Monday, May 28, 2012

Pariskshit and Kali – The death of Parikshit

Yudhishtar was in his palace, when a guard came trembling with shock and fear. Yudhishtar composed himself and spoke sharply, 'What is it my man? You are shaking like a leaf, what is it?'

As the guard spoke his voice shook, 'Lord Krishna....Lord Krishna...'

'What happened to Lord Krishna?' Yudhistar almost shouted as the guard stopped.

'Your majesty...Lord Krishna is no more....He has been killed....' The guard finally said as he spoke haltingly.

Yudhishtar blinked and shook his head. It was no way, he had heard right....How could Lord Krishna....No he had heard wrong....

By then the other Pandavas – Bheema, Arjun, Nakul and Sahadeva also came closer.

Arjuna roughly clutched the guards shoulders and shook him as he spoke harshly, 'What are you saying? How could anything happen to Lord Krishna?'

The guard spoke faintly, 'Sir! After the death of the Yadavas, Lord Krishna was walking alone through the forest....He was sleeping under a tree, sir! A hunter Jara....thought that...that it was a deer and shot....' The guards looked down almost sobbing unable to continue any further.

Arjuna's eye's filled with tears as he thought of his Krishna....Krishna, the beautiful, black Krishna....the cheerful Krishna, the most brilliant strategist in the world....Arjuna looked at the guard blankly....Without Krishna he felt....empty, without any purpose....

Arjuna and Lord Krishna were born on the same day. [In Hindu mythology Lord Krishna is an avatar of Lord Narayana. It is also believed that Nara had been created out of Lord Narayana. Arjuna was supposed to be an incarnation of Nara]

Arjuna suddenly felt living a big burden and swayed as he fell unconscious....

When Arjuna woke up, the pain would still not go away...

Yudhishtar also found that he no longer had the wish to rule Hastinapur and looking at his brothers he realized that they also felt the same way....

The Pandavas then crowned their grandson Parikshit as the king of Hastinapur anaraaand along with their wife Draupadi, gave up their kingdom and went to the Himalayas to meditate.

Parikshit was a great ruler and looked very well after Hastinapur. But unknown to the Pandavas and Parikshit, a greater threat loomed with the death of Lord Krishna.

During the ninth day of the Mahabharatha war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the third yuga had ended and last yuga - Kali yuga had started. However because of the power of Lord Krishna, Kali could not spread all through the earth....

Now with Lord Krishna gone, Kali started spreading evil in the minds of people. However try at it might, Kali could not enter Parikshit's kingdom. Parikshit was a good ruler and his people loved him. Kali could not corrupt the minds of the people there....

'Then one day, the Kali demon came to speak with Parikshit. It told Parikshit, 'Oh King! I am Kali! The Kali Yuga has started, but I cannot enter your kingdom...If things have to go properly, I have to take over all the places in earth...'

Parikshit shook his head, 'You are a demon...You make people wicked...I will not let you inside my kingdom...'

Kali smiled and said, 'You don't have a choice my king, the four ages – Satya yuga, Treta yuga, Dwapara yuga and Kali yuga are a cycle...each must follow the is the law of the universe...'

Parikshit was troubled but realized that Kali would eventually take over the kingdom...I have to just make sure he does not hurt innocent people...Then I will be able to make sure that only people who do bad things would get hurt....Parikshit spoke, 'I will let you in Kali! But on the condition...You cannot be can only be where there is gambling, drinking of alcohol, prostitution, killing of animals and where ever there is gold... and no where else....'

Kali let out a sly smile, as he just figured out a brilliant idea to trap the king...He meekly nodded his head and vanished from before Parikshit. Parikshit could not help shake the feeling that he had done something which he was going to regret...

Parikshit was a king and like all kings, he always a crown...a crown of gold....

Now Kali smugly entered into Parikshit's crown and waited...

A few days later, Parikshit was traveling through the jungle. He was tired and separated from his army. He was thirsty and going as he came to the ashrama of Sage Samika. The sage was so deep in meditation that he did not even notice the king.

Parikshit bowed again and again at the Sage, but the sage never realized it...A new voice spoke inside the king's head...the voice of Kali, 'You are a king...and this worthless man dares defy you....'

Parikshit shook his head...That was a sage...he could not think like this about him...But the voice persisted, 'That man is defying you...He must be punished...He must be made to look silly for what he has done....'

Though Parikshit tried fighting with the voice in his head, he lost. He looked around and saw a dead snake lying near the sage. With an cruel grin, he picked up the snake and hung it around the neck of the sage and left. Serves the man right...Who does he think he is...

The sage Samika was so deep in his meditation that he did not even realize what had happened....In the evening, Samika's son Sringan had come to ashrama and was horrified to find a dead snake on his father's neck. He removed the snake and looked furiously around.

With a deep breath he closed his eyes and meditated. He realized that it was King Parikshit who had done this. A king is acting like this...Such a king need not exist...

Sringan opened his eyes and in anger cursed Parikshit, 'Parikshit, you will die seven days...from now by a snake bite...'

When King Parikshit had heard the curse, he immediately gave up the throne up to his son Janamejaya. He called for Sage Suka and listened to the Bhagawat Purana the whole of the next seven days....

As Parikshit listened to the stories, his fear of death went away. He realized the ultimate truth of life and death and gave up his body to attain moksha.

True to Sringan's curse, Takshak, the king of the snakes bit King Parikshit's body after the soul had left it, thereby making the sage's words true.

Janamejaya who became the king of Hastinapur after his father, was very angry with Takshak for killing his father. He conducted the great Snake Sacrifice to avenge the death of his father. It was during the Snake Sacrifice that the story of Mahabharatha was narrated for the first time by Sage Vaysampayana to Janamejaya.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The birth of Parikshit

The five Pandavas were looking at Ashwattama with repulsion. The once handsome Ashwattama looked hideous. His features were distorted and ugly beyond comparison. The Pandavas could not believe that Ashwattama would be capable of such a thing....

Yudhishtar realized with tears in his eyes, how wrong he had been in thinking that the war was over....It was far from over....Yudhishtar thought back to the events of the previous day....

Duryodhana was dying and all the Kauravas were dead. The eldest Kaurava – Duryodhana was lying in the battlefield with no one to care for him...Atleast that is what the Pandavas thought....They had gone with Lord Krishna, leaving their people to take rest after the battle.

Unknown to all of them Ashwattama along with Kripacharya and Kritivarma had gone to see Duryodhana. Duryodhana was lying in great pain in the battlefield from the thigh wound that Bheema had given him. All of Duryodhana's brothers, friends and relatives were dead. There was no one to come to help him....Duryodhana was all alone in his pain, just waiting to die, when Ashwatttama came to see him.

Ashwattama sat down beside Duryodhana and put Duryodhana's head on his lap and said sadly. 'My king...Is this what you have been reduced to...' He said with tears in his eyes. 'You were one of the greatest kings in the world...Now...Now look at you....' He said.

Duryodhana spoke feebly, 'What can I do Ashwattama? That wretched Krishna fought for the Pandavas...He single-handed took the war away from us....The Pandavas and Krishna together used every possible means....even wrong means to win....'

Ashwattama was very angry.

He conveniently forgot that the whole war was Duryodhana's doing. Duryodhana had taken away the kingdom of the Pandavas...and humiliated them by exiling them to the forest...Duryodhana had refused to give the kingdom back when the Pandavas came after the period of exile....Duryodhana had repeatedly refused to the peace offers of the Pandavas...

Ashwattama stroked Duryodhana's head. 'We are still here, my king...Your army is not yet completely finished...I will finish the Pandavas for you....' Through his pain Duryodhana gave a smile and said. 'I....I will make you the general of this army.... Go and destroy the Pandavas...' He said giving Ashwattama a ghost of a smile.

Ashwattama placed Duryodhana's head back on the ground and with Kripacharya and Kritivarman walked away.

As Ashwattama walked, his head burned with anger. Ashwattama had never liked the Pandavas. His father Dronacharya loved Arjuna, the third Pandava best....His favourite pupil...Ashwattama snorted. It was because of the wretched Pandavas that he had always been loved second...His father was always talking on and on about 'Arjuna this Arjuna that'....As far as his father Dronacharya was considered, the sun rose and set on Arjuna, the rest did not matter. And in the end did Dronacharya's love for the Pandavas matter...They just killed him too....

'Dronacharya was the Guru of Hastinapur. He had no choice but to fight for the Kauravas, who were the rulers of Hastinapur, during the war...Though Dronacharya loved the Pandavas, he had to fight for the Kauravas.

After Bheeshma had been wounded in battle, Dronacharya was made the general of the Kaurava army.

Duryodhana however never trusted Dronacharya. Duryodhana felt that Dronacharya was not fighting the war to the best of his capabilities...Dronacharya was purposely letting the Pandavas win because he loved them so much....

Duryodhana spoke with Dronacharya in their camp at night, 'Are you trying to tell me, that the great Dronacharya, could not defeat the simple Pandavas...Shame on you....' He said with a taunting voice. Dronacharya remarked in a tight-lipped fashion. 'I will do my best in tomorrow's battle...'

Duryodhana spoke angrily, 'At least tomorrow, I hope you will fight on my side, instead of the side of the wretched Pandavas...'

Duryodhana's remark hurt Dronacharya, but he did not say anything. He just nodded his head and retired for sleeping.

Then Dronacharya did the unthinkable....He went to the extent of trapping Abhimanyu [Arjuna's son] in a maze as every single Kaurava attacked the young Abhimanyu and together killed him...

However, Ashwattama did not think of any of this. For him his father had done what needed to be done as the general of the Kauravas army.

Dronacharya was crushing the Pandava soldiers, over the next days. The Pandavas soldiers were completely stunned and did not know what to do....Dronacharya was using powerful weapons against simple soldiers....

Meanwhile in another part of the battle, Bheema, the Pandava was ploughing through the Kauravas army. He was routing them with his mace as he twirled it. It did not matter to Bheema, whether he was facing people or animals, he just crushed everything in his path.

Bheema while fighting fell an elephant. By some strange coincidence the name of the elephant was Ashwattama.

Bheema roared and ran straight to Dronacharya, 'I have killed Ashwattama...I have killed Ashwattama...' He danced with delight as he yelled at Dronacharya.

Dronacharya almost fumbled from his chariot when he heard the words. Sick and frightened he turned and looked around the battlefield and saw no sign of his son....Then slowly Drona pulled himself together...There was no way anyone could defeat him son....But still the doubt remained in his mind. What if...

He left Bheema and talked to his charioteer. 'Take me to Yudhishtar...' The charioteer raced through the field towards Yudhishtar. Yudhishtar was supposed to be the personification of Righteousness and never to have spoken a lie in his life...If anyone could tell the truth it was Yudhishtar....

Drona came close and asked him, 'Yudhishtar, you are a follower of Dharma...You have never lied in your whole life...Tell me the truth now...' Drona asked in desperation, 'Did your brother just kill Ashwattama?'

Yudhishtar was in a dilemma. He was not supposed to lie...But he also knew that if he told a lie now...his teacher would be finished...He spoke slowly, 'My brother has killed Ashwattama...' Very slowly almost to himself he spoke quietly, 'an elephant.'

At the same time, Lord Krishna who knew what was happening blew his conch so loudly that Drona was unable to hear Yudhistar's last words....

That did it...Drona was heart broken...With his son gone...he had no desire to fight...He threw away all the weapons from his chariot and right in the middle of the battlefield started his meditation to give up his body to die....

It is said that Yudhishtar's chariot was always a few centimeters above from the earth because he had never told a lie. However when he spoke these words to Drona, the chariot crashed on the earth and he became like any other normal mortal.'

Ashwattama was furiously thinking how Drishtadhyumna [Draupadi's brother. Draupadi was the wife of the Pandavas] had killed his father when he was meditating on the field! The nerve of the Pandavas...And they were claiming to be righteous people....Ashwattama fumed.

As he was walking back from his visit to Duryodhana, he realized that he would use any methods necessary to finish the Pandavas, they were a menace...

As he was walking Ashwattama saw an owl sitting on the tree. The owl was being bothered by some crows. Ashwattama watched the crows and the owl idly.

Ashwattama slept under the tree as night came. He woke up to the sound of some birds screeching. Ashwattama woke up groggily as he saw something...The owl was attacking the crows at the night... This gave Ashwattama a very bad idea.

Ashwattama that night, while the Pandava army was sleeping, killed all the main Pandava warriors! To kill someone while they were unarmed was one of the most heinous crimes of war. Ashwattama killed every single warriors without any remorse.

The remaining warriors who tried to escape were killed by Kripacharya and Kritivarman who were standing at the gates to prevent anyone from escaping....

Ashwattama did not know that the Pandavas were away with Lord Krishna at that time. He found the five sons of the Pandavas and thinking that they were the Pandavas, killed all of the them.

Subsequently Ashwattama came to know that he had not killed the Pandavas but their sons – the Upapandavas. Ashwattama realizing that the Pandavas were still alive and would hunt him down, ran to the ashrama of Sage Veda Vyasa to hide there.

The five Pandavas along with Lord Krishna came the next morning and were dumbstruck to find their army dead....The Pandavas could not believe it....After they had thought everything was over.....disaster had struck...Draupadi was inconsolable as she watched her five sons lying dead on the field....

She fiercely sat on the battlefield and spoke with glaring eyes, 'Ashwattama is responsible for this....That man has to die...Only and only when you show me the stone in his forehead, I will believe that you have have avenged...' Draupadi pointed around her as her voice cracked. '...till you avenge their death, I will not move from here and I will not eat or drink...'

Yudhishtar knew how stubborn Draupadi could be and did not try arguing with her. He along with his brothers and Lord Krishna went in search of Ashwattama. There they came to the ashrama of Sage Veda Vyasa and found Ashwattama hiding there.

However when the Pandavas confronted Ashwattama, they were shocked. The handsome Ashwattama was looking hideous, ugly and deformed. The work that he had done the previous night had destroyed his soul...

The Pandavas were looking at Ashwattama with repulsion.

On seeing the Pandavas, Ashwattama realized that they were going to kill him.

While he had been young, Ashwattama had pestered his father to teach him the Brahmastra. Though Drona had been reluctant, he had taught his son how to invoke the powerful weapon. But Dronacharya had told him never to invoke the weapon as the consequences would be disastrous.

Realising that he had no other way, Ashwattama plucked a blade of grass and muttered the mantras converting it into a Brahmastra!

Lord Krishna saw this and turned to Arjuna, 'Arjuna! Brahmastra quick!'
Arjuna immediately launched a Braahmastra of his own [which he had learnt from Lord Shiva himself] to counter the attack.

That was when time stood still. The weapons stopped in the air. The great sage Veda Vyasa came forward and spoke to Arjuna and Ashwattama. 'Using the Brahmastra will destroy the earth....Take back your weapons....the earth should not be destroyed now....take it back....' He turned to Arjuna. 'Arjuna! Take back your weapon....NOW'

Arjuna nodded and closed his eyes. He used all the powers of concentration. The Brahmastra was a powerful weapon....once launched it could not be taken back just like that...Arjuna shivered as he used all the powers of his mind and pulled back the weapon....When the weapon was safely back, it drained Arjuna of his strength as he swayed precariously looking at Ashwattama.

The sage then turned to Ashwattama, 'Take back your weapon Ashwattama....' But Ashwattama was flustered. He had pestered his father and learnt how to use the Brahmastra, he had never learnt how to revoke it!

The Sage Veda Vyasa spoke again, 'If you cannot take it back then please divert the weapon to some place where there are no people....Atleast the damage would be minimal...'

As Ashwattama was concentrating hard, some stray thoughts came into his mind...He could divert the weapon...Why should he divert it to some place where there are no people...Ashwattama narrowed his eyes and diverted the weapon. He diverted it straight towards Draupadi and Uttara....

Draupadi's womb was destroyed by the weapon...She could never have children again....Uttara – Arjuna's daughter-in-law was carrying Abhimanyu's son in her womb. The weapon destroyed the child too!

Ashwattama looked as the Pandavas and Lord Krishna looked at him horrified. 

Lord Krishna spoke for the first time, his voice trembling with anger, 'You think you have destroyed the Pandavas...I, Krishna am telling you now...You will be under the rule of Uttara's child, whom you just killed! That child will become a great king...And you Ashwattama...' 

Krishna looked at the ugly Ashwattama and spoke venomously, 'I curse you...You will always have painful sores all over your body with all diseases...there will always be a foul smell coming from will not have a single friend to talk to....and you will keep roaming the earth, without death till the end of Kali Yuga!' Ashwattama howled as Krishna continued, 'Hand me your stone...' Ashwattama was born with a stone embedded in his forehead. The stone was supposed to keep him free of diseases and death...Ashwattamma having no choice handed over the stone to Krishna.

It is believed that Ashwattama still roams around the earth with no one to talk to...The wound that was caused because of the stone being removed from his head was never supposed to heal...It is believed that he would be given salvation by Kalki, the next Avatar of Lord Vishnu, which is yet to come....

Back at Kurukshetra, the Pandavas were dejected. They had won the great war but for no reason...they had no reason to keep the huge one to share it one to continue it after them....

Lord Krishna however pointed out that they owed to their people to be good kings. The Pandavas reluctantly agreed and became the rulers of Hastinapur.

Uttara was about to give birth, when Lord Krishna came to Hastinapur. The whole kingdom was waiting as this was the heir who was going to rule them eventually.

However disaster struck!

The child was born dead....The people in the palace were brokenhearted as Krishna came forward. Draupadi and Uttara came forward as Uttara spoke between sobs, 'My something....'

Krishna nodded and took the child in his arms. He closed his eyes and spoke softly, 'I have lived a life following my purpose and fulfilling it...If that is so, I will give you life....' The woman watched as a mysterious force flew from Krishna into the child....

The silence of the whole palace was shattered by the wailing of the young child....Uttara, Draupadi and the Pandavas were thrilled on hearing the young child's wails. They all picked the child and cuddled him.

The child was called as Parikshit – meaning one who was tested by time. As he had already been tested by death, he was given that name...He was also called as Vishnuratha meaning the one who was always protected by Lord Vishnu

Parikshit was a very good king and always followed the path of righteousness. His people adored him. After the Pandavas gave up the kingdom 36 years later, he was made the ruler of Hastinapur and ruled his people very well...

However Parikshit died because of the snake bite as a result of a curse of a sage... That is another story....

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Arjuna and Uloopi - Part 1 of 3

Do you know that one of the heroes of the Mahabharatha – Arjuna the third Pandava, was killed by his own son in a small battle after the great war of Mahabharatha...
The five Pandavas – Yudhishtar, Bheem, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva together had married the dusky and beautiful Draupadi. After their marriage Sage Narada came to bless them.
Looking at the five brothers together with their wife, Sage Narada was very happy. But he was worried. Yudhishtar asked Narada anxiously, 'Sir! You seem to be worried...Is something wrong?'
Narada smiled and shook his head, 'It is just that....I am very impressed with the unity between you and your brothers....But I am also afraid...' Yudhishtar was alarmed and asked, 'What are you afraid of sir?'
For an answer Narada said, 'Long ago, there were two asura brothers – Sunda and Upasunda. They loved each other and always did everything together. They both prayed to the Lords and obtained a boon that they could be killed only by each other. They felt that their love for each other was so great that such a thing would never happen...The two of them then became so powerful that they drove away Indra and other Gods from Heaven. Indra was unable to face up to them....They ruled over the earth and the skies with no one to stop them...'
Yudhishtar wondered where this story was going but listened with rapt attention. Sage Narada continued, 'As the Devas did not know what to do, they decided that the only chance they had was to create a rift between the two brothers. Lord Brahma thought that over and created the most beautiful woman ever. She was called Tilotamma. Even the Devas could not remove their eyes off the beautiful Tilotamma. Tilotamma then went to the two brothers...'
Yudhishtar and his brothers were listening to the story as Sage Narada continued, '...However that proved to be the downfall of the two brothers....Both the brothers wanted to marry her....Neither wanted to give up the woman for the other...They became enemies and fought....' Sage Narada shook his head unhappily, '...and they killed each other...'
Sage Narada looked at the brothers as he finished his story. Yudhishtar was alarmed. He knelt before the sage. 'Sir! I do not wish to be separated from my brothers...I do not believe that Draupadi would do anything to destroy the unity between us...but what shall we do sir...'
Sage Narada smiled, 'I have a solution, your Majesty, if you are willing to listen...'
Yudhishtar and the other brothers nodded encouragingly as the Sage spoke, 'You all should share Draupadi equally...She should be the wife of each one of you, for a year. During that year, the other brothers should not have any rights on her...That is not all, none of the brothers should enter the room of the other brother, when he is alone with Draupadi...Any brother who breaks this rule, will have to go on exile for twelve years as punishment...'
Yudhishtar looked at the other brothers who nodded. He then looked at Draupadi, who also smiled. 'Sage Narada, we – me and my brothers along with Draupadi accept the condition...'
Sage Narada spoke, 'As you are the eldest, Yudhishtar, Draupadi would be your wife for the first year and then to Bheem and so on...'
Yudhishtar nodded his head.
Some weeks later, Yudhishtar and Arjuna were talking about his bow - the Gandiva. As he was talking, Yudhishtar picked up the bow and took it with him to his palace. Yudhishtara kept the bow in his room and soon forgot all about it.
The next day, a man came running to Arjuna, 'Arjuna! Protect me....Help...My is being kidnapped by thieves...please....come immediately...'
Arjuna went inside his palace and much to his surprise, he found that he could not find his bow. Arjuna was astonished and then remembered that Yudhishtar had taken the bow with him.
Arjuna went to Yudhishtara's palace and searched everywhere for his bow. He could not find it. With a troubled mind, he realized that Yudhishtara was having the bow in his room.
Arjuna was troubled. He knew that he could not go to Yudhishtar's room and take his bow. That would amount to breaking his condition and he would have to go on exile for twelve years. But outside the palace, the man was yelling at Arjuna to come and protect his cattle. Arjuna could not just ignore the pleas for help coming from the man.
Without worrying about the consequences, Arjuna entered Yudhishtar's room. Yudhishtar and Draupadi were both astonished on seeing him. He went straight for his Gandiva and walked out of the room, knowing full well that he had just exiled himself for 12 years.
He fought the thieves and brought back the cattle to the man.
The man praised Arjuna, but Arjuna was in no mood to listen. Arjuna was feeling unhappy and carried back the bow and entered his own room, where Yudhishtar was waiting for him.
'Arjuna! I am so proud of you...You just single-handed drove away thieves in the kingdom...The man whose cattle you saved has been singing your praises...' Yudhiishtar repeated, '...I am so proud of you...' Yudhishtara was silent for some time and then spoke quietly, 'When you first my room...I was surprised....' Arjuna looked ashamed and was looking downcast as Yushishtar continued, '...but you were only coming to my room to get your bow...You were coming to fulfill your duty of protecting our people....I do not think you committed anything wrong... Besides I think you can come to see me at any time...after all I am your elder brother...' Yudhishtar said with a little smile, 'Please do not think of going on a twelve year exile...away from all of us...I cannot bear to be separated from my brother....for that long.' Yudhishtar said with tears in his eyes.
Arjuna shook his head. 'You talk out of your love for me, Yudhishtar....All of us were there were Sage Narada told us the story of Sunda and Upasunda...We all accepted the condition....I cannot go back on it...' Arjuna said firmly.
'Arjuna...please...' Yudhishtar continued but was silenced when Arjuna raised his hands. 'No Yudhishtar...I broke the agreement and I have to be exiled....I am not going to change my mind...'
Yudhishtar realized that he could not change Arjuna's mind. He unhappily nodded his head and blessed his younger brother. Arjuna with a heavy heart set out of Indraprasta on an exile for twelve years. He traveled all over the country to distant places and had many adventures.
As he was traveling, Arjuna was once going to the river for his morning bath. As he entered the water, he felt the current pull him. Arjuna gasped and struggled to break free. But he could not pull himself free. He felt himself being pulled deeper and deeper inside the water. He could not breath and soon everything went black....
As Arjuna opened his eyes, wondering whether he was dead, he saw a beautiful woman standing before him. She was looking at him with lovely eyes and sweet smile in her face. Arjuna was struck by her beauty. 'Who...who are you?' He asked the woman in a dazed manner.
The woman smiled, 'I am Uloopi. I am the daughter of King Kauravya, the king of serpents....great Arjuna!' She said in a soft melodious voice. 'I am a Naga princess.' She said with looking at Arjuna with a smile.
Arjuna looked around him, 'Where am I?'
Uloopi spoke, 'Arjuna! I have been watching you daily...You are the greatest archer I have ever seen....Ever since I saw you, I fell in love with you...' She said speaking in a rush looking at Arjuna shyly, 'Today when I saw you, I dragged you though the water to my kingdom and here you are....'
Uloopi looked at Arjuna shyly and spoke, 'Will you marry me Arjuna....'
Arjuna explained about his exile and told her. 'You are a Naga princess...I cannot stay here for long....I will need to go back to my own people....'
Uloopi pleaded with Arjuna. 'Please Arjuna...'
Arjuna looked at the woman and nodded his head. 'I will live with you for a year...but after that...' Uloopi happily nodded her head.
Arjuna and Uloopi were happily married. Living with Uloopi, Arjuna was about to forget everything about himself...she was so kind and considerate....Arjuna also found that Uloopi was very skilled in archery and warfare...Arjuna enjoyed her company even more. Soon Uloopi and Arjuna had a son Iravan.
Arjuna was very happy with Uloopi, but after some time, he remembered his life, his exile...
He talked with Uloopi, 'Uloopi,you have kept me very happy here....'
Uloopi sensed her husband was telling her some grave news did not speak. She waited for him to continue, 'I...I have to get back to my own my people...they will be waiting for me....' Uloopi realized that Arjuna belonged to the land of the people and not among the Nagas. Though she loved Arjuna dearly, she made preparations for him to be sent back immediately.
Saying goodbyes to Uloopi and Iravan, Arjuna emerged from the river where he was first dragged by Uloopi. 

Arjuna and Uloopi - Part 2 of 3

Arjuna continued his journey and traveled as far as the Eastern Himalayas. There he saw the beautiful kingdom of Manipur ....It was mystical and exotic.
As he was traveling through the kingdom, he saw the beautiful princess of Manipur – Chitrangada. Arjuna went to King Chitravahana, the King of Manipur. 'Your Majesty! I am Arjuna. My parents are Pandu and Kunti....'
Chitravahana was jubilant when he heard the words, 'You are the great Arjuna...The greatest archer in the world....Who has not heard of you...Your fighting skills are legendary....'
The King insisted that Arjuna spend some time there. Arjuna agreed. There as he talked with Chitrangada, he realized that she was extremely intelligent. He wanted to marry her. Talking to Chitrangada he realized that Chitrangada also loved him. He went to King Chitravahana, 'Your majesty!....I....find your daughter very intelligent and sweet...she also loves me....If it is ok....'
Chitravahana however unhappily shook his head, 'Arjuna! I know that you are a great warrior...I would be glad to have you as my son-in-law, but....'
Arjuna frowned as Chitravahana continued, 'According to our custom, the throne always goes by the mothers family line and not by the father's line...' Arjuna looked surprised as Chitravahana continued, 'You see Chitrangada's child, will be the next ruler of this kingdom....If you marry her and take her away to your kingdom....this kingdom would be left without a ruler, after me....'
Arjuna shook his head, 'I will not insist on taking away your heir your majesty. If that is your custom, I have no problems with that. Chitrangada's child can rule the kingdom. Chirangada herself can continue to stay here after the marriage....'
King Chitravahana happily agreed as Arjuna and Chitrangada were married. There Arjuna and Chitrangada had a son – Bhubhruvahana. Bhubravahana was the heir of the Kingdom of Manipur and the entire kingdom rejoiced his birth.
After staying with Chitrangada and Bhubhruvahana for a year, he left them and again started his travels.
Many adventures later, Arjuna's twelve year exile period ended. He went back to Indraprasta.
After Arjuna left, the Kingdom of Manipur had another visitor – Uloopi. Uloopi told Chitrangada all about herself. Chitrangada realizing that Uloopi was also Arjuna's wife, welcomed Uloopi. Both of them lived like sisters. Uloopi loved Bhubhruvahan like her own son. She encouraged Bhuvbhruvahan to learn archery and become a great archer like his father Arjuna....

Meanwhile back in Hastinapur, the Pandavas lost their kingdom to the Kauravas in the game of dice. All the five of them along with Draupadi were sent to exile to live in the forest.
However when the Pandavas returned after the period of exile, the Kauravas refused to give the kingdom back to the Pandavas.
Because of this the Pandavas and the Kauravas fought the great Mahabharatha war. Iravan, - Uloopi's son fought the war along with his father Arjuna. However he was killed by the Kauravas during the war.
During the war, Bheeshma, the grandfather of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, fought on the side of the Kauravas. Bheeshma loved the Pandavas and knew that the Pandavas were right. But he was bound to the king of Hastinapur. As the Kauravas ruled Hastinapur, Bheeshma was on the side of the Kauravas during the war.
Bheeshma was one of the best archers in the world. On the best of his days, even Arjuna could not beat him....The war was tilting towards the Kauravas because of Bheeshma. The Pandavas were at a loss about how to control Bheeshma. The Panndavas had no choice but to use some deceptive tactics to kill Bheeshma. Bheeshma being a great warrior had sworn that he would never take up arms against an unarmed woman or a child.
Knowing this, Arjuna, used Shikhandi, [a woman by name Amba] as a shield to attack Bheeshma. Because of Shikhandi, Bheeshma could not attack Arjuna and Arjuna shot Bheeshma with arrows. The arrows were embedded inside Bheeshma's body as he fell to the ground. Bheeshma's war was over....
Bheeshma was one of the eight Vasus, who had incarnated on the earth because of a curse.
The other Vasus were aghast when they saw Bheeshma fall down. 'How dare Arjuna hurt our brother...And that too using such wrong ways....The man has killed his own grandfather....This is wrong...For that we curse him....We curse him that Arjuna will be killed by his own son in battle...'

Arjuna and Uloopi - Part 3 of 3

The Pandavas won the Mahabharatha war with the help of Lord Krishna. The Kauravas were thoroughly routed and all of them were killed.
The Pandavas emerged victorious and Yudhishtara was crowned as the king of the Hastinapur.
After the war, Yudhishtar performed an Ashwamedha yagna to declare his supremacy over all the kingdoms. A horse was allowed to roam anywhere in the country. When the horse  walked inside the neighbouring kingdom, the king of the neighbouring kingdom was given a choice either to fight the person guarding the Ashwamedha horse or to surrender. Yudhishtar gave Arjuna the job of protecting the Ashwamedha horse. Hearing about his legendary fighting skills, most of the kings surrendered to Arjuna.
The Ashwammedha horse went towards the kingdom of Manipur. There Bhubhruvahana, who had become the king of Manipur, after the death of his grandfather came to receive his father with great honours.
Arjuna saw all this and was angry with Bhubruvahana. 'I have not come here as your father, I have come as a representative of Yudhishtar. I have come here to fight....' Arjuna said looking at his son scornfully.
Bhubhruvahana was in a dilemma. I do not want to fight my  father. But if I do not fight with my father, he would think I am weak....As he was thinking, Uloopi came to see him. Bhubhruvahana loved Uloopi like he loved his own mother. She had taught him so much about archery and warfare and had given him lots of advice while growing up. He had followed her advice while he was young and always found it correct.
Bhubhruvahana bowed to Uloopi, 'Mother! My father wants me to fight him...I...I...' He fumbled as he looked at Uloopi.
Uloopi looked at Bhubhruvahana and said, 'He is not here as your father, Bhubhruvahana. He has come here to take your kingdom...No son of mine, will willingly give up his kingdom to another because of fear...I think you should fight him, son...'
Bhubhruvahana looked at his mother, 'Mother but...'
Uloopi looked at Bhubhruvahana and said firmly, 'You have to do this for your people. You owe them this as the protector of your people...The people should not see their king as a weakling...You will lose their respect if you give up your kingdom because of fear...'
Bhubhruvahana was silent for a long time and then said, 'So...I fight for my people...'
Uloopi nodded and did not say anything.
Arjuna and Uloopi watched with pride as Bhubhruvahana came out of the kingdom, with a determined look, followed by his army. He looked at Arjuna and nodded. 'If it is a war you want...we are ready.'
Chitrangada was aghast when when she saw her son ready to attack her husband. She wanted to run and stop her son, when Uloopi stopped her. 'No Chitranganda! Don't stop him...'
'STOP HIM!' Chitrangada shrieked. 'That is Arjuna, his own father...our husband,,,'
'No!' Uloopi said, 'That is Yudhishtar's army, with its general...Not Arjuna...' Chitrangada tried stopping her son, but Uloopi would not let her stop Bhubhruvahana.
Arjuna nodded and the battle began. Arjuna was a great warrior, but in Bhubhruvahana he found a brilliant opponent. No matter what Arjuna tried, Bhubhruvahana was ready...
Bhubhruvahana attacked Arjuna face to face. The great warrior who had won the Mahabharatha war for the Pandavas was fighting to face up to Bhubhruvahana!
Not able to take the counter attack, Arjuna tired out and Bhubhruvahana killed his father with the next volley of arrows!
The whole kingdom was dumbfolded as they watched Arjuna fall down.
Once Bhubhruvahana had killed his father, he was shocked. He had killed his own father...The words kept replaying in his mind, Far away he saw his mother Chitrangada break free from Uloopi's grasp and run towards Arjuna.
Chitrangada picked up the fallen body of Arjuna and cried, 'Arjuna! Oh my Arjuna...YOU....' Chitrangada yelled pointing at Bhubhruvahana, 'You have killed your own father....' Bhubhruvahana's grief was threatening to overpower him. He swayed and swooned and was about to fall unconscious, when he saw Chitrangada yell at Uloopi, 'Are you happy now? You have killed Arjuna...My Arjuna...' Bhubhruvahana saw no more as he swayed and he fell unconscious.
When Bhubhruvahana came to his senses, he felt pain like he had never felt before. He knew that he had committed an unspeakable evil and he could never run away or escape from what he had done....
Fresh images of what he had done kept running inside his head. He could not forget the angry look which his mother had given him...I have killed my own father....I do not deserve to live....
Bhubhruvahana slowly got on his feet. His mother was still weeping watching the dead face of his father, while Uloopi was behind her trying to comfort her.
'Prepare a pyre for me...' He croaked looking at his minister. 'I...I..cannot live anymore...I have killed my own father...' Bhubhruvahana said sobbing gently. 'Please take care of the people, until the next heir can take care of the kingdom...'
'Your majesty...!' The minister said quietly. 'Please do not say...'
'WHAT ELSE CAN I DO...? Bhubhruvahana shouted on top of his voice. 'I can never escape the tears of my mother knowing that I caused them....' He said almost breaking down.
Uloopi came forward and spoke in calm tones to Bhubhruvahana. 'Son! You did not do anything wrong...You have just fulfilled a curse which your father bore...' Bhubhruvahana listened without any interest as Uloopi told him of the curse of the Vasu on his father. It really did not matter to him...
Uloopi then spoke. 'Son! There is a reason I asked you to fight...Whatever was the result today...I know that I could reverse it...That was the reason, I encouraged you to go ahead...' Uloopi said with quiet conviction.
Bhubhruuvahana, Chitrangada and all the people in the kingdom watched Uloopi with some confusion. Bhubhruvahana said haltingly. 'What do you mean mother?'
Uloopi smiled. 'I mean that I can bring back Arjuna.' The whole kingdom watched Uloopi stunned as she made the astonishing proclamation.
Chitrangada stumbled as she almost fell on Uloopi and said desperately. 'What do you mean Uloopi? I do not understand....'
Uloopi said. 'The Nagas have always been in possession of a gem – Mritasanjivini....'
Bhubhruvahana looked stunned as he said. 'Mother! That is the gem, which can bring the dead back to life...' He looked at Uloopi with wonder.
Uloopi smiled and said. 'Yes! As the princess of the Nagas, I have full access to the gem and I have it with me now...' She said as she pulled it out in her palm.
Bhubhruvahana and Chitrangada watched anxiously as Uloopi pulled out a beautifully glowing gem in the palm of her right hand. She pulled out the gem and used it.
The whole kingdom was watching astonished as the dead Arjuna woke up as if from a dream.
Arjuna remembered being hit by his son...he remembered falling down. His chest hurt...Arjuna looked at his chest...there was no sign of the wound...
Arjuna looked surprised and saw Bhubhruvahana, Uloopi and Chitrangada look at him with tear stained faces looking at him with relief flooding over their faces.
Uloopi explained everything that had happened and why she had let Bhubhruvahana fight Arjuna.
Uloopi watched as Arjuna was filled with tears. 'You redeemed me from my curse Uloopi! I can never thank you enough for this....'

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pushpadanta - The author of the Shiva Mahima Stotra

Long ago, there lived a gandharva by name Pushpadanta. Gandharvas were powerful magical beings, who could move in air and could even turn invisible to humans. Pushpadanta was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and was a great scholar and a poet. Because of his singing skills, Pushpadanta was appointed as the divine musician in the court of Lord Indra, the King of the Devas.

As a devotee of Lord Shiva, Pushpadanta loved worshiping Lord Shiva with plenty of different flowers.

Once as Pushpadanta was traveling around the world, he arrived at the kingdom of King Chitraratha. Pushpadanta was struck with the beauty of the kingdom. Slowly as he watched the kingdom he was stunned, the kingdom was surrounded by the most beautiful gardens and the flowers there was lovely to look at. He went to the palace of Chitraratha and was amazed to find the flowers even more beautiful there. When Pushpadanta saw the garden, he was unable to stop himself. He plucked as many flowers as possible...Pushpadanta felt bad that he was stealing flowers, but he could not help himself when he saw the flowers.

King Chitraratha to whom the gardens belonged, was also a devotee of Lord Shiva. He had developed this garden to pluck the flowers and use them for worshiping Lord Shiva daily.

However that day when he came to the gardens to worship Lord Shiva, he stared blankly as he saw most of the flowers gone. King Chitraratha called his guards, 'What...What happened to the flowers?'

The guards looked nervously at each other and then at the king, 'Sir! We do not know...We did not take it...We were doing the rounds of the palace. When we came...' The guard shook his head, 'the flowers were missing, your majesty!'

King Chitraratha looked at the guards and realized that they were telling the truth. He frowned as he plucked the pitifully few flowers from the tree. He finished his prayers that day and the next day appointed more guards to guard his gardens...

However much to his surprise, he looked at the shame faced guards the next day and saw most of the flowers missing today too! King Chitraratha fumed. After his prayers, he thought for some time.

He looked at the gardens and saw around saw all the other trees. He angrily called his guards, 'Guard! Get those leaves and bring them here...' He said pointing at the bilpatra plants.

The guards gathered the leaves and brought them before the king. 'Spread them around the trees having the flowers....This way...When anyone walks over them, the leaves will live hear the noise and be able to catch the thief...' The king barked.

The guards nodded and spread the leaves around the trees.

The next day, Pushpadanta came inside the garden by becoming invisible. As he was walking towards the trees, he unknowingly stepped on the bilpatra leaves....

Up in Kailash, Lord Shiva was disturbed from his meditation. The bilpatra leaves were used to worship Lord Shiva and they were his favourite leaves. Lord Shiva frowned as he realized that someone had stepped on the leaves...Lord Shiva closed his eyes and used the powers to find out who had stepped on the bilpatra leaves. He opened his eyes as he realized that it was Pushpadanta. If it was a human who had committed this error, I would have forgiven him...but a gandharva...they are supposed to beings from heavens....they are supposed to know all this...' Lord Shiva was angry as he thought... That man does not deserve to be a gandharva...And he is stealing the flowers from another...He is doing all this because he is invisible...Fine! I will take away his powers of being invisible and his powers to fly...

Back on earth, Pushpadanta was going towards the trees, when the guards, who had the rustling of the leaves ran towards the sound to find a tall gandharva coming towards the trees and plucking the flowers without any fear! They attacked the gandharva.

Pushpadanta was so amazed that the humans could see him that he was not able to defend himself. The guards caught him and took him to their king. King Chitraratha put Pushpadanta in prison.

As Pushpadanta was in prison, Pushpadanta slowly realized why he had suddenly become visible...The bilpatra leaves...Pushpadanta knew that he was made Lord Shiva very angry....

Anxious to regain his powers, Pushpadanta composed a sloka in favour of Lord Shiva. The sloka was beautiful to listen to...When Lord Shiva heard the sloka he was so pleased and that readily forgave the gandharva. This sloka is called as the Mahimnastava. The sloka is full of beautiful thoughts and meanings.

After Lord Shiva forgave Pushpadanta, Pushpadanta got back his powers. Pushpadanta met the King Chitraratha and asked for the king's forgiveness. He promised that he would never steal again. The king was also amazed that the sloka composed by Pushpadanta and readily forgave him.

However the story of Pushpadanta does not end there. After composing the sloka, Pushpadanta grew very proud...He thought that he had written a sloka which was admired even by Lord Shiva.

He felt proud and boasted to everyone about how great his slokas were....Lord Shiva heard about this and came and talked him. 'Pushpadanta! Do you know my temples, always have a Nandi outside...Why don't you just go and peak inside Nandi's mouth?

Pushpadanta was wondering why the Lord was making such a weird request...He went and looked inside Nandi's mouth. Pushpadanta was taken aback to find that the entire sloka that he had composed was engraved in tiny letters in the teeth inside Nandi's mouth!

Flabbergasted he ran back to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva smiled and explained to him, 'You are not the author of anything, Pushpadanta...It is the Brahman, which flows through you....All of this was written long ago...You are an instrument of the sloka coming out...'

Pushpandanta realized that he had been wrong in being proud of his composition, when he could not call the sloka his own composition. Pushpadanta asked the forgiveness of Lord Shiva and went back home and wiser man!