I had years with him. I lived and studied with my Baba, both in America and India. After I got past my initial awe of his incredible teachings, I relaxed into his energetic embrace. I deepened into inner realms beyond my imagining. Subtle unravelings freed me from psychological patterns laid down in my childhood, which I now recognize as karmas brought from lifetimes past.
He left this earthly plane 40 years ago today. It was overwhelming to lose him. I didn’t know who I was without him as an external anchor. Yet it was even more overwhelming to discover that his presence had become stronger. The anchor was now inside.
He had prepared us so well, explaining countless times that a great being doesn’t leave when they die. Such a Master merges into Self, thus is found in the Self of all. Their external form was only a masquerade anyway. Living in the whole of Beingness, they are only seemingly limited to a single form. I didn’t understand, of course, not until I experienced it. And even then, I didn’t understand, not until I’d experienced the passing of other loved ones. There’s a difference – a big difference.
When Baba left, I was sitting by the sea, watching the most extraordinary sunset I’ve ever seen. It had more colors and it lasted for hours. All the while, inside, he was revealing truths I need to know. I sat in a Divine communion with him that has never ended.
But to call it Divine communion is misleading, for there must be two in order to commune. Inside, there is only One, which yoga calls Shiva. But for me, that One is Baba. Shiva became Baba in order to give me my Self, who is Shiva. Yes, it’s circular reasoning, even confusing. Yes, it’s entrancing, entwining, enrapturing, enchanting – and Baba was all of that. I live in that Divine mystery. He unveiled it for me while he embodied it. He set me free. Thank you, Baba.
Krishna wanted to tease Rukmini, so he started with a questionable statement, “My dear Rukmini, I could never understand why you chose me out of many great personalities in the royal order who wanted to marry you. Among them, some were famous kings, very powerful and strong. Some may not have been kings, but they all possessed the affluence and riches of kingly order. They were not unfitting in anyway. In particular, your parents and brother gave their word of honor to Shishupala who was a great king. He was madly in love with you, especially after your beauty and he would have remained with you just like your faithful servant. In comparison with Shisupala’s personality, I am nothing. I am surprised you rejected him for me. May I ask you the reason that convinced you to accept me, as I feel I am inferior to all those princes who wanted to marry you? Remember I was so much afraid of Jarasandha that I could not dare to live in Madura, and I had to construct Dwaraka in the middle of the sea to evade him.”
He didn’t stop there. He continued, “It’s not too late. You have the freedom to select a suitable husband who is an actual equal to you in family tradition, wealth, beauty and in all other respects. As you know, usually a person does not establish a marital relationship with a person who is either higher or lower than his position.”
Rukmini was well aware that her husband was not an ordinary being. But upon hearing this, Rukmini was afraid of being separated from her Lord, for she had never heard such insensitive words from Krishna before. Filled with fear and anxiety, without replying with a single word, she cried as if being drowned in an ocean of grief. She lost all her reasoning powers and became so weak that immediately her body lost so much weight that the bangles on her wrists became loosened. The fan with which she was serving Krishna immediately fell from her hand. Her mind and memory became puzzled, and she lost consciousness. She fell down straight, like a tree brought down by an axe.
Lord Krishna immediately realized that Rukmini had not taken his words in a playful spirit. She had taken them very seriously. In her extreme anxiety over immediate separation from him, she had fallen into this condition.
Seeing this, Krishna’s heart was softened by Rukmini’s condition. He appeared in front of her in his real form, as Lord Vishnu with his four hands. He got down from the bedstead and brought her up by her hands. He placed his hands on her face and smoothed the scattered hairs on her head gently. He then hugged her to his chest.
He began to speak again in a soft gentle way, “My dear daughter of Vidarbha, my beloved Rukmini, please don’t misunderstand me. The words I spoke that affected you so much are not factual. I just wanted to irritate you and was expecting you to make counter arguments. I am very sorry that you have taken them seriously. I expected to see your angry face and that your red lips would tremble in anger. I thought you would chastise me in many words. I never expected that your condition would be like this. My dear Rukmini you know that we are householders and are always busy in household affairs. We long for times that we can enjoy some teasing words between us, the ultimate game in household life.”
In this way, Krishna wanted to exhibit himself as just an ordinary householder who delights himself by exchanging joking words with his wife. Thus, he repeatedly requested Rukmini not to take the words he had spoken seriously.
Hearing this, Rukmini was freed from all her fear of separation from the Lord. She started speaking softly. “Oh Lord! Yes, you are right about we not being equal. I can never be equal with you as you are the One Divine Reality in its full form. You are the master of all greatness, controller of the three qualities and object of worship. You reside in the deep recesses of the heart of all beings, who are always battling the powerful material senses, which are their enemies. Your movements which are mysterious for even the sages are certainly incomprehensible for human beings. There is nothing beyond you.”
Krishna said, “Oh dear princess, as I said earlier, I fooled you just because I wanted to hear what you would say. Your answers are absolutely correct. Even though you were disturbed by my words, your mind couldn’t be dragged away. I have now perceived pure love towards one’s husband, and adherence to vows of chastity. In all my palaces I do not find another as loving as you.” Rukmini’s delight by hearing this was unmeasurable.
Days and weeks passed in Dwaraka. One fine day the guards came into the palace and informed Krishna that his dearest friend Sudama had come to see him. Hearing this, Krishna rushed to meet Sudama. When he saw Sudama, he embraced him and welcomed him with the greatest joy. Then he took him to his personal room. Who is this Sudama that Krishna is so fond of?
Krishna and Sudama were childhood friends who studied under Guru Sandipani. Years passed and Krishna became the King of Dwaraka, Sudama returned to his village and immersed himself into Vedic studies. Sudama belonged to a poor Brahmin family. After some time, he got married and had many children. Even though he was a Vedic scholar, he was suffering from severe poverty. But he never begged for money from others, as he was satisfied with whatever the little money he earned. As he didn’t have good clothes to wear, he often wore worn out clothes with holes in them.
That made people call him Kuchela, a person who wears rags. Kuchela’s wife was admired by all for her domestic virtues. She was always satisfied with whatever her husband brought, having devoted her life to him and the children. She gave the children the education they needed and filled their hearts with dharmic principles, preparing them to be good citizens. Even though what Kuchela brought was not enough, she found a way to feed them all sufficiently, going to bed with an empty stomach herself. After some time, living that way too became difficult. It was time for her to come up with a plan, as she couldn’t bear the sufferings her family was going through.
That’s when she remembered Krishna, a great friend of Kuchela. She went to her husband and told him to approach his good old friend Krishna and ask for help, hoping that he would honor his request. She was sure of it, as she had heard many stories about people approaching Krishna with love and devotion. They always got rewarded for their devotion. Though Kuchela was hesitant at first, he was encouraged by his wife’s persuasion and decided to visit Krishna.
He didn’t want to visit his old friend empty handed, after all these years. But he didn’t know what he should offer to Krishna. The usual practice and courtesy required him to take something, so he asked his wife for suggestions. She told him that the idea of a gift was excellent, but as they were so poor and couldn’t afford any gift to be given to a king. After contemplating they both agreed that Kuchela should carry some aval, rice flakes. So, he carried aval in a small sachet and started his journey to Dwaraka.
Kuchela began dreaming about meeting Krishna at Dwaraka. He prepared himself with all the things he could say to please him. He was so delighted that he was getting to go and serve, honor and embrace him. Then suddenly, fear came into him. He wondered how he would pass through the guards. What if they don’t let him in?
But he was determined to go see Krishna so he entered the palace confidently. To his surprise, no one stopped him from entering the palace. He went straight to the guards, who came to Krishna and informed him of his dearest friend Kuchela’s arrival.
After inquiring the welfare of his family, Krishna asked Kuchela what he had brought for him. After seeing the splendor of Dwaraka, Kuchela was feeling embarrassed with his gift of rice flakes. Krishna noticed that Kuchela was hiding a small bag and even without asking for it he snatched it from his hands. He opened it and his eyes lit up in delight, seeing the rice flakes. Immediately he took a handful of rice flakes and happily put them into his mouth. It was so tasty that Krishna wanted to eat more, but Rukmini intervened and took it from him.
Kuchela enjoyed the stay with Krishna and his family. When the time came to leave, he was very sad. On his way back home, he was thinking only about the time he spent with Krishna, particularly the happiness he felt when he was with Krishna. But halfway home, he was a bit unhappy that he had not asked for anything from Krishna, as he and his wife had planned. But he consoled himself by saying, if it was to be, Krishna would have given him the wealth. Krishna didn’t want me to immerse myself in the pleasures of worldliness, he thought to himself. With these running through in his mind he returned to his hut.
He was pleasantly surprised that a miracle had taken place. He couldn’t recognize his hut. In its place was a beautiful and lavish mansion. What he gave Krishna was a merely a fist full of rice flakes with love, but in return Krishna had ordered Vishwakarma the divine architect to build this fine mansion for him. Kuchela noticed his family wearing new clothes and found an abundance of food in the house, or should we say mansion. He was so happy that Krishna had showered his blessings on him.
In spite of all this wealth, Kuchela did not indulge in worldly pleasures, but instead immersed in the thought of Krishna for the rest of his life. Kuchela set an example to all, as the grace of God is the final gift to every human being and we should aspire for it and it alone.
The next encounter in Krishna’s life was Narakasura. Who is Narakasura?
Narakasura, also known as Bhumasura, was the son of Bhumata, Mother Earth. She is the incarnation of Lakshmi and the consort of Varaha. When Lord Vishnu incarnated as Varaha, at her request he married her, having saved her and the good people on earth by slaying Hiranyaksha. [see blog on Narasimha Avatar]
Narakasura was born out of their union. When the child was born, Bhumata prayed to Lord Vishnu, asking him to bless their son with a long life. Lord Vishnu told her that she need not worry about her son since he would have to come back in another incarnation to end his son’s life, when the time comes.
Narakasura was brought up pious and humble until his association with the asuras. The demons changed him into one of them. He became so powerful and mighty that he brought all the kingdoms on earth under his control. Then he started harassing the devas, the heavenly beings. Even the mighty Lord of the Devas couldn’t withstand his assault. Indra fled the heavens.
This made Narakasura the king of heaven and earth. He didn’t stop there. He stole the earrings of Aditi, Indra’s mother, as they had extraordinary powers. He snatched Varuna’s umbrella and occupied Indra’s seat on top of mount Meru. He had already kidnapped sixteen thousand young princesses too, keeping them captive in his palace.
Led by Indra, all the devas went to Lord Vishnu seeking help. Lord Vishnu promised to protect them from Narakasura when the time came. And now was that time. Lord Indra visited Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and complained about Narakasura. Indra reminded Lord Vishnu to protect him and the devas from Narakasura’s tyranny.
Krishna, to fulfill his promise to Indra and the devas, as also to Bhumata, went to war with Narakasura. Krishna rode on Garuda, his eagle mount, along with his wife Satyabhama.
The reason Krishna went with Satyabhama was that she is the incarnation of Bhumata. Aditi, Indra’s mother, and the devas had also complained to Satyabhama about Narakasura’s wrongdoings.
Once Krishna reached the city of Pragjyotisha, he blew his horn Panchajanya. Then he attacked Narakasura’s great fortress. The fortress was fortified by several barriers consisting of mountain ranges, water, fire and cyclonic winds. He destroyed all the protective formations one by one with little or no effort.
Then came Mura, Narakasura’s general. He used many magical weapons to attack Krishna. Krishna was able to defuse them very easily and killed Mura with his mace. Ever since that, Krishna has been called Murari the slayer of Mura.
Narakasura himself came to fight Krishna and used several divine weapons against him. Krishna again easily neutralized them all. Narakasura also started attacking Garuda, Krishna’s mount. He tried his best to beat Garuda, using all his strength, but nothing worked. Garuda didn’t even get a scratch.
Filled with anger, as a last resort he threw his trident at Krishna. For this Krishna acted as he was fainting. Due to a boon that Narakasura had gotten, he could only be killed by the one who gave birth to him. Seeing that Krishna had fainted enraged Satyabhama, who is Bhumata. She beheaded Narakasura with Krishna’s Sudarshana Chakra.
While taking his last few breaths, Narakasura realized his sins. He surrendered to Krishna and asked him for his mercy. He also asked for a boon to celebrate the day of his death as the day of liberation, the festival of lights. It is celebrated as Diwali.
The devas were delighted to see Narakasura fall. They showered flowers from the sky while praising Krishna’s name. Narakasura’s son was crowned by Krishna at the request of Bhumata. Krishna released the sixteen thousand captive princesses who had been jailed by Narakasura. They fell at Krishna’s feet asking him to accept them as his wives, as no one else would now support them. Krishna accepted them all as his consorts and sent them to Dwaraka with guards carrying tons of wealth.
Krishna visited Deva Loka with Satyabhama by his side. He lovingly returned Indra’s mother’s earrings to her and Varuna’s umbrella to him. Indra and his wife Indrani worshipped Krishna.
There in Indra’s garden Satyabhama saw the celestial Parijata tree with its golden bark and intoxicating fragrance. She reminded Krishna of a promise. Thus, on his way back, Krishna took the Parijata tree from Deva Loka without Indra’s knowledge. Why would Krishna do this knowing it would make Indra angry?
Some time earlier, Sage Narada got a few flowers from the celestial Parijata tree and offered them to Krishna. Narada had an ulterior motive, wanting to see which one of Krishna’s beloved wives he would give the flowers to. With delight, Krishna gave the flowers to Rukmini.
Finding this out, Satyabhama was provoked with jealousy. She confronted Krishna, expressing her anger and disappointment about the whole incident. Krishna said, “Are you crying over just a few flowers. I’ll get you the tree itself from Deva Loka.” Thus, Krishna uprooted the tree and loaded it on Garuda to take home to Dwaraka.
When Indra found out, he was furious and took his army to battle with Krishna, forgetting all the favors he had just gotten from him. Krishna easily defeated them all and returned to Dwaraka with the celestial tree.
Defeated, Indra cursed that the plant would never bear fruits, though it might bear flowers. Since then the Parijata tree does not bear any fruit.
Satyabhama happily brought the tree to her palace, showing it off as her trophy. Rukmini also took a fancy to it because of its flowers. She loves adorning Krishna’s feet with flowers. So she insisted that she too wanted the flowers.
As Krishna loved them both, he planted the tree in Satyabhama’s courtyard in such a way that its flowers fell down in Rukmini’s courtyard. In this way he made both of his wives happy.
Krishna also married the sixteen thousand princesses, in as many palaces. He took on as many forms for them at the same time. All of his wives were accommodated in their special palaces so that there would be peace among them all.
Sage Narada was a celibate, so he had a doubt as how Krishna treated all his wives and how they regarded him. The thought of keeping a single wife seemed a great burden to him. So he wanted to know how Krishna managed to please all his wives, while still finding time for all his other accomplishments.
Narada went to Rukmini’s palace and saw Krishna relaxing on a swing bed with Rukmini lovingly fanning him. Krishna jumped up as soon as he saw the sage and welcomed him. After accepting all the hospitalities, Narada then went to the next door to Satyabhama. To his astonishment, there he saw Krishna playing a game of dice with her. Krishna again jumped up and greeted the Sage. Narada was puzzled. After enjoying their company, he moved on to the next palace. There he found Krishna with his wife Jambavati.
Poor Narada stuck to his self-imposed task, climbing in and out of as many palaces as he could. In each of them he was greeted by smiling Krishna and a loyal, pleased and contented wife. Then he realized his mistake was in doubting Krishna, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is the one in all. Everything exists in him. Then he prayed to the Lord, asking for forgiveness for doubting him.
Out of all his wives, Krishna could never find any fault with Rukmini. She was very great and always engaged in his service wholeheartedly. One day, Krishna wanted to see Rukmini’s beautiful face in an aggravated condition. So he schemed out a conversation which would press her buttons and make her irritated. Why would Krishna want to do this to Rukmini? It is said that it’s important for husband and wife, though in love, to have small conflicts and find ways to unite again.
Gods and Goddesses, heroes and heroines — the great Greek epics with tales of heroic deeds enchanted me as a child. The seeming impossible made possible kept me rapt.
I especially loved Hercules. He performed deeds that no one else could, due to both his strength and strategizing. As I grew up, I would apply myself in the same way, taking on challenges that were bigger than me. Whether it was athletic or academic success, I would not stop until I achieved what I set out to do. Yet, once completed, I was ready to move on to the next thing.
I just wasn’t satisfied. No matter what I achieved, I was still left with a feeling that there was something missing. And it was true! I was missing me. When I met my Guru, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, she gave me a new direction to turn: inward.
My striving to be something has transformed into discovering that which I already am — perfect, whole and complete. I learned that nothing I achieved on the outside would make me more whole on the inside. Wow! After years of striving to improve myself and my life, this revelation was groundbreaking. Yet to live in that knowing all the time is the true Herculean task. Gurudevi describes:
Your task is to first find the Divine in your own Self, then to see God shining through, as all that exists.
You know how to get tasks done. You have so many in your life, some more challenging than others. Yet all the tasks have taught you something. I often think that the challenges and goals I have taken on so far were all in preparation for this ultimate task, finding my own Self. It is the same for you. The skills needed to get a job or a degree are transferable to your spiritual upliftment. Finding the Divine in your own Self requires persistence, dedication, problem solving and more.
Yet you need a guide, someone to show you how and where to pour your efforts. This is the job of the Guru. Gurudevi not only shows you the way; she explains the path and gives you the experience she names. She gives you the yoga practices that were given to her by her own Guru. They have been passed down through the generations of yogis, dating back through time. We receive these same tools because they work. When you do the practices, you get the results.
First, you discover your own divine Self. This is the deeper dimension of your own being — that which is perfect, whole and complete. You taste it in your very first Svaroopa® yoga class or meditation. Yet it is easy to forget who you are when you leave your yoga space. Your task is to find your Self again and again and again, until again becomes always. You root so deeply into your own Divinity that you can never be uprooted again.
Once you are settled in your own Self, you see the world differently. Most people look at the world as separate and even scary. Yet, when you know your own Self, you are given divine vision. Instead of a scary world, you see a divine world. You see God shining through, as all that exists. With your divine eye, nothing is bad, nothing is to be rejected or feared. It is all to be respected and cherished.
This is the path laid out for you by the Great Masters in this yogic tradition. First you find your Self; then you see the Divine in everyone and everything. What a divine task! Are you ready to take it on?
In Dwaraka’s palace, Arjuna contemplated the situation all night. He realized he had to act immediately to stop the marriage of Duryodhana to Subhadra, the youngest sister of Krishna, born to Vasudeva and his wife Rohini. As she was already promised to be married to Duryodhana, a promise made by Balarama, her other brother, there was no way for Arjuna to win her through the traditional way. For him to marry Subhadra, the only other way would be to kidnap her by force.
In this case, force would probably not be necessary since Subhadra was already in love with him. She was not at all happy about her arranged marriage. Maybe an elopement! That’s it. Arjuna realized that was the meaning of Krishna’s hint given the night before! Now Arjuna need only to wait for an opportunity to carry out his plan.
Subhadra’s older brother Balarama gave her the duty to take care of the needs of their guest, Arjuna, who was thought to be a sage. It was considered a great blessing for a young maiden to serve a sage, so that she would get the blessings of a good husband and many children. Arjuna thoroughly enjoyed every visit of Subhadra, thanking God for this unexpected gift. He fell in love with her even more so, seeing her every time she came to serve him.
Not knowing the true identity of the sage, Subhadra was delighted in serving him and being there, readily available for all his needs. After a few visits, she became a bit suspicious about his behavior. She found his interactions with her to be far from a saintly manner. When she watched him closely, she noticed his callused forefinger, common for an archer.
With this young sage, both of his forefingers were callused, which was a sign of a great archer. Not only was it a sign, it was a proof that the sage must be none other than Arjuna. Arjuna was the only archer who could have this as he was famous for shooting equally well with his right and left hands. When she asked, Arjuna didn’t have any choice other than to reveal his true identity to her. Ever since this discovery, their courtship progressed smoothly. As his stay continued, the rainy season started to end, meaning Subhadra’s wedding day was approaching. Now was the time to act.
They both had Krishna as their biggest ally. First and foremost, he gave Arjuna his chariot and advised Subhadra to drive the chariot away from Dwaraka towards Indraprastha. This was a crucial piece of advice, to make it look like Subhadra kidnapped Arjuna, not the other way around.
The next morning, Arjuna borrowed Krishna’s chariot and waited near the temple where Subhadra had gone for a puja. As she came out of the temple, Arjuna drove the chariot in front of her so that she could easily get in. When the soldiers on duty saw this, they thought that Subhadra was being abducted by the sage.
Arjuna caught Subhadra by the arm to seat her in the chariot, preparing for her to drive away. At that moment, the soldiers started to attack Arjuna. Remembering Krishna’s advice, Subhadra took the reins of the horses. Arjuna immediately started to fire arrows at the soldiers, revealing his true identity. The soldiers ran towards the palace to inform Balarama of the incident.
Balarama got into a rage, uncommon for him. He pledged to punish Arjuna for what he had done, especially by breaking the trust by faking to be a sage. Balarama felt that the entire Yadava clan had been dishonored by this act of Arjuna. Since Arjuna was Krishna’s bosom friend, Balarama suspected Krishna’s involvement as well. He wanted to confront Krishna about the event and sent word for him to come.
When Krishna arrived, Balarama shouted at him, asking why Krishna was silent about his dear friend insulting them and the Yadava clan by kidnapping their sister. He said to Krishna, “It’s an unbearable disgrace upon us. Especially after we treated Arjuna so well, offering him shelter. I cannot wait to hear why you let this happen, and you not yet getting ready to chase him down to fight!”
Krishna smilingly said, “Didn’t I warn you dear brother, about letting strangers stay at our palace, especially with our young sister around. You are the one refused to believe me, and now you are trying to blame the event on me. I heard from the soldiers that it was our loving sister, Subhadra who was driving the chariot and not Arjuna. Therefore, this is not a kidnapping. It is an elopement initiated by our sister.” Balarama was a bit annoyed by Krishna’s sarcasm.
Then Balarama looked at Krishna and asked why he hadn’t said anything about the true identity of the sage, as well as the love affair between them. Krishna smilingly said, “As you had already promised Subhadra to Duryodhana, I didn’t want you to get involved in any elopement. In this way, you are clear of all blame and guilt. Since you knew nothing about this elopement, Duryodhana cannot blame you for breaking your promise.” Balarama had no choice but to accept the marriage of Subhadra with Arjuna.
The couple was invited back with great honor and the wedding was celebrated grandly in Dwaraka. After some time passed, it became time for the newlyweds to return to Arjuna’s home, Indraprastha. Subhadra was getting ready to leave with Arjuna, bringing her huge dowry of precious metals, horses and maidens.
But there was a problem in taking Subhadra to Indraprastha. When all five Pandavas married Draupadi, they gave her their word that they would never bring any of their other wives whom they marry in the future to the palace where Draupadi lived. Therefore, while they were allowed to marry many women, according to the tradition of kshatriyas, but Draupadi would be the only wife whom they would have in Indraprastha. Arjuna decided to take his chances by returning from his exile to Indraprastha along with his new wife Subhadra.
He was welcomed by Kunti and his brothers. But Draupadi was missing. When he inquired about her, the brothers revealed that she was in a rage and didn’t want to see anyone. They added that she was heartbroken, as Arjuna was breaking the promise by bringing his new wife, Subhadra, to Indraprastha.
Hearing this Subhadra decided to mend things. To save her husband from this difficult situation, she decided to visit Draupadi’s chamber in the attire of a cowherd woman. When Draupadi asked who she was, she said that she came to serve her as her maid. She then fell at Draupadi’s feet. Draupadi got suspicious and asked her to come out with the truth. Then Subhadra revealed who she was and promised Draupadi that she would never want to replace her or take her place in Indraprastha. Seeing such humility, Draupadi accepted Subhadra as her younger sister.
After some time, Subhadra bore a son to Arjuna. He was the great Abhimanyu, who later became equal to his father in virtue, valor, and proficiency in archery. A true son of Arjuna, he became the favorite of all the Pandava brothers and of Krishna.
Now let’s look at the marriages of Krishna, which also happened in this same time period.
Mitravinda was a cousin of Krishna as her mother Rajadevi was an aunt to Krishna. The princes of Avanti, Vinda and Anuvinda were friends of Duryodhana. The princes arranged a swayamvara for their sister, Mitravinda, but without her consent. Mitravinda begged Krishna to rescue her. She was devoted to Krishna and longed to marry him. Knowing her devotion, Krishna obliged to her request. He once again fought with all the other kings while abducting her, then formally married her in Dwaraka.
Satya was the daughter of the King of Kosala, Nagnajita, who was married to Vasudeva’s sister. This king owned seven vicious bulls with sharp horns. He declared that whomever was capable of subduing these seven bulls would win his daughter’s hand in marriage. Many kings from all parts of the world wanted to marry Satya, so they attempted to calm the bulls but failed miserably.
When Krishna visited Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala, King Nagnajita greeted him with highest honor and gave him a grand welcome. His daughter Satya, seeing Krishna in person, immediately fell in love with his divine form and wanted to marry him. As Nagnajita had already announced the competition, he had to request that Krishna accept the challenge, in order to fulfill Satya’s wish.
Krishna entered into the arena which the bulls had been let loose. He then multiplied himself into seven forms and calmed the bulls instantaneously with great ease. The king along with his daughter were delighted to see this. The happy father bestowed his blessing on the bride and groom in a grand wedding. Krishna then took Satya with him back to Dwaraka.
Krishna’s marriage to his cousin Bhadraa was the only marriage that took place without any unpleasant occurrences. Bhadraa was the daughter of Shrutakirtii, another aunt of Krishna. Bhadra’s brothers married their sister to Krishna in a splendid wedding.
Krishna also married Lakshmanaa (or Lakshanaa), the daughter of King of Madra. In her swayamvara, he won her in an archery challenge similar to the one Arjuna won to marry Draupadi. Thus, Krishna married about eight women during the course of this time. He lived happily in Dwaraka until he received multiple complaints about the mighty King Narakasura.
Arjuna continued on his long journey and reached Manipura. He went to the court of Chitravahana, King of Manipura, and introduced himself. The king was delighted to have mighty Arjuna in his court and gave him a warm welcome. The king requested Arjuna to be his royal guest, so he was given accommodation in the royal palace.
One day Arjuna got a glimpse of the king’s daughter, Chitrangada. He was totally bewitched by her masculine beauty and wanted to marry her. He went straight to the king and requested his permission to marry her. As Chitravahana did not have any other heir, he had trained Chitrangada in warfare and ruling the kingdom. The king agreed for his daughter to marry Arjuna under one condition.
As Chitrangada was his only child, thus the only one who could continue his dynasty, the king had decided to adopt her son and appoint him as the Crown Prince of Manipura. This meant that a child, born to her, would be his successor, no one else. Therefore, the condition was that Chitrangada’s son would remain in Manipura. As Arjuna was so madly in love with her, he didn’t have a choice but to agree.
The marriage took place in a grand scale and Arjuna stayed there for a few years. In due course Chitrangada got pregnant and bore a son. As was promised, Chitravahana adopted Arjuna’s son as his own. It was time for Arjuna to move on with his journey. Arjuna left his wife Chitrangada and his son, to stay in Manipura, as he continued his journey to the south.
On the way to the south, he came across some sages. Spending time with them he gained knowledge and wisdom. He saw that the sages had problems getting water for their daily use. When he asked about it, they revealed that there were five ponds nearby, but they were unable to get water from them, as each of the ponds was the home of a huge crocodile who ate anyone who came near the pond. Hearing this Arjuna assured them that he would put an end to this terror.
Arjuna fearlessly got into one of the ponds. The crocodile in that pond immediately came towards him to attack him. Ullupi’s boon given to Arjuna, that he will remain unconquerable in water, came true. Arjuna easily defeated the crocodile. Catching it by its tail, he flung it out of the water and threw it to the ground, injuring it very badly. As soon as the crocodile hit the ground it transformed into a heavenly damsel.
The damsel paid her respect to Arjuna and said, “Oh Son of Pandu! All the crocodiles in these ponds are heavenly beings. We have been cursed by a sage to remain in these waters as crocodiles for years now. We have been waiting for a true warrior to liberate us from this curse. As you liberated me, please do liberate the others as well. Arjuna freed all of them from their curse. The heavenly beauties thanked Arjuna and returned to heaven. The sages were relieved of their problems and blessed Arjuna.
Arjuna moved on with his journey. As Arjuna’s years of pilgrimage were coming close to an end, he wished to end it in Dwaraka, where he could meet Krishna again. The last time he saw and spent time with Krishna was when they took up their residence in Indraprastha.
He remembered going out on a hunting trip with Krishna. At the end of the day, they were tired and thirsty. They went to the banks of Yamuna to quench their thirst and refresh themselves. When they reached the riverbank, they were struck by the beauty of a damsel wandering along the banks. When questioned by him, she revealed herself as Kalindi, the daughter of Sun God. She had been living in a house beneath the river due to a vow she had taken to marry the incarnation of Vishnu. She had been observing severe austerities until she met one.
Arjuna with a smile told her the time has come to receive the fruits of her penance, for the one she was looking for is only a few yards away from her. He pointed to Krishna and Kalindi prostrated at Krishna’s feet, pleading him to accept her as his consort. Krishna, with delight, accepted her and all three of them returned to Indraprastha. After getting blessings from Yudhishthira, Kalindi returned to Dwaraka with Krishna. Krishna married her there, with the support of all in Dwaraka.
Arjuna also was thinking about Krishna’s sister Subhadra. Arjuna had met her on one of his trips to Dwaraka. They had been attracted to each other. No one knew about this other than Krishna. Arjuna was looking forward to meeting Krishna and Subhadra. With all that in his mind, Arjuna continued his journey towards Dwaraka.
Subhadra was Krishna’s younger sister. She had grown up to be a lovely young lady. She was highly pampered by her two older brothers, Balarama and Krishna. Her happiness was everything to them. As the eldest brother, Balarama was anxious to get her married to a suitable groom. Duryodhana had heard about her exceptional beauty and showed his interest to marry her. Not knowing Subhadra’s desire to be with Arjuna, Balarama agreed to Duryodhana’s proposal of marriage. He was quite pleased about this alliance, as he always had a soft corner towards Duryodhana; Duryodhana was Balarama’s favorite student. Not to mention, he was thrilled about the alliance with the great family of the Kuru dynasty, too.
Krishna was not at all happy about this news, but it was too late as Balarama had already given his word to Duryodhana. Nonetheless, Krishna didn’t want his dear sister to suffer at the hands of the cruel-natured Kaurava Prince, Duryodhana. So he had to come up with a strategy to save his sister from marrying this ill-natured man, and to marry the one whom she carried in her heart.
Arjuna arrived at the gates of Dwaraka. After travelling so long his clothes were soiled and crumbled, and he had grown a long beard. He looked like a sage. No one recognized him in Dwaraka, though he was well-known there. Arjuna chuckled about people not recognizing him. He found a tree, sat under it and closed his eyes. People started coming towards him, as they mistook him for a real sage. The crowd gathered around him and some started gossiping about the news of Subhadra’s wedding to Duryodhana.
Arjuna was devasted to hear this news. He didn’t know until that moment how much Subhadra meant for him. He couldn’t afford to lose her. He closed his eyes, deeply lost in his thoughts. He wondered about Krishna’s involvement in this, as he knew that Krishna was aware of his attraction towards Subhadra and her’s towards him. He decided to sit in stillness, meditating. He expressed no desire for anything, including food. People were quite convinced that he was a great sage.
The news about a sage visiting Dwaraka reached the ears of Balarama. He immediately came to visit the sage, not knowing he was Arjuna. He paid his respect to the sage but Arjuna was quite embarrassed about this, as he was very much younger than Balarama. He tried to hide his face as he was nervous that Balarama would recognize him. But, to his surprise, Balarama didn’t have a clue about the one who was hiding behind the clothes of a sage.
Arjuna’s years of spending time with great beings during this time period really helped him to suit the act. Balarama was pleased with meeting the sage. He went back to get Krishna to come along with him. When Krishna arrived, and recognized Arjuna, he gave a quizzical look. Arjuna couldn’t take it and closed his eyes. Balarama humbly invited the sage to stay at the palace, as the rainy season had started. It is customary for sages to stay with householders during monsoon times. Arjuna glanced at Krishna and agreed to the request, as he knew that Krishna recognized him.
Krishna showed dissatisfaction with his brother’s decision. He muttered into Balarama’s ear, though in such a way Arjuna could hear. He said, “Oh dear brother, beware of bringing strange young men into our residence, even if they are holy men. Don’t forget that our beloved sister is a maiden waiting to be married. The sage doesn’t look old enough to renounce the pleasures of life. You better think twice before you bring him into our home.”
Balarama looked at Krishna in such a way to tell him to mind his own business. Balarama went on with his plan, inviting Arjuna the sage into their home. They all went back to the palace. Balarama made sure the Sage was comfortable in his room. What Krishna had said to Balarama was playing in Arjuna’s mind over and over again. He knew there was a hidden message for him in what Krishna said. He kept thinking about it all night.
Only a few who lived in the Khandava forest escaped the fire. Among them were the four Saranga birds. They lived with their mother bird, Jarita. Her husband had left her for another female bird. The male bird was a sage named Mandapala. He had to come back from the heavens to fulfill the karma of having children in order to stay in the heavens. He had to experience a married life and have offspring, therefore he had to be born again. Eager to return to the heavens, he chose to be born as a Saranga bird so that he could have many children and complete his karma within a short time. Once the eggs were laid by Jarita, even before his offspring were born, he left her for another female named Lapita.
When the fire began the four nestlings panicked at first. The older nestling urged their mother to leave them so she could save herself from the fire and maybe have more children. The elder nestling said, “Mother, if you are killed, we will not have any children for our family. Further we will not have anyone to look after us. Do what is right to protect our race without being influenced by affection only to us, which would be the destruction for all of us.” Jarita was taken by the wise advice from the older nestling. Taking the advice, she decided to protect the nestlings in the best possible way she could. She was putting them into the hollow of a tree so she could seal its mouth with mud before flying to safety. But the nestlings refused. Unable to convince them, the mother flew away, leaving them in God’s hands.
The nestlings prayed to Agni, the God of fire, not to harm them by singing his praise. Agni was pleased with their prayers and kept them safe from his flames. They survived the fire. When Jarita returned to check on them, she was so pleased to see them alive and well. In the meantime, Mandapala, the male bird who became worried about his offspring, wanted to return to see them. This made Lapita, the bird he had left his family for, furious. Ignoring her, Mandapala flew back to the forest and found his offspring unharmed and safe with their mother Jarita, thus realizing that he was not needed anymore.
The splendid new city of Indraprastha sprung up from the ashes, where once Khandavaprastha stood, by the grace of Krishna and the great work of the Divine architect Vishwakarma. Along with Krishna, the Pandavas were delighted to see the city being built in such a short time. Indraprastha was glittering with glamour. Soon they performed the inauguration ceremony of the palace by doing the relevant rituals and pujas. The five Pandavas began living in the magnificent palace. It took them a while to get familiar with the work of the Deva architect Vishwakarma and the illusion artist, the Asuric architect Mayasura. Just figuring out where the floors, walls, doors, windows and water ponds were was a lot to learn. The palace was mind boggling. The city of Indraprastha soon excelled the grandness of Hastinapura.
The Pandavas ruled Indraprastha with their cousin Krishna as their advisor and guide. One day Sage Narada came to visit the Pandavas. He had come with a purpose, as always, this time to explain that they must not fight over Draupadi, with her being the common bride. So he told them a story. The story was about Sunda and Upasunda, the two powerful demons who loved each other dearly. To get the boon of unconquerable power they went to the Vindhya mountain range to perform severe penance. Delighted with their penance, Brahma appeared and asked what they wanted. The brothers knew what exactly they wanted. They asked for strength, mastery over all weapons, ability to create illusions, take any form and, of course, immortality. Brahma gave them everything except immortality. And he told them to ask for something else instead of immortality. They thought for a while and asked that they could be killed only by each other, as they were very sure of their friendship. As requested, the boon was granted by Brahma.
The undefeatable brothers not only defeated the mighty Devas, but also terrorized all three words. The Devas devised a plan, sending a beautiful maiden Tilottama to disrupt the friendship. She tempted the brothers and made them fall in love with her. Sunda and Upasunda fought over her ferociously and killed each other. After hearing the story from Sage Narada, the Pandavas decided that each one would spend a month with Draupadi while none of the other brothers would intrude during that time frame. If any of them violated the arrangement that person would willingly go into exile for 12 years.
One day a brahmin came weeping intensely to the palace. He complained that his cows had been stolen by thieves. He came seeking help from King Yudhishtra for the restoration of his cows. Arjuna consoled the brahmin, promising that his cows would soon be returned to him. Arjuna decided to take matters into his hands and to go after the thieves to help the brahmin. But he realized he had left his bow and arrows in Draupadi’s bed chamber. It was his older brother Yudhishthira’s turn to be with Draupadi.
Arjuna now had to make a decision. He didn’t want the brahmin to curse his brother, the king, due to not getting help. But on the other hand, he had to violate the arrangement with his brothers by going to Draupadi’s chamber when he is not supposed to go there. Arjuna was caught in a dilemma. Finally, he chose to violate the agreement and prepared to be exiled in order to restore the brahmin’s cows. Arjuna chose to put his duty first, knowing that it would cost him banishment so he went into Draupadi’s chamber to get his bow and arrows. After restoring the brahmin’s cows, Arjuna went directly to his brother. After offering his respects, he conveyed his guilt of violating the arrangement and his plan to go into exile. He humbly sought Yudhishthira’s permission to go into exile.
After listening to Arjuna, Yudhishthira said, “Dear brother, you have not committed any violation at all. It would have been a violation only if you would have entered the palace for a personal reason. What you did was for a noble cause to perform a duty which was in fact mine. As you did this to protect your king and his subjects, I and my queen will not punish you.” But Arjuna has already made up his mind about exile. He reminded Yudhishthira that it was his teaching that one should not be dishonest at any circumstances. So, he begged for his brother’s permission to atone his sins. Hearing this Yudhishthira didn’t have any other choice other than to allow Arjuna to go into exile.
A few admirers of Arjuna accompanied him to the forest. After journeying through dense forests and crossing several streams they finally arrived at the banks of the river Ganga. Arjuna spent most of his time during this exile in listening to religious discourses by sitting with scholarly brahmins and sages. Living a peaceful life, he was becoming more and more virtuous. All this made his face glow with the divine light.
One day a beautiful maiden, who happened to see him while performing a yaj~na, fell in love with him. His glowing face and muscular body made her madly in love with him so she made up her mind to marry him. This damsel is named Ulupi, the daughter of the Naga King Kauravya of the under waters of Ganga. The next day, when Arjuna went into the river for a ritual bath, the Naga princess Ulupi gripped him and pulled him into the river, taking him straight to her underwater kingdom, the abode of King Kauravya her father. Taken by her act Arjuna inquired about Ulupi. She revealed her lineage and admitted her love and desire to be his wife.
At first Arjuna declined her proposal, mentioning his celibacy on his pilgrimage. But he was convinced by Ulupi’s argument saying that his celibacy was limited only to Draupadi. Arjuna accepted her proposal and agreed to marry her. A son named Iravan was born to them. Arjuna then expressed his desire to go back to his companions. Pleased by Arjuna, Ulupi granted him a boon that from that point forward all water creatures would obey and protect him. He would remain unconquerable under water.
Arjuna returned to the shore and told his companions all about Ulupi and the Naga Kingdom. The rest of the group then returned home, leaving Arjuna to continue his journey alone as he wished.
I love spring. Crocuses and daffodils bloom in the yard. The trees’ limbs unfurl fresh new leaves and blossoms. Spring feels like a celebration of life. Every day there are new signs of life. Every day feels fresh and new. I treasure that feeling. I used to rely on the newborn beauty of spring to trigger it for me.
That changed when I found yoga. Yoga says the entrancing newness of spring is always available to you. It’s a quality of your Divine Essence. This is described in a yogic text called the Shiva Sutras:
In every moment, the yogi enjoys the newness of life, the gift of the Goddess.— Shiva Sutras 1.13
Uma-Kumari is the Goddess. She is the energy that births the universe into existence. She existed before time began, and she exists now, creating every moment anew. She uses her Divine will, iccha-shakti, to blossom forth the world and everything that exists. Everything that exists is made from her own existence, out of pure delight. Including you. You are an expression of the Goddess.
You are made of her Divinity. Except she and you are not two. There’s only One. One Divine Reality, called Goddess, called God, called Self. Your Self. You are the One Divine Reality. Except you don’t know your Divinity, most of the time. You get glimpses, like the way springtime gives me a fleeting glimpse of the glorious ever-newness of life.
So how does the yogi enjoy the newness of life in every moment? This gift of the Goddess comes from another gift. It’s the mystical initiation called Shaktipat. Shaktipat awakens within you the knowing of your own Divinity. That capacity to know has been lying dormant within you. It is like a seed buried in the soil, awaiting spring. My teacher, Gurudevi Nirmalananda, is a Shaktipat Guru. She is a yoga master who has the capacity to spark awake your inner knowing. When you receive this awakening, you’ll know your Self: immortal, ever-existent, ever-new.
And day by day, meditation by meditation, the energy of your Divinity arises within you. It’s the source of your aliveness, your joy and your happiness. It’s the source of life itself. So is it any surprise that you will become more fully alive, more fully present, more fully engaged in your life? Whether the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing, or it’s a frigid winter day. Or it’s a hurricane! You’ll embrace it all, celebrating every Divine moment. This is your destiny. Gurudevi will give you Shaktipat if you want her to. Are you ready?
Preparations for the royal reception of the Pandavas and their mother Kunti started shaping up. Dhrishtadyumna by his side, Drupada led the preparations personally. The palace was decorated with flowers, garlands, colorful flags and beautiful ornaments hanging from the ceilings. There was so much excitement among all the citizens of Panchala. All the arrangements for the wedding rituals also started to materialize.
The Pandavas and their mother Kunti were officially welcomed with the highest possible honors. Then the marriage of Draupadi with the five Pandava princes took place in a grand way.
The story spread like wildfire — a brahmin showing his valor in the swayamvara, besting all the kings and princes in the archery trial, and thereafter defeating everyone who attacked him. This brought the talk that Arjuna was alive to the gates of Hastinapura. Simultaneously, the news about the Pandavas’ marriage to Draupadi reached the ears of Vidura through his spies. Vidura had kept spies all through the kingdoms since the Pandavas had escaped the burning house of lac with his help. Vidura decided it was the time to reveal the news of the Pandava’s survival to his brother, King Dhritarashtra.
He went to see his brother Dhritarashtra to share this most wonderful news. He said “Oh king, my beloved brother! The future of our dynasty is secured and strengthened with the most promising bride. The daughter of the mighty King Drupada has become the daughter-in-law of us, the Kuru family. Such a blessing this is to the kingdom of Hastinapura.” With so much love for his eldest son in his heart, Dhritarashtra believed Vidura was talking about Duryodhana. He was so happy! He told Vidura that he hadn’t had any doubt that Duryodhana would win the contest for Draupadi’s hand. Vidura then explained the whole story.
“Our dearest Pandavas are alive along with their mother Kunti. It was actually a young brahmin who won the hand of Draupadi. None of the kings and princes who attended the swayamvara were able to pass the archery trial swayamvara. And that young brahmin who won Draupadi’s hand at the swayamvara in Panchal is none other than your nephew Arjuna. All five of them married her due to the boon from Lord Shiva that she was blessed with. They are all safe and cared for at the hands of Drupada.”
Hearing this Dhritarashtra was terribly disappointed. But he couldn’t show his disappointment to Vidura, so he put on a happy face. With fake delight he said, “This is the most wonderful news I have ever received. All this while, I was mourning the death of Kunti and the Pandavas, not knowing they escaped from the dreadful fire. My dear brother Pandu’s sons and wife survived the fire. Not only are they alive and well, but also they married into one of the mightiest kingdoms. My heart is filled with happiness, bouncing with joy.” His heart truly split into two as he was saying this. Yet, as much as he hated the news of the Pandavas survival, part of him was truly relived of the guilt of his son killing his own brother’s children and wife.
When this news reached Duryodhana’s ears, he was angry and distressed. He felt terribly humiliated. He couldn’t believe that the Pandavas had been hiding for a year after escaping the fire. And now they had strengthened their position and their claim to the Kuru kingdom by marrying into one of the strongest kingdoms, the Panchala kingdom. The Pandavas were stronger than ever before. This thought made his anger, jealousy and vengeance grow double over what it had been. He, along with his brother Dushasana, immediately went to visit their uncle Shakuni to seek advice. He exclaimed to Shakuni that even the Gods were on the Pandavas side. How they could escape the deadliest fire and then get alliances by becoming in-laws of valiant Dhrishtadyumna and fearless Shikhandi. They asked Shakuni, “What do we do now?” Shakuni was sure to devise a plan for another cunning way to get rid of the Pandavas.
Later, along with Karna, they went to visit Dhritarashtra. They showed their dissatisfaction to their father for agreeing with Vidura to invite the Pandavas back into the kingdom. As Dhritarashtra was helpless, he asked Duryodhana to suggest the next steps. Duryodhana immediately started plotting. Some of his suggested plans were to divide Pandavas in some way by provoking Madri’s children, Nakula and Sahadeva, against the other three brothers, or bribing Drupada to go against the Pandavas. or by threatening them in some way that they would never return to Hastinapura. Karna laughed at Duryodhana and said that he was wasting his time with such useless ideas. He suggested that they go to war with them, saying that it was the only remedy.
Dhritarashtra didn’t like any of these ideas and decided to discuss the matter with Grandsire Bhishma and Guru Drona. Bhishma was in extreme delight about the news of the Pandavas being alive and that they were shortly returning to Hastinapura. Dhritarashtra asked Bhishma for his advice. After some discussions with Vidura, Bhishma said to make peace with the Pandavas by dividing the kingdom into half would be the right thing to do. He also said this is what the citizens of the Hastinapura desired. He added that people were already suspicious about the Kaurava’s involvement in the fire of the lac house. As an additional point, he mentioned that the kingdom was blaming Dhritarashtra, as the king of the nation, for not taking any action regarding the fire and not getting to the bottom of what happened. The only way to put all this behind would be to give half of the kingdom to Pandu’s children. Guru Drona completely agreed with Bhishma’s proposal.
Listening to this conversation, Karna was furious about dividing the kingdom. He loved Duryodhana so much that he didn’t want to see half of Duryodhana’s future going to the Pandavas. He addressed Dhritarashtra, saying that he was surprised that Guru Drona, who had gained everything by serving him, was advising him to give away half of the kingdom. He wanted Dhritarashtra not to merely listen, but to give some thought to what they suggested. Karna said they should go to war with the Pandavas. Guru Drona was offended by Karna’s remarks. He shouted at Karna. “You wicked fool! You are giving the king ill advice without any respect. If the king ignores our advice, for sure that would be the end of the Kauravas.”
Puzzled by all this, Dhritarashtra turned to his chief minister, Vidura. Vidura said, “Grandsire Bhishma and Guru Drona has given you the best advice. Don’t ignore the advice from those wise ones. They always put the interest of the kingdom and its people first. Also, the Pandavas are your beloved brother’s children. Just like the Kauravas, they are your children too. Anyone giving advice against the Pandavas are the ones who will destroy our kula. Also, Drupada, with his children, along with Krishna and the Yadava clan are all standing with the Pandavas, strengthening them. So, there is no way to win against them in a war. Karna’s advice is worthless. It’s true that people are angry and upset about what happened to the Pandavas, and that they are blaming you and your children. Now that they are delighted to find out about the Pandavas being alive, this is the best opportunity to put the past behind you and move forward. They are anxiously waiting to see them. Listen to Grandsire, not to others who don’t have any experience in statesmanship.”
At the end, Dhritarashtra decided to divide the kingdom and to have peace with the Pandavas. He requested Vidura to visit the Panchala kingdom to invite Kunti and the Pandavas along with their new bride Draupadi. He planned to welcome them back with all due respect and honor. Vidura carried precious gems, fine jewelry and loads of grains as gifts with him to Panchala. Vidura was cordially welcomed by king Drupada. After paying his respects Vidura, conveyed the message from King Dhritarashtra, requesting Drupada to send the Pandavas and Draupadi, along with Kunti, to Hastinapura. Drupada was doubtful about Dhritarashtra’s motive as he never trusted him. But then he let the Pandavas decide what they wanted to do, saying “Whatever the Pandavas wish, will be my wish too.”
Vidura then visited Kunti and paid his respects to her. Kunti, equally suspicious about Dhritarashtra, said to Vidura, “Son of Vichitravirya, you saved my children once before. They are your children too. They trust and believe in you. So, advise them as to what they should do.” Vidura said, “Kunti, your children always stand for the truth, therefore they will never be harmed by anyone. They will have their claim on the kingdom and Yudhishthira will be crowned as king. They will rule with greatness. So, come, let’s go back to our kingdom of Hastinapura where you belong.” By saying this he was able to convince Kunti. King Drupada with a heavy heart, gave his blessings to all of them and allowed them go back to their kingdom with Vidura, following royal tradition.
Indra, the King of Heaven was riding on His white elephant. As He returned to Heaven, He was greeted by Durvasa, a great sage, who offered him a very special garland of flowers vibrating with the energy and presence of the Divine Goddess Parashakti herself.
Indra, being a king, was arrogant, so while He accepted the garland, He gave it to the elephant. The elephant was irritated by the smell of the garland, threw it to the ground and trampled it. Durvasa, known to be a hot-headed sage, was predictably enraged, as the garland held all beauty and auspiciousness in it. It was to be treated as sacred prasad, a Divine Gift. Sage Durvasa cursed Indra, “Your pride has made you egoistic about your position and wealth. Goddess Lakshmi will now forsake you.” Because of the sage’s curse, without Goddess Lakshmi’s blessings, Indra and all the gods lost their strength, energy and wealth.
With all His powers diminished, Indra with the other Devas ran to Lord Vishnu seeking His advice. Lord Vishnu said the only way to get back what was lost was to churn the ocean, then made of milk, to bring forth “amrit” (the nectar of immortality). Thus Indra and the Devas could drink the amrit, which would make them immortal again and help them regain their lost powers. Because of their depleted powers, Vishnu explained they would need help from their half-brothers the Asuras (demons), even though they had always been in conflict with them, in order to achieve this.
Indra led the Devas in approaching the Asuras for help. After deliberations, they all agreed to churn the ocean together and share the proceeds. The churning of the ocean of milk was not going to be an easy task, though they were working together. They needed a huge churning rod and a very strong rope.
They sought the help of Mount Mandara to be their churning rod and the great snake Vasuki, the snake god, to be their rope, which they wrapped 3½ times around the mountain. The churning of the ocean began with the Devas holding Vasuki’s tail (as advised by Lord Vishnu) and the Asuras holding the head. The Devas and Asuras pulled back and forth alternately, rotating the mountain and churning the ocean.
As they were churning, Mount Mandara started sinking in the ocean of milk. To prevent this, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a tortoise and held Mount Mandara up from underneath. This is known to be “Kurma Avatar” (kurma=tortoise, avatar=incarnation), one of Lord Vishnu’s ten Avatars.
The first thing to manifest from the churning ocean was a deadly poison, known as “hala hala,” which threatened the very existence of all the worlds. As instructed by Lord Vishnu, the Devas and Asuras prayed to Lord Shiva, who is healer of sickness and remover of all poisons. Lord Shiva came to their aid, while the Devas and Asuras watched in amazement, by swallowing the hala hala poison in one gulp.
Goddess Parvati, standing by His side, was terrified at the thought that it might poison Shiva, so She squeezed His neck to prevent the poison from going into His stomach. The poison remained stuck forever in His throat, staining it a dark blue. This gave Lord Shiva the name “Neelakantha,” which means Blue Throated (neela=blue, kantha=throat).
Not knowing what would happen to Shiva, they all stood vigil with Him through the night. This was the first Shivaratri or Night of Shiva, which is still celebrated on the dark of the moon in February or early March.
Once the danger had passed, the Devas and Asuras began churning the ocean again. As they continued to churn, several objects came out:
Kamadhenu — the wish-fulfilling cow
Ucchaisrava — the white horse
Airavata — the white elephant
Kaustubhamani — a rare diamond
Kalpavriksha — the wish-fulfilling tree
Sura or Varuni — the goddess of wine
And Lakshmi — the goddess of wealth
The Devas and Asuras divided the objects among themselves. Lakshmi was gifted to Vishnu who had been supporting them all along as the tortoise.
Finally, Dhanvantari (the Divine Physician) appeared with the vessel of amrit in His skillful hands.
The Asuras overpowered the Devas in order to drink it all themselves. Looking at the situation, Lord Vishnu turned into the loveliest of the nymphs of the Heaven, called Mohini. Mohini distracted the Asuras, then stole the amrit and gave it to the Devas.
As Mohini was distributing the amrit to the Devas, one of the Asuras, called Svarbhanu, sneaked in to sit among the Devas and get some amrit. The moment Chandra (Moon) and Surya (Sun), who were sitting beside him, saw that he was an Asura, they informed Mohini. Lord Vishnu took on His real form and threw out the Sudarshan Chakra (a spinning disc-like energetic weapon). The Asura’s neck was separated from his body, but he did not die as he had drunk one drop of the amrit. His head was called “Rahu” and his torso “Ketu.” Now, Rahu and Ketu periodically swallow the moon and sun to have their revenge, causing the eclipses to happen. Rahu and Ketu are part of the nine planets of Vedic astrology.
After Indra and the Devas drank the amrit, they regained their strength. The three worlds became filled with radiance and power.