The Sri Vaishnava sect has two sub-sects, Thenkalai and Vadakalai. Vadakalais follow the teachings of Vedanta Desikan, whereas Thenkalais follow the teachings of Pillai Lokacharya. My question is about Pillai Lokacharya. In his Prapanna Paritrana, Pillai Lokacharya discusses the importance of Sharanagati or complete surrender to Vishnu, because he is the only adequate protector in the Universe. Pillai Lokacharya explains why Devas are not adequate protectors:

But what about Indra, Brahma and Rudra? an objector may ask. The answer is: it is too true that Indra is the ruler of the three regions, and yet it is too well-known how he is in constant fear of losing this high estate. He is often curse-stricken, pays the penalty, by suffering for Brahmicide, is bound as a captive by Indrajit and allows his sway to get into the hands of such beings as Mahabali. Such then is Indra, weeping and crawling in the dust.

Brahma is no better, for he is assailed by such evil genii as Madhu and Kaitabha, and is deprived of his Vedas which to him are his "eyes and treasure". And his head he allows to be ripped by Rudra.

Nor again is Rudra any better. For he is to begin with the Destroyer par excellence. Water is wished for by the thirsty, but Rudra of the fire-colour offers himself to such thirsty (worshippers of his) as fire! He exacts horrid offerings from his devotees, by saying: "Kill for me, roast for me." Banasura was his votary - so much so that Rudra pledged himself to guard him so that even "the flower he wore on his head should not fade." But when Krishna was hacking Bana's arms as if they were so many cactus-stems, the boasted guardian Rudra shut his eyes and slipped away from his ward, uttering: "If life is spared, I can live by selling salt." Again he, a sinner, cut the throat of Brahma, the guide of the worlds, his own father; and wandered about after such acts of treason in his own house, with the skull of his victim fast clinging to his hand, from door to door, in search of a saviour.

Most of these incidents are recognizable; there's Indra killing Vritrasura, Indra being captured by Indrajit, Indra losing his kingdom to Mahabali, Brahma getting the Vedas stolen by Madhu and Kaitabha, Shiva carrying Brahma's head as Kala Bhairava, and Krishna and Shiva fighting in the story of Banasura. But I'm interested in the part in bold. My question is, what scriptures describe Shiva discussing living by selling salt while Krishna was cutting off Banasura's thousand arms?

Are these words mentioned in either the Bhagavatam or the Harivamsa? And what do they mean, anyway? Why salt of all things?

  • 12
    Whoa Pillai Lokacharya is not polite
    – Surya
    Apr 25, 2018 at 4:09
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    I think it is a metaphor. Apr 25, 2018 at 4:37
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    @Surya Haha, that's just due to the depth of his devotion. It's also worth noting that the principle of Nahi Ninda Nyaya is applicable here. Apr 25, 2018 at 6:55
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    @Keshav But Nahi ninda nyaya involves glorification without derogation of the other means. Here there is clearly some sort of criticism involved.
    – Surya
    Apr 25, 2018 at 10:08
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    To term this question as "off-topic" is to take a very narrow view of Hinduism. As any student of history would know that during the early centuries of CE - hinduism was relegated to a secondary religion due to widespread preaching of the gospel of Mahavira and Buddha. It was only in the 7th century CE and later that Hindu revivalism occurred. And at that time the two sects Shaivism and Vaishnavism was at each others throat. Pillai Lokacharya was a product of his time and one should look at his sayings dispassionately. Keshav's question is valid and pertains to Hinduism. Apr 26, 2018 at 1:57

1 Answer 1


I found the answer in this commentary on the Prapanna Paritrana:

In the end, Banasuran's hands were cut by Krishna. Krishna purposefully left few heads and hands for him so that he can perform his pitru karma. Also, he had already promised to Prahlada that he will not kill anyone in his vamsa. This act of cutting the hands was compared by Swamy Pillai Lokachayar to cutting down the cactus plant. Looking at the situation of the asura, rudran and his relatives ran for their life so that they could enjoy some pleasure by being alive. Even during the escape time, rudran wanted to hide his third eye with the thought that none could recognise him.

So it's not that Shiva mentioned something about salt. Rather, Pillai Lokacharyan is using that example as a way of illustrating Shiva's motivation.

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    The unreality of such stories have to be understood from the perspective of the following statement of the Shvetashvataropanishat: The following mantras, from this Upanishad, say the same as the above mantra: यो देवानां प्रभवश्चोद्भवश्च विश्वाधिपो रुद्रो महर्षिः । हिरण्यगर्भं जनयामास पूर्वं स नो बुद्ध्या शुभया संयुनक्तु ॥ ४ ॥ 3.4 यो देवानां प्रभवश्चोद्भवश्च विश्वाधिपो रुद्रो महर्षिः । हिरण्यगर्भं पश्यत जायमानं स नो बुद्ध्या शुभया संयुनक्तु ॥ १२ ॥ 4.12 Brahma being created is the purport of the above mantras. Rudra is the very creator of Brahmaa. Apr 16, 2021 at 4:26
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    And this statement of the Mahabharata: रुद्रो नारायणश्चैव सत्त्वमेकं द्विधा कृतम्। लोके चरति कौन्तेय व्यक्तिस्थं सर्वकर्मसु।। 12-350-27a 12-350-27b. [Rudra and Narayana are only two manifestations of One Principle.......] Apr 16, 2021 at 4:28
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    All this is akin to the Skandopanishat set of verses which Smartas in Karnataka and Andhra chant thrice every day during the Sandhya vandanam: शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय शिवरूपाय विष्णवे । शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुः विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः ॥८॥ यथा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयः शिवः । यथान्तरं न पश्यामि तथा मे स्वस्तिरायुषि ॥९॥ यथान्तरं न भेदाः स्युः शिवकेशवयोस्तथा ।[Skandopaniṣat] [(obeisance to Śiva who is of the form of Viḷṣṇu, and to Viṣṇu of the form of Śiva. Śiva's heart (self) is Viṣṇu and Viṣṇu's self is Śiva. contd... Apr 16, 2021 at 4:29
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    contd.. Just as Viṣṇu is fully verily Śiva, so too Śiva is fully verily Viṣṇu. As I do not see any difference between them, let me be prosperous and long-lived. Let there be no difference between Śiva and Keśava. n fact the Mahabharata itself contains a similar verse: शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय विष्णवे शिवरूपिणे ।। दक्षयज्ञविनाशाय हरिरूपाय ते नमः। 3.39.76 (हरिरुद्राय) [These are the words of Arjuna to Lord Śiva during the Pashupata episode.] In the Harivamśa, मार्कण्डेय उवाच॥ शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय विष्णवे शिवरूपिणे। अथान्तरं न पश्यामि तेन ते दिशतः शिवम् । Apr 16, 2021 at 4:29
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    Such statements override all the 'stories' that are only fanciful ones. In fact only such fanciful stories have resulted in animosity among Hindus. Those, both medieval and modern, by highlighting such stories for their own parochial gains, are only doing a disservice to the society. Apr 16, 2021 at 4:31

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