The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Oppression of Hiranyakashipu and Description of Prahlada’s devotion which is chapter 4 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 fourth chapter of the Seventh Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 4 - Oppression of Hiraṇyakaśipu and Description of Prahlāda’s devotion

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Nārada said:

1. Thus solicited, Brahmā who was extremely pleased with the austere penance of Hiraṇyakaśipu, granted on him the boons which are very rarely obtained by anyone.

Brahmā said:

2. “My dear child! These boons that you seek of me are very rarely to be obtained by men. I, however, confer them on you, even though they are very difficult to be secured.”

3. Then the glorious almighty god of unfailing grace, who was worshipped by the king of Asuras, departed while being extolled by lords of creation (Prajāpatis like Marīci and others).

4. The demon who was thus blessed with the boons, assumed a resplendent golden body. Constantly remembering the killing of his brother (by Viṣṇu), he cherished hatred towards the glorious Lord.

5-7. The great Asura subjugated and brought under his control all directions, the three worlds, gods, Asuras, the kings of men, Gandharvas, Garuḍa-like birds, serpents, demi-gods (like Siddhas, Cāraṇas, Vidyādharas); (he subdued) sages, Lords of manes (Pitṛs), Manus, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, chiefs of Piśācas, Pretas and bhūtas (goblins, evil spirits etc.); having vanquished and brought under his sway all the chiefs of living beings, the conqueror of the universe forcibly usurped the regions (and offices) of the protectors of the world, along with their glory.

8-11. He established himself in the celestial region which was beautified with the charming heavenly pleasure-garden (Nandana). He took up his residence in the palace of the great Indra, (which was) constructed by Viśvakarman, as the very centre of affluence, wealth and prosperity of the three worlds (OR the abode of the Lakṣmī of the three worlds). There, the flight of steps are built of coral, the pavement consists of precious emeralds, the walls of crystals and the rows of columns were of lapis lazuli. The canopies are of artistic workmanship; the seats were wrought with rubies; beddings white as the foam of milk, were fringed with wreaths of pearls; the heavenly damsels (of pearl-like teeth) filling the mansion here and there (everywhere), with the sweet jingling sound of their anklets (nūpuras), see the reflections of their faces on the floors of precious stones.

12.In that palace of Mahendra, the mighty, proud yet magnanimous Hiraṇyakaśipu, the vanquisher and the absolute ruler of the world, enjoyed himself. He ruled with a strong iron hand, making the oppressed gods and others worship his feet respectfully.

13. With the exception of the three gods (Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva) all the Lokapālas (guardians of the world like Indra), with tributes and presents in their hands, waited upon him (Hiraṇyakaśipu) who was (always) intoxicated with strong-flavoured wines and had his reddish eyes rolling due to inebriation, yet who was the receptacle of penance, Yoga, power and energy, Oh King.

14. Viśvāvasu, Tumburu, I and others (had to) give musical performance in the presence of him who had forcibly established himself on the throne of Mahendra. Gandharvas, Siddhas, sages, Vidyādharas, and celestial nymphs eulogised him, Oh descendant of Pāṇḍu.

15. By his majestic lustre, he alone appropriated the portions of oblations offered in sacrifices with generous sacrificial gifts, performed by persons of various Varṇas (classes of society) and āśramas (stages in life).

16. The earth with all the seven continents yielded harnest without ploughing (and other agricultural operations). The heaven offered him whatever he desired, and the sky presented him various wonderful objects.

17. Oceans (lit. mines of precious stones) full of salt water, wine, clarified butter, sugarcane juice, curds, milk and nectar-like (sweet) water, along with their wives (rivers falling in them) bore, on the crest of their waves, heaps of jewels.

18. Mountains along with their caverns afforded him pleasure-grounds. Trees bore fruits and flowers in all seasons. Singly he combined in himself all the different functions of Lokapālas (such as showering, burning, evaporating etc.).

19. He who became the sole, absolute ruler of the world after vanquishing all the directions, enjoyed as much as he liked, pleasures dear to him. But having no control over senses, he was not satiated thereby.

20. In this way, a long period (of more than seventy- one Yugas) passed. With the imprecation of a Brāhmaṇa (Sanaka) hanging over his head, he became inebriated with power and pelf. In his arrogance, he violated the injunctions of the śāstras.

21. Being extremely afraid of his harsh punishments and stern rule, all the inhabitants of the world, along with their protective deities, sought shelter with the unfailing Lord Viṣṇu, as they got no protection anywhere else.

22. (They prayed) “Salutation to that direction where resides Hari, the Soul and sovereign ruler of the universe—the direction (region) after reaching which, pure and tranquil recluses do not return (to the mundane existence).”

23.[1] Having thus controlled their minds and meditating over the Lord with concentrated attention, they shed off their sins. Foregoing their sleep and subsisting on air only, they prayed Lord Viṣṇu.

[(Additional verse in Padaratnāvalī’s text).]

23(A). Hail to the Supreme Person endowed with six excellences, who is the Inner Controller of all, Omniscient and extremely merciful, and who is absolute knowledge and bliss incarnate, a resort affording absolute protection.

24. A voice emanating from no visible form, deep like the rumbling of clouds and completely filling all the quarters of heaven with its reverberations, was heard by them, assuring protection to the righteous.

25. They heard: “Oh foremost among the gods! Be not afraid. Good betide you all. A sight of myself (as well as the hearing of my voice) is the means to attain all blessings to all creatures.

26. The wickedness and oppression of this wretched Daitya is already known (to me). I shall mete out a suitable pacification (death) to him. Wait till that period.

27. When a person cherishes hatred to gods, the Vedas, cows, Brāhmaṇas, the righteous people, religion and Me, he verily perishes in no time.

28. When he (Hiraṇyakaśipu) will maliciously seek to injure his own son, the serene high-souled Prahlāda who cherishes no enmity against anyone, I shall slay him despite his power derived from Brahmā’s boons.”

Nārada said:

29. Thus assured (addressed) by the Father (and the protector) of the world, the inhabitants of heaven (gods) bowed down to hin. With all their anxieties allayed, they returned, deeming that the demon is (as good as) killed.

30. The king of Daityas had four extremely marvellous sons. Prahlāda who was the worshipper of the Exalted Being was preeminent amongst them by his virtues.

31. He was full of reverence to Brāhmaṇas and was possessed of noble character, true to his word, self-controlled, and like Paramātman, he was the best friend and well-wisher of all.

32. Like a servant, he bowed at the feet of noble Souls. Like a father he was kind to the poor and needy. With equals, he was affectionate like a brother. He looked upon his elders as his masters. Though he was highly endowed with learning, munificence, personal charms and high lineage, he was completely free from pride and arrogance.

33. In dangers and calamities, his mind (always) remained unruffled. He cherished no desire for enjoyments, heard (as obtainable in the next world) or seen (in this world), as he regarded them to be unreal. He had controlled his senses, vital airs (the life-breath), body and intellect. He completely controlled his desires and kept his mind calm and serene. Though he was a demon by birth, he was devoid of demonic characteristics.

34. Oh King! The excellent qualities of the Lord or of his devotees are now and again extolled by the wise. Even now they are not obscured as is the case with the excellences of the Lord.

35. In assemblies, where the discourses on the appreciation of the righteous take place, gods, Prahlāda’s sworn enemies, cite him as a model (of piety and righteousness). What to speak about the devotees of Viṣṇu like you?

36. Prahlāda had a natural love and devotion to the glorious Lord Vāsudeva. Hence it is impossible to describe his innumerable qualities. The description of his nobleness of Soul (and greatness) is only suggestive (and not exhaustive).

37. Even as a child, he set aside his toys. His mind being completely absorbed in the Lord, he appeared as a dunce. As his Soul (mind) was possessed by Kṛṣṇa, as though like a spirit, its coveted treasure, he did not know the matter-of-fact world (as known to ordinary persons, but was full of his presence). (His Soul was completely absorbed in the contemplation of Kṛṣṇa who was his only object of attraction).

38. Being folded in the embrace of Viṣṇu (i.e. finding himself fully identified with the Lord), he was not conscious of his acts such as sitting, walking, eating, sleeping, drinking or speaking.

39. Sometimes his consciousness would get mixed with anxiety for the Lord, and being agitated, he cried. Sometimes he would laugh in the excitement of his meditation about him; sometimes he would sing loudly.

40. Sometimes he shouted at the top of his voice. Sometimes, banishing all the sense of bashfulness, he would dance about. Sometimes, being filled with thoughts about him and feeling absorbed in him completely, he would imitate him.

41. Sometimes, with his hair standing on end, he would sit silent as if (deeply) satisfied with the Divine touch, (as if the Lord manifested himself in his heart and touched him with his hand). Sometimes, his eyes were half-closed and steady, with tears of joy and love flowing out.

42. By the service of the lotus-like feet of Lord of hallowing glory (Viṣṇu) which he acquired while in association with the Lord’s devotees who claim nothing as their own, he attained supreme happiness not only to himself but often imparted that felicity to the minds of others which were polluted and miserable by bad company.

43. To his son, who was such a great devotee of the Lord, magnanimous and a highly noble Soul, that Hiraṇyakaśipu tried to do harm. Oh king.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

44. Oh divine sage of excellent vows! We desire to know from you why the father meted out ill-treatment to his son who was so pure, innocent and righteous.

45. Fathers affectionate to their sons do remonstrate their disobedient sons for the sake of imparting education but never harm any like an enemy.

46. How much less would they do so in the case of such sons who are so obedient, righteous and regard the father as a deity.

Oh Brāhmaṇa sage, be pleased to satisfy our curiosity as to how the hatred of the father towards his son culminated in the father’s attempt on the life of his son (or became the cause of the father’s death), My Lord.

Footnotes and references:


Padaratnāvalī: In this way, feeling confident in mind that the Lord will protect them and with concentrated attention (thus controlling their external and internal senses) and subsisting on air (and controlling the vital breath—prāṇa) and foregoing sleep (thus controlling their bodies), they repeated the following mantra.

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