The Earth-Illumination-Trumpets of Divinity’s home, part 1

Parvati and the wish-fulfilling tree

Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, used to live on Mount Kailash. They meditated there and also they used to bless their devotees. They led a very happy and fruitful life.

One day Parvati made a special request to her consort, Shiva, to take her to a grove named Nandankanan.

“Definitely I will take you there,” promised Shiva. So they went together to that particular grove. All the trees in that grove were so beautiful. Parvati was extremely moved by their beauty. She asked her Lord, “Please tell me if there is any tree that is more special than the rest. When I look at them, they all seem equally beautiful. But please tell me if there is one particular tree that is most special, or in some way different from the others.”

While she was saying these words, Parvati happened to be standing at the foot of one of the trees. Shiva said to her, “The tree that you are now leaning against has something very special to offer.”

“What is that special thing?” asked Parvati.

“This particular tree is called Kalpataru,” said Shiva. Kalpa means ‘whatever you desire’ and taru means ‘tree’. “Whatever you wish for, you will immediately get from this tree.”

“My Lord, are you telling me the truth, or is this a fib?” asked Parvati.

“If you do not believe me, just ask the tree for something,” answered Shiva.

Parvati meditated for a few moments and then said, “O tree, I want to have a most beautiful girl from you.” Immediately, a most beautiful young girl emerged from the tree. Parvati was so pleased and happy. She named the girl Ashokasundari.

Ashokasundari said to the goddess Parvati, “You have brought me into this world. Please tell me what I should do.”

Parvati looked at her lovingly and said, “You do not have to do anything for the time being. In a few years, however, I would like you to marry a particular prince named Nahusha. He has not yet been born. He is still in Heaven. But he will take incarnation and, in the course of time, I would like you to marry him. I will make arrangements for you.”

Ashokasundari was very happy to hear this news. Lord Shiva and Parvati left her there in that beautiful grove, Nandankanan, and they returned to Mount Kailash.

Now, near Nandankanan there lived a demon named Hunda. He used to claim that Nandankanan was the capital of his land. One day after entering the main grove at Nandankanan, Hunda caught sight of this most beautiful girl and immediately fell in love with her.

The demon approached Ashokasundari and said, “You have to marry me, you have to marry me!”

“No, I will not marry you!” said Ashokasundari. “My future husband is Nahusha. I will marry him and nobody else. Go away from this place!”

Unfortunately, demons have a special magic power. They can take any form. After being insulted by Ashokasundari, the demon left the grove. A few days later, he took the form of a most beautiful woman and once more entered the grove where Ashokasundari lived. The beautiful woman behaved as though she was very sad and depressed.

“Why are you so sad?” asked Ashokasundari. “You seem to be quite beautiful. What is bothering you?”

“Yes, I am beautiful,” said the strange woman, “but I am so unhappy.”

“What is the reason for your unhappiness?” enquired Ashokasundari kindly.

In a pitiful voice, the woman said, “I am a widow. My husband was such a good man, but he was killed by the demon Hunda. Now I am so lonely. Would you like to come to my cottage and stay for a few days? It is a very simple cottage, but I keep it very clean.”

“Yes, I shall come with you,” said Ashokasundari.

“Please be my guest for two or three days,” said the woman. “It will make me so happy.”

Ashokasundari followed this woman and they left the grove. When they came to the widow’s cottage, the widow immediately changed herself back into a demon and grabbed Ashokasundari. Ashokasundari was so furious that she cursed the demon: “Definitely my husband, Nahusha, will kill you!” Then she managed to break free from the demon’s hold and ran away.

Now the demon was cursed. He knew that he was to be killed, and he knew that Nahusha would be the one to slay him. He started searching high and low for Nahusha so that he could kill Nahusha and nullify the curse. Naturally his search proved fruitless, because at that time Nahusha had not yet been born.

In a neighbouring kingdom there lived a very good and pious king. He and his wife prayed to God for many, many years and, finally, his wife was blessed with a child. They decided to name him Nahusha.

When the demon Hunda came to learn that Nahusha had taken birth, he entered the king’s palace and kidnapped the child. Nahusha was only one year old. The demon brought him home and asked his cook to kill the boy and cook him. The demon commanded his cook to serve him a most delicious meal made from the meat of the child. The demon thought that if he ate Nahusha, then there would be no possibility that Nahusha would kill him when he grew up.

“Definitely I will kill him,” said the cook. “You are my master.”

Now, the cook liked the little boy so much that he did not have the heart to kill him. Instead he took the child to Vashishtha’s ashram and left him there. On the way back, he killed a deer. This deer he cooked and served to his master in place of Nahusha.

The demon, Hunda, was so happy. “Ah,” he said, “now I know for certain that Nahusha is dead! I have eaten him.”

Nahusha grew up in the ashram of the saint Vashishtha. Vashishtha gave him spiritual lessons. He also taught Nahusha archery and other skills. From his inner vision, he knew that Nahusha was a prince and that it was Parvati’s wish for him to marry Ashokasundari.

A few years passed by and Nahusha did marry Ashokasundari. The two were very happy together. Because Hunda believed that Nahusha was dead, Nahusha was easily able to kill the demon and fulfil his wife’s curse.

The story does not end with the death of Hunda. Unfortunately, he had a son by the name of Bihunda. When Hunda was killed, his son felt miserable. He decided to kill Nahusha to avenge his father’s death. So he started practising very strict tapasya, or spiritual disciplines. He was praying and praying to the cosmic gods to grant him the power to kill Nahusha once and for all.

When the cosmic gods saw what kind of tapasya Bihunda was doing, they became afraid that his desire would be fulfilled and that he would kill Nahusha. They appealed to Lord Vishnu to help them.

Lord Vishnu took the form of a most beautiful woman and appeared before Bihunda. Bihunda fell in love with her at first sight and asked her to become his wife. The beautiful woman responded, “I shall marry you on one condition. I wish you to bring me a particular flower. The name of this flower is kamoda. You must gather ten million of these flowers and worship Lord Shiva with them. After worshipping Lord Shiva, if you can make a garland of these flowers and place it at my feet, then I shall marry you and you will have the capacity to kill Nahusha. I am making this request to you as your future wife.”

Bihunda ran to look for the special tree which bore the flower kamoda. He went here and there asking people, “Do you know what the kamoda flower looks like? Do you know where I can find the tree?”

But nobody knew where to find the tree or what the flower looked like. In desperation, Bihunda went to Shukracharya, the Guru of the demons. Brihaspati is the Guru of the cosmic gods and Shukracharya is his counterpart for the demons. Bihunda told Shukracharya what had happened and asked him where he could find the kamoda flower.

Shukracharya explained, “This woman has not made it clear to you at all. The kamoda flower does not grow on a tree. This particular flower comes out of the mouth of a woman. She is so enchanting! When she laughs, these flowers come out of her mouth. The colour of the flowers is yellow and they are full of fragrance. If you worship Lord Shiva with these fragrant yellow flowers, he will definitely grant you the boon of being able to kill Nahusha. But, if the woman is crying instead of laughing, you will see that the flowers which she brings out of her mouth are red in colour and without any fragrance. Be careful! Those flowers you must not touch, or there will be some serious calamity or misfortune in your life. You must gather only the yellow flowers that drop from her mouth when she laughs.”

“Where can I find her?” asked Bihunda eagerly.

Shukracharya said, “She lives on the banks of the river Ganga. In the evening you will see her walking along by the side of the river.”

The cosmic gods were watching from Heaven. They saw what was happening and once again they became very worried. They asked Narada, the celestial musician, to come to their rescue. Narada always took the side of the gods. They informed Narada, “If Bihunda obtains these ten million flowers, then he will definitely be able to kill King Nahusha. You must help us!”

Narada agreed to help them. He went to Bihunda and said to the demon, “You are so great! How is it that you have to go personally to this woman to get the flowers; I will ask her to send the flowers to you. You do not have to go and get them yourself. I will ask her to put the flowers in the Ganga and the water will bring them right to your palace. It is beneath your dignity to go and beg for them. This much I can do for you. Since it is I who am asking, she will definitely do it.”

Bihunda’s pride came forward and he said to Narada, “You are right. Why should I have to go myself? I will wait for the water to bring the flowers to me.”

Narada went to the banks of the river Ganga and found the woman who was the source of the kamoda flowers. After she had greeted him with great respect, he said to her, “Now I would like you to cry and bring out of your mouth the flowers that are red in colour and without fragrance. I wish you to place them in the river and let the water carry them away.”

She gladly obeyed Narada and began to cry. From her mouth there came thousands and thousands of red flowers, and she placed them all in the water.

The river flowed past Bihunda’s palace, where he had been waiting and waiting for the flowers to appear. When he saw them coming, he became so excited that he did not observe their colour and he did not notice that they had no fragrance. Seeing thousands and thousands of flowers floating down the river, he was filled with joy. “Narada was right!” he shouted. “The flowers have come to me, just as he said.”

Bihunda was so thrilled and excited that he forgot his Guru’s warning. He did not pay any attention to the colour and he did not try to see if the flowers had any fragrance. In his imagination, the flowers were all yellow and fragrant. His joy had transported him to another world.

He gathered all the flowers and started worshipping Lord Shiva. Now, Parvati saw that on earth somebody was worshipping Lord Shiva with flowers that had no fragrance. And the flowers themselves were not charming at all. She said, “This is not the flower that Lord Shiva likes. Who can be so disrespectful to my husband?”

Parvati descended to earth and, with her third eye, she killed the demon Bihunda. She did not need any weapon at that time.

We began our story with Parvati. It was she who asked the Kalpataru tree to give her a young girl. Then this girl’s curse brought about the deaths of the demon Hunda and his son Bihunda, who were mercilessly torturing innocent human beings.

Indra loses his kingdom

Indra is the king of the cosmic gods. One time, pride entered into him because, while he was supreme in Heaven, he began to neglect Prakriti, who is Mother Earth. Prakriti was so enraged that she cursed Indra. She said to him, “You will lose everything you have — your throne, your kingdom, everything. Even your Guru, Brihaspati, will curse you.”

When he was cursed by Prakriti, Indra was so sad and depressed. He was literally sunk in despair. Who should come to him then but his own Guru, Brihaspati, who is the Guru of all the cosmic gods. Because Indra was so depressed, he did not show any respect to his Guru; he did not even stand up. Brihaspati became furious. He said, “How is it possible for you, of all the cosmic gods, not to show any respect to me? Do you not know who is standing here? It is your own Guru! I curse you! You will lose your kingdom, you will lose your throne, you will lose all your prosperity. Everything you have, you will lose. You will become a beggar.”

Prakriti’s curse and Brihaspati’s curse came true. Indra became an utter beggar. Then Brihaspati felt sorry for Indra and he modified his curse a little. He told Indra, “After 60,000 years I will restore your kingdom to you.” So Indra prayed and meditated for 60,000 years and his kingdom was restored to him. Unfortunately, he discovered that his kingdom was not as beautiful as it had been previously. His palace needed remodelling and many other places needed construction. Indra was filled with sadness because his kingdom did not have its former perfection. So he employed the Heavenly architect, Vishwakarma, to do the needful.

Vishwakarma worked for many months. The months became years, but still Indra was not satisfied. He was always finding fault with Vishwakarma’s work. Every day Vishwakarma had to endure Indra’s scoldings and insults. In addition, Vishwakarma had no time for his other important work, so he was miserable.

One day Vishwakarma went to Vishnu and said, “O Vishnu, please save me, save me! Indra has appointed me to rebuild his kingdom. How hard I have been working to please him, but he is not satisfied with my work. He only scolds me and insults me.”

“Let me see what I can do,” answered Vishnu.

Vishnu took the form of a very striking young boy and came before Indra. “This kingdom is your kingdom?” he asked.

“Definitely it is my kingdom!” said Indra. “Who else could have such a kingdom? This is my creation. Since it is beautiful, you are appreciating it.”

The young boy went on, “No other Indra has such a beautiful kingdom or such a splendid palace. Did you receive any help from anyone?”

“Yes,” said Indra. “I received some help from Vishwakarma, but it was next to nothing.”

“No other Vishwakarma can be of help in remodelling, no other,” said the boy mysteriously.

“What do you mean?” cried Indra. “You said ‘no other Indra’ and ‘no other Vishwakarma.’ Does that mean there are more Indras and more Vishwakarmas?”

“Yes, yes, there are others,” stated the boy. Indra got furious. When he thought that there was more than one Indra, he lost all interest in his kingdom. He did not mind at all if there were other Vishwakarmas. But for Indra to tolerate more Indras was too much.

“I no longer want this kingdom,” said Indra in a sad voice. “Now what am I going to do?”

Vishnu once more took his own form as a cosmic god. He said to Indra, “Go and bathe in the river and you will be purified. After you have been purified, you will see that your kingdom, your palace and all your possessions are as beautiful and as perfect as they were before Prakriti cursed you.”

So Indra got back his kingdom and he was completely satisfied.

Twisted in eight places

This is a story about Krishna and Radha. It was a moonlit night and Lord Krishna was playing on his flute most hauntingly. Radha and the other gopis were all listening. They were admiring the music of Krishna’s flute and drinking in his celestial beauty. They were in the seventh Heaven of delight.

After some time, Krishna stopped playing and said, “I have transported you all to a world of purest delight. Now that you are all filled with happiness, I am going to take a walk in the forest.” Krishna saw that Radha wanted to accompany him and he said to her, “You may come.” The other gopis did not dare to join them. They had the utmost respect for Radha.

So Krishna and Radha walked and walked until they came to a particular place in the forest. Krishna turned to Radha and said, “Radha, I am in the mood to tell some stories. Would you care to listen to my stories?”

“Of course, my Lord!” exclaimed Radha. “Please tell me some stories. I am eager to hear them.”

Krishna said, “Anything that comes into my mind, I will tell.” Krishna was all ready to tell Radha some stories when, all of a sudden, a strange looking man appeared. His body was bent in eight different places. His legs were crooked, his arms were crooked; everything was unnatural. This man was known as Astabakra — asta means “eight”, and Astabakra means “crooked in eight places”.

As soon as Radha saw this unfortunate human being, for some reason she began laughing and laughing.

“How can you laugh at this poor man?” asked Krishna.

“His body is bent in eight different places! I cannot refrain from laughing at such an odd spectacle,” answered Radha.

Krishna scolded her: “It is not kind to laugh at others. You should not behave in this way.” But Radha kept laughing and laughing.

Astabakra had thought that Radha would be full of compassion for him because she was Krishna’s dearest disciple. He simply could not understand why she was laughing at him so heartlessly. He was standing before her with tremendous devotion and love, but her laughter was hurting him deeply.

Krishna said to Radha, “If I tell you about Astabakra, will you stop laughing at him?”

“Of course, my Lord,” came Radha’s reply.

“Then stop laughing and listen to his unhappy story.” As Krishna began to relate the story, Astabakra bowed to Krishna and Radha and silently left their presence.

This is the story that Krishna told. Astabakra was formerly a high-class Brahmin. He was married and he spent quite a few years with his wife. Then, for God knows what reason, he became disgusted with his wife. He took a vow, saying, “From now on I shall never, never mix with any woman! All women are so bad. Here is the absolute proof. My wife has proved that women are unbearable. I will have no connection, no association, with any woman whatsoever in God’s entire creation. I shall not even look at a woman.”

This was the strict vow that the Brahmin took after his sad experience with his wife. At that time his body was not crooked at all. In appearance he was very strong and handsome.

O God! A nymph in the palace of Lord Indra noticed this Brahmin and fell in love with him. The name of this nymph, or apsara, was Rambha. She was extremely beautiful. She came to the Brahmin and said to him, “I am in love with you. I want to marry you.”

The Brahmin became furious. He said, “I have taken a vow that I shall never marry again. My first wife was enough for me. She was the first and the last!”

Rambha began pleading with him. She said, “You have to marry me, since I have declared my love for you.”

“Never!” insisted the Brahmin. “I will not mix with any woman in this life.”

When Rambha saw that the Brahmin would not change his mind, she became very angry and upset. “You have such a foul tongue! How dare you talk to me like this! I am a dancer in the palace of Lord Indra himself. I curse you for refusing my love. Your body will become crooked in eight different places. You will be so ugly that no woman will ever want to look at you again.”

After cursing the Brahmin, Rambha vanished. The poor Brahmin! His body immediately became twisted and bent. Each of his limbs went in a different direction. He could move only with the greatest difficulty.

In despair, the Brahmin said, “What is the use of keeping this life? Rambha has cursed me and this is what has happened. Why should I remain on earth any longer? I will immolate this body of mine.”

Suddenly, Lord Vishnu appeared before him and said, “It is not good to kill yourself. Pray and pray and pray. After some time, I will come to you again and you will be cured. Then you will be happy on earth with your physical body as before. You say that you do not want to look at women. No harm! You will be able to keep your vow. Now start praying and I will soon appear before you.”

The Brahmin listened to Lord Vishnu and began praying most sincerely.

“When will Lord Vishnu come and cure the Brahmin?” asked Radha when Krishna had reached this point in his story.

Krishna smiled sweetly. “Vishnu has already come,” he said, and began walking home. Krishna was an emanation of Lord Vishnu. They were and they are one and the same. So this was how Krishna cured Astabakra.

How Shiva got the name _Rudra_

Once Brahma and Vishnu were talking and talking and talking endlessly. In everything, they are endless! When they are silent, they do not utter a word for thousands of years; and then again, when they resume talking, they can talk for thousands of years uninterruptedly.

On this occasion, they were enjoying one of their birthless and deathless talks when, all of a sudden, Shiva appeared. For some reason, Shiva sometimes assumes a very rough manner. On that day, everything about him was uncouth. Shiva is not polished like the other cosmic gods. Around his neck there are skulls; he is adorned with snakes; his dear ones are ghosts and his favourite place is the cremation ground. Shiva’s manners are also not refined. He is not sociable, let us say.

It was in this unseemly guise that he came to Brahma and Vishnu. Vishnu recognised Shiva, but Brahma could not. In fact, Brahma became furious at the intruder. “How dare you come and stand in front of us!” he exclaimed. “We are two cosmic gods! You have no respect for us!”

“You cannot recognise Lord Shiva?” said Vishnu.

“That is not Shiva!” insisted Brahma.

At that moment, Vishnu opened up Brahma’s third eye. “O my God,” said Brahma, “it is Shiva!” He said to Shiva, “Please forgive me, forgive me!”

“All right, I forgive you,” Shiva agreed. At first, Shiva had been furious when Brahma was insulting him. Shiva wanted to open up his third eye and destroy Brahma then and there. But when Brahma asked for forgiveness, Shiva brought forward his compassion aspect. He forgave Brahma unconditionally.

Still Brahma was not fully satisfied. He said to Shiva, “You have to prove that you have forgiven me.”

“What kind of proof do you want?” asked Shiva.

“You have to take incarnation in my family,” declared Brahma. “You have to take birth as my son.”

“Fine, fine,” said Shiva. “I shall take incarnation in your family. I will be your son.”

After it was decided that Shiva would be born on earth as Brahma’s son, Shiva left the presence of Vishnu and Brahma.

Since Vishnu and Brahma had talked for such a long time, both of them were now completely exhausted. Vishnu said, “Let me enjoy a little rest.” Brahma added, “Let me also enjoy rest, a very short rest.”

As soon as Vishnu lay down, he fell asleep and started snoring. He was completely in another world. Brahma lay down very near Vishnu. They were practically side by side. Brahma was still partially awake. The moment Vishnu fell asleep, something curious happened. From one of his ears a tiny being emerged, and that being wanted to eat some honey.

A few minutes later, Vishnu woke up. Meanwhile, from his other ear, another being was coming out. This other being was like an insect. The very nature of an insect is to bite, so it wanted to bite Brahma. These two tiny beings were hostile forces, or demons. Their names were Madhu and Koitava. Madhu means “honey” and Koitava is from the word kit, meaning “insect”. Our Indian mythology is flooded with these two names.

Madhu and Koitava found that the person nearest to them was Brahma, and so both of them went to kill him. They were evil incarnate. Although one was like an insect and the other was also very tiny, demons can take any form they wish. So Madhu and Koitava suddenly became huge and powerful. They were extremely ugly looking, plus unbearably fat.

After assuming these huge and frightening forms, Madhu and Koitava caught Brahma off guard and started fighting with him. He shouted, “What are you doing?” He fought, but he could not kill them and they also could not kill him. Then Vishnu entered the picture. He became furious.

“From my body you two came out and this is how you are behaving?” he thundered. He then proceeded to destroy the two demons.

Brahma was so happy to see Madhu and Koitava lying dead. He started meditating. All of a sudden, he said, “Shiva promised that he would take incarnation in my family. He said he would be my son. Look at his lies! Shiva never keeps his promises — never, never, never!” Brahma reflected for a moment and continued, “I must pray to Shiva and again remind him of his promise. He promised that he would come to me as my son.”

So Brahma prayed to Shiva for five thousand years, but Shiva did not appear at all. One day, Brahma began shedding bitter tears because Shiva had failed to keep his promise. Brahma said, “I cannot go on in vain. Even after seeing my tears, Shiva is not coming. I am crying like an infant, but he is deaf to my prayers. I have now decided to commit suicide. Shiva is a liar. He is not going to come. So the best thing is for me to immolate myself.”

After saying these words, Brahma committed suicide. As soon as he had done so, Shiva came out of Brahma’s mouth. While coming out, Shiva was crying and crying, and at the same time Brahma was revived. Brahma was so happy to see his son. When he noticed Shiva’s tears, Brahma became very concerned.

“Why are you crying, why are you crying, my child?” he asked.

Shiva said that he was crying while taking human incarnation because he was entering into world-ignorance. For this reason Brahma gave him the name Rudra, meaning “he who cries pitifully”. There is also another aspect to the name, which is “he who destroys”. In the course of time, Shiva also manifested this other aspect using the power of his third eye.

So this is the story of how Shiva came to have the name Rudra.

The many names of Shiva

There is another version of the previous story. For many stories from the Puranas, there are different versions. Some are even contradictory. You can choose whichever one you like.

Brahma was meditating in order to get a son. All of a sudden, after thousands of years of meditation, he saw a child in his lap. He was filled with happiness, but the child immediately started crying. His body was racked with sobs. Brahma asked the child, “Tell me, my son, why are you crying?” The little boy sighed, “I need a name.”

“You need a name?” repeated his father. Brahma immediately gave him the name Rudra, which means “one who cries and cries”.

A few minutes later, the child started crying again. “Why are you crying?” asked his father.

“I need another name,” said the child.

Brahma consented and gave him the name Pinaki. But the child’s tears started to flow once more. This time Brahma gave him the name Bibhola. Afterwards, he gained the name Trishuladhari, meaning “one who holds the trident”. In all, the child received eight names from Brahma.

Finally, he said to his father, “Now you have given me so many names. What shall I do with those names? Which one shall I use?”

It was he who had begged Brahma to give him the names, and now he was asking what he should do with them!

Brahma said to Rudra, “All these names that I am giving you have a very special meaning. Each one embodies a divine quality of yours which I want you to manifest here on earth.”

Eventually Rudra did manifest all the divine qualities that Brahma had given him in the form of these various names.

Krishna's son abducts the Kaurava princess

This is a story about the irony of fate. When Duryodhana’s daughter, Laksmana, came of age, she wanted to choose a husband. According to the custom of those days, when it was time for a princess to marry, her father would hold a special ceremony called a swayamvara. All the neighbouring princes would be invited and the princess would place a garland around the neck of the one whom she wished to marry.

So Duryodhana held a swayamvara for his dearest daughter and many princes came from the royal families of other kingdoms. Each prince expected that she would choose him to be her husband.

Krishna’s son, Samba, also attended the ceremony. But, instead of waiting to see if the princess was going to put the garland around his neck, Samba abducted her by force in front of everyone. All the other princes as well as the members of the princess’s own family were outraged that Samba had dared to do such a thing. For Krishna’s own son to behave in such a manner was unthinkable. They all chased Samba in their chariots and, finally, they caught him. Samba was arrested and put into jail in the kingdom of the Kauravas. He was subjected to much humiliation because of his rash act.

Meanwhile, since most of the princes were still present at the gathering, they asked Duryodhana’s daughter to choose someone else. The poor princess was already so sad and miserable that for her to choose somebody else in her present frame of mind was an impossible task. Besides, in the depths of her heart, she did like Samba.

Seeing her plight, some people suggested that the swayamvara be postponed until another day. “This is not the time,” they said. “Right now the princess is startled. Let her recover from her ordeal before she chooses her husband.”

So the princes went home disappointed and Samba remained in jail. The news of his capture soon reached his father, Krishna, who became very sad and upset. “My son has to do me this kind of favour!” he exclaimed. “He knows the Kauravas are our worst enemies. I am not going there to rescue him.”

It happened that Krishna’s brother, Balarama, was extremely fond of this particular nephew of his. He told Krishna, “I will not allow my nephew, Samba, to be imprisoned in the kingdom of the Kauravas. I will go and bring him back.”

Krishna replied, “Do whatever you like. I am so embarrassed by my son’s behaviour. You go and do whatever you want to do.”

Balarama went to the Kaurava kingdom and said to Duryodhana, “I have come to take my nephew back home.”

Duryodhana and his brothers began making fun of Balarama. “Your nephew is so bad!” they said. “Why do you want to be associated with him?”

Balarama answered, “No matter what he has done, I am all love for him. Now kindly release him.”

But Duryodhana would not allow Samba to be released. This made Balarama furious. His main weapon was the plough. He started wielding his plough and breaking down the walls of the prison. The soldiers who tried to prevent him were all destroyed.

When the Kauravas saw that Balarama was so powerful, they grew frightened and quickly released Samba. Then Balarama said, “I demand the girl, Duryodhana’s daughter. Now that I have defeated all of you, I want Laksmana to marry my nephew.”

Once more the Kauravas began laughing at Balarama. “She did not place the garland around your nephew’s neck,” they contended. “How can you demand that she marry him?”

Balarama said, “No, I know that she loves him.”

Duryodhana knew that Balarama had the capacity to destroy all the Kauravas so he was very frightened. He said to himself, “The best thing is to get rid of my daughter. Otherwise, if I choose to keep her, Balarama may kill everyone. For one daughter, the whole kingdom will be ruined.” Out of fear, he let Laksmana go with Balarama and Samba. He did not even consult her before he made his decision. He just told her, “Now go.” For her dowry, Duryodhana gave thousands of horses and chariots, together with hundreds of magnificent elephants.

Balarama returned to Dwaraka, Krishna’s kingdom, with Samba and Duryodhana’s daughter, plus so much wealth from the Kauravas. Once again, Krishna was very happy.

Can you imagine! Of all the princesses to abduct, Krishna’s son had to choose the daughter of Krishna’s enemy, Duryodhana. Naturally, Duryodhana arrested the boy and put him in jail. But Balarama’s love for his nephew was such that he himself went and fought for Samba’s freedom. When the Kauravas surrendered they gave Balarama not only Samba, but also Duryodhana’s daughter along with immense wealth.

Krishna, Arjuna and Duryodhana all belonged to the warrior caste. They were Kshatriyas. In those days, Kshatriyas were allowed to abduct a bride, but it was generally done by the common consent of both parties. When Arjuna abducted Krishna’s sister, Subhadra, it was with Krishna’s full approval, because Krishna knew that the two were in love with each other. But when Balarama found out that Arjuna had abducted his sister, he wanted to chase Arjuna in his chariot and kill him. Krishna had to console Balarama by saying that Arjuna was the best of warriors and it was no shame to have him as a member of the family.

This whole practice of abducting a wife started with Vishma. He abducted three sisters for his nephew, Vichitravirya, the grandfather of the Pandavas. The names of these three sisters were Amba, Ambalika and Ambika. Because he took them against their will, Vishma was cursed, and from that day everything started going wrong for him.

The pride of Brahma

This is a story about the pride of Brahma, our Creator. One day, Brahma was meditating. In his meditation he had gone higher than the highest, deeper than the deepest. He was in ecstasy. Brahma said to himself, “How I wish I could spend all my time in this sublime meditation!”

Suddenly, there appeared in front of him the most beautiful nymph, or apsara. Her name was Mohini. She said to Brahma, “I want to marry you.”

Brahma got furious. “I was in such ecstasy, such bliss, and you have to come here and charm me! Never! Do not come near me. Leave me alone!”

Mohini was deeply insulted. “I am leaving you alone, but not before I curse you. From now on, nobody will worship you, nobody! The other cosmic gods will be worshipped and adored but you will never, never be worshipped by any human being!”

Mohini’s curse came true and Brahma was no longer worshipped. He felt miserable, and so he went to Vishnu for advice. While he was waiting in Vishnu’s palace, he saw somebody just like himself, except that this figure had ten heads. Then he saw another figure like himself, but with one hundred heads, and a third with one thousand heads. All of them looked exactly like him, but he had only four heads.

When Vishnu entered the room, Brahma asked him who these other figures were. Vishnu replied, “These are all Brahmas, like you. You are not the only Brahma! You have to know that there are many universes and each universe is represented by one Brahma, one Creator. There are hundreds of universes and hundreds of Brahmas. They look exactly like you, but you have only four heads, whereas they have many, many more.”

Poor Brahma! He had come to Vishnu for consolation, but Vishnu had smashed his pride. Then Brahma told Vishnu about Mohini’s curse and very humbly asked Vishnu how he could make the curse void.

Vishnu said, “You can dispel Mohini’s curse only if you listen to me. You must meditate for 60,000 years and then you must go to the holy river Ganga and bathe. Only then will you be free from the curse.”

In Indian mythology, they always say that a curse lasts for 60,000 years and you have to meditate for 60,000 years to get rid of it. So, poor Brahma had to meditate for a very, very long time.

Krishna prays to have a son

Lord Krishna was consumed with the desire to have a son. So he went to seek the advice of a particular sage. When the sage saw Lord Krishna, he was overwhelmed with joy. Everybody was shouting, “Krishna has come, Krishna has come!” and they all started worshipping Krishna.

The sage asked Krishna, “Please tell me what I can do for you. Is there anything that you would like me to do?”

Krishna answered, “It is a very simple thing that I want. I want to have a son. Please tell me how I can have a son.”

“Only Lord Shiva can help in this matter,” said the sage. “You have to pray to Lord Shiva. First, you must gather one thousand flowers. With these flowers you must worship Lord Shiva for many years. When Lord Shiva is pleased with your worship, you will be granted a son.”

Krishna left the cottage of the sage and entered into seclusion. He put ashes all over his body and clothed himself in the bark of a tree. For years and years he prayed, only to have a glimpse of Lord Shiva and to ask him for a boon.

With her third eye, Parvati saw that Krishna was praying and praying all alone in the heart of the forest. She said to her husband, “My Lord, what are you doing? Why are you not responding? Lord Krishna has been worshipping you, only you, for so many years.”

“What do you want me to do?” asked Shiva.

“Just go and stand before him,” pleaded Parvati. “As a matter of fact, let us go together.”

Both Parvati and Shiva appeared before Krishna. Shiva said to him, “What are you doing? Why should you, of all people, pray to me? You are Narayana, you are Vishnu, you are the avatar of this era, you pervade everything. Why then are you praying to me?”

Krishna responded, “Lord Shiva, I know that you are the only one who can fulfil my desire.”

“Is there any desire which you yourself cannot fulfil?” asked Shiva.

“I was told that only you can fulfil this particular desire. Therefore, I have come to you,” answered Krishna.

“What is your desire?” asked Shiva.

“I wish to have a son exactly like you,” Krishna said to Shiva. “It has to be exactly like you, otherwise I do not want it.”

Shiva and Parvati both smiled and immediately Shiva granted Krishna the boon. Krishna returned home and, after some time, his wife, Jambavati, bore a son. They named him Samba.

What does it mean to have a son exactly like Shiva? On the one hand, Shiva is always lost in trance. But, on the other hand, Shiva’s function is to destroy. From destruction comes transformation. This boy, Samba, did many unbearable things during his life. Eventually he brought about the total destruction of Krishna’s family. So you can say that Krishna knew that transformation was needed and transformation must be preceded by destruction. That is why he prayed to have a son like Shiva.

Parvati longs to marry Shiva

One day, when Parvati was only eight years old, her father, Himavan, took her to see Lord Shiva. From birth, Parvati had always been very spiritual. She always wanted to know about God, so she was thrilled to see Lord Shiva. But Lord Shiva was in a meditative consciousness and he did not pay any attention to the little girl.

After that first encounter, Parvati used to come every day to see Lord Shiva. She would offer him fresh flowers, hoping that one day he would open his eyes and speak to her. In the back of her mind, she had formed the idea that this was the man she wanted to marry.

The days became years and Parvati grew into a beautiful young woman. Still Shiva remained absorbed in his eternal trance. How could anybody disturb Shiva’s trance? Once he enters into trance, he enjoys the highest and deepest bliss. So why should he come back?

One day, Parvati confided to her father, “I really want to marry Lord Shiva. He is meditating and meditating. How I wish that I could also meditate like him!”

Himavan was very sad that Shiva was not paying any attention to his beautiful daughter, who was so spiritual in every way. He decided to play a trick on Shiva: he invoked the god of love to disturb Shiva’s meditation. The name of this particular god was Madana. Madana had a bow and some arrows that were made of flowers. He used to shoot these arrows at his victims and then they would be filled with feelings of emotional love.

At Himavan’s request, Madana aimed his arrows at Lord Shiva and the arrows fell as flowers at Shiva’s feet. Suddenly, Shiva opened his third eye and caught sight of the god of love standing with his bow in his hands. Shiva immediately burnt this unfortunate god to ashes because he had disturbed Shiva’s meditation.

Meanwhile, Parvati was standing nearby with a most beautiful garland in her hands, but Lord Shiva did not pay any attention to her. It was as if she did not even exist. He simply closed his eyes again and went into trance.

Parvati’s parents had witnessed the whole scene and they were furious with Lord Shiva. They felt that he had insulted their dearest daughter. “You cannot marry him, Parvati,” they said. “This Shiva has been insulting you for so many years now. You must not waste your time on him any longer.”

But Parvati would not budge. “I am going to stay here,” she declared. “From now on, I shall eat only leaves, wet leaves.” With heavy hearts, Parvati’s parents returned home without their daughter.

For several years, Parvati stayed near Shiva, eating only wet leaves. Then she started eating only dry leaves. After a few more years, she gave up eating leaves altogether. When she gave up eating leaves, her name became Aparna, which means “one who does not eat even a leaf.” Parvati became the goddess Aparna at that time because of her extreme tapasya, or spiritual discipline.

As time passed, Parvati went one step further. She stopped drinking water. She was living on nothing but air. Himavan saw that his daughter was becoming very weak. He knew that it was only a matter of time before she would die. So Himavan went to Lord Shiva and said, “Can you not see what you are doing to my daughter? All her life, she has wanted only one thing, and that is to marry you. But you have never even looked at her. If you are determined not to marry her, at least look at her. Otherwise, she will surely die.”

Shiva condescended to look at Parvati, but to himself he said, “Let me test her one last time before I marry her.” Poor Parvati had endured so many tests and still Shiva wanted to test her love and devotion. He took the form of an ordinary man and approached her. “You are such a beautiful girl,” he said. “Why are you wasting your time here? I have heard that you want to marry Shiva, but what kind of man is he? He spends all his time in the cremation ground in the company of his ghost-friends. The garland around his neck is made of skulls. How can you marry someone as frightening as Shiva? Forget about him! Marry a normal man, like me.”

Parvati’s eyes burned. “What you are saying is untrue. Go away from here and leave me alone! I know who Shiva is. Do not throw your doubts and suspicions into me. I will never marry you, never! I will marry only my Lord Shiva. If you do not leave me alone this instant, I shall curse you!”

At that moment, Shiva assumed his true form once more. Parvati was so moved and overwhelmed to see him standing before her. Shiva said to her, “Any boon that you want, I shall give you.”

“You do not know by this time what boon I want?” asked Parvati. “I want only to marry you.”

“Granted,” said Shiva.

After Shiva and Parvati were married, Parvati came to know that she had been Shiva’s wife in her previous incarnation. Her name then was Sati and she immolated herself because her father, Daksha, insulted Shiva. But that is another story!

Brahma can swallow everything

At one time, pride entered into Brahma. He said, “Since I am all fire, I can swallow everything. So now let me swallow everything and prove that I am the greatest of the cosmic gods. Who can dare to stand against me? I can eat fire! I am all fire! I am Brahma!”

When Vishnu saw the extent of Brahma’s pride, he took the form of a little boy, four or five years old. This little boy came before Brahma holding a dry reed in his hand.

The little boy said, “Lord Brahma, you are the greatest of all the gods. Here is a dry reed. Let me see you burn it or swallow it.”

Brahma immediately engulfed the little boy with flames. The flames wanted to devour not only the reed but also the little boy. But although the flames burnt intensely, they could not swallow the little boy and they did not even touch the dry reed in his hand.

“How can this be?” cried Brahma. “I can burn up everything and everybody, but a single dry reed and one little boy are beyond my capacity. I do not understand it.”

Then Vishnu took his real form and said to Brahma, “This is all because of your pride I wanted to smash your pride by showing you that you could not do anything to a reed. Now you should not boast anymore. You have to remain silent.”

So this was how Brahma was humiliated by Vishnu.

From:Sri Chinmoy,The Earth-Illumination-Trumpets of Divinity’s home, part 1, Agni Press, 1995
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