The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “madalasa’s exhortation” which forms the 28th 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 28 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XXVIII - The Education of the Sons (continued): Madālasā’s Exhortation

Madālasā enunciates to Alarka the special duties of the four castesand of the four periods of a brāhman’s life—and the duties common to those four castes and periods, which must be strenuously maintained.

Jaḍa spoke:

Having listened to that his mother’s exhortation, Alarka also further questioned his mother both about the duties of the four classes, and about the duties appertaining to the four periods of a brāhman’s life.

Alarka spoke:

“Thou hast expounded, gracious lady, this the duty relating to the system of kingly government. I wish to hear that duty which concerns the four classes and the four periods of a brāhman’s life.”

Madālasā spoke:

“A brāhman’s duty is held to be threefold—liberality, study, sacrifice. There is no other fourth duty. His duty is regardless of his position. Irreproachable sacrificial and educational occupations, and the acceptance of gifts from the purified —this is fitly proclaimed his threefold means of livelihood, Liberality, study, sacrifice—this is declared to be the threefold duty of a kṣatriya also: protection of the earth, and subsistence by weapons are his means of livelihood. Liberality study, sacrifice,—that indeed is the threefold duty of a vaiśya also: merchandise, and the tending of cattle, and agriculture are his means of livelihood. Liberality, and sacrifice, obedience to dvijas, I have declared to he the threefold duty of the śūdra also; and his means of livelihood are a handicraft, obedience likewise to dvijas, nourishing them, buying and selling. These are said to he the duties of the four classes.

“Hear also the connexions among the four periods of a brāhman’s life. A man who has not erred from the duty of his own class gains perfect felicity: he goes to hell after death, if he has served what is forbidden. And as long indeed as a dvija is not invested with the sacred thread, so long, my son, he acts, speaks and eats unrestrainedly.

“When duly invested with the sacred thread, he becomes a Brahmacārin in his guru’s house, and he should dwell there. I relate his duty; hear it of me. Private study, attendance on fire, bathing, and wandering about for alms, and always eating that food after informing his guru and obtaining permission from him. He should be diligent in the guru’s business; there should he thorough evoking of his affection; and when summoned by him, he should read intently, his mind withdrawn from everything else. After acquiring one, two or all the Vedas from his guru’s mouth, he is authorized to give the guru his fee with words of eulogy. But let him enter on the gṛhastha period when desirous of the period of family life; or, by his own wish, on the vānaprastha period and on the fourth period. Or let the dvija await his decease there in the guru’s house, obedient to the guru’s son if the guru be dead, or to the guru’s disciple, if there be no son. Obedient, free from self-conceit, let him pass through the period of a Brahmacārin.

“Next when he has desisted therefrom, through desire for a gṛhastha’s status, let him then rightly marry a wife, sprung from the family of a different[1] Ṛṣi, his equal, free from sickness, not deformed, for the sake of a gṛhastha’s status. And having gained money by his own toū, let him duly please the pitṛs, gods and guests by faith; and also nourish those who resort to him, his dependants and children, and his female relatives, and the afflicted, the blind, and the outcast, the birds and the cattle,[2] to the utmost of his power with gifts of food. This is the duty of a gṛhastha; sexual intercourse also at the proper season: but he should not, to the utmost of his power, neglect the performance of the five sacrifices. And let the man himself, being zealous to the best of his power, together with his dependants, eat the remains of the food consumed by the pitṛs, the gods, the guests and paternal kinsmen.

“Now I have declared this gṛhastha period distinctly. I describe to thee the duty of the vānaprastha: be it heard. Having seen the succession of his offspring, and the stoop of his body, let the wise man enter upon the vānaprastha period, for the purpose of purifying his soul. In it there is the enjoyment of the forest, and attraction by penances, sleeping on the ground, sacred study, ceremonies for the pitṛs gods and guests, the homa oblation, the three daily ablutions,[3] the wearing matted hair and a bark dress, and diligence in meditation unceasingly, the use of forest unguents. This is the vānaprastha period, for the purification of sin, and beneficial to the soul. But after that comes another, the last, period of the bhikṣu.

“But hear from me the nature of the fourth period, which with its peculiar duties has been described, my darling, by high-souled men conversant with its duties.[4] Renunciation of every association, sacred study, abstinence from anger, control over the senses, no long dwelling in one habitation, abstaining from undertakings, and eating food obtained by begging once a day, also desire for the awakening of knowledge of the soul, and gazing at the soul. Now I have acquainted thee with this duty in the fourth period.

“Hear from me the common duty of the other classes and of the periods of life. Truthfulness, purity and harmlessness, freedom from envy, and patience, mercy, generosity,[5] and contentment is the eighth virtue.

“These duties have been succinctly described to thee concerning the classes and the periods of life: and a man should stand wholly within these his own peculiar duties. And the man, who, overstepping his own duty named according to his own class or period of life, should behave otherwise, should be punished by the king. And the king who overlooks men, who after forsaking their own duties commit sin, loses his pious acts. Therefore a king must vigorously punish all the classes that behave contrary to their special duties, and he must keep them within their own occupations.”

Footnotes and references:


A-samāna. Hia family and hers should not be descended from the same Ṛṣi. This indicates exogamy.


For paśavas read ca paśūṃs?


At dawn, noon, and sunset.


For yaḥ sva-dharmo’sya read sva-dharmo yasya?


For akārpyanyam read akārpanyam?

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