Yellama or Renuka: Victim of Unjust Curse

In the Hindu mythology, there had been many sages endowed with supernatural powers, who had used these powers for the destruction of women for very flimsy reasons. May be the customs and culture was such that men prevailed over women when it came to equality.

One such story concerns Renuka or Yellamma who was cursed by her husband, sage Jamadagni. Her only fault was that she thought about having sensual pleasure after coming across a couple having the carnal pleasure in a jungle.

Sage Jamadagni lived in a cottage in woods with his wife Yellamma and five sons, the youngest of who is known as Parshuram. After the fifth son, the sage occupied himself in very difficult penances and took the vow of complete abstinence from sensual pleasure. Yellamma was also supposed to follow this oath.

Every morning, she will go to fetch water from the lake for the sage to perform various rituals. She was very spiritual and upright woman. By leading the pious life she had also acquired extraordinary powers. She went to fetch water without any pitcher. After taking bath in the lake, she will concentrate her powers on the sand and a pitcher would be created. After filling this pitcher, she would make a rope of a snake on her head to place the pitcher and come home.

One day, an incident took place on her way to bring water from the lake which turned her life to nightmare. As she was crossing the woods, she chanced to see the fairies called Ghandharas, indulging into carnal pleasures. She was curious and since it had been years, she had such pleasure with sage, she watched and listened and in her imagination substituted herself and sage with the couple.

As she came out of fantasy, her concentration was lost. She bathed but could not create the pot from sand however hard she tried. She realized her mistake and with downcast gaze she returned empty handed to the cottage. Sage understood and became enraged and cursed her to become ugly and loathsome. The sage then asked his four sons to kill their mother but they refused. At this, the sage went mad with anger and with his powers burnt his sons to ashes. At this time, Parshuram was not at home.

As he returned home, he saw the painful scene. His father then ordered him to kill Yellamma and promised him to grant a boon in turn. Parshuram, intelligent as he was, killed her mother with an axe, but in the boon, he asked from the sage to return all his brothers and mother to life again. Sage did this. But his anger was not quenched. He expelled his wife from cottage. She went out, begged alms and according to one legend, lived with poor low caste women. Even after all this, she performs penances so that her husband would forgive her.

According to another legend, when Parshuram killed his mother, the axe stuck to his hand and would not dislodge. He went place to place seeking pardon from sages and ultimately reached at Brahamkund. When he took a dip in the holy water, the axe detached from his hand. He threw the axe away and it hit a frozen mountain, which split into two and waters flowed to a reservoir. This is said to the Parshuram Kund and is located in the Arunachal Pradesh and is a holy place where thousands of pilgrims take bath to cleanse themselves from all the sins.

The temple of Yellamma is located in Karnataka and is called Yallammagudda, Saundatti. The Goddess was revered by low caste or temple girls called Devdasis. They were, in ancient times, devoted to the temple and supposed to be married only to the Lord. But now due to the ban on this abhorrent custom, the economic conditions force many of them to turn to prostitution.

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