Sri Vishnu Puranam – Commentary-Part 2


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Chapter  Two

 The King becomes a Rakshasa

There was a king called Kalmashapada. He was born  in the Kakutstha dynasty and was a disciple   of  sage  Vasishtha. Once he went to the forest to hunt and spent a lot of time killing various animals. Growing tired, he began to return by a narrow footpath. Midway  he saw  the  great  sage Shakti coming  towards him,  glowing with intelligence. He  was  the  eldest born of Vasishtha, and was the father of Parasara. They met on the way. An argument  arose on who was to get the right of way. Proud of his being a king,   Kalmashapada ordered the maharishi to give way. Shakti did not want to draw aside because the dharmashastra-s  say that when a King and a Brahmin meet, the King should  give way to the Brahmin. Shakti wanted Kalmashapada to understand  this custom. Preening with pride at being rich, Kalmashapada refused to listen to him and  repeated his command. Inflamed, the  king whipped  Shakti who cursed him in anger: ‘As you tortured   me  like a rakshasa,  you  will  become  a rakshasa and a cannibal.’

King  Kalmashpada was already  a bone  of contention between Vasishtha and Visvamitra. Each wanted to make him his disciple. This was an opportune moment  for Visvamitra. Frightened by Shakti’s curse, Kalmashapada sought refuge with Visvamitra and wished to  seek forgiveness for his crime. With his mantric prowess, Visvamitra immediately sent a demon (rakshasa) called Kinkara with the aim of befogging his memory.

The Brahmin’s curse

On his way home, the King who was in a state of forgetfulness, saw a Brahmin coming  towards him. The hungry  Brahmin asked the king for food and meat. The king asked him to wait and promised to send such food upon reaching his kingdom.

After his return  to the palace at midnight, he ordered one of his cooks to ready some meat and food and give the same to the Brahmin waiting outside.  But meat could not be procured at that hour. The king then asked the cook to get at least some human  flesh. This was done and the servant cooked it well and took it to the Brahmin, who on realizing that it was human  flesh, was incensed and cursed the  king:  “This  is the work  of rakshasa-s. May he become a rakshasa who eats human  flesh.”

The  curse of Shakti was thus  doubled  by the Brahmin’s  curse.  On  hearing  this,  the  King  was upset and furious. He hastened to Shakti. “Maharishi! Is it not  because of your  curse that  I have become a cannibal? I shall first put the curse to test on you!” Saying this, he killed and gobbled the sage. Learning about this, Visvamitra sent Kalmashada to kill and eat the other one hundred sons of Vasishtha. Vasishtha’s  lineage thus came to an end and Visvamitra anger was appeased.

Do not blindly follow their actions

The following questions may arise in the minds of readers: “What? Aren’t we better than sages like Visvamitra who destroyed an entire family in anger? We are not subject to such desires and hatred!” But this is not right. Though  such actions appear to be against  righteousness (dharma), because of the powers of knowledge gained by these sages, these are not  actually  crimes. Even for small mistakes, they will not hesitate to do severe penance (tapasya) to overcome sins. So the dharmashastra-s   say: “Sometimes   elders  may  do  what  appears to go against dharma. But you should  not  follow their actions! They can overcome the effects by the power of their tapasya.You cannot do so. Therefore follow only  such  actions  of the  elders that  ensure  your good.”

When Shakti was dying, his wife Adrisyanti was with child. Vasishtha was in agony on the loss of his son. But he did not seek revenge by destroying Visvamitra. He jumped into the ocean to commit suicide. He leaped off a hill and banged his head on a rock.  He entered  fire, but  life continued to reside in his body. He struggled, not knowing  the way to die. You see, even realised sages mourn  for their lost children.

A blessed babe

One day Vasishtha went to visit his daughter­-in-law to console her. Suddenly the sounds   of  vedic chant were heard. Vasishtha was surprised, as there was no one nearby.   But  the voice  continued and it sounded very  much like that of  his son Shakti. Vasishtha was confused.

Adrisyanti  then disclosed that the voice was of the babe in the womb. The child had been listening to its father reciting the Veda-s daily, and hence continued chanting the Veda. Vasishtha was delighted  that  the babe had been blessed even in the  womb. Vasishtha   continued to live happily that he was going to be the grandparent  of such a noble child.

To be continued….

This English Commentary is written by smt Prema  Nandakumar based on the tamil commentary written by H.H. 45th Azhagiyasingar of the Ahobila MuttHis Holiness has ‘commented’ only on select chapters of the Vishnu Purana. The English translation faithfully follows the original in this aspect. Words that appear in square brackets [ ] have been placed there to serve as a link and do not form part of the original. Reproduced from Nrusimhapriya.

For Tamil commentary and Upanyasam of Vishnu Puranam, please visit:

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