Sunday, November 18, 2012

28 Bhagavatha:  Story of Ambarisha

Vivaswan's (Surya) son was Vivaswatha Manu (Shraddhadeva).  Shraddhadeva, through his wife Shraddha, begot ten sons Ikshwaku, Saryati, Nabhaga and others.  This was the famous solar dynasty. Nabhaga's grandson was Ambarisha.
Ambarisha inherited the kingdom with all its glorious wealth and unequalled power. A blessed soul, Ambarisha regarded all that as objects in a dream, by virtue of his devotion to Lord Vishnu. Pleased with his devotion and love, Srihari bestows his own discus, the Sudarshana Chakra to Ambarisha. Ambarisha places it on the throne and worships it.
Ambarisha undertakes the vow of Dwadasi (observing a fast with the mind fixed on Srihari, on the twelfth day of every fortnight of a lunar month) along with his wife, who was equally devout. On one occasion, Ambarisha, after observing the vow, prepares to conclude the fast after giving away gifts to his subjects, according their desires. It was then, that the glorious sage Durvasa, renowned for his quick temper, unexpectedly appears as a guest. Ambarisha welcomes him and invites him for lunch.  The sage accepts and goes to the river Kalindi (Yamuna) to bathe.
The vow of Dwadasi requires that the fast is to be concluded during the hours of Dwadasi itself.  And there was just about a muhurtha (about twenty four minutes) left in which he had to break the fast.  He had a moral dilemma -- on whether he should wait for the sage to return for lunch or break his fast before the hour of Dwadasi ends. He consulted his advisers and decided that sipping water is akin to breaking the fast, and yet cannot be considered as taking food. He took a sip of water and contemplating on Srihari, waited for the sage to arrive.
Sage Durvasa returned and intuitively knew what had transpired. He flew into a rage, "You have broken your fast without offering food to me -- I shall show you the consequences of such an unrighteous act." He pulled out a lock from his matted hair, created a krtya (female evil spirit) out of it, and directed it at the king.  The krtya, emitting flames, and with a sword in hand, rushed towards Ambarisha.  Ambarisha did not stir.
The Sudarshana chakra of Lord Vishnu, which protected him at all times, burnt the kritya and whirling around, emanating flames, turned to sage Durvasa. The sage runs for his life. Sudarshana follows the sage wherever he went, scorching him. Durvasa seeks asylum from the creator Brahma, who concedes his inability to protect him. Durvasa runs to Mount Kailasa, and seeks Lord Shiva's protection.  Lord Shiva also says he was powerless over the weapon of the infinite Supreme. He says only Srihari can protect him.  Left with no alternative, Durvasa rushes to Vaikuntha and falls at Srihari's feet, seeking refuge.
Srihari replies, "My heart is in possession of my devotees, O sage! I am not independent of them. Even Lakshmi is not as beloved to me as my devotees are. Pious souls are my very heart. Force employed against the righteous brings harm to the striker himself. Therefore, O Durvasa, there is only one way you can save yourself -- approach King Ambarisha and seek forgiveness from that blessed soul. Then alone will you be at peace."
Durvasa, unable to withstand the heat of Sudarshana,  rushes back to King Ambarisha and clasps his feet. Ambarisha, ashamed about the sage Durvasa touching his feet, addresses Sudarshana, the missile of Srihari. He glorifies the Chakra with prayers. He pleads that the sage be granted safety and be rid of his trouble. Sudarshana cools down on hearing the King's entreaty. Thus rid of the burning heat, Durvasa pronounces his highest blessings on the king and departs to Brahmaloka.
It is said that a whole year elapsed since Durvasa fled, seeking refuge in various lokas.  Ambarisha waits for Durvasa's return, subsisting only on water during that time.
Ambarisha discharged his duties of a ruler with devotion to Srihari.  In due course, he gives charge of the  kingdom to his sons and retires to the forest.  He spends the rest of his time meditating on the Lord.

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Srimad Bhagavatham