King Ambarish was a King in the Satya Yuga. He was a great king and was loved by his subjects. He was an ideal king and he was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu was so happy with the devotion of the King that he blessed the king with his Sudarshan Chakra. Anyone who was protected by the Sudarshan Chakra was protected from everything.
King Ambarish and his kingdom prospered even more after they had got the Sudarshan Chakra. King Ambarish was humble and loved his people even more.
King Ambarish performed a fasting ceremony out of devotion to the Lord. King Ambarish fasted on the 11th of every month which he broke the next day. King Ambarish had to perform this for a year. As Ambarish was fasting, Lord Indra, the God of the heavens grew worried. Already King Ambarish commanded the Sudarshan Chakra which made him very powerful, if he also completed this fast successfully, King Ambarish would become even more powerful than Indra.
Wondering what to do, Indra saw Sage Durvasa. Sage Durvasa was one of the Sapta Rishis and was believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. However Sage Durvasa had a drawback – he got angry very fast and cursed people. Looking at him, Indra had an idea. He fell at the feet of Sage Durvasa. ‘Sir! What a pleasure to meet you!’
Sage Durvasa was pleasantly surprised. He was used to people running away from him, because he got angry very often. However here was somebody who said he was glad to meet him! He blessed Indra. Indra was at his best behaviour and soon won over Sage Durvasa. Sage Durvasa was happily enjoying Indra’s hospitability, when Indra said, ‘Great Sage! Have you heard about King Ambarish’s fast? It is said that he is true devotee of Lord Vishnu! He must really be a great king to keep up the fast for such a long time…’ Sage Durvasa was listening with interest now. ‘Why…?’ Indra said as if he had just thought of some thing, ‘…he must have finished his year of fasting. I think tomorrow he will break the fast…It would be a great occasion sir!’
Sage Durvasa nodded and murmured, ‘Yes indeed! That would be great! I would love to see that…’
Indra nodded his head encouragingly. He knew that Sage Durvasa would always find something to get angry about and if King Ambarish even put one foot out of line….the fast would not be complete…. Indra smiled.
The next day Sage Durvasa came to King Ambarish. Ambarish was very happy to meet the sage and both of them sat down and King Ambarish offered the Sage everything he had. The sage was very happy but he shook his head, ‘Ambarish! I have just come…I need to wash up first and then we will both have some food…I think you are also due to break your fast soon…’
King Ambarish smiled, ‘Yes Sir! Two hours from now would be an auspicious time to break the fast!’
Sage Durvasa smiled, ‘I will clean up and both of us together will do it…’
King Ambarish nodded.
However as usual there was a twist in the tale. Sage Durvasa got delayed and the auspicious time came. The minsters of King Ambarish came forward, ‘Sir! I think it would be best if you broke the fast and had a sip of water! You can wait for the sage and then have the food sir!’
The king shook his head. ‘Sage Durvasa is my guest! He said he would come and then we would break my fast…I will wait for him…’ The king said firmly.
However the Sage did not come. The ministers said again, ‘Sir, the auspicious time for the finishing the fast is approaching…If you do not break the fast now…there was no point in keeping your fast sir!’
The king was sitting worriedly looking for the sage when the minister spoke again, ‘Sir! You are taking only a sip of water sir! You are not going to eat without him…’
Finally King Ambarish nodded and he took just a sip of water…Just as his luck would have it, as he finished taking the sip, Sage Durvasa came all fresh and…angry!
‘Ambarish! Is this how you show respect to your guest?’ He thundered, ‘You just broke your fast before I came…’
The king humbly raised his hands, ‘Sir! The auspicious time was passing….I took only a sip of water….’
‘AUSPICIOUS TIME!….You don’t know how to deal with guests…and you talk about auspicious time…’ Sage Durvasa looked far from forgiving….
‘Sir! I am sorry, if I have offended…’ King Ambarish said again.
‘OFFENDED…I…You…’ Sage Durvasa said angrily, ‘See what I am going to do you…’
Sage Durvasa said plucking out a strand of hair from his head and threw it on the ground. From the strand of hair emerged a huge demon. The ministers of King Ambarish stepped back in fright.
The demon bowed before Sage Durvasa, ‘Command me, Sage Durvasa!’
Sage Durvasa looked contemptuously at King Ambarish as he pointed at the King, ‘He…He has offended me…Kill him…’ Sage Ambarish said simply to the demon.
The demon charged at King Ambarish. The ministers ran away. The Kings guards came forward unsure of how to deal with demons. They held out their swords, when King Ambarish called out, ‘Do nothing…If you value your life…do nothing….’
The soldiers looked at each other and put their swords back as Sage Durvasa watched the whole scene with angry eyes.
King Ambarish prayed to Lord Vishnu, ‘My Lord1 I have not committed any mistake…Please protect me and my men…’
The demon came forward and was about to push the soldiers away, when a loud whirring sound came from above King Ambarish. Sage Durvasa and the demon stared widely, as the Sudarshana Chakra came and attacked the demon.
The demon did not even have a chance. Before he even knew what happened, the Sudarshana Chakra attacked the demon. The demon was no more. Then the Sudarshana Chakra turned towards the surprised Sage Durvasa. Without stopping, the Chakra started whirling towards the sage. The sage stared at the Chakra with wide unbelieving eyes as he stepped back. Then suddenly he stared running, realizing that there was no stopping the Chakra and that the Chakra actually meant to hurt him!
Sage Durvasa ran…He ran on top of mountains, on plains, caves, even under water…the Chakra followed him everywhere.
Sage Durvasa was desperate. He ran to Satyaloka where Lord Brahma was residing and gasped, ‘Lord! Please help me….the Sudarshana….is after me….’
Lord Brahma hid a smile, ‘I cannot help you…Durvasa…Please seek the help of Lord Shiva…’
Dodging the Chakra and running through forests and caves, and desperately climbing the icy mountains of Kailash, Sage Durvasa ran to Lord Shiva, ‘My Lord!…’ He was not able to get the words out as he was panting, ‘Chakra…’
Lord Shiva looked at Durvasa with pity, ‘The Sudarshana Chakra belongs to Lord Vishnu…He is the only person who can call it off, Durvasa’
Having no choice, Sage Durvasa ran to Vaikunta and just escaped the Chakra from hurting him as he ran to Lord Vishnu. He fell on Lord Vishnu’s feet. ‘My Lord! Please protect me from your Chakra…please’
Lord Vishnu smiled, ‘Durvasa! The Sudarshana is mine, no doubt! But it is now protecting Ambarish. He is the only one who is controlling the Chakra. Talk to him. He will be able to call off the Chakra…’
Finally the sage ran to back where he had started. Ambarish was shocked on seeing the appearance of Sage Durvasa. The sage was panting and gasping, locks of hair flying all over his face, faced flushed and tired and haggard.
Sage Durvasa spoke gasping, ‘Ambarish! You are the…the one… one…who can call it back…please call it back…!’ The Sudarshana Chakra came whirling behind the Sage
Ambarish immediately understood. He closed his eyes and prayed to the Lord, ‘Lord! I still respect this great sage as much as I did when I saw him first! Please forgive him for his mistake…He does not deserve this punishment. Please ask the Chakra not to hurt him.’
No sooner had Ambarish thought the words, the Chakra stopped. It wavered for a minute and then disappeared.
Sage Durvasa heaved a sigh of relief and took several deep breaths controlling himself. Finally when he was calm enough he went straight to King Ambarish. ‘Ambarish! I have never seen a man equal to you in devotion! You never made any mistake. You broke the fast by taking a sip of water and you waited for me! I did not understand that in my anger! I am sorry!…’ The sage looked unhappy and sad as he continued, ‘…And you are also a very good man. Though I threatened to destroy you, you still saved my life! Thank you! You really are a great man!’
Ambarish smiled and fell of the Sage’s feet and asked for his blessings. Then the two of them together broke the King’s fast! Thus despite all the hurdles, Ambarish also completed the fasting ceremony, which made him as powerful as Indra, the Lord of the Heavens!
~by SA Krishnan