Hindu mythology, Nahush was a king of the Aila dynasty (Lunar dynasty)
and the 3,698,256th Indra. He was the son of Ayu, the eldest son
of Pururavas and Prabha, the daughter of Svarbhanu. Nahush reigned
from Pratishthana. He married Viraja, the daughter of the Pitrs.
They had six or seven sons, according to different Purans. His eldest
son Yati became a muni (ascetic). He was succeeded by his second
son Yayati. In another variation of his story, he is said to have
married Ashokasundari, a regional goddess who is said to be daughter
of Shiv and Parvati and is said to have given birth to Yayati and
a hundred daughters of Nahush.
This king is mentioned by Manu as having come into conflict with
the Brahmins, and his story is repeated several times with variations
in different parts of the Mahabharat as well as in the Purans. According
to Manu, "By sacrifices, austere fervour, sacred study, self-restraint,
and valour, Nahush acquired the undisturbed sovereignty of the three
worlds. Through want of virtuous humility the great king Nahush
was utterly ruined".
One version of the narrative says that he aspired to the possession
of Indrani, wife of Indra, when that god had concealed himself for
having killed a Brahmin. A thousand great Rishis bore the palanquin
of Nahush, and on one occasion he touched with his foot the great
Agastya, who was carrying him. The sage in his anger cried out,
"Fall, thou serpent," and Nahush fell from his glorious
car and became a serpent.
Agastya, at the supplication of Nahush, put a limit to the curse;
and according to one version, the doomed man was released from it
by the instrumentality of Yudhishthir, when he threw off "his
huge reptile form, became clothed in a celestial body, and ascended
Once Parvati and Shiv went to the Nandan grove. Parvati saw the
Kalpavruksh (wish-giving tree) and wished that a daughter would
be born. Instantly, a woman named Ashoksundari was born. Parvati
said that Ashoksundari is destined to marry the son of Ayu. Once,
when the Asura Hund entered the grove, he was lustful and kidnapped
Ashoksundari, who told him that she would only marry the son of
Ayu. Ashoksundari cursed Hund that the son of Ayu will kill him.
Ashoksundari then started severe penance.
Meanwhile, Pururavas was the ancestor of all Chandravanshi dynasties
and he ruled over the kingdom of Prayag, with Pratishthan as his
capital. After his death, his eldest son Ayu became the king. Ayu
was married to Prabha, the daughter of the Asura Rahu. However,
he remained childless.
Ayu approached the seer Dattatreya and after propitiating him, he
requested the sage to grant him a son who would be invincible and
possess many virtuous qualities fit for a king. The sage obliged
and a son was born to Ayu. Hund was just waiting for the birth of
Ayu's son because he was scared that Ashoksundari's curse would
come true. So, the infant was kidnapped by the Asura Hund and he
ordered his minions to slay the child. However the minions only
abandoned the child at the hermitage of Sage Vashisth. Vashisth
took the child and named him Nahush "the fearless one".
Nahush grew into a youth, a disciple of Vashisth. Eventually Vashisth
revealed Nahush's true parentage. Nahush acquired weapons from the
gods and killed Hund in battle and returned to his parents. He then
Nahush succeeded Ayu and he ruled over the whole world. Nahush performed
a hundred Ashwamegh Yagnas and a hundred Vajapeyas. Nahush had 6
sons, from which Yayati would succeed him. Meanwhile, the King of
the Gods Indra was afflicted with the curse of slaying a Brahman
and fled. The gods appointed Nahush as Indra instead. Lord Brahma
granted him a boon by which he could temporarily nullify everyone's
puissance by a mere gaze.
After governing the three worlds for many millennia, Nahush became
insolent. He disrespected saints and coveted Indra's queen Sachi.
Eventually sage Bhrigu hid himself in the locks of sage Agastya
and cursed Nahush to become a serpent, ousting him.
Agastya decreed that Nahush will eventually meet Yudhishthira who
will free him from the curse.
In the Dwapar Yug when the Pandavs were in exile, Nahush in his
serpent form captures Bhim and decides to eat him. Despite Bhim's
extraordinary strength, Nahush is too powerful, as he had received
boon while falling, from Agastya, that taken by him, strong beings
superior to him, shall immediately lose their strength.
Worried for his brother, Yudhishthir discovered Bhim. Nahush reveals
himself to be Yudhishthir's ancestor and tells him of his curse.
Yudhishthir and Nahush discourse each other on their views of Dharm.
Nahush tells Yudhishthir of his mistakes and asks him to learn from
them. Nahush is relieved from his curse and goes to heaven.