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The great Sage Shuka narrated the Bhagavatam in seven days to King Parikshit and a large audience of silent listeners to the narration. This happened 30 years after Krishna left this world.  The next saptAha (seven-day rendering of the Bhagavatam) came 200 years after, by Gokarna. The next one was by Sanatkumara to Narada, 30 years later.


Suta Pauranika was one of the many who were in the audience at the first saptAha. Because of his extraordinary powers of memory he was chosen by a later  gathering ( probably several hundreds of years later) at Naimisaranya for recounting what he heard from Shuka on the banks of the Ganges.  


Another manner in which Bhagavatam reached posterity is from Sanatkumara (who heard it from the Lord Absolute) to Sankhyayana, who communicated it to Sage Parasara from whom it came to Maitreya who gave it out to Vidura.


Of course even earlier Brahma (who had it from the Lord Absolute) had communicated it to Narada, who, at the coronation ceremony of Yudhishtira at Indraprastha, had passed on several parts of Bhagavatam to Yudhishtira, in answer to questions by him.


Thus when Bhagavatam comes to us from Suta, sometimes he quotes Maitreya, sometimes he quotes Narada and sometimes he quotes Sage Shuka himself.


Before  the onset of the Mahabharata War Vidura leaves the scene on pilgrimage because he is in total disagreement with what is  going on under Duryodhana’s leadership in Hastinapura.  He comes back after several years but in the meantime he meets Uddhava, a relative as well as a most sincere devotee of Krishna,  on the banks of the Yamuna. To Vidura’s enquiry about Krishna, Uddhava  had to break the news of the end of Krishna’s life on earth. Uddhava also told Vidura how Maitreya had met Krishna at the same time as he met him and how the Lord had instructed Maitreya to teach Vidura the supreme wisdom about the Atman. Though Uddhava himself was capable of teaching Vidura, and though the latter was eager to learn it from him, Uddhava wanted to obey the Lord’s last command  and accordingly, Vidura was directed to go to Maitreya.


So we now have a long conversation between Vidura and Maitreya.  The subjects dealt with cover a wide range – like,  Brahma’s original creation called ‘sarga’ consisting of the elementary creation of sixteen items of matter,  and further elaborate  details  of  various subcreations, which together constitute what  is called ‘visarga’.


Before Creation the Lord, the Soul of all souls (*AtmA  AtmanAM vibhuH *  - III – 5 – 23) was the Only One.. When there was no Seer nor Seen, it appeared as if there was a void. During Creation, by His icchA shakti He appears to be multifold. The Lord created this universe of multiplicity out of His own Cause. The Cause and Effect were the same. This phenomenon is called mAyA. (III – 5 – 25):


sA vA etasya sandrashhTuH shaktis-sad-asadAtmikA /

mAyA nAmA mahAbhAga yayedaM nirmame vapuH //


The latent Power in Him as Eternal Time caused the manifestation of the mahat-tatva, the supreme sum-total of matter, from  which all the manifested universe of matter arose. Maitreya gives a fantastic amount  of details about creation. And Vidura asks very  pertinent questions.


 “How is it, the Absolute which is immutable and which is beyond all guNas, resorts to action resulting in creation of the universe?  Even as a Leela, is it not incompatible with the nirguNa nature of the Transcendental Absolute?” (III – 7 – 2).


“You said, Oh Maitreya, that it is through avidyA  (Cosmic Ignorance)  that the Lord creates, sustains and dissolves the universe. But He the Almighty is beyond time and space. How did He  associate Himself   with avidyA? In all bodies the experiencer that is the jIva is also nothing but a  spark of the Absolute. How can he then lose the Bliss that he came from and how can he suffer because of actions?” (III – 7 – 4 to 6).


Maitreya replies (III – 7 – 9):


seyaM  bhagavato mAyA yanna yena virudhyate /

Ishvarasya vimuktasya kArpaNyam-uta bandhanaM //


In fact, it appears to be a contradiction that to the Lord who is devoid of all avidyA, there happens due to avidyA  a bondage  and a fall of Knowledge. This appearance is nothing but mAyA. Just like, in a dream, a person dreams that his head has been cut off. Just like, the reflected moon in water assumes all the vibratory movements of the water.  So the non-real BMI produces the appearance to the dreamer-jIva and not to the Lord. The same guNas of the BMI reach their end by the practice of renunciation and by  Bhakti in  the Lord. When the senses are taken away from their objects, all sorrows and experiences merge in the fullness of the Absolute, as they do in sleep. (III – 7 - 10 to 12).


At this point, there is a beautiful analogy by Shri Jnaneshvar for illustrating the “Actionlessness” of the Lord.  In a forest, a monkey and a human being ,scared of a lion which is chasing them, climb a tree and station themselves on the branches of the tree, safely away from the clutches of the lion. The lion keeps banging on  the shadow of the monkey. Every time the lion hits the monkey’s shadow, the monkey on the tree gives out a shriek, jumps from branch to branch and thus gets more and more excited.  In its excitement, in due time, after its shadow has received a few beatings from the lion’s paw, the monkey falls from the tree and duly becomes an easy prey for the lion. Now the lion starts beating the shadow of the man, but the man uses his discretion and is unperturbed by the lion’s beating of his shadow. Finally, the lion gets tired,  goes its way and the man is saved. Now Jnaneshvar says, when experiences, good or bad happen to you, think that they are happening to your shadow; then you will not be affected either by happiness or by misery. The Lord behaves like that in every one of His actions and so He is not touched by them!


Creation is nothing but the imbalance in the guNas in the Cosmic Personality, caused by His mAyA. This first creation is the mahat principle. From this is created ahamkAra. From this the tanmAtras  which cause the five elements, and the subtle seeds of jnAnendriyas and karmendriyas. The fourth stage of creation is the indriyas themselves. The fifth is the set of devatAs which are the substrata for the indriyas. The sixth is tamas or avidyA. All these six stages of creation constitute the prAkrta creation. 


Next comes the universe of matter including all plants that go up to grow but show no external signs of consciousness.  The eighth is the world of birds and animals. No consciousness of the future, a mind of darkness, capacity of different kinds of intuitive sense and an ignorance of the self – these are the common characterisitics  of the world of birds and animals.


The ninth stage of creation  is the human species.  Food goes downward in them. They are rajas-dominated. They concentrate on their work. They find pleasure even in misery.  The seventh, eighth and ninth creations constitute what is called vaikRRita-sRRishhTi.


Beyond this there is the creation of devas and asuras, gandharvas, yakshas, rakshasas, bhutas, pitRs, kinnaras  etc.


All this is the work of the Absolute who takes the form of Brahma and through him carries out the different creations. All creation is only with respect to the three lokas – bhUloka, bhuvar-loka and suvar-loka. All that is animate and inanimate, all pitrs, and all devas and asuras are constituents of  thesethree worlds bhU, bhuvaH and suvaH and they rise and fall, in each day of Brahma’s kalpa. Beyond this there are four more lokas,  (maho-loka, jano-loka, tapo-loka and satya-loka) which do not come under the daily creation and dissolution scheme of Brahma’s cosmic day (kalpa).


When creation comes Time also starts ticking. There are four yugas: kRRita, tretA, dvApara and kali. Their durations  are respectively  4k, 3k, 2k and k,


where k = 432,000 years.


 The four yugas together constitute one chatur-yuga. It has 10k, that is 4,320,000 years, or 4.32 million years.  One thousand such chaturyugasconstitute one day  of Brahma. In other words the duration of one Brahma’s day is  4.32 billion human years. 


One day of Brahma (also called Cosmic Day) is technically known as  one kalpa. In one kalpa there would be fourteen Manus. Each Manu is the physical King of the universe during his period of Manu-ship, called a Manvantara.  Its duration is a little more than 71 Chatur-yugas. Brahma’s nights are as long as His days. Kalpa after kalpa, creation and dissolution go on. Each year of Brahma has 360 cosmic days and nights The present Brahma has already spent His fifty years of an allotted total of a hundred years of  life. The second half has just started. Each half is called a parArdha. His ‘today’ is the first day (first kalpa) of his second  ‘parArdha’.  (Also see Hindu Concept of Time). By the way parArdha is a mathematical word in Sanskrit denoting 1017.


The powers of 10 upto the power 17 have technical words in Sanskrit:




On the very first day of His first parArdha, that is, on Day 1 of His life (of 100  Brahma years) that was the day on which the Vedas came out from His breath by the call of the Absolute.  That first kalpa is called ‘brAhma kalpa’.


At the end of the first parArdha (50 Brahma years), there was the last kalpa called pAdma-kalpa, because in that kalpa, Brahma came out from the divine Lotus springing from the navel of Narayana.  The present kalpa is called ‘shveta-varAha kalpa’.


The first creations of Brahma were the four kumAras, named, Sanaka, Sanandana, SanAtana and Sanatkumara. But from the time of their creation they were enlightened  and so they did not prefer to contribute to further creation. Brahma got angry at the failure of purpose of his very first creation and from his anger rose Rudra and all his gaNas.   Brahma went back for meditation, at the end of which he created the ten PrajApatis, known by the names:

Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Brighu, Vasishta, Daksha and Narada. There also came out Yama and two other  prajApatis called Kardama and Ruchi. And at the end of these creations, his own body (Brahma’s body)  split into two, one male and one female. The male form became to be known as SvAyambhuva and the female form as ShatarUpA.  After this, creations of the human species  were in the worldly manner  of biological union.


SvAyambhuva was the first Manu of the present kalpa. From him  ShatarUpA  gave birth to two  sons, Priyavrata and Uttanapada and three daughters AkUti, DevahUti and PrasUti.  These three were given in marriage respectively to the prajApatis Ruchi, Kardama and Daksha.  From these three couples the world began to be populated.  (See Genealogy)  (Note that in the genealogy charts we distinguish feminine names by the pink colour. In this text portion also, when the names are first mentioned, they are distinguished  by pink colour).



All this is told in the first 12 chapters of the third skanda. Thereafter seven chapters (from #13 to 19) are devoted to Varaha Avatar and the killing of Hiranyaksha. We shall take this up when we come to Narasimha avatar, in the seventh skanda.


Continuing the story of creation, we take up the story of Kardama-Devahuti couple.  Before they were married, Kardama did a monumental tapas for 10000 years. The Lord appeared before him and commanded him to accept Devahuti when she is presented to him by Svayambhuva Manu. Kardama was also told by the Lord that the Lord Himself would be born to him, after he begets nine daughters from Devahuti.


Svayambhuva Manu came to Kardama’s Ashram on the banks of the Saraswati and offered his daughter Devahuti in marriage. Kardama accepted it on condition that he will stay as a married householder only till a son is born to him. The Manu accpted this condition and the marriage took place with all rituals from ShAstras. In fact this was the first marriage ritual ever performed. To remember this and propitiate this couple, even today, our marriage homas and havans  have a whole package of  mantras offering ghee and samit in the Fire  with the invocation: “devahUtyAM svAhA”.


Satisfied more than ever by the services rendered by his devoted wife Devahuti, he granted her by his yogic powers all that he had acquired by his tapas, samAdhi, vidyA and yoga.  The superhumanly  conjugal and amorous pastimes  that this first couple enjoyed for 100 years are elaborately described in Chapter 23 of the third skanda. Kardama created a vimAna for her and took her around the whole world. He split himself into nine bodies and gave her superlative sensual pleasure.  She gave birth to nine daughters on the same day. They are known as


KalA, anasUyA, ShraddhA, HavirbhU, Gati, KriyA, KhyAti, arundhati and ShAnti.


These were given in marriage respectively to


Marichi, atri, angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Brighu, Vasishta and atharvA.


Devahuti yearned for a son. When Kardama Prajapati expressed his intention to renounce the householder Ashrama, Devahuti pleaded with him to give her a son and then go. They also remembered how the Lord Himself had promised earlier to Kardama Prajapati that He will be born to him as a son. The time has come now. In expressing this Devahuti makes a thought-provoking statement. “Oh Lord of my life! All these years  I did not understand your spiritual greatness. I wasted my time in sensualities.  But my attachment to you cannot be said to be misplaced.


 If one cultivates attachment to persons who are ignoble, then that will lead to further samsAra. Whereas, attachment placed on nobilities like you actually leads to the end of all attachment.  (III – 23 – 55).


So my attachment to worldly things has all vanished now. Please enlighten me on the Self”. 


In reply to this, Kardama tells her that she is going to have the Lord Himself as her son. He is going to be a great sage called Kapila.  He will impart to  her, says Kardama PrajApati, that spiritual wisdom for which she is rightly yearning.


The Lord kept His promise. He incarnated as their son, Kapila. The father Kardama knowing full well that it is the Lord who has come as their son, made prostrations to the Avatar, entrusted the mother to the son and left for the forest to do his tapas. In due time he reached his divine destination.


Now comes a sequence of seven chapters (#s 26 to 32), which constitute Sage Kapila’s teachings to Devahuti, his mother, on the spiritual path and goal. These chapters are known as Kapila Gita and form an important part of the Bhagavatam.

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