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It is well-known that Shiva's son Ganesha is the general of Shiva's army of Ganas. What's not as well-known, however, is that Vishnu also has an army, led by the god Vishvaksena. Vishvaksena plays an important role in the Sri Vaishnava sect; as I discuss here, Vishvaksena learnt the all-important Dvaya mantra from Lakshmi and taught it to the Vaishnava poet-saint Nammalwar. And as I discuss in this question, Nammalwar is himself considered an incarnation of Vishvaksena.

But my question is, what scriptures discuss the story of Vishvaksena? No doubt he's discussed in the Pancharatra texts (which I discuss here), but what other scriptures describe him? There's a reference in a few Puranas to Shiva's incarnation, Kalabhairava, (temporarily) killing Vishvaksena. The Srimad Bhagavatam mentions him as one of Vishnu's attendants, but are there any scriptures that describe the story of his birth and the like?

The story I could find is the one told in this PDF, which is a compilation of extracts from different Puranas which describe the story of Venkateshwara (the Vishnu deity in Tirupati, aka Balaji or Srinivasa). In particular, it gives a story from the Vamana Purana. In this account, the Apsara Kuntala is cursed by the sage Durvasa to be born as a human being. She takes birth as Suvarchala, daughter of a cruel man named Virabahu. Suvarchala then has a child with Varuna: the ocean god named Vishvaksena. When Vishvaksena grows up, he goes to the Tirumala hills in Tirupati and engages in Tapasya, whereupon Vishnu appears before him and appoints him as the general of his army:

Kuntala was reborn as a daughter to Virabahu, a cruel personality. She was named as Suvarchala. She made her parents very happy while growing up. She became very famous for her beauty and good character. Virabahu performed her marriage ceremony with Bhadra who was the son of Dharma.

One day in the Phalguna month, sukla paksha, she finished her bath in the river Narmada and stood near the mountain. Varuna deva saw her beauty and was very much impressed and asked her to wish for a boon. Suvarchala asked him to bless her with a good son which he readily granted. Suvarachala felt very happy.

After some time, Suvarchala gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. When he was born, the auspicious signs like the sound of celestial drums was heard, flowers rained from the sky, and the breeze blew with fragrance. The baby’s face was shining like a full moon, with lotus eyes, his skin was like pure gold and his feet had the impressions of conch, chakra and the mace. He was born in the star of Pushya. He was growing like a moon in the sukla paksha with valor. When the boy reached his tenth year, Suvarchala passed away. His father also left him.

The boy became an orphan and started wandering in the surroundings of the kashyapa ashramam. Sage Kashyapa grasped that this boy was from the royal family and the son of Varuna. He accepted the boy as his student (Sishya). Kashyapa gave the upadesam of Gayathri mantra and taught him all the Vedas along with Siksha and Vyakaranam. After the completion of his education, the boy sought permission from sage Kashyapa to do penance. Kashyapa allowed him with blessings.

The boy went to Vrushadri and started rigorous penance with austeries. Lord Srimannarayana appeared in front of him and blessed him with the boon of becoming the army chief of Lord Srimannarayana. He was also blessed with a divine form similar to Lord Narayana (sarupyam) having sankha, chakra and gada in his hands.

The PDF says this story is from "Kshetra Khanda, Chapter 23" of the Vamana Purana. But at least in the table of contents here, the Vamana Purana doesn't seem to be divided into Khandas. So can anyone point me to the relevant chapter of the Vamana Purana?

Are there any other scriptures that describe this story of Vishvaksena being the son of Varuna and Suvarchala? Also, who is Suvarchala's father Virabahu? If possible I would like to trace back the ancestry of Vishvaksena as far as I can.

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  • Stala Puranam may give you some info about him. I saw long ago a Video where "Venkateswara orders Vishwaksena to do something" and commentator says that story can be found in Stala Puranam.
    – The Destroyer
    Dec 31, 2015 at 15:29
  • @AnilKumar Well, the Tirumala Sthala Purana isn't an independent source of stories, it just consists of a bunch of extracts from various actual Puranas which discuss Venkateshwara. The Tirumala Sthala Purana's of account of Vishvaksena's birth seems word-for-word the same as the passage above: gdurl.com/pSuf So I assume the author of the Sthala Purana is quoting the Vamana Purana. Dec 31, 2015 at 18:26
  • @AnilKumar By the way, I just posted a question about the other incident involving Vishvaksena mentioned in that Tirumala Sthala Purana excerpt: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/10024/36 Dec 31, 2015 at 18:28
  • See this page.
    – The Destroyer
    Mar 4, 2016 at 14:44
  • @AnilKumar I don't think that's referring to Vishnu's general Vishvaksena, just some human king with the same name. Mar 4, 2016 at 14:53

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A version of vishvaksena story is found in tamraparni mahatmyam which is also referenced in Aufrecht’s Catalogus Catalogorum :

Lakshmana went to a forest to the north of Ayodhya and sat on a bed of Darbha grass under a tree, facing north, in complete meditation of Rama’s lotus feet.

Durvasa appeared and said: “You are none other than Sesha. You have committed two grave sins. One, you uttered strong words of condemnation against your father, King Dasaratha when Kaikeyi stopped Yuvaraja Pattabhishekam of Rama and thus offended Rama badly. Secondly, when Maya Sita was removed, you criticized dharma. For these two serious sins, you need to expiate. The expiation prescribed in Dharmasatras for sins of condemnation of dharma and Guru is to become a tree.”

Lakshmana assumed mentally the nature of a tree. He looked at his own image reflected in the ruby gem in his finger ring with half-open eyes and deposited his own power in that image.

At that time an ascetic couple arrived there and prostrated and worshipped him. They said: “O Sesha, obeisance to you. We are brahmanas. We worshipped Siva for getting progeny. Siva appeared before us and asked us to meet you and take your finger ring from you. He also told us to deposit your body in Ganga waters after you have merged with Brahman. He added that we would get a son celebrated in all three worlds when a brilliant sprout like a gem would appear. We have taken refuge in you.”

Lakshmana handed his ring to the couple, who became extremely happy. He abandoned his body and flew upwards in the form of a bright light. There was shower of flowers; Devas were happy. Durvasa also left for Brahmaloka. The brahmana couple deposited Lakshmana’s body in the Ganga waters, bathed and worshipped Pitrus and Devas. Feeling satisfied, they left southwards and reached the south bank of Tamraparni.

Keeping the ring handed by Lakshmana in his lap, the brahmana worshipped the Lord along with his wife. His wife became pregnant. A wonderful sprout like a gem appeared. At that time the woman gave birth to a son to the accompaniment of thundering divine music of drums. Brahma and Devas pronounced the twelve names of Sesha – Ananta, Bhudhara, Asvapna, Manibija, Manidruma, Amrita, Atmavan, Yogi, Bhumandalasikhamani, Varada, Mudrikankura, Vanaspatikuleswara, and worshippd him. They saw in the newborn baby the same Sesha.

Sesha had become a ‘sleepless’ tamarind tree expiating for his sins by meditating on Vishnu. At the foot of the tamarind tree, they worshipped the child, who made all directions radiant and who grew with the blessings of all Devas assembled. Akasavani named him Vishvaksena and said he was born as part (amsa) of Vishnu. Vishnu came and took the child in his lap and granted him the boons of Sarupya (form like Vishnu), headship of all Parshadas. As the child was the son of the brahmana, Agnidhrut, he was also known as Aagnidhra. Vishnu blessed him and said: “You live here for a thousand years, worshipping your parents. Grant them Moksha at the end. Reach me then.” Saying so, Vishnu vanished. Those, who bathe in the sacred Tamraparni river, worship the tamarind tree, which is Sesha, and also Vishvaksena, are indeed Jivanmuktas.

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    Is the tamparni mahatmya mentioned in any scriptures or it's just the Sthala Purana?
    – Boovanaes
    Mar 12 at 12:40
  • my observation is that sthala purana is not a separate literature. sthala purana like above is part of maha/upa puranas. The problem is translations of puranas don't cover the entire purana as translators choose to translate only those parts of puranas which are listed under chapter 92-109 of narada purana and ignore rest parts of purana. wisdomlib has dedicated page for every purana where it lists all manuscripts associated with maha/upa puranas. This includes many texts like ahobila mahatmya, sankara samhita, bhutanatha upakhyana, etc. which though part of purana are excluded by translators.
    – ekAntika
    Mar 12 at 15:12

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