Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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CHYAVANA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] A sage, son of the Rishi Bhrigu, and author of some hymns.

In the Rigveda it is said that when "Chyavana had grown old and had been forsaken, the Aswins divested him of his decrepit body, prolonged his life, and restored him to youth, making him acceptable to his wife, and the husband of maidens." This story is thus amplified in the Satapatha Brahmana: The sage Chyavana assumed a shrivelled form and lay as if abandoned. The sons of Saryata, a descendant of Manu, found this body, and pelted it with clods. Chyavana was greatly incensed, and to appease him Saryata yoked his chariot, and taking with him his daughter Sukanya, presented her to Chyavana. The Aswins endeavoured to seduce her, but she remained faithful to her shrivelled husband, and under his direction she taunted them with being incomplete and imperfect, and consented to tell them in what respect they were deficient, if they would make her husband young again. They directed that he should bathe in a certain pond, and having done so, he came forth with the age that he desired. She then informed them that they were imperfect because they were excluded from a sacrifice the other gods were performing. They departed and succeeded in getting admitted to join the other gods.

According to the Mahabharata, Chyavana besought Indra to allow the Aswins to partake of the libations of soma. Indra replied that the other gods might do as they pleased, but he would not consent. Chyavana then commenced a sacrifice to the Aswins; the other gods were subdued, but Indra, in a rage, rushed with a mountain in one hand and his thunderbolt in another to crush Chyavana. The sage having sprinkled him with water and stopped him, "created a fearful open-mouthed monster called Mada, having teeth and grinders of portentous length, and jaws one of which enclosed the earth, the other the sky; and the gods, including Indra, are said to have been at the root of his tongue like fishes in the mouth of a sea monster." In this predicament "Indra granted the demand of Chyavana, who was thus the cause of the Aswins becoming drinkers of the soma."

In another part of the Mahabharata he is represented as exacting many menial offers from King Kusika and his wife, but he afterwards rewarded them by "creating a magical golden palace," and predicted the birth of "a grandson of great beauty and heroism (Parasurama)."

The Mahabharata, interpreting his name as signifying `the fallen,' accounts for it by a legend which represents his mother, puloma, wife of Bhrigu, as having been carried off by the demon Puloman. She was pregnant, and in her fright the child fell from her womb. The demon was softened, and let the mother depart with her infant.

The version of the story as told in the Mahabharata and Puranas is that Chyavana was so absorbed in penance on the banks of the Narmada that white ants constructed their nests round his body and left only his eyes visible. Sukanya, daughter of King Saryata, seeing two bright eyes in what seemed to be an anthill, poked them with a stick. The sage visited the offence on Saryata, and was appeased only by the promise of the king to give him Sukanya in marriage. Subsequently the Aswins, coming to his hermitage, compassionated her union with so old and ugly a husband as Chyavana, and tried to induce her to take one of them in his place. When their persuasions failed, they told her they were the physicians of the gods, and would restore her husband to youth and beauty, when she could make her choice between him and one of them. Accordingly the three bathed in a pond and came forth of like celestial beauty. Each one asked her to be his bride, and she recognised and chose her own husband. Chyavana, in gratitude, compelled Indra to admit the Aswins to a participation of the soma ceremonial. Indra at first objected, because the Aswins wandered about among men was not to be refused; he stayed the arm of Indra as he was about to launch a thunderbolt, and he created a terrific demon who was on the point of devouring the king of the gods when he submitted.

According to the Mahabharata, Chyavana was husband of Arushi or Sukanya and father of Aurva. He is also considered to be the father of Harita.

The name is Chyavana in the Rigveda, but Chyavana in the Brahmana and later writings.

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM