Chapter 25 — The Play of Death

Time stands the foremost of all deceitful players in this world. He acts the double parts of creation and destruction, and of action and fate. The existence of time is known to us only through action and motion, which bind all beings (in the succession of thoughts and acts).

Fate is that which frustrates the acts of all created beings, like the heat of the sun serves to dissolve a snow pack. This wide world is the stage on which the giddy mob dances about (in their appointed times). Time has a third name of a terrifying nature known as Kritantah (Fate), who in the form of a Kapalika (one holding human skulls in his hand), dances about in the world. This dancing and loving Kritantah (Fate), is accompanied by his consort called Destiny to whom he is greatly attached.

Time (as Shiva) wears on his bosom of the world, the triple white and holy thread composed of the serpent named Ananta (Infinite) and the Ganges River, and on his forehead the digit of the moon (i.e., the zodiacal belt; the milky way, and the lunar astrological divisions, phases). The sun and the moon are the golden armlets of time, who holds the mundane world in his palm like the paltry plaything of a flower bouquet. The sky with its stars appears like a garment with colored spots. The clouds called Pushkara and Avarta are like the skirts of that garment, washed by time in the waters of the universal deluge.

10 Before him his beloved Destiny with all her arts forever dances to beguile the living who are fond of worldly enjoyments. 11 People hurry up and down to witness the dance of Destiny, whose unrestrained motion keeps them at work, and causes their repeated births and deaths. 12 People of all worlds are studded like ornaments about her person, and the sky stretching from the heaven of gods to the infernal regions serves for the veil on her head. 13 Her feet are planted in the infernal regions, and the hell-pits ring at her feet like trinkets, tied by the string of evil deeds and sins. 14 The god Chitragupta has painted her from head to foot with ornamental marks prepared by her attendants, and perfumed with the essence of those deeds. 15 She dances and reels at the nod of her husband at the end of the kalpas, and makes the mountains crack and crash at her foot-falls. 16 Behind her dance the peacocks of the god Kumara (Subramanyan) and Kala, the god of death, staring with his three wide open eyes, utters his hideous cries (of destruction).

17 Death dances about in the form of the five-headed Hara (the “Destroyer”, Shiva), with the loosened braids of hair upon him, while Destiny in the form of Gauri (Shiva’s consort), her locks adorned with mandara flowers, keeps her pace with him.

18 In her war-dance, this Destiny bears a large gourd representing her big belly, and her body is adorned with hundreds of hollow human skulls jingling like the alms-pots of Kapali mendicants. 19 She has filled the sky with the emaciated skeleton of her body and her terrible, destructive figure. 20 The various shapes of skulls of the dead adorn her body like a beautiful garland of lotuses. They sway to and fro during her dance at the end of a kalpa age.

21 The horrible roaring of the giddy clouds Pushkara and Avarta at the end of the kalpa serves to represent the beating of her damaru drum, and puts to flight the heavenly choir of Tumburu. 22 As death dances along, the moon appears like his earring, and the moonbeams and stars appear like his crest made of peacocks’ feathers. 23 The snow-capped Himalayas appear like a crown of bones in the upper loop of his right ear, and Mount Meru as a golden ring in his left. 24 Under their lobes are suspended the moon and the sun, like pendant earrings glittering over his cheeks. The mountain ranges called the Lokaloka are fastened like chains around his waist.

25 Lightning bolts are the bracelets and armlets of Destiny, which move to and fro as she dances along. The clouds are her dressing gown that fly about her in the air.

26 Death is furnished with many weapons, like clubs, axes, missiles, spears, shovels, mallets and sharp swords, all of which are sure weapons of destruction. 27 Mundane enjoyments are no other than long ropes dropped down by the hand of death that keep all mankind fast bound to the world. He wears the great thread of infinity (ananta) as his wreath of flowers. 28 Death wears the seven oceans as bracelet-belts bracelets resplendent with the living sea-animals and the bright gems contained in their depths. 29 The great vortices of customs, the successions of joy and grief, the excess of pride and the darkness of passions, form the streaks of hair on his body.

30 After the end of the world, he ceases to dance, and creates anew all things from the lowest animal that lives in the earth, to the highest Brahma and Shiva. 31 By turns, Destiny as an actress acts her parts of creation and destruction, diversified by scenes of old age, sorrow and misery.

32 Time repeatedly creates the worlds and their woods, with the different abodes and localities teeming with population. He forms the moveable and immovable substances, establishes customs and again dissolves them, as children make their dolls of clay and break them soon afterwards.