The death of reNukA

Our ancestress reNukA, the ikShvAku princess and wife of jamadagni, is supposed to have had a checkered career. She is supposed to have been adultrous having had an affair with a yadu prince of mArtikavata, which led to our illustrious ancestor jamadagni’s wrath and the famous story concerning rAma that needs no repetition now. jamadagni was accused by some modern interlocutors as being unjust to her (but I realized their knowledge did not go beyond the tale narrated in the Amar Chitra Katha comics, where jamadagni merely say she had ‘sinned’ without any reference to what the sin was. After all this was for kids). But from the genuine versions of the tale we see this is entirely unjustified. jamadagni was pretty dutiful to reNukA. The tale goes that the mighty jamadagni was practising archery, when she used to go and collect the arrows he used to shoot at the targets. She was distressed in course of this activity by the sun’s heat, when jamadgni is supposed to have threatened to hit the sun with his great astras. This had the gods give reNukA shade to help her with the sun. But there is not much doubt despite later day euphemisms that she did clearly have an affair with the prince of mArtikavata, and adultery as per Hindu law warranted punishment, ever since the day uddAlaka AruNi saw his mother commit it. But many have asked me the question what happened to reNukA after her son rAma restored her to jamadagni’s grace. The history states that she indeed redeemed herself. The fierce vItahavyas, protected by the Atreya’s prayogas, bent on revenge, breached the defenses of jamadagni and attacked him while he was deep in meditation. While a once fiery archer, the old bhR^igu was now in meditation and his valiant sons were far away. reNukA boldly picked up jamadagni’s weapons and stood in the path of the vItihotras, tAlajhanga and tuNDikeras who rushed in with their bows upraised. They struck her their missiles and killed her. It is said she received 21 wounds before falling dead. Then they struck jamadagni with the dattAtreya missiles. jamadagni’s brahman power was vaporized by the weapons charged with the atri’s brahman and he dropped dead. With that the Atreya had got back the brahman power of the atris that had been sucked out by our fiery ancestor aurva.

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