The Agni Purana

by N. Gangadharan | 1954 | 360,691 words | ISBN-10: 8120803590 | ISBN-13: 9788120803596

This page describes Manifestation of Vishnu as a Tortoise which is chapter 3 of the English translation of the Agni Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas dealing with all topics concerning ancient Indian culture, tradition and sciences. Containing roughly 15,000 Sanskrit metrical verses, subjects contained in the Agni-Purana include cosmology, philosophy, architecture, iconography, economics, diplomacy, pilgrimage guides, ancient geography, gemology, ayurveda, etc.

Chapter 3 - Manifestation of Viṣṇu as a Tortoise

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Agni said:

1. I shall describe unto you (now) about the manifestation (of Viṣṇu) as a tortoise, by hearing which one’s sins will be destroyed. In days of yore the celestial gods were defeated by the demons in a battle between them.

2. On account of the curse of sage Durvāsas,[1] the celestials were deprived of all their prosperity. Then they praised Viṣṇu who was (reclining) in the milky ocean and said, “Protect us from the demons”.

3. Hari said to Brahmā and others, “You make a treaty of peace with the demons for churning the ocean for securing ambrosia.

4. In the interest of an important work even the enemies should be sought for union. I will make you get the ambrosia and not the demons.

5. Making the (Mount) Mandara as the churning rod and (the serpent) Vāsuki as the rope, you vigilantly churn the milky ocean with my help”.

6. Concluding an agreement with the demons as suggested by Viṣṇu, (the celestials) came to the milky ocean. The celestials began to churn the ocean (from that side) where the tail of the serpent was.

7. The celestials who were afflicted by the sighs of the serpent, were comforted by Hari (Viṣṇu). As the ocean was being churned the mountain being unsupported entered into the water.

8. Then Viṣṇu assumed the form of a tortoise and supported the (Mount) Mandara. From the milky ocean which was being churned, first came out the poison known as Hālāhala.

9. That poison being retained by Hara (Siva) in his neck, Śiva became (known to be) Nīlakaṇṭha (blue-necked). Then the goddess Vāruṇī (The female energy of the celestial god Varuṇa), the Pārijāta (tree) and the Kaustubha (gem) came out of the ocean.

10. Then came out the (celestial) kine and the nymphs. Then came out Lakṣmī, who became the consort of Hari (Viṣṇu). Beholding her and adoring her all the celestials regained their lost prosperity.

11. Then Dhanvantari, (a form of Viṣṇu) and founder of the (science of) Ayurveda rose up holding a water-pot full of ambrosia.

12. Taking the ambrosia from his hands the demons Jambha and others having given half of it to the celestials went away with the other half. Then Viṣṇu assumed the form of beautiful damsel.

13. Having seen that beautiful form, the demons became fascinated and said, “O fair-faced one! Be our wife, take this ambrosia and make us drink it.”

14-15. Hari (Viṣṇu) said, “Let it be so”, and took it from them and made the celestials drink it. As Rāhu assumed the form of the Moon and drank a portion, he was detected by the Sun and the Moon and was brought to the notice of (Viṣṇu). His head was severed by his enemy Hari (Viṣṇu). That severed head of Rāhu then said to Hari, the bestower of gifts (by whose grace) it had attained immortality.

16. “When the intoxicated Rāhu would seize the Sun and the Moon, may the charities made on that occasion be imperishable.”

17. Viṣṇu in the company of all the immortals said, “Be it so" and cast off his female form. He was then requested by Hara to show that form (again).

18. (Lord) Hari (Viṣṇu) showed the feminine form to Rudra (Siva). Sambhu (Siva) being captivated by the illusory power, renouncing Gauri (Pārvatī) sought that feminine form.

19. Becoming nude and behaving like a mad man, he held the damsel by her hair. She got herself freed and ran away. He too followed her.

20. Wherever the seminal fluid of Hara dropped, there came into being sacred places of liṅgas and gold.

21. Then knowing her as illusory, Hara (Siva) assumed his original form. Then Hari (Viṣṇu) told Siva, “O Rudra (Siva) My illusory power has been conquered by you.

22-23. There is no other male on the earth besides you, who is capable of conquering this illusory power of mine.” Then the demons, who had not got the ambrosia were defeated by the celestials in battle. The celestials got back to their celestial home. One who reads this account goes to the celestial region.

Footnotes and references:


Name of an irascible sage, son of Sage Atri and Anasūyā. Once he met a Vidyādhara maid with a garland. He took that garland and presented it to Indra. Indra put it on his elephant, which in turn threw it on the ground and trampled upon it. Enraged at this the sage cursed him that he would lose all his fortune. See Vi.P. I. ix. 1 ff.; P. Index II. p. 106.

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