by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 1,763,776 words
This page describes Varahakalpa which is chapter 19 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 nineteenth chapter of the Reva-khanda of the Avantya-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Śrī Mārkeṇḍeya said:
1-7. I was about to die in that vast ocean-like expanse of water and was distressed. Muttering to myself and sighing, O excellent king, I swam across the water with my arms.
Stationed in the middle of the sea-like expanse, when everything was quiet and motionless, I heard an inimitable “Ambho” sound (the sound of a cow) causing reverberation in all the ten quarters. Despondent as I was, I saw, a cow standing before me. She resembled a swan, a Kunda flower and the moon, white in colour like a pearl necklace and cow’s milk. Her body was bedecked with many gems of diverse colours. The horns were bedecked in gold. Her boofs were covered with coral. She was fascinating with the tail lifted up and shining like a banner. With her snout stooping down she was making bellowing sound. She was crossing the ocean with her hoofs. She was encircled by golden strings of small tinkling bells and pearls. By the movements of her legs (when she waded through) in the water of the vast ocean-like expanse a mass of foams formed around her and she appeared to dance. She shouted loudly as she stirred up the ocean sending up columns of waters. O fortunate one, in smooth and majestic voice she said to me:
8-14 “O dear child, do not be afraid. O dear one, you have no death. With the favour of Mahādeva, neither you nor I have to face death. Support yourself holding on to my tail. I shall take you across this ocean. I shall save you, O Brāhmaṇa, from this fearful situation as long as the universe is flooded. In order to ward off hunger and quench thirst, suck at my udders. Be satisfied by drinking the divine milk with Amṛta as its basis.”
On hearing her words, I joyously sucked at her udders. No sooner had the udders been sucked than hunger and thirst vanished. I had a divine strength and vitality capable of swimming across the sea. Then I spoke to her: “Who are you wandering here in this vast ocean-like expanse? Tell me the truth. There is a great curiosity in me. You alone are my refuge even as I wander here and there lashed about and on the point of death as it were. It was due to the residue of my good fortune, O Divinity of holy rites.”
The cow said:
15-32. Have I been forgotten by you? I am Maheśvarī (Great Goddess) of diverse forms. I am Narmadā, the bestower of piety on men, the bestower of heavenly pleasures, happiness and strength. On seeing you distressed Rudra has despatched me saying: “O noble lady, redeem that Brāhmaṇa. Let him not lose his life in the water.” At the instance of the Lord, I have come near you in the form of a cow. I hurried lest Śaṃbhu should be one of false speech.
On being told thus by her, I came to know that her tail was splendid and indestructible and comparable to Indrāyudha (Vajra). I held on to it with my arms. Resorting to the banner-like tail, I crossed the ocean. She told me that the deity therein was Lord Mahādeva. Thereafter, for a period of a thousand Yugas, I wandered about along with her in that darkened atmosphere encircled all round by the waters of the great ocean.
I continued wandering, holding on to the tip of the tail of the cow. There was no movement of wind. There was no light. There was darkness. It was free from ailments.
All of a sudden, I saw Lord Īśāna asleep in the ocean-like expanse of water. He resembled a flower of Atasī, split collyrium and was free from impurities like the sky. He was dark like petals of a blue lotus. The immutable Lord was clad in yellow robes. His head was shining with a crown having the colour of the sun and dazzling like lightning. He had excellent features like the sky. His cheeks were being brushed by the earrings and the chest illuminated by the necklace. He was rendered splendid by the divine golden ornaments. He was lying on a couch of the serpent. The serpent served as pillow too. He had the splendour of a thousand suns. He had many arms and thighs. He had innumerable faces. He was charming. He had a thousand eyes and necks. The heroic Lord was asleep in the ocean-like expanse (of water).
He had a great mass of matted hairs having the sparkling lustre of lightning. The Lord was stationed thus pervading the entire universe merged in a single expanse of water. The Lord had swallowed everything including Devas, Asuras and human beings. The omnipresent, unmanifest, infinite Lord had faces all round.
Near the soles of his feet, there was Umā Viśvarūpā, the highly fortunate one embellished with golden bracelets.
The goddess identical with Śrī, Hrī, Dhī (intellect), Vāk (speech), wielding the Viśvamāyā (Universal Māyā), Śivā, the goddess was identical with Siddhi, Kīrti (renown), Rati (goddess of love), Brāhmī, Kālarātri. She was not born of a womb. I saw her sitting very close to Īśvara. I saw the moon-faced goddess of all, Umā identical with Dhṛti (fortitude).
33-43. I circumambulated Lord Īśa who was quiescent and asleep. He had the colour of fresh gold. He was associated with Umā. He was meritorious and excellent but was enveloped by darkness.
I then bowed down to him.
At the close of the night, the excellent Lord who was asleep, naturally woke up. When he woke, he stirred up the waters of the ocean with his arms. Reflecting on the destruction of the universe in the water, he began to consider what should be done. The Lord of miraculous limbs assumed the form of a Boar.
His splendour was like that of a huge rain-bearing cloud. His garland consisting of gold coins (golden-coloured stars), was hanging down. Adorned with a crown, the Lord held the conch, the discus and the sword. The noble-souled Lord identified himself with the Vedas and Vedāṅgas. The ancient Lord causing the origin of the three worlds holds the form of the three Vedas.
The very same Rudra who annihilated became Prapitāmaha for the purpose of creation. For the purpose of protection, he himself becomes Hari with the excellent discus, sword, club and lotus in his hands.
Distinction among them is unbecoming. They are all noble-souled ones having the same physical form. An ignorant person who brings in distinction among them, albeit by means of apparently cogent reasons and arguments based on principles of reasoning, falls into terrible hell gradually. He who creates distinction (between these—Śiva and Viṣṇu) is a wicked soul with a hostile motive.
One may be devoted to any of these. After casting off the physical body, one certainly attains immortality through that devotion itself.
The same Lord, the creator, the protector and the annihilates presumably enchants the world by means of these physical forms. Hence one should avoid falling into delusion and entertain hatred in view of the different forms.
For the same reason the excellent Īśāna, the creator of the universe, assumed the form of the Boar. When the three worlds became immersed in the waters of the ocean, the immanent soul was sought within the vortex of the waters.
The Lord pierced through the water within the ocean and entered Pātāla in a moment. He touched the entire Earth sunk under water. By one of his curved fangs, Lord Viṣṇu of inimitable daring lifting up the Earth, the divine lady of lotus-petal-like eyes, who had got submerged in the water at the time of Pralaya when the peaks of mountains and the rocks therein got shattered.
44-53. With her body hanging, suspended at the tip of the curved fang (of the divine Boar) she shone like the moonlight sticking to the peak of Kailāsa. Of uneven form, she resembled the lightning sticking to the cusp or horn of the moon.
The Lord of manifested Sattva quality (or power) and of incomparable prowess lifted up from the middle of the water, the Earth sunk within the waters of the sea in the same manner as an elephant lifting the sinking she-elephant with force or (like a sailor) lifting the boat that has been shattered.
The noble Lord raised up the Earth from the great mass of watery expanse and then divided the whole range of the ocean as well. He deposited, as it were, the waters of the great ocean into the oceans and then into the rivers (also).
He re-created the mountains that had been shattered earlier. He created all the continents and seas. In the Kalpa he created the ranges of rocky mountains that had been arranged with the boulders.
As that Yogeśvara (Yoga personified) began to meditate, the group of Suras and Indra, the Vedas, the different Varṇās, all the medicinal herbs, juices, everything issued forth. From his mind was evolved the entire universe consisting of immobile beings, oviparous beings; viviparous beings, sweat-born beings, plants etc. that split the ground and grow up, in fact everything including insects, ants etc.
Then the great Lord mentally transformed himself into a multi-formed being. The Lord of immutable soul pervaded everything by means of his eight Mūrtis (Cosmic forms) and thereafter sported about gracefully. He had richly flourishing splendour even as I was witnessing everything. He sported gracefully, O Brāhmaṇas(?). O king, I witnessed everything for the period of a Muhūrta.
After creating everything sportingly, the Lord of Devas, the creator of the Cosmos, omnipresent and having eyes, all round, the primordial creator, vanished.
54-61. (In that short span of time) All those things consisting of names and forms, the entire universe was witnessed by me. They were surrounded by oceans and continents. Everything was overspread by the stars and constellations. Everything appeared wonderful with the sky, clouds and the system of planets full of different kinds of living beings. Yet I could not see the Sarvasureśvarī (the goddess of all Suras) in the form of the cow, the divinity of great esteem.
My mind became agitated thinking, ‘Where can she be now?’ I surveyed the various parts of the quarters. Excepting that Īśvarāṅgī (born of the limbs of the Lord) how was it that I could see all?
Thereafter I saw the splendid river here with crystal-clear waters. She had the blue hue of a big cloud. Her limbs were rendered splendid by many trees and she was surrounded by elephants, horses and birds. As before, I resorted to the banks of the divine river. I stationed myself in Amarakaṇṭaka and found myself happily resting. My soul was rid of excitement. It attained happiness. After having seen the river full of meritorious water, free from impurities even at the close of the Kalpa, I felt as though I was seeing my own mother looking at me compassionately. I was free from ailment and sorrow.
Those leading Brāhmaṇas who read and listen to this meritorious narrative of the Mahāvārāha Kalpa everyday become pure. They will get rid of all inauspiciousness and go to heaven inhabited by Amaras, Siddhas and Gandharvas. They will attain heavenly pleasures in the company of the celestial damsels resembling the pure moon and endowed with different kinds of charms.
Footnotes and references:
Here Śiva is identified with Viṣṇu—a syncretism.
Viṣṇu’s Boar-incarnation is attributed to Śiva here.
Strong condemnation of treating Śiva and Viṣṇu as different—a syncretic trend of that (Purāṇic) age.