Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Beginnings

Mahabharata


This is the story of Chandra vamsha (the moon dynasty), from its progenitor Chandra (moon) to the great war between its two clans which almost resulted in its complete destruction. In this climatic battle in the great battlefield of Kurukshetra, most of the Kings of Bharath (India) took part, allied with either the Pandavas (sons of Pandu) or the Kauravas (sons of Dhritharashtra). Many great deeds of bravery were performed on this battlefield, as well as heinous crimes, violations of the laws of war. It was human nature at its best and its worst. Although the Pandavas won the war, it was at a great cost. They lost so many of their brave warriors, including all their sons.

The story begins in the hermitage of Brihaspati (Jupiter), the Guru (perceptor) of the Devas (Gods), who was one of the greatest Rishis (sages) of all time. In the Hindu Pantheon, the Devas come right below the supreme trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector and Shiva the destroyer. The Devas inhabit the Swargaloka (heavens), ruled by their king Indra. Indrani (Sachi) is his consort and his principal lieutenants are Agni (Fire), Vayu (Wind) and Varuna (Waters). Indra is the lord of thunder, and his principal weapon is the vajra (thunderbolt). The Devas are immortal, because they drank Amrit (nectar), which was thrown up when the "sea of milk" was churned. The Devas derive their power from the worship of mortals. When mortals conduct sacrifices in honor of the Gods, Agni carries the sacrificial offerings up to them. The offerings are know as Havis (oblations).

The Devas are engaged in perpetual conflict against the Asuras (Demons), who are also referred to as Daithyas (Sons of Diti. The sons of Danu, the Danavas are also Asuras.) . The Asuras inhabit the netherworld, and are ruled by different kings from time to time. In this eternal battle, on many occasions, the Asuras, strengthened by boons obtained from one of the Trinity, would succeed in defeating the Gods and overthrow Indra from the throne of heaven. Dark times would follow, with the complete disruption of the order that pervades the universe, and mortals would tremble with fear, as they no longer could rely upon the Gods to protect them from the ravages of demons. Ultimately, the Gods would pray to one of the Trinity (usually Vishnu, but sometimes Shiva), to deliver them from their predicament. Most of the Avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu were undertaken to defeat the Asuras and restore the Devas' rule over the heavens.

Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devas was famed as the most learned Brahmana (scholar) in all the seven worlds. Many Gods, Kings and Brahmanas came to his hermitage to become his disciples and to learn the Vedas (most sacred hymns) and Shastras (scriptures) from him. One of his disciples was Chandra (the moon), who was exceedingly handsome. As fate would have it, Tara, the wife of Brihaspati, was smitten by desire for the young student. Forgetting his vows as a Brahmacharin (celibate; a student is required to be a celibate till his studies are complete), and the utter immorality of raising his eyes in desire for his Guru's wife, one who was like a mother to him, Chandra also returned this love. They consummated their lust and Tara, accompanied by her lover Chandra fled from her husband's hermitage. When Brihaspati came to know of this great betrayal, he was excessively angry. He sought redressal from Indra, king of the Devas. Fearing Indra's wrath, the illicit couple fled to the sanctuary of the Asuras, the mortal enemy of the Devas.

Of course, this meant war. A great war raged between the Asuras and Devas in the heavens. As both sides were evenly matched, it dragged for many years, with neither side able to score a decisive victory. At last, both sides tired of the war and a compromise was negotiated. As per this compromise, Chandra escaped punishment, and Tara would return to her husband. Right when everything seemed to be resolved, a new complication arose. During this time, Tara had given birth to a child Budha (Mercury) and both Brihaspati and Chandra claimed him as their own. Tara, who was the only one who could answer this question conclusively, remained silent.

The boy, although only a child, was mature beyond his years. He appeared before the council of Gods and demanded to be heard. The Gods consented. Budha said, "It is forever a matter of shame to me, that I am the son of this Chandala (outcast) Chandra. Nor is my mother Tara a source of pride to me. These two sinners, whose passion proved to be stronger than their virtues, are my parents, but it would have been far better, if I had been unborn! A child born out of wedlock, one especially born to a married woman, one who has forsaken her home, in lust for her husband's disciple, who commits this grave crime of incest, can never hope to erase the shame of his illegitimate birth. Such a woman is lower than even the Chandalas (outcasts). A man should be able to look up to his father. Alas! I can never do so. How can I ever forget that my father, this low-born Chandra, this betrayer of oaths, breaker of homes, one who has no control over his senses, betrayed the trust of his Guru? May such a person be eternally damned! Yes, I am the son of Chandra, but I do not ever wish to see him. As you all are my witness, he shall be my mortal enemy. My mother, the tramp, I do not wish to see her either. The only course open to my accursed being, is to seek salvation by performing Tapas (penance). I shall go away to Himalayas and seek to spend the rest of my life in penance. Give me leave to go."

The Devas and Brahma were impressed by the clear thinking, and rectitude of this young boy. They conferred many boons on him and offered him a place in the heavens. The boy however, stuck to his original intention of performing penance to erase his shame.

He performed penance for many years. At last the Lord Mahadeva (Shiva ) appeared before him and granted a boon to make him one of the nine planets (Navagrahas). The nine planets in Hindu astrology are : Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Shukra (Venus), Budha (Mercury), Angaraka (Mars), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn), Rahu and Ketu. Rahu and Ketu do not correspond to any of the planets in western astrology. Since his birth was illegitimate, Budha hates his father and has sworn to be his enemy. Therefore, the planets Chandra and Budha are rivals in Indian astrology. Even after obtaining the boon that gave him a new status, Budha continued his Tapas in the Himalayas.

There was a pond near his hermitage. It was sacred to Rudra and his consort Parvati. Since it was their private pond, an enchantment was laid upon it. One day, a King named Sudyama, who had been hunting alone in the forest, grew very thirsty. He chanced upon the sacred pond. As he did not know about it, he waded into it along with his stallion. He quenched his thirst and then came out of the pond. He was horrified to find that the enchantment had done its work and he had been turned into a beautiful woman. His stallion had also become a mare. He was in a severe predicament. It was impossible for him to return to his kingdom, as who would believe them if he told them the truth. Worse, they might actually believe him and then his shame would be complete, for the valorous king had turned into a comely maiden! While he was pondering his predicament, dusk began to fall. He (she) was now seized with the absolute necessity of finding a shelter for the night. She wandered about and chanced upon the hermitage of sage Budha.

The sage took one look at him and by his yogic powers, divined what had happened. He welcomed the maiden (who shall be referred to from now on as Ila) and provided her with food. He then spoke to her: "O maiden. I know who you are. I know that you are the king Sudyama, who has been turned into the maiden Ila after wading into the enchanted pond. Do not worry about your predicament. It is the will of the Lord that you should spend a year as a woman. At the end of a year, the enchantment will be lifted and you will be back to your original manly form. If you so desire, you may spend that year in this hermitage."

Ila accepted this offer. She spent her time in performing household tasks and taking care of the domestic needs of the Rishi. She was an exceedingly beautiful woman. As per the mysterious workings of fate, the sage was consumed with desire for her. He expressed his love for her and they were married. The marriage was consummated and in the course of nine months, a beautiful male child was born to them. Soon the year of enchantment was over and both the King and the stallion reverted to their original form. The king took leave of the sage and took the child with him. The child was named Puroorava. Puroorava is deemed to be the first king of the Chandra dynasty. (He is the son of Budha, who is himself son of Chandra, and that is how the dynasty gets its name).

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Last Modified At: Sun Nov 7 16:20:04 2004