The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “the course of creation” which forms the 48th 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 48 is included the section known as “exposition of the manvantaras”.

Canto XLVIII - The Course of Creation

Mārkaṇḍeya relates how Brahmā created the Asuras, the gods, the pitṛs and mankind, and the night and day and the two twilights —He mentions the times when those beings are powerful—He relates the creation of the Rākṣasas, Yakṣas, Serpents, Piśācas, and Gandharvas—Next of all beasts, birds and other animals—Then of various sacred hymns and metres—Then of the lightning, thunder, and other phenomena—And lastly Brahmā assigned all things their shapes, pursuits and names.

Krauṣṭuki spoke:

O adorable Sir, right well hast thou related the creation briefly to me; tell me, O brāhman, fully of the origin of the gods.

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

Creation is impregnated with the good and bad[1] actions of previous existence, O brāhman; and because of this well-known law[2], created beings, though they are destroyed in the dissolution, are not delivered, from the consequences of their actions.

The gods and other divine beings, and stationary things, and the four classes of mankind, O brāhman, were produced in his mind when Brāhmā was engaged in creation.

Then being desirous of creating the four classes of beings, namely, the gods, the Asuras and the pitṛs, and mankind, he infused[3] himself in the waters. The particle of darkness grew up in excess as the Prajāpati was rapt in meditation. First then out of his buttocks, as he was desirous of creating, were produced the Asuras. And then he cast aside that body which was composed of the particle of darkness; that body cast aside by him forthwith became Night.

Being desirous of creating, he assumed another body and experienced delight; then were produced from his mouth the Gods in whom goodness predominates. And the mighty lord of created beings abandoned that body also, and when cast aside it became Day wherein goodness predominates.

Then he took another body which was indeed characterized by the particle of goodness; the Pitṛs were produced from him while he deemed himself to be. a pitṛ. The lord, after creating the pitṛs, abandoned that body also, and when abandoned it became the Twilight that intervenes between day and night. Next the lord assumed another body characterized by the particle of passion, and then were produced Mankind who spring from the particle of passion. After creating mankind, the lord abandoned that body, and it became the Twilight that ends the night and begins the day.

Thus these bodies of the wise God of gods have become famed as the night and day, and the evening twilight and the morning twilight, O brāhman. Three are characterized by the particle of goodness, namely, the morning twilight, the evening twilight and the day; the night is characterized by the particle of darkness, hence it is called Tri-yāmikā.[4] Hence the gods are powerful by day, but the Asuras by night, and mankind at the coming of the morning twilight, and the pitṛs at the evening twilight. At these times these classes of beings are undoubtedly powerful and unassailable by their foes; and when they light upon the adverse times they lose their power.

The morning twilight, the night, the day, and the evening twilight, these four are indeed the bodies of the lord Brahma, and they are invested with the three qualities.

Now after creating these four, the Prajāpati, feeling hunger and thirst, took another body composed of passion and darkness during the night; during its darkness the adorable unborn god created bearded monsters wasted with hunger; and they endeavoured to eat up that body. Some of those monsters, who said “let us preserve[5] it from them,” were called Rākṣasas in consequence; and those who said “let us devour[6] it” were called Takṣas, from yakṣaṇa, ‘eating,’[7] O brāhman.

When the creator Brahmā saw them, the hair of his head through his displeasure grew withered[8] and lost its erectibility.[9] Through its downward gliding[10] it became the Serpents,[11] and from its loss[12] of credibility they are known as the Ahis or Snakes. Thereupon in anger at having seen the Serpents, he fashioned beings possessed with anger;[13] they were born as the flesh-eating demons, tawny-hued and fierce.

Next while he meditated on the earth,[14] the Gandharvas were horn as his offspring. They were born from him as he drank speech in,[15] hence they are known as the Gandharvas.

When these eight classes of divine beings were created, the lord next created other things, birds and cattle.[16] He created goats[17] from his mouth; and he created sheep from his breast; and Brahmā fashioned kine[18] from his belly and from his loins; and from his feet swift[19] horses and asses, and hares and deer, camels and mules and other animals of various kinds; plants and fruit-trees were produced from the hair of his body. When he had thus created the cattle and plants, the lord performed a sacrifice.

From him at the beginning of the kalpa, at the commencement of the Tretā Age issued the cow, the goat, mankind, the sheep, the horse, the mule, and the ass (these animals men call domestic cattle), and others (which they call wild animals, hearken to me), namely the beast of prey, the cloven-hoofed beast, the elephant, monkeys, fifthly birds, sixthly aquatic beasts, and seventhly creeping animals.

And for the sacrifices he fashioned from his front mouth the gāyatrī, and the tṛca strophe, the tri-vṛt hymn of praise,[20] the rathantara sāmans, and the agni-ṣṭoma verses. And he created from his right mouth the yajur hymns, the tri-ṣṭubh metre, sacred hymns,[21] and the fifteen hymns of praise,[22] and the bṛhat-sāman and the uktha verses.[23] He fashioned from his hindmost mouth the sāman hymns, the metre jagatī, and the fifteen hymns of praise,[24] the vairūpa sāman, and the atirātra verse.[25] He created from his left mouth the twenty-first Atharva hymn, and the aptor-yāman sacrificial verse,[25] the anū-ṣṭubh metre and the virāj metre.

The mighty adorable god created at the beginning of the kalpa the lightning, the thunderbolts and the clouds, and the ruddy rainbows, and the periods of life.[26] And created things great and small were produced from his limbs.

Having created the first four classes of beings, the gods, the Asuras, the pitṛs and mankind, he next created the things that exist both immoveable and moveable, the Takṣas, the Piśācas, the Grandharvas and the bevies of Apsarases, men and Kinnaras and Rākṣasas, birds, cattle, wild animals and snakes, and whatever is changeless and changeful, stationary and moveable.

Whatever actions they were severally endowed with originally at their creation, those very actions they are endowed with when they are created again and again. Noxiousness and harmlessness, gentleness and cruelty, righteousness and unrighteousness, truth and falsehood,—animated thereby they have their being; therefore they severally take delight in those characteristics. The lord, the creator, himself ordained diversity and specialization[27] among created things in their organs and pursuits and bodies. And he assigned the names and shapes of created things, and propounded the duties of the gods and other beings, even by the words of the Veda at the beginning. He gives names to the Ṛṣis, and to the several created classes[28] among the gods, and to the other things that were brought forth at the close of the nighty As the signs of the seasons appear at their appropriate season,[29] and various forms appear amid alteration, so those very signs and forms appear as actual facts[30] in the ages and other periods.

Such then[31] were the creations of Brahmā whose origin is undiscernible; they occur from kalpa to kalpa as he awakes at the close of his night.[32]

Footnotes and references:


For kuśalā kuśalair read kuśalākuśalair.


For khyātā read khyātyā?


Or, united himself with.


That is, “having its course with the three others,” from tri and yāma (from root ); or, “keeping the three others in check,” from tri and yāma (from root yam). The meaning “having three watches” from tri and yāma (from root ) is discarded here.






Yakṣaṇa seems a mistake for jakṣaṇa.


For Śīryanta read śīrṇās tu ?










For krodhātmāno read krodhātmano?


Dhyāyato gām.


Pivato vācam; the derivation is not apparent.


Paśavo; by ancient use for paśūn.


Ajāḥ for ajān, by ancient use; so also avayo for avīn ‘sheep.’


Gāvas for gās, by ancient use. But the MS. in the Sanskrit College Library, Calcutta, reads instead— Tataḥ svacchandato’nyāni vayāṃsi vayaso’sṛjat. “Then he created other winged animals from his bodily energy according to his wish.”


Samātanga; not in the dictionary: from the root sam-ā-tang?


The eleventh hymn of the ninth Maṇḍala of the Ṛg-Veda sung in a special way.






For uktaṃ read ukthaṃ.


Stoma; but another reading is seventeen.


A part of the seven soma-saṃstha sacrifices.


Vayāṃsi; or, birds.






For yathārttau read yatharttau ?




For ta read tu?


For sarvaryyante read śarvaryante?

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