Friday, January 26, 2007

Story of Yayati and Pooru

We left Sarmishtha, the princess of demons, at the service of the proud daughter of Sukra, their chief priest. This was done voluntarily by her to save the race of demons from the dire consequences of losing their high powered priest for ever.

A Strange Marriage

Sarmishtha was no more the highly spirited princess who once fought with Devayani. Days and weeks had passed after the incident which reduced her to the status of a mere servant. Once Devayani was in a nearby forest and was enjoying the attention she received from Sarmishtha and her other one thousand maids. It was then Yayati, the king of the lunar dynasty came that way. Devayani recognized the king who had pulled her out of the well. She addressed the king and requested him to marry her.

Yayati was surprised. It was an odd marriage proposal and, anyway, not customary for a king like him to marry the daughter of a Brahmin. Moreover, Sukra was famous for his special powers. No wonder that the king feared the wrath of the Brahmin for knowingly committing such an offence.

Devayani reminded him of their first encounter. The king had held her right hand at that time and had thereby performed the most important part of the marriage ritual. There was no need for worry on account of her father. Sukra would not stand in her way in this or in any other situation.

The king was not convinced. He promised to abide by her request provided he got her father’s permission. Accordingly, Yayati went to meet the Sukra. The Acharya did not object to the relationship, though against the tradition, but, on one condition. The king should never have an affair with any other woman. Yayati gave him the promise and married his daughter.

Sarmishtha's longing for motherhood

Yayati and Devayani started living together in the palace. Sarmishtha was all the time in the palace serving at her side. She started thinking of her own fate. She was the daughter of the powerful king of all demons. In the normal course she would have been in the place of Devayani, but, for her rash action at the spur of a moment. Instead, she was serving Devayani as her slave. Fate had been truly unkind to her.

Devayani delivered a son in due course who was named Yadu. The birth of a son to her made Sharmishtha’s longing for motherhood all the more intense. She found the king Yayati as the object of her love. Once, while alone in the company of the king, she approached him and pleaded with him to accept her as his, though second, wife. After all, marriage by mutual consent (Gandharva Vidhi) was not only accepted, but even highly respected, for the royals. There she was, qualified in all respects to be his wife, pleading openly for his favours. It was unchivalrous for a king like him to turn her down.

Yayati was in anguish. He conceded that Sharmishtha had a point. But, how would he face Devayani and the anger of her powerful father, if they found out. Sharmishtha promised their secret would be a closely guarded one. Accordingly, Yayati accepted Sharmishtha as his second wife secretly.

Birth of Pooru

Sharmishtha bore a son to the king in due course and was named Druhyu. When Devayani came to know of it she questioned Sharmishtha who the father of the boy was. There was a great sage who had been visiting her, Sharmishtha assured her mistress, during his wanderings. The boy was born out of that union. Devayani did not bother to question her any further on the matter.
Devayani delivered one more boy and Sharmishtha gave birth to two more in due course. They were named Turvasu, Anu and Pooru in that order. The five boys grew up together in the palace.

Their mutual resemblance did not escape the notice of Devayani for long. Further more, they all looked like the king. One day she was watching the five playing together. It was then that it occurred to her how closely they all resembled the king. This thought disturbed her and she asked the sons of Sharmishtha who their father was. They simply pointed to the king and continued with their games.

A curse on Yayati

Devayani was in tears. Her husband had been cheating her all the while. She announced to Yayati that she was going back to her father not to return. Yayati was scared. He followed her closely and was ready to fall at the feet of her father.

Sukra was naturally angered by the news from his daughter. The king had broken his promise. He cursed him immediately that he would lose his virility and youth forthwith.

Yayati was in a pitiable condition. He was still young, at least at heart, and had not enjoyed life to his fill. He pleaded with the Acharya. Was there any escape for him from the curse ? Sukra was sympathetic. He told the king that he could exchange his pre-mature old age with the youth of any as a voluntary exchange. Sukra would make that possible. He even blessed a long glorious innings as a monarch whoever might agree to such an exchange.

Desire that is never satiated

Yayati was hopeful. He approached his eldest son, Yadu. The king asked him whether he donate his youth to his father for a limited period ? He would gladly give it back after enjoying love life for a while longer. Yadu would not even think of turning grey at such a young age. He did not bother to become a king. He would rather remain young and enjoy life.

Three of his younger brothers took the same stand. They all loathed old age. But, Pooru, the last son, was sympathetic to his father. He said he would gladly donate his youth to his father and let him enjoy life as long as he wanted.

Yayati was delighted. He thought of Sukra in his prayer. Then, as if by a miracle, Yayati became young as before and his son, Pooru, appeared old with grey hair and shriveled skin.

Yayati enjoyed life with Sharmishtha for many years. He realized finally that desire was something that would never be satisfied by enjoyment. Its intensity only grew further. He then accepted his old age back and returned the youth to his son.

The reward to Pooru

He , then, announced that Pooru would inherit the kingdom from him as promised. But, the citizens of the kingdom objected. It was customary to make the eldest prince the heir apparent. How could he break that? Then, Yayati explained all that happened to them. He also reminded them of the words of the great Acharya. Finally, they agreed and Pooru was anointed as the Yuvaraja or heir apparent.

Yayati then retired to forest to spend the rest of his life in penance. Pooru ruled the country admirably and became one of the most famous in the lunar dynasty.

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