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 Prachetas

Among Prithu’s descendants was a king called Prachinvarhi who married the daughter of the ocean, Savarna. Ten sons, the Prachetas, were born of this marriage. They performed very difficult tapasya (meditation) for ten thousand years under the ocean.

Maitreya asked Parashara, “Why did the Prachetas perform difficult tapasya for ten thousand years?” And this was Parashara’s answer.

Brahma had asked Prachinvarhi to ensure that the world became full of people and Prachinvarhi passed on the task to his sons. But the Prachetas did not know how to go about this task. Their father told them to pray to Vishnu, for didn’t Vishnu offer the solution to all problems? It was after paying to Vishnu that Brahma had created the universe at the beginning of the original creation. On hearing their father’s instructions, the Prachetas prayed for ten thousand years.

When the ten thousand years were over, Vishnu appeared before them on the top of his transport Garuda. He offered them a boon and the Prachetas requirested that they might be able to people the world. Having obtained the desired boon, the Prachetas emerged from the ocean and found that in their absence, the earth had been covered with trees. No winds could blow. In their anger, the Prachetas created wind and fire from their mouths. The wind uprooted the trees and the fire burnt them. All the trees began to be destroyed.

Soma, king of the trees, could not bear this to happen. He rushed to the Prachetas and tried to appease them. There was a beautiful woman called Marisha who had been born from the tree and whom Soma had brought up. Soma offered Marisha in marriage to the Prachetas. He promised them that the son who would be born, Daksha, would people the world. Soma also told the Prachtas the story of Marisha’s birth.

Many years ago, there used to be a sage called Kandu. This sage was performing difficult tapasya on the banks of the river Gomati. To disturb him, Indra sent an apsara (dancer of heaven) named Pramlocha. Kandu fell in love with her, married her and lived with her for more than a hundred years in a valley in the mountain Mandara. When more than a hundred years had passed, the apsara wished to return to heaven. But Kandu said, “Stay for some more time.” Pramlocha again stayed there for some more than a hundred years and wished to return to heaven after these hundred years had passed. But Kandu again said, “Stay for some more time.” And this went on and on.

After many years had passed, Kandu regained his senses. He said, “Wife, one whole day is over. It is now evening. Let me say my prayers.”

“One day,” exclaimed Pramlocha. “Are you not aware that nine hundred and eighty-seven years, six months and three days have passed since you married me?”

This made Kandu realize what had happened. He went back to his tapasya and allowed Pramlocha to return to heaven. On her way towards heaven, Pramlocha wiped her sweat on the leaves of trees. She was bearing a baby and the baby came out with the sweat and was left with the trees. It was this baby who grew up and became Marisha.

In an earlier life, Marisha had been married to a king. But the king had died when Marisha had been very young. The young widow had prayed to Vishnu and Vishnu had agreed to grant her a boon. The widow had desired the boon that she might have a son like Brahma and that she might have good husbands in several lives. Vishnu had promised her that she would have a son like Brahma and that she would have several good husbands in the same life. That is why Marisha was now simultaneously married to the ten Prachetas.

Daksha was then born. The same Daksha who had earlier been the son of Brahma. Daksha had sixty daughters. Ten of them were married to Dharma, thirteen to Kashyapa, twenty-seven to Chandra, four to Arishtanemi, two to Angirasa and two to Krishasha. The thirteen daughters who were married to Kashyapa were Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kala, Arishta, Surasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha, Ira, Kadru and Muni.

Kashyapa and Diti had two brave sons¾ Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. Hiranyakashipu’s sons were Anuhlada, Hlada, Prahlada and Sanhlada.