In the Shalya Parva of the Mahabharata, right before Bhima's famous mace battle with Duryodhana, Krishna tells Arjuna that Bhima should fight unfairly, as that's the only way to defeat Duryodhana. He tells Arjuna that even the gods have resorted to deception in fighting against the Asuras:

If he were to fight fairly, Bhimasena will never succeed in winning the victory. If, however, he fights unfairly he will be surely able to slay Duryodhana. The Asuras were vanquished by the gods with the aid of deception. We have heard this. Virochana was vanquished by Shakra with the aid of deception. The slayer of Vala deprived Vritra of his energy by an act of deception. Therefore, let Bhimasena put forth his prowess, aided by deception! At the time of the gambling, O Dhananjaya, Bhima vowed to break the thighs of Suyodhana with his mace in battle. Let this crusher of foes, therefore, accomplish that vow of his.

I'm familiar with how Indra used deception to defeat the demon Vritrasura, but my question is, how did Indra use deception to defeat Virochana?

For those who don't know, Virochana was the son of Prahlada, the one by Vishnu's incarnation Narasimha, and the father of Mahabali, the one defeated by Vishnu's incarnation Vamana. My understanding is that good and evil alternated in that lineage: Hiranyakashipu was evil, Prahlada was good, Virochana was evil, Mahabali was good, Bana was evil, etc. But the only story involving Indra and Virochana I know in Hindu scripture is the one found in the Chandogya Upanishad, but as I discuss in this question that story just involves Brahma imparting knowledge to both Indra and Virochana, with Indra correctly interpreting the lesson and Virochana misinterpreting it.

In any case, I wouldn't put it past Indra to engage in deception against Virochana; Indra lists various acts of deception in this chapter of the Kaushitaki Upanishad:

Know me only; that is what I deem most beneficial for man, that he should know me. I slew the three-headed son of Tvashtri; I delivered the Arunmukhas, the devotees, to the wolves (sâlâvrika); breaking many treaties, I killed the people of Prahlâda in heaven, the people of Puloma in the sky, the people of Kâlakañga on earth. And not one hair of me was harmed there.

I discuss in this answer how Indra used deception to retake Devaloka from Prahlada. But does anyone know any scriptures that describe Indra using deception to defeat Prahlada's son Virochana?

  • You don't know about how Vishnu tricked Virochana?
    – Surya
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 1:08
  • @Surya No, I don't. Why, is it a famous story? Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 1:32
  • @Surya I just found the answer to my question. Is this the story you had in mind, or was there also an encounter between Vishnu and Virochana? Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 2:56

2 Answers 2


I found the answer to my question in this chapter of the Kedara Kanda of the Skanda Purana. Virochana, like his future son Mahabali, is extremely generous, so Indra approaches him in the form of an old Brahmana beggar and asks him for a gift. Virochana says that he's willing to give anything to the Brahmana, whether it's his head, his kingdom, or anything else. So Indra actually asks for his head! Without hesitation, Virochana cuts off his own head:

Shakra once went to Virochana, the lord of the Daityas, in the guise of a Brahmana beggar. He was desirous of killing him. After reaching Virochana's abode, Indra spoke these words on assuming the guise an old Brahmana. "O king of good holy rites, O lord of Daityas, you are the (most celebrated) learned man and donor in the three worlds. Give me (what I am going to ask). Standing in the midst of assemblies, O king of excellent fortune, Brahmanas extol your wonderful life-story and spotless fame. I am a beggar, O lord of Daityas of good holy rites; it behooves you to give me (what I beg)."

On hearing his words, the lord of Daityas spoke these words: "O holy lord, what should be given (to you). Tell me quickly." Indra in the form of a Brahmans spoke to Virochana: "It is a humiliating thing, yet I beg of you. Whatever is highly pleasing and dear to you, should be given to me. There is no doubt about it." The Asura, the son of Prahlada, laughingly spoke these words: "If you desire, O Brahmana, I shall give you my own head. Even this kingdom (I shall give) without any strain. This glory and prosperity shall not go to others. I shall undoubtedly offer everything to you."

On being told thus by the Daitya, Indra pondered over it and said: "Give me your own head adorned with the crown." When these words were spoken by Shakra in the form of a Brahmana, the Asura, the son of Prahlada, joyously hurried up and cut off his own head with his own hand and gave it to Mahendra. The virtuous action performed by Prahlada previously was (of course) very difficult to do, but by resorting to Bhakti (devotion) alone of Vishnu, it was done by him with his mind devoted to him. There is nothing greater than a charitable gift anywhere.... That charitable gifts of Virochana became well-known in all the three worlds. Even today poets sing about (the charitable gifts) of the noble-souled king of Daityas.

By the way, this is similar in some ways to the story of how Indra retook Devaloka from Virochana's father Prahlada. As I discuss in this answer, Indra disguised himself as a Brahmana and approached Prahlada, asking him how he managed to conquer the three worlds. Prahlada explained that it was because of his virtuous behavior, and he described his behavior in detail. Prahlada was impressed that the Brahmana had patiently listened to him, so he offered him a boon. Indra asked Prahlada to give him his good behavior. Prahlada agreed, and his good behavior left him in the form of a god. After that, gods associated with righteousness, truth, good deeds, might, and prosperity all left Prahlada and entered Indra. Thus the rule of the three worlds was restored to Indra and the gods. See this chapter of the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata for more details.

So history repeats itself!

  • 2
    What will happen if anyone rejects to give alms or whatever if a Brahmin asks?
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 5:03
  • Yes this is the story, but in the version I had read it was Vishnu. But probably that version is wrong and it is Indra because Krsna cannot be wrong.
    – Surya
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 5:11
  • @Surya Does that version also come from some scripture? Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 14:00
  • @KeshavSrinivasan This is not related but previous birth of virochana is described in Matsya Purana. But it only mentions reason why Virochana was born with beautiful body.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 4:48
  • @TheDestroyer Oh, what chapter? Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 10:33

From what I remember from seeing on Vishnu Puran teleserial, Virochana knows about the threat to his life by Indra. He is advised to pray to Lord Surya for a crown that grants immortality to anyone who wears it. He obtains it after penance and Indra becomes even more insecure of this. Perhaps either on a pilgrimage or hunting trip he visits a hermitage where Indra is disguised as a Brahman. When Virochana sleeps , he takes off the crown , where Indra literally burns him to ashes so Shukracharya can't even resuscitate him . That's what I remember from the episode.

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    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 2:04

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