Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 5 - Chapter 1

Chapter I

The death of Kaṁsa announced. Earth, oppressed by the Daityas, applies to the gods. They accompany her to Viṣṇu, who promises to give her relief. Kaṁsa imprisons Vāsudeva and Devakī. Viṣṇu's instructions to Yoganidrā.


You have related to me a full account of all the different dynasties of kings, and of their successive transactions.

I wish now to hear a more particular description, holy Ṛṣi, of the portion of Viṣṇu who came down upon Earth, and was born in the family of Yadu. Tell me also what actions he performed in his descent, as a part of a part of the supreme, upon the Earth.


I will relate to you, Maitreya, the account which you have requested; the birth of a part of a part of Viṣṇu, and the benefits which his actions conferred upon the world.

Vāsudeva formerly married the daughter of Devaka, the illustrious Devakī, a maiden of celestial beauty. After their marriage, Kaṁsa, the increaser of the race of Bhoja, drove their car as their charioteer.

As they were going along, a voice in the sky, sounding aloud and deep as thunder, addressed Kaṁsa, and said:

"Fool that you are, the eighth child of the damsel whom you are driving in the car shall take away your life!"

On hearing this, Kaṁsa drew his sword, and was about to put Devakī to death; but Vāsudeva interposed, saying:

"Kill not Devakī, great warrior; spare her life and I will deliver to you every child that she may bring forth."

Appeased by which promise, and relying on the character of Vāsudeva, Kaṁsa desisted from the attempt.

At that time, Earth, overburdened by her load, repaired to mount Meru to an assembly of the gods, and addressing the divinities, with Brahmā at their head, related in piteous accents all her distress:

"Agni," said Earth, "is the progenitor of gold; Sūrya, of rays of light: the parent and guide of me and of all spheres is the supreme Nārāyaṇa, who is Brahmā, the lord of the lord of patriarchs; the eldest of the eldest born; one with minutes and hours; one with time; having form, though indiscrete.

This assemblage of you, O gods, is but a part of him. The sun, the winds, the saints, the Rudras, the Vasus, the Aśvīns, fire, the patriarch creators of the universe, of whom Atri is the first, all are but forms of the mighty and inscrutable Viṣṇu.

The Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Daityas, spirits of evil, serpents, and children of Danu, the singers and nymphs of heaven, are forms of the great spirit, Viṣṇu.

The heavens painted with planets, constellations, and stars; fire, water, wind, and myself, and every perceptible thing; the whole universe itself--consists of Viṣṇu.

The multifarious forms of that manifold being encounter and succeed one another, night and day, like the waves of the sea.

At this present season many demons, of which Kālanemi is the chief, have overrun, and continually harass, the region of mortals:

The great Asura Kālanemi, that was killed by the powerful Viṣṇu, has revived in Kaṁsa, the son of Ugrasena, and many other mighty demons, more than I can enumerate, as Ariṣṭa, Dhenuka, Keśin, Pralamba, Naraka, Sunda, and the fierce Bāṇa, the son of Bali, are born in the palaces of kings.

Countless hosts of proud and powerful spirits, chiefs of the demon race, assuming celestial forms, now walk the Earth; and, unable to support myself beneath the incumbent load, I come to you for succour.

Illustrious deities, do you so act that I may be relieved from my burden, lest helpless I sink into the nethermost abyss."

When the gods had heard these complaints of Earth, Brahmā at their request explained to them how her burden might be lightened:

"Celestials," said Brahmā, "all that Earth has said is undoubtedly true. I, Mahādeva, and you all, are but Nārāyaṇa;

but the impersonations of his power are forever mutually fluctuating, and excess or diminution is indicated by the predominance of the strong, and the depression of the weak.

Come therefore, let us repair to the northern coast of the milky sea, and having glorified Hari, report to him what we have heard.

He, who is the spirit of all, and of whom the universe consists, constantly, for the sake of Earth, descends in a small portion of his essence to establish righteousness below."

Accordingly Brahmā, attended by the gods, went to the milky sea, and there, with minds intent upon him, praised him whose emblem is Garuḍa:

"O thou," said Brahmā, "who art distinct from holy writ; whose double nature is twofold wisdom, superior and inferior, and who art the essential end of both;

who, alike devoid and possessed of form, art the twofold Brahma; smallest of the least, and largest of the large; all, and knowing all things; that spirit which is language; that spirit which is supreme; that which is Brahma, and of which Brahma is composed!

Thou art the Rig, the Yajur, the Sāman, and the Atharvan Vedas!

Thou art accentuation, ritual, signification, metre, and astronomy; history, tradition, grammar, theology, logic, and law: thou who art inscrutable.

Thou art the doctrine that investigates the distinctions between soul, and life, and body, and matter endowed with qualities; and that doctrine is nothing else but thy nature inherent in and presiding over it.

Thou art imperceptible, indescribable, inconceivable; without name, or colour, or hands, or feet; pure, eternal, and infinite. Thou hearest without ears, and seest without eyes.

Thou art one and multiform. Thou movest without feet; thou seizest without hands. Thou knowest all, but art not by all to be known.

He who beholds thee as the most subtle of atoms, not substantially existent, puts an end to ignorance; and final emancipation is the reward of that wise man whose understanding cherishes nothing other than thee in the form of supreme delight.

Thou art the common centre of all, the protector of the world; and all beings exist in thee: all that has been, or will be, thou art. Thou art the atom of atoms; thou art spirit; thou only art distinct from primeval nature.

Thou, as the lord of fire in four manifestations, givest light and fertility to Earth. Thou art the eye of all, and wearer of many shapes, and unobstructedly traversest the three regions of the universe.

As fire, though one, is variously kindled, and, though unchangeable in its essence, is modified in many ways, so thou, lord, who art one omnipresent form, takest upon thee all modifications that exist.

Thou art one supreme; thou art that supreme and eternal state which the wise behold with the eye of knowledge. There is nothing else but thou, O lord; nothing else has been or will be.

Thou art both discrete and indiscrete, universal and individual, omniscient, all-seeing, omnipotent, possessed of all wisdom and strength and power.

Thou art liable neither to diminution nor increase; thou art independent and without beginning; thou art the subjugator of all.

Thou art unaffected by weariness, sloth, fear, anger, or desire. Thou art free from soil, supreme, merciful, uniform, undecaying, lord over all, the stay of all, the fountain of light, imperishable.

To thee, uninvested by material envelopes, unexposed to sensible imaginings, aggregate of elemental substance, spirit supreme, be adoration.

Thou assumest a shape, O pervader of the universe, not as the consequence of virtue or vice, nor from any mixture of the two, but for the sole object of maintaining piety in the world."

The unborn, universal Hari, having heard with his mental ear these eulogiums, was pleased, and thus spoke to Brahmā:

"Tell me, Brahmā, what you and the gods desire: speak boldly, certain of success."

Brahmā, beholding the divine, universal form of Hari, quickly prostrated himself, and again renewed his praises:

"Glory to thee, the thousand-formed, the thousand-armed, the many-eyed, many-footed; to thee, the illimitable author of creation, preservation, and destruction; most subtile of the subtile, most vast of the great: to thee, who art nature, intellect, and consciousness; and who art other spirit even than the spiritual root of those principles. Do thou show favour upon us.

Behold, lord, this Earth, oppressed by mighty Asuras, and shaken to her mountain basements, comes to thee, who art her invincible defender, to be relieved from her burden.

Behold me, Indra, the Aśvīns, Varuṇa, and Yama, the Rudras, the Vāsus, the suns, the winds, fire, and all other celestials, prepared to execute whatever thou shalt will that we shall do.

Do thou, in whom there is no imperfection, O sovereign of the deities, give thy orders to thy servants: lo, we are ready."

When Brahmā had ended, the supreme lord plucked off two hairs, one white and one black, and said to the gods:

"These my hairs shall descend upon Earth, and shall relieve her of the burden of her distress.

Let all the gods also, in their own portions, go down to Earth, and wage war with the haughty Asuras, who are there incorporate, and who shall, every one of them, be destroyed. Doubt not of this: they shall perish before the withering glance of mine eyes.

My (black) hair shall be impersonated in the eighth conception of the wife of Vāsudeva, Devakī, who is like a goddess; and shall slay Kaṁsa, who is the demon Kālanemi."

Thus having spoken, Hari disappeared; and the gods bowing to him, though invisible, returned to the summit of mount Meru, from whence they descended upon Earth.

The Muni Nārada informed Kaṁsa that the supporter of the Earth, Viṣṇu, would be the eighth child of Devakī; and his wrath being excited by this report, he placed both Vāsudeva and Devakī in confinement.

Agreeably to his promise, the former delivered to Kaṁsa each infant as soon as it was born:

It is said that these, to the number of six, were the children of the demon Hiraṇyakaśipu, who were introduced into the womb of Devakī, at the command of Viṣṇu,

during the hours of Devakī's repose, by the goddess Yoganidrā, the great illusory energy of Viṣṇu, by whom, as utter ignorance, the whole world is beguiled.

To her Viṣṇu said:

"Go, Nidrā, to the nether regions, and by my command conduct successively six of their princes to be conceived of Devakī.

When these shall have been put to death by Kaṁsa, the seventh conception shall be formed of a portion of Śeṣa, who is a part of me; and this you shall transfer, before the time of birth, to Rohiṇī, another wife of Vāsudeva, who resides at Gokula.

The report shall run, that Devakī miscarries, through the anxiety of imprisonment, and dread of the Rājā of the Bhojas.

From being extracted from his mother's womb, the child shall be known by the name of Sankarṣaṇa, and he shall be valiant and strong, and like the peak of the white mountain in bulk and complexion.

I will myself become incarnate in the eighth conception of Devakī; and you shall immediately take a similar character as the embryo offspring of Yaśodā.

In the night of the eighth lunation of the dark half of the month Nabhas, in the season of the rains, I shall be born: You shall receive birth on the ninth.

Impelled and aided by my power, Vāsudeva shall bear me to the bed of Yaśodā, and you to that of Devakī.

Kaṁsa shall take you, and hold you up to dash you against a stone; but you shall escape from his grasp into the sky, where the hundred-eyed Indra shall meet and do homage to you, through reverence for me, and shall bow before you, and acknowledge you as his sister.

Having slain Śumbha, Niśumbha, and numerous other demons, you shall sanctify the Earth in many places:

Thou art wealth, progeny, fame, patience, heaven and Earth, fortitude, modesty, nutrition, dawn, and every other female (form or property).

They who address thee morning and afternoon with reverence and praise, and call thee Āryā, Durgā, Vedagarbhā, Ambikā, Bhadrā, Bhadrakālī, Kṣemī, or Kṣemankarī, shall receive from my bounty whatever they desire.

Propitiated with offerings of wine and flesh and various viands, thou shalt bestow upon mankind all their prayers. Through my favour all men shall ever have faith in thee. Assured of this, go, goddess, and execute my commands."