Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Satyatapas 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 Satyatapas

(utathya) A brahmin boy who was changed into a cobra by the curse of a saint called Godila. The original name of this youth was Utathya. Later he came to be known as Satyatapas. The story of this Śatyatapas is given in Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 3, as follows:—

In days of old, there was a Brahmin named Devadatta in Kosala. His wife was called Rohiṇī. Though much time elapsed no child was born to them. At last Devadatta performed the sacrifice called Putrakāmeṣṭi, on the banks of the river Tamasā. Several saintly persons took part in the sacrifice. Suhotra was detailed as Brahmā, Yājñavalkya as officiating priest, Bṛhaspati as sacrificer, Paila to recite Vedas and Godila to sing Sāman hymns. The singing of Godila, an expert singer, caused horripilation to everybody in the sacrificial hall. But in the middle of singing he had to take breath, and there occurred a solecism in his voice. Devadatta did not like it. He warned Godila, who instantly became angry and said to Devadatta. "Since you called me Cobra, the son born to you will become a cobra."

Devadatta became miserable and begged Godila by holding his feet to pardon him. He gave liberation from the curse that his son would be a cobra and said that he would become a sage.

The wife of Devadatta became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He was named Utathya. In the eighth year, the ceremony of investiture with the Brahmā string was performed and the boy commenced education. The teacher began to teach the Vedas. From that day onwards the boy became self-conceited. All the attempts made by the teacher to change his behaviour were futile. His father tried the four expedients in vain. Thus twelve years elapsed. The boy did not even learn the evening prayer. Everybody thought that he was a cobra. All scoffed at him. His own people disliked him; with this; self-renunciation took root in his boyish mind and he left his home and went away. He reached the banks of the Ganges and made a hut there and lived there observing rigorous celibacy, and vow of truth. Thus the boy-hermit began severe penance.

He had learned no rites or rituals according to the Vedas. He would rise early in the morning, and after cleaning the teeth he would take a dip in the Gangetic waters, without any spells or actions and return to the hut. He would eat anything that came by. He would cause no harm to anybody, though he had no power to do good to anybody. Everybody in the neighbourhood began to realize that he was a boy who would on no account utter falsehood. So all began to call him Satyatapas. Satyatapas had no peace of mind. Life seemed to be a burden to him. He became thoughtful day and night. Thus he spent fourteen years there. People firmly believed in his truthfulness. So they named him Satyavrata. Once a forester came near his hut. He sent an arrow at a hog, which ran into the hermitage with the arrow sticking on its body. Blood was oozing from its wound. The jungle-dweller also came into the hut followlng the hog. Seeing Satyavrata the man asked "Where is the hog that I had shot?" Satyavrata who knew that killing animals was a sin, kept silence to save the beast. Devī was pleased at the moral courage and truthfulness of Satyavrata. It is said that the moment the hog got into the hermitage, the Sārasvata syllable 'Ai' arose from the tongue of Satyavrata. The moment he had pronounced the rootsound of Sarasvatī, 'Ai', by the grace of Devī, he became a poet like Vālmīki. Looking at the forester Satyavrata said:

"yāḥ paśyati na sa brūte yo brūte sa na paśyati / aho! vyādha, svakāryārthin kam pṛcchasi punaḥ punaḥ //"

"He who sees does not speak. He who speaks, does not see. Selfish hunter, whom do you ask again and again?" When the forester heard these words of Satyavrata, the bow and arrow fell from his hands. With self-renunciation he went away from the hermitage. The fame of the great poet Satyavrata spread everywhere. His father also heard about this from others. He came to the bank of the Ganges and took his son home. Even today Brahmins sing about the fame of that hermit on the New moon days.

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