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Skanda Purana – Mahesvara Kandha – Arunacala Kandha Purvardha – 3

Skanda Purana

By G.V. Tagare


Book 1
Mahesvara Kanda

Section 3
Arunacala Khanda Purvardha

Chapter 1

The Manifestation of the Taijasa-liṅga—Aruṇācala

0Obeisance to Śrī Gaṇeśa. Now begins the Pūrvārdha (‘First Half’) of the narrative of the greatness of the excellent Aruṇācala.

NOTE: Aruṇācala is variously called: Aruṇagiri, Śoṇādri etc., all of which mean ‘Red Mountain’. The hill is Tiruvannamalai in the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu.

1He has the Tripuṇḍra (i e. three parallel lines of ash as sectarian mark) on his forehead. In the middle of the forehead, he has a Tilaka (i.e. a circular or vertical sectarian mark) made with musk. He has a sparkling garland. A piece of cloth worn on his loins is his only garment. On his head he holds the king of serpents that cannot be subdued. He has the digit of the moon too. He is a lamp (i.e. a spiritual guide) unto all. Thus stands supreme the Yogin of Aruṇagiri.
2-5Vyāsa said: The sages residing in Naimiṣā forest said to Sūta: “We are desirous of hearing the greatness of Aruṇācala from you. Kindly recount its greatness.” On being requested thus, Sūta spoke to those sages. Śrī Sūta said: Formerly Sanaka[1] asked the Four-faced Lord Brahmā the same thing. Listen attentively. I shall recount it to you now. It is conducive to the destruction of the sins of those who hear it devoutly. Formerly, Sanaka bowed down to the lotus-seated Lord Brahmā who was residing in Satyaloka, Standing with palms joined in reverence, he asked him:
6Sanaka said: O Four-faced Lord of Devas, the support of the universe, one who can be known only through the Vedas, by your grace perfect knowledge has come to me.
7Even by a single instruction, the entire range of knowledge reflects in the mirror of my mind which is cleansed with the sacred ash[2] of devotion to you.
8Thanks to the benign glances of yours who are the preceptor of the universe, I have fully acquired in an orderly manner the knowledge of (the cult of) Śiva, the essence of all the Vedas.
9O receptacle of mercy, Liṅgas of Śiva, those on the earth, those in the heaven, and those belonging to human beings, to Siddhas, Bhūtas (Spirits) (have been heard of by me), O leader of Suras.
10Tell me about the Taijasa (‘Refulgent’) Liṅga which is divine, free from impurities, capable of destroying the enemies (such as lust, anger etc.), the Liṅga which manifested itself in the continent (called) Jaṃbū.
11O storehouse of kindness, enlighten me (about the Liṅga) that is destructive of sins by merely remembering its name, that is eternal and grants the Sārūpya (‘similarity of form’) of Śiva.
12Let that (knowledge) be imparted to me about the immutable, beginningless, fiery splendour of Śiva, the support of the universe, by the sight of which (splendour) one becomes happy (with all his objects achieved).
13On hearing these eager and enthusiastic words (of Sanaka) endowed with devotion, the Lord (Brahmā), the storehouse of penance, became gracious unto him.
14Seated on his lotus-seat, the Four-faced Lord meditated upon Śaṃbhu for a long time and had his mind immersed in the ocean of internal bliss.
15In the course of his meditation, he saw Śiva in the form of a column of fire in the manner he had already seen[3]. It had surpassed all supports and bases. On seeing it he became unaware of anything else.
16Thereafter, in order to carry out the behest obtained from Śiva the Lord withdrew his heart from that Yogic state and remembered his son who had been bowing to him.
17Due to the vision of Śiva his body had all its hair erected through the thrill of joy. His eyes were filled with the tears of joy, and he spoke in a faltering tone:
18-20“O dear son, I have been reminded internally of you. Meditating on the ancient Yoga pertaining to Śiva, I remembered you and your respectful eagerness. It was on account of many performances of penance that great devotion to Śiva was engendered in you. My heart is attracted by it as it were in a moment. Those persons whose perpetual devotion to the calm and unagitated Sadāśiva increases, sanctify the entire universe by means of their own conduct.
21Talking to, living with, playing with, mingling and mixing with, seeing and remembering devotees of Śiva is destructive of sins.
22May it be heard how that wonderful splendour of Śiva formerly manifested itself. It is called Aruṇādri and it is full of natural mercifulness.
23Nārāyaṇa and I, both of us are born of Sadāśiva whose rise surpasses (i.e. precedes) the entire universe and who engaged himself in the mental resolve ‘Let me be many[4].’
24We began to argue mutually that we have been born naturally. With great haughtiness, we engaged ourselves in a combat in which we never became tired at all.
25Observing our exceedingly terrible determination in our mutual fight, Īśvara, the very embodiment of mercy, thought thus:
26-30‘What for is the fight between these two causing destruction to the worlds? They are having this idea (as the cause of dispute)—Creation is carried out by me; I am the protector. These two are extremely mistaken and silly. If I do not reveal myself at this time to them and stop their battle, the whole universe will come to ruin. My greatness surpassing the entire universe is heard in the Vedas. Stupid and silly that they are with their faculty of memory impaired on account of anger, these two do not know it. Every creature thinks itself as exceedingly supreme. The wicked and foolish-minded one who does not accept another man’s superiority meets with a downfall. If I demonstrate anywhere in the universe any proof of (the dimension of) my Ātman, someone through the perfect knowledge of that form may attain me.’
31Deciding in his mind thus, Sadāśiva himself rose up as a column of fire in our midst while we were fighting.
32-36aGoing beyond all the worlds, he blazed all round like fire. Since the column had neither the beginning nor the end we remained there with our eyes agonized. On seeing the fiery column blazing, we became unnerved. An ethereal voice rose up in front of us; ‘Wherefore, O children of deluded minds, do you think of fighting? Śiva himself will decide about the inequality in your strength. Here stands the form of Śaṃbhu consisting of a fiery column. If you are able to see the end and the beginning (of this column of fire) you (may be considered) superior in strength.’
36b-37On hearing these words, we desisted from the mutual combat. Viṣṇu and I set out to seek out that form of Śaṃbhu of the nature of the fiery column which was devoid of beginning and end.
38-43aWe endeavoured to see the beginning and ending portions (of the fiery column). Just as children try to grasp, the moon in the sky reflected in water, so also we attempted to measure that refulgence. Then with great zeal, Viṣṇu became a boar of very huge body. For the investigation of its root, he dug up the interior of the earth. I assumed the form of a swan and flew up with great speed. Desirous of seeing his head, I flew up in the sky. Mādhava went down farther and farther tearing up the entire earth. He saw the fiery column appearing still farther down. Even after searching for many crores of years, he did not see the imperishable beginning. He became agitated and bewildered.
43b-45aHis curved teeth became shattered. All the joints (of his body) became loose and impaired. He became distressed due to fatigue. He was overwhelmed with thirst. Hari became unable to proceed further. He became too feeble and incompetent to retain as well as to get rid of the inimitable form of a boar. The consort of Ramā became weary and afflicted.
45b-52The Lord of unmeasurable soul thought thus as his body became extremely tired, his glory faded and he had been exhausted due to his activity. He resorted to Śiva who is worthy of being a refuge: ‘Fie upon this great stupidity of mine arising from arrogance whereby I did not realize my own Lord, my own self! This is indeed Śiva, the root cause of all Vedas, Devas, and the worlds. How can there be a root (cause) unto him? It was from him alone that I have been born—from him who is devoid of beginning and end. (It is a pity) that I started to seek (the root cause of) Śiva after taking the physical form of an animal. By the favour of Śaṃbhu, my father, a kinsman of unpretended (i.e. sincere) kindness, I have regained this intellect enlightening my own Soul. If Śaṃbhu, the great Lord, himself wishes to protect anyone, he will have perfect knowledge immediately, arising from his own soul and devoid of arrogance. Now I am (physically) unable to perform the worship of this preceptor of the universe. I shall dedicate myself to Śaṅkara and seek refuge in him.’ Thus Viṣṇu who dedicated his mind to (Śaṅkara’s) eulogy, meditated on Śiva.
53-55aOn account of the excellent favour of the Lord of Goblins, he was once again lifted up on to the earth. (Soaring up) I wandered in the sky for many years, with the eyes rolling and with wings feeble and slackened. I was extremely tired. In front of me I saw the column of fire, the splendour of Śiva worshipped by Suras, resembling a huge Liṅga[5], being higher and higher still.
55b-61aAs I was desirous of seeing the eternal, ultimate extremity of Śaṃbhu and made attempts for the same, some Siddhas born of parts of his (Śiva’s) splendour, saw me and spoke thus: ‘Alas, it is true that this one still persists in his stupidity! Although the fall of his physical body is imminent, his arrogance has not left him. His wings are being shattered. He is extremely tired with rolling eyes. In vain will be this deluded (adventure on his part) in regard to Śiva of boundless refulgence. This Janārdana who had assumed the form of a boar and had been agitated in his mind thus, was turned back by Śiva himself, endowed with sincere mercifulness. From the atoms of the splendour of the Lord it is possible that crores of Suras, the chief of whom is Brahmā, may issue forth (i.e. be born). Still he who has come out of the self-same Ātman desires to see the limit of that Lord. If Lord Śiva thinks about this at the proper time and grants intelligence unto him (i.e. Brahmā), his arrogance may end.’
61b-67aOn hearing the sympathetic words of the Siddhas who spoke thus, my pride got shattered and I thought within myself: ‘Neither by learning the (huge) collection of the Vedas nor by performing penances nor by frequenting the holy spots does the perfect knowledge of Śiva dawn upon (i.e. occurs to) me without the blessings of Śiva himself[6]. Even when the wings are shattered, when the limbs become feeble and benumbed, the mind still yearns for nurturing its arrogance. Fie upon me who have been overwhelmed by arrogance and who have not realized the strength of the Ātman! Perpetual obeisance to the Siddhas who have dedicated their minds to Śiva. My mind has become purified by the power of penance acquired by the contact with those Siddhas. Therefore, I know and realize Śiva, my own cause (i.e. source of birth) standing in front of me. All the Devas are endowed with prosperity and magnificence acquired therefrom. His grace will thereby continuously subdue their enemies.
67b-69aI seek refuge in Śaṃbhu alone whose ultimate truth the Vedas along with the great Āgamas, do not understand. Śaṃbhu is different from the universe. Having regained my body I resorted devoutly to the moon-crested Lord Śiva and addressed the lotus-eyed Viṣṇu:
69b-72‘Alas, what is this mysterious thing that has befallen even persons full of heroism. We are born of Śaṃbhu, yet we have become arrogant. He heard about our mutual quarrel that turned out to be extremely great. Lord Śaṅkara himself of unmeasurable soul dispelled the entire arrogance of both of us by revealing his own greatness. He who strives to worship this Sadāśiva, the Lord who is bowed down to by the Suras and who is of the form of a fiery column, shall become a boat (to cross) the ocean of worldly existence.’”


[1] Sanaka—One of the four earliest mind-born sous of god Brahmā. The four brothers, viz. Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana and Sanatkumāra are generally grouped together as Sanakādi. But here Sanaka as an independant sage is intended by the author.
[2] A pun on Vibhūti which means ‘greatness’ as in BG X.41 and also ‘sacred ash’ to be applied for purification.
[3] This refers to the manifestation of Śiva in the form of a beginningless and endless column of effulgence to Viṣṇu and Brahmā who were fighting with each other to establish their personal superiority at the beginning of creation of the world. Vide below vv 23-72.
[4] An echo of Chāndogya Upaniṣad VI.2.3.
[5] This shows that Purāṇas regarded the Liṅga of Śiva as representing this beginningless and endless column of fire and not his phallus.
[6] This idea of the necessity of divine grace for self-realization is stated in Upaniṣads: …yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyaḥ, tasyaiṣa ātmā vṛṇute tanūm svām—Kaṭha 1.2.23; Muṇḍaka 3.2-3.

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