Monday, September 11, 2017

37. A Kshatriya Becomes A Brahmin!

After listening to the story of Tapati and Samvarana, Arjuna wanted to know the reason for Vasishta’s confrontation with Viswamitra. The Gandharva narrated the story to him.

Viswamitra was born to Gadhi, the king of Kanyakubja. Gadhi was the son of Kusika. Thus, Viswamitra was also known as Kousika (meaning the descendant of Kusika).

Viswamitra had a huge army. He also possessed a large number of animals. He would often roam in the forest along with his ministers and soldiers, hunting for deer and wild boars

Once Viswamitra and his men were exhausted after hunting. They were thirsty and hungry. Viswamitra arrived at the hermitage of Sage Vasishta.

Vasishta welcomed Viswamitra and offered him and his men fruits and water. Viswamitra was amazed to see that Vasishta asked his cow for various food items like fruits, milk, grains etc. And the cow instantly yielded whatever was asked for.  Viswamitra learnt that the cow with a majestic appearance was named Nandini.

Viswamitra requested Vasishta to give him Nandini and offered to give him anything, including his kingdom, in exchange.

Vasishta said “I am keeping this cow for making offerings to the gods, the pitrus (the deceased ancestors) and guests and for performing sacrifices. So, I can’t  part with Nandini for anything you may offer in exchange.”

Viswamitra said, “You are a Brahmin. You are ordained to live an ascetic way of life. I am a King. The cow will be more useful to me for providing for my people. I will offer you 10,000 cows in exchange. But if you don’t accept my offer, I will take this cow by force.”

Vasishta said, “You are a powerful monarch. You have a mighty army. If you want to do something in haste without considering the propriety of your action, it is your choice.”

Viswamitra’s men, at his behest, seized the cow and tied her with stripes. The cow went to Vasishta and looked at him, looking for his support.

Vasishta told Nandini, “I can feel your suffering. But what can I do when you are being taken away forcibly by Viswamitra’s men? I am a Brahmin with a forgiving nature.”

Nandini asked Vasishta  “Why are you indifferent to my suffering? Am I without a master?”

Vasishta replied “The might of a Kshatriya may lie in his physical strength. But the Brahmin’s greatness lies in forgiveness. Go with them, Nandini, if you choose to.”

Nandini said, “Oh sage! Tell me you have abandoned me. Then I will go. But if you don’t abandon me, I cannot be taken by force.”

Vasishta said, "Nandini! I am not abandoning you. If you don't want to go, then stay.”

Hearing Vasishta’s words, the cow raised its head and began to attack Viswamitra’s troops. Blazing with rage, she became terrible to look at. From her tail, she rained showers of burning coal. An army of Palhavas emerged from her tail, while an army of Dravidas and Sakas came out of her udders. From her womb, an army of Yavanas were released. And various other armies were released from other parts of her body. All these armies attacked Viswamitra’s men, using various weapons.

Viswamitra’s army, unable to withstand the attack, soon began to break up and flee in all directions. However, not a single soldier of Viswamitra was killed. Nandini only caused them to be defeated and driven out. Viswamitra’s troops were driven to a distance of twenty seven miles from the hermitage.

Witnessing this in awe, Viswamitra exclaimed "Kshatriya prowess is nothing. Only the Brahmana prowess is true prowess! Asceticism is true power.”

Viswamitra immediately gave up his kingdom and undertook a penance. As a result of his austere penance, he became a Brahmin.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

36. Tapati and Samvarana

This story is narrated to Arjuna by a Gandharva. This Gandharva tried to stop the Pandavas when they were walking on the banks of the Ganga after escaping from the House of  Lac but was overpowered by Arjuna.

The Gandharva told the story to emphasize the need for a king to have a Guru.

Samvarana, the son of Riksha, once met Tapati, the daughter of Surya, the Sun God. in the forests and instantly fell in love with her.  When Samvarana expressed his love to Tapati, she said that she had also fallen in love with him but that he should seek her father’s consent for having her as his wife.

After Tapati went away, Samvarana became unconscious, unable to bear the separation.  His minister came to him and helped him gain consciousness by sprinkling water on him.

When the minister advised Samvarana to return to his kingdom, the king refued to come. He sat there in penance prating to Surya. He also prayed to Vasishta, the Guru of his kingdom, to help him.

Sage Vasishta appeared befoer him on the 12th day and offered to help him.

Vasishta went to Surya and asked him to give his daughter Tapati in marriage to Samvarana, after apprising Surya of Samvarana's virtues.  Suryawas pleased. He said that he had always considered Samvarana to be a prospective groom for his daughter. He  handed over Tapati to Vasishta and requested him to get her married to Samvarana

Accordingly, Vasishta performed the marriage of Tapati with Samvarana.

Vasishta having been the Guru of Samvarana’s ancestors came to the help of Samvarana, said the Gandharva.  The ancestors of the Pandavas were able to perform grand sacrifices by having Vasishta as their priest, the Gandharva added

After marrying Tapati, Samvarana remained in the forest for 12 years. He did not visit his capital even once. There were no rains in the kingdom for these 12 years. Affected by the severe drought, people began to leave the country. Seeing the plight of the people affected by the drought, Vasishta came to Samvarana and asked him to return to his capital.

After Samvarana returned to his capital, it began to rain and the drought came to an end. To express his gratitude to Indra for blessing his kingdom with rain and ending the drought, Samparana, in the company of his wife Tapati, performed a sacrifice for 12 years.

Kuru was born to Samvarana and Tapati.  It was after him that Arjuna’s ancestors began to be called Kauravas (the descendants of Kuru), said the Gandharva.

The above story appears simple and straightforward. But it has several messages, some explicit and some subtle.

1) A king has the primary duty to govern his kingdom. Samvarana abdicated his responsibility by keeping away from his kingdom for 12 years. His country suffered on account of the king's dereliction of hid duty.

2) While the advice of a Guru/ Counselor/ Minister  is essential and valuable, the governing of a country cannot be  delegated by the king.

3) After the king had realized his mistake and came back to his kingdom, the country was blessed with rains. But the king performed a sacrifice for 12 years. This can be considered to be by way of making amends for his sin of abdicating his responsibility. It can also be considered as an act of thanksgiving. We need to offer prayers not only seeking certain thinks but also thanking God for the things we have got from him.