The Shiva Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1950 | 616,585 words

This page relates “birth of vyasa” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Chapter 44 - The birth of Vyāsa

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages said:—

1-3. O Sūta of great intellect, O store-house of mercy, please narrate the birth of Vyāsa. O holy lord, please satisfy our curiosity. Vyāsa’s mother is known as Satyavatī. She was married to king Śantanu. How was Vyāsa the great Yogin born of her from Parāsara? There is a great doubt in regard to that. It behoves you to remove that doubt.

Sūta said:—

4. Once, while he was making his pilgrimage, Parāśara the yogin casually came to the auspicious and beautiful tanks of the Yamunā.

5. The righteous soul spoke to the ferryman who was taking his meals “Take me across the Yamunā quickly in your boat”.

6. When the ferryman was thus urged by the sage he spokí to his daughter Matsyagandhā:—“Girl, quickly take this sage to the other bank in the boat.

7. This sage, O fortunate girl, is born of the womb of Dṛśyantī. He is the ocean of sacred rites. He has mastered the four Vedas. Now he desires to cross this river.

8. Thus directed by her father, Matsyagandhā began to tale the great sage of solar splendour seated in the boat across the river.

9. That great Yogin who had never been fascinated even on seeing the beauty of the celestial damsels became overwhelmed by lust towards her, in the circumstances.

10. Desirous of clasping the beautiful daughter of the fisherman, the sage touched her in the right hand with his right hand.

11. The wide-eyed lass spoke to him smilingly—“O sage of controlled speech, why do you intend to perpetrate this despicable deed?

12. O most intelligent one, you are born of the beautiful family of Vasiṣṭha. O brahmin, I am the daughter of a Niṣāda. How can our union be proper?

13. O excellent sage, birth as a man is very difficult to obtain; especially that as a brahmin. Even there the state of an ascetic is very rarely achieved.

14. It is extremely surprising that you endowed with learning, good physique, speech, noble birth and good conduct have become subservient to the arrows of Kāma!”

15. Then she thought within: “If this Yogin engages himself in the vicious act there is none in the world to prevent him due to his power of inflicting curse.”

16. After thinking in the mind thus she said to the great sage—“O holy lord, please forbear till I take you to the other bank.”

17. On hearing her words the king of Yogins Parāśara left off her hand. He reached the other shore.

18. Afflicted with lust the sage caught hold of the lass. Tremblingly the lass spoke to the merciful sage.

19. “O great sage, I have foul smell and black complexion, I am the daughter of a Niṣāda. You are the most excellent of Yogins of extremely liberal thoughts.

20. The union between us is not proper as of a piece of worthless glass with gold. The sexual inion of two persons of the same class and features may be conducive to bliss.”

21. As the sage addressed her thus, the damsel was instantly converted into Yojanagandhā, (one whose fragrant odours spread to a Yojana), one of fine features and beauty.

22. Afflicted by lust the sage caught hold of her again. On seeing him bent upon seizing her she said again.

23. “It is mentioned in the Vedas that sexual intercourse shall be indulged in at night; not during the day. There is great harm in having sexual intercourse during the day time. It is censured.

24. Hence please wait till the night falls. Now all the men will see us and so shall my father who stands at the other bank.”

25. On hearing the words uttered by her, the leading sage immediately created a screen of snow, thanks to the strength of his merit.

26. When the sheet of mist spread and it looked just as night, the girl, afraid of submitting herself to sexual intercourse, spoke to the sage again.

27. “O Yogin, your semen never fails. You may enjoy me and go away. O holy lord, I shall become pregnant, what will be my fate then?

28. O intelligent sage, my virginity will be ruined, People will laugh at me. What will I tell my father?”

Parāśara said:—

29. O maiden, O beloved girl, sport with me freely with loving emotion. You tell me what you desire. I shall fulfil it.

30. By making my advances fruitful you will be known as Satyavatī. You will deserve the respect of all Yogins and even the gods.

Satyavatī said:—

31-32. If neither my father nor mother nor anyother person on the earth comes to know of this, if my virginity is not affected, O lord, if the son born of me attains wonderful power like you, if there be sweet odour in my body for ever and if there be fresh youth in me, accept me then.

Parāśara said:—

33. Listen to me O beloved girl, all your desires will be fulfilled. A son of great fame of Viṣṇu’s part will be born to you.

34. Know that there is a reason that I have become lustful. Even on seeing the beauty of celestial damsels my mind was never deluded anywhere before.

35. On seeing you of fish odour I was enamoured. O lass, lines drawn by Brahmā on the forehead cannot prove untrue.

36. O comely lady, your son will be the author of the Purāṇas, the classifier of the Vedas and renowned in the three worlds.

37. O great sage, after saying this and enjoying the beautiful lass, the sage, an expert in Yoga, took his bath in the Yamunā and went away quickly.

38. She conceived and immediately gave birth in an island on the Yamunā [1] to a son with the lustre of the sun and resembling Kāmadeva.

39. In his left hand he was holding the water pot and in his right he had an excellent staff. He had matted hair of tawny colour and shone like a mass of splendour.

40. Immediately after birth the brilliant sage spoke to his mother “O mother, go as you please and I also go at my will

41. O mother, whenever you have some work, whenever you desire in your mind, please remember me. Immediately I shall come to you to fulfil your desire.”

42. After saying this and worshipping his mother’s feet the sage, a storehouse of penance, went away to perform penance to holy centres quelling sins.

43. -She too returned to her father. The chaste lady was overwhelmed by her love for her son. She recollected his activities and described the event as her great fortune.

44. As the boy was born in an island he was known as Dvaipayana. Since he classified the various branches of the Vedas he is glorified as Vedavyāsa.

45-49. He went to these holy centres:—Tīrtharāja [2] at the outset, which bestows virtue, love, wealth and salvation, Naimiṣa[3] Kurukṣetra,[4] Gaṅgadvara,[5] Avantika,[6] Ayodhya,[7] Mathurā,[8] Dvaraka,[9] Amarāvatī,[10] Sarasvatī,[11] Sindhusaṅga,[12] the confluence of the Gaṅgā with the ocean,[13] Kāñcī,[14] Tryambaka,[15] the seven holy banks of the Godāvarī,[16] Kālañjara, Prabhāsa,[17] Badarikāśrama,[18] Mahālaya,[19] Oṃkārakṣetra,[20] Pauruṣottama,[21] Gokarṇa,[22] Bhṛgukaccha,[23] Bhṛgutuṅga,[24] Puṣkara,[25] Śrīparvata[26] and Dhārātīrtha He took ablutions duly at these places and performed penance.

50-51. Wandering thus over the various, holy centres situated in different countries, the son of Kālikā reached the city of Vārāṇasī[27] where Viśveśvara himself and Annapūrṇā the great goddess, the storehouses of mercy shine in order to give salvation to the devotees.

52. After reaching the holy centre of Vārāṇasī and visiting Maṇikarṇikā the great sage discarded the sin accumulated in crores of birth.

53-57. After seeing Viśveśa and other Liṅgas, taking bath in puddles, tanks, wells and lakes, after bowing to all the Vināyakas, after kneeling before all Gaurīs, after worshipping Kālarāja and Bhairava the devourer of all sins, after strenuously eulogising Daṇḍanāyaka and other important Gaṇas, after propitiating Ādikeśava and other important Keśavas, after repeatedly bowing to Lolārka and other important suns and after offering balls of rice in all the holy spots alertly, the meritorious soul installed the Liṅga Vyāseśvara on seeing whom, O brahmins, man becomes a master of all lores like Bṛhaspati.

58-59. After worshipping devoutly Viśveśa and other Liṅgas he began to think frequently—“What is that Liṅga that bestows Siddhi instantaneously and worshipping whom the great god, we shall be able to attain all lores and by whose blessings I may have the power to compose the Purāṇas.

60-73. There are crores of Liṅgas; from the midst of these what shall I install, what shall I resort so? Can it be Oṅkāranātha, or Kṛttivāseśvara or Kedāreśa, or Kāmeśa, or Candreśa, or Trilocana, or Kāleśa, or Vṛddhakāleśa, or Kalaśeśvara, or Jyesṭheśa, or Jambukeśa, or Jaigīṣavyeśvara, or Daśāśvamedhesana, or Drumacaṇḍesa, or Dṛkkeśa or Garuḍeśa or Gaṇeśvara, or Prasannavadaneśa, or Dharmeśa, or Tārakeśvara or Nandikeśa or Nivāseśa, or Patrīśa, or Prītikeśvara, or Parvateśa, or Paśupati, or Hāṭakeśvara or Bṛhaspatīśvara, or Tilabhāṇḍeśa or Bhārabhūteśvara, or Mahālakṣmīśvara or Maruteśa, or Mokṣeśa, or Gaṅgeśa, or Narmadeśvara, or Kṛṣṇeśa, or Parameśāna, or Ratneśvara, or Yāmuneśa, or Lāṅgalīṣa, or Viśveśvara or Avimukteśvara, or or Viśālākṣīśa, or Vyāghreśvara, or Varāheśa, or Vidyeśvara or Varuṇeśa, or Vidhīśa, or Harikeśeśvara, or Bhavānīsa, or Kapardīśa, or Kandukeśa or Ajeśvara or Viśvakarmeśvara, or Vīreśvara, or Nādeśa, or Kapileśa, or Bhuvaneśvara, or Vāṣkulīśa or Mahādeva, or Siddhīśvara or Viśvedeveśvara or Vīrabhadreśa or Bhairaveśvara, or Amṛteśa; or Satīśa or Pārvatīśvara or Siddheśvara, Mataṅgeśa or Bhūtīśvara, or Āṣāḍhīsa, Prakāśeśa, or Koṭirudreśvara, or Madālaseśvara, or Tilaparṇeśvara, Hiraṇyagarbheśa or shall it be Madhyameśvara?”

74. Pondering thus, Vyāsa, devoted to Śiva with his mind steady in meditation, thought for a short while.

75-77. “O I remember it now. I had forgotten it before. My desire has been realised. There is a Liṅga which is worshipped by the Siddhas. It bestows virtue, love, wealth and salvation. Its sight and touch purifies the mind. It opens the door to heaven. It is in the great holy centre, the holy centre of the Siddhas, in Avimukta. There is the great Liṅga Madhyameśvara by name.

78. There is no other Liṅga at Kāśī than Madhyameśvara for the sight of which the gods come here on every festive occasion.

79. Hence lord Madhyameśvara shall be resorted to. Many brahmins have attained Siddhis by propitiating Him.

80. Śiva is called Madhyameśvara since he is stationed mainly in the centre of Kāśī for bestowing happiness on the people.

81. It is by worshipping this deity that the Gandharva Tumburu and the celestial sage Nārada became proficient in the art of music.

82. It is by propitiating Him that Viṣṇu acquired the art of bestowing salvation; and Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra became the creator, sustainer and the annihilates respectively.

83. Kubera became the lord of wealth; Vāmadeva the head of the devotees of Śiva; the childless Khaṭvāṅga was blessed with children.

84. The celestial damsel Candrabhāmā of cuckoolike sweet voice was merged into the Liṅga even as she was dancing emotionally.

85. Śrīkara, son of the cowherdess, resorted to Madhyameśvara and attained the chieftainship of the Gaṇas of the benevolent Śiva.

86. Thanks to the favour of Madhyameśvara the two gods Śukra and Bṛhaspati honoured and respected by the Asuras and gods became the master of all lore.

87. I too shall worship lord Madhyameśvara and attain the power to compose the Purāṇas immediately.

88. After resolving thus the sage Vyāsa, son of Satyavatī, took his bath in the waters of the Gaṅgā and performed the sacred rites and observances.

89. Sometimes he took in only leaves, sometimes he lived on fruit and vegetable diet, sometimes on wind or water and sometimes he observed complete fast and performed the sacred rites.

90. Thus by these observances of restraints the holy sage worshipped Madhyameśvara thrice a day with flowers of various trees.

91. A long time elasped thus. One day early in the morning the sage was returning after his bath in the waters of the Gaṅgā.

92. The holy sage saw lord Madhyameśvara, the bestower of desires of the devotees, in the midst of the Liṅga.

93. His left side was adorned by Umā. He was wearing the hide of a tiger as his upper cloth. His body appeared beautiful with the surging waves of the Gaṅgā amidst his matted hair.

94. The moonlight of the autumnal crescent moon was forming bright patches in his forelocks. Bhasma was smeared all over his body. His body was as white as camphor or the Arjuna tree.

95. He had assumed the form of a five-year-old boy with eyes extending upto his ears. His lips were as red as the coral. He was wearing ornaments befitting a boy.

96. The lustre of his body subdued the arrogance of a crore Cupids. He was naked. His lotus-face was beaming with smiles. He was sportively singing Sāman hymns.

97-98. On seeing Śiva, the lord of Umā, the shoreless ocean of mercy, known for his fondness of devotees and easily propitiated with delighted pleasing face, inaccessible even to the Yogins, the kinsman of the distressed and the Cit-formed lord, the sage sang the song of prayer with words choked with devotion.

Vyāsa said:—

99. “O lord of gods, O fortunate one who are favourably disposed to the refugees, O lord inaccessible to words, mind and activities, and the one that are invisible even to the Yogins.

100. O lord of Umā, the Vedas too do not realise our greatness. You alone are the creator of the universe, the sustainer and the annihilator too.

101. You are the first and foremost of all gods. You are the existence, knowledge and bliss. You have no name or family lineage. O Sadāśiva you are omniscient.

102. You alone are the great Brahman; the untier of the knot of Māyā, unsullied by the three attributes as the leaf of the lotus unaffected by water.

103. You have neither birth nor conduct of life. You have neither a native land nor a family. Even so you are the lord of the three worlds. You fulfil the desires of the three worlds.

104. Neither Brahmā nor Viṣṇu nor the gods including Indra nor the leading Yogins know your reality. We worship you of such features.

105. Everything originates from you. You are all—the lord of Gaurī, the slayer of the Tripuras, a boy, a youth, an aged man. I unite you with my heart.

106. Obeisance to lord Śiva, who deserves the worship of devotees, Obeisance to the Ancient Being; to Śiva the great Ātman,”

107. After eulogising thus when the sage Vyāsa prostrated on the ground the delighted boy spoke to him.

108. O Yogin, choose your boon, whatever be in your mind. There is nothing which cannot be granted to you since I am subservient to my devotees.

109. Then the delighted sage Vyāsa of great penance stood up and replied—“O lord what is hidden from you the omniscient?”

110. You are the immanent Soul and bestower of everything. Why does the lord force me for begging which is the cause of misery?

111. On hearing these words of Vyāsa of pious mind, lord Śiva who had assumed the form of boy smiled and said:—

The boy said:—

112. O most excellent of those who know brahman, the desire you have cherished in your heart will undoubtedly be realised ere long.

113. I the immanent lord shall station myself in your throat, O brahmin, and shall make you compose the Itihāsa and the Purāṇas efficiently.

114. The holy hymn “Abhilāṣāṣṭaka” (Eight Verses of Desire) that you uttered now shall fulfil the desires of men who read or recite it in Śiva’s temple thrice a day for a year.

115. The recital of this hymn is conducive to the increase of learning and intellect. It is the cause of all riches and the bestower of virtue and salvation to men.

116. Even a fool, getting up early in the morning taking his bath, worshipping the liṅga of Śiva and reciting this hymn for a year shall attain the status of Bṛhaspati (preceptor of the gods.)

117. This hymn repeatedly recited for a year in the presence of the Liṅga whether by a woman or a man, duly observing restraints, shall increase the intellect and learning.

118. After saying this the boy Śiva merged himself into the Liṅga. Shedding tears of love, Vyāsa was overcome with emotions.

119. Vyāsa who thus secured the boon from the great lord Madhyameśvara composed the eighteen Purāṇas sportively.

120-122. The eighteen Purāṇas Brāhma, Pādma. Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva, Bhāgavata, Bhaviṣya, Nāradīya, Mārkaṇḍeya, Āgneya, Brahmavaivarta, Laiṅga, Vārāha, Vāmana Kaurma, Mātsya, Gāruḍa, Skānda and Brahmāṇḍa are conducive to fame and merit to those who listen to the glory of Śiva.

Sūta said:—

123. You have enumerated the eighteen Purāṇas. O foremost among the knowers of the Vedas please define them now.

Vyāsa said:—

124. This selfsame question was put to Nandikeśvara by Taṇḍi the Brahminical Yogin. I shall tell you what he had said.

Nandikeśvara said:—

125. O Taṇḍi, Brahma the four-faced deity is the main speaker. Hence, O sage, the first Purāṇa is called Brāhma.

126. The second Purāṇa is called Padma. It is so called because it mentions the greatness of the Padmakalpa.

127. Another Purāṇa composed by Parāśara and enlightening the details of Viṣṇu is called Vaiṣṇava Purāṇa. It is said to be composed by Vyāsa since there is no difference between father and son.

128. Those who know the Purāṇas speak that purāṇa as Śiva Purāṇa wherein there are many stories of Śiva in its earlier and later forms.

129. Where the stories of the goddess Durgā are mentioned, it is said to be Bhāgavata Purāṇa as well as Devīpurāṇa.[28]

130-131. The Purāṇa narrated by Nārada is called Nāradīya. The seventh Purāṇa is called, O Taṇḍi, Mārkaṇḍeya because the great sage Mārkaṇḍeya is the speaker therein. Since it is related to the fire-god, the Purāṇa is called Āgneya. Since it recounts future events the Purāṇa is called the Bhaviṣya Purāṇa.

132. Since the transformation of Brahman is narrated the Purāṇa is called Brahmavaivarta. Since the story of Liṅga is mentioned it is called Liṅga Purāṇa.

133-135. O sage, the twelfth Purāṇa Varāha is so called because it contains the story of Varāha, the great Boar. In the Skanda Purāṇa the speaker is lord Śiva himself and the listener is Skanda. In the Vāmana Puraṇa the story of Vāmana (the Dwarf-god) is mentioned. The Kūrma Purāṇa contains the story of Kūrma (the tortoise-god). The Matsya Purāṇa is so called because it is expounded by Matsya. The Garuḍa Purāṇa is so called because the speaker is Garuḍa himself. Since the story of the entire cosmic egg is mentioned, the last Purāṇa is called Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa.

Sūta said:—

136. This question was put by me to the intelligent Vyāsa. From him the definitions of the Purāṇas were heard by me.

137. Thus was Vyāsa born of Satyavatī and Parāśara. He composed the excellent Mahābhārata and the Purāṇa Saṃhitās.

138. O brahmin, you shall not entertain a doubt as to why Satyavatī had sexual intercourse with Parāśara and Śantanu.

139. This wondrous birth has sufficient reasons behind it. In the story of great men the good qualities shall be grasped by the intelligent people.

140. He who reads or listens to this great secret is rid of all sins and is honoured in the world of sages.

Footnotes and references:


The river Yamunā is personified as the daughter of the sun by his wife Saṃjñā.


It is a famous place of pilgrimage on the northern bank of the Gaṅgā in Uttara Pradesh. See P. 35 note 27.


P. 76 note, P. 432 note.


It lies south of Thanesar, not far from Panipat in Haryana province.


P. 1082 note.


p. 1314 note.


It is situated on the Sarayu river in Audh near Faizabad, U.P.


It is situated on the right bank of the Yamunā river. Originally it was called Madhuvana from the demon Madhu who ruled there.


P. 1229 note.


It is situated on the bank of the Kṛṣṇā river in the Madras Presidency.


P. 47 note. It may also refer to Mallikā Sarasvatī, Koṭirudra-saṃhitā (Śivapurāṇa) Ch. I. V. 41.


It is the place where the Indus joins the Western Sea.


The upper part of the Bay of Bengal is known as Gaṅgā-Sāgara for here the Gaṅgā joins the sea.


Identical with the modern Conjeevaram. See P. 1365 note.


It is a sacred mount, source of the Godā river.


The Godā rises in the Western Ghats, flows through the Deccan into the Bay of Bengal. Śiva-purāṇa omits to mention the seven sacred places on its bank.


P. 1084 note 19; P. 1310 note 141.


P. 1327 note.


This peak of the Himālayas has not been identified so far.


P. 1254. note.


P. 1264 note 125.


P. 1083 note 12; 1285 note 133.


P. 1262 note 116.


P. 1081 note.


A sacred place near Ajmer famous for the lake Puṣkara.


P. 1254 note.


73. P. 266 note.


According to Śiva-purāṇa, the Śaivite Purāṇa Devībhāgavata, and not the Viṣṇuite Purāṇa ‘Mahābhāgavata’ belongs to the eighteen Purāṇas. See Winternitz H.I.L. Vol 1 Pt. II PP. 486-87.

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