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Watercolour painting on paper of Indradyumna seated in a carriage
Indradyumna (Sanskrit: इन्द्रद्युम्न, IAST: Indradyumn), son of Bharat and Sunanda, 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  and set up the icon of Lord Jagannath in Puri.
Indradyumna in the Mahabharata
Sage Markandeya 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-Swabhaav”. As a consequence of his good deeds and daya-daakshinya guna, he ascended to Svarga upon leaving the physical body. There he enjoyed the riches and opulences for a very long time. Once Indra called him to his sabha and told him, “O King, you have done immense number of punyaas in your life and as a result you were here for a very long time. However unless one totally surrenders to Parameshwara and comes out of the cycle of Punya & Paapa, one needs to be bound to his own Karma. The time on earth past so much that now no one remembers any of your good deeds and hence it is time for you to leave swarga lookam”.
Indradyumna was surprised to hear that his huge “punya raashi” 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 Swargalok. 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 overcame death'). So he went to him and asked him, “O great maharshi, do you remember my good deeds?” Maarkandeya, who was continuously doing Teerth yaatras, Punya karmas, and Upavaas deeksha for a very long time and was tired, replied, “I am sorry but I don’t remember who you are. In the great Himaalayas, there lives an Uluukam (owl) called Praavaarakarna 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 Maarkandeya Maharshi and Raja Indradyumna went to Praavaarakarna.
Indradyumna asked him, “I am told that you are the longest lived creature in the world. Do you remember any of my good deeds”? Praavaarakarna replied, “O great king, I do not remember you, you must have been way before my time. However I know that there a lake at a distance of 2 Yojanas from here, which is coincidentally named Indradyumna Lake, where my friend a giant crane called “Naadiijangha”, lives. He is older than me, he might know who you”.
All three went to the sarovar and sadly Naadiijangha also did not know Indradyumna. He said “it is quite possible that my old friend the great king of turtles “Aakuupaara”, who has lived here since before my parent’s time, might know something of Indradyumna”. Naadiijangha called for Aakuupaara.
On knowing that Indradyumna arrived, tears of joy ran down Aakupaara’s eyes and he trembled with deep emotion. He prostrated before the King and said, “O Indradyumna, I am blessed to have obtained sight of you after so many years. You did thousands of Yagnyaas, built thousands of Yuupa-stambhaas and gave away millions of cow in charity as ‘daanam’. 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 vimaana (celestial plane) came for Indradyumna and took him to urdhva loka (the higher worlds). God never leaves good people. Lord Vishnu made Indradyumna realize that there is Kaivalyam which is beyond Swargas, all Urdhva lokas etc., through his next janma as Gajendra. He blessed him with Moksham when Gajendra left all his pride, doubt and totally surrendered himself to God.
Morals in the story:
1. The importance, greatness of good qualities like daya, daanam 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-doshaas that are remaining, and give moksham. This is what that 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 Indradyumna Sarovar 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 Mahabharat directly links King Indradyumna to the construction of the Shri Jagannath temple at Puri.
Incidentally, Punyatma Aaakupaara'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 Brahmini 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 on Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border is at a distance of 367 km from Puri Temple and is close to Rushikulya Beach.
Indradyumna in Puranic literature
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. Indradyumna, deeply engrossed in meditation, did not notice the arrival of Agastya, who took the king’s neglect for an insult. Agastya was enraged and cursed Indradyumna to become an elephant. The grief-stricken Indradyumna importuned sage Agastya to liberate him from the curse. Agastya granted that he would be redeemed from the curse by Vishnu’s touch.
In the next birth, King Indradyumna, lived as an elephant Gajendra for many years. 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 the crocodile 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 and was about to be dragged into the waters by the mighty crocodile Huhu, Gajendra in great pain renounced all attempts to fight and prayed to Vishnu, offering lotus flowers with his trunk and final cry to the Lord through his famous Vishnu Stuti. Propitiated at the devotion of such a great devotee, Lord Vishnu appeared and killed Huhu and redeemed Indradyumna from the curse. Upon such, King Indradyumna immediately attained Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu. The tale of Gajendra forms an integral theme of the Vaishnavite religion and has huge symbolic value with Gajendra as the man, Huhu as sins and the muddy water of the lake as samsara.
- Dowson, John (1888). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature. Trubner & Co., London. p. 127.
- Indradyumna Sarovar