Cursing of Vishnu
When the battle ensued between the Devatas and the Daityas, the Devatas led by Indra had the upper hand. Daityas went to their Guru, Sukracharya and sought his help. He left for severe Tapas (penance) to please Lord Siva and get the MritaSanjivini Mantra Siddhi. During his absence, the Daityas sought refuge in Usana, the mother of Sukracharya. She assured them protection and she came out of her cottage and using her powers froze the devatas. Once they became immobile, they became easy targets for the daityas and were subjected to various tortures by the Daityas. The Devatas prayed to Lord Vishnu to protect them and get them out of the predicament. Vishnu understood that the curse on devatas could not be annulled unless Usana was killed. But Usana being a lady was not to be killed as per dharma. However, Vishnu realised that unless she tried to harm Him, He could not kill her without violating the dharma. (No first strike principle!). Vishnu disguised Himself as a ferocious beast and tried to scare Uasana. Usana saw through the disguise of Vishnu and said to Him: “Vishnu, I am doing my duty of protecting my children and You are supposed to be impartial and protect dharma. You have now become biased and this Adharma cannot be left unpunished. I am going to curse you. You and Indra will be reduced to ash!” Before these words were spelt out, Vishnu killed Bhrigu’s wife with a sharp arrow and separated her head from the torso. Once Usana was killed, her powers also left and Devatas became free. Sage Bhrigu cursed Vishnu to take birth on earth and go through the cycles of birth and death and thus suffer like us. He brought his wife back to life with his powers. Vishnu accepted the curse of the sage as He accepted the curse of Sage Durvasa. Vishnu stood in an invisible form between the sage and Ambareesha, Vishnu’s staunch devotee and took the curse on Himself when the sage was cursing Ambareesha.
Bhrigu tests the Trinity and declares Vishnu as the Best
When a big Yagna was planned and the question of deciding Who among the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva should be considered the best and made the Chief of the Yagna, all the sages requested Bhrigu to decide. He agreed and went first to Satya Loka, the abode of Brahma. Brahma was busy with His work of creation and did not receive the sage properly. Bhrigu, Who shared the Rajo Guna from His father Brahma, also did not greet Him or pay His respects to Brahmaji. Sage Bhrigu did not hesitate to curse Him! From Satya Loka, Bhrigu went to Kailas where Siva and Parvati were busy with the cosmic dance. Siva ignored Sage Bhrigu and did not stop His dance. Bhirgu got furious and cursed Siva too. Another version is that Siva wanted to embrace Sage Bhrigu but Sage Bhrigu did not accept because He felt Siva’s conduct was not vedic (Siva is also called Vama Deva and followed some left hand practices, Vamachara. So, Siva got angry and ran after Sage Bhrigu with His trident (trishul) and was about to kill him, but was pacified by Mother Parvathi. Bhrigu left Kailas and reached Vaikuntha. Sri Vishnu was relaxing with His consort and Bhrigu got angry and kicked Vishnu on His chest. Now see the Leela of Vishnu. He immediately got up and bowed to the sage and started pressing the feet of the sage Bhrigu. He apologised to the sage for not noticing his arrival and also the feet of the sage would have been hurt by the impact of His chest, which is hard like a diamond and because of the many ornaments. Bhrigu was pleased with the satvik nature of Vishnu and came back to the rishis and proclaimed Vishnu as the best.
Let me supplement an anecdote from Sri Venkateswara Mahatmyam, not supported by other Puranas.
Bhrigu Maharshi kicked Vishnu on His chest, He apologised, seated the Maharshi on a throne and pressed the feet and removed an extra eye of the Sage in one of his soles (Sage Bhrigu was rather proud of that eye). Immediately the spiritual eye of Bhrigu opened and he realised his mistake and also praised Vishnu for His satvik qualities and declared to the assembly of the sages that Vishnu is greatest. Lakshmi got very much annoyed and left Vaikuntha saying that Her residence was defiled and She could not stay in that place. She left Vaikuntha and came to earth and stayed at Kolhapur. She felt the pangs of separation and started doing tapas to Siva to regain Vishnu. Vishnu, in the meantime, left Vaikuntha because that place lost all sheen and glory when Lakshmi left. He came down to the earth to Tirupati / Tirumala area. The present temple of Sri Venkateswara (Srinivasa) is because of that. We will take up that story later.
Sage Bhrigu helps King Yavanashwa to beget a son
King Yavanashwa did not have children and approached Sage Bhrigu for help. The sage got a Putra Kameshti (an Ishti is a special Yagna and Putra Kameshti means an Ishti performed for begetting sons) performed and gave a vessel containing the holy water to the king and asked him to give it to the queen. In the middle of the night, the king developed a severe thirst and drank the water by mistake (by destiny). When the sage came to know of it, he told the king that the laws of destiny were inviolable and he had to now bear the son himself! (Recently, a man gave birth to a child through the intervention of modern science – may be our ancestors knew the secrets involved!). The king carried the fetus for a hundred years (this indicates the long life span of those times and presumably all biological processes were also slower. Shakuntala carried Bharatha for 3 years). The baby thus born is Mandhata, one of the six Chakravarthies. More about him later…
Sumukha helped by Sage Bhrigu
Sage Bhrigu built his hermitage near the Kailas mountain and was living there. He was carrying on his penance there. One day, a man with a tiger face came to see him accompanied by his beautiful wife. Though Sage Bhrigu knew who they were, he asked the man to tell him about himself. The man prostrated himself and said: “Maharshi, I am Sumukha, a Vidyadhara and this is my wife. While returning from heaven, I was transformed like this. Kindly give me a solution to get back my original face.” Sage Bhrigu used His divine insight and said to the Vidyadhara: “Sumukha! You observed Ekadasi fast and next day you had a head bath. You got afflicted with this tigerly face because of that mistake. Now, I will tell you how to rectify your mistake. Go and have a bath in a sacred river in the month of Magh and you will be absolved of your earlier dushkarma. You will get back your original face. Go with my blessings.” Sumukha did as directed by the sage and got back his original handsome face. It is Guru Kripa that we are reading this in the month of Magha only. Sai Ram.
Bhrigu Maharshi saves the life of Jamadagni and Renuka
Once in a battle with Kartaviryarjuna, Jamadagni lost his life. His pativrata wife Renuka wanted to accompany Sage Jamadagni on the funeral pyre. Sage Bhrigu stopped her and brought her back to life along with the Sage Jamadagni. Later Jamadagni was killed by the sons of Kartavirya who was killed in a battle by Parasurama, son of Jamadagni. More about that later, when we take up the stories of Jamadagni and Bhargava Rama – Parasurama. Vishnu, who was cursed to take births on earth by Sage Bhrigu, chose to incarnate in the lineage of Bhrigu! It shows that what happened was the leela of Vishnu.
As directed by his great grandfather, Parasurama prayed to Siva and got by His blessings, Bhargavastra. Sage Bhrigu also revealed all the secrets of the creation of universe etc. to Sage Bharadwaja, who came to him in search of that esoteric knowledge. Sage Bhrigu also authored Bhrigu Sutras, a treatise on astology. He also authored Bhrigu Nadi, which tells us the future of several people. There are other Nadi Granthas like Agastya Nadi etc. He also became known as a Smritikarta, author of Smriti. However, Manu Smriti became much more popular.
Thus we can see that Sage Bhrigu was a great Jnani, a great tapasvi, a great maharshi, who became a Brahmarshi (a Rishi who became one with the Brahman) by his great penance. He became the originator of a great lineage. Remembering his name removes all our sins.