The Padma Purana

by N.A. Deshpande | 1951 | 1,261,945 words | ISBN-10: 8120838297 | ISBN-13: 9788120838291

This page describes introduction to padma purana of the English translation of the Padma Purana, including detailled information on ancient Indian society, traditions, geography, as well as religious pilgrimages (yatra) to sacred places (tirthas).

Disclaimer: These are translations of Sanskrit texts and are not necessarily approved by everyone associated with the traditions connected to these texts. Consult the source and original scripture in case of doubt.

Introduction to Padma Purana

Padma Purāṇa tells us that it is called Padma or Pādma Purāṇa because it is based on the account of the lotus (Padma) that existed before Creation (1.1.56) or on the account of the lotus, of which the world is full (III.1.24-25). About its importance it says that it is a great holy text and gives the fruit of all the Vedas (III.62.24). It even claims to be equal to the Vedas (VI.255.118). It says that every Purāṇa is a part of the body of Viṣṇu, and Padma is his heart, since it is a great Purāṇa (III.62.2).

The total number of verses in Padma Purāṇa is said to be 55000, though the Veṅkaṭeśvara Press Edition has a smaller number. It has seven Khaṇḍas: Sṛṣṭi, Bhūmi, Svarga, Brahma, Pātāla, Uttara and Kriyāyoga. The number of verses in each Khaṇḍa is: Sṛṣṭi–11603; Bhūmi–6609; Svarga–3107; Brahma–1068; Pātāla–9504; Uttara–15067 and Kriyāyoga–3179. Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa (Chap. 1) states that it has the following five Khaṇḍas: Sṛṣṭi, Bhūmi, Svarga, Pātāla and Uttara. It does not mention Brahma and Kriyāyoga. If, in the absence of the Brahmakhaṇḍa and the Kriyāyogakhaṇḍa, the number of ślokas (as stated in the Sṛṣṭikhaṇḍa) in the Padma Purāṇa was 55000 and if, even after their being added to it, the number is almost constant, it is not altogether wrong to surmise that additions were made to and some verses or chapters were deleted from the Purāṇa as has been the case with other Purāṇas.

The Khaṇḍa-wise contents of Padma Purāṇa are as follows:—

1. Sṛṣṭikhaṇḍa (number of chapters 82):

The first chapter tells how Sūta is asked by his father Lomaharṣaṇa, to go to the Naimiṣa forest and narrate the Puraṇa to the sages, who have been performing a sacrifice there. Accordingly Sūta goes to the Naimiṣa forest and narrates Padma Purāṇa to them. The Purāṇa is called Padma as it tells how the ‘lotus’ arose, how from it Brahmā came up and how he created the world.

He tells them about the birth of Vyāsa and salutes him. The chapter tells that first Brahmā had produced 100 crore Purāṇas. The demons Hayagrīva, Śaṅkhāsura etc. had tried to snatch them away and destroy them; but Viṣṇu had the two incarnations of Hayagrīva and Matsya and preserved them.

Sūta himself tells what topics will be covered by the Purāṇa. He tells that the cause of the world is unmanifest and of the nature of existence and non-existence. From it Mahat and others spring up. The golden egg from which Brahmā appeared, had a covering of water, which had that of air (Vāyu), which had that of the ether, which had that of Bhūtādi, which had that of Mahat, and which had that of the Unmanifest. From that egg came up the world, rivers and mountains. Then follows the description of Manvantaras and Kalpas, that of the end of the Brahmā-tree, and the springing up of the beings, Viṣṇu’s lying in the water and uplifting the earth, the description of how Viṣṇu, as a result of Bhṛgu’s curse, had to go through the ten incarnations, of the various stages of life (āśramas), divisions of heaven, creation of birds and beasts, recreation etc., the account of a different creation of sages like Bhṛgu, geographical information and astronomical information like the movement of the sun, the moon etc.

The third chapter describes the creation of the world, how Viṣṇu in his incarnation as Varāha took out the earth and put it safely on water, how Brahmā first created Nāgas, then beasts ete., then gods and lastly human beings. Thus the entire creation is described in this chapter.

The foruth chapter tells about the churning of the ocean by gods and demons, and the curse of Bhṛgu to Viṣṇu. The fifth chapter contains the story of Satī. The sixth tells how Dakṣa first created gods, sages, serpents and other creatures. Like Dakṣa, Kaśyapa also brought forth creation of thirteen types. The seventh chapter tells about the birth of forty-nine Maruts from Diti. The eighth chapter tells how the earth was ruled over by king Pṛthu, and how, therefore, it was called ‘Pṛthvī’. Then it was ruled over by the wicked king Vena, who was skilled by the sages, and some other man enthroned in Vena’s place. The chapter also gives the account of the solar dynasty. Chapters 9,10 and 11 tell about the greatness of Śrāddha and contain an account of the seven sons of Kauśika, who performed Śrāddha, in a queer way. Chapters 12 and 13 describe the lunar dynasty and the way in which Bṛhaspati spread the Jaina view among the demons (see, especially verses 45ff of chapter 13). Chapters 14, 15 tell about Śiva’s visits to the holy places his observance of the vow of a Kāpālika at Puṣkara, the origin of Kapālamocanatīrtha, the birth of Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, greatness of Puṣkara and the characteristics of a brāhmaṇa. Chapters 16, 1 7 describe how, when at the time of Brahmā’s sacrifice, his wife Sāvitrī did not turn up in time, Brahmā married the daughter of a cowherd brought by Viṣṇu, how Sāvitrī was angry, and how she was appeased. In verses 183ff various epithets of Sāvitrī are given. Chapter 18 narrates the importance of the river Sarasvatī and the story of the cow Nandā to emphasige the importance of truthfulness. Chapter 19 describes the killing of Vṛtra and Kāleya. Chapters 20, 21 describe the importance of Dvādaśīvrata, gifts like Lavaṇācala, Guḍadhenu etc., and many vows to be observed on the Saptamī day. Chapter 22 tells about the birth of Agastya, Urvaśī etc. Chapter 23 contains the description of the characteristics of Viṣṇu’s devotee, of Bhīṣmadvādaśī, and the advice given by the sage Dālbhya to Kṛṣṇa’s wives. Chapter 24 describes the vow of Aṅgārakī Caturthī (i.e. Caturthī falling on a Tuesday). Chapter 25 describes the Ādityaśayanavrata and chapter 26 the Rohiṇīcandraśayana-vrata. Chapters 27, 28 tell about the importance of constructing wells, tanks etc. and planting trees. Chapter 29 narrates Saubhāgyasayanavrata; chapter 30 Balikathā; Chapter 31 narrates the account of Śivaśakti, the description of the rise of Nāgatīrtha, and the importance of Śrāddha etc. Chapter 32 tells the story of five corpses. Chapter 33 narrates Mārkaṇḍeya’s story and Lakṣmaṇa’s folly. Chapter 34 tells about the conclusion of Brahmā’s sacrifice. Chapters 35, 36, 37, 38 contain the description of a few incidents from Rāmāyaṇa like Rāma’s visit to the hermitage of Agastya. Chapter 39 tells about the recreation of the earth. Chapters 40-41 describe the killing of Madhu, Kaiṭabha and Kālanemi. Chapters 42, 43, 44 describe the birth of Tārakāsura, the marriage of Śiva and Pārvatī and the birth of Kārtikeya and the killing of Tārakāsura. Chapter 45 describes the incarnation of Narasiṃha. Chapter 46 tells about the killing of Andhakāsura and the importance of Gāyatri. Chapter 47 tells about Garuḍa’s birth and his valour. Chapter 48 emphasizes the importance of brāhmaṇas and cows. Chapter 49 describes the importance of good conduct. Chapter 50 contains the story of Narottama, Chapters 55,52 tell about the importance of a chaste woman and the conduct of a woman. Chapter 53 stresses the importance of greedlessness. Chapter 54 narrates the story of Ahalyā. Chapter 55 advises a man to curb his passions. Chapter 5(5 summarises the accounts told in the preceding chapters. Chapters 57, 58, 59 tell about the merit obtained by digging wells, planting trees, constructing bridges etc. The subsequent chapters (60 to 65) tell about the importance of Āmalaka and Tulaśī, of Gaṅgā and Gaṇapati. Chapters 66 to 75 describe how the demons like Kāleya, Tāreya, Hiraṇyākṣa were killed. The remaining chapters (upto chapter 82) tell about the importance of various planets, birth of Maṅgala, and the pacification of planets.

II. Bhūmikhaṇḍa (number of chapters 125):

The first forty chapters deal with the fruit of obligatory and occasional gifts. Chapter 41 emphasizes the importance of chastity with the help of the story of Sudeva and Padmāvatī. The story is continued in chapters 48, 49, 50, 51 also. The war between the chief of boars and king Ikṣvāku is described in chapters 42 to 47. The stories of Indra and Sukalā, of Kṛkala occupy chapters 53 to 60. Chapters 61 to 64 describe the importance of father, mother etc. Capter 65 describes the human body in such a way that nausea for it should be produced in the minds of the readers and the listeners. Fruits of good and bad actions find a place in chapters 66-68, while enumeration of good acts is made in chapter 69. Chapters 70-7l describe Yama’s world. Story of Yayāti covers chapters 72-83. Pūru’s getting the kingdom is the topic of chapter 84, while chapter 85 tells the story of Cyavana and the importance of a preceptor. The story of Kuñjala and his four sons finds a place in chapter 86, and is continued in subsequent chapters upto chapter 102. Vratas like Aśūnyaśayana are described in chapter 87. Kṛṣṇaśatanāmākhyastotra is given in the same chapter. Chapter 95 states the importance of dāna. The distinction between those that go to hell and those who go to heaven is given inchapter 96. The story of the demon Huṇḍa, killed by Nahuṣa, and of Aśokasundarī, Nahuṣa’s being consecrated as the king, and the account of Nahuṣa find a place in chapter 103. Kuñjala also tells his own account, the importance of a preceptor is narrated, and after the description of Vena’s performing a horse sacrifice and going to heaven, the Khaṇḍa closes with the narration of the fruit of listening to or getting recited Padma Purāṇa.

III. Svargakhaṇḍa (number of chapters 62):

This Kḥaṇḍa opens with the arrival of Sūta and his commencing the narration of this Khaṇḍa (chapter I). The second chapter describes Brahman, Prakṛti, and the origin of the world. Upto the 9th chapter description of Sudarśana country, Meru mountain, of countries lying to the south and the north of Meru, of Bhāratavarṣa, Jambudvīpa, Śākadvīpa etc. is given. Then from chapter 10 to chapter 40 the description of various rivers like Kāverī, Narmadā, mountains and sacred places like Śūlabheda, Bhīmeśvara, Varuṇeśvara, Nāgeśvara, Kuberabhavana, Kṣetrapāla, Śukla, Naraka, Daśāśvamedhika, Rudravedi, Bhṛgukṣetra, Vṛṣatīrtha on the bank of Narmadā, and also of the greatness of Narmadā, of Vitastātīrtha, Kurukṣetra, Brahmāvarta, Dharmatīrtha, Yamunātīrtha, Kapardeśvaratīrtha, Gayā, Koṭitīrtha is given. Chapters 41-49 narrate the importance of Prayāga. Chapters 50-55 describe the greatness of devotion to Viṣṇu, the duties of the various stages of life, prohibited deeds etc. The last chapters tell about articles of food which ought and ought not to be eaten, various kinds of gifts, way of life of a Vānaprastha and of a Yati, the superiority of devotion to Viṣṇu, and the importance of Padma Purāṇa.

IV. Brahmakhaṇḍa (number of chapters 26):

The Khaṇḍa commences with the description of the characteristics of Viṣṇu’s devotee. Then upto chapter 17, the description of the churning of the ocean, the coming up of the (Hālāhala) poison, of Alakṣmī, and Lakṣmī, of nectar, is given. A number of tales about Janmāṣṭamī-vrata, Lakṣmīvrata are told. From chapter 18 to chapter 24various expiations are told. Also the importance of Ekādaśī of Kārtika and vows in Kārtika, of Tulaśī, Dhātrī, is given. The fruit of many gifts like that of a piece of land is stated. Chapters 25, 26 tell about the importance (of the muttering) of the name of the Lord and that of keeping one’s promise.

V. Pātālakhaṇḍa (number of chapters 117):

The first 68 chapters of this Khaṇḍa narrate Rama’s life. The Khaṇḍa begins with the request of Śaunaka etc. to Sūta to narrate to them the life of Rāma. Rāma killed Rāvaṇa, gave Rāvaṇa’s kingdom to Bibhīṣaṇa, and returned with Sītā. On way back he showed Sītā many holy places. In the end he came to Nandigrāma where Bharata was staying. Chapter 2 describes the meeting of Rāma and Bharata. Chapter 3 describes Rama’s entry into Ayodhyā. Chapter 4 narrates how Bharata handed over the kingdom to Rama. Chapter 5 describes how his subjects behaved righteously. In chapter 6 Rāma asks Agastya as to who Rāvaṇa was, and how he became so valourous. Agastya in the next (i.e. 7th) chapter tells Rāma how he is an incarnation of Viṣṇu, and how he has made the world happy by killing Rāvaṇa. In chapter 8 Rāma asks Agastya for an expiation as he has committed the sin of killing a brāhmaṇa like Rāvaṇa. Agastya recommends the performance of an Aśvamedha sacrifice. Chapter 9 tells about the requisites of an Aśvamedha. In chapter 10 it is told how Rāma gets fashioned a golden image of Sītā, and commences the horse sacrifice. Chapter 11 tells how the warriors get ready to protect the horse and how the horse proceeds towards the east. Thus upto chapter 68, the description of the horse sacrifice is given. Some didactic chapters like chapter 10, and the account of Cyavana given in chapters 14, 15, 16, fruit of Karma narrated in chapter 48 are worth reading. After the account of Rāma follows the account of Kṛṣṇa upto chapter 84. The secret of the relation between Kṛṣṇa and the cowherdesses, the classification of Bhakti are told in chapter 85. Also the importance of Vaiśākha is told in these chapters. Chapters 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, and 93, are repetition. Chapter 87 corresponds with the first 40 verses from chapter 92. Chapters 88 to 92 which tell the importance of Vaiśākha have been taken from the Bhūmi-khaṇḍa (ch. 11ff) with a change in names. Somaśarman is told by Vasiṣṭha why he has obtained such a nice and Brahmavādinī wife (chapter 93). In these chapters many didactic and interesting tales are told to impress upon the readers, the importance of Vaiśākha (chapters 94-103). Then comes the description of Śiva-worship, wearing of Liṅga, ashes etc. Chapter 114 contains an accout of Gautama’s hermitage. Chapter 116 tells the Rāma-story which differs from the usual Rāma-story. Chapter 115 tells the importance of listening to a Purāṇa. The chapter ends with the enumeration of 18 Mahāpurāṇas and 18 Upapuārṇas. He who would comment upon these should be regarded as equal to Manu. Chapter 117 narrates the story of Akatha and other stories.

VI. Uttarakhaṇḍa (number of chapters 255):

The very first chapter tells what the contents of the Khaṇḍa are. Śaṅkara says to Nārada that he would now narrate to him the Uttarakhaṇḍa.

Out of the 255 chapters of the Khaṇḍa, the first eighteen contain the story of Jālandhara. Then upto the 34th chapter the importance of sacred places, Tulasi, gift of food is stated. The importance of the 24 Ekādaśīs of the 12 months and the two of the Adhikamāsa (the intercalary month) is told. This continues upto chapter 93, in which commences the description of the importance of Kārtika, which goes on upto chapter 124. In chapters 125 to 129 the importance of Māgha is told. The description of the various places and rivers is geographically important. The description of even the tributaries is given in detail. With chapter 174 ends the description of Sābaramatī, and the description of the importance of the Bhagavad Gitā commences. Viṣṇu is depicted as narrating the importance of the Gītā. In chapter 175 he tells that the eighteen chapters of the Gītā are the five mouths, ten hands, the belly and the two feet of Śiva. In each chapter from 175 to 192, a story referring to each chapter of the Gītā is given. The story is told to emphasize the importance of that particular chapter; but unfortunately not a single important principle of the Gītā-philosophy is reflected in any of these chapters. Two observations can be made: (i) The common man’s level of understanding had gone so low that he did not easily understand the important teachings of the Gītā, and (ii) he had implicit faith in Purāṇas, for he accepted whatever they taught. With chapter 183 begins the importance of Bhāgavata. The handling of these chapters is better than those about Gītā. With chapter 199 begins the description of the importance of Yamunā. Chapter 202 contains the story of Dilīpa. The story has a remarkable resemblance with the story occurring in the first two cantoes of Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa. The ten incarnations are described from chapter 230 onwards. Greatness of Viṣṇu is narrated in chapter 255.

VII. Kriyāyoga (number of chapters-26):

This Khaṇḍa is the smallest one. After the first, which is the introductory chapter, the creation of the world and the virtues of Viṣṇu’s devotee are narrated in the second chapter. Chapter 3 gives the story of king Manobhadra. Then in chapter 4 follow the description of the importance of Gaṅgā, and the story of Padmāvatī. Chapters 5 and 6 tell the story of Mādhava and Sulocanā. Then there is the description of Jagannāthapurī. The remaining chapters describe the importance of Tulasī, Śālagrāma, Āmalaka, Ekādaśī, etc. and the Khaṇḍa ends with the description of Kali, in which virtuous people will be ridiculed, population will grow enormously, and young girls of five or six years of age will conceive! But all the sins, the Purāṇa, tells, can be destroyed by uttering the name of the Lord.

The last part of the Khaṇḍa stresses the importance of this Khaṇḍa. It also says that he who will write down or cause someone else to write it down will have the fruit of worshipping Viṣṇu. This Purāṇa is very charming, and may the Lord be pleased with it.

A glance at the contents would show that Padma Purāṇa is Vaiṣṇavite in nature. It asks a person to serve Viṣṇu’s feet only (1.5.10). Those who utter Viṣṇu’s name are meritorious (IV.10.66). The characteristics of the devotee of Viṣṇu are given at the beginning of Brahmakhaṇḍa. The story of Ajāmila emphasizes the importance of the utterance of Viṣṇu’s names (III.31.107). Svargakhaṇḍa (chapter 60) tells that the best Bhakti is Viṣṇu-bhakti. Uttarakhaṇḍa narrates the greatness of Viṣṇu in chapter 255. He is depicted as narrating the Bhagavad Gītā in the same Khaṇḍa (chapter 174). The story of Puṇḍarīka given in the 80th chapter of Uttarakhaṇḍa tells the importance of Viṣṇu-bhakti. He is said to be the highest god. The Viṣṇu-sahasra-nāma given in chapter 71 of Uttarakhaṇḍa, and its importance stated in the next chapter of the same Khaṇḍa, point to the same conclusion. Though the Purāṇa makes such statements as: “That brāhmaṇa, who is not a devotee of Viṣṇu, is said to be a heretic” (VI. 262.27), yet it shows religious tolerance. It says that those who look upon Viṣṇu and other deities as one are not reborn (III. 50.106). As already noted, Viṣṇu himself tells that the various chapters of the Gītā are the limbs of Śiva’s body (VI. 175). Thus the Purāṇa, though mainly teaching Viṣṇu-bhakti is not entirely sectarian. It divides Bhakti into three classes as Laukikī, Vaidikī and Ādhyātmikī.

Tīrthayātrās or visits to sacred places are said to give great religious merit. Svargakhaṇḍa (Ch. 10 to Ch. 40) gives the description of many sacred places like Śūlabheda, Daśāśvamedhika, Gayā. and the merit obtained by such visits which is said to be very great. For example Padma Purāṇa states (I.38.2) that by merely going to Gayā. one gets the reward that one would get by performing a horse-sacrifice. Chapters 41 to 49 of Svargakhaṇḍa are devoted to the narration of the importance of Prayāga.

Like visits to holy places, vratas also are said to lead a human being to final beatitude with no more rebirth. The Dvādaśīvrata in Sṛṣṭikhaṇḍa (chapters 20-21) or Saubhāgyaśayanavrata described in the same Khaṇḍa (chapter 29), or the Janmāṣṭamī-vrata or Lakṣmīvrata narrated in Brahmakhaṇḍa (chapter 17) or that of Vaiśākha given in the Pātālakhaṇḍa (chapters 85-86) are some of the many examples which stress the importance of vratas, and which are some of the very important and highly fruitful vratas.

Like visits to holy places and observance of vratas or vows, dāna or giving gifts is emphasized by Padma Purāṇa. The first forty chapters of Bhūmikhaṇḍa deal with obligatory and occasional gifts. Also chapter 95 of the same Khaṇḍa stresses the importance of dāna. Observing a fast and then giving a gift is said to be equal to the performance of sacrifices (III. 21.29). In chapters 18 to 24 of Brahmakhaṇḍa fruits of many gifts like a piece of land are stated along with various expiations etc. The gift of food is highly praised (VI. 33). A householder is asked to give as much food to an ascetic as would fill his begging bowl (V. 15.140-141).

Śrāddhas and expiations also find a place in the Purāṇa. Śrāddha or offering of oblations to the dead ancestors is said to be meritorious. The institution of expiation should not be looked down upon. It accepts the universal principle ‘To err is human’ and gives opportunity to every erring soul to correct himself.

From the literary point of view, it may be said that Padma Purāṇa is not very difficult to be understood by a person who has some grounding in the Sanskrit language. Padma Purāṇa does not have that literary charm which Bhȧgavata Purāṇa possesses. For example, the story of Ajāmila is handled by Bhāgavata in a better way. The Padma handles it rather cursorily.

There are certain grammatical irregularities. Wrong forms like lapapsye for lapsyase (1.17.48), jago for jagau (1.30.67), kurate for kurute (1.20.45), vandya for vanditvā (I. 43.35b), use of a wrong gender like divasam for divasaḥ (III.31.170), lack of agreement between the subject and the verb in a sentence (III.39.85) are to be found in the Purāṇa; but when the bulk of the Purāṇa is taken into consideration, they are negligible.

The Purāṇa contains a number of subhāṣitas. A few examples of such subhāṣitas are 111.23.5, III.31.89, 95; 111.31.174, 175; 60.24; IV.5.30 etc.

Certain descriptions have a poetic aroma, eg. the description of women in 111.21.65ff. Alliteration like the one in III.20.42 is rare. Certain definitions like those of the virtues like Kṣamā (forbearance), Satya (truthfulness), Dambha (religious hypocrisy) given in the 54th chapter of Svargakhaṇḍa are epigrammatic and precise.

Padma Purāṇa is neither the work of one author, nor does it profess to abound in poetic excellences. It would not, therefore, be justifiable to judge it as a work of poetry.

It is not easy to decide the date of Padma Purāṇa. There are clear indications of additions and omissions. It has already been shown above, while discussing the number of Khaṇḍas and verses in Padma Purāṇa, that certain portions were added to or taken away from the Purāṇa. A glaring example of contradiction noticed in Svargakhaṇḍa (chapter 50) would suffice to show that it is not the work of one hand. Verses 20b-2la of chapter 50 of Svargakhaṇḍa tell that those who look upon Viṣṇu and other deities as one are not born again, while verses 22b-23a of the same chapter say that those who look upon Viṣṇu and other deities as identical fall into hell. Sometimes the smooth, easy flow of the narration is marred by a clumsy construction (IV. 6.33).

To sum up, Padma Purāṇa does not belong to the class of the ancient Purāṇas like Viṣṇu, nor is it historically important like Brahmāṇḍa. Like Skanda and Bhaviṣya it mainly deals with vratas, dānas, tīrthas and lays special stress on Viṣṇubhakti. Its contribution may be said to lie in the fact that like other Purāṇas of its class, it emphasized Bhakti, relegating Jñānamārga to a secondary position. For śūdras and women it recommended what was called the Paurāṇika Dharma. As the influence of Purāṇas went on increasing, the Vaidika Dharma gradually receded, and, the Dharma or way of life taught by Purāṇas, which was upto then supposed to be inferior, came to the forefront, and Purāṇas, like the Gītā, taught that people should not hanker after worldly gains, but should do their duty sincerely, dedicating it to God. The message of Padma Purāṇa is not different (VI.53.4-9).

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