The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Prithu’s Horse-sacrifices and Conflict with Indra 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 Fourth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 19 - Pṛthu’s Horse-sacrifices and Conflict with Indra

Maitreya said:

1. The king (Pṛthu), thereupon, consecrated himself with the intention of performing one hundred horse-sacrifices at Brahmāvarta, the land of Manu, where the Sarasvatī flows towards the east.

2. Anticipating that Pṛthu would excel his record performance of sacrifices, glorious Indra grew jealous of Pṛthu’s grand festival of sacrifices.

3. In that festival of sacrifices, the glorious Lord Hari; the Soul of all beings, the revered father of all the world, and the ruler of the universe, was perceived directly as the Lord of the sacrifices by all.

4. He was accompanied by Brahmā, Śiva and protectors of the world along with their followers. His glories were being sung by Gandharvas (celestial musicians), sages and troupes of Apsaras (heavenly nymphs).

5-6. Semidivine beings like Siddhas and Vidyādharas, Daityas, Dānavas, Guhyakas and others and Lord Hari’s prominent attendants headed by Sunanda and Nanda, Kapila, Nārada, Datta and the great masters of Yoga like Sanaka and others—all devotees of the Lord who were eager to serve the Lord, accompanied him.

7. Oh descendant of Bharata (Vidura)! In that sacrifice the earth which supplies the materials for oblations in the sacrifice acted as a wish-yielding heavenly cow, and gave as milk, all the objects desired and required by the sacrificer Pṛthu.

8. The rivers flowed flooded with all kinds of sweet juices like those of sugarcane, grapes etc. as well as with milk, curds, food, ghee and butter-milk. Trees of gigantic dimensions which oozed out plentiful honey bore fruits abundantly.

9. The oceans brought to him heaps of precious stones as tributes; mountains, four kinds of food; all people along with their protectors[1] paid tributes to him,

10. The mighty Indra grew jealous of this great prosperity of Pṛthu who regarded god Viṣṇu as his Master, and created obstacles in his way (to sabotage his scheme of hundred horse-sacrifices).

11. While Pṛthu, the son of Vena, was propitiating Viṣṇu, the Lord of Sacrifices, with the last (hundredth) horsesacrifice, the jealous Indra carried away the sacrificial horse, himself remaining invisible.

12. The venerable sage Atri noticed him hurrying through the sky in the disguise of a heretic who mistakes unrighteousness for righteousness and the guise served him like an armour.

13. As directed by Atri, the son of Pṛthu, who was a great warrior, pursued Indra to kill him, and shouted to him in rage “Halt! Halt”.

14. Seeing Indra in that sage-like form with matted hair and body besmeared with sacred ashes, the son of Pṛthu thought him to be Dharma (piousness, religion) incarnate, and did not (feel disposed to) shoot an arrow at him.

15. When the Prince returned without killing Indra, Atri urged him again to slay him, saying, “Oh child, kill this great Indra, who is the meanest of gods as he had obstructed your father’s sacrifice”.

16. Thus incited (by Atri), the son of Pṛthu, got furious and chased Indra who was fleeing through the sky as Jaṭāyu[2] (the king of vultures) pursued Rāvaṇa.

17. The King of the Heaven (Indra) gave up his own form and the sacrificial horse and disappeared. Taking with him his own sacrificial horse, the hero (Pṛthu’s son) returned to (the place of) his father’s sacrifice.

18. Witnessing his miraculous deed, the great sages conferred on him the (significant) epithet Vijitāśva (conqueror of the horse), Oh Lord (Vidura)!

19. The mighty Indra created very thick darkness under the cover of which he stole again the horse tied with a gold chain from the sacrificial post with the circular wooden ring called caṣāla on its top.

20. Atri (again) pointed out Indra hurrying through the sky. But the warrior (Pṛthu’s son) did not molest him as he was carrying a human skull and Khaṭvāṅga (a club with a skull at the top) in his hands (like a Kāpālaka).

21. Being urged by Atri, however, he indignantly fixed an arrow (on the bow) aiming it at Indra. The king of heaven (Indra) gave up the sacrificial horse, and his guise (as Kāpālika) and stayed invisible.

22. Taking the horse with him, the hero (Pṛthu’s son) returned to (the place of) his father’s sacrifice, while people of poor understanding accepted the censurable guise assumed (and left) by Indra.

23. Whatever forms were assumed by Indra with the intention of carrying away the consecrated horse, were the marks of sins. Here the word khaṇḍa is used in the sense of “mark”.

24-25. In this way while carrying away the horse with the intention of interrupting Pṛthu’s sacrifice, Indra assumed and abandoned deceitful disguise of nude ascetics (Digambara Jainas), red-robed ascetics (Buddhists) and others (such as Kāpālakas). Minds of men, through their misapprehension (of the true teachings of the Vedas), are generally attracted to these pseudo-religious sects as the true religion, as they are charmingly presented with excellent eloquence.

26. When the illustrious king Pṛthu of great prowess learnt this, he got infuriated. He took up his bow and aimed an arrow at Indra.

27. Finding that Pṛthu was determined to kill Indra and appeared of irresistible vehemence and terrible to look at, the sacrificial priests prevented him urging, “Oh highly intelligent and wise king, it is not proper to kill anything else here (at the sacrifice) except the consecrated beast (as enjoined by Vedas).

28. By the force of Vedic incantation of undiminished power, we shall now invoke (and forcibly bring) Indra, the Lord of Maruts who has interrupted your object (of performing this sacrifice) and has lost his glory by your high reputation. Oh King, we shall then forcibly offer your enemy as an oblation to fire.”

29. Oh Vidura! Having thus addressed Pṛthu, the master of the sacrifice, his sacrificial priests, with the ladle (Śruc) in their hands, indignantly proceeded to pour oblations in the sacrificial fire, when the self-born god Brahmā appeared and prevented them (from doing so saying).

30. “Indra whom you wish to kill by means of the sacrifice, should not be killed. For Indra designated as Yajña is the manifestation of the Almighty Lord (himself), and gods whom you offered oblations are (mere) forms of Indra.”

31. Oh Brāhmaṇas! consider this great violation of Dharma (leading to propagation of heretic sects) perpetrated by Indra who desires to interrupt the king’s performance of the sacrifice. (He may again encourage heretic doctrines to the detriment of the world.)

32. Therefore may Pṛthu who has performed ninety-nine sacrifices be more famous than Indra” (Brahmā then addressed to Pṛthu): “As Your honour knows the path leading to Liberation, the sacrifices which you have so magnificently performed are enough.

33. May you be blessed (despite the non-completion of this sacrifice). Both you and Indra are the embodiments of Viṣṇu of excellent renown. Hence, it is not proper to cherish anger against the great Indra who is your own self.

34. Oh great king! Please do not worry about this (interruption or non-completion of the sacrifice). Listen to our words with respectful attention. The mind of the person who contemplates to accomplish what has been frustrated by the Fate, certainly gets extremely infuriated and enters blinding darkness of delusion[3] (and does not get peace).

35. Let this sacrifice be stopped now for there is obstinacy in gods.[4] It is here (due to this sacrifice) that Dharma was violated by heretics created by Indra.

36. Have a look at these people who are being enticed away by attractive heretical doctrines propagated by Indra who maliciously plotted against your sacrifice and stole away the sacrificial horse.

37. Oh son of Vena! You are a part of Viṣṇu incarnated on this earth now from Vena’s body to protect the religion[5] of the people suitable to the present times—religion that declined by the misdeeds of Vena.

38.[6] Oh sovereign ruler of the people! Such a ray of Viṣṇu as you are, you consider the origination of the universe[7] and fulfil the purpose of the proginators of the world (like Bhṛgu and others who created you.) Oh Lord! destroy the formidable heretic path—the illusion created by Indra which is the source of pseudo-religious sects”.

Maitreya said:

39. Being thus advised by Brahmā, the creator of the world gave up his iṇsistance on the performance of the hundredth sacrifice, adopted a friendly policy to Indra, and made peace with him.

40. Those gods who were propitiated in the sacrifice and were disposed to confer blessings bestowed boons upon Pṛthu who had performed many auspicious deeds including the concluding ablution (avabhṛtha) at the end of the sacrificial session.

41. Oh Vidura! The Brāhmaṇas whose blessings were efficacious, and who were faithfully paid the sacrificial money and honoured, became satisfied and pronounced their blessings on the first monarch (Pṛthu).

42. Oh mighty-armed king! All the manes (Pitṛs), gods and sages who were invited by you, have attended and have been worshipped by you paying proper respects and gifts.”

Footnotes and references:


lokapālāḥ [lokapāla]—Protectors of the world like Indra—Bālaprabodhini


Jaṭāyu—A son of Aruṇa and Gṛdhrī; king of vultures and younger brother of Sampāti. He tried to prevent the abduction of Sītā by Rāvaṇa, and was killed by Rāvaṇa’s treachery. His funeral was performed by Rāma.


v.l. mano'ti-kaṣṭam: The mind falls into the darkest hell. This suggests both the reason and undesirable consequences of such attempts against the gods.—Padaratnāvalī


You should give up your prejudice against gods, for the gods, if enraged, will obstruct rainfall and famine will devastate the land.—Padaratnāvalī


Religious tenets based on Vedas and orthodox philosophic systems like Sāṃkhya, Yoga etc.—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā


Padaratnāvalī differs: As you have incarnated yourself for the protection of religion, you should consider that your performance of the intended hundredth sacrifice will be an insult to Indra (Prajāpati) and as such you should not perform it. You should completely fulfil the desire of Indra that you should not complete the hundredth horse-sacrifice. Taking into account the all-round auspicious effects of not opposing Indra’s will, you obey the desire of the creator of the universe (viz. myself) that you should perform only ninety-nine sacrifices. By this sacrifice or religious conduct you should destroy the formidable heretic path which is the illusion created by Indra—a source of pseudo-religious creeds.


VC. and Siddhāntapradīpa interpret bhava as the ‘good’ of the universe.

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