Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Harivamsa)

Parashurama leads Krishna and Balarama toward Mount Gomanta. Miniature from a Harivamsha series ascribed to Purkhu of Kangra. Kangra, c. 1800-1815. Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh

The Harivamsa (Sanskrit: हरिवंश, lit.'The genealogy of Hari', IAST: Harivaṃśa[1]) is an important work of Sanskrit literature, containing 16,374 shlokas, mostly in the anustubh metre. The text is also known as the Harivamsa Purana. This text is believed to be a khila (appendix or supplement) to the Mahabharata[2][3] and is traditionally ascribed to Vyasa. The most celebrated commentary of the Mahabharata by Neelakantha Chaturdhara, the Bharata Bhava Deepa also covers the Harivamsa. According to a traditional version of the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa is divided into two parvas (books) and 12,000 verses.[2] These are included with the eighteen parvas of the Mahabharata.[3] The Critical Edition has three parvas and 5,965 verses.[4]

The Adi Parva of Harivamsa describes the creation of the cosmos and the legendary history of the kings of the Solar and Lunar dynasties leading up to the birth of Krishna. Vishnu Parva recounts the history of Krishna up to the events prior to the Mahabharata.[5] Bhavishya Parva, the third book, includes two alternate creation theories, hymns to Shiva and Vishnu and provides a description of the Kali Yuga.[6] While the Harivamsa has been regarded as an important source of information on the origin of Vishnu's incarnation Krishna, there has been speculation as to whether this text was derived from an earlier text and what its relationship is to the Brahma Purana, another text that deals with the origins of Krishna.[7]


Dwarka is on sea coast
Dwarka is on sea coast
Dwarka is the setting for many chapters in the Harivamsa.[8] The city is described as near the sea, in modern era Gujarat; a painting of the city in the 19th century (lower).

The bulk of the text is derived from two traditions, the pañcalakṣaṇa tradition, that is, the five marks of the Purana corpus one of which is the vaṃśa genealogy, and stories about the life of Krishna as a herdsman.

The text is complex, containing layers that go back to the 1st or 2nd centuries BCE.[9]

Probably there was an oral previous version because later in time, the text was enlarged by additions and was matched in style to the Mahabharata.[10]

The origin of this appendix is not precisely known but it is apparent that it was a part of the Mahabharata by the 1st century CE because "the poet Ashvaghosha quotes a couple of verses, attributing them to the Mahabharata, which are now only found in the Harivamsa."[11]

Sivaprasad Bhattacharyya, also considered that Ashvaghosha referred to the Harivamsa, and found internal and external evidence that it was an authoritative text by the first century CE and that its later redaction took place around the end of the second or beginning of the third century CE.[12]

Edward Washburn Hopkins considered the Mahabharata increased by the addition of the Harivamsa c. 200 CE,[13] but also the possible existence of Harivamsa as part of the around hundred thousand verses within the Mahabharata as it can be attested in the Southern recension of the latter.[14]

R. C. Hazra has dated the Purana to the 4th century CE on the basis of the description of the rasa lila in it, as according to him, the Visnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana belong to the 5th century CE and 6th century CE respectively.[15] According to Dikshit, the date of the Matsya Purana is 3rd century CE. When we compare the biography of Krishna, the account of Raji, and some other episodes as depicted in the Harivaṃśa, it appears to be anterior to the former. Therefore, the Viṣṇu parva and the Bhaviṣya parva can be dated to at least the 3rd century CE.

J. L. Masson and D. H. H. Ingalls regard the language of Harivamsa not later than 2nd or 3rd century CE and possibly from the 1st century CE; and André Couture that Mathura's description in Harivamsa is similar to cities of Kushana period (1st to mid-3rd century CE).[16]

By its style and contents, the Harivaṃśa parva appears to be anterior to the Viṣṇu parva and Bhaviṣya parva. The verses quoted by Asvaghosa belong to this parva. On this basis, we can safely assume the Harivaṃśa parva (except for the later interpolations) to be at least as old as the 1st century CE.


The Harivamśa is available in three editions. The vulgate text of the Harivamśa has total 271 adhyāyas (chapters), divided into three parvas, Harivaṃśa parva (55 chapters), Viṣṇu parva (81 chapters) and Bhaviṣya parva (135 chapters). The traditional edition contains 12000 shlokas (verses) 2 sub-parvas, the Harivamsa Parva (187 chapters) and the Bhavishya Parva (48 chapters) with a total of 235 chapters. The Critical Edition or CE (1969–71, Ed. P.L.Vaidya), estimated to be c. 300 Common Era by Vaidya,[17] is around a third (118 chapters in 6073 slokas)[18] of this vulgate edition. Like the vulgate, the chapters in the CE are divided into three parvas, Harivaṃśa parva (chapters 1-45), Viṣṇu parva (chapters 46-113) and Bhaviṣya parva (chapters 114 -118). Vaidya suggests that even the CE represents an expanded text and proposes that the oldest form of Harivamśa probably began with chapter 20 (which is where Agni Purana 12 places its start) and must have ended with chapter 98 of his text.[19]


City of Dwarka in Harivamsa, as painted for the Mughal emperor Akbar

The Harivamsa has been translated in many Indian vernacular languages; The vulgate version containing 3 books and 271 chapters has not been translated into English yet. The only English translation of the traditional version containing 2 sub-parvas (Harivamsa parva - 187 chapters and Bhavishya parva - 48 chapters, a total of 235 chapters) is by Manmatha Nath Dutt in 1897 and it is in the public domain. The critical edition has been translated into English twice so far, once in 2016 by Bibek Debroy and by Simon Brodbeck in 2019.

It has been translated into French by M. A. Langlois,1834–35. [20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South Asian arts - Sanskrit: epic and didactic literature (400 bc–ad 1000) | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  2. ^ a b Datta, Manmathanatha, [Manmatha Nath Dutt], (1895). A prose English translation of the Mahabharata (tr. literally from the original Sanskrit text), Adi Parva, Mahabharata 1.2.377-378, Printed by H.C. Dass, Calcutta, p. 21: "There are Harivansa and Vavisya in its appendix. The number of slokas composed by the great Rishi in the Harivansa, is twelve thousand. These are the contents of the chapters called Parva Sangraha in the Bharata."
  3. ^ a b The Mahabharata in Sanskrit: Book I: Chapter 2 in sacred-texts.com website, (MBh.1.2.69): "hari vaṃśas tataḥ parva purāṇaṃ khila saṃjñitam bhaviṣyat parva cāpy uktaṃ khileṣv evādbhutaṃ mahat." ["Hari Vamsa Purana known as Khila (supplement) and Bhavishya Parva also spoken as Khila are wonderful and great"].
  4. ^ Debroy, Bibeck, (2016). Harivamsha, Penguin Books India, Gurgaon, "Introduction": "There are thus 5,965 shlokas in all of Harivamsha. Non-Critical versions will often have doubled this number, reflective of the slashing."
  5. ^ Maurice Winternitz (1981), History of Indian Literature, Vol. 1, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-0836408010, pages 426-431
  6. ^ Maurice Winternitz (1981), History of Indian Literature, Vol. 1, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-0836408010, pages 432-435
  7. ^ Ruben, Walter, (1941). "The Kṛṣṇacarita in the Harivaṃśa and Certain Purāṇas", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 61, No. 3, p.115.
  8. ^ Manmatha Nath Dutt, Vishnu Purana, Harivamsa (1896), pages 283-286
  9. ^ Bhattacharya, Pradip, (May 27, 2017). "Review of André Couture: Krsna in the Harivamsha, Vol. 1, 2015": "Couture finds no cogent basis for Vaidya's dating of the HV to 300 or 400 CE. The recent conclusions of scholars like Hiltebeitel, Bailey, Sutton, Biardeau and Fitzgerald that the MB was compiled between 200 BCE and 200 CE as a response to Buddhism, would apply equally to the HV."
  10. ^ Ruben, Walter, (1941). "The Krsnacarita in the Harivamsa and Certain Puranas," Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 61, No. 3, p.124.
  11. ^ Datta, Amaresh (ed.), 1988. Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, Vol. 2: Devraj to Jyoti, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, p. 1558.
  12. ^ Lorenz, Ekkehard, (2007). "The Harivamsa: The Dynasty of Krishna", in: Edwin F. Bryant (ed.), Krishna: A Sourcebook, Oxford University Press, p. 97.
  13. ^ Hopkins, Washburn E., (2020) [1915]. "Date of Epic Poetry", in: E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology, p. 1: "The Mahabharata has been increased by the late addition of the Harivamsha (perhaps 200 A. D.) [...]"
  14. ^ Hopkins, Washburn E., (2020) [1915]. "Date of Epic Poetry", in: E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology, p. 2: "Northern version [of the Mahabharata] contains 84,126 verses, which, with the 16,375(526) verses of the Harivamsha, make 100,501(651) verses [...] It is therefore doubtful whether the attribution of a lakh of verses [in the Mahabharata] necessarily implies the existence, as part of the lakh, of the Harivamsha. Yet on the whole this is probable, owing to the fact that the expansion in [the Southern recension] appears for the most part to be due rather to the inclusion of new material than to the retention of old passages."
  15. ^ Hazra, Rajendra Chandra, (1975)[1940]. Studies in the Purāṇic Records on Hindu Rites and Customs, Motilal Banarsidass, p. 55: "[V]isnu-p. is earlier than the Bhagavata [...] Harivamsa also [...] being dated about 400 A. D. [...] Thus the date of composition of the Bhagavata falls in the sixth century A. D."
  16. ^ Bhattacharya, Pradip, (May 27, 2017). "Review of André Couture: Krsna in the Harivamsha, Vol. 1, 2015": "[C]outure conclude[s] that the Mathura described in the HV is evocative of cities of the Kushana era (1st to mid-3rd century CE) and not of the end of the Dvapara Yuga [...]"
  17. ^ Hein, Norvin, (May, 1986). "A Revolution in Kṛṣṇaism: The Cult of Gopāla", in: History of Religions, Vol. 25, No. 4, Religion and Change: ASSR Anniversary Volume, The University of Chicago Press, p. 296.
  18. ^ Bhattacharya, Pradip, (May 27, 2017). "Review of André Couture: Krsna in the Harivamsha, Vol. 1, 2015".
  19. ^ [Harivaṃśa 1969-71: 785, XXX and 795]
  20. ^ Translations of the Harivamsa


  • Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 410
  • Winternitz, Maurice (1981) History of Indian Literature Vol. I. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  • Ruben, Walter (1941) "The Krsnacarita in the Harivamsa and Certain Puranas.” Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 61, No.3. pp. 115–127.
  • Lorenz, Ekkehard (2007) The Harivamsa: The Dynasty of Krishna, in Edwin F. Bryant (ed.), Krishna, A Source Book, Oxford University Press.
  • Shastri, Rajendra Muni, Jaina Sahitya mein Sri Krishna Charita, Jaipur, Prakrit Bharati Akademi, 1991.

External links[edit]