INDRA, the Lord of the three
regions, was once so drunk with pride that he quite forgot the courteous
manners and forms that the gods had hitherto observed.
When Brihaspati, preceptor of the
gods, foremost in all branches of learning, and venerated alike by the gods and
the asuras, came to his court, Indra did not rise from his seat to receive the
acharya or ask him to be seated and failed to do the customary honors.
In his great conceit, Indra
persuaded himself to believe that the sastras allowed him as a king in court the
prerogative of receiving guests seated. Brihaspati was hurt by Indra's
discourtesy and, attributing it to the arrogance of prosperity, silently left
Without the high priest of the
gods, the court lost in splendor and dignity and became an unimpressive
Indra soon realized the foolishness of his conduct and,
sensing trouble for himself from the acharya's displeasure, he thought to make
up with him by falling at his feet and asking for forgiveness.
But this he could not do, because
Brihaspati had, in his anger, made himself invisible. This preyed on Indra's
With Brihaspati gone, Indra's
strength began to decline, while that of the asuras increased, which encouraged
the latter to attack the gods. Then Brahma, taking pity on the beleaguered
gods, advised them to take unto themselves a new acharya.
Said he to them: "You have,
through Indra's folly, lost Brihaspati. Go now to Twashta's son Visvarupa and
request that noble spirit to be your preceptor and all will be well with you."
Heartened by these words, the
gods sought the youthful anchorite Visvarupa and made their request to him
saying: "Though young in years, you are well versed in the Vedas. Do us
the honor of being our teacher."
Visvarupa agreed, to the great
advantage of the gods for, as a result of his guidance and teaching, they were
saved from the tormenting asuras.
Visvarupa's, mother was of the
asura clan of daityas, which caused Indra to regard Visvarupa with suspicion.
He feared that because of his birth, Visvarupa might not be quite loyal and his
suspicion gradually deepened.
Apprehending danger to himself
from this descendent of the enemies of the gods, Indra sought to entice him
into error with the temptresses of his court and so weaken him spiritually. But
Visvarupa did not succumb.
The artful and seductive
blandishments of Indra's glamour girls had no effect on the young ascetic. He
held fast to his vow of celibacy. When Indra found that his plan of seduction
failed, he gave way to murderous thoughts and one day killed Visvarupa with the
The story goes that the world
suffers vicariously for this great sin of Indra. And, as a result of it, parts
of the earth turned alkaline and became unsuitable for cultivation and women
came to be afflicted with the physical troubles and uncleanness peculiar to
them. The frothing of water is also attributed to this.
Twashta in his great rage and
grief at Indra's cruel killing of his son and, desirous of avenging his death,
performed a great sacrifice. And out of the sacrificial flames sprang Indra's
mortal enemy Vritra.
Twashta sent him against the
chief of the gods, saying: "Enemy of Indra, may you be strong and may you
kill Indra." A great battle raged between the two in which Vritra was
gaining the upper hand.
When the battle was going against
Indra, the rishis and the gods sought refuge in great Vishnu who offered them
protection and said to them: "Be not afraid. I shall enter Indra's
Vajrayudha and he will win the battle in the end." And they returned in
They went to Vritra and said to
him: "Please make friends with Indra. You are both equal in strength and
Vritra respectfully answered:
"O blameless ones, how can Indra, and I become friends? Forgive me. There
cannot be friendship between rivals for supremacy. Two great powers cannot
coexist as you know."
The rishis said in reply:
"Do not entertain such doubts. Two good souls can be friends and their
friendship is often after hostility."
Vritra yielded saying:
"Well, then, I shall cease fighting. But I have no faith in Indra. He
might take me unawares. So I seek this boon of you, namely, that neither by day
nor by night, neither with dry weapons nor with wet ones, neither with stone
nor with wood, nor with metals, nor with arrows shall Indra be able to take my
"So be it," said the
rishis and the gods.
Hostilities ceased. But soon
Vritra's fears were confirmed. Indra only feigned friendship for Vritra but
was, all the time, waiting for a suitable opportunity to slay him.
One evening, he met Vritra on the
beach and began to attack him in the twilight. The battle had raged for a long
while when Vritra praising the Lord Vishnu, said to Indra: "Meanest of the
mean, why do you not use the unfailing Vajrayudha? Hallowed by Hari, use it
against me and I shall attain blessedness through Hari."
Indra maimed Vritra by chopping
off his right arm but, undaunted, the latter hurled with his left band, his
iron mace at his assailant who thereupon cut down his other arm also. When
Indra disappeared into the mouth of Vritra, great was the consternation of the
But Indra was not dead. He ripped
Vritra's belly open and issuing forth went to the nearby beach. And directing
his thunderbolt at the water hurled it so that the surf flew and hit Vritra. Vishnu
having entered the foam, it became a deadly weapon and the mighty Vritra lay
dead. The long battle thus ended and the afflicted world heaved a sigh of
relief. But to Indra himself, the end of the war brought only ignominy because
his victory was secured through sin and deceit and is went into hiding for
Indra's disappearance caused the
gods and the rishis great distress. For a people without a king or a council of
state to govern them cannot prosper. So they went to the good and mighty king
Nahusha and offered him the crown.
"Forgive me, I cannot be
your king. Who am I to aspire to the seat of Indra? How can I protect you? It
is impossible," he humbly objected. But they insisted, saying: "Do
not hesitate. Be anointed our king. All the merit and potency of our penance
will be yours and be an addition to your strength. The power and the energy of
everyone you set your eyes on shall be transferred to you and you will be
invincible." Thus over-powered, he agreed. Revolution is no new thing. This
story shows that, even in the world of the gods, there was a revolution leading
to Indra's dethronement and Nahusha's installation as king in his stead. The
story of Nahusha's fall is also instructive.