A collection of Indian tales of wit, wisdom, humour, bravery, devotion and lots more...

Author: krvidhyaa Page 4 of 13

I am a mother of two children who love stories. I also work in the Insurance industry. I have heard and read lots of Indian stories from my childhood and still read. Our stories have lot of values and also reflect the way society was, in ancient days. As a hobby, I am rewriting the stories I have heard and read, in an attempt to preserve them for the benefit of present and future parents and grandparents and kids of course!!

Vijayadashami – Victory of Good over Evil!

Today is Vijayadashami or Dussehra as it is called in the North of India and I am going to narrate the story of Vijayadashami.

Long long ago there lived a fearful asura or demon called Mahishasura. He had the head of a buffalo but could assume any form at will. He was the son of another asura by name Rambha. Mahishasura was, as all demons were, wanting to conquer everyone in all the worlds and rule all the worlds. So, he opted to do tapasya or meditation towards Brahma so that he could obtain the boon of immortality from him. Mahishasura did severe penance for a number of years giving up food and water and sleep and at last, Lord Brahma appeared before him. Mahishasura was overjoyed. There were only few moments between him and immortality, or so he thought.

“I am pleased by your penance” said Lord Brahma, “What boon do you seek?”

An overjoyed Mahishasura said “Immortality, my lord, freedom from death”, and looked at Brahma expectantly.
Brahma shook his head and said, “The rule of the universe is that any one born in this world has to die one day and therefore I cannot grant that boon to you. Ask for something else”

A disappointed Mahishasura thought for a moment and said, “Well, then, I should not meet my death in the hands of any man or animal or deva and any other being except a woman”

Women, he thought were the weakest of the weak and he felt ashamed to even think that he could be defeated by a woman.

“So be it” said Lord Brahma in his usual style and vanished.

Now Mahishasura was all powerful. No one in all the worlds had the power to vanquish him. True to the saying ‘Power corrupts, Absolute power corrupts absolutely’, he started his atrocities against one and all. His already little sense of morality completely vanished and he took joy in torturing innocent people, annihilating masses and committing crimes every moment without a sense of guilt.

This went on and on and on and no one dared to take him on as they were all well aware of the boon given by Lord Brahma and knew that none of them including the gods could kill him. His eyes were now set on conquering Amaravati, the kingdom of the Devas. Taking his forces along, he went to Amaravati and challenged the Devas to war. The Devas in turn fled to Vishnu at Vaikuntha and pleaded with him to fight for them. Vishnu reluctantly agreed knowing fully well that he would not be able to succeed due to the immunity granted by Lord Brahma’s boon.

As expected, the war was in favour of Mahishasura and not even the Sudarshan Chakra, the most powerful weapon of Lord Vishnu was effective against the demon. In fact the otherwise invincible Lord Vishnu was knocked down by Mahisha’s bull and the Lord could take it no more and he quietly vanished to his abode. Not being able to spot Vishnu in the battlefield, lord Shiva and Lord Brahma also felt jittery and left the place quietly. Mahishasura drove away the other Devas as one would shoo away a fly, and occupied Indra’s throne. Indra and his clan fled to the mountains and forests on earth and were living in exile. But how long could they do that? They had to go back to their place and so with a heavy heart went to the Trinity (Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) once again.

“Help us O Lords!” they pleaded. “We are living like nomads in the forests while Mahishasura is enjoying in our palace” they lamented.

The Trinity had also had enough of complaints about the atrocities of Mahishasura and they decided to act. From the bodies of Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma rose dazzling lights of the hues of red, yellow and white. So dazzling the light was that the Trinity themselves had to shield their eyes to gaze upon the light. The light converged in the ashrama of Rishi Katyayan and all the other devas like Yama, Agni, Kubera and Indra sent their energy to merge in this light. Out of this light came the most beautiful woman this universe had ever seen. She was the manifestation of all the positive energy of all the celestial beings. Her beauty was unparalleled and she had eighteen arms. She had power, wealth and knowledge. She possessed the qualities of Tamas, Rajas and Satva. She appeared fearful and but had benevolence in her eyes, at the same time. Born with all the best qualities of all the celestial beings, she was Durga. She was also hailed as Katyayani as she appeared in the ashram of Rishi Katyayan.

All the celestial beings descended in the ashram and paid obeisance to her. They sung her praises and requested her to accomplish what was impossible for them to do – to slay the demon Mahishasura. Each of them gave their best weapon to her. Lord Shiva gave her his Trident (Trishul), Vishnu gave his discus (Sudharshan Chakra), Indra gave his thunderbolt (Vajrayudha), Agni gave his flaming dart, Yama gave his iron rod, Vayu gave her a mighty bow and Surya gave her a quiver and arrows. Himavan, the ruler of Himalayas gave her the most ferocious lion on which she mounted and was looking majestic. She was wearing a red saree and bedecked with jewels and diamonds. Durga listened to their prayers and as a compassionate mother would ferociously protect her children, she, with the good wishes of all present, proceeded towards the abode of Mahishasura.

On reaching Amaravati, she let out a deafening roar which even a hundred lions could not produce and the noise reverberated in the palace where Mahisha was holding his darbar (court). Rattled for a moment, Mahisha was puzzled and a wee bit frightened. Who was this who dared to come to his abode and roar like thunder? He sent his assistant to see what the matter was. The assistant came back and told him about the beauty of the Goddess and why she had come there. Though enraged to know her purpose, Mahishasura was very curious to see this epitome of beauty who had come to his doorstep.

On seeing the Goddess, he was so enchanted by her beauty that he wished to marry her. He expressed his thought to her. “Oh beautiful one!” he addressed her, “I am the greatest one on earth and I have never in my life begged anyone for any favour, but today I am compelled to beg you to marry me for I can never take my eyes off your beautiful form. Marry me, O doe eyed one!”

Durga was seething with anger “Hey Mahisha!” she said, “I think you have forgotten that I am the woman who has come to slay you. I am the woman who you thought could not overpower you. I am Durga, the manifestation of Shakti. You dare not talk to me like that. Give back the kingdom to the devas or else face my wrath in the battlefield”. She was looking frightful.

Mahishasura was irritated at her arrogance but was still in no mood to believe that a woman could defeat him. He went back to his palace in a huff and sent back his assistants to capture her and kill her army. The assistants were all ferocious warriors too. They were Madhu and Kaitabha, Dhoomralochana, Chanda and Munda, Shumba and Nishumba and Rakthabheeja. But to his utter surprise, none came back alive, not even Rakthabheeja, whose each drop of blood when it touched the ground would create another demon, hence the name Rakthabheeja (raktha- blood, Bheeja- seed). Durga had created her own all woman army and with the help of Kali, the fearful one, who sprang from Durga’s forehead annihilated Rakthabheeja for Kali drank up each drop of blood of Rakthabheeja before it touched the ground.

Mahishasura was shaken. He could soon see his end was coming near. He decided it was time, he went to war. Taking the form of a huge buffalo, he rushed wildly at the lion of Goddess Durga, The lion dodged him and an enraged Mahisha took the form of a mad elephant and rushed at Durga. Durga, with all her might, caught him by the trunk and tried to dash him to the ground when he suddenly changed himself into a lion and charged at Durga’s lion. But the mount of the Goddess was as sturdy as the one who gifted it to the Goddess and there was a fierce fight between the two lions, their paws slapping each other with ear-splitting roars. Now suddenly Mahisha changed himself into a buffalo and charged at the Goddess, when the lion swiftly tried to pin him down. He assumed the form of a demon once again and Durga, in a flash, pierced him with the trident and with a thunderous roar Mahishasura fell, never to get up again.

The Gods and all the beings in all the worlds rejoiced at this, for they were relieved of the atrocities of Mahisha.

It is said that Devi Durga fought for nine days and nights to vanquish Mahishasura and these nine nights and days are celebrated as Navaratri. In these nine days, all the women are considered as the representatives of the Goddess and are honoured specially. On the tenth day on which Durga vanquished Mahishasura, it is celebrated as Vijayadashami (Dasami -The tenth day of Vijaya – victory). There are other stories associated with Vijayadashami such as Rama vanquishing Ravana and Arjuna starting for battle after the exile, but in both the cases, both Rama and Arjuna propitiated Goddess Durga for their victory in their wars and emerged victorious with Her blessings.
Let us also pray to Durga Maa for Health, Wealth and Prosperity in our lives.

Jai Mata Di!!

Kubera and Ganesha

Dear friends, we have seen some Ganesha stories in this site namely the story of Nambiyandar Nambi and also the story of how Ganesha got the celestial fruit from his parents.

With Ganesh Chaturthi tomorrow, this time, I am giving you a story Ganesha and Kubera.

Kubera is the treasurer of the Gods and the ruler of the North direction. He has his beautiful palace in the city by name Alakapuri and he had all the best things in there. The best ornaments, the finest silks, the costliest furniture, the most beautiful garden by name Chaitra Ratha, with scented waters in their fountains, the ornately decorated palace with golden walls and diamond ceilings, the finest foods in his kitchen made by the best chefs in the world. He became so arrogant of his wealth and wanted to show it off to someone or the other.

“The others in Devaloka should come to know of my great wealth”, he thought to himself. “Well what do I do to spread the word? Hmm…”

He got an idea. “Yes. I know what to do. I will invite Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati for a lunch in my palace and then the word will spread”, he said to himself. “I will do this immediately”

He took his vimana (aircraft) and immediately proceeded to Kailash to see the Lord Shiva.

Shiva was very much there in his abode with Parvati and was surprised to see Kubera coming in.

“Welcome, welcome Kubera .What brings you here?” asked Shiva.

“Well…. Umm… My Lord, I have a request for you and Mother Parvati. I am hosting a lunch for you both tomorrow in my palace and came to invite you for the same. Please do not disappoint me O Lord. What time will it be convenient for you?” Kubera talked nonstop expecting an affirmative reply from Lord Shiva.

The Lord looked at Parvati and then said, “Kubera, though we would very much like to come for the lunch hosted by you, this is the month of Shravan and I keep fast for the whole of this month. As you know, Parvati will not eat if I do not eat…”

“Lord, please, please do not disappoint me. I have made special arrangements for you” said Kubera hurriedly, alarmed that his plan would fizzle out.

“Well…” said Lord Shiva thinking for a while as he noticed little Ganesha entering the hall. “Okay Kubera, we do not want to disappoint you. Instead of us Little Ganesha can come and have lunch at your palace tomorrow as our representative. Is it okay?”

Kubera turned around to see the little Ganesha chewing on a ripe guava and thought to himself, “Well, this kid will not eat much, but at least he will be fascinated by my riches and spread the word of my riches in the celestial world”

“Kubera?”

Lord Shiva’s voice brought him back to the present.

“Yes Lord, I am honoured by Ganesha’s visit to my palace” said he with a grin and turned to little Ganesha.

“Ganesha, please come to my palace tomorrow and I will see that you will eat the tastiest food you have ever eaten in your life” The voice was full of pride.

Ganesha meekly shook his head. Kubera went home happy that his plan was working.

The next day Ganesha went to Kubera’s palace at the appointed time. Kubera was waiting at the entrance to receive his little guest. He had a beautifully decorated tray with sweet smelling Sandal powder and rosewater in a diamond studded vessel used for sprinkling rosewater in functions. He had a sweet smelling flower garland with flowers in vibrant colours one would have never seen.

He sprinkled rosewater and offered the flower garland and walked him around his gardens.

“Have you seen such sweet scented water like in the fountains of my beautiful garden Chaitra Ratha?” asked he with great pride.

“And the flowering plants in my garden have been brought from various places. Have you even seen flowers in these colours before?” he asked Ganesh sarcastically. “And see the fruit trees, mangoes, oranges, bananas and pomegranates, there is enough to feed your father’s Bhootaganas (army of Lord Shiva), Hahaha….” he guffawed.

Ganesha gave a look of disinterest and asked Kubera, “Is the food not ready yet?” He looked at the direction from where the nice aroma of food was coming.

“Oh! Oh!” said Kubera. “I am sorry. I did not remember that you are after all, a little boy and you need to be given food on time. Come on, I will take you to the dining place”. So saying, he lead Ganesha to the huge dining hall where a silk mat had been spread for Little Ganesha to sit and in front of him, two huge banana leaves were spread out neatly.

Ganesha sat down and Kubera asked him, “Well my little guest, my chefs have prepared over five hundred dishes for you. What would you like to have first, child? Some sweet dish or Kheer or fruit juice or mixed rice? Tell me, boy.”

Ganesha sniffed in the direction where the kitchen and said, “Bring a little of everything for me to taste”

“Waiters!” ordered Kubera, “Bring a little of everything first and serve our little guest”

All the waiters lined up and started serving all the delicious dishes one by one. Ganesha with full gusto started eating them up as they were served and to the surprise of one and all each dish disappeared as the next was served.

“Little Ganesha is hungry I suppose” thought Kubera to himself. “Let him eat to his heart’s content and he will go and tell others about the tasty food of my kitchen”

Thinking aloud he said, “Eat Ganesha, eat as much as you want. There is enough and more to be served. You can carry food back home for your brother Kartik too!”

Ganesha did not reply but started eating faster. The waiters had to increase the speed of their serving. From walking at normal pace, they started to walk faster, and faster and faster… They had started to run now. The quantity of the prepared dishes was fast reducing now. The lunch had been prepared keeping into account all the members in the household and the servants which was over five hundred people, but the way Ganesha was eating, it seemed all would get over soon.

Kubera was watching in awe when Ganesh called out. “Kubera” he said, “I am very very hungry and these little portions served with ladles are very unsatisfactory. Why don’t you tell the waiters to bring the dishes in the vessels in which they were made huh?”

Kubera was already panicky but could not help but obey Ganesha.

“Waiters, bring the dishes with the vessels in which they were made”, he ordered and the men obeyed immediately.

But within moments of the dish being placed in front of him, they had to carry back the empty vessel. Liquid items like Kheer, Sambar, Rasam, Buttermilk, Aam Panna, Juices etc. were pulled in by Ganesha using his trunk like a huge straw and all other items which were solid were grabbed by the trunk in one go and vanished into his mouth.

All the waiters were watching with their mouths wide open and eyes rolling in fright. All the dishes were over and as the last dish was placed before Ganesha, Kubera was literally trembling as to what Ganesha would ask next.

Ganesha looked around. “Over?” he asked. When the waiters pathetically shook their heads, he said, “I am still hungry Kubera. I don’t mind uncooked foods also. Where is the store room?”

And before Kubera could even react, he got up and stomped into the store room which was adjacent to the kitchen.

Lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, millets, milk and curd and ghee were kept in there. After all it was Kubera’s store room and it was always stocked well beyond what was needed!

With his trunk swishing and swashing here and there it was a matter of minutes when the store room became a scene of total disarray with all the empty vessels rolling all over the place and vegetable and fruits getting over and grains and millets strewn over everywhere after Ganesha had eaten them. Even the peels of the vegetables and fruits that remained to be thrown away after the lunch had been cooked was eaten up in a gulp by Ganesha.

“What Kubera? You have got only this much food. I am still hungry” said Ganesha as he looked around keenly as to what he could lay his trunk upon. Kubera was watching helplessly as a bunch of coconuts on a coconut tree outside in the garden met the eyes of Ganesha.

“Wow! Coconuts!” exclaimed Ganesha, “I simply love coconuts” and off he went into the garden and with his trunk lowered the tree and plucked the coconuts and ate them. Many trees unable to bear the pull of Ganesha’s trunk broke into two and fell. After coconuts, it was the turn of bananas, then the chickoos and the pomegranates and in no time all the fruits vanished.The garden was a sight of destruction with trees broken and twigs strewn around.

Kubera watched in horror as Ganesha next started ripping the leaves of the trees and eating them.

“Oh, God!” thought Kubera, knowing fully well that next the inanimate things would be Ganesha’s target. Through the back door, he ran to Mount Kailash, panting for breath.

“Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva!” he shouted as he entered the hall where Lord Shiva was preparing for meditation.

“Kubera! What happened? Where is Ganesha? Did he not come to your place as promised?” asked Lord Shiva as if he knew nothing of what had happened.

Kubera was almost in tears. He narrated to the Lord how Ganesha had consumed every single thing which was edible and was now eating whatever was in his sight.

“Please O Lord” pleaded Kubera, “please for my sake stop your son! All my property is being ruined Please O Lord, please call him back. I will do whatever you tell me to do to stop Ganesha…”

Shiva, with a smile asked him, “Kubera, did you call me and Parvati to really honour us or….?”

With his eyes downcast Kubera in a low voice said, “I am sorry Lord. I really wanted to only show off my wealth so that others would come to know of it and I realise now that I was very vain of my riches. Ganesha has taught me a lesson. I am really sorry my lord! Please give me a solution to my problem”. So saying, he fell at Lord Shiva’s feet.

Lord Shiva who is always compassionate, knowing that Kubera had learnt his lesson said “Take this fistful of rice and go back to your palace and offer it to Ganesha with sincerity and humility and he will accept it”. Saying so, he gave Kubera a fistful of rice.

Kubera rushed back to his palace where he noticed, Ganesha was drinking up the scented waters of his fountains. He ran straight to where Ganesha was. Ganesha put forward his trunk seeing Kubera.

“I am still hungry, Kubera” he said.

Kubera knelt on his knees with raw rice in his cupped palms and cried aloud “Oh Ganesha! Please forgive me for my arrogance. I have learnt my lesson. Please accept this offering with my sincere prayer to you to give your blessings. I shall never be arrogant hereafter. Please eat this rice and satiate your hunger. I have nothing more to offer. This moment I have become a pauper. Please do forgive me”.

He bent down and his head touched the feet of Ganesha and his tears washing Ganesha’s feet. His regret was from his heart and Ganesha could easily see that Kubera’s pride had been humbled.

Ganesha looked at him with sympathy and smiled. “I accept this Kubera!” So saying, he drew the rice from Kubera’s palms and ate it with relish. He burped with satisfaction and said, “Well Kubera, my stomach is full. I shall take leave”.

And off he went hopping on to his Mooshak while Kubera learnt a lesson of his life not to be arrogant ever.

Little Gopal And The Cowherd

Greetings to my readers! With Janmashtami round the corner, this time I am posting a story of Krishna.

Long ago, in the present state of Odisha, there lived a poor widow Subala, with her young son. Her husband had died when the son was about a year old and she had no relatives to support her. The villagers however were very considerate and had jointly given her a small plot of land where she could cultivate some vegetables and earn a living out of selling them. They were also kind enough to look after the child when she went to the market to sell her vegetables.

This lady Subala was an ardent devotee of Krishna and believed that Krishna was taking care of her in the form of her neighbours, the villagers. Due to her deep devotion to Lord Krishna, she had named her son Gopal.
Gopal was a very loving child and very intelligent too. He endeared himself to the villagers and was their pet.

In due course Gopal grew up to be five years old, when the villagers started telling Subala that Gopal should be sent to a school for education. Subala also wished to educate young Gopal, but was reluctant as she was earning too less to send him to school.

Knowing the reason for her hesitation, the village headman said to her, “Subala, education is the only asset you can give your son and knowledge has been named as the greatest wealth in our shastras. We know you do not have enough money to send him to the city, but there is school a little farther from our village where the fee is less and the teacher teaches well. Why don’t you admit Gopal there?”

Subala was in a dilemma. Even if she put Gopal in that school which was not a gurukula, which meant he had to commute every day, she was doubtful whether she could go two times every day to leave him and bring him back from school owing to her vegetable business.

The headman read her mind and said, “Subala, in this age, the boy should start knowing what life is. One or two days it will be difficult, but Gopal, I think he will be able to go and come back himself. And if you think the distance is too much, there is a short cut through the woods by which he can reach home in a short time. Do not hesitate Subala, for the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami is round the corner and the Guru in the school admits children only on Vijaya Dashami”

Subala had no other go but to agree. Gopal was extremely excited to know that he will be going to a school where he would get lot of friends to play with. He played with the elders here but yearned for someone of his age as a playmate but all the other boys in the village were grown up and he had not got a proper playmate yet.
At last the great day came. Subala took little Gopal by his hand and led him to the school and enrolled him there. She went back again in the evening and brought him by the short cut through the dense woods and could reach home fast. Gopal took to the new atmosphere as a fish takes to water and he eagerly looked forward every day to go to the school. He made quite a few friends and was very excited about it. Subala felt happy to see the little one happy. She thanked Lord Krishna for guiding her to take this decision.

After a few days, Gopal had gained confidence to go on his own to school. “Amma,” he said, “You don’t worry. I know the way and I will come back safe in the evening”. In those days there was no motorised transport and the fear of road accidents was not there. Nor was the fear of kidnapping. Still since he was a young boy, the mother feared he might lose his way. “No Amma, I will not lose my way. I shall go myself” said little Gopal.

Gopal went to school and when it was time to come back, he started walking through the short cut. After Vijaya Dashami, the winter sets in and the days are shorter and darkness starts setting in early in the evening. The birds were returning to their nests and were making lot of noise. The noise of the crickets and occasional hooting sound of owls was heard. Since the woods were dense some monkeys were jumping from branch to branch. Even though these were there every day, Gopal had failed to notice them in the comfort of his mother’s presence and now when he was all alone, the sounds seemed magnified. He heard the grunt of a bull and thought it was the roar of a lion, even though there were no wild animals and started running fast. He ran and ran till he reached the clearing from where his hut could be seen.

Slowing down, puffing and panting for breath, he came home to Subala who was waiting for him at the doorstep.

“Why are you panting for breath my dear?” she asked as she put her hand lovingly around him. “Did you run? And, how was school today?”

For a while, there was no reply from little Gopal.

“Amma, I will not go to school from tomorrow” said he to a shocked Subala.

“Why, my dear, what happened? Did you have any quarrel with your friends or did anyone say any harsh words to you?” she asked.

“Amma… Amma… I …am afraid to come through the woods… I think I heard a lion roar. I don’t want to go Amma, please. I am afraid to come alone in the evening. Please amma… please…”

Subala was almost in tears thinking of her helplessness. Here was this child who was so intelligent and liked school but did not want to go as he could not come back alone.

“Hey Gopala” she prayed to Lord Krishna, “please show me a way out”

Then after a few moments, composing herself, she told Gopal, “Gopal dear, I forgot to tell you about your elder brother who lives in the woods”

Gopal looked up in surprise, his eyes rolling in astonishment. “Amma, I have an elder brother? Why did you not tell me before Amma? I want to see him Amma. What is his name? How does he look like Amma?” There seemed to be no end to his questions.

Subala calmly said, “Your Bhaiya’s (elder brother) name is also Gopal my dear. He is a cowherd and and lives in the woods. He is dark complexioned and extremely beautiful, wears yellow silk, sports a peacock feather on his hair and a beautiful tilak on his forehead and always plays lovely tunes on the flute he carries. He likes grazing cattle and always is surrounded by cows and calves. But Gopal” she continued, “you can call him only in the evening when you are frightened while coming back and he will come and be with you. Now, will you be a good boy and go to school tomorrow?”

Fascinated by the mental picture he had conjured with the description his mother had given of the lovely Gopal
Bhaiya, the little Gopal shook his head affirmatively. “Yes Amma, from tomorrow, I will call Gopal Bhaiya in the evenings. I am hungry now. What have you made for me??”

Subala was at peace now as she firmly believed that her beloved Giridhari (Krishna) would take care of her little Gopal.

The next morning Gopal went to school as joyfully as he did usually as he was sure his Bhaiya would come with him in the evening. The whole night he was dreaming of Gopal Bhaiya and was eagerly looking forward to meeting him.
After school, Gopal took his bag and slate (in those days that was all one carried to school and most education was oral!!) and left in the usual route.

After a while, the woods became dark and the sounds of the owls, monkeys and birds started to become louder. Gopal was confused as he expected his Bhaiya to appear. The sounds became louder frightening little Gopal.
“Bhaiya….” Gopal called out. “Gopal Bhaiya… Gopal Bhaiya… please come Bhaiya…”

There was no response.

There was a momentary silence by the birds and monkeys on hearing Gopal’s voice but the loud chatter started again.
Gopal called out again. “Bhaiyaa…. I am frightened Bhaiyaa… Amma told me you will come. Bhaiya…” The voice was shaky and panicky.

Suddenly from somewhere behind, a soft note on the flute was heard. That was followed by the jingle of the bells. The note continued and it was so enchanting that all the other noise stopped.
Gopal looked around thrilled at the sound. He could find no one. Again as he was about to call, a young handsome boy matching the exact description his mother had given jumped down from a tree branch a few feet away.

“Why are you afraid Gopal” asked the handsome Bhaiya. “I am here with you and I will come every day and leave you at the edge of the forest”.

Gopal also saw few beautiful cows and calves that appeared from somewhere near the bushes. Gopal and the cows and calves looked all so divine and enchanting that Gopal was so happy and at peace.

“Shall we play a game of hide and seek?” asked Gopal Bhaiya.

Gopal was more than happy. They both played around the bushes gleefully with the cows and calves happily grazing the grass and after a while Gopal Bhaiya took little Gopal by his hand and left him near the edge of the forest.
Subala was not surprised when Gopal told of his Bhaiya. She knew Krishna would not let her down and everyday Gopal Bhaiya was teaching new games, telling new stories and teaching little songs to Gopal.
Gopal studied well and was a very happy child.

Every year the students of the school honoured their teacher on Guru Poornima day by bringing him expensive gifts and the Guru on his part entertained all of them to a feast in his house.

Soon Gopal’s class was abuzz with the discussion of what gift each one would be giving the guru.

“My father will give the costliest silk to our Guru and Guru Ma (wife of Guru)” said one boy.

“My father has bought pearls and rubies from the merchants coming from overseas. I will give him a box full of them” said another with pride.

“My father is going to gift our guru a pair of hefty bullocks” said one.

“And mine is going to give him a beautiful cow and calf”

“My father has reaped a good crop of paddy and I will be giving our Guru one hundred bags of paddy”

The list went on and on and on Gopal was aghast on hearing all these gifts. First of all he did not have a father and of course did not have any money to even get anything small.

The kids noticed him and one asked, “Hey Gopal, what are you going to gift to the Guru?”

“Where does your father work?” asked another.

Overcome with shame and helplessness, Gopal, with his eyes full of tears looked down and swiftly left the place.

That evening, as usual Gopal Bhaiya met him in the woods.

“What is troubling you brother?” he asked little Gopal. “Why are you so sad and seemed to have cried? Did anyone say anything harsh to you? Did anyone beat you? Come on tell me” he said in a loving tone.

Gopal broke down. Sobbing loudly, he told Bhaiya of how everyone was going to gift the Guru something special on Guru Poornima day and how he neither had his father nor money to buy something special. “Please help me Bhaiyaa……” said he with tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Do not cry Gopal” said Bhaiya wiping Gopal’s tears with his lotus hands. “On the day of Guru Poornima, when you go to school, I shall come here and give you the gift you shall take. Now, be a cheerful boy, and let us play a word game, sit down”

Saying thus, he took out sweet berries from a knot in his upper garment. “Here, eat this. They are as sweet as you are. Come let’s play” he said.

Little Gopal totally forgot his worries and happily played and went home.

So happy was he with the assurance given by his Bhaiya that he forgot to even mention about the Guru Poornima event to his mother.

The great day came and Gopal did not realise it was Guru Poornima day. He started off to school and midway in the woods, there was his handsome brother with an enchanting smile, holding a small pot in his hands.

“Aah! Bhaiya, what gift have you brought?” Gopal asked eagerly. When he saw what was in the pot, his face fell. It was a pot of sweet smelling curds, looking fresh and creamy.

Gopal Bhaiya handed over the pot to little Gopal and looking at him said firmly, “Gopal, go and give this gift to your teacher for the feast today. Do not feel bad that this is a small gift. This is the tastiest curd your teacher would have ever tasted in his life”. Not giving any time for Gopal to respond, Bhaiya walked away and disappeared behind a huge bush.

Not knowing what to do, but bound by the stern but loving instruction of his Gopal Bhaiya, little Gopal walked fast carrying the small pot carefully.

As he reached the school, he could see many parents with their wards, dressed in their best and offering various gifts to the Guru and his wife who were seated on a decorated bench near the entrance. The gifts were being given and the children were touching the feet of the Guru and Guru Ma as a mark of respect. They were all in a line. Little Gopal who did not have any new dress was dressed as usual in clean but old clothes and he also joined the line. Some of the parents and children looked at him scornfully for he was alone and added to that carrying a small pot while they were carrying expensive gifts, fruits and sweets in large quantities in big cane baskets.
Little Gopal felt miserable to be in that line and felt as if it was ages by the time the people in the line moved forward.

At last it was little Gopal’s turn. As he faced the Guru, the expression on the Guru’s face also showed that he was disappointed with the small gift and when Gopal tried to give him the pot, he rudely said, “Hm… leave it in the kitchen. It is too big a gift to be displayed here” and when Gopal tried to touch the Guru’s feet he brushed him away much to the child’s agony.

Feeling too much ashamed, Gopal stood in a corner unnoticed by all. Finally the gifting ceremony was over and some parents gave speeches on the Guru’s greatness and then the Guru gave a thanks giving speech and invited all to be seated for lunch in the open ground which had been decorated with a shamiana or a Pandal as some call it. Banana leaves had been placed in rows and there were small mats to sit on.

All including Gopal went and sat down to eat.

Much of the sweetmeats and fruits that were gifted was served to all and the Guru Ma started serving varieties of vegetables and rice. Somehow, the vegetable dishes were spicy and some wanted curd along with it.

Out of his enthusiasm, Gopal cried out, “Guru Ma, I have brought curd for you” The Guru’s wife looked at him sarcastically and said, “Yes, you have brought enough for all of these people. I will show you how much” and with a cynical look took the small pot.

She served the first person in the row. The curd did not seem to diminish. She did not notice it and served the second and the third and so on and all were asking for more and more and more.

The curd was so tasty and everyone wanted more and more and suddenly, the lady realised that she had been serving so many people from that little pot and the level of curd was same. She was horrified. She placed the pot on the floor immediately and her face full of fear, she looked at Gopal and asked, “The curd is not reducing in spite of so many having eaten it? Have you done any black magic? Who gave you this pot huh?

The Guru was also looking angrily at Gopal and said, “You brat… you bought such a small pot of curd and now you have done black magic have you??”

Saying so, he came to screw Gopal’s ears when Gopal said pleadingly, “Guruji… please believe me. I do not know of any black magic. My elder brother Gopal Bhaiya gave me this pot in the morning as a gift to you. I really don’t know what you are saying…” and he started crying.

“Elder brother? What elder brother? Do you have one at all? Your mother told me you are her only son, when she came to admit you. Are you lying you….” He came near with his hand raised in anger and Gopal fell at his feet. He told him the whole story of Gopal Bhaiya and his appearance and how he came every day to lead him from the woods.

The Guru could not believe Gopal’s words but the curds seemed to be the evidence of what he was saying and the curd pot was still full as it was in the beginning.

“Come on”, said the Guru, “take me to the woods and show him to me”

“But Guruji” said little Gopal innocently, “Bhaiya will come in the evening only”

“No way will I believe” said the Guru. “Then how did he come in the morning and give you this pot huh? If what you say is a lie, then you had it, understand? Come on, Hmm”

As the Guru started walking little Gopal followed helplessly praying secretly to his Bhaiya to make his appearance.
After a while the Guru asked, “Mm. Where is he? Where does he appear every day?”

“There, under that Peepul tree Guruji” replied Gopal meekly.

“Call him now!” thundered the Guruji.

“Bhaiya…. Bhaiyaa…. Gopal Bhaiyaa…” called out little Gopal in a loud voice. But there was no sign of the usual sound of flute and jingling of the bells and the sweet sandal smell that Gopal experienced every day.

The Guru was getting angrier. His eyes rolling in fury as if they may pop out at any time, he shouted, “Gopal, I know you are lying… I will…..”, so saying he came fast to hit Gopal when suddenly, the melodious sound of flute wafted in the air accompanied by the sweet scent of sandal. Both Gopal and the Guru were surprised and Gopal looked up the tree. He could see his Bhaiya on the top most branch playing the flute.

“Guruji, look on the top branch, Bhaiya is sitting and playing the flute” he said excitedly. The Guru peered through the branches but could see nothing.

“See he is climbing down” said Little Gopal and the sound of the flute came nearer. Nothing was visible to the Guru though. Little Gopal ran near the tree and seemed to be hugging his brother, but to the Guru it appeared he was hugging the thin air!

The music stopped. A sweet but firm voice spoke “I am visible to all who believe in my presence with unflinching devotion. Little Gopal believed in my presence as an infant places faith in its mother. You do not possess that faith and so I will not be visible to you but I stand by what Little Gopal has said. “

The voice continued, “Gopal from today you will be blessed with lot of courage and intelligence and a healthy and prosperous life. Take care of your mother. I will always be there when you look upon me for guidance”

The voice stopped and the sandal scent vanished. The Guru was awestruck and suddenly he realised that the little boy in front of him was physically so small but was a great soul indeed.

He mentally thanked the boy for making him realise what utter surrender and faith in God is and felt sorry that he was not mature at such an old age while Little Gopal still did not bear any hatred or ill feeling towards him. Gopal became a learned man in due course and lived a fruitful life.

The Lazy Donkey – A folk tale

This is a folk tale but I know not from which part of India.

Once upon a time, in ancient India, there lived a merchant Ramu, who had a donkey named Bhola. Ramu was a very kind fellow who took good care of Bhola. He fed him well with green grass everyday (which many donkey owners did not do), gave enough rest and saw that Bhola’s stable was neat and clean and always had a supply of fresh water. The work was also not much. Bhola had to make just two or three trips to and from the market every day, carrying the goods to market, sometimes bringing something back, but mostly with very light load.

Though Ramu was such a kind master, Bhola was a lazy donkey. Most of the time he would pretend to struggle with the weight, though it was much less than what he could actually carry, and he would pretend so well that Ramu would feel pity for him and feed him with some carrots.

During a particular season, it happened that Ramu was trading in salt and was continuously carrying sacks of salt to the market on Bhola’s back. On the way to the market, there was a rivulet and they had to cross it every day. There was a bridge, however Ramu chose to walk through the rivulet everyday as it saved time for him and the distance was shorter under the bridge. Moreover the water was a little above ankle level and it was not difficult to walk through.

This particular day, as usual, Ramu loaded a sackful of salt on Bhola’s back and was proceeding to the market. Bhola, as usual, with a grumpy face came trudging along pretending that the sack was too heavy.
Just a little while after they entered the rivulet and crossing it, there was a small rock on the river bed that Bhola tripped and “PACHAK” he fell sack and all in the water. It was a rude shock to him and Ramu, and by the time they stabilised themselves and Bhola got up on his four legs, and Ramu retrieved the sack from the water, lot of the salt had dissolved and the sack was lighter. Bhola was pleasantly surprised, but still pretended to be under pressure.

The next day, there was again salt to be carried and today, while crossing the rivulet, Bhola intentionally pretended tripping and fell down. Today also the weight became lesser.

“Aha” thought Bhola, “At last I have learnt to be smart and carry much less load than I can!! Master is foolish, he believes I am really not well and tripping and falling down!!” He smiled to himself in glee. He started doing it again and again for few days in a row.

But Ramu started thinking otherwise. “How can a donkey fall every day in the same place?” He also noticed the eagerness of Bhola to reach the rivulet fast. Finally, he understood that Bhola was doing this on purpose. He also realised that Bhola needed some punishment to get him rid of his attitude.

The next day, as usual, a sack was loaded on Bhola’s back and it was lighter than usual. Bhola was even happier. “As it is, it is light,” he thought. “After I fall down, it will be even lighter”. Chuckling to himself, he eagerly started his journey. When the ‘falling spot’ came, he fell down as usual. The sack did not sink quickly, like other days and sank slowly. Ramu was also not in a hurry to retrieve the sack. This puzzled Bhola.

Then, Ramu retrieved the sack and with great difficulty put it on Bhola’s back. The sack was not containing salt, but had been stuffed with cotton and cotton had absorbed lot of water.

To his horror, Bhola found the sack ten times heavier. Further, Ramu’s face was red with anger, something Bhola had never witnessed before. And to add to his woes, Ramu took out a stick which he had hidden on his back inside the shirt.

“Come on you donkey” he shouted as he gave a sharp beating with the stick. Bhola brayed in pain. Ramu had always addressed him by name and never had he wielded a stick. “Hmm.. move fast and if you still want to pretend, here is what you will get!” Saying so, he gave another blow with the stick.

Bhola was aghast at this rapid change but he learnt his lesson that laziness does not pay and one cannot deceive others for long…..

I need not say how Bhola behaved from the next day. Yes, he was one of the best donkeys.

Elephant is equal to Pot

elephant_and_pot_final

This is a folk tale from Tamil Nadu based on which there is a proverb “Aanaikkum Paanaikkum sari” meaning Elephant and Pot are equal.

Long long ago, in a village in Tamil Nadu, there lived a wealthy oil merchant by name Ramu. In addition to his oil business, he owned an elephant which he lent for marriage processions and melas and earned extra money from that.

In the same village there lived a poor potter by name Somu. Somu was a hard worker and earned his living by selling pots. Somu had one son. Though Somu could hardly make his ends meet with the money he earned, he cut down on his needs and gave very good education for his boy. The boy also studied very well and got a job in the King’s palace. Somu was extremely happy for the boy and in due course fixed up his wedding.

Somu had seen weddings of the rich landlords in his village where the bridegroom came on an elephant and wanted to do the same for his loving son.

“I will hire the elephant from Ramu” he told his wife. “Our son should come on the elephant like a King.” The wife was also equally fond of her boy and agreed with Somu’s idea.

Somu approached Ramu and asked him for the elephant to be lent for the wedding procession of his son.

“Hiring my elephant for your son’s wedding?” asked Ramu scornfully, as he was very arrogant of his riches. “Well, ten gold coins for an evening. I hope you will be able to pay it .Nothing less and no favour for anyone” he said with contempt, closing any chance for bargaining.

Ten gold coins were a very high amount in those days but nevertheless Somu wanted to have the elephant procession for his dear son and agreed for the price.

“The elephant should be returned on that night itself” , Ramu said in a very gruff voice.

Somu agreed for the condition and came home. On the day of the wedding, after the wedding rituals were over the procession started with Somu’s son and his bride sitting atop the elephant and the procession went on in a grand manner. All the guests and Somu’s family and the bride’s family were very happy and just as Somu and his bride dismounted from the elephant and as it was going back to Ramu’s house, it trumpeted loudly and fell down dead with a ‘THUD’. Luckily no one was hurt but everyone was shell shocked.

Early next morning Somu hurried to Ramu’s house. Ramu had already been told of the elephant’s death and he was in an angry mood.

“I am really sorry Sir!” said Somu feeling bad for having not been able to keep up his word of returning the elephant. “I really do not know why this happened”, he said with heartfelt sorrow. “I will give you the price of the elephant or buy a similar elephant and give it in a few days”

“I do not want any other elephant or money” growled Ramu. “This elephant was a lucky elephant and I want the very same elephant. I do not care what you will do. My elephant should be back by this evening or else I will go to court”. Ramu’s voice echoed his wealthy arrogance and attitude of disregarding poor. “Go and get my elephant back!” he grunted once again.

Somu was in a fix. He was wondering whether Ramu was joking or really meant what he said. “How can a dead being come to life” he wondered and felt even more sad and depressed as he did not know how to proceed.

Not being able to come to any conclusion, Somu went home and he did not have any time to think about it as the guests and relatives who had stayed over were taking leave and he had to settle the bills for the expenses of the wedding.

The next day morning as Somu was about to sit for his meal, there was a knock on the front door. When he opened the door, there was this man from the court asking Somu to come along immediately with him to the court. The judge had called for him since Ramu had filed a complaint against him.

A dejected Somu and his wife went to the judge. The judge informed Somu about Ramu’s complaint on his elephant.

“I will give the price of the elephant or get him one Sire” said Somu humbly to the judge, “even though I cannot afford one”. His eyes were full of tears.

“I cannot accept anything other than my own elephant” came the rude reply from Ramu. “Tell him Sire, to produce my elephant alive to me”.

The judge looked at both of them. “I cannot decide this case in haste” he said. “Both of you come after two days at the same time and I will deliver the judgement”.

Ramu glared at Somu and left the court in a huff . The judge (then) called Somu and told him something in a low voice. On hearing it Somu’s face looked a wee bit relieved.

On the appointed day, Ramu was in the court and his eyes were searching for Somu. There was no sign of Somu. The judge waited very patiently whereas Ramu was getting terribly impatient.

“I knew he would not come” said Ramu. “I will go and drag him from his house” he got up angrily. The judge signalled to him to be seated but he paced up and down like a hungry tiger, with his eyes red with anger.

After a while, he could control himself no more. “I will go and bring him Sire! Please grant me permission to do so” he told the judge.

“Ok, you can go and bring him. But take my officer with you” said the judge and the next moment Ramu stomped out of the court and in a few minutes, was at the entrance of Somu’s house followed by a junior officer of the judge. As he had expected, the door was closed.

“Somu! O Somu!” yelled Ramu at the top of his voice. “Where is my elephant? Where are you, you cheat? You had promised to come to the court and did not turn up. Open the door!”

With no response, Ramu furiously banged the door with his fists. There was no response still, but it appeared that the door was not securely locked from the inside. He kept banging and shouting but it was of no avail and finally, to the shock of the junior officer who came with him, he took ten steps back and came running furiously with his fists clenched as if going to box someone and the next moment there was a loud CRASH and the door slammed open. Behind the door were scattered pieces of broken pots and Somu came running from somewhere inside. The pots had been arranged against the locked door, it appeared.

Seeing Ramu he cried, “Oh! My God! My ancestral pots! Who broke them? Oh! What do I do, my pots are gone…..” He was wailing loudly enough for his neighbours to hear and in a minute, the neighbouring houses were dotted with people outside staring at Ramu as if he had committed a crime. Ramu felt very uncomfortable in the glare and tried to pacify Somu.

“I am sorry” he said trying to feign remorse. “I am sorry for what happened, I shall pay the cost of the ancestral pots, please. Kindly ask your neighbours to go”. He looked at Somu pleadingly.

“But my ancestral pots cannot be replaced Sir! I do not want your money. I want the same pots that you broke. They have been handed over to me from the past seven generations and you are saying a simple sorry. Not only I have lost the pots, I will also earn the wrath of my great great grandfathers. What do I do now?” He closed his face with his palms for a few minutes and then looked at Ramu and boldly said, “Come on, we will go to the judge. I want justice!”

And to the shock and horror of Ramu, Somu walked furiously to the court followed by the bewildered Ramu.

As soon as he reached the court, he poured out his story to the judge and said he needed the very pots that had been broken and nothing else. He made so much noise that all the people in the court were looking at Ramu as if he were a criminal.

Finally Ramu could take it no more. He looked at the judge and said, “Sire, I withdraw my case. I do not want the elephant or money. Please tell Somu to withdraw his case too”

The judge pretended to be reluctant. “Well Ramu, you know….” he started.

Ramu looked at Somu hurriedly and said, “Somu, I am withdrawing my case. You do not need to pay me money or give me an elephant. Kindly withdraw your case”

Somu thought for a while and shook his head half-heartedly. Ramu left the place hurriedly placing a salute to the judge who was amused and laughing to himself that his idea had worked so well.

Poor Ramu, his arrogance caused him to lose both the elephant and the money he would have got otherwise…

Thus came into being the proverb ‘Aanaikkum Paanaikkum Sari’

The Legend of Madurai

meeeeeeeeeeeee kalyanam

Today is the start of the new year for Tamils and in this Chithirai month, I am going to narrate the legend of Madurai which is synonymous with the Chithirai Festival!!

Madurai is one of the oldest cities of the world and is believed to be in existence for more than 7000 years before Christ. It is said that Megasthenes visited this city when he visited India in the fourth century BC.

This city was the capital of the Pandya kingdom for centuries and was taken over by the Cholas during the tenth century A.D. Later it was regained by the Pandyas. Afterwards, it came under the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire and one of the chieftains of the Vijayanagara Empire Tirumalai Nayak who ruled from Madurai added glory to the city by building new structures and enhancing the beauty of the temple by expanding it. He is credited for building the Pudumandapa, which has lot of sculptures, the huge artificial pond (Teppakulam) and the Perumal Temple at Tallakulam, Madurai. He also combined various festivals into one and celebrated it in the month of Chaitra. The festival came to be known as ‘ Chithirai festival’. Chaitra is Chithirai in Tamil. By doing this he facilitated the people to be together and celebrate together. This was something akin to the Ganapati festival in Maharashtra where the objective is more of bonding and celebration.

The city is well known for its famous temple dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswara with its four imposing towers giving the city the name ‘ Naan Maada Koodal’ literally translating to ‘four tower joining’. It is interesting to note that here Goddess Meenakshi is given precedence and Lord Sundareswara is seen only after one has darshan of Meenakshi. She is the queen who rules Madurai.

We will see the story of how Madurai came into being.

Legend has it that Lord Indra who was suffering from a curse, came to the earth and was wandering about searching for peace of mind. When he reached a particular spot which had lot of Kadamba trees, he saw a Shivalingam and his mind was filled with strange bliss. He found a pond with golden lilies and started to worship Lord Shiva there. A merchant who was going by noticed this and reported it to the King Kulasekara. The king with the help of Indra and the divine architect Viswakarma, built a beautiful temple for Lord Shiva and a city around the temple. These structures and the city were blessed with drops of nectar from Shiva’s locks and therefore the name Madhura (Sweetness).

Madurai has also been referred to ‘Tiru Aalavai’. It seems that there was a deluge in the second Sangam period wherein the city was destroyed excepting for the temple and four hillocks and the then king prayed to Lord Shiva to help him rebuild the city by showing him the borders of the city as it existed before the deluge. Shiva obliged and the snake worn as Shiva’s bracelet went around demarcating the city. “Aalavai” translates to ‘the mouth of poison’.
Tirugnanasambandar has sung the “Tiru Aalavai Padigam” when he visited Madurai.

King Kulasekara who built the temple thus, had a son by name Malayadwaja Pandya. King Malayadwaja and his wife Kanchanamala Devi had all the treasures except children. They prayed for an heir for long and performed a yagna seeking divine blessing. To the surprise of one and all, a young girl of three dressed in fine silk and bedecked with ornaments, came out of the fire and went and sat on the lap of Malayadwaja. There was a divine voice (ashareeri) informing the audience that this was a divine child who had come to rule Madurai. “Treat her like you would treat a son and teach her all the skills you would impart your son.

The royal couple were overjoyed, but soon found that the child had three breasts. As they were concerned the voice further went on, “the third breast will vanish the moment she sets her eye on her suitor”.

The king and the queen were extremely happy and blessed with this happening. They named the girl Tadaathagai Piraatti. She was also known as Meenakshi as her eyes were beautifully shaped like fish. (Meen – fish, Akshi – eyed). Meenakshi was soon the darling of everyone in the kingdom. As instructed by the celestial voice, Malayadwaja imparted all the skills to her right from music and art to horse riding and warfare.

In the course of time Malayadwaja died and Meenakshi was crowned as the princess and was ruling the kingdom.
After sometime, she asked permission from her mother to conquer all the kings and expand the kingdom. With the permission of her mother, she set out with her army conquering all the neighbouring kingdoms and she proceeded north.

On reaching Kailash, she demanded to see the Lord.

“You cannot see him. You will have to fight us first “said the bhootaganas (the attendants) of Lord Shiva. Effortlessly Meenakshi vanquished them and as she was advancing, she was confronted by none other than Nandi, the Lord’s bull. He was no match to Meenakshi’s prowess when Lord Shiva came out to see what the commotion was all about.

When Meenakshi turned around to see Lord Shiva, her third breast vanished and she knew that this was her suitor.

Meenakshi’s general Sumathy was also aware of the prophecy and requested the Lord to come to Madurai to seek the hand of Meenakshi.

The Lord accepted their request and assuming the most beautiful form of Sundara Easwara (Handsome lord), Shiva traveled all the way to Madurai to meet the queen Kanchanamala. The queen mother was too happy to have Lord Shiva as her son in law and so the wedding took place with great pomp and show. All the celestial beings rushed to Madurai and Lord Vishnu, the brother of Parvati (Meenakshi) gave her hand in marriage to Sundareswara.

During the wedding feast one of the dwarf bhootaganas of Lord Shiva, by name Gundodhara became very thirsty. No amount of water would satiate his thirst. All the water in the city was brought in all sorts of utensils but Gundodhara’s thirst could not be quenched. Lord Sundareswara asked him to cup his hands. He ordered him “Vai Kai” which means ‘keep your hand’ and the next moment Ganga in the matted locks of Lord Shiva surged and flowed through Gundodhara’s hand and thereafter his thirst was quenched. This water turned into the river Vaigai.

The couple stayed back at Madurai with Goddess Meenakshi and Shiva as Sundara Pandya, ruling the kingdom. They were succeeded by their son King Ugra Pandian who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Kartikeya.

These events which are stated in the Tiruvilayadal Purana are being enacted every year from time immemorial. This festival was mainly celebrated by the Saivites. In Madurai, there was another Vaishnavite festival celebrated in another month in which Lord Vishnu by the name Kalla Alagar, came from his abode Alagar Koil, to bless a sage Mandooka who was cursed to be a frog in the river Vaigai.

Legend has it that Sage Mandooka once insulted Sage Durvasa who in turn cursed him to become a frog and live in the River Vaigai. When Mandooka repented for his behavior, Sage Durvasa told him to propitiate Kalla Alagar and said that he would be emancipated from the curse by the blessing of Kalla Alagar. This event was also enacted every year and celebrated by the Vaishnavites.

When King Tirumalai Nayak was ruling Madurai in the seventeenth century, he wanted everyone to celebrate together and therefore merged the two festivals into one by making Lord Vishnu (Kalla Alagar) arrive for the wedding. But by the time he arrives late due to spate in Vaigai, the wedding is over presided by the local Alagar (Koodal Alagar). Therefore he goes back in a huff however blessing the sage Mandooka on his way back. Thus the festival was celebrated by everybody and by combining this people could celebrate it efficiently too.

The festival is celebrated to this day in Madurai and goes by the name Chithirai Festival and Lord Kalla Alagar’s crossing the river is celebrated on Chitra Pournami.

Glossary :
Sangam Period is the period in the history of ancient southern India (known as the Tamilakam) spanning from 3rd century BC to 4th century AD. This is further divided into Pre historic, Ancient and Medieval Sangam periods.
Bhootaganas – are lieutenants of Lord Shiva having strange figures, sometimes huge, sometimes dwarfed figures with long teeth, big faces, some with big bellies, long nails etc. They are supposed to be the attendants of Lord Siva. They have terrifying forms.

From the Panchatantra – The Monkey and the Crocodile

This is the story from the chapter Loss of Gains of the Panchatantra. Readers may refer to the background guide for more info on this.

“One who remains cool in the face of adversity, like the monkey in the water (in this story) overcomes all his problems” – is the saying with which the story starts. The story is that of ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’
On the banks of the Ganges was a rose apple tree (Rose apple is called Jambuphalam in Sanskrit and Naaval Pazham in Tamil). On the tree, lived a monkey by name Rakthamukha. True to his name Rakthamukha was a red faced monkey. The tree was full of rose apples which were as sweet as nectar and Rakthamukha was living happily on the tree since he got lots of juicy fruits to eat.

One day, a crocodile by name Karalamukha, who lived with his wife on the opposite bank, came swimming near the rose apple tree and seeing Rakthamukha, started conversing with him.

After mutual introduction, in the course of the conversation, Karalamukha asked Rakthamukha, “Do you find enough food here?”

Rakthamukha said “Why not? These juicy fruits are more than enough! Would you like to try some?”
Without waiting for an answer, Rakthamukha plucked a few fruits and threw them into Karalamukha’s open mouth.
The crocodile chewed them and found that they were sweet and nice. “Hmmm…” he said to the monkey, “they are quite nice, better than I thought, give me some more”.

This practice of Karalamukha meeting Rakthamukha continued every single day from then onwards, with Karalamukha resting on the bank and Rakthamukha safely on the branches of the tree. Everyday Rakthamukha gave fruits to his friend Karalamukha and they both chit chatted for a while on the happenings in the world. Their friendship grew stronger by the day.

One day, it occurred to Karalamukha to carry some fruits to his wife. So he took few extra fruits in his mouth and carried them to his place on the opposite bank.

Karalamukha’s wife was fascinated by the sweetness of the fruit.

“Oh husband, where did you get such fine fruit?” she asked.

Karalamukha told her of his friendship with Rakthamukha and his eating fruits daily with him.

Karalamukha’s wife, with a cunning smile said “Why don’t you bring him home one day huh?”

As Karalamukha was wondering when his wife had become so hospitable, she said, “I am dying to eat his heart.”

To a shocked Karalamukha who was thinking whether heard her right, she continued, “These fruits are so juicy and tasty and you say that your monkey friend eats them every day for all his meals. Did you not even imagine how sweet his heart would be … Ssssss…. How juicy and sweet his heart would be … I can’t wait to eat his heart. Bring him tomorrow, will you?”

Karalamukha was flabbergasted. Never once in all these days did he ever think of eating up Rakthamukha and in fact he liked his company and looked forward to meeting up with him every day and chatting and eating some fruits. And now, his dear wife wanted his friend for dinner, literally for dinner.

Karalamukha hesitantly looked at his wife. “It is true dear, that Rakthamukha’s heart would be sweet, but… but he is my friend and…”

“And what?” shouted Mrs.Karalamukha. “Your friendship is more important to you than your wife’s desire. That means you do not love me at all!”

“No, it’s not like that…” started Karalamukha.

“Now, if you do not bring that monkey for me, I shall stop eating and starve myself to death” she said.
Karalamukha was worried. Neither could he deceive his friend nor could he displease his wife. He thought for a long time and finally decided that he would obey his wife.

Off he went the next day to the tree but he did not chat as usual with Rakthamukha and was looking downcast.

“What happened dear friend?” asked Rakthamukha. “You seem to be upset about something. What is it?”

“Hmmm… well, my wife was very angry with me” said Karalamukha. “She ate the fruit I took for her yesterday and scolded me for not having taken you home even once when every day you are giving me such delicious fruits. She scolded me for being so selfish and told me not to come home without taking you with me” He put up a sad tone in his voice.

“How nice of her to think that way” said Rakthamukha. “But you could have told her that I cannot swim and therefore cannot go under water to you home”

“Well, actually, my house in on the opposite bank near some rocks and you will not need to go under the water. I thought that you could sit on my back and I could swim across and take you home, you see? And if I do not take you home today, I will not be allowed and also she will starve” he said in the same sad tone.

“Oh, okay then” said Rakthamukha. “I can come with you right now. Let there be no misunderstanding between you two on account of me. Are you ready to take me?”

“Yes” said a happy Karalamukha for he thought he was achieving his evil goal. “Jump on to my back.”

Rakthamukha jumped on to Karalamukha’s back and the crocodile started swimming. Ganges is a huge river with lot of currents and Karalamukha started going slowly.

After Karalamukha had completed half the distance, he thought Rakthamukha would not be able to escape even if he wanted to and started swimming faster and faster and the water splashed on Rakthamukha who found it very difficult to keep his balance on the crocodile’s back.

“Slow down my friend” shouted Rakthamukha. “Do not be in such a hurry. I am not so hungry”

With and evil grin, Karalamukha replied, “You are not hungry, but my wife is.” He then went on to tell the monkey the plan of his wife and how he was going to be killed and his heart to be devoured by her. Rakthamukha was shell shocked, but remained calm. He thought very quickly and pretending to be angry, he said, “Oh Karalamukha! What a fool you have been! Why did you not tell me this before I jumped on to your back huh? Had I known that your wife wanted my heart, I would have gladly brought it along!”

It was the crocodile’s turn to be shocked now. He was very confused. What was the use of the monkey without its heart?

As Karalamukha was thinking, Rakthamukha went on. “I usually store my heart in the hollow of the tree only since it is very sweet and precious. I can take it if you go back to the tree and we can come again” He sounded very convincing that Karalamukha believed every word of his. Rakthamukha also kept his calm while the crocodile made a ‘U’ turn and headed back to the tree.

The moment they neared the tree, Rakthamukha, with a giant leap got on to the highest branch of the tree. Karalamukha waited and waited. After a few minutes, he shouted, “Are you ready yet? Take your heart and come. My dear wife will be hungry and waiting”

“Humph” Rakthamukha gave a snort of disgust. “You fool of a crocodile, did you not know that one cannot survive without a heart and no one has two hearts? Would I be foolish enough to come with you again? Go away from here. I do not want to see your face again!”

Saying thus, Rakthamukha disappeared into the bushy branches of the tree which had been his saviour.

Kumati and Sumati – A Folktale

kum and sum story

Long long ago, in a village in Northern India, there was an old lady by name Kumati. Kumati had a daughter-in-law by name Sumati.

Sumati was a very nice girl. She was very soft spoken, humble, courteous, well trained in all household work, caring and possessed all other attributes a mother-in-law would look for in a daughter-in-law. Now, Kumati was a tyrannical mother-in-law and would on no account be satisfied with anything Sumati did. She found fault with everything Sumati did, be it cooking, sweeping, tending to the cattle, or any job for that matter.
“Your parents have not trained you well” she would shout at times.

“Are your hands made of butter huh? Can you not scrub the vessels harder you dud?” she would yell.

“You have not come here to eat and sleep. Do all the work before you sit to eat”, she would rave at Sumati just as the girl sat to eat her meal which already would have been very cold.

Sumati was trained by her parents not to talk back at elders and also Sumati did not like quarrelling and so used to keep quiet when Kumati shouted at her. Sumati’s husband Ramu was afraid of his mother and would not open his mouth at all when she shouted. More often than not he would slip out from the house the moment she started shouting.

Sumati, though she would not talk back would hold back her tears and cry alone at night.

One day Kumati had to visit one of her relatives who was very ill.

“Sumati”, she ordered in her pompous tone, “Make ghiya sabzi (bottle gourd vegetable) and rotis for lunch and make only as much as is needed. Do not make more. There is no food to waste here hmm…. I am going to my aunt’s house with Ramu and I will come by one o’ clock”.

She went off and Sumati, after doing the other chores, started making lunch as her mother-in-law had ordered.
When Sumati was almost done there was a knock on the door. Sumati went and opened the door to see a sadhu (mendicant) looking tired and weary standing at the doorstep. He looked at Sumati and asked, “Daughter, may I have some water to drink? I am so thirsty” The sun was blazing outside.

Sumati, courteous as she was, immediately called the visitor in. “Sure, please come in Swami!” she said. “You look very tired. Please be seated”.

She went in and brought a jug of cold sweet smelling water. In those days people used to keep water in earthen pots covered with a wet cloth which kept the water cold. They also put certain herbs in the water which gave the water a very pleasant fragrance. The man seemed glad to be getting a jug of cold water and drank it eagerly.
Sumati was very happy and asked him, “Swami, it looks you are on some pilgrimage. Have you had anything to eat?”
The man looked hesitant and said, “Well…. I will eat on my way… I am on a pilgrimage and I left my village early in the morning”. Saying so, he got up to go.

“Wait Swamiji!” said Sumati. “You must be hungry and there are no proper chavadis for the next many miles. Please wash your hands and feet and sit down. Please eat lunch and go!” (Chavadis were free public guest houses for travellers. In those days, many villages had chavadis as people cared for poor travellers. Food was also available at the chavadi).

The sadhu was happy and sat down. Sumati served the portion of rotis and subzi meant for herself and gave him some thick buttermilk to drink. The man was very happy and blessed Sumati with all his heart. “May God bless you with all good things!” said he and left the house. Just as he was stepping out, guess who were coming? Kumati was coming with her son Ramu. Kumati’s eyes bulged with anger to see a mendicant leaving happily from their house.

Unfortunately, just as the man passed by Kumati, he let out a big burp. Kumati’s suspicions were coming true. The daughter-in-law had wantonly disobeyed her.

Kumati barged into the house and started yelling at Sumati. “How dare you disobey me, you impertinent dunce? I told you specifically that there is no food to waste and you are happily feeding who so ever comes? Did you think this house is a chavadi huh? Will you father give money for all that you are wasting?”

Saying so, she rushed at a bewildered Sumati, pulled her by the shoulder and stopped short of slapping her.
“Out you go!” She shoved her out of the house. “Go to your father’s place you dud. Go and waste your father’s money”.

Sumati fell down and Kumati slammed the door on her. Sumati was sobbing and got up. Fortunately she did not get hurt much. She was very sad at this treatment meted out to her by her mother-in-law but sadder that her husband had kept mum.

Not knowing what to do with herself, she decided to go to her father’s house. But her father’s village was quite far away and it would be late night when she reached. But there was a shorter route through the forest nearby. It was a bit scary, but Sumati thought she would reach by evening if she went through this route.

Wiping away the tears streaming down her cheeks and sobbing, she started to trudge along the forest path. She walked for about an hour when suddenly, cold breeze started to blow. There were dark clouds and there was the roar of thunder. It became very dark and big rain drops started falling plop… plop… and in a matter of minutes, the shower became heavy rain. With nothing to shelter herself from the rain, Sumati ran hither and thither to protect herself from the rain and suddenly, she saw a hollow on the trunk a big tree. Without a thought, she ran to it scrambled up and jumped into the hollow. Fortunately, it was not at a height.

Frightened and cold, she was shivering and huddled inside. The rain was pounding outside. Very tired, Sumati fell asleep.

Suddenly she was rudely awakened by the sound of screeching laughter, on the tree top. Holding her breath, she gingerly peeped outside. It was night and the rain had stopped. The crickets and frogs were singing. The sky was clear and moon was out. In the dim light, she saw two monstrous forms sitting on a branch. She could make out they were rakshasis (demonesses).

“Hee hee hee…” screeched one. “I want to go to Swarna Dweep (Gold Island) and enjoy. Come on, let’s go!” she said to the other.

The other one was not very enthusiastic. “I am very tired” said she. “Today I had to run a lot on the mountains to catch some sheep to eat. I am not coming”

“Don’t worry sis!” said the first one. “I will make the tree carry us. You don’t need to put in any effort! We will fly back on the tree tomorrow.”

“Fine” said the other. “Then come, let’s go”

Suddenly Sumati was shaken by a jerk that she fell down inside the hollow and before she could realise, she felt the tree shake and felt as if it was moving. Slowly, with difficulty she got up holding the sides of the hollow and peeped out and the tree was rising like an aeroplane!

Shocked and surprised, Sumati sank to a corner of the hollow praying fervently to god. The tree kept moving for many hours and suddenly she realised that it was dawn and the sun was coming up fast. The roar of the ocean was heard and she knew it must be some beach. Suddenly there was a bright reflection of what appeared like sand and the tree landed with a “THUD”.

“Come on let’s go…..” cackled one rakshasi and soon Sumati saw both of them running on the golden sand and after a while they disappeared. Sumati waited for some time but felt very sick, holed in the hollow for so long.

She slowly got out of the hollow carefully looking out for the rakshasis but they were nowhere to be seen.
She looked down and found the sand to be strangely bright. She picked up a little in her hand and WOW! It was gold. Surprised as she had never seen anything like that before, she hurriedly filled up the front portion of her pallu (loose end of the saree) with the gold sand as much as she could. She knotted the pallu carefully and looked around with awe at the sparkling sand and the roaring sea and there were no human beings around.

After a while she got into the hollow once again waiting for the rakshasis to come and fly back. It looked like ages and at last after nightfall, the rakshasis came back. They had no reason to suspect Sumati’s presence and the tree flew back as it had come. It landed in the same place in the woods from where it had been taken. Sumati waited for day break patiently. Just as it was dawning, she saw the two rakshasis flying in another direction. Then after the sun had come up and the forest was bright, Sumati slowly got out of the hollow and walked back home.

Her mother-in-law was outside quarrelling with some vegetable vendor. The moment she saw Sumati, her face became crimson with fury. “You fool, did I not tell you to get lost to your father’s place huh?” She yelled.

Sumati did not reply but quietly entered the house. Ramu was sitting there finishing his breakfast.
Kumati hurried behind her, raising her hand and yelling. Sumati suddenly turned around and quickly went to the door and slammed it shut.

“Shhhhh….” Said Sumati to her puzzled mother-in-law. “Speak softly, Amma! I’ve brought something for us. Nobody should know.”

Calming down a little, Kumati asked, “What is it? You must have brought some stale sweetmeat from your father’s house! Did I ask you to come back, you dud!!!”

Sumati said, “No Amma! It is not sweetmeat but gold!!” Saying so, she opened the knot of her pallu and the room was lit up with the brightness of the golden sand!

Kumati’s jaws fell open in surprise and she looked at Sumati unbelievingly. “Where did you get that all from?” she demanded running her hand through the pile of the golden sand.

Sumati told her story to her unbelieving mother-in-law and husband.

Kumati, though happy inside, did not want to show her appreciation of Sumati. Instead she asked her “Why did you bring so little you silly girl? Had I gone, I would have brought enough to last seven generations. Where is that tree? I will go with the rakshasis and show you how to do things smartly. If a dumb one like you can bring this much, let me show you how much a smart woman like me can bring. Come on, show me the tree. I want to go!”

Sumati protested. “This is enough for us Amma” she said. “This will last us for generations! Those rakshasis are dangerous, and it is very tiring to travel in the tree Amma. You are old also.”

The moment Sumati uttered the word “old”, Kumati was doubly furious.

“You are calling me old, you good for nothing goose? How dare you call me so? Will you show me the tree in the jungle or shall I pack you to your father’s place once again?”

Sumati knew it was futile to talk to her mother-in-law anymore.

“Ok Amma. I will take you to the tree in the afternoon”, she said.

“Afternoon? What afternoon?” shouted Kumati. “I am telling you I want to go NOW. Come on.”

Knowing that there was no other solution, Sumati took Kumati to the jungle to the tree, accompanied by Ramu.
As soon as Sumati pointed out to the tree, Kumati hastened and almost ran and climbed into the hollow with great difficulty, since she was plump unlike Sumati, who was slim.

“Do not make any noise Amma” said a concerned Sumati. She was worried that her mother-in-law’s loud mouth would cost her dearly. “And be careful to climb out of the hollow only after the rakshasis have gone very far okay?”

“I know, you stupid girl. You think you know everything huh? Remember that I am twice your age, now go home both of you, and do not forget to keep what you brought in the steel almirah and lock it” said Kumati.

Sumati and Ramu went home worrying for her safety.

Kumati waited impatiently till night peeping in and out of the hole every now and then. With her big figure, it was very uncomfortable inside but it was her doing and so she could not complain.

At last she heard a ‘swoosh’ sound and the tree jerked as the rakshasis sat on their favourite branch. Kumati was frightened at the sight of them but sat silently.

For a long time, they were talking and talking, with screeching laughter in between and Kumati was getting impatient. “When will they go to Swarna Dweep?” she wondered.

Suddenly she heard the word “Dweep” and sharpened her ears. The rakshasis were planning the trip.

“It’s a long time since I had Hilsa fish, I feel like having a feast of Hilsa now” said one rakshasi.

“Why not sis?” said the other. “We will go to ‘Matsya Dweep’ (fish island) now and have it. We can ride on the tree like yesterday” said the other.

Kumati was horrified. To fly all the way to pick fish! What would her son and Sumati think of her? She imagined her son Ramu and Sumati making fun of her when she returned and laughing aloud. She imagined the other villagers joining with them and laughing at Kumati.

The tree shook and took off. Kumati came back from her imagination but it was a bit too late. The tree had risen.
“Go to Swarna Dweep, go to Swarna Dweep!” Kumati yelled.

The shocked rakshasis looked down to see from where the sound was coming and were aghast to find a human being peering at them from the hollow.

“Who are you? And what business do you have to take shelter in our home?” roared one of them as she hung down from the branch upside down and brought her face near the hollow of the tree. The tree was flying at a slow pace.
A terrified Kumati started crying and put her hands on her eyes not able to face the gory rakshasi.

“Drop her down sis!” said the other rakshasi. “We will go as scheduled”.

“Yes! With pleasure!!” said the other and she jumped from the branch and held the tree like a rattle, turned it horizontally and shook it, shrieking loudly. The tree was passing Kumati’s house then.

Kumati fell down from the hollow and in few moments, she fell in the pond behind her house with a big ‘pachaak!’ Water splashed out of the pond. The pond was not so deep and it had clayey soil and so Kumati was not injured, but with great difficulty, she gathered herself and with clay and mud splashed on her she looked so comical.

Sumati was worried about her mother-in-law and could not sleep. Just as she heard the ‘pachaak’ sound at their backyard, she woke Ramu up.

“Husband, I heard a big sound at our back yard. Please wake up and see, please” she said. Ramu woke up groggily and with the help of a fire torch went to the back yard only to see a plump figure wet and smeared with clay pulling herself towards the house.

Sumati ran to her, opening the backyard gate. “Amma, what happened Amma? Are you okay? Did the rakshasis harm you Amma? Are you hurt anywhere?” she asked her and put her hand comfortingly on Kumati’s shoulder. Ramu was also shocked at her appearance and chided her for not listening to them.

Kumati was surprised that instead of making fun of her, they both were genuinely concerned about her. She realised her folly and also realised that her loud mouth had landed her in trouble.

She realised that “Silence is Golden”

From that day onwards, Kumati was completely a transformed woman and they lived happily ever after.

 

 

 

A Story from Vikram and Vetaal

Today (6th March India)  is the third anniversary of my blog and I thank all of you readers who have been following this blog and encouraging me continuously. Here is another interesting story for you…

Vikramaditya or Vikram was a legendary Indian king with unmatched valour, intelligence and bravery. He is said to have ruled Bharat from Ujjain and many a story are woven about him, the famous  ones being Betaal Pachchisi (also called Vetaal Panchavimsati in Sanskrit)  and Singhasan Battisi. Betaal Pachchisi is a set of twenty five stories including the introductory one, each of them ending with a riddle, told by a Betaal or Vedaalam in Tamil (which means vampire) to Vikram to test his intelligence.  Singhasan Battisi is a set of thirty two stories where the stories told are about Vikram’s outstanding qualities to Raja Bhoja who accidentally discovers the throne of Vikramaditya.

This is from Betaal Pachchisi. Here is the introductory story.

King Vikram who was ruling from Ujjain, used to meet the public outside the palace everyday morning while he came to the court. Once he noticed that an elderly person who looked like a mendicant was coming every morning in the audience and presenting him with a big fruit every day without fail. King Vikram used to get the fruit and hand it over to the minister who was storing it somewhere.

One day as the minister was taking the fruit, a monkey appeared out of nowhere and snatched the fruit from the minister and tore open a portion of the fruit when a big precious ruby fell out of the fruit. As King Vikram and the onlookers looked at this incident with great surprise, the mendicant had left. King Vikram called the minister and asked him to bring the other fruits and to their surprise, all the fruits contained a precious ruby each.

The next day when the mendicant approached the king, Vikram asked him the purpose of his giving him so many fruits with gems inside.

“I need your help urgently, Maha Rajan (great king)” replied the mendicant.

“What is it that you want from me?” asked Vikram to which the mendicant said with a mysterious smile, “I need to tell you that in private”. Vikram then led him to his inner chamber when the mendicant said “I can tell you what I want only if you come and meet me in my place in the forest on the coming new moon day at midnight. But you should come alone. Will you?”

King Vikram agreed immediately without a second thought.

The mendicant left the place immediately.

On the following new moon night, unknown to anyone Vikram mounted his horse and sword in hand, rode into the deep dark jungle. The forest was dense with trees, bushes and creepers and being the new moon night there was not a spot of light.

It would have terrified us if we went, but Vikram, brave as he was, trained his eyes to see in the dark and followed the rugged path.

After a while, the growth of bushes was so dense that the horse could not proceed. Climbing down, King Vikram trudged over the thorny bushes and the only noise being made was by his sandals crushing the dry leaves and twigs. Here and there one could suddenly hear the rustle of leaves on trees signifying the movement of deadly snakes. King Vikram advanced into the forest fearlessly sword in hand.

After a while, he could spot a clearing where the mendicant was sitting cross legged wearing a garland made of skulls chanting some verses loudly. There was a sacrificial fire in front of him burning brightly and he was throwing something in the fire at the end of each verse with his eyes closed tight. King Vikram realised that the mendicant was indeed a sorcerer.

Vikram smiled to himself that he was able to find the sorcerer and went up to him.

Hearing the rustle of Vikram’s sandals, the sorcerer opened his eyes.

“Hahahahahahahahaha……..” he roared with laughter as if he had achieved something. “Oh! So you have come” said he. “I knew you would not cheat me”

Vikram’s expression remained as calm as the sea. “Yes, why would I cheat you Sir? Tell me how I could serve you?” he asked with humility.

“Well” said the sorcerer. “ You shall do as you have promised”

“Yes, Go on” said Vikram.

“There is a banyan tree at the north eastern corner of this forest and there hangs a corpse on its branches. Bring me the corpse as I am doing a ritual to attain occult powers and only if I sacrifice a corpse brought by a King like you, I will succeed in my endeavour” said he with a wicked look.

Vikram, brave as he was, immediately turned and proceeded to the north east corner of the forest. Such sharp sense of direction he had that he easily went in the correct direction in the pitch dark forest with no one to guide!

Soon he reached the place and saw a huge tree on which a corpse hung upside down. He could see it was tied with a rope and so he climbed up the tree and cut the ropes holding the corpse and it fell down with a thud. As he bent to pick it up, there was an eerie laughter and the corpse flew back to the branch and hung upside down on its own. Six times Vikram tried and all the six times, the corpse flew back. By then Vikram had realised that it was not an ordinary corpse, but the corpse was possessed by a vampire (ghost).

This time, Vikram held firmly to the corpse and shoved it on his back, holding its legs tightly. The corpse began to speak.

“You are really great Vikram” it said. “You have managed to capture me and take me to the sorcerer. But the path is quite long and so I have decided to tell you a story. The story will have a question at the end.I have heard that you are extremely intelligent and if you know the answer and still keep quiet, your head will break into a thousand pieces but if you tell me the correct answer, I will fly back to the tree”

It was such a tricky situation but Vikram being bound by his promise to the sorcerer could not but agree to this condition of the vampire.

“Go on…” he said.

The vampire started the story.

In olden days in a city, there lived two friends, Suryamal and Chandrasen. They were very close friends. Once both of them went on a visit to a Kali temple at Pataliputra. In the temple, Suryamal saw a young maiden who was very beautiful. He instantly liked her so much that he enquired nearby and found his way to her house to meet her father. He met her father and sought the maiden’s hand in marriage. The father was too glad. After all he was a very poor man and here, some well to do person was seeking his daughter’s hand. So the marriage was fixed. The father had only one condition that since his daughter was an ardent devotee of Kali, Suryamal should, after marriage fulfil her wish of going to a Kali temple every day.

 Suryamal agreed and the marriage was performed in a grand manner in the presence of the villagers and Chandrasen. Chandrasen was very happy for his friend. The day following the wedding, the friends along with Suryamal’s wife bade goodbye to her parents and started back to their city. The girl’s father asked them to stay for a day but they said that there was a pooja in Suryamal’s house the next day and they had to leave.

The friends were riding horses while Suryamal’s wife was travelling in a palanquin carried by two men. Her jewellery and other gifts given by her parents were being carried by another person walking behind the palanquin.

Unfortunately the party had started their travel a bit late in the evening and it was already past midnight when they were passing through a dense forest and still had to travel several miles to reach their destination. The forest was infested with dacoits which they were not aware of and suddenly they were attacked by a group of dacoits. There was a fierce fight. Though Suryamal and Chandrasen did not have any weapons, they fought bravely but the dacoits overpowered them and chopped off their heads. The attendants had run away in fear leaving all the gifts and Suryamal’s  wife was huddled inside the palanquin trembling with fear.

By the time the dacoits left, it was early in the morning and Suryamal’s wife stepped out gingerly out of the palanquin only to see the headless bodies of her husband and his friend.

Suffering a terrible shock she cried out loudly and lamented to her goddess Kali. She recalled how much she believed in Kali and how Kali had betrayed her. Unable to bear the sorrow, she pulled out a small dagger she carried and was about to kill herself when to her delight, Kali appeared before her and said she would give life to her husband and his friend. She further told the maiden to take the heads of her husband and his friend and keep it near the respective necks. The girl was so excited at this offer of Kali Maa that she, in her hurry, brought the heads of Suryamal and Chandrasen but while keeping them near the necks, interchanged the heads. She kept Chandrasen’s head near Suryamal’s body and Suryamal’s head near Chandrasen’s body. In a second Kali Maa brought them to life as they were placed and vanished. To her horror, the maiden found her husband with his friend’s body and vice versa. She lamented but it was too late.”

The vampire stopped the story. “Vikram” it said, “who do you think the maiden should take as her husband and live with? Suryamal with Chandrasen’s body or Chandrasen with Suryamal’s body?”

Without a wee bit of hesitation Vikram replied “The girl should take the person with Suryamal’s head as her husband, because, the brain in our head commands all the organs in our body, stores all memories and therefore the head is the vital part of our body and so it would be appropriate that she lives with the person with Suryamal’s head”

The next moment, Vikram heard an eerie cackle and the vampire had slipped out of his hold. “Vikram,” it said, “I told you that I will go back if you told the right answer and here I go hohoho….…”

There was a swoosh in the air and rustle on the trees and the vampire was flying back to its tree fast with Vikram in hot pursuit.

Here ends the first tale of Vikram and  Vetaal.

 

Sahasra Kavacha – The one with a thousand armours!


Long long before the period of Mahabharata, there lived a king with demonic qualities by name Dambodbhava. He wanted to become immortal and so started doing penance to propitiate Lord Surya (the sun God). He did arduous penance for a number of years and Lord Surya who was pleased at his devotion appeared in front of him.

“What boon do you seek my son?” he asked Dambodhbhava.

Grinning wide as he was going to get his wish come true, Dambodbhava with his head bowing in obeisance said “Immortality. I wish to become immortal my Lord!”

Surya shook his head much to the chagrin of Dambodbhava. “I cannot grant you that” said he. “In fact no one can be immortal. Any being born in this earth has to die and I cannot change that” said he. “Ask for something else”

Dambodbhava was disappointed but had to think quickly on his boon. So he thought of a complicated boon and asked thus.

“Lord… then let me be protected by a thousand armours on my chest which can be removed only by a person who has done a thousand years of penance to be able to fight with me and he can remove the armour only after fighting for a thousand years with me. At a time only one armour can be removed and the moment the person rips off my armour, he should fall dead!”

Whoa! A super complicated boon to be immortal was sought by Dambodbhava.

Lord Surya who could not refute this as he was not asking to be immortal, granted it. The severity of Dambodbhava’s penance had created a soft corner in the mind of Lord Surya.

Now Dambodbhava was all powerful. A thousand shiny armours sat on his chest puffing up his already proud chest. He came to be known as “Sahasra Kavacha” or one with a thousand armours.

As it happens with all the demons who get such boons, Dambodbhava became intoxicated with the thought that he was unconquerable and started harassing celestial beings, human beings, animals and all forms of life. Such havoc, destruction and chaos was being created by him that all the beings on the earth were cursing him and were wishing for his end. But due to the queer boon he had obtained, he remained unbeaten.

Near Badrinath on the Himalayas, the daughter of Daksha by name Murthi was living with her two sons who were young sages. They were Nara and Narayana who were inseparable brothers and were the reincarnation of Sri Hari (Lord Vishnu). They complemented each other in all activities. It is said that Nara represented the human being, Narayana represented the divine power and human power in unison with divine power is invincible.

Whilst one of them was meditating, Dambodbhava came to their peaceful abode and started destroying whatever was in sight. Nara called out to him and told him to exercise restraint. Dambodbhava in his arrogance not only slighted his advice but called him for a duel. Now, Nara had done a thousand years of penance and started to fight with Dambodbhava and the fight went on and on and on for a thousand years. At the end of it Nara pierced the first armour of Sahasra Kavacha and the next moment he fell dead as per the boon given by Lord Surya.

A gleeful Sahasra Kavacha giving out a thunderous roar of victory turned around only to be shocked by what he saw. Nara was up and about and there was another similar young sage ready to fight with him. He did not know that by doing penance for a thousand years, Narayana had mastered the Mrita Sanjeevani mantra and with the help of that brought Nara to life and there, Nara was going to meditate while Narayana fought with Sahasra Kavacha. Again for a thousand years, Narayana fought with him and at the end removed the second armour and dropped dead, only to be brought back to life by his twin brother who took over the fighting as Narayana went to meditate.

This went on over and over again till nine hundred and ninety nine armours were removed. With just one armour left, Dambodbhava sensed that his end was near and ran to Lord Surya seeking asylum with Nara and Narayana in hot pursuit. Lord Surya could not refuse asylum to a devotee who had surrendered himself seeking refuge though he was such a horrible being. Much against his own wishes, he absorbed Sahasra Kavacha into his self thus saving Sahasra Kavacha’s life.

But try as he might, the demonic qualities of Dambodbhava were troubling Surya and he wanted to get rid of him at the earliest possible opportunity. This was the opportunity when Kunti called him to give her a son. Sahasra Kavacha was reborn thus as Karna with the last remaining armour of his and earrings. Krishna and Arjuna were Narayana and Nara reborn and thus the enmity continued till Karna was vanquished on the battlefield. It was because of Sahasra Kavacha’s boon that it became extremely necessary that his armour had to be removed prior to killing him or else Arjuna would have fallen dead the moment he killed Karna. Karna’s character was a mixture of good and bad since in spite of being a demon, he had resided in Surya for quite some time. So even though Karna’s actions like when he lied or instigated his friend to disrobe a helpless woman in public earn the ire of the people, he was endowed with the good qualities of bravery, being faithful to his friend ever and above all charity to people irrespective of their standing or status (just like the Sun) and indeed it was this quality that helped bring about his end in the Mahabharata War.

This is the story of Sahasra Kavacha.

 

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