Turned away by his father King Uttanapada, five-year-old Dhruva craved an even greater kingdom: “My only desire is to occupy a post within this universe more exalted than that yet achieved by anyone else.”
It was millions of years ago, just after the creation of the universe. Uttanapada, the king of the earth, was relaxing in the royal chambers with Suruci, his favorite of two queens. Suddenly Suruci’s little son Uttama climbed onto the king’s lap, and the king patted him with fatherly affection. Just then another young boy tried to climb onto the king’s lap. He was Dhruva, the son of Suniti, the other queen. Although the king loved his sons equally, just to please Queen Suruci he refused to welcome Dhruva. Then, with great pride and malice. Queen Suruci rebuked Dhruva in the very presence of the king.
“My dear child,” she said to Dhruva, “although surely you are also the king’s son, because you are not born of my womb you do not deserve to sit on the king’s lap, nor on the royal throne. If you desire the throne, you must first satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead Vasudeva [another name for Krsna, meaning “the owner of everything”] by undergoing severe austerities. Then, when He favors you, you shall still have to die and take birth in my womb before r being crowned emperor of the world.”
Just as a snake breathes heavily when hit by a stick, so Dhruva, stricken by the strong words of his stepmother, was breathing heavily out of great anger. When he saw that his father was silent and did not protest, Dhruva immediately left the palace and went to his real mother, Queen Suniti.
When Dhruva reached his mother, his lips were trembling in anger, and he was crying grievously. Queen Suniti lifted her son onto her lap and listened attentively as the palace residents, who had heard Suruci’s harsh words, related everything to her. Suniti quickly lost her composure and became like a leaf burning in the forest fire of grief.
Lamenting and breathing heavily, Suniti addressed Dhruva. “My dear son, don’t become vengeful, for if you inflict pain on others, you yourself will suffer from that pain. What Suruci said is true. Your father is ashamed of me. He doesn’t consider me his wife, or even his maidservant. It’s a fact—you took birth in the womb of an unfortunate woman. Suruci told you to worship the lotus feet of Lord Vasudeva. So, if you want to sit on the same throne as your stepbrother Uttama, you must immediately execute Queen Suruci’s instructions. Take shelter of Lord Vasudeva, who is very kind to His devotees, and worship Him. Lord Vasudeva is so kind to His devotees that if you go to Him, then the combined kindness of millions of mothers like me would be surpassed by His affectionate and tender dealings. When everything else fails, Vasudeva is able to help His devotee. I can see that only He can mitigate your distress.”
Considering his mother’s instructions carefully, Dhruva immediately fixed his determination and left the palace to seek out God.
Soon the news of Dhruva’s quest reached the wandering sage Narada, a pure devotee of the Lord. He was struck with wonder at the young lad’s fierce determination, but he wanted to test Dhruva’s strength of purpose for himself. So Narada went to Dhruva, touched the boy’s head with his all-virtuous hand, and spoke to him.
“My dear boy,” Narada said, “you are only a child, attached to sports and other frivolities. Why are you so affected by words insulting your honor? Don’t be dissatisfied. The ways of Lord Krsna are very wonderful. Therefore, an intelligent person accepts his destiny and is satisfied with whatever comes, be it favorable or unfavorable. Besides, the process of yoga you have chosen to perform is very difficult, even for experienced mystics. It is better that you go home.”
But Dhruva could not accept the words of the saint. “My dear lordship,” he said, “you have kindly explained how to attain peace of mind. It is a good instruction. But I am covered by ignorance, and that kind of philosophy does not touch my heart. I know I am very impudent to reject your advice, but it isn’t my fault. It is because I was born in a family of warriors. With the arrows of her harsh words my stepmother has pierced my heart, so your valuable instructions cannot stay there. My only desire is to occupy a post within this universe more exalted than that yet achieved by anyone else. Therefore, O learned sage, please tell me of an honest path I may follow to achieve the goal of my life.”
Dhruva’s words pleased Narada and evoked his compassion. The saint said, “Your mother’s instruction to serve Lord Vasudeva with devotion is actually just suitable for you. You should completely absorb yourself in His service in the following way. First, go to the bank of the Yamuna River, in the forest of Madhuvana, for there it will be very easy for you to become purified. Bathe thrice daily, and after each bath sit calmly and practice the three kinds of breathing exercises. Then meditate patiently on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vasudeva.
“The Lord’s face is very beautiful and pleasing in its attitude. He never looks displeased, and He always awards benedictions to His devotees. His eyes, nicely decorated eyebrows, raised nose, and broad forehead are all very beautiful. His entire body is decorated, and He wears a valuable jeweled helmet and yellow silk garments. Indeed, in every way the Lord is very pleasing to the eyes and mind of the beholder.”
When Narada finished speaking, Dhruva accepted the sage as his spiritual master and bowed down at his feet. Then he went to Madhuvana forest by the bank of the Yamuna to execute devotional service. Meanwhile, Narada went to the palace of King Uttanapada and assured Dhruva’s father, who was distraught at the disappearance of his son, that the boy was under the protection of Lord Krsna. Hearing this, the king gave up all his duties and simply thought of his son Dhruva.
In the forest, Dhruva began to worship the Lord just as Narada had instructed. During the first month, Dhruva ate only fruits and berries every third day—just enough to keep his body and soul together. In the second month, he ate only dry grass and leaves every sixth day, and he continued his worship of Lord Krsna. During the third month, he remained completely in trance, meditating on the form of Lord Vasudeva and chanting the prescribed mantra. In this month his only food was water—and that only every ninth day. In the fourth month, having become a complete master of the yogic breathing exercises, Dhruva lived only on air. Every twelfth day he would inhale and exhale, and this was how he sustained himself. Finally, by the fifth month, Dhruva had controlled his breathing so perfectly that he was able to stand motionless on one leg and concentrate his mind fully on the Supreme.
Dhruva meditated on the Lord and ate only grass and leaves every sixth day.
When Dhruva thus captured in his heart the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the refuge of the total material creation and the master of all living entities, the universe began to tremble. Just as when hundreds of people are sitting in a flying airplane, they each share in the total force of the airplane, so when Dhruva’s minute energy was perfectly identified with the Lord’s through pure devotional service, his energy became as powerful as the total cosmic energy. Thus, the pressure of Dhruva’s big toe pushed down half the earth, just as an elephant being carried on a boat rocks the boat left and right with his every step. Also, Dhruva’s severely restricted breathing choked the cosmic breathing process. At this time all the demigods became greatly dismayed and prayed to Lord Krsna for help.
After reassuring the demigods, the Lord traveled to the Madhuvana forest on the back of His great winged carrier, Garuda. When the Lord arrived, Dhruva was standing there in meditation. He could not at first perceive the Lord externally, for he was deeply absorbed in contemplating the Lord’s form within his mind. Suddenly, Dhruva could no longer see the Lord in his heart. The lad became perturbed, and his meditation broke. But as soon as he opened his eyes he saw the Supreme Personality of Godhead before him, just as he had been seeing Him in his heart. Overwhelmed with divine ecstasy, Dhruva fell prostrate at the Lord’s feet. Dhruva wanted to glorify the Lord with suitable prayers, although, being a small boy, he did not know how. Knowing Dhruva’s desire, the Lord touched His conchshell to the boy’s forehead and imparted to him the transcendental inspiration known as brahma-maya. Thereupon, Dhruva understood the Absolute Truth and His relationship with all living beings, and he offered Lord Krsna his deliberate and conclusive prayers.
“My Lord, by Your unbroken transcendental glance You are the Supreme witness of all intellectual activities. You are eternally liberated, You exist in the state of pure goodness as the changeless Supersoul, You are the original Personality of Godhead (full with six opulences), and You are eternally the master of the three modes of material nature. Thus, You are always different from the ordinary living entities. As Lord Visnu, You maintain all the affairs of the entire universe, yet You stand aloof and enjoy the results of all sacrifices.”
Overwhelmed with divine ecstasy, Dhruva fell prostrate at the Lord’s feet.
Hearing the sincere praise of Dhruva, Lord Krsna said to him, “My dear Dhruva, son of King Uttanapada, you have piously executed your vows. I know the desire within your heart. It is an ambitious desire, very difficult to achieve, yet I shall favor you with its fulfillment. After you depart from your present body, I shall award you the glowing planet known as the Pole Star, which outlasts even the universal dissolution at the end of each millenium. Until then, you will rule this earthly planet for thirty-six thousand years after your father goes to the forest in his old age. During all that time, your senses will stay as strong as they are now; you will never grow old. You will enjoy the blessings of material happiness in this life, and at the time of your death you will remember Me and come to Me, never to return to this material world.”
Having bestowed these benedictions upon Dhruva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead left the Madhuvana forest on the back of Garuda and returned to His own abode.
However, Dhruva was not very happy. He was ashamed of the material demands he had held in his mind when the Lord appeared before him. “Alas!” he thought. “Just see how unfortunate I am! I approached the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, who can cut the chain of repetition of birth and death—but still, out of foolishness, I prayed for perishable things. With my materialistic vision of duality, I saw my brother as my enemy, and I lamented within my heart. I am like the ignorant pauper who begged the emperor for a few broken grains of husked rice, even after the emperor had offered him anything he wanted.” Thinking in this way, Dhruva made his way back to his father’s palace.
King Uttanapada, who had feared that Dhruva was dead, considered himself the most wretched person for having rebuffed his son. So, when a messenger came from Narada to inform him of Dhruva’s imminent return, the king could hardly believe the news. Very eager to see the face of his lost son, he mounted a chariot, gathered a procession of his family and attendants, and left the city to greet Dhruva. On seeing the boy approaching from a distance, the king got down from his chariot in great haste and went to meet him. Breathing heavily, King Uttanapada at last embraced Dhruva. But Dhruva had changed; now he was completely sanctified by the spiritual touch of Lord Krsna’s lotus feet.
Then Dhruva’s mother and brother welcomed him back with tears of ecstasy. Even his stepmother Suruci appreciated his innocence. With tears of sincere feeling, she blessed him. “My dear boy, long may you live!”
As Dhruva entered the capital city, the residents praised him jubilantly. They had decorated the entire city with columns of banana and betel nut trees, as well as bunches of fruits and flowers. At every gate there were burning lamps and large water pots adorned with multicolored cloths, strings of pearls, flower garlands, and hanging mango leaves. The domes of the city’s palaces glittered, as did the domes of the beautiful airplanes hovering over the capital.
In time, King Uttanapada enthroned Dhruva as emperor of the world. Then the old king detached himself from worldly affairs and entered the forest. Soon Dhruva Maharaja and his two queens, Bhrami and Ila, raised a very beautiful family. But tragedy struck when Dhruva Maharaja’s brother Uttama met his death in the Himalayan mountains, at the hands of a Yaksa tribesman. Soon afterward, Suruci went to search out her missing son, but she died in a forest fire.
When he heard of his brother’s death, Dhruva Maharaja was overwhelmed with grief and anger. Desiring revenge, he mounted his invincible chariot and set out single-handed for the Yaksas’ city Alakapuri, in the Himalayas. As soon as he reached Alakapuri he blew his conchshell. The sound reverberated in all directions, and the wives of the Yaksas became terribly frightened.
Unable to stand the resounding vibration of Dhruva’s conchshell, the ferocious Yaksa warriors came forth from their city and attacked Dhruva. When Dhruva began to kill them by shooting three arrows at a time, the Yaksas—130,000 strong—countered by shooting six arrows at a time. Then they began to shower Dhruva, his chariot, and his chariot driver with feathered arrows, iron bludgeons, swords, tridents, lances, pikes, spears, and other weapons. Just as incessant rain covers a mountain, so an incessant shower of weapons covered Dhruva Maharaja.
The sun of King Dhruva seemed to have set within the ocean of Yaksas. But just as the sun suddenly breaks through the fog, so Dhruva’s chariot suddenly appeared from within the armies of the Yaksas. When Dhruva’s wonderful bow twanged and his arrows hissed, the hearts of his enemies filled with grief. His arrows first scattered their countless weapons, just as a blast of wind scatters clouds; then his arrows pierced the shields and bodies of the enemy, just as thunderbolts pierce mountains. Those Yaksas who somehow survived began fleeing. None of the enemy soldiers stayed in martial formation.
Dhruva Maharaja then desiredto see the city of Alakapuri, but he thought to himself, “No one knows the plans of the mystic Yaksas.” He waited and talked with his charioteer.
Dhruva saw fierce animals coming to devour him.
Soon they heard a tremendous sound, as if the entire ocean were rushing upon them, and they saw a great dust storm coming at them from all sides. Within a moment the entire sky became overcast with dense clouds. They heard thunder and saw dazzling lightning, and then a severe rainfall started. But it was not an ordinary rain: falling through the sky were blood, mucus, pus, feces, urine, marrow, and trunks of bodies,
Next, a huge mountain fell from the sky, and from all sides rained hailstones, lances, clubs, swords, and enormous chunks of stone. Dhruva Maharaja also saw groups of mad elephants, lions, and tigers, along with many large, angry-eyed serpents vomiting fire—all coming to devour him.
Finally, as if the end of the universe were at hand, a fierce ocean with foaming waves and great roaring sounds came rushing toward him. Just at that moment, when he was completely overpowered by the illusions that the demoniac Yaksas had conjured up, a company of great sages appeared before Dhruva to encourage him.
“Our dear Dhruva,” they said, “maythe all-powerful Lord slay all your formidable enemies. You have nothing to fear, for you are a soul surrendered to Him, and you have chanted His holy name: om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. Simply by chanting and hearing the Lord’s holy name, anyone can be fully protected from fierce death. Therefore, the all-merciful Lord has already saved you, His dearmost devotee.”
Encouraged by the sages’ words, Dhruva Maharaja sanctified himself by touching water and then took up a special arrow made by Lord Krsna Himself. As soon as Dhruva joined this arrow to his bow, the apparitions created by the Yaksas disappeared, and golden-shafted arrows with feathers like a swan’s wings flew out from his bow. The arrows entered the bodies of the Yaksas with a great hissing sound, just as peacocks enter a forest with tumultuous crowing.
Those sharp arrows dismayed the enemy soldiers; they became almost unconscious. But a few Yaksas managed to collect their forces, and in a great rage they again attacked Dhruva with upraised weapons. But Dhruva Maharaja saw the Yaksas coming and cut them to pieces with his arrows.
At this time, Dhruva’s grandfather, the wise and powerful Manu, saw that his grandson was killing many innocent Yaksas who had had nothing to do with his brother Uttama’s death. Out of compassion, Manu approached Dhruva to give him good instruction.
“My dear son,” Manu said, “please stop. To become unnecessarily angry is not good, for this is the path to hellish life. Now you have gone beyond the limit by killing many offenseless Yaksas. Furthermore, you have angered the demigod Kuvera, who is related with the Yaksas. For these reasons, please stopthis killing.”
Dhruva Maharaja took his grandfather’s kind words to heart and returned to his capital city.
During the rest of his 36,000-year reign, Dhruva rendered devotional service unto Lord Krsna with unrelenting energy. He possessed all godly qualities—he was respectful to the Lord’s devotees, very kind to the poor and the innocent, vigilant to uphold religious principles—and thus all the citizens regarded him as their father. In this way, over many, many years, Dhruva favorably executed the duties of a king.
Finally, he handed over the charge of the royal throne to his son. Dhruva realized that the Supreme Lord has created this cosmic manifestation just to bewilder the living entities as a dream or a phantasmagoria would bewilder them. So he left his kingdom, considering his body, his treasury, palaces, and pleasure grounds, his army, friends, wives, and children to be creations of the Lord’s illusory energy. Thus, in due course of time he retired to the forest known as Badarikasrama in the Himalayas.
In Badarikasrama King Dhruva fully purified his senses by bathing regularly in the crystal-clear water. Fixing himself in a sitting position, he controlled his breathing and completely withdrew his senses from all external stimuli. Then he concentrated his mind on the form of the Lord and entered into trance.
Because of Dhruva’s transcendental bliss, tears flowed incessantly from his eyes, his heart melted, his limbs shivered, and the hairs all over his body stood on end. Transformed by this state of divine ecstasy, Dhruva Maharaja completely forgot about his bodily existence and became liberated from material bondage.
Just then Dhruva saw an exquisite airplane, as big as a house, descending from the sky. It looked as if the full moon were approaching him, illuminating all ten directions. Two beautiful associates of Lord Krsna were in the plane, and seeing that they were personal servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Dhruva Maharaja immediately stood up, offered them his respects with folded hands, and chanted the holy names of God.
The two servants of Krsna (named Nanda and Sunanda) addressed Dhruva Maharaja in unison: “Our Lord has deputed us to take you to the spiritual world, where even great sages and demigods cannot go. Please come with us and live there eternally.”
To Dhruva these words were as sweet as pouring honey, and he immediately offered his obeisances to the servants of Krsna. Then Dhruva worshiped the airplane, and while he did so he became as brilliant and illuminating as molten gold. Just as Dhruva was boarding the wonderful airplane, death personified approached him. Completely unafraid, however, Dhruva put his feet on the head of death and then boarded the plane.
From the sky, drums sounded and voices sang, and the demigods showered Dhruva with flowers. However, just as the transcendental airplane was about to leave the earth, Dhruva remembered his mother Suniti. He thought, “How can I go to the spiritual world and leave my poor mother behind?” But Nanda and Sunanda understood his mind, and they showed him that Suniti was going forward in another plane.
While Dhruva was passing through space, he saw all the planets of the solar system. Then he passed beyond the seven planetary systems of the great sages, and finally he reached the self-effulgent planets of the spiritual world. Thus, as he had desired, Dhruva had obtained the most exalted post within this universe, the Pole Star. And at last, because of his unflinching service to Lord Krsna, he went back home, back to Godhead.