Sanjeevini Vidya is the knowledge that gives the ability to rouse the dead back to life. This raising of the dead is a part of many incidents in epics and mythology. As expected, this knowledge was so treasured and sought after that the leading Gurus, Brihaspati and Shukra were both eager to learn it. The story of Sanjeevini Vidya tells us how both the Deva Guru Brihaspati and the Asura Guru Shukra Shukra both gained this knowledge by fair means and foul.
This excerpt is taken from the narration of the Shani Mahatymaya. King Vikramaditya is in his court and knowledgeable representatives of each planet are in the process of debate as to which of the planets is the greatest. Each of the representatives of Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangal (Mars), Budh (Mercury), Brihaspati (Jupiter) and Shukra (Venus) stands up and narrates the virtues of his planet and gives the reasons why his planet is the best. When the representative of Shukra speaks about his virtues and of his knowledge of Sanjeevini Vidya, the representative of Brihaspati argues that Brihaspati also had the knowledge of Sanjeevini Vidya but after Shukra received it.
The representative of Shukra replied that Shukra obtained Sanjeevini Vidya after long penance whereas Brihaspati obtained it by cheating. He then narrates the story of the Sanjeevini Vidya and how Shukra and Brihaspati each obtained it.
The Plan To Learn Sanjeevini Vidya
The Devas and Asuras were at war from time to time. However, whenever there was a war, Shukra brought the slain Asuras back to life with his Sanjeevini Vidya. This meant that the Devas had to fight the same Asuras repeatedly. They went to their Guru Brihaspati and requested that he learn this Vidya. They suggested that Brihaspati send his son Kach to Shukra in order to learn the secret Sanjeevini Vidya. Shukra was very fond of his daughter Devayani. So, the Devatas suggested that Kach also become friendly with her. Brihaspati at first did not agree to this scheme. But later he decided that it was the best way for the Devatas and sent his son Kach to Shukracharya.
Kach And Devayani
Kach went to Shukra and requested to be his disciple. All the Asuras were unhappy about this. They warned Shukra that this was a plot to learn the secrets of Shukra. They were not in favour of their enemies’ Guru’s son becoming Shukra’s disciple. However, Shukra could not say no to a request to learn from him. So he conditionally accepted Kach as his disciple for a period of 1000 years only. Kach was a devoted disciple. He served Shukra with all his heart and soul. Devayani was very impressed by his great devotion and faithfulness. She fell in love with Kach. She was always watchful for him and would worry if he was late. Kach, however, did not have any romantic feelings for her. He saw Devayani as his Guru’s daughter and nothing more.
Danger To Kach
As the 1000 years of Kach’s agreed upon tenure as a disciple of Shukra was nearing its end, the Asuras were uneasy. They plotted to kill him so to prevent the knowledge of Shukra being taken back to Brihaspati. The presumed that since Devayani was in love with Kach, he would have easy access to the Sanjeevini Vidya. They plotted amongst themselves to kill him.
When Kach went to graze cattle in the forest they killed him and abandoned his body for the wild animals to devour. Devayani, however, was watching for the return of Kach. When he failed to return from the forest she alerted her father. She declared that he was killed by the Asuras and insisted that her father should go and look for him. Though Shukra did not believe her he investigated and found that it was the truth. He then used his Sanjeevini Vidya to bring Kach back to life.
Repeated Attempt On Life Of Kach
The Asuras failed in the first attempt on Kach’s life. But they were still eager to kill him. The second time the killed Kach they ground his body to a paste and put it in the sea. However, Shukracharya used his knowledge and brought Kach back to life again.
The Asuras were still not deterred. They killed Kach yet again and burned his body. The Asuras then took these ashes of Kach and dissolved it in a wine goblet. They served this wine to Shukra and he drank it. Devayani was worried about the absence of Kach. She again tried to persuade her father to find him. Shukra was fed up with repeated requests and told her to forget about Kach. But Devayani was not easy to put off. She threatened that she would kill herself if Kach was not found. Shukra was very attached to his daughter and called out asking Kach where he was.
Kach replied from the stomach of Shukra that he was here. Shukra asked how he entered his stomach and Kach narrated the whole story. When Shukra asked him to come out he refused to do so, saying that if he did, it would kill Shukra. He did not want to commit the sin of killing a Guru. Deveyani suggested that her father teach her the Sanjeevini Vidya. This would enable her to bring him back to life after Kach exited his body. Shukra had no choice but to teach Devayani the Sanjeevini Vidya. While he taught her, Kach who was in his stomach also learned the same.
Kach Brought Back To Life
Shukra then ordered Kach to exit his body. Kach came out of his body and Shukra died. Devayani then brought her father back to life. Shukra was furious with the Asuras and cursed alcohol for making on speak what should not be spoken. As Kach’s discipleship was over he wished to leave. Devayani wanted to marry him as she was so in love with him. Kach replied that he had come out of the stomach of Shukra. This made him her brother. So on these grounds, he refused to marry her.
Devayani was furious. She cursed him that he would be unable to use any of the knowledge that he had learned from her father. Kach replied that he would still be able to teach others to use it and that that was enough for him. He also told Devayani that as she had cursed him for no fault of his he also cursed her in return that she would not find a Brahman husband to marry.
The King of the Asuras was King Vrishparva. He had a beautiful daughter Sharmishta. Shukra was the Guru of the Asuras. This meant that Sharmishta and Devayani were good friends. Once they went to a lake with their friends. They left their clothes by the lake and were playing with their friends when suddenly Indra happened to come that way. The group of friends rushed to the banks of the lake and hurriedly put on their clothes. In the confusion, Sharmishtha inadvertently wore Devayani’s clothes. This annoyed Devayani. She rebuked her friend saying that her friend’s father was her won father’s disciple and so it was improper for Sharmshitha to wear her clothes.
Though Sharmistha explained that the incident was not intentional and only happened because of their being in a hurry, Devayani would not relent. She was still angry. Sharmishtha lost her temper as well and taking off Devayani’s clothes, threw them into a dry well and went back home. Devayani was angry for a while and then started calling for help.
At this time King Yayati was hunting in the nearby forest. He approached the well looking for water to quench his thirst when he heard the cries of Devayani. He rescued her and covered her with his own clothes. Devayani thanked him profusely. She explained the incidents that led to her predicament. She requested him to marry her since he had seen her unclothed. He replied that since he was a Kshatriya and she a Brahman, the marriage would not be proper. She replied that it was their destiny that this had occurred. King Yayati agreed.
Yayati’s Married Life
When Devayani went home and recounted the incident to Shukra he was furious. He threatened to leave the Asuras but the Asura King Vishparva begged him to stay. King Vishparva asked Devayani what her wish was. She said that she wished that Sharmistha should go with her as a maid with her 100 maids when she married. So, when Devayani married King Yayati, Sharmishtha went with her 100 maids to her marital home. When Shukra gave his daughter in marriage to King Yayati he warned him that if he took any woman other than his daughter to his bed he would bear the consequences. King Yayati agreed. Devayani and Yayati had two sons.
Yayati And Sharmistha
However, when King Yayati came upon Sharmistha one day he was attracted to her. She explained that she was a princess but brought to his palace as a maid by Devayani. She requested him to unite with her. Yayati agreed and had a son by her. She then had two more sons by him. When Devayani found out about this she was very angry and complained to her father. King Yayati explained the reasons for his actions but Shukra would not relent.
Shukra cursed him with premature old age. Since Yayati knew that this would also affect the happiness of Devayani he asked for forgiveness. Shukra then said that if he found a person who was willing to take on the curse, he could transfer it to that person and live a happy life. All of Yayati’s elder sons refused to exchange their youth for his old age. The third son that he had by Sharmshitha named Puru was willing to take on the curse. Yayati enjoyed his youth with Devayani for 1000 years before he realised how worthless sensuality was. He returned youth to Puru and renounced the world.
Shukra’s representative then explained to the audience in King Vikramaditya’s court the lineage of Yayati. He was the son of Nahush. He divided his kingdom into five and gave one share each to each of his sons. The five sons of Yayati were the ancestors of the five clans. One of his descendants was King Dushyant whose son was Bharat. It was Bharat who adopted Bharadwaj, Brihaspati’s son.
Once Brihaspati desired his brother’s wife Mamata. When he approached her, she refused him saying that she was already pregnant. But he persisted and the child her in her womb also objected. He got angry and cursed the child. Mamata conceived Brihaspati’s child. Both Mamata and Brihaspati abandoned the child. The Maruts found the child and named him Bharadwaj. Bharadwaj taught Dhanvantri the science of Ayurved. The great Dronacharya was a descendent of Bharadwaj.