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KRONOS Vol VII, No. 3
Vishnu Born Of Shiva
In Worlds In Collision,(1) Immanuel Velikovsky stated that Vishnu was born of Shiva, as if it were a well-known fact with which the reader should be familiar. This datum was presented as additional support for Velikovsky's contention that the planet Venus was remembered by the ancients as having been ejected by Jupiter. Yet, this writer took early cognizance of the fact that no source was cited for the assertion. Having taken it upon myself to verify the datum, I turned to the works of those ancient scholars best suited to disclose its source. Years passed but nowhere in the sagas, epics, and hymns of Indic lore could I find it explicitly stated that Vishnu was born of Shiva. Having trudged through the intricate maze of Vedic, Brahmanic, and other Hindu literature, I arrived, in the end, at the point from which I had started without once having caught a glimpse of Vishnu'< progenitor.
Having thus personally drawn a blank in my quest, I finally turned to Velikovsky himself. Twice I asked him to substantiate his statement that Vishnu was born of Shiva - once in 1971(2) and again in 1972(3) - but, although he was kind enough to answer a few other questions, he remained strangely taciturn concerning Vishnu's alleged birth from Shiva. Then, in January of 1976, when he wrote to thank me for my contribution to the Anthology that was presented to him the month before,(4)he included the following words:
Velikovsky's failure in locating his source did not deter him from continuing to accept the identifications he had proposed for these two Vedic deities. In the same missive last quoted he also added: But I still believe that Shiva is Jupiter and Vishnu represents Venus."
My answer to that was: "I never doubted that Shiva personified the planet Jupiter and in Vishnu's case, I continue to keep an open mind."(7)
My reaffirmation of Shiva's identity as Jupiter, however, was just as erroneous as Velikovsky's. Today I would retract that for, as I have shown in "Child of Saturn',(8) Vishnu and Shiva were both aspects of the planet Saturn.
What, then, of Vishnu's alleged birth from Shiva?
As it turned out, Velikovsky's failure to locate his source was on a par with mine. When I presented "Child of Saturn" at the 1981 Princeton Seminar - "The Velikovsky Challenge - In Science and History" I confessed my own ineffectual effort in locating the troublesome source. But I also stated: "If anyone knows that I have missed a turning, I ask to be illuminated."(9) I did not plead in vain for it has recently been brought to my attention that the source does exist - and in more than one place.
On one of his visits to Jerusalem, sometime between 1976 and 78, Velikovsky asked Artur Isenberg if he could clear the matter up by relocating the "lost" source. In August of 1978, Isenberg wrote Velikovsky and told him that such a source can be found in the Linga Purana,(10) where Viswamitra is made to say:
Kesava, which means "long-haired", is of course an epithet of Vishnu.(12) But before Velikovskians pounce on Vishnu's long hair as a clue symbolizing the Venerian coma, let me add that, as Isenberg himself pointed out to Velikovsky, Vishnu was not the only deity said to have been born of Shiva. The same Linga Purana also contains the following:
" Then Brahma spoke to Vishnu, Narayana the lord of Devas, in that assembly.
So also the Kurma Purana:
Thus, any interpretation of this myth which sees in it a reflection of Venus' supposed ejection from Jupiter will also have to embrace the belief that Saturn, here personified by Brahma,(15) was ejected from the same planet - an interpretation that no Velikovskian scholar should be willing to accept. On the other hand, it might well be asked: If, as I have indicated in Child of Saturn", Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva were all aspects of the same Saturn, what does it mean that Shiva/Saturn gave birth to Vishnu and Brahma, who were originally both expressions of the same planetary deity together with Shiva himself?
I do not wish to minimize the above sources simply because the Puranas, in which they are contained, are of relatively recent date (with some of them being as late as the 10th century A.D.).(16) It should, perhaps, be pointed out that in the earliest Vedic literature - the Rigveda of ca. 1500 B.C. - the myth of Vishnu's birth, which in the Puranas is only alluded to, is actually unknown. It is also no secret that the Puranas were compiled "for the purpose of promoting some special, locally prevalent form of Brahmanical belief".(17) While most of them exhibit a certain Vaishnava tendency - i.e., a tendency to elevate Vishnu above the other two members of the Trimurti - it is quite obvious that the Linga Purana is strictly Saiva: From beginning to end it lauds the niskala and sakala (attributes and characteristics) of the Lord Shiva. To this day only a Saiva would acknowledge that Brahma, the supreme god par excellence, could have been the offspring of Shiva. A Vaishnava would counteract by claiming that Brahma was born from Vishnu's navel(18) - and so, from a Velikovskian point of view, could it be said that Saturn was ejected from Venus?
Be all this as it may: The term purana itself signifies "old" and it was originally applied "to prehistoric, especially cosmogonic, legends".(19) In other words, regardless of how late these "legends" were put into writing, they still derive from great antiquity. The question is: In view of their obvious sectarian bias, how much should they be relied upon?
In this instance - whether we see Brahma (with Vishnu) as the offspring of Shiva, or whether we see him as the offspring of Vishnu - the idea of the Saturnian deity being the father and/or child of himself can be accepted simply because the belief is not unique to Hindu mythology The Greeks were no different when they presented Kronos/Saturn as the son of Uranus/Saturn.(20) Osiris/Saturn was also believed to have been the son of Kronos/Saturn(21) and, what is not widely known is that besides Zeus/Jupiter, Kronos had another son who was also called Kronos.(22) There are many other instances but for the time being, the above should suffice. I can only repeat here what I have already intimated elsewhere - that Saturn, having gone through a series of evolutionary changes in the sky, was visualized by the ancients as having given birth to a succession of reincarnations or avatars. This was metamorphosis in the truest sense. Mythologically, Saturn was truly his own offspring and thus the father of himself. As I pointed out in "Other Worlds, Other Collisions",(23) this should caution Velikovskian scholars against accepting myths pertaining to the birth of planetary deities as necessarily symbolizing the ejection of one planet from another. While, in only a few cases, such an interpretation might turn out to be valid, it should not be taken as ipse dixit.
The author wishes to thank the following: C. Leroy Ellenberger for bringing Isenberg's letter to Velikovsky to his notice; Jan N. Sammer for permitting the exhumation of said letter from Velikovsky's correspondence file; Warner S. Sizemore for his aid in locating an English translation of the Linga Purana. A congratulatory note is also due to A. Isenberg for having relocated Velikovsky's "lost" source.
REFERENCES1. I. Velikovsky, Worlds In Collision (N.Y.,1950), p. 168.
2. D. Cardona to I. Velikovsky, June 15, 1971, private communiqué.
3. D. Cardona to I. Velikovsky, Sept. 18,1972, private communiqué.
4. The contribution in question was titled cows, Caste, and comets. The work remains unpublished and today I would not care to stand behind many of the personal statements to be found within its pages.
5. I Velikovsky to D. Cardona, January 28,1976, private communiqué.
7. D. Cardona to I. Velikovsky, Feb. 4,1976, private communiqué.
8. See KRONOS VII:2 (winter 1982), pp. 29-33.
9. This appeared only in the version I read at the Princeton seminar, Sept. 5, 1981.
10. A. Isenberg to I. Velikovsky, Aug. 15, 1978, private communiqué. NOTE: In that letter, Isenberg made known his plans to pass on the same information to me. Whether this was ever done or not, the information unfortunately never reached me.
11. Linga Purana, I:62:17-18.
12. W. D. O'Flaherty, Hindu Myths (Harmondsworth,1975), p. 345.
13. Linga Purana, II:103:38-39.
14. Kurma Purana, I:25:64:88-95.
15. For Brahma as Saturn, see "Child of Saturn" in KRONOS VII:2, pp. 32-36.
16. For more on this subject see section 18, "Androgyne", of "Child of Saturn", Part III, in this issue of KRONOS.
17. H. J. Eggeling and J. Allan, "Sanskrit Language and Literature," Encyclopaedia Britannica (1959 edition), Vol 19, p. 963.
18. V. Ions, Indian Mythology (London, 1967), p. 41.
19. H. J. Eggeling and J. Allan, loc. cit.
20. For Uranus as Saturn see "child of Saturn, Part I, KRONOS VII:1, pp. 60-63.
21. Diodorus as Cited by Eusebius Pamphili, Praeparatio Evangelica, II, 1, 45c.
22. Philo as cited in Ibid., I, 10, 38a.
23. This paper was read at the San Jose seminar, "Velikovsky and Secular Catastrophism", Aug. 30,1980.