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The story of Hayagriva appears in the dharmAranyakAnDa of the skandapurANa. (Chapters 14 and 15). There is a dialogue among Yudhisthira, Vyasa, Skanda and Isvara. Yudhisthira inquires about the penances done by Vishnu. Veda Vyasa tells him about viSNu’s severe penance in a pilgrim centre called Dharmaranya. Skanda heard this story originally from Siva. There is a tIrtha there called dEvasaras.
Isvara said that in this holy place the Hayagriva Vishnu did his penance to regain His original form. Vishnu meditated on s’iva and successfully got his head back.
The first part of the story of Hayagriva is similar to the Devi Bhagavatham, but with some changes.
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Some Differences :
In the skanda Purana, the horse’s head which Viswakarma places on Vishnu is obtained from one of the sun’s horses. Also the cause of Vishnu losing his head, is a curse by Brahma. Brahma wanted to know who was the greatest among the Trimurthis. Vishnu said that all 3 worlds are under the influence of vishnumAya. This upset brahma and hence the curse. The word tvaSTrA is used for Viswakarma in the Devi Bhagavatham. There is no reference to the slaying of the Daitya Hayagriva in the skanda purANa.
- The Dharmaranya is located near the river Sabarmati or ancient Svabhramati in the Gujarat state.
- The Dharmaranya, where the horse-headed Visnu performed austerities, is also identified as a place in Sitapur district in Uttar Pradesh.
- A holy place called Hayasirsa is mentioned in the Nilamatapurana (vv. 83-95) as one of the sixty eight tIrthas visited by the seer Kasyapa, during his pilgrimage; Kasyapa, according to this purana, (vv. 96b, 101) reaches Kanakhala during the course of his journey and is advised by Nila to proceed northward to see the holy places of Madra and Himavan, as he has already visited the places in the East, West and South. The list referred to in the above mentioned statement of Nila and the places mentioned therein are mostly of Northern and Central India. The holy place Hayaslrsa in the list may be the same as Hayamukha, identified by Cunningham and others with Daundikhera, about 104 miles northwest of Allahabad. (Prayaga).
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