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 XII - Indra comes to Krishna

AFTER Gokula had been saved by the elevation of the mountain, Indra became desirous of beholding Kṛṣṇa. The conqueror of his foes accordingly mounted his vast elephant Airāvata, and came to Govarddhana, where the king of the gods beheld the mighty Dāmodara tending cattle, and assuming the person of a cow-boy, and, although the preserver of the whole world, surrounded by the sons of the herdsmen: above his head he saw Garuḍa, the king of birds, invisible to mortals, spreading out his wings to shade the head of Hari. Alighting from his elephant, and addressing him apart, Śakra, his eyes expanding with pleasure, thus spake to Madhusūdana: “Hear, Kṛṣṇa, the reason why I have come hither; why I have approached thee; for thou couldest not otherwise conceive it. Thou, who art the supporter of all, hast descended upon earth, to relieve her of her burden. In resentment of my obstructed rites I sent the clouds to deluge Gokula, and they have done this evil deed. Thou, by raising up the mountain, hast preserved the cattle; and of a verity I am much pleased, O hero, with thy wondrous deed. The object of the gods is now, methinks, accomplished, since with thy single hand thou hast raised aloft this chief of mountains. I have now come by desire of the cattle[1], grateful for their preservation, in order to install you as Upendra; and, as the Indra of the cows, thou shalt be called Govinda[2].” Having thus said, Mahendra took a ewer from his elephant Airāvata, and with the holy water it contained performed the regal ceremony of aspersion. The cattle, as the rite was celebrating, deluged the earth with their milk.

When Indra had, by direction of the kine, inaugurated Kṛṣṇa, the husband of Śacī said to him affectionately, “I have thus performed what the cows enjoined me. Now, illustrious being, hear what farther I propose, with a view to facilitate your task. A portion of me has been born as Arjuna, the son of Pritha: let him ever be defended by thee, and he will assist thee in bearing thy burden. He is to be cerished by thee, Madhusūdana, like another self.” To this Kṛṣṇa replied, “I know thy son, who has been born in the race of Bharata, and I will befriend him as long as I continue upon earth. As long as I am present, invincible Śakra, no one shall be able to subdue Arjuna in fight. When the great demon Kansa has been slain, and Aṛṣṭa, Keśin, Kuvalayāpīḍa, Naraka, and other fierce Daityas, shall have been put to death, there will take place a great war, in which the burden of the earth will be removed. Now therefore depart, and be not anxious on account of thy son; for no foe shall triumph over Arjuna whilst I am present. For his sake I will restore to Kunti all her sons; with Yudhiṣṭhira at their head, unharmed, when the Bhārata war is at an end.”

Upon Kṛṣṇa's ceasing to speak, he and Indra mutually embraced; and the latter, mounting his elephant Airāvata, returned to heaven. Kṛṣṇa, with the cattle and the herdsmen, went his way to Vraja, where the wives of the Gopas watched for his approach.

Footnotes and references:


Gobhischa chodita; that is, ‘delegated,’ says the commentator, ‘by the cow of plenty, Kāmadhenu, and other celestial kine, inhabitants of Goloka, the heaven of cows:’ but this is evidently unauthorized by the text, as celestial cattle could not be grateful for preservation upon earth; and the notion of Goloka, a heaven of cows and Kṛṣṇa, is a modern piece of mysticism, drawn from such sectarial works as the Brahma Vaivartta P. and Hari Vaṃśa.


The purport of Indra's speech is to explain the meaning of two of Kṛṣṇa's names, Upendra and Govinda. The commentators on the Amara Koṣa agree in p. 529 explaining the first, the younger brother of Indra, ### conformably to the synonyme that immediately follows in the text of Amara, Indrāvaraja; a name that occurs also in the Mahābhārata: Kṛṣṇa, as the son of Devakī, who is an incarnation of Aditī, being born of the latter subsequently to Indra. Govinda is he who knows, finds, or tends cattle; Gām vindati. The Paurāṇik etymology makes the latter the Indra (### quasi ###) of cows; and in this capacity he may well be considered as a minor or inferior Indra, such being the proper sense of the term Upendra (Upa in composition); as, Upa-purāṇa, ‘a minor Purāṇa,’ &c. The proper import of the word Upendra has, however, been anxiously distorted by the sectarian followers of Kṛṣṇa. Thus the commentator on our text asserts that Upa is here synonymous with Upari, and that Upendratwa, ‘the station of Upendra,’ means ‘rule in the heaven of heavens, Goloka;’ a new creation of this sect, above Satya-loka, which, in the uncorrupt Paurāṇik system, is the highest of the seven Lokas: see p. 213. So the Hari Vaṃśa makes Indra say, ‘As thou, Kṛṣṇa, art appointed, by the cows, Indra superior to me, therefore the deities in heaven shall call thee Upendra.’ The Bhāgavata does not introduce the name, though it no doubt alludes to it in making the divine cow Surabhi, who is said to have come from Goloka with Indra, address Kṛṣṇa, and say, ‘We, instructed by Brahmā, will crown you as our Indra.’ Accordingly Kṛṣṇa has the water of the Ganges thrown over him by the elephant of Indra, and Indra, the gods, and sages praise him, and salute him by the appellation of Govinda. The Hari Vaṃśa assigns this to Indra alone, who says, ‘I am only the Indra of the gods; thou hast attained the rank of Indra of the kine, and they shall for ever celebrate thee on earth as Govinda.’ All this is very different from the sober account of our text, and is undoubtedly of comparatively recent origin.

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