The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “an account of ill omens” which forms the 43rd 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 43 is included the section known as “conversation between Sumati (Jada) and his father”.

Canto XLIII - An account of Ill Omens

Dattātreya mentions the signs of approaching and impending death, which are partly natural phenomena and partly dreams—also the appropriate seasons for religious devotion—and by various similes and apophthegms indicates how final emancipation from existence is to be attained—Alarka thanks Dattātreya for all the instruction and, going to the king of Kāśī and Subāhu, relinquishes his kingdom in their favour.

Dattātreya spoke:

“Listen Mahārājā; I will declare those ill omens to thee, by considering which the yogi knows his own death.

“The man who does not see the path of the gods,[1] the pole-star, the planet Venus, the moon’s shadow and the morning star,[2] may not live more than a year. The man, who sees the sun’s orb devoid of rays and fire encircled with rays, does not live more than eleven months. He, who in his dreams clearly perceives gold and silver in his vomit and in his urine and fæces, may live ten months. He who sees departed persons, Piśācas and other demons and the cities of the Gandharvas and golden-coloured bulls, lives nine months. He who when stout becomes thin, and when thin becomes stout quite unaccountably, and loses his natural functions, lives for eight months. He, whose foot becomes cracked at the heel or at the toe in dust and in mud, lives seven months. If a vulture, a pigeon, a raven, or a crow, or a hawk, or a blue bird alights on one’s head, that indicates a life of six months. When a man is assailed by flocks of crows or a shower of dust, or when he sees his shadow unnatural, he lives four or five months. When he sees lightning flashing in the south in a cloudless sky, or sees a rainbow at night, his life will last two or three months. He who cannot see his own body in clarified butter, in oil, in a mirror, or in water, or who sees it head-less, does not live more than a month. When the smell from a yogi’s body resembles that of a goat or the smell from a corpse, know O king that his life will he half a month. When one’s breast and foot dry up immediately after he has bathed, and when water does not quench his thirst as he drinks, he lives ten days.

“When the wind as it strikes one cuts one’s vitals, and when one feels no delight from the touch of drops of water, his death has arrived. Whoever sits on a bear, a monkey or a carriage, and goes singing towards the south in his sleep, for him death brooks no delay. He whom a woman clad in red or black raiment, and singing and laughing, carries off to the south in his sleep, he will live no longer. He who sees a single powerful naked mendicant laughing and leaping in his sleep may find death impending. The man, who sees himself sunk to the crown of his head in a sea of mud in his sleep, dies at once. And he, who sees charcoal amidst the hair of the head, or ashes or a waterless river issuing from a serpent, in his sleep, will after ten days die on the eleventh day. He, who in his sleep is beaten with stones by formidable and hideous black men who raise their weapons aloft, may die at once. He, in front of whom a she-jackal runs howling at sUnrise, whether meeting him or passing him, dies at once. He, whose heart is possessed with hunger immediately after he has eaten, and whose teeth chatter, has without doubt[3] reached the end of his life. He who does not perceive the smell of a lamp, and who is terrified in the day as well as at night, and who does not see himself reflected in another’s eyes, lives no longer. He, who has seen both a rainbow at midnight and all the planets in the day-time, should as a sensible man deem his life consumed away. He, whose nose becomes crooked, and whose ears bend down or stick up, and whose left eye waters, has lost his life. When his face becomes reddish, or his tongue black, a wise man should know that his death is impending. And one should know that he, who in his sleep journeys to the south on a camel, or an ass, or a carriage, will die outright. He, who cannot hear his own murmuring when he shuts his ears, and who cannot see the light with his eyes, lives indeed no longer. He over whom a door is closed after he has fallen into a pit, and who cannot rise up from the hole, in his sleep, his life ends thereat. Sight directed upwards and unsteady,[4] and blood-shot and rolling around, and warmth in the mouth, and dryness at the navel prognosticate a new body for men. He who in his sleep may enter the fire, and not come out therefrom, or if he similarly enters water, his life ends thereat. The man who is attacked by evil spirits at night or by day, without doubt meets death at the end of the seventh night. One should pronounce that death is impending over the man who sees his own clean white clothing red or black.

“A revolution in men’s natural disposition and a reversal in their nature proclaim always that Tama and Death are at hand; as when a man despises and reviles those very persons to whom he has always been well-behaved, and whom he has considered most deserving of his reverence; when he does not worship the gods; when he abuses the aged, the gurus and brahmans; and when he shows no kind treatment to his mother, father, or sons-in-law, or to yogis skilled in learning or to other high-souled men. But when the time arrives, wise men[5] must understand that.

“And yogis must always diligently understand at the close the year that ill omens produce their results day and night, O king. And the obvious very formidable series of results therefrom must be considered; and having ascertained them, he should fix that time in his mind, O king. And having ascertained that time accurately, the yogi should resort to a safe place and apply himself to religious devotion, so that that time may not be fruitless to him. And the yogi having beheld the ill omen and abandoning the fear of death, and having regarded then its nature, as it has come after a long time, should apply himself to religious devotion as an adept therein in just that part of the day, both in the forenoon, and in the after-noon and at midday on that day. Or where he has seen that ill omen during a part of the night, there he should engage in religious devotion until that day arrives. Then abandoning all fear, and mastering that time self-controlled, he should stay in that habitation or wherever he feels his soul firm, and engage in religious meditation on the Supreme Soul after overcoming the three qualities: and when his soul grows composed of the Supreme Soul, he should cease even from the use of his mind. Thereupon he attains to that sublime absorption into the Supreme Soul, which is beyond the senses, which transcends the intellect and which is unspeakable.

“All this I have declared to thee, Alarka, in its real meaning. Hearken to me briefly how thou mayest attain to that Brahma.

“The moon-stone does not emit water, if untouched by the rays of the moon; that is a well known simile for a yogi. That the sUnstone as long as it remains untouched by the rays of the sun does not emit fire, is also a simile for a yogi. Ants, rats, ichneumons, house-lizards, and sparrows inhabit a house like the owner of it, and when it is broken down they go elsewhere; but since they feel no such pain at the destruction of that house as the owner feels, O king; that simile points to the yogi’s perfect bliss. An ant, though it is composed of earth and has but a small body, constructs a heavy heap of earth with the still minuter point of its mouth: that is a lesson for a yogi. When yogis see a tree, clothed with leaves flowers and fruit, being destroyed by cattle, birds, men and other creatures, they become perfected. When a yogi sees the tender horns of the young ruru deer, which look merely like the forehead-mark, growing together with him, he may attain final beatitude. When a yogi takes a vessel full of liquid from a mound on the earth, and when he sees the human body towering up high, what has he not learnt? When a yogi has truly understood the effort that a man makes, when all his wealth sufficient for his living has been dug up, he has attained success. That is one’s house where one dwells; that is food on which one lives; and that is wealth by which one prospers; that is happiness when one thinks ‘what self-interest have I in this matter.’ Just as a man, although he is importuned by his organs, accomplishes his object by their means, so a yogi may accomplish his highest aim by means of the intellect and other faculties of other persons.”

Jaḍa spoke:

Then king Alarka prostrated himself before Atri’s son, and bowing courteously and filled with intense joy, spoke thus:—

Alarka spoke:

“O joy! that this most sore dread, which has sprung from my defeat by my foes, and which has rendered me anxious about my life, has been caused by the gods, O brāhman! O joy, that the victorious attack from the immense hosts of the king of Kāśī (routed by which I have come here) has brought about for me this meeting with thee! O joy, that my army was weak! O joy, that my dependants were slain! O joy, that my treasury became exhausted! O joy that I grew terrified! O joy, that thy feet came to my recollection! O joy, that all thy words have found an abode in my mind! O joy, that I have both gained knowledge from meeting with thee, Sir! O joy, that thou hast also shown compassion to me, O brāhman!

“Although destitute a man attains success at the auspicious rise of the Soul, just as this calamity tends to my benefit through my meeting with thee. Subāhu is my benefactor, and so also is Kāśī’s lord, through both of whom I have come to thy presence, O noble lord of the yogis. Now I have had the stains of ignorance burnt out by the fire of thy favour. I will so strive that I may not become such a vessel of misery. I will quit my position as a householder, which is a forest of trees of pain, on receiving permission from thee, my high-souled instructer in wisdom.”

Dattātreya spoke:

“Depart O king! fare thee well! As I have declared unto thee, so do thou practise, free from egotism, free from pride, in order to attain to final emancipation from existence.”

Jaḍa spoke:

Thus addressed he prostrated himself before that Muni, and hastened to where the king of Kāśī and his elder brother Subāhu were. Alarka hastening near smilingly addressed the king of Kāśī, that valiant hero, in the presence of Subāhu:—“O king of Kāśī, who desirest my kingdom, enjoy thou the mighty kingdom even as it pleases thee, or give it to Subāhu!”

The king of Kāśī spoke:

“Why, O Alarka! hast thou relinquished the kingdom without a contest? This is not right for a kṣatriya; and thou, Sir, knowest the law of the kṣatriyas. When his counsellors are vanquished, a king should abandon the fear of death, and fix his arrow aiming at his enemy as his target. Having conquered him, a king should certainly enjoy the choice delights of his desire, and should sacrifice with large sacrifices in order to gain final bliss.”

Alarka spoke:

“Even of this very nature was my mind before, O hero! Now my object is changed, and do thou hear the cause. As this body is an aggregate formed of the elements, so is the heart of men, and so are all the qualities likewise even among all animals. Since this intellectual faculty is single indeed, and there is no other, how then does knowledge create the condition of friend and enemy, of lord and servant? I fell into that dire misery which was produced by fear of thee, and I have gained knowledge from Dattātreya’s favour, O king. When one subdues all the senses, and abandons utterly every association, and fixes one’s mind on Brahma, in that victory is the sublimest victory. And since there is nothing else to he accomplished in order to attain that final beatitude, therefore restraining his senses he attains final beatitude. I then am not thy foe; nor art thou my enemy; Subāhu here is not my injurer. I have seen all this as my own soul; seek then another adversary, O king!”

Thus he addressed the king. Then uprose Subāhu delighted, and saluting his brother with the word ‘O joy!’ spoke thus to the king of Kāśī.

Footnotes and references:


Deva-mārga ; said to mean the penis or anus.




For saṃśayam read saṃśayaḥ?


Sampratiṣṭha; not in the dictionary.


For puruṣas read puruṣais ?

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