The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Incarnations of Vasudeva which is chapter 18 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the eighteenth chapter of the Vasudeva-mahatmya of the Vaishnava-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 18 - Incarnations of Vāsudeva

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The Lord said:

1. My audience (vision) that you got, O great sage, is due to your being an ever-exclusive devotee of mine, absence of hypocrisy (in you), and my will (to grant you the audience).

2. In you there is always (observance of) both non-violence and celibacy, abidance by personal (religious) duties, quiescence, disaffection to worldly (objects of) enjoyment, and perception and knowledge of the soul.

3. (You always have) association with saintly persons, (practice of) Yoga with all its eight parts, absolute sense-control, subsistence on food (prescribed) for sages, penance and freedom from all vices.

4. Absolute devotion exclusively to me, preceded by the knowledge of my greatness, is in you. Hence you (can) see me here, O firm observer of religious vows.

5. If there be ever other men who are endowed with these characteristics, they also (can) see me in such a form—me who am dear to devotees exclusively attached to me, O Brāhmaṇa.

6. O Brāhmaṇa, I, who am such (as described above) accompanied by Rādhā and Lakṣmī always stay in this imperishable residence along with my dependents.

7. I, who am of the form of Vāsudeva, am the giver of the fruits of all actions. By my immanence in all embodied beings, I always act as an independent one.

8. In the great abode called Vaikuṇṭha, I, a four-armed one, live with (my consort) Lakṣmī and along with my attendants of whom Nanda and Garuḍa are the chief ones.

9. On the earth, in the divine refulgent residence, Śveta-Dvīpa, I grant my audience five times a day, to the Śveta-muktas (i.e. liberated souls of that Dvīpa).

10. With my personal forms called Aniruddha, Pradyumna and Saṅkarṣaṇa I carry out the creation, sustenance and destruction of innumerable crores of Brahmāṇḍas (Cosmoses).[1]

11. At the beginning of creation Brahmā was created by me from the lotus in my navel. He propitiated me with penance and sacrifices, O Nārada.

12-20. Then being pleased with him, I granted the boons desired by him: (saying) “O Brahman, you will get the necessary (competence) for creation of subjects. By virtue of my boon all of them will abide by your command. The eternal Vedas will manifest themselves in your intelligence. You will have a correct knowledge of my own form. None shall cross the bounds of morality and propriety laid down by you. You alone will be the bestower of boons to multitudes of Suras and Asuras and noble-souled sages, who are desirous of obtaining boons, O Brahman. O Vidhi (Brahman), when, in a task which cannot be accomplished, you get embarrassed or deluded, I shall manifest myself as soon as I am remembered by you, and accomplish that task for you. While the universe is being created by you, I shall assume the form of a boar[2] and bring the earth which is submerged and lost in the great ocean, and establish it in its own place after killing the Daitya Hiraṇyākṣa proud of his strength. When your day ends, I shall become a fish and shall support (floating) like a boat, the earth along with its medicinal plants, Manus and others, during the period of your night. When the sons of Kaśyapa (i.e. Devas and Asuras) will churn the ocean for (obtaining) nectar, I, assuming the form of a tortoise, will bear on my back Mount Mandara used as the churning rod. Assuming the form of a Man-Lion, I shall kill Hiraṇyakaśipu, the son of Diti, the destroyer of sacrifices, for accomplishing the task of Suras, O Vidhi.

21-23. There will be (born) Bali, the son of Virocana, a powerful great Asura. He will dislodge Śakra from his kingdom. When the three worlds are taken away (i.e. conquered) by him, and the husband of Śacī (Indra) is disappointed and downcast, I shall be the twelfth son of Aditi from Kaśyapa. Then, I shall give again the kingdom of heaven to Devendra. I shall re-establish the deities in their respective places, O Brahmā. And I shall make Bali an inhabitant of the nethermost subterranean world.

24. Becoming (a son) named Kapila from Kardama and Devahūtī, I, endowed with indifference to the world, shall proclaim the Sāṅkhya philosophy that was lost (forgotten) during the course of time.

25. Becoming (incarnating as) Datta, the son of Anasūyā and Atri, I shall teach the science called Ānvīkṣikī (i.e. Nyāya) to Prahlāda and to Yadu (Sahasrārjuna?), O Vidhi.

26. Incarnating (with the name) Vṛṣabha, the son of Merudevī and Nābhi, I shall propagate the ancient Dharma called Pāramahaṃsya[3] (i.e. pertaining to Paramahaṃsas—the highest sect of recluses).

27. In Tretā, I shall become Rāma, a scion of Bhṛgu family. I shall annihilate Kṣatriyas who have transgressed the limits (of morality etc.) and have taken to bad ways.

28-31. When the period of junction between Tretā and Dvāpara (i.e. Tretā coming to an end and Dvāpara about to start) arrives, I shall become Rāma, son of Daśaratha and Kauśalyā. Lakṣmī, with the name Sītā, will be the daughter of Janaka. I shall marry her after breaking the big bow of Śiva. I shall then kill in battle along with his brothers the terrible king of Rākṣasas (Rāvaṇa), enemy of Devas and sages and abductor of Sītā. Then great sages including Vālmīki will sing variously of his (that is my) exploits, on hearing which there will be destruction of sins.

32-33. When the junction of Dvāpara and Kali comes to a close, for the sake of annihilation of Asuras who become burden to the earth, and for protecting righteous people, I, Kṛṣṇa, called Vāsudeva, will be born of Vasudeva and Devakī in the city of Mathurā. Similarly Saṅkarṣaṇa alias Balarāma, Pradyumna and Aniruddha (i.e. all the Vyūhas of the Pāñcarātras) will be born in the family of Yadu.

34. Rādhā will be the daughter of the cowherd Vṛṣabhānu and I shall sport with her in Vṛndāvana, O Lotus-born One (Brahmā).

35. Lakṣmī will be born as the daughter of Bhīṣmaka by name Rukmiṇī. After defeating kings in a battle, I shall many her.

36. After killing Asuras, the enemies of Dharma and of kings who were haunted by them, and by establishing Dharma, I shall make the earth free from burden.

37. If the mind of a person is in any way devoted to me, I shall take him to the supreme position of Brahman.

38. After establishing righteousness on the earth, and bringing about the annihilation of Yadu’s race, I shall then vanish from the earth[4], while Devas look on.

39. Kṛṣṇa-Dvaipāyana and others will extol variously the heroic exploits of me as Kṛṣṇa. They will be instant destroyers of sins.

40. After incarnating as Kṛṣṇa-Dvaipāyana, the son of Parāśara, I shall divide the Veda into different branches like a tree.

41. By becoming Buddha, I shall delude by the use of fallacious reasoning and deceit the Asuras[5] who adopting Vedic practices will harass the three worlds.

42-43. When the Asuras killed by me (as) Kṛṣṇa and by Arjuna in the battles, will promote and establish Adharma (unrighteous practices) on the earth, I, sage Nārāyaṇa, shall be born on the earth from my devotee Dharmadeva in the land of Kośala, as a Brāhmaṇa-singer of Sāman hymns.

44. O Aja (Brahma), establishing the holy Dharma I shall be the protector of sages who will be born as men by the curse of Munis (other sages) as well as Uddhava, O child.

45. At the end of Kali I shall incarnate as Kalki. Riding a divine horse, I shall kill highly sinful people of Mleccha origin.

46. Whenever the Dharma promulgated in the Vedas is being destroyed by Asuras, at that time my manifestation shall take place for its protection.[6]

47. Therefore, completely giving up anxiety, create subjects as before.”

After conferring these boons upon him I became invisible.

48. I did, do, shall do easily by means of my powers what all the boons given to him imply.

49-50. O Brāhmaṇa, the vision of mine, who am the controller of all embodied beings in this way, has become very difficult to obtain. (It was possible for you) due to your single-minded devotion unto me.

O excellent sage, seek any boon desired by you from me. I am highly pleased with you. My audience shall not be fruitless.

Skanda said:

51. On hearing the speech of the Lord, the excellent sage Nārada, regarded himself as blessed, and addressed the Lord, O sage.

(Nārada said:)

52. 0 Master, by your very vision all my desire is fulfilled. I regard this (i.e. your audience) as extremely difficult to get for all embodied beings.

53. Hence nothing except directly seeing you, your devotee and this your residence (called) Amṛta, is desired by me as worth obtaining.

54. Compared with this, there is nothing else anywhere in this Brahmāṇḍa that is difficult to be obtained, and this I can request of you who are pleased with me here.

55. The happiness in the other world, which is obtained by performance of Vedic rituals pertaining to Devas and ancestors, is also perishable.

56. I do not wish that insignificant happiness to be greater than you, O Lord. I beg only one boon desired by me from you who are the most prominent among bestowers of boons.

57. May my intellect be always eager for singing the excellences of you, as well as that of your devotees, and may it have ever-increasing love and devotion unto you.

Skanda said:

58. Promising him ‘so be it’ to what was requested by him, Kṛṣṇa gave him a great lute useful in singing and spoke to him again.

The Lord said:

59. O divine sage, go from this place to Viśālā Badarī (i.e. Badarikāśrama). There propitiate devoutly me, Nārāyaṇa, the son of Dharma.

60. You are a devotee exclusively attached to me. Your heart is free from deceit. Hence I esteem you better that God Brahmā, your faṃer.

61. O sage, devotees exclusively attached to me, know everything about me, of my nature and form, and the extent of my greatness.

62. In their hearts I am the only object of thought and contemplation, and they are so in mine. Their desired object is no other than I, and I too have none other but they.

63. Just as devoted, chaste wives bring good husbands under their power by their virtuous qualities, in the same way my devotees bring me under their power.

64. I follow them along with Śrī, as if I am subservient to them. Wherever they are, I am present there.

65. O divine sage, know the truth that to those who desire liberation, I can be attained in this world only through association with saintly persons, and by no other means.

66. Whenever men resort to me, they are immediately liberated from bondage to Māyā and the state of being a Jīva (i.e. a soul subject to Saṃsāra).

67. With whatever feeling or inclination of mind a man seeks refuge in me, he gets the happiness as desired by him, but he does not revert to Saṃsāra, as in the case of others.

Skanda said:

68. Thus addressed by the Lord, Nārada who had obtained the desired favour, bowed down to him and returned with his eyes full of tears.

69. While singing with the lute, he saw the Śveta-Mukta (the liberated soul from Śveta-Dvīpa, his guide) going in front of him as before, and he (Nārada) followed him, O eminent Brāhmaṇa.

70. Immediately after arriving at Śveta-dvīpa, he bowed down to them (all) and returned. Then Nārada arrived quickly at Meru.

71. From Meru he proceeded to Mount Gandhamādana. From the sky he quickly alighted at Viśālā Badarī (Badarikāśrama).

Footnotes and references:


These are the functions of the three Vyūhas.


The order of incarnations as given in the text is as follows: (1) Divine Boar, (2) Fish, (3) Tortoise, (4) Man-Lion, (5) Vāmana, (6) Kapila, (7) Datta, (6) Vṛṣabha, (7) Bhārgava Rāma, (8) Dāśarathi Rāma, (9) Kṛṣṇa, (10) Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana (Vyāsa), (11) Buddha, (12) Kalla.


This Purāṇa has a soft comer for Jainism. He equates Jaina ascetics with the Brāhmaṇical Paramahaṃsas, the highest order of Sannyāsa.


Mbh, BhP testify to Kṛṣṇa’s death and the cremation of his physical body. By the time of this Purāṇa, Kṛṣṇa is too great to die as a human being. He ‘vanishes’ from this world.


The author’s prejudice against Buddhism is probably due to its challenging position to Brāhmaṇism at the time of this Purāṇa.


Cf. BG IV.7

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