Sacred Texts  Misc  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 215

Click to enlarge






To Agni who is Fire, King Purūravas made offering. Agni, being messenger between the three worlds and lord of the house also, might show him where his immortal wife had gone to; but Agni did not reveal die place where her husband might come upon Urvashī. Brilliant is Agni; he has three heads and seven faces, and he is the destroyer of the demons who would defile the offerings.

Then to Indra King Purūravas made sacrifice; he supplicated the champion of the Gods to help him in his search for Urvashī. Indra slew the dragon that shut the waters in and he liberated them for the refreshment of the earth; he wields the thunderbolt, and his beard streams in the air. He is named the Stormy One, and he is the friend of kingly men. But from Indra Purūravas got no aid in the search for his immortal wife.

He prayed to the greatest of all the heavenly beings--to Varuna who treads down with his shining foot all wiles and who has in his hands the nooses that snare false-dealing men. Varuna's power is so great that neither flying birds nor flowing rivers can reach the end of his dominion; he knows all secret things--the flight of birds, the track of the wind, the path of ships on the sea. He can count the winkings of every mortal's eye, and he wields the universe as a man might wield dice. To Varuna the mortal king made sacrifice and supplication, but Varuna, who is greatest of all the Gods, did not help him to win back his immortal wife.

Then Purūravas went wandering through the world searching for Urvashī. She was an Apsaras, and was as fair as the Goddess of the

p. 216

[paragraph continues] Dawn. She had said to Purūravas, a mortal who had befriended her, "None of us who move in the waters has ever dwelt with a mortal. Yet I will dwell with you, separating myself from my companions and from the Gandharva who dwells in the high region of the sky, he who has shining weapons and fragrant garments, if you promise that you will never let it happen that I shall see you naked." And Purūravas, who had longed for the love of this Apsaras, made solemn promise that he would never let her see him without his mantle on.

They dwelt in the forest as husband and wife, the king, Purūravas, and the Apsaras, Urvashī. For four seasons they dwelt together there. Then the heavenly bard, the Gandharva, who is the companion of the Apsarases, said, "Why is Urvashī no longer amongst us?" And when he heard that she was dwelling in the forest as the wife of a mortal, the Gandharva, jealous that this man should have a share in the beauty of the heavenly nymphs, and knowing the promise that had been made her, resolved to make Urvashī go from her husband.

Now the things that Urvashī loved most were two lambs that she had reared beside the dwelling in the forest. Every night she tethered them beside where she and her husband slept in the dark of the trees. Knowing that a man and a hero was near, no creature of the forest would come near these two lambs.

But the Apsarases, sent by the Gandharva, came near them; they came in the night and they pulled at the tether of one of the lambs. It bleated. But Urvashī only said to herself, "No creature can take away my pet, my lamb, while a man and a hero is beside me." But then she heard the bleat of the lamb as it was taken away into the forest. The other lamb was then taken, and Urvashī cried out, "How is it that my lamb, my pet, can be taken away while a man and a hero is beside me?" Purūravas heard her words. He sprang up. In the darkness of the night he did not wait to put his mantle on. All uncovered he ran towards where the lamb bleated. Then the Gandharva filled the sky with lightning, and Urvashī, looking towards where the bleating thing was, saw her husband naked.

Instantly she vanished. The light of the dawn came, and Purūravas knew that his Apsaras wife had gone from him. Thereafter he made offerings to the Gods that they might reveal to him where she had gone. And then he went searching for her through the world.

p. 217

Once upon Himālaya he met Usas, the immortal and unchanging one who awakens all things. As she approaches, the birds stir their wings, and for her they give their first cries. Usas, the Dawn Goddess, was in a car drawn by swiftly going steeds; her bosom was bare and her garb was gleaming with colours. Purūravas besought her to give him tidings of Urvashī. But the Goddess, because once she had delayed on her journey and the sun had caught up on her and had branded her as one brands a thief, would not stay even to listen to his words.

And once he met the Horsemen, the Ashvins, coming upon their shining path. And with the twin brethren went Sūrya, the Maiden of the Sun. Them, too, Purūravas supplicated for tidings of Urvashī, but the Ashvins and the Maiden of the Sun went swiftly upon their way, and gave no heed to the mortal.

Then he prayed to Dyaus, the Sky Father, and to Prithivī, the Earth Mother, that they might show him where their child Urvashī had gone. He was on the level ground when he made this prayer. And when he had made it a beam of light came from the sky and showed him a lotus-covered lake that was near him. On the lake was a flock of gleaming swans. He saw them change themselves and become a company of Apsarases. Swiftly he went to the lake. Urvashī was there, but when he called out to her she said, "I am gone like the first of the dawns." She stayed where the lotuses encircled her, and she cried out to Purūravas, "I am as hard to catch as the winds of heaven." Then Purūravas threw himself down beside the lake and he made a vow that he would stay there until the wild beasts devoured him. Knowing that he would do this, her heart was moved. She drew near where he lay and told him that he might come to where she was on the last night of the year.

So on the last night of the year Purūravas came to where golden steps led up to where there were golden seats. And there Urvashī was and there she stayed with him. And in the morning she said to him., "The Gandharva will come to you and he will tell you that you may ask a boon from him. Whatever boon you wish for he will grant you. You will have to make a choice." Then Purūravas said, "Choose you for me." She said, "When he asks what boon you would have granted, say 'Let me be one of you.'" So his choice was made. The boon was

p. 218

granted him, and Purūravas lived everlasting years with his Apsaras wife.

Next: The Churning of the Ocean