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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Samba’s Arrogance Leads to the End of the Yadavas

Samba, a son of Lord Krishna and Jambabati was a handsome young man. He prided himself on his good looks and considered himself to be the best among all sons of Lord Krishna. That he resembled Lord Krishna made him haughtier to such an extent that he became disrespectful to all the guests who were visiting Dwaraka.

On one occasion, Samba made fun of Narada due to his peculiar dressing style. Narada kept quiet considering that as his folly and also keeping in mind that he was Lord Krishna’s son. But the omniscient Lord could know of the incident and got very angry with Samba and cursed him with leprosy, as that would take away his handsomeness which he prides in so much.

Moments later when Samba got affected with leprosy, both, he and his mother Jambabati, got worried and pleaded before Lord Krishna for help. Lord Krishna became considerate and let them know an antidote to the curse. To get rid of leprosy, Samba had to meditate and worship the Sun God at the Chandrabhaga beach (near Konark, Odisha) for 12 year long years. Legend has it that after the Sun God waived off the curse and returned him his original handsomeness, Samba constructed the Sun temple of Konark, now considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

But that episode wasn’t perhaps enough for Samba to learn a lesson. As he regained his handsomeness, he started priding himself on his looks and figure. On one occasion, Narada, Durbasha, and Kanwa Munni came to meet Lord Krishna at Dwaraka. At that time, other sons of Lord Krishna brought Samba in the guise of a pregnant lady and asked the sages to predict the gender of the baby she would deliver.

Samba’s disguise could have fooled the common people to believe that she was a pregnant lady; but the revered sages could make out the fact and felt offended. Especially Durbasha, infamous for his short temper, took the offense so seriously that he cursed the pregnant lady to deliver a block of iron, and he left Dwaraka without meeting Lord Krishna. When Lord Krishna got to know that, he was heartbroken and felt concerned as the whole of Aryabartta knew of such an unpleasant incident by then.

Bhima, the second of Pandavas, promised Lord Krishna that he would grind the iron block to dust. That made Krishna a bit relaxed. When that inopportune moment came, Samba delivered a block of iron. Bhima took that iron block far away from the borders of Dwaraka and rubbed that against metallic stones to dust. He threw the remnant piece to the sea near Prayag Teertha, away from Dwaraka.

But who has the power the change the course of Providence? The entire clan of Yadavas got addicted to alcohol and kept themselves busy in sinister deeds that were quite unbecoming of them.

The place where Bhima grinded the iron block bore a peculiar kind of grass that was strong and sharp like arrows. As luck would have it, the Yadavas in inebriated state followed ‘karala’, a guised animal, that lead them to that place of dangerous grass. They started infighting as the animal vanished and killed one another by attacking with those strands of grass. After that, Lord Krishna became the lone surviving representative of the Yadava dynasty.

On the eve of that unfortunate incident, Lord Krishna foresaw the imminent misfortune and went to Prayag Teertha to seek mental peace far from the madding crowd. By that time, Jara Sabara had got the last piece of iron thrown by Bhima into deep sea during his fishing expedition. He found the piece of iron too sharp and fixed that to his arrow. Considering Lord Krishna’s lotus feet as a deer’s ear, Jara released the arrow and that brought the end of Lord Krishna.

Lessons learnt:

  • Pride goes before a fall.
  • Be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant. – Anonymous
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Muchukunda’s Weird Wish and Kala Jabana’s Death

Prince Muchukunda, son of King Mandhata, was a warrior par excellence. When there was a battle between the gods and the demons (that is, asuras), there were none to take up the role of commander-in-chief in the war from the gods’ side. Lord Indra, therefore, requested Muchukunda to assume that role. Muchukunda conceded to the request and kept himself busy in that war for quite some time. Later, when Lord Kartikeya proved himself eligible to lead the gods in the war, Muchukunda was freed from his responsibilities.

Lord Indra, pleased at Muchukunda’s selflessness, integrity and industriousness wished to grant him a boon. At that, Muchukunda thought that he would need to have a satisfying sleep for a long time, maybe a few years, to get rid of his fatigue in the war. When Lord Indra found such a wish to be weird, Muchukunda justified that since there would be neither his kingdom nor his home on earth after those many years, he had nothing to do, and hence, the wish. Lord Indra happily granted his wish, and added that whoever would wake him up before he did have a satisfying sleep would be burnt to ashes at his first look.

Even though Muchukunda longed to win ‘liberation from birth’ (that is, moksha) as a boon, which Lord Bishnu only could grant one, he was satisfied with his long sleep wish being fulfilled. He chose to sleep inside a cave in Mathura where there was less disturbance, and slept there for years together.

Many years later, after Kamsa was killed by Lord Krishna, his two queens, Asti and Prapti, returned to their paternal home and requested their father Jarasandha to take revenge for their husband’s murder.

Therefore, Jarasandha attacked Mathura for seventeen times, but Lord Krishna defeated him on all occasions. As a last resort, Jarasandha persuaded his friend Kala Jabana to attack Mathura. Kala Jabana was blessed by Lord Shiva not to be killed by any weapon. Lord Krishna knew this. So, when Kala Jabana attacked Mathura, Lord Krishna feigned fearfulness and fled from the place. Kala Jabana followed Lord Krishna wherever he went. Lord Krishna led him to the cave where Muchukunda was in deep sleep, covered his body with his own clothes, and hid himself in a corner. As it was too dark inside, Kala Jabana assumed Muchukunda to be Lord Krishna by the clothes and started kicking him. Muchukunda woke up and looked at Kala Jabana in anger. In a fraction of second, Kala Jabana was burnt to ashes. Then, Muchukunda could see Lord Krishna, who is an avatar of Lord Bishnu. Lord Krishna narrated the incident to Muchukunda, and then, granted him ‘moksha’ that he was longing for.

This was just one of the numerous instances when the omniscient and omnipotent Lord Krishna didn’t have to use a weapon to win a battle.

Lesson learnt:

  • Even if you are divinely blessed with rare skills and have no fierce competitors to challenge you, never take the liberty to misuse your skills. And, never challenge the Almighty.
  • At times, if you can explore the power of your ‘mind’, you can forgo the ammunition in a battle field.
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Lord Krishna and His Modest Friend Sudama

Lord Krishna brought an end to His maternal uncle Kamsa’s evil acts by scripting his death in a unique manner. Afterwards, Ugrasena, Kamsa’s father, was made the King of Mathura. But Lord Krishna and His elder brother Balarama were declared as the princes of Mathura. And as princes, they did have to complete their formal education for which both of them were sent to the ashram of Sage Sandipani. They completed their academics as well as war art in a year alone. There, in the ashram, Lord Krishna befriended a Brahmin boy, Sudama.

As part of the Gurukul system of education, the disciples in the ashram had to take exams to prove their learning progress. Sage Sandipani was known for his novel way of examining the all-round skills of his disciples. He used to expose his disciples to various tests in course of their daily activities rather than having formal tests.

On one occasion, Lord Krishna and Sudama were sent to deep forest to collect firewood required for holy fire (yajna). Anticipating any untoward challenges in their mission, the Sage’s wife tied a handful of rice fry (khuda bhaja) in one end of Sudama’s robes. As anticipated, there came a sudden heavy downpour while both of them were deep inside the forest. They had to take shelter atop a huge tree throughout the rainy night. Morning after, when rain subsided and they returned to the ashram, Sage’s wife wanted to know the experience of the dreadful dark night inside the dense forest. During the conversation, Sudama fell on her feet and confessed to have eaten the rice fry all alone without sharing a portion with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna was surprised to know of that episode.

Sage Sandipani, after analyzing the incidents, showed his displeasure with Sudama and said, “Poor fellow, that was a test of your loyalty to your friend. That was ‘treated rice fry’. You owned up poverty for the rest of your life by gulping the rice fry all alone.” Lord Krishna was shocked at this and prayed the Sage to forgive Sudama’s mistake. But the Sage expressed his helplessness in that and suggested to accept the sorry fate and live on.

Few years later when Lord Krishna was ruling over Dwaraka as a prince, Sudama was struggling hard to make both ends meet. Many a time, Sudama’s wife suggested him to meet Lord Krishna and ask for his help, but he would not listen to the counsel due to his self-respect. But his respect and loyalty for his friend Lord Krishna was intact. When things became really tough, Sudama persuaded himself to meet Lord Krishna in Dwaraka. Coincidentally, Sudama had nothing other than a handful of rice fry to offer his old friend when they would meet.

A handful of rice fry for the King of Dwaraka! Sudama wasn’t at peace with himself after thinking about that. After reaching Dwaraka, he was astonished to see the riches there and was desperately trying to hide his gift that he brought for his friend. But the omniscient Lord Krishna came to the scene and warned Sudama not to repeat a past mistake. He snatched the handful of rice fry from Sudama and ate that all with happiness, sharing a portion with his queens.

Sudama’s self-respect did not allow him to reveal anything about his abject poverty before his childhood friend Lord Krishna. So what he treasured before he left for his village was Lord Krishna’s friendship and hospitality. But there happened a miracle in Sudama’s village in his absence: his modest hut was transformed into a palace with riches galore. When Sudama reached home and got to see all that, he could realize that those were the deeds of Lord Krishna. As he thanked him for getting him out of the abyss of poverty, Lord Krishna appeared in his mind’s eye and told, “There’s nothing to thank me for. You had eaten up my share of rice fry and had owned up my share of poverty too. And today when you returned my share of rice fry, I returned you your share of riches. That is the ruling of Providence. I was only waiting for an opportune moment when I could make you debt-free.

Lesson learnt: The ability to forget and forgive is a true measure of the depth of friendship. Unless you are ‘you’ with your friend, there are a few more tests to pass to approve your relation as friendship.