Before reciting, this Skanda Purana, which is the very means of conquest, one should offer respectful obeisances unto the Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva, unto Nara-narayana Rishi, the supermost human being, and unto mother Sarasvati, the goddess of learning.
Shrila Vyasadeva said, “At the forest of Naimisha, great sages, headed by Shaunaka Rishi, were engaged in a prolonged series of sacrificial performances. One day, my disciple, Suta Gosvami, came there with a desire to have the sages’ association.”
The sages welcomed Suta Gosvami and worshiped him with offerings of auspicious articles. Thereafter, as Suta Gosvami was seated at the head of the assembly, the sages said, “Please narrate to us the greatness of Lord Shiva, who carries a trident in his hand. We would like to hear about the merit achieved by worshiping him and meditating upon his pastimes.”
Suta Gosvami said, “In the eighteen Puranas, Lord Shiva is glorified as the supreme lord within this world. Indeed, he is considered to be practically on a level with the Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu. Of course, nowhere in the Puranas is Lord Shiva glorified as being superior to Lord Vishnu in any way. Still, his glorification is very prominent in the Puranas because materialistic men are advised to worship him for the fulfillment of their desires.”
The sages were eager to hear these pastimes of Lord Shiva and so Suta Gosvami began by narrating the following story:
Formerly, at the instance of Lord Brahma, Daksha gave his daughter, Dakshayani, in marriage to Lord Shiva. Once, it so happened that Daksha came to Naimisharanya and he was honored by all the sages performing sacrifice there. Mahadeva (Lord Shiva) was present at that time but he did not even stand up to show his father-in-law respect, nor did he speak any words of greeting.
Upon seeing this, Daksha furiously said, “Everywhere the demigods and sages bow down to me with great respect. How is it that this vicious fellow does not offer obeisances upon seeing me? This shameless person lives in a crematorium, surrounded by ghosts and evil spirits!”
“Only wicked people who are habituated to sinful acts behave arrogantly in the presence of a brahmana. Such persons should be killed or driven out by pious people. I will therefore curse him!”
“All of you brahmanas assembled here—heed my words! This Rudra should be banned from all sacrificial performances because he has transgressed the rules of etiquette as prescribed by the varnashrama system.”
Nandi, the son of Shilada, angrily replied, “Why should my lord, Mahesha, be excluded from sacrificial performances? It is by remembrance of him alone that a sacrifice bears fruit! You have cursed Lord Shiva unjustly because of your brahminical pride. Evil minded Daksha, it is Shambhu alone who protects the universe!”
While hearing this, Daksha became more enraged and he cursed Nandi, saying, “All of you who are devoted to Lord Shiva have made yourselves beyond the purview of the Vedas by clinging to heretical doctrines! You are beyond the boundary of good conduct and are thus are not fit to be seen by true gentlemen!”
In this way, Lord Shiva and his servants were cursed by Daksha. Nandi retorted, “Although we, the servants of Mahadeva, are faultless, you have unnecessarily cursed us. Now, I shall counter curse you for your rash behaviour!”
“O Daksha, you brahmanas claim to be followers of the Vedas but actually, you are very lusty, greedy, and deluded. In the future, brahmanas will perform sacrifices on behalf of shudras. They will always remain impoverished and greedy for gifts of money.”
Upon hearing this, Lord Shiva smilingly said to Nandi, “You should not be angry at the brahmanas because they are always to be considered as our elders and superiors. Who are you? Who am I? Who are these brahmanas? We are all parts and parcels of the Supreme Soul.
Rise above the concept of duality and become enlightened. View everything through the eye of transcendental knowledge. Be situated in your eternal self and avoid the base material qualities, such as anger.”
Nandi took this advice to heart and thereafter, he closely associated with Lord Shiva and attained the state of transcendental ecstasy. Daksha returned home in a very angry mood, however, accompanied by many sages, and he continued to criticize Lord Shiva. Indeed, he never regained his composure after that incident.
Some time later on, Daksha commenced a great sacrifice and all of the great sages and demigods were invited. Kuvera arrived, riding on the Pushpaka chariot. Vayu rode on his deer, Agni on his goat, and Nirriti on a ghost. All were honored by Daksha. Residences of great beauty had been constructed by Tvastri for the accommodation of the guests.
Here, it is mentioned that this sacrifice took place at Kanakhala. Some commentators say that this is a village two miles east of Haridvara, at a place where the Ganga and Niladhara rivers unite. After Daksha was initiated into the performance of the sacrifice, the sage, Dadhichi, said to him, ‘‘This sacrifice does not seem pleasing without the presence of Lord Shiva. Even an inauspicious occasion, when presided over by him, becomes auspicious. Therefore, you should urge Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Indra to invite him without delay. Have him brought here, along with your daughter.”
The cruel Daksha derisively replied, “It is Lord Vishnu who is the root of all auspiciousness and He is present here. Lord Brahma has come along with the personified Vedas and the king of heaven, Indra, is also present, along with the other demigods. Of what need is there of Shiva? Of course, I admit that I gave my daughter to him in marriage but that was done under the instruction of Lord Brahma.”
“Lord Shiva is degraded and he is loved by those who are similarly inclined. Indeed, he is the lord of the ghosts, witches and goblins! He is too proud of himself! He is deluded and stubborn! Therefore, he is totally unworthy of taking part in this glorious sacrifice. O brahmana, you should not speak like this to me again.”
Dadhichi said, “It is a great injustice to the brahmanas and demigods that Lord Shiva has been excluded from their association. I am sure that a great destruction awaits all those who are present here.” After saying this, Dadhichi walked out in protest and returned to his hermitage. Daksha laughed and then said, “Well, there goes a staunch follower of Shiva. All those slow-witted rogues who are possessed by evil spirits, who are enamored by heretical doctrines, and who are therefore excluded from Vedic rituals, should also leave at once.”
Then, addressing the brahmanas, Daksha said, “You are all devoted to Lord Vishnu and so make my sacrifice a grand success.”
Meanwhile, Daksha’s daughter, Sati, as she was playing with her girlfriends, happened to see Chanda, along with Rohini, as they were on their way to attend Daksha’s sacrifice. She told her friend, Vijaya,
“Go and ask Chandra where he is going.”
Vijaya approached Chandra and made this inquiry and then reported back to Dakshayani. When she heard that Chandra was going to attend her father’s sacrifice, Sati wondered, “Why didn’t my father invite me and my husband? Has my mother forgotten me? I shall ask Shankara the reason for this.”
She saw Lord Shiva in the midst of an assembly of his associates. Some were hideous and terrifying to be hold. Some were headless trunks, others had no chest, and some had no eyes. All were dressed in elephant hides, had matted hair, and were adorned with rudraksha beads. They were all devoid of attachment, they were conquerors of their senses, and they were antagonistic toward the objects of sensual pleasure.
Bewildered in mind, Dakshayani suddenly presented herself before Lord Shiva. Pleased to see her, Mahadeva placed her upon his lap and asked, “O lady of slender waist, what is the purpose of your coming here?”
Sati replied, “O lord, how is it that we are not going to the sacrifice of my father? Tell me everything clearly. It is the duty of friends to regularly associate with one another. By doing so, they enjoy great pleasure and increase their mutual love. Therefore, we should go to my father’s sacrifice, even if we have not been invited.”
Lord Shiva said, “O gentle lady, you must not go to your father’s sacrifice. Those who go to others’ houses without being invited are often insulted in a way that is worse than death. It is for this reason that I advise you not to go.’’
Becoming somewhat angry, Sati replied, “You are truly the lord of sacrifice. How is it that my wicked-minded father has not invited you? I wish to understand clearly the attitude of my father and so grant me permission to go to his sacrifice today.”
Finally, Lord Shiva gave his assent, telling Sati to ride on Nandi in the company of many of his other associates. In fact, at Lord Shiva’s bidding, sixty thousand of his ganas (followers) accompanied Sati. After Sati’s departure, Lord Shiva exclaimed to himself, “After being insulted by her father, Sati will never go to his house again!”
Upon Sati’s arrival, the demigods and others were very happy to see her. Sati went and offered her obeisances to her parents and then asked her father, “Why was Shambhu not invited by you? He is the lord of sacrifice and its successful completion depends upon him alone. Are the other invited guests, headed by Vishnu and Brahma, ignorant of his true position?”
Addressing Lord Brahma, Sati said, “Formerly, you had five heads, When you spoke rudely to Maheshvara, he made you fourheaded. Have you forgotten this?”
While listening to his daughter speak, Daksha became angry. He said, “Your talk has no relevance to the present occasion. Why did you come here? Of course, you are free to stay or leave—that is up to you. The fact is, however, that your husband, Shiva, is an inauspicious fellow. Being the lord of ghosts and spirits, he is excluded from Vedic rituals. That is why I did not invite him.”
“It was my mistake to give you in marriage to that dullwitted sinner and so it would be better if you would abandon your body.”
Upon witnessing how her father was full of contempt for Lord Shiva, Sati became furious. She thought, “How can 1 go back to my husband? Both the one who criticizes Lord Shiva and the one who hears it must enter hell and remain there for as long as the sun and moon shine. It would be better for me to enter fire and give up my life!”
Sati made up her mind in this way and then entered fire, thus relinquishing her body. At this, the associates of Lord Shiva became terribly aggrieved. After jumping onto the sacrificial platform, they cut the limbs from their own bodies, thus giving up their lives.
In this way, the sacrifice of Daksha was disrupted. The devas and brahmanas silently remained in their places, in a fearful state of mind. Meanwhile, news of what had happened was relayed to Lord Shiva by Narada Muni. In terrible anger, Lord Shiva jumped up from his seat, pulled out some of his matted hair, and dashed it onto the ground. Immediately, a great demon, Virabhadra, rose up from the earth, accompanied by many varieties of fevers in personified forms.
Virabhadra inquired, “My lord, what task is to be accomplished by me?”
Lord Shiva succinctly said, “Go and destroy the sacrifice of Daksha!”
As Virabhadra and his hordes of ghosts and spirits approached, those in the sacrificial arena of Daksha experienced very fearful omens. A strong wind blew carrying dirt and sand. It began to shower blood as all quarters were enveloped in darkness. Thousands of meteors fell upon the earth.
Being frightened, the demigods took shelter of Lord Vishnu and in response, the Lord gave them assurances. At the same time, however, He informed Daksha, “This fearful condition has beset you because of your disregard for Lord Shiva. None of us are powerful enough to counteract this calamity, which was brought about by your wicked behavior. There is no need to say more.”
Upon hearing this, Daksha became pale and sat silently on the ground, absorbed in thought. At this time, Virabhadra arrived upon the scene, accompanied by the nine Durgas (nava-durga). The nine Durgas were Kali, Katyayani, Ishana, Chamunda, Mundamardini, Bhadra-kali, Bhadra, Tvarita, and Vaishnavi. A great horde of ghosts and spirits also entered the sacrificial arena. All of the attendants of Lord Shiva who accompanied Virabhadra had forms resembling that of Mahadeva. They had five heads, blue throats, ten arms, and three eyes. They wore matted hair that bore the emblem of the crescent moon. Virabhadra had three eyes and one thousand arms and he was entwined with many serpents. His chariot was drawn by two thousand horses and one million lions. Defending his two sides were many lions, elephants and sharks.
As music played, the associates of Lord Shiva went in front of Virabhadra, indulging in various kinds of dances. The great sound of their shouts reverberated throughout the three worlds. The devas, Daityas, and Rakshashas who had attended Daksha’s sacrifice, while observing the portents indicating the destruction of the world, stood up simultaneously to watch the approach of Lord Shiva’s hordes—some through the sky and some on the ground.
The demigods, demons, and Rakshashas said, “Let us pick up our weapons and confront them.” Upon seeing how his side was preparing for war and mounting their vehicles, Daksha petitioned Lord Vishnu to give them all protection.
In response, Lord Vishnu told him, “You say that I should protect you and this sacrifice but you seem to forget how you insulted Lord Shiva at Naimisharanya. O wicked one, this was a great fault of yours. Now, I do not see anyone competent to protect you from Rudra’s wrath. The performance of a sacrifice, in and of itself, is not sufficient to award one benefit. One who insults Lord Shiva should never expect to benefit by performing religious rituals.
Those who disrespect Lord Shiva go to hell, even though they may have performed millions of sacrifices. It is not karma (acts) alone that produces good results—it is the good will of the controller of material nature, Lord Shiva, that insures auspiciousness and prosperity.”
Daksha replied, “O slayer of Madhu, it appears that You are discrediting the authority of the Vedas. How can one renounce the Vedas and accept the authority of Shiva?”
Lord Vishnu said, in a conciliatory manner, “The Vedas mainly deal with the three modes of material nature and the lord of material nature is Shiva. Therefore, for success in the performance of sacrifice, one must take shelter of Lord Shiva.”
As they were conversing in this way, the army of demigods arrived on the scene, being desirous of fighting. At the urging of Bhrigu Muni, the demigods, led by Indra, were eager to destroy the army of Lord Shiva, led by Virabhadra. Thereafter, in the fierce battle that took place, the demigods routed the army of Lord Shiva’s associates, being strengthened by the mantras chanted by Bhrigu.
Upon seeing the defeat of his army, Virabhadra became enraged. Advancing to the front ranks, he proceeded to create a slaughter among the ranks of the demigods so that they all fled the battlefield, leaving only Indra and the loka-palas, who were still eager to fight.
Indra went and asked Brihaspati, “How can we attain victory?”
Brihaspati unhesitatingly replied, “What was spoken by Lord Vishnu previously has been proven true today. It is not merely the performance of sacrifice or any other Vedic ritual that awards one auspiciousness and prosperity. It is Lord Shiva who imbued material nature with its characteristics that award one happiness and misery. It is the favor of Mahadeva and not the mere performance of sacrifice that should be sought after.”
“Indra, you and the other directors of universal affairs have taken a foolish course of action in trying to oppose Lord Shiva.”
Upon hearing this, Indra and the other demigods became anxious. Virabhadra said to the demigods, “You have come here for the purpose of attaining avadana (glorious achievement). For your satisfaction, I shall now give you avadanas (cutting into pieces).
After saying this, Virabhadra released an onslaught of arrows that made the demigods panic and flee in all directions. Virabhadra and the associates of Lord Shiva then entered the deserted sacrificial arena. At that time, the sages said to Lord Vishnu, “Please protect Daksha’s sacrifice. After all, You are the yajna-purusha (personification of sacrifice).”
After hearing this, Lord Janardana became desirous of fighting, for the sake of the brahmanas. Virabhadra then addressed Lord Vishnu, saying, “Why have You come here? You know of my incomparable strength. How can You expect to come out victorious by taking the side of Daksha? Please tell me that.”
Coming closer to Lord Vishnu, Virabhadra continued, “To me, You are just like Lord Shiva. If you desire to fight then remain in front of me.”
Upon hearing this, Lord Vishnu laughingly replied, “O intelligent one, you were born from the splendor of Rudra. Having been frequently requested by Daksha, I attended his sacrifice because I am subservient to My devotees. It is for this reason that I am subservient to Shiva, as well. Either you will conquer Me, or I will conquer you.”
Virabhadra laughed as he humbly bowed down before Lord Vishnu and said, “We are all servants of both You and Shankara.” Lord Vishnu also laughed as He replied, “Fight with Me unhesitatingly. I shall return to My own abode after being satisfied by your onslaught of weapons.”
Saying, “So be it,” Virabhadra picked up his foremost weapon and roared loudly while Lord Vishnu made a tumultuous sound by blowing His conch shell. Upon hearing that sound, the demigods who
had fled the battlefield took heart and returned so that soon, a great battle commenced.
In that terrible conflict, when Virabhadra attempted to swallow Indra and Airavata, Lord Vishnu intervened, pushing the king of heaven behind Him. As they fought, Virabhadra could see that his army was weakening and so he said to the Lord, “You are certainly a heroic warrior and the protector of the devas. If this is actually true then fight with me now, as best You can.”
After saying this, Virabhadra released a shower of arrows upon Lord Vishnu. In reply, the Lord released His chakra but it was swallowed by Virabhadra. When He saw this turn of events, the Lord stroked His mouth, causing the chakra to come out of Virabhadra’s mouth and return to His hand. After accomplishing this, Lord Vishnu ascended into the sky and returned to His eternal abode, satisfied that
He had fulfilled His duty.”
After the departure of Lord Vishnu, the demigods and others that had taken part in Daksha’s sacrifice were totally vanquished by the devotees of Lord Shiva. Virabhadra cut off Bhrigu’s beard and moustache and then knocked out Pusha’s teeth. Indeed, the associates of Lord Shiva, being infuriated, created havoc as Daksha fearfully hid himself under the sacrificial altar.
When he understood this, Virabhadra went and caught hold of Daksha. After cutting off his head, he threw it as an offering into the sacrificial fire. While all this was going on, the demigods and others fled the scene.
After returning to his abode, Lord Brahma, who was sorry for what had happened to his son (Daksha), began to think, “What can be done now?” After carefully thinking over the wicked behavior of Daksha, Lord Brahma finally decided to go to Kailasa. Riding upon his swan carrier and accompanied by the chiefs of the demigods, Lord Brahma arrived at Mount Kailasa and saw Lord Shiva sitting with only Nandi as his companion.
After falling flat onto the ground to offer obeisances, Lord Brahma begged for pardon and offered prayers glorifying Lord Shiva in which he expressed how he was aggrieved because of his son, Daksha.
Lord Shiva replied,- “The destruction of Daksha’s sacrifice was not carried out by me.There is nodoubt that he was killed as a result of his own actions. One should never do something that will give pain to others. The pain that one afflicts upon others will no doubt be experienced by oneself, later on.”
Thereafter, Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva went to Kanakhala, where the sacrificial arena was situated. When he saw Lord Shiva come, Virabhadra bowed down to offer obeisances, as did the other ganas (associates of Mahadeva). They then stood before Shambhu with folded hands.
Lord Shiva laughingly said, “O hero, what has been done by you? Bring Daksha here at once.”
Virabhadra went and brought Daksha’s headless trunk, placing it in front of Lord Shiva. Mahadeva asked, “Who removed Daksha’s head? Although he his life.”
was a foolish fellow, I shall now give him back Virabhadra explained, “I threw Daksha’s head into the sacrificial fire. All that remains here is the deformed head of a bearded goat.”
Lord Shiva then placed the goat’s head upon Daksha’s headless trunk so that he came back to life. Upon seeing Rudra in front of him, Daksha felt terribly ashamed. He bowed down to Mahadeva and after standing up, he glorified him with many prayers.
Thereafter, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma returned to their respective abodes.