Markandeya Puranam

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MARKANDEYA said: O foremost of Vipras, day after day that great ascetics protected and reared those young ones with food and water. (1) Within a month they, gazed at by the sons of the ascetics, with eyes expanded with curiosity, began to fly about in the course of the sun’s car (sky). (2) Having gone round the earth, resembling the wheel of a car, abounding in cities, seas, and great rivers, those high-minded ones, not born of any female, with their minds and bodies exhausted, returned to the hermitage. (3) By the potency of the ascetics their knowledge became manifest at that place. (4) While the Rishi (Shamika), for favouring his disciples, was discoursing on the certain truths of religion, they, circumambulating him, bowed to his feet. (5)

(They) said : “O ascetic, we have been saved by you from a dreadful death; by giving us shelter, food and water, you have proved to be our father and preceptor. (6) Our mother died when we were in the womb and no father has brought us up; you have given us our life, for you have protected us in our infancy. (7) O you of undeteriorating energy, taking away the bell of the elephant, you did remove our misery while we, on the earth, were drying up like so many earthworms. (8) ‘When will these poor (young ones) grow up? When shall I see them strong? When shall I see them go to the tree from the earth and fly about from one tree to another? (9) When shall the native lustre of my body meet with destruction by the dust raised by the wind of the wings of these ones, ranging about me?’ (10) Thinking in this wise, O father, we have been brought up by you. We have now grown up and our understanding has increased, what shall we do now?” (11) Hearing those their distinct words resembling those of a refined speech, surrounded by all his disciples and his son Sringi, the ascetic, stricken with curiosity and with his hairs standing erect, said: “Tell me truly how you can utter speech. (12¬13) It behoves you to speak to us by whose imprecation you have come by this change in your form and speech.” (14)

The birds said: “Formerly there was a great ascetic well-known by the name of Vipulaswan. He had two sons born to him, Srikrishna and Tamvaru. (15) Of the self-controlled ascetic Srikrishna we are the four sons, always conducting ourselves with humility and bending low with reverence. (16) While he was engaged in hard austerities, according to his will, with his senses restrained, we used to collect for him sacrificial fuel, flowers and other requisites. (17) Thus we all living there in that forest, came to us once the king of the celestials assuming the form of a huge, broken-winged and a decrepit bird, having coppery eyes and trembling body, for imprecating a curse on us and asking (something) of that foremost of Rishis endued with truthfulness, purity, forgiveness, good conduct and nobleness of mind. (18-20)

He said: “O foremost of the twice-born, you should save me, who am stricken with hunger, I seek for food, O great one, and be you my help. (21) While living on the summit of the Vindhya mountain, I was thrown down, O great one, by the violent wind generated by wings of the bird (Garuda). (22) Possessed by bewilderment I lay on the ground for seven days and on the eight day I regained my consciousness. (23) Regaining consciousness, stricken with hunger, desirous of food, with delight gone and a suffering mind I seek refuge with you. (24) Therefore, O you of pure mind, do you firmly make up your mind to save me; O Brahmana saint, give me such food as may sustain my life.” (25) Being thus accosted he replied to Indra in the form of a bird: “I shall give you such food by which you may sustain your life.” (26) Having said this that foremost of twice-born again asked: “What food shall I procure for you.” Whereto he replied: “I find great delight in the flesh of men.” (27)

The Rishi said: “O oviparous one, your childhood is gone as well as your youth; forsooth, old age is now with you, when the endless desires of men come to an end. Why then even in your old age you are so very cruel? (28-29) What is human flesh? What is the end of your life? The desires of the wicked never meet with perfect pacification? (30) And what is the use of my speaking this? We should now think that what has promised must be given.” (31) Having said this to him that best of the Vipras, making up his mind, speedily sent for us. And praising each according to his merit, that ascetic of aggrieved heart, addressed highly cruel words to us all who were bending low with humility, filled with devotion and had our hands joined: (32¬33) “O foremost of the twice-born, you have subdued yourself and have been freed from your debts along with me. O twice-born ones, as you are my offsprings, you have begotten excellent children. (34) If I am your preceptor, worshipful and your father, worthy of your reverence, then do you satisfy my words with a good spirit.” (35) As soon as we were addressed by him affectionately with these words we said: “Think what you have said to us as already accomplished.” (36)

The Rishi said: “This bird, stricken with hunger and thirst, has sought refuge with me. Do you soon do that by which he may obtain satisfaction with your flesh and slake his thirst with your blood”. (37) Thereupon pained and trembling with great fear we said: “Alas! Alas! This cannot be done by us. (38) Why should a wise man destroy his own body for sake of others; one’s own body is like one’s own son. (39) A son, as mentioned, satisfies the debts of the ancestral

manes, deities and human beings but he never gives his body. (40) Therefore we shall not do this; nor those, that have passed away, did it; a person, living, attains to well-being; a person, living, performs pious deeds. (41) A person, dying, loses his body and all his religious merit comes to an end; the virtuous men have said: ‘Protect thy life by all means.’ ” (42) Hearing this words of ours, the ascetic, as if burning in anger and consuming us with his eyes, again addressed us saying: (43) ‘Promising to me as you do not satisfy my words, so burnt down by my imprecation you shall be born as birds.’ (44) Having said this to us and performed his own funeral rites according to the ordinances he said to the bird. (45) ‘O foremost of birds, do you eat me up confidingly; I have converted this body of mine into food for you. (46) O best of the birds, as long as a Brahmana observes truth, so long his Brahmanahood is maintained. (47) A Brahmana does not acquire piety so much by sacrifice, gift or any other act as he does by observing truth.’ (48) Hearing these words of the Rishi, Sakra, under the guise of a bird, having his mind filled with surprise, replied to the ascetic. (49) ‘O foremost of Vipras, resorting to Yoga, renounce your own body – I do not feed upon living animals, O best of Brahmanas.’

(50) Hearing his words the ascetic engaged in Yoga. Then knowing his determination and assuming his own form Sakra said: (51) ‘O best of Vipras, O intelligent one, do you understand, by your intelligence what should be understood. O sinless one, for trying you, I have committed this offence by you. (52) O you of pure mind, either forgive me, therefore or do what you will; I have been highly pleased with you for satisfying your promise. (53) From to-day you shall have knowledge of Indra and there will be no disturbance to your religious penance.’ (54) After Sakra had departed having said this, we, saluting our sire filled with anger, thus addressed the great ascetic. (55) ‘O noble-minded one, you should forgive us, poor as we are, who have been afraid of death; (certainly) we do love our life. (56) We cherish attachment for this body which is made of skin, bones, and flesh and filled with pus and blood, for which no attachment should be cherished. (57) Hear, O great one, how people become infatuated, losing all control over themselves, by the powerful enemies – the vices, lust, anger, &c. (58) The king, Purusha, endowed with consciousness, lives in the great city (body) encircled by the ramparts of wisdom, having bones for its support, a strong foundation of skin, pasted with flesh and blood, having nine entrances, (the flood-gates) of mighty miseries surrounded on all sides with nerves. (56-60) He has two ministers, intellect and mind opposed to each other; and each of these tries to destroy his enemy. (61) The king has four enemies, who are always desirous of killing him – namely, lust, anger, covetousness and the other enemy is stupefaction. (62) When the king lives closing those entrances, then only he is strong, healthy and freed from anxiety. (63) Then attachment grows in him and he is not overcome by his enemies. (64) But while he throws open all the doors, then the enemy attachment get holds of the entrance of his eyes, etc.. (65) He is all-pervading, highly powerful and is capable of entering through five doors. And following him enter the other three dreadful foes. (66) Thereupon entering there through the doors designated as organs of sense attachment attains to unification with mind and the rest. (67) Subjugating the mind and the senses and occupying the entrances that dreadful one destroys the ramparts. Beholding mind under his subjugation, intellect immediately meets with destruction. (68) Having no councillors, renounced by the inmates of his house, and with enemy acquiring the possession of his house that king meets with death. (69) In this way those wicked ones, attachment, stupefaction, covetousness and anger, go about destroying the recollection of men. (70) From attachment originates anger, from anger covetousness, from covetousness springs stupefaction and from it the weakness of memory. From the impairment of memory originates loss of intellect and from loss of intellect follows the destruction of one’s own self.

(71) O foremost of men, do you extend your grace to such persons who have lost their intellect, are following attachment and covetousness and cherish a desire for life. (72) May the curse, that has been imprecated on us by you, the divine sage, may not prove true, and O foremost of ascetics, we may not come by the painful state generated by the quality of darkness.’ (73)

THE RISHI said: ‘What have I said can never be falsified. O my sons, to this day, I have never spoken an untruth. (74) I consider destiny in this as supreme; Oh fie on useless manliness! by which perforce I have unthinkingly perpetrated an iniquity. (75) Since you have propitiated me by bowing to me, you shall even, when born as birds, attain to knowledge. (76)

Having ways discovered by your knowledge and your distressing sins washed away through my grace, you shall unhesitatingly attain to most excellent Siddhi (accomplished piety). (77) When, O my sons, you shall begin speaking (in answer to) Jaimini’s questions about his doubts you will then be freed from my curse. This is the favour I extend to you.’ (78) O worshipful Sir, in this way we were formerly imprecated by our sire under the influence of destiny and after a lapse of time we have been born in another species. (79) We have been born in a battle field and brought up by you. O foremost of the twice-born, in this way we have come by the state of birds. (80) There is no such (person) in this world who is not governed by destiny – all the actions of the creatures are subject to destiny”. (81)

MARKANDEYA said: O reverend Sir, hearing their words, the great ascetic Shamika said to the twice-born ones who were around him. (82) “I have already spoken to you all that they are not ordinary birds; they must be some great twice-born ones for they did not meet with death in that superhuman battle.” (83) Then obtaining permission from that high-souled one who was glad at heart, they repaired to that best of mountains Vindhya filled with trees and creepers.

(84) Even, up to the present day those pious birds live in that mountain being engaged in hard austerities and the study of the Vedas and firmly determined upon (carrying on) the contemplation of mind. (85) Having thus received good behaviour from that ascetic, those sons, of the anchorite, who came by the state of birds, live with minds controlled in the woods of that best of mountain in the Vindhya range, (abounding in) high sacred streams. (86)