Author Archives: Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Krishna Avatar, Part 48

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Once a brahmin priest, who was a scholar in Vedas and who exceled in penance and discipline visited the court of King Dhritarashtra. The king greeted him with respect and offered him a seat. 

While they were talking, the brahmin revealed that he had seen the Pandavas in the forest. He went on describing the details, explaining the hardship they were living under. Hearing about the condition of the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra’s heart ached and tears fell from his eyes. 

Brahmin priest (1)

The brahmin continued, saying that even with all the hardship, the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira, with his severe penance had acquired boons not only from the sages on this earth but also from the celestial beings. Bhima had gotten new physical strength and power as blessings from Lord Hanuman. Arjuna, because of his austere penance, received Pashupata Astra from Lord Shiva, and he also got incomparable weapons from Indra. 

The brahmin added that Nakula & Sachdeva along with Draupadi were stronger than ever before in their hearts & minds. He also mentioned how all the rishis and yogis were visiting them and, most of all, Krishna himself was visiting them quite often.

King Dhritarashtra (2)

Hearing all this from the brahmin, Dhritarashtra’s mood changed from sympathy to fear & worry. Karna and Shakuni also heard all this, along with Duryodhana. Duryodhana got angry and really wanted to humiliate and insult the Pandavas while in their unfortunate circumstances. He decided to get permission from his father to go witness the suffering of the Pandavas. This was something he had been wanting to do for a very long time. As he knew his father would not allow him to humiliate or insult the Pandavas, he had to devise an alternate plan.

Duryodhana told his father Dhritarashtra that they wanted to visit the village near the forest where the Pandavas lived. They were going to inspect a cow farm which belonged to the Hastinapura kingdom. As the King was afraid of them going so close to where the Pandavas lived, it took a lot of convincing to get the permission.

The three of them along with other Kauravas went to the forest. They brought men and women in fine clothing and jewelry, hoping that it would provoke the Pandavas and Draupadi. They first came across a serene stream and decided to refresh themselves by taking a bath in it. But they were not the only ones in the stream. There were some Gandharvas, celestial beings, including their chief Chitrasena, already there having a nice time. 

That was disturbing to the Kauravas. Duryodhana demanded that the Gandharvas leave. They ignored Duryodhana and refused to leave. So the Kauravas ended up fighting them, only to lose badly. Karna was insulted so much that he ran away. The Gandharvas defeated the Kauravas and imprisoned them, including the men and women who came along with them.

Chitrasena of the Gandharvas (3)

The Pandavas heard the news about Kauravas’ capture from the soldiers deserting the Kauravas. Bhima was so delighted to hear the news, thinking that the Gandharvas had done what he had been wanting to do so badly. But Yudhishthira advised Bhima and Arjuna to go save them, as it’s their dharma to be there for their family. 

So, the Pandavas gathered the Kaurava soldiers who had scattered and went to war with the Gandharvas. Chitrasena’s anger vanished as soon as he saw the Pandavas, especially Arjuna, his beloved student. He respected the Pandavas’ request to release their family members. Per their wish, Chitrasena released the Kauravas.

Yudhishthira advising Duryodhana (4)

Yudishthira advised Duryodhana to stop doing unkind acts in the future. He sent Duryodhana and the others back to Hastinapura, lovingly asking them to convey his best regards to the elders and other family members. Duryodhana was terribly humiliated by this incident and felt miserable. He was so angry.  He couldn’t accept that the Pandavas rescued him and his family from the Gandharvas. He didn’t want to live with this disgrace. But after Karna, Shakuni and the other brothers convinced him otherwise, they all returned to Hastinapura.

Later one day, when the Pandavas had gone out hunting, Jayadratha was on his way to Hastinapura and saw Draupadi in the forest. Jayadratha was the King of the Sindhu Kingdom, married to Duryodhana’s sister Dushala. Jayadratha was struck by the beauty of Draupadi. Not knowing who she was, he sent a soldier to inquire about her. After knowing who she was, he invited her to come live with him, mocking her situation with the Pandavas.

Draupadi being kidnapped by Jayadratha (5)

Draupadi was furious about this request and refused harshly, telling Jayadratha to leave the ashram immediately. Filled with lust, Jayadratha kidnapped her. He forcibly pulled her into his chariot and drove away. Draupadi screamed so loudly that those who were nearby heard the cry and ran to rescue her, but the chariot drove away fast. 

When the Pandavas reached the ashram, they heard about the incident from those who were nearby. They immediately went after Jayadratha. Jayadratha’s army was no match for the angry Pandavas. When Jayadratha saw Bhima and Arjuna approaching, he did his best to save his life by pushing Draupadi out of the chariot. Seeing this Bhima got furious and captured Jayadratha in no time. 

Jayadratha (6)

They took him to Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira asked Draupadi to decide the punishment for Jayadratha, reminding her that he was the husband of their cousin Dushala. Even though she was filled with rage and bitterness, Draupadi valued Yudhishthira’s comments and asked Jayadratha’s head to be shaved, leaving only a few clumps of hair. The punishment was carried out according to her wish and Jayadratha was let go to return to his kingdom.

Jayadratha was too ashamed to go home to his family and remained in the forest. He did intense austerities and meditation on Lord Shiva, seeking a boon to take revenge on the Pandavas. Pleased with his deep tapas, Lord Shiva appeared before Jayadratha. Jayadratha asked Lord Shiva to give him a boon to defeat the Pandavas and their army in a battle. 

As Lord Shiva had already given a boon to Arjuna that he couldn’t be defeated, Shiva altered the boon that Jayadratha asked. Lord Shiva said that Jayadratha could resist the other four Pandava brothers for one day of the battle. With no other choice, Jayadratha accepted the boon and went home. After getting the boon, he forgot the fact that he was the one who wronged them in the first place. 

Duryodhana, inspired by Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya Yaj~na, always wanted to perform one himself. But the brahmins and the elders didn’t agree with his idea. So instead, he planned to do a different special yaj~na. All the rishis and sages visited the kingdom to attend this yajna. With Karna’s dedication and loyalty, Duryodhana successfully finished the yaj~na. At this ceremony, Karna made a promise to Duryodhana that he would kill Arjuna in war. He vowed to give up eating meat and alcohol until then. It is also believed this is when Karna took the vow of giving as well. By this, he became the benevolent King of the age.

Rishi Durvasa (7)

One fine day, Rishi Durvasa visited Hastinapura with his many disciples. Knowing the sage’s hot temper, Duryodhana didn’t want to be cursed, so he served Durvasa at his best to please him. The sage was delighted by Duryodhana’s service and asked him to request a boon. Duryodhana cunningly requested the sage to visit the Pandavas in the forest. Of course, the reason behind this request is that he was hoping that this was a great opportunity to bring downfall to the Pandavas. Knowing the sage’s temperament, Duryodhana was thinking it would be hard for the Pandavas to serve and satisfy the sage and his many disciples with their limited resources. 

Duryodhana also requested that the sage visit the Pandavas late in the afternoon. This was to make sure that Draupadi had taken care of everyone, so she would have nothing to offer to the sage and his disciples. The ill mind of Duryodhana was such that, instead of getting blessings from the sage, he was scheming to cause harm to others.  

Sage Durvasa agreed to Duryodhana’s request and promised to go visit the Pandavas and Draupadi in the near future.  Duryodhana was happy that his plot to bring downfall to the Pandavas was working.  He hoped that they would be severely cursed by Rishi Durvasa.

More to come…

  1. Brahmin priest
  2. King Dhritarashtra
  3. Chitrasena of the Gandharvas
  4. Yudhishthira advising Duryodhana
  5. Draupadi being kidnapped by Jayadratha
  6. Jayadratha
  7. Rishi Durvasa

Krishna Avatar Part 47

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

After visiting many sacred places of pilgrimage and listening to wonderful stories, the Pandavas reached Badrikashrama, located on the way to the holy mountain Kailash. This is the place where the great rishis Nara and Narayana performed their austerities. 

The Pandavas decided to stay there at Badrikashrama for some time, as it was near the time for Arjuna’s return from mountain Kailash. The forest in the area was lovely, full of flowers with many different colors. As Draupadi was enjoying it all, she found a beautiful fragranced flower which had been blown by the wind from the north. 

Bhima & Draupadi (1)

Caught up by its beauty and smell, she asked Bhima to find the place where the flower came from so he could bring her more flowers of that kind. She wanted to offer them to Yudhishthira. To fulfill her desire, Bhima went into the forest full of enthusiasm. He walked like an elephant who was rampaging the forest. The birds started to flee in fear.

Bhima came across a big old monkey sleeping in the middle of a banana plantation, with his tail stretched across the forest path. To wake the giant monkey, Bhima shouted like thunder and stamped his foot on the ground. The monkey opened its eyes and said to Bhima, “You look like a decent man, but you are behaving like someone who is less than a layman. Why are you disturbing the creatures of this forest? This is not the righteous way.” 

Angry, Bhima exclaimed that he was in a hurry, telling the monkey to move away and give space for Bhima to move forward. The monkey replied saying that he was too tired and half asleep, so he simply couldn’t move. But he gave permission for Bhima to jump over his tail. 

Bhima & old monkey (2)

Bhima replied that, if it was a young monkey, he would have jumped over it just like Hanuman jumped over the sea. But, as it was an elderly monkey, it would be disrespectful to do that to an elderly being. So the monkey gave permission for Bhima to move his tail to make way. Since he was an old monkey, Bhima decided not to give too much importance to it and disrespectfully used his left hand to lift his tail. To Bhima’s surprise, he couldn’t move the tail even an inch. He then used his right hand with no success. Puzzled, he then tried with both of his hands to move it, but failed big time. Bhima was in disbelief at this defeat, being unable to move an old monkey’s tail.

Therefore, Bhima realized that this was not an ordinary monkey. So he surrendered to the monkey and accepted his defeat. He introduced himself as one of the Pandava brothers and bowed, asking humbly, who was the monkey? The monkey said that he was the son of the wind God Vayu and of Anjanaa Devi. 

Hanuman (3)

He added, “Just earlier, you were talking about Hanuman, right? I am he. I am the servant of Ram and you are my brother.” Hanuman showed his true form to Bhima and embraced him. Bhima experienced that the hug by Hanuman gave him the strength that was no match for anyone. 

Hanuman blessed Bhima with a boon saying that every time Bhima would roar in the battlefield, Hanuman’s voice will be heard in that too. That would give strength to the Pandava army while giving fear to the Kaurava army. Also, Hanuman promised to be in the flag of Arjuna’s chariot. He also blessed Bhima with a lot of strength and love. 

Hanuman also warned Bhima that the place that he was wandering, in search for the flower, was not a safe place for him to be. The reason why Hanuman came to Bhima was to warn him about it. Hanuman showed the way to the flowers that Draupadi wanted, which were from Lord Kubera’s garden. Bhima thanked Hanuman dearly, and happily went to collect all the flowers that Draupadi wanted. After facing some challenges at the garden with the guards of Lord Kubera, Bhima was able to collect the flowers. 

Arjuna (4)

The Pandavas stayed in the Badrikashrama area as planned, awaiting Arjuna’s arrival. At last that great day arrived. There was a chariot shining with light, beaming from heaven. It landed near their Ashram. Arjuna jumped out of the chariot and bowed at the feet of his elder brothers with great respect, then embraced the younger ones with affection. 

Arjuna, brothers & Draupadi (5)

Draupadi and the brothers were delighted to see Arjuna. He was wearing the crown given by his father Lord Indra, and he was adorned with jewelry along with all the weapons that had been gifted to him. He started telling them all the stories about the blessings from Lord Shiva and his stay at Amaravati, the abode of his father. 

Yudhishthira was very much interested in knowing all about the weapons that Arjuna received and how they could use them. When Arjuna started sharing the knowledge about them, Maharishi Narada appeared. He warned Arjuna that these weapons were not to be trifled with. They can be used only when dire need arises. They must be used with extra caution. He also reminded all of the reason why Arjuna was chosen to go to heavens to learn them. Narada told Arjuna to keep the knowledge within himself, without unnecessarily sharing it with anyone. This knowledge could be dangerous if anyone who is not suitable for the task hears about it and if ever would try to use them. 

They had been staying in Badrikashrama for a long time. It was already ten years. So they decided to finish their last two years of exile back in the Kamyaka forest. One day while looking for food, Bhima came across a huge serpent. Before he could do anything, the serpent coiled itself around him tightly with an intension of eating him. Bhima could feel himself losing all his strength. 

Bhima, serpent (Nahusha) & Yudhishthira (6)

He decided to be brave at heart.  Without fear, he introduced himself, saying that he was Yudhishthira’s brother and asked why the serpent was holding him. The python replied saying, “My name is Nahusha. I am one of your ancestors. As I once insulted Agastya Muni, I was cursed by the great sage to become a serpent. I caught you with the intension of eating you. Now that you have mentioned Yudhishthira’s name, I cannot do that. I was given the boon by Agastya Muni that only Yudhishthira can break my curse by answering my questions. I have been waiting for him for so long.”

Meanwhile, Yudhishthira had been looking for Bhima and came upon the scene, shocked to find Bhima coiled round by a huge serpent. Yudhishthira stayed calm and inquired what was going on. Nahusha revealed himself to Yudhishthira, telling him about his curse. Yudhishthira paid his respect to his ancestor Nahusha and agreed to answer his questions. Some of the questions and answers are as follows…

Nahusha: “Who is a brahmin? What is his ideal?” 

Yudhishthira: “A Brahmin is one who possesses the qualities of truthfulness, virtue, compassion, penance and mercy. He is the conqueror of the senses. He doesn’t deviate from truthfulness. His dharma is to seek great knowledge and to impart that knowledge to others and that is the ideal of a Brahmin.” 

Nahusha: “Knowing what would make a human be omniscient?”

Yudhisthira (7)

Yudhishthira: “Brahman is the source of the mystical universe. One who knows that Brahman thus becomes omniscient.”

Nahusha: “What is worth knowing?”

Yudhishthira: “Immeasurable God, who cannot be reached by any amount of land, time or material, but when reached, there is no rebirth, that God alone is worthy of knowing.”

Nahusha: “Who is a wise Brahma J~nani? What is the use of Brahma wisdom?”

Yudhishthira: “Attaining the Brahma wisdom is the ultimate goal of life, the pinnacle. A Brahma J~nani comes to know the truth, merging with the Oneness, by knowing he is not the body but the soul. He becomes beyond birth and death. He is not be affected by the pleasures and pains of this world. He is the wise Brahma J~nani. All people who come in contact with that Brahma J~nani progresses in moral and spiritual development.”

Yudhishthira answered all Nahusha’s questions and freed Nahusha from his curse. Nahusha started his journey to heaven and Bhima got all his strength back. The two brothers happily went back to the Ashram.

More to come…

Krishna Avatar, Part 46

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

As Harishchandra’s son refused to leave his mother, he was sold along with his mother. Harishchandra hugged his son tightly to his chest, bursting into a stream of tears. His wife Chandramathi fell flat at her husband’s feet to get his blessings before departing. 

The cruel-hearted old man who bought them, without mercy yelled at them to follow his lead. Harishchandra watched them leave, in desperation unable to do anything. 

Vishwamithra (1)

The sage Vishwamithra visited again and demanded the donation. Harishchandra happily gave all that he had from selling his wife and son. The sage wasn’t too happy with the donation and asked for more. Harishchandra didn’t have any other choice but to sell himself. He sold himself to a person who oversees disposing human remains. So, the great King Harishchandra’s duty was to burn off dead bodies. With this, he was not only able to settle all his debt, but also was able to lose his identity of being a great King.

Harishchandra carried out his new duty righteously, collecting the fees on time and giving it all to his master without missing a penny. After a while working at the cremation ground, one day around midnight Harishchandra found a woman half-clad, with her dead son on her lap. She looked completely exhausted as if she had been crying for a long time. 

Harishchandra, Chandramati & son (2)

She asked for help from Harishchandra to burn her son’s body as she didn’t have any money to offer for the services. As much as he wanted to help the poor woman, he couldn’t do it as he was merely a servant to his master.

The woman pleaded with Harishchandra, saying that she was a servant of a stone-hearted old man, who was very unkind, and she needed to get back to work before sunrise. Harishchandra looked more closely at her.  

Though he couldn’t see her face in the dark, he noticed the wedding necklace in her neck shining brightly, in contrast to all else that she was wearing and saying. He then demanded her to give the money, saying that she could get money with the golden wedding necklace she was wearing. 

The woman was so hurt by this. She screamed with a loud voice saying, “Why am I still alive? If this cemetery keeper can see my wedding necklace, that means my chastity is going to be questioned. It’s only my husband who can see this necklace, according to the boon I had when I was born.” 

Harishchandra immediately recognized that this woman in rags was none other than his beloved wife Chandramathi, and the boy lying lifeless was his son. He hugged his wife and the body of his son. He arranged a huge pyre, laying his son’s body on it. Harishchandra then told Chandramathi to go get the money from the master. 

Even though Chandramathi was quite sure that she would not get a penny from her boss, to satisfy her husband she started running towards the master’s home. On her way she saw a young boy’s corpse on the streets. Her heart went out for this boy, so she dragged him from the street and held him on her lap. 

Next thing you know, she was surrounded by royal guards.  She was accused of killing the son of the king of Kashi for the sake of his jewelry. The thieves had run away with the golden treasures, abandoning the corpse, while Chandramathi’s fate brought her to this trouble. 

Chandramathi was taken to the king.  As she was in shock, she couldn’t say a word. With the evidence totally against her, she was charged with murder and treason.  She was sentenced to be beheaded.

Sage Chandramathi, son & Harishchandra (3)

Chandramathi was taken to the cemetery by the royal guards. Harishchandra was called upon by his master and asked to behead Chandramathi. Harishchandra’s heart stopped for a moment. He could clearly understand the poor state of his wife. His hands trembled to even to hold the sword. He cried without knowing what to do. 

Chandramathi addressed her husband in a very firm voice and said to him to uphold the righteous and to be truthful. Not to give it away for the sake of her life. She was willing to give up her life for her husband’s truthfulness.

When Harishchandra was just about to perform his action, Vishwamithra interfered.  The sage said, “Oh king, why are you suffering like this? All you must do is refuse to do what you promised. I will give everything back to you.” He encouraged Harishchandra to lie to win his kingdom back. 

Harishchandra and Chandramathi fell on the sage’s feet.  They said that water purifies the body and truthfulness purifies the mind. That it is as precious as life itself, only that it is internal. For the sake of worldly life, we cannot give up on truth. Then they both got up and Harishchandra raised the sword to behead Chandramathi. 

Flowers falling from heaven (4)

The sword went right to her neck, but what a miracle! As soon as it touched her neck, it disappeared, instead turning into a beautiful garland full of fragrance. The devas were blessing them with flowers raining down from the heavens. The public was taken by this blissful scene. 

To everyone’s astonishment, their son Devadas stood as if he was waking from a deep sleep. Sage Vasishta was there, delighted to see Harishchandra and Chandramathi, and to witness the triumph of truthfulness.

Sage Vishwamithra was taken by all this and realized his mistake. He too blessed the couple, giving not only all Harishchandra had lost but also half of the powers of penance to the truthful king, as the sage had promised earlier. Harishchandra lived for a long-time, ruling Ayodhya righteously, continuing to be truthful. 

Before returning to the Pandavas’ story, I will share one additional story the Pandavas heard from the great sage during their time in the forest. 

Once, there was a noble and just king named Shibi. Born into a line of righteous rulers, King Shibi was known for his wisdom, courage and unyielding sense of justice. He was a descendant of the legendary Bharata dynasty. His father, King Usinara, was an equally revered ruler. 

King Shibi, dove (Agni) & eagle (Indra) (5)

King Shibi was married to a beautiful and virtuous queen. Together, they had several children who were taught the importance of upholding dharma and leading a life of righteousness. The royal family was greatly admired and respected by the people of the kingdom for their kindness, generosity and dedication to their subjects’ well-being. 

His fame spread throughout the world.  News of his magnanimity reached even the heavenly realms. Indra, Lord of Heaven, wanted to test King Shibi to see if he was as great as his fame suggested. So Indra and Agni, the God of Fire, came down from heaven to test the King.  

Agni assumed the form of a dove and Indra became a fierce eagle. Agni flew in front, fluttering his wings as if terrified with Indra following at a distance, as if in hot pursuit. They flew straight towards the king’s palace.

The frightened dove took shelter in king’s lap. As the King had vowed to protect those who seek shelter, even though in this case it was a bird, he decided to protect it. 

King Shibi cutting flesh (6)

The king comforted the dove with peace-filled words and he was ready to face the eagle. The eagle flew in, demanding the release of the dove as it was his prey. The righteous king realized that he was in a dilemma. While protecting the dove, he must fulfill the eagle’s hunger. 

The eagle agreed to let the dove go if the king would offer equal weight of flesh from his own body, but without shedding a single teardrop. The King agreed to this demand. He called his guards and set up a scale where he placed the dove on one side and a large chunk of flesh from his right thigh on the left.

To his surprise the weight of dove was more.  He added more, but even after additional flesh was added, the weight of dove was more.  Even after cutting the whole of his right half of the body, the dove’s weight was not equaled.  

As he is man of his words, he decided to offer the left side of his body as well.  As he was about to cut the left side of his body, the eagle and the dove disappeared. In their places stood the Gods Indra and Agni.  The Gods granted the king many boons. King Shibi ruled righteously for many years.  After his death, he went directly to heaven to enjoy the fruits of his good deeds. 

More to come…

Krishna Avatar — Part 45

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Savitri’s father didn’t have any other choice but to agree to her marriage with Satyavan.  The marriage happened in a grand scale and the couple went back to the forest hut to start their life together.

Satyavan & Savitri (1)

Savitri cared for her husband lovingly, wearing the clothing of a hermit and living in perfect obedience to her in-laws. After living happily for almost a year, a few days before the predicted death of Satyavan, Savitri took a vow and performed severe austerities.

On the last day, when Satyavan picked up his axe to go into the forest, Savitri rose early and requested him to take her along with him to the forest. While he was cutting wood, she made garlands sitting under a tree. After a while Satyavan felt a little tired and came and lay down resting his head in Savitri’s lap. Suddenly there was darkness and Savitri saw Yama, the God of Death, taking the soul of her husband.

Yama, Satyavan & Savitri (2)

As Yama was leaving, Savitri ran after him pleading for the return of her husband. At first, Yama was surprised, wondering how she could see him.  But then he understood the power of her devotion and chastity. So he explained to her that giving her husband’s life back was something that he couldn’t do. So, she asked Yama to take her life, too, along with her husband’s. Yama said that her time has not come yet and for her to go back to her hut.  

Savitri was so adamant she refused to return without her husband. She continued following Yama. Yama was amazed by the power of her love and determination. He offered to grant her any boon, except Satyavan’s life. Savitri wisely asked for the boon of sons. “So be it,” replied Yama. Then Savitri asked, “But how can I have sons without my husband?” 

Yama knew that he had to return Satyavan to Savitri if she had to have sons. So, Yama gave Satyavan his life back. Satyavan’s body came back to life. He slowly woke up as though he had been in a deep sleep.

The couple returned to the hut and to their surprise Satyavan’s father Dyumatsena had regained his eyesight. Savitri told them all about what had taken place in the forest. As they were praising her, Dyumatsena’s ministers arrived with the news of the death of his enemy.  Jubilantly, the king and his entourage return to his kingdom.

Thus, by telling the story of the great Savitri, whose devotion won the life of her husband, Sage Markandeya answered Yudhishthira’s question.

Another of the many stories recited to Yudhishthira and the Pandavas is the story of King Harishchandra.

There once lived a king named Mathithayan who ruled his kingdom righteously. He was a handsome, kindhearted, brave king. Even though he was blessed with a mighty kingdom and happy citizens, he didn’t have a child to continue his legacy and dynasty. So, he prayed and gave alms to sages. After all these good deeds he was blessed with a baby girl who shone like a beautiful full moon. Thus she was named Chandramathi.

There are no words to describe the happiness of the king & queen. Right at that moment there was a voice from the heavens, stating that the child was born with a wedlock necklace in her neck, and whomever who was able to see this would be her husband. The puzzled parents looked at her neck and obviously couldn’t see any necklace.

Everyone treated her as a divine child. Chandramathi grew up to be a beautiful, bright, wise and humble princess. When she attained the age for marriage, the king invited all the kings for a svayamvara, where the princess would choose her husband.

Svayamvara ceremony (3)

On the day of the svayamvara, the Kings from all corners of the world arrived. They were all dreaming that they were going to be the chosen ones to marry the princess. Chandramathi walked into the hall with a garland in her hand with her best maid. The maid introduced each King and announced their bravery and glory.

While passing many kings and proclaiming their greatness, the maid stopped in front of a king and announced, “My dear Princess, the gentlemen in front of you is the king of the Kosala kingdom, Harishchandra. He is ruling from the capital city of Ayodhya, righteously. He is famous for his Truthfulness. Never has he lied in his life. He protects his kingdom like a parent protecting his children.”

Chandramathi was taken by this introduction and paused in front of him. King Harishchandra looked at her and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He was so furious, his eyes turned red.  He jumped out of his seat and yelled at the King.

The Wedlock Necklace (4)

“This is very wrong and unrighteous. How could you have a married woman choose another husband, pretending to be a maid?  I have never seen this happen ever in my life. I can see her wedding necklace shining brightly in her neck. Another marriage for her while wearing this? Shame on you for inviting all of us and insulting us this way. Is this the way you rule righteously?”

The king rose quietly from his seat and challenged the audience, including the kings who attended, asking them if they could see any necklace on his daughter, the princess’s neck. Except for Harishchandra none of them could see the wedding necklace on her neck.

When Harishchandra thought that he was losing his mind, the king revealed the secret of Chandramathi’s divine birth. Chandramathi threw the garland in the air, and it landed on Harishchandra’s neck. Harishchandra was taken by all what had happened and was very happy to marry Chandramathi.

The marriage happened in a very grand scale with the blessings of all who attended. The newlyweds returned to Ayodhya and lived happily. Chandramathi was a very devoted wife to her husband, and followed his truthfulness herself. After some time, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The parents were delighted to welcome him into the world and named him Devadasan. The glory of Harishchandra and his wife spread all over the earthly realms and to the heavens.

Sage Vasishtha (5)

One day the King of the Devas, Indra, was listening to the stories from earthly realms. He asked everyone in the assembly a question, if there is any king who rules the earth, not only with righteousness, but also with honesty. Sage Vasishtha immediately stood up and shouted Harishchandra’s name and started praising his glory, including his truthfulness and his vow of loyalty to his wife.

Hearing this, his long-time rival, Sage Vishvamitra stood up and challenged what Vasishtha said. The angry Vasishtha asked Vishvamitra to prove him wrong and promised, if that would happen, Vasishtha would give away all his powers of penance. Seeing all this, Sage Narada provoked Vishvamitra to take up the challenge. Vishvamitra then said if Harishchandra succeeded, that he would give half of the powers of his penance to the truthful king.

Vishvamitra & Harischandra (6)

Vishvamitra visited the earthly realm planning to fail Harishchandra. At first, he asked Harishchandra for wealth to perform a yaj~na.  The king delightfully gave everything the sage needed. Then Vishvamitra sent wild animals to destroy everything, but the king was able hunt them and chase them away. Next the angry sage sent a wild boar, which the king successfully got rid of too.

Now the sage decided to allure him with beautiful women. He sent two beautiful, heavenly looking women to the king’s assembly. They were singing and dancing beautifully Infront of him in a very provoking manner.  The King rewarded them with gifts for their talent, but they refused to accept the gifts and asked the king to marry them. The King humbly refused their request and rewarded them with more gifts. Refusing to accept gifts, they were adamant that the king should marry them. The king got really irritated and angry, and ended up chasing them away.

King Harischandra, Chandramati & Devadasan leaving kingdom (7)

Then Vishvamitra came, claiming that the women were his daughters and demanded the king to marry them. He said to the king, that he had insulted his daughters by his refusal. The king explained to the sage about his vow of loyalty to his wife. The king offered to give all his land and his kingdom.

The angry sage accepted all of that, but only as an initial payment, asking for more.  The king requested time to fulfill the payment. The citizens were devastated to see their beloved king leaving the kingdom with his wife and son. They begged the king to stay with them, but Harishchandra was able console them and left the kingdom anyway.

After a long difficult journey, Harishchandra with his family reached Kashi, the holiest city. He lived there in poverty with his family. After a month’s time, Vishvamitra presented himself again and demanded the donation that was promised to him. He suggested the King should break his promise, so that the misery would end.

Harischandra, Devadasan & Chandramathi (8)

But Harishchandra upheld telling the truth as the highest principle and told the sage that he still had time to fulfill his promise. The sage agreed and said that he will return soon to collect the debt.

Harishchandra was so worried as to how he was going to pay his debt. He didn’t even have money to feed his own family.  His child was starving, with no food to have for days.  Seeing her husband suffering, Chandramathi suggested that Harishchandra should sell her as a slave. Hearing this Harishchandra’s heart broke into pieces.  But Chandramathi insisted that it was the only way to uphold satya/truthfulness.

With great hesitation, Harishchandra accepted her proposal and sold her to a grumpy old man. As their son refused to leave his mother, he was sold along with Chandramathi.

More to come…

Krishna Avatar Part 44

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

The Pandavas were travelling to holy places in the forest accompanied by Sage Lomasa.  They came to a hermitage where Uddaalaka lived, a great sage and teacher of Vedanta. Lomasa told Yudhishthira and the Pandavas the story of that place.

Sage Uddaalaka, who is mentioned many times in the Upanishads, had a disciple named Kahola.  Kahola was virtuous but not so knowledgeable. Uddaalaka appreciated his disciple’s virtues, devotion and manners, and gave his daughter Sujata in marriage to him. 

Sage Uddalaka (1)

The couple was blessed with a child who inherited the characteristics of his grandfather. It is said that he had learned the Vedas while he was in his mother’s womb. Every time his father made mistakes while reciting the Vedas, the child in the womb twisted his body in pain. As a result, the child was born with eight crooked twists in his body. Due to that, the child was known as Ashtavakra, meaning eight deformities.

Kahola met his end by drowning in the sea, by getting defeated in a debate on the scriptures with Vandi, a court scholar of Mithila.  So Ashtavakra pretty much grew up under the guidance of his mother.  Yet he became a scholar in Vedas and Vedanta when he was just twelve. 

One day Ashtavakra came to know about a King Janaka of Mithila, who was holding great yaj~na and debates on the scriptures by scholars. Accompanied by his uncle Svetaketu, Ashtavakra set out to Mithila to attend the yaj~na and debates. 

King Janaka, Guard, Ashtavakra & Uncle Svetaketu (2)

On their way, they came across the king himself with his entourage. The guards were shouting ahead asking people to move away to make way for the king. Hearing and seeing this, Ashtavakra intervened.  Stepping forward, he spoke to the guards in a manner that caught the King’s attention. He said that a righteous man, even if he is a king, must make way for the blind, deformed, women, people carrying loads, great beings, and those learned in the Vedas, reminding them that this is instructed in the scriptures.

Astonished by the words of this young wise child, the king accepted the truth in his words and made way for them. When Ashtavakra and Svetaketu were trying to enter the yaj~na hall, they were stopped again by the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers said only wise men learned in the Vedas are allowed into the hall. Ashtavakra politely pointed out that they should not judge anyone by age or appearance. And assured that they both have observed the necessary vows and have learnt the Vedas sufficiently. 

The gatekeepers refused to believe how a mere boy could have learned the Vedas and was come to debate with renowned Vedic scholars. They decided that Ashtavakra was simply bragging about himself to enter the court. Ashtavakra insisted that looks is no indication of knowledge or worth, nor is age. And he reminded the guards that those who have understood the truths of the Vedanta will not judge another on mere considerations such as age or appearance. He also emphasized that grey hair does not prove the maturity of the soul. The mature man is the one who has learnt the Vedas and mastered their substance and realized their essence.

King Janaka & Ashtavakra (3)

As this commotion was going on at the gate, the king himself happened to come there.  He easily recognized Ashtavakra, the wise boy whom he had met before. King Janaka asked, “Do you know that my court scholar Vandi has defeated many great scholars in the past and caused them to be cast into the ocean?  Would that not discourage you?”

Ashtavakra confidently said, “Your renowned scholar Vandi has not yet met someone like me who is an expert in the Vedas and Vedanta. Vandi has become arrogant with easy victories over decent men who were not real scholars. I have come here to repay the debt on the account of my father, who was defeated by Vandi and made to drown.” 

Ashtavakra at King Janaka’s court (4)

Saying this, he requested the king to summon Vandi. The king invited Ashtavakra into the debate hall and summoned Vandi for a debate.  Ashtavakra and Vandi debated for a while, each devoting their utmost learning and wits to amaze the other. 

At the end, the court unanimously declared the victory of Ashtavakra. Vandi accepted his defeat by drowning himself in the ocean. It is said that the soul of Kahola gained peace and joy in the glory of his son.

Completing this story Sage Lomasa gave the teaching on the subject, quoting Kahola, “A son not necessarily should be like his father. A father who is weak may have a strong son and an ignorant father may have a scholarly son. It is wrong to access the greatness of a person by the person’s physical appearance or age. External appearances are deceptive.”

Sage Markandeya (5)

During their time in the forest, Yudhishthira, along with his brothers, heard other stories from various other sages. 

Sage Markandeya, to emphasize the importance of controlling oneself and duty, told the story of Kaushika, an ascetic who observed the vow of celibacy. However, Kaushika had anger management issues. 

One day, while sitting under a tree and reciting the Vedas, a crane’s dropping fell on Kaushika. His reciting of the Vedas was disturbed by this, so he looked up angrily at the bird and the poor bird died. Kaushika felt so bad and regretted that a sinful thought passing through in his mind in that moment of anger had killed an innocent bird.  Yet his anger remained as an issue.  

Wife cooking for husband (6)

Another day he went to beg for alms from a household. The lady of the house was serving her husband at that time, therefore was delayed in attending to him. Kaushika got angry and looked at her with fiery eyes. The lady calmly apologized for being late, and politely asked him to control his anger. She said, “I am not a crane, to be affected by your anger, as I was merely doing my duty towards my husband.  That’s my dharma.”  

Kaushika was taken by this, as he wondered how she knew about the crane. She told Kaushika that anger is the worst enemy that lives in all, and that he was not aware of that. She then asked him to forgive her for the delay.  She also requested him to visit Dharmavyadha of Mithila to learn to live one’s life dutifully. 

Kaushika visits Dharmavyadha (7)

Astonished by her words Kaushika blessed her and went in search for Dharmavyadha, thinking that he is a great being living in a hermitage far from the city. After searching for him in ashramas and holy places, Kaushika was dumfounded to find him in a butcher’s stall. Kaushika was disgusted by the fact that Dharmavyadha was a butcher, so Kaushika was reluctant to even go close to him. 

But Dharmavyadha came running to him and paid his respect and took Kaushika to his home. There Kaushika witnessed Dharmavyadha, after all his hard work at the shop, serving his parents and family dutifully with all his heart. Seeing this Kaushika, learned about duty and dharma, and returned home to take care of his neglected parents, a dharma which he had forgotten to fulfill. 

Princess Savitri (8)

The teaching from this story is that the occupation may be one a person is born to perform in society, or forced on to him by circumstances or taken up by choice, but what really matters is the attitude of sincerity and faithfulness with which the person does the life’s work with compassion.

Later one day, Yudhishthira asked Sage Markandeya, whether there had ever been a woman who was devoted to her husband as much as Draupadi.  The sage recited the following story. 

King of Madra, Ashwapati prayed to the Sun God, wishing to have a son. He was blessed with a daughter whom he named Savitri, honoring the deity. Savitri’s beauty was unmatched. That intimidated all the men, so no one dared to ask for her hand. Thus her father, the king, asked her to find a suitable groom on her own.  

Savitri & Satyavan (9)

The princess was sent out on a journey with the chosen best warriors to protect her. She went around the land to find a suitable husband. In the forest, she found a handsome young prince, Satyavan, the son of a blind king, Dyumatsena. 

Dyumatsena had been exiled by his enemy and was living as a forest dweller. Satyavan was taking care of his blind father and mother. To take care of them he chopped and sold wood. With the humble income they got, they lived a happy life. Savitri was strongly drawn towards them and fell in love with the young prince. 

As her search ended with finding Satyavan, she returned to her father. Sage Narada was visiting the king and alarmed the king that Savitri had made a mistake by choosing Satyavan, for Satyavan destined to die in a year. That didn’t change Savitri’s decision as she was determined to marry Satyavan.

More to come…

Krishna Avatar Part 43 

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Sage Lomasa and the Pandavas reached the hermitage of Sage Raibhya on the banks of the Ganga. Sage Lomasa told them about the sanctity of this holy place. Then he started to recite the story of two sages, Bharadvaja and Raibhya who were dear friends. 

Hermitage (Ashram) (1)

Raibhya had two sons named Paravasu and Arvavasu. They became scholars in Vedas just like their father and were respected by all, along with their father. This made Bharadvaja’s only son, Yavakrida jealous. He wished to gain knowledge of the scriptures quickly without seeking a teacher. 

Instead of learning for years, he chose a shortcut — to please Indra, the Lord of the Devas, asking him for direct knowledge of the Vedas. So he did intense penance and austerities to achieve this.

Indra (2)

Indra appeared in front of him and advised that austerities are not the way to gain knowledge. The path to acquire knowledge is to study the scriptures under the guidance of a teacher. 

Yavakrida, however, didn’t yield. He refused to take Indra’s advice, went on and pursued more austerities, with even greater means, to please Indra. Indra appeared again and warned him that the path he was taking to seek knowledge was not the right path, saying that one can acquire knowledge only by studying. He then reminded Yavakrida that his own father Bharadvaja gained knowledge by studying patiently. Yavakrida refused to accept this answer again and threatened to cut off his own limbs and offer them to the sacred fire.  He wouldn’t give up on his penance. 

74-8 Yavakrida and Old Man (Indra) (3)

Continuing his severe penance, one day when he went for a bath, he saw an old man strenuously throwing handfuls of sand from the bank into the river Ganga. Yavakrida was puzzled by his action and asked what he was trying to accomplish. The old man replied, saying he was building a bridge across the river so people could easily cross. 

Yavakrida yelled at him, saying how foolish he was to accomplish his task in this ridiculous manner. The old brahmin said, “It is no crazier than learning the scriptures through austerities instead of studying under a teacher.” 

Yavakrida recognized that the old man was none other than Indra himself, and asked for his blessings. Indra at last blessed Yavakrida with knowledge of the Vedas, but with a lot of reluctance. Yavakrida became very proud to have learned Vedas directly from Indra instead of through conventional learning.

After becoming a scholar in the Vedas, Yavakrida grew an attitude.  He was thinking that he had acquired the knowledge of the Vedas through the boon of Indra instead of through a human, thus making him special. His father warned him against his pride. But Yavakrida was too proud to listen.

Mountain (4)

He started to disrespect Raibhya very much. Bharadvaja feared that his son might ruin himself by this attitude, so he decided to advise him by telling him an ancient story. 

There once lived a sage named Baladhi. His son’s untimely death plunged him into grief. He decided to do severe penance in order to get a son who would be deathless. He spent years on rigorous penance, needed because he was asking for immortality,. However, he realized that attaining immortality is not possible, so he was motivated to ask for a different boon. 

Seeing a mighty mountain in front of him. Baladhi asked for a son with a life that will persist as long as the mountain in front of him lasts. So, the sage was blessed with a son named Medhavi. He grew up with an arrogance, thinking that he was safe from death forever, as he would live as long as the mountain existed. 

He angered a great sage by disrespecting him in an unwarranted manner. The angry sage cursed Medhavi that he would turn into ashes, but the curse didn’t work on him. Medhavi remained in perfect health. The sage then realized that Medhavi had protection from the boon that he had received, to live as long as the mountain existed. 

Wild Buffalo (Sage) & Medhavi (5)

So, the sage took the form of a wild buffalo.  By the power of his own penance, he crashed the mountain and broke it into pieces. That ended Medhavi’s life. After reciting the story, Bharadvaja concluded, telling his son to learn wisdom from this old story and not to be ruined by pride. Bharadvaja urged Yavakrida to cultivate self-restraint, and not to disobey the limits of good conduct, and to be respectful to the great Sage Raibhya.

One day Paravasu’s wife was alone in the garden of the hermitage of Raibhya. Yavakrida happened to see her. She was so beautiful and attractive that Yavakrida felt an irresistible desire to have her. Totally losing his self-control, overcome by lust, he dragged her to a lonely place and violated her person, committing the most dishonorable sin. 

Demon & Yavakrida (6)

Raibhya came to know about his daughter-in-law.  He was enraged about the manner she was disgraced by Yavakrida. He had no words to console his daughter-in-law. With his yogic power from his sacrificial fire, he raised a maiden as beautiful as his own daughter-in-law, along with a terrible demon. He commanded them to kill Yavakrida. 

The maiden tempted Yavakrida with her charms while he was performing a ritual.  When Yavakrida was distracted, she ran away with his kamandala, the water jug he was using for his rituals. The demon jumped at Yavakrida with a spear in his hand. Terrified, Yavakrida ran after the maiden to recover his kamandala, knowing that his mantras would be powerless until he cleansed himself with water. 

Funeral pyre (7)

Unable to catch her, to save himself from the demon, he rushed to a pond for water but unfortunately the pond was dry. Then he ran to a nearby stream which also dried up as he approached it. There was no water for him anywhere. Together the maiden and the demon accomplished their task. Yavakrida was killed at the entrance to his father’s hermitage. 

Bharadvaja was very much distressed about his son’s death. In grief, he cursed his dear friend Raibhya for killing his only son. Regaining control of himself soon after, he yelled, “They alone are blessed who have no sons. I have not only lost my only son, but in the foolishness of my grief, I have also cursed my dear friend. What is the use of continuing my life?” He cremated his son’s body and then threw himself into the same funeral pyre.

Paravasu kills Raibhya (8)

After some time, Raibhya’s sons Paravasu and Arvavasu were invited to the palace of King Brihadyumna to perform a great yajňa and sacrifice. While arrangements were being made for the yajňa, Paravasu desired to go and see his wife, walking alone all night. Near the ashram he saw in the twilight something moving, which seemed to him like a wild beast and therefore shot it down with an arrow. 

It turned out that Paravasu had killed his own father, Raibhya, who was dressed in tree bark, mistaking him for a wild beast. He realized that the fatal mistake happened as a result of Bharadvaja’s curse. He returned to the yajňa and told his brother Arvavasu what had transpired.

Arvavasu consoled his brother and asked him to continue to perform the yajňa and said that he will go and perform their father’s last rites. He also said that he will do the penance on behalf of his brother freeing him from the terrible sin of killing their father. After finishing his penance on behalf of his brother, Arvavasu returned to the court of the king to join his brother and assist in the yajňa. 

Paravasu accuses Arvavasu (9)

Seeing the radiance on his brother’s face, Paravasu became jealous and told everyone that Arvavasu had killed their father. Arvavasu tried to deny his brother’s accusation, but none believed him. Arvavasu was expelled from the yajňa hall by the order of the king. Being not only learned but also virtuous, he retreated to the forest with a heavy heart. 

To find justice in the world, in despair, he immersed himself in rigorous penance. Soon the Gods appeared and asked him what boon he sought. Arvavasu asked to free his heart of all anger at his brother’s misconduct and to bring his father to life again. In this way, his brother’s sins would be washed off and he would be freed from his wickedness. The Gods fulfilled all his wishes.

Sage Lomasa thus finished the story, advising the Pandavas to take a bath in the holy river Ganga nearby, to purify themselves. He later emphasized the teaching in the story, “Learning is no protection against vanity or lust. A wise man should never lose his self-control. Many acquire knowledge and fame, only to lose self-control.  They fall prey to lust and ruin themselves.”

He continued saying, “Learning is one thing and virtue is quite another. It is true that one should know the difference between good and evil, if one is to seek good and shun evil. But this knowledge should soak into every thought and influence every action in one’s life. Then indeed knowledge becomes virtue. The knowledge that is undigested information, merely crammed into the mind, cannot instill virtue. It is just an outward show, like our clothes and it is not really part of us.”

More to come…

  1. Hermitage (Ashram) –
  2. Indra –
  3. Yavakrida & Old Man (Indra) –
  4. Mountain – Digital Image by S. Hancherow
  5. Wild Buffalo (Sage) & Medhavi –
  6. Demon & Yavakrida –
  7. Funeral pyre –
  8. Paravasu kills Raibhya –
  9. Paravasu accuses Arvavasu –

Krishna Avatar — Part 42

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Yudishthira was inspired by the story of Nala and Damayanti. Hearing the story from Sage Brihadvasa encouraged him to be more content and present with the situation, while he was preparing for the future. 

It had been five long years since Arjuna left them. As they hadn’t heard about Arjuna for a very long time, again the Pandavas started to worry about him.  

Sage Lomasha (1)

During this time Sage Lomasha visited them.  Through his divine vision he was able to know about Arjuna’s wellbeing and comforted Pandavas.  

Sage Lomasha advised the Pandavas to go on a pilgrimage.  Yudhishthira humbly requested the sage to join and guide them.  The sage happily agreed and escorted them to numerous holy places.  The sage recited many stories to the Pandavas, teaching them to be courageous and to be patient.  The Pandavas heard stories about sages, kings and demons. Here are some of those stories the Sage shared with them.

Agastya Muni (2)

The first and foremost story was about Agastya Muni, who is one of the seven most revered rishis in the Vedic texts. Once Agastya witnessed some souls hanging upside down, being in pain. Startled by this sight, Agastya asked them who they were and the reason for their severe austerities. 

The souls answered, saying they were souls of his ancestors.  The reason they were in that state was because of Agastya himself.  They explained that Agastya, by being celibate, therefore hadn’t produced any children to do the rituals for the deceased forefathers.  They also said if Agastya would marry and have children then, not only them, but he himself would be set free from life and death.  So, Agastya decided to marry to gain salvation for his ancestors.

Lopamudra (3)

The king of Vidarbha came seeking Agastya’s blessings to have a child. The sage said that the king would be blessed with a beautiful daughter but with the condition that, when she comes of age, the marriage should be with him and no one else.  The king was delighted to receive this blessing, as at that time he was desperate to have a child.  

The king had a beautiful daughter as the sage promised and named her Lopamudra.  The king’s daughter grew up to be a beautiful maiden.  Even though her beauty was known to all, none came to marry her as they were afraid of Agastya muni. 

Agastya visited the kingdom of Vidharpa to claim his bride.  The king was not at all ready to give his daughter away to an ascetic.  He loved her so much and was worried that she would not be able to survive living in the forest.  But remembering his promise to the sage, he was afraid to break it so he was forced to full fill it.  

Seeing her parents in distress and understanding their dilemma, Lopamudra also consoled them and persuaded them to give her to the sage.  Hearing this from his beloved daughter was such a comfort to the king.  The marriage happened according to the Vedic rituals. 

Agastya and Lopamudra (4)

As they were about to leave the palace, Agastya asked his wife to give away all her royal attires and jewelry, so she could wear clothes suiting an ascetic.  Having been brought up as a woman of high virtue and piousness, Lopamudra happily accepted his words without hesitation.  She went to live with him in the forest in ascetic clothes.  She devoted herself in his service and served him very well, winning his heart.  They both did severe penance and performed a great deal of austerities. 

One day Agastya thought that the time has come to bear a son, as he promised to his ancestral sprits. He approached his wife lovingly and shared his desire. Lopamudra, with due respect, spoke sweetly and said she would very much like for Agastya to first fulfill her wish. Her wish was for the sage to provide her with comforts similar to the ways she was raised by her parents. At first Agastya told her that such a lifestyle would incur expenses. With him being a sage, he could not afford to provide such a life, as this wish demanded that Agastya to earn the needed wealth. 

She reminded Agastya that he could certainly make all this happen by his spiritual powers. But Agastya didn’t want to diminish his state for material gains. Falling for her beauty and well-mannered nature, Agastya decided to seek help from nearby kings to fulfill her wishes.

To the first king he visited, Agastya said that he would like some donation from the king without the citizens of the country being affected by it. The king then produced the income and expenditure records which showed that nothing could be spared to fulfill Agastya’s need. This was the case with many other kings.  

Agastya began to look around for a way to earn some income.  When he couldn’t find any source of income, this led him to get the wealth from a demon named Ilvala.  

Agastya and Ilvala (5)

Ilvala and his brother Vatapi despised brahmins so much that they wanted to kill them all.  Bringing the dead from Yama Loka (hell) was a boon Ilvala had been blessed with in the past.  So, Ilvala would invite a brahmin for dinner and would magically change his brother Vatapi into a delicious food and serve that to the brahmin.  When dinner was over Ilvala would call Vatapi to come out from the brahmin’s stomach. Vatapi would come out, ripping the brahmin apart.  

Agastya knew this, so he went along with their plan when he was invited to dinner.  He ate Vatapi and digested him fully, using spiritual powers.  Ilvala called his brother many times but failed to bring him back.  Agastya explained that his brother had been digested and there was no way to bring him back. Knowing Agastya’s powers and desperate to bring his brother back Ilvala bowed before Agastya and gave him the wealth he needed.

After reaching home with the wealth, Agastya asked his wife if she would like to have ten good sons or one son who could win over ten at a time. She said she only needed a son who is rooted in righteousness with praiseworthy knowledge. She was blessed with the good and learned son as she wished. With this boon, Agastya fulfilled his ancestor’s wishes as well.

Lopamudra was not only the wife of a great sage but a great being in her own right. Many of the Rig Veda hymns are attributed to her. It is said that her hymns elaborate on the relationship between husband and wife who are following celibacy. 

As there are many stories about Agastya Muni, one of the other stories Sage Lomasha told the Pandavas was the following.

Sun blocked by Mount Vindhya (6)

Mount Vindhya was the mighty mountain of the central range of India. Once Mount Vindhya got jealous about Mount Meru. It wanted to be as tall and mighty as Mount Meru, reaching to the sky and blocking the sun and the moon. So, Mount Vindhya started growing and growing, and began to block everything in its reach. 

The devas were threatened by this, so they sought help from Agastya Muni, who was on his way to the south. When Agastya arrived at the Mount Vindhya region, he sat down. Seeing the great Sage, Mount Vindhya bowed down to Agastya Muni with devotion and shared his frustration about Mount Meru and its mightiness. 

Agastya and Mount Vindhya (7)

Agastya said to Mount Vindhya, “Just stay here. I will go down to the south and on my way back, we will deal with your issue.”  So, Mount Vindhya remained bowed down, waiting for Agastya to come back. It is believed that Agastya never returned.  He remained in the south, thus Mount Vindhya remains subdued. 

Sage Lomasha also recited the story of Rishyashringa to teach the Pandavas another important lesson.

Sage Vibhandaka, son of Rishi Kashyapa, saw the most beautiful nymph, Urvashi. This sight aroused him and he emitted his seed which fell into the river.  A nymph, cursed to be in a body of a doe, swallowed it and miraculously became pregnant. After giving birth to a son, she was liberated from her curse. 

Sage Vibhandaka (8)

The baby boy was born with horns, thus named Rishyashringa (deer-horned). Sage Vibhandaka decided to raise him isolated from society, specifically not exposing him to any female. So, Rishyashringa grew up unaware of the existence of the female gender. He practiced brahmacharya and acquired powers due to his chastity. 

The King of Anga, Romapada, was desperately searching to get relief from a drought and famine.  He couldn’t perform any yaj~nas (ritual fire ceremony) for relief as he had offended a brahmin. Therefore no other brahmin would agree to perform the rituals for him.  Due to the lack of the yaj~nas, Indra, King of the Devas, punished the kingdom of Anga by stopping the rain.  King Romapada was urgently searching to find a man with perfect chastity to get relief when he learned about Rishyashringa.  

King Romapada (9)

King Romapada sent one of his courtesans to the forest to Rishyashringa, while his father was away, to bring him to his kingdom. Rishyashringa was amazed by the presence of the woman who claimed to be a hermit herself. She spoke so softly with a sweet tone.  He had never heard such a sweet voice in his life.  

He thought the woman was a man but was puzzled by the feelings developing in him naturally when she hugged him.  She played her tricks on him, arousing him, and then left before his father arrived.  Due to this Rishyashringa became lovesick and started slacking in his duties. 

When the father arrived, he was shocked to see the state of his son, not to mention the state of the ashram.  At once the sage knew what had happened.  He immediately went in search for the culprit who had disturbed his son’s celibacy. 

The courtesan came back to the son, carefully watching the father, without getting caught.  She invited Rishyashringa to follow her to her ashram, taking him straight to the kingdom of Anga.  Romapada was very pleased as it started to rain the moment Rishyashringa entered the kingdom. The king married his daughter Shanta to Rishyashringa. Thus Rishyashringa started to know about women for the first time.

King Romapada and Rishyashringa (10)

The king was now afraid of Sage Vibhandaka’s wrath. He knew that the sage would come in search of his son. He prepared a grand welcome for the sage. Once the sage witnessed his son being so happy, living a royal life, he blessed him with a full heart and advised him to return to the forest once he had a son. Rishyashringa followed his father’s advice, returning to the forest life with his wife Shanta after producing an heir to the throne. 

Thus, Sage Lomasha narrated the story of Rishyashringa and gave the following teaching, “Some think that if someone is brought up without the knowledge of the world, it is easy to live a celibate life, but this is worthless.  Similarly, a kingdom guarded in the above manner would fall to the enemy easily.”   He then showed the Pandavas the place where Rishyashringa’s ashram once stood.  He asked them to have a holy bath in the nearby river to purify themselves and to get the blessings. They continued with their journey with Sage Lomasha. 

More to come…

  1. Sage Lomasha –
  2. Agastya Muni –
  3. Lopamudra –
  4. Agastya and Lopamudra –
  5. Agastya and Ilvala –
  6. Sun blocked by Mount Vindhya –
  7. Agastya and Mount Vindhya –
  8. Sage Vibhandaka –
  9. King Romapada –
  10. King Romapada and Rishyashringa –

Krishna Avatar Part 41

Krishna Avatar Part 41

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Sage Brihadvasa came to visit the Pandavas in the forest.  The sage narrated the story of King Nala of Nishadha for Yudhishthira to know that times will change.

Once there lived a mighty king named Nala who ruled the kingdom of Nishadha. He was very generous and noble.  He was not only brave but also very handsome, and was loved by all his citizens.  Nala was a gifted charioteer and also was known for his culinary expertise.  Still today in India, in the Tamil language, a dish well cooked, is called “Nalapakam,” meaning a dish as delicious as that prepared by Nala.

King Nala and Swan (1)

One day while Nala was wandering alone, he came across a lake with some beautiful swans.  Especially one of them really caught his attention. He slowly crept forward and caught the swan.  The bird cried out in pain while the other swans waited helplessly.  Nala spoke softly to the swan assuring it that he wouldn’t harm it and brought it to his palace.  

To free itself, the Swan told him about Damayanti, the charming daughter of King Bheema of Vidarbha kingdom.  It promised Nala that it would sing the praises of Nala to Damayanti if he would free itself.  Nala was delighted hearing this.  

He told the swan that he had once been told about Damayanti by someone else.  Ever since hearing about her, he had fallen in love with her without even seeing her. Nala said that he had decided to marry her and only her. Damayanti was indeed a very beautiful princess, and it is said that even the Devas, the celestial beings, wanted to marry her. 

Damayanti and Swan (2)

Nala immediately freed the bird and requested it to do what it had promised him.  The swan flew away into the sky and reached Vidarbha kingdom.  Upon entering the royal garden, it started to recite Nala’s name. It certainly caught Damayanti’s attention.  She wanted to have the swan for herself.  She slowly went down to catch the swan.  It wasn’t easy to catch it, but at last she managed to grab the swan. 

Out of curiosity, Damayanti asked the swan about the name Nala that it was repeating.  The swan happily started telling praises of Nala.  Hearing this Damayanti fell in love with Nala as much as he was in love with her.  She decided to marry Nala, none but him.  

The swan thus finished its job successfully and returned to Nala.  Nala was thrilled to hear the news about Damayanti’s love towards him and released the swan back to its family, keeping his own promise.

Dayamanti about to place garland on Nala (3)

When the time for Damayanti’s swayamvara came, Nala was invited, as were many other kings and princes.  The hall was not only full of mighty kings and princes from all over the earth, but also with celestial beings. They were all anxiously waiting to be selected by Damayanti.  But Damayanti’s eyes were fixed on one man, Nala himself.  She garlanded him at the ceremony, and they were happily married in front of all the guests with their blessings. 

When the celestial being Kali, the personification of Kali Yuga, heard about Damayanti disregarding the Devas and choosing a mortal man, he got very angry.  He vowed to bring down the happy life of Damayanti with Nala.  But it wasn’t easy because Nala was following the path of righteousness. It is said that it took 12 years for Kali to find fault and divert Nala from the righteous path.  

Being influenced by Kali, Nala played a game of dice with his cousin-brother Pushkara, gambling away his wealth and kingdom to him.  As Nala lost everything in gambling, he and Damayanti sent their children to her parents.  They went to the forest and wandered aimlessly.  

As they underwent much suffering, Nala was worried about Damayanti.  He didn’t want her to suffer any longer for his mistake.  He tried his best to convince her to go to her father’s kingdom, showing her the way. But she refused to leave Nala as she said that the husband needs the wife even more in adversity, therefore she will remain with Nala. Overpowered by grief, seeing his wife suffering, he then deserted Damayanti so that she would be forced to return to her father’s kingdom.

Nala leaving Dayamanti as she sleeps (4)

After leaving his wife with a heavy heart, he walked a long distance purposelessly in the forest came across a devastating fire.  When he was turning away from it, all of a sudden, he heard a cry for help. There, he saw the Serpent God, Karkotaka, caught on fire.  Nala jumped right into the fire and saved the serpent’s life.  

As requested by Nala, as a favor to him, Karkotaka changed Nala into an ugly dwarf so that he wouldn’t be recognized by others.  Karkotaka also suggested that Nala should go to the kingdom of Ayodhya and serve king Rituparna. There he could learn the game of dice, as Rituparna was the best there was in the game.  

Karkotaka, then gifted Nala a magic cloth which would restore his original form back when he desired. Taking his advice, Nala went to King Rituparna, taking the name of Bahuka and served him as both charioteer and cook. 

Meanwhile waking up alone in the forest, not knowing what had happened to Nala, Damayanti wept and wandered in the forest crying out for Nala. She sobbed for a while, coming to the conclusion that he left her deliberately. She searched for Nala everywhere, asking every animal and bird about him.  

Hunter and Dayamanti (5)

When she was grabbed by a deadly python, a hunter saved her.  The hunter desired to marry her for her beauty. Taking advantage of her loneliness, he made his mind known to her.  He was burnt to ashes by her vow of chastity when he tried to force her into it.

While she was roaming in the forest, she met some great saints.  They received her with kindness and consoled her that she would be reunited with her husband after some time.  After these blessings Damayanti met a group of traders who were on their way to the kingdom of Chedi.  They invited her to join them. After travelling for many days, they camped at a lakeside.  At midnight, elephant herds came, destroying all that they carried.  She was shocked at the misfortunes striking at her one after another.  

After a long journey she was among the survivors who reached the kingdom of Chedi.  There, she met Queen Bhanumati. As she didn’t want to reveal her true identity to the queen, she told her that she had been abandoned by her husband, who was very noble but made a big mistake when gambling, playing a game of dice.  The queen received her with kindness and asked her to stay. Damayanti agreed and stayed with her, serving her as a royal maid.

Meanwhile, the king of the Vidarbha kingdom searched for his daughter everywhere.  He sent people all around to find her.  One day a minister of Vidarbha came to Chedi. He recognized Queen Damayanti, assisting Queen Bhanumati as a royal maid.  The minister was happy to find her there as he had been searching for her for a long time. 

Damayanti then found out that she had been staying with her aunt all along.  She happily returned to Vidarbha to her father’s kingdom and saw her children who had grown up fast. They reminded her of Nala, which made her miss Nala even more.  Her father promised to find Nala and sent out his ministers in search of him. 

When one of the ministers arrived at the court of King Rituparna, Bahuka caught the minister’s attention.  Even though he didn’t look like Nala, he resembled him so much in many ways, especially his charioting skills and culinary skills.  

He returned to his kingdom and told what he had observed in King Rituparna’s kingdom to Damayanti.  She too was convinced that it was Nala. Soon after, a plan was made to bring Nala to Vidarbha.  Damayanti, with the help of her father, planned to hold a fake second swayamvara, knowing Nala would somehow show up.  They announced that Damayanti has agreed to remarry. The invitation was sent to Ayodhya inviting King Rituparna.  He was informed only the day before the fake swayamvara.  

King Rituparna guard and Bahuka (Nala driving chariot ) (6)

As there was not enough time to travel, the king was worried about missing the ceremony.  Hearing this, Nala assured the king that he would take him there in time to attend the ceremony.  The king agreed and Nala drove the chariot.  The horses flew in the air, so they reached the city within a day.  But both of them were surprised because there weren’t any festivities.  They were told that, as it’s the second marriage, they were keeping things quiet.

Reaching the palace Nala in the form of Bahuka, recognized his children playing outside at the terrace. He ran towards them and hugged them tightly. Observing this from her palace Damayanti rushed down and said to Bahuka, “I know it is you, Nala, I am sure of it.  I am so pleased to see you. Thank you for coming.”  

Nala was surprised at this and asked how she knew that it was him.  He also added a second question without a pause, with a sad voice asking if she was going to marry again. Damayanti with a smile instantly said, “No, Nala.  It was all a trick to get you to come here.  Who else but you could travel such a long distance in a day?” 

Dayamanti and Nala (7)

Hearing this, Nala was overjoyed.  He put on his magical cloth, which transformed him to his true form.  All were happy to see Nala, Damayanti and their children reunited again.  But now Nala had to regain his kingdom from his cousin Pushkara.  As Nala had learned Rituparna’s skills at dice and numbers, in exchange for his skill as a charioteer, he was ready to meet his cousin once more. 

After returning to his kingdom, Nala challenged Pushkara for a rematch of the game of dice.  Nala staked all the wealth he had earned from his father-in-law, himself and his wife for the Nishadha kingdom.  Pushkara was driven by the desire to gain the beautiful Damayanti. Sure of his own success, he accepted the rematch in dice. 

Nala, after many years of hardship, during which he never deviated from the path of righteousness, had overcome the influence of Kali.  He regained his kingdom by defeating Pushkara in the rematch.  Pushkara lost everything and became a slave.  But Nala forgave him for what he had done and gave him his palace back.  Nala and Damayanti were reunited with their citizens and lived happily thereafter. 

It is said that Kali offered Nala a boon when he left him.  Nala sought the boon that whoever read his story would not be unduly affected by the malefic effects of Kali.  Sage Brihadvasa, continued and said, “Now that you have listened to the story of Nala and Damayanti, you will be free of the ill effects of Kali, and the future will be bright for you and your family.” 

More to Come

  1. King Nala and Swan –
  2. Damayanti and Swan – Damayanti and Swan
  3. Dayamanti about to place garland on Nala –
  4. Nala leaving Dayamanti as she sleeps –
  5. Hunter and Dayamanti – from-mahabharata-the-separation-of-nala-and-damayanti/
  6. King Rituparna guard and Bahuka (Nala driving chariot) –
  7. Dayamanti and Nala –

Krishna Avatar Part 40

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

Sage Vyasa (1)

Sage Vyasa visited the Pandavas in the forest, gave his support and offered great wisdom. He warned them to prepare themselves for a dreadful but a great war between their cousins, the Kauravas, and themselves.

He advised Yudhishthira to do penance with his brothers and wife and acquire many divine weapons. He then directed Arjuna to go to Mount Kailasa to do penance, to please Lord Shiva, to obtain a mighty weapon as a blessing.

Following Sage Vyasa’s advice, Arjuna at once got ready to depart. Draupadi wished him good fortune.  Her blessing words were felt as his mother’s wishes for him to fulfill what he was born for.  Draupadi also reminded how all their lives were dependent on his mission. She prayed to Gods and other divine powers for his success.

After taking leave from his brothers and Draupadi, Arjuna set out for the Himalayas. He reached the foothills in no time, with the knowledge he had acquired and been blessed with. He crossed the Gandhamardan range and reached Indrakeela Mountain. There he met an elderly sage who asked, “Who are you? Why are you wearing armor and holding weapons like a warrior, here in a place where sages who gave up everything and have given themselves to God live?  War and violence have no place here.”  He started laughing while saying this and advised Arjuna to leave his weapons behind.  

Arjuna introduced himself as the son of late King Pandu of Hastinapura and refused to obey the sage.  As Arjuna was hesitant to leave his weapons, the Sage revealed himself to be Indra, King of the Gods.  He blessed Arjuna, saying he just came to meet him and offered him a boon.  He also suggested that it was of no use to acquire weapons, but instead to ask for wealth and pleasure. 

Arjuna said that he is seeking only divine weapons, as he had left his brothers and wife in the forest. Indra asked Arjuna to worship the Lord of Lords, Shiva, and then to return to him for all further knowledge of divine weapons. 

Mount Kailasa (2)

Arjuna went to Mount Kailasa and began meditating in Lord Shiva’s name. Lord Shiva recognized Arjuna and knew the purpose for which he was there. Seeing Arjuna’s intense austerities, Lord Shiva decided to test his devotion before granting his wish. Along with his wife Parvati, Shiva came to the forest, dressed as hunters where Arjuna was doing his penance. 

When they reached there, they saw a wild boar charging at Arjuna. This wild boar was a demon called Mukasura, sent by Duryodhana to kill Arjuna. Hearing the wild boar’s grunts disturbed Arjuna’s meditation. He opened his eyes and charged the wild boar immediately with his bow. 

Shiva and Arjuna (3)

Simultaneously the visiting hunter shot at the wild boar. The two arrows pierced the boar at the same time. As Arjuna got closer to his kill, he found another arrow. Arjuna was furious about this incident. Then he saw the hunter who emerged from the trees. Arjuna asked the hunter who he was and why he was in this forest with a woman? 

The hunter replied. saying that the forest belonged to him and his clan.  He claimed the wild boar as his kill. Arjuna didn’t agree that it was the hunter who killed the boar, but said that he definitely can take the meat.  The hunter refused to take anything that belonged to someone else, arguing that it was his kill.

Shiva, Parvati and Arjuna (4)

Unable to come to a conclusion about who killed the boar, they decided to settle it with a challenge. The fight between them went on for a long time. Arjuna found it surprisingly hard to beat his opponent. He used all his skills and weapons.  He ended up losing his Gandiva when the hunter simply snatched it away.  

At last, they ended up fighting each other without any weapons.  Arjuna was unable to beat the hunter in that duel as well.  Arjuna was so ashamed, as he had never lost a single challenge before. When he realized he could not defeat his opponent, he decided to seek divine intervention. 

He made a Shivalinga, placed a garland on it and prayed to Lord Shiva. To his amazement, he saw the hunter wearing the garland he’d offered to his Shivalinga.  Thus he realized that the hunter was none other than Lord Shiva himself. He sat at the hunter’s feet with folded hands and asked for forgiveness. 

Shiva, Parvati and Arjuna (5)

Lord Shiva, pleased with Arjuna’s devotion and valor, appeared in his true form.  He gave the Gandiva bow back and blessed Arjuna with the mightiest weapon “Pashupata-astra.”  He gave a warning along with the weapon, saying, “Never use it unmindfully.  Use it only when you really need it, as it has the power to destroy the universe.”  He then asked Arjuna to visit Indra.  

Arjuna stood there with delight, especially after being blessed by Lord Shiva along with Parvati. He felt fully contented and in bliss.  All the Gods appeared, blessing Arjuna and granting him their own special divine weapons. Indra presented him his divine weapon “Vajra-yudha.” Arjuna thanked them all and offered his respect to them humbly with folded hands.

Indra brought down one of his special chariots to escort Arjuna to Amaravati, his abode in heavens.  Indra gave a grand welcome to his earthly son, asking him to stay in Amaravati for five years to learn to use all the celestial weapons he had acquired.  Arjuna agreed, but with one condition, that his brothers and Draupadi be informed of his wellbeing and his extended stay in Amaravati.  Indra immediately called upon Rishi Lomasa and requested him to convey the message to the other four Pandava brothers and to Draupadi on earth. 

Arjuna was delighted to see the grandeur of Amaravati, the beautiful gardens, the celestial nymphs and their divine dances.  He not only enjoyed hearing the music of the Gandharvas but also learned the art of music, musical instruments and dancing from Chitrasena, chief of Gandharvas.

During Arjuna’s stay in Amaravati, Urvashi, one of the most beautiful celestial nymphs, had fallen in love with him. But Arjuna could only see her as a mother, even though she was blessed to stay young forever. He gave her the respect that he would give his own mother.  Wishing for his love, Urvashi tried her level best to attract Arjuna by captivating gestures and postures.  Arjuna with his iron will was quite unshakable.  This offended Urvashi. 

Urvashi and Arjuna (6)

Rejecting her efforts to win his love made her so angry, she cursed him. As he could not return her love, thus disappointing her, she cursed that he would turn into an eunuch.  Immediately regretting her hasty words and impressed with his self-controlled behavior, she modified her curse, saying that it would be effective for only one year, whenever he wished for it. 

Her curse was a boon which would help Arjuna successfully go through the period of incognito, so he could be unrecognized.  Arjuna bowed to her with gratitude.  Indra was very proud of Arjuna for his steadiness in his state.

In the forest after Arjuna’s departure, the Pandavas were a bit low in their sprit. All of them loved him dearly, so they really missed him. He was the favorite brother. They kept thinking about his safety and at times feared about losing him. Yudhishthira often blamed himself for creating distress for all his brothers and Draupadi, which buried him in sorrow. 

His brothers and Draupadi would cheer Yudhishthira up by praising Arjuna’s bravery and wisdom. Bhima and Draupadi continued their constant badgering about fighting to get their kingdom back, as they both believed it to be the right thing that kshatriyas would do. 

One day, as the two brothers Yudhishthira and Bhima were arguing, Sage Brihadvasa came to visit them. The Pandava brothers and Draupadi welcomed him, duly paying their respects. They took care of his needs and gave him a comfortable seat. 

Yudhishthira (7)

Yudhishthira lamented to the sage in a distressed tone, saying, “Oh Sage, the cheaters invited us to play the dice game and have taken all our wealth and kingdom. Due to this, my brothers, the incomparable warriors, and my dear wife are in exile in the forest. My brother Arjuna, who went to acquire divine weapons, hasn’t returned for a very long time. We feel lifeless without him. Could you kindly tell us if our dear brother would return? When will we see him? We are in great grief. No one would have ever suffered the way I am suffering now. I am the most unfortunate and unhappiest man of all.”

Sage Brihadvasa spoke kindly to Yudhishthira, identifying his self-pity.  He said, “Don’t dwell in grief. Arjuna will return after receiving the divine weapons and blessings. You will defeat your enemies. You said there is no other man as unfortunate, who has suffered like you. That is not correct. There once lived a king who was more unfortunate and his sufferings were far greater than you could ever imagine. All that was due to a very small negligence. The result of this, he not only lost his kingdom but also his senses, mind and experienced hardships and embarrassment in life. Let me tell you his story.”  

Thus, Sage Brihadvasa started narrating to them the mind-blowing and heart-wrenching story of King Nala of Nishada.  

More to come…

1. Sage Vyasa – //

2. Mount Kailasa –

3. Shiva and Arjuna –

4. Shiva, Parvati and Arjuna –

5. Shiva, Parvati and Arjuna –

6. Urvashi and Arjuna –

7. Yudhishthira –

Krishna Avatar, Part 39

By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna

Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow

The people of Hastinapura not only condemned Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra but also denounced Grandsire Bhishma, Dronacharya and other elders for their lack of judgement. Women were threatened for their safety as they feared.  They questioned, “If Bhishma and Drona could not guard the honor of Draupadi, what would their fate be?”  They also fully recognized that the evil force behind all these terrifying events was Shakuni, the brother-in-law of their King Dhritarashtra.

Sage Narada (1)

Soon after the departure of the Pandavas from Hastinapura, Sage Narada appeared in Dhritarashtra’s court.  He told the king that he came to inform him that whatever the evil deeds Dhritarashtra allowed to happen in his court, he must repent.  Narada cautioned that, in about thirteen to fourteen years, the Kaurava dynasty will be destroyed, and the Pandavas shall emerge triumphant.  

Dhritarashtra and the Kauravas were astounded, as they all knew that Narada’s divinations always came true. Duryodhana and his clan went to their Guru Drona and surrendered to him, asking for help. Guru Drona, due to his son’s friendship with Duryodhana and his past ties to Bhishma and the throne of Hastinapura, assured his alliance to them, but advised them to do good deeds going forward and to perform a lot of austerities.  He also reminded about the Pandavas strength and valor, suggesting that they make peace with them. As always, that was not something Duryodhana wanted to hear, so he dismissed it.

As the Pandavas left the city, their priest Dhaumya joined them on their journey.  As it was Yudhishthira’s duty to take care of all who followed him, he was worried that he would not be able to feed everyone fully.  He sought advice from his priest Dhaumya. As advised by the priest, along with his brothers, he began to worship the Sun God, since he is the reliever of all hunger.  

Sun God giving Akshaya-Patra to Yudhishthira (2)

The Sun God was very pleased by the Pandavas’ sincere devotion, so he appeared in front of them and asked what they needed. Yudhishthira with respect, asked for a boon by which he could feed Draupadi, his brothers and the guests in a fulfilling way.  The Sun God granted his boon by giving an inexhaustible vessel called “Akshaya Patra,” to be given to Draupadi.  

Akshaya Patra would produce the food in any quantity desired at every meal and become empty only after Draupadi took her own meal, only to fill up the next day once again.  Draupadi accepted the pot respectfully.  From that day onwards Draupadi would feed sages, guests and the Pandava brothers.  Then she would sit down to take her meal, after which the leftover food would duly disappear.  This blessing helped the Pandavas throughout their exile, feeding them and their countless guests. 

Krimira (3)

The Pandavas moved to the Kamyaka forest. As they were entering, a demon named Krimira confronted them, holding a blazing torch.  He demanded to know why they entered his forest. Yudhishthira introduced himself and his family, revealing who they are. 

Hearing who they were, the demon got furious. He was none other than the brother of Bakasura and a dear friend of Hidimba. As both of them had been killed by Bhima, Krimira didn’t waste any time attacking Bhima. But Bhima was already burning with rage at the disgrace suffered by Draupadi and the Pandavas, so he was more ready than ever before. He took on the demon with all his might and a dreadful battle followed. 

Bhima and Krimira (4)

Finally, Bhima uprooted a huge tree and hit Krimira with it firmly on his chest. The asura fell with a resounding thud. At the end they both wrestled with their bare arms. The fight ended with Bhima strangling Krimira to death.  By destroying the demon, he was able vent some of his anger and quietened a little bit.

In Hastinapura, Vidura kept reminding Dhritarashtra about his wrongdoings.  He said that Duryodhana had committed many crimes and had betrayed Yudhishthira.  He was advising his stepbrother about righteousness, reinforcing his role as a father to his deceased brother Pandu’s children. Vidura asked the king to invite the Pandavas back to the palace and to rein in Duryodhana. 

Hearing this repeatedly, Dhritarashtra got mad at Vidura.  He yelled at him, saying Vidura was very partial to the Pandavas and had never liked Dhritarashtra’s children, that he was always complaining or talking against them. Dhritarashtra also said that he didn’t trust Vidura anymore and told him to leave Hastinapura and go be with the Pandavas. 

Vidura had been bitterly treated by both Duryodhana and Dhritarashtra, so he left the palace and met the Pandavas in the forest and spent some time with them. But it didn’t last long as Dhritarashtra could not live for a long time without Vidura. In desperation, he sent Sanjaya, his charioteer, to bring Vidura back.  

Knowing how much Dhritarashtra would need him Vidura decided to go back and resume his duties.  Though the Pandavas hated the fact that their uncle had to leave them, they encouraged him to go back and assist the king.

Several sages and priests visited the Pandavas, enjoying their hospitality and blessing them with all their heart.  One day, Sage Maitreya visited them and priest Dhaumya at the hermitage.  He saw how Yudhishthira and his brothers were coping with their exile.  

Sage Maitreya sitting beside Duryodhana (5)

After visiting them, Sage Maitreya arrived at the court of Dhritarashtra.  Dhritarashtra received him with all due respect and asked him about the Pandavas.  After the civilities, Sage Maitreya addressed Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana saying that, even though the Pandavas might appear weak at this moment, they were very powerful and united.  

Bhima had killed the demon Kirmira and Yudhishthira was unwavering on the path of virtue.  He added that it is well known to all that the truly virtuous cannot be vanquished.  So he encouraged Duryodhana to do the right thing, to bring back his cousins from the forest.  He should ask for their forgiveness and invite them to rule their part of the kingdom.  

By saying this Sage Maitreya was trying to reason out with Duryodhana, encouraging him to do the right thing.Duryodhana listened to Maitreya’s advice, and then smiled and slapped his thigh discourteously showing his refusal in a very insulting manner.  Angered by this, Sage Maitreya cursed Duryodhana, saying that Bhima’s vow will come true, that he would lose his life when his thigh is broken by Bhima. The vow taken by Bhima at the dice game, therefore, became potent with the curse of Maitreya.

In the Kamyaka forest, Bhima and Draupadi had been persuading Yudhishthira to attack the Kauravas, to take revenge for the insult brought upon them.  Especially Draupadi, often reminding Yudhishthira about the disgrace she was subjected to at the Hastinapura court.  

She stressed that, if that can happen to her, a daughter-in-law of the Kuru dynasty, what would the other women of Hastinapura face.  As much as Yudhishthira wanted to bring justice to Draupadi, he firmly said that they should be patient and first fulfil the condition of the game and complete their exile.  He also reminded them that it was their duty to do so.  These arguments happened in the Pandava hermitage often.

Krishna, Draupadi & husbands (6)

Krishna wanted to console Draupadi and the Pandavas, so he went to meet them along with King Drupada, Dhrishtadyumna and other well-wishers of the Pandavas, including some of the Yadavas.  They all tried to talk to the Pandavas and inconsolable Draupadi, to bring some peace to their minds.  

Full of emotions, Draupadi burst out in anger, “While Duryodhana committed such wild atrocities upon me, the wife of the brave Pandavas, daughter and sister of the Panchalas and well-wisher of Yadavas, why was I left alone to defend myself? Why did my five husbands, those who can win the earth if they desire to, stand with hung heads, watching it, doing nothing to protect me while the enemy proceeded to remove the one piece of cloth covering my body?  Why is it that Karna, son of a charioteer, was allowed to insult me with such harsh words?  Where was my father? Where were my brothers?  I had no one, but only myself.  Oh, Krishna if not for your grace, what would have happened to me?”  

She broke into tears. Krishna came up to console her and wiped the tears off her face.  He assured her saying that the wives of those who committed these offences would weep one day, just like she was that day.  Krishna continued to comfort her, saying not to worry and that those who were the reason for her heartache would perish in a pool of blood. 

Krishna vowed that he would wield all his powers to make these words come true. He will not yield until justice is brought to her. He also promised Draupadi that she would be an empress again and he would be always there for the Pandavas, as and when they need him.

Krishna kills King Salva (7)

He then turned to Yudhishthira and said that he wouldn’t have allowed the dice game to happen, if only he wouldn’t have been preoccupied with his battle with King Salva. King Salva, a good friend of Shishupala, heard about the killing of Shishupala.  Wanting revenge, Salva invaded Dwaraka while Krishna was away. The city was under siege.

So Krishna had to rush to Dwaraka to safeguard the city and kill Salva.  Otherwise, he added that he would have used all his powers of persuasion to prevent King Dhritarashtra from taking such a step. That it was unfortunate he got to know of what had happened only after he returned to Dwaraka.  By then, it was already too late.

Hearing Krishna’s promise, Draupadi was relieved of her pain. Arjuna added that all Krishna was promising will come true, and that he will make sure of it too. Draupadi’s brother, Dhrishtadyumna, also promised her that he will fight to kill Drona, and that Shikandi will kill Bhishma and Karna will die in the hands of Arjuna.

More to come…

  1. Sage Narada –
  2. Sun God giving Akshaya-Patra to Yudhishthira –
  3. Krimira –
  4. Bhima and Krimira –
  5. Sage Maitreya sitting beside Duryodhana –
  6. Krishna, Draupadi & husbands –
  7. Krishna kills King Salva –