Each manvantara (era) is rule over by a Manu.
The first Manu was Svayambhuva. Shatakratu held the title of Indra during this manvantara.
The second Manu was Svarochisha. Vipashchita held the title of Indra during this manvantara.
Third Manu was Uttama and Sushanti was Indra then.
The fourth Manu was tapasa and Shikhi held the title of Indra then.
The fifth Manu was Raivata and Vitatha was Indra then.
The title of Indra was held by Manojava during the sixth manvantara, the Manu being Chakhusha.
Next came Shraddhadeva, the seventh Manu Purandara being the Indra.
The eighth Manu’s name is Savarni and the eighth Indra’s Vali. The eighth manvantara has not yet come.
The ninth Manu will be Dakshasavarni and the ninth Indra wil be Adbhuta.
During the tenth manvantara, the Manu will be Brahmasavarni and the title of Indra will be held by Shanti.
During the rule of the eleventh Manu Dharmasavarni, the Indra will be Gana.
The twelfth Manu will be Rudrasavarni and the twelfth Indra will be Ritadhama.
Rouchya will be the thirteenth Manu and Divaspati will be the thirteenth Indra.
The fourteenth Manu will be Bhoutya and the title of Indra will then be held by Shuchi.
During each of Brahma’s days, there are fourteen such manvantaras. After that comes Brahma’s night, when all these living beings are destroyed.
All the Manus practised the precepts of dharma (righteousness). This meant non-violence, truthfulness, piety, going on pilgrimages donating alms, serving devas and brahmanas, tolerance of all religions and the following of the sacred texts. It also meant the practice of the system of the four classes (varna) and the four stages in life (ashrama).
The four varnas are brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. Performing sacrifices, donating alms and studying the Vedas are duties that brahmanas, kshatriyas and vaishyas must perform. In addition, the kshatriyas must protect the good and punish the evil. The vaishyas must take care of trade, agriculture and animal husbandry. The duties of shudras are to serve the brahmanas and artisanship. When brahmanas take up the upavita, the sacred thread that is the mark of the first three classes, it is like a second birth for them. So brahmanas are known as dvijas(born twice).
An anuloma marriage is a marriage where the husband is from a higher class than the wife. The offspring of such a marriage belong to the mothers class. A pratiloma marriage is a marriage where the wife is from a higher class than the husband. Chandalas were born this way from brahmana women, Sutas from kshatriya women, Devalas from vaishya women, Pukkashas from kshatriya women and Magadhas from vaishya women. Chandalas are executioneers, Sutas charioteers, Devalas guards, Pukkashas hunters and Magadhas bards. Chandalas should live outside the villages and should not touch those belonging to any other class.
The best name for a brahmana is that which ends in Sharma. Similarly, the best name for a kshatriya ends in Varma, for a vaishya in Gupta and for a shudra in Dasa. The sacred thread ceremony is to be held at the age of eight years for brahmanas, eleven years for kshatriyas and twelve years for vaishyas. No sacred a thread ceremony should be held beyond sixteen years of age.
The first stage in life is that of brahmacharya (studenthood). A student should never eat honey or meat and should never indulge in singing or dancing. He should completely give up violence and speaking to women. His duties are to discuss the shastras (holy texts) and associate with learned men. Apart from that, he will meditate in solitude on the true nature of the brahman.
The next stage of life is that of garhasthya (household stage). A brahmana may have four wives, a kshatriya three, a vaishya two and a shudra only one. The husband and the wife should be from the same varna. Marriage across varna is to be avoided. A woman can marry again provided that her husband has disappeared, is dead. has become a hermit or is such a sinner that he is expelled from his own varna. If her husband dies, a widow is permitted to marry her late husband’s younger brother.
A householder should get up at dawn and pray to the gods. He should always bathe in the morning. He should not talk impolitely. He should not bite his nails. He should not laugh at those who are inferior. And he should never reside in a place where there is no king, no doctor or no river. He must not insult his elders. He should never criticise the Vedas, the shastras, the devas, the sages and the king. And he must never travel without a light at night.
The third ashrama is vanaprastha (forest – dwelling stage). Such a person should always sleep on the ground and wear skins as clothes. He should wear his hair matted and give up the company of other people. He has to serve gods and guests and live on fruit and roots.
In the final stage of life (sannyasa) a person becomes a hermit. In this ashrama, a person attains true knowledge and is completely freed. But he should become a hermit only when he is convinced that he has completely lost all interest in material pursuits. Such a person is not affected by birth or death. He realises that the physical body is transient, that it is of no concern at all. It is the knowledge of the atman (soul) that is the best form of knowledge. When one gains this knowledge, one realises the identification of the atman with the brahman, one understands that the brahman is everywhere.
Sins And Their Atonement
If one commits a sin, one has to atone for it. This is known as prayashchitta. If one does not atone for the sins that one has committed, it is the king’s duty to punish the sinner.
If one drinks from a well where the dead body of an animal has been floating, one has to fast for three days. The worst possible sins are the killing of brahmana, the drinking of wine and theft. Other sins are criticising the Vedas, the bearing of false witness, killing a friend, killing a cow, forsaking one’s parents or sons, the selling of ponds, murder, lying, killing animals and the cutting down of green trees for fodder.
A killer of a brahmana has to build a hut in the forest and live there for twelve years. He has to beg for a living and give up all that he possesses to another brahmana. A killer of cows has to live on just coarse grain for a month. He has to live with cattle and follow them around during the day. All his possessions have to be given up to a brahmana and he has to bathe in cow’s urine for two months.
If a brahmana steals gold, he should go and report his crime to the king. The king will then hit him with a club and this will be the brahmana’s prayashchitta.
The sin of killing kshatriya is one-fourth the sin of killing a brahmana. If one kills a vaishya, the sin is one-eighth the sin of killing a brahmana. And if one kills a shudra, the sin is one-sixteenth of the sin of killing a brahmana. Killing a cat, a mongoose, a frog, a dog, a lizard or a crow is as sinful as killing a shudra.
Depending on the tithi (lunar day), the day of the week, the nakshatras (stars), the month, the season and the position of the sun, certain specific religious rites and ceremonies have to be performed. These are known as vratas.
The first day of the lunar fortnight is known as pratipada. The day of pratipada in the months of Kartika, Ashvina and Chaitra are Brahma’s tithis. It is then that the worship of Brahma must be done.
On the second day of the lunar fortnight (dvitiya), one should eat only flowers and pray to the two Ashvinis. this makes the supplicant handsome and lucky. Shuklapaksha is that lunar fortnight in which the moon waxes and Shuklapaksha dvitiya in the month of Kartika is earmarked for the worship of Yama. If one performs this vrata, one does not have to go to naraka (hell). This is also the day for praying to Balarama and Krishna.
It was on the third day of the lunar fortnight (tritiya), in shuklapaksha and in the month of Chaitra, that Shiva married Parvati or Gouri. Rites performed on this day are thus known as gourivrata. Shiva and Parvati have to be given offerings of fruit. The eight names of Parvati have to be recited. These are Lalita, Vijaya, Bhadra Bhavani, Kumuda, Shiva, Vasudevi and Gouri.
Chaturthi vrata is performed on the fourth day of the lunar fortnight, is shuklapaksha and in the month of Magha. This is the day for worshipping the common gods (gana devata). The offerings on this occasion are to be wine and fragrant perfumes.
On the fifth day of the lunar fortnight, one performs panchami vrata. This grants good health and takes care of bad omens. Particularly auspicious for panchami vrata are the shuklapakshas in the months of Shravana, Bhadra, Ashvina and Kartika.
On the sixth day of the lunar fortnight one performs shashthi vrata. One has to live only on fruit and if one performs this vrata, the fruits of any action that one performs live forever. Shashthi vrata should be observed especially in the months of Kartika and Bhadra.
Surya is to be worshipped on the seventh (saptami) day of the lunar fortnight. If saptami vrata is observed in shuklapaksha, all sorrow disappears. Sins are stoned for and all one’s desires are attained. Women who have no children can have sons if they observe these rites.
The eight day of the lunar fortnight (ashtami) is very significant. Krishna was born on this tithi in the month of Bhadra when the nakshatra Rohini was in the sky. Ashtami is therefore auspicious in the month of Bhadra. If one fasts on that day and prays to Krishna, the sins of one’s earlier seven lives are atoned for. But this vrata is to be observed in krishnapaksha and not in shuklapaksha, since Krishna was born in Krishnapaksha. Together with Krishna, Rohini and the moon, Devaki, Vasudeva, Yashoda, Nanda and Balarama are also to be worshipped on the occasion. Since Krishna took birth (janma) on this ashtami tithi, this particular day is known as janmashtami.
The eighth day of the lunar fortnight can be important even if it is not the month of Bhadra. For example, the eighth day of the lunar fortnight might be a Wednesday (budha vara) in both shuklapaksha and krishnapaksha. Irrespective of the month, such an ashtami is important and is known as budhashtami. On that day one has to live only on molasses and rice and perform the vrata.
There used to be a brahamana named Dhira whose wife was named Rambha. Dhira’s son was Koushika, his daughter was Vijaya and Dhira’s bull was named Dhanada. Koushika would go with the other cowherds to graze the bull. Once when Koushika was having a bath in the river Bhagirathi and the bull was grazing, some thieves came and stole the bull. Koushika and his sister Vijaya looked everywhere for it, but could not find it. In searching for the bull, they came to a lake where some women were bathing in the course of performing a vrata. Brother and sister were tired and hungry and they craved for some food. The women agreed to give them food, but only after Koushika and Vijaya had also performed the budhashtami vrata. And as soon as Koushika perfomed the ritual, the bull was miraculously returned to him. Such were the powers of the vrata that Koushika could get his sister Vijaya married off to Yama and himself became the king of Ayodhya. After their parents Dhira and Rambha had died, Vijaya discovered that her father and mother were in naraka. When she asked Yama as to how her parents might be delivered from naraka, Yama told her that Koushika and Vijaya should perform budhashtami vrata again. And immediately after they did so, the parents attained svarga.
The ninth day of the lunar fortnight is navami and navami in shuklapaksha, especially in the month of Ashvina, is earmarked for the worship of Gouri. An animal has to be sacrificed and offered to the goddess on this occasion.
The brahmanas become all powerful if they observe dashami vrata on the tenth day of the lunar fortnight and donate ten cows. The eleventh day of the lunar fortnight (ekadashi) is for fasting. It is also the tithi for praying to Vishnu. The observance of ekadashi vrata grants sons and wealth and atones for one’s sins.
The twelfth day of the lunar fortnight is dvadashi. Any dvadashi in shuklapaksha is auspicious for worshipping Vishnu. Duadashi in the month of Bhadra is for praying to cows and calves and in the month of Chaitra it is for praying to the god of love (Madana). If one observes dvadashi for an entire year, one never has to go to naraka. An especially good conjunction is dvadashi in shuklapaksha in the month of Bhadra when the nakshatra Shravana is in the sky. if one fasts and observes a vrata then, one earns greater punya than from bathing in the confluence of sacred rivers. If Budha (Mercury) is also in the sky, the punya is multiplied severalfold.
Trayodashi vrata is on the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight and this ritual was first performed by the god of lover when he wanted to please Shiva. This is the tithi on which Shiva is worshipped. In the month of Ashvina, Indra is also revered on this tithi. And in the month of Chaitra, the god of love is worshipped in shuklapaksha on the same tithi.
The fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight (chaturdashi) is also earmarked for Shiva, particularly in the month of Kartika. One fasts and donates to brahmanas and thereby attains svarga. The chaturdashi in krishnapaksha that comes between the months of Magha and Falguna is known as Shivaratri. Then one has to fast and stay awake the whole night. Earlier, there used to be an evil hunter named Sundarasena. But because he performed a vrata on Shivaratri, all his sins were forgiven.