Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The Story of Sudarsana

This story is from [Devi:3.14.1-3.25.45].

There was once a King named Dhruvasanti, the son of Pushpa, who ruled the kingdom of Kosala. He was a king of the Surya (Solar) dynasty. He was an able and just ruler. His capital was the city of Ayodhya. He had two wives. Manorama was his first wife and his second wife was named Leelavathi. Manorama had a son named Sudarsana and the very next month a son named Shatrujit was born to Leelavathi.

Both Princes were brought up in a manner befitting the birth and were taught the science of war and the art of statecraft. While they were still boys, King Dhruvasanti was killed by lion, while hunting in the forest. According to the accepted practice, the towns folk and the Vasishta, the perceptor of the clan, decided to anoint Sudarsana as the rightful ruler of Kosala.

Meanwhile, Yudhajit, the father of Leelavathi, who wanted his grandson to become the ruler, invaded Kosala with his army. Similarly, Veerasena, the King of Kalinga, who was Manorama's father, invaded Kosala in support of Sudarsana. A fierce battle was fought between these two armies, in which Veerasena was killed.

Acting on the advice of a trusted councillor named Vidhalla, Manorama escaped from the kingdom, accompanied by her son Sudarsana. She reached the hermitage of the sage Bharadwaja on the banks of the river Ganga. She was granted asylum by the Rishi.

Meanwhile, Yudhajit had established Shatrujit at the throne of Kosala. When he heard that Manorama and Sudarsana had sought refuge with Bharadwaja, he took his army there with the intent of finishing off his grandson's rival. However, before he could do anything rash, he was dissuaded by his wise ministers, and left Manorama and Sudarsana alone.

One day, when Vidhalla had come to visit them, the young son of a Rishi called the courtier a "Kleeba" (coward). Sudarsana took the first syllable of that word and started chanting the Mantra "Kleem", that is sacred to the Devi. This came about due to the good Karma he had accumulated from his previous births.

When he turned eleven, the sacred thread ceremony was performed for him, and he was also thought the art of archery. He was also taught the scriptures and the Vedas. He became a great devotee of Shakti. He spent most of his time chanting the Mantra in worship of the Devi. Pleased with his devotion, she presented him with a divine bow, arrows and an impregnable armor.

Around this time, the King of Kashi had a beautiful daughter named Sashikala. She heard about Prince Sudarsana via some sages who had visited the kingdom. She was also a great devotee of the Devi. She decided that if she were ever to marry, she would only marry Prince Sudarsana.

Since she had reached an age suitable for marriage, her father Subahu, started to make preparation for a Swayamvara (self-choice ceremony). When Sashikala came to know of it, she informed her mother of her determination to wed Sudarsana and none other. Her mother was shocked. She said, "Sudarsana is a very unlucky prince. He doesn't have a kingdom. He has no supporters. He has no wealth nor army. His relatives have forsaken him. He lives in the forest, subsisting on the support of the Rishis. Besides, he poses a mortal enemy in King Yudhajit. Choose someone else to be your husband."

However, the princess was adamant. So, two days before the self-choice ceremony, the queen sent a trusted Brahmana to the forest, to invite Sudarsana to come to the function. When Sudarsana was about to leave for Kashi, his mother tried to stop him and said, "Why do you tempt fate by going to Kashi? Among others, Yudhajit will also come there. He has killed my father and has sworn to kill you. Do not give him an opportunity to murder you by going there alone!".

Sudarsana said, "Mother! Do not be afraid. I have the blessings of Devi. It is by her will that I am traveling to the Swayamvara. You are a Kshatriya maiden. You must be brave and send me to battle with a cheerful face."

She relented somewhat, but would not let him go alone. She insisted on accompanying him. Both of them reached the kingdom of Kashi the next day. When Subahu heard of their arrival, he welcomed them with due respect and installed them in suitable dwellings.

The next day, the day of the Swayamvara many Kings were assembled in the great hall. Among them were Yudhajit and Shatrujit, his grandson. Some of the people, well disposed towards Sudarsana, tried to warn him and said, "Many of the kings here are itching for battle. The are backed by large armies. They will surely attack you if the princess chooses you as her husband. How do you expect to manage? Even if they stay quiet, your enemies, Yudhajit and Shatrujit are here. It is no disgrace to retreat when faced with impossible odds. We have given you our advice. Act as you wish."

Sudarsana replied, "My good people. What has been fated to happen will surely happen. What has been willed by the creator shall come to pass. I have firm faith in Devi. It does not matter if I am powerful or not. All that I have is by the grace of the divine mother. I am here by her will. I will certainly not leave and whatever happens it shall be by her grace."

Meanwhile, the princess, after her ceremonial bath, was decking herself with flowers and jewelry. Her father took her hand and said, "Daughter, You may chose any of this scions of royal houses. Chose a handsome prince, one who is possessed of all good qualities, to be your husband, and I shall arrange the wedding in the next auspicious occasion."

The princess replied, "Father. I have already decided that Sudarsana of Kosala would be my husband. I shall not appear before the lustful eyes of the assembled multitude. Do what is consistent with the rules of good conduct."

The King was in a quandary. Finally he went to the assembly hall and said, "O Kings. I throw myself at your mercy. Despite being repeatedly beseeched, my daughter is unwilling to appear in the Swayamvara. I do not know what to do. Please forgive me, for this ceremony cannot take place. Accept the gifts that have been laid out for you, find it in your heart to forgive this irregular proceeding and please return to your kingdoms in peace!"

Most of the kings were silent. However, Yudhajit would not brook this insult. He said angrily, "You have resolved to insult all the Kings in the land. It has been rumored that your daughter has secretly chosen that pauper-prince Sudarsana as her husband and that you are also willing to accept him as your son-in-law. Do not transgress the path of Dharma (Justice/Truth) and statecraft and indulge in this madness. Chose someone else to be the husband of your daughter. Or else, I shall abduct her from your kingdom and forcibly marry her to my grandson!"

Subahu did not know what to do. Yudhajit was a renowned warrior and had a really strong army. Compared to him, the army of Kashi was rather weak. He consulted his wife and asked her for advice. His wife then went to their daughter and said, "Child, Your father is grieving because of your actions. He is unable to protect you from the Kings who have been inflamed by your actions. Please find a way out of this impasse. Chose anyone other than Sudarsana as your husband, and then everyone can live in peace!"

The princess said, "Mother, Why are you afraid? It is not the proper for a Kshatriya to be frightened of strife, it is a part of his life. I shall not accept anyone other than Sudarsana as my husband. Conduct this wedding secretly at night, before the Kings are any wiser. Marry us according to the Vedic rights tonight and send us away. The wrath of the Kings would be directed at us and you would be spared."

The King found this a workable solution. Accordingly, he sent a secret message to Sudarsana and Manorama, inviting them to this midnight ceremony. His trusted priests and purohits performed the marriage. The bridal gifts were given to them, including two hundred fully equipped chariots and the warriors mounted on them. They were also given thousands of servants and costly jewels and fine dresses.

Sudarsana then left the city for the forest. The King of Kashi accompanied with his army. As they were leaving the city, the encountered the combined armies of the Kings who had come for the Swayamvara. Subahu grew very worried. Sudarsana prayed to Devi for assistance and then steeled himself to withstand the assault from his rival kings.

The battle was joined in right earnest. Yudhajit and Shatrujit saw this as the golden opportunity to dispose off Sudarsana. While the battle was at its peak, the Devi appeared in person, mounted on her ferocious lion. She was clad in scarlet red and had a garland of the Mandara flowers about her neck. She carried a multitude of vicious weapons in her many hands. When the armies saw her, they were struck with wondrous fear and began to retreat from battle.

Yudhajit, maddened by his thirst for Sudarsana's blood, did not recognize the spark of divinity. He shouted to his armies, "Why are you fleeing from a mere woman? Go forth and slay the people surrounding her. Are we to suffer Sudarsana to marry the princess, condemning us to ridicule by the world. I shall personally kill this charlatan woman and put her armies to rout!"

Yudhajit and Shatrujit then attacked the Devi with renewed vigor. They were no match for the Goddess and were slain by her arrows in no time. Seeing their leaders dead, the other Kings then supplicated themselves before the Devi, seeking to placate her anger. Subahu sang many verses praising her infinite mercy. The Divine mother was placated and vanished after blessing all the assembled people.

Sudarsana was crowned the King of Kosala. He started the practice of Goddess-worship in the Kingdom, dedicating a festival sacred to her honor.

Last Modified At: Wed Nov 17 22:57:51 2004