Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Veda Vyasa's Shakuntala - Part 1 of 2

In Hindu mythology, the story of Shakuntala is quiet famous.

It is the story of how King Dushyanta falls in love with Shakuntala, who is a simple girl living with her father, sage Kanva in a hermitage. King Dushyata visited the hermitage when sage Kanva was not there. 

The king smitten by Shakuntala's beauty marries her then and there without waiting for the sage to come back. Immediately afterwards news comes to the king that he is wanted at the kingdom immediately.

King Dushyanta gives her his ring while leaving. He promises her that he would come back and take her to the kingdom in a manner befitting a queen.

After the king leaves Shakuntala keeps thinking about King Dushyanta all the time. It was at this time that Sage Durvasa comes there. Caught up her thoughts she fails to look after the sage. The sage curses her that the person she was thinking about would forget her.

However at the request of Shakuntala's friends, sage Durvasa modifies the curse saying that the person would remember her if she shows him any insignia of his, which was with her.

Days pass into years, the king because of the curse forgets all about Shakuntala. Shakuntala gives birth to a son Sarvadhama.

Realizing that Dushyanta is not coming for her, Shakuntala goes to see King Dushyanta carrying the ring with her. But as she was taking a bath in the river, the ring falls into the river and is swallowed by a fish.

Later, when Shakuntala visited the KIngdom and stands before the king with her son, the king refuses to recognize her due to the curse. Shakuntala is broken hearted and starts crying.

It was at that time that a fisherman comes there with the ring, which he had found inside a fish. Looking at the ring, the king remembers everything.

Shakuntala and Dushyanta marry and live happily ever after. Their son is named as Bharatha and he is crowned the next king after Dushyanta....

However this is the version of Kalidasa's Shakuntala. But do you know that this story was written by Veda Vyasa in the Mahabharatha? That story is quiet different from Kalidasa's story. In fact there is no ring in the story.

Here is Veda Vyasa's story

Long ago there lived a king called Illila. He had many sons. When he became old, he crowned his eldest son Dushyanta as the king and retired to the forests.

When Dushyanta became the king, he first expanded the borders of the kingdom. He first brought all the neighbouring kingdoms under his control. Then Dushyanta ruled the entire kingdom. He was a very good king. He was kind, firm and just. It was said that during his rule, people never knew hunger. Thieves were totally abolished from his country....

One morning in court as Dushyanta was hearing about the affairs of his kingdom, a very haggard looking man rushed inside the king's court. His dress looked dirty and torn and the man was short of breath, with dark circles under his eyes. The man looked like he had not slept or eaten for a long time. The man saw the king and gasped. 'Your majesty! Your majesty! You have to help us...You have to help us or we are doomed!'

The guards of the king came near the man and looked at the king questioningly. What could have happened to this man....The guards had not seen any person in such a bad state for as long as they could remember....

The king signaled his guards to stand back. 'Who are you, my man? He asked the man sharply.

The man took a deep breath and looked at the king, 'Your majesty! The animals....our village....Our village is near a very big forest....The animals from the forest have entered the village and....' The man shuddered, 'They are wrecking havoc in our village....' The man wiped fresh tears from his eyes. 'If you do not come fast, I am afraid....I am afraid...' The man sobbed, 'There may be no one left in my village....'

The king looked straight at the man, 'Do not worry. I will take care of it....' Such was the confidence of the king that the man for a second felt his worries vanish. He felt instinctively that his village was safe...He nodded calmly. The king called one of his guards. 'Take this man and make sure he is well-fed and rested...' The guard nodded his head and led the man away from him. The man realizing that the king would take care of the problem, forgot his worries and went with the guard.

The king called his minister, 'I want to leave for the village now!' The minister was a man of small words and nodded his head. 'Prepare a small army to accompany me...The army should have archers and people who are good at fighting animals....' The minister nodded his head again. 'And handle all the matters here in the capital, while I am away...' The minister nodded his head for the third time.

The king left for his chambers to prepare himself.

As the king traveled through the capital in his chariot, his people stared at him in awe...

'Look at our king, he looks magnificent like Indra himself....'

'I don't think our king can ever be defeated in war....' The people whispered among themselves.

As the whispers reached the king, he smiled to himself as he raced out of the capital towards the other village, a small army following him....

As the king had planned he was near the village soon. There he heard the screams of people, the roars and trumpets of the animals....He swiftly gave the order to his army and dispatched them to different parts of the village....He took out his bow and arrow and aimed it straight..... 

Soon the threat to the village was no more....The king and his army chased the wild animals back to the forests...There the king and his army hunted the animals....

As the king strung his arrow and aimed it at the last of the few elephants...he stopped...Suddenly jumping before the elephant was one of the most beautiful deers he had ever seen....The king almost fumbled with the arrow. But by sheer practice, he pulled the arrow back instead of letting it go....

The deer also suddenly looking around seemed to realize the danger it was in and ran....It ran as fast as it could, away from it....far away from it....The king was however mesmerized by the beauty of the deer....He ordered his charioteer to go behind the deer. The king followed the deer and behind him came his army......

As the king raced behind the deer, soon they entered into another forest....a captivating forest....The king could not describe it, but he knew that the forest was different from the one he had just left or any other forest he had seen...It was serene, calm and infinitely more beautiful...The forest was mysteriously peaceful....

The king was still chasing the deer when he saw a majestic river flow through the forest. The sound of the river passing through the forest seemed to be melodic and in tune with everything else in the forest....The king forgot the deer and smiled as he looked around....The view around the river took his breath away. The king had never seen such a beautiful place....He felt tranquil, peaceful....

He now knew where he was....

The river was the Malini and near the river were beautiful small hermitages. The king smiled to himself and ordered for his army to stop, 'We will all wait here...No hunting in these parts!' He looked at his soldiers who were half looking surprised and half enjoying their surroundings. 'This is the hermitage of the great sage Kanva! That is the reason, the forests here look....' The king gestured with his hands all around them. The soldiers nodded. The king continued, 'The sage would not appreciate it, if a huge army entered his hermitage. But I have to go and pay respects to the sage! So I will go with our priest!' He looked at his soldiers who nodded as one. 'I will be back soon! We have to get back to the other forest! Though there is no danger to the villagers as of now, we still have to make sure that the villagers are safe from further harm!'

Leaving the army behind, the king and his priest entered the hermitage.

However as the king walked inside the main hermitage and was surprised. There was no one there. The priest and the king looked around. Still there was no sign of anyone in the main hermitage....

'Hello?' The king called out. The king turned as he heard a rustle of clothes behind him. He whirled around and when he turned....The king felt like as if the world stopped still....Standing before him was a girl wearing a simple ashrama's dress looking ravishing and charming.

The king did not know it but the girl herself was stunned on seeing the king. The king looked powerful and strong and his face shone out with the power he wielded....

The two of them looked at each other for long without realizing anything. Finally the girl seemed to shake herself out of her reverie. Before the king could ask her anything, the girl came towards him and properly welcomed him inside the hermitage.

Still a little stunned, the king sat down on the offered seat and looked at the girl, who looked as beautiful as the Goddess Lakshmi herself.....The king had the refreshments given to him by the girl and finally collected him, 'Who are you? I thought this was the hermitage of Sage Kanva! I never expected to find a girl like you here!' He took a deep breath and said again, 'Who are you?' He repeated again.

The girl looked at him and smiled, 'I am Shakuntala!' The king found the voice of the girl soft and melodious. 'I am the daughter of Sage Kanva!'

The king shook his head to himself. No way Sage Kanva could have a daughter. And if she was the daughter of Kanva, then the king could never marry her....He looked at the girl, 'Sage Kanva is a rishi! He has never married! Then how is it that...' The king looked at Shankuntala hoping she would explain.

Shakuntala smiled to herself, 'I am his adopted daughter! My real father is Kaushika.'

The king blinked, 'Kaushika? You mean the great King Kaushika, who performed severe penance and then went on to become Brahmarishi Vishwamitra! That Kaushika?' The king looked at Shakuntala a little stunned.

Shakuntala smiled to herself and nodded, 'Yes! When King Kaushika was performing the great penance, Indra sent one of his apsaras Menaka to break his penance. Menaka succeeded in breaking the penance....Kaushika married Menaka and I am their daughter!'

The king breathed a little freely. In those days it was custom, that a king could marry either another king's daughter or a warrior's daughter. If Shakuntala had been the daughter of a rishi, there was no way, he could marry her....But there was another worry bothering him now.

'How are you here?' The king asked pointing around the hermitage.

'Once when King Kaushika realized that this was a ploy by Indra, he...' Shakuntala shrugged, 'He left me in the care of Sage Kanva! My mother went back to the kingdom of Indra...That is the reason I was called Shakuntala! When my father left me, the 'Shakun' birds looked after me!'

The king smiled and asked her the question foremost in his mind now, 'I am Dushyanta! I am a king of the Paurava line! I am the son of Illila! Shakuntala, will you marry me? 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Veda Vyasa's Shakuntala - Part 2 of 2

Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala and said, 'Since I first saw you....I knew....I knew that you were the one...my queen!' The king looked at Shakuntala with love-filled eyes. 'Please accept my proposal....' The king saw that Shakuntala was not entirely convinced. He hurriedly continued, '...My whole kingdom is yours my queen! Please marry me!'

Shakuntala looked shy and troubled at the same time. She looked at the King and spoke, 'King Dushyanta, I am flattered that you feel that way about me, but please....could you wait for a some more time....My father, the great sage Kanva is on the way home. After he comes home, talk with him, after that I would happily marry you....please!'

Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala with a smile, 'You are obviously Sage Kanva's darling! The apple of his eye! Seriously you do not think he would object to anything that you have done by your own liking....' Dushyanta continued passionately, 'There is a form of marriage called as 'gandharva marriage'. Kings and warriors are allowed to perform this marriage....By this system, they are allowed to choose their own spouse....You may be brought up in a hermitage as the daughter of a sage, but you are the daughter of a great king....I think you can definitely get married by this method....Please say yes!'

Shakuntala looked troubled. She knew that what the king said made sense. But still she felt uncomfortable.....But the words of the king came back again....She looked at the king with her beautiful eyes and slowly nodded her head, 'King! What you say is true!...I think I can get married to you by the gandharva ritual....' The king looked at Shakuntala with happy eyes and was about to hug her when she held up her hands, 'Listen to me my king! If you marry me now, I will ask you a boon...I wish that the child born to us should be the monarch after you....Only if you agree to this, will I accept your marriage proposal!'

Shakuntala looked very firmly at the king. The king almost burst out laughing. 'Is that all my queen! I promise that the child born to us would rule after me! That is a warrior's promise and I will never go back on it....'

Shakuntala looked at Dushyanta and smiled. She turned to her friends. 'My friends! Go and find all the things necessary for performing a simple marriage ceremony...immediately! You will find everything in the ashrama!' Her friends nodded and they raced to find the things necessary for the marriage.

So there in the midst of the beautiful hermitage, by the flowing Malini, the king married Shakuntala........


King Dushyanta was now however a worried man. In the spur of the minute, he had married the daughter of a rishi. Adopted daughter thought she may be, she was still his daughter. He had married her without the permission of the sage. What would the sage say? He would be angry that he had done such a thing.... Dushyanta knew enough about sages and realized the power that sages wielded by the power of their penance. Greater men than him have been reduced to less that nothing because of the curse of the sages....King Dushyanta was now in a full scale panic. No! I must not be here, when the sage comes back....I have to get away from here....If I don't, the sage would curse me....

Thinking this, King Dushyanta went to Shakuntala. 'Shakuntala! I have to get back to the affairs of the kingdom! I had come to the neighbouring village because some wild animals had attacked it. It was during the chase that I came here, my queen!' Shakuntala looked at Dushyanta and waited for him to continue, 'To fulfill the duty to my people, I have to leave and go back to the village!'

Shakuntala looked a little perturbed when King Dushyanta spoke again, 'Don't worry, my queen!' Dushyanta fervently nodded his head to himself, 'I will come back and take you back to the kingdom, on a royal palanquin. You will come back to your home, like a queen! My people would see and accept you as their queen!'

Shakuntala looked at the king and slowly nodded her head, 'Go ahead King! I realize that you have many duties as a king! I will not stop you from that...Come back and take me to the kingdom...I will wait for you!'

King Dushyanta nodded his head and mounted on his chariot and drove off with his army. His mind in a turmoil....What would the sage do....

After Dushyanta had left, Shakuntala was worried. Now the full force of what she had done dawned on her. She had married a king, without her father's permission. What would her father say?

Sage Kanva came back to the hermitage after collecting the fruits from the forest. As he was walking, he remembered the youthful face of his daughter. She would come and embrace him and welcome him....Kanva was a rishi, but he still enjoyed the intelligence, youthfulness, curiosity and creativity of his daughter.

As Sage Kanva entered the hermitage, however today nothing happened....His daughter did not come running towards him....he looked around and saw that most of the work in the hermitage had not been done. Sage Kanva was surprised....His daughter had never lapsed in any of her duties so far. What had happened? He hurried inside the hermitage and saw his daughter seated on the mat not even looking up at him...

Finally when Shakuntala looked up at the sage, the sage saw a kaleidoscope of emotions in her eyes....Shyness, fear, love...Sage Kanva was surprised. He had never seen his daughter like this...

Shakuntala for her part was afraid to talk. She was afraid that she had disappointed her father...Mutely she took out some refreshments and listlessly offered it to her father. Her father looked at her kindly, ‘Shakuntala! What is wrong? Please tell me...’ Shakuntala’s hands shook as she burst out crying at the kind words of her father...She did not deserve to have such a good man as her father. He was being so nice to her and she had broken his trust...

Shakuntala laid her head on her father’s lap. He lovingly caressed Shakuntala’s head patiently waiting for Shakuntala to tell him. He could have of course used the powers of his meditation and sensed everything that had happened here. But he wanted the story out of Shakuntala. So he waited.

Between sobs, Shakuntala told him the whole story, ‘Father...father! King Dushyanta had come here, when you were away...’ Shakuntala fearfully looked at her feet afraid to meet Sage Kanva’s eyes, ‘...We... we were married by the gandharva ritual...!’

Shakuntala waited for her father to yell at her or start shouting at her. Whatever Shakuntala had expected her father to do it was not this...Sage Kanva laughed. He looked at her daughter’s tear stained face and laughed, ‘Why were you afraid of telling me this?’ The sage asked her genuinely surprised.

Shakuntala looked at her father bewildered and surprised, unable to understand, ‘You may be brought up in a hermitage, but you are a princess...a daughter of king and an apsara! You chose a good and just king as your husband! Why should I feel wrong about that? In fact it is for precisely this purpose that the ‘gandharva marriage’existed...And you have also made sure that all the ceremonies of the marriage were carried out...So no...! I am not angry at all. In fact I am very happy. You have chosen a good man for yourself. For this, I will grant you any boon you wish my child. Anything..’

Shakuntala broke out crying, feeling hilarious. Finally after all the turmoil in her heart had subsided she felt peaceful and looked at her father, ‘Father! If you wish me to ask a boon, then I ask you that you forgive my husband and accept him wholly...’

Sage Kanva laughed at the childish boon of Shakuntala but he realized that the boon would make Shakuntala stronger. ‘I promise you that I have no ill feeling towards your husband! I wish only good things for him and now that you are his queen, that will always be so..’


Soon Shakuntala had a son by name Sarvadhaman. When Sarvadhaman was born, it is said that the Gods rained flowers on the child. Lord Indra the king of the Devas himself came to see Shakuntala. Lord Indra looked at Sarvadhaman with pride and spoke to Shakuntala, ‘Your son is no ordinary mortal, Shakuntala! He is born to be an emperor!’ Shakuntala glowed with pride as Indra continued, ‘You are the mother of an emperor!’

Sarvadhaman grew up in the forest hermitage under the guidance of Sage Kanva. He thought of Sage Kanva as his father. Even as a child Sarvadhaman knew no fear. He would fight wild animals with his bare hands. It was said that Sarvadhaman would keep the mouth of a lion open with his own hands to count the number of teeth of the lion!

Sage Kanva taught the child Vedas and the scriptures. He even taught him the art of warfare and diplomacy. Sarvadhaman learnt all of this very easily, almost effortlessly...


But Dushyanta never came back. He had gone back to his kingdom and had never come back...It was as if he had forgotten all about Shakuntala...

But Sage Kanva was not blind to his daughter. He realized that Shakuntala was hurt and angry. The man she had loved and broken her heart...But Sage Kanva realized that the only way for Shakuntala to gain her rightful place was to send Shakuntala to Dushyanta.

He spoke to her, ‘Shakuntala! It is time for you to go to your husband!’ Shakuntala looked at Sage Kanva as if she had been electrocuted. She looked angrily at Sage Kanva. ‘I don’t want to go to him! Why should I? He does not even remember...’ Shakuntala choked down a sob unable to go on.

Sage Kanva looked at Shakuntala and looked at her steadily, ‘You love him! You will have to go to him! If not for yourself, then atleast go for your son! He is meant to be an emperor! He will properly be brought up there in the palace and learn the things that a king should learn!’

Shakuntala was fuming but deep down she realized that her father was asking her to go because that was what would make her happy….

The next day Sage Kanva spoke with Sarvadhaman when Shakuntala was nearby, ‘Both of you would be leaving for King Dushyanta’s kingdom. Your mother has to go back to her husband...You will have to accompany her..’

The little boy frowned, ‘If she wants to go, she can go...’ The boy said pointing at Shakuntala. ‘I am not leaving my home.’

Sage Kanva told him gently, ‘That will be your home from now on...’

The boy looked at him suspiciously, ‘You are sending me away because of my latest antics, isn’t it? If you do not like what I did to that tiger, I will not do it...’ The young boy said it so earnestly and Sage Kanva felt a tear in his eye. ‘I will not do anything you don’t like, but please don’t send me away...’

Sage Kanva looked at the young face and realized that life without his grandson and daughter would be very difficult. But then he knew what he had to do and he also knew that it had to be done. He looked at the little boy and said with amused eyes, ‘If you don’t like it there, you can come back here, anytime...’

The young boy’s face broke open into a beautiful smile, ‘Promise?’ He asked. The sage nodded his head happily.

With tears in his eyes, Sage Kanwa bid goodbye to his daughter and his grandson. He sent some people of his hermitage along with Shakuntala and Sarvadhaman, to properly present the story to King Dushyant...


As they reached the kingdom, the people looked at the coming group of people with wonder. A beautiful woman with sad eyes was clutching the hands of a majestic and brave boy surrounded by people from the ashrama. Who were these people? What did they want?

The people had never seen people from hermitages before. They pointed at them. Some jeered...some sneered...some talked...The only person who found all this exciting was Sarvadhaman. The other people accompanying Shakuntala were annoyed. They turned to Shakuntala, ‘Shakuntala! We will not come with you after this!’

Shakuntala looked frightened as she gripped their hands, ‘Why? Please...Please do not leave me here alone...Please...’

The hermitage people smiled. ‘Shakuntala! Your father is sure that you can handle whatever happens...We are also sure that you can handle anything...We have observed all the omens on the way. They are very good omens! Go ahead and talk to the king! But from here on, your journey is alone...’

Shakuntala looked at her friends and feeling a little scared tightly held the hands of Sarvadhaman. I am his mother and I have come here for him...She realized. It was at that minute that Shakuntala felt strong and powerful. She nodded to her friends who turned back from the capital streets.

Once her friends had left, Shakuntala clutched Sarvadhaman’s hands and led him towards the king’s court. As she walked the people gawked at her. Never before had the people seen such a beautiful woman...The boy who was with her looked majestic and brave...

She looks like Goddess Shree...’

I think she is not from earth...She must be an apsara...’

Look at the boy! He looks like he can rip apart a tiger with his own hands...’

Oh my God! This boy resembles our King Dushyanta! Who are these two people?...’

The people followed Shakuntala all the way to the King’s court. The whispers almost broke her resolve. Shakuntala wanted to turn and run away. Only the thought of Sarvadhaman kept her moving ahead.

She entered the court and from far saw Dushyanta sitting on the throne, proud and regal, like Lord Indra. Shakuntala also felt unhappy, her wounds opened suddenly...Why had this man forgotten all about her?

Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala and realizing that she had come to the court, with a boy, he said, ‘Who are you? What brings you here?’

Shakuntala felt like the words had pierced her. She spoke quietly to Sarvadhaman, ‘Son! Go and salute your father, the king!’

All the people in the court were dumbstruck. The woman was the wife of the King? How could that be? Dushyanta looked at Sarvadhaman who had saluted him.

Father? What lie is this? Who are you?’ Dushyanta said angrily staring at Shakuntala.

Shakuntala looked at Dushyanta, ‘King! I am Shakuntala, the daughter of Sage Vishwamitra and the apsara Menaka! I am the adopted daughter of Sage Kanva! You met me in my hermitage, when you were driving away wild animals from our neighbouring village! There you married me by gandharva ritual! This is the son we have! You promised me that the child born to us would be the monarch after you! I have come here to make sure you keep your promise...’ Shakuntala wanted to also say that ‘You promised to bring me to your kingdom in a manner befitting a queen!’ But she held her tongue.

Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala and said, ‘I married you? What lies are this? I don’t remember any such thing...You are making up stories...’

The people looked at Shakuntala, who stood in the centre of the court poised and perfect, her eyes smoldering. Every one of them was thinking...This woman does not seem like she is lying...Then what is happening here...Who is this woman...The people again pointed at her and started talking.

Shakuntala was past caring. She was not here to fight for her rights as the queen to this man. She was here to give Sarvadhaman his right to rule. She was here as a mother...

She looked at Dushyanta with angry eyes, ‘Lying is equal to killing...How can you even commit such a crime without blinking?...Don’t you feel ashamed of denying being the father of such a noble boy? Just look at him...How can you deny being his father or how can you deny being married to me?’

The court now stirred restlessly looking at Shakuntala, more and more convinced that she was speaking the truth. Shakuntala continued, ‘I came here to the great King Dushyanta from the line of the Puraravas, thinking you were just and truthful...I don’t care whether you deny our relationship or not...but remember this and remember this well! I have been a faithful wife to you and you alone for all these years! With my power...’ Shakuntala said looking around the court, ‘I can destroy this court and your kingdom and bring it down to nothing...’ The people looked fearfully at Dushyanta who himself looked a little pale. Shakuntala continued, ‘It is not like I have no home of my own! I will be welcomed back in Sage Kanva’s hermitage like a queen! And also know this, my son...’ Shakuntala said pointing at Sarvadhaman with pride, ‘...is destined to be a great emperor!’ Shakuntala’s eyes looked ready to shoot fire as she continued, ‘This was told to me none other than Lord Indra, himself! I will raise him to be an emperor either with or without your help!’

Everyone in the court looked a little shaken. None of them had any doubts in the words of the lady. Shakuntala clutched Sarvadhaman’s hands and turned back without even looking back. She had not even crossed the hall, when the entire court was filled with a heavenly voice, ‘Dushyanta! Shankuntala speaks the truth! As a Kuru king, it was your duty to speak the truth. Call your wife back and accept her! Sarvadhaman is destined to be the greatest Kuru King ever. He will be called as ‘Bharatha’ henceforth’ [In Sanskrit ‘Bhara’ means honour and ‘tha’ means guard.]. The anger of a righteous woman can destroy countries…Apologize to her and bring her back now, before it was too late!’

Dushyanta looked at the people and at Shakuntala and smiled. He went near her and held her hands, ‘My Queen! I am sorry, but there was no other way!’

Shakuntala and all the people of the court looked bewildered as the king continued, ‘This was the only way I could make sure that the people believed that we really were married and that Bharatha is my son and has rights to the throne after me!’ He held Shakuntala and took her and Sarvadhaman back to the throne, ‘Now people would never question the rule of Bharatha! I am sorry, my queen, if my words hurt you! I am very sorry indeed!’

Shakuntala realizing that it was all a ploy readily forgave her husband and lived as his queen…

True to the prophecy, Bharatha ruled the kingdom after Dushyanta. Bharatha was a brilliant ruler, kind and compassionate….He ruled almost the whole of India…that is the reason India is called as Bharat even now….
From the  Mahabharatha

Monday, October 1, 2012

The story of Dasamukha

Sage Bharadwaja, the son of Brihaspati, was one of the Seven Sages who was protected by Lord Vishnu when he incarnated as a fish during the Matsya Avatar.

The story of Dasamukha, however starts with the Sage Bharadwaja's daughter – Illavida. She was very beautiful and extremely intelligent.

With his daughter's permission, Sage Bharadwaja got his daughter Ilavida married to Sage Vishravas. Vishravas was the son of Sage Pulatsya. He was a learned scholar and was extremely powerful because of his penance.

The son born to Sage Vishravas and Illavida was Kubera. Kubera was extremely wealthy and became the treasurer of the Devas. In the island of Lanka, Kubera built a beautiful kingdom and ruled it.

At around this time there lived a Daitya King Sumali. He ruled the underworld with his wife Queen Tadaka Sumali and Tadaka had a beautiful daughter called Kaikesi.

Sumali was very unhappy. Time and again the Devas had been victorious against them. He had to do something to stop them....He spoke with his wife. 'Tadaka, we have to do something about this! The Devas keep winning against us! Physically we are as strong as them and we even have as good weapons as they do....'

Tadaka looked at her husband and answered, 'We lack the power of penance that the Devas have...I think if we get that power, we would be able to defeat them...'

Sumali looked at his wife, 'What are you saying? That I send my people to perform penance now? Do you know how long it will take to get the attention of the Gods and get a boon from them....By the time we get any boon it would be too late. No, I want something to be done about it now!' Sumali said firmly.

Tadaka smiled. 'Sumali! You have a daughter, who is of marriageable age.'

Sumali suddenly smiled as he understood what his wife was trying to tell him. He called Kaikesi to his room. ‘Kaikesi, As your mother has now pointed out, you are now a grown woman and are responsible for your own decisions. I think it is time you choose a good and powerful man as your husband! I wish that you would marry the most powerful man in the world…’

Kaikesi looked surprised at her father, ‘Father! You know so many kings, don’t you know anyone who is powerful?’

Kings!’ Sumali said contemptuously, ‘The so-called kings are not even as powerful as me…No!’ Sumali shook his head angrily, ‘You need someone else…Someone who is worthy of you…’

Kaikesi thought for sometime, ‘Father do you wish me to marry a sage, one who is powerful by his penance?’

Sumali nodded his head slowly, ‘I wish you to find a powerful sage and marry him…’

Kaikesi agreed to her father's request and immediately set about finding a powerful rishi....

She went all over the earth to search for a powerful sage. It was during the travels that Kaikesi met Sage Vishravas. The minute Kaikesi saw Vishravas, she knew….she knew that he was the man she was going to marry….The power of his penance was shining through him…Without paying attention to anything else, Kaikesi walked forward and bowed to the sage.

Great Rishi!’She said bowing to the sage. Vishravas looked at Kaikesi surprised as she continued talking. ‘The minute I saw you, I knew…I am sure that you are the perfect man for me, I wish...I wish...to talk to you sir!’

Vishravas held up his hands, ‘We will talk about his tomorrow…Today, it is not…’

But Kaikesi was impatient. ‘Sir! I will talk to my father! I will ask him to talk to you about our marriage. Please sir, say yes! Sir please!’ She said with pleading eyes.

Vishravas looked sternly at Kaikesi and said, ‘We will talk about this tomorrow! Go home NOW!’

Kaikesi realizing that Vishravas was angry now, left the place. She however talked to her father that very day and told him of her decision.

Sumali came and talked to Vishravas the next day. ‘Great sage! My daughter, Kaikesi saw you yesterday...’

Vishravas looked at Sumali annoyed, ‘So she was your daughter…I have been wanting to talk to you…Does your daughter not know any patience?’ Sumali was surprised as Vishravas continued, ‘The time she met me was an inauspicious time! I tried telling her again and again… But she just did not listen! What...’

Sumali bowed to the sage and said feeling a little unhappy at his daughter's impatience ‘Please forgive her! She is young!’

Vishravas looked at Sumali angrily, ‘Even if I were to marry your daughter, the children born out of the marriage, would always be inclined towards evil…All because she...she could not be patient for some time....’ Vishravas looked at Sumali, ‘Is that...Is that what you want?’

Sumali bowed to the sage, ‘Sir! I will take personal interest in my grandchildren! I will look after them and make sure they do not stray away from the path of righteousness…Please sir! My daughter loves you! Don’t say no to her!’

Finally after a lot of convincing, Vishravas agreed to marry Kaikesi. Born out of this marriage were three sons Dasamukha, Vibhishana and Kumbhakarna and a beautiful daughter called Meenakshi [Meenakshi in Sanskrit means the one with fish like eyes].

Vishravas noted that Dasamukha, the eldest son was phenomenally strong, extraordinarily intelligent and had an instant grasp for everything. The reason Vishravas's eldest son was called as ‘Dasamukha’ was because he had the strength and intelligence of ten people.

But Vishravas also noticed something else. Dasamukha had a fatal flaw – he was arrogant. Dasamukha also rarely showed any restraint. Whatever he wanted, he got it by hook or crook. Dasamukha was disrespectful to others and got into trouble often for taking things which belonged to others.

In order to help his son focus his energy on the better things, Vishravas taught his son the Vedhas and the other Scriptures. Vishravas also taught Dasamukha the ways of the warrior. Dasamukha was an exceptionally good warrior and learnt the art of warfare quickly. Vishravas even taught his son to play the veena. In time Dasamukha became an excellent veena player.

Unknown to Vishravas, however Dasamukha also had another visitor. His grandfather Sumali. Sumali noticed that his grandson Dasamukha was an exceptional warrior and was a natural leader. He decided to develop that skill and taught Dasamukha the ways of the Daityas…

He would speak to his grandson, ‘Dasamukha! You are now a strong and intelligent man! I do not think you are destined to be just a warrior! You are destined to be a great man! I wish you to be a king!’ Dasamukha liked it when he heard that. Sumali told him, ‘You have a step brother – Kubera! I have heard that Kubera rules over the Kingdom of Lanka. It is one of the most beautiful place in the world! I have heard that Kubera has so much money that he is the treasurer to the Devas themselves. Imagine how….’

Fueled by the desires that his grandfather had sowed, Dasamukha dreamt to be the ruler...But Dasamukha did not dream to be the ruler of only the Kingdom of Lanka. He wanted to rule over the entire world, heavens and the underworld....Dasamukha knew that he was now not prepared to launch his attack. He would have to wait and prepare himself. He would have to prepare himself the hard way...Win the favour of the Gods....

Dasamukha with his brothers set about to perform penance. He performed a very severe penance for many, many years.

Finally Lord Brahma appeared before him, ‘Son! Anything you want, I will give you! You have performed the most difficult penance, I have ever seen!’

Dasamukha was thrilled. He bowed to Lord Brahma, ‘Lord, Please make me immortal!’

Brahma sadly shook his head. ‘You have performed a penance strong enough for that…But I cannot give you that boon son! It is against the laws of nature!’

Dasamukha realized that Lord Brahma could not make him immortal but his penance was strong…Dasamukha smiled. ‘Then Lord, grant me another boon!’ He said without any hesitation. Lord Brahma nodded as Dasamukha continued, ‘I wish to have amrita stored in my body…The amrita of the Devas!... So that every time someone kills me, I will use it and come back to life’

Lord Brahma knew that Dasamukha’s penance warranted that he should be given the nectar. He agreed. After this Dasamukha had amrita stored in his stomach….

However Lord Brahma was not yet done, ‘Your penance was very powerful! You can ask for anything else too!’

Dasamukha looked at Lord Brahma with a sly smile, ‘Then in that case, my Lord, I wish to be more powerful than any Deva, Yaksha, Gana….’ Dasamukha gave a long list. However he particularly missed out adding humans to that list. He did not think any man or woman could stand up to him and live to tell the tale….

Lord Brahma granted him the boon and disappeared from there.

After obtaining the boon, Dasamukha now returned to his grandfather Sumali. Sumali saw Dasamukha's power and immediately gave up the command of his vast Daitya armies to his grandson. Dasamukha wanted to rule all the heavens and the earth, but he knew that perfect place to start – Lanka. Kubera was the treasurer of the Devas, that automatically meant that if Lanka was his, he would have unlimited amount of money. That would be of great help to mount his attack on the heavens and the rest of the earth.

With the Daitya army Dasamukha attacked Lanka. Kubera did not even have a chance. Powered by his boon, Dasamukha had become almost invincible. Besides he was a brilliant war strategist. He had Kubera bound and dragged before him in a matter of a few days.

As Dasamukha was about to decide on what to do with Kubera, he saw his father Sage Vishravas appear before him. Dasamukha looked at his father, who looked livid with rage, 'What is this? Why are you attacking your own brother? He is also a son of mine...'

Dasamukha looked at his father straight in the eye. 'I want Lanka. I deserve to be a king and I don't want just any kingdom...I want the best that there is....I want Lanka...'

Vishravas saw that his son was becoming totally addicted to the power he wielded. He knew that no matter how much he talked to his son, he was beyond reason. He went to Kubera, 'Son! Dasamukha cannot be defeated by you! You cannot stand up to him! Give up Lanka to him...' Kubera looked at his father in despair. Kubera loved the city of Lanka. He had had the kingdom built with love and care. Vishwakarma, the architect of the Devas had built the kingdom for him as per his specifications.

Vishravas looked at Kubera and said lovingly, 'I know you love Lanka...But son, I love you more...If you do not give up the kingdom to...' Vishravas looked angrily at Dasamukha, 'He will kill you...Please...'

Finally Dasamukha spared Kubera's life and Kubera gave up the kingdom of Lanka to his brother. Kubera left Lanka and went on to built another city in the Himalayas...However that kingdom never reached the glory of Lanka.

Furious with the behaviour of Dasamukha, Vishravas disowned all the children of Kaikesi and also left for the Himalayas to perform penance there...

Dasamukha was however thrilled on getting Lanka. The riches in the city were untold and the architecture was marvelous. It was while touring the palace, Dasamukha saw the famed 'Pushpaka Vimana'. He knew that Kubera had the flying chariot but he had never seen it.

Dasamukha was however an excellent King. He ruled Lanka very well and the Kingdom of Lanka flourished under him. It is said that poverty and hunger was unknown in Lanka at the time of Dasamukha's rule and that even the poorest families had vessels made of gold....

Dasamukha also had another virtue. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. His devotion was such that after his penance, once Lord Shiva appeared before him and even gave Dasamukha his 'Atma Lingam' [An idol which could protect an entire kingdom from any calamity and give the kingdom riches and prosperity.]

Dasamukha loved the pushpaka vimana and often drove on it to far off places. Once on one such trip, Dasamukha was traveling towards the Himalayas. There Dasamukha was surprised. There was one particular mountain, which the vimana just would not fly above...No matter what Dasamukha did, the vimana refused to budge. Dasamukha set the vimana down and got out. As he got out, he saw a very funny sight...A man with a bull face was coming and walking towards him....Dasamukha saw the man and burst out laughing, 'Oh my God! You look like a monkey! Ha...You are so funny!' Dasamukha laughed till he had tears in his eyes.

The bull looked at him angrily, 'You think monkeys are funny are you! I curse you, you arrogant man! I curse you that you would be brought down by monkeys!'

Dasamukha stopped laughing. A curse was not exactly something which bothered him. He was after all the most powerful person on earth. What could one curse from a man who looked so funny exactly do to him? 'What mountain is this? I cannot drive my craft here...'

The bull looked contemptuously at Dasamukha, 'I am Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva! And this...' Nandi said pointing at the mountain behind him, 'This is Kailash, my master's mountain...No craft can fly above it, because nothing is bigger or more powerful than him...'

Dasamukha looked contemptuously at Nandi and at the mountain behind him, 'Powerful! I will show you exactly how powerful I am...and exactly what your Lord can do to me....'

Dasamukha was actually one of the biggest devotees of Lord Shiva. He worshiped Lord Shiva daily and faithfully...However his arrogance had blinded him at the moment. Dasamukha got near the mountain and lifted it...or atleast tried lifting it....He heaved and grunted and the mountain shuddered and slowly moved up.....

Inside the mountain, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi were sitting and talking, when they felt the mountain shudder.

For a second Parvathi wondered what was going on and then looked pointedly at Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva looked at Parvathi and smiled. Lord Shiva did nothing more than press his toe a little more firmly on the ground. The mountain fell back on the ground....

For a second there was silence and then there was a scream....a loud agonizing scream...a scream so loud that the world itself shook and shuddered.....

Outside the mountain, Dasamukha had lifted the mountain a few inches and gotten under it. It was at this moment that Lord Shiva pressed the mountain down, with Dasamukha under it.

The weight of the mountain fell on his back...Dasamukha felt like his back was on fire and was sweating from the weight of the mountain. For a few seconds Dasamukha could not think anything. He saw Nandi standing and looking at him contemptuously.

It was at that time that Dasamukha realized how silly he had acted. He had tried to lift the mountain Kailash...The mountain of the God he worshiped with his whole heart – Lord Shiva. He realized that Lord Shiva did not intend to kill him...He just wanted to teach him a lesson.

Dasamukha knew that Lord Shiva was the Lord of Dance and that he loved music and dance. Slowly... painfully using the hair of his arms, he formed strings and played music like he would play on the veena.

He sang songs in praise of Lord Shiva. He continued this day in and day out.....

After what seemed like an eternity, finally Dasamukha felt the weight of the mountain out of his shoulders. He gasped and ran out of the mountain. He felt free and happy.

After he had started breathing normally, he went up the mountain. He saw Lord Shiva, 'My Lord! I am sorry! I am so sorry! I behaved foolishly. I would never have behaved like this...I am our devotee...I acted out of arrogance...sheer arrogance...I am sorry! Please my Lord!'

Lord Shiva smiled, 'You have paid for your arrogance! I felt that you had been punished enough for your arrogance that is why I let you out!' Lord Shiva looked at Dasamukha and said gently, 'Son! If it were not for your arrogance, you...you...would be...' Lord Shiva sadly shook his head, 'Try not to let your arrogance blind you, my son! And please restrain yourself....If you do not, it will lead to your downfall...' Dasamukha did not realize that wisdom behind the words. He just nodded his head without understanding.

Lord Shiva continued, 'When you screamed Dasamukha, the world shook....you actually made the world scream....That is why henceforth I will name you Ravana – the one who made the world scream!' Ravana bowed his head and left from Kailash.

True to the boon given by Lord Brahma, Ravana defeated Indra and the other Devas. Ravana ruled the heavens and earth....All the Devas were his servants and he treated them contemptuously. But no one was willing to stand up to Ravana. They was absolutely no way of defeating him...

Also true to Shiva's words, Ravana was destroyed by his arrogance and was killed by a human – Lord Rama, the avatar of Lord Vishnu. And true to Nandi's curse, monkey's helped Lord Rama defeat Ravana. 

-From the Ramayana