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Mama Prayag Das Ji Maharaj – Part II

In the story Part I of Mama Prayag Das Ji Maharaj, we saw how Prayag Dutt came back to his home to his mother after having the divine vision of Sree Raja Ram and Ma Janki and how lucky he was to be touched by these divine beings. Those who have not read part I may click here to read and then proceed to Part II.

Prayag’s mother was waiting for his return anxiously. When she saw him coming back, with such a brilliant glow on his face, his mother knew that he had indeed seen Ma Janki in person. Prayag told his mother excitedly how he had met his sister Janki and brother-in-law Rama. He gave to his mother the remaining sweets which his sister told him to take home after having partaken it. The mother couldn’t believe her son’s luck and the grace of Ma Janki and was extremely happy. When she ate the ‘Prasad’ of the sweets, she felt so much divine bliss herself.

Mother and son could not stop talking about Janki and Raja Ram and about the vision Prayag Dutt had had and the compassion of his ‘Janki Didi’. Their days passed happily. After a year or so, Prayag Dutt’s mother passed away. Prayag was very sad. He now thought that he would go and stay with his sister all the time at Awadhpuri.

There was an old man in Janakpur who wanted to marry his daughter to Prayag Dutt but Prayag could not even imagine a life away from his sister and brother-in-law. Therefore, he left Janakpur to go to Ayodhya without telling anyone.

Reaching Ayodhya he was roaming around searching for his sister and brother-in-law. One day by chance he happened to meet Sant Trilochan Das who had taken care of him on his previous visit and given him the title “Mama”. The Sant took him to his house.

Prayag was always talking about Janki and Rama and was wanting to see them once again. He was wondering why his brother-in-law and sister did not come and see him even now. Trilochan Das told him to be patient. He assured him that he would once again see his ‘Didi’ and ‘Jijaji’. By now the local people had started calling him “Mama”. Prayag Dutt had by now stopped caring for praise or mockery. His mind was full of only his ‘Didi’ and ‘Jijaji’

Months passed and Prayag had not met his sister still. One day as he was going past a temple, there was a discourse on Ramayana going on. The narrator was describing the boon of Kaikeyi and how Rama, Janki and Lakshmana had gone to Chitrakoot. He further went on to describe how Bharata took the Paduka of Sri Rama back to Ayodhya.

“Oh! This is why I am not able to see my sister!” thought Prayag. “She has gone with her husband and Lakshmanji to the jungle at Chitrakoot”. He could listen to the discourse no further and left the place and came home.

He was very troubled at the thought of his delicate sister being in the jungle. He poured out his heart’s feelings to Trilochan Das. He talked about the ‘insensitivity’ of his brother-in-law in taking his wife to the jungle. “Why could he not tell his father that he would not go to the jungle? Why could he not have sent my sister to my house in Janakpur while he roamed in the jungle? What is this foolishness of him not wearing sandals and also letting my sister walk on such a rough jungle path barefoot? What will my sister do if she encounters a wild animal when he and his brother go to pick fruits and berries? How can my brother-in-law be so ‘irresponsible’? So many questions troubled him for which no one including Sant Trilochan Das had any answer.

At one point, he decided he had to do something concrete. Nobody would help. So he went about to people begging them for money. People were considerate and everyone gave him a coin or two. He waited for a month or so and using all the money so collected, he got three wooden planks made. He also got blankets and pillows and pairs of sandals made – all three in number.

When everything was ready, he placed the planks on his head, put the blankets and pillows and shoes on top of that and started walking to Chitrakoot. He walked the whole distance of about three hundred kilometres carrying that load, over a period of few days and reached the jungles. He went into the jungles, shouting aloud, ‘Didi’ and ‘Jijaji’ and ‘Lakshmanji. But there was no response nor could he see any human presence.

Prayag Dutt thought “My Jijaji must be scared that I will scold him for taking my sister to the jungle and that is why they are not showing themselves”. He chuckled to himself. He chose a clearing and spread out the planks, put the bedsheets on them and the pillows and placed on it the pairs of sandals which he had got made with so much concern. They were all not of the same size. The biggest pair was for his ‘Jijaji’ Sri Rama, the next smaller one for Lakshmana and the smallest decorated with sequins and laces for his ‘Janki Didi’. “I will wait atop a tree so that they don’t see me”, he thought to himself and climbed on the huge tree nearby.

As he had expected, after a while he saw Rama, Janki and Lakshmana dressed in wooden bark coming his way. As they reached the tree on which Prayag was sitting on top, he jumped down from the tree. He clasped the feet of his ‘Didi’ who was very ‘surprised’ to see him in the jungle. Prayag told them how bad he felt for their roaming in the jungle like nomads. He started to argue with Sri Rama putting forth all his questions which nobody had answered. Rama gave such answers that Prayag had no chance to speak further. Janki told Prayag of Rama’s vow and also how she was so happy to go with Rama and would not find peace at home without Rama.

Prayag was not the one to give up so easily. But finally had to give up, but not before making them use what he had brought for them. Prayag cajoled them and made them sit on the plank on the blanket using the pillow as a cushion. He pressed the feet of Rama, his sister and Lakshmana and wiped off all the dust with his upper cloth and slipped the sandals onto their feet and they fitted perfectly as if made to order. He tried to talk to Lakshmana to dissuade his brother from going into the jungle again, but a smiling Lakshmana told Prayag that he should go back to Ayodhya taking all that was brought by him and wait for them to come back after fourteen years. Rama and Janki echoed the same thought and Prayag had no other option.

With a heavy heart and a heavy load on his head he started walking back to Ayodhya. Just a short while after, he thought he would have a bath in the Mandakini river at Chitrakoot and freshen himself and then continue his journey. So he kept the planks, pillows, blankets and sandals on the banks of the river and went and took a bath immersing himself fully with his head under water three times (what is generally referred as ‘dubki lagaana’ in Hindi and ‘muzhukku’ in Tamil). The third time when he got up from the water, he was surprised to see that he was bathing in the Sarayu in Ayodhya. His sister, the ever compassionate Ma Janki had not wanted him to walk back with that burden on his head. Prayag was confused but he knew that it was a divine play of his sweet sister.

And so he chose a nice neem tree at Ayodhya, piled the planks one on top of the other under its shade, put the blankets on the top most plank along with the pillows and the sandals. He kept his clay bowl in which he collected food underneath the planks and he himself sat atop the planks happily engrossed in the thought of his ‘Didi’ and ‘Jijaji’ and waiting for them to come back after fourteen years.

People used to make fun of Prayag. Some used to say “Arre Mama, Bhajan to kiya karo” meaning, ‘O Uncle at least sing some Bhajans so that Rama and Seetha will come to you’. Mama Prayag Das as he was called now used to give a reply with a smile,

“Neem ke neeche khaat khadi hai, Khaat ke neeche karvaa

Prayag Das almastaa sove Ram Lala ki sarva”

Meaning- Under the neem tree are the wooden planks and under the wooden planks is my vessel. Prayag Das is blissfully sleeping on top. What is there to worry with Sree Rama as a brother-in-law?

Sree Rama and Ma Janki kept their word and it is said they met him after fourteen years and he shed his mortal coil to be with them forever.

Pranams to this saint!!

Kaisika Ekadashi- Nampaaduvaan’s story

This is the story of Nampaaduvaan associated with Kaisika Ekadashi which is falling on 10th of December 2016. Ekadashi is the eleventh day of the waxing/waning moon and this day of the waxing moon in the Tamil month of Kartikai is called as Kaisika Ekadashi.

There is a beautiful story associated with this particular Ekadashi which goes on to show that the Lord Narayana’s compassion has no boundaries of religion, caste or creed. This story is said to have been mentioned in one of the ancient Puranas, the Varaha Purana.

Tirunelveli is a district in the southern part of India where Mother Nature has showered her bounty in the form of thick woods, rivers, waterfalls and the like and in this district lies the holy town of Tirukkurungudi. In this place there lived a person whose was called Nampaaduvaan. He was called so because, every Ekadashi night, he used to walk to the temple of Nambi (Lord Narayana) with a stringed instrument in hand and stand outside the temple and sing songs for the Lord through the night. He would leave for his home early in the morning. Hence he was fondly called Nampaaduvaan which translates as ‘Our singer’. He belonged to a community which was looked down upon in those days and therefore he felt embarrassed to go and sing in front of the others during the day. Also in ancient days there was the practice of not letting everyone inside the temple and this was probably one of the reasons Nampaaduvaan stood outside and sang his prayers.

On this particular Ekadashi of the Kartikai month, Nampaaduvaan started for the temple, late at night with his Ektara (one stringed instrument). He walked through the dense forests as he did every day to reach the temple.
As he was passing by a huge tree, he heard a bloodcurdling scream from atop the tree. As he looked up startled, he could see a gory demon with outstretched arms trying to reach and catch him. Nampaaduvaan was not a coward and so stepping aside he asked him “Who are you and what do you want from me?”

The gory demon with a wicked smile said, “Fool, do you not know I am a Brahma Rakshas? I have been deprived of my food for the past few days and so I will have you for my dinner now”.

Seeing the worried look on the face of Nampaaduvaan, the demon continued, “there is no use worrying, O fellow! Now that I have found you, you shall not go back alive from here… Ha….ha… ha…” The eerie laughter was so frightening.
Nampaaduvaan immediately said, “I am not worried about my death O Rakshas. I am worried that I cannot fulfil my vow of singing before the Lord tonight. Let me go now. I will go and sing my hymns to Narayana now and come back in few hours and you can devour me”

The Rakshas looked at him with scorn. “You want me to believe that someone who escapes from me will come back to die? Would a deer which escapes from the lion come back to it?? No way! I will eat you right now hahaha….” The long hairy arm with fingers having nails like the claws of an eagle reached out to Nampaaduvaan.

Nampaaduvaan calmly looked at the demon and said, “O Brahma Rakshas, I speak nothing but the truth and I want to go and do my duty of singing the hymns to my Lord and if I fail to come I will accept the punishment that is given for grave sins.”

The demon was amused that this man was brave enough to argue with it and went on, “Grave sins? What grave sins? Huh?”

Nampaaduvaan started listing the grave sins listed in the scriptures, such as discriminating in the food stuff while eating with another, grabbing back what has been given in charity, blaming or abusing the person who gives food and so on. He listed seventeen such sins and each time when he listed one, he said, “Rakshas, if I do not come back to you as promised, let me get the punishment given for this sin.” The Rakshas was not satisfied and would not let Nampaaduvaan go.

After seventeen such sins, at last Nampaaduvaan said, “O Rakshas, if I do not come back, let me get the punishment one gets for equating Lord Narayana with demi-gods”

The Rakshas now felt that this fellow would come back after all, but still with some suspicion, let him go his way.

Nampaaduvaan went to the temple entrance and sang to his heart’s content and was in a very happy frame of mind that his body was going to be of use to someone. He sang songs in the tune known as “Kaisika”. He bowed to the Lord with great humility and started walking back, when he was confronted by an old man.

“Where are you going dear fellow?” asked the old man to Nampaaduvaan.

“I am going back after my duty of singing for Lord Narayana” said Nampaaduvaan. His voice was as calm as ever in spite of having to go and become the prey of the Rakshas in a few minutes.

“Do not go this side, my friend”, said the old man. “There is a fearful Rakshas on the tamarind tree down the path. Instead go by the alternate route behind the temple”

“It is ok Sire. I have already met the Rakshas and will be meeting him now. All humans born in this world have to die one day or other and so I do not fear death.” Saying so he bowed to the old man who was none other than Lord Narayana.

The old man smiled and raised his hand and blessed Nampaaduvaan, who then went his way.

The Rakshas was surprised that this fellow had kept up his words. It had never seen anyone escape from its clutches and come back again. This act of honesty of Nampaaduvaan brought about a change in the mind of the Rakshas.

Looking at Nampaaduvaan, it said, “Well, you have kept up your word for which I am very happy, but my hunger is gone now and so instead of your physical body, give me the grace of the Lord you have received by singing the hymns”

Nampaaduvaan said, “I always believe that one should always keep up his/her words. You asked for my body and I am ready to give it up. Now you want the ‘punya’ I have earned by singing the hymns. Eat me up O Rakshas, as you had asked for earlier. Furthermore, I sing hymns as an offering to Lord Narayana and do not seek anything in return from the Lord. Therefore I do not even think of how much merit I would have earned by singing the hymns. Now do not delay. Eat me up”

The Brahma Rakshas was not ready to listen to Nampaaduvaan.

“I told you I am not hungry anymore. Now, listen to me. You would be certainly earning merit by singing the Lord’s glory. I am not asking for all of that. Just give me the merit earned by one song please”, it pleaded.
Nampaaduvaan was also in no mood to relent.

“I already told you Rakshas, I wish to keep up my word and I hope and wish you keep up yours too. Please go ahead and eat me up and satisfy your hunger” he said.

The Rakshas was surprised at the insistence of Nampaaduvaan. It had not seen any creature voluntarily offer their life to it.

It again pleaded with Nampaaduvaan. “I told you I am not hungry for your body, but I am thirsty for the merits you have earned. Please, O man, please give me the merits earned by you by singing at least one stanza of the hymn you sang.”

Nampaaduvaan was unmoved.

“Just one stanza or at least two lines please”, the demon pleaded.

The demon’s plea was so pitiful that Nampaaduvaan could not refuse.

“Ok” he said, “I shall pray for you and sing the last two lines of the Kaisika tune I sang for the Lord”

Nampaaduvaan meditated upon the Lord, praying that the merit of his singing go to the demon and started singing the last two lines of the hymn.

The moment the first line was sung, the body of the demon dissipated and by the time the second line was sung, a beautiful divine figure emerged out of the demon’s body.

To a surprised Nampaaduvaan, the figure said, “I am Soma Sharma. By some curse, I became a Brahma Rakshas and now by listening to the hymn on Lord Narayana, I have regained my old self. My respects to you O divine singer”. Soma Sharma bowed to Nampaaduvaan and in the skies appeared the luminous figure of Lord Narayana with whom Soma Sharma and Nampaaduvaan converged thereby attaining salvation.

This Ekadashi and Dwadashi (twelfth day of waxing/ waning moon) therefore has come to be known as “Kaisika Ekadashi” and “Kaisika Dwadashi” respectively.

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.

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