3 Devayani and Yayati

Devayani and Yayati

   Devayani and Yayati are the romantic protagonists in an old and popular myth, which also con-siders them to be ancestors of KRISHNA. Devayani, daughter of the famous rishi Ushanas Kavya, was swimming in a pond with Sharmishtha, the daughter of the king of the asuras (antigods or demons) and a student of Ushanas Kavya. In those days such interchange took place between gods and asuras. When Lord Shiva happened by they rushed to get their clothes. Sharmishtha took Devayani’s clothes by mistake. Devayani upbraided Sharmishtha severely, and the latter in anger threw her friend into a well and took her clothes.
   King Yayati, who was hunting, happened by and rescued Devayani. When he touched her hand, she announced that she would never touch another man’s hand. Kavya gave his daughter to the king; following Devayani’s wish he also handed over Sharmishtha as her slave, admonish-ing the king never to have carnal relations with the daughter of the asuras.
   Devayani soon bore the king glorious sons, one of them Yadu, an ancestor of Krishna him-self. Sharmishtha became jealous and managed to seduce the king to break his promise to Kavya.
   When Devayani heard this she went home to her father. The king followed, chastised, and sought her return. When he reached her home, her father, Kavya, cursed the king with immediate old age as an antidote to his uncontrolled lust. The king begged a way out of the curse and was allowed to transfer the curse to someone else. He convinced his youngest son to take the curse of old age, and the son became a ruler while for a thousand years Yayati enjoyed the pleasures of love with Devayani. Finally, tiring of the life of the senses, the king took back his old age from the son and renounced the world.
   Further reading: C. R. Devadhar, ed. and trans., Yayati-carita: A Drama in Seven Acts (Poona: Bhandarkar Ori-ental Research Institute, 1965); Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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