Markandeya Parva is the thirty seventh upa parva included in the third maha parva, named as Vana parva or Aranyaka parva in the epic Mahabharat. The original epic was composed by Vyasa in Sanskrit. Vyshampayana had narrated to Janamejaya the historical events, happened in the forests on his queries.

Who was Markandeaya Rishi, and what was his specialty?

Markandeya Rishi was a great devotee of God. God had blessed him with a boon to live for unlimited time on the Earth. Whenever God appeared by his incarnation, he could see him face to face and talk to him. When Krishna was born, he desired to visit him and found him lying on the leaf of a big banyan tree. When Krishna married Satyabhama and visited Yudhishtira at Kamyakavana, he wished to see the couple and hence visited there. He could remember many events, and he could continue to live for many Yuga periods. He was able to preserve his body himself during the Pralaya or world reshuffling, and it was his specialty.  

A painting by Raja Ravi Varma depicting Markandeya hugging the Shivalinga in devotion when Yama approaches Markandeya
A painting by Raja Ravi Varma depicting young Markandeya
Who were the people to hear the stories from Markandeya Rishi?

Markandeya Rishi was having many great experiences, since he had lived for many years, crossing many yuga periods. When Yudhishtira asked him about some historical events, he started narrating them, so Krishna with Satyabhama, Pandava brothers and many Rishis assembled there to hear his stories.

What did Vaivasvata Manu do as per Matsyaka Purana?

Vaivasvata Manu was sympathetic towards living creatures. That habit of his had saved his life during the holocaust or Pralaya. This was narrated under Matsya purana and Markandeya Rishi had seen the events.

Vaivasvata Manu had conducted penance for thousands of years. One day, after his routine penance, when he was offering evening prayers on the riverbank and performing the arghya pradana ritual with water in his hands, a small fish caught his attention and started to speak with him. The fish requested him to save its life, as it was being chased by bigger fishes that would eat it. He put the fish in a pot and gave food for it for a long time.

As he continued his penance the fish also grew, and later he arranged a big aquarium for its comfort. The fish had still grown in size and later he had to allot a big tank in the Ganga River water. Then it had started to advise him to build a small ship with stock of food grains for a few months. As per its advice, Vaivasvata Manu had lived in the ship with his family and one day pralaya happened, the ocean water by cyclone destroyed everything. The fish had pushed the ship to the top of Kailasa Mountain and he could see the sea water covered everywhere. The fish was safe under water.

Gradually, water had spared away and the ship was over the Mountain. The fish had given the instructions to create the universal items again. Then the fish told it was none other than Narayana or Vishnu and disappeared. Hence Vaivasvata Manu had started the creations again on this Earth. He was rewarded by glorifying his name for his sympathy. 

What was the story of Kuvalashva and Dhundhumara as told by Markandeya?

Markandeya Rishi had told the story of Kuvalashva and Dhundhumara. Kuvalashva was a king under Ikshvaku lineage. His father was Brihadashva, an efficient emperor famous for his rulings. When Kuvalashva had grown up, his father desired to go to the forest for the performance of penance. Hence he crowned Kuvalashva as the king for Ayodhya, relinquished his charges, abandoned his weapons and started towards the forest. Later, Kuvalashva had married and there were three children to him called Dhridashva, Kapilashva and Chandrashva.

Vishnu was taking rest over Adishesha and then the milky ocean was covered everywhere. Brahma had finished the creation of the twin demons Madhu and Kaitabha. Madhu Kaitabhas, due to the demon style of life and characters, started penance and pleased Brahma and received a boon as Shiva or any other angels would not be able to kill them. But they started to disturb Brahma then and

Brahma had become helpless. Brahma requested with Vishnu to do some plans to control these demons. Vishnu agreed and appeared before the demons. Madhu Kaitabhas were very egoistic and thought Vishnu could not do anything to them. But Vishnu with a pleasing fashion told them the truth as he is the God, they would be free to ask any boon of their choice. Arrogantly, the demons answered him let him ask the boon from Madhu Kaitabhas first and later they would ask with him.

Again, Vishnu with a pleasing fashion told them he had agreed and asked for the boon first as Madhu Kaitabhas should be killed by his hands with Sudarshana wheel. Suddenly, the demons understood their mistakes but they had to ask their boon now without a second thought. Madhu Kaitabhas were not married but they asked the boon as Vishnu should become their son with a name as Dhundhu. Immediately, Vishnu had laid them on his laps, hold his wheel on his hand and cut their heads easily. Brahma was happy and made Vishnu as their son with the name as Dhundhu.

But Dhundhu, due to the demon style of life and characters, started penance and pleased Brahma and received a boon as Shiva, or any other angels would not be able to kill him. But he started to disturb Brahma, Shiva and all others and then everybody had become helpless.

Uttanka had his Ujwalak Ashram over the desert place and Dhundhu was hiding under his Ashram in his free time. Dhundhu had started to disturb Uttanka also. When Brihadashva had started to forest for penance, Uttanka thought it would be better to use his services. But Brihadashwa expressed his disability as he had already abandoned weapons. Hence Brihadashwa could not kill Dhundhu. 

In the Ujwalak Ashram, Uttanka could provide education to the children of Kuvalashva.  Brihadashva had agreed for the idea and told Uttanka his son Kuvalashva would be killing the demon Dhundhu and his grandchildren would be attending his Ujwalak Ashram for education. 

Kuvalashva had arrived at the Ashram of Uttanka with his army and children. His children with his army men after digging the sand for seven days found Dhundhu. But the strong demon had killed and burnt the children of Kuvalashva. War had started between king Kuvalashva and the demon Dhundhu and Dhundhu was killed.

Brahma and Shiva appeared there and pleased to provide the boon to Kuvalashva. Kuvalashva had politely told the Gods he would be pleased to discharge his duties as per the orders of his father Brahadashva and God would bless to that effect only. Then as per the previous agreement Uttanka had to provide education to the children of Kuvalashva. 

When Dhundhu was killed by Kuvalashva, Vishnu had appeared in his true form. Since Kuvalashva had killed Dhundhu, he got a famous name as Dhundhumara. Vishnu was pleased to get back the burnt three children of Kuvalashva with the help of Shiva and Brahma. Later, they got good education from Uttanka Rishi.  Dhundhumara was treating his people as children Ikshvaku lineage continued later.

कुवलाश्वस्य पुत्राणां सहस्राण्येकविम्शतिः ।
सर्वे विद्यासु निष्णाता बलवन्तो दुरासदाः ॥

Meaning: All the twenty one thousand people of Kuvalashva were strong in health under his country and well educated in all required branches of knowledge.

What was the role of Dadichi Maharshi in the Diamond mace of Indra?

Indra was happy for a long time since no demon had attacked his heaven. Hence Indra thought to keep his diamond mace hidden somewhere safely. Dadichi Maharshi was very ascetic and no demon had dared to go near his Ashram. Indra approached Dadichi Maharshi and told him to deposit his diamond mace inside his Ashram. Later as and when required he would come and collect it. Rishi agreed.

Demons understood about the presence of Diamond mace of Indra in the Ashram of Dadichi Maharshi but they were waiting for his absence. Due to this, the Rishi could not move away from his Ashram. After thinking very much, he had dipped the diamond mace in his Kamandalu water and when it was fully dissolved he had drunk the ascetic water into his stomach. Then, the leader of demons was Vritra and he got the news. The leader of demons had declared a war on Indra.

Indra remembered about Dadichi Maharshi and visited his Ashram for the old diamond mace. Dadichi Maharshi told the truth and requested Indra to make a stronger diamond mace from the backbone of his body immediately when he attained yoga Samadhi. Indra agreed and appreciated Dadichi Maharshi for his sacrifice. With the new weapon, the demon Vritra was killed in the war. Dadichi Maharshi was a genuine Brahmin and there was no breach of confidence. 

What Markandeya told to Yudhishtira about Dharmavyadha?

Markadeya had told the life details of Dharmavyadha to Yudhishtira. Dharmavyadha was looking after his aged parents in the city of Mithila. He was an employee of a  retail seller of meat. In the early morning, he would go to the butcher and collect flesh of various animals from the whole seller for the day’s business of his shop owner and transport it to his shop. Then he would sit in the shop assisting his master till lunch break. During lunch break, he would go to his home, feed his parents first and later attend his shop after his own meals. His parents and himself were pure vegetarians. Only to support his family, he was working as a paid employee in the shop. He was an expert in Sanatana Dharma.  

What Markandeya told to Yudhishtira about Kaushika?

Kaushika was born as a prince to the son of a king of the Kshatriya varna and he wished to become a Brahma Rishi and hence continued his penance, mending his attitudes gradually, and practicing constantly. Even though Kaushika had dressed externally like a Brahmin, his internal attitudes were not suitable for a Rishi and disliked by others. Then Kaushika had understood his own deficiencies and he wished to be a sincere Brahmin in all respects and desired to meet a mentor. He met Dharmavyadha and after giving many explanations on many things, as a conclusion, Dharmavyadha told as follows:

शूद्रयोनौ हि जातस्य सद्गुणानुपतिष्ठतः ।
वैश्यत्वं भवति ब्रह्मन् क्षत्रियत्वं तथैव च ॥

Meaning: O Brahmin! Even though a person born as a Shudra, after the performances of the works with aptitudes related to virtues he could become a Vaishya as well as a Kshatriya, depending on the features.

आर्जवे वर्तमानस्य ब्राह्मण्यमभिजायते ।
गुणास्ते कीर्तिताः सर्वे किं भूयः श्रोतुमिच्चसि ॥

Meaning: With earnest aptitude, if one performed works of sathvika or good characters, one could become a Brahmin in current times and in all the character was emphasized.  What else more you wish to hear? 

What are the five permanent etiquette of a Brahmin as told by Dharmavyadha?
यज्ञो दानं तपो वेदाः सत्यं च द्विज सत्तम ।
पंचैतानि पवित्राणि  शिष्टाचारेषु नित्यदा ॥

Meaning: Ritual, donation, penance, vedas, truthfulness are the five permanent etiquette of a Brahmin, as told by Dharmavyadha. 

Later Kaushika had served his parents. After educating and crowning his son, he performed penance again for many years and had become Brahma Rishi.

Why this upa parva is sometimes called as Markandeya Samasya?

Yudhishtira had requested to narrate the stories of any ladies of austerity. Samasya means riddle in Sanskrit. Markandaya Rishi had lived across many yuga periods and he had eye witnessed many events. His stories were valued with high moral lessons, and the events were like riddles. 

Draupadi and Satyabhama were ladies in the audience and then moved to the private room for private discussions. Both of them were famous for austerities and hence Markandeya assured the Pandavas and Krishna he would narrate the story of another lady, Savitri, famous for austerity. Due to all these reasons, sometimes this upa parva is also called as Samasya.   

On reading this story, children would gain more memory power.

Next post, Mahabharat: Draupadi Sathyabhama would be more interesting.

Mahabharat: Ghoshayatra would be presented separately in another article.

It is humbly prayed for the blessings of God Krishna upon us. 

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