Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 4 - Chapter 10

Chapter X

The sons of Nahuṣa. The sons of Yayāti: he is cursed by Śukra: wishes his sons to exchange their vigour for his infirmities. Puru alone consents. Yayāti restores him his youth: divides the earth amongst his sons, under the supremacy of Puru.

YATI, Yayāti, Sanyāti, Āyāti, Viyati, and Kriti were the six valiant sons of Nahuṣa.

Yati declined the sovereignty, and Yayāti therefore succeeded to the throne.

He had two wives, Devayānī the daughter of Usanas, and Śarmiṣṭhā the daughter of Vṛṣaparvan; of whom this genealogical verse is recited:

"Devayānī bore two sons, Yadu and Turvasu. Sarmiṣṭhā, the daughter of Vṛṣaparvan, had three sons, Druhyu, Anu, and Puru."

Through the curse of Uśanas, Yayāti became old and infirm before his time; but having appeased his father-in-law, he obtained permission to transfer his decrepitude to anyone who would consent to take it.

He first applied to his eldest son Yadu, and said:

"Your maternal grandfather has brought this premature decay upon me: by his permission, however, I may transfer it to you for a thousand years.

I am not yet satiate, with worldly enjoyments, and wish to partake of them through the means of your youth. Do not refuse compliance with my request."

Yadu, however, was not willing to take upon him his father's decay; on which his father denounced an imprecation upon him, and said: "Your posterity shall not possess dominion."

He then applied successively to Druhyu, Turvasu, and Anu, and demanded of them their juvenile vigour. They all refused, and were in consequence cursed by the king.

Lastly he made the same request of Sarmiṣṭhā's youngest son, Puru, who bowed to his father, and readily consented to give him his youth, and receive in exchange Yayāti's infirmities, saying that his father had conferred upon him a great favour.

The king Yayāti being thus endowed with renovated youth, conducted the affairs of state for the good of his people, enjoying such pleasures as were suited to his age and strength, and were not incompatible with virtue.

He formed a connexion with the celestial nymph Viśvāchī, and was wholly attached to her, and conceived no end to his desires:

The more they were gratified, the more ardent they became; as it is said in this verse:

"Desire is not appeased by enjoyment: fire fed with sacrificial oil becomes but the more intense. No one has ever more than enough of rice, or barley, or gold, or cattle, or women: abandon therefore inordinate desire.

When a mind finds neither good nor ill in all objects, but looks on all with an equal eye, then everything yields it pleasure.

The wise man is filled with happiness, who escapes from desire, which the feeble minded can with difficulty relinquish, and doesn’t become old when aged.

The hair becomes grey, the teeth fall out, as man advances in years; but the love of wealth, the love of life, are not impaired by age."

"A thousand years have passed," reflected Yayāti, "and my mind is still devoted to pleasure: every day my desires are awakened by new objects.

I will therefore now renounce all sensual enjoyment, and fix my mind upon spiritual truth. Unaffected by the alternatives of pleasure and pain, and having nothing I may call my own, I will henceforth roam the forests with the deer."

Having made this determination, Yayāti restored his youth to Puru, resumed his own decrepitude, installed his youngest son in the sovereignty, and departed to the wood of penance (Tapovana).

To Turvasu he consigned the south-east districts of his kingdom; the west to Druhyu; the south to Yadu; and the north to Anu; to govern as viceroys under their younger brother Puru, whom he appointed supreme monarch of the earth.