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...


Having heard accounts of the kings of the solar dynasty, Maitreya wished to hear of the kings of the lunar dynasty, Parashara obliged.

Brahma’s son was Atri and Atri’s son was Chandra. Brahma made Chandra the ruler of stars and herbs. Chandra performed a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice). But because he successfully completed a rajasuya yajna, Chandra became arrogant. The guru of all the devas was Brihaspati and Brihaspati’s wife was Tara. Chandra kidnapped Tara. Despite Brihaspati’s repeatedly requesting him to return Tara, Chandra refused. A war began between the two sides. Since Shukra did not like Brihaspati, Shukra took Chandra’s side. Also on Chandra’s side were the danavas. Rudra and Indra sided with Brihaspati.

Since the war took place over Tara, it came to be known as the tarakamaya war. It was a terrible war and it seemed as if the whole world might be destroyed. The entire world asked Brahma to mediate and stop the war. Brahma stopped the war and returned Tara to Brihaspati.

But Chandra and Tara had a son and this son was called Budha. Budha married Ila and their son was called Pururava. Mitra and Varuna once cursed the apsara Urvashi that she would have to spend some time on earth. Urvashi to be his wife and Urvashi accepted, subject to a condition. Two sheep were to stay forever near her bed and if the sheep were to be ever stolen, Urvashi would return to heaven. Pururava readily agreed. They lived quite happily for sixty thousand years.

Urvashi had no desire to return to heaven. But in Urvashi’s absence the gandharvas of heaven felt very lonely; they plotted ways of taking Urvashi back to heaven. One night they stole the two sheep. And since the condition was broken, Urvashi went back to heaven. Pururava and Urvashi however, had six sons, the eldest being Ayu.

But to remind Pururava of Urvashi, the gandharvas taught him the secret of fire and the king was instructed to divide this fire into three types. Earlier there used to be only one sort of fire. But Pururava introduced the three types of fire known as Garhapatya, Ahavaniya and Dakshina.

In Pururava’s line was born Jahnu. Jahnu once saw that the bowl he used for his yajna was flooded with the water of the Ganga. He thereupon drank up the entire Ganga and restored the river only when the devarshis so requested. That is why Ganga is also called Jahnavi.

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