Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The MrithaSanjivini

Mahabharata


The perceptor of the Asuras was Shukra. In every respect equal to Brihaspati (Jupiter), for a long time he possessed an advantage over his rival. He alone knew the secret of the MrithaSanjivini Mantra (Spell/Incantation), which had the power of bringing the dead back to life. For quite some time this provided the Asuras with a decisive advantage over the Devas (this was before the Devas had become immortal by drinking nectar), as the Asuras effectively suffered no loss of life thanks to the skill of their Guru, but the Devas were dying in large numbers in the battle.

This imbalance in power vexed Brihaspati greatly. After much thought, he decided upon a course of action. He called his son Kacha and said, "Son, As you know, only Shukra, the guru of the Asuras, knows the secret of the MrithaSanjivini Mantra, and using this, he brings the Asuras that die in battle back to life. Unless we are able to obtain this Mantra, the Devas will surely lose this war. I have an assignment for you. Go to Shukra, beseech him to take you as his disciple and then seek to obtain the secret of the MrithaSanjivini from him."

Upon hearing this, Kacha responded: "O Father, you are foremost among the learned Rishis. I cannot look upon anyone else as my teacher but you. Even assuming that I go and ask Shukra to take me as a disciple, will he oblige the son of his rival? Will he not simply refuse to accept me as his disciple?"

Brihaspati said, "Know O Kacha, that according to the prevailing rules of ethics, a Guru may not refuse admission to a qualified disciple, no matter what his personal preference might be. Even if the son of my greatest enemy seeks admission to my hermitage, I could not refuse. Shukra will certainly accept you and teach you all he knows, with the exception of the special Mantras that he has divined. He will certainly not teach you the MrithaSanjivini of his own free will, as that will be betraying the trust of the Asuras. You must resort to stratagem to obtain that secret from him. Know that simply stealing the incantations will not do, for to do its work, any Mantra must be properly transmitted from a qualified Guru to his disciple of his own free will. You must serve him diligently, and for as long as it takes to obtain the MrithaSanjivini. Go forth now and return with the means of our deliverance.".

So Kacha traveled to the ashram (hermitage) of Shukra and after prostrating himself at the feet of the Acharya (teacher) said: "O great one, Kacha, son of Brihaspati, grandson of the great sage Angirasa, salutes you. I seek knowledge of the Vedas and Shastras. There is no one who is more fit to teach them. Please accept me as your disciple."

Of course, Shukra knew who Kacha was, and for what purpose he sought to become his disciple. As per the ancient Shastras (scriptures) he could not refuse to take him as his disciple, and he liked the young man, despite being the son of his rival. It was not often that a brilliant young man of such illustrious lineage sought to become his disciple. However he made a silent vow to frustrate the designs of Brihaspati, by withholding the MrithaSanjivini Mantra from Kacha.

Kacha served his guru Shukra with devotion. In those days, when a young man desires education, he seeks out a suitable Guru and seeks to be admitted as a disciple. Once admitted as a disciple, he lives in the ashram of the guru and performs all menial tasks assigned to him. This may involve obtaining firewood, tending to the cows, cleaning the hermitage, cooking food and other such household tasks. He won the affection of Shukra, who found the young man a devoted disciple and a keen student. Shukra had a daughter Devayani, who was about the same age as Kacha. She grew to be very fond of Kacha, and was in a fair way to being in love with him. But at present, she said nothing.

Kacha's presence caused a great deal of unease to the Asuras. They knew that the knowledge of MrithaSanjivini was what he was really after. They were afraid that in a moment of weakness, Shukra might forget his duty and instruct the young man in this Mantra, which would nullify the advantage they held over the Devas. After much thought, they decided to murder Kacha to insure against this possibility. One day they waylaid him when he was grazing his teacher's cows and murdered him.

When the sun went down, and Kacha had still not returned, Devayani was worried. She went to her father and said, "O Father, Night has fallen and there is still no sign of Kacha. I greatly fear that some ill fortune might have befallen him. Please send someone to search for him and bring him home." Of course, Shukra being a sage of great power, did not need to send anyone to search for Kacha. By his yogic powers, he possessed divine insight. He immediately divined that Kacha was dead. He said, "My child, do not grieve. Kacha is dead, murdered by the Asuras on his way to the grazing fields. You know as well as I do that he was here on the instructions of his father to learn the MrithaSanjivini from me. The Asuras have shown a marked lack of faith in me by trying to prevent this by murdering him. They should have reposed their faith in me. However fond I might have been of Kacha, I would not have betrayed the trust of the Asuras by instructing him in the use of MrithaSanjivini. However, his death might be all for the best, as he could not have succeeded in his quest, and he would have felt that failure was a fate worse than death."

Upon hearing that Kacha was dead, Devayani fell down senseless. When she recovered, she was stricken with grief and repeatedly beseeched her father to revive Kacha with the MrithaSanjivini Mantra. Shukra was very fond of his daughter, and could not bear to see her unhappy. He finally invoked the MrithaSanjivini and brought Kacha back to life. Kacha returned from the grazing field along with the cows, as if nothing had happened. Devayani was very happy, and Shukra was uneasy.....

Naturally, when the Asuras found out that Kacha had been brought back from the dead, their chagrin knew no bounds. They perceived that getting rid of Kacha was not as easy as they originally thought. After much thought and debate, they hit upon a plan. They again murdered Kacha, but this time they burnt his body. They took the ashes and mixed them in wine. They offered this wine to Shukra at a feast, who drank it. Once again, when Devayani realized that Kacha had not returned, she asked her father to find out his whereabouts. Once again Shukra used his powers. To his surprise, he found that Kacha was inside him, being digested along with the wine in which his ashes were mixed. He said to Devayani, "Dear child. You are in a terrible predicament now. You must either lose your father or your friend. The wily Asuras have murdered him and have fed me wine in which his ashes were mixed. If I bring him back to life, I will have to die when he gets out of my body. Make your decision. You can either have me live or Kacha. You are confronted with a difficult choice.".

Of course Devayani could not bear to lose either of them. So she pleaded with her father to find a way so that both might live. With great sorrow, Shukra said, "Verily, No man may escape that which has been fated. All this has come to pass because I was weak enough to consume wine. From this day, I decree that no learned guru may drink alcohol. Alcohol impairs ones senses and clouds one's judgment. I had thought that I would be able to avoid imparting the knowledge of MrithaSanjivini to Kacha, but fate has willed otherwise." He then brought back Kacha to life. While Kacha was still inside his body, he instructed him in the use of the MrithaSanjivini. Kacha sprang forth from the body of his guru, instantly killing him. After this, he used his newly acquired skill to cast the MrithaSanjivini spell and brought Shukra back to life.

His purpose achieved, Kacha did not delay for long. His studies had long been complete, he had been waiting only to acquire the MrithaSanjivini spell. He took leave of Shukra and Devayani. She decided that this was the right time to express her true feelings. She declared her love for him and begged him to accept her as his wife. Kacha was horrified, he had always respected and loved her, but only as a brother. He said , "O Devayani, You are the daughter of my revered Guru. The daughter of a guru is equivalent to to a sister. Besides, have you forgotten that I was twice brought back to life by your father? Why, once, I even sprang forth from his body! This makes him my father and you, my sister. I have always loved and respected you, but only as a sister. It is not in my power to do what you desire. Marry someone else and be happy."

Devayani pleaded with him, but in vain. Shukra was also of the same opinion as Kacha. However much he was fond of Kacha, he felt that an alliance between him and his bitter rival Brihaspati could only lead to complications and grief. Kacha left them soon after this and Shukra was left to console his distraught daughter as best as he could.

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