The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “garga’s speech” which forms the 18th 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 18 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XVIII - Garga’s speech

Arjuna the son of Kṛtavīrya, on succeeding to his kingdom, resolves to rule worthily—His minister Garga advises him to propitiate the Muni Dattātreya—And narrates how, when the Daityas and Dānavas had conquered the gods, the gods hy Vṛhaspati’s counsel propitiated Dattātreya, who, being an incarnation of Viṣṇu, was enjoying himself with Lakṣmī; and how, when the demons penetrated to Dattātreya’s hermitage and seized Lakṣmī, they were destroyed by Dattātreya.

The son spoke:

Once upon a time Arjuna, the son of Kṛtavīrya, when Kṛtavīrya had departed to heaven, being invited by the ministers and family priest and by the citizens to be inaugurated as king, spoke thus—

“It is not I will wield regal sway, which surpasses hell, O ministers, if I leave that foolishly unaccomplished, for the sake of which taxes are levied. Merchants, giving the twelfth part of their wares to the king, travel on the road protected from robbers by the watchmen. And the herdsmen and husbandmen giving the sixth part of the ghee, buttermilk and other produce, enjoy the rest. If the merchants gave a larger portion than that out of all their wares and other property, then that would tend to the destruction of the sacrifices and pious works of the extortionate king who took it. If people who follow that and other livelihoods are protected by others, hell is surely the lot of a king who takes the sixth part as his revenue. This has been decreed by men of old as the permanent income of a king. When a king fails to afford protection from thieves, that is the same as theft; and it would be sin in a king. Therefore if, by performing austerities, he has gained the coveted position of a yogī, he is the only king who possesses power to protect the earth. Therefore I indeed will be a weapon-bearer in the earth, worthy of honour, endowed with prosperity; I will not make myself a participator in sin.”

The son spoke:

Understanding that his resolve, standing among the ministers spoke the leading Mum, Garga by name, mighty in intellect, advanced in age.

“If thus thou desirest to act, rightly to govern the kingdom, then hearken to my speech and act, O royal scion! Propitiate, O king, Dattātreya, the illustrious, who made his abode once in a bucket, who protects the three worlds, who is busied in religious devotion, who is illustrious, who looks impartially everywhere, who is a portion of Viṣṇu, the upholder of the world, incarnate on earth. By propitiating him the thousand-eyed Indra gained his abode, which had been seized by the evil-minded Daityas, and slew the sons of Diti.”

Arjuna spoke:

“How did the gods propitiate majestic Dattātreya? And how did Indra regain his godhead, of which he had been deprived by the Daityas?”

Garga spoke:

“There was a very fierce contest between the gods and Dānavas. The lord of the Daityas was Jambha, and the leader of the gods was Śacī’s spouse. And while they fought a heavenly year elapsed. Then the gods were worsted, the Daityas were victorious. The gods led by Vipracitti were vanquished by the Dānavas: they strove to flee, being dispirited at the victory of their enemies. Desirous of compassing the slaughter of the army of Daityas, accompanied by the Bālikhilyas[1] and Ṛṣis, they approached Vṛhaspati and took counsel. Vṛhaspati said, ‘Deign to gratify with your faith Dattātreya, Atri’s high-souled son, the ascetic, who is occupied in improper practices. He the boon-giver will grant you a boon for the destruction of the Daityas; then, O gods, shall ye and your friends slay the Daityas and Dānavas.’

“Thus exhorted the gods then went to Dattātreya’s hermitage, and they beheld the high-souled Muni, attended by Lakṣmi, hymned by Gandharvas, and engrossed in quaffing spirituous liquor. Approaching they expressed in words their salutations to him, which were the means of accomplishing their objects. And the heaven-dwellers lauded him; they offered him food, viands, garlands and other presents; when he stood, they stood near; when he moved, they moved; when he reposed on his seat, they worshipped him with heads down-bent. Dattātreya addressed the prostrate gods, ‘What desire ye of me, that ye do me this obeisance?’

“The gods spoke:

‘The Dānavas, headed by Jambha, have attacked and seized upon the earth the atmosphere and the third world, O tiger-like Muni, and our shares of the sacrifices entirely. Employ thou thy wit to their destruction and our deliverance, O sinless one! Through thy favour do we desire to regain the three worlds which they now possess.’

“Dattātreya spoke:

‘I am drinking strong drink, I have remnants of food in my mouth, nor have I subdued my senses. How is it, O gods, ye seek for victory over your enemies even from me?’

“The gods spoke:

‘Thou art sinless, O lord of the world; no stain hast thou, into whose heart, purified by the ablution of learning, has entered the light of knowledge.’

“Dattātreya spoke:

‘True is this, O gods! all learning have I, who am impartial in view: but by reason of association with this woman I am now impure after eating. For commerce with women when continually pursued tends to depravity.’

“Thus addressed, the gods then spoke again.

“The gods spoke:

‘This woman, O sinless brāhman! is the mother of the world; she is not depraved, even like the sun’s halo of rays, which touches the dvija and the caṇḍāla alike.’

Garga spoke:

“Thus accosted by the gods, Dattātreya then with a smile spoke thus to all the thirty gods; —‘If this be your opinion, then summon all the Asuras to battle, O most virtuous gods and bring them here before my view—delay ye not—in order that the glory of their strength may be consumed by the fire of my glance, and that they may all perish from my sight.’

“The valiant Daityas, summoned to battle by the gods in compliance with that his advice, advanced with fury against the troops of the gods. The gods being slaughtered by the Daityas were quickly demoralised by fear; they fled in a body, seeking protection, to Dattātreya’s hermitage. Even there the Daityas penetrated, driving forward the heaven-dwellers, and saw the high-souled mighty Dattātreya; and seated at his left side his wife, Lakṣmi, loved by all the worlds, beauteous, her shape most graceful, her countenance like the moon, her eyes lustrous as the blue water-lily,[2] her hips large and breasts full, uttering melodious speech, adorned with every womanly virtue. Seeing her before them, the Daityas, seized with longing, could not bear the intense love with fortitude; and pined in mind to carry her off. Desisting from the gods, but desirous of seizing the lady, they were shattered in vigour, being bewitched by that sin. Then compact together they spoke—‘If only this jewel of womankind in the three worlds might be our prize, successful then should we all be —this is our engrossing thought. We are resolved therefore, let us all, foes of the gods, raise her up, place her in the palki, and bear her to our abode.’

“Thereupon possessed with longing and thus mutually exhorted, afflicted by love, the united Daityas and Dānavas raised up his virtuous wife, mounted her in the palki, and placing the palki on their heads set off for their own homes. Thereon Dattātreya smiling spoke thus to the gods—‘Bravo! ye prosper! Here is Lakṣmi borne on the heads of the Daityas. She has passed beyond the seven stations, she will reach another, a new one.’

“The gods spoke:

‘Say, O lord of the world, in what stations has she her abode; and what result of a man’s does she bestow or destroy?’

“Dattātreya spoke:

‘When stationed on the foot of men, Lakṣmi bestows a habitation; and when stationed on the thigh, clothing and manifold wealth; and when taking her position in the pudenda, a wife; when resting in the bosom, she grants offspring; when stationed in the heart, she fulfils the thoughts of men. Lakṣmi, is the best fortune of fortunate men. When resting on the neck, she adorns the neck with loved relatives and wives, and close contact with those who are absent. When abiding in the countenance, the sea-born goddess bestows beauty fashioned according to her word, real command also, and poetic fire. When mounted on the head, she forsakes the man and thence resorts to another abode. And here, mounted on their head, she will now desert these Daityas. Therefore seize your arms and slay these foes of the gods; nor fear them greatly; I have rendered them impotent; and through touching another’s wife their merit is consumed, their might is broken.

Grarga spoke:

“Thereupon those enemies of the gods, being slain by divers weapons and their heads being assailed by Lakṣmi, perished—thus have we heard. And Lakṣmi, flying up, reached the great Muni Dattātreya, being hymned by all the gods who were filled with joy at the slaughter of the Daityas. Thereupon the gods, prostrating themselves before the wise Dattātreya, gained as before the uppermost heaven, being freed from affliction. Likewise do thou also, O king! if thou wishest to obtain matchless sovereignty according to thy desire, straightway propitiate him.”

Footnotes and references:


Read ‘Bala-khilyas’? These are divine personages of the size of the thumb.


Nīlotpala, the blue water-lily, see note ‡ page 29.

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