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Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) :: Conto 5

The Nether Worlds

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Srimad Bhagavatam » Conto 5   

 The Nether Worlds

(1) S'rî S'uka said: 'Some people defend that countless yojanas ['ten thousand'] below the sun [the demon] Râhu is found who rotates in the sky just like the stars. O King, I will expound later on the birth and activities of this lowest of the ignorant ones, [Râhu] the son of Simhikâ, who personally by the grace of the Supreme Lord achieved this status of immortality in occupying the position of a leading planet, while he never qualified for the position [see also 6.6: 37 and 8.9: 23-26]. (2) They declare that the sun has a width of ten thousand yojanas, that the moon is twenty thousand yojanas wide, that Râhu is thirteen thousand yojanas large [compare 5.21: 15] and that it occasionally, with inimical intentions overruling the influence of the sun god and the moon god, obstructs the distribution of the rays of the moon and the sun. (3) The Supreme Lord who is there for the protection of both [these divinities] operates by the supreme presence of the wheel of Time [the Sudars'ana Cakra]. This disc is deemed the most dear, most devoted and favorite weapon that by its power and unbearable heat makes Râhu, with a mind full of fear and a bewildered heart, flee far away from that position wherein he resides for almost an hour and which by the people is called an eclipse.

(4) At an equal distance beneath it [compare 5.22: 8] there are the residential places of the perfected ones, the venerable ones of the Veda and the ones founded in knowledge [the Siddhas, Câranas and Vidyâdharas]. (5) Below of them there are the places of sense gratification of the mad, the possessed, the demoniac and more of such beings [the Yakshas, Râkshasas and Pis'âcas], that stretch out as far as the wind blows the clouds that one sees in the sky. (6) Beneath the atmosphere that is a hundred yojanas thick and reaches as high as swans, vultures, eagles and other birds of size can fly, there is this earth [according to modern measurements the normal, increasingly thinner atmosphere reaches up to a 100 km above the earth].

(7) Formerly I discussed the planet earth and the division of its different realms [see 2.1: 26-27]. Below the earth are situated seven other planets of the same width and length named Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talâtala, Mahâtala, Rasâtala and Pâtâla [the nether worlds], that one behind the other are positioned [up to the edge of the universe] with intervals of ten thousand yojanas. (8) In these worldly holes ambitious for heaven there is a greater lust experience and enrapture about wealth than in the higher worlds. Equiped with all thinkable luxuries the houses and gardens offer to the demons, ghosts and snakes living there a better opportunity for sense gratification. Always overjoyed in the attachment to their wives, children, family, friends and followers, the masters of the households who live in an illusory heaven, are even better capable of an unimpeded fulfillment of their desires than the godly ones who are of self control.  (9)  Maya [the architect of the Daityas] my dear King, has there, with faithless trickery and a plethora of rich ornamentation, built cities surrounded by walls with gates full of excellently constructed, wonderful houses, offices, halls, schools and public facilities. The leaders and landowners of those artificial worlds shining brightly with their decorations, occupy the best houses there which are crowded by snakelike, godless couples and pigeons, parrots and mynas [eastern starlings]. (10) The gardens and parks that are most appealing to the mind and senses, pleasure with their masses of flowers and fruits hanging from the branches of the trees which, embraced by creepers, nicely bend low being pulled by gravity. The sensual enjoyment is invoked by a magnificence which surpasses the beauty of the residential places of the godly: the variety of birds that in pairs frequent the ponds filled with sparkling clear water restless with jumping fish, the lotus flowers in those waters, the lilies, the kuvalaya and kahlâra flowers, the blue and red lotuses, giant lotuses with thousands of petals and the uninterrupted joyous sound of all the kinds of sweetly vibrating birds who built their nests in the forests. (11) There one assuredly is of no concern about the divisions of time relative to the changes of night and day [as observed with sundials and lunar phases]. (12) All darkness there is driven away by the best of gems situated on the hoods of the great serpents living there. (13) Nor do the residents who eat, drink and bathe there with miraculous [curative] herbs, juices and elixirs, worry about diseases, mental troubles, attaining old age, having wrinkles, gray hair, etc. or about the miseries of losing strength with a fading luster, bad smelling perspiration, fatigue or a lack of energy. (14) No other cause of death than the almighty wheel of Time in the form of His disc weapon is capable of influencing them in any way. (15) It is practically always out of fear for the Lord His cakra order [the compelling natural order of time] that the wives of the godless ones lose their fetuses in miscarriages.

(16) Now then, in the world of Atala, Bala the godless son of Maya resides who propagated ninety-six types of trickery, some of which even today are used by expert cheaters. From his yawning mouth the svairinî [class exclusive], kâminî [class indifferent] and pums'calî [promiscuous] types of women sprouted who desirous with glances, smiles, talks, embraces and the juice of an intoxicating herb called hâthaka [cannabis indica], for their sexual pleasure warm up any man who entered the nether worlds. One says that a man under the influence of this herb full of pride and conceited thinks of himself as 'I am the ruler' and 'I am as strong as a thousand elephants'.

(17) One world lower, in Vitala, Lord S'iva surrounded by his ghostly associates resides as Hâthakes'vara, the master of gold, in sexual union with his wife Bhavânî in order to increase the population of Brahmâ's creation. From the fluids of their union the great river named the Hâthakî flows, drinking of which the fire god, by the wind being brightly inflamed with great strength, hissing spits out the gold called Hâthaka of use for the ornaments worn by the men and women populating the homes of the great Asuras.

(18) Beneath that world on Sutala one finds the greatly celebrated, most pious and spiritually advanced son of Virocana, Bali Mahârâja. To please king Indra, the Supreme Lord taking birth from Aditi assumed the body of a vâmana, a dwarf. It was by the causeless mercy of the Supreme Lord who wrested away from him the three worlds, that even today he in his devotional service remains fearless unto Him, the most venerable Supreme Personality. He was blessed with the good fortune of regaining an opulence not even known to the gods of Indra's heaven. (19) This was certainly not the direct result of donating with faith, great respect and an attentive mind his lands. Approaching the topmost one, the Supreme Lord who is the most worthy recipient and best place of pilgrimage, who is the life, heart and Supersoul of the countless living beings Lord Vâsudeva, gave him direct access to the liberation that resulted in the opulence of the nether imitation of heaven. (20) The person who helplessly, starved, fallen down or stumbling utters His name but once will be completely freed from the bond of fruitive labor, the karma that in all other cases constitutes an inevitable stumbling block for anyone who tries to find liberation. (21) He, giving Himself without reservation to great devotees and self-realized persons, is the Supreme Soul of all, the Paramâtmâ. (22) It is thus not because of the material opulence which certainly extends with Him, that the Supreme Personality especially unto Bali showed His favor. He was as graceful because [of fighting] mâyâ, the material bewilderment that steals away the remembrance of the Soul. (23) To the occasion of what was done by the difficult by other means to perceive Supreme Lord - viz. His seizing the three worlds by means of the trick of begging [three steps of land] so that Bali was left with nothing but his body which bound with the ropes of Varuna was detained in a mountain cave - Bali then said: (24) 'How regrettable it is indeed that this very learned and to his self-interest most experienced Indra of Heaven who chose Brihaspati for his prime minister and one preceptor, ignored him with the Lord in the form of Upendra [Lord Vâmana] begging for my blessings [in the form of three steps of land]. I who with neglect for the certainty of the actual blessings of serving the ever lasting reality of Him, desired for himself the three worlds the value of which is lost in a manvantara [an age of Manu]! (25) When his father was killed by the Supreme Lord [Nrisimhadev] our grandfather [Prahlâda] asked for nothing but the permission to serve Him and not for the inheritance offered to him of the position of his father who feared no one [the kingdom of Hiranyakas'ipu]. (26) What materially contaminated person deprived of the Supreme Lord His mercy can hope to follow the path of that great believer?' (27) Later on I will in the story about him [in canto eight] explain how the Supreme Lord [Vâmanadeva] as the master of the three worlds, as Nârâyana in person, with an always graceful heart towards His devotees stands at Bali's gate with the club in His hand, He who with the big toe of His foot kicked the ten headed demon [known as Râvana] a hundred million yojanas away when he wanted to conquer the world.

(28) Below Sutala in the world of Talâtala the dânava [demon] king named Maya rules. His cities were burned by the almighty Tripurâri [S'iva], the lord of the three cities, who desired the welfare of the three worlds. But he as the master and teacher of all sorcery by his grace obtained a kingdom. Thus being protected by Mahâdeva [the great god who is S'iva] he thinks he has nothing to fear from the Sudars'ana Cakra [the presence of the Lord in the form of Time] which [with clocks and calendars] is worshiped [in all worlds].

(29) Beneath that world there is the world of Mahâtala which belongs to the descendants of Kadrû who have a reputation as a bunch of ever angry, many hooded, cruel snake types, as there are the notorious Kuhaka, Takshaka, Kâlya and Sushena. Addicted to sensual pleasures, they are constantly afraid of the king of all birds [Garuda], the carrier of the Original Personality, who sometimes infuriates them when they are sporting together with their wives, children, friends and relatives.

(30) Situated below that world again there is Rasâtala, the world of the Daityas and Dânavas [the evil minded sons of Diti and Danu] named the Panis [who are divided in] the Nivâta-kavacas, the Kâleyas and the Hiranya-puravâsîs. They are the very cruel and greatly powerful natural enemies of the demigods and are, despite of their strength and pride, inevitably defeated by the might of [the disc weapon of] the Supreme Lord Hari who is so full of mercy for all the worlds. Living like the snakes they are afraid of the [threatening] Vedic mantras uttered by [the bitch] Saramayâ that once was sent there by the King of Heaven Indra.

(31) Below that world there is Pâtâla, the world of the master snakes. Lead by Vâsuki there are S'ankha, Kulika, Mahâs'ankha, S'veta, Dhanañjaya, Dhritarâshthra, S'ankhacûda, Kambala, As'vatara, Devadatta and so on. Most addicted to material happiness they all live with the shortest temper. They have five, seven, ten, a hundred or a thousand hoods, with on their crests fixed the most valuable gems the effulgence of which disperses the vast darkness of the caves of Pâtâla.'

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SOURCE: Translation: Anand Aadhar Prabhu, http://bhagavata.org/

Production: the Filognostic Association of The Order of Time, with special thanks to Sakhya Devi Dasi for proofreading and correcting the manuscript. http://theorderoftime.com/info/guests-friends.html

The sourcetexts, illustrations and music to this translation one can find following the links from: http://bhagavata.org/