Wednesday, 23 May 2012

6. Legend of Vishwamitra's dynasty.

     It was dusk when they reached the river Sona.  They made a camp on the bank of the river.  After taking a refreshing bath in the river and after performing their evening chores, all, including the princes squatted before the sage Viswamitra.  Rama asked the sage "Sir, this place looks lovely!  What is this place?  Can you tell us about it, please?".
     The gist of what Viswamitra told them is as follows.
     Once upon a time there was a king by name Kusha.  He was the brain child of Lord Brahma.  Ipso facto he knew all the rules of rituals and vows which he strictly observed.  He was therefore known as a highly righteous kingly sage.  He married the princess of Vidarbha who was of noble birth and therefore a most eligible wife for Kusha.  He begot through her four mighty sons who were like him in all respects.  Their names were  Kusumba, Kushanaabha, Asuurtarajasa, (also called Adhuurtarajasa), and Vasu.  When all the sons became old enough, King Kusha called and told them "My darling sons!  Establish your rulership and achieve righteousness abundantly.  Good Luck."
     On hearing the words of Kusha, all the four able, mighty, formidable and highly competent sons and the best men among people started to build four cities.  Kushamba built the city named Kaushambii, Kushanaabha built a city named Mahodaya.  Asuurtarajasa built a city named Dharmaaranya, and Vasu built a city in the name of Girivraja.
     It is believed that the city Kaushambii is the present day Kannauj and Girivraja the present day Rajgir.
     Viswamitra continued "This land on which we are presently staying is known as the land of the most virtuous souled Vasu, surrounded by these five lofty mountains. This charming river that enters and exits Magadha province is well known as the worthy River Maagadhi, and flowing amid the five of these elevated mountains it shines forth like a garland enwreathing them."
     This river is said to be the present day River Son.
     "This Maagadhi is that river which pertains to the developmental works of king Vasu flowing towards east to its confluence with Ganga, this river garlands best farmlands and their crops on its way."
     The confluence of this river with Ganga is said as the one now available near at Patna, Bihar.
     "king Kushanaabha gave birth to a hundred daughters with unexcelled beauty through a celestial female called Ghritaachi."
     Children begotten through celestial maidens are of superior nature for further procreating a divine generation, like Shakuntala, who begot Bharata, the earliest dynastic king.
     "These most beautiful hundred sisters were playing one day in parklands.  Vayu, the Air-god, happened to pass that way.  When he saw these girls, he madly fell in love with all of them and asked them to marry him.  They declined his offer saying that they will marry only the man to whom their father offer them in marriage.
     "Vayu could not swallow this and in anger disfigured them all.  The girls had the power to retaliate, but they did not.  They went to their father and reported the matter.  The king discussed with his ministers and came to a conclusion.
     "During that time a great resplendent sage named Cuulii  was performing some practise of  asceticism.  He was being looked after by Somada, daughter of Urmila.  The sage was highly pleased with the service of Somada.  He asked her what she wanted in return.  She said that she was not married and she wanted a son through the sage.
     "That Brahma-sage Cuulii benignantly bestowed her with a unique and Brahma-like son who is renowned as Brahmadatta, as well as his own brainchild.  
     "King Kushanaabha married his hundred daughters to Brahmadatta.  When Brahmadatta took the hand of  every daughter for the marriage, their disfigure vanished.
     "After Brahmadatta left with his hundred brides,  King Kushanaabha felt lonely.  It dawned on him that he had no son.  Now that his hundred darling daughters had left, he felt he should get a son to shower all his affection.  He, therefore embarked putrakaamehtsi yaga.  As a result, he got in due course of time, a son known by the name Gaadhi.  That eminently righteous Gaadhi is my father, and since I am born in Kusha dynasty, I got the name Kaushika.
     "I have an elder sister called Satyavathi.  She was a highly pious lady.  She was married to Sage Ruchika.  She started to follow her husband to heaven with her body.  On request she coursed as a great river renowned as River Kaushiki, taking recourse to Himalayan Mountains. (The river is known today as Kosi.)
     "My sister and I are very affectionate to each other.  I was therefore, residing near her in the Himalayas.
     "Owing to my vow, I left her for a while and came to the Accomplished Hermitage and owing to your magnificence I have become accomplished in that vow of mine.  Dear Prince Rama, this is all about my dynasty, my province on which we are presently camping namely the riverbanks of Sona, and about my birth, and thus everything is narrated as you have asked me.
     "O! My dear, by telling about my ancestry I did not notice the time!  It is now past mid-night.  So let us all sleep for some time."
     All the other sages and the two princes thanked Viswamitra and then all glided into the lap of sleep.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

5. Rama's character and valour revealed.

Note: I started blog-writing at the insistence of my daughter.  See my blog .  I found to my surprise that I could write, that too spiced with some humour!  The idea of writing Ramayanam occurred to me for the following reasons.  The major and very popular version is that of Maharishi Valmiki.  That is original, too.  It was written many centuries ago, in Sanskrit.  English translations are available.  I happened to glance a couple of them.  They are very good.  Obviously they have been written by scholars with a very good knowledge, no, I should say excellent knowledge of both Sanskrit and English.  My knowledge of Sanskrit is smattering.  While reading them I had to refer to an English Dictionary for at least a word in almost every sentence.  Those words are the exact translation of the original, but many of them do not seem to be used nowadays.  That apart, the translation was one to one of Sanskrit, which made the reading, at least for me, somewhat odd.  That gave me an idea - why not I write Ramayanam in the present day conversational English.  Adding some humour, I thought would be a better idea.  I gave the title '...a twisted version' because I thought that I would make some little changes here and there to make some incidents humorous and more acceptable.   A very close friend of mine pointed out that my so called humour and the small twists are very likely to be construed by moralists as defiling one of our great epics.  After giving a good thought to that, I have decided to strictly stick to Maharishi Valmiki's version with less (probably loss of) humour.  I will, however, continue in conversational English, omitting certain portions that will not affect the flow of the story (e.g. Names of Asthras, misiles and weapons given by Maharishi Viswamitra to Rama explaining their descriptions and Manthras to invoke them, etc.)  Now onwards it will be 'Valmiki Ramayanam - Retold'.  In case my writing in earlier chapters offended anyone, I offer my sincere apologies.
End Note.
     The place where they had to go was quite far away and therefore had to be planned.  In those days, it seems, that people, particularly common men, saints, holy men etc. were performing their journeys, irrespective of the distance, by foot.  Horses and chariots were used by only affluent people.  Carts must have been used to carry luggage, very old people, sickly persons and children.  Viswamitra knew very well that Rama and Lakshmana, being princes, were used to go on horse or by chariot; but for obvious reasons they were not used for this journey.  Viswamitra planned their journey pretty well.  On reaching the river Sarayu quite late evening, Viswamitra decided to spend the night there i.e. on the banks of the river.
     I have mentioned earlier that Ravana was slated to be killed by Bhagwan Mahavishnu; and with reference to the various boons he got from Lord Brahma, he can be killed (by default) by a human only.  This was a paradox!  This was solved by Lord Vishnu by incarnation.  He was born as Rama, a human in every respect.  Excepting a few like Viswamitra, nobody, at that time, knew that Rama was the incarnation of Lord Mahavishnu.  As a human being he (Rama) should be susceptible to all the human frailties.  But he should not; but how?  This was solved by two mantras 'Bala' and 'Ati bala'.  These two mantras were(and I suppose are) to be taught before sunset.  Viswamitra therefore, taught these two mantras to Rama and Lakshmana on the banks of the river.  Now Rama and Lakshmana were free from tiredness, fever, disfiguring of personality after a fierce battle, etc.  As a bonus, if these two Manthras/hymns were recited continuously, one will not have hunger or thirst.  Now no one (Ravana and his cronies, in particular) can suspect!  They slept on the verdant bank that night and rising at dawn continued their journey.  They reached Kamashrama in Anga Desa.  Viswamitra explained to the princes that the Ashrama was called Kamashrama because it was the place where Lord Siva burned to ashes by opening his third eye the god of love Manmatha (the Hindu equivalent of Roman Cupid).  Manmatha was/is known as Kama, too.  If you want to know the details, read Mahakavi Kalidasa's Kumarasambava.  After burnt to ashes, Manmatha became one without a body.  He therefore is renowned as Ananga (one without any body).  The place where he was burnt to ashes became to be known as Anga Desa.  Viswamitra, Rama and Lakshmana stayed at the Ashrama for the night.  Next morning they set out on their journey and reached Ganga river.  They crossed the river on a raft got ready for them by the rishis of the Kamashrama.  After crossing the river Ganga, they entered a dense forest named Dandaka forest.  Viswamitra explained to the princes that "the now  terrible forest was once a well populated country.  Once upon a time, Indra was contaminated by a sin (i.e. BrahmaHathi Dhosham)(ப்ரம்ம ஹத்தி தோஷம்), for having killed one demon Vritra who incidentally was a Brahman, and therefore, had to exile himself from the world of the Devas. The Devas set to themselves the task of cleansing Indra. They brought waters from the sacred rivers and bathed him to the accompaniment of mantras. The waters which cleansed Indra flowed into the ground and enriched the earth and the land became tremendously fertile.  The present terrible state of the forest was caused by the Rakshasi Tataka."  After a pause he continued  "Once there was a formidable yaksha (Yaksha, also spelled yaksa, Sanskrit masculine singular yakṣa, Sanskrit feminine singular yakṣī or yakṣinī,  in the mythology of India, a class of generally benevolent nature spirits who are the custodians of treasures that are hidden in the earth and in the roots of trees. Principal among the yakshas is Kubera, who rules in the mythical Himalayan kingdom called Alakapuri.
Yakshas were often given homage as tutelary deities of a city, district, lake, or well. Their worship, together with popular belief in nagas (serpent deities), feminine fertility deities, and mother goddesses, probably had its origin among the early indigenous peoples of India. The yaksha cult coexisted with the priest-conducted sacrifices of the Vedic period, and it continued to flourish during the Kushan dynasty.
In art, sculptures of yakshas were among the earliest of deities, apparently preceding images of the bodhisattvas and of Brahmanical deities, whose representation they influenced. They also were the prototypes for the attendants of later Hindu, Buddhist, and Jaina art. - From Encyclopædia Britannica) named Suketu.  He very much wanted to have a son.  He therefore performed a great yaga.  Lord Brahma blessed him a gemlike daughter.  Brahma did not grant him a son purposely, as He foresaw that a son would create problem.  The daughter is the redoubtable Tataka.  Lord Brahma also blessed the child wih the strength of a thousand elephants.  On coming of age Suketu got her married to Sunda, son of Jambha.  In due course of time Tataka delivered an indomitable son named Mareecha.  But when Sunda is eliminated by sage Agastya's curse,  Tataka along with her son Mareecha tried to retaliate that eminent sage.  When she, along with her son Mareecha, rushed towards the sage as though to eat him away, the godly saint Agastya cursed Mareecha to become a Demon.  He then cursed Tataka  to become a man-eating Rakshashi, with her form distorted, face contorted, and shape monstrous.  Frenzied by the curse and convulsed in fury she started to  vandalize this auspicious province, in which sage Agastya once sauntered.
     "It is now your duty, Rama, to eliminate this yakshii for the welfare of Brahmans and cows.  Nobody else can eliminate her who is indomitably sheathed in a curse, and none in the three worlds can possibly brave her.
     "Do not hesitate to destroy her on the ground that it is against Kshatriya dharma to kill a woman.  Her atrocities are intolerable.  To punish the wicked, whether male or female, is the duty of kings.  It is right to kill her, as to kill a wild animal for the sake of human safety.  This is a duty cast on rulers.  Many women have been punished with death for their crimes.  Hence do not hesitate."
     Rama said to Viswamitra: "Our father's behest is that we should obey you without question.  Bidden by you and for the general welfare, we shall kill Tataka."
     In those days one of the main weapons of battle was a bow and arrows.  The bow was made as strong as the user; more strong and valiant the user, the bow was as strong and sturdy.  The weight too corresponds the user's strength.  The strength of the bowstring naturally had to correspond to the bow.  So were the arrows.  Now you can imagine the weight and strength of the bows of Rama and Lakshmana.
     After declaring that he would kill Tataka, Rama twanged his bowstring.  Even Maharishi Valmiki could not describe effectively the sound it made!  I think it will be enough to state that the sound simply stupefied Tataka!  She became intolerably angry.  She naturally wanted to crush the person who caused the noise.  She found Rama - easy, Rama was not hiding!  She could not believe that a tiny human could cause such a noise!  "I will swallow him, and his companion" she decided.  She could not even get near her tiny foes!  Whatever she did, the two tinies defended themselves pretty well!  Rama did not want to kill her; just cut off her hands and spare her life.  It was late evening.  Tataka started to dilly-dally.  Soon it would be night and then it will be my game, so thought Tataka.  Rakshasas and Rakshasis were (are?) unassailable after dusk.
     Viswamitra guessed her plan.  He advised Rama to end the game.  Rama took it.  Tataka became 'was'.
     The demise of Tataka made all Devas very happy.  All of them came and thanked the trio.   They suggested Viswamitra to offer all the missiles, weapons etc. he got to Rama.
     All the missiles known to and owned by Vishvamitra were (are) the highly righteous children of Krishaasva Prajapati, where Prajapati-s were the earliest ruler of mankind, and god Shiva gave them to Vishwamitra when he was a king.  Those missiles are the sons of Daksha Prajaapati's daughters and her husband Krishaasva Prajapati, and they are disparate in their form, intrepid, dazzling, and victory-oriented missiles.
     Viswamitra nodded his assent and the Devas vanished in the same style you must have seen in movies and TV Serials.
     With NO Tataka, the forest became again as beautiful as before.  The trio spent the night there.
     At dawn the next day, after the morning chores, Viswamitra told Rama that, as suggested by the Devas, he was going to give him(Rama) all the astras and weapons in his posession.
     The astras and weapons of those days were not physical ones as the weapons and missiles of today.  They were in astral bodies.  For every missile, there is a certain hymn which is valid for only the authorised user(s) (like a Password of today).  On uttering the hymn, the divine astral body pertaining to the weapon will act.  If the user forgets the hymn, then he is done for.
     Viswamitra taught Rama the use, control, recall and annulment of the various divine weapons and Rama in his turn imparted the knowledge to Lakshmana.
     As Rama was the incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu, there was really no need for him all these weapons.  In order to make everyone (of that period) believe him to be a human, these astras and weapons were given to Him.  That apart, these astras and weapons would be necessary to kill the Rakshasas during the war with Ravana and his army of mighty Rakshasas, later.
     The three continued their journey.  They noticed a hermitage in a very beautiful surroundings.  Rama was curious to know about that hermitage.  Viswamitra explained that the hermitage was renowned as Siddhashrama. ('Accomplished hermitage').  It was so called because the Sage Kaashyapa accomplished what he wanted here.
     Long ago Lord Vishnu was doing tapas in this hermitage.
During that period, King Bali, (son of Virochana who in turn was the son of Prahlaada, the son of the greatest demon king, Hiranyakashapa, who was eliminated by Vishnu, in His Nara-simha, [Man-Lion] incarnation), was ruling the world.  He conquered all that belonged to Indra and other like deities.  Though a great-grandson of a demon, Bali was renowned as a very just king and all his subjects just adored him.  Indra and other gods naturally did not like him.  Bali started a great Vadic ritual(yaga).  Once he completed that, he would become all powerful.  Sage Kashyapa and his spouse Aditi, of whom all the gods were offsprings, prayed to Vishnu and begged Him to be born as their son and protect Indra and the Devas from Mahabali.  Vishnu agreed and was born to Aditi as Vamana (dwarf).  Vamana, in the form of a young student went to the yaga that was being performed by Mahabali and whereto all were welcome, and to ask for and receive anything they wanted.  When Vamana approached the king, Mahabali's guru, Sukra, the preceptor of all the Asuras, recognised Vamana as Lord Vishnu and warned Mahabali against promising to grant the young Brahmana his request, since indeed he was Lord Hari in disguise, come to undo him.  Mahabali did not pay heed to this.  It was his wont never to turn down a request.  Besides, he was at heart a devotee of the Lord, and felt that he would indeed be blessed if the Lord should deign to accept a gift from him.  With a smile, Mahabali bade him ask for what he pleased without hesitation. 'All I have is at your disposal, money, jewels, the wide earth and all it inherits.'  Vamana answered that wealth was of no use to him, and all he begged for was three paces of ground, as paced by him. The monarch smiled as he looked at the diminutive brahmachari's legs and said, 'So be it; pace and take it.'  At the time of donating the charity, while Bali was pouring water oblation into the hands of Vaamna(தாரை வாத்து கொடுக்கும் போது), Sage Shukrachaarya entered the nozzle of the water pot so that the donation water may not fall into the hands of the boy, thus to fail the donation.  Knowing that the sage was in the nozzle of the water-pot, Vaamna pierced the nozzle with a straw of darbha (sacred grass-blade), thus piercing one eye of Sage Shukrachaarya.  From then on, this sage has become one-eyed sage, symbolically meaning that he eyes on one side only, namely on the side of demon's welfare.  The little Bachelor suddenly grew in size into Trivikrama and with one step measured the earth and with another the entire heavens.  And there being no room left for the third step that had been  granted, he set his foot on Mahabali's devoted head.   Vaamna places his third step on the head of Emperor Bali and subjugated him to pathalaloka, freeing the other worlds from his rule.  However, Vishnu blessed Bali to be deathless, though subdued into pathalaloka; and to become Indra in a future uga.  Then on Vishnu is eulogised as Trivikrama, tri vi krama three, verily, paced - surpassing, one who surpasses all the three worlds in three strides.
     Viswamitra then added that the hermitage was held by him.  He further said "Now it belongs to you two, too.  This is the place we perform the yaga which is being spoiled by the Rakshasas whom you are to eradicate."
     On entering the Hermitage, the trio were welcomed most effusively by all the sages residing there for taking part in the yaga.  Rama spoke to Viswamitra "Sir, you may start the yaga today itself.  We will see to it that the same is carried out without any disturbance.  I assure you Sir, this Hermitage will become truly again an Accomplished Hermitage".
     Rama and Lakshmana got up very early the next morning and after finishing their morning chores went to the sages who were very ready to start their yaga.  On seeing the two bright, valiant and cheerful princes, one of the sages said "Dear princes, we are just starting the yaga.  It will go for six nights and days.  Maharishi Viswamitra will not speak until the yaga is finished.  That is a rule of the yaga".  
     Rama told them "I assure you Sirs, the yaga will be completed this time without any problem."
     The two valiant heros started their patrol duty from that moment.  Thanks to Bala and AtiBala, there was no sleepiness nor any hunger nor any tiredness for them!  They were as alert as they were at the start of their patrol!
     No disturbance was there until the last day morning.  Then suddenly  flames shot up from the sacrificial fire, for Agni, the God of Fire, knew that the Rakshasas had arrived and announced the same by shooting up the sacrificial flame.  As the rites were being performed, a great roar was heard from the sky.  The two demons had arrived with their army and started their malicious acts.  They found to their horror that this time the yaga was being protected by two stalwarts.   Rama killed Subaahu and all other demons except Maareecha.  Rama had compassion for Maareecha as he lost his mother only recently (பாவம் தாயில்லா பிள்ளை).  With appropriate weapon he bundled Maareecha and threw him far away in a shallow part of an ocean.
     The yaga went through nicely without any problem.  All the sages thanked both the princes effusively.
     The next morning the princes, after finishing their morning chores, approached Viswamitra and said "Respected Sir, we think we have satisfactorily completed the job for which you brought us here.  Is there anything else you would like us to do?  It would be our pleasure to carry out that too, Sir".
     All the sages told Viswamitra that the princes should also accompany them to Mithila.  Viswamitra nodded and addressed the princes "You have done excellently the job we required from you.  The Siddashrama has now really become Accomplished one again (Sidda means Success).  We are now going to the great yaga to be performed by the King Janaka of Mithila.  If you come with us you can have a look at the monumental gem of God Shiva's bow."
     Rama became curious and asked Viswamitra to tell him about that bow.
      The gist of Viswamitra's reply to Rama about the bow is stated below.
      That was the bow with which Lord Shiva destroyed the yaga of Daksha.  He gave away the bow to (lower) gods as desired by them.  The bow was so heavy no (lower) god, gandharva, demon or human can lift it, let alone twang it.  Many kings and princes tried and failed.  Once Devaraata, the grandparent of the present king Janaka of Mithila, conducted a Vedic-ritual and he indeed prayed only for this supreme bow with a best grip-handle as the fruit of that ritual from all of the gods and he got the same from them.
     Viswamitra continued "Tha bow is kept at the palace of the King of Mithila.  In case you are interested to see it, you can join us and in the guise of one attending the yaga, you can have a look at the Bow."
     Rama became very much interested to see the bow and agreed to accompany them to Mithila.
     Viswamitra smiled, nodded and sighed with satisfaction.  As I already mentioned earlier, Viswamitra was one of the very few who knew about the real identity of Rama (and, of course Seetha, too).  He was made instrumental in bringing together Rama and Seetha.  If he had simply suggested Rama to attend the yaga (so that he will have a chance to see Seetha and Seetha him), Rama would possibly have declined, as being a prince it may not be proper for him to go to a yaga without a proper invitation.  The bow kindled his curiosity and he agreed to accompany them.  A yaga is open to public but V.V.I.Ps and V.I.Ps were/are invited.
     Then all of them started for Mithila.