By Swami Harshananda
There cannot be a better example than emperor Nahuṣa to show that power, wealth, honor and valor can corrupt the minds of even good and great persons. Nahuṣa, the grandson of the well- known emperor Pururava of Candravanśa, was a great emperor of pure character. When Indra the king of the gods in heaven, quietly disappeared because of the sin of brahmahatyā, all the gods of heaven went to the four-faced creator Brahmā and appealed to him for giving them someone to rule over heaven.
Brahmā suggested that the emperor Nahuṣa be brought from the bhuloka. Though Nahuṣa was unwilling to shoulder that responsibility first, he later on yielded to their pleads. As he sat on the throne of Indra and started tasting the power, luxuries and glory, his mind gradually got corrupted by the sinful desire of having Saeīdevī as his wife. Meanwhile Indra had been liberated from his sin through proper expiation and was ready to return.
When Śacīdevī got the message of Nahuṣa, she cleverly worked out a strategy by which Nahuṣa could get into trouble. Driven by fate, Nahuṣa ordered the Saptarṣis to carry his palanquin to Śacīdevī’s palace. On the way, blinded by lust, he kicked the sage Agastya urging him with the words, ‘sarpa! sarpa!’ which means ‘Move quickly!’. No sooner did Agastya heard these words and get the kick, than he cursed him, ‘Become a sarpa!’ Nahuṣa immediately fell down from the palanquin as a python.
Once, Bhīma, the second of the Pāṇḍava princes, was caught by this python. The python set a condition for his release that he should answer its queries. Bhīma could neither answer them nor could extricate himself by his own prowess. Finally, Yudhiṣṭhira, his elder brother came there, answered them satisfactorily thereby getting him released. The python also transformed into the emperor Nahuṣa who left immediately for heaven.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore