The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Puranjana’s Rebirth as a Woman and Attainment of Liberation which is chapter 28 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-eighth chapter of the Fourth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 28 - Purañjana’s Rebirth as a Woman and Attainment of Liberation

Nārada said:

1. Oh King Barhiṣman (Prācīnabarhis)! Those soldiers of king Bhaya (i.e. diseases) who were the agents of fate, roamed over this earth accompanied by Prajvāra and the daughter of Kāla.

2. And all of a sudden, they swooped on the city of Purañjana on the D-day (on a certain day) and besieged the city, rich in earthly enjoyments, and guarded by the old serpent (i.e. the Prāṇa in old age whose physical activities became sluggish).

3. The daughter of Kāla also enjoyed perforce the city of Purañjana. Whatever man was overpowered by her, would at once become powerless.

4. The Yavanas (i.e. diseases) entered the city through all the gates from all directions and excessively ravished it, while it was being enjoyed by her (the body of the jīva is battered by repeated attacks of various diseases).

5. The city being (thus) devastated, Purañjana who identified himself with it as his own Self, and whose mind was troubled by his sense of mine-ness for his family (viz. intelligence, the mind, sense-organs etc.) underwent agonies of various kinds.

6. Clasped in the arms of the daughter of Kāla, bereft of his splendour and affluence, the wretched Purañjana whose mind was engrossed in sense-pleasure, lost his power of judgment and was forcibly deprived of his powers (viz. of making physical movements) by Gandharvas and Yavanas.

7. He saw that his capital city was completely razed and found that his sons, grandsons, attendants and ministers were antagonistic and disrespectful to him and his wife had lost love for him.

8. He found that he was in the clutches of the daughter (of Kāla) and that the Pañcālas were infested with enemies. He was lost in boundless anxiety and could not find any remedy against it.

9. The miserable king still hankered after the pleasures which were made stale (due to dyspepsia etc.) by the daughter of Kāla. He lost his affection for his son etc. here and his spiritual position hereafter, and continued in fondling his wife and sons.

10. Very reluctantly did the king proceed to abandon the city which was over-run by Gandharvas and Yavanas and was ravaged by the daughter of Kāla.

11. (At that time) there arrived Prajvāra (i.e. the high fatal fever) the elder brother of Bhaya (the chief of Yavanas). With a desire to render service to his brother, Prajvāra burnt down the entire city. (This indicates high temperature of the body).

12. When the city was aflame, the head of the family (Purañjana) along with his wife, children, dependents and citizens was greatly tormented.

13. When the city was occupied by the daughter of Kāla and his own home was surrounded by Yavanas, the guard of the city was greatly distressed when he was attacked by Prajvāra. (When the aged man is about to die, his body is in grip of diseases and the jīva is tormented every moment.)

14. When the serpent Prajāgara was not able to defend the city any longer there, he was violently trembling with severe agonies and he wished to escape from it (like a serpent) from the hollow of a tree ablaze with fire.

15. Oh King! When his limbs became weak and disabled and his prowess was thwarted by Gandharvas and he was surrounded by the inimical Yavanas, he verily wept bitterly.

16. 17. The householder (Purañjana) entertained a false notion about his house etc. When the time of separation from his wife arrived, he became very miserable. Possessed with egotism and a false sense of mine-ness about his daughters, sons, grandsons, daughters-in-law. sons-in-law, attendants and whatever (little) remained of his house, treasures and belongings, he thought:

18. “When I have departed to the next world, how will this mistress of the family, being bereaved of her lord and lamenting for the children, carry on her life?

19. She is so devoted to me that she does not eat food until I have taken mine; nor does she take her bath till I have bathed. She gets terribly afraid, when I am angry; when reproached by me, she keeps quiet through fear.

20. When I become thoughtless, she brings me round (lit. wakens me) to the proper path. When I proceed on a long journey, she becomes emaciated through grief. True, she is the mother of heroic children. But how will she desire to carry on the householder’s life (without me)—she will certainly die.

21. How can my miserable sons or supportless daughters possibly live when I am gone, as they are like unto passengers on a boat broken in the midst of the sea.”

22. While he was thus lamenting like a mean-minded fellow which was unbecoming to him (as he was really the Brahman himself, the Yavana king called Bhaya with a determination to capture him, drew near him.

23.[1] When he was being dragged like a beast to his (destined) place by the Yavanas, his followers being extremely grieved, over-anxious and afflicted ran after him.

24. When the serpent which was blocked (by the Yavanas) escaped from the city to join (his master Purañjana) the city was completely razed and reduced to its elements.

25. Though Purañjana was forcibly dragged by the powerful Yavana, he was so much overpowered with tamas (ignorance) that he did not remember (Avijñāta) who was his former well-wisher and companion.

26. The sacrificial beasts which were ruthlessly slaughtered by him, remembered his cruelty and getting enraged cut him down with axes (or axe-like sharp horns).

27. He sank in bottomless darkness (hell). He lost his memory. Due to his sinful contacts with women, he suffered unbounded afflictions for eternal years.

28.[2] As he brooded over that very (virtuous) wife at the time of death, he was born later as a most beautiful damsel, the princess of (the pious king) Rājasiṃha of Vidarbha.

29.[3] The Pāṇḍya king, Malayadhvaja, the conqueror of the cities of enemies, vanquished other kings in the battle and married the princess of Vidarbha who was offered as prize for bravery.

30.[4] He begot from her one daughter of dark-blue eyes, and seven sons younger to her who became the kings of Draviḍa countries.

31. Oh King, each one of them had hundred million sons, whose descendants will enjoy this earth for one Manvantara and more.

32. Agastya married the first-born daughter who was constant in observance of vows.[5] Through her was born Dṛḍhacyuta who had sage Idhmavāha as his son.

33. The royal sage Malayaḍhvaja distributed the land, among his sons. With a desire to propitiate Lord Kṛṣṇa he retired to the Kulācala mountain, viz., Malaya.

34. The Princess of Vidarbha with bewitching eyes abandoned her palaces, sons and pleasures and ran after the Pāṇḍya king (Malayadhvaja) like the moonlight following the Moon.

35. There flow three rivers viz., Candravasā, Tāmraparṇī and Vaṭodakā in that region. Every day he washed off both his internal (mental) and external (bodily) impurities with the holy waters of the rivers.

36. He performed austere penance by subsisting on bulbous roots, seeds, roots, fruits, flowers, leaves, blades of grass and water. (Thereby) his body got gradually emaciated.

37. He conquered the pairs of opposites like cold and heat, wind and rain, hunger and thirst, agreeable and disagreeable, pleasure and pain, viewing them with equanimity of mind.

38. He burnt down his passions by austerities and knowledge. He conquered his senses, breath (Prāṇa) and mind by observing religious vows and rules of self-discipline called Yama and Niyama. He reflected over the identity of his Soul with Brahman (lit. He united his Soul with Brahman).

39. He sat motionless like a post at one and the same spot for a period of a hundred celestial years. As he bore intense love and devotion to Lord Vāsudeva, he ceased to be conscious of anything else (even of his body).

40.[6] He realised within himself, the Self as pervading (and illumining) his own body and mental activities and being distinct and different from them. Just as in a dream, one is witness to (and is therefore different from) mental activities (for example the scene of oneself being beheaded in the dream). And hence he verily ceased to participate (in any activities).

41-42.[7] Oh King! By the light of pure knowledge which radiates its light in all directions—knowledge which was imparted to him by venerable Hari as his preceptor—he realized himself as within (i.e. identical with) the Supreme Brahman and the Supreme Brahman within himself that way. Ultimately he lost this consciousness (of identity) and (like a fire, fuel of which is burnt down) he automatically ceased to belong to saṃsāra (i.e. became liberated).

43. Oh King! At that time the Princess of Vidarbha (Malayadhvaja’s queen) who looked upon her husband as a god. renounced all pleasures and affectionately waited upon her husband Malayadhvaja, the knower of the highest form of religion.

44. Clad in dark garments, emaciated by observance of vows and with her hair on the head matted, she appeared in the company of her husband like a smokeless flame near flameless fire (of live charcoals).

45. Not being aware of the expiry of her beloved-most husband who was firm in his sitting posture (even after death), the lady approached him and waited upon him as before.

46. When, while serving the feet of her husband she did not feel any warmth, therein she got terrified in her heart like a doe which has strayed away from her herd.

47. Finding herself miserable and friendless, she was overcome with grief and lamented (her fate). Bathing her breasts in tears, she wept loudly in the jungle.

48. “Arise, Oh royal sage, arise. You should protect the earth engirdled with seas, as she is afraid of robbers and apostate and wicked Kṣatriyas

49. Lamenting thus loudly, the lady who followed her husband to the forest, fell at his feet wailing and shedding profuse tears.

50. She piled up a funeral pyre of fuel. Placing her husband’s body on it, she set it on fire. Weeping (all the while) she determined to follow him in death (by burning herself along with his body).

51. (At that time) there appeared an old friend of hers, a Brāhmaṇa who had mastered his Self. Soothing the lady with sweet consoling words, he spoke to the weeping lady (as follows):

The Brāhmaṇa said:

52. Who are you? Whose (daughter) are you? Who is this man lying down for whom you are weeping? Don’t you recognize me as your friend with whom you used to roam about formerly (before the creation of the universe)?

53. Friend! (Even if you do not recognize me) do you remember yourself as having a friend called Avijñāta and that you being given to earthly pleasures, left me in search of some place.

54.[8] Oh noble Sir I You and I were swans, friends, living in the Mānasa lake. For a period of one thousand years (while the great deluge lasted), both of us were without any abode.

55. Oh brother? You whose original nature was that, left me and with your heart set on carnal pleasures, you went down to the earth. While roaming there, you saw a place built by a certain woman (Māyā).

56. It was provided with five gardens, nine gates, one guard, three surrounding walls, six families (of merchants), five market places. It was constructed with five materials, and was ruled by a woman.

57. The gardens are the objects of senses; the nine gates are the openings (viz. two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, the penis and anus) for Prāṇa (who alone works as a guard). Fire, water and food are the surrounding walls, and the group of five sense organs and the mind are the families (of merchants).

58. The market places were the five conative organs; the five elements constituted the imperishable materials and the power i.e. Intelligence was the ruler. Under her dominance the man who enters this abode loses his Self consciousness in deep sleep.

59. Being overcome with (the charms of) the woman there, you enjoyed yourself in her company and forgot the memory of the previously known fact (your original status of being the Brahman). It is due to your association with her that you have been reduced to this wretched condition, Oh Lord.

60. You are not the daughter of the king of Vidarbha. Nor is this warrior your friend. Nor are you the husband of Purāñjanī by whom you were interned in the city of nine gates.

61. It is really the illusion created by me that you regard the man (Purañjana in the previous birth) as the virtuous woman—(Vaidarbhī in this birth). You are neither. We are haṃsas (pure spirits). Please see (realize) our real nature (course).

62. I am identical with you. You are not other than me. Please note that you and I are one. Wise men never see even the slightest difference or distinction between us.

63. Just as a man finds his one Self as divided in two in (his reflection in) the mirror and in the pupils of eyes, similar is the difference between us two.

64. In this way, the haṃsa (swan) from the Mānasa lake i.e. Jīva who was awakened (was made to realize his original state) by his fellow swan, became established in his own real nature. He regained the memory of his original nature which was lost due to his separation from him.

65. Oh Barhiṣman! This knowledge about the Self has been explained to you in an indirect manner; for the venerable Lord, the creator of the universe, likes to remain beyond the ken of senses.

Footnotes and references:


When the jīva is being taken to his next birth predetermined by his karmas, his subtle-senses etc. follow him—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, Bhāgavata Candrikā

Cf. tam ut-krāmantam prāṇo nūtkrāmati prāṇam anūtkrāmantaṃ sarve prāṇā anūtkrā?mantiBṛhad. Up. 4.4.2.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā and Bhāgavata Candrikā explain that brooding over a woman at the time of death results in birth as a woman. Purañjana thought of his virtuous wife at the time of his death and due to his good merits he was born in the pious family of Rājasiṃha of Vidarbha and got married to Malayadhvaja, a devotee of Viṣṇu. Both explain the pun on Vidarbha.

This allegory is explained differently by different commentators:


(i) Purañjana was thus associated with a great devotee of Viṣṇu. For Malayadhvaja signifies an eminent votary in the southern country—Malaya—famous for Vaiṣṇavism. Pāṇḍya means one who deserves Paṇḍā—intellect capable of deciding the truth.—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) Malayadhvaja—one whose mind has attained serenity etc. by service of Hari. By means of yama, niyama he defeated and subdued his passionate senses (the inimical kings). He is Pāṇḍya—one endowed with discriminatory intelligence. Para-purañjaya—conquerors of viṣayas or objects of senses. Vaidarbhī—keen intellect. Purañjana and Purañjanī brooded over each other at the time of their death and were born as Pramadottamā and Malayadhvaja—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) Siddhāntapradīpa: Malayadhvaja—famous in Bhāratavarṣa.

Para-Purañjayaḥ [Purañjaya]—One who conquers, i.e. attains to Vaikuṇṭha.

Vīrya-paṇā [paṇām]—One available by good merits.

Jīva who was infatuated with Buddhi (Intelligence) changed one body after another, once upon a time finds a spiritual preceptor leading to Mokṣa (Liberation).


Allegory explained:

(i) Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, Bhāgavata Candrikā, Bālaprabodhini: ātmajā—Liking for the service of Lord Kṛṣṇa.

Draviḍa-bhūmi: The Draviḍa country is protected by devotion of the type of Śravaṇa etc.

In association with devotees of Viṣṇu, a desire to serve him is treated and it is followed with seven kinds of bhakti or devotion viz. Śravaṇa (study of scriptures), Kīrtana (singing Lord’s praise), Smaraṇa (remembering him—his name), Pādasevana (serving his feet) arcana (worshipping him), vandana (laying oneself prostrate before him). The Draviḍa country is famous for votaries of Viṣṇu.

(ii) Padaratnāvalī names the seven sons as follows : Virāga (renunciation), Vinaya (discipline), Dāna (charity), Dhairya (courage), Aspardhana (nonjealousy), Viveka (discrimination), Dama (self control.


Different interpretations of the allegory:

Agastya: (i) The mind (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, VC., Bālaprabodhini, Siddhāntapradīpa) (ii) One desirous of Mokṣa Bhāgavata Candrikā (iii) A devotee of Viṣṇu (Padaratnāvalī).

Dṛḍhacyuta: (i) Devoid of any desire for even hereafter such as SatyalokaBhāvāratha Dīpikā

(ii) Who has absolutely no attachment for sons etc. (Padaratnāvalī).

(iii) One not attached to any pleasure here and hereafter—VC., Siddhāntapradīpa, Bālaprabodhini

Idhmavāha: (i) Desire to worship the feet of the spiritual preceptor for initiation and obtaining the Lord’s grace—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā, Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) Desire to be a pupil of a spiritual preceptor—Padaratnāvalī


(i) Malayadhvaja realized Paramātman, the Seer, to be different due to his pervasiveness and his body as ephemeral as a dream and devoted himself solely to Paramātman—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) He reasoned with himself and realized the Supreme Soul as present within his own Self and as all pervasive yet distinct from everything else. Thus renouncing saṃsāra he became liberated while alive (jīvan: muktyavasthām āpa)—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) Due to smaraṇa-bhakti (constant remembrance of God) he felt deep love for the Lord. And he realized him to be shining everywhere in all directions. But feeling him to be distinct and different from himself, he was overcome with the intense feeling of separateness and was fainted in a swoon—Sārārthadarśinī

(iv) He realized his Sell as knower and his body etc. as transient. He became unattached to everything else except his Self.


(i) In his religious meditation (upāsana) he realised that his individual Soul (antaryāmin) to be identical with the Supreme Brahman. He continued his upāsaṇā to the end of his life.—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) He set aside the false view about the identity of jīva and Paramātman—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) He realised that the whole—the Supreme Brahman, compriseḍ of the part (the individual Soul) and vice versa. He (thereby) gave up thoughts about Saṃsāra and became liberated—Siddhāntapradīpa

(iv) Oh! How wonderful is the power of Bhakti as Mukti (Liberation) is dependent on BhaktiBālaprabodhini


(i) Haṃsa means one who has annihilated all agitations or emotions (hinasti nirasyati vikārān iti haṃsaḥ). They are by nature deathless and untouched by pleasures of senses. Enjoyment of pleasure to jīva is due to upādhi (conditioning)—Bhāgavata Candrikā

(ii) Oh learned one! Both of us are haṃsas which are by nature free from all impurities. Our abode is the Mānasa lake (i.e. knowledge). We have lived together for thousands of years. The memory of previous birth is aroused as a result of the accumulated merits.—Padaratnāvalī

(iii) mānasam etc.: Our abode was the heart in the subtle body (sūkṣmaśarīragataṃ hṛdayam).—Siddhāntapradīpa

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