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 17 - (Mahābhārata 12.337.1-69)

Janamejaya said:

1 O Brahmaṛṣi, in these worlds knowledge systems namely Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Pañcarātra, Vedas, and Āraṇyakas, and so on circulate.

2 Do they have the same aim or different ones, sage? Having been asked by me, explain this and also pravṛtti in due order.

Vaiśaṃpāyana said:

3 Obeisance to that one who removes the darkness of ignorance, whom Gandhavatī gave birth to as her son from Parāśara in the middle of an island, who was a great Ṛṣi of vast knowledge, supreme, extremely generous and self-controlled.

4 They say that Dvaipāyana, who is a great repository of knowledge, is born as an only son, from a part of Nārāyaṇa, sixth from the Grandfather. He is a great Ṛṣi who is endowed with the splendor of a Ṛṣi.

5 In the beginning, the unborn, ancient Nārāyaṇa of mighty prowess and immense brilliance created that Vyāsa, the great soul and the vast repository of brahman, as His son.

Janamejaya said:

6–8 O best of the twice-born, by you indeed was told previously the lineage: Vasiṣṭha’s son is Śakti, Śakti’s son is Parāśara, Parāśara’s inheritor is Sage Dvaipāyana. Again it was you who said that this one is the son of Nārāyaṇa. What is that birth of Vyāsa of limitless brilliance that has occurred before this [birth]? You endowed with the best intellect, tell me about his birth arising from Nārāyaṇa.

Vaiśaṃpāyana said:

9 My Guru, the abode of austerity, most dutiful one, intent on obtaining knowledge, who had the desire to know the Vedas and their import, was dwelling at the foot of Himavat.

10 When he was fatigued due to austerities after having composed the Bhārata narrative, at that time, being devoted to him we served him.

11–12 Like Bhūtapati [Śiva] surrounded by his [attendant] beings, Vyāsa shone forth at the foot of Himavat, surrounded by these five best disciples: Sumantu and Jaimini, Paila firm of vows, and also me the fourth disciple, and Śuka the son of Vyāsa.

13 Reciting repeatedly the Vedas together with their ancillary texts, and all the matters related to the Bhārata, we waited upon that single-minded and Selfcontrolled one.

14–15 In the course of some narration, asked by us about matters relating to the Vedas, Bhārata and the birth from Nārāyaṇa, he, the best of twice born and the knower of truth, having spoken about matters relating to the Vedas and Bhārata first, began to speak about the birth from Nārāyaṇa.

16 “O wise ones, listen to this best of narratives, sacred, superb, of ancient times received by me through austerity.

17–18 When it was the time of the seventh creation of beings along with the lotusborn one, Nārāyaṇa, the great ascetic, who is beyond the auspicious and inauspicious created from His navel a son, Brahmā of limitless brilliance. Then [Brahmā] appeared there. To him, He said:

19 “You, the lord, the creator of all beings, are born from my navel. Create beings of various kinds, Brāhmaṇa, together with the intelligent and the dull.”

20 Thus addressed, He, bowing down to the boon-bestowing Lord God Hari, said with his face down-cast and his mind agitated with worry:

21 “What strength do I possess, Lord of the gods, to create beings? Salutations to you! I am without knowledge, God, order what is next!

22 Thus addressed, the Effulgent God, the Lord of gods, who is the best among the intelligent, disappeared from that place and thought of Buddhi [the Intellect].

23 Personified, the Intellect (Buddhi) appeared near the Lord Hari. Remaining above yoga, He Himself enjoined her with the task.

24–25 He, the Lord, the Undecaying God, said this to Buddhi, the good and powerful one who abides in aiśvaryayoga: “Enter Brahmā, for the sake of the accomplishment of the task of creation of beings.” Then, as was ordered by the Lord, that Buddhi quickly entered him.

26 Hari then saw him [Brahmā] again, endowed with Buddhi, and once again said to him: “create these various beings.”

27–28 Having said this, the Effulgent Lord vanished then and there and in an instant reached his own place called “deva” [effulgent], and having reached that Prakṛti, He became one with her. Then again, he had another thought:

29 All these beings crowded with daityas and dānavas and celestial musicians and groups of ogres are created by Brahmā the Parameṣṭhin. Afflicted by this burden, this earth has become pitiable.

30 On this earth, many daityas and dānavas and ogres will become powerful, and endowed with austerities, they will obtain boons.

31 Surely, the groups of gods and the Ṛṣis who have austerities as their wealth will be tormented by all those who have become arrogant due to gift of boons. There, unburdening the earth by Me is justified.

32–33 With various manifestations on this earth in due order and by defeating the evil ones and upholding the good ones, I will uplift the pitiable, true earth. She is indeed upheld by Me, through the serpent in the underworld.

34 Borne by me, she will bear the world of movable and immovable beings. Therefore, taking on birth, I will protect the earth.”

35–36 And thinking thus, He, the Effulgent Lord Madhusūdhana created many forms for the occurrence of [his] manifestation: of Varāha [boar], Narasiṃha [manlion], Vāmana and humans [that is, Rāma, etc.]. “Those ones of bad conduct, the enemies of the gods are to be killed by Me with these [forms].”

37–38 Then again, the Creator of the World, chanting the word “bhoḥ” invoked Sarasvatī. Then, Sārasvata, the son of Sarasvatī, was born, called Apāntaratamas, the son of God and born of speech, the knower of the past, present and future, a speaker of truth and firm in vows.

39 The first among the Gods, the immutable One, said unto him who was paying homage with his head bowed: “O best among the intellectuals, the Vedas and the narratives [ākhyāna, that is, Mahābhārata] are to be made Śruti.[1] Therefore, Sage, do as is commanded by Me with this decree.”

40 In that age of Manu Svayambhu he divided the Vedas. Then the Effulgent Lord Hari was gratified by that act of his, and also by his well-done austerities and by restraints and vows.

The Effulgent Lord said:

41 In each cycle of Manu, son, thus you will always become the firm and unassailable one who impels the world.

42 When the Tiṣya constellation arises, the great-souled Bhāratas, the Kuru kings, will be famous on the earth.

43 Among those who are born of you, there will be split in the family (kulabheda), for the purpose of mutual destruction, in your absence, O best of the twice born.

44 There also, being endowed with austerities, you will divide the Vedas in various ways. When the Dark Age [kṛṣṇa yuga] approaches, you will become dark in complexion.

45 You, endowed with austerities, will be the formulator (kartā) of various dharmas and also the one who gives rise to knowledge, [but] you will not be released from attachment.

46 Through Maheśvara’s grace, your son will become devoid of attachment and become the Supreme Soul (paramātman). This word will not be otherwise.

47 That foremost Vasiṣṭha who, they say is the mind-born son of the Grandfather [Brahmā], the immensely intelligent one, is the repository of austerities and who, moreover, shines surpassing the sun.

48 And in his family then there will be a great Ṛṣi of immense splendor called Parāśara. He, the best, the repository of the Vedas, of great austerities, indeed the abode of austerities, will be your father. From that Ṛṣi you will be born as the son of a virgin in a girl belonging to her father.

49–50 Your doubts regarding all matters past, present, and future will be dispelled. Thousands of ages have already passed by. Endowed with austerities, you will see as denoted by Me, all those; and again you will see innumerable thousands of cycles of ages [to come].

51–52 And by remembering Me again and again, ascetic, you will see Me also, who in this world is without a beginning or an end, and is bearing the discus in hand. In that age of Manu, the great Manu will become Saturn,[2] the son of the Sun, preceded by the group of Seven Sages [the group of seven stars]. You alone will become that, dear one, by My grace.

Vyāsa said:

53 Then, Īśāna having said these words to Rṣi Apāntaratama, the son of Sarasvatī, said: “Go.”

54 I am he who, by the grace of the God Harimedhas, was born as the one called Apāntaratamā and by the command of Hari again became famous as the son of Vasiṣṭha’s line.

55 Thus have I narrated my own previous birth, arisen from Nārāyaṇā’s portion by Nārāyaṇa’s grace.

56 O best of the intelligent ones, a great austerity indeed was undertaken by me previously, one of extreme severity, with ultimate concentration (parama samādhī).

57 O sons, out of love for devotees, everything you ask me—[my] previous birth and future one—is told to you by me.

Vaiśaṃpāyana said:

58 I told you previously about the birth of our Guru Vyāsa of unperturbed mind. Since you have asked, listen again, king.

59 Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Pañcarātra, Vedas and also Pāśupata, O sage among the kings, understand these various knowledge systems as various doctrines.

60 The propounder of Sāṃkhya is Kapila. He is called the ultimate Ṛṣi. No other ancient one but Hiraṇyagarbha is the knower of Yoga.

61 And that Apāntaratamā is called Vedācārya [teacher of Vedas]. Here some call him Ṛṣi Prācīnagarbha.

62 The single-minded Śiva, Uma’s husband, Bhūtapati,[3] Śrīkaṇtha, the son of Brahmā propounded the knowledge known as Pāśupata.

63 The Effulgent Lord Himself is the knower of the entire Pañcarātra and is seen, O best of kings, in all these knowledge systems.

64 According to the scriptures and according to the knowledge systems, Lord Nārāyana is the [ultimate] goal. O king, those who are ignorant (tamobhūta), do not understand Him thus.

65 Those wise ones who say that there is none else declare that Ṛṣi Nārāyaṇa is the creator of [all] the knowledge systems and also the [ultimate] goal.

66 Hari verily dwells in all those who are free of doubt. Mādhava does not abide in those who are full of doubts and empowered [merely] by causal logic (hetu).

67 O king, the knowers of Pañcarātra and followers of the proper order [of the ritual therein], having become one-pointed, verily enter Hari.

68 O king, Sāṃkhya and Yoga, the two eternal knowledge systems and also all the Vedas unanimously [declare] that Nārāyaṇa, who is explained by all the Ṛṣis is all this ancient universe.

69 It is to be known that whatever act, auspicious or inauspicious, which is impelled and goes on in all these worlds whether in heaven, mid-region, earth or in the waters originates from that Ṛṣi [Nārāyaṇa].

Footnotes and references:


Taking vedākhyāne as vedāśca ākhyānañca. Ganguli takes it in a sense whereby what Nārāyaṇa means is that Apāntaratamas should divide the Veda, a meaning which is influenced by the next verse, rather than by grammar. Aware of this, he writes, “Vedakhyane Srutih karya, literally, I think, means thou shouldst turn thy ears to the description of the Vedas, implying that thou shouldst set thyself to a distribution or arrangement of the Vedic hymns and Mantras.” Grammatically, there is no word for “divide” or “distribute” as applied to the Veda in this verse. vedākhyāne makes perfect grammatical sense if taken as nominative dual, and kārya matches with śrutiḥ.


Lit., one who moves slowly.


Lit. Lord of beings, but especially the characteristic attendants of Śiva.

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