by N.A. Deshpande | 1951 | 1,261,945 words | ISBN-10: 8120838297 | ISBN-13: 9788120838291
This page describes preface to fourth part of the English translation of the Padma Purana, one of the largest Mahapuranas, detailling ancient Indian society, traditions, geography, as well as religious pilgrimages (yatra) to sacred places (tirthas).
In this IV part of the Padma Purāṇa are included the remaining chapters, 91-125, of the second section, Bhūmikhaṇḍa, and the whole of the third section, Svargakhaṇḍa, having 62 chapters in all.
Our observation that the names of the sections have little relevance to the contents is further corroborated in this part. One may look, for example, at the contents of the Svargakhaṇḍa. The second chapter of it treats of creation and should logically go to the first section, Sṛṣṭikhaṇḍa. Chapters 3-9 deal with the division of the earth into islands (dvīpas), their mountains, rivers, countries and their population etc., which are more appropriately the topics of Bhūmikhaṇḍa. Again, almost all of the remaining chapters of this section deal with the holy places of India, the merits acquired by visiting them, taking a bath, performing charities, offering piṇḍas to the manes and worship to gods, and the codes of conduct laid down for the various castes and stages of life as well as do's and don’t’s in respect of eating etc., which being very much ‘earthly’ matters logically belong to the Bhūmikhaṇḍa.
Some conflicting statements about the size and structure of the Purāṇa are also found in this part. For example, the Bhūmikhaṇḍa, chapter 125, says that the number of verses in the Purāṇa was 52000 in Tretā, 22000 in Dvāpara and 12000 in Kali, while the Svargakhaṇḍa, chapter 1, gives a static figure of 55000. And similar is the case with the sections of the Purāṇa. According to the Bhūmikhaṇḍa, chapter 125, the Purāṇa has five sections only, viz. Sṛṣṭi, Bhūmi, Svarga, Pātāla and Uttara, thus leaving Brahma and Kriyāyoga, whereas the Svargakhaṇḍa, Chapter 1, enumerates six sections, viz., Ādi, Bhūmi, Brahma, Pātāla, Kriyā and Uttara. In this latter list the names of Sṛṣṭ and Svarga (its own name!) are missing and an unfamiliar name ‘Ādi’ appears. In the last chapter (62), however, the name for this section occurs as ‘Ādi-svarga’, which would imply that this, i.e. Svargakhaṇḍa, was the first section of the Purāṇa, thus refusing any locus standi to the Sṛṣṭikhaṇḍa.
Now a few words about the contents. The reader will find some new and interesting anecdotes and stories here extolling holy places such as Puṣkara, showing the efficacy of a bath in the rivers Revā, Gaṅgā etc. or of Viṣṇu’s name, and glorifying worship of some god, e.g. Viṣṇu or Śiva, or some virtuous conduct. Subāhu’s story shows that a gift of food, especially to a brāhmaṇa, is the best charity, and is even superior to penance. The stories of Aśokasundarī (II. 102ff), of Kāmodā (II. 118ff) and of the five gandharva maidens (III. 22ff) have a good deal of dramatic interest. The story of Hemakuṇḍala and his two wicked sons (III. 30ff) shows the efficacy of the river Yamunā.
Pilgrimage to holy places is treated of in great detail. Next in importance is the code of conduct prescribed for the celebate student, the householder, the anchorite and the ascetic (III. 51ff). Do’s and don’t’s in respect of eating etc. are minutely discussed. Giving shelter and food to brāhmaṇas is considered highly meritorious. Gift of a cow to a brāhmaṇa at Prayāga is supposed to liberate not only the donor but also his son, wife and servants. Worshipping brāhmaṇas is shown to be superior even to bathing at a holy place. Mother is spoken of as the most venerable person and maligning others the greatest sin for which there is no atonement. A brāhmaṇa not responding to salutation is condemned as a śūdra and one is advised not to salute him. Protection of even such insignificant insects as lice and bugs is prescribed.
Third in length is the description of the earth’s geography which to a large extent seems to be a product of imagination rather than of a scientific survey, as is obvious from the highly exaggerated figures given therein. To take a few examples: The height of the Jambu tree which lends its name to the Jambudvīpa, is said to be one thousand and a hundred yojanas (1 yojana = 8/9 miles); the Mālyavat mountain measures fifty thousand yojanas; the span of human life in the Bhadrāśva country is said to be ten thousand years. The reader will find many more interesting descriptions here.
It is our pleasant duty to put on record our sincere thanks to Dr. R.N. Dandekar and the UNESCO authorities for their kind encouragement and valuable help which render this work more useful than it would otherwise have been. We are extremely grateful to Dr. N.A. Deshpande for translating the text. We are also thankful to all those who have been helpful in our project.