Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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

The legend of Sunahsephas, as told in the Aitareya Brahmana, is as follows:

King Harischandra, of the race of Ikshwaku, being childless, made a vow that if he obtained a son he would sacrifice him to Varuna. A son was born who received the name of Rohita, but the father postponed, under various pretexts, the fulfillment of his vow.

When at length he resolved to perform the sacrifice, Rohita refused to be the victim, and went out into the forest, where he lived for six years.

He then met a poor Brahman Rishi called Ajigartta, who had three sons, and Rohita purchased from Ajigartta for a hundred cows, the second son, named Sunasephas, to be the substitute for himself in the sacrifice.

Varuna approved of the substitute, and the sacrifice was about to be performed, the father receiving another hundred cows for binding his son to the sacrificial post, and a third hundred for agreeing to slaughter him.

Sunahsephas saved himself by reciting verses in honour of different deities, and was received into the family of Vishvamitra, who was one of the officiating priests.

The Ramayana gives a different version of the legend. Ambarisha, king of Ayodhya, was performing a sacrifice when Indra carried off the victim. The officiating priest represented that this loss could be atoned for only by the sacrifice of a human victim. The king, after a long search, found a Brahman Rishi named Richika, who had two sons, and the younger, Sunahsephas, was then sold by his own consent for a hundred thousand cows, ten millions of gold pieces, and heaps of jewels.

Sunahsephas met with his maternal uncle, Vishvamitra, who taught him two divine verses which he was to repeat when about to be sacrificed. As he was bound at the stake to be immolated, he celebrated the two gods Indra and Vishnu with the excellent verses, and Indra, being pleased, bestowed upon him long life.

He was afterwards called Devarata, and is said to have become son of Vishvamitra.

The Mahabharata and the Puranas show some few variations. A series of seven hymns in the Rigveda is attributed to Sunahsephas.

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