Curses Form Part Of Every Culture
A curse is a warning and a wish to inflict adversity upon an enemy, using supernatural powers like a mantra, a prayer or a magic spell as in Harry Potter. It forms part of many cultures around the world, from Greek and Roman curses to Celtic curses, African American voodoo to the Mediterranean evil eye curse, from German hexing to the Indian shraap. While Hindu religion is not unique in its repertoire of curses, there are enough meritorious instances that deserve recall and mention. Here are some of the most famous curses in Hinduism...
1. Sage Durvasa's Curse on Shakuntala
In the childhood stories recounted by my grandmother, Durvasa Muni assumed a larger than life persona, thanks to his anger and the curses he heaped on the unsuspecting. According to Abhingyana ShakuntalamThe most famous of his curses was the one he inflicted on Shakuntala, because, lost in her daydreams about her lover King Dushyanth, she 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.
2. Bhrigu Acharya's Curse on Vishnu
The Matsya Purana tell us a story about the perpetual wars between Devas(Demi gods) and Asuras(Demons). The Demi gods would always beat the Demons in the many sequent battles that went on. Humiliated, Shukracharya (Shukra), the guru or preceptor of the Asuras, went away to pray to lord Shiva.
This was to obtain the Mritasanjeevani Stotram, a Mantra that would make the Asuras invincible.
Meanwhile, Shukracharya asked the demons to take refuge at the Ashram of his father Bhrigu, and live as hermits while he was away.
The demi gods found the absence of Shukrachrya to be the most opportune time to attack the asuras, as they had forsaken arms. Also, they concurred that it might not be possible to defeat the Asuras if Shukracharya manages to achieve the mantra of invincibility.
Hence, led by Indra, the Devas advanced to strike.
The demons fled to Bhrigu's wife (Shukracharya's mother) for shelter.
Since sage Bhrigu was elsewhere, his wife decided to protect the Asuras and using her powers she rendered Indra immobile.
The strange sight unnerved the Devas and they took refuge at the feet of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu then asked Indra to enter his body so that he could be rescued. But Bhrigu's wife warned them that if it were to happen, she would burn both of them to ashes.
Indra instigated Vishnu to annihilate her, upon which Lord Vishnu severed her head with his Sudarshana Chakra.
When Sage Bhrigu returned and saw the severed head of his wife, he cursed Vishnu to be born on earth several times and suffer the pains of death and worldly life.
As for his own wife, Bhrigu resurrected her through his powers.
Hence, Vishnu took birth on the Earth in the form of his Avatars.
One such Avatar of Vishnu was Krishna, who is the essence of both the Mahabharata (Hindu epic) and the Bhagavad Gita.
Without Bhrigu, the epics would not be.
The encyclopedias, which are the pilgrimages for seekers of truth, would not exist.
3. The Curse On Jaya and Vijaya
According to the Bhagavata Purana, Jaya and Vijaya, gatekeepers at Vaikuntha, abode of Vishnu, one day saw four Kumaras - Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumara - had come 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 leave Vaikunta and be born as mere mortals on earth. Jaya and Vijaya appealed to Vishnu but he said the curse of the Kumaras could not be reversed. Instead, he gave Jaya and Vijaya two options: either take seven births on earth as a devotee of Vishnu, or take three births on earth as his enemy. Unable to be away from Vishnu for seven births, Jaya and Vijaya chose to be born as his enemy. Indeed, they were born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha; Ravana and Kumbhakarna; and Dantavakra and Shishupala.
4. Valmiki's Curse
Sage Valmiki is walking on the banks of river Tamasa, ponderign how to start writing the epic Ramayana, when he observes two cranes in love. Even as he is moved by the tranquility of the moment, a wild arrow from a hunter's bow comes rushing through the air and strikes at the heart of the male bird. Even as the bird dies in agony, the female bird, filled with sorrow, dies of shock. Valmiki is taken back by this sudden turn of events. Consumed by passion and rage, Valmiki curses the hunter. But he surprised himself by delivering the curse in lyrical prose: मां निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः। यत्क्रौंचमिथुनादेकम् अवधीः काममोहितम्॥' which means "May you live restless for eternity, for you killed an unsuspecting bird in love"... That was the genesis of the Hindu epic Ramayana.
5. The Curse of Parashurama
Karna halfbrother to pandavas and son of Surya, was raised by a low caste charioteer. He came to Parashurama after being rejected by Drona due to his perceived caste. Karna lied that he was a Brahmin, so that Parashurama would accept him as a student and give him knowledge of the powerful Brahmastra weapon. One day, Parashurama was sleeping with his head resting on the lap of Karna when a honeybee bit Karna. In spite of the pain of the insect bite, Karna neither flinched nor cried so his guru's sleep would not be disturbed. When Parashurama learnt of it, he was convinced that only a kshatriya could have borne such pain in silence, and thus realised the lie of Karna. He, therefore, cursed his student that his knowledge of Brahmastra would fail him when he would need it the most. Indeed, it failed him, and he died at the hands of Arjuna, so that dharma would prevail.
6. Yudhisthira Curses Kunti
After the battle of Kurukshetra, Yudhisthira performs the funeral rites for all loved ones, including Karna. But he is deeply hurt that Kunti did not reveal to him earlier that Karna was his brother. The depressed prince, in turn, cursed that no woman, henceforth, would be able to keep any secrets. A sexist curse, but true...
7. Krishna's Curse Of Extermination
Another famous curse from the Mahabharata is the curse cast upon Krishna (avatar of Lord Vishnu). After the battle of Kurukhshetra when Krishna went to console a distraught Gandhari (mother of the 100 Kauravas), she flinched in pain. She cursed Krishna that the way he had schemed to kill her 100 sons and exterminate 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.
8. Indra's curse to his body with 1000 vaginas
When Indra assaults a sage's wife, the sage is so angry that he curses Indra to have a thousand vaginas, since he seemed to love them so much. Other devas come to beg the sage to lift this curse, since Indra is their chief. He refuses to lift the curse, but agrees to change it so that Indra has thousand eyes instead.
9. Urvashi's Curse on Arjuna
Krishna sent Arjuna to Indra for training in warfare. In devlok, the famous apsara Urvashi fell in love with Arjuna. However, he refused her advances. This apsara was aware that Arjuna would have to face agyatwas (lead an anonymous life for a year), so faking false anger at being rejected, she cursed him to become a eunuch for a year. In fact, that way, she helped him maintain his anonymity.
10. Ravana, A Cursed Man
For those of you who have wondered why Ravana was fearful of Sita, it was because of a curse. He was cursed by his daughter-in-law Rambha for raping her that if he ever tried to touch a woman without her consent, all his ten heads would explode instantly. Poor guy, don't you think?
11. Pandu's Curse
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 when he 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.
12. Yagna and Curses
Once the rishis were conducting a yagna. The question arose as to who among the Holy Trinity was the most superior. Sage Bhrigu went to Brahma and deliberately insulted him, to test him. However, Brahma gor seriously annoyed and vowed to take revenge. Bhrigu, in turn, cursed him, saying no one in Kali Yuga would worship Brahma. Then he went o Shiva's abode. However, Nandi bull stiopped tha sage from entering, saying the divine couple were in their private chambers. An enraged Brigu cursed them that Shiva and Parvati would be henceforth be worshipped in their sexual form (the linga). When the sage visited Vishnu's abode, he was met with humility and courtesy. He then declared Vishnu to be the most superior in the Holy Trinity.