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...

The Kings Vena and Prithu

Some generations further down from Dhruva, there was a king called Vena. Vena was not a good king at all. He announced that there would be no sacrifices on earth. There was absoultely no reason for praying to Vishnu, wasn’t king Vena superior to even Vishnu? The sages tried to persuade the King to change his ways, but Vena was not in a mood to listen.

The sages therefore decided that Vena should die. They chanted mantras over a straw and killed Vena with the straw. The problem however was that who would rule the kingdom in Vena’s place? Vena did not have any children. The sages then began to knead the dead king’s thighs. After the kneading, a dwarf who looked like a short pillar came out of the thighs.

“What shall I do?”, asked the dwarf.

“Sit,” said the sages and the dwarf came to be called nishada from the word for sitting. Later, the sons of Nishada came to live in the Vindhya mountains.

The sages then began to knead the dead body’s right hand. And a shining man came out because of the kneading. This was Prithu. As he was born, a divine bow, arrows and armour fell on him from the skies. Everyone was happy at Prithu’s birth. Even Vena no longer had to go to the hell that one has to go to if one does not have a son. The rivers and the oceans arrived with water and jewels for Prithu’s coronation. The gods and Brahma arrived to bathe Prithu before the coronation. Brahma noticed that Prithu had the mark of a chakra (Vishnu’s weapon) on his right hand. This was a good men, because it meant that Prithu was decended from Vishnu. Only kings whom even the gods cannot rival have this sign on their hands.

Prithu was crowned. He was a powerful king. The waters of the ocean trembled when he passed and the mountains made a path for him. His flag was never lowered. The earth yielded crops without any ploughing. The cows gave a lot of milk and the flowers were full of honey. As soon as he was born, Prithu arranged for a sacrifice (yajna). From this sacrifice were born the sutas and the magadhas, who chanted songs in Prithu’s praise.

But there had been a short period between Vena’s death and Prithu’s birth when there had been no king on the land. The land does not flourish in the absence of a king. The herbs disappeared from the earth and people were hungry. These people went to Prithu and begged him to restore the herbs. To obtain the herbs, Prithu took up his bow and arrow and began to chase the earth. The earth adopted the form of cow and started to run. But wherever the earth went, Prithu followed. Finally, Prithu caught up with the earth and the earth restored whatever few herbs were left. To ensure tha the earth returned to normalcy and once again became fertile. Prithu levelled out the mountains with his bow. In the earlier creation, there had been no cities, villages, grains, animal husbandry, agriculture or trade.

It was because of Prithu that all this became possible. This is the reason why the earth is called prithivi.

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