The Legend of Sagara Part 2

    Sutha said to Shounaka and the assembly of sages thus: King Sagara was seated on his throne in the royal court with his two queens Sukesini and Sumati by his side. His sons, ministers, kings, vassals and others occupied their respective seats. His grandson Anshumanta was also present. Then sage Vasista said, ‘O King Sagara, your ancestors are so noble, I wish to narrate their story to you all’. So he continued.

    Mandhatra’s third son was Muchikunda, an upright person. He became master in all arts, devotional even as a child and knowledgeable. He undertook a rigorous tapas and eventually attained salvation.

    Sutha said, ‘Mandhatra’s other son was Purukutsu. His great descendant down the lineage was King Harischandra. He was the son of Trishanku. It is on account of him that sage Vasista cursed sage Vishwamithra to turn into a hawk, and Vishwamitra accursed him to be a crane. That ended up in the rivalry between the two creatures’. The sages in their curiosity asked him to tell them the episode and Sutha continued thus:

    The Legend of Harischandra

    Harischandra grew young. He was always truthful and excelled in his studies. When he came of age, he married Chandramati. He was compassionate to all, engaged in the service of his teachers, and was charitable. He was childless. At the bidding of Sage Vasista he prayed to god Varuna. When Lord Varuna appeared before him, Harischandra bowed to him and earnestly requested him to bless him with a son. He said, he would offer the son up to God. Granting him the wish, the god disappeared. Soon after, Queen Chandramati became pregnant and in due time gave birth to a son. The child was named Lohita. Presently, god Varuna appeared before King Harischandra to recall him his promise. Harischandra urged him to wait till the boy grew up, as his desire for a son was not yet gratified. Varuna agreed to his wish and vanished. As his son grew up in all glory the king was worried at the thought of giving up his son to Lord Varuna. Lohita came to know of the cause of the worry of his father. He soon left for the forests, spent his time meditating on god, surviving purely on herbs. There at home, both Harischandra and Chandramati yearned to see their son Lohita. Coming to know of their wish, Lohita started for home. On the way, he was met by Lord Indra, disguised as an aged brahmin. He advised Lohita to go on a pilgrimage for an year, take a dip in the holy rivers and worship the sages on the way. Lohita followed his advice and returned home after an year passed, much to the delight of his parents. Harischandra caused him to begin a yagna. As the yagna was in progress, Lord Varuna appeared before Harischandra and asked him to fulfill his promise. Harischandra, true to his word, offered his son upto him. Varuna was so pleased and declared the yagna consummated. The gods in heaven were extremely happy and Lord Indra presented Harischandra with a golden chariot. Harischandra ruled over the kingdom in a righteous way.

    Meanwhile, Lord Indra, seated in his court, asked the sages as to who was the noblest of persons on earth who never deviated from the path of truth. The sages mused over for an answer, when sage Vasista got up from his seat and said it was King Harischandra, the most virtuous and truthful. Sage Vishwamitra at once challenged his words saying he would make Harischandra to lie, tapasvi as he may be. He soon approached Harischandra. Deceptive in mind, he extolled the King. He said that he wished to perform a yagna for which he needed money. Harischandra asked him to state the amount of money required by him.

    Vishwamitra said he needed such huge pile of money that levels with a coin thrown into air by a person standing on the howda of an elephant. Harischandra promised to give him the money. Vishwamitra said he would avail the money when he would commence the yagna and left the place.

    Later, by the spell of Vishwamitra, there occurred a severe drought in Harischandra’s kingdom. Harischandra gave away all the money at his disposal to his people to save them from starvation. Meanwhile, some wild animals entered into the kingdom creating terror among people. Pleaded by people, Harischandra set out to hunt down the animals. As he was tired hunting the animals, the king sat under a tree. Some Matanga Kanyas, conjured up by sage Vishwamitra appeared before him. They danced to the tune of enchanting music to amuse the king. He asked them to tell what they wished. The enchanting women then insisted on the king to marry them. The king denied and tried to reason with them but they would not listen. They tried to seduce him, but in anger he drove them away. When the women complained about this to Vishwamitra, he arrived on the scene in a rage. He said the king cannot insult his daughters like this and asked him to marry them. But king Harischandra said he would prefer even to loose his kingdom than to marry them. Taking his words literally, Vishwamitra asked him to give up then his kingdom in his favour. Without any hesitation, Harischandra handed over the charge of his kingdom to sage Vishwamitra, and was prepared to leave the city with his wife and child. But Vishwamitra, mischievous as he was, asked him to give the money promised by him previously. But Harischandra said as he gave away his kingdom, he was now a pauper. Vishwamitra said that it would be enough for him then if the king would admit that he had already given over the money to him along with the kingdom. He was willing to give him his kingdom back. But Harischandra refused to speak a lie and sought one month’s time in order to pay the promised amount. Vishwamitra sent Nakshatraka along with them to recover the money due to him. Harischandra headed towards the city of Kasi along with his wife and son. Soon, Harischandra sold away his queen Chandramati to a brahmin and handed over the money to Nakshatraka. But Nakshatraka said the money would just suffice him to meet his fares. He said ‘pay me the money or agree to be a defaulter’. Harischandra, abide by truth, sold himself to Veerabahu, gave Nakshatraka the money. He was entrusted the duty of managing cemetery.

    Harischandra’s son, Lohita, died of snakebite while he went into the forest to collect firewood. Chandramati was overcome with grief at the news. Wailing, she carried his body to the cremation ground that night. She was about to lit the pyre when Harischandra, on watch duty, recognized her. Both of them grieved at the premature death of their son, thinking it was god’s will. Bound by truth, Harischandra asked her to pay for the cremation. Chandramati, sobbing, was returning through the forest. By the spell of Vishwamitra she was falsely accused of infanticide and was taken to the king of Kasi. The king, without a second thought, ordered her to be beheaded. The guards took her to the cremation ground to carry out the orders of the king.

    Duty-bound and in the name of truth Harischandra was all set to cut off her head. At that instance, the three lords Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara appeared before him and prevented his attempt. The Trinity said, ‘O King Harischandra, you are righteous. All this was enacted by Vishwamitra to reveal your true greatness to the world. You will realize Hari in due course’. So saying, the Trinity showered boons on him, and bringing back to life they anointed Lohita to be the king of Ayodhya and vanished. The gods and all the people were extremely happy and celebrated the occasion. As years went by, Harischandra attained salvation. Vasista continued the story thus:

    Sagara performs Ashwamedha

    Lohita’s son was Haritha. Harita begot Jampakanamadheya. His son was Sudeva. Sudeva’s son was Vijaya. To Vijaya was born Bahaka. O King Sagara, you are the blessed son of Bahaka. Vanquish all the kings extend upto the Yamuna with the help of your sons and grandson Anshumantha. Perform the Ashwamedha Yagna, be renowned and realize Hari. King Sagara, with the blessings of his guru, set out with a big army headed by Anshumanta, defeated all the kings. The gods, sages and priests all sang his praises and blessed him. The vassals paid tributes, and people were happy. Women garlanded him and offered him incenses. Sagara, the image of Lord Vishnu, thus ruled over the kingdom dispensing justice to all. He had divided the kingdom into ten divisions, each with a suitable city for its headquarters. He built hermitages for the sages, tanks for even animals and birds. He decided on the units of measurements for earth as being desam, krosu and yojana.

    Soon the king started preparations for the performance of the Ashwamedha, building beautiful yagashalas (sheds) spacious pandals for all people to be seated. Gods, sages, all men and women turned up for the yagna, all were overwhelmed by his valour, devotion and equanimity. As the yagna was commenced, Sagara bedecked the sacrificial horse, and set it free with the warning, ‘who ever will withhold it would be subdued’. The horse flew to the sky, roamed in the heavenly region and no one dared to captivate it. It strolled all over the earth. Lord Indra held the horse and taking it to the sage Kapila’s hermitage, tied it up there, not to be seen by anyone. When the horse was not found, Sagara dispatched his sixty-thousand sons in search of the horse. Sagara’s sons in a troop searched everywhere but in vain. Furious, they started digging the earth in the dried up ocean. They made their way to the nether world and found sage Kapila’s hermitage. They also found the horse tied up at the ashram. They thought it was sage Kapila’s evil doing to spoil their father’s yagna. They hurled abuses on him and humiliated him. Kapila opened his eyes in anger and at the intense heat radiated from his eyes, they were all at once burnt to ashes. Sage Narada carried the news of their sad end to king Sagara. Recalling the words of Lord Maheshwara, the king and his wives lamented the death of their sons.

    Sage Vasista arrived there. Consoling the king and his wives the sage said, ‘O King, you are weeping like an ignorant man. The affection towards the near and dear is not permanent. Know that the birth, growth and extinction are all illusions. The existence of Parameshwara is the only reality. Hence leave your ignorance, the better course of action is to meditate on Hari, who shows the path of salvation. Sagara composed himself and told his grandson Anshumanta these words, ‘My grandson, all of your sixty-thousand uncles were burnt to ashes by the ire of Sage Kapila. Your father Asamanjasa, on the other hand, was turned away by me into the forests, owing to his slanderous behaviour. At this moment, I am more saddened for not being able to finish my yagna than I am sad about the death of my sons. Go and get me the sacrificial horse for me for the consummation of the yagna. With sages and priests blessing him for success, Anshumanta set out looking for the horse. The celestial voice also spoke of his success. Anshumanta proceeded on his journey with his heart set on Hari. Taking dips in holy rivers, visiting places of pilgrimage on the way, he traced the path taken by his uncles and at last reached Kapila’s hermitage. He saw sage Kapila, radiating with eminence. Bowing to him in reverence, he pleaded with Kapila to resolve his predicament. At this, sage Kapila was pleased and returned the horse to him and said ‘the sons of Sagara, turned to ashes at my anger, will all attain salvation, and Sagara himself would attain the same heights as would the begetter of sons. His name will be glorified at the consummation of the Ashwamedha. You will beget a grandson who will be named Bhagiratha and he will succeed in bringing down the heavenly Ganga to the earth. When the waters of Ganga flow over the remains of the sixty-thousand of Sagara’s sons, they will attain salvation. And by the descent of holy Ganga the ocean also will be ennobled. When Kaliyuga will be midway through, King Sagara would be worshipped as god by his descendants. They build temples consecrated to him, invoke him in the name of Sagarendra, hold festivities as they worship him with pure hearts. The descendants of Sagara will acquire the nobilities of Kshatriyas from the Surya Vamsham’. Thus, blessed by Kapila, Anshumanta took the horse and reached the site of the yagna. Hearing of Kapila’s account from Anshumanta, Sagara shunned his sorrow for his dead sons, concluded the yagna, rewarded the gods and men suitably. Flowers were showered from heaven on him. King Sagara was in a blissful state, surrendering self, meditated on Hari.

    Sagara attains the supreme state of mind

    King Sagara seated Sage Vasista on his throne and with reverence offered his crown and ornaments to him, worshipped him. He then appealed to him with folded hands, ‘O great soul, god figure, by your grace I have enjoyed all the worldly pleasures. Now let me know what is considered consummate knowledge and show me the way to salvation. Sage Vasista, pleased with the way Sagara conducted himself said, ‘the knowledge you asked for is minute in nature and ordinary people cannot grasp it. Listen to me with close attention’ and he started to explain him ‘O Lord, almighty, by your grace I have enjoyed all worldly comforts. I pray to you to bless me with supreme knowledge’. Vasista was highly pleased with his disciple and said, ‘O King, your wish is highly involved, not comprehensible to ordinary people. But you are worthy of it’. He told him thus: ‘This wide world is infinitely varied, comes under real knowledge, which, if realized, makes you identify yourself with the entire universe. It transcends all illusions. The one omniscient Being is omnipresent. It has neither form nor actions; neither birth, growth nor is endless. Thus saying the sage blessed him with celestial vision by which Sagara had the vision of the almighty and attained supreme knowledge’. Vasista was glad and said again ‘hereafter, on the auspicious occasions of Dwadashi and Shodasi recite the gospel of Panchadashakshari and go on to be eternal’. Sagara bowed to his teacher shunned his attachment with the kingdom. With the consensus of all, he anointed Anshumanta the king of Ayodhya, preached him the duties of a king. Blessing him to rule the country unperturbed, he departed with Sukesini and Sumati to the Himalayas, engaged in penance and was as resolute as Lord Vishnu.

    At Ayodhya, Anshumanta married Susheema who became his devout wife. He ruled over the country and they both were compassionate towards all. The priests, kings and people were all praise for them. Narrating the story to Shounaka and the assembly of sages, Sutha continued thus:

    Anshumanta, hailing from Surya Vamsha, the successor of King Sagara, was charitable, always mindful of god. He eventually renounced all worldly pleasures and relations, knowing them to be illusionary. He got his son Dilipa married and enthroned him to be the King of Ayodhya. Wearing the robes of a sage, Anshumanta set out for the Himayalayas with his queen. He underwent penance invoking Hari for ten-thousand years and attained salvation. Pleased at his devotion, gods showered flowers on him from the heavens. Sutha continued the story:

    ‘O Sages, King Dilipa, son of Anshumanta, ruled over the earth with his queen Padmagandhi, with no known enemies. God enlightened by Naurwa, the sage, and the ways of righteousness from Sage Vasista. Sage Vasista informed him of his grandfathers, the sixty-thousand Sagaras who fell victims to the fury of Sage Kapila. He said, ‘your father underwent penance seeking their salvation and reached heavens. You are the son of Anshumanta and hence set to purify your clan. King Dilipa was happy at these words. In a blissful state of detachment, he shunned even the governance of his kingdom. His son was Bhagiratha, the valiant, serene, devotional and stubborn. King Dilipa got him married and anointed his king of Ayodhya. With gods and humans singing his praises, Dilipa assuming the outfit of a hermit, left for Vindhyagiri, to take up tapas. Though he Failed in his mission to bring the Ganga to earth, he attained salvation. Sutha said to the assembly of sages thus:

    The story of King Uparichara

    King Bhagiradha, son of Dilipa, ruled over the kingdom with his queen Bhuvana Mohini, in the righteous way. He was devotional, faithful of the all-pervasiveness of Hari and the country prospered under his rule. Sage Vasista in course said, ‘Long ago, King Uparichara, son of Lohita, who hails from Surya Vamsham, was endowed with a wealth of knowledge even as a child. He was engaged in tapas and was blessed with boons from gods. He was possessed with the powers to roam among the three realms of satya, vaikunta and kailas. He often visited the Trinity and other deities. Once, King Uparichara visited Lord Indra. The king of gods seated him with due honours and he prophesied the future events to take place: He said the progenitors of Marthanda (the Sun God) would carry out the mission taken up by Khanditha Vruthasthu. Desisting from worldly attachments they attained salvation. Even on earth they had shared the divine qualities, possessed with divinely powers. Their cities were as glorious as any in heaven. The Sagara dynasty prospered as their descendants were blissfully enlightened. As it turned out, by a stroke of misfortune, they were subjected to the curse of Sage Brugu’s heirs. Owing to the curse, the descendants of Sagara will loose their power to rule the kingdom for eight thousand years when Kaliyuga is half way through. As they remain so, distanced from power to rule, a man of virtue and capability will take birth and he rises to glory. With him the Sagara dynasty will be glorified. When Lord Indra said so, Uparichara doubted if his words could be true. He went to Lord Brahma and requested him to clarify him Indra’s words. Brahma said Indra’s prediction could not be true. Upset, Uparichara left for Vaikunta and pleaded with Lord Vishnu to seek the answer. Lord Vishnu told him thus:

    ‘The descendants of Sagara would come to possess immense wealth. They build temples, houses, tanks and wells to the appreciation of all. The Sagara’s progenitors will be self-composed, charitable and devotional to Lord Siva and Vishnu’. Saying this Lord Vishnu blessed him. Uparichara returned to his kingdom. He vowed to take birth in Kaliyuga, went to the Himayalayas and was engaged in tapas. King Bhagiratha was blissfully enlightened hearing all this account of his ancients. With unflinching faith in god, he continued to rule over his country.