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Rishyashringa

Once there was a hermit by name Vibhandaka. He had a son by name Rishyashringa, who had two small deer horns on his head. Vibhandaka wanted his son to learn the Vedas and be a Bhramachari. So he raised him without meeting anyone from the opposite sex.
Meanwhile, Romapada, was a king who was ruling over the kingdom of Anga. For a long time there was no rain in his kingdom. So he called a meeting of all the sages in his kingdom and asked for suggestions from them to bring in rain. Some of them suggested that he bring the son of Vibhandaka, who was a brahmachari to conduct a yagna in the kingdom, which could bring rain.
The overjoyed king told them to go and bring the boy. The sages then told him that Vibhandaka did not allow the boy to get out of the Ashram and that the king should send dancers to lure him out and bring him to the kingdom. The king then called a few of his celebrated dancers and briefed them on their job of bringing Rishyashringa to the kingdom of Anga.
The dancers at the bidding of the king reached the Ashram of Vibhandaka and planted themselves behind some bushes waiting for the father to leave the ashram. Soon Vibhandaka left the ashram and one of the dancers began to sing. Soon the others began to dance and come out from behind the trees. Hearing the sweet music, Rishyashringa was stunned to see some beauties singing and dancing outside his ashram. He had heard from his father about the nymphs in heaven but he had not seen anyone in flesh and blood. He invited them inside the ashram and fed them fruits and listened to their music. Soon Vibhandaka was heard arriving and the guests left abruptly.
Rishyashringa could not get the women out of his thoughts and he did not tell his father about their arrival either. The next day when the hermit left the dancers arrived and Rishyashringa was treated to more singing and dancing. When they were about to leave, he pleaded with them to take him along with them. This was the moment the dancers were waiting for. They took Rishyashringa along with them and the king performed the yagna with his help. The kingdom got rains soon and the king invited Vibhandaka and told him what had happened. He asked for forgiveness for his deed. Vibhandaka too realized his folly of raising his son this way going against the laws of nature.

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The famed Guru of the Pandavas- Dronacharya was the son of the hermit Bharadwaj. Once when he heard that Parasurama was giving away wealth and places he had taken from the Kshatriyas, Drona too went to meet him. At that time only weapons were left with Parasurama who had already given away the rest of the loot. Parasurama not only gifted the weapons to Drona but also taught him the art of weaponry and how to use them. This helped Drona in later years when he became the guru of the Kauravas and Pandavas.
Once Drona went to meet King Drupada who was his classmate and good friend. But King Drupada refused to accept a poor man as his friend and insulted him. Drona had visited Drupada with the intention of spreading his knowledge with the next generation and thought his friend would help him in this endeavour and together they could make a difference in the lives of youngsters. But that was not to be. Saddened by this, Drona returned to Krupacharya along with his wife (Krupacharya’s sister) and son Ashwathama.
Hearing about Drona’s prowess with weapons Bheeshma approached Drona to teach the Pandavas and Kauravas. Though Drona taught the Pandavas and Kauravas, he showed special interest in Ashwathama and trained him to be a good archer. Arjuna noticed this and wanted to be the supreme disciple of Drona. One day while having food in the dark as the lights went out, Arjuna wondered that when one could so easily eat in the dark the same way one could practice archery in the dark. This paved way for him to practice archery even in the dark and with his hardwork and became the most skilled archer. Thus he became the special pupil of Drona. So in the end when they were passing out of Drona’s
school, as gurudakshina (fees) Drona demanded that Arjuna defeat King Drupada and bring him before Drona. Arjuna defeated and brought King Drupada before Drona. Drona told Drupada “You said you would be friends only with a king. Now that I have your kingdom in my hands I am a king too, would you care to be friends with me now?” Duly insulted Drupada returned to his kingdom. He wanted to avenge this insult so he began propitiating Lord Agni through a yagna. Pleased with his devotion, Lord Agni presents him with a son Drishtadyumna.
When the Mahabharata war commenced, Drona led the Kaurava army. He proclaimed that he would not kill Drupada or Dhrishtadyumna who were on the Pandava side. However, with his different skills in warfare, Drona used the chakravyuh and the Padmavyuh and other tricks to defeat the Pandava army. Seeing that Drona was using trickery to quell the pandavas, the hermits went and told him not to use trickery and that he should return with them from the battlefield.
Meanwhile, Krishna thought that until Ashwathama was in the battlefield things will not go right for the Pandavas. So he asked Bheema to kill Ashwathama. He also asked Yudhishtra to shout “Ashwathama has been killed” . Hearing that his son had been killed, Drona dropped his weapons. Seizing this moment Dhrishtadyumna killed Drona.
This story is teaches one that anger led to the downfall of a friendship. If Drona had let bygones be bygones Drupada would have not killed Drona, who chose anger over love.

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Devadutta and Dhananjaya were brothers who lived in the city of Kashi. Devadutta led a prosperous life, whereas Dhananjaya lived in poverty. One day Dhananjaya was sitting in one of the chawls. He was very hungry but couldn’t find food to eat. He lay down thinking what was the harm he had done in his previous birth to invite the penury he was suffering now. Soon he drifted of to sleep without having a morsel to eat.
In his dream arrived a hermit who spoke to him. “Dhananjaya, in the days of yore there lived a king by name Shatrumardhan. He had a close friend by name Heramba. Once both of them went on a hunting trip and lost their way. The were very hungry but couldn’t find a morsel to eat. A hermit who found them roaming took them to his hermitage and fed them with gruel made of rice flour. Shatrumardhan found the gruel delicious and ate heartily. Heramban on the other hand did not relish the gruel. He had a few mouthfuls and threw the rest away.
Due to this folly of his he was reborn as Dhananjaya and lives in penury. But Shatrumardhan was born as your brother Devadutta and lives a life of luxury. If you want to get rid of your poverty you should propitiate Goddess Annapurani,” said the hermit.
Waking up from the dream Dhananjaya decided to propitiate the Goddess and went around asking priests how to perform the rituals for this. But he could not find anyone who could correctly initiate him to perform the rituals. He went up till Kamarup in Assam to find out more about these rituals. But still he could not find any knowledgeable person to teach him. Deciding to end his life he jumped into a dark well. But suddenly he found himself surrounded by a bright glow and he began walking towards the light. He found himself on the banks of a beautiful lake where a lovely lady sat watching a man dancing with serpents hanging from his neck. The woman signaled him to go near her. As he reached her side, she said,” I am the Annapurani you are searching for”. She told him the way to wash off his earlier sins and asked him to build a temple for her. Overjoyed, Dhananjaya agree to do her bidding and left.
He built a temple for her in Kashi and found himself out of poverty. It is believed that one who propitiates the Goddess will not be touched by poverty.

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The Golden Manuscript

Once a priest in the Kashi-Vishwanath temple had a dream. In his dream Lord Shiva appeared and said that he should invite all priests and scholars to the temple. The next morning the priest invited all the priests and scholars and told them about his dream of the previous night. Everyone considered the priest lucky for having seen the lord in his dreams. Soon all of them collectively propitiated the lord with rituals. After all the rituals were completed they were surprised to see a golden manuscript near the Shivalinga which was shining brightly.
The assembled scholars asked the priest to read what was written in the manuscript. It was written “This valuable manuscript should be handed over to a virtuous person. This manuscript is a present by the Lord to a person several virtues to his credit.”
The chief priest who had called all the scholars to the meeting had all the virtues to his credit, but he was very modest and thought that there were several virtuous people around and such people should get a fair chance in claiming the manuscript. Those assembled began listing to each other how virtuous they were and that they should be the recipient of the manuscript.
The priest on the other hand thought for a while and came up with a solution. He told those who had assembled that they should attend the service at the temple every Friday. The manuscript would be given to every visitor to hold. We will come to know the most virtuous person by divine will. Everyone agreed to this idea. On the first Friday morning each one was given the manuscript but as soon as they touched it, it turned into a manuscript made of slate. They were surprised and told the priest “It is miraculous how the golden manuscript remains golden in your hands but turns to slate when it comes to our hands!”
On subsequent fridays the same thing was repeated and the golden manuscript turned into slate.
Meanwhile, an old man was visiting Kashi and reached the temple. Seeing the serene atmosphere surrounding the place the man thought it was really a blessing to be in such a holy place. He went and bathed in the Ganges and arrived at the temple. Outside the temple he saw a leper shivering in the cold. He went near him and saw that he was hungry too. He gave him something to eat and presented him a shawl saying that it would help keep him warm in winter. Satisfied that he had helped the leper the man went inside the temple. Since it was friday the old man was also given the manuscript to hold. As soon as the man held the manuscript it did not turn into slate but shone brightly as before. The priest handed over the manuscript to him saying that he was the most virtuous and that he was worthy of the manuscript. The man humbly accepted it. The people who had earlier clamored for the manuscript understood that the most virtuous were those who gave without expecting any return.

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Once there was king by name Kritaveerya. He and his wife Sugantha were blessed with a boy. Unfortunately the child did not have both legs. The king was saddened by this. However, his wife consoled him by saying that the child had the blessings of his ancestors and that it would help their son immensely.
Kritaveerya named his son Kartaveeryarjuna and he grew up to be a pious boy. Soon he went to the forests to meditate on Lord Dattatreya. Pleased with his devotion the lord appeared before him and granted him thousand hands and blessed him with a good life.
One day Kartaveeryarjuna went to bathe in the river Narmada along with his wives and retinue. All of a sudden he turned to his women and said “Can you see the beautiful Narmada flowing along. However she cannot flow anywhere beyond by control.” So saying he opened his thousand arms and stopped the Narmada from flowing beyond him.
Meanwhile, in another bank of the Narmada, Ravana was propitiating Shiva oblivious to his surroundings. Suddenly Kartaveeryarjuna dropped his thousand arms and the water began flowing faster and flooding the river banks. Ravana’s prayers were disturbed and he was livid. He wondered how the river could suddenly flood the area and asked his minions to find out. They said that Kartaveeryarjuna was behind this.
Ravana went to were the king was bathing and ordered him to leave the place. Angry with Ravana, the king started a duel. He fought with Ravana and hit him with his mace on his chest. Ravana fainted. The king promptly tied him up and put him in jail.
Several months passed and one day Pulastya the hermit met the King. He said Ravana was his grandson and that he wanted the king to release Ravana. Kartaveeryarjuna said that he did not know that Ravana was the hermit’s grandson. He also added that since Ravana had bravely fought with him, he had spared his life and put him in jail. So saying he released his captive and sent him with his grandfather.
Pulastya said that Ravana deserved this treatment as he had overstepped his boundaries. He also blessed him with the title Ravanajit.
Years passed and Kartaveeryarjuna’s bravery spread far and wide. Once on an expedition, he saw that the hermit Jamadagni had a divine cow. He abducted the cow. Angered by this the hermit’s son Parasurama killed Kartaveeryarjuna. In revenge, the king’s sons killed the hermit Jamadagni. Legend says that Parasurama killed 21 kings from the Kshatriya community to avenge his father’s death.

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This post is not about buying gold. 🙂 When the whole country talks about buying gold on this day each year, I chanced upon this story which says Akshya Tritiya is a day when one should do Annadanam (donate food !)
Anyway this story made a very interesting read and the kids lapped it up :).

Once in the town of Sathyapuri there lived a man by name Vishwanath. He looked after the daily affairs of the local Shiva temple. When he was born astrologers in the town told his parents that when the boy grew up, he would marry and have a child after which he would become a hermit.
Vishwanath grew up to be a pious young man. He married and had a son. He began feeding the poor along with his wife and son Gunaseelan. One day he had a dream that Shiva was beckoning him and took sanyas the next morning. He told his wife and son that he was going to Kashi and left them. His wife however, continued with the poor feeding started by her husband. One day, Gunaseelan asked his mother “You are feeding people daily won’t we become poor one day?”
She said, “I don’t know about that, but your father believed that feeding other people is like serving god.”
Gunaseelan was not satisfied with her reply, he sought permission from his mother to learn more about feeding the needy and went to meditate in the jungle. On the way he saw an old man who said he was hungry, so he gave him the food he had on hand and left. Towards evening he met a hunter, who advised him not to be alone in the jungle at night and took him to his house. The hunter had made a hut on top of a large tree and lived there with his wife.
The hunter’s wife did not like the boy and she refused to give food to Gunaseelan. She however, gave her husband food, which the hunter shared with Gunaseelan. After the meal, the hunter made the boy sleep between him and his wife, for which his wife didn’t agree. So he lay down between them and after they had slept he moved the boy to the center and he slept on the edge.
In the middle of the night, the hunter’s wife woke up and thinking that the boy was sleeping on the edge pushed him from the tree. The hunter fell down and he was eaten by the wild animals. Waking up in the morning, the wife saw the remains of her husband and realized her mistake and she took her own life.
Saddened, the boy continued on his journey. On the way he passed a hut where an old man was sitting. “Where are you going?” he asked.
The boy told him about the penance he was about to undertake.
The old man said, “When you meet God, please ask him why I am not feeling hungry at all.” The boy agreed and left.
Next, he met a cobra. The Cobra wanted the boy to find out why it was unable to see. He agreed to ask God and left.
After that when he was relaxing under a mango tree, the tree told him to find out why its fruits where always infested with worms and insects that it was never fit for consumption. He agreed to ask God again and left.
Sitting on a hill top, the boy began his penance. One day, pleased with his penance, a fairy appeared before him and told him to ask for a boon.
Gunaseelan said “Can you please tell me the benefits of feeding the needy?”
The fairy said ” In the next ten months the king of your country will be blessed with a son. Before the child’s body is laid on the floor, he should be laid on a golden plate. You ask the child your question and he will answer your questions.”
Then he asked the questions which were put to him by the people he passed by and the fairy answered him. She was pleased that Gunaseelan never wanted anything for himself. She blessed him and vanished.
On the return home, he passed the mango tree to which he said “In your previous birth you were a miser and you buried all your gold under the tree. That is why your fruits are infested with worms.” The tree immediately parted with its treasure and told Gunaseelan to take it.
He met the Cobra and said that it should part with the Nagarathna gem on its head to someone and then his eyesight would be restored. Immediately the Cobra gave the gem to the boy.
Next he met the old man and told him that in his previous birth as a teacher he refused to part with skills to students, which was the reason for his not being hungry. Immediately, the old man took the boy as his disciple and imparted all the knowledge he had.
Gunaseelan returned with his gold and gems and gave them to his mother.
Meanwhile, at the palace, preparations were on to celebrate the arrival of the royal heir. Gunaseelan met the king and told him what the fairy said. The king agreed to hold the baby in a golden plate and allowed Gunaseelan to ask the question.
When the baby was shown to him on a golden plate he asked the baby “Please tell me the benefits of feeding the needy.”
The baby immediately recalled its previous birth. “I am the hunter who fed you and that is why I am born a prince in this birth. My wife who refused to feed you has been reborn as a pig.” Hearing this Gunaseelan made up his mind to feed the needy during his lifetime.

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I wish all my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Everyone knows that Swami Ayyappan is a bachelor. But the puranas also say that during one of his avatars he married. Proof of this celestial wedding can be seen at a place called Ariankavu in Kerala.
The lord in this shrine sits with his consort on an elephant. According to legend his wives are Poorna and Pushkala. Pushkala is said to belong to the Sourashtrian community.
The Sourashtrian community is well known for silk weaving and were supplying silk to the Maharaja of Travancore.
Once upon a time a silk merchant was on his way from Madurai to Travancore to show his silks to the King. His daughter Pushkala too accompanied him. They reached Ariankavu at nightfall and decided to stay at the temple that night.
The next morning when the merchant was ready to leave, his daughter said that she wished to stay on at the temple till he returned from Travancore, because she wanted to worship the Lord for some more time.
Though the merchant was surprised at this request, he spoke to the priest and left his daughter under his care.
He left for Travancore and on the way he had to pass through a jungle. All of a sudden he was attacked by an elephant who was running amok. He prayed to Lord Ayyappan to save him and miraculously there arrived a very young hunter who sent the elephant away with a flick of his fingers.
The merchant was overjoyed and presented the hunter with one of his finest silks. The hunter wore it immediately and asked the merchant how he looked.
The merchant said that the hunter looked like a bridegroom. He then asked the hunter “Tell me what else do you want?”
“I would love to marry your daughter,” said the hunter.
The merchant was surprised to know that the hunter knew that he had a daughter. But he agreed to give his daughter in marriage to the boy.
The boy said that he would meet the merchant at the Ariankavu temple the next day.
After doing business with the king, the merchant reached the temple at Ariankavu. But his daughter was not to be found. The merchant searched everywhere but could not find her. Meanwhile, the lord appeared in the dream of the priest and said that he had taken away Pushkala pleased with her devotion.
The king also arrived at the shrine at the moment and the priest opened the door to the shrine. The merchant was surprised to find the deity wearing the silk he had presented the hunter the previous day.
It is said that for the past 200 years, during the month of Margazhi, the temple celebrates the wedding of Manikandan.

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