Ila (Sanskrit: इल) or Ilā (Sanskrit: इला) is a deity in Hindu legends, known for their sex changes. As a man, they are called Ila or Sudyumna, and as a woman, they are called Ilā. Ilā is the chief progenitor of the Lunar dynasty of Indian kings, also known as the Aillas (“descendants of Ilā”).

Timeline and Key Events:

Birth and Early Life:

Ila is the child of Vaivasvata Manu and Shraddha. Depending on the version of the tale, Ila is either born female and changed into a male by divine grace or born male.

In the Linga Purana and the Mahabharata, Ila is initially a daughter who is transformed into a male, Sudyumma, by the deities Mitra and Varuna. Other texts suggest that Ila’s parents prayed for a son but ended up with a daughter due to a ritual mistake.

Curse and Gender Transformation:

As an adult, Ila enters a sacred grove of Parvati and is cursed to change gender monthly or to become a woman permanently.

While female, Ilā marries Budha, the god of Mercury, and gives birth to Pururavas, the progenitor of the Lunar dynasty. After Pururavas’s birth, Ilā becomes a man again and fathers three sons.

Marriage and Life with Budha:

Ilā spends alternating months as a man and a woman due to the curse. As a woman, she enjoys her time with Budha, and as a man, she performs austerities.

Ilā’s alternating gender condition is sometimes lifted, allowing Ila to remain permanently male, depending on the version of the tale.

Later Life and Descendants:

Ilā’s descendants through Pururavas form the Lunar dynasty. As Sudyumma, Ila also fathers three sons who rule different regions.

In the Matsya Purana, Ila is disinherited due to the gender changes, and the kingdom is passed to Pururavas.

Some texts mention Ila achieving salvation by merging with the Supreme Goddess.

Vedic Literature:

  • In Vedic texts, Ilā is also known as Idā, the goddess of speech and the sacrificial meal. She is associated with Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge, and described as the mother of Pururavas.

The tale of Ila’s transformations is told in the Puranas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata, highlighting the complex interplay of gender and divine intervention in Hindu mythology.

Ila is associated with events from the ancient Hindu texts, which place her existence in the early ages of the cosmic time cycle known as Yugas. Specifically, Ila lived during the Satya Yuga (also known as Krita Yuga), the first and the most virtuous of the four Yugas in Hindu cosmology. The Satya Yuga is characterized by truth, virtue, and moral integrity, and it is the age where many primordial events and legendary figures, including Ila, are situated.

This period is marked by the creation and early development of human civilization, where divine interactions and miraculous occurrences are more prevalent, fitting well with the transformative and divine nature of Ila’s story.

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