Other names: Saagar, Saager, Sager
King Sagar was from the famous Isvaku lineage of Ayodhya. King Bahuk was the father of King Sagar. King Bahuk was vicious, but at the same time very ambitious. With the help of Taljandhas and Shakas, Bahuk had snatched away the kingdom of Haihaya family. On getting an opportunity, the Haihayas attacked Bahuk and took back their kingdom. Bahuk got very depressed with this attack and went away into the jungle with his wife Yadavi. Bahuk’s other wives were jealous of Yadavi and so they poisoned her. This poison confined the child in the womb for seven years, and in the interim Bahuk died. The pregnant wife wished to ascend his pyre, but just then Bhriguvanshi (of Bhrigu lineage) Sage Aurva came there. He sympathized with Yadavi and took her away to his Ashram. Sage Aurva forbade her to end her life predicting that she would give birth to a valiant universal monarch. “When the child was born, Aurva gave him the name of Sagar (SA, ‘with,’ and gar, ‘poison’).
Sage Aurva gave Sagar the knowledge of the Vedas (the sacred scripture of the Hindus revealed by Brahma and arranged in the present form by Vyasji namely- Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda and Atharvaveda) and also gifted him with the extremely powerful weapon Agneyastra (fire weapon). Even the Devtas (deities) were afraid of this weapon. With the help of the Agneyastra, King Sagar defeated the Haihaya Kshatriyas and got back the lost kingdom of his father Bahuk. He later won over the whole world and also removed the religion of Taljandhas and Shakas after defeating them.
King Sagar had two wives, Sumati, the daughter of Kashyap, and Keshini, the daughter of Raja Vidarbha. Keshini gave birth to a son named Asamanjas. Asamanjas had a son named Anshuman, grandson named Dilip and great grandson named Bhagirath who brought Ganga down to the earth. Sumati gave birth to sixty thousand sons who were reduced to ashes due to the curse of Kapil Muni. According to the story of the sixty thousand sons of Sagar as said in Mahabharata, Queen Sumati observed penance in Aurva Muni’s ashram to get a son.
From her womb a Tumbi (a small pot of hollowed gourd) full of seeds (nucleus) was obtained. King Sagar took out the seeds and put each one individually in a pot full of ghee. These grew in to embryos and sixty thousand sons were born.
With a desire to win over the world, King Sagar performed an Ashvamedh Yagya and let the horse of the yagya loose for world conquest. Lord Indra got nervous over this and he thought that King Sagar wanted to take away Indra’s stature by performing this Ashvamedh yagya. So he stole the horse of the yagya and left him outside Kapil Muni’s ashram. When King Sagar’s sixty thousand sons reached Kapil Muni’s ashram while searching for the horse, and seeing the horse standing outside the ashram they thought Kapil to be guilty of stealing their horse.
They gravely insulted Kapil Muni, and at this, Kapil Muni got very angry and reduced them to ashes with a fire mantra. Anshuman, the grandson of King Sagar (Son of Asamanjas the wicked son of King Sagar) brought the horse back from the Sage after begging him to redeem the souls of the 60,000 sons of Sagar. Kapil replied that only if the Ganges descended from heaven and touched the ashes of the 60,000 would they be redeemed. Neither Anshuman nor his son Dilip was successful in this task. But Dilip’s son, Bhagirath was determined to get this task done.