Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The Birth of Chyavana

Stories From the Mahabharata

[This story is from [Maha:1.5-1.8]. It is somewhat perplexing, for it is not explained why the Rakshasa died]

The great sage Bhrigu, the wish born son of Lord Brahma, had married a lady named Pauloma. They spent their time together, devoted to each other. In time, she became pregnant.

One day Bhrigu had gone out on some business and his wife Pauloma was alone in the house. A Rakshasa (also named Pauloma), came to visit Bhrigu. The Rishi's wife welcomed the Rakshasa, and entertained him with food. The Rakshasa saw this matron, who was of incomparable beauty, and was filled with dust. He resolved to carry her away to his abode.

The Rakshasa observed that the sacrificial fire was burning bright in one corner of the hermitage. The Rakshasa addressed Agni (fire) and said, "It is said that Agni, you are the witness for all oaths and promises. Tell me, is it not true that my namesake, this beautiful Pauloma, was betrothed to me by her father in days of yore? Has not Bhrigu stolen her away from me unlawfully? Will I not be justified in recovering her by force. Speak the truth, for you may not utter a falsehood."

Now Agni was in a quandary. He feared both the Rakshasa and the great sage Bhrigu. So he remained silent. Upon the Rakshasa repeating his query, he at last said, "O Rakshasa, It is certainly true that you were originally betrothed to this woman. However, you were not married to her. She was not made over to you with the sacrificial fire as the witness. She has married the sage Bhrigu and is his wife. Her father has bestowed her upon that Brahmana, you have no right over her."

Greatly enraged at the words of Agni, the Rakshasa assumed the form of a giant boar and in a single leap, landed near the Rishi's wife. He then seized her and began carrying her to his abode, traveling at a great speed. Pauloma started crying. The tears that flowed from her eyes formed the river Vadhusara. The child of Bhrigu in her womb, was enraged at this proceeding. As the Rakshasa was still in flight, the baby emerged from his mother (this is the reason he was called Chyavana) and his aura shone like that of the sun.

When the Rakshasa beheld the brilliance of this baby, he was startled and let go of Pauloma. The next instant, he fell headlong to the earth and was burned to ashes. (I think that the baby Chyavana must have cursed him.) Pauloma then collected her infant in her arms, and began walking back towards her home.

When she got there, her husband was anxiously awaiting her. When he saw her Bhrigu said, "How did the Rakshasa dare to carry you away? Who made known your identity to that demon?" (This is somewhat perplexing, for the Rakshasa already knew who she was, he merely asked the question of Agni in a rhetorical sense).

She said, "My husband, the sacrificial fire, Agni betrayed me to that Rakshasa. It was only through the power of your brilliant son, this infant Chyavana that I was rescued."

In his great anger Bhrigu uttered a curse. He said, "O Agni, since you have betrayed us, may you become indiscriminate in your hunger. You will consume foul things along with the good."

Upon hearing this curse, Agni appeared there and said, "O Great sage, what you have said is not proper. I am the witness of the world. I cannot utter a falsehood even to save my life. When the Rakshasa interrogated me, I was honor bound to utter the truth. It was known to me that your wife, this Pauloma was originally betrothed by her father to the Rakshasa Pauloma. Having this knowledge, I could not say otherwise when the Rakshasa posed the question to me. I can also curse you in return, but I shall not do so. I hold all Brahmanas in high respect. I am the life-force behind creation. I can multiply myself in an instant. My presence is essential for all rituals. I am the mouth by which the Devas lap up the oblations. Without my presence, the universe will come to a halt. I am the chief among priests. I am the medium of the sacrifice. How can I, who am the link between Gods and men, become a eater of all things, clean and unclean?"

However, Bhrigu refused to withdraw his curse, for he was still very angry. Agni became annoyed, and decided to withdraw himself from the abode of men. He stayed away from the sacrificial fire, from the household fire and refused to appear when invoked in the prayers of men. The world began to suffer. Men could not do anything without fire. The Devas also began to weaken, for they depended on the worship of men and needed Agni to carry Havis up to them. In great distress, all of them went to Brahma-Loka, the abode of Brahma and beseeched him to save them.

The creator of all worlds then summoned Agni to his presence. He said, "Agni, great is your power. Like me, you are immortal. You are the creator and you are the destroyer. You preserve this world. You are the Lord and master of all ceremonies and sacrifices. It does not behoove you to sulk, and stop all the ceremonies in the three worlds. The Devas are weakening without the Havis that only you can bring them. O you who consumes the sacrificial butter, why are you sulking thus?"

To this Agni replied, "I have been cursed by your mansa-putra (wish-born son) Bhrigu, that I will eat unclean things from now on. Unable to bear this insult, which came about out of no fault of mine, I have resolved to never eat anything again, and thus escape from the curse."

Brahma said, "I shall grant the boon to you, that you shall always be pure. No matter how vile the food that is offered to you, once it comes in contact with you, it shall turn pure. This way, the Rishi's words shall also remain true, while not dimming your splendor in any way."

Agni rejoiced in his deliverance from fate and then resumed his position as the mouth of the Gods. All was well with the world again.

Last Modified At: Thu Oct 21 20:28:40 2004