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Watercolour painting on paper of Indradyumna seated in a carriage.jpg
Watercolour painting on paper of Indradyumna seated in a carriage

Indradyumna (Sanskrit: इन्द्रद्युम्न, IAST: Indradyumna) was a Pandya king as mentioned in Bhagvata Purana. Another namesake, son of King Tejodeva and Queen Sunandini , was a Malava king, according to the Mahabharata and the Puranas. Noted Indologist John Dowson has opined that there have been several kings of this name and the most prominent one being the Indradyumna who ruled over Avanti region[1] and set up the icon of Lord Jagannath in Puri.


The name is derived from the Sanskrit noun root Indra with verb morpheme “dyumn” (Root ‘dyu’ - Meaning ‘resplendent’), with the meaning of “One with the splendour like that of Indra."

Indradyumna in the Mahabharata[edit]

Sage Mārkandeya narrated the greatness of Indradyumna to Yudhishthira and his brothers during their difficult days of Aranyavas. In ancient times there used to be a king by name Indradyumna, the son of Bharat the Great. It was well known that there was no one to match his “Dharma-swabhāv”. As a result of his good deeds and daya-dākshinya guna, he ascended to Heaven upon leaving the physical body. There he enjoyed its riches and opulence for a very long time. Once Indra called him to his sabha and told him, “O King, you have done immense number of punyas (virtuous deeds) in your life and, as a result, you were here for a very long time. However, unless one totally surrenders to Parameshwara (the Supreme Lord) and comes out of the cycle of Punya & Pāpa, one needs to be bound to his own Karma. The time on earth has passed so much that now no one remembers any of your good deeds and hence it is time for you to leave swargaloka”.

Indradyumna was surprised to hear that his huge punya rāshi (cluster of virtues) has melted away. Indra, however, promised to him, “If you show me even a single being who remembers your good deeds or is still enjoying the benefits of the good done by you, you will be allowed to continue enjoying the Swargaloka. After all, no man may be cast away from here as long as traces of his good deeds remain”.

Indradyumna recalled that the Sage Markandeya is a Chiranjivi, (one 'who lived forever'). So he went to him and asked him, “O great maharshi, do you remember my good deeds?” Mārkandeya, who was continuously doing Tirthayātrāas, Punyakarmas, and Upavās īeksāa for a very long time and was tired, replied, “I am sorry but I don’t remember who you are. In the great Himalayas, there lives an Ulūkam (owl) called Prāvārakarna who is much older than me. He might know you. I will take you there; if you put little more effort you can reach him”. Both Mārkandeya Maharshi and Raja Indradyumna went to Prāvārakarna.

Indradyumna asked Prāvārakarna, “I have been told that you have lived older than maharshi Mārkandeya. Do you remember any of my good deeds?" Prāvārakarna replied, “O great king, I do not remember you, you must have been way before my time. However I know about a lake at a distance of 2 Yojanas from here, which is coincidentally named Indradyumna Sarovar, where my friend a giant crane called Nādijanghā lives. He is older than me, he might know who you are”.

All three went to the lake and sadly Nādijanghā also did not know Indradyumna. He said, “It is quite possible that my old friend, the great king of turtles, Akūpāra, who has lived here since before my parents' time, might know something of Indradyumna”. Nādijangha called for Akūpāra.

Indradyumna talks to the tortoise Akūpāra to establish his own age. By Mughal artist Surjana from 1598-99 Razmnama.

On knowing that Indradyumna arrived, tears of joy ran down AĀkūpāra’s eyes and he trembled with deep emotion. He prostrated before the King and said, “O Mighty King Indradyumna, I am blessed to have obtained sight of you after so many years. You did thousands of Yajnyas, built thousands of Yūpa-stambhas and gave away millions of cow in charity as dānam. This very Sarovar was formed by the activity of the cow hooves (he gave away some many!) and that is why it bears your name.”

Immediately, a divya vimāna (celestial vehicle) came for Indradyumna and took him to urdhva loka (the higher worlds).

Morals in the story:

1. The importance, greatness of good qualities like dayā, dānam etc. are well portrayed in the story.

2.It is not rich people or powerful people that the world will remember. It is the people who help others that the world will remember. It is the only wealth that can be carried beyond life.

3.If one never leaves the path of Dharma, at some or the other time, God will save him, remove any small buddhi-doshas that are remaining, and give moksham. This is what happens to Indradyumna in his next janma(birth) as Gajendra.

A huge depression was created from the movements of the hooves of those cattle and the place was filled with water used by the King during the Yajnas, leading to creation of the pond, and that is why the pond bears the name Indradyumna Sarovar. Since the pond had the sacred sacrificial water and holy cow urine in it, it became a Tirtha place. Presently, the reported Indradyumna Sarovar[2] is located on the north-western direction of the sacred precincts of the Gundicha Temple, Puri, which is exactly 2.7 kilometers from the sacred Jagannath temple of Puri. Such an account of the Mahabharata directly links King Indradyumna to the construction of the Shri Jagannath temple at Puri.

Incidentally, Punyatma Ākūpāra's progeny can still be visited at Gahirmatha Beach not far from Puri, which is the world's greatest nesting habitat for olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). Large groups of turtles gather off shore at the mouths of the sacred Brahmani River during February and March each year to lay their eggs. Then, all at once, in a magnificent sight, vast numbers of turtles come ashore at the Gahirmatha Beach and lay clutches of eggs in what is known as an "arribada". Olive Ridley is on ESA Threatened Species List and needs world focus for protection. Although there is in place, a 4-mile zone of protection from the shore, the fishermen defy these legal restrictions and continue to kill them, setting up nets and using mechanical trawlers. Over 150,000 of these turtles have been killed in the last 10 years and nesting occurred only twice in the past five years. The other arribada rookeries are at Devi River mouth (Ashtaranga Beach) and Rushikulya River Mouth (Gokurkhuda Beach) have also recorded dwindling turtle nesting.

It is to be remembered that Lord Vishnu himself took the Kurma Avatar long ago in the distant eonic past. A famous Vaishnava temple-Sri Kurmam near Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border is at a distance of 367 km from Puri Temple and is close to Rushikulya Beach.

Indradyumna in Puranic literature[edit]

In the Bhagavata Purana, Canto 8, Indradyumna was a saintly king belonging to the lineage of Svayambuva Manu and ruled the Pandya country. Once Indradyumna was visited by the sage Agastya, his Guru. Indradyumna, who was performing pooja, neglected the arrival of his Guru. Indradyumna wanted to show off his riches: gold plates, gold lamps, and various riches he was using while performing the devotional services. A Guru knows the heart of his disciple. What's needed during a devotional service is humility and love to towards the Lord. Instead, Indradyuma was filled with Pride. Seeing Indradyumna going in a materialistic path that wouldn't lead him to The Lord, Sage Agastya, cursed him to be born as an Elephant: a creature that has pride as its natural tendency. Sage Agastya added that Indradyumna would be redeemed from the curse by Lord Vishnu's touch. Thus even a curse by a Guru is a blessing in disguise as it was really the shortest path for Indradyumna to attain the Lotus feet of the Lord.

In the next birth, King Indradyumna, lived as elephant Gajendra for many years. He was the King of the forest. One day elephant Gajendra went to drink water from a lake at Mount Trikuta. In that lake lived a fallen Gandharva named Huhu, who also had been cursed and turned into a crocodile by the great sage Devala for having disturbed the sage’s meditation.

When Indradyumna as Gajendra the elephant stepped into the lake to drink, Huhu caught hold of his hind leg and tried to drag him under the water. They fought for a thousand years. In the end, when Gajendra was exhausted, he understood there is a superior being that is controlling everything. If not, either the crocodile or the elephant would have died by now. Gajendra, while in great pain, renounced all attempts to fight and prayed to Vishnu, offering lotus flowers with his trunk and final cry to the Lord: Gajendra Stuti. Moved by the devotion of such a devotee, Lord Vishnu appeared and killed Huhu thus redeeming Indradyumna's and Huhu's curses. King Indradyumna immediately attained Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu and HuHu went back to Gandharva world. The Lord after listening to Gajendra's stuti, promised that, if someone listens to Gajendra stuti and remembers Gajendra and Himself everyday, He would make sure that person will have Lord's dhyana at their last breath. The tale of Gajendra forms an integral theme of the Vaishnavite religion and has a huge symbolic value with Gajendra as the man, Huhu as sins and the muddy water of the lake as samsara.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dowson, John (1888). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature. Trubner & Co., London. p. 127.
  2. ^ Indradyumna Sarovar

External links[edit]