The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Hiranyakashipu’s Penance—Brahma grants Boons which is chapter 3 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 third chapter of the Seventh Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 3 - Hiraṇyakaśipu’s Penance—Brahmā grants Boons

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Nārada said:

1. Oh King (Yudhiṣṭhira)! Hiraṇyakaśipu wished to be invincible, unaffected by old age and death, unrivalled and the absolute ruler of all the worlds.

2. With his arms stretched upwards, eyes fixed in the sky and (all the while) standing on the tips of his big toes, Hiraṇyakaśipu (with the abovementioned desire) performed penance of a severe type, in the valley of mount Mandara.

3. Like the Sun radiating fiery rays at the time of the destruction of the world, he shone with the brilliant splendour of his matted hair. While he was thus engaged in austerities, gods (who disappeared out of fear) returned to their (former) abodes (in heaven).

4. As a result of his (severe) penance, smoky fire emanated from the crown of his head. It spread in all directions and scorched the higher, middle and lower regions of the universe.

5. Rivers and oceans were agitated; the earth along with its continents and mountains quaked (violently); planets and stars fell down (from their orbits); all the ten directions were ablaze.

6-7 Being scorched (with that fire), gods deserted the heaven and went to the region of god Brahmā, and implored to the creator of the world: “Oh god of gods, Lord of the universe! Being burnt (severely afflicted) with the penance of Hiraṇyakaśipu, the king of Daityas, we are unable to stay in the Heaven. Oh great god! If it pleases you, please bring about its pacification (extinction) before all the people (or regions) who worship you, are not destroyed, Oh Supreme Lord!

8. Do you not know his intention of performing this severely austere penance? (If not) be pleased to listen to it as reported by us.

9-10 ‘Having created this universe of mobiles and immobiles by dint of his penance and Yogic meditation, the creator of the universe occupies his throne (position) exalted over all regions. I too will attain a similar high position for me, by my ever-increasing devotion to asceticism and Yogic concentration. For Time and Soul are eternal.

11. Otherwise, by the power of my penance, I shall reverse the old order of the universe and make it as it was not before (making sins result in happiness, meritorious deeds lead to miseries. The Asuras will be exalted to Svarga and gods and sages driven to Pātāla). What have I to do with the positions of Dhruva, Viṣṇu and others which are abolished by Time, at the end of a Kalpa?[1]

12.We heard it reported that, it is with that determination, he (Hiraṇyakaśipu) undertook those rigorous religious austerities. Oh Lord of the three worlds! Now you may please do promptly whatever is proper.

13.Your exalted position as Parameṣṭhī promotes the growth, welfare, prosperity, good fortune and victory of the twice-born ones and cows. Oh Lord of the universe.”

14. Thus respectfully requested by gods, Brahmā, the glorious, self-originated god, accompanied by Bhṛgu, Dakṣa and others, went to the hermitage of the king of Daityas.

15. But (at first) they could not find him as he was covered with an ant hill, grass and bamboos and as his skin, fat, flesh, and blood were eaten up on all sides, by ants.

16. Brahmā (the swan-riding god) was surprised on seeing Hiraṇyakaśipu tormenting the world with his religious austerities (while lying concealed thus) like the Sun (scorching the world though) covered with clouds. Laughing aloud, he spoke:

Brahmā said:

17. Arise, arise, Oh Son of Kaśyapa! May good betide you! You have accomplished the purpose of your penance. I, the bestower of boons, have come here (to confer any boon you ask of me). Ask for any boon desired by you.

18. I have seen your extremely wonderful fortitude and patience. Though your body is eaten up by gnats, your life resides in your bony skeleton only.

19. None of the sages of yore has performed such austere penance, nor shall others do it in future. Who can verily sustain his life without (drinking a drop of) water for a hundred celestial years?[2]

20. By this resoluteness of yours which is hard to practise even by those (great sages) who control their mind, and by your firmness in austere penance, I am conquered by you, Oh son of Diti.

21. I shall bestow on you, Oh leader of Asuras, all the blessings. The sight of an immortal god like me will not be unfructuous and in vain for you (who are but) a mortal.

Nārada said:

22. Having spoken to him (Hiraṇyakaśipu) thus, the first-born god Brahmā sprinkled on the body (of Hiraṇyakaśipu) which was eaten up by ants, celestial water from his Kamaṇḍalu (earthen or wooden water pot) charged with unfailing potency.

23. From the ant-hill covered with bamboos, there arose, like fire from fuel, a youth of adamantine frame of the body, perfect in all limbs, endowed with energy and power, and with complexion like molten gold.

24. Finding god Brahmā seated on his swan, and stationed in the sky, he was transported with joy at this sight, and reverentially touched the ground with his head.

25. Rising up, he saw the god Brahmā with his own eyes. Reverentially he folded his hands in a suppliant position. With his eyes full of tears of joy, and with his hair standing on their ends, he expressed the following prayer with his voice choked with tears of joy.

Hiraṇyakaśipu said:

26-27.[3] “Bow to the all-pervading Supreme Lord, the support of the guṇassattva, rajas and tamas, who, being self- luminous, manifested by his own splendour (power), this universe which was enveloped in intense tamas (not darkness), produced by Time, at the time of the periodic destruction of the universe (at the end of each Kalpa), and who, assuming the three guṇas of Prakṛti creates, protects and destroys this universe.

28.[4] Salutations to the Primary Cause (the instrumental cause of the universe who is knowledge and wisdom incarnate, and who (as the material cause) becomes manifest through the modifications, viz., vital airs (prāṇa), senses (indriya), mind and intellect.

29. You govern the mobiles and immobiles through the chief Prāṇa (chief of the five vital airs) and hence, you are the protector of all the creatures, the controller of the mind, and life principles, of the heart and the sense-organs. You are the mahat (and) as such the ruler of the elements (bhūtas), their guṇas (objects such as sound, touch etc.) as well as their vāsanās (sense-impressions).

30.Through your body consisting of the three Vedas, and the sacrificial lore, requiring four officiating priests (viz. Hotṛ, Adhvaryu, Udgātṛ and Brahmā), you perform the seven types of sacrifices (such as Agniṣṭoma, Atyagniṣṭoma, Uktha, Ṣoḍaśī, Atirātra, Āptoryāma and Vājapeya). You are the Soul of all living beings. You are indivisible, without a beginning and end, and unlimited by time and place, the Omniscient Indwelling Soul and Controller.

31.You alone are the unwinking Time. You reduce the duration of the life of men by units of time called lava, nimeṣa and others. You are the immutable Soul, the occupant of the most exalted position, the birthless, all-pervading principle, the supporter and controller of all living beings.

32.[5] Neither cause nor effect, or neither mobiles nor immobiles are apart from you. All the branches of knowledge (viz. Vedas and upa-Vedas) and arts (auxiliaries of Vedic studies e.g. phonetics, grammar, prosody etc.) it, this shining are your forms. You are the great Brahmā containing within egg of the universe. You are beyond (transcendental to) Prakṛti consisting of three guṇas.

33.[6] Oh all-pervading Lord! This gross manifested universe is your body through which you enjoy the objects of senses, life-breath (vital energy) and the mind, remaining all the while established in your original most exalted state. You are the unmanifest (subtle) ātman and the most ancient Supreme Person.

34. Salutation to the glorious Lord who has pervaded the whole of the universe by His infinite, unmanifest form and who is possessed of powers called cit or vidyā and acit or māyā.

35. Oh greatest among the bestowers of boons! If you are to confer on me my desired boons, may my death not take place at the hands of any being created by You, Oh Lord.

36-37. Let me not meet death indoors or out of doors; during night or at day time, by the hand of any other (being created by you) or by means of weapons; let there be no death to me either on the earth or in the sky, either by men or beasts; by gods, demons and big serpents; by beings whether living or dead. Grant me matchlessness in fight and the sole absolute rulership of all embodied beings.

38. (Lastly) confer on me the great position and power you enjoy among all the guardians of the world. Kindly grant me the undiminishing glory and unfailing mystical powers enjoyed by those whose power lies in asceticism and Yoga.”

Footnotes and references:


The realm of Viṣṇu is eternal. But Hiraṇyakaśipu being of demonic and Tāmasa intellect thought it to be perishable.


Human year of 360 days corresponds to I day of gods. Thus, one celestial year = 360 human years. 100 celestial years = 36,000 human years.


Bhāgavata Candrikā notes that due to the tāmasa nature of Hiraṇyakaśipu, he wrongly thinks god Brahmā to be the Almighty Lord. Padaratnāvalī also points out that the attributes used here are inapplicable to the fourfaced god Brahmā but are proper for Hari who, as an antaryāmin, dwells in all and controls Brahmā.


Padaratnāvalī shows that the attributes mentioned herein are applicable both to the Supreme Lord and to god Brahmā.


Padaratnāvalī points out that the attributes in this verse are applicable to the Supreme Lord and this verse is a eulogy of the Inner Controller (antaryāmin).

“No mobiles and immobiles of the past, present and future can stand outside and unsupported by you. Both the parā and aparā vidyās abide in your body and are the means of knowing you. You are perfect and beyond the reach of the three stages, viz. wakefulness, sleep and dream.


This verse sums up both the gross and subtle forms of Brahmā.—Bhāgavata Candrikā

Padaratnāvalī.—The words hiraṇya-garbha etc. show that the universe is Hari’s gross form, in which he enjoys supreme bliss and not misery, or pain like Devadatta (an ordinary man).

As usual Padaratnāvalī gives two interpretations, one applicable to Hari and the other to Brahmā—

(1) “Oh Hari, you are the most ancient person in Vaikuṇṭha. This gross manifested universe” etc.

(2) “Oh god Brahmā, you are the Soul (purāṇa—one bound to the body) the four-faced god who does “not incarnate (avyakta)”, the rest as above.

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