Varuna, the God of Waters
The Ruling Deity of Shatabhishaj Nakshatra
Physical attributes: A hundred
stars; disposed in circular fashion.
Order in the zodiac: Twenty-fourth.
Ruling deity: Varuna (god
Planetary lord: Rahu.
Extent in the Zodiac: Kumbha
(Aquarius) 6°40' to 20°00'.
Navamsha signs: Dhanu (Sagittarius),
Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Meena (Pisces).
Category: Chara (chala;
Prescribed deeds: Entry into
a new house, shaving, medication, riding, travel, shopping,
house building, sculpting, ornaments, coronation, flag hoisting.
Significations: A hunter who
uses a net, a fisherman, all materials that originate in
water, one who lives by the (sale of) watery creatures,
one who tends pigs, a washerman, seller of liquor, a killer
Characteristics of the Shatabhishaj
born: Harsh, vicious, inconstant, truthful, not easily
conquered, courageous, of independent nature, a conqueror
of his enemies.
Lord Varuna was the son of sage Kashyapa from his
wife Aditi. He is one of the twelve gods labelled as Adityas because
of their origin from Aditi, the mother of gods.
Early in the cycle of manifestation, in the earliest
Krita-yuga, all the gods together went to Varuna and said to him:
May you accept the lordship of all waters
on the earth and protect us, even as our king Indra protects us
all. May you ever dwell in the ocean, the refuge of the aquatic
creatures. The great ocean, the husband to all the rivers and
streams, would thus remain subservient to you. You would swell
and shrink along with the Moon.
Varuna accepted the lordship of the waters. With
appropriate ceremonies, the gods installed him as the king of
waters. Thus lord Varuna took under his protection all rivers,
streams, lakes, oceans and other reservoirs of water. Varuna also
happens to be the lord of the western direction.
Varuna Curses Kashyapa
Events on earth have their inception in the celestial
plane. Lord Vishnu incarnated as lord Krishna who, in order to
uphold the principles of Dharma, helped the Pandavas to destroy
the evil Kauravas. Lord Krishna was the son of Vasudeva and Devaki
who were none other than the incarnated sage Kashyapa and his
wife Aditi, the god-mother. Here goes the story.
Sage Kashyapa once prepared to perform a great sacrifice.
All arrangements were complete but he could not procure a suitable
cow for the Yajna. So he stole a cow, Homadhenu, from the cattle-shed
of Varuna. Aditi and Surasaa, his two wives, concealed the cow
in the Ashrama as the sage started performing the Yajna.
When Varuna came to know of the theft of his heavenly
cow, he went to sage Kashyapa and demanded his cow. However, Kashyapa
was not inclined to return it. Varuna was annoyed and cursed Kashyapa,
his own father, thus:
May you be born as a human being on the earth
and tend the cows, you who have stolen my lovely cow. Both your
wives would be born there too. The calves of my cow are in distress
without their mother. As a consequence, Aditi would suffer confinement
as well as loss of her children.
Varuna went to lord Brahma and said to him, Lord!
What should I do? My cow has been stolen by sage Kashyapa who
refuses to return her despite my entreaties. So I have pronounced
a curse upon him.
Lord Brahma summoned sage Kashyapa and addressed
Noble sage, why dont you return the
cow of Varuna? You are wise and learned. There is nothing that
is not known to you. How could you stoop to this lowly act? You
have succumbed to greed which is a certain path to hell. Greed,
the greatest enemy of man, robs a man of his piety. Greed has
led you, O sage, to this fallen state.
Saying thus, lord Brahma too cursed sage Kashyapa:
Be born, through a fraction of your being, as an earthling
along with your two wives, and serve there as a cowherd.
Sage Kashyapa incarnated on the earth, through a
fraction of his celestial existence, as Vasudeva. His wives Aditi
and Surasaa were born as Devaki and Rohini, respectively the mothers
of Krishna and Balarama.
Help to Krishna and Arjuna
Agni, the Fire-god, made seven unsuccessful attempts
to burn the Khandava forest but was unsuccessful. Indra, the king
of gods, would foil all attempts of Agni-deva to destroy the forest.
But, for Agni-deva, it was a matter of life and death. He had
to burn the forest and derive nourishment from the plant and animal
life that the huge forest supported. Lord Brahma advised Agni-deva
to seek the help of lord Krishna and Arjuna to achieve his mission.
At that time, the Pandavas ruled over the newly
constructed capital of Indraprastha. This was a somewhat jejune
region which the Pandavas received from their uncle, the blind
king Dhritarashtra, as a share of the kingdom which was once ruled
by Pandu, their father. The Khandava forest was adjacent to Indraprastha
and lord Krishna and Arjuna were taking rest close to the forest
when Agni-deva approached them in the guise of a resplendent Brahmin.
Said he to them:
I am a Brahmin given to gluttony. I am capable
of eating unlimited food, O valorous Krishna and Arjuna.
I ask of you to provide me enough food to at least once allay
my hunger and grant me satiety.
Hearing him, lord Krishna and Arjuna asked the Brahmin,
Pray tell us what food you desire, O Brahmin. Both
of us would try to procure that for you.
When the Brahmin succeeded in extracting the promise
from them, he disclosed his identity. I am not seeking normal
food for human consumption, he said to them. You must
provide me food that is appropriate for me. Lord Indra protects
this Khandava forest because his friend, the serpent king Takshaka,
dwells in here along with his family members. Whenever I attempt
to burn this forest, Indra sends his army of clouds that cause
rain and obstruct me in my venture. The two of you must protect
me against the wishes of Indra when I am busy consuming the vegetation
and the animal population of this rich forest.
The promise given to the Brahmin had to be honoured
even if it involved a confrontation with Indra, the king of gods.
However, all necessary precautions would have to be taken if one
desired to succeed. So Arjuna said to Agni-deva :
Lord! I have several godly weapons by which
I can confront several Indras simultaneously. However, I do not
have a suitable bow, appropriate to the strength of my arms, which
can withstand my agility in battle. Nor do I possess a quiver
to hold an incessant supply of arrows for me, for I shoot at a
formidable pace. Nor even do I have a strong enough chariot which
can carry the load of arrows that I need in battle. I am in dire
need of a strong chariot and powerful horses that move with the
pace of the Wind-god. Lord Krishna too does not have a weapon
at hand to be able to meet in battle the formidable creatures
that inhabit this jungle. If you want us to neutralise the wrath
of Indra, O Brahmin, pray do help us to procure these means
Agni-deva thought for a while. Then he meditated
upon lord Varuna, the son of Aditi and the lord as well as the
inhabitant of water. Varuna soon appeared before Agni and sought
the reason for his invitation. Agni-deva asked Varuna to help
him with all that Arjuna had asked for. Varuna was only too pleased
Lord Varuna had been given a celestial bow and two
quivers with unceasing supply of arrows by Soma, the Moon-god.
This bow, the Gandiva, was matchless in that it was unbreakable
and endowed with supernatural sturdiness. This bow had been designed
by lord Brahma. Varuna also gave a resplendent chariot that had
been designed by the heavenly architect Vishwakarma as a result
of prolonged penance. The white steeds that drove it matched the
speed of the Wind-god. It was provided with all that was essential
in battle. The flag on the top of the chariot carried a ferocious
monkey that appeared to be able to destroy hordes of enemies.
Other creatures of varying ferocity appeared to dwell in that
flag. In much earlier times, the Moon-god had used this chariot
to overcome the demons. Agni-deva gave a Chakra to lord Krishna
for use during the inevitable combat that lay in the offing.
When Arjuna and Krishna were well equipped, the
Fire-god started burning the forest from all directions. Both
the warriors stopped the escape of creatures from the forest even
as the fire raged and destroyed all that came its way. Millions
of birds, animals and plants lost their life and satisfied the
hunger of Agni-deva. Arjuna with his arrows did not allow even
birds to fly out to safety.
Seeing this, lord Indra arrived with his army of
clouds and poured streamlets of water from the sky. At this, the
brave Arjuna released streams of arrows to create a shield around
the huge forest. This prevented escape of creatures as well as
protection against rain and thunder. Much as Indra tried, his
armies of clouds and thunder could not protect the Khandava forest,
which was reduced to ashes by the fury of the Fire-god. Indra
recognised the invincibility of the Krishna-Arjuna combination.
It was this very bow, the Gandiva, and chariot of Arjuna that
helped him later to strike terror in the forces of the Kauravas
during the Mahabharata war.
Years later, the Pandavas handed over their kingdom
to their grandson Prikshit and undertook their final journey.
On their way they met Agni-deva who addressed them thus, It
was for your sake that I borrowed the famous Gandiva and the ever
full quivers from Varuna. You must return these to their rightful
owner, the lord of the Waters.
Even while Pandavas had forsaken everything, including
their kingdom, Arjuna still had some attachment to his beloved
weapons, and was carrying them. On confronting Agni-deva, Arjuna
offered the bow and the twin quivers to the ocean, to finally
return these to lord Varuna.
Bhadra, the daughter of Soma, the Moon-god, was
known for her matchless beauty. She deserved a suitable husband.
After due consideration Soma thought that only sage Utathya, widely
renowned for his spiritual merit, could be a deserving husband
for his lovely daughter. Bhadra too accepted the match. In due
course, sage Atri, the father of the Moon-god, invited sage Utathya
and gave his grand daughter to him in marriage.
Unknown to others, lord Varuna was already fascinated
by Bhadras charm and had desired to possess her. Seeing
that she had been given in marriage to sage Utathya, lord Varuna
was upset. One day, when Bhadra had gone for a bath in the river
Yamuna, lord Varuna abducted her and took her to his magnificient
abode in the middle of the ocean. He enjoyed with her in his celestial
palace for a long time. It was sage Narada who conveyed to sage
Utathya that the latters wife had been held captive by lord
Utathya said to sage Narada, O sage!
Pray go to Varuna and tell him to return my wife to me. He is
supposed to protect the earthlings, not destroy them. Lord Soma
gave his daughter to me in marriage. How can he justify her abduction?
Narada went to the god of Waters and urged him to
release the wife of sage Utathya, but Varuna said, She is
my most loving wife. I cannot give her up.
Narada returned to Utathya empty-handed. He
would not return your wife to you, said Narada. Please,
therefore, do whatever you consider appropriate.
Sage Utathya was infuriated. He gathered all his
spiritual merit, immobilised all the bodies of water, and started
drinking water out of them. As reservoirs of water got emptied
one after the other, the well-wishers of lord Varuna requested
him to release the wife of the sage. But Varuna was so infatuated
of Bhadra that he could not give her up.
Seeing the obstinacy of lord Varuna, sage Utathya
drank the ocean dry and the whole earth became arid. Lord Varuna,
the ruler of the Waters, had no escape now. He came to sage Utathya,
returned Bhadra to the sage, and sought his forgiveness.
The sage was magnanimous. He forgave lord Varuna
and relieved him, as well as the rest of the world, of the suffering
by restoring the bodies of water to their original state.