The Brihaddharma Purana (abridged)

by Syama Charan Banerji | 1915 | 50,976 words

The English translation of the Brihaddharma Purana, one of the several minor or Upa Puranas, and represents an epitome of several important (Major) Puranas. In this book one can observe the attempts made to reconcile the three main forms of Hindu worship, viz. the Shaiva Vaishnava and Tantrika (worship of God in the form of Kali, Durga, Ganga, and ...

Chapter 56 - A description of the four yogas—Origin of evil

The four Yugas [1] are the Krita (or Satya), Treta, Dvapara and Kali.

In the Satya Yuga Dharma was full and complete, and stood on all four legs like a bull. Harmony prevailed, and all the four castes strictly-followed the precepts laid down for their guidance. There was no sin of omission. Grief, folly, decay, disease, distress, agitation, quarrelsomeness, jealousy, famine, buying[2], sidling[2] and tyranny were unknown. Scriptures were properly studied, and sacrifices and charities had an unchecked course. People were strong and long-lived The Lord Narayan was meditated upon by all as a white-complexioned, white-robed, four-armed Brahmachari[3], and he was known as Hamsa[4]. Meditation was  the supreme way to salvation.

In the Treta Yuga Dharma lost one leg, and the quality of Rajas or activity predominated. People followed their religion and were charitable. Asvamedha[5], Rajasuya, Agnishtoma, Vajapeya and Atiratri sacrifices became popular. Narayana’s complexion was red and he became incarnate as Upendra Vamana.

Then came the Dvapara Yuga in which Dharma lost another leg apd stood on two only. There were four incarnations of Narayana, in two of which his complexion was yellow and in the other two dark. Mischief, jealousy, pride, quarrel someness, falsehood, grief, anger, sin, disease, decay, covetousness, non-observance of dharma, and cunningness became prevalent, and mixed castes came into existence. Tamas[6] was the ruling quality, of this age.

Now the origin of these undesirable objects was as follows:—

In ancient times it so happened once that Brahma became very angry, and his anger gave birth to eleven Rudras of gruesome appearance, who went about devastating the world. Seeing that they were doing much mischief, Brahma directed the Prajapati, Daksha, to take charge of them and keep them under control.

The foolish Daksha was, however, through his sins, overpowered by them, and the Lord Sambhu (or Siva) had to come himself and subdue Anger, Jealousy, Decrepitude, and the rest.

They remained subdued for a long time, but, in the Dvapara Yuga when Tamas[7] predominated over Rajas[8], they again gathered strength and ran at Siva himself.

Siva met them, trident in hand, and, when they saw no way of escaping him, they fell down suppliant before him and said,

“O Lord of the Past, Present and Future, you know that we are the sons of Brahma, but have been leading a miserable life through fear of you. Hitherto we had no foothold whatsoever, but now that the world is under the sway of Tamas, hope is dawning in us, and we request you to assign places and duties to us. If you fail to do so, we shall try to devour you.”

Siva said, “Your representation has received my attention. I direct you to go to Brahma who will give you occupation.”

They accordingly went to Brahma and told him the purpose of their visit.

He answered,

“I have a son whose name is Desire; He has commenced work[9] under my instructions, and I direct you all to go and help him. Desire gives birth to the body[10], and anger arises from Adharma[11] which is the cause of confusion or perplexity.

Perplexity gives rise to anxiety which, in its turn, gives rise to decay. Decay brings on disease, and disease is the cause of death. Do not approach a man whose actions are grounded on Dharma.

I have another son whose name is Adharma.

He always fights with Dharma. Roam fearlessly wherever the latter is overthrown by the former, and retires through fear, but never go to him who worships Hari, the Lord of Dharma, because Adharma also is afraid of Him.”

Death, the son of Adharma, was ordered by his father to destroy the inhabitants of the earth.

On Death protesting against the order, Adharma said,

“Do not be afraid, my son, you will not be held directly responsible for the destruction. Old age, disease, and other ills will help you, and you will simply complete the work.

Go and make the body of every living being your abode. You will be born with every being, and wherever I am, there shall you be also.”

Accordingly, Death, with his army of Jealousy, Strife, Pride, and the rest, proceeded to live among mortals.

Adharma, in due course, begat many sons in the shape of diseases, the eldest among whom is Fever. He has three heads, nine eyes, six arms and eight teeth. His complexion [is a shy pale]?, and his garment, mean. His eyes are red, restless and squinting.

The other sons of Adharma were Diarrhoea, Swelling, Colic, Enlargement of spleen, Dropsy, Cold, and so on.

He begat a daughter also whose name was; “Old age.”

Footnotes and references:


For a detailed description of the Yugas see Chapter LIV, page 191.


Note that according to this Purana even buying and selling was not allowed in the golden age of the Hindus.




i.e., the Supreme soul or Brahman. It is also said to be a compound word made up of Aham and Sa, meaning “I am He.” the idea conveyed is that in the Satya yoga [yuga?] man knew that he was one with God.


Asvamedha and the other sacrifices mentioned here are some of the sacrifices prescribed by the Vedas for the purification of the self and for aggrandizement. They were not performed in the golden age probably because there was no impurity to be got rid of in that age and no worldly honours were sought for. People could identify their selves with the Great Self through meditation.


See page 150 footnotes (1, 2 and 3).


Here, Darkness or delusion arising out of ignorance.


Activity or exuberance of energy.


By creating selfish desires and covetousness in men.


Desire makes a man act selfishly, and man has to be reborn to reap the fruits of his actions in his previous, births.


Want of Dharma. For the meaning of Dharma see footnote (1) at page 3.

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