The Linga Purana

by J. L. Shastri | 1951 | 265,005 words | ISBN-10: 812080340X | ISBN-13: 9788120803404

This page describes Achievement of the Science of Music by Narada which is chapter 3 of the English translation of the Linga Purana, traditionally authored by Vyasa in roughly 11,000 Sanskrit verses. It deals with Shaiva pilosophy, the Linga (symbol of Shiva), Cosmology, Yugas, Manvantaras, Creation theories, mythology, Astronomy, Yoga, Geography, Sacred pilgrimage guides (i.e., Tirthas) and Ethics. The Lingapurana is an important text in Shaivism but also contains stories on Vishnu and Brahma.

Chapter 3 - Achievement of the Science of Music by Nārada

Ambarīṣa said:

1. O Mārkaṇḍeya of great intellect, by what means did the highly blessed, saintly lord Nārada acquire the musical lore?

2. At what time did he attain equality with Tumburu? Tell me all these things. O highly intelligent one, you are omniscient.

Mārkaṇḍeya said:

3. This matter has been heard by me from Nārada of divine vision. This Nārada of great intellect and of great refulgence mentioned it to me himself.

4-6a. The saintly lord performed penance for a thousand divine years without breathing and recollecting the honour and gravity of Tumburu, He, as the repository of all penances, performed a severe penance. Then, Nārada the great sage heard in the firmament the divine unembodied wonderful words uttered in a loud voice:

6b-11a. “O leading sage, wherefore do you perform the terrible penance? If your mind is interested in music go and see Ulūka on the mountain on the northern bank of the Mānasa lake.[1] He is known as Gānabandhu one devoted to music. Go quickly and see him. You will acquire proficiency in music.” Nārada who was the best among the eloquent people became excessively surprised on being told thus. He approached Ulūka on the mountain on the northern bank of the Mānasa lake. All round him were seated Gandharvas, Kinnaras, Yakṣas and Apsarases. They were trained by that master and had acquired musical lore. All those who were seated there had exquisite sweetness of tone. They were happy and joyous. Then glancing at Nārada, Ulūka said after duly prostrating to him and worshipping him with greetings.

12-22. “O highly intelligent one, why have you come here? O brahmin, what has to be done by me? Tell me what I shall do to you?”

Nārada said:

O leading Ulūka of great intellect, listen to everything precisely. I shall recount all the antecedents of mine, all the wonderful things that occurred in the past. O scholar, in the previous yuga, Viṣṇu accompanied by Lakṣmī set me aside though I stood near him. Delightedly he invited Tumburu and listened to his excellent songs. Brahmā and other Devas were banished from their abodes. Kauśika and others of unswerving behaviour seated themselves (near) Viṣṇu for singing. With their songs they propitiated Viṣṇu and attained the chieftancy of the Gaṇas and they were happy. Due to this, I became dejected. I have come here to perforin penance. What is given by me by way of charity, what is offered by way of Homa, what is heard or learnt by me—all these do not merit even a sixteenth fraction of the path of music associated with the glory of Viṣṇu. Pondering over this, O brahmin, I performed a terrible penance for a thousand divine years for that purpose. Thereafter, O Ulūka, I heard an aerial voice pertaining to you viz.—“O divine sage, if you have any interest in music, go to Ulūka. O brahmin, ere long you will know”. On being urged thus I have come to you. What shall I do? O unchanging one, I am your disciple. Protect me?

Ulūka said:

23. O Nārada of great intellect, listen to what befell me formerly. It is very wonderful and splendid and it will dispel my sins.

24-28. Formerly, there was a righteous king known as Bhuvaneśa. He performed a thousand horse-sacrifices and ten thousand Vājapeyas. That king gifted away millions and crores of cows, gold pieces, clothes, chariots, elephants, horses and virgins to brahmins. He ruled over the earth making people in his kingdom sing in praise of himself and preventing from singing about others. He proclaimed thus:—“If any one sings in praise of Viṣṇu or anyone else, he will be killed by me. The great Being is worthy of being worshipped by the Vedas. May women sing about me, perpetually and everywhere. May the bards sing only about me.”

29-33. Having ordered thus, the king of great refulgence ruled over the kingdom. Very near the capital of that king there was a brahmin known as Harimitra. He was a devotee of Viṣṇu and was devoid of all Dvandvas (mutually clashing opposites.) He used to frequent the banks of rivers and worship the idol of Viṣṇu. He offered sweet rice cooked in milk, sweet pies, etc. to Viṣṇu with ghee and curds in plenty. After duly bowing down with his mind dedicated to Viṣṇu he sang in praise of him with exquisite beating of time and due intonation. He was endowed with excess of devotion and his innermost mind dwelt on Viṣṇu. Once upon a time, spies came there at the behest of the king.

34. They spoiled his activities of worship all round. They arrested the brahmin and informed the king duly.

35. Then the wicked king rebuked the excellent brahmin, confiscated his riches, and exiled him from his kingdom.

36-37. The Mlecchas[2] seized the idol of Viṣṇu and went off. Thereafter, on the lapse of a great deal of time, that king who had been honoured in. the world passed away. He was afflicted with hunger and dejected. In. his grief he said to Yama:

38. O lord Yama, even though I have come up to the heaven, I have hunger and thirst always. What is the sin committed by me? What shall I do?

Yama said:

39-40. Sin has been committed by you in regard to Hari-mitra and his worship of Vāsudeva. O king, due to that sin, the ailment of hunger has descended on you. It was due to delusion as a result of ignorance, that this great sin has been committed by you to Harimitra the devotee of Vāsudeva.

41-44. O lord of men, your charitable gift, including sacrifice, etc. has perished. You called off Harimitra of great intellect who was singing about the lord with his musical instruments and seized his wealth and the presents offered by him in the worship of Vasudeva. These articles were looted by your servants. At your behest they committed sins. O excellent king, excepting the glory of lord Viṣṇu nothing else should be sung about by a brahmin in the course of his musical activity. Hence, a great sin has been committed by you. All your heavenly worlds have perished. Now, go to the mountain cavity.

45-47. You must continuously bite and eat your own body cast off by you previously. In your hunger you must eat your own body even as you are stationed in the great hell until this manvantara concludes. When the manvantara passes off in due course of time you will attain human birth on the earth.

Ulūka said:

After saying thus, Yama who was conscious of everything vanished there itself.

48. Being eulogised by the chiefs of the Gaṇas, the glorious Harimitra went to the world of Viṣṇu on an aerial chariot, taking along with him the groups of his kinsmen, there.

49. The king Bhuvaneśa, continued to stay in the mountain crevasse eating his own skin. Still he was overwhelmed with hunger and thirst.

50-56. I saw the king there. He told me everything. After seeing him and understanding everything, I approached Harimitra who was proceeding ahead on an aerial chariot sparkling like the sun, surrounded by the immortal beings. I attained excellent longevity by the grace of Indradyumna. It was due to him, O sage of good holy rites, that I could see Harimitra. Thanks to the power of his prowess, my mind turned towards music. O sage, I sat among the Kinnaras for sixty thousand years practising the art of music. My tongue was blessed and it was rendered clear. Then, I learnt music. Within twice that period I attained perfection in the art. By that time ten manvantaras had elapsed. I became a preceptor of music. Gandharvas and others came there. Kinnaras approached me as their preceptor. O sage of great penance, musical lore cannot be acquired by means of penance.

57- 63. Hence, you shall acquire music from me along with proper hearing of the notes. The sage who was advised thus bowed down to Ulūka and sang. Hear that, O excellent sage, and bow down to Vāsudeva.

Mārkaṇḍeya said:

On being urged thus by Ulūka, the sage Nārada learned the art of music in accordance with the procedure of learning. At that time, Ulūka said—“Be devoid of shyness now”.

Ulūka said:

One shall eschew all shyness during sexual intercourse, while singing, when playing the game of dice, while conducting discourse in an assembly, when carrying out business transactions, while taking food, when hoarding wealth, and in calculating income and expenses.

One should never sing with bent body, nor while being shrouded under blankets, etc. While singing, undue manual gestures should be eschewed, mouth should not be opened too wide nor should the tongue be stretched out. One should not sing with the hands lifted up or with the eyes turned upwards. While singing, one should not survey one’s own body nor stare at another man.

64. It is not proper to clap at the buttocks while rising up nor should there be laughter, anger and shaking of limbs. Memory shall not be diverted elsewhere.

65. O sage of great intellect, in the practice of music these trends are not recommended. Beating of time, O sage, is impossible with a single hancL

66. Practice of music shall not be pursued by one overwhelmed with hunger, thirst or fear; nor shall it be conducted in darkness. These and similar things shall not be indulged in the practice of music.

Mārkaṇḍeya said:

67. That saintly lord Nārada, who was advised thus, learned and practised music for the period of a thousand divine years adhering to those characteristics and injunctions laid down by his teacher Ulūka.

68. Thereafter, he became richly endowed with the knowledge in the varieties of musical notes. He became an expert in playing on lutes and other instruments. He became conversant with all notes and tunes in the gamut.

69. The excellent sage perfectly understood the hundreds and thousands of different tunes. He mastered thirty six thousand notes with their minute differences.

70. Gandharvas and Kinnaras who were associated with the sage were perfectly delighted with his singing.

71- 75. After acquiring the art of music, the sage said to Ulūka:—“O preceptor of intellect, the destroyer of ignorance,[3] you are an expert in the art of music. Having approached you I have become richly endowed with the art. What shall I do for you?

Ulūka said:

O Brahmin, in the course of a day of Brahmā, there are fourteen Manus. After their reign, O great sage, the dissolution of the three worlds takes place. The tenure of my life lasts till that period. I have blessedness till then. O excellent sage, whatever you have contemplated in your mind shall be my teaching fee.

Nārada said:

“O preceptor of great intellect, hail unto you. When this kalpa passes and merges into another you will become Garuḍa, be favourable to me. I shall go now.

Mārkaṇḍeya said:

After saying this, Nārada went to Viṣṇu.

76-77. He sang songs in praise of Viṣṇu in the Śveta continent. After listening to that, lord Viṣṇu said to Nārada—“O Nārada, still you are not better than Tumburu. I shall tell you the time when you will become better.

78-79. Having resorted to Uiūka you have become perfectly familiar with topics of music. In the course of the twenty-eighth cycle of four yugas of Vaivasvata Manu I shall be born in the family of the Yadus towards the end of Dvāpara age, O sage of great intellect, I will be born of Devakī and Vasudeva with the name of Kṛṣṇa.

80. At that time you will approach me and remind me duly. Then and there, I shall make you fully endowed with the art of music.

81-83. I shall make you equal to Tumburu, nay even excelling him. Till then learn and teach this art among Devas and Gandharvas. After saying this, Viṣṇu vanished there itself. Thereafter, the celestial sage of divine refulgence became devoted to Vāsudeva. Bedecked in ornaments Nārada the store-house of austerities became engrossed in playing on his lute.

84-85. With his lute resting on his shoulders, the righteous sage wandered over all the worlds, viz. the worlds of Varuṇa, Yama, Agni, Indra, Kubera, Vāyu and Īśa. The sage who was proficient in playing on lute sang in praise of Viṣṇu after going to the assemblies of these guardians of quarters.

86-88. Here and there, he was duly worshipped by the Gandharvas and Apsarases. Once upon a time, he went to the world of Brahmā. There were two Gandharvas Hāhā and Hūhū. They were adepts in the art of vocal and instrumental music. The divine Gandharvas were the bards of Brahmā. In their company, the excellent sage of great refulgence sang in praise of Lord Viṣṇu. He was duly honoured by Brahmā.

89. After bowing down to Brahmā, the grandfather of the worlds Nārada wondered over the worlds, as he pleased.

90. After the lapse of a great deal of time, the sage went to the abode of Tumburu taking his lute with him. Seated, there, he began to sing.

91. On seeing the seven notes[4] Ṣaḍja etc. stationed there, the saintly lord went out hurriedly.

92. The sages of great intellect learned and taught this art in different places. The great sage became exhausted thereby.

93. Though he was an expert in the science of music he sat staring at the presiding goddess of the seven notes. But they did not descend upon the lute-strings while he played on them.

94- 95. Thereafter on the mountain Raivataka[5] the great sage bowed down to Kṛṣṇa and told him about what Nārāyaṇa in Śvetadvīpa had told him formerly in respect to the excellence in the art of music. On hearing this, Kṛṣṇa spoke to Jāmbavatī smilingly and joyously.

96-98. “O gentle lady, teach this excellent sage the art of playing on lute in accordance with the Śāstraic injunctions” Saying to Viṣṇu laughingly, “As you say”, she taught the sage Nārada. When a year was completed he approached Viṣṇu once again, bowed down to him and stood in front of him. Viṣṇu then said—“Go near Satyā (Satyabhāmā) and acquire due training.”

99-102. “As you say”, saying thus, the sage bowed down to Satyabhāmā and began to sing. The scholarly sage was trained by her. When a year was completed, the sage went to the abode of Rukmiṇī, on being directed by Viṣṇu. The excellent sage was addressed thus by the maid-servants and other ladies—“Although you have been singing for a long time, you do not understand the notes properly.

Then, with very great effort the sage was trained by the gentle lady Rukmiṇī for a period of three years. The sage then sang when the presiding ladies of Svaras attained harmonious blend with the strings.

103. Then, Lord Kṛṣṇa, the incomprehensible soul, himself called the great sage and taught him the excellent art of music.

104. Thereby the excellent sage surpassed Tumburu. The celestial sage thereupon danced in joy after duly bowing down to Viṣṇu.

105. Viṣṇu laughed and said:—“O great sage, you now know everything. With due and perfect knowledge sing in my presence.

106. What you have been seeking has been attained by you. Hence, sing in praise of me along with the sage Tumburu.

107-109. Thus urged, Narada acted accordingly. When Kṛṣṇa worshiped Rudra the leader of the worlds, the sage sang in praise of Śiva at the behest of Viṣṇu. He sang in the company of Rukmiṇī, Satyā and Jāmbavatī as well as Kṛṣṇa. O excellent king, he had become by this time an expert in the seven primary notes.[6]

O leading sages, thus the gradual acquisition of the art of music[7] by the sage Nārada has been mentioned to you.

110-112. O king, a brahmin who sings the glory of Vāsudeva befittingly attains the world of Viṣṇu. One who sings in praise of Rudra will be more excellent. Otherwise, one will fall into the hell. A person singing in praise of any one else will also fall into the hell.

One who is devoted to Viṣṇu mentally, verbally and physically, one who sings about him and one who hears his glory shall attain him. Hence, they know that he is the greatest lord.

Footnotes and references:


Mānasottara-śaila [śaile]—on the mountain to the north of the Mānasa lake in the country of Gandharvas.


mleccha [mlecchāḥ]—The term mleccha has a bearing on the date of this Purāṇa. Mlecchas were wild ferocious tribes, such as Huns, whose acts of violence caused vast devastations and destructions and struck terror in the social life of the country. Like the cattle-lifting Paṇis of the Rigvedic age, they are mentioned here as stealers of the images of Devas.


Mānasottara-śaila [śaile]—on the mountain to the north of the Mānasa lake in the country of Gandharvas.


ṣaḍjādyāḥ—seven notes of the musical gamut. Cf.—[niṣādarṣabhagāndhāraṣaḍjamadhyamadhaivatāḥ | pañcamaścetyamī sapte tantrīkaṇṭhotthitāḥ svarāḥ ||]


Raivataka or Raivata, a mountain near Dvārakā. F.E. Pargiter (MP. p. 289) identifies it with the Barada hills. Gf. Arch. Surv. of W. India by J. Burgess, Kāthiawad, pp. 12,15, 84 and 154. Pargiter holds that like the Himavat, Vindhya, and other ranges, which are often spoken of in the singular, Raivata denotes a group of ranges.


śruti-jāti-viśārada [viśāradaḥ]—expert in music.


geya [geyam]—science of music.

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