Dhruva-Kuvalaashva and Ashvatara –Examples of Devotion, Duty and Determination

Jyatismara Sumati narrated to his father the illustration of a King Shatrujit who pleased Indra at one Yagna and blessed him with a son named Ritudwaja who grew into an ideal Prince with valour, intelligence and capability. He used to play with a few Brahmana and Vaishya boys, apart from the Princes of other Kingdoms too. All of them very were fond of him. Among the boys two sons of Nagaraj King of Rasatala Ashvatara called Tarun and Priyadarshan used to join the Prince in disguise for play. In course of time the Prince and the Naga Boys became such thick friends that they used to play, bathe, sleep, eat and derive immense pleasure together; in short they admired him and considered him as a  model human being.The Naga King Ashvathar realised that his sons were daily visiting Bhuloka and returning by the night but was convinced that they were on right track, imbibing all noble things of life and simultaneously learning from of their ideal friend Ritudwhaja.The Naga boys told their father that the Prince was inspired by the Story of Dhruva, son of a King Uttanapada of yore. The King had two wives Suniti and Suruchi and Dhruva and Uttama were the sons of the respective Queens. The King was highly fond of the younger Queen and once Uttama sought to climb the lap of the King, Dhruva too attempted to do the same, but Suruchi scolded Dhruva and said harshly that he did not deserve to attempt same as Uttama, for which Dhruva would have to perform ‘Tapas’ (Penance) to Lord Narayana for long. The young heart of Dhruva was badly offended and approached his mother Suniti who felt sorry for her son and confirmed that indeed sincere ‘Tapas’ was the singular solution and nothing else! Dhruva resolved to do so and desired to proceed to the forests. On way Sage Narada met the angry and anguished Dhruva who narrated the incident about the nasty treatment meted out to him by his step mother and strangely enough of his father’s indifference and his mother’s helplessness.The Sage cautioned Dhruva that great ascetics, Yogis and Sages found the path of Penance and Sacrifice was impossible to follow for a mere lad like him and he might follow other means to achieve his objective but Dhruva was decisive and resolute which impressed Narada and directed Dhruva to go to Madhuvana, be of clean physique and heart, control his limbs and senses and meditate Narayana by the Mantra ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’ till the Lord would appear before him. He strengthened his control of senses day by day, month by month and year after year and as he narrowed the outer awareness and widened the inner revelation he absorbed more and more of Narayana as an Omni Present Vision. He fell into trances which grew further and for longer durations and discovered that clearer Images were visible and audible. The Lord finally stood before him andhe did not even know how to praise Him, when He fondled the boy’s cheeks, his Hymns of Praise and deep meaning of his thoughts got generated as the Divinity manifested its Unending, All Pervasive, and Supreme Energy got spread far and wide his mental Horizon. Lord Vishnu blessed Dhruva saying that he would carve out a Place on the Sky which would be the Central Gravity of various Celestial Bodies viz. Dhruva Loka and that Dhruva would be the Chief of that Loka; meanwhile, the Lord said that he would be a benevolent and valiant King after his father’s retirement and rule his Kingdom for sixty three thousand years in good health and thereafter would reach his Loka with considerable fanfare. Thus the Lord did not provide Dhruva the blessing of immediate Salvation, as Dhruva had to prove his worth to his Parents, his step mother Suruchi and his cousin brother and the World. Unfortunately, his cousin was killed in a forest by Yakshas and the heroic Dhruva resisted the magical illusions created by the Yakshas and defeated them all and the Chief of Kubera had to seek pardon from Dhruva as Kubera knew well that Lord Vishnu Himself bestowed unprecedented boons to Dhruva!

Resuming the Story of King Shatrujit, his son Ritudwaja, King Ashvathara of Nagaloka and the sons; the Jatismara Sumati told his father that a learned Brahmana named Galava brought a sturdy horse to King Shatrujit and complained that some Daityas kept on tormenting me and my Tapasya in my Ashram by taking various forms of wild animals and destroying objects in my Ashram, especially material of worship; when a sigh of annoyance was heaved by the Brahmana, there got dropped from above a robust horse and a voice from the sky said that the latter was capable of going around the entire ‘Kuvalaya’ including Prithvi, the lower Regions like Patala, the Sky, mountains,Oceans etc. but only the son of Shatrujit named Ritudwaja could mount and control not only the horse but also save Galva from the trouble of Daityas and kill them. King Shatrujit gave permission to his son to ride the horse to the Ashram of Galva Muni. The Daitya who had been troubling the Sage and disciples in the Ashram appeared in the form of a hog and the Prince Ritudwaja renamed as Kuvalayaswa leapt on the Holy horse and ran after it. He wounded the Daitya with his powerful arrows and the latter tried to run away but Kuvalayaswa chased the Daitya till both of them reached the cliff of a mountain where a huge chasm was faced and both the Daitya and the Prince fell down in a steep abyss in darkness and lost sight of the hog form of the Daitya in disguise. When he landed safe, he found big Palaces, wide roads and an attractivley designed City and Kuvalayaswa realised that he was in Patala loka. As he roamed around, he found a woman entering a nice building and asked her as to where be him and who was she! She did not reply but he followed her as they entered a large, impressive Hall tastefully decorated; he found an outstandingly attractive young lady in a bed and the Prince was spellbound to see her, but she too was taken aback and swooned thinking that the Stranger might be a Demi-God, or a Gandharva or a Naga or a Daitya in disguise, but surely might not be a Prince of Bhu-Loka possibly.The woman whom the Prince followed started to converse saying that her companion was named Madalasa- the daughter of a Gandharva King whom a Daitya forcibly carried to Patala from a garden in Gandharva loka, that he had been pressurising the lady to marry, that the Daitya had been playfully tormenting a Sage named Galva in various ways at his Ashram on Bhuloka, that there was a prophesy saying a Prince riding a horse would kill the Daitya and make a feat of travelling across the entire World, that her companion Madalasa would be rescued by the Prince and be married to him, that her name was Kundala whose husband was killed by the same Daitya and that she too was brought by him as a prisoner. As Kundala’s narration was over, the Princess recovered from her shock and the Prince revealed that his name was Kuvalayaswa, the son of King Shatrujit, the Prince under reference! Madalasa and the Prince were married in the style of Gandharvas and rode back to Galava’s Ashram, took the Sage’s blessings for killing the Daitya and marrying Madalasa and returned to the King with Madalasa; doubtless the King was extremely happy at the achievements of the Prince and celebrated the weddingformally, amidst great joy and solemnity. After the couple spent time together with happiness, King Shatrujit instructed Kuvalayaswa to proceed on a ‘Pradakshina’ (circumambulation) of the Universe as envisaged by the Celestial voice which was heard by Sage Galava. While the Prince was performing the Pradakshina and engaged in the task of eliminating Danavas, the brother of the Daitya who was killed at the Ashram of Sage Galava, named Kalaketu laid a trap to the Prince who was now on the Pradaksina and approached the latter disguised as a Sage and sought the help of protecting a ‘Jala-Yagna’ to Varuna Deva from Daityas and requested the Prince to give away a necklace made of Gold for the purpose of the Sacrifice. The Prince agreed to protect the Yagna and gave away the Golden chain too. As Kalaketu drowned in the waters of the River Yamuna for performing the false Varuna Yagna by keeping the Prince as a guard, the trickster Danava went to the Court of King Shatrujit and lied that the Prince was killed while protecting the Varuna Yagna. This news of the Prince’s death created chaos in the Kingdom; the King fainted and on recovery paid glorious tributes to the mighty Prince, the entire Kigdom mourned the untimely termination of a highly celebrated, most valiant and illustrious Kuvalayaswa. The tragedy was followed by yet another calamity viz. the demise of Princess Madalasa as a result of the distress of the Prince’s disaster. Kaleketu had thus avenged the killing of his brother Daitya. Soon enough, the Prince returned to the Capital City; his Subjects and moreso the King were overjoyed. But the blow of Madalasa’s demise overpowered the Prince who had virtually turned him out as a lunatic. He performed the last rites of his beloved and resolved that he would never wed again in life! The Naga boys who were great friends of Kuvalayaswa narrated the tragic developments in the latter’s life to their father King Ashvatara and lamented that they were not able to provide any solace to their grand companion, nor reciprocate the friendliness, affection and consideration that he showered on them so earnestly and profusely, that they were fit to be insensible and ungrateful. Naga King Ashvatara told his sons that human beings would not even make an effort despite their desire because the tasks were somewhat difficult. But a determined mind coupled with sincere effort could achieve miracles.He thus conveyed his resolve to perform meditation on Himalayas at Plukshavataran Tirtha to Devi Saraswati by fasting and Rituals; he prayed her to say: “You are the ‘Swarup’or Form of ‘Satya’ (Reality) and ‘Asatya’ (Illusion) bestowing worldly happiness as also Salvation alike.You are the ‘Akshar’ (Eternal / Knowledge) since the entire ‘Alphabets’ or the Basic Letters of Language are embodied in you in a miniscule outline”.
Aksharam Paramam Brahma Jagatschaitatsharaatmikam,
Daarunyavasthito vahirbhaumascha Paramaanavaha/
Tatha tvayisthitam Brahma Jagaschaidamaseshatah,
Omkaaraakshara Samsthaanam yatthey Devi Sthiraasthiram/
Tatra Mantratriam Sarvamasti Yaddeva Naasticha,
Trayo Lokaastrayo Devastrividyam Paavakatrayam/
Treeni Jyotomshi Vargaascha trayo Dharmaadayastatha,
Trayo Gunaastrayah Shabdaastrayo Doshaas-Tathashramah/
Trayah Kaalaastathavasthah Pitarorahanirshaadayah,
Yetanmatra trayam Devi tat Ruupam Sarasvati/

[All the Alphabets are personified within You; the transient Universe as also the Everlasting Parabrahma alike are within You; both the Sky and Fire are present within You just as in Fire wood; the totalality of real and imaginary material of the World exists in You; The Word OM is also set in You and is embedded as firmly and permanent as You are! You are the personification of Three Lokas, Three Vedas, Tree Vidyas, Three Agnis, Tree Jyotis, Three Vargas, Three Gunas like Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic nature; Three Shabdas (Sounds), Three Ashramas (Brahmacharya, Garhastya and Vanaprastha), Three Kaalas (Morning, Evening and Night), Three Avasthas (Balya or Childhood, Samasarika or Adulthood, and Vardhakya or Old age) and King Ashvatara further prayed to Devi Sarasvati saying that he neither had the power nor imagination to praise her and requested her to grant him the boons of unique knowledge and proficiency in music, its Grammar, usage and application as also expertise in Sounds, Swaras, Notes, Tones, Tunes, Rhymes andRhythms. As Sarasvati was pleased to bless him, the Naga King then felt that the next step would be comparatively easier to approach Maha Deva as He should be pleased with Sapta Swaras and the endless applications of ‘Vadyas’ or musical instruments that he was blessed by Sarasvati especially during ‘Siva Thandava Tri-Sandhyas’ (Dances of Morning, afternoon and Evenings by Lord Siva). Indeed, as expected, Maha Deva was extremely delighted at the musical proficiency displayed by Ashvatara who sought the boon of giving him a daughter like Madalasa the young wife of Kuvalayaswa just before she died. As Maha Deva granted the boon, the Naga King and moreso the Naga boys were pleasantly shocked. They resumed their friendship with the Prince who had earlier taken a vow not to marry again and prevailed on him to visit their Palace in Nagaloka for a change since the Prince was still not recovered the grief of the untimely demise. During Kuvalayeswa’s visit to Nagaloka, he felt he had an illusory vision of Madalasa at the Palace of Ashvatara and requested to possibly repeat it once again for he was missing her badly. The Naga boys confirmed that the illusion was real and gave the entire sequence of the events that preceeded the unbelievable efforts made by their father! Prince Kuvalayaswa was speechless, profusely thanked and prostrated to the Naga King who had since become his father-in-law. Both the families of King Shatrujit and King Ashvatara had a happy union.

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]