The Divine Appearance of Śrimad Bhāgavatam
“Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the repetition of history which happened some hundreds of millions of years ago… only the most important factors of history are picked up to be recorded in this transcendental literature.”
– Srila Prabhupada in his purport to SB 1.6.11
Lord Krishna – The Unabridged Edition
As Dvapara-yuga reached its completion, signs of Kali-yuga’s advent became rampant. Ignorance prevailed; deviations from dharmic principles were prominent while quarrel and hypocrisy became second nature. Regrettably, Lord Kṛṣṇa, the sun of the Yadus had journeyed to its horizon. This diminishing of the brilliant light in the Vrsni dynasty signified the onslaught of the dark age of Kali. The all merciful, magnanimous and eternally the Lord and master of the pure devotees had seemed to pull a hiatus, just as when the world needed Him the most!
But all is not lost – the Lord foreseeing the misfortune of and misguided denizens of Kali – gave His entire self in a form of a book called the Śrimad Bhāgavatam or Bhāgavata Purāṇa. This Bhāgavata Purāṇa is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Kṛṣṇa to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc.
Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the age of Kali shall get light from this Purāṇa. Despite seemingly being bereft of the physical association of the Lord, one is able to associate with Him directly by studying this great literature. This is due to His nature being the Absolute. This private ‘diary’ of the Lord’s transcendental character and loving reciprocation enables one to dive into the nectarean remembrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
Śrimad Bhāgavatam – purāṇam amalaṁ
Śrimad Bhāgavatam is one of the 18 mahā-purāṇas which specifically glorifies the transcendental qualities and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. With its 18,000 verses, Srimad Bhagavatam mainly comprises of the conversations between great personalities on the topics of universal creation, material manifestation, geographical and astronomical details of the universe, the Lord’s divine mercy, nature and inclinations of living beings, administration of kings in various dynasties, descriptions of the various incarnations of the Lord and his devotees, liberation, universal annihilation and the ultimate shelter or summum bonum (SB 2.10.1).
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the spotless Purāṇa. It is most dear to the Vaiṣṇavas because it describes the pure and supreme knowledge of the paramahaṁsas. This Bhāgavatam reveals the means for becoming free from all material work, together with the processes of transcendental knowledge, renunciation and devotion. Anyone who seriously tries to understand Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, who properly hears and chants it with devotion, becomes completely liberated.” (SB12.13.18)
From Perspiration to Inspiration!
The history of this Purāṇa begins with the despondency of Śrīla Vyāsadeva. After having completed the entire compendium of Vedic scriptures, including the Mahabharata and Vedānta-sūtra (conclusion of the Vedas) for the benefit of the living beings – Vyāsadeva felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction. He relentlessly reflected within himself, trying to find the cause of this turmoil at heart.
Timely, his spiritual master, Nārada Muni, the son of Lord Brahmā appeared and informed him that although he had shown great mercy by putting all the Vedas into written form, he had failed to specifically and repeatedly glorify the Supreme Personality, Sri Krishna, who is the ultimate benefactor and highest welfare for all living beings.
Thus being inspired by his spiritual master, Vyāsadeva meditated on the divine lotus feet of the Lord and by His grace and wrote the natural commentary of the Vedānta-sūtras which is Śrimad Bhāgavatam. Interestingly, Vyāsadeva is known as the literary incarnation of God – as such a task could only be God-sent and God’s doing.
World’s First Peace Talk
Mahārāja Parīkṣit, the ruling monarch of the time and grandson of the Pāṇḍavas once stumbled upon the hermitage of Śamīka Ṛṣi in a state of dire thirst and hunger. The sage who was rapt in meditation failed to receive the great king properly and thus incited his anger. Overcome by anger and thirst, the king picked up a dead snake and thus garlanded the Ṛṣi, thanking him for his cold reception.
The Ṛṣi’s young son, Śṛṅgi while playing with his friends elsewhere, heard of the unfortunate occurrence. In a fit of rage, the immature young child cursed Mahārāja Parīkṣit to die within 7 days. The king, who was a great devotee of the Lord, took this as a benediction for him to perfect his life.
After enthroning his son, Mahārāja Parīkṣit renounced his life and went towards the banks of the Ganga to fast till death. As fate would have it, while seated there in an assembly of great sages, he met the glorious Śukadeva Gosvāmī who spoke the entire Śrīmad Bhāgavatam to the king in seven days. That great sage narrated to the king the path of devotional service unto the Lord, bhakti-yoga by which one can quickly achieve eternal and transcendental peace and love. Thus he perfected his life by absorbing his thoughts in the divine pastimes of the Lord.
Amongst the great sages gathered, was the esteemed Sūta Gosvāmī, who sometime later re-narrated the entire treatise to a group of sages assembled at the forest of Naimiṣāraṇya, headed by Śaunaka Ṛṣi. All the sages of Naimisaranya came together to perform sacrifices for the well being of mankind. After 1000 years of sacrifices they became frustrated and took shelter of Sūta Gosvāmī who thus nurtured their devotion.
Other Instances when Śrīmad Bhāgavatam was narrated
The Bhāgavatam itself gives historical accounts of other instances when this great science was narrated. The original Bhāgavatam was spoken by Lord Vishnu to Brahmā in just four verses, which are known as the catuḥ-ślokī. A summary of those events are given in the table below along with the corresponding verse sections from Bhagavatam.
|Suta Goswami to Saunaka etc. sages||SB 1.1.4-12.13.23|
|Sukadev Goswami spoke to Parikshit Maharaja||SB 2.1.1-12.6.8|
|Narada Muni inspired Vyasadeva||SB 1.1.1- 12.13.23|
|Lord Brahmā to Narada Muni||SB 2.5-2.7|
|Lord Vishnu to Brahmā (catuḥ-ślokī)||SB 2.9.33-36|
|Lord Krishna spoke to Brahmā||SB 3.9.32,33,40,41|
|Maitreya Muni to Vidura (Parampara of Lord Sankarshana to the Sanat Kumaras)||SB 3.8.7-3.9|
|Lord Kṛṣṇa to Uddhava||SB 3.4.18-19|
supuṇyaṁ vyatanod yaśaḥ
“To show causeless mercy to the devotees who would take birth in the future in this age of Kali, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, acted in such a way that simply by remembering Him one will be freed from all the lamentation and unhappiness of material existence”[SB 9.24.62]
At the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha, systematic study of Srimad Bhagavatam, translated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is conducted, owing to the fact that transcendental literatures such as Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam are so powerful that simply by hearing their messages and relishing the narrations of, one becomes disinterested in material activities and becomes very pure.