Yoga Vasistha [English], Volume 1-4

by Vihari-Lala Mitra | 1891 | 1,121,132 words | ISBN-10: 8171101519

The English translation of the Yoga-vasistha: a Hindu philosophical and spiritual text written by sage Valmiki from an Advaita-vedanta perspective. The book contains epic narratives similar to puranas and chronologically precedes the Ramayana. The Yoga-vasistha is believed by some Hindus to answer all the questions that arise in the human mind, an...

Chapter XXXII - The spiritual and formal worship of vishnu

Argument. Prahlada's Worship of Vishnu both in spirit and his Image. Witnessed by the gods, as the Beginning of Hero and Idol Worship.

Vasishtha continued:—

After Prahlada had meditated on Vishnu in the aforesaid manner, he made an image of him as Narayana himself, and thought upon worshipping that enemy of the Asura race. (Here Vishnu—the chief of Vishas and destroyer of Asuras, is represented as the spirit of Narayana, and worshipped in that form).

2. And that this figure might not be otherwise than the form of Vishnu himself, he invoked the Spirit of Vishnu to be settled in this his outward figure also. (This was done by incantation of Pranpratishtha, or the charm of enlivening an idol in thought).

3. It was seated on the back of the heavenly bird Garuda, arrayed with the quadruple attributes (of will, intelligence, action and mercy), and armed with the fourfold arms holding the conchshell, discus, club and a lotus. (This passage shows the fictitious representation of the person of Vishnu, with his fourfold arms of these, the two original arms with the cudgel and discus were in active use, while the two fictitious and immovable ones, with the conchshell and lotus, were clapped on for mere show).

4. His two eyeballs flashed, like the orbs of the sun and moon in their outstretched sockets; his palms were as red as lotuses, and his bow saranga and the sword nandaka hang on his two shoulders and sides.

5. I will worship this image, said he, with all my adherents and dependants, with an abundance of grateful offerings agreeable to my taste. Gloss. Things delectable to one's taste, are most acceptable to the gods.[1]

6. I will worship this great god always, with all kinds of offering of precious gems and jewels, and all sorts of articles for bodily use and enjoyment.

7. Having thus made up his mind, Prahlada collected an abundance of various things, and made offerings of them in his mind, in his worship of Madhava—the lord of Lakshmi. (Ma and Rama are titles of Lakshmi).

8. He offered rich gems and jewels in plates of many kinds, and presented sandal pastes in several pots; he burnt incense and lighted lamps in rows, and placed many valuables and ornaments in sacred vessels.

9. He presented wreaths of Mandara flowers, and chains of lotuses made of gold, together with garlands of leaves and flowers of kalpa plants, and bouquets and nosegays studded with gems and pearls.

10. He hung hangings of leaves and leaflets of heavenly arbors, and chaplets and trimmings of various kinds of flowers, as vakas and kundas, kinkiratas and white, blue and red lotuses.

11. There were wreaths of kahlara, Kunda, Kasa and Kinsuka flowers; and clusters of Asoka, Madana, Bela and kanikara blossoms likewise.

12. There were florets of the Kadamba, Vakala, nimba, Sindhuvara and Yuthikas also; and likewise heaps of paribhadra, gugguli and Venduka flowers.

13. There were strings of priyangu, patala, pata and patala flowers; and also the blossoms of amra, amrataka and gavyas; and the bulbs of haritaki and vibhitaki myrabolans.

14. The flowers of Sala and tamala trees, were strung together with their leaves; and the tender buds of Sahakaras, were fastened together with their farinaceous pistils.

15. There were the ketakas and centipetalous flowers, and the shoots of ela cardamums; together with everything beautiful to sight and the tender of one's soul likewise.

16. Thus did Prahlada worship his lord Hari in the inner apartment of his house, with offerings of all the richest things in the world, joined with true faith and earnestness of his mind and spirit.[2]

17. Thus did the monarch of Danavas, worship his lord Hari externally in his holy temple, furnished with all kind of valuable things on earth.

(The external worship followed that of his internal worship in faith and spirit. These two are distinctly called the manasa and bajhya pujas and observed one after the other by every orthodox Hindu, except the Brahmos and ascetics who reject the latter formality).

18. The Danava sovereign became the more and more gratified in his spirit, in proportion as he adored his god with more and more of his valuable outer offerings.

19. Henceforward did Prahlada continue, to worship his lord god day after day, with earnestness of his soul, and the same sort of rich offerings every day.

20. It came to pass that the Daityas one and all turned Vaishnavas;after the example of their king; and worshipped Hari in their city and temples without intermission.

21. This intelligence reached to heaven and to the abode of the gods, that the Daityas having renounced their enmity to Vishnu, have turned his faithful believers and worshippers in toto.[3]

22. The Devas were all astonished to learn, that the Daityas had accepted the Vaishnava faith; and even Indra marvelled with the body of Rudras about him, how the Daityas came to be so at once.

23. The astonished Devas then left their celestial abode, and repaired to the warlike Vishnu, reposing on his serpent couch in the milky ocean.

24. They related to him the whole account of the Daityas, and they asked him as he sat down, the cause of their conversion, wherewith they were so much astonished.

25. The gods said:—How is it Lord! that the demons who had always been averse to thee, have now come to embrace thy faith, which appears to us as an act of magic or their hypocrisy.

26. How different is their present transformation to the Vaishnava faith, which is acquired only after many transmigrations of the soul, from their former spirit of insurrection, in which they broke down the rocks and mountains.

27. The rumour that a clown has become a learned man, is as gladsome as it is doubtful also, as the news of the budding of blossoms out of season.

28. Nothing is graceful without its proper place, as a rich jewel loses its value, when it is set with worthless pebbles. (The show of goodness of the vile, is a matter of suspicion).

29. All animals have their dispositions conforming with their own natures; how then can the pure faith of Vishnu, agree with the doggish natures of the Daityas?

30. It does not grieve us so much to be pierced with thorns and needles in our bodies, as to see things of opposite natures, to be set in conjunction with one another.

31. Whatever is naturally adapted to its time and place, the same seems to suit it then and there; hence the lotus has its grace in water and not upon the land.

32. Where are the vile Daityas, prone to their misdeeds at all times; and how far is the Vaishnava faith from them that can never appreciate its merit?

33. O lord! as we are never glad to learn a lotus-bed to be left to parch in the desert soil; so we can never rejoice at the thought, that the race of demons will place their faith in Vishnu—the lord of gods.

Footnotes and references:


The former figure of meditation was that of Virāj, the god who with his thousand heads, hands and legs and feet "[Sanskrit: sahasrāsīrshah purāsam sahas bāhja sahas pād]," shows the Daitya Titan Briareus with his hundred heads and hands; but the figure of worship in this chapter is that of Vishnu, with his four arms, one head and two legs only, as a more compendious form for common and practical worship.


The flowers and offerings mentioned in this place, are all of a white hue, and specially sacred to Vishnu, as there are others peculiar to other deities, whose priests and votaries must carefully distinguish from one another. The adoration of Vishnu consists, in the offering of the following articles, and observance of the rites as mentioned below: viz. Fumigation of incense and lighting of lamps, presentation of offerings, of food, raiment, and jewels suited to the adorer's taste and best means, and presents of betel leaves, umbrellas, mirrors and chowry flappers. Lastly, scattering of handfuls of flowers, turning round the idol and making obeisance &c.


[Sanskrit: sarbbeghupadāma naivedyatamvu sardapanaccaprachāmara nīrājana pushyānjali pradātdana namaskārādih]

Brahmā was the god of Brāhmanas, and Vishnu was worshipped by the early Vaisya colonists of India; while Siva or Mahādeva was the deity of the aboriginal Daityas. These peoples after long contention came to be amalgamated into one great body of the Hindus, by their adoption of the mixed creed of the said triality or trinity, under the designation of the Triune duty. Still there are many people that have never been united under this triad, and maintain their several creeds with tenacity. See Wilson's Hindu Religion.