“O monarch (Janamejaya), learn that king Yudhishthira was a portion of Dharma(deva); that Bhimasena was of Vaayudeva; that Arjuna was of (Lord) Indra, the chief of Devas; and that Nakula and Sahadeva, the handsome beings among all creatures, and unrivalled for beauty on earth, were similarly portions of the twin Ashwins (Ashwini Devas).
“He who was known as the mighty Suvarcha, the son of Soma (the Moon), became Abhimanyu of wonderful deeds, the son of Arjuna. O king, before his incarnation, Somadeva had said these words to Devas, ‘I cannot give (part with) my son. He is dearer to me than life itself. Let this be the contract and let it be not transgressed. The destruction of Asuras on earth is the work of Devas, and, therefore, it is our work as well. Let this Suvarcha, therefore, go there, but let him not stay there long. Nara, whose companion is Narayana, will be born as Indra’s son and indeed, will be known as Arjuna, the mighty son of Pandu. This boy (Suvarcha) of mine shall be his son (Abhimanyu) and become a mighty Maharatha in his boyhood. O best of immortals, let him stay on earth for sixteen years. When he attains to his sixteenth year, the battle shall take place in which all who are born of your portions shall achieve the destruction of mighty warriors. But a certain encounter shall take place without both Nara and Narayana (taking any part in it). Indeed, your portions, O Devas, shall fight, having made that disposition of the forces which is known by the name of the Chakra-vyuha. My son shall compel all enemies to retreat before him. The boy of mighty arms having penetrated the impenetrable array, shall range within it fearlessly and send one-fourth part of the hostile forces, in course of half a day, to the regions of the king of the dead (Yamaloka). Then when numberless heroes and mighty Matharathas will return to the charge towards the close of the day, my boy of mighty arms, shall reappear before me. He shall father one heroic son in his line, who shall continue the almost extinct Bharata race.’
“Hearing these words of Soma, the dwellers in heaven replied, ‘So be it.’ Then all together applauded and worshipped (Soma) the king of stars. Thus, O king (Janamejaya), have I recited to you the (particulars of the) birth of your father’s father (Janamejaya’s father is Parikshit; Parikshit’s father is Abhimanyu).
“O monarch (Janamejaya), also know that the mighty Maharatha Dhrishtadyumna was a portion of Agni.
“Also know that Sikhandi, who was at first a female, was (the incarnation of) a Rakshasa.
“O bull in Bharata’s race (Janamejaya), they who became the five sons of Draupadi, those bulls amongst the Bharata princes, were Devas known as the Vishwas. Their names were Pritivindhya, Sutasoma, Srutakirti, Satanika, Nakula, and Srutasena, endued with mighty energy.
“Suraa, the foremost of the Yadus, was the father of Vaasudeva (Sri Krishna).
“He had a daughter called Pritha (later known as Kunti), who for her beauty, was unrivalled on earth. Suraa, having promised in the presence of Agni that he would give his firstborn child to Kuntibhoja, the son of his paternal aunt, who was without offspring, gave his daughter (Pritha alias Kunti) to the monarch (Kuntibhoja) in expectation of his favours. Kuntibhoja thereupon made her (Pritha alias Kunti) his daughter. She became, from that time, in the house of her (adoptive) father, engaged in attending upon Brahmanas and guests.
“One day she had to wait upon the short-tempered Rishi of rigid vows, Durvasa by name, acquainted with truth and fully familiar with the mysteries of Dharma. Pritha with all possible care pleased the short-tempered Rishi with soul under complete control. The holy one (Rishi Durvaasaa), pleased with the attentions bestowed on him by the lady (Kunti), told her, ‘I am satisfied, O fortunate one, with you! By this mantra (that I am about to give you), you shall be able to summon (to your side) whatever Deva you like. By their grace, you shall also obtain children.’ Thus addressed, the girl (a little while after), seized with curiosity, summoned, during the period of her woman-hood, Suryadeva (the Sun God). The lord of light thereupon made her conceive and fathered on her a son who became the first of all wielders of weapons. From fear of relatives she brought forth in secrecy that child who had come out with ear-rings (Kundala in Sanskrit) and coat of armour (Kavacha in Sanskrit). He (Karna) was gifted with the beauty of a divine infant, and in splendour was like to the maker of day (Lord Surya) himself. Every part of his body was symmetrical and well-adorned. Kunti cast the handsome child (Karna) into the water.
“But the child thus thrown into the water was taken up by the excellent husband of Radha and given by him to his wife to be adopted by her as their son. The couple gave him the name of Vasusena, by which name the child soon became known all over the land. As he grew up, he became very strong and excelled in all weapons. The first of all successful persons, he soon mastered the sciences. When the intelligent one having truth for his strength recited the Vedas, there was nothing he would not then give to the Brahmanas.
“At that time (Lord) Indra, the originator of all things, moved by the desire of benefiting his own son Arjuna, assumed the guise of a Brahmana, came to him, and begged of the veera (Karna) his ear-rings and natural armour. The veera taking off his ear-rings and armour gave them to the Brahmana. Shakra (Lord Indra) (accepting the gift) presented to the giver an arrow, surprised (at his open handedness), and addressed him in these words, ‘O invincible one (Karna), amongst Devas, Asuras, men, Gandharvas, Nagas, and Rakshasas, he at whom you hurl (this weapon), that one shall certainly be slain.’ The son of Surya was at first known in the world by the name of Vasusena. But, for his deeds, he subsequently came to be called Karna. Because that hero of great fame had taken off his natural armour, therefore was he–the first son of Pritha (also known as Kunti)–called Karna.
“O best of kings (Janamejaya), the hero (Karna) began to grow up in the Suta caste. O king, you know that Karna–the first of all noble men–the foremost of all wielders of weapons–the slayer of enemies–and the best portion of the maker of day–was the friend and counsellor of Duryodhana.
“He, called Vaasudeva (Sri Krishna), endued with great valour, was among men a portion of him called Narayana–Devon ke Dev–eternal. Baladeva (Balaraama) of exceeding strength was a portion of the Naga, Sesha. O monarch (Janamejaya), know that Pradyumna (son of Sri Krishna) of great energy was Sanatkumara.
“In this way the portion of various other dwellers in heaven became noble men in the race of Vaasudeva (Sri Krishna), increasing the glory thereof.
“O king (Janamejaya), the portions of the tribe of Apsaras which I have mentioned already, also became incarnate on earth according to (Lord) Indra’s commands–and sixteen thousand portions of those Apsaras became, O king (Janamejaya), in this world of men, the wives of Vaasudeva (Sri Krishna).
“A portion of Sri (Lakshmi Devi) Herself became incarnate on earth, for the gratification of Narayana, in the line of Bhishmaka. She was by name the chaste Rukmini.
“The faultless Draupadi, slender-waisted like the wasp, was born of a portion of Sachi (the queen of Devas), in the line of Drupada. She was neither low nor tall in stature. She was of the fragrance of the blue lotus, of eyes large as lotus-petals, of thighs fair and round, of dense masses of black curly hair. Endued with every auspicious feature and of complexion like that of the emerald, she became the charmer of the hearts of five foremost of men.
“The two goddesses Siddhi and Dhriti became the mothers of those five, and were called Kunti and Madri.
“She who was Mati became the daughter (Gandhari) of Subala.
“Thus, O king (Janamejaya), I have recited to you all about the incarnation, according to their respective portions, of Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas, Apsaras, and of Rakshasas. They who were born on earth as monarchs invincible in battle, those high-souled ones who were born in the wide extended line of the Yadus, they who were born as mighty monarchs in other lines, they who were born as Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, have all been recited by me duly.
“This account of the incarnation (of superior beings according to their respective portions) capable of gifting wealth, fame, offspring, long life, and success, should always be listened to in a proper frame of mind. Having listened to this account of incarnation, according to their portions, of Devas, Gandharvas, and Rakshasas, the hearer becoming familiar with the creation, preservation, and destruction of the universe and acquiring wisdom, is never let down even under the most engrossing sorrows.’“
SRIMAD MAHABHARATA > AADI PARVA > SAMBHAVA PARVA > CHAPTER 67(B) – AVATAR OF DEVAS
Vaishampaayana narrates to King Janamejaya on the detailed account of which Deva’s portion incarnated as which living being on Earth.