The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Prithu subjugates the Earth 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 Fourth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 17 - Pṛthu subjugates the Earth

Maitreya said:

1. King Pṛthu, the illustrious son of Vena, who was thus eulogised for his excellent attributes and exploits, satisfied those bards by honouring them with gifts as desired by them and by appreciating them.

2. He honoured all the classes of people of whom the Brāhmaṇas were foremost, and also his servants, ministers and family priests, the citizens as well as the rural public, various trade guilds and other prominent subjects.

Vidura asked:

3. Why did the goddess of the earth who can assume multifarious forms assume the form of a cow? When Pṛthu milched her who became the calf and what was the milk-pail?

4. How is it that he levelled the goddess of the earth who was by nature uneven? For what purpose did the god Indra cany off his sacrificial horse?

5. Oh Brāhmaṇa (Maitreya)! To what state did the royal-sage attain after getting initiated in the knowledge of the Brahman and its personal experience[1] from the venerable Sanatkumāra, the best among the knowers of Brahman?

6-7. I am a votary devoted to you as well as to Lord Kṛṣṇa (Adhokṣaja). Your honour should narrate to me many other deeds of Lord Kṛṣṇa of sanctifying glory, connected with the account of his former manifestation as Pṛthu. Kṛṣṇa in the form of Pṛthu has milched this cow in the form of the earth.

Sūta said:

8. When he was thus urged by Vidura to narrate the story of Vāsudeva, Maitreya, who was pleased with him in mind, praised him and replied.

Maitreya said:

9. Dear child (Vidura)! When Pṛthu was coronated and was called as the protector of the public, the subjects with their bodies emaciated with hunger due to barrenness of the earth, approached Pṛthu, the protector and appealed.

10. “Oh King! We are oppressed by the gastric fire just like the wood with fire in its hollow. Today we have approached you for shelter, as you are installed as our king who will provide us with means of livelihood, and are worthy of seeking asylum.

11. Oh King of kings! You are verily the protector of the people and the bestower of the means of livelihood. Therefore, while we have not perished from starvation, Your Majesty should endeavour to supply food to us who are famished with hunger.”

Maitreya said:

12. Oh great Kuru! Having listened to the heart-rending lamentations of his subjects, Pṛthu contemplated deeply for a long time, and at last came to perceive the cause of the scarcity.

13. By his reasoning power he came to the conclusion (that the earth had held up the seeds of herbs, plants and food-grains within herself). Being indignant, he took up his bow and fitted an arrow on it aiming at the earth, just as the enraged destroyer of Tripura (Śiva, did against Tripura).

14. When the earth saw the king with his weapon uplifted, she began to tremble. She assumed the form of a cow and in terror began to run fast like a terrified female deer chased by a hunter.

15. The enraged son of Vena, with eyes blood-red with wrath, and with the arrow fitted to his bow, chased after her whithersoever she ran (for shelter).

16. Running to all the directions (cardinal points) and intermediate directions (e.g. South-east, South-west etc.), to the heaven and the earth and in the space between them, the goddess Earth saw him chasing her everywhere with uplifted weapon.

17. Just as people do not get protection from death, she did not get any asylum in the world against Pṛthu, the son of Vena. Terrified, she returned with a troubled heart.

18. And she spoke to the illustrious king, “Oh Knower of Dharma! you are kind to the afflicted. Determined as your majesty is on the protection of creatures, protect me as well.

19. Such as you are, why do you intend to kill me who am afflicted and innocent? How could a person who is regarded as expert in (the niceties of) Dharma, strike women?

20. Oh King! Beings (people) do not at all strike the females even though they have committed an offence. Much less would persons like you who are merciful and compassionate to the helpless, do so, Oh King.

21. How can you support yourself and these subjects of yours on the surface of (cosmic) waters after destroying me—a strong boat wherein the whole universe is established?”

Pṛthu said:

22. “Oh Earth! I want to kill you as you disobey my commands—You partake of your share in the sacrifices, but you do not yield us wealth.

23. It is not that punishment is disapproved in the case of a wicked cow which every day eats fodder but does not yield milk from her udders.

24. You are dull-witted. You have confined in yourself the seeds of plants etc. created already by god Brahmā. You do not allow them to grow, thus you set me at nought.

25. I shall pacify the afflictions of these subjects who are famished with hunger and are distressed, with your flesh cut down by my arrows.

26. To kill a vile self-conceited fellow—whether a man, a woman or an impotent person—who is merciless to others, is no killing at all, in the case of kings.

27. You are obstinate, arrogant and have assumed a false form of a cow. Having shattered you to sesamum seed like pieces with my arrows, I shall support these subjects by the dint of my Yogic power.”

28. The earth began to tremble. She bowed to him who like the god of death[2] bore a form which was wrath incarnate, and spoke to him with folded hands.

The Earth-goddess said:

29. “I pay my obeisance again and again to the Supreme Man who manifested his various forms by his Māyā (power), and appears to be composed of the (three) guṇas, though (in reality) by the realization of his essential nature; he has been ever free from the waves of love, hate (etc.) born of ahaṃkāra (his false identification) with regard to matter (adhibhūta), action (adhyātma) and the agent (adhidaiva).

30. That Supreme Being, the very Creator who created me as the abode of all jīvas (living beings) and as the support of the four classes of creatures composed of the guṇas of Prakṛti, has come, with uplifted arm, to strike me down! To whom else can I resort now for shelter?

31. He who, at the beginning of creation, created this world of mobiles and immobiles by his supra-logical Māyā Power which rests on him (for support) is said to be now ready to protect it by dint of the same Power. Devoted to righteousness (and its promotion) as he is, how does he desire to kill me?

32. The Almighty, though one, appears as many on account of the other, i.e. the Māyā Power. He created god Brahmā and made him evolve the universe. Alas, the intention of the Lord cannot at all be fathomed by people whose minds are distracted by the invincible Māyā.

33. I bow to the Highest Person, the Creator (of the world) who manifests and withdraws his powers (suitable for the occasion or purpose), and who brings about the creation (preservation and destruction) of the universe by means of his potencies in the form of substance (i.e. five gross elements—mahābhūtas), action (senses and deities presiding over senseorgans), the principle of intelligence (buddhi) and ego (ahaṃkāra).

34. Oh birthless Almighty! It is Your Majesty who as the primeval Boar verily lifted me up from the waters of Rasātala, with the intention of establishing the world created by you and consisting of five gross-elements, sense-organs and the inner organ (the heart).

35. Today that very Boar (the upholder of the earth) has appeared as the hero (Pṛthu) who desires to protect his subjects who have resorted to me as on board a ship on the surface of the waters. Your Majesty whose arrows are terrible, certainly desires to kill me for the sake of milk.

36. Oh Warrior! The intention of sovereign rulers (like you) is certainly not comprehended by people like us, whose paths of minds are deluded by the Māyā which creates the universe consisting of three guṇas. I pay my respects to those kings who bring glories to all.”

Footnotes and references:


Jñānaṃ savijñānam—In B.G. III.41, Śaṅkara explains jñāna as ‘knowledge of the self and other things acquired from the scriptures and the teachers’ and vijñāna as ‘the personal experience—anubhava of things so taught’.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā explains that the body of the god of death is not made of anger.

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