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Essence Of Skanda Purana


Padma

Description of Celestial Worlds

A Bramhana by name Siva Sarma lived in Mathura who was no doubt well versed in Scriptures but gradually became worldly wise and gave more and more of priority to earning property, Bhumi, jewellery and the like. He had suddenly realised his folly and cursed himself that none of the precepts that he exhorted to others for making money was practised by him.

He then commenced Tirtha Yatras and executed Snaans, Worships, charities, daily ‘Agni Karyas’ or homams, Tarpanas, Shraddhas and such other noble tasks at various Tirthas like Ayodhya, Prayaga, Kashi, and Mayapuri. In the course of the Tirtha Yatras, Siva Sharma experienced death and felt that an aeroplane arrived from Vishnuloka with two passengers named Vishnu prashads to take him away. Along with Siva Sharma, the Ganas travelled various Lokas on way to Vishnu Loka. They first flew over Piscacha Loka where they saw the miserable creatures that gave away charities reluctantly, performed Siva Pujas for showing off to others and discouraged others to give charity, Pujas, Snaans, homas, Tarpanas and prayers. They then witnessed Guhya Loka where the inhabitants amassed money but had hidden gold, properties and jewelery that could not be traced. Then came Gandharva Loka which was full of singers who made several good turns in their mortal lives such as charities, Pujas, Tirtha Yatras, Agni Homas, recitals of Bhakti Geetas, Veda Parayanas and so on; illustrious singers like Tumbura and Narada who had ready access to Devas, Planets, Trimurtis and even lower worlds belonged to this Loka. Siva Sharma and the Vishnu Ganas witnessed Vidyadhara Loka where Gurus treated their disciples as their own sons, the well-to-do persons  performed charities like Kanya Daans, Bhu Daans, Go Daans, Suvrna Daans and led virtuous lives on Earth engaged in Veda Pathana, Vratas, Worships, and so on. The Vishnugana duo had then shown Siva Sharma a few glimpses of Naraka Loka, the scenes of retribution to sins perpetrated by human beings and the treatment given by the Yama dutas as per the Manuals of the various Hells; however the Vishnuganas portrayed Dharma Raja as a benevolent King much unlike what was normally imagined. No doubt Yama Dharma Raja was a strict disciplinarian and stickler of Rules.The Vision of Dharma Raja is as per the eyes of the Viewer who could be guilty, less guilty or non-guilty! However, Dharma Raja instructed his Yamadutas that they should not approach persons who take the names of Govinda, Madhava, Mukunda, Hari, Murari, Shambhu, Siva, Esha, Chandrasekhara, Damodara, Achyuta, Hara, Neelakantha, Vishnu, Nrisimha, Shankara, Narayana and so on. Sivasharma and Vishnuprashads then travelled to Surya Loka and found Surya Deva who was Sarvatma Veda Purusha. Those who were taught Gayatri Mantra ought to perform Gayatri Japa thrice a day at the Three Sandhyas and if they did not do so were considered as the fallen human beings attracting retribution of justice. Those who observed the ‘Sandhya Vandana’ in favour of Surya Deva and Gayatri Mata as prescribed would be blessed with long life, health, affluence, Wealth, Cattle, Friends, Progeny, Good Life Partner, viz. the ‘Ashta Ishwaryas’ or the Eight folded Prosperity. One should realise that Gayatri and Surya Deva has the ‘Vachya-Vaachaka’ relationship or of the Speech and the Target of the Speech (Gayatri Mantra and Sun God). Also, Gayatri is Brahma, Vishnu and Parama Siva and is the Quintessence of Vedas and Scriptures, defining what Supreme Energy or Paramatma is all about!
Durlabha Sarva Mantreshu Gayatri Pranavaanvita,
Na Gayatryadhikam Kinchitrayopu Parigayathey/
Na Gayatri samo mantro na Kasisaddashi Puri,
Na Viswesha samam LingamSatya satyam Punah Punah/
Gayatri Veda Jananii, Gayatri Brahmanaprasuh,
Gaataaram Shrayatey Yasmaadyatri thena gaayathey/

At the time of Solar Eclipse, what ever virtuous tasks like Snaan, Daan, Japa, Homa etc. are performed would help ‘Surya Saameepya Praapti’ or steps to attaining Surya Loka after one’s mortal life. Recital of the following Surya ‘naamaas’ (names) by prefixing ‘Om’ and suffixing ‘Namah’ during the Eclipse Time would assure removal of poverty, disease, difficulties and discontentment: Hamsa, Bhanu, Sahasranshu,Tapana,Taapana, Ravi, Vikartan, Vivaswaan, Viswakarma, Vibhaavasu, Viswarupa, Vishwakarta, Maarthanda, Mihira, Anshumaan, Aditya, Ushnagu, Surya, Arthama, Bradhna Diwakara, Dwaadashaatma, Saptahaya, Bhaskara, Ahaskara, Khaga, Sura, Prabhakara, Srimaan, Lokachakshu, Graheswara, Trilokesha, Loka saakshi, Thamaari, Shaswatha, Shuchi, Gabhastihasta, Teevramshu, Tharani, Sumahorani, Dyumani, Haridaswa, Arka, Bhaanumaan, Bhayanaashana, Chhandoshva, Veda Vedya, Bhaswan, Pusha, Vrishaakapi, Ekachakraratha, Mitra, Mandehaari, Tamishraha, Daityaha, Paapa harta, Dharma, Dharmaprakashaka, Helika,Chitrabhaanu, Kalighna, Thakshyavahana, Dikpati, Padmininatha, Kusheshayakar, Hari, Dharmarashmi, Durnireeksha, Chandamsu and Kashyapaatmaja. The two-some Vishnu Ganas and Siva Sharma approached the glittering Indra Loka which was built by Viswakarma by the power of his Tapasya. In Amaravati, the Capital of Indra Loka, nobody produces Clothes or Jewellery, as KalpaVriksha does the tasks exceedingly well. Similarly, Kamadhenu fulfils all desires of food. Indra who had performed hundred Aswamedha Yagnas is known therefore as Shataamanu and has thousand eyes. His deputies are Seven Lokapals like Agni, Vayu, Varuna etc.Siva Sharma and Vishnu Prashad then witnessed Agni Puri  where besides Agni Deva, there are Agnideva’s ‘Upasakas’ or top devotees of Agni viz. Agnihotraparaayana Brahmana, Agnisevi Brahmachari, and Panchagni Vrata’s Administrator, who are all as powerful as Agni Deva himself. Also, there are Agni Experts who could treat Mandanaagni with Jatharagni and so on. Agni is the most propitious Deity who is known as ‘Paavak’or the Purifier and is also the Third Eye of Parameswara. After visiting Agni Loka, Siva Sharma sought the details of Nirruti Loka  resided by Rakshasas, but they were of different type as they seldom cheated; in fact they were only Rakshasas by birth but were Virtuous persons by habits as they visited Tirthas, performed worship to Devas and had all the laudable qualities of resorting to Snaan, Daan, Daya (Mercy), ‘Kshama’ (Patience), ‘Shoucha’ (Physical Cleanliness), ‘Astheya’ (Non stealing), and ‘Paropakaris’ (Helpful to others). North to Nirruti Loka is situated Varuna Loka where its residents dig up a number if Wells, Sarovars and Water Bodies with their rightly earned money and along with highly tasteful water offer to travellers food, shelter and rest houses. They also nurture water-oriented marine life including fishes, crocodiles and a large variety of aquatic animals. They live fearlessly under the protection of Varuna Deva and enjoy long and contented life where there is no disease, want and difficulty of any kind. They are all highly virtuous, engrossed in devotion to Paramatma and unnerved by ‘Arishadvargas’. Vayu Loka is known as Gandhavati Loka ruled by ‘Praana Prabhanjana’Vayudeva always immersed in the worship of Maha deva; a well-known devotee of Siva at Kasi called Pavaneswar did Tapasya for ten lakh long years and had darshan of Maha Deva who appointed him as one of the Dikpalas, blessed him with the knowledge of all Tatvas and made him the Chief of ‘Praana’/ ‘Aayu’ or Life Span as also of air or the essence of Life and very existence. Siva also made Vayu the Head of ‘Gandhas’ or the Ruler of Smells. Next to Gandhapuri is Alkapuri of Kubera who was too an intense devotee turned friend of Parama Siva who was pleased to bless  Kubera as the In charge of ‘Nava Ratnas’ or Nine Gems as an Administrator, Provider and Promoter. Adjacent to Kubera Loka where the residents are eternally rich with breath-taking designs of Nava Ratnas is the Ishanapuri with high concentration of ‘Tapasvis’, always deeply engaged with the thoughts and actions of Siva; in the performance of Siva Vratas, Siva ‘Abhishekas’, Siva Archanas, and Homams oriented to Siva; and totally dedicated to Siva. This Place is also the residence of Eleven Rudras viz.  Aja, Ekpada, Abhirbudhna, Pinaki, Aparajita, Triambak, Nisha, Shambhu, Haran, Ishwara and Kapi. The next is of Chandra Loka which is the epitome of coolness, happiness, health and mental peace. Chandra was the son of Sage Atri who performed Tapasya for three thousand Divya Years to Brahma who not only blessed the Sage to beget Chandra but even brought up the child. Having come of age, Chandra too did Tapasya to Bhagavan Siva at the Avimukta Kshetra Kasi and set up a Siva Linga called Chandrasekhara. Siva was pleased with Chandra’s worship and adorned the best ‘Kala’ (feature) of Chandra on His head; later on Daksha Prajapati cursed Chandra to disappear but the best Kala of Chandra retained on Maha Deva’s ‘mastak’ (head) is revived every Purnima night but gradually wanes day by day till Amavasya and grows gradually again grows there after in the ensuing fortnight. With the blessing of Mahadeva, Lord Vighneswara gave Chandra the responsibility of ‘Beejas’ (seeds), ‘Aushadhis’ (Medicines), Water and of Brahmanas. Mondays are the days dear to Chandra and worship to him, especially if coinciding with Amavasya, has far reaching benefits of good health, mental peace, ‘Dhanya Vriddhi’ or plentiful foodgrains and stay at Chandra Loka after life. Budha Loka is near Chandra Loka and Budha (Mercury) is Chandra’s son. After securing his father’s permission, Budha set up a Budheswara Linga at Kasi and did Tapasya for ten thousand years. Maha Deva gave His darshan to Budha and gave the boon that his Loka would be situated above the residences of Stars and that the Budha Graha would be considered as the most auspicious and the least trouble-making planet to humanity. Siva also gave the boon that whosoever worshipped Budheswar would retain the ‘Buddhi’ or memory and full consciousness till the last breath. Shukra Loka (Venus)is the residing Place of Danava Guru Shukracharya who secured ‘Mrita Sanjeevani Maha Vidya’ (The Unique Discipline to revive the dead) from Shankara Deva after pleasing Him with rigorous Tapasya for five thousand years. This Vidya was not obtained by Deva Guru Brihaspati but Shukra the son of Sage Bhrigu was able to achieve.Also, Siva was pleased to bestow additional boons such as designating Shukrawar (Friday) in a week in favour of Shukra and whosoever observed fast on that day and worshipped Shukreshwara Linga at Kashi would be blessed to secure courage, comfort and contentment besides good progeny.The next Planet is of Mangala Deva (Mars) born to Bhu Devi having stayed in Kashi meditated to Visweswara in the form of a Linga named Angarakeswaraand decided that he would not cease his Tapasya till such time that from his body there must be emerging fires or Angarakas. Maha Deva was happy with the Tapasya and granted the Status of a fulfedged Planet to him. Persons worshipping at the ‘Angarakeswara’ Linga on Mangalawar or Tuesdays would be rid of ‘Graha Peeda’ and provide relief from the difficulties experienced by human beings. Belief among human beings is rampant till date that especially unmarried girls if born with Mangala Dosha are not preferred for weddings and are better wedded to unmarried boys with similar Dosha! Devapujya Brihaspati’s Loka is next to that of Mangala Deva. The son of Sage Angira, Brihaspati happened to be the most Learned Vidwan, who was ‘Jitendriya’or the Conquerer of Physical Limbs and Internal ‘Gunas’; he was steeped in the comprehension of Vedas, Shastras and all other Scriptures, had the capacity to apply the knowledge to practical situations and was ideally suited to be the Guru of Devatas. Immensely delighted by his ‘Tapasya’, Bhagavan Siva granted the most important boon of appointing him as Deva Guru; Siva stated that ‘Brihat’or Great Devas needed a ‘Pati’ or a Teacher and as such he would be known as Brihaspati to one and all. Siva also told that on Brihaspativars (Thursdays) any new task commenced after worshipping the Linga set up in the name of ‘Brihaspatiswara’ or to Brihaspati himself would be very succsessful. Sage Agastya told Devi Lopamudra that the Vishnu Bhaktas Siva Sharma and Vishnupradas were gratified to vision Shani Loka soon after passing the Brihaspati Loka. Shani (Saturn) was the Son of Surya and the brother of Yama Dharma Raja and he too executed persistent Meditation and Sacrifices to Shaniswara Linga. Maha Deva was particularly satisfied with Shani’s penance and granted him the Status of a very powerful role as one of the ‘Nava Grahas’ since human beings were punished to experience the ‘Karma phala’ during the Shani phase of one’s life or at times let them experience helpful kick-starts of benevolent tasks performed in their ‘Prarabdha’ or earlier life. Saptarshi Loka is the most hallowed Land where Seven Most Illustrious Rishis appointed by Lord Brahma reside; these Sapta Rishis are Marichi, Atri, Pulaha, Pulastya, Kratu, Angira and Vasishtha, the ‘Manasa Putras’ the Mind Borne Sons of Lord Brahma. Their Wives respectively are Sambhuti, Anasuya, Kshama, Preeti, Sannati, Smriti and Arundhati, all of them being esteemed as ‘Lokamathas’or the Mothers of the Universe. Each of the Sapta Rishis executed extraordinary Tapasya and a happy Sada Siva bestowed the Title of Prajapatis to them.  As the Dhruva Loka came nearby, Vishnuprasadas narrated the Story to Siva Sharma as to how Dhruva, the grand son of Swayambhu Manu, made the most difficult resolve to seek the ‘Darshan’ (Vision) of Vishnu as he was hurt since his step mother (Suruchi) prevented him-a mere boy- to sit on his father’s (King Uttanapad) lap, while his cousin brother(Uttam) sat; the King  did nothing even while the step mother said that Dhruva would have to do Tapasya to Narayana to reach the father’s lap. Dhruva’s own mother (Suniti) was not favoured although she was the elder Queen and the King had supported the younger wife. Dhruva took his mother’s permission, was fired by the ambition to vision Narayana and met the Sapta Rishis who taught the Mantra: Om Bhagavathey Vasudevaya. He recited the Mantra while standing, moving, sleeping, sitting, or being awake and as there was nothing else that interested him in life even at that tender age and after innumerable years of unending perseverance Vishnu made His appearance and said: ‘I am fully aware of your ambition which far surpassed the mere lap of your father; you conquered me with your steadfast and unprecedented devotion to me; I am pleased to make you the center of gravity of all celestial bodies including Surya Deva, Planets, Stars and the rest as also as the Chief of Dhruva Mandala till the end of the Kalpa’. After crossing Dhruvaloka, the Vishnu Bhaktas passed Maha Loka where Maha Tapasvis reside till the end of the Kalpa targetting Vishnu alone in their minds; Jana Loka where Brahma Manasa Putras viz. Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanaatana and Sanat Kumaras stay practising ‘Akhanda Brahmaharya’ or Endless Celibacy; and Tapo Loka where Mahatmas like Brahma Himself and of Brahma’s life span concentrate on the ways and means of promoting and innovating Virtues and Spiritual Values of the entire Universe. Even while the thoughts of Tapo Loka were in the minds of Vishnu Bhaktas, Satya Loka arrived and the three of them fell on the feet of Lord Brahma who complemented Siva Sharma for his knowledge of Vedas and Scriptures; He said that at the end of each day (to Brahma) witnessed a Pralaya and fresh Srishti was taken up and that the various Lokas witnessed by Siva Sharma would soon be forgotten.Brahma also stated that among the four kinds of Creation viz. Swedaja(born of sweat like Lice),Udbhija (created by Earth like trees), Pindaja ( born of womb like human beings and animals) and Andaja ( born of Egg like birds), only human beings had the unique prospect to control Indriyas, Gunas, Shatvargas provided they availed the opportunity; there was no Place like Bharat which happened to be the ‘Karmabhumi’ or the Place where Noble Deeds were rewarded and there was no Tirtha like Kasi and no Bhagavan like Viswanath Linga in the Universe.’ Having visited Satya Loka, Siva Sharma asked the Vishnu Prashads as to how far he would have to travel farther and the latter replied that from Prithvi to Surya Loka the distance was away by a lakh Yojanas (one Yojana is 13-16 km approx); from Prithvi to Maha Loka is one Crore Yojanas; from Prithvi to Jana Loka is two crore yojanas, four crore yojanas to Jana Loka and eight crore yojanas to Satya Loka; sixteen crore yojanas to Vishnu Loka and sixteen times higher from Vaikuntha to Kailasa Dham; in other words, the distance from Bhu Loka to Kailas is a staggering figure of two arab and fifty six crore yojanas! From Satya Loka Siva Sharma was blessed to travel further to reside at Vaikuntha.
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