The Matsya Purana, Part 2
BY: SUN STAFF
Jun 11, CANADA (SUN) Srimad Matsya Purana, presented in three parts.
The Matysa Purana now continues with a cataloguing of the major tirthas.
Chandra and Budha
You forgot to tell us how Budha was born, remarked the sages. Nor did you tell us anything about Chandra’s birth.
Romaharshana filled in the blanks. The sage Atri was Brahma’s son. Atri once performed very difficult tapasya. A tremendous amount of energy was released as a result of this meditation and the moon-god, Chandra or Soma, was born from this energy. Brahma appointed Chandra ruler over all stars, planets and herbs (oshadhi).
Twenty-seven of Daksha’ daughter were married to Chandra. These were the nakshatras (stars). Chandra performed a rajasuya yajna (royal sacrifice) and the ceremony was an outstanding success. But all this success and glory went to Chandra’s head. The preceptor of the gods was the sage Brihaspati and Brihaspati’s wife was Tara. Chandra’s eyes fell upon Tara and he forcibly abducted her. On several occasions Brihaspati asked Chandra to return Tara, but the moon-god would not listen.
A terrible war then raged between the gods and demons over Tara. The gods fought on Brihaspati’s side and the demons aided Chandra. Shiva also fought on the side of the gods. As the war raged, Shiva let fly a terrible divine weapon named brahmashirsha at Chandra. Chandra countered this with another terrible divine weapon named somastra. These two weapons of destruction threatened to burn up the entire universe. Brahma decided that it was time for him to intervene. Stop this nonsense at once, he told Chandra. What you have done is most improper. Return Tara at once. These words ashamed Chandra and he returned Tara. But Chandra and Tara had already had a handsome son named Budha. Budha became very skilled in the handling of elephants. In fact, the knowledge of tackling and handling elephants goes back to Budha. You already know that Budha married Ila and that they had a son named Pururava. Pururava and Urvashi Pururava was a very strong king who ruled the earth well. He performed one hundred ashvamedha yajnas.
The three goals of human life are dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth) and kama (that which is desired). (Usually, a fourth goal of moksha salvation) is added.) These three goals wished to see which of them Pururava desired the most. They therefore adopted human forms and came to visit Pururava. Pururava treated them with utmost respect and gave them golden seats to sit on. He offered them all sorts of offerings. In the process, Dharma received more of the offerings than Artha and Kama. This angered Artha and Kama. You will be destroyed, Artha cursed Pururava. You will go mad over Urvashi, Kama cursed Pururava But Dharma blessed Pururava. You will live for long and you will never deviate from the righteous path, he said. Your descendants will rule for ever. Having thus cursed and blessed Pururava, Dharma, Artha and Kama disappeared. On one particular occasion, Pururava was driving his chariot through a forest. He suddenly found that a demon named Keshi was abducting an apsara (dancer of heaven). This apsara was none other than Urvashi. Pururava defeated the demon and rescued Urvashi. He restored her to Indra, the king of the gods. Indra was deligthed at this act and Indra and Pururava became friends.
The sage Bharata taught mankind how to sing and dance. To celebrate Urvashi’s return, Indra asked Bharata to stage a performance. As entertainers, Bharata chose three apsaras. They were Menaka, Urvashi and Rambha. Menaka and Rambha danced as they should. But Urvashiw was attracted by King Pururava and kept looking at him. The result was that Urvashi fell out of step. This angered Bharata and he cursed Urvashi that she would have to spend fifty-five years on earth. On earth, Urvashi married Pururava and they had eight sons named Ayu, Dridayau, Ashvayu, Dhanayu, Dhritamana, Vasu, Shuchividya and Shatayu. (The story of how Pururava lost Urvashi is not given in the Matsya Purana. Apart from the Mahabharata, it can be found in several other Puranas.)
In the lunar line there was a king named Nahusha and Nahusha’s son was Yayati. Yayati had two wives , Sharmishtha and Devayani. Sharmishtha was the daughter of Vrishaparva, the king of the danavas (demons). And Devayani’s father was Shukracharya, the preceptor of the demons. Devayani gave birth to Yadu and Turvasu and Sharmishtha gave birth to Druhya, Anu and Puru. Yayati ruled the world extremely well for many years. He performed many yajnas. But eventually he grew old. The problem was that although Yayati grew old, he was not yet tired of sensual pleasures. He still desired to savour the joys that the world had to offer. Yayati told his five sons.
Because of Shukracharya’s curse, an untimely old age has come upon me and I am not content with what I have savoured of life. I request one of you to give me his youth and accept my old age in return. When I have satisfied myself with worldly pleasures, I will take back my old age and return the youth. Except for Puru, the other four sons flatly refused such an exchange. They had no desire to part with their valued youth. They were thereupon cursed by their father. (Although not mentioned in the Matsya Purana., the curse was that they or their descendants would never be kings.) As for Puru, he said, Please accept my youth and be happy. It is my duty to serve and I will gladly take upon me your old age.
For a thousand years Yayati savoured the pleasures of the world with Puru’s youth. A thousand years were not enough to satisfy Yayati. He accepted his old age and returned Puru’s youth. He blessed Puru for his obedience and announced to the word that Puru was his only true son. Puru inherited the kingdom after Yayati. His descendants were known as the Pauravas. It was in this line that King Bharata was born. It is after Bharata that the land we live in is known as Bharatavarsha.
The sages interrupted Romaharshana. What is this curse of Shukracharya’s that Yayati referred to?
You have forgotten to tell us about that. I will, replied Romaharshana. But first, let me tell you about Kacha and Devayani. Kacha and Devayani The gods and the demons fought with each other all the time. As you know, Brihaspati was the preceptor of the gods and Shukracharya was the preceptor of the demons. Shukracharya knew a wonderful art known as mritasanjivani. This was the knowledge of bringing back dead people to life. (The Harivamsha tells us that Shukracharya learnt this art by praying to Shiva and pleasing him. The Matsya Purana refers to this story later.) Since Shukracharya knew this art, the gods were terrified.
Any demons whom the gods killed were promptly brought back to life by Shukracharya. But Brihaspati knew no such art. So any gods that the demons killed, stayed dead. The gods pondered about this problem and finally arrived at a solution. Brihaspati had a son named Kacha. The gods told Kacha. Go and become Shukracharya’s disciple. Try to learn the art of mritasanjivani from him. Shukracharya has a beautiful daughter named Devayani. Try to gain her favour so that your task may become easier. Kacha went to Shukracharya. Please accept me as your disciple, he said. I am the great Brihaspati’s son. I will serve you faithfully for a thousand years. Since no mention was made of mritasanjivani. Shukracharya gladly agreed to this proposition. Kacha lived with Shukracharya and served his guru (teacher). He became friendly with Devayani and Devayani started to fall in love with Kacha. Five hundred years passed. The demons got to know that Kacha was Brihaspati’s son. Since they hated Brihaspati, they hated Kacha as well. Kacha was in the habit of taking Shukracharya’s cattle to the forest to graze. When Kacha was alone in the forest, the demons seized their chance. They slew Kacha and fed his body to the tigers. In the evening, the cattle returned home alone. Kacha was not with them. Seeing this, Devayani told her father, The cattle have returned home without Kacha. I am certain that someone has killed him. I am in love with Kacha and cannot survive without him. Please do something. Do not worry, Shukracharya told Devayani. I will bring Kacha back to life with the art of mritasanijivani.
As soon as Shukracharya recited the magical mantra (incantation), Kacha appeared before them, strong and healthy. Days passed. Kacha went to the forest once more, this time to get flowers. The demons killed him again. But this time they burnt the dead body and mixed the ashes in a goblet of wine. They then served the wine to Shukracharya to drink. When Kacha did not return, Devayani again told her father. I am certain that someone has killed Kacha. I cannot survive without him. Please do something.
Through this powers, Shukracharya discovered what had happened. He told his daughter, We have a real problem on our hands. Kacha is inside my stomach. I can revive Kacha by summoning him through mritasanjivani. But in the process, he will have to tear asunder my body and I shall die. Tell me, beloved daughter, which do you want? Either Kacha or your father?
I refuse the choice. replied Devayani. Both you and Kacha must live. I cannot survive without either. Shukracharya then decided that there was only one way out. He addressed Kacha, who was inside his stomach, and taught him the words of the mrtasanjivani mantra. He then recited the words himself and out came Kacha. Shukracharya’s body was torn apart and the sage died. But Kacha had learnt the words of the mantra. He now recited them to bring Shukracharya back to life. Kacha thus learnt what he had set out to achieve. After spending a thousand years with Shukracharya, he prepared to return to heaven. Where are you going? asked Devayani. Do you not know that I am in love with you? Please marry me. I am afraid that I cannot do that, replied Kacha. You are my guru’s daughter. Therefore, you are my superior just as my guru is my superior. I cannot marry you. Moreover, I have spent some time inside his body. And when I came out, it was as if a son had been born from him. You are therefore my sister. How can I possibly marry you? Thus spurned. Devayani became very angry. You are playing with words, she said. I curse you that although you have learnt the art of mritasanjivani, it will prove to be of no use to you. You have needlessly cursed me, retorted Kacha. I too curse you that no brahmana will ever marry you and that you will never get whatever it is that you wish for.
Sharmishtha and Devayani
Sharmishtha was the daughter of Vrishaparva, the king of the danavas. Sharmishtha and Devayani were great friends, until Indra played some mischief. The two friends had gone to bathe in a pond and had left their clothes on the bank. Indra adopted the form of a breeze and mixed up the clothes. When Sharmishtha got her clothes after having had her bath, she put on Devayani’s clothes by mistake. Devayani said, How dare you wear my clothes ? My father is your father’s teacher and you are my inferior in every respect. You have no business to put on my clothes. I am not your inferior. replied Sharmishatha. It is you who are my inferior. My father is the king and your father thrives on my father’s generosity. The two friends started to quarrel. Sharmishtha flung Devayani into a well and left her there, taking her to be dead. At that time, King Yayati came to the forest on a hunt. He was thirsty and looked for some water. When he found the well, he discovered Devayani inside it. He rescued Devayani. Yayati also fell in love with her, so that the two got married. Shukracharya got to know about all this and was furious at the treatment that Sharmishtha had meted out to his daughter. He threatened to leave the demons. Vrishaparva did his best to persuade Shukracharya not to leave them, but Shukracharya insisted that he would stay only if Devayani was pacified.
Vrishaparva promised to give Devayani whatever it was that she wished for. Sharmishtha has insulted me, said Devayani. She has called me her inferior. My mind will be set at rest only if Sharmishtha serves as a servant. Vrishaparva agree to this condition and Sharistha became Devayani’s servant, together with one thousand other demon women. After Yayati and Devayani got married. Shukracharya told Yayati, Sharmish is Devayani’s servant and you are married to Devayani. Under no circumstances marry Sharmishtha, otherwise I am going to curse you. In due course, Devayani gave birth to Yadu and Turvasu. Sharmishtha had secretly married Yayati and she too gave birth to Druhya, Anu and Puru. How come you to have sons? Asked Devayani. Who is your husband? My husband is a brahmana, replied Sharmishtha. I do not know his name. But when Devayani asked Druhya, Anu and Puru about their father, the truth came out. They told her that they were King Yayati’s sons. You have insulted me,
Devayani told Yayati.
You have married my servant. Shukracharya was also furious. Yayati had gone against his wishes and had married Sharmishtha. Shukracharya cursed Yayati that old age would set upon the king, although he was still in the prime of youth. Please do not curse me, said Yayati. I am married to your daughter. I wish to live with her as her husband. Do you wish your son-in-law to be an old servant? My curse cannot be lifted, replied Shukracharya. But I will try and mitigate the effects. I grant you the power that you can pass on this old age to whomsoever you wish. It was this old age that Puru accepted. The Matsya Purana now describes the descendants of Yadu, Turvasu, Druhya, Anu and Puru.Mritasanjivani
But what about mritasanyjivani? asked the sages. You haven’t told us how Shukracharya came to acquire this wonderful knowledge.
Romaharshana told them the following story.
The gods and the demons fought all the time and the demons were sometimes beaten up in these encounters. Shukracharya consoled the demons. Do not worry, he said. I will try and acquire powers that will make the demons invincible. I am going off to pray. While I am gone, do not fight with the gods. Give up arms and lead the lives of hermits. Wait till my return. Shukracharya’s father was the sage Brhrigu. The demons were instructed to wait in Bhrigu’s hermitage for Shukracharya’s return. The preceptor of the demons began to pray to Shiva. When Shiva appeared, Shukracharya told him that he wished to be taught a mantra that would make the demons invincible. I will grant your request, said Shiva. But you will have to observe a difficult vrata (religious rite). For a thousand years you will have to meditate. And you will have to live only on smoke. Shukracharya agreed to observe the vrata.
Meanwhile, the gods got to know what Shukracharya was up to. They realized that, once Shukracharya returned, they would be in no position to tackle the demons. The best thing to do was to attack the demons immediately, while they had given up arms and were living as hermits. The demons tried to tell the gods that this was not fair. They should not be attacked when they had forsaken arms. But the gods would not listen. They started to kill the demons. The demons fled to Shukracharya’s mother, Bhrigu’s wife, for protection. Do not despair, she assured the demons. I will protect you. When the gods attacked, the lady used her powers to make Indra completely immobile. Indra could not move at all. He stood there like a statue. This strange sight scared the gods so much that they started to run away. Vishnu came to help Indra. He told Indra to enter his body, so that Vishnu might be able to save him. I will burn both of you up through my powers, said Shukracharya’s mother. What are you waiting for? Indra asked Vishnu. Cant you see that this woman will destroy us both? Kill her at once. Vishnu summoned up his Sudarshana chakra and with this, he neatly severed the lady’s head. The sage Bhrigu was not present at that time. When he returned and found out what had happened, he was greatly angered. Vishnu had committed the crime of killing a woman. Bhrigu therefore cursed Vishnu that he would have to be born several times on earth. These are Vishnu’s avataras (incarnations). As for his own wife, Bhrigu resurrected her through his powers.
Indra had a daughter named Jayanti
Having failed in his attempt to kill the demons, Indra reasoned that he ought to try and disturb Shukracharya’s meditation. He therefore sent Jayanti to the place where Shukracharya was praying. Her instructions were to try and distract the sage. Jayanti served Shukracharya faithfully throughout the appointed period of a thousand years. When the vrata was over, Shiva appeared before Shukracharva and taught him the art of mritasanjivani. It was then that Shukracharya noticed Jayanti. Who are you? he asked. And why have you been serving me thus? I am exceedingly pleased with what you have done. Tell me what I can do for you. If you wish to grant me a boon, marry me and live as my husband for ten years, replied Jayanti. Shukracharya was lured away by Jayanti.
Indra was bent upon the destruction of the demons and he now hit upon a plan. He asked Brihaspati to adopt Shukracharya’s form and go to the demons. The demons were expecting their guru backafter the thousand years were over and took Brihaspati to be Shukracharya. They honoured him and served him faithfully. When the ten years with Jayanti were over, Shukracharya returned and discovered Brihaspati among the demons. Who is this upstart?’ he demanded to know. Give him up and seek refuge with me. I am the real Shukracharya. Not at all, replied Brihaspati. I am the real Shukracharya. The demons were very upset and confused. Brihaspati and Shukracharya were as alike as two peas in a pod; there was no way of telling the apart. They finally reasoned that the person who had been living with them for the last ten years must be their real guru. They therefore accepted Brihaspati and chased Shukracharya away.
Shukracharya cursed the demons that they were bound to be destroyed. As soon as Shukracharya cursed the demons, Brihaspati adopted his own form. The demons realized that they had been tricked, but the harm had been done.
The Puranas (Histories)
Romaharshana now gave the sages a list of the eighteen mahapuranas. In the beginning, there was only one Purana. The sage Vedavyasa divided this original Purana into eighteen mahapuranas. The mahapuranas have four lakh shlokas all together and their names are as follows.
( I ) The Brahma Purana: This was originally recited by Brahma to the sage Marichi and has thirteen thousand slokas. This text should be donated on a full moon night (purnima) in the month of Vaishakha. Such a donation brings undying punya.
( II ) The Padma Purana: This has fifty-five thousand slokas and should be donated in the month of Jyaishtha.
( III ) The Vishnu Purana: This was first recited by the sage Parashara and has twenty-three thousand slokas. It is auspicious to donate this text in the month of Ashada.
( IV ) The Vayu Purana: This has twenty-four thousand slokas and was first recited by the wind-god Vayu. It should be donated in the month of Shravana.
( V ) The Bhagavata Purana: This has eighteen thousand slokas and should be donated in the month of Bhadra, on the night of the full moon.
( VI ) The Narada Purana: this was first recited by the sage Narada and has twenty-five thousand slokas. It should be donated on the night of the new moon (amavasya) in the month of Ashvina.
( VII ) The Markandeya Purana: This has nine thousand slokas. A person desirous of obtaining punya should donate this text in month of Margashirsa.
( VIII ) The Agni Purana: This was first recited by the fire-god Agni to the sage Vashishtha. It has sixteen thousand slokas and should be donated in the month of Margashirsha.
( IX ) The Bhavishya Purana: Brahma himself was the first reciter of this Purana and it has fourteen thousand and five hundred slokas. It is primarily concerned with what is due to happen in the future. The text should be donated on the occasion of Purnima, in the month of Pousha.
( X ) The Brahmavaivarta Purana: This was first recited by Savarni Manu to the sage Narada. It has eighteen thousand slokas and should be donated on purnima in the month of Magha.
( XI ) The Linga Purana: Brahma recited this first and it has eleven thousand solkas. Punya is acquired if this text is donated in the month of Phalguna.
( XII ) The Varaha Purana: The great Vishnu first recited this to the earth. It has twenty-four thousand slokas and is to be donated in the month of Chaitra.
( XIII ) The Skanda Purana: This was composed by the god Skanda or Kartikeya. It has eighty-one thousand slokas and one desirous of punya donates the text in the month of Chaitra.
( XIV ) The Vamana Purana: Brahma was the first person to recite this. It has ten thousand slokas and the text should be donated in early autumn (sharat).
( XV ) The Kurma Purana: Vishnu recited this in his form of a turtle. It has eighteen thousand slokas and should be donated at the time of the equinoxes.
( XVI ) The Matsya Purana: Vishnu recited this in his form of a fish to Manu. It has fourteen thousand slokas and should be donated at the time of the equinoxes.
( XVII ) The Garuda Purana: Krishna was the first person to recite this and it has eighteen thousand shlokas. (When this text is to be donated is not stated.)
( XVIII )The Brahmanda Purana: Brahma recited this and it has twelve thousand and two hundred slokas. (The time of donation is again not indicated.) But these Puranas, as stated, are merely for human consumption. Much longer versions are read by the gods. The total number of shlokas in the Puranas that the gods read is one hundred crores.
The Matsya Purana now enumerates the details of various vratas. It continues with a description of the glories of the sacred city of Prayaga (Allahabad), located at the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga and Yamuna. Geographical and astronomical details are also given.
Tipura There was a danava named Maya
Just as Vishvakarma was the architect of the gods, Maya was the architect of the demons. When the demons were defeated by the gods, Maya started to perform very difficult tapasya so that the gods might be defeated. Maya’s meditation inspired two other demons to also meditate. Their names were Vidyunmali and Taraka. The meditation was so difficult that the world marveled at the sight of what the demons were doing. Finally, Brahma was pleased at all this effort and appeared before the demons.
I am pleased with what you have done, said Brahma. What boon do you want?
We have been defeated by the gods, replied Maya. We wish to build a fort that the gods will not be able to destroy. The fort will be named Tripura and we will live in it and become immortal. Immortality is a boon that cannot be granted. Said Brahma. If you want, set difficult conditions for your deaths.
Very well then, replied Maya. We will be killed only if Shiva himself destroys Tripura with a single arrow. Let that be the appointed method of our deaths. This boon Brahma granted and Maya began the task of constructing the fort. In fact, he built three (tri) fortresses (pura).
One was made of iron, the second of silver and the third of gold.
Normally, the fortresses were distinct. But once every thousand years, when the nakshatra Pushya was in the sky, the three cities came together in the sky and were called Tripura. Each of the fortresses was stocked with diverse weapons as protections against raids by the gods. Taraka lived in the fort made of iron, Vidyunmali in the one make o f silver, and Maya himself lived in the one that was made of gold.
The other demons got to know that three invincible forts had been built. They came and populated the three cities. But the demons were not evil at all. They observed all sorts of religious rites. In particular, they were devoted to Shiva and prayed to him all the time. They did not want Shiva to be angry with them. It was, after all, Shiva alone who could be the instrument for their destruction. Eventually, the demons became intoxicated with their own power and adopted evil ways. They warred upon other living beings and started to oppress the universe. Maya did try to persuade them to mend their ways, but the demons would not listen to Maya’s good advice. All the living beings in the universe went to Brahma to complain. Please save us from this oppression, They said; It is because of your boon that the demons have become so powerful.
I cannot help you, replied Brahma. The boon is such that Shiva alone can destroy Tripura. Let us all pray to Shiva. The gods, the sages and the humans started to pray to Shiva.
Pleased with these prayers, Shiva promised to destroy Tripura.
A special chariot was built for Shiva to ride in. Brahma himself agreed to be the charioteer. The army of the gods got ready to help Shiva in his war against Tripura. A terrible war raged between the gods and the demons. Nandi is one of Shiva’s companions. Nandi fought with Vidyunmali and slew the demon after a fierce battle. But Maya knew all sorts of magical tricks. He was particularly well-versed in the use of herbs. Maya gave Vidyunmali a bath in the juice of magical herbs and Vidyunmali immediately revived.
This act greatly boosted the demons morale and they began to fight with renewed vigour. Any demons, who were killed, were instantly revived by Maya. But when Shiva himself entered the area the demons were put to flight. Even the herbs that resurrected dead demons proved to be of no avail. Nandi killed Tarakasura after a fierce duel. The demons were disheartened, but Maya reassured them. Don’t forget the boon, he said, There are only some special conditions under which Tripura can be destroyed. Otherwise it is indestructible. Pushya nakshatra is in the sky now and soon the three cities will come together as one. The only person who can destroy it then is Shiva. And he must do it with a single arrow. All we have to do is ensure that Shiva cannot shoot the arrow and we are safe. But this was easier said than done. It was no easy task to repel Shiva and his cohorts.
Nandi killed Vidyunmali a second time. As soon as the three cities came together, Shiva shot a flaming arrow which completely burnt up Tripura and all the demons who were within. The only one who was saved was Maya. He did not die because he was extremely devoted to Shiva. Ever since that day, Maya has lived under the water.
The Measurement of Time
The smallest unit of time is a nimesha; this is the amount of time it takes to blink. Fifteen nimeshas make one kashtha and thirty kashthas are one kala. Thirty kalas one muhurta and there are thirty muhurtas in one divaratra (one day). Fifteen muhurtas constitute the day and fifteen muhurtas make up the night.
One month for humans is one day for the ancestors (pitri). Shuklapaksha is the lunar fortnight during which the moon waxes and krishnapaksha is the lunar fortnight during which the moon wanes. Shuklapaksha corresponds to night for the ancestors and krishnapaksha corresponds to day.
Thus, thirty human months are merely one month for the ancestors.
Three hundred and sixty human months are one year for the ancestors. One human year is one divaratara for the gods. The human year is divided into two ayanas, each consisting of six months. These are known as uttarayana and dakshinayana. Uttarayana is day for the gods and dakshinayana is night.
Thirty human years are one month for the gods and three hundred and sixty human years are one year for the gods.
Time is divided into four yugas (eras). These are known as satya yuga or krita yuga, treta yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga. The lengths of these yugas are defined in terms of years of the gods. Satya yuga has four thousand years of the gods, treta yuga three thousand, dvapara yuga two thousand and kali yuga one thousand. A cycle of satya yuga, treta yuga, dvapara yuga and kali yuga is known as a mahayuga. Thus, a mahayuga would seem to consist of ten thousand years of the gods. But this is not quite correct. In between any two yugas are intervening periods, known as sandhyamshas. For example, the sandhyamsha for satya yuga is four hundred years, for teta yuga three hundred years, for dvapara yuga two hundred years and for kali yuga one hundred years.
Once one adds the sandhyamshas, a mahayuga adds up to twelve thousand years of the gods. A little over seventy-one yugas constitute one manvantara. Fourteen such manvantaras are one kalpa. A kalpa is merely one day for Brahma. At the end of Brahma’s day, the universe is destroyed. It is then created afresh when a new day dawns for Brahma.The Characteristics of the Yugas As one progressively moves down the scale from satya yuga to kali yuga, the power of righteous diminishes and evil starts to triumph.
In treta yuga people were righteous
The system of varnashrama dharma goes back to teta yuga. This is typified in the principle of four varnas (classes) and four ashramas (stages of life). The four varnas are brhamanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudreas. Each class has its proper place, each its assigned occupations as determined by the principles of division of labour. The four ashramas are brhamacharya (celibate studenthood). Garhasthya (householder stage), vanaprastha (forest-dwelling stage and sannyasa (hermithood). Everyone followed the tenets of varnashrama aharma in treta yuga. Individuals were equally handsome and equally wealthy. Poverty and disease were unknown. The weather was clement and, initially, there was no need to build houses. Cities and villages were not known. People lived freely in the mountains and on the shores of the oceans. But as people became evil, the weather turned inclement. Houses had to built so the people might be protected from the heat and the cold. Cities and villages were planned and constructed.
Evil became even more prevalent in dvapara yuga. In some cases, individuals began to practise that which was against the dictates of varnashrama dharma.
To bring men back to the righteous path, the knowledge of the sacred Vedas had to be disseminated amongst humans. To this end, the great Vedavyasa divided the Vedas into four. Various other sastras (sacred texts) were also composed in dvapara yuga. These include ayurveda (medicine), jyotisha (astronomy) and arthashastra (economics).
Hatred, jealousy, warfare and other evils first originated in dvapara yuga. Individuals did not stick to their own classes while marrying, and cross-breeds started to be born. But some remnants of righteousness could still be found, so that average life expectancies amounted to two thousand years.
Kali yuga is the worst of the four eras. Theft, hatred, falsehood, fraudulence and egotism become the norm. As a natural corollary to such evils, drought and famine recur again and again. Even the brahmans are led astray.
They do not study the Vedas, nor do they perform yajnas. The brahmanas degenerate so much that they mix with shudras. As for the sudras, they become kings.
Sudras even start to study the Vedas. Evil always has its effect. Disease becomes rampant and life expectancies go down.
Indra had killed many of Diti’s children, the daityas. Diti had wished to obtain a son who would kill Indra. But because she had not been able to adhere to the stipulated religious rites, the sons who had been born had become friends and companions of Indra. But Indra continued to attack and kill the demons. Diti therefore prayed to her husband Kashyapa yet again that she might have a son who would defeat Indra. Your wish will be granted, said Kashyapa. But you will have to meditate hard for ten thousand years. Indra’s weapon is the vajra and the son who will be born will have a body (anga) that is as tough as the vajra will be able to do him no harm. Diti meditated for ten thousand years and in due course, gave birth to this powerful son. Vajranga was invincible. When Vajranga grew up, Diti told her son, Indra has killed many of my sons. I am thirsting for revenge. Go and kill Indra. Vajranga set for heaven. He defeated Indra very easily and tied him up. He then brought Indra home to his mother and prepared to kill the king of the gods.
Indra’s death would have been a great calamity so Brahma and Kashyapa rushed there. Vajranga, they said. Please do not kill Indra. Let him go. If someone who deserves respect is insulted, that is like death for him. Indra has been defeated by you. He has therefore been insulted and is as good as dead. There is no need to physically kill him. Moreover, the very fact that you are letting Indra go at our request will be known to all. Even if he lives, everyone is going to regard him as dead. Listen to our request and let him go. I am not averse to that suggestion at all, replied Vajranga. I have no intention of killing Indra. I was merely obeying my mother’s instructions. How can I refuse two such revered individuals like you? One of you is the creator of the whole universe and the other one is my own father. I will let Indra go. But please grant me a boon. Grant me the boon that I may be able to perform a lot of tapasya. This boon was readily granted. In addition, Brahma created a beautiful woman named Varangi and married her off to Vajranga. Vajranga went to the forest to meditate. For a thousand years, he stood with his arms raised up towards the sky. And in this posture, he meditated. He then stood on his head for a thousand years more and meditated. As a final part of the tapasya, he wished to meditate under the water for a thousand years more. When Vajranga entered the water, his wife Varangi patiently waited for her husband to return. And all the while, she too meditated.
Indra was not going to forget and wanted to retaliate. He adopted the form of a monkey and uprooted all the trees in Varangi’s hermitage. He next adopted the form of a sheep and ate up all the grass that was there.
As a snake, he tried to bite the lady. Finally, he adopted the form of a cloud and drenched the hermitage in torrents of rain. Since Varangi was meditating, she was in no position to retaliate or protect herself. She had to bear all these depredations. When the thousand years were over, Vajranga returned. He was shocked to learn of the tortures that his wife had been subjected to by Indra. He began to meditate again. This time, he wished for a son who would kill Indra. Brahma appeared and granted Vajranga the desired boon. You will have a son who will be the terror of the gods, said Brahma. He will be called Taraka. For a thousand years Varangi bore the baby in her womb. When Taraka was born, the earth trembled and tidal waves were created in the ocean. Fierce storms started to rage. Wild animals rejoiced and the sages shuddered. In due course, Taraka was crowned the king of the demons.