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Purana Preface

Markandeya Purana as fronted

Markandeya Purana, inaugural There is much to learn from the Markandeya Purana. Its reputed author is Veda-Vyasa.

The purana as a type of literature existed in oral form a thousand years before many of them were written down between 300 and 750 CE, and modified throughout centuries into medieval times and further. There are about twenty mahapuranas (great puranas) and over twenty lesser puranas today.

A purana (Sanskrit: "Ancient Lore") belongs to a class of Hindu writings that were written down chiefly between 300 and 750 CE "all over India". The Puranas became the scriptures of the common people and available to everybody, unlike the Vedas, who were restricted to initiated men. The Puranas comprise popular myths and legends and other traditional lore. In addition to such stories there is a wealth of maxims to regulate one's living. Extracts of a large part of the Markandeya Purana are below. - TK

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MANY PURANAS. Vyasa, the author of the Markandeya Purana according to tradition, and of the Mahabharata poem too, is also known as Krishna-Dvaipayana. The Puranas were intended for people who could not go into high Sanskrit philosophy with its intricacies. Stories from 18 main Puranas and just as many subsidiary Puranas were told in markets and other common places, and intertwined in the stories there are norms and proverbial sayings, and much else.

NOT STRICT CONSISTENCY: Six Puranas glorify Brahma, six Vishnu, and six Shiva. In the Shiva Purana, Shiva is highly eulogised and Vishnu is put in an inferior position and sometimes belittled. In the Vishnu Purana it is the other way round; Hari (Vishnu) is highly eulogised an Shiva is given an inferior position. Redactions and changes over the centuries can explain shifts of focus and modifications like these.

SHAREWARE TALES ABOUND: Not a few ancient stories are shareware among the different Puranas, and further too. For example, a story of the fire-god Agni from the still older Vedas, reappears in the Srimat Bhagavata (about Vishna as Krishna), with Krishna presented as the main character of that story, and so on.

VYASA TALES: According to a long epic poem that Vyasa himself dictated and Hindus revere, Vyasa was born on the same day as his mother conceived, understood life wery well and soon walked away from there, while his mother still looked exactly like a virgin after giving birth to him.

This is made plain in the very first part (parva) of the ancient epic poem Mahabharata. The epic poem was dictated by Vyasa himself, and all his reputed output is a rather large part of Hinduism.

Technical Information

The Markandaya Purana is an old Sanskrit work. It contains a poem that seems to have been composed before the beginning of the 900s at the latest. Various estimates would place it about the 300s CE. (p. xiii, xiv)

Among the deities in it, Indra and Brahma are mentioned the most often, next are Vishnu and Shiva, then the Sun and Agni, who is the Aryan fire god. (p. xv)

The orientalist and translator Frederick Eden Pargiter's (1852-1927) conclusions are that the latest part was complete in the 800s CE and "very probably" in the 400s or 500s CE. The third and fifth parts of the work constituted the original Purana, and they probably existed in the 200s CE, perhaps earlier. The first and second part were composed between the two periods. (p. xx)

In it we read about such variegated topics as the states which are said to lead to final emancipation from existence [shudder]; the course of the Ganges in the sky; a row of renowned forefathers called Manus and their fabled descendants; and the goddess Maha-Maya.

What follows is selected, essential instruction from the text, highlighing some interesting ideas, and there may be too little commenting. The numbers at the back of phrases that follow, refer to verses, not pages. The signs next to the numbers, reveal what sort of utterance it is:

[ ] - hopefully a fairly good quotation (it is a direct quotation of the translation of the Sanskrit scholar Pargiter);
[cf ] - something extracted, e.g. into a key phrase;
[in ] - an extract that was embedded in a text passage.

TO TOP

Markandeya-related Wisdom

The headings below refer to cantos in the translation, and the numbers in square brackets to verses in it.

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1 and 2

Wealth and virtue, love and soul liberation [freedom, etc.] compose a fourfold unity of Hindu ideals [cf 6].

This book too was constructed by Vyasa, it is stated [9].

Markandeya was a great muni who once said to Vyasa's disciple Jaimini: "Go and question some birds that live in a cave of the Vindhya mountains. Birds know - and can teach you -" [1-22].

There is no success in dancing for one who is destitute of good qualities and beauty [36].

Good dancing implies graceful comportment [36].

Intoxicated with pride the maiden may obstruct a muni's [hermit's] austerities [50].

The angered Brahmin [hermit, priest] may curse others to some painful conditions, an evil fate, or even down to hell [54, Canto 2:17 and 19].

3

Knowledge can be developed [4].

You can ask what to do from somebody of perfect splendour [8, 11].

One should give when one has promised [31].

Minds are improvable, and may develop some noble qualities [cf 34].

Can a wise man destroy or injure his own body? [39].

Man of understanding, understand with your understanding! [52].

Great is the fortress that has heavenly wisdom for its rampart. There the sentient Soul sits firm as king [in 59-6].

Passion soon penetrates everyone it gets an entrance into [Watch out for unruly passion, is the implied lesson] [cf 66-67].

Passion may wreck [parts of] one's memory, and great folly may do so too [cf 70-71].

Go for the hospitality of the noble [85].

4

You should not give way to sorrow [14].

A human form should strive to maintain righteousness [51, 59].

5

Some multiply their bodies [25].

6

Blossoms of every season are fascinating to a seeing, appreciative eye [cf 11].

Hamsa means any kind of goose or duck [p. 30n].

7

Don't give away more than you can handle [all of it].

8

Finding powerful friends speaks of sour conditions [13].

To be true is good [20, 41].

Some say wealth is proportionate to the skill, age, beauty and disposition of one's wife [55].

Shame on a sorry fool [70].

Everyone should consider riches insufficient [cf 73].

From a succession of misfortunes there may be no great-looking way out [cf all of it].

Supreme felicity seems hard-won [cf all, 244].

Refrain from abandoning the innocent adherent who ought not to be abandoned [251].

To ascend to heaven spells dying first [cf 237-262].

9

Not every guru or yogi around is a benefactor [cf all, and canto 7 and 8.].

10

A dead person experiences bad deeds from the life on earth [4].

The highest object of spiritual knowledge is the Supreme Being [12].

Mothers are of various kinds [Don't idolise and idyllise a mother, then] [17].

Those who are mature in wisdom, have often fallen into misery earlier, one may guess [cf 25, 28].

Perplexing curses do exist, and perplexing positions too [34-44].

A Truth of Being can be perceived more or less imperfectly, and in a variety of ways [46-55].

Who has not spoken much untruth in his life, may find death to be happy enough [cf 52].

A false witness, a liar and blasphemer die in delusion and proceed by an awful road afterwards [58].

According to Hindu custom, relatives who make gifts may nourish their dead thereby. One should not be a slave to ritualistic customs, though [62].

11

The foetus develops in a womb [7].

Bereft of much essential knowledge, a human enters on childhood [cf 20].

One turns cheerless from viewing hells [27].

Old age is quite akin to suffering [29].

12

Hellish conditions may last for a very long time, according to the Hindu faith [all of it.].

13

Heavenly beings can enjoy swelling bliss in their places [6].

14

Slain sinners encounter perils [21].

Vile ones of evil minds undergo torturing plights in the beyond [cf 39-44].

Base ones who cause dissention among friends, are later torn inside [45, 46].

It is no good to be puffed-up either [52].

Servants of Yama, death, are said to be exceedingly cruel and torturing to bad ones in the hereafter [66].

One is not to be too selfish and inconsiderate; it backfires in the afterlife, is the teaching [cf 67-95].

The backbiter of people is continually eaten by the wolves of heaven [in 85].

15

The outcaste is certainly not in in this work, as contrasted with poor and outcaste followers of Jesus in antiquity [cf 1].

Who destroys trust is reborn a fish [7].

You can enjoy delights that are won by your own merit [58].

A cruel mind toward children reveals a bad soul [62].

16

There was a wife who used to esteem her extremely loathful husband as a divinity [cf 18].

Faithful wives can be fit for high-souled men [cf 48,49].

There are debts a man must ever discharge: He must gather wealth and apply it well, observe truthfulness, and show compassion as fits, all according to ability [cf 56-59].

A husband is a wife's supreme happiness [62].

A woman gains happiness through her husband's favour [67].

17

Vishnu was born as Dattatreya, the third son of Brahma, in this Purana [11].

Although drinking and having plenteous sex, the accomplished yogi should not incur any fault, just as Dattatreya and wife [cf 15-24].

18

Improper practices gratify ungodly ones around [16-25].

Let learning bring about the knowledge of a purified heart [29].

The goddess who fulfils the thoughts of men, is a best fortune [50, 51].

19

The one who is bent on injuring others, could very well become a monarch [cf 19,23, canto 20,2 etc.].

Let the wise preserve the stability of truths that count [cf 32-36].

20

It is good to improve one's accomplishments as time goes by [cf 14].

There are evil-dispositioned men among the learned [24].

There are good-dispositioned men who are fools [24].

21

The fascinating-eyed solitary maiden among mountain trees could be full of love [cf 1-30].

Some patience attend the great [cf 57].

A wife is to be her husband's help-meet [68].

22

The learned and decent man's freedom from molestations must always be sought after [2].

In should help to consider how fleeting relations are [cf 28].

23

With many adversaries slain, one may live long [cf 4].

The wife whose gait is like the elephant's, indeed looks lovely! [cf 21].

The supreme deed could be to practice fit austerities very fitly [cf 23-27].

If the ruler of the universe is without name, it is not happiness and bliss either [cf 40-49].

Kriya is [also] the clapping hands [p131n].

24

When wealth is wanting, men's minds become prone to petitions [9].

Those who ruin their taste for happiness while caring for their family, are most likely tricked by God [cf 11].

Let not working righteousness depart from a heart [cf 19].

Gems, women, tasteful things, some music as fit - are the fruit of the tree of good works [cf 21].

A man is to start from bottom and exert himself, relying on righteousness [cf 22,23].

Mindful of the relevant past, wise men mind clearly what is at stake [cf 23,30].

25

The greatly beloved is enjoyed with pride and other passions [cf 1-18].

26

An unselfish distance understands things far better [cf 3].

Unselfish understanding hardly turns toward family life and problems [cf 3].

A good intellect is for acquiring handy knowledge [cf 5].

27

What to do in this world and in the next world, do as much as you can for happiness [cf 3].

Enemies are made through greed too [cf 13-15].

To fight enemies the king subdues his citizens and ministers [cf 10].

A king should be impartial and fair [cf 24].

The supervisor should keep foolish men within their duties [and at a distance too] [cf 28].

28

The priest's duty is threefold: liberality, study, and sacrifice. [3]

The student is supposed to read intently, with his mind withdrawn from anything else, and free from self-conceit. [13, 17]

One should marry a wife of equal standing, free from disease and not deformed. [18]

A householder is to gain wealth by his own toil to the utmost of his power, so that he can nourish all who resort to him. ]

Having sex is one of the duties of the householder, just as being zealous. [21.]

A recluse may want to enjoy the forest and fields of life, and plant unguents, study deeper or better or more, carry out well-intended ceremonies, dress very simply and not ostentatiously at all, and take up a method of deep contemplation. When he can no longer do anything, he may gaze at his soul. [cf 25-26, 29-31]

To be truthful and free from envy are good virtues. [cf 32]

A king is supposed to punish all who behave contrary to their duties, and he must keep them within their occupations. [cf 36]

29

The man who causes cows to be destroyed, sinks into a hell. [cf 12]

The man who gives his cow drink in very good company at the proper time, gets to a heaven of delight. [cf 13]

A wise man should be on the outlook for guests. [cf 25]

A householder is to be intent and have his mind well composed. [cf 21]

The householder who has enough food, should feed another consumed with hunger as well. [cf 39]

A burden (of sustaining many) is placed on the shoulders of one who undertakes family life. [cf 42]

31

Silver is for use which increases affection. [cf 65]

32

One should let a ceremony be well secluded. [cf 22]

34

A wise man must practice righteousness (Dharma) in order to withstand sin. [16]

Righteousness is not destructive to one's own wealth (Artha). [16]

Look in a mirror in order to dress (and so on). [21]

A man should eat, facing the east or the north. [cf 27]

An intelligent man should not divulge another's fault except in the event of injury. [28]

An intelligent man should cease his own reading when everyone is abstaining from reading. [cf 36]

A wise man should not disgrace those who have deficient limbs, the deformed or insane persons (etc). [cf 46-47]

A wise man should shun jealously. [cf 78]

One should neither dress unbecomingly or speak unbecomingly. [cf 86]

Never make friends with the mighty or ever-timid. [cf 89-90]

Contract friendship with good men, the wise, and those resolute in action. [cf 90]

The residence bestows happiness where folk are charitable. [cf 116]

A sensible man should dwell where all medicinal herbs are procurable. [cf 116-17.]

A wise man should always dwell among good-tempered neighbours. [118]

37

Association with the good is a panacea. [24]

39

A man should burn up his faults by pranayama of soul. [cf 10]

The yogi should practice his yoga. [47]

One should avoid any sight of evil during the practice of yoga. [cf 51]

A yogi should fix his mind on a mountain as it is steady. [56]

He who is not injured by fears, may reach perfection [* cf 64]

40

Final emancipation equals supreme bliss. [* cf 25]

41

Disrespect is ambrosia, but respect is a dire poison. [3]

The yogi should not move about spoiling the path of the good, so that people should despise him or treat him with disrespect. [cf 7-8]

A muni should use fine articles of food with the most perfect meditation. [12]

The yogi should always have due recourse to profound contemplation. [21]

42

A and U and M. [4]

By uttering the word OM (AUM), everything . . . may be grasped. [cf 13]

43

Omens: Who sees departed persons, and gold-coloured bulls, lives. :) [5]

When the time arrives, wise men must understand. [* cf 37]

The yogi, feeling his soul, meditates so that his soul adds Supreme Soul. [cf 45]

Sublime absorption is beyond the sense. [cf 46]

The yogi that attains, ceases from the use of his everyday mind. [cf 46]

One is to go for the most sublime victory. [* cf 81-83]

44

Discern "Who am I?" [24-25]

45

Since the elements were governed by the Soul [Purusha] an egg came into being. The egg gradually increased by means of the things that existed. It lay on the water. The Soul inside the egg took the name Brahma, the first corporeal being, and the original maker of created beings. Within that egg was all this world. 62-67, passim.]

Brahma seems to have been born from water. [71]

The first stage of creation became manifest like the lightning. [cf 73]

46

Nature and soul subsist with sameness of character. [4]

In the character of Brahma the Supreme God-Soul creates the world and mankind, then he becomes the preserver Vishnu, lastly the destroyer Rudra (or Shiva). [9-16]

Brahma, the four-faced god of gods, is anterior to the universe. [20]

Brahma is adored as Hiranya-garbha. [21]

The krita age is . . . four thousand years; its commencing twilight . . . four hundred years, and the closing twilight . . . of the same duration [400 years]. [27-30]

Twelve thousand [years] is called a yuga. [31]

The Bhur-loka, the Bhuvar-loka, and the Svar-loka are perishable . . . the Mahar-loka stands. [39-40]

Brahma sleeks during the very long night when the three worlds have been dissolved into one ocean. When the night is over, creation begins again. [cf 40-42]

47

Lord Brahma awoke after sleeping through a long gone night. He gazed on the empty world. He assumed bodies of a fish, a tortoise and a boar and entered the water. He was everywhere. He made the earth level and pondered. While he meditated, beings of goodness came into being, abounding in pleasure, affection and clear knowledge, for they originated from an upward stream of life. The Supreme Being was satisfied in soul with these gods. [cf 1-24]

Then mankind engaged in actions and with abundant sufferings was made. They were attempts at the highest - [cf 24-27]

And then intellectual and tranquil, satisfied and contrary gods stood out with knowledge of the past and the present. [cf 28-29]

48

The wise God of gods wished to create four classes of beings: gods, asuras, the pitris, and mankind - and infused himself in the waters, rapt in contemplation. [4-5]

Out of his buttocks came the asuras. [5-6]

Gods of goodness came from delight. [cf 7-8]

The pitris were manifested by him while he deemed himself to be a pitri. [cf 9]

Mankind springs from passion. [cf 12]

At the beginning of the treta yuga (era) issued domestic cattle and the saman hymns. [cf 29-33]

Great and small created things were produced from his limbs. [cf 36]

The creator ordained diversity among created things as he woke up at the close of his deep night's sleep. [cf 41-45]

49

While Brahma was first creating, he created self-glorious beings marked by goodness. Those beings were produced in pairs, and rejoiced together. [cf 1-7]

Urged by mutual distress, pairs hastened to sexual intercourse. [cf 8]

The humans that were first born of Brahma and thus were of the creator-god's lineage, worshipped the earth, paid homage to rivers, lakes, seas, and the mountains. They delighted according to their natural dispositions. Their actions were unswayed by love, their minds always joyful. Time was always happy. As time passed by, they attained wonderful perfection. Perfection was merry with many a delight for them. They had lasting youth. All were equal, without inferiority or superiority. And the earth was blessed with good fortune everywhere. Also, the water was exquisite. [cf 12-25]

Then the treta yuga began, and people got their food from trees they lived in. They lived in trees and called them houses, and got clothing and ornament out of their fruits. Also, they got honey from trees. [cf 28-32]

Afterwards, in the course of time, passionate affection and monthly menstruation sprung up among them. And after that again, people grew covetous and selfish. Trees thus perished, and faces felt cold and heat and hunger. From here they made towns and resorted to fortresses man-made and otherwise, and made measures intended for measurement. They made lofty ramparts and fosses (ditches, moats), and peopled the town, pura, with noble families. [cf 33-44]

Dwelling places and houses made by men, different from cities and other abodes, are known as vasatis. It may be the populated parts of villages, and bamboo-built houses. And people made houses out of wood. [5-49]

These people ruined the trees by their strife, and next pondered on the means of livelihood. But they had rain according to their desire, and made water channels. [cf 55-58]

Cereals came into being as a special God-gift - the earth was milked for them by Brahma. Various kinds of rice, barley, wheat, sesame, and others are among the olden cultivated plants. [cf 64-69]

Brahma devised means of livelihood for people that needed it, and the perfection of the hands which results from work. From then on plants were produced, which must ripen after ploughing. [cf 74-75]

50

While the wise Brahma was meditating, mankind were begotten in his mind, together with their occupations and implements which were produced from his body. [cf 1]

Then He created other mind-born sons like himself: the nine sages Bhrigu, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Angiras, Marici, Daksha, Atri and Vasistha - the nine sons of Brahma. All these were all-wise. They all knew the future and were disinclined toward the world. [cf 4-6, 8-9]

Next He created Rudra, Sankalpa, and Dharma. [cf 7]

He created the woman Sata-rupa, who was cleansed from blemishes through austerities. The first Manu, Svayambhuva, took her for his wife. Both were created from Brahma by himself.. Getting sons and daughters began. [cf 13-39]

Dharma took twenty-four daughters of Daksha for his wives: Faith, Good Fortune, Constancy, Satisfaction, Nourishment, Mental Vigour, Action (Kriya), Intelligence, Modesty, Bodily Beauty, Tranquillity, Perfection (Siddhi) and Fame were the eldest. The eleven younger daughters were Celebrity, Truth (Sati), Fitness, Memory, Affection, Patience, Humility, Sincerity, Strength, Oblation to the gods, Oblation to the pitris (forefather spirits). [cf 19-23]

Rishis and the most illustrious munis took these daughters (in marriage). [cf 25]

  • Faith gave rise (birth) to Love.
  • Good Fortune gave birth to Pride.
  • Constancy gave birth to her son Restraint.
  • Satisfaction gave birth to Contentment.
  • Nourishment gave birth to Covetousness.
  • Mental Vigour gave birth to Revelation.
  • Action (Kriya) gave birth to Punishment (Danda), Prudence, and Decorum.
  • Intelligence (Buddhi) gave birth to Wisdom (Bodha).
  • Modesty gave birth to Decorum.
  • Bodily Beauty gave birth to her son Industry.
  • Tranquillity (Shanti, [peace"]) gave birth to Ease.
  • Perfection (Siddhi) gave birth to Happiness.
  • Fame gave birth to Renown.

These are the offspring of Dharma (proper, fit conduct, etc). [cf 26-29]

A grandson of Dharma, Joy, brims over with joyousness. [cf 28]

Now Himsa (Injury) was the wife of Adharma (Unrighteousness), and Falsehood (Anrita) was born of Injury's Unrighteousness. [cf 29]

A daughter, Destruction, was also born of Injury's Unrighteousness, and the sons Hell and Fear, and Illusion and Pain. [cf 29-30]

Illusion gave birth to Death. [cf 30]

Pain gave birth to Misery (Duhkha) by Unendurable and Intolerable.

And illness, Old Age, Grief, Thirst, and Anger were begotten by Death (Mrityu). [cf 31-32]

All who have the hallmarks of Adharma (Unrigheousness) are traditionally declared to have spring from Duhkha (Suffering, Misery) and they all live in chastity. [cf 32]

Death also had Ill Fortune for his wife, and had fourteen sons by her. The sons work so that men suffer injury and other evils. [cf 33-36]

One takes possession of self-consciousness. [37]

Bewildered by folly, men strive to destroy women. [cf 37]

The Hunger Goblin

The goblin Ravenous Hunger set out to eat all beings.

Brahma said to him, "Keep calm."

Hunger answered, "Oh, how can I get satisfied, how can I grow strong?"

Brahma said, "Unrighteous men are to be your strength. Boils may be your raiment. I give you what is infested with vermin, the content of broken pots, what is unripe, what has been licked, polluted, and also damaged food and drink. These are to nourish you, besides what has been given away in anger or pain. You will always conquer among men who have been corrupted.

Your business is to create social dissentions. Men who fast vainly, who always delight in women, and religious hypocrites are for the taking.

However, abandon the house of him who eats only properly cooked food, who is pure within, and honours guests. Abandon that house, goblin, where the inmates are kind and busied in good deeds. And ever abandon that house where those who live there do not keep their seats while the aged are standing and they do not stand.

Further, it will not be an excellent abode for you where the house-door is not penetrated by trees, shrubs or other things. [cf 70]

Abandon the house of the man who supports his guests with the remnants of his food. Abandon the men who are true in word, and quite harmless.

Abandon the woman who is devoted to her husband's service and who feeds on the food which has been left by her family and husband.

Abandon the higher learner (dvija) whose mind is engrossed with study, discipline, and giving alms. And abandon the energetic business-minded one, and the stainless trader (vaisya) who keeps cattle and trade and cultivates crops and lands.

Abandon the home where the wife is rightfully obedient and shows due reverence to her husband.

But that home is your temple, goblin, where thorny trees grow, where the wife is a remarried widow and ant-hills are found, and where corn and scriptures are disdained.

Abandon the house where the lotus and the white lotus are found, where a maiden dwells who feeds on sweetmeats and - where a fine bull is kept. And do not roam in the house where the great festivals that were famous of old, are celebrated.

Do not join yourself with the man who establishes the country customs and maintains good life according to the precepts," Brahma finally said. [cf 38-97]


Markandeya Purana Extracts, Literature  

Pargiter, Frederick Eden, tr: Markandeya Purana. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1904.

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