Sunday, April 1, 2018

Vayu Purana, by Bibek Debroy

Vayu Purana, translated by Bibek Debroy

This is the fifteenth purana I am reviewing, and it is a Tamasika purana. This Purana says that all the puranas were originally recited by Lord Brahma and that to understand the Vedas one must read the puranas. Many of you must be thinking why the Vayu Purana is considered to be a Mahapurana, as otherwise, there will be nineteen Mahapuranas. There has been an argument on whether the Shiva Purana is the fourth Purana in order or the Vayu Purana, and as people have not been able to answer this question, both puranas are added to the list. Therefore, there are nineteen Mahapuranas. The Vayu Purana says that it has been recited during the reign of King Adhisima Krishna, who was one of Parikshit’s descendants. This Purana is named the ‘Vayu Purana’, because it was recited by Vayu. It has twenty-four thousand shlokas, and is not too long. This Purana includes many stories, and there are barely any rituals stated, and that makes me wonder why it is a Tamasika Purana as it neither glorifies Shiva too much, nor does It contain many rituals.

Favourite Stories

This Purana starts with Lomaharshana reciting the Vayu Purana to the sages who had assembled in the Naimisharanya forest for a yajna. It then mentions a fascinating story about Satyavati’s birth which I will include as an extra, and not as one of my favourite stories. One of my favourite stories was when they mention another account on how Rudra was born, which deviates from the story mentioned in the other Puranas. Thee second story that I liked comes later on in a chapter named ‘Vedavyasa’. It advises you on why one should not be vain or proud. This Purana has an interesting list of stories, unfortunately I cannot mention all, so I will only mention the names. Some of my favourite stories were:
  • Trishanku
  • Sagara
  • Dhundhu
  •  Kartavirya Arjuna
  • Vedavyasa
  • Rudra


Shiva had granted Brahma the boon that he would be born as Brahma’s son. Brahma wanted that to happen, so he started doing difficult Tapasya. Despite this, the meditation bore no fruits. In despair, Brahma started crying. When those teardrops fell to the ground they gave rise to snakes. Looking at the snakes, Brahma was further saddened that he had created such unclean, dangerous creatures. Full of misery, Brahma fell unconscious and then died. As soon as Brahma had died, eleven beings emerged from his body. When they emerged, they started crying. The word for ‘to cry’ is rud. Hence, these beings were known as Rudras. The rudras brought Brahma back to life and he was happy. Right after this, the Vayu Purana states another account on how Rudra was born, and this is the commonly mentioned version in most Puranas. I will narrate this account as well. As we already know, Brahma decided to meditate so that Shiva could be born. When he was meditating, a baby appeared on his lap and he was crying. When Brahma questioned why the baby was crying, the baby replied that it was sad that it didn’t have a name. As the baby was crying, Brahma named the baby Rudra. The baby wasn’t satisfied, and in this fashion, it repeated seven times. Rudra’s seven names are Shiva, Bhava, Pashupati, Isha, Bhima, Ugra and Mahadeva.


While reciting the Vayu Purana, Lomaharshana recited the story of how Shakalya met his downfall at King Janaka’s horse sacrifice. King Janaka was holding a horse sacrifice (Ashvamedha yajna), and he wanted to know who was the best of all the sages assembled at the sacrifice. He decided to donate a thousand head of cattle, a thousand gold pieces, many villages and several servants. He told the sages that he would donate all of that to the sage who was the most learned, and he asked them to decide amongst themselves. All the sages started fighting amongst themselves. Sage Yajnavalkya was amongst the sages present, and he asked his servant to take the wealth to his house and if anyone had a problem with it he would debate with them. All the sages started to debate with Yajnavalkya one by one, but none could defeat the sage. At last only one sage was left who hadn’t debated with Yajnavalkya. The sage was Shakalya. Yajnavalkya provoked Shakalya, and Shakalya asked a thousand questions to which Yajnavalkya provided a correct answer. Now Yajnavalkya said that he would ask Shakalya one question, and cursed him if the answer was wrong, Shakalya would die. When the question was asked, Shakalya didn’t know the answer, so he died, and Yajnavalkya received all the wealth.

I had told you at the start that I would tell you the story of Satyavati, so let me comply. The ancestor had a daughter named Vasavi. She was cursed that she would be born as a fish. This fish had a daughter named Satyavati. This is why Satyavati used to smell strongly of fish.

If one listens to the purana, one will go straight to heaven, and will also be blessed with wealth, health and a long life. All the sins of a person who listens to this purana is forgiven.

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© 2018, Anvita Agarwal. All rights reserved.

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