‘UGRASRAVA SAUTI, the son of Lomaharshana, versed in the Puranas, while present in the forest of Naimisha, at the twelve years’ sacrifice of Saunaka, surnamed Kulapati, stood before the Rishis in attendance. Having studied Puranas with meticulous devotion and thus being thoroughly acquainted with them, he addressed them with joined hands thus, ‘I have graphically described to you the history of Utanka which is one of the causes of King Janamejaya’s Snake-sacrifice. What, revered Sirs, do ye wish to hear now? What shall I relate to you?’ The holy men replied, ‘O son of Lomaharshana, we shall ask thee about what we are anxious to hear and thou wilt recount the tales one by one. Saunaka, our revered master, is at present attending the apartment of the holy fire.
He is acquainted with those divine stories which relate to the gods and asuras. He adequately knoweth the histories of men, serpents, and Gandharvas. Further, O Sauti, in this sacrifice that learned Brahmana is the chief. He is able, faithful to his vows, wise, a master of the Sastras and the Aranyaka, a speaker of truth, a lover of peace, a mortifier of the flesh, and an observer of the penances according to the authoritative decrees. He is respected by us all. It behoveth us therefore to wait for him. And when he is seated on his highly respected seat, thou wilt answer what that best of Dwijas shall ask of thee.’
“Sauti said, ‘Be it so. And when the high-souled master hath been seated I shall narrate, questioned by him, sacred stories on a variety of subjects.” After a while that excellent Brahmana (Saunaka) having duly finished all his duties, and having propitiated the gods with prayers and the manes with oblations of water, came back to the place of sacrifice, where with Sauti seated before was the assembly of saints of rigid vows sitting at ease. And when Saunaka was seated in the midst of the Ritwiks and Sadhyas, who were also in their seats, he spake as followeth.”
(Pauloma Parva continued)
“Saunaka said, ‘Child, thy father formerly read the whole of the Puranas, O son of Lomaharshana, and the Bharata with Krishna-Dwaipayana. Hast thou also made them thy study? In those ancient records are chronicled interesting stories and the history of the first generations of the wise men, all of which we heard being rehearsed by thy sire. In the first place, I am desirous of hearing the history of the race of Bhrigu. Recount thou that history, we shall attentively listen to thee.”
“Sauti answered, ‘By me hath been acquired all that was formerly studied by the high-souled Brahmanas including Vaisampayana and repeated by them; by me hath been acquired all that had been studied by my father. O descendant of the Bhrigu race, attend then to so much as relateth to the exalted race of Bhrigu, revered by Indra and all the gods, by the tribes of Rishis and Maruts (Winds). O great Muni, I shall first properly recount the story of this family, as told in the Puranas.
“The great and blessed saint Bhrigu, we are informed, was produced by the self-existing Brahma from the fire at the sacrifice of Varuna. And Bhrigu had a son, named Chyavana, whom he dearly loved. And to Chyavana was born a virtuous son called Pramati. And Pramati had a son named Ruru by Ghritachi (the celestial dancer). And to Ruru also by his wife Pramadvara, was born a son, whose name was Sunaka. He was, O Saunaka, thy great ancestor exceedingly virtuous in his ways. He was devoted to asceticism, of great reputation, proficient in law, and eminent among those having a knowledge of the Vedas. He was virtuous, truthful, and of well-regulated fare.’
“Saunaka said, ‘O son of Suta, I ask thee why the illustrious son of Bhrigu was named Chyavana. Do tell me all.’
“Sauti replied, ‘Bhrigu had a wife named Puloma whom he dearly loved. She became big with child by Bhrigu. And one day while the virtuous continent Puloma was in that condition, Bhrigu, great among those that are true to their religion, leaving her at home went out to perform his ablutions. It was then that the Rakshasa called Puloma came to Bhrigu’s abode. And entering the Rishi’s abode, the Rakshasa saw the wife of Bhrigu, irreproachable in everything. And seeing her he became filled with lust and lost his senses. The beautiful Puloma entertained the Rakshasa thus arrived, with roots and fruits of the forest. And the Rakshasa who burnt with desire upon seeing her, became very much delighted and resolved, O good sage, to carry her away who was so blameless in every respect.
‘My design is accomplished,’ said the Rakshasa, and so seizing that beautiful matron he carried her away. And, indeed, she of agreeable smiles, had been betrothed by her father himself, to him, although the former subsequently bestowed her, according to due rites, on Bhrigu. O thou of the Bhrigu race, this wound rankled deep in the Rakshasa’s mind and he thought the present moment very opportune for carrying the lady away.
“And the Rakshasa saw the apartment in which the sacrificial fire was kept burning brightly.
The Rakshasa then asked the flaming element ‘Tell me, O Agni, whose wife this woman rightfully is. Thou art the mouth of gods; therefore thou art bound to answer my question. This lady of superior complexion had been first accepted by me as wife, but her father subsequently bestowed her on the false Bhrigu. Tell me truly if this fair one can be regarded as the wife of Bhrigu, for having found her alone, I have resolved to take her away by force from the hermitage. My heart burneth with rage when I reflect that Bhrigu hath got possession of this woman of slender waist, first betrothed to me.'”
“Sauti continued, ‘In this manner the Rakshasa asked the flaming god of fire again and again whether the lady was Bhrigu’s wife. And the god was afraid to return an answer. ‘Thou, O god of fire,’ said he, residest constantly within every creature, as witness of her or his merits and demerits. O thou respected one, then answer my question truly. Has not Bhrigu appropriated her who was chosen by me as my wife? Thou shouldst declare truly whether, therefore, she is my wife by first choice. After thy answer as to whether she is the wife of Bhrigu, I will bear her away from this hermitage even in sight of thee. Therefore answer thou truly.'”
“Sauti continued, ‘The Seven flamed god having heard these words of the Rakshasa became exceedingly distressed, being afraid of telling a falsehood and equally afraid of Bhrigu’s curse. And the god at length made answer in words that came out slowly. ‘This Puloma was, indeed, first chosen by thee, O Rakshasa, but she was not taken by thee with holy rites and invocations. But this far-famed lady was bestowed by her father on Bhrigu as a gift from desire of blessing. She was not bestowed on thee O Rakshasa, this lady was duly made by the Rishi Bhrigu his wife with Vedic rites in my presence. This is she–I know her. I dare not speak a falsehood. O thou best of the Rakshasas, falsehood is never respected in this world.'”