The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Punishment and Control of Kali which is chapter 17 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 seventeenth chapter of the First Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 17 - Punishment and Control of Kali

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Sūta said:

1. There (on the eastern turn of the Sarasvatī in (Kurukṣetra) the king (Parīkṣit) saw the pair of the cow and the bull being beaten like protectionless beings and also the Śūdra wearing the insignia of royalty, with a rod in his hand.

2. (He saw that) the bull, white like the lotus-fibre, as if passing urine through fear, (and thus losing strength every moment), trembling on one leg, sinking down under the beating by the Śūdra.

3. (And) the cow also yielding (milk the products of which, as oblations to sacrifices, are useful for) religion, distressed, (being) heavily kicked by the Śūdra, calf-less, with face full of tears, weak and desiring to eat grass[1].

4. Riding his gold-plated[2] chariot and holding bow equipped (with arrow) he asked in a voice deep like (thunder of a) cloud.

5. “Who are you who, a mighty person, are hurting the weak ones by force in this world under my protection? Like an actor you are dressed as a king but are a Śūdra in your actions.

6. Who are you who after the departure of Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna (lit. the master of the Gāṇḍīva bow) to a distant place (the other world) are striking the innocent ones in solitary places? You are the culprit deserving to be killed.

7. (Address to the bull). Who are you white like lotusfibre, (who) being defective in three legs, walk on one leg only? Are you some God who in the form of such a bull make us sorrowful?

8. With the exception of your tears of sorrow, tears of grief of other animals do not fall on the surface of this earth which is embraced (i.e. protected) by the mighty arms of the best kings in the Paurava dynasty.

9. Oh Son of surabhī, do not feel aggrieved. Let thy fear from the Śūḍra pass away. (Address to the cow). Oh mother, do not weep. Good betide thee while I am alive to punish the wicked.

10. Oh pious one, the arrogant king in whose kingdom all the subjects are intimidated by the wicked, destroys his reputation, Span of life, good fortune and prospects in the next world.

11. It is the highest duty of kings to remove the trouble of the distressed. Hence I shall slay this wicked-most oppressor of beings.

12. Oh four-legged son of Surabhī, who cut down your three legs? Let there be none (distressed) like you in the jurisdiction of the kings who follow Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

13. Oh bull, good betide you righteous people who never commit sins. Report to me who deformed you and (thereby) spoilt the glory of the Pāṇḍavas.

14. Perpetrators of crimes against the innocents and their accomplices as well have fear from me from all sides.[3] When the wicked are punished, it contributes to the good of the virtuous.

15. I shall pull off the arms along with the bracelets[4] even of the immortal himself if he, being uncontrolled, commits an offence (crime) against the innocent persons.

16. The greatest duty of a king who punishes, as per religious codes, persons going astray in normal times, is to protect in this world persons abiding by their own religion.

Dharma said:

17. This your speech which dispels fear (from the minds) of the distressed, is worthy of the descendants of the Pāṇḍavas due to whose (collection of) good qualities Lord Kṛṣṇa undertook to work as envoy etc.

18.[5] Oh great man, we who are extremely puzzled by discordant doctrines (advocated by different theorists),[6] do not know the Being (who is) the cause of misery[7] (of animated beings).

19. Some (i.e. followers of the Yoga school) who cover up the differences (between the individual and Universal Souls) call the Individual Spirit as the Master (i.e. dispenser of Pleasure and Pain)[8]; others[9] (Fatalists), regard the fate (i.e. the presiding deities of planets) to possess such power; others (the followers of the Mīmāṃsā) regard actions (such as performance of sacrifices as having this power); while (some) others[10] (the materialists) presume nature (as the ordainer of weal and woe).

20. Some have determined that this (happiness, misery) is from (God who is) incomprehensible by logic and indescribable by words. Oh sage-like king, ponder over this by your intellect[11].

Sūta said:

21. Oh great Brāhmaṇa (lit. the best among the Brāhmaṇas) while Dharma was speaking thus, the king- emperor with his delusion dispersed, spoke with tranquil mind.[12]

The king said:

22. Oh knower of Dharma (righteousness)! (By not disclosing the name of Kali who is maltreating you) you are expounding religion (which orḍains) that the place of the perpetrator of an irreligious act is the same as that of the reporter of the act (i.e. the person who commits a sin and the informer of that sin go to the same place, viz. hell).

23. Or it is certain that course of the Māyā—power[13] of God—is beyond the reach of the mind and speech of (living) beings.

24. In the Kṛta age, austerity, purity, compassion and truthfulness were the four legs (of Dharma). Three of them were broken by (forms of) unrighteousness, viz. pride, contact (with women) and intoxication (from liquor).

25. Oh Dharma, now-a-days (in this Age) your (remaining) leg, viz. truthfulness on which you subsist,[14] exists (but) this non-righteousness in the form of Kali who is brought up on falsehood (untruthfulness) wishes to deprive you of that (leg) also.

26. And this earth (in the form of cow) whose great burden has been unloaded by the Lord (Kṛṣṇa) has been made auspicious on all sides by his splendid foot-prints.

27. Being renounced by him, unfortunate and pious as she (the Earth) is, she is shedding tears (being apprehensive) that Śūdras in the guise of Kings and inimical to Brāhmaṇas will enjoy her.

28. In this way having consoled Dharma and the Earth, the great warrior took up (drew out) his sharpened sword against Kali the cause of inequities.

29. Knowing him (Parīkṣit) determined to kill him, he (Kali) being overwhelmed with fear, abandoned the emblems of royalty and bowed down his head at his (Parīkṣit’s) feet.

30. The heroic (Parīkṣit) who was kind to the poor, fit for refuge and worthy to be praised, did not, out of compassion, kill him (Kali) who was lying prostrate at his feet and addressed him thus, with a smile.

The King said:

31. Verily there is absolutely no danger to you (who are a supplicant for mercy) with folded hands from (us) the upholders of the glory of Arjuna. But you are the friend of the unrighteous. You should not, under any circumstances, live in any part of my kingdom.

32. Whilst you were existing in the body of kings, a number of inequities (such as) avarice, untruthfulness, theft, vulgarity, renunciation of religion, misfortune, fraud, quarrel and pride have followed (commenced to spread their influence).

33. Oh friend of the iniquitous, you should not therefore stay in Brahmāvarta where persons expert in the performance of sacrifices adore the Lord of the sacrifices therewith (by sacrifices) and (which) is habitable by dharma (righteousness) and truth.

34. You should not live in that place where the glorious Hari in the form of Sacrifices, being adored, spreads over (confers upon) the performers of sacrifices happiness and objects of desire certainly. This (Supreme) Soul is present like air, both inside and outside the mobile and the immobile beings.

Sūta said:

35. Thus being ordered by Parīkṣit, Kali who was trembling, spoke to him who has raised his sword like the God of death (Holder of the rod).

Kali said:

36. “Oh Imperial Majesty, wherever I shall stay by your order, I visualize you ready with a bow and arrows.

37. Oh best of the righteous, it becomes you to appoint a place for me where I may dwell with a steady mind obeying your commands.”

Sūta said:

38. (Thus) solicited (by Kali), the King then gave Kali the following places used for gambling, drinking, bad women and slaughtering where four kinds of iniquities thrive.

39. When (Kali) supplicated again, the Lord gave him gold (to live in). Then (he gave Kali) five abodes viz. untruth, pride, passion, ignorance and the fifth—enmity.

40. As pointed out by him, Kali, the cause of unrighteousness, lived in these five places allotted to him by the son of Uttarā (Parīkṣit).

41. Hence these should not be resorted to by persons who are anxious to be good—especially by the righteous king who is the preceptor and lord of men.

42. He joined the bull’s three legs—austerities, purity and compassion (which had been) maimed. And consoling the Earth (restored to her) the prosperity.

43. Now he occupies the throne worthy of kings only, and bequeathed to him by his grandfather (Yudhiṣṭhira who was) desirous of retiring to the forest.

44. Shining with the goddess of prosperity of the Kaurava Kings, the sage-like king (who is a) great fortunate (person), the Supreme authority and whose fame is extensive, is now ruling in Hastināpura.

45. In this way, this king, the son of Abhimanyu whose prowess is such, is (thus) ruling over the earth when you have engaged yourself for the performance of sacrifices.

Footnotes and references:


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā clarifies: The earth became lean due to non-performance of sacrifices which led to droughts and failure of crops and that she desired to have her share in sacrifices.


Kārtasvara-paricchada [paricchadam]—Siddhāntapradīpa and Subodhinī take this as referring to Kali and interpret as ‘wearing gold crown, ear-rings etc.’ which Kali as a Śūdra is not qualified to wear.


sarvato bhayam—Fear not only from me but from all such as Yama (the god of death) and others—Siddhāntapradīpa


Right from the shoulder—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā


(1) Kramasandarbha. interprets differently: We (the theists) as well as those who are puzzled by the different statements (of śāstras) do not know the Being who is beyond the reach of all persons.

(2) VC. explains: We do not know the being from whom ‘seeds’ of misery are produced. This man Kali who is troubling me is visible. But the very fact that he troubles me only (and not others) shows that there must be some special reason—‘seed’—of this trouble. We do not know the Being who is the source of the “seeds” of distress.


vākya-bheda vimohitaḥ [vimohita]—Confused by a number of Vedic quotations explaining the causes of misery—Padaratnāvalī


kleśa-bīja: Sins; faults committed against the Lord—Subodhinī


kecid vikalpa-vasanā etc.—

(i) Or, the atheists who are covered (possessed) by false logic regard themselves as the Masters (of pleasure or pain) as, according to them Gods have no power to ordain happiness and misery as they (Gods) themselves are slaves of their actions; actions being inanimate—jaḍa—cannot dispense pleasure or pain—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā

(ii) Those of uncertain (dubious) speech regard themselves as the source of their troubles (or the Sāṃkhyas regard the mind—antaḥkaraṇa—as the cause of one’s miseries)—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) The advaita Vedāntins who cover up, i.e. do not recognise the difference between individual Soul and God, hold that there is nobody to dispense pleasure or pain as the duality such as pleasure-pain, is born of the ignorance of the Soul—VC.

(iv) Siddhāntapradīpa puts forth a similar explanation:

vikalpaṃ nānā-kāraṇa-vādaṃ vasate ācchādayanti ye vedāntās tadvido vā,
te ātmanas ivampadārthasya ātmānaṃ tat-padārtham prabhuṃ sukha-duḥkha-pradam āhuḥ /


Others (i.e. persons with correct knowledge) regard Hari, the Supreme among the gods, the cause of misery:

eke samyak jñāninaḥ daivaṃ sarva-deva-pradhānaṃ hariṃ Kleśa-bījam āhuḥPadaratnāvalī


apart—Followers of the Sāṅkhya School—Kramasandarbha.


Padaratnāvalī differs: “Some conclude that the stream of misery springs from Prakṛti which is beyond the range of comprehension or from some positive form of ignorance (or rather Nescience) whose nature (as being existent or non-existent) cannot be decided. Oh great king, consider which of these are supported by the Vedas and Smṛtis, and judge accordingly.


samāhitena manasā— (The king who considered Dharma’s speech) with close attention.


deva-māyā—The will of the Almighty (Padaratnāvalī, Bhāgavata Candrikā). The Prakṛti of Lord ViṣṇuSiddhāntapradīpa


nivarttayet etc.: Whereby the world will achieve you.

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