tataH shamashAnam saMprApa niHsha~Nko bhuta-saMkulaM
sarvApAyamayaM kAyam ivA .a.ayAsashatAshrayaM
Then fearlessly he entered the crematorium which was full of ghosts
It was like the body of all deaths, the abode of a hundred misfortunes.
mastiShka-lipta-shubraasthi prakaraM lohitAsavam
AkrIDaM iva kAlasya kapAla-chaShakA-kulaM
Full of heaps of white bones smeared with brains,
Blood was the drink in the pleasure-ground of kAla, with cups of skulls.
ca~ncach-chitaagni-taDitaM kAlamegham ivo .atthitam
Stained with the darkness of smoke, thundering with the cries of brave warriors (1),
Flashing with the leaping funerary fires, it was like the rising cloud of death [or rising black cloud].
kAlyA iv.aotsavonmatta kR^ittikA nR^itta kampitaM
The likeness of a pendant was formed by the garlands of entrails torn by vultures,
The [place] was reverberating by the frenzied dancing of the kR^ittikA-s in festival of kAlI.
samcharad yoginI vR^inda nUpurair iva rAvitam
Through the long hollows of old bones the wind sharply whistled;
The [place] resounded as if it were the noise of the anklets of prancing yoginI-s (1).
dikShu pratiphalad-ghora-pherava-sphAra huMkR^itaM
tri-jagat-pralayaarambha-kR^it-oMkAram ivA a.ntakam
The quarters echoed with the terrifying howls of jackals, like humkAra-s;
Like the destroyer uttering the oMkAra to initiate the destruction of the 3 worlds.
maNDitaM muNDa-khaNDena ka~NkAla-kula-mAlinaM
jvalitaa~Ngara nayanaM dvitIyaM iva bhairavaM
Decorated with fragments of skulls, garlanded with clusters of bones,
With glowing embers of eyes, it was like a second bhairava (2).
praty-agra-rudhiraapUra saMpUrita vR^ikodaraM
karNa shalyod-dhR^itA-rAvaM duHshAsana-vadhA-kulaM
Fresh-flowing blood filled the satiated bellies of wolves;
The ears were pierced by the cries from the execution of criminals.
[It was like karNa and shalya raising a cry at the scene of duHshAsana’s killing,
With fresh flowing blood filling the belly of vR^ikodara-bhImasena]
bahuch-ChalaM dyUtam iva strI-chittam iva dAruNaM
avivekam ivA .aneka sha~NkAta~Nka-niketanaM
It [was filled] with uncertainty like the casting of dice; with ruthlessness like a woman’s mind,
The abode of indiscernible anxieties and apprehensions.
kharotkaTa janasthAnaM ghora shUrpaNakhA vR^itaM
daNDakAraNya sadR^ishaM mArIcha-ruchirAtaram
It was a place of rough and fierce beings; filled with sharp-clawed demons,
It appeared like a wasteland, [feeling] more pungent than the taste of pepper.
[It was like the janasthAna of the giant khara, with shUrpaNakha roaming around;
It appeared like the daNDakA forest pleasing to the demon mArIcha].
bhrAntaakampana dhUmraakSha meghanAda vibhIShaNaM
la~NkA daham ivo.adbhUtaM jIvad-rAvaNa-viplavam
It was terrible because of the roar of thunder causing the confused and smoke-filled eyes to tremble;
As though produced from the flames that burnt branches, causing the living to flee in tears.
[There roamed akampana, dhUMrakSha, meghanAda and vIbhIShaNa, as though sent forth by the burning of la~NkA that cause distress to the rAvaNa even as he lived (3)]
It was the abode of all sorrows that caused the ghostly hosts to rejoice,
Full of fissures with densely packed rows of corpses.
shivAbhir vyAptam ashivam bhrAntaantakam anantakam
Crowded with hundreds of palAsha trees, with wood being consumed non-stop in the pyres;
Surrounded by jackals, inauspicious and vast with death roving about.
niShkaMpa-kucha-kumbhAbhir vipula-shroNibhir muhuh
digambarAbhir nArIbhiH kalpitoch-chaNDa-tANDavaM
Incessantly, with firm pot-like breasts and great hips,
Sky-clad women performed the terrific tANDava dance (4).
The place was thick with vultures and jackals, the roost of flocks of crows and egrets.
Throngs of frenzied ghosts and goblins, dancing the lAsya dance surrounded the place like garlands.
There were band of resounding Damarus pleasing to pishAchas and DAkinis.
Amongst the Loud laughter of ghosts, bands of chakreshvarI-s (5) sported.
bhayaMkaraM bhAyasyaapi mohasyaapi vimohanaM
tamaso .apy andha-tamasaM kR^itAntasayA .api kR^intanaM
The place was fear for fear itself and agitating for agitation itself.
It was blinding darkness even for darkness and cutting down death itself.
dR^iShTvA pitR^ivanaM ghoraM DAkinI-gaNa-sevitaM
kShAnti-shIlaM vaTatale so .apashyat kR^ita-maNDalaM
He [vikrama] saw in the terrible grove of the manes, served by DAkinIs,
kShAntishIla at the foot of the Ficus religiosa tree, drawing a maNDala.
(1) kShemendra had studied with abhinavagupta the great kula/krama/trika tantric and was evidently very familiar with the graveyard rituals of shrIkula and kAlikula. He subsequently went over to the pA~ncharAtra school of tantric vaiShNavism. I suspect the vIrendra-s here refer to the performers of vIrasAdhana (even as it does in the lalitA-sahasranAmam- mahAvIrendra tanayA) invoking yogini-s in the shmashAna. This vIrasAdhana is clearly mentioned in the brahma yAmala whose other elements may color this poem.
(2) Even bhaTTa somadeva uses a similar simile in his kathA-sarit-sAgara which implies this comparison was there in the original vetAla-pa~nchaviMshati. Of course, both kShemendra and somadeva, with the connections with trika and kula tantrism, would have seen the comparison as appropriate.
(3) In the mahAshmashAna dIkSha given in the brahma-yAmala we notice invocation of rAkShasas headed by rAvaNa and pishAchas in the AvarNas around bhairava holding the sword. This is also consistent with the rite in the niHshvAsa-tattva tantra. Evidently this practice was well known amongst the kashmirian kula tantrics.
(4) It is peculiar that the women dance a tANDya dance, but this reference to the sky-clad women dancing the shmashAna is clearly inspired by the kula ritual with the kulA~NganA-s described in the jayadratha-yAmala. The shrIkula tantrics following jayaratha mention that the ritual intercourse with the kulA~NganA is preceded by her harShaNa into an ecstatic state.
(5) The use of the word chakreshvarI is again a clear allusion to the kula ritual sanctioned by the pichumata of the pichu-maNDala performed in the shmashAna, where the great goddess manifests as kulavidyA, the chakreshvarI.