Markandeya Puranam

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OM! Salutation unto the Divine Vasudeva.

May those two lotus feet of Hari, capable of dissipating the affliction consequent upon the fear of existence, which, being got at, are adored by the ascetics of composed minds, and which coming into view, have in order enveloped heaven and earth and the nether region, purify you. May he, who is capable of destroying all sins, who reposed on the serpent (Ananta) living in the interior of the Milky ocean, and in whose company, the ocean, although having the billows of its waters rendered terrific by its breath, seemed to dance, protect you.

Having saluted the Supreme Deity (Narayana), and the highest of male beings (Nara) as also the goddess of learning, Saraswati, let us cry success. The highly energetic Jaimini, the disciple of Vyasa, asked the great ascetic Markandeya, engaged in hard austerities and the study of Vedas. (1) “O Reverend Sir, the story of Bharata, that has been related by the high-souled Vyasa, is full of many brilliant expressions collected from various scriptures, and consists of divine metres and figures of speech, excellent words, questions and their solutions. (2-3) As Vishnu is amongst the celestials, a Brahmana amongst men, the peerless jewel amongst all ornaments, the thunder-bolt amongst all weapons and mind amongst all organs, so is the most excellent Mahabharata amongst all sacred writings. (4-5) In it are described both collectively and separately wealth, virtue desire and liberation. (6) It is the foremost of all religious scriptures, the most excellent of all treatises treating of wealth, the foremost of all works relating to desire and the best of all discoursing on liberation. (7) O great Sir, in it have been described by the intelligent Veda Vyasa, the practices, mode of living and the attainment of object belonging to the four conditions (of life). (8) O Sir, this has been so composed by the generous Vyasa that this great scripture, albeit very extensive, is not assailed by contradictions. (9) The earth has been freed from dust by the watery billows of Vyasa’s words coming down from the mount of the Vedas and capable of destroying the trees of false arguments. (10) The huge lake of the Vedas composed by Krishna (Dwaipayana Vyasa) has the sweet words for its big swans, the great stories for its excellent lotuses and the saying for expansive water. (11) Being desirous of learning (from you) faithfully this story of Bharata instinct with deep import and full of Srutis, I have approached you, O reverend Sir.

(12) Why did Janardana, the son of Vasudeva, although devoid of qualities, assume a human form for the creation, preservation and destruction of this universe? (13) Why did Krishna, the daughter of Drupada, alone become the queen of the five sons of Pandu? I have a great doubt in this. (14) How did the highly-powerful Balarama, having a plough for his weapon, atone for the sin of Brahmanacide by visiting holy shrines? (15) Why did the mighty car-warriors, the high-souled sons of Draupadi, having the Pandavas as their lords, die before they were married like forlorn (persons)? (16) It behoves you to describe all this in detail to me, for you always enlighten ignorant people”. (17) Hearing those his words, the great ascetic Markandeya, freed from the eighteen shortcomings1, addressed himself to speak. (18)

MARKANDEYA said: “O foremost of Munis, the hour for performing my rites is present; this is not the proper time for describing it in detail. (19) I shall name now some birds, O Jaimini, that shall describe (this to you) and remove your doubt. (20) Those best of birds, conversant with true knowledge, who always think upon scriptures, and whose understanding is ever free in entering into knowledge of the Vedic scriptures, Drona’s sons, Pingaksha, Vibodha, Suputra and Sumukha are living in a cave of the Vindhya (mountain); go there and ask them (about what you seek to learn).” (21-22) Being thus accosted by the intelligent Markandeya, that best of ascetics, having his eyes expanded with wonderment, replied. (23)

JAIMINI said: “Highly wonderful it is, O Brahman, that birds speak like men (and greater it is) that they should attain to knowledge which it is so difficult to acquire. (24) If they have sprung from the species of birds wherefrom have they attained to his knowledge? Where are these birds called the sons of Drona? (25) Who again is Drona who has these four sons born to

1 sleep, lassitude, fear, anger, stupefaction, pride, insanity, negligence, surprise, doubt, covetousness, malice, envy, insincerity, falsehood, faithlessness, partiality and ignorance

him? How did these high-souled and accomplished ones acquire knowledge of righteousness?” (26)

MARKANDEYA said: “Listen attentively to what took place in Nandana (the garden of gods) when Sakra, Narada and Apsaras met. (27) Narada saw Sakra, the king of celestials, in the midst of the courtesans with his looks firmly fixed upon their faces. (28) As soon as he was espied by that best of ascetics, Sachi’s lord (Indra) at once rose up and respectfully offered him his own seat. (29) Beholding that destroyer of Vala and Vitra rise up, the celestial damsels, bending low with humility, bowed to that celestial saint. (30) Being honoured by them and on the performer of hundred sacrifices taking his seat, (the ascetic), duly welcomed, started a pleasant conversation. After it had ended, the performer of hundred sacrifices said to the great ascetic. (31)

SAKRA said: “Command, let one of them, whom you like, dance – Rambha, Misrakesi, Urvasi, Tilottama, Ghritachi, Menaka, or (any one else) whom you choose (32)”. Hearing the words of Sakra, Narada, the foremost of the twice-born, thinking (for a while) said to the Apsaras who stood (before him). (33) “Let her, amongst you, who considers herself as superior in beauty and nobility – dance before me. (34) One, devoid of beauty and accomplishments, cannot attain to consummation in dancing. A dancing which is accompanied by gestures is (real) dancing – any thing else is but infliction (35)”.

MARKANDEYA said: “Immediately after he had spoken this, each, bowing, said: ‘I am superior in accomplishments.’ while the other said ‘not you, not you’. (36) Seeing their bewilderment the Divine chastiser of Paka said: ‘Ask you the ascetic and he will say who amongst you is superior in accomplishments’. (37) Hear from me, O Jaimini, what Narada then said on being asked by them, following the direction of Sakra. (38) “I shall consider her to be the foremost in accomplishments, who, by her charm, shall agitate the foremost of ascetics Durvasa, carrying on hard austerities on the mountain-chief (39)”. Hearing his words, they all, shaking their heads said: “We are all incapable of doing this (40)”. Amongst them one Apsara, by name Vapu, proud of (her capability) to agitate the sage, said: “I shall go where the anchoret is. (41) I shall make to-day that driver (of the chariot) of the body who has controlled the horses of the senses, lose the hold of reins and become an unskilled driver. (42) Even if Brahma, Janardana, and the blue-red (deity Siva) come to me I shall make to-day their hearts pierced with the shafts of desire”. (43) Having said this Vapu then went to the mount Praleya, (where) by the power of the ascetic’s penances the ferocious beasts and asylums were rendered quiet. (44) Remaining at a distance of two miles from where the great ascetic was, that excellent Apsara, having the sweet voice of a male coel, began to sing. (45) Hearing her music, the ascetic, having his mind filled with surprise, went where that damsel, of sweet voice was. (46) Beholding her, all whose limbs were graceful, the ascetic, controlling his mind and knowing that she had come to agitate it, was filled with wrath and indignation. Then the great sage of hard austerities, told her the following. (47) “Since, O ranger of the sky, O you intoxicated with pride, you have come to cause me woe and to put impediments in my austerity acquired by pain, you shall, therefore, O you of vicious understanding, sullied by my wrath, be born in the species of birds (and remain such) for sixteen years. (48-49) O wretch of an Apsara, renouncing own form and assuming that of a bird four sons will be born to you.

(50) And not obtaining delight in them, and purified by (the stroke of an) weapon you shall again acquire your residence in heaven. There is nothing for you to say in reply”. (51) Making that damsel of tremulous bangles, hear of this unbearable speech, that Brahmana, of eyes reddened with anger, leaving the earth containing the Ganga of liquid waves, went to the celestial Ganga endued with well-known virtues. (52)