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...
Sons of Satwata. Bhoja princes of Mrittikāvatī. Sūrya the friend of Satrājit: appears to him in a bodily form: gives him the Syamantaka gem: its brilliance and marvellous properties. Satrājit gives it to Prasena, who is killed by a lion: the lion killed by the bear Jāmbavat. Kṛṣṇa suspected of killing Prasena, goes to look for him in the forests: traces the bear to his cave: fights with him for the jewel: the contest prolonged: supposed by his companions to be slain: he overthrows Jāmbavat, and marries his daughter Jāmbavatī: returns with her and the jewel to Dvārakā: restores the jewel to Satrājit, and marries his daughter Satyabhāmā. Satrājit murdered by Śatadhanwan: avenged by Kṛṣṇa. Quarrel between Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma. Akrūra possessed of the jewel: leaves Dvārakā. Public calamities. Meeting of the Yādavas. Story of Akrūra's birth: he is invited to return: accused by Kṛṣṇa of having the Syamantaka jewel: produces it in full assembly: it remains in his charge: Kṛṣṇa acquitted of having purloined it.
THE sons of Satwata were Bhajina, Bhajamāna, Divya, Andhaka, Devāvriddha, Mahābhoja, and Vṛṣṇi. Bhajamāna had three sons, Nimi, Krikaṇa, and Vṛṣṇi, by one wife, and as many by another, Śatajit, Sahasrajit, and Ayutajit. The son of Devāvriddha was Babhru of whom this verse is recited; “We hear when afar, and we behold when nigh, that Babhru is the first of men, and Devāvriddha is equal to the gods: sixty-six persons following the precepts of one, and six thousand and eight who were disciples of the other, obtained immortality.” Mahābhoja was a pious prince; his descendants were the Bhojas, the princes of Mrittikāvatī, thence called Mārttikāvatas. Vṛṣṇi had two sons, Sumitra and Yudhājit; from the former Anamitra and Śini were born. The son of Anamitra was Nighna, who had two sons, Prasena and Satrājit. The divine Āditya, the sun, was the friend of the latter.
On one occasion Satrājit, whilst walking along the sea shore, addressed his mind to Sūrya, and hymned his praises; on which the divinity appeared and stood before him. Beholding him in an indistinct shape, Satrājit said to the sun, “I have beheld thee, lord, in the heavens as a globe of fire: now do thou shew favour unto me, that I may see thee in thy proper form.” On this the sun taking the jewel called Syamantaka from off his neck, placed it apart, and Satrājit beheld him of a dwarfish stature, with a body like burnished copper, and with slightly reddish eyes. Having offered his adorations, the sun desired him to demand a boon, and he requested that the jewel might become his. The sun presented it to him, and then resumed his place in the sky. Having obtained the spotless gem of gems, Satrājit wore it on his neck, and becoming as brilliant thereby as the sun himself, irradiating all the region with his splendour, he returned to Dvārakā. The inhabitants of that city, beholding him approach, repaired to the eternal male, Puruṣottama, who, to sustain the burden of the earth, had assumed a mortal form (as Kṛṣṇa), and said to him, “Lord, assuredly the divine sun is coming to visit you.” But Kṛṣṇa smiled, and said, “It is not the divine sun, but Satrājit, to whom Āditya has presented the Syamantaka gem, and he now wears it: go and behold him without apprehension.” Accordingly they departed. Satrājit having gone to his house, there deposited the jewel, which yielded daily eight loads of gold, and through its marvellous virtue dispelled all fear of portents, wild beasts, fire, robbers, and famine.
Achyuta was of opinion that this wonderful gem should be in the possession of Ugrasena; but although he had the power of taking it from Satrājit, he did not deprive him of it, that he might not occasion ally disagreement amongst the family. Satrājit, on the other hand, fearing that Kṛṣṇa would ask him for the jewel, transferred it to his brother Prasena. Now it was the peculiar property of this jewel, that although it was an inexhaustible source of good to a virtuous person, yet when worn by a man of bad character it was the cause of his death. Prasena having taken the gem, and hung it round his neck, mounted his horse, and went to the woods to hunt. In the chase he was killed by a lion. The lion, taking the jewel in his mouth, was about to depart, when he was observed and killed by Jāmbavat, the king of the bears, who carrying off the gem retired into his cave, and gave it to his son Sukumāra to play with. When some time had elapsed, and Prasena did not appear, the Yādavas began to whisper one to another, and to say, “This is Kṛṣṇa's doing: desirous of the jewel, and not obtaining it, he has perpetrated the murder of Prasena in order to get it into his possession.”
When these calumnious rumours came to the knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, he collected a number of the Yādavas, and accompanied by them pursued the course of Prasena by the impressions of his horse's hoofs. Ascertaining by this means that he and his horse had been killed by a lion, he was acquitted by all the people of any share in his death. Desirous of recovering the gem, he thence followed the steps of the lion, and at no great distance came to the place where the lion had been killed by the bear. Following the footmarks of the latter, he arrived at the foot of a mountain, where he desired the Yādavas to await him, whilst he continued the track. Still guided by the marks of the feet, he discovered a cavern, and had scarcely entered it when he heard the nurse of Sukumāra saying to him, “The lion killed Prasena; the lion has been killed by Jāmbavat: weep not, Sukumāra, the Syamantaka is your own.” Thus assured of his object, Kṛṣṇa advanced into the cavern, and saw the brilliant jewel in the hands of the nurse, who was giving it as a plaything to Sukumāra. The nurse soon descried his approach, and marking his eyes fixed upon the gem with eager desire, called loudly for help. Hearing her cries, Jāmbavat, full of anger, came to the cave, and a conflict ensued between him and Achyuta, which lasted twenty-one days. The Yādavas who had accompanied the latter waited seven or eight days in expectation of his return, but as the foe of Madhu still came not forth, they concluded that he must have met his death in the cavern. “It could not have required so many days,” they thought, “to overcome an enemy;” and accordingly they departed, and returned to Dvārakā, and announced that Kṛṣṇa had been killed.
When the relations of Achyuta heard this intelligence, they performed all the obsequial rites suited to the occasion. The food and water thus offered to Kṛṣṇa in the celebration of his Śrāddha served to support his life, and invigorate his strength in the combat in which he was engaged; whilst his adversary, wearied by daily conflict with a powerful foe, bruised and battered in every limb by heavy blows, and enfeebled by want of food, became unable longer to resist him. Overcome by his mighty antagonist, Jāmbavat cast himself before him and said, “Thou, mighty being, art surely invincible by all the demons, and by the spirits of heaven, earth, or hell; much less art thou to be vanquished by mean and powerless creatures in a human shape; and still less by such as we are, who are born of brute origin. Undoubtedly thou art a portion of my sovereign lord Nārāyaṇa, the defender of the universe.” Thus addressed by Jāmbavat, Kṛṣṇa explained to him fully that he had descended to take upon himself the burden of the earth, and kindly alleviated the bodily pain which the bear suffered from the fight, by touching him with his hand. Jāmbavat again prostrated himself before Kṛṣṇa, and presented to him his daughter Jāmbavatī, as an offering suitable to a guest. He also delivered to his visitor the Syamantaka jewel. Although a gift from such an individual was not fit for his acceptance, yet Kṛṣṇa took the gem for the purpose of clearing his reputation. He then returned along with his bride Jāmbavatī to Dvārakā..
When the people of Dvārakā beheld Kṛṣṇa alive and returned, they were filled with delight, so that those who were bowed down with years recovered youthful vigour; and all the Yādavas, men and women, assembled round Ānakadundubhi, the father of the hero, and congratulated him. Kṛṣṇa related to the whole assembly of the Yādavas all that had happened, exactly as it had befallen, and restoring the Syamantaka jewel to Satrājit was exonerated from the crime of which he had been falsely accused. He then led Jāmbavatī into the inner apartments.
When Satrājit reflected that he had been the cause of the aspersions upon Kṛṣṇa's character, he felt alarmed, and to conciliate the prince he gave him to wife his daughter Satyabhāmā. The maiden had been previously sought in marriage by several of the most distinguished Yādavas, as Akrūra, Kritavarman and Śatadhanwan, who were highly incensed at her being wedded to another, and leagued in enmity against Satrājit. The chief amongst them, with Akrūra and Kritavarman, said to Śatadhanwan, “This caitiff Satrājit has offered a gross insult to you, as well as to us who solicited his daughter, by giving her to Kṛṣṇa: let him not live: why do you not kill him, and take the jewel? Should Achyuta therefore enter into feud with you, we will take your part.” Upon this promise Śatadhanwan undertook to slay Satrājit.
When news arrived that the sons of Pāṇḍu had been burned in the house of wax, Kṛṣṇa, who knew the real truth, set off for Bāraṇāvata to allay the animosity of Duryodhana, and to perform the duties his relationship required. Śatadhanwan taking advantage of his absence, killed Satrājit in his sleep, and took possession of the gem. Upon this coming to the knowledge of Satyabhāmā, she immediately mounted her chariot, and, filled with fury at her father's murder, repaired to Bāraṇāvata, and told her husband how Satrājit had been killed by Śatadhanwan in resentment of her having been married to another, and how he had carried off the jewel; and she implored him to take prompt measures to avenge such heinous wrong. Kṛṣṇa, who is ever internally placid, being informed of these transactions, said to Satyabhāmā, as his eyes flashed with indignation, “These are indeed audacious injuries, but I will not submit to them from so vile a wretch. They must assail the tree, who would kill the birds that there have built their nests. Dismiss excessive sorrow; it needs not your lamentations to excite any wrath.” Returning forthwith to Dvārakā, Kṛṣṇa took Baladeva apart, and said to him, “A lion slew Prasena, hunting in the forests; and now Satrājit has been murdered by Śatadhanwan. As both these are removed, the jewel which belonged to them is our common right. Up then, ascend your car, and put Śatadhanwan to death.”
Being thus excited by his brother, Balarāma engaged resolutely in the enterprise; but Śatadhanwan, being aware of their hostile designs, repaired to Kritavarman, and required his assistance. Kritavarman, however, declined to assist him, pleading his inability to engage in a conflict with both Baladeva and Kṛṣṇa. Śatadhanwan thus disappointed, applied to Akrūra; but he said, “You must have recourse to some other protector. How should I be able to defend you? There is no one even amongst the immortals, whose praises are celebrated throughout the universe, who is capable of contending with the wielder of the discus, at the stamp of whose foot the three worlds tremble; whose hand makes the wives of the Asuras widows, whose weapons no host, however mighty, can resist: no one is capable of encountering the wielder of the ploughshare, who annihilates the prowess of his enemies by the glances of his eyes, that roll with the joys of wine; and whose vast ploughshare manifests his might, by seizing and exterminating the most formidable foes.” “Since this is the case,” replied Śatadhanwan, “and you are unable to assist me, at least accept and take care of this jewel.” “I will do so,” answered Akrūra, “if you promise that even in the last extremity you will not divulge its being in my possession.” To this Śatadhanwan agreed, and Akrūra took the jewel; and the former mounting a very swift mare, one that could travel a hundred leagues a day, fled from Dvārakā.
When Kṛṣṇa heard of Śatadhanwan's flight, he harnessed his four horses, Śaivya, Sugrīva, Meghapuṣpa, and Balāhaka, to his car, and, accompanied by Balarāma, set off in pursuit. The mare held her speed, and accomplished her hundred leagues; but when she reached the country of Mithilā, her strength was exhausted, and she dropped down and died. Śatadhanwan dismounting, continued his flight on foot. When his pursuers came to the place where the mare had perished, Kṛṣṇa said to Balarāma, “Do you remain in the car, whilst I follow the villain on foot, and put him to death; the ground here is bad; and the horses will not be able to drag the chariot across it.” Balarāma accordingly stayed with the car, and Kṛṣṇa followed Śatadhanwan on foot: when he had chased him for two kos, he discharged his discus, and, although Śatadhanwan was at a considerable distance, the weapon struck off his head. Kṛṣṇa then coining up, searched his body and his dress for the Syamantaka jewel, but found it not. He then returned to Balabhadra, and told him that they had effected the death of Śatadhanwan to no purpose, for the precious gem, the quintessence of all worlds, was not upon his person. When Balabhadra heard this, he flew into a violent rage, and said to Vāsudeva, “Shame light upon you, to be thus greedy of wealth! I acknowledge no brotherhood with you. Here lies my path. Go whither you please; I have done with Dvārakā, with you, with all our house. It is of no use to seek to impose upon me with thy perjuries.” Thus reviling his brother, who fruitlessly endeavoured to appease him, Balabhadra went to the city of Videha, where Janaka received him hospitably, and there he remained. Vāsudeva returned to Dvārakā. It was during his stay in the dwelling of Janaka that Duryodhana, the son of Dhritarāṣṭra, learned from Balabhadra the art of fighting with the mace. At the expiration of three years, Ugrasena and other chiefs of the Yādavas, being satisfied that Kṛṣṇa had not the jewel, went to Videha, and removed Balabhadra's suspicions, and brought him home.
Akrūra, carefully considering the treasures which the precious jewel secured to him, constantly celebrated religious rites, and, purified with holy prayers, lived in affluence for fifty-two years; and through the virtue of that gem there was no dearth nor pestilence in the whole country. At the end of that period, Śatrughna, the great grandson of Satwata, was killed by the Bhojas, and as they were in bonds of alliance with Akrūra, he accompanied them in their flight from Dvārakā. From the moment of his departure various calamities, portents, snakes, dearth, plague, and the like, began to prevail; so that he whose emblem is Garūda called together the Yādavas, with Balabhadra and Ugrasena, and recommended them to consider how it was that so many prodigies should have occurred at the same time. On this Andhaka, one of the elders of the Yadhu race, thus spake: “Wherever Śvaphalka, the father of Akrūra, dwelt, there famine, plague, dearth, and other visitations were unknown. Once when there was want of rain in the kingdom of Kāsirājā, Śvaphalka was brought there, and immediately there fell rain from the heavens. It happened also that the queen of Kāśīrājā conceived, and was quick with a daughter; but when the time of delivery arrived, the child issued not from the womb. Twelve years passed away, and still the girl was unborn. Then Kāśīrājā spake to the child, and said, ‘Daughter, why is your birth thus delayed? come forth; I desire to behold you, why do you inflict this protracted suffering upon your mother?’ Thus addressed, the infant answered, ‘If, father, you will present a cow every day to the Brahmans, I shall at the end of three years more be born.’ The king accordingly presented daily a cow to the Brahmans, and at the end of three years the damsel came into the world. Her father called her Gāndinī, and he subsequently gave her to Śvaphalka, when he came to his palace for his benefit. Gāndinī, as long as she lived, gave a cow to the Brahmans every day. Akrūra was her son by Śvaphalka, and his birth therefore proceeds from a combination of uncommon excellence. When a person such as he is, is absent from us, is it likely that famine, pestilence, and prodigies should fail to occur? Let him then he invited to return: the faults of men of exalted worth must not be too severely scrutinized.”
Agreeably to the advice of Audhaka the elder, the Yādavas sent a mission, headed by Keśava, Ugrasena, and Balabhadra, to assure Akrūra that no notice would be taken of any irregularity committed by him; and having satisfied him that he was in no danger, they brought him back to Dvārakā. Immediately on his arrival, in consequence of the properties of the jewel, the plague, dearth, famine, and every other calamity and portent, ceased. Kṛṣṇa, observing this, reflected that the descent of Akrūra from Gāndinī and Śvaphalka was a cause wholly disproportionate to such an effect, and that some more powerful influence must be exerted to arrest pestilence and famine. “Of a surety,” said he to himself, “the great Syamantaka jewel is in his keeping, for such I have heard are amongst its properties. This Akrūra too has been lately celebrating sacrifice after sacrifice; his own means are insufficient for such expenses; it is beyond a doubt that he has the jewel.” Having come to this conclusion, he called a meeting of all the Yādavas at his house, under the pretext of some festive celebration. When they were all seated, and the. purport of their assembling had been explained, and the business accomplished, Kṛṣṇa entered into conversation with Akrūra, and, after laughing and joking, said to him, “Kinsman, you are a very prince in your liberality; but we know very well that the precious jewel which was stolen by Sudhanwan was delivered by him to you, and is now in your possession, to the great benefit of this kingdom. So let it remain; we all derive advantage from its virtues.
But Balabhadra suspects that I have it, and therefore, out of kindness to me, shew it to the assembly.” When Akrūra, who had the jewel with him, was thus taxed, he hesitated what he should do. “If I deny that I have the jewel,” thought he, “they will search my person, and find the gem hidden amongst my clothes. I cannot submit to a search.” So reflecting, Akrūra said to Nārāyaṇa, the cause of the whole world, “It is true that the Syamantaka jewel was entrusted to me by Śatadhanwan, when he went from hence. I expected every day that you would ask me for it, and with much inconvenience therefore I have kept it until now. The charge of it has subjected me to so much anxiety, that I have been incapable of enjoying any pleasure, and have never known a moment's ease. Afraid that you would think me unfit to retain possession of a jewel so essential to the welfare of the kingdom, I forbore to mention to you its being in my hands; but now take it yourself, and give the care of it to whom you please.” Having thus spoken, Akrūra drew forth from his garments a small gold box, and took from it the jewel. On displaying it to the assembly of the Yādavas, the whole chamber where they sat was illuminated by its radiance. “This,” said Akrūra, “is the Syamantaka gem, which was consigned to me by Śatadhanwan: let him to whom it belongs now take it.”
When the Yādavas beheld the jewel, they were filled with astonishment, and loudly expressed their delight. Balabhadra immediately claimed the jewel as his property jointly with Achyuta, as formerly agreed upon; whilst Satyabhāmā, demanded it as her right, as it had originally belonged to her father. Between these two Kṛṣṇa considered himself as an ox between the two wheels of a cart, and thus spake to Akrūra in the presence of all the Yādavas: “This jewel has been exhibited to the assembly in order to clear my reputation; it is the joint right of Balabhadra and myself, and is the patrimonial inheritance of Satyabhāmā. But this jewel, to be of advantage to the whole kingdom, should be taken charge of by a person who leads a life of perpetual continence: if worn by an impure individual, it will be the cause of his death. Now as I have sixteen thousand wives, I am not qualified to have the care of it. It is not likely that Satyabhāmā will agree to the conditions that would entitle her to the possession of the jewel; and as to Balabhadra, he is too much addicted to wine and the pleasures of sense to lead a life of self-denial. We are therefore out of the question, and all the Yādavas, Balabhadra, Satyabhāmā, and myself, request you, most bountiful Akrūra, to retain the care of the jewel, as you have done hitherto, for the general good; for you are qualified to have the keeping of it, and in your hands it has been productive of benefit to the country. You must not decline compliance with our request.” Akrūra, thus urged, accepted the jewel, and thenceforth wore it publicly round his neck, where it shone with dazzling brightness; and Akrūra moved about like the sun, wearing a garland of light.
He who calls to mind the vindication of the character of Kṛṣṇa from false aspersions, shall never become the subject of unfounded accusation in the least degree, and living in the full exercise of his senses shall be cleansed from every sin.
Footnotes and references:
The Agni acknowledges but four sons. but all the rest agree in the number, and mostly in the names, Mahābhoja is sometimes read Mahabhāga.
Krimi: Brāhma, Agni, Kūrma.
Panava: Vāyu. Kramaṇa: Brāhma. Kripaṇa: Padma. Kiṅkiṇa: Bhāgavata.
Dhṛṣṭhi: Bhāgavata, Brāhma.
The Brāhma and Hari V. add to the first three Śara and Purañjaya, and to the second Dāsaka.
By the Parṇāśā river: Brāhma P.: a river in Malwa.
These are made incorrectly the descendants of Babhru in the Hari V.
The Bhāgavata, Matsya, and Vāyu p. 425 agree in the main, as to the genealogy that follows, with our text. The Vāyu states that Vṛṣṇi had two wives, Mādrī and Gāndhārī; by the former he had Yudhājit and Anamitra, and by the latter Sumitra and Devamīḍhush. The Matsya also names the ladies, but gives Sumitra to Gāndhārī, and makes Mādrī the mother of Yudhājit, Devamīḍhuṣa, Anamitra, and Śini. The Agni has a similar arrangement, but substitutes Dhṛṣṭa for Vṛṣṇi, and makes him the fifteenth in descent from Satwata. The Liṅga, Padma, Brāhma P., and Hari V. have made great confusion by altering, apparently without any warrant, the name of Vṛṣṇi to Kroṣṭri.
The Bhāgavata makes them sons of Yudhājit; the Matsya and Agni, as observed in the preceding note, his brothers as well as Sumitra's.
This alludes to events detailed in the Mahābhārata.
The Vāyu calls Sudhanwan or Śatadhanwan king of Mithilā.
A rather violent anachronism to make Janaka cotemporary with Balarāma.
The text gives the commencement of the prayer, but the commentator does not say whence it is taken: ‘Oh, goddess! the p. 431 murderer of a Kṣatriya or Vaiśya, engaged in religious duties, is the slayer of a Brahman;’ i. e. the crime is equally heinous. Perhaps the last word should be ### ‘is.’
Some of the circumstances of this marvellous gem seem to identify it with a stone of widely diffused celebrity in the East, and which, according to the Mohammedan writers, was given originally by Noah to Japhet; the Hijer al mattyr of the Arabs, Sang yeddat of the Persians, and Jeddah tash of the Turks, the possession of which secures rain and fertility. The author of the Habib us Seir gravely asserts that this stone was in the hands of the Mongols in his day, or in the tenth century.
Kṛṣṇa's reflecting, the commentator observes, is to be understood of him only as consistent with the account here given of him, as if he were a mere man; for, as he was omniscient, there was no occasion for him to reflect or reason. Kṛṣṇa however appears in this story in a very different light from that in which he is usually represented; and the adventure, it may be remarked, is detached from the place in which we might have expected to find it, the narrative of his life, which forms the subject of the next book.
The story of the Syamantaka gem occurs in the Bhāgavata, Vāyu, Matsya, Brāhma, and Hari V., and is alluded to in other Purāṇas. It may be considered as one common to the whole series. Independently of the part borne in it by Kṛṣṇa, it presents a curious and no doubt a faithful picture of ancient manners, in the loose self-government of a kindred clan, in the acts of personal violence which are committed, in the feuds which ensue, in the public meetings which are held, and the part that is taken by the elders and by the women in all the proceedings of the community.