The Narada Purana (abridged)

2010 | 18,115 words

The Narada Purana (Nārada Purāṇa) is one of the major eighteen Mahapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts. It deals with the places of pilgrimages and features a dialogue between the sage Narada, and Sanatkumara. During the course of the dialogue between the two, Narada explains to Sanatkumara the major places of piligrimages, their location, ...

Prior to creation, there was the great godhead (mahavishnu) which was everywhere. When the time for creation drew near, the godhead expanded himself into three forms. Brahma was created from the right side of the godhead and Brahma’s appointed task was creation. Shiva was created from the centre of the godhead and his job was destruction. Vishnu was created from the left side of the godhead. Vishnu was assigned the task of preservation.

The female counterpart or principle of the godhead is referred to as Shakti. Shati divides herself into two, vidya (knowledge) and avidya (ignorance). Knowledge means an appreciation of the identity between the brahman and the universe. Ignorance is the absence of such an appreciation and it is ignorance that is responsible for the miseries of the world. Shakti herself is referred to by various names. When she is identified with Vishnu, she is known as Lakshmi; when associated with Shiva, she is called Uma or Parvati; and when in conjunction with Brahma, she is known as Sarasvati. But they are really one and the same, manifestations of the same force.

Brahma and Sarasvati are thus together responsible for creation (srishti), Vishnu and Lakshmi are responsible for preservation (sthiti), and Shiva and Parvati are responsible for destruction (laya). The unified Shakti is sometimes also called Mahamaya or Prakriti.

The universe is made of five elements (bhuta). Their names are kshiti (the earth) apa (the water). teja (the energy), marut (the wind) and vyoma (the sky).

The universe is divided into fourteen regions (bhuvanas or lokas). Seven of them form the upper regions and are known as bhuloka, bhuvarloka, svarloka, maharloka, janaloka and satyaloka. There ae seven more regions that constiute the lower regions or the underworld. Their names are atala, vitala, sutala,talatala, mahatala, rasatla and patala. The word patala is also used to signify all of the underworld as a region.

Each of the fourteen regions has its own inhabitants, mountains and rivers. The earth is bhuloka and the earth is split up into seven regions (dvipas). They are known as Jambudvipa, Plakshadvipa, Shalmaladvipa, Kushadvipa, Krounchadvipa, Shakadvipa and Pushkaradvipa. Bhuloka also has seven oceans named Lavana, Ikshu, Sura, Sarpih, Dadhi, Dughdha and Jala.

Bharatavarsha lies in Jambudvipa. It is that part of the land which is bounded by the Lavana ocean on the south and the Himalaya mountains on the north. Bharatavarsha is a wonderful place to live in, and even the gods desire to be born in this land. Bharatavarsha is known as karmabhumi. Karma means action. This land is therefore a place where actions have to be performed. Bhoga means to enjoy or savour, Bhogabhumi is a place where the fruits of one’s actions are pleasured or savoured. Bharatavarsha is not a bhogabhumi, it is merely a karmabhumi. The fruits of actions performed in Bharatavarsha are savoured elsewhere. Good deeds are rewarded in heaven (svarloka or svarga) and sins have to be paid for in hell(naraka).

To be born in Bharatavarsha means to be given the opportunity to perform good deeds. A person who does not avail of this opportunity is like a person who gives up a pot of amrita ( a heavenly life-giving drink) for a pot of poison. If one wishes to be rewarded in heaven, one should relentlessly pursue the path of good karma. But actions should not be performed with an eye to the fruits of such actions. One should disassociate oneself from the fruits, which vest only with Vishnu. This sort of detached action is known as niskama karma and it is superior to all other forms of action.

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