The Matsya Purana


Jun 10, CANADA (SUN) — Srimad Matsya Purana, presented in three parts.


There are eighteen major Puranas or mahapuranas, the word 'maha', meaning great. There are also several other minor Puranas or upapuranas, the word 'upa' signifying minor. Amongst the eighteen mahapuranas, the Matsya Purana is number sixteen.

The Puranas themselves describes the five characteristics (pancha lakshana) that a text must satisfy before being classified as a mahapurana. That is, any such text must dscribe five different subjects. These are the original creation of the universe (sarga), the periodical process of destruction and re-creation (pratisaryga), the various eras (manvantara), the histories of the solar dynasty (surya vamsha), and lunar dynasty (chandra vamsha) and royal genealogies (vamshanucharita). The Matysa Purana describe these five different subjects.

Traditionally, the Ramayana is believed to have been composed by the sage Valmiki and the Mahabharata by the sage Vedavyasa. Vedavyasa was the son of Satyavati and the sage Parashara. His real name was Krishna Dvaipayana. The word 'Krishna' means dark and he came to acquire the name because he was dark in complexion. The word dvipa means island and the sage acquired the name of Dvaipayana as he was born on an island.

The Mahabharata has one lakh shlokas or couplets. After composing the Mahabharata, Vedavyasa composed the eighteen mahapuranas. These texts have four lakh shlokas between them, although they are not equal in length. The Matsya Purana is a medium-length Purana, and consists of fifteen thousand couplets. The longest Purana, the Skanda Purana, has eighty-one thousand. And the shortest Purana, the Markandeya Purana, has only nine thousand. The fourteen thousand shlokas of the Maysya Purana are divided into two hundred and ninety-one chapters (adhyaya).

The eighteen Mahapuranas are sometimes divided into three groups, with six Puranas in each group. There are 33 million administrative demigods mentioned in the Vedas. But the primary gods are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is regarded as the creator, Vishnu as the maintainer, and Shiva the destroyer. Since all three are important gods, any sacred text will glorify each of them. But the relative emphasis often varies from text to text. For example, a text which spends many chapters on the act of creation tends to glorify Brahma relatively more and is known as a rajasika Purana. A text which describes the forms (avatara) of Vishnu in great detail tends to glorify Vishnu more and is known as a sattvika Purana. A text mainly concerned with rituals and norms tends to attach more importance to Shiva and is known as a tamasika Purana.

The word 'matsya' means fish. Usually Vishnu is regarded as having had nine incarnations, with a tenth one, Kalki, due to come in the future. The names of these incarnations are as follows.

    (i) Matsya or fish. This is sometimes also referred to as the mina (fish) avatara.
    (ii) Kurma or turtle.
    (iii) Varaha or boar.
    (iv) Nrisimha or narasimha, the half-man and half-lion.
    (v) Vamana or dwarf.
    (vi) Parashurama.
    (vii) Rama.
    (viii) Krishna.
    (ix) Buddha.
    (x) Kalki.

The Matsya Purana is so named because it was first recited by Vishnu himself, in his incarnation of a fish.

Vedavyasa did much more than compose the Mahabharata and the Puranas. So far as the Vedas are concerned. Krishna Dvaipayana had four other disciples. But the Puranas were taught only to Romaharshana.

This is what Romaharshana has to say.

Romaharshana and the Other Sages ( Setting the scene )

There was a forest known as naimisharanya. Many years ago, several sages organized a yajna (sacrifice) in the forest. After the sacrifice was over, the assembled sages told Romaharshana. You have recited to us many Puranas. These subject matter is so pleasing that we would like to hear them once more. Please satisfy our thirst for hearing.

I will recount for you the most holy of all the Puranas, replied Romaharshana. This is the great Matsya Purana, told by Vishnu to Manu. Get prepared for I am about begin.

Vishnu and Manu

There used to be a king named Manu. He was the son of the sun-god.

In fact, in every era, there are fourteen manus. The Manu mentioned here is the seventh in the present era and his name was Vaivasvata Manu. He was the son of the sun-god Vivasvana.)

When it was time for Manu to retire to the forest, he handed over the kingdom to his son. (The son’s name is Ikshvaku.) Manu then went to the foothills of Mount Malaya and started to perform tapasya (meditation \ austerity). Thousands and thousands of years passed. After some time Brahma appeared to him

I am pleased with your prayers, said Brahma; "what ever you like you can have just ask".

I have only one boon to ask for, replied Manu. Sooner or later there will be a destruction (pralaya) and the world will no longer exist. Please grant me the boon that it will be I who will save the world. Grant me this service.

Brahma readily granted this boon.

Days passed. On one particular occasion, Manu was performing ablutions in a pond near his hermitage. He immersed his hands in the water so that he might offer some water to his ancestors. When he raised his cupped hands, he found that there was a minnow (shafari) swimming around in the water. Manu had no desire to kill the minnow. He placed it carefully in his water-pot (kamandalu).

But the minnow started to grow and within a day, it was sixteen fingers in length. Save me, king. said the fish. This water-pot is too small for me.

Manu then placed the fish in a jar. But the fish continued to grow and, within a day, it was three hands in length. Save me, king. said the fish. This jar is too small for me.

Manu put the fish in a well, but the well soon became too small for the fish. Manu transferred the fish to a pond, but the pond was also too small for the fish. Manu now removed the fish to the holy river Ganga, but even this was too small for the fish. Finally, Manu transferred the fish to the ocean. There the fish grew so much that it soon occupied the entire ocean.

Who are you? asked Manu. I have never seen or heard of such wonders. Are you a demon that is deluding me with its illusions? No, I do not think that you are a demon. Perhaps you are great Vishnu himself. Please tell me the truth and satisfy my curiosity.

Vishnu then revealed that it was indeed he who had adopted the form of a fish. He told Manu that the earth would soon be flooded with water. Vishnu had a boat built by the gods. When the earth was flooded, Manu was to place all living beings in the boat and thus save them. Vishnu would himself arrive in his form of the fish and Manu was to tie the boat to the fish’s horn. Thus the living beings would be saved. And when the waters of the flood receded, Manu could populate the world and rule over it.

Vishnu disappeared, and for a hundred years there was a terrible drought on earth. The drought led to famine and people died of starvation. Meanwhile, the sun blazed in fury and burnt up the entire world. When everything had burnt to ashes, dark clouds loomed in the sky. These are the clouds that appear at the time of destruction and there are seven classes of such clouds, known as samvarta, bhimananda, drona, chanda, valahaka, vidyutapataka and kona. From the clouds, rain began to pour and soon, water engulfed the entire earth. The land mass was flooded. As instructed by Vishnu, Manu gathered together living beings inside the boat. And when the fish appeared, he tied the boat to the fish’s horn.

While the boat was being dragged around by the fish, Manu asked Vishnu several questions. The answers that Vishnu provided form the text of the Matsya Purana.

The Creation.

In the beginning, there was nothing in the universe. The was only darkness.

When the time came for creation to begin, Vishnu removed the darkness and expanded into three. These three parts came to be known as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The first object that appeared was water and Vishnu slept on this water. Since 'nara' means water and 'ayana' means resting-place, Vishnu is accordingly also known as Narayana.

In this water next appeared a golden (hiranya) egg (anda). The egg shone with the radiance of a thousand suns. Inside the egg, Brahma grew from the navel of Vishnu. The egg was golden. Garbha means womb, and since Vishnu appeared inside a golden egg, he is also known as Hiranyagarbha.

For a thousand years Brahma stayed inside the egg. He then split the shell into two and emerged out. Heaven (svarga) was made from one half of the shell and the earth from the remaining half. All the land masses, the oceans, the rivers and the mountains, had been inside the egg in embryonic form. Brahma made them manifest.

Since he was the first (adi) being to be born, he is known as Aditya. (The name Aditya is more commonly explained as characterising the offspring of Aditi, from whom all the gods were descended. The Matsya Purana refers to this later.)

Brahma’s first act was to meditate. It was while he was meditating that the Vedas were revealed from with in his heart. He then distributed that knowledge.

Ten sons were also born to Brahma. Created from Brahma’s mental powers, they all became sages. Their names were Marichi, Atri, Angira, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Pracheta, Vashishtha, Bhrigu and Narada. There were others too who were born. Daksha was born from Brahma’s right toe. And the god Dharma was born from his chest.

But for further creation to continue, it was essential that created beings should have proper mothers and fathers. Brahma accordingly created two beings from his body, one was male and the other was female. The male half was named Svayambhuva Manu and the female half was named Shatarupa.

Shatarupa is also referred to as Savitri, Gayatri, Sarasvati or Brahmani. Since she had been born from Brahma’s body, she was like Brahma’s daughter. In fact, Vashishtha and the other sages who were Brahma’s sons welcomed her as their sister. But Shatarupa was so beautiful that Brahma fell in love with her and wished to marry her.

Shatarupa circled Brahma and showed her respects to him. When she stood in front of him. Brahma gazed upon her with the face that he had. But when she went and stood behind him, Brahma could see her no longer. (Brahma, obviously, did not want to turn his head.) Another head with another face therefore sprouted behind Brahma’s first head so that he might be able to see Shatarupa. In similar fashion, a head sprouted to Brahma’s first head so that he might be able to see Shatarpa. In similar fashion, a head sprouted to Brahma’s right an another one to his left.

Brahma married Shatarupa and they lived together as man and wife for a hundred years. Their son was named Svayambhuva Manu.

Remember that this story was being told by Vishnu to Vaivasvata Manu.

Hearing the account, Vaivasvata Manu exclaimed. What you have just said is truly amazing.

To continue with the account of the creation, Brahma created the four Kumaras from his mental powers and their names are Sananda, Sanaka, Sanatana and Sanatakumara, and they became celebrate brahmacaries. Shiva appeared as well.

Brahma asked Shiva to help him in the act of creation. Why don’t you create some beings as well?’ asked Brahma. Shiva complied and started to create. But all the beings that he created were just like him in appearance. That is , they were all immortal.

What are you doing? asked Brahma. Don’t create immortal beings. Create mortal ones instead. That I refuse to do, retorted Shiva. If I am to create, I shall create only immortals.

Please do not create then, requested Brahma. I will take care of creation myself.

Svayambhuva Manu performed very difficult tapsaya and obtained a wife named Anati. (In other Puranas, Svayambhuva Manu is stated to have married Shatarupa.) Svayambhuva Manu and Ananti had two sons named Priyavrata and Uttanapada.

From Uttanapada was descended Prachinavarhi. Prachinavarahi married Savarna, the daugther of the ocean, and they had ten sons. These sons were known as the Prachetas. The ten Prachetas married a woman named Marisha. That is, all of them had the same wife.

Daksha was the son of the Prachetas and Marisha.

Daksha’s Descendants

Daksha married Panchanjani. (The more usual name, as given in the other Puranas, is Asikli or Prasuti. Prasuti is said to have been the daughter of Svayhambhuva Manu and Shatarupa. Asikli was the daughter of Virana and is also referred to as Vairini.)

Daksha and Panchajani had one thousand sons. These were known as the Haryakshas (alternatively, Haryashvas). Daksha asked his sons to create more living beings.

But the sage Narada came and told the Haryakshas, You can’t possibly create living beings unless you know where they are going to live. Have you explored the universe that your creations are going to populate? Why don’t you start out on a voyage of discovery?

The Haryakshas did this and have never been heard of since. They did not return. Instead became devoted brahmacaries.

Daksha and Panchajani now had another thousand sons. These were name the Shavalas. (The more usual name is the Shavalshvas.) Narada asked the Shavalas also to explore the universe and they too disappeared.

Sixty daughters were next born to Daksha and Panchajani. Sometimes the number is given as sixty, sometimes as fifty and sometimes as twenty-four.) Ten of these daughters were married to the god Dharma, twenty-seven were married to the moon-god Chandra, and thirteen were married to the sage Kashyapa. The remaining daughters were married to various other sages.

The thirteen daughters who were married to Kashyapa were named Aditi, Diti, Danu, Arishta, Surasa, Surabhi, Vinata, Tamra, Krodhavasha, Ira, Kadru, Vishva and Muni, (The names of Kashyapa’s wives, particularly the minor ones, sometimes vary from Purana to Purana.)

Aditi’s sons were known as the adityas. There were twelve of them and they were named Indra, Dhata, Bhaga, Tvashta, Mitra, Varuna, Yama, Vivasvana, Savita, Pusha, Amshumana and Vishnu. These were the gods. (Yama is more commonly regarded as having been the son of the sun-god and his wife Samjna.)

Diti’s sons were the daityas (demons). There were two of them, named Hiranyakshipu and Hiranyaksha. Their sons also came to be known as the daityas. Hiranyaksha’s sons were Uluka. Shakuni, Bhutasantapana and Mahanabha. (More commonly, Hiranyaksha’s son is said to have been Andhaka. In some accounts, Hiranyaksha did not have a son and Andhaka was adopted as a son.) Hiranyakshipu’s sons were Prahlada, Anuhlada, Samhlada and Hlada. Prahlada’s son was Virochana, Virochana’s son was Vali, and Vali’s son was Vanasura.

Danu had a hundred sons. These and their descendants were known as the danavas (demons). Chief among the hundred sons was Viprachitti. Maya, the archietect of the demons, was descended from this line.

Tamra had six daughters. These were the mothers of the birds and of goats, horse, sheep, camels and donkeys.

Vinata had two sons, Aruna and Garuda. Aruna’s sons were Sampati and Jatayu.

Both Surasa and Kadru gave birth to snakes (nagas or sarpas).

Krodhavasha was the mother of rakshasas (demons); Surabhi of cows and buffaloes; Muni of apsaras (dancers of heaven); Arishta of gandharvas (singers of heaven); Ira of trees and herbs; and Vishva of yakashas (demi-gods).

The Maruts

Although the gods and the demons were cousins, they did not like each other and fought amongst themselves all the time. Many daityas were killed by Vishnu and the other gods.

Diti was disturbed to see her children suffer thus. She resolved that she would meditate so as to obtain a son who would be so powerful that he would kill Indra, the king of the gods. There was a tirtha (place of pilgrimage) named Syamantapanchaka on the banks of the sacred river Sarasvati. Diti went there and started to pray to the sage Kashyapa. She lived on roots and fruits and meditated for a hundred years.

These prayers pleased Kashyapa. Ask for a boon, he said.

Please grant me a son who will kill Indra, replied Diti.

It shall be as you wish, said Kashyapa. But there are some conditions. You will have to live in this hermitage for a hundred years more. Throughout these hundred years you will bear the baby in your womb. But there are certain conditions of cleanliness that you must observed. You must not eat in the evening, nor must you sleep under a tree at night. Exercise is not permitted in any form. Do not sleep with your hair unbraided, or without having had a bath. If you can observed these rules for a hundred years, you will have the son you wish for.

Kashyapa went away and Diti began to observe the rites that the sage had prescribed. But Indra had got to know what was afoot and he was naturally in no mood to permit the birth of a son who would be the cause of his own destruction. He hung around Diti’s hermitage, pretending to serve his aunt. He brought her firewood and fruit and served her in other ways. But in reality, he was merely waiting for an opportunity. He was waiting for the moment when Diti would fail to observed the norms of cleanliness that had been laid down for her.

Ninety-nine years and three hundred and sixty-two days passed. That is, only three days were left for the period of one hundred years to be over. (In some other Puranas, it is stated that ninety years had passed uneventfully.)

Diti was tired on one particular occasion. Since the period of her ordeal was soon to end, she had also become somewhat careless. She fell asleep without washing her hair. What was worse, she went to sleep without having braided her hair. This was an act of gross uncleanliness.

Indra seized his chance. Since Diti had committed an unclean act, her defences had been lowered. Indra entered Diti’s womb in a trice. Indra has a wonderful weapon named vajra. (This is sometimes with a club.) With the vajra, Indra sliced the baby in Diti’s womb into seven parts. These parts started to cry.

Ma ruda, said Indra. Don’t cry.

But the parts continued to cry. Indra therefore chopped up each of the parts into seven more sections, so that there were forty-nine parts in all.

Since Diti had failed to observe the prescribed rites, these forty-nine sections were no longer a threat to Indra. When they were born, they came to be known as the maruts from the words Indra had used in addressing them. They were elevated to the status of gods and became Indra’s friends and constant companions.

The Manvantaras

Each manvantara is an age and is ruled over by a Manu. One of Brahma’s days is known as a kalpa and there are fourteen manvantaras in every kalpa. At the end of every kalpa, the universe is destroyed and has to be created afresh.

In the present kalpa, six manvantaras have already passed and the seventh manvantara is now current. There will be seven more manvantaras in the future before the universe and its inmates are destroyed. The gods, the seven great sages (saptarshis) and the individual who holds the title of Indra, change from one manvantara to another. The fourteen eras of the present kalpa are as follows.

    (1) The first Manu was Svayambhuva. The gods then were the yamas.

    (2) Svarochisha was the second Manu. The gods were the tushitas and the names of the seven great sages were Dattoli, Chyavana, Stambha, Prana, Kashyapa, Ourva and Brihaspati.

    (3) The third Manu was Outtama. The gods were named the bhavanas and Koukurundi, Dalbhya, Shankha, Pravahana, Shiva, Sita and Sasmita were the saptarshis.

    (4) Tamas was the fourth Manu. The seven great sages were Kavi,Prithu, Agni, Akapi, Kapi, Jalpa and Dhimana and the gods were known as the sadhyas.

    (5) The fifth manvantara was ruled over by a Manu named Raivata. The gods were the abhutarajas and the seven great sages were Devavahu, Suvahu, Parjanya, Somapa, Munti, Hiranyaroma and Saptashva.

    (6) Chakshusha was the sixth Manu. The gods were known as the lekhas and the seven great sages were Bhrigu, Sudhama, Viraja, Sahishnu, Nada, Vivasvana, and Atinama.

    (7) The seventh manvantara is the one that is now current and the name of the Manu is Vaivasvata. The saptarshis are Atri, Vashishtha, Kashyapa, Goutama, Bharadvaja, Vishvamitra and Jamadagni. The gods are the sadhyas, the vishvadevas, the maruts, the vasus, the two ashvinis and the adityas.

    (8) The eighth Manu will be Savarni and the seven great sages of this era will be Ashvatthama, Sharadvana, Koushika, Galava, Shatananda, Kashyapa and Rama.

    (9) The ninth Manu will be Rouchya.

    (10) Bhoutya will be the tenth Manu.

    (11) The eleventh Manu will be named Merusavarni.

    (12) Rita will be the twelfth Manu.

    (13) Ritadhama will be the thirteenth Manu.

    (14) The fourteenth and final Manu will be named Vishvakasena.


A king named Anga was descended from Svayuambhuva Manu. Anga married Sunitha, the daughter of Mrityu, and they had a son named Vena. Mrityu was an evil person. From his childhood, Vena associated with this maternal grandfather of his and thus came to acquire evil ways.

When Vena became king after Anga, he started to oppress the world. He stopped all yajnas and the prayers to the gods. He insisted that people should pray only to Vena. The sages did their level best to persuade Vena to return to the righteous path, but Vena would not listen.

The sages then killed Vena. (The Matsya Purana merely states that Vena died as a result of the curse imposed on him by the sages. The other Puranas say that the sages actually killed him with some straw over which incantations had been chanted.)

Vena had no sons and a kingdom does not flourish in the absence of a king. Therefore, when Vena was dead, the sages started to knead the dead body so that a son might be born. The first being that emerged as a result of this kneading was a dark and dwarfish son. All the evil that was in Vena’s body entered the body of this son so that there was no more evil left in the dead body. (Other Puranas state that this son came to be known as nishada and this name was also passed on to his descendants. The nishadas became a class of hunters and fishermen.)

When the kneading continued, a handsome son was born from Vena’s right hand. He was born fully grown and held bows, arrows and clubs in his hands when he emerged. His entire body was clad in shining armour. The word 'prithu' means great. Since the son was born after a great deal of effort, he was given the name Prithu.

The sages made arrangements for Prithu’s coronation. Prithu was a good king who ruled well.

But Prithu’s subjects still did not have the means to make a living. They asked their king to do something about this. Prithu decided that since the earth was not providing any foodgrains, he would kill the earth. The earth adopted the form of a cow and started to flee.

Wherever the earth went, the king followed in hot pursuit.

The earth finally realized that she could not escape by running away. She told Prithu, Please do not kill me. Then your subjects will not even have a place to live in. Your object is to find a means of living for your subjects. How will that be accomplished if you kill me? Milk me instead of killing me. The foodgrains that the milking will yield will provide the sustenance for your subjects.

Prithu accordingly milked the earth. It is because of this that the earth is known as prithivi. Prithu also levelled out the earth with his bow so that his subjects could live in the plains thus created.

The earth prospered during Prithu’s rule. Poverty, disease and sins were unknown. Everyone was righteous.

The Solar Line

The sages requested Romaharshana. Please tell us the history of the solar line.

Romaharshana explained.

Aditi and the sage Kashyapa gave birth to the sun-god, Vivasvana or Surya, as a son.

Surya had three wives, Samjna, Rajni and Prabha. Rajna had a son named Revata and Prabha had a son named Prabhata (morning). (Usually, only Samjna is mentioned in the other Puranas.)

Surya and Samjna had two sons and a daughter. The eldest son was Vaivasvata Manu. And the remaining two offspring were twins named Yama and Yamuna.

The sun’s radiance was however too much for Samjna to bear. After a while, she could not bear it any longer. She therefore created a woman out of her own body. The woman looked exactly like Samjna and was named Chhaya (shadow). There was no way of telling the two apart.

Stay here and pretend to be me, said Samjna. Look after my husband and my children. No one will know the truth unless you tell them. As for me, I am going away.

Surya did not realize that Samjna had left. He took Chhaya to be his wife, and Surya and Chhaya had two sons and two daughters. The sons were Savarni Manu and Shani (Saturn) and the daughters were Tapati and Vishti. (The second daughter named Vishti does not usually occur in the other Puranas.)

Chhaya was clearly fonder of her own children and neglected Samjna’s. This did not bother Vaivasvata Manu too much. He was the eldest and more collected and balanced. But Yama resented this favouritism of Chhaya’s. In a fit of petulance, he raised his foot to kick Chhaya.

Chhaya cursed Yama. I curse you that your foot may be devoured by worms, she said. May it be infected with pus and blood.

This alarmed Yama and he rushed to his father. My mother has cursed me, he told Surya. I am only a child. Even if I did commit a sin, does a mother ever curse her children? I have serious suspicion that she is not our mother at all.

When Surya presented Chhaya with this, she came out with the truth and Surya learnt that Samjna had left. Samjna’s father was Vishvakarma, the architect of the gods. Surya went to his father-in-law to find out if he knew anything of Chhaya’s whereabouts.

Indeed, I do, replied Vishvakarma. When Samjna left your house, she came to me in the form of a mare. But I refused to let her live in my house, since she had left her husband’s house without seeking his permission. She is living at the moment in the desert. But Samjna did what she did because she could not bear to stand your energy and radiance. If you permit, I shall shave off some of the excess energy, so that people can look at you.

Vishvakarma shaved off some of the sun’s energy. With the excess energy were constructed many of the weapons of the gods such as Vishnu’s chakra (a bladed-discus), Shiva’s trident (trishula) and Indra’s vajra. This made the sun’s appearance much more pleasant and bearable. The only parts of Surya’s body that were not thus modified were the feet. No one can bear to look at Surya’s feet and it is forbidden to visualise the sun-god’s feet when one is praying to him. A person who does not follow this injunction is a sinner and is made to suffer from leprosy.

Surya now went to look for Samjna and found her in the form of a mare. He too adopted the form of a horse and joined her. As horses, they had two sons. Since ashva means horse, the sons were known as the Ashvinis. They became the physicians of the gods and were also known as Nasatya and Dasra. After the Ashvinis were born, Surya and Samjna gave up their forms of horses and returned to their usual forms.

Savarni Manu went away to perform tapasya (meditation) on Mount Sumeru. He is destined to be one of the future Manus. Shani became a planet and Yamuna a river. As for Tapati, she too became a river (Tapai), (The Mahabharata states that Tapati married King Samvarana and gave birth a son named Kuru. From Kuru the line came to be known as that of the Kauravas.)

Yama had been cursed by Chhaya that his feet would rot and be infected with worms. To mitigate the effects of the curse, Surya gave Yama a bird which ate up all the worms. Thereafter, Yama went to a tirtha named Gokarna and started to pray to Shiva. For thousands of years he prayed and eventually managed to please Shiva. Shiva granted Yama the boon that he would be the god of death. He would mete out punishments to sinners in accordance with the sins (papa) that they had committed. He would also keep account of the store of merit (punya) that righteous people accumulated.

Vaivasvata Manu ruled as Manu. He had ten sons. The eldest was named Ila. (In many other Puranas, Ila is said to have been a daughter.) The other sons were named Ikshvaku, Kushanabha, Arishta, Dhrishta, Narishyanata, Karusha, Sharyati, Prishadhra and Nabhaga.

The solar line owes its origin to Ikshavaku. In this line was born king Bhagiratha, who brought the sacred river Ganga down from heaven. (The story is related in the Mahabharata) Further down the line was Dasharatha and Dasharatha’s son was Rama.

Ila and the Lunar Line

Vaisvasvata Manu’s eldest son was Ila. (As mentioned earlier, many Puranas state that Ila was a daughter. Vaivasvata Manu did not have a son and performed a yajna so that a son might be born. But a daughter was born instead, and Manu brought her up as a son. This daughter was Ila. Ikshvaku and her other brothers were born only subsequently.)

When Vaivasvata Manu became old, he retired to the forest. Ila was appointed the ruler in his place. Ila set out on a voyage of conquest and travelled throughout the world.

There was a forest named sharavana, frequented by Shiva and Parvati. Shiva had decreed that any man who entered the forest would become a woman. King Ila did not know about this rule and set foot in the forest inadvertently he immediately got transformed into a woman.

What is going to happen to me now? thought Ila. Where will I live? He even forgot all about his earlier life.

The moon-god, Chandra, had a son named Budha. While Ila was wandering around. Budha came upon her and fell in love with her. The two had a son named Pururava and Pururava was the ancestor of the lunar line.

Meanwhile, Ikshvaku and the other brothers had started to look for Ila. When they could find no trace of their brother, they asked the sage Vashishtha if he knew of Ila’s whereabouts. Vashishtha used his mental powers to find out what had happened. He asked the princes to pray to Shiva and Parvati. That was the only way to make Ila a man once more.

The prayers pleased Shiva and Parvati and they found out what the princes want. But what you desire is quite impossible, they told Ikshvaku and his brother. Ila can never be made a man once again. At best, we will grant you the following boon. Ila will alternate between being a man for one month and a woman for one month.

The princes had to be content with this. As a woman, Ila continued to be known as Ila. But as a man, he came to known as Sudyumna and had three sons named Utkala, Gaya and Haritashva.

Daksha and Sati

I will now tell you about Daksha and Sati, Romaharshana told the sages.

Daksha had a daughter named Sati who was married to Shiva. Daksha did not like his son-in-law at all. When he organized a yajna, he did not invite Shiva to attend the ceremony. (The story of the destruction of Daksha’s yajna is mentioned in almost every Purana. The actual destruction is not described in the Matsya Purana. It can be found, for example, in the Bhagavata Purana.)

But Sati went to the ceremony, although Shiva had not been invited. Why did you not invite Shiva? Sati asked her father.

Because your husband is undeserving of such honour, replied Daksha. He is not fit to be treated on par with the other gods.

These words angered Sati. I am ashamed that I am your daughter. She said. Cursed am I that I have had to hear such abuses of the great Shiva. I no longer wish to be your daughter. I will therefore give up this physical body that I owe to you, by suicide. As for you, I curse you that you will be born on earth as the son of the ten Prachetas. You will then try to perform an ashvamdha yajna (horse sacrifice). But Shiva will destroy the ceremony.

Daksha tried to pacify Sati. Please have mercy on me, he said. You are the mother of the entire universe. How will the universe survive if you die? It is only through your good grace that you manifested as my daughter. Please do not forsake me.

What I have said cannot be negated, replied Sati. But I will grant you this much. When you are born on earth, you will continue to be devoted to me.

Where will I pray to you? asked Daksha. At what tirthas? And what are the names by which I will address you in the course of my prayers?

Sati then told Daksha one hundred and eight of her names. She also told him the names of one hundred and eight tirthas at which she was known by these respective names. These names and tirthas are as follows, with the names being given first and the tirthas second.

    (1) Vishalakshi at Varanasi.
    (2) Lingadharini at Naimisha.
    (3) Lalitadevi at Prayaga.
    (4) Kamakshi at Gandhamadana.
    (5) Kumuda at Manasa.
    (6) Vishvakaya at Ambara.
    (7) Gomati at Gomanta.
    (8) Kamacharini at Mandara.
    (9) Madotkata at Chaitraratha.
    (10) Jayanti at Hastinapura.
    (11) Gouri at Kanyakuvja.
    (12) Rambha at Malayachala.
    (13) Kirtimati at Ekamra.
    (14) Vishva at Vishveshvara.
    (15) Puruhuta at Pushkara.
    (16) Margadayini at Kedara.
    (17) Nanda at Himalaya.
    (18) Bhadrakarnika at Gokarna.
    (19) Bhavani at Sthaneshvara.
    (20) Vilvapatrikat at Vilva.
    (21) Madhavi at Shrishaila.
    (22) Bhadra at Bhadreshvara.
    (23) Jaya at Varahashaila.
    (24) Kamala at Kamalalalya.
    (25) Rudrani at Rudrakoti.
    (26) Kali at Kalanjara.
    (27) Kapila at Mahalinga.
    (28) Mukuteshvari at Markata.
    (29) Mahadevi at Shalagrama.
    (30) Janapriya at Shivalinga.
    (31) Kumari at Mayapuri.
    (32) Lalita at Santana.
    (33) Utpalakshi at Sahasraksha.
    (34) Mahotpala at Kamalaksha.
    (35) Mangala at Gangatira.
    (36) Vimala at Purushottama.
    (37) Amoghakshi at Vipasha.
    (38) Patala at Pundravarddhana.
    (39) Narayani at Suparshva.
    (40) Bhadrasundari at Vikuta.
    (41) Vipula at Vipula.
    (42) Kalyani at Malalyachala.
    (43) Kotavi at Kotitirtha.
    (44) Sugandha at Madhavana.
    (45) Trisandhya at Godasharma.
    (46) Ratipriya at Gangadvara.
    (47) Shivananda at Shivakunda.
    (48) Nandini at Devikatata.
    (49) Rukmini at Dvaravati.
    (50) Radha at Vrindavana.
    (51) Devaki at Mathura.
    (52) Parameshvari at Patala.
    (53) Sita at Chitrakuta.
    (54) Vindyavasini at Vindhya.
    (55) Ekavira at Sahyadri.
    (56) Chandrika at Harichandra.
    (57) Aroga at Vaidyanatha.
    (58) Maheshvari at Mahakala.
    (59) Abhaya at Ushnatirtha.
    (60) Amrita at Vindhyakandara.
    (61) Mandavi at Mandavya.
    (62) Svaha at Maheshvarapura.
    (63) Prachanda at Chhagalanda.
    (64) Chandrika at Makaranda.
    (65) Vararoha at Someshvara.
    (66) Pushkaravati at Prabhasa.
    (67) Devamata at Sarasvati.
    (68) Mata at Sagara.
    (69) Mahabhaga at Mahalaya.
    (70) Pingaleshvari at Payoshni.
    (71) Simhika at Kritashoucha.
    (72) Yashaskari at Kartikeya.
    (73) Lola at Utapalvarta.
    (74) Subhadra at Shonasangama.
    (75) Lakshimata at Siddhapura.
    (76) Angana at Bharatashrama.
    (77) Vishvamukhi at Jalandhara.
    (78) Tara at Kishkindhyachala.
    (79) Pushti at Devadaruvana.
    (80) Medha at Kashmiramandala.
    (81) Bhimadevi at Himachala.
    (82) Pushti at Vishveshvara.
    (83) Shuddhi at Kapalamochana.
    (84) Sita at Mayavarohana.
    (85) Dhvani at Shankhoddhara.
    (86) Dhriti at Pendara.
    (87) Kala at Chandrabhaga.
    (88) Shivakarini at Achchhodatira.
    (89) Amrita at Vena.
    (90) Urvashi at Vadrivina.
    (91) Oushadhi at Uttarakur.
    (92) Kushodaka at Kushavdvipa.
    (93) Manmatha at Hemakuta.
    (94) Satyavadini at Mukuta.
    (95) Vandaniy at Ashvattha.
    (96) Nidhi at Kuberalaya.
    (97) Gayatri at Vedavadana.
    (98) Parvati at Shivasannidhana.
    (99) Indrani at Devaloka.
    (100) Sarasvati at Brahmamukha.
    (101) Prabha at Suryabimba.
    (102) Vaishnavi at Matrigana.
    (103) Arundhati at Satismukha.
    (104) Tilottama.
    (105) Brahmakala.
    (106) Shakti.

Having recited these names, Sati immolated herself. She was later reborn as Parvati or Uma, the daughter of Menaka and Himalaya. She was remarried to Shiva.

As for Daksha, he was born on earth as the son of the ten Prachetas.

The Matsya Pruana now devotes several sections to shradha (funeral) ceremonies.


There used to be a sage named Koushika. Koushika had seven sons named Svasripa, Krodhana, Himsra, Pishuna, Kavi, Vagadushta and Pitrivarti. These sons all became disciples of the sage Garga.

After Koushika died, there was a terrible drought on earth. Famine raged and people went hungry. Garga had asked his disciples to tend to his cattle and the seven brothers had taken the cattle to the forest so that they might browse on the grass that grew there.

The brothers suffered so much from hunger that they decided to slay one of the cows and eat it.

Killing a cow would be a sin, remarked the youngest. If we have to kill the cow, let us at least perform its funeral ceremony. Perhaps that will reduce the severity of the sin that we are committing.

The other brothers agreed to this. The funeral rites of the cow were observed. It was then killed and eaten. The brothers returned to Garga and told him. A cow has been killed and eaten by a tiger.

Garga saw no reason to disbelieve them. But the sin remained a sin. And as a consequence of having committed a crime, the brothers were born as hunters in their next lies. They were born as jatismaras. That is, they remembered the incidents of their earlier lives.

Since the brothers remembered what they had been in their earlier lives, they saw no reason to live as hunters. They therefore fasted until they died. They were next reborn as deer. But the deer continued to be jatismaras and fasted to death. The brothers were reborn as birds. Four of the brothers continued to be detached from material pursuits and spent their time in meditation. But the three remaining brothers were not so lucky.

The king of Panchala had once come to the forest with his group. The king’s name was Vibhraja. One of the birds was struck by the king’s pomp and glory and wished to be born as a king in his next life. King Vibhraja and two ministers with him and all the soldiers seemed to be following the instructions of the ministers. Accordingly, two of the birds desired to be born as ministers in their next lives.

The one who wished to be a king was born as Brahmadatta, King Vibhraja’s son. The two who desired to be born as ministers became Pundarika and Suvalaka, the sons of the two ministers whom they had seen. The remaining three brothers were not attached to material pursuits and were born as brahmanas (the first of the four classes).

Brahmadatta married Kalyani. Kayanti had been the cow whom the brothers had killed.

What was most remarkable was the fact that Brahmadatta could understand the languages of all living beings.

Brahmadatta and Kalyani were once taking a walk in their garden. Brahmadata heard two ants conversing. Since he could understand the languages of all living beings, he could follow what the ants were saying.

Why are you angry with me?’ asked the male ant. Why are you refusing to speak to me?

Go away and do not pester me, replied the female ant. You say you love me very much. And yet, when you got some grains of sugar yesterday, you gave them to another ant and not to me. I refuse to speak to you.

That was my mistake, said the male ant. I thought that it was you to whom I was giving the grains of sugar. I will never make such a mistake in the future. Please pardon me and smile. I cannot bear to see you so angry. The ants made up.

The conversation made Brahmadatta laugh. Kalyani naturally wanted to know why Brahmadatta was laughing and the king reported the entire conversation to his wife.

But Kalyani refused to believe her husband. How can any man understand the language of ants? she wanted to know. You are lying. You must have been laughing at me.

Brahmadatta tried to convince his wife, but Kalyani would not listen. The king did not know what to do. But while he was sleeping, he dreamt that Vishnu appeared before him and told him to wait till the next morning. Brahmadatta’s mind would be set at rest then.

Remember the four brothers who had been born as brahmanas? They were born as the sons of a brahmana named Sudaridra and were named Dhritimana, Tattvadarshi, Vidyachanda and Tapotsuka. Since they were born as jatismaras, they remembered their earlier lives and had no desire to tied down by material pursuits. They wanted to retire to the forest and meditate.

But Sudaridra tried to restrain his sons. How can you do that? he asked How can you retire to the forest to meditate? Your duty is to look after me in my old age. If you do not look after me, I shall starve to death. Please do not commit that sin. You will not starve to death, replied his sons. Go to King Brahmadatta and ask him for wealth. He will give you gold and villages. Tell him to remember the sage Garga, the hunters, the deer and the birds. The four sons went away to the forest. Sudarida came to meet the king. He met the king on the day following Brahmadatta’s dream. Sudaridra’s words reminded Brahmadatta of what he had been in his earlier lives. He was ashamed that he had forgotten those incidents and had become addicted to material pursuits. He decided to join his brothers in the forest. He gave Sudaridra as much wealth as the brahmana wanted and handed over the kingdom to the prince, Vishvaksena.

The brothers Pundarika and Suvalaka also accompanied Brahmadatta to the forest. It was thus that Koushika’s seven sons eventually attained salvation. There is one thing we do not understand, said the sages. How was it that Brahmadatta could understand the languages of all living beings? That is easily explained. Replied Romaharshana. King Vibraja had prayed to Vishnu that he might obtain such a son and the boon was granted.


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