The Brahma Purana

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 243,464 words

This is the Brahma Purana in English (translation from Sanskrit), which is one of the eighteen Maha Puranas. The contents of this ancient Indian encyclopedic treatise include cosmology, genealogy (solar dynasty etc.), mythology, geology and Dharma (universal law of nature). The Brahma Purana is notable for its extenstive geological survey includin...

Chapter 37 - Destruction of Dakṣa’s Sacrifice

The sages said:

1-2. O Brahmā, how was the horse-sacrifice of Prācetasa Dakṣa the Prajāpati destroyed in the Vaivasvata Manvantara? How did the lord, the soul of all, become infuriated after knowing that the goddess had been made angry? How was the sacrifice of Dakṣa of unmeasured splendour destroyed by the great lord in rage?

Brahmā said:

3. O brahmins, I shall describe to you how the sacrifice was destroyed in rage by the great lord in retaliation of the treatment meted out to his consort—Satī.

4-6. O excellent Brahmins, the wonderful peak of Meru, Jyotiḥsthala by name, is worshipped in the three worlds. It is adorned by precious jewels. It is incomprehensible, unthwartable, and bowed to by the people. Formerly, the lord was seated there on the ridge of the mountain wonderfully beautified by all sorts of minerals. He shone well and was as comfortable as he was seated in a palanquin. The daughter of the lord of the mountains stood away by his side.

7-17. He was served by the following: The noble-souled Ādityas, Vasus of great prowess, Aśvins, the noble and excellent physicians, Vaiśravaṇa[1] the lord of Yakṣas, the glorious lord whose abode was in Kailāsa and who was surrounded by Guhyakas, Uśanas, the great sage Sanatkumāra and other great sages, Aṅgiras and other celestial sages, Viśvāvasu the Gandharva as well as Nārada and Parvata.[2] Many groups of Apsaras came there. The pure, auspicious and pleasant breeze blew wafting different kinds of fragrance. The trees of the forest were laden with flowers of all seasons. The Vidyādharas, Sādhyas, Siddhas and ascetics worshipped and served the great lord, the lord of Paśus. Similarly, there were other living beings that had assumed different forms. There were extremely terrible Rākṣasas, and Piśācas of great strength who were very bold, who assumed many forms and who held different sorts of weapons and means of striking. The followers of the lord comparable to the fìre-god also stood there. Nandīśvara, permitted by the lord was also there holding a blazing trident brightly illuminated by its own radiance. Gaṅgā, excellent of all rivers and the source of all sacred waters attended upon him in her embodied form. Thus the great lord stayed there worshipped by the celestial sages and the highly blessed Devas.

18-27. After the lapse of some time the Patriarch Dakṣa resolved to perform sacrifice in the manner laid down and mentioned before. Led by Indra, Devas came from their heavenly abodes to his sacrifice at Gaṅgādvāra[3]. Noble-souled Devas who had fiery lustre came there on shining aerial cars. The Gaṅgādvāra was thronged by Gandharvas and Apsaras. It abounded in trees and creepers. Dakṣa the most excellent among the virtuous ones was surrounded by groups of sages.

The residents of the Earth, firmament and heavenly world joined their palms in reverence and stood near him. The Ādityas, Vasus, Rudras, Sādhyas, Maruts and Viṣṇu came there to partake of their shares in the sacrifice. The excellent Devas, Ājyapas, Somapas, Aśvins, Maruts and different groups of Devas came there. These and other congregations of living beings, the four species of living organisms such as the ovoviviparous, viviparous, the sweat-born ones and the shorting ones (plants) came there. Devas had been invited along with their womenfolk and the sages. Seated in the aerial chariots (or lofty chambers) they shone like blazing fires.

On seeing the raised platform devoid of Rudra, Dadhīci, the great sage, spoke to the sages:—

“O sages, Śaṅkara the leader of all, is not seen in this great sacrifice; the sacrifice does not shine without him.

28. By worshipping those who should not be worshipped and by not worshipping those who are worthy of being worshipped a man undoubtedly incurs great sin.

Brahmā said:

29-33. After saying this, the brahminical sage said to Dakṣa again.

Dadhīci said:

Why do you not worship the lord of Paśus?

Dakṣa said:

I have many Rudras of my own; they have matted hairs and they are armed with tridents. They are eleven in number And they stay in eleven abodes. We do not recognize any other Maheśvara beside them.

Dadhīci said:

This is the warning I shall give you all. My lord has not been invited. Just as I am sure that I do not see a deity above Śaṅkara so also I am sure that this elaborate sacrifice of Dakṣa will not attain completion.

Dakṣa said:

This entire offering has been sanctified by the due chanting of Mantras. It is dedicated to the lord of sacrifice. O brahmins, by means of gold vessels I offer this to the unparalleled god Viṣṇu as his share in the sacrifice and not to Śaṅkara.

O Dadhīca, this is duly offered as the permanent share to Viṣṇu, the lord of the universe. I give this share in the sacrifice to that excellent deity and not to Śaṅkara.

Brahmā said:

34. Knowing that Devas were going somewhere, the chaste daughter of the king of mountains spoke these words to lord Śiva her husband.

Umā said:

35. O lord who know all facts, where do these Devas with lord Indra at their head go? Tell me truthfully. I entertain great doubts on that count.

36. The highly blessed, the most excellent patriarch Dakṣa is performing a horse-sacrifice. Those heaven-dwellers are going there.

The goddess said:

37. O blessed one, why don’t you go to this sacrifice? By what ban is your departure prevented?

Maheśvara said:

38. O highly blessed lady, all this has been manipulated by Devas alone. No share is allotted to me in any sacrifice.

39. O fair-complexioned lady, following the path of previous precedent in the allotment of shares Devas do not offer me the rightful share in the sacrifice.

Umā said:

40-42. O lord, among Devas, you are superior in power and good qualities. You are invincible and unthwartable by virtue of splendour, fame and glory. O highly blessed one, on account of this ban in respect to the share (in sacrifice) I am extremely distressed. I tremble excessively. What sort of charitable gift, holy observance or penance shall I perform, whereby my husband, the infinite lord shall now obtain a substantial or an appropriate share?

43-45. As she spoke the delighted lord thought that his wife was most agitated. He said:—“O gentle lady of slender belly and limbs you do not know me fully. Do you speak these words in propriety? O lady of large eyes, I know and all good people know through meditation. Due to your anger all Devas, the three worlds, have been destroyed. They highly praise me as the lord of sacrifices; they sing the Rathantara hymn for my sake; they worship me by means of sacrifices. The priests who perform sacrifices allot share unto me.

The goddess said:

46. O lord, even a vulgar person behaves like a lofty-minded person in the assembly of people. Particularly in front of ladies he praises himself and arrogates.

47. O goddess of Devas, I do not praise myself as you seem to think. O beautiful fair-complexioned lady, I shall create a being and assert my right to this share.

Brahmā said:

48. After saying this to Umā his wife, whom he loved more than his vital breath, the lord created a goblin from his mouth. It arose from the fìre of his fury.

49. The lord said thus to him:—“Go and destroy the sacrifice of Dakṣa. With my permission, immediately destroy that holy rite of Dakṣa.”

50. That goblin knew that Dakṣa was the cause of Mother’s indignation. Hence, he destroyed the sacrifice of Dakṣa playfully. This he did by the order of Rudra to assume the form of a lion.

51. The extremely terrible Bhadrakālī[4] the great goddess was created from that indignation. As a witness to the actions of her lord she accompanied him.

52. In fact, the goblin was the lord himself, who assumed the form of the fury of the lord and took up his abode in the cremation ground, the resting place of ghosts. He is known as Vīrabhadra.[5] Eventually he wiped off indignation and sorrow of his consort Umā.

53. From the pores of his bodily hairs he himself created some leading Gaṇas, the terrible followers who had virility and exploit akin to that of Rudra himself.

54. These followers of Rudra, who had the valour of Rudra himself, jumped out of his pores in hundreds and thousands.

55. O brahmins, the tumultuous sound produced by those Gaṇas of Rudra was extremely sonorous and appeared to fill the entire firmament.

56. The heaven-dwellers were frightened by that loud tumult. The mountains crumbled down and the earth quaked.

57. Gusts of wind blew ruthlessly. The abode of ocean became stirred up and excited. Fires did not blaze nor did the sun shine.

58. Neither did glimmer the planets nor the stars nor the constellations. Neither sages nor Devas nor Dānavas had any lustre in their faces.

59. When darkness enveloped everything thus, those seated in the aerial chariots were burned up. Terrible stormy gusts of wind blew ruthlessly with the stinking odour of rotting ordure.

60. Some of the goblins shouted and cried aloud; others crashed and thrashed. With the velocity of the wind and the mind they ran helter-skelter in hurry.

61. The ritual vessels were broken to pieces and reduced to powder. The sacrificial chambers crumbling down appeared like the stars fallen from the sky.

62-65. Various sorts of foodstuffs and beverages were swallowed and lapped by the goblins. Hugh mountains like masses of divine cooked rice, beverages and foodstuffs, rivers of milk, marshy sloughs of ghee and milk pudding, divine honey and watery whey and gruel, sand-like candies and sugar, rivers with floating cooked rice of all the six tastes, channels of liquid treacle and molasses pleasing to the mind, high and low heaps of meat, foodstuffs of different sorts—nay all those exquisitely prepared lambatives and edibles, juices and squashes were gorged up by those enormous beings with their mouths of diverse kinds. Those beings issuing from the anger of Rudra, and comparable to fire of Death destroyed some and scattered, others.

66. Those gigantic beings towering high like mountains agitated and terrified everyone everywhere. Those beings of various forms hurled the celestial damsels playfully.

67-68. Such were the Gaṇas. Accompanied by them, the valorous Vīrabhadra, impelled by the fury of Rudra, quickly burned that sacrifice well-guarded by all Devas. He burned it up in the presence of Bhadrakālī. The others produced loud crying sounds that frightened all living beings.

69. Cutting the head of sacrifice they yelled terrifically. Then Dakṣa the patriarch and Indra and other Devas joined their palms in reverence and said:—“May this be known who are you, please?”

Virabhadra said:

70-73. O leading Devas, I am neither a Deva nor a Daitya. I have not come here to eat or to enjoy. I have not come here to see anything nor am I impelled by curiosity.

O excellent Devas, I have come here for destroying the sacrifice of Dakṣa. I am well-known as Vīrabhadra. I have come out of the fury of Rudra.

(This lady) shall be known as Bhadrakālī who has emerged from the fury and indignation of the Mother. She is sent by the lord of Devas and so has come to the venue of sacrifice.

O leading king, seek refuge in the consort of Umā, the lord of Devas. Better to face the fury of the lord than to court the challenge of his attendants.

Brahmā said:

74-81. Then the planted sacrificial posts were pulled up and cost off here and there. The vultures, greedy of flesh were swooping down or flying about. The gusts of wind generated by their fluttering wings shook down everything. Hundreds of vixen howled. The sacrifice of the arrogant Dakṣa was harassed by the Gaṇas. Thus harassed the sacrifice assumed the form of a deer and jumped high into the sky.

Observing the sacrifice slipping away in that form, lord (Vīrabhadra) seized his bow and arrow and went after it. Due to the wrath of that Gaṇa of unmeasured splendour a terrible drop of sweat flowed from his forehead. The moment the drop of sweat fell on the ground, a huge fire appeared, that was comparable, to the blazing fire of death. Then, O excellent brahmins, there appeared a man-like being. He was very short in stature. His eyes were red; his beard and moustache were green. He was terrific. His hair stood up on his head. His limbs were profusely covered with hair. His ears were red. He was awful and black in colour. He wore a red cloth. That Puruṣa of great prowess burned down the sacrifice like a fire that burns down a heap of straw.

82-89. The frightened Devas fled in all directions. As he moved about with long studies the Earth consisting of seven continents shook all round. When that great Being began to function like this, striking terror into the world of Devas I worshipped the great lord and said to him—“O lord, Devas will offer share unto you too. O lord of Devas; let this be withdrawn. All these Devas and thousands of sages know no peace, O great lord on account of your anger, O leading Deva conversant with virtue, the Being who was born of your sweat will be known as Jvara (Fever). He will move about in the world. O lord, the whole of this earth would not bear his vigour if he stayed as one single Being. May he be diffused in manifold forms.” When the lord was requested thus by me and when the share too was allotted, the Pināka-bearing lord of Devas said to me—“So be it.” The Pināka-bearing lord himself derived great pleasure.

90-92. Dakṣa sought refuge in lord Śiva. He restrained the Prāṇa and Apāna winds in the cavity of the eye with great effort.

The lord, the conqueror of enemies opened his eyes fully and looked all around. He then smiled and spoke soft words—“Tell me what shall I do for you?” When the great story was narrated to Devas accompanied by Pitṛs, Dakṣa the Prajāpati joined his palms in reverence and spoke to the lord. He was afraid, suspicious and even terrified. His face and eyes were covered with tears.

Dakṣa said:

93-97. O lord, if you are pleased, if I am your favourite, if I am to be blessed, if boon is to be granted to me (I shall request for this). Some of the food has been eaten. Some beverage is drunk. Some are simply bitten, some destroyed, some are ground into powder. This is the state regarding the requisites of sacrifice. These were acquired by me during the course of long time with great strain. O great lord, let this not go in vain in regard to me, due to your favour.

Brahmā said:

The lord Śiva who removed the eyes of Bhaga said—So be it.

The Patriarch Dakṣa bowed to the three-eyed lord Śiva the presiding deity of virtue. After securing the boon from lord Śiva, Dakṣa knelt on the ground and eulogised the bull-bannered lord by his thousand and eight names.

Footnotes and references:


Vaiśravaṇa—Kubera, son of Viśravas.


Nārada and Parvata—Two sages expert in music who lived for a long time as inseparable friends.


Gaṅgādvāra—A locality into the Indo-Gangetic plane where the river Gaṅgā falls from the Himālayas. This place is known as Haridvāra.


Bhadrakālī—form of Pārvatī. Lord Śiva, on hearing about the self-immolation in fire of his wife Satī, at the famous sacrifice conducted by Dakṣa, rushed in all anger to the spot and beat the earth with his matted hair, and there ensued two forces called Vīrabhadra and Bhadrakālī. This Bhadrakālī was really Satī in another form.


Vīrabhadra—There are two different opinions in the Purāṇas regarding the origin of Vīrabhadra. According to the Purāṇas his birth was due to the anger of Śiva. When Śiva knew that his wife Pārvatī jumped into the fire and died at the sacrifice of Dakṣa, he struck his matted hair on the ground and from that, Vīrabhadra and Bhadrakālī came into being. But according to Mbh. (Śānti Parva, Ch. 284) Vīrabhadra was born from the mouth of Śiva to destroy the sacrifice of Dakṣa. From each of the hairpores of Vīrabhadra a fearful monster was born, all of whom formed a group of ghosts called Gaṇas.

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