Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Urvashi And Puroorava

This incident is mentioned both in [R.V.10.95] and in [Devi:1.11.1-1.14.1].

Long ago, there was a king named Sudyumna. While he was hunting in a forest, he came upon a clear pool of water. As he was thirsty, he waded into it with his stallion. He was unaware that it was the private pool of Shiva and Parvati and that males were forbidden there. An enchantment had been laid on it, that transformed all males who entered it into women.

According to this curse, the king was transformed into a woman named Ila. His stallion also became a mare. He was ashamed and did not want to return to his kingdom in this form. He began to wander around in the forest in search of suitable shelter.

He came across the hermitage of sage Budha, who was performing a penance there. By his divine sight, the sage knew the history of the maiden (king), and invited her to stay in his Ashram. They fell in love and were married. In the course of the year, a boy named Puroorava was born to them.

At the end of the year, the curse was lifted and the maiden regained her original form. The King took the boy to his kingdom with him, and made him his heir. [The Devi Bhagavata gives a slightly different version, saying that by a boon from his Guru Vasishta, he would be a man for half the time and a woman for half the time. He will stay concealed in his harem when he was a woman. Word leaked out of this freakishness and unable to bear the taunts of his subjects, he crowned his son as the King and retired to the forest.]

Puroorava was a very good King and won many victories on the battles. His fame reached the denizens of heaven. Indra himself sent him an invitation to visit his court. While visiting Indra's heavenly court, Puroorava met the divine nymph Urvashi and fell in love with her.

[According to another version of this story, King Puroorava saved Urvashi from the klutches of a Rakshasa called Keshi, and thus won her favor.]

The Apsara agreed to be his wife on the condition that she be fed nothing but clarified butter (ghee) as food. The king must also ensure that her two pet lambs remain safe. He should not approach her without clothes except for the time appointed for sexual congress.

Puroorava accepted these conditions and brought Urvashi to his Kingdom as his bride. He was so enamoured with his wife that he neglected his duties, spending all his time in her company. Meanwhile, Indra felt the absense of his favorite dancer keenly. He sent his friend Vishvavasu, a Gandharva, as his messenger, to try and persuade Urvashi to return to heaven.

The messenger tried to meet the nymph alone, but her husband was always with her. In desparation, one night, he stole the her pet lambs. Urvashi heard them bleating and raised a hue and cry. Puroorava, who was sleeping in his apartments, forgot his promise to the Apsara and went semi-clothed to see what the matter was. The Gandharva saw his opportunity and disappeared, but not before causing a flash of lightning to be manifest.

In that flash of lightning, Urvashi saw her husband without clothes. She reminded him of her condition and announced her resolve to return to her heavenly abode. Puroorava was distraught. He tried hard to persuade her to stay. But she left him nevertheless.

The disraught King abandoned his kingdom and searched for her in all the three worlds. He finally tracked her down in Kurukshetra, where he pleaded with her to overlook his breach of promise.

When she would not listen to him, in desparation, he said, "I am your slave. If you abandon me, I have will commit suicide!".

Urvashi cast a look of derison on him and said, "O King, Try to collect your wits about you! I am a prostitute. My favor is fleeting. Women such as me are unworthy of attachment. You have been a fool, and it is surprising that you have fallen in love with me. There is no point rueing your fate. Return to your palace. I must return to my due place in heaven."

Of course, Puroorava did not recover from this disappointment for a long time. There is an isolated verse [R.V.10.95] which is colloquy between Urvashi and Puroorava as he tries to persuade her to stay. The story is given in greater detail in [Devi:1.11.1-1.14.1].

[The love story between Urvashi and Puroorava is the subject of poet Kalidasa's Vikramoorvashi ('Urvashi won by valor'). But the story deviates considerably from the version in the Puranas. Here, they are more like star crossed lovers, who are finally united on earth after undergoing many trials.]

Last Modified At: Thu Jun 2 23:02:02 2005