The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two greatest sources of stories which almost all kids of India have grown up hearing. These epics are the inexhaustible sources of the most fantastic stories which leave us wonderstruck. The innumerable stories of kings, princesses, mighty warriors and celestial nymphs have always fascinated each one of us. Love, hatred, arrogance, greed are some of the themes around which these fascinating fables are woven. These tales have lived on for centuries and passed from one generation to the other and yet they do not seem to lose their charm.
THE LEGEND OF AN IMMORTAL: ASHWATTHAMA One such fascinating story from the Mahabharata is about the love of the famous apsara (celestial nymph) named Urvashi with a human king Pururava. Celestial beings falling in love with humans is a popular theme in Indian mythology. The stories of Menaka and Vishwamitra, Rambha and Shukracharya are some of the examples of love stories between apsaras and human beings. Apart from these stories, there is another beautiful love story of Urvashi and Pururava. This is a tale of love, passion, jealousy and the ultimate separation. Let us hear out the story of Urvashi and Pururava.
Pururava: The King Of Lunar Dynasty Pururavas was the first of the Lunar Kings (Chandravanshi), and was the son of Budha and Ila. Budha was the son of Som (or Chandra, moon) and Tara (who was actually the wife of sage Brihaspati). Pururavas was a brave warrior and was many a times invited by Lord Indra to help them during battles with the asuras. Once Urvashi, an apsara in Indra’s court, got bored of the heavens and along with her friends came down to earth to enjoy the difference. She preferred the life of earth with its emotions and turmoil to the ever-happy life of heavens. While returning from one such trip to earth, during dawn, she was kidnapped by an asura.
The Magical Touch Urvashi was returning to heaven just before dawn with the other apsaras when she was abducted by a demon. Pururava saw this and chased the demon on his chariot and freed Urvashi from his clutches. The brief period their bodies touched changed their lives forever. For the first time, Urvasi experienced the warm flesh of a mortal and experienced a strong infatuation. Similarly, Pururava also felt drawn towards the nymph. However, none of them were sure if the feelings were reciprocated.
The Love Blossomed During a drama, where she was acting as Goddess Lakshmi, Urvashi took the name of Pururava as her lover, where she ought to have said ‘Purshottama’, a name of Vishnu. This annoyed sage Bharata, who was directing the play and he cursed her that since she was smitten by a mortal, she too would have to go and live with him as a mortal and beget his children, something unknown to apsaras. Urvashi did not care for the curse as she was too smitten with Pururava. On the other hand, Pururava was also sad because he could never imagine a celestial nymph coming down to him and love him. He was also depressed because his wife did not bear any children. At this time, Urvashi came looking for Pururava and they confessed their feelings for each other.
The Conditions Urvashi agreed to stay with Pururava for the rest of life. But she had a few conditions. The first condition that she will bring two goats whose safety had to be ensured by the king, second that during the time she stayed on Earth, she will eat only clarified butter (ghee) and third, they should never see each other nude except for the time of lovemaking. The day any of the conditions were surpassed, Urvashi would have to leave for the heavens. Pururava agreed to all the conditions and they started living together at the Gandhamadan garden.
The Plot Of The Gods The Gods, on the other hand, became very jealous of the love between Urvashi and Pururava. The heavens seemed dull without Urvashi. So, they decided to hatch a plot. Late one night, the gandharvas took away the goats. When the goats started bleating, Urvashi got worried and asked the king to immediately go and save them. Pururavas, who was wearing nothing at that hour, got up in a hurry. Just at that moment, the gandharvas flashed some light from the heavens and both Pururava and Urvashi saw each other naked.
The Tragedy As the third condition was surpassed, it was time for Urvashi to go back to heavens. With a heavy heart, she left the king, who was shattered. At that time, however Urvashi carried the child of Pururava. She asked the king to come near the region of Kurukshetra after a year where she gave him his child. Later, a lot of other events produced circumstances where Urvashi came again and again to the Earth and bore Pururava many more children.