HERITAGE SHELF: RAMAYANA

CHAPTER III
TRISANKU

 

THAT was the time when the famous king of the Solar dynasty, Trisanku, was reigning, who was so much in love with the beauty of his body that he could not bear the thought of parting with it at death and desired to ascend to heaven in that very body. 
Vasishtha, his preceptor, whom he approached for help in realising his wish, advised him to give up attempting the impossible. Dissatisfied with Vasishtha's response, the King approached the sage's sons and sought their help. They were wroth at being asked to do something which their father had pronounced impossible, ridiculed 'his vanity and curtly bade him begone.
King Trisanku would not give up his aim and told them that, since they and their father were too poor in merit to help him, he would find others who were richer. Vasishtha's sons were provoked beyond endurance, and said: "Be you a chandaala."
The curse began to act and the next morning Trisanku woke up a different person altogether, an untouchable, ugly of form, attired in dirty clothes.
His ministers and his people could not recognise him. Driven out of his kingdom he wandered hungry and weary almost to death, till his destiny took him to Viswaamitra's aashrama.
The king's appearance moved the heart of the sage, who enquired: "Aren't you King Trisanku? What has brought you to this plight? Whose curse?"
Recounting all that had happened he fell at the sage's feet and said: "1 have been a good king and never swerved from the path of dharma. I have

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committed no sin and wronged none. My preceptor and his sons have deserted me and cursed me and you see me thus before you."
Viswaamitra took pity on the King converted by a curse into a chandaala. This was Viswaamitra's great weakness; he was impulsive and easily over-powered by emotions like anger, sympathy and love.
In sweet words, he made the king happy: "0, King, I have heard of your righteous rule. I offer you refuge, be not afraid. I will arrange for the sacrifice which will enable you to enter heaven in your own body. And in this very chandaala form you shall reach heaven despite your Guru's curse. Of this you may be sure."
And he made arrangements for a great and unprecedented yaaga.
Viswaamitra directed his disciples to invite all the sages and their disciples for the proposed yaaga. Afraid of saying "No'" to what was more or less a command, all the rishis agreed to be present.
But the sons of Vasishtha declined the invitation and made merry about a yaaga at which the officiating priest was a once-upon-a-time Kshatriya and the yajamaan a stinking chandaala.
This reply, duly conveyed, enraged Viswaamitra who exploded into a curse that Vasishtha's sons do die and be re-born for seven generations in a tribe given to eating dog's flesh.
The sage then began the yaaga. Extolling Trisanku's eminent virtues, Vishwaamitra sought the help of the other rishis in effecting the bodily translation of Trisanku to heaven.


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