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Nahusha (Sanskrit: नहुष) was a well-known king of the Aila dynasty. He was the son of Ayu, the eldest son of Pururavas and Prabha, the daughter of Svarbhanu. Nahusha reigned from Pratishthana. He married Viraja, the daughter of the Pitrs. They had six or seven sons, according to different Puranas. His eldest son Yati became a muni (ascetic). He was succeeded by his second son Yayati. In another variation of his story, he is said to have married Ashokasundari, a regional goddess who is said to be daughter of Shiva and Parvati and is said to have given birth to Yayati and a hundred daughters of Nahusha.
This king is mentioned by Manu as having come into conflict with the Brahmins, and his story is repeated several times with variations in different parts of the Mahabharata as well as in the Puranas. According to Manu "By sacrifices, austere fervour, sacred study, self-restraint, and valour, Nahusha acquired the undisturbed sovereignty of the three worlds. Through want of virtuous humility the great king Nahusha was utterly ruined".
One version of the narrative says that he aspired to the possession of Indrani, wife of Indra, when that god had concealed himself for having killed a Brahmin, Vritra. A thousand great Rishis bore the palanquin of Nahusha, and on one occasion he touched with his foot the great Agastya, who was carrying him. The sage in his anger cried out, "Fall, thou serpent," and Nahusha fell from his glorious car and became a serpent.
Agastya, at the supplication of Nahusha, put a limit to the curse; and according to one version, the doomed man was released from it by the instrumentality of Yudhishthira, when he threw off "his huge reptile form, became clothed in a celestial body, and ascended to heaven."
Sister Nivedita also has mentioned about the king Nahusa in one story "The Worth of Kine" in relation to the great sage Bharadwaja who was accidentally caught in a net along with fish by fishermen who were fishing in a river. The fishermen took the rishi Chyavana to king Nahusha and asked him to pay the price for the fish and the rishi, with the king offering a cow in return for the sage.
King Aayu's wife's name was Indumathi. Both were very happy to have a son. But the same night a maid lifted the sleeping child and took him in the sky. in fact she was not a maid, she was the Asura Hund. Hund brought him to his palace and handed over to his wife to cook a delicious dish for him. The cook could not kill the child and she gave him to a man who took him away and left him on the doorstep of Sage Vasishta. It was morning and Sage Vasishta was going for his morning chores that he saw a newborn child on his doorstep, he picked him in his arms and named him Nahusha. On the other side Aayu and his wife were crying for their child, that Narada arrived and consoled them that their child was safe.
Nahusha became an Indra
According to one version, he became Indra (king of devas :residing in Indralokam) at one time. He lusted after the current Indrani, Shachi(queen of the devas who was the previous Indra's wife). He sent a message to Indrani that since he had become now Indra he was coming to her palace. Indrani got worried but couldn't do anything. So she went to the Guru of the Devas, Brihaspathi and told him her problem.
Nahusha wanted to do one of the great thing which wasn't done by Indra yet. He inquired the same with Shachi. She said, there is one celebration called Shibikarohan where in saptarshi's (seven great maharshis) carry Indra, with his samadhi state, in palanquin. There was a condition that while he was in the palanquin (during shibikarohan) he should get awakened out of samadhi state. And this celebration happens to be of seven days. So, Nahusha decide to do Shibikarohan. Maharshi's blessed him to that for all seven days.
If this shibikarohan happens successfully for all seven days then whole world (all three lokas) would have attained happiness without having any sorrows. But the world was created by Brahma with intention of not to attain that satwik state (total truth and Niyat - honest). So, devi Niyati comes to Nahusha and ask him to do only for three days. But king Nahusha do not agree for that. Niyati devi ask him to at least not to do it for seven days and get awaken in mid of shibikarohan on seventh day. So, on seventh day of shibikarohan, king Nahusha woke up from his samadhi state. Due to that he gets the curse from the sage.
The enraged Agastya retaliated by a curse "sarpo bhava"(become a snake). The King Nahusha turned into a snake fell down to Earth. Sage Narada intervened on his behalf and Agastya relented and said that Yudhishthira would be instrumental in Nahusha's release from the curse.
Teachings of King Yudhisthir to Nahusha
Nahusha as Python - asks questions about Dharma to King Yudhisthir (from Mahabharata):
Once, in a forest a python captures Bhima in his coil, and when Yudhisthir comes to his aid, Nahusha as Python asks questions about Dharma and the real duty of a living entity to King Yudhisthir. After Yudhisthir answers all his questions, Nahusha is relieved from his curse. Here is some brief description of the real Dharma of living beings told by King Yudhisthir:
The soul is eternal and is taking birth and experiencing death in varieties of bodies given by material nature. Thus the living being (soul) sometimes identifies himself as man, as woman, as dog, as cat, etc. Thus identifying himself with his body, which is nothing but a combination of earth, water, fire and air---the living entity tries to maintain his body and protect it and also occupied by the thoughts of maintaining his family—and thus experiences repeated birth and death. When one recognizes that he is not a product of matter but a spiritual being, and a part and parcel of God [Lord Narayana or Lord Krishna - the Supreme Soul] and that his real duty is to serve the supreme soul—that is the perfection and the real Dharma. In the current material conception of life, we serve our own senses or senses of family members...and these bodies are finally going to be destroyed by TIME factor—which is swiftly moving without being noticed by anyone. EVERYONE notices loss of money, loss of property, BUT no one notices passage of TIME and that TIME [another factor of God] ultimately destroys the bodies. So, the real duty of human beings is to understand this and become or identify himself/herself as servant of God [Lord Krishna] and make their life successful before death approaches.
- Pargiter, F.E. (1972). Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.85-6.
- George M. Williams (27 March 2008). Handbook of Hindu Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 217–8, 230. ISBN 978-0-19-533261-2.
- Gaṅgā Rām Garg (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World Vol. 3. Concept Publishing Company. p. 712. ISBN 978-81-7022-376-4.
- Margaret Elizabeth Noble, Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, Sister Nivedita. Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists. pp. 371–372. ISBN 978-0-48-621759-8.
- John Dowson. Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists. pp. 213–214. ISBN 978-8-81-206178-65 Check