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 104 - The glorification of different Manifestations of the lord (Viṣṇu)

The sages said:

1. O excellent sage, the rare manifestation and the diverse activities of lord Kṛṣṇa as well as Balarāma in the world have been mentioned by you.

2. Listening to the story of the lord we are not contented. We wish to hear about the other manifestations of the lord of the universe.

3. There was a manifestation of Viṣṇu of unmeasured splendour, mentioned by good men in the Purāṇas. It has been heard by us as Varāha (Boar).

4. We do not know his full conduct nor the details of the process whereby the incarnation took place. We do not know the extent of the existence of Guṇas and Karmans in him. We do not know the extent of his will in the causation thereof.

5. Of what nature was this Varāha? What was his form? What is the deity? What are his conduct and prowess? What was performed by him then?

6. The story of the great boar is conducive to the happiness of brahmins assembled at the sacrifice of those whose mind is always set on holy rites. It is pleasing to all the worlds.

7-9. O brahmin, we wish to know how Nārāyaṇa assumed the form of the Boar. How Viṣṇu, the suppressor of foes, lifted up the Earth that was within the ocean, by means of his curved fangs. It is our inclination to hear about the activities of the slayer of foes, in detail. We wish to hear about the manifestations of Viṣṇu along with his activities in due order. It behoves you to recount the nature of the lord, O holy brahmin.

Vyāsa said:

10. The burden of questions cited by you is indeed immense. I shall recount in accordance with my capacity. May the glory of Viṣṇu be heard about.

11. Fortunately your mind is inclined to listen to the prowess of Viṣṇu. O excellent brahmins, I shall recount to you the manifestations of Viṣṇu.

12-20. It is him that the brahmins conversant with the Vedic lore call with a thousand mouths, a thousand-eyed, thousand-footed, thousand-headed, the unchanging lord with thousand hands, thousand-tongued, brilliant lord with a thousand crowns. He is the bestower of a thousand, the devourer of a thousand, the unchanging one with a thousand arms. The various parts of the Yajña are mentioned as identical with him viz. Havana, Savana, Hotṛ, Havya, Holy vessels, altar, initiation, sacrificial twig, ladle, soma juice, winnowing basket, throbbing rod, prokṣaṇī vessel, Dakṣiṇāyana, Adhvaryu brahmin who sings sāman, Sādhya, Sadana, Sadas, Yūpa, Cakra, Dhruva, Darvi, Cams, Ulūkhalas, Prāgvaṃśa, the altar and whatever is beyond that. He is identical with the mobile and immobile beings whether short or huge in size. He is one with the rites of atonement, Arghya, Sthaṇḍila, Kuśa grass, fire that conveys the mantras and Yajñas, the share and he who conveys the share. They call him as one who partakes of his share at the outset, as the imbiber of Soma, as one who has put offering in flame, as one who has lifted up the weapon. The brahmins conversant with the Vedas call him the eternal lord of Yajña, thousands of manifestations of the lord of Devas, of Viṣṇu marked with the scar Śrīvatsa had taken place before; they will occur in future too—so says Brahmā.

21-22. O highly blessed ones, it is about this holy and divine story that you have asked. It is based on the incarnations of Viṣṇu. It is an auspicious story that dispels sins. O highly blessed ones, listen to this with your full concentration. May your wider soul be engrossed in the lord. O sinless ones, I shall recount in due order what you ask me.

23. I shall mention the greatness of Vāsudeva, the conduct of life of the highly intelligent one, for the welfare of Devas and mortal beings as well as the origin of the worlds.

24. The supreme Ātman manifests himself on many occasions. I shall recount the manifestations that are divine, sacred and endowed with good qualities.

25. The lord of Devas, the lord of universe, who sleeps for the period of a thousand sets of four Yugas, manifests himself against some (specific) task after the thousand sets of four Yugas are completed.

26-32. The ancient lord whose splendour was as brilliant as that of the well kindled fire created all these:—Brahmā, Kapila, the three-eyed Śiva, Devas, seven sages, Nāgas, Apsaras, Sanatkumāra of great magnificence and the noble Manu who was the lord and creator of subjects. When all the mobile and immobile beings had perished, when Devas, Asuras, human beings had perished, when Nāgas and Rākṣasas had perished, the lord remained in the middle of the ocean. (At that time) two Rākṣasas—Madhu and Kaiṭabha who were very powerful desired to win him. After boundless boons had been granted to them they were killed by the lord.

Formerly, as the lotus-umbilicused lord was sleeping in the waters of the ocean, Devas and sages were born in that lotus. This manifestation of the lord of the universe is the one which pertains to the lotus. In the course of this manifestation the Purāṇa is mentioned with the same concentration as the celestial Vedas. The manifestation of the great soul is mentioned in the Vedas. In this course this manifestation, Viṣṇu the most excellent of Devas assumed the form of a Boar.

Extra seven verses

[The Yajñavārāha (the Boar of the sacrificial form) appeared thus. The Vedas constituted his face. Sacrificial posts were his legs. Sacrifice was his tooth, sacrificial fire was his face, the fiery flame was his tongue, the Darbha grass constituted his hair; Brahmā was his head; he performed great penance (?) Day and night constituted his eyes; He was of a divine form; the ancillaries of the Vedas constituted his ear-ornaments; the clarified butter was his nose; the sacrificial ladle was his snout. The great Sāman songs were his loud snorting sounds. He was glorious and full of truthfulness and piety. He was duly greeted for his exploits in due order; the expiatory rites were his terrible nails (colours). He had the form of a sacrificial animal from knee to face. The intestines were the ancillaries, (?) the Homa was his symbol, the seeds and the medicinal plants constituted his great fruits, recitations were his inner soul; the Mantras were his loins; the Soma juice was his blood; the altar was his shoulder. Havis (offering) was his scent offering; Havyas and Kavyas constituted his velocity; Prāgvaṃśa was his physical body. He was lustrous, purified by different initiations. Dakṣiṇā was his heart. He was a Yogin in the form of a great sacrifice. The eight Upakarman rites constituted his golden ornaments round the neck; the Pravargya was his circular ornament. The different metres constituted his gait and paths; the secret doctrine of the Upaniṣads constituted his seat. He had his own shadow as his wife and assistant; he stood up like a mountaṃ with a jewelled peak.]

33-36. The Earth extending upto oceans and consisting of mountains, tree-groves and forests got immersed in the vast sheet of water. The lord dived into, the vast sheet of water and lifted the Earth by means of his curved fang, with a desire for the welfare of the worlds. The lord, the primordial cause of the world, the lord with a thousand heads reinstated the Earth once again. Thus the goddess Earth immersed into the waters of the ocean was lifted up formerly by Yajña-varāha, the one who sought the welfare of living beings.

Thus the incarnation of Varāha has been mentioned O brahmins. Thereafter (is the manifestation of) Narasiṃha (Man-lion). In this incarnation, Hiraṇyakaśipu was killed by the lord who became a lion.

37-38. Formerly, O brahmins, in the Kṛtayuga, this enemy of Devas was the leader of asuras. He was proud of his strength. He performed great penance for ten thousand years. For a thousand years he was engaged in Japas and observance of fasts. For five hundred years he adopted the holy rite of silence.

39. Brahmā was delighted by his penance and observance of restraints by his mental control and subjugation of sense-organs and at his celebacy.

40-44. O brahmins, the self-born lord Brahmā came there on a shining aerial chariot with the lustre of the sun and fitted with a swan. He was accompanied and surrounded by all these Ādityas, Vasus, Maruts, Daivatas, Rudras, Viśvasahāyas, Yakṣas Rākṣasas, Kinnaras, Diśas (guardians of quarters), Pradiśas (guardians of the intermediary directions), deities of rivers, oceans, stars, Muhūrtas (the presiding deity of time units of 48 minutes), planets traversing firmament, celestial sages, persons grown old in performing penances, the learned Siddhas, the holiest saintly kings, Gandharvas, Apsaras and Devas. The glorious Brahmā, the preceptor of mobile and immobile beings, the most excellent one among the knowers of Brahman spoke to the asura.

Brahmā said:

45. O you of good holy rites, I am pleased wtih your penance. Welfare unto you. Choose a boon. Obtain your cherished desires.

Hiraṇyakaśipu said:

46-50. O grand-father of the worlds, none of these should curse me by imprecations—Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas, Yakṣas, Nāgas, Rākṣasas, infuriated sages and those who are endowed with penance. This the first boon I choose. I should not be killed by any of these things—weapons, missiles, mountains, trees whether dry or wet. I should not be killed above or below. He who is able to kill me at one blow of his band along with my servants, armies and vehicles shall cause my death. I shall be all these: sun, moon, wind, fire, water, atmosphere, firmament, everything. I must be anger, love, Varuṇa, Indra, Yama, Kubera, the presiding deity of riches as well as the over-lord of Yakṣas and Kimpuruṣas.

Brahmā said:

51. O dear one, all these divine and wonderful boons have been granted to you by me. O dear one, you will attain all these desires.

Vyāsa said:

52. After saying this, lord Brahmā immediately went to his abode frequented by the brahminical sage.

53. On hearing about the granting of boon, Devas, Nāgas, Gandharvas and sages approached him.

Devas said:

54. O lord, with this boon, that Asura will harass us. Hence, O lord, be pleased, let the manner of his destruction be also thought of.

55. O lord, you are the self-born lord, you are the cause of all living beings, you are the creator of Havyas and Kavyas. You are the unmanifest being. You are certainly Prakṛti.

Vyāsa said:

56. Then, on hearing these words conducive to the welfare of all, lord Brahmā spoke to Devas.

Brahmā said:

57. O Devas, the fruit of penance must of course be obtained by him. But as the benefits of penance are exhausted lord Viṣṇu will slay him.

Vyāsa said:

58. On hearing these words of the lotus-born Brahmā Devas felt joyous. They returned to their divine abodes.

59. Immediately after he had obtained the boon, the asura Hiraṇyakaśipu became haughty and he harassed his subjects.

60. He overpowered and insulted the highly blessed sages of holy rites, interested in truthfulness and piety and of subdued sense-organs.

61. That great Asura defeated Devas stationed in heaven. He kept the three worlds under his control and lived in heaven.

62. Whenever that asura became haughty due to his obtaining the boon he roamed over the Earth. He made asuras worthy of shares in the Yajñas and Devas, unworthy of shares in the same.

63-64. The Ādityas, Vasus, Sādhyas, Viśvedevas and Maruts sought refuge in Viṣṇu of great strength, worthy of being sought as refuge. They sought refuge in the eternal lord of Brahman identical with the Yajñas unto Devas and Brahman the lord of the past, present and future bowed to by all the worlds. They sought refuge in the omnipresent lord Nārāyaṇa worthy of being sought refuge.

Devas said:

65. O lord of Devas, save us today from the fear of Hiraṇyakaśipu. Indeed you are our greatest lord. You are our greatest preceptor.

66. O most excellent one among Devas, you are indeed the supreme creator of all of us, Brahmā and others. O lord, with the eyes resembling the petals of a full blown lotus devoid of impurities, O lord, the destroyer of the enemy hosts, be our refuge for the destruction of the race of Diti.

Vāsudeva said:

67. O immortal ones, cast off your fear. I grant you all, fearlessness. O Devas, you will regain heaven as before without delay.

68. I shall kill this asura along with his attendants. I shall kill this leading Dānava haughty on account of his acquiring the boon that he cannot be killed by the leading immortal ones.

Vyāsa said:

69. After saying this to the chiefs of Devas and bidding them farewell, the lord of great strength came to the abode of Hiraṇyakaśipu.

70-74. The lord had half of his body human and half of the body leonine. Adopting the man-lion form, the lord clapped one hand with the other. He resembled the cloud; he had the voice and the brilliant prowess of the thick rain-bearing cloud; he was as impetuous as the cloud. On seeing the asura of great strength, guarded by the haughty asuras, the lord whose exploits were like those of a proud tiger hit and killed him with a single hand.

This manifestation of the Man-lion has been recounted. The next great manifestation is that of Vāmana. In the course of this manifestation, formerly, the powerful Viṣṇu adopted the form of a Dwarf destructive of Daityas. In the Yajña of the powerful Bali these great Asuras who could not be agitated by others were agitated by the three paces of Viṣṇu.

75-93. The following types of Asuras and Dānavas and those of the following names assailed Hṛṣīkeśa who had taken the steps. They were Vipracitti, Śiva, Śaṅku, Ayaḥśaṅku, Ayaḥśiras, Aśvaśiras, Hayagrīya, Vegavān, Ketumān, Ugra, the great Asura Ugravyagra, Puṣkara, Puṣkala, Aśvapati, Prahlāda, Kumbha, Saṃhrāda, Gamanapriya, Anuhrāda, Harihaya, Vārāha, Saṃhāra, Anuja, Śarabha, Śalabha, Kupatha, Krodhana, Kratha, Bṛhatkīrti, Mahājihva, Śaṅkukarṇa, Mahāsvana, Dīptajihva, Arkanayana, Mṛgapāda, Mṛgapriya, Vāyu, Gariṣṭha, Namuci, Śambara, Vikṣara the great, Candrahantā, Krodhahantā, Krodhavardhana, Kālaka, Kālakopa, Vṛtra, Krodha, Virocana, Gariṣṭha, Variṣṭha, Pralamba, Naraka, Indratapana, Vātāpī, Ketumān proud of his strength, Asilomā, Pulomā, Vāṣkala, Pramada, Mada, Svamiśra, Kālavadana, Karāla, Keśi, Ekākṣa, Candramas, Rāhu, Saṃhrāda, Saṃvara and Svana were the Daityas. Some of them had Śataghnīs (hundred smashers) and discus in their hands; some carried iron clubs in their hands; some carried Aśvayantra weapons (mechanical devices driven by horses). Some had Bhindipāla variety of iron club as their weapons; some had tridents and mortars in their hands. Others were holding axes. Some had nooses, Mudgara iron clubs or Parigha iron clubs in their hands. The Dānavas used great rocky boulders as their weapons. They were armed with javelins. They were awful Dānavas with diverse kinds of weapons. They were very powerful and came from different lands. There were Dānavas with faces resembling those of tortoises, cocks, rabbits, owls, donkeys, camels, boars, cats, peacocks, crocodiles, rams, cows, goats, sheep, bulls, mountain lizards, porcupines, jackals, mice, frogs, wolves, sharks, Krauñca birds, Garuḍa, mules and peacocks. All of them were terrible and awful. Some were clad in the hides of big elephants. Some were clad in deer skins. Some covered their bodies with the barks of trees. Some had blue robes. Some had turbans or crowns. Some had rings. Some wore coronets, some had long loose tresses. They were refulgent with their necks resembling the conch. They wore various types of dress and garments. They had applied diverse kinds of unguents. They wore various kinds of garlands. They seized and wielded their respective blasting weapons and gathered round Hṛṣīkeśa.

94-96. With the soles of his feet and the palms of his hands he crushed Daityas. He assumed a great and terrible form and roamed over the Earth. As he grew in size and roamed over the Earth, the moon and the sun at first stood on a level with his chest. When he flew up in the sky they stood against his umbilicus. When he of unmeasured prowess further grew in size they stood on a level with his knees.

97-98. After killing the leading Asuras and seizing the entire Earth from them, Viṣṇu the most excellent among the strong ones granted the Earth unto Vāmana. Indra the manifestation of the great Ātman named Vāmana has been recounted to you. This glory of Viṣṇu is being recounted in detail by the brahmins who are conversant with the Vedas.

99. A further manifestation of Viṣṇu the great Ātman, in the nature of a living being, is well known as Dattātreya. He was equipped with great forbearance.

100-102. When the Vedas perished, when the holy rites and sacrifices became defunct, when the rigidity of discipline of the four castes became loose and when piety weakened, it was he who restored all these. When truthfulness got lost and when falsehood prevailed, when the subjects became shattered and scattered and when virtuousness became disarrayed, Vedas were restored by him along with the Yajñas and holy rites. The four castes were made by that great Ātman, free from admixture.

103. Boon was granted by the intelligent Dattātreya to Kārttavīrya the intelligent king of Haihayas.

104. O king, this pair of arms of thine which was placed at my service shall certainly become a thousand arms.

105. O lord of the Earth, you will protect the entire Earth. Engaged in battle you become so dazzling that you will not be stared at by the enemy.

106. This glorious and auspicious manifestation of Viṣṇu has been recounted to you. There is another manifestation of the great Ātman namely Jāmadagnya Paraśurāma.

107. In the course of this manifestation the lord Paraśurāma killed king Sahasrārjuna in battle. Previously he had been invincible to the enemies in battle by the prowess of his thousand arms.

108-109. King Sahasrārjuna was seated in the chariot. Paraśurāma struck him to ground. Sahasrārjuna was crying like the rumbling cloud. Paraśurāma assailed him. The scion of the family of Bhṛgu cut off his thousand arms by his refulgent axe. He slew him together with his kinsmen.

110. The Earth where crores of Kṣatriyas remained scattered about, the Earth that is adorned by the mountains Meru and Mandara was rid of Kṣatriyas twenty-one times by the lord.

111. After making the Earth devoid of Kṣatriyas, Paraśurāma of great fame performed a horse sacrifice in order to dispel his sins.

112-116. In the course of this sacrifice, the scion of the family of Bhṛgu gave the Earth as gift unto Kaśyapa the son of Marīci. In this sacrifice precious articles were offered as gifts. Paraśurāma, the most excellent among those who fought gave elephants, horses, chariots, gold, and cows as gifts in that horse-sacrifice. For the welfare of the worlds, lord Jāmadagnya, the scion of the family of Bhṛgu, of great fame and great penance stays even today on the most excellent mountain Mahendra like a Deva. He is the manifestation of the great Ātman of Viṣṇu, the perpetual lord of Devas, the unchanging lord. He is well known as Jāmadagnya, son of Jamadagni.

117-120. In the twenty-fourth cycle of four Yugas, the lord of large eyes resembling the blue lotus was born as the son of Daśaratha. Viśvāmitra preceded him in the course of this manifestation. The lord of great arms divided himself into four. The lord resembled the sun in refulgence. He became well known in the world as Rāma, son of king Daśaratha. The lord of great renown was born for augmenting piety, propitiating the people and curbing the wicked. They say that the lord of men engaged in the welfare of all living beings stayed in the forest for fourteen years. He was conversant with all holy rites and virtuous deeds.

121-122. Followed by Lakṣmaṇa, Rāma engaged in the welfare of all living beings, performed penance in the forest for fourteen years. Lakṣmī took the form of Sītā and followed her husband (to the forest) and remained at his side.

123-127. Living in Janasthāna,[1] the leader among men performed the task of Devas. Seeking the whereabouts of Sītā, the lord of great fame killed Rāvaṇa, the ruthless descendant of Pulastya, who had injured him. The lord killed Rāvaṇa the leader of Rākṣasas. The king of Rākṣasas was indestructible to Devas, Asuras, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas and Nāgas. He was in collaboration with crores of Rākṣasas. He was comparable to a mass of blue collyrium. He was invincible. He was incapable of being held. He was haughty and had exploits similar to that of a tiger. Devas dared not look at him. He was arrogant due to the boons that had been granted to him (by lord Śiva). Lord Rāma killed him along with his ministers and armies in the battle.

128. Rāma the lord of the living beings killed Rāvaṇa who had a huge body, who was very powerful and who resembled a mass of clouds.

129. For the sake of Sugrīva, Bāli the powerful lord of monkeys was killed in battle and Sugrīva was crowned in his place.

130. The great Asura, the haughty son of Madhu, the Dānava named Lavaṇa, the heroic demon, proud of his boons was killed in the forest (named) Madhuvana.

131-132. Mārīca and Subāhu who were the most excellent ones among strong persons, who caused impediments in the Yajñas of the sages of purified souls, were killed by that great Ātman, an expert in battle in the course of the fight. Other Rākṣasas too were killed by him.

133. The tiger among men killed Virādha and Kabandha, the Rākṣasas of terrible exploits who had been formerly two Gandharvas deluded by imprecation.

134. In the battle Rāma killed his enemies by means of arrows, that had the lustre of fire, sun-rays and lightning streaks, that had the tail ends fitted with feathers of various kinds made of molten gold and the strength of which was like that of the thunderbolt of Mahendra.

135. Weapons were given to him by Viśvāmitra the intelligent sage for slaying the enemies who could not be assailed even by Devas.

136. Formerly, when a certain sacrifice was performed by Janaka the great Ātman, the great bow belonging to Maheśvara was broken by him even as he playfully and sportingly touched it.

137. After performing these tasks Rāma the most excellent among the virtuous performed ten horse-sacrifices where flesh was offered to the deities.

138. While Rāma was ruling over the kingdom people were not malicious or jealous. They did not speak inauspicious words. Winds blew without agitation. No wealth was stolen or taken by force.

139. No widow lamented. There were no calamities. Everything was auspicious when Rāma was ruling over the earth.

140. No living being had any fear from water, fire, wind or blows (of any sort). Old men never performed the funeral rites of boys (i.e. boys never died before old men).

141. The Kṣatriyas were devoted to the Brahmins. The Vaiśyas were devoted to the Kṣatriyas. The Śūdras served the three castes without any pride or egotism.

142. Women did not stray from their husbands; the husband did not stray from his wife. The entire universe was restrained and subdued. The earth was rid of robbers.

143-151. Rāma alone sustained the people. Rāma alone was the saviour. People lived for thousand years. They had thousand sons. When Rāma ruled over the earth all living beings were devoid of ailments; there was unity among the deities, sages and human beings everywhere on the Earth. The people who are conversant with ancient legends sing the following popular folk song thus—

People had a close and real bond of love with Rāma. The intelligent lord had greatness. He was a young man with red eyes and refulgent face. He spoke with limitation and restraint. His arms extended up to his knees. He had a gentle face. He had great arms and leonine shoulders. He ruled over the earth for ten thousand years. There were the following sounds continuously in his kingdom—the sound of the chanting of Ṛks, Sāman and Yajus Mantras; the twanging sound of the bow. This sound never ceased viz.“Let this be given, let this be eaten.” Rāma the son of Daśaratha richly possessed Sattva attributes and other qualities. He shone with his own brilliance, more brilliantly than the moon and the sun. He performed hundreds of holy sacrifices at the conclusion of which excellent gifts were offered to the Brahmins. He of great strength left Ayodhyā and went to Heaven. It was in this manner that the lord of great arms, the scion of the family of Ikṣvāku killed Rāvaṇa along with his attendants and went over to Heaven.

152. There was another manifestation of the great Ātman Kṛṣṇa for the welfare of worlds. It was well known in the Mathurā Kalpa (period of activity at Mathurā).

153-154. In the course of this manifestation, the powerful lord in human form killed Daityas, Śālva, Śiśupāla, Kaṃsa, Dvivida, Ariṣṭa, Vṛṣabha and Keśi, ogress Pūtanā, the elephant Kuvalayāpīḍa, Cāṇūra and Muṣṭika.

155. Thousands of arms of Bāṇa of miraculous activities were cut off. Naraka was killed in the war. So also Yavana of great strength.

156. All the jewels of the kings were taken away by him due to his brilliance. The kings of the Earth whose conduct was wicked and sinful were killed.

157. The following manifestation of the great Ātman is conducive to the welfare of the world. It is the manifestation of Kalki named Viṣṇuyaśas also. It will occur in the village of Śambhala.

158-159. These and many other manifestations of the lord have taken place for the welfare of the worlds. In these manifestations, the lord of great renown was praised by Devas. These manifestations are sung about in the Purāṇas by the expounders of Brahman. Even Devas are deluded in enumerating these manifestations.

160. The Purāṇa is on a par with the Vedas and Śrutis (?) The enumeration of manifestation is but indicatory, not exhaustive.

161-163. The manifestations of the lord, the preceptor of the worlds, worthy of being glorified have been thus glorified. By the glorification of manifestations of the lord, the Pitṛs are pleased. He who listens to the (manifestations) of Viṣṇu of unmeasured prowess, with palms joined in reverence (attains happiness). By listening to the yogic Māyās of the lord of Yoga man is liberated from all sins. Due to the favour of the lord he obtains flourishing income, great prosperity and extensive pleasures quickly.

Thus, O excellent sages, the holy manifestations of Viṣṇu of unmeasured splendour have been glorified by me. They dispel all sins.

Footnotes and references:


Janasthāna: A part of Daṇḍaka forest which lies in the basin of Godāvarī. Rāma had lived in this forest with Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa for a long time during the period of his exile.

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