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The Story of Jaya-Vijaya – An Epic Tale of Redemption and Salvation

This is the story of Jaya-Vijaya – Dvarapalas of Vaikuntha who were cursed by the four Kumaras and had to take three births in the mortal world as enemies of Lord Vishnu, who took avatars and came to the mortal world to kill them.

How were Jaya-Vijaya Cursed?

Jaya and Vijaya were brothers and gatekeepers (Dvarpalas) of Vaikuntha (Vishnu’s abode). They were Vishnu devotees and loved serving Vishnu.

One day, Lord Vishnu told them that he wanted to rest for a while. As gatekeepers, Jaya and Vijaya were asked to not let anyone disturb Lord Vishnu. But then the four Kumaras came to visit Lord Vishnu.

The Kumaras were Lord Brahma’s manas-putras (born of his mind). Due to their special birth, they had divine powers. The four Kumaras – Sanaka, Sanadana, Sanatana, and Sanatkumara, were ageless. Despite their divine stature, they looked like young kids.

When Jaya-Vijaya saw the Kumaras, they did not realise they were divine beings not not children. So, the gatekeeper brothers asked them to leave. They did not want to disturb Lord Vishnu.

When the Kumaras kept insisting on seeing Lord Vishnu, Jaya-Vijaya kept refusing. This enraged the Kumaras, who cursed the brothers that they would have to leave Vaikuntha and live in the mortal world for a hundred lives.

This scared Jaya-Vijaya. By then, Lord Vishnu too came hearing all the commotion at the gate. When he found out what had happened, Lord Vishnu managed to calm down the Kumaras. Rage of divine beings is not to be trifled with.

When the Kumaras left, Jaya-Vijaya begged Lord Vishnu to reverse the curse. After all, they were just following his own orders of not letting anyone disturb him.

Lord Vishnu told the brothers that while he can’t completely reverse such a strong curse, he can help them by making changes to the curse. He gave them two choices. Instead of living in the mortal world for a hundred lives, they could either choose to be born as Vishnu’s devotees for seven lives or be born as Vishnu’s enemies for three births. And if they choose to be born as enemy, then Lord Vishnu himself will come to the mortal world to end their life. But they would not remember anything about their lives as Jaya-Vijaya.

The brothers were quick to realise that seven lives will keep them away from their home in Vaikuntha for much longer than three lives. Besides, if they choose to be born as enemy, and Lord Vishnu will end their lives, then their time in the mortal world will further reduce.

So, this is how they got cursed and choose to take three births as Lord Vishnu’s enemies.

First Birth – Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu

In their first birth, Jaya-Vijaya were born as brothers Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in Sat Yuga.

Hiranyaksha was older. After forgetting his original purpose of going back to Vaikuntha as soon as possible, in this life, all he wanted was to become immortal and never die.

So, he worshipped Lord Brahma and did penance for a very long time. Ultimately, Lord Brahma came and asked him what he wanted as a boon. When Hiranyaksha said he wanted to be an immortal, Lord Brahma told him that it was not possible. In the mortal world, everyone has to die.

So, Hiranyaksha tried to circumvent the condition. He asked that he wanted a boon that will ensure that no deva, or man or predatory animal, can kill him. He thought this way no one will be able to kill him and he will be virtually immortal.

After getting this boon from Brahma, Hiranyaksha become ruthless. He did a lot of destruction and became the ruler of the world. But his greed didn’t end there.

One day, Lord Brahma was tired after preparation for the next cycle of Pralaya and he dozed off. As soon as he slept, Hiranyaksha came and stole the Vedas. He also captured Bhu Devi (mother Earth) and hid in the cosmic sea.

Lord Vishnu found out, and he knew that before Lord Brahma wakes up and starts the current cycle of Pralaya, both Vedas and Bhu Devi need to be rescued. So, Lord Vishnu took the Varaha Avatar (form of a Wild Boar) and went to the mortal world.

Wild Boar is not a predatory animal and hence, Lord Vishnu could kill Hiranyaksha and rescue Bhu Devi and bring back the Vedas.

After his brother’s death, Hiranyakashipu became enraged. He started hating Lord Vishnu and wanted revenge. He too then followed his brother’s path and started worshipping Lord Brahma to gain boons.

When Lord Brahma finally asked him what he wanted, he was prepared. He knew that he won’t get a boon for immortality like his brother. And like his brother, he wanted a boon which will make his death impossible.

So, he asked for a complicated boon. He asked that no deva, or human, or animal can kill him. That he can’t die on land or in the sky. That he can’t die indoors or outdoors, neither during the day nor during the night. That no weapon can kill him.

He thought that such a complicated condition can not be fulfilled and that he would never die.

When he got the boon, he too became ruthless, like his brother. He captured the entire world and started torturing anyone who worshipped Lord Vishnu. This took a nasty turn when he discovered his own son, Prahlad, was a big Vishnu devotee.

His hatred for Lord Vishnu was more than his love for his son, Prahlad. He initially tried to stop his son from worshipping Lord Vishnu and, when he didn’t stop, he himself tried to kill Prahlad.

That is when Lord Vishnu took the form of Narsimha (half man and half lion form) and came to protect his biggest devotee, Prahlad. Narsimha grabbed Hiranyakashipu and dragged him to the doorway, which was neither inside nor outside. He placed him on his lap, which was neither land nor sky. Then Narsimha used his claws to kill Hiranyakashipu, which covered the condition that he can’t be hurt by any weapon.

This way, Lord Vishnu made sure that all the conditions of the boon were fulfilled and still Hiranyakashipu died the way he was supposed to.

Second Birth – Ravan and Kumbhakarna

In their second birth, Jaya-Vijaya took birth as brothers Ravan and Kumbhakarna in Treta Yuga.

The brothers showed their cruel ways pretty early. Together they drove out Kuber, who was their step-brother, out of his home in Lanka and took over as rulers of Lanka themselves.

Even as rulers of Lanka, which was literally land of gold, their greed was not satisfied. They kept sending their troops to cause disturbances in other kingdoms. They even caused a lot of trouble for the rishis doing their worship.

Ultimately, Lord Vishnu came to the mortal world in the form of Ram to destroy the evil in the word and to show the right path to everyone.

The first time, Ram and Ravan came across each other during the swayamvar of Sita. There Ravan could not fulfill the condition and failed to marry Sita, while Ram easily fulfilled the condition and Ram and Sita got married.

This incidence frustrated Ravan, but he couldn’t do anything to retaliate. After many years, when Ram and Sita were living in the forest as part of their vanwas (exile), Ravan’s sister Shurpanakha met them. One thing led to another and Shurpanakha got hurt when she tried to hurt Sita.

When Ravan saw his sister’s condition, his fury knew no bound. This time, he decided to do something. So, with the help of his evil helpers, he managed to deceive Ram and kidnap Sita.

But this act ultimately led to the demise of not only Ravan and Kumbhakarna but also of the evil army he had built.

Ram gathered an army and went to Lanka to rescue his wife, Sita. The battle that took place ended with Ravan, Kumbhakarna, and their entire evil army. Thus bringing Jaya-Vijaya a little closer to their goal.

Third Birth – Shishupal and Dantavakra

In Dwapara Yug, Jaya-Vijaya were born as Shishupal and Dantavakra. In this yuga, Lord Vishnu came to the mortal world as Lord Krishna.

Like their previous births, in this life too, Shishupal and Dantavakra were cruel and evil.

Shishupal was Krishna’s cousin (his Bua’s son). Krishna had promised his Bua that he would forgive Shishupal’s 100 mistakes.

Once they were all attending Yudhishthira’s coronation in Indraprastha. Shishupal had always hated Krishna as well as the Pandavas. So, he started creating trouble during the function. He started insulting Krishna and the Pandavas. Krishna stayed calm and kept counting his insults. He stayed still until Shishupal said more than 100 insults.

As soon as the count crossed 100, Krishna used his Sudarshana Chakra and beheaded Shishupal.

Dantavakra was very close to Shishupal. When he learnt about Shishupal’s death, he went to Krishna and challenged him to a duel. He brought his mace so Krishna too got out his own mace.

In his arrogance, Dantavakra did not even bring his armor or chariot. He was too confident that he could kill Krishna with just his mace and get vengeance for Shishupal’s death.

Krishna did not waste any time in killing Dantavakra. As soon as Krishna hit Dantavakra with his mace, the weak man just collapsed. He died vomiting blood.

This way, the last life of Jaya-Vijaya came to an end and ultimately they went back to Vaikuntha and reunited with their beloved Lord Vishnu.


We see a lot of things happening across the three lives of Jaya-Vijaya.

In their first life, they had a lot of power. They were more evil. They had plans to rule the entire world and even the devas were afraid of them. Lord Vishnu had to take two separate avatars to deal with them. They also spread much more evil than in their later lives.

By their second lives, their powers and ambitions had reduced. They were still doing bad stuff, but their rule and influence were limited. Lord Vishnu was able to kill both the brothers in one avatar itself. Also, as Ram, he was able to do more things apart from killing the brothers.

In their third life, they barely had any power. Even the evil things they managed to do were pretty tame as compared with their earlier lives. They were not even the main reason why Krishna came to the mortal world. Rather, Shishupala and Dantavakra were minor characters in Krishna’s story.

My Personal Thoughts

The story of Jaya-Vijaya makes me wonder about other things as well. When they were cursed, Lord Vishnu could not reverse the curse and instead gave them a choice. This tells me that when we face difficulties in our lives, the Lord may not straightaway remove our obstacles. But we will always be given a choice.

Now, do I think they chose the right option? Well, that’s not an easy answer. If they had chosen the option of being born as Lord Vishnu’s devotees, they might have fulfilled their duties of destroying evil in a different way. By choosing to be Lord Vishnu’s enemy, they chose a more difficult path. But even in this path, they did lord’s work in ensuring that evil is destroyed.

How I see these stories is that our life has some purpose and while we may not know what our purpose is, lord knows. Like Jaya-Vijaya didn’t know anything about their purpose in any of the three lives they had. But ultimately, their path took them where they needed to be.

Maybe we sometimes, we should just trust the destiny and realise that while we always have a choice, there are greater powers guiding us in the right direction.

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