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Lord Krishna & Sage Durvasa

Durvasa a great sage used to wander around asking who would invite him as a guest to their house. Durvasa appears in Hindu mythology as the angry sage who is always ready to put a curse on anyone who displeases him. People revered Durvasa only out of fear. For instance, the curse put on Shakuntala, daughter of nymph Menaka and sage Vishwamitra, that her lover king Dushyant would forget her is well known through literary texts.

Even the gods were not excluded from his ire as the sage is said to have cursed Krishna. When Durvasa visited Krishna, he desired that Krishna and his wife Rukmini should drag the chariot in which he was sitting to show their respect to the sage’s greatness. When Krishna and Rukmini started dragging the chariot, Rukmini felt thirsty. Krishna stopped the chariot and made Ganga change her course and come where Rukmini was standing, so she could quench her thirst. Durvasa became furious because Krishna did not ask his permission before bringing Gang, a and cursed Rukmini that she would be addicted to wine drinking and she would be separated from her husband Krishna.

Who was sage Durvasa? And why was he always so angry?

There are various narratives about sage Durvasa’s birth. Markandeya Purana reveals Durvasa was born prematurely, bearly seven days after he was conceived out of the wrath of his parents- Atri and Anusuya. But according to Vaman Purana, When Shiva cut off Brahma’s head, it got stuck to his palm and wouldn’t come off. Shiva went asking for help to Vishnu and explained how Brahma’s head had got stuck to his hand (saying, “ I have now become mahakapalika”) . Vishnu lifted his left arm and asked Shiva to strike it with his Trishul. Shiva did what was asked, and three streams of blood sprang out of the left arm of Vishnu. The first stream of bloodshot up into the sky and became stars. The second stream of blood fell to the earth it was received by sage Atri, and a son Durvasa was born to Atri, (who was supposed have the traits of Shiva and was called ‘tiger’ among sages ( munishardul). And the third stream of Vishnu’s blood fell into the kapal in Shiva’s hand and thus he was released from the head of Brahma. Most of the Puranas acknowledge Durvasa as the son of Shiva.

Once Durvasa went to the town of Chamtkarapura and requested the Brahmanas of the town to build a temple for Lord Shiva. But they ignored his request. So Durvasa cursed the Brahmanas that their progeny would be infatuated with pride ( mada). Brahmanas counter cursed Durvasa that “ he would always be full of wrath”. Curses and boons are two sides of the same coin. If a sage/wise man could utter a curse then he also had the power to bestow a boon. In mythological tales, sage Durvasa comes across as one who sets out to test gods for their integrity. When he found them floundering and not matching his standards of excellence he was quick to curse them, but when pleased he would generously bestow boons to them.

However, very little is known about the boons bestowed by Sage Durvasas. In Mahabharata, when Draupadi was being stripped off her clothes by Dushashana, it is said Krishna came to her aid and supplied her unending piece of cloth to cover her dignity. But there is a curious additional twist to the event presented in Shiva Puranas. Once Sage Durvasa was taking bath in the holy river, Ganga. As he was paying oblations to the river, a strong current of water washed away his lower garments exposing him. At the same time, Draupadi too was bathing in river Ganga a little distance away and noticed sage Durvasas in this awkward situation. She quickly tore a part of her garment and floated it downstream towards sage Durvasas to cover himself. Sage was pleased by her actions and gave her a boon "At a critical point in time in your life you would be provided with an abundance of cloth to cover your dignity".

In Brahmavaiarta Purana, it is mentioned that Durvasa is married Kandali the daughter of sage Aurva. Kandali had a sharp tongue and as a result, she would often quarrel with her husband Durvasa. One day in the heat of an argument Durvasa cursed her that she would burn into ashes. And she instantly turned into ashes, Durvasa regretted his actions and decided to give up his own life. Vishnu appeared before Durvasa and assured him that Kandali would be turned into a tree and she would bear fruit once a year.

There are narratives that suggest Durvasa also got into trouble because of his habit of muttering curses at the slightest provocation. King Ambarish was a staunch devotee of Vishnu. One day while he was completing his vow of fasting and was about to take food, Durvasa arrived. He announced to the King he would join soon to share food after completing his daily rites of Sandhya. As Durvasa did not turn up for a long time, Ambirish took a sip of water to quench his dry lips. When Durvasa returned he came to know of this breach and was enraged. He immediately plucked a lock of his hair and created the demoness Kritya and set her after King Ambirish. When Vishnu saw his devotee is being threatened he sent his Sudarshan chakra after sage Durvasa. The weapon chased after the sage wherever he went. In the end, sage Durvasa had to surrender to the might of Lord Vishnu and forgive King Ambirish.

Skanda Purana mentions a holy place called Durvasaditya by the banks of river Yamuna. It is said, Sage Durvasa with his powers had made Surya/sun halt at that spot.

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