The Vishnu Purana

by Horace Hayman Wilson | 1840 | 287,946 words | ISBN-10: 8171102127

The English translation of the Vishnu Purana. This is a primary sacred text of the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism. It is one of the eighteen greater Puranas, a branch of sacred Vedic literature which was first committed to writing during the first millennium of the common era. Like most of the other Puranas, this is a complete narrative from the cr...


The translation of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa has been made from a collation of various manuscripts in my possession. I had three when I commenced the work, two in the Devanagari, and one in the Bengali character: a fourth, from the west of India, was given to me by Major Jervis, when some progress had been made: and in conducting the latter half of the translation through the press, I have compared it with three other copies in the library of the East India Company. All these copies closely agree; presenting no other differences than occasional varieties of reading, owing chiefly to the inattention or inaccuracy of the transcriber. Four of the copies were accompanied by a commentary, essentially the sane, although occasionally varying; and ascribed, in part at least, to two different scholiasts. The annotations on the first two books and the fifth are in two MSS. said to be the work of Śrīdhara Yati, the disciple of Parānanda, and who is therefore the same as Śrīdhara Svāmī, the commentator on the Bhāgavata. In the other three books these two MSS. coñcur with other two in naming the commentator Ratnagarbha Bhaṭṭa, who in those two is the author of the notes on the entire work. The introductory verses of his comment specify him to be the disciple of Vidya-vācaspati, the son of Hiraṇyagarbha, and grandson of Mādhava, who composed his commentary by desire of Sūryākara, son of Ratīnath, Miśra, son of Candrākara, hereditary ministers of some sovereign who is not particularized. In the illustrations which are attributed to these different writers there is so much conformity, that one or other is largely indebted to his predecessor. They both refer to earlier commentaries. Śrīdhara cites the works of Chit-sukha-yoni and others, both more extensive and more concise; between which, his own, which he terms Ātma- or Swa-prakāsa, ‘self-illuminator,’ holds an intermediate character. Ratnagarbha entitles his, Vaiṣṇavākūta candrikā, ‘the moonlight of devotion to Viṣṇu.’ The dates of these commentators are not ascertainable, as far as I am aware, from any of the particulars which they have specified.

In the notes which I have added to the translation, I have been desirous chiefly of comparing the statements of the text with those of other Purāṇas, and pointing out the circumstances in which they differ or agree; so as to render the present publication a sort of concordance to the whole, as it is not very probable that many of them will be published or translated. The Index that follows has been made sufficiently copious to answer the purposes of a mythological and historical dictionary, as far as the Purāṇas, or the greater number of them, furnish, materials.

In rendering the text into English, I have adhered to it as literally as was compatible with some regard to the usages of English composition. In general the original presents few difficulties. The style of the Purāṇas is very commonly humble and easy, and the narrative is plainly and unpretendingly told. In the addresses to the deities, in the expatiations upon the divine nature, in the descriptions of the universe, and in argumentative and metaphysical discussion, there occur passages in which the difficulty arising from the subject itself is enhanced by the brief and obscure manner in which it is treated. On such occasions I derived much aid from the commentary, but it is possible that I may have sometimes misapprehended and misrepresented the original; and it is also possible that I may have sometimes failed to express its purport with sufficient precision to have made it intelligible. I trust, however, that this will not often be the case, and that the translation of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa will be of service and of interest to the few, who in these times of utilitarian selfishness, conflicting opinion, party virulence, and political agitation, can find a restingplace for their thoughts in the tranquil contemplation of those yet living pictures of the ancient world which are exhibited by the literature and mythology of the Hindus.

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