The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Rahu’s Position and the Subterranean Regions which is chapter 24 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-fourth chapter of the Fifth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 24 - Rāhu’s Position and the Subterranean Regions

Śrī Śuka continued:

1. According to some (experts in Śāstras) at a distance of ten thousand Yojanas below the Sun, Rāhu makes his revolution like a lunar mansion. Though himself a wretched Asura, a son of Siṃhikā, it was through the grace of the Lord that he attained the status of a planet, even though he did not deserve it. We shall describe his birth and deeds later on (in the VI and VIII Skandhas), Oh child.

2. They say that the sphere of the burning Sun is ten thousand Yojanas and that of Rāhu, thirteen thousand Yojanas. Rāhu continues to entertain a grudge against the Sun and the Moon since their interruption (in his opportunity of drinking nectar by exposing his demonic identity), and attacks them on full-moon and new-moon days.

3. Having come to know of it, the venerable Lord has deployed his favourite missile called Sudarśana by the sides of them both. Rāhu stands for a period of Muhūrta facing the discus of irresistible blazing splendour which constantly revolves round them (the Sun and the Moon). Overcome with sorrow, trembling with his heart full of fear, he goes back even from a distance. It is this occurrence that people call an eclipse.

4. Below that (region of Rāhu), ata distance of the same (ten thousand) Yojanas, lie the regions of Siddhas, Cāraṇas (Heavenly singers) and Vidyādharas (celestial artists).

5. Below these is the space serving as a sporting ground of the hosts of Yakṣas, demons, goblins, spirits (pretas) and ghosts. It extends downwards to the level where the wind blows or the clouds are met with.

6. Below that, at a distance of one hundred yojanas lies this earth up to the height to which the prominent birds such as swans, vultures, hawks, eagles and others are soaring.

7. Description of the earth with respect to its situation and arrangement (of its continents etc.) has already been given (to you). Below the earth there are seven subterranean. regions, each at a distance of ten thousand Yojanas from the other, and equally so (ten thousand Yojanas) in length and breadth. (Their names are:) Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talātala, Mahātala, Rasātala and Pātāla.

8. In these subterranean regions are veritable heavens. Therein reside Daityas, Dānavas and Serpents (sons of Kadrū) in extremely rich mansions, gardens, parks and play-grounds which surpass the heavenly world in their exuberance of sensuous enjoyments, affluence, joy and richness. They are householders whose affectionate wives, children, relatives, friends and servants always enjoy a highly delightful life. Their desires are never thwarted even by the lord of gods. They divert themselves with their skills in Māyā (miraculous powers).

9. Oh great King! Maya, (the architect) of miraculous powers has built cities in these regions. They (the cities) shine resplendent with wonderful mansions, defence-walls, gates, town-halls, temples, big quadrangles and houses constructed with excellent precious-stones of various types, and with palatial buildings of the lords of these subterranean regions, the terraces of which are teeming with couples of Nāgas (serpents) and Asuras (demons) and with pigeons, parrots and sārikās.

10. The gardens thereof also superbly excel the splendour of the land of gods, with their glorious beauty, giving delight to minds and senses:—Beauty of trees embraced by tender creepers, the branches of which (trees) are weighed down with clusters of flowers and fruits and lovely foliage of ponds and lakes full of translucent waters teeming with couples of various species of birds; (these are charmingly vocal) with the varied sweet warblings ofbirḍs that have made their homes in the beds of lilies, lotuses, Kalhāra—blue and red lotuses—and lotuses with hundred petals, in the water of those lakes (etc.) when they (waters) get agitated by the leaping of fishes—all these provide feast to one’s senses.

11. It is said that here (in this netherworld) no fear is noticed (to have been caused) due to the divisions of time such as day and night.

12. The crest jewels on the hoods of great serpents dispel all the darkness there.

13. Due to the intake of herbs, saps, elixirs, food, drinks and bath of miraculous efficacy, the inhabitants of these regions do not suffer from mental worries and physicalailments. They are immune from wrinkles, grey hair and old age. Nor are they affected by paleness of body complexion, bad bodily odour, perspiration, fatigue, nervousness or bodily changes due to age (from childhood to old age).

14. These blessed souls have no fear of death from any source except from the Lord’s power, called the discus (Sudarśana), the Lord’s might.

15. When it (Suḍarśana) enters those regions the embryos in the wombs of Asura women are miscarried or aborted through sheer terror.

16. Now in region called Atala resides the demon Bala, the son of Maya. The learned say that he has verily created ninety-six varieties of Māyā (magical tricks) some of which are still practised by jugglers. As he yawned, three groups of women—svairiṇīs (who enter into sexual intercourse with men of their caste), kāminīs (who copulate with men not belonging to their caste) and Puṃścalīs (the most fickle minded of the Kāminī group)—came forth from his mouth. They administer a liquid preparation called Hāṭakarasa to a man who enters their subterranean region and make him sexually capable. They give him amorous pleasure at their will indeed, by their sportive seductive smiles, lovely conversations, embraces, etc. When the elixir is imbibed, the man feels that he is a veritable god endowed with mystical powers and possessing the physical strength of ten thousand elephants. He goes aboasting like one mad (blind) with intoxication.

17. Below that (Atala), in the subterranean region called Vitala, dwells god Śiva, designated as Lord Hāṭakeśvara, surrounded by his retinue, the legions of goblins. With the object of multiplying the creation of Prajāpatis (proginators) he, under the name Bhava (the procreator), remains united with his divine consort, Bhavānī (Pārvatī). From him has issued the great river called Hāṭakī which is charged with the energy of them both. There, the Fire kindled by Wind, drinks vigorously that water of the river. What is spit out by Fire is the gold called Hāṭaka. Males aṇd females in the harem of the kings of Asuras wear that gold in the form of ornaments.

18. Below that (Vitala), in the region called Sutala, lives (the demon king) Bali, the son of Virocana of wide fame and hallowing renown. He was deprived of his sovereignty over the three worlds by Lord Viṣṇu who, with a desire to oblige the great god Indra, was born of Aditi and approached Bali, in the form of a dwarf celibate (Brahmacārin). It was by the Lord’s grace that he was accommodated here, and is again blest with overflowing wealth and prosperity not possessed by Indra and others. Immune from all fears he even now continues to propitiate the most adorable Lord by performing his righteous duties.

19. It is not at all the direct result (fruit) of the donation of land (viz. three worlds) that Bali was blest with the sovereignty and fortune in the subterranean world: the gift that was duly given with absolute faith and devotion, with utmost reverence and perfectly serene mind to the glorious Lord Vāsudeva, the Supreme Soul, the principle of life and the inner controller of all species of living beings, the holiest and the most worthy recipient who has ever approached. Bali’s donation was thus a gate-way directly leading to liberation (Mokṣa).

20. (The learned sages say) that if a person who while losing his control (and becoming helpless or unconscious) utters but once his name while sneezing, falling or tumbling down or in any such condition, he instantaneously cuts asunder the bonds of Karma, for removing which people desirous of attaining to the Final Beatitude, try various other means (except remembrance of his name and are not successful).

21. The sovereignty, prosperity etc. which implies mere worldly pleasure—viṣayānanda—cannot be the fruit of the bestowal of the Land, viz. three worlds on the Lord as it was given to the Lord as being his own Self—the Lord who is the Self of all beings and who dedicates his own Self to his devotees and to those who have realized him.

22. As a matter of fact, the Lord has not really conferred any favour on him[1] (i.e. Bali). He extended to him sovereignty, pleasures of senses which are of illusory nature and which, on the contrary, deprive him of the constant remembrance of Himself. (But Viṣṇu’s presence near him as a door-keeper is the real fruit).

23. It is quite well-known that when it was found by the Lord that there was no other alternative (to deprive Bali of his sovereignty of the three worlds), He adopted the pretext of begging (three paces of land for sacrifice). When Bali was deprived of the sovereignty of three worlds (and had nothing with him) except his body, and was securely bound down with the cords of Varuṇa and was thrown into a mountain- den, he (Bali) actually exclaimed the following words:

24. “It is a pity that Indra, learned as he is, is certainly incapable of knowing his real interests—This Indra who has appointed the sage Bṛhaspati as an advisor to counsel him in all matters, ignored him[2], and instead of requesting for the service of the Lord (Upendra) begged for himself through the Lord (Vāmana or Upendra) my blessings viz., the sovereignty of the three worlds. (When the Lord is pleased, he is to be sought and not the worthless kingship of three.worlds). Of what value is this Lordship of three worlds which terminates at the end of a manvantara which is quite an insignificant part of Time which is of infinite duration.

25. (Only my grand-father Prahlāda knew his real interest) for though after his father’s (Hiraṇyakaśipu’s) death, he was offered by the Lord (Nṛsiṃha) the throne of his father which had no danger from any quarters (then), my grand-father (Prahlāda) preferred his service only to the throne as he knew that it was something different from the Lord.

26. He (Prahlāda) was a noble Soul while a person like me has his passions unsubsided, nor is blessed with the grace of the Lord. How can such a person hope to approach the path trodden by him (Prahlāda)?”

27. His (Bali’s) history will be narrated to you in details later on (in the VIII Skandha). At his (Bali’s) door, the glorious Lord Nārāyaṇa, the Preceptor of the whole world (who hence deserves to be adored and not to be made to stand guard), whose heart is full of compassion for his devotees, stands with a mace in his hand. (It was) by him that Rāvaṇa (the ten-headed demon) who came there in the course of his expedition of conquering all the quarters (of the world), was kicked away to a distance of ten crores of Yojanas, simply by his toe.

28. Below that region (Sutala), in Talātala, dwells the king of Dānavas, by name Maya, the Lord of three cities. His three cities having been burnt down by the venerable Lord Śiva (the destroyer of the enemy cities or of the demon. Tripura), with the desire to bring about the happiness of three worlds, he secured this position through his (Śiva’s) grace. This great master of all experts in magic is protected in every respect by the great god (Śiva) and hence, being free from the fear of Sudarśana (Viṣṇu’s discus), he is greatly respected (by the inhabitants of Talātala).

29. Below that, in the subterranean region Mahātala, there lives the tribe of many-hooded serpents called Krodhavaśa. Their prominent members are Kuhaka, Takṣaka, Kāliya, Suṣeṇa and others, all possessing huge bodies. They, however, live in fear of Garuḍa (the over-Lord of kings of birds), the vehicle of the Supreme Person. It is on a few occasions that they sport in company of their wives, children, friends and members of their families.

30. Lower still, in Rasātala, there dwell the descendants of Diti and Danu (the two wives of Kaśyapa, the proginator), called Paṇis who are also known as Nivātakavacas, Kāleyas and the residents of Hiraṇyapura. These enemies of gods are from their very birth, very powerful and daring in spirit. They live like reptiles in holes as their arrogance of power is subdued only by the refulgent discus Suḍarśana of the glorious Lord Hari whose majestic splendour spreads over all worlds. It is traditionally learnt that they are afraid of Indra due to the Vedic text uttered by the female dog, Saramā, the messenger of Indra[3].

31. Still lower down is the region called Pātāla. With Vāsuki as their king, there reside the chiefs of the Nāga (Serpent) race like Śaṅkha, Kulika, Mahāśaṅkha, Śveta, Dhanañjaya, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Śaṅkhacūḍa, Kambala, Aśvatara and others possessing extensive hoods and extremely impetuous by temperament. It is reported that the big effulgent crest jewels on the hoods of serpents possessing five, seven, ten, hundred and thousand heads, dispel by their splendour the mass of darkness in the hollow of the nethermost world (Pātāla).

Footnotes and references:


amuṣya—this vague pronoun has confused the commentators. VC., Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa, Bālaprabodhini think that this implies Indra and the translation will be: “Nor did the Lord confer any real favour on Indra, for he extended to him......himself”. Though Bhāvāratha Dīpikā mentions no name after amuṣya=amum “him”, his quotations from Parāśara.

vāsudeve mano yasya japa-homārcanādiṣu /
tasyāntarāyo maitreya, devendratvādikam phalam //

Probably hints at Indra which Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa, VC., Siddhāntapradīpa, Bālaprabodhini endorse. I think that in the present context amuṣya refers to Bali as interpreted by Bhāgavata Candrikā, J.G., & Bhaktamanorañjanī as it is a continuous discussion about Bali. I however concede that amuśya=Indra is not impossible though rather out of context.


Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa: Even that Bṛhaspati is not clever inasmuch as he did not advise Indra properly and etc.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā mentions the Vedic legend that when the Paṇis stole the cows and concealed them under water, Indra sent the female dog Saramā to trace them. She discovered them but when Paṇis tried to have a treaty type of understanding with her, she cursed them: Hatā Indreṇa Paṇayaḥ Śayadhvam—“Oh Paṇis! Lie down (dead) slain by Indra!”

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