(Reference) This narration is from the Anusasana Parva of the Mahabharata. (Book 13 sections 84 to 86.)
Yudhisthira asked his great-grandfather, Bhishma, as he lay on his bed of arrows, waiting for Uttarayanam to die, why the gift of gold was considered purifying as per the Shrutis.
Bhishma then narrated that Gold was the son of Agni (Energy) and told him the following story.
Bhishma’s guru, Parasurama (Bhargava Rama, the son of Jamadagni) wished to cleanse himself after eliminating Kshatriyas thrice times seven times. He performed the Aswamedha Yajna but did not feel light in his heart. He turned to the rishis for advice, who guided him to the brahmanas. Parasurama then went and approached Vasishtha, Kasyapa and Agastya.
They told him that while gifting (dana) cattle, land and wealth, was purifying, gifting gold, which had the splendour of fire, also had special benefits of purification.
First, Vasishtha gave this account of events based on Prajapathi, “Gold is of the essence of Agni and Soma. Churning the entire universe, a mass of energy was found. That energy is gold. And therefore held in high regard by the Devas and Gandharvas and Uragas and Rakshasas, Manavas and Pisachas. All of these jathis convert gold into crowns, armlets etc and wear it on their person. Of all kinds of Dakshina, gold is the best. Agni is all the deities in one, and gold has Agni for its essence.”
“Once after Rudra and Uma were married, the Devas requested them not to have a son together, because the world could not bear the energy of one who combined their essence in him. At that time Uma ruled that neither would the Devas have any children of their own. A part of the essence of Rudra became the blazing Agni and grew and grew. In the interim, the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the Maruts, the Aswins, and the Sadhyas were greatly troubled by Taraka Asura., who took over their regions as well as their possessions, drawing his protection from the Varam given to him by Brahma.”
“Brahma heard their troubles and said that Agni, who was exempt from Uma’s ruling, would have a son who would destroy Tarakasura. He asid, ‘Find Agni and ask him to transfer Rudra’s essence to Ganga. Agni sprang in former times and is the most eternal of all creatures. Agni is the Lord of the universe. He is incapable of being apprehended or described. Capable of going everywhere and existing in all things, he is the Creator of all beings. He lives in the hearts of all creatures. Endued with great power, He is older than Rudra himself.’ ”
“They searched for Agni everywhere but could not find him, as he had merged his self into his self. A frog let them know, that Agni was hiding in the deep in the waters. But the Devas and others could not find Agni in the waters. Then they were told by an elephant that agni was hiding in an Aswattha tree, but they could not find him there. In the meantime Agni entered a Sami tree and this time he was pointed out by a parrot. The Devas made Agni come out of the sacred Sami wood, henceforth used for making ritual fires.”
“Agni now asked the Devas and others what he could do for them and they asked him to give them a son of his who would command them in battle and lead them to victory against Tarakasura. Ganga conceived his son and bore the essence of Rudra as long as she could bear its blaze. Then in a moment when she was frightened by a noise, she delivered the essence onto the slopes of the mountain Meru.”
“It was endued with the complexion of gold. In energy it was even like Agni. Of an excellent complexion, perfectly stainless, and blazing with splendour, it illuminated the entire mountain. The fragrance emitted by it resembled the cool perfume that its scattered by lakes adorned with lotuses and Nyphoea stellata, mixed with that of the Nauclea Cadamba. With the splendour of that foetus everything around it seemed to be transformed into gold even as all things on mountain and low land seem to be transformed into gold by the rays of the Sun. Indeed, the splendour of that spreading far, fell upon mountains and rivers and springs. The three worlds were illuminated by it. It was as beautiful and bright as the sun and the moon.”
“From that day, Agni was called Hiranyaretas. Kruttika Nakshatram owned the baby and raised it and therefore he was called Karthikeya. He was also called Skanda and Guha.”
“It was in this way that gold came into existence as the offspring of the deity of blazing flames. Hence it is that gold came to be looked upon as the foremost of all things and the ornament of the very gods. It was from this circumstance that gold came to be called by the name of Jatarupam. It is the foremost of all costly things, and among ornaments also it is the foremost. The cleanser among all cleansing things, it is the most auspicious of all auspicious objects. Gold is truly the illustrious Agni. the Lord of all things, and the foremost of all Prajapatis. The most sacred of all sacred things is gold, Verily, gold is said to have for its essence Agni and Soma.”
Vasishtha then followed up this account of the birth of Karthikeya (Gold), with a different account of what happened called Brahmadarshana.. which we shall take up on a different day!
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