From the Jacket:
The Visnudharmottara Purana is an encyclopedic work of three khandas and dealing not only with various stories, myths and legends but also with varied subjects, viz. cosmology and cosmogony, division of time, pacification of unfavourable planets and stars, omens and portents, genealogies, manners and customs, penances, results of actions, rules about vrata and Sraddha, description and praise of various kinds of donations law and politics, science of war, anatomy, medicine etc.
This work is divided in three khandas according to their subjects. First khanda is related with the pauranika legends and rebirths. The second khanda deals in pauranika ritualism. This is avowedly a Vaisnava work claiming to deal with various duties on the Vaisnavas. It recommends the Pancaratra method of Visnu worship, adds great importance to the due observance of 'Panca-kala'; holds the scriptures of the Panacaratra in high esteem and extols one who honours or makes gifts to those who are versed in these scriptures.
The third Khanda deals with architecture, sculpture, painting, dancing and music, the basic topics of Fine Arts in a very comprehensive and systematic way that one can call it a complete treatise on the Fine Arts of ancient India.
About the Author:
Dr. Priyabala Shah is a well known scholar of Sanskrit and specialised in Ancient Indian Art and Sculpture. Her dedicated academic pursuit is responsible for this publication. Besides it she has published many important works on architecture, sculpture, iconography etc.
The text of the Vishnudharmottara published by the Venkates vara Press, Bombay in Samvat 1909 (i.e. A.D. 1913). This Vishnudha mottara is divided into three Khandas.
This work is a translation of the first Khanda of the Vishnud harmottara. It begins with the well-known verse -
"Narayana Namaskrtya Naram Chaiva Narottam am , Devim Sarasvatim Vyasah tato Jayamudirayet", This (first) Khanda, which contains 269 Adhyayas, very much resembles the first Khandas of other Puranas. It narrates the creation or rather the successive creations of the world, gives the usual Pauranic accounts of geography, astronomy and time, numerous geneologies and legends and some stotras, as well as rules regarding certain vratas, the Sraddhas and the pacification of planets and constellations in details. Among the legends, along with account of the loves of Pururavas and Uravashi, which fills Adhyayas 130-137, deserves to be mentioned, as it comes a little closer to Kalidasa's story than the other known versions. Moreover, some leg ends throw light upon the rebirths due to their Karmas. e.g. story of the transformation of the Gandharvas Haha and Huhu into an elephant and a crocodile respectively as a result of Devala's curse. Rama's order to Bharat to chastise the impious Gandharvas living on both banks of Sindhu. The story of Ravana, and his exploits, his meeting with Vishnu who told him that he would be born as a human being and kill Ravana. Thus this Khanda widely utilises the Ramayana and incorporates a large number of verses from the Mahabharata, the Bhagvadgita and the Upanisads. There is no exaggeration in saying that this Vishnudharm tara is an encyclopaedic work discussing so many different topi Moreover this work narrates the birth and rebirth according to on actions (Karma).
I am regretfully aware of the fact that inspite of best care a few mistakes crept into this work. I crave indulgence of the scholars for these lapses.
My heart-felt thanks to Dr. I. J. Bhatt, Shrimati Prof. Kunjalata Ghodadra and Shri Ronak H. Joshi. I thank Shri Babubhai, Shri Parshva Publication, Ahmedabad, for the prompt publication of this work.
(1) The Vishnudharmottara is an encyclopedic work consisting of three Khandas and dealing not only with various stories, myths and legends but also with varied subjects, viz., cosmology and cosmogony, geography, astronomy and astrology, division of time, pacification of unfavourable planets and stars, omens and portents, genealogies (mainly of kings and sages), manners and customs, penances, results of actions, rules about vrata and sraddha, description and praise of various kinds of donations law and politics, science of war, anatomy, medicine, treatment of diseases' of human beings and lower animals, cookery, manufacture of perfumes, horticulture, grammar, lexicography, metrics, rhetorics, dramaturgy, danc- ing, vocal and instrumental music, sculpture, painting, architecture, vais- nava theology and so on.
The Vishnudharmottara is avowedly a Vaishnava work claiming to deal with 'various duties of the Vaishnavas'. It belongs to the Pancaratras and is not a production of the Bhagavat sect as Buhler (1) takes it to be. It recommands the Pancaratra method of Vishnu worship, adds great importance to the due observance of 'panca-kala', holds the scriptures of the Panca-ratras in high esteem and extols one who honours or makes gifts to, those who are versed in these scriptures. According to the Vishnudharmottara, Narayana (2) is the highest deity and Supreme Brahma (param Brahma). He is the original source of both matter and spirit. For the sake of creation he takes to gunas and appears as Brahma, Vishnu and Hara. Vishnu who carries on the work of protection with the help of Lakshmi, exists in different parts of the universe by assuming different forms through Maya. In the world of mortals he resides with Lakshmi in Svetadvipa, which is said to be situated in the ocean of milk lying on the east of the mountain Meru. The Vishnudharmottara calls Narayana 'Caturatman' and believes in the doctrine of Vyuha as expounded in the Panchratra samhitas. It states that by persistently worshiping Vishnu with absolute devotion (ekanta-bhava) according to the Panchratra method, one can pass to Svetadvipa after death, reside there for long in a divine form, and then attain final emanci- pation by entering Vasudeva after passing successively through the Sun (aditya-mandalam), Brahma, Aniruddha, Padrumna and Samkarshana. It lays special stress on image worship. (1 and recom- mends to the Vishnu-Worshippers both the vedic mantras (viz. Savitri etc.) and the sectarian ones (,Om namo narayanaya' and 'Om namo bhagvate Vasudevaya' of eight and twelve syllables respec- tively) but says that women and shudras are allowed to use the latter mantras only. (2) As it regards Vishnu as 'Sarva-devamaya' and 'Sarvarupadhara, (3) it recommands the vows and worship of other deities also and thereby tries to infuse the worshippers of these deities with Vaishnava ideas. It looks Krsna as one of the manifestations of Vishnu and seems to add little importance to cow heard krsna (of vrndavana), who is mentioned very briefly on two occasions only. (4) It adds special importance to the Pasupatas, whose scriptures it mentions along with those of the Pancaratras in more places than one, (5) but it subordinates Sankara to Narayana. So it seems that the Pancaratras had the Pasupatas as their most powerful rivals.
The Vishnudharmottara is practically free from Tantric in- fluence. It advises the Vaishnavas to worship Vishnu and other deities in images, pictures, altars, Pitchers (full of water), or lotuses (drawn on the ground) (6) and recommends the use 'of vedic or Puranic Mantras or both in vows and worship. But it, does not recognise the Tantric 'Yantra' as a medium of worship, nor does it prescribe the use of Tantric mantras. The Tantric bijas, found in some of the stotras and kavacas contained in the Vishnudharmottara, (7) are most probably due to the influence of the Pancaratra Samhitas, which Vishnudharmottara follows in form and ideas.