Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 4 - Chapter 4

Chapter IV

The progeny of Sāgara: their wickedness: he performs an Aśvamedha: the horse stolen by Kapila: found by Sāgara's sons, who are all destroyed by the sage: the horse recovered by Amśumān: his descendants. Legend of Mitrasaha or Kalmāṣapāda, the son of Sudāsa. Legend of Khaṭvānga. Birth of Rāma and the other sons of Daśaratha. Epitome of the history of Rāma: his descendants, and those of his brothers. Line of Kuśa. Vrihadbala, the last, killed in the great war.

SUMATI the daughter of Kaśyapa, and Kesinī the daughter of Rāja Viderbha, were the two wives of Sāgara.

Being without progeny, the king solicited the aid of the sage Aurva with great earnestness, and the Muni pronounced this boon, that one wife should bear one son, the upholder of his race, and the other should give birth to sixty thousand sons; and he left it to them to make their election.

Kesinī chose to have the single son; Sumati the multitude: and it came to pass in a short time that the former bore Asamanjā, a prince through whom the dynasty continued; and the daughter of Vinatā (Sumati) had sixty thousand sons. The son of Asamanjā was Amśumān.

Asamanjā was from his boyhood of very bad conduct. His father hoped that as he grew up to manhood he would change; but finding that he continued the same immorality, Sāgara abandoned him.

The sixty thousand sons of Sāgara followed the example of their brother Asamanjā.

The path of virtue and piety being obstructed in the world by the sons of Sāgara, the gods repaired to the Muni Kapila, who was a portion of Viṣṇu, free from fault, and endowed with all true wisdom.

Having approached him with respect, they said:

"O lord, what will become of the world, if these sons of Sāgara are permitted to continue to live the evil way they have learned from Asamanjā! Do thou, then, assume a visible form, for the protection of the afflicted universe."

"Be satisfied," replied the sage, "in a brief time the sons of Sāgara shall be all destroyed."

At that period Sāgara commenced the performance of the solemn sacrifice of a horse, who was guarded by his own sons: nevertheless someone stole the animal, and carried it off into a chasm in the earth.

Sāgara commanded his sons to search for the steed; and they, tracing him by the impressions of his hoofs, followed his course with perseverance,

until coming to the chasm where he had entered, they proceeded to enlarge it, and dug downwards each for a league.

Coming to Pātāla, they beheld the horse wandering freely about, and at no great distance from him they saw the Ṛṣi Kapila sitting, with his head declined in meditation, and illuminating the surrounding space with radiance as bright as the splendours of the autumnal sun, shining in an unclouded sky.

Exclaiming: "This is the villain who has maliciously interrupted our sacrifice, and stolen the horse! kill him! kill him!" they ran towards him with uplifted weapons.

The Muni slowly raised his eyes, and for an instant looked upon them, and they were reduced to ashes by the sacred flame that darted from his person.

When Sāgara learned that his sons, whom he had sent in pursuit of the sacrificial steed, had been destroyed by the might of the great Ṛṣi Kapila, he dispatched Amśumān, the son of Asamanjā, to reach the animals recovery.

The youth, proceeding by the deep path which the princes had dug, arrived where Kapila was, and bowing respectfully, prayed to him, and so propitiated him, that the saint said:

 "Go, my son, deliver the horse to your grandfather; and demand a boon; thy grandson shall bring down the river of heaven on the earth."

Amśumān requested as a boon that his uncles, who had perished through the sage's displeasure, might, although unworthy of it, be raised to heaven through his favour.

"I have told you," replied Kapila, "that your grandson shall bring down upon earth the Ganges of the gods; and when her waters shall wash the bones and ashes of thy grandfather's sons, they shall be raised to Swarga.

Such is the efficacy of the stream that flows from the toe of Viṣṇu, that it confers heaven upon all who bathe in it designedly, or who even become accidentally immersed in it:

those even shall obtain Swarga, whose bones, skin, fibres, hair, or any other part, shall be left after death upon the earth which is contiguous to the Ganges."

Having acknowledged reverentially the kindness of the sage, Amśumān returned to his grandfather, and delivered to him the horse.

Sāgara, on recovering the steed, completed his sacrifice; and in affectionate memory of his sons, denominated Sāgara the chasm which they had dug.

The son of Amśumān was Dilīp; his son was Bhagīratha, who brought Gangā down to earth, whence she is called Bhāgirathī.

The son of Bhagīratha was Śruta; his son was Nābhāga; his son was Ambarīṣa; his son was Sindhudvīpa; his son was Ayutāśva; his son was Rituparṇa, the friend of Nala, skilled profoundly in dice.

The son of Rituparṇa was Sarvakāma; his son was Sudāsa; his son was Saudāsa, named also Mitrasaha.

The son of Sudāsa having gone into the woods to hunt fell in with a couple of tigers, by whom the forest had been cleared of the deer.

The king slew one of these tigers with an arrow. At the moment of expiring, the form of the animal was changed, and it became that of a fiend of fearful figure, and hideous aspect. Its companion, threatening the prince with its vengeance, disappeared.

After some interval Saudāsa celebrated a sacrifice, which was conducted by Vasiṣṭha:

At the close of the rite Vasiṣṭha went out; when the Rākṣas, the fellow of the one that had been killed in the figure of a tiger, assumed the semblance of Vasiṣṭha, and came and said to the king:

"Now that the sacrifice has finished, you must give me flesh to eat: let it be cooked, and I will presently return."

Having said this, he withdrew, and, transforming himself into the shape of the cook, dressed some human flesh, which he brought to the king, who, receiving it on a plate of gold, awaited the reappearance of Vasiṣṭha.

As soon as the Muni returned, the king offered him the dish.

Vasiṣṭha surprised at such want of propriety in the king, as his offering him meat to eat, considered what it should be that was so presented, and by the efficacy of his meditations discovered that it was human flesh.

His mind being agitated with wrath, he denounced a curse upon the Rājā, saying:

"Inasmuch as you have insulted all such holy men as we are, by giving me what is not to be eaten, your appetite shall henceforth be excited by similar food."

"It was yourself," replied the Rājā to the indignant sage, "who commanded this food to be prepared."

"By me!" exclaimed Vasiṣṭha; "how that could have been?" and again having recourse to meditation, he detected the whole truth.

Then overcoming all displeasure towards the king, he said:

"The food to which I have sentenced you shall not be your sustenance forever; it shall only be so for twelve years."

The king, who had taken up water in the palms of his hands, and was prepared to curse the Muni, now considered that Vasiṣṭha was his spiritual guide,

and being reminded by Madayantī his queen that it ill became him to denounce an imprecation upon a holy teacher, who was the guardian divinity of his race, abandoned his intention.

Unwilling to cast the water upon the earth, lest it should wither up the grain, for it was impregnated with his malediction, and equally reluctant to throw it up into the air, lest it should blast the clouds, and dry up their contents, he threw it upon, his own feet.

Scalded by the heat which the water had derived from his angry imprecation, the feet of the Rājā became spotted black and white, and he thence obtained the name of Kalmāṣapāda, or he with the spotted (kalmāṣa) feet (pāda).

In consequence of the curse of Vasiṣṭha, the Rājā became a cannibal every sixth watch of the day for twelve years, and in that state wandered through the forests, and devoured multitudes of men.

On one occasion he beheld a holy person engaged in dalliance with his wife:

As soon as they saw his terrific form, they were frightened, and endeavoured to escape; but the regal Rākṣasa overtook and seized the husband.

The wife of the Brahman then also desisted from flight, and earnestly entreated the savage to spare her lord, exclaiming:

"Thou, Mitrasaha, art the pride of the royal house of Ikṣvāku, not a malignant fiend! It is not in thy nature, who knowest the characters of women, to carry off and devour my husband."

But all was in vain, and, regardless of her reiterated supplications, he ate the Brahman, as a tiger devours a deer.

The Brahman's wife, furious with wrath, then addressed the Rājā, and said:

"Since you have barbarously disturbed the joys of a wedded pair, and killed my husband, your death shall be the consequence of your associating with your queen."

So saying, she entered the flames.

At the expiration of the period of his curse Saudāsa returned home.

Being reminded of the imprecation of the Brahmāṇī by his wife Madayantī, he abstained from conjugal intercourse, and was in consequence childless; but having solicited the interposition of Vasiṣṭha, Madayantī became pregnant.

The child, however, was not born for seven years, when the queen, becoming impatient, divided the womb with a sharp stone, and was thereby delivered.

The child was thence called Aśmaka (from Aśman, 'a stone').

The son of Aśmaka was Mūlaka, who, when the warrior tribe was extirpated upon earth, was surrounded and concealed by a number of females; whence he was denominated Nārīkavācha (having women for armour).

The son of Mūlaka was Daśaratha; his son was Ilavila; his son was Viśvasaha; his son was Khaṭvānga, called also Dilīp, who in a battle between the gods and the Asuras, being called by the former to their succour, killed a number of the latter.

Having thus acquired the friendship of the deities in heaven, they desired him to demand a boon.

He said to them: "If a boon is to be accepted by me, then tell me, as a favour, what the duration of my life is."

"The length of your life is but an hour," the gods replied.

On which, Khaṭvānga, who was swift of motion, descended in his easy-gliding chariot to the world of mortals. Arrived there, he prayed, and said:

"If my own soul has never been dearer to me than the sacred Brahmans; if I have never deviated from the discharge of my duty; if I have never regarded gods, men, animals, vegetables, all created things, as different from the imperishable; then may I, with unswerving step, attain to that divine being on whom holy sages meditate!"

Having thus spoken, he was united with that supreme being, who is Vāsudeva; with that elder of all the gods, who is abstract existence, and whose form cannot be described.

Thus he obtained absorption, according to this stanza, which was repeated formerly by the seven Ṛṣis:

"Like unto Khaṭvānga will be no one upon earth, who having come from heaven, and dwelt an hour amongst men, became united with the three worlds by his liberality and knowledge of truth."

The son of Khaṭvānga was Dīrghabāhu; his son was Raghu; his son was Aja; his son was Daśaratha.

The god from whose navel the lotus springs became fourfold, as the four sons of Daśaratha: Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, Bharata, and Śatrughna:

for the protection of the world. Rāma, whilst yet a boy, accompanied Viśvāmitra, to protect his sacrifice, and slew Tāḍakā.

He afterwards killed Mārīcha with his resistless shafts; and Subāhu and others fell by his arms. He removed the guilt of Ahalyā by merely looking upon her.

In the palace of Janaka he broke with ease the mighty bow of Maheśvara, and received the hand of Sītā, the daughter of the king, self-born from the earth, as the prize of his prowess.

He humbled the pride of Paraśurāma, who vaunted his triumphs over the race of Haihaya, and his repeated slaughters of the Kṣatriya tribe.

Obedient to the commands of his father, and cherishing no regret for the loss of sovereignty, he entered the forest, accompanied by his brother Lakṣmaṇa and by his wife, where he killed in conflict Virādha, Kharadūṣana and other Rākṣasas, the headless giant Kabandha, and Bāli the monkey monarch.

Having built a bridge across the ocean, and destroyed the whole Rākṣasa nation, he recovered his bride Sītā, whom their ten-headed king Rāvaṇa had carried off,

and returned to Ayodhyā with her, after she had been purified by the fiery ordeal from the soil contracted by her captivity, and had been honoured by the assembled gods, who bore witness to her virtue.

Bhārata made himself master of the country of the Gandharvas, after destroying vast numbers of them; and Śatrughna having killed the Rākṣasa chief Lavaṇa, the son of Madhu, took possession of his capital Mathurā.

Having thus, by their unequalled valour and might, rescued the whole world from the dominion of malignant fiends, Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, Bharata, and Śatrughna re-ascended to heaven, and were followed by those of the people of Kośala who were fervently devoted to these incarnate portions of the supreme Viṣṇu.

Rāma and his brothers had each two sons:

Kuśa and Lava were the sons of Rāma; those of Lakṣmaṇa were Angada and Chandraketu; the sons of Bhārata were Takṣa and Puṣkara; and Subāhu and Śūrasena were the sons of Śatrughna.

The son of Kuśa was Atithi; his son was Niṣadha; his son was Nala; his son was Nabhas; his son was Puṇḍarīka; his son was Kṣemadhanwan; his son was Devānīka;

his son was Ahīnagu; his son was Pāripātra; his son was Dala; his son was Chhala; his son was Uktha; his son was Vajranābha; his son was Śankhanābha; his son was Abhyutthitāśva;

his son was Viśvasaha; his son was Hiraṇyanābha, who was a pupil of the mighty Yogī Jaimini, and communicated the knowledge of spiritual exercises to Yājnawalkya.

The son of this saintly king was Puṣyā; his son was Dhruvasandhi; his son was Sudarśana; his son was Agnivarṇa; his son was Śīghra;

his son was Maru, who through the power of devotion (Yoga) is still living in the village called Kalāpa, and in a future age will be the restorer of the Kṣatriya race in the solar dynasty.

Maru had a son named Prasuśruta; his son was Susandhi; his son was Amarsha; his son was Mahaswat; his son was Viśrutavat; and his son was Vrihadbala, who was killed in the great war by Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuṇa.

These are the most distinguished princes in the family of Ikṣvāku: whoever listens to the account of them will be purified from all his sins.