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Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Ruru’s Anger Toward Snakes

Note: In the previous post, we read about Ruru’s decision to slay every snake and how he was pacified when he met the rishi (Sahasrapat) who had been transformed into a non-poisonous snake due to the curse of a brahmana.

In this post, we will find out why Sahasrapat was transformed into a snake and how he could regain his human form.

When asked by Ruru about who he was and how long he would have to remain a snake, the Dundubha (Rishi Sahasrapat) said, “A long time ago, I had a friend called Khagama. He had a lot of spiritual power which he had acquired through great austerities. However, he was very rash in his speech.”

One day, when Khagama was performing the Agni-Hotra Yagna, Sahasrapat made a toy snake with grass blades and tried to scare Khagama for fun. Khagama was indeed scared. He almost fainted. But when he recovered and found out that his friend had tried to mock him, he became filled with anger and said the following words to Sahasrapat, “Because you made a powerless mock snake to frighten me, you yourself will be turned into a non-poisonous serpent by my curse.”

Sahasrapat was aware that Khagama’s speech carried immense power because of his ascetic penances. He folded his hands and bowed down to his friend and said, “Dear friend, I did this as a joke to make you laugh. It is, therefore, not correct for you to curse me. Please take back your curse.”

When Khagama saw his friend in this state, he was moved by compassion, and, even though he was still very angry, he said, “O noble one, you will be freed from the curse on the day you see Ruru, the son of Pramati.”

Sahasrapat (who was still in the form of a Dundubha snake) addressing Sage Ruru said, “You are the same Ruru. I will tell you something for your good once I recover my human form.”

Saying this, Sahasrapat, transformed back into his original, bright human form, and said to Ruru, “O great one, mercy is the highest virtue of a man. Therefore, a brahmana should never kill another creature. He should always be mild. This is the most sacred teaching of the Vedas. A brahmana should be well-versed in the Vedas and Vedangas and should encourage all creatures to believe in God. Just like a brahmana should remember all the Vedas, he should also be kind to all creatures. It is the dharma of kshatriyas to be stern, to rule their subjects properly, and to use the sword. Your dharma is that of a brahmana and not a kshatriya.”

Rishi Sahasrapat told Ruru, that in the past, a king called Janamejaya had performed a sacrifice to destroy serpents. However, a brahmana called Astika saved the serpents. Astika had great knowledge of the Vedas and immense spiritual power.

Ruru was curious to know why king Janamejaya wanted to destroy the serpents. He asked the rishi, but Sahasrapat simply said that Ruru would hear Astika’s story from other brahmanas. 

Saying this, Sahasrapat vanished.

Ruru ran about in the forest to search for the rishi but couldn’t find him anywhere. Ruru sat down with exhaustion, but the words of the rishi kept going on in his mind. These constant thoughts made his mind confused and foggy. After resting for some time, Ruru regained clarity of mind and returned home where he asked his father, Pramati, to tell him the story of Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice and the brahmana (Astika) who had saved the snakes.

Note: With this post, we end the Puloma (sub) Parva of the Adi Parva. We will begin the Astika (sub) Parva in the next post, in which we will read about Janamejaya’s snake sacrifice and how Astika saved the snakes.

Next Post: Sage Jaratkaru Meets his Pitris

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Grass snake – Natrix natrix. Pic taken by the Tiefen See or Grubensee, Storkow (Mark), Brandenburg, Germany.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Sage Ruru and Pramadvara — A Beautiful Love Story

Note: In the previous post, we read about the beautiful love story of Sage Ruru and Pramadvara. In this post, we will read about how Ruru’s anger toward snakes was calmed by an old Dundubha snake.

Ruru was very happy to have a wife like Pramadvara. She was beautiful, bright, and gentle like the filaments of a lotus flower. She was the kind of woman who was extremely hard to find. 

However, even after Pramadvara came back to life, Ruru was unable to forgive the snake for biting his beloved. Consequently, he made a vow to destroy the entire serpent race. Whenever he saw a serpent, he would be filled with anger and would destroy it with a weapon.

One day, Ruru entered a deep forest. There, he saw an old serpent of the Dundubha species on the ground. He immediately picked up his stick to strike the serpent. But before Ruru could strike the serpent, it said to Ruru, “O brahmana, why are you trying to slay me? I have not harmed you in any way.”

Ruru replied, “A snake once bit my wife who is as dear to me as my own life. After that, I took a vow that I would destroy every snake I came across. Therefore, I will strike and destroy you too.”

The Dundubha replied, “O brahmana, I am a snake of the Dundubha species. We do not bite humans. We are serpents only in name. We do not enjoy the things that serpents enjoy, but, unfortunately, we are subject to human anger just like the other poisonous serpents. Humans do not understand this. Therefore, O brahmana, Dundubha snakes should not be slain.”

When Ruru heard these words, he also noticed that the old Dundubha snake was indeed afraid of being hit by Ruru. The brahmana decided not to hit the snake. He first comforted the snake and then asked him, “O snake, tell me, who are you in reality?”

The snake answered, “I used to be a rishi. My name was Sahasrapat. However, I was transformed into a snake because of a brahmana’s curse.”

Ruru asked, “O best of snakes, why did the brahmana curse you? How long will you have to remain as a snake?”

Note: A Dundubha is a non-poisonous water snake.

In the next post, we will find out why rishi Sahasrapat was cursed to become a snake and how long he would have to remain in that form.

Next Post: Rishi Sahasrapat Regains his Human Form

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

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

Note: In the previous post, we read about Pramadvara’s birth and how Ruru (a descendant of Sage Bhrigu) fell in love with the beautiful lady when he saw her for the first time in her foster father’s (Sage Sthulakesa) hermitage.

And the pious Ruru having seen Pramadvara in the hermitage of Sthulakesa became one whose heart was pierced by the god of love.

Ruru sought help from his friends to tell his father (Pramati) about his love for Pramadvara. When Pramati learned of Ruru’s feelings, he met the famous rishi, Sthulakesa, and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage for his son. Sthulakesa, who was happy with the marriage proposal, betrothed his daughter Pramadvara to Ruru. He decided to hold the marriage ceremony of the day when the star Varga-Daivata (Purva-Phalguni) would be in the ascendant.

A few days after that, the beautiful virgin lady (Pramadvara) was playing with her friends. Unfortunately, while playing, she stepped on a coiled serpent, who was impelled by fate to sting Pramadvara with its poisonous fangs.

Pramadvara lost consciousness and immediately dropped to the ground and her face started to become pale. Her friends were flung into despair as they saw Pramadvara’s beautiful face change into something painful to look at, and as the poison spread, she lay as if asleep on the ground, and her face once again changed into a form that was even more beautiful in her unconsciousness than it was while she was living.

Very soon, Sage Sthulakesa and many other holy ascetics came to that place and saw her lying down unconscious, but like a splendid lotus. Many famous brahmins came there, sat around her, and wept out of compassion. 

Ruru felt crushed in spirit when he saw Pramadvara lying on the ground. Filled with despair and grief, he lamented loudly:

“O, the delicate lady, who I love so much, lies on the ground. What can be sadder and horrifying than this event?”

As if speaking with the Gods, Ruru said: 

“If I have been generous, if I have performed acts of penance,  if I have revered my superiors, let all the merits of these actions restore the life of my beloved Pramadvara.”

“If I have truly exercised virtuous self-control and adhered to my vows from birth then let the fair Pramadvara arise.”

While Ruru spoke these words in his grief, a messenger came from heaven and stood before him. The messenger said, “O Ruru! O, pious man! A person whose days on earth have ended can never come back to life.”

The messenger referring to Pramadvara said, “The days of this child of an apsara and a Gandharva king are over, therefore, O child, do not grieve over what fate has decided.”

The messenger continued, “However, the Gods have provided a way to restore her life. If you agree to their command, then Pramadvara may live again.”

When Ruru heard the messenger say that there was a way to bring Pramadvara to life, he replied, “What is it that the Gods have commanded? Tell me everything so I may fulfill their command.”

The messenger said to Ruru, “Give up half of your life to your beloved Pramadvara. O Ruru of Bhrigu’s race, if you give half of your life to Pramadvara then she will come back to life.”

Ruru immediately replied, “I most willingly give half my life to Pramadvara. Now let her rise from the ground.”

Upon hearing Ruru’s words, the messenger, who was none other than Pramadvara’s father (the Gandharva king), went to Dharma Deva and said, “O Dharmaraja, if this is your wish then let Pramadvara arise with half of Ruru’s life.”

Dharma Deva gave his consent and Pramadvara returned back to life.

Ruru and Pramadvara’s fathers arranged their marriage on an auspicious day and the beautiful couple lived and died together, ever devoted to each other.

Note: In the next post, we will read about Ruru’s anger toward snakes.

Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation of the Mahabharata, mentions the names of the people who sat around the lifeless Pramadvara after she was bitten by the snake.

They are Swastyatreya, Mahajana, Kushika, Sankhamekhala, Uddalaka, Katha, and the famous Sweta. Also sitting there were Bharadwaja, Kaunakutsya, Arshtishena, Gautama, Pramati, Pramati’s son Ruru, and other inhabitants of the forest.

Next Post: Ruru’s Anger Toward Snakes

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Image Credit: Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

12th century sandstone statue of an apsara, from Madhya Pradesh, India

Table of Contents

Previous: How Lord Brahma Pacified Agni Deva

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Brahma Deva convinced Agni to return to the world. The story of Agni Deva’s withdrawal from the world was narrated in reference to Sage Bhrigu which was narrated in relation to the desire of the ascetics (in Naimisha forest) to listen to the story of Sage Bhrigu and his family.

In this post, we will return to the thread of Sage Bhrigu’s family.

Ugrasrava Sauti addressed the ascetics in Naimisha forest saying: 

“O bhrahmana, Sage Chyavana, and his wife Sukanya had a son called Pramati. He too was an illustrious sage with resplendent energy. 

Pramati had a son with the apsara Ghritachi. Their son was named Ruru.

Ruru married Pramadvara. They had a son called Sunaka.

O brahmanas, now I will tell you the entire story of Ruru of abundant energy.”

Note: Ugrasvara Sauti begins the story of Ruru with his to-be wife’s birth. These words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha forest.

Once there was a great rishi called Sthulakesa. Along with being very kind and learned, he also possessed great ascetic power. 

At that time, the apsara Menaka had an intimate relationship with the Gandharva King. As a result, Menaka became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she stayed in a place very close to rishi Sthulakesa’s hermitage. When the baby was born, Menaka put the baby on the banks of a river that flowed near the hermitage. Thus abandoning the baby, she returned to heaven. 

Note: Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation of the Unabridged Mahabharata does not mention the Gandharva King’s name, however, other sources mention him as King Vishwavasu of the Gandharvas. The Gandharvas were celestial singers (or musicians). They were also skilled in the art of illusions and many Gandharvas also possessed deep spiritual knowledge.

Different people are mentioned as Gandharva Kings at different times. So it’s not clear what the word ‘king’ in reference to Vishwavasu really means. It could also mean famous and influential Gandharva. 

In any case, Vishwavasu had obtained deep spiritual knowledge through his conversations with the sage, Yajnavalkya. Vishwavasu had also mastered the art of creating illusions. He taught this art to one of his friends, who later taught it to Arjuna.

The abandoned baby (Menaka’s daughter) was very beautiful and filled with the light of heaven. When Rishi Shulakesa discovered this child near his hermitage, he was filled with compassion for the abandoned baby. The rishi picked up the child and raised her as his own daughter performing all the vedic rites at the appropriate times. He named this child, Primadvara, because she surpassed everyone with her good qualities.

One day, Bhrigu’s great-grandson, Ruru, saw Pramadvara in rishi Sthulakesa’s hermitage. His heart by pierced by the God of love the moment he saw the beautiful Pramadvara.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the beautiful love story of Ruru and Pramadvara.

Next: Sage Ruru and Pramadvara A Beautiful Love Story

Maharishi Bhrigu

Note: In the previous post, after narrating the story of Uttanka going to meet Janamejaya to seek revenge on the serpent king, Takshaka, Sauti asked the ascetics in Naimisha forest which story they wanted to hear next. Saunaka Kulapati, the chief sage, expressed an interest in hearing the story of Sage Bhrigu’s race. In this post, Sauti provides a brief description of Bhrigu’s family.

However, before returning to Sauti’s narration, let’s first learn a bit about Bhrigu’s background.

Sage Bhrigu is one of the saptarishis and also one of the many prajapatis (facilitators of creation). In the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna identified Bhrigu as one of his vibhutis (divine manifestations). 

Sage Bhrigu was the first person to write a treatise on predictive astrology, called the Bhrigu Samhita.

It is believed that Sage Bhrigu’s hermitage (called Deepotsaka) was located near Dhosi Hills, which are on the north-western end of the Aravalli range near the border of Haryana and Rajasthan.

An aerial view of Dhosi Hills showing an ancient parikrama path

The following words were spoken by Sauti to Saunaka Kulapati and the ascetics in Naimisha forest to describe Sage Bhrigu and his family.

We are told that the great and blessed saint, Bhrigu, was created by Brahma from the fire at a sacrifice conducted by Varuna.

Sage Bhrigu had a son whom he loved very dearly. His name was Chyavana. 

Chyavana had a son called Pramati.

Pramati had a son called Ruru who was born from the union of Pramati and the celestial dancer, Ghritachi.

Ruru (the son of Sage Pramati and Ghritachi) was married to Pramadvara. They had a son called Sunaka.

Ugrasrava Sauti addressing Saunaka Kulapati said, “O Saunaka, this great sage, Sunaka, was your ancestor. He was extremely virtuous, devoted to asceticism, proficient in law, and famed among those who possessed knowledge of the Vedas. This reputed sage was truthful and well-balanced in his behavior. ”

This ends Sauti’s brief description of Sage Bhrigu.

Read the note below for more information about Ghritachi and the apsaras.

Apsaras in the Devi Jagadambi Temple at Khajuraho

Note: Apsara Ghritachi was responsible for the birth of many virtuous children on earth. Along with furthering Sage Bhrigu’s lineage by having a son with Sage Pramati, she was also the mother of Nala. She also furthered the Puru dynasty by having ten sons with a descendant of Janamejaya called Raudrasva.

The Natya Shastra, an ancient treatise on performing arts, composed by Bharat Muni mentions several apsaras. Some of them are: Manjukesi, Sukesi, Misrakesi, Sulochana, Saudamini, Devasena, Manorama, Sudati, Sundari, and many others.

Table of Contents

Previous: Ugrasrava Sauti Asks the Ascetics of Naimisha Forest Which Story They Want to Hear Next

Next: A Rakshasa Abducts Bhrigu’s Wife

Image Credits:

  1. The image of Sage Bhrigu is from Bhrigu Stotram. It was made available in the public domain by Shrimati Satish Janardhan Sharma and Dr. Pandit Ramanuj Sharma of Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India.
  2. The image of Dhosi Hills was made available in the public domain by Sudhirkbhargava.
  3. The image of the Devi Jagadambi Temple was made available in the public domain by Benjamín Preciado Centro de Estudios de Asia y África de El Colegio de México.