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Indian Mythology Mahabharat Series of Seven

Seven supreme sacrifices from Indian mythology

Supreme sacrifices from Indian Mythology

We come across unparalleled sacrifices in Indian mythology. Here are seven of them which are the most remarkable.

The sacrifice of sage Dadhichi

Sage Dadhichi has done the ultimate sacrifice of giving his life so that Devas finally got an upper hand over asuras. Because of his sacrifice, Indra got his famous weapon Vajra. This weapon was made from the bones of sage Dadhichi.

Vajra – the weapon of Indra

Once, Vritrasur, a powerful demon, wanted to conquer heaven. He fought with the gods and swallowed all their weapons. The gods went for help to Lord Vishnu. He said , the weapon made of sage Dadhichi bones can kill Vritasur. As the sage is my devotee, he should not be killed. You will have to request him to die to give his bones. Gods, led by Indra, went to Dhadichi and begged for his bones.

Indra requesting Dadhi for his bones

Dadhichi was ready to sacrifice his, but he wanted to go on a pilgrimage before that. Hearing this, Indra brought all the holy places near him. After taking dips in the holy waters, Dhadichi gave up his life. Indra made a weapon called Vajra with his bones and killed Vritrasur. This same vajra was used on Hanuman by Indra.

Sacrifice of Bhishma

Devvrata, son of Ganga and Shantanu, pledged to remain bachelor all through his life. This was because Shantanu could marry Satyavati since her gather was sceptical that Satyavati’s sons would not get the ascendancy to the throne. Hearing this, Bhishma vowed that he will remain unmarried. Due to this, he is called Bhishma and his oath is called as Bhishma Pratigya.

Bhishma taking oath for being unmarried – Bhishma Pratigya

Puru’s sacrifice for his father Yayati

Bhishma was not the only son who sacrificed for his father. Puru, son of Yayati, made a similar sacrifice by exchanging his youth with his fathers’ old age. As it happened that Yayati was cursed by Shukracharya to lose his youth. He later diluted the curse that Yayati could exchange his old age with someone’s youth.

Shukracharya curse to Yayati

Karna

Karna forgone the throne of Hastinapur when Kunti offered to him before the war of mahabharata. Karna also promised that Kunti will always have five sons. Due to his promise, he did not kill four pandavas, though he had a chance to do so. He also sacrificed his kavach and kundal to Indra.

Karna parting with kavach and kundal

The sacrifice of Abhimanyu

Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son literally opened the flood gates for killing of Kauravas with not so desired methods. Abhimanyu was killed in after he was trapped in Chakravyuha formation when he was fighting alone with all the veterans in Kaurava’s army. Shri Krishna leveraged this fact in killing of Drona and other warriors.

Abhimanyu killed by Laxman (Duryodhan’s son) on thirteenth day of Mahabharata war.

The sacrifice of Barbari

Barbari, son of Ghatotkach, grand son of Bhima was mightier than both pandavas and kauravas alone. Shri Krishna asked him for his head before the war of Mahabharata. This was because, due to a vow taken by Barbari, there was a possibility that he would have destroyed all the warriors from both armies.

Barbari sacrificing his life as a true warrior to Shri Krishna in mahabharat

The sacrifice of Eklavya

Eklavya gave away the lone ambition of his life, to his teacher, Drona. This was probably the unparalleled sacrifice. A pupil, sacrificing everything to the teacher, who did not accept him as his pupil. What he gave? The right thumb, which is foremost important in archery.

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Indian Mythology

King Yayati

The story of Yayati and Puru

 

Devayani and Sharmishtha


Sukracharya, was respected by Asura king Vrishaparva greatly respected Sukracharya as he knew the secret of Mritasanjivani, a drug that brings the dead back to life. Devayani was Sukracharya’s only daughter and spoiled by her father’s indulgence. One morning, Sharmishtha, the princess of Asura’s and daughter of Vrishaparva, came to Sukracharya’s place of abode with her friends. She asked Sukracharya to allow Devayani to accompany them for a bath in a nearby lake. Sukracharya agreed. They soon reached the lake and left their clothes on the bank to go into the water. Suddenly a storm blew up and scattered their clothes. The girls hurriedly came out of the lake and got dressed. It so happened that the princess Sharmishtha, by mistake, clad herself in Devayani’s clothes. Angered by this, Devayani insulted Sharmishtha, the Asura princess. Argument began and Sharmishtha pushed Devayani into a dry well and left Devayani in the well.

King Yayati of the Bharata race who was hunting in the forest by chance came to this spot in search of water to slake his thirst. When he came near the well he was surprised to find Devayani lying at the bottom. Devayani introduced herself and said that she fell into the well. She then requested the king to pull her out. Yayati helped her out. Devayani demanded that Yayati marry her as he has held her by the right hand. Yayati was alarmed and turned down her request on the ground that he belonged to lower Khatriya (or warrior) caste, and Devayani was a Brahmin (priestly) maid.

Yayati then left and Devayani continued to sit under a tree. When she did not return, Sukracharya set out in search of her. He found Devayani under a tree, her eyes filled with tears of anger and grief. When Sukracharya inquired, Devayani told her father everything, carefully hiding her own faults. She refused to return to the kingdom of Vrishaparva as she was badly insulted by the Asura princess, Sharmishtha. Failing to change her mind, Sukracharya returned to Vrishaparva and announced that he was leaving the Asura kingdom because of his daughter Devayani’s unhappy conflict with princess Sharmishtha. Vrishaparva begged Sukracharya to stay. Sukracharya left the decision with his daughter Devayani.

Vrishaparva wasted no time and went to Devayani taking his daughter Sharmishtha along. He begged forgiveness for his daughter. Devayani agreed to return on one condition that Sharmishtha be her handmaiden for the rest of her life. Sharmishtha agreed for the sake of her father, the king. Devayani was pacified and returned to her father’s hermitage. But Devayani was vindictive and humiliated Sharmishtha by asking to massage her legs and run errands.

Yayati weds Devayani


One day, king Yayati passed that way. Devayani introduced Sharmishtha as her maid and reminded Yayati that he should marry her. Yayati repeated that he could not marry a Brahmin maid. Devayani then took Yayati to her father. Sukrachaya gave his blessing on their marriage. They were soon married and led a happy life. Devayani had two sons. Sharmishtha continued to stay as Devayani’s handmaid.

Yayati weds Sharmishtha

Yayati made a palace for Shramishtha at the request of Devayani. One day Sharmishtha secretly met Yayati and told him what happened between her and Devayani. Yayati was sympathetic. Sharmishtha begged Yayati to take her as the second wife.

Yayati agreed and married her but without the knowledge of Devayani. Sharmishtha had three sons. One day, Devayani met the three sons of Sharmishtha. She came to know that their father was Yayati. Devayani was shocked. She felt deceived and ran to her father.

Sukracharya curses Yayati

Sukracharya cursed Yayati with premature old age. Yayati begged for forgiveness. Sukracharya and Devayani felt sorry for him. Sukracharya then said, “I cannot take back my curse, but if any of your sons is ready to exchange his youth for your old age, you will be young again as long as you wish.” Yayati, now an old man, quickly returned to his kingdom and called for his eldest son. “My dutiful son, take my old age and give me your youth, at least for a while, until I am ready to embrace my old age.” The eldest son turned down his father’s request and so also the next three older brothers.

Puru accepts his father’s old age

Then came the youngest son, Puru. He agreed and immediately turned old. Yayati rushed out as a young man to enjoy his life. After years spent in vain effort to quench his desires by indulgence, Yayati finally came into senses. He returned to Puru and said, “Dear son, sensual desire is never quenched by indulgence any more than fire is extinguished by pouring oil on it. Take back your youth and rule the kingdom wisely and well. I had heard and read this, but till now I had not realised it.

No object of desire, corn, gold, cattle or women, nothing can ever satisfy the desire of man, We can reach peace only by a mental poise beyond likes and dislikes. Such is the state of Brahman. Take back your youth and rule the kingdom wisely and well.” Yayati then returned to the forest and spent the rest of his days in austerities, meditating upon Brahman, the ultimate reality. In due course, he attained heaven. This Yayati story clearly shows the conflict between externally directed acquisitions and inner value and conscience.

This story tells us about a number of sacrifices, the sacrifice made by Sharmishtha, the sacrifice made by Puru, all for their father’s sake. This is similar to the sacrifice which is made by Bhishma for his father.