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The Nārāyaṇīya of Mahābhārata Śānti Parva – Part 1

The Nārāyaṇīya is a Pañcarātra text occuring in Mahābhārata’s Śānti Parva (Moḳsa-dharma sub-parva). These form the last 19 chapters of Śānti Parva. They discuss the supremacy of Lord Viṣṇu, His various vyūhas and the importance of jñāna-bhakti towards Him. The conversation starts with Yudhiṣṭhira questioning grandsire Bhīṣma lying on his bed of arrows. It ends with Caturmukha-Brahmā answering Rudra about the supreme Puruṣa.

Since there are different recensions of Mahābhārata, here I enumerate the relavant sections:

In the version that I’m going to translate here, the first verse of the first chapter of Nārāyaṇīya is thus (Yudhiṣṭhira addressing Bhīṣma):

   yudhiṣṭhira uvāca
gṛhasthō brahmacārī vā vānaprasthōʼtha bhikṣukaḥ
ya icchēt siddhimāsthātuṃ dēvatāṃ kāṃ yajēta saḥ

The first verse of the last chapter is thus (Brahmā addressing Rudra):

   brahmōvāca
śṛnu putra yathā hyēkaḥ puruṣaḥ śāśvatōʼvyayaḥ
akṣayaścāpramēyaśca sarvagaśca nirucyatē

The entire Śānti Parva ends with the last chapter of Nārāyaṇīya (12.339) in PPS Sastri’s edition. However, all the other editions continue with many more chapters after the Nārāyaṇīya (Ucchravṛtti-upākhyāna, etc). Not only that, even the starting chapters are different. BORI and Sastri explicitly mention the start of the Nārāyaṇīya with the Yudhiṣṭhira’s verse, as above. Kumbakonam edition, however, suggests its 12.344 chapter as the first chapter of Nārāyaṇīya (it ends with … nārāyaṇīyē … unlike 12.343). Similarly, Gita Press suggests its 12.335 as the first chapter of Nārāyaṇīya (it also ends the chapter with … nārāyaṇīyē … unlike 12.334). BORI, Gita Press and Nilakantha explicitly mention that the last chapter of Nārāyaṇīya is the Brahma-Rudra conversation, as above.

My enumeration of verses closely follows the southern recensions (PPS Sastri > Kumbakonam > BORI > Geeta Press). The order of resolution is as follows:

Chapter 1

   yudhiṣṭhira uvāca
gṛhasthō brahmacārī vā vānaprasthōʼtha bhikṣukaḥ
ya icchēt siddhimāsthātuṃ dēvatāṃ kāṃ yajēta saḥ /1.1/

Yudhiṣṭhira said: O Pitāmaha! Which divinity (dēvatā) should the members of the four āśramas (gṛhastha, brahmacārī, vānaprastha and bhikṣuka) worship, if one desires to attain siddhi ?

kutō hyasya dhruvaḥ svargaḥ kutō naiḥ śrēyasaṃ param
vidhinā kēna juhuyād daivaṃ pitryam tathaiva ca /*1.2/

muktaśca kāṃ gatiṃ gacchēn mokṣaścaiva kimātmakaḥ
svargataścaiva kiṃ kuryād yēna na cyavatē divaḥ /1.3/

dēvatānāṃ ca kō dēvaḥ pitṝṇāṃ ca pitā tathā
tasmāt parataraṃ yacca tanmē brūhi pitāmaha /1.4/

   bhīṣma uvāca
gūḍhaṃ māṃ praśnavit praśnaṃ pṛcchasē tvamihānagha
na hyētad anyathā śakyaṃ vaktuṃ varṣaśatairapi /*1.5/

tarkayā śakyaṃ should probably read tarkēṇa śakyaṃ because tarka is masculine and the former is a feminine form. Sastri, therefore, renders it as anyathā śakyaṃ

ṛtē dēvaprasādād vā rājañ jñānāgamēna vā
gahanaṃ hyētadākhyānaṃ vyākhyātavyaṃ tavārihan /1.6/

atrāpyudāharantīmam itihāsaṃ purātanam
nāradasya ca saṃvādam ṛṣērnārāyaṇasya ca /1.7/

nārāyaṇō hi viśvātmā caturmūrtiḥ sanātanaḥ
dharmātmajaḥ sambabhūva pitaivaṃ mēʼbhyabhāṣata /1.8/

kṛtē yugē mahārāja purā svāyambhuvēʼntarē
narō nārāyaṇaścaiva hariḥ kṛṣṇastathaiva ca /1.9/

tēṣāṃ nārāyaṇanarau tapastēpaturavyayau
badaryāśramamāsādya śakaṭē kanakāmayē /1.10/

aṣṭacakraṃ hi tadyānaṃ bhūtayuktaṃ manōramam
tatrādau lōkanāthau tau kṛśau dhamanisantatau /1.11/

tapasā tējasā caiva durnirīkṣyau surairapi
yasya prasādaṃ kurvātē sa dēvau draṣṭumarhati /1.12/

nūnaṃ tayōranumatē hṛdi hṛcchayacōditaḥ
mahāmērōḥ girēḥ śṛṅgāt pracyutō gandhamādanam /1.13/

nāradaḥ sumahadbhūtaṃ sarvā̆llōkānacīcarat
taṃ dēśamagamadrājan badaryāśramamāśugaḥ /1.14/

tayōrāhnikavēlāyāṃ tasya kautūhalaṃ tvabhūt
idaṃ tadāspadaṃ kṛtsnaṃ yasmĭllōkāḥ pratiṣṭhitāḥ /1.15/

sadēvāsuragandharvāḥ sakinnaramahōragāḥ
ēkā mūrtiriyaṃ pūrvaṃ jātā bhūyaścaturvidhā /*1.16/

dharmasya kulasantānē dharmādebhir vivardhitaḥ
ahō hyanugṛhītōʼdya dharma ēbhiḥ surairiha /*1.17/

naranārāyaṇābhyāṃ ca kṛṣēṇa hariṇā tathā
tatra kṛṣṇō hariścaiva kasminścit kāraṇāntarē /1.18/

sthitau dharmottarau hyētau tapasi dhiṣṭhitau
ētau hi paramaṃ dhāma kāʼnayōrāhnikakriyā /*1.19/

pitarau sarvabhūtānāṃ daivataṃ ca yaśasvinau
kāṃ dēvatāṃ tu yajataḥ pitṝn va kān mahāmatī /1.20/

iti sañcintya manasā bhaktyā nārāyaṇasya ha
sahasā prādurabhavat samīpē dēvayōstadā /1.21/

kṛtē daiva ca pitryē ca tatastābhyāṃ nirīkṣitaḥ
pūjitaścaiva vidhinā yathāprōktēna śāstrataḥ /1.22/

tad dṛṣṭvā mahadāścaryam apūrvaṃ vidhivistaram
upōpaviṣṭaḥ suprītō nāradō bhagavānṛṣiḥ /1.23/

nārāyaṇaṃ saṃnirīkṣya prasannēnāntarātmanā
namaskṛtya mahādēvam idaṃ vacanamabravīt /1.24/

   nārada uvāca
vēdēṣu sapurāṇēṣu sāṅgōpāṅgēṣu gīyasē
tvamajaḥ śāśvatō dhātā vidhātā mṛtyuruttamaḥ /*1.25/

pratiṣṭhitam bhūtabhavyaṃ tvayi sarvamidaṃ jagat
catvārō hyāśramā dēvā sarvē gārhasthamūlakāḥ /1.26/

yajantē tvāmaharar nānāmūrtisamāsthitam
pitā mātā ca sarvasya daivataṃ tvaṃ ca śāśvatam /*1.27/

kaṃ tvadya yajasē dēvaṃ pitaraṃ kaṃ na vidmahē
kamarcasi mahābhāga tanmē brūhīha pṛcchataḥ /*1.28/

   bhagavān uvāca
avācyamētad vaktavyam ātmaguhyaṃ sanātanam
tava bhaktimatō brahman vakṣyāmi tu yathātatham /1.29/

yat tat sūkṣmamavijñēyam avyaktamacalaṃ dhruvam
indriyairindriyārthaiśca sarvabhūtaiśca varjitam /1.30/

sa hyantarātmā bhūtānāṃ kṣētrajñaścēti kathyatē
triguṇavyatiriktōʼsau puruṣaścēti kalpitaḥ /*1.31/

tasmādavyaktamutpannaṃ triguṇaṃ dvijasattama
avyaktāvyaktabhāvasthā yā sā prakṛtiravyayā /1.32/

tāṃ yōnimāvayōrvṛddhi yōʼsau sadasadātmakaḥ
āvābhyāṃ pūjyatē sōʼtha daive pitryē ca kalpitē /1.33/

nāsti tasmāt parōʼnyō hi pitā dēvōʼtha vā dvija
ātmā hi nau sa vijñēyaḥ tatastaṃ pūjayāvahē /1.34/

tēnaiva sthāpitā brahman maryādā lōkabhāvinī
daivaṃ pitryaṃ ca kartavyam iti tasyānuśāsanam /*1.35/

brahmā sthāṇurmanurdakṣō bhṛgurdharmastapō damaḥ
marīciraṅgirā atriḥ pulastyaḥ pulahaḥ kratuḥ /*1.36/

vasiṣṭhaḥ paramēṣṭhī ca vivasvān sōma ēva ca
kardamaścāpi yaḥ prōktaḥ krōdhō vikrīta eva ca /*1.37/

vikṛti and vikrīta are the same (as per Monier Williams). krōdhō vikrīta is wrong because krōdha is not mentioned as Prajāpati anywhere.

ēkatō dvita eva ca is wrong because what about Trita ? He’s also one of the three Āptyas.

However, Kṛta is one of the Viśvēdēvas, also name of father of Uparicara, etc.

ekaviṃśatirutpannāḥ te prajāpatayaḥ smṛtāḥ
tasya dēvasya maryādāṃ pūjayanti sanātanīm /*1.38/

daivaṃ pitryaṃ ca satataṃ tasya vijñāya tattvataḥ
ātmaprāptāni ca tatō jānanti dvijasattamāḥ /*1.39/

svargasthā api yē kēcit tān namasyanti dēhinaḥ
tē tatprasādād gacchanti tēnādiṣṭaphalāṃ gatim /1.40/

yē hīnāḥ saptadaśabhir guṇaiḥ karmabhirēva ca
kalāḥ pañcadaśa tyaktvā tē muktā iti niścayaḥ /1.41/

muktānāṃ tu gatirbrahman kṣētrajña iti kalpitaḥ
sa hi sarvagatiścaiva nirguṇaścaiva kathyatē /*1.42/

dṛśyatē jñānayōgēna āvāṃ ca prasṛtau tataḥ
ēvaṃ jñātvā tamātmānaṃ pūjayāvaḥ sanātanam /1.43/

taṃ vēdāścāśramāścaiva nānātanusamāśritam
bhaktyā sampūjayantyādyaṃ gatiṃ caiṣāṃ dadāti saḥ /*1.44/

yē tu tadbhāvitā lōkē hyēkāntitvaṃ samāsthitāḥ
ētadabhyadhikaṃ tēṣāṃ yattē taṃ praviśantyuta /1.45/

iti guhyasamuddēśaḥ tava nārada kīrtitaḥ
bhaktyā prēmṇā ca viprarṣē asmad bhaktyā ca tē śrutaḥ /*1.46/