Mahabharat Episode 2: The Origin of the Chandravamshis
In the first episode, we saw how Brihaspati, the priest of Indra and Guru of the Devas, was philandering around, and his neglected wife Tara fell in love with the moon god Chandra. An infuriated Brihaspati cursed the child of Tara and Chandra to be neither man nor woman. Budha, who represents the planet Mercury, was born.
King Sudhyumna Goes HuntingSadhguru: One day, King Sudhyumna went hunting in the forest where Shiva and his wife Parvati lived. Looking at the animals, she said on a whim, “My love for you is such that I feel these bull elephants, these lions with their huge manes, these peacocks with their fabulous plumes are all an insult to you. I want you to make this forest in such a way there is no other male but you.” Shiva was in a romantic mood. He said, “Okay. Let everything in this forest turn female.” Everything in the forest turned female. The lions become lionesses, the bull elephants become cow elephants, the peacocks became peahens, and King Sudhyumna turned into a woman!
He looked at himself – a brave king, who had come hunting in the forest, had suddenly become a woman. He cried, “Who did this to me? Which yaksha, which demon, cursed me like this?” In great despondency, he searched around. Then he found Shiva and Parvati in romance. He fell at Shiva’s feet and said, “This is not fair. I am a king. I am a man. I have a family. I just came hunting, and you turned me into a woman. How can I go back like this?” Shiva said, “I cannot take back what I have done, but I can correct it a bit. We will make it in such a way that when the moon is waning, you will be a woman. When the moon is waxing, you will be a man.”
The Chandravamshi Dynasty Is Born
Sudhyumna refused to go back to his palace. He stayed in the forest and became known as Ela, who for one half of the month was male, for another half of the month was female. One day, it so happened that Budha and Ela met. It was a perfect match. Both of them were male and female in equal measure. Between them, they had many children. These children became the first Chandravamshis.
In the tradition of the kings in this country, there are Suryavamshis and Chandravamshis – descendants of the sun and descendants of the moon. They are distinctly different types of people. The sun people are conquerors – clear-cut, black-and-white kind of people. Chandravamshis are different every day. They are very emotional, artistic, and highly unreliable. The greatest of the Suryavamshis was Manu himself; then came Ikshvaku. Down the line, there were many – such as Bhagiratha, Dasharatha, Rama of Ayodhya, and Harishchandra. Here, we will talk about Chandravamshis because the Kurus are mostly Chandravamshis. That explains their emotional flare-ups out of which they acted.
Nahusha – From Emperor to Python
One of Budha’s and Ela’s children was Nahusha, who became a great emperor. Once, he was invited to Devaloka, Indra’s palace. Indra had to go somewhere, so he told Nahusha, “Take care of my Devaloka for some time. Be here, enjoy yourself, and administer the place well.” The moment Indra left, Nahusha became too proud of this little chore that was given to him, to take care of the place while Indra was gone. He sat on Indra’s throne. He called just about any apsara he wanted.
That was not enough – his eyes fell on Indra’s wife Shachi. He started compelling her, “Now I am sitting on the throne. I am Indra. You are mine.” She tried to avoid him in many ways, but still he tried to force himself upon her. Shachi said, “Yes, now you are Indra. The only thing is the Sapta Rishis, the seven sages, should carry you to me on a palanquin. Then I will be yours.” Nahusha ordered the Sapta Rishis to carry him on a palanquin to Shachi’s palace, which they did.
He was full of pride and in too much rush. He felt they were not walking fast enough. So he kicked Agastya Muni, who was holding the right side of the palanquin, in the head and said, “Go faster.” Agastya looked at him and said, “The whole thing has gotten into your head. You have become so base, you are unfit not just to be in Devaloka – you are unfit to even be a human being. Become a python.” A python is a very base animal. Nahusha fell down from Devaloka in the form of a python. We will come back to the python later.
Nahusha had children – the two important ones are Yati and Yayati. Yati is known for his character and his phenomenal intellect. He took one glance at the world and said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with this,” withdrew into the Himalayas, and became an ascetic. Yayati became a king.
Devas and Asuras in Constant Battle
As already mentioned, Brihaspati was the priest for the Devas, and did rituals for them. Shukracharya was the priest for the Asuras. The Devas and Asuras constantly fought in the Gangetic planes. The Devas were trying to descend from the higher regions, and the Asuras were trying to move up from the desert into the more fertile heartland of India. In these constant battles, the Asuras had an advantage – they had Shukracharya. He had immense capabilities. And he had the power of Sanjeevini. With the Sanjeevini mantra, he could revive whoever died in the battle.
At the end of each day, all the Asuras who had died in the battle were revived and again, they were ready to fight the next morning. How do you fight an army like this who, if you kill them, don’t stay dead? Because of Shukracharya, they got revived again and again. The Devas were desperate. So Brihaspati’s son Kacha came down to Shukracharya, bowed down to him and said, “I am the grandson of Angira, and the son of Brihaspati. I come from a good lineage. Please accept me as your disciple.”
Kacha Becomes Shukracharya’s Disciple
The Asuras warned Shukracharya, “This guy is from the opposite camp. Obviously, he has come to learn the secret of Sanjeevini. Let’s kill him right now.” Shukracharya said, “No, the boy has done no harm to us. And he has the necessary qualifications to be my disciple. I cannot refuse him.” The dharma of the day said that if someone deserves to be taught, he cannot be refused.
Kacha was received as a disciple, and he proved to be a worthy disciple. He served his master, took every instruction, and was very much a part of everything. Shukracharya had a daughter whose name was Devyani. Devyani looked at this young man and slowly fell in love with him. But he was not focused on this young girl. Whatever she did, she could not draw his attention for even a moment. He could not be distracted from the purpose for which he had come, and the Asuras knew he had come for the Sanjeevini.
The Asuras Assault Kacha
One day, Kacha was grazing his master’s cattle in the forest. The Asuras pounced upon him, killed him, tore him into bits, and threw him to the wild animals. When in the evening, only the cows came back but not the boy, Devyani was heartbroken. She went to her father and cried, “Kacha has not come back. Someone has done something to him. Wherever he is, you must bring him back to life.” Giving in to his daughter’s plea, Shukracharya used the Sanjeevini to bring Kacha back to life.
When he was asked what happened, Kacha described how the Asuras pounced on him and killed him. Shukracharya said, “Be careful. The Asuras don’t like you, because you are from the enemy camp. Still I am treating you as my disciple.” After a few days, Kacha went to pluck flowers for the morning worship. The Asuras caught hold of him, killed him, ground his flesh and bone, mixed it with salt water in the sea, ground his organs, and mixed a little bit of it in Shukracharya’s wine. Unknowingly, Shukracharya drank it.
When Kacha again did not turn up in the evening, Devyani hollered. But Shukracharya said, “It looks like it’s his destiny to be dead. He is dying too often. There is no point in bringing him back. Someone of your intelligence, someone of your breeding, someone of your exposure to life should not be crying about life and death. This is something that happens to every creature. Let him be dead. Reviving someone too often is not good.” But Devyani was heartbroken. “Either Kacha comes back or I will drown myself in the lake.” Not willing to allow that to happen, Shukracharya said, “Let’s do it one last time.”
Kacha Learns the Sanjeevini Mantra
When Shukracharya tried to use the mantra, he felt a rumbling in his stomach. It was Kacha. Shukracharya got furious. “Who did this? Is this also the Asuras’ work? How can they do this?” From within his stomach, Kacha narrated the whole story – how the Asuras killed him, ground him, mixed him with salt water, and how they took the organs, ground those, and mixed some of it with the wine. Shukracharya became very angry. “This is going too far, that they put him in my belly now. Either I have to let him stay dead, or, if I bring him back to life, I have to die.” He thought, “Maybe I must resign this job and join the Devas. I am being treated too badly. How dare they put this boy in my belly?” But Devyani cried. She said, “I am neither willing to live without Kacha nor without you. If one of you dies, I will drown myself.”
Shukracharya told Kacha, “You have succeeded in the mission for which you came. You wanted to know the secret of Sanjeevini, and you are a deserving candidate. Now I will teach it to you. Then I will use it to revive you. You will burst out of my body, which will lay me dead. Then you use the Sanjeevini mantra, bring me back to life, and you start a new life elsewhere.” Shukracharya used the Sanjeevini mantra, and like a rising moon, Kacha grew in his stomach and burst out of him. Shukracharya fell dead. A scream went up from Devyani. Then Kacha used the Sanjeevini mantra and brought Shukracharya back to life.
As he was leaving, Devyani said, “You cannot leave. I have loved you.” But however much she begged, Kacha said, “I am your father’s disciple. On that level you are like my sister. Another thing is, I just came out of your father’s body, so he is also my mother. That way also you are my sister. So there is no way,” and he walked away.
To be continued...
Image courtesy: Fall of Nahusha from heaven, wikipedia