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 IV - Division of the Veda, in the last Dvapara age by the Vyasa Krishna Dvaipayana

Division of the Veda, in the last Dvāpara age, by the Vyāsa Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana. Paila made reader of the Rich; Vaiśampāyana of the Yajush; Jaimini of the Shun; and Sumantu of the Atharvan. Sūta appointed to teach the historical poems. Origin of the four parts of the Veda. Saṃhitās of the Rig-veda.

Parāśara said:—

The original Veda, in four parts, consisted of one hundred thousand stanzas; and from it sacrifice of ten kinds[1], the accomplisher of all desires, proceeded. In the twenty-eighth Dvāpara age my son Vyāsa separated the four portions of the Veda into four Vedas. In the same manner as the Vedas were arranged by him, as Vedavyāsa, so were they divided in former periods by all the preceding Vyāsas, and by myself: and the branches into which they were subdivided by him were the same into which they had been distributed in every aggregate of the four ages. Know, Maitreya, the Vyāsa called Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana to be the deity Nārāyaṇa; for who else on this earth could have composed the Mahābhārata[2]? Into what portions the Vedas were arranged by my magnanimous son, in the Dvāpara age, you shall hear.

When Vyāsa was enjoined by Brahmā to arrange the Vedas in different books, he took four persons, well read in those works, as his disciples. He appointed Paila reader of the Rich[3]; Vaiśampāyana of the Yajush; and Jaimini of the Soma-veda: and Sumantu, who was conversant with the Atharva-veda, was also the disciple of the learned Vyāsa. He also took Sūta, who was named Lomaharṣaṇa, as his pupil in historical and legendary traditions[4].

There was but one Yajur-veda; but dividing this into four parts, Vyāsa instituted the sacrificial rite that is administered by four kinds of priests: in which it was the duty of the Adhwaryu to recite the prayers (Yajush) (or direct the ceremony); of the Hotri, to repeat the hymns (Ricas); of the Udgātri, to chaunt other hymns (Sāma); and of the Brahman, to pronounce the formulæ called Atharva. Then the Muni, having collected together the hymns called Ricas, compiled the Rigveda; with the prayers and directions termed Yajuṣas he formed the Yajur-veda; with those called Sāma, Sāma-veda; and with the Atharvas he composed the rules of all the ceremonies suited to kings, and the function of the Brahman agreeably to practice[5].

This vast original tree of the Vedas, having been divided by him into four principal stems, soon branched out into an extensive forest. In the first place, Paila divided the Rig-veda, and gave the two Saṃhitās (or collections of hymns) to Indrapramati and to Bāṣkali. Bāṣkali[6] subdivided his Saṃhitā into four, which he gave to his disciples Baudhya, Agnimāṭhara, Yajñawalka, and Parāśara; and they taught these secondary shoots from the primitive branch. Indrapramati imparted his Saṃhitā to his son Maṇḍukeya, and it thence descended through successive generations, as well as disciples[7].

Vedamitra, called also Śākalya, studied the same Saṃhitā, but he divided it into five Saṃhitās, which he distributed amongst as many disciples, named severally

  1. Mudgala,
  2. Goswalu,
  3. Vātsya,
  4. Śālīya,
  5. and Śiśira[8].

Sākapūrṇi made a different division of the original Saṃhitā into three portions, and added a glossary (Nirukta), constituting a fourth[9]. The three Saṃhitās were given to his three pupils, Krauncha, Vaitālaki, and Valāka; and a fourth, (thence named) Niruktakrit, had the glossary[10]. In this way branch sprang from branch. Another Bāṣkali[11] composed three other Saṃhitās, which he taught to his disciples Kālāyani, Gārgya, and Kathājava[12]. These are they by whom the principal divisions of the Rich have been promulgated[13].

Footnotes and references:


According to the Grihya portion of the Sāma-veda, there are five great sacrificial ceremonies; 1. Agnihotra, burnt-offerings, or libations of clarified butter on sacred fire; 2. Derśapaurṇamāsa, sacrifices at new and full moon; 3. Cāturmasya, sacrifices every four months; 4. Paśu-yajña or Aśvamedha, sacrifice of a horse or animal; and 5. Soma-yajña, offerings and libations of the juice of the acid asclepias. These, again, are either Prākrita, ‘simple,’ or Vaikrita, ‘modified;’ and being thus doubled, constitute ten.


The composition of the Mahābhārata is always ascribed to the Vyāsa named Kṛṣṇa Dwaipāyana, the cotemporary of the events there described. The allusion in the text establishes the priority of the poem to the Viṣṇu Purāṇa.


Or rather, ‘he took Paila as teacher.’ The expression is, Rigveda śrāvakam Pailam jagrāha. Śrāvaka means properly ‘he who causes to hear,’ ‘a lecturer,’ ‘a preacher;’ although, as in the case of its applicability to the laity of the Buddhists and Jainas, it p. 276 denotes a disciple. The commentator however observes, that the text is sometimes read ‘one who had gone through the Rig-veda.’ So in the preceding verse it is said, ‘he took four persons, well read in the Vedas, as his disciples,’ and again it is said, ‘Sumantu, conversant with the Atharva-veda, was his disciple.’ It is clear, therefore, that the Vedas were known, as distinct works, before Kṛṣṇa Dwaipāyana; and it is difficult to understand how he earned his title of arranger, or Vyāsa: at any rate, in undertaking to give order to the prayers and hymns of which the Vedas consist, Paila and the others were rather his coadjutors than disciples; and it seems probable that the tradition records the first establishment of a school, of which the Vyāsa was the head, and the other persons named were the teachers.


The Itihāsa and Purāṇas; understanding by the former, legendary and traditional narratives. It is usually supposed that by the Itihāsa the Mahābhārata is especially meant; but although this poem is ascribed to Kṛṣṇa Dwaipāyana, the recitation of it is not attributed to his pupil, Roma or Loma-harṣaṇa: it was first narrated by Vaiśampāyana, and after him by Sauti, the son of Lomaharṣaṇa.


From this account, which is repeated in the Vāyu P., it appears that the original Veda was the Yajush, or in other words was a miscellaneous body of precepts, formulæ, prayers, and hymns, for sacrificial ceremonies; Yajush being derived by the grammarians from Yaj, ‘to worship.’ The derivation of the Vāyu Purāṇa, however, is from Yuj, ‘to join,’ ‘to employ;’ the formulæ being those especially applied to sacrificial rites, or set apart for that purpose from the general collection: p. 277 ### again, ### The commentator on the text however, citing the former of these passages from the Vāyu, reads it, confining the derivation to Yaj, ‘to worship.’ The concluding passage, relating to the Atharvan, refers, in regard to regal ceremonies, to those of expiation, Śānti, &c. The function of the Brahman is not explained; but from the preceding specification of the four orders of priests who repeat at sacrifices portions of the several Vedas, it relates to the office of the one that is termed specifically the Brahman: so the Vāyu has ‘He constituted the function of the Brahman at sacrifices with the Atharva-veda.’


Both in our text and in that of the Vāyu this name occurs both Bāṣkala and Bāṣkali. Mr. Colebrooke writes it Bāhkala and Bāhkali. As. Res. VIII. 374.


The Vāyu supplies the detail. Maṇḍukeya, or, as one copy writes, Mārkaṇḍeya, taught the Sanhitā to his son Satyaśravas; he to his son Satyahita; and he to his son Satyaśrī. The latter had three pupils, Śākalya, also called Devamitra (sic in MS.), Rathāntara, and another Bāṣkali, called also Bharadvāja. The Vāyu has a legend of Śākalya's death, in consequence of his being defeated by Yājñavalkya in a disputation at a sacrifice celebrated by Janaka.


These names in the Vāyu are Mudgala, Golaka, Khāliya, Mātsya, Śaiśireya.


The commentator, who is here followed by Mr. Colebrooke, states that he was a pupil of Indrapramati; but from the Vāyu it appears that Śākapūrṇi was another name of Rathāntara, the pupil of Satyaśrī, the author of three Sanhitās and a Nirukta, or glossary; whence Mr. Colebrooke supposes him the same with Yāska. As. Res. VIII. 375. It is highly probable that the text of the Vāyu may be made to correct that of the Viṣṇu in this place, which is inaccurate, notwithstanding the copies agree: they read, ###. p. 278 Here Śākapūrṇir-atha-itaram is the necessary construction; but quere if it should not be Śākapūrṇi Rathāntara. The parallel passage in the Vāyu is, ###. Now in describing the pupils of Satyaśrī, Rathāntara was named clearly enough: ###. In another passage it would seem to be implied that this Bāṣkali was the author of the Sanhitās, and Rathāntara of the Nirukta only: ###. However this may be, his being the author of the Nirukta identifies him with Śākapūrṇi, and makes it likely that the two names should come in juxta-position in our text, as well as in the Vāyu. It must be admitted, however, that there are some rather inexplicable repetitions in the part of the Vāyu where this account occurs, although two copies agree in the reading. That a portion of the Vedas goes by the name of Rathantara we have seen (p. 42); but as far as is yet known, the name is confined to different prayers or hymns of the Uhya Gāna of the Sāma-veda. The text of the Viṣṇu also admits of a different explanation regarding the work of Śākapūrṇi, and instead of a threefold division of the original, the passage may mean that he composed a third Sanhitā. So Mr. Colebrooke says “the Viṣṇu P. omits the Śākhās of Aśvalāyana and Sāṅkhyāyana, and intimates that Śākapūrṇi gave the third varied edition from that of Indrapramati.” The Vāyu, however, is clear in ascribing three Sanhitās or Śākhās to Śākapūrṇi.


In the Vāyu the four pupils of Sākapūrṇi are called Kenava, Dālaki, Śatavalāka, and Naigama.


This Bāṣkali may either be, according to the commentator, the pupil of Paila, who, in addition to the four Sanhitās previously noticed, compiled three others; or he may be another Bāṣkali, a fellow-pupil of Śākapūrni. The Vāyu makes him a disciple of Satyaśrī, the fellow-pupil of Śākalya and Rathāntara, and adds the name or title Bhāradvāja.


In the Vāyu they are called Nandāyanīya, Pannagāri, and Ārjjava.


Both the Viṣṇu and Vāyu Purāṇas omit two other principal divisions of the Rich, those of Aśvalāyana and Sāṅkhyāyana or the Kauśītakī. As. Res. VIII. 375. There is no specification of the aggregate number of Sanhitās of the Rich in our text, or in the Vāyu; but they describe eighteen, including the Nirukta; or as Mr. Colebrooke states, sixteen (As. Res. VIII. 374); that is, omitting the two portions of the original, as divided by Paila. The Kūrma Purāṇa states the number at twenty-one; but treatises on the study of the Vedas reduce the Śākhās of the Rich to five.

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