The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “the curse on vapu” which forms the 1st chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 1 is included the section known as “conversation between Markandeya and the birds”.

Canto I - The Curse on Vapu

Jaimini applies to Mārkaṇḍeya for instruction regarding certain difficulties in the Mahābhārata—Mārkaṇḍeya refers him to four learned Birds, the sons of Droṇa, and narrates their history—Their mother Vapu, an Apsaras, was condemned by the Muni Durvāscis to become a bird for tempting him.

Having adored Nārāyana, and Nara the best of men, the goddess Sarasvati, and then Vyāsa, let him utter the verse of Victory!

The illustrious Jaimini, the disciple of Vyāsa, interrogated the great Muni Mārkaṇḍeya, who was engaged in the performance of austerities and the study of the Veda.

(Jaimini spoke.):

“Sir! the high-souled Vyāsa related the story of the Mahābhārata, which is replete with splendid spotless collections of various Śāstras, which is characterized by accuracy regarding the different classes, is embellished with beautiful words, and contains complete knowledge of primā facie assertions, and established conclusions. As Viṣṇu is chief among the gods, as the brahman chief among men, and as the crest-jewel chief among all decorations, as the axe[1] is the best among weapons, as the mind best among the organs, so in this world is the Mahābhārata the best among all the Śāstras. Here are described both Wealth and Virtue, Love, and Final emancipation from transmigration; these have both reciprocal and peculiar consequences. It is the best Dharma-śāstra, it is the most eminent Artha-śāstra; it too is the foremost Kāmaśāstra, as well as the noblest Mokṣa-śāstra. It has been declared, Sir, by Veda-Vyāsa the wise, to be the authority for the sacred and maxims of the laws of the four periods of a brahman’s life. For this Mahāśāstra has been so constructed, dear Sir, by Vyāsa the noble in deeds, that although beset with difficulties it is not overthrown by them. The earth has been freed from the dust of passion by the stream of Vyāsa’s words, which has descended from the mountain of the Veda, and has swept away the trees of bad reasoning. Therefore have I come to thee, Sir, being desirous to know truly the story of Vyāsa, in which melodious sounds are the geese, the noble story is the splendid lotus, the words are the expanse of water, and the Vedas are the great lake—this precious and long story of the Mahābhārata. Why was Janārdana Vāsudeva, who is the cause of the creation preservation and destruction of the world, although devoid of qualities, endued with humanity? And why was Drupada’s daughter Kṛṣṇa the common wife of the five sons of Pāṇḍu? for on this point we feel great perplexity. Why did the mighty Baladeva Halāyudha expiate his brahmanicide by engaging in a pilgrimage? And how was it that the unmarried heroic high-souled sons of Draupadī, whose protector was Pāṇḍu, were slain, as if they had no protector? Deign to recount all this to me here at length; for sages like thee are ever the instructors of the ignorant.”

Having thus heard his speech, the great Muni Mārkaṇḍeya, devoid of the eighteen[2] defects, began to speak.

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

“The time for my engaging in religious rites has now arrived, most virtuous Muni! and this is not esteemed the season for a long discourse. But I will now tell thee, O Jaimini, of those birds who will speak to thee and so resolve thy doubts. They are Piṅgākṣa and Vibodha, Supatra, and Sumukha, the sons of Droṇa, the noblest of birds, versed in the principles of philosophy, and meditators on the Sastras. Their mind is unclouded in the knowledge of the meaning of the Veda and Śāstras. They dwell in a cave of the Vindhya mountains , visit and question them.”

Then, thus addressed by the wise Mārkaṇḍeya, replied the Muni pre-eminent, his eyes wide open with astonishment.

Jaimini spoke:

“Very wonderful is this, O brahman! that those birds have gained knowledge most difficult to be acquired, as if birds possessed human speech. If their birth is of the brute creation, whence have they the knowledge? And how is it that those winged ones are called the children of Droṇa? And who was this famous Droṇa, who had those four sons. Do those virtuous high-souled birds possess the knowledge of righteousness?”

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

“Listen attentively to what happened of yore in Nandana at the meeting of Indra and the Apsarases and Nārada. Nārada saw Indra the king of the gods in Nandana, surrounded by a band of those wanton maidens, with eyes fastened on their faces. Śacī’s lord, immediately he was seen by that best of Ṛṣis, rose up, and respectfully gave him his own seat. Those heavenly maidens, on seeing him, the slayer of Bala and Vṛtra, rise up, prostrated themselves before the Devarṣi and stood reverently bending. He then, worshipped by them, duly greeted Indra, when he had seated himself, and conversed pleasantly with him.

“Then in the course of their talk, Indra said to the great Muni—‘Declare, which of these dancers pleases thee most. Is it Rambhā, or Karkaśā, or Urvasī, Tilottamā, Ghṛtācī, or Menakā? or whichever delights thee.’ Nārada, best of dvijas, hearing this speech of Indra, pondered and then addressed the reverently bending Apsarases:—‘She, of you all here present, who thinks herself pre-eminent in beauty, nobility and good qualities, let her dance before me. There is indeed no success in dancing for one who is destitute of good qualities and beauty. Good dancing implies graceful comportment: other dancing is vexation.’

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

“And immediately on that speech, each one of those bowing ones thus exclaimed—‘I excel in good qualities; not you, nor you!’ The lord Indra seeing their agitation said, ‘Let the Muni be asked, he will say which of you excels in good qualities.’ What Nārada, sought by those followers of Indra’s will, then said, hear that from me, O Jaimini! ‘She among you who by her power perturbs the most noble Muni Durvāsas, who is performing austerities, dwelling on the mountain, her among you I deem pre-eminent in good qualities.’

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

“Haying heard that his sentence, they all exclaimed, with trembling necks, ‘this is impossible for us!’

“Among them an Apsaras named Vapu, confident of perturbing the Muni, replied, ‘I will follow where the Muni dwells; now will I make that tamer of his body, who has yoked the horses of his organs, but a poor charioteer whose reins drop before the weapons of love. Whether it be Brahmā, or Janārdana or the purple Śiva, his heart will I now pierce with the arrow of love.’

“Having thus spoken Vapu departed then to the Snowy mountain to the Muni’s hermitage, where the beasts of prey were quelled by the might of his austerities. Stopping at the distance of a call from where the great Muni is seated', the lovely Apsaras sang the cuckoo’s melody. Hearing the strains of her song, the Muni astonished in mind went to where sits that beauteous-faced maiden. On seeing her, beautiful in every limb, the Muni, summoning his resolution, was filled with anger and resentment, knowing that she had come to perturb him. Then the great Ṛṣi, the performer of mighty austerities, pronounced this sentence. ‘Since thou hast come here, O maiden! intoxicated with pride, to cause me pain by obstructing my austerities, which are accomplished with difficulty, O Apsaras, therefore shalt thou, polluted by my wrath, be born in the foolish race of birds for the space of sixteen years, losing thine own form, and taking the form of a bird; and four sons shall be born to thee, O vilest of Apsarases; and without having gained affection among them, absolved from guilt by dying in the field of battle, thou shalt regain thy dwelling in the sky. Never make any reply.’ The Brāhman, red-eyed with anger, having pronounced this grievous sentence on that proud maiden, whose tinkling bracelets were trembling, abandoned the earth, whose waves were very tremulous, and departed to the heavenly Ganges whose stream consists of a multitude of renowned qualities.”

Footnotes and references:


Or India’s thunderbolt.


The 18 defects are said, in a translation begun by the late Eev. K. M. Banerjea, to be these—palpitation, fear, thickness in speech, indistinctness, speaking through the nose, discordancy, want of emotion, disconnectedness, roughness, hoarseness, high pitch, inaccuracy in pronunciation, perturbation, want of cadence, sing-song, shaking the head, weakness of voice, and un-meaningness.

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