Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Durvasas 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 Durvāsas


A sage, who used to lose his temper very easily. He is believed to have been born from an aṃśa (part, aspect) of Śiva.


Three different stories are told in the Purāṇas relating to his birth.

(1) Once a quarrel, arose between Brahmā and Śiva which developed into fighting, At the sight of Śiva seething with rage the Devas ran off frightened, and Pārvatī also got frightened. She told him 'Durvāsam bhavati me'. (It has become impossible for me to live happily with you). Realising that it was his momentary anger which made life miserable for Pārvatī Śiva decided to transfer that trait of his character to someone else.

The incident took place during the life period of Śīlavatī, who was very much reputed for her chastity. While Śīlavatī was carrying her husband Ugraśravas (who though a leper yet desired to visit brothels) to the house of a prostitute the muni Aṇumāṇḍavya cursed Ugraśravas to die before sunrise the next day with his head broken. (See under Aṇumāṇḍavya). Śīlavatī made the counter curse, let not the sun rise the next day, to the muni’s curse. Accordingly the sun did not rise the next day, and confusion prevailed everywhere, whereupon the Trimūrtis and the Devas, through Anasūyā, the wife of Atrimaharṣi, got the curse of Śīlavatī withdrawn. Pleased at this the Trimūrtis asked Anasūyā to choose any boon she desired, and she prayed that Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara take their partial incarnations through her. Accordingly Brahmā as Candra and Mahāviṣṇu as Dattātreya were born as sons of Anasūyā. And, Śiva deposited his anger, which had caused unhappiness to Pārvatī, in Anasūyā. The child born out of that aspect of Śiva to Anasūyā was Durvāsas. The name Durvāsas was very apt as the child was born out of the anger of Śiva which had made life miserable (durvāsa) for Pārvatī. (Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Chapter 44).

(2) Once defeated in his fight with Brahmā Śiva took refuge with the Naranārāyaṇas who were doing penance in the plains of the Himālayas. Śiva told sage Nārāyaṇa everything about his plight and he asked the former to pierce his left hand with the Śūla. Śiva did so and three streams of blood flowed out of the wound made on the hand of the Ṛṣi, one stream towards the sphere of the stars, another into the skull in Śiva’s hand and from the third stream Durvāsas was born. Brahmā, who witnessed this miracle withdrew from war and returned to his abode. (Vāmana Purāṇa, Chapter 2).

(3) In the fierce fight with the Tripuras Śiva, in great rage, ultimately shot an arrow against them, and that arrow, after killing the Tripuras, assumed the form of a child and returned to the lap of Śiva, and the child was named Durvāsas. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 160, Verses 14, 15).

Kuntī granted boon.

Once while Kuntī was living in the palace of Kuntibhoja Durvāsas came there, and pleased with Kuntī, he granted her five mantras. It was with the aid of those mantras that Kunti became mother of Karṇa and others. (For details see under Kunti Para 2).

Śrī Kṛṣṇa bathed in pāyasa (pudding).

Once Durvāsas came to Dvārakā where Kṛṣṇa and Rukminī looked after him to his heart’s content. Though, at times he took only meagre food, at other times he destroyed everything he saw and created trouble. Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī served him according to schedule. One day the sage asked Kṛṣṇa to cook some pudding and it was got ready. Then the sage asked Kṛṣṇa to smear his (Kṛṣṇa) body with pudding. Kṛṣṇa did so except on his feet. After that Durvāsas got down the chariot and making Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇī serve as horses himself got into it and drove away in great speed into the forest. On the way he thrashed the 'horses' one ofter the other. Neither Kṛṣṇa nor Rukmiṇī felt sorry about this action of the sage. On reaching the forest he halted the chariot and blessed Śrī Kṛṣṇa that arrows would not hit the parts of Kṛṣṇa’s body which were smeared with the pāyasa. The spot at which the sage blessed Kṛṣṇa became famous as Varadānatīrtha in after years. It may be noted that Kṛṣṇa died by an arrow hitting his foot which was not smeared with the pāyasa. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 160).

Conducted yajña for Śvetaki.

There once was a King called Śvetaki equal to Indra. He conducted a yajña of a hundred years' duration. Innumerable brahmins were engaged in the successful conduct of the yajña. Some years after the yajña began the brahmins went their own way leaving it unfinished as the clouds of fume all the twentyfour hours in the yajñaśālā irked and affected their eyes. When Śvetaki requested them to further cooperate to complete the yajña they insultingly asked him to invite Śūdras for it. Then the King went to the Himālayas and did tapas for Śiva, who at last deputed Durvāsas to complete the yajña, and under the maharṣi’s aegis it was completed within twelve years. On account of the constant offerings of havis in Agni (fire) during the period Agni fell a prey to indigestion, which was cured only after it ate up the Khāṇḍava forest. (See Khāṇḍava dahana). (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 235).

Mudgala granted salvation.

Once Durvāsas went to sage Mudgala who was doing tapas in Kurukṣetra taking food only rarely and demanded some food with the object of testing his dharmavṛtti (righteousness). The sage gave Durvāsas all the food he had with him, himself starving, and Durvāsas left the āśrama after eating a part of the food and smearing his body with the rest of it. This process was repeated by Durvāsas for six days, but Mudgala never felt or showed any offence. Greatly pleased at the firm righteousness of the King. Durvāsas blessed him to bodily ascend to heaven. Immediately a vimāna (aeroplane) descended from Viṣṇuloka and carried Mudgala in it to heaven. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 260).

Other information.

(1) Durvāsas ran away in fear of the Pāṇḍavas. (See under Duryodhana, Para 12).

(2) He suffered at the hands of Haṃsa and Ḍibhaka. (See under Ḍibhaka).

(3) He advised Śaivapañcākṣara to the woman called Kalāvatī. (See under Kalāvatī).

(4) Durvāsas and Kṣīrābdhi-mathanam. (See under Amṛtam).

(5) Durvāsas and Dakṣayajña. (See under Dakṣa).

(6) Terrified Durvāsas ran helter-skelter in the three worlds. (See under Aṃbarīṣa, Para 3).

(7) He was responsible for the death of Lakṣmaṇa. (See Lakṣmaṇa).

(8) He cursed Śakuntalā. (See Śakuntalā).

(9) He spent his time in Indra’s assembly. (Mahābhārata Sabhā Parva, Chapter 11, Verse 23: For another story see under Pitṛtīrtha).

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