Uparichara Vasu and birth of Satyavati and her twin brother Matsya from a fish

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Uparichara Vasu was a contemporary king of Shantanu. He was the son of Kritaka, a descendant of the Kuru Dynasty. King Kritaka was the great-grandson of Sudhanush. Uparichara Vasu was from Amavasu dynasty. We come across this story in the Ramayana, Adi Parva of Mahabharata, Harivamsa Purana and Bhagavata Purana. He is the founder and ruler of Chedi Kingdom. Chedi kingdom is present-day Bundelkhand (some part of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh).

Uparichara Vasu was a great king and known for his generosity, rightfulness, valour and was devoted to Dharma. After ruling the kingdom for years, he decided to devote himself to a spiritual path. He began performing penance and started practising austerities. Uparichara penance was reason to worry in Indra’s court as Indra was worried that Vasu would take his position. Indra, along with other the Devas approached Vasu and was successful, in turning Uparichara Vasu away from austerities with sweet talks. Indra promised him eternal friendship. As a mark of friendship, Indra gifted Vasu a never-fading lotus garland by wearing this garland he would never be wounded by any weapons on the battlefield. Indra also gifted Vasu crystal chariot (glass chariot), this crystal chariot had a unique property, it could fly. Uparichara Vasu was originally called as Vasu. After receiving this crystal chariot he would spend most his time in flying, therefore, he got the name as Uparichara which means Upari — Upwards and Chara — Going. Those days only Devas were able to fly in midair, with this special aeroplane Uparichara Vasu would often visit Indra in heaven. Apart, from crystal chariot and lotus garland Indra also gifted a bamboo pole to Uparichara Vasu as a mark of friendship, a bamboo pole was a symbol of honesty and peacefulness of the kingdom. After one year king introduced ‘Shakrotsava’ festival in his kingdom in the honor of Indra. This festival Shakrotsava involves, planting bamboo every year and people will deck with garland, ornament and golden cloth.

Shuktimati was the capital of the Chedi Dynasty. It was on the bank of the river Shuktimati. There was a mountain called Kolahala from which the river flowed down. Once the mountain embraced the river Shuktimati, from the union of mountain and river resulted in the birth of two babies, a boy and a girl. The river then gave the babies to Uparichara Vasu. King make’s boy as commander of his army. The girl was named as Girika means daughter of a mountain. Girika was so beautiful that the king marries her.

Girika had the desire to have a son with Vasu, but on that day it was Pitru Paksha an annual ceremony (Sraddha) of his deceased father and ancestors, because of the ceremony, he left for the forest to hunt a deer which are needed to sacrifice and also to fetch other material for the ceremony. While roaming in the forest, he came across Ashoka trees and surrounding was filled with divine fragrance, King could not control his desire for begetting children and ejaculates accidentally. Not wanting to waste his semen, he saves his ejaculate in a banyan leaf and calls a hawk and summoned a hawk to carry the semen to his wife Girika. The hawk agrees and carries it to his queen. In the midair, another hawk assumes the leafy packet as a packet of meat and tries to snatch it. While fighting between these two hawks was going on, leafy packet fell on the water of river Yamuna. It so happened that leafy packet was swallowed by a fish called Adrika and thus got pregnant.

Adrika was Apsara (celestial nymph). A year ago Adrika had come down from Devaloka along with her friends to earth. It was common that Apsara used to visit earth during the night and then return to heaven before the daybreak. Adrika had come little early that day to swim in river Yamuna. A sage reached there for his evening rituals (Sandhya Vandana). Adrika who had been in the river saw the sage, sage was motionless and his eyes were shut. Adrika swam near the sage and playfully, she grabbed his leg, thus disturbing his Dhyana. Sage understood, what had happened, he cursed her to become a fish. Adrika cried for mercy, sage altered the curse, saying once she delivered human babies from her womb she can return to her original form. At once, she got a fish’s body. When Adrika as fish consumed leafy packet which had the seeds of the king, she became pregnant.

Ten months later, a fisherman Dasaraja caught the fish (Adrika). When fisherman cut opened stomach of fish, he saw two human infants (male and female). As soon as Adrika delivered babies, she was freed from the curse, her spirit left the body of the fish to heaven. Bewildered fisherman rushed to the king carrying two infants. The king happened to be Uparichara Vasu. King guessed they were his children. The king took the baby boy and named him Matsya and gave the girl to the fisherman. Fisherman Dasaraja named the girl as Matsyagandha (since was born from the fish, her body emitted the fishy smell). Matsyagandha was also called as Kali (“the dark one”) because of her complexion, Kali later, earned the name Satyavati (“truthful”). She was raised as a commoner. The boy later founded the Matsya kingdom. Apart from twins Uparichara Vasu had five more sons from queen Girika, they are:

  •  Brihadratha,
  • Pratyagraha,
  • Kusamba (also called Manivahana),
  • Mavella,
  • Yadu.

After ruling Chedi Dynasty successfully Uparichara Vasu divided his kingdom and gave one portion to each of his sons. His son Brihadratha became king of Magadha kingdom, Pratyagraha ruled Chedi kingdom, Kusamba became the ruler of Kausambi, Mavella is the king who ruled in the Narmada valley and some coastal region, King Matsyarâj  was highly energetic and powerful, truthful and religious-like his father founded the Matsya kingdom. Uparichara then retired, to the forest, he then had a peaceful natural death.

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