By Swami Harshananda
Sagara literally means ‘one who was born with poison’.
Sagara was a king of the Sūrya-vanśa. He was the son of king Bāhuka and Yādavī. Bāhuka was a moral wreck and hence had been conquered by Tālajaṅgha, the king of the Haihayas. When he went to the forest and started living there, his first wife Yādavī was pregnant. His second wife had administered gara or poison to her without her knowledge. This prevented Yādavī from giving birth to her child for seven years. Meanwhile Bāhuka died of old age. When Yādavī wanted to die on his funeral pyre, the sage Aurva Bhārgava, prevented it and brought her to his own hermitage. Due to the holy atmosphere of the hermitage, she gave birth to a baby-boy who was named ‘Sagara’. Sagara means one who was born by the sage with or in spite of gara or poison.
When Sagara grew up into a fine young man, well-trained by Aurva Bhārgava in all arts and sciences, he learnt about the tragedy that had befallen his father Bāhuka. He then built up an army, raided Ayodhyā, defeated Tālajaṅgha and regained his paternal kingdom. He ruled the kingdom very well for several years. He had sixty-thousand sons from his wife Vaidarbhī and one son Asamañja from his second wife Śaibyā. Asamañja proved to be a rogue and was banished by his father.
When Sagara performed the Aśvamedha sacrifice, the horse was stolen by Indra, who left it in the hermitage of the great sage Kapila in the pātālaloka or nether world. Sagara’s sixty thousand sons while searching for the missing horse, dug up the earth up to the pātāla, found the horse, but incurred the displeasure of the sage Kapila and were reduced to ashes.
When the king Bhagīratha, a descendent of Sagara brought the river Gañgā to the earth, to save his ancestors, this huge pit was filled up and became the ocean, called ‘sāgara’ derived from ‘Sagara’. Sagara spent his last days in the āśrama of Aurva Bhārgava.
- Sūrya-vanśa means solar race.
- Indra is the king of gods.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore