The Vishnu Purana (abridged)

27,616 words

The Vishnu Purana (Viṣṇu Purāṇa) is a religious Hindu text and one of the (most important) eighteen Mahapuranas. It is also known as Puranaratna ("gem of Puranas"). Presented as a dialogue between Parashara and his disciple Maitreya, the major topics discussed include creation, stories of battles fought between asuras and devas, the Avat...

The Story of Dhruva

From Brahma’s body was created Manu. All humans are descended from Manu’s son and daughters. This is the reason for their being called manava. Manu had two righteous and brave sons known as Priyavrata and Uttanapada. Uttanapada had two wives, Suruchi’s son was Dhruva. King Uttanapada was fonder of Suruchi than of Suniti and liked Uttama much more than he liked Dhruva.

One day, Dhruva found that Uttama was sitting on his father’s lap on the throne. Naturally, Dhruva also wanted to climb onto his father’s lap. But Suruchi scolded him saying that he should not aspire to that which was Uttama’s. He should always remember that the throne was meant for Uttama and not for Dhruva.

Dhruva was angry. He went running to his mother. And he told his mother what had happened. Suniti consoled him and told him that men suffer or prosper depending on what they had done in their past lives. If one has done good deeds in an earlier life, one becomes a king, has an umbrella held over one’s head and rides excellent horses and elephants in this life. Suruchi and Uttama must have performed many good deeds in their earlier lives. And Suniti and Dhruva must have performed many evil deeds in their earlier lives. This was not something to be unhappy about. Wise men were satisfied with what they got. If Dhruva was really upset at what Suruchi had said, he should stop being unhappy and should instead spend his time on being good, religious, righteous and selfless.

Suniti’s words convinced Dhruva. He said, “Mother, your words have given me peace. I will try to achieve the highest position of all. True, the king loves Suruchi and true, I am not Suruchi’s son. But I am your son and I will show you what I can do. Let Uttama have his throne. I do not wish for something that is someone else’s. Through my own work I will achieve a place that not even my father has achieved.”

Dhruva said this and went out of the house. There was a forest not very far away. And in the forest he met seven sages. He bowed before them and said, “I am Dhruva, the son of Uttanapada and Suniti. I am unhappy and so I have come before you.”

The sages were surprised. “Prince,” they said, “You are only four or five years old. You have nothing to be unhappy about, you have nothing to worry about. Your father is a king and he is still alive. Nor do you seem to be ill. Why then are you unhappy?”

Dhruva told them the reason for his unhappiness. He said that he desired neither wealth nor kingdoms. He simply wanted to go to a place where no one had ever been before. The sages advised him to pray to Vishnu. They also taught him the mantra that was to be used for praying to Vishnu.

Dhruva made his way to the banks of the river Yamuna. This was the region that was known as Madhuvana, because the daitya (demon) Madhu had ruled over it. Rama’s brother Shatrughna had defeated Madhu’s son Lavana and built the city of Mathura here. Here it was that Dhruva prayed. He prayed so hard that even the gods were disturbed. They did their best to break this tapasya of Dhruva’s. The rakshasas appeared to attack him with many weapons. Jackals howled around him. Ghosts threatened him. But Dhruva was undisturbed. He thought only of Vishnu. And saw nothing but Vishnu.

The gods were worried because they thought that Dhruva was praying so that he might obtain the power to defeat them. Perhaps he wanted to become Indra, or the sun, or Kubera, Varuna or Soma. They went to Vishnu and asked him to stop Dhruva’s tapasya. Vishnu reassured the gods. He knew that these were not the things that Dhruva wanted.

Vishnu appeared before Dhruva and offered him a boon. The boy opened his eyes and saw Vishnu standing before him. He wanted the boon that he should always feel like praying to Vishnu. In fact, he did not really want a boon at all. He had seen Vishnu with his own eyes and there was nothing more that he desired. Vishnu was however so pleased that he presisted in granting Dhruva some boon. Dhruva then wanted the boon that he might attain a place that was on top the entire world.

Vishnu told him that he would grant what Dhruva desired. He also told Dhruva that in an earlier life Dhruva had been a brahmana who was devoted to Vishnu. But the brahmana’s friend had been a wealthy and beautiful prince. Having got a boon from Vishnu, the brahmana had desired that in his next life he might be born a prince. That was the reason why he had been born as Dhruva, the son of King Uttanapada.

But since Dhruva no longer wanted kingdoms or wealth, Vishnu would place him in the middle of the sky so that all the stars would revolve around him. His mother Suniti would also be placed in the sky near him.

Have you seen Dhruva in the sky? Of course you have. Near the seven sages who form the constellation of the Great Bear. Dhruva is nothing but the Pole Star.

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