The Varaha Purana (Vol. I)
The present Volume contains the Varaha Purana Part I (Chapters 1-136) in English Translation. This is the thirty first volume in the Series on Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology.
The project of the series was planned in 1970 by Lala Sundar Lal Jain of Messrs Motilal Banarsidass, with the purpose to universalize knowledge through the most popular international medium, viz. English. Hitherto, the English translations of eight Puranas, namely Siva, Linga, Bhagavata, Garuda, Narada, Kurma, Brahmanda and Agni have been published and released for sale.
In this scheme, the Old Sanskrit Texts of the Puranas as printed by the Venkatesvara Press and published by Khemaraja Sri-krsnadass have been rendered into English. Translation is neither too literal nor too free. Care has been taken to maintain balance between the two extremes. The spirit of the Original Sanskrit text has been preserved in translation without violating the idiom of English language.
The Puranas are classified as Vaisnava, Brahma, or Saiva according to the degree of quality, sattva, rajas or tamas which they possess in prominence. judged by this standard the present Purana belongs to the Visnuite class. Majority of the verses relate to Visnuite rituals, stotras or anecdotes. The Purana eulogizes the ten incarnations of Visnu and proclaims that a devotee attains identity with the lord by reciting and listening to his praise. A number of chapters describe the initiation of devotees to Visnuite order. The Purana prescribes initiation of only for the Brahmanas but also for the Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras.
The Purana records a number of religious vows which a devotee should observe at certain holy places for attaining his desire. Mention may be made in this context of Dvadasi Vrata observed on the twelfth day of the bright fortnight of each month of the year, the ritual being related to the ten incarnations of Visnu, Padmanabha being the eleventh and Dharani (Earth)the twelfth. The Purana contains a number of hymns in praise of Vishnu addressed to his specific forms under particular names such as matsya Varaha and Kurma. There is hymn in prose called Brahmaparamaya stotra which was uttered by the asvins in praise of Visnu.
Though predominantly Visnute in character the Purana talks highly of lord Siva describing his origin exploits the detruction of Daksa’s sacrifice in particular. The purana is emphatic about the identity of Trinity a single entity assuming manifold forms such as Visnu Brahma Siva and others.
Beside the worship of Trinity we find the cult of mother goddesses as the distint feature of this work, these mother are allied to Siva and their origin is traced to the fury of Siva the purpose being the destruction of asuras.
In the miscellany of topics we can include the glory and greatness of holy centers gifts cows’ enumeration of sins and their expiation causes of sufferings in hell and of enjoyment in heaven. Finally this part describes sraddhakalpa (the institution of obsequies rites and rituals).
The Varahapurana is an old Purana considered as a major Purana (Mahapurana) in the accounts given in the Puranas them-selves. But although it states in an early chapter the five general characteristics of a Purana (pancalaksana), it itself does not contain all these, a feature which it shares with several other Puranas. It, of course, contains an account of the first two, namely primary creation and secondary creation (sarga and Pratisarga), but contains very little of the others. It is full of religious and theological matters and glorification of the gods, mainly Visnu, and of the holy tirth as and rules for the observance of various vows. Nevertheless, it is an old Purana in its essential parts, though, as in most other works of a like nature, there are many portions added to it from time to time as is evident from the repetitions, inconsistencies and what would normally appear to be irrelevant matter in some contexts. Its date must be early and Wilson’s assigning it to the 12th century A.D., is arbitrary and unjustified, the earlier parts may not be later than both century as pointed out by P. V. Kane and accepted by scholars like R. C. Hazra, who, however, considers some interpolations to be possibly as late as the l5th century. The work is presented here in an English translation, which is neither too literal nor too free, of the text published by the Venkateswar Press, Bombay, with the most essential corrections. It may be noted that although the work is traditionally believed to contain 24,000 slokas, the text available now contains only a little over 10,000 slokas.
The Purana is in the form of a conversation between Varaha, the Boar-incarnation of Lord Visnu, and Dharani, the Earth held up by him in his tusk, as given by Suta, the mythological narrator. The whole discourse is in reply to Earth’s questions to the Lord seeking enlightenment as to the creation, sustenance and destruction of the world and what would constitute righteous conduct and virtuous actions for happiness in life and ultimate liberation from worldly existence.
We may make a rapid survey of the Purana dividing it into convenient sections and noting the most essential things in each.
l. Chs. l-8. This is of a preliminary nature. Earth puts her questions to the Lord who reveals to her his universal form. We find the account of primary creation from Vyoma through the Pradhana and the three gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, to Brahma, the origin of Rudra, Prajapati and Svayambhuvamanu, Rudra’s form constituted of man in one half and woman in the other, the division of the male part into eleven and further development of creation from Svayambhuvamanu. Narada’s narration to Priyavrata, son of Svayambhuvamanu, of his previous life and his meeting goddess Savitri is interposed. The story of king Asvasiras whom the sages Kapila and jaigisavya convince of the omniscience and omnipresence of Visnu and the need to do one’s duty for spiritual knowledge and liberation and the king finally getting dissolved in the Lord, follows. We may note that although the chief emphasis of this Purana is on devotion, here we find the stress on jnana as the ultimate means for mukti.
King Vasu practicing penance and obtaining liberation by reciting the Pundarikaksapéra hymn, sage Raibhya performing penance at Gaya and getting liberation by uttering the Gadadhara stotra, the ghost of a Brahmin unwittingly killed by king Vasu becoming a hunter by name Dharmavyadha merging in the lord by his praise of him, are narrated to illustrate the eflicacy of penance and prayer. The Dharmavyadha, it is stated begot daughter and gave her in marriage to the son of the Brahmin, sage Matanga, but afterwards she was ill-treated by her mother-in-law particularly referring to her father being a meat-eating hunter, and, indignant at this, the Vyadha made Matangaadmit that while he, as a hunter, was killing only one animal aday for food, the sage who prides at his being a vegetarian, isactually destroying numerous potential forms of life contained in the grains he cooks and eats. We may note two things in -this story, one, the free and formal intermarriage between a Brahmin and a lower caste and the other a defense of non-vegetarianism.
2. Chs. 9-17. This continues the account of creation. Lord Narayana creates Uma and the syllable ‘Om’ identified with Siva, out of which latter arise the seven worlds Bhu etc, the sun, the moon, fire, people of the four castes, Yaksas, Raksasas and Devas and day and night. The Vedas hide themselves in water, but the Lord, assuming the form of a huge fish, recovers them from the water when extolled.
Durjaya, son of Supratika, con