Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Brahmadatta 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 Brahmadatta

A famous king of Kāṃpilyapura.


Brahmadatta was born in the family of Bṛhatkṣatra who was a scion of the Solar dynasty. Bṛhatkṣatra begot Suhotra, Suhotra begot Hasti, Hasti begot Ajamīdha, Ajamīdha begot Bṛhadiṣu, Bṛhadiṣu begot Bṛhaddhanus, Bṛhaddhanus begot Bṛhaddharmā, Bṛhaddharmā begot Satyajit, Satyajit begot Viśvajit, Viśvajit begot Senājit and Senājit begot Rucira, Rucira begot Pṛthusena, Pṛthusena begot Nīpa, Nīpa begot Para, Para begot Pṛthu, Pṛthu begot Sukṛta, Sukṛta begot Vibhrāja, Vibhrāja begot Aṇuha, and Aṇuha married Kṛtvī, the daughter of hermit Śukra. Brahmadatta was born to Aṇuha by Kṛtvī.

Previous birth and kingship.

In Padmapurāṇa, Part III, Chapter 10, there is a story stating how the seven sons of Kauśika, a hermit, became fishermen by a curse and how they got absolution and attainment of heaven by offering oblations to the manes. The story is given below. Brahmadatta was the rebirth of Pitṛvartti, one of those seven sons.

In days of old there was a hermit named Kauśika in Kurukṣetra. His seven sons, Śvarūpa, Krodhana, Hiṃsra, Piśuna, Kavi, Vāgduṣṭa and Pitṛvartti were studying under Garga, a teacher. Their deeds were as bad as their names indicated. Their father died. The sons were in want. There was no rain anywhere in the world. These brothers had taken the milking cow of their teacher Garga to the forest for grazing. They decided to kill the cow of their teacher. The youngest of them said, "If we kill the cow we can use it as offerings to the manes, and the sin will not be visited on us." The elder brothers agreed to it. Accordingly Pitṛvartti killed the cow and began sacrifice to the manes. Two of the elder brothers were detailed to give oblations to the devas, and three of them to offer oblations to the manes. One was detailed to be the guest and himself as the sacrificer. Thus remembering the manes the sacrifice was completed with the necessary rituals. In short, those seven hermits got divine power and became daring wicked men and ate the cow of their teacher. They told the teacher that the cow was eaten by a leopard and gave him the calf.

In course of time they all died and were born again as wild men in Daśapura. But because of their offerings to the manes they had retained memory of their previous births. So they fasted in holy baths and discarded their lives before the people. They were born again as deer in the mount of Kālañjara. Because of the power of knowledge and the penance and fast they discarded the body of deer in Prapatana and got rebirth as Cakravāka (ruddy goose) in the lake called Mānasasaras. In this birth their names were Sumanas, Kusuma, Vasu, Citradarśi, Sudarśi, Jñāta and Jñānapāraga, names suitable to their character. Those seven loving brothers were saints by virtue of their harmony with the Supreme spirit. But owing to mental disturbance three of them lost their attainments. Seeing the pleasures that King Aṇuha of Pāñcāla was enjoying by his wealth, vehicles, big army and beautiful women one of the Cakravākas, Pitṛvartti, the devoted Brāhmaṇa, who being loyal to his father had performed sacrifice and given offerings to the manes, desired to become a king. The other two brothers seeing the wealth, glory and power of the two ministers, wished to become ministers. Thus Pitṛvartti was born as the son of Aṇuha with the name Brahmadatta and the other two were born as Puṇḍarīka and Subālaka, sons of the two ministers. Brahmadatta was anointed as King of Pāñcāla in the great city of Kāṃpilya. The King loved his father. He was mighty and powerful. He was regular in performing sacrifices and giving offerings to the manes. He had the attainment of harmony with the supreme spirit. He understood the thought and speech of birds and animals. He married Sannati, the daughter of Sudeva (Devala); she was in her former birth the cow of Garga.

Once as the King was walking in the garden with his wife, he saw two ants. The minute creatures, who were husband and wife were engaged in a petty quarrel. The male one, with loving words, pacified the female one, who instantly came close to her husband and they became happy. The King felt amazed at this conversation of the ants, and he laughed. Because of the attainments of his previous lives, he had the power to understand the language of animals, birds, etc. Seeing the King laughing without any reason the queen Sannati asked him why he laughed. She said that there was no reason whatsoever for the king to laugh just then. The King replied, "Oh, beautiful one! just now there was a quarrel between a female and a male ant. I heard it, That is why I laughed. There is no other reason." The queen did not believe the King. She thought that the King had been scoffing her. She asked him how he came to understand the language of such creatures. The King could not answer her question. He fasted for seven days. On the seventh day Brahmā appeared before him and told him, "The King will know everything from the words of a Brāhmin, whom he would meet when he goes to walk in the streets."

Brahmadatta returned to the palace and spent the night there. Next morning he started with his wife and ministers, for a walk. When they left the palace they saw an old Brahmin coming towards them. Seeing the king the Brāhmin recited a verse:

"brāhmaṇas in kurukṣetra which seven as wild men in daśapura? stags in kālañjara, ruddy geese in mānasa, then, are we, now living here."

When the King heard this verse the memory of his former births revived and he fell down in a swoon.

There is a reason why the old Brāhmin recited the verse. The Ruddy geese mentioned before took their next birth as sons of a poor Brāhmin in the same city. They had the memory of their previous births. They were called Dhṛtimān, Sarvadarśi, Vidyācandra and Tapodhika, names suitable to their character. The Brahmin boys decided to go for penance to attain supreme bliss. Then the poor father asked them, "My dear sons, what is this? You are going away leaving your poor and aged father. Is that dutiful? The sons replied, "We will tell you a way to earn wealth. You recite to the King, to-morrow morning this verse, which we will teach you now. You will get plenty of wealth." The boys taught their father this verse and then they went to the forest. Their father, the old Brahmin, came to the gate of the palace at Kāṃpilya. The King was Brahmadatta.

There is another story how Brahmadatta became the King of this place. Long ago Aṇuha, the King of Pāñcāla did penance before Brahmā, who appeared before the King and asked him what he desired. The King made his request that he might have a son who should be a mighty hero, a learned man, a great hermit and who could understand the language of all living creatures. Brahmā granted him boon and thus Brahmadatta was born to Aṇuha. It was before this Brahmadatta that the Brāhmaṇa recited his verse and it was that King who swooned and fell down.

The two ministers were Subālaka the son of Bābhravya who was the author of the Kāmaśāstra and Puṇḍarīka the son of Pāñcāla who propagated the science of medicine. They also remembered about their former births and also fell down unconscious. When they recovered the King Brahmadatta and the minister Subala and Puṇḍarīka bemoaned the loss of powers they had attained before by devotion, meditation, penance and sacrifice. They cried, "Fate has made us desirous of the objects of our senses and we have lost our harmony with the Supreme Spirit." They repeated the cry again and again and they spoke about the blessings obtained by offering oblation to their manes. Brahmadatta gave the old Brāhmaṇa plenty of wealth and several villages and sent him fully satisfied. Then he anointed his capable and fully qualified son Viṣvaksena as King and with his retinue retired to Mānasa-saras for penance.

A bird as his wife when he was King.

When Brahmadatta was the King of Kāṃpilyapura a bird named Tapanīyā become his friend. Her head was purple coloured and body black. By and by this bird became his wife. A daughter named Sarvasenā was born to Brahmadatta by his bird-wife. The King had sons by other wives. Tapanīyā would wash her child and place her in the cradle early in the morning and then go to the forest and fly about in the air. She would return in the evening and tell the King news all over the world. It went on like this for a long time.

Once, when there was nobody in the room a prince took Sarvasenā from the cage and choked her to death. Tapanīyā returned and seeing the dead body of her daughter, waited for a long time. Finally she pecked out the eyes of the prince and flew away into the air. (Harivaṃśa, Chapter 20).

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