The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “the paring down of the sun’s body” which forms the 106th 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 106 is included the section known as “conversation between Markandeya and Kraustuki”.

Canto CVI - The paring down of the Sun’s body

The Sun married Viśvakarman’s daughter Sañjñā and had three children by her, Manu Vaivasvata, Tama and Yamunā—Sañjñā could not endure the Sun’s glory and leaving her shadow Chāyā departedChāyā-Sañjñā took her place and had three children by the Sun—She cursed Yama for unfilial conduct, but the Sun minimised the curse and perceived the deception.—The Sun visited Viśvakarman and the latter placing the Sun on his wheel pared down his glory—The world was thrown into chaos as the Sun was whirled around—The gods and celestial beings hymned the Sun.

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

Now the Prajāpati Viśvakarman, after falling prostrate and propitiating him, gave his daughter named Sañjñā to the Sun, Vivasvat.[1] Manu Vaivasvata was begotten by Vivasvat of her then, and his nature has been already indeed declared particularly.[2] He, Vivasvat, lord of the heavenly cattle, begot three children of her, two most illustrious sons and a daughter Yamunā, O muni. Manu Vaivasvata was the eldest, the god who presides over śrāddhas, the Prajāpati; then were born Yama and Yamī as twins. With the exceeding splendour that Mārttaṇḍa Vivasvat possessed, he scorched the three worlds and the moveable and immoveable things therein very grievously. But Sañjñā saw Vivasvat’s globe-like form and, being impatient of his great splendour, gazed at her own shadow Chāyā and spoke:—

Sañjñā spoke:

Fare thee well! I will go to my father’s very own abode. Yet thou must stay here without change at my command, O fair one; and thou must show honour to these two boys for me and to this daughter who is of noble rank; and thou must not declare this at all to the god.

Chāyā the Shadow spoke:

“Unto enduring the seizing of my hair, unto undergoing curses, O goddess, I will never declare thy intention; go where thou wishest.”

Being addressed thus by Chāyā, Sañjñā went to her father’s dwelling; and there she, the beautiful of eyes, abode some time in her father’s house. Her father told her again and again to go to her husband. Then turning herself into a mare she departed to the Northern Kurus, O brāhman. There, like a chaste wife, she practised austerities, fasting, O great muni.

When Sañjñā had gone to her father, Chāyā, assiduous to Sañjñā’s command, and assuming her form, waited on the Sun; and the adorable Sun begat of her, he thinking it was of Sañjñā, two sons in addition and a daughter. The firstborn of the two sons was equal to the eldest son Manu, hence he was called Sāvarṇi, O best of dvijas. And the other, who was the second son, became the planet Saturn. And the daughter who was Tapatī, her king Samvaraṇa chose in marriage.[3]

Now as queen Sañjñā used to behave to those her own sons, Chāyā did not behave to those eldest born sons with such affection. Manu suffered that conduct in her, and Tama did not suffer it in her. Now being sorely distressed when his father’s wife used to beseech him frequently, he Tama, by reason of both anger and childishness and indeed by the force of predestination, threatened Chāyā-Sañjñā with his foot, O muni, and thereupon the Shadow-Sañjñā,[4] full of resentment, cursed Tama severely.

Chāyā spoke:

“Since thou tkreatenest thy father’s wife, a venerable lady, with thy foot, thy very foot shall therefore assuredly drop down.”

Now Tama was deeply afflicted in mind at that curse, and he, righteous of soul, along with Manu made it all known to his father.

Tama spoke:

O lord, our mother behaves not with equal affection towards us all; leaving us aside who are the elder, she wishes to foster the two younger. I lifted my foot against her, but did not let it fall on her body; whether it was through childishness or through foolishness, do thou, Sir, deign to pardon it. I have heen cursed, dear father, by my mother in her anger. Since I am her son, verily therefore I revere her, my mother, (O best of ascetics). Even towards unworthy sons a mother is not wanting in good feelings, O father; how shall a mother say this out—“May thy foot drop down, O son!” Think, O adorable[5] lord of the heavenly cattle, of some way so that through thy favour this my foot may not drop down now by reason of my mother’s curse.

The Sun spoke:

Without doubt, my son, this curse must take effect here, since anger entered into thee, who art wise in righteousness and who speakest truth. For all curses indeed a remedy assuredly exists; yet nowhere is there that which can turn a curse away from those who are cursed by a mother. This thy mother’s word then cannot be made false; I will however devise something as a favour for thee, because of my love for thee my son. Insects taking some flesh from thy foot shall go forth to the earth;[6] her word is thus made true, and thou shalt be saved.

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

Now the Sun said to Chāyā,—“Why among thy sons, who are quite equal, dost thou show more affection to one? Assuredly thou art not Sañjñā the mother of these; thou art some one else come in her stead; for how could a mother curse one son even among worthless children?”

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

And she avoiding that question gave no answer to the Sun. And he concentrating his soul fell into abstract thought[7] and perceived the truth. Chāyā-Sañjñā saw the lord of heaven was ready to curse her, and trembling with fear declared to him what had happened, O brāhman. Now the Sun, enraged at hearing that, went then to his father-in-law. And he paid honour fittingly to the Maker of day, and being strictly religious he pacified him who wished to burn him up in his wrath.

Viśvakarman spoke:

Permeated with surpassing glory is this thy form which is so hardly endurable; hence Sañjñā, unable to endure it, practises austerities in the forest in sooth. Thou shalt now see her, Sir, thy own wife, beautiful in her behaviour, practising most arduous austerities in the forest on account of thy too glorious form. I remember Brahmā’s word: if it please thee, my lord, I will restrain thy beloved form, O lord of heaven.

Mārkaṇḍeya spoke:

Inasmuch as the Sun’s form was formerly spherical, so the adorable Sun said to Tvaṣṭṛ, “Be it so!” And Viśvakarman, being permitted by the Sun in Śakadvīpa, mounted the Sun on his wheel and set to work to pare down his glory. While the Sun, which was the centre of all the worlds, was whirling round, the earth with its oceans, mountains and forests mounted up to the sky, and the whole heavens with the moon, planets and stars went downward, and were tossed together and confused, O illustrious brāhman. And all creatures also were scattered about with the waters out of the ocean;[8] lofty hills were shattered to pieces, their summits and roots were torn asunder. The supports of the pole, all the asterisms,[9] O best of munis, with their bands and foundations splitting, went downwards in thousands. Hurled away by the wind caused by the swift whirling, great clouds wandering about with terrible thunder crumbled to pieces all around. The earth, the air and the nether regions, rolled about by the Sun’s whirling, uttered their voices; there was exceeding chaos then, O best of munis. While all the worlds were whirling round, O brāhman, the divine ṛṣis and the gods with Brahmā sang praises to the Sun:—

“Thou art the most ancient god among the gods; this is known from thy nature. At the periods of creation, continuance and dissolution thou existest with a triple division. Hail to thee, O lord of the world, thou producer of warmth, rain and snow! Have pleasure in the peace of the worlds, O god of gods, O Maker of the day!”

And Indra approaching the god, as he was being pared down, praised him,—“Be victorious, O god who pervadest the world! Be victorious, O lord of all the worlds!” And the seven ṛṣis next, with Vasiṣṭha and Atri at their head, praised the Sun with various hymns, exclaiming “Hail! hail!” And the Bālikhilyas then, filled with joy, praised the Sun with the noblest and most ancient Ṛc hymns enunciated in the Veda, as he was being pared down—“Thou, O master, art final emancipation from existence to those who strive after emancipation; thou art worthy to be contemplated as the supreme one by those who engage in contemplation! Thou art the way for all created beings, even for those who are occupied with ritual.[10] May there be a blessing for the people, O lord of the gods! May there he a blessing for ns, O lord of the worlds! May there ever be a blessing for us in what is two-footed! And may there be a blessing for ns in what is four-footed!”

Then the bands of Vidyādharas and the Yakṣas, Rākṣasas and Nāgas joining their hands reverently all fell prostrate with their heads before the Sun, and uttered words such as these, giving joy to his mind and ears,—“May thy glory become endurable to created beings, O thou who causest created beings to exist!” Next Hāhā and Huhu, Nārada and Tumburu, who were skilful in music, and who were accomplished in the three musical scales based on the ṣaḍja, madhyama and gāndhāra notes,[11] began to sing in joy-giving accents to the Sun both with modulations[12] and various divisions of time,[13] with combinations.[14] And Viśvācī and Ghṛtācī, Urvaśī and Tilottamā, Menakā and Saha-janyā and Rambhā,[15] the choicest among the Apsarases, danced whilst the Sun, the lord of the worlds, was being pared down, the while they displayed[16] many dramatic actions replete with amorous and coquettish gestures and dalliance. Then were caused to give forth their music there flutes and lutes, and other musical pipes, drums and kettledrums, tabours, large drums and double drums, the drums of the gods and conchs in hundreds and thousands. And every place was rendered loudly resonant by the Gandharvas who were singing, and the bevies of Apsarases who were dancing, and with the sounds of trumpets and musical instruments.

Then all the gods, joining their hands reverently, and bowing their bodies in faith, prostrated themselves before the Thousand-rayed god as he was being pared down. In that resounding noise, where all the gods were gathered together, Viśvakarman then gradually diminished his glory.

After hearing thus of the paring down of the body of the Sun, who is the cause of the cold, rainy and hot seasons, and who is praised by Viṣṇu on the lotus seat of Śiva, one goes[17] to the Sun’s world at the close of life.

Footnotes and references:


See Canto lxxvii. The same story is repeated here.


See Canto lxxviii, verse 27, and Canto lxxix.


See MahāBhārata, Ādi-p. xciv. 3738, xcv. 3791; and clxxi-clxxiii where it is described how Sambaraṇa while hunting met her, fell in love with her and gained her at length after propitiating the Sun. Her son was Kuru, the progenitor of the Kauravas.


This must be Chāyā-Sañjñā; but both editions read Sañjñā.


For bhagavān read bhagavan as in the Bombay edition,


See Canto lxxviii, verse 28.


For muktas read yuktas as in the Bombay edition.


This is the reading of the Bombay edition which is preferable, abdhitāḥ, instead of arciṣaḥ.


For dhiṣṭyāni read dhiṣṇyāni.


Karma-kāṇḍe; the department of the Veda which relates to ceremonial acts and sacrificial rites.


See page 130, note †.


Mūrchanā; see page 131, note *.


Tāla; see page 131, notes † and ‖. But the Bombay edition reads tānais(?), “with protracted tones.”


Sa-prayogaiḥ ; or samprayogaih as in the Bombay edition.


For Ranibhāśca read Rambhā ca.


Both editions read kurvanto, but read kurvatyo instead ?


For vajati read vrajati.

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