From Brahma to Arjuna: The Shraps (Curses) That Changed the Course of Sanatan Dharma

Curse
Sage Bhrigu Kicking Lord Vishnu

Those who celebrate Dusshera know why it is celebrated. It is the manifestation of the victory of good that is Shri Ram, over evil as portrayed in Ravan, the demon king of Lanka. Ram, the 7th avatar of Lord Vishnu born in the Ikshvaku clan in fact came to relieve Ravan and Kumbhakarna who were the avatar of his own demigod gatekeeper (dvaarpals) due to a curse by the Four Kumars.

The Bhagwat Puran narrates the story in finer details as the four Kumars, Sanak, Sanandan, Sanatan and Sanatkumar who were men of high spiritual merit came to visit Vishnu at his abode, Vaikuntha. Due to their high spiritual penance, they appeared to be like children but were wise men of age. Disregarding them as mere kids, the gatekeepers of Vaikuntha Jaya and Vijaya didn’t let them meet Lord Vishnu. Enraged at the Gatekeepers – Jaya and Vijaya, the 4 Kumaras cursed them to be born as ordinary mortals and to lose their divinity.

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Jaya Vijaya and Sanatkumars

Lord Vishnu appeared before the 4 Kumaras and requested them to lift their curse. Kumaras’ rage was pacified by Vishnu’s pleadings so they gave Jaya and Vijaya two options. Either they should take seven births as devotees of Lord Vishnu or three births as his enemy on Earth after which they can regain their status at Vaikuntha. Both of them chose the later option as they thought it to be a shorter one.

In the first life they were born as brothers Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashyapu and were slayed by the Varaha and Narsimha avtar of Lord Vishnu respectively in Sat Yug. In the next they were born as brothers Ravan and Kumbhakarna who were killed by Lord Ram in Treta Yug. In the third life they are born as cousin brothers Shishupal and Dantavakra in Dwapar Yug. The successive decline in the strength of the brothers is noticed as Lord Vishnu needed a separate Avatar each each to kill Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha while Ravana and Kumbhakarna are killed by one Avatar of his (Lord Rama).

In Kali Yug, Jaya and Vijaya are free from their curse and can be seen at the door of every Vishnu temple be it at Puri or Tirupati.

This episode highlights the importance given to men of high intellect and spiritual merit in Sanatan Dharma that whatever they say or predict becomes a reality even if it is related to the Supreme Lord himself.

The Story of the Four Kumars and Jaya-Vijaya is not the only tale the highlights the importance of Shraap/Curses in our Scriptures. Curses or “Shrap” given by men and women of high spiritual merit went on to shape the destiny of humankind. Urvashi’s curse to Arjuna for refusing her sexual advances helped him in facing his ‘Agyaatwaas’ as a eunuch in the service of king of Virat.

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Urvashi’s Curse to Arjuna

Lord Parshurama’s curse to Karna came back to haunt him in the most critical battle of his life in Kurukshetra. Parshurama had found Karna guilty of lying to him about his caste.

Sage Bhrigu in a bid to decide as to who amongst the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh was the greatest visited the abode of Lord Brahma. Enraged by his disregard by Lord Brahma who didn’t pay attention to him as he was teaching Veena to his consort, sage Bhrigu cursed him of not being worshipped in any temple on Earth in Kali Yug.

After this, he visited the abode of Lord Shiva and was stopped by Lord Nandi. Bhrigu again cursed him that Shiva from thereon will be revered in the form Linga exclusively.

Lastly when he visited Vaikuntha ,the abode of Lord Vishnu, he was enraged to find a sleeping Lord Vishnu, he kicked him on his chest. Goddess Lakshmi could not bear the insult of her consort and cursed that she will always desert the Brahmins.

We can relate the impact of these curses that there is no temple of Lord Brahma other than at Pushkar, Lord Shiva is revered always in the form of a ‘Shivalinga’ and in every story that we hear speaks about a ‘Gareeb Brahmin’ residing in a village.

So, the concept of ‘ Shrap ‘ has been the harbinger of important events in the history of Sanatan dharma. It also underscores the highest importance that is given to ‘Karma’ in Sanatan Dharma and no one is immune from its after effects even the Lord Almighty. The sages who curse at the drop of a hat are not free from impulsive behaviour. They are prone to imperfections arising out of fits of rage and anger. They then realise their mistakes and suggest ways to regain normalcy by suggesting some remedy or penance.

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Menaka Seducing Vishwamitra

The effectiveness and duration of a curse was dependent upon the degree of spiritual merit a person possessed and it was this merit only that helped in shaping the reality in the course of life of the person who got cursed eventually. The power to curse often came at the cost of spiritual merit which formed the backbone of the power to curse. So, the person who cursed also bore the brunt of it like Vishwamitra whose spiritual merit reduced after cursing Menaka who tried to seduce him, he would have otherwise snatched the throne of Lord Indra by the sheer force of the energies accumulated by years of penance.

So, we can assume that the concept of ‘Shrap’ is a mean to underscore the importance that is given to doing the right Karma in Sanatan Dharma. The secret to a happy and normal life lies in performing the right Karma and no cry goes unheard if it has arisen as a result of a Bad Karma.