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60: The Lord's Own Children

Throughout history, it is rather obscure, to hear of famous father-son duos (or father-daughter for that matter). Famous personalities over time have seldom got an equally illustrious progeny. There are many reasons. In some cases, the illustrious father is too much to match up. In others, the children spend their energies in fighting among themselves for the legacy and doing precious little. Some famous personalities are too busy with their own lives. In several cases, the offspring is just not of the same sap and lacks interesting qualities. For whatever reasons, most generations after the famous, powerful and talented figures are often lost to time.

What of the gods then? What of Vishnu, the supreme lord in Hindu mythology, the Lord that engages with the world every now and often, the One who governs its rhythm (loosely translated for rita in Sanskrit)? He seemed to have taken several avatars; what happened to his sons? What, at least, happened to the sons of the ten Maha-avatars, called the dashavataras?

Vishnu Maha Dashavataras

The only reference about Vishnu and Laksmi having children is that of Kama, or Manmatha, the god of desire, being born to Vishnu and Laksmi. Kama was later burnt down to ashes by Shiva and was then incarnated as Pradyumna during Krishna Avatar. What about other avatars?

1. Matsya (Fish)
Vishnu took the form of a giant fish and saved Satyavrata Manu and his family from the giant deluge. After the flood subsided, Vishnu seems to have taught Manu the principles of knowledge and then went back. There is no evidence that he had any progeny in this avatar.

2. Kurma (Tortoise)
During the Churning of the Ocean, Vishnu took the form of a giant turtle, on top of which the Mount Mandar could be rested for the churning. As the churning got over, and the gods and daityas found the Amruta (elixir of life), the Turtle completed his purpose. There are no direct references of who his children where in this form, but in Satapatha Brahmana, it is said that he was the lord of progeny itself. He made (akarot) the whole creation, and hence is called the Do-er (hence the Sanskrit name kurma for the tortoise). 

There is another interesting after-note. During the aftermath, Vishnu took a minor avatar, that of Mohini, and tricked Daityas of their share of Amruta (see here for the story). Since Mohini was so obviously charming, even the gods were mesmerized with her. It seems Shiva was particularly charmed with her, and through their union (called ‘Hari-Hara’) was born the god Ayappa, the patron deity of Sabarimala.

3. Varaha (Wild boar)
The wild boar Varaha fought the demon Hiranyaksha and rescued Bhoodevi (goddess Earth) from under water. During that rescue mission, one interpretation is that Bhoodevi got a child with Vishnu, who later became the demon Narakasur. In the more common narrative, though, Narakasur is the son of the demon Hiranyaksha (see here). Naraka was later killed by Vishnu himself in the form of Krishna.

4. Narasimha (Man-Lion)
The lord in the form of Narasimha killed Hiranyakashyapu, and restored order by getting his son Prahlad on the throne. But after slaying the demon with him own finger nails, the lord in the form of Narasimha became uncontrollable and could not subdue his own wrath. He started attacking common folk and caused severe commotion.

Shiva apparently took the form of Sharabha, a hybrid man-lion-eagle, who was an eight-legged beast, with two heads, red eyes and two powerful wings, that defeated Narasimha and subdued him. Narasimha took the form of Ganda-berunda, another hybrid and their battle went for several eons. Eventually he calmed down, also due to Prahlad’s chanting of his name. (Sarabha Upanishad, Atharva Ved). There is no mention of his progeny in this form.

5. Vamana (young brahmin)
Vamana, the tiny brahmin, pushed King Mahabali, grandson of Prahlad, into the Patala (nether world), where he seems to reside. He will become the next Indra, (Purandara is the current Indra), that is, the eighth Indra (King of Devas) during the time of the eighth Manu, Savarni Manu. The Vamana form of Vishnu was so pleased with Bali that he decided to remain with him as the guard at his gate until Lakshmi came down and took him back with him after letting Mahabali (who was her brother) know about it. There is no mention of the children of Vamana though.

6. Parashurama (the first sovereign)
I have covered the legend of Parashuram at length in different posts already (here and here). He was the first sovereign king of men and is most known for ridding the world of Haihaya Kshatriyas twenty-one times over. He is special, for being a Chiranjeevi (long-lasting), he did not go back to godhead but continues (still) to live on earth. His direct children are not known, but several communities (nambudri brahmin, chitpavan brahmin etc.) consider him to be their direct ancestor.

7. Ramachandra (King of Ayodhya)
Rama, the King of Ayodhya, had two sons Lav and Kush. They were twins, born to Sita during her banishment. Rama, after reunited with his sons, installed them in two places – Lava at Sravasti (in modern day Uttar Pradesh) and Kush at Kushavati (Kushinagar, near Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh – the place where some believe Gautam Buddha died). It is interesting to note that Lava in his older age founded the city of Lavapuri (modern day Lahore in Pakistan).

8. Krishna (the Statesman)
It seems that Krishna was prolific in all aspects of life. He had 16,108 wives, out of which 8 were prominent. In total he had 88 sons with them. Out of these, Pradyumna, the oldest one from Rukmini and Samba, from Jambavati are perhaps the most well-known. All these sons were killed during the civil war among Yadavas, with the main cause being Samba mocking some rishis and receiving their curse.

Pradyumna is considered an incarnation of Kama deva, the god of desire, himself a son of Vishnu and Lakshmi. Pradyumna did not participate in the Epic War and went with his uncle Balaram on a pilgrimage. He was also killed in the drunken brawl among other sons. His own son Aniruddha married Usha, daughter of demon Banasura (see here), and fathered Vajranabha, who was finally Krishna’s successor.

9. Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama)
Siddhartha, the Shakya prince who later on became the Tathagata, had a son with his wife Yashodhara. His name was Rahul. Siddhartha left the royal palace when he was born, and only met him after he had attained Buddhahood. Rahul grew with his mother and grandfather Shuddhodhana. When he was seven years old, he met his father again, and was later ordained to become one among many arhants following the Buddha’s teachings. Rahul died before the Buddha.

10. Kalki (The Last Avatar yet to arrive)
Since Kalki is yet to arrive, we can only speculate (which is true even for the other myths by the way). His appearance is foretold as a prophecy. Apparently, he will be born to Vishnuyasha and Sumati, a brahmin couple in Shambhala village. He will have rishi Yajnavalkya and Parashuram as his spiritual and martial teachers. He will gather an army of righteous beings and will kill all villains. His first wife will be Padmavati, from the island of Sinhala (not sure if that means Sri Lanka), and second will be Ramaa. From Padma, he will have two sons Jay and Vijay, and from Ramaa two more Meghamal and Balahak. But by most accounts, we need to wait about 427,000 more years for this to happen.

Apart from these, it seems that Vishnu had other children with Lakshmi, not during the dashavatars, but in a time continuum. He had two daughters, Amritavalli and Sundaravalli (later called Devasena and Valli); who were later married to Skanda Kartikeya, the commander of gods’ armies. Also rishis Kardama and Chiklita, as well as rishis Ananda and Apa (lit. water) are said to be born to Vishnu and Lakshmi, although references to them are limited apart from Sri Suktam.

Also, most of these references seem tangential and derived words. For example, Ananda simply means bliss. Apa means water, and Lakshmi is always associated with water, having come out of the churning of the ocean. So, it is unclear if these refer to actual children, or metaphysical concept.

Of course, aside this, one can always consider that all beings are anyway the children of Vishnu.

Have a good day!

11 March 2018


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