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Forefathers of Vyasa and His achievements
The lineage of Vashistha begins with his son, Shakti who was the father of Parashara. The latter bore a son named Vyasa and Śuka-deva was the apple of his eyes. The Supreme Lord Himself incarnated as Vyasa to deliver the 18 Puranas to mankind. Also, He composed Mahabharata, the Itihasa which is a practical application of the Vedic teachings to life. It establishes righteousness or Dharma through revealing Sattvik characters like the 5 Pandavas, Vidura, Queen Kunti, etc while it rejects Adharma or unrighteousness by highlighting the downfall of the mighty Kuru dynasty through the unjust interference of negative characters like Shakuni.
The Hari Vamsa Purana is celebrated as the 19th Purana or book of reference. A lot alike to the 18 puranas, the Hari Vamsa Purana too has Upparvas which are 3 in number.
What are Upaparvas?
Upaparvas are subfamilies of a scripture where the latter is broken down into logical chapters as they satisfy the requirements to be standalone subjects. They focus on a particular subject matter and explain it in detail. They are chapters of a particular subject. They help readers grasp the essential concepts easily through the titling which otherwise might seem huge and random concepts.
Like for example the Mahabharata has 18 Parvas (18 books or cantos). Now, the first among the 18 is Adi Parva (a canto) which is further divided into 19 upaparvas or 19 chapters or divisions.
3 Parvas of Hari Vamsa Purana
Similarly in Hari Vamsa, there are 3 main objects of study or Parvas. They three Parvas are namely:
1) Hari Vamsa Parva
2) Vishnu Parva and
3) Bhavishya Parva
Now, we will briefly mention the contents of the 1st Parva or Hari Vamsa Purana.
Forefathers of Prithu Maharaja
The canto commences with the procreation initiated by Sri Brahma to populate the universe. It first, focuses on the family of Svayambhuva Manu. The very first creation of Sri Brahma is Svaayambhuva Manu followed by the Saptarishis and Rudras. The 4th creation was that of Santa Kumaras or the four Kumara brothers who are blessed with eternal innocence and childhood. We have discussed these crucial episodes in the many previous blogposts.
After Svaayumbhuva Manu wedded Shatarupa, they parented 2 noble sons by the name Priyavrata and Uttanapada. Dhruva the devotee who undertook severe hardships at a tender age to attain Sri Narayana’s Darshan was born to Uttanpada. In other words, Dhruva was the grandson of Svaayambhuva Manu. Many generations after Dhruva, King Anga was born and his son was King Vena. The incarnation of the Lord, Prithu Maharaja was born in Dhruva’s clan as the son of King Vena.
Family of Kashyapa
The next chunk of the Canto focuses on Daksha Prajapati and his family. It describes the birth of Daksha and his 60 daughters. The marriages of Daksha’s daughters are also elaborated.
Briefly, 13 daughters of Daksha were wedded to the great ascetic Kashyapa Prajapati, 10 daughters married Dharma devata or Yama while 27 of the remaining daughters were married to Soma or Chandra Devata. A glimpse of Kashyapa’s family tree would be that – Aditi the foremost wives of Kashyapa gave rise to Devatas, also called Adityas for they are the son of Aditi. Diti gave birth to demons, traditionally called Asuras or Danavas. Venata bore Garuda and Aruna while Kadru was the mother of Nagas (multi-headed serpents) including the Ananta Shesha who serves as the resting bed of Sri Vishnu. Further stories of 33 grades of devatas which break down as 12 Adityas, 11 Rudras, 8 Vasus and 2 Ashiwini Kumaras were also mentioned in the past blogposts.
The concept of time and the differences that occur across the various Lokas are explained in Chapter 1. On the basis of time, the 7th Chapter describes the reign of Manu.
Concept of time covers Chatur-Yugas, time of creation, time differences across the worlds and ultimately ends on describing Pralaya or destruction.
What is Manavantara?
The lifespan of a Manu is denoted by the term Manvantara. Manavantara is the age of Manu or 100 years according to their motion of time and cannot be equated to 100 years of earth. A Manavantara is a Vedic unit of time comprising 71 Chatur Yugas. Therefore, it can be said that 71 Chatur Yugas are 100 years of Manu’s lifetime.
Life of Brahma and existence of the 7 higher worlds
Brahma lives for 100 years, corresponding to motion of time in Satya Loka which differs from 100 years of Earth. He performs his duties in the morning and retires to bed in the evening. When Brahma falls asleep, energy forces are withdrawn from three Lokas namely Bhu, Bhuvah, and Suvah Lokas causing its dissolution. These three Lokas, at this phase are submerged underwater. This Pralaya or dissolution is named Avantara Pralaya or Naimittika Pralaya.
Mahar loka which ranks the 4th position in the strata of the 7 higher worlds, is vacated wherein its inhabitants transcend to the 5th loka named Jana loka.
In simple terms, when Brahma falls asleep, Mahar loka is not destroyed but is instead left empty. Jana loka occupies the inhabitants of Mahar Loka.
4 types of Pralaya
Now there are 4 types of Pralaya (or dissolution) namely:
1) nitya pralaya: This is the end of a lifetime of a jiva. Birth and Death are its determining units. In Nitya pralaya, the body is left to destroy and the soul has to occupy a new body. This pralay applies only for the body of the person and not the soul. Transmigrating, that is when the soul travels from one body to another is called laya. Nitya pralaya is bound to occur if one has a body or is born on the earthly, material plane. He gets a body according to his Karmas.
2) naimittika pralaya: The Pralaya (submergence of Bhu, Bhuvaha and Suvaha Lokas) which is born out of some reason (Brahma falling asleep). It causes partial destruction as the submerged lokas revive with the rise of Brahma from bed. It is temporary dissolution that occurred due to a secondary reason.
3) prākṛta pralaya: This marks the dissolution of Brahma and the entire universe merges with the form of the Lord, Brahman. The five elements and other fundamental ingredients that aid the creation process also get destroyed with the approach of prākṛta pralaya.
4) ātyantika pralaya: This marks the attainment of Moksha. In the above mentioned Pralayas, creation begun with the revival of Brahma and ended with the dissolution of Brahma. But, ātyantika pralaya is an individual attainment of the jiva. It is Vaikuntha prapti, where one is relived from the cycle of temporary births and deaths. One no longer requires a body to exist as his eternal form is attained and the jiva resides in the spiritual planet of Lord Narayana. This Pralaya destroys all past accounts of Karma be it Papa or Punya and grants individuals the service of the Supreme Lord.
An interesting thing to note will be that the first nitya pralaya and the last ātyantika pralaya centre on individual attainments and does not deal with the cosmic dissolution process.