The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
Legend of Lakshmí. Durvásas gives a garland to Indra: he treats it disrespectfully, and is cursed by the Muni. The power of the gods impaired: they are oppressed by the Dánavas, and have recourse to Vishńu. The churning of the ocean. Praises of Śrí.
PARÁŚARA.--But with respect to the question thou hast asked me, Maitreya, relating to the history of Śrí, hear from me the tale as it was told to me by Maríchi.
Durvásas, a portion of Śankara (Śiva) 1, was wandering over the earth; when be beheld, in the hands of a nymph of air 2, a garland of flowers culled from the trees of heaven, the fragrant odour of which spread throughout the forest, and enraptured all who dwelt beneath its shade. The sage, who was then possessed by religious phrensy 3, when he beheld that garland, demanded it of the graceful and full-eyed nymph, who, bowing to him reverentially, immediately presented it to him. He, as one frantic, placed the chaplet upon his brow, and thus decorated resumed his path; when he beheld (Indra) the husband of Śachí, the ruler of the three worlds, approach, seated on his infuriated elephant Airávata, and attended by the gods. The phrensied sage, taking from his head the garland of flowers, amidst which the bees collected ambrosia, threw it to the king of the gods, who caught it, and suspended it on the brow of Airávata, where it shone like the river Jáhnaví, glittering on the dark summit of the mountain Kailása. The elephant, whose eyes were dim with inebriety, and attracted by the smell, took hold of the garland with his trunk, and cast it on the earth. That chief of sages, Durvásas, was
highly incensed at this disrespectful treatment of his gift, and thus angrily addressed the sovereign of the immortals: "Inflated with the intoxication of power, Vásava, vile of spirit, thou art an idiot not to respect the garland I presented to thee, which was the dwelling of Fortune (Śrí). Thou hast not acknowledged it as a largess; thou hast not bowed thyself before me; thou hast not placed the wreath upon thy head, with thy countenance expanding with delight. Now, fool, for that thou hast not infinitely prized the garland that I gave thee, thy sovereignty over the three worlds shall be subverted. Thou confoundest me, Śakra, with other Brahmans, and hence I have suffered disrespect from thy arrogance: but in like manner as thou hast cast the garland I gave thee down on the ground, so shall thy dominion over the universe be whelmed in ruin. Thou hast offended one whose wrath is dreaded by all created things, king of the gods, even me, by thine excessive pride."
Descending hastily from his elephant, Mahendra endeavoured to appease the sinless Durvásas: but to the excuses and prostrations of the thousand-eyed, the Muni answered, "I am not of a compassionate heart, nor is forgiveness congenial to my nature. Other Munis may relent; but know me, Śakra, to be Durvásas. Thou hast in vain been rendered insolent by Gautama and others; for know me, Indra, to be Durvásas, whose nature is a stranger to remorse. Thou hast been flattered by Vaśisht́ha and other tender-hearted saints, whose loud praises (lave made thee so arrogant, that thou hast insulted me. But who is there in the universe that can behold my countenance, dark with frowns, and surrounded by my blazing hair, and not tremble? What need of words? I will not forgive, whatever semblance of humility thou mayest assume."
Having thus spoken, the Brahman went his way; and the king of the gods, remounting his elephant, returned to his capital Amarávati. Thenceforward, Maitreya, the three worlds and Śakra lost their vigour, and all vegetable products, plants, and herbs were withered and died; sacrifices were no longer offered; devout exercises no longer practised; men were no more addicted to charity, or any moral or religious obligation;
all beings became devoid of steadiness 4; all the faculties of sense were obstructed by cupidity; and men's desires were excited by frivolous objects. Where there is energy, there is prosperity; and upon prosperity energy depends. How can those abandoned by prosperity be possessed of energy; and without energy, where is excellence? Without excellence there can be no vigour nor heroism amongst men: he who has neither courage nor strength, will be spurned by all: and he who is universally treated with disgrace, must suffer abasement of his intellectual faculties.
The three regions being thus wholly divested of prosperity, and deprived of energy, the Dánavas and sons of Diti, the enemies of the gods, who were incapable of steadiness, and agitated by ambition, put forth their strength against the gods. They engaged in war with the feeble and unfortunate divinities; and Indra and the rest, being overcome in fight, fled for refuge to Brahmá, preceded by the god of flame (Hutáśana). When the great father of the universe had heard all that had come to pass, he said to the deities, "Repair for protection to the god of high and low; the tamer of the demons; the causeless cause of creation, preservation, and destruction; the progenitor of the progenitors; the immortal, unconquerable Vishńu; the cause of matter and spirit, of his unengendered products; the remover of the grief of all who humble themselves before him: he will give you aid." Having thus spoken to the deities, Brahmá proceeded along with them to the northern shore of the sea of milk; and with reverential words thus prayed to the supreme Hari:--
"We glorify him who is all things; the lord supreme over all; unborn, imperishable; the protector of the mighty ones of creation; the unperceived, indivisible Náráyańa; the smallest of the smallest, the largest of the largest, of the elements; in whom are all things, from whom are all things; who was before existence; the god who is all beings; who is the end of ultimate objects; who is beyond final spirit, and is one with supreme soul; who is contemplated as the cause of final liberation by
sages anxious to be free; in whom are not the qualities of goodness, foulness, or darkness, that belong to undeveloped nature. May that purest of all pure spirits this day be propitious to us. May that Hari be propitious to us, whose inherent might is not an object of the progressive chain of moments or of days, that make up time. May he who is called the supreme god, who is not in need of assistance, Hari, the soul of all embodied substance, be favourable unto us. May that Hari, who is both cause and effect; who is the cause of cause, the effect of effect; he who is the effect of successive effect; who is the effect of the effect of the effect himself; the product of the effect of the effect of the effect, or elemental substance; to him I bow 5. The cause of the cause; the cause of the cause of the cause; the cause of them all; to him I bow. To him who is the enjoyer and thing to be enjoyed; the creator and thing to be created; who is the agent and the effect; to that supreme being I bow. The infinite nature of Vishńu is pure, intelligent, perpetual, unborn, undecayable, inexhaustible, inscrutable, immutable; it is neither gross nor subtile, nor capable of being defined: to that ever holy nature of Vishńu I bow. To him whose faculty to create the universe abides in but a part of but the ten-millionth part of him; to him who is one with the inexhaustible supreme spirit, I bow: and to the glorious nature of the supreme Vishńu, which nor gods, nor sages, nor I, nor Śankara apprehend; that nature which the Yogis, after incessant effort, effacing both moral merit and demerit, behold to be contemplated in the mystical monosyllable Om: the supreme glory of Vishńu, who is the first of all; of whom, one only god, the triple energy is the same with Brahmá, Vishńu, and Śiva: oh lord of all, great soul of all, asylum of all, undecayable, have pity upon thy servants; oh Vishńu, be manifest unto us."
Paráśara continued.--The gods, having heard this prayer uttered by Brahmá, bowed down, and cried, "Be favourable to us; be present to our sight: we bow down to that glorious nature which the mighty Brahmá does not know; that which is thy nature, oh imperishable, in whom the universe abides." Then the gods having ended, Vrihaspati and the divine Rishis thus prayed: "We bow down to the being entitled to adoration; who is the first object of sacrifice; who was before the first of things; the creator of the creator of the world; the undefinable: oh lord of all that has been or is to be; imperishable type of sacrifice; have pity upon thy worshippers; appear to them, prostrate before thee. Here is Brahmá; here is Trilochana (the three-eyed Śiva), with the Rudras; Pushá, (the sun), with the Ádityas; and Fire, with all the mighty luminaries: here are the sons of Aswiní (the two Aswiní Kumáras), the Vasus and all the winds, the Sádhyas, the Viśwadevas, and Indra the king of the gods: all of whom bow lowly before thee: all the tribes of the immortals, vanquished by the demon host, have fled to thee for succour."
Thus prayed to, the supreme deity, the mighty holder of the conch and discus, shewed himself to them: and beholding the lord of gods, bearing a shell, a discus, and a mace, the assemblage of primeval form, and radiant with embodied light, Pitámahá and the other deities, their eyes moistened with rapture, first paid him homage, and then thus addressed him: "Repeated salutation to thee, who art indefinable: thou art Brahmá; thou art the wielder of the Pináka bow (Śiva); thou art Indra; thou art fire, air, the god of waters, the sun, the king of death (Yama), the Vasus, the Máruts (the winds), the Sádhyas, and Viśwadevas. This assembly of divinities, that now has come before thee, thou art; for, the creator of the world, thou art every where. Thou art the sacrifice, the prayer of oblation, the mystic syllable Om, the sovereign of all creatures: thou art all that is to be known, or to be unknown: oh universal soul, the whole world consists of thee. We, discomfited by the Daityas, have fled to thee, oh Vishńu, for refuge. Spirit of all, have compassion upon us; defend us with thy mighty power. There will be affliction, desire, trouble, and grief, until thy protection is obtained: but thou art the remover of all sins. Do thou then, oh pure of spirit, shew favour unto
us, who have fled to thee: oh lord of all, protect us with thy great power, in union with the goddess who is thy strength 6." Hari, the creator of the universe, being thus prayed to by the prostrate divinities, smiled, and thus spake: "With renovated energy, oh gods, I will restore your strength. Do you act as I enjoin. Let all the gods, associated with the Asuras, cast all sorts of medicinal herbs into the sea of milk; and then taking the mountain Mandara for the churning-stick, the serpent Vásuki for the rope, churn the ocean together for ambrosia; depending upon my aid. To secure the assistance of the Daityas, you must be at peace with them, and engage to give them an equal portion of the fruit of your associated toil; promising them, that by drinking the Amrita that shall be produced from the agitated ocean, they shall become mighty and immortal. I will take care that the enemies of the gods shall not partake of the precious draught; that they shall share in the labour alone."
Being thus instructed by the god of gods, the divinities entered into alliance with the demons, and they jointly undertook the acquirement of the beverage of immortality. They collected various kinds of medicinal herbs, and cast them into the sea of milk, the waters of which were radiant as the thin and shining clouds of autumn. They then took the mountain Mandara for the staff; the serpent Vásuki for the cord; and commenced to churn the ocean for the Amrita. The assembled gods were stationed by Krishńa at the tail of the serpent; the Daityas and Dánavas at its head and neck. Scorched by the flames emitted from his inflated hood, the demons were shorn of their glory; whilst the clouds driven towards his tail by the breath of his mouth, refreshed the gods with revivifying showers. In the midst of the milky sea, Hari himself, in the form of a tortoise, served as a pivot for the mountain, as it was whirled around. The holder of the mace and discus was present in other forms amongst the gods and demons, and assisted to drag the monarch of the serpent race: and in another vast body he sat upon the summit of the mountain. With one portion of his energy, unseen by gods or demons, he sustained the serpent king; and with another, infused vigour into the gods.
From the ocean, thus churned by the gods and Dánavas, first uprose the cow Surabhi, the fountain of milk and curds, worshipped by the divinities, and beheld by them and their associates with minds disturbed, and eyes glistening with delight. Then, as the holy Siddhas in the sky wondered what this could be, appeared the goddess Váruní (the deity of wine), her eyes rolling with intoxication. Next, from the whirlpool of the deep, sprang the celestial Párijáta tree, the delight of the nymphs of heaven, perfuming the world with its blossoms. The troop of Ápsarasas, the nymphs of heaven, were then produced, of surprising loveliness, endowed with beauty and with taste. The cool-rayed moon next rose, and was seized by Mahádeva: and then poison was engendered from the sea, of which the snake gods (Nágas) took possession. Dhanwantari, robed in white, and bearing in his hand the cup of Amrita, next came forth: beholding which, the sons of Diti and of Danu, as well as the Munis, were filled with satisfaction and delight. Then, seated on a full-blown lotus, and holding a water-lily in her hand, the goddess Śrí, radiant with beauty, rose from the waves. The great sages, enraptured, hymned her with the song dedicated to her praise 7. Viśwavasu and other heavenly quiristers sang, and Ghritáchí and other celestial nymphs danced before her. Gangá and other holy streams attended for her ablutions; and the elephants of the skies, taking up their pure waters in vases of gold, poured them over the goddess, the queen of the universal world. The sea of milk in person presented her with a wreath of never-fading flowers; and the artist of the gods (Viswakermá) decorated her person with heavenly ornaments. Thus bathed, attired, and adorned, the goddess, in the view of the celestials, cast herself upon the breast of Hari; and there reclining, turned her eyes upon the deities, who were inspired with rapture by her gaze. Not so the Daityas, who, with Viprachitti at their head, were filled with indignation, as Vishńu turned away from them, and they were abandoned by the goddess of prosperity (Lakshmí.)
The powerful and indignant Daityas then forcibly seized the Amrita-cup, that was in the hand of Dhanwantari: but Vishńu, assuming a female form, fascinated and deluded them; and recovering the Amrita
from them, delivered it to the gods. Śakra and the other deities quaffed the ambrosia. The incensed demons, grasping their weapons, fell upon them; but the gods, into whom the ambrosial draught had infused new vigour, defeated and put their host to flight, and they fled through the regions of space, and plunged into the subterraneous realms of Pátála. The gods thereat greatly rejoiced, did homage to the holder of the discus and mace, and resumed their reign in heaven. The sun shone with renovated splendour, and again discharged his appointed task; and the celestial luminaries again circled, oh best of Munis, in their respective orbits. Fire once more blazed aloft, beautiful in splendour; and the minds of all beings were animated by devotion. The three worlds again were rendered happy by prosperity; and Indra, the chief of the gods, was restored to power 8. Seated upon his throne, and once more in
heaven, exercising sovereignty over the gods, Śakra thus eulogized the goddess who bears a lotus in her hand:--
"I bow down to Śrí, the mother of all beings, seated on her lotus throne, with eyes like full-blown lotuses, reclining on the breast of Vishńu. Thou art Siddhi (superhuman power): thou art Swadhá and Swáhá: thou art ambrosia (Sudhá), the purifier of the universe: thou art evening, night, and dawn: thou art power, faith, intellect: thou art the goddess of letters (Saraswatí). Thou, beautiful goddess, art knowledge of devotion,
great knowledge, mystic knowledge, and spiritual knowledge 9; which confers eternal liberation. Thou art the science of reasoning, the three Vedas, the arts and sciences 10: thou art moral and political science. The world is peopled by thee with pleasing or displeasing forms. Who else than thou, oh goddess, is seated on that person of the god of gods, the wielder of the mace, which is made up of sacrifice, and contemplated by holy ascetics? Abandoned by thee, the three worlds were on the brink of ruin; but they have been reanimated by thee. From thy propitious gaze, oh mighty goddess, men obtain wives, children, dwellings, friends, harvests, wealth. Health and strength, power, victory, happiness, are easy of attainment to those upon whom thou smilest. Thou art the mother of all beings, as the god of gods, Hari, is their father; and this world, whether animate or inanimate, is pervaded by thee and Vishńu. Oh thou who purifiest all things, forsake not our treasures, our granaries, our dwellings, our dependants, our persons, our wives: abandon not our children, our friends, our lineage, our jewels, oh thou who abidest on the bosom of the god of gods. They whom thou desertest are forsaken by truth, by purity, and goodness, by every amiable and excellent quality; whilst the base and worthless upon whom thou lookest favourably become immediately endowed with all excellent qualifications, with families, and with power. He on whom thy countenance is turned is honourable, amiable, prosperous, wise, and of exalted birth; a hero of irresistible prowess: but all his merits and his advantages are converted into worthlessness from whom, beloved of Vishńu, mother of the world, thou avertest thy face. The tongues of Brahmá, are unequal to celebrate thy excellence. Be propitious to me, oh goddess, lotus-eyed, and never forsake me more."
Being thus praised, the gratified Śrí, abiding in all creatures, and
heard by all beings, replied to the god of a hundred rites (Śatakratu); "I am pleased, monarch of the gods, by thine adoration. Demand from me what thou desirest: I have come to fulfil thy wishes." "If, goddess," replied Indra, "thou wilt grant my prayers; if I am worthy of thy bounty; be this my first request, that the three worlds may never again be deprived of thy presence. My second supplication, daughter of ocean, is, that thou wilt not forsake him who shall celebrate thy praises in the words I have addressed to thee." "I will not abandon," the goddess answered, "the three worlds again: this thy first boon is granted; for I am gratified by thy praises: and further, I will never turn my face away from that mortal who morning and evening shall repeat the hymn with which thou hast addressed me."
Paráśara proceeded.--Thus, Maitreya, in former times the goddess Śrí conferred these boons upon the king of the gods, being pleased by his adorations; but her first birth was as the daughter of Bhrigu by Khyáti: it was at a subsequent period that she was produced from the sea, at the churning of the ocean by the demons and the gods, to obtain ambrosia 11. For in like manner as the lord of the world, the god of gods, Janárddana, descends amongst mankind (in various shapes), so does his coadjutrix Śrí. Thus when Hari was born as a dwarf, the son of Adití, Lakshmí appeared from a lotus (as Padmá, or Kamalá); when he was born as Ráma, of the race of Bhrigu (or Paraśuráma), she was Dharańí; when he was Rághava (Rámachandra), she was Sítá; and when he was Krishńa, she became Rukminí. In the other descents of Vishńu, she is his associate. If he takes a celestial form, she appears as divine; if a mortal, she becomes a mortal too, transforming her own person agreeably to whatever character it pleases Vishńu to put on. Whosoever hears this
account of the birth of Lakshmí, whosoever reads it, shall never lose the goddess Fortune from his dwelling for three generations; and misfortune, the fountain of strife, shall never enter into those houses in which the hymns to Śrí are repeated.
Thus, Brahman, have I narrated to thee, in answer to thy question, how Lakshmí, formerly the daughter of Bhrigu, sprang from the sea of milk; and misfortune shall never visit those amongst mankind who daily recite the praises of Lakshmí uttered by Indra, which are the origin and cause of all prosperity.
70:1 Durvásas was the son of Atri by Anasúyá, and was an incarnation of a portion of Śiva.
70:2 Vidyádharí. These beings, male and female, are spirits of an inferior order, tenanting the middle regions of the atmosphere. According to the Váyu, the garland was given to the nymph by Deví.
70:3 He observed the Vrata, or vow of insanity; equivalent to the ecstasies of some religious fanatics. In this state,' says the commentator, 'even saints are devils.'
72:4 They became Nih-satwa; and Satwa is explained throughout by Dhairyya, 'steadiness,' 'fortitude.'
73:5 The first effect of primary cause is nature, or Prakriti: the effect of the effect, or of Prakriti, is Mahat: effect in the third degree is Ahankára: in the fourth, or the effect of the effect (Ahankára) of the effect (Mahat) of the effect (Prakriti), is elementary substance, or Bhúta. Vishńu is each and all. So in the succeeding ascending scale, Brahmá is the cause of mortal life; the cause of Brahmá is the egg, or aggregate elementary matter: its cause is, therefore, elementary matter; the cause of which is subtile or rudimental matter, which originates from Ahankára, and so on. Vishńu is also each and all of these.
75:6 With thy Śakti, or the goddess Śrí or Lakshmí.
76:7 Or with the Súkta, or hymn of the Vedas, commencing, "Hiranya vernám," &c.
77:8 The churning of the ocean does not occur in several of the Puráńas, and is but cursorily alluded to in the Śiva, Linga, and Kúrma Puráńas. The Váyu and Padma have much the same narrative as that of our text; and so have the Agni and Bhágavata, except that they refer only briefly to the anger of Durvásas, without narrating the circumstances; indicating their being posterior, therefore, to the original tale. The part, however, assigned to Durvásas appears to be an embellishment added to the original, for no mention of him occurs in the Matsya P. nor even in the Hari Vanśa, neither does it occur in what may be considered the oldest extant versions of the story, those of the Rámáyana and Mahábhárata: both these ascribe the occurrence to the desire of the gods and Daityas to become immortal. The Matsya assigns a similar motive to the gods, instigated by observing that the Daityas slain by them in battle were restored to life by Śukra with the Sanjíviní, or herb of immortality, which he had discovered. The account in the Hari Vanśa is brief and obscure, and is explained by the commentator as an allegory, in which the churning of the ocean typifies ascetic penance, and the ambrosia is final liberation: but this is mere mystification. The legend of the Rámáyana is translated, vol. I. p. 410. of the Serampore edition; and that of the Mahábhárata by Sir C. Wilkins, in the notes to his translation of the Bhágavata Gítá. See also the original text, Cal. ed. p. 40. It has been presented to general readers in a more attractive form by my friend H. M. Parker, in his Draught of Immortality, printed with other poems, Lond. 1827. The Matsya P. has many of the stanzas of the Mahábhárata interspersed with others. There is some variety in the order and number of articles produced from the ocean. As I have observed elsewhere (Hindu Theatre, I. 59. Lond. ed.), the popular enumeration is fourteen; but the Rámáyana specifies but nine; the Mahábhárata, nine; the Bhágavata, ten; the Padma, nine; the Váyu, twelve; the p. 78 Matsya, perhaps, gives the whole number. Those in which most agree, are, 1. the Háláhala or Kálakúta poison, swallowed by Śiva: 2. Váruní or Surá, the goddess of wine, who being taken by the gods, and rejected by the Daityas, the former were termed Suras, and the latter Asuras: 3. the horse Uchchaiśśravas, taken by Indra: 4. Kaustubha, the jewel worn by Vishńu: 5. the moon: 6. Dhanwantari, with the Amrita in his Kamańd́alu, or vase; and these two articles are in the Váyu considered as distinct products: 7. the goddess Padmá or Śrí: 8. the Apsarasas, or nymphs of heaven: 9. Surabhi, or the cow of plenty: 10. the Párijáta tree, or tree of heaven: 11. Airávata, the elephant taken by Indra. The Matsya adds, 12. the umbrella taken by Varuna: 13. the earrings taken by Indra, and given to Adití: and apparently another horse, the white horse of the sun: or the number may be completed by counting the Amrita separately from Dhanwantari. The number is made up in the popular lists by adding the bow and the conch of Vishńu; but there does not seem to be any good authority for this, and the addition is a sectarial one: so is that of the Tulaśí tree, a plant sacred to Krishńa, which is one of the twelve specified by the Váyu P. The Uttara Khanda of the Padma P. has a peculiar enumeration, or, Poison; Jyesht́há or Alakshmí, the goddess of misfortune, the elder born to fortune; the goddess of wine; Nidrá, or sloth; the Apsarasas; the elephant of Indra; Lakshmí; the moon; and the Tulaśí plant. The reference to Mohiní, the female form assumed by Vishńu, is very brief in our text; and no notice is taken of the story told in the Mahábhárata and some of the Puráńas, of the Daitya Ráhu's insinuating himself amongst the gods, and obtaining a portion of the Amrita: being beheaded for this by Vishńu, the head became immortal, in consequence of the Amrita having reached the throat, and was transferred as a constellation to the skies; and as the sun and moon detected his presence amongst the gods, Ráhu pursues them with implacable hatred, and his efforts to seize them are the causes of eclipses; Ráhu typifying the ascending and descending nodes. This seems to be the simplest and oldest form of the legend. The equal immortality of the body, under the name Ketu, and his being the cause of meteorical phenomena, seems to have been an after-thought. In the Padma and Bhágavata, Ráhu and Ketu are the sons of Sinhiká, the wife of the Dánava Viprachitti.
79:9 The four Vidyás, or branches of knowledge, are said to be, Yajna vidyá, knowledge or performance of religious rites; Mahá vidyá, great knowledge, the worship of the female principle, or Tántrika worship; Guhya vidyá, knowledge of mantras, mystical prayers, and incantations; and Átma vidyá, knowledge of soul, true wisdom.
79:10 Or Várttá, explained to mean the Śilpa śástra, mechanics, sculpture, and architecture; Áyur-veda, medicine, &c.
80:11 The cause of this, however, is left unexplained. The Padma P. inserts a legend to account for the temporary separation of Lakshmí from Vishńu, which appears to be peculiar to that work. Bhrigu was lord of Lakshmípur, a city on the Narmadá, given him by Brahmá. His daughter Lakshmí instigated her husband to request its being conceded to her, which offending Bhrigu, he cursed Vishńu to be born upon earth ten times, to be separated from his wife, and to have no children. The legend is an insipid modern embellishment.