Mahabharata Santi Parva - Translation by KM Ganguly

Mahabharata Adiparva


Janamejaya said, 'I have heard from thee the glory of the divine and Supreme Soul. I have heard also of the birth of the Supreme Deity in the house of Dharma, in the form of Nara and Narayana. I have also heard from thee the origin of the Pinda from the mighty Baraha (Boar) (which form the supreme Deity had assumed for raising by the submerged Earth). I have heard from thee about those deities and Rishis that were ordained for the religion of Pravritti and of those that were ordained for the religion of Nivritti. Thou hast also, O regenerate one, discoursed to us on other topics. Thou hast said also unto us of that vast form, with the Equine head, of Vishnu, that partaker of the libations and other offerings made in sacrifices,--.the form, viz., that appeared in the great ocean on the North-East. That form was beheld by the illustrious Brahman, otherwise known by the name of Parameshthi. What, however, were the exact features, and what the energy, the like of which among all great objects, had never appeared before, of that form which Hari, the upholder of the universe, displayed on that occasion? What did Brahman do, O ascetic, after having seen that foremost of deities, him whose likeness had never been seen before, him who was of immeasurable energy, him who had the Equine head, and him who was Sacredness itself? O regenerate one, this doubt hath arisen in our mind about this ancient subject of knowledge. O thou of foremost intelligence, for what reason did he supreme Deity assume that form and display himself in it unto Brahman? Thou hast certainly sanctified us by discoursing unto us on these diverse sacred subjects!' 

Sauti said, I shall recite to thee that ancient history, which is perfectly consistent with the Vedas, and which the illustrious Vaisampayana recited unto the son of Parikshit on the occasion of the great Snake-sacrifice. Having heard the account of the mighty form of Vishnu, equipt with the horse-head, the royal son of Parikshit too had entertained the same doubt and put the same questions to Vaisampayana.

Janamejaya said, "Tell me, O best of men, for what reason did Hari appear in that mighty form equipt with a horse-head and which Brahma, the Creator, beheld on the shores of the great northern Ocean on the occasion referred to by yourself?"

Vaisampayana said, "All existent objects, O king, in this world, are the result of a combination of the five primal elements, a combination due to the intelligence of the Supreme Lord. The puissant Narayana, endued with infinity, is the supreme Lord and Creator of the universe. He is the inner Soul of all things, and the giver of boons. Divested of attributes, he is again possessed of them. Listen now, O best of kings, to me as I narrate to thee how the Destruction is brought about of all things. At first, the element of Earth becomes merged in Water and nothing then is seen save one vast expanse of Water on all sides. Water then merges into Heat, and Heat into Wind. Wind then merges into Space, which in its turn, merges into Mind. Mind merges into the Manifest (otherwise called Consciousness or Ego). The Manifest merges into the Unmanifest (or Prakriti). The Unmanifest (or Prakriti) merges into Purusha (Jivatman) and Purusha merges into the Supreme Soul (or Brahman). Then Darkness spreads over the face of the universe, and nothing can be perceived. From that primal Darkness arises Brahma (endued with the principle of Creation). Darkness is primeval and fraught with immortality. Brahma that arises from primeval Darkness develops (by its own potency) into the

idea of the universe, and assumes the form of Purusha. Such Purusha is called Aniruddha. Divested of sex, it is called otherwise by the name of Pradhana (Supreme or Primary). That is also known by the name of Manifest, or the combination of the triple attribute, O best of kings. He exists with Knowledge alone for his companion. That illustrious and puissant Being is otherwise called by the name of Viswaksena or Hari. Yielding to Yoga-sleep, he lays himself down on the waters. He then thinks of the Creation of the Universe of diversified phenomena and fraught with immeasurable attributes. While engaged in thinking of Creation, he recollects his own high attributes. From this springs the four-faced Brahma representing the Consciousness of Anirudha. The illustrious Brahma, otherwise called Hiranyagarbha, is the Grandsire of all the worlds. Endued with eyes like lotus petals, he takes birth within the Lotus that springs from (the navel of) Anirudha. Seated on that Lotus, the illustrious, puissant, and eternal Brahma of wonderful aspect saw that the waters were on all sides. Adopting the attribute of Sattwa Brahma, otherwise called Parameshthi, then commenced to create the universe. In the primeval Lotus that was endued with the effulgence of the Sun, two drops of water had been cast by Narayana that were fraught with great merit. The illustrious Narayana, without beginning and without end, and transcending destruction, cast his eyes on those two drops of water. One of those two drops of water, of very beautiful and bright form, looked like a drop of honey. From that drop sprang, at the command of Narayana, a Daitya of the name of Madhu made up of the attribute of Tamas (Dullness). The other drop of water within the Lotus was very hard. From it sprang the Daitya Kaitabha made up of the attribute of Rajas. Endued thus with the attributes of Tamas and Rajas, the two Daityas possessed of might and armed with maces, immediately after their birth, began to rove within that vast primeval Lotus. They beheld within it Brahma of immeasurable effulgence, engaged in creating the four Vedas, each endued with the most delightful form. Those two foremost of Asuras, possessed of bodies, beholding the four Vedas, suddenly seized them in the very sight of their Creator. The two mighty Danavas, having seized the eternal Vedas, quickly dived into the ocean of waters which they saw and proceeded to its bottom. Seeing the Vedas forcibly taken away from him, Brahma became filled with grief. Robbed of the Vedas in this way, Brahma then addressed the Supreme Lord in these words.

"Brahma said, 'The Vedas are my great eyes. The Vedas are my great strength. The Vedas are my great refuge. The Vedas are my high Brahman. All the Vedas, however, have been forcibly taken away from me by the two Danavas. Deprived of the Vedas, the worlds I have created have become enveloped in darkness. Without the Vedas (beside me), how shall I succeed in causing my excellent Creation to start into existence? Alas, great is the grief I suffer in consequence of the loss of the Vedas (through such agency). My heart is very much pained. It has become the abode of a great sorrow. Who is there that will rescue me from this ocean of grief in which I am sunk for the loss I have endured? Who is there that will bring me the Vedas I have lost? Who is there that will take compassion on me?--While Brahma was uttering these words, O best of kings, the resolution suddenly arose in his mind, O foremost of intelligent persons, for hymning the praises of Hari in these words. The puissant Brahma then, with hands joined in reverence, and seizing the feet of his progenitor, sang this highest of hymns in honour of Narayana.'"

"Brahma said, 'I bow to thee, O heart of Brahman. I bow to thee that hast been born before me. Thou art the origin of the universe. Thou art the foremost of all abodes. Thou, O puissant one, art the ocean of Yoga with all its branches. Thou art the Creator of both what is Manifest and what is Unmanifest. Thou treadest along the path whose auspiciousness is of inconceivable extent. Thou art the consumer of the universe. Thou art the Antaralock (Inner Soul) of all creatures. Thou art without any origin. Thou art the refuge of the universe. Thou art self-born; for origin thou hest none that is not thyself. As regards myself, I have sprung through thy Grace. From thee have I derived my birth. My first birth from thee, which is regarded sacred by all regenerate persons, was due to a fiat of thy Mind. My second birth in days of yore was from thy eyes. Through thy Grace, my third birth was from thy speech. My fourth birth. O puissant Lord, was from thy ears. My fifth birth, excellent in all respects, was from thy nose. O Lord, My sixth birth was, through thee, from an egg. This is my seventh birth. It has occurred, O Lord, within this Lotus, and it is meant to stimulate the intellect and desires of all the beings. At each Creation I take birth from thee as thy son, O thou that art divested of the three attributes. Indeed, O lotus-eyed one, I take birth as thy eldest son, made up of Sattwa the foremost of three attributes. Thou art endued with that nature which is Supreme. Thou springest from thyself. I have been created by thee. The Vedas are my eyes. Hence, I transcend Time itself. Those Vedas, which constitute my eyes, have been taken away from me. I have, therefore, become blind. Do Thou awake from this Yoga-sleep. Give me back my eyes. I am dear to thee and thou art dear to me. Thus praised by Brahma, the illustrious Purusha, with face turned towards every side, then shook off his slumber, resolved to recover the Vedas (from the Daityas that had forcibly snatched them away). Applying his Yoga-puissance, he assumed a second form. His body, equipt with an excellent nose, became as bright as the Moon. He assumed an equine head of great effulgence, which was the abode of the Vedas. The firmament, with all its luminaries and constellations, became the crown of his head. His locks of hair were long and flowing, and had the splendour of the rays of the Sun. The regions above and below became his two ears. The Earth became his forehead. The two rivers Ganga and Saraswati became his two hips. The two oceans became his two eye-brows. The Sun and the Moon became his two eyes. The twilight became his nose. The syllable Om became his memory and intelligence. The lightning became his tongue. The Soma-drinking Pitris became, it is said, his teeth. The two regions of felicity, viz., Goloka and Brahmaloka, became his upper and lower lips. The terrible night that succeeds universal destruction, and that transcends the three attributes, became his neck. Having assumed this form endued with the equine head and having diverse things for its diverse limbs, the Lord of the universe disappeared then and there, and proceeded to the nether regions. Having reached those regions, he set himself to high Yoga. Adopting a voice regulated by the rules of the science called Siksha, he began to utter loudly Vedic Mantras. His pronunciation was distinct and reverberated through the air, and was sweet in every respect. The sound of his voice filled the nether region from end to end. Endued with the properties of all the elements, it was productive of great benefits. The two Asuras, making an appointment with the Vedas in respect of the time when they would come back to take them up again, threw them down in the nether region, and ran towards the spot whence those sounds appeared to come. Meanwhile, O king, the Supreme Lord with the equine head, otherwise called Hari, who was himself in the nether region, took up all the Vedas. Returning to where Brahma was staying, he gave the Vedas unto him. Having restored the Vedas unto Brahma, the Supreme Lord once more returned to his own nature. The Supreme Lord also established his form with the equine head in the North-Eastern region of the great ocean. Having (in this way) established him who was the abode of the Vedas, he once more became the equine-headed form that he was.  The two Danavas Madhu and Kaitabha, not finding the person from whom those sounds proceeded, quickly came back to that spot. They cast their eyes around but beheld that the spot on which they had thrown the Vedas was empty. Those two foremost of mighty Beings, adopting great speed of motion, rose from the nether region. Returning to where the primeval Lotus was that had given them birth, they saw the puissant Being, the original Creator, staying in the form of Aniruddha of fair complexion and endued with a splendour resembling that of the Moon. Of immeasurable prowess, he was under the influence of Yoga-sleep, his body stretched on the waters and occupying a space as vast as itself. Possessed of great effulgence and endued with the attribute of stainless Sattwa, the body of the Supreme Lord lay on the excellent hood of a snake that seemed to emit flames of fire for the resplendence attaching to it. Beholding the Lord thus lying, the two foremost of Danavas roared out a loud laugh. Endued with the attributes of Rajas and Tamas, they said.--'This is that Being of white complexion. He is now lying asleep. Without doubt, this one has brought the Vedas away from the nether region. Whose is he? Whose is he? Who is he? Why is he thus

asleep on the hood of a snake: Uttering these words, the two Danavas awakened Hari from his Yoga-slumber. The foremost of Beings, (viz., Narayana), thus awakened, understood that the two Danavas intended to have an encounter with him in battle. Beholding the two foremost of Asuras prepared to do battle with him, he also set his mind to gratify that desire of theirs. Thereupon an encounter took place between those two on one side and Narayana on the other. The Asuras Madhu and Kaitabha were embodiments of the attributes of Rajas and Tamas. Narayana slew them both for gratifying Brahma. He thence came to be called by the name of Madhusudana (slayer of Madhu). Having compassed the destruction of the two Asuras and restored the Vedas to Brahma, the Supreme Being dispelled the grief of Brahma. Aided then by Hari and assisted by the Vedas, Brahma created all the worlds with their mobile and immobile creatures. After this, Hari, granting unto the Grandsire intelligence of the foremost order relating to the Creation, disappeared there and then for going to the place he had come from. It was thus that Narayana, having assumed the form equipt with the horse-head, slew the two Danavas Madhu and Kaitabha (and disappeared from the sight of Brahma). Once more, however, he assumed the same form for the sake of causing the religion of Pravritti to flow in the universe.'

"Thus did the blessed Hari assume in days of old that grand form having the equine head. This, of all his forms, endued with puissance, is celebrated as the most ancient. That person who frequently listens or mentally recites this history of the assumption by Narayana of the form equipt with the equine head, will never forget his Vedic or other lore. Having adored with the austerest penances the illustrious deity with the equine head, the Rishi Panchala (otherwise known as Galava) acquired the science of Krama by proceeding along the path pointed out by the deity (Rudra).  I have thus recited to thee, O king the old story of Hayasiras, consistent with the Vedas about which thou hadst asked me. Whatever forms, the Supreme Deity desires to assume with a view to ordaining the various affairs of the universe, he assumes those forms immediately within himself by exercise of his own inherent powers. The Supreme Deity, endued with every prosperity, is the receptacle of the Vedas. He is the receptacle of Penances also. The puissant Hari is Yoga. He is the embodiment of the Sankhya philosophy. He is that Para Brahman of which we hear. Truth has Narayana for its refuge. Rita has Narayana for its soul. The religion of Nivritti, in which there is no return, has Narayana for its high abode. The other religion

which has Pravritti for its basis, has equally Narayana for its soul. The foremost of all the attributes that belong to the element of Earth is scent. Scent has Narayana for its soul. The attributes of Water, O king, are called the Tastes (of the various kinds). These Tastes have Narayana for their soul. The foremost attribute of Light is form. Form also has Narayana for its soul. Touch, which is the attribute of Wind, is also said to have Narayana for its soul. Sound, which is an attribute of space, has like the others, Narayana for its soul. Mind also, which is the attribute of the unmanifest (Prakriti), has Narayana for its soul. Time which is computed by the motion of the celestial luminaries has similarly Narayana for its soul. The presiding deities of Fame, of Beauty, and of Prosperity have the same Supreme Deity for their soul. Both the Sankhya philosophy and Yoga have Narayana for their soul. The Supreme Being is the cause of all this, as Purusha. He is, again the cause of everything, as Pradhana (or Prakriti). He is Swabhaba (the basis on which all things rest). He is the doer or agent, and is the cause of that variety that is witnessed in the universe. He is the diverse kinds of energy that act in the universe. In these five ways he is that all-controlling invisible influence of which people speak. Those employed in investigating the several topics of enquiry with the aid of such reasons as are of wide application, regard Hari to be identical with the five reasons adverted to above and as the final refuge of all things. Indeed, the puissant Narayana, endued with the highest Yoga puissance, is the one topic (of enquiry). The thoughts of the denizen of all the worlds including Brahma and the high-souled Rishis, of those that are Sankhyas and Yogins, of those that are Yatis, and of those, generally, that are conversant with the Soul are fully known to Kesava, but none of these can know what is thoughts are. Whatever acts are performed in honour of the gods or the Pitris, whatever gifts are made, whatever penances are performed, have Vishnu for their refuge,--who is established upon his own supreme ordinances. He is named Vasudeva because of his being the abode of all creatures. He is immutable. He, is Supreme. He is the foremost of Rishis. He is endued with the highest puissance. He is said to transcend the three attributes. As Time (which runs smoothly without any sign) assumes indications when it manifests itself in the form of successive seasons, even so He, though really divested of attributes (for manifesting Himself). Even they that are high-souled do not succeed in understanding his motions. Only those foremost of Rishis that have knowledge of their Souls, succeed in beholding in their hearts that Purusha who transcends all attributes."