The Vishnu Purana (abridged)

27,616 words

The Vishnu Purana (Viṣṇu Purāṇa) is a religious Hindu text and one of the (most important) eighteen Mahapuranas. It is also known as Puranaratna ("gem of Puranas"). Presented as a dialogue between Parashara and his disciple Maitreya, the major topics discussed include creation, stories of battles fought between asuras and devas, the Avat...

Maitreya And Parashara

Once the sage Maitreya came to the sage Parashara and wanted to know about the creation of the universe. And this is what Parashara told him.

In the beginning the universe was full of water. But in that water there emerged a huge egg (anda) that was round like a water-bubble. The egg became bigger and bigger and inside the egg there was Vishnu. This egg was called Brahmanda. And inside Brahmanda there were the mountains and the land, the oceans and the seas, the gods, demons and humans and the stars. On all sides, the egg was surrounded by water, fire, wind, the sky and the elements. Inside the egg, Vishnu adopted the form of Brahma and proceeded to create the universe. When the universe is to be destroyed, it is Vishnu again who adopts the form of Shiva and performs the act of destruction. Let us therefore salute the great god Vishnu.

There are four yugas or eras. These are called krita (or satya), treta, dvapara and kali. Krita era consists of four thousand years, treta of three thousand, dvapara of two thousand and kali of one thousand. All the four eras thus pass in ten thousand. And when all the four eras have passed one thousand times each, that is merely one day for Brahma. I hope you are good at elementary arithmetic. How many human years are equal to one of Brahma’s days ? Ten thousand times one thousand. That is, ten million years. During each of Brahma’s days, the sages the gods and the kings are destroyed and recreated fourteen times. Each of these cycles is called a manvantara. But at the end of Brahma’s day, there comes the final destruction. The world is burn. Brahma sleeps throughout his night, for ten million human years. Thereafter, there is creation once again.

Parashara said, “Maitreya, let me tell you about how Brahma performed the act of creation.”

Brahma is merely part of Narayana. And Narayana is Vishnu. Nara means water and ayana means resting-place. When the earlier creation was destroyed, the world was full of water and Vishnu slept on the water. That is the reason why he is called Narayana. Narayana saw that there was water all around and desired to create the world. He, therefore, adopted the form of a boar (varaha) and went all the way down to the underworld. There the earth saluted him and asked him to rescue her from the underworld Upon haring the earth’s request, vishnu in his form of a boar began to roar. He used his tusks to lift up the earth from the underworld. Then he carefully placed the earth on the waters. The earth floated on the oceans like a huge boat. Vishnu levelled out the earth and placed the mountains in their proper places. The earth was divided into seven regions or dvipas.

After that came the question of creating the beings. There were four types of beings that Brahma created through the powers of his mind. The first were the demons or asuras, they came out of Brahma’s thighs. Next came the gods or devas, they emerged from Brahma’s mouth. From Brahma’s sides there were created the ancestors or pitris. And the humans came out the last. Many other things were created.

After that Brahma was both hungry and angry. The demons of hunger took form and wanted to eat up Brahma, their creator. There were some among them who did not want to eat their creator, but wanted to protect (raksha) him. They came to be known as rakshas. And those who wanted to eat him came to be known as yakshas. When Brahma saw these undesirable creatures, the hairs on his head fell off and grew up and stood up again. From these hairs were born the snakes. The gandharvas were born. They were known as gandharvas because they sing.

Many other things were created. From Brahma’s age were created the birds, from his chest sheep and from his mouth goats. From his stomach and sides there came out cattle and from his feet horses, elephants, deer and camels. Plants sprouted from the hair on Brahma’s body.

There were four classes of humans that were created, the brahmanas, the kshatriyas, the vaishyas and the shudras. The brahmanas came out of Brahma’s mouth, the kshatriyas from his chest, the vaishyas from his thighs and the shudras from his feet.

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