Indra’s Past Mistake That Created Karmic Disturbances in Heaven

Indra with Indrani — 12th-century image at Hoysaleshwara Temple, Karnataka. Image by Ms. Sarah Welch, contributed on a Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: The Devas Get Ready For a Battle With Garuda

Note: If you recollect, the Mahabharata that you’re reading was narrated by Ugrasrava Sauti to Saunaka Kulapati and the ascetics who had attended his 12-year sacrifice.

After listening to how the devas got themselves ready for the battle with Garuda, Saunaka Kulapati interrupted Sauti and asked him about Indra’s mistake that caused Garuda to attack heaven.

In this post, we will find out what mistake Indra committed in the past that caused Garuda to attack heaven for the amrit.

Saunaka Kulapati asked Sauti, “O son of Suta, what was Indra’s fault? What careless action did he do? Why was Garuda born as a result of the penance of the Valakhilyas? Why did Sage Kasyapa have a bird as a son? Why was this bird invincible? How did he have the power to travel to any place by will? How did he get the ability to muster any amount of energy from the universe at will? If the reasons have been described in the Puranas, I would like to hear them.”

Sauti said, “These points have indeed been described in the Puranas. I will answer your questions in detail.”

Note: The following words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha Forest.

A long time back, Sage Kasyapa had decided to conduct a sacrifice for begetting children. Everyone, including the rishis, devas, and gandharvas helped him. Indra, a few other deities, and the Valakhilya Rishis had been given the task of getting materials to burn the sacrificial fire.

Indra, the king of the devas, took on his strong shoulders a mountain-like weight that he carried effortlessly. On his way to the site of the sacrifice, he saw a group of tiny thumb-sized Valakhilya rishis struggling with a single stalk of Palasa leaf. Those rishis had become physically weak because of severe penances, and, as they struggled to walk with a load of that single leaf, they stumbled into a small puddle of water created by the weight of a cow’s hoof. When Indra saw the rishis in that state, he became proud because of his strength. He laughed at them and spoke rude words before speeding past them toward his destination.

Indra’s insulting words filled the rishis with anger and sadness. As a result, these excellent, vow-observing rishis conducted a great sacrifice in which they wished for another Indra. Uttering mantras and offering libations into the sacrificial fire, they wished for another Indra who would have the power of travelling anywhere at will and mustering any amount of energy from the universe. And they also wished that this second Indra would strike fear in the heart of the current king of devas who had laughed at their plight.

Indra was terrified when he heard of the sacrifice of the Valakhilya rishis. He immediately went to Sage Kasyapa for protection.

Note: In the next post, we will find out what happened when Indra went to Sage Kasyapa for protection.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Sage Kasyapa’s Decision Regarding a Second Indra