AMBARISHA CHARITAM (FROM NARAYANEEYAM)
Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (1559-1632) was the celebrated author of Narayaneeyam, a devotional composition in Sanskrit verse which is a masterly summary of the main episodes in Srimad Bhagavatam. He was a scholar in the Sanskrit Language and its grammar on which he wrote his masterpiece Prakriya-sarvaswam which sets forth an axiomatic system elaborating on the classical system of Panini the grammarian.
Narayana Bhattathiri was born in a Namboodiri family of Kerala. He was a disciple of Achyuta Pisharati from whom he studied Sanskrit grammar. As a student he also studied the Rig Veda and Tarka Sastra (the science of logical reasoning and argument).
Bhattathiri was struck with paralysis when he was still young. The disease was painful and Ezhuthachan the author of Adhyatma Ramayana advised Bhattathiri “meen thottu koottuka” which in Malayalam meant ‘take fish as food’ or ‘start counting from fish’. It was obvious that the erudite Ezhuthachan would not have advised Bhattathiri, a Nambooiri brahmin, to eat fish since Namboodiri brahmins are staunch vegetarians. Bhattathiri figured out that the meaning of ‘start counting from fish’ was that he (Bhattathiri) should start recounting the incarnations of the Lord starting from the matsyavatara(incarnation as fish to redeem the Vedas from the asura named Hayagreeva) and go on upto the incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Bhattathiri took the advise and wrote his Magnum Opus based on Srimad Bhagavatam which chronicles the many incarnations of Mahavishnu and expounds the highest philosophy of the Hindus embodied in the Upanishads. He dedicated his work to Lord Krishna, fondly called by devotees as Guruvayoorappan, at the temple at Guruvayoor in Kerala. The work consists of 100 dasakas each containing 10 verses. However, a few dasakas contain more than ten verses so that the total number of slokas is not 1000 but 1034.
Legend has it that Bhattathiri composed one dasaka a day in the presence of the Lord and recited it before Him for His approval and the Lord did nod his head in agreement. The composition is directly addressed to the Lord telling him His own exploits and leelas. The refrain in the last sloka of every dasaka is a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayoor to remove his (Bhattathiri’s) ailments and sufferings. The Lord did cure Bhattathiri of his affliction by the time he completed Narayaneeyam and also revealed to him His captivating form which Bhattathiri has captured ecstatically in the 100th dasakam
Given below is a reproduction of Dasaka 33 from Narayaneeyam which is a summarised version of the story of Ambarisha described in detail from sloka 15 of chapter 4 and the whole of Chapter 5 of the 9th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. A simple transalation in English is given for the benefit of those who cannot follow the original.
त्वत्संगिषु त्वयि च मग्नमनाः सदैव ॥१॥
Ambarisha, son of king Nabhaga who himself was the grandson of Vaivaswata Manu, though the Lord of the Earth surrounded by the seven seas, reveled in the company of your devotees with his mind always immersed in you.
त्वत्प्रीतये सकलमेव वितन्वतोऽस्य
भक्त्यैव देव! नचिरादभृथाः प्रसादम्।
चक्रं भवान् प्रविततार सहस्रधारम् ॥२॥
He did everything only to please you and you were O Lord ! pleased by his devotion before long so that, without his asking for it, you gave him a disc with a thousand cutting edges for his protection
स द्वादशी व्रतमथो भवदर्चनार्थं
वर्षं दधौ मधुवने यमुनोपकण्ठे ।
पत्न्या समं सुमनसा महतीं वितन्वन्
पूजां, द्विजेषु विसृजन् पशुषष्टिकोटिम् ॥३॥
In order to worship you, he took a vow to observe Dwadashi Vrata for one full year at Madhuvana near the Yamuna river. Accompanied by his wife, of good heart, he preformed worship on a large scale gifting to brahmins sixty crore cows.
तत्राथ पारणदिने भवदर्चनान्ते
दुर्वाससास्य मुनिना भवनं प्रपेदे ।
भोक्तुं वृतश्च स नृपेण परार्तिशीलो
मन्दं जगाम यमुनां नियमान् व्यधास्यन् ॥४॥
On the day of breaking the fast after the completion of the worship, Durvasa came there. He was invited to dine with the king Ambarisha. Durvasa, who had the habit of putting others in trouble, took his own time to go to the Yamuna to do his midday rites.
द्वारैव पारणमकारि भवत्परेण।
प्राप्तो मुनिस्तदथ दिव्यदृशा विजानन्
क्षिप्यन् क्रुधोद्धृतजटो विततान कृत्याम् ॥५॥
At the appointed time for breaking the fast the King broke his fast by simply taking water. When Durwasa came back he knew, by his divine vision, what the king had done. Angered, he plucked a stand of matted hair from his head and throwing it created a demoness.
कृत्यां च तामसिधरां भुवनं दहन्ती-
मग्रेऽभिवीक्ष्यन्रुपतिर्न पदाच्चकम्पे ।
त्वद्भक्तबाधमभिवीक्ष्य सुदर्शनं ते
कृत्यानलं शलभयन्मुनिमन्वधावीत् ॥६॥
Seeing before him the demoness carrying a sword and scorching the Earth, the King did not move from his position. Your Sudarshana chakra, seeing that your devotee was threatened, burnt the demoness like insects in a lamp and chased Durwasa.
धावन्नशेषभुवनेषु भिया स पश्यन्
विश्वत्र चक्रमपि ते गतवान् विरिञ्चम्।
शर्वं ययौ स च भवन्तमवन्दतैव ॥७॥
Durwasa ran in fear through all the worlds and, seeing the chakra following him everywhere, went to Brahma ( for protection) . Brahma dismissed him saying “Who can ward off the Kala chakra?”. When Siva was approached he simply offered his salutations to you.
भूयो भवन्निलयमेत्य मुनिं नमन्तं
प्रोचे भवानहमृषे ननु भक्तदासः ।
ज्ञानं तपश्च विनयान्वितमेव मान्यं
याह्यम्बरीषपदमेव भजेति भूमन् ॥८॥
Again the Muni came to your abode. You told him “ O Rishi! I am the servant of my devotees. Spiritual knowledge and austerities are respected only if they are accompanied by humility. Go back to the place where Ambarisha is.”
तावत्समेत्य मुनिना स गृहीतपादो
राजापसृत्य भवदस्त्रमसावनौषीत् ।
चक्रे गते मुनिरदादखिलाशिषोऽस्मै
त्वद्भक्तिमागसि कृतेऽपि कृपां च शंसन् ॥९॥
The king, approached by Durvasa who caught hold of his feet, freed himself from the Muni and praised the chakra. After the chakra was gone Durvasa gave Ambarisha all blessings and praised him for his kindness even to one who had hurt him (Ambarisha).
राजा प्रतीक्ष्य मुनिमेकसमामनाश्वान्
संभोज्य साधु तमृषिं विसृजन् प्रसन्नम्।
भुक्त्वा स्वयं त्वयि ततोऽपि दृढं रतोऽभूत्
सायुज्यमाप च स मां पवनेश पायाः ॥१०॥
The king had been waiting for the return of Durvasa for one full year without taking food. He now fed the Rishi and sent him very pleased. He them took food himself and became even more devoted to you and attained sayujya mukti. O Lord of Guruvayur ! save me (from my afflictions)