The cosmos, the earth and vegetation, and nature in various hues and shapes, and the rivers, mountains and human beings, the created beings and the gods and goddesses form an integral part of lives of the people of Himachal. Thoughts of people, living habits, rituals and customs interweave interesting and educative tales that have roots in legends and myths.
The great Guru (a reference to lord Prajapati) descended and materialized the great earth, the sky, the air, the water and different objects of nature out of a huge vacuum people believe. Before it, nothing existed. The mountains did not exist where human beings think that the gods and the goddesses lived. The sun, the moon, the stars and the living beings of any kind did not exist. No animal, bird or water-life existed. Absolute silence caused worries in the mind of the guru. He, the great guru deliberated for a long time, and then, sat in deep meditation as the glowing and burning incense guggal (a sweet fragrance made of herbs) spread godly aroma. It looked saintly.
Probably, he thought of creation, for life in unlimited isolation was a curse. Guggal burnt for some time and very soon, it turned into ashes. He picked up a pinch of ashes and messaged the body with the grey residue. When he finished coating the body with the gray powder, he peeled off as if it were a layer of dirt and dust on the body. He made a statue with the dust and unwanted earth of the body. He was happy and then, decided to infuse life into the figure he created. As the thought entered, a goddess Mansa (a goddess born of mind) took birth. The great guru thought of creating other animate and inanimate beings. Nature and its varied objects like the mountains and rivers came into existence, and the act heralded the beginning of creation.
When Mansa was twelve years old, she went to take bath in the river and entered the water after removing clothes. The eyes of the guru fell on Mansa and she became pregnant. She carried the seed of guru for ten months and after the completion of the time as the guru desired, she delivered a child Brahma. The great guru, in due course of time, had three children from the womb of Mansa known as Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva (Shiva) the great trinity.
The wise men thought of age and life span, and the two were an inseparable part of living beings. It appeared that the guru accomplished the great task of creation and naturally, he was satisfied with the noble work. As the great guru grew old, he wanted to bequeath the great heritage and various social obligations to a gifted and competent person. Before handing over the heritage, he laid down three conditions.
He told his sons, “O sons of goddess Mansa devi, I wish a person should be competent to drive the great lord of snakes Vasuki, who is without feet. He should hold the sky without the help of columns and possess the aptitude and talent to move and rotate the world without a swivel and hinge.”
He looked at the wise sons, asked each one, and revealed sacred intentions exercising a thoughtful mind. When asked, Brahma expressed the inability to do the task. Guru did not appreciate and so a curse visited him. He issued a curse that he would take birth in the house of a brahmin in Kaliyuga (the present age, also called iron age) and live a life of perpetual poverty without reprieve.
Even Vishnu did not obey the instructions of the great guru. In addition to the fulfillment of three strict conditions as laid down earlier, the great guru asked Vishnu to protect and look after his mother and father. Vishnu thought over and expressed reluctance but did not make anything clear.
He told, “I doubt if I can do the assigned functions properly. I find it quite difficult to hold and keep the great sky steady and firm overhead. I cannot make earth rotate around its center.” The guru listened to him, and was disappointed.
Guru thought over for some time, looked at Vishnu and said, “You will take birth as a chandala (a person, who works in the burial ground) and in the age of Kaliyuga, you would remove cloth coverings from the coffins and the bodies of the dead.” Now, he visualized no escape as the curse appeared apparent and manifest. As Brahma and Vishnu suffered because of the curses, the great guru called Shiva to appear before him. Shiva was quite worried, uneasy and uncertain.
Guru said, “Shiva, you know the burden of the creation is immense. An act of creation is sacred and essential. If you agree to the conditions I spelt out, you will perform various functions on earth. You would rear up goats and sheep, arrange for fodder and shelter and would bring up cows, and take the animals to the grazing ground. You shall have milk and then, take care of the ganas (attendants, cohorts and devotees). All sacred creations need concern and so, they shall also look after your needs.” Shiva listened to carefully.
He thought deep and stood with the bowed head as if a figure of extreme humility and grace. He requested the great father (guru) to bless him with the moon, the sun, the morning star, the hard rock and many valuable and long-lasting belongings necessary for carrying on the essential and obvious obligations he is supposed to discharge. Guru agreed and Shiva got everything he wanted and therefore, accepted an important responsibility of looking after the sacred creation of the eternal guru, the great father. After the guru offered everything as Shiva requested, he disappeared. Now, Shiva felt burdened with a great responsibility. He owned the whole lot, as he desired. After the guru vanished from the scene, he deliberated over the issues, and immediately jumped above and down, and arrived at a place in the vast and deep subterranean world.
He got black and white Nandi and the most desired chunk of a hard rock. He looked at the white bull and said, “You move the great rock with the strength of horns.”
The bull obeyed the lord’s command, and the moment he moved the solid rock, the great earth emerged from below and surprised every creation. He surveyed the entire scene and then, with meticulous planning situated the moon, the sun and the morning star in the sky at the predetermined locations and thus, an innocent and powerful Shiva began the process of creating the world.
Thereafter, lord Shiva called a modest and innocent swamy, created the entire world and various living beings. He created day and night, animals, sheep and goats, cows, buffaloes, birds of different kinds and colours, sparrows, parrots, crows and pigeons with the male-female species of each class and then, included different categories of living beings one could think of. He created hills, mountains, water creatures and consequently, the oceans and the seas took birth as he wanted. A complete world it was and he looked on with pride and satisfaction. He was happy, and noticed each creature and organism with a cautious eye.
Shiva found that the world was still incomplete. It did not give joy as he wished. Initial pleasure disappeared. Without man, the whole creation looked desolate and unexciting, insipid and tasteless. After a lingering thought, he planned to construct a man and thus, the creation of man was Shiva’s top priority. With unfailing efforts, he created men of silver, gold and extra precious material. Unfortunately, none even took a breath. Lifeless creations were mere statues and did not bring a ray of hope and delight, and therefore, failure filled Shiva with a sense of defeat and disgust. A feeling of loathing overwhelmed. The creator was disillusioned at the incessant efforts to make the world fascinating and meaningful but it did not happen. The collapse of genuine efforts not only surprised but shocked also.
He continued to work on the thesis for some more time, and made unusual and varied things and produced various crops on earth but for whom? A big question haunted. He found no easy answer. Shiva experienced intensity of troubles within but failed to restrain. Later on, he made a man out of earth and infused life in the figure, and it began to breathe. New creation sent waves of elation in the heart and mind of the creator Shiva. Euphoric moments for the creator were unforgettable. The process of birth and the creation of different kinds of vegetation and life on earth began and thus, the eternal tale of origin of man cheered up the lord.
Such tales of origin of the world are quite prevalent in the hill state. In another interesting tale, the folks of the area believe that the whole creation took birth on the bank of river Vyasa. Man was born on the holy riverbank it is learnt. In a slightly different way, people believed that Brahma gave birth to the entire creation. Then, sage Marichi was born. His son Kasyapa had two wives. A reference to Kasyapa in Puranas speaks of the creation in a different way. He was a famous sage of ancient times considered the father of lord Indra and the gods of heaven. Diti and Aditi, the daughters of Daksa were sagely princesses of heart and intellect.
Prajapati Daksa married off Diti and Aditi to him. Aditi was the mother of the gods of heaven. On the other hand, Diti was the mother of daityas (the demons). Diti gave birth to two mighty sons, who always thought of vanquishing the entire world. They were inimical to the gods of heavens and wanted to eliminate gods irrespective of the consequences. Hirayankasipu was the first daitya born of Diti. A son Prahalada was born through him, who was a great saint among the daityas. Virochana was a son of Prahalada. Bali was a son of Virochana, who was again a daitya of great radiance and energy and a man of tremendous influence and an eminent man. Bali was the chief general of the forces of daityas.
With a huge army, he controlled and governed the entire world for a long time and enjoyed its pleasures and luxuries. ‘Power and pelf’ is a dangerous property. It is suicidal if not exercised judiciously. It corrupts wisdom and nobility. It happened with Bali. Intoxicated with the vastness of empire and the power he wielded, the aspirations to conquer the three worlds increased hunger and thirst for more wealth and land. Awe-inspiring thoughts disturbed the mighty demon. Without loss of time, he wanted to subjugate the gods of heavens and therefore, planned and ordered the army to invade the lands of gods. The holy Purana describes the beauty, grandeur and ferocity of the war between the gods and the daityas. Kasyapa had one hundred wives and through the wombs of the women, numerous classes of living beings took birth and it included yakasas, gandharavas, kinners, pisaches, nishadas, monkeys, and many others. One of the wives gave birth to a class of naags and snakes.
Inquisitiveness of hill people never relaxed and so they continued to explore the riddle of origin of the world and gathered knowledge through various scriptures that inspired the innocent folk to believe in different theories. With the passage of time, anxiety, curiosity and knowledge of scriptures gave birth to tales of passion, interest and meaning. Through the world of mouth, many twists appeared. Once, when lord Vishnu slept in the ocean of milk, he was extremely worried. Out of the divine radiance, a beautiful lotus flower emerged from the navel on which lord Brahma sat, people believe.
Vishnu said to Brahma, “You create the world and living beings.”
Brahma thought for some time and with the power of marvelous divine imagination, made an image of a figure looking like a man, and gave life to it. Interestingly, the right part of the figure appeared of a man and the left portion seemed like the limbs of a woman. Unique creation stunned the lord. He was quite penitent and realized that the figure did not attain the purpose for which he created it.
To achieve the objective, Brahma created a man and a woman separately and gave diverse identities to the figures. A union between a man and woman gave birth to a son Manu. When Manu grew up, he abandoned home, went to the forest and was engaged in severe tapa and penance. After completion of tapa, Manu married and from the womb of the woman, twelve sons took birth, who later on, became famous sages, the holy men of wisdom and knowledge.
The birth of the seers did not give any moment of pleasure and joy to Brahma. The creation of sages was a big mistake he learnt much later, for the sages did not oblige, and exhibited no interest in the multiplication of creation. Growth and progress in the world appeared to stop because the great sage Brahma did not expect any expansion in the world from the sages, who were least involved in the act of procreation. He was disappointed at the conduct of the sages. Brahma created another couple and the consequent union gave birth to twelve daughters. On the other hand, he did not wish that the sages should stay motionless devoid of any act in matters of worldly affairs and therefore, with the divine powers he infused feelings of love and passion in the hearts of the monks.
All the monks were disturbed but were curious to know about life and pleasure. Each monk aspired for an alliance with a woman, and thus, wanted to live life of a householder. Consequently, the holy men were attracted towards the young women, and so, Brahma facilitated the union and sent a proposal to the father of the girls, who agreed to marry off the young and noble daughters to the monks of eminence and learning. Afterwards, they married twelve daughters born of the womb of a new woman and therefore, the process of growth and further creation became possible.
If one delves deep into the cultural history of the state, one finds many legends, fables and myths connected with each object of nature. Many tales are prevalent among the people connected with the earth, the moon and the sun. A tale circulates where even the origin of death and life makes an interesting reading. People find an image of a deity or a god in each object of nature and therefore, nature is integral to the existence of man.