Srimad Bhagavatham – What is a Purana

Till now, we have seen about Rama from different perspectives – that of his family to friends and enemies, as told in the Ramayana. The next progressive Avatar of Vishnu is Krishna.

Many of us have this understanding that if the Itihaasa Ramayana was for Rama, then obviously the other Itihaasa which is the Mahabaratha is for Krishna. While Mahabaratha features Krishna, contrary to what many think it is not the life story of Krishna. Krishna is just a part of Mahabaratha. if an avatar of Vishnu is just a part of the story, then can you imagine the magnitude of that story called Mahabaratha?

Anyway, if Mahabaratha does not chronicle Krishna, then what does?

Bhagavatha Purana or Srimad Bhagavatham does.

Before we get into the Bhagavatham, let us understand what does the term Purana means. The Puranas, along with the Vedas and Itihaasas form the massive religious bedrock of the ancient Indian tradition. They go back in time to perhaps more than five millennia. The bulk of them is said to have been compiled from an existing ancient tradition by Vyasa whose birth is dated by one perceptive scholar at 3374 BC. The Puranas present the activities of gods, super-men, and humans in a human setting, to illustrate vividly, how the purpose of life is to help the human to rise to the level of the super-human and the divine, and prevent them from descending to the level of the sub-human. The setting is human, and the question is whether it is realistic or real, though of course, there is a larger philosophical question whether this really matters, or what reality is. Yet there is, in the narratives of the Itihasas and Puranas a vast measure of internal, consistent detail, in respect of human dynasties that simply clamors to be recognized as real.

As readers, we can ascertain the genealogies of Rishis and Kings including Krishna and Yudhishtira, since Yudhishtira was a peer who lived at the same time as Krishna. Let us look at these genealogies in more detail when we progressively elaborate on the Puranas in general and Srimad Bhagavatham in particular in the coming posts.

PanchiKarana and the Pancha Bootas

At the end of the last post, we saw how the basic 24 elements came into existence. We also saw that each Pancha Bhoota or Gross Element is just associated with its own Subtle element or Tanmatra and how it is not so in actuality. Now let us see what happens to bring the gross elements to the current state they are in.

Panchikarana is what happens. Lord Vishnu first takes Ether and divides it into 2 halves. He takes one half, divides it into 4 equal quarters and shares them each with the other 4 elements. He does the same to all the 5 gross elements. At the end of this process, all elements are a mixture of 50% of itself and 12.5% of the other 4 elements.

The Creation that happens till this point of time is called Samashti Creation (Creation done by the Supreme Being himself).  At the end of the Samashti Creation, there are millions of eggs or Andams floating in the cosmos. As seen in our very first post, Each of this Andam contains 14 lokas – Satya, Tapa, Jana, Mahar, Svar, Bhuvar, Bhur Lokas at the top  and Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala Lokas under the ground. It is also covered on the exterior by seven natural envelopes – Water, Fire, Air and Ether- in the same order-followed by Ahankara, Mahat and finally by the Indiscrete Principle. Each layer is ten-fold than the previous one.

Inside each such Egg, all the worlds that would be created, are in an embryonic state. Our world contains Mountains, Rivers, Land, Ocean etc… The egg also contains, Asuras, Devas, Humans and all other living things.

The Supreme Being then appoints one very pure Soul (Atman) as Brahma of each Andam.  He then becomes the Antharyami  (or the Inner God) of Brahma and starts Vyashti Srishti. Brahma goes on to create Asuras, Devas, Rakshasas, Yakshas, Gandharvas, Plants and animals, basically everything that lives and is a part of our Lokas. Detailed description of how Brahma achieves the progeny is given in our ancient scriptures like Vishnu Purana and Srimad Bhagavatam. (by the way, Asuras are different from Rakshas. We tend to mix them up in our stories. A topic for another post may be)

The very first creation at the start of the new Brahma’s first day is called Sarga. The creation that happens after every dissolution or pralaya is called Prati-Sarga.

Now that we have seen Dissolution and Creation, it is time to get into the original goal of this blog – bringing out interesting and not so frequently heard stories from our scriptures. I thought I will start with Varaha Avatar (although this is an oft repeated story, there are some misconceptions which I would like to do something about).

Until we see Mr Varaha…

Prakrita Dissolution – the elemental one

After the 3 types of Dissolutions, It is time for us to look at the most elemental of them all – The Prakrita Dissolution.

The Prakrita Pralayam occurs at the end of the life of each Brahma (You can recollect that the life span of a Brahma is 100 divine years) after He completes two parârdhas. At the end of the Hundredth year, the seven basic elements – Mahat or Mahan, Ahankara and the 5 Tanmatras are subject to destruction.(We will see more about these elements in the next post). Thus this dissolution is called elemental annihilation, since it is elemental in nature. Then all calamities will occur one by one starting with extreme drought resulting in a great famine, followed by the fire of destruction. Then a terrible wind will blow for 100 years which will be followed by the last, but not the least, heavy rains for the next 100 years. At the end of this rain, the universal egg will be one big form of water.

Let us see now, how the Pancha Bhoota or gross elements are destroyed one after the other. Each element is associated with one very basic elemental character. Earth is associated with Smell, Water with Taste, Fire with Form, Wind with touch or feeling and Ether with Sound. Each element will be destroyed when this character is robbed off it. Let us see how.

The excessive water drives away the quality of fragrance of the Earth. Earth dissolves.

The great fire will take away the most basic character of water-Taste. Water dissolves.

The terrible Wind takes away the quality of Form from fire. Fire dissolves.

The Ether robs Wind of its basic character-touch or feeling. Wind dissolves.

The elemental nature takes Sound off from Ether. Ether dissolves into nature or Ahankara.

Ahankara dissolves into Mahaan and Mahaan dissolves into the Pradhana or the Root.

According to Srimad Bhagavatam – “This is the prâkritika pralaya or elemental dissolution wherein all the material elements of nature and energies of the unseen Original Person are completely dismantled by Time and helplessly merge.”

It is clear now from where we come and to where we all go and how helpless we are in the grand scheme of things. Yet we don’t realize all this and behave as if we are the greatest in this universe. How Silly, eh?

Enough of all the negative posts about Dissolution. In the next few posts we will see how creation happens and what happened at the very beginning.