Tag Archives: Mythology

Arundhati Takes On The Redoubtable Vishwamitra!

Stories in ancient Indian scriptures, legends and myths include a good number of women and instances when they bested the men in the battle of wits. The one readily coming to our mind is Savitri retrieving her husband from the jaws of certain death defeating Yama. And there was Gargi (800 BCE) questioning Yajnavalkya, the first philosopher in the Upanishads, Draupadi in Mahabaratha arguing her case like an attorney when she was dragged to the court of DuryodhanaWhile ancient text of Rig Veda, it’s said, mentions some twenty 20+ poetesses, the Sangam literature in the south is not far behind with 25+ poetesses living in its time 2000 years ago! One of the best known poetess Avvaiyar was bold enough to challenge the powerful Tamil kings. More recently, some 800 years ago(!), there was Lilavati, the renowned mathematician and astronomer Bhaskaracharya II’s daughter, teaching her father’s students math and astronomy and earning so much recognition to even get her own gurukul.

This morning I heard this delightful story on TV told by Shri Anantapadmanabha Swamy, an eminent scholar associated with Ahobila Mutt. Did not readily find any reference in Google in a cursory search except for one site Tamil and Vedas already known to me as an inexhaustible storehouse of information of this kind.  The story here on Arundhati, the wife of Sage Vasishta, is drawn from these two sources, using some parts of text verbatim from the latter:

On one occasion, Vasishta had to perform a shrardha, a ritual dedicated to one’s forefathers (a practice followed by many even today though not with the originally prescribed austerity and rigor), mothers included.

As part of the ritual, a few guests are invited to participate and are provided, at the completion, with meals based on a prescribed menu allowing for a certain latitude. Acting symbolically as forefathers themselves, these guests are special, required to observe diligently certain austerities before and after the shrardha to preserve its sanctity.

And poor Vasishta searched high and low and yet wasn’t successful in finding the right person. As a last resort he approached Sage Vishwamitra who had a long-running feud with the former.

Vishwamitra

Vishwamitra heard him out and gladly agreed to be a guest on one condition. And, what was the condition? He must be served 1008, yes, 1008 side-dishes! Impossible to satisfy! Vasishta returned to his ashram crest fallen not knowing what next.

Arundhati gently inquired what had happened. Vasishta sadly admitted to his inability to find a right person, finally his request to Vishwamitra and how the latter did not make it easy, stipulating an impossible condition for his presence during the ritual.

Thence she assured her husband there was no cause to worry and asked him to invite the rishi stating his condition was acceptable. After all what could be better than having the great Sage Vishwamitra at the shrardha! But how? Vasishta felt quite apprehensive for the rishi was not one to be trifled with – on finding his condition not met, he was sure to fly into uncontrollable rage and cast some abominable curse on both of them. Nevertheless, faced with no alternative, he went ahead and invited the rishi agreeing to his strange condition.

On the day of shrardha, Vishwamitra came and sat at the dining place. To his chagrin he saw only 10+ curries on the plate (plantain leaf). When he angrily questioned, Vasishta, directed him to Arundhati as she was in charge of the ceremony.

Wondering (audibly) if the venerable sage did not know or pretending not to know what the shastra’s (rule-books) said in this regard, Arundhati responded citing a relevant shloka (couplet):

कारवल्लि शांत चैव वज्र वल्लि शतत्रयं
पनसं षट् शतंचैव श्रार्धकाले विधीयते

Kaaravalli satam chaiva vajra valli satatrayam
Panasam shat satam chaiva sraardhakaalE VidhiiyatE

Meaning: “Karela/bitter gourd served on the occasion of a shrardha is equal to 100 items, pirandai equal to 300 items and jack fruit equal to 600 items – thus is the rule set out for the ceremony.”

Pirandai.jpg

Pirandai (Cissus quadrangularis)

Fanas.jpg

Jack Fruit (Panasam)

She had served these three vegetable dishes along with 8 more items on the plate. So it came to 1008 items!

There wasn’t much of a counter left for Vishwamitra to say or do but go along to complete the meal and the ritual.

End

 

 

Sources: tamilandvedas.com/2014/06/09/arundhati-wins-vishwamitra-defeated/ and neevmagazine.co.in/lilavati-the-mathematician/

 

What You Get Is What You Give (A Story For Children)

 

Rajendra Prasad as Yama in Cinemakeldam Randi Movie Stills

 

‘You’re very fortunate to have arrived here on an auspicious day for us,’ Chitragupta (the book-keeper in the Heavens) said to the man standing before him. ‘It’s entirely due to your karma in your previous births you are awarded this kind fate. Your good fortune doesn’t end with it. If you are able to tell us just one act of yours, while you were down there in this birth, of compassion or charity, you’ll have an easy passage,’ he assured.

‘Now jog your memories and get ready. Of course, we’ll check our ‘Book of Deeds’ too. If it’s in there too you’re through.’

Hearing this, he was quite relieved of the tension that had built up since arrival: ‘That’s a cinch,’ he thought.

So he went about rummaging his memories. He thought and thought. Quite surprisingly nothing readily came to his mind. He went far back in years. Still no luck.

Finally he sat down with the head in his hands. An utterly broken man.

Chitragupta took pity on him.

‘Don’t know why, but I’ll do this for you.’

He summoned Sathyavaak, his deputy: ‘Kindly go down and check out if this man had done in his life time at least one act of charity or compassion and quickly report back.’

Just as Chitragupta was done attending to some other chore, Sathyavaak was back.

‘Tell us, Sathyavaak. What have you found out?’

‘My Lord, this was the most difficult assignment I’ve ever done.’

‘Go ahead, let’s have it.’

‘I searched low and high, east and west, south and north. No luck. Not a living soul spoke of any good deed done by this man. Finally I sat down wearily on a boulder in the bed of Cauvery in his village lamenting about the matter to myself and ready to return. Just then a scorpion emerged before me from under the boulder .’

‘Interesting! What does a scorpion have to do with all this?’

‘The scorpion told me an incredible story: One evening, returning from a bath in the river, this man encountered this scorpion on a sandy stretch in his path. Without any hesitation or fear this man rested his foot with all his weight squarely on the scorpion. The scorpion would have arrived here much before this man had the wooden sandal crushed it as intended. Luckily the scorpion sank into the loose sand and escaped unhurt.’

‘I’m not clear how all this…’

‘It’ll be in a moment, my lord. The scorpion said it would be mighty ungrateful of him if he did not narrate this incident to me in this man’s defence.’

The man listening in could make no sense yet of the story neither could he recall such an incident quite common place in his life to deserve special mention.  .

Sathyavaak continued: ‘All this seems to have happened when the scorpion found itself highly vulnerable on the sand patch away from any kind of shelter, eyed by its predator – a vulture – already perched near by and set to make a meal of the defenceless scorpion. That’s when the man here caused its burial in the sand from where it emerged only after dark and scampered to safety. It owes its life to this man.’

The man almost swooned at the end of the story.

‘Yes, a truly incredible a story you’ve brought back, Sathyavaak!

Chitragupta turned to the man: ‘This one act of yours, completely unintended, saves you from the clutches of Yama. You’ll have a safe passage as I had promised. But it makes me sad you wasted a life-time of opportunities. Do you know the planet earth is the only place in the entire creation where you could cause happiness to others and feel it come back and bathe you in its warm glow?’ And it’s so easy! I hope your story reaches others to mend their ways while there’s still time.’

The man doubled in remorse walked away following his escort.

End

 

Source: Image from moviegalleri.net (cinemakeldam_randi_movie_rajendra_prasad_master_bharath_9918)

More about Chitrgupta (Wiki):  Chitragupta (Sanskrit: चित्रगुप्त, ‘rich in secrets’ or ‘hidden picture’) in the Hindu pantheon of gods is known to be incredibly meticulous, and with his pen and paper he tracks every action of every sentient life form, building up a record of them over the course of their life so that when they die the fate of their soul can be easily determined between Heaven or Hell. These perfect and complete documents are referred to in mystical traditions as the Akashic records, and as they contain the actions of each person from birth to death, they can be said to contain every action taken in the universe.