SUKRA – Master of magic, teacher of the asuras (demons)

In the Epics Sukra was the son or grandson of Bhrigu, the powerful magician who almost killed Agni. Sukra was also known as Kavya. Sukra became the greatest mas­ter of magic of his age, but he served the asuras. The devas (gods) sent sage Kaca to learn how he had made the asuras invincible. (For more details see the main entry on Kaca.) Devayani was Sukra’s daughter and had a prominent role in that story.
The Puranas made Sukra an example of sensual excess. Sukra constantly used up his austerities (tapas) and the powers (siddhis) he had acquired by his tapas, plunging into years of abandoned living. It began when he was a boy. His father Bhrigu went into deep meditation (nirvikalpa-samadhi) for a thousand years. Sukra became bored and with the power of his mind followed the lovely apsara (celestial maiden) Vishvaci into Indraloka, Indra’s heaven. Several other celestial maidens were showing him around when he discovered Vishvaci. They immediately fell in love. Sukra made the whole place dark, so that the maidens left Vishvaci and him alone. They made love for eight fourfold yugas (catur­yugas). Finally, he had used up all his virtue (tapas) and fell from heaven. His shriveled-up soul eventually took rebirth as a brahmin’s son, and during that life he was a muni (ascetic, magician). But again he used up his tapas when he fell in love with a doe (who was really a cursed apsara) and had a son by her. He for­got his practices and his religious duties and died of snakebite. So it went life­time after lifetime—some austerities and then yielding to carnal temptations.
Finally, Bhrigu awoke from his meditation. His dead son’s emaciated body lay beside him. Yama told him what had happened through all of his son’s rebirths while Bhrigu was practicing his own tapas. Yama decided to bring Sukra back to life as Bhrigu’s son.
Sukra became the preceptor of the asuras, instructing them in austerities and rituals to keep them strong. He had some run-ins with Siva—some negative, some positive. Once he stole Kubera’s wealth, Siva swallowed him. In Siva’s fiery belly, Sukra worshipped Siva and was discharged. Later, he worshipped Siva more earnestly and was given the mantra for restoring life (mritasanjivani mantra). It was this knowledge that the devas sent Kaca to learn and bring back to them. Kaca seduced his guru’s daughter but succeeded in his mission.
In his old age Sukra observed the third stage of life (vanaprastha, forest dweller) and attained heaven (svarga).

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