In the Epics S´ukra was the son or grandson of Bhrigu, the powerful magician who almost killed Agni. S´ukra was also known as Kâvya. S´ukra became the greatest master of magic of his age, but he served the asuras.
The devas (gods) sent sage Kaca to learn how he had made the asuras invincible. Devayânî was S´ukra’s daughter and had a prominent role in that story. The Purânas made S´ukra an example of sensual excess. S´ukra constantly used up his austerities (tapas) and the powers (siddhis) he had acquired by his tapas, plunging into years of abandoned living.
It began when he was a boy. His father Bhrigu went into deep meditation (nirvikalpa-samâdhi) for a thousand years. S´ukra became bored and with the power of his mind followed the lovely apsara (celestial maiden) Vishvâcî into Indraloka, Indra’s heaven. Several other celestial maidens were showing him around when he discovered Vishvâcî.
They immediately fell in love. S´ukra made the whole place dark, so that the maidens left Vishvâcî and him alone. They made love for eight fourfold yugas (caturyugas). Finally, he had used up all his virtue (tapas) and fell from heaven. His shriveled-up soul eventually took rebirth as a brâhmin’s son, and during that life he was a muni (ascetic, magician).
But again he used up his tapas when he fell in love with a doe (who was really a cursed apsara) and had a son by her. He forgot his practices and his religious duties and died of snakebite. So it went lifetime after lifetime—some austerities and then yielding to carnal temptations. Finally, Bhrigu awoke from his meditation.
His dead son’s emaciated body lay beside him. Yama told him what had happened through all of his son’s rebirths while Bhrigu was practicing his own tapas. Yama decided to bring S´ukra back to life as Bhrigu’s son. S´ukra became the preceptor of the asuras, instructing them in austerities and rituals to keep them strong.
He had some run-ins with S´iva—some negative, some positive. Once he stole Kubera’s wealth, S´iva swallowed him. In S´iva’s fiery belly, S´ukra worshipped S´iva and was discharged. Later, he worshipped S´iva more earnestly and was given the mantra for restoring life (mritasañjîvanî mantra).
It was this knowledge that the devas sent Kaca to learn and bring back to them. Kaca seduced his guru’s daughter but succeeded in his mission. In his old age S´ukra observed the third stage of life (vânaprastha, forest dweller) and attained heaven (svarga).