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...

Chapter I - Descendants of Priyavrata, the eldest son of Svayambhuva Manu

Descendants of Priyavrata, the eldest son of Svāyambhuva Manu: his ten sons: three adopt a religious life; the others become kings of the seven Dvīpas, or isles, of the earth. Agnīdhra, king of Jambu-dvīpa, divides it into nine portions, which he distributes amongst his sons. Nābhi, king of the south, succeeded by Riṣabha; and he by Bharata: India named after him Bhārata: his descendants reign during the Svāyambhuva Manvantara.

Maitreya said:—

You have related to me, venerable preceptor, most fully, all that I was curious to hear respecting the creation of the world; but there is a part of the subject which I am desirous again to have described. You stated that Priyavrata and Uttānapāda were the sons of Svāyambhuva Manu, and you repeated the story of Dhruva, the son of Uttānapāda: you made no mention of the descendants of Priyavrata, and it is an account of his family that I beg you will kindly communicate to me.

Parāśara said:—

Priyavrata married Kāmyā, the daughter of the patriarch Kardama[1], and had by her two daughters, Samrāt and Kukṣi, and ten sons, wise, valiant, modest, and dutiful, named Agnīdhra, Agnibāhu, Vapushmat, Dyutimat, Medha, Medhatithi, Bhavya, Savala, Putra, and the tenth was Jyotishmat[2], illustrious by nature as by name. These were the sons of Priyavrata, famous for strength and prowess. Of these, three, or Medha, Putra, and Agnibāhu, adopted a religious life: remembering the occurrences of a prior existence, they did not covet dominion, but diligently practised the rites of devotion in due season, wholly disinterested, and looking for no reward.

Priyavrata having divided the earth into seven continents, gave them respectively to his other seven sons[3]. To Agnīdhra he gave Jambu-dvīpa; to Medhatithi he gave Plakṣa-dvīpa: he installed Vapushmat in the sovereignty over the Dvīpa of Sālmali; and made Jyotishmat king of Kuśa-dvīpa: he appointed Dyutimat to rule over Krauncha-dvīpa; Bhavya to reign over Sāka-dvīpa; and Savala he nominated the monarch of the Dvīpa of Puṣkara.

Agnīdhra, the king of Jambu-dvīpa, had nine sons, equal in splendour to the patriarchs: they were named Nābhi, Kimpuruṣa, Harivarṣa, Ilāvrita, Ramya, Hiraṇvat, Kuru, Bhadrāśva, and Ketumāla[4], who was a prince ever active in the practice of piety.

Hear next, Maitreya, in what manner Agnīdhra apportioned Jambu-dvīpa amongst his nine sons. He gave to Nābhi the country called Hima, south of the Himavat, or snowy mountains. The country of Hemakūṭa he gave to Kimpuruṣa; and to Harivarṣa, the country of Niṣadha. The region in the centre of which mount Meru is situated he conferred on Ilāvrita; and to Ramya, the countries lying between it and the Nīla mountain. To Hiraṇvat his father gave the country lying to the north of it, called Śveta; and, on the north of the Śveta mountains, the country bounded by the Śriṅgavān range he gave to Kuru. The countries on the east of Meru he assigned to Bhadrāśva; and Gandhamādana, which lay west of it, he gave to Ketumāla[5].' Having installed his sons sovereigns in these several regions, the pious king Agnīdhra retired to a life of penance at the holy place of pilgrimage, Śālagrāma[6].

The eight Varṣas, or countries, Kimpuruṣa and the rest, are places of perfect enjoyment, where happiness is spontaneous and uninterrupted. In them there is no vicissitude, nor the dread of decrepitude or death: there is no distinction of virtue or vice, nor difference of degree as better or worse, nor any of the effects produced in this region by the revolutions of ages.

Nābhi, who had for his portion the country of Himāhwa, had by his queen Meru the magnanimous Riṣabha; and he had a hundred sons, the eldest of whom was Bharata. Riṣabha having ruled with equity and wisdom, and celebrated many sacrificial rites, resigned the sovereignty of the earth to the heroic Bharata, and, retiring to the hermitage of Pulastya, adopted the life of an anchoret, practising religious penance, and performing all prescribed ceremonies, until, emaciated by his austerities, so as to be but a collection of skin and fibres, he put a pebble in his mouth, and naked went the way of all flesh[7]. The country was termed Bhārata from the time that it was relinquished to Bharata by his father, on his retiring to the woods[8].

Bharata, having religiously discharged the duties of his station, consigned the kingdom to his son Sumati, a most virtuous prince; and, engaging in devout practices, abandoned his life at the holy place, Śālagrāma: he was afterwards born again as a Brahman, in a distinguished family of ascetics. I shall hereafter relate to you his history.

From the illustrious Sumati was born Indradyumna: his son was Parameṣṭhin: his son was Pratihāra, who had a celebrated son, named Pratiharttā: his son was Bhava, who begot Udgītha, who begot Prastāra; whose son was Prithu. The son of Prithu was Nakta: his son was Gaya: his son was Nara; whose son was Virāt. The valiant son of Virāt was Dhīmat, who begot Mahānta; whose son was Manasyu; whose son was Tvaṣṭri: his son was Vīraja: his son was Rāja: his son was Śatajit, who had a hundred sons, of whom Viswagjyotish was the eldest[9]. Under these princes, Bhārata-varṣa (India) was divided into nine portions (to be hereafter particularized); and their descendants successively held possession of the country for seventy-one periods of the aggregate of the four ages (or for the reign of a Manu).

This was the creation of Svāyambhuva Manu, by which the earth was peopled, when he presided over the first Manvantara, in the Kalpa of Varāha[10]

Footnotes and references:


The text reads Kanyā; and the commentator has, ‘he married the daughter of Kardama, whose name was Kanyā.’ The copies agree in the reading, and the Vāyu has the same name, Kanyā; but the Mārkaṇḍeya, which is the same in other respects as our text, has Kāmyā: Kāmyā also is the name elsewhere given by the Vāyu to the daughter of Kardama (p. 83. n. 6). Kāmyā, as has been noticed, appears in the Brāhma and Hari V. (p. 53. n. 6) as the mother of Priyavrata, but erroneously; and the same authorities specify a Kāmyā as the wife of that sovereign. So the commentator on the Hari V. states, ‘another Kāmyā is mentioned (in the text), the daughter of Kardama, the wife of Priyavrata.’ p. 162 The name Kanyā is therefore most probably an error of the copyists. The Bhāgavata calls the wife of Priyavrata, Varhiṣmatī, the daughter of Viśvakarman.


These names nearly agree in the authorities which specify the descendants of Priyavrata, except in the Bhāgavata: that has an almost entirely different series of names, or Āgnidhra, Idhmajihwa, Yajñabāhu, Mahāvīra, Hiraṇyaretas, Medhatithi, Ghritapṛṣṭha, Savana, Vitihotra, and Kavi; with one daughter, Urjjasvatī. It also calls the Manus Uttama, Tamasa, and Raivata the sons of Priyavrata by another wife.


According to the Bhāgavata, he drove his chariot seven times round the earth, and the ruts left by the wheels became the beds of the oceans, separating it into seven Dvīpas.


Even the Bhāgavata coñcurs with the other Purāṇas in this series of Priyavrata's grandsons.


Of these divisions, as well as of those of the earth, and of the minor divisions of the Varṣas, we have further particulars in the following chapter.


This place of pilgrimage has not been found elsewhere. The term is usually applied to a stone, an ammonite, which is supposed to be a type of Viṣṇu, and of which the worship is enjoined in the Uttara Khaṇḍa of the Padma P. and in the Brahma Vaivartta, authorities of no great weight or antiquity. As these stones are found chiefly in the Gandak river, the Sālagrāma Tīrtha was probably at the source of that stream, or at its confluence with the Ganges. Its sanctity, and that of the stone, are probably of comparatively modern origin.


'The great road,' or ‘road of heroes.’ The pebble was intended either to compel perpetual silence, or to prevent his eating. The Bhāgavata p. 164 adverts to the same circumstance. That work enters much more into detail on the subject of Riṣabha's devotion, and particularizes circumstances not found in any other Purāṇa. The most interesting of these are the scene of Riṣabha's wanderings, which is said to be Konka, Venkaṭa, Kūṭaka, and southern Karnātaka, or the western part of the Peninsula; and the adoption of the Jain belief by the people of those countries. Thus it is said, “A king of the Konkas, Venkaṭas, and Kūṭakas, named Arhat, having heard the tradition of Riṣabha's practices (or his wandering about naked, and desisting from religious rites), being infatuated by necessity, under the evil influence of the Kali age, will become needlessly alarmed, and abandon his own religious duty, and will foolishly enter upon an unrighteous and heretical path. Misled by him, and bewildered by the iniquitous operation of the Kali age, disturbed also by the delusions of the deity, wicked men will, in great numbers, desert the institutes and purifications of their own ritual; will observe vows injurious and disrespectful to the gods; will desist from ablutions, mouth-washings, and purifications, and will pluck out the hair of the head; and will revile the world, the deity, sacrifices, Brahmans, and the Vedas.” It is also said, that Sumati, the son of Bharata, will be irreligiously worshipped by some infidels, as a divinity. Besides the import of the term Arhat, or Jain, Riṣabha is the name of the first, and Sumati of the fifth Tīrthakara, or Jain saint of the present era. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the Bhāgavata intends this sect; and as the Jain system was not matured until a comparatively modern date, this composition is determined to be also recent. The allusions to the extension of the Jain faith in the western parts of the Peninsula, may serve to fix the limit of its probable antiquity to the 11th or 12th century, when the Jains seem to have been flourishing in Guzerat and the Konkan. As. Res. XVII. 232.


This etymology is given in other Purāṇas; but the Matsya and Vāyu have a different one, deriving it from the Manu, called Bharata, or the cherisher, one who rears or cherishes progeny. The Vāyu has, in another place, the more common explanation also: ###.


The Agni, Kūrma, Mārkaṇḍeya, Liṅga, and Vāyu Purāṇas agree with the Viṣṇu in these genealogical details. The Bhāgavata has some additions and variations of nomenclature, but is not essentially different. It ends, however, with Śatajit, and cites a stanza which would seem to make Viraja the last of the descendants of Priyavrata.


The descendants of Priyavrata were the kings of the earth in the first or Svāyambhuva Manvantara. Those of Uttānapāda, his brother, are placed rather incongruously in the second or Svārociṣa Manvantara: whilst, with still more palpable inconsistency, Dakṣa, a descendant of Uttānapāda, gives his daughter to Kaśyapa in the seventh or Vaivaswata Manvantara. It seems probable that the patriarchal genealogies are older than the chronological system of Manvantaras and Kalpas, and have been rather clumsily distributed amongst the different periods.

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