The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes The Puranjana allegory explained which is chapter 29 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-ninth chapter of the Fourth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 29 - The Purañjana allegory explained

Prācīnabarhis said:

1. Oh divine sage! (The implication of) your speech is not clearly understood by us. Sages (with spiritual knowledge may) grasp it (correctly) but not we who are deluded by ritualistic karmas.

Nārada explained:

2. One should understand Purañjana (creator of the city) as the embodied Soul (or jīva); for it is he (jīva) who builds his own city, i.e., body, having one, two, three, four or many feet or no foot at all.

3. The friend of Puruṣa (Jīva) who is called Avijñāta (the Unknown) is Īśvara (Himself), for he is not known by men as being endowed with names, actions or attributes.

4. When the Jīva desired to enjoy all the attributes of the Prakṛti (i.e. material objects of pleasure) in their entirety, he thought that (out of those bodies) the human body, provided as it was with nine entrances, two hands and two feet, as the most suitable one.

5. One should understand the young damsel Purañjanī as the intellect (Buddhi) which creates the notion of I-ness and mine-ness. It is by presiding over (i.e. identifying himself with) Buddhi that the Jīva in this body enjoys sense objects by means of sense-organs.

6. The male companions (of Purañjanī) are the group of (ten) conative and cognitive sense-organs which bring about knowledge and action. (Her) female friends are the activities of the senses. The (five-hooded) serpent is the Prāṇa (vital breath) with its five-fold activities.

7. One should understand Bṛhadbala (the eleventh powerful hero attending upon Purañjanī) as the Mind, the leader (and controller) of both kinds of senses and that the Pāñcālas are the five sense-objects, in the midst of which is situated the city of nine gates.

8. Two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, the penis and the anus are the four pairs of adjacent gates, with the mouth (as the nineth). Out of these Prāṇa goes out (to the particular sense object) in association with (the faculties of that) particular sense-organ.

9. The pairs of eyes, nostrils and the mouth are the five gates in the east (i.e. the front of the head). The right ear is regarded as the south gate and the left ear as the north gate.

10. The two opening gates in the lower parts of this are the western gates and these are called here the anus and the penis. Khadyota and Āvirmukhī, the two gates that are constructed at the same place adjacently in this city, are (known as) the eyes. By means of the power of seeing possessed by these, the Lord of the body (Purañjana or Jīva) perceives forms and colours which are called here the Vibhrājit country.

11.[1] Nalinī and Nālinī are the two nostrils, and smell has been called the Saurabha country. The faculty of smelling is designated Avadhūta (the companion of Purañjana). The gate called Mukhyā is the mouth. The organ of speech is (Purañjana’s companion) Vipaṇa and the organ of taste is (the name of Purañjana’s friend) Rasajña or Rasavid.

12. Āpaṇa or the market signifies here as (the region of) speech activity while Bahūdana means the varieties of food. The right ear is the Southern gate known as Pitṛhū and the left the Northern gate is remembered as Devahū.

13. The scriptures (Śāstras) which treat of the path of worldly activities (i.e. ritualistic karmas) and those which deal with abstention from such karmas and renunciation, are designated as the country of Pañcālas. Hearing to these through the faculty of hearing is called here Śrutadhara (the companion of Purañjana), the Jīva may proceed by the path of manes (Pitṛs) or of the gods.

14. The organ of generation is the western gate called Āsurī; the act of sexual intercourse is the region known as Grāmaka. The procreative ability (in the organ) is spoken of as Durmada (who was Purañjana’s friend). The anus is de-signaled as Nirṛti (the other western gate or the postern passage).

15. The hell is the region called Vaiśasa, while the power of the organ to defecate (through the anus) is called his friend Lubdhaka. And now, hear from me who the two blind ones are. They are (the pairs of) hands and feet with the help of which one makes movements and does work.

16. The harem is the heart and the mind is called Viṣūci (Viṣūcīna)—the principal officer over the harem. By the mind’s attributes (like Sattva etc.), the Jīva attains to the state of infatuation, serenity or joy.

17. According as the Buddhi (intellect) is disturbed (in the dream state) or affects (the senses in the waking state) the Jīva, though (by nature) a mere witness, is tainted with her (Buddhi’s) attributes, and is made to feel as if he is affected by those changes (directly)

18.[2] The body is the chariot with horses in the form of senses, yoked to it. It (apparently) moves with the unimpeded speed of the year, though (actually) it is motionless. Good and evil actions are its two wheels. The three attributes (sattva, rajas and tamas) constitute its flagstaffs and the five vital airs (Prāṇas or asus) are its five cords.

19.[3] The mind is its rein (to control the horses); the Intellect is the charioteer; the heart is the seat; the pairs like pleasure and pain are the poles to which the yoke is rivetted; the objects of five senses are the weapons (for attack); the seven constituents of the body (viz. blood, flesh, fat, bones etc.) are its protective covers.

20. Ākūti (the five organs of actions, e.g. hands, feet, etc.) is its external motion. The Jīva vigorously runs after the mirage (-like objects of pleasure) with his army of eleven sense-organs (five cognitive and five conative sense-organs plus mind—the internal organ). He takes pleasure in five types of slaughter (i.e. wrongful enjoyment of five types of sense-objects by his five senses). The year which records the passage of time is Caṇḍavega (the king of Gandharvas).

21. Here the three hundred and sixty male Gandharvas under his command are the days and an equal number of female Gandharvas are the nights. By their turns, they take away the life of man by rotation.

22. Kāla-Kanyā is the old age incarnate. People do not greet her. Death, the king of Yavanas, adopted her as his sister for the (help in the) destruction of the world.

23. Mental anguishes and physical pains and diseases are his active Yavana soldiers. Prajvāra means the two types of fever (one accompanied with cold and the other with high temperature which is said to have a swift career to harass living beings.

24. Thus for a period of one hundred years, the embodied Jīva, covered as he is by dark ignorance, is being tormented in his body with various types of afflictions caused by supernatural agencies, (adhidaivika), elements (adhibhautika) and his body (adhyātmika).

25. Though he is essentially attributeless, he superimposes on himself the attributes of Prāṇa (such as hunger, thirst), the qualities of sense-organs (e.g. blindness, deafness) and the attributes of the mind (for example: passions of love, hate etc.). He lies confined to the body brooding over trifling pleasures of the senses and he continues to perform actions under the (influence of the) false notions of I-ness and mine-ness.

26. When the Jīva, though by nature self-luminous (i.e. self-knowing), does not recognise (himself to be) the glorious Supreme Preceptor, the Soul, he gets attached (and bound) to the attributes of Prakṛti.

27. Regarding the attributes as referring to his own self, he then helplessly commits actions which are white (sāttvika), black (tāmasa) and red (rājasa) and is born in various species of life according to the nature of his actions.

28. By his white (i.e. sāttvika) actions, he sometimes attains to worlds (like Svarga) which are full of light. Sometimes (by his red i.e. rājasa actions) he goes to regions which result in (i.e. lead to) sufferings and require exertion through activities. And sometimes (by tāmasika actions), he takes birth in regions which are full of darkness (i.e. ignorance) and grief.

29. This Jīva with blind (i.e. deluded) intelligence is sometimes (born as) a male, a female, an impotent person, a god or a man or as a subhuman being according to his previous actions and the (dominant) attribute of Prakṛti.

30-31. Just as a poor starving dog which goes from door to door, gets (beating with) a stick or cooked rice (according) as destined by fate, the Jīva, with his heart full of desires, wanders, by paths which are high (as prescribed by religion) or low (as prohibited by scriptures), through higher (celestial) worlds, lower (infernal) regions or the middle (human) world and experiences pleasure or pain as ordained by fate.

32. There is no immunity to the Jiva even from one type of miseries which are caused by superhuman agencies like gods (adhidaivika), by other beings (adhibhautika) and these relating to one’s body (adhyātmika). Even if the remedy (against them) is sought, it is temporary and is (again) of the nature of misery.[4]

33. Just as a man carrying a heavy load on his head, places it on his shoulder (for relief), so are all remedies (of the nature of misery itself).

34. Oh sinless King! Mere act (without the knowledge of the truth and accompanied with some desire) cannot be the effective final remedy against (the miseries etc. resulting from; another act (karman) as both are the outcome of avidyā (ignorance). It (such attempt to terminate one karma by another) is like a dream within dream (wherein there is an exchange of dream-consciousness but no termination of dreams as in wakefulness).

35.[5] Just as a person wandering in the dream-land with his mind which as liṅga śarīra (subtle body) forms the limitations of the Soul (and experiences fear, misery etc. till he wakes up from the dream to realize the unreality of that experience), the saṃsāra (transmigration of the Soul in the miserable world) does not come to an end (while his sleep of ignorance continues) in spite of the non-reality of the phenomenal world.

36. It is ignorance (or Mind—manas) that causes the uninterrupted chain of miseries[6] (or transmigration) to the Soul which is essentially the real existence. The chain of saṃsāra is cut asunder by Supreme devotion[7] to the Preceptor (Hari)[8].

37. When the Yoga of (self-less, disinterested) devotion to Lord Vāsudeva[9] is established in the proper manner[10], it (automatically) causes renunciation (of worldly pleasures) and manifests knowledge.

38. That Bhakti-yoga dependent as it is on the stories of Lord Acyuta, will be mastered before long by him who always listens to those stories with faith or devoutly studies them every day, Oh royal sage.

39. Oh King! (He can listen to those stories) in places where pious and pure-hearted votaries of the Lord narrate and listen to the glorification of the attributes of the Lord with eager hearts.

40. There (to the congregation of the devotees) flow forth from all sides rivers (entirely) of pure nectar (in the form) of stories of Lord Viṣṇu (the destroyer of demon Madhu) sweetly sung by noble souls. Oh King! Those who drink those (nectar-like stories) with intent ears and without being surfeited, are never touched (affected) by hunger, thirst, fear, sorrow and delusion.

41. (In the absence of the company of the pious), being always harassed by these natural troubles, the world of beings (i.e. men) does not cherish any real love for the ocean of nectarlike stories of Lord Hari indeed!

42-44. Brahmā (the chief among the progenitors) himself, the venerable Lord Śiva (the Lord of mountains), Manu, Dakṣa and other lords of creation, Sanaka and life-long celibates, expounders of the Vedas like Marīci, Atri, Aṅgiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhṛgu, Vasiṣṭha—these and others ending with me—all masters of speech could not, to this day, see the Supreme Lord, the Seer of all, though (we have been) trying to visualize him by means of penance, upāsanā (worship) and meditation.

45.[11] Those who meticulously study the meaning of the Vedas which are of very great expanse and fathomless in the depth of meaning, and worship him in his limited form (such as Indra etc.) the characteristics of which (viz. wielding a Vajra etc.) are detailed in the Mantras (Vedic text), do not know the Supreme Lord.

46. When the Lord who is being meditated upon in the heart by a person, shows his grace unto the meditator, the person (so favoured) withdraws his mind, howsoever deeply attached (it may be) to the ways of the world, and to the ritualistic acts prescribed in the Vedas.

47. Oh Barhiṣman! Do not therefore look upon as real the acts (ritualistic karmas) which appear as real through ignorance. These acts are pleasant and attractive to listen to, but they do not even touch (i.e. have any relation with) the ultimate Reality.

48. Those whose intellect is occupied with dhūmramārga (the path of ritualistic acts like sacrifices etc.)[12] call the Vedas as prescribing the ritualistic acts only. They have not grasped the truth about the Veda. For they have not realized that the Ātman (the Soul) which is their own essential Self, is implicitly intended in the Vedas. These (devotees of the path of Karma) do not know the region where god Viṣṇu (Janārḍana) dwells (much less Janārḍana himself).

49. Having encircled the entire sphere of the earth with darbha-grass by spreading them with their ends to the East, you have become haughty, (and) proud by slaughtering a great many beasts (in sacrifices). You do not know what is karma and what is superior to karma. The act that pleases Hari is the real karma. And the knowledge which leads to the fixation of the mind in Hari is the real knowledge.

50. Hari is the Soul of the embodied beings as well as their Ruler. He is their independent cause (the material cause of the universe). The soles of his feet are the real asylum to all, for in them lies the well-being (and security) of all men here.

51. Verily he is the most beloved one, the Soul (Ātman). By resorting to him, there is not the slightest fear or misery (as in the cases of others). He who knows this, is indeed the learned one. He who is learned is the (real) preceptor and he is (veritable) Hari himself.

Nārada said:

52. In this way, your question is completely answered, Oh excellent one among men! Now listen to me carefully as I tell you, a secret yet definitely ascertained truth.

53. Find out the deer which ignoring the blood-thirsty wolves (which are waiting) ahead and unmindful of (the coming of the arrow) shot from behind by a hunter to pierce it, strolls about in a flower-garden enamoured of its female associate, grazing tender grass and with its ears spell bound with the music of humming beas.

54. Oh King! You should look upon yourself as the doomed deer whose heart is pierced with a hidden arrow discharged by the hunter, viz., the god of Death, who chases you unperceived from behind. You who, in the house resorted to by women who are similar to flowers (in their ephemeral youthful charms which fade away very soon), seek after the most insignificant dose of sensual pleasures of taste and sex which are extremely minute like the fragrance and honey in flowers and are the result of ritualistic acts (karmas) performed with a motive, for attaining a particular object. Co-habiting with women and with your mind firmly attached to them, our ears are extremely charmed by the sweet conversation with women and others—conversation which is extremely attractive like the sweet honey of swarms of bees. You are enjoying yourself in the house, completely oblivious of the mall components of time amounting to days and nights which, like a pack of wolves ahead of you, prey upon your life.

55. Having carefully considered your own behaviour (as being) like that of the deer (in the above verse), you, who are so conditioned, restrain your mind in the interior of your heart, and the stream-like outgoing tendencies of your ears (and other senses) in your mind. Renounce the householder’s stage of life (lit. women’s house) with its talk about extremely lustful and lascivious gatheriṇgs; (Do try to) please the Lord who is the shelter of jīvas (haṃsas) and withdraw step by step (from everything else)

The King said:

56. “Oh Brahman! What Your venerable Lordship has spoken has been heard and reflected over by me. The sacrificial priests do not know this. Would they not have spoken (about it to me) if they had known it?

57. You have thoroughly resolved a great doubt raised by them (my preceptors) in this matter (pertaining to the Soul). (But a doubt still lingers). For even sages are deluded in the realm which is beyond the range of senses, Oh Brāhmaṇa sage. (The Vedists say:)

58. Leaving in this world the body with which a person begins to perform acts (karmas), he enjoys the consequent fruits (of those karmas), elsewhere (in the next world) through a different body.

59. This doctrine of the Veḍists (the knowers and advocates of Vedic karmas) is heard everywhere. (But how is it possible when the two bodies viz., the performer of an action and the enjoyer of the fruit of that action are different?) The second doubt is:) As soon as an act prescribed in the Vedas is performed, it disappears and does not become visible. (Thus due to the cessation of an act, its consequent fruit is an impossibility)”.

60. A person enjoys the fruits of an action in the next world with the same subtle body with which he performs the act (in this world), and thus, there is no interruption (i.e. change of the subtle body and the mind).[13]

61. Just as a person (in a dream) forgets his identity with this body (which is) lying and breathing, and experiences (in the dream) impressions of actions recorded in the mind, similarly (he experiences the fruits of his actions committed here) with another body similar (to the previous one) or belonging to another kind (as of a god or of a sub-human being).

62. Whatever body the jīva assumes by saying in his mind that ‘these (wife and sons) are mine’ and ‘I am this body (e.g. a Brāhmaṇa)’ he accepts (the responsibilitiy of) the karmas committed by that body and thereby (he gets) a subsequent birth.

63. Just as (tendencies of) the mind (that direct activities) are inferred by the behaviour and activities of both the conative and cognitive sense-organs so are the acts committed by the body in the previous birth, inferred from the natural inclinations of the mind.

64. What is never and nowhere experienced or seen or heard by this (present) body, is sometimes experienced (in dream etc.) according to the form as it is impressed on the mind (in the previous birth).

65. Therefore, Oh King, definitely believe that the jīva, dependent as he is on his subtle body consisting of vāsanās (karmic impressions left on the mind), had a previous body which has undergone that type of experience. For the mind is incapable of touching (perceiving) an object which is not experienced by it (previously).

66. May you be blessed! It is (the high and low propensities of) the mind which speak of the previous births of man as well as predict whether he will be born in a higher or lower form of life.[14]

67. Sometimes some impossibilities[15] with reference to place (e.g. a sea on the mountain top), time (e.g. stars by daylight) and action (e.g. getting one’s self beheaded) are seen or heard in the mind (in dreams). (As these are impossible experiences even in previous births) these are to be inferred to be due to disturbed sleep etc. and these do not contradict the above (statement in verse 65.)

68. All objects which are within the ken of sense-perception enter the mind according to their (particular) order and in groups and disappear (after being so experienced). Hence (it is that) all persons possess a mind (with impressions of the past).

69. (Normally these objects appear in a serial order but some times all of them present themselves simultaneously).

When the mind is firmly established in pure Sattva (un- contaminated with rajas and tamas) and is in the presence of the venerable Lord (in meditation), the whole universe shines forth united with the Lord, like the dark planet Rāhu appears on the disc of the Moon (at the time of lunar eclipse). (It is the experience of Yogins that sometimes all objects simultaneously flash on the pure mind).

70. (Thus the doubt that the performer of an act and the enjoyer of its fruits are different is dispelled by the proven continuity of the same subtle body) as the notion of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ about the physical body which conditions the jīva, will persist (i.e. will not cease to exist) so long as this beginningless subtle body which is the result of the conglomeration of intellect (Buddhi), mind, the senses (and their) objects and the triad of guṇos (sattva etc.), continues.

71. Due to suspension of the passage of Prāṇa (i.e. of sense-activity) in deep sleep, unconsciousness, extreme anguish (due to bereavement of the near ones), as well as in high fever and at the time of death, the sense of ‘I-ness’ is unmanifest (dormant).

72. Just as the moon (though existent) is not seen in the night of the new-Moon day, due to underdevelopment of senses and organs in the embryonic stage, and even in infancy the notion I-ness does not clearly manifest itself in the eleven sense organs (ten sense-organs plus the internal organ—the mind) as it does in the case of a full-grown youth.

73. Just as (in spite of the unreality of the objects and events in dreams) the unpleasant happenings in the dream do not cease to be (till one is awakened), the saṃsāra (the cycle of the transmigration of the Soul) does not come to an end in the case of one who broods over the objects of pleasure, even though the objects are (in reality) non-existent.

74. Thus the subtle body (liṅga) is constituted of five subtle elements; is extended by the development of sixteen modifications (viz. 5 Prāṇas + 1 mind + 10 Indriyas—sense); is a product of three guṇas (sattva, rajas and tamas). When it is united with consciousness, it (the whole aggregate) is called jīva.

75. It is through the subtle body that the jīva takes over or casts off (different) bodies. And it is by this that he experiences delight, sorrow, fear, misery or happiness.

76. Just as the caterpillar does not go away (from its first foot-hold on the blade of grass) and moves on (only after getting a firm foothold on another blade), the jīva, even while dying, does not let go his identity with its previous body (which he is giving up even at the point of death).

77. While he does not attain to another (i.e. the next) body by the exhaustion of the karmas (which were the cause of the previous dying body), the mind alone is the cause of birth and death (i.e. the saṃsāra) of beings, Oh King.

78. When, brooding over sensual pleasure (enjoyed by it), the jīva frequently indulges in karmas for achieving them. As a result of those karmas he, being subject to avidyā (nescience or ignorance), gets bound up with karmas of the body and the like.

79. Hence, in order to free yourself from the bondage of avidyā you worship Hari with all your heart, looking upon the universe as identical with him, for everything: the creation, maintenance and withdrawal of the universe is due to him.”

Maitreya said:

80. Venerable Nārada, the chief votary of the Lord, explained to him the real nature of the swans (jīva and the Paramātman) and bidding good bye to him, he then went to the realm of the Siddhas.

81. The royal sage Prācīnabarhis passed on instructions (to his minister for conveying them) to his sons for the protection of his subjects and retired to the hermitage of Kapila for performing penance.

82. In that hermitage, the warrior, being free from attachment and with thoroughly concentrated mind, worshipped the lotus-like feet of Govinda with earnest devotion and attained a personality similar to the Lord.

83. Oh sinless Vidura, he who will listen to or make others listen to this spiritual allegory sung by the divine sage Nārada, is emancipated from his subtle body.

84. He who gets by heart, while it is being sung, this self-purifying account which was issued from the mouth of a great divine sage and which purifies the world by the glories of Lord Mukunda (Kṛṣṇa) and which brings in the highest reward, becomes free from all bondages and does not wander in the saṃsāra.

85. This is what I understood of this wonderful allegory about the Soul. I have narrated to you about saṃsāra by the alllegory of the householder’s life and have dispelled the doubt as to how the fruit of karmas is enjoyed in the other world.

Footnotes and references:


The order of verses from 11 to 30 in the text before Bhāgavata Candrikā and to some extent before Padaratnāvalī is different.


These verses echo the following iṛom Kaṭha Up. 1.3.3-4


ātmānaṃ rathinaṃ viddhi, śarīraṃ ratham eva ca /
buddhiṃ hi sārathiṃ viddhi, manaḥ pragraham eva ca //
indriyāṇi hayān āhur viṣayāns teṣu gocarān /
ātmendriya-mano-yuktam bhoktetyāhur manīṣiṇaḥ //


There is no remedy against misery, the only remedy being the worship and contemplation of God—Bhāgavata Candrikā


Bhāgavata Candrikā: The state of being a god, a man is not inherent in the nature of the Soul. It is due to the working of the mind that one falsely identifies the Soul with the body and experiences miseries. But they are like dream experiences.

(ii) Padaratnāvalī: The transmigration of the Soul (saṃsṛti) does not cease to be till one does not realise Hari directly (arthe avidyamāne) just as dream experiences continue till one awakes (to find that those experiences were unreal.)

As Madhva regards this world as real, Padaratnāvalī takes pains to explain that the analogy between the dream and the world shall not be stretched too far and that ‘the absence of knowledge of the reality-as-it is’ is the common factor between the experiences in the dream and in the world and not the non-reality of the world. The implication of hi is that, if a person, born in saṃsāra, does not attain to the real knowledge of Hari, his saṃsāra is purposeless and fruitless.

(iii) Bālaprabodhini: Just as waking up from sleep is the only remedy against the miseries one experiences in dreams, realization of the Self is the only remedy against avidyā (nescience); other remedies cannot cut the vicious circle of the transmigration of the Soul and consequent miseries which are caused by ‘I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’.


anartha—The illusion about the identity of the body with the Soul—Siddhāntapradīpa


paramayā bhaktyā—Devotion which is superior to austerities, vows, ritualistic acts and even the knowledge of the Soul—Siddhāntapradīpa


Devotion to Hari which generates knowledge should be performed as it terminates SaṃsāraPadaratnāvalī


Who is knowledge and renunciation incarnate and is the controller of the universe and giver of knowledge—Bālaprabodhini


Sadhrīcīnena: (i) by burning down all evils in the mind by the fire of Breath-control—Padaratnāvalī

(ii) By person who is free from worldly desires—Padaratnāvalī


(i) Bhāgavata Candrikā: The realization of god is possible by worshipping (upāsanā) him only and not by mere knowledge or by karma (ritualist act) only.

(ii) Kramasandarbha. & VC: Persons devoted to ritualistic acts (karmas) only, never realize God.

(iii) Siddhāntapradīpa: The Veda directs persons not favoured by the Lord, to perform ritualistic acts (e.g. sacrifices) for attaining the Heaven and not to the worship and service of the Lord.


Or whose intelligence has been smoky and impure—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā adds:—Due to the persistence of the subtle mental body even after the destruction of the physical body, there is no logical discrepancy in this.


nābhaviṣyataḥ—will not be born again or will be liberated—VC.


Padaratnāvalī explains these impossibilities as due to mixing up of impressions. VC. explains the possibilities of these with reference to other times, places etc. For example: the sea is on the top of (the submerged) mount Maināka, stars appear in complete solar eclipse, disturbance in the humiḍs or components of the body may give rise to strange dreams.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: