The wall painting of Kalpavruksha in Saavira Kambada Basadi, Moodbidri, Karnataka

Nahusha and Ashoka Sundari

Pururavas was the first king of the Lunar Dynasty. He and his wife Urvashi (celestial nymph) had 6 sons. Ayu or Ayus was the firstborn, Ayu succeeded the throne after Pururavas and became the king of Pratishthana. Ayu married Prabha. Prabha is also called Indumati, she was the daughter of Asura Svarbhanu, who later became Rahu and Ketu. Nahusha was the son of Ayu and Prabha. Nahusha married to Ashokasundari. AshokaSundari is the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. We get this story in Adi Parva of Mahabharata and Padma Purana.

Once Lord Shiva took Parvati to one of the most beautiful gardens in the world called Nandavana. Parvati saw a tree known as Kalpavriksha which could fulfill any wish. The Kalpavriksha originated during the Samudra Manthan or “churning of the ocean” along with the Kamadhenu (the divine cow providing for all needs). Since Kartikeya, the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati was grown up and had left Kailash, Parvati asked Kalpavriksha for a daughter to quell her loneliness and also her longing for a daughter. The tree Kalpavriksha granted a daughter to Parvati, who was as beautiful as Goddess Parvati. Parvati named her Ashokasundari where Ashoka refers to the easing of Shoka (“sorrow”), while Sundari means “beautiful girl”. Goddess Parvati also blessed her daughter that she will marry king Nahusha from Lunar Dynasty who would be equal to Indra (King of heaven). While Kartikeya is her elder brother, Lord Ganesha is her younger brother. Blessing her daughter Parvati and Lord Shiva left for Mount Kailash.

Once when Ashokasundari was roaming in Nandavana, an asura called Hunda (son of the demon Viprachitti and Holika (Sinhika). Holika is the sister of King Hiranyakashyapu) entered Nandavana. Hunda fell in love with Ashokasundari and wanted to marry her. But Ashokasundari refused his proposal, saying that Parvati had blessed her that her husband was Nahusha and she would not marry anyone other than Nahusha. Hunda was desperate to marry Ashok Sundari, so he came up with a brilliant plan. Hunda disguised himself as a woman who had lost her husband. Hunda as a surviving spouse came to Nandavana and went straight to Ashokasundari. He created a story and said, that her husband was killed by asura called Hunda. As Ashokasundari was not able to see through asura, who was in disguise, She easily fell into his trap. Widow asked Ashokasundari to go with her to her hermitage, to which, Ashokasundari agreed. The goddess went with the disguised demon and reached his palace. Upon reaching the palace, Goddess came to know the treachery of the asura. She cursed Hunda that, he will be killed by Nahusha and she then escaped to Mount Kailash the abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati.

Since Ashokasundari was elder to Lord Ganesha, she was present when Shiva beheaded Ganesha’s head. She was said to be a very mild and soft girl. She got scared by her father’s act and hid behind a sack of salt. When Parvati saw her son lying dead, she becomes extremely angry. Out of anger, curses everyone, including Ashoka Sundari assuming to have been involved in the act. As a result of the curse, Ashoka Sundari becomes a part of the salt. Later, when Lord Shiva restores elephant head to Ganesha, Parvati restores the life of her daughter too. That’s how Ashokasundari is associated with the salt without which food becomes tasteless. She is worshipped as Bala Tripura Sundari and is believed that she protects her devotees from misfortunes and gives them a bright future.

Meanwhile, Ayu the king of Prayaga was childless. Ayu and his wife Prabha approach Dattatreya. Ayu served at the ashram of Dattatreya for many years. Pleased by the service of Ayu, Dattatreya granted him a boon that he would be blessed with a son who would be very powerful and endowed with good qualities. Soon enough, Indumati was pregnant with a child. By the blessing of Dattatreya, a son was born to Ayu. Asura Hunda who was scared that Ashoksundari’s curse would come true and hence was waiting for the birth of Ayu’s son. On the very same day of the child’s birth, Hunda lured a maid in Prabha’s Chamber and kidnapped the baby and took the baby to his palace. Hunda handed the child to his wife Vipula and asked her to hand the child to a royal chef to cook a delicious dish for him. When cook swings down his weapon, the boy started uncontrollably laughing. The cook could not kill the child, so he left the child on the doorstep of Sage Vasishta. The cook then prepared some other meat dish and served it to Hunda. Hunda eats, thinking it was a child’s meat. He then went near Ashokasundari and told her that he killed her future husband to which Ashoksundari angrily said that she was destined to marry Ayu’s son and as per the blessings of her parents  Ayu’s son will live on.  She started doubting herself. She contemplated the possibility that maybe Ayu’s son had been killed. The goddess was consoled by a Kinnar called Vidvara who informed her of Nahusha’s wellbeing.

Sage Vasishta found the child on his doorstep. He knew through his spiritual knowledge that the child is the son of Ayu, he took the child and named him Nahusha “the fearless one”. Nahusha grew up in Vasishta hermitage. Sage Vasishta became his foster parent as well as his Guru. When Nahusha grew into a youth, sage Vasishta revealed Nahusha’s true parentage. Meanwhile, Indumati woke up in the morning and realized that her son was missing. Both king Ayu and Prabha were inconsolable when they came to know that their child was kidnapped. Then, Narada came down to Ayu’s palace and consoled them saying that their son was safe.

When Nahusha was leaving Vashistha’s ashram to kill Hunda, Lord Vishnu came there with all the other gods. Brahma gave Brahmastra. Indra bestowed upon him Vasavi Shakti. Vishnu gave divine weapons, Agni gave Agneyastra. With all the divine weapons of the gods and blessing of Sage Vashistha Nahusha killed Hunda. He then returned to his parents and married Ashoksundari. Later on, Nahusha succeeded his father and became the king of Pratishthana. Soon, Nahusha and Ashoksundari had 6 sons: Yati, Yayati, Samyati, Ayati, Viyati, Krti and 100 daughters.

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