The story of Yayati – Part 1


King Nahusha had six sons; Yati, Yayati, Samyati, Ayati, Viyati and Kriti. When he grew old and wanted to renounce his kingdom, his eldest son Yati, did not accept the kingdom offered by his father, knowing fully well that a person who becomes the king can never succeed in the pursuit of self-realization. Therefore, when circumstances intervened and Nahusha was forced to give up his kingdom as he had offended Saatchi, Indra’s wife and was cursed to live the life of a snake, his second son Yayati became the king. He nominated his four younger brothers as regents for the four directions of his kingdom and took Devayani, the daughter of Sukracharya and Sharmistha, the daughter of Vrishaparva as his queens. The story of Yayati’s marriage to these two ladies goes thus.


One day Vrishaparva’s daughter Sharmistha along with her thousand companions which included Sukracharya’s daughter Devayani were walking in the palace garden. The garden was well renowned for its beauty and was full of lotus flowers, crammed with blossoming trees and almost always nicely buzzed with the activity of bumblebees flying around collecting honey from all the flowers. When the princess and her companions arrived at the lake in the garden, they took off their clothes and started playing in the water.

Seeing Lord Shiva pass by that way with his consort Parvati, the young women quickly got out of the water and covered themselves with the garments they had casually discarded on the banks of the lake. In her hurry to get dressed, Sharmistha unknowingly put on the dress of her guru Sukracharya’s daughter, Devayani. Devayani, angered by this act of the princess, exclaimed

Alas, despite being a princess, Sharmistha’s actions are against etiquette. She desires clothes which are not her own and her actions are like that of a dog which lusts after the sacrificial ghee. My father who is a descendant of Bhrigu, and the spiritual guru of her father Vrishaparva, is a learned and a chaste man and the princess by virtue of stealing my clothes reminds me of somebody who is unchaste trying to master the Vedas.

Angered by this outburst of her companion Sharmistha retorted What nonsense Devayani? You don’t know your place. It is you who waits outside our doors for food like crows do when fresh rice is cooked.

Saying so she removed the garments that Devayani was wearing and threw the naked girl into a well.

<< PART 2 >>

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