The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes The story of King Sudyunma which is chapter 1 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the first chapter of the Ninth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 1 - The story of King Sudyunma

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The King (Parīkṣit) requested:

1. All the Manu-epochs (Manvantaras) described by you and the (account of) glorious heroic feats of Lord Hari of infinite prowess and energy, achieved during those epochs as narrated by you, have been heard by me.

2-3. I learnt from you that he who, at the end of the last Kalpa, was the royal sage named Satyavrata, the King of Draviḍas (or Draviḍa country), attained spiritual knowledge by worshipping the Supreme Person, has verily become a Manu (Śrāddhadeva), the Son of Vivasvat; I have also heard from you the (history of) his sons, the kings, of whom Ikṣvāku was prominent.

4. Be pleased to describe to us in details, Oh Brahman, the history of the race and the deeds of those belonging to that line, separately, as we are ever eager to listen to them, Oh highly blessed sage.

5. Kindly relate unto us the heroic exploits of all those kings of hallowed (or sanctifying) renown who belonged to the past, who will rule in future and who belong to the present age.

Sūta said:

6. When accosted in these words by king Parīkṣit, in the assembly of the exponents of Vedas and Brahman, venerable Śuka, the expert in the highest form dharma[1] proceeded to narrate in details.

Śrī Śuka said:

7. Oh chastiser of enemies! Listen to the main events in the history of the race of Manu (in brief), for it will not be possible to describe it in details for centuries together.

8. At the end of the Kalpa, there was only the Supreme Person, who is the Soul of all beings high and low. There was neither universe nor anything else.

9. From his navel sprouted forth the calyx of a gold lotus wherein was born the self-created four-faced god Brahmā, Oh mighty king.

10. From his mind was born Marīci and from Marīci was born Kaśyapa. From Kaśyapa and his wife Aditi, the daughter of Dakṣa (Prajāpati) was born a son called Vivasvat.

11. From Vivasvat and his wife Saṃjñā was born Śrāddha-deva, the Manu and through his wife Śraddhā, the self-controlled eminent Śrāddhadeva begot the (following) ten sons:

12. (Namely) Ikṣvāku, Nṛga, Śaryāti, Diṣṭa, Dhṛṣta, Karūṣaka, Narīṣyat, Pṛṣaddhra, Nabhaga, Kavi.

13. It is reported that in the beginning, when Manu was childless, the worshipful and (spiritually) powerful Vasiṣṭha performed a sacrifice, in honour of Mitra and Varuṇa.

14. In that sacrifice, Śraddhā, the wife of Manu who was observing the payo-vrata vow, approached the Hotṛ-priest, paid obeisance to him and begged for the birth of a daughter.

15. The Hotṛ (the reciter of Vedic mantras in a sacrifice) who was directed by the Adhvaryu (the officiating head sacrificial priest), was brooding over the request of Śraddhā. The Brāhmaṇa (contemplating over her request) with full concentration of mind, offered oblations while uttering the mystic word—Vaṣaṭ (and propitiated the fire).

16. As a consequence of the dereliction of duty on the part of the Holṛ (the reciter of mantras), a daughter named Ilā was born. Not being much delighted at the sight of the daughter (when the sacrifice was performed for the birth of a son), Manu addressed the preceptor (as follows):

17. “Worshipful Sir, what is this that the act (of sacrificer) performed by the expert exponents of Vedas has led to the contrary result? Ah! What a pity! There should not have been such a reversal (in the fruit) of Vedic Mantras.

18. You are experts in the knowledge and sacrificial application of the Mantras and are self-disciplined. You have burnt down all your sins by your austerities. What is the cause of the failure of this expectation. This is as impossible as falsehood in the case of gods. (Just as what gods think or say turns out to be true, your will power should have similarly prevailed)”.

19. Hearing this (complaining) speech (of Manu), the worshipful great-grandfather[2] Vasiṣṭha came to know the transgression committed by the reciter of mantras (Hotṛ) and replied to Vaivasvata Manu (the son of the Sun, Vivasvat).

20. “This frustration of your expectation is due to the dereliction of duty on the part of the Hotṛ. Yet by virtue of my spiritual power, I shall accomplish your object of having a good son”.

21. The adorable Vasiṣṭha of great renown, determined thus and with the desire of securing manhood to Ilā prayed Lord Viṣṇu, The Eternal Person.

22. The glorious Lord Hari, The Ruler (of the universe), being pleased with Vasiṣṭha, conferred on him the boon sought for (by him). In virtue of that boon, Ilā became Sudyumna, the foremost among men.

23. On one occasion, riding a horse of Sindhu breed, and accompanied by a few ministers, he went on a hunting expedition in a forest, Oh great king.

24. Clad in an armour and arming himself with a beautiful bow and extremely wonderful arrows, the hero went to the northern direction, in pursuit of the game (a deer).

25. It is reported that the prince entered a forest on the foothills of mount Meru, where the glorious Lord Śiva sports amorously with his Spouse Umā.

26. Hardly did Sudyumna, that vanquisher of inimical warriors, enter the forest, when he found himself transformed into a woman and the horse into a mare, Oh king.

27. Noticing a change of sex in themselves, all his followers became dejected at heart and began to stare at each other.

King Parīkṣit asked:

28. Oh venerable Sir! How is it that the region came to acquire such power? Who made it so? Be pleased to answer this query, as our curiosity has become intense.

Śrī Śuka said:

29. On one occasion, sages, who were strict observers of sacred vows, came to that region (Ilāvṛta) to pay visit to god Śiva, the lord of mount Kailāsa, dispelling darkness from all quarters (with their spiritual lustre).

30. Having seen them, goddess Pārvatī, who was then ungarmented, got extremely abashed, and quickly getting up from her consort’s lap, put on her raiments immediately.

31. Noting the union of the divine couple in amorous enjoyment, the sages instantly turned back and proceeded to the hermitage of Nara and Nārāyaṇa.

32. Then, with a desire to satisfy his divine beloved, the glorious god Śiva announced: ‘Whoever enters this region, shall (automatically and instantly) turn into a veritable woman.

33. Hence all males avoid going to that forest since then. She (Sudyumna, now a woman Ilā) went on wandering from one forest to another, accompanied by her retinue.

34. Now beholding that excellent young woman surrounded by ladies, (leisurely) wandering on the precincts of his hermitage, god Budha (the presiding deity of the planet Mercury) conceived an amorous passion for her.

35. That lady with beautiful eyebrows, in her turn, reciprocated his love and sought him, the son of King Soma, as her husband. He begot on her a son named Purūravas.

36. We hear it reported that King Sudyumna of Manu’s race who was thus transformed into a woman, happened to remember Vasiṣṭha, his family preceptor.

37. (As soon as he was thus remembered, Vasiṣṭha appeared on the scene). Seeing that sad plight of Sudyumna, Vasiṣṭha was overwhelmed with compassion. Being deeply moved, and wishing to restore the manhood of Sudyumna, he approached (appealed to) god Śaṅkara.

38. Being pleased with Vasiṣṭha and with a view to grant his prayer as well as to retain the veracity of his own utterance, the glorious god Śiva spoke as follows, Oh King.

39. ‘Sudyumna who is born of your race, shall be a man for one month and a woman for another month alternately. May he protect the earth at his will, under this arrangement’[3].

40. Having accomplished his desire of restoration to manhood through the grace of his preceptor, he ruled over the earth under the above-mentioned arrangement. But his subjects did not approve of it.

41. He got three sons, Utkala, Gaya and Vimala. They became righteous rulers of the Deccan (the southern region including Mahārāṣṭra).

42. With the ripeness of the age, King Sudyumna, the ruler over pratiṣṭhāna[4] handed over (the kingdom of) the earth to (his son) Purūravas, and went to forest (for performance of penance).

Footnotes and references:


This dharma is ‘the extolling the excellences of the Lord’ according to Bhāgavata Candrikā, while ‘Protection of the subjects is the dharma of crowned kings’ (Padaratnāvalī).


It should have been grand-father’s grand-father as can be seen from the following genealogy of Śuka from Vasiṣṭha:

Vasiṣṭha—ŚaktiParāśaraVyāsa—Śuka but if pra-pitāmaha is to be defended (as Bhāvārtha-dīpikā-prakāśa does it) by saying that the father and the son are to be regarded as one as per the Śruti text ātmaiva putranāmā'si, the chain of identity will reach to Śuka also.


The story is briefly mentioned in Mahābhārata Ādi 75.16, Anu 147. 26, Liṅga P. 1.65.


Most probably Jhusi opposite to Allahabad across the Gaṅgā. Mentioned in Mahābhārata Vana. 85.76. According to Liṅga P. 1.65 the kingdom of Ikṣvākus was divided among Sudyumna’s sons, while according to Vasiṣṭha’s advice, the son of Ilā (the female transformation of Sudyumna) Purūravas, was given Pratiṣṭhānapura as he had no hereditory rights on the kingdom of Ikṣvāku. But Bhāgavata Purāṇa 9.2.2 shows that Ikṣvāku was born, when Sudyumna left for the forest.

D.P. Mishra’s conjectural identification of this Pratiṣṭhāna with ‘Ortospana’ (near Kabul—‘nearer Bactria, the home province of Purūravas’) of Greek writers deserves consideration. Vide studies—Proto. Hist. of Ind. pp. 116-17

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