Long long ago there was a king called Uttanapada. He had two wives Suniti and Suruchi. Suniti had a son called Dhruva while Suruchi's son was called Uttama.
Suruchi was the younger wife full of charms and very very lovely. The king was therefore very much enamored of her and always lived in her palace. He never visited Suniti's palace even once.
Dhruva and Uttama were equal in age, both five years old. So there was keen competition between them in all things. Though his father neglected him, Dhruva rushed to meet and be with his father in the palace of Suruchi. Suruchi did not like is coming to her palace. For the fear of offending her, though he liked Dhruva, Uttanapada could not exhibit his love.
One day, when Dhruva reached the palace, Uttama was sitting on his father's lap saying something and mischievously laughing. Uttanapada was holding him tightly to his heart and saying endearing words. Dhruva rushed forward opening his arms wide to embrace his father and get on to his lap. But Suruchi was on the watch. She pulled Dhruva by the shoulder and asked, 'Where are you going, you chit?"
Dhruva tried to wriggle himself out of her hold but he could not. Flushed red in the face he replied, "I want to sit on father's lap."
Suruchi could not control her anger any longer. Raising her voice she shouted, 'Father's lap indeed! Who are you to sit on father's lap? Had you been so fortunate you would have been born to me like Uttama. Why were you born to your mother? Go.... go away from here and pray to God that you may be born to me at least in the next life."
Stuck to the quick Dhruva looked at his father with tearful eyes. He hoped that his father would say something and console him. But no, Uttanapada didn't even glance at him. Poor Dhruva realized that his father had no love for him.
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Sobbing aloud he turned back and ran to his mother. Suniti saw him from a distance and came out anxiously for Dhruva was a very good boy and he never wept for trifles. She held him close to her heart and wiping away the tears, asked lovingly, "What happened my boy? Did anyone say anything to you? Have you been hurt?"
When consoled by his mother Dhruva's grief increased. He broke into loud weeping. Amid sobs and hiccups he told her what passed in Suruchi's palace and asked, 'Why is my father so unloving, mother? Why is he not like all fathers? Everybody loves his own children. Why does my father neglect me? Will you not speak with him?"
Suniti shed bitter tears on hearing this and lamented, "My unfortunate child it is as your aunty said. You were born to me because you are unlucky. The king loves only your aunty and does not love me all. Because of me you are also neglected. I am myself helpless. How can I help you, my poor child?"
Dhruva was sadder than ever. He hoped that his mother who was big could speak with his father and set the matters right. But here she was more miserable than himself. He rose to his feet and asked, 'Mother, tell me, is there no way to gain my father's love? Can no one help at all?"
Suniti looked into his eyes .... poor child, he appeared so sad and worried at his young age. She wiped her tears and tried to look brave. She said, "My dear, there is only one who helps all helpless people in the world. He is the Lord Narayana. If you can get a vision of the Lord, all your troubles will be at an end."
Dhruva's face brightened on hearing this. If there was anything on earth that he could do to gain his father's love he would be sure to do it! He eagerly asked, 'Mother, where is this Lord Narayana? How can I meet him? Will he listen to me or will he shove me off as father does?"
Suniti replied, "No, my boy, He will never do like that. He will be very kind and considerate and will grant you all that you ask."
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Dhruva then and there made up his mind to go in search of the Lord and begged his mother very hard to allow him to do so. Poor Suniti! She was already feeling very forlorn by the neglect of her husband. Now here was her body intent upon to do Tapas for God. It was not possible even for great sages to get a vision of the Lord even after years of penance. What could this slip of a boy do? But Dhruva was inconsolable and insistent that he should win his father's love at any cost. She could pour out all her love on the boy and immerse him in it, but how could she get him the father's love for which he was thirsting? At last she had give in. She removed the princely dress of Dhruva and dressed him in clothes made of the bark of trees. "My darling, leave the kingdom and go into the forests. Sitting under a tree chant the Lord's name with all your mind. The Lord dearly loves those who love Him. Forget everything else and remember only Him. Then he will appear before you and give you what all you desire. May God be with you and protect you always." She embraced her son with tearful eyes and bade him farewell. Dhruva bowed to her and left for the forests.
The servants and attendants in the palace all gathered together and wept aloud when their young master thus left like an ascetic. There was not a single soul that day in the palace who did not curse Uttanapada and Suruchi for their heartless behaviour.
When any one seeks out God with a sincere heart, surely, God Himself will send His messengers to help him and put him on the path.
As Dhruva left the kingdom behind and was slowly walking towards the forest, Narada accosted him and asked, "Son, you are very young barely five years. Who are you? Why are you wearing clothes made of tree bark? The kingdom is behind you and the path you are walking now will only lead you to the forest. Don't you know that there will be fierce animals in the jungles. Come, I will take you back to your parents."
There was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu who is called Narada. He is the son of the Creator, Brahma. Therefore he is called the Devarshi, the sage of the gods. He knew what all happened anywhere in the three worlds and was always going round the worlds with his veena in his hands singing joyously Lord Narayana's name. He knew all about Dhruva and his going to the forests. He wanted to see if Dhruva was firm in his determination to do tapas for the Lord; and if he was, he would help him in doing the tapas.
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Dhruva did not know who Narada was. But he was a good boy brought up by his mother in good traditions. He bowed at the feet of the sage with great devotion and told him his full story. He concluded saying, 'O Mahatma, I will do tapas in the forest until Lord Narayana gives me a vision and my father's love."
Narada made light of Dhruva's words and laughing said, "My dear boy, is it only a man's love that you are in need of? Come, I will take you to great kings who are nicer than your father and will love you dearly. Who will not like a dear child like you? Think of your mother .. how lonely and forlorn she must be feeling! Go back to her. She will be most happy to see you. Don't go to forest. Even grown-ups can't live there. It is not easy to do tapas."
But Dhruva was very firm in his determination. He could not be dissuaded from his purpose. "Of what use is the love of others to me O Maharshi, if my own father scorns me? My mother herself is very much neglected by my father. If I gain my father's love, she will also benefit by it. I am not afraid of the forests. My mother told me that no harm will come to a person who relies on the Lord."
Seeing Dhruva thus firm in his purpose, Narada was very happy. He blessed the boy and said, "Dhruva, verily Lord Narayana Himself is inspiring you. You go straight along this road till you reach the sacred river Yamuna. On her banks is the forest called Madhuvana which is very suitable for tapas. You live in the forest. Take a bath in the river and worship the Lord sitting under a tree in the forest." He then drew the boy near him and whispered the Narayana Mantra in his ears,. 'Om Namo Narayana!" As he heard the Mantra, there was a thrill in Dhruva. Narada advised him to do japa of the Mantra contiguously, forgetting everything else. "O Dhruva, drive the thoughts of your parents, of your father's neglect, your aunty's cruelty and your mother's sorrow. Concentrate on the Lord alone. He will surely appear before you soon." Dhruva respectfully prostrated before the sage and went towards the Yamuna river.
Narada's mission did not stop with this. He was very kind by nature and always wanted to help wherever sorrow and misery prevailed. He was sure that Uttanapada must be repenting for his callousness by now, for he was a nice man though too much enamored of his younger wife. As expected, Uttanapada was in great distress. He came to know through his servants that Dhruva left for forests dressed like an ascetic and he sorely blamed himself for his heartless conduct.
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So when Uttanapada saw Devarshi Narada coming to the palace, he greatly rejoiced for, a Mahatma's darshan indicated auspicious occurings. He came outside the palace to greet the sage. Prostrating before him with great devotion he led the sage inside and worshipping him in due manner, he unburdened his heart before him. Narada consoled him saying, "Don't worry, king. Your son is not an ordinary person. He will succeed and will return safely after gaining the vision of the Lord. He will not only become famous but will also perpetuate your name. Now be kind and loving to your senior wife who is quite forlorn because of Dhruva's departure." Thus saying he disappeared from there.
In Madhuvana Dhruva carried on severe austerities. He gave up food and immersed himself in japa throughout the day. In the first month he ate one or two fruit once in three days. In the second month he ate only a few leaves once in six days. In the third month he drank a little water once in nine days. In the fourth month he opened his mouth once in twelve days and swallowed only a little air. In the fifth month he stopped even that and stood on one foot like an immovable post and continued japa with all his mind set on Lord Narayana.
Such a terrible austerity in so small a child moved the three worlds. The intensity of the tapas created such a heat that even the gods in heaven could not withstand it. They all went in a deputation to Lord Narayana in Vaikuntha and said, "O Lord, we are being burnt up by the intensity of Dhruva's tapas. Please rescue us from it."
Lord Narayana was reclining on the cobra bed with Lakshmi Devi at His feet. He smiled and said, "Yes, I know. Dhruva's tapas has reached the culmination. I will give him a vision now." So saying He got up. Garutmanta, His bird chariot who always knew what his master wanted even before he spoke out, was ready at the gate as Lord Narayana reached there. Seated upon the eagle chariot Sri Vishnu flew faster than wind and reached Madhuvana in no time. Dhruva was standing one one foot with eyes closed and doing japa intensely.
Lord Narayana stood before Dhruva and called aloud, "My child Dhruva, I am very much pleased with your tapas. I give you whatever you pray for. Open your eyes and see me."
Dhruva heard the words of the Lord but did not open his eyes. Instead, he said, "O Great God, excuse me if I don't obey your orders immediately. During these five months I heard such voices many times and thinking that you have come, I opened my eyes, but I found that it was only a trick of my mind. My mother said that you are everywhere within and without of all beings. If you have really come please appear before my mind so that I can be sure that you have really come."
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The Lord smiled at Dhruva's words and lo, He appeared before his mind's eye in His effulgent form. Dhruva hastily opened his eyes... lo, in front of him was the Lord's form same as that which appeared in his mind..... shining like a thousand suns, with four hand holding a lotus, mace, conch shell and discus. He had a glittering jewel on His chest and sweet smelling garland around His neck. Dhruva hurriedly prostrated to Sri Maha Vishnu. He wanted to praise the Lords but as he was only a small boy, he did not know what to speak.
Knowing his predicament Sri Maha Vishnu touched him with the conch shell and Dhruva suddenly found that words were flowing out of him. "O Madhava, Mukunda, Govinda, Narayana, even the Creator with his four faces cannot describe your glory. Can, I a mere child, describe you? You are the Creator, Sustainer and Annihilator of all the worlds. By you men live, act and think. By gaining your vision, your devotees gain all things in the world."
Lord Narayana was very much pleased with Dhruva's words. "O child, your father and all others will love you dearly hereafter. Go back to your kingdom. You will become a great king and rule over the kingdom for a long time. You will perpetuate your name on earth. After your life on the earth is over you will become the Dhruva star that will shine brightly in the sky. All the great planets and even the seven great Rishis will whirl round you. The whole world will look up to you for guidance in the nights."
So saying Lord Narayana blessed Dhruva and vanished. Dhruva was happy beyond words and quickly returned to the kingdom. Lo, even as he approached the kingdom, he could see his father, mother, aunty, Uttama and the entire kingdom and waiting for him on the outskirts of the city. Uttanapada rushed forward to take Dhruva into his arms and shed tears of joy and repentance. His mother , now a favourite queen, shed tears of joy and fondly embraced him. There was great rejoicing throughout the kingdom for a number of days in honor of his return.
In time Dhruva grew up to be a mighty king and ruled over a big kingdom for long and lived happily with his wife and children. After his life on earth was completed, he flew to the sky. As he was firm in his tapas, so is he in the sky. He never changes his position in the sky and all the other stars including the seven Maharshis go round and round him throughout the year. That is why he is called the Polar star. Sailors and travellers in strange places look up to him for knowing their directions in the nights.