Curious tale of King Sagara
Moving on to part 12, we are an audience to Sage Vishvamita’s narration of the tale of Emperor Sagara and the follies committed by his sixty thousand sons
Vishvamitra narrated the story of Emperor Sagara as follows, "In ancient days, Sagara was the Emperor of Ayodhya. He was feeling deprived as he had no children. Sagara had two wives. Daughter of king Vidarbha by name Keshini was his elder wife and the daughter of Arishtanemi by the name of Sumathi was the second wife. Emperor Sagara penanced and practised abstinence for a hundred years. On completion of a hundred years, Sage Bhrugu appeared to Sagara and bequeathed two boons to him. He said that one of his wives will give birth to a son who would enrich Sagara dynasty and the other wife will be blessed with sixty thousand sons. Keshini preferred one single son and Sumathi desired to have sixty thousand sons as per her free will. After a while, both of them became pregnant".
"As destined, Keshini gave birth to one son who became known as Asamanja and Sumathi gave birth to sixty thousand sons through one single egg. The eldest son Asamanja turned criminal and started hurling children into the Sarayu River, smiling as he saw them drown. On witnessing
the ominous and sadistic activity of his son, his father Sagara banished him from the city and sent him to forests. Asamanja's son,
Anshuman, however, was noble in his bearing and became popular as a well-wisher of people. At this moment, Emperor Sagara took a decision to perform the Ashvamedha Ritual".
Indra abducting the ritual horse of Sagara performing Ashvamedha Yaga "Sagara, on deciding the best place for performing Ashvamedha Yaga as the one that was in between the two great mountains namely Himalayas and Vindhyas, made all arrangements systematically. Sagara designated his grandson Anshuman to escort the ritual horse and accordingly he did so. Halfway through the ritual, Indra assumed the form of a monster and stole the ritual horse. The Ritwiks and the religious priests in charge of the ritual proceedings advised Sagara to fetch the horse to perform the ritual uninterruptedly without any hindrance lest it may become inauspicious. Immediately, Sagara ordered his sixty thousand sons to search the entire world inch by inch and retrieve the horse at the earliest. Accordingly, all of them went in search of the horse while Sagara stayed back at the ritual place along with Anshuman".
"In the preliminary round of exploration, the sixty thousand princes extensively and exhaustively searched for the horse but in vain. Then, they mapped the earth to a unit of one square Yojana (8 Miles) for each of them and each one of them excavated out each and every area on the surface of the earth. On getting ruptured beyond limits, mother earth lamented. Due to this, there emerged, painful screams from the living creatures like serpents, snakes, monsters and other beings living underneath the earth's surface who were endangered by this excavation."
Devatas request to Brahma
"Then, the Devatas and other gods approached Lord Brahma for his grace and told him that, the sons of Sagara were digging up the entire earth, destroying all the living creatures existing there. They were going around throwing accusations at everyone by saying so and so was the destroyer of their ritual, so and so carried the ritual horse, etc. Cornered by their might, the Devatas requested Brahma to save them from Sagara's sons".
Sage Kapila rendering Sagara
sons to heaps of ashes
Sage Vishvamitra, continuing his narration of Sagara legend further said, "Lord Brahma pacified them. He assured them that Vasudeva, who was none other than Lord Vishnu himself, donning the resemblance of Sage Kapila will burn down the sons of Sagara to heaps of ashes and hence they need not worry. Assuaged, the Devatas happily returned to their respective abodes".
"Meanwhile, the sons of Sagara were unable to find the ritual horse or its abductor, despite digging and trekking the whole earth. They went to their father and informed him of the same. Getting angry with them, Emperor Sagara ordered them to go forthwith and trace the horse as well as catch hold of the thief. On hearing this, the sixty thousand sons of Sagara left the place and dug through the earth till Rasa Thala, the last layer of the earth. There, they noticed a gigantic elephant, namely Virupaksha which was bearing the eastern side of earth's surface on its head. They circumambulated by walking around the elephant and worshipped it.
Later they dug in the South where they saw yet another elephant namely Mahapadma. They greeted and saluted it too and moved towards scooping out the western side where again they saw another elephant called Soumanasa. They greeted it also and went towards the northern direction by continuing their digging activity. In the north, they saw Bhadra, a snow-white elephant with which they exchanged pleasantries. The Sagara sons then continued to the north-east direction".
"While they were digging the earth at one place, they saw Vasudeva in the form of the Sage Kapila along with their ritual horse by his side and all were delighted. Unaware of who Vasudeva was, the Sagara sons dubbed him as the thief and attributed the theft of ritual horse to him, heaping upon him malicious and unpalatable words.
Then, overwhelmed with high fury, the Sage Kapila, with his unimaginable power, rendered all those sons of Sagara as heaps of ashes." Thus, narrated sage Vishvamitra and continued further.