Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 1 - Chapter 9
Legend of Lakṣmī. Durvāsā gives a garland to Indra: he treats it disrespectfully, and is cursed by the Muni. The power of the gods impaired: they are oppressed by the Dānavas, and have recourse to Viṣṇu. The churning of the ocean. Praises of Śrī.
PARĀŚARA: But with respect to the question thou hast asked me, Maitreya, relating to the history of Śrī, hear from me the tale as it was told to me by Marīchi.
Durvāsā, a portion of Śankara (Śiva), was wandering over the earth; when he beheld, in the hands of a nymph of air, a garland of flowers culled from the trees of heaven, the fragrant odour of which spread throughout the forest, and enraptured all who dwelt beneath its shade.
The sage, who was then possessed by religious madness, when he beheld that garland, demanded it of the graceful and full-eyed nymph, who, bowing to him reverentially, immediately presented it to him.
He, as one frantic, placed the chaplet upon his brow, and thus decorated resumed his path; when he beheld (Indra) the husband of Śachī, the ruler of the three worlds, approach, seated on his infuriated elephant Airāvata, and attended by the gods.
The mad sage, taking from his head the garland of flowers, amidst which the bees collected ambrosia, threw it to the king of the gods, who caught it, and suspended it on the brow of Airāvata, where it shone like the river Jāhnavī, glittering on the dark summit of the mountain Kailāśa.
The elephant, whose eyes were dim with inebriety, and attracted by the smell, took hold of the garland with his trunk, and cast it on the earth.
That chief of sages, Durvāsā, was highly incensed at this disrespectful treatment of his gift, and thus angrily addressed the sovereign of the immortals:
"Inflated with the intoxication of power, Vāsava, vile of spirit, thou art an idiot not to respect the garland I presented to thee, which was the dwelling of Fortune (Śrī).
Thou hast not acknowledged it as a largess; thou hast not bowed thyself before me; thou hast not placed the wreath upon thy head, with thy countenance expanding with delight.
Now, fool, for that thou hast not infinitely prized the garland that I gave thee, thy sovereignty over the three worlds shall be subverted.
Thou confoundest me, Śakra, with other Brahmans, and hence I have suffered disrespect from thy arrogance: but in like manner as thou hast cast the garland I gave thee down on the ground, so shall thy dominion over the universe be whelmed in ruin.
Thou hast offended one whose wrath is dreaded by all created things, king of the gods, even me, by thine excessive pride."
Descending hastily from his elephant, Mahendra endeavoured to appease the sinless Durvāsā: but to the excuses and prostrations of the thousand-eyed, the Muni answered:
"I am not of a compassionate heart, nor is forgiveness congenial to my nature. Other Munis may relent; but know me, Śakra, to be Durvāsā.
Thou hast in vain been rendered insolent by Gautama and others; for know me, Indra, to be Durvāsā, whose nature is a stranger to remorse.
Thou hast been flattered by Vasiṣṭha and other tender-hearted saints, whose loud praises have made thee so arrogant, that thou hast insulted me.
But who is there in the universe that can behold my countenance, dark with frowns, and surrounded by my blazing hair, and not tremble? What need of words?
I will not forgive, whatever semblance of humility thou mayest assume."
Having thus spoken, the Brahman went his way; and the king of the gods, remounting his elephant, returned to his capital Amarāvati.
Thenceforward, Maitreya, the three worlds and Śakra lost their vigour, and all vegetable products, plants, and herbs were withered and died; sacrifices were no longer offered; devout exercises no longer practised; men were no more addicted to charity, or any moral or religious obligation; all beings became devoid of steadiness; all the faculties of sense were obstructed by cupidity; and men's desires were excited by frivolous objects.
Where there is energy, there is prosperity; and upon prosperity energy depends. How can those abandoned by prosperity be possessed of energy; and without energy, where is excellence?
Without excellence there can be neither vigour nor heroism amongst men: he who has neither courage nor strength, will be spurned by all: and he who is universally treated with disgrace, must suffer abasement of his intellectual faculties.
The three regions being thus wholly divested of prosperity, and deprived of energy, the Dānavas and sons of Diti, the enemies of the gods, who were incapable of steadiness, and agitated by ambition, put forth their strength against the gods.
They engaged in war with the feeble and unfortunate divinities; and Indra and the rest, being overcome in fight, fled for refuge to Brahmā, preceded by the god of flame (Hutāśana).
When the great father of the universe had heard all that had come to pass, he said to the deities:
"Repair for protection to the god of high and low; the tamer of the demons; the causeless cause of creation, preservation, and destruction; the progenitor of the progenitors; the immortal, unconquerable Viṣṇu; the cause of matter and spirit, of his unengendered products; the remover of the grief of all who humble themselves before him: he will give you aid."
Having thus spoken to the deities, Brahmā proceeded along with them to the northern shore of the sea of milk; and with reverential words thus prayed to the supreme Hari:--
"We glorify him who is all things; the lord supreme over all; unborn, imperishable; the protector of the mighty ones of creation; the unperceived, indivisible Nārāyaṇa;
the smallest of the smallest, the largest of the largest, of the elements; in whom are all things, from whom are all things; who was before existence; the god who is all beings; who is the end of ultimate objects; who is beyond final spirit, and is one with supreme soul;
who is contemplated as the cause of final liberation by sages anxious to be free; in whom are not the qualities of goodness, foulness, or darkness, that belong to undeveloped nature.
May that purest of all pure spirits this day be propitious to us. May that Hari be propitious to us, whose inherent might is not an object of the progressive chain of moments or of days that make up time.
May he who is called the supreme god, who is not in need of assistance, Hari, the soul of all embodied substance, be favourable unto us.
May that Hari, who is both cause and effect; who is the cause of cause, the effect of effect; he who is the effect of successive effect; who is the effect of the effect of the effect himself; the product of the effect of the effect of the effect, or elemental substance; to him I bow.
The cause of the cause; the cause of the cause of the cause; the cause of them all; to him I bow.
To him who is the enjoyer and thing to be enjoyed; the creator and thing to be created; who is the agent and the effect; to that Supreme Being I bow.
The infinite nature of Viṣṇu is pure, intelligent, perpetual, unborn, undecayable, inexhaustible, inscrutable, immutable; it is neither gross nor subtile, nor capable of being defined: to that ever holy nature of Viṣṇu I bow.
To him whose faculty to create the universe abides in but a part of but the ten-millionth part of him; to him who is one with the inexhaustible supreme spirit, I bow:
and to the glorious nature of the supreme Viṣṇu, which nor gods, nor sages, nor I, nor Śankara apprehend; that nature which the Yogis, after incessant effort, effacing both moral merit and demerit, behold to be contemplated in the mystical monosyllable Om:
the supreme glory of Viṣṇu, who is the first of all; of whom, one only god, the triple energy is the same with Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva: oh lord of all, great soul of all, asylum of all, undecayable, have pity upon thy servants; oh Viṣṇu, be manifest unto us."
The gods, having heard this prayer uttered by Brahmā, bowed down, and cried:
"Be favourable to us; be present to our sight: we bow down to that glorious nature which the mighty Brahmā does not know; that which is thy nature, oh imperishable, in whom the universe abides."
Then the gods having ended, Brihaspati and the divine Ṛṣis thus prayed:
"We bow down to the being entitled to adoration; who is the first object of sacrifice; who was before the first of things; the creator of the creator of the world; the undefinable:
oh lord of all that has been or is to be; imperishable type of sacrifice; have pity upon thy worshippers; appear to them, prostrate before thee!
Here is Brahmā; here is Trilochanā (the three-eyed Śiva), with the Rudras; Pūṣā, (the sun), with the Ādityas; and Fire, with all the mighty luminaries:
here are the sons of Aśvinī (the two Aśvinī Kumāras), the Vāsus and all the winds, the Sādhyas, the Viśvadevas, and Indra the king of the gods:
all of whom bow lowly before thee: all the tribes of the immortals, vanquished by the demon host, have fled to thee for succour."
Thus prayed to, the supreme deity, the mighty holder of the conch and discus, showed himself to them:
and beholding the lord of gods, bearing a shell, a discus, and a mace, the assemblage of primeval form, and radiant with embodied light, Pitāmahā and the other deities, their eyes moistened with rapture, first paid him homage, and then thus addressed him:
"Repeated salutation to thee, who art indefinable: thou art Brahmā; thou art the wielder of the Pināka bow (Śiva); thou art Indra; thou art fire, air, the god of waters, the sun, the king of death (Yama), the Vāsus, the Maruts (the winds), the Sādhyas, and Viśvadevas.
This assembly of divinities, that now has come before thee, thou art; for, the creator of the world, thou art everywhere.
Thou art the sacrifice, the prayer of oblation, the mystic syllable Om, the sovereign of all creatures: thou art all that is to be known, or to be unknown: oh universal soul, the whole world consists of thee.
We, discomfited by the Daityas, have fled to thee, oh Viṣṇu, for refuge. Spirit of all, have compassion upon us; defend us with thy mighty power.
There will be affliction, desire, trouble, and grief, until thy protection is obtained: but thou art the remover of all sins.
Do thou then, oh pure of spirit, show favour unto us, who have fled to thee: oh lord of all, protect us with thy great power, in union with the goddess who is thy strength."
Hari, the creator of the universe, being thus prayed to by the prostrate divinities, smiled, and thus spoke:
"With renovated energy, oh gods, I will restore your strength. Do you act as I enjoin:
Let all the gods, associated with the Asuras, cast all sorts of medicinal herbs into the sea of milk; and then taking the mountain Mandāra for the churning-stick, the serpent Vāsuki for the rope, churn the ocean together for ambrosia; depending upon my aid.
To secure the assistance of the Daityas, you must be at peace with them, and engage to give them an equal portion of the fruit of your associated toil; promising them, that by drinking the Amrita that shall be produced from the agitated ocean, they shall become mighty and immortal.
I will take care that the enemies of the gods shall not partake of the precious draught; that they shall share in the labour alone."
Being thus instructed by the god of gods, the divinities entered into alliance with the demons, and they jointly undertook the acquirement of the beverage of immortality.
They collected various kinds of medicinal herbs, and cast them into the sea of milk, the waters of which were radiant as the thin and shining clouds of autumn.
They then took the mountain Mandāra for the staff; the serpent Vāsuki for the cord; and commenced to churn the ocean for the Amrita.
The assembled gods were stationed by Kṛṣṇa at the tail of the serpent; the Daityas and Dānavas at its head and neck.
Scorched by the flames emitted from his inflated hood, the demons were shorn of their glory; whilst the clouds driven towards his tail by the breath of his mouth, refreshed the gods with revivifying showers.
In the midst of the milky sea, Hari himself, in the form of a tortoise, served as a pivot for the mountain, as it was whirled around.
The holder of the mace and discus was present in other forms amongst the gods and demons, and assisted to drag the monarch of the serpent race: and in another vast body he sat upon the summit of the mountain.
With one portion of his energy, unseen by gods or demons, he sustained the serpent king; and with another, infused vigour into the gods.
From the ocean, thus churned by the gods and Dānavas, first uprose the cow Surabhī, the fountain of milk and curds, worshipped by the divinities, and beheld by them and their associates with minds disturbed, and eyes glistening with delight.
Then, as the holy Siddhas in the sky wondered what this could be, appeared the goddess Vāruṇī (the deity of wine), her eyes rolling with intoxication.
Next, from the whirlpool of the deep, sprang the celestial Pārijāta tree, the delight of the nymphs of heaven, perfuming the world with its blossoms.
The troop of Apsarās, the nymphs of heaven, were then produced, of surprising loveliness, endowed with beauty and with taste.
The cool-rayed moon next rose, and was seized by Mahādeva: and then poison was engendered from the sea, of which the snake gods (Nāgas) took possession.
Dhanvantarī, robed in white, and bearing in his hand the cup of Amrita, next came forth: beholding which, the sons of Diti and of Danu, as well as the Munis, were filled with satisfaction and delight.
Then, seated on a full-blown lotus, and holding a water-lily in her hand, the goddess Śrī, radiant with beauty, rose from the waves.
The great sages, enraptured, hymned her with the song dedicated to her praise. Viśvāvasu and other heavenly quiristers sang, and Ghritāchī and other celestial nymphs danced before her.
Gangā and other holy streams attended for her ablutions; and the elephants of the skies, taking up their pure waters in vases of gold, poured them over the goddess, the queen of the universal world.
The sea of milk in person presented her with a wreath of never-fading flowers; and the artist of the gods (Viśvakarma) decorated her person with heavenly ornaments.
Thus bathed, attired, and adorned, the goddess, in the view of the celestials, cast herself upon the breast of Hari; and there reclining, turned her eyes upon the deities, who were inspired with rapture by her gaze.
Not so the Daityas, who, with Viprachitti at their head, were filled with indignation, as Viṣṇu turned away from them, and they were abandoned by the goddess of prosperity (Lakṣmī.)
The powerful and indignant Daityas then forcibly seized the Amrita-cup, that was in the hand of Dhanvantarī: but Viṣṇu, assuming a female form, fascinated and deluded them; and recovering the Amrita from them, delivered it to the gods.
Śakra and the other deities quaffed the ambrosia.
The incensed demons, grasping their weapons, fell upon them; but the gods, into whom the ambrosial draught had infused new vigour, defeated and put their host to flight, and they fled through the regions of space, and plunged into the subterraneous realms of Pātāla.
The gods thereat greatly rejoiced, did homage to the holder of the discus and mace, and resumed their reign in heaven.
The sun shone with renovated splendour, and again discharged his appointed task; and the celestial luminaries again circled, oh best of Munis, in their respective orbits.
Fire once more blazed aloft, beautiful in splendour; and the minds of all beings were animated by devotion. The three worlds again were rendered happy by prosperity; and Indra, the chief of the gods, was restored to power.
Seated upon his throne, and once more in heaven, exercising sovereignty over the gods, Śakra thus eulogized the goddess who bears a lotus in her hand:--
"I bow down to Śrī, the mother of all beings, seated on her lotus throne, with eyes like full-blown lotuses, reclining on the breast of Viṣṇu.
Thou art Siddhi (superhuman power): thou art Svadhā and Svāhā: thou art ambrosia (Sudhā), the purifier of the universe: thou art evening, night, and dawn: thou art power, faith, intellect: thou art the goddess of letters (Sarasvatī).
Thou, beautiful goddess, art knowledge of devotion, great knowledge, mystic knowledge, and spiritual knowledge; which confers eternal liberation.
Thou art the science of reasoning, the three Vedas, the arts and sciences: thou art moral and political science. The world is peopled by thee with pleasing or displeasing forms.
Who else than thou, oh goddess, is seated on that person of the god of gods, the wielder of the mace, which is made up of sacrifice, and contemplated by holy ascetics?
Abandoned by thee, the three worlds were on the brink of ruin; but they have been reanimated by thee.
From thy propitious gaze, oh mighty goddess, men obtain wives, children, dwellings, friends, harvests, wealth. Health and strength, power, victory, happiness, is easy attainment to those upon whom thou smilest.
Thou art the mother of all beings, as the god of gods, Hari, is their father; and this world, whether animate or inanimate, is pervaded by thee and Viṣṇu.
Oh thou who purifiest all things, forsake not our treasures, our granaries, our dwellings, our dependants, our persons, our wives: abandon not our children, our friends, our lineage, our jewels, oh thou who abidest on the bosom of the god of gods.
They whom thou desertest are forsaken by truth, by purity, and goodness, by every amiable and excellent quality; whilst the base and worthless upon whom thou lookest favourably become immediately endowed with all excellent qualifications, with families, and with power.
He on whom thy countenance is turned is honourable, amiable, prosperous, wise, and of exalted birth; a hero of irresistible prowess:
but all his merits and his advantages are converted into worthlessness from whom, beloved of Viṣṇu, mother of the world, thou avertest thy face.
The tongues of Brahmā, are unequal to celebrate thy excellence. Be propitious to me, oh goddess, lotus-eyed, and never forsake me more."
Being thus praised, the gratified Śrī, abiding in all creatures, and heard by all beings, replied to the god of a hundred rites (Śatakratu):
"I am pleased, monarch of the gods, by thine adoration. Demand from me what thou desirest: I have come to fulfil thy wishes."
"If, goddess," replied Indra, "thou wilt grant my prayers; if I am worthy of thy bounty; be this my first request, that the three worlds may never again be deprived of thy presence.
My second supplication, daughter of ocean, is, that thou wilt not forsake him who shall celebrate thy praises in the words I have addressed to thee."
"I will not abandon," the goddess answered, "the three worlds again: this thy first boon is granted; for I am gratified by thy praises: and further, I will never turn my face away from that mortal who morning and evening shall repeat the hymn with which thou hast addressed me."
Thus, Maitreya, in former times the goddess Śrī conferred these boons upon the king of the gods, being pleased by his adorations; but her first birth was as the daughter of Bhrigu by Khyāti: it was at a subsequent period that she was produced from the sea, at the churning of the ocean by the demons and the gods, to obtain ambrosia.
For in like manner as the lord of the world, the god of gods, Janārdana, descends amongst mankind (in various shapes), so does his coadjutrix Śrī.
Thus when Hari was born as a dwarf, the son of Aditī, Lakṣmī appeared from a lotus (as Padmā, or Kamalā); when he was born as Rāma, of the race of Bhrigu (or Paraśurāma), she was Dhāriṇī; when he was Rāghava (Rāmachandra), she was Sītā; and when he was Kṛṣṇa, she became Rukmiṇī.
In the other descents of Viṣṇu, she is his associate.
If he takes a celestial form, she appears as divine; if a mortal, she becomes a mortal too, transforming her own person agreeably to whatever character it pleases Viṣṇu to put on.
Whosoever hears this account of the birth of Lakṣmī, whosoever reads it, shall never lose the goddess Fortune from his dwelling for three generations; and misfortune, the fountain of strife, shall never enter into those houses in which the hymns to Śrī are repeated.
Thus, Brahman, have I narrated to thee, in answer to thy question, how Lakṣmī, formerly the daughter of Bhrigu, sprang from the sea of milk;
and misfortune shall never visit those amongst mankind who daily recite the praises of Lakṣmī uttered by Indra, which are the origin and cause of all prosperity.