The Brahmanda Purana

by G.V. Tagare | 1958 | ISBN-10: 8120838246 | ISBN-13: 9788120838246

This page describes knowledge about the world which is Chapter 7 of the English translation of the Brahmanda Purana: one of the oldest puranas including common Puranic elements such as cosmogony, genealogy, ethics, geography and yoga. Traditionally, the Brahmandapurana is said to consist of 12,000 verses metrical Sanskrit verses.

Chapter 7 - Knowledge about the world

Summary: Geographical-divisions of the earth—Four Yugas and their duration—Geography of continents—continents, towns and villages—Flora and fauna—people—pastes and stages in Life.

Sūta said:

1. He passed a period of time equal to a thousand Yugas as his night. At the end of the night, Brahmā creates the universe through the cause (potentiality) of creation.

2. At that time, in that vast expanse of water, Brahmā became wind and moved about (in that ocean) enveloped in darkness when the mobile and the immobile beings had (already) perished (and became non-existent).

3-4a. He flooded the surface of the earth all round with water. When the elements had been stationed in Satya[1] (truth) along with their divisions, he moved about like the glowworm during the nights in the rainy season.

4b-5a. He was moving about quickly as he pleased, thinking by means of his intellect, about the means of stabilization.

5b-8a. He was searching for the earth. He realized that the earth was within the water. After knowing that one of them was blind (?) the lord who was capable of lifting up the earth assumed the truthful form of a boar as remembered in the beginnings of the previous Kalpas. Then he entered the water. That lord of subjects wished to contact the earth covered with waters. He lifted up the earth and placed it again along with its child[2] (Reference to Naraka?).

8b-9a. He deposited the waters of the oceans in the oceans and the waters of the rivers in the rivers separately. After levelling the earth he picked up and gathered the mountains.

9b-11. As the previous creation was being burned formerly by the Saṃvartaka fire, the mountains of that period had been melted by that fire. They were then scattered by the wind. Due to chillness, they became solidified. Wherever the (molten rocks) were spilt there arose a mountain. They are called Acalas[3] (not-moving or immobile) because their ridges were immovable. They are remembered as Parvatas because they had Parvans (or joints).

12-14. They are (called) Giris because they had been swallowed. They arc Śiloccaya because they had moved about (Ayana).

Then, after lifting up the earth from within the waters, the lord created seven times seven subcontinents in its seven continents. After levelling the uneven grounds he created mountains all round by means of rocks.

There are only fortynine sub-continents in those continents.[4] As many mountains (i.e. 49) are situated at the borders of the sub-continents.

15-20. In heaven[5] etc. they are enveloped in splendour naturally and not otherwise. The seven continents and oceans encircle one another. They are situated after surrounding one another naturally.

The four worlds are the Bhū and others. As before, Brahmā created the moon and the sun along with the planets as well as the immobile beings all round, as Brahmā created the Devas of this Kalpa, who were Sthānins (persons occupying the abodes). He created the following things as well):—the waters, the fire, the earth, the wind, the firmament, the heaven, the Dyaus (the ethereal world), the quarters, the oceans, the rivers, the mountains, the souls of medicinal herbs, the souls of trees and creepers, the units of time such as Lavas, Kāṣṭhās, Kalās and Muhūrtas, the twilight, the nights, the days; the halfmonths, the months, the Ayanas (transits, one in the six months), the years and the Yugas. He created the abodes and (the dwellers therein) who take pride in the abodes separately by laying claims to them.

21. After creating the souls for the abodes, he created the period of Yugas namely Kṛta, Tretā, Dvāpara and Tiṣya (i.e. Kali).

22. At the beginning of the Kalpa, he created the subjects at the outset. Those subjects of the previous Kalpa have been recounted to you by me.

23-24. In that Kalpa that was being dissolved (i.e. terminated), the subjects were burnt by the fire. Those that had not reached Tapo-loka and those that remained on the earth, return at the time of the subsequent creation for the sake of being visible.[6] Those subjects who stay there for being visible, do so for the sake of subsequent creation.

25. Being created, they exist for the sake of their progeny. They are regarded as having achieved the four Puruṣā-rthas viz.: Dharma, Artha, Kāma and Mokṣa.

26. The Devas, the Pitṛs and the human beings (are created) in order; thereafter, they equipped themselves with penance; they filled the abodes at the outset.

27. Indeed, those human beings become Brāhmaṇas and souls of spiritual achievement. Due to their Karman contaminated by the faults of hatred and too much of attachment[7] they went to heaven (?)

28. While returning in an embodied state, they are born in every Yuga. With the remnants of the fruits of their Karman, (they are born again and again); they are well known as Tadātmakas (? Identified with them).

29-30. The people bound by the advent of (a new) Kalpa are born from the Janaloka. That which is their cause in the waters is indicated by means of the Karman[8](?). From the Janaloka, they are born through auspicious and inauspicious Karmans. They assume physical bodies of diverse forms, in the different species.

31. The subjects beginning with the Devas and ending with the immobile beings are born (influencing) themselves mutually. Their pure (or sanctified) Karmans usually predominated.

32. Therefore, they attained only those names and features (which they had before). Again and again they are born with names and forms in the (different) Kalpas.

33-34. Thereafter, is the creation of Brahmā who is desirous of creating the Upasṛṣṭi (subsidiary creation). Even as he was meditating on those subjects, since he was of truthful meditation, a thousand couples came out of his mouth. It is but natural that they were people of great brilliance with the Sattva quality predominant.

35. He created another thousand couples through his eyes. All of them had the Rajas quality predominant. They were Śuṣmins (lustrous ones) and Amarṣins (intolerant).

36. He created a thousand (couples) of Asats (not good ones) from his arms. Dominated as they were from Rajas and Tamas, they are remembered as gṛha-śila[9] (attached to houses).

37-38. The couples alone gave birth frequently till the end of their lives. Kūṭakas (? deceitful ones) and Akūṭakas (non-deceitful) are born (of those couples) who are mortals (about to die). Since after generating the family, they abandoned their bodies. Even since then there is the occurrence of copulation in this Kalpa.

39. In the Kṛta age,[10] it is by mental meditation that pure objects of senses such as Śabda (sound and others) each of which is of five characteristics (became available).

40. Thus with mental emotions, those subjects without progeny stay dear[11] (?) So also the families were born with which this universe was filled up.

41. They resort to rivers, lakes and oceans as well as to mountains. Then those subjects have very little pleasure in that war(?) but they move in it.[12]

42. They say that the earth with Rasa (juice, water,) is their food. Desirous of mental siddhis those subjects move about as they please.

43. In the Kṛtayuga, the subjects (human beings etc.) had equal length of life, happiness and beauty. In the first Yuga, at the beginning of the Kalpa, there was no Dharma and Adharma.

44-45a. In every Yuga, they were born with their respective rights and authority. They say that the Kṛta yuga at the beginning, had four thousand years in accordance with the reckoning of the gods. The two periods of junction consisted of four hundred years.

45b-46a. There were thousands of subjects of great repute. They had no hindrance anywhere. There were no mutually clashing opposites. There was no Krama (one gradually succeeding another).

46b-47. Those subjects had no regular abodes and resorts. They were residents of mountains and seas. They were immune from sorrow. (The quality called) Sattva was predominant in them. The subjects were exclusively happy. They always moved about as they pleased. They were always delighted in their minds.

48. There were neither animals nor birds. There were no reptiles then. There were no plants etc. There were no drunkards, mad and furious persons. This is the manner of Dharma.

49. For their sustenance, there were flowers and fruits along with bulbous roots. The time was entirely and exclusively pleasant; it was neither too hot nor too chill.

50. Whatever they desire is achieved everywhere and for ever. By their meditations, everything grows up from the nether worlds through the earth.

51. (The vegetation) caused strength and fineness of complexion unto them. It destroyed their sickness and old age, Those subjects had stable (everlasting) youth with their bodies not requiring purificatory rites.

52. In their case, even without copulation subjects (progeny) are born through mere mental conception. The birth and features are the same (in regard to everyone). They are on a par (with one another) and they are pleased and happy.

53. At that time, there is truthfulness, absence of greed, satisfaction, happiness and self-control. In regard to beauty, longevity, aesthetic accomplishments and other activities, all of them are devoid of any mutual difference.

54. The sustenance of the subjects was (abuddhipūrvika) without any conscious intellectual effort. Since the door is open[13] (i.e. there are facilities to auspicious and evil activities) there is lack of conscious effort.

55. At that time there was no systematic classification of castes and stages of life. There were no thieves. They used to deal with one another without any intimate desire or hatred.

56. In the Kṛta yuga, all the subjects are born with equal beauty, features and span of life. They are devoid of inferiority and superiority. Usually they are happy, they are free from sorrow.

57-58. They have neither gain nor loss; neither friends nor enemies; no likes or dislikes. Since they are devoid of desire, their sense-object functions mentally. They do not violently injure mutually nor do they favour one another then.

59. In the Kṛtayuga, knowledge is the greatest thing.[14] In the Tretā, it is said to be the institution of Yajña (sacrifice) (as the greatest thing). In the Dvāpara, war began to function; and in the Kaliyuga, it is stealth alone.

60. The Kṛta Yuga is characterised by Sattva quality; the Tretā Yuga by Rajas quality, the Dvāpara by (a mixture of) Rajas and Tamas qualities, while the Kali, (only) by Tamas quality. Thus the situation of the Guṇas in the Yugas should be known.

61-64a.[15] This is the time in the Kṛta Yuga. Understand (the period of) its junction. Four thousand (divine) years constitute the Kṛta Yuga. The parts of its junction are eight hundred years, according to divine reckoning. It comprises of four thousand human years. (?) Then, among them there are neither sudden clamour and outcry, nor contrarities (?). Then, when that Kṛta yuga along with the part of the junction has passed, the entire Yugadharma (Duty etc. characteristics of the Yuga) becomes reduced to a quarter.

64b-65. That is the time of junction of the Yuga, the Sandhyā (transitional period) of what has passed off. Thus when the Sandhyādharma (Duty characteristics of the transitional stage from Kṛta yuga) is reduced to a quarter (?) it vanishes within the Kṛtayuga without any vestige[16].

66. When the junction has passed away, there was mental progeny. The achievement of spirituality was in another Yuga called Tretā, next to Kṛta.

67. The eight mental Siddhis that had been recounted (as existent) by me in the beginning of the creation, become reduced gradually.

68. In the beginning of the Kalpa, there is one single mental Siddhi, in the Kṛta Yuga, in all the Manvantaras in accordance with the division of the four Yugas.

69. The origin of Karmasiddhi (achievement of Karman) in Kṛta is brought about by the conduct of the people of different castes and stages of life (?). The Sandhyā (junction) of the Kṛta is reduced by a quarter (?)

70. These parts of the junctions of Kṛta take up the three (? other parts) and those Yuga Dharmas as well as penance, learning, strength and longevity decrease and decline.

71. When the Kṛta yuga and its transitional pan have passed, O excellent sages, it is the beginning of Tretā yuga along with its parts.

72-73. When the part of Kṛta yuga has passed off and those seven (? siddhis) remained lingering at the beginning of the Tretā yuga that had begun to function in the early pan of the Kalpa, the (one remaining) Siddhi perishes due to efflux of time and not otherwise; when that Siddhi disappeared another Siddhi was born.

74. (Defective) Parts of waters returned (to the firmament) in the form of clouds. From the thundering clouds the showering of rain began to function.

75. When the surface of the earth had been perfected (watered) by that rain occurring only once the subjects came into being. Thereupon, the trees became designated as their abodes.

76. All kinds of worldly enjoyment of those subjects emanated from them (the trees). In the beginning of the Tretā yuga, the subjects maintained themselves with them.

77. (Defective) then, after the lapse of a great deal of time, due to their own change, they had a sudden emotion in the form of a great desire for close contact.

78. In the case of women (of the modern days) menstruation occurs till the end of their life (?) But then (i.e. in the Tretā yuga), that did not take place on account of the power of the Yuga.

79. But in the case of those women (of later days), the menstrual flow began to function month by month. As a consequence thereof, sexual intercourse also takes place then.

80-81. They had the physical contact every month because of their emotional feelings at that time. When there is no menstrual flow at the proper time, the conception took place. On account of their contrary nature (?), all those trees designated as their abodes and evolved at that time, perish thereafter.

82. When they had perished, the subjects became bewildered and agitated in all their sense-organs. They began to meditate on their Siddhi. They were truthful in their meditation then.

83-84. Those trees designated as their abodes appeared in front of them. They yielded clothes, fruits and ornaments. Similarly, honey of great potency of metaphysical[17] significance was produced in every leafy cup. It was accompanied by the juice of the Gandharvas(?).[18] [Gandharvāṇām rasānvitam in Bd.P. It should be Gandha-varṇa-rasānvitam. ]

85. Those subjects maintained themselves with that at the beginning of Tretā yuga. With that Siddhi they became hale, hearty and well-nourished. They were free from feverish ailments.

86. Thereafter, on other occasions also, the subjects became overwhelmed by greed thus, once again. They seized the trees and took by force the nectar and honey.

87. On account of this misdemeanour on their part brought about by their covetousness, the Kalpa trees (wish-yielding trees) perished here and there along with the Lord[19](?)

88. When that achievement (Siddhi) was reduced to a very little quantity with the passage of time, they maintained themselves with this. Their Dvandvas (rivalries or mutual opposites) rose up tremendously.

89. The chillness, the wind and the sunshine were severe. Therefore they were much tormented. Being afflicted by the mutually opposed pairs of feelings and reactions, they bewailed their wounds[20] (?)

90-93. (Defective) they had been vexed in their minds when formerly they had no abodes. They were wandering about as they pleased. After building houses to remedy the (evil effects of) Dvandvas (like heat and cold), they stayed in the abodes as they pleased as they could secure. (When they had no abodes) they resorted to difficult passages in mountains and on rivers (?) dripping with honey[21], in plains and even in (hilly) regions where water was available. They lived as they pleased and as much as they could enjoy. They began to build those abodes in order to ward off cold (blizzards) and hot (winds). Thereafter, they built hamlets and cities.

94-95. They built villages and cities with their due shares, extent and dimensions and built other settlements as well, in accordance with their knowledge. After measuring with their own fingers (in the beginning), they made thereafter other units also for the sake of measurement.[22]

96-100. (Defective) with Aṅgulas (finger-width) as the basis they made the units, Pradeśa, Hasta, Kiṣku and Dhanus. Ten joints of the fingers (Aṅgulas) constitute what is called Pradeśa. The space delimited by the tips of the extended thumb and index finger is called Pradeśa. The same with (the tip of the extended) middle finger is remembered as Tāla. The same with (the tip of the extended) ring finger is Gokarṇa. The same with (the tip of the extended) small finger is called Vitasti. It has twelve Aṅgulas.

Twenty-one Aṅgulas make the unit Ratni. Twenty-four Aṅgulas make one Hasta. Two Ratnis or forty-two Aṅgulas make a Kiṣku. Four Hastas make one Dhanus or (?) Daṇḍa. The same is a pair of arrows (Nālikās). Two thousand Dhanus make one Gavyūti. This had been made by them then.

101. Eight thousand Dhanus make one Yojana as determined by them. With this Tojana (as the unit of measurement) settlements (i.e. colonies) were made thereafter.

102. Among the four (types of) fortresses, three are natural and the fourth (type of) fort is artificial. I shall mention its decisive features.

103. It has a thick elevated rampart (esp. a surrounding wall elevated on a ṃound of earth) with cavities (or openings). It is surrounded with a moat on all sides. It has a beautiful front-door and a gynaeceum in which girls are kept.

104. (Defective text)[23] The moats two Hastas in breadth are excellent in the case of the Kumārīpura. The total breadth of the current of water in (the moat) may be eight, nine or ten (?).

105-106. (I shall mention)[24] the girth and length of hamlets, cities, and villages entirely as well as those of the three types of (natural) forts viz. mountains, waters (i.e. rivers) and waste-lands such as deserts etc., and the artificial forts as well. The diameter shall be half a Yojana. Its length shall be one and one eighth Yojanas.

107. The extent of a Pura (city) shall be half of the maximum length(?). There must be a river(?) flowing to its east or north. It should be divided into a hypotenum and segments. It must be laid out in the shape of a spread fan.

108. A city that is long, diamond-shaped or circular is not praiseworthy. A city endowed with the symmetrical parts and quadrangles and heaven-like, commendable was made by them.

109. The Vāstu (site of a building; dwelling place) that is not more than twenty four Hastas is short; that of one hundred and eight (Hastas) is great. In this matter they praise the middle one and the short one which has no (wooden structure).

110. The chief settlement should be eight hundred Kiṣkus. The hamlet should be of half the diameter of the city. The Pāna[25] (? Drinking place) shall be above it(?).

111. The hamlet shall be a Yojana (about 12 km) from the city and the village shall be half a Yojana from the hamlet. The outermost boundary shall be two Krośas (1 Krośa = 3 kms). The boundary of a field is four Dhanus.

112. The pathway along the quarters (i.e. East-west and North-south) was made twenty Dhanus wide by them. The road in the village was also twenty Dhanus (wide). The path in the boundary was only ten Dhanus (wide).

113. The glorious royal road was made ten Dhanus wide. The movement of (traffic of) men, horses, chariots and elephants (shall be) without any hindrance.

114. The branch-streets were measured by them (and made) four Dhanus (wide). The roads joining the high-ways shall be three Dhanus (wide) and their branches two Dhanus wide.

115. (Defective text) The Jaṅghāpatha[26] (? the thigh-road) has four Pāḍas width; the passage between rows of houses is three quarters (wide). Dhṛtimārga[27] (? path of courage) if more than one sixth. The Padika (Foot-Path?) is remembered thus in due order.

116. The enclosure for excrement is a quarter all round. After those places have been made, the houses and dwellings (should be constructed).

117. They thought over it again and again about the trees designated as their houses as to how they were before, and began to build like them.[28]

118. The branches of trees have gone down. Others have gone this way. Still others have gone up. In the same way, some have gone obliquely.

119. With their intellect, they have observed carefully how the branches have gone. Apartments were constructed by them in the same way. Hence they (the apartments) are remembered as Śālās.

120. Thus Sālās (apartments, dwellings) became well-known from the branches. So also the abodes. Therefore they are remembered as Śālās. That is remembered as their Śālātva[29] (state of being a Śālā).

121. Since people are delighted therein (Prasīdanti), they are designated as Prāsādas (palaces). Therefore, the abodes, apartments and palaces are designated as Prāsādas.[30]

122. When the wish-yielding Kalpa trees perished along with the honey,(the subjects) attached by the Dvandvas (mutual opposed pairs of feelings etc.) began to think about the means of agriculture and other occupations for livelihood.

123. The subjects created were seen agitated due to exhaustion and sorrow. Thereafter, the Siddhi appeared in front of them in the Tretā yuga.

124. Another (type of) rain became the means of achieving all objects for them. The waters of the rain were sweet and were as much as they wished for.

125-126. Thus a (new) way of life and conduct began to function during the creation of the second type of rain. Due to the contact of the earth with the small collections of water that gathered together on the surface of the earth, the medicinal herbs began to grow. Those medicinal herbs began to put forth blossoms, roots and fruits.

127. The fourteen (types of lands in) villages and forests (began to flourish) without being ploughed and without the seeds being sown. The trees and the bushes put forth flowers and fruits at the proper seasons.

128. In the Tretā yuga, medicinal herbs and plants began to appear themselves on the earth. In the beginning of the Tretā yuga, the subjects sustained themselves with those plants and herbs.[31]

129. Thereafter, due to the inevitability of affairs and due to the Tretā yuga those subjects began to have passion and covetousness for ever.

130. Then, they forcibly seized rivers, fields, mountains, trees, bushes and medicinal herbs as much as they could (in accordance with their strength).

131-132. Previously I have already explained to you about the spiritually enlightened souls in the Kṛtayuga. They were born as mental sons of Brahmā and they had come here (to the earth) from the Janaloka. They were quiescent lustrous Karmins (devoted to the pursuit of holy rites) and (unhappy and dejected). Returning from there (i.e. Janaloka), they were born again in the Tretā yuga.

133. In the previous births, due to the glory of their auspiciousness (i.e. meritorious acts) as well as sins they were conceived as Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas, Śūdras and malicious people.

134-135. Then (among them some became) powerful, truthful in conduct, non-violent, devoid of greed and persons who had conquered their selves. They used to abide by those that were remembered[32] (? Smṛti texts?). They never accepted charity. Their tasks were carried out by those who were weaker than they. They (these weaker people) approached them speaking to them (?)

136-137. Those others who were less brilliant than they, remained serving them. Thus when they were mutually related and also resorted to each other, due to that fault the medicinal herbs diminished much then. Like sands they perished on being held in the fists.

138-139. Then due to the power of the Yuga, the fourteen, (types of people, animals etc.) villages and forests began to pluck (and destroy) the flowers, fruits and roots (of those trees). Then, when they perished the subjects became perplexed. All of them were overwhelmed with hunger; then they went to the self-born (deity i.e. Brahmā).

140-141. In the beginning of Tretā yuga, those subjects desired for some means of livelihood. The self-born lord Brahmā knew their desire. He pondered over this (situation) by means of his vision that can see everything directly. He understood, that the medicinal herbs have been devoured (i.e, drawn within) by the earth. He made them grow once again.

142. After making the Sumeru mountain (as) the calf, he milked this earth in the form of a cow that yielded seeds on the surface of the earth in the form of the milk.[33]

143. The lord made those seeds grow as the medicinal herbs (and other plants) that ended when the fruits became ripe. (That is, the plants yielded fruits but once and then they perished) they are the group of seventeen.

144-145. The following types of seventeen grains and pulses constitute the group of seventeen, viz.. Rice, barley, wheat, Bengal-gram, gingelly Priyaṅgu (Long pepper), Udāra (?), Koraduṣṭa (a kind of grain eaten by the poor people i.e. Kodrava), Vāmaka (?), the black gram, the green gram, the Masūra (dāl), Nīvāra (rice), the horse-gram, the Harika[34] (?) and the Caraka[34] (?).

146a. Thus these were remembered as the species of rural medicinal herbs (Grāmya-Oṣadhi).

146b-147. Śyāmāka (a variety of rice), Nivāra (another variety of rice), Jartila (wild sesamum), Gavedhuka (?) Kuruvinda (a king of barley), Meṇuyava (Bamboo seeds, Tāmātīrkāṭaka(?)[35] etc. are remembered as the fourteen types of medicinal herbs of the villages and forests.

148. All these fourteen varieties (of medicinal herbs and plants) peculiar to villages and forests grew at the beginning of the first Tretā yuga. They are not grown by ploughing.

149. The trees, hedges, creepers, winding plants, spreading creepers and (various) species of grasses yielded roots, fruits,[36] shoots etc. unto them. They plucked their fruits.

150. Those seeds which were milked out of the earth formerly by the self-bora lord, began to grow as medicinal herbs putting forth flowers and fruits at the proper seasons.

151. When, the medicinal herbs created before did not grow and flourish again, he made means of livelihood for them by means of agricultural occupations.[37]

152. The self-born lord (blessed them) with the power of working with their own hands and achieving great results. Thenceforth, the medicinal herbs became Kṛṣṭapacyas (ploughed and grown).

153. After achieving his purpose in the matter of agricultural occupation, the Prajāpati (lord of the subjects i.e. god Brahmā established the bounds of decency by means of which they protected one another.

154. Among them some were very powerful and they seized the realm. He established them as Kṣatriyas and it was their duty to protect others.

155. (Defective).[38] All those subjects who had been created will be worshipping you. ‘Tell the truth in accordance with the fact’. Those (subjects) who said this were the Brāhmaṇas.

156-158. Some stood by in the activity of protecting others who were weak. They destroyed Kīṭas (worms). They were established on the earth. The people call them Vaiśyas and cultivators of soil. They were the achievers of livelihood. Those who were engaged in the service (of others), those who ran errands and served others, were devoid of brilliance and deficient in virility. (Since they were deficient they served others). He called them Śūdras. Lord Brahmā ordained and prescribed their respective duties and holy rites.

159. Although the establishment of the classification into the four castes had been made by him (Lord Brahmā), the subjects, out of delusion, did not conform to those rules.

160. The subjects who lived in accordance with the duties of the (different) castes became antagonistic to one another. Lord Brahmā understood everything factually.

161-162. He ordained that meeting out punishments, maintenance of armies and waging wars should be the means of sustenance for the Kṣatriyas. Performance of Yajñas, teaching of the Vedas and acceptance of charitable and monetary gifts—lord Brahmā prescribed these as the holy duties and rites for those Brāhmaṇas. Breeding of cattle, carrying on trading activities and cultivation of the soil—he granted these to the Vaiśyas.

163-165. Again he ordained that arts and crafts should be the means of livelihood for the Śūdras.

To the Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas he prescribed the common duty of performing Yajña and studying the Vedas as well as giving charitable gifts. To the others the common duty ordained was performance of their duties for livelihood. After prescribing these duties and holy rites, the lord ordained their abodes in the other worlds above:

The Prājāpatya (that belonging to Prajāpati or Brahmā) world is remembered as the abode of the Brāhmaṇas who performed their holy rites and duties.

166. The world belonging to Indra is the abode of Kṣatriyas who never flee from the battlefield. The abode of the Vaiśyas who sustain themselves by their respective duties is the Māruta world (i.e. the world belonging to the wind god).

167. The abode of the Śūdras who abide by their duty of rendering service is the world belonging to the Gandharvas. These are the abodes (after death) of the people of the different castes who remain good and maintain the conduct of life befitting their respective station in life.

168. When this mode of disciplined life of the four castes had been well-established, the people of the different castes strictly adhered to the duties of their respective castes because they were afraid of punishment otherwise. Then, after the castes had been established, he stabilised the stages of life.

169. The Lord established as before the following four Āśramas[39] (stages in life) viz. the householder, the celibate religious student, the forest hermit and the ascetic.

170. (Defective text) the people of the four castes performed the duties of the respective castes. After doing their duties they erected their residences and maintained their stages of life and then enjoyed themselves.

171. Brahmā established those Āśramas. He directed and guided those who swerved from these and recounted righteous virtues to them.

172-173. He instructed them in the methods of self-restraint, observances, and controls of sense-organs etc.

Among the four castes, the stage of the life of a householder stood at the outset because it was the source of origin for the sustenance of the other three Āśramas[40] (stages of life). I shall mention (the duties) in due order along with the holy vows and observances.

174. The following are the duties of the householder in brief: Marriage, maintenance of sacrificial fire, hospitability to guests, performance of Yajñas and continuation of his race (procreation).

175. The duties of the religious student are as follows: He must wear the girdle (of the muñja grass) and hold the staff. He must wear the skin of an antelope. He must sleep on the ground. He must serve his preceptor. He must beg for alms. He must be eager to acquire learning.

176. These are the duties of the forest hermits; wearing barks and leaves or skins of antelope (for clothes), maintaining themselves by means of roots, fruits and medicinal herbs found in the forests, bathing both at dawn and dusk and performance of Homa.

177-178. The duties of the mendicant (recluse) are as follows: He must beg for alms when the noise of pestles has died down. He must not steal. He must maintain cleanliness. He must not err or be elated. He must refrain from sexual intercourse. He must have mercy on all living beings. He must have forbearance. He must listen to the instructions of the preceptor. He must serve the preceptor. He must be truthful. This righteous conduct of ten items (as enumerated above) was laid down by the self-born lord as the duty of a recluse.

179. Five of them pertain to Bhikṣus viz.: begging, knowledge (of vedas) and religious vows.[41]

He mentioned their abodes after death as well as Aśuṣmi (absence of lustre) (?)

180. There are eighty-eight thousand sages who live in perpetual celibacy. The place remembered as their is alone the abode of those who live with their preceptor (i.e. Brahmacārins).

181. The place remembered as the abode of the seven sages (the great Bear) is (assigned as) that of the forest-dwellers. The world of Prajāpati is the abode of house-holders and Brahma’s abode is that of the ascetics.

182.[42] (Defective text)The abode of the Yogins has not been created (?) without conquering them, it does not exist (?) Those abodes of the persons of different stages of life are indeed in the abode of Brahmā.

183. Only four paths have been created as Devayānas (paths of the Devas). Only four paths are remembered as Pítṭyānas (paths of the manes).

184. Formerly, in the first Manvantara (these had been created) by Brahmā who administered the worlds. Ravi (the sun) is remembered as the entrance to those paths that (are known as) Devayānas. The moon (Candramas) is mentioned as the entrance of Pitṛyānas.

185-186. Thus even though the castes and stages of life had been clearly defined, the subjects adhering to the duties of the different castes did not flourish. Then, in the middle of Tretā yuga he evolved another mental creation from the bodies of his own self and similar to himself.

187. In that first Tretāyuga, when it gradually reached its middle period he began to create mental progeny other than (what was before).

188. Then the same lord created the subjects with predominating Sattva and Rajas qualities. They had the pursuit of virtue (Dharma), wealth, love and liberation and they accomplished their professions for livelihood.

189. They were the Devas, the Pitṛs, the sages and the Manus (i.e. human beings?) In regard to their characteristics they were in accordance with the respective Yugas. By these, the subjects (in the universe) flourished.

190-195. (Defective) Formerly, I had mentioned to you about those people who in the previous Kalpa resorted to Janaloka. As when he meditated upon them, all these created beings, approached him for the purpose of being born (again). In the course of Manvantaras, they were first junior-most[43] (?) They were well-renowned by the people of their race (?). They had all the faculties of cleverness or otherwise, unimpaired. They had minor calamities due to the defect of the fruits of their own activities. Those who were present consisted of Devas, Asuras, Pitṛs Yakṣas, Gandharvas, human beings, Rākṣasas, Piśācas, animals, birds, reptiles, trees, worms of hells etc. For the sake of food of the subjects, he created Vidātmans[43] (knowing souls) (?)

Footnotes and references:


Vā.P.8.3 samantāt—all round.


Vā.P.8a reads: apas tāsu tu vinyasan ‘He deposited the waters (over the surface of the earth’.


These verses give ‘etymology’ of the synonyms for a mountain. This Purāṇa is full of semantic etymologies i.e. etymologies based on the meaning of the word and not its form. Sometimes, they are grammatically (even as phonetic derivation) correct, but that is none of the concern of the Purāṇa-writer. Thus acala ‘a mountain’, giri-grī—is understandable but ayanāt tu śiloccayaḥ ‘the mountains are called śiloccaya because of their movements’ is phonetically not defensible.


Every continent has seven sub-continents. Thus the number of subcontinents becomes 7 x 7 = 49. Their list is described later in chs. 18 and 19.


Vā.P.8.15 reads—sargādau sanniviṣṭās te ‘They (mountains) were assembled there at the beginning of creation’. This reading is better than that in the Bd.P. here as Svarga (Heaven) is not relevant in the context.


VV.23 ff. This is the inexorable law of Karma. There may be the dissolution of the universe at the end of a Kalpa, but the beings whose Karmas have not been exhausted (i.e. who have not attained Mokṣa) are reborn in the subsequent Kalpa. This idea has been emphatically repeated in this Purāna.


For āsaṅga-dveṣa-yuktena, Vā.P.8 reads: saṅgādveṣa-yuktena ‘(acts) motivated by non-hatred.’



apsu yaḥ kāraṇaṃ teṣām bodhayan karmaṇā tu saḥ /

Vā.P.8.30a reads:

āśayaḥ kāraṇaṃ tatra boddhavyaṃ karmaṇāṃ tu saḥ /

“Place of residence should be known as its cause” etc.


īhā-śīla (indulging in desires) in Vā.P.7.39.


VV.39-57 give a rosy picture of the Kṛta Yuga.


The corresponding verse viz. Vā.P.8.46a reads:

ityevaṃ mānasī pūrvam prāk-sṛṣṭir yā prajāpateḥ /

“in this way formerly the preliminary creation was mental (after that it was born of copulation. The whole world is filled with that).”


Yuddhe in the text is strange; it should be Yuge. The corresponding verse in Vā.P. (8.47b) reads:

tadā nātyambu-śītoṣṇā yuge etc.

“They wandered (lived) in that Yuga when there was no excess of heat, cold or rain”.


Vā.P.8.61a (a corresponding verse) reads: “... .kṛtayuge karmaṇoḥ for Kṛta-dvāre karmaṇaḥ” in the Bd.P. which is obscure: The verse means: “In the Kṛta Age, there was no inclination both to pious and impious deeds”.


VV.59-60 give a comparative statement of the special features of four Yugas.


VV.61-71 describe the state in the period intervening between Kṛta and Tretā.


The corresponding verse Vā.P.70b-71a:

“When at the end of the yuga, when even the transitional period also expires, the quarter of the dharma characteristic of this transitional period of the yuga, remains.”


ānvīkṣikam in Bd.P. should be amākṣikam (‘with no flies in it).


The verse contains misprints. The original verse seems to be as in Vā.P.8.90:

Teṣveva jāyate tāsām gandha-varṇa-rasānvitam /
amākṣīkam mahāvīryam puṭake puṭake madhu

The honey was endowed with good flavour, colour and taste and had no flies in it.


Vā.P. 8.93b madhunā ‘along with the honey’.


Vā.P.8.95 cakrur āvaraṇāni ca ‘created shelters and covers.’


madhu-dhunvatsu in the text is absurd in the context. Vā.P.8.97 (a corresponding verse) appropriately reads: marudhanvasu—‘in sandy deserts and wildernesses’.


VV. 96-101 give the units of measurements of distance as follows.

10 Aṅgula = Pradeśa,
12 Aṅgulas = Vitasti,
21 Aṅgulas = Ratni,
24 Aṅgulas = Hasta,
2 Ratnis or
42 Aṅgulas = Kikṣu,
4 Hastas = Dhanus or Daṇḍa (?),
2000 Dhanus = Gavyuti,
7000 Dhanus = Yojana.


The corresponding verse in Vā.P. 8.110 runs as follows:

srotasi saṃhata-dvāraṃ nikhātam punar eva ca /
hastāṣṭau ca daśa śreṣṭhā navāṣṭau vā’pare matāḥ

Different opinions about the breadth of the moat in front of Kumāripura are given here as 2, 8, 9, 10 hastas, the last being the best.


VV. 105-116 delineate the ancient ideas of town (and village) planning.


Vā.P.7.116b (in the corresponding verse) reads: grāmaṃ for Pānaṃ of the Bd.P. It means: “a grama should be beyond that”.


jaṅghā-patha is probably a ‘misprint’ for “ghaṇṭā-patha” ‘a bell-road’ i.e. the chief road through a village or a highway. Pada= 15 fingers’ breadth.


Vṛtti-mārga in Vā.P.8.121.


VV.117-121 refer to construction of buildings. It is interesting to note that the Śāla tree played an important part in ancient ideas of housing.


Popular but important etymology of Śālā ‘an apartment or dwelling’.


Etymology of Prāsāda ‘a palace’.


VV 128ff show the prevalence of food-gathering economy in the Tretā yuga. The evolution of four Varṇas is another sociological feature of this Yuga.


Vā.P.8.141 reads: sma teṣu vai for Bd.P. text here: smṛteṣu vai. As the question of memory or smṛti text does not arise here Vā.P. reading is better,


This is the Puranic presentation of the ancient Vedic concept of milking the Virāj cow recorded in AV.VIII. Sūkta 10, Purāṇa-writers used this motif later with god Brahmā, king Pṛthu etc. as the milker. Funnily enough Mt.P. 10.25 makes Vararuci as the milker and the science of Dramaturgy (Nāṭya-Veda) as the milk.

Here god Brahmā milked seeds of medicinal herbs and plants. Men gathered food from them for their livelihood.


Vā.P.8.152a reads: “ādhakyaś caṇakaś caiva” which means: “The pulse cajanus Indicus spreng as well as chick Peas”.


a misprint for (tathā markaṭāś ca ye). Cf. Vā.P.8.154 as MW. gives no word like tāmātīrkāṭaka. markaṭaka is a species of grain.


Vā.P.8.149 reads: puṣpaiḥ for puṣṭāḥ.


VV.151ff described the transition from food-gathering economy to the food-growing one by the introduction of Agriculture. This stage crystalized the four-fold classification of the society with their specific duties (vide VV 161-165 below).


Vā.P.8.162a gives a better reading:

upatiṣṭhanti ye tān vai yāvanto nirbhayās tathā /

“So long all those who worship or respect and obey those Kṣatriyas, they are free from fear”.


VV.169-189 describe the duties of the four Āśramas or stages in life.


Cf, teṣām gṛhastho yonir aprajanatvād ilareṣāmGaut.Dh.S. 111.3.


Probably a misprint for amuṣmin.


Vā.P.8.196 (corresponding verse) reads as follows:

yoginām amṛtam sthānaṃ nānādhīnām na vidyate /

“Immortal (amṛtam) is the abode of Yogins which is not meant for non-Yogins”.


Vā.P.8.209 reads:

ādhīnārthaṃ prajānāṃ ca ātmano vai vinirmame,

“for the control of the subjects, it is reported that he created himself”.