விபீஷண சரணாகதி- Surrender of Vibhishana – Significance

ராமாயணத்தில் ராமனின் சிறப்பான குணங்களாக வருணிக்கப் படும் ஒரு குணம் அவன் ‘சரணாகத வத்சலன்’ என்பது. அதாவது தன்னைச் சரணடைந்தவர்களிடம் மிகுந்த வாத்சல்யம் காட்டுபவன் என்று. அவனைச் சரணடைந்தவர் கைவிடப் படார்.

ராமாயணத்தில் ராமனை சரணடைந்தவர்கள் யார், யார்? அவர்களின், நோக்கமும் பின்புலமும் என்ன என்று பார்த்தால், விபீஷண சரணாகதியின் சிறப்பு புரியும்.

காகாசுரன்

ராமன், சீதை, இலக்குவனுடன் சித்திர கூடத்தில் வாழ்ந்தபோது, இவன் காக வடிவம் எடுத்து வந்து சீதையின் மார்பில் கொத்தினான். சீதை வலியால் துடிக்க, கோபம் கொண்ட ராமன் ஒரு குசப்புல்லை எடுத்து பிரம்மாஸ்திர மந்திரம் சொல்லி ஏவ, அது காகத்தை நோக்கி வந்தது. காகாசுரன் மூன்று லோகங்களையும் சுற்றிப் பறந்தாலும் அஸ்திரம் அவனை விடாது துரத்திற்று. வேறு வழியின்றி அவன் திரும்பிவந்து ராமனையே சரணடைய, ராமன் அவனை மன்னித்து, அவனைக் கொல்லாமல், அவன் ஒரு கண்ணை மட்டும் பிரம்மாஸ்திரம் தாக்கும் விதத்தில் அருள் செய்து அனுப்பினான். (பிரம்மாஸ்திரம் இலக்கைத் தாக்காது திரும்பாது என்பதால்).

இங்கே, முதலில் அசுரனின் குசும்பு/திமிர், பின் அச்சம், பின் உயிர் பிழைக்க வேறு வழியின்றி சரணாகதி.

சுக்ரீவன்

அண்ணன் வாலியிடம் ஏற்பட்ட பகையால் தப்பித்து ஓடி வந்து தனியே அஞ்சி வாழும் வானரன். ராஜபோகங்களை முன்பு அனுபவித்துப் பராகிரமசாலியாய் வாழ்ந்தவன். தன் காதல் மனைவி ருமையை அண்ணன் வாலி பெண்டாள வைத்துக்கொண்டதில் நொந்து போனவன்.

அவன் ராமனைச் சரணடைந்தது முற்றிலும் காரியார்த்தமானது. அண்ணன் தனக்கு இழைத்த அநீதிக்குப்பழிவாங்கும் உணர்வு, அண்ணனைக் கொன்று தன் மனைவியை மீட்டு கிஷ்க்கிந்தையை ஆளும் ஆசை, அதற்காகப் பராக்கிரமசாலியான ராமனின் உறவு.

ராமனுக்கும் சுக்ரீவனிடம் காரியார்த்தமான தேவை இருந்தது! அது, சீதையைத் தேடிக் கண்டுபிடிக்க உதவி. ஆக, சுக்ரீவனின் சரணாகதி, இந்த பரஸ்பரக் காரியார்த்தத்தின் காரணமாக நட்பு ஆனது. சுக்ரீவனின் வானர இயல்பு ராமனுக்குப் புரிந்ததால், பின்னர் அவன் மனம் மாறக்கூடாது என்பதற்காக தீ வளர்த்து அதன் முன்னே இருவரும் தமது நட்புக்கான உறுதிமொழியை எடுத்துக்கொண்டனர்.

விபீஷணன்

அவனும் தன் சகோதரனனான ராவணனைப் போல அரக்கனே. ஆனால் சத்துவ குணம் மேலோங்கியவன்; தர்மம் அறிந்தவன்.

பொல்லாதவனான தன் அண்ணனின் திமிர், பராக்கிரமம், அதிகார பலம், முன் கோபம், யாரேனும் உபதேசம் தந்தால் கடும் கோபம் கொள்ளும் தீய குணம் எல்லாம் முற்றிலும் அறிந்தவன். ஆயினும் துணிந்து, சீதையை ராவணன் கவர்ந்து வந்தது தவறு, அவளைத் திருப்பி அனுப்பிவிடவேண்டும் என்று மீண்டும் மீண்டும் ராவணனிடம் மன்றாடியவன். ராமனின் தெய்வீக குணத்தை அறிந்து கொள்ளும் அருள் பெற்ற நற்குணவான்.

தர்மத்தின் பக்கம் நிற்பதா, அல்லது உயிருக்கு அஞ்சி, ரத்த பாசத்துக்கு வணங்கி (கும்பகர்ணன் போல) அண்ணனின் அதர்மத்துக்குத் துணை போவதா எனும் தர்மசங்கடம் வந்தபோது, தன் உறவு, செல்வம், பதவி, உறவுகள், சுற்றம் அனைத்தையும் விட்டுத் தன் அண்ணனின் பரம எதிரியான ராமனை சரணடையத் துணிந்தவன்.

அந்த சரணாகதியின் நோக்கத்தில் தன் உயிருக்குப் பாதுகாப்பு எனும் ஒரு சுயநலம் இருந்தாலும், அதையும் தாண்டி தருமத்தின் பக்கம் நிற்பது என்பதுதான் பிரதானமாக இருந்தது. அதுதான் சத்துவ குணத்தோரின் மகிமை. அவனுக்கு சுக்ரீவனைப் போலத் தன்னை நாடு கடத்திய அண்ணனைப் பழிவாங்க வேண்டும் என்கிற முதல் எண்ணமோ, அல்லது அண்ணனை அழித்துவிட்டுத் தான் இலங்கை அரசனாக முடிசூட்டிக்கொள்ளவேண்டும் என்கிற ‘கணக்குப் போடும் புத்தியோ’ இல்லை!

பகைவனின் பாசறையிருந்து வரும் தன்னைச் சேர்த்துக்கொள்ள மாட்டான், அல்லது தாக்கி விரட்டுவான் அல்லது சேர்த்துக்கொண்டாலும் ராமன் சதா தன்னை சந்தேகப்படுவான் என்கிற அச்சமோ, ஐயமோ அவனுக்கு இல்லை! அதுவும் ஒரு தூய சத்துவ குணமே.

மேற்கண்டவை, விபீஷணனின் உயரிய தகுதிகள்.

இனி ராமனின் தெய்வீகத் தன்மையையும் இந்த சரணாகதி நிகழ்வில் பார்ப்போம்.

சரணாகதி தேடி வந்திருக்கும் பகைவனின் சகோதரனை சேர்த்துக்கொள்வதா கூடாதா என்பதை ராமன் தானே தனியாய் உடனே தீர்மானிக்கவில்லை! இலக்குவன், சுக்ரீவன், அங்கதன், ஜாம்பவான், அனுமன் உட்பட எல்லாரோடும் மந்திர ஆலோசனைக் கூட்டத்தைக் கூட்டி, அவர்களது கருத்துகளைக் கேட்கிறான். அனேகமாக அனுமனைத் தவிர மற்றெல்லாருமே “பகைவனை நம்பக்கூடாது; ஏற்கக் கூடாது” என்றே அறிவுரை சொல்கின்றனர். அரச தர்மத்தின் படி அந்த அறிவுரையும் சரியே.

ஆனால் ராமனோ, அதை ஏற்கவில்லை. தான் விபீஷ்ணனை ஏற்க விரும்புவதாக ராமன் கீழ்க்கண்ட காரணங்களைக் கூறி விளக்குகிறான்:

  • என்னிடம் நட்புக்கரம் நீட்டி இன்முகத்தோடு வரும் ஒருவனை நான் மறுக்கமாட்டேன், கைவிடமாட்டேன் — அவனிடம் குறை இருந்தாலும் சரி.
  • அவன் அண்ணனோடு பகைத்துக் கொண்டுவருவதில் குற்றம் காணமுடியாது; அரச குடும்பங்களில் சகோதரர்கள் ஒருவருக்கொருவர் எதிரிகளாவதும் உண்டுதான். அவன், தானே அரசனாவதிலும் விருப்பமுள்ளவனாக இருக்கக் கூடும். எல்லாரும் என்னையும் பரதனையும் போல இருக்க முடியுமா என்ன?
  • அவன் என்னிடம் நல்ல எண்ணத்துடன் வந்தால் என்ன, தீய எண்ணத்துடன் வந்தால் என்ன? அவனால் என்னை என்ன செய்துவிடமுடியும்? ஒரு விரலசைவில் என்னால் பகைவர்களை அழித்துவிடமுடியும்.
  • எதிரியே கையேந்தி பிச்சை கேட்டு வந்தாலும் அவனைத் தாக்காது அவன் கேட்டதை அளிக்க வேண்டும் என்பது தர்மம்.
  • “நான் உன்னவன்” என்று எவன் என்னைச் ஒரே ஒரு முறை சரணடைந்தாலும், அவனுக்கு எல்லவற்றிலிருந்தும் அபயம் நான் அளிக்கிறேன். இதுவே என் விரதம். (ராமனின் இந்த வாக்கைத் தாங்கி வரும் ஸ்லோகம் இது: “சக்ரித் ஏவ ப்ரபன்னாய தவ அஸ்மி இதி ச யாசதே, அயம் சர்வ பூதேப்யோ தாமி ஏதத் வ்ரதம் மம“)

கவனிக்க: விபீஷணனுடன் உறவு பூண்டால் எனக்கு என்ன ஆதாயம் என்று ராமன் எண்ணவில்லை. (ஆனால், முன்பே கண்டபடி அந்தத் தேவை சுக்ரீவனிடம் பூண்ட நட்பில் இருந்தது!)

ராமனின் இந்த விளக்கங்களை எல்லாரும் வியந்து ஏற்கின்றனர். விபீஷணன் அழைத்துவரப்படுகிறான். ராவணனின் சரண் புகுகிறான். ராமன் ராவணனின் பலம், திறன், படைகள் பற்றிக் கேட்கிறான்; விபீஷணன் விளக்குகிறான்; ராவணாதியரைக் கொல்ல தன்னாலான எல்லா உதவிகளையும் தர வாக்குறுதி தருகிறான்.

ராமன் உடனே இலக்குவனை கடல் நீரைக் கொண்டுவரச் சொல்லி, விபீஷணை இலங்கைக்கு அரசனாகப் பட்டாபிஷேகம் அங்கே, அப்போதே செய்து வைக்கிறான்!

கவனிக்க: இங்கே நடந்தது சுக்ரீவனிடம் நடந்தது போன்ற ஓர் நட்பு ஒப்பந்தம் அல்ல. இது மெய்யான சரணாகதி! ராமன்தான் தலைவன்; விபீஷணன் தாசன்.

சரணாகதி செய்தவனின் மேன்மை, அதனை அங்கீகத்தவனின் தெய்வீகம் இரண்டுமே பொன்போல் ஒளிரும் ஓர் நிகழ்வு இந்த விபீஷண சரணாகதி!

சரணாகதி அல்லது பிரபத்தி எனும் மார்க்கத்தைப் பிரதானமாக முன் வைக்கும் வைணவத்தில் இந்த விபீஷண சரணாகதி நிகழ்வு, வைணவர்களுக்குப் மாபெரும் நம்பிக்கையைத் தரும் ஓர் முன்னுதாரணமாக விளங்குகிறது.

(ஆதாரம்: வால்மீகி ராமாயணம்)

The concept of Avatar in Hinduism

A fundamental belief in Hinduism is that God descends to earth to take birth as human (or other) forms whenever the good and pious people suffer and the evil ones have an upper hand. The word Avatar means descending (to earth). God descends to earth based on the needs of time, protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a person/ being is known as an avatar. An Avatar of God takes birth in earth in some form (human form and also other forms) and carry out a specific mission and then return to the heavenly abode.

At the core of Hinduism, God is only one. He is called Brahman in Upanishads. Brahman is beyond name and form, all pervading, all encompassing and all knowing. Everything living and non-living are verily different expressions of Brahman. The entire cosmos is an expression of Brahman. Brahman is smaller than the atom and yet bigger than the cosmos.

Since Brahman encompasses everything, any concept of God with name and form is also within the scope of Brahman only. In Hinduism God with name and form is also real and such a God is known as Ishwara.

Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer) and Shiva (the destroyer) are the three prime forms of God conceived in Hinduism. In Hinduism’s Vaishnava tradition, Vishnu is considered the one and only prime God and he is verily the Brahman. In this tradition, Brahma was created by Vishnu for the purpose of creating the entire universe. In Shaiva tradition, Shiva is considered the one and only prime God and He is verily the Brahman. He is the Supreme Reality; He is the one who creates, sustains and destroys.

We also have Shakta tradition where Divine mother Parashakti is considered the Prime God and she is the one who creates, sustains and destroys.

As per the above concept, the Prime Gods (be it Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or Shakti) are NOT really avatars (even though some scriptures call them Gunaavatars (Brahma representing Satva Guna, Vishnu, the Rajo Guna and Shiva, the Tamo Guna). They are eternal Gods, not subjected to birth cycle.

Interestingly,  in the 4 Vedas inclusive of  Vedanta (Upanishads) which are the earliest sources of spiritual scriptures, there is no concept of Avatar being mentioned! The concept of Avatars came into vogue only in later historic periods of Itihas and Puranas (scriptural mythologies).

In Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the Itihas Mahabharata (that is like a Purana containing historical cum mythological story), the concept of God arriving from time to time to protect the righteous people and punish the evil doers gets mentioned. It comes through the statement of Lord Krishna, who is considered the Avatar of Vishnu:

Whenever there is decay of righteousness, O Bharata,
And there is exaltation of unrighteousness, then I Myself come forth ;

For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers,
For the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age
.”

                                                                                              –  Bhagavad Gita 4-7&8

Avatars Of Vishnu

In Puranas primarily, Lord Vishnu has been attributed to taking Avatars. His 10 Avatars are considered to be important which are listed below:

(You can click on the respective names to know more details)

1) Matsya  2) Kurma  3) Varaha    4) Narasimha   5) Vamana 6) Parashurama  7) Rama  8) Krishna   9) Balarama  10) Kalki.

Kalki Avatar is yet to happen and is expected to take place in this yuga (Kali Yuga).

However, Srimad Bhagavatam which is one of the most widely accepted Puranas as an important reference book in the matters of Hinduism’s mythologies associated with practical  teaching of devotion, dharmas and philosophies, Vishnu’s avatars are not restricted to 10, but the following 14 more are also included.

(You can click on the respective names to know more details)

11) Sanaka 12) Sananda 13) Sanatana 14) Sanatkumara, 15) Narada, 16) Nara, 17) Narayana 18) Kapila, 19) Dattatreya, 20) Yajna, 21) Rshabha, 22) Prthu, 23)  Mohini, 24) Garuda, 25) Dhanvantri, 26) Vyasa, 27) Buddha

Scope of divine expression in Avatar – Purna, Amsa and Kala

In scriptures it is said that divine/spiritual power (Chaitanya Shakti)  in the various creations gets expressed in different measures. They are expressed in kalas. As per this concept, plants have 2 kalas, animals 2 to3 kalas, human beings 5 to 6 kalas, saints and sages 7 to 8 kalas and so on. Sri Rama Avatar is said to have taken place with 12 kalas. Sri Krishnavatar is hailed as a Purna Avatar  where the highest measure of 16 kalas got expressed through this avatar.

An Amsa Avatar is where a partial divinity gets expressed. Thus Kapila, Kurma, Balarama etc are considered to be Amsa Avatars.

Then there is also a mention of Shaktiavesha Avatar where in God’s ferocious aspect gets expressed in an Avatar that engages in large scale destruction of evil forces. Parashurama Avatar is stated to be such.

Avatars are countless

Srimad Bhagavatam also states that Avatars are countless. Such a statement too is logical considering the fact that Puranas were written thousands of years ago. Naturally, more Avatars coming to earth is quite in order because Avatars, by definition come to earth whenever dharma is in danger and the wicked and evil forces are in the rise. Avatars do come to show the right path of dharma suited to changing times.

Avatara Purushas

Thus in Hinduism, ardent devotees hail several Mahatma’s of later periods as Avatara Purushas. Their lives and teachings too become extremely important as puranas and scriptures. Unlike old puranas and shastras that are in Sanskrit language, the Avatara Purushas give teachings in their local languages and their teachings are far more simpler to comprehend and to put to practice in life because they are in tune with the needs of the time. Invariably, their teachings are totally in resonance with the different aspects of scriptures.

  • Shri Shankaracharya is hailed as an Avatar of Lord Shiva
  • Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is hailed as an Avatar of Radha.
  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is considered a divine Avatar with Devi’s amsa.
  • Shirdi Saibaba is considered an Avatar of God, whose appeal broke the barriers of Hindus and Muslims
  • Sri Satya Saibaba is considered an Avatar of Shiva-Shakti
  • Swami Vivekananda is hailed as an Avatar of Shiva by some of his guru bhais and devotees.
  • Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi – though he is a Purna Jnani (who is beyond the concept of Avatars) , there are some devotees who consider him an Avatar of Lord Subrahmanya.
  • Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) is considered an the Avatar of Devi Parashakti.

One commonly observed feature amidst these Avatara Purushas is that even though they may appear to follow a specific religious path, practice or worship during their evolving stages, their demeanor as realized mahatmas will not get cocooned to any limited school, sect or traditional compartments. Their  appeal and attraction towards earnest devotees will cut across all barriers; their level of spiritual knowledge will be so elevated and all pervading that they would be able to drive away doubts from the minds of different seekers with different tastes, temperaments and affinity to philosophies and concepts. Their appeal is universal. They attract people from other religious faith too.

Most of these Avatara Purushas are in fact swayambus — meaning, they were self-made, born with wisdom (not acquired through the teachings of a guru).

Please Note

It is quite natural in a vast and complicated religion like Hinduism (that has so many facets, tenets and schools) that there will be conflicts and disputes in accepting some great saints who are hailed as Avatara Purushas by one group of devotees, by the followers of other saints or people belonging to different other sects or schools of philosophies.

Instead of breaking our heads about these disputes, it is always better to focus on the core teachings of these great Mahatmas and see whether they are in tune with Sanatana Dharma’s time tested truths given in the various  scriptures and whether they are elevating their respective followers towards the higher goal of life — God realization/ self-realization.

 

The story of Krishna – Krishna Avatar – The enchanting avatar of Vishnu

One of the very basic and important aspects of Hinduism is the concept of Avatar. It is the fundamental belief in Hinduism that God descends to earth from time to time to take birth as Human or other forms; it happens whenever good and pious people suffer and evil ones have an upper hand. God protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a divine being / person is known as an Avatar.

The 10 Avatars

In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu is the “God who protects”. He is attributed with taking 10 such avatars. They are Matsya, Varaha, Koorma, Vamana, Narasimha, Rama, Parasurama, Krishna, Balarama and Kalki. Rama and Krisha Avatars are considered to be the two greatest Avatars of Vishnu in human form.

The Greatness Of Krishna

The Avatar of Krishna is said to have taken place in Dwapara Yuga (a time period dating back to thousands of years). Very elaborate holy mythologies (Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma Vaivarta Purana and Mahabharata) are available in Hindu scripture which contain the wonderful life history and details of the divine play enacted by Lord Krishna. Plenty of folklores and wonderful literary works too are available practically in all languages of India eulogizing Lord Krishna’s divine play, particularly His enthralling childhood pranks.

The avatar of Krishna is considered a “Poornavatar” — an avatar in which Godly qualities were found manifested in full. Lord Krishna is perhaps the most widely loved, adored and worshiped Avatar by Vaishnavaites (devotees of Vishnu) across the length and breadth of India. In fact, worship of Krishna has even transcended the boundaries of India, considering the global appeal of the ISKCON movement (International Society of Krishna Consciousness), spearheaded by Swami Prabhupada. It has happened because he is personification of love; Krishna is sweetness personified.

His attraction to devotees is magnetic. He is ever joyful; He is the preacher of Karma Yoga (the path for unification with God through work without attachment) and he is a perfect Karma Yogi himself, performing work ceaselessly all through his life with joyous detachment and abandonment, seeking no fruits of his actions for himself. It is with this practical authority that he delivered discourse to his disciple and close friend Arjuna on the eve of a grand Mahabharata war is Bhagavat Gita — one of the greatest scriptures of Hinduism; it is a philosophical treasure very widely read and adored by people across the world, cutting across religious barriers.

Unlike Rama, a greatly revered Avatar of the previous Yuga, Krishna was fully conscious of his divinity and he never tried to hide his divine prowess. At every right and opportune occasion, Krishna demonstrated his divinely attributes and super-human powers. He utilized them to humble his opponents, destroy the evil doers and to instantly come to the rescue of his devotees in distress.

He was all at once the player by the rules and also the lord of the rules — and by virtue of this lordship, a breaker of the rules too, for the goodness of the world.

The divine play of Krishna is something that can not be written across a few pages. It is extremely difficult to comprehend Krishna by a mere intellectual study of his life or through analysis of his speeches and actions. Krishna is more amenable for comprehension to those who love and surrender to him rather than to those who analyze him.

Krishna’s Birth

Let us now see very briefly, the life history of Lord Krishna:

In DwaparaYuga, the demon-like king Kamsa ruled the kingdom of Mathura (that belonged to the Yadava clan) by overthrowing his father and the king Ugrasena. He became too powerful and people on earth as well as Devas (the celestial beings) suffered immeasurably under his tyrannical rule. Moved by the earnest prayers of the sufferers, Lord Vishnu decided to take birth in human form and annihilate the evil forces headed by Kamsa.

Another reason for the descent of God as avatar was the problem of excessive population at that period (particularly accentuated by higher proportions of the wicked and evil ones over the righteous ones) and the Mother Earth suffered on account of it. God came to earth as Lord Krishna and one of his roles was to initiate large scale destruction of human race, in order to bring a manageable balance to the earthly resources and establish dharma.

The King Kamsa was forewarned by his astrologers that his death would be caused by the eighth son who would be born to his cousin Devaki. To prevent such a happening, Kamsa arrested Devaki and her husband Vasudeva and incarcerated them in his prison.

Immediately on birth, Krishna was carried stealthily by his father Vasudeva to Gokulam. It was a stormy night. The divine snake Adhisesha was there to act as an umbrella to protect the lord.

As and when a child was born to the couple, he would go to the jail and kill the child then and there. When the eighth child was born, it was Lord Krishna. By a dramatic divine play, at the midnight when the birth took place, the child was miraculously and secretively transported to Gokula (a community of cow herds belonging to Yadava clan at the banks of river Yamuna) to become the foster son of mother Yasoda and King Nanda. A female child born to them (Maya) at the same time was transported back to the prisons. It was Vasudev, Krishna’s father, who did the exchange of the babies at the behest of a divine command. All these took place without the knowledge of Devaki and Yasoda.

When Kamsa came to know of the birth of the eighth child, he came to the prison as usual and as he lifted the child to kill it, the girl child (Maya) got freed from his clutches and flew away laughing aloud that the king was cheated squarely and the child meant to kill him was safe and alive elsewhere. Kamsa was shell shocked.

 

The Child Krishna Brought up at Gokula

The baby Lord Krishna grew up joyfully in the company of cow herds at Gokula. He was dark skinned and was the most beautiful and charming boy of the community. Whoever came across him fell in instant love with him. He was full of childhood pranks. He loved to steal butter and eat it in the company of fellow cow herd boys. He became the prince charming for all the young girls and women folk (Gopis) of the community.

 

Little Krishna, so calm and charming in the affectionate embrace of Yasoda…

In the meanwhile, Kamsa sent several powerful demons in varying disguises to search for, locate and kill the boy-who-escaped from the prison. Little Krishna encountered all of them (Putana, Sakatasura, Bakasura, Trinavarta, Vatsasura, Aghasura etc) and killed them all as a matter of child play.

Child Krishna kills Putana, a woman demon sent by Kamsa to kill him by feeding him her breast milk. But Krishna suckled and sucked her life!

 

Krishna is not all that nice boy after all! He loved butter and never hesitated to steal it from the house of Gopies…

 

at times, he gets shocked when he is noticed…

 

and when the Gopis complain to Yasoda about Krishna’s behavior, can she afford to leave him scot free?

 

Krishna kills Bakasura

Further, little Krishna killed a very ferocious and poisonous Snake Kaliya who lived in the river Yamuna. He extracted the snake from the river and danced at his hood to the awe of one and all. When the celestial lord Indra created heavy rains at Gokula because a worship due to him was denied at the behest of Krishna, Krishna protected the entire community by lifting up the hill Govardhan by holding it like an umbrella at his little finger.

He killed the most dreaded poisonous snake Kaliya who lived in Yamuna.

 

Liffting Govardhan Hill is just a child play for him.

Krishna and Gopis

Right from his boyhood, Krishna started playing flute. His music was exremely captivating. Not only human beings, but animals too were attracted by his flute.

When the young boy Krishna played his flute, none can resist his musical charm.

When Krishna was in his early teens, his attraction to the womenfolk of Gokula (Gopis) was divine. Their love towards Krishna was so intense that they even ignored their duty and allegiance to their husbands and went madly behind Krishna. Hindu spiritual masters interpret that this love of Gopis towards Krishna was never carnal, but it was the spiritual longing of the individual souls (jivatmas) towards the divine soul (paramatma).

Krishna and Radha 

It was during this phase that Radha (or Radhika) of Brindavan developed a deep rooted love for Krishna. The divine love between Radha and Krishna (which was never consummated in a marriage), though not found mentioned in Srimad Bhagavata, is dealt with elaborately in Brahma Vaivartha Purana and several folklore and Sanskrit literary works. Radha-Krishna love has always been a source of inspiration for the Bhakti movement of Vaishnavaites (worshipers of Vishnu) of eastern India as this love symbolically represents the longing for “yoga” (union) of the individual soul with the Supreme soul.

According to Brahma Vaivartha Purana, Krishna is considered the Paramatma (Chidatma) and Radha his Chit Sakthi.  He is the creator-Sustainer-Distructor of the Universe and he is verily tha Brahman (Ultimate God).  He is not considered as an Avatar of Vishnu unlike other Purnas.

No wonder the Gopis were mad after him.

 

But it was Radha who stole the heart of Krishna. Radha-Krishna love transcends human love. On this unique painting, at the right side, is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Gouranga, who spread bhava bakthi on Krishna) and at the left, Sri Prabhupada (ISKCON movement).

Krishna Returns to Mathura

When Krishna became a matured boy, it was time for him to go to Mathura and take the bull by its horns — to face his uncle Kamsa and destroy him for all his vengeful deeds. Krishna overcame several obstacles at Mathura and finally killed his uncle in a ferocious combat. He released his parents from the jail and re-throned Ugrasena as the king.

Krishna killed Kamsa in a ferocious battle.

Over a period of time he got married to Bhama and Rukmini. The story goes that Krishna later got married to 6 more women. At later period of his story, he killed a demon king by name Bhaumasura and he had to marry 14000 women who were earlier abducted by the demon king. This he did at the behest of the women, who would otherwise lose their honor in society for having been in the custody of the demon king. The story goes that Krishna used his divine maya to be simultaneously present with all his wives in their respective homes and lead happy life with all of them.

 

Rukmini lovesKrishna; Krishna abducts Rukmini against stiff opposition from her brother and warriors.

Krishna with his consorts – Bhama & Rukmini

Krishna And The Pandavas

In the meanwhile, his maternal cousins — the Pandavas (5 sons of the kind Pandu headed by Yudhishtira) of the Kuru clan at the kingdom of Hastinapur were facing lots of difficulty in claiming their rightful share to their kingdom. It was due to certain acts of omissions and commissions done by themselves as well as due to the vengeful and treacherous acts of their unrighteous cousins — the Kouravas headed by Duriyodhan (who too claimed the throne of Hastinapur) that the peace-loving Pandavas were facing insurmountable difficulties in life.

Krishna and Arjuna developed close friendship. Krishna later became his spiritual guru at the battle field.

Krishna developed a bosom friendship with Arjuna the most powerful archer and the younger brother of Yudhishtra. Whenever they found time, they spent time together and enjoyed the friendly company of each other. Arjuna fell in love with Krishna’s sister Subhadra and Krishna arranged their marriage secretively against stiff resistence from his clan.

The Pandavas were fairly knowledgeable of the divinely nature of Krishna;  The Pandavas surrendered to Krishna and sought his help and guidance in overcoming their problems. Krishna intervened frequently in the lives of Pandavas to protect them from innumerable personal problems. He also used his diplomatic skills and tried his best to bring in a truce between the Pandavas and Kouravas. But Kouravas had neither respect for Dharma nor for Krishna’s counseling.

The Kurukshetra War And The Birth Of Bhagawad Gita

Finally a grand war erupted between Padndavas and Kouravas. Numerous kings of the entire subcontinent virtually sidelined and supported either Pandavas or Kauravas according to their relationships and temperament and took part in the great Mahabharata war. Dharma was obviously on the side of Pandavas. Krishna, as the king of Mathura and a blood relative of both Pandavas and Kouravas, offered his entire army to take part in the war on one side and he himself without taking-up arms on the other side. He left the choice to Arjuna (of the Pandavas) and Duryodanan (of Kouravas) to choose any one between the two. While Arjuna instantly and gladly opted to have Krishna on their side as a non-fighting companion, Duryodanan was too happy to accept the huge and powerful army of Krishna. Krishna offered his services to be the charioteer of Arjuna during the war.

Just before the beginning of the war at Kurukshetra, Arjuna became jittery. He felt it was futile to wage war against his own blood relations and other seniors, respectable elders and teachers and masters in the opposite camp. It was at this juncture, that Lord Krishna gave one of the greatest sermons to Arjuna. His utterances form the holy scripture Bhagavat Gita. In this great spiritual discourse, Lord Krishna predominantly teaches Karma Yoga – the path of attaining the greatest goal of life though self-less action by surrendering all the fruits of actions at the feet of lord. In Bhagavad Gita, he also elaborates the other spiritual paths — Bhakti Yoga and Gnyana Yoga.

Krishna’s discourse to Arjuna at war front – Bhagavad Gita

 

Vishwarupa Darshanam – Krishna revealing his cosmic form.

Krishna, as part of his effort to teach Arjuna during his discourse, gave a divine vision to Arjuna an revealed his Vishwarupa (his cosmic form that transcended the creation, births deaths and time, space and causation) and Arjuna was overwhelmed with awe to see this form of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Krishna acted as a charioteer to Arjuna and saved his life under many tricky situations. In a couple of occasions Krishna even used dubious means (that his enemies accused him as acts of adharma) in order to tilt victory in favor of the righteous Pandavas. The war ended with the annihilation of Kouravas and the rule of the Pandavas was established.

Krishna – the overseer of massive destruction

The Kurukshetra war, though ended as a victory to Padnavas, in fact turned to be a divine act supervised by Krishna without his direct participation to result in the destruction of millions and millions of soldiers and warriors, thousands of kings / people of ruling class, and countless numbers of horses and elephants.

Despite the win, Pandavas too were virtually emotionally wrecked, as practically all their offspring (5 children born to their wife Draupati) and several other children born to them from other wedlock got annihilated. Arjuna’s brave young son and a wonderful archer Abhimanyu (born to Arjuna-Subhadra)  too got killed in the war.  Lord Krishna ensured that the progeny of Pandava’s clan was not cut, by using his divine power to protect a fetus in the womb of Arjuna’s daughter-in-law Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu. Later in history, her son Parikshit became the king.

Krishna And Dwaraka

At his own Kingdom at Mathura ruled by Ugrasena, Krishna had to face a very tough war against Jarasandha, the father-in-law of the slain king Kamsa. The war was waged 18 times by the extremely powerful king Jarasandha and Krishna had to play hide and seek with the king.

After the last attack, Krishna convinced King Ugrasena and his father, Crown-Prince Vasudeva to rescind the land and establish a new Kingdom at Dwaraka, due to strategic reasons. All the Yadava subjects were shifted to Dwaraka and Krishna lived and ruled there for about 38 years. Krishna utilized the services of Bhimasena (one of the Pandavas, who was extremely strong and powerful) to finally kill Jarasandha.

Bhima kills Jarasandha with Krishna’s tactical support.

The End Of Krishna

Yadavas fight with each other in line with a curse they received from a sage and the entire clan gets annihilated.

As Krishna advanced in age, the Yadava clan grew too arrogant, morally weak and got in the grip of vices. By an act of mischief, Krishna’s descendants and their clan got a curse from sages that paved for their annihilation. Lots of bickering happened between the members of families and the ruling class and they grew out of control of Krishna’s divine and moral influence. Time soon came when they were destined to get wiped out entirely on account of a verbal dual that started between two drunken relatives of Krishna. It grew into a bloody fight and Krishna took up the role of a destroyer now and he personally killed many yadavas using pestles that grew out of wild grass near seashore.

Krishna knew that it was time to draw curtains to his divine plays in his present Avatar. He retired to forest and was engaged in deep meditation. He was finally slain by an arrow which was mistakenly aimed at his foot by a hunter who thought it was a deer.

 

 

Krishna was attacked unknowingly by a hunter. The hunter gets blessed by Krishna before he leaves the earth.

Soon a great tsunami came and the surging sea waters submerged the entire city of Dwaraka.

Krishna’s entire life was one of an exuberant display of divine play. Krishna’s childhood life at Gokula and Vrindavan where he became the very soul of all the lives of Gopas and Gopis and his divine love with Radha continues to be the source of inspiration of Bhakti movment for the Vaishnavites.

Krishna’s Bhagavat Gita reins as a supreme reference book of all the various paths of Yoga (Karma, Bhakti, Gnyana and Raja Yoga) for earnest seekers of Hinduism for guidance and enlightenment.

 

A note of thanks:

The beautiful pictures appearing in this article are all sourced from various websites and since all of them appear to belong to public domain and found freely used in several sites, I too have used them accordingly. I sincerely thank the various websites that have posted these pictures.

The story of Rama – Rama Avatar

The story of Rama  – Based on Valmiki Ramayanam

Introduction

One of the fundamental facets of Hinduism is the faith that God descends to earth as an Avatar at appropriate times for the benefit of humanity; He comes to eradicate  evil doers and safeguard good and pious people, to uplift dharma (righteous living), to curtail adharma (anarchy), to give divine bliss to His earnest devotees and to preach dharma suited to the times of the arrival and to the imminent generations to come.

Rama  Avatar

Out of the human forms of Avatar that Lord Vishnu had taken according to Hindu scriptures, Rama Avatar that took place in Treta Yuga and Krishna Avatar  that happened later in Dwapara Yuga are considered to be the two greatest  avatars, wherein divinely qualities of the Avatara purushas (incarnated persons) were exhibited in a vast measure.

Treta Yuga was a time period in Hindu belief that dates back to several thousands of years and it is the second yuga after Satya Yuga. Unlike Satya yuga when people in earth were mostly leading highly righteous lives, Treta yuga saw a gradual deterioration in the practice of dharma; it is said that in Treta yuga, three quarters of the people in earth were righteous and a quarter of the population followed unrighteous ways in life. And it was at appropriate time in Treta Yuga  that Lord Vishnu descended on earth as Rama Avatar. Ramayanam is the life story of Rama, a very revered king of Ayodhya, whose very life exemplified dharma. Ramayana was originally written in twenty-four thousand Sanskrit verses by Saint Valmiki, who was a contemporary of Rama and a caretaker of Sita, Rama’s wife, during her exile to forest.  Ramayanam is one of the two great itihas (epics of historical happenings) of Hindu scriptures.

The purpose of Rama Avatar was primarily to eradicate the evil Asura (demonic) king Ravana and his associates. However, In this process,  Lord Rama lead such an exemplary life — as a youth, as a prince, as a house holder, as a devoted son, as an affectionate brother, as a loving husband wedded to just one woman, as a humble and spiritually evolved human being, as a great and powerful warrior,  as a great king and as a non-compromising stickler to dharma — that throughout his very life, he set innumerable examples on righteous living for people to emulate.

The Beauty and Greatness of Rama

Another striking feature of Rama’s life is that despite his innate awareness  that he was an Avatar with a divine mission, Rama (except on a very few occasions) opted to live just as a human being, exhibiting human nature and human emotions, always trying to hide his divinity and insisting on being just ‘Rama, the son of Dasaratha’. This is in total contrast to his next Avatar in the following Dwapara Yuga where he came as Krishna and openly demonstrated his divinity through  extraordinary display of unearthly powers at every occasion of need. Unlike Krishna, Rama did very little preaching of dharma, but lived it in day to day life. The beauty of Rama avatar does not end with Rama alone. There are so many relatives and associates of him that too lead lives of stellar values and extraordinary human qualities worthy of inspiration for generations to come.

Let us now briefly see Rama’s wonderful life story as narrated in Valmiki Ramayana. The story spreads through 6 major chapters (Cantos), called Kandams.

 Part 1   BALA KANDAM (Boyhood of Rama)

King Dasarata was a very reputed king of the Sun Dynasty, who ruled the kingdom Kosala from its capital Ayodhya in the northern part of India. He had three queens — Kousalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. Kaikeyi was the youngest and was particularly the sweetheart of king Dasarata. The king had no offspring.

As the king advanced in age, he was tormented by worry about the lack of progeny. He consulted his ministers, priests and sages and he was advised to conduct a grand Ashwameta Yaga (Horse sacrifice ritual) as a “Putra Kameshti Yaga” — a sacred fire sacrifice aimed pleasing celestial Gods specifically to get a boon of children. He invited a famous saint Rushyasringa to conduct the yaga. A very grand yajnya  (yaga – fire sacrifice) was conducted inviting kings, priests and brahmins from all over the sub-continent. People were fed sumptuously and gifts were given lavishly. The fire sacrifice was conducted faultlessly as per rules of the scriptures, to the satisfaction of all.

Ravana the Demon king – the Cause of the Avatar

During that period, down south in the country Lanka (now Srilanka),  Ravana, an extremely powerful demonic king was ruling the country. He was born with 10 heads (and hence known as Dasagriva). Early in his life, he did intense austerities by undertaking total fasting for many years aimed at pleasing Lord Brahma;  by cutting off his heads one by one and sacrificing them into the fire, he did terrific tapas (penance). Pleased, Lord Brahma appeared before him and gave him the boon he wished: no being in earth, in heavens or in nether worlds (excluding a human beings, whom he thought too insignificant to pose a threat to him) could ever kill him. Brahma also restored his 10 heads and voluntarily gave him the power to assume any physical form he liked.

Having acquired such unearthly powers , Ravana became extremely arrogant, unlawful and adharmic (unrighteous). He was an incurable war monger and whomsoever was known to be very powerful in all the three worlds, he would challenge them for fight . He grew into such a big threat that he attacked and conquered many celestial Gods, many rulers in the higher worlds ,earth and the nether world and killed many saints and sages.  He was a womanizer too and he captured beautiful women from all the worlds for his enjoyment.

As the celestial Gods with their king Indra could not bear the onslaught of Ravana any longer, they, along with Lord  Brahma, met Lord Vishnu (the Lord of protection) and poured out their woes. Hearing their plight, lord Vishnu said “I shall take birth as the son of King Dasarata at appropriate time and annihilate Ravana; Don’t worry”.

As King Dasaratha’s Yagna was brought  to a successful completion by saint Rushyasringa through the chanting appropriate mantras and offerings to the fire precisely as stipulated in the scriptures , an effulgent divine messenger sent by Lord Vishnu emanated from the sacrificial fire. He handed over a golden pot containing sweet pudding to Dasarata and said “Please give this pudding to your wives and they will bear children for you”.

Very pleased, Dasarata gave half the contents in the pot to his first wife Kousalya to drink. He shared the balance equally and gave to Sumitra and Kaikeyi to consume. Noticing some pudding still sticking to the pot, he wiped it and gave it to Sumitra again.

The Birth of Rama and his three brothers

Soon the three wives became pregnant . In due course, Kousalya gave birth to Rama, followed by Kaikeyi who gave birth to Bharata. Shortly soon,  Sumitra ,who got the sweet pudding twice, gave birth to twins who were named Lakshmana and Shatrughna . The royal family and the entire people of the country were overwhelmed with joy upon the arrival of the divinely children.

The four  royal children were very beautiful and charming. They were of very refined manners, intelligent and obedient.  The first son Rama was rather dark skinned, but his aura was so powerful that everyone who came to contact with him felt instantly attracted by his charm, pleasing manners, humility  and poise. The children underwent formal education, scriptural study and also in practice of armory and weaponry under Saint Vasishta. Rama particularly excelled in archery. King Dasara’s love on Rama was very intense. Right from early childhood, Rama and Lashmana became very close to each other and likewise, Bharata and Shatrughna always sought each other’s company.

Saint Vishwamitra’s request

Some time before Rama reached his 16th age, a very revered sage Vishwamitra visited Ayodhya. King Dasarata received  him at his palace with lots of respect and reverence. The purpose of visit of the sage was to seek a help from the king and Dasaratha promised to offer him whatever Vishwamitra  asked for. The sage wanted help to protect a Yaga (fire sacrifice) he was conducting at the forest which was frequently disturbed by Asuras (demons) and he asked for Rama to be sent with him to fight the demonic forces and protect his yaga. This request was rather shocking and unpalatable to Dasaratha, as he could not bear getting separated from Rama even for a short while; he was also concerned that the young boy may not be equipped enough to fight with demons and he offered his own services instead.

But the sage was adamant and was getting angry about Dasarata’s refusal to send Rama. Vasishta, the saintly minister intervened immediately and counseled Dasaratha that he should keep his promise and that the saint’s request was indeed a blessing in disguise for Rama. He made the king  agree to send Rama with Vishwamitra. The king summoned Rama and Lakshmana. Lakshmana, as his wont, accompanied Rama whom he could not get separated from. The young princes soon departed with the saint after paying obeisance to parents and elders.

On their way they stayed at the banks of River Sarayu for the night and the sage taught 2 mantras — Bala and Athibala to Rama that could give him lots of strength even when he had to go without food or water for days.

Killing of Tataka, the woman giant

On their way through a very dense forest, they encountered a female giant called Tataka who loved devouring human beings . She and her son son Maricha were constant trouble makers to hermits and the Saint Vishwamitra wanted Rama to kill her. Rama was reluctant at first,  because he did not want to kill a woman, as a matter of principle ordained in dharma.

Tataka ferociously charged towards all of them and rained huge boulders over them . Rama sent powerful arrows to thwart the boulders and chop her limbs with the intention of crippling her totally without the need of killing her.  However, Tataka had occult powers to take any form she liked ; chopping off her limbs had no effect on her. The saint advised Rama that it was indeed a dharma to kill such a horrendous female devil and Rama consented; he sent another powerful arrow that pierced through her chest and killed the woman giant. The sage appreciated Rama for his valor.

As they travelled further, stopping at various hermitages en route, the sage gave Rama several Divyastras (powerful celestial arms which were used as missiles that can cause varying degrees of destruction when deployed in a warfare ) and taught the specific Mantras to activate each of them. This way he equipped Rama to face powerful demons whom he had to face very soon. Based on Rama’s request, he also taught mantras on how to restrain the missiles once they were deployed.

Protecting Vishwamitra’s Yaga

Finally they reached Vishwamitra’s hermitage in the forest known as Siddhasramam, a very holy and sacred place where Lord Vishnu in his previous incarnation as Vamana had stayed there for long years and done austerities. All the hermits received Rama and Lakshmana with love. The saint decided to start the Yaga meant for the welfare of the mankind immediately, which would go on over 6 days and nights continuously. As  Rama and Lakshmana kept a wakeful vigil, the Rakshasas lead by two demons Maricha and Subhahu arrived at the scene on the sixth day, floating high on the sky. They had brought flesh, bones and blood to be dropped on to the sacrificial fire and mar the holy proceedings.

Rama and Lakshmana started their fight with the Rakshasas using their bows and diyastras (power packed arrows). With a mighty knock Rama hit Maricha and sent him skywards in exile miles and miles beyond the seas. He killed Maricha on the spot with another arrow. Rama and Lakshmana then killed all the other evil rakshasas and ensured that the yaga was completed successfully without any hitch.

Saint Vishwamitra and his associates were extremely happy and they profusely showered their praises on Rama and Lakshmana for their dedication, alertness and valor.

Right at that time, in the city Mithila, the capital of the country of Vidheha, the saintly king Janaka was preparing to conduct a grand Ashamedha Yaga ; Viswamitra decided to attend the grand ceremony along with his fellow hermits  and he wanted Rama and Lakshmana to accompany them. He was desirous of showing to Rama a very holy Danus (Bow) of Lord Shiva that king Janaka possessed which no human being was ever able to lift. En route, they stayed at the banks of holy river Ganga and also at several other holy places. To keep the young boys entertained, Vishwamitra told them several mythological stories including the story of  Himavan and his two daughters Uma and Ganga. He also told the elaborate story of how the holy river Ganga came to earth by the untiring efforts of king Bhagiratha.

Vishwamitra also told the famous mythological story of churning of milky ocean by Devas and Asuras together to get the nectar of immortality.

Rama resurrects  Ahalya, the cursed wife of saint Gautama

As they reached the outskirts of Mithila, Rama noticed a deserted Hermitage on their way. Vishwamitra told him that it was once a holy ashram of Saint Gautama who lived there with his beautiful wife Ahalya and practiced austerities. The king of devas, Indra once got lured by the captivating beauty of Ahalya; One day at predawn hours,  when the sage was away for his early morning ablutions,Indra came to the ashram in the disguise of the sage Gautama. He lured Ahalya to have a sexual union with him, and Ahalya, in a moment of mental weakness yielded to him, though she sensed that it was Indra, the celestial chief who had come in the guise of her husband.

The saint came to know of the happenings and he cursed his wife to remain there incognito for years; however, he told her that her sin would be washed away when Rama would visit the hermitage in the distant future.

As Rama walked in there, suddenly a lady sprang up to life. She was indeed Ahalya. Rama and Lakshmana paid their respects to the saint lady and she extended her hospitality to the princes. Saint Gautama too appeared there and paid his respects to Rama. Purified of her sin, Ahalya got reunited with her husband. The visitors bade farewell to the saintly couple and proceeded to enter Mithila.

Rama Lakshmana at Mithila

As they arrived at Mithila, they were pleased to notice that very elaborate arrangements had been made for the comfortable stay of visitors who had arrived there to attend the king’s grand yaga. King Janaka came personally along with his minister Satananda to pay respects to Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra introduced Rama and Lakshmana to the king Janaka.

Satananda was the son of Saint Goutama and he felt extremely pleased to learn that his mother Ahalya was resurrected by Rama and got reunuited with his father; he could immediately grasp that Rama was a divine personality.  Satananda felt that Rama was indeed very blessed to get the association, guidance and blessings of Saint Vishwamitra and he took the opportunity to narrate to Rama the captivating life history of Vishwamitra (a former king who through his unceasing practice of severe austerities amidst so many trials and tribulations attained the knowledge of Brahman).

The next day, king Janaka invited his distinguished guests to his palace. Upon Vishwamitra’s request, he narrated how his ancestors got the possession of Shiva Danus.

He continued, “Years ago, when I ploughed a piece of land as a preparatory ritual for conducting a Yagna there, my furrow got stuck and as I dug the spot I noticed a box buried there that contained a very beautiful and live female infant there.  I was overjoyed to get the baby as a divine gift to be my daughter and named her Sita (furrow). Knowing that she had divine qualities, I wanted to get her married only to a truly valiant King. I made an announcement that anyone who can lift up the Shiva danus and tie the bow-string to it can get married to my daughter. Kings from far and wide came to my court and none of them could lift the bow.  In fact I had earned the wrath of many kings on account of it and waged very taxing and tiring wars against them to drive them away”.

Rama breaks Shiva danus and weds Sita

“Would you please arrange to bring the bow of Shiva  to the Yagnya Hall so that the princes of Dasarata and the various kings and guests arrived here could have a look?” asked Vishwamitra.

The king ordered for it immediately. The sacred bow, kept in a large iron box fitted with 8 wheels was rolled in to the Yagnya Hall, pulled strenuously my numerous soldiers. King Janaka announced that anyone in the gathering was welcome to try lifting and tying the string to the holy bow and the one who succeeds could get wedded to Sita.

“Rama, you can try and see whether you can succeed” said Vishwamitra.

Rama got up, sought the blessings of the saint and went near the bow. He bent and picked up the mighty bow with his left hand as if it is a child play. As the whole gathering watched with abated breath, Rama held one end of the bow with his toe fingers, bend the bow and pulled the string so as to tie it to the other end. Suddenly the bow broke at the middle with a thunderous noise.  Cries of cheer from the whole gathering rent the air. Vishwamitra beamed joyously and king Janaka went speechless, shedding tears of joy, for he had now got the right match for his beloved daughter Sita.

After getting Vishwamitra’s consent, king Janaka  despatched fast travelling envoys to Ayodhya to inform  king Dasaratha of the joyful happenings at Mithila, seek his consent for the marriage and invite the king, his royal family and all other distinguished guests to come to Mithila and conduct Rama’s marriage in their presence with their blessings.

After eight days, King Dasarata arrived at Mithila with all his family members, priests and ministers ; they were  given a grand and royal reception. The Ashwamedha Yaga was also completed successfully by that time. Considering the greatness of the lineage of the two emperors, elders discussed and decided that along with Rama’s marriage, the marriage of the other three princes too were to be conducted then and there; brides of right age and beauty from the royal family of Janaka were indeed available as if by divine dispensation. It was decided to marry king Janaka’s (second) daughter Urmila to Lakshmana; Janaka’s younger brother Kushadhvaja’s elder daughter Mandavi to Bharata and the younger daughter Srutakirti to Shatrughnan.

Without delay, the grand marriage function was arranged. With moist eyes, king Janaka took the hand of his daughter Sita to gave to Rama’s hand and solemnized the marriage saying “Here is my dear daughter Sita, who will share the sacred duties of your life; she is blessed; please accept  her hand and take care; she will be most faithful to you as wife and follow you as your shade; “. The marriage of the other three princes too were solemnized next.

Having accomplished his divine task, Vishwamitra bid farewell to one and all and departed to the northern mountains. Soon it was time for King Dasaratha’s family to depart. King Janaka gifted his daughters lavishly with gold, jewels, servant maids and so on and honored the all the guests.

Rama subdues Parashurama

As the journey towards Ayodhya was going joyfully, suddenly the sage Vashishta noticed some bad omens. A storm rose up, uprooting trees and whipping up dust.  And right in front of the caravan, there stood Parashurama (considered as another Avatar of Vishnu, in the role of a destroyer), the notorious slayer of numerous kings and destroyer of the ruling class.

Saint Vashishta extended a formal reception to the Brahmin. Ignoring the formalities, with his famous weapon axe hanging on his right shoulders and a mighty bow on his left hand, Parashurama, the son of saintly Brahmin Jamadagni addressed Rama “Hey Rama, I heard the news that you broke the bow of Shiva at Mithila. Yeons ago, the celestial Architect Vishwakarma once made two identical bows and presented to Lord Shiva and Vishu. Do you know that it was that bow that Lord Shiva discarded after he failed in a combat against lord Vishnu? The bow used by Vishnu is here with me which is far more powerful. Now show me your real valor by holding this bow and shooting an arrow from it!”

Dasaratha, gripped in fear said, “Oh mighty Brahmin; I have heard that you had stopped your killing spree, donated the kingdoms won by you to saint Kashyapa  and retired to Mahindra hills to engage in austerities. I beg you not to harm my son and if done, none of us would live any longer”.

However, totally unperturbed, Rama accepted the challenge. He picked up the Vishnu Danus with ease from the hand of Parashurama, mounted the arrow, pulled the string and aimed it against Parashurama. With words brimming with anger, Rama addressed Parashurama: “Now I have done what you have challenged me to do. The arrow mounted  and drawn on this great bow shall not go waste without hitting a target. Great Parashurama, tell me what should I hit with it; I don’t want to kill you because you are a Brahmin and hence respectable; with this I can either destroy the power you have attained to be a deathless and swift wanderer or the privilege of higher worlds you are entitled to enjoy  gained by you through your austerities”

Parashurama  stood stupefied; his pride thus crushed by Rama, he became sober; he immediately understood that the person who handled Vishnu Danus with such an ease  was none other than lord Vishnu in human form. He prayed to Rama: “Hail, hail, Oh Vishnu, the lord of all Gods! I wish to retain my prowess to be a swift wanderer on this earth. You may please destroy my path to reach the higher worlds with arrow!” Rama shot the arrow and destroyed the fortune of higher worlds and Parasurama. After reverently circumambulating Rama, Parashurama swiftly left the place to return to Mehendra hills where he was meditating earlier.

The marriage party soon returned to Ayodhya. A grand reception awaited them there.

Happy life at Ayodhya

The newlywed royal couples settled in their palaces in Ayodhya and enjoyed their life thoroughly. Sita, who was verily the incarnate of Lakshmi ( the consort of Lord Vishnu) showered love on Rama with her beauty, behavior and words;  She was so much tuned to Rama that she could read Rama’s mind and act according to his wish without the need of words. Rama with his pleasing manners and manly personality loved Sita from the bottom of his heart.

After some days passed, Yudajith, the maternal uncle of Bharata visited Ayodhya with the intention of taking Bharata with him to his father’s kingdom Kekeya. Accompanied by Shatrughna, Bharata bid farewell to parents and brothers and left for Kekeya.

Rama assisted his father in the administrative aspects of Government. King Dasaratha was captivated by Rama’s maturity, mental poise, care and concern for the welfare of citizens and so on. King Dasaratha seemed to be the happiest of all.

End of Bala Kandam.

To be continued in Part:2  Ayodhya Kandam

How to Learn Wisdom from Nature – What Srimad Bhagavatam says about the Avadhuta Who had 24 Gurus

What is Wisdom? Practically all religions in the world talk about two classes of wisdom – one the knowledge about the world and the second, the knowledge about God. While scientists go about in their quest to gather all knowledge about the world, the spiritual persons go in search of knowledge about God.

Hinduism calls the “worldly knowledge” as a lower one (apara vidya) and the Godly knowledge as the supreme one (para vidya). Basic human tendency is mostly to go in for acquiring worldly knowledge. With his limited intellect, man thinks that only through acquiring worldly knowledge, he can multiply his happiness – by acquiring physical things he loves to possess and by satiating his sensual needs that the world can give.

But saints and sages cry repeatedly that no lasting pleasure can ever be attained by hankering after worldly pleasure and seeking worldly knowledge. Jesus Christ says that all the pleasures one seeks actually do not rest anywhere in the world, not even in any a heaven outside the world, but “the kingdom of God is within you”.(Luke 17-21)

Man constantly worries about earning money to eat and drink, and take due care of his body; worrying about his future, he accumulates and hoards. Then he worries about the safety of his wealth that he has so meticulously acquired.

This is precisely where birds and animals seem to be far better off than men! They have no worry about the morrow and they live for the day; they seem to enjoy every moment of their life by living in the present. Perhaps they may not have the intellect to know that it’s God who is protecting them always and ensures the supply of their food and comfort, but can’t men who have the intellect to analyze and deduce figure out that there is some higher force somewhere which is taking care of all these creatures?

If that higher force, who has created this world, the trees, the animals, birds and human beings can take care of the birds and animals that do not plan for future, can’t He take care of we humans too, who believe in his omniscience and omnipotence and surrender to Him in full faith?

Sources of Wisdom for a Seeker

One who has understood the hopelessness of hankering behind worldly pursuits turns to scriptures for guidance. But scriptures are like maps that can show the way, but cannot lead you to your destination. Religions like Hinduism insists on surrendering to a guru, a true knower of the Ultimate Truth, to take you closer to your destination, by explaining the “map” (scripture), by sharing his personal experience and by showering his grace. That’s the way for salvation for the most who are uninitiated in religion and spirituality.

But for the vigilant ones, who are blessed with inquisitiveness by birth, seeking true knowledge comes through their keenness of observation of everything around one, particularly the nature.

Learning Wisdom from Nature – A Hindu Monk’s Advice

While the culture of the west gives the highest accolade and respect to the rich, the powerful, and the worldly-wise, the eastern culture (as in India) gives the highest reverence to the saints and monks in the society, who relinquish everything materialistic and go in quest of God. In Hinduism, some monks opt to be wandering monks, possessing nothing for themselves, having no permanent shelter for themselves, eating food from whomsoever that offers to them, and dispensing divine knowledge to whomsoever keen to learn from them.

In Srimad Bhagavata Maha Purana , a holy mythological scripture (on the life of Lord Krishna and other divine personalities and Avatars) read reverently by the Hindus, there is a mention about such a wandering monk (“Avadhuta”) who had attained the highest knowledge, not by reading any scripture, not by surrendering to any guru and seeking guidance, but by keenly observing nature and gathering wisdom from it. (Refer Chapter 11-07 to 09). He says he had twenty-four gurus and most of them were from an assortment of birds, animals and creatures!

At the behest of his host, the Avadhuta explains in detail who those gurus from the nature were and what he learned from them. Let us see here a few of his “gurus of nature” and his explanations about them:

The fish

The fish which swims along the river carefree gets attracted by the bait in the hook of the fisherman. In its desire to enjoy it, the fish gets trapped in the hook and meets its end. In a human being, it is the desire to enjoy the sense pleasures that traps him to doom sooner or later.

The pigeons

The Avadhuta once saw a pair of pigeons living happily with their little siblings in a tree. Once when the parent pigeons were out to gather and bring food to their siblings, a hunter came and spread a net and the little pigeons got trapped into it.

When the parent pigeons returned, they were shocked to see their little ones trapped in the net. The mother pigeon, out of love and concern to save her children went near them and got herself trapped too. The father pigeon became motionless in utter shock at the sight of the sad plight of all his near and dear; the hunter simply came and snatched the frozen father pigeon too.

The Avadhuta learned from this the misery behind the attachment to the family and bondage behind it.

Picture source: treehugger.com

The Python

The python does not wander hither and thither in search of its food. It patiently awaits the crossing of an animal closer to its abode and snatches it to eat; whether it is good or bad, small or sumptuous, it does not care; it accepts what it gets and remains content at that. Likewise, a wise man accepts what comes to him unasked and is content at that. He does not hanker behind his sensual urges to acquire and taste things of transient pleasure.

The moth

The moth gets attracted by the light of the flame in the lamp and getting too close to the flame, the moth dies burnt.

For a man earnestly seeking God, likewise, the sexual attraction of a woman is too tempting to resist. If he gets too close to woman, he is sure to get lost in the Maya and miss his pursuit of God.

The Sun

The sun evaporates a large quantity of water by its heat; but it does not retain it for itself, but returns it in the form of rain back to the earth. Likewise, a wise man may acquire many material things in this world as they come to him; but he does not possess them for his own. He returns whatever he acquired back to the world at appropriate time.

The sun is reflected in water, be in pond, well, river or ocean at so many places but this reflection does not mean that the sun is divided and seen as so many parts. Likewise, the man of wisdom learns that it is one single Being (Atman) that gets reflected as so many individual souls in the living beings of this world.

The moon

From new moon to full moon and back to new moon, the moon waxes and wanes in phases. But it does not affect the moon in any way. Likewise, from birth to death, the human body grows and decays, but it does not affect the soul (Atman).

The ocean

The rivers that join the ocean may overflow with water in rainy season and go lean or dry in summer. But the ocean, whether rainy season or summer, does neither swell nor dries up. Likewise, the wise men will neither get overjoyed when they get great material wealth nor do they sulk if they get impoverished.

The Spider

The spider creates the web out of itself and withdraws it at its will. From this, one learns that God created this universe out of himself, he sustains it by his will and, as a master of time and causation, at His own will, he annihilates his creation and withdraws everything – all matter and living beings into himself.

Photo Courtesy: Mr Satish treknature.com/gallery/Asia/India/photo159937

The Serpent

The serpent never builds a home for itself. It occupies one built by other creatures (like an anthill) and leads a carefree life. But people toil and earn money to build a permanent shelter for themselves but they cannot live permanently for ever in it.

The Hawk

The Avadhuta once saw a hawk with a piece of meat in its beak being chased by several hawks that could not get anything to eat. All the other hawks were trying to snatch the meat from the one possessing it; at last, getting tired of flying to escape from its rivals, it let go off the meat. All the other hawks went behind the dropped meat and the hawk originally carrying it felt relieved.

The Avadhuta learned from this the hopelessness of acquiring and holding on to the material possessions. As long as one holds, he has no peace of mind and once he relinquishes what was previously dear to him, he attains peace of mind.

We have seen some samples of what the wandering sage learned from the nature and it’s an eye opener for all of us. After all, the whole universe is a creation of God, and it’s quite natural that his creation contains his invisible qualities. It is for the one who is seeking God to learn wisdom from His creation.

Moral lessons you can learn from the story of Ramayana

Ramayana is just not a mythological story—it is one of the two most widely read “Itihas,” and revered by Hindus everywhere. Itihas means “thus happened.” As per Hindu belief, Ramayana is the true story of Rama—the king of Ayodhya who is considered to be the very incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Great sage poet Valmiki, who wrote the magnum opus “Ramayana,” was a caretaker for Sita, Rama’s wife during the turbulent, tail end period of her life.

The historic period (or Yuga) that Rama lived in was known as Treta Yuga. This was during a time when people’s righteousness (dharma) and moral standards were of a high order. In subsequent yugas (namely Dwapar Yuga, when the story of Mahabharata took place; and the present day Kali yuga that we live in), dharma and morality seem to be steadily declining. Thus, the story of “Ramayana,” whenever read, tends to give us great insight to the very high moral and ethical standards of yore. During times of mental turmoil, we can often find enlightenment from reading “Ramayana.”

Rama, an Avatar of Vishnu, the Hero of the epic story Ramayana.

Here are some of the lessons one can learn from reading Ramayana:

  1. The relationship between Dharma, ArthaKama and Moksha.

Human life is often lost while chasing materialism—known as Artha, and sensory pleasures—known as Kama. The story of “Ramayana” makes it clear that these two pursuits should never be sought at the cost of righteousness—Dharma. The ultimate goal of life is liberation—or Moksha, and this can be attained only by relinquishing Artha and Kama and by strictly following a life of Dharma.

  1. The importance of one man being wedded to only one wife

During the Ramayana period, practice of polygamy (by men) was quite prevalent and it was quite an acceptable social norm for kings to marry many women. Rama’s own father, Dasaratha, was wedded to three wives, and he also had innumerable concubines at his palace. In a stark contrast to his father, Rama remained wedded and staunchly loyal to his only wife, Sita. From this practice, he held his head high as the greatest king ever to rule in Bharat, India. He set a good example for future generations of men as to what was considered the gold standard for a respectable man in society.

  1. Adherence to truth and the need to honor one’s word

When Rama was a young boy, the love and affection his father Dasarata had for him was immense. He would never want to get separated from his loving son. When Sage Viswamitra visited his palace and asked for help to ward off demons who were disturbing his spiritual practices at his forest hermitage, Dasarata promised to offer whatever help he could give. The Sage asked the king to send young Rama with him to fight the demons at the forest and naturally Dasarata was terribly shocked. Still, though, he agreed to part with Rama, to honor his promise to the Sage.

Later on, his third wife Kaikeyi wanted the throne of Ayodhya for her own son Bharata. She also wanted Rama to be exiled to the forest. This was nothing short of a deathly blow to Dasarata, but, still, he never used his authority as king to veto her request. This is because of the promise he had made long ago to Kaikeyi to grant her two boons whenever she chose to ask.

  1. Respecting a father’s word of honor

On the night before Rama’s crowning ceremony, Kaikeyi made use of her boons not only to deny Rama his rightful ascend to the kingdom, but also to send him into exile in the forest. Rama, as a kshatriya (a person belonging to a ruler or warrior class), had every right to question such an injustice. He was also not duty bound to honor his father’s unjust promises, either. However, true to his greatness, Rama, with total mental equipoise and without even a trace of disappointment on his face, conceded to both the demands. For him, “pitru vakya paripalanam” (honoring his father’s words) was one of the highest dharmas.

  1. The futility of listening to vicious counseling

Kaikeyi, who was an essentially good-natured woman, meekly allowed her very loyal maid servant Mandara to brainwash her into demanding these two atrocious boons from Dasarata. Though she was not enthusiastic in the beginning, she gradually allowed Mandara’s venomous words to poison her mind. Did she gain anything finally? No. In fact, she lost her beloved husband Dasarata who died very soon thereafter, on account of the shock and the pain of separation he experienced from having from his beloved son Rama being sent off. Bharata, Kaikeyi’s son, for whom she obtained the very kingdom, reprimanded her for her atrocious act. He never ever took charge of the kingdom as a King.

Now, notice this contrast: Upon hearing about these developments, Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, (who was very short-tempered), like a true Kshatriya, got angry. He could not tolerate the injustice doled out to Rama. He wanted Rama to fight for his rights, he also wanted to proceed and fight with his father and imprison Kaikeyi. However, Rama never heeded to his counsel. He pacified Lakshmana with calming words, pointing out the need for adhering to dharma. The effect of Rama’s counseling not only pacified Lakshmana, but this also gave him a steely resolution to relinquish his own comforts of the palace to accompany Rama to the forest, despite the latter’s objections to it.

  1. Not accepting any booty that came in an unjust way

Bharata, Kaikeyi’s son, also could not tolerate the very idea of bequeathing the throne that rightfully belong to his elder brother Rama, which was wrongly acquired for his sake by his mother. He felt wrath towards his mother on this issue and took her to task for having asked for such a boon. So, he went to the forest in search of his brother and pled for his return to the country to rightfully rule it. Rama refused to concede, of course, so he took Rama’s shoes, carried it on his head, and placed them on Ayodhya’s throne. He took care of administration of the country as a representative of Rama till Rama returned from exile.

  1. The futility of getting swayed by dubious attractions

Sita, who was in the forest, grew madly attracted to a beautiful golden deer. She wanted her husband Rama to catch the deer. She refused to listen to Lakshmana’s warning that such a deer was not natural, and that it could be a demon in disguise. Because of her incessant pestering to acquire the deer to be her playmate, Rama had to go behind it. Unfortunately, this led to her getting separated from him, and she then got forcibly abducted by Ravana, the demon.

  1. The importance of being watchful about one’s utterances

Afterwards, Rama killed the demon. Then, Maricha, the demon who was disguised as the golden deer, called out “Ha Lakshmana! Ha Sita!” mimicking Rama’s voice, and died. Sita, upon hearing it, urged Lakshmana, who was standing guard next to her, to go and help Rama (who was actually not in any trouble). Lakshmana tried his best to counsel her, but he could not convince her that Rama was fine. In a fit of rage, Sita accused Lakshmana of wanting to have an illicit relationship with her in Rama’s absence. Lakshmana, who was then shell-shocked from hearing such an abominable accusation, left immediately, leaving her alone. Ravana then utilized this opportunity to abduct her.

Some interpreters of Ramayana say that Sita was forced to prove her chastity by the test of fire by Rama (after she was freed from the clutches of Ravana) only because of her intemperate and terrible accusation against the saintly and devout Lakshmana.

  1. The importance of fighting against atrocity done to woman

Jatayu, the old and once powerful bird, noticed Ravana abducting Sita forcefully and flying with her in his vehicle towards his country Lanka. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana in an effort to release Sita. Unfortunately, he could not succeed in this effort. The bird sacrificed its very own life on such a noble effort. Before taking his last breath, though, Jatayu managed to convey the news to Rama, who was moved to tears by the old bird’s gallantry. Rama performed its last rites and funeral, as though he was the bird’s son.

  1. Divine love transcends all barriers of caste and creed

Lowly fisherman Guha was was full of devotion to Rama. He helped Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita cross the Ganges river in a boat. Impressed by his devotion and service, Rama accepted him as if his brother. Sabari, an old hunter woman of low caste, became a staunch devotee of Rama, just by hearing about Rama’s greatness.

When Rama was wandering the forests in search of Sita, he happened to visit Sabari’s hut. The old lady, overwhelmed with love for Rama, reportedly offered him fruits after nibbling each a bit to make sure that she did not offer sour fruits to her beloved Rama. Rama treated Sabari as though she was his own mother and showered his grace on her.

  1. The importance of humility as a great virtue

Hanuman, estranged Vanar King Sugriva’s minister, was one of the greatest characters of Ramayana. Hanuman was physically very powerful, a great diplomat, very articulate, and very wise. Despite all his great traits, his humility was still unsurpassed. The moment he met Rama, he was bowled over by Rama’s divinity and charm and he committed himself to be Rama’s lifelong servant. The great feats he subsequently performed in serving Rama were unparalleled. The humility he displayed despite his greatness was unfathomable.

  1. The greatness of true friendship

Rama befriended the estranged Vanar King Sugriva with a mutual promise of help. Sugriva’s brother Vali had forcefully taken Sugriva’s wife. Not only that, but he also denied him his share of the Vanar kingdom. Sugriva and Rama teamed up in an effort to eliminate the immensely powerful Vali. Sugriva, in turn, helped Rama in seeking and locating Sita. He also helped Rama to wage war against Ravana in order to retrieve Sita. Both did a commendable job in honoring their words.

  1. Showing mercy, even to the enemy.

Ravana’s younger brother Vibhishan was an extremely righteous person. In fact, he was bold enough to warn and advise Ravana against abducting another person’s wife just to satisfy his own carnal desires. When the furious Ravana showed his brother to the door, Vibhishana went to Rama and surrendered to him. Despite reservations from Sugriva and others, Rama accepted Vibhishana into his fold.

During the first fiery combat between Rama and Ravana, Rama destroyed all of Ravana’s weapons and armor. So, Ravana stood on the war field unprotected. Rama, who could have easily killed Ravana at that moment, in one of the greatest acts of graciousness, then asked Ravana to retire for the day and return to the war field the next day, fully rearmed, as it was against dharma to kill an un-armed person.

  1. The need for the highest standards in a King

After annihilating Ravana and freeing Sita from confinement, Rama performed one of the most controversial and oft-criticized demands in asking Sita to jump into the fire to prove her chastity. Sita did it, and she came out unscathed. Rama took her into his loving fold once again.

Later, when he became King of Ayodhya, he came to know that  a washerman who spoke ill words about Rama for having accepted his wife Sita who had stayed in the confinement of his enemy for months. Rama, whose love for Sita was unfathomable, then made the most painful decision in relinquishing her—simply because he had to maintain a very high order of personal probity as the ruler of Ayodhya.

One can go on discussing many more lessons of morality and dharma that can be found from an in-depth reading of Ramayana. It is no wonder that Ramayana is a wonderful story for both children and elders alike. It’s both a wondrous piece of literature and a great source of guidance on righteous living that has stood up to the test of time. It continues to inspire millions of people, breaking through both religion and linguistic barriers across the world.