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...

Some Geography

You have already been told that the world is divided into seven dvipas, Jambu, Shalmali, Krouncha, Palksha, Shaka, Pushkara and Kusha. The seven dvipas are surrounded by seven oceans. Their names are Lavana, Ikshu, Sura, Sarpi, Dadhi, Dugdha and Jala. Jambudvipa is right in the middle. And in the middle of Jambudvipa is the golden-hued Mount Meru. If the earth were to be a lotus flower, Mount Meru would be the stamen.

To the south of Mount Meru lies first Bharatavarsha, then Kimpurushavarsha and eventually Harivarsha. To the north lies first Ramyaka, then Hiranmaya and eventually the northern part of Kuruvarsha. Mount Meru is actually in Ilavritavarsha. And on four sides of Mount Meru are four mountains. To the east is Mandras, to the south Gandhamadna, to the west Vipula and to the north Suparshva. These mountains have a lot of jambu or jamum trees. That is why the region is known as Jambudvipa. There are four beautiful lakes around Mount Meru. Their names are Arunoda, Mahabhadra, Asitoda and Namasa. On the peak of Mount Meru is Brahma’s famous city.

The river Ganga originates from the feet of Lord Vishnu. It flows around the moon and then falls on Brahma’s city. It then divides into four rivers, Sita, Alakanada, Chakshu and Bhadra. Sita flows eastwards, Alakanada southwards into Bharatavarsha, Chakshu westwards and Bhadra northwards. In Bharatavarsha, Alakananda divides into seven rivers.

The region around Mount Meru is regarded as a svarga on earth. Here live the gods, goddesses, gandharvas, yakshas, rakshasas, daityas and danavas. Only the righteous people can go there, the sinners are not permitted to enter.

The sons of Bharata live in Bharatavarsha. There are seven major mountains in Bharatavarsha and their names are Mahendra, Malaya, Sahya, Shuktimana, Riksha, Vindhya and Paripatra. To the east of Bharatavarsha live the kirtas or hunters and to the west live the yavanas. The rivers Shatadru and Chandrabhaga flow out of the Himalayas, the main rivers mentioned in the Vedas from Mount Paripatra and the rivers Narmada and Surasa from Mount Vindhya.

Jambudvipa is surrounded by the ocean named Lavana. The people of Jambudvipa worship Vishnu. In other dvipas, other gods are worshipped. Bharatavarsha is the best part of Jambudvipa.

There are seven underworlds (patala) on earth. Their names are Atala, Vitala, Nitala, Gabhastimata, Mahatala, Sutala and Patala. Here live the danavas, daityas, yakshas and nagas. Narada once went on a trip to patala and discovered that patala was more beautiful than svaraga. It was a place full of jewels. During the day, the sun only provided light, but no heat. And during the night, the moonbeams provided light, but no cold. Patala was full of rivers, forests and lakes. The inhabitants of patala wore beautiful clothes, rubbed scented paste on their bodies and loved music. At the bottom of patala was Vishnu in the form of a thousand-headed snake. This snake was known as Shesha.

Under the earth and the water are several hells (naraka). They form the kingdom that Yama rules over. There are different narakas for different types of sinners. Those who lie and bear false witness go to Rourava. Those who kill cows go to Rodha. Those who drink, kill brahmanas or steal gold go to Shukara. Those who kill kshatriyas or vaishyas go to Tala. Those who treat their teachers’ wives badly go to Taptakunda. Those who kill messengers or sell women or horses go to Taptalouha. Those who treat their daughters and daughters-in-law badly go to Mahajvala. Those who show disrespect to their seniors or those who criticize the Vedas go to Lavana. Thieves go to Vimohana. Those who criticize good things, Vedas or brahmanas and those who hate their fathers go to Krimibhaksha.

Those who eat before their fathers, gods or guests go to Lalabhaksha. Those who make arrows go to Vedhaka. Those who make swords go to Vishasana. Astrologers go to Adhomukha. Fathers who eat sweets without offering them to their children and brahmanas who sell meat, milk or salt to go to Puyavaha. This is also the naraka that is reserved for brahmanas who keep cats, hens, goats, dogs, pigs or birds to make a living. Brahmanas who make a living as actors or fishermen and poisoners and arsonists go to the naraka known as Rudhirandha. Those who destroy villages go to Vaitarani. The unclean go to the naraka kown as Krishna. Those who destroy forests for no reason go to Asipatravana. Those who make a living by keeping sheep or those who kill deer go to Vanhijvala. Fathers who study under their sons go to Shvabhojana. Those who oppose the law of the four classes go to Niraya.

Apart from these narakas, there are thousands of others. Apart from the sins mentioned earlier, there are thousands of other sins. In the narakas, sinners suffer for their sins. They are hung upside down. Once they have spent the time in naraka and have paid for their sins, they are born again. Depending on how they have behaved, people are born as trees, creepers, worms, fish, birds, animals, human religious people or gods. A sinner does not however have to go to naraka if he repents for his sins. And the best way to repent is to think of Vishnu.

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