Here, we share with you the amazing, strange, and yet exciting story of King Yayati. He was a Puranic king who exchanged his old age with the youth of his son. The story finds mention in the Mahabharata-Adi Parva as well as in Bhagavata Purana.
Yayati was the Chakravarti Samrat (World Emperor). He had conquered the whole world. He was the son of King Nahusha, who ruled as Indra in heaven.
He was married to Sarmishta, who was the daughter of the Asura king Vrushaparva. His second wife was Devayani, who was the loving daughter of the Asura guru Sukracharya. Puru was his son by Sarmishta, and Yadu was his son by Devayani.
The Story of King Yayati
One day Sarmishta and Devayani go to bathe in a forest pool that was not far from their home.
Once they had taken a bath, Sarmishta wore Devayani’s sari instead.
When Devayani returned and saw Sarmishta wearing her sari, she scolded Sarmishta for her mistake. She also made slur on her father, Vrushaparva.
All this infuriated Sarmishta very much.
She threw the naked Devayani into a well and left the forest with her entourage.
Later Yayati came to the well for water and helped Devayani to climb out of it.
Devayani was furious with Sarmishta and resolved to take revenge for trying to kill her by throwing her into the well.
She resolved to make Sarmishta her servant.
When Sarmishta’s father, Vrushaparva, came to know about this state of affairs, he too agreed to this as he did not want to threaten the security of his kingdom, which was depended upon the sage counsel of Devayani’s father, Sukracharya.
Sarmishta also wanted to save the kingdom. So, she agreed to this and became Devayani’s maidservant.
After some days, Devayani went on a picnic in the forest along with her servants that included Sarmishta.
There she meets Yayati again who had come for hunting. He saw Sarmishta and was attracted by her beauty.
He asked Devayani about her.
So, Devayani introduced Sarmishta as her slave.
Devayani wanted that Yayati should become her husband as he had helped her to get out of the well by holding her hand.
However, Yayati feared Sukracharya and tells Devayani that he will marry her when her father agrees as he believed that it is not Dharma for a King to marry a Brahmin girl.
So, Devayani introduced Yayati to her father Sukracharya and tells him that she wanted to marry Yayati. Sukracharya gives his consent and tells Yayati that he should take care of Sarmishta too. However, he should not maintain a physical relationship with her. Finally, Yayati married Devayani and took care of her well.
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Many years passed by, and then one-day, Sarmishta came to Yayati. She requested Yayati to give her a child. However, Yayati refused and said that this could angry Sukracharya.
Finally, Sarmishta managed to convince him by saying that it is the responsibility of the king to address the needs of the citizens. Sarmishta told Yayati that she is desperate to have a child.
So, Yayati reluctantly agreed to this and began to have a physical relationship with Sarmishta in the hope that she will conceive.
In due course, Devayani gave birth to two sons – Yadu and Turvasu. While Sarmishta gave birth to three sons, namely Druhyu, Anu, and Puru.
Eventually, Devayani came to know about Yayati’s affair with Sarmishta and complained to her father, Sukracharya.
Sukracharya became furious with his son-in-law’s disobedience and cursed Yayati with premature old age, which was a punishment for hurting the sentiments of her daughter.
When Sukracharya came to know about Sarmishta’s desire to become a mother, he relented upon his behavior of cursing Yayati.
So, he told Yayati that he could escape the curse and regain his lost youth if any of his sons is ready to exchange their age with him.
Now, Yayati asked his sons if they are willing to give up their youth for rejuvenating their father.
All his sons refused except the youngest one, Puru, who was the son by Sarmishta. Puru was devoted to his father and agreed to give up his youth for his father’s life. Yayati was immensely pleased with Puru and made him his legitimate heir.
So, Yayati continued to enjoy all the sensual pleasures for full ‘thousand’ years.
This experience gave Yayati the realization that it is utterly futile. He came to understand that all the pleasures (including food, wealth, and women) cannot satisfy the lust of a man with uncontrolled senses.
Indulgence in sensual pleasures can never satisfy a man’s lust. He said that peace and happiness could only be attained by renouncing the craving for sensual pleasures.
Finally, Yayati found wisdom and returned the youth of his son Puru and took back his old age in return. He renounced the world and spent his remaining days as a forest ascetic. Deep in the woods, he began to tread the path of spirituality and eventually attained Svarga – the heavenly realm that is ruled by Indra.
So, this is the story of King Yayati. It teaches us that the lust for sensual pleasures cannot be satisfied. True happiness can only be achieved by following the spiritual path and devotion to God. Yayati himself followed spiritual practices to attain Svarga.
We hope that you liked the story of King Yayati.
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