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Archive for July, 2008

The Kurukshetra war was on. The most ferocious fighter that day was Karna. He had told his friend Duryodhana that he would defeat the Pandavas, so he was charged and raring to go. The first to arrive in the battlefield was Yudhishtra. Being the chieftain of the Pandava army, Karna decided to tackle Yudhishtra first. 

Fighting with Karna seemed tedious to Yudhishtra who felt he was no match for a good archer like Karna. He fell unconscious when Karna rained a volley of arrows on him.

Lord Krishna was saddened at the turn of events and was also worried as to how he could help the Pandavas. While Karna was waiting to kill the Pandavas Krishna told Arjuna to retaliate and take on Karna while he made arrangements to treat the wounded Yudhishtra. 

Arjuna went to fight with Karna, but his mind wasn’t on the battlefield. He was thinking about his older brother who was wounded. Knowing this, Krishna sent Bheema to fight and brought Arjuna outside the war zone to give him some advice. 

Krishna took Arjuna to the place where Yudhishtra was being treated. Yudhishtra who was in a groggy state saw Arjuna entering the room welcomed him saying “He who has killed Karna I welcome you.” Arjuna was dumbstruck and didn’t reply.

Lord Krishna said “Now that you have uttered that Karna would be killed by Arjuna, it will definitely come true one day.” 

Yudhishtra was very disappointed at the fact that Karna hadn’t been killed yet. He began lamenting that blessed with the Gandiva Arjuna didn’t kill Karna. He asked Arjuna to throw away his Gandiva. 

Arjuna was livid with rage. He was standing quietly by Krishna’s side without talking back to his older brother as a mark of respect, but the minute Yudhishtra spoke ill of his weapon which he had got after years of penance, he could not control his anger. He took his sword out and rushed to kill Yudhishtra. But Krishna rushed forward and snatched it away from him and threw it aside. 

But Arjuna told Krishna “I have made a pledge to kill anyone who talks ill of my weapon, so what do I do now? Wouldn’t I be going against my word?”

So Krishna says “Just vent your anger at him with words rather than kill him.”

So Arjuna takes Krishna’s advice and taunts Yudhishtra. “You couldn’t stand one blow from Karna and we are led by you who are a coward. What will you do if someone stronger than Karna fights you in the battlefield?” Yudhishtra listened to this rant in silence and shed tears.

 Now finished with his ranting, Arjuna took his sword and was about to kill himself when Krishna stepped in again. “Don’t stop me Krishna I have done a heinous crime by talking ill of my elder brother, so it is better I die than live with the thought that I have badly hurt my brother,” said Arjuna.

Now Krishna gives another suggestion. “There is one way. Self-praise is equivalent to suicide. So if you go on talking about yourself and your achievements it will be equal to killing yourself. This way you will have kept your pledge too.” 

So Arjuna begins to talk about how he burnt a huge forest, and fought Indira single handedly. He spoke about fighting Lord Shiva, fought to save Indra from his enemies, et.al, Thus Krishna managed to save Arjuna from killing himself.

 

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Andhakasura

Once sage Kashyapa’s wife Dhiti  was saddened by the fact that each one of her sons died at the hands of Lord Vishnu, whenever he took a new avatar. So she tells her husband to grant her a boon by which she would beget a son who would be immortal.

Sage Kashyapa grants her a boon saying that no one except Lord Shiva will be able to kill him. Thus she begets the son Andhakasura. (meaning one who will act on his own whims) Knowing about his birth, Andhakasura  was proud of the fact that no one can kill him. So he began terrorizing the devas. Scared of Andhakasura, they ran to sage Narada.  They told him that only Lord Vishnu can kill Andhakasura, so please tell your Lord to vanquish him in battle.

But Narada, instead of going to Lord Vishnu, goes to meet Andhakasura on his own. He wears a garland of “Mandhara” flowers and meets Andhakasura, who welcomes him. Andhakasura  was also attracted to the beauty and scent of the flowers and asks Narada where he can find those flowers. Narada whose intention was to lure Andhakasura with those flowers tells him that he could find the flowers in the garden of Lord Vishnu. But the garden is guarded by Shiva’s bodyguards. Nobody can pluck these flowers when they are around, Narada said.

“But I can!” boasted Andhakasura. He then went with a big army and fought with Shiva’s bodyguards. Coming to know of this Shiva sent his Trishul or Trident and killed Andhakasura and thus the garden and devas were saved.

 

 

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The wise farmer

Once there was a farmer who took all the produce from his farm to the weekly shandy. One day after selling all the produce, he bundled all his earnings in a cloth bag and was returning home. A thief was watching the farmer all the while and wondered how he could steal the bag from him. He began following the farmer from a distance. The farmer was walking briskly hoping to reach his village by nightfall. But by the time he had covered half the distance, night fell. He saw a choultry and went there, where he was given a mat and a pillow. There were some others who were sleeping in the choultry. The farmer took his bedding to a corner of the choultry and lay down. In a few minutes the thief also arrived. The farmer noted that the thief had followed him eyeing his money and decided to be watchful.

The thief got his bedding and came to lie down next to the farmer.  Now the farmer was doubly sure that the thief would try and steal his money. When all of them were asleep the thief got up and looked everywhere near the farmer for the bundle of money. He couldn’t find it and he went around the room opening all the bundles in the room and looking inside each bundle. He couldn’t find the money anywhere and lay down disappointed.

At dawn, the farmer picked up his luggage and left. The thief woke up and found the money bag with the farmer. He was surprised and asked the farmer where he had kept his money bag. The farmer said, “I watched you following me from the shandy looking to steal my bag. So when you laid down next to me, I never slept. I was watching you when you went looking at other people’s bags.” 

“So where did you keep your bag?” asked the thief. 

“In a place where you would not look,” said the farmer.

“Where?”

“Under your pillow,” laughed the farmer and went on his way.

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Once the King of Mountains Meru and his wife Menaka were blessed with twins. They were called Bhadran and Neelan. Both turned out to be ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu. Once Bhadran was meditating on the banks of the river Godavari. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Vishnu appears before him as Lord Rama with his consort Sita and brother Lakshmana. He tells Bhadran that the place where he worshipped Him would be known as Bhadrachalam henceforth. He also said that those who worshipped the Lord at this place will be cleansed off their sins. So saying he vanished and reappeared as an ant hill. Bhadran took care of the ant hill which also housed the statues of Rama and Sita.

Meanwhile, in the same town lived a woman by name Pogala Tamakka, who was a staunch devotee of Rama. One day she was searching for her adopted child and reached Bhadragiri where she came upon the ant hill. She looked inside the ant hill and saw that there was a statue of Rama and Sita inside. In her elation on finding her Lord, she fainted. When she came to, she took the statues and also found her adopted child near her.

When she reached home, while sleeping, she saw sage Bhadran in her dream. He told her that a devotee of Rama would arrive at her doorstep and would build a temple for Rama. “Till then worship Rama in the open”, he said. Tamakka also followed the advice of Sage Bhadran and did not build a shrine on her own for Rama.

A few years later, Gopanna, the Tahsildar of the Golconda Nawab Abdul Hassan Shah arrived in Bhadrachalam. Tamakka had a premonition that  Gopanna was the devotee mentioned by the sage in her dreams and she requested him to build a shrine for Rama.

Being a Tahsildar, Gopanna had a lot of tax money which people had given him to be paid to the Nawab. He uses that money to build a temple for Rama. The Nawab on finding that a temple had been built with the tax money, he jailed Gopanna in the Golconda fort.

A few days later, two men visited the Nawab and said that Gopanna had sent them to repay the tax money he had taken. The Nawab was surprised and went to meet Gopanna in jail. When he learnt from Gopanna that the Lord Rama himself had returned the money, he fell at the feet of Gopanna and apologised for his folly. Gopanna in turn fell at the feet of the Nawab saying that he had the good fortune of meeting the Lord in person. From that day he came to be known as Bhakta Ramadas.

 

(Bhadrachalam is a small town in Andhra Pradesh. The temple is in Khammam, en route to Hyderabad from Chennai. The deity here is known as Vaikuntaraman)

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Once there was a man who was very handsome. All his features were very attractive that he attracted a lot of attention from the women folk. He had an interesting job, which was escorting dead people to heaven or hell. He was Yama Dharmaraja or the God of Death.

This was several eons ago, before he had a makeover of sorts from Shiva, who gave him a gory countenance, which would make people shudder to see him.

There is an interesting anecdote behind this.

Long ago when Yama was sent to be the God of Death, he did not render his duties properly. He was flirting with the women in Devaloka and on earth. Nobody was dying on earth and the earth was unable to bear the burden anymore. So Shiva called Yama to Kailash. When he arrived Shiva asked him “Yama, I heard that nobody is scared of you on earth?”

“Yes, my Lord,” he said.

“You also seem to attract women a lot,” he added.

“No, my Lord, it is the women….”Yama said shamefacedly.

Shiva knew that Yama was attracting women due to his good looks and changed his looks with a gory countenance. Then he told Yama to look at his reflection in the pond nearby. When Yama looked in the pond he was shocked beyond belief at the face staring at him from the water. He came running back to Shiva and said “Lord there is a fiery looking character staring at me from the water. He has dark looks, big teeth and big moustache and looks very scary. Who is he?”

Shiva laughed heartily at this and said “It is your own reflection!”

Yama was saddened beyond belief. He asked Shiva “Is there a way to get back my earlier countenance,” he cried.

Shiva just smiled in answer and went back to his penance.

He looked at Shiva for a while and decided there was no point in waiting for his reply.

He went looking for Brahma in Sathyaloka. But Brahma was busy writing something in a palm leaf manuscript. Yama looked at Brahma who had himself lost one head out of his five and thought “What is the point asking him about my plight?” and he left without meeting Brahma.

He goes to meet Vishnu in Vaikunta. But Vishnu was seriously discussing something with wife Lakshmi, so Yama unwilling to disturb them, leaves without meeting Vishnu.

He returns to earth and travels south. He reaches the foothills of a mountain and is attracted by its serenity. He goes on a rigorous penance, to Vishnu. Years rolled by. Pleased by his devotion, Vishnu appears before him. Seeing Vishnu in front of him Yama falls at his feet and respectfully asks “Can you recognize me Oh Lord?”

Vishnu says “I know everything that happened Yama. But it is all of your own doing. If you had not forgotten your duties, this situation wouldn’t have risen.

“Forgive me Lord, You have to help me out of this,” he prayed.

Vishnu felt sorry for Yama’s plight. “I will make your unsightly horns go away. Instead you will have a bull which will be your vehicle from now on,” he said.

Not satisfied with his appearance, Yama said “Can’t you change the appearance of my teeth which look so scary?”

“Yama, when you went to Sathyaloka to meet Brahma, you offended him by not meeting him, so Brahma cursed you to have this gory appearance for life and I am unable to help you,” said Vishnu.

People will get scared by your appearance and it will help in your profession of bringing death.

Convinced that nothing or nobody could change his fate, Yama, accepts his fate and returns to earth. Before that, he asks Vishnu to reside near him in Azhagar Kovil for people to propitiate him. Vishnu agrees and resides there. Lakshmi arrived one day looking for Vishnu and Yama asks her also to reside by the side of Vishnu. She also agrees. This place is known as Kallazhagar temple. Since Vishnu attracts people with his good looks, he is also known as Sunderraja Perumal and the place also came to be known as Azhagar Kovil. It is believed that Yama visits this temple to this day to propitiate Vishnu.

(Azhagar Kovil is near Tiruchirappalli)

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