The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “conversation between the father and son (continued)” which forms the 15th 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 15 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XV - Conversation between the father and son (continued)

The exposition of sins and their punishments is continued, and Jaḍa concludes his story of king Vipaścit—The king by his merit delivers all the inhabitants of hell and ascends to heaven.

Yama’s officer spoke:

“For accepting anything of value from an outcaste,[1] let a dvija be born an ass: but let him who sacrifices for the outcaste become a worm, on his release from hell.

“But the dvija who has misbehaved towards his spiritual preceptor,[2] by coveting the latter’s wife and the latter’s property in his mind, undoubtedly becomes a dog.

“The man also who scorns his parents is born an ass; for reviling his mother and father he is born a mainā;[3] and he who scorns his brother’s wife becomes a pigeon; but for injuring her he becomes a tortoise.

“He who, while eating his brother’s piṇḍa, does not pursue his brother’s welfare, being overwhelmed with folly is indeed born after death a monkey.

“He who carries away a deposit is born a worm on his release from hell. And the detracter when released from hell becomes a Rākṣasa. And the man who destroys trust is born a fish.

“For carrying off through folly paddy, barley, sesamum[4] seed, māṣ beans,[5] kulattha beans,[6] mustard-seed,[7] chickpeas,[8] beans,[9] āman rice,[10] mudga beans,[11] wheat and flax, or other crops, a man void of understanding is born a large-mouthed rat resembling an ichneumon.

“Moreover for improperly touching another’s wife he is born a horrible wolf. And the foolish sinner who violates his -brother’s wife becomes a dog, a jackal, a heron, a vulture, a snake, and a bird of prey,[12] by degrees. And the sinner, who has violated his friend’s wife, his guru’s wife, and the king’s wife, becomes a cock-cuckoo when released from hell. The man of lustful soul is born a hog.

“Let him who hinders sacrifice liberality and marriage become a worm.

“And he who gives his daughter away twice is verily born a worm.

“He who obtains food, without giving some to the gods the pitṛs and brāhmans, is indeed born a crow when released from hell.

“He who scorns his eldest brother, or a brother who is like a father to him, is indeed born a curlew when dismissed from hell.

“And the śūdra for approaching a brāhman-woman is born a worm; for begetting offspring of her, let him become an insect living within wood. And a candāla for the same sin is born a hog, a small worm, a diver.[13]

“A man ungrateful, base among men, who returns evil for good, when released from hell is born a small worm, an insect, a bird, a scorpion also, and a fish, a crow, a tortoise, then a pukkasa.

“For slaying an unarmed man, a man is born an ass. The murderer of a woman also and a child-slayer are born worms.

“But for stealing victuals a man is born a fly.

“There is moreover a difference among victuals, listen thereto. For taking rice-food, he is born a cat, when quit from hell; but for taking rice-food mixed with sesamum and oil-cake he is born a rat; and for taking clarified butter an ichneumon; for taking goat’s flesh, a crow, a diver.[14] He who carries away fish-meat becomes a crow; he who carries away venison a hawk; but when salt is taken away, the offender becomes a water-crow:[15] when curdled milk is taken away, a worm; and for stealing milk he is horn a hen-heron;[16] but he who steals oil is horn a cockroach; for taking honey a man is horn a gad-fly; for taking a cake, an ant;[17] but for stealing pulse[18] a small house-lizard;

“For stealing distilled spirits let the sinner become a francolin partridge;[19] and for taking iron he horn a crow. When brass is carried off, he is born a green pigeon;[20] when a silver vessel is carried off, a pigeon; but for taking a golden vessel, he is horn a worm; and for stealing a garment of woven silk he becomes a partridge;[21] and when a silk garment is taken away he is born a silk-worm; when very fine cloth, an instrument of horn[22] and fine cloth are carried off, the sinner is horn a parrot; and so too for taking a garment of goat’s-hair or sheep’s wool, and a linen one; when a cotton thing is taken away he is born a curlew; and the stealer of a harken thing is born a pond-heron; for taking paint and potherbs he is born a peacock. The man who carries off a red garment becomes a jīvañjīva pheasant;[23] for taking splendid perfumes let him become a musk-rat; and for taking clothes a hare; for theft of fruit a man becomes a eunuch; for theft of wood, a wood-insect;[24] and a flower-stealer becomes a poor man; a carriage-stealer lame; and one who takes vegetables becomes a green pigeon;[25] and one who takes water a pied-crested cuckoo.[26] One who takes away land, after going to Raurava and the other very terrible hells becomes grass, a bush, a creeper, a climbing shrub, a reed and a tree by degrees; and the man afterwards, when his sins have been diminished to insignificance, becomes a worm, an insect, and a grasshopper, a bird, an aquatic animal, a deer; and having attained the condition of kine, and despicable castes such as caṇḍāla and pukkaśa, he becomes lame and blind, deaf, leprous, and afflicted with pulmonary consumption; he is seized with diseases affecting the mouth and the eyes and the anus; and he becomes epileptic; he attains also the condition of a śūdra. This truly is known to be the course of stealers of cattle and gold.

“And fierce men who steal learning, who fall short in their rewards to the guru; the man who makes another’s wife his own wife,—he becomes a eunuch, the foolish man, when escaped from the torments of hell.

“He who makes the Homa oblation in unkindled fire is born afflicted with the pains of indigestion, and dyspeptic.

“Abuse of others, the returning evil for good, hurting the vitals of others, coarseness, and cruelty, paying court to other men’s wives, perfidy in taking other people’s property, and contempt of the gods, dishonesty, fraud towards men, and avarice, manslaughter, and the continued performance also of whatever things are forbidden;—one should know these to he the after-characteristics of those who are released from hell.

“Compassion towards all creatures, concord, aid to other people, truth, speech directed towards the welfare of all creatures, inculcation of the authority of the Veda, veneration of gurus devarṣis Siddhas and ṛṣis, association with the good, hospitality, study, friendship,—let the wise man understand these and whatever other things constitute the deeds of truth and righteousness, to be the marks of sinless men who have quitted Svarga.

“This I have declared explicitly to thee, O king! concerning men, holy and wicked, who eat the fruits of their own actions. Come then, we go elsewhere. Thou hast now seen everything, for thou hast seen hell. Come then, let us go elsewhere.”

The son spoke:

Thereupon the king prepared to follow him; and then a cry went up from all the men that abode in torment, ‘Be gracious, O king! stay but a moment, for the air that clings to thy body gladdens our mind, and entirely dispels the burning and the sufferings and pains from our bodies, O tiger-like man! Be gracious, O king!’

On hearing this their entreaty, the king asked that servant of Tama—“How do I afford gladness to these men? Have I done such a mighty deed of merit in the world of mortals, wherefrom falls this gladdening shower? Declare me that.”

Yama’s officer spoke:

“Inasmuch as thy body was nourished with the food that remained, after the pitṛs the gods guests and servants were satisfied, and since thy mind was attached to them, hence the air that clings to thy body brings gladness; the torment, O king! does not hurt the evil-doers. Whereas thou didst offer the horse-sacrifice and other sacrifices according to precept, hence from seeing thee Tama’s engines weapons fires and crows, which cause intense suffering, such as crushing cutting burning and so forth, grow mild, O king! when counteracted by thy majesty.”

The king spoke:

“Neither in Svarga nor in Brahmaloka do men experience such joy, methinks, as arises from conferring bliss on suffering creatures. If, while I am present, torment does not hurt these men, here then, fair Sir, I will remain firm as a mountain.”

Yama’s officer spoke:

“Come, O king; we proceed. Enjoy the delights won by thine own merit, casting aside here the torments of evildoers.”

The king spoke:

“For that reason[27] I will not go as long as these are in sore suffering. From my near-presence the denizens of hell grow happy. Fie on the sickly protection-begging[28] life of that man, who shews no favour to one distressed, even though he be a resolute foe! Sacrifices, gifts, austerities do not work for the welfare of him, who has no thought for the succour of the distressed. Whoever bears a cruel mind towards children, the sick and such like, and towards the aged also, I do not hold him human; he is truly a Rākṣasa. But if these men have pain originating in hell, whether produced by the heat from fire, or produced by overpowering smells, and if they have the intense pain arising from hunger and thirst that causes faintness, yet the grant of deliverance to them excels, I consider, the joy of Svarga. If many sufferers shall obtain happiness, while I undergo pain, should I not in truth embrace it? Go thou not therefore long.”

Tama’s officer spoke:

“Here have both Dharma and Indra arrived to lead thee away. Thou must certainly depart from us: go therefore, O king!”

Dharma spoke:

“Fittingly worshipped by thee, I lead thee to Svarga; mount this heavenly chariot and linger not; let us go.”

The king spoke:

“Men in thousands, O Dharma! suffer pain here in hell; and being in affliction they cry to me to save them; hence I depart not.”

Indra spoke:

“These evil-doers have come to hell in consequence of their own deeds; thou also, O king, must go to Svarga in consequence of thy meritorious deed.”

The king spoke:

“If thou dost know, thou, O Dharma, or thou, O Indra, Śaci’s lord, how great indeed is my authority, then deign[29] to speak aright.”

Dharma spoke:

“Just as drops of water in the sea, or as stars in the sky, or as showers of rain, as the sands in the Ganges—just as these drops of water and other things are innumerable, O Mahārājā! even so thy merit is in truth beyond reckoning. In thy evincing now this compassion here in the hells, the reckoning of that merit of thine has verily amounted to a hundred thousand. Then go, O king! enjoy then the abode of the immortals; let these also consume away in hell the sin arising from their own actions!”

The king spoke:

“How shall men attain their desire in things connected with me, if in my presence these people gam no prosperity. Hence, whatever good deeds I possess, O lord of the thirty gods! b y means thereof let the sinners who are undergoing torment he delivered from hell!”

Indra spoke:

“Thus hast thou, O king! gained a more exalted station: see too these sinners delivered from hell!”

The son spoke:

Then fell there a shower of flowers upon that king, and Hari making him mount the heavenly chariot led him to the heaven-world. Both I and the others, who were there, were released from the torments; thereafter we entered the other earthly existences, as determined by the results of our own actions.

Thus these hells have been reckoned up, O brāhman! And for what particular sin to what particular kind of creature a man descends, it has all been recounted to thee in detail, as I saw it of yore, having gained the accurate knowledge that springs from previous experience. What else do I tell thee next, noble sir?

Footnotes and references:


See Canto XIV. verse 83.




Śārikā; see note * p. 49.


Tila, Sesamum, Sesamum orientate, Eoxb. (indicum, Linnæus); the modern til (Roxb., p. 491). Not in Hooker.


Māṣa, a kind of bean, Phaseolus mungo, variety radiatus, the Bengali māṣ-kalāy. It is esteemed the best of all the leguminous plants, and the meal is made into bread for many religious ceremonies. (Hooker, vol. II, p. 203; Eoxb., p. 557.)


Kulattha, a kind of bean, Dolichos biflorus, the Bengali kulattha (Hooker, vol. II, p. 210 j Eoxb., p. 563.)


Sarṣapa, Mustard, Sinapis campestris; which combines Eoxburgh’s S. dichotoma, (the Beng. śādā rāi or sariṣā, Hind, sarsoṇ), and S. glauca (the Beng. sveta rāi). Prom both varieties an oil is expressed which is used in diet, and for various other purposes. (Hooker, vol. I, p. 156; Eoxb., p. 497.)


Capa, Chick pea or Gram, Cicer arietinum, the Beng. buṭ, chanā and chholā; it is the same as vartula. (Hooker, vol. II, p. 176; Eoxb., p. 567; Oliver, p. 196.)


Kalāya. This is the general name for most of the commonly cultivated kinds of beans, Phaseolus.


Kalama, the āman (hemanta) or later rice, which is sown in May and June and is reaped in December and January. The āus (āśu) or early rice is sown about April and reaped about August.


Mudga, Green gram, Phaseolus mungo, the Beng. mug or mug-kalāy. Māṣa (see note § above) is a variety of this. (Hooker, vol. II, p. 203; Roxb., p. 556).


Kan-ka. This must mean a bird of prey, Vaka which is a synonym has just been mentioned.


Madgu; see note * p. 31.


See note † p. 85.


Vīcī-kāka. I do not find this in Prof. Monier-Williams’ Dictionary. I would suggest that it is a Tern, most probably the Black-bellied Tern, Sterna javanica, which has a black and grey plumage and is found in every river in India. The Terns are commonly called gaṅgā-chil or gāṅg-chil, i.e., the river-kite. (Jerdon, vol. II, pp. 834 and 840.)


Balākā. Balāka is the Pond Heron or Paddy-bird, Ardeola leucoptera, the Beng. konch-bak. (Jerdon, vol. II, p. 751.)


Pipīlika; the modern pipīṛā or pipṛā denotes the larger species of ants.


Niṣpāva ; this appears to be a general name for most kinds of pulse.


Tittiri, the Francolin or Meadow partridge, of which there are two species in India, (1) the Black partridge, Francolinus vulgaris (the modern titir or kala-titar) which is found throughout the whole of Northern India, and (2) the Painted partridge, F. pictus (also called kala-titar) which is found in Central and part of Southern India. (Jerdon, vol. II, pp. 558 and 561). The former is probably the bird meant here.


Hārīta ; see note ** p. 28.


Krakara. Prof. Monier-Williams says this is Perdix sylvatica, but I do not find any such name in Jerdon. It is probably either the Grey partridge Ortygornis ponticeriana, which is common throughout the greater part of India, or the Kyah partridge, O. gularis, which is found throughout Behar and Bengal. (Jerdon, vol. II, pp. 569, and 572.)


Śārṅgika. I do not find this word in the dictionary.


Jīvañ-jīva or jīva-jīvaka. See note †† p. 28.


Ghuṇa-kīṭaka: or, an armadillo.


Hārīta: see note ** p. 28.


Cātaka: see note † p. 29.


For tasmāt read asmāt, (from hence)?


For śaraṇārthinam read śaraṇārthanam (from arthanā), since jīvanam is neater?


For arhathaḥ read arhatha?

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