The Brahma Purana (abridged)

19,470 words

The Brahma Purana (Brahma Purāņa) is one of the major eighteen Mahapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts. It is divided into two parts: 1) the Purvabhaga and 2) the Uttarabhaga. The first part narrates the story behind the creation of the cosmos, details the life and deeds of Rama and Krishna. The second part contains the details about t...


In the Ikshvaku dynasty there ruled a king named Harishchandra. Harishchandra had so son. One day two sages named narada and Parvata came to visit harishchandra and told him that he would go to hell if he did not have a son.

How can I obtain a son? asked Harischchandra.

Go to the banks of the Goutamai Ganga. advised the sges. Pray to the god Varuna there. We are sure that Varuna will grant you a son.

Harishchandra pleased Varuna with his prayers and asked for a son.

You will have ason, said Varuna. But there is a conditon attached. You will have to suubsequently organize a yajna in my honour and you will have to sacrifice your son at this yajna. Tell me if this condition is acceptable to you.

Yes indeed, replied Harischchandra.

In due course, Harishchandra had a son who was named Rohita.

Varuna came ot Harishchandra and asked, What about the yajna in my honour?

Please let him grow his teeth, replied Harishchandra. Animals are sacrificed at yajnas. And no one becomes an animal until he actually has teeth.

Varuna waited till the teeth grew and returned When Rohita was seven years of age. What about the yajna in my honour? he asked.

These are only milk teeth, replied harishchandra. These do not characterise an animal. Please wait until hi sproper teeth have grown.

Varuna returned whent he proper teeth grew and asked, What about the yajna in my honour?

He is the son of a kshatriya (the second of the four classes, a warrior class). Replied Harishchandra. But his rtraining in the art of fighting has not even begun. He cannot be called a kshatriya unitl he knows how to fight. Till that day he is an incomplete man. Do you really want such an incomplete man as a sacrifce?

After some years had passed, Rohita became skilled in the art of fighting and was appointed the heir-apparent (yuvaraja) to the kingdom. He was then sixteen years of age.

Varuna appeared again and asked, What about the yajna in my honour?

This time the entire converstation took place in front of the prince and Rohita intervened before Harishchandra could say anything. Fahter, he said I have already resolved to perform a yajna I Vishnus honour. Grant me the permision to complete that first. After that , do what you will.

Rohita went off to the forest. Meanwhile, Varuna had ha d enough and he afflicted harishchandra with a painful stomach ailment. News of his father’s illiness was taken to Rohita in the forest. In the forest, Rohita met a sage named Ajigarata. The sage was very poor and, together with his wife and three sons, was starving.

Will you sell one of your three sons to me? asked Rohita. The boy is needed for a sacrifice.

I shall not sell my eldest son, said the sage. My wife will not permit the yougest one to be sold. You can have the one in the middle. His name is Shunahshefa. The price will be one thouand cows, one thousand golden coins, one thousand pieces of clothing and a lot of wealth.

Rohita paid the price and brought Shunahshefa home to Harishchandra.

We can’t do this, said Harishchandra. It is the duty of kings to protect the brahmanas. How can we sacrifice the son of a brahmana? It is better to die instead. Go and return Shunahshefa to his father.

Just then a divine voice was heard from heaven. The voice said, There is no need for anyone to die. Take Shunahshefa to the banks of the Goutami Ganga and perform the yajna to Varuna there. Goutami Ganga is such a sacred river that no human sacrifices are needed if a yajna is performed there.

This is what Harishchandra did and Varuna was satisfied. As for Shunahshefa, he was adopted by the Vishvamitra as a son.

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