The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Arrival of Shuka which is chapter 19 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 nineteenth chapter of the First Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 19 - Arrival of Śuka

1. Thereupon, the Lord of the Earth, pondering over the iniquitous act committed by himself was deeply distressed in mind (and said to himself): ‘Alas! what a heinous offence has been perpetrated by me like a vile person, against an innocent Brāhmaṇa of hidden power.

2. Therefore it is certain that due to the insult of god (-like sage), an unsurmountable calamity is going to befall me in near future. Let that (misfortune) come in full force directly on me (and not on my sons etc.) for the expiation of sin so that I may never commit such act again.

3. Let the fire of the Brāhmaṇa race incensed (by my provocative act) consume[1] even today the kingdom, army and rich treasury belonging to me—a wicked fellow[2], so that my intellect may not entertain an evil disposition to Brāhmaṇas, gods and cows.

4. While he was thinking thus, he heard of (the cause of his) death named (i.e. which was to meet him in the shape of) Takṣaka impelled by (the curse of) the sage’s son. He regarded the fire (of the poison) of Takṣaka as a blessing, as it was the immediate cause of renunciation on the part of a person attached (to worldly objects).

5. Then having renounced this world and the next (the world of gods) which he had already decided as worth rejecting, he who thought the service of the feet of Kṛṣṇa as higher than all objectives in life, sat on the bank of the Ganges (the river of the immortals) with a vow to abstain from food till death.

6. What man about to die will not resort to the river (Ganges) which carries the waters highly sanctified by the dust of Kṛṣṇa’s feet mingled with the pollen of the Tulasī[3] of refulgent beauty and which purifies here and hereafter the worlds along with the protectors of the quarters of the world including Īśa.

7. In this way, having decided to sit on the bank of the Ganges, abstaining from food (till death), the descendant of Pāṇḍu (i.e. Parīkṣit) with single-minded devotion to the feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa took the vows of sage’s way of life and freed himself from all attachments.

8. There arrived the great sages along with their disciples purifying the world. Verily, under the guise of going on a pilgrimage, the saints themselves purify the holy places.

9. Afterwards (then came) Atri, Vasiṣṭha, Cyavana, Śaradvana [Śaradvān/Śaradvat?], Ariṣṭanemi, Bhṛgu, Aṅgirasas, Parāśara, the son of Gādhi, (i.e. Viśvāmitra), Paraśurāma, Utathya, Indra-Pramada and Idhmavāha.

10. Medhātithi, Devala, Ārṣṭiṣeṇa, Bhāradvāja, Gautama, Pippalāda, Maitreya, Aurva, Kavaṣa, Agastya (the sage born in water jar), Dvaipāyana and the glorious Nārada.[4]

11. Also others (such as) prominent divine sages and Brāhmaṇa sages, eminent royal-sages and others like Aruṇa (who initiated rites and formed a distinct class by themselves).

Having worshipped the sages belonging to various patronymic groups who assembled there, the king made obeisance to them by bending his head.

12. When they were comfortably seated, the king, with his pure heart, having saluted them again with his hands folded, stood before them and explained to them what he intended to do (with a desire to elicit their opinion regarding the desirability of such a course).

King said:

13. Ah! We whose behaviour is worthy of the favour of the greatest ones (like you)[5] are the blessed-most among the kings. Alas! the race of kings whose job (acts necessary) while governing, (e.g. inflicting punishment etc.) is blameworthy, is relegated to a position beyond a place where the water used for washing the feet of Brāhmaṇas goes.[6]

14.[7] The Supreme Lord has assumed the form of the Brāhmaṇa’s curse (which became) the root-cause of complete indifference (to worldly objects) in the case of a sinner like me whose mind was firmly attached to houses (wealth etc.); for persons, deeply attached (to worldly affairs) immediately got terrified when so cursed.

15. May (all) Brāhmaṇas and the Gaṅgā know[8] me as the seeker of refuge with the Lord and as one whose mind is fixed on him. Let the cunning Takṣaka deputed by the Brāhmaṇa bite me to his satisfaction. Please sing the songs of Viṣṇu.[9]

16. In whatever birth (form of existence) I may be born again, may I be attached to the Eternal Lord and be associated with those great persons who resort to him for shelter. Let my friendship[10] be with all (like you). I bow to Brāhmaṇas.[11]

17. The brave king, who had thus made up his mind and placed the responsibility of governing the kingdom on his son, sat on the southern bank of the Gaṅgā[12] on a seat of Kuśa grass the ends of which were towards the eastern direction, himself facing the north.

18. When the king of kings took his seat with the determination of fasting unto death, assemblies of gods in heaven, praising him, showered flowers on the earth with joy and kettle-drums were sounded again and again.

19. Having praised and approved (of the king’s vow of fast-unto-death) as ‘well done’, the great sages who assembled there and who had the nature and ability to bestow favours on subjects spoke to him what was beautiful due to the attributes of Hari[13].

20. Oh the best of royal sages, amongst you (kings of Pāṇḍu’s race) who are the followers of Kṛṣṇa, it is no wonder that when you desire to attain vicinity to the Supreme Lord, you instantaneously vacate the imperial throne served by tributary princes wearing crowns.

21. We shall all stay on here now till this foremost devotee of the Supreme Lord,[14] casting off this (mortal) body, goes to the highest world[15] free from illusion[16] and affliction (grief).

22. Hearing the speech of the congregation of sages which was true, impartial, dripping with nectar, pregnant with meaning, Parīkṣit, complimenting the sages of composed mind, addressed them with a desire to hear the deeds of Viṣṇu.

23. Just as the Vedas appear in bodily forms (in the Satyaloka) above these three worlds, all of you have assembled here from all quarters. Being by nature disposed to do good to others, you have no other objective in this or the next world.

24. Oh Brāhmaṇas, with full faith in you, I specifically enquire about this worth-considering problem as to what one should do in all (types of) circumstances. Oh learned ones, carefully consider (and advise me) what (course of) action is sinless (and hence recommended) for persons about to die.

25. By lucky chance, there came wandering over the earth venerable (Śuka), the son of Vyāsa, (who was) devoid of all desires, and (who) did not bear any external mark (indicating his caste or stage of life) and was satisfied with the realisation of the self, appearing like one discarded by the society and surrounded by children (and women).

26-28. Those sages recognised him (Śuka) by his special marks though his powers were latent, and rose from their seats to receive him. He appeared sixteen years of age with tender feet, hands, thighs, arms, shoulders, cheeks and body; his face (appeared attractive) with wide beautiful eyes, prominent nose, symmetrical ears and beautiful eye-brows; his neck (was) shapely like a conch, collar-bones covered (with flesh); his chest was broad and elevated; his navel was like an eddy and belly beautified by folds; his clothing (were) the (four) quarters of the world (i.e. he was nude); his curly hair were dishevelled and arms were long upto the knee; he was beautiful like Hari (the best of immortals); he was of dark complexion and captivating to women by the splendour of the permanent youthfulness of his person and enchanting smile.

29. Then Viṣṇurāta (king Parīkṣit) also bowing down his head offered worship to the guest (Śuka) who had just arrived. Ignorant people, women and children then retired. Thus worshipped he (Śuka) occupied a high seat (offered to him).

30.[17] Surrounded by multitudes of Brāhmaṇa sages, royal sages and divine sages, the venerable (Śuka), the greatest among the great, appeared there extremely brilliant like the glorious moon in the midst of planets, constellations and stars.

31. Approaching that (comfortably) seated sage of serene mind and keen intellect, the devout, attentive king, with folded hands and head bowed down, paid respects (to him) and asked him in sweet words.

Parīkṣit said:

32. Oh Brahman! What a luck that we mean Kṣatriyas have become today worthy of being served by the good[18], as we are sanctified[19] by venerable persons (like you) by being our guest, out of grace.

33. By remembering whom (holy persons like you) houses of people get immediately purified. What then (of the effect) of seeing you, touching (your feet) and (rendering service to you by acts) like washing your feet and offering you a seat, etc.

34. Oh great Yogin! Verily even the vilest sins of people are instantly annihilated in your presence as the enemies of gods are smashed in Viṣṇu’s presence.

35. Most probably Lord Kṛṣṇa to whom Pāṇḍavas were dear and who for the happiness of the sons of his paternal aunt (i.e. Pāṇḍavas) is disposed to be friendly to their familydescendants, is gracious to me.

36. Otherwise how is it possible for us—men especially those who are about to die, to obtain ample sight of yours whose movements are unmanifest to worldly persons and who have attained final beatitude and are the most solicitous (to bestow your favour)[20].

37. Hence I ask of you who are an eminent preceptor of Yogins, what a man about to die, definitely should do (which will lead to) Final Beatitude.

38. Oh Lord, kindly tell me what should be heard, muttered, done, contemplated and adored by (such a person like) me and what should be avoided.

39. Oh Brahman, (you are unavailable) as the stay of your glorious self at (the doors of) the homes of house-holders is hardly for (such a short period as is required for) milking a cow.

Sūta said:

40. Thus addressed and requested in gentle (persuasive) words by the king, the glorious son of Bādarāyaṇa who comprehended religion, spoke to Parīkṣit in reply.

Footnotes and references:


Kramasandarbha. gives a better interpretation: “Even today, the kingdom etc. go away from me like a thing burnt” (Rājyādikam adyaiva me mattaḥ sakāśād dagdha-vaā apayātvityarthaḥ /) i.e. I may be bereft of kingdom etc. and not that the kingdom should be reduced to ashes. Otherwise Brāhmaṇas who are residing in the kingdom may get burnt.


abhadrasya—(i) of one devoid of light or

(ii) ignorant.

(iii) sleepy—Padaratnāvalī


Tulasi [Tulasī?]—the holy basil held sacred by Vaiṣṇavites. Padaratnāvalī derives it as follows:

(i) That which is comparable to knowledge about Brahman.

(ii) That which decorates Viṣṇu.


Subodhinī classifies: (i) Rāma to Pippalāda—propagators of religion.

(ii) Maitreya to Nārada—propagators of the path of devotion.


anugrahaṇīya-śīlāḥ—Also.Bhāgavata Candrikā: whose good character or behaviour is due to the grace of the greatest.

(ii) We, of Pāṇḍu’s race, being like Svāyambhuva Manu and others who strive to attain grace from you who are the best of great persons—Kramasandarbha.


How regrettable is the lot of the race of kings who, due to the censurable nature of their actions, are deprived of the (holy) water with which feet of Brāhmaṇas are washed—Padaratnāvalī


Other interpretations:

(i) May this (punishment in the form of) Brāhmaṇa’s curse (adversely) affecting my worldly life be the effective (lit. sufficient) cause of renunciation (of worldly objects) in my case whose mind is devoutly attached to the Supreme Lord. For a person attached to worldly objects (like houses etc.) has the danger of worldly existence while he who is attached to god attains fearlessness or liberation—Padaratnāvalī

(ii) In my case who am born in the family favoured by the Lord but am deeply attached to worldly objects (e.g. houses, wealth) and who have committed a sin (by insulting that Brāhmaṇa Śamika), the Supreme Lord, taking into account my birth in the family blessed with his grace, has assumed the form of the Brāhmaṇa’s curse, the cause of non-attachment, but by attachment to whom one immediately become free from fear (by attaining his lotus-like feet)—Kramasandarbha.


Pratīyantu—accept me. May the heavenly river Gaṅgā accept (receive) me as a person whose mind is fixed on God—Kramasandarbha.


(i) Extol to me the deeds of Viṣṇu or sing of his glories.—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) (Setting to musical tunes) sing of the songs of Viṣṇu till my death.—Padaratnāvalī


maitrī—Let my outlook be of equality.—Kramasandarbha.


This verse expresses the following last 4 desires of Parīkṣit:

  1. Devotion to the Lord in every birth.
  2. Close association with the devotee of the Lord.
  3. Friendship to all beings.
  4. Respect to Brāhmaṇas.


Padaratnāvalī states that Parīkṣit sat in a mansion on the bank of the Ganges as mentioned in the Mbh. (Obviously he refers to the Mbh. 1.42. 29-32).


Bhāgavata Candrikā takes uttama...rūpam as qualifying the king and interprets; “The great sages...praised the king charming on account of his qualities worth-praising by the great”, while Padaratnāvalī connects it with the sages’ speech: ‘which was agreeable (conducive) to the description of the glories of Hari.’


bhāgavata-pradhānaḥ [pradhānaḥ]—who feels that votaries should always be served—Bhāgavata Candrikā


Will go to Hari who is beyond the three attributes (guṇas), perfect and eternally devoid of misery—Padaratnāvalī


virajaska—Full of pure Sattva-attribute—Bhāgavata Candrikā


According to Padaratnāvalī this verse describes Parīkṣit and not Śuka.


sat-sevya—(i) Deserving to serve saintly persons—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) Worthy of being favoured by good men—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(iii) Whose duty is to serve the great souls—VC.


tīrthakāḥ kṛtāḥ—(i) made worthy—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā

(ii) Transformed into a highly sacred place—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) When saints visit even a bad place, it becomes a holy place; similarly though we are vile (due to sins committed by us), we become sanctiñed by visits of saintly guests like you—VC.


vanīyasaḥ [vanīyas]—(i) On account of his magnanimity of heart, Śuka expected Parīkṣit to ask him for something—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā

(ii) Spending most of his life in forests in comparison with, other sages—Bhāgavata Candrikā

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