Yama and himself became the king of Ayodhya. After their parents Dhira and Rambha had died. Vijaya discovered that her father and mother were in naraka. When she asked Yama as to how her parents might be delivered from naraka, Yama told her that Koushika and Vijaya should perform budhashtami vrata again. And immediately after they did so, the parents attained svarga.
The ninth day of the lunar fortnight is navami and navami in shuklapaksha, especially in the month of Ashvina, is earmarked for the worship of Gouri. An animal has to be sacrificed and offered to the goddess on this occasion.
The brahmanas become all powerful if they observe dashmai vrata on the tenth day of the lunar fortnight and donate ten cows. The eleventh day of the lunar fortnight (ekasdashi) is for fasting. It is also the tithi for praying to Vishnu. The observance of ekadasi vrata grants sons and wealth and stones for one’s sins.
The twelfth day of the lunar fortnight is dvadashi. Any dvadashi in shuklapaksha is auspicious for worshipping Vishnu. Dvadashi in the month of Bhadra is for praying to cows and calves and in the month of Chaitra it is for praying to the god of love (Madana). If one observes dvadashi for an entire year, one never has to go to naraka. An especially good conjunction is dvadashi in shuklapaksha in the month of Bhadra when the nakshatra Shravana is in the sky. If one fasts and observes a brata then, one earns greater punya than from bathing in the confluence of sacred rivers. If Budha (Mercy) is also in the sky, the punya is multiplied severalfold.
Trayodashi vrata is on the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight and this ritual was first perfromed by the god of love when he wanted to please Shiva. This is the tithi on which Shiva is worshipped. In the month of Ashvina, Indra is also revered on this tithi. And in the month of Chaitra, the god of love is worshipped in shuklapaksha on the same tithi.
The fourteen day of the lunar fortnight (chaturdashi) is also earmarked for Shiva, particularly in the month of Kartika. One fasts and donates to brahmanas and thereby attains svarga. The chaturdashi in krishnapaksha that comes between the months of Magha and Falguna is known as Shivaratri. Then one has to fast and stay awake the whole night. Earlier, there used to be an evil hunter named Sunarasena. But because he performed a vrata on Shivarati, all his sins were forgiven.


Narakas (Hells)
If one worships Vishnu with flowers, one never goes to hell.
There are several such hells. Although people do not wish to die, they are bound to die once their predestined time span on earth has been exhausted. One then has to pay for whatever sins one might have committed. The sinners suffer and those who have performed good deeds are naturally rewarded. There are in fact two gates that lead into Yama’s abode. The good are brought by yamadutas (Yama’s servants) through the western gate and are then taken to svarga. Yama’s servants bring the evil to him through the southern gate and Yama then despatches them to the various hells.
If one kills a cow, one has to spend one lakh years in a naraka known as Mahavicha. If one kills a brahmana or steals land, there is a burning naraka named Amakumbha that one goes to. There one suffers till the day when the world is destroyed. A killer of women, children or old men stays in Rourava naraka for the span of fourteen manvantaras. An arsonist is sent to Maharourava and burnt there for an entire kalpa. A thief goes to Tamisra, where he is continuously pierced with spears by Yama’ servants for several kalpas. After that, a thief is taken to Mahatamisra to be bitten by snakes and insects.
If you kill your father or mother, you will be sent to the hell Asipatravana. There you will be continuously sliced into pieces with swords. If you burn someone to death, you will go to Karambhavaluka where you wll be placed on burning sands.
A person who eats sweets alone goes to Kakaola and is fed only worms. A person who does not perform yajnas goes to Kuttala and is fed blood. An oppressor is sent to Tailapaka and is crushed like an oilseed there. A liar is sent to the naraka named Mahapata. There are several other narakas for those who encourage inter-class marriages, those who kill animals, those who cut trees, those who eat too much meat, those who criticise the Vedas, those who bear false witness and those who criticise their teachers.


Giving alms
Giving alms is extremely important as a means for achieving punya. Alms always have to be donated when one goes to visit a temple or a place of pilgrimage. The giver must always face the east and the receiver must always face the north when alms are being given. Such donations have to be made after one has had a bath.
The best objects for donations are gold, horses, oilseeds, snakes, maids, chariots, trees, houses, daughters, and cows. If one promises to give something but later goes back on one’s promise, one is sure to be destroyed. It should be remembered that the entire object of donating alms is lost if one expects gratitude or friendship in return. It is better to give something to a brother than to a daughter, it is better to give to a father than to a mother.
The entire concept of donating alms is different in the four different eras. In satya yuga, the giver went out, in search of a recipient to whom he could give something. In treta yuga, the recipient had to come to the givers house before he would be given anything. In dvapara yuga, the giver never gave anything without being asked for it by the recipient. And in kali yuga, the giver gives only to those who are servile to him.


Gayatri Mantra
Gayatri mantra is a very powerful incantation.
The human body has many veins. Out of these, ten veins are important and their names are Ida, Pingala, Sushumna, Gandhari, Hastijihva, Pritha, Yasha, Alambusha, Huhu and Shankhini. These veins bear the breath of life. The breath of life is called prana vayu. Apart from prana vayu, nine other major breaths course through the human body. Their names are Apana, Samana, Udana, Vyana, Naga, Kurma, Krikara, Devadatta and Dhananjaya.
Gayatri is a goddess worshipped even by Vishnu and Shiva. This goddess is there everywhere, even in every individual’s heart in the form of a swan. Gayatri mantra is an incantation to the goddess. If one chants the mantra seven times, one’sins are forgiven. Chanting it ten times means that one attains svarga. To attain worlds (lokas) which are even more desirable than svarga, one has to chant gayatri mantra twenty times. If one chants the mantra a hundred and eight times, one does not have to be born again. The severest of sins, like killing cows, brahmanas or parents, are forgiven if one chants the mantra a thousand times. Gayatri mantra has always to be preceded by the chanting of the sacred word Om.



The King

The king’s duties are many. He has to punish his enemies, ensure the prosperity of his subjects and arrange tha this kingdom is ruled well. He has to protect the sages who perform tapasya inside the boundaries of his kingdom.
A king should appoint a wise brahamana as his priest. His ministers
should also be wise and his queen should be a woman who follows the path of dharma. When a king dies, time must not be wasted. The priest must immediately find an auspicious occasion so that a new king can be anointed and crowned. A kingdom can never be without a king.
Before the coronation, a prospective king has to purify himself by rubbing his body with mud. Mud from a mountain peak is used for the ears, from a Krishna temple for the face, from an Indra temple for the back, from a palace for the chest, mud raised by an elephant’s tusks for the right hand, mud raised by a bull’s horns for the left hand, mud from a pond for the back, from a river for the sides, from a yajna for the thighs and from a cowshed for the feet. After the king has thus rubbed himself with different forms of mud and purified himself, he is ready to be anointed. Four types of ministers will anoint him. Brahmana ministers with golden vessels full of clarified butter will stand on the eastern side. Kshatriya ministers with silver vessels full of sweet and thickened milk will stand on the southern side. Vaishya ministers with copper vessels full of curds will stand on the western side. And shudra ministers with earthen vessels full of water will stand on the northern side. The priests will then use material from all four directions to anoint the king. Water from all the places of pilgrimage will be poured on the king’s head and throat. There must be songs and musical instruments must be played.
The king will next pray to Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and the other gods. He will look at a mirror, some clarified butter and the various signs of good omen that have been placed all around. The king will then be crowned and introduced to his ministers, advisers and guards. The priest will be given cows, goats, buffaloes and houses by the king. He will also bow before the brahmanas. After all these ceremonies have been completed, he truly becomes the king. He circles the fire, touches his guru’s feet and with all his soldiers, goes out on a procession through the streets so that his subjects can see him. At that time, the king must be seated either on an elephant or a horse. After the procession is over, the king may return to his palace.
The king has to appoint many officials. The general has got to be a brahmana or kshatriya. The messengers must be strong and courteous. The charioteer must know about horses and elephants, the teasurer must be familiar with different jewels. There has to be a doctor, a keeper of elephants, a keeper of horses, a captain for the palace and another capatain for looking after the women of the royal household. Each person must be appointed to the job which suits his expertise and temperament best.
Anyone thus appointed by a king has to stick to certain rules. He must always obey the king’s orders and must never do anything that is contrary to the king’s commands. In public he must always say pleasant things to the king. If there are any unpleasant utterances to be made, they have to be made in a private audience with the king. Those who serve the king must not be thieves, nor must they ever insult the king. They will not dress like the king, nor will they become too intimate with the king. They must not divulge royal secrets.
For a fort, the king should choose a place that cannot readily be attacked by enemies. The king must ensure that the gods are worshipped, the subjects are protected and the evil are punished. He should never steal from the temples, instead he should build temples and set up idols of the gods there. The brahmanas must also be protects and the king has to make sure that no brahmanas are killed in his kingdom. For a queen, he has to choose a woman who subscribes to these beliefs.
The king will appoint an official to look after every ten villages and another official to look after every hundred villages. Spies must be appointed to find out all that is going on in the kingdom. The king is entitiled to one-sixth of all the punya that accrues in his kingdom through his subjects. But he is also credited with one-sixth of all the sins that are committed in his kingdom. The taxes will be levied as per the dictates of the sacred texts. From whatever is received as taxes, half will go into the royal teasury and the remainng half will be distributed amongst the brahmanas. If there is a liar, the king will impose a penalty on him to the extent of one-eight of the liar’s total wealth. If the owner of any property is is not known, the king will keep the property in safe custody for a period of three years. Once the owner is identified within a period of three years, he can claim the property. But beyond three years, the king becomes entitled to the property.
The property rights of any minor orphan are to be protected by the king. If there is a theft in the kingdom, the king must immediately replace what bas been stolen with wealth taken from his own royal treasury. If the thief is caught and the stolen goods recovered, they are used to replenish the treasury. One-twentieth of profits made from trade are to be paid to the king as taxes. One-fifth or one-sixth of foodgrains are to be paid as taxes. One day every month, craftsmen will work free of charge for the king. They will only be given food from the royal kitchen.
The king has to pay proper attention to the princes. They have to be taught four types of shastras. The first is dharma shastra, which teaches what is right and what is wrong. The second is artha shastra, economics. The third is dhanurveda, the art of fighting. And the last subject that has to be taught to princes is shilpa, arts and crafts. The king has to assign bodyguards to take care of the princes. He must ensure that the princes associate with honourable and learned people and not with undesirable characters. In instances where the princes do not grow up properly despite the king’s best efforts, the king is free to keep them imprisoned. But they should be comfortable in the prison and should not be made to suffer there.
The king should give up hunting, drinking and the playing of dice. He must not unnecessarily waste time in travelling around. He must first win over his servants through his behaviour and then do the same for his subjects. It is only after this has been achieved that he attains a position to conquer his enemies through the use of arms. Anyone who brings harm to the kingdom must immediately be killed. If the king delays in doing what which has to be done, the purpose of the action is completely lost. Nor must the king inform others in advance about what is going to be done. No one must get to know about king’s intended actions. Once the actions performed are information enough for everyone to see. This does not mean that the king will not consult his ministers. Of course he will, that is why they are ministers. Before sleeping or eating, the king must check whether the bed or the food is safe.
There were seven techniques that kings were suppsed to use in ruling their kingdoms. These were known as sama, dana, danda, bedha, maya, upeksha and indrajala. Of these, the first four are the most famous. Sama means the art of gentle persuasion. Dana means the usage of donations or money to achieve one’s purpose. Danda is punishment. And bheda is the art of aggravating dissension amongst parties opposed to each other. Maya means to use illusions or deceit and upeksha is to deliberately ignore people so as to achieve one’s purpose. Indrajala literally means jugglery. In this context, it would mean to perform a balancing act amongst opposing pulls and opposing parties.
What sort of punishment the king should mete out is also laid down. If anyone lies and says that his possessions have been stolen, he is to be fined an amount equal in value to that of the possessions which have supposedly been stolen. A brahmana who bears false witness is to be banished from the kingdom. A person who kills cows, elephants, horses or camels will have a leg or a hand cut off. A theif who steals gold or silver or an abductor of women will be executed, Execution is also prescribed in cases of arson and poisoning. A wife who does not obey her husband shall be torn to death by dogs. A woman who does not obey her husband or brahmanas may also have her nose, ears or arms chopped off. She will then be set astride a cow and banished from the kingdom.


Dreams
Some dreams are bad omens. In fact, they nightmares. Examples are: dreams about grass or trees growing on one’s body, dreams in which the dreamer is shaven-headed or is wearing shabby clothes or dreams in which one is falling from above. It is also bad to dream of marriages, singing, the killing of snakes and the killing of chandalas or animals. If you dream that you are drinking oil or eating bird meat, that is also a bad omen. Other examples are: where the dreamer dreams that he is playing with monkeys or chandalas, when he dreams that devas, brahmanas, the king or the guru is angry or when he dreams that his house had collapsed.
Remedies have to be found if one dreams such evil dreams. Brahmanas have to be worhsipped, a yajna has to be performed and the dreamer has to pray to Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha or Surya. Dreams dreamt in the first quarter of one’s sleep normally come true over the next one year. Dreams from the second quarter come true over the next six months and dreams from the third quarter over the next three months. Dreams from the quarter come true over the next fortnight and dreams dreamt right at dawn come true within the next ten days. If one first dreams a good dream and then an evil one, it is the evil dream that will come true. Therefore, if one dreams a good dream, one should not sleep anymore. One should immediately arise.
There are many dreams that are good dreams. For example, dreams that involve mountains, palaces or snakes. Or the dreamer might dream that he is riding on a horse or a bull. It is also good to dream of white flowers in the sky or to see trees in a dream. Especially good dreams are those of the dreamer’s possessing many arms or many heads or of grass and bushes sprouting from his navel. What if you dream of wearing white garlands or clothes? That too is good. If you dream of eclipses of the sun, the moon or the stars, by all means rejoice. And if in a dream you see that yu have caught hold of the enemy’s flag, that surely means that you will triumph ove the enemy. And if you actually dream of defeating the enemy, the interpretation is clear enough.
Strangely enough, a dream where the dreamer sees that he is eating rice pudding is a good dream. As is the case with dreams of drinking wine or blood. Or even of eating wet meat. A clear sky in a dream is good. Dreaming of milking a cow or a buffalo with one’s own mouth is also good. The dream continues to be a good one if one dreams of milking a lioness or a she-elephant thus. Other dreams which have good interpretations are, for example, dreams of the dreamer’s receiving blessings from devas or brahmanas or of being anointed with water.
The dreamer who dreams of his coronation is blessed. And he is doubly blessed if he dreams that his head has been cut off or that he has died or even that his house has been burnt down. The relatives of such a dreamer increase in number and he also prospers. It is good to dream of musical instruments being played. Or of riding a bull or climbing a tree. Wet clothes, trees laden with fruit and clear blue skies in dreams are especially good.



Omens and Signs
If one is about to go out of the house, one should take care of any omens that there might be. Such bad omens are cotton, dried grass, cowdung, coal, molasses, leather, hair, a lunatic, a chandala, a widow, a dead body, ashes, bones and a broken vessel. If one comes across these as one is about to leave, one should not start without pacifying the elements through prayers to Vishnu. The sound of musical instruments is not an auspicious sound at the beginning of a journey. If the means of transport by which one is travelling breaks down, that too, is a bad omen. If weapons break, perhaps you should postpone the journey. The same is the case if an umbrella held over one’s head happens to fall. If one hits one’s head against the lintel of the door as one is about too cross the threshold, prayers are again indicated. And never call back someone who has just left. That is a bad omen and bodes ill for the success of the journey.
There are good omens for a departure and if one sees these good omens, the journey is bound to be successful. Good omens are white flowers, full vessels, meat, distant noises, an old goat, a cow, a horse, an elephant, fire, gold, silver, a sword, an umbrella, fruit, clarified butter, curds, a conch shell, sugarcane, the sound of thunder, lightning and a dead body with no one crying over it.
Omens are important even if one is not going on a journey. A peacock crying on the left means that something is going to be stolen. If a donkey brays with a broken voice, that is a good omen and something good will happen. If a boar or a buffalo crosses over from the left to right, that is a good omen. But if they cross over from the right to the left, that is a bad omen. One’s desire will be attained if horses, tighers, lions, cats or donekys cross over from the right to the left. Jackals, moles, lizards, pigs and cuckoos are good omens on the left and monkeys are good omens on the right. If a jackal calls once, twice, thrice or four times, that is a good omen. It is a bad omen if a jackal calls five or six times. It is a very good omen if a jackal calls seven times.
If crows caw on the left of an army, the soldiers will not be able to win. If a crow can be seen near the door of a house, this means that there will soon be a guest. A crow looking at the sun with one signifies great danger. A crow covered with mud means the attainment of one’s desires. A dog barking inside the house leads to the death of the householders. A person whose left limbs are sniffed by a dog, will attain riches. If the right limbs are sniffed, there will be danger. A dog blocking one’s path signifies theft. A dog with a bone or a rope in its mouth means the loss of property. But it is a good omen to see a dog with meat in its mouth.
Cows mooing irregularly mean threats to the master of the house. If this happens at night, there will be a theft or death in the house. If this happens at night, there will be a theft or a death in the house. If the cows have horns that are wet or daubed with mud, that is a good sign for the householders. A cow that plays with cranes or doves is bound to die. A cow that licks its feet is also destined to die. If an elephant strikes its right foot with its left, that is a good sign. Prosperity comes if an elephant rubs its right tusk with its foot.
There is great danger if an umbrella falls just as one is about to leave on a trip. Journeys are to be avoided if the stars are not favourable.


Battle
Once a king decides to go out to battle, seven days are needed for preliminaries. On the first day, Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesha have to be worshipped. On the second day the dikpalas (guardians of all the directions) are worshipped, the Rudras on the third day, the planets and the stars on the fourth day and the two Ashvinis and the rivers on the fifth day. On the sixth day, the king has a ceremonial bath in honour of the victory that is to come. And on the seventh day, the king leaves to do battle.
Prior to the marching, the army must always assemble to the east of the capital city. The start of the march must be accompanied with the playing of musical instruments. Once the army has begun to march, it must never look back. After having travelled for a couple of miles, it must stop to rest and pray to the gods and the brahmanas.
The king must never directly fight. Because if the king is killed, the battle is lost. The king must be right behind his army, not too far away from it. An elephant will be guarded by four chariots, a chariot by four horses and a horse by four infantryment. The infantry will also be at the front of army, followed by archers and then by the horses. The chariots and the elphants come last of all. The cowards in the army must not be in the front, they must be at the back. The front is for the brave soldiers. To the extent possible, one should fight with the sun behind one’s army.
If a soldier dies in the course of battle, he goes straight to heaven. The blood of brave men wash away all sins. To be struck with a weapon is better than to perform many sacrifices. A person who flees from the field of battle performs a sin that is worse than that of killing a brahmana.
The fight should be between equals. Those who are running away should not killed. Nor should spectators and those who are unarmed be killed. An enemy captured in battle should not be kept imprisoned. He should be release and treated like a son.


Rama’s Precepts
Rama had once taught Lakshmana about the duties of a king. The Agni Purana now relates these precepts of Rama’s.
The duties of a king are fourfold. Firstly, he has to earn wealth. Secondly, he has to increase it. Thirdly, he has to protect it. And fourthly and finally, he has to donate it. The king must also be polite and politeness comes through the conquering of the senses. The king must be humble. The senses are like mad elephants. If the senses are pampered, like mad elephants, they trample politeness and humility underfoot.
The king must also be non-violent, truthful, clean and forgiving. He should take care to observe all the rituals. He should give food to those who are poor, he should protect those who seek royal protection. He should always use words that are pleasant to hear. The body is here today and gone tomorrow. Stupid is the king who deviates from the path of righteouness to give pleasure to a body that is transient. The curses of unhappy people are enough to bring down a king.
There is only one difference between gods and animals. Gods use pleasant words, while animals use rough words. The king must use pleasant words like a god. And he must use pleasant words not only for those who are his friends or are good, but also, for those who are his enemies or are evil. With obeisance the king pleases his guru, with good behaviour the righteous, with duties the gods, with love the servants and with alms those who are inferior.
The kingdom has seven components. These are the king, the ministers, the friends, the treasury, the army, the forts and the state itself. Of these, the most important is the state and it has to be preserved at all costs. The king must be extremely careful in the choice of the ministers and the royal priest. The king must not choose or consult ministers who are stupid.
The king’s signs are his golden rod or scepter and an umbrella that is held over his head. The umbrella should be made of the feathers of swans, peacocks or cranes, but the feathers of different types of birds should not be mixed in the same umbrella. The throne should be made of wood and should be embellished with gold. A bow can be made of iron, horn or wood. The best bow is one that extends over four armlengths. The king can spend upto one year’s tax revenue on armaments and flags.


Dhanurveda

The section on Dhanurveda is on arms and weapons.
There are five types of weapons that are used in war. The first category is that of yantramukta weapons, released from a machine (yantra). This machine may be a launcher or even a bow. The second category is that of panimukta weapons, weapons that are flung by the hand (pani). Examples are spears and stones. The third category is known as muktasandharita. These are weapons that can be flung and also withdrawn. The fourth category consists of weapons like swords that are never released from the hand during battle.
These are known as amukta weapons. And the last category of weapons consists of brute force and strength. This is of use in bouts of wrestling.
The best form of fighting is that with bows and arrows. Next comes fighting with spears, followed by fighting with swords. Wrestling is the worst form of fighting.
Before aiming, the bow (dhanusha) should be held with the arch pointing down towards the earth. The arrow (vana) should be placed against the bow with the head pointing down. The bow should now be raised and the lower end of the bow should be in line with the archer’s navel. The quiver should be at the back. Before releasing the arrow, the bow should be held firm with the left hand and the arrow with the fingers of the right hand. The string of the bow should be pulled back such that the tassel of the arrow is between the archer’s ear and right eye. The body should not be bent when one is releasing an arrow. Nor should one get excited. The archer has to be still as a pillar. The target has to be in line with the left fist and the archer’s posture has to be like that of a triangle. It is best to pull back the string of the bow upto the right ear.
A noose (pasha) is ten arms in length, with both ends of the weapon being circular. The main body of the weapon is made of rope. There are eleven different ways in which a noose may be held. A noose must always be flung with the right hand.
A sword (asi) must hang to the left of the waist. When a sword is to be taken out, the scabbard should be grasped in the left hand and the sword should be taken out with the right hand. There are thirty-two different ways in which a sword and a shield may be held.



Property
What happens to a person’s debts when he dies? If he does not have any sons, the person who inherits the property also inherits the debts and has to pay them off. If there is a son, the son pays the debts off. But a woman is not be held responsible for debts contracted by her husband or her son. Nor is a man responsible for debts contracted by his wife or son. Exceptions are instances where a husband and a wife contract a debt jointly.
If there are no witnesses to a contracted debt but the king feels that the debt was indeed contracted, the king must arrange for the debt to be repaid within a period of sixty-four days. In cases of a dispute, the person who brings a false suit will be punished by the king. And a false witness will be given twice the punishment that is meted out to the one who brings a false suit. A brahmana who bears false witness will be banished from the kingdom. A person who agrees to be a witness, but later withdraws, will be punished eight times as much as the bringer of the false suit. A brahmana who does this will be banished from the kingdom.
It is better that the details of a debt contracted be written down, with the names of the two parties and the witnesses clearly indicated. If the debtor pays in instalments, the details of all such payments must be recorded on the written document. Debts made in the presence of witnesses . If a witness has to take an oath, the oath should be administered after cotton, fire, water or poison has been placed on the head of the witness.
Fire or water can be used to find out if a person is lying or not. If fire is used, seven banyan leaves are placed on the accused’s hand. A red hot lump of iron is then placed on the hand and the accused has to go around a fire seven times. If it is found that the hand has not been burnt, the person has been telling the truth. And if the hand has been burnt, he has been lying. Similarly, an accused person can be immersed in the water and if he does not drown, he has been telling the truth. Aternatively,the accused can be made to drink poison. If the poison does him no harm, he is truthful.
If the father makes a will, the property will be divided amongst the sons in accordance with the provisions of the will. But if all the sons get an equal share of the property, the wife should also be given an equal share. Otherwise, the father can leave all his property to the eldest son. The sons and the father obtain equal shares to any property or debt that has been left by the grandfather. But the sons are not necessarily entitled to any property that has not been left by the grandfather, but been earned by father. If a son is born after the property has been divided, he too will be entitled to an equal share of any property left by the grandfather. Daughters are not entitled to property. But sons who have married will use one-fourth of their inherited property to get their sisters married.


Donating the Puranas
The Agni Purana now describes the benefits of giving alms along with the Puranas. The Puranas are to be donated together with cows. And in talking of the mahapurans, the Agni Purana also mentions most of their lengths, in terms of the number of sholokas (couplets) that each has. This is worth stating.
The Brahma Purana¾ twenty-five thousand
The Padma Purana¾ twelve thousand
The Vishnu Purana¾ thirteen thousand
The Vayu Purana¾ fourteen thousand
The Bhagavata Purana¾ eighteen thousand
The Narada Purana¾ twenty-five thousand
The Markandeya Purana¾ nine thousand
The Agni Purana¾ twelve thousand
The Brahmavaivarta Purana¾ eighteen thousand
The Linga Purana¾ eleven thousand
The Varaha Purana¾ fourteen thousand
The Skanda Purana¾ eighty-four thousand
The Vamana Purana¾ ten thousand
The Kurma Purana¾ eight thousand
The Matsya Purana¾ thirteen thousand
The Garuda Purana¾ eight thousand
The Brahmanda Purana¾ twelve thousand
The only mahapurana which is missing from the above list is the Bhavishya Purana. You now have a pretty good idea of how long the Puranas are. The Skanda Purana is the longest and the Kurma and Garuda Puranas the shortest. But unfortunately, the numbers in the Agni Purana are not terribly accurate. The Padma Purana has fifty-five thousands couplets and not twelve thousand as stated. The Varaha Purana has twenty-four thousand couplets and not fourteen thousand. The Agni Purana itself has slightly over fifteen thousand couplets and not twelve thousand. But at least you have some approximate idea about the lengths of the various Puranas.
The Brahma Purana is to be given in the month of Vaishakha. The Padma Purana is to be donated in the month of Jyaishtha. The Vishnu Purana is to be donated in the month of Ashada and the Vayu Purana in the month of Shravana. The Bhagavata Purana is to be given in the month of Bhadra, the Narada Purana in the month of Ashvina, the Markandeya Purana in the month of Kartika, the Agni Purana in the month of Margashirsha and the Bhavishya Purana in the month of Pousha. The Brahmavaivarta Purana is for the month of Magha, the Linga Purana for the month of Falguna and the Varaha Purana for the month of Chaitra.
The Skanda Purna is to be given to brahmans. The Vamana Purana is to be given in the autumn. The Kurma Purana is to be given together with a golden urn. The Matsya Purana is to be donated together with a golden swan. The Brahmanada Purana is to be given to brahmanas.
Great benefits are also to be derived from hearing the Puranas recited. The reciter has to be given alms and the brahmanas must be given cows, rice and land at the time of the recitation. If one arranges for a recitation of the Puranas, one lives long, stays healthy and attains heaven.


Dynasties
Brahma was born from Vishnu’s navel. Brahma’s son was Marichi, Marichi’s son Kashyapa and Kashyapa’s son Vivasvana. From this line was descended Pururava and Pururava’s descendants were the kings of the surya (solar) dynasty.
Brahma also had a son named Atri and Atri had a son named Soma. Soma performed a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice). Having performed the sacrifice, Soma became the ruler of all the worlds. This made him very arrogant and he abducted the sage Brihaspati’s wife Tara. This led to a terrible war between devas and the asuras. Tara was eventually to restored to Brihaspati, but Soma and Tara had a son named Budha. From Budha were descended the kings of the chandra (lunar) dynasty.
There were twelve major wars between the devas and the asuras. The first of these was known as the Narasimha War. This took place when Hiranyakashipu was the king of the asuras. Vishnu adopted the form of Narashimha and killed Hiranyakashipu. He then made Prahlada the king of the demons. The second war was the Vamana War and it took place when Vali was the king of the demons. Vishnu adopted the form of a dwarf (vamana) to subjugate the demons. The third war was the Varaha War and this took place when Hiranyaksha was the king of the demons. Vishnu adopted the form of a wild boar (varaha) and killed Hiranyaksha. The fourth war was the Amritamanthana War and this took place over the manthana (churning ) of the ocean for amrita (nectar).
The fifth war between the devas and the asuras took place over the abduction of Tara and this came to be known as the Tarakamaya War. The sixth war was known as the Ajivaka War. The seventh war took place when Tripura led the asuras and this was known as the Tripuraghatana War. It was Shiva who killed the demon Tripura in this war. The eighth war, the Andhaka War, took place when Andhaka led the asuras. It was Vishnu who engineered that Andhaka be killed when Andhaka expressed a desire to abduct Shiva’s wife.
The ninth war was known as Vritrasambhara and took place when Vritra led the demons. The tenth war was simply known as Jita. In this war, Vishnu killed Shalva and the other demons, and Parashurama killed the evil kshatriyas. The eleventh war was known as Halahala. An asura named Halahala (poison) had invaded Shiva’s body and flooded it with poison. But Vishnu managed to destroy the demon. In the twelfth war, known as Kolahala, Vishnu destroyed an asura named Kolahala (tumult).



Medicine
Dhanvantari was the physician of the gods and he taught Sushruta the art of ayurveda (medicine). The Agni Purana now describes what the sage Sushruta had learnt, that is, the treatment for various diseases. This does not simply mean the treatment of human illnesses. There is a section known as viksha ayurveda, which describes what tree are to be planted where. It describes how a garden is to be constructed and maintained.
The chapters on medicine also describe the treatment of elephants, horses and cattle. The mantras (incantations) which are the remedy for snake poison are also related.



Literature and Grammar
Therafter, the Agni Purana has many chapters on literature and grammar.
It describes the different types of chhanda (metres) that are used in poetry.
Next it discusses the alphabet. There are sixty-four letters (varna) in the alphabet, of which twenty-one are vowels (svara varna). There are three tones (svara) in which the letters of the alphabet may be uttered. Their names are udatta, anudatta and svarita. There are eight places from which the letters may be pronounced. These are the chest, the throat, the head, the back of the tongue, the teeth, the nose, the lips and the palate. Pronunciations should be clear and audible. They should not be nasal and mumbled.
The Agni Purana then discusses the alamkaras (rehetoric) that are used in poetry and plays. Poetry is entirely different from the shastras (sacred texts) and itihasa (history). The sacred texts are full of words and historical texts are full of narrations of incidents that took place. But that does not constitute poetry. Real men are difficult to find on this earth. Among the learned men, it is not easy to find some who have a poetic sense. And amongst those who have poetic sense, it is difficult to find a few who can compose poetry. Poetry is impossible without a knowledge of the rules of poetry and even more important, without a sense of feeling.
Sanskrit is the language of the gods. The language of humans is Prakrita. Poetry can be either in Sanskrit or in Prakrita. There are three types of poetry. These are gadya (prose), padya (poetry) or mishra ( a mixture of the two), Genuine poetry is, however, only padya.
Gadya can be of three types¾ churnaka, utkalika and vrittagandhi. Churnaka prose is easy on the ears, it has very few compound words. Utkalika prose is hard on the ears, it is full of compound words. Vrittagandhi prose is somewhere between churnaka and utkalika.
An epic must always be split up into sections (sarga). It has to be written in Sanskrit, although some mixture of Sanshkrit words with Prakrita onces is permissible. The theme of an epic must always be good and historical elements may be introduced if the author so desires.
Literature is useless without the flavour of sentiments (rasa). There are nine sentiments that are used. The first is hasya rasa (humour). The second is karuna rasa (pathos). The third is roudra rasa (that which is wrathful and awe-inspiring). The fourth is vira rasa (heroic themes). The fifth is bhayanaka rasa (horror). The sixth is bibhatsa rasa (vulgar and obscene themes). The seventh is adbhuta rasa (that which is strange). The eighth is shanta rasa (placidity). And the ninth is shringara rasa (amorous themes).
But the sentiments must be used with feeling. Without feeling, all literature becomes mediocre. Particularly in a play, sentiments can be supplemented with skills (kala). These skills are normally associated with women and there are sixty-four of them. The more important ones are singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, acting, drawing, making garlands, sewing, hairdressing and using magic.
Grammatical rules of sandhi and samasa (rules for forming compound words) are next described. The difference between the two is that in sandhi, the two words that are being joined retain their original senses in the compound word. The case of samasa is different. Sandhi occurs when two varnas (letters) meet. Samasa is a condensation or conversation of two or more words into one. Sandhi does not create any new word. Samsa leads to the formation of a third word which refers to something related to but distinct from either or any of the words combined. Pita (yellow) and ambara (cloth) combined by way of sandhi are pronounced pitambara and mean cloth that is yellow. The same two words combined by way of samasa result in the third word pitambara which means “the one dressed in yellow,” that is Krishna.
There are several possible declensions of words, depending on the vachana and the vibhakti. The vachana refers to the number. Eka-vachana is when there is only one (phalam, a fruit), dvivachana when there are two (phale, two fruits) and vahu-vachana when there are more than two (phalani, more than two fruits). There are three genders, pumlinga (masculine), strilinga (feminie) and klivalinga (neuter). Deva, asura, Vishnu are, for example, masculine in gender. Devi, Kalika or maya are feminine. Pushpa (flower) or phala (fruit) are neuter.
There are six karakas (cases) and seven vibhaktis (case-endings). The agent who performs the action indicated by the kriya (verb), is the kartri or doer. To the kartri karaka or Nominative Case, the prathama vibhakti or first case-ending is attached. The object of the action is karma and to the karma karaka or Objective Case, the second (dvitiya) case-ending is attached. The means or instruments by which the action is performed takes on the karana karaka or Instrumental Case and the third (tritiya) case-ending. When a gift is given irrevocably, the recipient takes on the sampradana karaka or Dative Case and the case-ending in question is the fourth (chaturthi). That which is the source of something takes on the apadana karaka or Ablative Case and the fifth (panchami) case-ending. When there is a relation of possession, the possessor takes on the shashthi vibhakti (sixth case-ending). There is no counterpart of the Possessive case of English grammar because the relation of possession is not directly related to the verb (kriya) and therefore to the doer (karaka). In case of the location in which the action takes place, the karaka is adhikarana (Locative Case) and the case-ending the seventh (saptami).



Destruction
Periodically pralayas (destructions) take place. A destruction comes at the end of four thousand yugas on earth. For a hundred years there are no rains and there is widespread drought. Therafter, Vishnu uses the rays of the sun to drink and dry up all the waters that there are on earth. Seven different appear in the sky and they burn up the three worlds of heaven, the earth and the underworld. The earth becomes as flat as the back of a turtle. The breath of the great snake (Shesha) also serves to burn up the three worlds.
After the three worlds have been burnt up, dark clouds full of thunder and lightning appear in the sky. For a hundred years it continue to rain. The rain puts out the fires that have been raging. From Vishnu’s breath are created tremendous winds and these drive way the clouds. But there is water everywhere. And Vishnu sleeps on these waters. For an entire kalpa he sleeps. The sages then pray to Vishnu for the three worlds to be created yet again.


Yama and Hell
When human beings die, their physical bodies are given up. But they acquire new bodies that are known as ativahika bodies. In these bodies, they are brought to Yama’s abode by Yama’s servants. Living beings other than human are not brought to Yama. Yama then decides whether the dead person should go to heaven or to hell. After he has served his time in heaven or in hell, he is born again. Yama further decides what living being the person should be born as, depending on the actions in his past life. And so the cycle of birth, death and rebirth goes on and on.
Since he keeps tally of all good deeds and all sins. Yama is also known as the god Dharma. Those who have done good deeds are rewarded by Yama and those who have committed sins are punished. Chitragupta is Yama’s accountant, he keeps the account of all punya and papa.
There are twenty-eight circles of hells with many hells located in each circle. A sinner may have to go to more than one hell depending on the sins that he has committed. Some sinners are boiled in oil, others are pierced with spears and still others are whipped. Some sinners are fed heated iron balls, others are fed blood and rubbish. There are also machines for torturing sinners. Terrible birds eat up some sinners. Other sinners have their heads cut off.
When it is time to reborn, the killer of a brahmana is born as a deer, dog, pig or camel. A drunkard is born as a donkey. A stealer of gold is born as a worm or an insect. A killer of a brahmana may also suffer from tuberculosis, a drunkard will have teeth like a dog and a stealer of gold will have malformed nails. A stealer of food is born dumb. A person who has stolen the property of brahmanas is born as a rakshasa and lives alone in the forest. A stealer of fragrant scents is born as a mole. One who steals foodgrains is born as a rat. One who steals animals is born as a goat, one who steals milk as a cow, one who steals means of transport as a camel, one who steals fruit as a monkey and one who steals meat as a vulture. A stealer of clothes is born as a crane and a stealer of salt as a cricket.


Yoga
Yoga is the way to circumvent the miseries of life. True knowledge is that which informs one about the true nature of brahman or paramatman. The atman or jivatman is that which characterises an individual. Yoga means union, it is the union of the jivatman with the paramatman. Yoga concentrates one’s mind on the paramatman.
The first prerequisite of yoga is non-violence. A non-violent person is always righteous. The second requirement of yoga is truthfulness. The third prerequisite is celibacy. The fourth is controlling one’s senses and the last is the worship of god. One who practices yoga should not go around collecting material possessions. A piece of cloth , a covering against the cold, and a pair of sandals are possessions enough for him.
Before meditating on the true nature of the paramatman, one has to seat oneself in a proper asana (posture). The piece of cloth on which one is to sit should be placed ina clean place. One sits on such a seat and tries to purify one’s atman by controlling one’s mind and senses through yoga. The head and the neck should be held straight up, motionless. The point of vision should be directed towards the tip of one’s nose. One should not look in any direction. The arms should lightly rest on the folded thighs and the right hand should be placed, palm upwards, on the left palm. Padmasana (lotus position) is one such recommended posture.
The breath of life (prana vayu) has to be controlled. This process of control is known as pranayama. A finger is placed on the nose when the breath is being exhaled. The entire breath should be exhaled from the body. Since rechana means exhalation, this process of control is known as rechaka. When the breath is inhaled, the inhalation should be such that it fills the entire body. Since puraka literally means that which fills, this process of control is known as puraka. When the breath is neither being exhaled nor inhaled, one sits completely still like a kumbha (pot) and this is known as kumbhaka. Pranayama makes one healthy, swift, enthusiatic, strong and collected. Since the senses are controlled, one goes to heaven and avoids going to hell. Material pursuits are like the strong current of a river. The atman drowns in it.
Pranayama alone is not enough. It has to supplemented with dhyana or japa (meditation and contemplation). One contemplates the true nature of the paramatman. The body is like a chariot. The senses are its horses, the mind is the charioteer and pranayama is the bridle. An individual who dies while performing dhyana is immediately assimilated with Vishnu.
Dhyana involve four different things, all of which must be in complete harmony. The first is the meditator, the second is the act of meditating, the third is the object that one is meditating upon and the fourth is the reason why one is performing the mediation. One does not have to sit in a right posture for dhyana to be possible. It can be done while one is walking, sitting or even sleeping. The important aspect is to establish the object of one’s meditation in one’s heart.
There are different ways of establishing one’s concentration. As an object of meditation, one can meditate on three concentric circles which are black, red and white. In the centre of the circles is a divine lotus. The lotus has eight petals. One thinks that detachment is the stem of the lotus and praying to Vishnu its stamen. Right in the centre of the lotus is a pure spark of fire and that is the paramatman. Alternatively, one can visualise the paramatman in a blaze of light, in the centre of the lotus. Dyana is far far superior to any yajna that one might perform.
One particular form of deep and intense meditation is known as samadhi. The meditator is then completely still, as calm as the ocean. He loses all track of the outside world. He does not hear, smell, see or touch. His mind has no wishes and feels nothing. He is completely united with god. Such a meditator automatically gets to know all the knowledge that can be gleaned from the Vedas or the shastras. He can obtain all the material possessions that he wants, but he regards them all as no more important than a blade of grass.
Such a meditator attains supreme knowledge. If you look at various pots full of water, you will find that the same sky is reflected in them all. If you look at different pools of water, you will find that the same sun is reflected in them all. Supreme knowledge tells one that, exactly similarly, it is the same atman that is everywhere. It is the atman which is the same as the paramatman, it is this atman that is in the water, in energy, in water, in the earth and in metals. The atman is everywhere.



The knowledge of the Brahman
Brahma jnana is the knowledge of the brahman. This knowledge, which gives the ultimate bliss, is nothing but the sense that the individual atman is identical with the universal brahman or paramatman. The physical body is not the atman. The mind or intelligence is not the atman. Life itself is not the atman.
The atman is different from all the objects that have been mentioned above. The atman is in an individual’s heart. It sees everything and senses everything, but is different from the physical body. It is this that sages contemplate when they meditate. The sky was created from the brahman, from the sky came wind, from wind fire, from fire water, from water the earth and from the earth the five elements. One has to meditate on the physical body gradually disappearing and merging into the brahman.
The brahman is neither true nor untrue. It has neither form nor is it without form. The brahman has several parts, but at the same time it is an integral whole. The brahman cannot be described. It cannot be achieved through the power of action. The brahman is always pure. It has no ties and it is the true form of happiness. What is required is the sense that it is I, the individual, who am the brahman, I am nothing but the atman and the atman is nothing but the brahman. This sense is true knowledge. The brahman is the Lord who is the origin of everything and the individualis part of the brahman. It is this knowledge that frees one from the ties of the world and this is what brahma jana is all about.
The brahman is not the earth; it is beyond the earth. The brahman is not the wind, nor is it the sky. The brahman has no beginning; it is independent of all action. The brahman is huge; it is everywhere all form. The brahman cannot be described with words, it cannot be seen, smelt or heard. It cannot be touched. The brahman has neither intelligence nor mind. It has no sense of ego or vanity. It does not have life, birth, old age or death.
The brahman is neither happy nor unhappy. It does not feel hungry or thirsty. It cannot be measured. At the same time, it is both nothing and everything.
Life has five possible ends. By performing yajnas one can attain heaven. By performing tapasya one can become an ascetic. By performing actions one can attain brahmaloka. By detachment from material pursuits (vairagya) one can merge oneself into nature. And by true knowledge the individual gets absorbed into the divine essence. This is known as kaivalya. Detachment means to withdraw oneself from the feelings of the senses, ascetism (sannyasa) means to withdraw oneself from the effects of all actions. And knowledge means the knowledge that the atman is no different from the brahman. This is known as jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge).
There are few people who attain this knowledge. One of those was Bharata. Bharata had done a lot of meditation in a place known as Shalagrama. But he became very attached to a deer and when he died, he died thinking of the deer. The result was that in his next life, Bharata was born as a deer. But the deer happened to be a jatismara, that is, it remembered its earlier life. The deer eventually died and Bharata was again born as a jatismara human.
The king of Soubira was once travelling on a palanquin and he wanted someone who would bear his palanquin free of charge. The kings’s servants caught hold of Bharata to bear the palanqun. But Bharata moved slowly and could not keep up with the other beares. The palanquin did not progress smoothly and the king asked Bharata, “why are you so tired? You have not been bearing my palanquin for long. Can’t you bear some toil? You look fairly strong to me.”
Bharata replied, “I am not strong. Nor am I bearing your palanquin. I am not tired, nor am I lazy. I am my atman and my atman is not carrying you. See, my king, my feet are on the ground. My thighs are borne on to my feet and my body is balanced on my things. My shoulders are on my body and your palanquin rests on my shoulders. But I am not my feet, thighs, body or shoulders. I am the atman. The atman is not carrying you. So why do you say that I am bearing you?”
Bharata then instructed the king on the mysteries of true knowledge. The atman was pure, ever-lasting, calm, without traits and beyond natural characteristics. Since the atman had no traits and since an individual was the atman and not the body, it was meaningless to say that an individual was strong or weak. The physical body was made of the elements and so was the palanquin. What was the point therefore in saying that the physical body was bearing the palanquin?
Hearing these words of wisdom, the king fell at Bharata’s feet. “Forgive me,” he said, “And let go of the palanquin. Who are you?”
“Who am I?,” asked Bharata. “That is not a question that can easily be answered.”
The king answered, “I fail to understand. Surely the form in which you are now existing is who you are.”
“No,” said Bharata. “I am the atman and the atman is the same a the paramatman. The paramatman is everywhere and therefore, the atman is also everywhere. I am everywhere. I am in all physical bodies. It is meaningless to ask who you are and who I am. We are all one and the same. Wood has come from the trees and this palanquin is made of wood. But is the palanquin wood or tree? When you ride on the palanquin, does anyone say that you are riding on a tree? Men, women, cows, horses, elephants, birds and trees, these are all meaningless names. They are all illusions. Everything is one and the same, I am everywhere. If there had been a place or an object where I do not exist, I could have answered the question of who I am. But since I am everywhere, I do not know how to answer your question. Tell me king, are you your head or your stomach? Or is all of it, you? But then, what will you call that which is distinct from your physical body? Think about what I have said.”
Bharata’s words were so profound that the king immediately accepted Bharata as a teacher. And Bharata told the king the story of Ribhu and Nidagha.
The sage Ribhu was Brahma’s son. He was also extemely learned. Nidagha was Ribu’s disciple. After Ribhu had taught Nidagha what there was to be taught, Nidagha went to live in a city. After a thousand years had passes, Ribhu went to the city to see how Nidagha was getting on. Nidagha worshipped his teacher and gave him all sorts of things to eat. After Ribhu had eaten, Nidagha asked him, “Are you satisfied?”
“What do you mean?,” asked Ribhu. “The question of satisfaction would have arisen had I been hungry or thirsty. I am my atman and the atman is always satisfied. So what is the point of asking me that question. I am part of the brahman that is omnipresent and so are you. You are not distinct from me, we are both part of the same whole. I came to teach you this knowledge. Now that you have learnt that the brahman is everywhere, let me leave.”
After another thousand years had passed, Ribhu came to the city again and discovered that Nidagha no longer lived in the city. He had begun to live on the outskirts of the city.
“Why have you given up living in the city?,” Ribhu asked Nidagha.
“Because I do not like to live in the city, where there is a king,” replied Nidagha.
“Who is the king?,” asked Ribhu. “Point him out to me in this procession that is passing. And point out to me the subjects.”
Nidagha said, “The king is the one who is as tall as a mountain peak. He is the one who is riding the elephant. The ones who are walking are the subjects.”
“What do you mean?,” asked Ribhu. “The brahman is in the king and the brahman is in the elephant. How do you distinguish one from the other, how do you say that one is riding the other? Is the king the physical body or the atman? Who is riding on whom? I do not understand.”
This knowledge, that the atman is the same as the brahman, is known as advaita (unified) brahma-jnana. Ribhu taught this to Nidagha and Bharata taught this to the king Soubira. This is the knowledge that all elements are one and the same. It is only those who suffer from illusions who think that different elements and different beings have different identities.
The Gita
Krishna had taught Arjuna the lessons of the Gita on the plains of Kurukshetra. The Agni Purana now relates the essence of the Gita.
If the physical body is alive, that is no reason for rejoicing. Just as, if the physical body is dead, that is no reason for mourning. The atman does not die. It does not decay, it cannot be destroyed and it is immortal. The atman does not warrant any tears that might be shed over it. People who are addicted to sensual pleasures cannot realize this. The person who is addicted to the atman alone has no desire for anything else. He has no action to perform. He has neither gains nor losses. The knowledge of this is like a raft that rescues one from the flood of illusions.
This knowledge frees one from the shackles of all actions (karma), since all actions are vested in the brahman. A person with this knowledge is as pure as a drop of water on a lotus flower. Such a person sees himself in everything and everything in himself. There are four types of people who worship Vishnu. The first category consists of people who are in trouble, the second consists of people who desire wealth. Third consists of people who are merely curious, while the last consists of people who hanker after true knowledge. It is the last category of people who realize the union and identity of the atman and the brahman.
The brahman is there in the smallest blade of grass. It is there in the most powerful and sacred of people. The physical senses mean nothing, they merely further the illusion of one’s physcial identity. The brahman extends beyond all these senses. The brahman has neither traits, nor is it without traits.
The brahman creates and destroys, it is th most powerful of all energies. Some realize the identity of the atman and the brahman through meditation, others through actions.
Yama Gita
There was a king named Vajashrava. His son was Nachiketa. Vajashrava arranged for a wonderful sacrifice at which he gave away all his wealth.
Nachiketa asked, “Father, whom have you given me to?”
His father did not reply, but Nachiketa kept asking again and again. At this, Vajashrava became angry and said,”I have given you to Yama.
Faithful to his father’s word, Nachiketa decided to go to Yama’s abode. The road was difficult, but Nachiketa got there and waited for three days to see Yama. No on returns to the earth from Yama’s abode. But Yama was so pleased to have met Nachiketa that he granted him the boon that Nachiketa could return to the earth. Nachiketa however, had no desire to accept such a boon. Instead he wanted to know from Yama the true nature of the atman. The instructions that Yama gave to Nachiketa have come to be known as the Yama Gita.
The Agni Purana now recaptitualtes the essence of the Yama Gita.
Yama said that it was indeed strange that men craved after positions, possessions, houses and clothes. The sages have all taught that one should not get addicted to these sensual pleasures. And yet, man did not learn.
The brahman is that which possesses nothing and everything. It cannot be seen and yet it is everywhere. The atman is like a warrior on a chariot, the physical body being the chariot, the intelligence the charioteer and the mind the bridle. The senses are the horses and the warrior’s job is to control the horses and target his arrow at the knowledge of the brahman. Those who are truly learned know of the identity between the atman and the brahman. Samadhi is nothing but the recognition of this union. When the physical body comes to an end, the atman is free and can merge with the brahman.
The Agni Purana’s Virtues
The last chapter of the Agni Purana describes the virtues of the Purana.
The Agni Purana is most holy. It gives health and ends nightmares. It spreads happiness. Ill omens vanish from houses where the Agni Purana is kept. A man who listens to the recital of the Agni Purana every day, has no need of pilgrimages, alms, sacrifices and fasts. Reading one chapter of the text yields the same punya as may be obtained from donating a cow. Even if one only wishes to hear a recital of the Agni Purana, the sins committed over the duration of a day are forgiven. Reading the whole of text gives one the punya that can be obtained by donating a hundred cows at a sacred place of pilgrimage. Enemies and thieves dare not frequent a house where there is a a text of the Agni Purana. Ghosts give such a house a miss.
A brahmana who listens to a recital of the Purana becomes learned in the Vedas. A kshatriya becomes the ruler of the world, a vaishya becomes rich and a shudra attains good health. Nothing is so sacred as writing down the text of the Purana and donating it to brahmanas.
End of  the Agni Purana




         






(My humble salutations to the lotus feet of Swamyjis, Philosophic Scholars, Knowledge seekers for the collection)


1 comments:

Author Prayatna said...

They talk about Muhammad being mentioned in the Hinduic scripts. Even few logics are also presented. But the thing is they know not Hinduism in deep. Do you know why a horse has its one leg in the air while its three legs in the ground? ...I bet no one does... The four legs of the horse represents the four Vedas (Rig, Sam, Yajur and Atharva Vedas). Here's the truth ... Ved Vyas was only the knower of Rig Veda, Sam Veda and Yajur Veda except for the Atharva Veda. Atharva Veda was never explained by anyone... I mean none, not even Vyas!

So, one of the few tasks of Kalki becomes - to explain the knowledge of Atharva Veda (symbollically - the fourth leg of Kalki's horse).I'm saying this because Prophet Muhammad had never ever explained the knowledge Atharva Ved in the Mecca, or did he? Please, ask this question to those who claim that Prophet Muhammad to be Kalki.
But why are the leaders presenting "Muhammad" as "Kalki"? ... You know Why? ... cuz they don't know who Kalki is ... It is just their hunch! ... Yeah, few similarities are presented but I think that isn't fully sufficient to prove that Muhammad is Kalki.

But on the other hand, (according to my perspective, the perspective that I had developed on my own from the wisdom of Mahamati Prannath), Rasul Muhammad is partially Kalki (in one way)!!! ... Do you wanna know why? ... Then, please read Alif Lam Mim. Alif Lam Mim isthe Kalki of Hindus!!! And not even the Hindus or the Muslims ever knew of this fact!!!Rasul Muhammad's spirit was also present in Kalki (or Mahamati Prannath)!!And Mahamati Prannath is Kalki because he had explained the Atharva Veda in its original sense!!!
Thus, by explaining Atharva Veda, Mahamati Prannath (the Kalki) has ridden his horse!

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