Vaishampayana uvācha, “Janamejaya! Dharmaraja Yudhishtira asked Chiranjeevi Markandeya Maharshi this question –
Mahamune! You have seen the Mahāpralaya that occurs after thousands of yugas. I do not see any man who has lived as long as you have in this universe. O Maharshi! You are the best among all the knowers of Brahman! There is no one besides the superlative Brahma Mahātma who has lived this long.
Hey Brahman! When all the devathas of the universe, danavas as well as space and all the heavenly worlds become nothing, then you alone sit with Brahma meditating on the Supreme Truth at the time of dissolution.
Brahmarshi! After the dissolution period has elapsed and when Pithāmaha wakes up again, he spreads air in all the directions and through that, places the marine animals here and there and through Brahma all the beings begin their procreation and you are the only one who has seen this.
O Venerable One! You have suppressed all the tendencies of the sensory organs and meditated on Pithāmaha Loka Guru Brahma. You have witnessed the perceptible beginnings of creation in this universe several times and have conquered even the Prajapathis through your extraordinary tapo balam.
You are the foremost among the devotees who are close to Shriman Nārāyana. Praises in honour of you are always sung in the heavenly worlds. You have attained sakshatkara of that Supreme Bhagawan who resides in the hrudaya kamalam through dispassion and practice and divya drushti several times. Old age that makes the body weak and leads one to death does not touch you. Brahmarshi! This is the mercy and blessings of the Supreme Being.
When nothing remains of Surya, Agni, Vayu, Chandra, space and earth at the time of Mahāpralaya, when the moving and non-moving universe gets submerged into that water, when devathas and asuras get destroyed and gigantic serpents are also killed, then at that time, you alone have meditated on Brahma, the one who resides in the lotus who has manifested from the womb of Shriman Nārāyana.
This whole universe has seen your greatness. Hence, I wish to hear from you about Kāla, which is the root cause for all. O Great One! Only you have experienced the creation of different kalpas so many times. There is no matter in this universe that you are not aware of.”
Markandeya Maharshi replies, “Hey King! I will reveal that story to you after offering my salutations to that self-manifesting eternal, imperishable, unmanifest and secret Puranapurusha who is beyond gunas and is yet wholesome with virtues. The one who is sitting amongst us, this Bhagawan Janardhana adorned in pithambara is the cause for the creation and dissolution of the universe. This Bhagawan resides in all beings as the ātma and is their maker. He is known to be sacrosanct, inconceivable and extremely astonishing.
He has no end and no beginning. He pervades all elements of nature and is immutable and undecaying. He is only the agent for all and there is no agent or cause for Him. He is only the cause for the pursuit of the object of one’s life. As He is the inner residing ātma, He is the all-knowing One but even the Vedas do not know Him. After the dissolution of the entire universe, this entire universe again manifests from this Supreme Paramaeshwara again in a most stunning manner.
It has been said that four thousand glorious years makes one Satya yuga and hundred years of that are its sandhya (night) and sandhyānsha (measure of night) making it roughly forty-eight hundred years. Three thousand glorious years is said to be one Treta yuga and its sandhya (night) and sandhyānsha (measure of night) is also three hundred years making it roughly thirty-six hundred years. Dwapura yuga is two thousand glorious years and hundred years each are its sandhya (night) and sandhyānsha (measure of night) making it twenty-four hundred years. Kali yuga is said to be of one thousand years with hundred years of night and measure of night each making it twelve hundred years. It is to be understood that both sandhya (night) and sandhyānsha (measure of night) are equal.
After Kali yuga is exhausted or over, then Satya yuga starts all over again. In this manner, twelve thousand glorious years becomes one Chatur yuga. After one thousand Chatur yugas pass, Brahma suddenly manifests. This whole universe rests on the days of Brahma and when those days are over, then everything gets destroyed. This is what scholars deem as pralaya of the universe.
When thousand yugas have ended and only a small measure of time is remaining, then at that time all the beings become liars in the last portion of Kali yuga. At that time all the representative karma for yagna, dāna and vrat commence meaning that as yagna, dāna and tapah were not followed in the appropriate manner, they had become non-essential and done only nominally. At the end of the yuga, Brahmins will do the work of sudras, sudras will accumulate wealth like the vaishyas or will earn their livelihood doing the duty of kshatriyas. At the end of the thousand yugas that is the final portion of the Kali yuga, Brahmins will give up yagna, study of the Vedas, danda and deer skin forsaking all thoughts of the Supreme Goal and rather enjoy eating delicious foods and drinks. Brahmins will run far away from japa and sudras will instead engage themselves wholeheartedly in the japa of Veda mantras.
In this manner when the thinking and conduct of people is opposite to the pursuit of the Supreme Goal, then it can be understood that it is the precursor to the pralaya. At that time there will be many Mleccha kings ruling over the lands. Ruling with deceit, sinners and liars will be the kings of Andhra, Shak, Pulinda, Yavan, Kāmboj, Bahalika and Aabheer. At that time there will no Brahmin who will be earning his livelihood according to his dharma. Even kshatriyas and vaisyas would have forsaken their respective dharmas and will be doing the karma of other classes. Everyone’s longevity will decrease and all their strength, nerve/sperm and courage will erode. Men will be stunted. Their bodily strength will become very less and the measure of truth in their words will also be less. And often countries will be unpopulated. All the directions will be full of animals and snakes. When the time for the end of the yuga arrives, then the majority of men will speak of Brahmajnāna in vain. Sudras will not address Brahmins with respect while Brahmins will address sudras politely and respectfully.
At the end of the yuga, many types of beings will be born. Many types of fragrant items will not be pleasing to the nose. Similarly, juicy food items will not be delicious. The ladies of that time will be of short stature and will produce many children. Modesty and good moral conduct will be absent in them. Women at the end of the yuga will speak of matters of sexual nature and sexual gratification only. At the end of the yuga, all the people in the land will be selling food grains. Brahmins will sell the Vedas and women will accept promiscuity. The cows will have very little milk at the end of the yuga. There will be lesser fruits and flowers on trees and more crows will be seen on the branches. Brahmins will accept charity from those people who have committed Brahma hatya and who are false.
Those Brahmins get trapped in greed and lust and will make a pretence of a false dharma and will trouble people in all directions for alms. The householders will become frightened of their burdens and become marauders. Brahmins will wear the guise of saintly persons to deceive people and will lead a life of vaishyas and to create a false impression will grow their nails and have beard and moustache. Even a Brahmachari in ashrams will embrace a hypocritical attitude because of his greed for wealth and will consume alcohol and indulge in debauchery and sin. People will indulge in worldly karma to extend the flesh and blood in their body. At the end of the yuga, all the ashrams will be filled with imposture and will praise food that has been mixed by others.
Even Bhagawan Indra will not allow for the rains at the right time in Varsha ruthu. All the seeds sown in the earth will not sprout. All the people in Kali yuga will think that happiness is in violence and will be impure. At that time, the fruits of adharma will be available in greater measure. Those who are assiduous in dharma will have a very short life because at that time no dharma can remain long. People will use faulty weighing scales in the markets and sell different kinds of items. The baniya or shopkeepers of that time will be able to easily delude people. Saintly persons will be seen suffering great losses while sinners will be progressive in the eyes of the world. The force of dharma will decrease while adharma will become powerful.
A follower of dharma will have a short lifespan and will look impoverished while a man who is a follower of adharma will live long and will look very prosperous at the end of the yuga. Sinners will set up their bases in the gardens of the cities at the end of the yuga and through sinful ideas and schemes, will behave badly with the people. People will become mad over the aggregation of little wealth. And if any person believes this mad person and hands over his money for safekeeping, then this brazen sinner will try to grab this money for himself and will clearly tell the owner of the wealth that this money belongs to him only. The violent person who eats meat as well as animals and birds will sleep in the gardens and temples of the cities.
At the end of the yuga, girls of years seven – eight will give birth to children and boys of age ten – eleven will be fathers. By the seventeenth year, the hair of men will mature and their life will come to an end quickly. Even the lifespan of adolescents will get exhausted and their modest behaviour will also be like aged people and the behaviour that adolescents should exhibit will be seen in old people. At this time, women will behave in an antagonistic manner towards their worthy husbands and will deceive their husbands and become bad-natured and will commit debauchery with servants and animals. Even wives of brave men will take refuge in the company of other men and will indulge in adultery even though their husbands are alive.
There will be absence of rainfall towards the end of the thousand yugas. Many animals of hefty build will die of hunger. Then searing heat of seven suns will absorb all the water from the channels and oceans. At that time all the grass and items that are dry and wet will begin to look like ash. Then will come Samvartak agni along with winds that will spread all across the worlds where the water was already absorbed by the seven suns.
That fire after it penetrates the earth will reach the abyss and will instil immense fear in devathas, danavas and yakshas. That fire will destroy nāgaloka as well as whatever is beneath this earth in a second. After this, this Samvartak agni along with the inauspicious stormy wind will reduce people to ashes up to a distance of twenty-two yojanas. In this manner, the blazing fire will spread across the worlds and reduce devathas, asuras, gandharvas, yakshas, nāgas and rakshasas to ashes. Then dark gigantic clouds will gather in the sky which will look astonishing. Each and every one of those clouds will be impressive like a herd of elephants and will be dark-coloured adorned with garlands of lightning.
Some clouds are like dark blue lotuses and some are white like the water lily. The brilliance of some rays/streams of water are like saffron. Some clouds are orangish-yellow like turmeric and some clouds are perceptible like the water fowl. Some are like petals of lotus and some appear like cinnabar. Some are like the best cities, some are like a herd of elephants, some are black like kajal and some are shaped like alligators. All those clouds are adorned with electromagnetism and descend and because they make a frightening sound, their form appears to be very fearsome. Slowly, all the accumulated clouds filled with water will cover the space. Their continuous downpour will immerse mountains, forests and pits and this entire universe will drown in the unfathomable waters.
Then the frightening clouds that make deafening sounds induced by the Creator will quickly send continuous showers of rain and immerse everything. The great downpour that will immerse the entire earth will douse the blazing and inauspicious fire. On receiving the encouragement from Brahma, continuous rainfall is there for twelve years to make the earth wholesome. The ocean will extend beyond its boundaries, mountains will break and the earth will drown in the water. After that the clouds that have enveloped the space will create chaos in the stormy speed of the wind and will suddenly become imperceptible. Then Brahma who is seated on the lotus will swallow this wind and go to sleep.
In this manner all the beings, devathas and asuras are destroyed and after the entire universe is devoid of yakshas, rakshasas, manusha, violent animals, trees and life, I wander here and there all alone in this formidable universal deluge. When I roamed around this universe that is full of water all by myself and did not see a single being, I became very perturbed. At that time, I swam for a long time bereft of laziness and went very far after which I became tired. But I did not get any shelter or respite anywhere. Then one day in this universal deluge in that unfathomable waters, I saw a massive banyan tree.
There was a bed on the wide branch of the tree on which a divine bedspread was laid out. There was a beautiful child sitting on that bed whose face was like a lotus, whose beauty was charming and whose eyes like the moon bestowed happiness. His magnificent eyes were like radiant lotus petals. I was astonished on seeing him. Even though I am in possession of the knowledge of the three times of the past, present and future and constantly remain in contemplation through tapasya, I still could not know anything about this child. The colour of his body was as dark as that of the flower of the linseed. His chest had the marking of the auspicious Srivatsa chinha. I experienced that as the seat of the Supreme Lakshmi at that time. On seeing my amazement, the lotus-eyed child who was radiant with the Srivatsa chinha said to me in a mellifluous voice, “Bhriguvamshi Markandeya! I know you. You are very tired and wish to rest. Please sit as long as you wish to. I have been merciful towards you. You enter my body and rest. Arrangements have been made for you there.” On hearing the words of the child, I experienced great regret and dispassion for my long life and human body. Then the child suddenly opened his mouth and I entered into his mouth like a subordinate by virtue of devayoga.
The moment I entered his mouth, immediately I went to the belly of that boy. There I saw this whole earth full of kingdoms and cities. Then I began to roam around in the womb of that boy. While wandering about, I saw all these rivers namely Ganga, Sutlej, Sita, Yamuna, Kosi, Chambal, Vetravati, Chenab, Saraswati, Sindu, Vyās, Godāvari, Vasvoksārā, Nalini, Narmadā, Tamraparni, Venā, Shubadāyini, Punyatoyā, Suvenā, Krishnavenā, Mahānadi Irāmā, Vitastā, Mahānadi Cauvery, Shonabhadra, Vishalyā and Kimpunā as well as the other rivers on this earth. After that I saw the repository of the superlative ocean that is filled with marine animals.
There I saw the entire celestial creation that was adorned by the Moon and Sun that was shining because of infinite splendour and fire and was resplendent like the sun. The earth was beautified by various forests, mountains, woods and islands and hundreds of connected channels were seen. Brahmins were propitiating the Yagna Purusha through different types of yagnas. The kshatriya king appeases all the castes and keeps them contented and happy. Vaishyas do their farming and business work diligently. Sudras engage in serving the three castes. When I travelled further in the belly of this great child seeing all this, I saw Himāvan, Hemakut, Nishad, Shwethagiri that is full of silver, Gandhamādhana, Mandarāchala, Mahāgiri Neel, the golden mountain of Meru, Mahendra, the excellent Vindyagiri, Malaya and the Pāriyātra Parvat (Hindu Kush Mountains). Besides these, I saw many other mountains inside the belly of that boy. All of them were adorned with different types of jewels. As I was wandering about, I saw lion, tiger and boar and other animals. I saw all the beings that existed on this earth as I was moving about in the belly of this boy.
I had darshan of Indra and all the devathas who travel in all the directions in the womb of this boy. I had the darshan of Sādhya, Rudra, Aaditya, Guhayaka, Pithara, Sarpa, Nāga, Suparna, Vasu, Ashwini Kumara, Gandharva, Apsarā, Yaksha and the Rishis. I also saw the group of daityas and danavas, Nāga, the sons of Simhika and other enemies of the devas. Whatever is there to be seen in this movable and immovable world, I saw all this in the abdomen of the saintly boy. Every day I would partake fruits and roam around this entire universe.
Though I spent more than hundred years wandering about inside the body of this boy, I still could not see the end of his body. I ceaselessly travelled a great distance and remained in a dilemma. When after years of wandering about inside his great body with the end not in sight, I sought refuge in that pleasing superlative devatha through mind, speech and action in entirety. The moment I sought refuge in Him, I emerged from the open mouth of that great boy in one swift movement likened to the speed of the wind. When I came outside, I saw that boy of immeasurable radiance lying as before on the trunk of the banyan tree with the auspicious marking of Srivatsa chinha within whose belly the entire universe resides. Then that boy adorned in pithambara laughingly said to me –
“O foremost among the Rishis, Markandeya! Have you rested within this body of mine? Tell me.”
Then I received a novel vision in a matter of two moments where I had liberated myself from maya and began to experience wakefulness (consciousness). Then I clutched the beautiful divine feet of that boy that was soft and red in colour with difficulty and placed my head on it and offered my pranaams.
After seeing that infinite potency of that boy of immeasurable radiance, I endeavoured to go near him and joined my hands with reverence and had darshan of that lotus-eyed devatha who is the ātma of all the elements. I then folded my hands and said thus to Him – “O Lord! I want to know You and Your astonishing māya. Bhagawan! I entered Your belly through Your mouth and experienced all the worldly things within Your belly. O Lord! All the devathas, danavas, yakshas, rakshasas, gandharvas, nāgas as well as the moving and immovable universe are present in Your body. Prabho! With Your blessings, my ability for remembrance did not get destroyed when I travelled inside Your body unceasingly in a fast pace.
Mahaprabho! I came out of You only because of Your wish and not mine. Hey Lotus-Eyed One! I want to know You, O Unsurpassable Lord! Why are You seated here in this child form after consuming the entire universe? Please kindly tell me. Anagha! Why is this entire universe existing within You? Shatrudaman! How long will You remain in this form? O Lord of Lords! O Lotus-Eyed One! Induced by the unassuming curiosity that is there in Brahmans, I wish to hear from You all these matters in detail. Prabho! Whatever I have seen is profound and incomprehensible.”
On hearing my words, best among speakers that divine resplendent Lord of Lords, Shree Bhagawan comforted me and said thus.
[Excerpt from The Mahabharat]