Indian mythology is replete with stories where women undertake extraordinary and perilous journeys to save their beloved from all kinds of sticky situations, at times even bringing them back from the dead. The stories of Satyavan-Savitri, Nala-Damayanti, Arjuna-Ulupi show women moved heaven and earth for the men they loved.
Not as common are stories of husbands or lovers going the extra mile for their love. In that sense, the story of Ruru and Pramadvara that finds mention in the Adi Parva (Pouloma sub-parvan) of the Mahabharata is unique.
Ruru was born in the illustrious line of Sage Bhrigu. He was the son of Pramati, who was the grandson of Sage Bhrigu. One day Ruru happened to see Pramadvara, the beautiful damsel born to the apsara, Menaka and Vishvavasu, the king of the Gandharvas. Immediately after her birth, Pramadvara had been abandoned by Menaka on a river bank. A sage named Sthulakesha had found the girl child and had brought her up as his own.
When Ruru first set his eyes on Menaka’s daughter, he was smitten. Soon, with the blessings of his father- Pramati and Pramadvara’s foster father- Sthulakesha, Ruru and Pramadvara were engaged to be married. A wedding date was fixed and, the young couple waited in anticipation.
And then fate played her hand. One day, when Pramadvara was playing with her friends in the forest, a venomous snake sunk its fangs into her. On hearing the news, Ruru rushed to see his beloved and was overwhelmed with grief to see the beautiful Pramadvara lying dead on the ground.
Ruru sobbed out loud saying if indeed he had remained true to his austerities as a Brahmin, had performed the prescribed rites, respected the elders and had selflessly given away alms, then his dear Pramadvara would have to rise from the dead. On hearing his lamentations, the messenger of the gods responded that no amount of bemoaning could help Pramadvara. Once a person had crossed over to the world of the dead, there was no coming back.
However, the messenger also offered a consolation, a way out. Pramadvara could be brought back to life, he said, if Ruru would give up half of his life for her. Ruru was overcome with joy and he readily agreed to the condition. At once, the permission of Yama – the lord of death was sought. Yama consented to allow Ruru to revive Pramadvara. Pramadvara arose from the dead and the couple was ecstatic. They were married soon thereafter and in the true tradition of such tales, lived happily ever after.
Story collected by: Sumathi Sridhar
Source: The Mahabharatha (Volume 1), Translated by Bibek Debroy
Image details: Google Images