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KĀMADHENU - कामधेनु

See also कामधेनु
1) General.
She is the first mother of cattle. She is a goddess with marvellous powers and attainments who gives milk whenever needed by gods and sages. The Purāṇas declare that all the cattle in the world today are descended from Kāmadhenu.
2) Three different names.
This sacred cow is sometimes called “Kāmadhenu”, at other times, “Surabhi” and also “Nandinī”. They are not three different cows, as some people suppose. See [Bhāṣā Bhārata, Araṇya Parva Chapter 9, Verses 7 and 17]. There Surabhi and Kāmadhenu are names used for referring to the same cow. Again, in the [Bhāṣā Bhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 99, Verse 14], we find the name Nandinī applied to Kāmadhenu. Thus we may conclude that Kāmadhenu had two other names, viz. Surabhi and Nandinī. But since the term “Surabhirgavi” occurs in Amarakośa, it follows that even ordinary cows may be called “Surabhi”.
3) Birth and Jamily.
In the Purāṇas Surabhi is described variously as Dakṣa's daughter, Kaśyapa's wife, Kaśyapa's daughter, etc. Although at first sight there may appear some discrepancy in these statements, in the light of them we may clearly arrive at the ancestry and birth of Surabhi. Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Araṇya Kāṇḍa, 14th Sarga says that Kaśyapa, the son of Marīci and the grandson of Brahmā married Dakṣa Prajāpati's daughters--Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kālikā, Tāmrā, Krodhavāśā, Manu and Analā. From verses 20 and 21 in the same Sarga we understand that Surabhi was the daughter of Krodhavaśā, Dakṣa's daughter, by Kaśyapa. In the same Sarga we find that two daughters, Rohiṇī and Gandharvī were born to this Surabhi and from Rohiṇī were born all the cows in the world that we see today and from Gandharvī were born all the horses. It was by her own father Kaśyapa himself that Surabhi's offsprings were born. Therefore, the reference to Surabhi as the wife of Kaśyapa may also be justified. Śince Krodhavaśā, the daughter of Dakṣa was the mother of Surabhi, actually Surabhi was the grand-daughter of Dakṣa, But in a broad sense, a grand-daughter may be considered as a daughter. So the reference to Surabhi in Bhāṣā Bhārata, Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 83, Verse 28 as Dakṣa's daughter is correct in that sense.
4) How Kāmadhenu Received Divine Powers.
Long ago Aditi, wife of Kaśyapa, conceived Mahāviṣṇu in her womb and began an austere penance standing on one leg. At that time Surabhi went to Kailāsa and offered worship to Brahmā for ten thousand years. The gods who were pleased, came to Surabhi taking Brahmā with them. Brahmā said to her:--‘Surabhi I have made you a goddess. You are now above the three worlds--Heaven Earth and Hell. Your world, “Goloka” will become famous. All people will worship you and the cows who are your off spring.” From that day on which Brahmā blessed her, Surabhi became a goddess with marvellous spiritual powers. [M.B. Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 83].
5) More than one Kāmadhenu?
There are references to several Kāmadhenus in the Purāṇas. There is one Kāmadhenu in Vāsiṣṭha's Āśrama. At Varuṇa's yāga we see another Kāmadhenu. There is no ground for believing that there is only one Kāmadhenu and that it was borrowed by each Deva in turn for some particular occasion. It is possible that there were many Kāmadhenus in the family of Kāmadhenu and they were owned by different Devas. Moreover it is stated that several Kāmadhenus take their origin from sources other than the family of Kaśyapa. One of them is from the ocean of milk. In [Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 18], we find that when the Devas and Asuras churned the ocean of milk, along with many other precious things, Kāmadhenu also came up to the surface. There is a reference to another Kāmadhenu in Bhāṣā Bhārata, Udyoga Parva, Chapter 102, There, it is said, Brahmā who got Amṛta swallowed it beyond limit in his avidity and when he vomited, a Kāmadhenu came out from his mouth. That Kāmadhenu is said to be living in the world known as Rasātala. The abovementioned passage also says that there are four other Kāmadhenus living on the four sides of the Kāmadhenu which lives in Rasātala. They are Saurabhī in the east Haṁsikā in the south, Subhadrā in the west and Dhenu in the north. The next Kāmadhenu is the one which was born from the side of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Once Śrī Kṛṣṇa and his consort Rādhā were amusing themselves by amorous pleasures in a remote and secluded place. When they were tired they wished to drink some milk. At that time, Śrī Kṛṣṇa created by his will power, the cow Surabhi and the calf Manoratha, from the left side of his body. Śrīdāman milked that cow into a new earthen pot and when Śrī Kṛṣna was drinking it, the pot fell down and the milk was spilt all over the floor. The milk which spread over an area of 100 yojanas, became a lake called “Kṣīrasāgara” for Rādhā and her maids to bathe and enjoy water-sports. Numerous cows were born from the pores of Surabhi and they were presented to the Gopas by Śrī Kṛṣṇa. [Devī Bhāgavata, 9th Skandha]. Like this, several Kāmadhenus are seen in the Purāṇas. Therefore there is no discrepancy or contradiction in statements declaring that there were many Kāmadhenus in different Āśramas. But since Kāmadhenu had achieved divine powers by Brahmā's grace, it is but reasonable to believe that the different Kāmadhenus are really the different forms of the original Kāmadhenu, the daughter of Kaśyapa.
6) Theft of Kāmadhenu by Satyavrata (Triśaṅku).
Satyavrata (Triśaṅku) was the son of Aruṇa, a King of the Ikṣvāku dynasty. He was a vicious and immoral fellow. Once he abducted a Brāhmaṇa girl just at the time of her marriage in her bridal dress. Enraged at this his father drove him away from his palace. Satyavrata wandered about aimlessly in the country and in the forests. Soon after this there was a famine in the land. Human beings and animals began to die of starvation. At that time Viśvāmitra was performing penance in the forest after leaving behind his wife and children in the country. When he saw that the whole family was in danger of death by starvation, he decided to make some money by selling one of the sons, in order to save the lives of the rest of the family. Satyavrata who came to know of this, met Viśvāmitra and dissuaded him from selling his son. He promised to supply some flesh every day to the family by hunting animals in the forest and keeping the flesh suspended from the branch of a near-by tree. Accordingly, he began leaving the flesh regularly hanging from the branch of the tree. One day he could not get any flesh by hunting. That night he went to Vasiṣṭha's āśrama and stole Kāmadhenu. He killed the cow and ate some of its flesh. The rest he gave to Viśvāmitra's family. The next morning when Vasiṣṭha woke up, he did not see his cow. But he came to know of the whole affair by his intuition. In his fury he cursed Satyavrata and said that the world would brand him with the name “Triśaṅku” because he had committed three heinous sins viz. killing of cows, abducting another man's wife and incurring his father's displeasure. After that Vasiṣṭha restored Kāmadhenu to life. [Devī Bhāgavata, 7th Skandha].
7) Viśvāmitra attacked Kāmadhenu.
Once while Viśvāmitra was a ruling King, he went into a forest to hunt. In the course of his rambles through the forest, he happened to arrive at Vasiṣṭha's Āśrama with his retinue. Vasiṣṭha called Kāmadhenu and ordered her to provide food for Viśvāmitra and his party. Kāmadhenu, by her divine powers, prepared food within a short time and gave them a sumptuous meal; Viśvāmitra was greatly pleased with this amazing feat of Kāmadhenu and he asked Vasiṣṭha to give her to him. He even offered to give crores of cows in return for her. But Vasiṣṭha refused to comply with his request. Then Viśvāmitra tried to seize and take her away by force. At once Kāmadhenu assumed the form of a terrible monster of destruction. From the different parts of her body emerged fierce warriors who clashed with Viśvāmitra's followers. All the arrows shot by Viśvāmitra were caught by Vasiṣṭha with his hand. In the end Viśvāmitra admitted that the might of a Brāhmaṇa is superior to the might of a Kṣatriya. (Vasiṣṭha was a Brāhmaṇa and Viśvāmitra a Kṣatriya). Viśvāmitra, soon gave up his kingly duties and began penance, thus turning himself into a “Rājarṣi” (Royal saint). [Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bāla Kāṇḍa, 52nd Sarga];[ M.B. Śalya Parva, Chapter 40];[ M.B. Ādi Parva, Chapter 175].
8) Kāmadhenu was attacked by the Aṣṭa Vasus.
(See under the word “Aṣṭavasus”, Para 2).
9) Kāmadhenu cried.
(See under the word “Indra”, Para 16).
10) Kāmadhenu revived King Baka.
(See under the word “Gautama”).
11) Other details.
(i) Kāmadhenu gave birth to Ajasa, Ekapāt, Ahirbudhnya, Tvaṣṭā and Rudra. Viśvarūpa was the son of Tvaṣṭā. [Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 18].
(ii) Kāmadhenu said that she had no part in the theft of Agastya's lotus. [M.B. Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 94].
(iii) Śrī Kṛṣṇa turned Govardhana mountain into an umbrella and defeated Indra when Kāmadhenu came to Gokula and bathed Śrī Kṛṣṇa with her milk according to Bhāgavata, 10th Skandha.
(iv) Once the sage Jamadagni went to Goloka and propitiated Kāmadhenu by his tapas. Kāmadhenu gave her sister Suśīlā to Jamadagni. The sage presented that cow to his. wife Reṇukā. [Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, Chapter 61].
Note: 2) In Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Part I, Chapter 15, Surabhi is described as Kaśyapa's wife.]

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