Dear Reader, On this auspicious occasion of Mahashivratri, I bring you stories — known and obscure from the treasure vault of Sanatana Dharma.
I entreat you to consider these writings as the scribblings of an audacious child. Please forgive any and all mistakes.
This humble endeavor is an attempt to shake off the dust of time and bring these delightful, sometimes quaint and sometimes profound stories for the reading pleasure of you and me. Enjoy!
This is a story about Sage Durvasa, Krishna and the Shatrudriyam from the Anusasana parva of Mahābhārata.
स्मेराननं चन्द्रकलावतंसं गंगाधरं शैलसुतासहायम् ।
त्रिलोचनं भस्मभुजंगभूषणं ध्यायेत्पशूनां पतिमीशितारम् ॥
“One should meditate upon Iswara, who has a smiling face, wears the crescent moon on his head, bears Ganga, and has the daughter of Himavan (Parvatharaja) on his side. He has three eyes, is smeared with bhasm, ashes from the cremation grounds, and adorned with serpents as ornaments and is the lord of Jivas (Pasus).”
The Rudram or Rudra Prashnam often referred to as ‘Rudri path’ or Rudraṣṭādhyāyi. It is a very powerful Vedic composition. In Puranas and Itihasas, the same composition is mostly referred to as ‘Shatarudriyam’.
It so happened that once Dharmaraj Yudhishthira asked Shri Krishna about the importance of worshiping the brahmanas.
Shri Krishna replied, “O Dharmaraj, one must not hurt the brahmanas by either words or actions and lovingly serve them for they share divine knowledge with all, and consciously restrain themselves from worldly pleasures. Attaining liberation is their ultimate goal in life; one must not hurt such pure souls by either words or deeds and lovingly serve them because their worship will yield, punya, unlimited merits.
“आशीविषविषं तीक्ष्णं ततस्तीक्ष्णतरो द्विजः। ब्रह्माशीविषदग्धस्य नास्ति कश्चिच्चिकित्सकः॥
A remedy for even the deadliest snake bite might probably exist, but there is no cure for the one who has been bitten by the anger of a pure souled brahmana.
~Mahābhārata – Anuśāsana parva
Lord Krishna then narrated an incident that had taken place between him and the great sage Durvasa who was none other than Lord Rudra incarnated as a powerful brahmana.
Durvasa’s short temper and rage were legendary and hence no one dared to invite him to their homes. For fear of incurring his wrath, everyone steered clear of him.
However, undeterred by Durvasa’s reputation, Shri Krishna invited Him to Dwaraka. Durvasa gladly accepted the invitation to stay at Krishna’s opulent palace and enjoy his hospitality and company.
Now, Durvasa’s ways were very unpredictable. Nobody could foretell how he would behave on a particular day. Somedays, he would single- handedly eat food meant for 1000 people and on other days he would hardly touch his food. At times he would laugh aloud or cry for no reason. Sometimes he would throw things in anger and smash them into pieces.
This went on for a while and then one day Durvasa expressed his wish to have payasam ( rice pudding). Shri Krishna said, “O Dharmaraj, since I was perfectly aware of the great sage’s intentions, I ordered the palace attendants to prepare every kind of dish and kept them ready. I personally served him that freshly prepared payasam. He ate some of it, and then told me to apply the payasam all over my limbs. Without a second thought, I did as I was told. Seeing this, Queen Rukmini started laughing at me and Durvasa got up and applied some payasam to Devi Rukmini himself!”
Krishna went on, “ O Yudhisthira, not content with that, Durvasa who shone with the brilliance of fire, tied the beautiful Queen Rukmini to a chariot. Not only that, he climbed upon it, and started hitting her as though she were an animal and asked her to pull the chariot.” The gentle Rukmini did her best to pull the chariot but stumbled and fell down on the ground frequently. I watched this humiliation without a trace of anger or distress. That great mahatapasvin brahmana, Durvasa was watching me closely and was very pleased and satisfied with me.”
Durvasa said, “ O Krishna! Not only have you conquered your anger but I also couldn’t find even the slightest fault in your hospitality all these days. I’m very much pleased with you. Dear Krishna, as long as the devas and the humans cherish a desire for food, they will cherish you with the same love and intensity. Your fame will last as long as there is righteousness in the three worlds!”
Having attentively and respectfully listened to this incident, King Yudhishtira implored Krishna to share the knowledge that he received from sage Durvasa.
Shri Krishna said, “O virtuous King, listen carefully. The great sage instructed me about this great Shatarudriyam which contains the glory of the supreme Lord Rudra.
With my heart brimming over with devotion, I recite this Shatarudriyam daily. Nothing in the three worlds is difficult to attain for the one who chants the Shatarudriyam which is also mentioned in the vedas.”
In this way Bhagwan Shri Krishna himself expounded on the sublime potency and beauty of the Rudram or Shatrudriyam.