Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 4 - Chapter 6

Chapter VI

Kings of the lunar dynasty. Origin of Soma, or the Moon: he carries off Tārā, the wife of Brihaspati: war between the gods and Asuras in consequence: appeased by Brahmā. Birth of Budha: married to Ilā, daughter of Vaivaswata. Legend of his son Pururavā, and the nymph Urvaśī: the former institutes offerings with fire: ascends to the sphere of the Gandharvas.


You have given me, reverend preceptor, an account of the kings of the dynasty of the sun:

I am now desirous to hear a description of the princes who trace their lineage from the Moon, and whose race is still celebrated for glorious deeds.

Thou art able to relate it to me, Brahman, if thou wilt so favour me.


You shall hear from me, Maitreya, an account of the illustrious family of the Moon, which has produced many celebrated rulers of the earth;

a race adorned by the regal qualities of strength, valour, magnificence, prudence, and activity; and enumerating amongst its monarchs Nahuṣa, Yayāti, Kārtavīryārjuna, and others equally renowned.

That race will I describe to you: do you attend.

Atri was the son of Brahmā, the creator of the universe, who sprang from the lotus that grew from the navel of Nārāyaṇa.

The son of Atri was Soma (the Moon), whom Brahmā installed as the sovereign of plants, of Brahmans, and of the stars.

Soma celebrated the Rājasūya sacrifice, and from the glory thence acquired, and the extensive dominion with which he had been invested, he became arrogant and licentious, and carried off Tārā, the wife of Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods.

In vain Brihaspati sought to recover his bride; in vain Brahmā commanded, and the holy sages remonstrated; Soma refused to relinquish her.

Uśanas, out of enmity to Brihaspati, took part with Soma. Rudra, who had studied under Aṅgiras, the father of Brihaspati, befriended his fellow-student.

In consequence of Uśanas, their preceptor, joining Soma, Jambha, Kujambha, and all the Daityas, Dānavas, and other foes of the gods, came also to his assistance; whilst Indra and all the gods were the allies of Brihaspati.

Then there ensued a fierce contest, which, being on account of Tārakā (or Tārā), was termed the Tārakāmaya or Tārakā war:

In this the gods, led by Rudra, hurled their missiles on the enemy; and the Daityas with equal determination assailed the gods.

Earth, shaken to her centre by the struggle between such foes, had recourse to Brahmā for protection; on which he interposed, and commanding Uśanas with the demons and Rudra with the deities to desist from strife, compelled Soma to restore Tārā to her husband.

Finding that she was pregnant, Brihaspati desired her no longer to retain her burden; and in obedience to his orders she delivered son, whom she deposited in a clump of long Munja grass.

The child, from the moment of its birth, was endued with a splendour that dimmed the radiance of every other divinity, and both Brihaspati and Soma, fascinated by his beauty, claimed him as their child.

The gods, in order to settle the dispute, appealed to Tārā; but she was ashamed, and would make no answer. As she still continued mute to their repeated applications, the child became incensed, and was about to curse her, saying:

"Unless, vile woman, you immediately declare who is my father, I will sentence you to such a fate as shall deter every female in future from hesitating to speak the truth."

On this, Brahmā again interfered, and pacified the child; and then, addressing Tārā, said: "Tell me, daughter, is this the child of Brihaspati, or of Soma?"

"Of Soma," said Tārā, blushing. As soon as she had spoken, the lord of the constellations, with bright countenance and expanding with rapture, embraced his son, and said:

"Well done, my boy; verily thou art wise:" and hence his name was Budha.

 It has already been related how Budha begot Pururavā by Ilā:  

Pururavā was a prince renowned for liberality, devotion, magnificence, and love of truth, and for personal beauty.

Urvaśī having incurred the imprecation of Mitra and Varuṇa, determined to take up her abode in the world of mortals; and descending accordingly, beheld Pururavā.

As soon as she saw him she forgot all reserve, and disregarding the delights of Swarga, became deeply enamoured of the prince.

Beholding her infinitely superior to all other females in grace, elegance, symmetry, delicacy, and beauty, Pururavā was equally fascinated by Urvaśī:

both were inspired by similar sentiments, and mutually feeling that each was everything to the other, they thought no more of any other object.

Confiding in his merits, Pururavā addressed the nymph, and said: "Fair creature, I love you; have compassion on me, and return my affection."

Urvaśī, half averting her face through modesty, replied: "I will do so, if you will observe the conditions I have to propose."

"What are they?" inquired the prince; "declare them."

"I have two rams," said the nymph, "which I love as children; they must be kept near my bedside, and never suffered to be carried away: you must also take care never to be seen by me undressed and clarified butter alone must be my food."

To these terms the king readily gave assent.

After this, Pururavā and Urvaśī dwelt together in Alakā, sporting amidst the groves and lotus-crowned lakes of Chaitraratha, and the other forests there situated, for sixty-one thousand years.

The love of Pururavā for his bride increased every day of its duration; and the affection of Urvaśī augmenting equally in fervour, she never called to recollection residence amongst the immortals.

Not so with the attendant spirits at the court of Indra; and nymphs, genii, and quiristers, found heaven itself but dull whilst Urvaśī was away.

Knowing the agreement that Urvaśī had made with the king, Viśvāvasu was appointed by the Gandharvas to effect its violation; and he, coming by night to the chamber where they slept, carried off one of the rams.

Urvaśī was awakened by its cries, and exclaimed, Ah me! Who has stolen one of my children? Had I a husband, this would not have happened! To whom shall I apply for aid?"

The Rājā overheard her lamentation, but recollecting that he was undressed, and that Urvaśī might see him in that state, did not move from the couch.

Then the Gandharvas came and stole the other ram; and Urvaśī, hearing it bleat, cried out that a woman had no protector who was the bride of a prince so dastardly as to submit to this outrage.

This incensed Pururavā highly, and trusting that the nymph would not see his person, as it was dark, he rose, and took his sword, and pursued the robbers, calling upon them to stop, and receive their punishment.

At that moment the Gandharvas caused a flash of brilliant lightning to play upon the chamber, and Urvaśī beheld the king undressed: the compact was violated, and the nymph immediately disappeared. The Gandharvas, abandoning the rams, departed to the region of the gods.

Having recovered the animals, the king returned delighted to his couch, but there he beheld no Urvaśī; and not finding her anywhere, he wandered naked over the world, like one insane.

At length coming to Kurukṣettra, he saw Urvaśī sporting with four other nymphs of heaven in a lake beautified with lotuses, and he ran to her, and called her his wife, and wildly implored her to return.

"Mighty monarch," said the nymph, "refrain from this extravagance. I am now pregnant: depart at present, and come hither again at the end of a year, when I will deliver to you a son, and remain with you for one night."

Pururavā, thus comforted, returned to his capital. Urvaśī said to her companions: "This prince is a most excellent mortal: I lived with him long and affectionately united."

"It was well done of you," they replied; "he is indeed of comely appearance, and one with whom we could live happily forever."

When the year had expired, Urvaśī and the monarch met at Kurukṣettra, and she consigned to him his first-born Āyus; and these annual interviews were repeated, until she had borne to him five sons.

She then said to Pururavā:

"Through regard for me, all the Gandharvas have expressed their joint purpose to bestow upon my lord their benediction: let him therefore demand a boon."

The Rājā replied:

"My enemies are all destroyed; my faculties are all intact; I have friends and kindred, armies and treasures: there is nothing which I may not obtain except living in the same region with my Urvaśī. My only desire therefore is, to pass my life with her."

When he had thus spoken, the Gandharvas brought to Pururavā a vessel with fire, and said to him:

"Take this fire, and, according to the precepts of the Vedas, divide it into three fires; then fixing your mind upon the idea of living with Urvaśī, offer oblations, and you shall assuredly obtain your wishes."

The Rājā took the vessel, and departed, and came to a forest.

Then he began to reflect that he had committed a great folly in bringing away the vessel of fire instead of his bride; and leaving the vessel in the wood, he went disconsolate to his palace.

In the middle of the night he awoke, and considered that the Gandharvas had given him the vessel to enable him to obtain the felicity of living with Urvaśī, and that it was absurd in him to have left it by the way.

Resolving therefore to recover it, he rose, and went to the place where he had deposited the vessel; but it was gone. In its stead he saw a young Aśvattha tree growing out of a Śami plant, and he reasoned with himself, and said:

"I left in this spot a vessel of fire, and now behold a young Aśvattha tree growing out of a Śamī plant. Verily I will take these types of fire to my capital, and there, having engendered fire by their attrition, I will worship it."

Having thus determined, he took the plants to his city, and prepared their wood for attrition, with pieces of as many inches long as there are syllables in the Gāyatrī:

he recited that holy verse, and rubbed together sticks of as many inches as he recited syllables in the Gāyatrī.

Having thence elicited fire, he made it threefold, according to the injunctions of the Vedas, and offered oblations with it, proposing as the end of the ceremony reunion with Urvaśī.

In this way, celebrating many sacrifices agreeably to the form in which offerings are presented with fire, Pururavā obtained a seat in the sphere of the Gandharvas, and was no more separated from his beloved.

Thus fire, that was at first but one, was made threefold in the present Manvantara by the son of Ilā.