The Matsya Purana (critical study)

by Kushal Kalita | 2018 | 74,766 words | ISBN-13: 9788171103058

This page relates ‘Contents of the Matsyapurana (summary)’ of the English study on the Matsya-purana: a Sanskrit text preserving ancient Indian traditions and legends written in over 14,000 metrical verses. In this study, the background and content of the Matsyapurana is outlined against the cultural history of ancient India in terms of religion, politics, geography and architectural aspects. It shows how the encyclopedic character causes the text to deal with almost all the aspects of human civilization.

Part 4 - Contents of the Matsyapurāṇa (summary)

The Matsyapurāṇa not only covers the characteristic features of a Purāṇa with its contents but also contains vast information on many aspects like religion, philosophy, history, polity, architecture etc. It starts with an invocation to Lord Śiva and also to Viṣṇu in the form of a Fish. Once at the end of a long sacrificial session Śaunaka and other sages residing in the Naimiṣa forest asked Sūta about the fish incarnation of the Lord Viṣṇu and about the Lord Śiva’s incarnation as Bhairava and Purāri. In reply to this, Sūta narrated the incident of meeting of Manu and the fish who fell into the hands of the former when he was engaged in japa. It was reared up by him and finally let loose in the ocean when it assumed a gigantic size. The fish was recognised as the Lord Viṣṇu who foretold him about the coming deluge. It enjoined him to protect the movable and the immovable things in a boat and blessed him with the honour of being the Prajāpati and Manvantarādhipa.

In the 2nd chapter of the Matsyapurāṇa the destruction of brahmāṇḍa is described. As directed by Fish (Lord Viṣṇu), Manu tied his boat to the horns of the divine Fish with the serpent as the rope and towed away. Then Manu requested Viṣṇu to explain him the problems of cosmogony, universal dissolution, divine genealogies, ages of Manus, genealogies of kings, cosmography, religious gifts, śrāddha, duties of the different social orders and the stages of life, consecration of images etc. The Lord explains the world egg theory which is one of the theories of creation.

The 3rd chapter elaborates the primary creation. The Vedas, the Purāṇas and other forms of literature are said to originate from the mouth of Brahmā. Among the śāstras that originated from Brahmā’s mouth, the Purāṇaśāstra is given the first place. Then follows the birth of the ten mind born sons, viz., Marīci, Atri, Aṅgirasa, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Pracetas, Vaśiṣṭha, Bhṛgu and Nārada. Thereafter the Sāṃkhya cosmogonic account is dealt with in this chapter.

The 4th, 5th and 6th chapters continue the account of the primary creation by furnishing an account of the progeny of Dakṣa and their further progeny and the description of Kāśyapa family. The 7th chapter mainly deals with the Madanadvādaśīvrata. Diti, once, lost her sons in the wars between the gods and demons and being depressed at this woeful situation she practiced austere penance and observed the Madanadvādaśīvrata, the details of which are also given in this chapter. The 8th chapter deals with the coronation of kings of different kingdoms. The 9th chapter gives in brief the account of different Manvataras. 10th chapter describes the terror of Vena, his consequent assassination at the hands of Brāhmins, the birth of Pṛthu and about his benevolent rule.

Chapter 11 is on Ila’s transformation to Ilā and the meeting of Budha and Ilā. Vaivasvata Manu consecrated his son Ila and departed to the forest for penance. In the course of his conquest of the world Ila came to the Śaravaṇa forest on entering which he was turned into a beautiful lady and came to be known as Ilā. In course of time Budha happened to see her and attracted by her charm. He invited Ilā for enjoyment. The 12th chapter also relates the Budha-Ilā story. In due course, Ilā gave birth to Pururavās. Then follows the description of the Solar dynasty where the dynastic account of the Ikṣvāku family were discussed. Chapter 13 of this Purāṇa deals with the account of the pitṛs, the birth of Menā and Maināka. The story of the destruction of the sacrifice of Dakṣa is also described in it. The enumeration of one hundred and eight names of the Goddess and the sacred Devītīrthas are also explained on the 13th chapter.

Chapter 14 narrates the dynasty of Agniṣvātta pitṛs and the birth of Acchoḍā. It also narrates the love-episode of Acchoḍā with Amāvasu. The 15th chapter also deals with the birth and dynasties of the pitṛs. It gives the description of the various pitṛs and their families e.g., Barhiṣad, Haviṣvat, Susvadha, Somapā etc. Chapter 16 gives the description on the threefold śrāddha including the days, the time and the mode of the performance of it. It also explains about the persons prescribed and restricted on the funeral dinner, rules for the performer of a śrāddha etc. The 17th chapter deals with the many aspects of śrāddha. Auspicious days for performing śrāddha, the mantras to be recited, directions as to how a Śūdra should perform a śrāddha, vṛddhiśrāddha, ekoddiṣṭaśrāddha, days of impurities, sapiṇḍīkaraṇa etc. are described in the 18th chapter. The 19th chapter deals with the fruition of śrāddha and states how the offerings reach the departed spirits.

Chapter 20 gives the account of the evolutionary birth of the sons of Kauśika as a result of eating the beef under the pious name of śrāddha. In the story of the king Brahmadatta who is one of the sons of Kauśika in a particular birth, the love quarrel of two ants is narrated. The 21st chapter continues the same. The 22nd chapter enumerates the various holy places for the performance of a śrāddha. The auspicious and inauspicious time for śrāddha, sacred things for it, the fruit of hearing and reading of the śrāddhānukīrtana etc. are explained in this chapter. Chapter 23 relates the birth of Candra from the tears of Atri.

The 24th chapter mentions the birth of Budha. He was recognized as the son of Candra, after Tārā, the mother of Budha clarified it on being questioned about the father of that new-born child. It is followed by the story of Pururavās, the son of Budha, and Urvaśī. The story of Nahuṣa, Raji and his sons, the account of Yayāti who requested his sons to exchange their youth with his old age etc. are also explained in the 24th chapter. Chapters 25 and 26 have given elaborate description on Kaca-Devayāṇī episode. The chapters 24 to 42 of the Matsyapurāṇa contain different stories of king Yayāti. Then on the 43rd chapter the account of the Yadu dynasty is given. In the 44th chapter explanation is found of the Soma or lunar dynasty. The accounts of the family of Kroṣṭu and Vṛṣṇi are also found in this chapter. The 45th and 46th chapters continue the accounts of the Vṛṣṇi family and also mention the episode of the śyāmantaka gem. In the 47th chapter the birth of Kṛṣṇa, the consorts of Kṛṣṇa and their progeny, twelve Devāsura wars and twelve incarnations etc. are dealt with. Śukra's invocation to Śiva, Asuras being deluded by Bṛhaspati in the guise of Śukra etc. are discussed in this chapter. The 48th chapter gives the account of the family of Turvāsu and his successors. The 49th and the 50th chapter give the account of the family of Puru and his successors. The 51st chapter gives the origin of Agni, its various appellations etc. The 52nd chapter deals with the karmayoga and jñānayoga. It also discusses the ātmaguṇas and the pañcayajña, i.e., five daily sacrifices. The 53rd chapter gives the detail of the eighteen Mahāpurāṇas, Upapurāṇas and Anukramaṇikā. The pañcalakṣana definition, the extended definition of Purāṇa are also mentioned in this chapter. In the 54th chapter the Nakṣatrapuruṣavrata is described. Chapters 55-60, 62-93 and 95-102 discuss vratas, dānas and some other Hindu rites. The 61st chapter mentions the passionate longing of Mitra and Varuṇa for Urvaśī and the birth of Agastya and Vaśiṣṭha in a pitcher on this earth as a result of a curse. The 94th chapter gives one description of the nine planets. From 103rd Chapter to 112th chapter, the Prayāgamāhātmya is described. The 113th chapter of the Matsyapurāṇa gives the topographical description of Jambūdvīpa. Chapter 114 gives the topographical description of Bhāratavarṣa, Kimpuruṣavarṣa and Harivarṣa. Chapter 115 states that Pururavās, the Lord of Madras, went to the banks of the river Airāvatī to practice penance in order to remove his ugliness. The 116th chapter gives a graphic description of Airavatī and its surroundings. The 117th chapter gives a vivid description of the Himālayas. The 118th chapter gives a graphic description of the region with its flora and fauna and the description of the hermitage of Atri. The 119th chapter describes the Himālayan cave, while the 120th chapter deals with the hermitage of Aila.

From 121st chapter, the geographical account is found. The 121st chapter describes Jambudvīpa. Chapter 122 describes Śākadvīpa, Kuśadvīpa, Krauñcadvīpa and Śālmaladvīpa. Chapter 123 describes about Gomedadvīpa, Puṣkaradvīpa. The 124th chapter explains about the measurement of meru and the earth. The 125th chapter deals with the movements of the sun, moon, star and other planets. It also mentions about the source of the clouds and describes the position of the chariot of the sun. The 126th chapter mentions the position of the gods and gandharvas near the sun. The description of the chariots of the Mercury, Mars etc. are found in the 127th chapter of this Purāṇa. The eulogy of the polar star is also mentioned in this chapter. The 128th chapter deals with the cause of fire and other elements, the various solar rays and their functions etc.

Chapter 129 is on the tripurākhyāna. The chapter mentions the penance of Maya and Vidyunmālī. Brahmā is pleased with Maya and grants him a boon for founding Tripura. From 129th chapter to 140th Chapter graphic descriptions of the Tripura are given. The chapters also have the account of Śiva’s fight against the demon. Chapter 141 deals with the śrāddhānukīrtana. This is told in connection with the pitṛtarpaṇa done by Pururavās. From 142nd chapter the manvantarānukīrtana starts. The 142nd chapter speaks of the lengths of human year, divine year etc. It has also given account of the four yugas and their duration, śrauta and smārta dharma, the seven gems and the characteristics of a cakravartin.

Chapter 143 describes about the tretā age. The origin of the institution of sacrifice and the allied problem are explained in this chapter. Whether hiṃsā in a sacrifice is permissible or not is discussed in the 143rd chapter. The 144th chapter describes about the dvāpara and kali ages. Chapter 145 deals with the topics like dharma, sacrifice etc. Chapter 146 mentions in brief the birth of Skanda and the death of Tāraka at his hands. The sixty daughters of Dakṣa and their progeny are also mentioned in this chapter. The 147th and 148th chapters follow the same topic. The 149th chapter delineates the fight between gods and demons. In the chapter 150, 151, 152, 153 and 154 the battle between gods and demons is described. In the 154th chapter the birth of Kārtikeya is described. The 155th chapter also deals with the birth of Kārtikeya. It continues till the 159th chapter. In these chapters various mythological descriptions are found, viz., the killing of the demon Ādi, curse on Virāka etc. Chapter 160 describes the battle between Tāraka and Skanda and the victory of Skanda. Chapters 161, 162 and 163 deal with the Nṛsiṃha avatāra and killing of Hiraṇyakaśipu. Lord Viṣṇu in company with Oṃkāra and assuming the form of Nṛsiṃha (man-lion) torments Hiraṇyakaśipu by means of his claws.

In 164-170 chapters, Manu’s question and Viṣṇu’s answer about the creation of the world in the form of a lotus from the navel of Viṣṇu in the Padmakalpa are narrated. Viṣṇu in the form of a Fish relates to Manu in brief the four ages and the dissolution of the universe. Chapter 171 deals with the account of the birth of the mindborn sons of Brahmā and others. Chapters from 172nd to 178th the account of the battle of Tāraka and Maya is discussed. After Vṛtra was killed, the Tāraka-Maya war took place. Chapter 179 deals with the killing of Andhaka. Śiva in order to drink the blood of the demon Andhaka created the mothers Maheśvarī and others. Śiva had to solicit the help of Nṛsiṃha who produced the mothers to prevent the Śaivite mothers from devouring the universe.

Chapter 180 deals with the Vārāṇasī māhātmya. In connection with the Vārāṇasī māhātmya the story of Harikeśa Yakṣa, the son of Pūrṇabhadra, who became the gaṇādhyakṣa by the grace of Śiva is also depicted. The visit of Śiva and Gaurī to Vārāṇasī is also mentioned. Chapter 181 deals with the course of conversation between Sanatkumāra and Nandikeśvara. Chapters 182, 183, 184,185 describe the greatness of Avimuktakakṣetra through the dialogue between Pārvatī and Śiva. The 186th and 187th chapters depict the greatness of the Narmadā through a dialogue between Mārkaṇḍeya and Yudhiṣṭhira. In the 188th chapter Śiva discharged his deadly arrow at Tripura when the three cities had come together in aerial regions and everything was on fire. It is said that one of the cities of Tripura fell down on the Amarakaṇṭaka and then follows the Amarakaṇṭaka māhātmya. Chapter 189 describes the confluence of the rivers Kāverī and Narmadā.

Chapters 190, 191, 192, 193 and 194 deal with various sacred places. In chapter 195 Manu asks the Lord to narrate the gotras and pravaras of the sages. In response to this request the Lord describes the origin of the different sages and the genealogy of Bhṛgu. From chapter 196 to chapter 202, the genealogies of Aṅgiras, Atri, Viśvamitra, Kāśyapa, Vasiṣṭha, Agastya, Pulaka, Pulastya and Kratu are found. Chapter 201 also deals with the account of Vasiṣṭha being born through the agency of Mitra and Varuṇa jointly. Vasiṣṭha's son was Śakti whose son was Parāśara whose genealogical account is given in this chapter. Chapter 203 gives the account of the family of Dharma. Chapter 204 delineates the various desires of manes. Then in the two consecutive chapters dhenudāna and kṛṣṇājinapradāna are described. The 207th chapter is on Vṛṣotsārgavidhi. Chapter 208 commences the legend of Sāvitrī. The King Aśvapati of Madras worshipped Savitrī and got a daughter who was named Sāvitrī. She was married to Satyavat. The 209-214 chapters continue the legend. In the 215th chapter the lord Viṣṇu in the form of Fish describes to Manu the duties of anointed king, the appointment of different officers and their qualifications etc. The Lord continues to describe the mode of behaviour of an employee with his master and vice-versa. Chapter 217 mentions the various types of forts, the location of the residential places of some officers etc. and also the collection of medicinal plants etc. The 218th chapter mentions various antidotes against poison and demons. Chapter 219 mentions various devices that might be employed for the protection of a king and also those by which the mixing of poison with different things might be detected. The next chapter deals with the topics like the education of a prince, the companions of a king and his behaviour with them, the different limbs of the state, importance of the secrecy of the mantra, the other prescriptive and proscriptive duties of a king etc. The 221st chapter expounds that human effort is more powerful than fate. In 222-225 chapters the four expedients of king, viz., sāma, bheda, dāna and daṇḍa are described. Chapter 226 brings out the king's functional resemblance with different deities and the next chapter lays down various punishments for various crimes. Various propitiatory rites to be performed, the occurrence of certain terrestrial, aerial and celestial ominous portents, various characteristics of these threefold portents and also the ominous and auspicious portents are presented in chapters 228-236. Chapters 237 and 238 describe some irregular behavior in animals and birds foretelling some calamities and the pacificatory rites thereof. Chapter 239 deals with the grahayajña. The 240th chapter mentions the proper time and climate for starting on an expedition. Chapter 241 mentions the various auspicious and inauspicious things suggested by the throbbing of the various limbs on the occasion of starting on an expedition. The 242nd chapter mentions various dreams foretelling favourable or unfavourable circumstances on the occasion of starting on an expedition. The 243rd chapter describes the various sights propitious and ominous at the time of starting on an expedition. In the chapters 244, 245 and 246, the description of the Dwarf-incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu is described.

In the 247th and 248th chapters commences the description of the Boar incarnation. In these chapters the dissolution and the evolution of the world are also described. Chapters 249, 250 and 251 deal with the renowned story of the churning of the ocean. Chapter 252 mentions the different authors of the Vāstuśāstra and the birth of Vāstu from the sweat of the brow of Śiva in the fight with Andhaka. Chapter 253 describes the influence of various months and asterisms on the construction of houses and the different methods of making houses.

The dimensions of the buildings for different persons, five kinds of pillars, the auspicious and inauspicious points, omens regarding the construction of a house, choosing of auspicious and inauspicious woods and the ways of hewing them etc. are mentioned in detail in chapters 254-257. The 258th chapter mentions the measurements of the limbs of the images of the deities. Chapters 259, 260 and 261 have mentioned the destructive features, shapes and sizes of the images of various deities. The 262nd chapter gives the description of the pedestals. Chapter 263 deals with the distinctive features of the liṅga and mentions nine varieties. Chapter 264 deals with the method of consecration of images. Chapter 265 deals with the adhivāsanāvidhi. The 266th chapter deals with the pratisthānukīrtana. Chapter 267 deals with the rule for bathing of deities. The 268th chapter deals with the rule for mitigating vāstudoṣa. Chapter 269 describes various prasādas, their names and characteristics. Chapter 270 deals with the different names for maṇḍapas and their distinctive features. Chapter 271 deals with the future kings of the Ikṣvāku and Magadha families. Chapter 272 mentions Pulaka and other kings. The 273rd chapter describes the reign of the Andhras and of the kings of other dynasties etc. The chapter also gives the description of the Kali age.

From the 274th to 289th chapters sixteen mahādānas are described. Chapter 290 enumerated the names and numbers of the different Kalpas. Over and above this fruits of reciting some Purāṇas are also mentioned. The 291st chapter enumerates the topics discussed and dealt with in the Matsyapurāṇa.

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