Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Arayannam included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Arayannam

The swan (Haṃsa).


A bird (Haṃsa) in Devaloka. The prefix 'ara' denotes royalty, sublimity, greatness etc. Many purāṇas describe Arayannam as a bird of the Devas. Mānasasaras at the heights of the Himālayas is the permanent abode of these divine birds. They do not like the rainy season. So they come down to the earth when rain begins at the Mānasasaras, and go back to the Saras, when rain begins on the earth. This phenomenon explains Ceruśśeri’s (Malayalam poet) statement in his Kṛṣṇagāthā that 'when rain set in haṃsas -Arayannams—began flying away'.


Kaśyapa, the son of Brahmā, married the eight daughters of Dakṣa, Tāmrā being one of them. Tāmrā bore five daughters Krauñcī, Bhāsī, Śyenī, Dhṛtarāṣṭrī and Śukī. Śyenī gave birth to the kite, Dhṛtarāṣṭrī, the Haṃsa and the Kokā and Śukī the Śukas (doves). Kokā or the Cakravākī bird is the sister of Haṃsa. This is how the Arayanna and the Cakravāka got Devatva (divinity). (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Araṇyakāṇḍa, Canto 14).

Bhīṣma and the Arayanna.

Śiśupāla, before his death, blabbered a lot of unbecoming things about Bhīṣma, who was partial to his (Śiśupāla's) enemies. And, he related the story of an Arayanna to elaborate the stand taken by the aged Bhīṣma. An aged Haṃsa (Arayanna) which once dwelt on the sea-coast preached to all the other birds much about ethical actions. The birds felt great respeet for the Arayanna. They flew across the sea in search of prey after entrusting their eggs to the Arayanna. The old Arayanna grew fat on those eggs. There was one intelligent bird among the lot, and when it looked for the eggs they were not to be found. That bird informed its colleagues about the treacherous conduct of the Arayanna. The birds organised themselves and attacked the Arayanna to death. Oh! Bhīṣma, the same will be your end also. (Mahābhārata, Sabhā Parva, Chapter 41, Verses 30-41).

Nala and Arayanna.

While Nala, the prince of the Niṣadha kingdom was resting in a garden he saw an Arayanna in a tank there. Out of curious pleasure Nala caught it, but seeing its mental tremor he let it free. Out of gratitude for this generous act, the Arayanna played the role of the messenger for Nala to get as his wife Damayantī, the very beautiful daughter of the King of Vidarbha.

How the Arayanna (Haṃsa) got the white colour.

Once king Marutta was conducting the Māheśvara Satra (a yāga) and Devas like Indra came down to receive their share of the Havis (oblations in the sacrificial fire). And, this was the time when Rāvaṇa with his attendants was on his triumphal tour. Hearing that the Devas were at the Āśrama of Marutta, Rāvaṇa also went there, and Indra and the other Devas, trembling with fear, assumed different disguises and hid themselves away. Indra assumed the guise of the peacock, Yama of the crow, Kubera of the chameleon and Varuṇa of the Arayanna. Thus beguiled Rāvaṇa went his own way. The Devas, who thus escaped blessed the family of those birds whose forms they assumed. Indra shaped the blue feathers of the peacock with mixed colours and eyes like his own. Moreover, he blessed them that they would never be affected with any disease, and that they would dance with their feathers spread when rain set in. Yamadharma blessed the crows that they would get the offerings made on earth by men to their departed ancestors. And Bhagavān Varuṇa told the Rāja-Haṃsas: "I escaped the clutches of Rāvaṇa by assuming your shape and form. Therefore, be thee, who are now black and white, in future as purely white as milk". Kubera blessed the Chameleon with capacity to change colour as and how it pleased, and also for its cheeks to appear golden in colour to the onlookers. After thus blessing the birds the Devas disappeared. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: