In my last post, I have mentioned about the myth of Urvashi cursing Arjuna. Many have written back wanting to know about the myth of Urvashi and Pururavas, which actually led to the curse on Arjun.
So here is the myth in brief.
Pururavas was the first of the Lunar Kings (Chandravanshi), and was the son of Budha and Ila. Budha was the son of Som (or Chandra, moon) and Tara (who was actually the wife of Sage Brihaspati!). Pururavas was a brave warrior and was many a times invited by Lord Indra to help them during battles with the asuras. After victory, he was also entertained by the apsaras, or nymphs of Indra’s court. When Urvashi, an apsara in Indra’s court would get bored of the heavens, she along with her friends would come down to earth and enjoy the difference there. She preferred the life of earth with its emotions and turmoil to the ever-happy life of heavens. While returning from one such trip to earth, during dawn, she was kidnapped by an asura. Around the same time Pururavas, was returning from one of his visits to Indra’s court. After a brief encounter, Pururavas, managed to save Urvashi from the clutches of the asura. During this brief meeting, the two fell in love. Urvashi was moved by the warmth of a man, which she had never experienced before. Pururavas, had never held an apsara as close as this, and fell madly in love, but was not sure of reciprocation, so went back to his court, absolutely love sick.
Urvashi too was longing for the manly Pururavas. During a drama where she was acting as Goddess Lakshmi, she took the name of Pururavas, as her lover, where she ought to have said ‘Purshottama’, a name of Vishnu. This annoyed Sage Bharata, who was directing the play and he cursed her, that since she was smitten by a mortal, she too would have to go and live with him as a mortal and beget his children, something unknown to apsaras. Urvashi was too unconcerned with the latter part of the curse and saw it as a blessing in disguise as she would get to live with her lover and that too on earth, which she found more interesting than the heaven.
Pururavas, on the other hand was not happy with his wife as she was not able to beget him any children. When Urvashi came to him, they decided to leave the palace and go and stay in the garden of Gandhmadan (meaning intoxicating fragrance!). However, Urvashi had set a few conditions of her staying with Pururavas. One, that the king would ensure the safety of two goats that were brought along with her, two, she would eat only ghee and the king would never force her to eat anything else, and third, that the king would never appear nude in front of her, except when they were making love.
Pururavas and Urvashi started living together and years passed by. But Urvashi was too much of an apsara to be a mortal woman and soon started to get bored with her mortal life and longed to go back to the heavens. On the other side the gandharvas (the male counterparts of the apsaras and also the celestial musicians) in the heaven too were missing Urvashi. So they devised a plan to get her back. Late one night, the gandharvas, took away the goats. When the goats started bleating, Urvashi got worried and asked the king to immediately go and save them. Pururavas, who was wearing nothing at that hour, got up in a hurry, and just then, the ganharvas flashed some lightening, showing Pururavas, completely in the nude. This angered Urvashi so much that she decided to leave as her conditions were broken.
|Urvashi leaving Pururavas - Painting by Raja Ravi Verma|
Later, Pururavas found her in the region of Kurukshetra and asked her to stay back. Urvashi was then pregnant and asked Pururavas to come to the same place after one year and take their child. Pururavas, visited the same place after one year, and brought his son back with him, who was later crowned as the King.
This myth has been transformed into a romantic story by Kalidasa in his play by the name of ‘Vikramorvasiyam’, where there are many changes done to the above myth. A lot of hide and seek kind of events are there where Urvashi leaves and comes back again and again, in different versions of the myth, but the above is the most simplistic version of the same.
Many scholars have evaluated this myth in different ways. Scholars like D. D. Kosambi have written extensively on this myth, which has its origins in Rig Veda. Max Muller too during his translations of the Vedas has attempted to interpret the myth much more simplistically, which has been rejected by many as extremely childish. The most common interpretation of the myth, is that Pururavas represents the sun and Urvashi the morning mist, and just as the sun approaches and the mist vanishes, so does Urvashi vanish from the sight of Pururavas quite often. The romance has many versions of Urvashi leaving Pururavas frequently, as a part of the narrative. Also, Urvashi is compared with Usas, the goddess of dawn, who has been given a lot of importance in the Rig Veda. The authors of the epic Mahabharata have made a very judicious use of this ancient Vedic myth to enable Arjuna to achieve a realistic disguise which only goes on to add to the already beautiful narrative.
Finally, the noted Hindi poet, Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ too has his version of this story titled ‘Urvashi”, where he depicts Urvashi as a woman who was extremely moody, seductive and suspicious. According to him, women like Urvashi are the kind of women, who are extremely desirable, but cannot be possessed. As the name goes, ‘ur’ means heart and ‘vash’ means to control, such women conquer and control a man’s heart.
No further comments, I guess!!