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Story Of King Nimi Living On The Eyelids Of Humans

The story of King Nimi living on the eyelids of human beings is found in the Uttara Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana and also in Vishnu Purana.

King Nimi was the forefather of King Janaka. He was a descendant of Ikshvaku. He was renowned for performing yajnas of a long duration. He once decided to perform a yajna lasting for a full thousand years. Although Raja Nimi wanted Sage Vasishta to be the priest of that yajna, the renowned sage expressed his inability to do so as he was already engaged in performing a yajna arranged by Indra, the king of gods. This yajna was to last for 500 years. So the sage advised Nimi to wait and promised to join his ceremony as soon as his commitment to Indra was over.

Hearing this, Raja Nimi returned with the impression that the sage would join his yajna as soon as he was free, while Vasistha thought that King Nimi would wait for his arrival and only then would he start yajna. The result was that King Nimi requested Sage Gautama to be the priest to conduct yajna and the latter agreed. There yajna began with a great fanfare.

Meanwhile, after completing the yajna that Indra had arranged, Sage Vasishta came to the place of Nimi’s place, expecting the king to wait for his return and start yajna. But to his dismay, he found that yajna had already begun with sage Gautama as the chief priest.

Sage Vasistha felt insulted and cursed the king that he would henceforth be without a body (videha). Nimi felt that the sage was unfair to him. In retaliation, the king also cursed sage Vasistha that, henceforth, he, too, would be without a body.

However, the curse of Raja Nimi did not have any lasting effect on Vasistha who, due to his close contact with the gods, Maitra-Varuna (Mitra and Varuna), managed to get a new body. But Nimi could not do so. He became without a body. Meanwhile, yajna continued under the guidance of sage Gautama. When the ceremony was over, the propitiated gods wished to give the host a boon. They promised to give Raja Nimi a new body.

But the king would not have it. He found himself having a universal vision with his body gone. The curse had taken away his body but not his sense of perception. He was enjoying the new status. So he requested the gods that he might be allowed to live on the eyelids of all living beings. The boon was eventually granted to him.

It is believed that since then king Nimi has been living on the eyelids of all beings and the blinking of the eye is called nimesha. That is why the duration of the blinking of the eyes is called nimesha, which literally means the time taken to blink. Hence, in Sanskrit nirnimesha (without nimesha) means unblinking fixed look.