Who was Sharmishtha in Mahabharata?

To know about Sharmishtha, we need to know about few other characters in Mahabharatha. Devyani was the daughter of Asura Guru Shukracharya who worked as an adviser for Daitya king Vrishaparva. Sharmishtha was the daughter of the king Vrishaparva. One day Devyani, Sharmistha along with Sharmishtha’s retinue went to take bath in a pool. After bathing, Sharmishtha confuses Devayani’s dress with hers and puts it on instead. Devyani scolds Sharmistha for her mistake to which the latter belittles her father and throws Devyani into a well and leave the forest with her retinue. Later Yayati of the Bharata race, son of Nahusha, comes to the well for water and helps Devayani to climb out of it.

She tells him that as he held her right hand, he should be her husband. But Yayati refuses as it was considered wrong for a brahmana maiden to marry a kshatriya. The practice of marrying men of higher castes was legitimate and the reverse practice i.e. marrying men of a lower caste, was prohibited by the sastras. Saying so, Yayati left the place. Devayani had no mind to return home. She remained sunk in sorrow in the shade of a tree in forest.She tells her father that she wouldn’t go back to the capital until Sharmishtha serves as a handmaiden for the rest of her life. Shukracharya also leaves the capital to stay with his dearest daughter. Seeing the plight of her father King Vrishaparva, Sharmistha sacrifices her royal status and agrees to take up the role of a handmaiden to Devayani to protect the kingdom. Devayani comes back to capital along with her father.

On another occasion also Devayani came across Yayati. She repeated her request that he should take her as his wife since he had clasped her right hand. Yayati again repeated his objection that he, a kshatriya, could not lawfully marry a brahmana. Finally they both went to Sukracharya and got his assent to their marriage. Yayati and Devayani spent many days in happiness. Sharmishtha remained with her as an attendant. One day Sarmishtha met Yayati in secret and earnestly prayed to be taken also as his wife. He yielded to her prayer and married her without the knowledge of Devayani. But Devayani came to know of it and was naturally very angry, She complained to her father and Shukracharya in his rage cursed Yayati with premature old age. To get rid of the curse, Shukracharya said that he can exchange his old age with somebody.

Yayati asks his sons for their youth but everyone rejects except Sharmistha’s son Puru. Yayati makes him his descendant, who gives rise to Kuru clan later. Later Sharmistha is blessed for her sacrifices and is converted to a constellation after her death.

Written By: Loghithavani

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