THE BHAGAVATA PURANA
Suta and the Other Sages
Many years ago, some sages (rishis) desired to go to heaven (svarga). They therefore began to perform a yajna (sacrifice) in a forest known as naimisharanya. The sacrifice was a difficult one, and all the assembled sages were resting, when Suta arrived on the scene. Suta was himself a sage and was the sage Romaharshana’s alternatively, Lomaharshana) son. Suta was also extremely learned in the Puranas and the shastras (sacred texts).
The assembled sages welcomed Suta with offerings and said, Suta, not only are you learned in the shastras and the Puranas, you have also interpreted them. This is kaliyuga, the last of the four eras when evil reigns supreme everywhere. People are no longer interested in righteousness. Moreover, men do not live for as long as they used to earlier. They therefore have less time to devote to the hearing of the shastras. Tell us briefly, the essence of the shastras. Vishnu was born as Krishna, the son of Vasudeva and Devaki, to rid the world of evil. Who knows about Krishna more than you ? Tell us about Krishna and his exploits,
Suta was very happy that sages had asked him about Krishna. He began to tell the story of the Bhagavata Purana.
Vishnu’s twenty-four Incarnations
Usually, ten incarnations (avataras) of Vishnu are mentioned in the Puranas. The Bhagavata Purana however mentions twenty-four incarnations.
Vishnu has an original form which cannot be normally seen. It has many legs, thighs, hands, mouths, eyes, ears and noses. It is from this original form that the incarnations are created. And it was also from this form that Brahma was created.
Vishnu’s first incarnation was as a celibate brahmana, the brahmanas being the first of the four classes. The duties of brahmanas were to pray and devote themselves to the study of the shastras.
Vishnu’s second incarnation was a wild boar (varaha). In this form, he rescued the world from the depths of the underworld.
In his third incarnation, Vishnu adopted the form of the great sage Narada. As Narada, he instructed men about the virtues of being devoted to Vishnu.
In the fourth incarnation, Vishnu adopted the forms of two different sages. Their names were Nara and Narayana. These two sages performed very difficult tapasya (meditation).
Vishnu’s fifth incarnation was also as a sage. This sage’s name was Kapila. There was another sage named Asuri. Kapila instructed Asuri about the school of philosophy that is known as samkhya darshana.
In his sixth incarnation, Vishnu was born as the son of the sage of the sage Atri and his wife Anusuya. The name that Vishnu adopted in this incarnation was Dattatreya. As Dattatreya, Vishnu instructed Alarka, Prahlada and others on the path to true knowledge.
The seventh incarnation took place during the rule of Svayambhuva Manu, the first Manu to rule over an era (manvantara). Vishnu was now born as the son of Ruchi and Akuti and his name was Yajna. Yajna held the title of Indra during the first manvantara.
Vishnu’s eighth incarnation was as Rishabha, the son of King Nabhi and Queen Maru. In this incarnation, he instructed even the most learned of scholars about the best form of meditation.
The ninth incarnation was as a king. In fact, the sages had asked that Vishnu might be born as a king. From the word for asking (prarthana), the king came to be called Prithu and the earth is known as prithivi after king Prithu. Prithu milked the earth and obtained all the herbs and plants which were then handed over to humans.
Vishnu’s tenth incarnation was as a fish (matsya). This took place during the manvantara that was known as chakshusha manvantara. At this time, the whole world was flooded with water. The Manu who ruled over this manvantara was known as Vaivasvata Manu. As a fish, Vishnu told Vaivasvata Manu to build a boat and save himself and the rest of humanity from the waters of the flood.
The eleventh incarnation was at the time of the churning of the ocean (samudra manthana). Vishnu now adopted the form of a turtle (Kurma). The gods (devas) and demons (asuras) churned the ocean with Mount Mandara as a churning rod. But this would not have been possible had there not been a base on which Mount Mandara could rest. This base was provided by the back of the turtle. As the churning of the ocean continued. Dhanvantari came out with a pot of amrita ( a life-giving drink) in his hands. Dhanvantari was Vishnu’s twelfth incarnation. Dhanvantari was also the originator of all medical knowledge. Together with the gods, the demons also wanted a share of the amrita. But Vishnu adopted the form of a beautiful woman and so charmed the demons that they gladly parted with the amrita. This was Vishnu’s thirteenth incarnation.
Hiranyakashipu later became the king of the demons and began to oppress the gods. So Hiranyakashipu had to be destroyed. Vishnu did this in his fourteenth incarnation, known as narasimha because the being was half-man and half-lion. This man-beast tore apart Hiranyakasipu’s breast with its claws.
After Hiranyakashipu, Vali became the king of the demons and drove the gods out of heaven. Vishnu’s fifteenth incarnation was that of a dwarf (vamana). The dwarf came to Vali and desired that it might be granted as much of land as could be encompased in three of its steps. The generous Vali did not refuse. But the dwarf adopted a gigantic form and in three of its steps, it covered all the three worlds. Thus Vali had to surrender heaven to the gods.
There was once a time when the kings on earth became evil and began to ignore the brahmanas. The kings were kshatriyas. The kshatriyas constituted the second of the four classes and their primary duty was to bear arms and protect the world from evil. When it was found that the kings had themselves became evil. Vishnu was born as Parashurama. This was his sixteenth incarnation. Parashurama destroyed all the kshatriyas in the world twenty-one times, so that good might once again prevail.
Thereafter, the seventeenth incarnation was born. This was Vedavyasa, the son of Parashara and Satyavati. Vedavyasa recompiled the sacred texts of the Vedas so that they might become more easily understandable to men. It was thus that there came to be four Vedas. Vedavyasa’s real name was Krishna Dvaipayana. He came to be known as Vedavyasa because he had divided the Vedas.
The eighteenth incarnation was Rama, about whom you must have read in the Ramayana. The nineteenth and twentieth incarnations were born as Yadavas. Their names are also familar to you, this time from the Mahabharata. The nineteenth incarnation was Baladeva or Balarama and the twentieth was Krishna.
The twenty-first incarnation was Buddha, the originator of Buddhism. The twenty-seond incarnation is yet to come. It will be Kalki, the son of a brahmana named Vishnuyasha. Kalki will arrive at the end of kaliyuga and destroy the evil of the world. And a new righteous order will be established.
Although the Bhagavata Purana had promised to talk about twenty-four avataras of Vishnu, it actually lists only twenty-two. It however points out that such incarnations occur whenever there is evil on earth and there is a need to destroy evil and establish righteousness. Accordingly, there have been several incarnations.
Vedavyasa and Narada
Vedavyasa had a son named Shukadeva. Shukadeva was a great sage. He was learned and free from all wordly illusions. But he never displayed his knowledge, so that most people thought him to be ignorant and stupid.
Vedavyasa divided the Vedas into four. These sacred texts came to be known as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Vedavyasa taught the four Vedas to four of his disciples. Paila was taught the Rig Veda. Vaishamapayana the Yajur Veda, Jaimini the Sama Veda and Sumanta the Atharva Veda. The Puranas are known as the fifth Veda. Vedavyasa later taught the Puranas to his disciple Romaharshana. And this Romaharshana was the father of Suta, the narrator of the Bhagavata Purana.
But despite having done all this work one the Vedas in addition to having composed the Mahabharata, Vedavyasa was intensely dissatisfied. His hermitage (ashrama) was on the banks of the river Sarasvati. After having bathed in the river, Vedavyasa sat in his hermitage and began to ponder about what he might do next. It was then that the sage narada arrived on the scene.
Vedavyasa, asked Narada. Why are you looking so miserable? You have accomplished much that one ought to feel proud about.
I don’t really know why I feel dissatisfied, replied Vedavyasa. You are all-knowing. Why don’t you tell me why I keep feeling discontented?
That may be because you have spent too much time in describing dharma, that which is righteous, said Narada. There descriptions are too impersonal. Most people need that which is more personalised. Dry words of dharma do not mean very much. The cause of dharma might have been better served had you described the exploits of Krishna. That would have made it much more personal. Why don’t you do it? You alone are capable of accomplishing a task like that.
Thus encouraged by Narada. Vedavyasa composed the Bhagavata Purana and initially taught it to his son Shukadeva.
Many Kaurava and Pandava warriors died in the course of the Kurukshetra War. Towards the end of the war, Bhima and Duryodhana fought a duel and Bhima broke Duryodhana’s thighs with a mace. Duryodhana lay there on the ground, defeated but not yet dead. Ashvatthama had fought the war on Duryodhana’s side and was looking for a way to please the disconsolate Duryodhana. Droupadi had five sons, the sons of the five Pandavas. In the dead of the night, Ashvatthama entered the Pandava camp and sliced off the heads of these five sons. He then brought them as gifts to Duryodhana.
It was now Droupadi’s turn to be disconsolate and she demanded revenge. Arjuna promised her that he would bring her Ashvatthama’s head as atonement. He therefore hunted out Ashvatthama and challenged him to a duel.
Ashvatthama let loose a terrible divine weapon known as brahmashira on Arjuna. To counteract it, Arjuna had to release a brahmashira weapon of his own. But these two divine weapons threatened to burn up the entire world. And the sages asked the two warriors to writhdraw their weapons. Arjuna did this easily, but Ashvatthama did not know how to wirthdraw a brahmashira weapon, so the weapon was directed at Uttara’s womb Uttara was Arjuna’s widowed daughter-in-law, his son Abhimanyu having died earlier in the course of the battle. Ashvatthama was captured and brought to Droupadi by Arjuna. There it was decided that Ashvatthama should not be killed. He was, after all, the son of Dronacharya, the teacher of the Pandavas. Ashvatthama used to wear a jewel (mani) on his head. This jewel was cut off and given to Droupadi and Ashvatthama was allowed to leave.
But what was to happen to the brahmashira weapon that had been directed at Uttara’s womb? Uttara came running to Krishna for protection. And Krishna himself entered the womb and so protected the baby. This baby was Parikshit. Since the baby had been protected by Vishnu in his form of Krishna, the brahmanas proposed that he should be named Vishnurata, that is, protected by Vishnu. But the baby had met Krishna inside Uttara’s womb and had become devoted to Krishna. Whenever the child met someone, he tested to see if the person he had just met was indeed the person whom he had met inside the womb. The word for a test is pariksha. Thus it was that Vishnurata came to be popularly known as Parikshit.
Krishna’s Return to Dvaraka
Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers, became king after the end of the Kurushetra War. For some time, Krishna stayed in the capital city of Hastinapura. But thereafter, he had to return to Dvaraka, the capital of the Yadavas. Great was the rejoicing in Dvaraka when Krishna returned. Musical instruments were played. Woman climbed up to the roofs to catch a glimpse of Krishna. The brahmanas blessed him as he walked down the streets. Before entering the city, Krishna blew loudly on his conch-shell.
Dvaraka was a very pretty city. The trees bore all sorts of fruits and flowers. The houses had creepers on them. The ponds were gay with lotuses. Beautiful gardens wre scattered throughout the city. There were many gates, all of which were decorated with pennants and flags. The shops and street were clean.
Krishna had sixteen thousand wives. They were very glad that their husband had come back after such a long itme.
Krishna’s Death and the Destruction
of the Yadavas
After some time had passed, Arjuna went on a visit to Dvaraka. Months passed, but Arjuna did not return. Meanwhile, Yudhishthira could see all sorts of ill omens in Hastinapura. People became evil, the seasons did not arrive at their appointed times. Relatives fought with each other and friends became enemies. Yudhishthira became seriosly worried and decided to send Bhima to Dvaraka to find out what was happening there. Why had Arjuna not come back despite the fact that seven months had elasped since his departure from Hastinapura?
But before Bhima could be sent, Arjuna returned. He was no longer his old self. He sat quietly, without utteringa word. Silent drops of tears rolled down this cheek.
Yudhishthira was beside himself with worry. What has happened, Arjuna?, he asked. Are our friends in Dvaraka well? Why aren’t you uttering a word? Or is it that you yourself are not well?
For a long while Arjuna could not bear to say anything. But eventually he told them that Krishna had died.
The Yadavas had been destroyed as a clan.
The Bhagavata Purana will describe these incidents in the eleventh skandha.
But hearing that Krishna had died, Yudhisthira decided to rule no more. The five Pandavas and Droupadi left for the Himalayas. Parikshit was made king in Hastinapura.
Parikshit was a good king. He always consulted the brahmanas before taking any major decisions. He married Iravati, the daughter of Prince Uttara. Parikshit and Iravati had four sons, the most important of whom was Janmejaya. Parikshit also performed three ashvamedha yajnas (horse sacrifices) on the banks of the river Ganga. Prikshit’s guru (teacher) was Kripacharya.
One day, Parikshit heard that the demon Kali had entered his kingdom. The kaliyuga era had started as soon as Krishna had died. But in this particular incident. Kali invaded Parikshit’s kingdom a person.
As soon as Parikshit learned that his kingdom had been invaded, he dressed himself in his armour and took up his weapons. He then ascended his chariot and, with his army, set out to conquer the world and fight Kali. The earth is divded into seven regions or dvipas. One by one, Parkshit conquered each of these dvipas. He forced the conquered kings to pay him taxes.
In the course of his travels, Parikshit came upon the world (prithivi) wandering around in the form of a cow. The cow was talking to a bull and the bull was none other than the god Dharma in disguise. The cow and the bull were conversing about the evil that had befallen the earth. A shudra belongs to the lowest of the four classes, the duty of a shudra being to serve the other three classes. When Parikshit came upon the bull and the cow, a shudra was in the process of beating the two animals up. The animals shook with fear as they were beaten by the shudra’s mace.
Parikshit shouted at the shudra, What do you think you are doing? Have you no shame or fear? You deserve to be killed. He consoled the two animals and took out his word to kill the shudra. But the shudra was none other than Kali and Kali fell at Parikshit’s feet and begged for mercy.
The king could not kill someone who was begging for mercy. So he spared Kali, but told him that Kali was not to live inside Parikshit’s kingdom. Otherwise, lies, jealousy, theft and quarrels would become commonplace in the kingdom. This put Kali in a dilemma. Where was Kali going to live? Parikshit’s kingdom extended throughout the world. So Kali begged the king to tell him where he might live. Parikshit earmarked certain places as Kali’s habitat. These were places where gambling, drinking and violence took place. As long as Parikshit was king, Kali was thus permitted to do no harm.
Once Parikshit had gone on a hunt. After chasing deer for a very long time, the king felt hungry and thirsty. He look for a place where he might get some water to drink. And this search brought him to the hermitage of a sage. The sage was meditating, oblivious of what was going on in the world around him. His hair was matted and his body was clothes in deerskin.
Parikshit asked the sage for some water, but the sage did not bother to reply. At this, Parikshit felt slighted. There was a dead snake lying there in front of the hermitage. Parikshit picked up the dead snake with his bow and wound it around the shoulders of the sage. The king then returned to his capital.
The sage’s son was very powerful. He had been busy playing with his friends when all this had happened. But when he returned and discovered what had happened, he was extremely angry. How dare a kshatriya king insult a brahmana? He therefore cursed Parikshit that the king would die of snakebite within the span of seven days. And the snake which would do this deed would be a snake named takshaka.
The sage got to know of the curse that his son had imposed on Parikshit and was not at all happy. The sage’s name was Shamika. Shamika told his son, What have you done? The king is our protector. What will happen to us if the king dies? Moreover, Parikshit is a good king. You have levied a heavy punishment for a minor transgression.
Meanwhile, back in the capital, Parikshit was also struck with remorse. He realize that he should not have thus insulted the sage. He resolved that not only would he never act like that in the future, he would also undergo penance (prayashchitta) for the sin.
While the king was thus pondering, news was brought to him about the curse that had been imposed on him. Parikshit bore this news with fortitude. He was prepared to atone for his sin. And if it was desined that he should die at the hands of takshaka, then so would it be. But prior to dying, he decided that his death should take place on the banks of the holy river Ganga. And he would devote the seven days that were left to him to the contemplation of Krishna.
Parikshit therefore began a fast on the banks of the Ganga. He meditated and thought of Krishna. Many sages assembled to witness this wonderful spectacle The king was delighted that all the sages had come, because that meant that his last moments on earth were blessed. Parishit’s son Janmejaya had also come and Parishit handed over the kingdom to his son. The gods and sages were delighted to see the calm with which Parikshit was facing up to his fate. Flowers were showered on the king’s head from heaven.
At the time, Vedavyas’s son Shukadeva also arrived there. He was only sixteen years of age, but so holy that all the sages stood up to honour Shukadeva. Parikshit also worshipped Shukadeva and said , I am honoured that you have come here.
Tell me what a man about to die should hear.
And so began Shukadeva’s narrative.
The Great Form of Vishnu
Shukadeva said, Most people are ignorant. They are obsessed with material pursuits. They do not realize that all these are merely illusions (maya). True bliss comes from knowing Vishnu. The Bhagavata Purana tells of Vishnu and I learnt the text from my father Vyasadeva. You are devoted to Vishnu. So I will relate to you the Bhagavata Purana.
When death knocks at one’s door, one should forget about material pursuits. One should go to a holy place and prepare to meditate. The best incantation (mantra) for meditation is that which goes by the name of omkara, the chanting of om repeatedly. This chanting calms the mind. The senses are controlled and one can contemplate God. Yoga is the technique of uniting the human soul (atman) with the divine essence (brahman). And yogis are people who try to achieve this union. A yogi has to sit in a proper posture (asana) and has to control his breath in the process of meditation (pranayama). It helps to fix one’s mind on the great form of Vishnu.
Vishnu’s great form is everywhere. It is the beginning of the past, the present and the future. The form is shrouded in the five elements and the ego. But within the form is the being who is the object of all yoga. The underworld rests at this being’s feet, the earth is near the thighs and the sky is at the navel. This great form of Vishnu is known as vishvarupa. Near the breast of the being is heaven (svarloka or svarga), surrounded by all the stars. Higher up on the body are the higher regions. The entire universe is divided into fourteen regions (lokas). Seven of these form the underworld and their names are atala, vitala, sutala, talatala, mahatala, rasatala and patala. Seven other lokas form the upper regions and their names are bhuloka, bhuvarloka, svarloka, maharloka, janaloka, tapoloka and satyaloka. Thus the being’s throat is maharloka, the mouth janaloka, the forehead tapoloka and the head satyaloka.
Indra and the other gods are the arms of the being. The four directions are his ears. The two Ashvinis are his nose and his mouth is flaming fire itself. The sun is Vishnu’s eyes, day and night are his eyelashes and his smile is maya. The oceans form his armpits, the mountains his bones, the rivers his veins and the trees are the hair on his body. The wind is Vishnu’s breath and the clouds are nothing but his hair. The brahmanas have a place near Vishnu’s mouth, the kshatriyas near his arms, the vaishyas (the third of the four classes) near his thighs and the shudras near his feet. This vishvarupa of Vishnu is everywhere. And it is this vishvarupa that one must concentrate on in the process of yoga.
Having heard all this, Parikshit gave himself up to the contemplation of Vishnu. He forgot his wife, sons, wealth, and kingdom. But he nevertheless wanted to know more about Krishna, Vishnu’s incarnation on earth. He asked Shukadeva to tell him about Krishna. And this is what Shudadeva proceeded to do, beginning with the story of the creation.
Although Brahma is regarded as the creator, Brahma himself owes his creation to Vishnu. Vishnu created the three gunas (qualities) for the purposes of creation. These three qualities are sattva guna, raja guna, and tama guna. Sattva guna relates to knowledge and is associated with the gods. Raja guna relates to activity and is associated with the senses. Tama guna relates to matter and is associated with the five elements.
In the beginning, there was only the great egg (brahmanda). For thousands and thousands of years the egg floated on the waters that were everywhere. Then a being came out of the egg. This was nothing but Vishnu’s great form. It had thousands of thighs, legs, hands, breasts, faces and heads. The learned know that all the fourteen worlds were created from this great being. The seven lokas that constitute the underworld were made out of the lower part of the body. And the seven lokas that constitute the upper regions were made out of the upper half of the body.
This vishvarupa extends throughout the universe. It even extends beyond the universe. Nothing that was created is independent of this great being. Brahma himself emerged from a lotus that sprouted from this great being’s navel. If Brahma became the creator of all living beings, it was only because of the blessings of Vishnu. And Shiva happens to be the destroyers also by Vishnu’s grace. In every cycle (kalpa), Vishnu first creates himself. Then he creates other beings, preserves them and eventually destroys them.
Uddhava and Vidura
Many years ago, Vidura was once forced to leave his house.
If you have read the Mahabharata, you will remember that Vidura was the younger brother of Dhritarashtra. And Dhritarashtra’s son Duryodhana was always trying to bring some harm to the Pandavas. He tried to burn them in the house of lac (jatugriha), he unfairly defeated Yudhishthra in a game of dice and he deprived the Pandavas of the kingdom that was rightfully theirs. Dhritarashtra was so smitten by love for his son that he never interfered, even though he realized that what Duryodhana was doing was not quite right. Eventually, Vidura could bear it no longer. He begged Dhritarashtra to forsake his son and return the kingdom to Yudhishthira.
Hearing this, Duryodhana lost his temper. Who has permitted this son of a slave-girl to enter the court premises?, he demanded to know. How dare Vidura insult the hand that feeds him? He behaves like an enemy. Banish him from the kingdom.
It was indeed true that Vidura was the son of a slave-girl. But this did not mean that Duryodhana had the right to insult someone who was his uncle. Vidura felt so hurt that he resolved to leave Hastinapura. Having left he capital, Vidura visited many places of pilgrimage. He travelled throughout the length and breadth of Bharatavarsha and finally came to the river Yamuna. On the banks of the Yamuna he met Uddhava.
Uddhava was Krishna’s close companion and friend and Vidura was delighted to have met him. He enquired from Uddhava about the welfare of Krishna and the other Yadavas. At this, Uddhava remembered various childhood exploits of Krishna’s.
Uddhava had first met Krishna when he was only five years old. But even at that early age, he had become a close friend of Krishna’s and could not bear to parted from him. And together, the two friends had aged over the years. Now when Vidura asked him about Krishna. Uddhava’s eyes glistened with tears.
He said, I am sorry to tell you that the days of Krishna’s glory are now over. Cursed are the Yadavas for not recognizing while there was time that Krishna was Vishnu’s avatara. They treated him like a mere human. There are only a few like you and me who recognized Krishna for what he was. Alas, Krishna is no more. He is dead. The world no longer seems to be the same. Do you remeber his childhood deeds?
The world was full of evil. And Brahma went and prayed to Vishnu that something might be done about all this evil. Vishnu agreed to be born as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki. But Kamsa, the king of the Yadavas, had got to know that Vasudeva’s son would kill him. So he imprisoned Vasudeva’s son would kill him. So he imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki. It was in Kamsa’s prison that Krishna was born. To save the newly born baby from Kamsa’s wrath, Vasudeva went and left baby Krishna with Nanda and his wife Yashoda. There Krishna was brought up as the son of Nanda and Yashoda. Krishna’s elder brother was Baladeva, also born as an incarnation of Vishnu’s.
For eleven years, the two brothers withheld from common knowledge their divine nature. They played with the cowherds along the banks of the river Yamuna and tended to the cattle. Krishna was particularly fond of playing the flute.
Kamsa had got to know about Krishna and he sent many demons to try and kill Krishna. But Krishna disposed of all these demons effortlessly. There was a huge snake named Kaliya which was poisoning the water of the Yamuna. Cowherds and cattle died as a result of drinking this poisoned water. Krishna tamed Kaliya and made the water of the Yamuna pure again. He also brought back to life the cowherds and the cattle who had died.
The cowherds had been in the habit of praying to Indra through a sacrificial ceremony. Krishna put a stop to this sacrifice. This so angered Indra that he poured down torrents and torrents of rain and threatened to destroy all the cowherds and their cattle. But Krishna lifted up a huge mountain known as govardhana with his finger. He held this aloft and all the cowherds and their cattle took shelter under this mountain. They were thus saved.
Later on, Krishna came to Mathura. This city was Kamsa’s capital. He killed Kamsa and made Kamsa’s father Ugrasena the king of the Yadavas. He also freed his parents, Vasudeva and Devaki, from Kamsa’s prison.
Those who were devoted to Krishna attained true knowledge. And Uddhava asked Vidhura to worship the sage Maitreya if he desired to attain this knowledge.
The sage Maitreya lived in Haridvara and it was there that Vidura met him.
Vidura asked Maitreya, Our worldly life is such that no matter what one does, there is unhappiness all around. Tell me how Krishna can be worshipped so that one can conquer all this unhappiness.
Maitreya told Vidura about the beginning of creation. Brahma emerged from Vishnu’s navel and began the task of creation. From the powers of his mind he created four sages whose names were Sanakaa, Sananda, Sanatana and Sanatkumara. But these sages did not seem to be at all interested in the process of creation and this made Brahma very angry. From his furrowed brows there was born a son known as Nilalohita, so named because he was partly blue (nila) and partly red (lohita) in colour. Nilalohita was the ancestor of all the gods.
As soon as he was born, Nilalohita began to cry.
Why are you crying?, asked Brahma.
Because I have no name, replied the boy, Give me a name and tell me where I should stay.
Brahma told the boy not to cry. From the word for crying (rud), he named the boy Rudra. In additon, Brahma gave the boy eleven more names. These were Manyu, Manu, Mahinas, Mahan, Shiva, Ritadhvaja, Ugrareta, Bhava, Kala, Vamadeva and Dhritavrata. Eleven wives named Dhi, Dhriti, Rasala, Uma, Nishut, Sarpi, Ila, Ambhika, Iravati, Svadha, and Diksha were earmarked for Rudra. Brahma also decided that Rudra’s habitat would be the heart, the life, the sky, the air, the fire, the water, the earth, the sun, the moon, and all meditation.
Brahma next asked Rudra to create more beings. The first Rudra created several other Rudras. But all these creations were terrible and they proceeded to destroy whatever Brahma had so far created.
Brahma told Rudra, Please desist. Enough is enough. There is no need for you to create anything any more. Why don’t you go away and meditate?
Thus instructed by Brahma, rudra went away to meditate. And with Rudra safely out of the way, Brahma could concentrate on the act of creation once more. Ten sons were born to Brahma. Their names were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhrigu, Vashishtha, Daksha and Narada. Narada was born from Brahma’s lap, Daksha from his thumb, Vashishta from his breath of life, Bhrigu from his skin, Kratu from his hands, Pulaha from his navel, Pulastya from his ears, Agnira from his mouth, Atri from his eyes and Marichi from his mind.
Several sacred texts came out of Brahma’s mouth. These included the four Vedas (rig, sama, yajur, and atharva), and ayurveda (the art of medicine), dhanurveda (the art of fighting) and gandharvaveda (the art of singing). The Puranas also came out of Brahma’s mouth and they came to be known as the fifth Veda.
Finally Brahma split his own body into two. One part became male and the other female. The man was called Svayambhuva Manu and the woman Shatarupa. Manu and Shatarupa had five children, two sons and three daughter. The sons were Priyavrata and Uttanapda and the daughters were Akuti, Devahuti, and Prasuti.
The Boar Incarnation
Maitreya continued with the story.
Manu and Shatarupa touched Brahma’s feet. Lord, we have no place to live in, They said. The whole world is full of water. The earth is submerged in water.
Brahma found that this was indeed true and he wondered what might be done. Perhaps he should pray to Vishnu for deliverance. But while Brahma was thinking, a minute little boar came out from his nose. Within seconds, the boar grew and grew until it became as huge as an elephant. Brahma, the sages, and Manu marvelled to see this wonderful sight. Who could this boar be?
As they wondered, the boar began to roar. The wold shook with the sound of this roaring. And everyone realized that the boar could be none other than Vishnu. They started to pray to Vishnu. They chanted mantras (incantations) so that the boar might be pacified.
The boar kept up into the sky. It hardened its body and the hair on its neck stood up. It struck the clouds with its hooves. The light from its eyes lit up the four directions and its tusks glistened white. Glancing at the people who had assembled, the boar entered the waters of the ocean. Like a mountain the boar’s body fell and the bed of the ocean was ripped apart. The waves rose up as if in protest. The boar went all the way down into the underworld and there it discovered the earth. It raised the earth with its tusks and brought the earth up to where it should be. In the water there was also a daitya (demon) named Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha tried to fight the boar with a mace, but was no match for Vishnu. Vishnu killed the demon with his sudarshana chakra (a weapon like a bladed discus).
The sages prayed at this wonderous deed.
But Vidura was not satisfied. Sage Maitreya, he said, you have been too brief. Who was this Hiranyaksha who met Vishnu in the underworld?
Maitreya then began to relate the story of Hiranyaksha.
Daksha’ s daughter Diti was married to the sage Kashyapa., Kashyapa himself being the son of the sage Marichi. Kashyapa and Diti had two sons. Unfortunately, Diti had had the idea of having children when it was evening. The evening is not auspicious for such a task, since it is then that ghosts and demons wander around. The upshot was that the two sons who were born were destined to be evil. They would oppress the world. And it was also destined that they would be killed by Vishnu in two of his incarnations. These two sons were Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu.
But Kashyapa was a powerful sage. So he granted his wife the boon that one of their grandsons would be so righteous that he would be a model for everyone to follow. This grandson was Prahlada, who was always devoted to Vishnu.
For a hundred years the two evil sons stayed in Diti’s womb without being born. So evil were they that, even before they were born, the four directions became dark and the sun and the moon faded. The gods were greatly alarmed at these developments and went to Brahma for a solution.
Brahma said, Do not worry. All this has been ordained. Let me tell you about Jaya nd Vijaya.
Once upon a time, several sages went to vaikunthaloka. This was the place where Vishnu lived. Vaikunthaloka was a beautiful place to behold. It was full of wonderful gardens. The gardens had miraculous trees which yielded whatever fruits or flowers one desired. The ponds were full of flowers. The gandharvas (singers of heaven) and apsaras (dancers of heaven) were everywhere. All those who are devoted to Vishnu stay in vaikunthaloka. The evil can never go there. Vaikunthaloka is a better place than even brahmaloka, Brahma’s residence.
The sages were very happy to have come to vaikunthaloka. They now desired to see Vishnu himself. They crossed six gates without difficulty and so arrived at the seventh, the gate they would have to cross before meeting Vishnu. But there were two sentries who stood guard at the seventh gate and they would not let the sages pass. They had maces in their hands and they threatened the sages with these weapons.
The sages felt insulted. They therefore cursed the two sentries that they would leave vaikunthaloka and be born on earth. The two sentries were named Jaya and Vijaya. And it was Jaya and Vijaya who were born as the two asuras (demons) Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu.
After the babies had spent a hundred years in Diti’s womb, they were born as a pair of twins. When they were born, there were ill omens all around. The earth shook and fires broke out everywhere. There were showers of meterors and thunder and comets. Terrible duststorms darkened the earth. Trees were uprooted in the storms and lightning split the sky. The clouds were so thick that the sun’s rays could not be seen. There were tidal waves in the sea. Donkeys brayed and owls hooted.
The elder of the twins was named Hiranyaksha and the younger Hiranyakashipu. They became very powerful and strong. Hiranyaksha once arrived in heaven. He had become invincible, thanks to a boon received from Brahma. He defeated Indra and the other gods and expelled them from heaven. Having conquered heaven, Hiranyaksha decided to conquer the sea. The god of the ocean was Varuna, but Varuna’s army was no match for Hiranyaksha. Varuna’s palace was named Vibhavari. Hiranyaksha won over Vibhavari and began to live there.
After some time, Hiranyaksha encountered Vishnu in the form of a boar in the water. He challenged the boar to a duel and hurled a mace at it. But Vishnu easily repelled the mace. And he struck Hiranyaksha with his own mace. Thus they continued to fight for some time, striking each other with maces. Vishnu struck the asura on his throat with the mace. But this did not affect Hiranyaksha. He counterattacked so hard that Vishnu’s mace fell off from his hand. At this, Vishnu called for his sudarshana chakra. He repelled the various maces and spears that the asura hurled at him.
Hiranyaksha now restored to maya, the art of creating illusions and hallucinations. He completely disappeared and made the whole world dark. And from the darkness, he began to fling down boulders and weapons. There seemed to be demons everywhere. But when Vishnu flung his chakra, all this maya disappeared. And the chakra sliced off Hiranyaksha’s head.
Having achieved his purpose, Vishnu gave up the form of a boar.
Kardama and Devahuti
One of Svayambhuva Manu’s daughters was Devahuti. She was married to the sage Kardama. For ten thousand years Kardama performed very difficult tapasya (meditation) on the banks of the river Sarasvati. This meditation so pleased Vishnu that he granted Kardama the boon that he himself would be born as the son of Kardama and Devahuti.
But a special place needed to be designed for Vishnu to be born. With the powers of his tapasya, Kardama created a vimana ( a space-vehicle). This vimana was bejewelled and richly decorated. It had many rooms inside it. For a hundred years Kardama and Devahuti lived in this vimana and Devahuti gave birth to nine daughters. Their names were Kala, Anasuya, Shraddha, Havirbhu, Gati, Kriya, Khyati, Arundhati, and Shanti. These nine daughters were married to the nine great sages Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhrigu, Vashishtha and Atharva.
Thereafter, Vishnu himself was born to Kardama and Devahuti as Kapila. His purpose was to teach men the intricacies of samkhya tattva, the theory of true knowledge that showed the path to an union with the brahman.
After Kapila was born, Kardama went off on a pilgrimage and Kapila was brought up by Devahuti. They lived in an ashrama (hermitage) named Vindusarovara.
Once Devahuti went to her son and said, I am tired of this world. I am tired of its illusions. Teach me true knowledge.
Kapila taught his mother. And these teachings have come to be known as samkhya yoga. Yoga means union and is used in the sense of the human soul (atman) uniting with the divine assence (brahman). This is what Kapila taught.
Yoga conquers both happiness and unhappiness. The mind gets attached to material pursuits and this is the main obstacle in the path. of yoga One has to free oneself from these attachments. This also requires the overcoming of one’s own ego. The main path to achieving this union with God is bhakti (devotion and faith). The brahman has no traits, it cannot be described. It is not moved by any emotions. Those who do not realize the identity of the atman with the brahman are destined to be born again and again.
The supreme knowledge that Kapila taught her, freed Devahuti from all here illusions. She realized tha the body was nothing. True bliss was in yoga. She went to an ashrama on the banks of the river Sarasvati and there began to practice yoga. She meditated on the various forms of Lord Vishnu that Kapila had told her of. The place where Devahuti performed tapasya has now become a famous place of pilgrimage. It is known as siddhipada.
The Daughters of Manu
You will recollect that Svayambhuva Manu had three daughters, Akuti, Devahuti and Prasuti. You have already heard Devahuti’s story.
Akuti was married to the sage Ruchi and they had a son and a daughter. The son was Vishnu’s incarnation and was brought up by Svayambhuva Manu. The daughter was named Dakshina. Dakshina married Vishnu himself and their twelve sons were the gods known as tushitas.
Brahma’s son was Daksha and Daksha married Prasuti. They had sixteen daughters. Thirteen of these daughters were married to the god Dharma, one to the god Agni, one to the ancestors and the last one to Shiva. One of Dharma’s wives was Murti and she gave birth to the two great sages, Nara and Narayana. Nara and Narayana were incarnations of Vishnu. They were worshipped by everyone and went off to perform tapasya on Mount Gandhamadana.
You have been told that Shiva married one of Daksha’s daughters. Her name was Sati. She gave up her life because her husband was insulted. Thereby hangs a tale.
Shiva and Daksha
Many years ago, there was a yajna (sacrifice) at which all the gods and sages had assembled. All the guests were seated, when Daksha suddenly arrived. Everyone stood up to honour Daksha, except Brahma and Shiva. Brahma had no reason to show Daksha respect; Daksha was after all his own son. But Daksha was greatly insulted at Shiva’s ignoring him. Apart from anything else, Shiva also happened to be his son-in-law.
Assembled guests, said Daksha, Please listen to what I have to say. This Shiva has no sense of shame, he does not know how to honour his seniors. He is married to my daughter Sati. Wouldn’t it have been proper of him to stand up and show me respect? It was stupid of me to marry my daughter to this useless fellow. His companions are ghosts and demons. He frequents cremation grounds (shmashana) like a lunatic. His body is smeared with ashes from dead bodies, he wears a garland of skulls and he drinks all the time.
Shiva continued to ignore Daksha and did not react at these angry words. But Daksha’s ire had been roused and he cursed Shiva that, henceforth. Shiva would not be entitiled to receive any offerings that were made to gods at yajnas. He then left the place in a huff.
Shiva’s main companion was Nandi. Nandi was incensed that Shiva should have been cursed and that the sages and the brahmanas should have kept quiet and not protested. Nandi therefore cursed the sages and brahmanas that they would be born again and again on earth. They would have to work for a living and they would lose sight of true knowledge and become addicted to material pursuits.
Now it was the turn of the sage Bhrigu to get angry. He cursed all followers of Shiva that they would become addicted to drinking and would roam around with bodies smeared with ashes and decorated with skulls. Their hair would always be matted.
Shiva had been silent through all this pandemonium. But at all this general cursing, he collected his followers and companions and left the yajna.
The yajna was performed in Shiva’s absence. This went on for a thousand years.
Days passed. Daksha organized another yajna named vajapeya and did not invite Shiva or his followers. The yajna was successfully completed and this made Daksha so arrogant that he decided to hold yet another yajna named brihaspatistava. He invited all the other gods and sages to this yajna, but did not invite Shiva and his followers. The sacrifice was a tremendous success and people talked about it everywhere. Some such people who had been to the yajna were conversing about it while travelling through the sky. Sati overhead their conversation. She also saw many gandarva women going to attend the yajna in their vimanas. This excited Sati’s curiosity and she too wanted to go to her father’s sacrifice.
She went to Shiva and said, Your father-in-law Daksha is organizeing a wonderful sacrifice. Let us go there; all the other gods are going. I will get to meet my sisters, I have not met them for such a long time. Nor have I met my mother for ages. This is a chance to talk to all one’s relatives. Let us go. Or at least, let me go. I know that we have not received an invitation. But does one need an invitation to go to one’s husband, father or friends?
Shiva reminded Sati of what Daksha had said earlier and asked her to desist. She would not be welcome there. For although she was Daksha’s own daughter, she happened to be Shiva’s wife as well. But despite Shiva’s warning, Sati was adamant. She would go. So he sent several of his companions to accompany her.
Sati arrived at Daksha’s sacrifice and found that the yajna had started. The gods and the sages had arrived. The Vedas were being recited. But except for Sati’s mother and sisters, no one dared to welcome her. Her father ignored her completely. She also noticed that, at the yajna, no provison had been made for Shiva’s share. Shiva was to be deprived.
Sati told her father, I had not expected that you would stoop to such low levels. Who but you would have insulted a person like Shiva? It is the duty of a pativrata (a woman who is devoted to her husband) to protest if her husband is being insulted. You have insulted my husband. I owe this body of mine to you, since you happen to be my father. But I no longer wish to possess a body that is thus contaminated.
Saying this, Sati sat down on the floor. She controlled her breath and brought the breath of her life to the centre of her forehead. She thought of Shiva and exhaled the breath of life. And her body was immediately consumed by fire. The assembled guests marvelled at this wonderful incident.
Shiva had sent several companions with Sati. These companions now attacked Daksha and the guests. But amongst the guests was the powerful sage Bhrigu. With his powers, Bhrigu created thousands and thousands of gods (named ribhus) from the fire of the yajna. The ribhus soon put all Shiva’s companions to fight. These companions rushed back to Shiva and told him what had transpired.
Shiva’s anger knew no bounds. He tore off a flaming hair from his head flung it down on the ground with a thunderous laugh. From the hair was created a gigantic being named Virabhadra. Virabhdra’s head touched the sky. He was as dark as the clouds. And he had a thousand arms and three eyes. A garland of skulls hung around his neck and his hands held diverse weapons.
Virabhadra stood before Shiva in all humility and asked, What are my orders?
Shiva replied, I have given birth to you and you are invincible. Go and destroy Daksha and his yajna.
Virabhadra took up a terrible trishula (trident) and rushed towards the place where the sacrifice was being held. He was accompanied by several other demons and ghosts. Some of them broke down the pillars of Daksha’s house, others demolished the sacrificial pyre. The fire of the yajna was put out. Some demons chased the sages and the gods were attacked by others. One of Shiva’s companions was named Manimana. He caught hold of the sage Bhrigu and tied him up. The gods who did not flee were also tied up. Virabhadra himself imprisoned Daksha. He tore off Bhrigu’s beard. And then he tried to slice off Daksha’s head with his sword. But he found that this was very difficult to do. So Virabhadra dragged Daksha’s body to a scaffold that had been erected for sacrificing animals. He placed Daksha’s head on the scaffold and cut it off with his sword. This severed head was flung into the fire. Having accomplished his purpose, Virabhadra returned to Shiva’s residence in Mount Kailasa.
The gods fled in despair to Brahma and told him what had happened. Brahma’s reaction was that the gods had got what they deserved. They had no business to insult Shiva or to be a party to such insults. Shiva was entitled to shares in all yajnas just as the other gods were. Brahma therefore advised the gods to pray to Shiva. No one else could pacify Shiva’s anger.
The gods went to Kailasa and began to pray to Shiva. They desired that Daksha might be brought back to life, Bhrigu’s beard might sprout again, and the gods who had injured might quickly be restored to good health. Shiva had cooled down by then, so that he was not averse to grantng these boons. But what was to be done about Daksha? His old head had been consumed by the fire. Shiva proposed the solution that the head of a goat might be stuck onto Daksha’s body. The gods and sages returned with Shiva to the place where the sacrifice was being held. Shiva stuck the goat’s head onto Daksha’s body and Daksha was brought back to life. He begged Shiva for mercy and forgiveness.
The yajna started afresh and this time Vishnu himself acted as the chief priest. As for Sati, she was born again as the daughter of Himalaya and Menaka, and united once again with Shiva. But that is a different story.
Svayambhuva Manu had two sons named- Priyavarata and Uttanapada. Both of them became kings. King Uttanapada had two wives, Suniti and Suruchi. He was extremely fond of Suruchi, but did not like Suniti all that much. Suruchi’s son was Uttama and Suniti’s son was Dhruva.
One day, Uttama was sitting on his father’s lap and being fondled by him. Dhruva came there and also wanted to sit on his father’s lap. But Suruchi said, What do you think you are doing? The king’s lap and his throne are reseved for my son. You are not my son. Go away. Go to your mother Suniti.
Dhruva burst into tears at these harsh words. And so enamoured was the king of Suruchi that he did not protest. The weeping Dhruva went to his own mother and was consoled by her.
Suniti said, son, do not be unhappy. If Suruchi has sinned, she will have to pay for her sins in the future. Unfortunate are you that you are my son. We must be paying for sins that we have committed earlier. Do not be sad. Pray to God, there lies true salvation.
Dhruva resolved to do this and left his father’s house. He was accosted by the sage Narada who told him that he was too small to be performing difficult tapasya. That was meant for the sages. But Dhruva was insistent. Throught his tapasya he wished to attain a position that had not been attained by any of his ancestors. This resolve pleased Narada no end. Narada advised Dhruva to go to the banks of the Yamuna to a grove named Madhuvana. He should there pray to Vishu. Narada also taught Dhruva an incantation that he could use for this purpose. At this time, Dhruva was only five years of age.
Dhurva began his tapasya. For the first month, he ate only fruit once every three days. The remaining days he fasted. In the second month he ate once every five days, once every nine days in the third month, and he lived only on air in the fourth month. Thus, five months passed. Dhruva stood there on one leg, praying. He saw nothing but Vishnu everywhere. Eventually Vishnu was pleased and appeared before Dhruva. When Vishnu offered to grant a boon. Dhruva desired that he might attain a position that no one had reached even before.
Vishnu carved out a place for Dhurva in the sky. No one had live there before. This would be known as Dhruvaloka. Dhruva would become the pole star and all the other stars would revolve around him. Dhruvaloka would not be destroyed at the end of a kalpa (cycle) when everything else was destroyed. But all this would happen only after Dhruva died. For the moment, Vishnu informed him that he should return to his father. For Dhruva was destined to rule as a king for thirty-six thousand years. His brother Uttama would get lost while on a hunting expedition.
Thanking Vishnu, Dhruva returned to his father’s kingdom. King Uttanapda was very happy to have him back, and Uttama and Dhruva embraced each other. The two princes grew up together. And When Uttanapada desired to retire to the forest, he handed over the kingdom to Dhruva.
Dhruva had two wives, Bhrami and Ila. Uttama never married. He went on a hunt and was killed by a powerful yaksha in the forest. These yakshas were beings who were the companions of Kubera, the god of wealth. Uttama’s mother, Suruchi, went to look for her son in the forest and died there.
When Dhruva learned that his brother had been killed by a yaksha, he was furious. He climbed onto his chariot and left for the abode of the yakshas to avenge his brother. The yakshas lived towards the north in a valley in the Himalayas. Dhruva found their city and started to blow on his conch-shell, challenging the yakshas to a fight. The yaksha soldiers attacked, but Dhruva pierced them with his arrows. The yakshas brought millions of soldiers to bear on Dhruva and the king was completely surrounded by his enemies. But he triumphed over them and killed many of them with his weapons. The yakshas retaliated with the use of maya (the art of creating illusions). Dhruva repelled the maya with a divine weapon known as narayanastra.
Before the fight could progress further, several sages came to Dhruva. Why are you doing this? they asked. Why are you killing innocent yakshas? That is a sin. Control your anger. Only one yaksha had killed your brother. Punish him, but why kill the others? Besides, everyone’s destiny is ordained by Vishnu. He alone decides on what is to happen. Your brother was destined to die. Why blame the poor yaksha? He was only the instrument.
Dhruva realized the wisdom in these words and ceased to fight. Kubera himself came to Dhruva and offered to grant him a boon. Dhruva wanted the boon that he might always remain devoted to Vishnu. The boon was granted and Dhruva returned to his kingdom. He ruled well and performed many sacrifices. He ruled for thirty-six thousand years.
When he was tired of the material life, Dhruva handed over the kingdom to his sons. He retired to a hermitage named vadrikashrama to perform yoga. After some time had passed, a vimana descended from the sky for Dhruva. Vishnu’s companions Nanda and Sunanada were in the vimana. They took Dhruva to the place that had been reserved for him in the sky.
If you look up at the sky at night, you will be able to see Dhruva.
Vena and Prithu
Dhruva had a son named Utkala who was asked to become king after Dhruva left for the forest. But Utkala was not interested in becoming a king, he was more concerned about getting to know about the brahman. So the kingdom was handed over to his younger brother Vatsara.
Vatsara’s descendant was king Vena. Vena was terrible, even as a prince. It was really Vena’s acts that drove Vena’s father Anga to the forest.
In fact, King Anga had arranged for an ashvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice). Anga sent several priests with invitations for the gods. But these invitations notwithstanding, the gods did not come to attend the sacrifice. Anga was puzzled. Had he committed a sin that the gods had refused to come? He was then told that the gods had not come because Anga did not yet have a son. It was imperative that Anga perform a yajna so as to obtain a son. Anga did as he was told. He performed a sacrifice and was given some rice pudding that his wife should have if they desired a son. Anga’s wife Sunitha had the rice pudding and gave birth to a son. This son was Vena.
Sunitha’ s father was Mrityu and Mrityu was an evil person. But ever since an early age, Vena got attached to his maternal grandfather and picked up evil pursuits from him. He would go to the forest and unnecessarily kill deer. He killed those who came to play with him. Things came to such a pass tha tpeople used to run away when they saw Vena coming.
Anga tried to discipline his son, but to no avail. Vena was beyond all control. In sheer desperation, Anga left the kingdom one night and left for the forest. No further trace could be found of him.
A kingdom cannot function without a king. Vena was crowned the king. Although the subjects were not at all keen that Vena should become the king, they had no choice in the matter. When he became king. Vena’s oppression knew no bounds. He stopped all yajnas in his kingdom. The sages realized that they had made a mistake. They had crowned Vena king to prevent the anarchy that would have resulted had there been no king. But what was happening was worse than anarchy.
The sages went to Vena to try and persuade him to mend his ways. But Vena would have none of it. He would not permit yajnas. Yajnas were meant for the gods. But what need was there of gods when the people could pray to King Vena himself?
Having realized that Vena was beyond redemption, the sages resolved to kill him. This they did with the power of their anger. But Vena had left no son. Who was to become king in his place? In the absence of a king, the kingdom degenerates. In the brief period when there was no king, there were ill omens all around. All thieves took over the kingdom since there was no protector of the people.
Vena’s dead body had been preserved by his mother. The sages went to the dead body and began to knead it. As a result of the kneading, a dwarf emerged from the dead king’s thighs. The dwarf was dark and his eyes were red. The dwarf asked, What shall I do?
Sit, replied the sages.
The word nishida means sit and so the dwarf came to be known as nishada. The evil traits of Vena had entered the dwarf’s body. So the dwarf and his descendents were not permitted to live inside the kingdom. They lived in the forest and became hunters.
The sages continued to knead the dead body’s arms, and a son and a daughter emerged. The sages were now content, for they realized that the son, Prithu, was an incarnation of Vishnu. And the daughter, Archi, was an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. Prithu married Archi and was crowned king.
Prithu was a good king.
But at that time, there were no foodgrains available on the earth and people were starving. They went to Prithu and said, Save us. The earth has swallowed the seeds of all foodgrains and herbs and crops do not grow. Please do something to prevent the famine.
Prithu fixed an arrow to his bow and decided to let it loose at the earth. But the earth started to run away and Prithu followed after her with the arrow in his bow. The earth could not outdistance Prithu. Finally she said, Please do not destroy me. If I am destroyed, where will you and your subjects live? I will grant whatever it is that you wish for.
Prithu asked her to restore the foodgrains and the herbs. The earth adopted the form of a cow and Prithu milked from her the goodrains and the herbs. It is after Prithu that the earth is known as prithivi.
Prithu resolved to conduct a hundred ashvamedha yajnas. This disturbed Indra, the king of the gods. Indra had himself performed a hundred ashvamedha yajnas and thus obtained for himself the title of Shatakratu. Now Prithu was about to equal his glory. Indra become jealous. A horse is an essential component of the sacrifice and when no one was noticing, Indra stole the sacrificial horse.
This was noticed by the sage Atri and he pointed it out to Prithu’s son. Prithu’s son chased Indra and brought the horse back. But Indra stole the horse yet again, and yet again Prithu’s son bought it back. Prithu was greatly angered at the disturbance that Indra was causing and decided to kill Indra. Brahma however convinced Prithu that the killing of Indr
a was not advisable. Indra was after all the king of gods. Prithu had already successfully completed ninety-nine ashvamedha yajnas and how did it matter whether the hundredth one was completed or not? Posterity would remember Prithu as a far greater person than Indra. Prithu listened to Brahma and became friends with Indra.
Prithu was given advice by four brahnmarshis (sages). He ruled according to this advice. And after many years, he handed over the kingdom to his sons and went to the forest to do tapasya. When he died, he was taken to vishuloka or vaikunthaloka, the abode of Vishnu. Prithu’s wife Archi immolated herself on her husband’s funeral pyre and was also taken to vishnuloka.
The Prachetas and Puranjana
Amongst Prithu’s descendants there was a king named Prachinavarhi. This king had ten sons who were known as the Prachetas.
Once, the Prachetas were journeying westwards to perform tapasya inside the ocean. On their way, they came to a huge lake. Fishes were playing in the water and many lotuses had bloomed on the lake. Musical instruments were being played on the shores of the lake. The Prachetas were amazed to find that Shiva and his companions were bathing in the lake. Shiva gave the Prachetas a lot of good advice. And the Prachetas spent ten thousand years under the water, performing tapasya.
Meanwhile, Narada came to visit king Prachinavarhi. The king worshipped Narada and said, I am to attached to wordly pursuits. Give me some advice so that I may be freed of these illusions.
I will tell you the story of Puranjana, replied Narada.
There used to be a king named Puranjana. He had only one friend, but no one knew what the friend’s name was.
Puranjana was looking for a place where he might live on earth. But no place that he saw appealed to him. His search for a proper residence eventually brought him to the foot of the Himalayas and there he discovered a beautiful city. The city was full of groves and houses. It had moats and walls around it.
The houses were bright with jewels. And the doors and windows were made of gold and silver. Wild beasts roamed inside the city, but they had forgotten their cruel natures.
In the city Puranjana discovered a beautiful woman guarded by ten bodyguards. A snake with five hoods also protected her.
Who are you?, asked Puranjana. And who are these ten guards and the snake who follow you around?
Puranjana wanted to marry the woman and the woman readily agreed. She said that Puranjana could live in the city for a hundred years and be her husband.
Puranjana married the woman and forgot about everything else. He did not go on hunts lest his wife be offended . He forgot all sense of night and day. He had eleven hundred sons and a hundred and ten daughters. But slowly Puranjana grew old. The pleasures that he had earlier enjoyed no longer appealed to him. And his own kingdom Panchala had also been conquered by his enemies.
When the king died, he was taken to hell and spent a hundred yars there. While he was in hell, he thought of his wife all the time. And since he kept thinking about a woman all the time, he was born as woman in his next life. Born as the daughter of the king of Vidarbha, he was married to King Malayadhvaja. They had seven sons and one daughter.
King Malayadhvaja ruled for a long time and then handed over the kingdom to his sons. He went to meditate in the forest and his wife accompanied him. For a hundred years Malayadhvaja meditated. But then he died and his wife was struck with grief. She decided that she would immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. But just as she was about to do so, a brahmana arrived on the scene.
What are you doing?, asked the brahmana. Who are you sorrowing for ? What is this man to you? For that matter, who are you ? Don’t you recognize me? I am your friend from you earlier life, when you were Puranajana. You had gone off to a city in the Himalayas and had forgotten all about me. Forget material pursuits and realize true knowledge. You are neither Puranajana nor are you Malayadhvaja’s wife. You are your atman. Understand this and be free of all illusions.
Prachinvarni understood the message that was latent in Narada’s story . He went to the sage Kapila’s hermitage to meditate. Meanwhile, his sons the Prachetas had succeeded in their tapasya. Vishnu had appeared before them. They married a woman named Marisha and had many children.
Priyavrata and His Descendants
Priyavrata had no real desire to be king, he was not interested in worldy matters. But his father Svayambhuva Manu, his teacher Brahma, and the sage Narada convinced him that there was nothing wrong in becoming a king. This did not necessarily mean that the one would get tied down by the illusions of the world. So Priyavrata did become king. He married Vahirshmati.
The sun goes around the world in his chariot. When the sun is on the other side of the world, it is night. But Priyavrata was quite upset that night should occur. Why could it not always be day? One night, he decided that he would drive his flaming chariot around the world so that night might disappear. And when the king was doing this, he looked like a second sun. Seven times he drove his chariot around Mount Sumeru. The wheels of his chariot gouged the earth and created the seven oceans. These seven oceans surround the seven regions (dvipas) of the earth. The names of these dvipas are Jambhu, Plaksha, Shalmali, Kusha, Krouncha, Shaka and Pushkara. These seven dvipas Priyavarata left to his seven sons Agnidhra, Idhnajihva, Yajnavahu, Hiranyareta, Ghrita-prishtha, Medhatithi and Vitihotra.
Agnidhra ruled over Jambu dvipa. Agnidhra had no sons. He went to Mount Mandara and started to pray to Brahma that he might have a son. Brahma knew what Agnidhra wanted and so he sent an apsara named Purvachitti to Agnidhra. She was so beautiful that Agnidhra’s meditation was disturbed.
Who are you?, he asked. Are you an illusion? If you are not, please marry me.
Purvachitti married Agnidhra and they had nine sons whose names were Nabhi, Kimpurusha, Harivarsha, Ilavrita, Ramyaka, Kuru, Hiranmaya, Bhadrashva and Ketumala. After Agnidhra died, the nine sons split up Jambu dvipa into nine different regions (varshas). Each ruled over one region and the region took on the name of its ruler.
Nabhi’s son was Rishabha and Rishabha was devoted to Vishnu. He married Indra’s daughter Jayanti and they had a hundred sons. The eldest was called Bharata and it is after him that this land came to be known as Bharatavarsha. Rishabha gave his sons a lot of learned advice so that they might not get bogged down by the illusions of the world. When Rishabha died, Bharata became king.
Bharata’s queen was named Panchajani, Bharata ruled well. He performed many yajnas. When he had ruled for many years, he handed over the kingdom to his sons and became a hermit. He lived alone in an ashrama on the banks of the river Gandaki and prayed to Vishnu for enlightenment.
One day a deer came to drink water from the river. Just as the deer was drinking water, a lion roared nearby and the deer was frightened. She jumped into the water of the river and delivered a baby there. The baby deer was carried away by the current of the river. And the mother deer managed to clamber up on to the bank, but died of fright and exhaustion.
Bharata saw what had happened. He jumped into the water and rescued the baby deer. He brought it home to his hermitage and began to rear it. Slowly he got attached to the deer, so much so that he forgot all about his meditation. He would start to worry if he did not see the deer for a while. Had it been attacked by a jackal or some other wild beast? Even when he died, he kept thinking of the deer.
Since he had been thinking of a deer at the time of his death, Bharata was born as a deer in his next life. But he was born a jatismara, that is, he could remember the incidents of his earlier life. He realized that he had dislodged from the path of yoga through his own mistakes. He therefore came back to his earlier ashrama and lived there. When the deer died, Bharata was reborn as the son of a brahmana.
As a brahama, Bharata continued to be a jatismara. He realized that human relationsips were transient and did not wish to get attached to them. He pretended to be mad, stupid, deaf and dumb so that no one might mix with him. When Bharata’s parents died, his brothers began to treat him rather shabbily.
They gave him the worst of food to eat. But Bharata could not care less. He ate only to survive, not to satify his senses. He was strong of health and slept on the ground. A piece of cloth sufficed as clothing for him, and he never bathed. Other people started to treat him as an outcast.
There was a leader of the shudras who wished to make a human sacrifice to the goddess Kali. He had captured a man for this purpose, but, in the dead of the night, the prisoner escaped. The shudras had to find another person for the sacrifice, and they found Bharata sitting in a field. They captured him and brought him to their leader. Bharata was fed, bathed and dressed in new clothes. The shudra priest then raised his sword to sacrifice Bharata to the goddess. But Kali could not bear this to take place. She came out of her image and she and her companions killed all the shudras. Bharata was nonchalant. He returned to his field.
One day, king Rahugana was passing. He ruled over the kingdoms of Sindhu and Soubira. The king was riding a palanquin and the palanquin needed one more bearer. The king’s servants found Bharata and brought him to the king. Bharata seemed to strong and healthy enough. He was therefore made to bear the planaquin with the other beares.
But Bharata could not keep pace with the other bearers. He stepped very carefully so that he might not step on living beings such as insects and kill them. The result was that the palanquin did not move smoothly. This irritated the king and, when he scolded the bearers,they pointed out that it was Bharata who was responsible. Rahugana shouted at Bharata.
Are you tired?, he asked. Have you travelled a long distance? Or is it that you are weak? You look strong enough to me.
Bharata merely smiled. I am not tired, he replied. Nor have I travelled a long distance. I am neither weak nor strong. I am my atman. How can the atman be tired, weak or strong? How can it travel a long distance?
The king was amazed at these words of wisdom. He fell down at Bharata’s feet and begged that he might be forgiven. He wished to learn more words of wisdom from Bharata. Bharata taught Rahugana about the brahman and about the indentity of the atman and the brahman. He told the king that the physical body was only transitory. It was the atman that was permanent. Life was like a forest with the dangers of illusions and material attachments everywhere. The learned knew how to step carefully so as to avoid these pitfalls.
Thus it was that King Rahugana learnt true knowledge from Bharata.
You have already been told that the earth is divided? into seven regions (dvipas). Jambu dvipa is snaped like the leaf of lotus and there are nine regions (varshas) within Jambu dvipa. Ilavrita varsha is in the centre and Mount Sumeru is right in the middle of Ilavrita varsha. On the peak of Mount Sumeru is Brahma’s famous city. Bharatavarsha is the most sacred of the varshas.
There are several different hells (naraka). Each naraka is earmarked for a specific sort of sin. All the hells are located below the underworld. Some people say that there are twenty-eight different hells. It is Yama, the god of Death, who decides which hell a sinner should go to.
A thief goes to tamisra naraka and is made to suffer hunger and thirst there. A person who is violent is sent to rourava. Rourava narka is populated by snake-like beings known as ruru, that is the reason why this naraka is called rourava. The rurus practise violence on the sinner, in proportion to the sins that he had committed on earth. A sinner who does harm to a brahmana is sent to kalasurtra and burnt there. Those who oppose the Vedas are taken to asipatravana and whipped. Asi is a sword and partra means a leaf. Asipatra is the blade of a sword. Vana means forest. Asipatravana naraka is full of palm trees that have leaves as sharp as the blade of a sword. If one tries to run away from the whipping, one’s flesh is torn to bits by the sharp leaves of the palm trees.
Those who punish the innocent are sent to shukaramukha and bitten by bed-bugs. Sinners who eat without offering food to gods, brahmanas or guests, go to krimibhoja and are eaten by worms. An arsonist or a poisoner is torn to bits by seven hundred and twenty dogs. A bearer of false wintess is flung down repeatedly from mountain tops. A brahmana who drinks is forced to drink molten iron. A miser goes to suchimukha. There Yama’s servants drive a needle-and-thread through his body.
Those who perform good deeds go to svarga. Each individual has an account of the store of merit (punya) and sins (papa) committed by him. Punya is rewarded in heaven and pap has to be paid for in hell. When the account of punya or papa is partly cleared, individuals are born again in order to clear any portion of punya or papa that may remain.
But without waiting for naraka, a sinner can make atonement for his sins (prayashchitta). The best form of prayashchitta is to call upon Vishnu. There is, for example, the story of Ajamila.
In the land of Kanyakubja there lived a brahmana named Ajamila. His wife was a woman of lowly caste and she persuaded Ajamila to perform all sorts of evil deeds. He gambled and cheated and stole. Ajamala lived for eighty years and he had ten sons. The youngest was named Narayana and he was his father’s darling.
The time came for Ajamila to die. Three terrible messengers of Yama came to take Ajamila to naraka. Their faces were fierce and they held nooses in their hands. Ajamila did not realize what was happening. He was still thinking of his youngest son and he called out, Narayana, Narayana. But Narayana is also Vishnu’s name and at these words, Vishnu servants appeared.
The tussle began between Yama’s messengers and Vishnu’s servants. Yama’s messengers wanted to take Ajamila to naraka but Vishnu’s servants would not let them do this. They maintained that since Ajamila had called upon Narayana (Vishnu) before his death, all his sins had been pardoned. Finally both parties left and Ajamila was allowed to live for some more time. He had now become penitent for his deeds and he spent the remaining part of his life in performing tapasya. When he died, Vishnu’s servants took him to vishnuloka.
Indra and Vritra
Once upon a time, Indra was seated on his throne and the other gods were all seated around him. The gandharvas were singing and the apsaras were dancing.
The guru (teacher) of the devas (gods) was Brihaspati. Brihaspati came to the assembly. But so engrossed was Indra in the singing and the dancing that he neglected to stand up and honour Brihaspati. At this, Brihaspati felt insulted and left the assembly. Indra immediately realized what had happened and decided to hunt out Brihaspati and beg forgiveness. But the guru was not going to let Indra get away so easily. Using his powers of maya, he simply vanished. Indra searched and searched, but could not find Brihaspati.
The asuras had got to know that the devas were now without a guru. They thought that this was the opportune moment to attack. With their guru Shukracharya’s permission, they attacked the gods and drove them away. The gods went running to Brahma.
Brahma said, All this has happened because you insulted your guru. You have become weak because you have no guru. You need a guru. Go and pray to the sage Vishvarupa, the son of Tvashta. He will find a way out.
Now Tvashta had married Rachana, who was a daitya woman. So Vishvarupa was a nephew of the daityas (demons) and it was inconceivable that he would help the devas in their fight with the asuras or daityas. But when the devas prayed to him Vishvarupa could not refuse. He became the priest of the gods and thanks to his advice, the gods succeeded in defeating the demons.
Vishvarupa had three heads. He used one for eating, the second for drinking wine and the third for drinking the juice of the soma herb. Indra was never very sure of Vishvarupa. He was after all related to the daityas; he might be helping them secretly. When he got the chance, Indra cut off all three of Vishvarupa’s heads. The severed heads became three types of birds.
Tvashta was furious that Indra had killed Vishvarupa. He performed a yajna and wished that an enemy of Indra’s might be born out of the flames. A terrible asura came out of the fire and rapidly began to grow. He was as dark as a mountain and his eyes burnt like the midday sun. The asura held a trident in his hand. The earth shook when he roared and danced. His mouth was as huge as a cave, and when he opened his mouth, it seemed as if he would swallow up all the three worlds and everything that was in them. People began to flee. This giant asura was known as Vritra. The gods came and attacked Vritra with many weapons, but he simply swallowed up the weapons.
The gods didn’t know what to do. They began to pray to Vishnu. Vishnu appeared before them and said, Go to the sage Dadhichi. His body is strong and hard from many years of tapasya. Ask him for his body and he will not refuse. A weapon named vajra will be made from Dadhichi’s bones. And Indra will kill Vritra with the vajra.
Dadhichi did not refuse when the gods asked him for his body. For the mere physical body was nothing. It was the atman that was everything. Vishvakarma, the architect of the gods, fashioned the vajra out of the sage’s bones. And armed with vajra, Indra climbed onto his elephant Airavta and attacked Vritra and the other demons. The other gods also came along to help Indra and a terrible war raged between the gods and the demons. The sky was littered with weapons which were being hurled around. There were so many arrows flying around that the sky could not be seen.
The demons began to flee. Vritra tried to restrain them. Cowards, he said. Why are you running away ? Everyone who is born has to die. It is better to die a glorious death on the battlefield than do die as a coward. Come back.
But the asura soldiers did not listen. Vritra continued to fight alone. He crushed the gods under his feet. Indra hurled a mace at Vritra, but Vritra caught the mace in his hand and struck Indra’s elephant. Airavata on the head with the mace. The elephant retreated and started to vomit blood. Vritra could have attacked Indra, then, but he permitted him to rest. When Indra had rested, they began to fight again.
Vritra said, I will try to kill you with my trident and avenge Vishvarupa’s death. But since you have been blessed by Vishnu, you will in all probability kill me with your vajra. Who can win without Vishnu’s support?
The demon hurled the trident at Indra, but Indra cut it up with his vajra. And with the vajra he next sliced off Vritra’s right hand. But Vritra took up a club in his left hand and hit Indra so hard that the vajra was dislodged from Indra’s hand. It lay there on the ground and Indra was too ashamed to pick it up.
Come on, Indra, said Vritra. Pick up the vajra and kill me. Don’t waste time. I am eager to die and meet Vishnu.
Saying this, Vritra picked up another club in his left hand. But this time Indra sliced off Vritra’s left hand with his vajra. Vritra opened his mouth wide and tried to swallow up Indra and Airavata. And before he could do anything, Indra realized that he was inside Vritra’s stomach. But he cut open Vritra’s stomach with the vajra and then sliced off Vritra’s head as well. Vritra’s body was so thick that it took three hundred and sixty days for the entire head to be severed.
The gods were delighted. But Indra was still not at peace with himself. Vritra had been a brahmana and Indra had committed the sin of killing a brahmana. The sin followed him around wherever he went. Finally Indra went and hid in manasa sarovara lake. He hid inside the stem of a lotus flower in the lake and stayed there for thousands and thousands of years. While Indra was away, King Nahusha ruled as Indra. But eventually, the severity of the sin was diminished, Indra returned and performed an ashvamedha yajna as complete atonement for the sin.
King Parikshit heard the story of Indra and Vritra from the sage Shukadeva. And Parishit was puzzled. How can an asura like Vritra have become devoted to Vishnu? Shukadeva told him the story of Chitraketu.
Many years ago, in the kingdom of Shurasena and in the city of Mathura, a king named Chitraketu used to rule. The king had many wives. But he was sad because he did not have a son. The sage Angira came to visit him once and the king told the sage about his misery. Angira decided that a yajna had to be performed so that Chitraketu might have a son. The eldest of Chitraketu’s wives was named Kritadyuti and the rice pudding that came out of the sacrifice was fed to her. In due course, a son was indeed born and everyone rejoiced.
Chitraketu was delighted. He loved his son. And he seemed to love Kritadyuti even more now that she had given birth to a boy. The other queens felt slighted and becamed jealous. They fed the boy poison and the boy died.
Chitraketu and Kritadyuti went mad with grief. To hide their crime, the other queens also pretended to weep. The sages Angira and Narada came to comfort Chitraketu.
They said, There is no need to sorrow. Who are you sorrowing for? What is this boy to you? He was nothing to you in your earlier life. People are born again and again. Again and again they adopt physcial bodies. But these are temporary, nothing but illusions. Your son’s atman has not been killed. To think otherwise is to be ignorant.
To convince Chitraketu, Narada used his powers to bring back the atman of the dead prince. He told the atman, of the dead prince. He told the atman, Come and enter the body of the dead prince. You still have some life left as the prince. Live for some more time. Enjoy your father’s property and be king after him.
The atman replied, Which life, which father and what property? I have lived many times. I have had many lives and many fathers. Which body are you talking about?
These words convinced the relatives. They gave up their sorrowing and performed the last rites for the dead prince. The queens who had posioned him became penitent. As penance for their sin, they did prayashchitta on the banks of the river Yamuna. Chitraketu himself performed tapasya. And through the powers that he acquired, he got to meet Vishnu. He spread the knowledge of Vishnu everywhere and this inflated his ego no end.
On one occasion he even insulted Shiva and Parvati. Shiva ignored the insult, but Parvati cursed Chitraketu that he would be born as an asura. It was he who had been born as Vritra. Ths explains his devotion to Vishnu.
The sage Kashyapa married Diti and Aditi. Diti’s children were known as the daityas and Aditi’s children were the adityas or devas.
Diti was very upset that Indra and the other gods kept killing her children. She resolved to have a son who would kill Indra. Accordingly, she started to serve her husband really well. The sage Kashyapa was pleased and asked her, what boon do you desire?
Diti replied, Give me a son who will kill Indra. Kashyapa was in a fix. He said, All right. You will have to perform certain rites for a year. If you do them for an entire year, you will have a son who will kill Indra. But if you stop before a year, the son who will be born will become a friend of the gods.
Diti agreed to this condition. The rites included the avoidance of thrity-one acts that were prohibited, such as lying or cursing. It was also forbidden to go to sleep without washing one’s feet. Indra had got to know about his aunt’s desire and he was always hanging around, waiting for a chance to bring his aunt’s wishes to nought. But he pretended to serve Diti faithfully.
Once Diti was very tired and went to sleep without washing her feet. Indra saw his chance. He entered Didi’s womb and sliced up the baby who was there into seven parts with his vajra. These parts began to cry and Indra said, ma ruda. That is, don’t cry. He then cut up each of the seven parts into seven parts again. There were thus forty-nine parts and they asked, You are my cousin. Why are you killing us?
I shall not kill, replied Indra. You will be called the maruts and you will be my friends and companions.
These maruts became gods. And Diti was so happy to see them that she forgave Indra all his crimes.
Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada
You probably remember that Vishnu adopted the form of a boar to kill the asura Hiranyaksha. And that Hiranyaksha had a brother named Hiranyakshipu.
Hiranyakashipu was furious to learn of his brother’s death. He resolved to kill Vishnu. He called all the asuras together and asked them to stop all yanas and Veda recitals on earth. The asuras did as they had been told and religious ceremonies on earth came to an end. The gods were oppressed and fled from heaven. Hiranyakashipu consoled his mother and nephews and asked them not to sorrow. He would avenge his brother.
Hiranyakashipu wished to become invincible. He therefore started to perform very difficult tapasya. He stood on the tips of his toes and raised his arms up. In that positon he began to meditate. His hair grew matted and the termites built a hill all around his body. For a hundred years Hiranyakashipu meditated thus, without food and water.
Finally Brahma appeared before him and agreed to grant him a boon.
Grant me the boon that I may not be killed by any being of your creation, said Hiranyakashipu. That I may not killed during night or day and that I may not be killed by man or beast, in the sky or on earth. Make me invincible from all weapons. And grant me the boon that devas or asuras may do me no harm.
Brahma granted Hiranyakashipu this rarest of rare boons. Rendered invincible, Hiranyakashipu conquered the three worlds. He drove Indra out of heaven and ruled there instead. The gods sought refuge with Vishnu. Vishnu asked them to be patient. He told them that he himself would kill Hiranyakashipu, when that asura started to oppress his own son Prahlada.
Apart from Prahlada, Hiranyakashipu had three other sons. But Prahlada, was an exception. He was devoted to Vishnu and thought of Vishnu all the time.
Shukracharya was the teacher of the asuras. And Shukracharya had two sons named Shanda and Amarka. These two began to teach Prahlada and his brothers. But no matter what they taught, Prahlada continued to talk about Vishnu. At first Hiranyakashipu thought that this was childish foolishness and would pass away. But it did not. Prahlada continued to be devoted to Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu did not wish to have such a son. He instructed his servants to kill Prahlada. The asuras struck Prahlada with spears. But since Prahlada was protected by Vishnu, the spears did him no harm. Elephants were let loose on the prince. Snakes were made to bite him. He was thrown down from mountain tops. He was fed poison. He was thrown into the water. But nothing happened to Prahlada.
Prahlada was then kept imprisoned for a while and he spent the time in instructing the other asura children on the virtues of being devoted to Vishnu. He told them how he had become devoted to Vishnu.
When Hiranyakshipu was away on his tapasya, the gods attacked the demons and defeatd them. Indra abducted Prahlada’s mother. But Narada convinced Indra that this abduction was a sin. Prahlada’s mother was released and taken to Narada’s hermitage. Prahlada was still in the womb then and he listened to the words of wisdom that Narada taught his mother. It was this knowledge that he still remembered. The asura children started to get converted as a result of Prahlada’s teachings and Hiranyakashipu was not prepared to tolerate this. He had Prahlada brought before him again.
Who protects you every time I try to kill you?, he asked Prahlada.
Vishnu, was the answer.
Vishnu, exclaimed Hiranyakashipu. Where is Vishnu?
He is everywhere, replied his son.
Everywhere?, asked Hiranyakashipu. He pointed to a crystal pillar and said, Is Vishnu inside this pillar? See, I am striking this pillar. Where is Vishnu?
Hiranyakashipu struck the pillar with a blow his fists. A terrible sound was then heard from inside the pillar. A being came out from inside the pillar. It was neither man or beast, it was half-man and half-lion. This was the narasimha avatara of Vishnu. Narasimha’s eyes were like molten gold. A golden mane hung around his face. His teeth were as sharp as swords. His claws were exceedingly sharp.
Hiranyakashipu attacked narasimha with a mace. But narasimha caught the asura up in his arms. He effortlessly flung aside the sword and the shield that Hiranyakashipu had grasped. He placed the demon across his thighs and tore apart his breast with the claws. He then killed many of the other asuras.
Prahlada came up to narasimha and worshipped him. Narasimha offered to grant him a boon and Prahlada wanted the boon that his father’s sins might be forgiven. This boon Vishnu granted.
Prahlada became the king of the asuras and he ruled well according tot he dictates of dharma (righteousness).
There are four classes (varna) and each class has to act according to what is prescribed for it. The brahmanas should study and perform religious rites. The kshatriyas have to protect the world. Agriculture and trade is for the vaishyas. And the shudras should serve the other three classes.
There are also four ashramas (stages of life) prescribed by dharma. The first is that of brahmacharya or celibate studenthood. The second is garhasthya or the householder stage. The third is vanaprastha or the forest-dwelling stage. And the last is sannyasa or the hermit stage.
Each manvantara is an era. Fourteen such manvantaras constitute a kalpa (cycle). The universe is destroyed at the end of each kalpa. A Manu rules over each manvantara and the title of Indra, or king of the gods, is held by different individuals in different manvantaras.
In the present cycle, six manvantaras have passed. The first Manu was Svayambhuva Manu. The second Manu was Svarochisha, the third Uttama, the fourth Tamasa, the fifth Raivata, the sixth Chakshusha and the seventh Shraddhadeva. It is the seventh manvantara that is now going on. There will be seven more manvantaras before the universe is destroyed. The eighth Manu will be Savarni, the ninth Dakshasavarni, the tenth Brahmasavarni, the eleventh Dharmasavarni, the twelfth Rudrasavarni, the thirteenth Devasavarni and the fourteenth Indrasavarni.
In each manvantara it is the duty of the ruling Manu to uphold the dharma of the four classes and the four stages of life.
The Elephant’s Story
There was a beautiful mountain named Trikuta. The waves of the ocean lapped at the foot of Trikuta. There were thick forests on the mountain. And in the forests there lived a king of elephants. He ruled over all the other elephants in the herd.
Once that elephant came to bathe in a lake where a crocodile lived. The crocodile caught hold of the elephant’s leg. Try as he might, the elephant could not free himself. Nor were the other elephants in a position to help. The elephant and the crocodile struggled for a thousand years. When a thousand years over, the elephant began to tire, although the crocodile’s strength was still undiminished.
The elephant started to pray to Vishnu. Vishnu appeared and cut off the crocodile’s mouth with his sudarshana chakra. Strange as it may seem, the crocodile then adopted the form of a gandharva. His name was Huhu. He had been cursed by a sage that he would become a crocodile. And the sage had told him that he would be freed from the curse by Vishnu. That had now happened. In fact, the elephant had earlier also been a king named Indradyumna. And he had been cursed by a sage that he would be born as an elephant. Indradyumna too was freed from his curse and became Vishnu’s companion.
Thus Vishnu saves whoever prays to him.
The Churning of the Ocean
Many years ago, the churning of the ocean (samudra manthana) took place.
The devas and the asuras were always fighting with each other. But Vishnu advised the devas to have a temporary truce with the asuras. The two sides should get together and churn the ocean. Amrita ( a life-giving drink) would emerge from the ocean and make the gods strong. Vishnu would ensure that the demons would not get a share of the amrita.
The king of the demons then was Vali. Indra met Vali to try and persuade him that a truce should be called and that they should churn the ocean together. The demons agreed, they too wanted the amrita. Mount Mandara was to be the churning rod, so the gods and the demons grasped the mountain and dragged it to the ocean. Vasuki, the king of the snakes, was promised some amrita and he agreed to be the rope for the churning. The demons grasped Vasuk’s mouth. The gods grasped his tail. And so the churning began. Vishnu adopted the form of a turtle and the back of the turtle constituted the base on which Mount Mandara could rest.
The first object that emerged from the ocean was a terrible poison known as halahala. What was to be done about his poison? It would destroy the world. The gods and the demons went to Shiva and begged him to rescue them. And Shiva drank up the poison. Nothing happened to Shiva, except that his throat became blue. He is therefore known as Nilakantha, blue of throat. A little bit of poison was however spilled on the ground. The scorpions, the snakes and poisonous herbs obtained their poison from this.
The churning continued and a cow named Surabhi came out. This was a kamadhenu, that is, it yielded whatever one desired. The sages took this cow to brahmaloka. Then a handsome white horse named Ucchaihshrava emerged and was given to Vali. Next came Airavata, the king of the elephants, and sixteen other elephants. And what should emerge next but a beautiful jewel named koustubha? Vishnu accepted this as an adornment for his breast. The parijata tree followed; it was placed in Indra’s garden. It was a kapavriksha, that is, it produced whatever one desired. The apsaras emerged next. They wore golden jewellery and beautiful clothes.
The goddess Lakshmi came out after this. Her appearance lit up the world. She was so attractive that the gods, the demons and the humans all wanted to possess her. The sages anointed her with sacred water. The ocean gave her clothes, Varuna gave her a garland, Vishvakarma jewellery and Brahma a lotus. Lakshmi looked for a perfect being to whom she could belong. The only perfect being was Vishnu and Lakshmi therefore married Vishnu.
The goddess of wine is Varuni. She followed Lakshmi out of the ocean. She was given to the demons.
Then Dhanvantari emerged. He held the pot of amrita in his hands. Dhanvantrari was the originator of all medicine. The demons immediately snatched the pot of amrita and ran away with it. The gods became despondent, but Vishnu created illusions so that the asuras fell to fighting amongst themselves over the amrita. Meanwhile, Vishnu adopted the form of a beautiful woman and the asuras also began to fight over who should marry this woman. They asked the woman to divide the amrita for them.
Of course, Vishnu did no such thing. He gave the amrita to the devas, but not to the asuras. The demons were cheated. The only demon who managed to get a little amrita was Rahu. He was however caught while he was in the act of swallowing the amrita. Vishnu cut of Rahu’s head with his chakra. The amrita never entered Rahus’ body. But since Rahu’s head had tasted the amrita, it had become immortal. Brahama therefore converted the head into a planet.
The demons had by now realized the fraud. They attacked the gods with all sorts of weapons. But the gods had drunk the amrita and become strengthened. After a prolonged battle, they defeated the demons.
Shukracharya was the teacher for the asuras. Shukracharya performed a yajna named vishvajita for Vali and the asura king became invincible. He attacked Indra and the other gods and drove them out of heaven. He became the ruler of the three worlds and performed a hundred ashvamedha sacrifices in celebration.
Aditi was unhappy to see her children suffer thus. She performed tapasya so that Vishnu might be born as her son and defeat Vali. The tapasya was successful and Vishnu was born as the son of Kashyapa and Aditi. The son was a dwarf (vamana) and this was therefore known as the dwarf incarnation of Vishnu.
Vali was performing an ashvamedha sacrifice. The sacrifice was being held on the banks of the Narmada river and Vali had announced that, on the occasion, he would not refuse a boon to anyone. The dwarf went to the sacrifice.
What is your desire?, Vali asked of the dwarf.
Nothing very much, replied the dwarf. Only as much of land as can be covered by three of my steps.
Agreed, said Vali.
Shukracharya had seen through Vishnu’s game and he tried to restrain Vali. But Vali would not listen to his teacher. He would not go back on his word.
The dwarf started to grow in size. It became gigantic. With one step it covered the earth, with the second it covered heaven, and with the third and final step it covered all the other lokas. Vali had nowhere left to go but to the underworld.
The Fish Avatara
Many years ago there was a flood when the world was immersed in water. Brahma had been sleeping then, and seizing the opportuntiy, a demon named Hayagriva stole the sacred Vedas. That was the time when Vishnu adopted the fish (matsya) incarnation.
There used to be a king named Satyavrata. He was performing tapasya in the waters of the river Kritamala. Suddenly he noticed a very small fish swimming in the water in the palm of his hands. Satyavrata was about to throw the fish into the water, but the fish spoke out.
Don’t throw me back into the river, it said. I am scared of being eaten up by the animals that live in the water.
Satyavrata placed the fish in a pot and brought it home to his hermitage. Within a night the fish grew so big that it could no longer be kept inside the pot. Satyavrata placed the fish inside a vat, but in matter of seconds, the fish became too big for the vat. Satyavrata put it inside a pond, but the fish became too big for the pond as well. Satyavrata took the fish to a lake, but even the lake proved to be too small.
Finally Satyavrata took it to the ocean and prepared to release it there.
Don’t release me in the ocean, said the fish. I am scared of the animals that live in the ocean.
By now, Satyavrata had realized that this was no ordinary fish. Who are you?, he asked. Why are you deluding me? You must be the Lord Vishnu.
The fish told him that it was indeed Lord Vishnu. It also told him that seven days later, there would be a flood that would swallow up the three lokas of bhuloka, bhuvarloka, and svarloka. A huge boat would then arrive before Satyavrata. And the king should climb onto the boat with all beings, the seven great sages (saptarshis) and foodgrains. The fish would also arrive and Satyavrat should tie the boat to the fish’s horn with the great snake Vasuki as a rope. In that manner, Satyavrata would be saved from the havoc of the flood.
Having said all this, the fish disappeared. But everything happened just as the fish had said it would. While they floated on the water, the fish recited the Matsya Purana to Satyavrata. King Satyavrata later became Vaivasvata Manu.
In this form of a fish, Vishnu also killed the demon Hayagriva and retrieved the Vedas.
The Sons of Vaivasvata Manu
Vaivasvata Manu had no sons. His wife was named Shraddha. Because they had no son, husband and wife decided to perform a sacrifice. Shraddha wanted a daughter and she instructed the priest accordingly. A daughter named Ila was born from the sacrifice. But Manu was unhappy because he had wanted a son.
Manu’s guru was the sage Vashishtha and Vashishtha was exceedingly powerful. When Manu complained to his teacher, Vashishtha used his powers to transform Ila into a son named Sudyumna. In fact, Sudyumna or Ila alternated between being a man and a woman for stretches of one month at a time. When Ila was a woman, the sage Budha married her and they had a son named Pururava. And when Sudyumna was a man, he had three sons named Utkala, Gaya and Vimala.
Manu was not satisfied. He wished that he might have a proper son and he prayed for a hundred years that this might happen. Ten sons were born to him and their names wre Ikshvaku, Nriga, Sharyati, Dishta, Dhrishta, Karusha, Narishyanta, Prishadhra, Nabhaga and Kavi.
Prishadhra’s guru asked him to look after the cows. Prishadhra stayed awake at night to do this. One night it was raining. A tiger came and entered the cowshed. The cow ran thither and thither in fright and the tiger caught a cow. Prishadhra came running to see what was happening. In the darkness Parishadhra mistook a cow for the tiger and killed it. His teacher was furious at this mistake and cursed Prishadhra that, henceforth, he would live like a shudra. Prishadhra did not have any children.
The youngest son Kavi did not marry either. He went off to the forest to perform meditation. But all the others had several children.
Sukanaya and Chyavana
Sharyati’s daughter was Sukanaya. She was very pretty and her eyes were like the petals of lotus flowers.
Once Sharyati and Sukanya went to the forest to visit the hermitage of the sage Chyavana. The princess and her friends went around picking flowers. Sukanaya suddenly came across a termite hill. There were two holes in the hill which shone with a peculiar light. She inserted a thorn into the two holes and was amazed to see blood ooze out. She had not realized that it was the sage Chyavana who was inside the hill and whom she had succeeded in blinding.
To appease the sage, Sharyati married Sukanaya to him.
After some time the two Ashvinis came to visit the hermitage. They were twins and were also the physicians of the goods. Chyavana promised them a share in the coveted juice of the soma herb and persuaded them to treat him so that he might become handsome. The ashvinis asked Chyavana to bathe in a lake and the sage became exceedingly handsome.
King Ambarisha was descended from Nabhaga. He rules over the entire world and possessed all the riches that one might desire. But Ambarisha was not really interested in all this. His mind was devoted to Vishnu. He and his wife decided to perform a special religous rite. At the end of the ceremony, they were to fast for three nights. And if the ceremony was to be properly conducted, they should eat as soon as the three nights were over.
While all this was going on, the sage Durvasa arrived. Ambarisha worshipped him and asked him to partake of some food. Durvasa agreed, but wanted to have a bath first. Time passed and the sage did not return. Ambarisha was in a dilemma. He could not eat before his guest. And he had to eat since the three nights were over. If the auspicious moment passed, the entire ceremony would be wasted. Not knowning what to do, Ambarisha drank soem water as a compromise.
Durvasa returned and immediately realized that Ambarisha had drunk some water. The sage was hot-tempered and his anger was easily aroused. He tore off a hair and flung it down on the ground. This created a demon which advanced with a sword to kill Ambarisha. Bu Ambarisha was devoted to Vishnu. So Vishnu’s sudarshana chakra arrived and estroyed the demon. The chakra then started to pursue Durvasa. Wherever Durvasa fled, the chakra followed. Finally Durvasa went to vishnuloka and fell at Vishnu’s feet. But Vishnu told him to go to Ambarisha instead.
Still pursued by the chakra, Durvasa went to Ambarisha and begged for mercy. Ambarisha pacified the chakra.
Ikshvaku had a hundred sons, the chief among them being Vikukshi, Nimi and Dandaka.
Once Ikshvaku was performing a funeral ceremony. He called Vikukshi to him and said, Go and get some meat from the forest.
Vikukshi went to the forest and killed many animals. But he was exhausted as a result of all this exertion and ate the meat of a rabbit. The rest of the meat he brought home to his father. And Ikshvaku gave the meat to the sage Vashishtha so that the funderal ceremony might be performed But Vashishtha said that the meat was tainted and could not be used for the ceremony. It had already been eaten. When Ikshvaku found out from his son what had happened, he banished Vikukshi from the kingdom.
After Ikshvaku died, Vikukshi returned and became king. His son Puranjaya was also known as Indravaha or Kakutstha. The reason for this was as follows.
Once there was fight between the gods and the demons and the gods craved Puranjaya’s help. Puranjaya agreed on condition that he could ride into battle perched on Indra’s shoulders. Puranjaya fought so bravely that the demons were defeated.
Sagara and the Descent of Ganga
Amongst Ikshvaku’s descendants was King Sagara. Sagara had once performed an ashvamedha yajna. But Indra came and stole the sacrificial horse.
Sagara had two wives, Sumati and Keshini. Sumati had sixty thousand sons and Keshini one. When the horse could not be found, Sagara sent Sumati’s sixty thousand sons to look for it. The sons looked for the horse everywhere and finally found it in the hermitage of the sage Kapila. The mischievous Indra had hidden it there. But Sagara’s sons did not know that Indra was responsible. They concluded that Kapila was the thief and attacked him. But such was the power of Kapila’s rage that all sixty thousand sons were burnt into ashes.
Keshini’s son was Asamanjasa and Asamanjasa’s son was Amshumana. When the sixty thousand sons did not return, Sagara sent Amshumana to look for his uncles and the lost horse. Amshumana discovered the horse in the sage Kapila’s ashrama. But being different from his uncles, he began to pray to the sage.
Kapila said, Amshumana, take the horse. Your uncles are here, burnt into ashes. Thee is no way to rescue them except through the waters of the river Ganga.
Amshumana returned with the horse and the sacrifice was completed. Amshumana performed a lot of tapasya so that the river Ganga might be brought down to earth. But he was unsuccessful. Nor did his son Dilipa succeed.
Dilipa’s son was Bhagiratha and Bhagiratha performed such difficult tapasya that the river Ganga agreed to grant him a boon. Bhagiratha told her what he desired.
But, asked Ganga, When I descend to earth, who will break my fall? If no one does, I will go straight through the earth and land up in the underworld.
Bhagiratha prayed to Shiva and persuaded him to break Ganga’s fall. Shiva held her on his head before releasing her to the earth. Bhagiratha led Ganga to where his ancestors’ ashes were. And at the touch of the sacred water, they were purifed and taken up to heaven.
Rama of Ramayana fame was also descended from Ikshvaku’s line.
Brihaspati was the guru of the devas and his wife was Tara. Soma was the sage Atri’s son.
Soma abducted Tara and although Brihaspati asked him to return his wife, Soma refused. A war then started between the gods and the demons. The gods fought on Brihaspati’s side and the demons on Soma’s. Soma finally returned Tara. But Soma and Tara had by then got a son. This son was named Budha and he was very wise. You already know that Pururava was Budha and Ila’s son.
Once Pururava met the beautiful apsara Urvashi. They married and lived together happily for many years. Their sons were Ayu, Shrutany, Satyayu, Aya, Vijaya and Jaya.
Gadhi was descended from Vijaya, Gadhi had a daughter named Satyavati. A brahmana named Richika wished to marry Satyavati. But Gadhi did not think that Richika was the right sort of husband for Satyavati. So he said, I need a bride price. Bring me a thousand horses. Each horse should be as white as the moon and have one black ear.
This seemed to be an impossible task, but Richika managed to get such horses from Varuna. He thus married Satyavati.
Both Satyavati and Satyavati’s mother (Richika’s mother-in-law) wished to have sons and Richika arranged a sacrifice. He obtained two bowls of rice pudding from the sacrifice and gave one to his wife and the other to his mother-in-law to eat. They would then bear sons. Since he himself was a brahmana, Richika had ensured that Satyavati’s rice pudding was such that their son would be brahmana-like. And since his father-in-law was a kshatriya, he had ensured that this mother-in-law’s rice pudding was such that her son would be kshatriya-like.
But Satyavati’s mother thought that her son-in-law might have given the better rice pudding to her daughter. So she persuaded Satyavati to exchange bowls.
When Richika found out what had happened, he told Satyavati, You shouldn’t have done that. Now your son will behave like a kshatriya.
I don’t want a son like a kshatriya, replied Satyavati. Can’t you do something so that my grandson is like that? Let my son be like a brahmana.
Richika agreed. Richika and Satyavati’s son was Jamadagni and Jamadagni married Renuka. Jamadagni and Renuka had several sons, the youngest of whom was Parashurama.
Arjuna was the king of the Haihaya kingdom. He was so blessed by the sage Dattatreya so that he had a thousand arms and was formidable in battle.
Arjuna had gone on a hunt and arrived at Jamadagni’s hermitage. The sage Jamadagni had a kamadhenu, that is, a cow that gave whatever one wanted. The cow produced whatever was needed for feeding Arjuna and his many followers. Arjuna took a liking to the cow and tried to forcibly take it away. Jamadagni did not protest.
Parashurama was away at that time. He returned and learnt of Arjuna’s deed. He took up his weapons and went to the king’s capital. There he killed all of Arjuna’s soldiers. Arjuna himself came out to fight. Since he possessed a thousand arms, he wielded five hundred bows at a time. But Parashurama destroyed all these bows. He then killed Arjuna and Arjuna’s ten thousand sons fled from the field of battle.
Parashurama returned with the cow. However, Jamadagni was not happy. Son, you have committed a crime, he said. You should not have killed a king, that is a sin. You need to perform penanace. Go away for a year and visit all the places of pilgrimage.
Parashurama did as his father bid him.
Jamadagni’s wife Renuka had misbehaved with him once. Thereupon, Jamadagni had requested his sons to kill their mother. The only son who had agreed to do so was Parashurama. He had killed his mother and also his brothers for having disobeyed their father. Jamadagni had been so pleased at his son’s obedience that he had wanted to grant Parashurama a boon. Parashurma had wanted the boon that his dead mother and brothers might come to life again and this had been granted.
While Parashurama was away, the ten thousand sons of Arjuna came and attacked the hermitage. They killed Jamadagni. So angry was Parashurama at this dastardly act of the kshatriyas that he killed all the kshatriyas in the world with his axe (parashu). Twenty-one time he rid the world of all the kshatriyas. Near the battlefield of Kurukshetra there are nine lakes. These lakes had been formed with the blood of all the dead kshatriyas.
Parashurama has now given up violence and lives on Mount Mahendra. He is believed to be immortal.
Pururava also had a son named Ayu. From Ayu was descended Yayati. Yayati had two wives, Devayani and Sharmishtha. Devayani was Shukracharya’s daughter; you probably remember that Shukracharya was the teacher of the asuras. The king of the asuras was Vrishaparva and Sharmishtha was Vrishaparva’s daughter.
Sharmishtha and Devayani used to be friends. They had gone to a lake to bathe and had taken off their clothes. When they were hurriedly putting on the clothes after bathing. Sharmishtha put on Devayani’s clothes by mistake. Devayani did not like this at all.
How dare Sharmishtha do this? she asked. My father is her father’s teacher. How dare an inferior wear a superior’s clothes?
Who is inferior and who is superior?, replied Sharmishtha. My father is the king. You people get to eat because of my father’s generosity.
Saying this, Sharmishtha threw Devayani into a well that was nearby and returned home. King Yayati happened to be passing. When he came to drink water at the well, he discovered Devayani. Yayati took out Devayani from the well and she fell in love with her benefactor. Yayati agreed to marry her.
Devayani returned home and told her father how she had been treated by Sharmishtha. Shukracharya was greatly saddened to hear this and decided to leave the asuras. But Vrishaparva fell at his guru’s feet and begged for mercy. Shukracharya agreed to stay on the condition that Sharmishtha became Devayani’s maid.
Yayati married both Devayani and Sharmishtha. Devayani’s sons were Yadu and Turvasu, and Sharmishtha’s sons were Druhyu, Anu and Puru.
After several years had passed, Yayati became old. But his taste for worldly pleasures had still not passed. So he called his sons to him and asked them to take his old age from him. He wanted their youth instead. All the sons except Puru took on his father’s old age. After a thousand years had passed. Yayati got tired of worldly pleasures. He returned the youth to Puru and took back his old age.
Parikshit was descended from Puru. And the Yadavas were descended from Yadu.
Dushmanta and Shakuntala
One of Parikshit’s ancestors was King Dushmanta. Dushmanta had once gone on a hunt. Wandering around in the forest, he came to the hermitage of the sage Kanva. There he met a beautiful woman and fell in love with her.
Beautiful lady, he asked, Who are you? I am smitten with love for you.
I am Shakuntala, the woman replied. I am the daughter of Vishvamitra and the apsara Menaka. The sage Kanva has brought me up.
Dushmanta married Shakuntala. He promised to come back for her and left for the capital. But once he was in the capital, he completely forgot about Shakuntala. Meanwhile, Shakuntala gave birth to a boy and his name was Bharata.
But eventually Dushmanta accepted Shakuntala and Bharata as his wife and son. Bharata ruled after Dushmanta and became a powerful king. He performed fifty-five ashvamedha yajnas. He rules for twenty-seven thousand years.
The Building of Dvaraka
Kamsa was so much of an oppressor that Krishna was forced to kill him. Kamsa had two wives named Asti and Prapti and they were the daughters of Jarasandha, the king of Magadha. Jarasandha was very angry to learn that his son-in-law had been killed and he resolved to kill all the Yadavas. He raised an army that was twenty-one battalions (akshouhimi) strong and laid siege to the city of Mathura. Mathura was surrounded from all sides by Jarasandha’s army.
The Yadavas came out to fight and, led by Balarama and Krishna, defeated Jarasandha. But Jarasandha came back again with an army. Again he was defeated. This went on. Seventeen times Jarasandha lost and seventeen times he retired to Magadha. He then began to raise an army for the eighteenth time.
Meanwhile, the Yadavas were faced with another enemy. This was in the form of a king named Kalayavana who was about to attack Mathura.
Krishna realized that the Yadavas needed a stronger and more fortified captial if they were to face up to enemies from two directions. A beautiful city was accordingly built on the shores of the ocean. It had wide roads and magnificent houses. More importantly, it was much better protected than the city of Mathura. This new city was Dvaraka or Dvaravati.
Krishna now decided to do something about Kalayavana. He came alone to where Kalayavana was. And seeing Krishna , Kalayavana wanted to attack him. But Krishna began to run and Kalayavana followed him. Krishna began to run and Kalayavana followed him. Krishna had a plan. He led Kalayavana to a cave in the mountainside.
It was dark inside the cave and Kalayavana could not see very well. In the dim light he saw a man sleeping inside the cave. Kalyavana thought that it had to be Krishna and kicked the body. But the sleeper was not Krishna. It was a person named Muchukunda. He had been sleeping for many years and had been woken up by Kalayavana. He realized that his person had woken him up from his sleep and he looked angrily at Kalayavana. Kalayavana was burnt to ashes from the blaze of this anger. How did this come about?
Muchukunda was a king of the Ikshvaku dynasty. The gods were busy fighting with the demons and needed some aid. Muchukunda fought on the side of the gods for many years. But eventually the gods obtained a general in the form of the god kartikeya and no longer needed Muchukunda.
So they told Muchukunda, King, you have fought with the demons for many years and have successfully protected us. You have given up all wordly pleasures. But we no longer need your services. What do you propose to do? So many years have passed that all your friends, relatives and subjects on earth are now dead. Ask for whatever boon you desire.
Muchukunda replied, I am tired after fighting for so many years. I feel like having a long sleep. Please grant me the boon that whoever wakes me up will burn to ashes by my wrath.
Rukmini and Rukmi
There was a king named Bhishmaka who rules over the kingdom of Vidarbha. The king had five sons and a daughter. The eldest son was Rukmi and the daugter was Rukmini.
Rukmini had heard of Krishna’s prowess and other qualitites, and wished to marry him. Her father was not averse to such an alliance. But Rukmi hated Krishna and refused to accept such a marriage. He wished to get his sister married off to Shishupala, the king of the kingdom of Chedi.
Rukmini sent a brahmana as emissary to Krishna. Through the brahmana Rukmini said, My marriage has been fixed for the day after tomorrow and I am to be married to Shishupala. I want to marry you instead. Please come and abduct me. Tomorrow I shall go to visit the temple of the goddess Parvati. This is outside the city. Please come and abduct me then.
Krishna came to Kundina, the capital of the kingdom of Vidarbha. Shishupala also came there with a large number of companions and many gifts for Bhishmaka. Bhishmaka made separate lodging arrangements for Shishupala and Krishna. Balarama and several other Yadavas had also followed Krishna to Kundina.
When Rukmini went to visit the temple, Krishna abducted her. The many other kings who had asembled could not look on in wonder. When they recovered from the shock, they attacked Krishna. But the Yadavas easily repelled these eneemies.
Witnessing the defeat of his allies, Rukmi entered the fray with his own army. I will not return to Kundina without killing Krishna and rescuing Rukmini, he resolved.
But Krishna destroyed all Rukmi’s arrows and other weapons. He was about to kill Rukmi with a sword. Rukmini intervened. He is my brother, she said, Please spare him.
Krishna agreed. But Rukmi had resolved that he would not return to Kundina without killing Krishna and rescuing Rukmini. What was going to happen to that oath? Instead of returning to Kundina. Rukmi began to live in a city named Bhojakata.
Krishna brought Rukmini back to Dvaraka and married her there. Their son was Pradyumna. When Pradyumna was only ten days old, an asura named Shambara kidnapped the baby and threw it into the ocean. There, the baby was swallowed by a big fish. The fish was caught by a fisherman and he brought the fish as a gift to Shambara. Shambara sent the fish to his kitchen and when his cooks cut open the fish’s stomach, they discovered the baby inside. In Shambara’s household there lived a woman named Mayavati. Shambara handed over the baby to Mayavati to rear.
When Pradyumna grew up, Mayavati told him the story of his being kidnapped. Pradyumna challenged Shambara to a duel and killed the asura. He then married Mayavati and returned to Dvaraka.
The Symantaka Jewel
There was a Yadava named Satrajit. He was devoted to the sun god, Surya. Surya was pleased with Satrajit and gave him a wonderful jewel named symantaka. The jewel shone like the sun itself. Satrajit used to wear the jewel around his neck. And such were the wonderful properities of the jewel that all disease and famine vanished from the Yadava kingdom.
It was Krishna’s opinion that the jewel should rightfully be in the possession of Ugrasena, the king of the Yadavas. But Satrajit refused to part withthe jewel.
Satrajit’s brother was Prasenjit and Prasenjit borrowed the jewel from his brother. He then went tothe forest on a hunt and was killed by a lion. The lion was in turn killed by the bear Jambavana. Jambavana brought the jewel home to his cave and gave it to his son to play with. Meanwhile Prasenjit’s dead body was discovered and Satrajit concluded that it was Krishna who had killed his brother and stolen the jewel. This rumour quickly spread amongst the Yadavas.
To vindicate his reputation, Krishna went to the forest to try and find out what had happened. He followed the trail to Jambavan’s cave and a terrible fight waged for eighteen days and nights between Jambavana and Krishna. Jambavana finally accepted defeat. He not only returned Symantaka to Krishna, but also married his daughter Jambavati to him. When Krishna returned the jewel to Satrajit, Satrajit was ashamed that he had suspected Krishna in the first place. As atonement, he gave his daughter Satyabhama in marriage to Krishna.
There were three other Yadavas who had wanted to marry Satyabhama. Their names were Akrura, Kritavarma and Shatadhanva. They were not at all happy that Satyabhama had been married off to Krishna. Akrura and Kritavarma advised Shatadhanva to kill Satrajit. Shatadhanva did this and stole the symantaka jewel. But knowing that Balarama and Krishna would exact revenge for this deed, he fled from Dvaraka. He however left the jewel with Akrura.
Balarma and Krishna pursued Shatadhanva and Krishna killed the murderer. But they could find no trace of the jewel. Akrura of course kept his possession of the jewel a complete secret.
But Akrura and Kritavarma were not at all sure that their complicity in the crime would not be detected. They therefore left Dvarka. And immediately disease and drought became rampant in the city. From this, Krishna deduced that the jewel must have been in Akrura’s possession. He brought Akrura back to Dvaraka and persuaded him to confess that the jewel was indeed in his possession.
A demon named Narakasura ruled in the city of Pragjyotishapura. He was the son of the earth (prithivi). The demon wa so strong that he drove Indra out of heaven and stole Indra’s umbrella and earrings. Indra went and complained to Krishna.
The city of Pragjyotishapura was very difficult to enter. It was surrounded by mountains on all sides and there were forts on the mountains. A demon named Mura guarded the city. But Krishna destroyed the mountains and the forts with his mace. He then killed Mura with his sudarshana chakra. Mura’s seven sons were also killed by Krishna.
Narakasura now ascended an elephant and came to fight with Krishna. But he met the same fate as Mura. Krishna retrieved and returned Indra’s umbrella and earrings.
Narakasura had imprisoned sixteen thousand princesses. Krishna freed them, had them brought back to Dvaraka, and married them all.
Rukmi, as you probably remember, had begun to live in the city of Bhojakata.
Rukmi’s daughter was Rukmavati and she was married to Krishna’s son Pradyumna. Pradyumna and Rukmavati had a son named Aniruddha. Aniruddha got married to Rukmi’s grand-daughter Rochana.
On the occasion of Aniruddha and Rochana’s marriage, Balarama, Krishna and the other Yadavas came to Bhojakata. Balarama was very fond of playing dice and so was Rukmi. They began to have a game. Balarama first placed a hundred golden coins as a bet and lost. He then staked a thousand golden coins and lost again. Not content, Balarama now placed ten thousand golden coins as a bet. Rukmi won yet again. Finally, Balarama staked a lakh of golden coins. This time Balarama won. But the evil Rukmi denied that Balarama had won and insisted that it was he who had won. This so angered Balarama that he killed Rukmi with a club.
Vali used to be the king of the asuras. Vali had a hundred sons. The eldest was named Vana. Vana was devoted to Shiva and he ruled in the city of Shonitapura. Vana had pleased Shiva so much that Shiva had agreed to be the guardian of Shonitapura.
Vana had a daughter named Usha. Usha dreamt of Aniruddha and fell in love with him. But she did not know who Aniruddha was, she did not know his name. However, Usha had a friend named Chitralekha who was very good at drawing portraits. Chitralekha drew the portraits of gods, gandharvas, asuras, yakshas and men and Usha identified Aniruddha as the person she had fallen in love with. But how were Aniruddha and Usha to meet?
It was again Chitralekha who found the solution. She brought Aniruddha from Dvaraka and he and Usha were secretly married. But Vana’s guards discovered what was happening and went and reported this to the asura king.
Vana came to Usha’s palace and discovered Aniruddha there. Although Aniruddha fought as best as he could, he was defeated and imprisoned by Vana. News of Aniruddha’s imprisonment reached Dvaraka and the Yadavas attacked Shonitapura.
Vana came out to fight. And because of his pledge to be a guardian of the city, Shiva also fought on Vana’s side. Kartikeya had also come to fight on the side of his father, Shiva. A miraculous battle ensured. Kartikeya was defeated by Pradyumna and Shiva by Krishna. Vana was also defeated by Krishna. But thanks to Shiva’s pleading on behalf of the asura, Krishna spared Vana’s life.
The Yadavas returned to Dvaraka with Aniruddha and Usha.
Poundraka and the King of Kashi
A king named Poundraka used to rule in the kingdom of Karusha. This king was so insolent that he sent a messenger and challenged Krishna to a fight. But having challenged Krishna, he went and began to live with his friend, the king of Kashi.
This, Krishna was not going to ignore. He came to Kashi to accept the challenge. Poundraka had with him an army that was two battalions (akshouhini) strong. But Krishna decimated this army and killed Poundraka with his chakra. The king of Kashi began to fight in order to avenge his friend. But Krishna used the chakra to kill him as well. In the process , the king’s head was carried into the city by a strong wind. Having disposed of the challenge, Krishna returned to Dvaraka.
The prince of Kashi was Sudakshina. Sudakshina saw his father’s severed head and thirsted for revenge. He performed a yajna and started to pray to Shiva. Shiva was satisfied with the prayers. What boon do you desire?, he asked Sudakshina.
Please grant me the boon that I may kill my father’s murder, replied the prince.
Shiva assented. The fire of this yajna will go together with my companions, the ghosts, and do the needful, said Shiva. But take care that the fire is not directed at a brahmana. If it is, the consequences will be dreadful.
The fire adopted the form of a demon with a trident in its hand. It then headed towards Dvaraka. But Krishna’s sudarshana chakra repelled the fire. It drove the fire back to Kashi, where the fire consumed Sudkshina and all his priests.
Samba was the son of Krishna and Jambavati
Lakshmana was Duryodhana’s daughter.
Lakshmana’s svayamvara (ceremony at which a bride chooses her husband) had been arranged, but Samba came to the assembly and abducted Lakshmana. At this the Kauravas were angered. They attacked Samba and imprisoned him.
The Yadavas prepared to fight with the Kauravas. But since the Yadavas and the Kauravas had close ties, Balarama thought that he would try peaceful means first. He came to Hastinapura and requested that Samba be released. The Kauravas were in no mood to listen. They regarded the Yadavas as belonging to an inferior race and they were certainly not going to listen to Balarama.
Balarama felt insulted. He always carried a plough with him. He grasped the city of Hastinapura with his plough and prepared to hurl it into the river Ganga. The city whirled round and round and the Kauravas relaized their mistake. They fell at Balarama’s feet and begged for mercy. Samba was released and Duryodhana gave twelve hundred elephants, one lakh twelve hundred horses, sixty thousand chariots and one thousand maids as gifts.
Balarama, Samba and Lakshmana returned to Dvaraka.
Krishna went on a visit to Indraprastha, Yudhishthira’s captial, and the Pandavas were delighted to see him.
Yudhishthira told Krishna, I am thinking of performing a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice). What is your opinion?
I think that’s a very good idea, replied Krishna. Defeat all the kings on earth. But remember that you will not be able to complete your sacrifice until Jarasandha is killed.
The Pandava brothers started out on their conquest. Sahadeva headed south, Nakula west, Arjuna north and Bhima east. After all the other kings were defeated, Bhima, Arjun and Krishna disguised themselves as brahmanas and went to Jarasandha’s kingdom. They met Jarasandha and said, We have come a long distance. Grant us our desire.
Jarasandha recognized them to be kshatriyas disguised as brahmanas. Nevertheless he replied, You have come to me as brahmanas. I will grant you what you want. What is your desire?
A duel, said Bhima, Arjuna and Krishna. Choose any one of us and fight with him.
All right, replied Jarasandha. But I will not fight with Krishna. He is a coward. Threatened with my invasion, he fled from Mathura to Dvaraka. Nor will I fight with Arjuna. He is younger than me and not quite strong enough. I shall fight with Bhima.
The duel was arranged and Bhima and Jarasandha began to fight with maces. The maces clashed against each other and broke into many pieces. The warriors then started to wrestle. The noise was like that of two mad elephants fighting . For twenty-seven days they fought. They fought during the day and behaved as friends during the night.
Bhima could not kill Jarasandha. But Krishna knew Jarasandha’s history. King Vrihadratha’s wife had given birth to two lumps of meat and thrown them away in disgust. These were discovered by a rakshasa (demon) woman named Jara. She joined the lumps together and produced a baby. Since sandhi means uniting or putting together, the baby came to be known as Jarasandha, or one who has been put together by Jara.
On the twenty-eighth day of the duel, Krishna advised Bhima to grasp Jarasandha’s legs in his two hands and then tear him apart. And is precisley how Bhima killed Jarasandha.
Jarasandha’s son Sahadeva was crowned the king of Magadha. Jarasandha had imprisoned twenty thousand and eight hundred kings. These kings were released.
Many kings and sages assembled on the occasion of Yudhishthira’s royal sacrifice. But ignoring everyone else, the first offering of the sacrifice was given to Krishna.
This angered Shishupala. What utter nonsense, he said. Why should Krishna be given the first offering? This is like giving a cake to a crow. Everyone knows that the Yadavas are an inferior race. There are individuals assembled here who are more deserving than Krishna.
The Pandavas took up their weapons to fight with Shishupala and Shishupala too took up his weapons. But Krishna restrained the Pandavas and cut off Shishupala’s head with his sudarshana chakra.
Shalva was Shishupala’s friend. He resolved to kill the Yadavas and started to perform tapasya. He prayed to Shiva and each day, he ate only a fistful of dust. For an entire year Shalva prayed to Shiva. Finally Shiva was pleased and appeared before Shalva.
What boon do you want?, he asked Shalva.
Please give me a vimana (space vehicle) that I can fight the Yadava’s with. Answered Shalva.
Shiva instructed the danava (demon) Maya to construct such a viman for Shalva. The vimana was named Soubha and it was made completely of iron. Armed with this vimana, Shalva attacked Dvaraka and showered down weapons from the sky on the city. Dvaraka’s ramparts and gardens were destroyed.
Pradyumna and Shalva fought a wonderful duel with all sorts of divine weapons. Krishna was away at that time. When he returned, he found the battle raging. The fight was now on between Krishna and Shalva. Arrows clashed against arrows, maces against maces. At long last, Krishna smashed the vimana with his mace. He then killed Shalva with his chakra.
At the time of these Kurukshetra War, Balarama did not want to take sides . He preferred to remain neutral. He therefore went on a pilgrimage and came to a place named Prabhasa. He then arrived at the river Sarasvati. After doing a circuit of several places of pilgrimage along the river, he reached the forest known as naimisharanya.
The sages had arranged for a sacrificein the forest and the sacrifice was to go on for twelve years. All the sages got up to honour Balarama. The only one who remained seated was Romaharshana, Vyasadeva’s disciple. Balarama lost his temper at this. He killed Romaharshana.
The sages exclaimed, Balarama, you have done a terrible thing. He did not get up because that was part of the sacrificed ceremony. You must perform penance.
Balarama agreed. The sages first asked him to kill a demon named Valvala who was in the habit of disturbing their sacrifice. They then asked Balarama to go on a pilgrimage for the period of one year. Next day Valvala arrived as was his wont. And Balarama killed the demon with a club. He then traversed the length and breath of the country on his pilgrimage.
There used to be a brahmana named Shridama. When young, he and Krishna had studied under the same guru and the two had been friends . Now Krishna was in Dvaraka and Shridama was exceedingly poor. He and his wife had no clothes to wear, nor food to eat.
One day Shridama’s wife said, Krishna is your friend. He is very rich. Why don’t you go to him and ask him for some help? I am sure that he will not refuse you.
Why not?, thought Shridama. At least, I shall get a chance to meet Krishna after ages. But what will I take as a present for him?’
The brahmana and his wife were so poor that they had no money to buy gifts. All they could manage were two handful of fried rice. This gift the brahmana wrapped up in a piece of cloth and left Dvaraka.
Shridama met Krishna in Dvaraka and Krishna embraced him warmly. They got to talking about old times.
Krishna asked, Shridama, what have you brought me as a present?
The brahmana was so ashamed of the two handfuls of fried rice that he kept quiet. But Krishna hunted out the piece of cloth and ate the fried rice to his heart’s content.
Shridama spent the night in Krishna’s house and felt as if he had gone to heaven. He was given wonderful food to eat and wonderful clothes to wear. But he could not bring himself to ask anything of Krishna. Next morning, he left for his own dwelling.
Krishna, however had got to know what Shridama had wanted without Shridama’s asking for it. When the brahmana arrived home, he discovered a beautiful temple and large gardens and ponds there. There were maids and servants. What is all this?, wondered Shridama, rubbing his eyes in disbelief. His wife emerged, wearing handsome clothes.
The brahmana and his wife realized that all this was due to Krishna’s grace. They lived happily ever after.
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva had powers of granting boons and levying curses. Brahma and Shiva were in the habit of granting boons and levying curses, but Vishnu was never so indiscriminate. Once Shiva landed himself in a pretty mess.
There was an asura named Vrika. He met the sage Narada and wanted to know who, out of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, was pleased most easily.
Shiva, replied the sage.
Vrika went to a place of pilgrimage named Kedara and started his tapasya. First he tried to burn parts of his body. He continued to do this for seven days, but Shiva did not appear. He then decided to slice his head into two with an axe. Immediately Shiva appered and restrained the asura.
What do you want?, asked Shiva.
Please grant me the boon that if I put my hand on anyone’s head, the person will immediately die. Answered the asura.
Shiva granted the boon. But Vrika wanted to try out the boon on Shiva himself. Once Shiva was dead, he thought that he could marry Parvati. Shiva started to run in fear and the demon followed. No one knew what to do until Vishnu came to the rescue.
Vishnu disgused himself and appeared before Vrika. What is the matter?, he asked.
The asura told him the story.
Shiva, exclaimed Vishnu. Who believes in Shiva and his boons? They are all lies, they never come true. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you put your ahnd on your own head and see? Nothing will happen.
The stupid asura did as Vishnu had him to do and, of course, died. Shiva was profundly relieved.
The sages once wanted to find out who was supreme in the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They sent Brhrigu to conduct an experiment.
Bhrigu was also Brahma’s son. He first went to visit Brahma, but did not bow down before him. Brahma’s anger was aroused, but since Bhrigu happened to be his son, he controlled his temper.
Bhrigu next went to Kailasa to visit Shiva. Shiva got up to embrace him but Bhrigu started to shout at Shiva. This so angered Shiva that he took up his trident to kill Bhrigu. Parvati, however, managed to calm Shiva down.
Bhrigu now went to Vaikuntha and discovered that Vishnu was sleeping. He kicked the sleeping Vishnu on his chest. Vishnu woke up and said, Brahmana, I am gratified that you have come to visit me. Are you well? Stay here for a while and be my guest. Your kick has freed me from all my sins. From now on I shall bear the mark of your feet on my chest.
When Brhrigu reported the result of his experiment, the sages concluded that Vishnu was the supreme god of the Trinity.
The Curse on the Yadavas
There was a place of pilgrimage known as Pindaraka. One day, several Yadava youths were playing there when a group of sages arrived. The youths dressed up Samba as a woman and brought him to the sages. Sages, they said, You know everything. Please tell us whether this woman will indeed give birth to a son.
The sages saw through the game and were very annoyed. Stupid young men, they replied, Samba will give birth to a club and that club will lead to the destruction fo all the Yadavas.
When the sages went away, the Yadavas discovered a club (mushala) inside Samba’s clothing. Fearing the consequences of what they had done, they took the club home to Dvaraka and related the incident to king Ugrasena. The king ordered that the iron club should be pulverised into dust and the dust scattered in the waters of the ocean. A small piece of the club did not get pulverised.
This was swallowed by a fish and the fish was later caught by a fishermen. Through him, the small piece of iron went into the possession of a hunter named Jara who used it to fashion a head for his arrow.
The remaining iron dust was brought to the beach by the waves of the ocean. There, the dust developed into reeds.
Meanwhile, all sorts of ill omens were witnessed. There were earthquakes and the sun looked blurred. Krishna called the Yadavas to him and said, I do not like all these omens. Perhaps it is no longer safe to live in Dvaraka. Send the old men, women and children to the tirtha (place of pilgrimage) Shankhoddhara. And let all of us go to the tirtha Prabhasa. We will purify ourselves there and worship the gods.
The Yadavas crossed the ocean in boats and arrived at Prabhasa. They arranged for the require sacrifices. But destiny cannot be avoided. They got to drinking a lot of wine and lost all control of their senses. They began to fight amongst themselves and kill each other with weapons. When the weapons were exhausted, the Yadavas plucked the reeds from the beach and began to fight with those. In their hands, the reeds hardened into rods of iron. Thus it was that the Yadavas were destroyed.
Balarama went to the shores of the great ocean. He gave up his life there through yoga.
The sorrowful Krishna sat under a banyan tree and meditated. Jara, the hunter, was searching for a deer that he might kill. Through the thick foliage he saw Krishna’s feet and thought that they were the ears of a deer. He therefore let loose an arrow. And when he came to see if his arrow had found its mark, he discovered that he had shot Krishna by mistake.
Jara fell down at Krishna’s feet and begged for mercy. Krishna readily pardoned him. It was after all no fault of the hunter. It had all been decreed by fate.
Krishna gave up his mortal body and ascended to heaven. As soon as Krishna died, all of Dvaraka, with the exception of Krishna’s own dwelling, was flooded by the ocean.
Several years ago, Yadu, the ancestor of these Yadavas, met a learned young man. Where did you learn all this?, he asked the young man. Who is your guru?
You don’t need any special guru, was the answer. Look at the earth (prithivi). She is continually hurt by the footsteps of all living beings, yet she forgives them all. From the earth one can learn the art of forgiving. Look at the air (vayu). It fills all living beings with life, but does not get attached to any of them. From the air one can learn detachment. Look at the sky (akasha). It is not stirred by the clouds that moved across it. From the sky the atman can learn how no to get stirred by the senses. Look at the water (jala). It cleans everything. From the water one can learn the virtue of purification. Look at the fire (agni), it adopts so many different forms. One learns that, like the fire, the paramatman (divine soul) can adopt many different forms. Look at the moon (chandra). It seems to wax and wane, but nothing actually happens to it. From the moon you can learn that nothing actually happens to the atman. The appearances that mislead one are all illusions. Look at the sun (surya). It evaporates the water in the summer, but returns it in the monsoon. Like the sun, the learned return the gratifications of the senses and do not retain them.
There are many gurus like these. One can learn from several places. There does not necessarily have to be a formal teacher.
The Story of the Brahmana
In the land of Malava there used to be a very wealthy brahmana. He had made a lot of money from agriculture and trade. He had become addicted to material pursuits and was also a miser. He never helped any of his relatives.
Eventually the brahmana exhausted most of his wealth, and thieves stole the remainder. The brahmana began to think about what he had done with his life and realized that he had made a mistake. Material possessions wre nothing. The brahmana therefore became a hermit.
He begged food for a living. He controlled his senses. And he started on a pilgrimage of the world. Thieves stole whatever meagre belongings the brahmanas still had, others stole whatever little food he had begged. But the brahmana did not protest. He had even given up all conversation.
The bramana’s attempt was successful and he obtained true knowledge. One has to be like that brahmanas if one wishes to realize the nature of the brahman.
Future Dynasties and Kaliyuga
When Krishna died, the kali era started
Parikshit had heard the story of the Bhagavata Purana from the sage Shukadeva. He now asked the sage the names of the kings who would rule in kaliyuga.
The first dynasty to rule would be the Pradyota dynasty. There would be five kings in this dynasty and they would rule for a hundred and thirty-eight years. Then the Shishunaga dynasty would take over. The ten kings of this dynasty would rule for three hundred and sixty years. A shudra named Mahapadma or Nanda would become king next. The Nanda dynasty would rule for a hundred years. Thereafter, Nanda and his eight sons would be destroyed by a brahmana named Chanakya and Chanakya would make Chandragupta the king. This would be the Mourya dynasty and the ten kings fo this dynasty would rule for a hundred and thirty-seven years.
The last king of the Mourya dynasty, Vrihadratha, would be killed by his general Pushyamitra. This would establish the Shunga dynasty and the ten kings of this dynasty would rule for more than a hundred years. Then the Kanva dynasty would rule for three hundred and forty-five years. Next would follow thirty kings of the Andhra dynasty who would reign for four hundred and fifty-six years. Many other dynasties and many other kings would rule. But the country would be splintered. The kings would all be evil.
Evil is a characteristic of kaliyuga. Wealth is everything to people and righteous living has no value. Might becomes right. Trade means cheating. In the courts the poor obtain no justice. People sport long hair. Nepotism and corruption prevail. The kings are thieves and robbers. Cows are as small as goats and trees are as small as bushes. Famine and starvation prevail everywhere.
But Kalki will arrive to put an end to kaliyuga and establish a new satyayauga. He will be born in a village named Shambhala, as the son of the brahmana Vishnuyasha.
Shukadeva also informed Parikshit that one thousand, one hundred, and fifteen years would elapse from the date of Parikshits’s birth tothe date of Mahapadma Nanda’s coronation.
You must have forgotten by now that Parikshit had been cursed that he would be bitten to death by a snake named takshaka.
Having heard the Bhagavata Purana. Parikshit worshipped Shukadeva. He told the sage that he was no longer frightened of being bitten to death by a snake. He had learnt the nature of the atman and the brahman. When Shukadeva left, Parikshit sat down and began to meditate. Takshaka disguised himself as a brahman in order to get near the king. He then bit the king and Parikshit died.
Parikshit’s son Janmejaya was furious. He resolved to perform a snake sacrifice (sarpa yajna) at which all the snakes would be killed. They would be consumed in the fire of the yajna. Takshaka fled to Indra for protection.
Janmejaya finally stopped the sacrifice when Brihaspati interceded on behalf of the snakes.
Virtues of the Bhagavata Purana
The Bhagavata Purana is the most sacred of the Puranas. It is to other Puranas what the Ganga is to rivers, Vishnu to gods and the city of Kashi to tirthas. Those who are devoted to Vishnu love this Purana. It is a text that should be studied, heard and contemplated with great care. In the month of Bhadra it should be placed on a golden throne and donated. The person who does this acquires everlasting punya. The other Puranas are appreciated only by those who do not know about the Bhagavata Purana.
After having read the Purana, we bow down in obeisance before the great Lord Vishnu.