The Padma Purana

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

This page describes preface to ninth 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).

Preface to ninth part

We are happy to offer this forty-seventh Āhuti (‘oblation’) in the Jñāna-Yajña (‘Knowledge-Sacrifice’) that we have undertaken in the form of the Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology Series. The concept of yajña has certain noble implications, the foremost one being that it is a selfless venture fraught with difficulties and motivated not by any selfish gain or profit but by universal good in view. In this present yajña dissemination of knowledge and popularization of the Purāṇas is our sole aim and this is our apology for calling it ‘Jñāna-Yajña’.

So far the Padma Purāṇa, of which this is Part IX in English. has been the biggest one and one still bigger is yet to follow. The last part of this Purāṇa, that is Part X, also is almost ready and thus the complete set of the Purāṇa will be made available to our readers within the next three months.

This part comprises chapters 185-245 of the sixth section, viz. Uttarakhaṇḍa, of the Padma Purāṇa. The reader will find here also, as usual, a rich variety of interesting themes.

The first eight chapters eulogize the saving power of the last eight chapters of the great Bhagavadgītā supported by illustrative stories. The next six chapters show the efficacy of reciting and listening to the Bhagavata. It has been claimed that this Purāṇa is capable of removing misery, poverty, ill-luck and sins, of overcoming passions and anger in this Kali age. The listening to it is prescribed for seven days (Saptāha) at a time only on account of lack of self-control, disease, shortening of life and other blemishes characteristic of the present age. The Bhāgavata Saptāha has been praised as better than performing a sacrifice, observing a vow, practising penance, visiting a holy place etc. This is a form of devotion to Kṛṣṇa, which is said to be the only means of salvation fit to be resorted to in this age of unrighteousness. In an allegorical representation Bhakti (Devotion), Jñāna (Knowledge) and Vairāgya (Detachment) are depicted as a woman with two sons. She is said to have been born in the Draviḍa country, brought up in Karṇāṭa, then to have lived in Mahārāṣṭra and become old along with her sons in Gurjara due to contact with heretics who persecuted them. This is just a figurative way of saying that the devotional movement originated in Tamil Nadu, reached its height of development in Telugu and Marathi speaking regions and declined in Gujarat, probably because of its proximity to the first entry points of Muslim raiders from the Arabian countries. It is further stated that she again became a beautiful young girl in Vṛndāvana, though Jñāna and Vairāgya remained grey-haired and old, thus showing their unpopularity and ineffectiveness in this age.

In our previous Editorials we have reiterated that in view of obviously corrupt readings, obscure passages and wrong words frequently encountered in the existing Purāṇa versions, there is a great need of bringing out thoroughly edited versions of the Purāṇa texts. A clear and convincing case is cited here. In a number of chapters of the text beginning with ch. 199 a name in the vocative case occurs very frequently as ‘Śive’ and sometimes as ‘Śibe’. Now both the names ‘Śivā’ and ‘Śibi’have broadly the same form in the vocative, except a difference of ‘va’ and ‘ba’ which is very likely to be ignored and has actually been ignored by some translators, though the person is different in the two cases, one being the consort of god Śiva and the other an ancient king, son of Uśīnara. The dialogue in which this occurs and that runs into several chapters is between Nārada and king Śibi but a reader who is not cautious enough may get the wrong idea that the dialogue is between Nārada and Pārvatī. It is learnt that All India Kashiraj Trust in Varanasi has been doing a laudable work in editing the Purāṇas but apparently the progress is very slow. One would wish that more bodies could come forward in the field.

One more confusing situation is found in chapters 200-209 and further up to ch. 222, where a number of holy places, viz. Prayāga, Kāśī, Śivakāñcī, Gokarṇa, Dvārakā, Kośalā, Madhuvana, Badarikāsrama, Haridvāra, Puṣkara and Naimiṣa which actually have a distance ranging from a few to hundreds of miles, are jumbled up together in a small place named Indraprastha! This obviously needs some researcher to come forward and clear this geographical mix-up.

In chapters 224 and 225 the characteristic sectarian marks are prescribed for the Vaiṣṇavas. One should compulsorily have a mark called Ūrdhvapuṇḍra on the forehead and imprint other parts of the body also with disc, conch and other emblems of Viṣṇu heated in fire. Viṣṇu’s Vibhūtis, Vibhavas and Vyūhas are the topics of chapters 227-229.

Chapters 235 and 236 contain very interesting observations of the author of the Purāṇa on the birth of heretics, the measures adopted for bringing about their downfall and destruction and the grouping of the sages, doctrines and texts into Sāttvika, Rājasa and Tāmasa. In the list of heretics those who have on their body skulls, ash, bones and other inauspicious things are prominently included, thus casting aspersions on god Śiva himself. But in the case of Śiva it is justified as deliberately done to delude and destroy demons and heretics. Not only this but Śiva is also further said to have deliberately composed vicious scriptures like those of Pāsupatas and other Śaivite sects for the purpose. Preaching of the Buddhist doctrines and Śaṅkarite Māyāvāda etc. also is shown as part of the same divine conspiracy. Among the Purāṇas Matsya, Kūrma, Liṅga, Śiva, Skanda and Agni are condemned as Tāmasa (vicious). Ten vicious sages include names such as Durvāsas, Kaṇāda, Gautama etc.

In the last few chapters the incarnations of Viṣṇu in the forms of the Boar, Nṛsiṃha, Vāmana, Paraśurāma, Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are described.

Acknowledgements

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 in the publication of the volumes in this series.

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