I may be running the risk of stating the obvious when I say that one cannot just start writing on such supremely holy works as Srimad Bhaagavatha in the absence of there being a divine signal in some form. Yes, there may have been just an initial thought in my mind that such a great work by Bhagavaan Vyaasa should reach a large number of people. I felt that if I could render the contents in the form of stories or episodes making them interesting through a lucid and racy style, and a well-rounded narration without sacrificing any 'rasa', and simultaneously maintain the core-coherence of the original, new readers may be drawn to lay their hands on this Mahaapuraana.
I mentioned about the divine signal. Believe it, just without any effort on my part, a full set of books fell on my lap for my reference from a totally unexpected source to augment the books in my library: the person before gifting it had merely asked me to tell him in a nutshell as to why this puraana was so important and what was in it after all? The belief that God thought that I had it in me to make an attempt (with Himself leading the way) strengthened and I was on my way within a few weeks; the maiden volume covering the first four out of a total twelve 'skandhas' got written in record time, a tribute to Lord's unseen hand!
Besides this above incident, a very religious person who is extremely busy in his DTP work for his regular customers and experienced in handling such work agreed to take it up - in fact he considered it a godsend to be entrusted with such a holy mission! He completed typing the first volume (4 Skandhas) with great speed.
The first volume has, besides some prepratory coverage, about ninety stories/sub-stories and episodes. I have thought it appropriate to talk about Bhaagavatha's significance at the beginning of each volme rather than covering it in a single (first) volume since the introductory details themselves are so extensive to form a book.
I will be extremely pleased if this presentation is found interesting and useful by the readers, particularly those who keep postponing their decision to lay their hands on such a great religious and thought- provoking classic. The Lord Himself has rcommended everyone to profit by it and I feel rewarded that He let 'yours truly' to be connected with it in a small way.
I thank Sri Suresh and his wife Sow. Bhargavi for the DTP type- setting and Kiran Ranganathan for the attractive cover design. The Priners, Ganesh Maruthi Printing Press, are also to be thanked for timely printing.
Srimad Bhaagavatha occupies a unique place in the religious literature of our country. Even as a work of Sanskrit literature its place is quite high. While other puraanas talk about dharma, artha, Kaama and moksha, Srimad Bhaagavatha deals with moksha alone. It is considered 'the head quarters of divine love in theory and practice'. The veritable treasure house of devotional literature that Bhaagavatha is, it illustrates 'the function and the efficacy of bhakthi', Sri Raamaanuja, utilised this puraana for the doctrine of faith in a great measure. 'Bhaagavatha Puraana is steeped and drenched in bhakthi, 'a surging emotion which thrills the whole frame'.
The place occupied by this Mahaapuraana can be gauged by the fact that the number of commentaries written on it is only next to Srimad Bhagavadgita. The commentaries on it are also varied-advaithic, dvaithic, vishistaadvaithic, dvaithaadvaithic and so on - that it has earned the name' Shaasthrasaarvabhauma'.
Moksha apart what benefits does this puraana confer? If at all one is looking for material benefits like good progeny, fulfillment of unfulfilled desires, marriage, freedom from debts/ enemies/misfortunes, and the clutches of spirits, all these and many more benefits can achieve. But the main goal is to achieve Bhakthi, jnaana and Vairaagya. It is declared that the servant of bhakthi viz., mukthi, comes to you by herself (mukthim dhaaseem dadhau Thubhyam).
There may be some tendency to consider Puraanaas as 'old legends' and show neglect, but their contents are ever fresh (naveenam) and are as relevant to modern times as ever before. Further it is recognised that the interpretations in Puranaas help in a better understanding of the Vedas. Chandogya Upanishad declares that "ithihaasapuraaanam panchama Vedaanaam Vedham" (Puraanas are the fifth Veda).
The Puraanas are divided into three types 'Saathvic, Raajasa and thaamasa' each comprising six puraanas. Srimad Bhaagavatha being of the sathvic category speaks about the greatness of Lord Vishnu (saathvikeshu puraaneshu maahaathmyamadhikam hareh : Mathsya Puraana : 53/67). The main stories pertain to Sri Krishna, Sri Kapila, Sri Narasimha, Sri Varaaha and other avataaras, all meant to re-establish Dharma : 'Dharmasya hyaapavargasya' (the outcome of Dharma is moksha').
'Virat Swaroopa' of the Lord which appears in this volume is in a way a commentry on Purusha sooktha. This puraana also emphasizes the three routes viz., jnaana, karma and bhakthi yogas as does Bhagavadgita.
In regard to the etymology of the word 'Bhaagavatha', bhaga connotes wealth, desire, greatness, strength etc and the connotation qualifies the Lord only. And the treatise concerns the Lord who is also known as Vaasudeva, Vishnu, Naarayana, Krishna; the Lord is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent; the Vedas declare Him thus: antharbahischha tathsarvam vyaapya naarayanah sthithah'. This puraana deals with Bhagavaan in various ways and expounds His favourite Bhaagavatha Dharma. It elucidates bhakthi towards the Lord, a boat available to reach His feet. The contents of this puraana comprise a number of stories and episodes through each of which Vyaasa muni wishes to drive home a message.
The first volume of Srimad Bhaagavatha Mahaapuraana was released both in India and the USA. Those who are conversant with this Puraana liked the style of presentation and the size - four skandhas have been covered in the first volume.
Looking back at the circumstances leading to its writing which I covered in some measure in Volume 1, one of the most important happenings got left out. That was my visit to Vyaasa muni's peeta at Naimishaaranya. This is one of the 106 holy places which normally a Srivaishnava visits. The visit took place a year or so before I thought of writing this Puraana. Due to an attack of a funny disease my body flexibility had taken a beating, and I prostrated to the 'peeta' by just bending forward and touching the ground. The pujaari, a learned person, noticing it, encouraged me to try full-body prostration! Not quite confident though, I managed it with effort. He said when the muni is in your midst, what is not possible!
Indeed it is with Vyaasa muni's anugraha only the present volume also has been completed covering five skandhas, 5 - 9. The famous tenth skandha will of course take the pride of place in a single volume. It is also the longest skandha accounting for thirty percent of the total size.
Despite my many commitments writing of this volume was completed expeditiously. As I observed in my first volume, the unseen hand carries your pen through.
I thank the couple, Suresh and Bhaargavi of Arka Creations, for the beautiful DTP work, Shaaradha Prasad for timely printing and Kiran of Graphic Design for an attractive cover. My wife has helped in correction of the draft copies.
In the first volume of Srimad Bhaagavatham spanning four skandhas, over ninety stories were presented. The volume in hand, the second in the series covers five skandhas, and as many as 108 stories are narrated. The main stories which are compellingly important for one to read are:
3) Vishwaroopa's teaching of "Naaraayana Kavacha" to Indra.
4) Dialogue between Naarada and Yudhishtira
5) Gajendra Moksha
6) Yayaathi's full story
It does not mean that others are not important but sometimes reading a book leaves behind some memorable aspects/titles in one's mind. All the stories pick up some threads and your knowledge about the Lord and devotion to Him increase strengthening your faith in Him.
With the narration of stories/episodes in the nine skandhas covered so far, including this book, we will be venturing next into the most sacred 'Dashama Skandha' to be with the Lord witnessing all his exploits. It may be mentioned here that one comes across on many occasions speakers choosing to lecture on 'Dashama Skandha' only. We would rather leave it to the reader to find an answer and the prime reason, when he reads that part of Bhaagavatha, the third volume in our case, which will follow in a few months.
It gives me great pleasure to be able to complete the tenth chapter or 'Dashama Skandha' as it is known of the holy Srimad Bhagavatha Mahaa Puraana. Even listening to one or two stories from the Puraana has great purifying effects on the individual. It is indeed like a 'yajna' to write and complete the Dashama Skandha, which is the most celebrated part of Bhagavatha covering Lord's exploits in reducing the burden of evil on earth.
The tenth chapter, a single skandha, comprises 90 stories/episodes and accounts for almost 30 percent of the entire Bhagavatha puraana. It has episodes related to such well known characters like Kamsa/Chaanora, Shishupaala/Danthavakra, Narakaasura, Banaasura, Poudraka, Shaalva besides sports like Raaskreeda and lifting of Govardhan mountain. What more, we get a glimpse of Lord's life through the eyes of Naaradha who visits as many palaces as he could, of Sri Krishna's 16,000 queens. Depiction of Viraha and attendant outpourings of gopis are a class of the hightest form of bhakthi, a pitch not even attained by 'rishis' and 'munis'. Add to this, Draupadhi's curiosity to know from Sri Krishna's prime queens the episodes of their wedding with Him. All these go to make 'dashama skandha' the most compelling part of this Puraana or all Puraanas, which one should read. One could even say that one should have had earned that great fortune to hear or read the 'Dashama Skandha'.
I am lucky to have enlisted the services of a couple which has become a part of this project and feel so elated to undertake the DTP typesetting. They have indeed earned that great fortune! I thank Smt. Bhargavi Suresh and Sri Suresh of Arka Creations, for 'enjoying' as it were this work. I also thank Sri Sharada Prasad and Suresh of Ganesh Maruti printers for timely printing, and Mahesh and Naveen of Hamsaniketan for an attractive design of outside cover. I pray that Sri Krishna showers His blessing on all the participants of the "yajna'.
While talking about the greatness of Srimad Bhaagavatha in the last volume it was stated that we would continue the introduction in subsequent volumes also, as the introduction covering its importance itself could form a big book. We had stopped at Bhakthi devi's quieies to Naaradha regarding Kaliyuga and the muni's reply in terms of 'Yuga dharma'.
Naaradha makes efforts to eliminate Bhakthi devi's sufferings-she had two prematurely graying sons who were lying without energy to get up, named 'jnaana' and 'Vairagya'. He tried to wake up the two children through reciting of Veda /Upanishaad /Gita texts in their ears very closely. They just get up, but due to lethargy and weakness they just went back to sleep! he hears a voice in the air which said: 'Don't you worry, you maharashi! you will succeed in your mission but you will have to undertake a noble task about which some saints will tell you.
Naaradha went in search of the saints and none of the rishis/munis he met could help him; all that they said was it was impossible to accomplish. Totally distraught he decided to undertake tapas and went to Badrikaashrama. To his surprise he found Sanaka and others appear in front of him as though they were like thousands of suns. Naaradha addresses them; 'O! sons of Brahma! it is indeed extremely fortunate that I have met you all. You keep drinking the nector of Lord's stories all the time. Pray tell me as to what task I should undertake. Please explain how Bhakthi, Jnaana and Vairagya can be rejuvenated. '
The Sanakas responded :'0 ! devarashi. Do not pine. Rishis and munis have recommended various ways but they all lead to heaven only. Listen therefore carefully and with calmness. The intellectuals have declared 'jnaana yajna' as the noble route, that being the reading (paaraayana) of Srimad Bhaagavatha sung by Shukamuni and other mahaathmas. If one hears the utterances, Bhakthi-Jnaana-Vairaagya will receive extraordinary strengths. Jnaana and Vairyaagya will overcome their difficulty and will roar like lions; with the result Bhakthi devi will feel elated".
But Naaradha queries them further:
"Efforts to make them listen to veda /vedantha /Gita did not have any effect on them. If that be so how can the method of making them hear Srimad Bhaagavatha wake them up? After all each sloka therein contains 'Vedartha' only. Please clear this doubt.
Greatness of Srimad Bhaagavatha : Sanakas declare
The stories in Bhaagavatha, although being the kernel of Vedas /Upanishads are of the form of 'Phala' (outcome) and therefore they are far more effective. It is just like that for enjoying the sweetness continued in the roots and branches of a fruit-tree, one has to eat its fruit; otherwise it will not be known. Similarly the ghee contained in the milk has to be separated from milk to savour it. So also the juice/sugar contained in the sugarcane. So is the core/kernel of Vedas/Upanishads which is Srimad Bhaagavatha.
It is you yourself who, when Veda Vyaasa was distraught, taught him four 'slokas' from Srimad Bhagavatha and the author of Bhagavad Gita felt relieved. How is it that you yourself are asking about it us now?
Naaradha responds: O!great saints! A moment's 'darshan' of saints like you will eliminate all sins. Those caught in the forest - fire of 'samsaara' will achieve peace immediately. You keep drinking the nectar of Lord's stories from Aadisesha's thousand mouths. I surrender unto you. When a man achieves the fortune of meeting saintly-people then only he will overcome the darkness due to ignorance and ego, resulting in Viveka (wisdom/discrimination).
Naaradha queries further: I shall undertake the 'Yajnaa' to reestablish / rejuvenate Bhakthi, Jnaana and Vairaagya. Pray tell me about the location as to where I should undertake it, the number of days within which it should be recited and how it should be listened to. Please tell me about the whole process.
Sanakas relpy : O! Naaradha! Since you are humble and wise we shall let you know everything about it. Please listen. There is a spot near Hardwaar (Gangaadwaara) known as Anandha! It has been frequented by several rishis, devathas and siddhas. It has a variety of plants, trees and creepers. It has a soft sand bed area. It is having the fragrance wafted by lotus. The area is inhabited by animals like lions and elephants, traditionally enemies, moving about with a friendly attitude. Without any great preparation you can undertake the 'jnaana yajna' there. The 'yajna' will yield lofty rasa and Bhakthi devee will bring her two children fully rejuvenated (we shall continue the story further in our concluding volume, that is, Volume 4).
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