The Sages said, “O very wise guru, you are the most qualified teacher we have found. You are omniscient and of perfect character. You have appeared because of the pious deeds we have performed in this and previous lives. Our life in this world is now very auspicious, and we, as well as our ancestors and hermitages are truly blessed. O best of the Brahmins, we have heard the eighteen Puranas at length and now would like to hear the others as well. For twelve years we have engaged in Saunaka Rsi’s great sacrifice, and our only reason for stopping is to drink the ambrosia of your tale”.
Suta Gosvami said, “O illustrious sages, your questions are very suitable. The inquiries of those who are virtuous and peaceful are beneficial to all living beings. O Brahmins, I also feel happiness when reciting these transcendental stories, especially in the association of virtuous transcendentalists such as yourselves. In any case, there are also eighteen minor Puranas such as the Ganesha, Narada, Nrsimha, etc. I am going to first recite the Ganesha Purana, which is rarely heard in this mortal world. Simply by hearing it, a person will have all his desires fulfilled. Neither Brahma nor Sesa can completely describe its glories, but with your permission, I will recite it in summary. Those who have performed pious activities over many lifetimes are qualified to hear it. Those defiant souls, atheists and demons have no desire to hear it. Since Ganesha is eternal, without material qualities and has no beginning, no one seeks to describe his real appearance. However, those who are devoted and worship him can explain his appearance, which is fully transcendental. The blessed Lord Ganesha has the form of OM and he is situated as the first syllable of the Vedas. The great sages and demigods, led by Indra, always remember him in their hearts. Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu and Indra continually worship him as the cause of creation and cause of all causes. At Ganesha’s command, Lord Brahma creates the universe. At Ganesha’s command, Lord Vishnu maintains the universe. At Ganesha’s command, Lord Shiva destroys the universe. At Ganesha’s command, the Sun, as the lord of daylight, moves throughout the universe. At Ganesha’s command, Vayu directs the wind. At Ganesha’s command, Varuna causes the waters to flow in all directions. At Ganesha’s command, the stars shine in the sky. At Ganesha’s command, Agni’s fire burns in the three worlds.
O Brahmins, his pastimes are hidden and not just told to anyone, so, as I reveal them to you, please listen carefully. Brahma narrated these to the immeasurably splendid Vyasadeva. Vyasa narrated it to Bhrgu Muni, and Bhrgu, to the great King Somakanta. Immeasurable benefits belong to those who visit sacred places, give gifts in charity, perform austerities, make sacrifices and take vows, but for those who hear the Ganesha Purana, wisdom blossoms, and worldly life becomes insignificant in their minds. They then become attracted to the pastimes of Ganesha, Lord of the Peacocks. Please hear about Ganesha’s greatness by listening to this Purana’s tale of King Somakanta.
In Devanagara, in the province of Surastra , there was a king named Somakanta. He was well versed in the Vedas and understood the meaning of the Sastras. Twenty elephants, two thousand horses and six thousand chariots followed him when he marched out from his kingdom. He also had countless foot soldiers, some of whom carried weapons made of fire and others who carried bows with quivers of arrows. He surpassed Brhaspati in intelligence, Kubera in wealth, the Earth in patience and the ocean in depth. The King also surpassed the brightness of the sun, the splendor of the moon, and Kamadeva, the god of love, in handsomeness. His five ministers were powerful, resolute, and were expert politicians. In this way they defeated their enemies. The first minister was called Rupavat and another was Vidyadosa. There was also Keshemaukara, Jnanagamya and the fifth was called Subala. Due to their great prowess, they conquered various countries. They were very handsome when dressed up in fine, attractive clothes and ornaments. Always engaged in service to the King, they were all very dear to him.
The King had a wife named Sudharma who was endowed with all good qualities. The other wives of the king were named Rati, Rambha and Tilottama. These queens, due to jealousy toward Sudharma, were very unhappy. On Sudharma’s ears were splendid golden earrings studded with many precious gems. On her neck she wore a golden necklace covered with pearls. On her hips she wore a girdle made of various jewels. She wore matching anklets on her feet along with rings on her fingers and toes. She possessed valuable clothes by the thousands, and of many colors. She was devoted to and revered her illustrious King. She was very generous and hospitable to her guests. Sudharma served her husband day and night, always obeying his command. The queen gave birth to an excellent son called Hemakanta who had the strength of a myriad of elephants. He was wise, courageous, and instilled fear in his enemies. Excellent Brahmins, Somakanta was the best of kings. After he had conquered the entire earth, he established his kingdom based on dharmic law, sacrifice and generosity”.
Thus ends the first chapter of Upasana Khanda of the glorious Ganesha Purana
called "King Somakanta".
Suta Gosvami said, “Sages, now you must all hear about Somakanta’s past life. As a consequence of his accumulated bad karma, he suddenly began to ooze with leprosy, which was very painful. Whether it is good or bad, karma always accompanies living beings. Whatever actions a person performs become their experiences in future lives. As if he was a rudderless boat in the ocean, the King became immersed in an ocean of sorrow. He felt so much pain as if bitten by a snake. The distraught King was completely covered with sores dripping with purulent blood and worms. He became very thin and deranged with anxiety. He experienced pain in all of his senses. Then, with great effort, the King spoke to his ministers”.
King Somakanta said, “Curse my kingdom and body. Curse my strength, life and wealth! What has caused this horrible misfortune? I have surpassed Soma in splendor, hence I am known as Somakanta. I have protected the good, the wretched, the learned Brahmins, their hermitages, as well as all nations. I have looked after my subjects as though they were my very own children. I have defeated fierce enemies and conquered the entire earth. With a controlled mind and no false attachments, I worshipped Sadashiva as the Supreme Self. Previously my body was fragrantly scented, but because I now emit a foul smell, my life is worthless. For these reasons, and with your permission, I will retire to the forest. For the sake of my kingdom, you must consecrate my son, Hemakanta, who possesses valor and intelligence. As king, you must protect him courageously. I will never be able to show my face in this world so there is no point having a kingdom, wives, nor a life of regality. Prime Ministers, I am leaving for the forest to practice austerities for my own liberation”.
Suta said, “Excellent Brahmins, after the King spoke, he fell to the ground like a tree blown over by the wind, his body covered by streams of warm purulent blood. The ministers and young women cried loudly along with the rest of his subjects who made dreadful cries of distress. By the use of healing herbs, sacred medicines, and by fanning him and wiping his body, the ministers revived him. When the King was feeling somewhat better, his ministers spoke to him as follows”.
The Ministers said, “Because of you we have all enjoyed happiness equal to that of Indra. How will we live without you? How will we protect the cows? Your worthy son will now rule the kingdom. Hemakanta is a strong leader and possesses great wealth, but leaving behind all happiness, we will now accompany you to the forest”.
Suta said, “His chief wife and heroine, Sudharma, declared that she would also accompany the king to the forest”.
Sudharma said, “I will stay with him until the end, but you ministers should stay here. You must help my son rule the kingdom as I would. When one is mated with another, they must both suffer or enjoy the results of their previous karmas together. The King and I both enjoyed many pleasures of the kingdom together and separately, but the Sastras prescribe that a woman should accompany her husband in this world and the next”.
Suta said, “The refined Hemakanta, grief stricken, spoke the following words to his father”.
Hemakanta said, “Without you I cannot be responsible for the kingdom, wives or riches. Just as a lamp without oil, or a body without breath is useless, so is this kingdom useless without you.”
Suta said, “After he heard the kind words of his ministers, wife and son, the King, delighted at heart, addressed his son concerning dharma”.
The King said, “A son who always obeys his father and offers oblations to the ancestors, is indeed a real son. A son like this will also bear a good son who understands the true meaning of dharma and of correct political conduct. Therefore, I give my command for you to preside over the kingdom. In cooperation with my ministers, rule these subjects as though they were your own children. Covered with leprosy and beyond contempt, I will go to the forest with Sudharma. Please agree to this, my strong vowed son”.
Thus ends the second chapter of Upasana Khanda of the glorious Ganesha Purana
called "Somakanta’s Renunciation".
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