Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Kashyapa included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Kaśyapa

Chief among the Prajāpatis.

Kaśyapa—Son or Grandson of Brahmā?

It is impossible to give a definite answer to this question. In Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 65, we see that six spiritual sons—Marīci, Aṅgiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pul{??}aha and Kratu—were born to Brahmā. Kaśyapa was born as the son of Marīci and that all living beings in the world took their origin from Kaśyapa. According to this statement, Kaśyapa is the grandson of Brahmā. But in the 14th Sarga of Araṇyakāṇḍa in Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa there is an account of the creation of all animate and inanimate objects in this world. According to a statement in that passage, we find that Kaśyapa was the youngest brother of Marīci, Atri, Pulastya and others. This means that Kaśyapa was the son of Brahmā. Therefore there is nothing wrong in regarding him either as the son or as the grandson of Brahmā. In the Purāṇas we find references to him in both ways.

Original Gotra or Clan.

Mahābhārata, Śānti Parva, Chapter 297, verse 17 says that all living beings belong to the four original Gotras—the gotra of Aṅgiras, Kaśyapa gotra, Bhṛgu gotra and Vasiṣṭha gotra and that all the other gotras came into existence subsequently.

Kaśyapa’s wives.

Kaśyapa had 21 wives who were:—Aditi, Diti, Danu, Ariṣṭā, Surasā. Khaśā, Surabhi, Vinatā, Tāmrā, Krodhavaśā, Irā, Kadrū, Muni, Pulomā, Kālakā, Natā, Danāyus, Siṃhikā, Pradhā, Viśvā, and Kapilā. Of these, the 13 wives, Aditi, Diti, Kālakā, Danāyus, Danu, Siṃhikā, Krodhā, Pradhā, Viśvā, Vinatā, Kapilā, Muni and Kadrū, were the daughters of Dakṣa.

Of these the first wife Aditi had 12 sons. These 12 sons namely Viṣṇu, Śakra, Aryamā, Dhātā, Tvaṣṭā, Pūṣā, Vivasvān, Savitā, Mitra, Varuṇa, Aṃśa and Bhaga are called Ādityas (sons of Aditi). In the sixth Manvantara these 12 Ādityas belonged to the tribe known as Tuṣitas. (The present Manvantara is the seventh one). The 33 crores of Devas came into being from the twelve Ādityas.

The Daityas were born from Kaśyapa’s second wife Diti. The chief Daityas are Hiraṇyakaśipu, Hiraṇyākṣa and Siṃhikā. All the other Daityas were born from them.

The Dānavas were the children of Danu, another wife of Kaśyapa. Dvimūrdhā, Śambara, Ayomukha, Śaṅkuśiras, Kapila, Śaṅkara, Ekacakra, Mahābāhu, Tāraka, Mahābala, Svarbhānu, Vṛṣaparvā, Pulomā, and Vipracitti are the famous Dānavas. The other Dānavas were the children of the people mentioned above.

Another wife of Kaśyapa, Surabhi gave birth to Aja, Ekapād, Ahirbuddhnya, Tvaṣṭā and Rudra and also the Ekādaśa Rudras namely:—Hara, Bahurūpa, Tryambaka, Aparājita, Vṛṣākapi, Śambhu, Kapardī, Raivata, Mṛgavyādha, Sarpa, and Kapālī. Vinatā gave birth to Garuḍa and Kadrū was the mother of the nāgas. The Purāṇas proclaim that all living beings that we see in the world today, sprang from Kaśyapa’s offsprings by his different wives. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bāla Kāṇḍa, Chapter 29; Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Part I, Chapters 15-21; Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapters 16 and 65 and Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 18).

Brahmā taught Kaśyapa cure for snake poison.

The serpents (Nāgas) were born to Kadrū, one of the wives of Kaśyapa. Once Kadrū asked her children to hang down like hair from the tail of Uccaiśśravas. They refused to do so. Kadrū became angry and cursed them that they would be burnt alive at Janamejaya’s Sarpa Sattra (snake-sacrifice). After the curse, the Nāgas became dangerously venomous. At this stage, Brahmā taught Kaśyapa the art of curing snake-poison to protect other creatures that might be bitten by the Nāgas. Cure of snake-bite in this world dates from that time. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva. Chapter 20).

Kaśy pa and Garuḍa.

Garuḍa is a mighty son of Kaśyapa by his wife Vinatā. Vinatā made a bet with her sister Kadrū. Kadrū won the bet. Vinatā became Kadrū’s maid-servant as a result of the bet. To be relieved of this bondage Vinatā’s son Garuḍa had to bring Amṛta from Devaloka and give it to Kadrū and her Nāga-sons. Garuḍa agreed and flew up to Heaven to fetch Amṛta.

On the way, he visited his father Kaśyapa who was performing penance on the Gandhamādana mountain. He asked his father to give him some food, as he was very hungry. Kaśyapa told him the following story:—"Long ago a sage named Vibhāvasu lived near this place. He and his younger brother named Supratīka began to quarrel over the sharing of their father’s wealth. The elder brother transformed the younger brother into an elephant by a curse and the younger brother turned the elder into a tortoise by his curse. They are still living in yonder lake as elephant and tortoise and continue like enemies. If you eat both of them, you will be strong enough to fight against the Devas and get possession of Amṛta for yourself."

On hearing this, Garuḍa went to the lake and caught the elephant and tortoise in his claws and flew up into the sky. The mountains began to tremble and a whirlwind swept the Heavens when Garuḍa beat with his wings. He flew about here and there unable to find a convenient place to sit and enjoy his meal. On the way, his eye caught sight of a huge banyan tree spreading its branches far and wide, to a distance of 100 yojanas around it. When he perched on one of its branches with the elephant and tortoise, the branch broke and fell down. From that branch certain sages known as Bālakhilyas were hanging with their heads downwards. So, to prevent them from falling to the ground, Garuḍa lifted it in his beak and began to fly up again. Unable to find a suitable spot where he could deposit the branch with the sages, Garuḍa returned to his father again. At the request of Kaśyapa, the Bālakhilyas went to the Himālayas. He showed Garuḍa a vast, snowclad mountain on which he could deposit the broken branch he was carrying. Garuḍa flew to that mountain and ate up the elephant and tortoise and thus gained strength to fight with the Devas for Amṛta. After that he proceeded to Heaven. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapters 29-31).

Other Birth of Kaśyapa.

In Cākṣuṣa Manvantara, the sage Sutapas performed a penance along with his wife Pṛśni for 12,000 years. Lord Viṣṇu appeared to them and asked what boon they wished to ask. They prayed that the Lord should take birth as their son. Viṣṇu granted their prayer and was born as their son.

In the next Manvantara (the period of Vaivasvata Manu) Sutapas and Pṛśni were re-born as Kaśyapa and Aditi respectively. At that time also Mahāviṣṇu was born to Aditi as Vāmana. (See under Vāmana). In this birth, Kaśyapa had many other wives besides Aditi. Surasā was one of those wives. (Bhāgavata, 10th Skandha).

It was this Kaśyapa himself who was reborn as Vasudeva and Aditi became Devakī. Surasā was born as Rohiṇī, another wife. There is another reason for Kaśyapa and Aditi to take birth for the third time. Once Kaśyapa had prepared to perform a Yāga. All arrangements were complete. But the sacrificial cow alone was not available. Kaśyapa solved the problem by stealing a cow from Varuṇa’s cattle-shed. Aditi and Surasā concealed it in the Āśrama. Enraged at the theft of his cow, Varuṇa complained to Brahmā. A curse was pronounced by Brahmā and Varuṇa that as a punishment for stealing and hiding the cow, Kaśyapa should be reborn as a cowherd and Aditi and Surasā should be reborn as the cowherd’s wives. It was by this curse that Kaśyapa, Aditi and Surasā were reborn as Vasudeva Devakī and Rohiṇī respectively. (Devī Bhāgavata, 4th Skandha).

Paraśurāma’s gift of land to Kaśyapa.

Paraśurāma performed a Yāga after exterminating all Kṣatriya Kings. At that Yāga he gifted all the lands he had conquered till then to Kaśyapa. In Mahābhārata, Araṇya Parva, Chapter 117, there is a reference to this gift.

Kaśyapa and Kerala.

After Paraśurāma went round the world eighteen times and exterminated the Kṣatriya Kings he performed a Yāga. At that Yāga he gave the whole earth as dakṣiṇā to Kaśyapa. After that, Kaśyapa drove away Paraśurāma from the earth to the south. Taking pity on Paraśurāma, the ocean gave him the region known as "Śūrpāraka". Kaśyapa seized Śūrpāraka also from Paraśurāma and gave it to Brāhmaṇas. Paraśurāma went to the forests after it. Later on, intermixture of castes took place in this region and anarchy prevailed there. At one time, Śūrpāraka sank down into Pātāla (lower world). Kaśyapa who saw this held the earth up, brought Kṣatriyas from the north and made them rulers of the country. (Mahābhārata Śānti Parva, Chapter 49). This "Śūrpāraka" is believed to be Kerala.

Other Details about Kaśyapa.

(i) Kaśyapa arrived at the place of Arjuna’s birth accompanied by other sages. (Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 122).

(ii) Kaśyapa flourished in Brahmā’s assembly. (Mahābhārata Sabhā Parva, Chapter 11).

(iii) Once there was a dispute between Virocana, the son of Prahlāda and Sudhanvā, the son of Aṅgiras. It was Kaśyapa who settled this dispute. (See the 5th Para under the word Aṅgiras).

(iv) Once Kaśyapa went on a pilgrimage in the company of Yudhiṣṭhira. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 85).

(v) Once Brahmā gifted the entire earth to Kaśyapa at a Yajña. Bhūmidevī (Goddess of the earth) who was distressed at it, went to Pātāla and began to lament. At that time Kaśyapa propitiated the goddess by his austere penance. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 114).

(vi) After Paraśurāma had given the entire earth to Kaśyapa, Kaśyapa drove away Paraśurāma from the earth. Paraśurāma then shot an arrow into the sea and converted that portion of the sea into land. (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva, Chapter 70, Verses 18 and 19).

(vii) When the war between Kauravas and Pāṇḍavas was in progress, Kaśyapa approached Droṇa and wanted him to bring the battle to a close. (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva, Chapter 190).

(viii) Kaśyapa was also present with other sages at the time of Skanda’s birth. (Mahābhārata Śalya Parva, Chapter 45).

(ix) Kaśyapa once gave some pieces of advice to Purūravas. (Mahābhārata Śānti Parva, Chapter 73).

(x) In the 8th verse of Chapter 208 of Śānti Parva, in Mahābhārata, we find that Kaśyapa had another name Ariṣṭanemi.

(xi) Kaśyapa once related to Bhīṣma, the story of Mahāviṣṇu’s Varāhāvatāra. (Incarnation as Boar). (Mahābhārata Śānti Parva, Chapter 209, Verse 6).

(xii) Bhāṣā Bhārata says that gingelly seeds were first introduced into this world from sage Kaśyapa’s body. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 66, Verse 10).

(xiii) Kaśyapa explained to Vṛṣādarbhi, the evil of receiving pratigraha (presents). (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 93).

(xiv) Kaśyapa once spoke to Arundhatī about the weakness of his body. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 93, Verse 65).

(xv) At another time, Agastya suspected that Kaśyapa had stolen his lotus. But Kaśyapa swore that he was innocent. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 94).

(xvi) In Bhāṣā Bhārata it is said that Kaśyapa was one of the Sapta Gurus (seven Preceptors) of Kubera. The other six Gurus were—Vasiṣṭha, Atri, Gautama, Bharadvāja, Viśvāmitra and Jamadagni. Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 150).

(xvii) In Bhāgavata we see that Kaśyapa and other sages were instrumental in bringing about the destruction of Yadu Vaṃśa. (For further details see under SĀMBA).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: