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Kathalaya : Stories from the Shiva Purana

(Con­tin­ued from “Nara­da and the Maya of Shi­va”)

When Vish­nu left, the great rishi Nara­da roamed over the Earth vis­it­ing Shi­va Lin­gas in var­i­ous holy places. The two Ganas of Shi­va who were beside Nara­da at the swayam­vara of the princess, heard of his wan­der­ings and approached him. Nara­da by that time had become pure in mind. They bowed to him and touched his feet. They wished to secure release from Narada’s curse. So they said to him,”Devarishi, please hear our words. We, who had offend­ed you at the swayam­vara, are not real­ly brah­manas. We are the Ganas of Shi­va. You had cursed us when your mind was delud­ed by the illu­so­ry infat­u­a­tion for the princess at the swayam­vara. Real­is­ing that the occa­sion was inop­por­tune we had kept qui­et. We reaped the fruit of our own action. No one is to be blamed for it. Please bless us now.”

Hear­ing the Ganas’ words uttered with devo­tion and respect, Nara­da replied lov­ing­ly, repent­ing his pre­vi­ous fury,”Being the Ganas of Shi­va, you are most wor­thy of the respect of good peo­ple. At that time, my mind had been depraved. In that state of delu­sion and crooked­ness of mind I had unfor­tu­nate­ly cursed both of you. What I have said is bound to hap­pen. But, I shall tell you the way of redemp­tion from the curse. Please for­give my sin now. You will be born as asur­as from the repro­duc­tive flu­id of a great rishi and due to his pow­er you will secure the com­mand­ing posi­tion of the king of asur­as. You will be endowed with pros­per­i­ty and strength. You will rule over the whole of the uni­verse as devo­tees of Shi­va and you will gain your for­mer posi­tion after court­ing death at the hands of a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Shi­va.”

On hear­ing these words of the noble Nara­da, the two Ganas became delight­ed and went back to their abode joy­ful­ly.

Nara­da too was delight­ed. Med­i­tat­ing on Shi­va, he con­tin­ued his wan­der­ings over the Earth and reached Kashi, the holi­est of all places and a favourite resort of Shi­va. Kashi is said to bestow the favour of Shi­va and is iden­ti­cal with Shi­va. The great rishi became con­tent­ed in mind. He had the dar­shana of Shi­va, the Lord of Kashi, and wor­shiped him with great devo­tion.

Nara­da then went to Brah­malo­ka, his mind being high­ly puri­fied by remem­ber­ing Shi­va. He bowed to his father, Brah­ma, with devo­tion and eulo­gised him with var­i­ous prayers. He then asked him many ques­tions about the mys­ter­ies of Shi­va and his sport in the uni­verse.

Brah­ma began to nar­rate the sto­ry of Gunanid­hi, and Nara­da lis­tened with delight.

In the city of Kampilya*, there was a sac­ri­fi­cer named Yaj­na­dat­ta. He was an adept in the per­for­mance of yaj­nas. He knew the Vedas and Vedan­gas. He was a great schol­ar of Vedan­ta. He was hon­oured by the king. He was a gen­er­ous donor and as such his fame had spread far and wide.

(*Kampilya can be iden­ti­fied with the city of Kampi­la in the Fur­rukhabad dis­trict, Uttar Pradesh. It was the south­ern cap­i­tal of Pan­cha­lade­sha in ancient India.)

He assid­u­ous­ly main­tained the sac­ri­fi­cial fire and was devot­ed to the study of the Vedas. His son, Gunanid­hi, was of a very hand­some com­plex­ion and shone like the moon. After the investi­ture with the sacred thread, he learned all the sci­ences over and over again. Yet, he had one flaw : unknown to his father, he indulged in gam­bling.

He took a lot of mon­ey from his moth­er and lost the entire sum in gam­bling. He com­plete­ly neglect­ed all the brah­mini­cal ways and con­duct of life. He was averse to the per­for­mance of Sand­hya prayers and ablu­tions. He began to speak ill of the Vedas, sacred texts, devas and brah­manas.

Although his moth­er want­ed him to meet his father now and then, he nev­er went near his father. Yaj­na­dat­ta used to ask his wife,”What is our son Gunanid­hi doing? He is not at home.” And she would reply,”He has gone out just now. So long he had been tak­ing his bath and wor­ship­ing the deities. He has fin­ished his Vedic study and has just gone out some­where in the com­pa­ny of two friends for the pur­pose of learn­ing.” The poor woman deceived her hus­band thus because she had only one son. The sim­ple hus­band did not know any­thing about the nefar­i­ous activ­i­ties of his son or his bad con­duct.

The time came for Gunanidhi’s mar­riage. Yaj­na­dat­ta per­formed the mar­riage rite of his son in accor­dance with the Gri­hya sutras. Every­day, the woman, with her heart melt­ing in moth­er­ly affec­tion, used to make her son sit up and scold him,”I con­ceal your nefar­i­ous activ­i­ties from your father every day. Due to his good con­duct he is hon­oured by all the good peo­ple. Dear child, a good learn­ing and asso­ci­a­tion with men of saint­ly char­ac­ter is the great­est asset for a brah­mana. How is it that you do not take inter­est in such things? Your ances­tors and grand­fa­thers had all earned the rep­u­ta­tion of being good Vedic schol­ars, well learned in the shas­tras and per­form­ers of yaj­nas. Shun the com­pa­ny of wicked peo­ple, asso­ciate with good men, turn your atten­tion to learn­ing and live the brah­mana way of life. Take good care of your wife and pro­tect her.” Although con­stant­ly advised by his moth­er thus, Gunanid­hi did not aban­don his addic­tion to gam­bling. He used to lay his hands on what­ev­er he could see in the house — gar­ments, gems, met­als, silks, ves­sels, gold­en vas­es, cop­per pots — and take it to the gam­bling den, only to lose the same to his fel­low gam­blers.

Once, he stole a very valu­able ring of his father of his father set with pre­cious stones and gave it to one of the gam­blers. It so hap­pened that one day Gunanidhi’s father saw it in the hand of the gam­bler. He asked the fellow,”Where did you get this ring from?” The gam­bler replied,”It was your son who gave it to me. Don’t think that I alone am the win­ner of this ring. He has lost many cost­ly things to oth­er gam­blers as well. In the whole world, you would not find such a use­less poor gam­bler as your son.”

On hear­ing these words, Yajnadatta’s head bent down with shame. He cov­ered his face and head with a cloth and qui­et­ly slipped back into his house. He turned to his wife, who was a very chaste lady, and rebuked her in anger and sorrow,”You have giv­en birth to a very wicked boy. He has been steal­ing many pre­cious objects from our house and you have been pro­tect­ing him and lying to me all this while. It is futile to be angry with you. I shall take food only after I mar­ry again! I am child­less now since that wicked fel­low has defiled the whole fam­i­ly. It is our cus­tom to aban­don such a one to save the fam­i­ly.”

The brah­mana took his bath, per­formed his dai­ly rites and mar­ried the daugh­ter of a Vedic schol­ar the same day.

Gunanid­hi came to know of this. Regret­ful­ly he cursed him­self and set off from that place. After wan­der­ing aim­less­ly for a long time, he lost all hope and halt­ed at a place. He thought to himself,”Where am I to go? What shall I do? I have not stud­ied much, nor am I rich enough. I can­not even beg as I have no acquain­tance. Where shall I seek refuge? Every­day, even before sun­rise, my moth­er used to feed me sweet pud­ding. Today whom shall I beg? My moth­er too is away from me.” Even as he was mus­ing thus woe­ful­ly, sit­ting at the foot of a tree, the sun set.

It so hap­pened that this same night was Shiv­ara­tri. A cer­tain devo­tee of Shi­va came out of the city tak­ing with him dif­fer­ent sort of delight­ful offer­ings to wor­ship Lord Shi­va. He had observed fast on Shiv­ara­tri day and along with his kins­men, entered into the tem­ple to wor­ship the Lord. Gunanid­hi was very hun­gry by this time. He inhaled the sweet fra­grance of the sweet pud­dings and fol­lowed the devo­tee. He thought to himself,”If these devo­tees of Shi­va go to sleep after offer­ing the eat­a­bles to Shi­va, I shall eat these vast vari­eties of pud­dings and sweets in the night.” With this hope he sat at the thresh­old of the tem­ple of Shi­va watch­ing the great wor­ship by the devo­tee.

When the wor­ship was over and the songs and dances of prayer were con­clud­ed, the devo­tees lay down and began to sleep. Imme­di­ate­ly, the young man entered the sanc­tum sanc­to­rum of Shi­va in order to steal the eat­a­bles left there. The lamp was burn­ing very dim­ly. Hence, in order to see the pud­dings clear­ly, he tore a piece of cloth from his low­er gar­ment and put that piece in the lamp as a wick, thus mak­ing the lamp burn bright and give a good light. Gunanid­hi glee­ful­ly took the sweet offer­ings in his hands and came out hur­ried­ly. In his hur­ry he stamped on some per­son lying there, who woke up imme­di­ate­ly — “Who is that? Who is run­ning away so fast? Catch him.” Gunanid­hi ran for his life but he could not see in the dark­ness. He was caught and killed by the watch­man on duty. By the grace of Shi­va and by the pow­er of his own accu­mu­lat­ed pun­ya, Gunanid­hi could not eat the sweet offer­ings made to Shi­va.

The ter­ri­ble atten­dants of Yama who desired to take Gunanid­hi to Yamalo­ka approached him with noos­es and clubs in their hands and bound him. In the mean­time, the atten­dants of Shi­va, with tri­dents in their hands and tin­kling anklets on their arms, reached the spot in a vimana in order to take him to Shiv­al­o­ka. The Shi­va Ganas said,”Attendants of Yama, leave this right­eous brah­mana alone. He can­not be pun­ished since his sins have been burnt off.” The atten­dants of Yama did not under­stand. They said,” Ganas, this is a wicked brah­mana who has bro­ken the tra­di­tion and con­ven­tions of his fam­i­ly. He has dis­obeyed his father’s direc­tions and has for­sak­en truth­ful­ness and puri­ty. He does not offer Sand­hya prayers. Leave aside even those activ­i­ties. He has now trans­gressed and out­raged the offer­ings made to Shi­va, the Lord of the uni­verse. He is not wor­thy of even being touched by peo­ple like you.” The Ganas remem­bered the lotus-like feet of Shi­va and said,”Shiva’s ideas of Dhar­ma are very sub­tle. They can be observed only by per­sons of sub­tle and keen vision, not by peo­ple like you whose vision only encom­pass­es the gross exte­ri­or. Atten­dants of Yama, hear atten­tive­ly what this son of Yaj­na­dat­ta has done which has freed him from sins. The shad­ow of the lamp was falling on the top of the Lin­ga and Gunanid­hi pre­vent­ed it by adding a wick to the lamp, cut­ting a piece from his low­er cloth. Anoth­er great pun­ya he derived from lis­ten­ing to the names of Shi­va, though casu­al­ly. He wit­nessed the wor­ship that was being per­formed duly by a devo­tee. He was observ­ing a fast and his mind was con­cen­trat­ed too. He will come to Shiv­al­o­ka along with us and enjoy great plea­sures there for some­time. Then, he will shake off his sins and become the king of Kalin­ga, since he has indeed become a great favourite of Shi­va. Now, all of you atten­dants of Yama, can return to your own loka.”

Thus freed from the atten­dants of Yama, Gunanid­hi became pure-mind­ed and went to Shiv­al­o­ka along with the Ganas. There he served Shi­va and Par­vati and enjoyed all sorts of plea­sures. After­wards he was born as Arindama, the king of Kalin­ga*.

(* Kalin­ga desha in ancient India, occu­pied the nar­row­er east­ern coastal plain from the delta of the Godavari riv­er to that of the Mahana­di riv­er. It was one of the well-known regions of South India.)

Known as Dama, he was devot­ed to the ser­vice of Shi­va. Even as a boy he dis­played his bhak­ti towards Shi­va in the com­pa­ny of oth­er chil­dren. When his father passed away, he became the king in the prime of his youth. King Dama was uncon­quer­able. The act of great­est impor­tance to him was the fur­nish­ing of Shi­va tem­ples with plen­ty of lamps. He called the heads of vil­lages in his king­dom and asked them to fur­nish all tem­ples of Shi­va with lamps. “You shall see that the tem­ples of Shi­va in your juris­dic­tion are prop­er­ly illu­mi­nat­ed with lamps. If any­body defaults, I will have him behead­ed.” Thus, for fear of him, every tem­ple was duly illu­mi­nat­ed. With this act of piety alone, as long as he lived, King Dama acquired ample pros­per­i­ty. Final­ly he passed away.

After nar­rat­ing the sto­ry, Brah­ma said to Narada,”Thus, even the small­est ser­vice ren­dered to Shi­va bears rich fruit in time. Let every­one who seeks hap­pi­ness realise this and con­tin­ue the wor­ship of Shi­va. Gunanid­hi nev­er cared for any act of piety. It was to steal that he had entered the tem­ple of Shi­va. To see the sweets bet­ter he had bright­ened the lamp there, there­by dis­pelling the shad­ow of dark­ness on the top of the Lin­ga. Then he became the vir­tu­ous king of Kalin­ga. This is the sto­ry of Gunanid­hi, the son of Yaj­na­dat­ta. This sto­ry is pleas­ing to Shi­va. It grants all desires of the lis­ten­ing devo­tees.”

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