The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
Of the seven regions of Pátála, below the earth. Nárada's praises of Pátála. Account of the serpent Śesha. First teacher of astronomy and astrology.
PARÁŚARA.--The extent of the surface of the earth has been thus described to you, Maitreya. Its depth below the surface is said to be seventy thousand Yojanas, each of the seven regions of Pátála extending downwards ten thousand. These seven, worthy Muni, are called Atala, Vitala, Nitala, Gabhastimat, Mahátala, Sutala, and Pátála 1. Their soil is severally white, black, purple, yellow, sandy, stony, and of gold. They are embellished with magnificent palaces, in which dwell numerous Dánavas, Daityas, Yakshas, and great snake-gods. The Muni Nárada, after his return from those regions to the skies 2, declared amongst the celestials that Pátála was much more delightful than Indra's heaven. "What," exclaimed the sage, "can be compared to Pátála, where the Nágas are decorated with brilliant and beautiful and pleasure-shedding jewels? who will not delight in Pátála, where the lovely daughters of the Daityas and Dánavas wander about, fascinating even the most austere; where the rays of the sun diffuse light, and not heat, by day; and where the moon shines by night for illumination, not for cold; where the sons of Danu, happy in the enjoyment of delicious viands and strong wines, know not how time passes? There are beautiful groves and streams and lakes where the lotus blows; and the skies are resonant with the Koïl's song. Splendid ornaments, fragrant perfumes, rich unguents, the blended music of the lute and pipe and tabor; these and many other enjoyments are the common portion of the Dánavas, Daityas, and snake-gods, who inhabit the regions of Pátála 3."
Below the seven Pátálas is the form of Vishńu, proceeding from the quality of darkness, which is called Śesha 4, the excellencies of which neither Daityas nor Dánavas can fully enumerate. This being is called Ananta by the spirits of heaven, and is worshipped by sages and by gods. He has a thousand heads, which are embellished with the pure and visible mystic sign 5: and the thousand jewels in his crests give light to all the regions. For the benefit of the world he: deprives the Asuras of their strength. He rolls his eyes fiercely, as if intoxicated. He wears a single ear-ring, a diadem, and wreath upon each brow; and shines like the white mountains topped with flame. He is clothed in purple raiment, and ornamented with a white necklace, and looks like another Kailása, with the heavenly Gangá flowing down its precipices. In one hand he holds a plough, and in the other a pestle; and he is attended by Váruńí (the goddess of wine), who is his own embodied radiance. From his mouths, at the end of the Kalpa, proceeds the venomed fire that, impersonated as Rudra, who is one with Balaráma, devours the three worlds.
Śesha bears the entire world, like a diadem, upon his head, and he is the foundation on which the seven Pátálas rest. His power, his glory, his form, his nature, cannot be described, cannot he comprehended by the gods themselves. Who shall recount his might, who wears this whole earth, like a garland of flowers, tinged of a purple dye by the radiance of the jewels of his crests. When Ananta, his eyes rolling with intoxication, yawns, then earth, with all her woods, and mountains, and seas, and rivers, trembles. Gandharbas, Apsarasas, Siddhas, Kinnaras, Uragas, and Chárańas are unequal to hymn his praises, and therefore he is called the infinite (Ananta), the imperishable. The sandal paste, that is ground by the wives of the snake-gods, is scattered abroad by his breath, and sheds perfume around the skies.
The ancient sage Garga 6, having propitiated Śesha, acquired from him a knowledge of the principles of astronomical science, of the planets, and of the good and evil denoted by the aspects of the heavens.
The earth, sustained upon the head of this sovereign serpent, supports in its turn the garland of the spheres, along with their inhabitants, men, demons, and gods.
204:1 In the Bhágavata and Padma P. they are named Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talátala, Mahátala, Rasátala, and Pátála. The Váyu has Rasátala, Sutala, Vitala, Gabhastala, Mahátala, Śrítala, and Pátála. There are other varieties.
204:2 Allusion is here made, perhaps, to the description given in the Mahábhárata, Udyoga Parva, p. 218, of Nárada's and Mátali's visit to Pátála. Several of the particulars there given are not noticed in the Puráńas.
204:3 There is no very copious description of Pátála in any of the Puráńas. The most circumstantial are those of the Váyu and Bhágavata: the latter has been repeated, p. 205 with some additions, in the first chapters of the Pátála Khańd́a of the Padma Puráńa. The Mahábhárata and these two Puráńas assign different divisions to the Dánavas, Daityas, and Nágas; placing Vásuki and the other Nága chiefs in the lowest: but the Váyu has the cities of the principal Daityas and Nágas in each; as in the first, those of the Daitya Namuchi, and serpent Kálíya; in the second, of Hayagríva and Takshaka; in the third, of Prahláda and Hemaka; in the fourth, of Kálanemi and Vainateya; in the fifth, of Hirańyáksha and Kirmíra; and in the sixth, of Pulomán and Vásuki: besides others. Bali the Daitya is the sovereign of Pátála, according to this authority. The Mahábhárata places Vásuki in Rasátala, and calls his capital Bhogavatí. The regions of Pátála, and their inhabitants, are oftener the subjects of profane, than of sacred fiction, in consequence of the frequent intercourse between mortal heroes and the Nága-kanyás, or serpent-nymphs. A considerable section of the Vrihat Kathá, the Súryaprabhá lambaka, consists of adventures and events in this subterraneous world.
205:4 Śesha is commonly described as being in this situation: he is the great serpent on which Vishńu sleeps during the intervals of creation, and upon whose numerous heads the world is supported. The Puráńas, making him one with Balaráma or Sankarshana, who is an impersonation or incarnation of Śesha, blend the attributes of the serpent and the demigod in their description.
205:5 With the Swastika, a particular diagram used in mystical ceremonies.
206:6 One of the oldest writers on astronomy amongst the Hindus. According to Mr. Bentley, his Sanhitá dates 548 B. C. (Ancient Astron. of the Hindus, p. 59.)