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.
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.