Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Kartaviryarjuna 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 Kārtavīryārjuna

(KĀRTAVĪRYA). A renowned King of the Hehaya dynasty.


From Mahāviṣṇu were descended in the following order: BrahmāAtriCandraBudhaPurūravasĀyusYayātiYaduSahasrajitŚatajitEkavīra—(Hehaya)—Dharma—Kaṇi—BhadrasenaDhanakaKṛtavīryaKārtavīryārjuna.

Hehaya Dynasty and Bhārgava Dynasty.

The Hehayas were Kṣatriyas and the Bhārgavas were Brāhmaṇas. The Bhārgava sages were the family preceptors of the Hehaya Kings. The Hehayas who were generous and charitable, used to give plenty of wealth to the Bhārgavas. Consequently in course of time, the Bhārgavas grew wealthy while the Hehayas gradually declined. In order to tide over their difficulty, the Hehayas decided to borrow some money from the Bhārgavas. But the Bhārgavas refused to oblige, on the plea that they had no money. The enraged Kṣatriyas (Hehayas) began to persecute the Bhṛgus (Bhārgavas). The Bhṛgus left for the Himālayas after burying all their treasures under the floor of their Āśramas. The Kṣatriyas pursued them and hunted them even there. At last a Brāhmaṇī who belonged to the Bhārgava race, gave birth to a sage named Aurva through her thigh. With his birth the Hehayas began to lead a less aggressive life. After the lapse of many years, the mighty Kārtavīryārjuna was born in the Hehaya dynasty and the mighty sage Jamadagni was born in the Bhṛgu dynasty. Both of them nourished their hereditary feud. With his capital in the city of Māhiṣmatī on the banks of the river Narmadā, Kārtavīryārjuna began his reign. (See under Aurva I).

Thousand Hands of Kārtavīryārjuna.

Once when Kārtavīryārjuna was living in his capital Māhiṣmatī, the sage Nārada happened to come there. The King greeted him with due reverence and asked him what course of action was to be followed for attaining mokṣa (salvation) and at the same time for enjoying worldly pleasures. Nārada replied that by performing the rite known as "Bhadradīpa Pratiṣṭhā", both these objects could be achieved. Accordingly, Kārtavīrya went to the banks of the river Narmadā with his wife and began the observance of Bhadradīpa Pratiṣṭhā. Kārtavīrya’s guru was Dattātreya, the son of Atri. At the conclusion of the Yāga rites, Dattātreya who was pleased, asked Kārtavīryārjuna what boons he wished to have. Kārtavīrya with joined palms asked him many boons one of which was that he should have a thousand arms. Dattātreya granted him the boons, and Kārtavīrya who became proud of his new possession, ruled at Māhiṣmatī for 86, 000 years. (Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Chapter 44).

Vāyu’s Warning.

Kārtavīryārjuna who returned triumphant after receiving the boon from Dattātreya heard a mysterious voice warning him in the following words:—"You fool! Don't you know that a Brāhmaṇa is superior to a Kṣatriya? A Kṣatriya governs his subjects in alliance with the Brāhmaṇa". On hearing this, Kārtavīrya became angry. He understood that Vāyu, the divine messenger was behind the mysterious voice. He despised Vāyu and argued that a Kṣatriya was superior to a Brāhmaṇa. Vāyu gave him a warning that a Brāhmaṇa would curse Kārtavīrya. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 152).

Kārtavīrya cursed by the sage.

Once Agni (fire-god) approached Kārtavīrya and begged for food. The King allowed him to feed upon mountains and trees from any part of his Kingdom. So Agni began to devour the woods and hills. This led to the burning down of an Āśrama owned by a sage called Āpava. The enraged Sage came to know that Kārtavīryārjuna was responsible for the havoc and pronounced a curse that Paraśurāma would chop off all the thousand hands of Kārtavīryārjuna.

Kārtavīryārjuna and Rāvaṇa.

In the course of his triumphal march, after conquering the whole world, Rāvaṇa once arrived with his forces on the bank of the river Narmadā. Enjoying the smooth flow of the crystal clear stream of the Narmadā and the pleasant sand banks in the river-bed, he spent a night there with his followers. Early next morning he took his bath in the river and setting up the idol of Śiva on the sand bank, began to worship it.

Just then Kārtavīryārjuna and his wives came to the place and began their water sports, a few yards down the river from the place where Rāvaṇa was sitting. As part of his amusements, Kārtavīrya stopped the flow of the river by making a dam with his thousand arms. This caused the level of the water to rise and Rāvaṇa with his materials of worship was submerged in the flood. Enraged at this disturbance to his worship, he sent two of his men down the river bank to find out what was happening. They traced the source of the trouble to Kārtavīryārjuna and his water-sports and reported the matter to their master. At once Rāvaṇa armed himself with his bow rushed to Kārtavīryārjuna and began a fierce fight. At last Rāvaṇa fell down under the heavy stroke of Kārtavīrya’s mace and was bound in chains and imprisoned. He lay there for one year. Rāvaṇa’s father sage Pulastya came to know of this and he went to Kārtavīrya’s palace. He was received with due respect and at his request, Kārtavīrya released Rāvaṇa and after that they remained friends for life. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

Kārtavīrya and Reṇukā’s Death.

One day when Paraśurāma was fourteen years old, his father sage Jamadagni went to the forest to fetch some Samits (sacrificial twigs). Jamadagni’s wife, Reṇukā swept and cleaned the Āśrama and went to the river Revā to fetch water and Paraśurāma was left behind in the Āśrama. When she reached the river bank, she saw Kārtavīryārjuna indulging in amorous pleasures with his wives in the water. She waited unobserved on the bank for some time and after they had left the place, she stepped into the river. But since the water was muddy, she had to go to another place in the river to get clear water. There also she lingered for a few minutes, looking at the amorous amusements of Citraratha, King of Sālva, with his wives. It was only after they had departed that she was able to return to the Āśrama with water. Meanwhile Jamadagni who had returned to the Āśrama earlier was angry at her delay and was waiting impatiently for her arrival. As soon as she reached the Āśrama, the sage, in a fit of fury, ordered Paraśurāma to cut off her head and the latter obeyed him. (Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Chapter 58).

The Triumphal March of Kārtavīrya.

All the Kings in the world acknowledged the supremacy of Kārtavīrya. In Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Chapter 16, we find that Kings of the Solar dynasty like Trayyāruṇa, Hariścandra, Rohitāśva and Cuñcu were defeated by Kārtavīryārjuna. In his golden chariot he went about defeating Devas, Yakṣas, Ṛṣis and others. He challenged even Viṣṇu. He insulted Indra in the company of Indrāṇī. (Mahābhārata Vana Parva, Chapter 115).

Intoxicated by his successes, Kārtavīrya went to the sea-shore and challenged the ocean and began to destroy the animals in the sea by shooting them with his arrows. God Varuṇa appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Kārtavīrya asked the god to name a man who had the capacity to fight with him. Varuṇa answered that Jamadagni’s son Paraśurāma was the person who satisfied that condition. Kārtavīrya accepted the challenge and went in search of Paraśurāma. (Mahābhārata Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 29).

Killing of Jamadagni.

Once Kārtavīrya went to hunt in the forest with his followers. They were roaming in the Vindhya forests in search of game. At noon after a refreshing bath in the clear waters of the river Narmadā when they were preparing to return, they saw Jamadagni’s Āśrama. After asking his men to wait at the river-bank, Kārtavīrya went alone to the Āśrama. He paid his respects to the sage and after their usual greetings, Jamadagni asked him to call his followers also to the Āśrama. When all of them arrived the sage gave them a sumptuous feast. Kārtavīrya wondered how the sage managed to do it. They spent the night there and when they returned home next morning Kārtavīrya’s minister Candragupta told him that he saw a cow in Jamadagni’s Āśrama and that it was from that divine cow that the sage was able to get all the rare articles of food which he supplied to the guests. He also offered to get the cow from the sage. So the King sent Candragupta to the Āśrama to beg the cow from the sage for him. Candragupta accordingly went with a few followers to the Āśrama and begged for the cow. At that time Paraśurāma was not in the Āśrama. Jamadagni told them that the cow was Kāmadhenu’s sister, Suśīlā and that it was not possible to give her. Candragupta tried to seize the cow by force but she suddenly vanished into the sky. The King’s men tried to capture her calf. Jamadagni who came forward to prevent them, was beaten to death by Candragupta. (Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Chapters 67 to 70).

Jamadagni’s Restoration to Life.

Paraśurāma returned soon to the Āśrama with the disciple Akṛtavraṇa. At the sight of his father lying dead on the floor, Paraśurāma cried aloud. Reṇukā beat her breast twentyone times. Seeing this, Paraśurāma took a solemn vow that he would go round the world twentyone times and extirpate the Kṣatriya Kings. The sage Śukra appeared there with Suśīlā who had vanished. After restoring Jamadagni to life Śukra went back.

Death of Kārtavīryārjuna.

Paraśu Rāma who had turned himself into the very embodiment of Revenge, accompanied by Akṛtavraṇa, took his stand at the gates of the city of Māhiṣmatī and challenged Kārtavīryārjuna to a fight. Kārtavīrya came out with a huge army. In the terrible fight that followed, Paraśurāma himself with his axe (paraśu) chopped off all the thousand arms of Kārtavīryārjuna. All his sons were killed. Kārtavīrya himself fell down beheaded. This was the end of the pillar of Hehaya dynasty. (Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Chapter 81).

Kārtavīrya’s sons.

Kārtavirya had one hundred sons. All of them were killed in the battle by Paraśurāma. Their names, as given in Chapter 76 of Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, are given below:—

Nirmada, Rocana, Śaṅku, Ugrada, Dundubhi, Dhruva, Supārśī, Śatrujit, Krauñca, Śānta, Nirdaya, Antaka, Ākṛti, Vimala, Dhīra, Nīroga, Bāhuti, Dama, Adhari, Vidhura, Saumya, Manasvī, Puṣkala, Buśa, Taruṇa, Ṛṣabha, Ṛkṣa, Satyaka, Subala, Balī, Ugreṣṭa, Ugrakarmā, Satyasena, Durāsada, Vīradhanvā, Dīrghabāhu, Akampana, Subāhu, Dīrghākṣa, Vartulākṣa, Cārudaṃṣṭra, Gotravān, Manojava, Ūrdhvabāhu, Krodha, Satyakīrti, Duṣpradharṣaṇa, Satyasandha, Mahāsena, Sulocana, Raktanetra, Vakradaṃṣṭra, Sudaṃṣṭra, Kṣatravarmā, Manonuga, Dhūmrakeśa, Piṅgalocana, Avyaṅga, Jaṭila, Veṇumān, Sānu, Pāśapāṇi, Anuddhata, Duranta, Kapila, Śambhu, Ananta, Viśvaga, Udāra, Kṛti, Kṣatrajit, Dharmī, Vyāghra, Ghoṣa, Adbhuta, Purañjaya, Cāraṇa. Vāgmī, Vīra, Rathī, Govihvala, Saṅgrāmajit, Suparvā, Nārada, Satyaketu, Śatānīka, Dṛḍhāyudha, Citradhanvā, Jayatsena, Virūpākṣa, Bhīmakarmā, Śatrutāpana, Citrasena, Durādharṣa Viḍūratha, Śūra, Śūrasena, Dhiṣaṇa, Madhu, and Jayadhvaja.

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