10) BRAHMA PURANA – Sagara

Trishanku’s son was Harishchandra and from Harishchandra was descended a king named Bahu. Bahu devoted too much time to pleasurable pursuits. The upshot of this was that the defence of the kingdom was not properly taken care of.  Enemy  kings seized this opportunity to attack Bahu’s kingdom. They drove Bahu out and Bahu went off to the forest with his wife Yadavi,

The enemy kings who dislodged Bahu were led by the Haihaya and Talajangha kings. They were aided by the Shakas, Yavanas, Paradas, Kambojas and Pahlavas.

King Bahu died in the forest. His wife Yadavi desired to die on her husband’s funeral pyre. But since Yadavi was pregnant at the time, the sage Ourva persuaded her that such an act would be a sin. He brought Yadavi to his own hermitage and began to take care of her.

Bahu had also a second wife and she had once tried to poison Yadavi. The poison (gara) had however done Yadavi no harm and emerged when the baby was born. Since the baby was born together with poison, he came to known as Sagara.

The sage Ourva took care of Sagara’s education. He imparted to Sagara the knowledge of all the shastras and also the usage of weapons. Amongst other things, Sagara acquired the skill of using a divine weapon known as agneyastra.

When he grew up, Sagara attacked the Haihaya kings and defeated them  through the use of agneyastra. He then defeated the Shakas, Yavanas, Paradas,  Kambojas and Pahlavas and was about  to  kill  them  all.  But  these  enemy  kings  fled  to  the  sage  Vashishtha  for  refuge  and Vashishtha persuaded Sagara not to kill his enemies. Instead, the heads of the Shakas were half shaven off. The Yavanas and Kambojas had their heads completely shaven. The Pahlavas were instructed that they would have to keep beards. These enemy kings also lost all right to follow the religion laid down in the Vedas. Amongst the other kings  who Sagara defeated were the Konasarpas, the Mahishakas, the Darvas, the Cholas and the Keralas.

King Sagara had two wives. The first was named Keshini and she was the daughter of the king of Vidarbha. The Brahma Purana does not tell us the name of the  second wife but from the Mahabharataa we know that it was Sumati. Keshini  and Sumati had no sons. They therefore began to pray to Ourva so that they might have sons.

Ourva was pleased at these prayers and said, ” Both of you will have sons. But one of you will have a single son and the other will have sixty thousand sons. Tell me, who wants what.”

Keshini asked for a single son and Sumati asked for sixty thousand sons. In due course, Keshini gave birth to a son named Panchajana. Sumati gave birth to a gourd. Inside the gourd there was a lump of meat. The gourd was placed inside a pot full of clarified butter (ghrita). And from the lump of meat were born sixty thousand sons.

King Sagara proceeded to conquer the entire earth. As a recognition of this conquest, he initiated an ashvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice). In this ceremony,  the sacrificial horse is left free to wander all over the earth. The sixty thousand  sons accompanied the horse as its guards. The horse eventually reached the shores of the ocean that lies towards the south-east. While Sagara’s sons were resting, the horse was stolen. The sons started to look for the horse and began to dig up the sands in their search. In this process, they came upon the sage Kapila. Kapila had been meditating and his meditation was disturbed by  the  terrible din that Sagara’s sons made. He gazed at them in fury and all but four of the sons were burnt to ashes. The four sons who were saved were named Varhiketu, Suketu, Dharmaketu and Panchajana.

The Brahma Purana is slightly confused here. Was Panchajana Keshini’s son or Sumati’s son? There is some inconsistency with the account given in the Mahabharataa. In the Mahabharataa, it is Keshini who gave birth to sixty thousand sons and it is Sumati who had a single son named Asamanja. Also in the Mahabharataa, all sixty thousand sons were burnt to ashes.

The Brahma Purana also tells us that the sacrificial horse was obtained by Sagara from the ocean.This is the reason why the ocean is referred to as sagara.

To come back to the account given in the Brahma Purana. Panchajana’s son was Amshumana and Amshumana’s son was Dilipa. Dilipa had a son named Bhagiratha. Bhagiratha brought down the river Ganga from heaven to earth and thus redeemed his ancestors who had been burnt to ashes by Kapila. It was because of this that the river Ganga came to be known as Bhagirathi.

From  Bhagiratha  was  descended  Raghu.  Raghu’s  son  was  Aja,  Aja’s  son  Dasharatha  and Dasharatha’s son Rama.

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