My pleasure to complete ten years of narrating stories through my blog (which later became this website) today.
Thanks to all of you for reading and encouraging me. Looking forward to narrating more and more stories in the years to come.
The story today is being presented in two parts as it is a long read.
This story is about the birth of ‘Kathasaritasagara’, one of the oldest treasures of stories in known history and Sanskrit literature. This was written in the 11th century by Pandit Somadeva, court poet of Kashmir’s king Anantha Deva. This was written for the amusement of Queen Suryamathi, the wife of King Anantha Deva.
The name ‘Kathasaritasagara’ translates to ‘the ocean of the streams of stories’. As the name suggests, it consists of eighteen books containing about three hundred tales intertwined with each other. Many stories from other epics and Panchatantra are also found in this with variations. Tales told later, like the Arabian Nights, also seem to have drawn inspiration from this work.
Pandit Somadeva mentions that his stories in Kathasaritasagara were from a book called Brihadkatha by Gunadhya.
Who was Gunadhya? Well, here comes the story.
Once upon a time, Lord Siva and Ma Parvati were enjoying some private time together. At that time, Ma Parvati had a desire. Addressing Lord Shiva, she said “Please, my Lord, tell me some stories which have never been known to anyone in this universe till now”.
Lord Shiva smiled. “My dear, you are the Jagan Mata” he said. “Is there anything at all in the fourteen worlds which is not known to you? But since it is you who have commanded me, I cannot refuse and so I will try and tell you.”
Lord looked at Nandi who was guarding the entrance. Nandi understood his duty and stood watchfully at the entrance. Now he would not allow anyone near the entrance till his Lord asked him to.
Shiva got ready to spin a beautiful web of stories for his beloved. A treasure of stories of humans, celestial and mythical characters, animals, birds and reptiles, stories of heaven, earth and hell, stories of boons and curses, stories of far and near, wonderful ones, never ever heard by anyone on this universe.
Just then Nandi noticed a ‘Gana’(attendant) of Lord Shiva by name Pushpadanta approaching him.
“Halt!” said Nandi moving forward to stop Pushpadanta.
Pushpadanta stopped. Smiling at Nandi he signalled him to let him in. Nandi refused. Pushpadanta repeated his request but Nandi strictly refused saying that Lord Shiva and Ma Parvati were having some interesting conversation and that nobody could go in.
Curiosity got the better of Pushpadanta and he wanted to know what that ‘interesting’ conversation could be about. So, using his magical powers he made himself invisible and entered the abode.
Just as he entered he heard the majestic voice of Shiva (whose back was facing the entrance), uttering beautiful verses to Ma Parvati. Parvathi was totally engrossed as if under a spell.
As Pushpadanta listened carefully he realized they were stories! And such wonderful, enthralling ones he had never, ever heard before. After the session was over he quietly slipped away, as he had come.
Going home, he could not resist from telling the stories to someone and so he narrated them to his wife Jaya, not revealing the source to her.
Jaya was a maid-cum-attendant to Ma Parvathi. When Jaya went to perform her daily chores, she, with great excitement started narrating the same stories she had heard from her husband to Ma Parvathi.
Ma Parvathi was extremely upset thinking that Lord Shiva had deceived her. While she had believed that he had spun those stories exclusively for her, the tales seemed to be known even to her maid. When a dismayed Ma Parvathi, fuming with anger, countered her Lord at being ‘deceived’, Lord Shiva was perplexed.
He closed his eyes for a moment and perceived what had happened. He was enraged that his privacy had been intruded by Pushpadanta.
On being summoned, Pushpadanta came to the presence the divine couple trembling with fear. Guilty, he fell at their feet and admitted his wrongdoing. Ma Parvathi was furious.
“You have misused the magical power you possess and therefore I curse you to be born on the earth and live the life of a human being without any magical power. You will also not remember anything of your celestial life” she said, her eyes red with anger.
Then, another Gana by the name Malyavaan tried to placate Ma Parvathi by imploring her to forgive Pushpadanta.
Ma Parvathi became more furious and cursed him too. “You also shall be born on earth like Pushpadanta” she said.
Malyavaan and Pushpadanta realized their faults and waited patiently till Ma Parvathi’s rage had completely vanished. With folded hands and heads bowing in obeisance to her, they conveyed their sincere remorse and asked a remedy for relief from the curse.
“Mata, how long can we stay on the earth without having ‘darshan’ of you and Lord Shiva? Please forgive us. Please tell us when we shall return to be back in your service?” they asked anxiously.
Ma Parvathi smiled. She was the ever-benevolent Mother of the universe after all. Looking at Pushpadanta she said, “In your life on earth, you will meet a Yaksha(demi-god) who was cursed by Kubera to become a Pisacha (Goblin). His name is Kanubhuti. Once you meet him, you will get back all the memories of your service to us and your previous life and then you will narrate to Kanubhuti all the stories you heard Shiva narrate. Once you finish narrating, you will be free from the curse”.
Now Malyavaan was looking at Ma Parvathi pleadingly. Ma Parvathi continued. “As for you Malyavaan, you will also come in contact with Kanubhuti. Kanubhuti will then narrate to you all the tales as heard by him and then he will be freed from the life of a Pisacha. Once you write down all the tales narrated by Kanubhuti and make them well-known on the earth, you will also get rid of your mortal form and come back to where you belong.”
Continued in Part II…