Once there was a very powerful demon by name Vritasura. In order to defeat him, Indra had pretended to be his friend. After learning of Vritasura’s weakness, Indra then killed Vritasura. After killing the demon Vritasura, Indra, felt very uneasy. He knew that he had committed a sinful act and that he could never forgive himself.
Indra, the king of the Devas, relinquished his throne and his kingdom and went away. He hid himself so that the other Devas would not be able to find him and make him come back.
‘Who should take the place of Indra?’ Agni said looking around at his friends.
Vayu nodded, ‘Yesterday I tried looking for Indra. I searched everywhere, still I could not find him anywhere. I do not think there is any chance that Indra would come…come…’ Vayu did not complete the sentence. The other Gods understood. Even if Indra was found, he would not come back and rule them. Indra had lost the will to rule the Devas.
Varuna spoke softly, ‘I think we will have to choose someone else to be our king…’ He looked around. All the other Devas looked at each other. They knew that this was the only option available to them.
‘We cannot just choose anybody to be our king…’ Agni said, ‘I mean, we need someone who is deserving. Some one who can handle the pressures of being the king well…’
Vayu said softly, ‘Nahusha would be a good option.’
All the Devas looked at Vayu but did not say anything. They were all thinking about Nahusha…
Nahusha was the son of Aayu and a king of the Lunar Dynasty. He was taught by Sage Vasishta and had learnt the Vedas and the Shastras when he was very young. Nahusha had ruled well and had performed a 100 Ashwamedha Yagnas. His fame had spread all over the world and the heavens and people were in awe of him.
As the Devas thought of this, they slowly nodded their head. Nahusha would be a perfect man to be their king.
So with the permission of their Guru – Brihaspati, the very next day all the Devas went to Nahusha.
Nahusha was delighted on seeing them. He welcomed them heartily, ‘Welcome Devas! Please come…’ He offered them food to eat. The Devas enjoyed his hospitality.
Then after some time hesitatingly Agni talked to Nahusha, ‘Nahusha you must know that we are not without a king….’
Nahusha gravely nodded his head as Agni continued, ‘It is for that reason that we have come to see you…’
Nahusha frowned wondering where this was leading to. But Nahusha did not say anything.
Varuna continued from where Agni left off, ‘…Nahusha, we need a good king and one who can handle the pressures of ruling the Devas and also control the natural elements of the earth…’
Nahusha nodded still not saying anything as Agni said, ‘Would you consider becoming our king, Nahusha?’
Nahusha looked flabbergasted at the Devas. He wondered whether this was all some sort of joke. He was just plain Nahusha, and these Devas wanted him to be their king…Surely there was some mistake. He croaked out, ‘Devas! I am very happy that you considered me for this post. But seriously, why me? I mean there are better people suited for this job…Not only that Indra….’ Nahusha snapped his fingers as he remembered Indra, ‘I am sure Indra will come back…Why are you being so hasty?’
Vayu shook his head, ‘Indra will not come back. After the death of Vritasura, Indra has always felt uncomfortable…I seriously doubt whether he would come back soon…The Devas need a king, Nahusha….We cannot be without a king. What if the Asuras were to attack when we are without a king….’
The others Devas shuddered as they heard these words. Vayu continued, ‘So you see Nahusha, we have to crown a king and fast…’
Agni spoke, ‘You seem to be a good king. Your people are happy under your rule and you have completed a hundred Ashwamedha Yagnas…I think we are right in offering you the crown…You truly deserve it…
Nahusha watched the Devas and thought for some time. He was not influenced by pride or arrogance as he was a good king. Finally he decided that everything the Devas said was right and slowly nodded his head. ‘I think you are right Devas! But…’ He frowned, ‘I am just an ordinary humand, how will I have the powers of Indra? Do I have to do something….’
Agni shook his head, ‘Nahusha! We are the Devas, once you become our king, our powers will be added to you and you will become powerful as the King of Devas. You will become invincible.’
Nahusha nodded without any feeling. If he was to lead the Devas to war, these powers would be handy…
Nahusha was appointed the King and at the right time, a great yagn a was conducted and he was made the King of the Devas. Nahusha continued to be a good king. Looking at Nahusha rule, the Devas felt happy that they had made a good choice. Nahusha proved to a very good diplomat and negotiator.
However things did not stay the same. Nahusha for all his skill, the continuous exposure to the unlimited power had weakened his resolve. Slowly the power eroded him. Nahusha was soon drunk by the power that he wielded and became arrogant and haughty. He soon became thinking that he was the reason everything was going so smoothly. He wanted more and more power and grew more and more corrupt and vain.
Nahusha would call up the court and scold people who did not bow to him properly or when he felt that they were disrespectful to him. He asked people to write stories and poems of his greatness and have them put on the palaces. The Devas were stunned by the change over Nahusha. However now that Nahusha was their king, they could not do anything about that….They grumbled in private hoping that Indra would come back and become their king…
Once as Nahusha was going through the palace he saw the beautiful and intelligent Shachi – wife of Indra, in the palace. Shachi was one of the reasons, Indra had not strayed from the path of righteousness often. She mostly kept him in line with her wit and intelligence. However when Nahusha saw Shachi, Nahusha felt that he had marry the beautiful queen!
He called her, ‘Shachi! I am the king of the Devas now! Now that your husband has left you, you have to become my wife now….’
Sahachi stared at Nahusha as if he had gone mad. ‘Giving up Indra…her Indra for this wretched man…Never….! She looked at Nahusha straight in the eye, ‘Nahusha! You may be the king of the Devas! But I am the wife of only one man…my Indra…whom I shall not give up for anything….’
Nahusha smiled at her cruelly, ‘Well this is my palace and you are here! Everything here is mine….’ He said looking at the queen with dark eyes.
The queen flashed her eyes angrily, ‘Fine!’ She turned to her maid, ‘Arrange my chariot! Take me to the palace of Guru Brihaspati!’ She looked at Nahusha angrily, ‘It seems I do not have the right to stay here any more! The maid left.
Nahusha looked angrily as the queen left. He could not stop the queen by force.
After the queen had left, Nahusha could not think of anything else. He needed to have her! How dare she refuse him! The King of Gods…! Who does she think she was!
He finally sent a messenger to Shachi Devi, though the Devas. The Devas came to see Shachi. ‘Shachi! He is making us miserable!’ Agni said angrily, ‘He keeps on ranting about what a great man he is and that it was our duty to fulfil his wishes! Please come and talk to him…’
Shachi flashed at Agni, ‘I love only one man, Agni!…’
‘And you shall have that man…’ Guru Brihaspati came inside the room and talked to her. The Devas and Shachi bowed to Brihaspati. Brihaspati looked to Shachi. He knew she was strong-willed and intelligent enough to get rid of Nahusha. He repeated, ‘You shall have your man, if you act intelligently, Shachi!’
Shachi looked at Guru Brihaspati uncomprehendingly as he continued, ‘Remember he desires you! And also remember that blind desire can make a man act without common sense and make him behave rashly!’
Shachi looked at Guru Brihaspati for a long minute as the other Devas looked on. Shachi slowly nodded and smiled. She then turned to Agni, ‘Agni! Tell your King, I am willing to see him privately! At once!’
Agni looked surrprised but left immediately. Shachi then turned to Vayu, ‘Vayu, Can you please find Indra! It is important! You will otherwise not have a king soon!’
Vayu was confused but said, ‘I will find him!’ and left.
However Vayu could not find Indra anywhere.
Nahusha on the other hand was very happy when he heard Agni’s words! He dressed himself well and went to Gurru Brihaspati’s palace. There he saw Shachi. He looked at her and saw her sitting regally and smirked So the great queen finally realized how powerful I am and has decided to fall on her knees before me…
Shachi looked at Nahusha, ‘Nahusha! I apologize for acting so rashly then…’ She said in a sweet voice. Nahusha nodded his head curtly. The queen has to apologize later…But that I will take care later…
‘Nahusha, ‘I…I am doing a yagna for fifteen days! After it is over, I want you to come to me and pick me up from this palace and take me to our palace, with pomp and show…’
Nahusha nodded. A grand homecoming for the queen..He asked the queen, ‘Is there any particular chariot, the queen loves…?’
‘Chariot?’ Shachi looked at his as if he was mad…’A chariot?’ No I do not want a chariot… I have something even more grand..’
Nahusha frowned, ‘What does the queen have in mind?’
‘Kings always come on horse back, elephants or chariots…But you must be different, because you are the king of Gods! You must come in a palanquin!’
Nahusha frowned even more, ‘A palanquin?’
‘Yes!’ Shachi said, with a small smile, ‘A palanquin carried by the greatest sages of all times…I will come only when you come in such a palanquin…’ Shachi said softly looking at Nahusha.
Nahusha not realising the trap, nodded. He was after all king. Who could refuse him?
Nahusha nodded and went away to his palace. He called in the greatest sages including Agastya to lift his palanquin for him to meet Shachi. The sages agreed. He was after all the king of the Devas…
Shachi used the fifteen days well. With the help of Goddess Upashruti, she found Indra. Indra was hidden in a great Lake called Manasarovar. He had hidden himself inside a lotus in the lake. He was meditating there to remove the sin of killing Vritrasura.
Shachi then convinced Indra that he was now fit to rule the Devas and that she planned to get rid of Nahusha. She told him of his plan. Indra nodded and smiled at his wife’s boldness. He decided that the time had come to become the king again and reclaim his crown.
On the fifteenth day, Nahusha called eight sages and ordered them to carry the palanquin. Nahusha had become so arrogant that he had not realized that these men were powerful rishis with great powers – these men were more powerful than the King of Gods!
The sages carried the palanquin. Agastya was a short man and the palanquin titlted to one side and Agastya was slow too. Nahusha was enraged by this and kicked Agastya in the back saying Sarpa…Sarpa ‘ [meaning faster….faster]
That was the last straw! Nahusha had committed his last act of arrogance as Sage Agastya was enraged by the appalling behaviour of the king, ‘Sarpa?’ He said angrily, ‘May you become a sarpa [serpent]!’
Nahusha felt himself slither away and change into a serpent! He looked at his snake like body and suddenly his mistakes flashed before him. He was appalled of his arrogance. He looked at the Sage and bowed to him, ‘Sir! I was blind! Please save me!’
Sage Agastya shook his head, ‘You will remain a snake till you learn the rules of being a good king…Go!’
And the sages vanished from there as Nahusha the Great king fell on earth as the python!
Many years later, when the Pandavas [the heroes of the Mahabharatha] came to the jungle where Nahusha was living as a serpent. Nahusha caught Bheema, the third Pandava. In order to free his brother, Yudhistara, the eldest Pandava explained to the serpent the rules of being a good king…After learning this, Nahusha released Bheema and Nahusha became his old self without arrogance and pride.
Shachi was a happy woman. She had got back her Indra and had got rid of the arrogant Nahusha all in one masterly stroke!