Nahusha was a famous king of the Chandravansha. He was the son of Emperor Ayu. At one point, he had even become the Indra. In the end, he was cursed to become a snake by Agastya rishi.
- Father: Ayu
- Mother: Indumati
- Brothers: Kshatravriddha, Raji, Rabha, Anena
- Wife: Ashoksundari
- Sons: Yati, Yayati, Samyati, Ayati, Viyati, Krti
Ayu, the son of King Pururavas, was a very righteous and powerful king. But the king did not have a son. He decided to approach Dattatreya. At that time, Dattatreya was drinking liquor and sporting with a woman. Ayu went up to him and bowed. Ayu passed one hundred years at the ashram of Dattatreya, serving the brahmin as much as he could.
One day, Dattatreya said, “Oh king, why do you serve me. I do not have brahminic practices. I desire flesh, wine, and women. Go to another brahmin to receive the boon you desire.”
“There is no other brahmin like you. You are the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, chief of this universe,” Ayu praised.
A couple days later, Dattatreya said, “Ayu, get me some wine in a cup and some cooked meat.” Eager to fulfill Dattatreya’s command, Ayu speedily came back with the meat and wine. Dattatreya was really impressed with Ayu’s dedication. He requested Ayu to ask for a boon.
“Oh great sage, give me a son who is very mighty and endowed with good qualities. He should take care of his subjects and devote himself to gods and brahmins. He should be willing to donate to the poor, start yagnas, and study the scriptures,” Ayu asked.
Dattatreya granted the boon and then gave Ayu a fruit. He told Ayu to feed this fruit to his wife. After blessing the king, Dattatreya disappeared.
Ayu joyfully went back to his city. He called his wife Indumati, the daughter of Swarbhanu, and gave her the fruit. Soon enough, Indumati was pregnant with a child.
One night, Indumati saw an interesting dream. In her dream, she saw a charming brahmin man adorned with a white garment and many ornaments. He had 4 four hands, with a conch, mace, disc, and sword in these hands. He bathed Indumati with milk and gave her a lotus. Having seen this intriguing dream, Indumati narrated this dream to her husband. Ayu decided to ask Saunaka rishi, his royal preceptor, about the dream.
“Formerly, Dattatreya blessed you with the boon that a son will be born to you. The meaning of this dream is that a great and divine son will be born to you,” Saunaka rishi prophesied.
“I shall show you the garden called Nandavana. It is a paradise of the devas and devis, Gandharvas, apsaras, and others,” Shiva responded.
Shiva and Parvati mounted the bull Nandi, who was bedecked with many ornaments. Followed by great sages and millions of attendants, they proceeded to Nandavana. Lord Shiva showed Parvati the tranquil gardens. Parvati saw a particular tree that looked very beautiful. She asked Shiva about this tree.
“This tree is the king of all trees. This great tree is known as ‘Kalpadruma’ and it is a wish-fulfilling tree. It is a great prize of this universe,” Shiva said.
With Shiva’s consent, Parvati mentally wished that a daughter would be born to her. Suddenly, a beautiful woman sprung out of the tree. She was of indescribable beauty and her body resembled the beauty of a lotus.
The beautiful woman addressed Parvati. The woman said, “Oh mother, what is my purpose in this world?”
Parvati replied, “You will be known as Ashoksundari. Nahusha, the great Chandravamshi king, will be your husband.” Saying this, Parvati and Shiva back to Mt. Kailash.
Ashoksundari enjoyed many pleasures in Nandavana. Meanwhile, Hunda (son of the demon Viprachitti) entered Nandavana. Upon seeing Ashokasundari, he was overwhelmed by lust and fell in love with her.
“Who are you and why have you come to this excellent garden,” Hunda asked.
“I am the daughter of Lord Shiva and mother Parvati. I am the sister of Kartikeya and Ganesha. But who are you?” Ashoksundari said.
“I am Viprachitti’s son. I am known as Hunda and I am very powerful. I am the greatest of all gods and demons. But I have been entranced by you. Please be my wife,” he requested.
“Now listen. I have been told by my mother Parvati that I am born to marry the great emperor Nahusha. He will soon be born and he will take me as his wife. We will have a great son named Yayati. Therefore, I cannot marry you,” Ashoksundari said.
“When a woman marries a younger man, it is considered improper. By the time he is born and grows to a marriageable age, you will already be out of your youth. A woman’s youth phase is her best phase of life. Do not waste it,” Hunda haughtily said.
But Ashoksundari was firm in her decision, so she didn’t listen to him. Realizing that she won’t listen so easily, Hunda vanished from the garden.
The next day, Hunda came back and approached Ashoksundari. But this time, he took the form of a beautiful woman to deceive her. “Who are you. Why are you at this garden practicing this penance?” Hunda questioned.
Ashoksundari quickly told the woman about her creation and how the asura Hunda has tormented her.
“You are a respectable wife, dedicated to your husband. I am also a loyal wife. But that asura Hunda has killed my husband. Because of this, I am performing severe penance. I would like you to visit my ashram on the banks of the Ganga river,” the woman said.
Ashoksundari agreed to the woman’s request and accompanied her. Instead of taking her to an ashram, the woman took Ashoksundari to the city of the asuras. When Ashoksundari asked her what this place is, she said, “This place belongs to the lord of asuras whom you have seen before. That lord of demons is none other than me. Yes, I am Hunda.”
Saying this, Hunda took Ashoksundari to his grand golden palace and seated her on a swing. He turned back to his original form and said, “I shall give you whatever you want. Stay with me as I have become attached to you.”
Ashoksundari was enraged. She exclaimed, “How dare you even attempt to ask me this. You have committed a big sin by bringing me here. I will now ensure that I destroy everything that belongs to you. I curse you that my future husband Nahusha will destroy you! No other man can touch me besides Nahusha. I will practice penance for your death!” Ashoksundari went to the banks of the Ganga river and undertook a severe penance.
Hunda was enraged by Ashoksundari’s curse. He called Kampana, his minister, and said, “Ashoksundari, the daughter of Shiva, has cursed me that I will die at the hands of Nahusha. Nahusha is not born yet, but Ayu’s wife is pregnant.”
“Kidnap the wife of Ayu and bring her here. Or cause her abortion with medicines. Or kill Nahusha the moment he is born,” Kampana suggested. Having taken his minister’s advice, Hunda set off to destroy Nahusha.
Hunda started watching Indumati while the child was in her womb. He showed her many frightening spells and sights. But Indumati and the baby in her womb were protected by Vishnu, so all of the demon’s attempts were ineffectual.
Eventually, after many years, the child was finally born. When he was born, he was shining luminously like the sun. Everybody in Ayu’s kingdom was very happy when the boy was born.
There was an evil maid in Indumati’s chamber. Knowing about her wicked behavior, Hunda entered her body. Through that maid, Hunda kidnapped the baby and took the baby to his city.
Hunda then called his wife Vipula and said, “Kill this child and then give it to the cook. Get it nicely cooked and then I shall eat it for my meal.”
Vipula was shocked when Hunda said this. She didn’t think that her husband would do something like this. “Why do you want to eat this innocent boy,” Vipula asked.
Hunda briefly told Vipula about the incident with Ashoksundari. Vipula was enraged when she heard the story. She called Mekala, her maid, and said, “Kill this infant and hand him over to the cook for Hunda’s meal.” Mekala obediently took the boy to the cook and said, “Kill this child today.” The cook took the boy in his hand and was about to swing down his weapon when the boy started uncontrollably laughing. Seeing his laughing, the cook was overwhelmed by compassion and put down his weapon. Mekala was also filled with pity. They decided to not kill the child.
That night, Mekala left Hunda’s palace and left the baby at Vashistha rishi’s hermitage. Placing the child in the hermitage, Mekala went back to Hunda’s palace. The cook killed a black antelope and cooked its meat in place of the boy’s meat. But Hunda thought that the meat served to him was the boy’s meat, so he was filled with joy and deemed Ashoksundari’s curse to be false.
After eating the meal, Hunda went to Ashoksundari and said, “Your future husband has been eaten up by me. What will you do now!”
“My husband has been given to me by the gods. He cannot die,” Ashoksundari said.
“Today only I ate up the flesh of that boy, as soon as he was born!” Hunda thundered.
“I have practiced this penance. Ayu’s son will definitely live on. Unless you want to be cursed again, leave right now,” Ashoksundari angrily said.
Hearing the words of Ashoksundari, the cook told Hunda to leave. Directed by the cook, Hunda left and went to his wife Vipula. He proudly told her everything that had happened.
Meanwhile, Ashoksundari was agonized upon hearing the words of Hunda. She started doubting herself. She contemplated the possibility that maybe Ayu’s son had actually been killed. At that time, a Kinnara named Vidvara came there with his wife. The Kinnara had a half-human body, two hands, a flute in one hand, and many necklaces and bracelets.
He said, “Know me to be Vidvara, oh respectable lady. I am a devotee of Vishnu. You do not need to worry about Nahusha. The wicked Hunda believes that he ate the boy. But in fact, Nahusha is still alive and will stay alive. Nahusha is protected by all the gods themselves. Currently, Nahusha is at Vashishta rishi’s hermitage and he is safe there. When he grows up, he will kill Hunda and marry you. Later, he will obtain the position of Indra. Your son with Nahusha will be Yayati and others. Yayati will have 5 great sons, whose descendants will rule the world.”
“If he is alive, then when will he come to me,” Ashoksundari questioned.
“You will soon see your husband,” Vidvara said. Vidvara and his wife then went back to Swarga. Ashoksundari continued her vigorous penance.
Staying with Vashishta
In the morning, Vashishta opened the door of his hut and was surprised to see a child lying at the doorstep. Vashishta knew through his supernatural knowledge that the child is the son of Ayu and he also knew about Hunda. When Vashishta picked up the child in his hands, gods showered flowers and brahmins sang Vedic hymns. Vashishta named him Nahusha and performed his birth ceremony.
Meanwhile, Indumati woke up in the morning and realized that her son was missing. She started loudly wailing when she realized her son had been kidnapped. She loudly mourned and said, “Why did this have to happen to me!” Ayu was also full of grief and started crying.
Then Narada came down to Ayu’s palace and said, “Oh king, why do you cry. The kidnapping of your son is beneficial to the gods. Your son will indeed return and the one that has kidnapped your son will die. Your son will enjoy the position of Indra.” After saying this, Narada suddenly left.
Ayu went to Indumati and told her all that Narada had said. After hearing Narada’s words, Indumati was full of joy.
Meanwhile, years passed and Nahusha grew up at Vashishta’s hermitage. Vashishta sent Nahusha to a teacher. Nahusha was taught the scriptures, use of divine weapons, politics, different branches of knowledge, and the science of logic. Nahusha also learned archery from Vashishta.
One day, Vashishta called Nahusha and told him, “Quickly go to the forest and get some wood.” In the forest, Nahusha heard someone in the sky say, “This is Nahusha, the mighty Ayu’s son. Ayu and Indumati are longing for their son. The daughter of Shiva, Ashoksundari, is practicing penance to be united with her husband. When will she be united with her husband!”
Nahusha was really puzzled. He collected the wood and came back to Vashishta’s hermitage. He bowed in front of Vashishta and said, “I heard a messenger of the sky saying: This is Ayu’s son Nahusha. Ayu and Indumati have been separated from their son when he was kidnapped. Ashoksundari is also waiting to be united with her husband. Oh guru, please tell me about these people.
Vashishta told Nahusha everything. Nahusha was enraged when he heard about Hunda’s crime. He decided te set off to kill the demon.
When Nahusha was leaving Vashistha’s ashram to kill Hunda, he was given blessings by all of the rishis of the ashram. Then, Indra came there with all the other gods and gave him divine weapons.
All the gods said to Indra, “Give a chariot to Nahusha.” Indra called his charioteer Matali and said, “Take him, ready to fight, in the chariot.” Matali went to Nahusha and said, “Indra has told you to ‘be victorious in the battle by means of this chariot’. Kill the wicked Hunda.”
“By the grace of the gods and Vashishta, I shall kill Hunda who has deceived everybody, especially me,” Nahusha announced.
Hearing the dialogue of Nahusha, Lord Vishnu himself came there. He gave Nahusha a great disk with round spokes. Lord Shiva gave him a very sharp lance and Lord Brahma gave him the Brahmastra weapon. Varuna gave him an excellent noose and Vayu gave him a bow with arrows. Indra bestowed upon him the thunderbolt and the Vasavi Shakti. Agni gave him the Agneyastra missile.
Nahusha then mounted the divine chariot and looked very lustrous. With his charioteer as Matali, Nahusha speedily rushed towards the abode of the demons.
Killing of Hunda
When Nahusha was going to the city of Hunda, the woman of the gods, kinnaris, and gandharvis all watched in curiosity. Mahodaya, the city of Hunda, shone with divine grandeurs. It was filled with beautiful groves and lakes. The houses and mansions were of many stories and adorned with great jewels. When he entered the city, the celestial woman started singing hymns.
Ashoksundari, who was still performing penance, heard these songs and, roused by curiosity, came to Mahodaya. She caught a glimpse of the prince who resembled a god and was amazed. As she contemplated the identity of the man, Rambha came there with other apsaras.
“Ashoksundari, why have you left your penance. By thinking about men, you are making your penance completely futile,” Rambha said.
“My mind was completely absorbed in penance and nobody could distract me. But upon seeing this man, I became attracted. I have been created to be the wife of Ayu’s son, yet I wish to be with this man,” Ashoksundari said with a puzzled look.
“This man does not practice sin and always takes the side of righteousness. This intelligent man is none other than Ayu’s son. The ordinance of the gods will be fulfilled. This is Nahusha, the one destined to be your husband. That is why you have gravitated to him. This hero was separated from his family and kin. But now, he will kill the wicked Hunda and return to Ayu’s palace with you,” Rambha explained.
Ashoksundari and Rambha together approached Nahusha. When they were close, Ashoksundari stopped and said, “My friend Rambha, got to Nahusha as my messenger and tell him I have come.” Rambha agreed and went to Nahusha.
Rambha said, “Oh Nahusha, I am Rambha, the friend of the daughter of Shiva. She was created by Parvati as a wife who is difficult to be obtained. Her name is Ashoksundari and she has been in penance to have you as her husband. She is always longing for you.”
“Vashishta already told me this. Tell Ashoksundari: ‘I know that we are meant for each other. You practiced penance but the wicked Hunda took you to his city. Similarly, I was also kidnapped by Hunda when I was born. After I kill Hunda, I will take you with me,” Nahusha responded.
After hearing Nahusha, Rambha came back to Ashoksundari and told her what Nahusha had said. Ashoksundari was overjoyed.
Hunda’s messenger had listened to the conversation between Rambha and Nahusha. He told Hunda all that had happened. Hunda was enraged and told him to go figure out who this man was.
The messenger asked Nahusha, “Who are you? Why have you come here? Tell us about your dialogue with Rambha. If you want to live, give us answers and then leave this loka!” Nahusha powerfully told him who he was and why he was here.
The messenger quickly informed the king of demons. Hunda, seething with rage, shouted, “Why was he not killed by the vile cook and the maid. Now the threat that he poses has increased. I must eliminate him and the daughter of Shiva.” Hunda turned to his army general and commanded, “Ready all four divisions of my army. Ready the horses and the snakes.”
Soon enough, Hunda was surrounded by his vast army. The asuras proudly rain into battle. Nahusha was also very confident and powerfully twanged his bow. Nahusha quickly started killing off asuras with his powerful arrows. Seeing Nahusha ravaging his army, Hunda was angered and approached Nahusha.
“Stop, stop, son of Ayu. I shall take you to Yamaloka!” Hunda cried.
“I shall kill you today!” Nahusha boomed. He told Matali to drive the chariot towards Hunda. Matali launched the chariot into the sky and Hunda followed.
A glorious battle ensued between the two heroes. Hunda showered Nahusha with golden arrows. Nahusha, who shone like the sun in the sky, was pierced with arrows. Nahusha quickly fired ten arrows and they hit Hunda in the head. Hunda fainted and fell down in his chariot. Gods and siddhas started shouting with joy.
But Hunda quickly reawakened and fired twenty-one arrows at Nahusha. Nahusha was pierced with one arrow in his fist and four arrows between his arms. His horses were also hit by four arrows and his umbrella with one arrow. Matali was hit by five sharp arrows, the interior of the chariot with seven, and the staff of the flag with three. Nahusha send ten arrows back, which killed Hunda’s charioteer and his horses and also knocked down his umbrella.
Hunda took his sword and shield and ran at Nahusha. But Nahusha dexterously broke the sword and shield with his arrows. Hunda picked up a mallet, but this was also broken by Nahusha’s arrows. Hunda then armed himself with a mace. But Nahusha sliced off Hunda’s arm and the mace fell with the arm. Hunda was enraged and ran full-speed at Nahusha. Nahusha released the weapon called Shakti at Hunda. Hunda immediately fell down dead. The rest of Hunda’s demons quickly fled. Nahusha had killed Hunda!
Marriage and Meeting his Parents
After the death of Hunda, Ashoksundari and Rambha approached Nahusha. “I am ordained to be your wife, so please accept me as your wife,” Ashoksundari requested. Nahusha directed Rambha and Ashoksundari into his chariot. They then speedily arrived at the hermitage of Vashishta. Nahusha narrated everything to Vashishta as to how the asura had been slain. Vashishta joyfully congratulated and blessed Nahusha.
Vashishta then got Nahusha and Ashoksundari married on an auspicious day. After the marriage, Vashishta advised Nahusha to finally go meet his parents. After bowing to Vashishta, Nahusha went with Matali in the chariot to see his mother and father.
Meanwhile, the devas sent an Apsara named Menika to Ayu’s palace. Menika told Indumati, “Queen Indumati, give up this sorrow. Your son has killed the one who kidnapped him and is now on his way to see you.” Menika elaborated on the feats of Nahusha in battle.
Indumati was overjoyed. She thanked Menika and quickly told Ayu about the news. Ayu said, “Formerly, Sage Narada had told me that my son will return to me. Dattatreya, who has a portion of the Trimurti in himself, granted me this powerful son who will protect his subjects and kill the unrighteousness. His words will not go in vain.”
At that time, Nahusha, with Ashoksundari and Rambha, entered the city of Ayu. His arrival was greatly celebrated and he was welcomed through Vedic incantations. Nahusha then saw his parents. He was ecstatic and touched the feet of his parents. Ashoksundari and Rambha also touched the feet of Ayu and Indumati. Nahusha then inquired about the health of his parents.
“Oh son, with your arrival, all of my ailments have disappeared. Your birth was a blessing for me,” Ayu said.
“I have become very joyful upon seeing you, my son. I am truly blessed to have a son like you,” Indumati added and then embraced her son.
Nahusha then told Ayu and Indumati how he had been kidnapped, the birth and story of Ashoksundari, and how he defeated Hunda. Ayu and Indumati were impressed by the valor of their son.
Conquering the Earth
Nahusha conquered all seven continents of the Earth. He presented the entire Earth and its riches to his father. Nahusha also made Ayu perform the Rajasuya yagna and other great sacrifices. Ayu became really happy and his kingdom prospered.
Coronation as King and Birth of Sons
After many years, it was time for Nahusha to succeed his father as the king. The gods and sages arrived at Ayu’s kingdom and coronated Nahusha. Ashoksundari was crowned the queen. Soon, Nahusha and Ashoksundari had 6 sons: Yati, Yayati, Samyati, Ayati, Viyati, Krti.
Ayu and Indumati passed away and went to Swarga. They then proceeded to Brahmaloka. Leaving the abode of Brahma, they arrived at Shiva’s abode. Finally, Ayu and Indumati took their place at Vaikuntha and remained there.
Nahusha became a powerful and righteous king. His subjects were happy with his rule and his kingdom prospered.
Meanwhile, in Swarga, Indra was becoming arrogant because of his power and insulted Brihaspati, the guru of the devas. Brihaspati was angered and stopped being the guru of the devas. The devas sought out Vishwarupa, the son of Twastra, as their guru. Vishwarupa agreed to be their guru, but Indra had doubts about Vishwarupa because Vishwarupa’s mother was an asura, so he recklessly killed Vishwarupa. Twastra was angered and created a monster named Vritra. Indra was barely able to defeat this monster. Because of all his sins, Indra wanted to leave his position, but upon request by the devas, he stayed. Soon, he once again became arrogant and did some mean things. After being taught a lesson by the Trimurti, Indra left the position of king of gods and went to meditate.
See full, detailed story at Indra
The devas now needed another king for themselves. They decided to approach Nahusha. Nahusha warmly welcomed the devas.
The devas then said, “You know how we are without a king right now. Well, we thought that we will temporarily need a ruler and we have considered you.”
“Wait, what. Me! I am very thankful for this offer, but there must be a better candidate for this job. I am not fit to take the place of Indra,” Nahusha said.
“We need to crown an Indra fast. The Asuras will attack, and without leadership, we will be destroyed. You are a good king: the people are happy and your kingdom is prospering,” the devas reasoned.
After much thought, Nahusha finally accepted the position as king of the devas. Nahusha crowned his son Yayati as the king and then left for Swarga (To read about the romantic saga of Yayati, visit the link). But soon, Nahusha became arrogant of his position. He would order sages and devas to bow to him all the time and treat them as slaves. The people living in Swarga became really upset, but they couldn’t do anything.
All the celestial Apsaras were in Nahusha’s control, but his greed for women was not satisfied. He started eyeing Shachi, the wife of Indra. When he asked for her hand in marriage, Shachi completely rejected him. But Shachi knew that Nahusha would not stop, so she left and sought refuge in Brihaspati. Brihaspati told Shachi what to do. Accordingly, Shachi came to Nahusha and said, “I will marry you, but you must first let me search for my husband.”
Nahusha agreed and started preparing for the marriage. Meanwhile, Shachi meditated on Upashruti, the goddess of the night. With the help of Upashruti, Shachi was able to find Indra. She told him about everything that had happened. Indra was outraged and told her the plan.
According to Indra’s plan, Shachi approached Nahusha. She said, “Oh Nahusha, I have accepted your marriage proposal. But I want our marriage to be grand. I would like you to make a palanquin. You will come to my residence in a palanquin carried by the greatest sages of all time.”
Nahusha accepted and had a beautiful palanquin crafted. He employed Agastya and other great sages to carry the palanquin. Shachi knew that Nahusha was vainglorious and would anger the sages.
When the day of the marriage arrived, Nahusha set off to Shachi’s residence on a palanquin carried by great sages. Nahusha was not satisfied with their speed, so he yelled “Sarpa, Sarpa”, which means faster, faster. The sages started running, but Nahusha still wasn’t satisfied and kicked Agastya rishi. Agastya was enraged and cursed, “Nahusha, how dare you kick me! I am the great Agastya Rishi. You said “Sarpa”, telling me to go faster. Thus, I curse you that you will turn into a Mahasarpa (huge snake) right now!”
Nahusha was horrified and started pleading at the feet of Agastya. Agastya said that Nahusha would be freed from the curse and would attain heaven when he meets Dharmaputra. Nahusha instantly changed into a snake and fell down. Soon, Indra was once again made king of the devas.
Nahusha wandered around in the forests in the form of a snake for a long time. Thousands of years later, the Pandavas had left Hastinapura and were making their final pilgrimage in the Himalayas. While Bhima was passing by a cave, he was suddenly attacked by a huge snake. The snake tightly held Bhima and Bhima couldn’t escape. The snake then told Bhima about its history. When Bhima realized that this snake is King Nahusha, he felt really sorry. Dharmaputra Yudhistira, who was looking for Bhima, met Nahusha. Nahusha instantly regained his human form and went to heaven.