Usually, people who are familiar with Hindu culture know that Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati had two sons – Skanda (Kartikeya, Murugan), who became the commander of the Gods, and Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of wisdom. But the Divine couple also had a daughter, Ashok Sundari, also with an unusual birth.
Ashokasundari gives blessings to beauty and luxury. She is mentioned in the Padma Purana which tells her story. The goddess is mainly worshiped in South India in the form of Bala Tripurasundari.
Ashok Sundari was created from the Kalpavriksha, wish-fulfillment tree when Parvati wanted a daughter to reduce her loneliness. The words in her name come from her creation. Ashoka refers to the relief of Parvati’s shock, which means sadness, and Sundari means beautiful girl.
Birth Story of Ashok Sundari
The story of the birth of Ashok Sundari is detailed in the Padma Purana. Accordingly, Lord Shiva and Parvati lived on Mount Kailash. One day Parvati expressed a desire to take a walk in the beautiful forest of Nandanvan. During the walk, Shiva and Parvati admired nature, but one tree was liked by the Goddess the most. Shiva said that this is Kalpavriksha – a tree that fulfills all desires. Parvati wanted to try it and made a wish that it would create a beautiful girl. It was fulfilled immediately.
The girl greeted Parvati and asked her: Why did you create me? What should I do at your request? I created you simply to satisfy curiosity, Parvati replied. But now that you are created, let me call you Ashokasundari. In the future, in the lunar dynasty, a king named Nahusha will be born – he will be your husband.
So, Ashok Sundari became the daughter of Parvati and Shiva, who raised her. And Parvati became very attached to the pretty girl.
Curse to Asura Hunda
When the time of youth overtook, Ashoksundari, despite the protests of her mother, went to the forest to perform asceticism, where Asura Hunda saw her and was inflamed with a desire to get her. He offered Ashoksundari to become his wife, but she flatly refused, saying that she had already been married to Nahusha by her parents. But the asura could not accept his defeat. Then Hunda tried to cunningly kidnap the girl, Hunda disguised himself as a widow whose husband had been killed by him and asked Ashoksundari to accompany her to her abode. The goddess went with the Asura in disguise and reached his palace. She learned of his betrayal and cursed him to be killed by Nahusha, and fled to her parent’s home, Mount Kailash.
Marriage to Nahusha
At that time, Nahusha was still small, and asura Hunda tried to kill him. But the little prince was sheltered by his parents in the ashram of the sage Vasishtha. There he grew up. And then everything planned came true. Hunda kidnaps Ashokasundari and tells her that he killed Nahusha. The goddess was consoled by a married couple who told her about Nahusha’s well-being and predicted that she would become the mother of a powerful son named Yayati and one hundred beautiful daughters. Nahusha fought Hunda and defeated him after a fierce battle and saved Ashoksundari, whom he married. Over time, in the absence of Indra, Nahusa temporarily became the ruler of the Swarga. Indra’s pride caused him to be cursed and which led to his downfall. In his absence, Nahusha was temporarily given his throne, which was later recaptured by Indra.
Ashoksundari and Nahusha had a son, Yayati, who laid the foundation for the dynasty of Yadavas and Pauravas, who in turn are the ancestors of the Pandavas and Kauravas, the heroes of the Mahabharata.
Who is Nahusha?
In Hindu Scripts, Nahusha is the king of the Aila Dynasty (Moon Dynasty) and the 3,698,256 Senses (position). He was the son of Ayu, the eldest son of Pururava, and Prabha, the daughter of Svarbhanu. Nahusha rules from Pratishthana. He married Viraja/Ashoksundari. They had six or seven sons, according to the different Puranas. His eldest son Yati became a muni (hermit). He was succeeded by his second son Yayati.
Nahusha was appointed King of Svarga after Indra’s disappearance. He soon became arrogant and was later removed from the throne. While ruling on Indra’s throne, he tried to seduce Indra’s wife Indrani for which he incurred a curse to be a serpent. In order to escape from the curse, he hid in Indra’s palanquin. But sage Agastya found out his hiding place and called him out. Immediately Nahusha fell from the palanquin in the form of a serpent. He would keep this form until he meets with Yudhishthira.
In the Dvapara Yuga, when the Pandavas were on their last journey in the Himalayas, Nahusha in his serpent form was captured by Bhima who decided to eat him. Despite Bhima’s extraordinary strength, Nahusha is too powerful, as he received a blessing from Agastya.
Meanwhile, Yudhistira was looking for Bhima. He found him and saw what was happening to him. Nahusha reveals himself as Yudhishthira’s ancestor and tells him of his curse. Yudhishthira and Nahusha discuss their views of Dharma. Nahusha tells Yudhisthira about his mistakes and asks him to learn from them. Nahusha breaks free from his curse and goes to heaven. Bhima then receives his strength.
Unknown but interesting facts about Ashoksundari
- According to scriptures, when Shri Ganesha was beheaded, Ashoksundari was also there, and fearing her father and mother, she hid behind a sack of salt. Later Lord Shiva pacified her. Thus, she is related to salt, without which life is tasteless. Ashok Sundari is also called Okha and salt is not bought in her memory in Chaitra.
- Mata Parvati was very happy to receive her daughter, so Mata gave a boon to Ashok Sundari that she would be married to a powerful man like Devraj Indra.
- Ashokasundari symbolizes beauty and desires born of devotion and knowledge. Hunda symbolizes greed and evil. Nahusha symbolizes the learning of Yoga, justice, goodness, and courage.