The Vishnu Purana

by Horace Hayman Wilson | 1840 | 287,946 words | ISBN-10: 8171102127

The English translation of the Vishnu Purana. This is a primary sacred text of the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism. It is one of the eighteen greater Puranas, a branch of sacred Vedic literature which was first committed to writing during the first millennium of the common era. Like most of the other Puranas, this is a complete narrative from the cr...

Chapter X - An account of Nahusha and Yayati

The sons of Nahuṣa. The sons of Yayāti: he is cursed by Śukra: wishes his sons to exchange their vigour for his infirmities. Puru alone consents. Yayāti restores him his youth: divides the earth amongst his sons, under the supremacy of Puru.

YATI, Yayāti, Sanyāti, Āyāti, Viyati, and Kriti were the six valiant sons of Nahuṣa[1]. Yati declined the sovereignty[2], and Yayāti therefore succeeded to the throne. He had two wives, Devayānī the daughter of Usanas, and Śarmiṣṭhā the daughter of Vṛṣaparvan; of whom this genealogical verse is recited: “Devayānī bore two sons, Yadu and Turvasu. Sarmiṣṭhā, the daughter of Vṛṣaparvan, had three sons, Druhyu, Anu, and Puru[3].” Through the curse of Uśanas, Yayāti became old and infirm before his time; but having appeased his father-in-law, he obtained permission to transfer his decrepitude to any one who would consent to take it. He first applied to his eldest son Yadu, and said, “Your maternal grandfather has brought this premature decay upon me: by his permission, however, I may transfer it to you for a thousand years. I am not yet satiate, with worldly enjoyments, and wish to partake of them through the means of your youth. Do not refuse compliance with my request.” Yadu, however, was not willing to take upon him his father's decay; on which his father denounced an imprecation upon him, and said, “Your posterity shall not possess dominion.” He then applied successively to Druhyu, Turvasu, and Anu, and demanded of them their juvenile vigour. They all refused, and were in consequence cursed by the king. Lastly he made the same request of Sarmiṣṭhā's youngest son, Puru, who bowed to his father, and readily consented to give him his youth, and receive in exchange Yayāti's infirmities, saying that his father had conferred upon him a great favour.

The king Yayāti being thus endowed with renovated youth, conducted the affairs of state for the good of his people, enjoying such pleasures as were suited to his age and strength, and were not incompatible with virtue. He formed a connexion with the celestial nymph Viśvācī, and was wholly attached to her, and conceived no end to his desires. The more they were gratified, the more ardent they became; as it is said in this verse, “Desire is not appeased by enjoyment: fire fed with sacrificial oil becomes but the more intense. No one has ever more than enough of rice, or barley, or gold, or cattle, or women: abandon therefore inordinate desire. When a mind finds neither good nor ill in all objects, but looks on all with an equal eye, then every thing yields it pleasure. The wise man is filled with happiness, who escapes from desire, which the feeble minded can with difficulty relinquish, and which grows not old with the aged. The hair becomes grey, the teeth fall out, as man advances in years; but the love of wealth, the love of life, are not impaired by age.” “A thousand years have passed,” reflected Yayāti, “and my mind is still devoted to pleasure: every day my desires are awakened by new objects. I will therefore now renounce all sensual enjoyment, and fix my mind upon spiritual truth. Unaffected by the alternatives of pleasure and pain, and having nothing I may call my own, I will henceforth roam the forests with the deer.”

Having made this determination, Yayāti restored his youth to Puru, resumed his own decrepitude, installed his youngest son in the sovereignty, and departed to the wood of penance (Tapovana[4]). To Turvasu he consigned the south-east districts of his kingdom; the west to Druhyu; the south to Yadu; and the north to Anu; to govern as viceroys under their younger brother Puru, whom he appointed supreme monarch of the earth[5].

Footnotes and references:


The Bhāgavata refers briefly to the story of Nahuṣa, which is told in the Mahābhārata more than once, in the Vana Parva, Udyoga P., Dāna Dharma P., and others; also in the Pādma and other Purāṇas. He had obtained the rank of Indra; but in his pride, or at the suggestion of Śacī, compelling the Ṛṣis to bear his litter, he was cursed by them to fall from his state, and reappear upon earth as a serpent. From this form he was set free by philosophical discussions with Yudhiṣṭhira, and received final liberation. Much speculation, wholly unfounded, has been started by Wilford's conjecture that the name of this prince, with Deva, ‘divine,’ prefixed, a combination which never occurs, was the same as Dionysius or Bacchus. Authorities generally agree as to the names of the first three of his sons: in those of the others there is much variety, and the Matsya, Agni, and Padma have seven names, as follows omitting the three first of the text:


Or, as his name implies, he became a devotee, a Yati: Bhāgavata, &c.


The story is told in great detail in the Adi Parvan of the Mahābhārata, also in the Bhāgavata, with some additions evidently of a recent taste. Śarmiṣṭhā, the daughter of Vṛṣaparvan, king of the Daityas, having quarrelled with Devayānī, the daughter of Śūkra (the religious preceptor of the same race), had her thrown into a well. Yayāti, hunting in the forest, found her, and taking her to her father, with his consent espoused her. Devayānī, in resentment of Śarmiṣṭhā's treatment, demanded that she should become her handmaid; and Vṛṣaparvan, afraid of Śukra's displeasure, was compelled to comply. In the service of his queen, however, Yayāti beheld Śarmiṣṭhā, and secretly wedded her. Devayānī complaining to her father of Yayāti's infidelity, Śukra inflicted on him premature decay, with permission to transfer it to any one willing to give him youth and strength in exchange, as is related in the text. The passage specifying the sons of Yayāti is precisely the same in the Mahābhārata p. 414 as in our text, and is introduced in the same way.


Bhrigutuṅga, according to the Brāhma.


The elder brothers were made Maṇḍala-nripas, kings of circles or districts: Bhāgavata. The situation of their governments is not exactly agreed upon.

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