Tales from Srimad Bhagavatam: Ambarisha, the Yogi King – XIX

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Nilanjana retells the story of Ambarisha, the Yogi King, a devotee of Narayana, and what happens to Durbasha Rishi, when in a fit of anger, he curses king. How the sage wasn’t spared for his wrongs with the Sudarshana Chakra following him. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

King Ambarisha was wise and ruled his subjects with appropriate righteousness. Since the Yogi King was well versed in Brahma Vidya (the ultimate knowledge), he was aware that this world is a mere dream which one has to complete without any attachment. He, therefore, was not entangled in the material charms of the world, while conducting his duties as a king.

Once the king heard about the sanctity of a vrata1 called Dvadashi vrata. Along with his wife, he observed the vrata for one whole year. Once the vrata was complete in the month of Kartika, the king fasted for three days and worshipped Narayana. As he was about to break his fast, Rishi (sage) Durvasa entered his palace. The king extended all the courtesy that was appropriate to welcome the sage. The sage was happy but chose to go to the river and complete his ablutions before joining the king for a hearty meal.

As Rishi Durvasha was busy with his morning ablutions away from the palace, the king realised that the tithi (time) of Dvadashi was coming to a close. He had to complete his rituals of breaking his fast before Dvadashi ended as per the customs of the vrata. After consulting the learned men of his time, he chose to have a few drops of water purified by Tulsi leaves as he waited for the sage to complete his ablutions and return to the palace.

When Rishi Durvasha came back to the palace, he saw what had happened through his mind’s eye. His temper got the better of him as he roared, “You unworthy king! You do not even know how to honour a guest. I will teach you a lesson for insulting me.” He pulled out a lock from his matted hair and invoked a ferocious being called Kritya who rushed towards Ambarisha with his sword.

Ambarisha did not react but the Sudarshan Chakra (Vishnu’s discuss) appeared from nowhere and destroyed Kritya. Then it headed towards Rishi Durvasa. The sage was taken aback and began running away. The Sudarshan Chakra kept following him. The rishi ran into the forest first, then he took shelter in a cave and lastly he went to the abode of Indra (the king of heaven). The Sudarshan Chakra kept following him. Eventually, the rishi went to Brahma (the Creator of the Universe) and asked for help. Brahma advised him to go to Narayana. The sage went to Lord Shiva for support, but Mahadeva (another name of Lord Shiva) repeated the advice given by Brahma. Finally, the rishi went to Narayana. The Lord asked him why the Sudarshan Chakra was following him. Rishi Durvasha narrated the whole episode. He explained, “I have wronged your devotee and the Sudarshan Chakra is punishing me for that.”

Narayana smiled, “I am as helpless as Brahma or Shiva on this matter. I am always bound by the love of my devotees and do not act as per my will all the time. They are the only important aspect of my life as I am to them. Hence our mutual love for each other is always a priority. Therefore, any insult to them is an insult to me. So the Sudarshan Chakra is pursuing you.

Even you are my devotee. But I cannot tell the Sudarshan Chakra to discard its current course. Nevertheless, there is a way out. If you wish to, you can go to Ambarisha and ask for his forgiveness. He can request the Sudarshan Chakra to abandon its current pursuit.”

Rishi Durvasha went back to Ambarisha’s palace and asked the King to forgive him. Ambarisha was very embarrassed and requested the Sudarshan Chakra to give up pursuing the sage. The chakra calmed down and went back to Narayana. The sage was very pleased by the noble king’s kindness.

It is believed that Rishi Durvasha was pursued by the Sudarshan Chakra for one whole year. King Ambarisha had not eaten a morsel of food since he was waiting for his guest to come back to the palace so that they could enjoy the hearty meal together.

Once this incident was over, King Ambarisha considered the event to be another dream and without getting into an ego trip continued to serve his land as a yogi king.


1)      Vrata: A religious act of austerity that is undertaken out of love for the divine and not because of any compulsion

Footnote: Srimad Bhagavatam is often called the Bhagavad Purana. Authored by Ved Vyasa, the stories are about the various avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu, also known as Narayana.

@Nilanjana Dey

Photos from the internet.

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A story-teller at heart, Nilanjana Dey is on a journey to experiment with fiction and poetry. Her first novel, largely aimed towards children, is titled ‘The Adventures of Puti – The Cheese Trail’. Her poems have been published at various prestigious portals. An alumni of English Literature from Jadavpur University (Kolkata), she is a marketing and communication professional based in Mumbai. She volunteers with a Mumbai based NGO working with the marginalised sections of the society.