The present Volume contains the Varaha Purana Part I (Chapters 1-136) in English Translation. This is the thirty first volume in the Series on Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology.
The project of the series was planned in 1970 by Lala Sundar Lal Jain of Messrs Motilal Banarsidass, with the purpose to universalize knowledge through the most popular international medium, viz. English. Hitherto, the English translations of eight Puranas, namely Siva, Linga, Bhagavata, Garuda, Narada, Kurma, Brahmanda and Agni have been published and released for sale.
In this scheme, the Old Sanskrit Texts of the Puranas as printed by the Venkatesvara Press and published by Khemaraja Sri-krsnadass have been rendered into English. Translation is neither too literal nor too free. Care has been taken to maintain balance between the two extremes. The spirit of the Original Sanskrit text has been preserved in translation without violating the idiom of English language.
The Puranas are classified as Vaisnava, Brahma, or Saiva according to the degree of quality, sattva, rajas or tamas which they possess in prominence. judged by this standard the present Purana belongs to the Visnuite class. Majority of the verses relate to Visnuite rituals, stotras or anecdotes. The Purana eulogizes the ten incarnations of Visnu and proclaims that a devotee attains identity with the lord by reciting and listening to his praise. A number of chapters describe the initiation of devotees to Visnuite order. The Purana prescribes initiation of only for the Brahmanas but also for the Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras.
The Purana records a number of religious vows which a devotee should observe at certain holy places for attaining his desire. Mention may be made in this context of Dvadasi Vrata observed on the twelfth day of the bright fortnight of each month of the year, the ritual being related to the ten incarnations of Visnu, Padmanabha being the eleventh and Dharani (Earth)the twelfth. The Purana contains a number of hymns in praise of Vishnu addressed to his specific forms under particular names such as matsya Varaha and Kurma. There is hymn in prose called Brahmaparamaya stotra which was uttered by the asvins in praise of Visnu.
Though predominantly Visnute in character the Purana talks highly of lord Siva describing his origin exploits the detruction of Daksa’s sacrifice in particular. The purana is emphatic about the identity of Trinity a single entity assuming manifold forms such as Visnu Brahma Siva and others.
Beside the worship of Trinity we find the cult of mother goddesses as the distint feature of this work, these mother are allied to Siva and their origin is traced to the fury of Siva the purpose being the destruction of asuras.
In the miscellany of topics we can include the glory and greatness of holy centers gifts cows’ enumeration of sins and their expiation causes of sufferings in hell and of enjoyment in heaven. Finally this part describes sraddhakalpa (the institution of obsequies rites and rituals).
The Varahapurana is an old Purana considered as a major Purana (Mahapurana) in the accounts given in the Puranas them-selves. But although it states in an early chapter the five general characteristics of a Purana (pancalaksana), it itself does not contain all these, a feature which it shares with several other Puranas. It, of course, contains an account of the first two, namely primary creation and secondary creation (sarga and Pratisarga), but contains very little of the others. It is full of religious and theological matters and glorification of the gods, mainly Visnu, and of the holy tirth as and rules for the observance of various vows. Nevertheless, it is an old Purana in its essential parts, though, as in most other works of a like nature, there are many portions added to it from time to time as is evident from the repetitions, inconsistencies and what would normally appear to be irrelevant matter in some contexts. Its date must be early and Wilson’s assigning it to the 12th century A.D., is arbitrary and unjustified, the earlier parts may not be later than both century as pointed out by P. V. Kane and accepted by scholars like R. C. Hazra, who, however, considers some interpolations to be possibly as late as the l5th century. The work is presented here in an English translation, which is neither too literal nor too free, of the text published by the Venkateswar Press, Bombay, with the most essential corrections. It may be noted that although the work is traditionally believed to contain 24,000 slokas, the text available now contains only a little over 10,000 slokas.
The Purana is in the form of a conversation between Varaha, the Boar-incarnation of Lord Visnu, and Dharani, the Earth held up by him in his tusk, as given by Suta, the mythological narrator. The whole discourse is in reply to Earth’s questions to the Lord seeking enlightenment as to the creation, sustenance and destruction of the world and what would constitute righteous conduct and virtuous actions for happiness in life and ultimate liberation from worldly existence.
We may make a rapid survey of the Purana dividing it into convenient sections and noting the most essential things in each.
l. Chs. l-8. This is of a preliminary nature. Earth puts her questions to the Lord who reveals to her his universal form. We find the account of primary creation from Vyoma through the Pradhana and the three gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, to Brahma, the origin of Rudra, Prajapati and Svayambhuvamanu, Rudra’s form constituted of man in one half and woman in the other, the division of the male part into eleven and further development of creation from Svayambhuvamanu. Narada’s narration to Priyavrata, son of Svayambhuvamanu, of his previous life and his meeting goddess Savitri is interposed. The story of king Asvasiras whom the sages Kapila and jaigisavya convince of the omniscience and omnipresence of Visnu and the need to do one’s duty for spiritual knowledge and liberation and the king finally getting dissolved in the Lord, follows. We may note that although the chief emphasis of this Purana is on devotion, here we find the stress on jnana as the ultimate means for mukti.
King Vasu practicing penance and obtaining liberation by reciting the Pundarikaksapéra hymn, sage Raibhya performing penance at Gaya and getting liberation by uttering the Gadadhara stotra, the ghost of a Brahmin unwittingly killed by king Vasu becoming a hunter by name Dharmavyadha merging in the lord by his praise of him, are narrated to illustrate the eflicacy of penance and prayer. The Dharmavyadha, it is stated begot daughter and gave her in marriage to the son of the Brahmin, sage Matanga, but afterwards she was ill-treated by her mother-in-law particularly referring to her father being a meat-eating hunter, and, indignant at this, the Vyadha made Matangaadmit that while he, as a hunter, was killing only one animal aday for food, the sage who prides at his being a vegetarian, isactually destroying numerous potential forms of life contained in the grains he cooks and eats. We may note two things in -this story, one, the free and formal intermarriage between a Brahmin and a lower caste and the other a defense of non-vegetarianism.
2. Chs. 9-17. This continues the account of creation. Lord Narayana creates Uma and the syllable ‘Om’ identified with Siva, out of which latter arise the seven worlds Bhu etc, the sun, the moon, fire, people of the four castes, Yaksas, Raksasas and Devas and day and night. The Vedas hide themselves in water, but the Lord, assuming the form of a huge fish, recovers them from the water when extolled.
Durjaya, son of Supratika, conquers all the worlds including Indra’s, but on the way chances to enter the hermitage of sage Gauramukha who offers him and his army great hospitality with the help of a miraculous gem given by Visnu. Wishing to get possession of the gem for himself but unable to do it, Durjaya enters into a fight but his army is defeated by the army that arises from the gem, and Visnu appears there and kills the king and his men by his disc. Distressed at the death of the son, Supratika extols Visnu as Rama (the delighter) and attains merger in him.
In answer to a further question about Gauramukha by Earth, Varaha narrates a conversation between that sage and Markandeya in the course of which details relating to sraddha (propitiation of manes by libation) are given, such as the kinds of manes, the different ways of performing the ceremony according to means, the nature of those who are fit to be invited for it and of those who are unfit, the occasions for its performance, the number of persons to be invited and the form of the different rituals. Gauramukha utters a hymn of Visnu extolling the ten in carnations as a result of which the Lord appears before him and he becomes merged in him.
Sage Mahatapas tells king Prajapala how worship of Visnu leads to liberation and narrates the story of the different Devatas residing in the body of the cosmic egg, Hiranyagarbha, like Agni, Asvins, Gauri and others each feeling that without itself the body will not function and leaving it one after another, but Ending Hiranyagarbha unaffected being protected by the Supreme Person in his form as the moon (Soma) , praise him seeking his favor and the Lord allots them their positions and names and gives them each a form in the world of gods and a formless state in the beings on earth.
3. Chs. 18-38. Here the circumstances under which the subtle Ksetradevatas (the deities in the body} assumed concrete forms are given in the order Agni, Asvins, Gauri, Vinayaka,Nagas, Skarida, Aditya, Durga, Diks, Kubera, Visnu, Dharma, Rudra, Pitrs and Soma, as also the significance of the different names and the day in each fortnight important for their worship, starting with Prathama for Agni and ending with Amavasya for Pitrs and Paurnami for Soma. Much that is seen in chapter12 is repeated in chapter 33 which is introduced as ‘another account of the first appearance of Rudra’. There are variations in some of the popular stories here. For example, Siva appears before Parvati not as a Brahmacarin but as an old man who creates an illusory shark to catch hold of him and requests Parvati to save him by lifting him up by holding his hand. In the praise of Skanda by the gods, many terms are with reference to what he was yet to accomplish, but this is explained as due to their knowing already what he would do later. Vinayaka was created by Rudra out of his laughter and in his own form, but changed into a being with elephant-face and protruding belly at the passionate look of Uma on him. Visnu is a form of Lord Narayana created by himself for the protection of the world.
Mahatapas gives the names of the fifteen kings born out of the gem of Gauramukha when they would be born in Tretayuga, pointing out to Prajapala that he himself is one of them, Suprabha, reborn. Then, Prajapala praises Visnu as Krsna and merges in him. King Dirghabahu, cursed to become a tiger for his disrespect to Brahmins, gets redemption by accidentally hearing the name of the Lord. This illustrates the efficacy of the Lord’s name even when unintentionally uttered and reminds us of the, more familiar story of Ajamila narrated in the Srimadbhaga-vata. A hunter pleases sage Durvas as by the wonderful hospitality he extends to him as a result of his devotion to his preceptor, and gets renamed as Satyatapas and the Vedas and Sastras dawn upon him, thereby showing that it is devotion not birth, that makes one eligible for spiritual elevation.
4. Chs. 39-50. This is devoted to the details of the Dvadasi-vrata with the variations and the benefits accruing there from, one in each month starting from Margasirsa and ending in Asvayuja, respectively for the ten avataras of Visnu beginning with Matsya, the ninth being Buddha and the last one being Padmanabha, For the month of Karttika the Dvadasivrata is called dharanivrata, since Visnu was worshipped on that day by Earth for raising her from the water.
I V5; Ch:. 51-67. An account is given of various Vratas for attaining various things like health, wealth, progeny, peace, regaining lost possessions etc, and the Pancaratra system of the Vaisnavas is claimed as equal to the Vaidika. The first two chapters in the section, given as Agastyagita is an allegory on liberation and evolution on the basis of Sankhya philosophy and the last chapter is another allegory on day and night, months, sea-sons and year.
6. Chs., 68-73. Illicit sexual association and the atonement therefore are discussed in the first chapter in this section and a wonderful experience of sage Narada in the next. The following three chapters speak of the identity of`Vis1j1u, Siva and Brahma as given by Rudra, and a hymn on Visnu uttered by him occurs in the last.
7. Chs. 74-89. This deals with cosmology with the earth as the central point and the seven islands, jambfi, Saka, Kusa, Kraunca, Salmali, Gomeda and Puskara with their mountains, rivers, valleys, lakes, trees, gods and denizens. Mount Meru and the continent Bharata are given special importance.
8. Chs. 90-98. The subject of this section is the Triple Power, the goddess unifying in herself the energies of Visnu, Brahma and Siva, born at their looks at one another, and this goddess triplicating herself as the white Brahmi, the red Vaisnavi and the black Raudri and performing their respective functions in the universe. We get here the concept of the triple energy of the later Tantric system though not in its details. We also find that, against the popular story, it is Vaisnavi who kills Mahisasura after assuming a fierce form with twenty hands, and not Raudri. Raudri gets the name Camunda for killing Ruru, and not for killing Ganda and Munda.
Then is given an account of a Vrata for Rudra as Kapalin, and the moksa of Satyatapas by his unflinching truth and dharma
9. Chs. 99-113. We get here the glorification of the gift of images of cows with gold and gems, together with special objects like sesamum water, sugarcane juice, sugar candy, honey, milk, curd, butter, salt, cloth, grain etc, each separately and on separate occasions to worthy Brahmins. The deity propitiated by these is not Visnu in all; it is Rudra in some and Parvati in one. The special value of the gift of parturient cow is stated, as also the importance of the Kapila variety.
The last chapter is a hymn on Visnu by Earth praying for lifting her up from sinking in the ocean.
10. Chs. 114-121. This constitutes a series of questions by Earth to Varaha on the nature of ritualistic worship and the merits accruing there from and the reply stating the rules of observance, lists of meritorious and unmeritorious actions, the well known thirty two major offences in worship, the rituals of idol worship and of the quarters during morning, noon and evening. It comprises numerous moral precepts for a virtuous and pious life. Purity, sincerity, piety and generosity are stressed. Marry of the Smrtis are mentioned here and every one is advised to follow whichever suits his faith.
11. Chs. 122-126. The first and last chapters here are in glorification of two tirthas Kokamukha and Kubjamra where I death of even minor creatures on Dvadasi day is declared to be giving them birth as human beings and illustrated by stories. In the intervening chapters the materials for worship and the variations in this matter in the different seasons are given. There is also an account of the maya of Visnu and how everything in the world is carried on by its power.
12. Chs. 127-136. Initiation of the devotee and the expiations for offences form the subject of this section. The initiation• into Bhagavata dharma of the devotees with the variations in the details of the rituals for the four different castes and the objects to be offered are described. The importance of the Guru is stressed, who alone can do the initiation. The role of the rosary in meditation is given, as also the desirability of copper vessels, in worship. The mode of ritualistic worship is further elaborated in the last chapter.
13. Chs. 137-151. The glorification of Tirthas is continued here. We get an account of great tirthas, the various holy spots in them, the merit associated with each, the wonders perceptible in many of them and several stories in illustration of their efficacy. The greatness of Saukara, particularly its Somatirtha, where a jackal became a princess, a vulture a prince and a wagtail an opulent trader, all by mere death there is pointed out. The holy spots in Kokamukha are recounted, followed by those in Badazi- Tirthas like Mandara, Somesvara, Muktiksetra, Triveni in the river Gandaki, and holy places like Salagrarna-ksetra, Ruruksetra, Hariksetra, Goniskramana, Stutasvami, Dvaraka, Sanandura and Lohargala are then described with emphasis on the Dvadasivrata in many of them and connected incidents.
Two intervening chapters are on the value of Lord’s service. The importance of service through music keeping awake on Dvadasi day is highlighted by the story of an outcaste being able to liberate the ghost of a Brahmin by transferring to him a bit of his merit so acquired. The rules relating to women devotees during the menstrual period are also incidentally given.
We are told of` Visnu seeking boon from Siva at Muktiksetra, Siva incurring a curse from Prajapati Aurva for destroying his hermitage and sage Salankayana getting as his son Nandikesvara, a form of Siva. We find two brothers quarrelling over a share turned into an elephant and a crocodile and getting redemption by Visnu’s disc, which reminds us of the more popular story of king Indradyumna and his curse. Lohargala, about which in-formation elsewhere is practically absent, is stated to be situated in a place difficult of access amidst settlements of Mlecchas.
Chd. 152-180. This is the longest section in the Purana and is on the glory of the city of Mathura and the numerous tirthas hi and around it, the various gardens, deities and so on with the wonders in each, the benefits they confer, the days particularly sacred in each etc. Matliura is declared as superior to all other holy spots including Prayaga and Varanasi and the people there to be Visnu himself unstained by the faults they may be having and the sins they may be committing and as deserving of the respect of all and gifts from them, a statement which seems to be indicative of the possible origin of this Purana or, at least, this bulky part of it, in this region. Its association with the deeds of Krsna is naturally highlighted. The efficacy of pleasing the Lord by fast and dance on Ekadasi day is , brought out by the story of a dancing devotee redeeming a Brahmaraksasa narrated in terms identical with the one stated earlier of an outcaste doing a similar deed by the transfer of the merit of his service by song. The significance of social service by planting trees, digging wells, laying gardens and renovating ruins is brought out in the long story of` the merchant Gokarna. The list of offences in worship is repeated with the means of atonement, only to say that for all this, fasting and bathing in Mathura is a good substitute. `We also get the story of a servant multimode to release her manes by sraddha, and also what actions lead to •ghost hood and what protection from it.
15. Chs. 181-286. This deals with the consecration and rules of" worship of idols made of wood, stone, clay, copper, bronze, silver and gold and also about the worship of Salagrarnai stones. Worship of idols is sanctioned for all castes but not ofSalagrama.
16. Chs. 187-192. The details of sraddha constitute the subject of this section. The origin of sraddha, its significance, the place and time of performance, persons eligible as well as those ineligible to be fed in sraddha, the various rituals etc, are all elaborately given. There is emphatic prohibition against a bestard being fed in this ceremony even unknowingly. The nature of madhuparka preparation and its administration are also given` in two chapters.
17. Chs. 193-212. This is a separate section quite unconnected with the rest narrated by Vaisampayana about •the world of Yama as seen by Naciketas who goes there at an angry uttarance of his father Uddalaka, but returns to give a description of it. The Naciketas here is not one whom we are familiar with in the Upanisad discoursing with Yama on the nature of` the soul and ultimately gaining from him atmavidya. According to his account, Yama’s is a splendid world full of` enjoyment for the good souls that go there, but also having numerous fearful hells full of torment for the bad. It contains a hall of justice with the well known lawgivers like Manu, Brhaspati, Apastamba and Angiras as the jury. The supremely virtuous souls bypass Yama but the sinners are never spared and his lieutenant Citra gupta is asked to deal with them as they deserve. In the course of a discussion of Yama with Narada, righteous and unrighteous deeds are enumerated, generosity is praised and the power of` chastity illustrated. It is interesting to note that this section contains an incident of Citra-gupta’s men getting fed up with their duty of executing punishments, their fight with the demons called Mande has who are sent to subdue them by Citragupta and finally a settlement being reached by the intervention of Siva in the form of` a jvara. This has some similarity with the demands of modern workmen, their strike and settlement and reconciliation.
18. Chs. 213-218. This, the last section, deals with the great-ness of Siva as Gokarnesvara, Srngesvara and Sailesvara where his single horn in the form of _ a deer was taken out into three pieces and installed respectively by Indra, Visnu and Brahma. It is noteworthy here that this Purana which is predominantly Vaisnavite in nature concludes with an account of the greatness of Siva.
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