The Vishnu Purana
Chapter XIV - Descendants of Prithu
Descendants of Prithu. Legend of the Pracetasas: they are desired by their father to multiply mankind, by worshipping Viṣṇu: they plunge into the sea, and meditate on and praise him: he appears, and grants their wishes.
PRITHU had two valiant sons, Antarddhi and Pālī. The son of Antarddhāna, by his wife Sikhaṇḍiṇī, was Havirdhāna, to whom Dhiṣaṇā, a princess of the race of Agni, bore six sons, Prācīnaverhis, Śukra, Gaya, Kṛṣṇa, Vraja, and Ajina. The first of these was a mighty prince and patriarch, by whom mankind was multiplied after the death of Havirdhāna. He was called Prācīnaverhis from his placing upon the earth the sacred grass, pointing to the east. At the termination of a rigid penance the married Savarṇā, the daughter of the ocean, who had been previously betrothed to him, and who had by the king ten sons, who were all styled Pracetasas, and were skilled in military science: they all observed the same duties, practised religious austerities, and remained immersed in the bed of the sea for ten thousand years.
MAITREYA.—You can inform me, great sage, why the magnanimous Pracetasas engaged in penance in the waters of the sea.
PARĀŚARA.—The sons of Prācīnaverhis were originally informed by their father, who had been appointed as a patriarch, and whose mind was intent on multiplying mankind, that the had been respectfully enjoined by Brahmā, the god of gods, to labour to this end, and that he had promised obedience: “now therefore,” continued he, “do you, my sons, to oblige me, diligently promote the increase of the people, for the orders of the father of all creatures are entitled to respect.” The sons of the king, having heard their father's words, replied, “So be it;” but they then inquired of him, as he could best explain it, by what means they might accomplish the augmentation of mankind. He said to them; “Whoever worships Viṣṇu, the bestower of good, attains undoubtedly the object of his desires: there is no other mode. What further can I tell you? Adore therefore Govinda, who is Hari, the lord of all beings, in order to effect the increase of the human race, if you wish to succeed.
The eternal Puruṣottama is to be propitiated by him who wishes for virtue, wealth, enjoyment, or liberation. Adore him, the imperishable, by whom, when propitiated, the world was first created, and mankind will assuredly be multiplied.”
Thus instructed by their father, the ten Pracetasas plunged into the depths of the ocean, and with minds wholly devoted to Nārāyaṇa, the sovereign of the universe, who is beyond all worlds, were engrossed by religious austerity for ten thousand years: remaining there, they with fixed thoughts praised Hari, who, when propitiated, confers on those who praise him all that they desire.
MAITREYA.—The excellent praises that the Pracetasas addressed to Viṣṇu, whilst they stood in the deep, you, oh best of Munis, are qualified to repeat to me.
PARĀŚARA.—Hear, Maitreya, the hymn which the Pracetasas, as they stood in the waters of the sea, sang of old to Govinda, their nature being identified with him:—
“We bow to him whose glory is the perpetual theme of every speech; him first, him last; the supreme lord of the boundless world; who is primeval light; who is without his like; indivisible and infinite; the origin of all existent things, movable or stationary. To that supreme being who is one with time, whose first forms, though he be without form, are day and evening and night, be adoration. Glory to him, the life of all living things, who is the same with the moon, the receptacle of ambrosia, drunk daily by the gods and progenitors: to him who is one with the sun, the cause of heat and cold and rain, who dissipates the gloom, and illuminates the sky with his radiance: to him who is one with earth, all-pervading, and the asylum of smell and other objects of sense, supporting the whole world by its solidity. We adore that form of the deity Hari which is water, the womb of the world, the seed of all living beings. Glory to the mouth of the gods, the eater of the Havya; to the eater of the Kavya, the mouth of the progenitors; to Viṣṇu, who is identical with fire; to him who is one with air, the origin of ether, existing as the five vital airs in the body, causing constant vital action; to him who is identical with the atmosphere, pure, illimitable, shapeless, separating all creatures. Glory to Kṛṣṇa, who is Brahmā in the form of sensible objects, who is ever the direction of the faculties of sense. We offer salutation to that supreme Hari who is one with the senses, both subtle and substantial, the recipient of all impressions, the root of all knowledge: to the universal soul, who, as internal intellect, delivers the impressions received by the senses to soul: to him who has the properties of Prakriti; in whom, without end, rest all things; from whom all things proceed; and who is that into which all things resolve. We worship that Puruṣottoma, the god who is pure spirit, and who, without qualities, is ignorantly considered as endowed with qualities. We adore that supreme Brahma, the ultimate condition of Viṣṇu, unproductive, unborn, pure, void of qualities, and free from accidents; who is neither high nor low, neither bulky nor minute, has neither shape, nor colour, nor shadow, nor substance, nor affection, nor body; who is neither etherial nor susceptible of contact, smell, or taste; who has neither eyes, nor ears, nor motion, nor speech, nor breath, nor mind, nor name, nor race, nor enjoyment, nor splendour; who is without cause, without fear, without error, without fault, undecaying, immortal, free from passion, without sound, imperceptible, inactive, independent of place or time, detached from all investing properties; but (illusively) exercising irresistible might, and identified with all beings, dependent upon none. Glory to that nature of Viṣṇu which tongue can not tell, nor has eye beheld.”
Thus glorifying Viṣṇu, and intent in meditation on him, the Pracetasas passed ten thousand years of austerity in the vast ocean; on which Hari, being pleased with them, appeared to them amidst the waters, of the complexion of the full-blown lotus leaf. Beholding him mounted on the king of birds, Garuḍa, the Pracetasas bowed down their heads in devout homage; when Viṣṇu said to them, “Receive the boon you have desired; for I, the giver of good, am content with you, and am present.” The Pracetasas replied to him with reverence, and told him that the cause of their devotions was the command of their father to effect the multiplication of mankind. The god, having accordingly granted to them the object of their prayers, disappeared, and they came up from the water.
Footnotes and references:
The text of the Vāyu and Brāhma (or Hari Vanśa) read, like that of the Viṣṇu, ###. Mons. Langlois understands the two last words as a compound epithet; “Se jouirent dupouvoir de se rendre invisibles.” The construction would admit of such a sense, but it seems more probable that they are intended for names. The lineage of Prithu is immediately continued through one of them, Antarddhāna, which is the same as Antarddhi; as the commentator states with regard to that appellation, ###, and as the commentator on the Hari Vanśa remarks of the succeeding name, ‘one of the brothers being called Antarddhāna or Antarddhi,’ leaves no other sense for Pālin but that of a proper name. The Bhāgavata gives Prithu five sons, Vijitāswa, Haryyakṣa, Dhumrakésa, Vrika, and Dravina, and adds that the elder was also named Antarddhāna, in consequence of having obtained from Indra the power of making himself invisible.
The Bhāgavata, as usual, modifies this genealogy; Antarddhāna has by Sikhaṇḍiṇī three sons, who were the three fires, Pāvaka, Pavamāna, and Suchi, condemned by a curse of Vaśiṣṭha to be born again: by another wife, Nabhasvatī, he has Havirddhāna, whose sons are the same as those of the text, only giving another name, Varhiṣad as well as Prācīnaverhis, to the first. According to the Mahābhārata (Mokṣa Dharma), which has been followed by the Padma P., Prācinavarhis was born in the family of Atri.
The text is, ###. Kuśa or varhis is properly ‘sacrificial grass’ (Poa); and Prācināgra, literally, ‘having its tips towards the east;’ the direction in which it should be placed upon the ground, as a seat for the gods on occasion of offerings made to them. The name therefore intimates, either that the practice originated with him, or, as the commentator explains it, that he was exceedingly devout, offering sacrifices or invoking p. 107 the gods every where. The Hari Vanśa adds a verse to that of our text, reading, ###, which Mons. Langlois has rendered, ‘Quand il marchoit sur la terre les pointes de cousa etoient courbées vers l’Orient;’ which he supposes to mean, ‘Que ce prince avait tourné ses pensées et porté sa domination vers l’Orient:’ a supposition that might have been obviated by a little further consideration of the verse of Manu to which he refers. “If he have sitten on culms of grass with their points towards the east,” &c. The commentary explains the passage as above, referring ### to ### not to ### as, ###. ‘He was called Prācinavarhis, because his sacred grass, pointing east, was going upon the very earth, or was spread over the whole earth.’ The text of the Bhāgavata also explains clearly what is meant: ‘By whose sacred grass, pointing to the east, as he performed sacrifice after sacrifice, the whole earth, his sacrificial ground, was overspread.’