STORIES FROM BHAGAVATAM

Posted on

STORIES FROM BHAGAVATAM

Moral science stories are those that are read at childhood, when the soul is pure and clear, and remembered for the rest of our lives. They are also passed on to generations.

This collection has been made to represent the true spirit of our culture. The principles would be truth, love, mutual respect, righteousness, rectitude, divinity, priority to societal unity, etc…All people, including the old people, would enjoy reading these stories. You are welcome to share these stories with your friends.

Through small stories, the idea is to illustrate the greatness of our human culture. Through the stories one can learn the various aspects of our lives. We urge people to read the stories carefully and apply the Moral learnt through the stories in their everyday life.

Myths and legends are an integral part of human existence. They have been around us all the time. Though their validity is susceptible, nobody seems to mind as they stand as a proof of the human belief in divine powers. Here the collection of popular mythological stories that will take you to times of yore when gods co-habited with humans, divine voices could be heard and visions seen. Know more about deities you worship everyday. Know about the extraordinary sacrifices made and great feats achieved.

Chapter 1: 

Veda Vyasa

Veda Vyasa was the son of Parashara and Satyavati born on an island. His complexion was very dark at birth. So he was named Krishna Dvaipayana. Krishna means dark and Dvaipayana is, born on an island. He was popularly known as Veda Vyasa, a title conferred on him, as it were, for simplifying the study of the Vedas. He systematically compiled the Vedas which were orally transmitted in the olden days. Moreover, he wanted to preserve the ancient scriptures, the golden treasury of spiritual knowledge, for posterity. Author of the Puranas and the epic Mahabharatha, Vyasa had the extraordinary power of knowing the past, present and future. His Mahabharatha contains all aspects of conduct, good and bad, depicted through various characters. It is easy for even the unlettered common man to comprehend the injunctions contained therein. An analytical study would facilitate one to carve out ones personality in a virtuous way. These practical guides are not new but are coming down to us from the Vedic period. The need for writing the epic was felt because the Vedas were exclusively for intellectuals and men. Vyasa wanted the profound truths contained in the Vedas to reach everyone. Knowledge is universal to be shared and benefited by one and all. That is why this epic is designated as the fifth Veda, as the original Vedas are four in number.

Despite such varied accomplishments, Vyasa was obsessed with a feeling of incompleteness and a lurking confusion. While Vyasa was restless at not knowing the cause for the mental dissatisfaction, he chanced to come across the divine sage Narada, the son of Brahma. Knowing the distress of Vyasa, Narada explained the lapse in his literary efforts. He told Vyasa that he had dealt with almost all subjects under the sun but had overlooked what was crucial for attaining spiritual contentment. He went on to explain, “You have not sung the glories of Lord Krishna, son of Devaki and Vasudeva, which indeed is the summum bonum of life. That it would elevate you to Himalayan heights of bliss, you may be sure. Without loss of time, engage in writing about the glorious feats of the Lord that would help you get over your depression.” Thus the Bhagavata Purana came to be written on the divine sage’s advice. Besides the detailed delineation of Krishnavatara, this wonderful book contains a comprehensive narration of all the avataras of Vishnu.

{The avataras of the Lord so far are : Matsya [fish], Kurma [tortoise], Varaha [boar], Narasimha [lion-man], Vamana [dwarf], Parashurama [vanquisher of kshatriyas], Rama [killer of Ravana], Balarama [elder brother of Krishna], and Krishna [son of Devaki]. The last of the ten avataras is believed to be Kalki yet to take place in the Kali-yuga. }

Narada wished to convince Vyasa that his words were gospel truth and not mere empty words inspiring false hopes. He went on to narrate the story of his previous life to substantiate the fact about the enduring happiness attained by singing, hearing and meditating on the Supreme Lord

Narada was born to a servant maid in his previous birth. During monsoon, some brahmanas who had mastered the Vedas, had stationed themselves at a certain place. Narada’s mother served them during their sojourn. She engaged her son, yet a child, in the service of the sages. Dedicated to his work, the boy did not miss the carefree childhood enjoyed by the children of his age, in absolute abandonment, free from any kind of responsibility. The sincerity in his work earned him the love and affection of the brahmanas. One day, he partook the left over food in the platter of the brahmanas with their due permission. It instantly worked wonders on his personality development and improvement of his mental faculty. He felt as if his entire body was cleansed of its sins. The purified mind was steadily drawn towards the pious practices of the rishis. Continuous hearing of the chanting of the Lord’s glories inspired devotion in his heart. In a momentary revelation, he experienced an identity with the Lord. The unusual vision wiped out his ignorance in a flash. While he was grooming himself to follow the path shown by the rishis, the monsoon came to an end and it was time for the sages to move on to a different destination. Narada, however, received a parting gift from the rishis. They imparted the secret impenetrable knowledge as revealed to them by God himself. It was now clear to Narada that life dedicated to the Lord, purged of greed and sin, would know no physical miseries, mental afflictions or suffering from calamities caused by supernatural forces.

After the departure of the rishis, Narada stayed with his mother in a brahmana’s house. Financial constraint and lack of freedom in servitude incapacitated his mother from providing her only son any facility for intellectual pursuit. Narada, engrossed in meditation, felt tied down by his mother’s affection. Yet he did not have the heart to forsake her to satisfy his personal ambition. Soon after, her death by a snake bite, did not grieve him much. He took it in a stoic way as the Lord’s blessing in disguise.

Free from any kind of encumbrance, Narada decided to proceed to the north. We might wonder why the young boy chose the northern direction. What could have prompted him for his choice? Learning at the feet of the rishis guided him. In the days of yore, people with a pure heart, called the paramahamsas, resorted to the serene peaceful surroundings of the Himalayas in the north, away from the humdrum of the towns and cities. Taking to the life of a recluse, they engaged in rigorous penance there and strived hard to attain immortality through communion with God. Though he was just a boy of five years, Narada was undeterred by the arduous journey ahead. He walked across many fertile lands and finally found himself on the outskirts of a dense, dreadful forest. The dark forest looked impassable with ferocious animals like lions and tigers prowling around. The boy mustered up courage to enter the forest. He was exhausted after the long strenuous journey. Overcome by thirst and hunger, Narada’s legs refused to budge any further. Taking a dip in the cool water of the river nearby, the refreshing water allayed his thirst and hunger also. He was so enervated that he lay down under a banyan tree to recuperate his strength and energy.

Relaxing, he slid into transcendental meditation when Lord Narayana obliged Narada with a glimpse of his divine form. Elated over the extraordinary experience, he wished the thrilling vision to continue for ever. But it was not to be so. To the disappointment of the youngster, the ecstasy was over in a fleeting moment, never to be again. The Lord spoke to the depressed Narada in order to console him, lest he be discouraged. He said, “My dear child! Do not feel dejected. It was a special privilege that I appeared before you at your tender age. Such favour is not extended by me to saints even after repeated attempts. This unique gesture on my part was to encourage your dedicated devotion towards me to be sustained. Association with devoted saints will improve your unflinching faith in me and steer you away to complete freedom from the worldly distractions. When the time comes for you to leave this world, you will relinquish your mortal body, permanently uniting with me in my abode from where there is no return.” With these words, the voice of God ceased. Then Narada continued his narration to Vyasa. He said, “Thereafter, my mind was solely directed towards singing the sanctifying glories of the Lord. True to his word, the Lord brought about a deluge that consumed the entire creation. I saw the Lord lying on the surface of the water. I realized the time for my death had come. The Lord drew me into himself by his breath. I lay dormant within him for many yugas. When the Lord contemplated creation once again, he gave me life by means of his senses. Thus you see me in the present form before you.”

Hearing the extraordinary story of Narada, do you not feel God had given him another life like any of us after a no rebirth assurance? His existence was not like the life human beings have. He had been given a life to serve for the benefit of all the three worlds. By the grace of God, the sage moved around unhindered, singing his greatness. This was his kainkarya, service to God, even though emancipated. With Narayana lodged in his heart, his songs were accompanied by the vibrating sound of the holy word OM, signifying the Supreme Truth of Brahman in a nutshell, emanating from his divine instrument Veena. Narada had risen to occupy the Paramapada, the final abode along with God.

Now with a mind saturated with the thought of the Lord, Vyasa retired to the western banks of the holy river Sarasvati. He sat down concentrating on the Almighty God. The meditation helped him get a crystal clear knowledge of the real truth to distinguish the Lord from the illusory world. The maturity of his thinking prodded him to relieve the people from the miseries through his songs of the Bhagavatam.

[In Telugu the word Bhagavatam is a five syllable word- ‘Bhagavatamu’ . Bha means bhakti (devotion); Ga is gyana (wisdom); Va stands for vairagyam(detachment); Ta for tatvam (absolute truth); Mu is mukti(emancipation).]

Chapter 2: 

Ashvatthama Punished

The Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas caused countless deaths on both sides. It could have been avoided if only Duryodhana had agreed to a compromise with his cousins. Influenced by his maternal uncle Shakuni, he was brain washed into hatching a plan against the Pandavas in a game of dice by deceitful juggling. [alongside is a drawing of Shakuni in the Javanese style] Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas, got miserably caught in the cunning game plan of Shakuni. Staking his wealth and brothers, he was drained of all his possessions. Duryodhana, now assured of his victory with the trickery of his uncle, decided to inflict the worst kind of humiliation on the Pandavas after which he expected them never to raise their heads for shame. He insisted Yudhishthira to pawn his wife, Draupadi, the last of his belongings. She was also lost in the game. Duryodhana was exhilarated, having achieved his evil aim. He sent his brother Dusshasana, to drag Draupadi by her hair to the court to disrobe her in public. It’s a different matter that Lord Krishna responded to her pathetic call and saved her from disgrace by extending her sari endlessly.

Bhima, the second of the Pandavas, the hot blooded of the lot, considered the very thought of such an act as very demeaning and unpardonable. Swearing to avenge the insult definitely sometime in future, he promised Draupadi to break the wicked man’s thigh on which he wanted to seat her. The Kurukshetra war soon broke out when Duryodhana refused to share the kingdom with his cousins as agreed upon. The iron man of the Pandavas, furiously charged with mace in hand, in a duel against Duryodhana, smashed his thigh and thus fulfilled his vow.

Drona, the eminent teacher of archery for both Pandavas and their rival, was on the side of the Kauravas in the battle. Aswatthama, having a grudge against the Pandavas for causing his father Drona’s death, decided to pick up cudgel with them in an attempt to please Duryodhana.

One day, Ashvatthama entered the war camp of the Pandavas. He cut off the heads of the sleeping sons of Draupadi and presented them to Duryodhana expecting accolades. On the contrary, Duryodhana was immensely depressed over the cruelty inflicted on the innocent boys. Draupadi was inconsolably grieved by the death of her dear children. Infuriated Arjuna pledged to bring the head of Ashvatthama before Draupadi, for her to stand on it and bathe. The vigorous chase that followed was beyond the capacity of Ashvatthama as he ran for dear life. In desperation, he invoked the brahmastra as the last resort. Arjuna was baffled at the approach of the weapon that was flashing a powerful blinding light. Arjuna turned to Krishna for advice. Krishna told him to send out a counter brahmastra. At the same time he divulged the secret of Ashvatthama’s ignorance of retrieving the lethal weapon. Arjuna acted accordingly and withdrew the weapon of the opponent by sending out his brahmastra. Arjuna could have killed Ashvatthama but the fear of incurring the sin of brahmahathi, killing of a brahmana, held him back. Krishna explained to him that he need not entertain any fear as Ashvatthama was a villainous criminal who had killed young harmless boys. So, in this case, the traditional injunction pertaining to brahmahathi was not applicable. Moreover, he was expected to keep his promise to Draupadi. Arjuna refrained from the dastardly action. Instead, he bound his victim and presented him before Draupadi.

The pathetic condition of Ashvatthama overwhelmed Draupadi. Even in her sorrow, she advised Arjuna wisely in an emotionally surcharged voice. She said, “You should not forget your primary duty towards your guru Drona. You were the apple of his eye. Recognizing your dexterity in the science of archery, he wanted you to be known as his foremost pupil and that there should not be a second to match you. Killing his son would be gross ingratitude to him. You should be indebted to him for your distinguished standing among warriors. I think I should also remind you about Kripi, Ashvatthama’s mother, to whom her son is the main stay. The confidence in her son as protector motivated her to keep herself going even after Drona’s death. She would become destitute without him. Being a mother, I am aware of the sorrow of losing an offspring. I do not want another mother to lament as I do.” All the generosity of Draupadi could not save Ashvatthama from the ordained punishment. So, Arjuna had to strip his diadem, the severest punishment one could be subjected to. Added to his misery, his tonsure also had to be shaven and exiled from the kingdom according to the shastras.

Ashvatthama’s hatred for Arjuna was building up, with his blood boiling within. His repentance for his cruel killing was overpowered by his demonaic impulse to exterminate the Pandava race. Like a man possessed, the strong urge to see the Pandava race heirless instigated him to try his luck with the brahmastra a second time. The weapon set out on its mission of killing even the foetus of the women of the Pandava family. Uttara was carrying Abhimanyu’s child. Abhimanyu was Arjuna’s son by Subhadra, Krishna’s sister. He met with his death in the war by the unethical attitude of the Kauravas. Since Krishna had always been their saviour, Uttara was sure of his assistance. She pleaded him to save her unborn child from the powerful weapon. Knowing Ashvatthama to be behind the mischief, Krishna aimed his sudarshana chakra which could supersede the power of the brahmastra. In the meanwhile, Krishna entered the womb of Uttara by his illusory powers and shielded the foetus from harm. Defeated thus, Ashvatthama made up his mind to withdraw from inimical activities and adopt the life of a recluse.

Interesting Anecdotes

Ashvatthama: Infants usually cry as soon as they are born. But Ashvatthama neighed like a horse instead, similar to that of the celestial horse Ucchaishravas. So he was named thus.

Uttara’s foetus: According to the Mahabharatha, Uttara’s child was affected by the power of the brahmastra as it cannot be ineffective. The child was born dead but revived later by Krishna

Ekalavya: Arjuna was Drona’s blue boy. He wanted him to be his foremost pupil in archery. To pamper his own pride, Drona was as hard hearted as one could be. Once in the forest, his pupils witnessed a dog killed, with five arrows right in its mouth. Curious to know the source of the perfectly aimed arrows, they saw a boy of the Bhil community, named Ekalavya, practicing the use of the bow and arrow. Ekalavya informed them that his tutor was Drona. Surprised at their guru’s retraction on his principle, they conveyed to Drona of the boy’s claims regarding his tutor, besides appreciating his dexterity. Drona could not believe it and went to meet Ekalavya for verification. On being questioned, the innocent boy pointed to a mud idol under a tree. He said, “It has been my ambition to master the art of archery and I wanted the revered Dronacharya to be my preceptor. Unfortunately, I cannot aspire to be his student as I am not a Kshatriya. He could not be expected to go against his principle to have me under his tutelage and I would not accept any one else as my guru. This mud replica of my guru is my source of inspiration and guide. Every morning I begin my practice after paying my obeisance to this idol. Thus, have I learnt the art.” If it had been someone else, he would have appreciated the ability of the self taught boy and encouraged him further. But Drona could not be so broadminded to embrace the boy as his pupil. He strongly feared that Ekalavya would overtake his favourite Arjuna. He mercilessly demanded the boy’s right thumb as guru dakshina, teacher’s fees, since he had learnt from his idol. Drona’s wicked intention was Ekalavya, without his thumb, will be permanently disabled to use the bow and arrow. What an unimaginable inhuman cruelty! The devoted boy realized that he owed his knowledge to Drona. He expressed his indebtedness by readily offering his thumb to his guru without any regret.

Duryodhana: Duryodhana was the eldest of the sons of Gandhari. Gandhari had blindfolded her eyes as her husband Dhritharashtra was without sight from his birth. She did it as a sacrifice because she thought if her husband could manage without eyes then she too could afford to forego them. For many years she carried on like this when at a crucial juncture, she thought it necessary to remove the bandage on her eyes. She wanted to bestow on her son, the invincible power her sacrifice had yielded. She knew that the moment she removed the cloth from her eyes and first had a glimpse of the bare body of Duryodhana, the stored up energy would act as an impenetrable shield on her son. She asked Duryodhana to go to the river for a bath and return dripping with water, with not a thread of cloth on his body. He agreed and was returning as instructed by his mother. On the way, Krishna deluded him and said he, the crown prince, was going to be the laughing stock of the people if he entered the city nude. Out of shame, he put on a covering from his waist to his knees and stood before his mother. Gandhari removed the cloth and opened her eyes to see her son. She was disappointed to see him having a waist cloth round him. She said all the power of her eyes had shielded his body from harm, except the covered portion, leaving it vulnerable to attack. Duryodhana felt sorry for his mistake and offered to appear again as she had wanted but she said the stored up energy in her eyes, the result of many years of penance, had been exhausted and it could not be repeated. Bhima was thus able to hit him on his thighs during the duel. Here Krishna encouraged some foul play. He indicated to Bhima, Duryodhana’s weak point by tapping on his own thighs from where the hint was picked up. This annoyed Balarama as it is not fair to hit the opponent below the waist in a mace fight and he walked out of the battlefield expressing his displeasure.

Chapter 3:

 Parikshit the Pandava scion

Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu was treacherously killed by the Kauravas when he got caught in the chakravyuha, an intricate formation of the army, far above the comprehension of common intelligence. While Abhimanyu was in his mother’s womb, Krishna was explaining to his sister this mazelike confusing technique. Subhadra fell asleep when Krishna’s narration had reached only as far as the entry into the formation. The next stage, the knack of escaping from it could not be continued. Therefore Abhimanyu had grasped what he had heard while in the womb. With that limited knowledge he braved his way into the chakra. He was seriously hurt, unable to free himself from his enemies. The war convention was not to kill a wounded soldier. But the Kauravas, unmindful of the moral ethics of war, massacred the youth. Though the boy’s loss was like a thunderbolt on the Pandavas who had been facing a series of miseries, there was, however, a silver lining to the dark clouds. Uttara was with Abhimanyu’s child saved by Krishna’s sudarshana chakra, from the unfailing weapon darted out by Ashvatthama. But for Krishna’s benevolence the Pandavas had almost lost the scion of their family. The golden shield of Krishna was an additional safeguard for the embryo. Here then was their progeny destined to carry on the lineage.

The foetus encased in the divine shield had a vision of the Supreme Lord. Just the size of a thumb, the Lord appeared in radiant garments of golden hue. His two pairs of arms extended up to his knees, not known to be found among human beings. He gets the epithet of ‘ajanubahu’ for this exclusive attribute. Before the unborn child could comprehend the vision, it disappeared.

Uttara soon gave birth to a boy on an auspicious day with favourable signs. The learned priests named him Vishnurata i.e. Vishnudatta, meaning given by Vishnu. They predicted that he would be the flag bearer of his reputed great grandfather king Pandu. They also said he would be an embodiment of piety, ever striving to establish good over evil.

Vishnudatta grew up to become an ardent devotee of Sri Hari. He was always looking into everyone, hoping to see the divine person of the vision he had as an embryo. He was for this reason called Parikshit, the seeker, a name that stuck to him and the original name was almost forgotten. Ably guided by his grandparents, the stature of Parikshit grew like the waxing moon. Confident that the kingdom was in safe hands, the Pandava brothers with Draupadi retired to the north to attain the lotus feet of Hari through penance.

Vyasa introduces an allegoric story into the narration. Instead of following the beaten track of speaking volumes about the greatness of the king, he does it with some novelty. He starts a conversation between piety and earth. Piety has been personified as a crippled bull on one leg. The earth as a cow is whipped by Kali in the guise of a prince.

To understand the story, one has to know the history of the yugas of creation. Life on earth has passed through four yugas. The first one was the satya yuga pervaded by virtues alone without any trace of evil. Slowly evil began to creep in and spread over one fourth of the earth heralding the treta yuga. The third yuga was the dvapara considered the blessed one when Krishna, Devaki’s son was born to maintain the equilibrium between evil and virtue. After Krishna’s disappearance from earth, Kali the evil reigned supreme spreading its wings far and wide. Kali yuga is the present age we have been born in. It brought piety on its last leg, having broken the other three as represented by the bull. The earth as the cow appears to have lost her calf who was none other than Krishna. The cow poured out her heart to the bull about her suffering. With the advent of Kali, the earth had been infested, as it were, by an epidemic. The fertile lands had lost their greenery. People performed their duty with not only dishonesty but also insincerity. Lethargy was the order of the day. The learned no longer commanded any respect. Even nature rebelled at the moral degeneration through famine, drought and poverty. The cow said the bull was suffering the crippled condition because Krishna the protector was no more.

Parikshit, in the course of his conquering expedition to establish his sovereignty, overheard this conversation. He also witnessed how Kali was severe on the cow. He flew into a rage to realize the enormous extent of injustice prevalent in his kingdom. In the land where Arjuna had enjoyed the support of Krishna and the Pandavas were renowned for their righteousness, Parikshit could never allow Kali to prosper. He lifted his sword to kill the villain. Kali, coming out of his disguise, fell at the king’s feet begging for mercy. The just king desisted from killing a person who had surrendered. He vanquished Kali from his kingdom and made him the king of gambling dens, drinking pubs and poverty. In short he was to head all that was undesirable and immoral. He restored the legs of the bull in the form of meditation, purity and kindness. The lost glory of the earth came back to her and she enjoyed peace

Interesting Anecdotes

Abhimanyu: There is another version to the story of Abhimanyu. According to that, Arjuna had taught his son Abhimanyu only the technique of entry into the chakravyuha and had not completed the instruction. In the war front, the boy was inspired to enter the chakravyuha by Yudhishthira with the assurance that he would rescue him. But as ill luck would have it, Yudhishthira could not follow the boy into the formation to save him. Arjuna would have definitely saved his son but the Kauravas cunningly whisked him away to engage him in another encounter. Yudhishthira was immensely grieved to witness the life of a promising hero and a valiant warrior cut short. He felt guilty for his wrong advice though it was not with any malice. He was bold enough to own up the fault. Like Yudhishthira, we should have the courage to own our mistake honestly and never try to cover it. It was, however, a severe blow for all the Pandavas.

Pandavas and Kauravas: Krishna’s life was mostly revolving round the Pandavas, his favourites. The wicked ways of the Kauravas, with no concern for justice, drove him to be unsympathetic towards them. Now it is important to know a little about these two families, the main rivals in the Mahabharatha war.

The complication in the pious king Dilipa’s dynasty started with his grandson king Santanu. Ganga, the sacred river, was strolling on the banks in the form of a beautiful woman. Santanu was attracted by the pretty woman and wished to marry her. Ganga put forth a condition to Santanu that he should never question her actions. The day a friction arose on that account she would leave him for good. The king agreed and they got married. This agreement was necessary, for Ganga had to redeem the Vasus who had been cursed by Vashishtha for stealing the sacred cow Nandini, daughter of the wish yielding cow Kamadhenu. Of the eight Vasus, seven of them were only accomplice to the crime. The main Vasu, who planned the theft to satisfy his wife’s desire to have the cow, was the most sinful of the lot. They were born as the sons of Ganga by Santanu. The first seven she threw into the river as soon as they were born to redeem them from the curse. Santanu patiently witnessed his sons being drowned in the water because questioning was taboo according to the contract. But when she was going to do the same with the eighth son, it was the end of his endurance. Santanu’s emotions took the better of him with a vehement outburst at Ganga’s cruelty. With the contract broken, Ganga decided to leave. This child, the last of the Vasus, was the guilty person destined to live for many years as the curse was mainly directed to him. She took the child and promised to nurture his personality to develop to perfection in every conceivable field of knowledge. When she was satisfied with his all round achievement, she returned the well trained boy to his father. He was named Devavrata.

Santanu again got involved with a fisherwoman, Satyavati. Her beauty drew him to desire for marriage. The promise the girl’s father wanted was to anoint the son born to his daughter as the king after him. Santanu refused to enter into such a contract because Devavrata, so dear to his heart, was the legitimate successor to the throne. The son was upset to see his father depressed. He secretly found out from the king’s charioteer that his father was pining for his lady love, unable to accept the marriage demands of the fisherman. Devavrata proceeded to the fisherman to promise him that he would abdicate the throne for Satyavati’s son. But the fisherman had another problem. He said that his grandson would still not be sure of his position. A son born to Devavrata would be the legal heir to the throne, which would make his grandson’s claim invalid. Devavrata declared that he would take a vow of celibacy which would eliminate that hurdle too. He gave his word never to conduct himself in any way that would create further complication. Thenceforth, he became Bhishma, a name given to him by people for his vow of celibacy that required tremendous mental strength. In appreciation of his son’s great sacrifice, Santanu blessed him, enabling Devavrata to choose the time of his death.

Here is an interesting flash back to Satyavati’s life. A certain king was away from his wife when he developed an urge to have a child. He sent his vital energy to his wife through an eagle. In a fight with another eagle, the vital energy in the beak dropped into the river. A fish swallowed it, from which a boy and a girl came out. A fisherman carried the infants to a king who adopted the boy and sent the girl back with him. She was Satyavati, who grew as the fisherman’s daughter. She grew up as a pretty woman but unfortunately she had the fish odour emanating from her body. She used to ferry people across the river in her boat. One day, she was rowing rishi Parashara across when he expressed his wish to have a child by her. Parashara took her to a secluded island, created a fog by his yogic power for privacy and had a son, whose conception and birth, all happened in one day. The dark child was named Krishna Dvaipayana. The sage replaced the pungent fish smell by a sweet fragrance that spread to the distance of a yojana. So the name Yojana-gandha. He also restored her virginity. Parashara educated his son in all sciences of knowledge. He was popularly called Veda Vyasa, in short as Vyasa. Vyasa promised his mother before leaving her that he would appear whenever she thought of him in times of need. Also, we always find Vyasa as an actively important character when difficult situations needed his participation, besides being the script writer of the epic Mahabharatha and the Puranas.

With Bhishna eliminated from the claim to the throne, Satyavati’s sons Chitrangada and Vichitravirya found their road clear. Fate was against the success of Satyavati’s plans. Chitrangada was killed by a gandharva of the same name even before he was married. Bhishma went to the svayamvara of Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, the daughters of the king of Benares [now Varanasi] and abducted them as brides for Vichitravirya. Amba refused to marry him as she was already committed to another man. But that king Salva rejected her on the ground that she had been carried away to another man’s house. For damaging her prospects of a married life, Amba vowed to be the cause of Bhishma’s death. She did win over Bhishma in the Kurukshetra war, when she appeared as Shikhandi. She had interchanged her form with a yaksha and bravely faced Bhishma. At the very first sight Bhishma could see through Shikhandi and identified him as Amba. Since he had determined not to fight against a woman, he dropped his weapons and surrendered.

Ambika and Ambalika married Vichitravirya. Soon he was struck by some serious ailment which resulted in his dying childless. Satyavati was defeated in her attempt to crown one of her sons and she had also foiled the chances of Bhishma. Moreover, her daughters-in-law were childless widows. Satyavati was very depressed to find her husband’s dynasty bereft of an heir. The thought of Vyasa suddenly came to her, on whom she could depend during distress. In a moment, Vyasa stood before her as promised, and agreed to father the sons of Satyavati’s daughters-in-law. Ambika closed her eyes when she saw the bearded dark sage. Dhritharashtra, the blind son was born to her. Ambalika got the frail albino Pandu for a son as she turned pale with fear on seeing Vyasa. Not satisfied both times, Satyavati requested Ambika to take a second chance. Ambika, posing to be agreeable to the suggestion, sent her maid servant instead. She served Vyasa with devotion and sincerity. The result was, she bore Vidura the most intelligent, thoughtful and well poised son. Satyavati came to know of this only after Vyasa had left.

Dhritharashtra married Gandhari. Gandhari conceived at the same time as Kunti, Pandu’s wife. Kunti’s son Yudhishthira was born on time, while Gandhari eagerly waited for her child. But it did not happen, extending very much beyond the stipulated date which frustrated her. In anger, she hit her stomach hard with her hands and the long exasperating suspense was over. To her utter disappointment, out jumped a mass of flesh with the impact of the hit. In great fury, Gandhari called upon sage Vyasa and said, “See for yourself what I have borne. You have belied me by your false prediction that I was destined to have a hundred sons.” Vyasa consoled her not to despair. He said there was no falsehood in what he had told her. He said she was sure to have that many sons. He asked her to bring one hundred and one pots. He sprinkled water on the mass of flesh which at once divided equally into a hundred and one pieces. Clarified butter was filled in the pots. Vyasa put one piece into each of the containers and the last piece was put in the hundred and first vessel to fulfill Gandhari’s desire for a daughter. The pots were to remain undisturbed for two years. Just as a chicken egg is put in an incubator to hatch, Vyasa did the same to bring to life the children of Gandhari. Duryodhana was the first to come out as a full-fledged baby. He was therefore the first son of Gandhari and the daughter Dusshala came from the hundred and first pot. Thus, Dhritharashtra had a hundred sons and a daughter by his wife Gandhari. Dhritharashtra wanted to know if his son Duryodhana would become a king as Yudhishthira the eldest had the right to the throne. Vidura said that Duryodhana had brayed like an ass on birth which was ominous and therefore he should be killed. But Dhritharashtra did not agree out of fatherly affection.

Pandu married Kunti and Madri but a curse deprived him from having children. Now, from where did the Pandava sons come?

Kunti as a young girl got a boon from sage Durvasa, for her devoted service to him. He taught her a mantra, which, when addressed to a particular deity, would bless her with a son. To test the mantra out of childish curiosity, she invoked the sun-god and he appeared instantaneously. The disastrous consequence sent her into a frightful fit. She pleaded the sun-god to pardon her innocent mistake committed in a playful mood. He said that the invoked mantra had to take effect and Kunti found herself bearing the child of the sun god. However, she managed to keep the conception of the child a secret, known only to a maid. With the term completed, she gave birth to a son. Afraid of the secret becoming known, she floated a basket in the river with the baby in it. This child grew up to be the valorous warrior, Karna, in a charioteer’s house. He was reputed for his philanthropy and even today he is quoted as a model of generosity. He was born with the protective kavacha and kundala [chest shield and ear-rings] imbedded in his body. As an ally of Duryodhana in the Kurukshetra battle, Karna had promised Kunti that he would attack only Arjuna, Indra wanted to guard his son against the invincible warrior. So, Indra asked for the natural shields and Karna gifted them to him without questioning. During the war also, lying wounded with his chariot wheel stuck, Karna, as his last act of charity, gave away all his merits of good actions to Krishna when he came begging as a brahmana.

He was always considered to be the son of a charioteer. Not being a prince, Arjuna refused to accept him as an eligible combatant in a contest to prove his dexterity in archery. Karna felt insulted. Duryodhana recognized the potential of a great warrior in Karna and was sure he would turn out to be very useful in his fight against the Pandavas. By making him the King of Anga, as if out of concern for Karna’s self respect, cunning Duryodhana offered the best bait within his power and had Karna’s support sealed in his favour. As an expression of gratitude, Karna joined the Kauravas in the great eighteen day Kurukshetra war between the cousins.

When Kunti could not expect Pandu to give her a child, she invoked the mantra to Dharma and got Yudhishthira, Bhima was the son of Vayu and Arjuna had Indra as his father. Madri learnt the mantra from Kunti who asked her to make use of it only once. The clever woman resorted to the twins Ashvini Kumaras and bore the twins Nakula and Sahadeva at one stroke. It’s an ironic coincidence that the sons of Dhritharashtra and Pandu were not naturally born. Dhritharashtra and Pandu were brothers, descendents of Kuru dynasty yet their sons assumed the names Kauravas and Pandavas respectively as a mark of distinction when they became rivals in the Kurukshetra war.

Kripa and Kripi: Rishi Saradvan was once bathing in the river when an apsara tried to entice him. He ran away to save himself from her. On the way he dropped his child bearing energy in the forest from which twins were born, a male and a female.

King Santhanu saw these infants while hunting. He brought them home and named them Kripa and Kripi. Kripa was Kripacharya, who was the guru of the Kauravas and Pandavas before Dronacharya took over. Kripi was the wife of Dronacharya.

Draupadi: Drupada, the father of Draupadi, was the son of Prishata and their dynasty was known as Panchala. Drupada and Dronacharya, the preceptor of the Kauravas and Pandavas, were great friends in their youth. When Drupada became the king, he forgot his earlier promise to his friend to share the kingdom equally with him. Pandavas fought against Drupada because their help was demanded by Drona as guru dakshina. Drupada was defeated and Drona got his share of the kingdom. Drupada entertained a nemesis against Drona. He felt that mere man power was not productive. Divine grace was also necessary. He began a sacrifice to propitiate Shiva. When Shiva offered him a boon, he asked for a son who would kill Drona. There came a male and a female child from the sacrificial fire. They were named Drishtadyumna and Draupadi respectively.

In a contest of archery, during the svayamvara of Draupadi, Arjuna outdid all contestants. His perfect aim at a revolving fish on top by looking at its reflection in a trough of water below enabled him to win her hand. But it was agreed upon that she will be the common wife of all five brothers, though they had other wives also. Since Draupadi was the wife of the Pandavas, her brother joined the Pandu sons in the battle. Therefore, Drishtadyumna got the opportunity to kill Drona. When he was deceitfully informed of the death of his son Ashvatthama, Drona broke down, throwing away the weapons in sorrow. Drishtadyumna killed Drona when he was unarmed, against the rules of warfare.

Chapter 4: 

Brahmana curses Parikshit

One day, Parikshit was out hunting all alone. He was thirsty after a hot chase of a herd of deer. Going a long way in search of water, he located the hermitage of a pious sage named Shamika. The sage was in deep meditation, resigned from his worldly surrounding and in communion with God. The sage seated on a deer skin with knotted disheveled hair, was in a sublime state of mind. The arrival of the king went unnoticed and his request for water also did not draw the attention of the muni. The king with parched throat and suffering from near dehydration mistook the sage’s silence as indifference. Hospitality is the foremost etiquette expected towards the king. Absence of it was misconstrued by Parikshit as gross insult. Severe thirst had robbed the king’s good sense. He developed a suspicion as to whether the sage was genuinely in meditation or was it a pretense to spite him. In a fit of anger, he picked up a dead snake lying at the doorstep with the tip of the bow and threw it round the neck of the muni. Then he proceeded homeward in a fury.

The sage’s son Shringi heard from his friends how his father had been treated by the king. Feeling very sorry for his father, the young boy, in an emotional outburst, cursed the king that he would die within seven days, bitten by the serpent takshaka. Crying aloud, the boy came to the hermitage when his father had just come out of meditation. On being informed about the curse on the king, Shamika was extremely depressed over his son’s impulsive action. He then explained to Shringi the gravity of his mistake. He said, “A devout follower of Sri Hari has been punished by you. Impropriety is unknown in his kingdom. Since a brahmana’s curse cannot be reversed, I dread to think of the calamity that would occur after the king’s death. Degeneration of society would be a sure consequence with the decline of virtue.”

Chapter 5: 

The Demon Twins

Shukadeva, during his discourse, described the rescue of the earth from the deep waters after a deluge. From the Bhagavad Gita of Krishna we also know that incarnation of the Lord becomes inevitable when righteousness is in danger due to the actions of wicked people. The incarnation of Vishnu as a boar was not only to save the earth sunk under the water but in the process he also killed the demon Hiranyaksha.

Svayambhu Manu, sprung from Brahma, wanted to know the ideal way to propitiate the Lord. Brahma said, “Beget worthy sons who would be future rulers.” Manu could not carry out the orders on the vast sheet of water with the earth submerged. Brahma was also in a dilemma to find a solution. Musing over the problem, Brahma noticed a boar in the size of a thumb emerging from his nostril which instantly grew to a gigantic size. The boar dived into the water to rescue the earth from the rasatala by carrying it on his big tusk. Though the boar was none other than the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, before he could carry out the rescue work, he was confronted by a daitya king, named Hiranyaksha. It was a bloody battle between the two. Finally, the demon was killed.

Now, it is intriguing as to why and where from this demon suddenly made his appearance to challenge the prowess of the divine boar. So were those listening to the discourse of Shuka. To satisfy their curiosity, Shuka narrated the story of the birth of the twin demon brothers Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha.

One day, Daksha’s daughter Diti approached her husband Kashyapa, a brahmarishi and the son of Marichi. She begged him to bless her with an offspring and she made her impatience very obvious in her solicitation. At the end of his daily worship to Lord Vishnu, Kashyapa was absorbed in meditation at dusk. Sadly, Diti had mistimed her request. Sunset is an inauspicious time and Kashyapa asked her to hold her patience. He said, “Dusk is the time when Rudra goes round the worlds, riding his bull. He is in the company of ghosts and is smeared all over by the ashes from the funeral pyres. His three eyes are open to survey all directions and nothing escapes his notice. [Shiva who is believed to have a third eye on his forehead is also known by the name Rudra, indicative of his destructive character]. I do not wish to disrespect the deity by indulging in an unworthy act. Shiva happens to be my brother by marriage to your sister Sati. At a time when even the divinities of the regions are engaged in reciting hymns in Shiva’s praise, I would advise you not to succumb to your desires. Rudra though a Pishacha, is not despised. His commands are carried out with reverence. When such is the situation, transgression on my part would not be excused by him.” But Diti was not to be calmed and she insisted her desire be satisfied at once. Accepting it as the decree of Providence, Kashyapa yielded with due apologies to Lord Hari.

In retrospect, Diti was ashamed of herself. Fear of vengeance on her progeny from the short tempered Shiva shook her mentally. She pleaded her husband to save her offspring from evil. Kashyapa, though sorry for his wife, did not wish to keep her in the dark about the truth of her offspring. He told her honestly that by the evil effects of twilight, the hour of Rudra, she was destined to have demons as twin sons. They would oppress all the three worlds unchecked. The Lord of the universe alone would be able to apply a brake to their atrocities. Though she was shocked at first, she realized that death inevitably follows birth. Therefore, her only wish was that her sons despite their wicked nature should meet their death in the hands of Sri Hari. She feared that death caused by a curse or untimely fatal accident would make them an outcaste in their own race in the next birth. Kashyapa consoled her that her grandson Prahlada by one of her sons would be a beacon light to the family. He would compensate by his virtuous life, the evils of Diti’s twin sons. Assurance from her husband thus, was no consolation to save her from the dreadful thought of having demons as sons. She held the embryo within herself for a long time, not allowing it to grow. Yet the unborn did show its destructive nature by eclipsing the sun and moon rays from the earth. The Gods were worried about the consequences of the spreading gloom. They expected some kind of relief on this earth, if the demons were born. Then they would be part of the happenings, good or bad and possibly that would restrain their evil activities. Protected in the womb, now, they were inflicting miseries on the world outside.

Diti had been cursed to beget demons. If that was to fructify, correspondingly another curse somewhere had to be uttered. So the Lord, by his own creation, evolved a suitable situation. Jaya and Vijaya were guards at the gate of Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu. Their sincere devotion had secured them the coveted status

Once, some sages had passed through six doors to Vaikuntha without difficulty by the power of yoga. Now at the threshold of the seventh and final door, they wished entry. Sheer self control helped them from being lured by temptations. Constant dedicated thinking had aroused a longing in their hearts for a glimpse of Lord Vishnu. Their tenacious effort had brought them this far. Jaya and Vijaya were suspicious of the identity of the sages and so refused to permit them inside. Further, as if driven by some kind of insanity, they behaved very badly towards the saints. Lashing them with canes, they invited trouble for themselves. The sages were infuriated at the outrageous conduct. They burst out and said, “Your appointment in this holy region is on the basis of your meritorious service to the Lord. But to us, you seem to be unworthy of the honour. You do not even know that the Lord has no enemies in any quarter from whom he need anticipate harm. People attending on the Lord are above the mundane distinctions and discriminations. Your behaviour to us only exposes your spiritual immaturity. We cannot punish you severely as you are the servants of God but we will not let you go without a certain amount of reciprocal treatment for your deplorable action. May you be driven out of Vaikuntha and be born in an unrighteous race dominated by lust, anger and covetessness!” The two guards of Vaikuntha were shrewd enough to understand the implications of the words of the munis. Back to their senses, Jaya and Vijaya fell at their feet and expressed their apologies. They wholeheartedly accepted the curse as punishment for being sinful, inconsistent with their honoured status in the abode of God.

Hearing the commotion, Lord Vishnu, accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi, came out bare-footed to present himself before the offended ascetics. The sight of his lotus feet for which they had come all the way, appeased the anger of the sages instantly. Wonder struck at the lustrous Lord, the sages pleaded guilty for cursing his followers. They requested the Lord for the withdrawal of the curse or at least to reduce its severity. On the other hand, if the Lord felt that the munis were wrong, they were prepared to bear the punishment awarded by him.

The Lord answered, “Since everything has happened at my behest, these two will have to suffer the fated punishment. They must be born as asuras. The demons will ever be obsessed with thoughts about me, arising out of anger. Constant thinking, even though with hatred, would redeem them of the curse in a short span of time. Having carried out their curse for a three term period, they will return to my abode.

The story of Jaya and Vijaya provides the background for the birth of the twin demon sons of Diti. Engulfed in fear of the disaster expected to occur, she tried to delay their birth. Realizing that postponing the inevitable was not the solution to the problem, she brought forth the demons after a hundred years. Evil omens were observed all round, sending a shiver in the hearts of people. They assumed gigantic physique which struck universal terror. Their father named them Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, the former being considered the elder of the two.

Hiranyakashipu was very fond of Hiranyaksha who also strived hard to please his affectionate brother. Hiranyaksha, carrying his mace, once went to the portals of heaven with the desire to fight. The sight of him sent all the celestial deities rushing to hide themselves. Not finding any of them even after a thorough search, the asura gave vent to his anger by a terrible roar. He dived deep into the ocean and lived there for many years, scaring the aquatic animals. Varuna, the lord of the waters who had been sighted by Hiranyaksha, was arrogantly invited for a duel. Varuna said, “I have ceased to fight and I see none who can equal you. If you are really keen about a battle, Lord Vishnu is the only one who, in my view, seems to be a suitable opponent for you. He will humble your pride. In the battlefield you will find yourself on the ground surrounded by dogs.” Hiranyaksha, a fool that he was, could not catch the sarcasm laden with subtle meaning in Varuna’s words. Blinded by his sense of superiority in battle, he was exhilarated on finding a person who could be at par with him. He immediately went down to rasatala where he found Lord Vishnu as a boar. The boar put up a sham battle. Both of them were bleeding profusely. The demon thought Vishnu was going to meet his death at his hands. The asura gleefully looked forward to establishing his supremacy, with the gods orphaned at the end of the encounter. Vishnu decided he had given the demon a long rope and it was time to crush him once for all. His sudarshana chakra completed the job. Diti’s heart throbbed but happily her wish was fulfilled. With the demon killed and the earth rescued from under the waters, the Lord went back to his abode, feeling relieved.

Hiranyakashipu was depressed over his brother’s death. In order to console his family, he explained to them the philosophy of life. He said, “If a man has not lived through his entire life, he will be safe even in a fierce forest. If his life span has been completed, destiny cannot help him escape death even in a well protected house.”

Hiranyakashipu was ambitious to become a powerful sovereign leader, invincible and ever youthful. He went to the mountain Mandara to engage in a severe austerity to propitiate the lord of creation, Brahma. Standing on the tip of the toe, with arms raised and eyes directed to the sun, he concentrated with the single objective of achieving his ambition. The religious penance was so vigorously performed that fire emitted from his head in all directions. The destructive element upset the equilibrium and the celestial gods were highly agitated. They approached Brahma to help them get out of the difficulty. They said, “You cannot be a passive spectator while this demon is making life in heaven impossible for us. Remedial action is urgently needed before he creates havoc in all regions.” In response to their plea, Brahma went to Hiranyakashipu with a smiling countenance and offered to award the boon of his choice for his tough austerity. Hiranyakashipu enumerated a long list of his aspirations. He said, “Oh Lord! Please grant me immortality against each one of your creations. Let me not die indoor or outdoor, during day or night, through men or animals, animate or inanimate objects or reptiles. Grant me matchless power in battles, undisputed lordship over the guardians of the worlds. Remaining young, I should enjoy all your possessions and luxuries which your asceticism has procured for you.” To avert the disasters as a result of the demon’s penance, Brahma crowned him by sanctioning all his demands.

With the extensive power thus obtained, there was no stopping of Hiranyakashipu. Indraloka came under him. Except Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, all other lokapalas were subservient to him. He arrogantly disregarded the shastric ordains and held sway over his ill gotten prosperity for many years. He also indulged in having intoxicating liquor in large quantities. Anxious over the unwarranted suffering, the gods saw Vishnu as the only rescuing power. At the end of their prayers, they heard a voice, the source of which could not be discerned. The voice enthused the gods with confidence and said, “Hiranyakashipu’s days are numbered. I shall soon dispel his illusory notion of being invincible. You should patiently wait. I shall make my appearance at the appropriate time when I will be instrumental to his death.” The gods were happy with the promise and began to believe Hiranyakashipu as already dead.

Chapter 6: 

Narasimhavatara

Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlada was a great devotee of Sri Hari. At the age of five, his intellectual and spiritual maturity was commendable. Quiet by nature, he was not fascinated by the worldly temptations nor did he show any interest in playing with the children. He did not nurture enmity towards anybody, a characteristic contrary to the innate quality of a daitya. Drawn by his devotion to the Lord, he would sometimes go into a trance. Hiranyakashipu tried his best to divert Prahlada to his ways of wicked living, by putting him as under study to the sons of Shukracharya. They failed in their efforts as Prahlada was guided by the belief that all are the children of God without discrimination. Hiranyakashipu employed various people to find his source of spiritual learning. Prahlada’s intelligent reply bowled them out. He said, “Just as iron filings are attracted towards a magnet, so am I drawn to the Almighty Chakrapani [weilder of the discus.]. Hence my mind works differently from yours.” Prahlada patiently bore the severe lashings with canes. Though his father felt that keeping him in isolation would reform him, it proved to be an added convenience for the young boy to think of God without disturbance. When questioned about the best quality learning he has had, Prahlada boldly replied, “Devotion to Lord Vishnu, meditating, finding immense pleasure in the service of God, getting engrossed in reciting his glories are the best teachings life has taught me.”

Hiranyakashipu concluded from Prahlada’s speech that he was carrying the guilt of his uncle’s death as he found the boy an accomplice of his father’s enemy, Vishnu. Unable to draw him away from the Lord, he decided that taking Prahlada’s life was the only way to get rid of this millstone round his neck. He tried to kill his son through snake bite, setting an elephant to trample over him, pushed him down a mountain, and exposing him to severe climatic conditions. He even resorted to poisoning his food. But Prahlada escaped all of his father’s wicked conspiracies. His communion with God through meditation continued as usual. Hiranyakashipu began to foresee self destruction by continuous enmity with his son. The sons of Shukracharya built up his confidence by saying that a boy of his age could not pose any danger. However, they suggested the boy be bound with varuna’s noose till the return of their father, Shukracharya. They also expected him to reform with age.

Prahlada imparts spiritual instruction to the Daitya boys.

One day, there was some leisure in the absence of the preceptor. The boys began playing. Prahlada called his friends to initiate them with regard to the spiritual, more enlightening aspect of life than the transient happiness of the world. Still in the tender age when their minds could be easily moulded, the boys showed great interest. Prahlada started instruction by pointing to them that they were fortunate to be born as humans. Hence they should not waste it in trivial pleasures which would lead to ceaseless births and deaths.

The wise should seek the lotus feet of the Lord for everlasting bliss of emancipation. He went on to explain the various segments of life in a lucid way to clear their cloudy minds. He said, “A man’s life span is one hundred years. Of this, half the time he wastes in sleep due to exhaustion from ignorant indulgence in worldly pleasures. The charms of childhood and early youth rob twenty years of the remaining half. Nothing can be achieved in old age when infirmity and senility set in. Another twenty years are lost there. The balance of only ten years is all that is left for us to spend constructively in the thought of God. This too we fritter away in trying to provide comfort and luxury for a happy family life. Then where is the time for the worship of the Lord? We let slip the real happiness which lies in the renunciation of the worldly connections and serving the divine feet.” The boys were awe stricken at the enormous knowledge of Prahlada. They were curious to know how he had managed to learn so much at such a young age. Prahlada narrated to them that he had learnt it from Narada while he was in his mother’s womb.

Prahlada began his story to convince the boys about the authenticity of what he had told them a little while ago. He started, “My father went to the mountain Mandara to perform arduous penance to please Brahma. Availing his absence, the celestials planned to wage war against the Danavas [demons]. Indra, who had lost to my father, wanted to wipe out the demons, expectantly hoping that the daitya king would die unable to withstand the strenuous austerity. In the war, the demons deserted their wives and children to save their own lives. Indra abducted my mother and was carrying her to heaven. Narada advised him to let her go as she was another man’s wife. Indra said he would keep her in his custody till she gave birth to his enemy’s child growing in her womb. Until that child was killed, Indra feared his position would be in danger. Narada then advised him not to entertain such cruel thoughts against an infant, the devotee of Vishnu. As a mark of respect to Narada, Indra freed my mother and she was taken care of by the sage in his hermitage. My mother served him with reverence. She wished for the easy birth of her child and a safe life thereafter. The divine sage granted both her wishes. He instructed her about the value of spiritual pursuit as well as the real nature of religion. I heard this from my mother’s womb. Due to lapse of time and age, my mother is not able to recollect the sage’s teachings but it is there in my memory, fresh as if I heard it just yesterday. This is the truth behind my knowledge. My friends! If you trust my words, give up your ego. Yogic exercises terminate the actions that lead to desire and misery. Direct your aspirations towards the Almighty with honest attachment. This, the learned consider as real happiness. Other pleasures are mere mockery to which we should not become slaves.”

There was a marked impact on the minds of the boys who began to follow the teachings of Prahlada. Observing this, the preceptors informed the king about the overpowering influence of his son on other students. Hiranyakashipu abused his son as the traitor of the family. Panting heavily he burst out at Prahlada, “You ill-mannered wretch! You have asserted that your Supreme Being is more powerful than I am. With that confidence, you arrogantly transgress my commands. Let him now save you from the jaws of death. If, as you say, he is all pervading, can you prove he is in this pillar?” So saying he hit the pillar with his mace. Instantly, there was a loud rumbling sound of deafening intensity which rattled even the gods. Out of the pillar emerged a fierce strange form that had a head of a lion and a human body.

Vishnu obviously took this form, called Narasimha [a combination of man and lion], which was outside the exemptions Hiranyakashipu had secured from Brahma as protection from death. Narasimha prolonged the encounter for some time till the demon lost himself to the impression of being the victor. His pride led to the loss of his sense of reasoning. Piling abuses on the Lord, he hastened his death and so had the time approached for Vishnu to fulfill his promise to the gods. It was dusk when Narasimha placed the demon on his lap at the threshold of the court room. His claw like nails ripped open the abdomen and he pulled out the entrails, and wore it like a garland round his neck. With blood splashed all over his face, the lion man looked dreadful. The way the Lord killed the demon did not include any of those sanctions the demon had obtained. The time was dusk, neither day nor night; the place was the doorstep, not indoor or outdoor; the weapon was the nails of the unusual creature and the lion-man was not any of Brahma’s creations.

Even after he had slain the demon, Narasimha’s terrible roar indicated that his anger had not appeased. The gods apprehended disaster when, seated on the throne, the ferocious lion man was still continuing his awe inspiring roar. They tried to calm him with songs of praise but it was of no avail. Prahlada was then asked to sing the glories of the Almighty. Gradually the anger decreased by degrees. The Lord pleased with Prahlada, offered him a boon. Prahlada was not to be tempted as he was beyond the worldly desires. He, however, requested the grant of a small wish. He said, “I am aware of the impious sinful life my father has lead. Yet, as a special favour, I beg you to wash his sins away and pardon him.” Admiring the boy’s selflessness, the Lord told him, “Your father has already been redeemed by your birth. He himself has been constantly thinking about me though with hatred. Even people disposed towards me as your father receive my blessings.” Thus Narasimha disappeared. Prahlada was crowned the king who ruled as a righteous rulers for many years.

Thus Jaya and Vijaya fulfilled the first phase of the brahmanas’ curse. In the next birth they were Ravana with ten heads and his brother Kumbhakarna who were klled by the Lord in his incarnation as Rama. Finally, they were born as Shishupala and Dantavaktra, who were the victims of Krishna.

Interesting Anecdotes

Goddess Lakshmi : Goddess Lakshmi, an embodiment of sympathy and compassion has a special place next to the heart of Sri Hari. After the death of Hiranyakashipu, she stepped down from the honoured place in protest. Not knowing the cause for Lakshmi’s decision to forsake him, Vishnu was perplexed. He requested her to reveal the reason for abandoning him. She said, “My faith in your mercy has fallen by your treatment of Hiranyakashipu. You never gave him a chance to reform. Prompted by your anger, you mercilessly killed him. Should you not have helped him to conquer his mental aberration? You should endeavour to kill the evil and not victimize the person who is wicked due to ignorance.” Narasimha realized his folly and promised to be careful in future, not to impose outright punishment without trial. Pleased with the Lord’s promise, she compromised to sit on his lap. That is why we find her on Lord’s lap in the Narasimhavatara. This was a trial for the Lord himself to convince Lakshmi that reformation would be the first step before convicting an erred man to capital punishment. Thus in his birth as Rama, he could have killed Ravana when he had lost his army, weapons and even his chariot. But Ravana was sent back at the end of the day, to reconsider his attitude towards Sita. Krishna also upheld his promise to his aunt to pardon Shishupala till he committed one hundred sins

Chapter 7: 

Child Prodigy Kapila

The revered rishi Kardama, in the satya yuga, was engaged in difficult austerities on the banks of river Sarasvati for ten thousand years. His intense meditation pleased Lord Hari, and he made his appearance, seated on his vehicle Garuda, in great splendour. Goddess Sri was seated on his bosom and he was wearing the gem Kaustubha. Kardama thought himself to be among the chosen few to be favoured thus by the Lord. When asked to make a request, he told the Lord, “I wish nothing from you except a wife who would be a devoted partner in the discharge of my religious duties. I find this necessary because I cannot perform religious rites to the deities, rishis and my manes without a wife.” The Lord said, “I am aware that you are free from lust. Your meditation is directed only to me and the efforts of devoted people never go futile. The wealthy prosperous Manu, the lord of the prajapatis, will visit you soon with his wife Shatarupa. Of his daughters, one named Devahuti, endowed with beauty and character is worthy to be your wife. She too wishes to have a husband of your stature. She will help you fulfill the commands of Brahma to procreate for which you are going through the grinding penances all these years. This fair daughter of Manu will bring forth nine daughters who in turn will beget many children by their marriage to sages. I expect you to dedicate the fruits of your actions to me. As a householder, kindness and concern for universal welfare should be your guiding principles in life. When you have discharged your duties, renounce the world and take to sanyasa. You will then realize that I am the primeval base on which you and everything in this universe subsist. Your wife will beget a son by my divine energy who will be the founder of the Tattva Samhita.” The Lord disappeared after revealing the future. He strictly instructed the sage to adhere to his directions regarding the proper discharge of duties.

Soon Manu and his wife arrived at the rishi’s hermitage as expected. Manu was enchanted by the beautiful surroundings, which had trees with bushy foliage housing various species of birds and animals strolled around freely. Lord’s appearance at the hermitage to bless the sage had enhanced its sanctity. The royal couple entered the thatched cottage of the sage who welcomed them with due respect. The king broached the subject of marriage to the muni and said he would be greatly honoured if he accepted his daughter’s hand in marriage. He introduced his daughter Devahuti as the sister of his two sons Priyavrata and Uttanapada. Ever since she heard about Kardama’s spiritual accomplishments, she had decided on him as her husband. Kardama accepted her with pleasure. After celebrating the marriage of their daughter, the king and the queen took leave with a heavy heart as they had to return to their kingdom.

Devahuti served her husband with devotion in all the religious duties he performed. Thus many years went by happily without any complaint from Devahuti for the austere life she had been following. Kardama was pleased with his wife’s attitude and he felt duty bound to reward her with a boon. He offered to grant her divyadrishti, spiritual insight by his yogic powers which would enable her to enjoy the divine pleasures. Instantly she was relieved of her responsibilities. She however bashfully expressed her desire to have children. Kardama immediately employed his yogic powers to bring a celestial car descending to the earth endowed with all imaginable comforts and pleasures. He asked her to have an ablution in the water of the river Sarasvati flowing nearby. As soon as she got into the water, she saw many damsels ready with beautiful clothes, ornaments, flowers and perfumes. All decked, she emerged from the water to present herself before her waiting husband. They led a happy married life in that divine luxury for many years.

The yogic powers helped Kardama to divide himself in nine different ways which resulted in the birth of nine daughters to Devahuti. Now he directed his mind to understand the identity of the Lord that revealed the futility of worldly objects. Detachment prepared him for renunciation, to live the life of a mendicant. Observing the changed attitude of her husband, Devahuti was crest fallen. She told her husband woefully, “Married to an intellectual like you, I failed to recognize the value of life. I wasted it in material happiness and did not ever think of meditating on the Supreme Lord. When you are on the verge of leaving, light has dawned on me. Without you how am I going to find worthy husbands for our daughters? Who will teach me the philosophy of life?” The maharshi replied, “Do not panic unnecessarily. Nothing is lost. Withdraw yourself to the meditation of God. Unperturbed, you concentrate on the Lord responsible for creation, preservation and destruction. You will realize he is Lord Vishnu rolled into one. Pleased with you, a part of his energy will enter your womb and be born as your son.” Devahuti obediently observed her husband’s advice and was with a child with the Lord’s grace, who was to be her son.

Meanwhile, Brahma was pleased with Kardama’s obedience to his advice. He asked him to perform the marriage of his daughters to eminent sages like Marichi and the like. That would help him [Brahma] multifariously in his effort to propagate. Brahma told Devahuti that her son would command great respect among siddhas and saints for his Sankhya School of Philosophy. He will be known as ‘Kapila’. His wide spread fame would be a matter of honour for his parents. Kardama performed the marriage of his daughters. The prospect of having the Lord as his son aroused an exhilarating feeling. He thanked God for his special mercy. Renunciation followed by meditation secured him the feet of Lord Vishnu.

Soon Kapila was born and he lived with his mother to keep her happy. He preferred to keep himself in isolation as he believed in the tattva marga. One day, his mother recollected the words of Brahma about her son. She approached Kapila and said, “Oh revered one! You are the Lord incarnate. Show me the path of light that will remove the darkness of ignorance pervading in me. By your grace, I want relief from the bondage of birth and death. You have been born to deliver people from getting drowned in a life of material infatuation. You are the foremost to know the moral values of life. Kindly lead me to emancipation through enlightenment.” Impressed by his mother’s genuine curiosity towards knowing the Ultimate Truth, he became her preceptor. First he explained to her that except Vishnu everything is maya, illusory appearances, pitfalls from which one has to be guarded. Universal love would extricate a man, who wishes supreme bliss, from evil thoughts and actions. Sincere devotion would earn him the love of God, affording communion with the Almighty. Kapila helped his mother to comprehend the Divine, the goal to be aspired in life by one and all. After completing the spiritual instruction, he took his mother’s permission to leave for an austere life in the north. He dedicated his entire life time for the upliftment of all. To this day his Sankhya Philosophy is firmly established on earth drawing many followers.

Devahuti too left the hermitage without any regret except that she felt sorry for the separation from her son. She contemplated on her son, the incarnation of Vishnu. Meditation became her way of life.

Interesting Anecdotes

Putrika vow: This vow is taken by a man without a son during the wedding of his daughter. A son born to her would become his adopted son according to the agreement. Manu had three daughters Akuti, Devahuti and Prasuti. He also had two sons Priyavrata and Uttanapada. Yet he entered into the above agreement during the marriage of his daughter Akuti with prajapati Ruchi. Ruchi, having the splendour of Brahma, had a son and a daughter. The son named Yajyna, was the incarnation of the sacrificial form of Vishnu. The daughter was Dakshina, an incarnation of Vishnu’s consort Lakshmi, for the goddess manifests herself as the fees given to the priests during sacrifices. Manu delighted by the boy’s glory, adopted him as his son. Dakshina continued to live with her parents. A very peculiar incident happened when these two children grew up to marriageable age. Dakshina expressed her desire to marry Yajyna. The alliance was permitted by the Putrika vow. Further, the boy was the form of Vishnu, and the girl, the form of Lakshmi, both inseparable divine couple. To their delight, the marriage was performed and they had twelve sons.

Heavenly Ganges: Devakulya, the grand-daughter of Kardama, became the heavenly river Ganges in her next birth. She assumed the form of the water she had used for washing Sri Hari’s feet.

The sons of Atri: Anasuya, daughter of Kardama, married rishi Atri. Their three sons, Soma, Lord Dattatreya and Sage Durvasa were the incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva respectively. The unusual occurrence of the trinity being born to the same parents has an interesting story. Atri was ordered by Brahma to engage himself in the propagation of creation. The rishi with his wife went to mountain Riksha to perform severe penance. For one hundred years he stood on one foot, subsisted on air, defied cold as well as heat and controlled his mind through pranayama. His only thought was to be blessed with offspring by the propitiation of the Supreme Being. Besides being pleased with his efforts, the three Gods were concerned about the danger of the fire shooting out of his head as a result of his rigorous practice of pranayama. They appeared before him to convey their satisfaction. They gave their word to him to be born as his three sons. The sage prostrated before the Gods for their blessings. He looked a little puzzled at having won over the three Gods when he had meditated only on the Supreme Lord. They explained, “The three of us together constitute the Ultimate Truth. In appreciation of your steadfast resolve, we wish to reward you by being born as your sons. Endowed with our energy, may their erudition be celebrated in the world and bring fame to you!”

Shukracharya and Markandeya: Khyati was Kardama’s daughter married to sage Bhrigu. They had a daughter named Kavi. The revered Ushana, popularly known as Shukracharya, the preceptor of the demons, was her son. Kavi had a brother Datta. His grandson was Markandeya by his son Mrukanda and great grandson of Bhrigu. Markandeya had the good fortune of never aging. He was born by the blessings of Shiva.

Mrukanda and Marudvati were without a child for a long time. Severe austerities performed to propitiate Shiva, presented the lord before them. He wanted to know if they would like to have a son with intelligence and short life or an unintelligent boy with longevity. They opted for the first offer. Markandeya was hence born with a life span of only sixteen years. He was an ardent devotee of Shiva and became well versed in all subjects. He had mastered the mahamrutyunjaya mantra. On the day of his death, when Yama came to claim his life, he found him praying in the temple before the Shiva Linga.The boy was frightened at the sight of Yama and clung to the linga for protection. Yama threw his noose at the boy which encircled the linga along with him. Enraged at the audacity of Yama, Shiva emerged and struck down with his trident the Kala, as he is called, for Yama decides on the time of death of everyone. Thus Shiva gets the name ‘Kalaharana.’ Shiva blessed Marakandeya with eternal life and also proclaimed that he would ever be sixteen years of age. Devas pleaded Shiva to revive Yama to save the earth from being overburdened with no one to keep control over the birth and death in the right proportion as a check on the growth of population.

There is a story connecting Markandeya with Vishnu. Once the earth was about to be engulfed by water when Parvati closed Shiva’s eyes in a playful mood and there was darkness all round signifying the oncoming of the doom’s day. There was only a single trunk of a barren mango tree standing amidst the surging water. Markandeya climbed the tree and prayed to Shiva to rescue the earth from the impending calamity. That is why Shiva is also called ‘Ekamreshvara’. Hearing the distress call, Vishnu appeared as a child on a banyan leaf and asked the boy to enter his mouth to save himself from the rising water. Inside, Markandeya saw the entire universe, with the seven regions, the seven oceans, mountains and kingdoms inclusive of living beings. Confused at the extraordinary vision, he started praying to Vishnu to draw him out of the baffled state of mind. Vishnu appeared and declared himself as time and death. Markandeya then lived with Vishnu as his devotee for thousands of years.

Nara and Narayana: Daksha, the self born son of Brahma, married Prasuti, the third daughter of Manu. They had sixteen daughters. Thirteen of them were married to Dharma, one to Agni, another to the Pithrus and the last, Sati, to Bhava [Shiva]. Virtuous Murti, married to Dharma, gave birth to two ascetic sons Nara and Narayana. Celestial music, playing of instruments, beating of the drums, dancing and rejoicing marked their birth. The two ascetics, the incarnation of Hari, were extolled and honoured even by gods. Having blessed all the people, these two went away to mountain Gandhamada. They descended again on earth during the Mahabharatha age as the two Krishnas, meaning having dark complexion, one was Lord Krishna and the other Arjuna. Sri Krishna the Narayana, the head of the Yadu race, was born to releive the earth from the burden of wicked people. Arjuna, the Nara was the valiant warrior of the Kuru dynasty and the companion of Krishna. Arjuna, one of the sons of Pandu, was later referred as Pandava along with his other brothers. His cousins, the sons of Dhritharashtra, acquired the name Kaurava. In fact both of them were the descendents of king Kuru.

Rantideva: King Rantideva was the son of Nara of the Bharadvaja family. His glories were sung world over. In order to satisfy the needs of others, he quite often went on starvation and thirst. Once, he and his relatives went without food and water for forty eight days and they were near collapse. On the forty ninth day, lot of food poured into the hands of Rantideva. He distributed the food to all his relatives and had just enough for himself. To test his patience, generosity and will power, God came in various forms as a brahmana, a menial, a pack of mongrels and finally as a chandala begging for food and water. The kind king parted with all the food and also water to the last drop unmindful of his critical need. Lord Vishnu presented himself in his real form before Rantideva. Beholding the Lord, his mortal needs vanished and all that he was conscious of was worship of Lord Narayana. He and those closely associated with him became saints devoted to Lord Narayana.

Chapter 8: 

Shiva versus Daksha

Once during a gathering of gods, sages, prajapatis and other divinities in a sacrifice, there was a minor incident that snowballed into a major scuffle between Shiva and Daksha. When everyone had taken their seats, the illustrious prajapati Daksha walked in. He offered his respects to his father Brahma and proceeded to the honoured seat offered to him. Everyone stood up as a mark of respect and waited for Daksha to be seated. Then Daksha noticed that Shiva was already sitting, even before he was in his place. As the father of Sati, thereby Shiva’s father-in-law, he took it as a blatant insult. Daksha’s anger erupted like a volcano and he spat out derogatory abuses followed by a curse. He started off at a tangent calling him inauspicious though with the name Shiva signifying auspiciousness. He said, “It was destiny that tied me down to him by the advice of Brahma. I have thus sacrificed my chaste daughter Sati by agreeing to give her in marriage to this wicked man who has transgressed the basic code of conduct. With ashes from the funeral pyre smeared all over his body, human skulls round his neck as garland, residing in the cremation ground among spirits and ghosts, unkempt matted hair, oh! What a repulsive personality he bears. He will not be treated at par with gods nor will he partake any sacrificial offerings in their company.”

Shiva remained in his seat without any reaction. His ardent follower Nandi could not contain himself. He retaliated with a counter curse on Daksha and his followers. He shouted at Daksha, “You are engulfed in the darkness of ignorance. Your ego is inflated to such an extent that you have no spiritual elevation. You are merely rolling in the mire of worldly pleasures. The cause of this is due to the incorrect or rather no understanding of the Vedas. May you continue to suffer going through the cycle of birth and death in this material world! May you with your followers, never acquire the mental illumination for spiritual bliss!” Daksha in response uttered another curse on the devotees of Shiva. Like Shiva, he wished them also to be amidst inauspicious things, smeared with ashes. After the emotional outburst, he left the assembly in a huff, despite requests to stay on, from the eminent guests present there. Shiva, though maintaining his composure, was terribly upset at the enmity building up towards the destruction of the two rivals. However, the sacrifice was completed without any hindrance by the prajapatis assembled there.

Chapter 9: 

Sati renounces life

Daksha became very proud on being appointed as the head of the patriarchs. Hence he continued to insult Shiva. He intentionally ignored to invite Shiva to the sacrifice called brihaspatisava he was performing. Sati saw the celestial couples proceeding to attend the function, decked in fine clothes and jewelry. Sati was tempted to participate in the festivities along with her sisters and receive the gifts from her parents. She wanted Shiva to accompany her to be honoured as the son-in-law. He explained to her that it would end up in humiliation if he presented himself uninvited. He also advised her not to go as she was sure to come to grief. Though Daksha’s favourite daughter, Sati was now his enemy due to her association with Shiva. Pointing out Daksha’s insults to him for no fault of his, he requested her not to ignore his advice. Sati cast a scorching look at Shiva as an expression of her disconsolate mind and frustrated desire. Shiva, however, could foresee the destruction of Sati either way. So he saw no point restraining her any further.

She decided to disregard her husband and set forth for her fatherland. She was disappointed at the cold reception from her father who purposely avoided her. He made no enquiries about her or her husband’s welfare. Her mother and her sisters were very cordial though others kept themselves aloof for fear of Daksha’s reactions. There was no portion of the sacrificial offering allotted to Shiva. She could infer that it was a calculated action on her father’s part to rub in his animosity towards her husband. Her sorrow at her father’s persistence in insulting Shiva found an outlet in her angry words and she said, “I feel ashamed to call myself your progeny. You are blinded to the pious qualities of good people. You have failed to respect Shiva, the law maker of the universe, whom no one defies. I consider it below my dignity to have a body that has taken birth from a wily person. Hereafter, Shiva calling me Dakshayini will sound as an insult to my ears and I cannot allow him to use that epithet. In sheer disgust and hatred towards you, I have decided to end my life by intense yogic practice.” The yogic powers sent her up in flames in the final stage of samadhi. Sati’s supporters rushed towards Daksha to kill him. Bhrigu muni’s oblations into the fire brought forth gods to control the supporters of Sati, and sent them away from the sacrificial site.

Hearing Sati’s renunciation of life, Shiva sent a gigantic person created from one of the locks of his matted hair. He was endowed with Shiva’s destructive powers to tackle the situation as deserved. Virabhadra, thus commissioned, could not sever Daksha’s head even with repeated attempts. In astonishment, he began to think of an effective device when a slaughtering machine nearby drew his attention. He instantly inserted Daksha’s head into the machine which severed it. Everyone censured the act but Virabhadra was hardly affected. By his power, the entire sacrificial structure was in flames and with his work completed, he went back to Mount Kailasha.

Narayana and Brahma had anticipated the disastrous consequence of the friction between Daksha and Shiva. Conveniently they absented themselves from the sacrifice. Shiva caused the death of Daksha that left his sacrifice half way through. Gods sought Brahma for help. Brahma offered a suggestion that could solve the problem. He asked the gods to surrender at Shiva’s feet for forgiveness. Brahma also went to Shiva to advice him not to blow trivialities out of proportion and let bygones be bygones. Shiva told him that Daksha’s childish behaviour had not affected him in the least. His purpose was to chastise Daksha in the grip of illusory power of maya. Shiva graciously pardoned Daksha. Since Daksha’s head had turned to ashes, being thrown into the sacrificial fire, Shiva suggested a goat’s head could be put in its place .Other gods were variously provided with limbs lost in the combat.

With Daksha revived with a goat’s head, everyone moved to the sacrificial ground with Shiva and Brahma. Daksha shrunk in shame at the sight of Shiva. As if woken from deep sleep, Daksha felt cleansed of his sins. He profusely apologised for his behaviour towards Shiva, ignorant of his power and greatness. He thanked Shiva for his kindness and admitted he would never be able to reciprocate it in equal measure. Before the sacrifice was resumed, Brahma, Shiva and Daksha propitiated Lord Vishnu inviting him to honour the occasion with his consort. Vishnu then made known to all that it was he who appeared in the three forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, in accordance with his activity of creation, preservation and destruction respectively. After all the disastrous happenings, calm prevailed with the reconciliation. There was a lurking grief in Daksha’s heart for having lost his dear daughter Sati. She was good enough to come to the sacrifice without any grouse against her father but he threw her out with his deliberate indifference. It pricked him deep with guilt because his foolish adamant behaviour had driven her to death. She was again born to Menaka and Himavan as Uma and united with Shiva as his wife.

Chapter 10: 

Dhruva the North Star

Manu had two sons named Priyavrata and Uttanapada, both incarnations of Vishnu. Uttanapada had two wives, Suruchi and Suniti. Suruchi was dearer to him than his other wife. One day, Uttama was on his father’s lap when Uttanapada and Suruchi were seated on the throne. Suniti’s son Dhruva, a child of five years, with a desire to sit on the lap along with his brother, tried to climb on to his father. Uttanapada made no attempts to help the small child to come on to his lap or show any affection by fondling him. Suruchi, the domineering wife, hurt the tender feelings of the child with harsh words. She said, “It’s a pity you are Suniti’s son unlike Uttama who happens to be mine. You do not have the good fortune to sit on your father’s lap nor the right to the throne. If you wish to enjoy the privilege at least in your next birth, engage yourself in the meditation of the Supreme Lord. Go through severe austerities by which you may hope to be born as my son then.” Uttanapada was a silent spectator without any reaction. Dhruva was terribly upset by his step-mother’s heartless words. He ran to his mother crying inconsolably. She was also depressed on hearing about the incident from the attendants. With eyes filled with tears, she said, “Just as your step-mother told you, my dear child, being my son you cannot aspire for the throne. Your father does not love me. I would advise you to emulate your illustrious grand-father. Strenuous penance and sincere service at God’s feet helped him finally attain emancipation after a prosperous life as a king.”

Inspired by his mother’s wise advice, he started towards the forest for practicing arduous penance. At that time, Narada came to dissuade the boy from venturing into such a rigorous task. He said, “Dhruva, your age calls for a life of enjoyment and play, not for penance. Do not allow the words of wicked people to make any dent on your mind. At the same time let not the words of praise inflate your pride. The path you have chosen is not a bed of roses but a thorny one beyond your capacity to withstand. Go home, enjoy your childhood and come back when you are old enough for this kind of life.” Dhruva thanked him for his concern but with humility conveyed to him that his mind was set on the goal. Impressed by his steadfast determination, Narada advised him to go to Madhuvana on the banks of Yamuna. He also taught Dhruva the nuances of penance to reach the Almighty. With due respect to the sage, Dhruva took leave to repair to the holy place.

On reaching his destination, he meticulously followed the instructions of Narada, with complete control over his mind and senses. He gradually increased the interval between the intake of food and finally he even gave up inhaling air so vital for existence. Standing motionless on one leg, withdrawn from the material world, Dhruva meditated on the Supreme Being. The gods were agitated with the high energy released by his penance and the earth too developed a depression by the pressure of his toe. With an intention to relieve the gods of their tension and in particular to express his delight over the small boy’s devotion, Lord Hari appeared before Dhruva. He told Dhruva that he would rule over his father’s kingdom for many kalpas and his life will finally culminate in the spiritual bliss. He also promised Dhruva a place of honour in the firmament as the brightest ever shining star. Dhruva became the Pole Star in the sky also known as the North Star.

Receiving the blessings, Dhruva started homewards to his father’s kingdom. Contemplating on his way back, he realized that he did not entertain any hatred towards his step-brother or step-mother. He was not angry over his father’s partiality. On the other hand he repented for his mental attitude when he walked out of the house. His only aim at that moment was to win the same degree of affection and attention from his father as his brother. He regretted aspiring for such a petty thing instead of Sri Hari’s blissful realm. He felt that in all probability, he was urged by jealousy, while immature age and mind eclipsed the wonders of attaining God. Endowed with a wider perspective of the value of life now, he grieved for his previous misplaced choice.

In the kingdom, Uttanapada did not have peace of mind. May be, he was silent to Surichi’s rebuke out of fear for his cantankerous wife. In reality, he might have had no hatred for Dhruva, being Suniti’s son, as Suruchi had made it appear. So he was suffering from a sense of guilt for being instrumental in the exile of his son. Though he was assured by Narada about Dhruva’s outstanding future, he could not pardon his cruelty to his young child. To make amends for his past ill treatment, he proceeded to receive his son with honours. He placed him on an elephant for everyone to see the young boy who had won glories inconceivable at his age.

Uttama was disinterested in ascending the throne. He was however killed by a yaksha in the forest. Dhruva was made the king. He was infuriated about his brother’s death. Manu appeared before Dhruva to stop his inimical aggression towards the yakshas. He showed him the righteous way to deal with such situations. War was not the solution. Stooping low to retaliation influenced by emotion or sentiment was not worthy of a wise man. Equanimity should have command over ones frame of mind. Dhruva decided to turn a new leaf in his attitude in handling trying situations. He ruled successfully for many kalpas as advised by Manu. Then he retired to the forest in quest of spiritual emancipation.

Chapter 11 

Prithu the sovereign king

Sage king Anga of the Dhruva lineage was a pious man strictly observing the scriptural injunctions. He married Sunitha, daughter of Mrithyu. When Anga’s offerings were rejected by gods during the horse sacrifice, he acted on the advice of brahmanas to perform a sacrifice for the birth of a son. Subsequently, a son was born to him whom he named Vena. Unfortunately, he imbibed all the unrighteous qualities of his grand-father Mrithyu. Anga’s efforts to reform his son failed for he seemed to be incorrigible. In disgust, Anga left his palace in the dead of night and his whereabouts could not be traced. The kingdom without a ruler was plundered by robbers and dacoits. Insecurity had spread like wild fire. The brahmanas decided to make Vena the king. True to his nature, he turned out to be an undependable king. His wicked ways caused the earth to become barren of its fertility and prosperity. The arrogant king considered himself superior even to Lord Narayana by whose grace he was born. The brahmanas could not tolerate him and he died by their curse. Now the country continued to languish in unhappiness. Vena had died without a successor. The brahmanas used their yogic powers and brought a boy and a girl from the arms of the dead body of Vena. They were christened as Prithu and Archi. They were the forms of Lord Narayana and Goddess Lakshmi. As they represented the eternal divine couple, a marriage was possible between the siblings.

Prithu was a righteous pious king. Despite his efforts to bring normalcy on earth, he witnessed only wide spread adversity and famine causing many hunger deaths He was angry with mother earth for swallowing the seeds and plants which caused crop failure in his kingdom. Therefore, he thought of destroying her to seek his revenge. Earth begged his mercy and said she had swallowed the herbs and plants to protect them from the wicked people. She asked Prithu to get a calf while she took the form of a cow. By milking her, the seeds and plants would flow out like milk. Since she would be the wish granting cow Kamadhenu, all gods could milk her to obtain things according to their desire. Prithu cheerfully acted as directed. With abundance of fertility and prosperity, suffering was completely forgotten as a bad dream.

Prithu was, with all seriousness, engaged in the marathon performance of a hundred horse sacrifices. At the start of his hundredth sacrifice, Indra thought his supremacy would be lost if Prithu managed to complete the final one. He stole the sacrificial horse as an obstruction to the successful completion of the sacrifice. Prithu’s son, on the advice of sage Atri, retrieved the horse from Indra who could not deceive the boy by his disguise. Prithu aimed his arrow against Indra. Brahma wanted to avert the disaster that would follow. He advised the king to withdraw the arrow forthwith and also give up the last of his horse sacrifices. Brahma explained to Prithu, since he and Indra were the forms of the Supreme Lord, it was absurd to kill one another. It would amount to killing oneself. He told him that he had already equalized Indra by his ninety nine horse sacrifices. He further said that Prithu should, hereafter, endeavour to impress upon people about the value of virtue as against evil which is detrimental to spiritual development. Brahma’s advice refined his mental outlook. His excellent governance based on Dharma is even today compared to that of Yudhishthira and his glories are sung as those of Lord Rama

Interesting Anecdotes

Nishadas: The Nishadas belong to an aboriginal tribe, short and stunted, residing in the mountainous forests. In the Ramayana, Guha, a nishada chief ferried Rama across the Ganges in his boat. The story of the origin of this tribe is quite fascinating. Vena’s deplorable behaviour and his tormenting attitude towards the subjects, forced him into a premature death by the curse of the brahmanas. Without an heir to carry on the lineage of the noble king Anga, the brahmanas attempted to produce a successor by their yogic powers from the thighs of Vena. Much to their disappointment, a nishada emerged who was not eligible to be crowned as the king. In their next attempt, Prithu and Archi were born from his arms. But the brahmanas allowed the nishada to live and thus the tribe came into existence

Chapter 12: 

Gajendra and the crocodile

There was a mountain named trikuta beautiful with scenic grandeur. Surrounded on all sides by the milky ocean, trikuta was extensive at its base and in height as well. It had three peaks of iron, silver and gold. Its caves resounded with sweet musical sounds accompanied by the roaring of frightened lions, anticipating danger from their enemies. In one of its valleys, Varuna possessed a fascinating garden with a lake. In the refreshing water of the lake, the celestial damsels had a bath after playing in the garden. In the nearby mountain forests, there lived a herd of female elephants, led by a very powerful male elephant named Gajendra. The male elephant struck terrible fear in other animals by trampling on the bamboo bushes and devastating huge trees. Intoxicated by his pride of strength, he did not realize the magnitude of the oppression he was inflicting on the animals.

Once, the male elephant with his female friends went to the lake to quench his thirst. While he was sporting in the water, a strong crocodile caught hold of his leg and would not let it go. The combined effort of all the elephants was no match to that of the crocodile. The male elephant could not be extricated and the struggle appeared like a tug of war. The elephants feeling exhausted, gave up the fight as lost. Just then it flashed to Gajendra to eulogise Sri Hari who alleviates the miseries of all. He called out to the gracious God, “Oh Lord! You are the omnipotent God guiding all deities. You create, sustain and annihilate, the only Lord possessing the threefold power. Saviour of all creatures! Please save me from the firm grip of the crocodile.” On hearing the pitiable cry of the elephant, the merciful Lord descended to the spot on his Garuda. Emotionally overwhelmed by the Lord’s instant response, the elephant bowed low in obeisance, with his trunk raised with an offering of a lotus in it. The Lord rescued the devotee by striking his discus on the head of the attacking crocodile. There was all round joy among the celestial deities in admiration of the Lord’s mercy.

The indisputable truth that is apparent from the story is, ‘God delivers his devotees from the clutches of the wicked.’ Herein, the twofold mercy of the Lord can be observed. The crocodile in its previous birth was a gandharva by the name Huhu. He was cursed by Devala, another gandharva, for some unknown reason by which he had now taken the form of a crocodile. Lord’s discus redeemed it from the curse. It assumed the resplendent form of a gandharva, paid his obeisance to the Lord and returned to his region.

It is heart rending to know the plight of Gajendra in the previous birth. There was a Pandya king named Indradyumna, a dedicated devotee of Sri Hari. Once in a hermitage on mountain Kulachala, the monarch was observing rigorous self control in a vow of silence. Wearing matted hair, he was engrossed in the worship of Sri Hari. At that time, the eminent rishi Agastya came to the monarch’s hermitage. Seeing the king not coming forward to offer respects to him, the rishi was infuriated. He took it to be a conscious indifference and punished him with a severe curse. He said he should become an arrogant elephant with a perverted mind. Accepting the curse as the will of God, the king had been living as an elephant since then. The tragic part of the elephant’s life was that the thought of Lord Hari had been erased from his memory. But at the time of complete helplessness, his devotion as Indradyumna stood him in good stead. When all physical efforts had failed to save him, the forgotten truth of the greatness of God came back to his mind. He realized that Narayana was the only power to pull him out of his difficulties. God saved him from the curse and the king’s earlier devotion helped him to salvation.

Chapter 13:

 Churning the ocean

Shukracharya was the spiritual preceptor of the asuras. He had given them invincible weapons which were used against the devas. The devas were not adequately equipped to manage the terrible onslaught of the asuras. Durvasa’s curse had divested Indra of his power. The devas were gradually getting depleted in number. The deities approached Brahma for help. He presented the case of the suras to Vishnu.

Lord Vishnu readily offered to help with a warning about the rigid discipline the gods were to observe. He said, “Make a careful note of my instructions. Let there not be the slightest digression. You know that the asuras have the able guidance of Shukracharya. He will catch you red handed if you try any mischief. He will at once turn the asuras against you successfully, foiling all your chances of recovery. Deal with them with utmost caution. Pretend to make peace with your adversaries. Attitude of conflict will be detrimental to achieving our objective. Enacting a farce friendship, get them to work with you for obtaining nectar which bestows immortality even on mortals. Finally you will be the sole beneficiaries. Keep this as a guarded secret. Get yourself busy soon. Throw the herbs and plants into the milky ocean. Use the mountain Mandara as the churning rod while Vasuki, the king of the nagas, will serve as the rope to rotate the Mandara. Note that humility would be the stepping stone to your victory. Politely accede to the dictates of the asuras without any friction. No need to be alarmed when poison emerges as one of the products of churning. Do not exhibit any resentment if you have to sacrifice your wishes for the success of your plans. I am well aware that it’s going to be a frustrating trial on your emotions but you have to keep cool.”

Expressing their gratitude to the Lord, they went to Bali, the king of the asuras for a truce. Bali was gratified with the change in the attitude of the devas. He ordered his army to stop aggression. The army chiefs found their hands tied against the unarmed enemies whom they could vanquish effortlessly. Complying with the plan of the deities for a joint churning of the ocean for nectar, Bali made sure of an equal share for the asuras.

With great enthusiasm, the asuras and the devas uprooted the Mandara. They needed the assistance of Sri Hari to transport it on his Garuda to the ocean as it was a task beyond the combined strength of the two parties. Vasuki was promised his share of the nectar if he agreed to be the rope for churning. All was set for the commencement of the great task, with Vasuki wound round the mountain. The asuras wanted to be at the snake’s head for auspicious reasons. Sri Hari was holding the head of the snake. He smilingly acceded to Bali’s request. The deities held the tail and vigorous churning got started. The heavy weight of the mountain was drawing it repeatedly into the water. Sri Hari in the form of a tortoise held the mountain on his back to stop it from sinking. With a proper anchor provided, the churning continued without hindrance, the energy for the strenuous act being pumped into the two sides by Vishnu. The aquatic creatures were highly agitated by the velocity of the churning. The fire and heat emitted by Vasuki was draining the asuras which was evident from the slackened speed. The deities were also exhausted but were revived by a cool downpour. As things were progressing thus, the foaming poison called halahala emerged out. It posed a serious problem to the lives of the creatures under water. The patriarch of the creatures pleaded help from Shambhu [Shiva] who took it up as his duty to save the situation. Lord Shiva held the poison in the hollow of his palm and drank it. He arrested the poison in his throat which tainted it blue. Hence he gets his epithet ‘neelakantha’ His consort Bhavani was delighted at the life saving act of her husband and so were the creatures. A few drops of poison spilled from his palm which was consumed by some aquatic creatures, scorpions, snakes and herbal plants. This gave them the permanent intrinsic poisonous character.

Churning continued further which brought forth the sacred cow Surabhi whose milk and milk products, like butter and curd were used for the sacrificial oblations. Ucchaishravas, the best of horses, went to Bali who expressed a desire to own it. Sri Hari advised Indra not to compete with Bali for the possession of the horse. Iravatha, the king of elephants, became Indra’s vehicle. Parijata, the most beautiful flower went to the celestial region. Like the flash of light, Goddess Lakshmi emerged from the ocean spreading her radiance in all quarters. The devas and the danavas were spell bound by the beauty of the divine lady. Each one was vying to win her favour by offering her the best gift possible. They had an eye on the good fortune she would bring along if she was pleased with any one of them. Lakshmi strolled around like a moving golden creeper with a lotus garland in hand. She was assessing them, but was not impressed by any of them. Each seemed to have some glaring flaw displeasing to her. The first site of Sri Hari coveted her heart. She recognized the lust free character of the Lord, the refuge of everyone. What she liked most was, he was not in the rat race with others to possess her. She saw in him a person suitable to be her husband. She bashfully garlanded him, indicating her choice of husband. Sri Hari also accepted her with pleasure by offering the left side of his chest as her abode close to his heart.

So far innumerable things appeared from the churning but the important of all, for which the entire process was started, still eluded them. They decided to continue till they achieved the object of desire. Ultimately, an effulgent well adorned male, surfaced with a pot of nectar. On seeing the pot of nectar, the asuras threw to the wind their agreement of sharing it with the devas. They snatched the pot from Dhanvantari, the person who came out from the ocean. Dhanvantari is the propagator of medicine and the father of the science of Ayurveda. Having proved their deceitful nature, the asuras were excited about having the entire nectar to themselves. Depressed devas reported to Sri Hari about losing the nectar to the cunning asuras. The Lord consoled them and promised to make the danavas have a taste of their own bitter pill by his illusory powers.

Infighting among the asuras began as to who should have the first taste of the nectar. Petty bickering grew into a terrible conflict of enmity. Finding the moment congenial, Sri Hari made his appearance as a beautiful young woman with seductive looks. The asuras momentarily ceased to fight, being captivated by the beauty of the lady. Fancying her to have been sent by the Almighty for their good, the asuras agreed to solve their problem by requesting her to be their mediator. They made the request by handing over the pot to her. She took a verbal undertaking from the asuras that they would accept her decision, agreeable or not, as final. Both the parties were made to wait in a room till the lady walked in with the pot. The repulsive unfair behaviour of the asuras forced Sri Hari to decide against awarding any nectar to the danavas, more so because the asuras were his arch enemies. The lady allotted places in rows for the asuras and the deities. Beguiling the asuras with loving words, she started the distribution with the celestials. The daityas did not dare express their dissension against the decision of giving priority to the deities. One reason was, they did not want to be blamed for breach of contract, which they feared might result in losing their entire share of the nectar. Secondly, impropriety to argue with a woman deterred them from even opening their mouths. Amidst the trickery of the Lord, Rahu, one of the asuras, acted smartly to outwit even the Almighty. Assuming the form of a celestial, Rahu seated himself between the sun and the moon. They could see through his disguise and instantly exposed him. Rahu had just then poured the nectar into his mouth. The Lord severed Rahu’s head, not allowing the nectar to go down the throat. Otherwise, Rahu would have become immortal. However the nectar in his mouth made his head indestructible. So, Shiva agreed to give his head a position among the planets. (Ketu, his pair planet, is believed to represent his body. Thus they formed the navagraha along with the seven Lords of the week namely, Surya, Soma, Mangala, Budha, Guru, Shukra and Shani ) It is believed that Rahu has his revenge on the sun and the moon on the two dark days in a month. The new moon day is when there is no moon indicating that the sun loses its power by which the moon gets light. On the full moon day though its orb is complete, it is the last day of the waxing fortnight. It’s a sign of the moon being at the end of its glory with its waning to begin the next day. So the full moon day is the dark day for the moon. There is a mythical story that the solar eclipse and the lunar eclipse are caused because Rahu eats up the sun and the moon on these occasions to allay his wrath. When the entire nectar had been distributed among the deities, the Lord discarded his assumed form of a lady.

This story has an advice for the intelligent planning of our lives also. Life presents various opportunities and it is for us to properly utilize them to our benefit. The situation was equally conducive to the asuras and the devas to have the nectar to attain immortality. But the asuras lost the privilege because they were opposed to the Lord by their deceit while the celestials sought his unfailing help. Just as a diamond cuts another diamond, the Lord punished the asuras by a similar foul game. Thus, success is assured if we follow the righteous path while our life will be a failure if we are evil minded.

Now what do you think about the reaction of the asuras on being cheated of the nectar? They could not be expected to meekly take the defeat. They waited for Sri Hari to depart from the site. They launched a terrible attack on the deities. Each one chose a suitable rival partner. Bali stood up against Indra but succumbed to the severe blow from his vajrayudha, the thunder bolt. Though the asuras had a lot of casualities, they relentlessly fought with the deities. Using the magical powers, the asuras proliferated so much that they outnumbered the devas and drained their strength. The Great Purusha, the Lord, revived them by instilling fresh power and the suras resumed with renewed vigour. Indra faced a set back when his thunder bolt was ineffective on Namuchi who took the place of Bali after he was killed. The demoralized Indra drew Brahma’s notice who revealed to him the secret of the impenetrable shield of Namuchi. In the past, Namuchi had obtained a boon from Brahma that he would be beyond the power of a weapon dry or wet. Indra had to think of a means to defeat the effect of the boon. It occurred to him that foam would be the solution as it is a combination of water and air [wet and dry]. It bore the desired result and Namuchi fell dead on the ground.

Brahma saw the deities heading to annihilate the danavas. He sent the divine sage Narada to bring about some sobriety in the deities. He told them that their prosperity and immortality through nectar could not have happened without the help of the asuras, an idea suggested by Lord Narayana. It is not proper to indulge in a heinous act of destroying the danavas. He advised them to desist from the unworthy battle. With due respects to the sage, they ceased fighting and repaired to their region. Bali was carried to Shukracharya by the asuras. By the power of the sanjivini mantra, Bali and most of the dead asuras were revived by Shukracharya. Bali back to life did not experience any remorse over his defeat. His spiritual maturity showed him that one endowed with the power of discrimination between transient worldly happiness and the ever lasting bliss of the benevolence of God will never be affected by victory or defeat, good or bad, prosperity or diversity, happiness or sorrow. He had given a sermon to Indra about the philosophy of life in the course of the battle. His magnanimous attitude to life seems so unlike that of a daitya.

Interesting Anecdotes

Thunderbolt of Indra: The story goes that rishi Vishvarupa was very fond of his mother. She was from the family of asuras. Prompted by the affection, he used to give a portion of the sacrificial oblations secretly to the asuras. Indra detected the treachery of the rishi and cut off the three heads of Vishvarupa. The head that drank the soma juice became the chataka bird [the bird that looks up to the sky for the rain water to quench its thirst]. The second head that enjoyed wines took the form of a sparrow. The third that ate rice retained its original form. Tashtra, Vishvarupa’s father performed a yajna to raise an enemy against Indra. Due to mispronounciation of the word Indrashatru, the meaning changed. Much against Tashtra’s wish, an asura came out of the sacrificial fire, who finally turned out to be Indra’s victim.The asura was called Vritrasura, due to his terribly fierce personality. He had the capacity to swallow the deadliest of weapons of the gods. The asura initially exhibited strength that overpowered even the combined strength of the gods.

Thunderbolt of Indra: The story goes that rishi Vishvarupa was very fond of his mother. She was from the family of asuras. Prompted by the affection, he used to give a portion of the sacrificial oblations secretly to the asuras. Indra detected the treachery of the rishi and cut off the three heads of Vishvarupa. The head that drank the soma juice became the chataka bird [the bird that looks up to the sky for the rain water to quench its thirst]. The second head that enjoyed wines took the form of a sparrow. The third that ate rice retained its original form. Tashtra, Vishvarupa’s father performed a yajna to raise an enemy against Indra. Due to mispronounciation of the word Indrashatru, the meaning changed. Much against Tashtra’s wish, an asura came out of the sacrificial fire, who finally turned out to be Indra’s victim.The asura was called Vritrasura, due to his terribly fierce personality. He had the capacity to swallow the deadliest of weapons of the gods. The asura initially exhibited strength that overpowered even the combined strength of the gods.

Now when Indra was free to ponder over his past actions, he was shaken by the fear of incurring sin, because Vishvarupa, a brahmana had been killed by him. He hid himself in the manasarovar in north-east. Agni, the tongue of gods who carries food for the celestials, had no access into the water to supply food to Indra. He remained starving for a thousand years to absolve his sins. In the mean time, Nahusha held the reins of heaven as its ruler. His arrogant style of reign as well as his attempts to misbehave with Indra’s wife Sachi, brought her to curse him to become a serpent. Indra returned with a light heart devoid of any guilt and assumed his position as the king.

Betel leaves and Chaurasia: Mohini completing the distribution of nectar,left the empty vessel near Indra’s elephant Iravata. Soon the gods noticed a strange creeper growing out of the urn and became ecstatic about the unexpected appearance of the plant. Vishnu ordered Dhanvantari to examine the new growth. The god well informed with the science of medicine discovered the stimulating quality of the leaves. From then, Vishnu began to offer the leaves as a gesture of love and affection. The lords forming the trinity came to be associated with the betel trine-Brahma was the betelnut, Vishnu the betel leaf (tamboola) and Shiva the lime applied to it.

There is a story as to how the betel leaf came to earth. The Pandavas, after the victory in Hastinapur, experienced the fervent desire for tamboola. They immediately sent a messenger to the Queen of snakes under ground with a request. The queen mightily pleased, obliged to cut the extreme phalange of her little finger. She sent it to the Pandavas, who planted the finger bit with great ceremony. Soon the betel creeper was cited. Since then, the creeper is also referred to as Nagaveli-the snake plant.

[Phalange means the three joints of bones on each of our fingers represented by the lines on the inner side of the palm. Extreme phalange is the tip of the finger up to the first joint.]

There is a brahmana community called the Chaurasias, in the North of India [present day Bihar]. Its interesting to know how they got that name. Devas once went to Naimisharanya on earth to perform an important auspicios sacrifice. On their way back to heaven, oppressed by the heat on earth, they were thirsty. A particular community offered betel leaves to the gods to quench their thirst. The juice of the leaves was very soothing to their parched mouth. Impressed by the hospitality, the gods blessed the people with the title ‘Chaturasheetah’, which was later shortened to Chaurasia in Hindi. This brahmana community of people are believed to be descendants of Kashyapa and Bharadvaja gotra [clan].

[In sanskrit chaturasheetihi stands for the number eighty four. Vedas accept the species of gods to be eightfour thousand.The gods therefore called the community by the number of their species.]

Even today we can see people of the chaurasia community well established in the betel selling business and have a clientele that enjoys chewing betel leaves with relish. The picture above is a betel kiosk, a pan shop.

Lakshmi from the ocean: Various business propositions are often adopted by people as a profession. Since business can tilt either way in profit or loss, one has to be prepared for the risk involved. Selling milk is a safe business as there can be no loss even if there is slump in the market. Milk and milk products form an important part among our daily food requirements, and the demand is always high. So our ancient people associated milk with Lakshmi, a symbol of money. Since Lakshmi is believed to have originated from the ocean, the ocean is always referred to as milky ocean क्षीरसागर‌.

How did Lakshmi have her birth from the ocean when Vishnu already had her as his consort ? Once, sage Durvasa had a garland of beautiful flowers with bees hovering over them for honey. He had received it from an apsaras who had offered it to Goddess Lakshmi. Durvasa was roaming in the heaven when he saw Indra on his elephant Iravata. The sage threw the garland to Indra. In his pride of sovereignty, Indra disregarded the garland, not knowing that it was a gift to him from Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. In effect, he threw away the prosperity laden with the blessings of the Goddess, which ought to have been accepted with reverence. Instead, he arrogantly placed it on the elephant’s head. Iravata agitated by the bees in the flowers, pulled it down and trampled on it. There is another version of the story. Once when Indra was going in a grand procession followed by a host of deities, Durvasa threw the garland he had offered to Parvati. Due to the overflowing crowd, Indra could not take the flowers and it fell on Iravata’s head. The agitated elephant shook his head and the garland fell down. Unknowingly Iravata trampled on it. Whatever be the story, the quick tempered sage cursed Indra for his rude behaviour. The curse was that Indra would have to surrender in defeat, his lordship of the three worlds to the asuras. Accordingly, Indra was stripped of his supremacy in the war with the asuras.

Indra, immensely depressed, went to Vishnu. In order to boost his morale and the confidence of the gods, he showed his bare chest to tell them, he too had lost his Lakshmi. In reality he had veiled the Goddess from their view by his illusory power of maya. He said that Lakshmi would emerge from the ocean when churned for nectar. Lakshmi garlanding Sri Hari as soon as she emerged from the ocean was all premeditated by the Lord to keep up his make believe story to Indra and the gods. This incident does not appear to be a mere narration of the usual fight of the asuras and the suras. It carries a deeper implication. When Vishnu showed his bare bosom, he wanted to convey that the defeat of the devas was his defeat too, the asuras always being inimical towards him. The Lord is ever on the side of righteousness. Lakshmi coming out of the ocean was indicative of the fact that prosperity and power would be restored to the gods and Indra when nectar is churned out. With evil intentions to deny the ambrosia to the devas, the asuras would be defeated in securing even their share of the sweet wine of immortality, assured the Lord. When that happened, Vishnu too would get back his Lakshmi. This boils down to the universal truth that joy of victory of evil is fleeting while honesty and piety are the everlasting victors.’सत्यमॆव जयतॆ नानृतम् SATYAMEVA JAYATE NANRUTAM]”.

Chapter 14:

 Three paces of land

Shukracharya revived Bali back to life after his death in the devasura battle. Bali changed his life for the better. He gave away all his wealth to his preceptor and became the descendent of the Bhrigu race. The descendents of Bhrigu were appreciative of his sincere devotion. They inspired him to perform the vishvajit sacrifice to fulfill his desire to be the Lord of heaven. The oblations were poured into the sacrificial fire. Then a golden chariot having a lion as the emblem, a quiver with inexhaustible arrows and an ethereal bow came out. The Bhrigus infused great spiritual energy into Bali. His grand father Prahlada gave him a garland of unfading lotus while from his preceptor he received a conch.

With a huge battalion of eminent generals, Bali marched confidently towards the heavenly city of Indra, striking terror in heaven and earth. He saw the grandeur of the city where the architectural expertise of Vishvakarma was evident. In addition to the adequate structural fortification, the city had a natural protection. It was guarded against entry of wicked, lustful, greedy unrighteous people. Bali stationed his army encircling the entire city and blew his conch signaling aggression. Indra felt his throne was shaken by the loud fierce sound. Bali appeared to be a formidable foe with overflowing self confidence and power. Indra was amazed at the strength and wondered how he came to possess it. Brihaspati cleared the doubt and said, “Indra! Bali has been loaded with the spiritual energy of the scions of the Bhrigus. Destiny being favourable to him at the present moment, his luck is sky-rocketing. Only Sri Hari can stand up against him. It is advisable to remain in hiding outside heaven, till the opportune time, when Bali himself would work towards his down fall”. The deities, the sons of Aditi, acted on Brihaspati’s advice. Assuming unidentifiable forms, they evacuated Amaravati, the city of the gods. With the way cleared for Bali, he established himself as the lord of the three worlds. Bali was renowned far and wide. He was very prosperous with the favour of the Bhrigus. The brahmanas of the Bhrigus, overjoyed with the victory of their disciple with the power of the vishvajit sacrifice, desired that he performed hundred ashvamedha sacrifices. Bali started the sacrifices in earnest to establish himself firmly as the supreme monarch in the newly acquired dominion.

Aditi was immensely depressed over the asuras occupying her sons’ city. Kashyapa rising from his samadhi, deep meditation, arrived at Aditi’s hermitage after a long time. Seeing his wife very sad, he was anxious to know if all was well with her. He enquired if she had dutifully carried out her services to the brahmanas, guests and offered oblations to sacrificial fires. She assured him there had been no lapse anywhere. She was miserable about the exile of her sons from Amaravati as also the accession of their territory by the asuras. She pleaded her all knowing husband to guide her towards the best way of propitiation of the Lord. She had great faith in the compassionate Lord’s readiness to help his distressed devotees with outstretched hands. He was the only ray of hope in her gloomy life shrouded in sorrow. He had to restore the legitimate right of her sons over their property. Kashyapa said that Sri Hari would wipe her tears without fail. He instructed her to observe the vow of payovrata which will grant her the desired result. He explained that his grandfather Brahma had taught him the procedure, when he was desirous of having progeny. If the vow was observed with strict adherence to the rules of austerity, the Almighty would soon fulfill her desire. He instructed her that she should begin on the first day of the bright fortnight continued through thirteen days in the month of Phalguna. He also told her as to what should be done and those to be avoided, laying out clearly the entire procedure.

Aditi meticulously concentrated on the observance of the vow. At the conclusion of the vow, she was taken unawares by a most wonderful experience of her life. She witnessed the Great Purusha Vishnu appear before her eyes. She was so stunned at the grandeur of the sight that except shedding tears of joy, she could not express her gratitude otherwise. She silently bowed before him for his extraordinary favour. The Lord said, “I am aware that you wish to see your sons prosperous again. But the pity is, the asuras are unconquerable at present by the energy of the brahmanas of the Bhrigu race. But your flawless observance of the vow has to be productive. I will soon be born as your son to save your present sons, the eldest of them being Indra. You must keep this secret to yourself if our plan has to succeed.” Brahma went into ecstasy on knowing that the Lord was to enter the womb of Aditi. He praised him as the rescue boat for a drowning man.

The Lord was born to Aditi on the shravana dvadashi, the twelvth day of the bright fortnight of the month bhadrapada. Having the mark of srivatsa and adorned by the kaustubha gem, he was born under the influence of the shravana star at an hour called abhijit, conducive to victory. This day goes by the name of vijaya dvadashi. Lord Sri Hari, resplendent with his glorious form, transformed himself into a dwarf brahmana boy to the astonishment of the couple Aditi and Kashyapa. Investiture of the thread ceremony was performed and the sacred Gayatri Mantra taught. Vamana, meaning dwarf, now a full fledged brahmacharin, received the initiation into the Vedic scriptures.

Vamana, with an umbrella and a kamandalu of water in hand, set off for the horse sacrifice of Bali. Bali and other Bhrigu brahmanas assembled there got up to pay obeisance to the brahmacharin. He was duly offered a seat and Bali washed his feet, an honour shown to revered personalities. The initial formalities over, Bali and the brahmanas rendered the occasion auspicious. Bali addressed Vamana thus, “O holy brahmana! You have sanctified my sacrifice by your arrival and I am obliged to you to have given me an opportunity to wash your feet. This consecrated water is capable of washing away the sins of everyone including mine. Please let me know how best I can express my gratitude. I guess you have something in mind which you seek. You have just got to ask and it shall be granted.” Bali offered the gift of a cow, a house, gold and many prosperous villages. In reply, Vamana said, “Who does not know the charitable nature of your predecessors. They never retracted from their promise. This is ample evidence of their commitment to truth. You are in no way lacking in any of these noble qualities. I am grateful for the enormous gifts offered by you. But land measuring just three strides by my feet is all I need. I am sure you will grant me that.” Bali was carried away by the praise showered by the boy that blinded him from the trick behind the request. Bali replied, “You seem to be an intelligent boy. I am the undisputed lord of the three worlds. When I can afford to gift a whole continent, you have asked for only three paces with your small feet. I will not force you to make a second request. Therefore, I will grant you sufficient land for a decent living.” The boy replied, “You are a generous person. Think of me too. I will prove myself unworthy if I am not satiated with what I need. Craving for more will indicate my greed. No one should promote ones acquisitive instinct even if he be the lord of the three worlds. Contentment leads to liberation, dissatisfaction to misery. Need and wealth must be maintained at equilibrium in our lives. So the three strides of land will be adequate to serve my purpose.” Bali mockingly smiled at the boy who was naive to reject his generous gift and insist on having a tiny piece of land. He lifted his kamandalu, the pot of water to solemnize his promise of granting the three paces of land.

Shrewd and vicious Shukracharya smelt a rat in the mysterious appearance of the Brahmana boy. He could see Vishnu in that dwarf, who, he knew for sure, had come there for the cause of the gods. He tried to stop Bali from the commitment, pointing to the possible danger to his sovereignty. He warned the king, “You are being deluded by the boy with his apparent insignificant demand. Know him to be no other than Vishnu himself, come as a dwarf to deceive you. I am sure he would measure the earth and the heaven with his two strides and the mid region by his expansive body. May I ask how you are going to provide for the third stride? Non fulfillment of promise to a brahmana would destroy the asuras. The infernal region will become your residence with no saving alternative. Let me remind you that the monetary requirements for the completion of the sacrifices will be very large. Do not forget the responsibility you owe to the subjects which is your primary commitment as a king. Their welfare is solely dependent on the king’s intelligent and right disbursement of finances. If the wealth in its entirety is lost, providing them even bare subsistence would become impossible. So take my advice seriously and not fall into the trickery of this brahmana boy.” Bali tried to assimilate the wise cautioning of his preceptor. At the end of a serious deliberation, he humbly conveyed his decision to his guru, “I am beholden to you for your concerned advice. Without any disrespect to you, I must confess that I beg to differ. I have given my promise to the brahmana and do not wish to go back on it. Great personalities like Dadhichi and Shibi gave up their lives for the good of others. Generous souls as well as worthy recipients are very rare. When a man dies, he leaves behind all his possessions. His merits alone accompany him. I am now at the cross roads when a wise decision is required to lead me along the right path of merit. Why should I not sacrifice whole heartedly a portion of my earth during my lifetime? Being the grandson of Prahlada and a celebrated king myself, I do not want to carry the blemish of breach of promise for the greed of material prosperity. If he is really Vishnu, I do not think he would descend to the level of coveting my kingdom by trickery and forfeit his reputation as Lord Supreme. This boy seems to be least interested in grabbing the sovereignty from me. If he has any such intentions, let him be brave to fight and win the lordship. If he is an impostor, I wish to slay such a person.” These words of Bali did not appeal to Shukracharya. He took it as disobedience arising from high mindedness. May be it was the decree of Providence that sent the guru into a fit of rage to curse his disciple to roll down from the heights of prosperity.

The honest soul, undeterred by the curse, gifted the land to the brahmana. Bali’s wife Vindhyavali happily joined her husband in his noble act. Even the celestials, always with their daggers drawn against the asuras, sent down showers of flowers applauding the guileless man’s gesture. Lord Vishnu at once accepted the gift from Bali. He grew into a gigantic form, from the size of a dwarf. One stride took care of the earth. With his second, he measured the heaven up to the satyaloka while the mid region was covered by his huge body and arms. Brahma and other gods washed the feet of the Lord when he was taking the step across the heaven. That sanctified water runs as the sacred Ganges in the three worlds now. There was nothing left for the third step. The asuras were enraged at the position to which their king had been reduced. They wanted to attack the enemy but were ably resisted by the attendants of Vishnu. Bali too advised them to desist as the time was not favourable to the asuras. Patience was the need of the hour till lady luck turned towards them as in the previous occasion. Discontent with the command of their king, the generals withdrew to the Netherlands. Garuda, Vishnu’s vehicle, tied down Bali with the noose of varuna, while the horse sacrifice of Bali was still in progress. Amidst loud wailing by the asuras, the Lord returning to the size of the Vamana addressed the imprisoned king thus, “I have covered the worlds by my two strides. There is not an inch for my third step. How are you going to fulfill your agreement with me? Divine decree for default of promise would be the infernal region. Excessive arrogance over your wealth induced you to make an open offer to me. Time has come for you to swallow your pride. You have to reap the reward for being presumptuous.” Vishnu had no grudge against Bali to punish him. He wanted to show the world the resolute character of Bali. The employment of the severest remonstration did not unnerve him and he stood calm till the Lord had finished speaking. He said, “Do not doubt the honesty of my words. Lord! I will prove my genuine intentions here and now. Place your foot on my head for your third stride. It is the best offering I think I have made to you so far, as compared to the other things in my possession. I am not afraid of any calamity that the world has in store for me. I am not nervous about the punishment you may subject me to. Now I have understood that the worldly relationships with our kith and kin would fade away some day or the other. It is futile to nurture these attachments. I am at present in a position to comprehend the depth of spiritual life. My grandfather, Prahlada, was inhumanly tortured by his own father Hiranyakashipu. The only fault on his part was his steadfast devotion to you, Lord Vishnu. His unfathomable wisdom had no impact on me all these years and I was infatuated by the illusive prosperity I saw around me. Now, I have realized what his life had tried to teach me. It was that you are the only assured resort worthy of aspiration in a man’s life. My accidental encounter with you has been a blessing as I have surrendered myself at your lotus feet. Belonging to the lineage of Prahlada, I cannot afford to malign the prestigious reputation by being branded ignoble and called the black sheep of the family.”

All those assembled there, were astonished at the mature exposition of Bali to Vamana, when it was intercepted by the arrival of the honourabe Prahlada. Bali could not prostrate before his grandfather as he was in captivity. He bowed his head to express his humble respects. The tears flowing from his eyes, lowered in

shame for his previous insolent behaviour towards Vishnu, were more expressive of his repentance than what words would have conveyed. Prahlada was overwhelmed with joy at the sight of the Supreme Lord. He prostrated before the Lord and expressed his gratitude for bringing back his child Bali who had strayed away from the right path. He said, “You elevated him to the position of Indra by the vishvajit sacrifice. But he was not ready for such honour. He lost his direction in pride. Dethroning him was the turning point in his life that brought Bali back to his senses. Great people get caught in the maze of delusion and wander aimlessly drifting away from you. What to speak of this immature Bali? O Lord! You have retrieved my child from a disastrous downfall. I shall ever be beholden to you for your mercy.” Bali’s wife made a very impressive speech loaded with high philosophy. She said, “You are the Lord of this universe which is your creative sport. Its contents also belong to you. The notion of mine and thine is illusory which pervades all living beings without exception. In ignorance, people offer you things on which they have no rightful claim. We ourselves are the outcome of your maya. How can we then assert our ownership on anything in this universe? Power of creation, preservation and destruction are exclusive to you and we are mere puppets.”

Finally, Brahma pleaded clemency for Bali. He said, “O Lord! You are the cosmic being who liberates those who seek you in panic and fear of spiritual ruin. Here is a man who has surrendered all that he thought belonged to him. Without an iota of remorse he has placed at your feet all the fruits of his meritorious actions. Even his body is not his anymore. O merciful Lord, in what way does he deserve the sufferance of bondage? Please show your kindness to this poor soul and release him.” To this Vamana replied, “I do not have to use my harsh ways of reformation with devoted people who seldom fall a prey to delusion. Only persons afflicted by vanity and pride wantonly despise the virtuous blessed life. I divest them of their wealth that acts as the pride insinuating intoxicant. People who are slaves to infatuation are tamed by me to come down to reality from their attitude of disregard to everyone, even to me. But Bali has adhered to truthfulness. His honest spirit was not sullied despite the long chain of set backs like losing his sovereignty, forsaken by his kinsmen, and cursed by his preceptor. My ambiguous lectures on righteousness did not detract him. His exemplary character has earned him the distinguished place in my realm. Before I embrace him into my domain, I want to fulfill his desire to reign as Indra, the lord of paradise. This will happen only in the savarni manvantara. Till then he can rule over the sutala region beautified by Vishvakarma, the architect of heaven. I offer myself to guard his fort from harm. With daityas in attendance, he will enjoy sovereignty. Any transgression of his command will be properly dealt with by my discus. If by some unexpected influence of the danavas, demoniac ideas try to raise their heads to obstruct Bali’s righteous thinking, I will instantly nip them in the bud.” With folded hands, Bali, in a choked voice, expressed how grateful he was for the Lord’s benevolence. He said, “With my despicable past, I am not fit to call myself the Lord’s devotee. You have chosen to bestow on me a favour even beyond the reach of the gods.” Prahlada expressed his gratitude to the Lord for his unprejudiced recognition of people who have reformed even though born in the wretched race of asuras, predominantly given to evil ways. The admirable quality of the Lord is that he acts as the wish yielding tree for his devotees. The Lord directed Prahlada to accompany his grandson happily to sutala. He instructed Shukracharya to complete the sacrifice started by Bali without a flaw. To the happiness of Aditi and Kashyapa, Vamana crowned Indra as the king of the three worlds. Since Vamana was the younger brother of Indra, he became Upendra. Indra took Upendra to heaven and under his able guidance ruled for a long time.

Chapter 15: 

Lord’s incarnation as fish

Lord decides to come down to earth either at the end of a kalpa marked by the occurrence of deluge to save the lives on earth or to set righteousness back on its rails.

The end of a kalpa of the universe constitutes also the end of Brahma’s day. Once on such an occasion, having reached the end of his day, Brahma retired to rest and out of force of habit he recited the Vedas in his sleep. Hayagriva, a danava with a horse head, sitting close to him, stole the Vedas by sheer power of concentration. Perceiving the action of Hayagriva, Sri Hari retrieved the Vedas from him and also saved the living species from deluge that followed by assuming the form of a fish.

In the kalpa preceding the above mentioned deluge, there was a king named Satyavrata, of the Dravida territory. He was a great devotee of Lord Narayana, given to severe austerities and subsisting only on water. Satyavrata was born as the grandson of Aditi and Kashyapa, through Vivasvan, the sun god.

One day, standing in the river Kritamala, Satyavrata was offering a handful of water to the manes. He found a small fish along with the water in the hollow of his palms. Inadvertently he dropped the fish back in to the river. The fish pleaded the exalted soul to save it from the dangerous aquatic creatures that survive on the weaker ones. Out of pity, Satyavrata brought it with him in his kamandalu. Soon the fish had to be transferred to a pitcher as it had outgrown the size of the kamandalu. With the rapid growth of the fish, it had to be taken from one pond to another, each larger than the previous one. Finding no suitable place to accommodate the gigantic fish, the raja rishi decided to let it into the ocean. The fish expressed its fear of the alligators and requested him to be very vigilant about its safety. The enormous size assumed by the fish just in the course of the day, convinced Satyavrata beyond doubt that it was none other than Lord Hari himself. He then enquired the fish about the purpose of taking such a form.

The fish informed him of the approaching deluge and that it had come as an incarnation of the Lord, the saviour of his devotees. It expected the king to cooperate by following its instruction strictly. The fish said, “In a week’s time, the earth, heaven and the aerial region will all be submerged in the rising water of the ocean leading to the dissolution of the universe. Before that happens, you will have to take certain precautionary measures. Collect the various seeds, plants, all living species, along with seven seers and await the arrival of the boat sent by the Lord. Load it with the material you would have already collected. Navigate the boat unnerved in the surging water, with the guidance of the seers. I will appear as a fish with a horn. The serpent Vasuki should be used as rope to tie the boat to my horn. I will keep the boat afloat till Brahma wakes from his slumber. At that time, you will have a glorious experience of visualizing the Parabrahman [the Transcendental Reality] residing within your heart. The knowledge of Reality imparted by the Lord himself will clear all your doubts and satiate the curiosity about the Supreme Being.” The fish disappeared at the conclusion of its instructions to the king.

Settling down to his meditation of the Lord in the form of the fish, with the things diligently brought together as directed, Satyavrata eagerly looked forward to the boat. Soon he sighted it. He boarded the boat with the seers and all the things to be preserved for the future. The rishis asked Satyavrata to concentrate on the Lord who would rescue them. The king meditated accordingly. In response, the Lord instantly arrived as the huge horned fish. The king tied the boat to the horn of the fish with Vasuki. He began singing the glories of Vishnu, who emancipates the devotees in his domain called Paramapada, a place from where there is no return to birth or death. Praying to the Lord cleanses the impurities of ignorance, enlightens the mind to shed the destructive ego and prepares one to see the indwelling Parabrahman. Pleased with the royal sage, Lord Vishnu educated him on the Sankhya Philosophy which is available to us as the divine purana called the Matsyapurana. In the incarnation of the Lord as the fish, he killed the demon Hayagriva. He retrieved the Vedas just before the deluge and handed them back to Brahma in the shvetavaraha kalpa that followed the kalpa of Satyavrata.Vaivasvata Manu was also known by the name Shraddhadeva.

Chapter 16: 

The story of Sudyumna

Aditi, Daksha’s daughter, begot Vivasvan, the sun god, by Kashyapa. Vaivasvata Manu, also known as Shraddhadeva, was Vivasvan’s son by his wife Sanjana. Before the birth of his ten sons, the eldest being Ikshvaku, the childless Manu requested the great preceptor Vasishta to perform a sacrifice in honour of Mitra and Varuna, the gods who grant a son.

The preceptor of the solar race ordered the priest to commence the sacrifice. While the priest was invoking the gods, Manu’s wife, Shraddha, approached him with a request to propitiate the gods for a daughter. With this request hovering in his mind, the priest poured the oblations into the sacrificial fire. Though he did not make any effort to ensure the birth of a daughter, the distraction of his mind was enough to alter the motive of the sacrifice. As a result, a girl was born to the utter disappointment of Manu. She was named Ila. Manu was perplexed to believe the potent Vedic mantras falsifying their power. Manu asked Vasishta to probe into the cause of reversal of the result. Vasishta’s sharp brain promptly found it was due to the distraction caused by the request of Shraddha. He used his spiritual power to please Lord Hari and secured his blessings to transform the girl into a boy to the immense satisfaction of Manu. He was named Sudyumna.

Manu’s desire was fulfilled. But Sudyumna was destined to go through lot of problems regarding his sex. It kept undergoing change every now and then due to reasons not in his control. Once he went hunting in the forest at the foot of mount Meru. At that moment, Shiva and Uma were together enjoying each other’s company. Instantly, Sudyumna became a girl at the very entrance of the forest. All the followers were changed into women. Even the horses took the form of mares. [The sudden change in sex was made possible in yonder years by magical powers but today medical science has provided technology to cater to the whimsicalities of man].

Let us now pause at this juncture to see the reason behind the miraculous power of the forest to convert into females, men stepping into its precincts. Once, some sages entered the forest to pay their respects to Shiva. The sages were not aware that Uma was resting her head on Shiva’s lap. Her dress was slightly out of place. The sages withdrew immediately, knowing it as intrusion into their privacy. Uma too jumped up and made herself presentable. Yet she could not get over the shame of having appeared before males in an indecent state. Shiva found a way to save his dear wife from embarrassment in future. He ordained that thenceforth, that particular land would be out of bounds for males. Any transgression by men into the private area would change them into women instantly. Sudyumna innocently stepped into the forbidden land and bore the brunt of Shiva’s pronouncement.

Now back to Ila’s story. She continued to roam the forest with her female friends after her transformation from Sudyumna. While in the vicinity of Budha’s hermitage, both Ila and Budha were attracted to each other. [Budha as the son of Tara and Soma]. Budha, of the lunar race, begot a son Pururava by Ila. Now Ila began to yearn for her form as Sudyumna and her thoughts went to Vasishta. By his yogic powers, he came before Ila and was upset about what had happened. He engaged himself in the propitiation of Shiva. Shiva was pleased but could not revoke his previous utterance completely. He suggested a special compromise. He agreed to allow Ila to assume her male form of Sudyumna alternate months, which appeared to be fair enough. Sudyumna became the king. Not willing to reveal the secret of his female form, he went into hiding during those months. He was an efficient king but people were dissatisfied by his frequent mysterious disappearance. He reigned successfully till his old age. He retired to the forest after appointing Pururava as the king.

Chapter 17: 

Soma juice for the Ashvinis

Sarjati, Manu’s son took his daughter, Sukanya, to the hermitage of Chyavana muni. She unknowingly poked a thorn into something luminous in an ant-hill. They looked like a pair of glow worms but were actually the eyes of the muni inside. Excessive bleeding from the ant-hill, made Sarjati tremble terribly with fear. Sukanya readily took responsibility for the folly and Sarjati’s efforts pacified the muni as soon as he came out of the ant-hill. He was an old man with wrinkled skin and emaciated body. He expressed his desire to marry Sukanya. Sarjati agreed and the marriage was performed. Sukanya served her aged husband devotedly.

Once, the muni got an opportunity to serve faithfully the twin celestial physicians, the Ashvini Kumaras. He told them, “You two are the competent physicians of the gods. You alone can bestow youth on me. I request you to bless me with an attractive figure. In return, I will secure the soma juice, offered during sacrifices, denied to you till now.” The twins accepted the offer and asked the muni to take a dip in the nearby river along with them. When they emerged from the water, three identical youths appeared before Sukanya, confusing her to pick her husband from among them. She sought the help of the Ashvini Kumaras, who were happy with her fidelity to her husband and pointed the actual muni to her.

Sometime later, Sarjati wanted muni Chyavana to officiate as the chief priest for a big sacrifice he intended to perform. He visited the hermitage to extend a personal invitation to the sage. He was shocked to see his daughter living with a handsome youth. He was furious with his daughter. He shouted at her, “You have defamed our family as well as that of the respectful sage. How could you live with another man when you had such a distinguished sage for a husband? You unchaste woman, I am ashamed to own you, of condemnable character, as my daughter.” Sukanya clarified the mistaken impression of her father. She explained in detail the way her husband had attained youth. It was nectar to his ears and happily he invited the muni to receive the high honour at his sacrifice. The muni accepted the invitation and successfully completed the sacrifice. In accordance with his promise, he offered soma juice to the Ashvini Kumaras and incorporated them among those eligible for that privilege. Indra furiously aimed his thunder bolt at the muni for going against the convention. The muni by his yogic powers arrested the weapon. Finally the gods agreed to include the twins and ever since, they have been enjoying the soma juice offered during sacrifices.

Interesting Anecdotes

Sukanya and Chyavana: The story of Sukanya and Chyavana has another narration too. Once, Sukanya was bathing in the river, when the Ashvini Kumaras approached her. They said, “What a monotonous life you are leading with that old rishi Chyavana who needs your attention all day long. You have no time for yourself to enjoy. Your beauty deserves a better life, one full of enjoyment, free from the drudgery you have undertaken. You are young and so are we. You can forsake that living corpse and choose one of us bubbling with youth. We will be a perfect match for you.” The devoted wife was upset with the Ashvini Kumaras and said she would like to consult her husband. She soon returned with the rishi. On seeing the rishi, the two deities suggested, “the rishi can take a dip in the river along with us. When we come out, the three of us will be identical youths. You can then choose your husband from among us. If there is any difficulty in selection, you can use your mental faculty to discern.” Sukanya agreed to their suggestion because she was very confident about herself and was courageous to take up the challenge. When the three young men emerged from the water, Sukanya had no problem identifying her own husband. The Ashvini Kumaras as well as Chyavana were very pleased with Sukanya for her fidelity.

It was actually a test for Sukanya’s faithful devotion to her aged husband. It had to be ascertained whether she was really dedicated to her husband or was she biding time as atonement for her folly as a young girl (when she unknowingly poked the rishi’s eyes in the ant-hill), waiting for the first opportunity to elope with a handsome youth. When she succeeded, she proved that she did not treat her marriage as a temporary agreement. It was not just to appease the anger of the rishi when he came out of the ant-hill with bleeding eyes. She had treated her marriage as a solemn oath. Chyavana was grateful to the celestial physicians for bestowing youth on him. For Sukanya too, it was an unexpected jack pot prize for her earnestness to her husband all these years, even though he was emaciated with old age. In return, the rishi secured for the divine twins the soma juice, offered in the sacrifices, which was denied to them till then.

Intelligent Ashvini Kumaras: The celestial physicians requested the great sage Dadheechi to teach them the sacred Truth about Brahman. The sage was well versed in Brahmagyana and he was Indra’s preceptor on this subject. Indra threatened the sage that he would lose his head if he revealed the secret knowledge to the twin deities. The shrewd gods were not to be cowed down by Indra. Since they were determined to acquire the sacred knowledge, they planned a device to save the life of the sage even if his head was chopped off by Indra. They removed the head of the rishi and placed a horse’s head in its place. Then they received the initiation on Brahman from Dadheechi. Furious Indra could not accept the transgression of his command and promptly cut off the sage’s head. The Ashvini Kumaras replaced the original head and thus revived Dadheechi. It is for this reason the rishi is called ‘Ashvashira’.

Chapter 18: 

Lord saves Ambarisha

Pious Nabhaga, son of Manu had an equally pious son named Ambarisha. Ambarisha had relinquished his worldly attachments and was absorbed in the worship of Lord Hari.

Once, Ambarisha and his wife decided to observe the austerity of Dvadashi vow for one whole year. On the final dvadashi day, the king gratified the brahmanas with cows, calves, gold and silver. With adequate care towards serving food to the brahmanas, he was about to break his fast by partaking the remaining food. Just then the great sage Durvasa made his appearance. Ambarisha reverently stood attendance on the learned rishi and made sure there was nothing lacking that might cause him displeasure. As is customary to request a guest to stay on for lunch, Ambarisha extended the courtesy to the sage. Durvasa agreed but he wanted to have his ablution and offer his midday prayers before he sat down for food. To respect an honoured guest, Ambarisha waited for the sage to return so that food could be served to him first before he broke his fast. Time was running out and the stipulated moment to end the vow had almost approached. With just a moment for the dvadashi to be over, Ambarisha was anxious to go through the formalities for the successful completion of the arduous vow. Durvasa was nowhere in sight.

The learned brahmanas advised him to have a sip of water which would be a token break of fast and yet not be disrespect to the sage. Just then Durvasa returned and blew his top for the gross insult to him. His notorious short temper was well known and so were his thoughtless curses. He shouted at Ambarisha for his impertinence and said his curse would be a lesson to him for a lifetime. So saying, the ill-tempered sage cut off a lock of his hair. When he was about to pronounce the curse, the lock of hair turned into Vishnu’s sudarshana chakra and started chasing Durvasa. He ran helter-skelter, high and low. Even Brahma and Shiva could not save him. He ran to Vishnu for help. He also expressed his inability to save him from the ravages of his own fiery weapon. He made known to the sage that the welfare of his devotee was foremost to him. Whatever be the source of danger to his devotees, high or low, he cannot tolerate injustice to them was the Lord’s frank reply to the rishi. He said that the rishi would have to fall at his devotee’s feet if he desired to be absolved from the grave cruelty he was about to inflict on Ambarisha. All through the angry scene, Ambarisha stood unshaken like a rock. Durvasa fell at his feet but the humble man said that such a learned person like Durvasa must not subject himself to humiliation. He began to propitiate the sudarshana chakra and pacified it by his prayers. The chakra withdrew from attacking the sage and thus Durvasa’s life was saved.

Chapter 19: 

Ganges comes to earth

King Sagara was a perfect emperor and a devotee of Sri Hari. He was so named because his mother was administered poison by the other queens in jealousy to kill the foetus. Yet he survived surpassing their evil motives.

Maharshi Ourva advised Sagara to perform the Ashvamedha sacrifice to propitiate Sri Hari. Successful completion of the sacrifice, without any challenge from anybody, would declare the king as the sovereign ruler of the entire world. Otherwise, the challenge will have to be ably opposed to establish the sovereignty. The sacrificial horse was stolen by Indra. The faithful sixty thousand sons of Sagara excavated the earth in search of the horse to save the sacrifice. As they went deeper into the earth, the dug up area got flooded with water. Thus the ocean was formed and for this reason the ocean acquires the name Sagara सागर‌ after the name of the sons of Sagara The search led them to Kapila’s hermitage where they found the horse tied in its vicinity. Indra, to hide his guilt, used his illusory power against the Sagara sons and robbed them of their sense of judgement. They accused Kapila to be feigning meditation, having stolen the sacred horse. Their angry assault on the sage did not upset him. He calmly opened his eyes without any intention of having an altercation with the princes. But the ill treatment to the saint itself caused them harm. The fire of their own anger reduced them to ashes. There is a belief that they were burnt by the intensity of the radiance emanating from Kapila’s eyes. Another most accepted story that thr hear of anger of the sage’s eyes burnt them down, does not seem tenable to my mind, as the sage was believed to have borne a very sober composed attitude to life, never provoked by anger.

Anshuman, the grandson of Sagara, traced the path excavated by his forefathers. He visualized Lord Narayana in sage Kapila at the very first sight. His desires and attachments vanished. He paid respectful obeisance to the sage and was grateful for being freed from the fetters of ignorance by his radiance.

Kapila asked him to take charge of the horse that belonged to his grandfather. He also told him that the heavenly Ganges had to be brought down to earth to wash away the heaped ashes of his forefathers. Anshuman and his son Dilipa were not successful in their effort. The severe austerities of Bhagiratha, Dilipa’s son could win the challenge. Ganges warned him that the earth would not withstand the force with which she would descend. Therefore she asked him to think of a way to overcome the problem. She alerted him about her going past the earth down to rasatala due to her force and all the efforts of Bhagiratha would be wasted. Another reason for her reluctance to flow down to earth was the pollution caused to her waters by the contact with sinful people. She would have no means to purify herself. Bhagiratha solved her second problem by saying that the physical contact with holy saints, dedicated to the worship of Sri Hari, by their ablution in the sacred Ganges would cleanse her of all the acquired sins. With regard to the first hurdle, he had confidence that his prayer to Rudra would surely ensure control of Ganges before she reached the earth. Entertaining strong faith in Shiva, he performed penances to please him. Shiva obliged by receiving the heavenly Ganges in his matted locks, from where he let the river flow to earth in a controlled stream. Thus she gets the name Bhagirathi. The sacred water of Ganges washed away the sins of Sagara’s sons accrued from their bad behaviour towards Kapila and were thus transported to heaven. Ganga continues to be regarded as a holy river possessed of the sanctifying quality.

Chapter 20: 

Fire the son of Pururava

Soma, the moon, was Brahma’s grandson by his son Atri. Since Soma was born from the eyes of Atri, he was full of nectar. Brahma made him the lord of the brahmanas, the heavenly bodies and the deciduous herbs. Winning lordship over these in the three worlds, Soma’s pride and vanity got to his head. He maligned his own character by abducting Tara, wife of Brihaspati. He refused to return her even after repeated requests. This, in turn, led to the perennial fight of the gods and the asuras as Shukracharya, the preceptor of the asuras, elected to support Soma. Indra, with his entire retinue, joined hands with Shiva to fight for Brihaspati. The hostility started a war. Angirasa reported the war to Brahma, who reprimanded his grandson for fighting over the possession of a woman. Soma realised his shameful act and returned Tara to her husband.

Brihaspati came to know that Tara was with child. Though he was very bitter about his wife’s infidelity, he thought he would allow her to live because of his desire to have a child. Soon Tara gave birth to a son as lustrous as gold. Again a controversy began as both Soma and Brihaspati claimed to be the father of the child. There seemed to be no end to their verbal clash. Tara observed silence, ashamed to reveal the truth. The boy, though still a child, was annoyed with his mother for her mistake. On top of it, her reluctance to be honest to make a clean breast of the entire incident showed her conceit. He strongly protested against the humiliating embarrassment of not knowing his real father. In private, with Brahma as the mediator, Tara was called upon to be truthful in her confession. Brahma inspired courage in Tara and cajoled her to tell him honestly about the boy’s father. Finally, Tara revealed that Soma was the father. Soma accepted the child with great pleasure and contentment. Thus the child belonged to the lunar race. Brahma christened him Budha, endowed with immense knowledge.

Pururava was born to Budha and Ila. He once came across an apsaras named Urvashi, born on earth as a human being, on account of a curse. Pururava was fascinated by the beauty of Urvashi and they both married but soon separated. Pururava could not keep up Urvashi’s condition agreed upon at the time of their marriage. Urvashi then left for the region of the gandharvas. As if out of mind, Pururava, wailing aloud, went round in search of his dear lost wife. It was a pleasant surprise for him to see Urvashi, near the field of Kurukshetra, enjoying herself with her maids on the banks of river Sarasvati. Pururava approached her and poured his heart out. He sobbed, “O you cruel lady! How could you abandon me without consideration for my feelings? I am exhausted and depleted in strength, searching for you. I might fall on the ground any moment as prey to wild animals. It’s in your hands to revive me on compassionate grounds.” Touched by his pathetic cry, Urvashi consoled him with the assurance that she would oblige him with her company once a year and bear his sons. Gratified by her words, Pururava enjoyed with her every year. Once, she was pregnant and he was sorry to leave her in that condition. When he returned the next year, she was the mother of a handsome hero. At the time of parting every year, he had to tear himself from her. Urvashi then advised him to pray to the gandharvas to return her to him.

Pururava did accordingly and received a fire pot from them. They said he could reach Urvashi if he propitiated the pot. Love smitten Pururava thought the pot to be Urvashi. Truth dawned on him when he embraced the pot as if he was hugging her. He left the pot in the forest and went to his capital, still unable to get his thought of Urvashi out of his mind.

The three Vedas, representing the rituals, flashed across the mind of Pururava. Earlier, there was only one Veda in the form of pranava, the mystical Om; Lord Narayana, was the only God; one caste called the Hamsas existed; and one fire was known. Pururava was responsible for the three forms of fire, called Ahavaniya, the Garhapatya and the Dakshinagni. He made the diversification of the fire possible in his attempt to reach Urvashi. He went to the place in the forest where he had left the fire pot. In its place he found a banyan tree grown out of a shami tree. He cut out a couple of aranis, pieces of wood from the odd combination of the two trees. One he visualized as Urvashi and the other as himself. He imagined a third intervening stick which he conceptualised as their son. He rubbed the two sticks in his hands as per the instruction in the sacred text to produce fire. The friction caused the eruption of a flame, called the Jataveda, indicating that things are produced by their own energy. Pururava adopted the fire in its three forms as his son. His son, the fire, finally, united Pururava and Urvashi.

Chapter 21: 

Parashurama the Terror

Gadhi was born to Kushambi, of the Puru dynasty. He had a beautiful daughter Satyavati. A brahmana by the name Richika, conveyed to Gadhi of his wish to marry his daughter. Gadhi was not in favour of the alliance and at the same time did not want to give a negative reply to the brahmana. He thought out a plan, which he believed would save him from embarrassment. He demanded a dowry which ordinarily would be impossible to give. Gadhi wanted one thousand horses effulgent like the moon with a dark blue ear on one side. Richika saw through the trick and straight away went to Varuna for help. He readily supplied the required number of horses satisfying the description. Gadhi was completely floored by the unexpected dowry from the brahmana. Satyavati married Richika.

Satyavati and her mother desired to have sons. Therefore the Muni prepared separately two pots of sweet charu. He consecrated one with brahmana mantra for his wife and the other with kshatra mantra for his mother-in-law. When he had gone away for his ablution, the mother wanted the charu pots to be interchanged. She strongly felt that the charu meant for her daughter was superior to the one for her. Unsuspecting Satyavati agreed to the switching of the pots and both consumed the charu in the absence of the muni.

When the muni returned, he came to know of the swapping of charu. The muni informed his wife the tragic consequence of the interchange. He said, “Your action will result in your bearing a son who will be a cruel chastiser of his foes. Your brother will be a pious man devoted to the worship of the Supreme Lord.” Shocked by the revelation, Satyavati implored that such a thing should not happen. The mistake could not be fully rectified, but the muni made a marginal concession. She would have to accept her grandson to have that terrible quality.

Soon Satyavati had Jamadagni as her son. His youngest son was Parashurama who vanquished the wicked kshatriyas twenty one times from the face of the earth. The elimination of these perpetrators of unethical and immoral actions was a great relief for mother earth. The severe reaction of Parashurama towards the kshatriyas stimulates our curiosity to investigate into the cause of such enmity.

Kartaveeryarjuna, a kshatriya king, served Dattatreya, the form of Lord Hari on earth. His sincere service earned for him extraordinary prowess and wealth. He possessed one thousand arms. With the arrogance of power, he speeded round the earth like whirlwind. He reversed the flow of river Narmada with his innumerable arms. This flooded the banks on which the ten-headed Ravana was camping with his army. Infuriated by the inconvenience caused, the demon waged war against Kartaveeryarjuna who captured and imprisoned the aggressor in his capital Maheshmatipuri. Later he released him, finding the rival to be worthless.

Parashurama was away from the hermitage of Jamadagni, when Kartaveeryarjuna came there during one of his expeditions. Jamadagni thought him to be a god among men, and extended due hospitality to Kartaveeryarjuna with his entire paraphernalia following him. The sage’s sacred cow provided all the articles to entertain the honoured guest. The wicked king exhibited his ungrateful nature by setting his eyes on the wish-yielding cow as he saw inexhaustible wealth in her. He ordered his men to bind the cow and take her to his kingdom. The pathetic cry of the cow did not arouse any pity in the king, bereft as he was of tender feelings.

Soon Parashurama returned and stood aghast at the king’s evil intentions. He picked up his terrible axe, charging like a furious bull at Kartaveeryarjuna. Observing Parashurama set for an indomitable attack, the king sent a large army to repulse him. The soldiers were no match to the powerful Parashurama who snuffed out their lives single handed. The valour of Parashurama made Kartaveeryarjuna take to his heels and the chase looked like a lion after its prey. Kartaveeryarjuna’s arms were lopped off by the axe and so was his head. His fallen body without the head resembled the stump of a tree. Kartaveeryarjuna’s death at the hands of Parashurama brought to an end his treachorous sovereignty that rocked the entire world. Parashurama presented the cow to his father, with a sense of achievement. But Jamadagni’s reaction dampened his excitement. He said, “My glorious son! Killing a consecrated king is more heinous than that of a brahmana. You are a brahmana whose primary and powerful quality should be forbearance, a quality that earns us veneration. Brahma too got universal acclaim through forbearance. As atonement for your sin, undertake a pilgrimage to concentrate on Sri Hari”. Parashurama went on a year’s pilgrimage on his father’s advice.

On his return, the purity and strength of his conscience was put to test. The big challenge was to choose between his father and his mother with his brothers. His mother had gone to the river to bring water for the performance of her husband’s daily religious rites. She tarried a while admiring the handsome king Chitraratha of the gandharvas, sporting with the apsaras in the water. A moment’s lapse in the control of her mind earned her the disrepute of infidelity when her husband outright decried her as unchaste. He tried to order each of his sons to kill the mother as punishment. They refused to kill their mother and also a woman to whom they owed their very existence. Parashurama, a shrewd man, knew the veracity of his father’s spiritual power. To avert a sure disaster if not agreed upon, he consented to carry out his father’s command. Jamadagni was mightily pleased with his son and offered him a boon. Grabbing the opportunity, he pleaded for the resuscitation of his mother and brothers with the request that they should not have the slightest memory of their death or what had happened prior to that. Caught unawares by the intelligence of his son, he granted the boon. Parashurama proved to be a dutiful son in carrying out his obligation to both his parents.

The aggrieved sons of Kartaveeryarjuna were spoiling for a fight to avenge their father’s death. They entered the hermitage of Jamadagni in the absence of his sons,charged at the pious man to cut off his head.Despite his wife Renuka’s pleadings, they did not spare her husband and carried away the head. She started crying loudly calling for Parashurama. The lamenting mother’s voice hastened him back to the hermitage. Learning about his father’s killing, Parashurama proceeded to Maheshmatipuri. His axed down all the sons of Kartaveeryarjuna, piled them in a heap and allowed their blood to flow as a river. He indulged in this horrendous act to warn people to stay away from enmity towards brahmanas. With a vengence he vanquished the entire kshatriya class twenty one times to mark the number his mother had beat her chest at the murder of her husband. Nine rivers of blood flowed out of the sacred place Samanta-panchaka.

Parashurama brought his father’s head and attached it to his body by which he was revived. Jamadagni became the seventh saint in the constellation of seven saints. Parashurama was advised by his ancestors to desist forever from such inhuman massacre when he lost to Bhishma. He propitiated Lord Narayana by a sacrifice, followed by liberal gifts to brahmanas and finally had a dip in the river Sarasvati to expiate his sins. In the next creation, Parashurama promulgated the Vedas and is believed to be still living in Mount Mahendra.

Interesting Anecdotes

Vishvamitra: Gadhi had a very powerful son named Vishvamitra. His steadfast practice of asceticism to become a rishi, though belonging to the royal family, elevated him to the status of a raja rishi. He had many sons of his own but he adopted Shunashepa, the son of Ajigarta of the Bhrigu race. He named him Devarata and considered him as his first son. He wanted his own sons to treat him as their elder brother. Though they entertained resentment, the fear of their father’s curse made them agree to the suggestion. It is believed that the adoption of Devarata is the cause for various subdivisions of the Kaushika race of Vishvamitra.

Chapter 28: 

Whither Brahma’s illusory power

Brahma had been witnessing the miraculous feats of the five year old Krishna. He did not give credence to it as the victory was only over asuras. Very proud and extremely confident of his illusory power, Brahma plunged to challenge Krishna.

On a pleasant day, Krishna and the cowherds led their cattle to the pastures along the river side. The picturesque surrounding and the nice weather together aroused a picnicking mood in them. Letting the cattle to graze, they settled down to relish jointly the food they had brought from home. They had hardly picked up a morsel, when they observed their cattle had strayed away beyond their range of vision. Krishna comforted the perturbed cowherds and offered to go in search, while the others continued with their eating. He looked everywhere but the cattle were not to be found. On return to the river bank he was shocked not to find the boys either. Suspecting some foul play, he took the forms of as many cattle and cowboys. In the evening each went to the respective homes as usual, no one suspecting anything about Krishna’s secret game. Life continued like this for nearly a year.

A few days before the lapse of the year, Balarama took the cattle to the meadows at the foot of the mountain Govardhana. On the peak there were some cattle grazing. They were instinctively drawn to the cattle below. They speedily ran downhill across the dense forest with the cowherds following behind, calling after them. Balarama was surprised at their behaviour but could see Krishna’s involvement in this illusory play and he was not wrong in his guess. Brahma could not believe his illusory power having been nullified. Amongst the large herd of cattle he could not distinguish the stolen cattle under his spell from the other ones grazing below. Convinced that Vishnu had released the cattle in his control, Brahma wanted to assert his superiority over Krishna by trying his illusory power on him. But Krishna outwitted Brahma by stupefying him. In that state, Brahma saw the form of Vishnu in each of the cattle and the cowboys with all the auspicious marks of the Lord on them. Vishnu then lifted the veil of maya and revived Brahma back to consciousness. Brindavana was before his eyes and he witnessed the fearless harmony prevailing among the people. He also found himself with the Supreme Lord manifested as the cowboy Krishna. Repenting for his action, he fell at Krishna’s feet and sang his praise with devotion.

Interesting Anecdotes

Uparichara: The story of king Uparichara is very similar to that of Brahma. Uparichara had the special power of driving through the sky in his chariot. His additional strength was, the shadow of his chariot could kill anyone on whom it fell. One day, he started off on his aerial tour over the meadows where Krishna was grazing his cattle, in an attempt to exhibit his power. The sight of him alerted Krishna to take adequate precautions to save his cattle. He waited for the challenge and when Uparichara drove over the meadow, Krishna pressed his foot on the shadow of the chariot halting it on the spot. He did not want the cowherds to lose their cattle wealth which would leave them a begging. Finding his chariot arrested, Uparichara came down to ascertain the reason. He asked Krishna to remove his foot and let go his chariot. Not knowing the power of Krishna, he thought he would get his chariot released just for the asking. But Krishna was a hard nut to crack. He demanded one thousand jars of fresh butter churned out that very day. Being a king he thought he could get it without any problem. When he got to collecting it in the jars, that too fresh butter, Uparichara saw it was not as easy as he had thought. He managed it successfully till he came to the last jar. He could not find the required fresh butter anywhere. He thought he could deceive Krishna by filling the last jar with water. He brought the thousand jars with a feeling of achievement. When he started opening the jars, to his dismay, he found water in all the jars. He now became aware of Krishna’s divine power and fell at his feet for pardon.

Chapter 29: 

Kaliya and his fear of Garuda

Kaliya, the many hooded serpent, was residing on the river bed of Kalindi. The venom of the serpent polluted the water and his breath, the air, both hazardous to the inhabitants of Gokula. Krishna decided to provide relief to the people with pollution free air and water. So he climbed a kadamba tree and jumped into the river. Splashing the water as he swam, he created turbulence that angered Kaliya, the serpent king. Excessive spitting of poison darkened the water. The serpent surfaced to attack and coiled round the body of Krishna. He pretended to be helplessly caught in the constricting grip of the serpent. The cowherds were rattled to see Krishna unable to release himself. They swooned as they gave up Krishna as lost. The news spread like wild fire, casting gloom over the Vraja folks. Yashoda and Nanda could not bear to think of living even for a moment without Krishna. Nanda decided to give up his life by jumping into the poisoned water. Though Balarama knew the strength of his brother, he did not try to console anybody. He only stopped Nanda from taking the extreme step. Being the protector of his subjects, he would be demoralizing them by such an act.

Krishna decided not to continue the fake alarm any further and came out of the serpent’s hold. Krishna stood on Kaliya’s hood and danced vigorously till it was sore and bleeding heavily. The more poison Kaliya emitted, the more did Krishna sap the serpent’s energy. The battle went on for some time till Kaliya began collapsing, his strength to resist completely depleted. Fearing the end of their husband’s life, his wives pleaded for mercy. They said, “Lord! We are conscious of the wickedness of our husband and also that he has no merit to rely on. Ignorance of the greatness of the Lord has been the cause for all his evil doings. We know how impossible it is to secure the dust of your feet by great saints. Despite the wickedness of our husband, he has been fortunate to have had contact with your feet. You pardon sinful people. Be merciful to our husband also, out of consideration for us. Lord! Please spare our husband’s life.” Krishna instantly obliged them by stepping down from the hood. Kaliya gradually recovered and repented for the cruel life he had been leading. He prayed to Hari and said, “We are by birth evil minded and cannot get rid of our inherent nature. Wickedness has a tight hold over us as evil spirits possess the human beings. You are the best judge to decide whether to shower your grace on us or chastise us for our misgivings to the supremacy of the Lord. Whatever you ordain, we will humbly accept.” On hearing these words, Krishna ordered, “Go to the island Ramanaka in the ocean with your whole family and friends, leaving the river for the cattle and the human beings of Gokula. Moreover, the impression of my feet on your hood would be a deterrent to any attack from Garuda, fearing whom you have been hiding under the water of Kalindi.” The entire serpent family obeyed Krishna and went to the island in the ocean. From that day the water of Yamuna became tasty and sweet.

Interesting Anecdotes

Kaliya and Garuda: Garuda was Vinata’s son, while Kaliya was born to Kadru, both by the same father Kashyapa. On the first day of both the dark and the bright fortnights, the serpents were supposed to offer a share of their food to Garuda. It was a settled agreement diligently observed to keep away Garuda and his relatives from attacking the serpents. Once proud of his virulent poison, a strong weapon against his enemies, Kaliya decided to break the agreement. He ate up all the food meant for Garuda. He not only denied the bird, a part of his own food, but also the offerings of the other serpents.

Garuda was infuriated by Kaliya’s default. He started chasing the serpent with the determination to kill him. Kaliya used his venom to stun the bird but it was ineffective. On the other hand, he got a forceful bashing from the left wing of Garuda. To protect himself from the ferocious bird, he took shelter in the water of Kalindi. With what confidence could Kaliya have sought the water of Kalindi as a safe place? The curse on Garuda was a secret known only to Kaliya. Sometime in the past, Garuda was very hungry and wanted to eat the fish in the river. Rishi Shaubari asked Garuda to desist from devouring any of them. The pangs of hunger were so strong that he could not resist. The rishi’s request was ignored and the female fish lamented for the death of their husbands. The rishi was moved by the sorrow of the fish and he pronounced a curse. He banned Garuda’s entry into the river. If Garuda ever ventured into it, he would die. So the river Kalindi was the ideal sanctuary for Kaliya.

So much for the relationship between Kaliya and Garuda. But the enmity between the serpents and the vultures is an age old story. Kadru always had a hatred for Vinata. She somehow wanted to score over Vinata and humiliate her. Kadru started a controversy over the colour of Ucchaishravas, the celestial horse. This horse was claimed by Bali when it came out during the churning of the ocean and Indra acquired its ownership after his death. They entered into an argument, Kadru saying the horse to be dark and Vinata had no doubt about its white colour. They decided to view the horse directly to ascertain the actual colour. Cunning Kadru said the loser would have to serve the other as a slave. Though Kadru knew the colour of the horse, she wanted to win and have Vinata as her slave. She thought of a deceitful plan. She suggested to Vinata that they view the horse from a distance and the latter unsuspectingly agreed. Kadru sent her sons, the serpents to coil round the horse. As a result the horse looked dark and Vinata had to concede defeat. Vinata became Kadru’s slave. Garuda, the elder brother of Aruna, the sun, was very angry with the foul play. He had to win the nectar from the serpents for Indra to establish his mother’s point and get her released from slavery. To this day the enmity continues and a vulture will never spare a serpent if sighted.

Chapter 30: 

Exposition – self-surrender

Bhagavatam describes self surrender in a beautiful way that has made the difficult concept easy for common comprehension.

Once, the damsels of Vraja undertook a severe vow invoking Goddess Katyayani for a whole month starting on the first day of the Hemanta season. Each morning, they bathed in the river Kalindi followed by a devotional worship of a sand image of the goddess on the river bank. With flowers, fruits, rice and other pleasing articles, the gopis would pray to be united with the cowherd son of Nanda. They would call on every house, collect the friends and sing in chorus, hymns in praise of the Lord as they proceeded to the river bank for observing the vow. Each would imagine herself to be with the Lord, though it was joint singing.

One day, they left their clothes on the bank and stepped into the water for their ablution. Krishna stole their clothes and perched himself on the kadamba tree to test their determined dedication and single minded devotion to God. He asked them to come out of water to collect the clothes from him. They took it as a joke and were appreciative of Krishna’s sense of humour. They felt ashamed to appear naked before Krishna. Going neck deep into water, they pleaded him to return their clothes. Krishna insisted on their coming out of water if they wanted the clothes. Compelled by Krishna, the maidens came out bashfully covering themselves with their hands. But Krishna would not agree until they raised their hands above their heads in obeisance. When the gopis humbly did as commanded, Krishna returned the clothes.

Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says:

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तॊ माम् यॆ जना: पर्युपासतॆ |

तॆषाम् नित्याभियुक्तानाम् यॊगक्षॆमम् वहाम्यहम् ||

Ananyashchintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate

Thesham nityabhiyukthanam yogakshemam vahamyaham

Those who propitiate me consistently desiring to attain me, with single minded devotion [with an undistracted mind] I take the responsibility of their worldly as well as spiritual welfare.

In the Bhagavatam, Krishna explained to the gopis, in simple words the philosophy contained in the above verse of the Bhagavad Gita. In this verse, the Lord explains that if people propitiate the minor gods with the aim to acquire small benefits, those will not help them to emancipation.On the other hand, people would be caught in repeated birth and death in this world, subjected to incessant problems. Discarding all the small gains and seeking the divine feet of the Lord as the one and only remedy, man will reach the bliss of the ultimate happiness. Realising that the Lord is the Supreme Being, if people seek his grace, God will, on his own, admit them to his realm from where there is no return to this world. God will grant emancipation to the supplicant at the appropriate time. Till then, he will have to abide his time and live in this world. During that period, God will protect his welfare, lest he becomes desperate and loses faith in God.

With reference to what he expected of the gopis when he compelled them to give up the reservations oppressing their minds, he said it was to help them understand the sublimity of self surrender to God. He said, “My dear gopis! It was a practical demonstration conducted by me to dispel the petty feelings that obstruct the path of sharanagati, self surrender. You have fallen at my feet without any inhibition. That is an indication of being free from ego, ahamkara as it is called. Such a person is not affected by happiness or sorrow, prosperity or diversity, shame or any of the feelings or emotions attributed to human beings. The possessive instinct vanishes and the feeling of oneness manifests.” The Lord has reiterated the truth,’ वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्(VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM),’ the world is a single family. He further continued, “Observing the vow, you have successfully disciplined yourselves. Your prostration before me now, has further chastened you, insulating your mind against emotional reaction to worldly matters, just as frying prevents the corn from sprouting. Your mind is fixed firm in your quest for God. My test on you has convinced me of the purity of your hearts. As an expression of my appreciation of your absolute dedication I shall reward you with my company tomorrow night.” The gopis were thrilled beyond measure as their sincere vow had borne a favourable result. They returned home with contentment. A short reference to Shuka’s character will strengthen our belief in the truth which Krishna has explained. Once when the ladies, bathing in the river, were shy to be naked before Vyasa, they experienced no such feelings in front of his son Shuka. When asked for the reason, they said, “Shuka, though a young boy of sixteen, has risen above the mundane world of emotions. So his presence does not evoke any undesirable feelings in us just the way the sight of a woman does not mentally disquietened him.” Shuka has no emotion.

Tamil saint poetess Andal lived long after Krishna. In her famous string of verses, the Tiruppavai, she visualizes herself in Brindavana during the time of Krishna. She imagines performing the Katyayani vow with the gopis from mid December to mid January, the Tamil month of Margazhi, which happens to be the Hemanta season. She describes in thirty verses the entire procedure of the vow, associating herself in the service of the Lord, pleading him to bestow his grace and fulfill her desire of everlasting union with him.

Hear the purpose of our coming early in the morning to prostrate at your lotus like feet having a golden hue. Having been born in the community of cowherds that earns its living by grazing cattle, you cannot forsake us who are ever ready to obey your commands. Today, we seek you for the parai, the drum but we have other aspirations besides that. O Govinda! We pray that our relationship should exist not just today but be everlasting for many generations to come [twice seven births]. We want to serve you, no one else but you. Please destroy other undesirable cravings present in us.

Chapter 31: 

Rasa Leela

Rasa Leela is a dramatic presentation of the gopis’ complete dedication to God. These verses in the Bhagavatam, extol the Sharanagathi [complete self surrender to God] of the Bhagavad Gita in the form of a simple dance drama.

In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says:

सर्व धर्मान् परित्यज्य‌ मामॆकम् शरणम् व्रज |

अहम् त्वा सर्व पापॆभ्यॊ मॊक्षयिष्यामि मा शुच: ||

Sarva dharman parityajya mamekam sharanam vraja

Aham tva sarva papebhyo mokshayishyami ma shucha:

Surrender unto me giving up all discriminations of caste or creed. I shall emancipate you from your sins, have no doubt about that.

Yet another interpretation of this verse:

Give up all other methods of seeking the Paramapada, like Jnanamarga, karmamarga or bhaktimarga as they will lead to only the lower worlds like heaven and such others. Not that these will not lead to emancipation. But they are difficult methods which great munis alone can follow successfully. These are definitely beyond the capability of common man. It requires high degree of discipline, not every person can pursue in a sustained manner. Moreover they are gradual, taking step by step to various higher worlds. While enjoying the second grade happiness in these worlds, man will roll back, with the exhaustion of the merits that took him to the impermanent small elevation. Instead, sharanagati is the simplest way to reach God. When a devotee falls at the feet of the Lord with utmost faith, nothing more is expected of him. God will take over the responsibility to deliver him from all his sins. When there is relief from sins, the royal gate of Paramapada open for him. That’s the assurance the Lord gives.

In the life of human beings, the relationship between the husband and wife is the closest, pure and most abiding. That is why, the Bhagavatam depicts the Katyayani vow observed by the gopis, as a prayer to have Krishna as their husband, not out of lust but for the long cherished everlasting intimacy with God. Is it not surprising to find that the gopas did not suspect the fidelity of their wives when they spent a whole night dancing with Krishna? Moreover, their response to the melodies of Krishna’s flute, in preference to their household responsibilities, was also not taken amiss. The reason being, they were mentally mature to know the nature of God. God dwells within everybody and service to God is service to all. God treats his devotees with parity without any emtoional involvement. The purity of devotion of the gopis and Krishna’s reciprocal gratification were evident to the gopas.

Rasa Leela was Krishna’s gift to the gopis for their ardent devotion to him. Therefore, though it was an autumn night when the surroundings were barren and dry, he created an illusion of the beauty of spring season, a season that inspires love and congenial to have a merry dance. The sweet sound from his flute was the divine call which drew the gopis towards him. Instantly dropping the activities they were engaged in, they began walking in a daze, as if, hypnotized by the melodious music. With Krishna as the central figure and the gopis dancing round him, Krishna’s Rasa Leela took off to a wonderful start. Krishna obliged by taking as many forms as the gopis and danced in partnership with each one of them. In the frenzy over the extraordinary experience, every gopi imagined herself lucky with a little pride, to be the chosen favourite of the Lord. Krishna thought, he should curb the egoism slowly taking root in the gopis. It is an unhealthy trait to encourage, as it is aroused by the misconception of the Lord’s attitude towards his devotees. At the same time, the Lord wanted to instill humility to show that it was the most important quality to reach the feet of God. Krishna decided to disappear from their midst. The gopis were disappointed to find the Lord suddenly out of sight. They wondered why he had left them abruptly without any reason. They were depressed to find that their luck to enjoy the divine company was so short lived. Yet as if possessed, they continued dancing in a world of their own, impersonating one another for Krishna. Each ones pride over receiving exclusive favour of the Lord vanished with the shock treatment, as it were, given by Krishna. Seeing the steadfast devotion of the simple women, Krishna took pity for subjecting them to the litmus test. He again presented himself before them offering divine bliss in bountiful. They danced with Krishna till the wee hours of the morning and then reluctantly turned their footsteps homewards. Krishna brings home to all of us by his Rasa Leela that one can obtain the benevolence of God only by humble attitude of complete surrender which must be cultivated within ones mind and heart.

Chapter 32: 

Brahmanas repent

Krishna and Balarama went in the company of their cowherd friends as usual to the meadows with their cattle. They drifted far deep into the forest. On their way back, the cowboys were overcome by hunger and thirst. Krishna sent them to the brahmanas performing the angirasa sacrifice nearby. He had advised them to tell the brahmanas that Krishna and Balarama had sent them. The boys went and begged for food telling the brahmanas from where they had come. The brahmanas turned a deaf ear to the boys. They returned hungry

Brahmana wives serve food to cowherd boys

Knowing the good nature of the brahmana wives, Krishna sent the boys to them. Krishna was sure of the affectionate treatment his friends would receive. The wives of the brahmanas fed the boys to their satisfaction. The women also came to the two brothers, with platters laden with a grand feast. They considered themselves fortunate to get an opportunity to offer food personally to Lord Hari. Absolutely content with their service to the Lord, they now returned to reality. They were afraid of going back as they expected the husbands to disclaim them for disobedience. The women, in their excitement to serve the Lord, had ignored to bother about the consequences. They conveyed their fear to Krishna. “Go back without any fear of ill treatment. The sacrifice, in which your husbands are engaged, would be completed without a hitch,” said Krishna encouragingly.

The women on return were surprised to see an unbelievable alteration in their husbands.The brahmanas were cursing their unpardonable behaviour towards the cowherd boys, who were none other than the Lord in human form. Greed for material prosperity had driven them away from meritorious deeds. All their study of the Vedic scriptures appeared futile as they had failed to see the Lord dwelling inside their very hearts. The women, who were not permitted to study the Vedas, were intellectually far superior to their privileged husbands. Even though belated, the brahmanas repented for their sinful conduct of indifference to the greatness of the Lord and begged Krishna for deliverance.

Chapter 33: 

Govardhanagiri

Once, Krishna observed the people of Vraja busily organising a sacrifice. He was eager to know the purpose of the sacrifice. There was a doubt in his mind as to whether the sacrifice had the sanction of the scriptures or was it the customary practice that had in due course made it mandatory. When he asked his father about this, Nanda told him that it was to please Indra, the god of rains. He was believed to take the form of the clouds, come down as rain to bestow prosperity through good harvest. The ritual had been religiously observed for generations prompted by social injunctions. If discontinued, they believed evil consequences would spell doom.

This explanation might seem superstitious to us but not to the Vrajas. Krishna’s logical thinking was also not convinced. He said the form of birth in this life depends on a person’s deeds in the previous one. Every living being is assigned certain duties according to his social calling. If pleasing Indra were to give prosperity, it is obvious that he was promoting benefit oriented actions among people amounting to selfishness. On the other hand, if actions were treated as detached social service, each person earnestly carrying out his duty, things would fall into position with clock work precision. Forming of clouds and pouring as rain were natural phenomena occurring by the intrinsic atmospheric energy and the same principle was applicable on the entire earth. Therefore, Indra had no control over the operation of the natural occurrences anywhere, and Vraja was no exception.

Krishna advised the people on the proper mode of action. Serving intellectual brahmanas, caring for the health of the people as well as the cattle and preserving nature should be the primary duty of every person. Performing any sacrifice to that effect would be ideal rather than trying in vain to propitiate Indra. People saw there was sense in what Krishna said and were prepared to follow his advice.

Naturally, Indra did not appreciate the change in the cowherds. He was angry with Krishna for foiling the sacrifice where he occupied a place of importance and prominence.To spite Krishna, Indra wished to wipe out the whole of Gokula. Underestimating the power of the six year old boy, Indra contrived to send down torrential rain by his illusory power. The flood claimed the lives of a few cattle and human lives were also in peril. The people ran to Krishna seeking help to rescue them from the floods. They thought that untimely down pour expressed the revenge of Indra on Krishna. So, Krishna took it on himself to save the suffering people. He uprooted the mountain Govardhana, held it on his little finger as an umbrella to provide shelter to the entire Vraja people. Krishna inspired confidence and they brought their family and the herd of cattle under the improvised umbrella. They would remain protected until the rain abated, assured Krishna. Indra saw Krishna standing like a pillar holding the mountain for seven days and finally he had to accept defeat. Soon the floods receded and the people returned home with their hearts overwhelming with gratitude to Krishna for his prompt life saving response.

Chapter 34: 

Serpent; Daitya – attack

The folks of Vraja including king Nanda propitiated Shiva and Parvati on the banks of river Sarasvati. At the end of the religious rites, they generously offered gifts to the brahmanas. In adherence to the shastric injunctions, they spent the night on the banks of the river, subsisting only on its water.

In the middle of the night when everyone was fast asleep, a hungry large serpent tightly gripped Nanda with an intention to swallow him. Nanda cried for help and the cowherds tried to beat the serpent with burning logs of wood. There was utter mayhem when Krishna came to the spot to find out the cause for the uproar. To the surprise of the onlooking people, the serpent took the form of a resplendent gandharva, the moment Krishna killed it.

Admiring his handsome look, Krishna wanted to know why he had taken the body of a snake. To this the gandharva replied, “I was a gandharva, Sudarshana by name. I was proud of my good looks and prosperity. During my aerial rounds through the heavenly path, I mocked at the great sages Virupa and Angiras. Their ascetic powers punished me with the serpent body. Though it was a very severe blow on me then, I am now grateful to them. But for their curse, I would not have come in contact with the Lord’s feet that have restored my original form, with my sins washed away.” Permitted to go back to his abode of gandharvas, Sudarshana prostrated at the Lord’s feet and formally took leave of Krishna.

Shankhyachuda abducts women.

Balarama and Krishna were roaming in the forest in a delightful mood. A daitya named Shankhyachuda, suddenly appeared and abducted the women, carrying them to the eastern region. While the brothers were looking on, the daitya tried to behave badly with the women. When they went after him, the demon dropped them like hot potatoes. With Balarama standing guard for the women, Krishna gave the chase with a sala tree [teak tree] in hand. He soon overtook him and a blow with his fist dislodged his head from his shoulders. Removing the jewel he was wearing, Krishna gifted it to his elder brother Balarama as a mark of respect.

Chapter 35: 

Conspiracy of Kamsa

Kamsa sent an asura named Arishta as a large humped bull. He was killed by Krishna using the horns of the bull as weapon. Asura Kesi also failed in his attempt against the divine boy. Vyoma was next in line to fall.

Children are known to play the game of robbers and police. The cowherds also played a similar game. They had a few of their friends as lambs for the robbers to target. Vyoma, disguised as a robber, stole the cowboys acting as lambs, carried them to a dark mountain cave, pushed them inside and blocked the entrance with a huge rock. Krishna noticed the boys as lambs were missing and he at once saw the culprit behind the theft to be Vyoma. He seized the asura, the son of daitya Maya. Struggling to free himself from the strong hold, the demon assumed his real form resembling a mighty mountain. All his efforts failed against Krishna whose tight grip was like that of an iguana. The asura was squeezed and choked to death. Krishna ran to the cave, removed the rock and saved his friends from suffocation.

So far Kamsa was attacking Krishna only on a premise. His suspicion was confirmed by a surprise visit by Narada. He spilt the beans by revealing the true identity of Balarama and Krishna as the seventh and eighth sons of Devaki. He said, “Balarama is not the son of Rohini as is made to believe. He is the seventh son of Devaki. The daughter of Devaki was actually Yashoda’s child, a form of the Lord’s Yoga-maya. The infant was interchanged with Krishna, the eighth son of Devaki, to save him from your clutches.” With the entire secret known, Kamsa picked up his sword to kill the imprisoned Vasudeva and Devaki. Taking their life appeared to be the only immediate consolation to his frustration. Narada stopped him and advised him against further perpetration of evil and criminal acts.

With the numerous attempted failures to kill Krishna, Kamsa’s nervousness kept mounting by the day. Yet he was not prepared to accept defeat. He was confident of success through the master plan he had hatched to kill both Balarama and Krishna together. He called his councilors to tell them his elaborate strategy to kill two birds with one stone. He began, “I will not allow Krishna to execute me, as prophesied. I will see that I call my shots first. The two cowherds have to be killed in a wrestling bout, right here in Mathura. You have to station an elephant at the entrance arch and many decorative arches have to be erected in various places around the wrestling arena. Do not miss the proclamation, inviting people to witness the spectacular contest.”

Organising the preparations, Kamsa began to scheme a fool proof plan to rope in his two enemies without arousing suspicion. He hit upon Akrura as the ideal messenger to carry his invitation to the people of Vraja. Akrura, a favourite of the Yadus, would not create doubt. They would not expect him to join hands with Kamsa against Krishna. Akrura was called to report immediately. Kamsa said, “Akrura, my trusted friend! You are my only well-wisher very close to my heart. I do not have to tell you that I expect you to follow my instructions strictly. Go to Gokula with my invitation to Krishna, Balarama, Nanda and all the Vrajas to participate in the sacrifice to Shiva. They can see for themselves the happy and prosperous Yadus in my kingdom. Also request them to bring the milk products like butter and curds in plenty for me. I have arranged a wrestling contest for the two boys with my strong wrestlers. On their arrival, Krishna and Balarama will be trampled upon by an elephant at the entrance gate of the wrestling arena. If by chance they escape there, my muscular wrestlers will complete the task for me. Then extinction of the Vrajas, Vasudeva, Devaki and even my father who is ambitious to ascend the throne again, would remove all the thorns from my life. I would have won over my death. Establishing my sovereignty would be a cake walk. I have opened my heart and placed my guarded secret before you. I hope I can rely on you for confidentiality and see that my scheme is not foiled.” Akrura agreed to act as ordered but he made very clear the great truth that ‘Man proposes and God disposes.’ He explained, “Despite all plans within the intellectual ability and physical capacity of man, results are sometimes adverse. Human failure in organising things has but little to do with the reversal. There is a powerful force beyond called destiny that supersedes. One should be mentally prepared to accept the vagaries of life which are directed by our luck.” With these wise words, Akrura mounted his chariot on his deputation to Gokula.

Happily going on his assignment, Akrura’s thoughts went out to Krishna and his prospects of meeting his dear friend. He, however, brushed aside the passing doubt about being misunderstood as the trusted representative of Kamsa. He was confident of a warm welcome from Krishna who understands the hearts and minds of everyone. Akrura prostrated before Krishna who expressed his immense happiness on meeting his kinsman after a long lapse of time. No need to mention the affectionate welcome with a tight bear hug. Krishna confided his pent up sorrow with his dear friend. He cursed himself for being at the root of all his parents’ miseries and the death of his siblings at the hands of his uncle Kamsa, an uncle only in name. The thought of his uncle depressed him because the prosperity of Kamsa was built on the foundation of evil bricks baked in his criminal mind. Akrura sympathized with him over his grief.

Now it was for Akrura to deliver his message from Kamsa to Balarama and Krishna. He began with Narada’s disclosure of the identities of the two brothers to Kamsa, during his visit to Mathura. He also informed them about Narada’s advice to Kamsa to keep clear of evil actions when he was about to kill Vasudeva and Devaki. Having presented Kamsa’s invitation, Akrura told the extensive preparation being made in Mathura to kill Balarama and Krishna in a wrestling contest. The brothers reacted to the information with a mild smile and did not divulge it to anyone.

The excited residents of Vraja got ready with the gifts requested by Kamsa. Nanda and the other people started on their journey in their chariots while Krishna and Balarama drove with Akrura in his chariot. On the way, Akrura took a dip in the river Kalindi. Inside the water, Akrura had the divine vision of Vishnu as the two brothers Balarama and Krishna. He could not believe his eyes. To make sure of what he saw, he tried to look out of water. He saw the two of them seated in the chariot awaiting his return. Krishna turned his head away pretending to be unaware of the under water vision of Akrura. Brooding over the unusual experience, Akrura was convinced that the vision had revealed the truth. The brothers were Lord Vishnu and Ananthshesha incarnate on earth. Akrura returned in high spirits and Krishna knew Akrura’s rapturous state was the consequence of what he had revealed to him under water.

At the outskirts of the city, the brothers expressed their desire to stroll through the streets of Mathura. They got down and sent Akrura home. Reluctantly Akrua left them to themselves and retired home after reporting to Kamsa of their arrival. On the way, they accosted a washerman to give them the finest of clothes he had in the bundle. The washerman was infuriated. In derogatory words he said, though forest dwellers, they were being chivalrous to aspire for the monarch’s clothes. He tried to scare them with the threat of severe treatment from the security guards. Krishna gave him the suitable treatment by chopping off his head. Out of fear of the dangerous man, the rest of the washermen fled dropping their bundles. Krishna and Balarama put on the fine clothes and distributed the rest among the cowherds.

The weaver was in direct contrast to the ruffian washerman. The courteous weaver was very pleased to have Krishna and Balarama at his loom. He gave them the best clothes and jewelry of precious gems. Adorned in those clothes with the garlands of the choicest flowers offered by the florist made them the cynosure of all eyes. The good deeds of everyone are at once recognised and rewarded by God, no matter how trivial they might be. So were the weaver and the florist.

God takes care to remove the problems of people devoted to serve him. Trivakra, [meaning one with three deformities] a pretty young woman with a hunch back and other deformities was shown kindness by Krishna. Krishna saw her hastily going somewhere with an ointment in her hand. The afflictions of the beautiful woman sent a wave of compassion through his heart. On enquiry, she informed them that she has been that way from birth. The ointment she had in her hand was for the monarch, who enjoyed her massage daily and that she was hurrying for duty. Krishna and Balarama requested her to let them experience the pleasure of the soothing massage. She wholeheartedly agreed as she felt flattered to find two handsome young boys desiring her services. She quickly busied herself with the massage. Krishna was impressed by the readiness of the woman to oblige immediately. He thought she deserved a reward best suited for her. He decided that setting right her deformities would be the ideal redressal. He pressed her toes with his foot and raised her chin with his two fingers. Like magic, her deformities vanished within the wink of an eye. A pretty young woman stood before Krishna who was pleased to find herself as a normal human being. Never had she dreamt that such a miracle would happen in her life. Full of gratitude, she invited them to her house, where she wanted to honour them in her own small way. Krishna assured to visit her as soon as his contemplated mission was productively completed.

Balarama and Krishna proceeded to attend the Shiva Dhanu sacrifice. Krishna went straight to the heavy bow on the platform and lifted it with his left hand. The bow snapped into two pieces when he tried to string it. The guards appointed for the security of the bow charged against him. On hearing about the bow broken by his enemy, the cowherd boy, Kamsa sent a number of armed army personnel to fight against him. All of Kamsa’s men were killed by Krishna and Balarama with just the two pieces of the bow. Their valour astonished the spectators who were admiring their handsome personality with unblinking eyes. The two majestically walked out of the sacrificial ground as if nothing had happened. They returned to the carts of the Vrajas for a peaceful night’s sleep. But for Kamsa it was a night of restlessness. He tossed in his bed, tensed by the breaking of the bow as an ill-omen. He tried his best to convince himself that it was nothing more than one of Krishna’s playful pranks. Seized by the fear of death, Kamsa was in a state of delirium. He visualized various portents of death between wakefulness and intermittent sleep.

At day break, Kamsa woke up, dizzy with death psychosis. He ordered the commencement of the wrestling competition. He still held on to the last straw of hope to nullify the prophecy of his death. The spectators were tense in their seats, fearing the outcome of the contest, with the stalwarts of Kamsa challenging the boys who were not even in their youth. Kamsa was on the royal dais, surrounded by the subordinate kings. The tabors were sounded to announce the entrance of the wrestlers Chanura, Mushtika, Kula, Shala and Toshala. Krishna and Balarama walked towards the place of action. At the entrance they were attacked by an elephant named Kuvalayapida. Excited by the mahout, the elephant lifted Krishna with his trunk who slipped out of the grip like an eel. After wounding one of the animal’s feet, Krishna disappeared. The animal could, all the same, locate Krishna by his sense of smell. Again Krishna deluded him. To add to the elephant’s frustration, Krishna held the tail and dragged him a long distance in a serpentine way. By a mere kick, Krishna sent the animal rolling on the ground. The elephant regained stability and dug his tusks forcibly into the earth, thinking Krishna had followed him in the fall. Finally, Krishna grabbed his trunk, felled the elephant like a tree and the animal breathed his last when he stamped on it. Pulling out one tusk each, Krishna and Balarama walked into the arena. Victory over the powerful elephant by the mere strength of their arms, made Kamsa’s hair stand on ends. He wriggled in his seat and tried his best to conceal his discomfiture.

Now, Kamsa was going to play his trump card in the day’s scheme of plan. Chanura placed himself in the centre of the arena and with arrogance invited Krishna and Balarama for a game of wrestling. He mockingly addressed the boys, “You cattle tenders are dexterous in wrestling because these are your pastime games while your cattle are grazing. Besides, you have just exhibited your prowess against the elephant having the strength of a thousand elephants. The king is eager to watch the exciting game for which you two have been specially invited. You, Krishna, can come to the centre to stand against me while Balarama can be Mushtika’s opponent.” Krishna replied, “We are the subjects of the Lord of Bhojas. We have been honoured by the monarch’s invitation. It is our duty to gratify the wishes of our Lord.”

The contest started with each trying to outdo the other by varying the techniques. The people were sympathetic towards the young boys who were facing hard core professionals. To the surprise of the people, the two daityas succumbed to the attack of the Vraja boys. Soon Kula, Shala and Toshala also fell lifeless, cheering everyone except Kamsa. In a fury, Kamsa with blood shot eyes shouted his throat hoarse ordering the death of king Nanda, Vasudeva and his father Ugrasena to show his hostility towards them. Krishna thought his patience had been put to ultimate test and he could not endure anymore. When Krishna fiercely jumped on to the dais, Kamsa thought death was approaching him. He lifted his sword and as he tried to get up to challenge Krishna, his crown fell off his head. As the saying goes, ‘coming events cast their shadows before’, the fall of the crown was a pointer to the downfall of Kamsa. Krishna held Kamsa by his hair, dragged him down to the centre of the wrestling ground. Climbing on to the fallen king, Krishna sounded Kamsa’s last post. What an irony of fate! When Kamsa had planned a spectacular show of Krishna’s death for his subjects in the arena, they were destined to witness the end of their king instead. It would astonish people that Kamsa, with a wretched disposition, reached the abode of Vishnu. The reason is that God is gracious even to the wicked, who constantly think of him, whatever be the manner. Kamsa was bitterly obsessed by the divine prophecy. He appeared to have been mesmerized by the thought of Lord Vishnu as the controller of his death.

Vexed with the death of Kamsa, his eight brothers assaulted Krishna and were killed. The widows, though grieving over the loss, were wise enough to realise that their husbands had received a fitting punishment for their evil deeds. They were aware that hostility with the Lord always led to a disastrous end.

Balarama and Krishna comforted the bereaved families and went to release their parents from prison as it was their first and foremost duty. The parents visualized their sons as the Lord. Therefore instead of an embrace, they were saluted by their parents, when they touched their feet.

Chapter 36: 

Education of the Brothers

The reverential attitude of Vasudeva and Devaki did not please Balarama or Krishna. They wanted to be like other ordinary sons to their parents. To establish their natural relationship, Krishna spoke to his parents thus, “We are exceedingly happy to be united with you, our dear parents. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were not fortunate to be under your protection. Not only that. We have made you go through great difficulties. Now that the major evil in the form of Kamsa is no more, we would like to keep you happy and in peace. Permit us to look after your welfare as well as protect the young children, aged people and the downtrodden among us. That would give us an opportunity to conduct ourselves as dutiful sons.” With his maya, Krishna was able to make his parents behave with them as normal parents. They could now see them as sons and not as the form of God Vishnu. Vasudeva and Devaki embraced their sons affectionately and it was at last a happy union of the family.

Next, Krishna placed his revered grandfather on the throne as the sovereign monarch. Knowing the desire of his grandfather to crown him as the king, Krishna diplomatically refused giving the excuse of a past curse which denied the Yadus to kingship. Krishna also thought that the kingdom belonged to his grandfather. So it was legitimate that he be honoured. He enjoyed the pleasure of standing in attendance on his grandfather which, in turn, gave the utmost happiness to the old king. He was emotionally moved by Krishna’s affection for he had not received so much respect or love from his own son.

The king advised his daughter and son-in-law to make arrangement for the investiture of the sacred thread, as the two boys had reached the eligible age. His words were respected and the boys formally took to Brahmacharya. After the successful completion of the thread ceremony, they expressed a desire to be initiated by a guru in the traditional way of gurukulavasa, studying under a preceptor residing in his hermitage. They were entrusted to sage Sandipani and his able tutelage. Both of them were quick to grasp the instructions of the preceptor and comprehended the Vedas as well as the other sciences of philosophy and logic. At the completion of their education, they wished that their gurudakshina, offered as a mark of gratitude, should be most appreciated by their guru. Sage Sandipini replied with pleasure, “I did not have to exert to tutor you. I am honoured to have had such precocious pupils who needed just a suggestive hint to comprehend the subject in its entirety. My mental gratification at your intellectual excellence is as good as gurudakshina. If you are insistent, I would like you to retrieve my infant son who was accidentally swallowed by the ocean near the temple Pravasa.”

Balarama and Krishna waited on the sands of the ocean for quite some time. The lord of the ocean came out with gifts and offered his services to them. When Krishna asked for the return of his guru’s infant son whom he took away accidentally, the ocean lord pleaded innocence. He said that the child could have been kidnapped by the asura Panchajana living in the water as a conch. Krishna jumped into the water and killed the asura but the child was not to be found in his belly. Krishna came out of the ocean with the conch Panchajanya that emerged from the asura’s body.

[Panchajanya means having control over the five classes of beings.The conch is considered as an emblem of power, sovereignty and authority. The sound of the conch is believed to ward off evil spirits and natural calamities. It is also a war trumpet and every powerful warrior owned his conch with an individual name. Krishna’s conch was Panchajanya and Arjuna’s was called Devadatta.

There is a natural fundamental difference in the structure of formation of conches. One spirals to the right in the clockwise direction while the other has the left spiral. The former is very rare and sacred. The sound from this kind of conch is accepted as the echo of the celestial motion of the sun, moon, planets and stars across the heavens. Krishna’s Panchajanya was right spiralled. The loud blowing sound of the conch is called shankha ghosha or just ghosha, shankha-rava or shankha-svana.]

Krishna felt that Yama might be having the child. He went to the kingdom of death and blew the conch Panchajanya calling the king to the doorstep. Krishna asked him to return his guru’s son and Yama obediently brought the child alive to the Lord. The child was handed over to the guru by Krishna and Balarama. The guru was very thankful to them for the most invaluable gurudakshina he had ever received.

Chapter 37: 

Bhakti personified

Living away from Brindavana for a long time, Krishna became concerned about the welfare of his foster parents whose genuine affection had never made him feel the absence of his real parents. He was also keen on knowing about the gopis, with whom he had a bond of relationship as inseparable as vital air and life. With good tidings and fond enquiries, he sent his dear friend Uddhava, disciple of Brihaspati, to Brindavana. Exhilarated Nanda embraced him with love as if he were Krishna himself. He made kind enquiries of Vasudeva and was anxious to know if the two brothers had happily adjusted to the new environment. In consequence, he hoped that their dear son Krishna had not forgotten him or his mother Yashoda, or the gopis and his cowherd friends, whose thoughts are always pervaded by Krishna. Nanda was overcome with nostalgia, recollecting the memories of their happy association with him who had also been a saviour on many occasions. He told Uddhava that once in a way, he had a doubt flashing across his mind about Krishna never returning to Vraja but he was instantly sure that the endearing boy would not desert them. Uddhava assured Nanda thus, “The universal Being would surely return to Vraja. The Lord who dwells within all human beings is aware of the yearnings of his devotees. His gracious nature satisfies their desires though he is unsullied by any kind of emotional disturbances.”

The next morning, Uddhava was pleasantly surprised with the gopis singing in praise of Krishna keeping the tune and beat in accordance with the sound of churning of curds. The conversation among the gopis and their dedication to Krishna was a revelation to Uddhava. To him they appeared as bhakti personified. Spotting the golden chariot outside Nanda’s mansion, they were intrigued at the sudden appearance of a person whose whereabouts or identity, they could not decipher. They made wild guesses. Their first thought went to Akrura whom they had met earlier. But when Uddhava appeared before them, they were stunned with admiration by his handsome youthful looks. They wondered who he could be, whence he had come or the purpose of his visit. His demeanour and dress, they thought, resembled that of Achyuta. With uncontainable curiosity, they approached Uddhava to get their doubts cleared. As soon as they were told that he had come from Mathura at Krishna’s bidding, their first reaction was a bashful smile with reverence and humility. In excitement, they enquired at the very outset about the well being of their dear Lord.

Immediately, feigning anger at Krishna for his prolonged absence, they said, “Krishna has sent you here only to find out about the welfare of his parents. Besides that we do not see any purpose of your visit. Though our thoughts are always running towards Krishna like uncontrolled horses, we have become non-entities as far as he is concerned. Memories of his pranks as a child, his frisking the cowboys to various houses for butter, the music from the divine flute, his dance with us on the moonlit night are fresh in our mind but now we think that the portrayal of so much affection and intimacy with all of us was mere pretence on his part. He has stolen our hearts just the way he stole the butter. If his feelings were genuine, how could he possibly break away from us, not visiting Vraja even once? His new found attraction is the devotion of the women of Mathura that has weaned him from his old dedicated acquaintances. Our life is dragging on mechanically, barren and destitute without him.” After the emotional outburst they could not carry on in the same strain any longer. Their love for Krishna was stronger than the initial spurt of depression which made them say what they did not really mean. They mellowed down and showed their anxiety for his welfare. They were eager to know if Krishna was ever reminded about his wonderful time with them or longed to come back to live in their midst. They told Uddhava that they were waiting for the day when the Lord would give them a chance to serve him again. They asked him to extend their loving invitation to Krishna and that he should make an early visit to revive their happy days. The dust of Vraja had to be sanctified by the feet of the Lord once more. That would give the gopis the satisfaction of living in his company even when he was not with them.

Uddhava had been very proud of his knowledge by his mastery over the scriptural studies. When he heard the gopis speak, he realised that his knowledge was half baked in comparison. These simple women humbled him by the maturity of mind in the understanding of the subtle truth of life’s philosophy and also the greatness of Lord. They needed no scripture to teach them because their intellectual awareness had come to them naturally. They had taught him the meaning and the value of devotion. Uddhava overtly expressed his admiration for their single-minded devotion and complete dedication to Krishna. He felt the steadfast devotion of the gopis had secured the union with the Lord, a privilege not obtainable even after vigorous penances. Uddhava told them their meeting with Krishna was not far away. Even though he was in Mathura, his thoughts were with the gopis. Separation is not cutting asunder the relationship but strengthening the bond of love and devotion. Krishna’s distance from the gopis would only enhance their spiritual proximity. As if reiterating the oft quoted expression, ‘Nearer the temple farther from God’ Uddhava went on to make clear the underlying truth to the gopis. He said that the ecstasy would fade away with continuous association. Just as in real life too, we experience the value of a thing only in its absence. Separation carries the emphatic message that a mixture of good and bad, happiness and sorrow, a combination of opposite experiences enables us to judge one in contrast to the other and help realize the true value. Separation creates yearning of the heart which purifies the mind to keep away from unwanted distractions and directs it to God alone. In the Rasa-Leela, the gopis found Krishna only through the chastening of the mind. When Uddhava wanted to take leave of the gopis, their message for Krishna was, “O Lord! Your social elevation is worth the hand of a princess. We are aware of Pingala’s declaration that the height of happiness is sweetest in disappointment. Yet our craving for you, Krishna, persists with a distant hope of meeting you some day. We are like withered flowers in your absence. Do come and string us together and wear us as your garland vanamala.We wish, whatever be our next birth, our actions should always please you, Lord. We pray you should be a life buoy to our sinking boats.” Uddhava’s lecture on the philosophy of life had no impact on the gopis suffering in viyoga (pining in separation). Their life revolved round only love for the Lord and nothing else was of any importance to them. They wanted to be united with the lord whose memories were locked up in their hearts

Uddhava, before leaving Brindavana, revelled on his parting impressions. He was all admiration for the unflinching devotion and the unsophisticated purity of heart of the simple cowherd women. Renouncing all worldly desires, they had boldly overcome the social barriers on the night of the Rasa-Leela for communion with God. While the gopis wanted ever-lasting company of the Lord, Uddhava wanted to be born as plants and trees of Brindavana where one had the picturesque vision of the purity of God’s creation in the persons of the loving gopis. He thought he would be blessed to have association with the dust on which the devout gopis had trodden, they who worshipped the dust of the Lord’s feet.

Chapter 38: 

Fort under ocean

The daitya king Kamsa had two wives named Asthi and Prapthi. They went to their father Jarasandha, the king of Magadha, with their pathetic story of the demise of their husband. Jarasandha was heart broken to find his daughters in such sorrow. He impulsively thought of destroying the entire community of the Yadavas. With a large army, he marched towards the capital city of the Yadus. Krishna decided that the time had come for him to lessen the burden of mother earth by vanquishing the evil minded people, the primary mission of his incarnation. The purpose could be achieved by destroying the enemy army except Jarasandha. Only then would he be able to create situations to provoke Jarasandha, leading to the death of many more wicked men.

While Krishna was contemplating thus, a couple of golden chariots descended from the sky, laden with various powerful weapons. Krishna told Sankarshana, “You can see for yourself the magnitude of the calamity posed before the Yadus of whom you are the Lord. You take the chariot containing weapons of your choice to appropriately repulse Jarasandha’s challenge. In order to keep our promise to earth, we must ascertain that the army of the enemy is extinct.” Determined on a prompt action, they came out of the city. Krishna blew his conch, the resonance of which rattled the enemies to the core. Jarasandha, arrogant about his power as a warrior, thought it was humiliating for him to accept the challenge of a boy who was no match to him. So he called upon Balarama to come forward. He mockingly told Balarama that he need not have hopes of being the victor as the risk of his becoming a victim was greater. Krishna returned the undignified words with an equally strong rebuke. He said, “A true hero never sings his own glories but displays his manliness in action. Blowing ones trumpet is considered uncivil. You cannot threaten us by your empty weightless words.” Krishna by his volley of arrows and Balarama by his dexterity with the mace made the enemy lick dust. Jarasandha’s army fell to the ground lifeless. Balarama pulled down Jarasandha from his chariot and caught him in the varuni noose. A human ring captured him in an inescapable cage. Balarama could have smashed his head with a single blow but was stopped by Krishna as Jarasandha’s contribution was important for carrying forward his mission. Jarasandha fell in his own esteem by Krishna’s little act of mercy. His ridicule of Krishna as being chick of a boy who was no match to his valour, boomeranged on Jarasandha with the same force. His subordinate kings dissuaded Jarasandha from becoming a recluse. He, therefore, retreated with his head hung in shame. With the battle over, the people came out of their hidings to applaud the victory of the brothers with the sounding of tabors, music and showers of flowers.

Jarasandha attacked the Yadavas persistently seventeen times but every time he cut a sorry figure. Narada, anticipating another attack, sent Kala Yavana with a large retinue to earth. Seeing Kala Yavana on a spree to seize the city, Krishna could rightly conjecture the reaction of Jarasandha. Krishna knew that Jarasandha would be out with his army as well. It would be difficult for the Yadavas to handle the double pronged attack from two armies. Krishna suggested to his brother they build an impregnable fort under the ocean where the Yadavas could live free from harm. Agreeing on the plan as the ideal solution, they took the assistance of the celestial architect Vishvakarma. It was a well planned fort with the necessary amenities. The celestial deities provided the comforts they could offer Krishna. The golden summits and the gem studded canopies of the fort made it appear like paradise on earth.

[In the Dvapara yuga, if the technique of under water construction was known, it is not surprising to find road tunnels below water connecting various parts of cities in the modern world. In Hongkong, a road tunnel under the ocean connects it to the mainland, Kowloon. Similar connection of the places on the either banks of river Thames is found. Dover to Calais, across the English channel, is the famous under water tunnel for transport]..

Krishna made sure that all the Vrishnis had taken residence in the fort. He walked out of the fort to face the challenge of Kala Yavana. Based on the description of Narada about the conspicuous marks of identification of Krishna, he saw the form of Vishnu in him. Since Krishna was unarmed, Kala Yavana decided not to carry any weapon with him. Krishna intelligently started running with his back towards Yavana. He easily fell into Krishna’s trick and thought he was making an escape. He laughed at Krishna saying he, a cowherd, was shying away from battle like a coward. Chasing with all his might, Yavana found it impossible to lay his hands on Krishna. Following his enemy, he found himself led into a dark cave. Yavana saw a man sleeping whom he mistook for Krishna pretending to be lying with his eyes closed. Since he saw Krishna enter the cave before him and not finding any other exit through which he could have escaped, Yavana concluded that the sleeping man was none other than Krishna. In anger, he kicked the person who lay there. The man disturbed in his sleep opened his eyes. The fiery radiance from his eyes reduced Yavana to ashes.

The daitya king Kamsa had two wives named Asthi and Prapthi. They went to their father Jarasandha, the king of Magadha, with their pathetic story of the demise of their husband. Jarasandha was heart broken to find his daughters in such sorrow. He impulsively thought of destroying the entire community of the Yadavas. With a large army, he marched towards the capital city of the Yadus. Krishna decided that the time had come for him to lessen the burden of mother earth by vanquishing the evil minded people, the primary mission of his incarnation. The purpose could be achieved by destroying the enemy army except Jarasandha. Only then would he be able to create situations to provoke Jarasandha, leading to the death of many more wicked men.

While Krishna was contemplating thus, a couple of golden chariots descended from the sky, laden with various powerful weapons. Krishna told Sankarshana, “You can see for yourself the magnitude of the calamity posed before the Yadus of whom you are the Lord. You take the chariot containing weapons of your choice to appropriately repulse Jarasandha’s challenge. In order to keep our promise to earth, we must ascertain that the army of the enemy is extinct.” Determined on a prompt action, they came out of the city. Krishna blew his conch, the resonance of which rattled the enemies to the core. Jarasandha, arrogant about his power as a warrior, thought it was humiliating for him to accept the challenge of a boy who was no match to him. So he called upon Balarama to come forward. He mockingly told Balarama that he need not have hopes of being the victor as the risk of his becoming a victim was greater. Krishna returned the undignified words with an equally strong rebuke. He said, “A true hero never sings his own glories but displays his manliness in action. Blowing ones trumpet is considered uncivil. You cannot threaten us by your empty weightless words.” Krishna by his volley of arrows and Balarama by his dexterity with the mace made the enemy lick dust. Jarasandha’s army fell to the ground lifeless. Balarama pulled down Jarasandha from his chariot and caught him in the varuni noose. A human ring captured him in an inescapable cage. Balarama could have smashed his head with a single blow but was stopped by Krishna as Jarasandha’s contribution was important for carrying forward his mission. Jarasandha fell in his own esteem by Krishna’s little act of mercy. His ridicule of Krishna as being chick of a boy who was no match to his valour, boomeranged on Jarasandha with the same force. His subordinate kings dissuaded Jarasandha from becoming a recluse. He, therefore, retreated with his head hung in shame. With the battle over, the people came out of their hidings to applaud the victory of the brothers with the sounding of tabors, music and showers of flowers.

Jarasandha attacked the Yadavas persistently seventeen times but every time he cut a sorry figure. Narada, anticipating another attack, sent Kala Yavana with a large retinue to earth. Seeing Kala Yavana on a spree to seize the city, Krishna could rightly conjecture the reaction of Jarasandha. Krishna knew that Jarasandha would be out with his army as well. It would be difficult for the Yadavas to handle the double pronged attack from two armies. Krishna suggested to his brother they build an impregnable fort under the ocean where the Yadavas could live free from harm. Agreeing on the plan as the ideal solution, they took the assistance of the celestial architect Vishvakarma. It was a well planned fort with the necessary amenities. The celestial deities provided the comforts they could offer Krishna. The golden summits and the gem studded canopies of the fort made it appear like paradise on earth.

[In the Dvapara yuga, if the technique of under water construction was known, it is not surprising to find road tunnels below water connecting various parts of cities in the modern world. In Hongkong, a road tunnel under the ocean connects it to the mainland, Kowloon. Similar connection of the places on the either banks of river Thames is found. Dover to Calais, across the English channel, is the famous under water tunnel for transport]..

Krishna made sure that all the Vrishnis had taken residence in the fort. He walked out of the fort to face the challenge of Kala Yavana. Based on the description of Narada about the conspicuous marks of identification of Krishna, he saw the form of Vishnu in him. Since Krishna was unarmed, Kala Yavana decided not to carry any weapon with him. Krishna intelligently started running with his back towards Yavana. He easily fell into Krishna’s trick and thought he was making an escape. He laughed at Krishna saying he, a cowherd, was shying away from battle like a coward. Chasing with all his might, Yavana found it impossible to lay his hands on Krishna. Following his enemy, he found himself led into a dark cave. Yavana saw a man sleeping whom he mistook for Krishna pretending to be lying with his eyes closed. Since he saw Krishna enter the cave before him and not finding any other exit through which he could have escaped, Yavana concluded that the sleeping man was none other than Krishna. In anger, he kicked the person who lay there. The man disturbed in his sleep opened his eyes. The fiery radiance from his eyes reduced Yavana to ashes.

Now, who was this man residing in an uninhabited mountain cave whose immaculate power could kill Yavana? Could he be some kind of illusive creation of Krishna? To clarify all doubts, Bhagavatam gives a flash back of his life

.

The person sleeping in the cave was Muchukunda by name of the Ikshvaku dynasty and the son of Mandhata. When the celestials were oppressed by the asuras, Indra requested Muchukunda for help. He resigned from all worldly connections and placed himself as the bodyguard of the deities for a long time. When Kartikeya, Shiva’s son, became the commander-in-chief of the celestial army, the deities graciously decided to relieve the faithful Muchukunda from the responsibility. Having lived with the gods for a long time, Muchukunda could not meet his relatives on earth. This was because of the difference in the duration of day and night between the gods and human beings. One day of the gods makes a year on earth. The first six months of the humans are the day’s waking hours of the celestials while the latter six months constitute their night. The two divisions of the gods’ day are called Uttarayana and Dakshinayana respectively.

[In the Mahabharatha war, Bhishma waited for the dawn of Uttarayana to give up his life as it is the auspicious time, when the gods would be awake to bless the person.]

Blessed by the gods to relax his over worked body through deep sleep, Muchukunda came to the mountain cave. Krishna appeared before him, revealing the divine qualities of Vishnu on his body. Muchukunda was mightily pleased to have a vision of the Lord. Krishna offered him a boon but Muchukunda opted to serve the Lord, instead of returning to the grinding worldly life. Krishna appreciated his attitude of not succumbing to the temptation of boons. Yet, the Lord said he had to take another birth in the world to wash away his sins accrued in the present birth. Despite his pious life, the sins were the result of his killing out of compulsion as a kshatriya and his craze for hunting. The merits of his present good actions, would help him be a brahmana by birth in his next lfe, engaging in pious deeds and show kindness to animals as well. Free from his sins, he would find a place in his abode, emancipated from the cycle of life. Muchukunda went to the mountain Badri in the north and in the temple of Nara-Narayana got engrossed in the meditation of the Lord.

With the destruction of the Mlecchas who were the army of Kala Yavana, Krishna returned to Mathura with their wealth for distribution among the people. Suddenly they saw a big battalion of soldiers led by Jarasandha approach them. Acting fear, the brothers speedily walked away, dropping all the riches, to appear as escaping from the attack. Jarasandha could not see through the game and was happy at terrorizing Balarama and Krishna. He chased them a long distance until they swiftly vanished into the thick forest of a mountain. Jarasandha scanned through the entire forest but could not locate them anywhere. Struck by the idea to set fire to the whole forest on the mountain, he ordered his army accordingly. The two brothers jumped from a cliff and escaped into the city unperceived. Jarasandha was under the impression that the fire had consumed his enemies. Content at heart, he returned to his kingdom

Chapter 39: 

Rukmini marries Krishna

As time went by, Balarama and Krishna reached the marriageable age. Brahma sent Raivata, the king of Avartta to Mathura. He gave his beautiful daughter Revati in marriage to Balarama. Krishna’s wedding was action packed with excitement which made the proceedings very absorbing.

Bhishmaka, the king of Vidarbha had five sons and a daughter Rukmini. She was believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. Rukmini was impressed by Krishna’s prowess and accomplishments. Krishna too was attracted by Rukmini’s beauty, large-heartedness and exemplary character. Mutual fascination aroused the desire in both to come together in wedlock. Of the sons, the eldest son Rukmi was assertive. He acted as a spoke in their relationship. Arbitrarily, he decided on Shishupala, the king of Chedi, as the prospective groom for his sister Rukmini, much against her wish. She was desperate to inform Krishna about her marriage proceedings and reveal to him her strong choice in his favour. She wanted to send a proposal to him but hesitated to initiate her own marriage. Finding no other alternative, she decided to send a brahmana to Dvaraka with a letter to Krishna. She wrote, “O Lord! My heart has been invaded by your handsome personality and glorious deeds. I cannot even dream of another man being my husband. It is natural for any woman, who knows your blemishless character as well as your high lineage, to desire your hand. I yearn for you and I hope you will gratify my desire. My marriage with Shishupala has been fixed for tomorrow. I would suggest we get married by the rakshasa mode of marriage, one of the eight methods approved by the Hindu scriptures. According to this, the bride is carried away by force after killing the bride’s relations. I also have another idea to avoid killing my family people. Tomorrow morning, as is customary, I will be led in a procession to the temple of Uma. That would be the opportune moment for you to abduct me. So you will have to reach here well in time for the procession. Failing to win your favour, I will go on hunger strike till death.”

Krishna went into quick action. He harnessed his best steeds with Daruka as the charioteer. In the company of Balarama and the brahmana, he covered the long distance overnight. Balarama anticipated a stiff opposition when he heard about Krishna’s abduction plan. Therefore he went with ample army protection, equipped to retaliate, if the situation called for it.

Bhishmaka was making lavish arrangements for his daughter’s marriage with Shishupala. Bhishmaka and Shishupala’s father, Damaghosha, individually performed the propitiatory rituals and offered gifts to the brahmanas with reverence. In the meanwhile, Rukmini was getting restless as the brahmana she had sent to Krishna had not returned even after dusk. She was apprehensive that her action was impulsive and had earned Krishna’s displeasure. She also doubted that it did not have the approval of the divine couple Maheshvara and Parvati, their tutelary deities. While Rukmini’s thoughts were oscillating between uncertainty and hope, the brahmana’s arrival in the inner apartments infused life and delight in her. When Bhishmaka heard of the arrival of Balarama and Krishna, he thought they had come with eagerness to participate in the wedding festivities of Rukmini. He extended a wonderful welcome to the honourable guests.

The people of Vidarbha were all admiration for Krishna. They thought he would be an ideal match for their princess and prayed that God should make the union possible. Rukmini was led to the temple of Ambika, next morning, in a well guarded procession. Rukmini meditating on Mukunda [Krishna], entered the temple along with the wives of the brahmanas. Those women asked her to pray to the family gods to bless her with the good fortune of having Krishna as her husband. These words were pleasing to the heart as they were a resonance of her thoughts. The brahmana wives made the necessary propitiations to the Goddess along with Rukmini and she broke her fast by partaking the remnants of the offering. As she came out of the temple, she looked round to spot Krishna. Not knowing the secret of Rukmini’s plans nor Rukmi’s decision, the hearts of the numerous kings assembled to try their luck were throbbing expectantly.

When she approached Krishna, he effortlessly lifted her and drove her away in his chariot. While Shishupala’s friends thought that the marriage between him and Rukmini was a forgone conclusion, they stood aghast at the turn of events. Jarasandha and many other kings cursed themselves for helplessly looking on while a mere cowherd carried away the coveted prize. They said, “Fie upon us to call ourselves warriors. We are unworthy of wielding the bow and arrow.” The enemy army chasing Krishna’s chariot, faced a severe blow and they soon marched a retreat. Crest fallen Shishupala was comforted by Jarasandha who quoted his own case as a morale booster. He said, “I have been defeated by Krishna seventeen times but I am not demoralized. I am still hopeful of a win against that cowherd boy. Krishna’s luck is at present in the ascendancy. But in the near future, it will surely come down like the rim of a wheel, when we can ensure our victory over him.” The lion with his pride shattered, was somewhat consoled and he returned, licking his wounds.

Rukmi took it as a personal insult because this match had been opposed by him from the very beginning. He refused to accept defeat. His mind was overpowered by two thoughts, revenge on Krishna and the recovery of his dear sister. He vowed not to rest in peace till he had successfully executed his resolve. He attacked Krishna with great vigour but all his arrows were arrested and his sword broken to pieces. When Krishna was about to kill Rukmi, Rukmini fell at his feet and pleaded to spare her brother’s life. Out of respect for her words, he tied him with a cloth. Shaving half of his head and beard, Krishna inflicted the most severe humiliation on Rukmi.

Rukmi decided to keep away from his kingdom, ashamed of facing people with his disfigurement and also he had not yet carried out his vow. He built a huge city named Bhojakuta, on the outskirts of his kingdom and established himself there, not to move out till he had avenged his insult. Krishna and Rukmini were received with thunderous welcome. Amidst all round celebration, they were married. Though the Krishna-Rukmini episode evoked astonishment, it was conducive to universal acclaim. Krishna being the Supreme Lord and Rukmini his divine consort, their union was inevitable on earth

Chapter 40: 

Pradyumna

Kamadeva, cupid, the god of love, was reduced to ashes by the fiery third eye of Shiva. Kamadeva was another form of Vasudeva. Therefore he requested Krishna to restore his form and life. Krishna agreed and as a result he was born as Pradyumna, the son of Krishna and Rukmini. An asura by the name Samvara kidnapped the ten day old infant and threw him into the ocean. He was anticipating his death at the hands of the boy.

A fish swallowed the infant, which made its way to Samvara’s kitchen. When the fish was cut, the child was found alive in its belly. Mayavati, popularly known as Rati, the wife of Kamadeva, adopted the child and reared him like her own son. As days went by, she began to visualise her husband in that child. This fact was substantiated by Narada who informed her of the infant’s life. She started treating the child reverentially as her husband Kama and the mother-son relationship ceased. Rati’s unusual behaviour annoyed Pradyumna and he expressed his displeasure. Then Rati narrated his adventurous life. She told him how sorrowful it would have been for his mother Rukmini to lose her son. She advised him to act promptly to kill the asura who was a mayavi, possessing the power to take various forms at will. Rati taught Pradyumna the mahamayavidya, to counteract the asura’s illusory power.

Now well equipped to take up the asura, Pradyumna proceeded for a battle against him. There was a terrible fight between the two, each trying to score over the other. When Pradyumna threw his mace, the asura rose to the sky and began pelting stones from that height at his opponent. Floating in mid air, he tried to evade the counter attack. Pradyumna, after a prolonged fight, used the mahamayavidya against all the tactics of the asura and succeeded in killing him.

Rati and Pradyumna, one day, entered the inner apartment at Dvaraka. The women hid themselves, feeling shy at the sudden entry of Krishna. Immediately they were able to see that the look alike person in their apartment was someone else and not their Lord. While they were puzzled about the identity of the man accompanied by a pretty woman, Krishna, Rukmini, Balarama, Vasudeva and Devaki entered. At the sight of the youth, Rukmini’s memories went back to her lost son Pradyumna. She thought her son would have been this boy’s age now if he had lived. As she continued to look at the boy, she saw a close resemblance to Krishna creating a strong feeling of the return of her long lost son. Arrival of Narada, at this juncture, cleared all doubts because Krishna, though he knew everything, maintained silence as if taking pleasure in the happenings. Narada gave a resumé of the early life of Pradyumna. Rukmini’s joy was beyond words, at the safe return of her son

Interesting Anecdotes

Kamadeva turned to ashes: Kamadeva was the second son of Dharma, one of the Prajapatis born of Brahma. He had two brothers, Shama and Harsha. Kama was the most handsome of the three. He became the god of love, passion and beauty.

There are two stories about Kama being reduced to ashes by Shiva’s wrath. Though the first story is linked to the second, the latter stands independent as an oft quoted popular legend in this regard. Brahma, the creator, fell in love with goddess Sarasvati, his own creation. Though he placed her on the tongue of each of his creation, he made her his wife, being captivated by her beauty. Delayed realisation of his immoral action aroused his anger against Kamadeva for kindling passion in him. He cursed Kama to become a victim to the fiery anger of Shiva. But this curse was executed only later. To explain this delay, another story is linked to it.

After the death of Sati, Shiva, determined not to marry again, retired to the Himalayas for observing rigorous penance. At that time, demon Taraka had become invincible by a boon that only the son of Shiva could slay him. He harassed the gods and became Indra by winning over the Indraloka. As lord of the gods, he was aware of Parvati’s determination to marry none other than Shiva and that she was engaged in a deep penance for successful achievement of her goal. In an attempt to exploit his power and authority, Taraka arrogantly sent Kamadeva to distract Shiva in meditation. He commanded him to aim his arrows of passion towards Maheshvara, in favour of Parvati. Shiva was furious at the bold attempt of the god of love. As his normal pair of eyes were engrossed in meditation, he opened his third eye in the middle of his forehead. The flood of fire, emitting from his third eye, was shot at Kama, reducing him to ashes. Despite Rati’s pleadings to restore the life of her husband, Shiva would not relent. So, he was destined to live forever without a physical form-ananga.

Chapter 41: 

Rukmi meets his fate

The simmering anger of Rukmi flared up beyond control even at the very thought of Krishna while along side, his love for his sister was proportionately increasing. He was aware that marriage among children of brother and sister did not have scriptural sanction. Yet, his bond of affection took precedence. Disregarding his hatred for Krishna, he brought about a number of marriages within the family. Rukmini’s son Pradyumna married Rukmi’s daughter in a svayamvara. Aniruddha, son of Pradyumna and grandson of Rukmini accepted the hand of Rochana, grand-daughter of Rukmi. Rukmini’s daughter Charumati became the wife of Bali, son of Keertivarman.

Krishna’s entire family went to Bhojakuta for the marriage of Aniruddha and Rochana. After the celebrations, Rukmi was prodded by the other kings to have a game of dice with Balarama. They assured Rukmi that he stood on firm grounds for settling old scores as Balarama was not very good at the game. Excited at his good prospects, he invited Balarama to the game. Balarama lost a number of games and Rukmi ridiculed his opponent with a broad smile exposing his complete set of teeth.

Extremely over confident, Rukmi put up the stake to one lakh of rupees. Unfortunately, he lost this game but by deceit declared himself victorious. Balarama was digusted with Rukmi’s dishonesty and challenged him for a crore of rupees. Losing this game also, Rukmi thought his manipulation would work again and declared the august assembly as witness to his victory. Contradicting his announcement, a heavenly voice condemned him for resorting to falsehood when he had actually lost the bet.

Ignoring the heavenly voice, Rukmi called Balarama as belonging to the forest bred cowherd community in an insulting tone. Rukmi said with pride of lineage, “Only kshatriyas like us know the game of dice and the techniques of warfare. You ignorant forest rangers! Can you, with confidence, claim superiority over us in any field that requires skill?” Balarama was very patient all through but now he thought he had come to his tether’s end. Unable to contain his anger, he killed Rukmi with his mace and pulled out his set of teeth arrogantly displayed just a little earlier. The other supporters of Rukmi, battered by the mace, fled from the assembly. Balarama’s achievement gave immense satisfaction to his people. Aniruddha and his newly wedded wife Rochana went to Kaushasthali from Bhojakuta on a wonderful chariot.

Chapter 42: 

Syamantaka retrieved

King of Nighna, Satrajit, was a great friend and a devotee of the sun god. As an expression of his pleasure over their friendship, the sun god made a gift of the celebrated syamantaka jewel to Satrajit. Once when Satrajit went to Dvaraka wearing the jewel round his neck, the inhabitants of the city were engulfed in fear by its blinding radiance. They thought that the sun god was after Krishna, having spied his secret existence among the Yadavas. They reported their fear to Krishna. He explained to them that it was Satrajit resplendent with the lustre of the jewel on his body. The unique quality of the jewel was that it could ward off famine, evils, premature death and any other calamity of the person possessing it. When Krishna asked Satrajit to give the jewel to the king of the Yadavas, he refused to part with it.

One day, Satrajit’s brother Prasenajit wore the jewel while going hunting in the forest. When he did not return, Satrajit suspected Krishna for killing him for the sake of the jewel. This rumour spread like wild fire maligning the blemishless character of Krishna. To clear the wrong notion, Krishna set out in search of Prasenajit. He soon found Prasenajit and his horse mauled by a lion, which in turn had been killed by a bear. Finding the dark cave of the bear, Krishna asked his men to stay outside, while he went in. There he found the bear cubs playing with the jewel, as if it were a toy. Krishna waited for a chance to get the jewel. The caretaker bear was stunned at the brilliance of the person in the cave and in fear shrieked which alerted Jambavan, the king of the bears. To ward off the danger to his cubs, Jambavan impulsively started a fight with Krishna, not noticing his divine form. The combat continued for eighteen days, at the end of which the bear was drained of his strength by a blow from Krishna’s fist. Feebly looking up at the man before him, the bear recognised him as the Paramapurusha Vishnu. In the Ramavatara of Vishnu, Rama had sought the help of monkeys and bears of whom Jambavan was one of Rama’s prominent advisers. They constructed a bridge across the ocean to reach Lanka to rescue Sita from the ten headed Ravana. Regretting his callousness towards the Supreme Lord, Jambavan began to sing his praise. Receiving the jewel, Krishna told him that the jewel was only an excuse. He had left his men outside and entered the cave alone only to relieve Jambavan from a brahmana’s curse. He expressed his gratitude and received Krishna’s blessings.

The people outside waited for twelve days impatiently for Krishna’s return.Then they concluded that he had been killed by the bear. Depressed at losing Krishna, they went back home. The news about Krishna’s death was a terrible shock to his parents and all the citizens. Immersed in inconsolable sorrow, they cursed Satrajit for being the cause of the disaster. With a ray of hope, everyone prayed to Durga to save the life of their Janardana [Krishna] and help his safe return. As if in answer to their prayers, Krishna came back to Dvaraka but not alone. He had Jambavati, the daughter of Jambavan, with him, who was given in marriage by her father as a reverential gift.

Krishna called Satrajit to take back his jewel. He narrated in detail as to how he had secured it. Satrajit was ashamed for the aspersions he had cast on Krishna’s character, without ascertaining the truth. The guilt feeling denied him peace of mind. He was thinking of making amends for his blunder. Giving his dear daughter, Satyabhama, in marriage to Krishna and also gifting the jewel appeared to be the best reconciliation he could think of. Krishna accepted the hand of Satyabhama but with regard to the jewel he said, “This is a gift to you from your friend, the sun god, for your devotion. Therefore, you are the legitimate owner. You must retain it as our king. Under your able protection, we are blessed to be the fortunate subjects. We will merely enjoy the benefits of the jewel.” With these words, Satrajit and Krishna parted as friends.

General expectation would be that the confusion created by the syamantaka was over with the hand shake of Satrajit and Krishna. But it was not to be so because it had to be instrumental in rolling of a couple of heads. More than that, Akrura, the trusted friend of Krishna, had to be reprimanded for his dishonesty with regard to the jewel. For the sake of the jewel, he had changed his loyalty like a chameleon that alters its colour to its surrounding. The change of attitude occurred when Krishna was in Hastinapur with the Kauravas, to grieve the death of his Pandava relations in the Jatugriha [house of lac].

Akrura and Kirtivarman advised Shatadhanu to kill Satrajit and get possession of the syamantaka jewel. Misguided Shatadhanu did likewise and obtained the jewel. Satyabhama went to Hastinapur to inform Krishna about the cruel killing of her father by Shatadhanu. Krishna came back and resolved to kill him. Akrura and Kirtivarman refused to help Shatadhanu as they had witnessed the prowess of the Lord on many occasions. Shatadhanu, finding himself left on the lurch by the two traitors he had trusted, handed over the jewel to Akrura and made an escape. Krishna and Balarama chased him till the outskirts of Mythila. Krishna killed Shatadhanu but, to his disappointment, could not find the jewel with him. Krishna felt very sorry for killing poor Shatadhanu as it turned out to be futile. Balarama advised his brother to go back to Dvaraka to find out the person in whose custody it might have been left. Balarama, in the meanwhile, decided to stay in Mythila with his friend King Janaka for a few years, where he enjoyed the honoured hospitality. It was during this long period of stay, Duryodhana underwent the training of the use of the mace from Balarama.

Krishna went back to Dvaraka with the news of the death of Shatadhanu and the jewel still missing which evoked mixed feelings of sorrow and disappointment. Akrura and Kirtivarman went away from Dvaraka out of fear as nothing could be a secret from Krishna. Since there were unprecedented evils and calamities occurring, the people linked it with the departure of Akrura. The reason for the connection of the two was that Akrura’s father and his mother Gandhivi were believed to have brought showers when Indra withdrew the rains by his power. From that time, it was accepted that Akrura had inherited the powers of his parents to avert natural calamities. But Krishna thought it to be due to the disappearance of the syamantaka. Krishna brought back Akrura and after the formality of extending hospitality was over, he came straight to the point. Without mincing words, he told Akrura he was absolutely sure of the jewel being in his possession. He said he could keep it by all means but he would have to make a public confession particularly before his elder brother. He further told Akrura that the excessive flow of gold, for the altars during the countless sacrifices he has been performing, exposed him. Only that jewel had the merit of producing uninterrupted supply of gold in such large quantities. Finding himself check mated by Krishna, Akrura, like a dog with his tail between his legs, brought out the effulgent syamantaka jewel from under his upper garment and gave it to Krishna

Interesting Anecdotes

Lac palace: The Pandavas were always considered as thorns in their life by the Kauravas. They were conspiring against the Pandavas and finding means of getting them out of the way. Dhritharashtra planned a joint excursion to Varanavrata for attending some festivities. Duryodhana was inspired by his wicked ideas. Under the pretext of organising a comfortable night’s stay for his cousins in Varanavrata, he had a castle of lac built with all possible comforts. The hypocritical concern of the Kauravas was, in fact, one of their conspiracies to put an end to the perenial problem in the form of their cousins. They had not provided any exit for the palace. So, when the highly inflammable lac was set on fire with the entrance closed, the Pandavas would be burnt, with no way to escape. Vidura, the wise uncle, got wind of the treacherous plan. Without the knowledge of Duryodhana, he got a secret under ground passage to the palace prepared. He advised the Pandavas, in private, to escape through the subterranean exit well in advance of the fire in the castle. The Pandavas followed the instructions and with Kunti, their mother, reached a safe destination and remained in hiding in a forest nearby. But before they left, Bhima set fire to the castle so that the Kauravas would not know of their escape. Unfortunately, the builder of the castle, named Purochana and a Nishada family consisting of a woman with her five drunken sons got trapped inside in two different rooms. They were charred to death beyond recognition. Mistaking the burnt remains of the Nishada family as the Pandavas with their mother, the Kauravas were exhilarated at the demise of their cousins and gloated over their new found freedom. Krishna was aware of the real happening but made sure it was not leaked out by any chance. He too joined the Kauravas in the condolence gathering and pretended to grieve the death of the Pandu family.

Chapter 43: 

Narakasura encounter

The rivalry of the asuras and the deities was so strong and bitter that there was a constant battle between the two. Quite a few times, the deities were defeated and Indra dethroned. The added humiliation was that once Narakasura stole Indra’s umbrella and his mother Aditi’s ear-rings. What was more cruel was that Narakasura had locked up many women in his kingdom. As always, Krishna represented the deities to oppose the asuras. Krishna mounted his vehicle Garuda with Satyabhama by his side and landed in the city of Prajyotsana.

This city of asura Mura was guarded by forests, mountain and other impenetrable, misleading devices as in a maze. The combined power of the Lord’s mace and discus razed the fortress to the ground. Asura Mura, who was sleeping under water, was awakened by the loud sound from the conch Panchajanya of Krishna. The five headed asura attacked with the three pronged shaft and his mace flew with great velocity towards Garuda. Krishna successfully arrested all of them and his sudarshana chakra finally killed the asura. The seven sons of Mura were enraged at the death of their father. Advised by Naraka to continue the fight, they entered the battlefield led by their commander-in-chief Pitha. Krishna proved too strong for the seven sons and they fell like nine pins. Naraka noticed that the army was incapable of any resistance against Krishna. He decided to accept the challenge himself. The two divine powers, Krishna and Garuda, wiped out the entire army without trace. Naraka now found himself standing alone in the combat. His powerful weapons like shakti and shataghni did not work against either Garuda or Krishna. Naraka fell to Sri Hari’s [Krishna’s] discus.

Bhoomi, mother of Naraka, appeared before the Lord. She sang his praises and returned Aditi’s ear-rings and Indra’s umbrella. She bowed and apologized for the sins of her son. She requested the gracious Lord to show mercy by placing his hands on her son’s head. The lifeless body of Naraka that lay at Krishna’s feet was symbolic of his surrender, she said. Granting her requests, Krishna entered the prosperous city of Naraka. There he found Naraka had under his custody ten thousand and hundred celestial women. Handsome Krishna captivated their hearts and they wanted him to accept all of them as his wives.

Krishna took those women clad in fine clothes in palanquins to Dvaraka. Going to Indrapuri, he handed over Aditi’s jewels and Indra’s umbrella. Satyabhama wished to have the celestial Parijata tree. Indra refused to permit Krishna to uproot it. Indra wanted Krishna’s help when he was in trouble but now having achieved his objective, he was prepared to stand up against his saviour for a Parijata tree. No need to say who the victor was. Krishna brought the tree and planted it in Satyabhama’s garden which attracted bees even from the celestial regions.

The women, who had been offered asylum in Krishna’s palace, were ever ready to serve him though there were attendants to take care of his needs. Krishna also reciprocated their love by assuming as many forms as the number of women and pleased them simultaneously.

Chapter 44: 

Jarasandha

One day, Krishna was presiding over the assembly in the Sudarman hall. At that time, a royal emissary arrived to inform Krishna about the inhuman treatment the subordinate kings had to suffer in Jarasandha’s kingdom. Twenty thousand kings, who refused to yield to Jarasandha’s unreasonable demands, had been imprisoned. On behalf of all the suffering kings, he had come to place their submission at the feet of the Lord. They had complete faith in the Lord and were confident of their deliverance.

Just then, Narada arrived with news from the Pandavas settled in Indraprastha. This was a barren uninhabitable land given by the Kauravas to their cousins under the impression that it would be of no use to them. The able management of Yudhishthira transformed the region into a fertile prosperous place with the assistance of the brothers. Indraprastha is the present day Delhi.

Narada came with a request from Yudhishthira, inviting Krishna to the Rajasuya sacrifice, he intended to perform. Yudhishthira said by gracing the occasion, he would have the blessings of the Lord in full measure. Krishna consulted his intellectual confidante Uddhava for advice. Uddhava said, “You have to attend to two important matters just now. It is your duty to honour your cousin’s request. At the same time, the suffering kings at Jarasandha’s mercy have to be rescued. For the Rajasuya sacrifice to be successfully completed, Yudhishthira would have to establish his sovereignty. To accomplish that, the kings ruling the ten quarters would have to become his vassals and so Jarasandha would have to be subjugated. I feel it would be proper if you went to Indraprastha for the Rajasuya sacrifice. You would then be achieving both ends. To match the enormous strength of Jarasandha, Bhima would be the right choice to meet him directly in a duel.” Accepting the wise advice, Krishna, with the permission of the elders, prepared to leave for Indraprastha with his wives and sons. Satisfied with Krishna’s plan, Narada went his way singing and meditating on the Lord.

Krishna ascended his Garuda while the others reached by road. Krishna was greeted with smiles by the people of Indraprastha. The large family of Krishna was comfortably accommodated with due respect.

Yudhishthira formally sought the blessings of Mukunda [Krishna] to commence the Rajasuya, the best of all sacrifices. Krishna wholeheartedly blessed Yudhishthira for success as he had won over the Lord by his subdued passions, the first enemy of man. Krishna pointed out the initial step before the commencement of the sacrifice. It was to bring the kings of the ten quarters under him. He also assured Yudhishthira that he could rely on his brothers by entrusting them with the responsibility. They would surely make their elder brother proud. The sons of Pandu returned victorious with their flags flying high but unfortunately, by oversight, Jarasandha was left out and this lapse caused anxiety to Yudhshthira. Krishna pacified him by putting forth Uddhava’s plan to tackle Jarasandha.

It is necessary to know the secret of Jarasandha’s birth to understand the strategy adopted to kill him. Jarasandha was the grandson of Uparichara Vasu of Ajamihira dynasty and the son of Brihadratha. Brihadratha had two wives. The first wife gave birth to four sons. But the unlucky second wife had a son in halves divided vertically across. Convinced that the mutilated child would cause endless sorrow and pain, she threw him away. A rakshasi named Jara picked up the two pieces and accidentally brought them together. To her surprise she had, in her hands, a live full fledged boy whom she brought up to be a strong man. Thus the name Jarasandha, meaning joined by Jara.

Despite the notorious cruelty of Jarasandha, he was very solicitous to brahmanas by his charitable disposition towards them. This prompted Krishna to go in the guise of a brahmana, to hook him into a commitment. Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima entered Girivraja, the kingdom of Jarasandha. In disguise, they presented themselves before the king. Krishna praised his generosity, pious nature and compared him to the great souls Harishchandra and Shibi who sacrificed their mortal body for a noble benevolent cause.

Shrewd Jarasandha could see through the disguise. From the marks of a warrior on their body, he could recognise them as kshatriyas but the emblem of a brahmana compelled him to grant their request even if it be his head. Recollecting the life of the daitya king Bali, highly praised even to this day for gifting himself to the Vamana, Jarasandha offered to grant any boon.

Having committed the king to a promise, Krishna revealed their identity and said they had come to have a straight one to one fight with him. The choice of the opponent was his, offered Krishna. Jarasandha was furious over the deceit but did not lose heart. Confident about himself, he sarcastically remarked, “I shall keep my word to you. I will not fight against you, a mere cowherd. You have not been fair in your dealings with me. Afraid of me, you hid under the ocean. Arjuna is not my equal, either in age or prowess. So he is ruled out. Bhima seems to be the right match for me to challenge in the duel.”

The fierce mace fight between two equals went on which shook all the quarters and it appeared they would bring the heavens down. Both having proved their strength, Krishna began to think of a winning strategy. It occurred to him that the death of Jarasandha could be achieved only by undoing the secret of his existence which was made possible by rakshasi Jara. Krishna picked up a twig and broke it vertically across demonstrating the method of killing him. Bhima intelligently got the clue and holding by his legs threw Jarasandha on the ground. Bhima pressed firm one leg of the enemy by his own and ripped the other vertically through by pulling it with his hands. Jarasandha kept coming up alive as the two pieces would join into a whole, the way Jara had joined them. Puzzled Bhima paused for a moment to understand the hint given by Krishna. Grasping the full meaning, Bhima became wise. Bhima placed one piece in an inverted direction so that realignment was not possible and thus Jarasandha met his end. Krishna installed Sahadeva, the son of Jarasandha, on the throne of Magadha and released the imprisoned kings. The death of Jarasandha did not, however, clear the way for Yudhishthira. He had to face an obstruction of another vicious person before he could complete his Rajasuya sacrifice

Chapter 45: 

Shishupala

The completion of the rajasuya sacrifice was not an easy task for Yudhishthira even though Jarasandha was dead. The next hurdle was Shishupala whose anger was still soaring high against Krishna after the Rukmini abduction episode. It all started with a decision taken unanimously with the exception of Shishupala. There was a deep deliberation as to who from the large congregation of pious learned people should occupy the prestigious seat of honour. Bhishma suggested Krishna’s name. Sahadeva, the well versed brother of Yudhishthira, proposed Krishna as the most worthy person for the honoured position. He explained, “He is the Universal Lord, guardian, protector, omniscient, omnipotent, saviour of all during times of difficulty and above everything else he is impartial in conferring his benevolence. His qualities are outstanding and therefore he is the ideal person for the honour.” Sahadeva’s recommendation was acclaimed with total consensus by the august assembly of guests. Yudhishthira and family, enraptured by the overwhelming support for Krishna, washed his feet with respect and adorned him suitably for the occasion. The public paid their obeisance with their palms joined together and showering of flowers.

Witnessing the all round felicitations, Shishupala got up from his seat with his hands raised to stop the proceedings. He accused the learned for allowing their intellectual power to be incapacitated of right thinking by the immature speech of a youngster. His speech was surcharged with anger and hatred. He said, “In this galaxy of eminent scholars, how could you nod your heads to place a cowherd on the pedestal of highest honour? He belongs to a community of Yadavas that has been ousted for over indulgence in the consumption of alcohol. As for his personal standing, Krishna has no family to call his own nor does he have a well directed pursuit in life. In a nutshell he is nothing but a vagabond. Such a person who does not have a respectable antecedence is ineligible for any kind of adoration, what to speak of elevated honour.” The entire assembly of pious people felt that this kind of uncivilized outburst of hatred should not be tolerated and decided to boycott him enmasse. Pandavas also thought it disrespectful to Krishna if they continued to stay there, hearing the venomous words. The empty hall with just his supporters hanging on was an insult to Shishupala. With his sword drawn, he charged towards Krishna, sitting undaunted by the disruption created by his cousin. Krishna was keeping count of his sinful words and finally when the limit of endurance had been surpassed, the discus went flying and sliced the neck to dislodge Shishupala’s head. The miracle that occurred after his death, left the onlookers flabbergasted. A bright radiance emanated from the lifeless body and entered into Krishna. Emancipation of a wicked person like Shishupala doubly convinces us the merciful attitude of the Lord. The Lord blesses those who constantly think of him even if it be out of enmity like Shishupala or Kamsa.

Interesting Anecdotes

Shishupala: Shishupala was the son of the king of Chedi. His mother was the sister of Vasudeva and the aunt of Krishna. When Shishupala was born, he had three eyes and four hands. He brayed like a donkey on birth. The mother was extremely scared to have such an unusually odd son. Fear prompted her to get rid of the child by killing it. A heavenly voice said, “Do not kill the child. He is destined to become a king. The time of his death has not approached though the person to kill him has already taken birth.” To this the queen was eager to know the identity of the person. The voice replied, “When the child’s extra arms and eye fall on coming in contact with a particular person, understand him to be your son’s killer.”

The parents had no peace of mind till they knew the person who would be responsible for their son’s death. People from far and near were called to lift the child to find out the mysterious person. Balarama and Krishna heard about the birth of their cousin and came on a visit. As soon as Krishna lifted the infant, the extra arms and eye fell down. Krishna’s aunt was shocked to know that her nephew was going to kill her son. She begged Krishna to pardon her son if he committed any sin and spare his life. Krishna gave his word to his aunt to pardon her son not for one sin but for a hundred transgressions of moral and ethical conduct. Trusting that her nephew would not belie his words, her anxiety was calmed for the present. She had secured a generous concession which she did not expect her son to exceed in his life. To keep his promise to his aunt, Krishna did not react till Shishupala crossed the hundred mark limit while he was heaping abuses. He deployed his discus for sending his head rolling to the ground.

Chapter 46: 

Beloved Sudama

Childhood friendship is quite often forgotten when individual careers lead to different roads. Friends also fall out when one becomes prosperous and the other writhes in poverty. But the friendship of Krishna and Sudama that blossomed during their stay in the gurukula, never faded, even though Krishna had become a king and Sudama was struggling for one meagre meal.

Sudama was a Brahmana, married to a devoted woman who ungrudgingly accepted his poverty. Sudama never went seeking for food but was satisfied with whatever came voluntarily from people. Insufficient food reduced them to a skeleton and their clothes were in tatters that barely covered them. Yet they led a peaceful happy life.

One day, the pangs of hunger were so severe that the wife was on the verge of collapse. She was reminded of Krishna, known for his generosity and who was also Sudama’s dear friend. She approached her husband and said, “O lord! Hunger has driven me to a state of faint. So much is spoken about the large heartedness of your childhood friend, Krishna, the king of Dvaraka. For old acquaintance sake, he will surely be charitable to you and do something about our dire poverty.” Sudama welcomed the suggestion not for the prospect of getting monetary assistance but for the opportunity of meeting his childhood friend, the Universal Lord. He enthusiastically started on his journey to Dvaraka. Though he did not have any present worth the name, he carried with him four handfuls of beaten rice in a small bundle, the only thing his wife could offer as a humble gift.

Sudama was admitted into the portals of Krishna’s palace. Krishna was excited to meet his old friend and went forward to welcome him. His affectionate embrace revealed his immense happiness. Krishna honoured Sudama by seating him on the bed and washing his feet. The women in the household attended on him with respect and saw to it that he was comfortable and at ease. Sudama was exhilarated to see Krishna’s humility even as a king and the bond of friendship between them still holding strong. The relish with which Krishna ate the poor man’s beaten rice made Sudama feel that henceforth poverty had no meaning in his life. The very sight of Krishna had alleviated his misery and his wife’s advice to him evaporated into thin air. His contentment was so satisfying that he could not care to ask him for help. He thought money had no value after he had seen Krishna so unassuming and simple in his approach to life.

After an unforgettable stay at Dvaraka, Sudama took leave to go back home. Throughout the return journey, he was thinking how to give a picturesque description to his wife about his wonderful stay with Krishna. He knew the nature of his wife. Seeing him back with only a heart full of delightful contentment, his good wife would not entertain any grouse against him. Being an understanding wife, he knew she would excuse him for avoiding the mention of their poverty to Krishna and let go a golden chance of seeing better days. She would surely not rub in her frustration endlessly and make their happy life a misery. Thus, confident of his wife’s reaction, he reached home floating in the pleasant memory of the best days of his life. To his utter astonishment, he found a large beautiful castle in the place where his dilapidated hut had previously stood for years. A chariot, horses and cattle could be seen in their sheds outside the house and men came hurrying to attend on him. For a moment, all this unexpected prosperity seemed very unreal, creating a doubt as to whether he was at the wrong place. He had not come out of the bewilderment, when his wife walked out of the palatial house, gorgeously dressed with fineries and maids following close behind. She greeted him with a broad smile and happily expressed her gratitude to Sudama for agreeing to approach his generous friend. Sudama stood speechless but he mentally went back to Krishna to convey his heartfelt gratitude for all that the Lord had done for him. Aware of Sudama’s sincere devotion, the Lord had bestowed his benevolent grace unobtrusively.

Sudama lived the rest of his life with his wife in luxury though never enamoured by the worldly attractions. He had given himself to meditation of the Lord and in due course reached the feet of God in Paramapada.

Chapter 47: 

Wishes of Devaki

Devaki had never reconciled to the death of her sons at the hands of Kamsa. She heard that her sons Krishna and Balarama had brought to life the dead son of their preceptor. With great hope she requested them, “You have taken birth here to lighten the burden of mother earth. I, your mother also carry a heavy burden in my heart, an unbearable sorrow which could be relieved by you. You have also resuscitated your guru’s son. Could you do a similar act of kindness for me by reviving my dead sons?” Very much moved by their mother’s grief, they instantly repaired to the Netherlands, to the kingdom of the daitya king Bali.

Bali was pleased to offer his respects to the two brothers and expressed his gratitude for their visit to a wicked person’s region. He said, “My constant prayer is to seek shelter under your trees of benevolence, you who are the Universal protectors and enjoy the fruits of mercy you drop down to us. I would then have cleansed my sins and instilled spiritual life within me. Besides this, I have no other aspirations. I now stand before you with folded hands, eager to serve you to the best of my abilities. I await your commands.”

Krishna told him the purpose of his visit was to revive his six brothers and present them before his pining mother Devaki. He explained to Bali the misconception under which Devaki was mourning. He told Bali the past life of his brothers. Prajapati Marichi had six sons by Uma who were cursed by Brahma. Brahma created Sarasvati as pretty as the apsaras Tilottama. Captivated by her beauty, he decided to make her his consort. The six sons of Marichi went into a fit of laughter to find a person desirous of marrying his own daughter. Brahma was angered by the flippant attitude of the boys towards him. He cursed them to be born as asuras. Though in reality the six sons of Marichi were born as the sons of the Bhoja king Hiranyakashipu, they were placed in Devaki’s womb by the power of Yoga-maya. Not knowing the secret, Devaki thought they were her sons killed by Kamsa. Depression due to his mother’s mourning and also her pleadings for the revival of her dead sons had impelled Krishna to come to Bali for the boys. Krishna said he would take the six boys residing in his kingdom to let Devaki see them alive just once. Then by his grace, they would be freed from the effect of the curse and enter the order of the pious.

Bali readily agreed and Krishna took them to his mother who was overjoyed with happiness. Her fondling of the sons revealed, to what extent her motherly emotions had been bottled up all these years. Everyone was thrilled at the reunion, when their mutual affection manifested to the maximum. Finding all round satisfaction, Krishna freed his brothers from the curse. Due to their association with their mother, denied so far, having eaten out of the plate of Balarama and the contact with the sacred body of Krishna, the six boys became spiritually enlightened. Paying their respects to their parents and brothers, they moved towards the celestial region. Devaki was astonished to watch the miraculous happenings before her eyes and was convinced it could not have been possible without the divine power of Krishna.

Chapter 48: 

Arjuna weds Subhadra

Arjuna during his rounds of the pilgrim spots reached the sacred place named Pravasa. There he heard that the marriage of Subhadra, sister of Balarama and Krishna, was being contemplated. Balarama had decided to give her in marriage to Duryodhana. Arjuna had an eye on Subhadra. With the intention of winning Subhadra, he entered Dvaraka in the guise of a Tridandi sage. In his own interest, he stayed there for twelve months. He impressed everyone including Balarama who could not see through the disguise.

Balarama took a liking for the sage and invited him for food one day. Arjuna enjoyed the delicacies served and his eyes were all the time looking for Subhadra. As if in answer to his wishes, he chanced to see the pretty woman, when cupid, the love god, overpowered him. Subhadra too was attracted by the handsome personality of Arjuna. She discreetly conveyed her mind by her side glances and smiles.

Arjuna’s infatuation for her had robbed his peace of mind. Luckily, a convenient situation arose making it possible for him to elope with her. The festivities during the propitiation of a deity brought Subhadra out of the fort in a chariot. Availing the opportunity, he carried away his love bird with the prior permission of Krishna and Vasudeva. Majestically driving the chariot, he skillfully opposed those who challenged him. Balarama was furious at Arjuna for thwarting his plans. He was however pacified by Krishna’s entreaties along with other revered people. Having calmed down, Balarama realised nothing untoward had happened for he too was favourably disposed to Arjuna. He happily performed the marriage of his sister with lots of gifts and presents.

Chapter 49 

Krishna blesses Mythila

The marriage of Arjuna and Subhadra was over and Krishna then thought about his next port of call. He went to Mythila to bless Shrutadeva and Bahulasva in appreciation of their devotion to him. Shrutadeva was a brahmana who had graduated to the intellectual maturity of detachment towards worldly desires and prosperity. His mind was ever engrossed in the meditation of Krishna. He subsisted on meagre unsolicited food to keep his body and soul together and led a family life as a matter of duty. Bahulasva was the king of Mythila, a descendent of the sage king Janaka. He was a great devotee of Vishnu. His mind was occupied in pleasing the Lord for the well-being of his subjects. Krishna thought it would be a good gesture towards Shrutadeva and Bahulasva to visit Mythila to bless the people.

Krishna in the company of some intellectual pious sages entered the city of Mythila. They were invited by these dedicated devotees and he thought it his duty to satisfy both impartially. Therefore he used his illusory yogic power to be present in their places simultaneously without either of them knowing about it. Each felt honoured at the Lord’s visit and extended the hospitality in his own way.

In the palace, Krishna received all the comforts and attention as expected from a king. Soft beds were provided and many attendants stood by to serve him. The king asked his wife and children to bathe in the water used by him for washing the Lord’s feet. The king requested the guests to extend their stay in his house to sanctify it by the dust of their feet. Moreover, Krishna recognized that the people of Mythila had honoured them on their arrival in the traditional way with respect. Having all this in mind, he agreed to stay on and also blessed the people with welfare and happiness.

In the humble cottage of the brahmana, the guests were honoured with reverence. The Brahmana danced in ecstasy on having Krishna as his guest. He considered himself twice blessed, as his poverty stricken house was, according to him, not worthy of having such distinguished guests. He offered them wooden planks as seats and kusha grass for beds. He washed their feet and offered fruits, roots, water purified by tulasi leaves and everything within his means to express his sincere devotion to the Lord.

After they had rested, the brahmana asked Krishna how he had chosen to favour a poor man who had nothing but his dedicated prayers to offer. From the time of creation, the association of man and the Lord has existed but only a few fortunate ones get to see God on this earth. Such being the situation, he said it was unbelievable that he has been one of those whose cottage has been graced by the Lord. To this Krishna replied, “I make no distinction among my devotees. They are uniformly dear to me, no matter poor or rich. I am pleased with those who respect the well-versed brahmanas and those who show interest in adhering to the spiritual injunctions of our scriptures. Reverence to brahmanas is reverence shown to me. Some ignorant people do not understand this and are disrespectful to pious people. Know them to be always in my company and also part of me. Propitiation of pious people would deliver one from this world more easily than performance of penance or going on pilgrimages. People favourably inclined thus, receive my blessings. There is no doubt about my grace for those who are directly devoted to me. You are one of them.” On hearing this from the Lord himself, the brahmana understood the profound universal principle of God towards his devotees- “EQALITY FOR ALL, PRIORITY FOR NONE.”

Chapter 50: 

Shiva is saved

From time immemorial, intellectuals had been pondering over a very puzzling question. Dharmaputra Yudhishthira was struggling to find a convincing answer to the same question. The million dollar question was, “Those who propitiate Shiva easily enjoyed the pleasure of prosperity, while the devotees of Vishnu had to struggle. The two deities Shiva and Vishnu are diametrically opposed to each other. Shiva is the god of destruction while Vishnu is the protector but their favours on their devotees are contrary to their character. Why is it so?” The explanation for this is, Shiva is easily susceptible to the prayers of his devotee. His ego has various attributes and even if one of these receives special attention, he feels exalted. Prompt comes the grant of a boon offering worldly luxuries. Parallel to this is the angry aspect of Shiva. He does not tolerate the slightest folly and a curse is pronounced outright. Vishnu, on the other hand is the Supreme Purusha beyond the influence of Prakriti tandem with the transient aspects of creation and life. Krishna gives a lucid explanation to Yudhishthira, “Brahma and Shiva have a highly volatile temper which can be emotionally manipulated favourably or otherwise without much effort. Whatever be their reaction to the actions of the devotees, it is only in relation to worldly matters. Shankara’s boons lead to more entanglement in actions and increase the possibility of subjecting us to his anger or pleasure. A boon or curse cannot be retrieved or made ineffective.

“I confer favours in an entirely different manner. My efforts are aimed at drawing my devotees away from any kind of involvement with the material world. When the mind is trained to evolve an attitude of detachment, emotional gratification or disappointment has no meaning and mental cravings become non-existent. Relatives and friends are only fair weather friends. They would offer no consolation or encouragement at times of need. Besides, they would prefer distancing themselves to avoid obligation. Association with pious people will stand in good stead and help rise above the apparent changes in circumstances unaffected. There will be spiritual bliss, reaching you to the highest abode free from rebirth.”

There is an ancient popular story describing how Shiva was cornered by Vrikasura by granting him a boon. One day, Vrika asked sage Narada as to who could be easily propitiated among the trinity- Brahma, Shiva or Vishnu. Narada advised him to propitiate Shiva for effortless success.

Vrika engaged himself in pleasing Shiva by burning his own flesh in the sacrificial fire. He got desperate as there was no sign of the god showing any favour. Disappointed at his failure, he was about to chop off his head with a sword, when Shiva rose from the sacrificial fire and stopped him from committing suicide. Shiva restored the flesh to Vrika’s body and told him, he was pleased even if his devotees offered plain water with sincerity. There was no need to torture ones body to seek his blessings. He asked him what he would like to have as a boon. The wicked asura was delighted and asked for the most evil boon. He said, “Let instant death come to the man on whose head I place my palm.” Shiva was shocked to hear the treacherous wish but could not go back on his promise. With a forced smile on his face, he said, “Be it so.”

Having received the boon, Vrika exposed his ungrateful nature and rushed to test its potency on Shiva himself. A vigorous chase followed while all the gods were tense about the serious consequence that might be in store for Shiva. Shiva, unable to tackle the asura, resorted to Vishnu in Vaikuntha. Vishnu, as a brahmachari clad in black deer skin, holding a staff, approached Vrika, and was over solicitous to him with his kind words. He said, “O son of Shakuni! You seem so exhausted and fatigued. It appears you have come a long way with an important goal in mind. Or else you would not have taken the trouble. Please relax and allay your tired nerves. Later, if you please, you may tell me the purpose of your exertion.”

Vrika was taken in by the bramachari’s concern for him. Vrika confided in him all that transpired between him and Shiva as well as the reason for the hot chase. With sarcasm and mockery in his voice, the bramachari said, “How could you believe the words of Shiva who is the Lord of goblins and evil spirits? O king of the danavas! I never expected you to be so naïve to have faith in a person who has assumed the form of a Pishacha after a friction with the preceptor of the world, Prajapati Daksha. That there is no truth in what he has said can be proved by placing your palm on your own head. Once Shiva is proved to be a lier, you can deal with him in a way that will not give him another opportunity to wag his tongue in falsehood.” These convincing words fooled Vrika and without a moment’s hesitation, he placed his palm on his head. Before he knew what was happening, his head smashed into thousand pieces. That was Vrika’s entry into, and Shiva’s exit from, the jaws of death.

Chapter 51: 

Salva

Salva was the friend of Shishupala and he had a hatred for the Yadus especially Krishna who had denied his friend of his prospective bride Rukmini. He had vowed to destroy the Yadavas and relieve the earth of these undesirable people. To carry out the resolve, Salva began to worship Shiva living on a handful of dust. After nearly a year, Shiva appeared with the offer of a boon. Salva asked for a chariot that could traverse the entire universe unhindered, strike terror in the hearts of the Yadavas, and also help him from succumbing to the attacks of the celestials, asuras, mortals, gandharvas, reptiles or rakshasas. Ordered by Shiva, the asura architect Maya created an iron chariot named Soubha, and gave it to Salva.

Salva, still obsessed with the old enmity and prejudiced against the Yadus, started towards Dvaraka in his pleasure chariot. He poured weapons devastating the entire city and caused all conceivable miseries to the lives. Pradyumna, the heroic chariot warrior, came out in his chariot, not being able to bear the sufferance of his subjects. Pradyumna was able to overcome all the hallucinations created by Salva. The soldiers of Pradyumna were unable to aim directly at the chariot which altered its position at lightning speed by magic powers. Then, they decided to shoot the arrows straight at Salva, whether he could be spotted as a soldier or as an ordinary man. It was a war of one upmentship between the two resolute armies, each desiring to establish victory over both heaven and earth.

Dumana, a minister of Salva, struck hard on Pradyumna’s chest with an iron mace, which incapacitated him to fight further. His charioteer Daruka brought his master out of the battlefield to save his life. Pradyumna was disappointed at having to turn his back and told his charioteer that he should not have saved him. He said he was ashamed to face his people having lost in the battle. Daruka tried to explain to him that the charioteer as well as the master should be concerned about each other while fighting and rise to the occasion to act promptly when there is danger to life. He said since this was the shastric injunction, he could not abandon his master to die. But Pradyumna was insistent on going back to continue his fight against Dumana. Going close to him, Pradyumna aimed his eight arrows at the minister. Four of them killed his steeds, one took the life of his charioteer, two destroyed his bow and banner and the last one pierced through his head.

Krishna, at that time, away in Indraprastha for the Rajasuya, was returning to his city. Worried over the evil omens, he expected the partisan kings of Shishupala to have taken advantage of the absence of the two brothers and invaded Dvaraka. Seeing the despicable plight of his people, he left Balarama to guard the city, while he went to challenge Salva whom he located in his chariot Soubha. He warned his charioteer not to be afraid of the magician Salva who could assume forms at will, appear or disappear if he wished. Krishna sent a number of arrows against Salva and perforated his chariot in response to his powerful weapon shakti. When the bow sharnga of Krishna was struck by the enemy, it accidently slipped from his hand. Thrilled to see the weapon fall, Salva thought Krishna was staggering, unable to withstand his fierce attack. Salva shouted at Krishna for stealing his dear friend’s bride in public and also killing him in the assembly. Excited Salva said it was now his chance for victory, if Krishna could pick up courage to stand before him for a little while. He said he had the strength to tear to pieces Krishna’s body whose invincible character he was so proud of. Krishna, in reply, said Salva’s death was imminent. There was no meaning in boasting about his prowess unless he proved it in action. Krishna threw his mace with great velocity at Salva’s collarbone and he began bleeding profusely. He suddenly disappeared when he had somewhat recovered from the blow.

Next moment, Krishna saw a person bowing at his feet who said he had been sent by Devaki. He informed Krishna about the capture of his father Vasudeva by Salva. For a split second Krishna was deep in thought. He was astonished, how a weak person like Salva could carry away his father when the strong muscular Balarama was standing on guard. He was depressed at the turn of destiny. While still sadly brooding about his father’s fate, he was once again taken by surprise. He saw Salva with a person in captivity whom he claimed to be Vasudeva. He threatened to kill him if Krishna did not act swiftly to save his father to whom he owed his birth. Hardly giving Krishna a moment to act, Salva cut the head of Vasudeva. With the head he rose up to the clouds on his chariot. Krishna was stunned in stupefaction when asura Maya came to inform him that it was only an illusory set up. Krishna then came out of the magic spell and found neither the messenger nor the headless trunk of his father. Krishna decided not to encourage Salva’s tom foolery any further. With his mace he broke into pieces the chariot and the bow. His sudarshana chakra knocked down his kireeta [crown], kundala [ear-ring] and also his head.

[That the concept of aerial transport like the modern aeroplane existed in the ancient days is evident from the aerial chariot of Soubha of Salva, Pushpaka vimana of Ravana and that of Uparichara.]

Chapter 52: 

Mission Accomplished

The Yadavas were thriving under the protective grace of Krishna which had made them insolent and indestructible by any power. So Krishna thought he had to do the needful to balance evil and piety on earth. Vanquishing the community of the Yadus was the only way it could be brought about. This action of Krishna might give an impression of his hard hearted treatment of his own people. Emotional or sentimental affinity had no place in Vishnu’s scheme of things. Destroying the wicked and arresting the proliferation of sin was the aim of his descent on earth and he did what was right to achieve the end. Moreover, we must not lose sight of one important fact. The incarnation of Vishnu as Krishna took place with the prior arrangement that the celestial gods would be born in the Yadava community to assist the Lord. Their appearance on earth was illusory and an excuse had to be created to dissolve the illusion.

When the curtain had to be finally drawn, Krishna thought of creating a situation conducive for the execution of his plan. The destruction of the Yadus started with the departure of some intellectual sages to a sacred shrine, a little distance from Dvaraka. A group of princes sporting there were tickled to have fun at the expense of the sages. The princes took Jambavati’s son Samba in a woman’s attire and addressed the sages with great humility about a matter of genuine concern. They said, “This lady with us is nearing her full term of pregnancy. She is shy to ask you, who can look into the future, whether the baby to be born would be a male or a female. Her wish is to have a boy. On her behalf could we request you to satisfy our curiosity?” The sages were furious at the impudence of the princes who were trying to test their intellectual acumen. The anger burst out as a curse and they said, “She will give birth to an iron club which will wipe out the entire community of the Yadavas from the face of the earth.” The princes panicked because their thoughtless fun had led to a disastrous consequence. Instantly an iron rod emerged from the deceptive pregnancy. They were trembling, not knowing how to reveal the secret story of the iron rod to the people. They presented it before the king, apologetically coming out with the truth. The Yadus were confused about the best means to avert the calamity. It occurred to them, they could pulverize the iron club and throw it into the ocean. The fine powder sunk in the deep ocean, they thought, could do no harm. So they carried out the plan. A small bit remained which could not be reduced any further. Not anticipating any danger from the negligible piece, they flung that also into the water. The Yadus were at peace after successfully getting rid of the iron rod, as they thought the curse could not take effect now. But to nullify a curse was not that easy. The small iron piece was swallowed by a fish and it finally reached the hands of a hunter. The hunter named Jara shaped the piece into arrow heads, and preserved it for future use.

In Dvaraka, Krishna observed some ill omens in heaven, earth and all the celestial regions. He knew the gloomy signals as portending the impending disaster that would overcast the city of Dvaraka. Krishna called the Yadavas and said, “I foresee a formidable occurrence in this city. I feel we take note of the alert warning and evacuate the city with immediate effect. The women, children and the old can be transported to Sankhyadhara while we take up residence at Pravasa along the banks of river Sarasvati. We will cleanse our sins by serving the sages through gifts to provide them comforts in every way possible. Know it is destiny that steers one to the heights of prosperity and also throws into the abyss of misery. We must try to shape our destiny by meritorious deeds.” Krishna’s advice was acceptable to them.

The Yadus, who were following the ceremonial injunctions, suddenly indulged in heavy drinking which made them lose their sobriety. Mentally unstable due to intoxication, they started fighting fiercely among themselves for no reason. They picked up their swords, maces, bows and arrows in a killing frenzy. When the weapons were broken, they pulled the araka grass to strike at each other. The grass stems were as hard as an iron mace. It is believed by people even today that the powdered iron rod in the ocean took the form of the araka grass because according to the curse the iron club was to be instrumental in the extinction of the Yadus. When Krishna and Balarama tried to dissuade them from the madness, they began to attack them as enemies. Krishna and Balarama protected themselves by raising their mace. The Yadavas went at one another ferociously till the whole race went down without trace, with the exception of Krishna and Balarama. Krishna then breathed a sigh of relief, satisfied with the completion of his targetted mission.

Balarama seated at the brink of the ocean, unified his soul with the Supreme Universal Soul in meditation. Renouncing the world of humans, he returned to his abode of ultimate bliss.

Krishna was depressed to find himself isolated and felt the need to relax at the foot of the ashvattha tree. He assumed the divine effulgent form with four arms adorned with the distinct identities of Vishnu. Spreading the weapons around him on the ground, he lay resting his left leg on his right thigh. Then the fowler, possessing the special arrow heads made out of the cursed iron club piece, mistook the red foot of Krishna for the face of a deer. He aimed his dreadful arrow, striking deep at the Lord’s foot. Durvasa had given Krishna a boon that his entire body except his feet would be invulnerable. So when the hunter’s arrow pierced Krishna’s feet, the Lord knew that it was the cause for the end of his incarnation

On closer look, the hunter identified the divine form with four arms. He regretted for his cruelty, fell at Krishna’s feet and begged forgiveness. He chose death sentence as most appropriate. It would, in future, save virtuous and pious people from such condemnable acts from professional hunters like him. He praised the Lord, “You are beyond the cognition of even Brahma and Shiva. How can I, an ignorant man of low lineage, understand your greatness?”

Krishna was sorry for the hunter who was blaming himself for what had happened. He consoled him saying, “Whatever has happened was contrived by me and not due to any fault of yours. You may now depart to heaven, the abode of the holy persons. Treat it as my command.” Jara went round Krishna in obeisance, ascended the celestial balloon to reach heaven.

Daruka, the trusted charioteer of Krishna, came by in search of his Lord. He was thrilled at the sight of Krishna who narrated the entire happenings and ordered him to return to Dvaraka without delay. Daruka was to inform of the extinction of the Vrishnis, the disappearance of Balarama and also the condition in which Krishna was lying. Krishna also cautioned about the upsurge of the ocean after his departure from earth resulting in a deluge over the city of Dvaraka. He further advised him to go to Indraprastha with his family and relatives. Arjuna should be instructed to take responsibility of the safe custody of his parents Vasudeva and Devaki. Finally Krishna gave Daruka a parting guidance on how he should lead his life. He said, “Virtuous life will help in acquiring spiritual knowledge, cleanse the mind of worldly attachments and direct it to the ultimate beatitude.”

Amidst the conversation between the two, Daruka noticed with astonishment, Krishna’s weapons rising upwards to heaven in a brilliant chariot. Realising that the time to be separated from Krishna had approached, the charioteer offered his heartfelt respects. With a heavy heart, he took leave of his beloved Lord to go to Dvaraka. Falling at the feet of Vasudeva and Ugrasena, Daruka sorrowfully narrated every detail as advised by Krishna. Permanent separation from Krishna was an unbearable shock to them and they fell in a faint. Devaki and Rohini soon breathed their last, with the sorrow of losing Krishna and Balarama. Arjuna was depressed on being deprived of a dear friend and a mentor. He moved the surviving women, children and the old to Indraprastha. He installed Vajra, the only surviving Yadava on the throne.

Krishna departed to his abode in his mortal form. He did not consign his body to the flames because of his strict ascetic discipline on fire. Since he had revealed to the pious that virtue is the source of salvation and also presented his divine person as an incarnation striving hard for the benefit of human beings, he did not wish to leave his body on earth. When Krishna was about to depart, Brahma, Shiva, Indra and other celestial gods assembled to witness the Lord retiring to his heavenly residence but the miraculous disappearance escaped the sight of most gods except Brahma and a few others. Soon after Krishna left the world, there was a tremendous deluge that submerged the city of Dvaraka. Everything disappeared except Krishna’s palace, which majestically stood unscathed through the floods.

The songs and verses sung by the sages and poets about the childlike pranks of Krishna and also the miraculous feats of the Lord are wonderful renderings. They would reach us to the Paramapada, even if they are merely heard with devotion.

वनमाली गदी शार्ङ्गी शंखी चक्री च नन्दकी |

श्रीमन् नारायणॊ विष्णुर्वासुदॆवॊsभिरक्षतु ||

Vanamali gadi sharngi shankhi chakri cha nandaki

Shriman narayano vishnur vasudevobhirakshatu

May Shriman Narayana, who is Vishnu and Vasudeva protect us. He wears the vanamala. He weilds the mace, the bow sharnga, the conch, the discus and the sword nandaka.

SHUBHAM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *