Saturday, June 29, 2019

33. Swetaka

There was a king by name  Swetaki who was equal to Indra himself, in prowess and strength. No one on earth equalled him in sacrifices, charity, and intelligence.

Swetaki performed the five great sacrifices and many other sacrifices, his heart having always  been set upon sacrifices, religious rites, and presenting gifts of all kinds to others.

Swetaki  performed sacrifices for so many  years that at one stage, the priests conducting the sacrifices had their eyes afflicted by the continued smoke. Having become very weak, they left  the king, not willing to assist him in his sacrifices any more. The king managed to complete the sacrifices with the help of some other people.

After some time, the king wanted to perform another sacrifice which would take a hundred years. But he couldn’t get any priest to conduct this sacrifice, in spite of his beseeching them, offering them great wealth etc.

The king became angry. He went to the asylum where the Brahmins were sitting and told them, “If I were a sinful person or if haven't treated you properly, you would be justified in abandoning me. But I am not sinful and I have not been wanting in treating you with respect. I request you not to obstruct my sacrifice by refusing to help me. I seek your protection. But if you refuse to help me because of your hostility to me or due to some other motive, I will go to other priests and seek their help by conveying to them the purpose of my sacrifice and offering them a lot of wealth.”

The Brahmins told him, “O, king! Your sacrifices go on endlessly. By helping you in the sacrifices for such a long time, we have become fatigued. Give us leave. Go to Rudra. He will help you in conducting the sacrifice.”

Swetaki was angered by the Brahmins’ response. He went to the Kailasa mountain and began to meditate on Lord Siva. He performed rigorous penances for several months. Pleased by his austerity, Lord Siva appeared before him and offered to grant him any boon he would seek.

Swetaki said, “O god of gods, assist me in my sacrifice!'

Lord Siva said, “We do not ourselves assist at sacrifices. But since you have performed a rigorous penance, I will assist you in your sacrifice, on one condition. If you pour libations of butter into the fire for twelve years without intermission, while you lead the life of a Brahmachari, you will get what you want.”

Swetaki did what Lord Siva asked him to do for 12 years. After 12 years, he came back to Lord Siva. 

Lord Siva told him, “I have been gratified by your deed. But the duty of assisting in sacrifices properly belongs to the Brahmins. Therefore, I will not myself assist you in your sacrifice. There is an exalted Brahmin called Durvasa, who is a portion of my own self. He will assist you in your sacrifice. You may make preparations for the sacrifice.”

The king returned to the capital and collected everything for the sacrifice. He then came back to Lord Siva and told him, “O lord! I have made all the preparations for the sacrifice. Please let me start the sacrifice tomorrow."

Siva summoned Durvasa and and asked him to assist Swetaka in the sacrifice.

The sacrifice was conducted by the king with the help of Durvasa. 

After the sacrifice was successfully completed, the king presented huge gifts to the Brahmins who participated in the sacrifice. The king was praised by the Brahmins. He then returned to his palace. The citizens were also happy.

Since Swetaka spent so much of his life in conducting sacrifices, he was called Rajarishi (Royal Sage).

When the time came, Swetaka ascended to the Heaven.

Previous: Tilottama

Thursday, June 13, 2019

42. Tilottama

Sunda and Upasaunda were the sons of the mighty Daitya (a clan of the Asuras or demons) Nikumbha, a descendant of Hiranyakasipu. Both of them were endowed with a lot of energy and strength. They were wicked and were obsessed with the same things.

They were always together and each said and did only things that were agreeable to the other. They were like one person living in two bodies.

They had a desire to bring the three worlds under their control. They went to the Vindhya mountains and took up an austere penance. Attired in tree barks, they became exhausted with hunger and thirst. They acquired some ascetic merit after a while. They then intensified their penance by throwing pieces of their flesh into the fire as offerings to the gods.

The Vindhya mountains, heated by the power of their austere penance for a long time, began to emit vapour from different parts of their bodies. The celestials were alarmed by the severity of their penance. They tried to disrupt their penance by tempting the brothers with precious possessions and beautiful girls. However, the brothers were firm in persisting with their penance.

The celestials then used their power of creating illusions by making it appear that the  mothers, sisters, wives and other relatives of Sunda and Upasunda were running towards them in panic, after being pursued by a Rakshasa, carrying a sword in his hand. The women cried and appealed to the brothers to save them. But the brothers were unperturbed by these illusions too.

Pleased by their penance, Brahma appeared before the brothers and offered to grant them any boon they would seek. Sunda and Upasaunda, paid obeisance to Brahma and asked him, “Oh, lord, grant us great physical strength, knowledge of all weapons, powers of illusion, and the power to assume any form at will. Also grant us immortality.”

Brahma said, “I will grant you everything you sought except immortality. Since you have taken up this penance with a selfish intent of conquering the three worlds, I cannot confer immortality on you. But you can choose how you want to die.”

Sunda and Upasunda said, “Oh, lord, we should be incapable of being killed by anyone or anything in this universe except by each other!”

Brahma granted them what they asked for and vanished, after advising them to give up their penance and return to their normal life.

The brothers then returned to their kingdom. Their friends and relatives were gladdened by the boons obtained by the duo. Using their powers, the brother made the moon rise over their city every night, even during the waning phase of the moon. The citizens of the kingdom lived in joy. The brothers, using their power to assume any form, engaged themselves in every kind of amusement.

After enjoying themselves for a while, the brothers decided to pursue their desire to conquer the three worlds.

They first went to the celestial world and conquered the Devas, the Yakshas and other celestial tribes. The celestials left their abodes and sought refuge in the region of Brahma.

After conquering the Devaloka (the celestial world), Sunda and Upasaunda, invaded the netherlands, the land of the Nagas and conquered it also.

Seized by a desire to conquer the rest of the world also, the brothers summoned the soldiers and told them, “Brahmins and royal sages increase the strength and prosperity of the celestials through their offerings in rites and sacrifices. Therefore, they are the enemies of the Asuras. So, we should slaughter them and obliterate them from the face of the earth.”

Accordingly, the brothers and their army set out in different directions and began to kill people performing sacrifices and the Brahmins assisting them. They also quelled the sacrificial fires by pouring water on them.

The Brahmins, angered by the atrocities committed by the brothers cursed them. But when they found that the curses uttered by them  had no effect because of the boons obtained by the brothers, the Brahmins began to flee. Even sages with great ascetic powers fled like snakes pursued by the Garuda.

The brothers assumed the form of mad elephants and began to pursue the sages who had hidden themselves in caves and other places. The brothers pulled them out and sent them to the region of Yama. Assuming the forms of lions and tigers one moment and then disappearing the next moment, they scared the sages, sought them out and killed them.

Sacrifices, religious rites, festivities and studies ceased. Buying and selling activities also stopped. Agriculture was neglected and cattle were no longer tended. Towns and asylums became desolate.
Bones and skeletons were scattered all over earth. 

The earth presented a frightful appearance. The Sun, the Moon, the Planets, the stars, the Constellations, and the other dwellers in the firmament, witnessing these acts of Sunda and Upasunda, grieved deeply. After subjugating all the points of heaven through such cruel acts, the Asura brothers took up their abode in Kurukshetra.

The celestial sages, the Siddhas and other ascetics possessing the attributes of tranquility and self-restraint, moved by the plight of the universe, went to Brahma. The found that Brahma was sitting with the Devas, the Siddhas, Lord Siva, Agni, Vayu, Soma, Surya, Sakra, the Vaikhanasas, the Valakhilyas, the Vanaprasthas, the Marichipas, the Ajas, the Avimudas, and other ascetics of great energy.

The celestial sages and others represented to Brahma about the misdeeds of the Asura brothers. After listening to them, Brahma contemplated for a moment. He then summoned the celestial architect Viswakarma.

When Viswakarma appeared before him, Brahma asked him to create a woman with captivating beauty. Viswakarma created a celestial woman of extraordinary beauty. She was a mass of gems, with a beauty unrivaled by the women of the three worlds. Since she was created with minute quantities of every gem, Brahma gave her the name Tilottama (meaning, minute particles of the best.)

Brahma told her “Oh, Tilottama, go to the Asuras, Sunda and Upasunda, tempt them with your captivating beauty and conduct yourself in such a way that they will quarrel between themselves about who should possess you.”

When Tilottama walked around the conclave, all those assembled there, facing different directions, turned their faces to have a glimpse of her beauty, Indra and Siva, being the only exceptions.

When Tlottama came by the side of Siva, a face appeared on the southern side of his Siva’s body, because of his desire to look at her. When she was behind him, a face appeared on the southern side of his body. When she was to his north, a face appeared on the northern side of his body. A face appeared on his west when she was to his west. This is how Siva came to have four faces.

A thousand large, reddish eyes appeared on Indra’s body on all his sides because he wanted to look at Tilottama continuously. The glances of all of those assembled there except Brahma’s fell on Tilottama’s body. 

When Tilottama left in pursuit of her task, all of them were convinced that the task was accomplished already.

The Asura brothers, having conquered the three worlds, had nothing more to do. They were living in happiness, enjoying themselves in all possible ways.

One day, the brothers were in the Vindhyas, sitting at a place and witnessing the dances of some handsome women. At that time, Tilottama, attired in a single piece of red silk that exposed all her charm came along, plucking wild flowers on her way. The brothers were stunned by her extraordinary beauty. They left their seats and went to her. Each of the two sought the girl for himself.

Sunda seized the girl by her right hand. He told his brother “She is my wife and you have to respect her.”

Upasunda responded saying, ”She is my wife and therefore your sister-in-law.”

Each of them repeatedly said, “She is mine, not yours.” Each claimed that he was the first to sight her.

Soon, they started attacking each other with their maces. Eventually, both of them fell on the ground, their bodies bathed in blood, like two suns dislodged from the firmament.

Shocked by this, the women who had come there to dance and the other Asuras, fled the site. Trembling in grief and fear, they took refuge in the nether regions. 

Brahma came there along with the celestials. He applauded Tilottama for her feat and granted her a boon that nobody would be able to look at her for a long time. He restored the three worlds to Indra and then returned to his abode.

Next: Swetaka
Previous: Indra's Arrogance

Saturday, January 19, 2019

41. Indra's Arrogance

After Druapadi was won over by Arjuna in the Swayamvara, Drupada, after confirming that the person who won the contest was Arjuna in the guise of a Brahmin, offered Draupadi’s hand in marriage to Arjuna.

Yudhishtira told Drupada that since their mother Kunti, without knowing that Arjuna had brought Draupadi, told the Panadavas that they should all enjoy what was won by Arjuna, Draupadi should be the common wife of the five of them, they had to carry out their mother’s command.

Drupada found it difficult to accept this. He sought the advice of Sage Vyasa, who happened to visit Drupada’s palace, when this issue was being discussed.

Vyasa took Drupada aside and told him that Yudhishtira's proposal was acceptable. He narrated him a story to convince him. .
Long time back, the Devas (celestials) performed a grand yagna (sacrifice) in the Naimisaranya forest. During the sacrifice, Yama, the son of Vivaswat, was given the responsibility of slaying the animals for the sacrifice. After taking up this responsibility, he stopped performing his duty of taking away the lives of human beings. As a result, the population of the world began to increase.

Soma, Indra, Varuna, Kubera, the Sadhyas, the Rudras, the Vasus and the Aswini  Devatas went to Brahma, the Creator and expressed their alarm and sought relief.

Brahma said, “You are all immortal. You need not be frightened by the increase in human population.”

The celestials said, ”With the humans becoming immortal, there will be no distinction between us and them. We are unhappy about this lack of distinction. Please create some distinction between us and them.”

Brahma said, ”This situation is only temporary. Once, the sacrifice is over, Yama will resume his job of taking away the lives of human beings. Yama will become stronger by the energy gained from the sacrifice and perform his duty even more rigorously.”

After hearing these words of Brahma, the celestials returned to the spot where the grand sacrifice was being performed.

Indra, the head of the celestials, who was sitting by the side of the river Bhagirathi (Ganga) saw a golden lotus being carried along the river.

Curious to find out the place from which the lotus came into the stream, he walked on the river bank upstream. When he reached the starting point of the river, he saw a woman with the glow of fire. As she was drawing water from the river into a pot, she was shedding tears.The tear drops released by her transformed themselves into golden lotuses, when they hit the stream.

Approaching that woman, Indra asked her why she was weeping. Recognizing him as Indra, she asked him to go with her and see for himself what caused her to weep.

Indra followed that woman. After walking a short distance, he found a young person sitting on a throne placed on a peak of the Himalayas and playing dice with a young woman.

Addressing him, Indra said, “You should know that this universe is under my control.”

The young person was so engrossed in the game that he seemed to have taken no notice of either the presence of Indra or the words spoken by them.

Indra became angry and, raising his voice, said once again, “I am the lord of the universe.“
The person who was playing dice was Lord Siva. Annoyed by the arrogance of Indira, Siva cast a glance at him. Indra instantly became paralyzed and remained immobile like a stone.

Siva continued playing the game. After completing the game, he told the weeping woman, “Bring Indra to me. I will deal with him appropriately to ensure that pride would never enter his mind again.”

When the woman touched the paralyzed Indra, he fell on to the earth.

Siva told Indra not to act haughtily again. He then asked Inrdra to remove a stone at the entrance of a cave nearby and look inside.

When Indra removed the stone and looked inside the cave, he saw four other persons resembling him sitting inside the cave.

Siva told Indra, with his eyes glowering in anger, “Since you insulted me, you will also enter the cave. These four people were also Indras like you and they came to this state because of pride. You will also join their ranks. All the five of you will be born in the world as men. You will accomplish many things, kill many people and then will return to the celestial world as Indras.”

The four former Indras Vishwabhuk, Bhuadhaman, Sivi and Santi prayed to Siva, “We will be born as men as ordained by you. But let the Gods of Dharma (righteousness), Vayu (air) and Megha (cloud) and the Aswini Devatas be our fathers.

Indra appealed to Siva to allow a part of his energy to be born along with the other four, allowing him to remain where he was. With Siva acceding to his request, a portion of Indira named Tejaswin joined the four former Indras.

Siva also ordained that the woman would be the common wife of the five Indras, when they were born in the world.

Siva, accompanied by the five Indras, went to Narayana (Lord Vishnu) of immeasurable energy,  the Infinite, the Immaterial, the Uncreated, the Old, the Eternal, and the Spirit of the endless  universes. Narayana approved of everything.

The Indras then were born in the world as human beings.

Narayana took up two hairs from his body, one black and the other white.  The two hairs entered the wombs of two women of the Yadu race, Devaki and Rohini.  The white hair was born as Balarama and the black hair as Krishna.

Vyasa said, “The five Indras are the Pandavas and Arjuna is a portion of Indra. The celestial woman ordained by Lord Siva to be the wife of the five Indras is your daughter Draupadi. That is why she was born in the sacrificial fire.”

Vyasa then enabled Drupada to see the Pandavas in their celestial forms and Drupadi as the celestial woman.

Aftere seeing the Pandavas and his own daughter Draupadi in their celestial forms, Drupada  touched the feet of Vyasa.

Vyasa then told him the story of a young girl, who prayed to Lord Siva seeking an accomplished husband for her. When Siva appeared before her, pleased by her austere penance, she repeatedly prayed to Siva, “I desire to obtain a husband possessing all accomplishments.”

Siva told her, “You will have five husbands possessing all accomplishments.”

The girl said, “I asked for just one husband.”

Siva said, “Since you asked me five times, I granted you five husbands. However, this will happen in a future birth.”

Vyasa explained to Drupada that that girl was born as Drauadi and that as per Lord Siva’s boon, she would have five husbands.

Drupada then accepted the proposal that his daughter Draupadi would be the common wife of the five Pandavas.

Next: Tilottama
Previous: Vasishta's Grandson

Saturday, November 11, 2017

40. Vasishta's Grandson

In due course Adrisyanti gave birth to a male child who was like his illustrious father Saktri, in all aspects.

Vasishta himself performed the after-birth rituals for the child.  Since Vasishta gave up his intention to kill himself only after he came to know that Adrisyanti was conceived, the child was named Parasara (meaning one who revives the dead)

Parasara grew up, considering Vasishta to be his father. Once, when he addressed Vasishta as father, Adrisyani said with tears in her eyes “He is your grandfather. Don’t address him as father. Your father was devoured by a Rakshasa.”

Hearing this, Parasara became very sad. Soon his sorrow was transformed into anger and he resolved to destroy all the worlds.

Vasishta dissuaded his grandson from pursuing his resolve by narrating him a story.

There was a king by name Kritavarya. He was the disciple of a set of Brahmins called  Bhrigus. The king performed a Soma Yagna ( sacrifice). At the end of the yagna, he gave rich presents to the Brahmins.

After the king’s death, his descendants ascended the throne. Once, these descendants felt the need to increase their wealth.

Knowing that the Bhrigus were rich, the princes went to their place, disguised as beggars. Sensing the plan of the princes, some of the Bhrigus buried their wealth, and some gave away part of their wealth to other Brahmins and to Kshatriyas.

However, the princes found a large treasure hidden in the house of one of the Bhrigus. Enraged by the deceitful behaviour of the Bhrigus, the princes insulted them. The Bhrigus begged for pardon. But the unrelenting princes began to attack the Brahnins using their weapons. 

They slaughtered the Brahmins and intending to exterminate the Bhrigu race, the prince pursued them.  Many of the Brhigus took shelter in the mountains of Himavat.

One of the women was holding her embryo in one of her thighs. Tipped about this by another Brahmin woman, the princes came to the woman intending to destroy the embryo.

When they came near that woman, the child came out of her thigh by tearing it up. It looked at the princes with its dazzling eyes. The princes were instantaneously blinded by the dazzling brilliancce resembling that of the midnight sun.

Distressed at the loss of sight, the princes decided to seek the help of the child’s mother. They sought her pardon for their sinful acts and begged her to advise her son to restore their eyesight.

She told them, “I have not deprived you of your eyesight nor am I angry with you. This child of the Bhrigu race is definitely angry with you for your attempt to destroy the race. 

When you were destroying the embryos of the Bhrigu race, I was holding this child in my thigh for hundred years. The entire Vedas with their branches were bestowed on this child even when he was in my womb with a view to preserve the heritage of the Bhrigu race. You have to pray to this child for getting your eyesight restored.

The princes then appealed to the child and the child pardoned them and restored their eyesight to them.

Since the child came from its mother’s thigh, it was called Aurva (born of the thigh.) The princes went back after getting their sight restored. But Aurva resolved to destroy the entire world.

Aurva engaged himself in very austere penances to propitiate his ancestors and seek their blessings for carrying out his resolve.

His ancestors appeared before him and said “We have witnessed the intensity of your asceticism. Control your anger, We were not destroyed because of our incapacity to defend ourselves. We deliberately hid our wealth because we wanted to provoke the princes. We wanted to go to heaven. So we had no use for wealth.

“ We wanted to leave this world. We found that death was not coming to us. Committing suicide would not take us to the heaven. So, we wanted to be slain. Hence we created this provocation. We do not approve of your resolve to kill the whole world to avenge our deaths. So, drive out from your mind the thought of committing the sin of destroying the world.”

Aurva replied, “The vow I made out of anger cannot go futile. If I do not accomplish my vow, my rage will consume me like fire consuming dry wood. While residing inside my mother’s thigh before I was born, I heard the sorrowful cries of my mother and other women of our race.  

“Only if the crimes are punished, people will be afraid to commit a crime. If a man who has the power to punish a sin fails to do so, he will also be tainted by the sin. I have good reasons to be angry. I am unable to obey your command. The fire of my wrath which is ready to consume the world will consume me instead, if I repress it. I know that you have the good of the world in your minds. Please advise me what course will benefit me and the world.”

The Pitrus replied “Throw the fire that is born of your anger into the waters. Let this fire abide in the great ocean, consuming the waters of the ocean. This will ensure that your words prevail and that the worlds will not be destroyed.”

Accordingly, Aurva cast the fire of his anger into the abode of Varuna. That fire which consumed the waters of the ocean became like the head of a large horse and is known to people conversant with the Vedas as Vadavamukha.  Emitting itself from the mouth in the shape of a horse’s mouth, this fire  consumes the waters of the mighty ocean.

After narrating this story, Vasishta advised Parasara not to harbor the thought of destroying the worlds.

Responding to the counsel of the wise Vasishta, Parasara gave up his resolve to destroy all the worlds. However, he performed a grand Rakshasa sacrifice. Vasishta did not restrain his grandson from this act.

Parasara sat before three blazing fires with himself being like a fourth fire. He illuminated the whole firmament as if he was a second Sun.

Sage Atri along with sages Pulastya, Pulaha and Kratu, came to the venue of the sacrifice with the objective of ending that sacrifice, in which many Rakshasas were already slain.

Atri told Parasara “Don’t take pleasure in killing these Rakshasas, many of whom are innocent and who have nothing to do with your father’s death. A Brahmin has to be devoted to asceticism. How can you engage yourself in this sinful practice? You should not violate the principles of morality followed by your father. You should not extirpate any creature.

“Your father’s death was brought by his own curse. No Rakshasa was capable of devouring your father. Your father was taken away from this world because of his own fault in pronouncing the curse on King Kalmashapada. Viswamitra was only an instrument. 

"Your father and his  younger brothers who were slain by Kalmashapada and Kalmashapada himself have ascended to heaven and have been enjoying great happiness there. You have also been only an instrument in the destruction of these innocent Rakshasas. So, abandon this sacrifice.”

With Vasishta also endorsing the plea of the wise Atri, Parasara abandoned the sacrifice. Sage Atri cast the great fire ignited for the sacrifice into the deep woods on the north of the Himavat.

The Gandharva who narrated this story to Arjuna concluded by saying “That fire has been consuming the Rakshasas, trees and stones till this day.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

39. Kalmashapada is freed from his curse.

Vasishta returned to his hermitage but, unable to bear the emptiness of the place which was earlier inhabited by his sons, he began to wander again.

He came across a river swollen with water and decided to make another attempt  to kill himself. He tied himself with several cords and plunged into the river. But the force of the stream broke the cords and cast him on the shore.

Since the river broke the cord, Vasishta named the river Vipasa (pasa – cord or rope, vipasa -the cord-breaker). He continued to wander.

He came across another river named Haimavati which was full of crocodiles and other monsters. Vasishta flung himself into the river hoping to be eaten by the crocodiles and other monsters. But the river mistook him for an unquenchable mass of fire  and flew in hundred different directions. The river came to be called Satadru (the river of hundred courses).

Vasishta found himself on a dry land, with the river having flown away in different directions. He exclaimed “Oh! I can’t kill myself.” He then returned to his hermitage.

As he was entering the hermitage, he heard a very intelligent recitation of the Vedas. He turned back and found that his daughter in law Adrisyanti, wife of Saktri, was coming behind him. He asked her who was reciting the Vedas with the six angas, in the voice of his deceased son Saktri.

Adrisyanti replied “The voice is coming from my womb. I have been carrying the child of Saktri for the past 12 years.”

Vasishta was very happy that his race would continue. He gave up all thoughts of ending his life and resided in his hermitage with Adrisyanti.

One day, as Vasishta was walking in the woods along with Adrisyanti, they were met by King Kalmashapada. Being under the possession of the Rakshasa Kinkara, the king came towards Vasishta desiring to devour him. Seeing this, Adrisyanti said, “He is coming towards us with a club in his hand. Please protect me.”

Vasishta replied, “Don’t fear. He is not a Rakshasa. He is King Kalmashapada.”
Vasishta sprinkled water sanctified by incantations on the king and freed him from the curse.

The king who had been seized by the curse of Saktri for twelve years like Surya seized by Rahu,during an eclipse, got freed from the curse.

Liberated from the grip of the Rakshasa, the king illuminated the forest with his splendor like the sun illuminating the evening clouds. He paid obeisance to Vasishta and said “Oh! Great Sage! I am the son of Sudasa and your disciple. Please tell me what I should do to please you.”

Vasishta replied, “My desire has already been fulfilled. Please return to your kingdom and take care of your subjects. Never insult the Brahmins.”

The king replied, “Hereafter, I will never insult Brahmins but will show them the respect due to them. Please grant me a boon for begetting a son who will possess beauty, perform accomplishments and perpetuate the Ikshvaku race.”

Vasishta granted him the boon. He then accompanied King Kalmashapada to his capital Ayodhya. The citizens came out of their houses with overwhelming joy, to receive the sage.

The king, along with the sage, reentered his capital after a long time. His splendor filled the city like the moon filling the whole firmament with its splendor during the autumn.

The streets of the city were swept clean, sprinkled with water and decorated with banners and pendants when the news of the king returning to the capital reached the city sometime before his arrival. The city looked like Amaravathi, the capital of the Celestials.

After the King and the Sage had entered the palace, the Queen approached the Sage at the king’s command.

The sage entered into a covenant (a solemn agreement) with the queen and united with her as permitted by the rules and custom then prevailing. The queen soon became conceived, after which the sage left the palace.

The queen bore the embryo in her womb for a long time. In the twelfth year, she tore her womb open with a piece of stone. At that time, the child was born and named Asmaka, He grew to become a royal sage and founded the city of Paudanya.

Listening to this story narrated by the Gandharva, Arjuna asked him “Why did Kalmashapada command his queen to unite with Sage Vasishta for begetting a son? Why did Sage Vasishta who was well versed in all rules of morality unite with the queen? Was this not a sin on his part?”

The Gandharva replied “Arjuna! There is a reason for this. After Kalmashapada was cursed by Saktri, he went to the forest with his queen Madayanati. He became very hungry and began to search for some food.

“He saw a Brahmin and his wife enjoying themselves. Seeing the king, the couple ran away before their union was consummated. The king pursued the Brahmin and caught him.

The Brahmin’s wife told the king, “O king! You are born in the Surya Vamsa (Sun Dynasty). You are devoted to the observance of morality. My season has come and I am uniting with my husband. My desire has not been gratified yet. So, please release my husband.”

However, the king, ignoring the pleas of the woman, devoured the Brahmin. 

Gripped by grief and anger, the woman cursed the king “You killed my husband before we could consummate our union. When you unite with your wife, you will meet with instant death. Your wife will bring forth a son by uniting with Sage Vasishta whose sons were devoured by you. And that child will be the perpetrator of your race.”

After pronouncing this curse on the king, that woman threw herself into fire right before the eyes of the king.

Vasishta, through his ascetic powers, was aware of this curse. King Kalmashapada, however, forgot about the curse and approached his wife Madayanati after he was freed from the Rakshasa dwelling in him by Vasishta. Madayanati gently reminded him of the curse. The king became alarmed and approached Vasishta.

Monday, November 6, 2017

38. A Curse and Its Consequences

38. A Curse and Its Consequences
King Kalmashapada, belonging to the Ikshvaku race, was an avid hunter. Once, after hunting  and killing many deer, wild boars and rhinoceroses, in the forest, he became fatigued and looked for a place to rest.

As he was walking in the forest, he saw Sage Saktri, the eldest of the hundred sons of Sage Vasishta coming from the opposite side.The king told the sage “Keep out of my way!”
Sakri replied politely, ”Oh king! This is my way. All religious and moral scriptures say that the king should make way for a Brahmin.”

Angered by the sage’s reply, the king stuck the sage with a whip. The sage lost his cool and cursed the king saying,“Since you behaved like a Rakshasa (demon), you will become a Rakshasa subsisting on human flesh. You will wander over the earth, assuming a human form.”

At that time, Sage Viswamitra,who was harboring a desire to make Kalmashapada his disciple,  perceiving what happened through his mental eye, came to that place. He stood aside, invisible to both.

The king realized that the sage was the son of the illustrious Vasishta and beseeched him to forgive him for his misdeed. Viswamitra commanded a Rakshasa by name Kinkara to enter the body of Kalmashapada and after watching Kinkara entering the body of the king, left the place.

The king, possessed by the Rakshasa, began to wander in the woods. A hungry Brahmin met him in the forest and begged him to give him some food including meat to eat. The king asked him to remain there, promising to bring him the food and the meat.

The king wandered for a while and then returned to the palace. He forgot about the promise he had made to the Brahmin and went to bed. He woke up in the midnight and remembered his promise. He summoned the cook, told him about the Brahmin waiting in the woods and asked him to send him some food including meat.

The cook could not find any meat in the palace and informed the king accordingly. The king, possessed by a Rakshasa,said “Then feed him with human flesh.”

The cook took some human flesh, washed and cooked it and then covered it by boiled rice and took it to the Brahmin. The Brahmin, through his spiritual powers, was able to discern that the food was not fit to be eaten, became angry and said, “Since the worst of all kings offered this unholy food to me, he will develop a fondness for such food. As per the curse of Sage Saktri, he will wander over the earth and cause trouble to other creatures.”

The curse given by Sakri was thus reinforced by the Brahmin’s repeating it.  The curse thus became stronger. The king lost his senses completely.

Sometime after this, the king met Saktri and told him, ”Because you cursed me to become a cannibal, I will practice my cannibalism on you by devouring you.” He then killed Saktri and ate him up, like a tiger eating an animal it had killed.

Viswamitra instigated the Rakshasa Kinkara, dwelling within King Kalmashapada to kill the other sons of Vasishta also.  Soon, Kinkara, acting through the king, killed all other sons of Vasishta and ate their flesh, like a lion killing small animals and eating them.

Vasishta knew that Viswamitra had caused his sons to be killed. But he bore the grief like the earth bearing the weight of a great mountain. Rather than punish Viswamitra for his misdeeds, Vasishta chose  to sacrifice his own life. He jumped from the peak of the Meru mountain but he descended on the stony ground like a heap of cotton, without suffering any injury or pain.

He then lighted a fire and entered it, but the fire, did not consume him.  He felt cool  when the flames touched his body. He then tied a huge stone to his neck and threw himself into the  waters. But the waves brought him to the shore. Frustrated at his attempts to end his life, Vasishta returned to his hermitage.

Monday, September 11, 2017

37. A Kshatriya Becomes A Brahmin!

After listening to the story of Tapati and Samvarana, Arjuna wanted to know the reason for Vasishta’s confrontation with Viswamitra. The Gandharva narrated the story to him.

Viswamitra was born to Gadhi, the king of Kanyakubja. Gadhi was the son of Kusika. Thus, Viswamitra was also known as Kousika (meaning the descendant of Kusika).

Viswamitra had a huge army. He also possessed a large number of animals. He would often roam in the forest along with his ministers and soldiers, hunting for deer and wild boars

Once Viswamitra and his men were exhausted after hunting. They were thirsty and hungry. Viswamitra arrived at the hermitage of Sage Vasishta.

Vasishta welcomed Viswamitra and offered him and his men fruits and water. Viswamitra was amazed to see that Vasishta asked his cow for various food items like fruits, milk, grains etc. And the cow instantly yielded whatever was asked for.  Viswamitra learnt that the cow with a majestic appearance was named Nandini.

Viswamitra requested Vasishta to give him Nandini and offered to give him anything, including his kingdom, in exchange.

Vasishta said “I am keeping this cow for making offerings to the gods, the pitrus (the deceased ancestors) and guests and for performing sacrifices. So, I can’t  part with Nandini for anything you may offer in exchange.”

Viswamitra said, “You are a Brahmin. You are ordained to live an ascetic way of life. I am a King. The cow will be more useful to me for providing for my people. I will offer you 10,000 cows in exchange. But if you don’t accept my offer, I will take this cow by force.”

Vasishta said, “You are a powerful monarch. You have a mighty army. If you want to do something in haste without considering the propriety of your action, it is your choice.”

Viswamitra’s men, at his behest, seized the cow and tied her with stripes. The cow went to Vasishta and looked at him, looking for his support.

Vasishta told Nandini, “I can feel your suffering. But what can I do when you are being taken away forcibly by Viswamitra’s men? I am a Brahmin with a forgiving nature.”

Nandini asked Vasishta  “Why are you indifferent to my suffering? Am I without a master?”

Vasishta replied “The might of a Kshatriya may lie in his physical strength. But the Brahmin’s greatness lies in forgiveness. Go with them, Nandini, if you choose to.”

Nandini said, “Oh sage! Tell me you have abandoned me. Then I will go. But if you don’t abandon me, I cannot be taken by force.”

Vasishta said, "Nandini! I am not abandoning you. If you don't want to go, then stay.”

Hearing Vasishta’s words, the cow raised its head and began to attack Viswamitra’s troops. Blazing with rage, she became terrible to look at. From her tail, she rained showers of burning coal. An army of Palhavas emerged from her tail, while an army of Dravidas and Sakas came out of her udders. From her womb, an army of Yavanas were released. And various other armies were released from other parts of her body. All these armies attacked Viswamitra’s men, using various weapons.

Viswamitra’s army, unable to withstand the attack, soon began to break up and flee in all directions. However, not a single soldier of Viswamitra was killed. Nandini only caused them to be defeated and driven out. Viswamitra’s troops were driven to a distance of twenty seven miles from the hermitage.

Witnessing this in awe, Viswamitra exclaimed "Kshatriya prowess is nothing. Only the Brahmana prowess is true prowess! Asceticism is true power.”

Viswamitra immediately gave up his kingdom and undertook a penance. As a result of his austere penance, he became a Brahmin.