Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ganesha and the moon

Lord Ganesha – the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi had a weakness for sweets. He could not stop himself from taking the sweets, whenever anyone offered it to him. Once Lord Ganesha's devotee offered him lots of sweets. Lord Ganesha was so pleased that he stayed there the entire day and ate most of the sweets.

After night had come, Lord Ganesha gathering all the remaining sweets, walked home slowly. He had eaten too much and his stomach was full. As Lord Ganesha was walking back he stumbled and fell down. All the sweets scattered everywhere and his dress was torn.

Lord Ganesha was feeling embarrassed as he picked himself up. He dusted himself and collected all his sweets. He looked around hoping no one had seen him. Unfortunately the Moon – Chandra Deva had seen everything.

Those were the days when the moon was full all through the month. There was no such thing as a waxing and waning period of the moon.

Seeing the pot bellied Ganesha stumble and fall, Chandra Deva fell about laughing hard. Chandra Deva thought of himself as very handsome. He always thought that the pot bellied Ganesha with his stumpy feet and elephant head looked funny...He wiped tears from his face as he watched Lord Ganesha pick himself up.

Lord Ganesha was annoyed when he saw Chandra Deva laughing at him. He does not even come and help me...Just laughs at me...

'Chandra!' Lord Ganesha bellowed angrily as Chandra Deva stopped laughing. 'You laughed at me! You think you are so handsome! I curse you that henceforth you will disappear from the sky and never show your face again.

That stopped Chandra Deva cold. Oh God! Now no one would be able to see me...Chandra Deva shook his head The punishment was too harsh...

Chandra Deva immediately came up to Lord Ganesha. 'Lord! Please forgive me! I was proud! I am sorry...Please! Chandra Deva begged the Lord

Lord Ganesha looked at Chandra and realised that Chandra's pride had been broken. Lord Ganesha is always quick to forgive. He smiled and nodded his head. But Lord Ganesha realised that he could not take back his curse.

'Chandra, I cannot take back my words' Lord Ganesha saw Chandra Deva droop and look unhappy, looking at him desparately, 'But listen Chandra, I will lessen your curse. You will slowly reduce in your appearance and there will be only one day when there will be no moon in the sky and on the days following the new moon day, you will keep increasing in size and finally glow on the fifteenth day in your full size...'

Chandra nodded his head happily, 'Thank you Lord!'

Lord Ganesha thought of something and said with twinkling eyes, 'There is one more thing!'

Chandra looked at Lord Ganesha scared that there would be some other condition. Lord Ganesha shook his head, 'No nothing like that! You laughed at me on the Chaturthi. Whoever sees you on this day, would have some problems...However do not worry, these problems would be solved if you listen to the story of Krishna and the Syamantaka Gem'

It was from that day onwards that the moon has been decreasing in size before the no moon day and increasing till the full moon day!

The story of Krishna and Syamantaka Gem is another story.

Sage Agastya and the Vindhya Mountains

The mischievous Sage Narada was travelling around the world, when he saw the Vindhya mountain. The Vindhyas was a beautiful mountain right in the centre of India. However when Sage Narada saw the beautiful Vindhya, he thought a sudden prank. He went to the mountain and bowed before it, 'Beautiful, great Mountain. You would have been the greatest mountain in the world...I have never seen the sunrise so beautiful as I can see from you....You support all the types of lives of earth, and you also support the rishis, who stay in your caves to meditate...' Narada pretended to be unhappy and let out a sigh.

Vindhya felt proud of itself and rose majestically. However the Vindhyas understood that the Sage was feeling unhappy. It told the Sage, 'Thank you for your kind words, sir! But you said that 'I would have been the greatest mountain in the world'. Am I not the greatest mountain in the world?' Vindhya asked feeling a little self conscious.

Sage Narada hid a smile and pretended to be unhappy, 'I want to say yes, sir! But that...that would...would not be true...' Narada finished quickly.

Vindhya got angry and asked the sage, 'Why? Is there a better mountain in the world? Better than me?' It thundered.

Sage Narada knew that if he gave the answer to that question, the mountain may get angry with him and crush him. He said softly, 'Great mountain, You are very close to the sun. Why don't you ask him his path for the day. You will know the answer to the question yourself.'

Mission accomplished, the Sage vanished from there.

The Vindhyas, now with a burning desire to know who was better than him. It turned to the blazing sun, 'Surya! Surya!' It bellowed loudly as the Sun God emerged before it.

On seeing the Sun God, Vindhya did not even greet him. It continued hurriedly, 'Surya, what is your path, you take on the way home. Surya was puzzled at the strange question. He did not know the mischief of the Sage Narada. He said, 'I travel from the east and travel the west and go around Mount Meru in the evening and set in the West...Why do you...'

'Meru? Where is Mount Meru?' Vindhya asked the Sun God angrily. Surya hastily stepped back and said looking alarmed. 'Meru is one of the mountains where Lord Brahma himself resides! Beside Mount Meru is so tall, that I have no other choice. Me and all the planets in the solar system have to circle the Mount Meru.

Vindhya said angrily, rocks flying from the mountain, 'And you have never gone around me...Am I not that important...'

The Sun God hastily interrupted the angry mountain, 'No Vindhya it is not like that...Meru is very tall and further this has been the practice followed since the time the planets were formed...

The Mountain was quiet but looked ready to burst. The Sun God not willing to stay there for any more time, vanished from there.

Vindhya did not even notice that the Sun God had left. The mountain thought angrily. Meru! Silly Mountain...The sun goes around it because it is taller than me...Taller...I will show these Gods what being tall is...I will become even more taller than that blasted Meru...

Thinking thus the Vindhyas became to grow. The mountain grew taller and taller. Soon the mountain grew so tall, that there was an imbalance in the earth. Because of the height of the mountain, the mountain obstructed the view of the sun from the earth. This caused a lot of problems to the Gods and the humans.

Indra, the king of the Devas, went to Sage Agasthya, who was the Guru of the Vindhya mountains. He bowed to Sage Agastiyar and told him of the problem, 'Great Sage! Vindhya is creating a problem for all the people on earth. Please Lord, Vindhya considers you as his Guru..Do something and make the Vindhya go back to its original size and make sure Vindhya does not grow any more.

Agastiyar thought that over and smiled. He nodded to Indra. 'I will take care of this. Do not worry!' Hearing this, Indra went back to his heavenly home, a happy man. He had no doubt that Agastiyar would take care of the problem.

That day Sage Agastiyar went home to his wife Lopamudra and children Bringhi and Achutha. 'Pack your belongings', He told them after he had explained the problem. 'We will be leaving and going to another place.'

Sage Agastiyar's family immediately understood what he had in mind and set about packing for their travel. The next day they were walking to the south of India, when the huge Mountain – Vindhya blocked their way. The mountain had grown so big that Sage Agastiyar and his family could not find any place to cross it.

'Vindhya, ' Sage Agastiyar called out, as the mountain appeared before him.

'Greetings Sir!' Vindhya said appearing before the sage. 'I am so happy that you have come here. You are my teacher sir! I am...'

Sage Agastiyar interrupted as if he was in a great hurry, ' Vindhya, we can discuss all that later, when we both have time. I am in a hurry now...'

Vindhya apologised to the Sage, 'Sorry sir! Please continue with your journey...'

Sage Agastiyar looked at Vindhya with twinkling eyes, 'That is precisely what my problem is Vindhya. I want to cross the mountain to get to the other side. You have now grown so huge that I cannot even go to the other side. Can you please bow down and make way for me...'

Vindhya, did not suspect anything and immediately bowed, 'Great Sage! Please go over to the other side and complete your work...'

Sage Agastiyar and his family immediately crossed over. Then Sage Agastiyar hesitatingly looked at Vindhya, who was still bowed. Vindhya asked the sage, 'Sir you seem to be unhappy, what is the matter?'

'It is...' Sage Agastiyar said as if thinking of something, 'It is just that I may want to come back in a hurry. It would be very helpful to me if you remain in this form, till I come back Vindhya...' Sage Agastiyar said softly, 'I mean if it is ok with you...'

Vindhya nodded his head, still not suspecting anything. 'I will stay this way till you come back sir!'

Sage Agastiyar thanked the mountain and he and his family started walking south.

His mission accomplished, Sage Agastiyar with his family settled in the south and never moved north again. True to the word, Vindhya remained in a bowing position, even today awaits the return of the sage.

As Vindhya stopped growing, the imbalance of the earth stopped and the Devas and the humans thanked the sage and his family...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Story of Ganga

Ganga is considered to be the purest rivers in India. It is believed that anyone who bathes in the Ganga would be purified of all the sins committed by him. Do you know the story of how Ganga came to earth?

In the Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu, Bali the Asura King had promised to give Vamana – a dwarf three steps of land to perform his meditation. Lord Vishnu who was the Vamana, then assumed assumed the Trivikrama form, where he became huge so huge that measured the earth in one step, the heaven in another. Bali then offered his head as the third step. Lord Vishnu pressed Bali and pushed him to the netherworld.

When Lord Vishnu measured the heavens, Lord Brahma washed his feet with some water. From that water a beautiful girl – Ganga was born in Lord Brahma's kamandalam.

Ganga was full of mischief and always pulled pranks on everyone. She danced and sang beautifully and the Devas loved to come to listen to her and watch her dance.

Once many of the Devas and the rishis had come to watch Ganga sing and dance. Ganga had just finished dancing, when there was gust of wind.

Sage Durvasa had come to watch the dance. Like all rishis he was dressed in a simple manner. The gust of wind blew away Sage Durvasa's clothing. All the Devas knowing Sage Durvasa's reputation as an angry man, immediately turned their head away and tried not to laugh at him. However Ganga was unable to control herself and burst out laughing looking at the sage.

Furious with Ganga, Sage Durvasa cursed her, 'Proud girl! You are making fun of me instead of helping me! You do not deserve to live in the heavens. You deserve to go to earth. Go and flow as a river on the earth where you rightly belong!'

Ganga was shocked when she heard the Sage's words. Apologetically she ran to Sage Durvasa and fell at his feet. 'Please great sage! I was proud! Please think of me as your daughter and forgive me...'

Sage Durvasa looked at Ganga and softened up inspite of himself. Filled with pity he spoke, 'My words cannot be taken back, Ganga. But since you have asked I will grant you a boon that when you flow on the earth you will be the purest river there. If anyone comes and bathes in your waters, they would be purified of all their sins.'

So saying Sage Durvasa left, leaving Ganga unhappy and sorry as she had to leave her friends and go to earth.

Meanwhile on earth, in the kingdom of Ayodhya, there lived King Sagara. King Sagara had 60,000 sons. King Sagara fought long and hard with all the Asuras surrounding his kingdom. Subsequently after same years of battled, he was finally able to destroy the Asuras. His kingdom was safe again.

King Sagara ruled his people well and soon the treasures of his kingdom were full and people were happy and content. King Sagara decided that now was the time, he had to perform the 'Ashwameda Yagna' to declare his supremacy. In the Ashwameda Yagna, a horse was let loose and went all over the world. If the horse entered the another kingdom, the other king either had to accept the supremacy of the king whose horse it was or fight the other king.

If King Sagar completed the Ashwameda Yagna, he would become the undisputed leader of the world. Looking at this, Lord Indra, the king of the Heavens grew very jealous. He was very afraid that if King Sagara completed his Yagna, he would become more powerful than Indra himself.

Indra turned invisible and went near the horse. He stole the horse and was about to carry it to heaven, when he stopped thinking something...If I carry this horse to my palace, King Sagara may find it and even challenge me to a fight. What if he wins...? ...I will hide the horse in some other place so that my hand should never be suspected..Thinking thus Indra hid the horse in the ashram of a sage Kapila. Now Sage Kapila also had a reputation to have a very bad temper.

King Sagara sent his 60,000 sons to look for the horse. They finally found the horse in the Ashram of Sage Kapila. Sage Kapila was deep in meditation when the sons arrived there. The sons got angry thinking that Sage Kapila had kidnapped the horse.

'You call yourself a sage?' One of them said, 'You have stolen the  horse of the Ashwamedha Yagna...?'

The sons angrily yelled, 'Thief! This man is a thief!' Sage Kapila was disturbed by the loud noise made by the sons of King Sagara.

Annoyed the sage opened his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he heard sounds of 'Thief...thief...'

By the power of his penance, he realised that these people thought that he was a thief. This enraged Sage Kapila so much that he used his powers and burnt all of the sons of King Sagara – all the 60,000 of them.

If the last rites of a person are not done properly, it is believed that they do not reach heaven. So the sons of King Sagara roamed as ghosts on earth.

Anshuman, the grandson of King Sagara, when he heard this, ran to Sage Kapila. He fell on Sage Kapila's feet. 'Great sage, please have mercy on us... My uncles..' He said pointing at the ash around him, 'they are doomed...they will never go to heaven...' Anshuman let out a tired sob, 'they will always roam the earth...please...'Anshuman had tears in his eyes, 'my uncles do not deserve this...Please great sage!'

Looking at the teary face of Anshuman, Sage Kapila felt sorry for him. He looked around at the ashes and said, 'Son! There is a beautiful river called as Ganga in the heavens. She is born from Vishnu. If she flows on your uncles, your brothers would attain heaven...'

Anshuman gratefully nodded his head. 'Thank you great sage! I will go about immediately to perform penance so that she can come to earth...'

Sage Kapila held up his hands, 'Son! Ganga was brought up by Lord Brahma. She is his daughter. Pray to him so that he may send his daughter to earth...'

'Thank you wise sage, ' Anshuman said. He completed his duties as a king and immediately set about to perform penance to please Lord Brahma.

However neither Anshuman, nor his son Dilip were successful in bringing down Ganga from the heavens. Their penance did not bear any fruit. Finally Dilip's son Bhageerath also started the penance for bringing down Ganga to the earth.

Finally pleased with him, Lord Brahma appeared before him, 'Arisee, son of Dilip, what do you wish?' He asked Bhageerath.

Bhageerath fell on Lord Brahma's feet, 'Lord, there is nothing that you do not know.. I am praying so that my ancestors are relieved from their curse and ascend to the heavens. Please send your daughter to the earth...'

Lord Brahmaa thought for some time, 'Son! I can send Ganga down, but she is extremely powerful...She was bron from Lord Vishnu, so she has some of his powers. If she falls straight from the heavens, she will flood the earth, that is more than the earth can take...'

Bhageerath looked anxious, 'Then what do I do, my Lord? How can my ancestors become peaceful?'

Lord Brahma said thinking that over, 'Bhageerath, pray to Lord Shiva, He can control Ganga. Pray to him so that he can release Ganga slowly so that she does not flood the earth...'

Bhageerath closed his eyes and breathed deeply. His job was only half finished. He still needed the blessings of the three eyed God. He nodded and sat down to again start his penance as Lord Brahma vanished.

Seeing that Bhageeratha was not disheartened Lord Shiva was delighted. He appeared before Bhageeratha, 'Arise Bhageeratha, I know what you wish and I am very pleased with your determinations...I will take care of this...'

Saying this the three eyed God spread his locks all over the sky and asked Ganga to fall down from the heavens. He caught her in his hair and did not let even a single drop fall on earth. Then slowly he released Ganga from his matted hair, 'Ganga, follow Bhageeratha and fulfil your destiny...'

Ganga obeyed and followed Bhageeratha for some time...

However Ganga again became very playful. She reached the ashram of the Sage Janu when she decided to have some fun...Why should I do nothing other than follow Bhageeratha....I will have some fun...I will now flood the ashram of this sage...It will so funny to look at their faces when they see their ashram wet and watery...Ganga giggled as she flowed inside the ashram of Sage Janu and flooded the place. However the reaction that Ganga got was not what she expected...

Sage Janu after finishing his penance opened his eyes and saw his ashram flooded. He stared blankly wondering what had happened...Then he closed his eyes and with the power of his penance realised that Ganga was upto some mischief...I will teach that brat a lesson...Sage Janu thought. He then used the power of his mind and swallowed up all the water...

Ganga was flabbergasted. Once she was free and flowed everywhere. Now she was trapped inside the stomach of the sage. She tried pounding the walls but she was trapped...Oh God! I acted without thinking...She thought cursing herself.

Meanwhile Bhageeratha was happy as the river followed him. Finally my ancestors will know peace...He was hearing the sound of the river churning, which abruptly stopped. Bhageeratha was stunned and saw that the river had vanished. Panic stricken he looked around and found only a sage in his hermitage and no signs of Ganga. Oh Lord No...what happened....

Almost sobbing he ran to the Sage, 'Great Sage! There was a river here...Where... Have you seen where it went?' He politely asked the sage.

The sage looked at Bhageeratha, 'Oh you mean Ganga?' Bhageeratha nodded mutely looking at the sage. The sage patted his stomach and said, 'She was too proud of herself...I swallowed her...'

Bhageeratha was almost reduced to tears, 'Please great sage! That river was the means by which my ancestors were to reach heaven...My father all of them before me have tried and it was only now that I was able to bring down Ganga, please...please release her...' Broken hearted Bhageeratha told him the entire story.

Sage Janu looked at Bhageeratha with pity, 'For you my son, I will release that river...' So saying he released Ganga from his stomach.

Ganga flowed out of came out of Sage Janu's stomach a much wiser and sober person, joyfully experiencing freedom after being locked down in the stomach. She promised herself that she would never misbehave now.

Bhageeratha thanked the sage and slowly Ganga came towards Sage Kapila's ashram to where the 60,000 souls waited for liberation.

Finally after years and years of waiting, Ganga flowed on the ashes of the sons of Sagara. Bhageeratha was tear faced as he felt the souls being released from the earth. He fell to ground, thanking the Gods to give him the strength to complete his job...

The river Ganga is also called as Jahnvi as she emerged from Sage Janu's stomach. As Bhageerath brought her down, she is also known as Bhageerathi.

Even now, if something is fulfilled after facing extreme difficulties it is called as 'Bhageeratha Prayatna' [Prayatna means 'trials'].

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Narasimha Avatar

During the Satya Yuga, Sage Kashyap and one of his wife Diti had two sons – Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu. Hiranyaksha troubled the humans and the Devas alike. The humans and the Devas unable to take it any more prayed to Lord Vishnu to protect them. Lord Vishnu being the Preserver incarnated as a Boar to protect the humans and the Devas. This avatar is called as Varaha Avatar.

After the death of Hiranyaksha,Hiranyakasipu furious with the humans and the Devas, lead his army of asuras to attack them. However the Devas fought Hiranyakasipu and his men. Hiranyakasipu came to know that every time, Lord Vishnu helped the Devas to fight him back.

If I am beat that Dark Lord, I need to have a boon to protect myself. Every time I attack the Devas or the humans, Vishnu thinks up of something to thwart my plans...I need to make myself powerful...
With that one thought in his mind, Hiranyakasipu set out for jungles. I will pray to Lord Brahma. He is the Creator God...If I pray long enough, Lord Brahma may even grant me immortality...

Hiranyakasipu started his meditation and soon forgot all about himself and his kingdom....

Meanwhile Lord Indra the King of the Devas came to know that Hiranyakasipu was not leading his men. Realising that if he acted now, he would be able to destroy the Asuras such that they would never be able to attack him again...Now is the right opportunity for me to strike at the heart of the Asuras. Without Hiranyakasipu, their strength is halved...Now if I destroy the Asuras, even if Hiranyakasipu comes back, he would not have an army to follow his orders... Thinking so, Indra along with other Devas attacked the kingdom of the Asuras.

Just as Lord Indra had expected, without Hiranyakasipu, the Asuras were no match for him. The Asuras lost the war. Lord Indra drove away most of the Asuras.

After destroying Hiranyakasipu's capital, Lord Indra marched into Hiranyakasipu's palace. There he found Hiranyakasipu's wife Kayadhu. I will take Hiranyakasipu's wife as my prisoner, Indra thought, If Hiranyakasipu comes back, I may be able to use her as a hostage...Thinking thus, Indra was forcibly taking Kayadhu to Amravathi, Indra's home in the heavens.

It was at that time that Sage Narada appeared before Indra, 'Indra STOP! What are you doing?'

Sage Narada thundered looking at Indra pulling Kayadhu in his chariot. Indra asked his men to catch Kayadu while he turned to address the wandering Sage. Indra bowed at Sage Narada, 'Sir, I have attacked the Asuras. Without Hiranyakasipu to lead them, I felt that this was the right time to destroy the threat of the Asuras...'

'Yes...yes...' Sage Narada said angrily, looking at the devastation around him, 'I can see that...Where does this woman come into this?' Narada asked pointing an angry finger at Kayadu, 'Did she fight you? It does not look like she raised any weapons against you, then why are you hurting her?'

Indra looked back at the Sage, 'Sir, she is the wife of Hiranyakasipu, my rival... I am taking her prisoner...' Indra looked at the fighting Kayadhu, 'Sir if Hirayakasipu attacks us later, I can use her as a hostage...'

Sage Narada if possible looked even more angrily at Indra, 'Fool! Just to win your battle, you will hurt another man's wife, who has done no harm to you...' Narada pointed a trembling finger at Kayadu, 'She is pure and innocent...Taking her prisoner would be a great sin...'

Indra looked at the angry sage and realised that he had no choice other than to let Kayadu go. Indra nodded at his men an they vanished from there leaving Kayadu in the middle of the ruined capital.

Sage Narada helped the trembling Kayadu, 'My daughter! Are you all right?..'

Kayadu looked shaken for a few minutes. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths trying to calm herself. Finally she opened her eyes and looked at the sage. She bowed at him, 'Thank you sir! Thank you for saving my life...I may be Hiranyakasipu's wife sir, but he is the only man I have ever loved...If Indra had taken me, I would have killed him and myself...' She said angrily gritting her teeth, clenching her hands into a fist, shaking slightly.

Sage Narada held up his hands, 'Peace my child...I know you are carrying a child. Such anger is not good either for you or the child...'

Kayadu looked at the sage and again took a deep breath calming herself.

Sage Narada waited until she was calm and spoke again, 'What will you do now? Is there any place you know which is safe for you?'

Kayadu looked around her at all the dead asuras and thought, If I stay hear, Indra may come back...She shuddered slightly, At that time, the sage may not be there to speak for me...In my position, I may not be able to fight Indra...'She thought thinking about the child in her womb...She looked at the sage and bowed her head, 'Great Sage! I have a request for you...' She said looking at Sage Narada.

Narada nodded his head asking her to continue. Kayadu spoke, 'I will look after you as your own daughter...Would you please take me to your hermitage...If...if it is ok with you...' She said feeling slightly desperate...

Narada smiled. This was the reason Narada had come here – to take Kayadu to his home..It had started..

Kayadu accompanied Sage Narada to his home and there Kayadu looked after the Sage well. Sage Narada found Kayadu to be extremely intelligent and with a quick grasp. In the evenings, Sage Narada would relax and tell Kayadu stories of Lord Vishnu....Hearing all this Kayadu developed a profound sense of attachment towards Lord Vishnu.

In her womb, the young unborn baby also heard these stories and also loved Lord Vishnu. The time passed happily there...

Lord Brahma and the other Devas were meanwhile having a very big problem. The air of the heavens were becoming hotter and hotter and the Devas were finding it difficult to breathe. Wondering what had happened, the Devas searched that found that Hiranyakasipu's penance was becoming so powerful that the air of the heavens was burning up. Unable to take it anymore, the Devas ran to Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma agreed to meet Hiranyakasipu and went to earth to meet the Asura.

What he saw there stumped Lord Brahma. Hiranyakasipu was so deep in his prayer that creepers had grown on him...Hiranyakasipu still did not know...

Lord Brahma was touched with the devotion of Hiranyakasipu. He took some water from his Kamandalam and threw it on Hiranyakasipu. Slowly Hiranyakasipu got up from his trance. When the water fell on Hiranyakasipu, he emerged from the creepers new and fresh. He looked at the God of Creation and bowed, 'My Lord!'

Lord Brahma looked at Hiranyakasipu touched, 'Arise son! Your penance is unparalleled! You can have any boon you wish!'

Hiranyakasipu bowed and said, 'My Lord! I wish to be immortal...'

Lord Brahma looked unhappy as he shook his head, 'Son, all who are born have to die. I cannot change the laws of nature. Please ask for something else...'

Hiranyakasipu pouted...All my penances for nothing...Then Hiranyakasipu thought of something, Wait, if I ask for an impossible condition for death probably then...Hiranyakasipu thought fast and again bowed to Lord Brahma. 'Lord, I wish for a boon...'

Lord Brahma gestured for Hiranyakasipu to continue. Hiranyaksipu spoke in clear tones,

'Lord I wish that I cannot be killed by any man, God or animal or any other creature created by you. Nobody should be able to kill me at day or night, in heavens or in earth, in the day or the night either inside the house or outside the house, or with any weapons...'

When Lord Brahma heard this he stayed still for some time. He knew that granting this boon was not good considering that Hiranyakasipu had shown utter contempt for all other lives. But he also knew that he had no choice. He had to grant whatever was asked of him. Hiranyaksipu's penance had been very powerful. Narayana...I think you will need to take care of this... He thought as he said, 'So be it Hiranyakasipu! Your wish has been granted.'

Saying thus Lord Brahma vanished from there. Hiranyakasipu overjoyed with the boon ran back to his kingdom.

He was hurt to see that most of them were destroyed by the attack of Indra.

I will wreck revenge on Indra for this. Armed with the boon, Hiranyakasipu attacked Indra. Indra had no chance. The Devas were driven out of Devaloka. Hiranyakasipu became the ruler of the Heavens.

Hiranyakasipu found Kayadu and brought back his wife home.

Despite Kayadu asking Hiranyakasipu to change his ways, Hiranyakasipu tormented the humans and the Devas alike, but no one was able to raise a voice against him.

It was at this time that Kayadu gave birth to a fine young baby boy – he was named Prahlad.

As Prahlad was growing up, Hiranyakasipu became more and more powerful and he started committing more and more atrocities.

However Prahlad was quiet different from his father. Unlike his father Prahlad never hurt another living being. He was a strong devotee of Lord Vishnu and liked praying to the Dark Lord. Prahlad was kind gentle and firm to all people around him. While everyone was scared of Hiranyakasipu, all the people loved Prahlad.

Hiranyakasipu once asked Prahlad to come and sit on his lap. He lovingly stroked Prahlad's hair, 'Son! What a fine son you are! Tell me son, how are thing going in your school?'

'Father!' Prahlad looked at his father lovingly, 'I have learnt that Vishnu – the Dark Lord is the Ruler of the Three worlds and that if we are devoted to him, he will always be there for us...'

Hiranyakasipu stopped stunned for a few seconds. He got angry, but with great difficulty curbed his anger. He nodded his head and sent for the boy's teacher. He asked Prahlad to go and play with friends as he wanted to talk to the teacher alone. When the teacher appeared, Hiranyakasipu was furious. He yelled at the teacher. 'What are you teaching your students? THIS...this this is what you are teaching...Lord Vishnu...WHY ARE YOU TEACHING YOUR STUDENTS ABOUT LORD VISHNU...'

The Guru quailed with fear. He stammered, 'L..Lord...Lord...I did not teach him these things...'

Hiranyakasipu shook his head furiously, 'Watch over the child! Someone is teaching him these useless things...'

The guru nodded his head and quickly went away from there, least Hiranykasipu get more angry.

At the school, the Guru taught Prahlad about how Hiranyakasipu was the Lord of the three worlds and how he was to be worshipped...However Prahlad was distracted when he heard this. He shook his head, 'No sir! This is not right! Lord Vishnu is the Lord of the three worlds. The whole universe exists because of him...'

The guru became furious and afraid at the same time. Furious that Prahlad was defying him openly in the class for all the students to hear and afraid that if Prahlad repeated this to his father, Hiranyakasipu may become furious with him.

'Who..who taught you that?' He asked Prahlad furiously.

'It is the truth which can be found anywhere, if you know where to look...' Prahlad said looking straight at his teacher.

The guru dragged Prahlad back to his father's palace. He went to Hiranyakasipu, 'Sir! I have tried everything...The boy keeps on repeating what he said. He would not tell me from where he learnt this...'

Hiranyakasipu got more and more furious as he heard this. Anger blinded him. This is no son of mine...If these are the things he is teaching, he does not have any right to live...HIranyakasipu called his men, 'Guards! Take this boy and kill him with your swords.'

The guard looked anxiously at Hiranyakasipu wondering whether he had indeed ordered for killing the prince.

Hiranyakasipu angrily looked at his men and yelled, 'NOW!'

The men fell over backwards and pulled Prahlad with them. They took out their swords. The first guard struck Prahlad and watched surprised as the blade fell from the hilt...Prahlad looked unharmed and without fear. All the guard together struck Prahlad only to find their blades breaking off even before it struck Prahlad.

Bewildered they turned to Hiranyakasipu. Enraged Hiranyakasipu then ordered Prahlad to be bitten by poisonous snakes. However the bites of the snake did not affect Prahlad at all.

Prahlad then sat under a tree deep in meditation to the Dark Lord. Furious Hiranyakasipu turned on mad elephants at Prahlad to trample him. Hiranyakasipu was stunned when he saw the mad elephants sitting peacefully before Prahlad looking at him.

Hiranyakasipu called his sister Holika. 'Sister Holika! I need your help!'

Holika bowed to Hiranyakasipu, 'Speak my Lord!'

Hiranyakasipu said harshly, 'You have received a boon from the Lord that fire cannot harm you! I want you to use that boon now.'

Holika frowned looking at Hiranyakasipu for explanations. 'My son Prahlad!' Hiranyakasipu spat out, 'He..defies me openly...I don't want to see his face again...I want to kill him..He is no son of mine...I want you to take Prahlad in your lap and hold him tight, so that when I set both of you on fire, he would....'Hiranyakasipu said venomously.

Holika held her hands, 'I understand my Lord!'

Without question Holika picked up the meditating Prahlad and put him on her lap. After she had sat down, Hiranyakasipu set fire to them..That will be the end of him...

However Hiranyakasipu had not calculated the power of devotion. Prahlad gave no sign of even knowing what was going on around him. However Holika, the one who was immune from fire started burning. The fire of her sins burnt her...When the fire finally burnt out, Prahlad was sitting in the middle of a charred place not a hair out of place, whereas Holika was nowhere to be seen...

Now Hiranyakasipu felt afraid. He went to Prahlad and pulled the boy up. The boy woke up as if from a trance, looking around him. Hiranyakasipu shook him, 'YOU SAY YOUR VISHNU IS EVERY WHERE?' He yelled, 'Where is your Vishnu now? Is he here, behind this tree, Is he here in this setting son, Is he inside my palace? IS HE IN THIS PILLAR?' Hiranyakasipu yelled loudly.

Prahald looked at his father straight in the eye, 'Yes father! Lord Vishnu is everywhere...'

Enraged Hiranyakasipu kicked the pillar and said angrily, 'THEN WHERE IS HE?'

Hiranyakasipu stopped stunned as he saw the pillar shatter and from the pillar emerged a ferocious...What is that? It has the face of a lion and the body of the man...Hiranyakasipu hastily stepped back, looking at the half man-half lion. He shook his head unable to believe himself, when the half-man half-lion bellowed loudly, 'I am Narasimha, the avatar of Narayana, and I have come here to kill you...' Narasimha advanced with glowing eyes. Before Hiranyakasipu could escape, Narasimha caught him with his clawed fingers, in a vice like grip.

Hiranyakasipu struggled against grip, but it was of no use. Narasimha took Hiranyakasipu and dragged him to the threshold of the door [neither inside nor outside the house] and placed him on his lap [neither sky nor the earth] and there killed Hiranyakasipu with his claws [without weapons], at twilight [neither day nor night].

After killing Hiranyakasipu, Narasimha let out a loud roar and sat on Hiranyakasipu's throne.

All the Asuras had escaped from there seeing the ferocious beast. Even the Devas were afraid to go near Narasimha. However unafraid, Prahlad went forward. There was nothing but love in his eyes. 'My Lord! You have come to protect me...I knew you would come...'

Looking at the face of Prahlad, Narasimha smiled, 'Yes son! For you I have come!...' Prahlad looked at his father's body and looked at Narasimha, 'Do not worry son! You do not know his story! He is my doorkeeper Vijaya. He was born here because of a curse. After three more births he will attain his place back in Vaikunta...Do not worry about him...'

Prahlad nodded his head, 'I want nothing more, my Lord!'

Narasimha shook his head, 'No son! You are meant to rule your people. You will come to Vaikunta after you have completed your work on earth as your people's ruler...'

Prahhlad nodded his head once more. Prahlad became the benevolent ruler of the Asuras, who prospered during his reign and gave up there old cruel ways.


Monday, January 9, 2012

How was the Ramayana written

Once upon a time, in a huge forest there lived a man called Ratnakar.
Ratnakar was very skilled with the use of bows, arrows and the sword. His father Sumali very often remarked that Ratnakar was the best weapon-wielder that he had ever seen.
The words of his father made Ratnakar very proud.
When Ratnakar grew up, he had a huge family to support.
Deciding to use his skills, Ratnakar became a highway robber. He would rob the innocent travelers passing through the forests.
Ratnakar robbed his victims of all their money and belongings. In case any of the travelers did not part with their belongings easily, Ratnakar did not even hesitate to kill his victims. Ratnakar cared nothing about killing innocent people. For him, it was just a means of earning his livelihood.
Once, when Ratnakar lay hidden on the top of a tree in the forest, waiting for a fresh victim, his keen eyes spotted an ascetic coming into the forest.
The ascetic was clad in a very simple manner. The ascetic's clothes were made of tree bark. But he did not seem to care. His hair was wild and matted but despite that a quiet wisdom was shining through the ascetic's eyes. He had mischievous and twinkling eyes as he was plucking the strings of the tamboora which was lying on his shoulders. He was humming a melodious soft song to go with the tune of the tamboora as he was walking through the forests.
Though it did not look like the ascetic had any valuables, Ratnakar had decided to rob the man. Ratnakar's keen eyes realized that the tamboora was out of place in the entire scene. The thief could not understand why any man would come to a jungle with a musical instrument – which gave the thief an obvious answer – the man was actually very rich and that he had hidden his valuables inside the tamboora and was pretending to be a poor ascetic.
Ratnakar leapt down from the tree and with practised ease he landed on his feet in the rough forest ground.
He saw with satisfaction as the ascetic was momentarily startled with his sudden appearance.
Ratnakar slowly pulled out his knife and pointed it at the ascetic.
However, on seeing the knife, the ascetic recovered. A few seconds later, the ascetic was amused as he looked at the knife in the thief's hands.
"What do you want, son?" The ascetic asked. The ascetic's voice was soft but it was laced with mischievousness.
Ratnakar bristled with anger on hearing the ascetic. The ascetic was not even getting afraid of him whereas all the nearby kingdoms quaked with fear when they heard his name.
"Give me all your belongings, old man." Ratnakar said as he was carelessly waving his knife. "And I mean everything. " He said threateningly. "If you try to act smart," Ratnakar looked at his knife menacingly. "I will kill you."
Ratnakar got irritated when he saw that the ascetic burst out laughing when the ascetic heard him.
"Belongings? Do I look like someone who has any belongings?" The ascetic pointed at his tamboora. "I have this tamboora. You can keep it, if you want it." The ascetic removed the tamboora off his shoulder and nodded at the thief.
For the first time since the encounter, Ratnakar felt uneasy.
Why was the man not getting afraid? He did not mind handing over the tamboora. Was he a royal guard in disguise?
Ratnakar felt slightly angry at himself for not thinking about this earlier. He caught hold of the ascetic roughly by the arm and using the ascetic as a shield, the thief looked keenly around the forest and he was trying to see whether anyone else had come with the man.
He saw no one and then turned to the ascetic.
"Have you come alone?" He harshly asked the ascetic. "Is there anyone else with you?"
The ascetic smiled and shook his head. "I always go everywhere alone. I have Lord Narayana to help me in case of need"
Ratnakar got angry at the man's words.
"Who are you?" He asked clutching his knife dangerously at the ascetic's throat.
The ascetic laughed. "Narayana! Narayana! I am Narada. I am Brahma's son."
Ratnakar was momentarily shaken.
Brahma's son. Narada. The Narada who roamed about the earth and carried messages from all over, to the Devas. That Narada?
It seemed impossible.
If I let him escape, the man may go and tell others where to find me. Why... he may even warn the royal guards. It was too dangerous to let the man live.
Ratnakar pressed his knife more closely at Narada's throat. "I do not believe you. I think you are just an ordinary man and I am going to kill you! Otherwise you would go and tell others where to find me."
Narada seemed to be amused as he looked at the thief. "Ratnakar, you do know that what you are doing is a sin, don't you?"
Ratnakar gave a uneasy laugh when he heard the sage's words. "So? Who cares? I do what I have to do, to feed my family. If I do not rob people, my family will starve. There is no sin in this."
Narada looked at him quietly. "Fine, if you feel so! Can I ask you one small question before you kill me?"
Ratnakar brandished his knife and stepped closer to Narada. "What do you want to know?"
Narada was calm. "You said you were doing all this for your family. Will you just go and ask your family whether they are willing to share your sins?"
Something about the way Narada said it made Ratnakar think.
I do everything for my family. If my actions amount to a sin, then my family should be willing to share my sins.
He suddenly felt that he had to know the answer to that question before he killed the ascetic.
"I am going to tie you up here, least you get any ideas of escaping. I am going to meet my family and come back and then I will kill you."
Narada did not say anything but he nodded his head.
It had started.
Ratnakar angrily tied Narada around a tree and checked whether the bonds binding the sage were strong. He saw that the ascetic was sitting with his eyes closed and there was not a trace of fear in the ascetic's face. This made Ratnakar even more angry. He stomped his foot and walked back home.
As he neared home, he saw his father outside the house and the old man was relaxing in the shade of the trees.
"Son, you are back. What did you get today?" Sumali asked.
"Father, I have a question to ask you." Ratnakar said without any preamble as he seriously looked into his father's face.
His father looked at Ratnakar warily and motioned the thief with his hand to ask the question. The father had instinctively felt that something was different with his son, which explained why he had come back home without any loot and with such an expression
"Father, I am a thief. I rob and sometimes kill people."
His father winced when he heard this.
Ratnakar continued. "I have committed many acts to make sure you and the rest of our family are all fed and clothed. I want to know.... whether... whether...” Ratnakar took a deep breath. “If my activities are considered as sins, then would you share the burdens of my sins?" Ratnakar was looking at Sumali steadily.
Sumali was furious when he heard his son's words. "Share your sins with you?" Sumali asked as if Ratnakar had said something in another language. "Why should I? It is your duty to take care of your parents when they are old. You are not doing anything special by looking after me. Taking care of your parents is your duty. How you do that is your choice. Why should I share your sins, for doing your duty?"
Ratnakar felt like he had been slapped, when he heard this.
But he was not in a mood to convince his father into seeing his point of view. He was very angry as it is.
Ratnakar doggedly went to his wife and repeated the question.
Ratnakar felt doomed when his wife also refused to share his sins. She also gave him the same reason - it was the duty of the husband to provide for his family and that he had done nothing special by looking after them and so she did not feel the need to share his sins.
Slowly he asked everyone in his family.
No one in the family felt that they had to share his sins.
Ratnakar slowly realised one thing - all his mistakes, his troubles. they were his own doing and nobody felt like they had to share it with him.
Like a man in pain, Ratnakar went back to where he had tied Narada.
Narada was sitting there with his eyes closed, praying.
When Ratnakar came near, Narada opened his eyes and saw him.
Narada did not say anything and just looked at Ratnakar.
Ratnakar slowly untied the sage and he was speaking to himself. "No one was willing. Everybody said it was my sin and I alone was responsible. Me, all alone."
Ratnakar shuddered as he cut the last rope tying Narada.
When Narada had got on his feet, Ratnakar looked at Narada steadily and suddenly fell at Narada's feet and sobbed out aloud.
"I am a sinner. I have committed many bad... bad...." Ratnakar sobbed unable to go on as the images of all the people he had hurt, came before him.
Narada gently picked up Ratnakar by his shoulders.
"Ratnakar!" Narada said leading the thief to a clearing in the jungle. "Please listen to me. Once you start repenting for your sins, there is always a way. "
Ratnakar looked at Narada with desperate eyes. "You mean I can make all this go away?"
Narada nodded. "Sit here." He said pointing at the forest floor.
Without any question Ratnakar sat on the ground.
"There is a great man called Rama." Narada said softly. "Rama is a Deva among men. Close your eyes and keep chanting his name. It will wipe away all your sins."
Ratnakar nodded his head desperately. He asked Narada with wild eyes. "For how long.. should I... do that?"
Narada smiled. "Till I come to get you Ratnakar. "
Ratnakar nodded and sat down and started his chanting.
Narada looked at Ratnakar and smiled.
His work here was completed and Narada vanished from there.
Days and nights passed, months came and years went. Yet Ratnakar never moved from the spot. He just sat there chanting the name of Rama.
Ants from the forest came and built an anthill around him. However Ratnakar never knew about it – he was so caught up in his chanting.
Years passed.
Suddenly Ratnakar felt something inside him change. He knew that he had committed bad acts and he also knew that he was forgiven for it. He now had a clean slate.
He had attained the supreme state of a great sage - one who is at peace with himself.
It was at this time that Narada came and broke the anthill.
Narada looked at the now peaceful Ratnakar with proud eyes. "Open your eyes, Ratnakar."
When Ratnakar opened his eyes, Narada looked at him and smiled. "Your past will no longer trouble you. You are born new today. You will be called as Valmiki [one who has come from an anthill] henceforth. Go and lead your life to the full. "
Valmiki got up and fell at the feet of Sage Narada and thanked him.
Then Valmiki asked him the one question that he had wanted to ask all these years.
"Sage Narada, who is this Rama. Please tell me about him?"
Narada smiled and gave a brief outline of Rama's story.
After this Narada left for his home.
Valmiki fell asleep that night and woke up the next morning. As he was going to take bath in the river, he saw two birds – a male and a female happily dancing and singing in the branch of the trees of the forest.
Valmiki smiled when he saw it.
It was at that minute that a hunter killed the male bird with his arrow. The female bird screeched wildly. Valmiki saw all this and without his own knowledge uttered the first 'sloka" [hymn] at the sight of the wailing female bird.
These slokas were the first poetry in Sanskrit.
Valmiki went on to write the epic of Ramayana – the story of Rama – based on the outline given by Sage Narada.
As he is the first poet in Sanskrit, Valmiki is also called as Adikavi, the first Poet.