Again Rishi Vaishampayana said: O great King Janamejaya! The glory of the Bharata race is so vast that it can not be praised or narrated at one time. Every Kuru descendants were legends whose stories are as interesting as a new one. Now listen to the story of Yayati- the son of great king Nahusha and his premature old age.
‘Yayati was a righteous, truthful and generous king. His glory swayed across the land- far and wide. He reigned over the earth for several years with his two beautiful wives- Devayanai and Sharmistha. But Danava Guru Shukracharya cursed Yayati to suffer premature old age since Yayati betrayed his daughter Devyani. However, his earthly desire was not satiated. Being lured to enjoy his life more, he requested his sons one by one to exchange their youth with his old age. But none of them agreed except the youngest one named Puru.
After receiving youthfulness from his son Puru, Yayati spent his time lavishly with his two wives and otherworldly affairs for hundreds of years. Even then he was not satisfied with his burning desire. One day, he realized that there is no end to craving and one can never be exempted from lust without controlling his/her mind. Being gratified by his youngest son, he came to him and said, ‘O noble son! I have realized that there is no end to dark desires. So, now I want to renounce the world, and install you as the king of Hastinapur.’
Thus announcing, he took back his old age returning the youthfulness to his young son, and went for meditation with his two wives to mount Meru.’
Hearing the astounding curse of his ancestor, Janamejaya asked at once, ‘O wise Risi Vaishampayana! If you think me worthy of listening, kindly narrate the reason for the curse upon my great forefather. Why and how did it happen? And how come King Yayati got married to Devyani- the divine daughter of Guru Shukracharya?’
‘Fair enough, O noble descendant of Kuru race! You certainly deserve to know all the facts. Now hear me out first- about Guru Shukracharya and Kachha. Later I shall narrate in detail how King Yayati got married to Devyani and why was he cursed! '
Vaishampayan began the story of Guru Shukracharya and Kachha———-
‘There was always a fight between the Asuras (Rakshasas) and Devas (celestial-gods) for superiority and sovereignty of three worlds. Vrisaparva was the King of Asuras. He had a beautiful daughter named Sharmistha. She was adorned with not only beauty but arrogance and pride too. Vrisaparva humbly urged Sage Shukracharya to be the preceptor of the whole rakshas clan. With his humble appeal, Shukra accepted the king’s offer.
Shukra was knowledgeable, wise, and endowed with supernatural power. He used to give life to dead Asuras which nobody knew except him. So there was no mortality among Asuras in a war while Devas suffered a lot. The great sage Brihaspati was the preceptor of Devas. Though he was far more knowledgeable and wiser than Sukracharya, he was not aware of the Sanjivini mantra.
Beholding the miserable condition of their troops, once Devas pleaded to Brihaspati’s son Kachha to learn the Sanjivini mantra from the demon’s Guru. Kachha was excited to get that celestial knowledge. He went to Sukracharya’s abode. With folded hands, he humbly introduced himself and said, ‘O mighty Gurudev! Accept me as your disciple. I am Kachha- son of Brihaspati.’ Sukracharya was surprised but delighted to see the grandson of Angirasha- one of the greatest ascetics. He mulled over his request and gave his consent.
Thus, Kachha becoming a disciple of Shukra accomplished every single wish of Gurudev and his dearest daughter Devyani too. Devyani was young, beautiful and expert in Veda and Vedanta. As time passed, Devyani fell in love with Kachha though the latter didn't have similar feelings. She was extra conscious about the well-being of Kachha. Her concern about Kachha created the bitter relationship between Asuras and Kachha. The Asuras were suspicious and had hatred feeling towards Kachha. They were afraid that if Kachha would learn Sanjivini mantra, it would make Devas invincible. One day they conspired and killed him while he was on duty looking after the Guruji's herd. They fed his body pieces to the jackals and wolves.
When the cows came back to the shed without the cowherd, Devyani was greatly saddened by the absence of her beloved. Shocked by his sudden disappearance, Devyani appealed to her father to call him back. As soon as Shukra pronounced his name, Kachha came out alive and described how he was killed by the Asuras. As days passed, he again engaged himself on his duty to his master and his daughter as usual.
Seeing Brihspati’s son alive, the demons again tried to wipe him out and killed him the second time. Devyani pleaded to her father to save her loved one. When Shukracharya called him, Kachha replied, ‘O great preceptor! I am inside the stomach of cows. The demons killed me and fed my flesh to the cows.’ Hearing the heinous act of Asuras, Shukra revived Kachha again using his magical power.
A few days later, again the demons killed Kachha for the third time. Not seeing Kachha anywhere, Devyani felt weird. She rushed to her father announcing to end her life without Kachha. Shukracharya had a great weakness for his daughter. And with the demand of Devyani, Shukracharya called aloud to Kachha. As he pronounced his name, Kachha said, ‘O my noble Gurudev! This time the crooked Asuras have burnt me, smashed into powder, and mixing with the wines, they served me in your drink. I am in your stomach only.’
Both father and daughter were stunned! Devyani pitying upon him urged, ‘O father! I can not live without Kachha. Please bring him back.’
Guru Shukracharya became furious at the Danavas' wicked and heinous act of killing an innocent Brahmin boy and tried to pacify his daughter. He said, ‘O dearest! A man can never be immortal. One day he has to face death! So, forget about Kachha as he is already dead. And if you want him at any cost, then I’ll die since he is inside my body.’ Desolated with grief, Devyani explained to him that either way it was difficult for her to survive. She wished both her father and Kachha to be alive or else she would die.
Wise Rishi Shukra was in a dilemma. He loved his daughter more than his own life. Enduring his fatherly love, Shukra decided to teach the Sanjivini mantra to Kachha who could revive him after his death. So, he taught the unique hymn to Brihaspati’s son who grasped it inside his body. The moment Guru Shukra uttered his name, Kachha came to life and the preceptor died.
Being intelligent and skillful, Kachha applied the Sanjivini mantra to make Shukra alive. Devyani was overwhelmed with joy seeing both her loved ones. She was deeply impressed with Brihaspati’s son. Kachha spent a few more days with his Gurudev to complete his learning. When he was ready to depart from them, Devyani said, ‘O Kachha, noble son of Guru Brihaspati, I fell in love with you the day we met. I am so much impressed with your amicable behavior, discipline, and wisdom I want you to be my husband. Please accept me as your wife or else I’ll die.’
Kachha felt as if the sky fell upon his head. He politely said, ‘O divine lady! I always pay my respect to you. You be worthy in every respect, I worship you. Besides that, I regained my life emerging from your father’s body. So you deserve to be my sister. It's a sin to marry one’s sister. Forgive me for my arrogance.’ Thus Kachha refused her proposal of marriage.
After requesting repeatedly, Devyani was enraged with anger. She then cursed him that the unique mantra Sanjivini that he had learnt would be futile for him. Engrossed with sorrow Kachha said, ‘O lotus eyed Devyani! So it be! Let my chanting be futile, but to whom I teach the same hymn, the mantra would be fruitful if he chants!’
Thus addressing Devyani and paying his heartfelt respect to his Gurudev Shukracharya, the son of Brihaspati went back to devalok.
[Magnificently Sage Vyasdev explained the social norms through different characters. Obedience, discipline, respect and truthfulness are reflected on Kachha's character while Devyani manifested signs of love, hatred and anger.]