Story of Jarasandha – from Cradle to the Grave

The King of Magadha, Bruhadratha, was very powerful and was a religious man too. He was married to the twin sisters from the religious place of Kashi. But he did not have any children. Despite all the remedies that a king could afford those days, he was not successful in becoming a father. Disheartened, he lost interest in the royal affairs and decided to go to the forest in exile.

He used to spend the days inside the forest like an ascetic. One day, he came across Sage Chandrakoushika and expressed his interest to offer services to him. When the Sage agreed, Bruhadratha continued to serve him as a disciple. After a few days, the Sage was pleased with his sincerity and demeanour, and granted him a boon.

As expected, Bruhadratha expressed his desire to father a child. The Sage offered him a ripe mango and told him that if his wife, the Queen, ate the mango, she could bear a child. Bruhadratha was elated and returned to his palace. As he had two queens, he cut the ripe mango into two equal halves and gave a half each to them. As prophesied by the Sage, with the passage of time, both the queens became pregnant. In due course, each of the queens gave birth to a half of a child. Scared by such a horrific incident, the King ordered the handicapped kids outside the palace premises.

At the night-break, the demoness Jara was roaming in the dark in search of food. She could trace the dead bodies of the handicapped kids. When she was about to eat the dead bodies dreaming of their tender flesh, something mysterious happened – the two halves combined into one live kid and the kid started crying.

Amazed at such an astonishing incident, Jara thought she might be rewarded if she brought this to the King’s notice. She rushed to the King’s place and explained the incident in detail before the King. The King became elated and rewarded the demoness Jara and named the boy as Jarasandha after her.

Jarasandha later grew up to become the invincible king of Magadha. He was a devotee of Lord Shiva; but as the demoness Jara helped breathe life into him at the beginning, he had inherited many qualities of a demon. Jarasandha had deep respect for the Brahmins. Every day, after taking bath, he used to pray Lord Shiva. And then he was offering goodies/alms to the Brahmins who met him.

Jarasandha used to maintain a good rapport with all the powerful kings around, in order to expand his image and stature. He married off his two daughters, Asti and Prapti, with the infamous Kamsha, the King of Mathura. He also had a friendly relationship with Shishupala, the King of Chedi, and Rukma, Rukmini’s brother.

After Shri Krishna killed Kamsha, the two widows came back to Magadha. To avenge this, Jarasandha attacked Mathura seventeen times and was defeated by Shri Krishna every time. But to save the precious lives of the countrymen, Shri Krishna sent them all to the island kingdom of Dwaraka. Later, when Shri Krishna eloped with Rukmini, which enraged all – Shishupala (Jarasandha’s friend), Rukma (Rukmini’s brother), and Jarasandha himself.

Some days later, Jarasandha reared a strange wish in his mind. He wished to kill 100 kings and offer Lord Shiva a garland made of their heads. For that, he invaded all the kingdoms in Aryabartta and made their kings prisoners. He was falling short of 100, the magic number, by four, when the prisoned kings prayed Shri Krishna by sending him messages secretly. At that time, Shri Krishna was a guest at his cousins, the Pandavas. Yudhisthira was preparing to begin the Rajasuya Yajna, which would need him to lord over all the kings of Aryabartta. Shri Krishna encouraged the Pandavas to kill Jarasandha and release the prisoned kings under him. That way, Shri Krishna accompanied Bhima and Arjuna to Magadha.

Shri Krishna was well aware of the weaknesses of the opponents. So, all three of them disguised themselves as Brahmins and entered the kingdom of Magadha. After worshipping Lord Shiva, when Jarasandha was waiting to fulfil the wishes of all the Brahmins, all three of them came to the fore and invited him to a wrestling duel. Jarasandha, from their voices and outfits, got a doubt about their true identities and questioned them. Shri Krishna and the two Pandava brothers revealed their true identities.

Jarasandha decided not to fight against Shri Krishna calling him as an escapist and as someone from the cowherd community. Arjuna too was not fit for him to get into a duel with, because of his normal human physique. So, Bhima alone could win a chance for direct wrestling duel with Jarasandha. Both of them were equally powerful. So, their wrestling duel continued beyond twenty-seven days. On the twenty-eighth day, Bhima was at his furious best and tore Jarasandha’s body into two equal halves. As he was about to celebrate his victory, the two halves joined together again, bringing back Jarasandha to his previous form. Even repeated attempts to kill him did not get the desired result for Bhima. Disappointed at such mysterious results, Bhima looked at Shri Krishna for a cue. Shri Krishna picked up a piece of straw lying nearby, made that into two pieces, and then threw them in two opposite directions – the right part to the left side, and the left part to the right side.

Bhima could decipher the message from Shri Krishna and did the same with the two parts of Jarasandha’s body. That brought an end to Jarasandha’s life. After that, Shri Krishna made Jarasandha’s son the King of Magadha and suggested him to work under the aegis of the Pandavas. The ninety-six kings prisoned earlier by Jarasandha were let free. Yudhisthira took all of them along with Jarasandha’s son to begin the Rajasuya Yajna.

Lessons learnt:

  • Physical strength alone may not win you a battle – when the Providence is on your side, your win is certain, come what may.

[Published earlier at StoryMirror]

Advertisements

Dronacharya and King Drupada: A Story of Revenge and Mercy

Most of us know that the Hindu epic Mahabharat is replete with many interesting anecdotes that teach us many rare life lessons. Let us recall one such anecdote involving the lives of Guru Dronacharya and King Drupada.

Dronacharya and Drupada were disciples in the same Gurukul. Over a period of time, both of them became good friends. Drupada was the only heir to his royal family, and that way, a future king. Dronacharya, on the other hand, was the son of a saint named Bharadwaja, a poor Brahmin by birth. He was therefore worried about his future even though he was skilled in all fronts – academic, warfare, sports, and others. He was an exceptional warrior of that era even though he was a Brahmin, not a Kshatriya who were known to be good at war skills. Drupada, however, was not so skilled; so, he used to seek Dronacharya’s help in all his tasks during their entire tenure in the Gurukul.

One day, it struck to Drupada’s mind that he must express his gratitude to Dronacharya for all his timely help in the tasks he was given at the Gurukul. So, he called on Dronacharya and pledged before him that he would love to help him unconditionally in the time of his need. He also asked Dronacharya to feel free to seek any kind of help whenever there is a need.

Many days passed, and when the time came for both of them to leave the Gurukul after completion of their formal studies, Drupada promised Dronacharya to offer him half of the kingdom, which he would rule over, to alleviate his poverty. Dronacharya was too self-respecting an individual to accept such an offer. He expressed sincere thanks to Drupada for that gesture. He also expressed that he would not hesitate to seek Drupada’s help when there is an absolute need. Thus, they departed.

Time and milieu changed with the changing cosmos. With them were forgotten many a promise and many a pledge. Drupada became the King of Panchala. His growing power and the ensuing prestige boosted his ego, thus converting him to a different person than the one who was Dronacharya’s friend at the Gurukul.

On the other hand, the lady luck did not smile at Dronacharya for quite long. He was still languishing in poverty. By that time, he had married Krupi, the twin sister of Krupacharya, and had become the proud father of Ashwatthama. However, he had to struggle hard to make both ends meet.

On one occasion, when Ashwatthama was being ridiculed by a bunch of his friends, Dronacharya overheard their conversation. The basis of the ridicule was that Dronacharya was not able to afford milk for Ashwatthama, and therefore, Ashwatthama was tricked to believe a beverage made with rice powder as milk. That incident saddened the poor father in Dronacharya and he was not at peace with himself. Over a deep thought, he was reminded of his last meeting with Drupada and his promise. Then, he decided to meet Drupada and beg a few cows to nurture them.

As Dronacharya reached King Drupada’s palace, the gatekeepers were stunned to see him. They did not allow him in, because of his poor attire and dejected look. He was ridiculed more when he called King Drupada as his childhood friend. Despite all that, Dronacharya was hell-bent on meeting the King. That compelled the gatekeepers to pass on his message to the King. King Drupada allowed him entry into his court but did not identify him as his childhood friend. He mocked Dronacharya by saying, “How a rich King and a poor Brahmin be friends?” He ordered the court to present him a few cows as a royal favour and send him back. Pissed off with such unexpected, irrational behaviour of a childhood friend, who once promised to offer him half of his kingdom, Dronacharya returned empty-handed. He cursed his fate and took a promise to take revenge on Drupada at a suitable time later.

The vengeful Drona, leaving aside his interest in the Brahminic studies, made up his mind to teach war skills to the Kshatriyas. His brother-in-law Krupacharya referred his name before Bhishma to train the Kuru Dynasty in war skills. Bhishma took a tough test before offering Dronacharya the new responsibility.

As time passed by, Dronacharya discovered the latent talent of Arjuna, among all others, and trained him meticulously. Thus, Arjuna came up as an undisputed warrior. At the end of the formal training, when the disciples asked Dronacharya about his Guru Dakshina (return gift to the Guru), he desired them to defeat King Drupada in direct war and bring the defeated King to him.

The Kouravas led by Duryodhana were highly ambitious and boastful. So, they jumped the gun and hurriedly raised a war against the Panchala kingdom and were defeated. Duryodhana was taken as a prisoner. Then, the Pandavas reiterated the war against Drupada, to honour their Guru’s wishes and to free Duryodhana as well.

As expected, Arjuna, after a fierce fight, won the war and brought the defeated King Drupada before Dronacharya. Dronacharya blessed Arjuna for his bravery. He then reminded Drupada about their Gurukul days of friendship and his false promise, allowing him to relish his shameful defeat. Drupada was ashamed of his ruthless behaviour. He repented and asked Dronacharya to forgive. Dronacharya was humane enough to listen to his appeal, and forgave Drupada, then and there. But as per Drupada’s promise made earlier, he took away half of the Panchala kingdom and made Ashwatthama the king of that. He returned the other half to Drupada.

The helpless King Drupada pretended to be friendly at that time. But in his heart of hearts, he pledged again to take revenge on Dronacharya for that offence. He came back and arranged to offer prayers to the Almighty seeking divine favor to punish Dronacharya. He performed yajnas, aspiring to father a child who could help him make friendship with Arjuna, be the cause of Dronacharya’s death, and wipe away the Kuru Dynasty forever, directly or indirectly.

King Drupada’s prayers were heard, and he was blessed with a son Dhrushtadyumna, who later killed Dronacharya in the Mahabharata war, and a daughter Draupadi who married Arjuna, thus helping his father make friendship with him, and was the sole indirect reason for the end of Kuru Dynasty.

Lessons learnt:

  • Strong determination can win you a battle even when you are ill-equipped – you may need to have a good stock of patience.
  • Hatred and vengeance may lead you to a certain destruction.

[Published earlier at StoryMirror]

Saint Agastya and the Demon Brothers, Batapi and Illwala

Saint Agastya’s character in the Hindu mythology has its own significance. Many notable incidents have direct or indirect links to him and his actions. One out of those is the one involving the two demon brothers, Batapi and Illwala.

Both Batapi and Illwala had the weird ability to change their appearances as and when they want. Demons as they were, they used that rare ability for their foolish and evil fun. For some reason, they developed a strong hatred for the Brahmins. So, they devised a plan to kill all the brahmins around. They would invite the Brahmins to their home to offer them food, feigning their benevolence. When the brahmins accepted their invitation, Batapi would turn into a goat, and Illwala would kill that goat to prepare tasty non-vegetarian dishes and feed the Brahmins. After a while, Illwala would shout: Batapi, come out.” Batapi would come alive, tear open the stomach of the Brahmin, in the process leaving him dead.

When such instances continued to multiply, Saint Agastya came to know of this. To teach the demon duo a lesson, he wished to be their guest. The demon brothers got elated to have the saint as their prey. They treated the guest in their planned manner and offered the same non-vegetarian dish. Saint Agastya relished the food and belched in satisfaction, thus killing Batapi inside his stomach using his saintly abilities. When Illwala yelled, Batapi, come out!”, Baatapi did not turn up. Smelling something wrong, he went on to attack Saint Agastya. Saint Agastya chanted some mantras and turned Illwala into a handful of ash, thus relieving the brahmins of the torture of the demon brothers.

Lessons learnt:

If the Almighty has blessed you with some rare abilities, use them benevolently, thus contributing towards the larger good of the society you are a part of. Else, the Almighty can devise his own way to wipe out your very existence.

Lord Rama’s Reward to the Diligent Squirrel

When Hanuman came up with the news that Mother Sita had been confined in Lanka by Ravana, Lord Rama decided to cross the ocean and rescue her from the Demon King. Looking at the expanse of the ocean that lead to Lanka, Lord Rama planned to build a bridge across it. To accomplish that humongous task in less time, all the monkeys and bears who were part of Sugreeva’s army were employed.

The monkeys and bears had to bring huge stones and big boulders from a distance and throw them into the deep ocean. As they all were busy in the tiring task, a small squirrel was observing all that from a distance. After a while, it decided to help Lord Rama in that initiative too. To begin with, it carried small stones in its mouth and heaped them up on the bridge under construction. After a while, it got so tired in that task that it had to change its way of working. Steadfast as its will to contribute was, it took a different approach: it dipped its body in the water nearby and rolled it over the sand; then, it walked slowly onto the bridge being constructed and got the sands off its body by sudden movement. It was doing this pretty religiously, little caring for the contribution it was making towards the final bridge construction.

Lord Rama was observing the diligence with which the squirrel was performing its task, voluntarily. He got so impressed that He went on to the squirrel and asked why it was doing this. The squirrel’s answer made all the monkeys and bears roll into a laughter.

Lord Rama asked them all to stop reacting that way and not to measure the amount of contribution the squirrel made towards the bridge construction. He rather highlighted the squirrel’s sincerity, strong will-power and perseverance to help them in a noble cause. After that, Lord Rama carried the squirrel on one palm and ran his other palm on its back with heavenly love. That left an indelible mark on the squirrel‘s back, which exists till date.

Lessons learnt:

  • Let not the volume of your contribution discourage you from putting in your heart into a task at hand. How much you contribute towards a task matters less compared to how diligently you put in your effort.

Bajrangawali – the other name of Lord Hanuman

Bajrangawali is one of the many names of Lord Hanuman.

Lord Hanuman’s love and devotion for Lord Rama is legendary. He is the eternal devotee of Lord Rama and therefore his idol is worshipped along with Lord Rama’s wherever they are.
After the coronation of Lord Rama in Ayodhya, all the monkey gods and inhabitants returned to Kiskindhya and Lanka. But Lord Hanuman desired to serve Lord Rama forever, so could get his permission to stay in Ayodhya.

One day Mother Sita was putting on a vermilion mark on her forehead. Lord Hanuman observed that and wished to know the reason for that ritual. Mother Sita explained that having a vermilion dot on her forehead would lengthen the life span of her beloved husband. Lord Hanuman admired that. Moments later, he thought if a mere dot of vermilion on Mother Sita’s forehead can add to his Lord’s life span, how much further wouldn’t his Lord’s life span expand when he drenches his complete body in vermilion? He applied vermilion to his whole body to add infinite years to his loving Lord’s life.

‘Baja ranga’ literally means ‘bright red colour’, that is the colour of the vermilion. Hence, his name!

This incident is yet another testimony of Lord Hanuman’s strong devotion towards Lord Rama.

Lessons learnt:

  • When one’s devotion for one’s Lord is pure and selfless, the universe would recognize that with due respect.

Akshaya Patra – An Inexhaustible Source of Food

That was the time when the Pandava brothers were in exile for twelve years. A group of Brahmins from Hastinapur and other adjacent places followed the Pandavas as they continued their journey through the forest. The Pandavas out of their moral stature owned the responsibility of food and security of the Brahmins. As the journey became tougher, apprehensive of the hardship that might come ahead, the Pandavas requested the Brahmins to go back to their respective places. Even the humble request of Yudhisthira fell on deaf ears, as the Brahmins were steadfast in their wish to accompany the Pandavas in the journey. They even promised that they would take care of their own food and security.

Dismayed at such a decision, Draupadi prayed the Sun God for help. Pleased with her sincere prayer, the Sun God offered her an Akshaya Patra, a vessel that would be an inexhaustible source of food, for good, irrespective of the number of people consuming food from it. The uniqueness of the vessel was that it would always remain filled with food and would be empty only when Draupadi herself ate food out of it at the end of the day. The Pandavas were pleased for such a gift from the Sun God and were jubilant with the thought that their food worries for the entire twelve years of their exile would be nulled.

When jealous Duryodhana knew of this incident, he was deeply disturbed. To see the Pandavas suffer was his sole motto. So he consulted with Sakuni to devise a new way to put the Pandavas in trouble. They got the plan ready. Sage Durbasha was wandering in the same forest with his disciples. Duryodhana requested Durbasha to visit the Pandavas and ask for food when they would feel hungry. Little aware of Duryodhana’s ill intention, Durbasha and his disciples wished to go and meet the Pandavas immediately. But Duryodhana somehow kept all of them engaged in conversation until Draupadi had her food from the vessel at last.

The Pandavas, often known for their hospitality, were worried to see Sage Durbasha and his disciples at such a time when the vessel was empty and there was no food available to serve. When they expressed their desire to have food, the Pandavas were lost in thought of how to handle such a situation. They asked Sage Durbasha and his disciples to go and take bath before having food. Draupadi worried more as she was sure of the imminent curse from infamous Durbasha when there would be no food for him and his disciples. As always, the last resort for her was to remember her friend and guide, Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna appeared before her in a while and asked for something to eat as he was feeling hungry. Draupadi, ashamed at her inability to provide the Lord anything to eat, explained about her precarious situation. Lord Krishna wore a weird smile on his lips and took Draupadi’s hand in his hand. He took away a rice particle stuck in the corner of her finger nail and ate that. Then, he told Draupadi that was sufficient to satisfy his hunger and he was feeling content.

When Sage Durbasha and his disciples came back refreshed, they told the Pandavas that they would not have to worry for their food as they were feeling quite full at that moment. The Pandavas were pleasantly surprised at such a decision of Sage Durbasha and his disciples. After they left the place, the Pandava brothers asked Draupadi if she had any clue to what might have been the reason for such a change. Draupadi narrated the whole episode of how Lord Krishna helped them get rid of such a puzzle. The Pandavas felt obliged to Lord Krishna. And Lord Krishna yet again showed his love for his ardent followers.

Lessons learnt:

  • When you have unflinching faith in God, your silent prayers in the midst of any crisis would be heard, provided your intentions are morally upright.
  • Let us not allow a crisis to force us to change our moral stance, come what may. When helpless, let us confide in the Providence and wait for his interference.

Ahalya’s tale: A case of Agony and Atonement

When the supreme creator Lord Brahma created the most beautiful lady ever Ahalya, he never had an inkling of how arduous a task it would be to find a suitable groom for such a pretty lady. After much thought and sincere search, he finally decided to get her married to Sage Goutam. Sage Goutam was a wise man no doubt; but age was not on his side then. He was an old man, so was never an ideal match for the damsel in Ahalya, for whom the whole male lot of the universe was ready to do the impossible if they could win her hand.

Ahalya too was unhappy with that decision of Lord Brahma; but she didn’t have a way to oppose her creator’s wish. She took that as her destiny and agreed for the marriage.

But Lord Indra was so blind in love for Ahalya that despite her marriage to Sage Goutam, he kept his desire of winning Ahalya alive. He kept an eye on both Ahalya and her husband’s daily activities. He sensed he was quite close to his goal when he got to know that Sage Goutam used to walk far from his ashram early in the morning to take bath in the river and meditates there for quite some time after the bath. Lord Indra shamelessly approached Lord Chandra to do him a favour by misleading Sage Goutam about his early morning schedule. Lord Chandra was hesitant initially, but later gave in to Lord Indra’s request and made a rooster’s crowing sound hours before it was dawn, hearing which Sage Goutam started for his bath.

Little later, Lord Indra came inside the ashram in the guise of Sage Goutam and approached Ahalya for making love. That was quite an unusual thing for Ahalya, so she had strong doubts in her mind. She meditated, and divinely created as she was, she could know about Lord Indra’s identity. But her physical desire to make love with a debonair male like Lord Indra overpowered her conscience. She gave in to Indra’s wishes, and immediately after the immoral act, she felt ashamed and pleaded before Indra to desert the place. As luck would have it, Sage Goutam reached the ashram at that moment, and by his supreme intelligence, could make out the whole incident.

A wise man’s fury is a dangerous thing to deal with. In the height of his anger, he cursed all involved in the incident. He cursed Lord Chandra to have black marks on his body (which we can see even now, the black mark visible on moon). He wished Lord Indra to have his body full of thousands of vaginas and become impotent. He wanted Ahalya to be converted to a mere stone idol, and she hung her head in shame for the wrong deed and owned the curse. But little later, the husband in Sage Goutam realized the pain that a young lady like her had gone through by agreeing to marry her, and so asked her to wait for the divine touch of Lord Bishnu in the avatar of Lord Rama to get rid of the curse.

Lord Indra felt so much ashamed of his physical change that he hid himself in deep forest. As a result of his prolonged absence, there was chaos in heaven. Knowing this, Lord Brahma asked Lord Indra to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, being happy with Lord Indra’s thousand years of meditation, converted the thousand vaginas into thousand eyes and returned him his potency.

Ahalya kept lying like a neglected stone until Lord Rama’s arrival. Lord Rama along with Rishi Biswamitra and younger brother Lakshmana was going to Mithila when he kept his feet on the stone idol of Ahalya. That touch gave back Ahalya her original beauty and then she sought the blessings of Lord Rama to join her husband Lord Goutam in the Himalayas.

Lessons learnt:

  • Own your mistakes, and do what you can, to atone for the wrong you have done.
  • Practice forgiveness. It might not change the past, but it does change the future.