A Rakshasa Abducts Bhrigu’s Wife

Image of a demon called Yakshagana

Note: In the previous post, we learned about Sage Bhrigu’s family. With this post, we begin the story of why Sage Bhrigu’s son was called Chyavana. The story begins with an incident that happened to Sage Bhrigu’s wife when she was pregnant.

After listening to Sauti’s description of Sage Bhrigu’s family, the great ascetic, Saunaka Kulapati, said to Sauti, “Why was the illustrious son of Bhrigu named Chyavana?”

Sauti replied, “Bhrigu had a wife whom he loved dearly. Her name was Puloma. One day, when Puloma was in the later stages of pregnancy, Bhrigu left his house to perform his ablutions. 

Soon after Bhrigu left, a rakshasa, whose name was also Puloma, came to Bhrigu’s house. There he saw Bhrigu’s irreproachable wife and was immediately filled with lust. In that state, he lost his senses.

Bhrigu’s beautiful wife offered the rakshasa (who approached their house) some fruits and roots from the forest. This delighted the rakshasa who burnt with desire. In that desire, he made a decision to carry her away.

In the past, Puloma’s father had promised to marry his daughter to the rakshasa, but eventually, she was married to Sage Bhrigu with due rites. The rakshasa’s mind still carried the anger of that incident. 

When he saw Bhrigu’s wife, who looked very similar to the lady he was going to marry in the past, he thought that this would be a good time to carry her away. However, he wanted to be sure if she was indeed the same lady.

Note: Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation of the Mahabharata does not explicitly mention that the rakshasa was unsure about the lady’s identity, however, a later incident does give the reader the impression that he was confused and wanted Agni Deva to verify her identity. I have added the above paragraph based on that impression.

The rakshasa saw the sacrificial fire which was always kept burning in the sage’s house. The rakshasa asked the fire, “Tell me, O Agni, rightfully speaking, whose wife is this woman? You are the mouth of the Gods, therefore, you are bound to answer my question. This lady, of fair complexion, was first to be wedded to me and I accepted her, but subsequently, her father wedded her to Bhrigu. Tell me — can this lady be truly regarded as Bhrigu’s wife? She is alone right now and I have decided to take her away, forcefully, from the hermitage. My heart burns with anger at the thought of this slender-waisted lady being Bhrigu’s wife when she was first promised to me.

The rakshasa asked this question to the flaming Agni Deva again and again. When he found the deva reluctant to give an answer, the rakshasa said to him, “O God of fire, you reside constantly within every living being, as a witness to their good and bad deeds. O respected one, then answer my question truly, has not Bhrigu incorrectly married the woman who was chosen to be my wife? You should, therefore, truly speak about whether she is my wife by first choice. After you answer me whether she is the wife of Bhrigu or not, I will take her away with me. Therefore answer my question with truth.”

Agni Deva was very distressed after hearing the rakshasa’s words. He was afraid of speaking a falsehood but was equally afraid of the consequences of speaking the truth. Agni Deva replied, speaking very slowly, the following words, “This lady, Puloma, was indeed chosen by you, O rakshaha, but you did not marry her with holy rites and invocations. However, this lady of much fame was bestowed by her father on Bhrigu with his blessings. She was not bestowed on you but was married to Bhrigu with Vedic rites in my presence. This is the same lady – I know her and I dare not speak a lie, because, O best of rakshasa, falsehood is never respected in this world.”

After hearing these words from Agni Deva, Puloma (the rakshasa) took the form of a boar and carried away Puloma (the lady), at the speed of thought.

Note: In the next post, we will read about how Sage Bhrigu reacts when he finds out that his wife was abducted because Agni Deva identified her to the rakshasa.

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Next: Sage Bhrigu Curses Agni

Image Credit: The image was made available in the public domain by Mr.Manohara Upadhya (and uploaded by Gnanapiti) at https://www.flickr.com/photos/yakshagana/320782744/