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 - Lineage of Ayu and origin of Dhanvantari

Sons of Āyus. Line of Kṣatravriddha, or kings of Kāśī. Former birth of Dhanwantarī. Various names of Pratarddana. Greatness of Alarka.

ĀYUS, the eldest son of Purūravas, married the daughter of Rāhu (or Ārāhu), by whom he had five sons, Nahuṣa, Kṣatravriddha[1], Rambha[2], Raji, and Anenas[3].

The son of Kṣatravriddha was Suhotra[4], who had three sons, Kāśa[5], Leśa[6], and Ghritsamada. The son of the last was Śaunaka[7], who first established the distinctions of the four castes[8]. The son of Kāśa was Kaśirājā[9]; his son was Dīrghatamas[10]; his son was Dhanwantari, whose nature was exempt from human infirmities, and who in every existence had been master of universal knowledge. In his past life (or when he was produced by the agitation of the milky sea), Nārāyaṇa had conferred upon him the boon, that he should subsequently be born in the family of Kāsirājā, should compose the eightfold system of medical science[11], and should be thereafter entitled to a share of offerings made to the gods. The son of Dhanwantari was Ketumat; his son was Bhīmaratha; his son was Divodāsa[12]; his son was Pratarddana, so named from destroying the race of Bhadraśreṇya. He had various other appellations, as Śatrujit, ‘the victor over his foes,’ from having vanquished all his enemies; Vatsa, or ‘child,’ from his father's frequently calling him by that name; Ritadhwaja, ‘he whose emblem was truth,’ being a great observer of veracity; and Kuvalayāśva, because he had a horse (aśva) called Kuvalaya[13]. The son of this prince was Alarka, of whom this verse is sung in the present day; “For sixty thousand and sixty hundred years no other youthful monarch except Alarka, reigned over the earth[14].” The son of Alarka was Santati[15]; his son was Sunītha; his son was Suketu; his son was Dharmaketu; his son was Satyaketu; his son was Vibhu; his son was Suvibhu; his son was Sukumāra; his son was Dhṛṣṭaketu; his son was Vaiṇahotra; his son was Bharga; his son was Bhargabhūmi; from whom also rules for the four castes were promulgated[16]. These are the Kāśya princes, or descendants of Kāśa[17]. We will now enumerate the descendants of Raji.

Footnotes and references:


Dharmavriddha: Vāyu. Vriddhaśarman: Matsya. Yajñaśarman: Padma.


Darbha: Agni. Dambha: Padma.


Vipāpman: Agni and Matsya. Vidāman: Padma. The two last authorities proceed no farther with this line.


Sunahotra: Vāyu, Brāhma.


Kāśya: Bhāgavata.


Sāla: Vāyu, Brāhma, Hari V.: whose son was Ārṣṭisena, father of Charanta; Vāyu: of Kaśyapa; Brāhma and Hari V.


Here is probably an error, for the Vāyu, Bhāgavata, and Brāhma agree in making Śunaka the son of Ghritsamada, and father of Śaunaka.


The expression is ‘The originator or causer of the distinctions (or duties) of the four castes.’ The commentator, however, understands the expression to signify, that his descendants were of the four castes. So also the Vāyu: ‘The son of Ghritsamada was Śunaka, whose son was Śaunaka. Brahmans, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas, and Śūdras were born in his race; Brahmans by distinguished deeds.’ The existence of but one caste in the age of purity, however incompatible with the legend which ascribes the origin of the four tribes to Brahmā, is every where admitted. Their separation is assigned to different individuals, whether accurately to any one may be doubted; but the notion indicates that the distinction was of a social or political character.


Kāśiya: Brāhma.


Dīrghatapas: Vāyu. Ghritsatamas: Agni. The Bhāgavata inserts a Rāṣṭra before this prince, and the Vāyu a Dharma after him.


The eight branches of medical science are, 1. Śalya, extraction of extraneous bodies; 2. Śalākā, treatment of external organic affections: these two constitute surgery: 3. Cikitsā, administration of medicines, or medical treatment in general; 4. Bhūtavidyā, treatment of maladies referred to demoniac possession; 5. Kaumārabhritya, midwifery and management of children; 6. Agada, alexipharmacy; 7. Rasāyana, alchemical therapeutics; 8. Bajikaraṇa, use of aphrodisiacs. Dhanwantari, according to the Brahma Vaivartta P., was preceded in medical science by Ātreya, Bharadvāja, and Charaka: his pupil Śuśruta is the reputed author of a celebrated work still extant. It seems probable that Kāśī or Benares was at an early period a celebrated school of medicine.


Some rather curious legends are connected with this prince in the Vāyu and Brāhma Purāṇas, and Hari Vaṃśa, and especially in the Kāśī Khaṇḍa of the Skānda Purāṇa. According to these authorities, Śiva and Pārvatī, desirous of occupying Kāśī, which Divodāsa possessed, sent Nikumbha, one of the Gaṇas of the former, to lead the prince to the adoption of Buddhist doctrines; in consequence of which he was expelled from the sacred city, and, according to the Vāyu, founded another on the banks of the Gomatī. We have, however, also some singular, though obscure intimations of some of the political events of this and the succeeding reign. The passage of the Vāyu is, ‘The king Divodāsa, having slain the hundred sons of Bhadraśreṇya, took possession of his kingdom, which was conquered by that hero. The son of Bhadraśreṇya, celebrated by the name of Durdama, was spared by Divodāsa, as being an infant. Pratarddana was the son of Divodāsa by Dṛṣadvatī; and by that great prince, desirous of destroying all enmity, (was recovered) that (territory) which had been seized by that young boy (Durdama).’ This is not very explicit, and something is wanted to complete the sense. The Brāhma P. and Hari V. tell the story twice over, chiefly in the words of the Vāyu, but with some additions. In ch. 29. we have, first, the first three lines of the above extract; then comes the story of Benares being deserted; we then have the two next lines; then follow, ‘That prince (Durdama) invading his patrimonial possessions, the territory which Divodāsa had seized by force was recovered by the gallant son of Bhadhraśreṇya, Durddama, a warrior desirous, mighty king, p. 408 to effect the destruction of his foes.’ Here the victory is ascribed to Durddama, in opposition to what appears to be the sense of the Vāyu, and what is undoubtedly that of our text, which says that he was called Pratarddana from destroying the race of Bhadraśreṇya, and Śatrujit from vanquishing all his foes. By Vairasya anta, ‘the end of hostility or enmity,’ is obviously not to be understood here, as M. Langlois has intimated, a friendly pacification, but the end or destruction of all enemies. In the 32d chapter of the Hari Vaṃśa we have precisely the same lines, slightly varied as to their order; but they are preceded by this verse; ‘The city (that on the Gomati), before the existence of Benares, of Bhadraśreṇya, a pious prince of the Yadu race: This verse is not in the Brāhma P. After giving the rest of the above quotation, except the last line, the passage proceeds, ’The king called Aṣṭaratha was the son of Bhīmaratha; and by him, great king, a warrior desirous of destroying his foes was (the country) recovered, the children (of Durdama) being infants.' According to the same authority, we are here to understand Bhīmaratha and Aṣṭaratha as epithets of Divodāsa and Pratarddana. From these scanty and ill-digested notices it appears, that Divodāsa, on being expelled from Benares, took some city and district on the Gomati from the family of Bhadraśreṇya; that Durdama recovered the country, and that Pratarddana again conquered it from his descendants. The alternation concerned apparently only bordering districts, for the princes of Māhīṣmati and of Kāśī continue, in both an earlier and a later series, in undisturbed possession of their capitals and their power.


The Vāyu, Agni, Brāhma P., and Hari V. interpose two sons of Pratarddana, Garga or Bharga and Vatsa; and they make Vatsa the father of Alarka, except the Brāhma, which has Śatrujit and Ritadhwaja as two princes following Vatsa.


The Vāyu, Brāhma, and Hari V. repeat this stanza, and add that Alarka enjoyed such protracted existence through the favour of Lopamudrā, and that having p. 409 lived till the period at which the curs upon terminated, he killed the Rākṣas Kṣemaka, by whom it had been occupied after it was abandoned by Divodāsa, and caused the city to be reinhabited. The Hari V. agrees as usual with the Brāhma, except in the reading of one or two names. It is to be observed, however, that the Agni makes the Kāśī princes the descendants of Vitatha, the successor of Bharata. The Brāhma P. and Hari V., determined apparently to be right, give the list twice over, deriving it in one place from Kṣatravriddha, as in our text, the Vāyu, and the Bhāgavata; and in another, with the Agni, from Vitatha. The series of the Brāhma, however, stops with Lauhi, the son of Alarka, and does not warrant the repetition which the carelessness of the compiler of the Hari Vaṃśa has superfluously inserted.


Several varieties occur, in the series that follows, as the comparative lists will best shew:


Our text is clear enough, and so is the Bhāgavata, but the Vāyu, Brāhma, and Hari V. contain additions of rather doubtful import. The former has, ‘The son of Veṇuhotra was the celebrated Gārgya; Gargabhūmi was the son of Gārgya; and Vatsa, of the wise Vatsa: virtuous Brahmans and Kṣatriyasp. 410 were the sons of these two.’ By the second Vatsa is perhaps meant Vatsabhūmi; and the purport of the passage is, that Gārgya (or possibly rather Bharga, one of the sons of Pratarddana) and Vatsa were the founders of two races (Bhūmi, ‘earth,’ implying ‘source’ or founder', who were Kṣatriyas by birth, and Brahmans by profession. The Brāhma and Hari V., apparently misunderstanding this text, have increased the perplexity. According to them, the son of Veṇuhotra was Bharga; Vatsabhūmi was the son of Vatsa; and Bhargabhūmi (Bhrigubhūmi, Brāhma) was from Bhārgava. ‘These sons of Aṅgiras were born in the family of Bhrigu, thousands of great might, Brahmans, Kṣatriyas and Vaiśyas.’ The commentator has, ‘Another son of Vatsa, the father of Alarka, is described, Vatsabhūmi, &c. From Bhārgava, the brother of Vatsa. (They were) Aṅgirasas from Gālava belonging to that family, (and were born) in the family of Bhrigu from the descent of Viśvāmitra.’ The interpretation is not very clear, but it authorizes the notion above expressed, that Vatsa and Bharga, the sons of Pratarddana, are the founders of two races of Kṣatriya-Brahmans.


On the subject of note 12. some farther illustration is derivable from the Mahābhārata, Śānti P. Dāna-dharma. Haryaśva the king of the Kāśis, reigning between the Ganges and the Yamunā, or in the Do-ab, was invaded and slain by the Haihayas, a race descended, according to this authority, from Śaryāti, the son of Manu (see p. 358). Sudeva, the son of Haryaśva, was also attacked and defeated by the same enemies. Divodāsa, his son, built and fortified Benares as a defence against the Haihayas, but in vain, for they took it, and compelled him to fly. He sought refuge with Bharadvāja, by whose favour he had a son born to him, Pratardana, who destroyed the Haihayas under their king Vītihavya, and reestablished the kingdom of Kāśī. Vītihavya, through the protection of Bhrigu, became a Brahman. The Mahābhārata gives a list of his descendants, which contains several of the names of the Kaśya dynasty of the text; thus, Ghritsamada is said to be his son, and the two last of the line are Śunaka and Śaunaka. See n. 7.

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