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

2. The Padma Puráńa

p. xviii

2. Padma Puráńa. "That which contains an account of the period when the world was a golden lotus (padma), and of all the occurrences of that time, is therefore called the Pádma by the wise: it contains fifty-five thousand stanzas 37." The second Puráńa in the usual lists is always the Pádma, a very voluminous work, containing, according to its own statement, as well as that of other authorities, fifty-five thousand slokas; an amount not far from the truth. These are divided amongst five books, or Khańd́as; 1. the Srisht́i Khańd́a, or section on creation; 2. the Bhúmi Khańd́a, description of the earth; 3. the Swarga Khańd́a, chapter on heaven; 4. Pátála Khańd́a, chapter on the regions below the earth; and 5. the Uttara Khańd́a, last or supplementary chapter. There is also current a sixth division, the Kriyá Yoga Sára, a treatise on the practice of devotion.

The denominations of these divisions of the Padma P. convey but an imperfect and partial notion of their contents. In the first, or section which treats of creation, the narrator is Ugraśravas the Súta, the son of Lomaharshańa, who is sent by his father to the Rishis at Naimisháráńya to communicate to them the Puráńa, which, from its containing an account of the lotus (padma), in which Brahmá appeared at creation, is termed the Pádma or Padma Puráńa. The Súta repeats what was originally communicated by Brahmá to Pulastya, and by him to Bhíshma. The early chapters narrate the cosmogony, and the genealogy of the patriarchal families, much in the same style, and often in the same words, as the Vishńu; and short accounts of the Manwantaras and regal dynasties: but these, which are legitimate Pauráńik matters, soon make way for new and unauthentic inventions, illustrative of the virtues of the lake of Pushkara, or Pokher in Ajmir, as a place of pilgrimage.

The Bhúmi Khańd́a, or section of the earth, defers any description of the earth until near its close, filling up one hundred and twenty-seven chapters with legends of a very mixed description, some ancient and common to other Puráńas, but the greater part peculiar to itself, illustrative of Tírthas either figuratively so termed--as a wife, a parent, or a

p. xix

[paragraph continues] Guru, considered as a sacred object--or places to which actual pilgrimage should be performed.

The Swarga Khańd́a describes in the first chapters the relative positions of the Lokas or spheres above the earth, placing above all Vaikuńtha, the sphere of Vishńu; an addition which is not warranted by what appears to be the oldest cosmology 38. Miscellaneous notices of some of the most celebrated princes then succeed, conformably to the usual narratives; and these are followed by rules of conduct for the several castes, and at different stages of life. The rest of the book is occupied by legends of a diversified description, introduced without much method or contrivance; a few of which, as Daksha's sacrifice, are of ancient date, but of which the most are original and modern.

The Pátála Khańd́a devotes a brief introduction to the description of Pátála, the regions of the snake-gods; but the name of Ráma having been mentioned, Śesha, who has succeeded Pulastya as spokesman, proceeds to narrate the history of Ráma, his descent and his posterity; in which the compiler seems to have taken the poem of Kálidaśa, the Raghu Vanśa, for his chief authority. An originality of addition may be suspected, however, in the adventures of the horse destined by Ráma for an Aśwamedha, which form the subject of a great many chapters. When about to be sacrificed, the horse turns out to be a Brahman, condemned by an imprecation of Durvásas, a sage, to assume the equine nature, and who, by having been sanctified by connexion with Ráma, is released from his metamorphosis, and dispatched as a spirit of light to heaven. This piece of Vaishńava fiction is followed by praises of the Śrí Bhágavata, an account of Krishńa's juvenilities, and the merits of worshipping Vishńu. These accounts are communicated through a machinery borrowed from the Tantras: they are told by Sadáśiva to Párvati, the ordinary interlocutors of Tántrika compositions.

The Uttara Khańd́a is a most voluminous aggregation of very heterogeneous matters, but it is consistent in adopting a decidedly Vaishńava tone, and admitting no compromise with any other form of faith. The chief subjects are first discussed in a dialogue between king Dilípa and

p. xx

the Muni Vaśisht́ha; such as the merits of bathing in the month of Mágha, and the potency of the Mantra or prayer addressed to Lakshmí Náráyańa. But the nature of Bhakti, faith in Vishńu--the use of Vaishńava marks on the body--the legends of Vishńu's Avatáras, and especially of Ráma--and the construction of images of Vishńu--are too important to be left to mortal discretion: they are explained by Śiva to Párvati, and wound up by the adoration of Vishńu by those divinities. The dialogue then reverts to the king and the sage; and the latter states why Vishńu is the only one of the triad entitled to respect; Śiva being licentious, Brahmá arrogant, and Vishńu alone pure. Vaśisht́ha then repeats, after Śiva, the Máhátmya of the Bhagavad Gítá; the merit of each book of which is illustrated by legends of the good consequences to individuals from perusing or hearing it. Other Vaishńava Máhátmyas occupy considerable portions of this Khańd́a, especially the Kártíka Máhátmya, or holiness of the month Kartika, illustrated as usual by stories, a few of which are of an early origin, but the greater part modern, and peculiar to this Puráńa 39.

The Kriyá Yoga Sára is repeated by Súta to the Rishis, after Vyása's communication of it to Jaimini, in answer to an inquiry how religious merit might be secured in the Kálí age, in which men have become incapable of the penances and abstraction by which final liberation was formerly to be attained. The answer is, of course, that which is intimated in the last hook of the Vishńu Puráńa--personal devotion to Vishńu: thinking of him, repeating his names, wearing his marks, worshipping in his temples, are a full substitute for all other acts of moral or devotional or contemplative merit.

The different portions of the Padma Puráńa are in all probability as many different works, neither of which approaches to the original definition of a Puráńa. There may be some connexion between the three first portions, at least as to time; but there is no reason to consider them as of high antiquity. They specify the Jains both by name and practices.; they talk of Mlechchhas, 'barbarians,' flourishing in India; they commend

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the use of the frontal and other Vaishńava marks; and they notice other subjects which, like these, are of no remote origin. The Pátála Khańd́a dwells copiously upon the Bhágavata, and is consequently posterior to it. The Uttara Khańd́a is intolerantly Vaishńava, and is therefore unquestionably modern. It enjoins the veneration of the Sálágram stone and Tulasí plant, the use of the Tapta-mudra, or stamping with a hot iron the name of Vishńu on the skin, and a variety of practices and observances undoubtedly no part of the original system. It speaks of the shrines of Śrí-rangam and Venkatádri in the Dekhin, temples that have no pretension to remote antiquity; and it names Haripur on the Tungabhadra, which is in all likelihood the city of Vijayanagar, founded in the middle of the fourteenth century. The Kriyá Yoga Sára is equally a modern, and apparently a Bengali composition. No portion of the Padma Puráńa is probably older than the twelfth century, and the last parts may be as recent as the fifteenth or sixteenth 40.


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xix:38 See .

xx:39 One of them, the story of Jalandhara is translated by Col. Vans Kennedy: Affinities of Ancient and Hindu Mythology, Appendix D.

xxi:40 The grounds of these conclusions are more particularly detailed in my Analysis of the Padma P.: J. R. As. Soc. vol. V. p. 280.

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