Brighu’s curse on Agni

Posted on June 7, 2010


Maharishi Brighu, one of the seven great sages (the Saptarishis), had a wife by the name Puloma. Once when she was pregnant, Brighu went out of his Ashrama to take his bath. At that time, a rákshasha , also by the name Puloma, stopped by the áshrama. Upon seeing the rishi’s wife, the rákshasha  was attracted to her and lost his sense of reason.

There was a history between the rákshasha and the lady’s father where the latter had once spoken of bestowing his daughter to the rákshasha. But the father subsequently offered her in matrimony to the rishi Brighu in the presence of Agni. This had created a deep wound in the mind of the rákshasha.

Now in the Ashrama, upon witnessing a sacrificial fire burning brightly, the rákshasha Puloma asked thus: “O Agni, Tell me truthfully, to whom does this lady Puloma belong? Is she the same lady who was to be bestowed upon me? If so, I will bear her away from this hermitage. Answer me truthfully”

Agni fell in despair, for he could neither lie nor speak the truth for he would be subject to the curse of Brighu. He first remained silent. But on the rákshasha’s insistence, Agni responded  “O Dānava, you did not take her hand in accordance with Vedic rites as Brighu did with me as the witness. Therefore she is rightfully the wife of the rishi.”

Agni (Source: Gwalior Museum)

Upon hearing Agni’s words, the rákshasha assumed the form of a boar and carried Puloma away. The child of Brighu in the womb, enraged by this action, came out of the mother’s body. Because of this he came to be known as Chyavana (Chyuta means fallen; hence the name Chayavana. Similarly Achyuta, another name for Krishna, means infallible). Being Brighu’s son, he was also known as Bhargava.

The rákshasha, perceiving the resplendent child, was instantly reduced to ashes.

* * *

Rishi Brighu soon learnt from his wife all that had happened. Enraged that it was Agni who revealed his wife to the rákshasha, Brighu cursed Agni thus “May you become an eater of all things”

Agni, enraged at Brighu’s curse, asked, “O Brahmana, why this rashness against me who only spoke the truth? A witness who misrepresents facts will have ruined his ancestors and descendants up to seven generations on either side. Even if one remains silent when questioned, the effects are the same.

The butter that is poured on me during rituals appeases the Devas and Pitris. The rites of Darsha (performed on Amavasya) and Paurnamása (performed on full-moon day) respectively feed the Pitris and Devas. As the ghee poured on me is consumed by them, I am considered their mouth. How can I, who feed them, become an eater of all things?”

Saying thus, Agni subsequently withdrew himself from all places, causing discomfort to all living beings because of the loss of sacrificial fire. And the rishis and Devas went to Brahma and requested for a timely resolution. Brahma summoned Agni and said, “This decision of yours to abstain from sacrifices does not befit your stature. You will remain eternally pure, and will not be reduced to someone who eats all promiscuously. Only the flame from your viler parts of the body will be a consumer of all things.  Everything burnt by your flames will become pure. Make the words of the rishi come true, while continuing to receive the offerings on behalf of the Devas and Pitris”

Agni replied “so I will”. And everyone rejoiced as from then on the rishis were able to continue the rituals as before.

(Source: Mbh Adi Parva, Chapters 5 to 7)