by Manmatha Nath Dutt | 1897 | 293,872 words | ISBN-10: 8178542188 | ISBN-13: 9788178542188
This page is entitled “the incarnations of vishnu” and represents Chapter 41 of the first book (‘Adi Parva’) of the Harivamsa (English translation in Prose). The Harivamsha Purana narrates the lineage and life-story of Krishna (Hari). Although not officially mentioned in the list of Puranas, this book includes topics such as geology, creation theory, time (manvantaras), ancient historical legends and accounts of royal dynasties.
Chapter 41 - The Incarnations of Vishnu
1. Vaishampayana said:—O my child, the question that you have put regarding Hari, the holder of Sranga bow, is indeed very great. Listen, I shall still describe the glory of Vishnu as much as lies in my power.
2. Fortunately for you that our mind is bent upon listening to Vishnu’s prowess. Hear, I shall describe the celestial origin of the lord.
3-4. The Brahmanas, well read in the Vedas, describe him as having a thousand eyes, thousand faces, thousand feet, thousand heads, thousand hands, as eternal, as having thousand tongues, as effulgent, as wearing thousand crowns, as giving away thousands presents, as having thousand origins and thousand arms;
5. as sacrifice, oblation, Havya, Hota, the sacred vessels, the sacrificial altar, the initiation, caru, Sruva;
6. as Sruk, Soma, Shurpa, Musala, Prakshanam, Dakshinayanam, Adveryu, Samaga Brahmana, as Sadasya, Sadanam Sadas ;
7. as Yupa, Samid, Kusha, Darvi, Camasa, Ulukhala, Pragvamsham, sacrifice, sacrificial ground, priest and Chayana ;
8. as the small and big chariots, as the mobile creation, as the penance, as the good fruit thereof, as Sthandila and Kusha;
9. as Mantra, as fire that carries sacrificial offering, as Bhaga, Bhagavaha, Agrebhuj, Somabhuj, Ghritarchi, Udaniya ;
10-11. and in the sacrifice as the eternal Lord. That intelligent Lord of gods, Vishnu, having the mystic mark of Srivatsa on his breast, incarnated himself in thousands of forms. And thousands of his incarnations shall take place in future, Brahma has said this.
12-14. O great king, I shall describe at length, as accosted by you, the sacred and celestial theme, why the Divine lord Vishnu, the king of gods and the slayer of his enemies, took his birth leaving the celestial region, in the race of Vasudeva. For encompassing the well-being of the gods and men and the prosperity of all the worlds, the Soul of all, for a great work of his own, went through various incarnations.
15. I shall describe the sacred and celestial incarnations of the Lord fraught with many virtues that have been recorded in metres and great Srutis.
16. Purifying yourself and controlling your speech, listen to them, O Janamejaya. This highly sacred Purana is equal to the Vedas.
17. Hear, I shall describe this celestial story of Vishnu. O Bharata, whenever virtue suffers deterioration the Lord, for establishing it, incarnates Himself.
18. O great king, he had one form partaking of the quality of goodness. In this form He is constantly practising hard austerities in Heaven.
19. His second form is possessed by yoga sleep for bringing about the destruction of creatures; and from this sleep originate persons of misconceived spiritual culture.
20-22. Having slept for a thousand yugas He again appears for work. And after the completion of a thousand yugas, the god of gods, the lord of the universe, Vishnu, the Grandfather Brahma, the Regents of all the worlds, the moon, the sun, the fire, Brahma, Kapila, Paramesthi, the gods, the seven Rishis, the highly illustrious, three-eyed god Siva, the air, the oceans and the mountains exist in His form.
23. The great Sanatkumar and the high-souled Manu, the father of creation (also exist in His form). That ancient Lord, effulgent like the fire, has created all the forms.
24-25. After the destruction of all creatures mobile and immobile, after the destruction of the gods and demons, serpents and Rakshasas that highly powerful Purusha killed the two irrepressible Danavas, Madhu and Kaitava in the midst of the ocean and conferred upon them the boon of final liberation.
26. While in the days of yore the lotus-navelled Lord lay in the water of the ocean there sprang from His navel the gods and the Rishis.
27. This is the Lotus incarnation of the Lord as recorded in the Vedas and Srutis.
28-37. Next the Boar incarnation of the Lord is recorded in Srutis, where Vishnu, the foremost of the celestials, assumed the form of a boar and raised up the earth with her forests and mountains, with His tusks sunk in the all-spreading ocean. The (four) Vedas were his feet, the sacrificial altar was his tusk, the sacrifices were his teeth, the funeral pile was his mouth, the fire was his tongue, and the Darbhas were the hairs of his body. The great ascetic Brahma was his head, the days and nights were the eyes of that eldest Purusha, the various divisions of the Vedas were the ornaments of his ears, the progenitors were his nose, the chanting of the Sama Veda was his great voice. He was identical with virtue and truth. Penance was his nostril; dreadful beasts were his nails and he had long arms. The air was his soul, the mantra was his hip, the sanctified Soma juice was his blood, the sacrificial altars were his shoulders. Havi was his smell, Havy and Kavya were his energies, Nagvamsha was his body. He was effulgent and sanctified by various forms of initiation. Dakshina or gift was his heart. He was ascetic and great and the recitation of the Vedic hymns was the ornament of his lips. The great heroes, who stand in the way of virtue, were his ornaments. The various metres were his motion. The sacred Upanishad was his seat. The image of his wife was his help and he was tall like the summit of the mount Meru. This thousand-headed Prime Deity re-established the earth.
38. Thus in the days of yore for encompassing the well-being of creatures the Lord, assuming the shape of a sacrificial boar, raised up the earth from the water of the ocean. This is an account of the boar incarnation. Listen now to an account of His man-lion incarnation where assuming the form of a lion he killed Hiranyakashipu.
40. O king, in the days of yore in the golden age, the first of the Daityas born, Hiranyakesipu, an enemy of the gods, practised most excellent penances.
41. Observing the vow of silence and steadfastly carrying it on he alone, placed in the midst of water, spent eleven thousand and five hundred years.
42. O sinless one, thereupon Brahma was pleased with his self-control, equanimity of mind, asceticism and observance of rules and the vow of celibacy.
43-48. O great king then the lord of all, the divine self-sprung Brahma, the foremost of all, having the knowledge of Brahman, himself, in his effulgent and sun like car drawn by swans, came to him encircled by all the Adityas, Vasus, Sadhyas, Maruds, gods, Rudras, Visvas, Yakshas, Rakshas, Kinnaras, rivers, oceans, stars, Muhurthas, creatures ranging in the sky, planets, celestial saints, old ascetic Siddhas, the seven Rishis, the great royal saints and Apsaras. He then said to the Daitya:—"O you of firm vows, you are a disciple of mine. I have been pleased with your asceticism. Pray for a boon; may you fare well and acquire your wished-for objects."
49-54. Hiranyakasipu said;—O grand-father, I pray for this boon, that the gods, Asuras, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Nagas, Rakshasas, men and goblins may not by any means kill me and that the Rishis, when enraged, may not imprecate a curse on me, and that the weapons, mountains, trees, dry or wet articles or any other things may not bring about my destruction. Let him alone be my destroyer who will be able, with his servants and army, to kill me only with the strokes of his arms. I, myself, shall be the moon, the sun, the air, the fire, air, ether, the stars, the ten quarters, desire, anger, Varuna, Vasava, Yama, the lord of riches and Yaksha, the king of Kimpurushas.
55-56. Thus addressed by the king of Daityas, O emperor, the self-sprung Deity smilingly said;—"O my child, I confer upon you these most wonderful and celestial boons. Undoubtedly you will attain to all your desired-for objects."
57-56. Having said this the divine grand-father repaired, by the etherial region, to his habitation Vairaja resorted to by the Brahmana saints. Hearing that the water-sprung deity, the foremost of the celestials, had conferred this celestial boon on Daitya-king Hiranyakasipu, the gods, headed by Indra, communicated it to the Creator. Hearing of this conferring of the boons the Devas, the Nagas, the Gandharvas and the Munis appeared before the grand-father.
60. The Gods said—"O lord, by this boon the Asura will oppress us. Be you propitiated and concert a measure for his destruction".
61-62. Hearing those words beneficial unto all the lord Prajapati, the omniscient, self-sprung Deity, the invisible and immortal creator of Havy, Kavya and all other creatures said to the gods. "
63-64. Forsooth he must attain to the fruits of his asceticism. After he enjoys them the lord Vishnu will kill him." Hearing these words from the lotus-sprung Deity all the gods, filled with delight, repaired to their respective celestial habitations.
65. As soon as he obtained the boon the Daitya Hiranyakasipu, elated with the pride thereof, began oppressing all the creatures.
66. He first of all carried his work of oppression on the great, truthful and self-controlled Munis of firm vows living in the hermitages.
67. Having vanquished all the gods of the three worlds and having brought them all under subjection the Daitya Hiranyakasipu lived in the celestial region.
68. As long as he, elated with pride, lived in the celestial region the gods could not partake of the sacrificial offerings and the Daityas were entitled thereto.
69-70. Thereupon the Adityas, Visvas and Vasus sought refuge with the highly powerful Narayana Vishnu, the lord of protection, who is Brahman identical with the gods and sacrifices, who is the presiding god of the Brahmanas, who is eternal, the present and past and future and who is omniscient and adored of all the worlds.
71-72. The Gods said:—O. king of gods, O foremost of the celestials, do you save us from the fear of Hiranyakasipu. You art the Supreme Lord of us all and of Brahma and others. You are our Great God and Great Preceptor. O you having eyes like the full-blown lotuses, O you the destroyer of enemies, do you become our help for bringing about the destruction of the demons.
73-74. Vishnu said:—O you immortals, do you renounce your fear. I promise you safety. O gods, you will, in no time, acquire as before the celestial region. I will slay this king of Danavas, elated with pride, who is unslayable even by the immortals.
75-76. Vaishampayana said:—Having said this and left the company of the king of gods and others the Lord Hari assumed the form of a half-lion and a half-man. Having pressed his one palm against another Hari, in his man-lion form, repaired to the court of Hiranyakasipu.
77. His colour was like that of clouds and his voice was like the muttering thereof. He also became effulgent and fleet like a cloud.
78. He, with his own hand, killed the highly powerful and proud Daitya, gifted with the prowess of a tiger and protected by the mighty Daityas.
79-80. This is the man-lion incarnation. Next is that of a dwarf. Assuming this form destructive of the Daityas in the days of yore the powerful Vishnu, with his three foot steps, assailed the Asuras in the sacrifice of Bali.
81-98. Vipracitti, Shivi, Sangkaraya, Shangku, Ayashiras, the powerful Hayagriva, the fierce Ketuman, Ugra, Sogra, Vyagra, Mahasura, Pushkara, Pushkala, Sayoshya, Asvapati, Pralhada, Asvasira, Kumbha, Sanghrada, Gaganapriya, Amihrada, Hari, Hara, Varaha, Sankara, Ruja, Sharabha, Salabha, Kupana, Kopana, Kratha, Vrihatkirti, Mahagihva, Sankukarna, Mahasvana, Dirghajlbha, Arkanayana, Mriducapa, Mriduprya, Vayu, Garishtha, Namuchi, Saruvara, Vijvara Mahan, Cakrahanta, Krodhahanta, Krodhavardhana, Kalaka, Kalakeya, Vritta, Krodha, Virocana, Garishtha, Varistha, Pralamva, Naraka, Indratapana, Vatapi, Valadarpita, Ketuman, Asiloma, Puloma, Vashkala, Pramada, Mada, Vaishika, Kalavadana, Karala, Kaushika, Shara, Ekaksha, Chadraha, Rahu, Sanharashva, Mahiswan, Shataghni, Cakrahasta, Parighapani, demons with Ashma and Vindipala weapons in their hands, with those maces and mortars in their hands, those with Parashva weapon, maces, clubs spikes and various other weapons in their hands, those assuming various dreadful forms, those assuming the forms of tortoise and fowl, the faces of hares, asses, camels, boars, dreadful Makaras, jackals, mice, frogs leopards, cats, elephants, crocodiles, lambs, hogs, kine, buffaloes, Godhas, deer, Garuda, those having faces like swords and peacocks, those having armours made of the skin of elephants, some wearing antelope skin, some covering their bodies with barks, some wearing head-dresses, some wearing crowns, some wearing Asura ear-rings, some wearing Kiritins, some with long tufts of hair, some with conch-like necks—thus a numberless Daityas, wearing various dresses, adorned with diverse garlands and taking up their burning weapons, surrounded on all sides the powerful Hrishikesha.
99. Assuming a highly dreadful form and grinding them all with his hands and feet the Lord immediately freed the earth of the demons.
100. When he placed his foot-step on the earth, the sun, and the moon remained on his breast, and when he placed his foot-step in the sky they lay in his navel.
101. And when he placed his foot-step on a better place (than all these) they lay on the knees of the highly powerful Vishnu. This has been related by the twice-born ones.
102. Having thus slain all the leading Asuras the Lord Vishnu, the foremost of all the gods, saved the earth and conferred the celestial kingdom on the king of gods.
103. Thus have I described the dwarf incarnation of the Great Vishnu. The Brahmanas, well-read in the Vedas, describe it as the glorious conduct of Vishnu.
104-107. The Great Vishnu, the soul of all, next incarnated himself as the highly forgiving Dattatreya. When the gods disappeared, the religious works, sacrifices and the four castes suffered deterioration, when truth was lost and untruth flourished, when all the creatures were about to perish, when virtue was on the verge of extinction the Lord re-established the four Vedas with sacrifices as well as the four castes.
108-110. The boon-giving, intelligent Dattatreya conferred a boon on the Haihaya king Kartavirya, saying:—"O king, these your two arms, by the power of my boon, shall be thousand-fold. O lord of the earth, you will rule over the entire earth and be conversant with virtue. Your enemies shall not be able to look at you".
111. O slayer of enemies, O emperor, as heard by me, I have described to you the most wonderful and auspicious incarnation of Vishnu. The Great Lord next incarnated himself as Jamadagni.
112. In this incarnation Rama killed in battle Arjuna in the midst of his irrepressible army who were filled with wonder at his thousand arms.
113-114. Having brought the king Arjuna on earth from his car and assailed that king roaring like clouds with all his kinsmen, Bhrigu’s son Rama chopped off his thousand arms with his sword.
115. The earth, adorned with the mountains Meru and Mandara, contained Kotis of Kshatryas. He divested the earth of the Kshatryas for twenty one times.
116. Having divested the earth of the Kshatriyas the great ascetic son of Bhrigu undertook the celebration of a horse-sacrifice for the expiation of all his sins.
117. In that sacrifice consisting of profuse gifts Bhrigu’s son, with great delight, made a gift of the earth to Marichi’s son Kashyapa.
118. In that horse sacrifice the highly liberal and illustrious Rama, the foremost of car-warriors, made presents of quick-coursing horses, cars, endless gold, kine and elephants.
119. Even now practising hard austerities, Bhrigu’s son, effulgent like a celestial, is living on the most excellent mountain Mahendra.
120. This is the account of the Jamadagni incarnation of the great and intelligent Vishnu, the foremost of gods, bearing the mystic mark of Srivatsa on his breast.
121-122. In the twenty fourth Yuga, sending Visvamitra before him and dividing himself into four parts the mighty-armed Lord Isvara became celebrated in the world as the king Dasaratha’s son Rama. He had eyes like lotuses and was effulgent like the sun.
123. For extending his favour to the world, for destroying the Rakshasas and increasing virtue the highly illustrious Lord was thus born.
124-126. The sages designate that king of men as the body of the masters of Bhutas. Visvamitra instructed that intelligent one in the use of various weapons for the destruction of the enemies of the gods who were irrepressible even unto them and who put obstacles in the sacrifices of the self-controlled ascetics. On their behalf that high-souled (prince) the foremost of the strong killed the two Rakshasas (Marichi and Suvahu).
127. Formerly in the sacrifice of the high-souled Janaka, he, easily out of sport, snapped the bow of Hara.
128. Living in the forest for fourteen years in the company of Lakshmana Raghava, ever engaged in the well-being of all creatures and conversant with all the forms of religion, carried on austerities for fourteen years.
129. The beautiful Sita, well-known in the world used to remain by his side always. She was the Lakshmi known before and followed her husband.
130. Living in Janasthana he accomplished the work of the gods. Raghava practised these hard penances for fourteen years. Lakshmana followed the foot-steps of Sita and remained there as his servant.
131-132. There were two Rakshasas, Viradha and Kavandha of dreadful prowess. They became so by the imprecation of a Gandharva. Discharging at them burning arrows effulgent like the fire, the rays of the sun or lightning, strong as the thunder-bolt of Indra, and the feathers whereof were made of gold Rama killed them both.
133. On behalf of Sugriva the highly-powerful Rama killed Bali in battle and installed Sugriva on the throne.
134-137. The gods, the Asuras, the Rakshasas and the Pisacas were not capable of slaying Ravana. He was difficult of being vanquished by any in the battle-field. Ravana, having the hue of a collection of red collyrium, had millions of Rakshasas as his guards. The three worlds were terrorized by him. He was invincible, irrepressible, proud and powerful like a tiger. Even the celestials could not look at him and he was elated with pride on account of the boon. He, assisted by his ministers, killed in battle this highly powerful and huge bodied Ravana, the king of Rakshasas, resembling a massive cloud, along with his army.
138-140. In the days of yore, Rama killed Ravana the son of Pulastya, with his brothers, sons, ministers and army, who was a confirmed villain, committed a great iniquity and was invincible in battle. Madhu’s son the great Asura Lavana, a heroic Danava, who was elated with pride on account of the boon (conferred on him), was killed in battle in the forest of Madhu, by Rama, who was an expert in battle. Other Rakshasas were also slain by him.
141. Having performed these feats Rama, the foremost of the pious, collected continually materials for the celebration of ten horse sacrifices.
142. During Rama’s regeme, not a single inauspicious sound was heard, hostile winds did not blow and no body lost his property.
143. No widows bewailed, nobody met with misfortune and the whole world enjoyed peace during Rama’s rule.
144. Creatures had no fear from the obstruction of water and air and the aged people had not to perform the obsequial rites of the boys.
145-146. The Kshatriyas used to serve the Brahmanas, the Vaisyas used to follow the Kshatriyas, and the Sudras, divested of pride, used to serve the three superior castes. The women never disregarded their husbands, and the husbands never ill-treated their wives. The whole world was in peace, and freed from robbers. Rama alone was the lord and protector of all.
147. During Rama’s rule people lived for a thousand years and had a thousand sons and no creature suffered from any disease.
148. During Rama’s rule, the gods, the Rishis and men assembled together in the world.
149. Persons, well-read in the Puranas who consider Rama as the source of all truths, have sung this hymn in honor of that intelligent one. "
150-152. Ratha, the king of Ayodhya, had a green hue, black eyes, nectarine speech, a shining face, arms extending up to the knees, a beautiful countenance and leonine shoulders". He ruled for eleven thousand years. In the kingdom of that high-souled king were continually heard the chanting of the Rig, Yajush and Sama Vedas, the twang of bows and the utterances "make gifts and eat".
153. The energetic and accomplished son of Dasaratha, Rama, shining in his own effulgence, surpassed even the sun in his lustre.
154. Having celebrated hundreds of holy sacrifices with perfect and most excellent gifts the highly powerful Raghava left Ayodhya and repaired to the celestial region.
155. Having thus brought about the destruction of Ravana with all his kinsmen, the omniscient and mighty-armed Rama, the descendant of Ikshaku, returned to the region of the celestials.
156. Vaishampayana said;—In the Mathura Kalpa the high-souled Keshava, for the behoof of mankind, went through this incarnation which I have been, at present, describing.
157-158. In this incarnation the powerful lord slew Salva, Mainda, Dwivida, Kamsa, Aristha, Vrishabha, Keshi, the demoness Putana, the elephant Kuvalayapida, Chanura, Musthi and other demons in human forms.
159. By Him of wonderful deeds the thousand arms of Vana were chopped off. The Asura, Naraka and highly powerful Yavana were slain by him, in battle.
160. He carried away by force all the jewels of the kings. And all the wicked kings of the earth were slain, by him.
161. After the expiration of the ninth incarnation of the Dvapara Yuga included within the eighteenth Mahayuga, the lord Vishnu, having sent beforehand Jatukarna, took his birth as Veda-Vyasa .
162. The one Veda was divided into four by that high-souled one. This Vyasa, the son of Satyavati, procreated the race of Bharatas.
163. O king these incarnations, of the Lord, undertaken for the behoof of mankind, have been described. I shall now present an account of the future incarnations.
164. The Lord again, for the well-being of mankind, will appear as Kalki in the house of a Brahmana by name Vishnuyashas in the village of Sambhala.
165-168. After the expiration of the tenth incarnation He will send Yajnavalka before Him and then engage in a discussion with the followers of Buddhism, who believe in the transcient science, who always praise the present and speak ill of the sacrifices. After defeating them he will disappear at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna with his followers. When all the families will be ruined, when all the kings, with their ministers and soldiers will be destroyed there will be none to look after the people. When they will all be killed by internal dessensions and when their riches will be pilfered by one another, they will begin to weep, being stricken with grief. Thus assailed by misfortune at the end of the Kaliyuga all the creatures will meet with destruction along with the Yuga itself.
169. After the termination of the Kali Yuga the Satya Yuga will again appear in due order. This is the outcome of the natural sequence and there can no perversion of it.
170. These and various other celestial incarnations, consisting of gods, have been recorded in the Puranas by the Rishis conversant with the knowledge of Brahman.
171-172. I have only given an outline of the incarnations of the Lord the preceptor of all the worlds, by the chanting of which even the gods are charmed and in which exist all the Srutis and Puranas.
173-174. The ancestral manes of the person are delighted who, with folded palms, listens to or recites the incarnations of Vishnu of unlimited power. If a man listens to the illusive sports of this Lord of Yoga he is freed from all his sins and acquires, by the favour of the Lord, virtue, prosperity, ascetic wealth and various objects of enjoyment.
Footnotes and references:
A food for gods.
A kind of food.
A winnowing basket.
A wooden pestle used for cleaning rice.
Offering of oblation.
Members of a sacrifice.
A house for the assembly of priests.
A ladle or spoon.
The room opposite to that which contains the materials for an oblation and in which the family and friends of the sacrificer assemble.
A level square piece of ground made of bricks prepared for a sacrifice.
The same as the previous footnote
A portion of fire.
A name of fire.
A name of fire.
A name of fire. Other words have been explained in previous notes.
This refers to His Rajasik form or the form partaking of the quality of darkness.
By the word world the author evidently means the whole of Rama’s dominion which extended over the entire northern and southern India and even the far-off Ceylon. It is frequently seen in Sanskrit works that the word world is generally put for whole of India.
The Vedas are the earliest work on our theology. According to the tradition they were coeval with creation which had itself taken place according to the laws of a pre-existing Veda. They were however scattered; some legends state they were lost; and it was not till after many years that a Rishi or sage arranged them and gave them the form in which they are known. These are Rik, Yajush, Saman and Atharvan. The Rig-Veda, from the radical rich to laud, is intended to be read on occasions when encomiastic prayers and hymns to the elemental deities are prescribed, by the law; the Yajush relates chiefly to oblations and sacrifices and contains prayers adapted for certain rites to be performed at the full and change of the moon and hymns and directions character to be recited with melody; and the Atharva Veda, which is considered to be of a late date, consists of various hymns and incantations, the greater part of which are intended for the destruction and perdition of enemies. This arrangement procured to the editor the name of Vyasa or arranger.
Satyavati was the daughter of a Apsara in the form of a fish. She passed into the hands of a fisherman. A Rishi, Parasara by name, grew amorous on seeing her. He knew her and in time she gave birth to a son on an island in the Yamuna. This son is Vyasa. See Mahabharata, Adi Parva chapter LXIII.