HarshaVardhan Reddy, Aura Group, Delhi has deep rooted mythological beliefs .  

Brahms Purana 

In the forest known as Naimisharanya the sages (maharshis) arranged for a sacrifice (yajna) and the ceremony went on for twelve years. Naimisharanya forest was a wonderful place to arrange sacrifices in. The climate was pleasant. There were trees full of flowers and fruit. There was no shortage of food in the forest, and animals, birds and sages lived there happily.

Many sages are to attend the sacrifice that had been arranged in naimisharanya. With them was Romaharshana (alternatively Lomaharshana). Vedavyasa’s disciple. Vedavyasa had instructed this disciple of his in the knowledge of the Puranas. The assembled sages worshipped the learned Romaharshana and said, Please tell us the stories of the Puranas. Who created the universe, who is its preserver and who will destroy it? Please instruct us in all these mysteries.

Romaharshana replied, Many years ago, Daksha and the other sages had asked Brahma these very questions. I have learnt about Brahma’s replies from my guru (teacher) Vedvyasa. I will relate to you what I know.

In the beginning , there was water everywhere and the brahman (the divine essence) slept on this water in the form of Vishnu. Since water is called nara and since ayana means a bed, Vishnu is known as Narayana.

In the water there emerged a golden egg (anda). Brahma was born inside the egg. Since he created himself, he is called Svayambhu, born (bhu) by himself (svayam). For one whole year, Brahma lived inside the egg. He then split the egg into two and created heaven (svarga) and the earth (prithivi) from the two parts of the egg. Skies, directions, time, language and senses were created in both heaven and earth.

From the powers of his mind, Brahma gave birth to seven great sages. Their names were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Vashistha. Brahma also created the god Rudra and the sage Santhkumara.

More Creation 

To continue with the process of creation, Brahma gave birth to a man and a woman from his own body. The man was named Svayambhuva Manu and the woman was named Shatarupa. Humans are descended from Manu. That is the reason they are known as manava. Manu and Shatarupa had three sons named Vira, Priyavarata and Uttanapada.

Uttanapada’s son was the great Dhruva, Dhruva performed very difficult meditation (tapasya) for three thousand divine years. Brahma was so pleased at this that he granted Dhruva an eternal place in the sky, near the constellation that is known as saptarshi or the seven sages. This is the constellation Ursa Majoris and Dhruva is the Pole Star.

In Dhruva’s line there was a king named Prachinavarhi. Prachinavarhi had ten sons, known as the Prachetas. These Prachetas were supposed to look after the world and rule over it, but they were not interested in such mundane matters. They went off instead to perform tapasya under the ocean. The tapasya went on for ten thousand years. The upshot was that the earth had no ruler and began to suffer. People started to die and thick forests sprouted everywhere. So thick were the forests that even the winds could not blow.

News of this catastrophe reached the Prachetas. They were furious with the trees and created wind (vayu) and fire (agni) from their mouths. The wind dried up the trees and the fire burnt them, so that, very soon, there were very few trees left on earth.

Everyone was alarmed at the effects of the Prachetas’ anger. The moon-god Soma (or Chandra) came to the Prachetas with a beautiful woman and said, Prachetas, please control your anger. You need someone to rule over the world so that you can concentrate on your tapasya. This beautiful woman is named Marisha, she is the daughter of the trees. Marry her and you will have a son named Daksha. He will rule over the world.

The Prachetas agreed to this proposal and Daksha was born. The word praja means subject and the word pati means master. Since Daksha ruled over the world and its subjects, Daksha came to be known as Prajapati.

The sages interrupted Romaharshana. They said, Sage, we are completely confused. We have heard that Daksha was born from Brahma’s toe. And yet you have told us that Daksha was the son of the Prachetas. How is this possible?

Romaharshana replied, There is no reason for bewilderment. Many Dakshas have been born to rule over the world. One was born from Brahma’s toe, yet another was the son of the Prachetas.

Daksha’s Offspring 

Daksha’s wife was named Asikli and Asikli gave birth to five thousand sons. They were known as the Haryashvas. The Haryashvas were destined to rule over the world. But the sage Narada went to the Haryashvas and said, How can you rule over the world if you don’t even know what the world looks like? Are you familiar with its geography and its limits? First find out about these things, before you contemplate ruling ove the world.

The Haryashvas went off to explore the world and never returned.

Daksha and Asikli then had another thousand sons who were named the Shavalashvas. Narada told them what he had told the Haryashvas and the Shavalashvas also went off to explore the world and never returned.

Daksha and Asiki were distressed that their children should disappear in this manner. Daksha blamed Narada for the instigation and proposed to kill him. But Brahma intervened and persuaded Daksha to control his anger. This Daksha agreed to do, provided that his conditions were met. Brahma must marry my daughter Priya, he said. And Narada must be born as Priya’s son.

These conditions were accepted.

In fact, Daksha and Asikli had sixty daughters. (Elsewhere, the Brahma Purana mentions fifty daughters.) Ten of these daughters were married to the god Dharma and thirteen to the sage Kashyapa. Twenty-seven daughters were married to Soma or Chandra. The remaining daughters were married to the sages Arishtanemi, Vahuputra, Angirasa and Krishashva.

The ten daughters who were married to the god Dharma were named Arundhati, Vasu, Yami, Lamba, Bhanu, Marutvati, Sankalpa, Muhurta, Sadhya and Vishva, Arundhati’s children were the objects (vishaya) of the world. Vasu’s children were the eight gods known as the Vasus. Their names were Apa, Dhruva, Soma, Dhara, Salila, Anala, Pratyusha and Prabhasa. Anala’s son was Kumara. Because Kumara was brought up by goddesses known as the Krittikas, he came to be called Kartikeya. Prabhasa’s son was Vishvakarma. Vishvakarma was skilled in architecture and the making of jewellery. He became the architect of the gods. Sadhya’s children were the gods known as Sadhyadevas and Vishva’s children were the gods known as Vishvadevas.

The twenty-seven daughters of Daksha who were married to Soma are known as the nakshatras (stars).

As you have already been told, Kashyapa married thirteen of Daksha’s daughters. Their names were Aditi, Diti, Danu, Arishta, Surasa, Khasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha, Ida, Kadru and Muni.

Aditi’s sons were the twelve gods known as the adityas. Their names were Vishnu, Shakra, Aryama, Dhata, Vidhata, Tvashta, Pusha, Vivasvana, Savita, Mitravaruna, Amsha and Bhaga.

Diti’s sons were the daityas (demons). They were named Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakshipu, and amongst their descendants were several other powerful daityas like Vali and Vanasura. Diti also had a daughter named Simhika who was married to a danava (demon) named Viprachitti. Their offsprings were terrible demons like Vatapi, Namuchi, Ilvala, Maricha and the nivatakavachas.

The hundred sons of Danu came to be known as danavas. The danavas were thus cousins to the daityas and also to the adityas. In the danava line were born demons like the poulamas and kalakeyas.

Arishta’s sons were the gandharvas (singers of heaven).

Surasa gave birth to the snakes (sarpa).

Khasa’s children were the yakshas (demi-gods who were the companions of Kubera, the god of wealth) and the rakshasas (demons).

Surabhi’s descendants were cows and buffaloes.

Vinata had two sons named Aruna and Garuda.
Garuda became the king of the birds.

Tamara had six daughters. From these daughters were born owls, eagles, vultures, crows, water-fowl, horses, camels and donkeys.

Krodhavasha had fourteen thousand children known as nagas (snakes).

Ila gave birth to trees, creepers, shrubs and bushes.

Kadru’s sons were also known as nagas or snakes. Among the more important of Kadru’s sons were Ananta, Vasuki, Takshaka and Nahusha.

Muni gave birth to the apsaras (dancers of heaven).

Diti’s children (daityas) and Aditi’s children (adityas) continually fought amongst themselves. On one particular occasion, the gods succeeded in killing many of the demons. Thirsting for revenge, Diti began to pray to her husband, Kashyapa that she might give birth to a son who would kill Indra, the king of the gods.

Kashyapa found it difficult to refuse his wife outright. All right, he said. You will have to bear the son in your womb for a hundred years. And throughout this period, you will have to observe various rites of cleanliness. If you can successfully do this, your son will indeed kill Indra. But if you do not observe these instructions to the letter, your desire will not be satisfied.

Diti resolved to do as her husband had bidden her. But Indra had got to know about Diti’s resolve and was waiting for an opportuniy to save himself. There was an occasion when, tired after her prayers. Diti went to sleep without first washing her feet. This was an unclean act and it gave Indra the required opportunity. He adopted a miniscule form and entered Diti’s womb. With his weapon vajra, he sliced up the baby inside the womb into seven parts. The baby naturally began to cry at the pain.

Indra kept on saying, ma ruda, that is, don’t cry. But the baby, or rather its seven parts, would not listen. Indra thereupon sliced up each of the seven parts into seven more sections, so that there were forty-nine sections in all. When these forty-nine sections in all. When these forty-nine sections were born, they came to be known as the Maruts, from the words that Indra had addressed them. Since Diti had not been able to adhere to the conditions her husband had set, the Maruts did not kill Indra. They instead became Indra’s followers or companions, and were treated as gods.


In Dhruva’s line there was a king named Anga. Anga was religious and followed the righteous path. But unfortunately, Anga’s son Vena inherited none of the good qualities of his father. Vena’s mother was Sunitha and she happened to be the daughter of Mrityu. Mrityu was notorious for his evil ways and deeds. Vena spent a lot of time with his maternal grandfather and picked up these evil characteristics.

Vena gave up the religion that was laid down in the Vedas and stopped all yajnas. He instructed his subjects that he alone was to be worshipped.

The sages led by Marichi came to Vena to try and persuade him to mend his ways. But Vena was in no mood to listen. He insisted that there was no one equal to him in the whole universe.

The sages realized that Vena was a lost cause. They physically caught hold of Vena and began to knead his right thigh. From this kneading there emerged a horrible looking creature. It was a dwarf and its complexion was extemely dark. The sage Arti was so aghast at the dwarf’s appearance that he blurted out, nishida, which means sit. From this the dwarf came to be known as nishada. The race of nishadas became hunters and fishermen, and lived in the Vindhya mountains. From them were also descended uncivilized races like tusharas and tunduras.

The evil that was in Vena’s body and mind came out with the emergence of the nishada.

When the sages began to knead Vena’s right arm, Prithu emerged. He shone like a flaming fire and his energy lit up the four directions. He held a bow in his hand and he was clad in beautiful armour. As soon as Prithu was born, Vena died.

All the rivers and the oceans arrived with their waters and their jewels to anoint Prithu as the king. The gods and the sages also came for the coronation. Brahma himself crowned Prithu the king of the earth. He also took the opportunity to apportion out the lordships of other parts of the universe. Soma was appointed lord over creepers, herbs, stars (nakshatras), planets (grahas), sacrifices, meditation (tapasya) and over the first of the four classes (brahmans). Varuna became lord of the oceans, Kubera of all the kings, Vishnu of the adityas, Agni of vasus, Daksha of all Prajapatis, Indra of Maruts, Prahlada of daityas and danavas, Yama of the pritris (ancestors), Shiva of yakshas, rakshasas and pishachas (ghosts), and Himalaya of the mountains.

The ocean (samudra) was made the lord of all rivers. Chitraratha of gandharvas, Vasuki of nagas,
Takshaka of sarpas, Garuda of birds, the tiger of deer, Airavata of elephants, Ucchaihshrava of horses, the bull of cows and the ashvattha tree (a banyan) of all trees. Brahma also appointed four overlords (dikapalas) for the four directions. To the east there was Sudhanva, to the south Shankhapada, to the west Ketumana and to the north Hiranyaroma.

Prithu was a king who ruled the earth well. During his reign, the earth was laden with foodgrains. The cows were full of milk and the subjects were happy. To glorify King Prithu, the sages performed a sacrifice and from this sacrifice there emerged two races known as the sutas and the magadhas. The sages decreed that henceforth, these two races would be given the task of singing praises in honour of great kings and holy personages. But first, they desired that the sutas and the magadhas should sing praises in honour of Prithu.

But what praise will we sing? asked the sutas and the magadhas. Prithu is till young. He has not done much that can be praised.

That may be true, replied the sages. But he will do wonderous deeds in the future. Sing praises of those wonderful deeds. We will tell you about them.

Having learnt of these future deeds from the sages, the sutas and the magadhas began to compose songs and chant praises in honour of Prithu. These stories were related throughout the earth. Some of Prithu’s subjects heard these stories and came to see Prithu. King , they said. We have heard of your great deeds. But we find it difficult to make a living. Please indicate to us our habitations on earth. And tell us where we may be able to get the food we need for subsistence.

King Prithu picked up his bow and arrow. He decided to kill the earth, since the earth was not yielding foodgrains to his subjects. The earth adopted the form of a cow and began to flee. But wherever the earth went, Prithu followed with his bow and arrow. He followed the earth to the heaven and to the underworld.

Finally, in desperation, the earth started to pray to Prithu. King, she said, please control your anger. I am woman. Killing me will only mean a sin for you. Besides, what purpose will killing me serve? Your subjects will then be without a place to live in. There will be some other way of ensuring that your subjects can make a livng.’

The earth then herself offered a solution and King Prithu did her bidding. With his bow, he levelled out the earth. The plains could now be used for villages and cities and for agriculture and animal husbandry. The mountains were gathered together in select places, instead of being littered over the whole earth. Earlier, Prithu ‘s subjects had lived off fruits and roots. Now Prithu milked the earth (in her form of a cow) and obtained the seeds of foodgrains on which people could live. Because of Prithu’s deeds, the earth came to be known as prithivi.


A manvantara is an era. There are four smaller eras (yugas) and their names are satya or krita yuga, treta yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga. Each cycle of satya yuga, treta yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga is called a mahayuga. A mahayuga comprises of 12,000 years of the gods, or equivalently, 4,320,000 years for human. 71 mahayugas constitute a manvantara and 14 manvantaras constitute a cycle (kalpa). One kalpa is one of Brahma’s days and the universe is destroyed at the end of a kalpa.

Each manvantara is ruled over by a Manu. In the present kalpa, six manvantaras have already passed and the names of the six Manus who ruled were Svayambhuva, Svarochisha, Uttama, Tamasa, Raivata and Chakshusha. The name of the seventh Manu, who rules over the seventh manvantara of the present kalpa, is Vaivasvata.

The titles of the seven great sages (saptarshi) as well as the title of Indra change from manvantara to manvantara. The gods also change.

In the present vaivasvata manvantara, the seven great sages are Atri, Vashishtha, Kashyapa, Goutama, Bharadvaja, Vishvamitra and Jamadagni. The gods now are the sadhyas, the rudras, the vishvadevas, the vasus, the maruts, the adityas and the two ashvinis.

There will be seven manus in the future before the universe is destroyed. Five of these Manus will be known as Savarni Manus. The remaining two will be called Bhoutya and Rouchya.

The Sun and the Solar Dynasty 

You have probably forgotten by now that Kashyapa and Aditi had a son named Vivasvana. This was the sun god, also known as Surya or Martanda.

Surya was married to Samjna, Vishvakarma’s daughter. They had two sons. The first son was Vaivasvata Manu and the second son was Yama or Shraddhadeva, the god of death. Yama had a twin sister named Yamuna.

The sun’ s energy was so strong that Samjna could not bear to look at her husband. Through her powers, she created an image from her own body that looked exactly like her. This image was called Chhaya (shadow).

Samjna told Chhaya, I cannot bear the energy of my husband. I am going off to my father’s house. Stay here, pretend to be Samjna and look after my children. Under no circumstances tell anyone, certainly not my husband, that you are not Samjna.

I will do as you have asked me to, replied Chhaya. But the moment someone curses me or pulls me by the hair, I shall be forced to reveal the truth.

Samjna went to her father Vishvakarma and told him what she had done. Vishvakarma kept asking her to return to her husband. But this Samjna refused to do. Instead, she went to the land known as Uttara Kuru and started to live there as a mare.

Meanwhile, Surya, who had not realized that Samjna had been replaced by Chhaya, had two sons through Chhaya. They were named Savarni Manu and Shani (Saturn). As soon as her own children were born, Chhaya no longer displayed as much of love for Samjna’s children as she used to do. Vaivasvata Manu was a quiet sort of person and he ignored the implied neglect. But Yama was not that tolerant. Besides, he was also younger. He raised his leg to kick Chhaya. At this, Chhaya cursed Yama that his legs would fall off.

Yama went and complained to Surya. I have not really kicked her, he said. I only threatened to. And does a mother ever curse her children?
I can’t undo the curse, replied Surya. At best, I can reduce its severity. Your legs will not actually fall off. Some of the flesh from your legs will fall off onto the earth and create worms. Thereby, you will be freed of your curse.

But nevertheless, Surya felt that there was some truth in Yama’s asking whether a mother would ever curse her children. He taxed Chhaya with the truth, but Chhaya would not reveal anything. Surya then grasped her by the hair and threatened to curse her. Since her conditions were now violated, Chhaya blurted out the truth.

In an extremely angry mood, Surya dashed off to Vishvakarma’s house. Vishvakarma tried to cool him down. It is all because of your excess energy that this has happened, exclaimed Vishvakarma. If you permit, I will shave off some of the extra energy. Then Samjna will be able to look at you.

Surya agreed to this proposition. With the shaved off energy, Vishvakarma manufactured Vishnu’s chakra (a weapon like a bladed discus).

Surya found out that Samjna was in Uttara Kuru in the form of mare. He joined her there in the form of a horse. As horses, they had two sons named Nasatya and Dasra. Since ashva means horse, the sons were also known as the two Ashvinis and became the physicians of the gods.

Surya and Samjna then gave up their equine forms and lived happily ever after.

Vaivasvata Manu’s Children 

Vaivasvata Manu had no children and he arranged for a sacrifice so that he might have a son. Nine sons were born as a result of this sacrifice. Their names were Ikshvaku, Nabhaga, Dhrishta, Sharyati, Narishyanta, Pramshu, Rishta, Karusha and Prishadhra. Manu also made an offering to the two gods Mitra and Varuna. As a result of this offering, a daughter named Ila was born.

Buddha was the son of Chandra, and Buddha and Ila had a son named Pururava. Subsequently, thanks to a boon conferred on her by Mitra and Varuna, Ila became a man named Sudyumna. Sudyumna’s sons were Utkala, Gaya and Vinatashva. Utkala ruled in Orissa, Gaya in the region that is also called Gaya, and Vinatashva in the west.

Sudyumna was not entitled to rule since he had earlier been a woman. He lived in the city known as Pratishthana. Pururava inherited this later on.

When Vaivasvata Manu died, his ten sons divided up the earth amongst themselves. Ikshvaku ruled in the central regions. He had a hundred sons, the eldest of whom was named Vikukshi. Vikukshi came to be known as Shashada. Thereby hangs a tale.

Ikshvaku wanted to organize a sacrifice and he sent his son Vikukshi to the forest to fetch some meat for the sacrifice. While hunting for game, Vikushi felt very hungry and ate up some of the meat. This was a sacrilege and the sage Vashishtha advised Ikshvaku to banish Vikukshi from his kingdom. Because the meat that he had eaten had been the meat of a rabbit (shashaka), Vikukshi came to be known as Shashada.

But after Ikshvaku died, Vikukshi returned to his father’s kingdom and began to rule there. This was the kingdom of Ayodhya. One of Vikukshi’s sons was Kakutstha, and Rama of Ramayana fame was born in this line.


Kubalashva was one of the kings descended from Kakutstha. Kubalashva’s father was named Vrihadashva.

After Vrihadashva had ruled for many years, he desired to retire to the forest. He therefore prepared to hand over the kingdom to his son Kubalashva. But learning of King Vrihadashva’s resolve, a sage named Utanka came to meet the king.

Don’t go to the forest right now, Utanka told the king. My hermitage (ashrama) is on the shores of the ocean and is surrounded by sand in all directons. A strong rakshasa named Dhundhu lives under the sand. He is so strong that even the gods have been unable to kill him. Once every year, Dhundhu exhales his breath and this raises a temendous cloud of sand and dust. For an entire week the sun remains shrouded in dust and for the whole week, there are earthquakes as a result of Dhundhu’s exhalation. This is disturbing my meditation (tapasya) and you can’t very well go away to the forest without first doing something about Dhundhu. Only you are capable of killing him. I have accumulated a lot of power as a result of my tapasya and I will give this to you if you kill Dhundhu.

Vrihadashva told Utanka that there was no need for Vrihadashva himself to kill Dhundhu. He would go to the forest as he had decided. His son Kubalashva was perfectly capable of killing Dhundhu and would accompany Utanka.

Kubalashva and his hundred sons went to the shores of the ocean where all the sand was Kubalashva asked his sons to start digging so that they might find Dhundhu. Dhundhu attacked Kubalashva’s sons and killed all of them but three. The three who escaped were named Dridashva, Chandrashva and Kapilashva. But Dhundhu himself was killed by Kubalashva. As a result of this great feat, Kubabashva came to be known as Dhundhumara. The sage Utanaka blessed Kubalashva and by the sage’s blessings, Kubalashva’s dead sons went straight to heaven.


From Dridashva was descended a king named Trayaruni. Trayaruni was a righteous king and followed all the religious dectates. But Trayaruni’s son Satyavrata was quite the opposite and refused to follow the righteous path. King Trayaruni’s chief priest was the great sage Vashishtha. Vashishtha advised the king that his evil son should be banished from the kingdom. Trayaruni accepted the sage’s advice. Consequently, Satyara started to live with outcasts (chandalas) outside the kingdom.

After some time, Trayaruni relinquished his kingship and went away to the forest. The kingdom had no king and degenerated into anarchy. The absence of a king is also frowned upon by the gods and for twelve years there was a terrible drought.

Vishvamitra was another great sage. While all this was going on, Vishvamitra was not present in the kingdom. He had gone away to perform tapasya on the shores of the ocean, having left his wife and children in a hermitage (ashrama) that was in the kingdom. But because there was such a long spell of drought, there was also famine in the kingdom. People started to strave. Vishvamitra’s wife decided to sell her son so that she might have some foods to eat. She tied a rope round the son’s neck and took him to the market – place. There, she sold him in exchange for a thousand cows. Since a rope ahd been tied around the son’s neck(gala), he came to be known as Galava.

But Satyavrata discovered what terrible straits Vishvamitra’s family was in. He freed Galava and started to take care of Vishvamitra’s wife and children.
Satyavrata had not been terribly fond of Vashishta. He blamed the sage for his banishment. When there was famine everywhere, Satyavarata stole Vashishtha’s cow. He killed the cow and served the meat to Vishvamitra’s sons, apart from eating it himself.

Vashishtha was in a terrible rage when he got to know about this incident. He cursed Satyavrata.

You have committed three sins (shanku), Vashishtha told Satyavarata. Firstly, you have angered your father Trayaruni. Secondly, you have stolen and killed a cow. Thirdly, you have eaten beef, a forbiiden meat. Because of these three sins, you will henceforth be known as Trishanku and be eternally cursed. (The word tri means three.)

Satyavrata had however taken care of Vishvamitra’s family when the sage was away on his meditation. After Vishvamitra returned, he was very happy to learn about what Trishanku had done and offered to grant him a boon. Trishanku desired the boon that he might be allowed to go to heaven in his own physical body. Thanks to Vishvamitra’s immense powers, even this virtually impossible task was accomplished. Trishanku became king in Trayaruni’s kingdom and Vishvamitra acted as his chief priest.


Trishanku’s son was Harishchandra and from Harishchandra was descended a king named Bahu. Bahu devoted too much to pleasurable pursuits. The upshot of this was that the defect of the kingdom was not properly taken care of. Enemy kings seized this opportunity to attack Bahu’s kingdom. They drove Bahnu out and Bahu went off to the forest with his wife Yadavi.

The enemy kings who dislodged Bahu were led by the Haihaya and Talajangha kings. They were aided by the Shakas, Yavanas, Paradas, Kambojas and Pahlavas.

King Bahu died in the forest. His wife Yadavi desired to die on her husband’s funeral pyre. But since Yadavi was pregnant at the time, the sage Ourva persuaded her that such an act would be a sin. He brought Yadavi to his own hermitage and began to take care of her.

Bahu had also had a second wife and she had once tried to poison Yadavi. The poison (gara) had however done Yadavi no harm and emerged when the baby was born. Since the baby was born together with poison, he came to be known as Sagara.

The sage Ourva took care of Sagara’s education. He imparted to Sagara the knowledge of all the shastras and also the usage of weapons. Amongst other things, Sagara acquired the skill of using a divine weapon known as agneyastra.

When he grew up, Sagara attacked the Haihaya kings and defeated them through the use of agneyastra. He then defeated the Shakas, Yavanas, Paradas, Kambojas and Pahlavas and was about to kill them all. But these enemy kings fled to the sage Vashishtha for refuge and Vashishtha persuaded Sagara not to kill his enemies. Instead , the heads of the Shakas were half shaven off. The Yavanas and Kambojas had their heads completely shaven. The Pahlavas were instructed that they would have to keep beards. These enemy kings also lost all right to follow the religion laid down in the Vedas. Amongst the other kings whom Sagara defeated were the Konasarpas, the Mahishakas, the Darvas, the Cholas and the Keralas.

King Sagara had two wives. The first was named Keshini and she was the daughter of the king of Vidarbha. The Brahma Purana does not tell us the name of the second wife, but from the Mahabharata we know that it was Sumati. Keshini and Sumati had no sons. They therefore began to pray to Ourva so that they might have sons.

Ourva was pleased at these prayers and said, both of you wil have sons. But one of you will have a single son and the other will have sixty thousand sons. Tell me, who want what.

Keshini asked for a single son and Sumati asked for sixty thousand sons. In due course, Keshini gave birth to a son named Panchajana. Sumati gave birth to a gourd. Inside the gourd there was a lump of meat. The gourd was placed inside a pot full of clarifed butter (ghrita). And from the lump of meat were born sixty thousand sons.

King Sagara proceeded to conquer the entire earth. As a recognition of this conquest, he initiated an ashvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice). In this ceremony, the sacrifical horse is left free to wander all over the earth. The sixty thousand sons accompanied the horse as its gurads. The horse eventually reached the shores of the ocean that lies towards the south-east. While Sagara’s sons were resting, the horse was stolen. The sons started to look for the horse and began to dig up the sands in their search. In this proces, they came upon the sage Kapila. Kapila had been meditating and his meditation was disturbed by the terrible din that Sagara’s sons made. He gazed at them in fury and all but four of the sons were burnt to ashes. The four sons who were saved were named Varhiketu, Suketu, Dharmaketu and Panchajana.

The Brahma Purana is slightly confused here. Was Panchajana Keshini’ son or Sumati’s son? There is some inconsistency with the account given in the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata, it is Keshini who gave birth to sixty thousand sons and it is Sumati who had a single on named Asmanja. Also in the Mahabharata, all sixty thousand sons were burnt to ashes.

The Brahma Purana also tells us that the sacrificial horse was obtained by Sagara from the ocean. That is the reason why the ocean is referred to as sagara/

To come back to the account given in the Brahma Purana, Panchajana’s son Amshumana and Amshumana’s son was Dilipa. Dilipa had a son named Bhagiratha. Bhagiratha brought down the river Ganga from heaven to earth and thus redeemed his ancestors who had been burnt to ashes by Kapila. It was because of this that the river Ganga came to be known as Bhagirathi.

From Bhagiratha was descended Raghu. Raghu’s son was Aja. Aja’s son Dasharatha and Dasharatha’s son Rama.

The Moon and the Lunar Dynasty 

There was a sage named Atri. Atri performed very difficult tapasya. So difficult was the tapasya that Atri’s energy was thrown up into the sky. The sky could not bear the energy and hurled it down onto the earth. This energy then gave birth to Soma or Chandra, the moon god. Brahma took Chandra up into his chariot and drove the chariot around the earth twenty-one times. From whatever energy was left after Chandra had been created, the herbs were born.

Chandra also performed very difficult tapasya. One padma year consists of 10,000,000,000,000 normal years. For one hundred such padma years, Chandra meditated. After the meditation was over, Brahma appointed Chandra lord over seeds, herbs, brahmanas and the oceans. Chandra also performed a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice) as a celebration of his lordship. This gave him a lot of pomp, glory, wealth and respect.

But all this merely served to turn Chandra’s head. The guru (teacher) of the gods was the sage Brihaspati. Brihaspati had a wife named Tara and Chandra abducted Tara. Despite the gods and the sages asking Chandra to return Tara., the moon god would not listen. A terrible war then raged over Tara, the gods fighting for Brihaspati and the demons fighting for Chandra. Bhukracharay, the guru of the demons, fought on Chandra’s side and Shiva fought on Brihaspati’s side. This war (samgrama) came to be known as tarakamaya samgrama, since it was fought over Tara.

Finally Brahma intervened and a truce was called. But Chandra and Tara had by then had a son, and Brihaspati refused to accept this son as his own. This son wa Budha. As you already know, Budha married Ila and they had a son named Pururava.

The Brahma Purana now describes several kings belonging to the lunar dynasty.


In the lunar dynasty, there was born a powerful king named Nahusha. He married Viraja and they had six sons named Yati., Yajati, Samyati, Ayati, Yati and Suyati. Yati became a hermit. So although Yayati was not the eldest, he was crowned king after Nahusha.

Yayati had two wives. The first was Devayani, daughter of Shukracharaya. And the second was Sharmishtha, daughter of Vrishaparva, the king of the danavas. Devayani had two sons named Yadu and Turvasu and Sharmishtha had three sons named Druhya, Anu and Puru. Yayati conquered the whole earth and ruled over it. When he became old, he divided the earth amongst his five sons. Yadu was given the lands to the east, Puru the lands in the centre, Turvasu the lands to the south and south-east, Druhya those to the north and Anu those to the west.

Yayati gave up his weapons and decided to travel throughout the world. He called Yadu to him and said, I wish to explore the world and my old age is a hindrance. Please accept my old age and give your youth in return.

Yadu refused. I will not, he said. One cannot eat well when one is old, nor can one pleasure the comforts of the world. Old age is not pleasant. Ask one of my brothers instead.

Yadu’s refusal angered Yayati. He cursed Yadu that he or his descendants would never be kings. Yayati next requested Druhya, Turvasu and Anu, but they too refused and were similarly cursed by their father. But Puru agreed to his father’s request and gladly accepted the old age. He was blessed by his father.

After many years had passed, Yayati got tired of the world and returned Puru’s youth to him. He accepted back his old age and retired to the forest to meditate.

From Puru was descended King Bharata after whom the land came to be known as Bharatavarsha. Also in this line was King Kuru, after whom all the descendants came to be known as Kauravas. The sacred place named Kurukshetra owes its name ot King Kuru.

From Turvasu were descended the kings of Pandya, Kerala, Kola and Chola.

From Druhya wre descended the kings of Gandhara. The horses of the Gandhara kingdom are famous.

Yadu had five sons, Sahasrada, Payoda, Kroshtu, Nila and Anjika. Sahasrada’s descendants were the Haihayas, amongst whom the most famous was Kartyavirya Arjuna. Arjuna pleased the sage Dattatreya and became invincible. He also had a thousand arms. Arjuna’s great deeds were his defeat and imprisonment of Ravana, king of Lanka. Kroshtu’s descendants were Vrishni and Andhaka and in the Vrishni line was born Krishna.


Having heard accounts of the solar and lunar dynasties, the sages requested Romaharshana. Tell us a little about the geography of the world. What does the earth look like? What are its limits?

Romaharshana obliged.

The earth is divided into seven regions (dvipas). Their names are Jambudvipa, Plakshavipa, Shalmaladvipa, Kushadvipa, Krouchadvipa, Shakadvipa and Pushkaradvipa. These regions are surrounded by seven oceans and their names are Lavana, Ikshu, Sura, Sarpi, Dadhi, Dugha and Jala.

Jambudvipa is in the centre and right in the middle of Jambudvipa is Mount Sumeru. To the south of Sumeru are the mountains Himavana, Hemakuta and Nishadha and to the north of Sumeru are the mountains Nila, Shveta and Shringi. Jambudvipa itself is divided into several regions (varshas). For example, Sumeru is in the middle of Ilavritavarsha. Bharatavarsha is to the south of Sumeru. To the east of Sumeru is Bhadrashvavarsha and to the west is Ketumalavarsha. Harivarsha lies to the south and Ramyakavarsha to the north. Still further northis Hiranmayavarsha and beyond that , Uttarakuruvarsha.

Brahma’s city is on the peak of Sumeru. It is there that the river Ganga descends from heaven and gets divided into four tributaries. Sita flows eastwards, Chakshu westwards, Bhadra northwards and Alakananda southwards into Bharatavarsha.

There are seven major mountain ranges in Bharatavarsha and their names are Mahendra, Malya, Sahya, Shuktimana, Riksha, Vindhya and Pariyatra. Bharatavarsha itself is divided into nine regions (dvipas). The names of eight of these regions are Indradvipa, Kaserumana, Tamraparna, Gabhastimana, Nagadvipa, Soumya, Gandharva and Varuna. The ninth region is completely surrounded by the ocean in all directions. To the east of Bharatavarsha live the Kiratas and to the west the Yavanas.

Below the earth lie the seven regions of the underworld (patala). Their names are Atala, Vitala, Nitala, Sutala, Talatala, Rasatala and Patala. The daityas, danavas and the snakes (sarpa) live there. The underworld is a wonderful place, more beautiful than heaven itself. The sage Narada once went on a trip to the underworld and was bowled over by its beauty. It is full of palaces and jewels. The sun rises there, but does not radiate too much of heat. The moon also rises, but its beam are not at all chilly. The forest are populated by beautiful trees and the ponds are thick with lotus flowers, the songs of cuckoo birds are heard everywhere. Below the underworld sleeps a great snake, known as Shesha or Anata. It has a thousand hoods, all covered with jewels. In fact, this snake is really Vishnu in one of his various forms.

Also part of the world are hells (naraka), presided over by Yama, the god of death. Those are full of weapons, fire and poisons and sinners are sent there to be punished. Sins that are punished by despatch to one of the several hells are lying, murder, killing cows, destroying cities, drinking, killing brahmanas, theft, selling wine or hair, criticizing the Vedas, insulting elders, making weapons, selling lac or meat, dabbling in astronomy, selling salt, destroying forests needlessly, killing sheep or deer, cheating and studying under one’s own son. Each sinner receives a punishment that is in proportion to the severity of his sin. Of course, if one performs penance (prayashchitta) for one’s sin, one need not go to naraka. The best form of penance is praying to Krishna.

The earth (prithivi or bhuloka) extends upto those parts of the sky that can be lit up by the rays of the sun and the moon. The expanse from there to the solar circle is known as bhuvarloka and holy sages live there. Above the solar circle is the lunar circle and beyond it, in succession, come the regions of Mercury (Budha), Venus (Shukra), Mars (Mangala), Jupiter (Brihaspati), Saturn (Shani), the Great Bear constelation (saptarshi) and the Pole Star (Dhruva). The region from the solar circle to Dhruvaloka is known as heaven (svarloka or svarga). Beyond Dhruvaloka is Maharloka and further away, Janaloka, Brahma’s sons live in Janaloka. Beyond Janaloka are Tapaloka and Satyaloka. At the end of a kalpa, all the three lokas (regions) of bhuloka, bhuvarloka and svarloka are destroyed. But the four lokas of Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapaloka and Satyaloka are not destroyed.


There is an ocean to the south of Bharatavarsha. On the shores of this great ocean there is a land named Ondra or Utkala (present Orrisa). Utkala is populated by religious people and the brahmanas who live there are learned in the Vedas. They are very good priests, learned in the Puranas and the shastras and skilled in the art of sacrifices. In the land of Utkala, there is an image of the sun (Surya) known as Konaditya. The word aditya also means the sun, as does the word arka. Thus, Konaditya is the same as Konarka, a corruption of the latter word being Konaraka. The image of Konadiya is so wonderful that even if one gazes at the image, all one’s sins are forgiven.

All around the temple there is sand. But nevertheless, many trees grow around the temple. The best time to worship the sun there is at the time of sunrise. One has to face the east and draw a lotus flower on the ground with red sandalwood. The lotus flower must have exactly eight petals. A copper vessel has to be placed at the centre of the flower and filled with paddy, sesamum, water, red, sandalwood, red flowers and sacred grass. One prays to Surya to descend on the lotus flower that has thus been drawn. If one worships Konaditya according to these prescribed rites, the sins of seven preceding generations are forgiven.

The twelve adityas are nothing but different forms of Surya. Their names are Indra, Dhata, Parjanya, Tvashta, Pusha, Aryama, Bhaga, Vivasvana, Vishnu, Amashumana, Varuna and Mitra, As Indra, Surya destroys the enemies of the gods. As Dhata, he creates living beings. As Parjanya, he showers down rain. As Tvashta, he lives in the trees and herbs. As Pusha, he makes foodgrains grow. As Aryama, he is in the wind. As Bhaga, he is in the body of all 0living beings. As Vivasvana, he is in fire and helps to cook food. As Vishnu, he destroys the enemies of the gods. As Amshumana, he is again in the wind. As Varuna, Surya is in the waters and as Mitra, he is in the moon and in the oceans.

In each month of the year, it is a different aditya who shines, Indra shines in the month of Ashvina, Dhata in Kartika , Parjanya in Shravana, Tvashta in Falguna, Pusha in Pousha, Aryama in Vaishakha, Bhaga in Magha, Vivasvana in Jyaishtha, Vishnu in Chaitra, Amshumana in Ashada, Varuna in Bhadra and Mitra in Agrahayana. Vishnu has twelve hundred rays, Aryama one thousand and three hundred, Vivasvana seventy-two, Amshumana fifteen, Parjanya seventy-two, Varuna one thousand and three hudnred, Tvashta one thousand and one hundred, Indra two thousand and two hundred, Dhata eleven hundred, Mitra one thousand and Pusha nine hundred. Apart from the names of the twelve adityas, Surya has twevle other names as well. These are Aditya, Savita, Surya, Mihira, Arka, Prabhakara, Martanda, Bhaskara, Bhanu, Chitrabhanu, Divakara and Ravi.

Brahma once recounted to the sages the one hundred and eight sacred names of Surya. The Brahma Purana lists these names and we reproduce them nine groups of twelve names each.
(1) Surya, Archana, Bhagavana, Tvashta, Pusha, Arka, Savita, Ravi, Gabhastimana, Aja, Kala, Mrityu.
(2) Dhata, Prabhakara, Prithivi, Jala, Teja, Akasha, Vayu, Parayana, Soma, Brihaspati, Shukra, Budha.
(3) Angaraka, Indra, Vivasvana, Diptamshu, Shuchi, Shouri,Shanaishvara, Brahma, Vishu, Rudra, Skanda, Vaishravana.
(4) Yama, Vaidyuta, Jathara, Agni, Aindhana, Tejohapti, Dharmadhvaja, Vedakarta, Vedanga, Vedavahana, Krita, Treta.
(5) Dvapara, Kali, Sarvasurashraya, Kala, Kashtha, Muhurta, Kshapa, Yama, Kshana, Samvatsara, Ashvattha, Kalachakra.
(6) Vibhavasu, Shashvata, Purusha, Yogi, Vyaktavyakta, Sanatana, Kaladhyaksha, Prajadhyaksha, Vishvakarma, Tamonuda, Varuna, Sagara.
(7) Amsha, Jimuta, Jivana, Ariha, Bhutashraya, Bhutapati, Sarvalokanamaskrita, Shrashta, Samvartaka, Vahni, Sarvadi, Alolupa.
(8) Anata, Kapila, Bhanu, Kamada, Sarvotamukha, Jaya, Vishala, Varada, Sarvabhutasevita, Mana, Suparna, Bhutadi.
(9) Shighraga, Pranadharana, Dhanvantari, Dhumaketu, Adideva, Aditinandana, Dvadashatma, Ravi, Daksha, Pita, Mata, Pitamaha.

Indradyumna and Purushottama Kshetra 

In satya yuga there was a king named Indradyumna. He was a very powerful king, as powerful as Indra himself. He was handsome, honest and truthful, learned in the shastras and the Vedas, and skilled in the use of weapons. His radiance put the sun to shame. Indradyumna was devoted to Vishnu. He once decided that he would worship Vishnu. A tirtha is a sacred place of pilgrimage. Indradyumna scanned all the existing tirthas and cities. But none of them satisfied him. None of them, he felt, was appropriate as a place for worshiping Vishnu.

Indradyumna’s own capital was the city of Avanti, in the kingdom of Malava. Avanti was a beautiful and wealthy city, surrounded on all sides by moats and other fortifications. Traders from many countries came there with all sorts of commodities for trading. The roads of the city were lined with shops. The houses were painted white. The king’s stables were full of horses and elephants. All citizens of Avanti were pleasant of appearance and happy. Sacrifices were held fairly often. Many were the temples, groves and ponds in Avanti. Any tree that grew on earth could be found there.

There was a temple to Shiva in the city. This was known as the temple of Mahakala. The image there was so sacred that worshipping Shiva in the temple of Mahaka was tantamount to performing one thousand ashvamedha yajnas.

The river Shipra flowed past Avanti. On the banks of the river there was a temple to Vishnu known as Govindasvami. Another temple to Vishnu was named Vikramasvami.
But Indradyumna was not satisfied with these temples. He wanted to build another temple to Vishnu. He left Avanti to look for a proper place. His soldiers and subjects accompanied their king, so that it looked as if the entire city of Avanti was on the march. After travelling for any days, they arrived on the shores of the southern ocean, the ocean that is known as lavana samudra.

There were so many waves in the ocean that the ocean itself seemed to be dancing. Marine animals lived in the ocean and the waters were also the source of all sorts of jewels. Indradyumna began to live on the shores of the ocean. He discovered a place near the ocean that was thick with flower and fruit trees. Many types of birds gathered there to eat the fruit. This was the place known as Purushottama kshetra (place), the city of Puri of modern times.

Purushottama kshetra was a very important tirtha. But all knowledge of this tirtha had been hidden until Indradyumna arrived on the scene. There was a reason for this. Many years ago, there used to be an image of Vishnu there, where people used to pray. So sacred was the image that all the sins of the worshippers were immediately forgiven. The result was that Yama could not punish any of the sinners. They simply prayed to Vishnu’s image and escaped. Yama therefore prayed to Vishnu for a solution. Vishnu hid the image under the sand so that no one knew that it existed.

Indradyumna liked Purushottama kshetra. The river Mahanadi or Chitroplala flowed not very far away. The people who lived around the place were religious. He decided that this was the right place for building a temple to Vishnu. On an auspicious day, the foundation stone was laid.

Indradyumna then got in touch with the kings of Kalinga, Utkala and Koshala. He requested their help in fetching stones for the building of the temple. The kings sent their architects to the Vindhya mountains. The stones were gathered from these mountains and brought to Purushottama Kshetra in boats and chariots. Messengers were also sent to several other kings for aid. They came with their armies and with a lot of wealth.

Indradyumna told the assembled kings, I wish to accomplish two difficult tasks. The first is to perform an ashvamedha yajna here. And the second is to build a temple to Vishnu. Both of these difficult jobs, particularly the second. But if you help me, I am confident that both jobs can be done.

The kings agreed to help. They offered jewels, wealth, gold, clothes, foodgrains and other objects. The place where the yajna was to beheld was made entriely out of gold. In fact, all the objects used in the yajna were made out of gold. Brahmanas from all over Jambudvipa came to witnesss the sacrifice. They were donated elephants, horses and cows as alms. Never has there been any other sacrifice to rival the one that Indradyumna peformed.

After the sacrifice was over and the temple built, there remained the more important question of the image. How was this to be made? Indradyumna began to pray to Vishnu for guidance.

Vishnu appeared before Indradyumna in a dream and said, Why are you so miserable? When the sun rises, got to the shores of the ocean. There you will find a tree. Half of the tree is in the water and the remaining half in the sand. Chop down this tree. Its wood will give you the material for the image.

In the morning, Indradyumna went to the seashore and found the tree. It was just as Vishnu had described it to be. With an axe, he chopped down the tree. As he was about to slice the trunk in two, two brahmanas appeared before him. Although Indradyumna did not know it, these two brahmanas were Vishnu and Vishvakarma in disguise.

King, what have you done? exclaimed the brahmanas. You have cut down the only tree that was on the shores of the ocean.

Forgive me, replied Indradyumna. I wished to make an image of Vishnu. Vishnu has instructed me in a dream that this is the tree from which the image should be made.

That is an excellent idea, said the brahmana who was Vishnu in disguise. There is nothing so holy as praying to Vishnu. Meet my companion. He is as skilled as the great Vishvakarma himself. If you want, he will build the image for you.

King Indradyumna agreed. And instructed by Vishnu, Vishvakarma started to build the image. Or, to be more accurate, there were three diffferent images. The first one was that of Baladeva or Balarama. This was completely while in colour, except for the eyes, which were red. The image was dressed in blue and snake held its hood over Balarama’s head. A club and a mace were in Balarama’s hands. The second image was Krishna’s This was blue in colour, with eyes like lotus flowers. The image was dressed in yellow and had a chakra inits hand. The third image was that of Krishna’s sister Subhadra. This image was golden in colour and was dressed in wonderful clothes.

When Indradyumna discovered that the images were made in a matter of minutes, he was thundersturck. He realized that the two brhamanas could not be mere mortals. He fell at their feet and said, Please tell me who you are. You cannot be humans.

Vishnu and Vishvakarma then revealed their true selves and Indradyumna was thrilled. Vishnu blessed the king and told him that he would rule for ten thousand and nine hundred years. And even after Indradyumna died, a place would be reserved for him in heaven.

On an auspicious day, the three images were instated in the temple.


Many years ago, a great destruction (pralaya) took place. The earth was shrouded in darkness and nothing could be seen. There was neither sun nor moon. Lightning and thunder crushed mountains and trees. There were showers of meteors. Lakes and rivers dried up. The entire earth burnt with fire and the flames of the fire reached down to the underworld. All living beings perished in this fire, including the gods and the demons.

There was a sage named Markandeya. While all this was going on, Markandeya was busy meditating. Such was the power of Markandeya’s tapasya that the fire dared not touch him. But it is also true that Markandeya was scared of the fire that raged all around him. He suffered from hunger and thirst and forgot all about his tapasya. His lips and throat dried up from fear. Markandeya discovered that there was a banyan tree that was untouched by all these ravages. He retired to the shade of the banyan tree and started to pray to Vishnu.

Clouds gathered in the sky. They were thick and dark clouds and they spread all over the earth. It started to rain and it poured and poured. Water was everywhere and the earth was flooded. The water put out the fire. It rained continuously for twelve years. The oceans flooded the shores and the mountains were pulverised. Vishnu slept on the water.

Markandeya did not know what to do. There water everywhere and he floated on it. But he continued to pray to Vishnu.

Vishnu spoke to Markandeya. Do not be frightened Markandeya, he said. You are devoted to me and I shall protect you.

Markandeya did not realize that it was Vishnu who was speaking. Who dares to address me thus? he demanded. Am I a child that I should be so addressed? I am the great Markandeya, blessed by Brahma himself.

But try as he might, Markandeya could not see anyone anywhere. Where had the voice come from then? Had it all been an illusion? Not knowing what to do, he started to pray again to Vishnu. Suddenly he saw the banyan tree floating on the water. A golden bed was spread on the branches of the tree and on the bed there slept a small boy. Markandeya was exceedingly surprised to see the small boy floating in the middle of this deluge. He was so confused by his illusions that he did not realize tha thtis boy was none other than Vishnu.

The boy spoke to Markandeya. You are tired, said the boy. You are looking for a refuge. Enter my body and rest for sometime.

Markandeya was so confused that, before he could react, he entered the boy’s body through the mouth. Inside the boy’s stomach Markandeya discovered all the worlds the seven regions and the seven oceans. The mountains and the kingdoms were all there. So were all living beings.

Markandeya did not know what to make of all this. He started to pray to Vishnu. No sooner than he had started, he came out of the boy’s mouth. Vishnu now appeared before him and blessed him. The sage spent a thousand years with Vishnu. Vishnu then asked, I wish to grant you a boon. What is your desire?

I want to build a temple to Shiva in Purushottama kshetra, replied Markandeya. This will prove to everyone that Vishnu and Shiva are really one and the same.

Vishnu granted the boon and Markandeya built a temple to Shiva known as Bhuvaneshvara (Lord of the World).

King Shveta 

In satya yuga there used to be a king named Shveta. He was such a good king that during his reign people lived for ten thousand years. No one died as a child. Longevity was high and there was no infant mortality.

But there was a sage named Kapalagoutama. Unfortunately, the sage’s son died as an infant. The sage brought the dead body to Shveta and the king resolved that if he could not bring the sage’s son back to life within a week, he would immolate himself in a fire. Having thus taken an oath. King Shveta worshipped Shiva with one thousand and one hundred blue lotus flowers. Shiva appreared before the king and granted the boon tha tthe infant son might be brought back to life.

King Shveta ruled for a thousand years. He also built a temple to Vishnu in Purushottama kshetra. The temple that had been built by Indradyumna was known as the temple of Jagannatha. Shveta’s temple was not very far from this and known as the temple of Shvetamadhava. The image in this temple was as white as the moon.


There was a king of the daitya named Vali. He was powerful and invincible. He was also righteous and truthful. The gods could not bear to see Vali’s prosperity and began to plot how Vali might be foiled. So well did Vali rule that disease, drought and evil disappeared throughout the three worlds.

In desperation, the gods approached Vishnu. Please do something about Vali, they requested. You always help us out when we are in trouble.

There is no difference between Vali and the gods so far as I am concerned, replied Vishnu Vali is devoted to me. I cannot therefore fight with him. But I will think of a way so that his kingdom might be taken away from him and given to you.

Vishnu decided to be born as Aditi’s son. The son was a dwarf. This was the vamana avatara (dwarf incarnation) of Vishnu.

Vali proposed to organize a horse sacrifice. Many sages came to the sacrifice and Shukracharya was the chief priest. The dwarf also arrived to wintess the yajna.

Shukracharya realized that the dwarf was none other than Vishnu. He told Vali. I suspect that this dwarf is Vishnu in disguise. He must have come here to ask you for something. Please do not grant him anything without first consulting me,

Certainly not, replied Vali. It is good fortune indeed that the great Vishnu has come to my house. What is there to consult about? I shall grant Vishnu whatever he wants.

Vali went to the dwarf to ascertain what the dwarf wanted. Vishnu expressed the wish that he might be given as much of land as might be covered in three of the dwarf’s steps. This boon Vali readily granted. But no sooner than the boon had been granted, the dwarf adopted a gigantic form. He place one foot on Vali’s yajna and the second on Brahmaloka.

Where will I place my third step? demanded Vishnu. There is no more space left in the entire universe. Find a place for my third step.

Vali smiled and said, Place it on my back.

Vishnu was charmed at Vali’s generosity. He granted Vali the boon that Vali would hold the title of Indra in a furture manvantara. He then appointed Vali king of the underwold. But Indra’s kingdom of heaven, which Vali had conquered, was returned to Indra.

Brahma had all this while been in Brahmaloka. When Vishnu placed his second foot on Brahmaloka, Brahma felt that he should welcome and worship the foot. He used holy water from his water-pot (kamandalu) to wash the foot. The water spilled over from the foot and fell on the mountains. There the water divided into four. Vishnu accepted the flow that went northwards. The flow that went westwards returned to Brahma’s kamandalu. The flow that went eastwards was gathered up by the gods and the sages. But the flow that went southwards got entangled in Shiva’s matted hair. This water was the river Ganga.


Part of the water of the Ganga that got stuck in Shiva’s hair was brought down to earth by Bhagiratha. The remaining part was brought down by the sage Goutama.

Parvati was married to Shiva, but Shiva seemed to be fonder of Ganga than of Parvati. Parvati resolved that a way had to be found to remove Ganga from Shiva’s hair. She tried persuasion, but Shiva refused to listen.

At the time, there was a terrible drought on earth which went on for fourteen years. The only place that was not affected by the drought was the sage Goutama’s hermitage. Other people also gathered in the hermitage to save themselves from the drought and Goutama welcomed them all. Ganesha thought that he might be able to devise a way to free his mother of the Ganga problem. He went and began to live in
Goutama’s hermitage.

Ganesha cultivated the acquaintance of the other sages and became quite friendly with them.

One of Parvati’s companions were Jaya. Ganesha told Jaya that she was to adopt the form of a cow and up the grain in Goutama’s fields. And the moment she was struck, she was to lie down on the ground and pretend to be dead.

Goutama notieced that a cow eating up his grain. He tried to drive away the cow by striking with a blade of grass. As soon as he did this, the cow uttered a shrill bellow and fell down on the ground. Ganesh and the other sages came running to see what had happened. They discovered that, to all intents and purposes, a cow had been struck down dead by sage Goutama. They therefore refused to stay in an ashrama where such a sin had been committed.

Goutama tried to restrain them. Please do not go away and forsake me, he said. Tell me how I may perform penance.

You will have to bring down Ganga from Shiva’s hair, replied Ganesha. When that water touches the dead body of the cow, your sin will be forgiven.

Ganesha was so friendly with the other sages that they all accepted his solution. Goutama also agreed to do the needful.

Accordingly, Goutama went to Mount Kailasa and began to pray to Shiva. Shiva was pleased at Goutama’s tapasya and offered to grant a boon. Goutama naturally wanted the boon that Ganga might be brought down to earth. Shiva agreed. It was thus that Ganga was brought down to earth by the sage Goutama. Ganga has four tributaries in heaven, seven on earth and four in the underworld. Since it was Goutama who brought Ganga down to earth, the river is also known as Goutami Ganga.

The Doves

In the mountain known as Brahmagiri there used to live a hunter who was very cruel. He not only killed birds and animals, but brahmanas and sages as well.

The hunter once went on a hunt. He killed many animals and birds and some he put in his cages. He had penetrated so far inside the forest that he was far from home. It became night and also started to rain. Hungry and thirsty, the hunter lost his way. He climbed up a tree and decided to spend the night there. But his mind kept going back to his wife and children at home.

For many years a dove and its family had lived happily on that tree. Both the male and the female had gone out to look for food. But although the male dove had returned to the nest, the female dove had not. In fact, the female had been captured by the hunter and was now inside a cage. The male did not know this. He mourned for his wife.

These words of mourning were heard by the female dove inside the cage and she made her presence felt. The male dove came down and discovered his wife inside the cage. The hunter is sleeping now, he said. Now is the time for me to free you.

No, replied the female dove. You know how it is with living beings. One living being lives on another. I can find no fault with the hunter, he is merely collecting his food. He is like a guest to us. And it is our duty to offer up our bodies for the sake of a guest.

You are quite right, said the male dove. I lost my sense of propriety. We have to serve our guest. But how do we serve our guest? We have nothing that we can call our own.

At the moment the hunter is suffering most from the cold, replied the female dove. We have to light a fire to warm him up. Go and find a fire and bring plenty of dead leaves and branches so that the fire may burn.

The male dove found a flaming branch. He also brought many dry leaves and branches so that the fire could burn. The rain had stopped and the fire warmed the hunter.

Now , said the female dove, Free me so that I may immolate myself in the fire. My roasted flesh will serve as food for the hunter.

Never, replied the male dove. It is my right to serve the guest first.

Saying this, the male dove hurled himself into the fire. The hunter had heard the entire conversation and marvelled that two doves could be so altruistic. The female dove now requested the hunter to free her from the cage . And as soon as he did this, the female dove also hurled herself into the fire.

This selfless deed of the two doves was so wonderful that a space vehicle (vimana) came down to take the two doves straight to heaven. The cruel hunter was also impressed and repented his past misdeeds. He told the doves, You are indeed blessed. Before you go to heaven, please tell me how I may perform penance for my sins.

Go to Goutami Ganga and bathe there for fifteen days, replied the doves. Your sins will also be forgiven.

The hunter did as he had been asked to. The place where the doves immolated themselves became a holy tirtha known as kapotatirtha, since the word kapota means dove.

Garuda and Maninaga 

You have already been told about the great snake (naga) Ananta. Anata had a son named Maninaga. Garuda was the enemy of the snakes and the snakes were all afraid of Garuda.

Maninaga began to pray to Shiva. Having pleased Shiva, he obtained the boon that Garuda would be able to do him no harm.





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