Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 1 - Chapter 5

Chapter V

Viṣṇu as Brahmā creates the world. General characteristics of creation. Brahmā meditates, and gives origin to, immovable things, animals, gods, men. Specific creation of nine kinds; Mahat, Tanmātra, Indriya, inanimate objects, animals, gods, men, Anugraha, and Kaumāra. More particular account of creation. Origin of different orders of beings from Brahmā's body under different conditions; and of the Vedas from his mouths. All things created again as they existed in a former Kalpa.

MAITREYA.--Now unfold to me, Brahman, how this deity created the gods, sages, progenitors, demons, men, animals, trees, and the rest, that abide on earth, in heaven, or in the waters: how Brahmā at creation made the world with the qualities, the characteristics, and the forms of things.

PARĀŚARA.--I will explain to you, Maitreya, listen attentively, how this deity, the lord of all, created the gods and other beings.

Whilst he (Brahmā) formerly, in the beginning of the Kalpas, was meditating on creation, there appeared a creation beginning with ignorance, and consisting of darkness.

From that great being appeared fivefold Ignorance, consisting of obscurity, illusion, extreme illusion, gloom, utter darkness.

The creation of the creator thus plunged in abstraction, was the fivefold (immovable) world, without intellect or reflection, void of perception or sensation, incapable of feeling, and destitute of motion. Since immovable things were first created, this is called the first creation.

Brahmā, beholding that it was defective, designed another; and whilst he thus meditated, the animal creation was manifested, to the products of which the term Tiryaksrotas is applied, from their nutriment following a winding course.

These were called beasts, etc., and their characteristic was the quality of darkness, they being destitute of knowledge, uncontrolled in their conduct, and mistaking error for wisdom; being formed of egotism and self-esteem, labouring under the twenty-eight kinds of imperfection, manifesting inward sensations, and associating with each other (according to their kinds).

Beholding this creation also imperfect, Brahmā again meditated, and a third creation appeared, abounding with the quality of goodness, termed Ūrdhwasrotas.

The beings thus produced in the Ūrdhwasrotas creation were endowed with pleasure and enjoyment, unencumbered internally or externally, and luminous within and without.

This, termed the creation of immortals, was the third performance of Brahmā, who, although well pleased with it, still found it incompetent to fulfil his end.

Continuing therefore his meditations, there sprang, in consequence of his infallible purpose, the creation termed Arvāksrotas, from indiscrete nature. The products of this are termed Arvāksrotas, from the downward current (of their nutriment).

They abound with the light of knowledge, but the qualities of darkness and of foulness predominate. Hence they are afflicted by evil, and are repeatedly impelled to action.

They have knowledge both externally and internally, and are the instruments (of accomplishing the object of creation, the liberation of soul). These creatures were mankind.

I have thus explained to you, excellent Muni, six creations:

The first creation was that of Mahat or Intellect, which is also called the creation of Brahmā. The second was that of the rudimental principles (Tanmātras), thence termed the elemental creation (Bhūta serga). The third was the modified form of egotism, termed the organic creation, or creation of the senses (Indrīyaka). These three were the Prākrita creations, the developments of indiscrete nature, preceded by the indiscrete principle.

The fourth or fundamental creation (of perceptible things) was that of inanimate bodies. The fifth, the Tairyagyonya creation, was that of animals. The sixth was the Ūrdhwasrotas creation, or that of the divinities.

The creation of the Arvāksrotas beings was the seventh, and was that of man. There is an eighth creation, termed Anugraha, which possesses both the qualities of goodness and darkness.

Of these creations, five are secondary, and three are primary. But there is a ninth, the Kaumāra creation, which is both primary and secondary.

These are the nine creations of the great progenitor of all, and, both as primary and secondary, are the radical causes of the world, proceeding from the sovereign creator.

What else dost thou desire to hear?

MAITREYA: Thou hast briefly related to me, Muni, the creation of the gods and other beings: I am desirous, chief of sages, to hear from thee a more ample account of their creation.


Created beings, although they are destroyed (in their individual forms) at the periods of dissolution, yet, being affected by the good or evil acts of former existence, they are never exempted from their consequences; and when Brahmā creates the world anew, they are the progeny of his will, in the fourfold condition of gods, men, animals, or inanimate things.

Brahmā then, being desirous of creating the four orders of beings, termed gods, demons, progenitors, and men, collected his mind into itself.

Whilst thus concentrated, the quality of darkness pervaded his body; and thence the demons (the Asuras) were first born, issuing from his thigh.

Brahmā then abandoned that form which was, composed of the rudiment of darkness, and which, being deserted by him, became night.

Continuing to create, but assuming a different shape, he experienced pleasure; and thence from his mouth proceeded the gods, endowed with the quality of goodness.

The form abandoned by him, became day, in which the good quality predominates; and hence by day the gods are most powerful, and by night the demons.

He next adopted another person, in which the rudiment of goodness also prevailed; and thinking of himself, as the father of the world, the progenitors (the Pitris) were born from his side.

The body, when he abandoned, it, became the Sandhyā (or evening twilight), the interval between day and night.

Brahmā then assumed another person, pervaded by the quality of foulness; and from this, men, in whom foulness (or passion) predominates, were produced.

Quickly abandoning that body, it became morning twilight, or the dawn. At the appearance of this light of day, men feel most vigour; while the progenitors are most powerful in the evening season.

In this manner, Maitreya, Jyotsnā (dawn), Rātri (night), Ahan (day), and Sandhyā (evening), are the four bodies of Brahmā invested by the three qualities.

Next from Brahmā, in a form composed of the quality of foulness, was produced hunger, of which anger was born: and the god put forth in darkness beings emaciate with hunger, of hideous aspects, and with long beards.

Those beings hastened to the deity.

Those of them who exclaimed, Oh preserve us! were thence called Rākṣasas: others, who cried out, Let us eat, were denominated from that expression Yakṣas.

Beholding them so disgusting, the hairs of Brahmā were shrivelled up, and first falling from his head, were again renewed upon it: from their falling they became serpents, called Sarpa from their creeping, and Ahi because they had deserted the head.

The creator of the world, being incensed, then created fierce beings, who were denominated goblins, Bhūtas, malignant fiends and eaters of flesh.

The Gandharvas were next born, imbibing melody: drinking of the goddess of speech, they were born, and thence their appellation.

The divine Brahmā, influenced by their material energies, having created these beings, made others of his own will:

Birds he formed from his vital vigour; sheep from his breast; goats from his mouth; kine from his belly and sides; and horses, elephants, Śarabhas, Gayals, deer, camels, mules, antelopes, and other animals, from his feet: whilst from the hairs of his body sprang herbs, roots, and fruits.

Brahmā having created, in the commencement of the Kalpa, various plants, employed them in sacrifices, in the beginning of the Tretā age.

Animals were distinguished into two classes, domestic (village) and wild (forest):

the first class contained the cow, the goat, the hog, the sheep, the horse, the ass, the mule: the latter, all beasts of prey, and many animals with cloven hoofs, the elephant, and the monkey.

The fifth order was the birds; the sixth, aquatic animals; and the seventh, reptiles and insects.

From his eastern mouth Brahmā then created the Gāyatrī metre, the Rig Veda, the collection of hymns termed Trivrit, the Rāthāntara portion of the Sāma veda, and the Agniṣṭoma sacrifice:

from his southern mouth he created the Yajur veda, the Tristubh metre, the collection of hymns called Pañchadaśī, the Brihat Sāma, and the portion of the Sāma veda termed Uktha:

from his western mouth he created the Sāma veda, the Jagatī metre, the collection of hymns termed Saptadaśa, the portion of the Sāma called Vairūpa, and the Atirātra sacrifice:

and from his northern mouth he created the Ekavinśa collection of hymns, the Atharva Veda, the Āptoryāman rite, the Anuṣṭubh metre, and the Vairāja portion of the Sāma veda.

In this manner all creatures, great or small, proceeded from his limbs.

The great progenitor of the world having formed the gods, demons, and Pitris, created, in the commencement of the Kalpa, the Yakṣas, Piśāchas (goblins), Gandharvas and the troops of Apsarās the nymphs of heaven,

Naras (centaurs, or beings with the limbs of horses and human bodies) and Kinnaras (beings with the heads of horses), Rākṣasas, birds, beasts, deer, serpents, and all things permanent or transitory, movable or immovable.

This did the divine Brahmā, the first creator and lord of all:

and these things being created, discharged the same functions as they had fulfilled in a previous creation, whether malignant or benign, gentle or cruel, good or evil, true or false; and accordingly as they are actuated by such propensities will be their conduct.

And the creator displayed infinite variety in the objects of sense, in the properties of living things, and in the forms of bodies: he determined in the beginning, by the authority of the Vedas, the names and forms and functions of all creatures, and of the gods; and the names and appropriate offices of the Ṛṣis, as they also are read in the Vedas.

In like manner as the products of the seasons designate in periodical revolution the return of the same season, so do the same circumstances indicate the recurrence of the same Yuga, or age;

and thus, in the beginning of each Kalpa, does Brahmā repeatedly create the world, possessing the power that is derived from the will to create, and assisted by the natural and essential faculty of the object to be created.