LOMAHARSHANA AND THE OTHER SAGES
King Adhisima Krishna (alternatively, Asima Krishna) ruled the earth well. During his reign, several sages organized a yajna (sacrifice) on the banks of the sacred river Drishadvati. The river flowed through the region that was known as Kurukshetra.
The sacrifice went on for a very long time and the sage Lomaharshana came to visit the sages who were conducting the ceremony. Lomaharshana was so named because his recitals thrilled (harshana) the body-hair (loma) of his listeners. Lomaharshana was the disciple of the great sage Vedavyasa and had learnt the Puranas from his teacher. He was also well-versed in the Vedas and in the stories of the Mahabharata. As soon as Lomaharshana arrived, the other sages greeted him warmly. Lomaharshana greeted them in return. The assembled sages told Lomaharshana, ―Great Suta, we are gratified that you have decided to grace our ceremony by your august presence. This is an auspicious occasion for telling us the stories of the Puranas. You have learnt them from the great Vedavyasa himself. Please recite the Puranas and slake our thirst for knowledge.‖
Lomaharshana belonged to the suta class. A suta was the son of a kshatriya (the second of the four classes) mother. Looking after horses and acting as charioteers were occupations that were prescribed for sutas. In addition, they sung the glories of kings. The accounts of the Puranas state that sutas were first born when the great king Pirthu organized a yajna. They accordingly became
raconteurs of the great deeds of Prithu, and thereafter, of all kings. They also recited the stories of the Puranas.
―I am a suta,‖ replied Lomaharshana. ―It is therefore my duty to recite the Puranas. You have asked me to do that which is my duty. I shall gladly accede to your request.‖
The ancestors (pitri) had a daughter named Vasavi. She was cursed that she would be born as a fish. This fish had a daughter. The great Vedavyasa was born as Satyavati‘s son. Vedavyasa learnt the Vedas from the great sage Jatukarna. He also composed the Mahabharata and the Puranas.
―I have learnt the Puranas from Vedvyasa,‖ continued Lomaharshana. ―There were several sages who lived in the forest known as Naimisharanya. They requested the wind-god Vayu to tell them the answers to many questions. Vayu‘s replies constitute the Vayu Purana and this is the text that I shall recite for your benefit. It is the most sacred of all the Puranas and is full of wisdom.‖
―What is this business of Vayu reciting the Purana to the sages of Naimisharanya?‖ asked the assembled sages. ―We are not aware of it. Please tell us about it first.‖ Lomaharshana complied. Naimisharanya forest is on the banks of the river Gomati. At a time when King Pururava used to rule the earth, many sages organized a yajna in Naimisharanya. The chief priest at this ceremony was Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, and the ceremony went on for twelve long years. When the ceremony was over, the wind-god Vayu recited the Vayu Purana to the sages. In reciting the text, Lomaharashana began with the account of the creation.
In the beginning, there was nothing in the universe. The brahman (the divine essence) alone was everywhere. The brahman had neither colour nor scent, it could not be felt or touched. It had no origin, no beginning or no end. The brahman was constant and it was the origin of everything that was destined to be in the universe and the universe was shrouded in darkness. When it was time for creation to begin, the brahman divided itself into three. The first part became Brahma, the creator of the universe. The second part was Vishnu, the preserver of the universe. And the third part was Shiva, the destroyer.
At the time of creation, water appeared in the universe and the water was everywhere. In the water was created a golden (hiranya) egg (anda) that floated like a gigantic bubble. Brahma was born inside the egg. Since garbha means womb, Brahma came to be known as Hiranyagarbha. Since he effectively created (bhu) himself (svayam), he is also referred to as Svayambhu. Brahma had four faces. Also inside the egg were all the worlds (lokas) that would be created, in embryonic form. The earth was there, with its land, mountains, oceans and rivers. The moon, the sun, the stars and the planets were there. Also present were gods, demons, humans and other living beings who would be created. This was the original creation of the universe (sarga).
But at the end of one of Brahma‘s days, a minor destruction takes place. The universe is once again flooded with water during Brahma‘s night. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are not however destroyed. Each of Brahma‘s days is known as a kalpa (cycle). Thus, a minor destruction takes
place at the end of every kalpa. When a new day dawns for Brahma, creation begins afresh. This periodical process of destruction (pralaya) and re-creation is known as pratisarga. The present kalpa is known as varaha kalpa. ―Why is the present kalpa known as the varaha kalpa?‖ asked the sages. Lomaharashana told them the story of Vishnu‘s boar (varaha) incarnation.
At the end of the last kalpa, there was a destruction and the universe was flooded with water. Vishnu slept on the water as long as Brahma‘s night lasted. Since nara means water and anyana means resting-place. Vishnu is accordingly known as Narayana.
When Brahma‘s day dawned, he wished to embark on the process of creration. But where would the created beings live? There was no earth for them to live on. The earth had been submerged under the water. Vishnu therefore adopted the form of a huge boar (varaha). The boar‘s body was as large as a mountain and it had gigantic tusks that were exceedingly sharp. The eyes of the boar blazed like lightning and its roar thundered like the clouds. As a boar, Vishnu entered the water and began to search for the earth. He found the submerged earth and raised it up to its proper place on the tusks of the boar. The earth began to float on the water like a huge boat.