Yayati – Exchange of old age between father and son
Yayati was one of the many sons of Nahusha and Ashokasundari (daughter of Lord Shiva and Parvati). Also, he was the great-grandson of Pururavas (for more details read https://animatedwater.com/2020/07/13/beginning-of-lunar-dynastychandravansha/). The Story of Yayati appears in Padma Purana, Adi Parva of Mahabharata and also in the Bhagavata Purana.
Yati (elder brother of Yayati) was the first son of Nahusha and first in line for the throne. As Yati choose the spiritual path, Yayati who was next in line for the throne became the king. Yayati went on to be called as Chakravartin Samrat since he had conquered the entire world.
In the meanwhile, sage Shukracharya who was also called daitya guru had a beautiful daughter called Devayani whom he was extremely fond of. Devayani had a friend called Sharmishtha who was a daughter of Vrishaparva the king of Asuras. Once both Devayani and Sharmishtha went to bath in a lake situated in a deep forest. They both left their clothes on the bank of the lake before venturing into it. After the bath, girls hurriedly came out of the lake and got themselves dressed, but, Sharmishtha in haste wears Devayani’s dress. Devayani was angered by this and insults Sharmishtha. Both Sharmishtha and Devayani argued over this and eventually the argument ended by Sharmishtha in a fit of rage, pushing naked Devayani into the well and walking away. Luckily, the well was shallow and Devayani fell in without any major injuries.
At the same time, king Yayati was hunting in the same forest without any luck and was looking for water. At a distance, he spotted a well and on approaching it was surprised to see naked Devayani inside it. Seeing her in distress, he immediately passes her a cloth to cover herself up and rescues her out of the well. While Devayani is still in shock, she thanks the king and also introduces herself. She then narrates how she fell into the well. Devayani did not take long to figure out the identity of Yayati. Devayani also requested Yayati to marry her since he held her right hand while pulling her out of the well. Yayati was already attracted by Devayani but was in a dilemma since Devayani belonged to the brahmin (priest) caste and Yayati belonged to Kshatriya (warrior clan) caste and Shukracharya would not accept this alliance hence king walks away. Devayani rushes to her father and tells him everything, to which Shukracharya readily agrees to the proposal of Yayati and Devayani. Thus, Yayati accepts Devayani as his wife.
Even after marriage, new bride Devayani is unable to forgive Sharmistha for the insult which she had inflicted. Devayani resolves to avenge the insult and make Sharmishtha her maidservant for trying to kill her by throwing her into the well. Devayani goes to Shukracharya with tear-filled eyes and explains everything about Sharmishtha again in hope to seek help for vengeance from her father. Shukracharya then goes to Asura king Vrishaparva and tells him about his daughter’s desire. King Vrishaparva was very well-aware of Shukracharya’s power and was scared of his wrath hence reluctantly agrees to send his daughter as a maid to Devayani. Sharmishtha too accepts slavery and bends to the wishes of her father and for the greater good of her father’s kingdom. Thus Sharmishtha as maid of Devayani accompanies Devayani to Yayati’s kingdom. However, Shukracharya warns Yayati not to have any relation with Sharmishtha.
In due course in spite of Shukracharya’s warning, Yayati fell for Sharmistha and is captivated by her beauty. The closeness between the two grew and Sharmishtha also requested Yayati to marry her. However, the promise made to Shukracharya and the fatal consequences that follow from his transgressions made him hold back. In the end, his passion proved stronger than his virtue and he took Sharmistha as his second wife without the knowledge of Devayani. In the meantime, both Devayani and Sharmishtha gave birth to children, Devayani had two sons, Yadu and Turvasu Whereas Sharmishtha had three sons namely Druhyu, Anu and Puru.
Eventually, Devayani discovers about her husband’s secret relationship with Sharmishtha. She felt deceived and even more enraged than before, so runs towards her father’s hermitage and explains everything. Shukracharya was enraged and cursed Yayati with premature old age. Yayati begs for mercy, to which Shukracharya says he can enjoy his youth if someone exchanges his old age. Yayati calls upon everyone to exchange their youth with his old age, but no one agrees to it, Finally, he calls all his sons to exchange their youth with Yayati’s old age but none will agree. Then comes his youngest son Puru (son of Sharmishtha). Puru being a kind and noble person willingly agrees his father’s request to swap his youth for his father’s old age. Thus Yayati enjoyed youth taken from his son, but he was always disturbed by the thought of what his son is going through for no fault of his. Ultimately, Yayati realized his mistake and calls Puru to take back his youth. Also, seeing his worth and kindness Yayati crowns Puru as the king. Later descendants of Puru are called Kuru Vamsha, same Kuru Vamsha to which Kauravas and Pandavas belong.
Old King Yayati heads for forest along with both his wives. Yayati spends the rest of his life performing austerity and meditation. In due course, he attains ultimate liberation (Moksha).