Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 4 - Chapter 3

Chapter III

Saubhari and his wives adopt an ascetic life. Descendants of Māndhātri. Legend of Narmadā and Purukutsa. Legend of Triśanku. Bāhu driven from his kingdom by the Haihayas and Tālajanghas. Birth of Sagara: he conquers the barbarians, imposes upon them distinguishing usages, and excludes them from offerings to fire, and the study of the Vedas.

HAVING thus communed with himself, Saubhari abandoned his children, his home, and all his splendour, and, accompanied by his wives, entered the forest,

where he daily practised the observances followed by the ascetics named Vaikhānasas (or anchorets having families), until he had cleansed himself from all sin.

When his intellect had attained maturity, he concentrated in his spirit the sacramental fires, and became a religious mendicant.

Then having consigned all his acts to the supreme, he obtained the condition of Achyuta, which knows no change, and is not subject to the vicissitudes of birth, transmigration, or death.

Whoever reads, or hears, or remembers, or understands, this legend of Saubhari, and his espousal of the daughters of Māndhātri, shall never, for eight successive births, be addicted to evil thoughts, nor shall he act unrighteously, nor shall his mind dwell upon improper objects, nor shall he be influenced by selfish attachments.

The line of Māndhātri is now resumed.

The son of Ambarīṣa, the son of Māndhātri, was Yuvanāśva; his son was Harita, from whom the Angirasa Hāritas were descended.

In the regions below the earth the Gandharvas called Mauneyas (or sons of the Muni Kaśyapa), who were sixty millions in number, had defeated the tribes of the Nāgas, or snake-gods, and seized upon their most precious jewels, and usurped their dominion.

Deprived of their power by the Gandharvas, the serpent chiefs addressed the god of the gods, as he awoke from his slumbers; and the blossoms of his lotus eyes opened while listening to their hymns.

They said: "Lord, how shall we be delivered from this great fear?"

Then replied the first of males, who is without beginning:

"I will enter into the person of Purukutsa, the son of Māndhātri, the son of Yuvanāśva, and in him will I quiet these iniquitous Gandharvas."

On hearing these words, the snake-gods bowed and withdrew, and returning to their country dispatched Narmadā to solicit the aid of Purukutsa.

Narmadā accordingly went to Purukutsa, and conducted him to the regions below the earth, where, being filled with the might of the deity, he destroyed the Gandharvas.

He then returned to his own palace; and the snake-gods, in acknowledgment of Narmadā's services, conferred upon her as a blessing, that whosoever should think of her, and invoke her name, should never have any dread of the venom of snakes.

This is the invocation:

"Salutation be to Narmadā in the morning; salutation be to Narmadā at night; salutation be to thee, O Narmadā! Defend me from the serpent's poison."

Whoever repeats this day and night, shall never be bitten by a snake in the dark nor in entering a chamber; nor shall he who calls it to mind when he eats suffer any injury from poison, though it be mixed with his food.

To Purukutsa also the snake-gods announced that the series of his descendants should never be cut off.

Purukutsa had a son by Narmadā named Trasadasyu, whose son was Sambhūta, whose son was Anaraṇya, who was slain by Rāvaṇa in his triumphant progress through the nations.

The son of Anaraṇya was Pṛṣadaśva; his son was Haryyaśva; his son was Sumanas; his son was Tridhanwan; his son was Trayyāruṇa; and his son was Satyavrata, who obtained the appellation of Triśanku, and was degraded to the condition of a Chāṇḍāla, or outcast.

During a twelve years' famine Triśanku provided the flesh of deer for the nourishment of the wife and children of Viśvāmitra, suspending it upon a spreading fig-tree on the borders of the Ganges, that he might not subject them to the indignity of receiving presents from an outcast.

On this account Viśvāmitra, being highly pleased with him, elevated him in his living body to heaven.

The son of Triśanku was Hariśchandra; his son was Rohitāśva; his son was Harita; his son was Chunchu, who had two sons named Vijaya and Sudeva. Ruruka was the son of Vijaya, and his own son was Vrika, whose son was Bāhu (or Bāthuka).

This prince was vanquished by the tribes of Haihayas and Tālajanghas, and his country was overrun by them; in consequence of which he fled into the forests with his wives.

One of these was pregnant, and being an object of jealousy to a rival queen, the latter gave her poison to prevent her delivery. The poison had the effect of confining the child in the womb for seven years.

Bāhu became old and died in the neighbourhood of the residence of the Muni Aurva.

His queen having constructed his pile, ascended it with the determination of accompanying him in death; but the sage Aurva, who knew all things, past, present, and to come, issued forth from his hermitage, and forbade her, saying:

"Hold! hold! this is unrighteous; a valiant prince, the monarch of many realms, the offerer of many sacrifices, the destroyer of his foes, a universal emperor, is in thy womb; think not of committing so desperate an act!"

Accordingly, in obedience to his injunctions, she relinquished her intention.

The sage then conducted, her to his abode, and after some time a very splendid boy was there born.

Along with him the poison that had been given to his mother was expelled; and Aurva, after performing the ceremonies required at birth, gave him on that account the name of Sagara (from Sa, 'with,' and Gara, 'poison').

The same holy sage celebrated his investure with the cord of his class, instructed him fully in the Vedas, and taught him the use of arms, especially those of fire, called after Bhārgava.

When the boy had grown up, and was capable of reflection, he said to his mother one day: "Why are we dwelling in this hermitage? Where is my father? And who is he?"

His mother, in reply, related to him all that had happened.

Upon hearing which he was highly incensed, and vowed to recover his patrimonial kingdom; and exterminate the Haihayas and Tālajanghas, by whom it had been overrun.

Accordingly when he became a man he put nearly the whole of the Haihayas to death, and would have also destroyed the Śakas, the Yavanas, Kāmbojas, Pāradas, and Pahnavas, but they applied to Vasiṣṭha, the family priest of Sagara, for protection.

Vasiṣṭha regarding them as annihilated (or deprived of power), though living, thus spoke to Sagara:

"Enough, enough, my son, pursue no farther these objects of your wrath, whom you may look upon as no more. In order to fulfil your vow I have separated them from affinity to the regenerate tribes, and from the duties of their castes."

Sagara, in compliance with the injunctions of his spiritual guide, contented himself therefore with imposing upon the vanquished nations peculiar distinguishing marks:

He made the Yavanas shave their heads entirely; the Śakas he compelled to shave (the upper) half of their heads; the Pāradas wore their hair long; and the Pahnavas let their beards grow, in obedience to his commands.

Them also, and other Kṣatriya races, he deprived of the established usages of oblations to fire and the study of the Vedas; and thus separated from religious rites, and abandoned by the Brahmans, these different tribes became Mlechchas.

Sagara, after the recovery of his kingdom, reigned over the seven-zoned earth with undisputed dominion.