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...

Soudasa

In Bhagiratha’s line there was a king called Soudasa or Mitrasaha. One day the king went out hunting in the forest and saw two tigers there. He killed one of these with his arrow and before dying, it adopted the form of a fierce rakshasa. The other tiger said, “I will have my revenge” and disappeared.

Some days later, King Soudasa began a yajna. The priest for this yajna was the sage Vashistha. Vashishtha finished his rituals and left. But the rakshasa adopted Vashishtha’s form and sat down in Vashishtha’s place. “At the end of the ceremony get me some rice and meat to eat,” he said. “I am returning in a short while.” Having said this, the rakshasa went away. But it adopted the form of a cook and cooked some human meat. Unknowingly, King Soudasa placed this meat in a golden vessel and waited for Vashishtha’s return.

When Vashishtha sat down to eat, he was served this meat. In a trice he realized that this was human meat, and he cursed that Soudasa would become a rakshasa. But through his mental powers Vashishtha also learnt that much of the trouble had been caused not by Soudasa, but by the rakshasa. So he reduced the duration of the curse such tha tSoudasa would have to be a rakshasa only for twelve years.

But Soudasa still thought that he had been unfairly cursed. So he took some water in his hand and prepared to curse Vashishtha. At this, Soudasa’s wife Madayanti said, “What are you doing? Don’t curse Vashishtha. He is our guru.”

Soudasa refrained from uttering the curse. But what was to be done with the water that he had taken in his hand? Since it was water meant for a curse , if it were to be thrown onto the ground or up into the sky, the grain and the clouds would be destroyed. So Soudasa poured the water onto his own feet and his feet became diseased and black. He came to be known as kalmashapada.

As a rakshasa, Kalmashapada lived in the forest and ate people. In the forest he once met a brahmana and his wife. He proceeded to eat the brahmana, although his wife begged him for mercy. At this, the brahmana’s wife cursed him that he would die as soon as he met his own wife.

After twelve years the king was freed of Vashishtha’s curse. But he refrained from going near his wife because of the other curse.

In this line was born Rama, who destroyed Ravana. Rama’s brothers were Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. Bharata destroyed three crores of gandharvas. Shatrughna defeated a rakshasa named Lavana and built the city of Mathura. Rama’s sons were Kusha and Lava, Lakshmana’s son were Taksha and Pushkara and Shatrughna’s sons were Suvahu and Sharasena.

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