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The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, [1840], at

p. 597


Pauńd́raka, a Vásudeva, assumes the insignia and style of Krishńa, supported by the king of Káśí. Krishńa marches against, and destroys them. The son of the king sends a magical being against Krishńa: destroyed by his discus, which also sets Benares on fire, and consumes it and its inhabitants.

MAITREYA.--Of a truth the divine Śauri, having assumed a mortal body, performed great achievements in his easy victories over Śakra and Śiva, and all their attendant divinities. I am now desirous to hear from you, illustrious sage, what other mighty exploit the humiliator of the prowess of the celestials performed.

PARÁŚARA.--Hear, excellent Brahman, with reverent attention, an account of the burning of Varáńasí by Krishńa, in the course of his relieving the burdens of the earth.

There was a Vásudeva who was called Pauńd́raka 1, and who, though not the Vásudeva, was flattered by ignorant people as the descended deity, until he fancied himself to be the Vásudeva 2 who had come down upon earth. Losing all recollection of his real character, he assumed the emblems of Vishńu, and sent an ambassador to the magnanimous Krishńa with this message; "Relinquish, thou foolish fellow, the discus; lay aside all my insignia, my name, and the character of Vásudeva; and come and do me homage; and I will vouchsafe thee means of subsistence." At which Janárddana laughed, and replied, "Go, messenger, back to Pauńd́raka, and say to him from me, 'I will dispatch to thee my emblem the discus without fail. Thou wilt rightly apprehend my meaning, and consider what is to be done; for I shall come to thy city, bringing the discus with me, and shall undoubtedly consign it to thee. If thou wilt command me to come, I will immediately obey, and be with

p. 598

thee to-morrow; there shall be no delay: and, having sought thy asylum, I will so provide, O king, that I shall never more have any thing to dread from thee.'" So saying, he dismissed the, ambassador to report these words to his sovereign; and summoning Garud́a, mounted him, and set off for the city of Pauńd́raka 3.

When the king of Káśí heard of the preparations of Keśava, he sent his army (to the aid of Pauńd́raka), himself bringing up the rear; and with the force of the king of Káśí, and his own troops, Pauńd́raka, the false Vásudeva, marched to meet Krishńa. Hari beheld him afar off, standing in his car, holding a discus, a club, a mace, a scimitar, and a lotus, in his hands; ornamented with a garland of flowers; bearing a bow; and having his standard made of gold: he had also the Srivatsa mark delineated on his breast; he was dressed in yellow garments, and decorated with earrings and a tiara. When the god whose standard is Garud́a beheld him, he laughed with a deep laugh, and engaged in conflict with the hostile host of cavalry and elephants, fighting with swords, scimitars, maces, tridents, spears, and bows. Showering upon the enemy the shafts from his Śáranga bow, and hurling at them his mace and discus, he quickly destroyed both the army of Pauńd́raka and that of the king of Káśí. He then said to the former, who was foolishly wearing his emblems, "Pauńd́raka, you desired me by your envoy to resign to you all my insignia. I now deliver them to you. Here is

p. 599

my discus; here I give up my mace; and here is Garud́a, let him mount upon thy standard." Thus speaking, he let fly the discus and the mace, by which Pauńd́raka was cut to pieces, and cast on the ground; whilst the Garud́a on his banner was demolished by the Garud́a of Vishńu. The people, beholding this sight, exclaimed, "Alas! alas!" but the valiant king of Káśí, adhering to the imposture of his friend, continued the conflict, till Śauri decapitated him with his arrows, shooting his head into the city of Káśí, to the marvel of all the inhabitants. Having thus slain Pauńd́raka and the king of Káśí, with all their followers, Śauri returned to Dwáraká, where he lived in the enjoyment of heavenly delights.

When the inhabitants of Káśí saw the head of their king shot into their city, they were much astonished, and wondered how it could have happened, and by whom the deed could have been done. Having ascertained that the king had been killed by Krishńa, the son of the monarch of Káśí 4, together with the priest of the family, propitiated Śankara; and that deity, well pleased to be adored in the sacred place Avimukta, desired the prince to demand a boon: on which he prayed, and said, "O lord, mighty god, through thy favour let thy mystic spirit arise to destroy Krishńa, the murderer of my father." "It shall be so," answered Śankara: and from out of the southern fire upsprang a vast and formidable female 5, like flame out of fire, blazing with ruddy light, and with fiery radiance streaming amidst her hair. Angrily she called upon Krishńa, and departed to Dwáraká; where the people, beholding her, were struck with dismay, and fled for protection to Madhusúdana, the refuge of all worlds. The wielder of the discus knowing that the fiend had been produced by the son of the king of Káśí, through his adoration of the deity whose emblem is a bull, and being engaged in sportive amusements, and playing at dice, said to the discus, "Kill this fierce creature, whose tresses are of plaited flame." Accordingly Sudarśana, the discus

p. 600

of Vishńu, immediately attacked the fiend, fearfully enwreathed with fire, and wearing tresses of plaited flame. Terrified at the might of Sudarśana, the creation of Maheśwara awaited not his attack, but fled with speed, pursued by him with equal velocity, until she reached Varánáśí, repelled by the superior might of the discus of Vishńu.

The army of Káśí, and the host of the demigods attendant upon Śiva, armed with all kinds of weapons, then sallied out to oppose the discus; but, skilled in the use of arms, he consumed the whole of the forces by his radiance, and then set fire to the city, in which the magic power of Śiva had concealed herself 6. Thus was Varánáśí burnt, with all its princes and their followers, its inhabitants, elephants, horses, and men, treasures and granaries, houses, palaces, and markets. The whole of a city, that was inaccessible to the gods, was thus wrapped in flames by the discus of Hari, and was totally destroyed. The discus then, with unmitigated wrath, and blazing fiercely, and far from satisfied with the accomplishment of so easy a task, returned to the hand of Vishńu 7.


597:1 From being, the commentator says, king of Puńd́ra. The Bhágavata calls him chief of the Kárúshas; the Padma, king of Káśí; but the Bhágavata, as well as our text, makes the king of Káśí his friend and ally.

597:2 According to the Padma P., he propitiates Śiva, and obtains from him the insignia which constitute a Vásudeva. The different authorities for this legend all use the term Vásudeva in the sense of a title.

598:3 The Hari V. and Padma P. send Pauńd́raka to Dwáraká. According to the latter, Nárada incites Pauńd́raka to the aggression, telling him he cannot be a Vásudeva till he has overcome Krishńa: he goes, and is killed. The former work, as usual, enters into particulars of its own invention. Krishńa is absent on a visit to Śiva at Kailása, and during his absence Pauńd́raka, assisted by Ekalavya, king of the Nishádas, makes a night attack upon Dwáraká. They are resisted by the Yádavas under Sátyaki and Balaráma; by the former of whom Pauńd́raka is repeatedly overthrown, and all but slain: he requires so much killing, however, that he is likely to obtain the victory, when Krishńa conies to the aid of his kinsmen, and after a protracted encounter, described in language employed a hundred times before, kills his competitor. The whole of the sections called the Kailása Yátrá, or Krishńa's journey to Kailása, must have been wanting in the copy used by M. Langlois, as they are not included in his translation. The chapters of the Hari V. according to his enumeration of them are 261: my copy has 316.

599:4 The Bhágavata names him Sudakshińa; the Padma, Dańd́apáni.

599:5 A personified Krityá, a magical creation. The Padma has the same. The Bhágavata makes the product of the sacrificial fire a male, and sends him to Dwáraká, accompanied by a host of Bhútas, Suva's attendant goblins.

600:6 According to the Bhágavata, the magical being himself destroys Sudakshińa and his priest; but Sudarśana consumes the people and the city. The Padma ascribes the destruction of the king and all his city to the discus. The Hari V. closes its narrative with the death of Pauńd́raka, and makes no mention of the destruction of Benares. The circumstance is alluded to in a preceding section (s. 159) by Nárada, when detailing the exploits of Krishńa.

600:7 In this legend, again, we have a contest between the followers of Vishńu and Śiva intimated, as, besides the assistance given by the latter to Pauńd́raka, Benares--Varánáśí or Atimukta--has been from all time, as it is at present, the high place of the Śaiva worship. There is also an indication of a Vaishńava schism, in the competition between Pauńd́ra and Krishńa for the title of Vásudeva, and the insignia of his divinity.

Next: Chapter XXXV