The skanda-vrata

We had earlier presented a few details pertaining to the great kumAra chakra, which lay at the root of the kumArashAsana the pinnacle of its glory – a time when mahAsena was invoked from bAhlika in the north to dramiDa coast in the south, and even beyond on the great massif in the island of lankA. The current ritual under discussion is conceptually related to the rituals of that practice. In the great cultic kShetra-s from the most ancient rohitakula in the pa~nchanada, skandapura in kashmIra, the holy city of mathurA on the banks of the famed yamunA, the most secluded old nagara kShetra on the western coast of the lATa land, the cave of udayagiri, the riverine shrine of padmapura in the va~Nga country, the secret site of the attracted ladies at siMhabhUmi in the magadha country, the mound of mayUrapura (modern Mitwali), in the great hills of shrIparvata and kumAraparvata in the andhra and karNATa countries respectively, at shrIskandapura and dakShiNa-mathurA in the dramiDa land and on the ratnagiri (i.e. Kataragama) in island of the cinnamon trees the practitioners of the secret rites of the old kumArashAsana were active at that point. As we pointed out earlier on these pages the mantra-practice of the skandashAsana evolved from the late Vedic-proto-tantric mantra system, through the middle tAntrika system and finally the shaiva-type late tantrika system. As a result few practitioners know the earliest rites of the kumArashAsana, which preceded the period of the “Ur-skanda purANa”, i.e. the bhaTTArAi edition, by a long time.

kumAra from mathurA

The ritual might be performed during the 6 tithi-s of the shukla-pakSha. Those bright parvan-s when the moon attains the ShaShThi tithi in kR^ittikA or vishAkhA or jyeShTha are particularly suitable for the rite. On the prathamA morning after a bath the ritualist goes to a large arka plant (Calotropis gigantea) and worships the deities mi~njikA and mi~njika. He conceives them as red in complexion, as youth male and female twins, and as holding bows, spears and tridents. He makes piNDa-s of haridra under the milkweed representing the two deities and invokes them with the mantra:
avAhayAmi mi~njikA-mi~njikau rudrasaMbhavAbhyAM namo namaH ||
Then he offers arka flowers with the incantation:
prapadyAmi mi~njikA-mi~njikau tAbhyAM vai namo namaH ||
He makes a water or a ghee offering with the mantra:
mithunaM sharva-saMbhavaM tarpayAmi ||

vR^ikShikA from the ancient sthala of mathurA (now at the museum in ukShatIrtha)

Then he collects the milkweed flowers and proceeds in the direction of an ashvattha, nyagrodha or plakSha tree and under it places stones, mud images or turmeric mounds to denote the carnivorous goddesses vR^iddhikA and vR^ikShikA. He invokes them and offers milk with the incantation:
ihAgachcha Agachcha ! nR^imAMsAde tarpayAmi | vR^ikShikA suprItA bhavatu ! vR^iddhikA suprItA bhavatu !

Then the ritualist looks at the sun by intertwining his fingers and looking through the aperture between them and offers milk to the goddess bahurashmikA uttering:
OM bhavasya retasas-saMbhUtyai bahurashmikAyai svAhA ||

vR^iddhikA is conceived as brown in color, vR^ikShikA is green in color, and bahurashmikA is visualized as reddish yellow in color. All are with two arms, have their hair in plaits and have shapely waists and round breasts.

Then facing east he draws the figure of the Pleiades cluster and offers milk uttering:
OM ambA! dulA! nitatnI! abhrayantI! meghayantI! varShayantI! ChupuNikA! kumAra-mAtR^ibhyaH svAhA ||
The 7 kR^ittikA-s are visualized with two hands and silvery blue in color, with plaited hair, youthful and with crowns.

Under a sprawling chaitya tree, which might be the same where he worshiped the goddesses he lays out a 6 petaled padma diagram and in the petals in visualizes the goddesses: gaurI, vidyA, gAndhArI keshinI, mitrA, sAvitrI and the great goddess pArvatI, consort of rudra in center. The then recites:

ehyehi gaurI gAndhArI vidyA keshinI mitrA sAvitrI ! priyA devyas tAbhyo vai namo namaH ||
mahAdevyai umAyai namo namaH ||

With svAhA attached to each of the seven names of the above goddesses in the dative case he then offers milk.

Then the ritualist returns to his fire place and on a sthandila he lights a fire from his aupAsana or AhavanIya fire uttering the mantra:

sa yojate aruShA vishvabhojasA sa dudravat svAhutaH |
subrahmA yaj~naH sushamI vasUnAM devaM rAdho janAnAm || [RV 7.16.2]
He makes an oblation with:
OM agnaye svAhA ||

Then he then utters the following mantra and makes an oblation to indra:
yata indra bhayAmahe tato no abhayaM kR^idhi |
maghava~n Chagdhi tava tan na Utibhir vi dviSho vi mR^idho jahi || [RV 8.61.13]
OM indrAya svAhA ||

Then he makes an offering to mitra and varuNa with the mantra:
yo adya senyo vadho .aghAyUnAm udIrate |
yuvaM taM mitrAvaruNAv asmad yAvayataM pari || [AV-S 1.20.2]
OM mitrAvaruNAbhyAM svAhA ||

The sacrifices to yama with the mantra:
yamAya ghR^itavad dhavir juhota pra cha tiShThata |
sa no deveShv A yamad dIrgham AyuH pra jIvase || [RV 10.14.14]
OM yamAya svAhA || (he touches water and then his chest)

He sacrifices to rudra thus:
rudra jalASha-bheShaja nIlashikhaNDa karmakR^it |
prAshaM pratiprAsho jahy arasAn kR^iNv oShadhe || [AV-S 2.27.6]
OM rudrAya svAhA || (he touches water and then his chest)

He makes an oblation to the marut-s:
te syandrAso nokShaNo .ati Shkandanti sharvarIH |
marutAm adhA maho divi kShamA cha manmahe || [RV 5.52.3]
OM marudbhyaH svAhA ||

indra AsAM netA bR^ihaspatir dakShiNA yaj~naH pura etu somaH |
devasenAnAm abhi-bha~njatInAM jayantInAm maruto yantv agram || [RV 10.103.8]
OM devasenAbhyaH svAhA ||

Then he makes six oblations to kumArA thus:
sadyojAtaM prapadyAmi sadyojAtAya vai namaH |
bhave-bhave nAdibhave bhajasva mAM bhavodbhaveti bhavAya namaH || [AV-pari 20.6.1]
OM aghorAya mahAghorAya nejameShaya namaH svAhA ||

Then he makes the three oblations to the circle of twelve kumAra-kula-mAtR^i-s:
AveshinI hy ashrumukhI kutuhalI hastinI jR^iMbhiNI staMbhinI mohinI cha |
kR^iShNA vishAkhA vimalA brahmarAtrI bhrAtR^ivya-saMgheShu patanty amoghAs tAbhyo vai mAtR^ibhyo namaH svAhA ||

Then he makes a round of oblations to the devasenA thus:
OM skandAya brahmaNyAya devasenApataye merur-ivAchalAya shakti-hastAya svAhA ||
OM shakrAya tridashanAM mahesvarAya pANDUra-gaja-vAhanAya vajra-hastAya svAhA ||
OM viShNave vAsudevAya dAnava-sudanAya chakra-hastAya svAhA ||
OM agnaye hutAshanAya shakti-pANaye svAhA ||
OM yamAya rAjAya kAla-daNDa-hastAya svAhA ||
OM varuNAya dharmarAjAya pAsha-vichakra-dharAya svAhA ||
OM vaishravaNAya dhaneshvarAya shibikA-dharaya svAhA ||
OM nirR^itAya yAturAjAya khadga-shaktidharAya svAhA ||
OM vAyave samIraNAya a~Nkusha-hastAya svAhA ||
OM ashvibhyAM dIpyAmAnA oShadhayo gR^ihitR^ibhyAM svAhA ||
OM dhAtre dhanur-hastAya svAhA ||
OM jayAya musala-hastAya svAhA ||
OM tvaShTAya mahAbalAya parvata-dharAya svAhA ||
OM aMshAya shakti-dharAya svAhA ||
OM mR^ityu-devAya parashu-hastAya svAhA ||
OM rudrAya mahAdevAya pinAka-pAshupata-dharAya svAhA ||
OM aryaMNe gR^ihIta-ghora-parighAya svAhA ||
OM mitrAya kShuraparyanta-chakra-dharAya svAhA ||
OM puShNe gR^ihIta-chakrAya svAhA ||
OM bhagAya shara-kArmuka-dharAya svAhA ||
OM savitre nistriMsha-hastAya svAhA ||
OM marudbhyash chitrAyudhebhyas svAhA ||

Then he makes a final round of manifold kaumAra offerings with the mantra:

OM bhuve namas svAhA ||

He conclude the fire ritual by uttering:
devaM prapadye varadaM prapadye skandaM prapadye cha kumAram ugram |
ShaNNAM sutaM kR^ittikAnAM ShaDAsyam agneH putraM mahAsenaM prapadye||

Then he offer a bali (usually rice mixed with red unguent) in the eastern direction:
AyAtu devo mama kArttikeyo brahmaNyapitraiH saha mAtR^ibhish cha |
bhrAtrA vishAkhena cha vishvarUpa imaM baliM sAnuchara juShasva ||

With that concludes the day ritual for the tithi-s other than the ShaShTI day.

After the performance of the sAyaM saMdhyA the ritualist heads out to perform the rituals of the night. The teachers say that these are not for the novice and are only for a bold and seasoned mantravAdin. He heads in the north or east direction towards a place were four roads cross or else he might directly go to a cemetery(known as pitR^ivana) with chaityavR^ikSha-s. He may be accompanied by his female uttara-sAdhakA for the ensuing rites and they arm themselves with knifes, swords and bows.

At the crossroad or at the cemetery he begins the ritual of the great goddess revatI on a sthaNDila. He imagines her as being dark in color with thick plaits on either side, with sparkling ear rings, colorful garlands and clothes. He makes oblations of black sesame oil with the following mantras with svAhA at the end:

ShaShTish cha ShaT cha revati pa~nchAshat pa~ncha sumnayi |
chatvArash chatvAriMshach cha trayas triMshach cha vAjini ||

dvau cha te viMshatish cha te rAtry ekAdashAvamAH |
tebhir no adya pAyubhir nu pAhi duhitar divaH ||

rakShA mAkir no aghashaMsa Ishata mA no duHshaMsa Ishata |
mA no adya gavAM steno mAvInAM vR^ika Ishata || [AV-S 19.47.4-6]

nAnA vastradhara devI chitramAlyAnulepanA |
chalat-kuNDalinI shyAmA revatI te prasIdatu ||

upAsate yAM satataM devyo vividhabhUShaNAH |
laMbA karAlA vinatA tathaiva bahuputrikA |
revatI shuShka-nAmA yA sA te devI prasIdatu || [sushruta-uttara tantra 31.10]

When the last two mantras are being deployed the uttarasAdhakA might grind the ashvagandha, ajashR^i~NgI, sArivA, punarnavA, sahA and vidArI herbs to prepare a drug for pediatric illness of the revatI type. The ghee remaining from the oblations might be used to prepared the medicated ghee as prescribed in the medical saMhitA-s.

He then makes a final set of oblations for succor from pediatric illnesses:
OM agnaye svAhA | kR^ittikAbhyas svAhA | namas skandAya devAya grahAdhipataye namas svAhA || [cf. sushruta-uttara tantra 27.20-21 ]

After that he and the uttarasAdhakA flick the thumb and the middle finger of their right hand around their heads three times making a cracking noise and utter: bhUr-bhuvas-svarOM for each circuit. Then the utter the incantation to the dreadful rAkShasa-graha and makes multiple offerings of meat, beer or cakes with black-eyed beans. He is visualized as black in color with a frightful mien and hypertrophied canines.
AyAtu skanda-bhR^ityas sasainayas sAnucharaH pratItaH | pratigR^ihNAtu imaM hutaM nairR^iteyo graho mahAn ||

If the ritualist wishes to dispatch the rAkShasa graha to seize his enemy he utters the following mantra, pounds an image of his enemy with a parigha and then makes an oblation [Footnote 1]:
yAtudhAnA nirR^itir Ad u rakShas te asya ghnantv anR^itena satyam |
indreShitA devA Ajam asya mathnantu mA tat saM pAdi yad asau juhoti || [AV-S 7.70.2/AV-P 19.27.2]

If he desires to relieve a victim from the seizure by the rAkShasa-graha, he deploys the following mantra and makes an oblation of a cake. His female partner prepares the drug for countering the effects of the graha as described in the medical saMhitA-s [Footnote 2]:
devainasAd unmaditam unmattam rakShasas pari |
kR^iNomi vidvAn bheShajaM yadAnunmadito .asati || [AV-S 6.111.3]

Then he makes an offering the piShacha to afflict his enemies:

OM namaH pishAchAya dviShantaM bhrAtR^ivyaM kaMpaya kaMpaya unmAdaya unmAdaya phaT ehy ehi skanda Aj~nApayati svAhA ||

He then makes at 6 oblations or multiples there of with glorious mayUrashikhA mantra even as his female assistant makes the secret mayUrashikhA drug:

OM namaH ShaNmukhAya shakti-hastAya mayUra-vAhanAya auShadhIkena dehi me bhava svAhA ||

He concludes with an offering with the formula:
gaNair vR^ito mAtR^ibhir anvayAto mayUra-saMstho vara-shakti-pANiH |
senAdhipataye sa kR^ito bhavena rAjati sUryeva mahA-vapuShmAn | svAhA ||

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Footnote 1: Tradition holds that vishvAmitra deployed a rAkShasa graha to strike his rival vasiShTha when he was crossing a bridge.

Footnote 2: The sushruta saMhitA describes the a psychiatric condition attributed to the rAkShasa graha in uttara tantra 60. It states the that rAkShasa-graha seizure results in shameless behavior, cruelty, short temper, lack of cleanliness and bursts of enormous activity. Interestingly, sushruta clarifies that if the graha effects result from a trauma caused by the fall from a hill, an elephant, a tree or senility it is unlikely to be curable at all.

continued …

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