Satyavati in Javanese Wayang
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There was once a king called Vasu in the Paurava dynasty. He was devoted to virtue but was also addicted to hunting. Upon instructions from Indra Deva, the powerful King Vasu conquered the Chedi kingdom. His five sons were as strong and powerful as him and he gave each of them a province to govern. Eventually, his children went on to found their own dynasties.
At one point, Vasu left warfare and his kingdom and retreated to a secluded place to practise severe austerities.
When Indra Deva and the other Devas noticed his austerities, they became concerned because they assumed that Vasu was performing the penances to become the king of heaven. They approached Vasu with the intention of dissuading him from his austerities.
Indra Deva spoke in a gentle tone with the king. He said, “O king, your duty is to ensure that virtue does not diminish on earth. Protect virtue, O king, and virtue, in turn, will protect the universe.”
The chief of the Devas went on to remind him of the beauty and wealth of his kingdom. He reminded Vasu of how virtuous his subjects were. He assured the king that his own virtue would help him eternally see and visit sacred places. Indra also extended his friendship to the king and gave him two gifts. The first was a crystal vehicle that could fly in the air and the second was a lotus garland that would remain perpetually fresh and protect the king from weapons. Indra also gave him a bamboo pole that would protect honest and virtuous people from harm.
Vasu accepted Indra’s request and returned to his kingdom and took on the responsibility of sustaining virtue. The king often coursed the skies in the crystal vehicle gifted by Indra Deva to find out everything that happened in his kingdom and all the three worlds. In the skies, he was greeted by gandharvas and apsaras, and was known as Uparichara.
A year after returning to his kingdom, Vasu planted Indra’s bamboo pole in the ground and established the festival of worshipping Indra by decorating the pole, making offerings, and giving generous gifts.
Some time after that, Vasu married a maiden called Girika who was the daughter of a river called Suktimati that flowed by his capital city. One day, Girika approached Vasu after her menstrual period had ended and the time was conducive to conceive children.
However, on that day, Vasu’s pitris also approached him and asked him to hunt deer for shraddha. The king did not want to disobey his pitris so he went to the forest to hunt for deer while his mind remained occupied with thoughts of his wife. The beautiful spring season, the smell of wonderful flora, the melodious notes of the kokila bird, and the maddened bees buzzing around with excitement intensified the king’s desire to unite with Girika. Sitting under an Asoka tree, and thinking about his beautiful wife, he let out his vital seed on a leaf. Vasu gave the leaf to a hawk and asked him to take it to his wife. But the hawk was attacked on the way to the palace by another hawk and the leaf fell into the waters of the Yamuna river below. As soon as the king’s vital-seed fell into the river, a fish (who was actually an apsara called Adrika) gulped down the king’s vital seed. Ten months later, the fish was captured by some fishermen. When they cut open the fish they were shocked to find two human babies in the fish’s womb. Being Vasu’s subjects, the fishermen went to their king and gave him the babies after telling the strange story of their birth. The king kept the male baby (who eventually became the king of Matsya) and gave the little girl to the fishermen and asked them to raise her like their daughter. This girl, born of King Vasu and the apsara, Adrika, and raised by fishermen was known as Satyavati.
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