Monthly Archives: April 2014

The love story of Nala and Damyanti

Nala and Damyanti

Maharaja Nala’s story is very similar to the story of Pandavas from Mahabharata. He was very fond of playing dice game and lost his kingdom while doing this.

Nala and Damyanti

Nala and Damyanti

Nala was the ruler of Nishada. He was a very capable king and his country prospered under his rule. Nala was a gifted charioteer. He was also very fond of playing dice, but not adept at it. However, despite being one of the most handsome men of his time, he was still unmarried. One day a brahmin came to his court. On learning of his bachelor status he suggested the name of Damayanti, the daughter of the King of Vidarbha. He painted such an impressive picture of the princess that Nala fell in love with her without seeing her. Damyanti was said to be very beautiful and it is said that even Gods wanted to marry her.

The Swan, Nala and Damyanti

 One day, Nala catches a swan. Swan begs for freedom and promises Nala that he will sing praises of Nala to Demyanti if he is freed. Nala accedes and  sends the swan to Damyanti, who sang praises for Nala before Damyanti. Thus, prior to the swayamvara, Damyanti was already in love with Nala.

Damyanti and Swan

Damyanti and Swan

Damyanti’s swayamvara

Damyanti father’s announces for a swayamvara. This was attended by Gods and humans alike.  Nala wins Damyanti’s hand in a swayamvara. A human trumped the gods, but how. There is an interesting story behind this. Among all gods, She chose Nala because of his shadow. The gods have no shadow. (An Indian hindi movie – RA.one climax is similar, starred by Shahrukh Khan and Arjun Rampal)

Damyanti Swayamvara

Damyanti Swayamvara

Duly, she chose Nala as her husband and everyone else was disappointed. The demon Kali, the personification of Kali yuga, also wanted to marry Damayanti. On his arrival, he is unaware that he is too late for the swayamvara. He runs into the gods and they tell him how she has chosen Nala in their place. Kali then angrily vows to cause the fall of Nala’s kingdom.

The revenge of Kali and separation of couple

Kali waits for twelve years to find  a weakness in Nala, and got his chance.  He guides him to play the game of dice with his brother, Pushkara and loses everything. He and his wife were deserted in exile, Still in the power of Kali, he deserted his wife, Damyanti. Damyanti finds refuge in the court of King Chedi.

Nala leaves Damyanti in forest

Nala leaves Damyanti in forest

Nala finds a serpent in the forest from a fire. This was a influential Naga, named Karakotaka. In return, he was rewarded a bite from the Naga. He later explains that this would change his appearance, which will help him ultimately. The Naga also provides a magical garment to Nala, wearing which make him assume his normal form.  Nala becomes Vahuka, who was a dwarf whose arms were short. He finds refuge at King of Ayodhya, named as Rituparana. Incidentally, King Rituaprna is a skilled dice player.

Search of Damyanti and Nala

Soon, Damyanti father’s finds her. Damyanti, not only good in look but sharp in brains, decides to find Nala with an innovative trick. She asks for her swayamvara to be conducted again. King Rituparna also comes, but he is accompanied by Vahuka, as he is good in riding chariots.

Nala identified

Damayanti was waiting on her balcony listening to the hoof beats as the carriages passed her palace. She immediately recognised the pattern of the hoof beats of the chariot being driven by Nala. She sent a maid to inquire who had arrived in the chariot and was informed that it was King Rituparna and his chariot driver. She was also informed that the king had refused the hospitality of Vidarbh and was asking his chariot driver to prepare his meal. Damayanti then asked the maid to smuggle some item of food. The taste was identical to her husband’s cooking. Throwing all decorum to the winds she ran down to meet the chariot driver and was stunned to meet a dark, short and deformed man instead of a fair, tall and handsome Nala. She asked, “Why does a man want to send his dutiful wife back to her father’s home?” The man replied, “Because he has lost his kingdom and cannot support his wife in the manner she was accustomed to before their marriage.” He then put on the magic garments and was returned to his original form.

Nala gets his kingdom back

Rituparna congratulated Damayanti and told her that she had found her husband but he would lose not only his best horseman and best cook but also his best friend. Nala had a proposal for Rituparna. “I will stay with you for a while and teach you all that I know of horsemanship if you teach me all that you know of gambling.” He added that he was not interested in playing regularly but just one time in order to win his kingdom back. Nala and Damayanti moved to Rituparna’s kingdom. Soon Rituparna was an adept horseman and Nala an adept gambler.

Nala sent a challenge to his brother. He was willing to stake Damayanti if Pushkar staked the entire kingdom. Pushkar still felt that the victory was incomplete without his brother’s wife and readily accepted the challenge. This time Kali and Dwapar were not there to aid him and Nala had become an expert player. Pushkar lost everything back to Nala. Nala had half a mind to send Pushkar out in a loincloth, but he was a large-hearted man. He gave Pushkar a part of the kingdom and suggested that he mend his ways

Nala and Damyanti story appears in Mahabharata – (Vana Parva).

Hanuman jee

Seven unknown facts of Lord Hanumana

Lord Hanumana

Lord Hanumana is famous for his devotion towards Lord Rama. He helped him tremendously in getting back Sita from the clutches of Ravana, the demon king. His famous exploit was burning the Lanka city. Here are few more facts about him, which are not famous but interesting.

Hanuman jee

Hanuman jee

Birth of Lord Hanumana

There is an interesting story of birth of Lord Hanumana. Vrihaspati had an attendant called Punjikasthala, who was cursed to assume the form of a female monkey — a curse that could only be nullified if she would give birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Reborn as Anjana, she performed intense austerities to please Shiva, who finally granted her the boon that would cure her of the curse.

How he became a companion of Sugriva

Hanumana selected Surya, the sun god as his preceptor, and approached him with the request to teach the scriptures. Surya agreed and Hanumana became his disciple, but had to face his constantly moving guru by traversing the sky backwards at equal pace, while taking his lessons. Hanumana’s phenomenal concentration took him only 60 hours to master the scriptures. Surya considered the manner in which Hanumana accomplished his studies as his tuition fees, but when Hanuman requested him to accept something more than that, the sun god asked Hanumana to assist his son Sugriva, by being his minister and compatriot.

Why Lord Hanumana is covered with sindoor

After the exile was over and Shri Ram, Sita Mata were back in Ayodya. On day Lord Hanumana saw Sita Mata wearing sindoor and asked with curiosity about the same. Sita Mata replied, because I’m married to Shri Ram & because he is my master, as per rituals I have to wear it. Sita Mata replied, wearing Sindoor will result good for my husband & will also bless my master with long life.

A second later, Lord Hanumana besmeared sindoor in all his body. With this gesture of Shri Hanuman, Shri Ram was very impressed & gave a blessing to Shri Hanuman, that any one who will offer Sindoor to Shri Hanuman, all his hurdles will get removed automatically.

Hanuman-five-mukhi

Hanuman-five-mukhi

Lord Hanumana had  a son

Though Lord Hanumana was never married, he had a son. When Hanuman took a dip in the waters of sea, after burning whole of Lanka with the fire burning on his tail, a drop of his perspiration fell in to mouth of a mighty fish. Out of this the Makardhwaja was born.

Lord Hanuman defeating Ahiravan

Lord Hanuman defeating Ahiravan

He defeated his son to save Rama and Lakshmana

According to Ramayana told by Valmiki, when Ahiravana took Rama and Lakshmana to Patala, Hanuman followed them to their rescue. He was challenged at the gate of Patala by a creature, who was part Vanara and part reptile – a Makara. He introduced himself Makaradhwaja and son of Hanuman, the mighty warrior.
Hanuman was amused and said that, I am myself the Hanumana but he could not be his son, as he was celibate since birth. However, Hanumana then closed his eyes in dhyan to see the events described above of Makardhwaja’s birth.
Makardhwaja asked him for his blessings, however, he said to Hanuman, that he will have to fight him to enter Patala, as he cannot betray Ahiravana, his mentor. Hanuman defeats Makaradhwaja in a duel and binds him to proceed further to ultimately kill Ahiravana and rescue Rama & Lakshamana.
Later on, upon Rama’s advice he installed Makardhwaja, as King of Patala before returning to Lanka, to continue war with Ravana.

Lord Hanumana

Lord Hanumana

Rama and Sita in his heart

Shortly after Rama is crowned emperor upon his return to Ayodhya, Rama decides to ceremoniously reward all his well-wishers. At a grand ceremony in his court, all his friends and allies take turns being honoured at the throne. Hanuman approaches without desiring a reward. Seeing Hanuman come up to him, an emotionally overwhelmed Rama embraces him warmly, declaring that he could never adequately honour or repay Hanuman for the help and services he received from the noble Vanara. Sita, however, insists that Hanuman deserved honour more than anyone else, and Sita gives him a necklace of precious stones adorning her neck.
When he receives it, Hanuman immediately takes it apart, and peers into each stone. Taken aback, many of those present demand to know why he is destroying the precious gift. Hanuman answers that he was looking into the stones to make sure that Rama and Sita are in them, because if they are not, the necklace is of no value to him. At this, a few mock Hanuman, saying his reverence and love for Rama and Sita could not possibly be as deep as he implies. In response, Hanuman tears his chest open, and everyone is stunned to see Rama and Sita literally in his heart.

How Rama left this world when Hanumana was guarding him

As Hanumana had boons from various gods and it was not possible for Rama to leave this world in presence of him, following has happened.

One day when King Rama was sitting on his throne, his ring fell off. When it touched the earth, it made a hole in the ground and disappeared into it. It was gone. He friend Hanuman was nearby. Rama said, Look, my ring is lost.” Dear friend, “Help me find it please.”

Hanumana was a powerful Vanara, a monkey-god, with the power to change shape and size and enter any hole, no matter how tiny. He had the power to become the smallest of the small and larger than the largest thing. So he took on a tiny form and went down the hole.

Hanuman reached underworld looking for the lost ring. When he was finally taken to the King of Spirits, he kept repeating the name of Rama. The King of Spirits asked, “Who are you?”
“Hanuman.”
“Why have you come here?”
“Rama’s ring fell into a hole, and I came to fetch it.”
The king looked around and found a platter, which he held up for Hanuman to see. On it were thousands of rings. All of them were Rama’s rings. The King of Spirits set it down and said, “pick out your ring and take it.”

They were all exactly the same. “I don’t know which one it is,” said Hanuman.

The King of Spirits said, “There have been as many Ramas as there are rings on this platter. When you return to earth, you will not find Rama. This incarnation of Rama is now over. Whenever an incarnation of Rama is about to be over, his ring falls down. I collect them and keep them. Now you can go.”

lord Hanuman and Lord Rama

Mahavir Jayanti – birth of Lord Hanumana

The festival of Mahavir (Hanumana) Jayanti

Hanuman Jayanti is an important festival for Hindus. Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated on the full moon day (poornima) of the Hindu lunar month of Chaitra. On this day, in a temple, spiritual discourses are started at dawn.  Lord Hanuman was born at sunrise.  At that time the spiritual discourse is stopped and the offering of food (Prasad) is distributed to all bhakts. At some parts in India, this festival is celebrated in the month of december.

Lord Hanumana’s childhood

Once when Hanumanji was young Surya deva (Sun deity) imbued him with knowledge of countless weapons and mantras. However, his hyperactive nature induced him to think of swallowing the `red, ripened fruit’ – the Sun! Before he succeeded, Indra hit him with his Vajra and persuaded him not to. On being hit by the Vajra, his beard – hanu-, became slanted. Therefore he also became known as Hanuman. The “ji” suffix after any name accords respect. Indra then blessed him that he will eternally remain undefeated, victorious. Hanumanji also obtained boons from Varuna deva (water deity) and Yama – deity of death, victory and immortality. From Brahma he obtained the power of inducing fear in enemies, of destroying fear in friends, to be able to change his form at will and to be able to easily travel wherever he wished. From Mahadevji he obtained the boons of longevity, scriptural wisdom and ability to cross the ocean.

Young Hanuman and Lord Surya

Young Hanuman and Lord Surya

Lord Hanumana’s devotion to Lord Rama

Lord Hanuman is known for its great strength, wisdom, power and his immortal devotion towards Lord Rama. He is considered to be a greatest follower of Lord Rama and played a crucial role in his life. He is also known as Sankat Mochan who people remember in both good and bad times. He is considered to be as one of the most powerful Hindu gods in India. According to Hindu mythology, as the son of ‘Pawan’, the God of Winds and ‘Anjanee’ often referred to as ‘Pawanputra,’ is blessed with immense physical and mental strength that is greatly inspiring.

When Ravan’s son Indrajit used his miraculous weapons, rendering Shri Ram and Lakshman unconscious, Hanumanji’s supreme devotion as the ideal devotee manifested. Advised by the Ayurvedic physician Sushena, to fetch the four types of herbs on mount Dronachal to revive the two, Hanumanji flew there. Not recognizing the herbs, he returned with the whole mountain! This miraculous power arose from his unalloyed devotion to Shri Ram and his brahmacharya.

lord Hanuman and Lord Rama

lord Hanuman and Lord Rama

Hanuman Jayanti is an occasion to remember his unbridled devotion to Lord Rama and his feats of daring. In their quest to fight against demon king Ravana, Lord Hanuman led a monkey army and built a bridge to Lanka.

 

Shri Krishna challenging Bhishma in the war of Kurukshetra

Eighteen days of Mahabharata war

 Mahabharata war which lasted eighteen days

In the context of Mahabharata, eighteen is an important number. Duryodhana had 11 akshouhini soldiers and Pandavas had 7, making a total of eigtheen. There are eighteen chapters in the epic and last but not the least, the war has lasted for exactly eighteen days.

 

Mahabharata war

Mahabharata war

Day One and Two – The Grandsire’s amazing skills on display

Uttara and Sweta, sons of Virata, were killed on day one of Mahabharata war. Shalya killed Uttara and Bhishma killed Sweta. This day belonged to Kauravas. Second day belonged to Pandavas and Satyaki killed Bhishma’s charioteer. Bhishma dazzled in kurukshetra and Yudhishthira was forced to thinking that how would they conquer this army which has warriors like Bhishma.

Uttara - prince of Virata

Uttara – prince of Virata

Day Three – Day Eight (Bhima kills few Kauravas)

On day three, Bhishma killed many soldiers of Pandava army.  On fourth day, Bhima killed eight brothers of Duryodhana. Day eight spelled some misery for pandavas, as Arjuna’s son Iravan was killed.

Day Ten (Bhishma’s downfall)

On ninth day, Shri Krishna lost his patience and intended to attack Bhishma. Bhishma so far was proving too much for pandavas army, but Arjuna pacified him. He devises a strategy to cause Bhishma’s downfall. Interestingly, the secret of his downfall was given by Bhishma only. This was made possible by Shikhandi facing him and Arjuna using Shikhandi as shield. (Tenth day). Pandava’s chances only improved after Bhishma was removed from the equation.

Indian mythology story from Mahabharat

Bhishma on his death bed

Bhishma downfall

Bhishma’s  downfall

Day Twelve and Thirteen – Chakravyuha formation and death of Abhimanyu

On Twelfth day, Susharma engaged Arjuna. Susharma was part of the Duryodhana’s plan to capture Yudhishthir to win the war. On thirteenth day, while Arjuna was fighting Bhagdatta and Susharma, Drona made Chakravyuha formation. Nobody in pandavas knew the key to this apart from Arjuna. Abhimanyu knew how to enter but did not know how to come out of it. Once he entered, Jayadrath ensured that no pandava could follow him. Trapped, Abhimanyu fought valiantly before dying in hands of son of Dushasana, Durmashana.

 

Abhimanyu in Mahabharata war, he was killed on thirteenth day

Abhimanyu fought valiantly

Abhimanyu killed Brihadbala. He also defeated Duryodhana but let him live because Bhima was under oath to kill him. Seeing this, Karna snaps Abhimanyu’s bow from behind while Drona kills Abhimanyu’s horses and charioteer from the front. Then all Kauravas attacked him simultaneously. Dushasana’s son crushed his skull with a mace. However, Abhimanyu killed him with his own mace before dying. He also killed more than half akshouhini’s of Kaurava’s that day.

Jayadratha killed by Arjuna

Jayadratha killed by Arjuna

Day Fourteen and Fifteen – When Arjuna was close to death and Yudhishthrira spoke a half lie

Next day (fourteenth), Arjuna kills 5 Akshouhini’s of Kauravas and Jayadrath after coming to touching distance of death. This could have doomed pandava’s chances of winning the battle had Krishna not intervened. Karna kills Ghatotkacha with Indrastra, this again ensures that one more factor of  Arjuna’s death is taken care of. Satyaki killed Bhurisravas.

on Day fifteen, Drupad and Virata were killed by Drona. This was indeed Drona’s day, as he was decimating pandava’s army with the help of brahmadanda. Bhima killed an elephant, named Ashwaththama, and claimed that Drona’s son was killed. Drona dropped his arms after Yudhishthira confirmed this and was killed by Dhristdyumna.

Dhrishtdyumna killing Drona (The Teacher) in the battle of Mahabharat

Dhrishtdyumna killing Drona (The teacher of princes) in the battle of Mahabharat on day fifteen

Day Sixteen and Seventeen

On sixteenth day, Dushashana was killed by Bhima. Bhima tore his arm and drank the blood from his heart. Draupadi could finally tie her hairs with the blood from Dushashana’s heart.

Day seventeenth saw the demise of Karna in hands of Arjuna. He was killed in the same way as Abhimanyu, helpless. Earlier that day, Karna spared Sahdev and Arjuna. Nakula, the most handsome of kuru clan, killed Shakuni’s son Uluka. He took this oath during the gambling loss of killing Uluka. Nakula also killed three of Karna sons, Chitrasena, Sushena and Satyasena. Shalya became the commander of Kaurava’s army on seventeenth day of Mahabharat war.

Karna's chariot stuck in mud

Karna’s chariot stuck in mud

Final Day – Eighteenth day of Mahabharata war

On final (eighteenth) day, Shalya,  who acted as the charioteer of Karna, was killed by Yudhishthir.  There was a strange ability to him that he would grew more stronger in a battle as the aggression of his enemies grew. Only Yudhishthir could kill the powerful warrior because the eldest Pandava was not a man of aggression. Sahdev killed Shakuni to avenge the events which followed dice game. Seeing his eminent defeat, Duryodhana sought refuge in a lake. Pandavas found him there and Yudhisthira made a mistake. He offered Duryodhana to pick any of the Pandavas for a duel. Duryodhana chose Bhima. Balrama also watched this great duel between strength and agility. Bhima finally breaks Duryodhana thighs which enrages Balrama as this was against the rules of the war. Incidentally, Bhima vowed after the dice game that he would break Duryodhana’s thighs.

Bhima and Duryodhana - Mahabharata (eighteenth day)

Bhima and Duryodhana – Mahabharata (eighteenth day)

The night of shame – Ashwaththama’s misdeeds

Later in the night, Ashwaththama slays sons of Pandavas while they were sleeping. He also kills Shikhandi and Dhrishtadyumna. Dhrishtadyumna was the commander of Pandavas that day. He also attempted to kill unborn son of Abhimanyu who was saved by Shri Krishna. Ashwaththama was later cursed by Shri Krishna. Ashwaththama was supported by Kritvarma and Kripacharya.

Draupadi’s secret longing for another man

Mahabharata  stories

Sita swayamvara

Sita Swayamvara

King Janak was the ruler of the kingdom of Videha. Its capital city was Mithila. Janak was not only a brave king, but was also very well-versed in the Shastras and Vedas.  His daughter was Sita who grew up to be a girl of unparalleled beauty and charm and possessed the greatest of womanly virtues.

The condition of Swayamvara

When Sita became of marriageable age, the king decided to have a Swayamvara, which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the God Shiva. Whoever could wield the bow and string it, could marry Sita.

Why the condition was chosen

In earlier part of her life, Sita while playing with her sisters had unknowingly lifted the table over which the “Shiva Dhanush” had been placed; which was something no one in the palace could do. This incident was however observed by King Janaka and he decided to make this incident as the backdrop for swayamvara.

Rama fulfils the condition

Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya, successfully broke Shiva’s bow as he picked it up. And with the breaking of the bow, Janak proposed Sita to Rama in marriage. On the approval of Sage Vishwamitra, Janak sent his messengers to Ayodhya to convey the message to Dasharatha. Upon hearing the story of how his son Rama not only lifted the bow of Shiva, but also broke it, Dasharatha was overjoyed. He gladly accepted the marriage proposal of Rama and Sita.

Rama breaking Shiva's bow during Sita Swayamvar

Rama breaking Shiva’s bow during Sita Swayamvar

Angry Parshurama comes to the palace

At this point, Parshurama arrives at the palace and demanded to know that who has broken the bow of Shiva. He told Rama that Vishvakarma made two identical bows and gave them to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and Rama has broken the former. Parshurama said if Rama could string the bow of Vishnu then only he will accept the greatness of Rama. Rama took it up and strung it and placed an arrow asking Parashurama to where to target the arrow now. Parshurama realized that this person is no ordinary person and he himself is an avatar of Vishnu. He silently retreated from the swayamvara place.

Rama and Parshurama's confrontation

Rama and Parshurama’s confrontation

Marriage of Sita and Rama is solemnised

King Janak at that time gave lot money and other valuables that one can’t even imagine as dowry for Sita. As dowry, King Janak gave several lakh cows, expensive carpets and hundreds of silk clothes for Sita. The dowry also included elephants and horses covered with gold ornaments and chariots with many guards and servants. For Sita to not miss her friends, Janak also sent 100 female helpers as dowry with his daughter.Apart from all this, Janak also gave her daughter 1 crore gold coins, diamonds, pearls and ruby.

Rama and Sita wedding

Rama and Sita wedding

 

Ram Navmi festival

Festival of Ram Navmi

Ram Navmi, is a Hindu festival celebrating birth of Lord Ram.

Ram Navmi

Lord Ram birth is celebrated in Rama Navmi festival

Lord Ram is believed to be seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Shri Ram Navmi is celebrated on ninth day(navmi) of chaitra month of hindu lunar year, in waxing moon (shukla paksha). This festival is celebrated with immense joy and enthusiasm all over India. In South India, this day is celebrated as wedding anniversary of Lord and Sita.

Legends around this festival

In Ramayan, Dasarath was king of Ayodhya. He had three wives, Kaushalya, Sumithra and Kaikeyi. King Dasarath was nat blessed with a child, so he and the people of Ayodhya were worried as they had no heir to their kingdom. Rishi Vasistha, suggested him to perform, Putra Kamesti Yagna, to get desired child.
King Dasarath agreed to this and went to meet Maharshi Rushya Shrungain, who gave his concent to solemanise the yagna. As a result of yagna, Fire God appeared and handed a bowl of payasam to king Dasarata, and asked him to give it to his wives. He gave one half to Kaushalya, other half to Kaikayi. And they two gave one half each of their payasam to Sumithra.
After few days all the three Queens conceived Dasratha’s child. On the ninth day (Navami) of Chaithra month of Hindu calendar , at noon Kaushlya gave birth to Lord Sri Ram, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharath, and Sumithra gave birth to twins, Lakshman and Shatrughan.
This was a great day in Ayodhya and since then this day is calebrated as Ram Navmi festival.

Ram navmi festival celebrations

Temples are decorated, special hawans are performed, along with the chanting of vedic mantras.
Image of baby Ram is placed on cradle and is rocked by devotees, with singing of bhajan and kirtan. Many Hindu keep fast for the day followed by feasting in the evening. Along with LOrd Ram people also worship Sita (his wife), Laxman (his brother) and Hanuman (his ardent devotee). In the evening a special Ram Navmi procession is taken on street.
In South India, Sitarama Kalyanam, i.e.ceremonial wedding of the Lord Ram and Sita are performed by the priests at the temple. At the end of the day the deity is taken to a procession on the streets, with great fanfare and accompanied by group chanting of name of Rama.
The important celebrations on this festival take place at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, thronged by thousands of devotees, and Rathayatras, the chariot processions, also known as Shobha yatras of Rama, his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and devotee Hanuman, are taken out at several places, including Ayodhya where thousands of people take a dip in the sacred river Sarayu.