The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes The Life of Priyavrata which is chapter 1 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 first chapter of the Fifth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 1 - The Life of Priyavrata

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

[Note: This Skandha presents the third characteristic [=sthāna] of this Purāṇa (Siddhāntapradīpa, Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa, Bālaprabodhini). At the end of the last Skandha 4.31.26-27 it is mentioned that Priyavrata was at first initiated into spiritual lore by Nārada, but he entered householder’s life and after enjoying the kingdom of the earth, he renounced it and attained final beatitude. King Parīkṣit asked the question here.]

The king (Parīkṣit) said:

1. Priyavrata was a devotee of the glorious Lord. As such he was merged in the highest bliss of the Soul (Ātman). How is it that he took delight in the life of a householder as it is the root of the bondage of karmas, and obscures one’s real nature (by diminution of knowledge), Oh omniscient sage?

2. Oh most excellent Brāhmaṇa! It is definitely unbecoming that men like him, who have given up all attachment, should cherish such intense attachment to family life (including Vedic rituals, children, wife etc.).

3. The high-souled persons whose minds have found happiness and delight under the shade[1] of the feet of Lord Viṣṇu of excellent renown, cannot definitely entertain an intense desire for family life, Oh Brāhmaṇa sage!

4. (It is possible that due to the power of fate, some persons who found delight in the Soul, may get attached to family life). But there is my great doubt as to how he (Priyavrata; attached to his wife, home, children etc., could attain Liberation, and could cultivate an unswerving devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa, Oh Brahman!

Śrī Śuka said:

5. Certainly, what you said is correct. But persons whose mind is possessed by (being soaked in) the honey of the lotus-like feet of the Lord of Śrī, Lord Viṣṇu of excellent renown[2] do not generally abandon their own blessed path of listening to the stories of the Lord, most loved by the great ascetics (parama-haṃsas) and the votaries of the Lord, even though their path might be temporarily obstructed (by some difficulties).

6. Oh King! It is widely known that Prince Priyavrata was a great devotee of the Lord. By serving the feet of Nārada, he easily got insight into the real nature of the Soul. When he intended to dedicate his whole life to the abstract contemplation of the Supreme Soul, he was called upon by his father (Svāyambhuva Manu) to protect or to assume the responsibility of governing the world, as he (the Prince) was the sole receptacle of a host of excellent qualities (as pre-requisites of a ruler) as prescribed in the scriptures. By the Yoga of uninterrupted meditation, he (the Prince) had already resigned all the functions of his senses and organs solely to Lord Vāsudeva. He foresaw that by accepting office (of the king), his Self will be obscured by the duties and functions of the government, even though they be (essentially) unreal. Hence, eventhough the command of the father is not to be disobeyed, he did not welcome the order (to be a king).

7. Thereupon, the Self-born god Brahmā, the first among the gods, who correctly comprehends the intentions and desires of (everybody in) the world by his continuous thinking (and solicitude) for promoting the prosperity of the creation (world) which is the product of (three) guṇas, came down from his region (Satyaloka), surrounded by all the Vedas incarnate, and his retinue (consisting of Marīci and others).

8. During his journey through heavens, he was being worshipped at several points by great gods, riding their celestial cars. On his way through the sky, he was being eulogized by troupes of divine artistes like Gandharvas, Sādhyas, Cāraṇas and by Siddhas and sages. Illumining the whole valley of Gandhamādana by his moon-like splendour, he approached the Prince.

9. (Bhāvāratha Dīpikā asks us to understand that at this time, while Nārada was instructing Priyavrata, Manu also had come to take the Prince to his capital).

There, recognising by the vehicle—swan—that it was his father Lord Hiraṇyagarbha (Brahmā), Nārada rose up hastily and waited upon him with articles of worship, and along with the father and the son (Manu and Priyavrata), and offered prayers to him with folded hands.

10.Oh King Parīkṣit (Oh descendant of Bharata), Lord Brahmā, the Primeval Man, who was offered worship (by Nārada), and whose various excellent qualities, arrivals on the earth from Satyaloka (to confer boons), and glorious victories, were highly extolled in appropriate words, cast a smiling look, full of compassion at Priyavrata and spoke.

The Lord (Brahmā) said:

11.Oh Child! Try to understand carefully this truth that I am telling you. You should not find fault with the self-refulgent inscrutable God (who is beyond the ken of intelligence). For, we (I Brahmā, Marīci and other sages), god Rudra, your father (Svāyambhuva Manu), this great sage (Nārada)—all of us, being totally under his control, carry out his behests.

12.No embodied being can undo what is decreed by him, through austere penances, knowledge of Śāstras, the power of Yoga (or Yogic powers like aṇimā, laghimā), his intellectual capacity, wealth, religious acts, or with the help of another (powerful person) or with his own capacity.

13.Dear Priyavrata! All living beings always maintain association with the body which is ordained by the unmanifest Lord, for (undergoing) birth, death, doing actions, (experiencing) sorrow, delusion, fear, pleasure and pain.

14.We are tightly bound together to the cord in the form of his Word (the Vedas), with the uṇbreakable strings in the form of guṇas (like sattva), and actions (suitable for one’s own position and stage—varṇa and āśrama—in life), Oh child! We all offer worship to the Supreme Lord like quadruped animals (controlled) with a string woven through their nostrils, carrying loads for the bipeds (men).

15. For, dear Priyavrata, we accept whatever form of existence (e.g. gods, subhuman beings) is assigned to us by the Lord, according to our attachment to guṇas (sattva etc.), and actions (karmas); experience pleasure or pain (as ordained by him) like the blind led by a person endowed with eye-sight.

16. Even though a person is liberated, he should maintain his body, experiencing the fruits he is destined to reap, but without identifying himself with the body, just as a man, awakened from sleep, remembers the experienced dream (in a detached manner without identifying himself in the dream condition). He does not seek after attributes which lead to next body (birth).

17. (He answers the objection: as there cannot be detachedness in the householder’s life due to one’s indulgence in pleasure, one should renounce it and resort to forests). The fear of saṃsāra (cycle of births and deaths) persists in the case of a person who has not controlled his senses, even though he (leaves his house and) wanders from forest to forest (out of fear of attachment). (For) he stays in the forest beset with his six (internal) enemies (viz. uncontrolled mind and five cognitive senses). On the other hand, what harm can the householder’s life possibly do to a wise man who has subdued his senses and who is absorbed in the bliss of his Soul.

18.[3] He who wishes to subdue his (above-mentioned) six enemies, should first enter the householder’s life, and intensively try to do so, like a king who, resorting to his stronghold, (first) overcomes his powerful enemies. When the enemies have been weakened, the wise man may go about (to another āśrama-stage of life) at will.

19. But you have already fortified yourself in the castle in the form of the lotus-like feet of Lord Viṣṇu (the god with a lotus sprouting from his navel), and have conquered the six enemies. Therefore, (you should) now enjoy the blessings, bestowed upon you by the Supreme Person, and then renouncing all attachment, you should resort to your essential nature (viz. the Self—ātman).

Śrī Śuka said:

20. (Priyavrata) the great devotee of the Lord who was thus addressed (by Brahmā), bent his head low, with a sense of his own smallness (before god Brahmā) and respectfully acquiesced in the command of the venerable Preceptor of the three worlds (viz. Brahmā), with the words ‘Yes Sir’.

21. Venerable Brahmā was worshipped with due formalities by Manu. And while Priyavrata and Nārada were looking on calmly (without any rancour for the frustration of their, original plans), he retired to his abode, meditating upon the Supreme Brahman, his own asylum, who is beyond the range of speech, mind and actions (avyavahṛtam [avyavahṛta]).

22. Manu also got his desired object (of retiring to forest after appointing his son to the throne), fulfilled by the great god Brahmā With the consent of the great divine sage Nārada, he installed his son to protect and stabilise his sway over the whole of earth. As for himself, he (Manu) renounced his desire of householder’s life which is like an unfordable poisonous lake of sensual enjoyments.

23. In this way, it was by the will of the Supreme Lord that Priyavrata, the Lord of the world was invested with powers to execute his duties (of kingship). He burnt down the impurities in his heart, by dint of constant meditation of the pair of feet of the Lord, the Supreme First Person, Whose supreme glory is capable of destroying the bondage of the whole world. Pure as he (Priyavrata) was, he governed the kingdom of the earth in order to show his regard to the great (god Brahmā and others, by carrying out their command to rule).

24. Then, he married the daughter, by name Barhiṣmatī, of Viśvakarmā, the Lord of created beings. And as known to all, he got by her, ten sons, all of whom were great like him in character qualities, capacity of work, beauty of form and prowess, and a daughter, youngest of all, by name Ūrjasvatī.

25. All of them were named after the fire-godAgni—(viz.) Agnīdhra, Idhmajihva, Yajñabāhu, Mahāvīra, Hiraṇyaretas, Ghṛtapṛṣṭha, Savana, Medhātithi, Vītihotra, Kavi.

26. Out of these Kavi, Mahāvīra and Savana were lifelong celibates. Since their infancy, they cultivated acquaintance (i.e. took to the study of) the science of the Soul (spiritualism) and adopted the order of Paramahaṃsas (the highest type of recluses).

27. (While) in that (order of Paramahaṃsas), those great sages who were habituated to self-control and tranquillity, uninterruptedly meditated upon the beautiful lotus-like feet of the venerable Lord Vāsudeva who is the abode of all species of living beings and the place of refuge for those who are afraid (of death or saṃsāra). They realized the Lord within their heart which becomes thoroughly purified by the power of steadfast and supreme Yoga of devotion (born of that ceaseless contemplation). And freeing themselves from the conditioning gross body, they became absolutely identical with the Lord who is Soul of all beings.[4]

28. By another wife also, he had three sons (named) Uttama, Tāmasa and Raivata, each of whom ruled over a Manvantara.

29. While (three of) his sons were practising self-control, the Lord of the earth ruled over the world for one hundred and ten million years.[5] (During his reign) the enemies of righteousness were deterred by the twang of the bow-string pulled by his mighty pair of arms possessing enormous power whereby all his heroic undertakings became successful without any obstruction. The high-minded king enjoyed (the pleasures of life) as if he had ṇQt realised his true Self or had his judgment clouded by queen Barhiṣmatī’s expression of daily increasing raptures in greeting him with her amorous womanly charms, her smiles and side-glances half-concealed by bashfulness and by witty conversations.

30. (Once he noticed that) even to the extent of the world (upto the Lokāloka mountain), over which the Sun shines during his circumambulation round Mount Meru (the mount of gods), it gives light to half the surface of the earth while leaves the other half to be enveloped in darkness. He did not approve of it. As his super-human power was enhanced by the adoration of the Lord, he decided to turn even the night into the day, by (riding in his) luminous chariot, equalling the Sun in speed. Thus, like a second Sun, he made seven circuits closely following the Sun (on the heels).

31. Verily, the wonderful moat-like tracks left by the fellies of the wheels of his chariot, became the seven seas which divided the earth into seven island continents (dvīpas).

32.[6] They (dvīpas) are called Jambū, Plakṣa, Śālmali, Kuśa, Krauñca, Śaka and Puṣkara. As regards their dimensions, each succeeding island-continent is double in area as that of the previous one, and is surrounded by an ocean separating it (from the other).

33.[7] The seven oceans are respectively of salt-water, juice of sugar-cane, wine, clarified butter, milk, curds and pure (fresh) water. They serve as moats to each of the island-continent. They are equal in extent to the continent they encircle. Each one of the oceans is in a serial order, the outer boundary of the continent surrounded by it. Priyṇvrata (the consort of Barhiṣmatī) severally installed aS ruler, dutiful sons by name Agnīdhra, Idhmajihva, Yajñabāhu, Hiraṇyaretas, Dhṛtapṛṣṭha, Medhātithi, Vītihotra—each being the ruler of one of the continents such as Jambūdvīpa and others.

34. He gave his daughter called Ūrjasvatī in marriage to Uśanas (Śukra, the preceptor of demons), and of her was born Devayānī also called Kavyasuta (the daughter of Kavi, i.e., Śukra).

35. Such heroic achievements are not impossible in the case of devout men who, by the (efficacy of the) dust of the feet of Lord Viṣṇu (who as Trivikrama took the universe in his long strides), have conquered the six senses (five cognitive senses and the inner organ—mind) or six anxieties (such as physical hunger and thirst, grief and delusion, old age and death). For if, a man even from the lowest caste, utters but once the name (of god Viṣṇu), he immediately shakes off the shackles of Saṃsāra.

36. In this way Priyavrata, a possessor of immeasurable strength and prowess, once felt disgusted with himself as he found himself to be dissatisfied with the contact with the product of guṇas (in the form of his kingship and worldly enjoyment) which fell to his lot, even after his resorting to the feet of (the) celestial sage Nārada, and said this (to himself):

37. “Alas! What a (terrific) iniquity has been perpetrated by me! I have allowed myself to be pushed by my senses into the dark terrible pit of sensual objects produced by Avidyā. Now enough of this. Fie upon me who became a beast of recreation (i.e. monkey) to this woman” Thus he censured himself.

38. He regained his power of discretion and thinking, by the grace of Hari, the Supreme Deity. (Hence) he divided the earth proportionately among his dutiful sons (as per injunctions of the Dharma Śāstra). He abandoned, like a dead body, his queen with whom he enjoyed pleasures, renounced his great imperial wealth and grandeur. By the power generated by the realization of the stories and pastimes of Hari, he became disgusted (with Saṃsāra) in his heart, and he followed again the spiritual path shown to him by the divine sage Nārada.

These are verily the verses composed of old to eulogize the glory of Priyavrata:

39. Who else than the Lord Himself can perform the great achievements of Priyavrata who, while dispelling the darkness (of the night by riding in his refulgent chariot), created seven oceans by the deep tracks of fellies of his chariot.

40. For the happiness and convenience of beings he divided the earth (in seven island-continents). He fixed the boundaries (in each dvīpa) by means of rivers, mountains and forests.

41. Devotees of Lord Viṣṇu were dear to him. He regarded as hellish, the glories and affluence acquired in the Pātāla (subterranean world), the celestial world and the human world as well, through powers of karma-yoga.

Footnotes and references:


chāyā: (i) Which removes (i.e. cools down) hot tormenting passions—Bhāvāratha Dīpikā

(ii) Which removes saṃsāra and three types of misery—Bhāgavata Candrikā VC.

(iii) Shade characterised by knowledge which removes torments of saṃsāraPadaratnāvalī


uttamaśloka—Who is glorified by excellent gods like Brahmā—Bhāgavata Candrikā


Padaratnāvalī: A person desirous of subduing his enemies in the form of senses should first stay in the householder’s stage of life. After getting satiated (alam buddhim prāpya) by enjoying pleasure, he should try for his final beatitude. In the householder’s life, however, he should stay in the stronghold, viz. devotion to the Lord and curb his powerful enemies viz. senses eager for enjoyment, by restraining himself from enjoying pleasures and thus bring the senses under control. When the desire of sense-enjoyment recedes, the wise man may fearlessly proceed (with the Lord’s devotion).


Bhāgavata Candrikā interprets pratyag as jīva ‘individual soul’ and bhūta as ‘insentient bodies’ (a-caitanya-śarīrakatva [śarīrakatvam]). Thus Bhāgavata Candrikā explains: They (the Princely Sages) realized that the individual Soul (Jīvātman) is like a body to and not separable from the Supreme Soul (Paramātman). Thus they attained to a state like him (Sādharmyam [Sādharmya]).


arbuda = Ten crores (1000,000,00) years.


This concentric division of the earth in seven island-continents is mentioned by Patañjali (2nd cent. A.D.), and is common to Viṣṇu Purāṇa (2.4), Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa (54.6), and with a variation in Matsya Purāṇa (121, 122) and Agni Purāṇa 108.1.3. The arrangement is briefly as follows: (1) Jambūdvīpa surrounded by an ocean of salt water. Beyond this ocean and encircling is Plakṣadvīpa which is double the area of Jambūdvīpa. (2) Plakṣa-dvīpa is surrounded by the ocean of sugar-cane juice which in turn is engirdled by (3) Śālmalidvīpa. The ocean of wine surrounds this dvīpa and is encircled by (4) Kuśadvīpa with the ocean of clarified butter around it. (5) Krauñcadvīpa surrounds this ocean and is itself engirlded by an ocean of milk. (6) Sākadvīpa surrounds the ocean of milk and is itself encircled by ocean of curds (7) Puṣkaradvīpa surrounds this ocean of curds and is encircled by the ocean of fresh (sweet) Water.


N. L. De in GDAMI. 179, identifies ṭhe seven seas or oceans as follows: (1) Salt water sea—The Indian ocean surrounding Jambūdvīpa or India; (2) Kṣīra (Milk ocean)—Shirwan alias the Caspian Sea; (3) Surā (Wine)—a corruption of Sarain or the Caspian Sea forming the south-eastern boundary of Kuśadvīpa; (4) Ghṛṭa—derived from the Erythraean Sea or the Persian Gulf forming the boundary of Śālmalidvīpa or Chaldia, i.e. Assyria; (5) Ikṣu (sugar cane) a variant of the Oxus. The river is taken as a sea (cf. Sindhu means both the sea and the river). It forms the southern boundary of Puṣkaradvīpa or Bhushkara i.e. Bokhara. (6) Dadhi (curds) is a hyper Sanskritisation of Dahi (Dahae)—a scythian tribe living in the upper Jaxartes on the shore of the Aral Sea. Hence Dadhi is the Aral Sea. (7) Svādu (sweet water)—a corruption of Tchandun, a river in Mongolia i.e. Plakṣadvīpa. These identifications are still controversial. Vide—Baladeva UpadhyayaPurāṇa Vimarśa pp. 317-331. D.G. Sircar—Studies in GAMI pp. 17-25.

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