The expeditions of the Puranic Apsara are mesmerizing and magical. They had their footprints imprinted with enchanting enigmatic charm both in heaven and on earth; in air and in water, on humans and on Gods.
They have been the emulsifiers of passion and the compasses who gave direction to the Puranic stories adding an ethical ingredient to the plot.
The Apsaras went with the flow of the Puranic storytelling linking vital incidents and characters to the main chasm of Vedic and Puranic literature flow. Each Apsara is unique, yet shares some commonality with others belonging to the clan of mythical characters.
Each has a captivating charm yet persuades responsible thought. The present narration of Apsara Alambusha depicts the pinnacle of creative storytelling in the Puranas, put forward in the most credible manner.
Apsara Alambusha and Maharishi Dadhichi’s Eagerness
Apsara Alambusha, the beautiful nymph of Dev Raj Indra was once sent to distract Maharishi Dadhichi who sat in deep meditation on the banks of river Sarasvatī. Maharishi Dadhichi possessed complete control over his senses and led the life of an ascetic. His extreme ascetic austerity fuelled Indra’s fear and he decided to send Apsara Alambusha to divert his energies.
परलॊभनार्थं तस्याथ परहिणॊत पाकशासनः
दिव्याम अप्सरसं पुण्यां दर्शनीयाम अलम्बुसाम
pralobhanārthaṃ tasyātha prahiṇot pākaśāsanaḥ
divyām apsarasaṃ puṇyāṃ darśanīyām alambusām
– Śalya Parva, Chapter 51, Verse 7
Meaning: At last for tempting the sage, despatched unto him the exceedingly beautiful and celestial apsara, by name Alambusa.
Once when the Maharishi Dadhichi stepped into the river, Apsara Alambusha appeared before him. Maharishi Dadhichi was instantly smitten by Alambusha’s beauty. Driven by passion and desire Maharishi Dadhichi reached climax and finally let go of his vital seed.
तां दिव्यवपुषं दृष्ट्वा तस्यैषेर भावितात्मनः
रेतः सकन्नं सरस्वत्यां तत सा जग्राह निम्नगा
tāṃ divyavapuṣaṃ dṛṣṭvā tasyaiṣer bhāvitātmanaḥ
retaḥ skannaṃ sarasvatyāṃ tat sā jagrāha nimnagā
– Śalya Parva, Chapter 51, Verse 9
Meaning: On the very sight of that damsel with beautiful limbs, the vital seed of that ascetic of cleansed soul came out. It fell into the Sarasvati, and the latter held it with care.
The seed of Maharishi Dadhichi fell into the river Sarasvatī. She held it in her womb, as a result, river Sarasvatī became pregnant. Soon river Sarasvatī nurtured the semen of Maharishi Dadhichi in her womb and delivered a son named Sārasvata.
After the birth of Sārasvata, he was taken to his father Maharishi Dadhichi to seek his blessings. River Sarasvatī introduced Sārasvata to Rishi Dadhichi speaking the following words-
दृष्ट्वा ते ऽपसरसं रेतॊ यत सकन्नं पराग अलम्बुसाम
तत कुक्षिणा वै बरह्मर्षे तवद्भक्त्या धृतवत्य अहम
dṛṣṭvā te ‘psarasaṃ reto yat skannaṃ prāg alambusām
tat kukṣiṇā vai brahmarṣe tvadbhaktyā dhṛtavaty aham
– Śalya Parva, Chapter 51, Verse 13
Meaning: O Rishi, this is thy son whom I held through devotion for thee! That seed of thine which fell at the sight of the Apsara Alambusa, had been held by me in my womb. O regenerate Rishi, through devotion for thee, well knowing that that energy of thine would never suffer destruction.
Maharishi Dadhichi was happy to know about his son Sārasvata. He blessed him with knowledge of the Vedas. Maharishi Dadhichi revealed that later when the Earth would suffer from a severe drought for 12 years, and the Brahmins would forget the Vedic verses, only Sārasvata would remember the Vedas. He would be the one responsible to remind the Brahmans of the lost Vedic verses.
Maharishi Dadhichi then bestowed a boon upon the river Sarasvatī.
विश्वे देवाः सपितरॊ गन्धर्वाप्सरसां गणाः
तृप्तिं यास्यन्ति सुभगे तर्प्यमाणास तवाम्भसा
viśve devāḥ sapitaro gandharvāpsarasāṃ gaṇāḥ
tṛptiṃ yāsyanti subhage tarpyamāṇās tavāmbhasā
– Śalya Parva, Chapter 51, Verse 17
Meaning: Gratified with River Sarasvatī, the great Dadhica then gave a boon to her, saying, ‘The vishvadevas, the rishis, and all the tribes of the Gandharvas and the apsaras, will henceforth, O blessed one, derive great happiness when oblations of thy water are presented unto them!’
In the Mahabharata, River Sarasvatī appears above all sacred rivers, along which pilgrimages are made.
The Twelve Year Long Drought
Indra, the king of Swarga- heaven was once driven out of his kingdom by a demon named Vritra. Asura Vritra also stole all the water available in the world for his own use and for the use of his Asura army. Asura Vritra aimed at finishing humankind leaving them to die of thirst and hunger. His motive was to allow no God or Demi-God to stay alive to challenge his place in Swarga.
Vritra had acquired a boon that he could not be killed by any known weapon in use. He would not be killed by anything that was either wet or dry or any weapon made of wood or metal. The boon made him imperishable. The scarcity of water became unbearable and all the Rishis living on the banks of the river Sarasvatī began to migrate to other places in search of water to save their lives.
Maharishi Dadhichi’s son Sārasvata was the only one to remain on the banks of Sarasvatī. He was supplied with three fishes by river Sarasvatī as food. Eating fish from the river, Sārasvata engaged himself in meditation and in the study of the Vedas.
The famine lasted for 12 years and got over when Indra approached Lord Vishnu for help. Shri Vishnu revealed to Indra that the only weapon that could kill Vritra Asura was a Vajra – thunderbolt made from the bones of the Maharishi Dadhichi.
Maharishi Dadhichi made the eventual sacrifice of laying down his life so that his skeleton could be used for making the thunderbolt. Thus the Vajra was made from Rishi Dadhichi’s bones. This Vajra was the ultimate weapon used by Indra to defeat Vritra Asura, allowing Indra to regain his place as the king of Indrapuri and also in releasing the water for all living beings.
Rishi Sārasvata The Teacher of Vedas
After the drought got over the Rishis who had migrated to other places began to come back to the banks of river Sarasvatī. Sadly they had all forgotten the Vedas. Only Sārasvata who had remained on the banks of river Sarasvatī during the famine and practiced the Vedas dedicatedly remembered the Vedas.
षष्टिर मुनिसहस्राणि शिष्यत्वं परतिपेदिरे
सारस्वतस्य विप्रर्षेर वेद सवाध्यायकारणात
ṣaṣṭir munisahasrāṇi śiṣyatvaṃ pratipedire
sārasvatasya viprarṣer veda svādhyāyakāraṇāt
– Śalya Parva, Chapter 51, Verse 49
Meaning: 60,000 munis became disciples of the regenerate Rishi Sārasvata for the sake of acquiring their Vedas from him.
Soon all the Sages accepted Sārasvata as their teacher of Vedas. Sārasvata taught the Vedas to Sixty thousand Rishis. Thus, Maharishi Dadhichi’s blessing was realized and Sārasvata came to be known as the great teacher of the Vedas. The hermitage of Sārasvata became famous by the name Sārasvata tīrtha.
Initially, the role of Apsara Alambusha was a mere diversion planted by Devindra to amuse and engross Maharishi Dadhichi, but in the process, she became the reason for Rishi Sārasvata birth and he, in turn, became the rescuer of Vedas.
Apsara Alambusha did the most imperative task of saving dharma through Rishi Sārasvata, if it was not her then Rishi Sārasvata would have never taken birth. Divine arrangements have their own ways of creating smaller and bigger reasons for guarding diverse consequences. The best is to keep faith with persistence and realize the existence of the unseen marvels.
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