Curses and Boons in Indian Mythology
Curses and boons are an integral part of mythological stories. Some popular and not so well known curses and boons are detailed. When it comes to curses, Karna from Mahabharata immediately comes to our mind. Similarly Sage Durvasa is also known to be a person, who cursed freely. But do we know, that Lord Rama and Shri Krishna were also cursed and Lakshman has to die as a consequence of a curse. This article attempts to catalogue some famous and some unknown curses.
1. Curse on Lord Rama
Perhaps the most amazing unknown fact from The Ramayana. Tara (wife of Vali) cursed Rama so that he will soon lose Sita after he regains her. She also declared that Sita will return to the earth. This happened after Rama killed Vali when he was having a duel with Sugriva. Tara additionally cursed Rama that in his next birth, he will be killed by Vali. (Shri Krishna and the hunter).
2. Curse on Jaya and Vijaya by Sanath Kumaras
This can be regarded as the most defining curse in Hindu mythology, which resulted in birth of Ravana, Kumbhkarna, Hiranyakashyap and Hiranyaksha. Lord Vishnu took four avatars to relieve them of their curse. [complete story]
3. Curse on King Dashrath by parents of Shravan Kumar
Parents of Shravan Kumar cursed Dashrath to suffer for his son, which came true due to boons given to Kaikeyi.
4. Sage Gautam’s curse to Ahilya
Gautam discovered an affair between Indra and his wife. He cursed ahilya to turn into a stone. She was later liberated by Lord Rama. This story is available in Balkand of ramayana.
5. Sage Gautam’s curse to Indra
Indra was cursed with one thousand female genitals (Sahasrayoni). Later she reverted this curse into a boon and Indra got thousand eyes. Indra is also known as Sahasraaksha.
6. Curse on Lord Hanuman
Hanuman has been very mischievous in his childhood. Some sages, irritated by Hanuman’s exploits, placed a mild curse on him by which he became unable to remember his own ability unless reminded by another person. The curse is highlighted in Kishkindha Kand and Sunder Kand, when Jambavantha reminds Hanuman of his abilities and encourages him to go and find Sita.
7. Curse on Anjana – mother of Hanuman
Anjana was actually an apsara but took birth as a vanar. Once she threw some fruits on a meditating vanar, who was a sage doing penance. The sage cursed her to born become a vanar the moment she fells in love. She was absolved of this curse later through Brahma’s boon.
8. Curse of Narada on Vishnu
Narada cursed Lord Vshnu to become dependent on Vanara. This was fulfilled when Hanuman helped Lord Rama in the Ramayana.
9. Gandhari to Shri Krishna
Gandhari held Krishna responsible for Mahabharat war and cursed that his end will be ordinary. She also cursed that his clan will also destroyed by infighting. Accordingly, her curse came true after 36 years of Mahabharata war.
10. The curse of sages (Vishwamitra, Durvasa, Vashista, and Narada) to Samba
Samba, Lord Krishna’s son and his friends once have joked with sages. They cursed him to give birth to a iron lump of mass which will bring the destruction of the entire Yadava race.
11. Shri Krishna’s curse to Samba
Shri Krishna cursed Samba (his own son) to be affected by leprosy.
12 Shri Krishna to Ashwaththama
Ashwaththama, son of Guru Drona, tried to do the unthinkable. After he tried to kill Abhimanyu’s son (Parikshit) with a deadly weapon brahmastra, Krishna cursed him and to live forever. He also took out the shining jewel from his forehead.
13. Urvashi’s curse to Arjuna
To become a eunuch when he refused an alliance with her. Later, she diluted this for a year which he used in agyaatvaas. [related link]
14. Yudhisthira to womankind
That they could not hide anything from anyone. This was done after he came to know from Kunti that Karna was his elder brother who was slain in the war of Mahabharata. Kunti tried the mantra given by Sage Durvasa to test its effectiveness. This would have caused embarassment to her, so she had to let Karna go.
15. Parshuram to Karna
This is quite famous incident of a teacher and the student. Parshuram cursed Karna that he would forget the mantra when he would need most. There is a whole article on curses on Karna.
16 Bhoomi devi to Karna
Owing to an incident where Karna cause distress to Bhoomi devi, She cursed him. In the battle of Mahabharat, the wheel of his chariot got stuck.
17 Brahmin curse to Karna
To die as a helpless as he has killed a cow. Karna had his more than share of curses. Details can be read on this article which is all about curses on Karna.
18 Curse of Vasishtha on Vasus
Vasishtha cursed vasus to be born on earth as mortals since they have abducted his cow, Nandini. This curse is also related with birth of Bhishma.
19. Rishi Kindam’s curse to Pandu
Pandu accidentally killed Sage Kindam alongwith his wife. He cursed Pandu to die a similar death. Pandu died alongwith Madri, his second wife.
20. The curse on King Yayati by Shukracharya
Sage & Guru Shukracarya cursed King yayati to go as a Old man as Yayati secretly wedded Sharmishtha. (She was Devayani’s sister.) He was allowed to exchange his state from someone who was willing to do. Yayati’s all sons refused, but Puru agreed and he later became his successor.
21 Shiva’s curse to Brahma
Shiva decided that Brahma would not be worshipped as he had lied to him [complete story]. Another associated curse is on ketaki flower that it would not be used in worship.
22 Saraswati’s curse to Brahma
Brahma not being worshipped is associated with Saraswati’s curse too. He was cursed after being irritated with undue advances from Brahma.
23 Brahma’s curse to Shiva
Originally Brahma has five heads. Once Parvati mistook him for Shiva and when she realized she told this to Shiva. Shiva removed Brahma’s fifth head as Kal Bhairav. Brahma cursed Shiva that the fifth head will be attached to Shiva and will cause him hunger. The fifth head must be attached to his hand itself and hereafter Shiva must be affected having hunger, having no sleep. Parvati sought Vishnu’s advise and got rid of the fifth head ‘Kabala’.
24 Ganesha’s curse to Moon
Ganesha cursed moon for him being impolite. The whole story is available here.
25 Narada’s curse to sons of Kuber
Narada cursed Kuber’s sons to become trees. They were liberated by Shri Krishna. Nalakuvara and Maṇigriva were Kubera’s sons. Once they were taking bath in water with their wives naked. Sage Narada came that way. The ladies took their garments after seeing the sage. But the sons of Kubera ignored him. Narada gave a lecture on the false prestige and madness after drinking liquor by the rich and influenced. Then Narada cursed them to become twin trees to be released later by Lord Krishna.
26 Vasishtha’s curse to Satyavrata
He is popularly known as Trishanku and cursed with a debilitating disease. He was cursed because he stole the cow of Sage Vasishtha and killed it. He then ate it later. But he took care of Sage Vishwamitra’s family, Vishwamitra wanted to send him to heaven.
27 Curse of Radha to Sridhama
To be born as in a low family. Sridhama also cursed Radha that she will be separated from Krishna for 100 years.
28 Curse on Shantanu and Ganga by Brahma
Shantanu and Ganga were celestial beings who had also been cursed to be born on earth as human beings. Shantanu was King Mahabhishak and he and Ganga were cursed by Brahma for their indecencies in their past lives.
29 Saraswati’s curse to Laxmi
To be born as a tree. Saraswati as a result of Ganga’s curse would become the wife of Brahma. Ganga due to Saraswati’s curse would become a holy River to demolish the sins of those who take baths on her waters.
30 Curse of Kabandha
Similar to curses, there are interesting boons which are closely related to curses. I am sure you will enjoy some of the known and unknown boons.
31 Meghnaad’s boon
He was granted boon by Brahma that he would never be won over in any battle, until his Yagna (fire-worship) of his native goddess Nikumbala was disturbed and destroyed. Lakshman disturbed his yagna and finally killed him in the battle.
32 Jayadrath father’s boon
Whosoever causes the head of his son to fall on the earth, his head would blow into thousand pieces.One day Jayadratha met his father Vridhakshtra who was a sage. He asked his father to grant him a boon by which he could choose the time of his death just like Shantanu who gave a similar boon to Devavrata (i.e. Bhishma). He said that who ever caused the head of Jayadrath to fall on the ground, will be killed immediately by having his own head burst into hundred pieces. When Arjuna beheaded Jayadrath, he ensure that his head falls in the lap of his meditating father.
33 Lord Shiva’s boon to Jayadrath
Jayadrath had another boon that he could hold all the Pandavas for a day in battle, except for Arjuna. This proved to be undoing of Abhimanyu when Arjuna was not around in the battle and Drona formed a chakravyuha.
34 Bhishma from Shantanu
Shantanu blessed his son that he would chose his own time of death. This was following the Bhishma pratigya taken by Devvrata.
35 Gandhari’s boon to Duryodhana
36 Durvasa to Kunti
Birth of Pandavas. Kunti served sage Durvasa for a year and he became very pleased with her. He has given her a mantra. Using this, she could call any god at anytime who would assist her in begetting a son. Kunti used this mantra four times and Madri couple of times.
37 Sage Parashar’s boon to Satyavati
38 Boon of Vali
Ram has to kill him in disguise because of a boon. While in fight, opponents half strength would be transferred to him. This story is also available in the link given above.
39 Parshuram’s boon to Karna
Parshuram cursed Karna which resulted in him being defeated in the Mahabharata. But Parshuram also blessed Karna to have everlasting fame.
40 Boon to Hiranyaksha by Brahma
Once Hiranyaksha did a lot of austerities so that Lord Brahma would give him a boon. He asked and received a boon that no god, demon, beast or human could ever kill him. He was killed by Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu.
41 Hiranyakashyap’s boon
Hiranyakashyap had a similar boon. And his boon also included that he would not be killed in day or night, inside or outside a house, nor by a human or beast. He was killed by Narsingh avatar – a Vishnu dashavatar. His son Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and he summoned his lord after Hiranyakashyap challenged him that where is his lord?
42 Shri Krishna granted boon to Shishupal’s mother Shrutishrava
Shri Krishna promised to his aunt to forgive hundred misdeeds of Shishupala before killing him.
43 Shiva’s boon to Arjuna
The boon which Arjuna is said to have received was called Pashupata, Shiva’s most powerful weapon.
44 Shiva’s boon to Ganesha
Shiva granted Ganesha a boon that before beginning of any undertaking or task people would worship Lord Ganesh. Thus the reason for worship of ganesha before start of any work.
45 Boon of Madhu and Kaitabh
These demons had a boon that they would only die when they want it. Lord Vishnu killed them eventually.
46 Brahma’s boon to Anjana
Anjana was initially cursed to live as a vanaar, Brahma told her that she would be absolved of the curse if she gives birth to a incarnation of Lord Shiva.
47 Boons to Hanuman
Hanuman was blessed with two boons which were useful in Sunder Kand.
First was given to him by Brahma that no weapon could harm him. When Brahmastra was used on him, he let himself captured to honour the greatest weapon brahmastra.
Second was given to him by Surya. He was given Laghima and Garima (to be able to attain the smallest or to attain the biggest form). With the helo of these, he went past Sursa.
48 Karna’s boon to Kunti
Karna assured Kunti that will not use a weapon twice against Arjuna. He later did not use the Naga astra. He also promised Kunti that she will have five sons, so he did not killed Pandavas other than Arjuna, though he could do so.
49. Kaikeyi’s boon by Dashrath
Dashrath granted couple of boons to Kaikeyi during Dev Asur sangram. Dashrath was deeply wounded and he was tended by Kaikeyi. She claimed two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her, which resulted in Lord Rama’s vanvaas.
50 Shiva’s boon to Draupadi for desired husband(s)
Draupadi wanted to have a husband with fourteen qualities. Shiva said this is difficult. Upon insistence, he said that she will get five husbands. He gave another boon to her.
51 Draupadi’s boon to remain as a virgin
Shiva granted a boon that she would regain virginity as soon as she takes a bath in the morning. Thus she was able to become the wife of five pandavas at the same time.