There was a king called Kalmashapada. He was born in the Kakutstha dynasty and was a disciple of sage Vasishtha. Once he went to the forest to hunt and spent a lot of time killing various animals. Growing tired, he began to return by a narrow footpath. Midway he saw the great sage Shakti coming towards him, glowing with intelligence. He was the eldest born of Vasishtha, and was the father of Parasara. They met on the way. An argument arose on who was to get the right of way. Proud of his being a king, Kalmashapada ordered the maharishi to give way. Shakti did not want to draw aside because the dharmashastra-s say that when a King and a Brahmin meet, the King should give way to the Brahmin. Shakti wanted Kalmashapada to understand this custom. Preening with pride at being rich, Kalmashapada refused to listen to him and repeated his command. Inflamed, the king whipped Shakti who cursed him in anger: ‘As you tortured me like a rakshasa, you will become a rakshasa and a cannibal.’
King Kalmashpada was already a bone of contention between Vasishtha and Visvamitra. Each wanted to make him his disciple. This was an opportune moment for Visvamitra. Frightened by Shakti’s curse, Kalmashapada sought refuge with Visvamitra and wished to seek forgiveness for his crime. With his mantric prowess, Visvamitra immediately sent a demon (rakshasa) called Kinkara with the aim of befogging his memory.
The Brahmin’s curse
On his way home, the King who was in a state of forgetfulness, saw a Brahmin coming towards him. The hungry Brahmin asked the king for food and meat. The king asked him to wait and promised to send such food upon reaching his kingdom.
After his return to the palace at midnight, he ordered one of his cooks to ready some meat and food and give the same to the Brahmin waiting outside. But meat could not be procured at that hour. The king then asked the cook to get at least some human flesh. This was done and the servant cooked it well and took it to the Brahmin, who on realizing that it was human flesh, was incensed and cursed the king: “This is the work of rakshasa-s. May he become a rakshasa who eats human flesh.”
The curse of Shakti was thus doubled by the Brahmin’s curse. On hearing this, the King was upset and furious. He hastened to Shakti. “Maharishi! Is it not because of your curse that I have become a cannibal? I shall first put the curse to test on you!” Saying this, he killed and gobbled the sage. Learning about this, Visvamitra sent Kalmashada to kill and eat the other one hundred sons of Vasishtha. Vasishtha’s lineage thus came to an end and Visvamitra anger was appeased.
Do not blindly follow their actions
The following questions may arise in the minds of readers: “What? Aren’t we better than sages like Visvamitra who destroyed an entire family in anger? We are not subject to such desires and hatred!” But this is not right. Though such actions appear to be against righteousness (dharma), because of the powers of knowledge gained by these sages, these are not actually crimes. Even for small mistakes, they will not hesitate to do severe penance (tapasya) to overcome sins. So the dharmashastra-s say: “Sometimes elders may do what appears to go against dharma. But you should not follow their actions! They can overcome the effects by the power of their tapasya.You cannot do so. Therefore follow only such actions of the elders that ensure your good.”
When Shakti was dying, his wife Adrisyanti was with child. Vasishtha was in agony on the loss of his son. But he did not seek revenge by destroying Visvamitra. He jumped into the ocean to commit suicide. He leaped off a hill and banged his head on a rock. He entered fire, but life continued to reside in his body. He struggled, not knowing the way to die. You see, even realised sages mourn for their lost children.
A blessed babe
One day Vasishtha went to visit his daughter-in-law to console her. Suddenly the sounds of vedic chant were heard. Vasishtha was surprised, as there was no one nearby. But the voice continued and it sounded very much like that of his son Shakti. Vasishtha was confused.
Adrisyanti then disclosed that the voice was of the babe in the womb. The child had been listening to its father reciting the Veda-s daily, and hence continued chanting the Veda. Vasishtha was delighted that the babe had been blessed even in the womb. Vasishtha continued to live happily that he was going to be the grandparent of such a noble child.
To be continued….
This English Commentary is written by smt Prema Nandakumar based on the tamil commentary written by H.H. 45th Azhagiyasingar of the Ahobila Mutt. His Holiness has ‘commented’ only on select chapters of the Vishnu Purana. The English translation faithfully follows the original in this aspect. Words that appear in square brackets [ ] have been placed there to serve as a link and do not form part of the original. Reproduced from Nrusimhapriya.
For Tamil commentary and Upanyasam of Vishnu Puranam, please visit: http://anudinam.org/category/stories/