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The Curious Tale of Barbareek
|by Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya|
Other than the sons of Bhima, Arjuna and the Draupadeyas Vyasa does not mention names of Pandava progeny. In Jaimini’s Ashvamedha parva a new character is introduced: Bhima’s grandson Meghavarna, the son of Ghatotkacha. But there is yet another son of Ghatotkacha whose story is told in the Skanda Purana, Kumarika Khanda, chapters 59-66 by Suta Ugrashrava to Shaunaka and other sages performing a great sacrificial ritual in the forest of Naimisha. Suta narrates what he had heard from Dvaipayana (island-born) Vyasa.
When the Pandavas were dwelling in Indraprastha under Vasudeva’s protection, one day Ghatotkacha arrived in the court and was welcomed with warm embraces and blessings. He informed them that since the death of his wicked maternal uncle Hidimb he was ruling the kingdom righteously and that his mother was engaged in austerities. At her urging, he had left the foothills and come to offer his respects, requesting them to engage him in some noble cause. Yudhishthira was delighted and praised Hidimba for rejecting the splendour of her husband’s royal palace for ascesis and having overcome all desire.
Turning to Krishna, Yudhishthira expressed his anxiety over finding a proper bride for Ghatotkacha. Krishna thought a little and stated that the proper spouse was waiting for him in the city of Praagjyotisha. She was the daughter of the Daitya Mura of amazing feats, intimate friend of the Daitya Naraka, both of whom Krishna had slain. After Mura fell, his valiant daughter Kamakatankata attacked Krishna and, cutting through his shower of arrows, struck Garuda’s head with her sword, felling him unconscious. When Krishna lifted the discus to slay her, the goddess Kamakhya appeared and announced that she had granted Mura’s daughter the boon of invincibility in battle and gifted her the sword, shield, spear and incomparable intelligence. Therefore, honouring her boon, Krishna ought not to fight the daanavi. The goddess made peace between Kamakatankata and Krishna. She directed the Daitya amazon that as she was to become the daughter-in-law of Krishna’s cousin Bhima, she ought to touch her future father-in-law’s feet. Krishna blessed her and asked her to continue living there, looked after honourably by Naraka’s son Bhagadatta.
Kamakatankata vowed to wed only that man who could baffle her with a riddle and defeat her in a duel. Everyone who attempted lost his life. Yudhishthira refused to permit their grandson to undertake such an enterprise, howsoever wonderful the prospective bride’s talents might be and preferred to search elsewhere. Bhima, however, insisted that the valiant must attempt the impossible, otherwise how would fame be theirs? He advised that his son proceed alone immediately to win Mura’s daughter. Arjuna supported him, pointing out that success had already been foretold by the goddess Kamakhya. Krishna approved but asked Ghatotkacha what was his own wish. He responded, “I do not boast, but I wish to assure my elders that you will not have to be ashamed of me.” With their blessings, he left. As he left Krishna told him, “When you speak to her, think of me. I will ensure your victory by making your intelligence and your prowess invincible.”
Ghatotkacha reached the outskirts of Praagjyotisha city and approached the gates of a huge palace with a thousand golden spires. From within it arose the music of flutes and veenas and thousands of maidservants could be seen scurrying about. Bhagadatta’s retainers were rushing back and forth enquiring, “What is the sister’s wish?” Approaching a maid named Karnapravarna he spoke softly to her, “Lady, where is Mura’s daughter? I come from afar to meet her.” “Mighty-armed one,” she responded, “Why do you seek the daughter of Mura? Crores of lusting men like you have met with death at her hands. Your appearance I find most amusing, like a pot and all the hair sticking up. Valiant one, I touch your feet and am at your disposal. Lusty one, stay here with me and enjoy yourself. I shall provide you three attendants with wives.” Ghatotkacha replied, “Auspicious lady, you have only proved what I have heard about all of you. But my heart does not accept your words. Once desire fastens upon a goal it is not diverted elsewhere—so what can I do? Today I shall either defeat your mistress and sport with her or, being defeated, follow the path of the other suitors. Hence, O Karnapravarna, swiftly carry my words to your mistress. May she grant audience immediately and welcome the guest.”
The night-foraging maiden ran at once to where Kamakatankata sat within the palace and said, “Devi, a youth of appearance unique in the three worlds is at your door wishing to meet you. Command what is to be done.” Kamakatankata said, “Let him come in at once! Why the delay? Perhaps finally, after so long, through divine intervention my time has come.” Hearing this, Karnapravarna returned to Ghatotkacha and said, “Lust-crazed one, without delay rush to that death-incarnate.”
Thereupon Bhima’s son entered the city like a lion striding into a mountain cave. He saw Kamakatankata reclining on a swing surrounded by doves, parrots and beautiful maids. In beauty and youth she seemed like the goddess of love Rati. Decked in ornaments, she flashed like lightning. Ghatotkacha thought, “Uncle Krishna has truly chosen the right partner for me. So what if previous suitors have been destroyed? The body, after all, is subject to decay. If the bodies of lusting men get destroyed because of such women, let it be so.” He said, “Adamantine-hearted one, I come to you as a guest. Therefore, greet me appropriately.” Kamakatankata was surprised to hear this and noticing Ghatotkacha’s appearance cursed herself, “Alas! If I had not sworn such a vow already, he would certainly have been my husband.” She said, “Sir, you have come in vain. Depart with your life. And should you desire me, put forward some proposition immediately. If you can throw me in doubt, I shall be yours to command. Otherwise you shall die at my hands.”
Ghatotkacha called on Krishna, lord of all, and began to tell a story.
“The wife of a man who had no control over his senses died after giving birth to a daughter. When she bloomed into a woman, that lustful man was crazed with desire and one day embracing her said, ‘Dearest, you are the daughter of one of my neighbours. I have looked after you so long to make you my wife. Therefore, now fulfil my desire.’ The daughter thought it was the truth and accepted him as her husband. Thereafter, she gave birth to a daughter. Now tell me, is that girl that lustful man’s granddaughter or daughter? Answer me if you can.”
Kamakatankata thought over the riddle for a long time but could not arrive at an answer. Then she rang the golden shackles of the swing and immediately crores of Rakshasas, lions, tigers, boars, buffalos and leopards appeared and rushed to devour Ghatotkacha. Seeing this, he laughed and from his nails produced double the number who ate up those Rakshasas and others in an instant.
Then Kamakatankata sprang up from her swing to take up her sword. Bhima’s son at once seized her hair with his left hand and threw her on the ground. Pressing his foot on her throat he threatened to slice off her nose with the knife in his right hand. Mura’s daughter was unable to move and said, “Lord, in riddle, prowess and physical strength—in all three you have defeated me. I salute you as your servant. Free me and command me what you will, I shall obey.” Ghatotkacha said, “If that be so, then you are free. You are welcome to try again.” Kamakatankata replied, “O mighty warrior, I know who you are. You are the first among the powerful, lord of all night-roamers, the lord of guhyakas Kalanaabha and have taken birth on earth to protect the Yakshas. Goddess Kamakhya has revealed this to me. I surrender myself, my attendants, this palace, everything to you. O Lord of my life, command me, what I should do.” Ghatotkacha said, “Daughter of Mura, one whose parents are alive ought not to marry in secret. Therefore, take me now to Indraprastha. It is our custom that the bride carries the groom. There, with my elders’ permission, I shall marry you.”
Mura’s daughter then informed her guardian Bhagadatta of everything and with a host of gifts from him carried Ghatotkacha on her back to Indraprastha where they were married to the great delight of Kunti and Draupadi. The Pandavas were glad to receive all the wealth. Thereafter the couple returned to Hidimba forest where the Rakshasas held great celebrations to the clash of cymbals. In due course a son was born who achieved youth immediately after birth, as Rakshasas do. Dark of complexion like blue clouds, his face was like a pot, eyes large, hair all standing up. Touching his parents’ feet he requested them to name him and advise him about what he ought to do. Embracing him Ghatotkacha said, “Son, since your hair is curled, I name you Barbareek. About your future course of action, I shall enquire of Vasudeva after reaching Dvaraka.”
Leaving his wife there, Ghatotkacha took to the skies with his son and reached Dvaraka where the guards raised an uproar warning everyone about the arrival of two Rakshasas. Ghatotkacha announced their identity and requested audience with Krishna who immediately had them admitted into the court. Barbareek then enquired of Krishna how to achieve excellence in keeping with his birth. Krishna said, “Maurveya, you are born in a Kshatriya family, hence acquire immense prowess whereby you may punish the wicked and protect the virtuous. Thereby you shall win heaven. It is by the grace of goddesses that illimitable strength can be obtained. Hence, go the secret spot located at Mahisagara on the seashore where sage Narada has brought together all the goddesses. Worship the four goddesses of the directions and the nine Durgas. Finding them all in one place is a unique opportunity. If they are pleased, there is nothing—power, wealth, fame, sons, wife, heaven, even liberation—that you cannot obtain.” Turning to Ghatotkacha, Krishna said, “Your son is extremely righteous, therefore I name him ‘Suhridaya’, the good-hearted one.”
Ghatotkacha returned to his forest, while his son departed for the secret teertha Guptakshetra. For three years he lived in the place named Dagdhasthali, worshiping the goddesses who appeared before him and blessed him with incomparable prowess. They advised him to wait there for some more time to meet Vijaya, which would be to his advantage. A Brahmin of Magadha named Vijaya arrived there after some time having learned in Kaashi a special kind of worship by which for a long time he had worshipped the seven lingas and the goddesses to gain knowledge. In a dream the goddesses told him to continue the ritual with the help of Barbareek. On the fourteenth night of the dark fortnight Vijaya and Barbareek, having fasted, created a devi-mandala in front of the Siddhaambikaa temple, fixing a mantra-sanctified sword in its midst and eight wooden posts bound with thread around the mandala. Vijaya asked Barbareek to keep awake praying to Devi and to guard him from all harm. He proceeded first to pray to Ganesha, then the Kshetrapalas, then the Yakshi Sunanda who was in the form of a banyan tree on the shore, and began to repeat the Aparajita Mantra from “Om namo bhagavate” till “namohastu te svaha”.
In the first hour of the night a woman manifested there, clad in a single bloody cloth, hair flying wildly, terrifying eyes, gleaming white teeth—an image that would terrify terror itself. She was weeping loudly. Vijaya was frightened but Barbareek went up to her and embracing her neck began to weep even more loudly. Surprised, that woman tried to smite him with a sword, but Barbareek seized her by the throat and immobilised her. After roaring in pain for some time, she begged to be released and, when he let go, fell at his feet. “I am the shape-shifting rakshasi Mahaajihvaa and live in the cremation grounds of Kaashi. If you spare me, I shall engage in austerities that will benefit all creatures. If I do not do so, may I be reduced to ashes.” Barbareek then let her go and continued to stand guard.
At midnight a terrible roaring was heard and a huge hill became visible from which trees and rocks began to rain along with hail and blood. Not at all fearful, Barbareek took up a hill twice that size and jumped upon that hill so hard that it shattered to pieces. Repalendra then assumed a hundred-headed form, spitting fire from its many mouths. Barbareek did the like and attacked it with bow and arrows, then with sword and, when both got broken, they fought with fists. Finally, Barbareek suddenly lifted up the demon and spinning him round, flung him on the ground, killing him and threw his body afar. The place where he fell became a village named Repalendra. This terror of sadhus was the lord of the cremation ground of Avanti.
After the next hour again from the west a thunderous sound was heard and the earth quaked. Then, like lightning falling from the clouds, a she-mule arrived. Bhima’s grandson laughed, jumped upon that mule and tried to stop it by hitting it on its snout repeatedly. Instead it grew furious and with a mighty neigh leaped threw Barbareek on the ground. He then seized its legs and threw it on the ground. As it rose up, he again hit it so hard that its teeth fell out. He began wringing its neck and throttled it to death. Thus that demoness leader of Shaakinis met her end. The village at the place where Barbareek threw her became known as Duhadruha.
At the fourth hour a peculiar shaven headed naked mendicant wearing peacock feathers appeared, exclaiming, “Alas, non-violence is the supreme dharma. So how can fire be lit? For to light fire many tiny creatures have to be slain.” Hearing this Barbareek laughed and said, “Agni is the mouth of all gods, therefore the proper ritual is to place offerings in it. You speak falsely, therefore, wicked one, you need to be taught a lesson.” With a leap, Barbareek seized him and with a blow on his mouth that broke his teeth threw him on the ground unconscious. On regaining consciousness, he assumed a terrifying demon’s form and fled into a cave within which a city named Bahuprabhaa existed. Barbareek followed him and was attacked by many Palaashi Daityas with arms. Like a musth elephant entering a forest of reeds he trampled them all to death. Then Vasuki and other Nagas came and soothed him with sweet praise for killing the demons who used to torment them. They asked him to choose a boon. Barbareek requested that Vijaya should obtain what he was praying for. “So be it,” they said gladly.
On his way back through the tunnel Barbareek saw at the foot of a banyan tree a bejewelled linga being worshipped by many Naga maidens. Surprised he enquired of them who had established this dazzling linga and where the paths seen around it led. One of the heavy hipped, large breasted women shyly glanced at him and smilingly said that lord of the Nagas, noble Shesha had established this linga and to the east the path led to the Shri mountain on earth. The path had been made by Elapatra Naga. The path to the south led to Shurparaka teertha and was made by Karkotaka Naga. To the west the path led to the glorious pilgrimage spot of Prabhasa and was made by Airavata Naga. The path Barbareek was taking was to the north and led to the secret spot where the Siddha linga existed. That tunnel was known as Shakti cave and was made by Takshaka. Saying this the maidens all wished to know who he was and begged him to wed them and stay there. Barbareek announced his identity and refused their offer as he had opted for celibacy. Prostrating before the linga in salutation, he came out of the cave to find dawn breaking. Vijaya greeted him happily having completed the entire worship. Soon he began to rise upwards, greeted by showers of flowers by gods, music and dance by gandharvas and apsaras. Vijaya blessed Barbareek with victory, joy and immortality, advising him to take the crimson ashes from the sacred fire he had lit and to fling it against the enemy in war. It would destroy all foes and ensure his victory. Barbareek, however, refused the gift because the virtuous man performs service without selfish motives. The gods then told him that should the Kauravas obtain these ashes, it would lead to great evil for the Pandavas. Therefore, he ought to collect them. He complied and continued to live there worshipping the goddesses.
Thereafter when the Pandavas went into exile, they arrived at this spot while touring the sacred teerthas. Entering the temple of Chandikaa in the north for resting, they met Barbareek there. Neither knew one another because since his birth they had not met. Parched, Bhima was about to enter the pond when Yudhishthira cautioned him to wash his feet first outside it and then drink, otherwise he would be committing a serious fault. Bhima, unsettled with thirst, paid no heed, walked into the pond and washed himself there. Seeing this Barbareek shouted, “Sinful wretch, you washed yourself in the goddess’ pond! Daily I bathe her with this water and you have dirtied it. Even human beings will not touch such water, what of deities! Come out at once and then drink. If you are such an imbecile how are you visiting sacred teerthas?”
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06/29/2014 22:52 PM
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