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By Swami Harshananda

Ambariṣa was an emperor belonging to the Suryavariiśa and the Ikṣvāku lineage. A worthy son of a worthy father (Māndhātṛ), Ambarīṣa was deeply devoted to Lord Viṣṇu. He was very meticulous in observing the fast on ekādaśis (11th day after new-moon or full-moon, on which day fasting is obligatory).

Durvāsa, a sage known for his short temper, once attempted to make him swerve from the rules of the ritual but failed in his efforts. Actually the tables were turned against him. The Sudarśanacakra (discus of Lord Viṣṇu) pursued him relentlessly until he had to seek the forgiveness and deliverance from the king Ambarīṣa himself.[1]

There was another Ambarīṣa, the son of Nābhāga. He was known for his generosity and devotion.

In the Rāmāyana[2] we come across yet another Ambarīṣa who lost the yajñapaśu (the sacrificial animal) during the conduct of a sacrifice and was advised to substitute the lost animal with a human being. Sunaśśepha, the middle son of a sage Rcīka, was purchased for this purpose. But the boy was ultimately saved by the dynamic sage Viśvāmitra.

Sunaśśepha’s story appears in some purāṇas with variations in which Hariścandra is the king and not Ambarīṣa.

The Mahābhārata contains an Ambarisa-Gitā.[3] After attaining perfection Ambarīṣa teaches that lobha (greed) is a great enemy responsible for spiritual disaster, and hence it must be rooted out.


  1. Bhāgavatam 9.4, 5.
  2. Bālakānda, 61
  3. Anugitā-parva, 12
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore