Introduction to Srimad Bhagavatham


Srimad Bhagavataham, a little Introduction:


Reference in Padma Puranam:

Srimad Padma Purana, written by Devarshi Krishna Dvaipayana Veda Vyasa, the greatest Poet Sage of Vedic Wisdom, and the son of Maharshi Parasara and Sathyavathy, contains the glories of Srimad Bhagavatham, amidst the description of the period when the world was once a Golden lotus. So many beautiful stories are there in Padma Puranam. People used to say that we must read Padma Purana first and then Srimad Bhagavatha. Padma purana contains 55,000 slokas in 5 parts such as Srishtikhand, Bhoomikhand, Swargakhand, Pathalakhand and Utharakhand. Sage Lomaharsha revealed the contents of all the Puranas to his son, Ugrashravas or Suta Pouranika. He was then sent to Naimisharanya to spread them among the Sages assembled there for doing penance for thousand years for the welfare of the whole world. Suta Pouranika said that Padma Purana was originally narrated to  Brahma Dev by Lord Vishnu and thereafter transcended from hand to hand to  various great Mahathmas and thus it is being propagated to the whole world. It is in Padma Purana that it is laid down that Bhagavan deposited all His ‘Tejas’ or Effulgence  in Srimad Bhagavatham at the end of Krishnavathara.

Srimad Bhagavatham is also written by the same Vyasa Bhagavan. We all know about the ‘Ulppathy’ or origin of Srimad Bhagavatham. Bhagavatham is essentially the natural commentary of Vedanta Sutras, full of Vedic Truths, transcended from Lord Maha Vishnu. It includes the life and teachings of Lord Krishna, amidst His innumerable avataras and Leelas, wherein the Lord takes a particular form for a given purpose, at a given time and place. Indeed Srimad Bhagavatham is the path way to Reality, which can be defined as that which does not undergo any change whatsoever in all the three periods of time namely, the past, the present and the future. It takes us to Absolute Truth or Brahman. The most wanted prerequisite to spiritual advancement is Faith; we must be faithful to our word, deed and God. Srimad Bhagavatham teaches us how we can become Bhkthas simply by Nama Sankeerthan alone.

Bhagavat Gita extols:

‘Dhanyathmani pasyanthi, kechidalmana,malmanad’,

meaning :

We must meditate up on God, for only meditation refines our intellect and expands it to realize the Supreme Spirit that dwells in every human being. It is meditation which can lift us from the mundane existence or Prakrti to attain one’s true self or ‘Purush’ or the inner consciousness, which is nothing but the manifestation of Divine –Self. The Vedanta Sutras as enshrined in Srimad Bhagavatham, are  based on five Principles. The first one is Iswara, Bhagavan or God or the Supreme personality of God-head. The second Principle is Jeeva, the individual living entity or Spirit-Soul. The third is Prakrti or matter. The forth is Kala or Time, and the fifth and last Principle is Karma or Action. Bhagavatham is said to be a Maha Puranam.

Maha Puranam:

The word ‘Puranam’ literally means ‘narratives of ancient times’. Puranas are books of mythology. They reflect the social, political, religious, and artistic culture of India. The universal truth of devotion, justice and generosity portrayed by the role models in the ancient Indian context hold the same significance today. The narratives, therefore, create deep impressions in our minds.  The puranic stories reveal that before every incarnation, there is a collective appeal to the Lord in the form of prayers from the good people aswell as Devas. They seek the Lord’s help to re-establish Dharma, after killing the wicked people. These prayers become the ‘punya’, because of which the lord assumes a particular form for a particular purpose. Ithihasas are epics or history. Really speaking both Puranas, like the 18 main ones including Srimad Bhagavatha, which is really mythohistorical,  and ithihasas, like Ramayana and Mahabharatha, are the practical parts of Vedas. Vedas are truly theoretical. They both combine to make our Scriptures rich and great.

Puranas are expected to have ‘Pancha Lakshanas’ or 5 lakshanas or definite Parmeters, such as :

“Sargascha ,prathisargascha, vamso, manvantharanicha,

Vamsanucharitham, chaiva lakshananamthu panchakam”.

But Srimad Bhagavatham is ‘Dasa lakshana’. It has 5 more lakshanas.

Thus the total 10 lakshanas are :

1.    Sargas, consisting of creations, ie the ulppathi of Jagath or the origin of Jgath.

  1. Prathisargas,(Cosmogony)containing extension of subsequent creations and the            Pralayas.
  2. Vamsas, describing the details of lineage or family tree, so to say
  3. Sthanam, or description of the sustenance or existence of the Jagath.
  4. Poshanam, describibg the Grace and Compassion of God in respect of prospects of Jagath or Abhivrdhi of Jagath. (Jagadabhivrdhi)
  5. Uthayas or Uthis, depicting the latent impressions leading to Karma, Karma Vasana, and its strength and sagacity.
  6. Manvanthara,(Cosmology) or the origin of Manu and its description consisting of history of dynasties called Vamsanucharitham(Chronology)
  7. Ishanukatha, consisting of  stories extolling the glories of various Raja Vamsas and different Avataras of God
  8. Nirodh, describing the various paths for getting Atma Jnana, by destroying the Ahamkaras that stand on its way, and finally,
  9. Mukthi or Liberation, the returning to God to become one with the Asraya or the Lord Himself.  …‘Bhakthya Bhagavatham Jneyam’.

The Crown Jewel:

Srimad Bhagavatham is the ‘Crown Jewel’ of  Bhakthi Mahatmya. It is also said to be the ‘Vedasarasarvaswam’. It is written in the form of poetry. Also, as we explore we can see great heroes and heroines of the Indian culture and tradition, like, to mention a few, Dhruva, Prahlada, Harischandra, Viswamitra, Bhagiratha, Krishna, Kunti, Bhishma etc. They are still the role models for the Indian people. The subjects treated are those of Devatas, Dharma, Cosmology, Art etc.

Srimad  Bhagavatham, as already said, is originated from Lord Sree Maha Vishnu. He gave it to Lord Brahma in the form of 4 Slokas or ‘Chathusloki’. We can still see these 4 Slokas from 33 to 36 in Chapter 9 of the 2nd Canto (Skanda) in our Bhagavatham. This Chathusloki is said to contain the quintessence of Vedas. Lord Brahma passed it on to Brahmarshi Narada. He handed over it to Brahmarshi Veda Vyasa, who made 18,000 slokas out of the original 4 slokas of Lord Sree Maha Vishnu. He divided these 18,000 Slokas into 12 cantos (Skandas), consisting altogether 335 Chapters. Brhmarshi Veda vyasa taught it to his son Shuka deva, who handed it over to King Pareekshit. Some more transfer stories are there regarding the origin of Srimad Bhagavatham, as said by Shuka deva in some other contexts, like, Sanmkarshana Moorthy, passed it on to Sanatkumaras, they in turn gave it to Maharshi Samkhyana, and Brihaspathy, who gave it to Sage Parasara , then Parasara transferred it to his disciple Mythreya, who gave it to his disciple  Vidura etc. When the whole Bhagavatha is narrated to the listeners in the course of 7 days, it is called ‘Bhagavatha Sapthaha.  Shuka deva conducted the first Bhagavatha Sapthaha, 30 years after Sri Krishna’s Swargarohana. After 200 years, Gokarna , a true Brahmin Devotee, conducted the 2nd Sapthaha. 30 years after that, the 3rd Sapthaha was conducted by  the Sanaka brothers. Hundreds of thousands of Sapthahas are conducted ever since and they are being still conducted in throughout the world. ‘Sapthaha Vidhi’ lays down how it should be conducted and it narrates its Mahatmyam (merits) aswell.

It is also said that Adisesha spread Bhagavata in Patala (Present UP); Brihaspathy in Swarga (Heaven); Sage Parasara on the Earth; and the 4 Sanatkumaras (Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana, and Sanatkumara ), beyond the worlds of Swarga.

Index of contents:

The first 6 Chapters are exclusively earmarked to extol Bhagavata Mahatmyam, or the merits of Srimad  Bhagavatham and the Sapthaha Vidhi etc. In the 12 Cantos (Skandas), various stories including the glories of Sri Hari are vividly described. Canto wise breakup with some important topics can be summarized as follows:

The 1st Canto, known as Adhikari Skanda , consists, mainly among other things, of the details of Puranas, who made them and who are eligible to listen to them, Kunthi Sthuthi , Bhishma Sthuthi etc. This Canto has 19 Chapters.

The 2nd Canto, known as Sadhana Skanda, describes Lord’s Leelas, the means for getting God’s blessings, the Cosmic manifestation etc. It has 10 chapters.

In Padma Puranam it is laid down that the 1st and 2nd Cantos together represent the Lotus Feet of the Lord.

The 3rd Canto describes the various principles and the immense diversity in the creations. It consists of 33 chapters.

The 4th Canto, known as ‘Purusharthas’ deals with Dharma, Artha, Kama and   Moksha, supported by the stories of  Dksha Yajna, Dhruva Charitha, Pruthu Charitha, Upasana  of Nirguna Brahma and the story of ‘Pracheena Barhi’ etc.

It has 31chapters.

Padma Puranam says that the 3rd and the 4th Cantos constitute the Thighs of the Lord.

The 5th Canto, is the Rishabha Avathara, consisting of the story of Jadabharatha,

a very Sreshta Devotee of the Lord, the creative impetus etc. There are immense references of Astronomy and  Geography in this Canto. This has 26 chapters.

The 5th Canto is supposed to represent the Lord’sNaval or Waist, according to Padma Purana.

The 6th Canto, which is the Central One of the 12 Cantos, and so treated as

most important one, deals with the prescribed duties of mankind, mercy of the Lord, also proving that HE is mercy incarnated through the story  of Ajamilan; Narayana Kavacham, Vruthrasura Charitha etc. It has 19 chapters.

The 6th Canto, says Padma Purana, is the Heart of Bhagavan.

The 7th Canto contains the story of Bhaktha Prahlada, the Science of God etc. It has 15 chapters.

The 8th Canto conveys to us the stories of Gajendra moksham, Amrutha Mathanam, Vamanavatharam, Malsyavatharam, withdrawal of the Cosmic Creations etc, with 24 chapters.

The 7th and 8th Cantos are the Lord’s mighty shoulders, so says Padma Purana.

The 9th Canto, consisting of 24 chapters, deals with the story of Ambareesha, Harischandra, Rama Charitha, Yaduvamsanuvarnana , Liberation etc.

The 9th Canto is supposed to represent the Throat or Neck of the Lord, in Padma Purana.

The 10th Canto is voluminous and  the longest Canto with two parts of 49 and 41 chapters each, carrying the stories of  Krishnavathara, Kaliya marddana, Gopika geetham ,Kesi vadham, Rugminee vivaham, Bana yudham, Sruti geetha etc.

Padma Purana depicts 10th Canto as Bhagavan’s Face, like a fully blossomed Lotus flower.

The 11th Canto has 31 chapters covering general history, the description of the multitude of more than 28 Avatharas of the Lord, the multi faceted forms of various types of worship to God, Devasthuthi, the relation between Atma and Samsara, the lakshnas of Bandtha and Muktha, the greatness of Satsang, Bhikshu geetha, Kriya Toga etc. A person singing singing this Canto is supposed to attain the transcendental devotional service of the perfect sages [the paramahamsas] for the destination.

The 11th Canto, says Padma Purana, is the Lord’s Fore-head.

The 12th and the last Canto, carrying 13 chapters deals with the age of deterioration, Kali Dharma Niroopana, Bhoomi geetha, description of the 4 types of Pralaya, Brahmopadesa, the famous Boon given to Makkandeya by Lord Siva, the greatness of Bhagavatha etc.

The 12th Cant is the Head of Bhagavan, according to Padma Purana.

“Srimad Bhagavathakhyoyam Prathyksha Krishna Evahi”

Srimad Bhagavatham is Bhagavan Himself.

It is for protecting His beloved devotees from the clutches of Kali. It establishes the fact that there is only one scientific truth and that is Brahman, the only one Reality. Maya conceals Brahman and projects the universe. Just as everything seen in a dream ceases to exist as soon as the dreamer wakes up, the universe ceases to be real when Brahman is realized.

Bhagavatha Dharmam:

After the Dhyana Slokas in Srimad Bhagavatha, Brahmarshi Veda Vysa takes us to Naimisharanya, supposed to be the Brhmanda Kendra, the centre of this Universe, where Sage Shaunaka and a number of great Sages were conducting a sacrifice on the banks of Holy Ganges. The great Sage Shukadeva, who got Srimad Bhgavatha from his father, Brahmarshi Veda vyasa,  happened to lead the team of sages doing the Yanjna. Shukadeva was a Pramahamsa, a self-realized soul, with tremendous spiritual power and devotion to Lord. On the humble request of King Pareekshith, to enlighten him about the highest Truth about God, Shukadeva narrates the story of Srimad Bhagavatham as Sapthaha. Shukadeva assures the King that he will soon be freed from all worldly anxieties and troubles. It so happened in the end, aswell. Tens of hundreds of stories like this are there in Srimad Bhagavatham, and each story conveys an important message aswell. Bhgavatha Dharma is contained in all these stories.

A Book by the name “BHAGAVATHA DHARMAM” is written in Malayalam, by Sadguru Sreemad Abhedanandaji Maharaj of Abhedashramam, Trivandrum, Kerala. Sampoojya Swamiji attained Maha Samadhi and left his mortal coil on 29th October 1983. The Book, “Bhagavatha Dharmam’’ contains 1060 Soothras, (Axioms) which bring out the essence of Srimad Bhagavatham. They are not a verbatim interpretation of Srimad Bhagavatham, but they are precious gems from the ocean of Srimad Bhagavatham.This Book has been translated into English by Shri: P. N. Balakrishnan Nair, (formerly Senior Deputy Accountant General), a devoted disciple of Swamiji Maharaj.  He has been associated with Swamiji and Abhedashramam from 1967 onwards, not only as a devotee but also as a member of the Ashram Trust and its Treasurer and General Secretary from 1971 to 2000. He is still continuing there as a member of the Executive Committee of the Trust. He received ‘Mantradeeksha’ from Swamiji in 1972. One of his famous books is ‘Satsanga Peeyoosham’.

SATSANGA PEEYOOSHAM” is a compendium of essays published by Sri.P.N.Balakrishnan Nair in Malayalam, on Spiritual and Cultural topics, condensing the teachings of Guru Maharaj. Most of them have been broad-cast as “Subhaashithams” by All India Radio, Trivandrum Station, over the last ten years. This is their first appearance in book form. The book contains 365 pages comprising comprehensive essays on 21 topics in Part One, and 20 topics in Part Two. The topics include, Principle and purpose of prayer, How to maintain close relationship with God, Causes for grief and their remedies, Causes of fear and their remedies, Will-power vs. faith in God, Observe mind and control it, Love should be unselfish, Let the mind be free from evil influences, Pilgrimage to mental peace, Spiritual literacy, Man-woman equality in the household, The need for politeness in word and deed, Place of Gita in our daily life, Human effort and God’s help, Discipline in Individual and society, Human values and so on .  This is an essential book which is worth studying by everyone who seeks peace and contentment in life. Copies of this book can be had from Abhedashramam, Fort, Trivandrum-695023, Kerala, India (Phone 0471-2450519) at the concessional price of Rs.125only.

The meaning and purport of these 1060 axioms can be fully understood only when contextually applied as and when we study the hundreds of stories in Srimad Bhagavatham, one by one, and apply them then and there. The 1060 Axioms in English can be read from the beautiful site of Punya Sree P.N. Balakrishnan Nair at, amidst many other precious spiritual pearls, including Srimad Bhagavat Gita.

Jai Hind                                                                                              God Bless America


23rd October, 2010.


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