Saturday, August 5, 2017

Vishnu Purana - Review

Vishnu Purana (Great Epics of India: Puranas Book 3)

Translated by Bibek Debroy
This is the seventh Purana that I am reviewing. The name of the Purana is obvious since the title says, “Vishnu Purana”. The Vishnu Purana is third in the list of Mahapuranas and is an important Purana. I decided to do the Vishnu Purana because it was a satvik purana, a purana that glorifies Vishnu. If you go to my blog you will see that recently I have written three continuous tamsik puranas, puranas that glorify Shiva, so this time I decided to have a break and switch to another type of Purana. Well here I am writing a satvik purana’s review. There are five other satvik Puranas. They are:
  1. Bhagavata Purana
  2. Padma Purana {reviewed this one}
  3. Narada Purana
  4. Varaha Purana
  5. Garuda Purana
This Purana has twenty-three thousand shlokas and these are divided into six sections. The last section is shorter than the rest. The Vishnu Purana is a medium sized Purana. As you must have read in my Shiva Purana review I have said that Vedavyasa has composed all the eighteen Mahapuranas. Well, when I read the Vishnu Purana I found that was not completely true. Vedavyasa had composed most of the Puranas except the Vishnu Purana. The Vishnu Purana was composed by Parashara, Vedavyasa’s father. Well I think this much introduction is enough. If you want a bit more information on what is a Purana read my first Purana review, the Shiva Purana Read its first and second paragraphs for information. Let us move on.

This Purana was narrated from Rishi Parashara to Rishi Maitreya. Rishi Maitreya wanted to know the answer to some questions so he went to Rishi Parashara for the answers. In this question and answer session the Vishnu Purana was also narrated.

There were many stories and I found it hard to decide which was my favourite. I finally decided on a story that was informative and new to me. You can never guess who is this story related to and the daughter of this person turns out to be a very famous person in Indian mythology. This is the story I am going to be narrating in this review.

The great king Ikshvaku had a son named Nimi. Nimi wanted to perform a yagna with Vashishta as the chief priest but Vashishta was away doing a yagna for Indra. When Vashishta explained this to Nimi, Nimi just walked away. While Vashishta was competing Indra’s yagna, Nimi was starting his yagna with Goutama as the chief priest. Vashishta completed Indra’s yagna and went to Nimi to start his yagna but found out that it had already started with Goutama. Vashishta had assumed that the king’s lack of answer meant that Nimi was going to wait for him. He certainly did not expect this! Vashishta felt insulted and cursed Nimi that he would be bodyless. The latter felt this was unfair and he too cursed Vashishta that the sage would be bodyless too. Vashishta fortunately got another body with the help of the gods Mitra and Varuna. Meanwhile, Nimi’s yagna got completed and his body was lying there oiled and preserved. The gods at the yagna wanted to give Nimi another body but Nimi refused. He instead wanted to live on the eyelids of people. With this you also learn why the blink of an eye is called a nimesha. It is so because Nimi lives on your eyelids so a nimesha is named after him. Now Nimi’s kingdom was without a king so sages pounded the king’s body with wood. Who else should be born because of this but Janaka, the king of Mithila and Sita’s father. Janaka was named so because he was born from his father {father also is called Janaka}. He is also known as Vaideha which means bodyless.

I was shocked at the end of the story. I couldn’t believe that Janaka, the wise and just ruler of Mithila was born from the pounding of his father’s body. Another fact that shocked me was that Janaka and Sita were related to Ikshvaku. Janaka was Ikshvaku’s grandson from Nimi and Sita was Ikshvaku’s great granddaughter also from Nimi. We have heard a lot about how Ram was a descendent of Ikshvaku but no such mention of Sita and Janaka. I was really surprised. This also meant Rama and Sita were related according to the Vishnu Purana. This was a mind-boggling story.

This Purana also talks a lot about Krishna’s exploits when he was small and big. His defeat of Jarasandha when he was big and all the asuras he killed that were sent by Kamsa when he was small. I guess this all was mentioned because this is the Vishnu Purana and Krishna was an incarnation of Vishnu. A few monsters Krishna defeated were:
  • Putana
  • Bakasura
  • Vyomasura
  • Dhenukasura
  • Arishta
  • Keshi
There are many more but I have given the names of a few. I have a last topic to discuss. While reading the Vishnu Purana you might come across the word jatismara. A jatismara is a person who remembers their past life. These people or animals are rare. They can remember the people they were and the good or bad deeds they did so they have a chance to correct them in this life. It would be lovely being a jatismara.

Well this was the Vishnu Purana but I have told you quite little compared to the book. If I told you everything then what use would it be? You would just read my review and not the book. The book has a lot of information but the original has far more. Read the original if you want to know more about Indian stories, the Universe, the division of the Earth and lots more.

Other Purana reviews.

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© 2017, Anika Agarwal. All rights reserved.

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