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From The Bhagavatham – The Rescue Of Gajendra

Long long ago, in an island amidst the ocean was a huge mountain by name Trikuta. It had three peaks whose colours resembled iron, silver and gold. The mountain was very huge in its base and had terrific height also. It was surrounded by a dense forest. The mountain contained in itself many caves and there was a beautiful valley also. The scenic beauty around the mountain and the forest could not be described in words. The multi coloured birds making sweet sounds, the green trees, the fragrance of the flowers and the cool scented breeze made it a paradise on earth. There were lot of wild animals in the forest, lions, tigers, leopards and elephants.

There was a herd of elephants led by Gajendra, the majestic one. Gajendra  was always surrounded by many female elephants and elephant calves. Gajendra was indeed so majestic and powerful that he was a terror to all the other animals in the jungle. The trumpeting of Gajendra would send lions and tigers running for cover.

Near the valley around the mountain, there was a beautiful lake owned by Lord Varuna. It was a huge lake with great depth and it was a treat to the eyes with its blue coloured water and pink lotuses in full bloom. The animals of the forest quenched their thirst there and the lake was house to crocodiles also.

One day, Gajendra came with his herd to drink water in the lake. The herd was thirsty and on seeing the water, they got into the water and frolicked and played to their heart’s content.  Gajendra went inside deeper into the water. Suddenly, a crocodile came and caught his leg. A painful tug, and before he could realise what was happening, he was being pulled in deeper.

Gajendra was not the one to give up or even think of giving up. He tried to pull out his leg with all his might. Gajendra put up a brave fight trying to extricate his leg from the jaws of the crocodile but the crocodile would not give up so easily. It was a ‘tug of war’ which no one had ever witnessed ever before. Both of them seemed to possess equal strength. But as the saying goes, crocodiles are stronger in water. Gajendra , however strong he was seemed to be losing his might.

The herd of elephants, on seeing Gajendra’s plight, came and tried with their trunks to pull Gajendra out, but could not succeed. Soon they gave up and all they could do was to shed tears.

The fight went on for a long long time and slowly, Gajendra’s physical strength started depleting. He was overcome by fatigue and a feeling of helplessness. Once the physical strength diminishes, the mental strength follows suit.  Gajendra was becoming desperate. At the same time, the crocodile was gaining strength and was now confident of pulling Gajendra into the deeper waters.

Suddenly, the tired mind of Gajendra, in a flash, remembered Sri Hari, the Lord of all the beings. All this long Gajendra was fighting with his own might and when he could not manage anymore, he remembered his earlier birth in which he was a great devotee of Lord Narayana (Sri Hari). Now that he remembered the Lord, he knew that the Lord was his only saviour and therefore called out to the Lord , singing a hymn and seeking asylum.

With such sincerity and devotion did he call out that Sri Hari immediately mounted his Garuda and came to the rescue of Gajendra. The next moment the crocodile was vanquished by the Sudarshana Chakra of the Lord. Gajendra, overwhelmed by the Lord’s mercy, plucked a lotus and offered it to the Lord addressing him as “Akhila Loka Natha” (Lord of all the worlds). Tears were streaming from the elephant’s eyes in joy as the very appearance of Sri Hari was ever so blissful.

From the body of the crocodile, rose a Gandharva, who bowed to Lord Sri Hari, thanking him for releasing him from a curse that had made him live the life of a crocodile.

Now this Gandharva, by the name of Huhu in his earlier birth, was once bathing in river Godavari with his wives. In another part of the river was a Sage by name Devala who was in deep prayer offering Arghya (water offering) to the Gods. Huhu, wanted to amuse his wives and so swimming under the current, he went and pulled the sage’s leg. The sage was greatly angered by this act of Huhu and cursed him. “May you become a crocodile, as you are acting like one!” said the sage. Huhu immediately realised his folly and sought for forgiveness.  When he repented, the sage relented and said that the curse will be lifted when he would be hit by Sri Hari.

Huhu now having regained his beautiful original form, left for his abode.

The Lord was pleased with Gajendra and as he blessed Gajendra by keeping his hand on Gajendra’s head, a beautiful being who was as beautiful as Sri Hari emerged from the body of Gajendra and the being merged with Sri Hari.

Gajendra was, in his previous birth a valiant Pandya king by name Indradyumna. Though he was a king, he was a great devotee of Sri Hari and his mind was always filled with the name of the Lord.

Once when Sage Agastya went to his palace, the King was deeply engrossed in the thought of Sri Hari. So he did not realise the arrival of the sage and did not get up or welcome him. This enraged Agastya who cursed him. “You are acting so dull like an elephant and therefore may you become an elephant!”

Now, he was released from his curse by Lord Sri Hari himself and was given a place with the Lord permanently!

This is the story of Gajendra Moksham from Srimad Bhagavatham.

Ravana Humbled – Part I

Ravana was the unparalleled king of Lanka. He had the whole wealth of the world and the beings of the three worlds were at his beck and call. This, coupled with the unbridled grace of Lord Shiva, of whom Ravana was a great devotee, made him all the more arrogant.

On three occasions, however, Ravana was humbled, interestingly, by three different beings: God, man and animal.

The first episode we are going to see is how Ravana was humbled by Lord Shiva.

Ravana’s recent possession was the Pushpak Vimana- the aerial chariot, which he had snatched from his half-brother Kubera. The Vimana was so much more than a modern day marvel such that it could fly according to the will of the pilot. Ravana was exploring the world with his new-found possession, going over hills and valleys, plains and fields, seas and rivers and to all the other realms of the universe.

One day, when he was flying towards Mt. Kailash, which was the abode of Lord Shiva and wanted to fly over it, the Vimana suddenly stopped. Ravana tried with all his might, but the chariot did not budge. Ravana looked up at the mountain and an arrogant thought crossed his mind. “How can there be an obstacle to me, the great Ravana?”, thought he. “If my chariot cannot fly over this mountain, the mountain does not deserve to stand before me. I shall unearth this hurdle and throw it aside”. So saying, he went below the mountain and tried to lift it up with his massive arms. A tremor was suddenly felt by Parvati, who was on the mountain with her consort, Lord Shiva. The Earth shook and rocks fell from the sides of the mountain and Parvati almost fell down. She was startled at the sudden disturbance and looked up at Shiva with fear.

Lord Shiva knew it all. With a smile, he got up, went to the edge of the mountain and pressed it lightly with the big toe of his right foot. Ravana was almost crushed and gave a shriek. Lord Shiva, still smiling, did not remove his foot and told Parvati that it was Ravana who was behind the tremor. The great Ravana knew that it was his Lord, who was punishing him for his arrogance. Humbled, almost immediately, Ravana started to sing a hymn on Lord Shiva and continued singing for a long time. He prayed to Lord Shiva that he appear before him and forgive him. Lord Shiva, who is always captivated by good music, was moved by Ravana’s devotion and appeared before him. Ravana prostrated before him and begged for forgiveness. Shiva, pleased with his devotion, gifted him his sword called the Chandrahaasa.

Ravana thankfully took the sword, and repenting for his foolish act, went back home wiser.

The Story Of How Tirugnanasambandar Revived Poompavai

In the present day Mylapore (in Chennai), there lived a merchant by name Shivanesan during the period of Tirugnanasambandar (7th Century AD). Shivanesan was a prosperous merchant who owned ships and traded in gold and precious gems. He was a devotee of Lord Shiva and greatly revered all Shaivite saints, especially  Tirugnanasambandar about whom he had heard a lot. (You can read the story of how  Tirugnanasambandar was blessed by Lord Shiva here.)

Shivanesan had a daughter by name Poompavai. She had been born to him after years of penance and therefore he loved her very dearly. Poompavai was an icon of beauty with eyes of a doe, thick, black and curly hair, a broad forehead and a charming face. Since Shivanesan had heard the greatness of  Tirugnanasambandar so much, he had decided to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to  Tirugnanasambandar only and had also publicly announced so even without meeting Sambandar in person, even once.

One day, Poompavai , when she was twelve years old, had gone to play in the garden with her friends. Unfortunately, there, she was bitten by a poisonous snake, when she was plucking jasmine flowers and the poison caused her to swoon immediately. Her friends rushed in carrying her. Shivanesan immediately summoned the best doctors but his efforts were of no avail. Poompavai died shortly thereafter. Shivanesan and his family were totally shattered by this incident. Shivanesan was so attached to his daughter that even after her death, he announced that if anyone could revive his daughter he would gift all his wealth to them. In the three days following her death, many magicians and reputed physicians came and tried their luck but their efforts bore no fruit.

Then Shivanesan consoled himself that since he had already decided to give her to Tirugnanasambandar, he would mourn no more. So after her cremation, he collected her bones and ashes and placed them in an urn made of clay. He decorated the urn with sandal, jewellery and flowers and silks and placed it on the bed of her room . He offered rice and milk every day to the urn and also kept an attendant in the room for the urn, treating it as his daughter herself.

Years passed and one day Shivanesan heard that Tirugnanasambandar was visiting Tiruvotriyur which is in the north of today’s Chennai. Shivanesan arranged a floral pandal all the way from Tiruvotriyur to Mylapore and went with his assistants to request Tirugnanasambandar to come to Mylapore. Coincidentally, Sambandar was leaving from Tiruvotriyur to visit Mylapore to have darshan of Lord Kapaleeshwara. Shivanesan gladly accompanied the saint to Mylapore.

On the way, some of Shivanesan’s assistants told the saint about the incident that had happened concerning Poompavai. Sambandar smiled but did not say anything. The entourage of Sambandar accompanied by Shivanesan and his men went to the Kapaleeshwara temple and had darshan of the Lord. After that when they came out of the temple, Tirugnanasambandar turned to Shivanesan and said, “ Please bring the urn in which you have placed your daughter’s remains to the entrance of this temple, which is the abode of the Lord who dances in cremation grounds ” .

Shivanesan, was greatly pleased and after bowing to Sambandar, went home, and brought the urn in a palanquin, accompanied by his daughter’s friends and placed it where Sambandar told him to. Meanwhile lot of crowd had gathered in curiosity to see what was going to happen.

Sambandar looked intently at the urn for some time meditating upon the Lord Shiva. Then, he called out her name and started to sing the hymn starting with the words “Mattitta Punnai” . He sang ten hymns and in each hymn, the first three lines would describe the various festivals of Kapaleeshwara temple and the beauty of the Lord and the last line said “Is it fair for you to have gone away without seeing all this, Poompavai?”

The divine hymns had a marvellous effect. As he sang the tenth hymn “Urinchaya Vaazhkai”, the urn broke open and Poompavai appeared, as grown up as she would have been if she would have been alive. She appeared like a goddess, extremely beautiful with no trace of anything having happened.

All the people were overwhelmed and uttered “Hara Hara , Hara Hara” marvelling at the grace of the Lord Kapaleeshwara. Poompavai , walking gracefully came and bowed to Tirugnanasambandar praying to him. Sambandar turned to Shivanesan and told him to take his daughter home. Shivanesan, bowing to the saint said,” Sir, I have vowed to get my daughter married to you and request you to please accept her hand”.  Sambandar looked at him and said, “Your daughter died of a snake bite. Due to the grace of the Lord, she got her life back for which I have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord and it is not proper for me to marry her (for he was like a father to her now) . She is now the daughter of Lord Shiva. Hence, it is not appropriate for you to speak thus”

Shivanesan and his family were not at all convinced and fell at the feet of Sambandar to accept their request. But Sambandar consoled them with quotes and advices from the ancient texts and took leave of them and went his way.

Eventually Shivanesan gave up his idea, but thought that since he had mentally given away his daughter to Sambandar, he could never accept anyone else as his son-in-law. Poompavai also thought exactly the same way and spent her life as a spinster indulging in devotion to Lord Shiva.

This is the story of how Tirugnanasambandar revived Poompavai from death.

Interestingly , the songs sung in this set (Padhigam) about 1300 years ago, (Sambandar’s period is said to be 7th century AD), mentions Aippasi Onam, Karthikai Deepam, Margazhi Tiruvadirai, Thai Poosam, Masi Magam (bathing in sea), Panguni Uthiram, and the Pavitrotsavam and Tirukkalyanam festivals. This, as a form of recorded history, shows how ancient these festivals are which are being still celebrated today in Kapaleeshwara Temple!!

Shambho Mahadeva!!

The Story of the Syamantaka Gem

The story of the Syamantaka Gem is from the Srimad Bhagavatham which again contains a lot of stories on the life of Lord Krishna.

In Dwaraka, there lived a Yadava nobleman by name Satrajit. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Surya and propitiated Lord Surya regularly with great devotion. One day Lord Surya was overwhelmed with Satrajit’s devotion that He appeared in person to him in a dazzling form and gifted Satrajit with the jewel He was wearing.  The gem was none other than the SYAMANTAKA GEM. This Gem was supposed to be a force to ward off natural calamities and keep the owner very prosperous. Everyday in the morning the Gem produced lots of Gold coins. Satrajit was very happy and kept the Gem with great devotion in his altar and worshipped it. He would distribute the gold coins everyday to the needy and thus everyone was becoming prosperous.

Lord Krishna who also lived in Dwaraka came to know of the Gem and thought that such a treasure would be safer in the hands of the king. He also felt that it was only proper for wealth to be in the custody and command of the king of the place. So he asked  Satrajit to keep the gem in the custody of the king. Satrajit was not willing and felt that it was not Krishna’s business. Lord Krishna left it at that.

Now, Satrajit had a brother by name Prasenjit who was very fond of hunting. One day, Prasenjit, while going for hunting wanted to wear the Gem on his person. Satrajit gladly gave it to him. Prasenjit hung the gem as a pendant in his chain and went to the forest. While hunting in the forest, he had an encounter with a lion and died. The lion was enchanted by the Gem that it pulled it along with the chain and was carrying the same, when it came face to face with Jambavan. Jambavan was the mighty bear who had helped Lord Rama in the previous Yuga, while Rama went to recover Seetha from the clutches of Ravana who had carried her there. After the period of Lord Rama, Jambavan who has the gift of being a Chiranjeevi, (that is to live for ever) was living in one of the caves in the forest there with his extended family. Jambavan, when he saw the Gem with the chain being carried by the lion, was so fascinated with the dazzle of the gem that he struck the lion dead and carried the jewel to his cave. The little bears in his cave, his children and grandchildren were equally fascinated by the gem and they took it as a toy.

Days passed and Prasenjit did not return to the palace. A search team was sent to the forest but they returned empty handed. Satrajit was worried. He started suspecting Lord Krishna of kidnapping and killing his brother as Krishna had shown interest in the Gem. Lord Krishna was deeply perturbed when he heard about Satrajit’s thinking. He was determined to find Prasenjit and the Gem.

Krishna took about ten people and went into the forest. After a few days, they found Prasenjit’s body but with the Gem missing. They also found the pug marks of a lion. They followed the pug marks and at a distance, found the dead body of the lion. It appeared that the lion had been hit by an animal with sharp claws. And then they noticed the marks of the bear. They started following the marks of the bear’s paws and it led them to a huge cave at a distance. Krishna surveyed the cave from outside and told his team to wait under a tree while he went inside.

Slowly and stealthily, Krishna entered the cave, when he saw a little bear toying with the Syamantaka Gem at the entrance. He had to get the gem without disturbing the bear. Such thoughts racing in his mind, he waited behind a crevice near the entrance in the cave till the little bear turned aside. Just as he was about to pick up the gem which lay on the ground, the little bear turned around and gave out a startled grunt. Hearing the grunt, Jambavan rushed out  from inside. He was completely shocked at the stranger in his cave and without even talking to him, came to attack him. Lord Krishna was ready and took him on. First they fought with knives, then with stones. Then they uprooted trees and fought. “This stranger is so strong”, thought Jambavan and decided to wrestle barehanded with him. Krishna was ever ready and the fight lasted for over ten days. The people outside was worried as Lord Krishna had not returned yet.

Jambavan started worrying. Nobody had fought with him so tirelessly and who was this stranger with so much strength? It was then that Lord Krishna appeared to Jambavan as Lord Rama. “Alas!! what have I done” thought Jambavan as he fell flat at the Lotus feet of his Lord. He was filled with deep remorse as he started worshipping Lord Krishna repenting all the while at his thoughtless fight. He enquired on Lord Krishna’s mission and gave him the Syamantaka Gem and honoured the Lord with a variety of fruits and delicacies. He also requested the Lord that his daughter be accepted as a wife by the Lord and so Jambavati was married to the Lord. On the touch of Lord Krishna, the bear Jambavati was transformed into a beautiful lady.

Krishna returned to the town with his retinue, the Gem and Jambavati. He gave back the Gem to Satrajit and informed him of Prasenjit’s death. Satrajit was truly ashamed of having suspected Lord Krishna and as a token of gratitude to the Lord offered the hand of his daughter Satyabhama to the Lord and so, the Lord married Satyabhama.

This is the story of the Syamantaka Gem.

It is said that Lord Krishna had looked at the moon on a Chaturthi day , and it is because of that he suffered this blame. This is linked to the story where Ganesha curses the moon for mocking at his figure and said that whoever saw the moon on a chaturthi day would have to undergo sufferings and blame!

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