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A painting depicting Durvasa cursing Shakuntala.
AffiliationAvatar of Shiva
Personal information

In Hindu scriptures, Durvasa (Sanskrit: दुर्वासा, IAST: Durvāsā) also known as Durvasas (Sanskrit: दुर्वासस्), was a legendary[1][2] Rishi and the son of Anasuya and Atri. Durvasa is an avatar of Lord Shiva,[3] known for his short temper, wherever he went, he was received with great reverence from humans and devas alike.[4]

According to local tradition in modern Azamgarh, Durvasa's Ashram, or hermitage (where disciples would study under him), was situated in the area, at the confluence of the Tons River and Majhuee rivers; 6 km (3.7 mi) north of the Phulpur Tehsil headquarters[citation needed].

His most famous temple, called Rishi Durvasa Temple, is located in the Aali Brahman Village, tehsil Hathin, district of Palwal, Haryana[citation needed].

Curses and Boons[edit]

Rishi Durvasa, being short-tempered, was said to have both cursed and gifted boons to several notable deities and people in the Hindu Pantheon and Mythos. Some of them include:


  1. Indra, whom he cursed to lose all his powers, after Indras elephant Airavata threw down a rather fragrant garland given by Durvasa to Indra.[5][6][7]
  2. Saraswati, whom he cursed to be born as a human because she laughed at his incorrect recitation of the Vedas.[8]
  3. Rukmini, whom he cursed to be separated from her husband, Krishna, because she drank water without seeking Durvasa's permission.[9]
  4. Shakuntala, who avoided Durvasa while at the Ashrama (hermitage) of sage Kanva, which enraged Durvasa rishi , who cursed her that Dushyanta would forget her. Durvasa later clarified that Dushyanta would remember her when she presented his ring (that he had previously given to her) to him.[10][11]
  5. Kandali, his wife, whom he cursed to be reduced to a heap of dust for excessively quarrelling with him.[12]
  6. Bhanumati, the daughter of Banu, the then-leader of the Yadavas. Bhanumati provoked Durvasa while playing at the garden of Raivata, and in response, Durvasa cursed her. She, later in life, was abducted by the Danava Nikumbha. However, Durvasa clarified (after being pacified) that no harm would come to Bhanumati, and that she would be saved by and marry the Pandava Sahadeva.[13][14][15]


  1. Krishna, whom he blessed with partial invulnerability. The Anushasana Parva, as related by Krishna to his son Pradyumna details the incident when Durvasa visited Krishna at Dwaraka, and requested that Krishna smear his own body with the payasam remaining after Durvasa had eaten. Krishna complied with this, and Durvasa blessed him with invulnerability in those parts of his body that he covered with the payasam, noting that Krishna never smeared the soles of his feet with it.[16] Krishna would die years after the events of the Kurukshetra war by an arrow to his foot shot by a hunter who mistook it for a deer.[17]
  2. Kunti, whom he taught mantras capable of summoning a deva to beget children. Angaraj Karna from use of the diving mantra by Kunti and later the five Pandava brothers were born of Kunti's and her co-wife Madri's use of the mantras.[18]


According to Chapter 44 of the Brahmanda Purana, Brahma and Shiva got into a heated quarrel. Shiva became violently enraged when the devas fled from his presence in fear. His consort, Parvati, complained that Shiva was now impossible to live with. Realizing the chaos his anger had caused, Shiva deposited this anger into Anasuya, the wife of sage Atri. From this portion of Shiva deposited into Anasuya, a child was born, named 'Durvasa' (lit. one who is difficult to live with). Because he was born of Shiva's anger, he had an irascible nature.[19][20]

Role in The Churning of the Ocean[edit]

In Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana and Padma Purana, a curse that Durvasa laid upon Indra is described as the indirect reason for the churning of the ocean. The Srimad Bhagavata and Agni Purana also mention Durvasa's involvement in the episode, without going into detail. Other sources for this story, such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Harivamsa and Matsya Purana, do not mention Durvasa's involvement at all and ascribe the incident to other causes, such as the devas' and asuras' desire for immortality.[19]

According to a story in the Vishnu Purana, Durvasa, while wandering the earth in a state of ecstasy due to a vow he was observing, came by a Vidyadhari (nymph of the air) and demanded her heavenly wreath of flowers. The nymph respectfully gave the garland to the sage, whereupon he wore it on his brow. Resuming his wanderings, the Durvasa came across Indra riding his elephant, Airavata, attended by the gods. Still, in his state of frenzy, Durvasa threw the garland at Indra, who caught it and placed it on Airavata's head. The elephant was irritated by the fragrance of the nectar in the flowers, so it threw the garland to the ground with its trunk.

Durvasa was enraged to see his gift treated so callously and cursed Indra that he would be cast down from his position of dominion over the three worlds, just as the garland was cast down. Indra immediately begged Durvasa's forgiveness, but the sage refused to retract or soften his curse. Because of the curse, Indra and the devas were diminished in strength and stripped of their lustre. Seizing this opportunity, the asuras led by Bali waged war against the gods.[21]

The gods were routed and turned to Brahma for help. Brahma directed them to seek refuge with Vishnu. Vishnu, in turn, advised them to call a truce with the asuras and help them churn the ocean of milk to obtain the Amrita (nectar of immortality), on the pretext of sharing it with them. Vishnu promised to ensure only the devas drank the Nectar to regain their former power, so they could once again defeat the asuras. The devas took Vishnu's advice and called their truce with the asuras, and thus the gods and demons began planning their great enterprise.

In Ramayana[edit]

In the Uttara Kanda of Valmiki's Ramayana, Durvasa appeared at Rama's doorstep and, seeing Lakshmana guarding the door, demanded an audience with Rama. Meanwhile, Rama was having a private conversation with Yama (the god of death) disguised as an ascetic. Before the conversation, Yama gave Rama strict instructions that their dialogue was to remain confidential and anyone who entered the room was to be executed. Rama agreed and entrusted Lakshman with the duty of guarding his door and fulfilling his promise to Yama.

Thus, when Durvasa made his demand, Lakshman politely asked the sage to wait until Rama had finished his meeting. Durvasa grew angry and threatened to curse all of Ayodhya if Lakshman did not immediately inform Rama of his arrival. Lakshman, in a dilemma, decided it would be better that he alone die to save all of Ayodhya from falling under Durvasa's curse and so interrupted Rama's meeting to inform him of the sage's arrival. Rama quickly concluded his meeting with Yama and received the sage with due courtesy. Durvasa told Rama of his desire to be fed and Rama fulfilled his guest's request, whereupon the satisfied sage went on his way.[22]

Rama was filled with sorrow, for he did not want to kill his beloved brother, Lakshman. Still, he had given his word to Yama and could not go back on it. He called his advisers to help him resolve this quandary. On Vasishta's advice, he ordered Lakshman to leave him for good, since such abandonment was equivalent to death as far as the pious were concerned. Lakshman then went to the banks of the Sarayu, resolved on giving up the world by drowning himself in the Sarayu river.[23]

In Mahabharata[edit]

In the Mahabharata, Durvasa is known for granting boons to those who pleased him, particularly when he had been served well as an honoured guest. An example of such behaviour is the episode between him and Kunti, the future wife of Pandu and the mother of the Pandavas. When Kunti was a young girl, she lived in the house of her adopted father, Kuntibhoja. Durvasa visited Kuntibhoja one day and sought his hospitality. The king entrusted the sage to his daughter's care and tasked Kunti with the responsibility of entertaining the sage and meeting all his needs during his stay. Kunti patiently put up with Durvasa's temper and his unreasonable requests (such as demanding food at odd hours of the night) and served the sage with great dedication. Eventually, the sage was gratified. Before departing, he rewarded Kunti by teaching her the Atharvaveda mantras, which enables a woman to invoke any god of her choice to beget children by them. Curious and skeptical, Kunti decided to test the mantra.[24]

After invoking Surya, the sun god, she bore her first son, Karna. Fearing the fate of an unmarried mother, she placed the newborn in a basket and set him afloat down a river. The infant Karna was later found and raised by Adhiratha, a charioteer for the monarch of Hastinapur, and his wife Radha. Soon after this episode, Kunti was married to Pandu, the king of Hastinapur, and, by invoking those same mantras taught to her by Durvasa, she bore the three eldest of Pandu's five sons. Karna would go on to become an accomplished warrior and a formidable adversary of the Pandavas. This enmity would eventually culminate in his death on the battlefield of Kurukshetra at the hands of Arjuna, his younger half-brother, who was unaware of their fraternal bond.[24] Apart from his hair-trigger anger, Durvasa is also known for his extraordinary boons. According to Shiva Purana, once while bathing in a river, Durvasa's clothes were carried away by the river's currents. Seeing this, Draupadi, who was nearby, gave her own clothes to the sage. Durvasa blessed her by saying that she wouldn't lack clothes at the time of requirement & it was due to his blessing that the Kauravas were unable to strip off her clothes in the gambling hall, thus protecting her modesty.[25]

Another example of Durvasa's benevolent side is the incident when he granted Duryodhana a boon. During the Pandavas' exile, Durvasa and several disciples arrived at Hastinapura. Duryodhana with his maternal uncle Shakuni managed to gratify the sage. Durvasa was pleased enough to grant him a boon. Duryodhana, secretly wanting Durvasa to curse the Pandavas in anger, asked the sage to visit his cousins in the forest after Draupadi had eaten her meal, knowing that the Pandavas would then have nothing to feed him.[25]

So Durvasa and his disciples visited the Pandavas in their hermitage in the forest, as per Duryodhana's request. During this period of exile, the Pandavas would obtain their food by means of the Akshaya Patra, which would become exhausted each day once Draupadi finished her meal. Because Draupadi had already eaten by the time Durvasa arrived that day, there was no food left to serve him and the Pandavas were very anxious as to their fate should they fail to feed such a venerable sage. While Durvasa and his disciples were away bathing at the river, Draupadi prayed to Krishna for help.[25]

Krishna immediately appeared before Draupadi saying he was extremely hungry and asked her for food. Draupadi grew exasperated and said she had prayed to Krishna precisely because she had no food left to give. Krishna then told her to bring the Akshaya Patra to him. When she did, he partook of the lone grain of rice and piece of vegetable that he found stuck to the vessel and announced that he was satisfied by the "meal".

This satiated the hunger of Durvasa and his disciples, as the satisfaction of Krishna (the Supreme Being who pervades the entire universe) meant the satiation of the hunger of all living things. Sage Durvasa and his disciples then quietly left after their bath, without returning to the Pandavas' hermitage, for they were afraid of facing what they thought would be the Pandavas' wrathful reaction at their impolite behaviour of refusing the food that would be served to them.[25]

In Swaminarayan Hinduism[edit]

Durvasa curses Narayana

According to the followers of Swaminarayan Hinduism, Narayana took birth as the saint Swaminarayan due to a curse by Durvasa. The story goes that shortly after Krishna's passing, Uddhava proceeded to Badrinath, the abode of Nara-Narayana. He joined the many divine sages and saints who were there listening to Nara-Narayana's discourses. As Nara was speaking, Durvasa arrived at the assembly from Mount Kailash, but no one noticed him because they were all so engrossed in the discourse.[26]

He waited for one ghadi(about half an hour), for someone to welcome him with the respect he felt he was entitled to, but still, no one realized he was there. Seeing no one rise to receive him, he took this as an insult and cursed the entire assembly, saying that they would all be born as humans and suffer insults and agony from the wicked. Nara-Narayana's parents, the god Dharma and goddess Bhakti, pacified Durvasa, who then softened his curse saying that Narayana himself (again, represented here as the Supreme Being) would be born as Dharma and Bhakti's son, and His birth would relieve them all from the clutches of evil. So saying, Durvasa made his way back to Kailash.[26]

Dharma and Bhakti were eventually born as Hariprasad Pande(a.k.a. Dharmadev) and Premvati Pande(a.k.a. Bhaktidevi). Narayana was born as their son, named Ghanshyam, who is now known as Swaminarayan. The story is limited to Swaminarayan Hinduism and no other Hindu scriptures support the tale.[26][27][28]


In Azamgarh, a site of pilgrimage is named Durvasa where the temple of Durvasa is located. As per the priest of the temple, Durvasa took samadhi at this place in a shiva linga.

In popular culture[edit]

Indian filmmaker Shree Nath Patankar made Durvas Shaap (Curse of Durvasa), a silent film about the sage in 1923.[29]


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  2. Witzel, Michael E. J. (2001). "Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts" (PDF). Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies. 7 (3): 69–71.
  3. "Lord Shiva and his nineteen avatars: All you need to know". Timesnow News. 3 March 2021.
  4. Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana (With Sanskrit Text and English Translation) - Part II(9th Edition), Gita Press, Gorakhpur
  5. Wilson, Horace Hayman (1840). "The Vishnu Purana: Book I: Chapter IX". www.sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 10 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. Dutt, Manmath Nath (1896). VishnuPurana - English - MN Dutt. http://sanskritebooks.org/. Calcutta. pp. 37–38. {{cite book}}: External link in |others= (help)CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. Vishnu Puran Illustrated With Hindi Translations. Gita Press, Gorakhpur. pp. 35–36.
  8. Vidyaranya (1996). Sankara Digvijaya- The Traditional Life of Sri Sankaracharya. Translated by Swami Tapasyananda. Sri Ramakrishna Math. pp. 19–26. ISBN 81-7120-434-1.
  9. www.wisdomlib.org (16 April 2021). "Durvāsā cursing Rukmiṇī [Chapter 2]". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  10. Kalidasa: Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works - by Arthur W. Ryder(1914)
  11. Sacontala - translated by Sir William Jones(1789)
  12. Brahmavaivarta Purana Sri-Krishna Janma Khanda (Fourth Canto) Chapter 24 English translation by Shantilal Nagar Parimal Publications Link: https://archive.org/details/brahma-vaivarta-purana-all-four-kandas-english-translation
  13. Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : a comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Robarts - University of Toronto. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass. p. 116.
  14. "Harivamsha in the Mahabharata - Vishnuparva Chapter 90 - Abduction of Bhanumati and end of Nikhumba". mahabharata-resources.org. Retrieved 10 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. Dutt, Manmatha Nath (1897). A Prose English Translation Of Harivamsha. p. 653.
  16. Debroy, Bibek (1 June 2015). The Mahabharata: Volume 10. Penguin UK. Chapter 1825(144). ISBN 978-93-5118-876-6.
  17. Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : a comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Robarts - University of Toronto. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass. p. 429.
  18. Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic encyclopaedia : a comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature. Robarts - University of Toronto. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 442–443.
  19. 19.0 19.1 The Vishnu Purana - translated by Horace Hayman Wilson(1840)
  20. Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana): The Story of the Fortunate One - translated by [1]
  21. Srimad Bhagavatam - translated by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupada, Copyright(c) The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.
  22. Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana (With Sanskrit Text and English Translation) - Part I(9th Edition), Gita Press, Gorakhpur
  23. Ramayan of Valmiki - translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith, M.A.(1870–1874)
  24. 24.0 24.1 The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa - translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli(1883–1896)
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Was Draupadi Ever Disrobed? - by Pradip Bhattacharya (taken from the Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, vol. 86, 2005, printed in 2006)
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Swaminarayan Satsang: Portal of Swaminarayan - Under Shree Nar Narayan Dev Mandir Bhuj, at [2]
  27. The website of The Original: Shree Swaminarayan Sampraday - Under His Holiness Acharya 1008 Shree Koshalendraprasadi Maharaj, at [3]
  28. The website of the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul, Rajkot, at
  29. Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1999). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. Retrieved 12 August 2012.


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