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BHAGIRATHA

'I do not want a Son Who Plagues the People'

"Sagara was ruling over this very kingdom of Kosala. He was as good as he was mighty. His heroism was known the world over. He had performed ninety-nine Ashwamedha Yagas. A ruler performs this Yaga to be accepted as an Emperor. Do you know anything about this Yaga? A well-bred horse is splendidly decorated and a gold plate is tied to his face. The plate bears these words: 'this horse belongs to such and such a king. Those who have courage may stop the horse. Otherwise they may pay tributes and let him go further. ‘The master sends an army with the horse. If any King ties up the horse, he has to fight with the army. The horse is left to roam about like this for one year and at the end of the year the master of the horse performs the Ashwamedha. By that time many Kings will have accepted him as their master. Sagara had become famous by performing the horse-sacrifice ninety-nine times. People lived happily in his Kingdom.

"Sagara had two wives. Keshini, daughter of the King of Vidarbha, was the first wife;

Sumati, daughter of a King by name Arishtanemi, was the second wife.

"The King enjoyed great glory and splendor, but yet he was UN-happy, because he had no children. He was very sad and worried. Finally, he grew tired of life itself. He left the administration of the Kingdom in the hands of his ministers, and went away to the Himalayas with his two wives. On the way, there was a very lovely spot. It was cool and shady, with water close by. It was cool and shady, with water close by. It was surrounded on all sides by the mountain ranges of the Himalayas. The place was called "Bhriguprasravana’ after the sage Bhrigu. Very much attracted by the beauty of the spot, the king and his two wives built a cottage and stayed there. Desirous of getting children, Emperor Sagara undertook a very strict and severe form of ‘Tapas’ (prayer to God). As time passed, the severity of his ‘Tapas’, the sage Bhrigu appeared before him. Sagara and his wives touched his feet and prayed in these words:

‘O Sage, kindly grant us a boon; we want children to continue our dynasty.’ Bhrigu Maharshi was pleased and granted them the boon. He said: "Great king, don't be unhappy. You will have children because of this 'Tapas'. One of your wives will have one son who will preserve your race, and the other will have sixty thousand brave children who will win great fame.".

The queens were very happy. But they were curious to. Know which of them would get the one son and which, the many. Finally they summoned courage and asked the sage himself. The sage calmly said:

'Choose f or yourselves.' Keshini, the elder wife, said: 'One son who will continue our race is enough for me.' 'I wish to become the mother of many brave and famous children' - said the younger wife. The sage smilingly said, 'Be it so, 'and went away. Sagara returned to his kingdom in great joy.

Sometime passed. Keshini gave birth to a boy. The king and his subjects felt very happy. There were festivals and rejoicing in every nook and corner because of the birth of the prince. The child, named Asamanja, grew up into a very handsome and smart boy. Asamanja was everybody's pet child. Someone or the other would always be carrying the lovely boy and he grew up without ever touching the ground.

After many days, Sumati also had children. She was extremely happy since her wish was also fulfilled. Sixty thousand children were born to her. Arrangements were made for each child to be brought up by a separate nurse.

The palace was now buzzing with noise. It is impossible to control the uproar in a house with two children. Then what about sixty thousand children running, laughing, playing, shouting at the same time? But there was happiness amidst such noise. The children grew up in discipline. They were brave and handsome.

"But somehow the eldest son Asamanja grew up to be a bad boy. He was the emperor's first son and everybody's favourite. The result of this excessive affection was that he became very stubborn. He started ordering about everybody. He dragged his playmates along the road and hurt them. He seemed to get a wicked pleasure in seeing those helpless children weep. His mischief went further. He began to drag them along and drown them in the river Sarayu. The helpless children, who could not swim, would throw about their limbs wildly and be drowned. Asamanja would stand on the bank and watch and laugh wickedly. His evil deeds increased day by day.

"At first, people kept quiet out of fear and hesitation. But when Asamanja's harassment increased, all of them went to King Sagara and lamented thus: 'O King, if your son is allowed to go on like this, no child will be alive in anybody's house in the kingdom. Please protect us.'

Sagara listened to the tale of misery. He was a noble king and believed that the people's happiness was his happiness. But now his own son was a plague to the people. He decided not to have a son who tormented his subjects. He called his son and mercilessly commanded him thus:

'Asamanja, you are a traitor to my people.

You must go out of my kingdom.'

Asamanja accepted his punishment joyfully. It seems he was in fact an ascetic and had taken to evil ways only to get rid of his physical being. So he felt happy when his own father banished him from the kingdom. There is a story that before going away, he brought back to life, with his Yogic power, all those children whom he had killed, and sent them to their homes. Then, practicing Yoga, he got rid of his physical body, and attained salvation.

Asamanja had a son. He was Amshumanta.

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Bhagiratha - The Great hero who brought down the Ganga from the heaven to the earth.
About Bhagiratha
Introduction
"Who Was Sagara?"
You are Here! 'I Do Not Want A Son Who Plagues the People'
Behind The Horse - To The House Of Death
The Duty Of The Descendants
Answering The Call Of Duty
Bhagiratha's Tapas
Taming The Ganga
The Earth Smiles
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