4

I remember reading he went to sleep next to his bow and the other gods sent ants to gnaw the bow-string. When the string broke the bow straightened out and took Vishnu's head off (in some versions the severed head becomes the Sun). Does any other pre-puranic scripture talk about this?

I want an answer based only pre-puranic scripture.

4

Yes, the story is described in this chapter of the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda. The gods once accidentally cut off Vishnu's head with his own bow (this is all Vishnu's Lila, of course) and the head turns into the Sun:

  1. They spake, 'Whoever of us, through austerity, fervour, faith, sacrifice, and oblations, shall first compass the end of the sacrifice, he shall be the most excellent of us, and shall then be in common to us all.' 'So be it,' they said.

  2. Vishnu first attained it, and he became the most excellent of the gods; whence people say, 'Vishnu is the most excellent of the gods.'

  3. Now he who is this Vishnu is the sacrifice; and he who is this sacrifice is yonder Âditya (the sun). ...

  4. Taking his bow, together with three arrows, he stepped forth. He stood, resting his head on the end of the bow. Not daring to attack him, the gods sat themselves down all around him.

  5. Then the ants said--these ants (vamrî), doubtless, were that (kind called) 'upadîkâ'--'What would ye give to him who should gnaw the bowstring?'--'We would give him the (constant) enjoyment of food, and he would find water even in the desert: so we would give him every enjoyment of food.'--'So be it,' they said.

  6. Having gone nigh unto him, they gnawed his bowstring. When it was cut, the ends of the bow, springing asunder, cut off Vishnu's head.

  7. It fell with (the sound) 'ghriṅ'; and on falling it became yonder sun. And the rest (of the body) lay stretched out (with the top part) towards the east. And inasmuch as it fell with (the sound) 'ghriṅ,' therefrom the Gharma (was called); and inasmuch as he was stretched out (pra-vrig,), therefrom the Pravargya (took its name).

Not to keep you in suspense, the gods attached a horse head to Vishnu's body, which is how he assumed his Hayagriva form. This was Vishnu's plan all along, to kill the horse-headed demon Hayagrivasura who had received a boon that he could only be killed by someone who was horse-headed; see my answer here.

  • 1
    So this Vishnu is aditya Vishnu or Vishnu from the trinities? – Anubhav Jha Mar 7 '18 at 18:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .