Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bheema and the Saugandhika flower - Part 1 of 2

After Yudhishtar had lost the game of dice, the five Pandavas and their wife Draupadi were exiled from their kingdom for twelve years by the Kauravas. Krishna understood that the Kauravas would never give the Pandavas their kingdom and that a war was coming....

Krishna asked Arjuna to go to Kailash and worship Lord Shiva and get divine weapons from him. Arjuna agreed and left for Kailash. The other four brothers along with Draupadi traveled from one forest to another during the time of their exile.

They once came to the forest of Narayanashram...It was the most beautiful forest and the majestic Ganga flowing across the forest brightened the moods of the Pandavas considerably.

Bheema, the second Pandava, was the son of the Vayu, the Wind God. Bheema was exceptionally strong and powerful and he was proud of his strength. Bheema loved Draupadi very much and during the period of exile he tried to satisfy every single whim and wish she had....

Draupadi also loved the forest of Narayashram. She would daily go the Ganga and offer her prayers to Surya, the Sun God. Feeling at peace she would come back to her hut in the forest...

Once after Draupadi finished her praying, she was about to go home, when a delightful aroma spread through the forest. As a gentle breeze was blowing towards her, Draupadi saw a flower drop before her. The aroma was so enchanting that Draupadi actually felt giddy for a few seconds. Slowly pulling herself together, she picked up the beautiful flower in her hands. It was soft and the flower was shining beautifully in a slight golden colour. Mesmerised she carried the flower back her home.

She showed the flower to Bheema, 'Bheema! Bheema! Look at this...' She said handing over the flower to Bheema. The entire hut was lit up by the shine of the flower and the aroma from the flower surrounded the ashrama...Bheema looked wonderingly at the flower, 'What is it?' Draupadi shook her head mutely not able to talk. 'I was coming back home, when the wind was blowing from the north-eastern direction and the flower fell near me...Isn't it beautiful?' She whispered looking at the flower in awe.
Bheema laughed looking at the child-like face of Draupadi, 'If you like them so much I will get you some more flowers like this...'

Draupadi looked at Bheema eagerly, 'Can you get them...That would be great!'

Bheema looked at Draupadi in the eye, 'I will be back with plenty more such flowers for you my dear!' And off he went...A mace in his hand, Bheema started off towards the north-eastern direction. He walked and walked and walked, along the Ganga...

As Bheema was walking, he saw a beautiful garden before him. The word 'Beautiful' hardly did justice to the garden...It was enchanting. As Bheema neared the garden, a slight breeze picked up and Bheema could smell the flowers though he was very far away. The fragrance of one flower was strong...A hundred of them together felt like heaven to Bheema.....

Happily Bheema realized that this was the garden where the flowers which he was searching for grew....He would now go and pluck as many as he wanted and take them back to Draupadi. She would be so thrilled on seeing them...

Bheema was about to walk when he saw a tough rope on the ground...Puzzled he looked on both sides and on his right saw an old...very old monkey....The monkey was resting under the shade of the tree....It was the monkey's tail which he had first thought was a rope...Shaking his head and muttering to himself, Bheema went to the monkey. 'Hey! Shoo!' He said waving his hands at the monkey.

The monkey was sleeping with his eyes closed and did not seem to hear him. Bheema yelled, ' SHOO!' The monkey opened his eyes and looked at Bheema and spoke, 'Are you talking to me?'

Bheema huffed up angrily, 'YOU ARE BLOCKING MY PATH!' Bheema thought that the monkey was old and deaf and yelled on top of his voice. The monkey said softly, 'I can't hear you! Can't you speak in a lesser tone, so that I can understand!'

Bheema muttered to himself angrily and said, 'Get out of my way!'

The monkey looked at Bheema, 'I was not in your way! What are you talking about?'

Bheema impatiently pointed at the monkey's tail, 'Get your tail out of my way!'

The old monkey looked at the tail and nodded to himself, 'Oh! Ok. Before I do that, tell me who you are? What are you doing here, young man?' The old monkey asked pointing around him, 'This is a dangerous place for humans...'

Bheema laughed aloud, 'You old monkey! What can possibly be dangerous for me? Do you even know who I am? I am, Bheema, the Pandava! I am the son of the Wind God and I am powerful enough to squash you like a bug!' Bheema said arrogantly.

'Son of Vayu?' The monkey said looking slightly impressed. Bheema thought that the monkey had ignored everything else he had said...

'I am Vayuputra!' Bheema said proudly, 'And that makes me the younger brother of Hanuman, the greatest Vanara in the world, you silly monkey! Hanuman is someone who is above all of you!'

'Hanuman? Who is that?' The old monkey asked looking suspiciously at Bheema. That did it. Bheema bristled with anger. 'You silly monkey! How dare you not know about Hanuman! He was the greatest devotee of Lord Rama and he was one of the most important reasons Lord Rama won the war against Ravana! And do you know how powerful he is...He can lift a whole mountain on his shoulders....And he is a perfect master of his own mind....He is one of the few people in the world who are eternal....we worship him as our God...and you don't know him?...' Bheema shook his head in anger, 'Silly monkey!'

The old man feebly shook his head, 'Old age! I don't remember much!'

Useless old monkey! Bheema thought to himself. Irritated he said to the monkey, 'Now move out of the way! I have to go!'

'You did not answer the second question I asked.' The monkey said tiredly. 'What are you doing here?'

Bheema was fed up. He was not used to answering foolish questions from anybody...Frustrated he shouted, 'Why should I tell you anything?'

The old monkey sighed, 'Son! I know you are irritated with me...The least you can do when you are talking to someone older than you is to be polite to them...'

Bheema wanted to punch the monkey...but he knew that would not be right. With great difficulty he controlled himself. 'I want to get some flowers for my wife....I can smell them from here....I was going to go inside the garden, when you stopped me, with your long tail....' Bheema said through gritted teeth.

The monkey looked at Bheema weirdly, 'Seriously, what is preventing you from jumping over my tail and just go your own way?'

Bheem was finally exasperated. 'You silly monkey!...Don't you know anything!....You should not jump over someone who is older than you....Unless you can leap over them like Hanuman...'

The old monkey shrugged, 'Yeah...I know it...You are not Hanuman!' The monkey let out a deep breath. 'OK Look...I am tired...Really tired! And I am also very old... You said you are very strong and all that...Just lift my tail and put it to one side and go your way...Problem solved! You are not going to eat my head yelling at me and I will not block your path!'

Bheema roared with laughter, 'You think I need my strength to pull your tail...God! You are so dumb...I will just push your tail away...I was just being polite to you, thinking you would move out of my way....' Bheema rolled up his mace and went towards the tail. 'Just see what I do now, monkey!'

The monkey shrugged unconcerned and went back to sleep.

Bheema angrily slipped his mace under the tail of the monkey and carelessly lifted it....or atleast tried lifting it.... Bheea was shocked when he felt the mace strain! He looked down and looked that the tail was lying slightly on top of the mace and it felt to him like the mace was struck under it...Bheema looked in bewilderment at the mace and looked furtively at the monkey, who looked as if he was sleeping...

Bheema kept the mace on a tree nearby and with his hands tried lifting the tail. Bheema grunted, heaved and pushed and for all his efforts the tail did not even move one inch! Bheema tried and tried and was exhausted....He could not believe that he could not lift the tail of an old monkey.

Bheema staggered and fell down. He was sweating and breathing hard...and the tail looked exactly where it had been....Bheema staggered to his feet and walked slowly towards the old monkey. He sat down near it and asked in awe, 'Who are you?'

The monkey opened its eyes and looked at Bheema with amused eyes, 'Just an old monkey, nothing more!'

Bheema looked unhappily at the monkey and shook his head, 'Look I am sorry for everything I said...I behaved arrogantly and foolishly...' Bheema took a deep breath, 'Please forgive me and tell me who you are?'

The old monkey grinned, 'I am someone like you....'

Bheema blinked as everything suddenly became clear to him, 'Oh my God! You....Hanuman! Oh my God!' Bheema slapped his forehead, 'I thought of fighting with you...I am so foolish..How could I not know?' Bheema held his head in his hands and shook his head.

Hanuman clasped his brother's shoulders and smilingly shook his head, 'It is ok, little brother, you did it out of ignorance...I do not hold any grudge against you....'

Bheema looked at Hanuman with tears in his eyes, 'I am sorry! I am so sorry!' Hanuman realized that Bheema was genuinely sorry for what he had done and quickly forgave him.

Bheema fell at Hanuman's feet and begged for forgiveness.

Hanuman lifted his brother and told him, 'I came here to warn you, little brother!' He said lovingly ruffling Bheema's hair.

Bheema looked at Hanuman wondering what Hanuman would say, 'I know you have come here looking for the Saugandhika flower...It blooms in Kubera's garden...It is in that garden there....' Hanuman said pointing at a beautiful garden beyond. 'Be careful it is a dangerous is filled with yakshas and powerful beings...' Bheema nodded. Hanuman looked at him and smiled, 'But you are the most powerful man in the world...What should you be worried about?'

Bheema wryly shook his head, 'Nothing...other than old monkeys who are so tired that they cannot move their tails...'

Both the brothers laughed and hugged each other. As Bheema felt his brother's embrace, he felt a change come over him....He flexed his arms and looked at his brother...Bheema felt powerful...stronger than before. Hanuman proudly nodded his head.

'I will always be with you, my brother! Whenever you roar in battle, I will roar with you...The sound would be heard like thunder...' Bheema's eyes shone as Hanuman continued, 'I will also be in your brother Arjuna's flag...for your victory....' Bheema once again fell at Hanuman's feet.

Bheema listened in wonder as Hanuman told him stories of the Ramayana...Bheema was looking at his brother and opened his mouth to say something and closed it again shaking his head. Hanuman was quick to notice it. 'What is it, little brother?' Bheema hesitated. 'Go ahead...Tell me...' Hanuman encouraged him.

Bheema licked his lips, 'I...I just want to see your form when...when you leapt across the ocean to find Sita Devi in Lanka...'

Hanuman laughed. Before Bheema's very eyes, Hanuman grew...and grew and GREW! There was a dazzling light emanating from Hanuman that Bheema was finding it difficult to see...Hanuman was now so big that he looked bigger than the tallest mountain in the world...Bheema gazed in wonder. Suddenly Hanuman was back at his side...

Bheema was thrilled and again fell at Hanuman's feet. Hanuman blessed him and vanished from there....With his brother's blessings Bheema went into the forests in search of the Saugandhika flower....

-From the Mahabharatha

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bheema and the Saugandhika flower - Part 2 of 2

After saying goodbye to Hanuman, Bheema set out towards the garden. Bheema felt like as if he was in heaven...Even heaven would not smell so sweet...Bheema felt as he inhaled the beautiful Saugandhika flowers.

He was about to enter the garden, when he saw a big rakshasa standing outside the garden. Any other man would have quailed on seeing the ferocious monster...But not Bheema...With his eyes gleaming, Bheema tried getting inside the garden.

The rakshasa stopped him, 'STOP!' It growled, 'This garden belongs to Lord Kubera, the treasurer of the Devas...You cannot enter without his permission...'

Bheema looked contemptuously at the rakshasa, 'I am a warrior! I do what is right. I will not ask someone permission for doing what is right...'

The rakshasa roared once more, 'You puny human! Get out of here, before I actually thrown you out of here!'

Bheema let out a roar with delight. Unlike his brothers, Bheema did not shy away from any fights. The rakshasa fought with him. The rakshasa should have found it odd that a human was willing to fight him. Not thinking properly proved to be the end of the rakshasa. Bheema made short work of the rakshasa. Astonished on seeing this, the other rakshasas came forward and fought with Bheema...

Bheema was after all the son of the Wind God. It is said that soon after he was born Kunti, his mother had dropped him by mistake. She watched in horror as the baby fell on a big rock...She was in for a bigger surprise, when the rock shattered and the baby was lying on the rock as if nothing had happened! After meeting Hanuman, his brother, Bheema had become stronger than ever before. The army of the rakshasas were no match for him. Bheema just crushed through the army as if they were nothing...

The rakshasas afraid ran away to their general a yaksha by name Manimantha. Manimantha was huge and he was a yaksha. That meant he also had magic and brute force. Angered by what the rakshasas were telling him, Manimantha went to meet the ferocious human himself.

To Bheema it did not matter whether he was facing a yaksha or a rakshasa. The result was the same... Manimantha saw the outside of the garden with the dead rakshasas and the yakshas and angrily attacked Bheema.

The rakshasa army was watching with baited breath the fight between Manimantha and Bheema...

Meanwhile outside the ashrama, Draupadi was sitting anxiously waiting for Bheema to come. Yudhishtar saw her looking anxious, 'Draupadi! What is it? Why are you so anxious?'

Draupadi looked at Yudhishtar with a little fear, 'It is Bheema! I sent him to get some fragrant flowers...He has not yet come back....'

Yudhishtar laughed, 'Draupadi! I thought you knew Bheema better than that...Do you really think anything can happen to him...He is the strongest person in the world...No one can even remotely match him...' Yudhistar said with a sense of pride.

Draupadi nodded her head still looking worried, 'I know! I know! But it is just that I sent him a long time back. He should have come back by now!'

Yudhishtar smiled and shook his head, 'Fine! I will go looking for him...'

Sahadeva, Yushishtar's younger brother came as he listened to the whole conversation, 'Brother! I do not think we can go. Why don't you call Ghadothgaja? I am sure he can find Bheema is a matter of minutes...' [Ghadothgaja is a rakshasa and is son of Bheema and Hidimbi. He has the power to move through air and can do magic. Ghadothgaja had given his father and uncles the power that he would appear before them the minute they thought of him. Yudhishtar loved Ghadothgaja more than anyone else.]

Yudhishtar's eyes brightened as he closed his eyes and thought of Ghadothgaja. As soon as he had opened his eyes, he saw the lovable Ghadothgaja before him. Yudhishtar embraced him lovingly. Ghadothgaja fell at his feet, 'Uncle! You called me! What is the matter?'

Yudhishtar looked at Ghadothgaja, 'It is just that Draupadi is anxious about Bheema...' Yudhishtar told Ghadothgaja everything. Ghadothgaja closed his eyes trying to sense Bheema. Suddenly frowning he opened his eyes. Yudhistar was suddenly alarmed looking at Ghadothgaja's expression, 'What is it, son? Something wrong?'

Ghadothgaja nodded his head, 'Father is in the garden of Kubera! I cannot sense inside that garden...It looks like there has been a fight there...'

Draupadi paled, 'Take me there now, please Gadothgaja! I will plead with Kubera for my husband's life...It is because of me that my husband has gone there...' She said clutching Gatothgaja's hands tightly.

Yudhishtar shook his head, 'Draupadi! I still do not think, anything can happen to Bheema...' But Draupadi shook her head and said angrily, 'I want to go now!'

Yudhishtar sighed and turned to Ghadothgaja, 'Son! Can you take the two of us to Kubera's garden, please!' Gatothgaja nodded and within a matter of minutes they were outside Kubera's garden.

Yudhishtar and Draupadi looked around. Draupadi trembled as she saw the dead rakshasas. What if Bheema also...Draupadi shook her head vigorously. She must not think of that....She went inside the unguarded garden and found that Bheema was asleep in the middle of the garden, surrounded by the Saugandhika flowers!

Near him was lying a huge dead yaksha. Almost sobbing with happiness Draupadi shook Bheema awake. 'Bheema! Bheema!'

Bheema groggily woke up, 'Draupadi! What are you...?' He saw Yudhishtar and Ghatothgaja looking anxiously at him. He got up still unclear. 'I had a fight...a terrible fight and then the flowers were so overpowers...I fell asleep...' Yudhistar looked around. 'What happened?'

Bheema carelessly waved his hands, 'Oh! They tried stopping me from getting inside the garden...I guess they should not have done that...'

'WHO IS THAT HUMAN, WHO IS...' Startled all of them turned to see a royal Yaksha who looked decked in ornaments from head to toe. The yaksha was studying them and was particularly looking at Bheema. His soldiers were all behind him carrying heavy arms. The yaksha held up his hands. The soldiers looked at Bheema who had leapt before the others and was eyeing all of them ferociously and uncertainly put their weapons down.

'Who are you?' The yaksha asked.

'Yudhishtar bowed, 'My Lord! I am Kunti's son Yudhishtar...and this is...'

The yaksha looked at the others, 'Oh! You must be Draupadi and Bheema!' Everyone nodded. The yaksha smiled.

Yudhishtar looked around, 'My Lord! My brother recklessly fought with this man...' Yudhishtar said looking at the huge Yaksha lying dead. 'I am sorry my Lord! He acted without thinking....I think he is your general...' Yudhishtar said looking at the markings on the man.

The yaksha had a strange expression on his face. He slowly nodded. 'Yes! Your brother acted without thinking. He needs to be restrained...' Bheema looked angrily and ready to pounce. Yudhistar silenced him with a look. 'But you do not have to worry about that yaksha! He was cursed by Sage Agastya to die in the hands of a human...It just happened to be in the hands of your brother'

Yudhistar looked at the yaksha, 'Who are you sir?'

The yaksha smiled, 'I am Kubera, the treasurer of the Devas!' Yudhishtar and the others looked disbelievingly at each other. 'The yaksha you have killed is Manimantha.' Kubera nodded to himself as he looked at Bheema, 'You have put him out of curse! I am grateful to you for that....' He turned to his soldiers. 'Prepare for a feast! We are among friends...'

The other Pandavas also came to Kubera's palace. There they enjoyed the hospitality of Kubera. Finally the Pandavas realized that they would have to go and meet Arjuna, who was due to come back from Indra's court. Kubera pleased with the brothers sent a basket full of saugandhika flowers with Draupadi!

-From the Mahabharatha

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Krishna and Uttanga

After the great war of Mahabharatha was over, Lord Krishna was traveling back home. On his way back, he passed a barren desert. He waited there for the night. There in the barren desert he saw a Sage named Uttanga. Uttanga was a great devotee of Lord Krishna. He spent most of his time in meditation and did not know much about what happened in the outer world...

Uttanga saw Krishna camping the desert and was thrilled to meet him. Uttanga fell at Krishna's feet and worshiped Krishna. Krishna picked up Uttanga lovingly and embraced him. 'My friend! What are you doing here?' Krishna asked Uttanga. Uttanga smiled and shook his head. 'Just meditating, my Lord! The question is what are you doing here?'

Krishna thought for a few seconds and then spoke, 'A great war was just over! We just finished the Kurushektra war, my friend! I am now going back that my work there is done...'

Uttanga blinked...A war? Krishna could not stop a war? Uttanga fumbled, 'But my Lord! A war? A war would have caused so much bloodshed....Why would you even allow such a war to happen?

Krishna sadly nodded his head, 'This war was responsible for many people to lose their lives...But it was necessary...'

Uttanga said surprised 'You are saying that a war is necessary?' Uttanga looked disgusted as he continued, 'this war has created so much misery and loss…Did you do nothing to stop the war Krishna?’ Uttanga became more and more angry, as he spoke. In anger he pulled out the water from his Kamandalam and held it in his hands and said, ‘If that is true Krishna…then I am going to curse you…’

Krishna looked at Uttanga and smilingly shook his head. Gandhari’s [the mother of the Kauravas] curse already hung on his head. He had accepted that curse willingly….He did not need another person who did not understand him…He had to make Uttanga understand, ‘Uttanga! I did everything in my power to stop the war…I went and pleaded with Duryodhana [the eldest Kaurava] to make peace with Pandavas…I said that he did not even have to give back the Pandavas the whole of the kingdom that they had lost….I was even ready to accept five villages - one each for each of the five Pandavas...’

Uttanga looked surprised as Krishna continued, ‘Yes! I actually pleaded with Duryodhana to give five villages, one for each of the five Pandavas…and do you know what Duryodhana said?’ Krishna said with pain filled eyes. Uttanga questioningly raised his eyebrows as Krishna continued, ‘Duryodhana said he would not give even the space to occupy a needle to the Pandavas…He said he was willing to fight for it…It was his….’

Uttanga felt a little silly with the water in his hands as Krishna continued, ‘Besides Uttanga, the Kauravas humiliated the Pandavas and Draupadi[the wife of the Pandavas]…Such cruelty could not be forgiven…And so...' Krishna said taking a deep breath, '...the war was fought…’

Uttanga dropped the water uselessly on the floor and looked at Krishna with tears in his eyes, ‘I am sorry I doubted you, Krishna…’ He looked down looking shamefaced, ‘I am sorry I was about to curse you for something you were not responsible…’

Krishna shook his head. He ordered his guards to prepare lunch for the sage. The sage enjoyed Krishna’s hospitality for some time. The next day, as Krishna left for his kingdom, Krishna spoke to Uttanga, ‘Uttanga! I know that when you heard my story yesterday you were about to curse transferred some energy to the water in your Kamadalam…It was wasted…Your powers were wasted…I wish to make up for it…Please ask for anything from me, I will grant you any boon you want…’

Uttanga shook his head, ‘I need nothing Krishna…I am an ascetic…I am devoted to you…I can see you whenever I want...What more could I want….’

Krishna smiled, ‘Please Uttanga! I insist! Please ask for a boon…’

Uttanga thought for some time. Krishna did not give his word normally to everyone…Krishna expected him to use the boon carefully…He looked at the place where his water had spilt and suddenly smiled, He looked at Krishna, ‘Krishna! I lost some water on that day right? So that is what I ask from you…Water…If I ever feel thirsty, you have to make sure that my thirst is quenched….’

Krishna smiled and blessed Uttanga. Krishna started his journey to Dwaraka.

In the desert Uttanga sat meditating on the Dark Lord. Once as Uttanga had finished his meditation, he felt very thirsty. He looked around and saw no water. Krishna! He thought as he closed his eyes.

When Uttanga opened his eyes, standing before him was a hunter with his dogs, dressed in rags looking dirty and filthy. The hunter was panting as if he had run a long way. The hunter took out the water from a pouch in his belt and took a sip. The hunter looked at Uttanga and said, ‘Sir! You look like you are thirsty….Want some water?’ The hunter said gruffly handing over the dirty pouch to Uttanga. Uttanga wrinkled his nose. The stench coming from the man was unbearable…The water that the man was drinking was probably dirty. Uttanga stepped back and shook his head, ‘I don’t want anything…Go away from me…’

The hunter looked amused, ‘Sir! You actually look thirsty…I saw you lick your lips, when I was drinking water…I filled the water from a river near my house…It is very clear and pure…’

Uttanga wanted to just get away from the dirty man and his dogs, who were sniffing him, ‘Go away now!’ He said angrily and slightly nervous looking at the dogs.

The hunter tried again, ‘Sir! You won’t find a lot of water here…' The hunter said pointing at the desert around him, '...Please sir…take some water…’

Uttanga looked angrily at the hunter and said, ‘I would rather die thirsty then to drink water from a dirty man like you…go away!’

The hunter gave a sad smile and went away from there...Uttanga was angry and still walking with no water…Krishna, your broke your promise…How dare you…

Standing before Uttanga with a very sad smile was the Dark Lord, who suddenly appeared before him. Uttanga angrily looked at Krishna ‘Is this a way to repay a boon…I thought you said I would get water, whenever I was thirsty…My thirst is almost killing me…and what?’ Uttanga said angrily waving his hands, ‘No water?’ He said looking scornfully at Krishna.

Krishna did not say anything while Uttanga was ranting. Finally Uttanga looked exhausted then Krishna spoke quietly, ‘You are right, Uttanga…I did not give you water…I was going to give you nectar of immortality…amrita of the Gods….’

Uttanga looked stunned as Krishna continued, ‘Indra, the God of the Devas has the nectar of immortality with him…I asked him to give that to you…' Uttanga looked stunned as Krishna sadly continued speaking, 'Indra agreed to give you the amrita, but he imposed a condition. Indra said that it was after all Amrita ...only a person who truly deserved it should be given it....Indra said that he would first test you and if you passed the test, he would give the amrita to you...'

Krishna pointed at the direction of the hunter, ‘The hunter was actually Indra…He had amrita in his pouch…He wanted to see whether you saw the Brahman [the Force which runs within us all…] in all the people…’ Krishna sadly shook his head, ‘You could not see that all people are equal, Uttanga…’ Uttanga looked too shamefaced and bowed down, his thirst forgotten, ‘Despite all your meditation and prayers, you still do not realize that everything is one and the same and all are equal…I am sorry Uttanga…’ The Dark Lord said turning away, ‘You still have a lot of learn about Love and the Brahman…’

The Dark Lord handed some plain water to Uttanga who was now not in a mood to drink it. Uttanga just went away and promised to himself that he would become a better person and try to see everyone equally no matter who they are…

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ravana and Vali

Ravana the Villain of the Ramyana was the son of a great sage Vishravas and the Daitya princess Kaikesi.

Do you know the story when Ravana, the King of Lanka first met the Vanara king Vali?

Kubera, the treasurer of the Gods was the King of Lanka. However Ravana, his step brother grabbed the Kingdom of Lanka from Kubera. But Ravana was an excellent king. He looked after the kingdom well and the kingdom prospered beyond anyone's imagination. It was said that even the poorest families in Lanka had vessels made of gold and there was absolutely no poverty or hunger in the entire kingdom.

Ravana had done a very powerful penance and got a boon from Lord Brahma. It was because of the boon that Ravana had amrita stored in his stomach. It was because of this Ravana became almost immortal.

Ravana, was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva. It is said that he worshiped Lord Shiva with such devotion that Lord Shiva being very pleased with him granted him of being more powerful than all the Devas, ganas and yakshas. In his arrogance, Ravana did not ask Lord Shiva to become more powerful than humans or [to his embarrassment] from vanaras....[It was for this reason that Lord Vishnu incarnated as Rama a human to destroy him...]

After getting this boon from Lord Shiva, Ravana eyed the heavens. He along with his son Meghanad defeated and routed the Devas. Meghanad tied Indra and dragged him on his chariot. Meghanad brought Indra to his kingdom in Lanka and there tied him up in the court. All of Ravana’s courtiers came there and made fun of Indra. Indra was desperate and prayed to all the Gods to come to his help.

Lord Vishnu heard the prayers and he asked Lord Brahma to go and help Indra.

Lord Brahma then set out to Lanka and spoke with Ravana, 'Ravana! I hear that you have captured Indra, the King of the Devas...'

Ravana nodded his head arrogantly as Lord Brahma continued, 'Ravana! I have come to ask you to please release Indra....' Ravana frowned as Brahma continued, 'You have defeated Indra, what more do you need? I do not think you need to humiliate him any further...Just let him go...' Ravana was in a dilemma as Lord Brahma spoke again, 'You know that you are more powerful than any Deva...You have nothing to fear from Indra...Please let him go...'

Ravana was thinking. Lord Brahma was one of the Gods who had almost made him invincible...The least I can do for him is to let Indra go...Besides I have nothing to lose by letting Indra go...It is not that Indra can go away and start a war against me...But still...Ravana finally nodded his head and looked at Lord Brahma and bowed to him. 'I will do as you say my Lord!'

Ravana went to the court and looking at Indra contemptuously as he cut off Indra's knots and shrugged at him. 'You are free to go, you pathetic Deva! You are lucky you have so many friends to talk for you...'

Indra wanted to punch Ravana, but he knew that he could not do that. Quietly flexing his arms, he just slunk away from there...

Sometime later, Sage Narada came to talk to Ravana. 'Lord Ravana!' He bowed to Ravana. Ravana's heart swelled with pride. The heavenly sage was bowing to me,,,Ravana nodded his head as Sage Narada continued, 'I heard how you captured Indra...The King of the Devas...As soon as I heard this I came to see you...I would have come sooner...'

Ravana frowned, 'What delayed you, Sage Narada?'

Sage Narada smiled quietly, 'I was delayed by a vanara...' He said rolling his eyes in amusement. Ravana was actually stunned..A vanara...a vanara...He looked at Sage Narada, 'What do you mean?'

'A Vanara stopped me...I met a Vanara called Vali...' Sage Narada opened his eyes wide spreading his man, 'Imagine VAli does not even know you...He just held me up and was telling me about his adventures...he did not even care about you or even know about you....'

That did it. Ravana picked up his sword angrily, 'Sage Narada will you take me with me there, now?'

Sage Narada nodded his head innocently. 'Please come with me...'

Ravana was about to call his general to get his army ready. Sage Narada asked, 'What are you doing?'

Ravana said angrily, 'I am going to take my army and crush that Vanara...He will never open his mouth again...'

Sage Narada looked slightly astonished, 'Army? You are going to attack a Vanara with an army? Please..' Narada said as he slapped his head against his forehead, 'Attacking a Vanara with an army...even if you are successful you would be the laughing stock of the world...Imagine what everyone will say, Ravana with his army crushed a monkey...'

Ravana realized that it would sound a silly. He nodded, 'I will get ready...take me with you please...'

Sage Narada and Ravana set off to find Vali. As they were traveling in the Pushpaka vimana [Ravana's flying chariot], they were coming near a big mountain, when Sage Narada shouted. 'Stop! Stop! Ravana, this is the place...'

Ravana immediately landed the vimana and got down. He looked around and saw nothing except the huge mountain. He turned to Sage Narada, 'Where is Vali? Is he near the mountain...'

Sage Narada tried to keep an innocent face as he said, 'No Ravana! The mountain is Vali!

Ravana blinked...All thought process had left him...Vali was not just big...He was huge... Ravana actually shivered. But he could not exactly show before Narada that he was afraid...The sage would then go and tell everybody that he was scared of a Vanara...Ravana shook his head. He had to think something useful...

Swallowing Ravana neared the tail of Vali. The tail itself was so huge that it looked like a big rock. Ravana had a sudden idea. He could probably try pulling the Vanara by dragging it with the tail...Ravana went near the tail and tried lifting it up. However the tail moved....Then Ravana using ten of his hands, tried holding the tail, but the tail just kept moving and soon the tail wound itself around Ravana. Ravana tried moving around and found that he was totally tied up...literally..

Ravana was struggling to get out of Vali's tail and in the process got more entangled. He turned around to ask for Sage Narada's help and to his surprise found that Sage Narada was nowhere to be found...Typical...All talk and nothing else...

Ravana was trying to reach his sword to cut himself out, when he felt himself being heaved above. Frightened he held on tightly to the tail. He turned and saw that huge figure which he had seen sitting down was now standing...

Ravana stared at awe at the huge figure. Vali easily was taller than the tallest mountain around the area. Yet Ravana saw Vali bow to the Sun God with great humility.

'Hey!' Ravana yelled at Vali with all his might. Ravana's voice was so pathetically tiny and the Vanara was so huge that the voice did not even carry to Vali's ears. Ravana yelled some more trying to get the attention of the Vanara. Other than straining his vocal chords, there was no useful purpose served by his yelling....

Ravana was wondering what to do, when he saw something....What he saw scared the life out of him. Vali was a huge Vanara who could take giant leaps across great distances.. Vali now looked ready to jump from the place. Giving up all attempts to free himself from Vali's tail, Ravana held on tightly to the tail trying his level best to get the attention of Vali....

Vali jumped...Ravana blinked he was having a birds eye view of the whole world clinging on to Vali's tail hanging on for dear life....'No! NO! NO!' He yelled as he saw Vali take a dive into the waters of the river nearby.

Vali jumped in and stood inside the water offering prayers to the Lord. After finishing his prayers Vali jumped again, obviously dragging his tail with him and unknowingly a wet and thoroughly disgruntled Ravana with him. Vali had decided to go to all the pilgrimage spots in the world and worship the Lord from there. He went to each pilgrimage dived into the water and offered prayers and jumped up again to another place....

After a few hours, Vali returned to his own palace at Kishkinda. He was feeling happy...He had finished his pilgrimage successfully. He had wanted to do this for so long...He walked inside his palace nodding to his guards. His guards looked at the king and saw him strangely but did not say anything. Vali in his happiness missed the weird expressions on his guards eyes. It was only when he saw his young son that he came to know what he had done.

'Father! When did you come?' His son asked running and skipping towards him. Vali was about to open his mouth when his son looked at him strangely, 'Father! What do you have in your tail?'

'My tail? What do I have in my tail?' Vali for the first time turned around and then he saw a wet angry looking tiny man tied to the tail.

His sons started giggling, 'Father! You pulled this man with dragged him with you to all the pilgrimage places...the man looks so wet...The man was so pathetically tiny, you did not even know that he was attached to your tail...' The boy broke down laughing and turned and called out loudly. 'Hey! Everybody come here...Look what my father did on his pilgrimage.'

'Son! It was a mistake...I did not...' Vali tried telling his son as he pulled his tail near him pulling Ravana near him. However Vali's son had already run off telling everybody about what his father had done.

Vali was trying to undo the knots in his tail which bound Ravana. He was not much helped by the fact that Ravana was yelling at him and pushing him away. In the middle of this, Vali's son came back with everyone in the palace. 'Look! Look! Just see how tiny that man is! Father just dragged him along and never even knew....' Much to Ravana's embarrassment, the whole palace was laughing themselves silly looking at him, while Vali was trying to undo the bonds. Meanwhile finally after struggling a lot, Vali removed the last knot tying Ravana.

Everybody in the palace was laughing when Vali came up and turned to Ravana. 'I am sorry little man!' Ravana bristled. Little man...who does he think he is talking to...But then Ravana remembered the dips in the water and kept quiet. That was when he remembered about his boon to Lord Shiva. He had asked to become stronger than Devas, Yakshas and Ganas. He had never asked to be powerful than Vanaras...and here was a Vanara, who had just effortlessly dragged him all over the world, without even realizing it!

Ravana looked at Vali glad that he was free of knots. He tried to pull himself together trying to look proud and haughty. But it was not helped by the fact that the whole palace was laughing their head off...

Ravan raced away as far as possible from the Vanara and ran into his pushpaka vimana and jumped into it...a far wiser man than before....

-From the Ramayana

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vikramaditya and the apsaras

King Vikramaditya was one of the greatest Kings in the world. He was so great that Lord Indra, the King of the Devas himself very often sought for Vikramditya's advice on many matters.

One such story deals with how Vikramditya judged Urvashi and Rambha's dance performance to determine the winner. This story starts with Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra was originally a king – Kaushika. Kaushika due to a dispute with Sage Vasishta gave up his kingdom to become the most powerful sage ever. The meditation which was being performed by Kaushika was so powerful that Indra, the Lord of the Devas was himself worried. If Kaushika's meditation was successful he would become more powerful than Indra.

The beautiful apsaras were dancing in Indra's court. Usually their dances filled him with joy, but today he was too worried to even look at it. What if Kaushika is actually after my throne? He was a king after all, he may take over the world after he completes his meditation...Indra sighed as he saw the dancing women...Then Kaushika would be the one who will be sitting here and watching the apsaras dance and become the ruler of the three...Indra blinked...watching the apsaras dance....

He suddenly smiled and announced loudly at court, 'Apsaras! Please listen to me...' The apsaras Urvashi, Menaka, Rambha and Tillotama stopped dancing to look at their king. Indra had never interrupted them during dancing...What did Indra have in mind?

Indra looked at the beautiful women and said, 'I am going to organise a competition...I want to find out who among you is the most beautiful dancer...'

The apsaras looked weirdly at Indra. Why would Indra ask for such a weird competition...Could he not just enjoy the dance of each apsara? Indra continued, 'The best dancer would have to do a secret work for me....A work which requires the beauty and grace of the best of you...' The apsaras looked at each other and nodded. They bowed and went back to their homes...the competition was to be held the next day...

As they left Indra thought gleefully to himself. I will send the winner of the competition to entice Kaushika. Each one of the dancer is so beautiful...The Devas themselves cannot resist them...How can a mere human continue with his meditation when one of the best apsara is dancing before them?...Kaushika would watch the dance and stop his meditation...Then I have nothing to be afraid of...

The next day the dance competition started. Each one excelled herself during the dance, but Urvashi and Rambha were a class apart. The other two were thrown out of the competition, when competing with the two of them.

So in the final, Indra watched Urvashi and Rambha dance against each other....But try as he might Indra could just not figure out who among the two of them was a better dancer...Whatever one could do, the other could do...each was graceful and the dance was enchanting...

Indra was in a fix. He could not send both of them...he had to choose one of them....He called the two of them...'You are both too good...' Both Urvashi and Rambha flushed with pride as Indra continued, 'However there can be only one winner. I will decide the winner tomorrow....And there wont be just me...I will have a judge with me...He will help me choose...'

Urvashi and Rambha bowed and returned to their home. That very night Indra visited King Vikramaditya.

'Vikramaditya!' He said upon reaching the king's palace. Vikramaditya was thrilled on seeing the King of the Devas come to him. He called his servant. 'Prepare for a feast, my friend...'

Indra held up his hands, 'No friend! I have come here for a special reason and I want your help....'

Vikramaditya frowned, 'What problem would the King of the Devas have ….that you would come to see me so late at night?'

Indra smiled, 'I just want you to decide the winner of a dance competition...'

Vikramditya looked more suspicious. 'A dance competition? What for?'

Indra avoided the question, 'That is not important my friend...I need to know who among my apsaras are the best dancers....I cannot decide, so I want your help...'

Vikramaditya felt that there was a deeper reason for the actions of the King. But he could not just turn aside a man who had come to him for help. He nodded his head, 'I will be there my Lord!'

Indra happily returned to the heavens.

The next day morning as Vikramaditya was getting ready to visit Indra, he prayed to the Mother Goddess, 'Mother! I thank you for bestowing upon me riches and everything that anyone could want for...It is because of your blessings that Indra himself has invited me to help him...Please mother help me!'

Vikramditya opened his eyes, when he heard a distinct buzzing. He looked around and saw two honey bees. The temple where Vikramaditya was praying was near a garden. The two honey bees flew and sat on two flowers. Vikramaditya did not understand what it meant, but he anyway took the two flowers...The honey bees were just inside the flowers miraculously. With the two flowers he set off to Indra's kingdom.

Vikramaditya was seated with Indra, when the competition started. If the apsaras danced well they were off the charts. Today they were dancing like they had never danced in their life...

Vikramaditya was so thrilled that for a few minutes he had even forgotten that he was meant to find the better dancer. But as the dance progressed Vikramditya realized Indra's problem...Both Urvashi and Rambha were equally good....

Vikramaditya looked at the two dancers and then looked at the two flowers which he had brought. Suddenly everything made sense to him. He stood up and clapped his hands. The dancers stopped dancing as Vikramaditya spoke with awe in his hands, 'My God! You are marvellous, ladies!' He told the two apsaras. 'As a token of my appreciation, I would like to give you something...' He took the two flowers and handed one each to the dancers, 'Please accept them!' Both Urvashi and Rambha held the flower in their hands, 'Can you please continue your dances with the flowers in your hands?' Vikramaditya said looking innocently. The two apsaras shrugged and started dancing again.

But this time Indra and all the other Devas were stunned. Urvashi was still dancing her best...Rambha on the other hand, looked unhappy and could not dance well. She struggled and finally threw away the flower. Her hand swollen, she looked at the flower as a honey bee flew out of it!

Vikramaditya clapped his hands again as he watched Urvashi's dance, 'Devendra! There is your winner! A natural! Urvashi is the best among them all!' Urvashi stopped dancing looking curiously at Rambha and then at Vikramaditya. She then uncovered her flower and saw the honey bee still there!

Rambha angrily looked at Vikramaditya, 'What does this mean? Why did you do this?'

Vikramaditya looked at Rambha and said, 'I am sorry! I did not know how else I could find the better dancer among you...'

Indra looked at Vikramaditya, 'How were you able to find it out friend?' Rambha also looked more curious that angry. Urvashi thrilled on being the best dancer looked proudly at the entire court.

Vikramaditya smiled. 'Urvashi is a natural dancer. While dancing she did not hold the flower very tightly....She just held it firmly...Such was her grasp that the honey bee did not even know that some one had caught it. Rambha on the other hand, clutched the flower tightly. She unknowingly squeezed the flower. The honey bee thinking that it was in trouble stung her!'

Rambha knowingly nodded her head. She looked at Urvashi and bowed her head and then at Vikramditya. 'You are indeed a wise man, King Vikramaditya!'

Indra was pleased. He had found someone who could be sent to Kaushika. He turned to Vikramditya, 'King! You may not know it, but you have done a great service for me! In appreciation of this I will give you a throne...The throne was given to me by Lord Shiva himself! It is no ordinary throne. Only the greatest of the kings can sit on it. Any king who sits on the throne would rule for a thousand years. You have proved to me that you are more than deserving to sit on the throne! I will give the throne to you.'

Happy and thrilled Vikramaditya carried the throne back to his kingdom. The throne was grand and beautiful. It had thirty-two statues engraved on it. The statues looked beautiful and life like. However the story of the 32 statues is quite another one!

-From the Bhavishya Purana