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 X - Descriptions of the season of autumn

WHILST Keśava and Rāma were sporting thus in Vraja, the rainy season ended, and was succeeded by the season of autumn, when the lotus is full blown. The small Saphari fish, in their watery burrows, were oppressed by the heat, like a man by selfish desires, who is devoted to his family. The peacocks, no longer animated by passion, were silent amidst the woods, like holy saints, who have come to know the unreality of the world. The clouds, of shining whiteness, exhausted of their watery wealth, deserted the atmosphere, like those who have acquired wisdom, and depart from their homes. Evaporated by the rays of the autumnal sun, the lakes were dried up, like the hearts of men when withered by the contact of selfishness. The pellucid waters of the season were suitably embellished by white water-lilies, as are the minds of the pure by the apprehension of truth. Brightly in the starry sky shone the moon with undiminished orb, like the saintly being, who has reached the last stage of bodily existence, in the company of the pious. The rivers and lakes slowly retired from their banks, as the wise by degrees shrink from the selfish attachment that connects them with wife and child. First abandoned by the waters of the lake, the swans again began to congregate, like false ascetics, whose devotions are interrupted, and they are again assailed by innumerable afflictions. The ocean was still and calm, and exhibited no undulations, like the perfect sage, who has completed his course of restraint, and has acquired undisturbed tranquillity of spirit. Every where the waters were as clear and pure as the minds of the wise, who behold Viṣṇu in all things. The autumnal sky was wholly free from clouds, like the heart of the ascetic, whose care's have been consumed by the fire of devotion. The moon allayed the fervours of the sun, as discrimination alleviates the pain to which egotism gives birth. The clouds of the atmosphere, the muddiness of the earth, the discoloration of the waters, were all removed by autumn, as abstraction detaches the senses from the objects of perception. The exercise of inspiring, suppressing, and expiring the vital air, was as if performed daily by the waters of the lakes (as they were full, and stationary, and then again declined)[1].

At this season, when the skies were bright with stars, Kṛṣṇa, repairing to Vraja, found all the cowherds busily engaged in preparing for a sacrifice to be offered to Indra[2]; and going to the elders, he asked them, as if out of curiosity, what festival of Indra it was in which they took so much pleasure. Nanda replied to his question, and said, “Śatakratu or Indra is the sovereign of the clouds and of the waters: sent by him, the former bestow moisture upon the earth, whence springs the grain, by which we and all embodied beings subsist; with which also, and with water, we please the gods: hence too these cows bear calves, and yield milk, and are happy, and well nourished. So when the clouds are seen distended with rain, the earth is neither barren of corn, nor bare of verdure, nor is man distressed by hunger. Indra, the giver of water, having drank the milk of earth by the solar ray, sheds it again upon the earth for the sustenance of all the world. On this account all sovereign princes offer with pleasure sacrifices to Indra at the end of the rains, and so also do we, and so do other people.”

When Kṛṣṇa heard this speech from Nanda in regard to the worship of Indra, he determined to put the king of the celestials into a passion, and replied, “We, father, are neither cultivators of the soil, nor dealers in merchandise; we are sojourners in forests, and cows are our divinities. There are four branches of knowledge, logical, scriptural, practical, and political[3]. Hear me describe what practical science is. Agriculture, commerce, and tending of cattle; the knowledge of these three professions constitutes practical science. Agriculture is the subsistence of farmers; buying and selling, of traders. Kine are our support. Thus the knowledge of means of support is threefold. The object that is cultivated by any one should be to him as his chief divinity; that should be venerated and worshipped, as it is his benefactor. He who worships the deity of another, and diverts from him the reward that is his due, obtains not a prosperous station either in this world or in the next. Where the land ceases to be cultivated there are bounds assigned, beyond which commences the forest; the forests are bounded by the hills, and so far do our limits extend. We are not shut in with doors, nor confined within walls; we have neither fields nor houses; we wander about happily wherever we list, travelling in our waggons[4]. The spirits of these mountains, it is said, walk the woods in whatever forms they will, or in their proper persons sport upon their own precipices. If they should be displeased with those who inhabit the forests, then, transformed to lions and beasts of prey, they will kill the offenders. We then are bound to worship the mountains; to offer sacrifices to cattle. What have we to do with Indra? cattle and mountains are our gods. Brahmans offer worship with prayer; cultivators of the earth adore their landmarks; but we who tend our herds in the forests and mountains should worship them and our kine. Let prayer and offerings then be addressed to the mountain Govarddhana, and kill a victim in due form. Let the whole station collect their milk without delay, and feed with it the Brahmans and all who may desire to partake of it. When the oblations have been presented, and the Brahmans have been fed, let the Gopas circumambulate the cows, decorated with garlands of autumnal flowers. If the cowherds will attend to these suggestions, they will secure the favour of the mountain, of the cattle, and also mine.”

When Nanda and the other Gopas heard these words of Kṛṣṇa, their faces expanded with delight, and they said that he had spoken well. “You have judged rightly, child,” exclaimed they; “we will do exactly as you have proposed, and offer adoration to the mountain.” Accordingly the inhabitants of Vraja worshipped the mountain, presenting to it curds and milk and flesh; and they fed hundreds and thousands of Brahmans, and many other guests, who came to the ceremony, even as Kṛṣṇa had enjoined: and when they had made their offerings, they circumambulated the cows and the bulls, that bellowed as loud as roaring clouds. Upon the summit of Govarddhana, Kṛṣṇa presented himself, saying, “I am the mountain,” and partook of much food presented by the Gopas; whilst in his own form as Kṛṣṇa he ascended the hill along with the cowherds, and worshipped his other self[5]. Having promised them many blessings, the mountain-person of Kṛṣṇa vanished; and the ceremony being completed, the cowherds returned to their station.

Footnotes and references:


A set of very poor quibbles upon the terms of the Prāṇāyāma: or, Pūraṇa, drawing in the breath through one nostril; literally, ‘filling:’ Kumbhaka, closing the nostrils, and suppressing the breath; keeping it stationary or confined, as it were in a Kumbha, or waterpot: and Rechaka, opening the other nostril, and emitting the breath; literally, ‘purging’ or ‘depletion.’ The waters of the reservoirs, replenished in the beginning of the autumnal season by the previous rains, remain for a while full, until they are drawn off for irrigation, or reduced by evaporation: thus representing the three operations of Pūraṇa, Kumbhaka, and Rechaka.


No public worship is offered to Indra at present; and the only festival in the Hindu kalendar, the Śakradhwajotthāna, the erection of a flag in honour of Śakra or Indra, should be held on the twelfth or thirteenth of Bhādra, which is in the very middle of the rainy season; according to the Tithi Tatwa, following the authority of the Kālikā and Bhavishyottara Purāṇas. The Śakradhwajotthāna is also a rite to be performed by kings and princes. It may be doubted, therefore, if the text intends any particular or appointed celebration.


Or, Ānvīkṣikī, the science of inquiring by reasoning, Tarka, or logic: Trayī, the three Vedas collectively, or the doctrines they teach: Vārttā, rendered ‘practical,’ is the knowledge of the means of acquiring subsistence: the fourth is Daṇḍanīti, the science of government, both domestic and foreign.


These nomadic habits are entirely lost sight of in the parallel passages of those Purāṇas in which the juvenile life of Kṛṣṇa is narrated. The text of the Hari Vaṃśa is in most of the other verses precisely the same as that of the Viṣṇu P., putting however into the mouth of Kṛṣṇa a long additional eulogium on the season of autumn.


The Hari Vaṃśa says, ‘an illusory Kṛṣṇa, having become the mountain, ate the flesh that was offered.’ Of course the ‘personified’ mountain is intended, as appears from several of the ensuing passages; as for instance, he says presently, ‘I am satisfied; and then in his divine form he smiled.’ The Hari Vaṃśa affords here, as in so many other places, proofs of its Dakhini origin. It is very copious upon the homage paid to the cattle, and their decoration with garlands and plumes of peacocks' feathers, of which our text takes no notice. But in the south of India there is a very popular festival, that of the Puñjal, scarcely known in the north, when cattle are decorated and worshipped; a celebration which has no doubt suggested to the compiler of the Hari Vaṃśa the details which he describes.

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