Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Varuna 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 Varuṇa

One of the eight guardians of the quarters.


Varuṇa was the son of Prajāpati, Kaśyapa born of Aditi. He was one of the twelve sons of Aditi. So he is considered to be one of the twelve Ādityas (Sons of Aditi). The twelve Ādityas are Dhātā, Aryaman, Mitra, Śakra, Varuṇa, Aṃśa, Bhaga, Vivaśvān, Pūṣā, Savitā, Tvaṣṭā and Viṣṇu. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 65, Stanza 15).

These twelve Ādityas were the twelve Devas (gods) known as Tuṣitas in the Manvantara of Manu Cākṣuṣa. A statement occurs in Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Aṃśa 1, Chapter 15, that when Vaivasvata Manvantara was about to begin after the end of Cākṣuṣa Manvantara, the famous Tuṣitas united together and took birth as the sons of Kaśyapa.

Kingship of the waters.

In Kṛtayuga the Devas approached Varuṇa and said to him. "You must be the lord of all the waters, as Indra is our protector. You can live in the heart of the ocean. All the rivers in the world, and the ocean which is their husband will obey you. You will wax and wane along with Candra (Moon)." Varuṇa agreed to comply with their request. All of them anointed Varuṇa as the King of the waters. (Mahābhārata Śalya Parva, Chapter 47).

The Guardian of the quarter west.

Brahmā appointed Varuṇa as the guardian of the western zone. Vaiśravaṇa once did penance before Brahmā, and when Brahmā appeared before him, he made a request that he should be appointed as one of the guardians of the quarters. Brahmā replied. "I have already selected Indra, Varuṇa and Yama as guardians of the points. I was thinking who, the fourth, should be, when you came. So from this day onwards, Indra shall be the guardian of the East, Yama that of the South, Varuṇa, that of the West and you Vaiśravaṇa shall be the guardian of the North." After saying this, Brahmā disappeared. Thus Varuṇa became the guardian of the West. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).


Varuṇa had several wives and children. Prominent among them were Gaurī and Varuṇānī. Mention is made about the sons Suṣeṇa, Vandī and Vasiṣṭha and daughter Vāruṇī. Cārṣaṇī was another wife of Varuṇa. Prajāpati Bhṛgu, who died in the sacrifice of Dakṣa took birth as the son of Varuṇa and Cārṣaṇī. Devī Jyeṣṭhā, the daughter of Priest Śukra was another wife of Varuṇa. The children of Jyeṣṭhā were Bala, Surā the Suranandinī and Adharmaka the destroyer of the elements. The semen of Varuṇa fell on Valmīka (White-ant-hill) from which the great hermit Vālmīki was born. Besides them, Dakṣasāvarṇi, the ninth Manu was the son of Varuṇa. Puṣkara was another son of Varuṇa. The handsome Puṣkara was received as husband by the daughter of Soma (Candra). Vandī, who was defeated by the hermit Aṣṭāvakra at the palace of Janaka was the son of Varuṇa. (Mahābhārata Udyoga Parva, Chapter 117, Stanza 9; Ādi Parva, Chapter 66, Stanza 52; Ādi Parva, Chapter 99, Stanza 5; Vana Parva, Chapter 134, Stanza 24; Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bālakāṇḍa Sarga 17, Stanza 13; Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bālakāṇḍa, Sarga 46, Stanza 36).

Carrying away Utathya’s wife.

Bhadrā, the daughter of Soma (Moon) was extremely beautiful. Some gave her in marriage to the hermit Utathya. Varuṇa carried her away. Utathya got angry and drank up the ocean dry. Varuṇa returned Bhadrā to Utathya. (For further details see under Utathya).

Theft of Varuṇa’s cow by Kaśyapa.

Kaśyapa once decided to perform a sacrifice. He made all preparations. But he did not get the required cow at the stipulated time. So he got the Homadhenu of Varuṇa by theft and began to perform the yāga (sacrifice). Varuṇa knew this. Instantly he went to Kaśyapa and demanded his cow. But Kaśyapa refused to return the cow. Varuṇa complained to Brahmā, who sent for Kaśyapa and asked him about the cow and both Brahmā and Varuṇa cursed Kaśyapa that he who had taken the cow by stealth would take birth as a cowherd in Ambāḍi. (For further details see under Kaśyapa and Nandagopa).

Cursing Hariścandra.

For detailed story see under Hariścandra.

Other information.

(i) The Vaiṣṇava bow received by Śrī Rāma from Bhārgava Rāma, was given to Varuṇa. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bāla Kāṇḍa, Sarga 77, Stanza 1).

(ii) The capital city of Varuṇa one of the eight guardians of the universe was called Śraddhāvatī. (Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 8).

(iii) At the time of the burning of Khāṇḍava forest Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna helped Agni (Fire). Agni prayed to Varuṇa to supply Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna with weapons so that they might fight with Indra. Varuṇa appeared and gave Arjuna the bow 'Gāṇḍīva', a quiver which would never become empty of arrows and a banner with the emblem of a monkey depicted on it. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapters 234 and 237).

(iv) The image of Varuṇa should be dedicated in temples as sitting on a horned shark with a rope in hand. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 51).

(v) Once Varuṇa gave exhortations to Puṣkara, which he in his turn gave to Paraśurāma. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 151).

(vi) It is stated in Ṛgveda, Maṇḍala 1, Anuvāka 2, Sūkta 2, that Varuṇa and Mitra are the Deities of rain.

(vii) Once the King Marutta performed a sacrifice at which the guardians of the eight points were present. Rāvaṇa came to the sacrifice and tried to do harm to the hermits. At the beginning of the attack, the guardians of the points assumed forms of various creatures and escaped from the place. Varuṇa escaped in the form of a swan. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

(viii) Rāvaṇa defeated Yama. On his return he defeated the Uragas (serpents) of Pātāla (Nether world). After this, he challenged Varuṇa, who came out with his sons and army and fought with Rāvaṇa, who won the battle. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

(ix) Varuṇa is a member of the assembly of Brahmā. (Mahābhārata Sabhā Parva, Chapter 117, Stanza 51).

(x) When Arjuna went to the world of Devas, Varuṇa gave him the weapon Pāśa (rope). (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 41, Stanza 27).

(xi) Indra, Agni, Yama and Varuṇa tested Nala and finally gave him blessings. (For details see under Damayantī).

(xii) Once Varuṇa performed penance along with other gods in Viśākhayūpa. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 90, Stanza 16).

(xiii) Varuṇa once gave Ṛcīka thousand black-eared horses. (For further details see under Ṛcīka).

(xiv) At the coronation of Śrī Rāma, Varuṇa made his appearance and proclaimed that Sītā was chaste and pure. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 291, Stanza 29).

(xv) Varuṇa had the bow Gāṇḍīva in his possession for hundred years. (Mahābhārata Virāṭa Parva, Chapter 43, Stanza 6).

(xvi) Once Śrī Kṛṣṇa defeated Varuṇa. (Mahābhārata Udyoga Parva, Chapter 130, Stanza 49).

(xvii) Parṇāśā, the mother of the King Śrutāyudha once worshipped Varuṇa with vow and fast and Varuṇa gave her boons and a club to Śrutāyudha. (Mahābhārata Droṇa Parva, Chapter 92).

(xviii) Varuṇa gave Subrahmaṇya two followers named Yama and Atiyama. (Mahābhārata Śalya Parva, Chapter 45, Stanza 45).

(xix) Besides Varuṇa gave Subrahmaṇya an elephant. (Mahābhārata Śalya Parva, Chapter 46, Stanza 52).

(xx) Once Varuṇa performed a Rājasūya (royal consecration sacrifice) at Yamunātīrtha. (Mahābhārata Śalya Parva, Chapter 49, Stanza 11).

(xxi) When Balabhadra Rāma died and his soul went to Pātāla (under world), there was Varuṇa also among those who came to receive him. (Mahābhārata Mausala Parva, Chapter 4, Stanza 16).

(xxii) At the time of his great departure, Arjuna threw the bow Gāṇḍīva and the arrows over the sea to return them to Varuṇa. (Mahābhārata Mahāprasthāna Parva, Chapter 1, Stanza 41).

(xxiii) Words such as Aditiputra, Āditya, Ambupa, Ambupati, Amburāṭ, Ambvīśa, Apāmpati, Devadeva, Gopati, Jalādhipa, Jaleśvara, Lokapāla, Salilarāja, Salileśa, Udakapati, Vāripa, Yādasāmbhartā and so on have been used as synonyms of Varuṇa in Mahābhārata.

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