Adishesha (आदिशेषः)

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Adishesha is sometimes identified with Ananta; living in Bhogavatī Purī (Mahabharata Cultural Index). ananta is the reposing bed of viṣṇu. It is this ananta who dislodged mandara mountain at the time of Kṣīrābdhi mathana (churning of the ocean of milk) (M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 18, Verse 8). ananta is the noblest of the nāgas. (M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 35, Verse 2). When there were mutual dissensions among the nāgas, ananta visited holy places such as puṣkara. (M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 36, Verse 3). ananta obtained from brahmā the boon to be able to stand firmly on dharma. (M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 36, Verse 17). ananta carries and supports the earth at the behest of brahmā. (M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 36, Verse 18). Ananta's father is kaśyapa and his mother is kadrū. (M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 65, Verse 41). At the time of Tripuradahana, ananta served as the axle of Śiva's chariot. (M.B. droṇa parva, Chapter 202, Verse 72). (Puranic Encyclopedia) Baladeva (elder brother of Krshna) is considered an avatara of a portion of Śeṣa 1. 61. 91; (Mahabharata Cultural Index) (M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 67, Verse 152 acc to Puranic Encyclopedia)

Birth

Mentioned by Sūta as the first son of Kadrū, the second being Vāsuki śeṣaḥ prathamato jāto vāsukis tadanantaram 1. 31. 5; hence called bhujagavarāgraja ie. ‘elder brother of the excellent serpent’ (i. e. of Vāsuki) 1. 32. 22 He is called a kādraveya (son of Kadrū, daughter of Dakṣa) along with Ananta, Vāsuki and others 1. 59. 40 Bhīṣma told Duryodhana that Vāsudeva Janārdana created the divine Śeṣa who is known as Ananta 6. 63. 10. (Mahabharata Index)

Adishesha holds the Earth

In the ancient times, Adishesha, the serpent son of Rshi Kashyapa and his wife Kadru began practising penance on the Gandhamadana mountain, Badarikashrama, Gokarna, Pushkara and the foothills of Himalaya. Lord Brahma noticed that his flesh, skin and nerves were drying up due to severe penance. He had taken to matted hair and bark garments like a sage. Seeing this, Lord Brahma asked Shesha the reason for undertaking this austerity and instructed him to do something beneficial for the people instead of tormenting them through his severe austerities. Shesha then revealed to Lord Brahma that his serpent brothers were dull-witted, they envied Vinata and her sons who were their brothers. And therefore he undertook austerities to give up his body so as to distance himself from his brothers.

Lord Brahma explained to Shesha that his brothers faced danger since they offended their mother, the repercussions of which were already taken care of and that he was happy to see Shesha devoted to dharma. Infact, being pleased with Adishesha’s self-control and equanimity, Brahma asked him hold the earth that shook due to mountains, forests, oceans, villages and cities, in such a way that it became steady, for the benefit of all living beings. Shesha agreed to do the same and asked Brahma to place the earth on his head to which he was asked to go below the earth. Accordingly, Shesha entered the earth, for which the earth herself provided a path, and living in Patala, he placed her, surrounded by the oceans, on his head thereby making her steady. And Lord Brahma who compared this service of Shesha for the betterment of the world to the work of Brahma and Indra, appointed Garuda, the son of Vinata to help him in this task.

This story is described in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata (Adhyaya 36).[1] Also Mahabharata Index

How did Adisesha become the resting place for SriMahaVishnu?

Pralaya is of four kinds. The first is nityapralaya. This is the destruction going on daily for all animate and inanimate objects born on earth. The second is Brahmapralaya or naimittikapralaya. The third is Prakrtapralaya. This is the great deluge made by prakrti (nature) at the end of a thousand Caturyugas (four yugas) .The fourth is atyantikapralaya. This is the union of the soul with the Supreme Being due to Jnana. Of the above the Brahmapralaya, or naimittikapralaya happens at the end of a Kalpa or a day of Brahma or a thousand yugas. The nature of this pralaya is as follows : At the end of a thousand yugas the world will look famished. Then there will be excessive drought for a hundred years together and everything in this world would be destroyed then. Then Mahavisnu, lord of everything in this universe, would present himself in the seven big rays of the Sun and drink to emptiness all the waters of all the three worlds, earth, ocean and patala. Then by the divine power of Mahavisnu the seven rays of the Sun which had grown fat by drinking this water would become seven separate Suns. These Suns would bum all the three worlds including Patala. Then the earth would look like the back of a tortoise (Kurmaprstha) . At that time Rudra, equal in brilliance to Kalagni, would from beneath burn the patala sending breaths from Adisesa. After patala Kalagnirudra would burn the earth and then the heavens. Because of this all the worlds would look like globes of fire. Then the inhabitants of these worlds would go to Maharloka unable to bear the heat and from there to Janaloka. Thus Visnu in the form of Rudra would destroy everything. Then from the face of Visnu would originate clouds and lightning in different forms. Those clouds would rain incessantly for a hundred years and destroy the fire prevailing everywhere. When the rains become unbearable Vayu would encroach upon the seats of the Saptarsis in the ocean and by the breath of Visnu destroy all the clouds. At that time Visnu, lord of all, would lie on the back of Adisesa in that one big ocean drinking vayu (air). Visnu will lie thus for a period of a Kalpa in yogic slumber meditating on Vasudeva taking the name Madhusudana and form of Brahma praised by the siddhamunis inside the ocean. After that he would take the form of Brahma and start creation. (Page 600, Puranic Encyclopedia - Vettam Maṇi)

Association with Viṣṇu Nārāyaṇa

Nārāyaṇa told Mārkaṇḍeya that he, having become Śeṣa, supports the earth surrounded by the four oceans and adorned by Meru and Mandara 3. 187. 10; when the entire creation, both moving and non-moving, gets lost in one single ocean, god Viṣṇu Nārāyaṇa sleeps alone on the bed of water on the huge body of Śeṣa; at that time with Śeṣa's great coil Viṣṇu encompasses the whole earth and sustains it 3. 194. 8-10; Hari Nārāyaṇa when he is in his nidrāyoga also sleeps on the bed in the form of the body of the snake (Śeṣa not named here) which is arranged on water 12. 335. 57-58, 17. (Mahabharata Index)

Śeṣa's place in the four vyūhas of the Pāñcarātra system

Nārāyaṇa told Nārada that his fourth form (mūrti) created imperishable (avyaya) Śeṣa who is known as Saṁkarṣaṇa; from him was created Pradyumna 12. 326. 68; jīva is called Śeṣa Saṁkarṣaṇa 12. 326. 35. (Mahabharata Index)


References

  1. Ramanarayanadatta Shastri Pandeya, Mahabharata (Vol.1), Gorakhpur: Gita Press.