Narayaniya (Narayaneeyam)

by Vishwa Adluri | 41,385 words

The English translation of the Narayaniya (Narayaneeyam), literally, “the work containing everything about Narayana”) which is a small text of 1006 verses occurring in the Shantiparva of the Mahabharata. The aim of the text is the glorification of the God Hari-Narayana, who is described as the God of gods (devadeva). Narayana is described as the g...

Chapter 3 - (Mahābhārata 12.323.1-57)

Bhīṣma said:

1 In that previous great kalpa, when Aṅgiras’ son was born, [and] became priest of the gods, the gods became joyful.

2 King! Bṛhat, Brahman, and Mahat—these words are synonymous. The wise Bṛhaspati is endowed with these attributes.

3 The king Uparicara Vasu became his foremost disciple. He then thoroughly studied the Scripture composed by the Citraśikhaṇḍins.

4 That king Vasu, as was previously destined by divine order, ruled this earth as does Indra the heaven.

5 He, that great soul performed the great sacrifice Aśvamedha. There, his preceptor Bṛhaspati became the officiating priest (hotṛ).

6 And Prajāpati’s three sons, the great sages Ekata, Dvita and Trita became the assistant priests (sadasyas).

7 Dhanuṣākṣa, Raibhya, Arvāvasu, Parāvasū, and the seer Medhātithi and also Tāṇḍya the great seer,

8 the blessed seer Śakti and likewise the one who is Vedaśirās, and Kapila, foremost among seers, the grandfather of Śalihotra,

9 Kaṭha the First and Taittiri, the elder brother of Vaiśaṃpāyana,[1] then Kaṇva and also Devahotra are said to be the sixteen [attending priests]. All paraphernalia was collected, king, for that great sacrifice.

10 There was no animal immolation. The king comported himself thus: nonviolent, pure, not mean, free of desire and glorified by his ritual. Passages sung from the philosophical texts (āraṇyaka) were employed there.

11 By that, pleased with him, the Effulgent Lord, God of gods, that Ancient One, revealed Himself before his eyes invisible to anyone else.

12 He Himself accepted the share of the sacrificial bread[2] (puroḍāśa) by smelling it. The share was taken by the God of blazing intellect (harimedhas), the God who remained invisible.

13 Enraged because of that, Bṛhaspati, became impetuous, raising the sacrificial ladle and hitting the sky with strikes of the ladle,[3] shed tears in anger.

14 And he spoke to Uparicara, “This portion presented by me should indeed be accepted by the God Himself, in front of my eyes. There is no doubt about that!”

15 Indeed the offered sacrificial portions here are received by the gods visibly. Why do I not obtain the audience (darśana) here of all-pervading Hari?”[4]

16 Then the protector of the earth, the great Vasu and also all the priests, placated that agitated Sage in every way.

17 And they, not being confused, spoke to him, “You ought not to be angry. This is not the dharma in kṛta yuga, that you gave way to wrath.

18 Indeed that God to whom this portion is offered is free of wrath. He is not possible to be seen either by you or by us, Bṛhaspati. Only the one who has His Grace is able to behold Him.”

Ekata, Dvita and Trita[5] said:

19 Indeed we are proclaimed to be the mind born sons of Brahmā. Verily once we had gone to the northern direction for the sake of supreme felicity.[6]

20 Having practised austerities for four thousand years, the highest penance, standing on one foot we became completely focused like a log of wood.

21 To Meru’s north, along the very shores of the Ocean of Milk, is that land where we performed austerities of extreme severity, thus thinking, “How indeed can we see the god Nārāyaṇa?”

22 Then, at the time of the concluding ritual ablution of that vow, an incorporeal voice said: “Well done are your austerities, sages, done with a joyful heart.

23 You are eager to know, devotees (bhaktāh), how you will behold that Lord. To the north of the Ocean of Milk, lies Śvetadvīpa,[7] (the White Island) of great splendor.

24–25 There [dwell] Nārāyaṇa-seeking people, radiant like the moon. Having attained one-pointed focus, those devotees who are transcending senses and not needing sustenance, unblinking and fragrant, enter the Puruṣottama (the Supreme Puruṣa), the thousand-beamed radiant God, the eternal Being.

26 One-pointed in their focus are these beings, the inhabitants of the Śvetadvīpa. Go there, ascetics, there My Self blazes forth.”

27 Then heeding that incorporeal speech, we set out to that region by the prescribed path.

28 Our minds intent on Him, desirous of beholding Him, we reached the white, great island. And then at that moment the scope of our vision became occluded.

29–30 And we could not behold [that] Puruṣa since we were deprived of vision by His effulgence. Then, there dawned upon us the realization, born of our union with God, that it is not possible to behold Him immediately by those ascetics who have not performed any austerities. Then, again, for a hundred years we performed appropriate great austerities.

31–32 At the end of our vows, we beheld extremely auspicious beings, white like moonlight, endowed with all auspicious marks, perpetually saluting with palms joined, chanting brahman, facing north-east. Indeed, the chant was performed mentally by the great souls. Hari became verily gratified by the one-pointedness of their mind.

33 O tiger among sages [Bṛhaspati], the splendor of each one of those beings was like that splendor of the sun which would be at the end of the eon.

34 “An abode of brilliance (tejas) is this island,” thus we reflected. There none was greater [or lesser], all were of equal radiance.

35 Then again, suddenly we saw the brilliance of a thousand suns verily risen at once, Bṛhaspati!

36 And thereafter the beings were hastily running together towards It, saluting with their palms joined, delighted, uttering only, “Obeisance!”

37 Then, when they were addressing [that radiant Being] thus, we heard a great sound. Offering was being carried to that God by those men.

38 And suddenly we were carried away by the brilliance of that [God]. Nothing at all did we see, deprived of the strength and power of our sight.

39 Indeed, only one incessant chanting voice was heard by us. “Victorious are you, Lotus-Eyed One! Salutations to you, O manifestor of the universe,

40 Obeisance to you Hṛṣīkeśa, Great primeval Puruṣa!” These words, impelled by and phonemes were heard by us.

41 Meanwhile the pure wind, bearer of all scents, carried the divine flowers and herbs used in rituals.

42 Worshipped by those knowers of the pañcakāla and one-pointed persons, the God Hari, verily arrived there as was declared by them. But we do not see Him, confounded by His māyā.

43 When the wind stopped completely and when the offering was completed, our minds were perturbed with worry, best of Aṅgirasas!

44 Among those thousands of beings born indeed of pure wombs no one honored us with either a thought or a glance.

45 Those hosts of sages established in themselves and following their vows with unswerving focus, did not pay attention to us, as they were practicing absorption in Brahman.

46–47 Then, to us, who were very fatigued and also emaciated by austerities, some bodiless being in the sky said, “By you have been seen these [Śvetadvīpa] persons, white and without any sense-organs. The Lord God becomes seen by being seen by these, best among the twice-born.

48 All of you, depart from here at once, the way you came! That God can in no way be seen by one who is not a devotee.

49 That God who is difficult to behold due to his corona of effulgence can easily be seen by those who after a long time have reached one-pointedness.

50 Best of the twice-born! Great work indeed is to be done by you, after this Kṛta age declines and has passed away.

51 In the Vaivasvata [cycle] then, when the Tretā age arrives, you will indeed be the assistants of the gods for the accomplishment of their mission.”

52 Then having heard those wondrous words, O Soma-drinker [Bṛhaspati], by His grace we reached our desired destination at once.

53 Thus with austerities and also with oblations and chants that God is not seen by us, how then will you be able to behold [Him]? The Great Being Nārāyaṇa is the Creator of this universe and the recipient of all sacrificial offerings and incantations.”

Bhīṣma said:

54 Thus, by the speech of Ekata and by the approval of Dvita and Trita, and also urged by the priests, Bṛhaspati, the generous one, worshipped the God, having concluded the sacrifice properly.

55 King Vasu also, after the sacrifice was concluded, ruled his subjects. Then, due to the curse of brāhmaṇas, he fell from heaven and entered the earth.

56 And when he was in the bowels of the earth, he was always a lover of dharma. Being devoted to Nārāyaṇa, he attained the abode of Nārāyaṇa.

57 By the grace of that very God, he once again rose up from the underworld, went to Brahmā’s abode immediately and instantly attained the eternal state [identity with Brahman].

Footnotes and references:


This relationship is also found in the Viṣṇupurāṇa.


Usually translated as “cake” but it is not sweet. It is made of rice flour. It is offered thus: a little clarified butter is spread on a ladle, then a piece of this bread is placed on it, again clarified butter is added on top and it is all offered into the sacrificial fire.


Reading srucaḥ pātaiḥ for sruvaḥ pātai, since srucaḥ is genitive.


Here Kinjawadekar has an insertion: “Yudhishthira said, ‘In the great sacrifice of Uparichara, all the deities appeared in their respective forms for taking their shares of the sacrificial offerings and were seen by all. Why is it that the puissant Hari only acted otherwise by invisibly taking his share?’


The names of these sages literally mean Oneness, Twoness, and Threeness.


That is, liberation.


daivāni sa vyūhaśatāni sapta / rakto haridro’tha tathaiva śuklah” from Mokṣadharmaparvan, “Desirous of liberation... the individual soul at last attains to White.” M. N. Dutt, trans., Mokṣadharmaparvan, 313.

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