The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Prithu initiated by Vishnu which is chapter 20 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 twentieth chapter of the Fourth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 20 - Pṛthu initiated by Viṣṇu

Maitreya continued:

1. Even the glorious Lord Vaikuṇṭha (Viṣṇu), the all- pervasive Master and Enjoyer of sacrifices, was highly pleased with sacrifices (performed by Pṛthu). (Manifesting himself) along with Indra, he addressed Pṛthu as follows:

The Lord said:

2. This (Indra) has verily caused obstruction to your hundredth sacrifice. (As) he is begging apology for the same, you should (now) pardon him.

3. Oh King! The best ones among men who are highly intelligent and righteous, cherish no ill-will against creatures (even though) they have offended them, inasmuch as the physical body (so offended) is not the Soul (Hence the irrelevance of retaliation).

4. If persons like you are deluded by divine Māyā, service of elderly people (rendered by you) for a long period, has turned out to be mere fruitless labour.

5. A wise man who has realised that this body is the product of avidyā (ignorance about the real nature of the Self), kāma (desire) and karma (actions of the previous life), cherishes no attachment for it.

6. What wise man who has no attachment to his body will cherish a feeling of mineness to house, offspring or even wealth produced by the body?

7.[1] The Self (ātman) is a changeless one, pure, self- luminous, free from guṇas, the substratum of the attributes (of knowledge, bliss etc.), omnipresent (and hence) unveiled by anything, (a detached) witness, and possessing no other Soul,[2] and distinct from the body[3] (which, in contrast with the Soul, changes with childhood, youth and age; is impure, unintelligent; is constituted of guṇas and dependent on guṇas which produce it; is limited, covered over by houses etc., and is an object of sight; and possesses a Soul distinct from it).

8. The man who thus knows the Soul abiding in him, is established in me. Though he dwells within (the domain of) Prakṛti, he is not affected by its attributes.

9. Oh King! He who, possessed of deep faith (in me) and with no desire of any fruit, always worships me according to his prescribed religious duties (according to his Varṇa and āśrama) gets his mind gradually purified.

10. When he gets serenity of mind, he becomes unassociated with guṇas (worldly objects), and attains pure vision (true knowledge). He enjoys eternal peace, and the absolute Brahmahood which is a state of unconcernedness and equipoise like me.

11. He who realizes this Supreme unchangeable Soul to be quite unconcerned though presiding over the material body, the sense organs of cognition and action and the mind, attains the highest bliss.[4]

12. Saṃsāra (cycle of birth and death) which is a product of the guṇas (of Prakṛti) pertains to the liṅga śarīra (subtle body) which consists of subtle elements, subtle conative and cognitive sense-organs and their presiding deities and the mind—the reflection of ātman. That body is distinct from the Soul. Learned persons who are deeply attached to me are not affected by pleasure or pain, while experiencing prosperity or adversity.

13. Oh valiant King! Being equally undisturbed by pleasure or pain, looking upon the excellent, the middling and the vilest as equals, and having subdued all the sense-organs and the mind, you carry out the duty of protection of all the world with the cooperation of all the people (ministers etc.) appointed by me.

14. Protection of the subjects is the only way to the final beatitude in the case of a king, as he obtains in the next world one sixth of the meritorious acts performed by his subjects. But if he collects only taxes and does not protect his subjects he loses his own merits and becomes responsible for the sins of his subjects.

15. (Considering this), if you are mainly devoted to the righteous duty (dharma) as approved by the foremost Brāhmaṇas and handed down by tradition and if you are completely detached from (the puruṣārthas like) dharma (artha and kāma) you will protect this earth and will be their beloved king. In a short while, you will see Siddhas (like Sanaka, Sanandana) who will come to visit you.

16. Oh ruler of men! Ask for whatever boon you like from me. I am bound to you on account of your virtues and character. I am not easily available by the performance of sacrifices, austere penances or by Yoga, as by nature I like to dwell with those who are even-minded and look upon all as equals.”

Maitreya said:

17. Thus advised by the All-pervading god Viṣṇu, the preceptor and the Lord of the universe, Pṛthu, the conqueror of the world respectfully received Hari’s command with his head.

18. He affectionately embraced Indra (the performer of hundred sacrifices) who, being ashamed of his own act, was touching his (Pṛthu’s) feet (to beg his pardon), and gave up enmity with Indra.

19. Thereupon the venerable Lord (Viṣṇu), the Soul of the universe, was offered worship by Pṛthu who clasped his lotus-like feet with overflowing devotion.

20. The god whose eyes were like petals of lotus and who is a well-wisher and friend of pious saints, was about to leave. But looking at him (Pṛthu), he lingered on to confer his grace, and did not depart.

21. The first monarch (Pṛthu) could not see Hari as his eyes were full of tears. Nor could he speak as his throat was choked with tears. With folded hands he stood, embracing Hari in his heart.

22. Then wiping out his tears, he beheld with unsatisfied eyes the Supreme Man who stood before him touching the ground with his feet[5] and placing His palm on the elevated shoulder of Garuḍa (the enemy of serpents). Pṛthu spoke to him (as follows).

Pṛthu said:

23. Oh Omnipresent Lord! From you—the Supreme Lord of gods like Brahmā who can confer boons on others—what wise man would seek for boons craved after by persons dominated by ego (ahaṃkāra), the product of guṇas (or enjoyable to those who regard the material body as Self). Oh bestower of Mokṣa (Liberation), I do not seek them as they are available even to embodied beings in Hell, Oh Lord.

24. Oh Lord! I do not desire even that Mokṣa (final beatitude) (if there be no opportunity to taste) the honey from your lotus-feet, which surges from within hearts of great saints and oozes out of their mouths. Bless me with ten thousand ears for hearing your glory. This is the boon (I seek).

25. Oh Lord of excellent fame! The breath laden with small drops of the nectar of your lotus-like feet which issues from the mouth of great saints, restores the knowledge of the Self to false Yogins who have forgotten the Path of Truth. Hence enough of boons to us (as there is absolutely no possibility of us—devotees being affected by passions like love, hate etc. Bhakti comprises within it the bliss of liberation).

26. Oh Lord of excellent renown! If, by a lucky chance, one happens to listen even once, to your auspicious glory in the assembly of noble saints, how can an appreciates of virtues forget it—unless he is a brute. For the goddess Lakṣmī earnestly seeks your glory with a desire of assimilating those virtues (or concentrating in her all puruṣārthas or objectives of man’s life).

27. Hence, being full of ardent desire, I would, like Lakṣmī (the lotus-handed goddess) be eagerly devoted to you, the Supreme most Person, the receptacle of all excellent attributes. May there be no jealousy[6] between us who are vieing [vying?] with each other for the service of one and the same Lord, and have concentrated our minds on your feet alone.

28.[7] Oh Lord of the World! There may arise jealousy in the mind of Lakṣmī, the mother of the worlds, as we have a desire to share her work (of rendering service to you). However you who are compassionate to the poor and distressed, magnify (the value of) our insignificant services. Of what account (importance) is she (Lakṣmī) to you who are satisfied in your own natural Self.

29. (As you are kind to the poor and pitiable) pious persons (who are free from attachment) resort to you (even after attainment of knowledge). You are above the deluding effects of the guṇas of Māyā.[8] We do not know whether the righteous souls cherish any ulterior motive other than the act of remembrance and contemplation of the feet of the Lord.

30. That you addressed the words, “Seek a boon” to me who am your devotee, your words are, I think, deluding to the world. If the world is not bound by the cords of Your speech (Vedic injunctions) who could be so deluded again as to perform the usual (ritualistic) actions.

31.[9] Oh Supreme Lord! An ignorant[10] man is indeed separated from you—his real Self—by your Māyā. Hence he covets after something else (like artha, kāma etc.). Just as a father, of his own accord (without being requested by the child to look after his interests), looks after the good of his child, you yourself also should do what is good for us.

Maitreya said[11]:

32. The Omniscient Lord who was thus eulogised by Pṛthu, (the first monarch of the earth) said, “Oh King! May your devotion in me remain (constant). Fortunately, you have such a (firmly devoted) mind towards me, as would enable one to get over my Māyā which is so difficult to cross.

33. Therefore, Oh Protector of the People, you carry out my commands carefully. People who abide by my commands are blessed with happiness here and hereafter.”

Maitreya said:

34. Having thus gladly received the deeply significant compliments of the royal sage Pṛthu (the son of Vena), and being worshipped by him, Acyuta (the imperishable Lord) blessed him (with his grace) and thought of departing.

35-36. Gods, sages, manes (Pitṛs), Gandharvas, Siddhas, Cāraṇas, Serpents, Kinnaras, Apsaras, men, birds and various creatures and the attendants and followers of Viṣṇu were regarded as Viṣṇu (The Lord of Sacrifices) and were honoured with devotion by respectful address, donation of wealth, folding of palms by the king—after which they departed.

37. Carrying away (as it were) the mind of the royal sage as well as that of his preceptor, Lord Acyuta (Viṣṇu) also returned to his own abode (Vaikuṇṭha).

38. Having paid obeisance to the Lord, the god of gods, who though unmanifest by his nature, (out of grace) revealed himself to Pṛthu and became invisible again, Pṛthu returned to his capital.

Footnotes and references:


Bālaprabodhini draws a clear contrast between Self (ātman) and the body in his comentary as follows;

This Soul is different and distinct from the physical body. The Soul is one while bodies are many. The Soul is pure while the body being composed of five elements (bhūtas) is impure. The Soul is self-effulgent, self-luminous, while the body is dull, dead. The Soul is beyond guṇas but the body is the product of guṇas and hence dependent on them. The Soul is the substratum of guṇas. The Soul is all-pervasive while the body is limited (by spatio-temporal relations). Due to its all-pervasiveness the Soul is uncovered while the body being of limited dimensions can be covered with dress. The Soul being consciousness by nature and witness to all, is a seer, but the body being a dead material is subject to perception. The Soul is void of another Soul, mind (inner organ), while the body is the receptacle of the Soul. In this way the knowledge of the identity of jīva (individual Soul) and Īśvara (God)—knowledge which is a means to liberation is explained.

(2) Bhāgavata Candrikā explains the concept of Soul held in the Viśiṣṭādvaita School:

The Soul which resides in different types of celestial human or subhuman bodies is one, due to his inherent knowledge which is one (common). He is pure while the body is filthy. He is self-luminous, free from qualities like love, hate, the Seat (substratum) of attributes like knowledge, bliss. Though he is atomic he is all-pervasive due to his knowledge of dharma etc. He is not covered by environments such as house, dress etc. He is a direct seer (of his own body, sense-organs) but the body is an object of perception possessing qualities like love, hate, coverable (by clothes etc.). The Soul enters the body and sustains it and while the body is the object to be so sustained. Hence it is distinct from the body.


nirātmā—Having no controller superior to him.—Padaratnāvalī


anātmanaḥ paraḥ—Superior to and distinct from jīvas who are devoid of good attributes—Padaratnāvalī


v.l. abhayam [abhaya]—Liberation (Mokṣa).


Normally gods do not touch the earth with their feet. This action of Hari indicates that he was so overwhelmed to shower his grace on Pṛthu that he forgot himself and touched the ground with his feet—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā


As there was between Indra and myself for the performance of sacrifices—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā


(i) Bhāgavata Candrikā gives an additional interpretation:

Oh Lord of the world! The fruit of sacred duties like sacrifices bestowed on us by Prakṛti the mother of the universe is unimportant and disastrous as it leads to Saṃsāra. But you are so magnanimous and kind to the poor and distressed that you do not see any wrong in it and you elevate that insignificant act of sacrifice yielding ordinary commonplace fruit to the dignity of the means leading to Mokṣa (Liberation). For such commonplace fruits are trifles to one who is satisfied in one’s natural Self.

(ii) Padaratnāvalī differs. The gist is as follows:

The danger that there would arise a quarrel between Pṛthu and Lakṣmī (as is natural in common rivals) is not possible as both of them were devotees of the Lord:

Oh Lord of the universe! There will be naturally an injurious rivalry among persons under ordinary kings. But there is no cause for such rivalry amongst us (Lakṣmī and myself). In our actions, viz. your worship, what we do is very little. You magnify it as you are compassionate to the poor. Conferring blessings even for a small act does not however mean that you change an atom-like insignificant act into a mountain.

(iii) VC. regards this a characteristic of a warrior-devotee. I shall face opposition with mother Lakṣmī. We desire to perform her work, viz. service of your feet. Let her rest on your bosom. As a son, I shall serve your feet. I am not afraid that Lakṣmī, as compared with me, is more ancient and great. But as you are kind to the weak and meek, you magnify our insignificant service. As I am confident of my power, I am not concerned with Lakṣmī’s pleasure or displeasure.


From the minds of your devotees, you dispel the delusion caused by the guṇas of Māyā.—Bhāgavata Candrikā and Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa


(i) Bhāgavata Candrikā: Being deluded by your Māyā, a person becomes devoid of true knowledge. If such ignorant person fortunately adores you and requests you for artha, kāma etc.—objects other than you,—he remains separate from you. This means, Oh Lord, you have compromised your own greatness. Just as a father guards the interests of his minor and ignorant child, you should do what is good for him (even without his request to do so).

(ii) VC.: You should not test your devotee by asking him to select a boon, for people are likely to select other material things. You should therefore, yourself do what is good for us according to you.

(iii) Bālaprabodhini: Oh Lord! This ignorant person is separated from your real Self by your powerful Māyā. Hence he seeks from you son’s property and other things. You further entice him by telling him to choose a boon, just as a father etc.


abudhaḥ [abudha]: If the word be taken as budhaḥ [budha] the verse means: It is indeed by your Māyā that man is separated from you, his real Self. Hence even though he be wise or learned, he longs for other things (such as sons etc.).


Verses 32 and 33 are not commented by Bhāvāratha Dīpikā but are annotated by Bhāgavata Candrikā, Bālaprabodhini and others.

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