Sunday, April 30, 2017

Matsya Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Matsya Purana

Translated by Bibek Debroy

The Matsya Purana is my third review of the Puranas written by Bibek Debroy. He had translated the unabridged version of the whole Mahabharata in English, with eleven volumes, the eleventh volume being the Harivamsha. Earlier he has translated an abridged version of the eighteen Mahapuranas. I have reviewed two so far, and this is the third I’m going to be reviewing. To know the basic facts on the Puranas, you can read the earlier reviews I’ve written. Let me start by telling you the basics you should know about the Matsya Purana. Firstly, the Matsya Purana is the sixteenth Purana in order, not of importance. Secondly, the Matsya Purana is a tamasika Purana, which means it praises Shiva more, though it has the name of one of Vishnu’s avataras. In reality, it is Vishnu who is narrating this Purana to Vaivasvata Manu. It consists of fifteen thousand shlokas in all. It has a few similar stories to the Shiva Purana. In this Purana, I didn’t find the stories as interesting as a few interesting things shared in the book. I’ll mention them to you

Firstly I found the facts on giving daan very interesting. You will come upon them when you have read most of the book and you are nearing the end. There are sixteen ways of giving daan. All of them are listed below.
  1. Tulapurusha : The donator of the daan should sit on the scale and gold should be placed on the other side until both the scales are balanced equally.
  2. Hiranyagarbha : A pot full of gold is donated.
  3. Brahmanda: A universe made out of gold is donated.
  4. Kalpapadapa: A tree made of gold is donated.
  5. Gosahasra: A thousand cows are donated.
  6. Kamadhenu: A cow and a calf made of gold are donated.
  7. Hiranyashva: A horse made of gold is donated.
  8. Ashvaratha: A horse and four chariots constructed of gold are donated.
  9. Hemahastiratha: An elephant and a chariot made of gold are donated.
  10. Panchalangalaka: Ten ploughs are donated, five made of gold and five made of wood.
  11. Dhara: A golden model of the Earth is donated.
  12. Vishvachakra: A golden model of the Universe in the form of a wheel is donated.
  13. Mahakalapalata: Ten creepers of gold are donated.
  14. Saptasagara: Seven pits are made in the ground, representing seven oceans. The first pit has a little bit of salt, the second milk, the third clarified butter, the fourth molasses, the fifth curds, the sixth sugar and the seventh holy water. An idol of a god or goddess is placed in each. Brahma in the first, Vishnu in the second, Shiva in the third, Surya in the fourth, Yama in the fifth, Lakshmi in the sixth and Parvati in the seventh. The pits are then covered with jewels to the brim.
  15. Ratnadhenu: A cow made of gold with different parts made of jewels is donated.
  16. Mahabhutaghata: A pot made of gold filled with jewels is donated.

The second thing I loved the most was when he described the time a house should be built. The points you have to remember while building a house are:
  • The building of a house should never happen during Chaitra, as the person who does this will inflict a terrible disease.
  • The month of Vaishakha is a good time, as a person will have many cows.
  • An individual who begins in Agrahayana has full granaries, in Magha attains all sorts of riches and in Falguna obtains gold and sons.
  • Servants and animals are owned by the person who starts in the month of Ashada.
  • If you start to build a house in Jyaishta and Shravana you will die soon; in Bhadra you will suffer all manner of losses; in Ashvina your wife will die and in Pousha your goods will be stolen.
One story we commonly know is the story of Sanjana and Surya. There is a particular part that we don’t know about. When Sanjana took the form of a mare and was meditating so that Surya’s radiance would reduce. After Sanjana’s father had chipped a small bit of his radiance, Surya took the form of a horse and joined Sanjana. At that time, Sanjana gave birth to two twin sons. Those two twins were the Ashvini twins. This has not been mentioned in many versions. This was a part of the story I liked, as I haven’t read this in the versions of this story which I’ve read.

The last part I liked was when Bibek Debroy talks about ब्राह्मण (Brahman). During the creation of the universe, there was darkness and the Brahman. We cannot describe the divine essence brahman, as it has no traits that can be described. The Matsya Purana says that the brahman repelled all the darkness, and divided itself into three parts. Those three parts are known as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. All the Puranas have different versions on the creation of the Universe, if you happen to read them. This I found to be the most interesting of the versions I’ve read of. It talks about the Brahman, which is the divine essence said to be formless. This is the part I enjoyed the most. It told me about Brahman, a term I had vaguely heard about.

These parts were my favourite. This book was one of the best from the other two Puranas. This is easy to understand, and can be read by kids. It gives us a lot of information on our ancient texts, the Puranas. Bibek Debroy’s Mahabharata, though long is written beautifully in simple English. One should really read the books written by Bibek Debroy. Also read my other two reviews on the Puranas:


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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Padma Purana, Translated by Bibek Debroy

Padma Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 2)

Translated by by Bibek Debroy, Dipavali Debroy

Namaste.
I am Anvita and I would like to share with you some information about the Puranas, one of the sacred texts of Hinduism. Before I start, I would like to give you a general idea of a Purana. A Purana is one of the sacred texts of Hinduism. The Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas are together known as Itihasa, something that happened in the past. As we all know, the Ramayana was written by Sage Valmiki and the Mahabharata was composed by Krishna Dvaipayana. The Puranas were also written by the same person, Krishna Dvaipayana. This great sage was the offspring of Satyavati and Rishi Parashara. He was originally named Krishna Dvaipayana, as he his complection was dark (Krishna) and he was born on an island (Dvaipayana). Later on, he was titled Vedavyasa or Vyasadeva as he divided one of the most sacred texts of Hinduism, the Vedas. Hence, he was known as the one who divided the Vedas (Vyasa = dividing). There are eighteen Puranas that are given more importance, because of five characteristics they contain. The Puranas are as follows:
  1. Brahma Purana
  2. Padma Purana
  3. Vishnu Purana
  4. Shiva Purana
  5. Bhagvata Purana
  6. Narada Purana
  7. Markandeya Purana
  8. Agni Purana
  9. Bhavishya Purana
  10. Brahmavaivarta Purana
  11. Linga Purana
  12. Varaha Purana
  13. Skanda Purana
  14. Vamana Purana
  15. Kurma Purana
  16. Matsya Purana
  17. Garuda Purana
  18. Brahmanda Purana

The characteristics are listed below,
1. The original creation of the universe (sarga).
2. The periodical destruction and recreation of the universe (pratisarga)
3. The different eras (manvantara)
4. The history of the solar dynasty (suryavamsha) and the luna dynasty (chandravamsha)
5. The royal genealogies (vamshanucharita)

The Padma Purana is the second longest purana with fifty-five thousand couplets. The Padma purana is divided into sections – Srishti kanda, bhumi khanda, svarga khanda, patala khanda and Uttara khanda. The Padma Purana is a Sattvika Purana, as it glorifies Lord Vishnu. The Padma Purana has many stories and less facts, which makes it extremely interesting. Bibek Debroy starts the purana with the bhumi kanda. He usually starts the puranas with Lomaharshana narrating the Purana to a group of sages.

There are many stories, most of them, which I enjoyed, but the best stories to me, are two of them.

These stories come when you have finished about half of the whole book. They come during the story of Sage Chyavana. Sage Chyavana decides to go on a pilgrimage to visit all the tirthas, as he believed, if he visited them, he would attain true knowledge. On his journey, he stopped to rest under a banyan tree. The Banyan tree was the house to a family of parrots. The male and female parrot had four sons. Every day they would go to different places in search of food. Their names were Ujjvala, Samujjvala, Vijjvala and Kapinjala, respectively. On this particular day, they happened to visit places where strange sights met them. They would narrate their story, and ask their father Kunjala to explain the strange sights they saw. I enjoyed the stories of Samujjvala and Kapinjala.
Samujjvala’s story: He went to the Himalayas to search for food, in one particular valley that was frequently visited by sages and apsaras. There was a lake called the Manasa sarovara. He waited there and several swans arrived. Some were black and the others were white. They were followed by fierce looking, ugly women. The black swans went to bathe. The women stood outside and laughed. A large white swan came out of the water followed by three swans. They took off, followed by the other white swans. Meanwhile a hunter arrived at the spot and sat down, followed by his wife. The wife didn’t recognize the husband, as he was better looking than before. The husband explained to her that he had bathed in the Narmada sangam, the meeting point of the rivers Narmada and Reva. He guided his wife there, and the swans with the women followed. The swans bathed, and the black swans became snow – white. The women when did so died.

The explanation for this: Narada visited Indra in heaven. Indra questioned Narada about which of all the tirthas was the best. Narada was confused and couldn’t answer it so Indra summoned all the tirthas to his court. He posed a question to the tirthas that which one could purify the worst of sins. The tirthas suggested Prayaga, Varanasi, Pushkara and Arghyatirtha. There is a story connected to this. One day, a kshatriya named Vidura killed a brahmana in a fit of anger. This was a great sin, so he visited many tirthas, but his sin wasn’t forgiven. On his journey, he met a man named Chandrasharma. He had killed his teacher, and he too had visited many tirthas but his sin had not been forgiven. They decided to travel together. They met two more men, Vedasharma and Vanjula. One had married someone he should not have and the other was a drunkard. They journeyed together and a sage advised them to visit Prayaga, Arghyatirtha, Varanasi and Pushkara. They visited the tirthas and their sins were so bad that the tirthas became contaminated and followed the sinners in the form of black swans. The tirthas that were not contaminated followed the sinners in the form of white swans. The whole retinue went to the Manasa sarovara. This tirtha also took the form of a black swan and eventually made their way to the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Reva. When they bathed in this tirtha, they all were cleansed. The four women were the personifications of the four sins of the four women. When the sinners were pardoned, the sins died. The most sacred tirtha of all is the tirtha present at the confluence of the rivers Reva and Narmada, known as the Kubjatirtha.

Kapinjala’s story: He went to Mount Kailasa in search of food. Near one particular pond, he saw a woman seated on a boulder crying. From her tears sprouted lotuses. A sage picked those lotuses and offered them to Lord Shiva. After doing this, he danced and then sat and cried.

Explanation for this: There was an asura named Vihunda. He wanted to take revenge for his father’s death. He started doing a terrible tapasya. The gods were terrified and prayed to Vishnu. To help the gods, Vishnu took the form of a beautiful woman and distracted Vihunda. He fell hopelessly in love and asked Vishnu if he could marry her. Vishnu agreed and told Vihunda that first he would have to worship Shiva with seven crore Kamoda flowers, make a garland of them and give it to her. He agreed. He searched for Kamoda flowers but could not find them. His guru Sukracharya told him that Kamoda flowers didn’t grow on trees. They sprouted when a woman named Kamoda laughed, but when she cries, the flowers that emerge should not be touched. He told him where Kamoda could be found. The gods had no intention of allowing Vihunda to get the flowers. They told her that Vishnu was going to leave heaven and come down to Earth. The thought of Vishnu leaving heaven was so depressing that she started crying. Vihunda, not realizing that these were the flowers had sprouted from Kamoda’s crying, collected the flowers and worshipped Shiva. This act angered Parvati that she killed him.

The rest of the Padma Purana has stories of how punya can be obtained by simply cleaning Vishnu’s idol or removing darkness from it. A person who hears just the recitation of one shloka of the Padma Purana is forgiven of all his sins he may commit in the space of a single day. A lot of punya is also obtained if one donates a thousand cows to a brahmana or if he hears the recitation of one chapter of the purana. In the Kali yuga, punya can be obtained by listening to the whole Padma Purana being recited, giving alms or doing tapasya.


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Friday, April 7, 2017

Shiva Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Shiva Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 4)

Translated by Bibek Debroy, Dipavali Debro

A Purana - it does seem to ring a bell. A Purana is one of the sacred texts of Hindus. There are 18 of them. In order, they are:
  1. Brahma Purana
  2. Padma Purana
  3. Vishnu Purana
  4. Shiva Purana
  5. Bhagavata Purana
  6. Narada Purana
  7. Markandeya Purana
  8. Agni Purana
  9. Bhavishya Purana
  10. Brahmavaivarta Purana
  11. Linga Purana
  12. Varaha Purana
  13. Skanda Purana
  14. Vamana Purana
  15. Kurma Purana
  16. Matsya Purana
  17. Garuda Purana
  18. Brahmanda Purana

    These Puranas are known as the Mahapuranas. They were written by Vedvyasa Krishna Dvaipayana (Vedvyasa is just a title holder, not a single person. There have been twenty-eight Veda Vyasa. Krishna Dvaipayana was the twenty-eighth.) It hasn’t completely been written by Krishna Dvaipayana. Other sages and learned people also collaborated and together it was written. A Mahapurana specifically should contain five subjects or lakshanas. They are:
    • The creation of the universe (sarga).
    • The periodical destruction and recreation (pratisarga).
    • The 14 different eras (manvantaras).
    • The histories of the Lunar dynasty (Chandra vamsha) and the Solar dynasty (Surya vamsha).
    • The royal genealogies (vamshanucharita).

    This time, I’m going to talk about the Shiva Purana. In some cases, the Shiva Purana is said to be the fourth one, but in others the Vayu Purana is said to be the fourth one. The Shiva purana has 24,000 shlokas. The Shiva Purana is said to be recited by Romaharshana, Krishna Dvaipayana’s disciple. The first part of the Shiva Purana talks about the Trinity in Hindu gods, which consists of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. It then continues by telling stories. I would like to share with you two of my favourites.

    Why do we not use the Champak flower to worship Lord Shiva: There was a Shiva temple in the land of Gokarna and Narada decided to visit it. As he was visiting it, he saw a Brahmana about to pluck a Champak flower. Seeing Narada, the Brahmana stopped himself from doing so. Casually, Narada asked the Brahmana what he was doing. The Brahmana replied that he was going to beg for alms. Narada then went and prayed in the temple. Meanwhile, the Brahmana quickly plucked the flowers and hid them in his basket, which was well covered. Narada emerged out of the temple and saw the Brahmana again. He again imposed the same question. The Brahmana lied a second time that he did not receive alms. Suspicious, Narada asked the Champak tree if flowers had been plucked from its tree. The champak tree denied it. Suspicious, Narada again entered the temple and found freshly picked Champak flowers. He asked a devotee inside who had put them. The devotee answered that an evil Brahmana had put them. Shiva would then bless him and the evil Brahmana had now brainwashed the king and had done many evil things. Narada questioned Shiva how he could have allowed the Brahmana to do this. Shiva said that he was helpless if anyone worshipped him with Champak flowers. He couldn’t resist them. Narada hereby cursed the Champak flower that it wouldn’t be used to worship Shiva as it had lied.

    Parvati becomes Gauri: Two asuras, Shumbha and Nishumbha obtained a boon from Brahma that they may not be killed by a male. After seeking the boon, they started wreaking havoc in all three worlds. In despair, Brahma went to Shiva and asked him to invoke Parvati, so that a female would be born from Parvati who would kill the asuras. Shiva agreed to the idea. When Shiva met Parvati and playfully addressed her as ‘Kali’ meaning black or dark skinned. Hurt by the term used to address her, she decided to pray to Brahma for many years to become fair She meditated for many years. One day, a tiger saw her and thought her to be a good meal. It patiently waited for her. Parvati, thinking the tiger to be her devotee, entered the tiger’s soul. As soon as she did this, his soul was truly purified and became a devotee of Parvati. Meanwhile, Brahma arrived at the spot, wanting to know the reason Parvati was praying to him. She told him everything and he granted her the boon. All the dark cells (kosha) fell from her body. From them emerged a dark hued goddess, Koushiki, and Parvati was hence known as Gauri (fair one) as she did not have a single dark cell. Equipped with the right weapons, Koushiki killed Shumbha and Nishumbha.

    The Shiva Purana also talks about the twelve Jyotirlingas. Their names are:
    • Omkara
    • Somnath
    • Kedara
    • Mahakala
    • Mallikarjuna
    • Bhimashankara
    • Vishvanatha
    • Vaidyanatha
    • Nagesha
    • Rameshvara
    • Tryambaka
    • Ghushnesha

    Other than this, the Shiva Purana also mentions the different hells you go to for the different sins. It also talks about the punya or merit, you can obtain if you read the Shiva Purana. Bibek Debroy did a very good job in writing this Purana. It is easy to understand and is interesting, as it has many stories.

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