Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

A - B - C - D - E - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - P - R - S - T - U - V - Y


YAYATI. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] The fifth king of the Lunar race, and son of Nahusha.

He had two wives, Devayani and Sarmishtha, from the former of whom was born Yadu, and from the latter Puru, the respective founders of the two great lines of Yadavas and Pauravas. In all he had five sons, the other three being Druhyu, Turvasu, and Anu.

He was a man of amorous disposition, and his infidelity to Devayani brought upon him the curse of old age and infirmity from her father, Sukra.

This curse Sukra consented to transfer to any one of his sons who would consent to bear it. All refused except Puru, who undertook to resign his youth in his father's favour.

Yayati, after a thousand years spent in sensual pleasures, renounced sensuality, restored his vigour to Puru, and made him his successor.

This story of Puru's assuming Yayati's decrepitude is first told in the Mahabharata. The above is the version of the Vishnu Purana.

In the Padma it is told in a different manner. Yayati was invited to heaven by Indra, who sent Matali, his charioteer, to fetch his guest. On their way they held a philosophical discussion, which made such an impression on Yayati that, when he returned to earth, he, by his virtuous administration, rendered all his subjects exempt from passion and decay.

Yama complained that men no longer died, and so Indra sent Kamadeva, god of love, and his daughter, Asruvindumati, to excite a passion in the breast of Yayati. He became enamoured, and in order to become a fit husband for his youthful charmer he made application to his sons for an exchange of their youth and his decrepitude. All refused but Puru, whose manly vigour his father assumed. After awhile the youthful bride, at the instigation of Indra, persuaded her husband to return to heaven, and he then restored to Puru his youth.

The Bhagavata Purana and the Harivansa tell the story, but with variations. According to the latter, Yayati received from Indra a celestial car, by means of which he in six nights conquered the earth and subdued the gods themselves. This car descended to his successors, but was lost by Janamejaya through the curse of the sage Gargya. Yayati, after restoring his youth to Puru, retired to the forest with his wife and gave himself up to mortification. Abstaining from food, he died and ascended to heaven. He and his five sons are all called Rajarshis.

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