Śrīmad Devi Bhāgavatam | Book 7 Chapter 15



Chapter XV

On the story of the King Hariśchandra

1-7. Vyāsa said:

O King! When there was going on in the King’s palace, the grand festivities for the son’s birth ceremonies, Varuṇa Deva came there in the holy Brāhmin’s form:

“Let welfare be on you.”

Saying this, Varuṇa began to say:

“O King! Know me to be Varuṇa. Now hear what I say:

O King! Your son is now born; therefore perform sacrifices in honour to me with your son. O King! Your defect of not having a son is now removed; so fulfil what you promised before.”

Hearing these words, the King began to think:

“Oh! Only one lotus-faced son is born to me; how can I kill it. On the other hand, the powerful Regent (Lokapāla) of one quarter is present in Brāhmaṇa form; and it never behoves one to show disrespect to a Deva or to a man who wishes welfare to us.

Again it is very difficult to root out the affection for a son; so what am I to do now? How shall I preserve my happiness due to the birth of my son.”

The King, then, with patience bowed down to him and worshipped him duly and humbly spoke to him in beautiful words, full of reason:

8-10. O Deva of the Devas! I will obey your order no doubt and I will perform your sacrifice according to the Vedic rites and with profuse Dakṣiṇās (remuneration to priests, etc.)

But, when in a sacrifice human beings are immolated as victims, both the husband and wife are entitled to the ceremony.

Father becomes purified on the tenth day and mother on the expiration of one month after the son’s birth; so how can I perform the sacrifice until one month expires!

You are omniscient and the master of all the beings; and you know what is Nitya Dharma.

So, O Varuṇa Deva! I want one month time; and show mercy thus on me.

11-19. Vyāsa said:

O King! The King Hariśchandra saying thus, Varuṇa Deva spoke to the King:

“O King! Welfare be unto you! Do your duties; I am now going back to my place. O King! I will come again after one month. Better finish the natal ceremonies and the Nāmakaraṇa ceremony regularly and then perform my sacrifice.”

O King! When Varuṇa Deva turned his back, the King began to feel happiness.

Then the King gave as gifts millions of cows, yielding plenty of milk and ornamented with gold, and mountains of Til, sesames to the Brāhmins versed in the Vedas and kept his name, with formal ceremonies as Rohitāśva.

When one month became complete, Varuṇa Deva came again in a Brāhmin form and frequently said:

“O King! Start the sacrifice just now!”

The King, on seeing the God of Waters, at once fell into an ocean of anxieties and sorrows; he then bowed down and worshipping him as a guest, spoke to him with folded palms:

“O Deva! It is to my great fortune that you have landed your feet at my place; O Lord! My house has been sanctified today.

O Deva! I will do, no doubt, your desired sacrifice according to the rites and ceremonies. But see, the victims that have not their teeth come as yet are not fit for a sacrifice; so the versed Pundits say;

so I have settled I would perform your great sacrifice, as desired by you, when the teeth will come out to my son.”

20-41. Vyāsa said:

O Lord of men! Hearing thus, Varuṇa spoke: “Let it be so” and went away.

The King Hariśchandra became glad and passed his days in enjoyments in his household.

When the teeth of the child got out, Varuṇa knew it and came again in a Brāhmin garb in the palace and spoke:

“O King! Now commence my sacrifice.”

Seeing the Brāhmin Varuṇa there, the King, too, bowed down and gave him a seat and showing all respects to him, worshipped him. He sang hymns to him and very humbly said with his head bent low:

“O Deva! I will perform your desired sacrifice with plenty of Dakṣiṇās according to rites and ceremonies. But the child’s Chūḍākaraṇa (the ceremony of tonsure) is not yet done;

so the hairs that were at the birth time are still there and the child cannot be fit for sacrifice as long as those hairs exist. So I have heard from the elderly persons.

O Lord of Waters! You know the Śāstra rules; kindly wait till the Chūḍākaraṇa is over. When the child will have his head shaven, I will certainly perform your sacrifice; there is no doubt in this.”

Hearing these words, Varuṇa spoke to him again:

“O King! Why are you deceiving me like this so often? O King! Now you have all the materials ready for the sacrifice; only for your filial affection you are deceiving me.

However, if, after the ceremony of tonsure, you do not perform my sacrifice, I will be angry and I will curse you. O King! I am going for now; but see do not tell lies, being born in the family of Ikṣāku.”

Instantly Varuṇa disappeared; the King, too, felt himself happy in his household.

When the ceremony of tonsure was commenced and grand festivities were held, on the occasion Varuṇa soon came again to the King’s palace. The queen was then sitting before the King with the child in her lap when Varuṇa came up there.

The Brāhmin Varuṇa then appeared like a Flaming Fire and spoke to the King in a clear voice:

“O King! Start the sacrifice.”

Seeing him, the King was confused with terror and with folded palms, quickly bowed down to him. After worshipping him duly, he very humbly said:

“O Lord! Today I will perform your sacrifice. But kindly hear with attention my saying and then do what is advisable.

O Lord! If you approve of this as reasonable, I then open my heart to you.

The three Varṇas Brāhmaṇas, Kṣattriyas, and Vaiśyas become Dvijas (twice-born) only when they are duly purified according to proper rules and ceremonies; without any such purifications they are certainly Śudras. So the Pundits versed in the Vedas declare.

My child is now an infant only; so it is like a Śūdra. When his thread ceremony (Upanayana) will be performed, he will then be fit for the sacrifice; this the Veda Śāstras declare.

The Kṣattriyas are so purified in their eleventh year; the Brāhmaṇas in their eighth year and the Vaiśyas in their twelfth year.

So, O Lord of the Devas! If you feel pity for your humble servant, then wait till the Upanayana ceremony is over, when I will perform your grand sacrifice with my son.

O Bibhu! You are the Lokapāla; specially you are conversant with all the Śāstra rules and have acquired the knowledge of Dharma. If you think my saying as true, then go to your home.”

42-51. Vyāsa said:

Hearing these words, Varuṇa’s heart was filled with pity and so he went away instantly, saying: “Let it be so.”

Seeing Varuṇa going away, the King felt very glad and the queen, knowing the welfare of the son became glad too. Then the King gladly performed his state duties.

After some time, the child grew ten years old. Consulting with the peaceful Brāhmaṇas as well as his ministers, he collected materials for the Upanayana ceremony befitting his position.

When the eleventh year was completed by his son, the King arranged everything for the thread ceremony but when his thoughts turned to Varuṇa’s sacrifice, he became very sad and anxious.

When the thread ceremony began to be performed, the Brāhmin Varuṇa came there.

Seeing him, the King instantly bowed down and standing before him with clasped palms, gladly spoke to him:

O Deva! My son’s Upanayana being over, now my son is fit for the victim in the sacrifice; and by your grace, my sorrow that was within me as not having a son, has vanished. I speak truly before you that, O Knower of Virtue!

After some mere time I have desired to perform your sacrifice with plenty of Dakṣiṇās. In fact, when the Samāvartan ceremony will be over, I will do as you like. Kindly wait till then.

52-62. Varuṇa said:

O Intelligent One! You are very much attached to your son now and so by various reasonable games of intellect, you are repeatedly deceiving me.

However, I am going home today at your request but know certain that I will come again at the time of the Samāvartan ceremony.

(N. B.:— Samāvartan means the return home especially of a pupil from his tutor’s house after finishing his course of study there.)

O King! Thus saying, Varuṇa went away and the King became glad and began to perform duly his various duties.

The prince was very intelligent; and as he used to see Varuṇa coming, now and then, at the time of the ceremonies, he became very anxious.

He then made enquiries outside hither and thither and came to know of his own being about to be killed and he desired to leave the house instantly. He then consulted with the minister’s sons and came to a final conclusion and went out of the city to the forest.

When the son had gone to the forest, the King became very much afflicted with sorrow and sent messengers in quest of him.

When some time passed away, Varuṇa came to his house and spoke to the distressed King:

 “O King! Now perform your desired Sacrifice.”

The King bowed down to him and said:

“O Deva! What shall I do now? My son has become afraid and has gone away. I do not know where he has gone.

O Deva! My messengers have searched for him in difficult places in mountains, in the hermitages of the Munis, in fact, in all the places; but they have not been able to find him out anywhere.

My son has left his home; order now what I can do. O Deva! You know everything; so judge I have got no fault in this matter. It is certainly luck and nothing else. ”

63-66. Vyāsa said:

O King! Hearing these words of the King, Varuṇa became very much angry and when he saw that he was deceived so many times by the King, he then cursed, saying:

“O King! As you have cheated me by your deceitful words, so you be attacked by dropsy and be severely pained by it.”

Thus cursed by Varuṇa, the King was attacked with that disease and began to suffer much. Cursing thus, Varuṇa went back to his own place and the King was much afflicted with that terrible disease.

Here ends the Fifteenth Chapter in the Seventh Book on the story of the King Hariśchandra in the Mahāpurāṇam Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam of 18,000 verses by Mahāṛṣi Veda Vyāsa.