A page from ancient literature in contemporary context
Mrigank was on a long journey, interesting and educative. With friends and helpers, he continued to travel towards the Vindhya Mountains. While on this voyage, he reached a beautiful place. It was gifted with the beauties of nature and was attractive. It was a forest of unparalleled beauty and charm. It had shaded trees and there they found a huge water lake full of pure, clear, cool and tasty water. They were exhausted and the natural beauties enticed, therefore, they halted and took bath in the lake and ate different kinds of fruit. After the rest, Mrigank had just sat down when he heard many voices from a place overshadowed by many creepers. He got up and peeped though the gaps between the creepers. He was amazed. He saw a huge elephant assuring a blind traveler passing through that jungle. It was a wonderful scene. The elephant would bring water and fruit with his trunk and offer it to the blind man, and then, with a fan he blew fresh air towards the man. The elephant said, “Are you feeling better? Do you feel relief from the heat?”
Mrigank, after observing this unique charisma, said to his friends, “Look at the elephant, an animal of the jungle and whose behaviour a man must follow. Just go there and find out what the real intention is.” Saying this Mrigank concealed himself along with his friends behind the thick grove of creepers and the tiny dense branches of the trees. He listened attentively to whatever transpired between the two.
The elephant said to the blind man, “How did you reach here since you were blind?” The elephant’s sympathy was quite clear.
“In Ayodhya King Amardutt lives. His son Mrigank is a son of noble virtues. I am Prachandshakti, one of his servants. The king got angry due to some reason and so he exiled Mrigank and ten other servants. I am also one of them. With a keen desire to get married to Sashankvaiti, we began the journey towards Ujjayani. On the way, a snake gave a curse and so I was separated. I am blind because of the curse and so I have reached here struggling with obvious barriers, and got fruit-roots to eat and water to drink. I am eager to fall into some deep pitch and die. This will be the best end of a painful life. However, God has not given me death even in this miserable condition. I feel, just you have been kind and have satisfied my hunger; I wish that my sight is cured. I feel you are some god.”
Hearing the exchange of words between the two, Mrigank was filled with joy and sorrow, and told friends with a determined voice, “He is a friend, Prachandshakti. He is in a very wretched condition. To go immediately to him will not be proper for us. It is possible... the great elephant that is looking after a blind man so well will treat his loss of sight. By seeing us, he may not disappear. Alternatively, it is possible he will kill. So, let us see everything while staying hidden.” He suggested against revealing his identity and, therefore, with his servants and friends kept standing there.
Shaktiasked the elephant, “O great mahatma, now tell me, who are you ? How have you attained this yoni ? Even if you are so lighthearted and brave, you have so sweet a voice.”
The elephant was a bit sad. An unhappy past appeared to haunt him. After thinking for a while, he said in melancholic words, “O man, I shall tell you what exactly happened to me.
Once upon a time, there lived a king, Shrutdhar. He had two sons who were born from his two queens. When the king died, the younger prince, Satyadhar, took over the kingdom forcefully and banished the elder brother, Sheeldhar, from the state. As injustice had been done to Sheeldhar, he in resentment and sourness underwent severe tapa and meditated on the great God Sankara. When Sankara was happy with the devotion, Sheeldhar said, “O God, bless me with a boon so that I become a gandharava and kill my brother Satyadhar without mercy while displaying naked expression of defiance.”
“This could have happened. However, your enemy is already dead. You will take rebirth, as a son of King Ugra of Rada estate, named Samarbhatt, a blue-eyed boy of the king. You will also be born as the elder son of the king. You will be named Bheembhatt. You will kill your younger brother and govern the estate.” The elephant continued,” He further told me of a grave error. He said that as I had done tapasya with a feeling of enmity and anger, a monk shall curse me and I will go astray and take birth as an elephant. God told me that I shall remember my previous life and surprisingly, he revealed that I would be able to speak with a human voice. When in the life next, you will relate your story of rebirth to a suffering man, as an elephant, the great God said further that I would get deliverance and become a gandharava. That is how I am here. It is all a reward for what you do.” The elephant looked at the blind man and said, “Shakti, God also told that by doing so I shall also benefit the man whom I treat as a guest.” The elephant was quiet for some time.
After a while, he said, “Saying so the great God disappeared. Sheeldhar found his body weak and frail because of austere tapa and so he, in disgust immersed it in the holy Ganges”.
In the meantime, the king of Rada was living happily and joyfully with Manorama, the queen. One day, Lasak, a dancer from another country, arrived there and presented before the king different kinds of dancing arts and particularly the dance-drama, which attracted him. In the dance drama, the tale of an apsara— nymph, who took away the nectar by enticing the demons, was enacted. In the role of a charming apsara, Lasak enlisted the services of his daughter Lasyavati in the role of Mohini. The divine dancer, who made the demon crazy by her marvellous beauty in the drama, astonishingly captivated the king, and he was filled with love and passions for her. After the drama, he paid sufficient money to Lasak, the dancer, and kept Lasyavati, his daughter, in the palace of queens —Ranivas. Later on, the king married the girl and began his life, totally surrendering his heart and intellect to the beauty of Lasyavati.
The king called up his purohit Yaju and said, “I have no son. You should organize a yajna, which is auspicious for begetting a son.”
Agreeing to make all arrangements, and after having consulted learned brahmins, Yaju organized a great yajna so that the wishes of the king are fulfilled. After the sacred yajna was over, the king gave to the queen a part of the grains, which had been cooked by the holy fire as a sacrificial fuel. The queen was also a woman of great contemplative nature, so he thought to offer the cooked grains to her. The other part of the grain offering was given to Lasyavati. The queens thus, gave birth to Sheeldhar and Satydhar. Manorama’s son was called Sheeldhar, a noble son full of virtues and pious words, and later on, he was called Bheembhatt. So the story continued with immaculate details.
A prophesy about Bheembhatt was that he would be a great king. Next day, Lasyvati also gave birth to a child whom she named as Samarbhatt. Learned pundits solemnized all the religious ceremonies properly relating to the birth of the princes. The princes grew in the palace and got proper education. Bheembhatt was intelligent and wise but the younger prince was not so steady and wise, and there were always points of contention between the two brothers. Samarbhatt did not admire the fact that his elder brother should be so virtuous and appreciated by all. The antagonism between the two took an ugly turn, as they became adults.
Once the princes tried to test their strength of arms and played initially without feelings of distrust or envy. Soon, Samarbhat was filled with bad feelings, and attacked Bheem on the throat out of obstinacy. Bheem become very furious and irritated. He tied up both the arms of Samar and then thrashed him on the ground. Samar was grievously injured and blood oozed out of many wounds. Just then fearing more fierce fight between the two, the attendant-soldiers of Samar took him away. When Lasyavati saw the despondent condition of her injured son, she was deeply hurt. Finding the pains of son Samar unbearable, she began to cry loudly. When she had wept for a long time, the king appeared before her. When asked, she said with a choked voice, “Bheem has injured Samar. He suffers because of him. He always keeps nudging and troubling my son but I never tell you. When I see all this happening, I wonder how you would be safe while a son like Bheem lives. Please think deeply over my words.”
Largely, by resorting to glib and anguished words, she was able to poison the king’s ears. Possibly, as a stepmother she wanted to say so. It was a manipulative tilt in relations. She wanted Samar to be a voice in the kingdom but Bheem’s wisdom and intelligence had already instilled hopes for his future as king. When the beloved said these words, the king, without going into the depths of grievance, stopped meeting Bheem. This surprised everyone as he used to meet Bheem regularly. He arranged toughened up security for Samar, and armoured soldiers guarded the palace where he lived. To add to the miseries of Bheem, the whole of treasury department was put under the control of Samar and all the rights of an elder brother were snatched from him. Mother Manorama was quite perturbed. It was difficult to endure the injustice of the king towards her son. She wanted to express sympathy.
She called Bheem and said, “For the blind love of a dancer, your father has snatched your rightful status that looks quite unreasonable. Samar will now be your strong and bitter enemy, and he will kill you. Therefore, it is better you go to Patliputra, and live with your maternal grandfather. He will give you the kingdom.”
After hearing the words of anxiety of his mother, Bheem said, “I am a kshatriya and shall not leave the country because of his fear. O mother, have patience. Who is the poor fellow who can defeat me?” The words appeared brave and confident. He was not afraid of his younger brother and so he tried to dispel the fears of Manorama. Still worried within, Manorama said, “O son, you take the money from me and appoint suitable soldiers or attendants to protect you.”
“It will not be right. This will create suspicion which father will not appreciate, and so a feeling of antagonism will arise. Your simple blessings will do lot of good to me. So, please do not worry.”
Assuring his mother by his brave and reasonable words, Bheem went away. Slowly, the internal affairs of the state revealed the fissures in the royal family, and people in the capital felt that the king had done incorrect thing or rather, he had been unjustified in depriving the elder prince of his legal place.
They decided that they would not allow the younger son to usurp the share of Bheem. Bheem had served them immensely for so long and now the time to pay back the obligations had arrived, the people thought. Determined to help Bheem they began to help him monetarily, and the acts to assist the prince continued clandestinely. Bheem had so much wealth and other means that he along with his attendants started to live life comfortably. On the other hand, Samar wanted to eliminate Bheem, whatever might be the result. With the support of all the resources of the kingdom and his father’s approval, he thought he was strong enough to eliminate his elder brother who was proving to be big hurdle.
A common friend, Shankhdutt, was a young brahmin. He was brave and courageous and was friendly with both the princes. He was reasonable and wise. One day, he told Samar, “It is not good to increase your enmity with your brother. This is not your dharma. He is the elder. You will not be able to defeat him; on the other hand, these acts will disgrace you.”
Samar did not appreciate his words but he showed disrespect and consequently humiliated Shankh. Therefore, Shankhdutt whispered, “One should not think of the benefits of a stupid man. This makes a fool angry.” When he found that words of sagacity had no meaning for Samar, Shankhdutt, a man of endurance and patience, went to Bheem to show his feelings of loyalty and friendship.
In an interesting turn of events, a businessperson from another country arrived there. He had one of the finest horses. This horse was as silvery as the moon and his voice was like the sound of a conch. Decorated appropriately with gold and correct type of saddle, it appeared wonderful. It attracted the attention of everyone, for it had costly ornaments adding beauty to the horse. The horse was swift and knew the commands of the owner.
On the request of Shankhdutt, Bheem paid sufficient money and purchased the horse. When Samar came to know of this, he immediately doubled the amount and asked the owner to sell the horse. The horse had already been sold, he was told so. Samar felt not only offended and annoyed but he decided to take the horse forcibly. Now, both the princes were ready to fight. They took up weapons and were engaged in a fierce battle. The attendants on either side began to run about. Bheem thrashed Samar so severely that he was compelled to leave the horse and run away, for the beatings had been quite brutal. Shankh ran after him, caught Samar by the hair, dragged and then started pounding him. At that time, Bheem reached and said, “Stop it. Leave him. If we kill, it will hurt father.” Hearing the request of the prince, he released him. Totally low-spirited, Samar ran away from the field and took shelter at the king’s palace. This was expected and was enough to exasperate and prejudice his father who had already been not very happy with Bheem.
No doubt, Bheem got the wonderful horse. Precisely, at that moment, a brahmin came to him and taking him to a lonely place, said, “Ma Manorama, Yaju, purohit and a minister Sumati, the wise persons have told that the result of this fight would not be favourable. O prince, after this incident, your father will be more infuriated and may nurse enmity. They have asked me to convey this to you.” For a moment, Bheem was shocked to hear those words. For no ostensible reason, he was made a scapegoat. For such conspiracies and inner struggles to usurp the kingdom, take place in all royal families he understood. He started ruminating.
The brahmin once again said, “O prince they told me, if you wish to save your dharma, honour and life, and if you wish to protect your future, you should listen to us. Further, if you think us as benefactors, then before the sunset you should depart for an unknown destination obviously keeping it a secret, you should go to the land and country of your maternal grandfather.” He was quiet for some time.
The faithful messenger handed over a big vessel to him and said, “While conveying these sentiments, they gave me this huge pot full of precious jewels, pearls and gold. Kindly accept it.” Bheem heard the brahmin. He agreed with the advice given by his mother and others. He said, “All right, I shall do so.” So saying he accepted with gratitude the precious vessel his mother had sent, and saying a few words of message, he sent back the messenger. Then, with a sword in hand, he mounted his horse. Shankh mounted another horse with jewels and gold and then well-equipped they set out to another country. They had covered a long distance when at night they reached a forest of tall wild grass whose leaves are used for roofing.
In the midst of the grass, they continued to tread further and thus, noisy echoes of the horse’s hoofs awakened the lions of the jungle. The fierce lions of the jungle roared loudly, attacked the horses and horse riders, and in a moment tore apart the stomachs of the horses. The brave Bheem immediately took out his sword and killed the lions. They then, mounted the horses but he soon observed that the horses were badly mauled and therefore, very soon they collapsed.
This incident created genuine difficulties for both the friends, for their lives was in danger, they knew. Bheem was much distressed and so after a thought he said to Shankh, “O friend, our own people are our enemies and from them we are running away. Where can we run from the all-pervasive eyes of the great God who writes our destiny and is the arbiter? Please explain. Tell me, where do we go? Can we run away from the ubiquitous God? The great God cannot tolerate that we should have horses. That horse is also dead for which there was a fight and I have had to leave the country. How are we to move in the terrible forest when there is darkness?”
Shankh listened to him guardedly and then opined, “It is not a new matter that the Almighty is winning from the men. However, by patience and fortitude, we can even win Him. It is only patience, which will stand us by. As a strong and fierce wind and storm cannot harm a mountain, similarly a sense of extreme patience can protect us from dangers, for it affords sufficient time to think over and decide. Please come and display patience. Then, cautiously let us proceed.”
Even so, it was a matter of assuring the self. The horses had already collapsed. When Shankh had finished saying those great words, Bheem followed and began to walk ahead of him. Slowly they crossed the jungle. There was no darkness, and somehow the night of sufferings was over.
In the morning, the sunrise instilled life, and spread light and hopes. There was the divine music of nature. Birds began to chirp, and the clear water of the lakes and rivers dazzled the eyes. Enchanting, tuneful and rhythmic melodic notes were floating around. They experienced a distinctive freshness. There was new life bereft of earlier miseries and fatal hurdles. Nature and it objects, the birds and flowers were feeling proud of the great prince after he had crossed the jungle of lions and other wild beasts.
If the night’s journey was arduous and uncertain and if it was an escape to a life of hopes, Bheem was adequately rewarded excepting for a few losses. In the bright sunshine, they reached the bank of River Ganges. There were many consecrated places, where one could pray, do tapa or meditation. The friends took bath in the cool and clear waters of the Ganges. It appeared so soothing and refreshing. They were delighted and forgot what had happened. After taking rest, they resumed their journey. On the way, they met a meat-seller from whom they purchased the roasted meat of a stag and satisfied their hunger. The Holy Ganges at that time was flooded and so to cross it by swimming was not possible. The strong waves of the river appeared daunting, forbidding any probable swimmer from taking a perilous plunge. Now that it was difficult to swim across, they began to walk along the riverbank and resisted from taking a plunge into the violent waters. While walking, they came across a brahmin. Sitting in the courtyard, he was occupied in the study of religious books.
Bheem stood for a few moments, thought and then approached the brahmin. Going to him, he said, “O brahmin, who are you and what are you doing in this lonely place?”
“O young man, I am a citizen of Banaras. I am the son of Srikanth, a brahmin, and I am Neelkanth. My father had performed all the religious ceremonies and afterwards, I went to gurukul for getting higher education. After completing my studies, when I returned I found all my relations had died. I realized I was an orphan whose life had become meaningless. I also knew I had been deprived of a life of comforts of a family. I was distressed and felt disillusioned and so decided to come here, and took to the life of tapa”
After a pause, he resumed, “While I was living here, the holy Ganges appeared in a dream and I had her darshana, which fulfilled me. In the dream, she told me to stay on and whatever fruit I got from Ganges, I should eat and satisfy my thirst and hunger. I was told to stay here until I get the much-desired fruit. In the morning, I was disturbed from the sleep; I arrived on the riverbank, took holy bath and got fruit flowing in the clear waters. I brought those fruits home and sitting quietly and contentedly, I had my fill. I found the fruit tasted like nectar. After that, I again went to the riverbank, took big bath, and became fresh, prayed daily without a break and I had my fruit, which I took home, and so life went on. Therefore, I am living here.”
After hearing the words of the brahmin, Bheem told Shankh, “He is a man of qualities. I shall give him sufficient money so that he is able to start a family life. He should get married and so be happy.” He gave him the money he had received from his mother Manorama. The Brahmin was extremely happy to get an unexpected premium to live a happy life in future. After satisfying the brahmin, they continued to roam about on the bank but could not find a way to cross the river. When desperate, Bheem tied up the sword on the head and along with Shankh plunged into the flooded river.
In the middle of the river, Shankh was carried away because of the swift and roaring currents, and after sometime, he was no more visible. After struggling with the raging waves for a long time, Bheem somehow reached the other shore of the angry river. When he touched the other bank, he stood up and looked around but could not find Shankh anywhere, so he went in search of him. It took him a whole day but he failed to find his friend. He was disappointed. Now, loneliness made him frantic and he suffered deeply. He was so upset that in painful lamentation, he resolved to jump into the river and finish his life.
Before he could take the drastic and perishing plunge, the holy Ganges suddenly appeared in the middle of the waters. She spoke with a motherly affection it appeared, “O son, do not act foolishly. Your friend is alive. You should get appropriate initiation into a particular knowledge, which I shall impart. By getting this secret knowledge, a man can become invisible; whenever he desires, and this can him help a lot. When you pray with a devoted heart and do study of pratiloma—the other side of the secret vidya—knowledge, you are only visible to such a person whom you love and desire. Thus, the sacred and secret knowledge (vidya) of anuloma—to become invisible, and of pratiloma—to become invisible, are necessary. It is an influential vidya of seven letters. I tell you, you will be the king of this earth by its impact.” After saying these words and soon imparting the desired secret vidya to him, she disappeared. It was quite a strange phenomenon but such amazing things had happened earlier in his life. He was pleased and definitely, felt fulfilled when he had the darshana of holy Ganges, which inspired him to live life meaningfully.
He was the specially chosen person, to whom holy Ganges had given unique knowledge. That made him proud of himself. Now, he was quite confident that he would soon find his lost friend and now with a buoyant temper and excitement, he abandoned the idea of finishing his life. In the hope of finding his lost friend, he spent the night somehow on the bank of river against all odds, and in the morning, he again embarked upon the search operation. The journey was long and futile. He could not find Shankh. However, he was not disheartened. This search took him to another country Laat, situated in Gujarat. He observed that the people of that country, were bright and fresh in attire and were quite expert in the many arts like painting, dancing, music and sculpture. He moved about in the bazaar of the country and tried to locate a place, a kind of rest house — sarai or dharmsala.
While looking out for a resting place, he reached a gambling place. There were many gamblers playing different games. There was merely a piece of cloth on their bodies but they were unmindful of this. Their sole aim was to play games and making easy money. They appeared to belong to rich families, seeking pleasures of life in abundance. Bheem was attracted for a while. He sat there and first observed the players and later on could not resist the enticement. Therefore, he began to play. The local gamblers, for a while, had the impression that the new man was quite a novice and so in fraction of minute they would make him bankrupt. They thought they would soon reduce him to a pauper after winning all the money he had and later on, they would claim the costly ornaments he was bearing on his body. Bheem played with them and won the money the gamblers had. After losing the games, the locals were quite sad and disappointed and now, were ready to go to their respective places. Bheem stood on the threshold, stopped them by spreading his strong arms wide, and said, “Where are you going? Take back the money you have lost. What have I to do with this? I often distribute the money among good friends. Are you not my good friends? I say you are the best friends I have. It is such a nice place. Where do I get such noble, strong and dear friends?”
The gamblers were obviously reluctant. It surprised them. This had never happened before. No one winning in the gambling house, ever returned the money? However, this man, who was a stranger to the town had entered the gambling place, talked, played and then, made them penniless, and now after they had lost everything, he was generous enough in returning the money. They were surprised at the generosity of the man they had met for the first time but decided to take back the money they had lost in the game. When the dithering within was over, they hesitantly took the money. One of the gamblers said, “It is a game. The rules of the game are simple. Once you have lost, it is gone and to return the money is not proper. I mean, once you have lost, it cannot be regained. Now, if you are giving back the money, why should not we take it back?”
There were a few more arguments. However, the temptation to get back the lost money stayed; howsoever stern may be the rules of the game. In this case, it was different. The man, who had won, was now returning the amount. An inner struggle continued but soon another man said, “There is something not very good. We have lost.”
“There is no harm. I am a friend. Why should I have your money? It is all right. I want to give it back. There should not be any hesitancy. You are all good friends.”
“O, it is very nice of you. Now, we are all friends. In future, we shall all help one another.”
“If you have anything, you can ask. We shall do your work as friends.”
Bheem observed that all the gamblers were otherwise quite simple and honest. There appeared very brave and strong. He returned their money and so they were his friends. Now, it was the turn of those brave friends. They requested him to accompany them. So he went with them, talked, felt happy, took food and wandered about with the new friends. When they asked him about his past, he related to them the entire sequence of events. He also revealed how his younger brother had conspired to murder and how he had escaped. He then said that Samar had usurped the kingdom.
Touched by the unhappy past of Bheem, one of the friends, Akshkshyapanak (Aksh), told him, “Hastinapur is a famous kingdom, you know. Long back, a very wealthy brahmin Shivdutt lived there. I am his son and my name is Vasu. In childhood, I studied the Vedas and became a learned man, if you say so. I also learnt the art of using weapons, astra and sastra, and at the right age, my father solemnized my marriage. My mother was not a woman of sweet nature. She possessed a bad temper and on the slightest pretext got angry. Her extreme annoyance and unpleasant behaviour caused tensions in the family. She did not endeavour to remain happy and so we had to live on amidst anger, quarrels and fights in the family for not any valid reason. As a mother-in-law, she was a terror. We were terribly upset. She often tortured, and particularly my wife, a new person in the house, was the butt of criticism, rebukes and abuses. My mother even did not deter from inflicting injuries. I could no longer withstand constant irritations and tormenting words. My father did try to intercede but he failed. He was very perturbed but could not find a way out. One day, without telling anyone, he left the house. Now, I was more afraid of mother and I advised my wife to keep the old woman in good humour and endure whatever she could, in the interest of peace at home. I had already decided not to come into conflict with the petulant woman, my mother.”
For a couple of minutes, Aksh observed silence. He was trying to console while Bheem found wrinkles of sadness and pain on his face. Before he could say a few words of consolation, Aksh resumed, “My wife never said anything. She never opposed nor agreed but continued to do whatever mother wanted but the old woman was never satisfied. It had become difficult to live in the house. Despite sincere efforts, the old woman kept the flame of anger alive to burn us. I was unable to stop. Quite for some time, my wife continued to tolerate her peevishness and offensive behaviour but when it became unbearable, she ran away. I made frenetic searches around but failed. Living had become a nightmare and fed up with incessant tortures, I resolved to run away. One day, totally distraught and pained, I left the house but a few inimical relatives caught hold of me and forcibly got me married to another woman. Destiny was playing its cruel role.”
“This woman could not endure the nasty attitude of my mother, and one day she committed suicide. This was the end of my staying power. I was disappointed. I had again decided to escape but then again, those close relations stood in the way. This time, I was determined to go. When they persisted, I told them everything that had been happening in the house. I told how mother had been cruel, abusive and arrogant. Even my father had left the house. She was a bad woman, I said, and it was not possible to live in the house when she was there. They did not believe me. I made a puppet of wood and sermonized marriage with this dead wood to prove my point. I placed this wooden dummy after dressing it up with beautiful clothes; I decorated it with jewels and gold and gave her the shape of a perfect bride. Anyone could be easily be fooled with the camouflage. I installed the wooden bride in the room and put a lock on the door. I also asked a female attendant to stand guard. After I had done then I told the old woman, “I have brought a new bride. She will stay alone. Neither will you speak to her nor will you ever try to talk to my new wife. Yes, I wanted to tell the people. I was doubtful about the entire thing but still I had hopes that people would come to know about the real nature of my mother.”
Aksh was silent. After a thought, he had said, “My mother could not see the new bride despite efforts. To talk to her was out of question. I could see that she was not very happy. There was something going on. One day, my mother hit her head with a stone and began to scream mournfully and loudly. Her head was bleeding. Hearing painful cries of my mother, I reached there along with some relatives and asked, “What is the matter?”
“What kind of a daughter-in-law is she? Without reason, she is behaving like this. Now, I shall get rid of her after death.”
My relatives were quite angry, as they did not approve the conduct of my wife who had not come out even after hearing the painful cries of the old woman. They went to the room where I had kept a wooden bride under lock and key. They unlocked the door and found a perfect picture of a comic situation. They felt they had been fooled but it was quite ironical, and they laughed and laughed. There was no bride and the old woman’s tantrums were revealed. They also tried to understand the trick I had played. Now, they related past incidents with the present and could very well imagine the situation. She was responsible for the death of two innocent women. Because of her, my father, a very noble and decent man, had left the house. After that, I left the house and reached here. It is the destiny, and a man is just a puppet. When I came here, the gambling den was the place I entered. There I found five friends who were gambling. I found that all the five were quite apt and quick. They were brave and generous. They were good and virtuous. No doubt, they were gamblers but I found they were quite fine young men. I also played a game. It was agreed if I lost; I would become a slave and serve them. I played and won. All the five brave men became my slaves. However, I have told you about the qualities they nurse. In fact, as years passed, I became their slave because of the virtues they nurse and live with. They are such wonderful people.”
Bheemwas impressed and engrossed in the life story of a fine person. He told Bheem again, “I have forgotten all the sufferings of the past while living with them. They are very nice. I am a gambler. The five of them belong to decent families and high pedigree but they hide everything. They do not wish to reveal the families’ history. We are happy that you came here. Now, you are the lord, an arbiter. You are generous and kind, that is why you returned whatever you won. Not only that, you also gave back the money after requests I know. It is great. Henceforth, we shall obey you.”
Aksh, after relating the unfortunate incidents of his life and the loneliness he had suffered, was silent for some time. All the five friends now were encouraged to relate the incidents of their past. There were no untruths, no ornamentations and no exaggerations. Those were unpleasant facts. It was with great efforts that they had been able to conceal their identity. Now, he realized that they were honest and fearless, and so accepted them as his friends. They spent a lot of time together and so the day was over at sunset. In the east as the moon spread its silvery rays around with a subtle coolness, they felt refreshed and returned home along with Bheem who did not object or resist, for he also needed a suitable shelter.
After a proper understanding, they began to live together. As days rolled on, a kind of warmth deepened among the friends. Now, it was the rainy season. The appearance of dark clouds in the sky, stirred his imagination and he was filled with inexplicable joy. The dense dark clouds indicated that some good news was in store for them. The intensity of torrential rains was unprecedented. The rivers around appeared flooded and unrestrained and at times, these rivers were taking the water out of the sea and were flowing angrily towards the north. Everything appeared so fantastic, and imagination carried them far off. The river broke the banks and began to inundate the plains. It was awful but seemed beautiful. After sometime, it was calm and quiet. The water around was flowing calmly, the clouds were slowly disappearing from the sky and the bright blueness looked enchanting.
Now, the scenario was eye-catching. Suddenly, people observed a huge fish on the bank of the river after the flood had subsided. They took up various deadly weapons and ran towards the huge fish, which appeared quite awesome, and immediately they gored asunder its large abdomen. As they cut up the belly, a young brahmin came out from inside it. When the people witnessed the miracle, there was a lot of noise and out of curiosity, the crowd swelled. When the five friends and Bheem heard about the strange occurrence at the riverbank, they also reached the place where the people had gathered. When Bheem looked at the young brahmin who had come out of the vast stomach of the fish, he recognized him. He was none other than his old friend Shankhdutt. He ran towards the friend and embraced him tightly while the joyful tears in thin streams rolled on to the opened portion of the fish, washing it, as if it were the layers of filth sticking inside the body of the fish. Shankh was immensely happy to meet Bheem and it was a great festival for them. When Bheem asked what had happened to him and where he had suddenly gone, Shankh told him everything.
“When trying to cross the river, I was washed away by the strong currents of the river and then I could not see you. As I was floating along the terrible currents, a large fish devoured me. Inside the abdomen of the huge fish, I found there was sufficient space for me to move about. I was praying for my release from the great tunnel but it was just a hope. I began to cut off pieces of meat from inside and satisfied my hunger. I wonder if the fish had any sensation of the injury I was inflicting. Today, I was fortunate as the fish was thrown out and the people torn asunder the huge fish. After many days, I have seen the sunshine. That is the little story of days spent on the strong currents and then inside the belly of a fish.” He looked at Bheem and gave an ironical but satisfying smile. The people gathered there were stunned. One of them said, “Every event looks so wonderful. First, a large fish devoured the young man. Afterwards, strong currents of the river Ganges created fears. Again, the drifting of the fish into Vipasha appears so unbelievable. Then, the huge flood threw the huge fish on the bank of the river and then it was cut apart. Moreover, lo, a young brahmin is out of the stomach. It is amazing! One cannot fathom the mysterious ways of the Almighty. It is a great wonder.”
Everyone heard the man saying so clearly. The words were convincing and there were glimpses of faith appearing in the eyes of people. After intimate talks about the past and the present, they came to the place where he lived with other friends. While living in that country, the day of a great festival arrived. It was related to the journey of the king of snakes, Vasuki. Bheem also went to witness the grandeur of this great journey. At the temple of the king of snakes, there was a huge crowd. Everyone was paying respects to the statue of the snake. Ringing of bells, offering of garlands and flower petals and other things with incantation of mantras and singing of holy and devotional songs, enhanced the divine glory of the temple. It also soothed the agonized hearts of many.
All the people offered prayers with full devotion and sincere spirits. The entire temple had engravings of the snakes and had statues of different kinds of snakes around with paintings and other connected insignias. Bheem and friends wondered if they had arrived in the land of snakes, the underworld. After emerging from the temple, they went to the right side where they saw a huge pond. Many lotus flowers were growing in it and there was an unusual light that the flowers spread around which attracted and stunned every onlooker.
The natural environment there indicated the existence of snakes in all their benevolence texture. It appeared that they were spreading a message of goodwill and peace. Everything had the sublime influence of the snakes. This festival was distinctive, he observed. It appeared that the huge trees around were in a worshipping posture. It was the faith of people and nature. His observed the pond and he felt it was greater than the sea. His imagination was soaring higher and higher. While he was lost in thoughts of life and the dreads of hopes and glory, he saw a girl coming to take bath in the holy pond. He came to know soon that she was the daughter of the king of Laat, Chandraditya. The princess looked stunningly beautiful. Each limb and part of the girl appeared as if she were from the divine land of gods. She was as tender as a flower and the entire body appeared to move around in ecstasy. She appeared to him an embodiment of immense beauty. Her waist could be measured with a hand. In truth, he was enamored of the beauty and elegance of the girl. It seemed to him that he was in love with the girl for a long time and she, the beautiful princess, also appeared to have fallen in love.
If Bheem was genuinely in love with the princess named Hansamati, she was equally captivated by the fabulous looks of the person, who appeared dashing, brave and handsome. She, through a secret female spy, found out the antecedents of Bheem. She knew about his name and place of living. After taking bath she, along with the members of the family, came out of the pond and took the path to the palace. Just then, she looked at him and continued to gaze at him with awe and intense love, which was yet to find expression. On the other hand, pierced by the darts of love and passion, Bheem also went back to his place with uncertain steps. However, it appeared the princess was more infatuated. She was unable to withstand Bheem’s absence.
Princess Hansawali, reaching the palace, immediately sent a shrewd female envoy to Bheem with a desired message. The envoy met Bheem all alone and said, “O Dev, princess Hansawali loves you.” When the flood of passions and love drifts the beloved away, it is not correct to stay out and become a neutral person. Getting the much-desired message from the smart emissary, Bheem got a second life, as it were.
With an expression of immense love and ecstasy, he said, “Is she unaware that I am not alone and I live each minute in her heart. I drifted away by the same flood of love and passion. Whatever she says, I will do. There, I shall get the real fulcrum of life. I shall come to her palace at night and pay respects to her. I have a secret knowledge with the power of which I can disappear and appear whenever I wish. Therefore, nobody will be able to see me. I want that she should not fear. Love is so intense and deep that I cannot bear separation. You may tell this to her frankly.”
After hearing the loving and passionate sentiments of Bheem, the female envoy left for the royal palace and told the princess about the depth of love and passion that Bheem nursed for her. She felt relieved and now began to wait for a meeting of fulfillment eagerly. Bheem put on his divine clothes and after using the power of anuloma, that he had got from Ganges to become invisible, he reached the palace of the princess. The princess was all alone in the room. To enhance the love, warmth and passion, there were five types of flowers emitting fragrance in the room. It was an invitation to Kamadeva to overwhelm and conquer. The wonderful room was fully decorated and appeared magically fit to excite feelings of love. It appeared to be a garden of the lord of passion and love. When Bheem observed everything minutely, he invoked the power of the knowledge and appeared in flesh and blood before the excited and love-stricken princess. She was full of thrill and romance, and the moment she saw Bheem, with extreme nervousness she trembled, and the ornaments she wore began to stir creating unique musical sounds, both captivating and stimulating. She felt she was dancing within. She was extremely shy and could not face Bheembhatt directly, and as she bowed her head, it appeared she was touching her heart as if to ask in fear, “Oh, he has come, standing in front of me. What should I do and say to him? I cannot utter a word. I feel bashful.”
“O innocent girl, whatever you feel in the heart is out in the open. Why should you hide? I know what you feel and say. Why do you conceal? In spite of the efforts, you are unable to hide. Your weakening body and romantic flow of passions, and those uncertain breathings tell the tale of love you nurse so vividly.”
Those soft and appropriate words affected Hansawali and slowly the initial hesitation disappeared. He made Hansawali his wife by a gandharava system of marriage. He spent the night with her and continued to adore the beloved warmly. He made love to her and later as the morning dawned, he told her lovingly, “O dear, I shall come at night.” It was with great difficulty that he could leave her; for the feeling of love did not permit him to go away from the princess even for a moment.
In the morning, when he was gone, she got up as if after a return from a different world of pleasure and delight. The female attendants and slaves found on the body of princess Hansawali signs of intense lovemaking. Her hair was disheveled and told clearly of fondling of beautiful dark hair. There were visible signs of teeth and nails on the soft and marble-like body of the princess, which exhibited the intensity of furious lovemaking. Looking naughty and questioning, they went to the king and related to him whatever had taken place. The king listened to them silently, did not react, thought for a long time and then nodded for the female attendants to go away.
Later on, after deep deliberations, he put spies on guard and asked them to find out the truth. On the other hand, Bheembhatt spent the day cheerfully with his friends but at night, with the invoking of secret knowledge, he turned invisible and reached the palace of the princess as promised. The spies guarding the palace could not see him but observing the grand room of the princess, they guessed, it must be someone belonging to the category of those who had attained knowledge, which they get after lot of meditation and realization. Whosoever he was, he had the power to transform himself from the visible to the invisible and so on.
It was difficult to catch hold of such a person. They did not hide anything from the king and told about the happenings in the palace of the princess and the visit of someone invisible. He could not be a man entering the palace, as he was invisible, and so he was a man from another world, he conjectured but could not arrive at any conclusion correctly.
Then he said, “Go and produce him before me. Let me see what exactly the matter is.” After a short while, he added, “Be careful that you speak to him with humility and then, tell him about the order I gave.”
They dispersed and again they began to guard the palace of the princess. As they had only an inkling of somebody entering the room of the princess, one of them stood at the door and said, “O great soul, the great king wishes to see you. I humbly pray. Please come along with us.”
Bheembhat felt that the king had come to know about his secret visit to the princess at night and so without doubts or hesitation, he said patiently, “O noblemen, you kindly inform the great and honourable king, it is still dark and night is not yet over. In the morning, I shall appear before him in the court and divulge the truth.” They went back and intimated to the king of the development. king kept silent.
In the morning, Bheem returned to the friends and dressed up differently, and with all of them appeared at the court of King Chandraditya. The king greeted him gracefully in a royal way when he observed the brightness, courage, valour and beauty, and asked him to sit in a grandly prepared place along with his friends. When formalities were over, Shankhdutt said courteously, “O king, he is prince Bheembhatt, son of the king of Rada. He has gained knowledge, which defies rationale, and because of this secret vidya, none can stop his vigour, energy and clandestine power imbued with divinity. He has come here to ask for the hand of your daughter.”
The king recalled the incidents of the night and of the consequent marriage of the princess, and then thought of the suitability of Bheembhatt. He found he was quite appropriate as a husband for his elegant and beautiful princess.
He said with pleasure, “Oh, I feel gratified.” He believed whatever Shankh had told him. Then without further delay, he arranged for his daughter’s marriage with immense regal grandeur and magnificence. Bheem received many elephants, horses and villages as gifts from the king and so he began his married life with the beautiful Hansawali. After some time, the old king of Laat, the father of Hansawali, handed over the entire kingdom to him and proceeded to the forest to spend the remaining years in tapa and meditation.
It was a great favour, which was in truth the reward of his truth and sincerity. After the king had left, Bheem ruled the state of Laat. Seven brave friends including Shankhdutt stood by him to advise and assist him faithfully. They knew he was loyal, generous and kind-hearted. Once, the spies informed him that his father had come to Prayag and there he had died. Before death, he had enthroned Samar, the son of dancer Lasyavati and that he was now governing a vast state. Bheem was extremely sorrowful at the death of his father. He, as was expected from a son, performed the religious ceremonies on the death of his father and sent a message to his brother Samarbhatt. He raised questions about Samar’s capabilities and wisdom in becoming the king, a son of a mere dancer. He further added that he was alive and running the affairs of the state of Laat. He, in anger, also advised him to abdicate the throne. He sent a letter with a seal and ensured that it was delivered to him.
On reaching the capital of Rada, the messenger immediately handed over the message to Samar. Samar was extremely irritated and enraged after getting a signed letter that challenged his legitimacy. He thought over every aspect of the letter and its consequences, and deliberated on the intentions of the letter sent after years. Clearly, Bheem wanted to rule over his kingdom and had now asserted his authority. He did not want it happen. He had prolonged consultations with his ministers and other counselors.
He said angrily, “O wise men! just see his impudence! He was unfit and foolish. He is not a brave man. Because my father had not found a suitable heir in him, he was exiled and thrown out of the kingdom. He had become a threat even to the life of the king. My father, the great king, had taken the right decision. Bheem is a conspiring man and has evil eyes on the prosperous nation. Now, that he has sent this letter, it is evident and quite natural, I understand. Everyone is a lion, so long as he lives in his secure home. The moment he comes out and confronts a real lion, he withdraws out of fears and death.” He roared in rage and hostility. He made it clear that in no case, was he ready to relent. He wrote a letter to Bheembhatt and dispatched a special envoy to the state of Laat.
On receiving the letter from Samar, Bheem was mildly angry after a minister read out the letter to him.
He laughed ironically and said to the man of Samar, “O envoy, go and tell that son of a dancer that when he had wanted to snatch a horse from me, it was Shankhdutt who had saved him from me. That he is younger to me, and very dear to father does not mean that I shall at all times, forgive him. Now, I am determined to throw him out and if the need arises, I shall kill him. I shall reach him anytime.”
Now, in the mood to teach a lesson to his younger brother, he made the necessary preparations.
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