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 XXXIII - Battle of Krishna and demon Bana

Bāṇa solicits Śiva for war: finds Aniruddha in the palace, and makes him prisoner. Kṛṣṇa, Balarāma, and Pradyumna come to his rescue Śiva and Skanda aid Bāṇa: the former is disabled; the latter put to flight. Bāṇa encounters Kṛṣṇa, who cuts off all his arms, and is about to put him to death. Śiva intercedes, and Kṛṣṇa a spares his life. Viṣṇu and Śiva are the same.

BEFORE this took place, Bāṇa had been engaged in the adoration of the three-eyed god, and had thus prayed to him: “I am humiliated, O lord, by the possession of a thousand arms in a state of peace; let some hostilities ensue, in which I may derive some advantage from their possession. Without war, what is the use of these arms? they are but a burden to me.” Śaṅkara replied, “When thy peacock banner shall be broken, thou shalt have war, the delight of the evil spirits that feast on the flesh of man.” Bāṇa, pleased by this promise, proffered his thanks to Śambhu, and returned to his palace, where he found his standard broken; at which his joy was increased.

At that time the nymph Citralekhā returned from Dvārakā, and by the exercise of her magic power brought Aniruddha along with her. The guards of the inner apartments discovering him there with Uṣā, reported it to the king who immediately sent a body of his followers to seize the prince; but the valiant youth, taking up an iron club, slew his assailants: on which Bāṇa mounted his car, advanced against him, and endeavoured to put him to death. Finding, however, that Aniruddha was not to be subdued by prowess, he followed the counsel of his minister, and brought his magical faculties into the conflict, by which he succeeded in capturing the Yadu prince, and binding him in serpent bonds.

When Aniruddha was missed from Dvāravatī, and the Yādavas were inquiring of one another whither he had gone, Nārada came to them, and told them that he was the prisoner of Bāṇa, having been conveyed by a female, possessed of magic faculties, to Śoṇitapura[1] When they heard this, they were satisfied; for they had imagined he had been taken away by the gods (in reprisal for the Pārijāta tree). Kṛṣṇa therefore immediately summoned Garuḍa, who came with a wish; and mounting upon him, along with Bala and Pradyumna, he set off for the city of Bāṇa. On their approach to the city they were opposed by the spirits who attend on Rudra, but these were soon destroyed by Hari, and he and his companions reached the vicinity of the town. Here mighty Fever, an emanation from Maheśvara, having three feet and three heads[2], fought desperately with Viṣṇu in defence of Bāṇa. Baladeva, upon whom his ashes were scattered, was seized with burning heat, and his eyelids trembled: but he obtained relief by clinging to the body of Kṛṣṇa. Contending thus with the divine holder of the bow, the Fever emanating from Śiva was quickly expelled from the person of Kṛṣṇa by Fever which he himself engendered. Brahmā beholding the impersonated malady bewildered by the beating inflicted by the arms of the deity, entreated the latter to desist; and the foe of Madhu refrained, and absorbed into himself the fever he had created. The rival Fever then departed, saying to Kṛṣṇa, “Those men who call to memory the combat between us shall be ever exempt from febrile disease.”

Next Viṣṇu overcame and demolished the five fires[3], and with perfect ease annihilated the army of the Dānavas. Then the son of Bali (Bāṇa), with the whole of the Daitya host, assisted by Śaṅkara and Kārtikeya, fought with Śauri. A fierce combat took place between Hari and Śaṅkara; all the regions shook, scorched by their flaming weapons, and the celestials felt assured that the end of the universe was at hand. Govinda, with the weapon of yawning, set Śaṅkara a-gape; and then the demons and the demigods attendant upon Śiva were destroyed on every side; for Hara, overcome with incessant gaping, sat down in his car, and was unable longer to contend with Kṛṣṇa, whom no acts affect. The deity of war, Kārtikeya, wounded in the arm by Garuḍa, struck by the weapons of Pradyumna, and disarmed by the shout of Hari, took to flight. Bāṇa, when he saw Śaṅkara disabled, the Daityas destroyed, Guha fled, and Śiva's followers slain, advanced on his vast car, the horses of which were harnessed by Nandīśa, to encounter Kṛṣṇa and his associates Bala and Pradyumna. The valiant Balabhadra, attacking the host of Bāṇa, wounded them in many ways with his arrows, and put them to a shameful rout; and their sovereign beheld them dragged about by Rāma with his ploughshare, or beaten by him with his club, or pierced by Kṛṣṇa with his arrows: he therefore attacked Kṛṣṇa, and a fight took place between them: they cast at each other fiery shafts, that pierced through their armour; but Kṛṣṇa intercepted with his arrows those of Bāṇa, and cut them to pieces. Bāṇa nevertheless wounded Keśava, and the wielder of the discus wounded Bāṇa; and both desirous of victory, and seeking enraged the death of his antagonist, hurled various missiles at each other. When an infinite number of arrows had been cut to pieces, and the weapons began to be exhausted, Kṛṣṇa resolved to put Bāṇa to death. The destroyer of the demon host therefore took up his discus Sudarśana, blazing with the radiance of a hundred suns. As he was in the act of casting it, the mystical goddess Koṭavī, the magic lore of the demons, stood naked before him[4]. Seeing her before him, Kṛṣṇa, with unclosed eyes, cast Sudarśana, to cut off the arms of Bāṇa. The discus, dreaded in its flight by the whole of the weapons of the demons, lopped off successively the numerous arms of the Asura. Beholding Kṛṣṇa with the discus again in his hand, and preparing to launch it once more, for the total demolition of Bāṇa, the foe of Tripura (Śiva) respectfully addressed him. The husband of Umā, seeing the blood streaming from the dissevered arms of Bāṇa, approached Govinda, to solicit a suspension of hostilities, and said to him, “Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa, lord of the world, I know thee, first of spirits, the supreme lord, infinite felicity, without beginning or end, and beyond all things. This sport of universal being, in which thou takest the persons of god, animals, and men, is a subordinate attribute of thy energy. Be propitious therefore, O lord, unto me. I have given Bāṇa assurance of safety; do not thou falsify that which I have spoken. He has grown old in devotion to me; let him not iñcur thy displeasure. The Daitya has received a boon from me, and therefore I deprecate thy wrath.” When he had concluded, Govinda, dismissing his resentment against the Asura, looked graciously on the lord of Umā, the wielder of the trident, and said to him, “Since you, Śaṅkara, have given a boon unto Bāṇa, let him live: from respect to your promises, my discus is arrested: the assurance of safety granted by you is granted also by me. You are fit to apprehend that you are not distinct from me. That which I am, thou art; and that also is this world, with its gods, demons, and mankind. Men contemplate distinctions, because they are stupified by ignorance.” So saying, Kṛṣṇa went to the place where the son of Pradyumna was confined. The snakes that bound him were destroyed, being blasted by the breath of Garuḍa: and Kṛṣṇa, placing him, along with his wife, upon the celestial bird, returned with Pradyumna and Rāma to Dvārakā[5].

Footnotes and references:


The synonymes of Śoṇitapura in the Trikāṇḍa Śeṣa are Devikoṭa, Bāṇapur, Koṭīvarṣam, and Uṣāvana. The first is usually considered to be the modern Devicotta in the Carnatic, which is commonly believed to be the scene of Bāṇa's defeat. The name, however, occurs in other parts of India; in the Dekhin, on p. 594 the banks of the Godāvarī, according to Wilford the capital of Muñja (As. Res. IX. 199); and in Asam, near Gwalpāra, as the city of the Daityas. As. Res. XIV. 443 Hamilton notices the remains of a city so called in Dinajpur. In the Kālikā P., Bāṇa is described as the friend, and apparently neighbour, of Naraka, king of Pragjyotish or Asam.


Alluding to the three stages of febrile paroxysms, or to the recurrence of tertian ague. A contest with this enemy, in the course of military operations, is an allegory which the British armies in India too often illustrate.


The Āhavaniya, Gārhapatya, Dakṣiṇa, Sabhya, and Āvasathya, are the five fires; of which the three first have a religious, and the other two a secular character. The first is a fire prepared for oblations at an occasional sacrifice: the second is the household fire, to be perpetually maintained: the third is a sacrificial fire, in the centre of the other two, and placed to the south: the Sabhya is a fire lighted to warm a party: and the Āvasatthya the common domestic or culinary fire. Manu, III. too, 185, and Kullūka Bhaṭṭa's explanation.


Koṭavī is said to be an eighth portion of Rudrāṇī, and the tutelary goddess of the Daityas, composed of incantations. The Hari V. calls her also Lambā, and intimates her being the mother of Bāṇa, and as identical with Durgā. The word in the lexicons designates a naked woman, and is thence applicable to Durgā, in some of her forms.


There can be little doubt that this legend describes a serious struggle between the Śaivas and Vaiṣṇavas, in which the latter, according to their own report, were victorious; and the Śaivas, although they attempt to make out a sort of compromise between Rudra and Kṛṣṇa, are obliged to admit his having the worst of the conflict, and his inability to protect his votary. The Bhāgavata tells the story much as the text. The Hari V. amplifies even more than usual, the narrative occupying nearly seventy pages of the French translation. The legend is to be found to the same purport, but in various degrees of detail, in the Agni P., Kūrma P., Padma P. (Uttara Khaṇḍa), Vāmana P., and Brahma Vaivartta P. (Kṛṣṇa Janma Khaṇḍa).

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