The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
Dhruva commences a course of religious austerities. Unsuccessful attempts of Indra and his ministers to distract Dhruva's attention: they appeal to Vishńu, who allays their fears, and appears to Dhruva. Dhruva praises Vishńu, and is raised to the skies as the pole-star.
THE prince, having received these instructions, respectfully saluted the sages, and departed from the forest, fully confiding in the accomplishment of his purposes. He repaired to the holy place, on the banks of the Yamuná, called Madhu or Madhuvana, the grove of Madhu, after the demon of that name, who formerly abided there. Śatrughna (the younger brother of Ráma) having slain the Rákshas Lavańa, the son of Madhu, founded a city on the spot, which was named Mathurá. At this holy shrine, the purifier from all sin, which enjoyed the presence of the sanctifying god of gods, Dhruva performed penance, as enjoined by Maríchi and the sages: he contemplated Vishńu, the sovereign of all the gods, seated in himself. Whilst his mind was wholly absorbed in meditation, the mighty Hari, identical with all beings and with all natures, (took possession of his heart.) Vishńu being thus present in his mind, the earth, the supporter of elemental life, could not sustain the weight of the ascetic. As he stood upon his left foot, one hemisphere bent beneath him; and when he stood upon his right, the other half of the earth sank down. When he touched the earth with his toes, it shook with all its mountains, and the rivers and the seas were troubled, and the gods partook of the universal agitation.
The celestials called Yámas, being excessively alarmed, then took counsel with Indra how they should interrupt the devout exercises of Dhruva; and the divine beings termed Kushmáńd́as, in company with their king, commenced anxious efforts to distract his meditations. One, assuming the semblance of his mother Suníti, stood weeping before him, and calling in tender accents, "My son, my son, desist from destroying thy strength by this fearful penance. I have gained thee, my son, after
much anxious hope: thou canst not have the cruelty to quit me, helpless, alone, and unprotected, on account of the unkindness of my rival. Thou art my only refuge; I have no hope but thou. What hast thou, a child but five years old, to do with rigorous penance? Desist from such fearful practices, that yield no beneficial fruit. First comes the season of youthful pastime; and when that is over, it is the time for study: then succeeds the period of worldly enjoyment; and lastly, that of austere devotion. This is thy season of pastime, my child. Hast thou engaged in these practices to put an end to thine existence? Thy chief duty is love for me: duties are according to time of life. Lose not thyself in bewildering error: desist from such unrighteous actions. If not, if thou wilt not desist from these austerities, I will terminate my life before thee."
But Dhruva, being wholly intent on seeing Vishńu, beheld not his mother weeping in his presence, and calling upon him; and the illusion, crying out, "Fly, fly, my child, the hideous spirits of ill are crowding into this dreadful forest with uplifted weapons," quickly disappeared. Then advanced frightful Rákshasas, wielding terrible arms, and with countenances emitting fiery flame; and nocturnal fiends thronged around the prince, uttering fearful noises, and whirling and tossing their threatening weapons. Hundreds of jackals, from whose mouths gushed flame 1 as they devoured their prey, were howling aloud, to appal the boy, wholly engrossed by meditation. The goblins called out, "Kill him, kill him; cut him to pieces; eat him, eat him;" and monsters, with the faces of lions and camels and crocodiles, roared and yelled with horrible cries, to terrify the prince. But all these uncouth spectres, appalling cries, and threatening weapons, made no impression upon his senses, whose mind was completely intent on Govinda. The son of the monarch of the earth, engrossed by one only idea, beheld uninterruptedly Vishńu seated in his soul, and saw no other object.
All their delusive stratagems being thus foiled, the gods were more perplexed than ever. Alarmed at their discomfiture, and afflicted by
the devotions of the boy, they assembled and repaired for succour to Hari, the origin of the world, who is without beginning or end; and thus addressed him: "God of gods, sovereign of the world, god supreme, and infinite spirit, distressed by the austerities of Dhruva, we have come to thee for protection. As the moon increases in his orb day by day, so this youth advances incessantly towards superhuman power by his devotions. Terrified by the ascetic practices of the son of Uttánapáda, we have come to thee for succour. Do thou allay the fervour of his meditations. We know not to what station he aspires: to the throne of Indra, the regency of the solar or lunar sphere, or to the sovereignty of riches or of the deep. Have compassion on us, lord; remove this affliction from Our breasts; divert the son of Uttánapáda from persevering in his penance." Vishńu replied to the gods; "The lad desireth neither the rank of Indra, nor the solar orb, nor the sovereignty of wealth or of the ocean: all that he solicits, I will grant. Return therefore, deities, to your mansions as ye list, and be no more alarmed: I will put an end to the penance of the boy, whose mind is immersed in deep contemplation."
The gods, being thus pacified by the supreme, saluted him respectfully and retired, and, preceded by Indra, returned to their habitations: but Hari, who is all things, assuming a shape with four arms, proceeded to Dhruva, being pleased with his identity of nature, and thus addressed him: "Son of Uttánapáda, be prosperous. Contented with thy devotions, I, the giver of boons, am present. Demand what boon thou desirest. In that thou hast wholly disregarded external objects, and fixed thy thoughts on me, I am well pleased with thee. Ask, therefore, a suitable reward." The boy, hearing these words of the god of gods, opened his eyes, and beholding that Hari whom he had before seen in his meditations actually in his presence, bearing in his hands the shell, the discus, the mace, the bow, and scimetar, and crowned with a diadem, the bowed his head down to earth; the hair stood erect on his brow, and his heart was depressed with awe. He reflected how best he should offer thanks to the god of gods; what he could say in his adoration; what words were capable of expressing his praise: and being overwhelmed with perplexity, he had recourse for consolation to the deity. "If," he
exclaimed, "the lord is contented with my devotions, let this be my reward, that I may know how to praise him as I wish. How can I, a child, pronounce his praises, whose abode is unknown to Brahmá and to others learned in the Vedas? My heart is overflowing with devotion to thee: oh lord, grant me the faculty worthily to lay mine adorations at thy feet."
Whilst lowly bowing, with his hands uplifted to his forehead, Govinda, the lord of the world, touched the son of Uttánapáda with the tip of his conch-shell, and immediately the royal youth, with a countenance sparkling with delight, praised respectfully the imperishable protector of living beings. "I venerate," exclaimed Dhruva, "him whose forms are earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect, the first element (Ahankára), primeval nature, and the pure, subtile, all-pervading soul, that surpasses nature. Salutation to that spirit that is void of qualities; that is supreme over all the elements and all the objects of sense, over intellect, over nature and spirit. I have taken refuge with that pure form of thine, oh supreme, which is one with Brahma, which is spirit, which transcends all the world. Salutation to that form which, pervading and supporting all, is designated Brahma, unchangeable, and contemplated by religious sages. Thou art the male with a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet, who traversest the universe, and passest ten inches beyond its contact 2. Whatever has been, or is to be, that, Purushottama, thou art. From thee sprang Virát, Swarát, Samrát, and Adhipurusha 3. The lower, and upper, and middle parts of the earth are not independent of thee: from thee is all this universe, all that has been, and that shall be: and all this world is in thee, assuming this universal form 4. From thee is sacrifice
derived, and all oblations, and curds, and ghee, and animals of either class (domestic or wild). From thee the Rig-Veda, the Sáma, the metres of the Vedas, and the Yajur-Véda are born. Horses, and cows having teeth in one jaw only 5, proceed from thee; and from thee come goats, sheep, deer. Brahmans sprang from thy mouth; warriors from thy arms; Vaisyas from thy thighs; and Śúdras from thy feet. From thine eyes come the sun; from thine ears, the wind; and from thy mind, the moon: the vital airs from thy central vein; and fire from thy mouth: the sky from thy navel; and heaven from thy head: the regions from thine ears; the earth from thy feet. All this world was derived from thee. As the wide-spreading Nyagrodha (Indian fig) tree is compressed in a small seed 6, so, at the time of dissolution, the whole universe is comprehended in thee as its germ. As the Nyagrodha germinates from the seed, and becomes first a shoot, and then rises into loftiness, so the created world proceeds from thee, and expands into magnitude. As the bark and leaves of the Plantain tree are to be seen in its stem, so thou art the stem of the universe, and all things are visible in thee. The faculties of the intellect, that are the cause of pleasure and of pain, abide in thee as one with all existence; but the sources of pleasure and of pain, singly or blended, do not exist in thee, who art exempt from all qualities 7. Salutation to thee, the subtile rudiment, which, being single, becomes
manifold, Salutation to thee, soul of existent things, identical with the great elements. Thou, imperishable, art beheld in spiritual knowledge as perceptible objects, as nature, as spirit, as the world, as Brahmá, as Manu, by internal contemplation. But thou art in all, the element of all; thou art all, assuming every form; all is from thee, and thou art from thyself. I salute thee, universal soul: glory be to thee. Thou art one with all things: oh lord of all, thou art present in all things. What can I say unto thee? thou knowest all that is in the heart, oh soul of all, sovereign lord of all creatures, origin of all things. Thou, who art all beings, knowest the desires of all creatures. The desire that I cherished has been gratified, lord, by thee: my devotions have been crowned with success, in that I have seen thee."
Vishńu said to Dhruva; "The object of thy devotions has in truth been attained, in that thou hast seen me; for the sight of me, young prince, is never unproductive. Ask therefore of me what boon thou desirest; for men in whose sight I appear obtain all their wishes." To this, Dhruva answered; "Lord god of all creatures, who abidest in the hearts of all, how should the wish that I cherish be unknown to thee? I will confess unto thee the hope that my presumptuous heart has entertained; a hope that it would be difficult to gratify, but that nothing is difficult when thou, creator of the world, art pleased. Through thy favour, Indra reigns over the three worlds. The sister-queen of my mother has said to me, loudly and arrogantly, 'The royal throne is not for one who is not born of me;' and I now solicit of the support of the universe an exalted station, superior to all others, and one that shall endure for ever." Vishńu said to him; "The station that thou askest thou shalt obtain; for I was satisfied with thee of old in a prior existence. Thou wast formerly a Brahman, whose thoughts were ever devoted to me, ever dutiful to thy parents, and observant of thy duties. In course of time a prince became thy friend, who was in the period of youth, indulged in all sensual pleasures, .and was of handsome appearance and elegant form. Beholding, in consequence of associating with him, his affluence, you formed the desire that you might be subsequently born as the son of a king; and, according to your wish, you obtained a
princely birth in the illustrious mansion of Uttánapáda. But that which would have been thought a great boon by others, birth in the race of Swáyambhuva, you have not so considered, and therefore have propitiated me. The man who worships me obtains speedy liberation from life. What is heaven to one whose mind is fixed on me? A station shall be assigned to thee, Dhruva, above the three worlds 8; one in which thou shalt sustain the stars and the planets; a station above those of the sun, the moon, Mars, the son of Soma (Mercury), Venus, the son of Súrya (Saturn), and all the other constellations; above the regions of the seven Rishis, and the divinities who traverse the atmosphere 9. Some celestial beings endure for four ages; some for the reign of a Manu: to thee shall be granted the duration of a Kalpa. Thy mother Suníti, in the orb of a bright star, shall abide near thee for a similar term; and all those who, with minds attentive, shall glorify thee at dawn or at eventide, shall acquire exceeding religious merit.
Thus the sage Dhruva, having received a boon from Janárddana, the god of gods, and lord of the world, resides in an exalted station. Beholding his glory, Uśanas, the preceptor of the gods and demons, repeated these verses: "Wonderful is the efficacy of this penance, marvellous is its reward, that the seven Rishis should be preceded by Dhruva. This too is the pious Suníti, his parent, who is called Súnritá 10." Who can
celebrate her greatness, who, having given birth to Dhruva, has become the asylum of the three worlds, enjoying to all future time an elevated station, a station eminent above all? He who shall worthily describe the ascent into the sky of Dhruva, for ever shall be freed from all sin, and enjoy the heaven of Indra. Whatever be his dignity, whether upon earth or in heaven, he shall never fall from it, but shall long enjoy life, possessed of every blessing 11.
91:1 A marginal note by a Bengali Pundit asserts it to be a fact, then when a jackal carries a piece of meat in his mouth, it shews in the dark as if it was on fire.
93:2 The commentator understands this passage to imply merely that the supreme pervades both substance and space, being infinitely vast, and without limit. 'Having a thousand heads,' &c. denotes only infinite extension: and the 'ten inches beyond the contact of the universe' expresses merely non-restriction by its boundaries.
93:3 Explained severally the Brahmáńd́a, or material universe; Brahmá, the creator; Manu, the ruler of the period; and supreme or presiding spirit.
93:4 So the inscription upon the temple of Sais: Ἐγὼ εἶμι πᾶν τὸ γεγονὸς, καὶ ὂν, καὶ ἐσόμενον. So the Orphic verse, cited by Eusebius, beginning
'One regal body in which all things are p. 94 comprehended (viz. Virát), fire, and water, and earth, and air, and night, and day, and Intelligence (viz. Mahat) the first generator, and divine love; for all these does Jupiter include in his expansive form.' It proceeds also, precisely in the Pauráńic strain, to describe the members of this universal form: the heaven is his head, the stars his hair, the sun and moon his eyes, &c.
94:5 A piece of natural history quite correct as applied to the front teeth, which in the genus ox occur in the lower jaw only.
94:6 This is also conformable to the doctrine, that the rudiments of plants exist in their cotyledons.
94:7 In life, or living beings, perception depends not, according to Hindu metaphysics, upon the external senses, but the impressions made upon them are communicated to the mental organ or sense, and by the mind to the understanding--Samvid in the text--by which they are distinguished as pleasurable, painful, or mixed. But pleasure depends upon the quality of goodness, pain on that of darkness, and their mixture on that of foulness, inherent in the understanding; properties belonging to Jíveśwara, or god, as one with life, or to embodied spirit, but not as Parameśwara, or supreme spirit.
96:8 The station or sphere is that of the north pole, or of the polar star. In the former case, the star is considered to be Suníti, the mother of Dhruva. The legend, although as it is related in our text it differs in its circumstances from the story told by Ovid of Callisto and her son Areas, whom Jove
suggests some suspicion of an original identity. In neither of the authorities have we, perhaps, the primitive fable. It is evident from the quotation that presently follows in the text, of a stanza by Nanas, that the Puráńa has not the oldest version of the legend; and Ovid's representation of it is after a fashion of his own: all that has been retained of the original is the conformity of the characters and of the main incident, the translation of a mother and her son to the heavens as constellations, in which the pole-star is the most conspicuous luminary.
96:9 The Vaimánika devas, the deities who travel in Vimánas, 'heavenly cars,' or rather 'moving spheres.'
96:10 The text says merely ###; the commentator says, 'perhaps formerly so called;' ###. We have already remarked that some Puráńas so denominate her.
97:11 The legend of Dhruva is narrated in the Bhágavata, Padma (Swerga Khańd́a), Agni, and Náradíya, much to the same purport, and partly in the same words, as our text. The Bráhma and its double the Hari Vanśa, the Matsya, and Váyu merely allude to Dhruva's having been transferred by Brahmá to the skies, in reward of his austerities. The story of his religious penance, and adoration of Vishńu, seems to be an embellishment interpolated by the Vaishńava Puráńas, Dhruva being adopted as a saint by their sect. The allusion to Súnritá in our text concurs with the form of the story as it appears elsewhere, to indicate the priority of the more simple legend.