Image of Agni, the deity of fire, who has a very prominent place in the RigVeda.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Astika is Asked to Save the Serpents

Note: In the previous post, we read how Vasuki and his sister reached out to her son, Astika, to stop the snake sacrifice.

In this post, we will find out what Astika does when he reaches the location of the snake sacrifice.

After bringing peace to Vasuki’s heart with his words, Asika hastened to Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice where he saw the excellent compound in which it was being conducted. He also saw the Sadasyas who looked bright like the Sun itself. 

However, when Astika tried to enter the compound, the guards stopped him as commanded by the king. Astika, who was determined to meet the king, gratified the guards and convinced them to allow him to enter the location of the sacrifice.

Once Astika entered the sacrificial compound, he spoke words of adoration to Janamejaya, the Ritwiks, Sadasyas, and the sacrificial fire.

Astika said, “In ancient times, Soma, Varuna, and Prajapati performed sacrifices in Prayaga. But your snake sacrifice, O best king of Bharata’s race, is as good as those ancient sacrifices. O king, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

Indra performed a hundred sacrifices, but this sacrifice of yours, O son of Parikshit, is equal to ten thousand sacrifices of Indra. O king, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

Your sacrifice is like the sacrifices performed by Yama, or Harimedha, or Rantideva. O king, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

When King Yudhishthira, the son of a Deva and also of the Ajamida race, conducted a sacrifice, it became known even in the heavens. Your sacrifice is like King Yudhishthira’s sacrifice. O son of Parikshit, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

Your sacrifice is akin to the sacrifice of Krishna-Dwaipayana (Ved Vyasa of the Mahabharata) where he himself was the chief priest. O son of Parikshit, let those who are dear to us be blessed.

These Ritwiks and Sadasyas who are engaged in this sacrifice are like the slayer of Vritra (Indra). They are as bright as the Sun and all-knowing. Gifts made to them become inexhaustible in merit. Your Ritwika Dwaipayana is unequalled in this world. His disciples too are competent in their duties as Ritwiks And travel throughout the world to perform sacrifices. 

Agni, also known as Vibhavasu and Chitrabhanu accepts the libations of this sacrifice. He has gold as his vital seed, his path is marked by black smoke, and his flames blaze slightly to the right. He takes the libations offered by you and delivers them to the Gods. O king, there is no other monarch on earth comparable to you in the protection of his subjects.

O king, I am very pleased with your abstinence. You are either Varuna, or Yama, the God of justice. You are like Indra, who wields the thunderbolt to protect all creatures. That is no man on earth comparable to you and no king who is your equal in sacrifice. You are like Khatwanga, Nabhanga, and Dilipa. In prowess, you are like Yayati and Mandhatri. You are bright like the Sun. In your vows, you are like Bhishma. You keep your great energy concealed like Valmiki and you have controlled your anger like Vashishtha. You are like Indra in lordship and splendorous like Vishnu. You have deep knowledge of justice like Yama does and you have every virtue like Krishna. The good fortune that belongs to the Vasus has its home in you. You are the refuge of sacrifices. You have the strength of Damvodbhava and you are knowledgeable of the scriptures and weapons like Parshuram. Your energy is as great as Aurva and Trita and your fierce look is akin to Bhagiratha.

Note: In this post, we read how Astika praised and adored King Janamejaya, the Ritwiks, and Sadasyas, and the sacrificial fire (Agni).

In the next post, we will find out how Janamejaya responds to Astika’s words.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Janamejaya Wants to Give Astika a Boon But the Hotri Wants Him to Wait

Balinese wooden statue of Vishnu riding Garuda at the Purna Bhakti Pertiwi Museum

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Garuda’s Splendor

Note: In the previous post, we read how the gods were terrified when Garuda grew in size and brightness after his birth.

In today’s post, we will read about how the gods approached the great bird, with love and praise, to request him to reduce his brightness.

The gods along with Agni Deva went to Garuda and showed their love and praise for the might bird in these words:

“You are the destroyer of all and the creator of all. You are the Hiranyagarbha itself. You thought of creation and brought it forth in the form of Daksha and the other Prajapatis.

You are Indra — the king of God’s. You are Hayagriva, the horse-faced incarnation of Vishnu.

At the burning of Tripura, Vishnu became the arrow that was released by Mahadev for the destruction of the asuric city. You are the Lord of the universe. You are the mouth of Vishnu. You are the four-faced Padmaja. You are like a wise brahmana. You are the elements like Agni and Pavana.

You are knowledge and you are the illusion that we are all subject to. You are the all-pervading spirit. You are the truth and the god of gods. You are fearless and unchanged. 

You are Brahma without attributes (possibly a reference to the supreme who is without any attributes). 

You are the energy of the Sun. You are the intellect. You are our great protector. 

You are an ocean of holiness. You don’t have any dark attributes. You are purity itself. You have the six high attributes. No one can defeat you in any contest. 

O Garuda of excellent deeds, the whole universe has emanated from you. You are everything that has ever been or not been. 

You are pure knowledge. Just like the Sun, you show us everything in the universe. Your splendour is greater than the Sun.

You are the destroyer of all. You are everything that is perishable and also everything that is imperishable. You are resplendent like Agni and you burn everything just like Surya does in his anger.

O great one, even the fire that destroys everything during the time of pralay, cannot destroy you. 

O mighty Garuda, you who move in the sky, we seek your protection. 

O lord of birds your energy is extraordinary. Your splendour is like that of the fire. Your brightness is like that of lightning and darkness cannot approach you. When you fly, you reach the very clouds. You are the cause and effect of all things. You are invincible and you are the giver of boons. 

O Lord, the entire universe is heating up because of your splendour which resembles heated gold. 

O Garuda, protect these high-souled gods, who in fear of you are flying in different directions in heaven. 

O best of birds, lord of all, you are the son of the merciful and high-souled Rishi Kasyapa. Therefore, do not be angry. Have mercy on the universe. You are supreme. Pacify your anger and save us.

O great bird, the ten points of the universe, the sky, the heavens, the earth, and our hearts tremble when we hear you roar. 

O Garuda, have mercy on us and reduce the heat and brightness of your body.

O illustrious one, grant us good fortune and joy.

When the gods praised Garuda with love, that great bird reduced his energy and brightness for their benefit.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Garuda’s elder brother, Aruna, became Surya’s charioteer.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Why Surya Deva Wanted to Destroy the World

Garuda statue at the Chennakeshava temple in Belur, Karnataka (Image by Ananth H V, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Vinata Becomes Kadru’s Slave

Note: In the previous post, we read how Vinata became Kadru’s slave. Even though Vinata was cursed into slavery by her elder son, it was not indefinite slavery. He had given her a way out. If she cared for her second egg without losing patience then the son born out of that egg would set her free. 

This time, Vinata did not repeat her mistake. She cared for the egg without any impatience, and, when the time was right, the egg hatched. The mighty bird, Garuda, was born.

In this post, we will read about the splendor of the newborn Garuda.

Garuda burst forth from the egg when the time for his birth had come, and this mighty bird blazed like the fire. He lit up the universe in every direction. 

The noble bird was born with immense strength. He had the capability of taking any form at will. He could grow or reduce his size at will. Not only that, but he could also change his form to whatever he desired. He had the ability to go anywhere in the vast universe simply with the power of thought and he could call to his assistance any amount of energy from the cosmos.

Garuda looked like a blazing fire and he had eyes that resembled lightning flashes. Soon after his birth, he began to grow larger and larger.  He roared as his body grew toward the sky. This fierce roar with the blazing fire of his body made him look as terrifying as the second ocean-fire.

Note: The phrase “second ocean-fire” carries an allegorical meaning. I’ll reach out to experts and add their thoughts in the comments section below.

Even the deities became scared of this fierce, fire-like, object that kept on growing. Assuming it was Agni himself, the deities went to Vibhavasu (another name for the fire god, Agni) and bowed down to that god of many forms. They said, “O Agni do not grow like this. This huge fire is spreading wide. Will you consume all of us?”

Agni replied, “O vanquishers of the asuras. What you are seeing is not me. This is Sage Kasyapa’s mighty son – Garuda. Born to help Vinata and bring her joy, he possesses the same splendor as me. He is the destroyer of the nagas (serpents). He is an enemy of daityas and rakshasas and a friend of the gods.”

Thus saying, Agni asked the gods to accompany him and meet Garuda.

Note: In the next post, we will read about how the gods requested this great bird to stop growing, lest he consumed the entire universe. 

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: The Gods Request Garuda to Reduce his Energy

Brahma at a 6th/7th-century temple in Aihole, Karnataka
Note: In the previous post, we read that the entire world was plunged into a state of distress after Agni receded in response to Bhrigu’s curse. All the Gods and rishis went to Brahma Deva to seek a resolution in the dispute between Agni and Bhrigu. Consequently, Brahma Deva summoned Agni to pacify him.

In this post, we will read about how Brahma Deva pacified Agni.

When Agni approached Brahma, the latter spoke with Agni in these gentle words, “O Agni, you are the creator of the worlds and you are the destroyer! You are ever-present in the three worlds and you facilitate the sacrifices (yagnas) and ceremonies. Therefore, please act in a way that ceremonies are not interrupted.”

Brahma continued, “O Agni, you who first eats the sacrificial ghee (clarified butter), you who is the lord of everything, why are you acting so foolishly? You alone are pure in this universe and you will stay pure. You will not have to eat impure things with your entire body. Only those flames that represent your baser nature will eat impure things. You also exist in the stomach of all beings. That part of you will also have to eat flesh and other impure things because it exists in the stomach of carnivorous animals. However, just as everything that is touched by the sun’s rays becomes pure, everything that is burnt by your flames will also become pure.”

Brahma Deva continued his explanation to Agni, “O Agni, you are the supreme energy born from your own power. With that power of your’s allow rishi Bhrigu’s words to come true. Come back into the world and continue to receive the offerings (through your flames) made to you and to the Gods.”

Agni was satisfied with Lord Brahma’s explanation that even though he may have to consume impure things, only a small part of him will have to consume them, and that part too will be able to purify those items as soon as they are burnt in his flames.

He replied to Brahma Deva, “So be it,” and returned to the world to obey the command of the great Brahma.

This decision of Agni caused everyone (the Gods, rishis, and all creatures) in the world to rejoice and Agni also rejoiced because he was freed from the prospect of sin.

Note: This post ends the story of Puloma. In this story, we read about the virtuous lady Puloma, the rakshasa who abducted her, and the birth of Puloma’s child (Chyavana). We also read about how Puloma’s husband (Sage Bhrigu) cursed Agni and how Agni returned to the world after hearing Brahma Deva’s words. 

In the next post, we will begin the beautiful story of Ruru and Pramadvara, with Pramadvara’s birth.

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Next: The Story of Apsara Menaka and the Gandharva King’s Daughter

The fire at a Yagna
Note: In the previous post, we read about how an angered Bhrigu cursed Agni because the latter had identified Puloma (Bhrigu’s wife) to a rakshasa who went on to abduct her. In this post, we will find out how Agni responded to the curse.

Agni Deva was enraged by Bhrigu’s curse. 

He said to the rishi, “What is the meaning of this rash behavior towards me? I have not done anything wrong by speaking the truth impartially. It is said that if a witness gives an incorrect answer, he ruins his ancestors and descendants up to seven generations. If a person who knows all the details of a situation does not give the correct answer when asked, he becomes stained with guilt.”

Agni Deva continued, “O brahmana, I can also curse you, but I won’t because I hold brahmins in high esteem. Although you already know all the details of my work and history, I will remind you of them again, so please listen carefully.”

“I multiplied myself, through my ascetic power, to become present in various forms in the world. I am present in the places of the daily homa; I am present in places where long sacrifices (yagnas) that extend for several years are conducted; I am present in places where holy rites for marriages and other functions are conducted. The Devas and Pitris are appeased when a priest pours ghee on my flames during a ceremony, done according to Vedic specifications.”

Note: Agni Deva then went on to describe the qualities of the Devas and Pitris. Through this description, he also explained to Bhrigu why the sage’s curse was incorrect and why he could eat unclean things. This is a deeply meaningful dialogue. about the mystical aspect of how beings in the universe exist in two states simultaneously: unity and distinctness. Through this dialogue, Agni Deva also speaks about purity at a metaphysical level. It is worth reflecting upon the deeper meaning of Agni Deva’s words.

I believe, this dialogue also points to the simple worldly wisdom of self-respect and withdrawing from a place where you or the qualities you have to offer are not respected.

Agni Deva continued, “The Devas are considered to be the waters. The Pitris are also considered to be the waters. They both have equal rights to the sacrifices called the Darshas and Purnamasas. Therefore, the Devas are the Pitris and the Pitris are the devas. They are identical beings worshipped together and they are also distinct beings worshipped separately in different phases of the moon. The Pitris are worshipped during the new moon and the Devas during the full moon. Both the Devas and the Pitris eat the offerings that are poured upon my flames. Therefore, I am called the mouth of the Devas and the Pitris. Being the mouth of the Devas and Pitris, how can I eat unclean things?”

After saying these words to Sage Bhrigu, Agni thought about the situation for a while and decided to withdraw himself from the world. He withdrew himself from the places where daily homas and other ceremonies were performed and he also withdrew himself from the places where extended yagnas were performed.

Everything in the world thus became deprived of Oms and Vashats; Swadhas and Swahas (mantras during the offerings in a yagna), and consequently all the creatures, thus deprived, became very distressed.

The rishis also became greatly distressed and decided to approach the Gods. They said, “O perfect beings, this world has lost the element of fire. All yagnas and homas and ceremonies have stopped. Because of this, everyone in the three regions of the universe is confused and bewildered. Please decide a proper course of action to resolve this matter, without any delay.”

The rishis and the Gods decided to approach Lord Brahma to resolve the matter. They explained to him everything that had happened between Sage Bhrigu and Agni Deva and how their dispute had caused Agni Deva to withdraw from the world resulting in an interruption in all the ceremonies. 

They also explained Agni Deva’s dilemma to Brahma Deva, “Agni has been cursed by Bhrigu to eat all sorts of things. But he is the mouth of the Gods and is the first one to consume the offerings that are poured in a yagna or ceremony. How can he be reduced to eat all things (pure and dirty) without discernment?”

Brahma Deva heard everything the rishis and the Gods had to say, and, after hearing them, he summoned Agni Deva to resolve the dispute.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Brahma Deva pacified Agni Deva.

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Next: How Lord Brahma Pacified Agni Deva

Sage Chyavana

Note: In the previous post, we read about how a rakshasa abducted Sage Bhrigu’s wife (Puloma) when the sage had left his house to perform his ablutions. When asked by the rakshasa, Agni Deva identified the pregnant lady as the sage’s wife. The rakshasa abducted her because her father had initially promised to marry his daughter with the rakshasa, but later, went back on his word and married her to Sage Bhrigu. 

After the rakshasa took the form of a boar and forcefully carried away Puloma, her child, who was still in her womb, became angry with the violence that the rakshasa had caused. As a result, the child (who was shining like the sun) came out of Puloma’s womb and fell to the ground. The rakshasa was startled when he noticed the child fall out of Puloma’s womb. He lost his grip on Puloma and fell down on the ground. As soon as the rakshasa fell on the ground, he was burnt to ashes. 

The grief-stricken Puloma picked up her child from the ground and started walking back to her home with tears in her eyes. When the tears fell on the ground, they formed a river whose waters followed Puloma as she walked back to Bhrigu’s ashrama. The great Lord Brahma comforted the crying lady and named the river that was formed from her tears – Vadhusara.

By the time Puloma and her child (Chyavana) returned to the hermitage, sage Bhrigu had also completed his ablutions and was already home. Upon seeing Puloma, he asked her who had identified her to the rakshasa.

Puloma replied that Agni (the God of fire) had identified her to the rakshasa and that the demon carried her away while she cried like a kurari (female osprey bird).

Puloma said, “It was only through the splendor of our child that I was rescued.”

Bhrigu became extremely angry with Agni Deva when he heard Puloma’s words, and in that state of extreme anger, he cursed Agni saying, “You will, from now on, eat all sorts of things.”

Note: Agni is known as the mouth of the Gods and he only consumed those things that were very pure. Sage Bhrigu cursed Agni such that he would have to eat all sorts of things – which meant he would also have to eat impure items. This was very disturbing to Agni.

On a separate note, much later, when Chyavana became a sage, he built his hermitage on the banks of the river Vadhusara which was formed from his mother’s tears. 

The Ayurvedic preparation “Chyavanprash” was named after Sage Chyavana because it was prepared by the Ashwini Kumars (the physicians of the Gods) to help Sage Chyavana restore his health and youth.

In the next post, we will read about how Agni responded to the sage’s curse.

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Previous: A Rakshasa Abducts Bhrigu’s Wife

Next: Agni Deva’s Response to Bhrigu’s Curse

Image Credit: The image at the top of the post was made available in the public domain by Kripal of Nurpur.

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