Prince Ritudhwaj and the Underground Daitya
Once, there was a Somvanshi ruler named Shatrujeet. By the grace of Lord Shiva, he had a virtuous son named Ritudhwaj. This Rutudwaj was an expert archer.
On the banks of the river Reva, a Muni named Galava was performing a yangya. But a cruel daitya (demon) named Paataalketu was disturbing him by throwing bones and flesh onto the havankunda (vessel for yangya).
At one point, the muni prayed to the Lord for protection. Suddenly, a divine horse appeared before him and he heard an Aakaash Vaani (divine voice) say: "Ritudhwaj, the son of king Shatrujeet, shall destroy thy enemy, being seated on this horse".
For this reason, the muni went tothe king's place along with the horse and explained the entire incident to him. Upon hearing of this, King Shatrujeeta ordered his son to help the muni. Ritudhwaj, being mounted on the horse, went along with the muni to his ashrama.
When they reached the ashrama, the prince asked the muni to show him the demon. The muni told him that: "I will start the yangya (fire sacrifice) now. Upon seeing the smoke from the sacrifice, the demon will come quickly. Then you can destroy him. That demon is a mayavi (magician) one. He comes disguised in various forms." Speaking thusly, the muni started the sacrifice.
The smoke from the offerings alerted the demon, who came running in the form of a wild boar with long horns. The muni told Rutudwaj, "Yonder comes the daitya!"
On hearing this, the prince became alert. On horseback, he attacked the demon with his arrows. His arrows struck the boar's heart. But the demon didn't die. He fled, and the prince followed him. The demon went into a forest and entered a cave. He entered, penetrated deeply, and disappeared. The prince, too, had followed him inside the cave and after some time, he came upon a beautiful palace. He tied his horse nearby and stared at the palace in awe. The prince was shocked by the shining doors, diamond-studded walls, golden ceilings, pearl garlands and beautiful gardens that surrounded the palace.
Then the prince saw a beautiful maiden sitting on a diamond-studded bed. She looked worried. Upon seeing the prince, the lady fainted and fell down. On seeing her fall, another maiden who was her friend came running. Then the prince thought: “This place is so strange, and there is no one else here to be seen (besides the two women). So it is better to go back the way I came.” Suddenly though, the lady awoke and began to cry. At which point her friend said to the prince: "Who are you? Where are you from? Why are you turning back now?" The prince then inquired as to their identities, and asked what they were doing in that place. The friend of the beauty said: "You are the reason for her fainting. This beautiful maiden is the daughter of the great Gandharva Vishvavasu. Her name is Madaalsaa. My name is Kundalaa, and I am the daughter of a Tapasvee. Once I had stayed at the Himalayas for meditation, and I became a friend of Madaalsaa. The daitya Paataalketu kidnapped her by force and brought her here. (The Daitya brought Madaalsaa from the Himalayas to the cavern by means of flying through the air. It isn't mentioned whether the abduction was by means of a Vimana or by physically flying, but the Marathi word used is ‘Aakaashpanthaane’ which means by way of air. But we could well suspect that it was similar to a modern UFO abduction!!!) I also followed them and came here. Now he wants to marry this maiden and was about to do so tomorrow. But, Oh prince, as you have arrived, I request you to save her from that evil one."
On hearing this, the prince became thoughtful. Taking advantage, Kundalaa said, “Oh prince, this beautiful daughter of a Deva is a jewel of a person. Don’t let this jewel be stolen by that evil demon. Marry her at once!” The prince agreed and he got married with Madaalsaa right there; with Agni as their purohit (priest). Thus, being satisfied about Madaalsaa’s security, Kundalaa left that place immediately. The prince seated Madaalsaa on the horse and they were about to leave the place, too, when the demon Paataalketu arrived with his demon army. He boasted of his strength and challenged the prince.
The prince fought bravely with Paataalketu’s army and even killed that daitya/demon. Paataalketu’s brother, however, named Taalketu, escaped from the battle and took shelter somewhere else in the netherworld. Thus, the prince killed the evil demon and got married with Madaalsaa by Svayamvara.
Then Ritudhwaj sat Madaalsaa on the horse and arrived at the ashrama of the sage Gaalav to secure his blessings. The sage praised the prince’s valour and blessed them both. He was happy because now, all of his yangyas would be successful.
Then the couple arrived at the palace. King Shatrujeet was very delighted to see his son along with his daughter-in-law. He accorded them a warm welcome. There were celebrations all over the kingdom. Prince Ritudhwaj was renamed ‘Kuvalyaashwa’ by his father. Everyone was happy to have this beautiful girl of the devaloka as the princess, who was a rare jewel of a person. In this way Madaalsaa, the dharmic daughter of the Gandharvaas, came to live in the kingdom of King Shatrujeet. As time passed by, the love between them increased.
One day, the prince went to the forest to hunt. Unknown to him Taalketu, the brother of the demon Paataalketu, was hiding there and waiting to take revenge. This time he disguised himself as a rishi.
He sat in an ashrama in a meditative pose, but this serene looking muni had some very malicious intentions. The prince saw the beautiful ashrama and came there to have the blessings of this rishi. The prince and the rishi talked for sometime. Then the rishi said, “I intend to perform a yangya but have no wealth to make donations and, without proper donations, the yagya will be a tamas one.” At this the prince offered to bring him wealth from his kingdom. The false rishi refused, though, saying that he had no greed for it.
At last, he asked for the prince’s necklace, which the prince willingly gave away. The false rishi then said, “O prince, I shall now go and perform some rituals. I request you to guard my ashrama till I return.” The prince willingly agreed.
That malicious rishi then came to the prince’s kingdom and made the false claim that the prince had been killed by the daitya Taalketu in the forest, his horse had been stolen, and that the necklace was his only remanent. Thus the rishi gave away that necklace and returned to the ashrama. On hearing the news of her husband’s death, Madaalsaa became so melancholic that she entered into the fire with her husband’s last remanent, the necklace. The king became extremely grieved by the sudden loss of his son and daughter-in-law.
After this, the evil rishi went back to the forest and freed the prince of his guard duties. When the prince returned to his kingdom, he was terribly shocked to learn about the disastrous events that had taken place. He realized that the rishi was the evil daitya Taalketu. He lost all his senses and began to grieve calling out Madaalsaa’s name constantly. Because of this, he left his kingdom and began to live in the forest like a hermit.
Once he was living in the forest, the sons of the naaga named Ashwatar arrived there and met the prince by chance. They liked his sattvik nature and they became good friends. The prince, too, was pleased with their polite behaviour. The naagaas found the prince to be as powerful as Indra. They found him as wise as Brihaspati. On one occasion, when the prince was looking dejected, the naagaas asked him the reason for this and the prince narrated his tragedy to them. The naagaas felt pity for the prince and decided to help him.
Partaking of the prince’s sadness, the sons of the naaga Ashwatar went back to their world and narrated the prince’s tragedy to their father.
The naaga Ashwatar swore to help the good prince. Thus, Ashwatar, along with another naaga named Kambal, went to the Himalayas to perform penance. They performed pranayams and even fasted. They praised Goddess Saraswati constantly. Being pleased, the goddess, who was seated on a swan, appeared before them and offered them a boon. The naagaas praised her and then asked for the ability of singing skillfully, which was granted to them.
Then the two naagaas went to the Kailas Mountain and started singing with the sweetest of voices. Lord Shiva became pleased by this, appeared before them and offered them a boon. At this, the naagaas narrated the entire incident and asked for Lord Shiva’s grace. Being pleased, Lord Shiva said to them, “After going to your world, perform a shraaddha ritual. Give the pinda to your wife to eat.” Saying this, Lord Shiva disappeared.
The naagaas arrived back to their place in Rasaatal.They performed the ritual as directed by Lord Shiva and gave the pinda to Ashwatar’s wife. As soon as his wife ate it, she started breathing heavily. Suddenly, with one breath, a aluminiferous shape was breathed out, a shape which manifested itself into that beautiful lady, Madaalsaa! She was in every way similar to the original Madaalsaa endowed with the same appearance, the same mind and that very same innocence and politeness! She soon recollected the former memory of her husband and became initially sad. But the naagaas assured her that they would bring him there.
Then the sons of naagaas came to the prince and explained that their father was interested in meeting the prince; they requested him to come to their kingdom. At this, the prince got up and accompanied them. On the banks of the river Gomati, the naagaas tried to take the prince to their world through the water. The prince became cautious but the naagaas assured him that they were taking him to the netherworld and there was nothing to worry about. Thus, the prince reached the netherworlds and was surprised to see the opulence there.
The great naaga Ashwatar welcomed him and said, “Oh prince, you are of a dharmic nature. I shall grant you any boon that you ask for.”
The prince demanded nothing else but Madaalsaa.The naaga smiled and brought that Madaalsaa, who had manifested again from the boon of Lord Shiva, before him. The joy of the prince knew no bounds.
After being blessed by the naagaas, they returned to their kingdom. The king was surprised to see them. He welcomed them. He crowned Kuvalyaashwa (prince Ritudhwaj) king. Kuvalyaashwa ruled for many years along with Madaalsaa.They had four virtuous sons. Madaalsaa brought them up in a very dharmic way. The youngest son named Alark became a great devotee of Shri Datta.
Note: In this story, we find mention of the netherworlds twice in the story of Rutudwaj and the underworld. First, when the demon Taalketu, while escaping, goes deeper into the cave and thus reaches the netherworlds. And the second time when the prince is taken to the netherworlds by the naagaas through the Gomati River, all of which leads us to conclude that netherworlds exist below the Earth’s crust. Also, it is extremely important to note that the rakshasha exhibited the powers of a shapeshifter who carried out an agenda on the surface of the Earth against the royal order, which is the current state of affairs at this point in Kaliyuga.
Summarized from the Datta Purana.