The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes Arrival of Narada which is chapter 4 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 fourth chapter of the First Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 4 - Arrival of Nārada

Vyāsa said:

1. Śaunaka, the oldest[1] of the sages (who were) performing the sacrifice of long duration, (being) the head of the congregation of sages[2], and conversant with the Ṛgveda, highly praised the Sūta who was thus speaking[3] and addressed (him as follows).

Śaunaka said:

2. Oh Sūta! Oh highly fortunate one![4] The finest of speakers! Tell us the sanctifying (holy) narrative pertaining to the Supreme Lord (the holy narrative of the Bhāgavata), which[5] was recounted by venerable[6] Śuka.

3. In what age or (in which) place and with what objective was this (narrative) commenced? By whom[7] was the dark sage[8] (Vyāsa) inspired to compile this text?

4. His son who is a great Yogin (contemplative saint) and who has visualized the Supreme Spirit (Brahman)[9], and who is devoid of any sense of discrimination and distinction,[10] whose mind is concentrated on one thing (viz. the Supreme Spirit),[11] and (who is) wakeful from the sleep (in the form of Illusion or Ignorance)[12] appears as a dullard avoiding society.[13]

5[14]. The heavenly damsels, seeing the sage (Vyāsa) (who was) following his son, blushed and put on their garments, even though he (the sage) was not naked but (they) did not do so in the presence of his son (Śuka who was naked). Observing this strange (behaviour) the sage enquired of them (about the reason); they said, “In your outlook, there is the discrimination between man and woman,[15] but it does not exist in your son whose outlook is pure.[16]

6. How was he (Śuka) recognised[17] (when he) arrived in the country Kuru-Jāṅgala[18] and (was) wandering in the city called Hastināpura[19] like a mad, dumb and dull-witted (person)?

7. Oh Sir! How did the dialogue wherein[20] this (sacred) Veda-like text[21] pertaining to Lord Viṣṇu (i.e. the Bhāgavata Purāṇa) take place between the sage (Śuka) and the royal-sage of the Pāṇḍava family?

8. That illustrious (sage Śuka) really awaits at the houses of the house-holders only for (so short) a period (as required for) milking cows,[22] thereby transforming it (the house) into a holy place.[23]

9. Oh Sūta I (Parīkṣit) the son of Abhimanyu is reported to be the best among the devotees of the Lord (Viṣṇu). Describe to us his extremely wonderful birth and deeds.

10. For what reason did the emperor (Parīkṣit), the enhancer of the honour of Pāṇḍavas (lit. Pāṇḍu’s[24] progeny), disregarding the glory of emperorship, sit on the bank of the Ganges fasting himself unto death?

11. Oh (Sūta)! How wonderful it is! How did the young hero (warrior-king) to whose footstool (near the throne), enemies, for their own good, bring riches (as tribute) and pay their homage, desire to renounce the royal majesty (lit. wealth) which it is very difficult to give up, along with (his) life?

12. The persons who are devoted to Lord Viṣṇu (lit. He whose renown or glory dispells the darkness of ignorance) live for the happiness,[25] abundance,[26] and prosperity[27] of others and not for themselves. Why did this (king) becoming completely indifferent to his body which gave shelter to others, give it (body) up?

13. Tell us in details everything that has been asked here. I regard you as well-versed in all subjects of speech that are other than the Vedas (i.e. the PurāṇasPadaratnāvalī).

Sūta said:

14. In the third cycle of ages, when the Dvāpara Age has already commenced, the sage (lit. one expert in Yoga) Vyāsa, a small part of Hari, was born from Parāśara and Vāsavī.[28]

15. Once upon a time, after the disk of the sun had risen, he sat in a solitary place after (bathing and) sipping the (sacred) water of the Sarasvatī[29] from the palm of his hand (as per his routine of morning duties).

16. The sage who knows the past and the future,[30] perceiving the promiscuous mixing up[31] of the courses of conduct suitable to particular ages, in every Age, in this world due to Time of imperceptible velocity.[32]

17-18. And (observing) the deterioration of the power of things created from the elements (such as men, etc,) and (finding that) men have become lacking in religious faith, energy[33], in intellectual capacity and in longevity of life due to that (subtle force of Time) and seeing the unfortunate men, the sage of unerring view,[34] meditated with his divine vision, upon what was beneficial to all classes of people and their stages of life.

19. Observing that the Vedic rites performed by four sacrificial priests[35] purify the people, he (Vyāsa) separated the (single) Veda into four for the continuity of (the institution of) sacrifices.

20. The four Vedas namely the Ṛg., Yajus, Sāman and Atharvan were divided.[36] And History-cum-Mythology (the Mahābhārata and the Purāṇas) is called the fifth Veda.

21. Out of these, Paila[37] was the recepient of the Ṛg- veda, the wise sage Jaimini[38] the master of singing the Sāman, Vaiśampāyana[39] alone was expert in the Yajur Veda.

22. The terrible sage Sumantu[40] (was well-versed) in the Atharva Veda relating to the Aṅgirasas, and my father, Romaharṣaṇa, in History-cum-Purāṇas.

23. The sages divided their own respective Veda in. different parts. Those Vedas were separated into (a number of) branches by (their) disciples, disciples of disciples and their students.

24. The venerable Vyāsa who was compassionate to the helpless, arranged the Vedas in such a way as can be retained in memory even by persons of low intelligence.

25. The three Vedas are not to be heard by women, Śūdras and lowest among the twice-born ones (i.e. unworthy persons of Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, and Vaiśya castes). In order that the welfare of such (persons) ignorant about actions leading to the good (results) may be (achieved) this way here, that the sage (Vyāsa) compiled the narrative called the Bhārata.

26. Oh twice-born ones! The mind of (Vyāsa who was) thus always and in all respects trying for the welfare of all beings, was, however, not satisfied thereby—

27. Vyāsa, the knower of the path of duty, whose mind was not much pacified and who was sitting in solitude on the holy bank of the Sarasvatī, conjecturing (about the reasons etc. of his unhappy state of mind), spoke out this:

28. “Being intent (keen) on observing my duties, the Vedas, preceptors and (holy) fires have been sincerely (lit. without any deceit) worshipped and (their) commands have been obeyed by me.”

29. “And verily, the (meaning) of the Vedas has been, explained by compiling a work of the title Bhārata in which (subjects such as) religion and others are known by (underprivileged persons e.g.) women, Śudras and the like.”

30. “Alas! In spite of all these, my individual soul (though) the best in those possessing the lustre of Vedic studies[41] and entire in itself[42] (Or “all-pervading”) by itself appears to be underdeveloped (not having reached the stage of the Supreme Spirit[43] (or not reached its natural condition)

31. Or (because) religious systems (religion) pertaining to the Supreme Lord which are liked by the ascetics of the highest order, have not been considered (by me) in details. And those are really liked by the Infallible Lord (Acyuta)

32. In this way, (while Vyāsa was) considering himself deficient and was distressed (at the thought of his deficiency), Nārada approached the hermitage of Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana as described above.

33. The sage (Vyāsa), having known the arrival of Nārada who was worshipped by gods, at once, rose from his seat to welcome him and worshipped (received) him with due formalities.

Footnotes and references:


vṛddhaSubodhinī: Advanced in knowledge and not necessarily in age.


kula-pati—Originally it signified a Brāhmaṇa sage who main­tained, fed and taught 10,000 pupils. Bhāvāratha Dīpikā interprets it as above (gaṇomukhya). Subodhinī explains it as the regulator or controller of the group of sages (kulasya ṛṣi—kulasya patiḥ niyāmakaḥ).


bruvāṇaSubodhinī: “Śaunaka was so eager that he did not even wait for the completion of the Speech of the Sūta, as is the normal etiquette”.


mahābhāgaSubodhinī: “It was the great luck of the Sūta that he heard the Bhāgavata from Śuka”.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā and Subodhinī read yad while Padaratnāvalī reads yam i.e. the narrative of the Bhāgavata.


bhagavānSubodhinī: “possessing all good qualities” (pūrṇa-guṇaḥ).


kulaḥ [kula]—Subodhinī: What reason impelled him to compile the Bhāgavata Purāṇa


Kṛṣṇaḥ [Kṛṣṇa]—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā: Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana [dvaipāyanaḥ].


sama-dṛkBhāvāratha Dīpikā: sama = Brahma; Padaratnāvalī Viṣṇu (mayā=Śriyā saha vartate iti / “One in association with the goddess Lakṣmī”) Subodhinī One knowing (Brahman).


nirvikalpakaḥ [nirvikalpaka]—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā: Devoid of any knowledge of distinction from one thing to another (nirasta-bheda)


ekānta-matiḥBhāvāratha Dīpikā: with mind devoted to one thing. Padaratnāvalī: whose mind always is engrossed in Hari. Subodhinī: free from worldly attachment.


unnidraBhāvāratha Dīpikā: Wakeful from the sleep of illusion (Māyā) Padaratnāvalī: From whom sleep in the form of ignorance and other defects, is away.


gūḍhaSubodhinī: avoiding society. Also “unostentatious”, also aprakaṭa.


This verse is not noted by Padaratnāvalī


strī-bhidāBhāvāratha Dīpikā: The power of seeing the difference between man and woman.


vivikta-dṛṣṭiBhāvāratha Dīpikā: of pure outlook viviktā-pūtā dṛṣtir yasya /


alakṣitaBhāvāratha Dīpikā: known (jñāta).


Kuru-Jāṅgala: The kingdom of Parīkṣit.: Visited by Śuka. Its capital was Hastināpura.


Hastināpura—The ancient capital of the Kurus. Founded by King Hasti. Though a central scene of action in the Mahābhārata, nothing of the Pāṇḍava era is reported to have been excavated so far.


yatraBhāvāratha Dīpikā: From the conversation.


Sātvatī Śrutiḥ—Sātvatī “Pertaining to lord Hari” according to all comm., but Śruti “compilation” (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā) “equal (in sacredness) to the Vedas” (Bhāgavata Candrikā) “Vaiṣṇava Veda” (Subodhinī).


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā states that this verse raises the doubt how the Bhāgavata Purāṇa could be narrated within a short period as Śuka stayed at the house of a householder for the time required for milking a cow. This period is, according to Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, ⅛ of a muhūrta i.e. 15 kalās,


Bhāgavata Candrikā and Padaratnāvalī: “Sanctifying the house (by his steps)”.


Pāṇḍu—A royal sage born of Vicitravīrya’s queen Ambālikā and Vyāsa (Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana); superseded his elder blind brother Dhṛtarāṣṭra and was instilled as king; married Kuntī alias Pṛthā, sister of Vasudeva, and Mādrī; being prevented from sexual intercourse by a curse, got five sons born to his queens by invoking gods by incantations known to Kuntī; dies as a royal sage in the forest and hit second queen Mādrī immolated henelf with him; his sons are the Pāṇḍavas. (Purāṇa Index. II. 310.)


śivāya—For “happiness” (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā), “auspiciousness” (Bhāgavata Candrikā), “quite happiness” (Subodhinī).


bhavāya—For “abundance” (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā), “ever increasing prosperity” (Siddhāntapradīpa; Bhāgavata Candrikā), “attainment of the goal of life viz. Kāma” (Bālaprabodhini), “Far retire­ment from worldly affairs or saṃsāra” (Sārārthadarśinī).


bhūtaye—For “affluence or supremacy (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, Siddhāntapradīpa), “wealth” (Bhāgavata Candrikā VC.), “attainment of mystic powers or siddhis” (Subodhinī).


Vāsavī—Name of the daughter of King Uparicara Vasu; brought up as Satyavatī in the house of a fisher-man; the mother of the sage Vyāsa. (Bhāratīya Paurāṇika Kośa 285).


Sarasvatī—A sacred river famous in the Vedas. The Ghaggar in the Panjab is regarded as its modern name. Bhāvāratha Dīpikā interprets “upasprśya” as “having taken bath” etc while Padaratnāvalī “After the performance of morning duties e.g. sanḍhyā, etc”.

Bhāvāratha Dīpikā suggests that Vyāsa was sitting at this time in Badarikāśrama (which is so far away from the Panjab). Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa explains this by stating that Bhāvāratha Dīpikā does not mean the Badarikāśrama near Mount Gandhamādana but a separate place of the same name in the forest on the bank of the Saras­vatī in Sindh. Siddhāntapradīpa and Kramasandarbha., note this place as Śamyāprāśa.


parāvarajñaḥ [parāvarajña]—Padaratnāvalī: “Seer of the past, present and the future”.


vyatikaraBhāvāratha Dīpikā & Padaratnāvalī: mixing up; Bhāgavata Candrikā “Inverted order” Subodhinī: “Destruction”.


a-vyakta-raṃhas: Bhāvāratha Dīpikā: Whose course cannot be perceived”

Padaratnāvalī: Of unexpressed (unexhibited) velocity.

Subodhinī: Whose velocity lies within Prakṛti. (Prakṛti and others are depen­dent upon Time (kālādhīna).


niḥsattva—Without courage or constancy (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā) Without energy (Padaratnāvalī).


amogha-dṛśPadaratnāvalī: Whose knowledge is fruitful (avandhyajñāna) Bhāgavata Candrikā Whose wishes are not fruitless (avitatha-saṅkalpa)


The four sacrificial priests are Hotṛ, Udgātṛ, Adhvaryu and Brahmā and they represent the Ṛg, Sāman, Yajus and Atharvan (Vedas) respectively.


uddhṛtaḥ [uddhṛta]—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā; “Separated”; Padaratnāvalī: “The Vedas are not compiled but simply arranged by Vyāsa. As History-cum-Mythology is meant for the elucidation of the contents of the Vedas, Mahābhārata and Purāṇas are regarded as the 5th Veḍa. As Kramasandarbha. points out, this classifica­tion of ancient literature in 5 Vedas is as old as the Chāndogya Upaniṣad.


Paila: Son of the sage Vasu; disciple of Vyāsa to learn the Ṛgveda; he taught it to Indrapramati and to Bāṣkala; was invited to work as Holṛ in the Rājasūya sacrifice of Yudhiṣṭhira; He classified the Ṛgveda in two parts and imparted them to his two disciples mentioned above.—(Purāṇa Index. II. 391)


Jaimini: A pupil of Vyāsa in charge of Sāma-veda; was invited to Yudhiṣṭhira’s Rājasūya, Janmejaya’s [Janamejaya’s] Sarpa-satra; Sūtras of Pūrva Mīmāṃsā and Aśvamedha Parvan are; traditionally regarded as being com­piled by him (Purāṇa Index. I. 653, Bhāratīya Paurāṇika Kośa 120).


Vaiśampāyana: A pupil of Vyāsa in charge of Yajur Veda. He was the maternal uncle of Yājñavalkya. (Bhāratīya Paurāṇika Kośa 303).


Sumantu: Padaratnāvalī states Sumantu as the son of Varuṇa (& reads vāruṇaḥ for dāruṇaḥ). He was taught the Atharva-veda by Vyāsa.


brahma-varcasyuttamaḥBhāvāratha Dīpikā: The best of possessors of the lustre of Brahma (Veda).

Bhāgavata Candrikā: The purest one (uttamaḥ) in lustre born of the study of the Vedas (Kṛtasvādhyāya-nimitte tejasi).

Padaratnāvalī: Vṛttyadhyayana-sampannānāṃ madhye śreṣṭhaḥ /


vibhuḥ [vibhu]—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā: “Complete in itself” (paripūrṇaḥ [paripūrṇa])

Bhāgavata Candrikā: “Master” or “Controller”, Padaratnāvalī pervading (vyāpta).


asampannaḥ [asampanna]—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā: Not reached its natural stage. Padaratnāvalī: One who has not achieved his life’s mission. Bhāgavata Candrikā: a-samṛddha.

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