(The last part of the series)
Sage Sukha describes the qualities of Kaliyuga, which began immediately after Krishna's departure. Wealth alone will be the criterion of the pedigree, morality and merit. Righteousness, purity of body and mind, forgiveness, keenness of memory will decline. Men will be greedy, immoral and merciless. Kings will be impatient to conquer the whole globe. Mother earth laughs: "Kings wage wars and want to own the entire earth. Glorious kings, mighty demons have ruled this earth, but their names are mere stories now -- and their object remains unaccomplished."
Shuka says, "O King! The stories of these legends have been narrated to instill in men the ephemeral nature of worldly enjoyments and also to help develop a distaste for them. On the other hand, inculcating a taste for Krishna's stories, and devoting oneself to him, gives joy and permanently ends all misery."
Parikshit asks Shuka, "Tell me O Sage! How will men will be able to shake off the accumulated evils in the age of Kali?" Shuka answers, "Dear Parikshit! Kali is a storehouse of evils. But it has one great virtue -- by merely chanting the names and singing the glories of the Supreme, one can be free from all attachments and reach the Supreme."
Shuka completes the narration of the Bhagavatha and gives his final message to Parikshit. "O King! give up the notion that you will die. The body is born at a particular moment, as it was non-existent before. You are the unborn soul, hence, cannot die. You are distinct from the body, just as the fire is distint from the firewood. It is the mind, which creates bodies, objects of senses and actions for the soul. It is Maya that creates the aforesaid mind. From Maya proceeds the transmigration of the soul (Jeeva). With constant thought of Lord Vasudeva, inquire by your own effort the truth of the Self.
"Impelled by the curse, Takshaka may burn your body, but not your soul. Identify yourself with the Absolute, and realise your true nature - you will neither see Takshaka, nor your own body. Thus, I have narrated to you, O protector of men, whatever you wished to listen concerning the pastimes of Lord Srihari. What more do you desire to hear?"
Parikshit approaches the feet of Shuka and bent low with joined palms: "Bhagawan Shuka! I am blessed. I am fulfilled. With your infinite grace, I have heard the glorious stories of Srihari, and also the ways of attaining him. I am neither afraid of Takshaka nor any other means of death. Now, O Sage! With your permission I shall control my speech and having established my mind in Vishnu, give up the ghost. My ignorance has been eradicated by firmness in Jnana (the knowledge of truth) and Vignana (its realisation)." Worshipped by the King, the divine sage Shukha takes leave and departs with the other ascetics. Parikshit sits on the blades of Kusa grass, facing north and meditates on the Lord.
Takshaka, in the guise of a brahmin, was on his way to accomplish his task -- to end Parikshit's life. He meets Kashyapa, a physician, (skillful in counteracting the effects of any poison), who was also going to see Parikshit. Takshaka gratifies him with gifts of gold and silver and sends him back. Takshaka gains access in the vicinity of Parikshit, assumes his original form of a venomous snake and bites him. The fire of the poison engulfs Parikshit, who was already one with the Supreme. His body was instantly reduced to ashes, while all men looked on.
Janamejaya, the son of Parikshit, seeks vengeance for his father's death. He performs a sacrifice intending to eliminate the entire species of snakes. In the midst of the cruel sacrifice, where many snakes fall into the fire, the elders and sages reason with him to stop the sacrifice. Janamejaya obeys and stops the sacrifice.
These divine stories, in turn, were narrated as an interlude by Suta Pauranika in the Naimisharanya forest, while the sages were engaged in the performance of a great sacrifice.
Shaunaka asks Suta: "O Suta, people speak of the seer Markandeya, as the one who remained alive even during the deluge. We hear that he beheld the Supreme person as a babe floating on a banyan leaf, while drifting in the waters of the great flood. O great Yogi! You are also a repository of the ancient Puranas. Please resolve our doubt."
Suta answers: "Markandeya, a jewel of the Bhrigu race, was the son of Mrukandu. He was a lifelong celibate, thoroughly trained in the knowledge of the scriptures and its practice. He constantly contemplated on Srihari with devotion adhering to a severely austere life. With his amazing penance extending to countless number of years, he conquers death. Indra, afraid that he might lose his position, tries to interrupt Markandeya's austerities with various enticements like music of gandharvas, dance of the apsaras, the tempting vernal season, inducing greed, etc., But every attempt at distraction proved futile against the firm resolve of the sage. They withdrew like children that would run away after rousing a snake.
To shower their grace on Markandeya, Srihari appears before him in the form of Nara and Naryana, the divine sages. Markandeya greets them with reverence and devotion and extolls them. "O Seer! You have attained perfection, through concentration of the mind, self-control and unceasing devotion to me. May all be well with you! You may receive a boon from me." Markandeya replied: "The vision of your glorious presence is boon enough for me. What more can I ask for. Nevertheless, I would want to have a vision of your Maya, under which the world perceives diversity." The divine sages grant the wish and smilingly return their abode in Badarikashrama.
Thinking about the boon to witness the Lord's maya, Markandeya, who always thought of the Lord like an unbroken trickle of oil, sometimes forgot to worship him. One day, while worshipping the Lord on the banks of the river Pushpabhadra, a furious wind sprang up. That was followed by frightful clouds with flashes of lightning. Rain poured like columns as thick as the axle of a chariot. With whirlpools swirling, water flooded the earth with waves reaching the sky. Fearful crocodiles and other creatures emerged from the waters. The sage felt perturbed at heart, while the whole earth was covered by a sheet of water. Markandeya was the only one alive, floating in the waters, tossed about with violent winds. Beaten by the storm, oppressed with hunger and thirst, and assailed by alligators and whales, he was exhausted. He fell a prey to fear, grief and infatuation. His judgment was clouded by the Lord's maya.
Rolling about in the deluge, Markandeya, saw a young banyan tree. In one of its branches he saw a babe lying in the hollow of a leaf. The babe, possessed of a dark-green hue of an emerald, was glowing with its splendour. It was smiling with a captivating charm. The babe, lifting its foot with its hands, places it in its mouth and was sucking it. At that very sight, the fatigue of Markandeya disappeared.
He headed towards the babe to find out more about it. But like a mosquito, he was sucked into the babe, along with its breath. Inside the babe's belly, Markandeya could see the entire universe as it was before the deluge. He saw the Himalayas, the river Pushpabhadra and his own hermitage on its bank, and the sages dwelling there. Even as he was seeing this, he was thrown out of the belly, along with the babe's breath, into the deluge. He could see the babe again, lying on the banyan leaf as before. He gazed at the child and proceeds to embrace it. That very moment, the child, no other than Lord Srihari, disappears. The deluge, the waters along with the banyan tree also disappeared in an instant. He stood in his hermitage as before. Markandeya realises the glory of the Lord's yogamaya displayed vividly to him. He seeks refuge in the Lord and extolls him saying that even the learned fall a prey to delusion, thinking themselves to be wise.
Lord Rudra was passing by in the skies on his mount Nandi along with his spouse Parvathi. Parvathi observes Markandeya looking very composed like the waters of the sea, his mind totally fixed on the Lord. She expresses her willlingness to meet the saint. Lord Rudra tells about Markandeya's extraordinary penance and approaches him. "...For it is the greatest gain to meet a pious soul."
Markandeya was lost in his trance, and could not perceive the glorious Lord Shiva approach him. Knowing his mental condition well, the Lord enters the cavity of the saint's heart using his divine maya. The sage was amazed, seeing the glorious form of Shiva which flashed in his heart. He woke up from his trance and beheld Shiva, the preceptor of the world, along with spouse Parvathi. Bending low, he pays obeisance to the Lord and after offering him due hospitality, worships him with words of praise. Bhagawan Shiva laughs cheerfully: "Seek a boon of your choice,. We three - Myself, the glorious Brahma, and the almighty Srihari, always resort to devotees like you, who are pious and tranquil and look upon all with an equal eye. By merely seeing you, or hearing about you, even great sinners get purified of their thoughts."
Having been made to revolve long by the Maya of Lord Vishnu, and subjected to a severe trial, the soothing words of Lord Shiva relieved Markandeya of all his afflictions. He glorifies Lord Shiva "I ask one boon of you -- the unfailing devotion to Lord Vishnu and those devoted to him, as well as to yourself." Shiva, along with Parvathi, bless Markandeya: "O great sage! Let all your desires be fulfilled; your fame will endure till the end of this age. I grant you immunity from old age and death." Shiva withdrew, telling the glory of the sage and his experiences of the Lord's maya to Parvathi."
Suta Pauranika concludes the story of Markandeya.
This is the 12th book and the concluding part of the Srimad Bhagavatha Purana.
1. This compilation is based primarily on the translation of the epic Srimad Bhagavatha Purana, published by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. I acknowledge my sincere respects to them. No words can measure or praise the wonderful service they continue to do, to propogate Bhakti in our people.
2. I have also referred to the book "Bhagavatha Rahasya" a book of hindi discourses by Poojyapada Sri
Ramachandra Dhongreji Maharaj, published by Shri Thakur Prasad Pustak Bhandar, Varanasi.
3. Also referred is a short and crisp compilation, "Myth and Reality" by Lalitha Ramakrishna, published by
4. Besides, I have used various notes in words and in drawings from Bhagavatha saptahams, held by various people, over a period of years.
A personal note:
This has been inspired by my Gurus who have instilled in me the faith in the Lord and the beauty of the epic. Hence this is reflected in my drawings and paintings. I owe this grace of the gurus to my parents, who encouraged me and brought me up in liberal surroundings without deviating from the deep rooted faith in God. (I do not claim be an expert in Bhagavatha, nor do I know sanskrit. I just wanted to share the beauty of the ideas depicted therein in a visual form.)
I pay my respects to my Gurus:
1. Govinda Damodara Swamigal (earlier Angarai Periyava) was our first exposure to the conduct of saptahams since childhood.
2. Mahaperiyava (Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi) who was instrumental in guiding me into spirituality - and still does.
3. Purisai Sri Krishnamacharya, who has been my father's guru. He gave me a few words of advise which I follow like Bhagawan's Geetha: "Draw Krishna." he said.
4. Sri Kripalu Maharaj, whose discourses on television concretised the path towards Krishna and help me understand the intricate nuances and ideas conveyed in the epic.
5. Tirumeni Narayana Namboodiri, of Tiruvella who has been a motivational factor in all my endeavours. Like a true Acharya, he lives and shows us the way. An eternal source of inspiration. Experienced the real beauty of Bhagavatha in the saptaham held at Tiruvattambalam Shiva temple at Tiruvella.