Son of Maharishi Bhrigu and Kavyamata, Guru Shukracharya is one of the greatest sages in Hindu history. Like other greatest sages like Saptarishis, Shukracharya also possesses vast wisdom and spiritual powers.
Even though he was a highly knowledgeable sage, blessed by Lord Shiva, he did not get the respect and acknowledgment from Devas that he deserved. Feeling disrespected, he chose to become the teacher and guide of Asuras. Guru Shukracharya taught skills of war, politics, and weaponry to Asuras.
The epic Mahabharata mentioned that Shukracharya dedicated his entire life to meditating and making constant efforts to win over heavenly gods. Besides that, he created numerous mantras, rasas, and medicines, which he passed down to his disciples.
In Vedic astrology, Guru Shukracharya is one of the navagrahas (planets), Planet Venus. It governs over Taurus and Libra zodiac signs. Venus represents femininity, beauty, romance, reproduction, art, and pleasure.
Stories of Shukracharya (the Guru of Asuras/Daityas)
Sage Shukracharya’s father was Maharishi Bhrigu, and his mother was Kavyamata or Khyati. To pursue his education, Shukracharya started learning from the great Angiras rishi alongside Brihaspati (son of sage Angiras). But he realized that maharishi Angiras favored his son Brihaspati more than him. So, he left the ashram and started learning from the sage Gautama.
Guru Shukracharya had four sons – Chanda, Amarka, Tvastr and Dharaatra from his wife Urjaswati. From his second wife, Jayanthi (the daughter of Lord Indra), he had a daughter called Devyani.
Shukracharya’s mother’s death
The mind-born rishi Bhrigu’s wife, Khyati, was a powerful ascetic woman. There is a story in Devi Bhagavata Purana which narrates the war between Devas and Asuras. In that war, Devas were overpowering the Asuras. So, to protect themselves from deities, the asuras went to sage Bhrigu’s hermitage. But, sage Bhrigu and Shukracharya were not present; instead, Devi Kavyamata was there. So, the asuras asked her to protect them, which she gladly accepted as Athiti dharma. A powerful invisible energy shield protects the hermitage from the outside danger, which even the Devas could not breakthrough. So, with a single glance of Kavyamata, all the Devtas fell into a deep sleep.
All the Devtas’ efforts failed. Then they went to supreme Lord Vishnu for help. So, to maintain the universe’s balance, Lord Vishnu ordered his divine Sudarsan Chakra, which broke the protective shield and beheaded Kavyamata’s head. When Bhrigu rishi came to know about the incident, he cursed Vishnu to be born as a human on earth and bear the pain and suffer the separation from his wife. When Shukracharya knew about this mother’s death, he started hating Lord Vishnu and prohibited the worship of Vishnu among Asuras.
Feeling furious and tired of Asura’s defeat. Asura Guru Shukracharya, with a motive for victory over gods, performed intense penance to please Lord Shiva. He hung upside down for thousands of years. After hearing about Shukracharya’s austerity, Lord Indra sent his daughter, Jayanti, to interrupt his penance. But she failed in her mission as the rishi did not respond to her actions. Pleased with rishi’s extreme penance, Lord Shiva appeared and offered the sage a boon. Shukracharya asked for the knowledge of Sanjeevani – a mantra that could revive dead people. However, Lord Shiva warned him not to misuse it before leaving. With the help of the Sanjeevani mantra, the demon’s Guru brings back dead Asuras to life to fight against the gods.
Meaning of the name Shukra
Once there was a war between Asuras and Lord Shiva’s soldiers. Nandi was the commander-in-chief of the Shiv army. Even the heavenly deities were helping Shiv armies in this battle. However, the asuras outnumbered the Shiv army and were on the verge of victory. Nandi, along with Devas, went to Lord Shiva for assistance. When Lord Shiva knew Shukracharya’s misuse of the Sanjeevani mantra, he swallowed and kept him inside his stomach. The demon guru lived for thousands of years inside Lord Shiva’s stomach, searching for a way out, which he failed to do.
Finally, he realized his mistake and started penance to clear his sins. Lord Shiva seeing rishi’s devotion forgave him and emitted it out in the form of semen (Shukra). For this reason, Maharishi was named Shukracharya. As the sage came out of Shiva’s genitalia, he was one of the sons of Lord Shiva.
Guru Shukracharya is also known as Ekaksha, which means one-eyed person. The story behind his one-eye was that the Lord of Asura, King Bali, and Shukracharya were performing a grand havan. On that religious site, Lord Vishnu appeared as a dwarf brahmin, Vamana (the sixth avatar), and asked for three steps of land as a donation. But unfortunately, sage Shukracharya realized that the young brahmin was Lord Vishnu himself. So, to stop Mahabali from giving the 3-step land to the brahmin, the sage transformed himself into the subtle form and sat on the opening of the Kamandalam(water pot) to block water.
Omniscient Lord Vamana understood the act to Shukracharya. So, Lord Vamana put a straw inside the pot opening and poked one eye of Shukracharya. With pain, Shukracharya came out, causing water to flow out, and Mahabali was able to fulfill his donation. From that incident, Shukracharya’s one eye was permanently damaged and later known as Ekaksha.
Kacha and Shukracharya
Kacha was the son of sage Brihaspati. He ordered his son Kacha to go to Shukracharya and learn the knowledge of Sanjeevani. Knowing that Kacha was Brihaspati’s son, Shukracharya accepted him as a disciple regardless of every demon’s disapproval. In acquiring knowledge, Kacha fell in love with Devyani, the daughter of guru Shukracharya. Having hatred towards Kacha, all the demons killed him when Shukracharya was out. When Devyani came to know about Kacha, she requested her father to revive him, which he did.
However, Kacha was murdered for the second time alone in the forest. The demons burned his body and mixed his ashes into the wine, and gave it to their Guru to drink. Again, Devyani requested her father, but this time Shukracharya had to sacrifice his own body to resurrect Kacha’s dead body. The sage’s boundless love for her daughter encouraged him to take his own life to revive his daughter’s love. When Kacha returned to life, he used the same Sanjeevani mantra to resuscitate Shukracharya. After this incident, sage Shukracharya prohibited wine from being taken by Brahmins as it destroyed their purity. Moreover, he said drinking wine is a sin that equals killing a brahmin.