by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237
This is the English translation of the Markandeya Purana, one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. The Puranas (purāṇa) are a genre of Hindu religious texts. Its leading feature is narrative; and it presents an uninterrupted succession of legends. This translation features Sanskrit-native words that have been rendered using the IAST transliteration schem...
This translation of the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa being made for the Asiatic Society of Bengal naturally follows the edition of this work prepared by the Rev. Dr. K. M. Banerjea, and published in the Bibliotheca Indica in 1862; yet other editions and some MSS. have been consulted and are referred to. The translation has been kept as close to the original as possible, consistently with English sense and idiom; for a translation loses some of its interest and much of its trustworthiness, when the reader can never know whether it reproduces the original accurately or only the purport of the original. The time during which the work has been in hand has rendered it difficult to maintain one system of transliteration throughout; but, in order to place the whole in a consistent state, the system established by the Royal Asiatic Society and approved by the Asiatic Society of Bengal has been adopted in the Index and in this Introduction.
The general character of this Purāṇa has been well summed up by Prof. Wilson in his preface to his Translation of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, except that his description hardly applies to the Devī-māhātmya. “This Purāṇa has a character different from that of all the others. It has nothing of a sectarial spirit, little of a religious tone; rarely inserting prayers and invocations to any deity; and such as are inserted are brief and moderate. It deals little in precepts, ceremonial or moral. Its leading feature is narrative; and it presents an uninterrupted succession of legends, most of which when ancient are embellished with new circumstances, and when new partake so far of the spirit of the old, that they are disinterested creations of the imagination, having no particular motive, being designed to recommend no special doctrine or observance. Whether they are derived from any other source, or whether they are original inventions, it is not possible to ascertain. They are most probably, for the greater part at least, original; and the whole has been narrated in the compiler’s own manner; a manner superior to that of the Purāṇas in general, with exception of the Bhāgavata."
The Purāṇa is clearly divisible (as Dr. Banerjea noticed) into five distinct parts, namely:—
2. Cantos 10-44, where, though Jaimini propounds further questions to the Birds and they nominally expound them, yet the real speakers are Sumati, nicknamed Jaḍa, and his father.
3. Cantos 45-81: here, though Jaimini and the Birds are the nominal speakers, yet the real speakers are Mārkaṇḍeya and his disciple Krauṣṭuki.
4. Cantos 82-92, the Devī-māhātmya, a pure interpolation, in which the real speaker is a ṛṣi named Medhas, and which is only repeated by Mārkaṇḍeya.
5. Cantos 93-136, where Mārkaṇḍeya and Krauṣṭuki carry on their discourse from canto 81.
The 137th canto concludes the work; it is a necessary corollary to the first part.
There can be no doubt that only the third and fifth of these parts constituted the Purāṇa in its original shape as Mārkaṇḍeya’s Puraṇa. The name would imply that originally Mārkaṇḍeya was the chief figure, and it is only in the third part that he appears as the real teacher. There is, however, clearer evidence that the Purāṇa began with the third part originally, for this is asserted almost positively in canto 45, verses 16 to 25. There Mārkaṇḍeya, after declaring that this Purāṇa, equally with the Yedas, issued from Brahma’s mouth, says—“I will now tell it to thee......Hear all this from me......as I formerly heard it when Dakṣa related it.” These words plainly mean that the true Purāṇa began here; or, if the necessary words of introduction be prefixed, that it began at verse 16 or 17, which verses have been slightly modified since in order to dovetail them into the preceding portion.
The first and second parts were composed afterwards and then prefixed to the Purāṇa proper. That they were later compositions is implied by the fact that the Birds recite the Purāṇa proper as an authority, and is indeed indicated by the origin attributed to them. While the original Purāṇa was proclaimed to be a revelation from Brahmā himself, no higher authority is claimed for the first and second parts than Mārkaṇḍeya and the unknown brahman Sumati Jaḍa. Further, mention is made in canto 20, verse 33, of Purāṇas which narrate Viṣṇu’s manifestations. This expression is vague. If it means lengthy descriptions of some of the incarnations, such Purāṇas might be the Viṣṇu, Brahmavaivarta, Brahma and Bhāgavata; but the last two were pronounced by Prof. Wilson to be late compositions, and the reference here may be to the former two only, to which he assigned about an equal date with this Purāṇa. There is nothing definite to show whether the first and second parts had been united before they were prefixed to the Purāṇa proper, or whether the second part was inserted after the first had been prefixed; yet it would seem more probable that they had been united before they were prefixed. There is a marked similarity between them.
The prefixing of the discourses delivered by the Birds to the Purāṇa proper raised the Birds to the primary and chief position and tended to derogate from Mārkaṇḍeva’s pre-eminence; but clashing was avoided and Mārkaṇḍeya’s supremacy was preserved by two expedients; first, he was introduced at the very beginning in order that he might expressly declare the wisdom and authority of the Birds; and secondly, the original Purāṇa was interfered with as little as possible by making the Birds repeat it in its entirety as Mārkaṇḍeya’s teaching, conclusive upon the subjects dealt with in it. The Birds on beginning it retire from further notice, but reappear with Jaimini in the final canto to conclude their discourse and give consistency to the combined instruction. This was a termination rendered necessary by the prefixing of the first two parts to the original Purāṇa.
The second part appears to have been amplified beyond its primary scope. It discourses about birth and death, about the hells, about sins and their punishments and about yoga or religious devotion. All these subjects are briefly dealt with, though the description of the different hells is ampler than in other Purāṇas, but the last subject leads to a discursive exposition. If dealt with like the other subjects, the exposition would pass from canto 16, verse 12 immediately to canto 37, where king Alarka is driven by adversity to seek Dattātreya’s advice and that ṛṣi expounds the doctrines of yoga to him in cantos 38 to 43, and the story naturally closes with canto 44. But the reference to that king and that ṛṣi was considered to require some elucidation at canto 16, verse 13, hence the story of Dattātreya and the story of Alarka’s parents Ṛtadhvaja and Madālasā are made the introduction to the direct exposition of yoga, with the result that the digression is so long that, when the subject of yoga is reached, its connexion with Jaimini’s questions has been lost to sight; and even the passage from the story of Dattātreya to that of Alarka at the end of canto 19 is inapt and abrupt.
Both these stories moreover appear in their turn to have been expanded beyond their natural course. The story of the brahman and his devoted wife in canto 16, which furnishes an unnecessary explanation of the birth of Dattātreya, is a story of common town life, an absurd anachronism compared with what it explains; and it seems with its reference to a temple dedicated to Anasūyā during her life-time to be an interpolation intended for her glorification. The story of Ṛtadhvaja and Madālasā is a charming one of simple marvel and runs its natural course in cantos 20 to 27 as far as Madā-lasā’s instruction of her son Alarka in kingly duties; but the following cantos 28 to 35, in which she expounds the laws regarding brahmans, śrāddhas, custom, &c., hardly accord with the story or with her position and knowledge, and seem to be an interpolation. Some teaching on such matters being deemed desirable, here was the only place where the addition was possible.
The Devī-māhātmya stands entirely by itself as a later interpolation. It is a poem complete in itself. Its subject and the character attributed to the goddess shew that it is the product of a later age which developed and took pleasure in the sanguinary features of popular religion. The praise of the goddess Mahāmāyā in canto 81 is in the ordinary style. Her special glorification begins in canto 82, and is elaborated with the most extravagant laudation and the most miraculous imagination. Some of the hymns breathe deep religious feeling, express enthusiastic adoration, and evince fervent spiritual meditation. On the other hand, the descriptions of the battles abound with wild and repulsive incidents, and revel in gross and amazing fancies. The Devī-māhātmya is a compound of the most opposite characters. The religious out-pourings are at times pure and elevated: the material descriptions are absurd and debased.
The ending of the Purāṇa deserves notice. It closes with the exploits of king Dama. According to the Gauḍiya or Bengal MSS., which Dr. Banerjea followed, the Purāṇa ends abruptly in canto 136, leaving Dama acquiescing tamely in the flight of his father’s murderer Vapuṣmat. The up-country version (the ending of which he placed in an appendix) is found in the Bombay and Poona editions and carries the story on till Dama takes vengeance on Vapuṣmat. Dr. Banerjea considered the abruptness and incompleteness were strong evidence of the genuineness of the Bengal ending; and no doubt that is a fair argument, but it overlooks the character of the two endings. The pusillanimity which that ending ascribes to Dama jars with the whole tone of his threat in canto 135 which both versions account genuine. On the other hand the up-country ending narrates the fulfilment of that threat, and the savage and even inhuman incidents which it mentions are hardly explicable if it is spurious, for Dama after killing Vapuṣmat used Vapuṣmat’s blood and flesh for the oblations due to his murdered father, and also (it is implied) gave certain degraded brahmans a cannibal feast. A forger would not wish nor dare to invent in his eulogy of one of the kings such repulsive incidents, desecrating the most sacred rites and tenets of his religion, nor if we can imagine such a forgery did occur, could it have ever obtained even tolerance. It is impossible, therefore, to think that the up-country ending is a forgery; and if it be the true original, one can easily understand why such an ending should have been struck out, and how the reviser, unable to invent or palm off a new ending, had to bring the story to the abrupt and jejune conclusion of the Bengal version. The up-country ending has, therefore, been adopted as the true version in this translation, and the Bengal ending has been noticed separately. The former discloses, like stray passages elsewhere, that savagery was not absent from the earliest memories of the Aryans in India.
For the purpose of discussing the Purāṇa further, it will be convenient to consider the first and second parts as composing one Section, and the third and fifth parts as composing another Section; and this division will be observed in wbat follows. The Devī-māhāt-mya constitutes a Section by itself.
Place of Origin.:
With regard to the question of the place of its origin, the Purāṇa in both its Sections professes to have emanated from Western India.
The second Section as the oldest may be considered first. In canto 45, vs. 24 and 25, Mārkaṇḍeya says positively that Cyavana was the ṛṣi who first declared it: Cyavana obtained it from Bhṛgu and declared it to the ṛṣis, they repeated it to Daks a and Mārkaṇḍeya learnt it from Dakṣa. Now Cyavana is intimately associated with the west of India, especially with the region about the mouths of the rivers Narmada and Tapti. His father Bhrgu and their descendants Ṛcīka, Jamadagni and Paraśu Kama are connected in many a legend with all the country north, east and south of that region. That was the territory of the Bhārgava race (see pp. 310 and 368). As Cyavana settled near the mouths of those rivers, the Purāṇa itself claims to have been first declared by him in that region.
Mārkaṇḍeya himself was a Bhārgava. This is stated in canto 45, v. 18 and canto 52 vs. 14-17; and also in the Mahābhārata, Vana-p. ccxvi. 14104-5. The Bhārgavas spread from Cyavana’s region, especially eastward along the valleys of the Narmadā and Tapti, as those valleys were gradually wrested from the hill races by the Vāda-vas and Haihayas, the most famous conquerors of which race were Arjuna Kārtavīrya and Jyāmagha. The former reigned in Māhiṣmatī on the Narmadā; and the latter apparently conquered further eastward (see M. Bh., Vana-p. cxvi., Śānti-p. xlix; Harivaṃśa, xxxiii. 1850-90, andxxxvii. 1980-87; Viṣṇu P., cli-clxxiv; and Matsya P. xliii.-13-5l and xliv. 28-36). Mārkaṇḍeya is said to have paid visits to the Pāṇḍavas and to have had a tīrtha at the junction of the Ganges and Gomati (M. Bh., Vana-p. lxxxiv. 8058-9), but his special abode appears to have been on the river Payoṣṇī (the modern Purnā and its continuation in the Tapti, see p. 299) (id. lxxxviii. 8330). Both by lineage and by residence therefore he belonged to that western country, and the original Purāṇa must have been composed there. Bhārgavas are continually alluded to throughout the Purāṇa.
As regards the first Section, it is said the Birds, to whom Jaimini was referred, were living in the Vindhya mountains, and it was there that they delivered the Purāṇa to him. They are explained of course to be four brahman brothers in a state of transmigration, and it appears to be implied in canto 3, vs. 22-24, that their father, the muni Sukṛṣa, dwelt on or near the Vindhyas. He had a brother named Tumburu. There were other persons of this name, such as Tumburu who was a guru among the Gandharvas (see pp. 571, 647, 648, and 118 as corrected; and M. Bh., Sabhā-p. li. 1881.); but it seems permissible to connect this brother Tumburu with the tribes of the names Tum-bura and Tumbula who dwelt on the slopes of the Vindhyas (p. 343).
The Birds are said to have dwelt in the Vindhyas in a cave, where the water was very sacred (p. 17), and which was sprinkled with drops of water from the river Narmadā (p. 19); and it is no doubt allowable to infer the situation from these indications, namely, some cliffs of the Vindhya hills where those hills abut on the river Narmadā at a very sacred tīrtha. Such a spot cannot be sought above the modern Hoṣangabad, for the river above that was encompassed in early times by hills, dense forest and wild tribes. Among the very sacred places where the Vindhya hills on the north approach close to the river, none satisfies the conditions better that the rocky island and town of Mandhāta, which is to be identified with Māhiṣmatī, the ancient and famous Haihaya capital. The modern town of Mahesar, some fifty miles lower down the river, claims to be the ancient Māhiṣmatī, but does not satisfy the allusions. Māhiṣmatī was situated on an island in the river and the palace looked out on the rushing stream (Raghu-V., vi. 43). This description agrees only with Mandhāta. Māhiṣmatī was sacred to Agni in the earliest times (M. Bh., Sabhā-p. L125-63). Mandhāta has special claims to sanctity; it has very ancient remains; it has become sacred to Śiva, and the famous shrine of Omkāra and other temples dedicated to him are here (Hunter, Impl. Gaz., “Mandhāta.”). The hills close in on the river here, and on the north bank are Jain temples. In these hills on the north bank overlooking the river at Mandhāta we may place the alleged cave where the first part of the Purāṇa professes that it was delivered; and this identification will be found to explain many further features of the Purāṇa
With regard to the second part it may be noticed that Sumati Jaḍa, whose words the Birds repeat, belonged also to the family of Bhṛgu (p. 63). Hence this part belonged to the same region where the Bhārgavas predominated. With this view agrees the statement that the rainy season lasts four months and the dry season eight months (p. 147), as I understand is the rule in this region. It is further worthy of note that eyes of blue colour, like the blue water-lily (nīlotpala) are given to Lakṣmī (p. 104) and to Madālasā (p. 114); and such a comparison is rare, I believe, in Sanskrit. It was (may it be inferred?) in Western India that people with blue eyes could have been seen as visitors in circumstances of such appreciation that their features became a model of beauty.
There are some other matters that might have been expected to yield information of a local character, such as the lists of various trees, plants, birds and animals (pp. 24-31, 164-6 and 244-5) and the peculiar exposition of the construction and nomenclature of fortresses (pp. 240-2). I have, however, been unable to deduce any definite conclusion from the latter, and the lists betray no special local character, but rather aim at being as comprehensive in their way as the geographical cantos (57 and 58).
Both the first and second Sections, therefore, plainly emanated from Western India, and indicate the middle portion of the Narbadā and Tapti valleys as their place of origin. It remains to consider the Devī-māhātmya, and the following considerations point to the same place of origin, especially to Mandhāta.
The Devī-māhātmya must have originated in some place dedicated to the goddess in her terrible form. The poem has now become a text-book of the worshippers of Kālī throughout Northern India and in Bengal, especially at the great Durgā-pūjā festival, but it did not originate in Bengal. The goddess whom the poem glorifies is a goddess formed by the union of the vigours or energies (tejas, not śakti) of all the gods (p. 473), and she is called Mahāmāyā, Caṇḍikā, Ambikā, Bhadrakālī and Mahākālī (pp. 469, 476, &c. and 521). Though identified with Śrī once (p. 484), yet she is generally identified in the hymns with Śiva’s consort as Durgā, Gaurī, Śivadūtī and Mahākālī (pp. 484-5,494-6, and 521). The goddess Kālī, however, who is also called Cāmuṇḍā (p. 500), is made a separate goddess who issued from Caṇḍīkā’s forehead (p. 499); and Caṇḍikā gave her the name Cāmuṇḍā, because (as it is expressed in a bon mot) she had killed two great demons Caṇḍa and Muṇḍa (p. 500). Whether this derivation has any imaginary truth or not must be very doubtful, because fanciful derivations are common in this Purāṇa and elsewhere. The Śaktis of the gods are made separate emanations from the gods, and are called the Mothers, mātṛgana (pp. 502, 504). The poem is therefore a glorification of Durgā in her terrible aspect, with Kālī as an emanation from her.
One would therefore look among the strongholds of Śiva worship for the birth-place of this poem. Now it is remarkable that of the great liṅga shrines (which are reckoned to be twelve), no less than six are situated in or near the very region of Western India where the Purāṇa originated; viz, Omkāra at Mandhāta, Mahākāla at Ujjain, Tryambak at Nasik, Ghṛṇeśvara at Ellora, Naganāth east of Ahmadnagar, and Bhīma-śaṅkar at the sources of the river Bhīma. Mandhāta was doubly distinguished, for another famous liṅga was Amreśvara on the south bank of the river there. At none of them however, except at Oṃkāra, was Śiva or Durgā worshipped with sanguinary rites, as far as I can find.
In the Mahābhārata Durgā has the names Mahākālī, Bhadrakālī, Caṇḍā and Caṇḍī; and she is also called Kālī, no distinction being made (Virāṭa-p. vi. 195; Bhīṣma-p. xxiii. 796-7). The name Cā-muṇḍā does not apparently occur there. Cāmuṇḍā was worshipped with human sacrifices, for she is mentioned in the fifth Act of the Mālatī-mādhava, where her temple is introduced and her votaries tried to offer a human sacrifice at the city Padmāvatī. Padmāvatī was a name of Ujjain; but some scholars would identify it with Narwar which is on the R. Sindh, though that town seems to be too distant to suit the description at the beginning of the ninth Act. Whether Padmāvatī was Ujjain or not, there can be no doubt from that description that it was situated in the region north of the Vindhyas between the upper portions of the rivers Chambal and Parbati, that is, in the region immediately north of Mandhāta.
The only local allusion in the poem is that the goddess is Mahākālī at Mahākāla (p. 521), which is a shrine of Śiva at Ujjain; and it is possible the poem may have been composed to proclaim the māhātmya or glory of that place. But this is hardly probable, because the allusion is very brief, and the worship there was not apparently of the kind to originate this poem. Moreover, if Padmāvatī was Ujjain, the Mālatī-māḍhava distinguishes between the temple of Cāmuṇḍā and the shrine of Mahākāla, for the temple is described as being adjacent to a field which was used as a burning-ground for corpses and which must have lain outside the city; and if Padmāvatī was some other town, the allusion here to Mahākāla has no connexion with Cāmuṇḍā or Caṇḍikā at Padmāvatī. It is hardly probable that, if this poem originated at Ujjain, the goddess at the shrine of Mahākāla would have been referred to in this manner. Hence this passage more probably conveys only a commendatory allusion; and it seems more natural and appropriate to connect the poem with Mandhāta, where this phase of sanguinary worship was particularly strong.
The worship of Cāmuṇḍā points to the same conclusion. Human sacrifices had long been abolished in the civilized countries of India, and the offering of such sacrifices at Padmāvatī could hardly have been a survival but must have been introduced from elsewhere. Such a practice would naturally be clandestine. Human sacrifices were offered in those times only among the rude tribes of Central India, among whom such sacrifices survived till the last century; hence it may be inferred that such offerings to Cāmuṇḍā at Padmāvatī must have been introduced from places which bordered on those tribes and were affected by their rites. The middle portion of the Narbada valley was eminently such a place. Pointing in the same direction is the statement in the Mahābhārata that Durgā had her eternal abode on the Vindhyas and was fond of intoxicating liquor, flesh and cattle (Virāṭa-p. vi. 195). It seems reasonable then to conclude that the Devī-māhātmya is earlier than the Mālatī-mādhava; and if so, the name Cāmuṇḍā and the form Caṇḍikā occur apparently the first time in this poem.
Mandhāta was a famous ancient tīrtha and appears to have fallen into neglect and been almost deserted in the 11th and 12th centuries A.D., but its glory was revived. About the year 1165 “a Gosāin, named Daryāo Nāth, was the only worshipper of Omkār on the island, which pilgrims could not visit for fear of a terrible god called Kāl
Bhairava and his consort Kālī Devi, who fed on human flesh. At last Daryāo Nāth by his austerities shut up Kālī Devi in a cave, the mouth of which may yet be seen, appeasing her by erecting an image outside to receive worship; while he arranged that Kāl Bhairava should, in future, receive human sacrifices at regular intervals. From that time devotees have dashed themselves over the Bīrkhala cliffs at the eastern end of the island on to the rocks by the river brink, where the terrible god resided; till in 1821 the British officer in charge of Nimār witnessed the last such offering to Kāl Bhairava.” (Hunter, Impl. Gaz., “Mandbāta”). There does not appear to be any information, what kind of worship was offered there before the 11th century, yet the facts suggest strongly that such sanguinary rites were not a new ordinance but had prevailed there before.
Both Śiva and his consort in their most terrible forms were thus worshipped at Mandhāta, which was almost exclusively devoted to their service; and it is easy to understand how such a sanguinary form of religion could take shape here. This region of the Narbadā valley was specially connected with demon legends, such as the demon stronghold of Tripura and the demon Maliiṣa, after which the towns Tewar and Mahesar are said to be named. It also bordered on the Nāga country. Mandhāta, with such associations, would be the most probable birth-place of this poem, and the brief allusion to Mahākāla would then be only a collateral one; yet, even if the poem was composed at Ujjain, the conclusion would still remain good that the poem originated in this region of Western India.
Date of the Purāna.:
The question of the date of the Purāṇa is more difficult, since all questions of chronology in Sanskrit writings are most uncertain. One definite and important date may be first noticed. Mahāmahopādhyāya Haraprasād Śāstrī found a copy of the Devī-māhātmya in old Newari characters in the Royal Library in Nepal, and it is dated 998 Ā.D. (See his Catalogue), It may be safely inferred therefrom, that this poem must have been composed before the beginning of the 10th century at the latest. The Devī-māhātmya cannot therefore be later than the 9th century and may be considerably earlier. Since it is the latest part of the Purāṇa, the other parts must have been composed earlier, and the question for consideration is, how much earlier?
Prof. Wilson in his preface to his Translation of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa pointed out that this Purāṇa is later than the Mahābhārata but anterior to the Brahma, Padma, Nāradīya and Bhāgavata Purāṇas, and conjectured that it may be placed in the ninth or tenth century A.D. This, as already noticed, is too recent, moreover it has been discovered since that his estimates of the composition of the several Purāṇas under-reckon their age, and that the periods assigned by him should be moved some centuries earlier. For instance, he conjectured the collective writings known as the Skanda Purāṇa to be modern and “the greater part of the contents of the Kāśī Kbaṇḍa anterior to the first attack upon Benares by Mahmud of Ghizni” (Preface, p. lxxii)— which must mean that the Kāśī Khaṇḍa is earlier than the 11th century A.D. But Mahāmaliopādhyāya Haraprasād Śāstrī found in the Royal Library in Nepal a copy of the “Skanda Purāṇa” written in the later Gupta characters of the 6th or 7th century A.D. From that it is obvious that the composition of the Skanda Purāṇa must have taken place four or five centuries earlier than Prof. Wilson’s estimate. Hence it is possible that a corresponding modification of his estimate regarding the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa should be made, and that would place it about the śth century A.D.
Further evidence is obtained from Jain writings that the Purāṇas are much earlier than Prof. Wilson estimated. Thus the Padma Purāṇa of the Jains, which was written by Raviṣena in imitation of the Hindu Padma Purāṇa, contains, I understand, a couplet showing that it was composed in the year 678 A.D; and that Purāṇa mentions all the Purāṇas. All are mentioned again in the Jain Adi Purāṇa of Jinasena who lived about a century later. This evidence would demonstrate that all the Hindu Purāṇas had been composed before the end of the sixth and probably by the end of the fifth century A.D.; though of course it leaves room open for subsequent additions and interpolations in them.
A common method of estimating the age of a Sanskrit composition is to consider the religious and philosophical ideas embodied in it; yet to discuss questions of chronology on the basis of such ideas seems to be more interesting than convincing. Such ideas have passed
along a course of development in India, but it is doubtful how far general inferences therefrom can be safely applied to fix the date of a particular work. Where such ideas are founded on sacred compositions, which are the subject of reverent study, there must be flows, eddies and intervals of stagnation, and even rapids and back currents, in the stream of such ideas. Their course may be compared with similar speculations, not in a single European country, but in the whole of Europe, for India has always comprised many countries; and the history of Europe during the last four hundred years shews, whether it would be easy to determine the date of a writing on such subjects in Latin solely from its contents, for the progress of thought in the different countries has been neither simultaneous nor uniform. Similarly in India, there can be no doubt that, while religion and philosophy have had their general course of development, the course has been very unequal in the different countries, so that it would not be unreasonable to suspect that at the same time one country was advancing, another was stationary, and a third was even degenerating under political adversity. The development of religion and philosophy in India then is not so clear that one can do more than venture to conjecture upon such grounds, at what period or periods this Purā-ṇa, which was written in Western India, was composed. And, as already mentioned, it has so little of a sectarian spirit or of special doctrines that the basis for conjecture is meagre. Subject to this caution the following features may be noticed.
Among the deities, Indra and Brahma are mentioned oftenest; next stand Viṣṇu and Śiva; then the Sun and Agni; and lastly Dharma and others. Indra is mentioned most often in the first and fifth parts, and Brahmā in the third and fifth parts; while Viṣṇu and Śiva do not show any particular preponderance. If the Devī-māhātmya is put aside, the Sun is the deity that receives the most special adoration, and his story is related twice, first, briefly in cantos 77 and 78, and afterwards with fullness in cantos 102-110. To this may be added the cognate worship of Agni in cantos 99 and 100. Such marked reverence for Agni and the Sun would be natural in such a place as Māhiṣmatī, which (as already mentioned) was specially sacred to Agni before the worship of Śiva obtained supremacy there. Kāma. rūpa, the modern Gauliāṭi in Assam, is mentioned as specially appropriate for the worship of the Sun (p. 581), and why it should have been so characterized seems unintelligible unless it was considered to be an udayagiri.
The prominent notice of the great Vedic god Indra, and of Brahma the earliest of the post-Vedic gods, would indicate a fairly high antiquity for the Purāṇa, especially for the second Section, which boldly claims to have issued from Brahmā’s mouth equally with the Vedas (p. 219) and thus to stand almost on an equality with them— an honour which none of the other Purāṇas ventures to arrogate for itself. Such an antiquity would also explain the high position assigned to the Sun and Agni, who are also among the chief Vedic gods; yet the special praise offered to the Sun may, as Dr. Banerjea hinted, be perhaps attributable in part to Persian influences.
The first Section of the Purāṇa is certainly later than the Mahābhārata, for the four questions that Jaimini propounds to the Birds arose expressly out of that work. These questions are, first, a religious enigma, Why did Vāsudeva (Viṣṇu) though devoid of qualities assume human shape with its qualities of goodness, passion and ignorance? secondly, a social perplexity, Why was Draupadī the common wife of the five Pāṇḍava brothers? thirdly, a moral incongruity, Why did Baladeva expiate the sin of brahmanicide by pilgrimage? and fourthly, a violation of natural justice, Why did Draupadī’s five sons all perish in their youth? The obtrusion of these questions implies that the Mahābhārata was firmly established as an unimpeachable authority, so that difficulties involved in it could not be disputed and must admit of reconciliation with the laws of ' Righteousness.
The explanations offered by the Birds appear to be these. Vāsudeva (Viṣṇu) existed in quadruple form; the first form was devoid of qualities, but each of the others was characterized by one of the three qualities, so that in his assuming human and other shapes with all the qualities no violation occurred to his nature. The second question is solved by the assertion, that because of Indra’s transgressions five portions of his essence became incarnate in the Pāṇḍavas, and his wife became incarnate as Draupadī, so that she was still the wife of only one person. The third question seems to turn on the ideas, that brahmanicide was a heinous sin expiable by death
and that pilgrimage was a pious undertaking; how therefore could such a sin be expiated by such action? The answer seems to he that the sin was unintentional, being due to overpowering sensual influences, and did not call for the full rigour of punishment, while the real penance consisted in confession. The fourth question is solved by a story of transmigration; Draupadī’s sons were five Viśve Devās who were cursed by Viśvāmitra to assume human form for a brief period.
The first two questions and answers call for some notice and throw some light on the age of the first Section of the Purāṇa.
With regard to the first question, Dr. Banerjea has remarked in his Introduction that the description of Vāsudeva belongs to the school Nāradapañearātra, to which Śaṅkarācārya has given an elaborate reply in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras; while no trace of this doctrine is to be found in the second Section of the Purāṇa. As Śaṅkara lived in the 8th century A.D., that school existed before him. The first part of this Purāṇa was, therefore, probably prior to his time; yet it may possibly have been later. This comparison then yields nothing definite.
The second answer presents some remarkable peculiarities when compared with the Mahābhārata. That work gives two explanations about Draupadī’s wifehood, first, why she was destined to have five husbands, and secondly, why the five Pāṇḍavas became her husbands.
The first explanation is given twice in the Ādiparvan, viz., in clxix. 6126-31 and in cxcvii. 7319-28. She had been a ṛṣi’s daughter and unmarried; in order to obtain a husband she propitiated Śiva with austerities, and he offered her a boon. She begged for a husband, and in her eagerness made the request five times, hence he promised her five husbands, and in spite of her objection adhered to his word and promised them to her in another life. Hence she was born as Drupada’s daughter. In the latter of these two passages and in line 7310 she is made an incarnation of Lakṣmī.
The second explanation is given in Ādiparvan cxcvii. 7275-7310. Indra went to Śiva on Mount Himavat and accosted him rudely, but Śiva awed him and pointed to a cave in the mountain wherein were four prior Indras. Śiva said that Indra and those four prior Indras should be born iṅ human shape in Order to reduce the over-population of the world, and that Lakṣmī should be born and be their common wife. Accordingly Indra was born as Arjuna and the prior Indras as the other Pāṇḍavas, and Lakṣmī was born as Draupadī.
Now these stories in the Mahābhārata itself furnished some explanation, and why Jaimini should have fëlt any perplexity, if he had these explanations before him, is at first sight strange. This suggests a doubt whether tḥey were then in the Mahābhārata, or whether they were inserted there afterwards to meet this very question. On the other hand, ft may be noted that these explanations did not really solve the difficulty, for the five Indras who became the Pāṇḍavas were not the same deity, and thus Draupadī’s husbands were still separate persons. On this point, therefore, the difficulty remained, and the answer given by the Birds removes it (though at variance with the Mahābhārata) by declaring that the Pāṇḍavas were all incarnations of portions of the same deity, Indra, and were thus really only one person. The Mahābhārata, however, presented a further difficulty, for why should Lakṣmī have become incarnate to be the wife of incarnations of Indra? The Birds alter this by declaring (again at variance with the Mahābhārata) that it was Indra’s own wife who became incarnate as Draupadī. Both these contradictions are left unnoticed; yet it is said very truly that there was very great perplexity about this matter (p. 19).
This incongruity of Lakṣmī’s becoming incarnate to be wife to incarnations of other deities suggests a further speculation. In the Mahābhārata as it now stands, Kṛṣṇa is an incarnation of Viṣṇu, and it was proper that Lakṣmī should become incarnate to be his queen. Nevertheless that work states that she became the wife of five persons all distinct from Viṣṇu. May it be surmised that these explanations in the Mahābhārata were fashioned before Kṛṣṇa had been deified, and before it was perceived that they could have any bearing on his story? If so, it is quite intelligible that it was deemed necessary, after Kṛṣṇa was deified, to remove the incongruity by asserting that Draupadī was an incarnation, not of Lakṣmī, but of Indrāṇī. This view, that the revised explanations here given regarding Draupadī and the Pāṇḍavas were necessitated by the deification of Kṛṣṇa, seems not improbable. If so, the revision and the name Vāsudeva, by which Viṣṇu is specially addressed in the first part, would indicate that the first part was composed, when the Kṛṣṇa legend had become so well established that it was needful to bring other stories into harmony with it.
The Purāṇa contains little reference to the political condition of India; yet it may be pointed out that all the stories narrated in the first Section relate to Madhya-deśa, the Himalayas and Western India, while no mention occurs of Southern, Eastern or North-Western India. In the second Section, few illustrative stories occur apart from the main discourse on the Manus and the royal genealogies. Only one dynasty is treated of, that in which the chief princes were Yatsaprī, Khanitra, Karandhama, Avīkṣit and Marutta. These were famous kings, especially Marutta who was a universal monarch. I have not been able to find anything which indicates where their kingdom was, yet it must have been somewhere in the Middle-land or North-West, because of Marutta’s relations with Vṛhaspati and Saṃvartta (M. Bk., Aśvam -p. iii-vi); the Middle-land here comprising the country as far east as Mithilā and Magadha. In the second Section the only allusions to other parts of India are one to the river Vitastā in the Pañjab (p. 438), one to an unknown town in South India (p. 412), and several to Kāmarūpa, the modem G-auhāṭi in Assam; but the author’s knowledge of Eastern India was so hazy that he treats Kāmarūpa as being easy of access from the Middle-land (p. 581). Is it reasonable to draw any inference from the mental horizon here disclosed? It agrees with the state of India in the third century A.D.
The geographical cantos 57 and 58 are no doubt special compilations and may to a certain degree stand apart. They appear to aim at being comprehensive, and to enumerate all the countries, races and tribes till then known, whether ancient or mediæval. This comprehensive character rather prevents the drawing of any large definite conclusions from them, yet two points may be noticed.
The Huṇas are placed among the peoples in the north in canto 58, though the context is not very precise. The Huns in their migrations from the confines of China appear to have arrived to the north of India about the beginning of the third century A.D., and one branch, the White Huns, established a kingdom afterwards in the Oxus valley. India had no actual experience of them until their first invasion, which was made through the north-western passes in the middle of the fifth century (Mr. Y. Smith’s Early History of India, pp. 272, 273). The allusion to the Huns therefore, with the position assigned to them in the north, in canto 58, is plainly earlier than their invasion, and is what a writer in the third century or the early part of the fourth century would have made.
In these two cantos Prāgjyotiṣa is placed in the east, and no mention is made of Kāmarūpa. Prāgjyotiṣa was the ancient kingdom that comprised nearly all the north and east of Bengal (p. 328); later on it dwindled and seems to have lingered and perished in the east of Bengal; and after that Kāmarūpa came into prominence in its stead. In the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa Prāgjyotiṣa alone is named; Kāmarūpa is never, I believe, mentioned there, and it occurs in later writings only. In the Second Section however Kāmarūpa is mentioned, and no allusion is made to Prāgjyotiṣa. This difference tells in favour of the antiquity of these cantos.
With regard to the Devī-māhātmya, if the comparison made above between it and the Mālatī-mādhava is reasonable, it would follow that, since Bhavabhūti who wrote that play lived about the end of the seventh century A.D., this poem must be anterior. It would represent the incorporation of barbarous practices borrowed from the rude tribes of Central India into brahmanic doctrines, and might he assigned to the sixth or perhaps the fifth century.
From all these considerations it seems fair to draw the following conclusions. The Devī-māhātmya, the latest part, was certainly complete in the 9th century and very probably in the 5th or 6th century A.D. The third and fifth parts, which constituted the original Purāṇa, were very probably in existence in the third century, and perhaps even earlier; and the first and second parts were composed between those two periods.
Other matters of interest.:
Certain other matters may be mentioned, which are of great interest in the Purāṇa.
In the first part Jaimini, though a disciple of Vyāsa and a famous ṛṣi (Mahā-bh., Śānti-p. cccli. 13647), is yet made, when perplexed by four difficult questions in Vyāsa’s own work, the Maliā-bhārata, to seek instruction, not from Vyāsa but from Mārkaṇḍeya; and this raises a presumption that there was an intention to make Mārkaṇḍeya equal with, if not superior to, Vyāsa. Further, Mārkaṇḍeya does not himself explain the questions but, declining with a transparent excuse, refers Jaimini to the Birds. The Birds, though said no doubt to be brahmans undergoing a transmigration, were inferior in education and fame to Jaimini, yet they were deemed fully capable of authoritatively answering the questions that puzzled him. It seems hard to avoid suspecting again in this construction of the story, that there was an intention to exalt the instruction given by the munis of the Vindhyas to equality with, if not superiority over, that given in Madhya-deśa. It may be mentioned that according to certain legends Yaiśampāyana’s pupils were transformed into partridges (tittiri) in order to pick up the Black Yajus verses disgorged by one of their companions; but it does not seem reasonable to ascribe the introduction of these Birds as dramatis personas in this Purāṇa to any imitation of those legends, because the nature of the stories is wholly different. The use of the Birds seems rather to be the application of a class of ideas common in the animal-tales of folk-lore to religious teaching, and to be similar to the machinery employed by Bāṇa in his story of Kādambarī.
In the second part it is worthy of note that indulgence in spirituous liquor and in sensual enjoyments is viewed with little or no disapprobation in the story of Dattātreya; and meat and strong drink are mentioned as most acceptable offerings in the worship of Dattātreya (p. 106), as an incarnation of Viṣṇu (p. 99). Meat of various kinds, including even hog’s flesh, is declared to be most gratifying to the pitṛs. Such food was not unknown in ancient times, for it is said that during a severe famine king Triśaṅku supported Viśvāmitra’s wife with the flesh of deer, wild pigs and buffaloes (Hari-Vaṃśa, 721-731).
A most extraordinary passage may be noticed in conclusion. It is related of king Dama that, after taking vengeance on prince Vapuṣmat, “with Vapuṣmat’s flesh he offered the cakes to his [murdered] father, he feasted the brahmans who were sprung from families of Rākṣasas” (p. 683 with 679). Brahmans at times lost their caste and became degraded, but here the position is reversed and certain descendants of Rākṣasas were reckoned as brahmans. Such cannibalism is, I believe, unparalleled in Sanskrit, and it is almost incredible that there should have been brahmans of any kind whatever who would have participated in it. Eating human flesh was not unknown in ancient times (p. 427), yet a story is told in the Mahābhārata where Rākṣasas and even flesh-eating Dasyus disdained the flesh of a true though degraded brahman (Śānti-p. clxxii. 6420-29). This story of king Dama would seem to imply that it is of real antiquity, and that the account of the dynasty in which he occurred, and which is the only dynasty described, must be a purāṇa in the full meaning of the term.