The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Commentators on the Bhagavata Purana which is part 5 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the fifth part of the Introduction of the Bhagavatapurana.

Part 5 - Commentators on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa

[Note: The present translator has utilised the Commentaries published in the Bhāgavata Vidya Peeth Ahmedabad’s edition and in the Vrindavana edition of the, X Skandha.]

Due to the enormous popularity[1] and extraordinary reputation of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa as being the most famous epic in India, eminent commentators belonging to different schools of the Vedānta have tried to show that the Bhāgavata Purāṇa supports their particular school of thought. Of these the oldest and the most respectable annotator is Śrīdhara Svāmin (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā), the author of the Commentary, Bhāvārtha-dipikā, who follows the Advaita school of Śaṅkara. He assures that, in his Commentary, he has given the traditional interpretation[2] implying Citsukha’s (1220-84 A.D.) Commentary on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa It is an authoritative commentary, lucid and to the point. They say that next to Vyāsa (the author of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa), and Śuka (its exponent to King Parīkṣit), it is Bhāvāratha Dīpikā who understood the real import of the Bh. P. in its entirety.[3] Nābhā-dāsa-ji’s record of the legend[4] that Lord Bindu-mādhava of Kāśī approved Bhāvāratha Dīpikā’s Commentary as the authoritative interpretation of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, is another evidence of SR.’s prestige and popularity. Bhāvāratha Dīpikā has received complimentary tributes from commentators of other schools of the Vedānta who bodily incorporate his Commentary into their own, and some openly admit his authority by urging that their annotations are just to elucidate and supplement Bhāvāratha Dīpikā[5]. It may be due to the deep reverence expressed by Caitanya to Bhāvāratha Dīpikā that his followers like Kramasandarbha and VC presented a sort of apologia for their commentaries mentioned, above, even though Bhāvāratha Dīpikā finds no Rādhā in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa Due to Bhāvāratha Dīpikā’s reference to Bopadeva (13 th cent.) and references of other writers like Viṣṇupurī to him, he is assigned to the middle of the 14th cent. A.D.[6] Rādhā Ramaṇa Gosvāmī (Rādhā Ramaṇa Gosvāmī’s Dīpinī) wrote his Dīpanī to elucidate Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, though he tilts to Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. Beyond the names of his parents (Govardhana Lāla and Kiśorī) and paternal grand-parents (Jīvana Lāla and Śrīkṛṣṇa Kuvara he gives no personal details. His grand father seems to be his spiritual preceptor.[7] Vaṃśīdhara, whose loyalties are with the Rādhā cult[8], has written a learned and elaborate Commentary on Bhāvāratha Dīpikā He was a Gauḍa Brahmin of Kauśika gotra,[9] a follower of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism and he extensively quotes JC and VC. It is at the request of the scholars at Mathurā that he wrote this encyclopaedic Commentary[10]. His reverential approach to Bhāvāratha Dīpikā is worth noting. “Śrīdhara alone knows the implication of Bhāvāratha Dīpikā’s Commentary After paying obeisance to Nṛsiṃha who conferred His grace on Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, I begin the exposition of Bhāvāratha Dīpikā through Bhāvāratha Dīpikā’s favour”. Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa deserves careful study not only for understanding Bhāvāratha Dīpikā but the Bhāgavata Purāṇa as well.

Anvitārtha-prakāśikā by Gaṅgā Sahāya is a very useful Commentary as it explains practically every word and every important grammatical form. The author wrote this in his old age. He is silent about his personal details.

The Viśiṣṭādvaita school is represented by Sudarśana Sūri and Vīra-rāghava. Sudarśana-Sūri, the celebrated author of Śruta-prakāśikā,[11] a Commentary on Rāmānuja’s Śrī Bhāṣya, wrote a brief yet learned Commentary Śuka-pakṣīyā. He is reported to have died in 1367 A.D. when Śrīraṅgam was sacked by the forces of Allauddin Khilaji. (Vīrarāghava’s) Bhāgavata Candrikā is ‘pleasant-like the moon-light’—an excellent textual exposition of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa from the Viśiṣṭādvaita point of view. The v.l.s recorded by him and the explanations given are important. He was the son of Śrī Śaila of Vatsa Gotra and a pupil of Lakṣmaṇa Muni, his father’s disciple. He is supposed to belong to the 14th Gent. A.D.

Vijayadhvaja’s Padaratnāvalī is an able exposition of the Dvaita School. He closely follows Ānanda-tīrtha’s Bhāgavata- tātparya-nirṇaya, not a Commentary but a digest of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa The text of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa used by Vijayadhvaja’s Padaratnāvalī records a number of different readings, changes in the number and the order of verses and even in chapters as well. This is especially found in the X Skandha to a considerable extent. He is an intelligent annotator giving unexpected explanations with the help of grammar, lexicon and other purāṇic and smṛti references. He is supposed, to have lived in the 15th Gent. A.D.

Śukadeva’s (Siddhānta-pradīpa) Siddhānta-pradīpa presents Nimbārka’s philosophy through the Bhāgavata Purāṇa But one of the finest expositions of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is Vallabha’s Subodhinī. Though it does not cover all the Skandhas, and its claim to present seven interpretations of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa may be disputed, one must admit its profound scholarship, clarity of thought and felicity of expression. It is a pleasure to read Subodhinī. Its author Vallabha (1479- 1531 A.D.) is the founder of the Śuddhādvaita school and what is popularly called Puṣṭimārga, so popular in Gujarat. But Vallabha was a Kṛṣṇa-yajurvedī Brāhmaṇa from Andhra. He. wrote his famous Commentary Aṇubhāṣya on the Brahma sūtra and established his Brahma-Vāda (Śuddhādvaita). Gosvāmī Puruṣottama (1700 A.D.) wrote Subodhinī-Prakāśa to elucidate the Subodhinī. But Vallabha’s descendant Giridhara (later part of 19th Century) son of Gopāla, has given us a very lucid exposition of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in his Commentary Bāla-prabodhinī, very Useful even to novices.

Of the Bengal School of Vaiṣṇavism Kramasandarbha and VC are used. Jīva Gosvāmī (16th Cent. AD) the author of Ṣaṭ-sandarbha is a great exponent of the Caitanya school. He has written Krama-Sandarbha and Vaiṣṇavatoṣaṇī (on X Skandha) on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa He headed the Caitanya school after his uncles—Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmī. It won’t be an exaggeration if one credits him to have established Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism on sound Vedantic footing. As an ardent devotee of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa JC is at his best in Vaiṣṇavatoṣaṇī, though the usefulness of Krama- sandarbha is not denied. As noted above (on Bhāvāratha Dīpikā) JC modestly states that his Commentary is merely an elucidation and elaboration of Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, though actually it is an independent exposition based on a different philosophy. Viśvanātha Cakravartī (VC) in his Sārārtha-darśinī, on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa closely follows JC, but his treatment is more detailed and helpful to a common reader.

The translator has used a few more Commentaries like Bhagavat-Prasāda’s Bhakta-manorañjanī (of Svāmī-nārāyaṇa cult) but the Commentators are generally reticent about themselves.

Footnotes and references:


M. N. Chatterji in the Intro, to the I Vol. of his translation of the the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (Calcutta 1895) records 136 commentaries and treatises on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa To this a score more new publications can be listed during the last 80 years.


saṃpradāyānurodhena paurvāparyānusārataḥ /
śrī-bhāgavata-bhāvārtha-dīpike'yam pratanyate //

  —Bhāvāratha Dīpikā Intro, v. 4.


vyāso vetti, śuko vetti, rājā vetti na vetti vā /
śrīdharaḥ sakalaṃ vetti, śrī-nṛsiṃhā-prasādataḥ //


Bhakta mālachappaya 440


Svāmi-pādair na yad vyaktaṃ, yad vyaktaṃ cā'sphuṭam kvacit/
tatra tatra ca vijñeyaḥ sandarbha-krama-nāmakaḥ //

  —Kramasandarbha. Intro v


Baladeva UpādhyāyaPurāṇa vimarśa, pp. 572-73.


Pituśca pitaraṃ vande śrīmaj-jīvana-lālakam /
mantra-rājo'padeśena yena nīstārito'smyaham //

  —Rādhā Ramaṇa Gosvāmī’s Dīpinī Intro, vv to xi Skandha.


Vide his Opening salutation to Kṛṣṇa, the Lord of Rādhā Śrī Kṛṣṇaṃ Rādhikā-nātham āśraye sarva-kāraṇam /


Vaṃśīdharaḥ Kauśika-gotra-Gauḍa-vaṃśyaḥ Kṛtī Śrīdhara-vṛtti-vṛtṭim /
—Intro, v


atha mathurā-vidvajjana preraṇayā śrī-vaṃśīdhara-śarmā maṅgalaṃ vyākaroti
  —Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa Intro.


ānanda-tīrtha-vijaya-tīrthau praṇamya maskari-vara-vandyau tayoḥ kṛtiṃ sphuṭam upajīvya pravacmi bhāgavatam purāṇam
  —Padaratnāvalī, Intro, v. 11

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