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 XV - The story of the previous birth of Shishupala and the sons of Vasudeva

Explanation of the reason why Śiśupāla in his previous births as Hiraṇyakaśipu and Rāvaṇa was not identified with Viṣṇu on being slain by him, and was so identified when killed as Śiśupāla. The wives of Vasudeva: his children: Balarāma and Kṛṣṇa his sons by Devakī: born apparently of Rohiṇī and Yasodā. The wives and children of Kṛṣṇa. Multitude of the descendants of Yadu.

Maitreya said:—

Most eminent of all who cultivate piety, I am curious to hear from you, and you are able to explain to me, how it happened that the same being who when killed by Viṣṇu as Hiraṇyakaśipu and Rāvaṇa obtained enjoyments which, though scarcely attainable by the immortals, were but temporary, should have been absorbed into the eternal Hari when slain by him in the person of Śiśupāla.

Parāśara said:—

When the divine author of the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe accomplished the death of Hiraṇyakaśipu, he assumed a body composed of the figures of a lion and a man, so that Hiraṇyakaśipu was not aware that his destroyer was Viṣṇu: although therefore the quality of purity, derived from exceeding merit, had been attained, yet his mind was perplexed by the predominance of the property of passion; and the consequence of that intermixture was, that he reaped, as the result of his death by the hands of Viṣṇu, only unlimited power and enjoyment upon earth, as Daśānana, the sovereign of the three spheres; he did not obtain absorption into the supreme spirit, that is without beginning or end, because his mind was not wholly dedicated to that sole object. So also Daśānana being entirely subject to the passion of love, and engrossed completely by the thoughts of Jānakī, could not comprehend that the son of Daśaratha whom he beheld was in reality the divine Achyuta. At the moment of his death he was impressed with the notion that his adversary was a mortal, and therefore the fruit he derived from being slain by Viṣṇu was confined to his birth in the illustrious family of the kings of Chedi, and the exercise of extensive dominion. In this situation many circumstances brought the names of Viṣṇu to his notice, and on all these occasions the enmity that had accumulated through successive births influenced his mind; and in speaking constantly with disrespect of Achyuta, he was ever repeating his different appellations. Whether walking, eating, sitting, or sleeping, his animosity was never at rest, and Kṛṣṇa was ever present to his thoughts in his ordinary semblance, having eyes as beautiful as the leaf of the lotus, clad in bright yellow raiment, decorated with a garland, with bracelets on his arms and wrists, and a diadem on his head; having four robust arms, bearing the conch, the discus, the mace, and the lotus. Thus uttering his names, even though in malediction, and dwelling upon his image, though in enmity, he beheld Kṛṣṇa, when inflicting his death, radiant with resplendent weapons, bright with ineffable splendour in his own essence as the supreme being, and all his passion and hatred ceased, and he was purified front every defect. Being killed by the discus of Viṣṇu at the instant he thus meditated, all his sins were consumed by his divine adversary, and he was blended with him by whose might he had been slain. I have thus replied to your inquiries. He by whom the divine Viṣṇu is named or called to recollection, even in enmity, obtains a reward that is difficult of attainment to the demons and the gods: how much greater shall be his recompense who glorifies the deity in fervour and in faith!

Vasudeva, also called Ānakadandubhi, had Rohiṇī, Pauravī[1], Bhadrā, Madirā, Devakī, and several other wives. His sons by Rohiṇī were Balabhadra, Sāraṇa, Śaru, Durmada, and others. Balabhadra espoused Revatī, and had by her Nisaṭha and Ulmuka. The sons of Śaraṇa were Mārṣṭi, Mārṣṭimat, Śīśu, Satyadhriti, and others. Bhadrāśva, Bhadrabāhu, Durgama, Bhūta, and others, were born in the family of Rohiṇī (of the race of Puru). The sons of Vasudeva by Madirā were Nanda, Upananda, Krītaka, and others. Bhadrā bore him Upanidhi, Gada, and others. By his wife Vaiśālī he had one son named Kauśika. Devakī bore him six sons, Kīrttimat, Suṣeṇa, Udāyin, Bhadrasena, Rijudaśa, and Bhadradeha; all of whom Kansa put to death[2].

When Devakī was pregnant the seventh time, Yoganidrā (the sleep of devotion), sent by Viṣṇu, extricated the embryo from its maternal womb at midnight, and transferred it to that of Rohiṇī; and from having been thus taken away, the child (who was Balarāma) received the name of Saṅkarṣaṇa. Next, the divine Viṣṇu himself, the root of the vast universal tree, inscrutable by the understandings of all gods, demons, sages, and men, past, present, or to come, adored by Brahmā and all the deities, he who is without beginning, middle, or end, being moved to relieve the earth of her load, descended into the womb of Devakī, and was born as her son Vāsudeva. Yoganidrā, proud to execute his orders, removed the embryo to Yasodā, the wife of Nanda the cowherd. At his birth the earth was relieved from all iniquity; the sun, moon, and planets shone with unclouded splendour; all fear of calamitous portents was dispelled; and universal happiness prevailed. From the moment he appeared, all mankind were led into the righteous path in him.

Whilst this powerful being resided in this world of mortals, he had sixteen thousand and one hundred wives; of these the principal were Rukminī, Satyabhāmā, Jāmbavatī, Jātahaśinī, and four others. By these the universal form, who is without beginning, begot a hundred and eighty thousand sons, of whom thirteen are most renowned, Pradyumna, Cārudeṣṇa, Sāmba, and others. Pradyumna married Kakudvatī, the daughter of Rukmin, and had by her Aniruddha. Aniruddha married Subhadrā, the granddaughter of the same Rukmin, and she bore him a son named Vajra. The son of Vajra was Bāhu; and his son was Sucāru[3].

In this manner the descendants of Yadu multiplied, and there were many hundreds of thousands of them, so that it would be impossible to repeat their names in hundreds of years. Two verses relating to them are current: “The domestic instructors of the boys in the use of arms amounted to three crores and eighty lacs (or thirty-eight millions). Who shall enumerate the whole of the mighty men of the Yādava race, who were tens of ten thousands and hundreds of hundred thousands in number?” Those powerful Daityas who were killed in the conflicts between them and the gods were born again upon earth as men, as tyrants and oppressors; and, in order to check their violence, the gods also descended to the world of mortals, and became members of the hundred and one branches of the family of Yadu. Viṣṇu was to them a teacher and a ruler, and all the Yādavas were obedient to his commands.

Whoever listens frequently to this account of the origin of the heroes of the race of Vṛṣṇi, shall be purified from all sin, and obtain the sphere of Viṣṇu.

Footnotes and references:


Pauravī is rather a title attached to a second Rohiṇī, to distinguish her from the first, the mother of Balarāma: she is also said by the Vāyu to be the daughter of Bāhlīka.


The enumeration of our text is rather imperfect. The Vāyu names the wives of Vasudeva, Pauravī, Rohiṇī, Madirā, Rudrā, Vaiśākhī, Devakī; and adds two bondmaids, Sugandhī and Vanarajī. The p. 440 Brāhma P. and Hari V. name twelve wives, and two slaves; Rohinī, Madirā, Vaiśākhī, Bhadrā, Sunāmnī, Sahadevā, Śāntidevā, Śrīdevā, Devarakṣitā, Vrikadevī, Upadevī, Devaki; and Śantanu and Bāravā. The children of the two slaves, according to the Vāyu, were Puṇḍra, who became a king, and Kapila, who retired to the woods. In the Bhāgavata we have thirteen wives, Pauravī, Rohiṇī, Bhadrā, Madirā, Rocanā, Ilā, Devakī, Dhritadevī, Śāntidevā, Upadevī, Śrīdevā, Devarakṣitā, and Sahadevā: the last seven in this and the preceding list are the daughters of Devaka.


The wives and children of Kṛṣṇa are more particularly described in the next book. The Brāhma P. and Hari V. add some details of the descendants of Vasudeva's brothers: thus Devabhāga is said to be the father of Uddhava; Anadhṛṣṭi of Devaśravas, a great scholar or Paṇḍit. Devaśravas, another brother of Vasudeva, p. 441 had Śatrughna and another son called Ekalavya, who for some cause being exposed when an infant, was found and brought up by the Niṣādas, and was thence termed Niṣādin. Vatsavat (Vatsabālaka) and Gaṇḍūṣa being childless, Vasudeva gave his son Kauśika to be adopted by the former, and Kṛṣṇa gave Cārudeṣṇa and three others to the latter. Kanaka (Karundhaka) had two sons, Tantrija and Tantripāla. Avāksrinjima (Śriñjaya) had also two, Vīra and Aśvahanu. The gracious Śamīka became as the son (although the brother) of Śyāma, and disdaining the joint rule which the princes of the house of Bhoja exercised, made himself paramount. Yudhiṣṭhira was his friend. The extravagant numbers of the Yādavas merely indicate that they were, as they undoubtedly were, a powerful and numerous tribe, of whom many traces exist in various parts of India.

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