Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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SATYAVRATA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology]

A king of the Solar race, descended from Ikshwaku. He was father of Harischandra, and is also named Vedhas and Trisanku.

According to the Ramayana he was a pious king, and was desirous of performing a sacrifice in virtue of which he might ascend bodily to heaven. Vasishtha, his priest, declined to perform it, declaring it impossible. He then applied to Vasishtha's sons, and they condemned him to become a Chandala for his presumption.

In his distress and degradation he applied to Vishvamitra, who promised to raise him in that form to heaven. Vishvamitra's intended sacrifice was strongly resisted by the sons of Vasishtha, but he reduced them to ashes, and condemned them to be born again as outcasts for seven hundred births. The wrathful sage bore down all other opposition, and Trisanku ascended to heaven.

Here his entry was opposed by Indra and the gods, but Vishvamitra in a fury declared that he would create "another Indra, or the world should have no Indra at all." The gods were obliged to yield, and it was agreed that Trisanku, an immortal, should hang with his head downwards, and shine among some stars newly called into being by Vishvamitra.

The Vishnu Purana gives a more simple version. While Satyavrata was a Chandala, and the famine was ragin, he supported Vishvamitra's family by hanging deer's flesh on a tree on the bank of the Ganges, so that they might obtain food without the degradation of receiving it from a Chandala: for this charity Vishvamitra raised him to heaven.

The story is differently told in the Harivansa. Satyavrata of Trisanku, when a prince, attempted to carry off the wife of a citizen, in consequence of which his father drove him from home, nor did Vasishtha, the family priest, endeavour to soften the father's decision. The period of his exile was a time of famine, and he greatly succoured the wife and family of Vishvamitra, who were in deep distress while the sage was absent far away.

He completed his twelve year's exile and penance, and being hungry one day, and having no flesh to eat, he killed Vasishtha's wondrous cow, the Kamadhenu, and ate thereof himself, and gave some to the sons of Vishvamitra. In his rage Vasishtha gave him the name Trisanku, as being guilty of three great sins.

Vishvamitra was gratified by the assistance which Satyavrata had rendered to his family; "he installed him in his father's kingdom,. and, in spite of the resistance of the gods and of Vasishtha, exalted the king alive to heaven."

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM