Unlike today, back then, curses had a reason and sometimes they shaped the future of millions. In fact, curses in Hindu mythical stories give rise to some very interesting facts. These curses or so-called ‘shraps’ explain some natural phenomenon’s and tell us why things are the way they are. Here are some of the most famous curses found in Hindu scriptures like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Puranas. Take a look at them.
1. Bhrigu Acharya’s Curse on Lord Vishnu:
This curse, given to Vishnu by sage Bhrigu remains to be the most important curse in the Hindu Mythology, without which Ramayana and Mahabharata would not have happened.
There was a time when Asuras and Devas would fight all the time. The devas would always end up beating the asuras. Shukracharya (Guru of Asuras), after being defeated by the Devas in every war between them, decided to approach Lord Shiva, to obtain the powers (Mritasanjeevani Stotra or Mantra) that would make Asuras invincible. He, meanwhile, asked the asuras to take refuge at the ashram of his father – Bhrigu.
The Devas found the absence of Shukra Acharya a most opportune time to attack the asuras once again. However, Bhrigu himself being away from the ashram, the Asuras sought his wife’s help. She decided to protect the Asuras from Indra and other demi-gods. Using her powers, she rendered Indra immobile. The Devas got scared and ran to Vishnu to seek help. After a long verbal battle, Vishnu finally severed her head with his Sudarshana Chakra.
On returning Bhrigu saw his wife lying in his ashram without a head. He then cursed that Vishnu to be born on earth several times and suffer the pains of worldly life. Thus, Vishnu was later born on Earth in different avatars and hence we have had the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
2. The Curse of Lord Brahma:
We rarely find temples dedicated to Lord Brahma and also it is very rare to see someone worshipping him. There are only two temples of Brahma in India and despite being the creator of the Universe, there are no festivals to honour him.
At the beginning of time in Cosmos, the two gods of the Hindu triad – Vishnu and Brahma – began an argument on who the most powerful of the triad was. They approached shiva, the third of the triad, to intervene. Lord Shiva, then assumed the form of a huge linga, which was of flaming fire, with its tip going upwards, endlessly towards the sky and its base going endlessly towards the earth. Both Brahma and Vishnu determined that if they could find how enormous the fiery lingam was, they could establish who among the triad was the most powerful. Vishnu advanced to seek the end and Brahma the beginning. Taking the form of a boar, Vishnu began descending downwards into the earth, while Brahma took the form of a swan and began flying upwards along the length of the ascending lingam.
However, neither could find his appointed destination. Vishnu, being wise, realized that he had been outdone by Shiva and came back to acknowledge Shiva as the greatest of the triad. Although, Brahma decided that he could get past Shiva with trickery. As he was going up, he saw a ketaki flower, who was used to inhabit the upper-end regions of the lingam, floating down. Brahma requested Ketaki to falsely bear witness to the fact that he (Brahma) had seen the uppermost end of the Shivalinga. Ketaki agreed and when, brought before shiva, the flower Shiva that he had observed Brahma reach the destination.
Annoyed at this falsity, Shiva, the all-knowing, cursed Brahma that no being in the three worlds will worship him while the flower of Ketaki, for bearing false witness was cursed to be never used in any Hindu worshipping rituals.
3. Lord Vishnu faces the Curse of Rishi Narada
Once, Rishi Narada started meditating in a Tapovan which was especially blessed by Lord Shiva as whoever will penance in that grove, no one will be able to disturb him in his penace. But this was an unknown fact to Narada. Devraj Indra, who was scared thinking the possible reasons for which Narada muni is meditating, sent Agni, Pawan, and Varun-dev to disturb him. But failing to break Narad muni’s meditation, they returned to Indra. Then Indra sent kamdev with nymphs and dancing girls, but consecutively he also returned to Indra with defeated face.
On this, Narada took great pride of the fact that he was above temptation and he had conquered Kamadeva with respect to any kind of worldly desire. At one such instance of boasting, Lord Shiva warned him to keep it to himself and not to go around boasting about it. Narada took it for jealousy and boasted about his victory over his Kama to Lord Vishnu. Vishnu wanted to humble his pride by using his power of illusion ‘maya’.
One day, on his way back from the Vaikunta, Narada muni stumbles upon this beautiful city he had never seen before in his travels. He pays a visit to the city and learns that the kingdom was ruled by a king named Sheelnidhi and that the king was planning to hold a swayamwaram for his daughter, who was an ardent devotee of the Lord. Narada is captivated by the beauty of the princess and seeks Lord Vishnu’s help in wooing the princess. He requested to bless him with most distinctive and most handsome look so that the princess chooses only to him in the Swayamvar. He asks the Lord to give him the face of ‘Hari’ (the face of the lord). Vishnu plays a trick on him and gives him the face of a monkey, Narada had forgotten the fact that ‘Hari’ also meant monkey in Sanskrit.
Not aware of his appearance, Narada goes to the palace for the swayamwar with that monkey face. He was made fun of his look and was humiliated in front of everyone in the palace. Only then does he realize the trick the Lord played on him. Lord Vishnu was also there as the last Prince whom the princess offered the Varamala (garland) when Narada chased her and wanted to get the Varamala by force. Then Lord Vishnu comes in between and the princess finally garlands him and got married to Lord Vishnu.
But before Narada realized that it was all just an illusion created by the Lord to humble his pride he feels betrayed and cursed the Lord that in one of his avatars, he would have to bear the pain of separation from his wife and only a monkey would be able to relieve him of his sufferings. Thus, when Vishnu was born as Rama, Hanuman (a monkey) helped him to free Sita from the bonds of Ravana.
4. Lord Indra Cursed by Gautam Maharshi
Indra once assaults Sage Gautam’s wife. Enraged, the sage cursed Indra that since he is so obsessed with a woman’s body, he can have his body decorated with 1000 vaginas. However, the devas come to beg the sage to lift this curse, since Indra is their chief and no one would take him seriously with sahastrayoni. The sage refuses to lift the curse but agrees that Indra can have a thousand eyes instead.
5. Sita’s Curse to Gaya
Sita’s curse is the reason why Gaya does not have River Phalguni anymore.
In Ramayana, once Lord Rama went to perform his father’s (Dashrath) last rites at Gaya with his brother Lakshman and wife Sita. While the brothers were bathing in the river Phalguni, suddenly an akashvani (celestial announcement) happened, stating that this was the best time to offer pindadaan (the Hindu ritual of offering rice to the dead). Honoring the akashvani, Sita performed the pindadaan by offering sand, as Sita had nothing else. There were 5 witnesses to this act; a cow, a Tulsi (holy basil) plant, banyan tree (Akshaya Vatam), a Brahmin and the Phalguni river.
Later when the two brothers returned, Sita told them she had performed the ritual on hearing the akashvani. But when she looked at her witnesses, except for the banyan tree none of the others testified that Sita had indeed performed pindadaan.
So a distraught Sita cursed Phalguni river to dry up (River Phalguni thus became Phalgu which also means False River. She cursed Thulasi plant to be placed in a backyard instead of being in the front of the house. The Cow was cursed to have her mouth always unclean due to continuous drool of saliva and also was cursed to never be worshipped from the front (have her sacred Lakshmi Amsam at her back). In the same way, cursed the Brahmins of Gaya to be hungry forever
The banyan tree, who gave witness, was blessed of becoming immortal which never shed its leaves throughout the year. This tree is today called as Akshay Vat (immortal banyan).
6. Krishna’s Curse of Extermination by Gandhari
After the battle of Kurukshetra (killing all one hundred sons of Gandhari), when Krishna goes to console a distraught Gandhari, mother of the 100 Kauravas, she flinches in pain and curses Krishna that the way in which he had schemed to kill her sons and end her bloodline, his bloodline too will be exterminated.
Krishna thus died an untimely death and his family members killed each other by infighting on the banks of the river Yamuna.
7. Curse of Shaligram: Vrinda cursed Lord Vishnu
Lord Vishnu is often worshipped in many places in the form of a black stone, known as Shaligram. It was due to a curse that Lord Vishnu turned into a stone.
There was once a demon king named Jalandhar. He was born out of the flames which emanated from Lord Shiva’s third eye. That is why he was an extremely powerful warrior. Brahma had granted boons to Jalandhar that resulted in his enormous powers. Jalandhar married Vrinda, daughter of Kalanemi and had a boon that his powers will remain undiminished as long as his wife Vrinda is chaste. This made King Jalandhar arrogant and he declared war on other kings, demi-gods and started tormenting them.
According to Puranas, the devtas ran to Lord Shiva for help and a ferocious battle broke out between Shiva and the demon Jalandhara. They both appeared equally matched with no one prepared to fall back, and hence the battle went forward for a long time. In fact, it was not like an everyday battle between gods and demons, but it was a clash between the chastities of two virtuous women- Parvati and Vrinda.
Lord Shiva knew it well that unless the chastity of Vrinda, wife of Jallundhara, was stained, Jallundhara could not be exterminated. But it was against the nature of gods- they could not spoil the chastity of a moral woman. Hence in spite of knowing everything, the gods were powerless, but for Jallundhara, nothing was forbidden. So thinking that by staining the chastity of Parvati, he could overpower Lord Shiva, Jalandhara reached Parvati in the guise of Lord Shiva. When Parvati saw the lustful eyes of Jalandhar, she immediately recognised him and was angry and upset. She at once ended his guise and managed to immobilize him, but was hurt and felt violated. She approached Lord Vishnu and requested him to trick Vrinda just like Jalandhara tried to trick her, and it will not be a sin.
In spite of being the wife of the demon king, Vrinda worshipped Lord Vishnu. She was a dedicated and staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu and prayed to him with all her faith. Lord Vishnu approached Vrinda in the guise of Jalandhara. Vrinda could not understand the deceitfulness and because of his intimate presence, her chastity got deflowered. Lord Shiva destroyed Jalandhar as he lost his powers when Vrinda lost her chastity.
When Vrinda found out about this deceit, she was shattered to see that she was tricked by her own Lord. She cursed him that his wife would also be deceitfully abducted and will wander in her search. She further cursed Vishnu to turn into shapeless black stone”.
Lord Vishnu accepted the curse and he turned into the Shaligram stone. Vrinda was also heartbroken and she embraced death by entering into the fire. Lord Vishnu felt guilty of betraying his greatest devotee. So, he gave Vrinda a boon that from her ashes the plant of Tulsi would be born and the plant would get married to the Shaligram stone. This way her chastity would not be maligned and she would stay with Lord Vishnu forever. Vishnu also said that he would never accept food without Tulsi and therefore Vishnu’s prasadam is always offered with a leaf of Tulsi in it.
8. Yudhisthira Curses Kunti
When Karna was killed by Arjun, Kunti reveals the secret to the Pandavas that Karna was their elder brother and Kunti was his mother. After the battle of Kurukshetra, Yudhisthira performs the funeral rites for all loved ones, including Karna. But he was deeply saddened as he felt that Karna deserved more respect. Owing to this, Yudhishthira cursed that no women henceforth will be able to hold any secret.
9. Parashurama’s Curse to Karna
Karna, the half-brother of Pandavas and son of Kunti and Surya, was raised by a low caste charioteer. Being a kshatriya, Karna wanted to learn martial arts. He disguised himself as a Brahmin and went to Parshuram to be his student after being rejected by Drona due to his perceived caste. Parashurama accepted him as a student and gave him knowledge of the powerful Brahmastra.
One day, Parashurama laid his head on Karna’s lap and was sleeping, when a big wasp flew over and started burrowing into Karna’s thigh. The pain was immense, but Karna didn’t want to interrupt his guru’s sleep. When Parshuram did wake up and learnt of it, he got furious because no brahmin could have tolerated this amount of pain. He then cursed Karna for being a liar. His curse was that all his knowledge of Brahmastra will escape his memory when Karna will need it the most. That’s what happened in the end when his chariot is stuck in the mud and he forgets the incantations for a weapon to counter Arjuna.
10. King Pandu was cursed by Sage Kindama
Pandu, who was an excellent archer, was once hunting in a forest. He disturbs Rishi Kindama and his wife in their intimate moment by imagining them to be deer and shoots them down with his arrows. Pandu rushes to the spot to survey his kill but he hears a human cry and realizes his folly. The sage, who is breathing his last, curses Pandu, saying, that if he ever approaches a woman with the thought of sex, he shall die then and there”. The Mahabharat tells us this is actually how Pandu meets his end, when he approaches his second wife, Madri, with the thought of sex.
11. Sage Durvasa’s Curse on Shakuntala
According to Abhingyana Shakuntalam, once Shakuntala, who lost in her daydreams about her lover King Dushyanth, forgot to receive the muni with the respect due to a guest. The sage cursed her that because of her inhospitality, the person in her dreams would forget her. When a distraught Shakuntala pleaded with him, the sage reduced the intensity of the curse by suggesting that her lover would remember her once she showed him his ring. What follows in the intervening period is the legend of Shakuntala, such is the life-changing power of a mere curse.
12. The Curse on Jaya and Vijaya
Jaya and Vijaya are the two gatekeepers of Vishnu’s abode – Vaikuntha. According to the Bhagavata Purana, one day, four sons of Brahma – Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, and Sanatkumara – walked to the gates of Vaikuntha seeking to meet Vishnu. Thinking of them to be mere children, not manasaputras of Brahma as they actually were, Jaya and Vijaya stopped them at the door.
Enraged, the Kumaras cursed the two that they would have to lose their divinity and will be born as normal human beings on earth.
Jaya and Vijaya appealed to Vishnu but he said the curse of the Kumaras could not be reversed, but can be modified so that Jaya and Vijaya can choose their manner of birth and gave them two options:
- To be born seven times as devotees of Vishnu.
- To be born 3 times as the enemies of Vishnu.
Unable to be away from Vishnu for seven births, Jaya and Vijaya chose to be born as his enemies, so that they would get to meet him personally. Indeed, they were born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha in their first life; Ravana and Kumbhakarna in their second; and Dantavakra and Shishupala in their third. They were killed by Vishnu in all their lives and gave us the incredible villains to ponder about.