He was a little boy of five years when he was insulted by his stepmother and ignored by his father. He went to a forest in search of God. With determination and devotion, he succeeded. He ruled the country in the name of God and in the interest of the subjects.
To this day the Pole Star reminds Indians of this great devotee of God.
Who has not seen the Pole Star? It guides travelers in remote forests and sailors at night. There is an interesting legend about this star.
In ancient times, a king used to have many wives. This was a common practice. But often the wives were not friendly towards one another. Disputes arose as to who should be given a higher place and enjoy greater pomp, and whose son should be the future king.
Once upon a time, there was an emperor, by name Utthanapada. He had two queens. Suniti was his first wife and the Chief Queen. Suruchi was the younger wife. But yet the King loved Suruchi more. Her word was law to him. She had no patience. She would grow angry in no time.
Her happiness and glory were important to her. Yet the king loved her. Whatever she said he accepted; he never considered whether it was right or wrong. Even when he saw that she was wrong, he was not bold enough to say so.
But Suniti was gentle. She would first ‘consider what was right and what was wrong and then she would choose the right course. She was patient by nature. She was helpless before Suruchi’s arrogance. The status of the Chief Queen justly due to Suniti was given to Suruchi. As the King was a puppet in Suruchi’s hands, she exercised greater authority in the affairs of the state.
Suniti had a son, Dhruva by name. Suruchi also had only one son, by name Uttama.
Dhruva cannot live in the Palace
Suruchi was not content with her pomp and power. She did not allow Suniti and Dhruva to live in the palace. She desired that her son Uttama should succeed the throne.
If Suniti and Dhruva lived in the palace, people would always remember that Suniti was the Chief Queen and Dhruva the first son of King. Uttama might not become the king, this was Suruchi’s fear.
Though Suniti was the Chief Queen, she lived on the outskirts of the city like a commoner. King Utthanapada did nothing. He would not even turn towards her house. He had so much fear and love for Suruchi.
Each A Comfort to the other
Despite such sufferings, Suniti was true to her name; ‘Suniti’ means one who is virtuous. She uttered not a word of complaint against her husband, nor would she blame Suruchi. She always wished them well. She accepted whatever fell to her lot.
Submitting everything to God, she was silent. Her only treasure was Dhruva. Every day she would call him to her and teach him the holy stories of saintly persons. Thus she would forget her sorrow. She spent her days praying for the prosperity of Dhruva who was her only solace.
Dhruva had a great love for his mother; he was devoted to God and he respected elders. Though young, he had pleasing manners. Under the guidance of the mother, he had developed a great devotion to God; and it grew every day. Sometimes he thought, ‘My father is a king; but why do my mother and I not reside in the palace? Why does my father not come to our house at all? ’
Again and again, he questioned his mother. She managed to console him somehow and then grew silent.
Every child wishes that his father and his mother should treat him with love. Is this not so?
Dhruva’s mother fondled him, told him stories and dressed him with great affection. But he was denied the father’s love. This pricked his mind.
“Father, Lift Me in Your Arms”
One day little Dhruva was playing; he went to the palace. He was just five years old. The King was seated with Suruchi and Uttama on the throne studded with gems. The magnificent hall glittered with pearls and gems. Many things there delighted one’s eyes – pure white cushions here and there, golden chairs decorated with silver figures and lovely figures carved on marble walls.
Dhruva entered the hall. He saw Uttama sitting on the lap of the father. He, too, wished to sit on his father’s lap. He stepped towards the throne.
Suruchi saw Dhruva approaching his father.
Her wickedness stirred at once. Dhruva climbed the steps of the throne. Standing near his father, he said, “Father, I too want to sit on your lap; lift me in your arms.”
“Are You Worthy…?”
The King did not even look at Dhruva standing nearby. Poor boy! Dhruva was very eager to sit on the father’s lap like Uttama. He put his hand on Utthanapada’s lap.
Suruchi flared up. Her eyes seemed to send forth sparks of anger. The King also noticed her angrily glaring at Dhruva. He, too, felt pity for the boy. Yet, on one side there was the natural desire of his little son; on the other side was his beloved queen glaring at Dhruva like a provoked lioness. He did not dare to face her anger. So he was silent.
Suruchi could not control her anger. She stormed at the child.
“You fellow, how dare you presume to aspire to sit on the King’s lap? You were not born, as my sons are you worthy of touching the throne? If you aspire after the throne, perform tapas; Pray to God and be born as my son. Only then can you be like Uttama.
Stand back! Otherwise you will have to be pushed out. Get out!”
she said scornfully.
Back to the Mother
Poor boy! He was confounded. He looked at his father, who did not even glance at the boy. Dhruva could not bear the sorrow. He was angry, too, like a wounded serpent. He felt deeply insulted. His father had not spoken a word to him and had remained quiet when he was insulted.
Tears rolled down his cheeks. Leaving his father, he went down the steps of the throne.
A servant had watched what had happened and saw the sobbing boy. She felt sorry for him.
She came forward to lift him. But Dhruva escaped and ran away. The servant followed him.
Even as Suniti saw her son at a distance she felt as if the skies had come down on her. Dhruva had always been full of laughter. But here he was, coming home sobbing. Suniti ran to the child hugged him and lifted him. She kissed him and tried to console him. But he was still sobbing. He could not speak.
A servant had followed Dhruva, hadn’t she?
Suniti asked her, “Why is the child weeping? Do you know? “
The servant narrated the incident.
“All Is God’s Will”
Suniti could not bear the anguish of her heart on hearing the servant’s story, the insult, done to Dhruva by Suruchi, her words and her keeping him at a distance as though he had no right even to approach his father.
Sorrow welled up in her. For a while, she could not even speak. She sat silent. The selfish Suruchi had insulted Dhruva who was the real heir to the throne. Suniti felt sad. Poor boy! Dhruva was an innocent child.
Why should Suruchi have ill-treated him? Suniti thought,
‘I should have enjoyed the status of the Chief Queen. When I myself live the life of a commoner, should Suruchi take revenge upon my child?’
Shedding tears, Suniti consoled the child.
“My darling, no doubt you are a prince but you are not fortunate enough to enjoy the position of a prince. When God takes pity on us, our condition will improve. I am an unfortunate woman; and because you are my child, you were subjected to suffering. Everything happens according to God’s will. We can only surrender ourselves to him and beg him to save us from difficulties. That is all. Who else will help us? Take comfort. All is God’s will.”
“How Can I See God?”
Every day the mother used to tell Dhruva many stories about God. The boy had heard stories about the devotees in distress whom God had saved. The mother now stressed the fact that the sole strength and shelter of those in distress is God, who is full of mercy. On hearing her words, a new hope surged in the boy’s mind.
“Mother, how can I see God? Will He does not appear if I appeal to Him?” he asked.
“True, my child, we should think of God, that Ocean of Mercy, and pray to Him. Then we can be sure of His help,” replied Suniti.
Dhruva said, “But how can I see Him at all? I will see Him, tell Him about our sorrows and try to get His help.”
“Let me go to the Forest and See God”
Suniti smiled at the words of the child, but she also felt pity. She said,
“My darling, there is no place where God is not present. In different forms, He pervades all places. He is present in all men. He is in the good and in the evil, in joy and in sorrow. But it is not easy to see God. He will be pleased with the devotion of a pure mind.
My child, you should have a firm mind, absolute devotion and perfect faith.”
“But mother, you have often told me that sages and ascetics go to the forest to see God.
Is he present there, too?’
“Yes, my darling. He is everywhere. But, Dhruva, to perform tapas in a forest is not an easy task. The forest is full of wild animals like tigers and lions. There are poisonous creatures like serpents and scorpions. Whatever roots and fruits are found is all the food. One has to put up with everything like the rain, the winds, cold and heat. A little boy like you cannot do all this, my love”
A firm decision shone in the innocent face of Dhruva as he heard these words.
“Mother, I will go to the forest and see God.
I will please Him with my devotion and secure boons. Bless me that I may succeed.” With these words, he respectfully touched her feet.
“Not So Easy, My Child”
Suniti was taken aback at these words. She had not thought that Dhruva would take such a decision. A little child to go to the forest? A little child to perform tapas? She could hardly believe her ears. But he had made up his mind.
She spoke comfortingly and lovingly, and said, “It is not so easy to see God my darling. Singleness of purpose is necessary to please Him. You must have faith that nothing can shake; your heart must be full of the nectar of devotion. All this is beyond a child like you.
We must accept whatever falls to our lot – joy or sorrow. Whatever joys and sorrows we may face; we should consider them the gifts of God and surrender everything to Him. This is the only way left to us.” With these words, Suniti lifted the boy in her arms.
“I Shall Surely See God”
But the mind of the innocent Dhruva was disturbed. He was determined to see God, whatever the difficulties he had to face. He had resolved to place his sorrows and sufferings and those of his mother before God and put an end to them.
He rose from his mother’s lap.
Mother, I cannot delay any longer. Whatever may happen, whatever hardships I may encounter, I will see God. Do not be anxious until I come back. The sages have seen God; will He not appear to me? Send me with your blessings,’
so saying, he again touched her feet.
Suniti heard the words of her son. “You were not born as my son. Do you deserve the throne?’
– These words of Suruchi to Dhruva she remembered. She too felt that the way he had chosen was the only way left for them to wipe out the insult. She said, “My love, what your step-mother said is true. Your father is ashamed even to admit that I am his wife. Then, how can you, my son, become the king? It is useless to blame Suruchi.
The only right thing to do is for you to worship God. Pray to Him with single-minded devotion.
May you succeed”
Dhruva bowed to his mother. She took him in her arms and fondled him, and blessed him.
The little boy, barely five years old, went to the forest determined to see God.
Dhruva had only one goal before him, and that was to see God. He walked on, unmindful of the stones and the thorns in his path, and the ups and downs; he had no thought of hunger, thirst, and fatigue. The name of the Lord was ever on his lips. His mind was filled with the nectar of the Lord’s name.
In The Forest
Walking without rest, Dhruva entered a thick forest. He walked on, struggling to find a path.
Stones and thrones hurt his tender feet. All-day along the boy walked on. He was hungry and thirsty. He was very tired. Darkness was descending. The forest was full of terrifying sounds. Evil-plants trumpeted, lions and tigers roared. But Dhruva was not conscious of them at all. He was chanting the sacred words, ‘Obeisance to Lord Narayana’. The words were his sole protection.
It grew dark. He could not find his way in that thick forest. Unable to do anything and utterly exhausted, he collapsed under a tree. But the lips still uttered the name of the Lord. The tiny boy, exhausted by the wanderings, soon fell asleep.
The night passed. Day dawned. The chirping birds came out of their nests. Little animals, which crept out of their holes, noticed the child asleep on dry leaves. The deer timidly and cautiously approached Dhruva and smelt him.
One creature attracted another, and soon several birds and animals gathered there and surrounded the boy. The noise woke him up. He opened his eyes and looked around. He saw it was morning and stood up. The birds and animals were all frightened and ran away in different directions.
Only the words. ‘Obeisance to Lord Narayana’ came from the lips of Dhruva. He was quite certain he would see the Lord.
“Revered Sir, Guide Me”
Dhruva had come with the yearning to see god. He got up in a hurry and began his journey.
Wandering in the wild forest full of stones and thorns, his tender little feet were already bleeding. He could hardly take a step.
Just then the great sage Narada unexpectedly appeared there. Narada was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu (Narayana). He visited the three worlds. Dhruva was filled with joy at the sight of the holy sage with cymbals and the ‘Tamboora’ in his hands, who was singing the glory of the Lord.
He bowed down and touched Narada’s feet.
By intuition, the sage had understood everything about Dhruva. He raised the boy. Dhruva said,
“Sir, I must see God. That is why I have come here. You are a holy man. Show me the way.”
Stroking his back, Narada said with affection,
“My child, you are a very small boy. In your mad desire to see God, you have come to this thick forest and exposed yourself to danger. What a difficult task you have undertaken!”
The touch of Narada’s hands infused a new spirit in Dhruva.
“Now Go Back”
Dhruva narrated everything in detail – how his stepmother had insulted him, how his father had ignored him and how his mother had advised him. Embracing Dhruva, Narada said,
“Dear child, your parents are really fortunate. I am filled with joy at your determination to see God. But child, it is not so easy to see the Lord. Sages have performed tapas in several lives and yet have not seen the Lord. If you give up your food and wander in a forest, you cannot see Him. Today you yearn to see God because a great sorrow has bewildered you. But only a man who can treat both joys and sorrows equally can see God.”
Hurt by your stepmother’s words, you now seek God to get relief. But he who wishes to see the Lord should give up desire and anger. The desire for this thing or that must leave you. Look! You came here because your stepmother insulted you, didn’t you? You were angry at her words. If you were wise, you should have remained calm, whatever your stepmother might have said.
Without peace and calm of mind, how can you see God? If you gain experience of worldly life and attain maturity of mind, you can see Him.
Now go back. Live like the others. Experience joys and sorrows. When you grow old, come to the forest and perform tapas; then you will see God.”
But, though young, Dhruva did not relish these words.
‘Great Sir, I belong to the warrior caste. Your advice cannot alter my decision. I came here to see God. Show me the way and bless me. My mother has told me that He is visible to the sages doing tapas in forests. According to her, God will look after the person who loves Him. Now I do not seek the throne. I want a position that none of our elders has so far obtained. When I see the Lord that is what I will beg of Him. Show me the way, Sir,”
he said to the sage and bowed down and touched his feet.
The little boy’s courage and confidence pleased Narada. He said,’ Look, my child, do you remember what your mother told you? That is valuable advice. Forget everything else and pray to God.
There is a place by name Madhuvana on the banks of the Yamuna. Go there. Bathe in the river.
Think of God with a pure mind. Has His image fixed in your mind? His face is lovely and innocent like that of a sweet child. His face is radiant. His lips are ever smiling. His is an enchanting figure, shedding light all around. Has that image fixed in your mind? ‘Make that image the center of your thoughts, and pray. Control your mind so that it may not turn elsewhere. The Lord will be pleased with true devotion. May you prosper?’
The sage then taught him the sacred words of prayer to Vasudeva (Narayana). He also blessed the boy.
The venerable sage had initiated and blessed him. So Dhruva’s heart was ‘filled with joy. He forgot all the fatigue. Elated at the joyful thought of seeing God, he bowed down to Narada’s feet and set out to Madhuvana.
“I Did Wrong”
After parting from Dhruva, the sage Narada went to the palace of Utthanapada. When Suruchi insulted Dhruva, the King was afraid of her and so he kept silent. But he could not forget the boy’s sorrow and tears. He sent his servants to Suniti’s house to bring Dhruva. They returned with the news that the boy had gone to the forest to see God. Grief flooded the King’s heart.
When Narada arrived, Utthanapada was full of repentance for his inaction. Everyone was cursing Suruchi. Suruchi, who was once so arrogant, was now ashamed to show her face and crouched in a corner. Having lost her son, Suniti had given up food and had become weak.
The great sage Narada arrived at the court of Uttanapada. The King received him with all honor. He offered him a seat of honor. Narada said,
“Great King, your face shows deep misery.
What is the reason?”
“Venerable sage,” replied the King, “unfortunately I did wrong. Because of my love for Suruchi, I drove away, my sweet, child with his mother.
Dhruva was happy with his mother. I insulted him and sent him to the forest. So I have become a sinner.” And the King broke down with grief.
“Good Will Result From All This” Narada consoled. The King saying, ‘Great King, your son Dhruva is an exceptional child. God himself looks after him. Do not be troubled. With his firm mind, Dhruva will earn such a place as no one else has attained, and will come back.
Full of repentance, Uttanapada said, “Revered Sir, I acted blindly and thoughtlessly. I have committed a hundred sins. Forgive me,” and he fell at Sage’s feet. Then Narada consoled the King and advised him. He Said, “Oh King! What you have done is wrong. Yet good will come of all this. Bring your Chief Queen Suniti to the palace and treat her with all honor.” Then the Sage went away singing the sweet name of Lord Narayana.
Dhruva did not move from his seat. Reciting the divine name of Lord Vasudeva, he fixed the divine, auspicious image of the Lord in his heart.
Without food, without caring for heat and cold, and not even conscious of the world around him, he went on reciting the divine hymn only.
One day passed, two days passed; a month went by. Dhruva’s tapas grew more rigorous. He dedicated himself to the merciful image of the Lord fixed in his mind. Months passed. In the beginning, he used to eat whatever fruits he could get.
Gradually all thought of food disappeared. Both his mind and his body were absorbed in praying to God. Because of his rigorous tapas, a divine light shone around him. Terrified by it, the wild animals of the forest fled from him. The flame of Dhruva’s tapas began to burn the three worlds.
Lord Narayana was pleased with Dhruva’s devotion and determination. He appeared before Dhruva in his divine radiance. A conch shone in one hand, a discus in the second and a mace in the third. Placing His divine hand on Dhruva’s head, the Lord said,
“Dhruva, arise. I am pleased with your devotion.”
Dhruva opened his eyes. He saw before him the Lord whose auspicious image he had fixed in his heart. He had left behind him his loving mother and his kingdom and had gone without food, all because he yearned to see God. Now, that all-Merciful Lord stood before him smiling.
Dhruva was thrilled. Wonder and joy made him speechless. He prostrated before the lotus-like feet of the Lord. Then he gazed on the divine, auspicious figure as if he would contain the Lord in his eyes. He was eager to speak to God and praise Him. But joy had sealed his lips. The Lord affectionately touched his cheeks. That divine touch enabled him to speak.
“Enough if I Am Your Devotee”
Dhruva praised God with all joy and gratitude.
“Lord, I cannot describe your greatness. You are a fountain of bounty. You are everywhere in creation. Even the wisest of men cannot understand you. What, then, of me, a mere child! As a cow protects her new-born calf, you must protect me,”
Dhruva had only one desire before going to the forest, and that was to see God. But on seeing him, the boy did not know what to pray for. He said, “Lord, I performed tapas to see you.
What can I seek after seeing you? I am young. I do not know how to worship you and honor you.
I ask for nothing. Only grant me the highest of all positions – that of your devotee.” The boy’s words brought great joy to the Lord.
Embracing him again, the Lord said,
“Child, all your desires will be fulfilled. Go back to your kingdom now; at the right age become the king and rule with righteousness. See your image in each of your subjects; share their ambitions, honor, prestige, joy, and sorrow. Rule your kingdom righteously. Then enter the world of stars and adorn the highest position which none has secured so far.”
So blessing the boy, God vanished.
After God disappeared, Dhruva grieved like a fish out of water. ‘Did I conduct myself properly before the Lord? Was there any lapse on my part? I do not know. I did not achieve the goal of merging in Him; alas, once again I am to be caught up in the affairs of this world!’ He was unhappy. He said to himself, ‘I should have begged of the Lord to make me a part of Himself. Instead, I asked for something trivial!
I am like a man who begs the emperor for a handful of rice!’ So he was displeased with himself for a while. But had not the Lord himself asked him to go back and rule the kingdom? Now once again Dhruva’s mind turned to his mother. He set forth for his kingdom. He was troubled fearing that separation from him might have made his mother unhappy. But he had seen God and the experience had brought him a new vigor, a new delight, and a new splendor.
Back To The Palace
King Utthanapada learned that Dhruva had fulfilled his oath and was returning to the kingdom. His anxiety ended, he was supremely happy. Accompanied by his ministers and the elders of his state, the King went forth to greet Dhruva with auspicious music. As soon as he saw Dhruva, he affectionately embraced him.
Then Dhruva respectfully fell at the feet of his stepmother Suruchi. Overjoyed, she lifted him and blessed him. His mother Suniti’s joy knew no bounds. Sorrow mixed with joy made her speechless. She held him tight to her heart. Then at Uttanapada’s command, Dhruva was seated on a royal elephant and the procession moved towards the city.
The enthusiastic citizens had decorated the city with arches bunches of flowers and pearls. Every house was brightly illuminated. Women stood on both sides of the road, holding plates of flowers and fruits. Honored by all citizens, Dhruva received their blessings and reached the city.
Dhruva the Emperor
Utthanapada gave him an excellent education.
Dhruva mastered all the arts. When the king grew old, he decided to crown him King. As he desired, Dhruva married Brahmi, the daughter of the king – Prajapati Simsumara and Ila the daughter of Vayu. Dhruva became the king. Then Utthanapada went to the forest to perform tapas. Dhruva ruled over his subjects with affection. Suruchi’s son Uttama followed Dhruva in loving devotion.
The City of the Yaksha’s in Ruins
Once Uttama went out hunting. When he was roaming about the forest, a powerful Yaksha killed him. His mother Suruchi was troubled in mind that he did not return. She went to the forest in search of him. The Yaksha caused a wildfire in the forest and Suruchi perished in the fire. Dhruva got the news that his loving brother and his stepmother were killed by the Yakshas.
He was filled with grief. At the same time, he was angry. He made preparations to fight with the Yakshas.
Dhruva invaded Alakapuri, the city of the Yakshas. He began to strike them down. Dhruva rained arrows on the Yakshas and they fell like dry leaves in a storm. They used their supernatural powers. It grew dark. A terrible storm arose.
Serpents and lions chased Dhruva. He grew angry. From his quiver, he took the arrow named after Lord Narayana and shot it. All the Yakshas, their wives and children were killed. The city of Alakapuri became a graveyard.
“Grant Only This ”
Dhruva belonged to the dynasty of Manu.
Grandfather Swayambhuva Manu (please read about Hindu units of time here) saw that the yakshas were being killed needlessly. His heart melted. Accompanied by many great sages, he went to Dhruva. He taught him the path of wisdom. Dhruva bowed to his grandfather.
Swayambhuva Manu said, “Dhruva, you are killing the innocent people for the wrongs committed by someone. Get rid of anger; for anger is the root of all troubles. Ignorance leads to anger.
You are a wise man; how could you become involved in this highly sinful act? One devoted to God will never be angry and act rashly. You are a holy man; for you have seen Lord Narayana you must not do such a cruel act. You must have patience with those who do wrong. You should be patient with criminals. Pity those in sorrow and be friendly towards all creatures.
Don’t you know that the Lord is present in all living beings? You have now killed the Yakshas and thus hurt Kubera’s feelings. The yakshas are the followers of Kubera. Now go to Kubera, be respectful and win his favor.” The advice of his grandfather Swayambhuva Manu brought down Dhruva’s anger. He stopped fighting. This news pleased Kubera very much.
Accompanied by his people, he went to see Dhruva. Seeing Kubera, Dhruva bowed down respectfully to him and sought his blessings.
Kubera was pleased with Dhruva’s modesty.
He said, “My boy Dhruva, I am pleased with your goodness. I am not at all displeased with you for killing the Yakshas. You did not disobey your grandfather Swayambhuva Manu. You curbed your anger and ended the fighting. I am therefore pleased.
Every being born in this creation must die one day or the other. So do not grieve over the death of your brother and your stepmother, and do not be angry. Ask for whatever you wish. I will gladly grant the boons.” But Dhruva did not wish to ask for anything.
He had worshipped Lord Narayana even in his childhood and had secured His grace what could he desire in his old age? Hearing Kubera’s words, Dhruva humbly said, “Master, I do not seek any kind of pleasure now. Just grant me this boon –
which the auspicious form of Lord Narayana may ever shine in my heart.” So saying he bowed to Kubera. Kubera was much pleased with his devotion to God. He said, “So be it!” and vanished.
The Pole Star
Dhruva returned to his capital. He ruled his kingdom, always helping those in need; his heart was ever with God. He considered the people’s happiness his happiness and was a just ruler.
The auspicious image of the Lord was ever in his heart and before his eyes. Whatever he did, he did in the name of the Lord.
Dhruva became old. He entrusted his son with the care of his kingdom. Going to the holy Badarik Ashrama, he forgot the world in praying to the lord. And one day he departed from this world.
According to the boon granted in his boy-hood by Lord Narayana, Dhruva became as it were, the crowning of the entire galaxy of stars.
Also, he became the lord of stars. Also, he became the lord of the world of Dhruva. To this day when Indians see the Pole Star, they remember Dhruva, the devotee of the perfect purity of mind. His fame is deathless.