The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Nahusha and Yayati: Their Indrahood and Fall which is chapter 15 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the fifteenth chapter of the Kedara-khanda of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 15 - Nahuṣa and Yayāti: Their Indrahood and Fall

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The sages enquired:

1-2. It has been mentioned by you that Devendra regained kingdom without his preceptor. It was on account of disrespect to his preceptor that he had been dethroned from his kingdom. Urged by whom did he retain his position for a long time? Do tell us all these things quickly. We are very eager to hear it.

Lomaśa replied:

3-4. The consort of Śacī (Indra) ruled over the kingdom (of heaven) without his preceptor (Bṛhaspati). The great Indra (could) continue (to rule) over the kingdom due to the (religious) performance in accordance with the injunctions of Viśvarūpa.

5-6. O Brāhmaṇas, Viśvarūpa,[1] a great king, was the son of Viśvakarmā. He became the preceptor and performer of sacrifices for Śakra.

In that Yajña, Triśiras (one with three heads) performed the worship with partial oblations separately for Asuras, Suras and human beings.

In the direct presence of Indra everyday he used to give ladles (full of Soma) to Devas with a loud shout, to Daityas silently, and to human being in a fallen middle tone.

7-8. Once he was detected due to his partiality (regarding relative importance of oblations) by Indra who remained concealed and unobserved. Then the desired object (of Triśiras) was understood (by Indra).

(Deveṇdra thought) ‘He is making this piecemeal offering for the sake of accomplishing the task of Daityas. He is our preceptor, but gives the benefit to (our) enemies.’

9. After thinking thus, Śakra cut off his heads instantaneously by means of his Vajra (thunderbolt) of hundred spikes. The death was instantaneous.

10-11. The Kapiñjala (a sort of partridge) birds were born from the face with which he drank Soma juice. Then from the other face with which-he drank liquor, the Kalaviṅka (sparrow) birds were born. From the other (third) face, the Tittira birds of various forms were born. Thus, Viśvarūpa was killed by Śakra, the ill-fated one.

12-14. The female fiend (born of and called) Brahmahatyā (‘Brāhmaṇa-murder’) manifested there. She was terrific and unthwartable. She was evil-faced, wicked, full of Cāṇḍāla impurity and could not be blocked or defeated.

The terrible sinners are those who slay Brāhmaṇas, those who drink liquor, those who steal (gold etc.) and those who defile and outrage the modesty of the preceptor’s wife. The means of expiation for these sinners is the utterance of the names of Viṣṇu, since the mind has him for its object.

The three-headed fiend with smoke-coloured hands rushed forth to swallow Indra.

15. Thereupon (Indra) fled from there out of great fear. On seeing him fleeing, the terrible (devil) chased him.

16-17. Wherever he ran, she too ran after him. If he stood anywhere, she too stood beside him. She behaved in the manner of a shadow of one’s own body. When she came so close as to envelop him, Indra sank beneath the waters suddenly, O Brāhmaṇas, like an old aquatic being.

18-19. Thus three hundred divine years passed since the consort of Śacī (Indra) began staying (beneath the waters) with great misery. A terrific state of anarchy spread throughout heaven. Thereupon Devas, sages and ascetics became anxious and worried. All the three worlds were overwhelmed by adversity, O Brāhmaṇas.

20. Even if there is a single Brāhmaṇa-slayer in a kingdom staying there with impunity, untimely death of good men will take place there.

21. The king of the state wherein he (the Brāhmaṇa-slayer) lives, becomes contaminated by the sin. There will be (prevalence of) famine, death and calamities.

22. There will be many misfortunes causing the destruction of the subjects. Hence, Dharma should be practised by a king with great faith.

23. Similarly, the ministers of the king too should be installed with purity. Sin was committeed by Indra and due to that sin, O Brāhmaṇas, the whole of the universe met with calamities along with great distress of diverse kinds.

Śaunaka enquired:

24. It was by performing a hundred horse-sacrifices that the great realm of Devas was acquired by him, O Sūta. Why then did Śakra meet with obstacles, O highly fortunate one? Do tell us exactly as it happened.

Sūta replied:

25. In the case of Devas, Dānavas and particularly that of human beings, Karman alone is undoubtedly the cause of happiness and misery.

26-27. An immensely reprehensible act has been committed by Indra, O Brāhmaṇas, He insulted his Guru (preceptor Bṛhaspati). Viśvarūpa was slain. The wife of Gautama, his Guru (preceptor, elderly one), was carnally approached. It was the fruit of all these sins that was reaped by Mahendra for a long time. There was no way of atonement for the same.

28. If persons committing wicked and sinful deeds, do not perform expiatory rites (for the same), they do incur miseries just like Indra, (though) he had performed a hundred sacrifices.

29. If sins are committed, atonement should be performed instantaneously in accordance with the injunctions, O Brāhmaṇas, for the sake of quelling all the sins.

30-32. If minor sins are repeatedly performed, they turn into major sins. Those men who steadfastly cling to their duties of the morning, midday and dusk can get their sins destroyed. They attain the excellent world. There is no doubt about it. Hence, this person of evil conduct (i.e. Indra) reaped the fruit of his karman.

33. All the Guardians of the Quarters hurriedly deliberated together. They approached Bṛhaspati and reported to the preceptor about Indra everything they had in their mind.

34. On hearing the words uttered by Devas, Bṛhaspati, the intelligent (preceptor), thought about the anarchy that had begun to spread.

35-36. ‘What shall be done now? How will they secure welfare—Devas, the worlds and sages of sanctified souls?’ In his mind, he thought over the details of what should and what should not be done. Accompanied by Devas, the preceptor of great fame went to Indra.

37. They reached the lake where Purandara (Indra) was lying (hidden) and on the bank of which was staying the (devil of) Brāhmaṇa slaughter terrible like a Caṇḍālī.

38. All the Devas, accompanied by the groups of sages sat there. Then Śakra was called by the preceptor himself.

39. Thereupon, Indra got up and saw his preceptor. With tears flowing over his face, he spoke to Bṛhaspati.

40-41. He bowed down to all the persons assembled there. He pondered over the great (blunders) committed by himself before, as a result of ignorance. He joined his palms in reverence and with a piteous face spoke: “O Lord, tell me what should be done by me just now?”

42-43. The holy lord Bṛhaspati of liberal mind laughed and said: “O Indra, this is the result of that act of yours committed previously against me. Only by experiencing its result, can it be annihilated. But, no atonement for Brāhmaṇa-slaughter has been seen (i.e. laid down) by the authors of Smṛti texts.

44. Expiation has been prescribed by those conversant with Dharma Śāstras (Code of Laws) for the sin committed unknowingly. There is no atonement for an offence wilfully committed.

45. A sin committed by a person intentionally does not become one committed unintentionally. Expiation is laid down for both based on the differences in the objects.

46. If a sin is committed wilfully (deliberately), the expiation is to be performed up to death. Atonement is laid down in case of sins committed unknowingly.

47. Since this has been intentionally done by you, since the twice-born, the learned priest has been killed, there is no atonement.

48. Stay in the waters here and wait for your death.

49. The meritorious deed of yours termed ‘performance of one hundred horse-sacrifices’, O evil-minded one, has already been destroyed at the very moment when the twice-born was killed by you.

50. Just as not a drop of water remains in a pot with holes, similarly meritorious deeds of a sinner go on reducing every moment.

51. Hence, by good luck, if heaven etc. are attained, those can be retained only by really righteous ones. There is no doubt about it.”

52. On hearing his statement, Indra spoke these words: “Undoubtedly this has fallen to my lot through my own misdeeds.

53. Hasten to Amarāvatī along with the celestial sages, O Bṛhaspati. For the purpose of accomplishing the tasks of the worlds as well as of Devas, O sage of great fortune, crown as Indra, anyone whom you approve in your mind.

54. Enveloped by the great devil of Brahmahatyā, I am just like one who is dead. I have been overwhelmed by the sin arising from Rāga (attachment) and Dveṣa (hatred).

55. Hence hasten all of you to make someone king of Devas. You have my permission for the same. I am speaking the truth to you.”

56. On being told thus, all those (Devas) with Bṛhaspati at their head came to Amarāvatī immediately and coolly told Śacī everything about Indra’s activities as they had taken place.

57. They consulted one another and began to deliberate thus: ‘What should be done for the sake of the kingdom?’

58. While Devas were thus deliberating, Nārada, the celestial sage of unmeasured splendour, came there by chance.

59. On being honoured, he asked Devas: “Why are you all sad and perplexed?”

On being enquired (thus) they spoke everything about Śakra’s activities:

60. “Indra’s status of being the lord (of Devas) has come to an end on account of a great sin.”

Thereupon Nārada, the celestial sage, spoke these words to those Devas:

61-62. “You are omniscient Devas endowed with the power of penance and valour. Hence Nahuṣa,[2] born in the Lunar race, should be made Indra. He should be established in this realm, O Devas, immediately. Ninety-nine horse-sacrifices have been performed by that noble-souled Nahuṣa, O highly fortunate ones. Nahuṣa was a regular performer of Yajñas

63-67. That statement coming out of the mouth of Nārada was heard by Sacī. With her eyes filled with tears and not engaged in anything (seriously), she went into the inner apartment.

On hearing the words of Nārada, all the Devas congratulated him. They approved of his suggestion to make Nahuṣa the ruler of the realm unanimously. Then, king Nahuṣa was brought to Amarāvatī and the kingdom of Mahendra was given to him by all the Suras and great sages.

Then all of them served Nahuṣa. Agastya and others (sages), Gandharvas, Apsarās, Yakṣas, Vidyādharas, the great serpents, Rākṣasas, the birds of bright wings (suparṇas like Garuḍa) and other heaven-dwellers (served him).

68. Then in the city of Devas, there was a continuous grand celebration. Concḥs, musical instruments, Mṛdaṅgas and Dundubhis sounded simultaneously.

69. In that grand celebration of the kingdom of Devas, musicians sang songs, players of instruments played on them and dancers danced.

70. Then he was coronated there by the sages, of whom Bṛhaspati was the foremost.

71. He was worshipped with Deva-Sūkta and was made to perform the worship of Planets in due procedure and with formalities.

72. The great king Nahuṣa was duly honoured and respected by the learned sages of sanctified souls and by all others also. As the king of Suras, he sat on the throne of Indra. He had the same features as those of Indra. Endowed with the greatest splendour, he was eulogized by all.

73. Dressed in excellent sweet-scented bright garments and with his person adorned excellently with ornaments and articles of enjoyment, Nahuṣa appeared resplendent as he was being eulogized by prominent sages and leading Devas.

74. Thus the great king Nahuṣa who was endowed with great ingenuity and worshipped by groups of great Devas and sages, became severely tormented at heart by intense passion (lust).

Nahuṣa said:

75. How is it that Indrāṇī does not come near me? Call her quickly. It does not behove you to delay.

76. On hearing the words of Nahuṣa, the liberal-minded Bṛhaspati went to Śacī’s abode and spoke in detail:

77. “It was on account of the calamity fallen on Indra that Nahuṣa was brought here for the sake of the kingdom. O beautiful lady, occupy half of his seat.”

78-79. Śacī laughed and spoke to sinless Bṛhaspati: “He has occupied the seat of Indra without completing the quota of (hundred) Yajñas. Only ninety-nine horse-sacrifices have been performed by him. Hence, he is not qualified enough to obtain me. Let this be thought over truthfully. If this senseless fellow still continues to be desirous of me, wife of another person, let him obtain me by coming here by means of a vehicle that is carried by undeserving carriers.”

80. Saying “So be it”, Bṛhaspati returned hurriedly to Nahuṣa who had been distressed through intense lust. He reported to him what was spoken by Śacī in her own words.

81-84. Saying “So be it”, Nahuṣa who was deluded by lust, thought over it. He deliberated on this intelligently: ‘Who can be the carrier not worthy of being so?’ After thinking about it intelligently and trying to remember for a long time (he decided thus): “The Brāhmaṇas and the ascetics are not usually thought of as carriers. I shall make two of them bear me in order to reach her. This is my decision.” So (the king) who was deluded by lust gave the palanquin to two Brāhmaṇas.

Seated in that palanquin with great concentration, he urged them on with the words “Sarpa, sarpa” (Move on, move on). (Sarpa means ‘serpent’ also.)

85. Agastya who had been one of the palanquin-bearers became infuriated and cursed the king. “You are a lunatic and despiser of Brāhmaṇas; you be a python.”

86. Immediately, after the utterance of the curse by the Brāhmaṇa, the king became a python and fell from there itself. Indeed the curse of a Brāhmaṇa is untransgressable.

87. Just as Nahuṣa became (a python), so also all like him fell into dirty hell by disrespecting Brāhmaṇas.

88. Hence, in order to attain benefits here and hereafter, a wise, circumspect person who has achieved a position of importance, should refrain in all possible ways from committing blunders.

89. Nahuṣa became a serpent in a very dreadful forest. Hence there prevailed anarchy in the world of Devas.

90. Similarly, all the Devas were struck with consternation. “Alas! What a wretched condition the king has fallen into!

91. This evil-minded fellow has obtained neither the mortal world nor the heavenly world. His (fund of) merits has been instantaneously burnt down,

92. If there is any other person who has performed (many) Yajñas, let him be named, O great sage.”

Then the excellent sage Nārada of great splendour said:

93. “O highly fortunate ones, hasten to bring Yayāti.[3]

Messengers of Devas went immediately and brought Yayāti quickly.

94-95. The noble-souled (Yayāti) got into an aerial chariot, and went to heaven accompanied by the messengers of Devas. He was then honoured and received by the excellent Devas as well as Serpents, Yakṣas, Gandharvas and Siddhas. He arrived at Amarāvatī and was then propitiated by Devas. He seated himself on the throne of Indra and was immediately addressed.

96. He was told thus by Nārada: “You are a king who has performed Yajñas. By insulting good people Nahuṣa attained the status of a venomous serpent.

97-98. Those virtuous persons who attain the highest position by means of good luck, become deluded too, on account of previous Karman. They do not see (distinguish between) auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. Those stubborn persons fall into terrible hell. There is no doubt about it.”

Yayāti said:

99. Obstacles beset those persons too who have performed unmeasured and limitless meritorious deeds. They were by no means in small measures, O celestial sage. Know that everyone of those deeds of mine was very great.

100. Great charitable gifts have been offered along with the gifts of food. Many gifts of cows have been made along with the gifts of lands too.

101. Similarly, all excellent (religious) gifts mentioned by learned persons have been given by me then and there at the proper time, and in accordance with the great injunctions.

102. The sacrifices Vājapeya, Atirātra, Jyotiṣṭoma, Rājasūya, Horse-sacrifice etc. as mentioned in the Śāstras—all these have been performed by me. The earth has been adorned all round with sacrificial posts.

103. The Lord of the universe, the Lord of Devas has been worshipped in many ways. This daughter Mādhavī[4] was given to Gālava in the city.

104. Daughters were given to four persons as wives, O sage, for the sake of the intelligent preceptor of Gālava, viz. Viśvāmitra.

105. These and many other meritorious rites have been performed by me formerly. They are great and numerous. It is impossible to recount all of them.”

106. That king was again asked by all the Devas: “Were all these holy rites performed secretly by you and properly too? We all wish to hear the truth. O Yayāti, we are all desirous of hearing too.”

107. On hearing the words of Devas, Yayāti of unmeasured splendour described everything regarding the remaining part of his meritorious deeds.

108. Everything was described without leaving anything. Everything was severally mentioned in detail. Recounting his own merits, Yayāti fell down on the earth.

109. At that very instant, even as all the Suras went on watching (Yayāti fell down). Thus anarchy was produced and spread quickly.

110-111. None else was seen by them deserving to be crowned in the place of Śakra on account of his being a Yajña-performer. Let this be heard, O excellent Brāhmaṇas.

All the Suras, Sages, great and leading serpents, Gandharvas, Yakṣas, Khagas (Birds), Cāraṇas, Kinnaras, Vidyādharas, groups, of Suras and celestial damsels—all these became full of anxiety. So too were the human beings.

Footnotes and references:


Viśvarūpa alias Triśiras was the son of Tvaṣṭṛ. He was killed by Indra for his fraud described here. Vide also Mbh, Udyoga 9.


Nahuṣa—Son of Āyu of the Lunar race. He was elected as Indra by gods (Mbh, Udyoga 11.9, Śānti 342.44-52). He wanted Indra’s wife Śacī and went to her in a palanquin borne by Seven Sages. When he prodded Agastya to go quickly ‘sarpa’ he was cursed by Agastya to be a python (sarpa) and he fell from heaven (Mbh, Udyoga 17.14-18).


Yayāti—Son of Nahuṣa. Married to Śukra’s daughter Devayānī and Daitya King Vṛṣaparvā’s daughter Śarmiṣṭhā. Out of jealousy of Śarmiṣṭhā, Devayānī insisted upon Śukra to curse Yayāti with old age. The latter was condemned but was empowered to borrow the youth of his son. He realized the folly of carnal enjoyment and returned his youthfulness to his son Pūru. He was a pious king but fell from heaven due to his boastfulness (Mbh, Ādi 88). But neither Mbh nor VR knows of the offer of Indrahood to him as mentioned in this Purāṇa (vv 94-95). The boast of Yayāti in one verse in Mbh, Ādi 88.2 is expanded here in vv 99-107.


Mādhavī became an ascetic. She gave half of her merit of penance to her father Yayāti when he fell from svarga (Mbh, Udyoga 120, 5-11, 25).

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