The Legend of Sagara Part 1

    Sutha, the great sage, started to narrate the legend of King Sagara to Shounaka and the assembly of sages thus:

    Lord Vishnu governed the three worlds, punishing the sinners and protecting the virtuous. He sent for Vishwakarma and bid him to build the city of Ayodhya in all its splendour. Accordingly the city was completed. It was ruled over by the young and handsome King Sagara. He was serene, god-fearing, charitable and his heart always centered in Lord Vishnu.

    Sagara defeated all the kings and with his heart devoted to Sri Hari he performed many Yagnas. He was devoted to God, meticulously following all righteous ways.

    The sages became very curious and requested Sutha to relate the complete saga of King Sagara. Sutha continued his narrative thus:

    Lord Brahma was born of Lord Vishnu, from the Lotus of his navel. Marichi was born of Brahma. Lord Surya took birth from Kashyapa Prajapathi Vikrama. His son was Ikshwaku. Ikshwaku was blessed with hundred sons. Of these, Shashada was the son to whom Puranjaya was born. Puranjaya’s son was Shenashwa. He gave birth to Prudhu, who became a renowned king. Prudhu’s son was Vishwagandha. Vishwagandha had three sons, Chandra Sutha, Jakru and Yavanashwa. Yawashnashwa’s son was Shabhasti, who built the splendid city of Shabhasti. He gave birth to Bruhadashwa. Bruhadashwa gave birth to Kuwalayashwa. Kuwalayashwa was blessed with sixty-one thousand sons.

    The sons of Kuwalayashwa became young. They became aggressive and going wild, they started killing the asuras. Dundumara, the asura, was angered at the dwindling populace of his race. Powered by the boons conferred on him by almighty Parameshwara, he killed all except three of the Kuwalayashwa’s sons. The three sons who survived were – Dhrudhashwa, Kapilashwa and Bhadrashwa. Of these, Dhrudhashwa, the eldest son, gave birth to Haryashwa. Haryashwa’s son was Nikumbhi, who gave birth to Barhinashwa. To him was born Krutashwa. Krutashwa gave birth to Shenajitta. Shenajitta’s son was Yuwanashwa. By a miracle of god Yuwanashwa’s belly was torn apart and Mandhatra, his son was born. Mandhatra got three sons by name Ambarisha, Purukutsu and Muchikunda, besides his fifty daughters. Ambarisha’s son was Yauvanashwa and he begets Harivara. The second son of Mandhatra, Purukutsu, was blessed with the son Drasadasyu. Aranya was his son. Aranya’s son was Harashwa. Harashwa’s son was Aranva. Thribandhana was born of Aranva. Of whom Satyavratha was born. His son was Thrishanku.

    King Harischandra was born to him. Harischandra begets Lohita and his son was Jampakanamadheya. He begot Sudeva and Sudeva was blessed with the son Vijaya. Vijaya’s son was Duraka and his son was Vruka. Vruka begot Bahaka. Sagara, the great king was the son of Bahaka.

    Sage Sutha informed the sages of Sagar’s long lineage and continued -these details are found mentioned in the Navama Skandha of Srimad Bhagavatam. He continued the story thus:

    King Bahaka married a hundred wives and was efficiently ruling over his kingdom. He was a compassionate king and under his rule people lived in peace and prosperity. He was always mindful of Lord Hari’s name, performing Yagnas with the uninterrupted daily prayers going on. His fame spread to the three worlds as, gods, sages sang his praises. Justice reigned supreme under his rule and the king never spoke ill of anyone.

    Such was the state of kings when King Bahaka got the disturbing news about the neighbouring kings; that the kings, growing jealous of his greatness, were busy making preparations for waging a war against him. Realizing that all worldly pleasures are like passing dreams merely a mirage, he shunned all the comforts of life. As decreed by his spiritual gurus, he kept himself aloof from the worldly affairs. He became immersed in divine thoughts. Consequently there was none to look after the state affairs. Fearing this may lead to anarchy and that people may take to life of passions, the ministers, army commanders, sages, gods and scholars put their heads together to think of a way out. At this instance, sage Nauru, with his power of celestial vision, looked into the future. He assured them not to worry about as all was going to be well. He said Bahaka would be blessed with a brilliant child who would be known for his valour, skill in archery, with Lord Vishnu’s amsha in him. He asked them, meanwhile, to look after the affairs of the state. Soon after, Queen Madhuravani became pregnant.

    King Bahaka, being the most virtuous of men, was physically taken to the heavens even as people watched in awe. Madhuravani was in advanced stage of pregnancy. In order to terminate her pregnancy, the other wives of King Bahaka gave her poison mixed in milk. Madhuravani, in her innocence, consumed the poisoned sweet milk. But with the blessings of the god, the poison turned into nectar for her and the child in her womb was unharmed. One auspicious day Madhuravani gave birth to a bright child, who was virtue incarnate. Flowers were showered upon the boy and mother from the heavens. The other queens, envious and fearful, kept away from her. At his birth, gods, brahmins, sages, kings, men and women, people from all classes echoed that the boy was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. They sang lullabies and offered incenses to him. The gods and sages blessed the child and named it ‘Sagara’, being the child who could absorb poison. They also blessed his mother saying henceforth she be known as ‘the one who absorbed poison’. The ladies offered precious gifts to the child. People considered the king as Lord Mahavishnu and worshiped him. King Sagara grew up like the waxing moon and learned all arts with ease, mingled with one and all, well versed in archery, vedas, vedangas and statecraft. He always meditated on god. Accompanied by the four wings of his army, he conquered kingdoms, acquired immense wealth and was righteously ruling over the country.

    With the consent of the priests, sages, ministers and his subjects, Sagara married Sukesini, the princess of Vidarbha, a lady of enchanting beauty, well versed in state affairs and known for her uprightness. The king also wedded Sumati at his will. King Sagara was charitable, lived in royal comforts and fortified his kingdom and strengthened the four wings of his army. The sages, gods and the whole humankind applauded as he justly ruled over his country.

    Under his rule the ministers did their best to mete out justice to people, hearing patiently to both parties to the complaint. On the other hand, the Brahmagnas interpreted the vedantagnana. King Sagara sat on his glittering throne listening to their discourses. Kings, vassals and gods occupied their respective seats and sang praises of his glorious rule. The scholars and poets sang paeans to king Sagara. People lived in their houses lived in comfort. Gods watched the scene from heavens and blessed the king.

    One day , Saint Vasista arrived with his retinue of sages to Ayodhya. King Sagara warmly welcomed the sage, conducted him to his asan with honours. He seated him comfortably and worshipped him in great reverence, joined by his two wives, Sukesini and Sumati. Sage Vasista was amused learning about the distinctive features of the nine city gates built by Vishwakarma. He was pleased at the virtues of the king and his devout wives. Addressing the king Sage Vasista said, ‘O king of Kings, I am greatly pleased at your devotion, enlightenment and equanimity. Hence I would like to give you a piece of advice worthy of you. As king Sagara heard him with rapt attention, sage Vasista continued. ‘O noble king, what I tell you now is a great secret. Think of the way to win appreciation from the whole humankind, of flourishment of your clan and the eternity of your offspring. Know that all these luxuries and fortunes are transient. Hence give them up. Engage in tapas to invoke Lord Parameshwara, for the prosperity of your clan and beget worthy sons. Perform Yagnas, donate liberally, always be mindful of Hari, gratify gods and all people’. Sagara approved his words, treated him ceremonially and saw him off to his hermitage. Thinking of his advice, Sagara was in a blissful state of mind.

    King Sagara entrusted the governance of his empire to his ministers, took his wives Sukesini and Sumati along to mount Kailas. He underwent rigorous penance invoking Lord Siva. At long last, Lord Siva appeared before them. Sagara bowed to the Lord with folded hands, with his wives following. Lord Siva asked him what his wish was. Sagara said ‘O Lord Paramesa! You are the Lord of the universe and there is nothing that you know not. Be merciful and grant me the boon of offspring’.

    Lord Siva said ‘O king Sagara, your elder wife Sukesini will be blessed with a son, and your second wife Sumati will beget sixty-thousand sons. When they grow young, the sixty-thousand sons would become aggressive and meet their death at once. The only son born of your elder wife will see the eternity of your clan’. So saying, Lord Siva disappeared. Sagara returned to his kingdom, spent his days worshipping Lord Siva in devotion as he ruled over his country.

    Birth of Sagara’s sons

    In course of time the two queens of Sagara conceived. In due time Sukesini gave birth to a son. But a gourd emerged from the womb of his second wife Sumati. The people present there thought that for some inexplicable reason the boon of Lord Siva was wasted. When the maid-attendants tried to throw it away, the celestial voice from above spoke these words, ‘O king Sagara, the boon of Lord Siva is not in vain. Extract the seeds from the gourd, preserve them in a big vessel. From these seeds would emerge the sixty-thousand sons.’ Sagara did as he was told, and in due course, sixty-thousand sons emerged from the vessel. They all grew hale and hearty. As they grew up, they learned all arts. They started roaming the three worlds and tormented gods, asuras, sages and people. Thus, the sons of Sagara, boastful of their strength, created havoc in the lives of people. Unable to bear the torture any more, the sages and gods together went to Lord Brahma and appealed to him of their predicament caused by the sons of Sagara. Lord Brahma asked them not to be worried, as very soon the sons of Sagara would be burnt to death. The vain shall meet their fall one day’. At these words they all felt relived and dispersed.

    Meanwhile, Sagara performed the marriages of all his sons. Asamanjasa, Sagara’s elder son from his first wife was married to Kumudavalli, the daughter of Vivasvanta, as willed by Lord Parameshwara. The wedding was solemnized with all festivities. Kumudavalli was an obliging wife and attended to her husband with all reverence. The kings, sages and people were delighted at the alliance.

    But, as it turned out, Asamanjasa started misbehaving with the women folk of the city. King Sagara, unable to bear the slander, sent Asamanjasa in exile to the forests. The women of the city felt relived at this. Asamanjasa’s wife, Kumudavalli, was very sad when her husband left for the forests. She too, set out for the forest to join him. People tried to stop her but she would not listen. At this moment, the celestial voice spoke thus from above, ‘Kumudavalli will be blessed with a son’. Hearing this, people felt happy. Meanwhile, Asamanjasa came along, and took his wife with him into the forest. People present there returned to King Sagara and informed him of the divinely message. Sagara recollected Lord Parameshwara’s boon and asked the ministers to bring the couple back to the kingdom. The ministers brought the prince and his wife back in a chariot. King Sagara anointed Asamanjasa the king of Ayodhya. Sagara sent for his other sixty-thousand sons and when all were assembled, he said these words to Asamanjasa, ‘my son, keep-away from your vices. Govern the people and be happy with your consort. Your name shall be remembered for ever’. But his good words of advice have only a negative effect on his son. Bad-tempered as he was, Asamanjasa only took offence at the preaching. He descended from the throne and rushed away. The ministers and the people tried to prevent him but King Sagara stopped them. He said ‘it is foolish trying to convince a hard-hearted person. He also said it is not possible even for Lord Brahma, the creator, to change the course of what is preordained. So Asamanjasa left for the forests once again.

    Birth of Anshumantha

    In the forest, Kumudavelli became pregnant and in due time gave birth to a son who was brighter than the moon in his many phases and a source of virtues. Gods showered flowers from the heavens at his birth. Soon, the celestial voice from above spoke ‘this boy be known as Anshumantha, and will rule over the country in a righteous way, the clan of Sagara flourishes with him and also the city. Sagara, in great joy, named him Anshumantha and held the naming ceremony in pomp and splendor. The poor were fed in a big way.

    People hailed the boy to be very handsome, worthy of the blessings of gods and sages, compassionate towards all creatures and able as a ruler. Thus, to the pleasure of all, Anshumantha grew up hale and hearty learned the essence of the vedas and combating skills. He was enlightened devotional and was always mindful of Hari.

    King Sagara ruled over the kingdom in contentment, assisted by the sages and priests. One day, he saluted in reverence to sage Vasista and asked him, ‘O great sage, I am keenly interested to know about our great ancestors who are the glory of our great Suryavamsha. Please narrate me their stories and bless me’. Sage Vasista then started to relate to him about those great ancestors of Sagara.

    The great ancestors of King Sagara

    Sage Vasista began to tell first about Ikshwaku, who is the son of the Sun god. He renounced his kingdom, engaged in tapas and attained salvation Ikshawaku’s grandson was Puranjaya. Puranjaya’s grandson again, was Vrudhu. He killed the evildoers and lightened the burden of mother earth. His son was Vishwagandha, who always worshipped Lord Siva. Once, he performed the Ashwamedha. Lord Indra was jealous of him and stolen the sacrificial horse. His son Vishwagandha fought Indra and brought the horse back. Narrating the story to the assembly of sages, Suta said, obviously, the devoted, enlightened and faithful in the all pervasiveness of god shall never be disappointed. Vishwagandha’s third son was Yuvanashwa. Further down the lineage was born Yuvanasha. His son was Mandhatra. Mandhatra had three sons – Purukutsu, Ambarisha and Muchikunda. Of these, Ambarisha was a great devotee, who always meditated on Hari.

    Once, Ambarisha undertook Dwadasha Parayanam. Sage Durvasa was jealous of him. He arrived there with his ten-thousand retinue of sages. He went to the river to take a bath accompanied by the sages and did not return in time. As the auspicious moments for concluding the Vratam were approaching, Ambarisha was embarrassed. With the permission of the gurus, he took in drops of water as a middle course. Durvasa was furious when he returned and blamed him for insulting the guests. The retinue of sages created great nuisance at the site. Ambarisha, with his single-minded devotion, prayed to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu sent his Sudarshan Chakra at once. The divine disc chased after sage Durvasa and the sages. Durvasa, unable to withstand the fierce disc, fled to the three realms. Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Siva said they were incapable of protecting him, and directed him to take refuge with Ambarisha himself. Durvasa returned to Ambarisha and begged him for pardon. Ambarisha prayed to Lord Vishnu and the disc disappeared. Gods were pleased at Ambarisha’s unflinching devotion and generosity and showered flowers on him from the heavens. Ambarisha spent the rest of his life in worshipping Lord Vishnu and at last realized moksha.