9) BRAHMA PURANA – Trishanku

From Dridashva was descended a king named Trayaruni. Trayaruni was a  righteous king and followed all the religious dictates. But Trayarun’s son  Satyavrata was quite the opposite and refused to follow the righteous path. King Trayaruni’s chief priest was the great sage Vashishtha. Vashishtha advised the king that his evil son should be banished from the kingdom. Trayaruni accepted the  sage’s advice. Consequently, Satyavrata started to live with outcasts (chandalas) outside the kingdom.

After some time, Trayaruni relinquished his kingship and went away to the forest. The kingdom had no king and degenerated into anarchy. The absence of a king is also frowned upon by the gods and for twelve years there was a terrible drought.

Vishvamitra was another great sage. While all this was going on, Vishvamitra was not present in the kingdom. He had gone away to perform tapasya on the shores of the ocean, having left his wife and children in a hermitage (ashrama) that was in the kingdom. But because there was such a  long  spell  of  drought,  there  was  also  famine  in  the  kingdom.  People  started  to  starve. Vishvamitra’s wife decided to sell her son so that she might have some food to eat. She tied a rope round the son’s neck and took him to the market-place. There, she sold him in exchange for a thousand cows. Since a rope had been tied around the son’s neck (gala), he came to be known as Galava.

But Satyavrata discovered what terrible straits Vishvamitra’s family was in. He freed Galava and started to take care of Vishvamitra’s wife and children.

Satyavrata had not been terribly fond of Vashishtha. He blamed the sage for  his  banishment. When thee was famine everywhere, Satyavrata stole  Vashishtha’s  cow. He killed the cow and served the meat to Vishvamitra’s sons, apart from eating it himself.

Vashishtha was in a terrible rage when he got to know about this incident. He cursed Satyavrata.

“You  have  committed  three  sins  (shanku),”  Vashishtha  told  Satyavrata.  “Firstly,  you  have angered your father Trayaruni. Secondly, you have stolen and killed a cow. Thirdly, you have eaten beef, a forbidden meat. Because of these  three sins, you will henceforth be known as Trishanku and be eternally cursed.” (The word tri means three.)

Satyavrata had however taken care of Vishvamitra’s family when the sage was  away on his meditation. After Vishvamitra returned, he was very happy to learn about what Trishanku had done and offered to grant him a boon. Trishanku desired the boon that he might be allowed to go to  heaven  in  his  own  physical  body.  Thanks  to  Vishvamitra’s  immense  powers,  even  this virtually impossible task was accomplished. Trishanku became king in Trayaruni’s kingdom and Vishvamitra acted as his chief priest.

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