Agni Purana incomplete?
The Agni Purana (Part
One: The Avataras)
In the forest that is known as
naimisharanya, Shounaka and the other rishis (sages) were performing a
yajna (sacrifice) dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. Suta had also come
there, on his way to a pilgrimage.
The sages told Suta, “We have welcomed you. Now describe to us that
which makes men all-knowing. Describe to us that which is the most
sacred in the whole world”.
Suta replied, “Vishnu is the essence of everything. I went to a
hermitage named Vadrika with Shuka, Paila and other sages and met
Vyaadeva there. Vyasadeva described to me that which he had learnt
from the great sage Vashishtha, Vashishtha having learnt it from the
god Agni himself. The Agni Purana is sacred because it tells us about
the essence of the brahman (the divine essence). I learnt all this
from Vyasadeva and I will now tell you all that I have learnt.”
Do you know what an avatara is? An avatara is an incarnation and means
that a god adopts a human form to be born on earth. Why do gods do
this. The purpose is to destroy evil on earth and establish
righteousness. Vishnu is regarded as the preserver of the universe and
it is therefore Vishnu‟s incarnations that one encounters most
often. Vishnu has already had nine such incarnations and the tenth and
final incarnation is due in the future. These ten incarnations of
Vishnu are as follows.
(1) Matsya avatara or fish incarnation (2) Kurma avatara or turtle incarnation (3) Varaha avatara or boar incarnation (4) Narasimha avatara- an incarnation
in the form of a being who was half-man and half-lion.
(5) Vamana avatara or dwarf
(6) Parashurama (7) Rama
(10) Kalki-this is the incarnation that is yet to come.
The Agni Purana now describes these ten incarnations.
Agni told Vashishtha the story of the fish incarnation.
Many years ago, the whole world was destroyed. The destruction in fact
extended to all the three lokas (Worlds) of bhuloka, bhuvarloka and
svarloka. Bhuloka is the earth, svarloka or svarga is heaven and
bhuvarloka is a region between the earth and heaven. All there worlds
were flooded with water.
Vaivasvata Manu was the son of the sun-god. He had spent ten thousand
years in prayers and tapasya (meditation) in the hermitage vadrika.
This hermitage was on the banks of the river Kritamala.
Once Manu came to the river to perform his ablutions. He immersed his
hands in the water to get some water for his ablutions. When he raised
them, he found that there was a small fish swimming in the water in
the cup of his hands.
Manu was about to throw the fish back into the water when the fish
said, “Don‟t throw me back. I am scared of alligators and
crocodiles and big fishes. Save me.”
Manu found an earthen pot in which he could keep the fish. But soon
the fish became too big for the pot and Manu had to find a larger
vessel in which the fish might be kept. But the fish became too big
for this vessel as well and Manu had to transfer the fish to a take.
But the fish grew and grew and became too large for the lake. So Manu
transferred the fish to the ocean. In the ocean, the fish grew until
it became gigantic.
By now, Manu‟s wonder knew no bounds. He said, “Who are you? You
must be the Lord Vishnu, I bow down before you. Tell me, why are you
tantalising me in the form of a fish?”
The fish replied, “I have to punish the evil and protect the good.
Seven days from now, the ocean will flood the entire world and all
beings will be destroyed. But since you have saved me, I will save
you. When the world is flooded, a boat will arrive here. Take the
saptarshis (seven sages) with that boat. Don‟t forget to take the
seeds of foodgrains with you. I will arrive and you will then fasten
the boat to my horn with a huge snake.” Saying this, the fish disappeared.
happened as the fish had promised it would. The ocean became turbulent
and Manu climbed into the boat. He tied the boat to the huge horn that
the fish had. He prayed to the fish and the fish related the Matsya
Purana to him. Eventually, when the water receded, the boat was
anchored to the topmost peak of the Himalayas. And living beings were
created once again.
A danava (demon) named Hayagriva had stolen the sacred texts of the
Vedas and the knowledge of the brahman. In his form of a fish, Vishnu
also killed Hayagriva and recovered the Vedas.
Many years ago there was a war between the devas (gods) and the
daityas (demons) and the gods lost this war. They prayed to Vishnu to
rescue them from the oppression of the demons. Vishnu told Brahma and
the other gods that they should have a temporary truce with the
demons. The two sides should get together to churn the ocean. Vishnu
would ensure that the devas benefited more from this churning of the
ocean than the daityas did.
The truce was agreed upon and the two sides got ready to churn the
ocean. The mountain Mandara was used as a churning rod and great sake
Vasuki as the rope for churning. The devas grasped Vasuki‟s tail and
the daityas grasped Vasuki‟s head. But as the churning began, the
mountain Mandara which had no base, started to get immersed in the
ocean. What was to be done? Lord Vishnu came to the rescue. He adopted
the form of a turtle and the peak was balanced on the turtle‟s back.
As the churning continued, terrible poison named kalkuta emerged from
the depths of the ocean and was swallowed by Shiva. Shiva‟s throat
became blue from this poison and he is therefore known as Nilakantha,
blue of throat. The goddess Varuni, the goddess of wine (sura), came
out next. The gods readily accepted her and thus they came to be known
as suras. But the demons rejected Varuni and were therefore known as
asuras. She was followed by the Parijata tree, a beautiful tree that
came to occupy the pride of place in Indra‟s garden. A jewel named
koustubha emerged and was accepted by Vishnu as his adornment. Three
wonderful animals came out next – the cow Kapila, the horse
Ucchaishrava and the elephant Airavata. They were followed by the
apsaras, beautiful women who became the dancers of heaven. They were
known as apsaras because they emerged from ap (water). The goddess
Lakshmi or Shri came out next and was united with Vishnu.
Finally, Dhanvantari emerged with a pot of amrita (the life – giving
drink) in his hands. Dhanvantari was the originator of medicine
(ayurveda). The daityas led by Jambha gave half of the amrita to the
devas and departed with the remaining half.
But Vishnu quickly adopted the form of a beautiful woman. So beautiful
was the woman that the demons were charmed. “Pretty lady,” they
said. “ take the amrita and serve it to us. Marry us.” Vishnu
accepted the amrita, but he had no intention of giving it to the
demons. He served it to the gods instead. There was only one demon who
was somewhat clever. His name was Rahu. He adopted the form of
Chandra, the moon-god, and succeeded in drinking some of the amrita.
The sun-god and the moon-god noticed what was happening and reported
it to Vishnu. Vishnu thereupon cut off Rahu‟s head with a sword.
But Rahu had drunk the amrita, so he could not die. He prayed to
Vishnu and Vishnu granted him a boon. The boon was that occasionally
Rahu would be permitted to swallow up the sun and the complained about
him. You can see this happening at the time of the solar and the lunar
eclipses. People who give alms during such eclipses are blessed.
The gods obtained the amrita and the demons did not. Thus, the gods
became more powerful than the demons. They defeated the demons and
regained heaven. The Boar
Vishnu‟s next incarnation was in the form of a boar.
The sage Kashyapa and his wife Diti had a son named Hiranyaksha.
became the king of the asuras. Hiranyaksha‟s meditation pleased
Brahma and Brahma granted him the boon that he would be invincible in
battle. Thus armed. Hiranyaksha went out to fight with the devas. He
comprehensively defeated the gods and conquered heaven. He also
defeated Varuna, the god of the ocean. Thus, Hiranyaksha became the
king of the heaven, the earth and the underworld.
But the asura was not particularly fond of the earth. He himself had
begun to live in Varuna‟s palace under the ocean. So he hurled the
earth into the depths of the ocean.
The gods went to Vishnu and prayed that something might be done about
Hiranyaksha. They wished to be restored to heaven and they wished that
the earth might be brought back from the depths of the ocean. In
response to these prayers, Vishnu adopted the form of a boar and
entered the ocean. Who should he meet there but Hiranyaksha himself?
Hiranyaksha of course did not know that this boar was none other than
Vishnu. He thought that it was an ordinary boar and attacked it. The
two fought for many years. But finally, Hiranyaksha was gored to death
by the boar‟s tusks. The boar raised the earth up once again with
Vishnu thus saved the gods and the principles of righteousness or
Hiranyaksha had a brother named Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu was
furious to learn that his brother had been killed and the resolved to
kill Vishnu. But this could not be done unless h e himself became
powerful land invincible. Hiranyakashipu, therefore, began to pray to
Brahma through difficult meditation. Brahma was pleased at these
prayers and offered to grant a boon.
“I want to be invincible,” said Hiranyakashipu. “Please grant me
the boon that I may not be killed by night or day; that I may not be
killed by man or beast; and that I may not be killed in the sky, the
water or the earth.”
Brahma granted the desired boon. And Hiranyakashipu was happy. He
thought that he had taken care of all possible eventualities. And
since he had become so powerful, he conquered all the three worlds and
kicked the gods out to heaven.
Hiranyakashipu had a son named Prahlada. You no doubt remember that
Hiranyakashipu had resolved to kill Vishnu. But strangely enough,
Prahlada became devoted to Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried to persuade
his son. That did not work. He tried to kill his son. That too did not
work since each time, Vishnu intervened to save Prahlada.
Meanwhile, the gods had been driven off from heaven. They had also
been deprived of their shares in yajanas by Hiranyakashipu. These
shares now went only to the asura king. In desperation, they went and
prayed to Vishnu and Vishnu promised them that he would find a
One day, Hiranyakashipu called Prahlada to him. “How is it that you
escaped each time I tried to kill you?”, he asked.
“Because Vishnu saved me,” replied Prahlada. “Vishnu is
“What do you mean everywhere?”, retorted Hiranyakashipu. He
pointed to a crystal pillar inside the palace and asked, “Is Vishnu
inside this pillar as well?” “Yes,” replied Prahlada.
“Very well then. I am going to kick the pillar,” said
When Hiranyakashipu kicked the pillar, it broke into two. And from
inside the pillar, Vishnu emerged in his form of half-man and
half-lion. He caught hold of Hiranyakashipu and placed the demon
across his thighs. And with his claws, he tore apart the demon‟s
chest and so killed him. Brahma‟s boon had been that Hiranyakashipu
would not be killed by man or beast. But then narasimha was neither
man nor beast it was half-man and half- beast. The boon had said that
the asura would not be killed in the sky, the water or the earth. But
Hiranyakashipu was killed on Vishnu‟s thighs, which were not the
sky. The water or the earth. And finally, the noon had promised that
Hiranyakashipu would not be killed by night or day. Since the incident
took place in the evening, it was not night or day.
After Hiranyakashipu died, the gods were restored to their rightful
places. Vishnu’s made Prahlada the king of the asuras.
Prahlada‟s grandson was Vali and Vali became very powerful. When he
was the king of the asuras, there was a war between the devas and the
asuras. The gods were defeated and were driven off from svarga. As
always, the gods fled to Vishnu and began to pray to him to save them.
Vishnu assured the gods that he would do something about Vali.
Accordingly, Vishnu was born as the son of Aditi and Kashyapa. The son
was a dwarf.
King Vali had arranged for a huge sacrifice and had announced that, on
the occasion of the sacrifice, he would not refuse anyone a boon. The
dwarf arrived at this sacrifice and began to recite the Veda‟s. Vali
was so pleased at this that he offered the dwarf a bon. Vali‟s
guru(teacher) was Shukracharya and Shukracharya thought that there was
something fishy about the way the dwarf had arrived. So he tried to
“No,” said Vali. “I have offered a boon and I shall stick to my
word.” What boon do you desire? I will give whatever you want.”
Before a boon was actually granted, a small rite had to be performed
with holy water. Shukracharya was still trying to do his best to
prevent the boon from being given. So he entered the vessel in which
the holy water was kept to seal the mouth of the vessel and prevent
the water from being taken out. To get at the holy water, the vessel
was pierced with a straw. This straw also pierced one of Shukracharya‟s
eyes. Ever since that day, the preceptor of the demons has been one
“Give me as much of land as may be covered in three of my steps,”
said the dwarf. “I need this as dakshina (fee) for my guru.”
Vali agreed. But the dwarf adopted a gigantic form. With one step he
covered bhuloka. With another step he covered bhuvarloka. And with the
last step he covered svarloka. The three worlds were thus lost to Vali
and Vishnu returned them to Indra. Vali had no option but to go down
to the underworld (patala). But so pleased was Vishnu at Vali‟s
generosity that he granted the asura the boon that he would bear the
title of Indra in the future.
The kshatriyas were the second of the four classes. It was their job
to wear arms and protect the world. And rule. The brahmanas were the
first of the four classes. It was their job to pray, study the sacred
texts and perform religious rites. But the kshatriyas became very
insolent and began to oppress the world and the brahmanas. Vishnu was
then born as the son of the sage Jamadagni and his wife Renuka. Since
this was the line of the sage Bhrigu, Parashurama was also called
Bhargava. Parashurama‟s mission was to protect the brahmanas and
teach a lesson to the kshatriyas.
There was a king named Kartavirya who had received all sorts of boons
from the sage Dattatreya. Thanks to these boons, Kartavirya had a
thousand arms and conquered and ruled over the entire world.
One day, Kartavirya went on a hunt to the forest. He was very tired
after the hunt and was invited by the sage Jamadagni had a kamadhenu
cow. This meant that the cow produced whatever its owner desired.
Jamadagni used the kamadhenu to treat Kartavirya and all his soldiers
to a sumptuous feast.
Kartavirya was so enamoured of the kamadhenu that he asked the sage to
give it to him. But Jamadagni refused. Kartavirya then abducted the
cow by force and a war started between Kartavirya and Parashurama. In
this war, Parashurama cut off Kartavirya‟s head with his axe
(parashu) and brought the kamadhenu back to the hermitage.
After some time, Parashurama was away when Kartavirya‟s sons arrived
at the ashrama and killed Jamadagni. On the death of his father,
Parashurama‟s anger was aroused. He killed all he kshatriyas in the
world twenty-one times. On the plains of Kurukshetra, he built five
wells which were filled with the blood of kshatriyas. Eventually,
Parashurama handed over the world to Kashyapa and went and lived on
Brahma came out of Vishnu‟s navel. Brahma‟s son was Marichi‟s
son Kashyapa, Kashyapa‟s son Surya, Surya‟s son Vaivasvata Manu,
Manu‟s son Ikshvaku, Ikskhvakku‟s son Kakutstha, Kakutstha‟s son
Raghu, Raghu‟s son Aja, Aja‟s son Dasharatha, Dasharatha‟s sons
were Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Since Rama was descended
from Kakutstha and Raghu, he was also called Kakutstha and Raghava.
Since his father‟s name was Dasharatha, he was also called
Dasharathi. Rama‟s story belongs to the solar line (surya vansha),
since one of his ancestors was Surya.
Vishnu himself wished to destroy Ravana and the other rakshasas
(demons). He therefore divided himself into four parts and was born as
Rams, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Rama was Koushalya‟s son,
Bharata Kaikeyi‟s. Lakshmana and Shartrughna were the sons of
The sage Vishvamitra came to Dasharatha and pleaded for Rama‟s help
in defeating the rakshasas who were disturbing his yajanas. Rama
killed these demons and Vishvamitra was so pleased that he taught Rama
the use of all divine weapons. Rama broke a bow of Shiv‟s that had
been in the possession of the king of Mithila, Janaka. This was the
task that had been appointed for marrying Sita, Janaka‟s daughter.
Rama married Sita, Lakshmana married urmila, Bharata married Mandavi
and Shatrughna married Shrutakirti. On the way back to Ayodhya, Rama
also beat Parashurama in a duel.
Dasharatha resolved that Rama should be made yuvaraja, that is, the
heir apparent to the kingdom.
But Kaikeyi had a servant named Manthara who plotted otherwise. When
he was young, Rama had pulled at Manthara‟s feet and ever since that
day, Manthara had not been kindly towards Rama. She reminded Kaikeyi
of the two; boons that had been promised to her by King Dasharatha.
Years ago, the gods had been fighting with the demon Shambara and had
asked Dasharatha for his help. In fighting with Shambara, Dasharatha
had been injured. He had been nursed back to health by Kaikeyi.
Dasharatha had promised two boons to Kaikeyi as a reward and Manthara‟s
suggestion was that Kaikeyi should now ask for these two boons. By the
first boon Rama would be banished to the forest for fourteen years and
by the second boon Bharata would become yuvaraja.
Kaikeyi listened to Manthara. At Manthara‟s instance, she asked for
these two boons. Dasharatha was very angry, but Rama insisted that he
would indeed go to the forest for fourteen years. Rama, Lakshmana and
Sita first went to the banks of the river Tamasa. From there they went
to the kingdom of Guha, the king of the hunters (nishadas). They
crossed the river Jahnavi and arrived in Prayaga, where the sage
Bharadvaja had his hermitage. Their final destination was the mountain
range of Chitrakuta, on the banks of the river Mandakini.
Meanwhile, back home in Ayodhaya, King Dasharatha who could not bear
to be parted from Rama, died. Bharata and Shatrughna had gone on a
visit to their uncle‟s house and were recalled. But Bharatha refused
to be king. He went to the forest to try and persuade Rama to return,
but Rama insisted that he would not return before the fourteen years
were over. So Bharata brought back Rama‟s sandals. He placed these
sandals on the throne as a token of Rama‟s kingship. And he began to
rule the kingdom in Rama‟s name from Nandigrama, rather than from
Rama, Lakshmana and Sita then went to the forest that is known as the
Dandaka forest, dandakaranya. This forest was on the banks of the
river Godavari and there was a beautiful lgrove inside the forest
known as Panchavati. They built a hut there and resolved to live
was a rakshasa woman named Shurpanakha. She happened to come to the
place where Rama Lakshmana and Sita had built their hut. Shurpanakha
liked Rama so much that she wanted to marry Rama and eat up Lakshmana
and Sita. But Lakshmana cut off Shurpanakha‟s nose and ears with his
Shurpanakha fled to brother Khara and demanded revenge. Khara and
fourteen thousand other demons (rakshasas) attacked Rama, but they
were all killed by Rama. Shurpanakha then went to her other brother
Ravana, the king of Lanka.
Ravana asked the rakshasa Maricha to adopt the form of a golden deer
and roam around in front of Rama‟s hut. Sita was so charmed by the
deer that she asked Rama to capture it for her. Rama was long in
returning and Lakshmana went to look for him. Taking advantage of Rama
and Lakshmana‟s absence, Ravana kidnapped Sita. Jatayu, the king of
the birds, did try to stop Ravana, but he met his death at Ravana‟s
Rama and Lakshmana were greatly distressed to find Sita missing and
they looked for her everywhere. Rama made friends with the monkey
Sugriva. He killed Sugriva‟s brother Bali and made Sugriva the king
of monkeys. The monkeys were sent off in all the four directions to
The monkeys who had gone towards the south learnt that Sita was in
Lanka, across the ocean. One of these monkeys was Hanumana. Hanumana
leapt over the ocean and arrived in Lanka. He discovered the lonesome
Sita in a grove of ashoka trees, the ashokavana. Hanumana introduced
himself and assured Sita that he would soon be back with Rama.
Hanumana caused some general havoc in Lanka and was captured by
Meghnada or Indrajit, Ravana‟s son. Ravana ordered that Hanumana‟s
tail should be set on fire. But Hanumana used his burning tail to set
fire to all the houses of Lanka. He then returned to Rama with the
news that Sita had been found.
Rama, Lakshmana and the army of monkeys arrived at the shores of the
ocean. There they built a bridge over the ocean so that they could
cross over into Lanka. There was a terrible war in which Rama killed
the giant Kumbhakarna, Ravana‟s brother. Lakshmana killed Indrajit.
Rama killed Ravana with a powerful divine weapon, the brahmastra.
The fourteen years were by now over and Rama, Lakshmana and Sita
returned to Ayodhya. There Rama was crowned king and he treated his
subjects as his own sons. He punished the wicked and followed the path
of dharma. During Rama‟s rule there was no shortage of foodgrains
anywhere and the people were righteous. No one died an untimely death.
On Rama‟s instructions, Shatrughna killed the asura Lavana and built
the city of Mathura in the place where Lavana‟s kingdom had been.
Bharata was sent by Rama to kill a wicked gandharva, a singer of
heaven named Shailusha, who lived on the banks of the river Indus with
his sons. Bharata killed them and built two cities there, Takshashila
and Pushkaravati. In Takshashila Bharata established his son Ataksha
as king and in Pushkaravati he made his son pushkara the king. Rama
and Sita had two sons named Kusha and Lava. Rama ruled for eleven
thousand years before he died.
This is the story of the Ramayana as recounted in the Agni Purana. It
was written by the sage Valmiki after he had heard the story from the
Rama was the seventh avatara of Vishnu, Krishna was the eighth.
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Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:29:21 Agni Purana
The Agni Purana
Two: Harivamsha and Mahabharata)
As you have already been told, Brahma emerged from Vishnu‟s navel.
Brahma‟s son was Atri, Atri‟s son Soma, Soma‟s son Pururava,
Pururava‟s son Ayu, Ayu‟s son Nahusha and Nahushja‟s son Yayati.
Yayati had two wives, Devayani and Sharmishtha. Devayani had two sons, Yadu and Turvusu. And Sharmishtha
had three sons, Druhya, Anu and Puru. The descendants of Yadu were
known as the Yadavas.
Vasudeva was a Yadava. His wife was Devaki. Vishnu was born as sthe
son of Vasudeva and Devaki in order to remove the wicked from the
world. The seventh son of Vasudeva and Devaki was Baladeva. And the
eight son was
Krishna himself. Krishna was born in the month of Bhadra in the thick
of the night. Scared that the wicked Kakmsa might kill the newly born
child, Vasudeva left him with Yashoda, the wife of Nanda.
Nanda was the king of the cowherds and he brought up Baladeva and
Krishna. Kamsa sent a rakshasa woman named Putana to kill Krishna but
Krishna killed her instead. In Vrindavana, Krishna subdued the
terrible snake known as Kaliya. He killed several other rakshasas
named Arishta, Vrishabha, Keshi, Dhenuka and Gardhabha and made the
country safe from the attacksof these demons. He also stopped the
worship of Indra. This led to a fight between Indra and Krishna, Indra
tried to destroy the inhabitants of Gokula by sending down torrents of
rain. But Krishna held aloft the mountain Govardhana and saved the
inhabitants of Gokula.
Kamsa‟s capital was in Mathura, Baladeva and Krishna went there.
Kamsa let loose a mad elephant named Kuvalayapida on Krishna. But
Krishna killed Kuvalayapida. Baladeva and Krishna also killed two
strong wrestlers, Chanura and Mushtika, whom Kamsa had instructed to
kill Baladeva and Krishna. Finally, Krishna killed Kamsa and made
Ugrasena the king.
Kamsa was Jarasandha‟s
son-in-law and Jarasandha became furious when he learnt of Kamsa‟s
death. He attacked the Yadavas and laid siege to the city of Mathura.
After a prolonged war, Krishna managed to defeat Jarasandha. Krishna
also defeated another evil king named Poundraka. On Krishna‟s
instructions, the Yadavas built the beautiful city of Dvaraka or
Dvaravati. The Yadavas began to live in Dvaraka.
There was an asura named Naraka who was killed by Krishna. Naraka had
imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of the devas, gandharvas and
yakshas (guards of Heaven‟s treasury). These women were freed by
Krishna and Krishna married all of them. Amongst Krishna‟s other
exploits were defeating the daitya Panchajana, killing Kalayavna,
seizing the parijata tree from Indra and bringing back to life the
sage Sandipani‟s dead son.
Krishna had several sons. Shamba was born of Krishna‟s wife
Jambavati and Pradyumna was born of Krishna‟s wife Rukmini. As soon
as Pradyumna was born, he was abducted by the asura Shambara. Shambara
threw the baby into the sea, but a fish swallowed the baby. A
fisherman caught the fish and brought it to Shambara‟s house. When
the fish‟s stomach was cut open, the baby came out. There was a
woman named Mayavati who lived in Shambara‟s house and Shambara
handed over baby Pradyumna to Mayavati so that he might be brought up
well. When he grew up, Pradyumna killed Shambara and married Mayavati. They returned to dvaraka and Krishna
was very happy to see his lost son.
Pradyumma and Mayavati had a son named Aniruddha. Aniruddha secretly
married Usha, the daughter of King Vana, Vana himself being the son of
Vali. Vana‟s capital was in a city named Shonitapura. Vana had
pleased Shiva through hard and difficult tapasya, so that sometimes he
was called the son of Shiva. Vana loved to fight and he had wanted a
boon from Shiva that he might get the chance to fight with someone who
was his equal in battle. A flag with a peacock on it used to fly from
the ramparts of Vana‟s palace. Shiva told him the day this flag fell
down. Vana‟s desire for with an equal would be satisfied.
With the help of a friend of Usha‟s, Anuruddha and Usha used to meet
secretly in Vana‟s palace. Vana‟s guards informed him about this
and there was a fierce battle between Vana and Aniruddha At the same
time, the flag with the peacock on it fell down. Krishna got to know
from Narada about the fight between Vana and Aniruddha and he,
Baladeva and Pradyumna arrived in Vana‟s capital. Shiva came to
fight on Vana‟s side, accompanied by Nandi and Skanda or Kartikeya.
But after a duel that lasted for a long time, Krishna triumphed over
these enemies. Krishna‟s arrows also cut off the thousand arms that
Vana had. But at Shiva‟s request, Krishna spared Vana‟s life and
gave two arms with which to make do.
All of these stories about Krishna are related in detail in the
Harivamsha. The Agni Purana merely gives a brief summary of the
Harivamsha. But stories about Krishna, the eight avatara of Vishnu,
also crop up in the Mahabharata. The Agni Purana, therefore, next
summarises the Mahabharata.
The Pandavas were merely a pretext. Krishna used the Pandavas to rid
the world of evil men.
You have already learnt that one of Yayati‟s sons was Puru. In Puru‟s
line were born Bharata and Kuru. One of Kuru‟s descendants was the
king Shantanu. Shantanu married Ganga and Bhishma was born from this
But Shantanu also married Satyavati and had two more sons, Chitrangada
and Vichitravirya. Bhishma never married. Chitrangada died young. When
Vichitravirya grew up, Bhishma defeated the king of Kashi and brought
two of the king‟s daughters, Ambika and Ambalika, as brides for
Vichitravirya. Vichitravirya as also quite young when he died of
Since Vichitravirya had left no children, Vyasadeva was brought to
Hastinapura. Vyasadeva and Ambalika had a son named Dhritarashtra and
Vyasadeva and Ambalika had a son named Pandu. Dhritarashtra married
Gandhari and they had a hundred sons, of whom the most important was
Duryodhana. Pandu had two wives, Kunti and Madri. Kunti‟s sons were
Yudhishthira, Bhima and Arjuna and Madri‟s sons were Nakula and
Sahadeva. But Yudhishthira was really the son of the god Dharma and
not Pandu‟s son. Similarly, Bhima was the son of the god Pavana,
Arjuna the son of Indra and Nakula and Sahadeva the sons of the two
Ashvinis. Earlier, Kunti had a son named Karna from the sun-god.
This was before she had god married to Pandu. Karna became a friend of
Duryodhana‟s. Because of a curse imposed on him by a sage, Pandu
died in the forest.
Duryodhana tried his best to kill the Pandavas. He set fire to a house
of lac (jatugriha) in which Kunti and the five Pandavas were staying.
But the Pandavas were saved and fled to a city named Ekachakra. There
they lived, disguised as brahmanas. In Ekachakra, they destroyed a
rakshasa named Vaka. They then won the hand of the daughter of the
king of Panchala. Her name was Droupadi and all five Pandava brothers
married her. When Duryodhana learnt that the Pandavas were alive, he
handed over half the kingdom to them.
Meanwhile, the forest Khandava had to be burnt and Krishna and Arjuna
did this together. Krishna had befriended Arjuna. When Arjuna
successfully defeated the god Agni at the burning of the Khandava
forest, Agni gave him several divine weapons. Arjuna had also obtained
divine weapons from his guru Dronacharya.
On the Pandava side, Yudhishthira had become king. The Pandavas
organised a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice) in which they conquered
several kingdoms and accumulated lot of wealth. This made Duryodhana
He arranged a game of dice
(aksha) between Yudhishthira and Duryodhana‟s uncle Shakuni. Shakuni
did not play fairly and Yudhishthira lost the game. As penalty for the
loss, the Pandavas were to spend twelve years in the forest and one
additional year without being detected. Droupadi went with them to the
forest, as did the Pandava‟s priest, Dhoumya.
After the twelve years were over, the Pandavas came to the kingdom of
King Virata where they proposed to spend the additional year that had
to be spent in disguises. Yudhishthira pretended to be a brahmana,
Bhima a cook, Arjuna a dancer, Nakula and Sahadeva stable-hands.
Droupadi became the queen‟s maid. The queen‟s brother Kichaka
tried to molest Droupadi, but was killed by Bhima. When the year was
over, the Kauravas attacked King Virata to rob him of his cattle. But
Arjuna defeated all the Kauravas and saved Virata‟s cattle After
this success, the identity of the Pandavas could no longer be kept a
secret. But thankfully, the one year during which identities had to be
kept a secret, was over.
King Virata‟s daughter Uttara was married to Abhimanyu, Arjuna‟s
son. Abhimanyu‟s mother was Subhadra, whom Arjuna had married.
Subhadra also happened to be Krishna‟s sister.
The Pandavas now demanded their rightful share of the kingdom, but
Duryodhana refused. A war was imminent. A huge battalion of soldiers
was known as an akshouhini. Duryodhana collected eleven akshouhinis
for the war and Yudhishthira collected seven. Krishna was sent as a
messenger to Duryodhana to try and preserve the peace. Krishna told
Duryodhana that the Pandavas would be satisfied with a mere five
villages. Duryodhana refused to give them even this without a fight.
So the armies gathered for a war on the plains of Kurukshetra.
Noticing that elders and relatives like Bhishma and Dronacharya were
fighting on the side of the Kaurvas, Arjuna was reluctant to fight.
But Krishna gave Arjuna lessons which have come down to us as the
Gita. He taught there was no reason for sorrow if Bhishma or
Dronacharya died, that was only a death of their physical bodies. The
true identity of a person was his atman (soul) which never died, but
passed from one body to another. True bliss was obtained when the
atman united with the brahman (divine essence) or paramatman (supreme
soul). This was always the goal of a yogi, that is, a person who
sought union with god.
Thus instructed by Krishna, Arjuna started to fight. With the help of
Shikhandi, he defeated Bhishma. This happened on the tenth day of the
fighting. Bhishma did not however die. He had earlier received the
boon that he would only die when he actually wished to do so. For many
days, he lay there in the battlefield on a bed of arrows. After
Bhishma‟s defeat, Dronacharya became the general on the Pandava
side. Dronaharya killed Virata, Drupada and several other kings and
soldiers on the Pandava side. Dhrishtadyumna also killed many Kaurava
soldiers. On the fifteenth day of the fighting, a rumour gained
currency that Ashvatthama, Dronacharya‟s son, had been killed.
Dronacharya abandoned his weapons on hearing this bad news and
Dhrishtadyumna faced no problems in killing him. Karna now became the
Kaurava general and lasted for two and a half days before he was
killed by Arjuna. Shalya was the last Kaurava general. He fought for
only half a day and was killed by Yudhishthira.
Bhima and Duryodhana fought the last duel of the war with maces. Bhima
broke Duryodhana‟s thighs and killed him. Ashvatthama had been
fuming ever since his father Dronacharya had been killed by unfair
means. In the dead of the night, he entered the Pandava camp where he
killed Dhrishtadyumna and the five sons of Droupadi. Droupadi was
disconsolate and demanded revenge. Arjuna and Ashvatthama let loose
divine weapons at each other. Since this might destroy the world, they
were asked to withdraw these weapons. Arjuna could withdraw his
weapon, but Ashvatthama could not. Ashvatthama‟s weapon killed the
baby that was in Uttara‟s womb, but when the dead baby was born,
Krishna brought it back to life. This baby was Parik****a.
Many kings and soldiers died in the course of the Kurukshetra war. The
only ones left alive were Kritvarma, Kripacharya and Ashvatthama on
the Kaurava side and Pandava side. After the war was over, Bhishma
taught Yudhishthira the duties of king. It was only after this that he
As a king, Yudhishthira performed many yajnas and gave a lot of to
brahmanas. When Yudhishthira learnt that the Yadvas had been
destroyed, he no longer wished to rule. He handed over the kingdom to
Parik****a and the Pandavas left on a pilgrimage, in the course of
which they died.
It was Krishna who had used the Pandavas as a tool to rid the world of
evil kings and establish the good ones. Realising that the Yadavas
were also evil, Krishna also ensured that the Yadavas would be
destroyed. He then gave up his life at the place of pilgrimage that is
known as Prabhasa. After Krishna died, the city of Dvarka was
swallowed up by the sea.
This was the story of the eighth avatara of Vishnu
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Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:30:15
The Agni Purana
Three: Buddha, Kalki; The Creation)
Buddha And Kalki
The ninth avatara of Vishnu was Buddha and the tenth will be Kalki.
Many years ago, there was a war between the devas and the asuras in
which the demons managed to defeat the gods. The gods went running to
Vishnu for protection and Vishnu told them that Mayamoha would be born
as Buddha, the son of Shuddhodana. Such were the illusions that Buddha
created, that the asuras left the path indicated by the Vedas and
became Buddhists. These dastardly creatures performed ceremonies that
were a sure ticket to naraka. Towards the end of the Kali era, all
people will be dastardly. They will oppose the Vedas, become robbers
and will be concerned only with wealth. The disbelievers will then
become kings and these kings will also be cannibals.
Much later, Kalki will be born on earth as the son of Vishnuyasha. He
will take up arms to destroy these disbelievers. Kalki‟s priest will
be the sage Yajnavalkya. The norms of he four classes (varna) and the
four stages of life (ashrama) will be established yet again. People
will honour the sacred texts and become righteous. It will then be
time for the dawn of a new satya yuga, a fresh period of
In every cycle (kalpa) and in every era (manvantara) Vishnu is thus
born in various forms. It is a sacred duty to listen to the stories of
the ten avataras. The listener attains his desires and goes to heaven.
Agni next told Vashishtha the history of creation.
Vishnu is the Lord of creation, preservation and destruction. Before
creation, it was only the brahman that was everywhere. There was no
day, night or sky.
First Vishnu created the waters. And in the waters he sowed the seeds
of brahmanda. the great egg. From this seed there developed a golden
egg which began to float on the waters. From the egg Brahma created
himself. Since he created himself (svayam sambhuta), Brahma is also
known as Svayambhu. Having created himself, Brahma stayed inside the
egg for an entire year. And at the end of the year, he split the egg
into two. One part of the egg formed the heaven, the other the earth.
And in between the two parts of the egg, Brahma created the sky.
Brahma next established the earth on the waters and made the ten
directions. He created time, lightning, thunder, clouds, rain bows,
words and anger. To ensure that yajnas could be performed, texts of
the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda emerged from his body.
Holy people use the Vedas to perform Ceremonies meant for the gods.
From the powers of his mind, Brahma created seven sons. Their names
were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha Kratu and Vashishtha.
Prithu is recognised as the first king Prithu was descended from
Dhruva. And Prithu‟s father Vena was also a king. But Vena was an
evil king; he was simply not interested in protecting his subjects.
The sages therefore killed Vena with a straw and after Vena had died,
they began to knead the dead body‟s right hand and it was thus that
Prithu emerged. He wore armour and carried bow and arrows when he was
born. He ruled well, as per the dictates of dharma. He looked upon all
his subjects as his own sons. From Prithu the earth came to be known
Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:30:55
The Agni Purana
Four: Temples, Holy Places and
How To Pray, How To Build Temples And Deities
The Agni purana next has several chapters on how to pray and on how to
build temples and idols. The Techniques of praying to Vishnu , Shiva,
Surya and the other gods and goddesses are described, including the
special mantras (incantations)that must be used so as to please
specific gods and there are prescribed forms for such bathing as well.
A Person who builds temples is blessed. Even if one merely thinks of
building temples, the sins of a hundred lives are forgiven. A builder
of a single temple goes to heaven (svarga). A builder of five to
shivaloka, a builder of eight vishnuloka and a builder of sixteen
temples is freed from the shackles of being born again and again. What
is the point of earning money if one does not build temples? Money is
also meant to be donated as alms to brahmanas, but the punya or merit
earned from building a temple is greater than the punya earned from
donating alms. The merit earned by builder of temples is greatest for
a golden temple, lesser for a stone temple, still lesser for a wooden
temple and least from earthen Temple.
More punya is acquired from building an idol than from building a
temple. Idols of gods and goddesses should always be set up so that
they face the city; they should not face away from the city. The easy
is for Brahma‟s. Vishnu idol can be setup anywhere at all.
Different idols of Vishnu
must have different forms. Consider, for example, idols or images of
the ten incarnations of Vishnu. The matsya (fish) avatara must
naturally look like a fish and the kurma (turtle) avatara must look
like a turtle. But the varaha (boar) avatara will four arms like a man
and will hold a gada (mace), a padma (lotus flower), a shankha (conch
shell) and a chakra (bladed discuss) in these four arms. The narasimha
avatara should have two arms holding a chakra and a gada and should
wear a garland. The vamana (dwarf) avatara should hold an umbrella and
a stick in his two hands. Parashurama will have four hands with a bow.
arrows, a sword and an axe in these hands. Rama‟s image can have
either two arms or four. If there are four arms, the four hands will
hold a bow, arrows, a conch shell and a chakra. Balarama‟s image may
also have either four arms or two. If there are two arms, the four
arms the hands will hold a plough, a conch shell, a club and a chakra.
Buddha‟s image should have a calm appearance. It should be seated on
a lotus. The ears should be elongated Kalka‟s image is that of a
brahmana, seated on a horse and holding a bow and arrows, a conch
shell, a sword and a chakra.
Krishna‟s image may be either two- armed or four-armed. Three of the
four arms will hold a gada, a chakra and a shankha. The fourth palm
will be opened out in the act of granting a boon. On either side of
Krishna‟s image, there will be images of Brahma and Shiva. Brahma
has four faces and four arms and the image should have a pronounced
rides a swan . On either side of Brahma‟s image, there will be
images of Sarasvati and Savitri.
Vishnu‟s image has eight arms. Seven of the arms hold a sword, a
mace, arrow, a bow, a shield, a chakra and a conch shell. The eighth
palm is spread out as if Vishnu is granting a boon. Vishnu should be
shown riding on Garuda. Garuda will also have eight arms. To the right
of Vishnu‟s image, there should be images of Lakshmi and Sarasvati,
Lakshmi holding a lotus and Sarasvati holding a veena (a musical
instrument). There has also got to be and image of Vishnu exhibiting
his universal form (vishvarupa). The Vishavrupa image has four heads
and twenty arms.
Chandi‟s image has twenty arms. The ten arms on the right hold a
spear, a sword, a shakti (a small spear), a chakra, a pasha (noose), a
shield, a drum and any two other weapons. The ten arms on the left
hold snakes a rod, an axe, an amkusha (used for driving elephants), a
bow, a bell, a flag, a mace a mirror and a cub. In front of Chandi‟s
image there will be the image of a buffalo with its head cut off. The
image of an asura will be shown emerging from the body of the buffalo.
The demon‟s hair, eyes and garland will be red in colour. It will be
shown to be vomiting blood and it will hold weapons in its hand, The
demon‟s neck will be on the lion and her left leg will be on the
demon‟s back Images of Chandi may sometimes also have ten sixteen or
Shiva‟s image (linga) may be made out of earth, wood, iron, jewels,
gold, silver, copper, bronze or mercury.
Places Of Pilgrimage
A visit to a place of pilgrimage (tirtha) brings the same punya that
is obtained from performing a yajna. It is because people had not gone
on pilgrimages or donated gold and cows in their earlier lives that
they were born poor in their next lives.
The best place of pilgrimage is Pushkara, Brahma, other gods and sages
who wish to go to heaven live there. The best time to go to Pushkara
is in the month of Kartika. In Pushkara itself there are two other
places of pilgrimage known as Jambumarga and Tandulikashrama.
It is difficult to go to Pushkara. But there are several other tirthas
as well. One such is Kurukshetra, where Vishnu and the other gods keep
on coming. The river Sarasvati flows near Kurukshetra. If one bathes
in the Sarasvati, one attains brahmaloka.
Any region through which the river Ganga flows also becomes a tirtha.
Even if one sees the Ganga, the punya of per forming yajnas is
attained. A person who bears earth from the bed of the Ganga on his
head is freed of all sins.
Prayaga is another famous place of pilgrimage. Brahma, Vishnu, Indra
and the other gods, gandharvas, apsaras and the sages are always there
in Prayaga. This is because the two holy rivers, Ganga and Yamuna,
come together in Prayaga. There are many tirthas inside Prayaga
itself. The sages have said that, in the month of Magha, if one bathes
for three days in Prayaga, that is better than donating crores and
crores of cows. If one donates alms in Prayaga, one goes to svarga and
is born as a king in one‟s next life. If one dies in Prayaga, one
goes straight to vishnuloka.
Shiva himself had told Parvati that Varanasi was a very holy tirtha
and that Shiva never left the city. Varanasi is so named because it is
located at the junction of two rivers, Varana and Asi. Varanasi is
also known as Kashi.
The river Narmada is also sacred.
There may be several holy tirthas, but Gaya is the holiest of them
all. A demon named Gayasura once started to perform and such were the
powers of his tapasya that the gods began to suffer. They went to
Vishnu and asked him to save them Vishnu agreed and appeared before
Gayasura. “Accept a boon,” said Vishnu.
“Grant me the boon that I may become the most sacred of all tirthas,”
replied the daitya.
The boon was granted and
Gayasura disappeared. The gods returned to svarga, but felt that the
earth seemed to be deserted now that Gayasura had disappeared. Vishnu
then instructed Brahma and the other gods to perform a sacrifice. He
also asked them to go to Gayasura and ask for his body so that the
sacrifice might be performed on it. Gayasura readily agreed, and as
soon as he agreed, his head fell off from the body, Brahma then
proceeded to perform the sacrifice on Gayasura‟s headless body. But
as soon as the sacrifice started, the body began to shake. This meant
that the sacrifice could not be properly performed and a solution had
to be found. The solution was that the gods should all enter a stone
which would be placed on Gayasura‟s body so that the body would not
shake. The sacrifice could then be performed. Vishnu himself also
entered the stone. It is because the gods and Vishnu are always there
in Gaya that Gaya is sacred.
In fact, there is a story behind this stones as well.
The sage Marichi was Brahma‟s son and had married Dharmavrata. One
day, Marichi went to the forest to collect wood and flowers and
returned extremely tired. He called Dharmavrata and said, “I am very
tired. Today you must wash my feet for me.”
Dharmavrata began to wash Marichi‟s feet when Brahma suddenly
arrived. Dharmavrata did not know what to do. Should she finish
washing her husband‟s feet? Or should she first attend to Brahma,
since Brahma-was Marichi‟s father? She decided to attend to Brahma
first. At this Marichi became very angry and cursed Dharmavrata that
she would turn into a stone. Dharmavrata was greatly distressed at
being cursed for what she thought had not been a fault at all. So she
performed tapasya for many years. When Vishnu and the other gods were
pleased at Dharmavrata‟s meditation, they appeared and offered to
grant her a boon.
Dharmavrata wished that the curse imposed on her by Marichi might be
waived. The gods explained that this was impossible, since Marichi was
a very powerful sage. What they would however, do was to make
Dharmavrata a very holy stone desired even by the gods. The gods
promised to be always inside this stone. It was this stone that was
placed on Gayasura‟s body.
Once the sacrifice was over, Gayasura himself desired a boon from the
gods and the gods granted him that Gaya would become the most sacred
of all tirthas. It was in Gaya that the Pandavas had prayed to Vishnu.
The world is divided into seven regions (dvipas). Their names are
Jambu, Plaksha, Shalmali, Kusha, Krouncha, Shaka, and Pushkara. The
seven dvipas are surrounded by seven oceans and the names of these
oceans are Lavana, Ikshu, Sura, Sarpih, Dadhi, Dugdha and Jala.
Right in the centre of Jambudvipa is Mount Meru. Mountains named
Himavana, Hemakuta and Nishada are to the south of Meru and mountains
named Nila, shveta and Shringi are to the north of Meru. Jambudvipa is
known by that name as there are a large number of jambu (jamun) trees
in this area. On the top Mount Meru is Brahma‟s famous city.
Under the earth is the underworld. This too, consists of seven regions
and their names are Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala,
Rasatsala and Patala. The daityas and the danavas live in the
underworld. Vishnu is also there in the underworld, in his form of the
great snake Shesha. The snake Shesha holds up the earth on its hood.
That part of the sky which is lit up by sun-rays is known as Nabha.
Above the earth is the sun, above the sun the moon, above the moon the
stars, above the stars Mercury, above Mercury Venus, above Venus
Jupiter and above Jupiter the constellation of the Great Bear
(saptarshimandala). Beyond this constellation is the world of Dhruva.
The Agni Purana next gives a lot of information on astrology. It
states when marriages should take place and when they should not. For
example, marriages are never to be held in the months of Chaitra and
Pousha or under the signs of Libra or Gemini. If one is going on a
trip, then Friday is the best day to start on. Medicine should not be
taken if one of the nakshatras (stars) Pushya, Hasta, Jyeshtha,
Shravana or Ashvini is not in the sky. If one wishes to have a bath
after recovering from an illness, then Saturday is the best day for
such a bath.
The first time a child‟s head is shaved should never be on Tuesday
or a Saturday. Ears should be pierced on Wednesday or Thursday. New
clothes should not first be worn on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. A
new house should not be entered into the months of Chaitra, Jyeshtha,
Bhadra, Ashvina, Pousha or Magha. It is best to reap grain on a
Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:31:32
The Agni Purana
Five: Manvantaras, Varnashrama, and
Each manvantara (era) is rule over by a Manu.
The first Manu was Svayambhuva. Shatakratu held the title of Indra
during this manvantara.
The second Manu was Svarochisha. Vipashchita held the title of Indra
during this manvantara.
Third Manu was Uttama and Sushanti was Indra then.
The fourth Manu was tapasa and Shikhi held the title of Indra then.
The fifth Manu was Raivata and Vitatha was Indra then.
The title of Indra was held by Manojava during the sixth manvantara,
the Manu being Chakhusha.
Next came Shraddhadeva, the seventh Manu Purandara being the Indra.
The eighth Manu‟s name is Savarni and the eighth Indra‟s Vali. The
eighth manvantara has not yet come.
The ninth Manu will be Dakshasavarni and the ninth Indra wil be
During the tenth manvantara, the Manu will be Brahmasavarni and the
title of Indra will be held by Shanti.
During the rule of the eleventh Manu Dharmasavarni, the Indra will be
The twelfth Manu will be Rudrasavarni and the twelfth Indra will be
Rouchya will be the thirteenth Manu and Divaspati will be the
The fourteenth Manu will be Bhoutya and the title of Indra will then
be held by Shuchi.
During each of Brahma‟s days, there are fourteen such manvantaras.
After that comes Brahma‟s night, when all these living beings are
All the Manus practised the precepts of dharma (righteousness). This
meant non-violence, truthfulness, piety, going on pilgrimages donating
alms, serving devas and brahmanas, tolerance of all religions and the
following of the sacred texts. It also meant the practice of the
system of the four classes (varna) and the four stages in life
The four varnas are brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras.
Performing sacrifices, donating alms and studying the Vedas are duties
that brahmanas, kshatriyas and vaishyas must perform. In addition, the
kshatriyas must protect the good and punish the evil. The vaishyas
must take care of trade, agriculture and animal husbandry. The duties
of shudras are to serve the brahmanas and artisanship. When brahmanas
take up the upavita, the sacred thread that is the mark of the first
three classes, it is like a second birth for them. So brahmanas are
known as dvijas(born twice).
An anuloma marriage is a marriage where the husband is from a higher
class than the wife. The offspring of such a marriage belong to the
mothers class. A pratiloma marriage is a marriage where the wife is
from a higher class than the husband. Chandalas were born this way
from brahmana women, Sutas from kshatriya women, Devalas from vaishya
women, Pukkashas from kshatriya women and Magadhas from vaishya women.
Chandalas are executioneers, Sutas charioteers, Devalas guards,
Pukkashas hunters and Magadhas bards. Chandalas should live outside
the villages and should not touch those belonging to any other class.
The best name for a brahmana is that which ends in Sharma. Similarly,
the best name for a kshatriya ends in Varma, for a vaishya in Gupta
and for a shudra in Dasa. The sacred thread ceremony is to be held at
the age of eight years for brahmanas, eleven years for kshatriyas and
twelve years for vaishyas. No sacred a thread ceremony should be held
beyond sixteen years of age.
The first stage in life is that of brahmacharya (studenthood). A
student should never eat honey or meat and should never indulge in
singing or dancing. He should completely give up violence and speaking
to women. His duties are to discuss the shastras (holy texts) and
associate with learned men. Apart from that, he will meditate in
solitude on the true nature of the brahman.
The next stage of life is that of garhasthya (household stage). A
brahmana may have four wives, a kshatriya three, a vaishya two and a
shudra only one. The husband and the wife should be from the same
varna. Marriage across varna is to be avoided. A woman can marry again
provided that her husband has disappeared, is dead. has become a
hermit or is such a sinner that he is expelled from his own varna. If
her husband dies, a widow is permitted to marry her late husband‟s
A householder should get up
at dawn and pray to the gods. He should always bathe in the morning.
He should not talk impolitely. He should not bite his nails. He should
not laugh at those who are inferior. And he should never reside in a
place where there is no king, no doctor or no river. He must not
insult his elders. He should never criticise the Vedas, the shastras,
the devas, the sages and the king. And he must never travel without a
light at night.
The third ashrama is vanaprastha (forest – dwelling stage). Such a
person should always sleep on the ground and wear skins as clothes. He
should wear his hair matted and give up the company of other people.
He has to serve gods and guests and live on fruit and roots.
In the final stage of life (sannyasa) a person becomes a hermit. In
this ashrama, a person attains true knowledge and is completely freed.
But he should become a hermit only when he is convinced that he has
completely lost all interest in material pursuits. Such a person is
not affected by birth or death. He realises that the physical body is
transient, that it is of no concern at all. It is the knowledge of the
atman (soul) that is the best form of knowledge. When one gains this
knowledge, one realises the identification of the atman with the
brahman, one understands that the brahman is everywhere.
Sins And Their Atonement
If one commits a sin, one has to atone for it. This is known as
prayashchitta. If one does not atone for the sins that one has
committed, it is the king‟s duty to punish the sinner.
If one drinks from a well where the dead body of an animal has been
floating, one has to fast for three days. The worst possible sins are
the killing of brahmana, the drinking of wine and theft. Other sins
are criticising the Vedas, the bearing of false witness, killing a
friend, killing a cow, forsaking one‟s parents or sons, the selling
of ponds, murder, lying, killing animals and the cutting down of green
trees for fodder.
A killer of a brahmana has to build a hut in the forest and live there
for twelve years. He has to beg for a living and give up all that he
possesses to another brahmana. A killer of cows has to live on just
coarse grain for a month. He has to live with cattle and follow them
around during the day. All his possessions have to be given up to a
brahmana and he has to bathe in cow‟s urine for two months.
If a brahmana steals gold, he should go and report his crime to the
king. The king will then hit him with a club and this will be the
The sin of killing kshatriya is one-fourth the sin of killing a
brahmana. If one kills a vaishya, the sin is one-eighth the sin of
killing a brahmana. And if one kills a shudra, the sin is
one-sixteenth of the sin of killing a brahmana. Killing a cat, a
mongoose, a frog, a dog, a lizard or a crow is as sinful as killing a
Depending on the tithi (lunar day), the day of the week, the
nakshatras (stars), the month, the season and the position of the sun,
certain specific religious rites and ceremonies have to be performed.
These are known as vratas.
The first day of the lunar fortnight is known as pratipada. The day of
pratipada in the months of Kartika, Ashvina and Chaitra are Brahma‟s
tithis. It is then that the worship of Brahma must be done.
On the second day of the lunar fortnight (dvitiya), one should eat
only flowers and pray to the two Ashvinis. this makes the supplicant
handsome and lucky. Shuklapaksha is that lunar fortnight in which the
moon waxes and Shuklapaksha dvitiya in the month of Kartika is
earmarked for the worship of Yama. If one performs this vrata, one
does not have to go to naraka (hell). This is also the day for praying
to Balarama and Krishna.
It was on the third day of the lunar fortnight (tritiya), in
shuklapaksha and in the month of Chaitra, that Shiva married Parvati
or Gouri. Rites performed on this day are thus known as gourivrata.
Shiva and Parvati have to be given offerings of fruit. The eight names
of Parvati have to be recited. These are Lalita, Vijaya, Bhadra
Bhavani, Kumuda, Shiva, Vasudevi and Gouri.
Chaturthi vrata is performed on the fourth day of the lunar fortnight,
is shuklapaksha and in the month of Magha. This is the day for
worshipping the common gods (gana devata). The offerings on this
occasion are to be wine and fragrant perfumes.
On the fifth day of the lunar fortnight, one performs panchami vrata.
This grants good health and takes care of bad omens. Particularly
auspicious for panchami vrata are the shuklapakshas in the months of
Shravana, Bhadra, Ashvina and Kartika.
On the sixth day of the lunar fortnight one performs shashthi vrata.
One has to live only on fruit and if one performs this vrata, the
fruits of any action that one performs live forever. Shashthi vrata
should be observed especially in the months of Kartika and Bhadra.
Surya is to be worshipped
on the seventh (saptami) day of the lunar fortnight. If saptami vrata
is observed in shuklapaksha, all sorrow disappears. Sins are stoned
for and all one‟s desires are attained. Women who have no children
can have sons if they observe these rites.
The eight day of the lunar fortnight (ashtami) is very significant.
Krishna was born on this tithi in the month of Bhadra when the
nakshatra Rohini was in the sky. Ashtami is therefore auspicious in
the month of Bhadra. If one fasts on that day and prays to Krishna,
the sins of one‟s earlier seven lives are atoned for. But this vrata
is to be observed in krishnapaksha and not in shuklapaksha, since
Krishna was born in Krishnapaksha. Together with Krishna, Rohini and
the moon, Devaki, Vasudeva, Yashoda, Nanda and Balarama are also to be
worshipped on the occasion. Since Krishna took birth (janma) on this
ashtami tithi, this particular day is known as janmashtami.
The eighth day of the lunar fortnight can be important even if it is
not the month of Bhadra. For example, the eighth day of the lunar
fortnight might be a Wednesday (budha vara) in both shuklapaksha and
krishnapaksha. Irrespective of the month, such an ashtami is important
and is known as budhashtami. On that day one has to live only on
molasses and rice and perform the vrata.
There used to be a brahamana named Dhira whose wife was named Rambha.
Dhira‟s son was Koushika, his daughter was Vijaya and Dhira‟s bull
was named Dhanada. Koushika would go with the other cowherds to graze
the bull. Once when Koushika was having a bath in the river Bhagirathi
and the bull was grazing, some thieves came and stole the bull.
Koushika and his sister Vijaya looked everywhere for it, but could not
find it. In searching for the bull, they came to a lake where some
women were bathing in the course of performing a vrata. Brother and
sister were tired and hungry and they craved for some food. The women
agreed to give them food, but only after Koushika and Vijaya had also
performed the budhashtami vrata. And as soon as Koushika perfomed the
ritual, the bull was miraculously returned to him. Such were the
powers of the vrata that Koushika could get his sister Vijaya married
off to Yama and himself became the king of Ayodhya. After their
parents Dhira and Rambha had died, Vijaya discovered that her father
and mother were in naraka. When she asked Yama as to how her parents
might be delivered from naraka, Yama told her that Koushika and Vijaya
should perform budhashtami vrata again. And immediately after they did
so, the parents attained svarga.
The ninth day of the lunar fortnight is navami and navami in
shuklapaksha, especially in the month of Ashvina, is earmarked for the
worship of Gouri. An animal has to be sacrificed and offered to the
goddess on this occasion.
The brahmanas become all powerful if they observe dashami vrata on the
tenth day of the lunar fortnight and donate ten cows. The eleventh day
of the lunar fortnight (ekadashi) is for fasting. It is also the tithi
for praying to Vishnu. The observance of ekadashi vrata grants sons
and wealth and atones for one‟s sins.
The twelfth day of the lunar fortnight is dvadashi. Any dvadashi in
shuklapaksha is auspicious for worshipping Vishnu. Duadashi in the
month of Bhadra is for praying to cows and calves and in the month of
Chaitra it is for praying to the god of love (Madana). If one observes
dvadashi for an entire year, one never has to go to naraka. An
especially good conjunction is dvadashi in shuklapaksha in the month
of Bhadra when the nakshatra Shravana is in the sky. if one fasts and
observes a vrata then, one earns greater punya than from bathing in
the confluence of sacred rivers. If Budha (Mercury) is also in the
sky, the punya is multiplied severalfold.
Trayodashi vrata is on the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight and
this ritual was first performed by the god of lover when he wanted to
please Shiva. This is the tithi on which Shiva is worshipped. In the
month of Ashvina, Indra is also revered on this tithi. And in the
month of Chaitra, the god of love is worshipped in shuklapaksha on the
The fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight (chaturdashi) is also
earmarked for Shiva, particularly in the month of Kartika. One fasts
and donates to brahmanas and thereby attains svarga. The chaturdashi
in krishnapaksha that comes between the months of Magha and Falguna is
known as Shivaratri. Then one has to fast and stay awake the whole
night. Earlier, there used to be an evil hunter named Sundarasena. But
because he performed a vrata on Shivaratri, all his sins were
Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:32:53
The Agni Purana
Six: Hellish Planets, Charity, and
If one worships Vishnu with flowers, one never goes to hell.
There are several such hells. Although people do not wish to die, they
are bound to die once their predestined time span on earth has been
exhausted. One then has to pay for whatever sins one might have
committed. The sinners suffer and those who have performed good deeds
are naturally rewarded. There are in fact two gates that lead into
Yama‟s abode. The good are brought by yamadutas (Yama‟s servants)
through the western gate and are then taken to svarga. Yama‟s
servants bring the evil to him through the southern gate and Yama then
despatches them to the various hells.
If one kills a cow, one has to spend one lakh years in a naraka known
as mahavicha. If one kills a brahmana or steals land, there is a
burning naraka named Amakumbha that one goes to. There one suffers
till the day when the world is destroyed. A killer of women, children
or old men stays in Rourava naraka for the span of fourteen
manavantaras. An arsonist is sent to Maharourava and burnt there for
an entire kalpa. A thief goes to Tamisra, were he is continuously
pierced with spears by Yama‟s servants for several kalpas. After
that, a thief is taken to Mahatamisra to be bitten by snakes and
If you kill you father or mother, you will be sent to the hell
Asipatravana. There you will be continuously sliced into pieces with
swords. If you burn someone to death, you will go to Karambhavaluka
where you will be placed on burning sands.
A person who eats sweets alone goes to Kakola and is fed only worms. A
person who does not perform yajnas goes to Kuttala and is fed blood.
An oppressor is sent to Tailapaka and is crushed like an oilseed
there. A liar is sent to the naraka named Mahapata. There are several
other narakas for those who encourage inter-class marriages, those who
kill animals, those who cut trees, those who eat too much meat, those
who criticise the Vedas, those who bear also witness and those who
criticise their teachers.
Giving alms is extremely important as means for achieving punya. Alms
always have to be donated when one goes to visit a temple or a place
of pilgrimage. The giver must always face the east and the receiver
must always face the north when alms are being given. Such donations
have to be made after one has had a bath.
The best objects for donations are gold, horses, oilseeds, snakes,
maids, chariots, trees, houses, daughters and cows. If one promises to
give something but later goes back on one‟s promise, one is sure to
be destroyed. It should be remembered that the entire object of
donation alms is lost if one expects gratitude or friendship in
return. It is better to give something to a brother than to a
daughter, it is better to give to a father than to a mother.
The entire concept of donation alms is different in the four different
eras. In satya yuga, the giver went out in search of recipient to whom
he could give something. In treta yuga, the recipient had to come to
the giver‟s house before he would be given anything. In dvapara
yuga, the giver never gave anything without being asked for it by the
recipient. And in kali yuga, the giver gives only to those who are
servile to him.
Gayatri mantra is a very powerful incantation.
The human body has many veins. Out of these, ten veins are important
and their names are Ida, Pingala, Sushumna, Gandhari, Hastijihva,
Pritha, Yasha, Alambusha, Huha and Shankhini. These veins bear the
breath of life. The breath of life is called prana vayu. Apart from
prana vayu, nine other major breaths course through the human body.
Their names are Apana, Samana, Udana, Vyana, Naga, Kurma, Krikara,
Devadatta and Dhananjaya.
Gayatri is a goddess worshipped even by Vishnu and Shiva. This goddess
is there everywhere, even in every individual‟s heart in the form of
a swan. Gayatri mantra is an incantation to the goddess. If one chants
the mantra seven times, one‟s sins are forgiven. Chanting it then
times means that one attains svarga. To attain worlds (lokas) which
are even more desirable than svarga, one has to chant gayatri mantra
twenty times. If one chants the mantra a hundred and eight times. If
one chants the mantra a hundred and eight times, one does not have to
be born again. The severest of sins, like killing cows, brahmanas or
parents, are forgiven if one chants the mantra a thousand times.
Gayatri mantra has always to be preceded by the chanting of the sacred
word Om. The King
The king‟s duties are many. He has to punish his enemies, ensure the
prosperity of his subjects and arrange that his kingdom is ruled well.
He has to protect the sages who perform tapasya inside the boundaries
of his kingdom.
A king should appoint a wise brahmana as his priest. His ministers
should also be wise and his queen should be a woman who follows the
path of dharma. When a king dies, time must not be wasted. The priest
must immediately find an auspicious occasion so that a new king can be
appointed and crowned. A kingdom can never be without a king.
Before the coronation, a prospective king has to purify himself by
rubbing his body with mud. Mud from a mountain peak is used for the
ears, form a Krishna temple for the face, from an Indra temple for the
back, form a palace for the chest, mud raised by an elephant‟s tusks
for the right hand, mud raised by a bull‟s horns for the left hand,
mud from a yajna for the things and from a cowshed for the feet. After
the king has thus rubbed himself with different forms of mud and
purified himself, he is ready to be anointed. Four types of ministers
will appoint him. Brahmana ministers with golden vessels full of
clarified butter will stand of the eastern side. Kshatriya ministers
with silver vessels full of sweet and thickened milk will stand on the
eastern side. Vaishya ministers with copper vessels full of curds will
stand on the western side. And shudra ministers with earthen vessels
full of water will stand on the northern side. The priests will then
use material from all four directions to anoint the king. Water from
all the places of pilgrimage will be poured on the king‟s head and
throat. There must be songs and musical instruments must be played.
The king will next pray to Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and the other gods.
He will look at a mirror, some clarified butter and the various signs
of good omen that have been placed all around. The king will then be
crowned and introduced to his ministers, advisers and guards. The
priest will be given cows, goats, buffaloes and houses by the king. He
will also bow before the brahmanas. After all these ceremonies have
been completed, he truly becomes the king. He circles the fire,
touches his guru‟s feet and with all his soldiers, goes out on a
procession through the streets so that his subjects can see him. At
that time, the king must be seated either on an elephant or a horse.
After the procession is over, the king may return to his palace.
The king has to appoint many officials. The general has got to be a
brahmana or a kshatriya. The charioteer must know about horses and
elephants, and treasurer must be familiar with different jewels. There
has to be a doctor, a keeper of elephants, a keeper of horses, a
captain for the palace and another captain for looking after the women
of the royal household. Each person must be appointed to the job which
suits his expertise and temperament best.
Anyone thus appointed by a king has to stick to
certain rules. He must always obey the king‟s orders and must never
do anything that is contrary to the king‟s commands. In public he
must always say pleasant things to the king. If there are any
unpleasant utterances to be made, they have to be made in a private
audience with the king. Those who serve the king must not be thieves,
nor must they ever insult the king. They will not dress like the king,
nor will they become too intimate with the king. They must not divulge
For a fort, the king should choose a place that cannot readily be
attacked by enemies. The king must ensure that the gods are
worshipped, the subjects are protected and the evil are punished. He
should never steal form the temples, instead he should build temples
and set up idols of the gods there. The brahmanas must also be
protected and the king has to make sure that no brahmanas are killed
in his kingdom. For a queen, he has to choose a woman who subscribes
to these beliefs.
The king will appoint an official to look after every ten villages and
another official to look after every hundred villages. Spies must be
appointed to find out all that is going no in the kingdom. The king is
entitled to one-sixth of all the punya that accrues in his kingdom
through his subjects. But he is also credited with one-sixth of all
the sins that are committed in his kingdom. The taxes will be levied
as per the dictates of the sacred texts. From whatever is received as
taxes, half will go into the royal treasury and the remaining half
will be distributed amongst the brahmanas. If there is a liar, the
king will impose a penalty on him to the extent of one-eighth of the
liar‟s total wealth. If the owner of any property is not known, the
king will keep the property is not known, the king will keep the
property is safe custody for a period of three years. Once the owner
is identified within a period of three years, he can claim the
property. But beyond three years, the becomes entitled to the
The property rights of any minor orphan are to be protected by the
king. If there is a theft in the kingdom, the king must immediately
replace what has been stolen with wealth taken from his own royal
treasury. If the thief is caught and the stolen goods recovered, they
are used to replenish the treasury. One- twentieth of profits made form
trade are to be paid to the king as taxes. One-fifth or one-sixth of
foodgrains are to be paid as taxes. One day every month, craftsmen
will work free of charge for the king. They will only be gives food
from the royal kitchen.
The king has to pay proper attention to the princes. They have to be
taught four types of shastras. The first is dharma shastra, which
teaches what is right and what is wrong. The second is artha shastra,
economics. The third is dhanurveda, the art of fighting. And the last
subject that has to be taught to princes is shilpa, arts and crafts.
The king has to assign bodyguards to take care of the princes. He must
ensure that the princes associate with honourable and learned people
and not with undesirable characters. In instances where the princes do
not grow up properly despite the king‟s best efforts, the king is
free to keep them imprisoned. But they should be comfortable in the
prison and should not be made to suffer there.
The king should give up hunting, drinking and the playing of dice. He
must not unnecessarily waste time in travelling around. He must first
win over his servants through his behaviour and then do the same for
his subjects. It is only after this has been achieved that he attains
a position to conquer his enemies through the use of arms. Anyone who
brings harm to the kingdom must immediately be killed. If the king
delays in doing that which has to be done, the purpose of the action
is completely lost. Nor must the king inform others in advance about
what is going to be done. No one must get to know about the king‟s
intended actions. Once the actions have been completed, the fruits of
the actions performed are information enough for everyone to see. This
does not mean that the king will not consult his ministers. Of course
he will, that is why they are ministers. Before sleeping or eating,
the king must check whether the bed or the food is safe.
There were seven techniques that kings were supposed to use in ruling
their kingdoms. These were known as sama, dana, danda, bheda, maya,
upeksha and indrajala. Of these, the first four are the most famous.
Sama means the art of gentle persuasion. Dana means the usage of
donations or money to achieve one‟s purpose. Danda is punishment.
And bheda is the art of aggravating dissension amongst parties opposed
to each other. Maya means to use illusions or deceit and upeksha is to deliberately ignore people so as to
achieve one‟s purpose. Indrajala
literally means jugglery. In this context,
it would mean to perform a
balancing act amongst opposing pulls
and opposing parties.
What sort of punishment the king should mete out is also laid down. If
anyone lies and says that his possessions have been stolen, he is to
be fined an amount equal in value to that of the possessions which
have supposedly been stolen. A brahmana who bears false witness is to
be banished from the kingdom. A person who kills cows, elephants,
horses or camels will have a leg or a hand cut off. A thief who steals
gold or silver or an abductor of women will be executed. Execution is
also prescribed in cases of arson and poisoning. A wife who does not
obey her husband shall be torn to death by dogs. A woman who does not
obey her husband or brahmanas may also have her nose, ears or arms
chopped off. She will when be set astride a cow and banished from the
Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:33:31
The Agni Purana
Seven: Dreams, Omens, and Sri Rama)
Some dreams are bad omens. In fact, they are nightmares. Examples are:
dreams about grass or trees growing on one‟s body, dreams in which
the dreamer is shaven-headed or is wearing shabby clothes or dreams in
which one is falling form above. It is also bad to dream of marriages,
singing, the killing of snakes and the killing of chandalas or
animals. If you dream that you are drinking oil or eating bird meat,
that is also a bad omen. Other examples are: where the dreamer dreams
that he is playing with monkeys or chandalas, when he dreams that
devas, brahmanas, the king or the guru is angry or when he dreams that
his house had collapsed.
Remedies have to be found if one dreams such evil dreams. Brahmanas
have to be worshipped, a yajna has to be performed and the dreamer has
to pray to Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha or Surya. Dreams dreamt in
the first quarter of one‟s sleep normally come true over the next
one year. Dreams from the second quarter come true over the next six
months and dreams from the third quarter over the next three months.
Dreams from the last quarter come true over the next fortnight and
dreams dreamt right at dawn come true within the next ten days. If one
first dreams a good dream and then an evil one, it is the evil dream
the will come true. Therefore, if one dreams a good dream, one should
not sleep anymore. One should immediately arise.
There are many dreams that are good dreams. For example, dreams that
involve mountains, palaces or snakes. Or the dreamer might dream that
he is riding on a horse or a bull. It is also good to dream of white
flowers in the sky or to see trees in a dream. Especially good dreams
are those of the dreamer‟s possessing many arms or many heads or of
grass and bushes sprouting form his navel. What if you dream of
wearing white garlands or clothes? That too is good. If you dream of
eclipses of the sun, the moon or the stars, by all means rejoice. And
if in a dream you see that you have caught hold of the enemy‟s flag,
that surely means that you will triumph over the enemy. And if you
actually dream of defeating the enemy, the interpretation is clear
Strangely enough, a dream where the dreamer sees that he is eating
rice pudding is a good dream. As is the case with dreams of drinking
wine or blood. Or even of eating wet meat. A clear sky in a dream is
good. Dreaming of milking a cow or a buffalo with one‟s own mouth is
also good. The dream continues to be a good one if one dreams of
milking a lioness or a she-elephant thus. Other dreams which have good
interpretations are, for example, dreams of the dreamer‟s receiving
blessings form devas or brahmanas or of being anointed with water.
The dreamer who dreams of his coronation is blessed. And he is doubly
blessed if he dreams that his head has been cut off or that he has
died or even that his house has been burnt down. The relatives of such
a dreamer increase in number and he also prospers. It is good to dream
of musical instruments being played. Or of riding a bull or climbing a
tree. Wet clothes, trees laden with fruit and clear blue skies in
dreams are especially good.
Omens and Signs
If one is about to go out of the house, one should take care of any
bad omens that there might be. Such bad omens are cotton, dried grass,
cowdung, coal, molasses, leather, hair, a lunatic, a chandala, a
widow, a dead body, ashes, bones and a broken vessel. If one comes
across these as one is about to leave, one should not start without
pacifying the elements through prayers to Vishnu. The sound of musical
instruments is not an auspicious sound at the beginning of a journey.
If the means of transport by which one is travelling breaks down, that
too, is a bad omen. If weapons break, perhaps you should postpone the
journey. The same is the case if an umbrella held over one‟s head
happens to fall. If one hits one‟s head against the lintel of the
door as one is about too cross the threshold, prayers are again
indicated. And never call back someone who has just left. That is a
bad omen and bodes ill for the success of the journey.
There are good omens for a departure and if one sees these good omens,
the journey is bound to be successful. Good omens are white flowers,
full vessels, meat, distant noises, an old goat, a cow, a horse, an
elephant, fire, gold silver, a sword, an umbrella, fruit, clarified
butter, curds, a conch shell, sugarcane, the sound of thunder,
lightning and a dead body with no one crying over it.
Omens are important even if one is not going on a journey. A peacock
crying on the left means that something is going to be stolen. If a
donkey brays with a broken voice, that is good omen and something good
will happen. If a boar or a buffalo crosses over from the left to the
right, that is a good omen. But if they cross over from the right to
the left, that is a bad omen. One‟s desires will be attained if
horses, tigers, lions, cats or donkeys cross over from the right to
the left. jackals, moles, lizards, pigs and cuckoos are good omens or
the left and monkeys are good omens on the right. If a jackal calls
once, twice, thrice or four times, that is a good omen. It is a bad
omen if a jackal calls five or six times. It is a very good omen if a
jackal calls seven times.
If crows caw on the left of an army, the soldiers will not be able to
win. If a crow can be seen near the door a house, this means that
there will soon be a guest. A crow looking at the sum with one eye
signifies great danger. A crow covered with mud means the attainment
of one‟s desires. A dog barking inside the house leads to the death
of the householders. A person whose left limbs are sniffed by a dog,
will attain riches. If the right limbs are sniffed, there will be
danger. A dog blocking one‟s path signifies theft. A dog with a bone
or a rope in its mouth means the loss of property. But it is a good
omen to see a dog with meat in its mouth.
Cows mooing irregularly mean threats to the master of the house. If
this happens at night, there will be a theft or a death in the house.
If the cows have horns that are wet or daubed with mud, that is a good
sign for the householders. A cow that plays with cranes or doves is
bound to die. A cow that licks its feet is also destined to die. If an
elephant strikes its right foot with its left, that is a good sign.
Prosperity comes if an elephant rubs its right tusk with its foot.
There is great danger if an umbrella falls just as one is about to
leave on a trip. Journeys are to be avoided if the stars are not
Once a king decides to go out to battle, seven days are needed for
preliminaries. On the first day, Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesha have to be
worshipped. On the second day the dikpalas (guardians of all the
directions) are worshipped, the Rudras on the third day, the planets
and the stars on the fourth day and the two Ashvinis and the rivers on
the fifth day. On the sixth day, the king has ceremonial bath in
honour of the victory that is to come. And on the seventh day, the
king leaves to do battle.
Prior to the marching, the army must always assemble to the east of
the capital city. The start of the march must be accompanied with the
playing of musical instruments. Once the army has begun to march, it
must never look back. After having travelled for a couple of miles, it
must stop to rest any pray to the gods and the brahmanas.
The king must never directly fight. Because if the king is killed, the
battle is lost. The king must be right behind his army, not too far
away from it. An elephant will be guarded by four chariots, a chariot
by four horses and a horse by four infantrymen. The infantry will also
be at the front of army, followed by archers and then by the horses.
The chariots and the elephants come last of all. The cowards in the
army must not be in the front, they must be at the back. The front is
for the brave soldiers. To the extent possible, one should fight with
the sun behind one‟s army.
If a soldier dies in the course of battle, he goes straight to heaven.
The blood of brave men wash away all sins. To be struck with a weapon
is better than to perform many sacrifices. A person who flees form the
field of battle performs a sin that is worse than that of killing a
The fight should be between equals. Those who are running away should
not be killed. Nor should spectators and those who are unarmed be
killed. An enemy captured in battle should not be kept imprisoned. He
should be released and treated like a son.
Rama had once taught Lakshmana about the duties of a king. The Agni
Purana now relates these precepts of Rama‟s.
The duties of king are fourfold. Firstly, he has to earn wealth.
Secondly, he has to increase it. Thirdly, he has to protect it. And
fourthly and finally, he has to donate it. The king must also be
polite and politeness comes through the conquering of the senses. The
king must be humble. The senses are like mad elephants. If the senses
are pampered, like mad elephants, they trample politeness and humility
The king must also be non-violent, truthful, clean and forgiving. He
should take care to observe all the rituals. He should give food to
those who are poor, he should protect those who seek royal protection.
He should always use words that are pleasant to hear. The body is here
today and gone tomorrow. Stupid is the king who deviates form the path
of righteousness to give pleasure to a body that is transient. The
curses of unhappy people are enough to bring down a king.
There is only one difference between gods and animals. Gods use
pleasant word, while animals use rough words. The king must use
pleasant words like a god. And he must use pleasant words not only for
those who are his friends or are good, but also for those who are his
enemies or are evil. With obeisance the king pleases his guru, with
good behaviour the righteous, with duties the gods, with live the
servants and with alms those who are inferior.
The kingdom has seven components. These are the king, the ministers,
the friends, the treasury, the army, the forts and the state itself.
Of these, the most important is the state and it has to be preserved
at all costs. The king must be extremely careful in the choice of the
ministers and the royal priest. The king must not choose or consult
ministers who are stupid.
The king‟s signs are his golden rod or sceptre and an umbrella that
is held over his head. The umbrella should be made of the feathers of
swans, peacocks or cranes, but the feathers of different types of
birds should not be mixed in the same umbrella. The throne should be
made of wood and should be embellished with gold. A bow can be made of
iron, horn or wood. The best bow is one that extends over four
armlengths. The king can spend upto one year‟s tax revenue on
armaments and flags.
Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:33:58
The Agni Purana
(Part Eight: Dhanurveda, Dynasties, and
The section on Dhanurveda is on arms and weapons.
There are five types of weapons that are used in war. The first category is that of yantramukta weapons, released from a machine (yantra). This machine may be a launcher or even a bow. The second category is that of panimukta weapons, weapons that are flung by the hand (pani). Examples are spears and stones. The third category is known as muktasandharita. These are weapons that can be flung and also withdrawn. The fourth category consists of weapons like swords that are never released from the hand during battle.
These are known as amukta weapons. And the last category of weapons consists of brute force and strength. This is of use in bouts of wrestling.
The best form of fighting is that with bows and arrows. Next comes fighting with spears, followed by fighting with swords. Wrestling is the worst form of fighting.
Before aiming, the bow (dhanusha) should be held with the arch pointing down towards the earth. The arrow (vana) should be placed against the bow with the head pointing down. The bow should now be raised and the lower end of the bow should be in line with the archer‟s navel. The quiver should be at
the back. Before releasing the arrow, the bow should be held firm with the left hand and the arrow with the fingers of the right hand. The string of the bow should be pulled back such that the tassel of the arrow is between the archer‟s ear and right eye. The body should not be bent when one is releasing an arrow. Nor should on get excited. The archer has to be still as a pillar. The target has to be in line with the left fist and the archer‟s posture has to be like that of a triangle. It is best to pull back the string of the bow upto the right ear.
A noose (pasha) is ten arms in length, with both ends of the weapon being circular. The main body of the weapon is
made of rope. There are eleven different ways in which a noose may be held. A noose must always be flung with the right hand.
A sword (asi) must hang to the left of the waist. When a sword is to be taken out, the scabbard should be grasped in the left hand and the sword should be taken out with the right hand. There are thirty-two different way in which a sword and a shield may be held.
What happens to a person‟s debts when he dies? If he does not have any sons, the person who inherits the property also
inherits the debts and had to pay them off. If there is a son, the son pays the debts off. But a woman is not to be held responsible for debts contracted by her husband or her son. Nor is a man responsible for debts contracted by his wife or son. Exceptions are instances where a husband and a wife contract a debt jointly.
If there are no witnesses to a contracted debt but the king feels that the debt was indeed contracted, the king must arrange for the debt to be repaid within a period of sixty-four days. In cases of a dispute, the person who b rings a false suit will be punished by the king. And a false witness will be given twice the punishment that is
meted out to the one who brings a false suit. A brahmana who bears false witness will be banished from the kingdom. A person who agrees to be a witness, but later withdraws, will be punished eight times as much as the bringer of the false suit. A brahmana who does this will be banished from the kingdom.
It is better that the details of a debt contracted be written down, with the names of the two parties and the witnesses clearly indicated. If the debtor pays in instalments, the details of all such payments must be recorded on the written document. Debts made in the presence of witnesses should also be repaid in the presence of witnesses. If a
witness has to take an oath, the oath should be administered after cotton, fire, water or poison has been placed on the head of the witness.
Fire or water can be used to find out if a person is lying or not. If fire is used, seven banyan leaves are placed on the accused‟s hand. A red hop lump of iron is then placed on the hand and the accused had to go around a fire seven times. If it is found that the hand has not been burnt, the person has been telling the truth. And if the hand has been burnt, he had been lying. Similarly, an accused person can be immersed in the water and if he does not drown, he has been telling the truth. Alternatively, the accused can
be made to drink poison. If the poison does him no harm, he is truthful.
If the father makes a will, the property will be divided amongst the sons in accordance with the provisions of the will. But if all the sons get an equal share of the property, the wife should also be given an equal share, otherwise, the father can leave all his property to the eldest son. The sons and the father obtain equal shares to any property or debt that has been left by the grandfather. But the sons are not necessarily entitled to any property that has not been left by the grandfather, but been earned by father. If a son is born after the property has been divided, he
too will be entitled to an equal share of any property left by the grandfather. Daughters are not entitled to property. But sons who have go married will use one-fourth of their inherited property to get their sisters married.
Donating the Puranas
The Agni Purana now describes the benefits of giving alms along with the purans. The puranas are to be donated together with cows. And in talking of the mahapuranas, the Agni Purana also mentions most of their length, in terms of the number of shlokas (couplets) that each has. This is worth stating.
The Brahma Purana – twenty-five thousand
The Padma Purana – twelve thousand The Vishnu Purana – thirteen thousand The Vayu Purana – fourteen thousand The Bhagavata Purana – eighteen
The Narada Purana – twenty-five
The Markandeya Purana – nine thousand The Agni Purana – twelve thousand
The Brahmavaivarta Purana – eighteen
The Linga Purana – eleven thousand The Varaha Purana – fourteen thousand The Skanda Purana – eighty-four
The Vamana Purana – ten thousand
The Kurma purana – eight thousand The Matsya Purana – thirteen thousand The Garuda Purana – eight thousand The Brahmanda Purana – twelve
The only mahapurana which is missing from the above list is the Bhavishya Purana. You now have a pretty good idea of how long the Puranas are. The Skaknda Purana is the longest and the Kurma and Garuda Puranas the shortest. But unfortunately, the numbers in the Agni Purana are not terribly accurate. The Padma Purana has fifty-five thousand couplets and not twelve as stated. The Varaha Purana has twenty-four thousands couplets and not fourteen thousand. The
Agni Purana itself has slightly over fifteen thousand couplets land not twelve thousand. But at least you have some approximate idea about the lengths of the various Puranas.
The Brahama Purana is to be given in the month of Vaishakha. The Padma Purana is to be donated in the month of Jyaishtha. The Vishnu Purana is to be donated in the month of Ashada and the Vayu Purana in the month of Shravana. The Bhagavata Purana is to be given in the month of Bhadra, the Narada Purana in the month of Ashvina, the Markandeya Purana in the month of Kartika, the Agni Purana in the month of Margashirsha and the Bhavishya Purana in the month of
Pousha. The Brahmavaivarta Purana in the month of Pousha. The Brahmavaivarta Purana is for the month of Magha, the Linga Purana for the month of Falguna and the Varaha Purana for the month of Chaitra.
The Skanda Purana is to be given to brahmanas. The Vamana Purana is to be given in the autumn. The Kurma Purana is to be given together with a golden urn. The Matsya Purana is to be donated together with a golden swan. The Brahmanda Purana is to be given to brahmanas.
Great benefits are also to be derived from hearing the Puranas recited. The
reciter has to be given alms and the brahmanas must be given cows, rice and land at the time of the recitation. If one arranges for a recitation of the Puranas, one lives long, stays healthy and attains heaven.
Brahma was born from Vishnu‟s navel. Brahma‟s son was Marichi, Marichi‟s son Kashyapa and Kakshyapa‟s son Vivasvana. From this line was descended Pururava and Pururava‟s descendants were the kings of the surya (solar) dynasty.
Brahma also had a son named Atri and Atri had a son named Soma. Soma performed a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice). Having performed the sacrifice, Soma became the ruler of all the worlds. This made him very arrogant and he abducted the sage Brihaspati‟s wife Tara. This led to a terrible war between the devas and the asuras. Tara was eventually restored to Brihaspati, but Soma and Tara had a son named Budha. From Budha were descended the kings of the chandra (lunar) dynasty.
There were twelve major wars between the devas and the asuras. The first of these was known as the Narasimha War. This took place when Hiranyakashipu was
the king of the asuras. Vishnu adopted the form of Narsismha and killed Hiranyakashipu. He then made Prahlada the king of the demons. The second war was the Vamana war and it took place when Vali was the king of the demons. Vishnu adopted the form of a dwarf (vamana) to subjugate the demons. The third war was the Varaha war and this took place when Hiranyaksha was the king of the demons. Vishnu adopted the form of a wild boar (varaha) and killed Hiranyaksha. The fourth war was the Amritamanthana war and this took place over the manthana (churning) of the ocean for amrita (nectar).
The fifth war between the devas and the asuras took place over the abduction of Tara and this came to be known as the Tarakamaya war. The sixth war was known as the Ajivaka War. The seventh war took place when Tripura led the asuras and this was known as the Tripuraghatana war. It was Shiva who killed the demon Tripura in this war. The eighth war, the Andhaka war, took place when Andhaka led the asuras. It was Vishnu who engineered that Andhaka be killed when Andhaka expressed a desire to abduct Shiva‟s wife.
The ninth war was known as Vritrasamhara and took place when Vritra led the demons. The tenth war was
simply known as Jita. In this war, Vishnu killed Shalva and the other demons, and Parashurama killed the evil kshatriyas. The eleventh war was known as Halahala. An asura named Halahala (poison) had invaded Shiva‟s body and flooded it with poison. But Vishnu managed to destroy the demon. In the twelfth war, known as Kolahala, Vishnu destroyed an asura named Kolahala (tumult).
Dhanvantari was the physician of the gods and he taught Sushruta the art of ayurveda (medicine). The Agni Purana now describes what the sage Ssushruta had learnt, that is, the treatment for
various diseases. This does not simply mean the treatment of human illnesses. There is a section known as vriksha ayurveda, which describes what trees are to be planted where. It describes how a garden is to be constructed and maintained.
The chapters on medicine also describe the treatment of elephants, horses and cattle. The mantras (incantations) which are the remedy for snake poison are also related.
Literature And Grammar
Thereafter, the Agni Purana has many chapters on literature and grammar.
It describes the different types of chhanda (metres)that are used in poetry.
Next it discusses the alphabet. There are sixty-four letters (varna) in the alphabet, of which twenty-one are vowels (svara varna). There are three tones (svara) in which the letters of the alphabet may be uttered. Their names are udatta, anudatta and svarita. There are eight places from which the letters may be pronounced. These are the chest, the throat, the head, the back of the tongue, the teeth, the nose, the lips and the palate. Pronunciations should be clear and audible. They should not be nasal and mumbled.
The Agni Purana then discusses the alamkaras (rhetoric) that are used in poetry and plays. Poetry is entirely different from the shastras (sacred texts) and itihasa (history). The sacred texts are full of words and historical texts are full of narrations of incidents that took place. But that does not constitute poetry. Real men are difficult to find on this earth. Amongst these real men, it is difficult to find men who are learned. Amongst the learned men, it is not easy to find some who have a poetic sense. And amongst those who have poetic sense, it is difficult to find a few who can compose poetry. Poetry is impossible without a knowledge
of the rules of poetry and even more important, without a sense of feeling.
Sanskrit is the language of the gods. The language of humans is Prakrita. Poetry can be either in Sanskrit or in Prakrita. There are three types of poetry. These are gadya (prose), padya (poetry) or mishra (a mixture of the two). Genuine poetry is, however, only padya
Gadya can be of three types-churnaka, utkalika and vrittagandhi. Churnaka prose is easy on the ears, it has very few compouond words. Utkalika prose is hard on the ears, it is full of compound words. Vrittagandhi prose is some where between churnaka and utkalika.
An epic must always be split up into sections (sarga). It has to be written in Sanskrit, although some mixture of Sanskrit words with Prakrita ones is permissible. The theme of an epic must always be good and historical elements may be introduced if the author so desires.
Literature is useless without the flavour of sentiments (rasa). There are nine sentiments that are used. The first is hasya (humour). The second is karuna rasa (pathos). The third is roudra rasa (that which is wrathful and awe- inspiring). The fourth is vira rasa (heroic themes). The fifth is bhayanaka rasa
(horror). The sixth is bibhatsa rasa (vulgar and obscene themes). The seventh is adbhuta rasa (that which is strange). The eighth is shanta rasa (placidity). And the ninth is shringara rasa (amorous themes).
But the sentiments must be used with feeling. Without feeling, all literature becomes mediocre. Particularly in a play, sentiments can be supplemented with skills (kalal). These skills are normally associated with women and there are sixty-four of them. The more important ones are singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, acting, drawing, making garlands, sewing, hairdressing and using magic.
Grammatical rules of sandhi and samasa (rules for forming compound words) are next described. The difference between the two is that in sandhi, the two words that are being joined retain their original senses in the compound word. The case of samasa is different. Sandhi occurs when two varnas (letters) met. Samasa is a condensation or conversion of two or more words into one. Sandhi does not create any new word. Samasa leads to the formation of a third word which refers to something related to but distinct from either or any of the words combined. Pita (yellow) and ambara (cloth) combined by way of sandhi are pronounced pitambara and mean cloth that is yellow. The same
two words combined by way of samasa result in the third word pitambara which means “the one dressed in yellow”, that is, Krishna.
There are several possible declensions of words, depending on the vachana and the vibhakti. The vachana refers to the number. Eka-vachana is when there is only one (phalam, a fruit) dvi-vachana when there are two (phale, two fruits) and vahu-vachana when there are more than two (phalani, more than two fruits). There are three genders, pumlinga (masculine), strilinga (feminine) and klivalinga (neuter). Deva, asura, Vishnu are, for example, masculine in gender. Devi, Kalika or maya are feminine.
Pushpa (flower) or phala (fruit) are neuter.
There are six karakas (cases) and seven vibhaktis (case-endings). The agent who performs the action indicated by the kriya (verb), is the kartri or doer. To the kartri karaka or Nominative Case, the prathama vibhakti or first case-ending is attached. The object of the action is karma and to the karma karaka or objective Case, the second (dvitiya) case-ending is attached. The means or instruments by which the action is performed takes on the karana karaka or Instrumental Cases and the third (tritiya) case-ending. When a gift is given irrevocably, the recipient takes on the sampradana karaka or Dative Case
and the case-ending in question is the fourth (chaturthi). That which is the source of something takes on the apadana karaka or Ablative Case and the fifth (panchami) case-ending. When there is a relation of possessions, the possessor takes on the shashthi vibhakti (sixth case-ending). There is no counterpart of the possessive Case of English grammar because the relation of possession is not directly related to the verb (kriya) and therefore to the doer (karaka). In case of the location in which the action takes place, the karaka is adhikarana (Locative Case) and the case-ending the seventh (saptami).
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Posted – 01/12/2005 : 09:35:20
The Agni Purana
Nine: Destruction, Yoga, and Brahman)
Periodically pralayas (destructions) take place. A destruction comes
at the end of four thousand yugas on earth. For a hundred years there
are no rains and there is widespread drought. Thereafter, Vishnu uses
the rays of the sun to drink and dry up all the waters that there are
on earth. Seven different suns appear in the sky and they burn up the
three worlds of heaven, the earth and the underworld. The earth
becomes as flat as the back of a turtle. The breath of the great snake
(Shesha) also serves to burn up the three worlds.
After the three worlds have been burnt up, dark clouds full of thunder
and lightning appear in the sky. For a hundred years it continue to
rain. The rain puts out the fires that have been raging. From Vishnu‟s
breath are created tremendous winds and these drive away the clouds.
But there is water everywhere. And Vishnu sleeps on these waters. For
an entire kalpa he sleeps. The sages then pray to Vishnu for the three
worlds to be created yet again.
Yama And Hell
When human beings die, their physical bodies are given up. But they
acquire new bodies that are known as ativahika bodies. In these
bodies, they are brought to Yama‟s abode by Yama‟s servants.
Living beings other than human are not brought to Yama. Yama then
decides whether the dead person should go to heaven or to hell. After
he has served his time in heaven or in hell, he is born again. Yama
further decides what living being the person should be born as,
depending on the actions in his past life. And so the cycle of birth
death and rebirth goes on and on.
Since he keeps tally of all good deeds and all sins, Yama is also
known as the god Dharma. Those who have done good deeds are rewaraded
by Yama and those who have committed sins are punished. Chitragupta is
Yama‟s accountant, he keeps the account of all punya and papa.
There are twenty-eight circles of hells with many hells located in
each circle. A sinner may have to go to more than one hell depending
on the sins that he has committed. Some sinners are boiled in oil,
others are pierced with spears and still others are whipped. Some
sinners are fed heated iron balls, others are fed blood and rubbish.
There are also machines for torturing sinners. Terrible birds eat up
some sinners. Other sinners have their heads cut off.
When it is time to be reborn, the killer of a brahamana is born as a
deer, dog, pig or camel. A drunkard is born as a donkey. A stealer of
gold is born as a worm or an insect. A killer of a brahmana may also
suffer from tuberculosis. a drunkard will have teeth like a dog and a
stealer of gold will malformed nails. A stealer of food is born dumb.
A person who has stolen the property of brahmanas is born as a
rakshasa and lives alone in the forest. A stealer of fragrant scents
is born as a mole. One who steals foodgrains is born as a rat. One who
steals animals is born as a goat, one who steals milk as cow, one who
steals fruit as monkey and one who steals meat as a vulture. A stealer
of clothes is born as a crane and a stealer of salt as a cricket.
Yoga is the way to circumvent the miseries of life. True knowledge is
that which informs one about the true nature of brahman or paramatman.
The atman or jivatman is that which characterises an individual. Yoga
means union, it is the union of the jivatman with the paramatman. Yoga
concentrates one‟s mind on the paramatman.
The first prerequisites of yoga is non- violence. A non-violent person
is always righteous. The second requirement of yoga is truthfulness.
The third prerequisite is celibacy. The fourth is controlling one‟s
senses and the last is the worship of god. One who practices yoga
should not go around collecting material possessions. A piece of
cloth, a covering against the cold, and a pair of sandals are
possessions enough for him.
Before meditating on the true nature of the paramatman, one has to
seat oneself in a proper asana (posture). The piece of cloth on which
one is to sit should be placed in a clean place. One sits on such a
seat and tries to purify one‟s atman by controlling one‟s mind and
senses through yoga. The head and the neck should be held straight up,
motionless. The point of vision should be directed towards the tip of
one‟s nose. One should not look in any direction. The arms should
lightly rest on the folded thighs and the right hand should be placed,
palm upwards, on the left palm. Padmasana (lotus position) is one such
The breath of life (prana vayu) has to be controlled. This process of
control is known as pranayama. A finger is placed on the nose when the
breath is being exhaled. The entire breath should be exhaled from the
body. Since rechana means exhalation, this process of control is known
as rechaka. When the breath is inhaled, the inhalation should be such
that it fills the entire body. Since puraka literally means „that
which fills‟, this process of control is known as puraka. When the
breath is neither being exhaled nor inhaled, one sits completely still
like a kumbha (pot) and this is known as kumbhaka. Pranayama makes one
healthy, swift, enthusiastic, strong and collected. Since the senses
are controlled, one goes to heaven and avoids going to hell. Material
pursuits are like the strong current of a river. The atman drowns in
Pranayama alone is not enough. It has to be supplemented with dhyana
of japa (meditation and contemplation). One contemplates the true
nature of the paramatman. The body is like a chariot. The senses are
its horses, the mind is the charioteer and pranayama is the bridle. An
individual who dies while performing dhyana is immediately assimilated
involve four different things, all of which must be in complete
harmony. The first is the meditator, the second is the act of
meditating, the third is the object that one is meditating upon and
the fourth is the reason why one is performing the mediation. One does
not have to; sit in a rigid posture for dhyana to be possible. It can
be done while one is walking, sitting or even sleeping. The important
aspect is to establish the object of one‟s meditation in one‟s
There are different ways of establishing one‟s concentration. As an
object of meditation, one can meditate on three concentric circles
which are black, red and white. In the centre of the circles is a
divine lotus. The lotus has eight petals. One thinks that detachment
is the stem of the lotus and praying to Vishnu its stamen. Right in
the centre of the lotus is a pure spark of fire and that is the
paramatman. Alternatively, one can visualise the paramatman in a blaze
of light, in the centre of the lotus. Dhyana is far far superior to
any yajna that one might perform.
One particular form of deep and intense meditation is known as
samadhi. The meditator is then completely still, as calm as the ocean.
He loses all track of the outside world. He does not hear, smell, see
or touch. His mind has no wishes and feels nothing. He is completely
united with god. Such a meditator automatically gets to know all the
knowledge that can be gleaned from the Vedas or the shastras. He can
obtain all the material possessions that he wants, but he regards them
all as no more important than a blade of grass.
Such a meditator attains supreme knowledge. If you look at various
pots full of water, you will find that the same sky is reflected in
them all. Supreme knowledge tells one that, exactly similarly, it is
the same atman that is everywhere. It is the atman which is the same
as the paramatman, it is this atman that is in the water, in energy,
in water, in the earth and in metals. The atman is everywhere.
The Knowledge Of The Brahman
Brahma jnana is the knowledge of brahman. This knowledge, which gives
the ultimate bliss, is nothing but the sense that the individual atman
is identical with the universal brahman or paramtman. The physical
body is not the atman. Nor are the senses the atman. The mind or
intelligence is not the atman. Life itself is not the atman.
The atman is different from all the objects that have been mentioned
above. The atman is in an individual‟s heart. It sees everything and
senses everything, but is different from the physical body. It is this
that sages contemplate when they meditate. The sky was created from
the brahman, from the sky came wind, from wind fire, from fire water,
from water the earth and from the earth the five elements. One has to
meditate on the physical body gradually disappearing and merging into
The brahman is neither true nor untrue. It has neither form nor is it
without form. The brahman has several parts, but at the same time it
is an integral whole. The brahman cannot be described. It cannot be
achieved through the power of action. The brahman is always pure. It
has no ties and it is the true form of happiness. What is required is
the sense that it is I, the individual, who am the brahman. I am
nothing but the atman and the atman is nothing but the brahman. This
sense is true knowledge. The brahman is the Lord who is the origin of
everything and the individual is part of the brahman. It is this
knowledge that frees one from the ties of the world and this is what
brahman jnana is all about.
The brahman is not the earth; it is beyond the earth. The brahman is
not the wind, nor is it the sky. The brahman has no beginning; it is
independent of all action. The brahman is huge; it is everywhere. The
brahman not only has no form, it is beyond all form. The brahman
cannot be heard. It cannot be touched. The brahman has neither
intelligence nor mind. It has no sense of ego or vanity. It does not
have life, birth, old age or death.
The brahman is neither happy nor unhappy. It does not feel hungry or
thirsty. It cannot be measured. At the same time, it is both nothing
Life has five possible ends. By performing yajnas one can attain
heaven. By performing tapasya one can become an ascetic. By performing
actions one can attain brahmaloka. By detachment from material
pursuits (vairagya) one can merge oneself into nature. And by true
knowledge the individual gets absorbed into the divine essence. This
is known as kaivalya. Detachment means to withdraw oneself from the
effects of all actions. And knowledge means the knowledge that the
atman is no different from the brahman. This is known as jnana yoga
(the yoga of knowledge).
There are few people who attain this knowledge. One of those was
Bharata. Bharata had done a lot he became very attached to a deer and
when he died, he died thinking of the deer. The result was that in his
next life, Bharata was born as a deer. But the deer happened to be a
jatismara, that is, it remembered its earlier life. The deer
eventually died and Bharata was again born as jatismara human.
The king of Soubira was once travelling on a palanquin and he wanted
someone who would bear his palanquin free of charge. The king‟s
servants caught hold of Bharata to bear the palanquin. But Bharata
moved slowly and could not keep up with the other bearers. The
palanquin did not progress and the king asked Bharata. “Why are you
so tired? You have not been bearing my palanquin for long. Can‟t you
some toil? You look fairly strong to me.”
Bharata replied, “I am not strong. Nor am I bearing your palanquin.
I am not tired. nor am I lazy. I am my atman and feet are and my body
is balanced on my thighs. My shoulders are on my body and your
palanquin rests on my shoulders. But I am not my feet, thighs, body or
shoulders. I am the atman. The atman is not carrying you. So why do
you say that I am beating you?” Bharata
then instructed the king on the
mysteries of true knowledge. The atman was pure, ever-lasting, calm, without
traits and beyond natural characteristics. Since the atman had no
traits and since an individual
was the atman and not the body, it was
meaningless to say that an individual was strong or weak. The
physical body was made of the elements and so was the palanquin.
What was the point therefore in
saying that the physical body was bearing the palanquin?
Heating these words of wisdom, the king fell at Bharata‟s feet. “Forgive
me,” he said, “and let go of the palanquin, Who are you?”
“Who am I?”, asked Bharata. “That is not a question that can
easily be answered.”
The king answered, “I fail to understand. Surely the form in which
you are now existing is who you are.”
“No,” said Bharata. “I am the atman and the atman is the same as
the paramatman. The paramatman is everywhere and therefore, the atman
is also everywhere. I am everywhere. I am in all physical bodies. It
is meaningless to ask who you are and who I am. We are all one and the
same. Wood has come from the trees and this palanquin is made of wood.
But is the palanquin wood or tree? When you ride on the palanquin,
does anyone say that you are riding on a tree? Men, women, cows,
horses, elephants, birds and trees, these are all meaningless names.
They are all illusions. Everything is one and the same. I am
everywhere. If there had been a place or an object where I do not
exist, I could have everywhere, I do not know how to answer your
question. Tell me king, are you your head or your stomach? Or is all
of it, you? But then, what will you call that which is distinct from
your physical body? Think about what I have said.”
Bharata‟s words were so profound that the king immediately accepted
Bharata as a teacher. And Bharata told the king the story of Ribhu and
The sage Ribhu was Brahma‟s son. He was also extremely learned.
Nidagha was Ribu‟s disciple. After Ribhu had taught Nidagha what
there was to be taught, Nidagha went to the city to see how Nidagha
was getting on. Nidagha worshiped his teacher and gave him all sorts
of things to eat. After Ribhu had eaten, Nidagha asked him, “Are you
“What do you mean?”, asked Ribhu. “The question of satisfaction
would have arisen had I been hungry or thirsty. I am my atman and the
atman is always satisfied. So what is the brahman that is omnipresent
and so are you. You are not distinct from me, we are both part of the
same whole. I came to teach you this knowledge. Now that you have
learnt that the brahman is everywhere, let me leave.”
After another thousand years had passed, Ribhu came to the city again
and discovered that Nidagha no longer lived in the city. He had begun
to live on the outskirts of the city.
“Why have you given up living in the city?”, Ribhu asked Nidagha.
“Because I do not like to live in the city, where there is a king,
“ replied Nidagha.
“Who is the king ?”. asked Ribhu. “Point him out to me in this
procession that is passing. And point out to me the subjects.”
Nidagha said, “The king is the one who is as tall as a mountain
peak. He is the one who is riding the elephant. The ones who are
walking are the subjects.”
“What do you mean?”, asked Ribhu. “The brahman is in the king
and the brahman is in the elephant. How do you distinguish one from
the other, how do you say that one is riding the other? Is the king
the physical body or the atman and is the elephant the physical body
or the atman? Who is riding on whom? I do not understand.”
This knowledge, that the atman is the same as the brahman, is known as
advaita (unified) brahma-jnana. Ribhu taught this to the king of
Soubira. This is the knowledge that all elements are one and the same.
It is only those who suffer from illusions who think that different
elements and different beings have different identities.
Krishna had taught Arjuna the lessons of the Gita on the plains of
Kurukshetra. The Agni Purana now relates the essence of the Gita .
If physical body is alive, that is no reason for rejoicing. Just as,
if the physical body is dead, that is no reason for mourning. The
atman does not die. It does not decay, it cannot be destroyed and it
is immortal. The atman does not warrant any tears that might be shed
over it. people who are addicted to sensual pleasures cannot realise
this. The person who is addicted to the atman alone has no desire for
anything else. He had no action to perform. He had neither gains nor
losses. The knowledge of this is like a raft that rescues one from the
flood of illusions.
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