Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Prithu 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 Pṛthu

(vainya) A King of great virtue born in the line of Dhruva.


Descending in order from ViṣṇuBrahmāSvāyambhuva ManuUttānapāda—Dhruva ŚiṣṭiRipuCākṣuṣa ManuKuruAṅgaVenaPṛthu.

Manu, son of Cākṣuṣa, got of his wife Naḍvalā eleven sons Puru, Kuru, Pūru, Śatadyumna, Tapasvī, Satyavāk, Śuci, Agniṣṭu, Atiratha, Sudyumna and Abhimanyu. Of these the second son Kuru got of his wife Ātreyī seven sons named Aṅga, Sumanas, Svāti Kratu, Aṅgiras, Gaya and Śibi. Aṅga married Sunīthā. She delivered a very wicked son named Vena. Pṛthu was born to Vena. Pṛthu got six sons named Antardhāna, Vādī, Sūta, Māgadha, Pālita and Vijitāśva.

Birth and Coronation.

Sunīthā, wife of Aṅga, was the eldest daughter of Yama. Vena was born of her. Vena, the grandson of Yama, because of hereditary traits from his grandfather, was very wicked even from birth. When Vena was crowned king by the maharṣis and he became the supreme lord of the world he announced to the world thus: "Yāgas should not be performed; gifts should not be given; no kind of homa should be done. There is nobody but me to accept as Yajñapuruṣa the share of yajñas. I am the sole lord and consumer of yajñas."

The sages were dumbfounded. They all approached Vena and impressed upon him the necessity of performing a Yāga to propitiate Mahāviṣṇu. Vena who got angry at this request of the sages told them thus: "There is nobody greater than I and I have none to be worshipped. Who is Hari, your Yajñeśvara? (lord of the yāga). All such great powers who can bless and curse alike and such eminent deities and entities like Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva, Indra, Vāyu, Yama, Varuṇa, Sūrya, Agni, Dhātā, Pūṣā, Bhūmi and Candra are merged in me, the king. Do understand this fact and obey my orders."

Despite repeated requests Vena did not give permission to conduct a Vaiṣṇava yajña. The sages got angry and cried aloud "Kill this wicked man", "Kill this wicked man". Saying thus the sages killed Vena by Kuśa grass made sacred and powerful by mantras—Vena, who was spiritually dead because of his contempt of the gods even before. Then the sages saw dust rising in columns from all sides and asked the people the cause of the same. The people said "When they knew that there was no king poor people have turned themselves into rogues and are plundering the wealth of the rich. The swift movements of these running in haste are raising dust from the ground below."

The ṛṣis conferred together and to get a son from the dead Vena they churned the thigh of the wicked king. Then from the thigh came out a short and black (as black as a burnt pillar) man with a compressed face who stood before the sages in distress and asked "What am I to do?" The sages said 'Niṣīda' meaning 'sit down'. He thus became Niṣāda (an illiterate forestdweller). He went to the mountain of Vindhya and along with him went all the sins of Vena. Niṣādas thereafter are said to be those who have destroyed the sins of Vena.

Then the sages churned the right hand of Vena and from it came out a brilliant boy of great strength and power and he was named Pṛthu. At the time of his birth there dropped from heaven the divine bow Ajagava and many powerful arrows and a divine armour. All animate objects of the world were happy at his birth. Vena attained svarga for having delivered such a brilliant son. For the coronation of Pṛthu the oceans brought very many precious diamonds and the rivers holy water. Brahmā along with Āṅgirases came and crowned Pṛthu as the emperor. Brahmā saw the line of Candra in his right hand and was, therefore, pleased to know that he was part of Mahāviṣṇu. Thus Pṛthu, valiant and brilliant, was crowned their emperor by the virtuous people of Bhārata.

He united his people by his love for them. When he travelled through the ocean the water stood still and when he travelled on land the mountains gave way and his flag-pole was never obstructed anywhere.


Brahmā performed a yāga as soon as Pṛthu was born. From that yāga was born a very wise and intelligent demon named Sūta. A scholarly Māgadha also was born from the yāga. The maharṣis commanded the Sūta-Māgadhas to praise Pṛthu and they then said "Oh revered sages, we do not know anything good or bad about this king just born. He has not earned a name or fame. Then on what basis are we to sing praises about him?" The maharṣis said that they should praise him for the qualities he should have in future. Pṛthu heard that and feeling elated decided to become a very virtuous emperor. When Pṛthu was thinking like that the Sūta-Māgadhas sang in melodious tones thus: "This king speaks the truth always, is charitable, is one who keeps his promises, is valiant and full of all good qualities." Thus with the blessings and good wishes of all, Pṛthu started his reign.

Pṛthu attacks the Earth.

The people were hungry for want of proper food crops. They approached Pṛthu and told him that during the short interval between Vena’s death and Pṛthu’s assuming charge the goddess of earth drew inside all her vegetations and so the people were put to great difficulties. They requested him to generate vegetations again.

Pṛthu got angry on hearing this and taking his bow Ajagava and several arrows went in search of the goddess of earth. The goddess got frightened and fled taking the form of a cow. She went to all lokas but Pṛthu followed her with his bow and arrows everywhere. At last desiring to escape from the arrows of such a valiant king Bhūmidevī went to him and trembling with fear said "Oh king, why do you make such a persistent attempt, to kill me which would be the great sin of Strīvadha? (killing a woman)." The Rājā replied that there was no sin in killing wicked persons. The goddess asked what refuge was there for the people if the earth was destroyed. The king said that he would protect his people by the power of his yoga. Bhūmidevī was frightened and she said "Oh king, I shall give you back all I have destroyed in the form of milk. Therefore, virtuous as you are, if you are really interested in the welfare of the people I shall allow you to milk me and take back everything you want. Do bring a calf."

Pṛthu milks the Earth.

Pṛthu by the end of his bow put in arrangement at one place the thousands of mountains which were lying scattered over the country. The grounds were not even and so there were formerly no divisions into villages and towns. There were no grain-plants like paddy or wheat, no agriculture, no cow-protection and no trade. It was since the time of Pṛthu that all these came into being. People desired to live in places where the grounds were even. Then the people lived on fruits, leaves and roots. When they were all destroyed people found it difficult to live.

Therefore Pṛthu making Svāyambhuva Manu as calf milked for the welfare of his people all plants from the earth. People do live even today by what was milked then. Pṛthu, because he gave life to Bhūmidevī, became her father and she got the name Pṛthvī.

The brahmin sages milked the cow of earth again. Then Agastya became the calf and Bṛhaspati milked. When the planets milked, Candra became the calf and again Bṛhaspati milked. The devas even now feed on the Ūrjjakṣīra (milk rich in food value) they got then. All the animals live because of their virtue and truth. The ṛṣis milked truth and virtue. The manes made Yama the calf and Antaka the milker. They milked Svadhā in a silver pot. The cobras and serpents making Takṣaka the calf milked poison making Dhṛtarāṣṭra the milker. They live by their poison which is their great defence also. The daityas and dānavas using Virocana as calf and making the twoheaded Ṛtvik Madhu as the milker milked jointly courage, valour and the sarvaśatruvināśinī māyā (māyā, the destroyer of all enemies). They milked in an iron pot. All their knowledge, bodily health, strength, vigour, brilliance and valour are made from this and that is why they are adepts in the art of māyā even now.

Yakṣas milked in an iron pot milk that disappeared from the earth. Rajatanābha milked using Vaiśravaṇa as calf. That Yakṣarājaputra was sarvajña (knowing all) and Sarvadharmajña (conversant with all charitable things) with two heads and eight hands. The rākṣasas, piśācas and wicked maruts using Rajatanābha as milker and Sumālī as the calf milked blood in a pot made of a skull. They live on this.

The Gandharvas and nymphs using lotus as their pot, Suruci as milker and Citraratha as calf milked music from her. The mountains making Mahāmeru as milker and Himālayas as the calf milked diamonds and medicines. The sacred trees made Sāla the milker and plakṣa the calf and milked in a pot of palāśa Chinnadagdhaprarohaṇa (the power of growing again even if cut or burnt). The siddhaguhyakacāraṇavidyādharas also milked her each using different pots, calves and milkers and they all got what they wanted.


Pṛthu’s land became rich and prosperous. Then he performed an Aśvamedha. The Yāga horse was led by Vijitāśva, son of Pṛthu. Indra did not like Pṛthu conducting the yāga. Indra hid at a place on the path of the yāga horse. The sage Atri helped Indra. Indra bound the horse and a fight ensued between Indra and Vijitāśva in which Indra was deplorably defeated and confessing his guilt he craved for pardon and Pṛthu granting him pardon became his great friend. (4th Skandha, Bhāgavata).

Pṛthu’s rule.

In the history of Bhārata the period of Pṛthu’s rule is considered a golden period. When Pṛthu became the emperor, Brahmā divided the universe into several kingdoms and made a separate ruler for each of them. Soma was appointed King of the stars, planets, brahmins, plants, yāgas and austerities. He appointed Kubera as the lord of Kings, Varuṇa as the lord of all waters, Viṣṇu, as the lord of all ādityas and Pāvaka as the lord of all Vasus. Dakṣa was given lordship over prajāpatis, Indra over maruts, and Prahlāda over all daityas and dānavas. Yama, the Dharmarāja was made lord of the manes. Airāvata was made King of all elephants and Garuḍa King of all birds. Uccaiśśravas was made King of all horses and Vṛṣabha of all cattle. The lion was made King of all beasts and Himavān the lord of all immovable things. Kapila became chief of all sages and the tiger the leader of all beasts with nails and snouts. Plakṣa was made the King of all trees.

After distributing kingdoms thus, Brahmā appointed Dikpālakas (guardians of the zones). In the east he posted Sudhanvā, son of Vairājaprajāpati, in the south he posted Śaṅkhapāda son of Kardamaprajāpati, in the west he put Ketumān, son of Rajas and in the north Hiraṇyaromā. Thus Brahmā organised a universe with suitable emperors to control and supervise. (Chapter 22, Aṃśa 1, Viṣṇu Purāṇa).

The end of Pṛthu.

After several years of benign rule Pṛthu became old. He then entrusted the affairs of the state to his son Vijitāśva and left for penance with his wife Arccis. After doing severe penance for a long time he merged with Parabrahman. Arccis who was all along serving her husband with devotion ended her life by jumping into the funeral pyre of her husband following her husband like Lakṣmī following Viṣṇu.

Pṛthu’s sons.

Pṛthu had five sons named Vijitāśva, Haryakṣa, Dhūmrakeśa, Vṛka and Draviṇa. The eldest of these Vijitāśva, with the help of his brothers ruled the country. Haryakṣa ruled over the east, Dhūmrakeśa over the south, Vṛka, west and Draviṇa, north. (Padma Purāṇa).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: