The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “the descent of the ganges” which forms the 56th 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 56 is included the section known as “exposition of the manvantaras”.

Canto LVI - The Descent of the Ganges

Mārkaṇḍeya describes the course of the River Ganges from the moon on to mount Meru, then in four streams flowing east, south, west and north, of which the southern stream was allowed by Śiva to flow through India at the entreaties of King Bhagīratha.

He describes briefly the happy condition of all the other countries (except India) in Jambudvīpa.

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

The foot of Nārāyaṇa, moreover, who is the origin of the universe,[1] supports the earth. The divine river Ganges which issued thence flows in three courses. She enters the moon, which is the womb of the nectar and the receptacle of the waters, and thence, having purified with her contact the rays of the sun[2] which is indissolubly connected with the moon, she fell on the summit of Meru, and then divided into four streams. As she fell from the summit and the sides and the outer bounds of Meru, she turned around, and finding no support fell scattering her waters widely. Dividing her waters equally at the foot of Mandara and the three other mountains, she fell, piling high the rocks broken off from their bases by her waters.

The eastern stream, which is celebrated by its name Sītā,[3] flowed to the forest Caitraratha,[4] and overflowing it, passed on to the lake Varuṇoda,[5] and thence to the mountain Śītānta,[6] and thence to the other mountains on the east in order. Descending to the earth in her course, she flowed from Bhadrāśva into the ocean.

Moreover the second stream called Alakanandā flowed south towards Grandhamādana into the forest Nandana that delights the gods and that lies at the foot of Meru, and overflowed the lake Mānasa with great force, and reached the delightful kingly mountain Śikhara,[7] and thence overflowed all the mountains which I have mentioned in order on the south, and reached the lofty mountain Himavat. There the bull-bannered Śiva held her and would not let her go. The lord was propitiated by king Bhagīratha with fastings and hymns, and Śiva released her there. She entered the southern ocean in seven streams, and in three streams on the east; inundating as a great river the south with the overflow from her stream, behind Bhagīratha’s chariot.

Moreover the great river famed as Svarakṣu fell on Mount Vipula on the west side, and went towards the forest[8] Vaibhrāja; and thence the great river overflowing the lake Śītoda reached the mountain Svarakṣu,[9] and thence she went to the mountain Triśikha;[10] and thence falling on the summits of the other mountains on the west in order, she’ reached Ketumāla and entered the salt ocean.

Now she flowed on to mount Supārśva also, which is at the foot of Meru; there she is famed as Somā. She flowed to the wood of Savitṛ.[11] Overflowing[12] it, she reached lake Mahābhadra;[13] and thence she passed as a great river to mount Śaṅkhakūṭa;[14] and thence reaching in succession Vṛṣabha and the other mountains on the north, and overflowing the Northern Kurus she entered the great ocean.

Thus I have appropriately described to thee, O brāhman, this river, the Ganges, and the countries according to their arrangement in Jambudvīpa. In Kimpuruṣa and all the other countries dwell people, who have almost unalloyed happiness, who are free from sickness, and who are exempt from low and high diversities of condition. In each of the nine countries in it are seven mountain ranges. And then in each country there are rivers flowing down from the mountains. In Kimpuruṣa and the seven other countries, O brāhman, waters bubble up from the ground; here in Bhārata we have rain. And in these eight countries[15] men enjoy a perfection which comes from the trees, from their own natural dispositions, from the localities, from the water, from their mental condition and from their actions.[16] The tree-bestowed perfection is obtained from the trees that grant them every wish; the natural is well-known as that which springs from the natural disposition; and the local delight is that which is connected with the land itself; and the water-given[17] perfection comes from the delicacy of the water; and the mental is derived from meditation; and the perfection which comes from reverential service and the performance of other duties is denominated righteousness-produced.[18] And in these countries the ages do not exist, nor bodily nor mental sicknesses; nor is there any undertaking involving merit or demerit there, O brāhman.

Footnotes and references:


Jagad-yonim in the text seems impossible. Read jagad-yoneh?


Or, being purified by contact with the rays of the sun.


The text appears incorrect. For pūrvāśīte ’tivikhyātā read pūrvā sīteti vikhyātā ?


See canto lv, verse 2.


Or Aruṇoda, see canto lv, verse 3.


See canto lv, verse 4.


See canto lv, verse 6.


For sācalam read sā vanam ? See canto lv, verse 2.


There seems to be a confusion in the text between the names of the river and the mountain, which latter is called Surakṣa in canto lv, verse 9 ; for Sva-rakṣuḥ then read Su-rakṣam ?


This name seems erroneous. See canto lv, verse 9, where Śiśirakṣa is mentioned as the second mountain. No mountain of the name Tri-śikha is mentioned in that and the following verses among the western mountains. The two should agree ; compare Vriṣabha in verse 18, and canto lv, verse 12.


Sāvitra; see canto lv, verse 2.


For pāvayantī read plāvayantī.


See canto lv, verse 3.


See canto lv, verse 12.


For vaṣerṣu read varṣeṣu.


Karma-jā, this seems preferable to dharma-jā in verse 25.


For toyātthā read toyotthā.


Dharma-jā; verse 23 reads karma-jā instead, which seems preferable.

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