Durvâsa (hard to dwell) was known for his bad temper and his imperious ways. He was also said to be a partial (amsha) incarnation of S´iva. Durvâsa has three different birth myths, each accounting for his character. The first began in heaven.
S´iva had behaved so badly, abusing the devas (gods) and his wife Pârvatî, that she decided to leave him. So S´iva discarded that portion of himself that was making life miserable for everyone—to be born as a sage. The rest of the story is told within the stories of S´îlavatî, the woman who stopped the sun from rising in order to reverse Durvâsa’s curse, and Anasûyâ, the woman who gained a boon to have children from each of the Trimûrtis.
In the first version of Durvâsa’s birth Anasûyâ’s third child was the son of S´iva—none other than Durvâsa. The second account of Durvâsa’s birth involved Brahmâ driving S´iva from heaven because of his sins. S´iva begged the help of the rishi (sage) Nârâyana. S´iva was told to pierce the sage with his trident (shûla).
Three streams of blood from Nârâyana’s arm worked as a blood sacrifice: one stream went to heaven, another into the skull carried by S´iva, and the third became Durvâsa. Brahmâ was placated, and S´iva, now pure because of the blood sacrifice, returned to heaven. In the third account S´iva’s rage in a battle with demons came back to him as the arrow that killed the demons and returned to his lap.
That arrow was then born as Durvâsa. Was it any wonder then that, in the later mythology, Durvâsa served as a fierce teacher, ready to chastise or curse any who crossed him. He made Krishna and Rukminî pull his chariot like horses, beating them all the way. Then he gave Krishna partial invincibility in battle, leaving only his foot unprotected. And that of course turned out to be where the arrow that killed Krishna found its mark.