Devayani was the beautiful daughter of Shukracahrya, preceptor to the Asuras, the demons. Shukracharya knew the secret of Mritasanjibani that brings back to life the Asuras, killed in the war with the gods, the devas. The devas also wanted to know the secret of Mritasanjibani. So they sent Kacha, the handsome son of Brihaspati, preceptor to the Devas, to fall in love with Devayani. This is the story of Kacha and Devayani and how the devas learnt the secret of Mritasanjibani.
Long ago, the Devas and the Asuras fought all the time for the lordship of the three worlds. The Asuras were care free and happy as long as Shukracharya, their preceptor, was with them. The valiant Devas, tired of the unequal struggle, went to Kach, the handsome son of Brihaspati, preceptor of the Devas and asked him to go to Shukracharya and learn the secret of Mritasanjibani.
The obedient and dutiful Kacha immediately set out to meet Shukracharya. He humbly presented himself before the great wise man, introduced himself as the son of Brihaspati, and asked to become his disciple.
Shukracharya was a true teacher. He immediately recognized Kacha’s brilliance as a student. Shukracharya did not differentiate between his students. He gave Kacha a warm welcome and accepted him as his pupil.
Shukracharya had a daugher, Devayani, whom he loved dearly. He introduced Kacha to his daughter saying, “Kacha has vowed to be my pupil till the period of his studies is over.”
All learning in those days was handed down by word of mouth. The pupil lived with his guru’s family as one of the household. In return for his education, the pupil served his guru with love and devotion. However, Shukracharya was very busy either at court or he was deep in meditation. So Kacha helped Devayani with her daily chores and watched after her.
Within a few days of his arrival, Kacha found himself spending all his leisure hours in the company of the lively Devayani. Devayani was slowly drawn towards Kacha and they fell in love.
Shukracharya liked Kacha because he was an attentive disciple.
As the years passed, the Asuras became suspicious of Kacha. They wanted to get rid of him. One day as Kacha was attending Shukracharya’s cattle, the Asuras fell upon him and slew him. Then they cut him into pieces and fed his flesh to their dogs.
When Kacha did not come home at the normal hour, Devayani became alarmed. When the cattle came back without Kacha she ran in a panic to her father and told him that Kacha was missing. Shukracharya closed his eyes and to the great relief of Devayani, Kacha came back to life and appeared before her. When Devayani inquired about his disappearance, Kacha tried to explain in a puzzled voice, “I was killed by the Asuras but I do not know how I came back to life?” Shukracharya just smiled.
The love between Kacha and Devayani grew day by day. The Asuras were worried. They guessed right, Kacha was there to learn the secret of Mritasanjibani.
One day Devayani asked Kacha to get her a particular flower that only grows in the deep forest. Kacha went for it. The Asuras followed him and once again killed him. But this time they carried his body to a secluded spot, grounded up into a paste, and dissolved it in the water of the ocean.
Devayani waited and waited. When Kacha did not return she went again to her father. Shukracharya meditated and once again used the secret knowledge to revive Kacha. Devayani was overjoyed.
The Asuras were now at their wits end. “How can we kill Kacha? Every time we kill him, his guru brings him to life!”
They went to one of the senior Asuras and asked him how to destroy Kacha for good. The senior Asura gave them an idea. The next day, when Kacha went out with the cattle, they again slew him. This time then burnt him in the jungle. Then they took the ashes home and mixed it in a wine which Shukracharya was very fond of. They took the drink to Shukracharya for a taste. Shukracharya loved it. He immediately drank it and blessed the Asuras.
When the cattle once again returned home without Kacha Devajani knew what had happened.
“Will Kacha ever be mine?” she asked herself “The Asuras will never leave him alone!”
She went to Shukracharya and wept. “Father, without Kacha I am as good as dead, please bring him back to life.”
Shukracharya waited for a while thinking. “It is no good to bring Kacha to life. The Asuras will only kill him again. ”
He tried to console his daughter, “It is futile Devajani to bring Kacha to life. The Asuras are determined to get rid of him. A wise soul, like you, should not grieve at a loved one’s death. You are young and beautiful and you have your own life to live.”
But Devajani was adamant. So strong was her love for Kacha.
” Father” she said, “Kacha was your best student. I am in love with him. I can not live without him.”
Devajani stopped eating. Shukracharya could no longer bear to see his daughter in such agony. Again Shukracharya used his secret knowledge and called upon Kacha to come back to the world of the living. Kacha came back to life and spoke from inside the stomach of Shukracharya.
“The Asuras killed me but I do not know how I happen to be inside your stomach?” echoed Kach.
Shukracharya cursed himself for drinking the wine given by the Asuras. “Henceforth, wine shall be forbidden for those engaged in the pursuit of wisdom,” declared Shukracharya in great frustration. Now Shukracharya had a real dilemma of his own. He could ask Kacha to come out but that would mean his own death.
When he told Debjani of his dilemma she was again adamant, “Father, I can not live if either of you dies.”
After long deliberation Shukracharya thought of a way out. He knew now the real purpose of Kacha’s visit. He addressed Kacha, “I now see why you came and truly you have succeeded. There is only one way by which both of us can ensure Devayani’s happiness. I will have to teach you the craft of Mritasanjivani.
With his new knowledge Kacha emerged from Shukracharya’s dying body and then immediately brought his guru back to life. Shukracharya could not have been happier with his pupil’s progress.
When the Asuras came to offer him wine, Shukracharya shouted, “You fools! Kacha now knows my secret. You helped him learn by your foolish deeds. But rest assured Kacha will continue to live with me because of his love for Devayani.
But Shukracharya was wrong. Kacha too faced the troubling dilemma. Waiting for the period of his studies to come to an end, Kacha kept silent. While his love for Devayani was deep, his sense of duty towards the devas was no less strong.
On the last the day of his studies, Kacha went to Shukracharya for his blessing. As a wise man and a dedicated teacher, Shukracharya concealed his grudge against Kacha but he was wondering how Kacha was going to bid farewell to Devayani.
Devayani waited for Kacha to propose marriage. But when Kacha broke the heart-breaking news that he was going to fulfill his obligations to his own people, her joy turned to tears. Devayani pleaded with Kacha to take her as his wife. But Kacha replied, “Peerless one! I was reborn in your father’s stomach. I am therefore your brother. I can’t marry you. I must return to heaven.”
The broken-hearted Devayani cried out in her grief. She accused Kacha of using her to attain his goal. Distort she cursed Kacha, “You will never be able to use the craft of Mritasanjivani.”
Kacha quietly listened and then spoke, “Devayani, it is wrong to curse me. I could have walked away without reviving your father. There is no doubt that my love was sincere and truthful. But, I also have a duty to perform towards my own people. Because of your unfairness to me, I am cursing you. No Rishi’s son will ever marry you. I may still teach the craft of Mritasanjivani to others, even though I may not be able to use it myself.” Saying this Kacha departed for the abode of Indra, king of the Devas. Shukhacharya gently led Devayani away.
With the passage of time, Devayani completely forgot about Kacha. She once again became playful and lived happily with her father and her playmates in the city of Vrishaparva, king of the Asuras. Of her playmates, the most important was princess Sharmistha, the daughter of king Vrishaparva. In our next story we will tell how Devayani fought with Sharmistha and married king Yayati, a Kshitriya, who belonged to the warrior race.