Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 4 - Chapter 2
Dispersion of Revata's descendants: those of Dhṛṣṭa: those of Nābhāga. Birth of Ikṣvāku, the son of Vaivaswata: his sons. Line of Vikukṣi. Legend of Kākutstha; of Dhundhumāra; of Yuvanāśva; of Māndhātri: his daughters married to Saubhari.
Whilst Kakudmi, surnamed Raivata, was absent on his visit to the region of Brahmā, the evil spirits or Rākṣasas named Puṇyajanas destroyed his capital Kuśasthalī.
His hundred brothers, through dread of these foes, fled in different directions; and the Kṣatriyas, their descendants, settled in many countries.
From Dhṛṣṭa, the son of the Manu, sprang the Kṣatriya race of Dhārṣṭaka.
The son of Nābhāga was Nābhāga; his son was Ambarīṣa; his son was Virūpa; his son was Pṛṣadaśva; his son was Rathīnara, of whom it is sung:
"Those, who were Kṣatriyas by birth, the heads of the family of Rathīnara, were called Āngirasas (or sons of Aṅgiras), and were Brahmans as well as Kṣatriyas."
Ikṣvāku was born from the nostril of the Manu, as he happened to sneeze. He had a hundred sons, of whom the three most distinguished were Vikukṣi, Nimi, and Daṇḍa. Fifty of the rest, under Śakuni, were the protectors of the northern countries. Forty-eight were the princes of the south.
Upon one of the days called Aṣṭaka, Ikṣvāku being desirous of celebrating ancestral mourning rites, ordered Vikukṣi to bring him flesh suitable for the offering.
The prince accordingly went into the forest, and killed many deer, and other wild animals, for the celebration.
Being weary with the chase, and being hungered, he sat down, and ate a hare; after which, being refreshed, he carried the rest of the game to his father.
Vasiṣṭha, the family priest of the house of Ikṣvāku, was summoned to consecrate the food; but he declared that it was impure, in consequence of Vikukṣi's having eaten a hare from amongst it (making it thus, as it were, the residue of his meal).
Vikukṣi was in consequence abandoned by his offended father, and the epithet Śaśāda (hare-eater) was affixed to him by the Guru. On the death of Ikṣvāku, the dominion of the earth descended to Śaśāda, who was succeeded by his son Puranjaya.
In the Tretā age a violent war broke out between the gods and the Asuras, in which the former were vanquished. They consequently had recourse to Viṣṇu for assistance, and propitiated him by their adorations.
The eternal ruler of the universe, Nārāyaṇa, had compassion upon them, and said:
"What you desire is known unto me. Hear how your wishes shall be fulfilled. There is an illustrious prince named Puranjaya, the son of a royal sage;
into his person I will infuse a portion of myself, and having descended upon earth I will in his person subdue all your enemies. Do you therefore endeavour to secure the aid of Puranjaya for the destruction of your foes."
Acknowledging with reverence the kindness of the deity, the immortals quitted his presence, and repaired to Puranjaya, whom they thus addressed:
"Most renowned Kṣatriya, we have come to thee to solicit thy alliance against our enemies: it will not become thee to disappoint our hopes."
The prince replied:
"Let this your Indra, the monarch of the spheres, the god of a hundred sacrifices, consent to carry me upon his shoulders, and I will wage battle with your adversaries as your ally."
The gods and Indra readily answered, "So be it;" and the latter assuming the shape of a bull, the prince mounted upon his shoulder.
Being then filled with delight, and invigorated by the power of the eternal ruler of all movable and immovable things, he destroyed in the battle that ensued all the enemies of the gods;
and because he annihilated the demon host whilst seated upon the shoulder (or the hump, Kakud) of the bull, he thence obtained the appellation Kākutstha (seated on the hump).
The son of Kākutstha was Anenas, whose son was Prithu, whose son was Viswagaśva, whose son was Ārdra, whose son was Yuvanāśva, whose son was Śravasta, by whom the city of Śrāvastī was founded.
The son of Śravasta was Vrihadaśva, whose son was Kuvalayāśva:
This prince, inspired with the spirit of Viṣṇu, destroyed the Asura Dhundhu, who had harassed the pious sage Uttanka; and he was thence entitled Dhundhumāra.
In his conflict with the demon the king was attended by his sons, to the number of twenty-one thousand; and all these, with the exception of only three, perished in the engagement, consumed by the fiery breath of Dhundhu.
The three who survived were Drīdhāśva, Chandrāśva, and Kapilāśva; and the son and successor of the elder of these was Haryyāśva; his son was Nikumbha; his son was Sanhatāśva; his son was Kriśāśva; his son was Prasenajit; and his son was another Yuvanāśva.
Yuvanāśva had no son, at which he was deeply grieved. Whilst residing in the vicinage of the holy Munis, he inspired them with pity for his childless condition, and they instituted a religious rite to procure him progeny.
One night during its performance the sages having placed a vessel of consecrated water upon the altar had retired to repose:
It was past midnight, when the king awoke, exceedingly thirsty; and unwilling to disturb any of the holy inmates of the dwelling, he looked about for something to drink.
In his search he came to the water in the jar, which had been sanctified and endowed with prolific efficacy by sacred texts, and he drank it.
When the Munis rose, and found that the water had been drunk, they inquired who had taken it, and said:
"The queen that has drunk this water shall give birth to a mighty and valiant son."
"It was I," exclaimed the Rājā, "who unwittingly drank the water!"
and accordingly in the belly of Yuvanāśva was conceived a child, and it grew, and in due time it ripped open the right side of the Rājā, and was born, and the Raji, did not die.
Upon the birth of the child, "Who will be its nurse?" said the Munis; when, Indra, the king of the gods, appeared, and said: "He shall have me for his nurse" (mām dhāsyati); and hence the boy was named Māndhātri.
Indra put his fore finger into the mouth of the infant, who sucked it, and drew from it heavenly nectar; and he grew up, and became a mighty monarch, and reduced the seven continental zones under his dominion.
And here a verse is recited: "From the rising to the set of the sun, all that is irradiated by his light, is the land of Māndhātri, the son of Yuvanāśva."
Māndhātri married Vindumatī, the daughter of Śaśavindu, and had by her three sons, Purukutsa, Ambarīṣa, and Muchukunda; he had also fifty daughters.
The devout sage Saubhari, learned in the Vedas, had spent twelve years immersed in a piece of water; the sovereign of the fish in which, named Sammada, of large bulk, had a very numerous progeny.
His children and his grandchildren were wont to frolic around him in all directions, and he lived amongst them happily, playing with them night and day.
Saubhari the sage, being disturbed in his devotions by their sports, contemplated the patriarchal felicity of the monarch of the lake, and reflected:
"How enviable is this creature, who, although horn in a degraded state of being, is ever thus sporting cheerfully amongst his offspring and their young. Of a truth he awakens in my mind the wish to taste such pleasure, and I also will make merry amidst my children."
Having thus resolved, the Muni came up hastily from the water, and, desirous of entering upon the condition of a householder, went to Māndhātri to demand one of his daughters as his wife.
As soon as he was informed of the arrival of the sage, the king rose up from his throne, offered him the customary libation, and treated him with the most profound respect.
Having taken a seat, Saubhari said to the Rājā:
"I have determined to marry: do you, king, give me one of your daughters as a wife: disappoint not my affection. It is not the practice of the princes of the race of Kākutstha to turn away from compliance with the wishes of those who come to them for succour.
There are, O monarch, other kings of the earth to whom daughters have been born, but your family is above all renowned for observance of liberality in your donations to those who ask your bounty.
You have, O prince, fifty daughters; give one of them to me, that so I may be relieved from the anxiety I suffer through fear that my suit may be denied."
When Māndhātri heard this request, and looked upon the person of the sage, emaciated by austerity and old age, he felt disposed to refuse his consent; but dreading to incur the anger and imprecation of the holy man, he was much perplexed, and, declining his head, was lost a while in thought.
The Ṛṣi, observing his hesitation, said:
"On what, O Rājā, do you meditate? I have asked for nothing which may not be readily accorded: and what is there that shall he unattainable to you, if my desires be gratified by the damsel whom you must give unto me?"
To this, the king, apprehensive of his displeasure, answered and said:
"Grave sir, it is the established usage of our house to wed our daughters to such persons only as they shall themselves select from suitors of fitting rank;
and since this your request is not yet made known to my maidens, it is impossible to say whether it may be equally agreeable to them as it is to me.
This is the occasion of my perplexity, and I am at a loss what to do."
This answer of the king was fully understood by the Ṛṣi, who said to himself:
"This is merely a device of the Rājā to evade compliance with my suit: he has reflected that I am an old man, having no attractions for women, and not likely to be accepted by any of his daughters: even be it so; I will be a match for him:"
and he then spoke aloud, and said:
"Since such is the custom, mighty prince, give orders that I be admitted into the interior of the palace.
Should any of the maidens your daughters be willing to take me for a bridegroom, I will have her for my bride; if no one be willing, then let the blame attach alone to the years that I have numbered."
Having thus spoken, he was silent.
Māndhātri, unwilling to provoke the indignation of the Muni, was accordingly obliged to command the eunuch to lead the sage into the inner chambers;
who, as he entered the apartments, put on a form and features of beauty far exceeding the personal charms of mortals, or even of heavenly spirits.
His conductor, addressing the princesses, said to them:
"Your father, young ladies, sends you this pious sage, who has demanded of him a bride; and the Rāja has promised him, that he will not refuse him any one of you who shall choose him for her husband."
When the damsels heard this, and looked upon the person of the Ṛṣi, they were equally inspired with passion and desire, and, like a troop of female elephants disputing the favours of the master of the herd, they all contended for the choice:
"Away, away, sister!" said each to the other; "this is my election, he is my choice; he is not a meet bridegroom for you;
he has been created by Brahmā on purpose for me, as I have been created in order to become his wife: he has been chosen by me before you; you have no right to prevent his becoming my husband."
In this way arose a violent quarrel amongst the daughters of the king, each insisting upon the exclusive election of the Ṛṣi:
and as the blameless sage was thus contended for by the rival princesses, the superintendent of the inner apartments, with a downcast look, reported to the king what had occurred.
Perplexed more than ever by this information, the Rājā exclaimed:
"What is all this! And what am I to do now! What is it that I have said!" and at last, although with extreme reluctance, he was obliged to agree that the Ṛṣi should marry all his daughters.
Having then wedded, agreeably to law, all the princesses, the sage took them home to his habitation, where he employed the chief of architects, Viśvakarma, equal in taste and skill to Brahmā himself, to construct separate palaces for each of his wives:
he ordered him to provide each building with elegant couches and seats and furniture, and to attach to them gardens and groves, with reservoirs of water, where the wild-duck and the swan should sport amidst beds of lotus flowers.
The divine artist obeyed his injunctions, and constructed splendid apartments for the wives of the Ṛṣi:
in which by command of Saubhari, the inexhaustible and divine treasure called Nanda took up his permanent abode, and the princesses entertained all their guests and dependants with abundant viands of every description and the choicest quality.
After some period had elapsed, the heart of king Māndhātri yearned for his daughters, and he felt solicitous to know whether they were happily circumstanced.
Setting off therefore on a visit to the hermitage of Saubhari, he beheld upon his arrival a row of beautiful crystal palaces, shining as brilliantly as the rays of the sun, and situated amidst lovely gardens, and reservoirs of pellucid water.
Entering into one of these magnificent palaces, he found and embraced a daughter, and said to her, as the tears of affection and delight trembled in his eyes:
"Dear child, tell me how it is with you. Are you happy here or not? Does the great sage treat you with tenderness? Or do you revert with regret to your early home?"
The princess replied:
"You behold, my father, how delightful a mansion I inhabit, surrounded by lovely gardens and lakes, where the lotus blooms, and the wild swans murmur.
Here I have delicious viands, fragrant unguents, costly ornaments, splendid raiment, soft beds, and every enjoyment that affluence can procure. Why then should I call to memory the place of my birth?
To your favour am I indebted for all that I possess. I have only one cause of anxiety, which is this; my husband is never absent from my dwelling:
solely attached to me, he is always at my side; he never goes near my sisters; and I am concerned to think that they must feel mortified by his neglect: this is the only circumstance that gives me uneasiness."
Proceeding to visit another of his daughters, the king, after embracing her, and sitting down, made the same inquiry, and received the same account of the enjoyments with which the princess was provided:
there was also the same complaint, that the Ṛṣi was wholly devoted to her, and paid no attention to her sisters.
In every palace Māndhātri heard the same story from each of his daughters in reply to his questions; and with a heart overflowing with wonder and delight he repaired to the wise Saubhari, whom he found alone, and, after paying homage to him, thus addressed him:
"Holy sage, I have witnessed this thy marvellous power; the like miraculous faculties I have never known any other to possess. How great is the reward of thy devout austerities!"
Having thus saluted the sage, and been received by him with respect, the Rājā resided with him for some time, partaking of the pleasures of the place, and then returned to his capital.
In the course of time the daughters of Māndhātri bore to Saubhari a hundred and fifty sons, and day by day his affection for his children became more intense, and his heart was wholly occupied, with the sentiment of self:
"These my sons," he loved to think, "will charm me with their infant prattle; then they will learn to walk; they will then grow up to youth and to manhood: I shall see them married, and they will have children; and I may behold the children of those children."
By these and similar reflections, however, he perceived that his anticipations every day outstripped the course of time, and at last he exclaimed:
"What exceeding folly is mine! There is no end to my desires. Though all I hope should come to pass for ten thousand or a hundred thousand years, still new wishes would spring up.
When I have seen my infants walk; when I have beheld their youth, their manhood, their marriage, their progeny; still my expectations are unsatisfied, and my soul yearns to behold the descendants of their descendants.
Shall I even see them, some other wish will be engendered; and when that is accomplished, how is the birth of fresh desires to be prevented?
I have at last discovered that there is no end to hope, until it terminates in death; and that the mind which is perpetually engrossed by expectation, can never be attached to the supreme spirit.
My mental devotions, whilst immersed in water, were interrupted by attachment to my friend the fish. The result of that connexion was my marriage; and insatiable desires are the consequences of my married life.
The pain attendant upon the birth of my single body, is now augmented by the cares attached to fifty others, and is farther multiplied by the numerous children whom the princesses have borne to me.
The sources of affliction will be repeatedly renewed by their children, and by their espousals, and by their progeny, and will be infinitely increased: a married life is a mine of individual anxiety.
My devotions, first disturbed by the fish of the pool, have since been obstructed by temporal indulgence, and I have been beguiled by that desire for progeny which was communicated to me by association with Sammada.
Separation from the world is the only path of the sage to final liberation: from commerce with mankind innumerable errors proceed.
The ascetic who has accomplished a course of self-denial falls from perfection by contracting worldly attachments: how much more likely should one so fall whose observances are incomplete?
My intellect has been a prey to the desire of married happiness; but I will now so exert myself for the salvation of my soul, that, exempt from human imperfections, I may be exonerated from human sufferings.
To that end I will propitiate, by arduous penance, Viṣṇu, the creator of the universe, whose form is inscrutable, who is smaller than the smallest, larger than the largest, the source of darkness and of light, the sovereign god of gods.
On his everlasting body, which is both discrete and indiscrete substance, illimitably mighty, and identical with the universe, may my mind, wholly free from sin, be ever steadily intent, so that I may be born no more.
To him I fly for refuge; to that Viṣṇu, who is the teacher of teachers, who is one with all beings, the pure eternal lord of all, without beginning, middle, or end, and besides whom is nothing."