Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Srishti 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 Sṛṣṭi

(creation) The Indian theory of creation is given below:


(The three attributes). The base of the universe is the set of the three attributes. They are Sattva (purity), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (inertia). Only things which could be seen, possess these three attributes. Things which could be seen are perishable. The indestructible could not be seen. Shape or form is an attribute. God has no form. So god is without attributes. The God devoid of attributes can be realised by knowledge, but cannot be seen with the ordinary eyes. The three attributes have a power each. Knowledge is the power of Sattva, activity, the power of Rajas and reason the power of Tamas.

The five elements.

From the divine power of Tamas, five senses came into being, such as sound, touch, form, taste and smell. Sound is the attribute of ether; touch, the attribute of air; form, the attribute of fire; taste, the attribute of water; and smell, the attribute of earth. These are the minute senses or essentials. These five senses having the divine powers, joined together with the five minute essentials, make up the attribute of Tamas.

From the attribute of Sattva having the power of knowledge, the ten essentials, such as air, the Sun, Pāśī (Varuṇa) two Aśvinī-gods, Candra (Moon), Brahmā, Rudra, Kṣetrajña and mind, came into being. From these essentials the formation of five matters took place. They are the five elements. When vigour enters the quintupled elements, egoism is given a form. This vigour with perceptible body is called Ādi Nārāyaṇa (Primordial Nārāyaṇa). Anyhow, quintupled elements will be bright with firm attributes. Ether has the attribute of sound only. Air has the attributes of sound and touch. Fire has the three attributes of sound, touch and form. Water has the four attributes of sound, touch, form and taste, and earth has the five attributes of sound, touch, form, taste and smell. The variegated expression of these five elements is called the universe. It is stated in Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 3, that the number of species of living beings found in the universe is eightyfour lakhs.

The embodied three (Trinity).

It has been mentioned in the last section how the three attributes came into existence and how the five elements originated from the three attributes and how vigour or energy acted upon the five elements and Ādi Nārāyaṇa or Viṣṇu came into being. In this section the birth of the three divine figures is being dealt with.

In the known beginning, on the surface of the wide waters, covering the universe made of the five elements, Mahāviṣṇu lay on a banyan tree, as a child. "Who am I? How was I made, and what for? What have I to do?", and so on were the thoughts of the child. Instantly a voice from the ether fell into his ears saying, "I am everything. There is nothing eternal except me." Mahāviṣṇu lay contemplating on the voice he heard, when Mahādevī appeared before Mahāviṣṇu and said thus:—"Lo! Mahāviṣṇu! Whenever the universe required creation, preservation and destruction, by the potentiality of the Omnipotence or the Brahman with no attributes, you too had taken origin. Understand that the Omnipotence is beyond attributes. We all are within the purview of attributes. Your attribute mainly is Sattva. From your navel, will be born Brahmā with Rajas as his main attribute and from the forehead of that Brahmā, Śiva with Tamas as his main attribute will be born. By the power of penance, Brahmā will acquire the power of creation and with the help of the attribute of rajas, he will create a world of the colour of blood. You will be the protector and preserver of that world, and at the end of the Kalpa (world-age) Śiva will destroy that world. I am that power of purity, which stands as help and assistance to you in creation." Accordingly, Brahmā was born from the navel of Viṣṇu and Śiva was born from the forehead of Brahmā. (Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 1).

Creation. Sprouts, Animals and Humanity.

After the birth of the Trinity, while Brahmā was contemplating on creation, some creations of the attribute of Tamas originated from him unknowingly. It was Avidyā (Ignorance), having mertia, desire, great desire, darkness and great darkness as its five branches. That god continued his contemplation. Then five kinds of immovables without the power of knowledge or brightness in and out alike, and with souls covered with darkness, originated. As these immovables are said to be prominent, the creation of them is called prominent creation. These are called Sprouts (Udbhids). Seeing that this creation was not sufficient, the god again sat in contemplation. This time animals having horizontal back bones and organs of sense were created. They were called tiryaksrotas, as they walked horizontally. They, such as cow etc. are having more of the attributes of darkness and less of knowledge. They traverse wrong paths due to lack of knowledge though they think otherwise. Egoism, pride and twentyeight kinds of incapacities are their qualities. Though they possess knowledge inwardly they do not know each other. Thinking that this creation also was not sufficient, Brahmā again engaged himself in contemplation, and there came out another creation. It was called 'Ūrddhvasrotas' (flowing upwards). This third creation having the attribute mainly of Sattva moved in a lofty level. Those who were born in this creation, desired for comfort and pleasure and were with the light of knowledge inwardly and outwardly. When the third creation called Devasṛṣṭi (creation of gods) originated from Brahmā he grew happy and contented.

Even after creating thus much, Brahmā did not feel satisfaction. So he made the creation of 'Arvāksrotas' (moving downwards). The creatures of this group were having the attributes of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in an advanced degree. So they are miserable and full of activity. They are human beings.

Thus having completed the creation of Udbhids (Sprouts), Tiryaks (animals) and Arvāks (human beings) Brahmā passed on to the creation of heavenly beings. (Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Aṃśa 1; Chapter 5).

Creation. Night, Day, Evening, Morning.

After this Brahmā again sat in contemplation for water-creation which is the creation of Devas, Asuras, Pitṛs and Manuṣyas (Gods, Demons, the Manes and Man). As he was sitting in contemplation, the attribute of Tamas (inertia) advanced in him and the asuras (demons) were born from his loins. Then Brahmā discarded the figure of Tamas in him. That discarded figure of darkness became the night. Next, from the face of Brahmā, the Devas (gods) were born. They were having the attribute of Sattva (purity). Brahmā discarded that figure of purity also. That figure became the bright day. So the asuras are powerful in the night and the Devas are powerful in the day. After this, the manes were born from Brahmā. They were also discarded. They became the evening between the day and night. Then Brahmā assumed the figure having the attribute of Rajas. From this, man, who was having more of the attribute of rajas was born. Brahmā discarded that figure also. It became a very shining thing which is called the Dawn. So men are powerful in the dawn and the manes are powerful in the evening. The four creations of Day, Night, Evening and the Dawn are considered to be the bodies of Brahmā. (Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Aṃśa 1, Chapter 5).

Creation. Rākṣasas (Giants), Yakṣas (Demi-gods), Serpents, Devils, Gandharvas

Brahmā again assumed another figure having the attribute of Rajas. Due to this Brahmā felt hungry. Along with hunger desire also grew in him. Then the Prajāpati (Lord of Emanation) sat in the darkness and created some creatures which were very hungry. Uncouth with plenty of hair on the face, they ran towards Brahmā. Of them those who said, 'don't do so, save him' became Rākṣasas (giants). Those who said "We will eat him", became Yakṣas, (demi-gods). Because of Yakṣaṇa (Bhakṣaṇa-Food), they got the name Yakṣa. Because of the dislike at seeing these creatures the hair had fallen from the head of Brahmā. They crept back again into his head. Because they did 'sarpaṇa' (creeping up) they were called sarpas (serpents) and as they were 'Hīna' (fallen) they were called Ahis (serpents). After this the Lord of creation became very angry and created some creatures. Because of their colour which was a mingling of red and black, they were horrible and they became piśitāśanas (those who eat flesh). Then Brahmā began to sing and from his body the Gandharvas were born. Because they did 'dhayana' (Appreciate) of 'go' (word) when they were born, they were called Gandharvas.

Creation. Birds, animals.

After creating all these creatures, Brahmā created birds, from his 'vayas' (strength), as free agents, according to their actions in the previous lives. Then Brahmā created sheep from his breast and goats from his face. From his stomach and flanks he created cows, and from his legs he created other creatures such as the horse, elephant, donkey, wild bull, deer, camel, mule, antelope etc. He created plants bearing fruits and bulbs from his hairs. Though Brahmā had created vegetables and animals at the beginning of the Kalpa (world-age), they came to be properly used in sacrifices only from Tretāyuga (one of the four ages) The animals such as the cow, sheep, goat, horse, mule and donkey are called domestic animals and flesh-eaters such as the leopard, animals with forked hoof such as the wild bull, elephant, monkey, birds, and other animals and reptiles, are included in the word 'wild animals'.

Creation-The Vedas etc.

After having completed creation of the things mentioned above, the Prajāpati created from his face looking to the east, the Vedic metre Gāyatrī, Ṛgveda, Trivṛtstoma, the sāma song called Rathantara and the sacrifice called Agniṣṭoma; from his face looking to the south, Yajurveda, the Vedic metre Traiṣṭubha, Pañcadaśa stoma. Bṛhatsāma and the sacrifice Uktha; from his face looking to the west, Sāmaveda, the Vedic metre Jagatī, Saptadaśastoma, Vairūpasāma and the sacrifice Atirātra. Thus all the creatures lofty and lower originated from the body of Brahmā. After having created Devas, Asuras, the manes and men, Brahmā again at the beginning of the world age, created Yakṣas, Devils, Gandharvas, celestial maids, Naras, Kinnaras, Rakṣas, cows, birds, animals, serpents etc. such as have long life and short life, movable and immovable, that we see in the world. Creatures which are created again and again do perform functions which creatures of their kind had been doing previously. Habits of killing or not killing, kindness or cruelty, righteousness or evil, truth or falsehood are adopted by them as becoming to their kind in previous lives. It was Brahmā who had created the uses and differences seen in the sense organs, elements and bodies. Brahmā took from the Vedic voice the shape, form, name, activities etc. of various creatures such as the Devas etc. and allotted them to each particular kind. So also he allotted names, work etc. to hermits as seen in the Vedas.

Creation of the four castes.

See under Cāturvarṇya.

Creation of Prajāpatis.

When Brahmā saw that the subjects he had created, did not flourish, he created first the Sanaka brothers and the mental sons of Bhṛgu, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Aṅgiras, Marīci, Dakṣa, Atri and Vasiṣṭha, and gave these nine the name Prajāpatis (Lords of Emanation). Then he created nine women named Khyāti, Bhūti, Sambhūti, Kṣamā, Prīti, Sannati, Ūrjā, Anasūyā. and Prasūti and gave in marriage Khyāti to Bhṛgu, Bhūti to Pulastya, Sambhūti to Pulaha, Kṣamā to Kratu, Prīti to Aṅgiras, Sannati to Marīci, Ūrjā to Dakṣa, Anasūyā to Atri and Prasūti to Vasiṣṭha. The great hermits such as Sanandana and the others created before the Prajāpatis, were not desirous of propagation as they were wise sages who had renounced all attachments and who had been indifferent. When Brahmā saw that they were not mindful about producing subjects he grew angry. (It was from the middle of the eye brows which were curved by his fury, that Śiva, one of the three divine figures was born). After this, Brahmā appointed Svāyambhuva, who originated from himself, and was of the same shape, as the first Manu for the protection of the subjects. This divine Manu Svāyambhuva took his sister Śatarūpā as wife. Two sons named Priyavrata and Uttānapāda and two daughters named Prasūti and Ākūti were born to them. Of the two daughters Prasūti was given to Prajāpati Dakṣa and Ākūti to Prajāpati Ruci. A son named Yajña and a daughter named Dakṣiṇā were born as twins to Prajāpati Ruci. Twelve sons were born to Yajña by Dakṣiṇā. They were devas named the Yamas of the Manvantara of Svāyambhuva. Dakṣa begot twentyfour daughters of Prasūti. They were Śraddhā, Lakṣmī, Dhṛti, Tuṣṭi, Medhā, Puṣṭi, Kriyā, Buddhi, Lajjā, Vapus, Śānti, Siddhi, Kīrti, Khyāti, Satī, Sambhūti, Smṛti, Prīti, Kṣamā, Santati, Anasūyā, Ūrjā, Svāhā and Svadhā. Of these the first thirteen were given to Dharmadeva as wives. Of the remaining daughters, Khyāti became the wife of Bhṛgu, Satī, the wife of Śiva, Sambhūti of Marīci, Smṛti, of Aṅgiras, Prīti of Pulastya, Kṣamā of Pulaha, Santati of Kratu, Anasūyā of Atri, Ūrjā of Vasiṣṭha, Svāhā of Agni, and Svadhā of the manes. (Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Aṃśa 1; Chapter 7).

The children of the Prajāpatis.

To Prajāpati Bhṛgu, Lakṣmī who became the wife of Viṣṇu and two sons named Dhātā and Vidhātā were born by Khyāti. These two married Āyati and Niyati the two daughters of Meru. To the two couples two sons named Prāṇa and Mṛkaṇḍu were born. From Mṛkaṇḍu, Mārkaṇḍeya was born, and from Mārkaṇḍeya, Vedaśiras was born. To Prāṇa a son named Dyutimān and to him a son named Rājavān was born. From this Rājavān the Bhṛgu dynasty grew up.

Sambhūti the wife of Marīci gave birth to a son named Paurṇamāsa. To Aṅgiras four daughters named Sinīvālī, Kuhū, Rākā and Anumati were born by Smṛti. Three sinless sons named Candra, Durvāsas and Dattātreya were born to Atri by Anasūyā. Of them Dattātreya was a hermit. A son named Dattoli was born to Pulastya by Pratīti (Prīti). That Dattoli was the Agastya of Svāyambhuva Manvantara. Kṣamā the wife of Pulaha gave birth to three sons named Kardama, Urvarīyān and Sahiṣṇu. Santati the wife of Kratu, gave birth to sixty thousand hermits called Bālakhilyas. Seven sons named Rajas, Gotra, Ūrdhvabāhu, Savana, Anagha, Sutapas and Śukra were born to Vasiṣṭha by his wife Ūrjā. These sons were the seven hermits of the third Manvantara. Three bright sons Pāvaka Pavamāna and Śuci were born to god Agni (fire) by his wife Svāhā. Fortyfive sons were born to them. (Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Aṃśa 1, Chapter 10).

Creation—Living things.

Creations of Sprouts, animals, Men, Devas, Dānavas and so on have been dealt with. But all these creations were pertaining to the world of gods only. Sprouts and animals were born in the earth only from Prajāpati Kaśyapa, the son of Marīci.

Prajāpati Kaśyapa married Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kālikā, Tāmrā, Krodhavaśā, Manu and Analā, the eight daughters of Dakṣa. From Aditi, the Devas, Ādityas, Vasus and the Rudras were born. Daityas were born from Diti and Dānavas from Danu. The asuras Naraka and Kāla were born to Kālikā. Five daughters named Krauñcī, Bhāsī, Śyenī, Dhṛtarāṣṭrī and Śukī were born to Tāmrā. Owls were born from Krauñcī. Bhāsī gave birth to the Bhāsas. Hawks and Vultures were born from Śyenī; Swans, geese and ruddy geese were born from Dhṛtarāṣṭrī. Natā was born from Śukī and Vinatā was born from Natā. Ten daughters named Mṛgī, Mṛgamandā, Harī, Bhadramatā, Mātaṅgī, Śārdūlī Śvetā, Surabhi, Surasā and Kadrū, were born to Krodhavaśā. Mṛgī gave birth to animals. From Mṛgamandā, bears, young deer and Bos grunniens were born. Lions and monkeys were the sons of Harī. A daughter named Irāvatī was born to Bhadramatā. Airāvata was the son of Irāvatī. Elephants were born from Mātaṅgī. Tigers were born from Śārdūlī. The eight elephants supporting the globe were born from Śvetā. Two daughters named Rohiṇī and Gandharvī were born to Surabhi. Cattle were born from Rohiṇī, and horses were born from Gandharvī. Surasā gave birth to Nāgas (serpents) and Kadrū gave birth to Uragas (reptiles). Men were born from Manu. The trees were born from Analā. Garuḍa and Aruṇa were born from Vinatā. Sampāti and Jaṭāyu were the sons of Aruṇa. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Araṇya Kāṇḍa, Sarga 14).

(Facts about creation seen in various Purāṇas do not agree with each other. This essay is based on facts gathered from various Purāṇas. So disagreements may occur in it.)

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