The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Kardama’s Penance—Vishnu’s Boon which is chapter 21 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 twenty-first chapter of the Third Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 21 - Kardama’s Penance—Viṣṇu’s Boon

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Vidura said:

1. Oh venerable sage, (I pray you) to please describe to me the greatly respected dynasty of Svāyambhuva Manu in which descendants multiplied in marital relations.

2. Svāyambhuva Manu had two sons, Priyavrata and Uttānapāda, who protected the earth consisting of seven insular-continents[1] according to religion.

3. He had a daughter well known as Devahūti. Oh sinless one, you told that she was the wife of Prajāpati Kardama.

4. Please tell me who am desirous of hearing, how many children had the great Yogī Kardama, got from her who possessed śama, dama and other qualities of Yoga.

5. How did respectable Ruci or Dakṣa, the sons of God Brahmā get the daughters of Manu as wives (Ruci marrying Ākūti and Dakṣa marrying Prasūti) and procreated children, Oh Brahmaṇa [Brāhmaṇa?]?

Maitreya said:

6. When the venerable sage Kardama was commanded by God Brahmā to create beings, he performed penance for ten thousand years on the bank of the Sarasvatī.

7. Then Kardama with great devotion, intense meditation and worship[2], rendered service to Hari who gives boons to those who resort to him.

8. Then the lotus-eyed God Viṣṇu became pleased with him. Oh Vidura, in the Kṛta age, he manifested himself in an auspicious form, though he is known (to the world) by the verbal description in the Vedas[3].

9-11. In the sky, he saw the Lord who was free from all impurities and was resplendent like the Sun. He wore a garland of white lotuses that blossom by day and night. His lotuslike face was beautiful with smooth blue-black locks of hair. He was clad in pure silk garment. The Lord wore a crown and ear-rings and held in his hands a conch, a disc, a mace and a white lotus for sport. His captivating smiles and looks delighted the heart. His lotus-like feet were placed on the shoulders of Garuḍa. He had Lakṣmī (Śrī-Vatsa) on his bosom and the Kaustubha gem round His neck.

12. Overjoyed at the fulfilment of his desired object, Kardama prostrated himself on the ground. He, who was intensely devoted by nature, folded his hands and praised the Lord (in the following words).

The sage said:

13. Oh praiseworthy Lord, what a joy it is! Real usefulness of our eyes has been achieved today by visualising you whose entire personality consists of perfectly pure Sattva[4]—a sight coveted by Yogins who have been developing their Yoga through many progressively pious births.

14. Your lotus-like feet are like a boat to cross the ocean of Saṃsāra. But those whose intelligence is deadened by your Māyā, resort to them for petty pleasures which are available even in hell. But, Oh Lord, you fulfil even those trivial desires.

15. I am of such a nature (as described above). I wish to marry a girl similar to me in disposition and useful like a cow to a householder’s life (in yielding three objectives in life, namely, dharma, artha and kāma). With this unbecoming motive, I approached your feet which are like a wish-yielding tree and which are the source of all (four puruṣārthas).

16. Oh Supreme Lord, this world[5] is overwhelmed with desire. It is really bound down by the cord in the form of words (Vedic injunctions) expressed by you[6], the lord of Prajās. Oh embodiment of pure[7] Dharma, I am verily a follower of the world. I carry offerings to you (i.e. abide by your order of performing the prescribed kārmic duties for repaying the three traditional debts (ṛṇa) of man for which wife is essential)—you are the soul of Time.

17. Having abandoned worldly men and their followers like beasts[8], (your devotees) resort to the umbrella in the form of your feet. They forget the conditions, i.e. the needs of their bodies (such as hunger, thirst, etc.) in the discussion of Your attributes—a discussion which is intoxicating like wine (making them forget their worldly ties) and sweet like nectar.

18. Your wheel of Time which is based on three supports and which attracts and affects the world and has terrific speed, does not erode the life of your devotee while it moves on—This wheel of Time rotates round the axis of eternal Brahman. It has thirteen spokes (twelve months plus one additional i.e. adhika month). It has three hundred and sixty joints (number of days in the year). It has six tyres (i.e. seasons), innumerable blades (such as small units of time like kṣaṇa, nimiṣa etc.), three supports, namely, three periods of four months—caturmāsa each.

19.Oh Lord, you are only one, i.e. there is none other except you. With the desire of creating the world and by the powers such as Sattva etc., assumed by you through your Yoga- Māyā, you create, protect and destroy this world like a spider (doing with his web).

20.Oh Supreme Lord, although you extend (offer) by means of your Māyā, worldly pleasures in the form of objects of senses to us, your devotees, this is not really your desired object. Still, let it be offered out of your grace towards us; for you have manifested yourself as a person decorated with resplendent Tulasī (and hence have Time-Space limitation) through Māyā. (This manifestation will lead to worldly pleasures here and Liberation hereafter)[9].

21. I bow to you again and again. By your Supreme knowledge, you are free from the experience of the fruit of Karmas. You manage the working of the universe by your Māyā. Hence your lotus-like feet are worthy of being bowed (by devotees, whether they cherish desire or not). You shower desired objects upon a devotee who is motivated (even) by trivial desires.

The sage said:

22. Being thus praised sincerely, Lord Viṣṇu, the God with a lotus in His navel, who appeared lustrous (in his seat) above the wings of Garuḍa and whose eyebrows moved gracefully by his gracious looks and his affectionate smile, spoke to Kardama in nectar-like sweet words.

The Lord said:

23. Having known your intention, I have already arranged for that very object for which I have been properly worshipped by you, with self-imposed religious observations.

24. Oh Kardama (Lord of Prajās) I My worship performed by persons with their minds concentrated in me is never futile. In case of persons like you, it is not all fruitless.

25. Manu, king of kings, the son of Prajāpati (Brahmā) is well known for his prosperity and righteous conduct. He lives in Brahmāvarta, but rules the whole earth surrounded by seven oceans[10].

26. The sage-king who is well-versed in Dharma will come here day after tomorrow, along with Queen Śatarūpā with the object of seeing you.

27. Oh Kardama, he will offer to you as a worthy bridegroom his daughter of dark eyes, of proper age, character and qualities and of marriageable age.

28. Oh Brāhmaṇa, that princess, of herself, will willingly resort to you (as your wife) in this place where you have spent years in meditation occupied with the desire of having a suitable wife.

29. From you, she will give birth to nine children (lit. she will nine times give birth to your semen borne by her) and sages will soon beget children from your daughters.

30. Having carried out properly my command (for procreation) you, of pure mind, will offer upto me all the fruits of your action and finally attain unto me.

31. Having conferred mercy (on the needy, in the householder’s stage of life) and having offered protection from fear (as a saṃnyāsin—recluse) and being self-controlled, you will realize yourself and the world in me and myself in yourself.

32. Oh great sage, a portion of mine will be born of you as a son from your wife Devahūti. I shall compose a treatise of ultimate truths (the Sāṃkhya Śāstra).

Maitreya said:

33. Having addressed thus, the Lord who manifests himself to senses which are turned inwards, then departed from Bindusaras surrounded by Sarasvatī.

34. While Kardama was looking on, he (Viṣṇu) who had been praised by all prominent Siddhas and was sought after by (all) Siddhas[11] went away, hearing the collection of Stoma hymns sung in Sāma notes, as a result of (the flutterings of) Garuḍa’s wings.

35. On the departure of the pure lustrous God Viṣṇu, the venerable sage Kardama stayed at Bindusaras waiting for the time (of Manu’s arrival).

36. Manu got into his chariot decorated with plates of gold. Along with his wife and daughter he drove over the world.

37. Oh good archer Vidura, on the day which was appointed by Lord Viṣṇu, he arrived at the hermitage of the sage who had completed the vow of celibacy.

38-39. The place where drops of tears fell from the eyes of the Supreme Lord who was overcome with compassion for Kardama who sought him so intensely, that is verily the Bindusara[12] surrounded by the Sarasvatī whose waters are sanctifying, pure, sweet as nectar and resorted to by multitudes of great sages.

40. It is surrounded by holy trees and mass of creepers. It is inhabited by sacred animals and sweetly singing birds. It is beautified by a charming forest rich in fruits and flowers of all seasons.

41. It is vocal with warbling of crowds of joyous birds; is roamed about by (intoxicated) black-bees. It is full of noise by the dancing (and crying) of proud peacocks and the cooing of the joyful cuckoos.

42. It is beautified with trees such as Kadamba, Campaka, Aśoka, Karañja, Bakula, Asana, Kunda, Mandāra, Kuṭaja and young Mango trees.

43. It is resounded with the sweet notes (warblings) of waterbirds like Karaṇḍava, Plava, swans, Kurara, waterfowls, cranes, ruddy-goose and Cakras.

44. It is visited by deer, boars, wild dogs, elephants, monkeys called Gopucchas and other species and musk deer.

45. The ancient king entered the sacred place along with his daughter. He saw the sage sitting after completion of the worship of fire.

46. The sage appeared brilliant as his body had undergone austere penance, but was not ostensibly emaciated (weak) on account of the affectionate glances of the Lord at him and due to hearing the nectarlike lunar rays in the form of Viṣṇu’s words.

47. The sage was tall. His eyes were wide like the petals of a lotus. He had matted hair. He wore bark-garments. He appeared untidy like an unpolished precious stone.

48. Thereupon, the sage, being pleased with the king, who had approached his hermitage paid obeisance to him, greeted him with courteous benedictions and gave him befitting reception.

49. The sage, remembering Lord Viṣṇu’s command spoke these pleasant words in soft and pleasant tones to the king who had accepted the reception, and took his seat modestly.

50. “Your Majesty, you are the protective power of Hari. Your tour is really for the protection of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked.

51. I bow down to you who are (the representative) of Pure Lord Viṣṇu. At appropriate time and place, you discharge the functions of the Sun, the Moon, the Fire, Indra, Vāyu, Yama, Dharma and Varuṇa.

52-54. When you who wield your fierce bow of terrific twang, frightening the enemies, do not go about in your victorious chariot, decked with precious stones making the whole earth quake by the trampling (march) of your army and when (if) you do not move about like the Sun leading a massive army, all the limits, i.e. rules and regulations pertaining to Varṇas and Āśramas which are laid down by Lord Viṣṇu, will be violated by the villains.

55. When you sleep (are slack), unrighteousness will be spread by men who are given to pleasures and are uncontrolled (by principles), and this world will be at the mercy of the miscreants and will meet destruction.

56. Oh Warrior, may I however ask you why you have come here? We shall sincerely be happy to comply with your wishes.”

Footnotes and references:


According to Purāṇic geography the earth consists of seven insular continents, viz., Jambū, Plakṣa, Śālmali, Kuśa, Krauñca, Śāka and Puṣkara (N.L. De—GDAMI p. 178). V.S. Agrawala and D.C. Sircar point out that the Purāṇic concept of seven concentric island-continents is a later development. The original concept was of caturdvīpā Vasumatī, i.e. the earth was like a lotus with Mt. Meru as its Karṇikā (pericarp) and the following island-continents as its petals in the four directions of Meru: (1) Kuru or Uttara Kuru in the north, (2) Jambū or Bhārata in the south, (3) Bhadrāśva in the east and (4) Ketumāla in the west. These have been tentatively identified with (1) northern portion of Asia, north of the Altai mountain, (2) India, (3) China and east Asia and (4) the valley of the Oxus and west Asia. Ancient Buddhist texts support the concept of caturdvīpā Vasumatī.—For details see V.S. Agrawala—MP—A Study, pp. 184- 188. Sircar—SGAMI, pp. 17-26. Baldeva Upadhyaya Purāṇa Vimarśa, PP. 317-330.


kriyā-yoga—(i) Following the prescribed religious duties according to his varṇa and āśrama without selfish motive.—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) Service of the Lord who manifests himself while in meditation.—Subodhinī

(iii) Acts of worship prescribed in the Vedas and the Tantras.—Padaratnāvalī


śābdaṃ brahma—(i) Form known only from the description in the five Upaniṣaḍs and possessing all excellences—Bhāgavata Candrikā (ii) Full of all excellent attributes to be known from Vedic texts.—Padaratnāvalī (iii) Manifesting form full of sat, cit and ānanda—VC.


sattva-rāśi [rāśiḥ]—Reservoir of all that is good and powerful—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā


lokaMarīci and others—VC.


te—(i) It is at your behest that Marīci and others procreate. It is not their fault—VC.

(ii) Your son Brahmā, the creator—Subodhinī


śukla—(i) One who destroys the misery of Saṃsāra and bestows higher bliss—Padaratnāvalī

(ii) This adjective suggests that there will not be any misery from SaṃsāraSubodhinī


VC. regards that both the learned ones in Śāstras and their followers, being devoid of devotion (bhakti) are like beasts. sin in committed in abandoning them.


Most of the commentators follow Bhāvāratha Dīpikā A few different interpretations are noted below:

(i) Oh Lord, by your Māyā you create ahaṃkāra, subtle elements and their special characteristics. Or you create ego whereby we cease to aspire after your place (pada). But I feel that despite my nonliking for your place, you will bless me with it out of your grace. As you have manifested yourself in your miraculous person with Tulasī garland, I believe it is for the grace of attaining your place.—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) Oh Lord, you have adopted the Brahmāṇḍa or Bhūtasūkṣma by your own will (Māyā) without being impelled by any one else. But this is not your essential form described in the Upaniṣads. The Lord is visualised by me as decorated with Tulasī garland, ear-rings etc. This is for showing grace to the devotees.—Padaratnāvalī


Saptārṇava—N.C. De identifies the seven oceans surrounding the earth as follows: (1) Lavaṇa (—the Indian ocean surrounding India—Jambūdvīpa), (2) Kṣīra (Kṣīra is a hyper Sanskritisation of ‘Shirwan’, i.e. the Caspian sea to the north of Śāka dvīpa), (3) Surā (Sanskritisation of the sea of Sarain, i.e. the Caspian sea forming the Southern or South-eastern boundary of Kuśadvīpā), (4) Ghṛta—the Erythraean sea or the Persian gulf, (5) Ikṣu—another name of the river Oxus—the big river taken as a sea, (6) Dadhi—a Sanskritisation of Dahae—the Scythic tribe living on the shore of the sea of Aral. Name of the people transferred to the sea, (7) Svādu—Sanskritisation of Tchadun, a river in Mongolia flowing through Plakṣadvīpa.—N.L. De—GDAMI, p. 179.


Siddha-mārga—Alternatively: the path to VaikuṇṭhaBhāvāratha Dīpikā Dīpinī doubts whether Siddha means Vaikuṇṭha. Bhāgavata Candrikā, Subodhinī derive it: Path that is self-established. Siddhāntapradīpa: The path of knowledge and devotion that has been established.


N.L. De identifies this near Sitpur (Siddhapura in Gujrat) about 64 miles to the north-west of Ahmedabad—GDAMI, pp. 38 and 158.

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