Introduction to the story of
So Agni told the demon Pulom that the lady was Puloma, chaste wife of Sage Bhrigu. Hearing that, the demon claimed that he had been in love with that lady earlier it self and her parents did not give her hand to him and instead gave her to Bhrigu. He felt that luck smiled at him and he decided to take her as his wife (by force obviously). So saying, the demon took the shape of a boar and carried away the frightened and crying Puloma. Rakshasa vivaha was accepted as one of the several ways of vivaha in those times. The tears from her eyes became a river, named Vadhusara by Lord Brahma.
The baby inside her womb got angry and came out of the womb (or slipped out), and looked at the demon with sharp and angry eyes. And looks could burn and looks could kill in those days! The demon was reduced to ashes. (The story is also an allegory to the burning of our desires to ashes when confronted with the Brahma Jnana – jnanagni daghda says Gita). Puloma carried the baby and returned to the ashram. He became famous as Chyavana because he slipped out from the womb (the Sanskrit word chyut and chyavan have some common meaning it appears).
Sage Bhrigu returned to his ashram and found his wife with the newborn and bright child. On enquiry, he came to know that it was Agni who let out her identity to the demon Pulom. Sage Bhrigu cursed Agni to become a Sarvabhakshaka (Omnivorous). Agni pleaded with the Sage that he could not do any thing except tell the truth and though Agni could curse the sage back did not do so out of respect to the sage and withdrew. Agni felt that he could not be the channel for carrying the havis to the celestial gods because his purity was affected. (A mind devoid of the discriminating intellect becomes the omnivorous Agni and contaminates the surroundings and the intellect). Because of Agni withdrawing from his duties, all the yagnas and yagas stopped and there was chaos. Lord Brahma was approached by the celestial gods for a solution. Brahma called Agni and assured him that even though the curse of Sage Bhrigu could not be reversed, there would be no sin and no impurity attached to Agni because of his eating every thing. Thus Agni was pacified and his purity restored. (Again it is a symbolic way of saying that a true jnani is like Agni and jnanagni will consume every thing and still remain pure. Once the sense of doership is got rid of and the ego becomes a true instrument, it is freed from all attachments and contaminations).
The child Chyavana grew up and after upanayana samskara (the thread ceremony) mastered all Vedas and Vedangas, took permission from parents, went to Vaidurya mountain area and settled near a lake called Payoshni (body temperatured, luke warm) for tapas (intense meditation). He entered Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness) and an ant hill grew around him. Creepers also covered that ant hill and thus his presence was not known to any one. Thousands of years passed this way.
The visit of King Saryati:
Sage Chyavana’s tapas got disturbed and due to his power, the whole army was affected (their toilet functions were stopped). The king realized that there was some mistake on their part and asked every one but none of them had any answer. The king and his army were sad and did not know what to do. At that time, Sukanya approached her father and told him about the sage emerging out of the ant hill and her running away from that area out of fear. She asked the king whether that could be the fault and the reason for the problem. King Saryati went immediately to that place and saw the old sage glowing with the aura of long tapas. He prostrated before the sage and confessed what his daughter has done and asked the sage to forgive his daughter and pleaded for mercy.
Marriage of Sukanya with Chyavana:
There is another version of this story that I either read somewhere or saw in a movie long ago. That story has it that Sukanya saw two bright lights through the openings of the ant-hill and out of curiosity, poked the two lights with some sharp blade of grass. The sage became blind and because of that the king also became blind. Sukanya repented and offered to take care of the blind sage by marrying him and the sage restored the king’s eyesight.
Sukanya felt that she was indeed fortunate to serve such a great sage as his sahadharmacharini and was serving her husband faithfully. She did not, even for a moment think of herself as being affected by bad luck in that she was married to a man who was old and thus was incapable of fulfilling the marital dharma. This steadfastness of her mind attracted the attention of the celestials. This is important because the truly brave face the consequences of their karma and take that as a blessing, as a true Prasad from God. With such an attitude, a curse becomes a boon and in the absence of that, a boon becomes a curse. Let us see what happened next.
Aswini Devatas visit Sukanya:
Sukanya closed her ears with her palms and told them that she was a Hindu Pativrata and that she married Sage Chyavana of her own accord and she had accepted him in toto, with all his physical defects of age. She also reminded them that once she has accepted him as her husband, her mind cannot go to any one else, and their words were not befitting their own divine stature and were not to be uttered in front of a Pativrata.
On his arrival from his bath etc., Sukanya informed her husband Sage Chyavana of the visit of Ashwini Devatas and the conversation. Sage Chyavana was highly pleased with the steadfast devotion of Sukanya and wanted to bless her. So, he asked her to contact the Celestial Physicians and ask them to get her a good husband. They came and went to the Payoshni Lake for a dip. (The whole event was pre-ordained and Sage Chyavana knew and influenced the whole event with his yogic powers). When they submerged themselves in the lake waters, he too entered the lake and then the three of them emerged as identical looking young men and stood in front of her. They asked her to choose one of them as per her will. Sukanya could see Sage Chyavana among the three due to her divine powers and she obviously chose him.
Chyavana Maharshi was very happy and wanted to bless the Ashwini Devatas for the gift of the youth. He promised them that he would make them drink the divine nectar offered in yagna (to which they were not eligible - that is another story, and we will share that at another time!), not withstanding the Celestial King Indra’s objections. Ashwinikumaras were very happy and took leave of the sage and returned to their divine abode.
It is clear that the sage wanted to do a good turn to the two divine physicians and hence arranged for the whole drama. Otherwise, he was perfectly capable of restoring his physical body with his own yogic powers acquired through thousands of years of tapas. Also, we learn the lesson that a gift or favor should be returned by another suitable gift as per our capacity. See how the drama unfolds.
King Saryati’s yagna and the fulfillment of Chyavana’s promise to Ashwinikumaras:
King Saryati came to know of the miraculous transformation in his son-in-law Sage Chyavana and visited the couple to see for himself. The sage welcomed the king and asked him to take up a yagna which wold be good for the king’s welfare. He asked the king to arrange all necessary things.
The king accepted the advice of the sage and started the yagna. When Sage Chyavana got ready to offer Soma, the divine drink to Ashwini Devatas, the celestial god Indra manifested himself there and objected and reminded the Maharshi of their ineligibility. (Aswini Devatas were treated as second-class citizens in those days.)
Indra’s pride pricked:
The sage accepted the apology of Indra and lifted his mental hold on the frozen shoulder and allowed him to depart to Heaven. The demon asked the sage to show a suitable place for him to stay and to feed. The sage gave the demon the following: Hunting (violence), Women (sexual pleasure), Gambling (trying to get more than what one deserves) and Drink (intoxication, trying to forget oneself and trying to attain bliss through the wrong means) as his place of residence, indicating that these pleasures without discrimination will become the inner demons of a man and will become the master instead of being a servant. The story has good morals. One can indulge in any thing as long as one has control over the activity and is not addicted to that. Mind should be our slave and not the other way round. Indra represents our individual ego that enjoys the sense pleasures. Indra gets stuck in the lower astral planes of senseless sensual pleasures and is freed only by the grace of saints (satsang). If the grace is missing, the ego gets controlled by forgetfulness, indulgence etc. and is a slave to the demonic forces. That is the moral of the story.
Well, the story ended happily and the Ashwini Twins had their parity restored and went happily to heaven. The Vaidurya mountain area came to be known as Archeeka mountain from that time.
Sukanya with progeny:
His Jala Samadhi
The sage reassured them that they did do not anything wrong and since he was part of the catch, they should sell him for a suitable price. The fishermen did not know what to do and went to their king Nahusha and reported the whole matter and requested the king to come and take care of them.
King Nahusha comes to meet
The king was happy that the Sage was not angry with him or the fishermen and ordered his ministers to pay the fishermen a thousand madas (some gold coins of that era). The sage heard that and told the king and the ministers to pay a fair and just price to the fishermen. The king went on increasing and finally offered the whole kingdom, but the sage simply asked the king to sit and confer with the ministers and decide the fair compensation.
The king and the ministers were wondering
what to do when would great wise man named Kavi Jatha came that way
and he assured the king that he will fix the suitable price for the
sage and asked them not to worry. The king and the ministers were
very happy and were a relieved a lot. Then Kavi Jatha said, “The
value of a cow and a Brahmin is equal. Lord Brahma made cow as the
cause of all havis in yaga and the Brahmin as the head of all mantras.
No one can fix the price of a Brahmin or a cow. So, offer a cow instead
of the sage to the fishermen.” The king was pleased and went
to the sage and told the sage that he was incapable of fixing the
rate for him and instead would offer a cow to the fishermen. The sage
was very happy to hear this and said: “Oh king!
So, the king gave a good cow to the fishermen. They accepted the cow and then went to the sage and bowed to him and pleaded with him that he had been very kind to them and so he should kindly accept the cow from them. The sage was pleased with their devotion and agreed. He also sent them along with the caught fish to heaven. The king and the ministers were wonderstruck at the powers of the sage.
Sage Chyavana was highly pleased with king Nahusha and blessed him with two boons: a stead fast devotion to the path of dharma and an honor equal to Indra, the king of gods. In course of time, King Nahusha did become king of the celestial gods (Indra is the king of celestial gods).
Sage Chyavana and the Kusika
At the end of twenty one days, the sage woke up and started walking briskly out of the city. The king and the queen tried to keep pace with the sage but because of their lack of food and lack of sleep, could not. The sage disappeared and the royal couple was totally distraught. They returned to their place and found Sage Chyavana sleeping on the other side of the bed. They were very happy and again got down to their duty of pressing the sage’s feet. The sage slept again for twenty one days and again the royal couple stayed awake for the total time, without food etc.
On the twenty second day, sage Chyavana woke up and wanted that he should be given a head bath in the traditional way (oil massage and then hot water with soapnut shampoo etc.) and asked them to make every thing ready in the space of a ghatika (twenty four minutes) and vanished. He came back in that time and found them ready without the slightest trace of anger or resentment in their minds. The sage was pleased and had the traditional oil head bath. After that, King Kusika arranged a sumptuous meal for the sage and invited the sage for partaking of the food. The sage looked at the king and the food and without a word disappeared from the spot. The king could not say anything or do anything. And he could not eat without the sage. That day went off like that.
The next morning Chyavana manifested himself in front of the king and made a strange request. “Oh King, get the chariot ready. You and your wife should take the position of the horses and while you both are pulling the chariot, I should go around the city. While I am going around thus, see that gold, diamonds and other precious stones, horses and cows are be freely distributed to those who ask. Take care!”
The king made all the arrangements and took position along with his consort at the head of the chariot and the sage became the charioteer. While the chariot was being thus pulled, he was goading them and prodding them with a thorn tipped prod thus causing them to bleed. They did not protest and continued with the journey through the streets of that city. The onlookers were surprised at the luster of the sage and at the guru bhakti of the king and the queen. The sage also was surprised and satisfied greatly at the calm attitude of the royal couple. After some time, the sage got down from the chariot and removed the ropes etc. that tied the king and the queen to the chariot and gently rubbed their bodies all over with his hand. Lo and behold! All the injuries, all the tiresomeness left the bodies and the king and the queen felt totally fresh and energetic. The king was happy beyond description and bowed to the sage’s feet and praised his yogic powers. The sage asked the king to return next day to the riverbank where he was going to reside. The king bowed and left.
Next morning, the king and the queen reached the riverbank and found a huge palace with so much of beauty and grandeur. They entered and found the sage seated in a nice luxurious bed. Suddenly the place disappeared and they found the sage seated in a forest clearance. The king praised the powers of the sage to his queen. In the meantime, the sage called the couple closer to him and said to the king. “Oh king, I am satisfied at the control you have over your senses and the mind. I am pleased with you. Ask for any boon and I will give you!” The king bowed and said, “Oh God, you are like the Agni. If you are pleased with us that is the best boon and what more can I ask you? However, since you are pleased with me, please clarify this doubt of mine. The first twenty one days, you slept on one side of the bed and the next twenty one days, you slept on the other side of the bed. I am unable to understand why you did that. Please tell us the reason with kindness and benevolence.”
blesses King Kusika:
The king was very happy and bowed to the sage and asked him to tell a few more details of the future. The sage continued. “Oh King! Listen. My son Ruchika will marry Satyavathi, daughter of Gadhi, who is going to be born to you. When Satyavathi wants children, he tells her that he will create a divine rice pudding, which will give her a child. Satyavathi will request her husband Ruchika to help her mother too (Gadhi did not have a son and the life and marriage is considered incomplete without a male child). So, sage Ruchika meditated on the Para Brahma (The Ultimate Principle) and created two vessels with the divine rice preparation. He showed her the two vessels and told her that one of them is brahmyam (full of the brahminic energies. Satva guna) and the second Kshatram (full of the fighting warrior clan’s energies, rajo guna). He tells her that after bath, she and her mother should hug a fig tree and a Ragi tree respectively and then they should consume the respective rice puddings.
However, due to destiny, the two vessels get interchanged and Satyavathi eats the kshatriya energy bearing pudding and her mother the brahminic one. There is another story that the mother of Satyavathi interchanges the vessesls deliberately because she feels that Sage Ruchika will give the ‘better’ child to his own wife. Thus jealousy played the part of destiny! Ruchika sees with his divine vision about the mix up and tells his wife that she is bearing a cruel kshatriya foetus in her womb and not a brahminic one. Satyavathi is saddened and prays to her husband to prevent the calamity through his yogic powers. He agrees and with his yogic powers transfers the change to his grandson (to the next generation).
Thus a brahminic sage Jamadagni will be born to Ruchika and the kshatriya energies take shape when Jamadagni gets son Rama in due course of time (Who becomes famous as Parashu Ram). Satyavathi’s mother gives birth to a wonderful child who is full of brahma teja (satvik qualities). Thus, though born as a king, Kusika’s grandson variously known as Gadheya, Kausika and Viswamitra becomes world famous for his qualities as a Brahmarshi.” (We will learn more about him when we take up his story in detail.)
After sharing the future like that, Sage Chyavana takes leave of king Kusika and continues with his pilgrimage.
Sri Rama and encourages him to kill Lavanasura:
The sages were immensely pleased and Sage Chyavana addressed Sri Rama as follows: “Oh King Ram! In Krita Yug, one Daitya called Madhu, who was full of good qualities though born in the Dithi clan (most of them were full of demonic and asuric qualities) did a great tapas to Lord Siva for thousands of years. Lord Siva was pleased with the tapas of Madhu and manifested Himself in front of Madhu and (at his request), gave a replica of His Trishul (The Trident) and addressed him thus: “Oh my good devotee!, in any battle, The Trident will destroy your enemies and will come back to you. The moment you stray from the path of dharma, the Trident will leave you and will return to Me.” Madhu accepted the Trident and after bowing to Lord Siva requested Him for another boon. “Oh Lord! Please allow this great Trident to protect me and my clan also in future.” To that plea, Lord Siva agreed with one condition that Madhu’s son also would have the Trishul with him and would be undefeated in any battle as long as he is with the Trishul and the day he went into a battle without the Trident, he would get killed and the Trident would return to Siva in Kailas.
After finishing his tapas, Madhu married the beloved sister of Ravana called Kumbinasa and begot a son Lavana (salt, shining), who, as destiny would have it was full of the demonic, asuric qualities. Madhu was disgusted with the demonic behavior of his son and tried to teach him to tread on the path of dharma. Finally when he was leaving, he gave the Trident to his son with these words: “Son, this great and powerful Trident is given by Lord Siva Himself. As long as it is with you, in your hands and by your side, no one can do any harm to you. So, don’t forget this Trident and don’t leave the path of dharma.” After making Lavana as king and giving him the sacred Trident, Madhu entered the ocean (this voluntary giving up of one’s body was in vogue in those days and Sri Ram also follows the same tradition when the time to give up His body comes – it is not suicide in that the soul is perfectly satisfied with the life span and has no desire, fear, anger etc. at the time of leaving the body – it is like vacating the house willingly, where as suicide is running away out of fear and is considered a great sin).
Once he was crowned as the king, Lavana became even more demonic and started troubling the sages like us much more. He started torturing the gods and the men alike. Oh Rama, you are the protector of the meek and the helpless and so we have come to inform you of Lavana’s misdeeds and to request you to destroy Lavana and protect us. To you, who killed Ravana, this is not a big task at all.”
Rama assured the sages that he would destroy the demonic Lavana and sent them on their way. He then called his brother Satrughna (literally means destroyer of enemies) and told him that he was sending him to destroy the demon Lavana and since the kingdom could not be left without a king after Lavana’s death, he also declared Satrughna as the king of Madhupuri, the kingdom of Lavana then and there. (Rama did the same with Sugriva and with Vibhishana also. He did the Abhsishek in advance signifying that the victory was definite).
Satrughna left with an army and camped on the way at the Ashram of sage Valmiki. He introduced himself as the brother of Sri Rama (whose life story Ramayana was written by Sage Valmiki) and that he was on his way to Madhupuri to kill the demon Lavana. He requested the sage to allow him and the army to stay the night there and requested for permission to leave the next morning to continue the journey. Valmiki was happy to see Satrughna and treated the honored guest with fruits etc. That same night, Janaki (Sita), who was staying there incognito (only Sage Valmiki knew her real identity, to others she was known as Vanadevi, Goddess of the forest), gave birth to twins, Lava and Kusa. The sage informed Strughna of the good news (it is not clear whether he told him about their real identity, and if he had, he would have done in private and would have sworn him to secrecy since Satrughna did not inform Sri Rama of this event.)
Satrughna took leave of Sage Valmiki and after a few more days reached the river Yamuna and went to the ashram of Sage Chyavana. Again he stayed that night there and while informing the sage of his mission, asked him thus: “Oh Mahatma! You were mentioning when you visited Sri Rama that Lavana was a great warrior and has destroyed several kings. Pl. tell me more about him and whom he killed with his Trident.”
Sage Chyavana addressed Satrughna thus. “Oh great one, listen. The list of kings killed by the Trident of Lavana is so long. The famous and courageous emperor Mandhata was killed by this weapon only. Mandhata was so courageous that he won over many kings of this earth and then went to attack the King of Heaven Indra. Indra knew that it was impossible to defeat Mandhata and said to him, “Oh emperor, you should come here only after defeating all kings on earth. As of now, you are yet to defeat Lavana, the son of Madhu, so how can you claim that you have conquered all the kings? Come here after defeating Lavana.” Shamed thus, Mandhata returned to earth and reached Madhupuri with his army and sent a courtier inviting Lavana for war. Lavana got furious and killed the messenger. Mandhata entered the court of Lavana and challenged Lavana to wage war with him. (He was probably unaware of the Trident of Lavana or was over confident of his own prowess in battle forgetting the divine qualities of the Trident). Lavana threw the Trident towards Mandhata and he was reduced to ashes along with his army. Satrughna, when Lavana is with the Trident, he is unconquerable. So, don’t meet him now. Tomorrow you will kill Lavana. Tonight, take rest here.” The sage obviously knew the future (as shown earlier also when he told Kusika about the birth of the grandson). Satrughna took heed of the advice of the sage and spent the night there, and next morning crossed the river and reached Madhupuri.
Satrughna kills Lavana in battle:
Thus Sage Chyavana occupies a stellar spot in the world of sages. Reading or listening to this story is very good for one’s spiritual benefit.
The Ayurvedic preparation Chyavanaprash made his name famous all over the country and even the world. It is full of antioxidants and arrests aging and degenerative diseases. Remember Sage Chyavana and offer your prayers before taking it for even more benefit.
Om Shanti Shanti Shantih…
Footnotes: The importance of truth:
* This shows the importance attached
to truth in those days. There was no written document, no court, no
lawyer and Akash Vani was the witness if ever witness was needed.
The importance of truth is brought out by Sakunthala in Maha Bharat
through this beautiful telugu poem: Nuta jala pooritambulagu noothulu
nooritikante soonruta vrata oka bavi melu… tatkaratu satakambu
kante oka soonruta vakyam melu choodagan.