The Mahabharata Home
Vaishampayana said, "Rama (as already said) then proceeded to the tirtha called Vadarapachana where dwelt many ascetics and Siddhas. There the daughter of Bharadwaja, unrivalled on earth for beauty, named Sruvavati, practised severe austerities. She was a maiden who led the life of a Brahmacharini. That beautiful damsel, observing diverse kinds of vows, practised the austerest of penances, moved by the desire of obtaining the Lord of the celestials for her husband. Many years passed away, O perpetuator of Kuru's race, during which that damsel continually observed those diverse vows exceedingly difficult of being practised by women. The adorable chastiser of Paka at last became gratified with her in consequence of that conduct and those penances of hers and that high regard she showed for him. The puissant Lord of the celestials then came to that hermitage, having assumed the form of the high-souled and regenerate Rishi Vasishtha. Beholding that foremost of ascetics, Vasishtha, of the austerest penances, she worshipped him, O Bharata according to the rites observed by ascetics. Conversant with vows, the auspicious and sweet-speeched damsel addressed him, saying, 'O adorable one, O tiger among ascetics, tell me thy commands, O lord! O thou of excellent vows, I shall serve thee according to the measure of my might! I will not, however, give thee my hand, in consequence of my regard for Shakra! I am seeking to please Shakra, the lord of the three worlds, with vows and rigid observances and ascetic penances!' Thus addressed by her, the illustrious god, smiling as he cast his eyes on her, and knowing her observances, addressed her sweetly, O Bharata, saying, 'Thou practisest penances of the austerest kind! This is known to me, O thou of excellent vows! That object also, cherished in thy heart, for the attainment of which thou strivest, O auspicious one, shall, O thou of beautiful face, be accomplished for thee! Everything is attainable by penances. Everything rests on penances. All those regions of blessedness, O thou of beautiful face, that belong to the gods can be obtained by penances. Penances are the root of great happiness. Those men that cast off their bodies after having practised austere penances, obtain the status of gods, O auspicious one! Bear in mind these words of mine! Do thou now, O blessed damsel, boil these five jujubes, O thou of excellent vows!' Having said these words, the adorable slayer of Vala went away, taking leave, to mentally recite certain mantras at an excellent tirtha not far from that hermitage. That tirtha came to be known in the three worlds after the name of Indra, O giver of honours! Indeed, it was for the purpose of testing the damsel's devotion that the Lord of the celestials acted in that way for obstructing the boiling of the jujubes. The damsel, O king, having cleansed herself, began her task; restraining speech and with attention fixed on it, she sat to her task without feeling any fatigue. Even thus that damsel of high vows, O tiger among kings, began to boil those jujubes. As she sat employed in her task, O bull among men, day was about to wane, but yet those jujubes showed no signs of having been softened. The fuel she had there was all consumed. Seeing the fire about to die away owing to want of fuel, she began to burn her own limbs. The beautiful maiden first thrust her feet into the fire. The sinless damsel sat still while her feet began to be consumed. The faultless girl did not at all mind her burning feet. Difficult of accomplishment, she did it from desire of doing good to the Rishi (that had been her guest). Her face did not at all change under that painful process, nor did she feel any cheerlessness on that account. Having thrust her limbs into the fire, she felt as much joy as if she had dipped them into cool water. The words of the Rishi, 'Cook these jujubes well' were borne in her mind, O Bharata! The auspicious damsel, bearing those words of the great Rishi in her mind, began to cook those jujubes although the latter, O king, showed no signs of softening. The adorable Agni himself consumed her feet. For this, however, the maiden did not feel the slightest pain. Beholding this act of hers, the Lord of the three worlds became highly satisfied. He then showed himself in his own proper form to the damsel. The chief of the celestials then addressed that maiden of very austere vows saying, 'I am pleased at thy devotion, thy penances, and thy vows! The wish, therefore, O auspicious one, that thou cherishest shall be accomplished! Casting off thy body, O blessed one, thou shalt in heaven live with me! This hermitage, again, shall become the foremost of tirthas in the world, capable of cleansing from every sin, O thou of fair eye-brows, and shall be known by the name of Vadarapachana. It shall be celebrated in the three worlds and shall be praised by great Rishis. In this very tirtha, O auspicious, sinless, and highly blessed one, the seven Rishis had, on one occasion, left Arundhati, (the wife of one of them), when they went to Himavat. Those highly blessed ones of very rigid vows, had gone there for gathering fruits and roots for their sustenance. While they thus lived in a forest of Himavat for procuring their sustenance, a drought occurred extending for twelve years. Those ascetics, having made an asylum for themselves, continued to live there. Meanwhile Arundhati devoted herself to ascetic penances (at the spot where she had been left). Beholding Arundhati devoted to the austerest of vows, the boon-giving and three-eyed deity (Mahadeva) highly pleased, came there. The great Mahadeva, assuming the form of a Brahmana, came to her and said, 'I desire alms, O auspicious one!' The beautiful Arundhati said unto him, 'Our store of food hath been exhausted, O Brahmana! Do thou eat jujubes!' Mahadeva replied, 'Cook these jujubes, O thou of excellent vows!' After these words, she began to cook those jujubes for doing what was agreeable to that Brahmana. Placing those jujubes on the fire, the celebrated Arundhati listened to diverse excellent and charming and sacred discourses (from the lips of Mahadeva). That twelve years' drought then passed away (as if it were a single day). Without food, and employed in cooking and listening to those auspicious discourses, that terrible period passed away, as if it were a single day to her. Then the seven Rishis, having procured fruits from the mountain, returned to that spot. The adorable Mahadeva, highly pleased with Arundhati, said unto her, 'Approach, as formerly, these Rishis, O righteous one! I have been gratified with thy penances and vows!' The adorable Hara then stood confessed in his own form. Gratified, he spoke unto them about the noble conduct of Arundhati (in these words) 'The ascetic merit, ye regenerate ones, that this lady hath earned, is, I think, much greater than what ye have earned on the breast of Himavat! The penances practised by this lady have been exceedingly austere, for she passed twelve years in cooking, herself fasting all the while!' The divine Mahadeva then, addressing Arundhati, said unto her, 'Solicit thou the boon, O auspicious dame, which is in thy heart!' Then that lady of large eyes that were of a reddish hue addressed that god in the midst of the seven Rishis, saying, 'If, O divine one thou art gratified with me, then let this spot be an excellent tirtha! Let it be known by the name of Vadarapachana and let it be the favourite resort of Siddhas and celestial Rishis. So also, O god of gods, let him who observes a fast here and resides for three nights after having cleansed himself, obtain the fruit of a twelve years' fast!' The god answered her, saying, 'Let it be so!' Praised by the seven Rishis, the god then repaired to heaven. Indeed the Rishis had been filled with wonder at the sight of the god and upon beholding the chaste Arundhati herself unspent and still possessed of the hue of health and so capable of bearing hunger and thirst. Even thus the pure-souled Arundhati, in days of old, obtained the highest success, like thee, O highly blessed lady, for my sake, O damsel of rigid vows! Thou, however, O amiable maiden, hast practised severer penances! Gratified with thy vows, I shall also grant thee this special boon, O auspicious one, a boon that is superior to what was granted to Arundhati. Through the power of the high-souled god who had granted that boon to Arundhati and through the energy of thyself, O amiable one, I shall duly grant thee another boon now, that the person who will reside in this tirtha for only one night and bathe here with soul fixed (on meditation), will, after casting off his body obtain many regions of blessedness that are difficult of acquisition (by other means)! Having said these words unto the cleansed Sruvavati, the thousand-eyed Shakra of great energy then went back to heaven. After the wielder of the thunderbolt, O king, had departed, a shower of celestial flowers of sweet fragrance fell there, O chief of Bharata's race! Celestial kettle-drums also, of loud sound, were beaten there. Auspicious and perfumed breezes also blew there, O monarch! The auspicious Sruvavati then, casting off her body, became the spouse of Indra. Obtaining the status through austere penances, she began to pass her time, sporting with him for ever and ever."
Janamejaya said, "Who was the mother of Sruvavati, and how was that fair damsel reared? I desire to hear this, O Brahmana, for the curiosity I feel is great."
Vaishampayana said, "The vital seed of the regenerate and high-souled Rishi Bharadwaja fell, upon beholding the large-eyed Apsara Ghritachi as the latter was passing at one time. That foremost of ascetics thereupon held it in his hand. It was then kept in a cup made of the leaves of a tree. In that cup was born the girl Sruvavati. Having performed the usual post-genital rites, the great ascetic Bharadwaja, endued with wealth of penances, gave her a name. The name the righteous-souled Rishi gave her in the presence of the gods and Rishis was Sruvavati. Keeping the girl in his hermitage, Bharadwaja repaired to the forests of Himavat. That foremost one among the Yadus, Baladeva of great dignity, having bathed in that tirtha and given away much wealth unto many foremost of Brahmanas, then proceeded, with soul well-fixed on meditation, to the tirtha of Sakta."
Next: Section 49