Rshyashrnga (Samskrit : ऋष्यशृङ्गः) was the son of the great seer Vibhandaka (विभाण्डकः). This story is an example of an instance when details about Ramayana are discussed in the Vana Parva of Mahabharata. Rshyashrnga ashrama was the site of the present day Sringeri in Karnataka state of Bharatadesha. Legend has it that Sri Adi Shankaracharya established the Sringeri Peetha (Dakshinamnaya peetha) here based on the piousness and serenity of the place.
Once sage Vibhandaka happened to see Urvasi at Mahahrada.
तस्य रेतः प्रचस्कन्द दृष्ट्वाप्सरसमुर्वशीम्। अप्सूपस्पृशतो राजन्मृगी तच्चापिबत्तदा॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 110.35)
तस्यर्षेः शृङ्गं शिरसि राजन्नासीन्महात्मनः। तेनर्ष्यशृङ्ग इत्येवं तदा स प्रथितोऽभवत्॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 110.39)
tasya retaḥ pracaskanda dr̥ṣṭvāpsarasamurvaśīm। apsūpaspr̥śato rājanmr̥gī taccāpibattadā॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 110.35)
tasyarṣeḥ śr̥ṅgaṁ śirasi rājannāsīnmahātmanaḥ। tenarṣyaśr̥ṅga ityevaṁ tadā sa prathito'bhavat॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 110.39)
At the very sight of her, the sage had an involuntary emission of semen. The semen fell in the water and just then a female deer came there to drink water. It swallowed the semen with water and in due course became pregnant and gave birth to a human child. That deer was a devakanya in her previous birth who was ordained by Brahma to become a deer. Since the child had a single horn on his head and always was deeply immersed in tapas, hence was named Rshyashrnga.
Rshyashrnga in Mahabharata
Vibhandaka and Rshyashrnga lived together in the ashrama. Rshyashrnga grew up into a youth, but he had never seen anyone except his father Vibhandaka. At that time, the kingdom of Anga was ruled by Romapada, a friend of Dasharatha. Once he cheated a brahmana. Consequently all the brahmanas in that country cursed Romapada, left the place and emigrated to other lands. From that time there was no rain in the land of Anga. A severe drought ensued and famine followed causing great trouble to the people of the land.
पुरोहितापचाराच्च तस्य राज्ञो यदृच्छया। न ववर्ष सहस्राक्षस्ततोऽपीड्यन्त वै प्रजाः॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 110.43)
purohitāpacārācca tasya rājño yadr̥cchayā। na vavarṣa sahasrākṣastato'pīḍyanta vai prajāḥ॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 110.43)
Romapada invited devout brahmanas and consulted them how they could bring rain to the land. They told him that since he was cursed by the anger of brahmanas, he should perform a prayaschitta and for that get a Muni (seer) who had never seen women in his life, to perform a yaga, which would bring rainfall in the land.
The King sent his men far and wide to find a Muni who had never seen a woman in his life and finally got news that Rshyashrnga, son of Vibhandaka was one such person. He then began to plan how Rshyashrnga could be brought over to Anga. Romapada called together some damsels and asked them whether they could bring Rshyashrnga to his country. All except one of them said it was quite impossible. As desired by her, the King sent her with several other damsels. The young women went to the forest and made a floating ashrama in a boat in which they sailed in the river by the side of Vibhandaka's ashrama.
They stopped the boat close to the ashrama and one of the girls entered the ashrama when Vibhandaka was not there. She had a talk with Rshyashrnga in the course of which she used all the amorous enchantments to captivate the young Muni. She told him that she was the daughter of a muni, living in an ashrama, three yojanas away. Rshyashrnga felt a peculiar fascination for her and tried to please her by offering fruits etc. When she left him, he felt deeply distressed and unhappy. He was in that depressed and gloomy state of mind when Vibhandaka returned to the ashrama. Finding him unusually restless and dejected, the father asked him whether anyone had come there. Rshyashrnga who was an entire stranger to the feminine world told his father that a handsome youth of irresistible charm had visited him during Vibhandaka's absence.
इहागतो जटिलो ब्रह्मचारी न वै ह्रस्वो नातिदीर्घो मनस्वी। सुवर्णवर्णः कमलायताक्षः स्वतः सुराणामिव शोभमानः॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 112.1)
ihāgato jaṭilo brahmacārī na vai hrasvo nātidīrgho manasvī। suvarṇavarṇaḥ kamalāyatākṣaḥ svataḥ surāṇāmiva śobhamānaḥ॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 112.1)
But from Rshyashrnga's description of the "youth ब्रह्मचारी" Vibhandaka understood that the visitor must have been a woman. But he could not guess who it was. On another occasion, the same woman came again to the ashrama in the absence of Vibhandaka. At her sight Rshyashrnga was enraptured and before his father's return, they left the ashrama. They entered the floating ashrama in the boat and the woman set the boat sailing in the river. It glided slowly down the river and at last reached near the palace of Romapada.
स लोमपादः परिपूर्णकामः सुतां ददावृष्यशृङ्गाय शान्ताम्। क्रोधप्रतीकारकरं च चक्रे गाश्चैव मार्गेषु च कर्षणानि॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 113.11)
sa lomapādaḥ paripūrṇakāmaḥ sutāṁ dadāvr̥ṣyaśr̥ṅgāya śāntām। krodhapratīkārakaraṁ ca cakre gāścaiva mārgeṣu ca karṣaṇāni॥ (Maha. Vana. Parva. 113.11)
Shanta, daughter of Dasharatha was living with Romapada as his adopted daughter at that time. Rshyashrnga and the woman landed in Anga. King Romapada married his daughter Shanta to Rshyashrnga and made him live in his country. The country got rains then on. Romapada constructed a new hermitage for Rshyashrnga similar to his forest dwelling. (Sloka 9, Chapter 113, Vana Parva).
Rshyashrnga in Ramayana
As Kausalya was childless, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya brought as his wife Kaikeyi the daughter of the King of Kekaya and sister of Yudhajit. Still no children were born to them. He was much disappointed. At last he married again and brought Sumitra the princess of Kali. Of these three, Kausalya was the chief wife. Though he had three wives, Dasharatha still remained childless. The King and his queens spent their days in sorrow for a long time. The King remembered the curse he had incurred when he was young. The curse was that as they had died with sorrow at the death of their son Sravana, the same thing would happen to me. So he believed that sons would be born to him. He performed several devotional acts to get children. Finally he gave up all kingly pleasures and began to lead an ascetic life. He built a temple for his own use and consecrated the murti or vigraha of Mahavisnu in it. Then entrusting the administration of the Kingdom to his ministers he and his wives engaged themselves in daily devotion and meditation in the temple. (Kampa Ramayana, Bala Kanda).
ऋष्यशृङ्गस्तु जामाता पुत्रांस्तव विधास्यति | सनत्कुमारकथितमेतावद्व्याहृतं मया || (Valm. Rama. Bala. 1.9.19)
r̥ṣyaśr̥ṅgastu jāmātā putrāṁstava vidhāsyati | sanatkumārakathitametāvadvyāhr̥taṁ mayā || (Valm. Rama. Bala. 1.9.19)
Meaning: "Sage Rshyashrnga, son-in-law of Romapada, King of Anga and as well as to you, if invited to our kingdom he will bless you to beget sons, oh! King... so said Sage Sanatkumaara to other sages and all this is retold by me." [Thus the charioteer and the Minister Sumantra completed his narration in confidence to King Dasharatha.
His Minister Sumantra advised him to invite Rshyashrnga to perform a yajna for begetting a child.Romapada and Shanta requested Rshyashrnga to comply with the desire of Dasharatha. Rshyashrnga could not refuse the King's request as the king was his father-in-law. He arrived at Ayodhya and performed a yajna called Putrakamesti(yajna for getting children) under the guidance of Vasistha. The air vibrated with the recitation of mantras (spells and incantations) and the Veda Suktas. The hermit uttered the divine spell of Putrakamesti and offered oblations in the yajnika agni. From the yajnika agni there arose a dark monstrous / wonderful and luminous figure, with a pot of pudding of ambrosia before Rshyashrnga and then disappeared in the yajnika agni. Dasharatha received it from him and in accordance with the instruction of the hermit, gave one half of it to Kausalya and the other half to Kaikeyi. Both of them gave half of their shares to Sumitra. Thus the three wives ate the divine pudding and by and by all of them became pregnant. Sumitra got two shares while the other two wives of Dasharatha got only one share each. As a result Kausalya and Kaikeyi gave birth to a son each, while Sumitra had two sons. Kausalya's son was named Rama, Kaikeyi's son was Bharata and Sumitra's sons were Laksmana and Satrughna.
Strong intelligence subjugates the mind
Rshyashrnga is compared to the mind of a living entity and the women disguised as ascetics are considered to be desirable objects. The nature of the mind is to interpret worldly temptation as good. His father represents intelligence. In the face of intelligence, desirable objects seem foolish, but when one is alone, the same desirable objects control and direct. If one's own intelligence is not strong enough to resist temptations, one should seek the company of one with stronger intelligence.
Imposition results in hypocrisy
From another perspective, Rshyashrnga teaches that even if one is strong-willed, constant interaction with material objects can weaken the toughest of resolves. Without understanding the real nature of his son, Vibandhaka forced him to follow an austere lifestyle. One has to be true to one's nature and not be hypocritical. If one is forced to do something one does not want to, it leads to hypocrisy. It is best to practice a lifestyle conducive to one's nature, keeping the higher principles in mind.
- Shastri. Pt Ramnarayan. (1955). Mahabharata : Vana Parva Vol.2. Gorakhpur:Gita Press.
- Vettam. Mani, (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : A comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Delhi:Motilal Banasidass.
- Valmiki Ramayana, Bala Kanda, Chapters 14-16
- Shubha Vilas (Ramayana, The Game of Life) Book 1 : Roar with courage page 33