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 VIII - Description of the sun (his chariot; its two axles; his horses)

Description of the sun: his chariot; its two axles: his horses. The cities of the regents of the cardinal points. The sun's course: nature of his rays: his path along the ecliptic. Length of day and night. Divisions of time: equinoxes and solstices, months, years, the cyclical Yuga, or age of five years. Northern and southern declinations. Saints on the Lokāloka mountain. Celestial paths of the Pitris, gods, Viṣṇu. Origin of Gaṅgā, and separation, on the top of Meru, into four great rivers.

Parāśara said:—

Having thus described to you the system of the world in general, I will now explain to you the dimensions and situations of the sun and other luminaries.

The chariot of the sun is nine thousand leagues in length, and the pole is of twice that longitude[1]; the axle is fifteen millions and seven hundred thousand leagues long[2]; on which is fixed a wheel with three naves, five spokes, and six peripheries, consisting of the ever-during year; the whole constituting the circle or wheel of time[3]. The chariot has another axle, which is forty-five thousand five hundred leagues long[4].

The two halves of the yoke are of the same length respectively as the two axles (the longer and the shorter). The short axle, with the short yoke, are supported by the pole-star: the end of the longer axle, to which the wheel of the car is attached, moves on the Mānasa mountain[5]. The seven horses of the sun's car are the metres of the Vedas, Gāyatrī, Vrihatī, Uṣṇih, Jayatī, Tṛṣṭubh, Anuṣṭubh, and Pankti.

The city of Indra is situated on the eastern side of the Mānasottara mountain; that of Yama on the southern face; that of Varuṇa on the west; and that of Soma on the north: named severally Vaswokasārā, Samyamanī, Mukhyā, and Vibhāvarī[6].

The glorious sun, Maitreya, darts like an arrow on his southern course, attended by the constellations of the Zodiac. He causes the difference between day and night, and is the divine vehicle and path of the sages who have overcome the inflictions of the world. Whilst the sun, who is the discriminator of all hours, shines in one continent in midday, in the opposite Dvīpas, Maitreya, it will be midnight: rising and setting are at all seasons, and are always (relatively) opposed in the different cardinal and intermediate points of the horizon. When the sun becomes visible to any people, to them he is said to rise; when he disappears from their view, that is called his setting. There is in truth neither rising nor setting of the sun, for he is always; and these terms merely imply his presence and his disappearance.

When the sun (at midday) passes over either of the cities of the gods, on the Mānasottara mountain (at the cardinal points), his light extends to three cities and two intermediate points: when situated in an intermediate point, he illuminates two of the cities and three intermediate. points (in either case one hemisphere). From the period of his rise the sun moves with increasing rays until noon, when he proceeds towards his setting with rays diminishing (that is, his heat increases or diminishes in proportion as he advances to, or recedes from, the meridian of any place). The east and west quarters are so called from the sun's rising and setting there[7]. As far as the sun shines in front, so far he shines behind and on either hand, illuminating all places except the summit of Meru, the mountain of the immortals; for when his rays reach the court of Brahmā, which is there situated, they are repelled and driven back by the overpowering radiance which there prevails: consequently there is always the alternation of day and night, according as the divisions of the continent lie in the northern (or southern) quarter, or inasmuch as they are situated north (or south) of Meru[8].

The radiance of the solar orb, when the sun has set, is accumulated in fire, and hence fire is visible at a greater distance by night than by day: during the latter a fourth of the rays of fire blend with those of the sun, and from their union the sun shines with greater intensity by day. Elemental light, and heat derived from the sun or from fire, blending with each other, mutually prevail in various proportions, both by day and night. When the sun is present either in the southern or the northern hemisphere, day or night retires into the waters, according as they are invaded by darkness or light: it is from this cause that the waters look dark by day, because night is within them; and they look white by night, because at the setting of the sun the light of day takes refuge in their bosom[9].

When the sun has travelled in the centre of Puṣkara a thirtieth part of the circumference of the globe, his course is equal in time to one Muhūrtta[10]; and whirling round like the circumference of the wheel of a potter, he distributes day and night upon the earth. In the commencement of his northern course, the sun passes to Capricornus, thence to Aquarius, thence to Pisces, going successively from one sign of the Zodiac to another. After he has passed through these, the sun attains his equinoctial movement (the vernal equinox), when he makes the day and night of equal duration. Thenceforward the length of the night decreases, and the day becomes longer, until the sun reaches the end of Gemini, when he pursues a different direction, and, entering Cancer, begins his declension to the south. As the circumference of a potter's wheel revolves most rapidly, so the sun travels rapidly on his southern journey: he flies along his path with the velocity of wind, and traverses a great distance in a short time. In twelve Muhūrttas he passes through thirteen lunar asterisms and a half during the day; and during the night he passes through the same distance, only in eighteen Muhūrttas. As the centre of the potter's wheel revolves more slowly than the circumference, so the sun in his northern path again revolves with less rapidity, and moves over a less space of the earth in a longer time, until, at the end of his northern route, the day is again eighteen Muhūrttas, and the night twelve; the sun passing through half the lunar mansions by day and by night in those periods respectively. As the lump of clay on the centre of the potter's wheel moves most slowly, so the polar-star, which is in the centre of the zodiacal wheel, revolves very tardily, and ever remains in the centre, as the clay continues in the centre of the wheel of the potter.

The relative length of the day or night depends upon the greater or less velocity with which the sun revolves through the degrees between the two points of the horizon. In the solstitial period, in which his diurnal path is quickest, his nocturnal is slowest; and in that in which he moves quick by night, he travels slowly by day. The extent of his journey is in either case the same; for in the course of the day and night he passes through all the signs of the Zodiac, or six by night, and the same number by day: the length and shortness of the day are measured by the extent of the signs; and the duration of day and night by the period which the sun takes to pass through them[11]. In his northern declination the sun moves quickest by night, and slowest by day; in his southern declination the reverse is the case.

The night is called Uṣā, and the day is denominated Vyuṣṭa, and the interval between them is called Sandhya. On the occurrence of the awful Sandhya, the terrific fiends termed Mandehas attempt to devour the sun; for Brahmā denounced this curse upon them, that, without the power to perish, they should die every day (and revive by night), and therefore a fierce contest occurs daily between them and the sun[12]. At this season pious Brahmans scatter water, purified by the mystical Omkāra, and consecrated by the Gāyatri[13]; and by this water, as by a thunderbolt, the foul fiends are consumed. When the first oblation is offered with solemn invocations in the morning rite[14], the thousand-rayed deity shines forth with unclouded splendour. Omkāra is Viṣṇu the mighty, the substance of the three Vedas, the lord of speech; and by its enunciation those Rākṣasas are destroyed. The sun is a principal part of Viṣṇu, and light is his immutable essence, the active manifestation of which is excited by the mystic syllable Om. Light effused by the utterance of Omkāra becomes radiant, and burns up entirely the Rākṣasas called Mandehas. The performance of the Sandhya (the morning) sacrifice must never therefore be delayed, for he who neglects it is guilty of the murder of the sun. Protected thus by the Brahmans and the pigmy sages called Bālakhilyas, the sun goes on his course to give light to the world.

Fifteen twinklings of the eye (Nimeṣas) make a Kāṣṭhā; thirty Kāṣṭhās, a Kalā; thirty Kalās, a Muhūrtta (forty-eight minutes); and thirty Muhūrttas, a day and night: the portions of the day are longer or shorter, as has been explained; but the Sandhyā is always the same in increase or decrease, being only one Muhūrtta[15]. From the period that a line may be drawn across the sun (or that half his orb is visible) to the expiration of three Muhūrttas (two hours and twenty-four minutes), that interval is called Prātar (morning), forming a fifth portion of the day. The next portion, or three Muhūrttas from morning, is termed Sangava (forenoon): the three next Muhūrttas constitute mid-day: the afternoon comprises the next three Muhūrttas: the three Muhūrttas following are considered as the evening: and the fifteen Muhūrttas of the day are thus classed in five portions of three each. But the day consists of fifteen Muhūrttas only at the equinoxes, increasing or diminishing in number in the northern and southern declinations of the sun, when the day encroaches on the night, or the night upon the day. The equinoxes occur in the seasons of spring and autumn, when the sun enters the signs of Aries and Libra. When the sun enters Capricorn (the winter solstice), his northern progress commences; and his southern when he enters Cancer (the summer solstice).

Fifteen days of thirty Muhūrttas each are called a Pakṣa (a lunar fortnight); two of these make a month; and two months, a solar season; three seasons a northern or southern declination (Ayana); and those two compose a year. Years, made up of four kinds of months[16], are distinguished into five kinds; and an aggregate of all the varieties of time is termed a Yoga, or cycle. The years are severally called Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idvatsara, Anuvatsara, and Vatsara. This is the time called a Yuga[17].

The mountain range that lies most to the north (in Bhārata-varṣa) is called Śriṅgavān (the horned), from its having three principal elevations (horns or peaks), one to the north, one to the south, and one in the centre; the last is called the equinoctial, for the sun arrives there in the middle of the two seasons of spring and autumn, entering the equinoctial points in the first degree of Aries and of Libra, and making day and night of equal duration, or fifteen Muhūrttas each. When the sun, most excellent sage, is in the first degree of the lunar mansion, Krittikā, and the moon is in the. fourth of Viśākhā, or when the sun is in the third degree of Viśākhā, and the moon is in the head of Krittikā (these positions being cotemporary with the equinoxes), that equinoctial season is holy (and is styled the Mahāvishubha, or the great equinox)[18]. At this time offerings are to be presented to the gods and to the manes, and gifts are to be made to the Brahmans by serious persons; for such donations are productive of happiness. Liberality at the equinoxes is always advantageous to the donor: and day and night; seconds, minutes, and hours; intercalary months; the day of full moon (Paurnamāsī); the day of conjunction (Amāvāsya), when the moon rises invisible; the day when it is first seen (Śinivālī); the day when it first disappears (Kuhū); the day when the moon is quite round (Rākā); and the day when one digit is deficient (Anumati), are all seasons when gifts are meritorious.

The sun is in his northern declination in the months Tapas, Tapasya, Madhu, Mādhava, Śukra, and Śuci; and in his southern in those of Nabhas, Nabhasya, Iṣa, Ūrja, Sahas, Sahasya[19].

On the Lokāloka mountain, which I have formerly described to you, reside the four holy protectors of the world; or Sudhāman and Saṅkhapād, the two sons of Kardama, and Hiraṇyaroman, and Ketumat[20]. Unaffected by the contrasts of existence, void of selfishness, active, and uneñcumbered by dependants, they take charge of the spheres, themselves abiding on the four cardinal points of the Lokāloka mountain.

On the north of Agastya, and south of the line of the Goat, exterior to the Vaisvānara path, lies the road of the Pitris[21]. There dwell the great Ṛṣis, the offerers of oblations with fire, reverencing the Vedas, after whose injunctions creation commenced, and who were discharging the duties of ministrant priests: for as the worlds are destroyed and renewed, they institute new rules of conduct, and reestablish the interrupted ritual of the Vedas. Mutually descending from each other, progenitor springing from descendant, and descendant from progenitor, in the alternating succession of births, they repeatedly appear in different housed and races along with their posterity, devout practices and instituted observances, residing to the south of the solar orb, as long as the moon and stars endure[22].

The path of the gods lies to the north of the solar sphere, north of the Nāgavithi[23], and south of the seven Ṛṣis. There dwell the Siddhas, of subdued senses, continent and pure, undesirous of progeny, and therefore victorious over death: eighty-eight thousand of these chaste beings tenant the regions of the sky, north of the sun, until the destruction of the universe: they enjoy immortality, for that they are holy; exempt from covetousness and coñcupiscence, love and hatred; taking no part in the procreation of living beings, and detecting the unreality of the properties of elementary matter. By immortality is meant existence to the end of the Kalpa: life as long as the three regions (earth, sky, and heaven) last is called exemption from (reiterated) death[24]. The consequences of acts of iniquity or piety, such as Brahmanicide or an Aśvamedha, endure for a similar period, or until the end of a Kalpa[25], when all within the interval between Dhruva and the earth is destroyed.

The space between the seven Ṛṣis and Dhruva[26], the third region of the sky, is the splendid celestial path of Viṣṇu (Viṣṇupada), and the abode of those sanctified ascetics who are cleansed from every soil, and in whom virtue and vice are annihilated. This is that excellent place of Viṣṇu to which those repair in whom all sources of pain are extinct, in consequence of the cessation of the consequences of piety or iniquity, and where they never sorrow more. There abide Dharma, Dhruva, and other spectators of the world, radiant with the superhuman faculties of Viṣṇu, acquired through religious meditation; and there are fastened and inwoven to all that is, and all that shall ever be, animate or inanimate. The seat of Viṣṇu is contemplated by the wisdom of the Yogis, identified with supreme light, as the radiant eye of heaven. In this portion of the heavens the splendid Dhruva is stationed, and serves for the pivot of the atmosphere. On Dhruva rest the seven great planets, and on them depend the clouds. The rains are suspended in the clouds, and from the rains come the water which is the nutriment and delight of all, the gods and the rest; and they, the gods, who are the receivers of oblations, being nourished by burnt-offerings, cause the rain to fall for the support of created beings. This sacred station of Viṣṇu, therefore, is the support of the three worlds, as it is the source of rain.

From that third region of the atmosphere, or seat of Viṣṇu, proceeds the stream that washes away all sin, the river Gaṅgā, embrowned with the unguents of the nymphs of heaven, who have sported in her waters. Having her source in the nail of the great toe of Viṣṇu's left foot, Dhruva[27] receives her, and sustains her day and night devoutly on his head; and thence the seven Ṛṣis practise the exercises of austerity in her waters, wreathing their braided locks with her waves. The orb of the moon, encompassed by her accumulated current, derives augmented lustre from her contact. Falling from on high, as she issues from the moon; she alights on the summit of Meru, and thence flows to the four quarters of the earth, for its purification. The Śītā, Alakanandā, Cakṣu, and Bhadrā are four branches of but one river, divided according to the regions towards which it proceeds. The branch that is known as the Alakanandā was borne affectionately by Mahādeva, upon his head, for more than a hundred years, and was the river which raised to heaven the sinful sons of Sagara, by washing their ashes[28]. The offences of any man who bathes in this river are immediately expiated, and unprecedented virtue is engendered. Its waters, offered by sons to their ancestors in faith for three years, yield to the latter rarely attainable gratification. Men of the twice-born orders, who offer sacrifice in this river to the lord of sacrifice, Puruṣottama, obtain whatever they desire, either here or in heaven. Saints who are purified from all soil by bathing in its waters, and whose minds are intent on Keśava, acquire thereby final liberation. This sacred stream, heard of, desired, seen, touched, bathed in, or hymned, day by day, sanctifies all beings; and those who, even at a distance of a hundred leagues, exclaim “Gaṅgā, Gaṅgā,” atone for the sins committed during three previous lives. The place whence this river proceeds, for the purification of the three worlds, is the third division of the celestial regions, the seat of Viṣṇu[29].

Footnotes and references:


The sun's car is 10.000 Yojanas broad, and as many deep, according to the Vāyu and Matsya. The Bhāgavata makes it thirty-six hundred thousand long, and one fourth that broad. The Liṅga agrees with the text.


There is no great difference in this number in other accounts. The length of this axle, which extends from Meru to Mānasa, is nearly equal to the semidiameter of the earth, which, according to the Matsya P., is 18.950.000 Yojanas.


The three naves are the three divisions of the day, morning, noon, and night; the five spokes are the five cyclic years; and the six peripheries are the six seasons. The Bhāgavata explains the three naves to be three periods of the year, of four months each, and gives twelves spokes as types of the twelve months. The Vāyu, Matsya, and Bhaviṣya Purāṇas enter into much more detail. According to them, the parts of the wheel are the same as above described: the body of the car is the year; its upper and lower half are the two solstices; Dharma is its flag; Artha and Kāma the pins of the yoke and axle; night is its fender; Nimeṣas form its floor; a moment is the axle-tree; an instant the pole; minutes are its attendants; and hours its harness.


This shorter axle is, according to the Bhāgavata, one fourth of the longer.


We are to understand here, both in the axle and yoke, two levers, one horizontal, the other perpendicular. The horizontal arm of the axle has a wheel at one end; the other extremity is connected with the perpendicular arm. To the horizontal arm of the yoke are harnessed the horses; and its inner or right extremity is secured to the perpendicular. The upper ends of both perpendiculars are supposed to be attached to Dhruva, the pole-star, by two aerial cords, which are lengthened in the sun's southern course, and shortened in his northern; and retained by which to Dhruva, as to a pivot, the wheel of the car traverses the summit of the Mānasottara mountain on Puṣkara-dvīpa, which runs like a ring round the several continents and oceans. The contrivance is commonly compared to an oil mill, and was probably suggested by that machine as constructed in India. As the Mānasottara mountain is but 50.000 leagues high, and Meru 84.000, whilst Dhruva is 1500.000, both levers are inclined at obtuse angles to the nave of the wheel and each other. In images of the sun, two equal and semicircular axles connect a central wheel with the sides of the car.


In the Liṅga the city of Indra is called Amarāvati; and in it and the Vāyu that of Varuṇa is termed Sukhā.


The terms Pūrva and Apara mean properly ‘before and behind;’ but ‘before’ naturally denotes the east, either because men, according to a text of the Vedas, spontaneously face, as if to welcome the rising sun, or because they are enjoined by the laws so to do. When they face the rising sun, the west is of course behind them. The same circumstance determines the application of the term Dakṣina, properly ‘right,’ δεξιὸς, or ‘dexterum,’ to the south. Uttara, ‘other’ or ‘last,’ necessarily implies the north.


This is rather obscure, but it is made out clearly enough in the commentary, and in the parallel passages in the Vāyu, Matsya, Liṅga, Kūrma, and Bhāgavata. The sun travels round the world, keeping Meru always on his right: to the spectator who fronts him therefore, as he rises, Meru must be always on the north; and as the sun's rays do not penetrate beyond the centre of the mountain, the regions beyond, or to the north of it, must be in darkness; whilst those on the south of it must be in light: north and south being relative, not absolute terms, depending upon the position of the spectator with regard to the sun and to Meru. So the commentator: ###. p. 220 It was probably through some misapprehension of this doctrine that Major Wilford asserted, “by Meru the Paurāṇiks understand in general the north pole, but the context of the Purāṇas is against this supposition.” As. Res. VIII. 286. There is no inconsistency, however, in Meru's being absolutely in the centre of the world, and relatively north to the inhabitants of the several portions, to all of whom the east is that quarter where the sun first appears, and the other quarters are thereby regulated.


Similar notions are contained in the Vāyu.


The sun travels at the rate of one-thirtieth of the earth's circumference in a Muhūrtta, or 31.50.000 Yojanas; making the total 9 crores and 45 lakhs, or; according to the Vāyu, Lingo, and Matsya Purāṇas.


This passage, which is somewhat at variance with the general doctrine, that the length of the day depends upon the velocity of the sun's course, and which has not been noticed in any other Paurāṇik text, is defended by the commentator, upon the authority of the Jyotishśāstra, or astronomical writings. According to them, he asserts, the signs of the Zodiac are of different extent. Aquarius, Pisces, and Aries are the shortest; Taurus, Capricornus, and Gemini are something longer; Leo and Scorpio longer still; and the remaining four the longest of all. According to the six which the sun traverses, the day or night will be the longer or shorter. The text is, ###. The apparent contradiction may however be reconciled by understanding the sun's slow motion, and the length of a sign, to be equivalent terms.


The same story occurs in the Vāyu, with the addition that the Mandehas are three crores in number. It seems to be an ancient legend, imperfectly preserved in some of the Purāṇas.


The sacred syllable Om has been already described (p. 1. n. 1). The Gayatrī, or holiest verse of the Vedas, not to be uttered to ears profane, is a short prayer to the sun, identified as the supreme, and occurs in the tenth hymn of the fourth section of the third Aṣṭaka of the Sanhitā of the Rig-veda: ‘We meditate on that excellent light of the divine sun: may he illuminate our minds.’ Such is the fear entertained of profaning this text, that copyists of the Vedas not unfrequently refrain from transcribing it, both in the Sanhitā and Bhāṣya.


Or, in the text, with the prayer that commences with the words Sūrya jyotir, ‘That which is in the sun (or light) is adorable,’ &c. The whole prayer is given in Colebrooke's account of the religious ceremonies of the Hindus. As. Res. V. 355.


But this comprehends the two Sandhyās, ‘morning and evening twilight.’ Two Nāris, or half a Muhūrtta before sunrise, constitute the morning Sandhyā; and the same interval after sunset the evening. Sandhya, meaning ‘junction,’ is so termed as it is the juncture or interval between darkness and light; as in the Vāyu and Matsya: ###.


The four months are named in the Vāyu, and are, 1. the Saura, or solar-sydereal, consisting of the sun's passage through a sign of the Zodiac: 2. the Saumya or Cāndra or lunar month, comprehending thirty lunations or Tithis, and reckoned most usually from new moon to new moon, though sometimes from full moon to full moon: 3. the Sāvana or solar month, containing thirty days of sunrise and sunset: and 4. the Nākṣatra or lunar p. 224 asterismal month, which is the moon's revolution through the twenty-eight lunar mansions.


The five years forming this Yuga, or cycle, differ only in denomination, being composed of the months above described, with such Malamāsas, or intercalary months, as may be necessary to complete the period, according to Vriddha Garga. The cycle comprehends, therefore, sixty solar- sydereal months of 1800 days; sixty-one solar months, or 1830 days; sixty-two lunar months, or 1860 lunations; and sixty-seven lunar-asterismal months, or 1809 such days. Col. Warren, in his Kāla Saṅkalitā, considers these years to be severally cycles. “In the cycle of sixty,” he observes, “are contained five cycles of twelve years, each supposed equal to one year of the planet (Jupiter). I only mention this cycle because I found it mentioned in some books; but I know of no nation nor tribe that reckons time after that account. The names of the five cycles, or Yugs, are, 1. Samvatsara, 2. Parivatsara, 3. Idvatsara, 4. Anuvatsara, 5. Udravatsara. The name of each year is determined from the Nākṣatra, in which Vrihaspati sets and rises heliacally, and they follow in the order of the lunar months.” K. S. 212. It may be reasonably doubted, however, if this view be correct; and the only connexion between the cycle of five years and that of Vrihaspati may be the multiplication of the former by the latter (5 x 12), so as to form the cycle of sixty years: a cycle based, the commentator remarks, upon the conjunction (Yuga) of the sun and moon in every sixtieth year. The original and properly Indian cycle, however, is that of five years, as Bentley remarks. “The astronomers of this period (1181 B. C.) framed a cycle of five years for civil and religious ceremonies.” Ancient and modern Hindu Astronomy. It is in fact, as Mr. Colebrooke states, the cycle of the Vedas, described in the Jyotish, or astronomical sections, and specified in the institutes of Parāśara as the basis of calculation for larger cycles. As. Res. VIII. 470.


Reference is here made apparently, though indistinctly, to those positions of the planets which indicate, according to Bentley, the formation of the lunar mansions by Hindu astronomers, about 1424 B. C. Hindu Astronomy, p. 3 and 4. The Vāyu and Liṅga Purāṇas specify the positions of the other planets at the same time, or the end, according to the former, of the Cākṣuṣa Manvantara. At that time the sun was in Viśākhā, the moon in Krittikā, Venus in Pushyā, Jupiter in Pūrvaphalgunī, Mars in Āṣāḍhā, Budha in Dhaniṣṭhā, Śani in Revatī, Ketu in Āsleṣā, and Rāhu in Bharanī. There are differences between some of these and the positions cited by Bentley, but most of them are the same. He considers them to have been observations of the occultations of the moon by the planets, in the respective lunar mansions, 1424-5 B. C. According to the Vāyu, these positions or origins of the planets are from the Vedas: ###. The Liṅga, less accurately perhaps, reads ### referring it to the works of law.


These are the names of the months which occur in the Vedas, and belong to a system now obsolete, as was noticed by Sir Wm. Jones. As. Res. III. 258. According to the classification of the text, they correspond severally with the lunar months Māgha, Phālguna, Caitra, Vaiśākha, Jyeṣṭha, Āṣārha, or from December to June; and with Śrāvaṇa, Bhādra, Āswina, Kārtika, Agrahāyana, and Pauṣa, from July to December. From this order of the two series of the months, as occurring in the Vedas, Mr. Colebrooke infers, upon astronomical computations, their date to be about fourteen centuries prior to the Christian era. As. Res. VII. 283.


The Vāyu has the same names, but ascribes a different descent to the first, making Sudhāman the son of Viraja. Saṅkhapād is the son of Kardama: the other two are the sons of Parjanya and Rajas, consistently with the origin ascribed to these Lokapālas in the patriarchal genealogies of that Purāṇa (see p. 83).


Allusion is here made to some divisions of the celestial sphere which are not described in any other part of the text. The fullest, but still in some respects a confused and partly inaccurate account is given in the Matsya Purāṇa; but a more satisfactory description occurs in the comment on the Bhāgavata, there cited from the Vāyu, but not found in the copies consulted on the present occasion. According to those details, the path (Mārga) of the sun and other planets amongst the lunar asterisms is divided into three portions or Avaṣṭhānas, northern, southern, and central, called severally Airāvata, Jāradgava (Ajagava, Matsya P.), and Vaisvānara. Each of these, again, is divided into three parts or Vīthis: those of the northern portion are termed Nāgavithi, Gajavīthi, and Airāvati; those of the centre are Ārshabhī Govīthī, and Jāradgavī; and those of the south are named Ajavīthī, Mrīgavithī, and Vaisvānarī. Each of these Vīthis comprises three asterisms.


A marginal note in one MS. explains the phrase of the text, ### to signify as far as to the moon and stars; but the Pitri yāna, or path of the Pitris, lies amongst the asterisms; and, according to the Paurāṇik system of the heavens, it is not clear what could be meant by its being bounded by the moon and stars. The path south of the solar orb is, according to the Vedas, that of smoke or darkness.


The stars of the Nāgavīthi are those of Aries and Taurus; and by the seven Ṛṣis we are here to understand Ursa Major.


This, according to the Vedas, is all that is to be understood of the immortality of the gods: they perish at the period of universal dissolution.


That is, generally as affecting created beings, not individuals, whose acts influence their several successive births.


From Ursa Major to the polar star.


The popular notion is, that Śiva or Mahādeva receives the Ganges on his head; but this, as subsequently explained, is referred, by the Vaiṣṇavas at least, to the descent of the Alakanandā, or Ganges of India, not to the celestial Ganges.


Or, in other words, ‘flows into the sea.’ The legend here alluded to is more fully detailed in a subsequent book.


The situation of the source of the Ganges of heaven identifies it with the milky way.

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