Penance of Agastya

Long ago, the mountain Vindhya (central India) started growing upward in gigantic proportion due to egoism. The sage Agastya decided to subdue the pride of Vindhya. For this purpose, he came from Varanasi (Uttara Pradesh, India) and settled in South India. By the divine presence of the sage Agastya, the entire South India gradually became prosperous and pious.

Eventually the Kali Yuga started (As per the tradition of India, Kali Yuga is the fourth Age, the others being Kruta, Treta and Dvapara). In spite of the severe inspection of the sage Agastya, the evil traits of the Kali Yuga started sprouting slowly. Noting this trend, the sage felt sad and proceeded on a pilgrimage. The strange and unrighteous ways of the people made him quite unhappy. There was rampant selfishness and sensuousness prevalent everywhere. “How can these people attain liberation?” – This was his nagging grief.

After reaching Kanchi (Tamil Nadu – South India) he was unable to bear the burden of the grief, and performed severe penance meditating on Varadaraja (The Best of the boon givers – a synonym of Vishnu). God’s ways are mysterious! His power of illusion is incomprehensible! Vishnu appeared to the sage in the form of Hayagreeva. Agastya asked Hayagreeva “Oh Lord! What is the path of salvation for these ignorant people”?

Hayagreeva replied “There are two paths for this. They are:

a) After renouncing everything, one can attain the knowledge of the attributeless aspect of God. This is a very difficult way.

b) The second method is to worship the Divine Mother who is the form of Vishnu with attributes. Even a sinner can do the worship. There is another advantage in this type. The devotee can simultaneously get enjoyment and salvation by following this path”.

Further, Vishnu ordered to the sage Agastya “You have to propagate this divine secret in the entire world”.

The sage asked, “Lord Vishnu! Kindly narrate the story of Para Shakti (The Ultimate Power, the Divine Mother) who is your aspect with attributes”. At this stage, Vishnu asked sage Hayagreeva (born with the Lord’s aspects) to tell the detailed story to Agastya.

The Divine Mother emanated from meditation of Brahma (the Creator). Her name then was Prakruti (The nature).

mohini

Mohini Avatara

For the second time, the Divine Mother manifested as Mohini at the time of the churning of the ocean by the celestials and the demons (to obtain Amruta-nectar). Let us see how it happened.

Once upon a time, Indra (the Lord of the Heaven) was overpowered by the pride of his prosperity. His reverence to even Shiva gradually diminished. Observing this, Shiva asked the sage Durvasa to meet Indra in the Heaven. The sage started taking the path of Gandharvas (the celestial singers), which was very beautiful. The sage appeared uglier than a beggar. Anyway he proceeded ahead pompously. On the way the sage saw a celestial lady holding a fragrant garland of divine flowers. The ugly looking sage asked the beautiful lady, “Where did you get this garland”? She observed him keenly and realised that he was a sage. She prostrated to him and replied humbly “Sir! I am just now returning after doing the worship of the Divine Mother, who manifested and gave me this garland as Prasadam”. Jumping joyously, the sage asked her to give the garland to him. She happily handed it over to the sage and, prostrated to him. The sage blessed her “May your devotion to the Divine mother be firm”. Taking leave of the sage, she went away.

Mohini seduces the sages
Mohini seduces the sages. Mohini is depicted nude, adorned with garlands and ornaments, holding a lotus and a parrot, leaning on a stick.

By this incident, the sage realised that it was not difficult for others to recognise him, even if he was ugly in appearance. He was satisfied with this thought and proceeded further. After a while, he saw Indra riding the elephant Iravata. The sage approached Indra, who did not appear to recognise and prostrate to the sage. However, the sage did not get angry and said, “Indra! This is the garland given by the Divine Mother Herself. Take it. Saying so, the sage presented the garland to Indra.

Indra didn’t refuse. He received the garland with disgust and threw the same on the head of the elephant, which proceeded ahead. A little later, the elephant threw down the garland with its trunk and trampled over it. Looking at this, the sage Durvasa became very furious and cursed Indra, “Oh! Egoistic fellow! You have not recognised me. Not only that. You have not even respected the Prasadam of the Divine mother. Due to this, May your prosperity vanish!”

With these words, Indra’s pride was humbled. He got down from the elephant and prostrated to the feet of the angry sage Durvasa. However, the sage went away silently. Then Indra’s troubles started one by one. He saw bad omens in the Heaven. Afraid of them, Indra asked the sage Bruhaspati (the Spiritual Master of the celestials) to reveal the cause of the bad omens. The sage replied, “The effect of your sins follows you as a shadow.”

Saying so, the sage narrated a fine story.

Long ago, there was a thief by the name of Vajra in Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu, South India). He used to steal small things and gradually amassed a large quantum of money. As the wealth accumulated considerably, he wanted to hide it safely and went to the nearby forest to do so. In a dense part of the forest, he dug a deep pit and secured the money therein. However, a hunter by the name of Veeradanta, sitting on a tall tree observed all this, quite unexpectedly. After the thief had left the place, the hunter dug out the pit and after taking only one tenth of the money, he covered the pit, without causing any doubt to anyone. The hunter’s wife saw the money and knowing how her husband got it, she said, “It is customary that many Brahmanas visit the home of my parents. Whenever they saw me, they used to forecast “You will get rich quite suddenly. Their prediction has come true now”.

The hunter Veeradanta planned to purchase meat and wine with the money. However his wife said, “The Brahmana visitors of my parents’ home used to tell something more. They cautioned that hard-earned money only will give durable enjoyment and that the easy money was sinful. Hence let us use this unexpected and unearned money for charities. After prolonged discussions, the wife’s opinion won.

Then Veeradanta selected a place of water scarcity and arranged the digging of a big water tank for public use. While the work was in progress, further plans were made and accordingly, he started the construction of temples for Vishnu and Shiva by the side of the tank.

When the projects were half way, the money was exhausted. Hence Veeradanta started spying like a detective to find out the several places at which the thief Vajra was hiding the stolen wealth. Without causing any doubt to the thief, the hunter used to take out money little by little from the pits and continued the construction without interruptions. Along with this, he started to donate the money. However the hunter did not use the money for himself or his family. Thus, constantly encouraged by his wife, his charities developed. The Brahmanas of Kanchi were glad and gave the titles “Dvijavarma” and “Shilavati” to the hunter and his wife. These titles eventually became their names in vogue.

Some time later, the hunter planned and constructed a city. Instead of giving it his own name, the hunter named it as “Devaratapura”, as a mark of respect to his guru “Devarata”. After a few years, the hunter and his wife died at the same time. The messengers of Yama (The God of death and the Lord of Hell), and Shiva and Vishnu arrived to take away the Jivas (the subtle form of life of the dead). Their debate as to who can take the Jivas could not be settled.

At that time, the sage Narada arrived there. He asked the three groups of messengers to stop the arguments and revealed another aspect of the code of righteousness thus, “The hunter has performed the deeds of merit (Punya) like charities, with the money stolen by him. Hence as per the rules of righteousness, he must move about in the form of a ghost until the death of all the owners of the stolen wealth. Hence none of you have the right to take away the Jiva.

“Next, his wife was great. She didn’t commit any sin. As she was a devotee of Shiva, the messengers of the Lord can take away her Jiva.”

Listening to this ruling, Shilavati’s Jiva sat down obstinately, saying “I won’t go to Kailasha, the abode of Shiva, leaving my husband in the form of a ghost”. She prayed to the sage Narada, “Sir! Kindly direct me what I have to do to unburden my husband’s sins”.

Narada was very much pleased with her chastity and fidelity and gave initiation of Shiva mantra (chant) to her. By her penance, the husband and wife attained the grace of Shiva and were accepted to stay in Kailasha (Shiva’s abode).

Sometime later, the thief Vajra and the persons from whom he stole the money died. All the Jivas reached the Hell, the abode of Yama, the god of death, He asked all of them to assemble and said, “Though you did not intend to do the acts of Punya (merit), they were performed with your money. Hence you are eligible to stay in Kailasha (abode of Shiva) for some time. Hence I ask you whether you choose to experience either the effect of Punya (merit) or Papa (sin) in the first instance. They replied in chorus “we opt to experience the effect of merit first. By doing so, we will have a chance of association with the pious which in turn will wipe out past sins”. Yama felt glad by their choice and sent them all as the attendants of Dvijavarma at Kailasha. By his good association, all their sins were washed off and they settled in Kailasha happily.

Preaching of Bruhaspati

After narrating the story, Bruhaspati said, “Indra! Now you think of your sins”. Indra once again prostrated to the sage and requested. “Sir! I am unable to realise my sins. Kindly give me details”. Bruhaspati replied “In the distant past, ‘Diti’, the second wife of Kashyapa gave birth to a son by name Danu and a daughter named Rupavati. Danu is the predecessor of the race of Danavas (demons). Rupavati was married to Brahma (the Creator). Her son was Vishwarupa. He did severe penance. He had many divine aspects. However he was a nephew of the demons. He was affectionate towards both the races – the celestials and the demons. After a while, Indra chose Vishwarupa as his Guru (at that time, Bruhaspati was not the Guru of the celestials). Indra expected that Vishwarupa would be partial towards the celestials and that he would destroy the demons. However Vishwarupa was friendly towards all.

Observing this, Indra suspected that being a friend of the demons, Vishwarupa was harming the celestials. One day, Indra suddenly went to Vishwarupa and cut off all his three heads. By doing so, Indra was afflicted by the sin of Brahmahatya (killing Brahmana). Not only that. Aggrieved by the death of His son, Brahma (the Creator) cursed Indra. Terrified by these two (Brahmahatya and curse of Brahma), Indra accompanied by all the celestials, sought refuge at the feet of Vishnu, who contemplated deeply and allocated the effect of Indra’s sins to the earth, the trees and the women.

mohini-enchantAs compensation, Vishnu gave the power that the pits of earth could be filled up, the power that even the trees once cut off could revive and the power of women to beget children. Thus Indra was relieved of the effect of the sin of Brahmahatya (killing a Brahmin). However, the curse of Brahma (the Creator) still persisted. Vishnu called for Brahma and requested Him on behalf of Indra for relief from the curse. Brahma thought over the same and the divine enchantress said, “OK. For the present my curse won’t take effect”. Vishnu said nothing.

Again Indra became prosperous. However, very soon his pride increased. This time, Indra was affected by the anger of Shiva and so he was cursed by the sage Durvasa.

Listening to all this, Indra recollected the past events and sadly asked Bruhaspati “Master! What have I to do now”? When the guru was about to reply, a demon named Malaka invaded the Heaven with a huge army and seized the kingdom. Indra had to escape in a great hurry. He went straight to Brahma and prayed to Him for mercy, who also pitied Indra. However even the Creator could not decide what to do and approached Vishnu along with Indra and the celestials.

Vishnu thought of the problem deeply and advised them, “You churn the ocean to get the Goddess of prosperity”. For this purpose, Indra made reconciliation with the demons and taking their help, he and the celestials churned the ocean. During the churning, very valuable things emanated from the ocean. At last, Dhanvantari (the God of Healing) came out holding the pot of Amruta (nectar). Looking at him, the demons grabbed the pot and started running away with it.

A bitter battle started between the celestials and the demons. There was utter confusion. Even Brahma and Shiva escaped and reached their abodes. Observing all this, Vishnu went to a secluded spot and started meditation of Sri Lalita Devi, who dwells within Him as the aspect of power. Due to this meditation he manifested as a form of Lalita Devi. Taking this incarnation as an embodiment of eroticism, Vishnu approached the celestials and demons. The celestials could realise the form as divine and auspicious. However, due to their predominating trait of Tamas (ignorance), the demons were enchanted by the beauty of the form and stopped fighting. She mesmerised them and took the pot of Amruta (nectar) from them, taking their consent to her to serve the nectar to all.

She asked the celestials and the demons to sit in separate rows. She started to give the nectar to the celestials only first. Allured by her, the demons sat still stupefied. By the time the nectar was given to the celestials, the stock exhausted. She disappeared suddenly.

The demons again started to fight with the celestials. However as the celestials had already drunk the nectar by then, the demons were defeated.

Thus, the Divine Mother who manifested and enchanted the demons was called MOHINI (the divine enchantress).

Shiva, staying in Kailasha came to know of these events and wanted to note the specialty of the new form of Vishnu. Along with his consort Parvati, Shiva went to Vaikuntha, the abode of Vishnu and pressed Him to show the form of Mohini. Vishnu suddenly disappeared without saying yes or no. While Shiva was searching for Vishnu, he happened to reach a new place where he continued to search. There he heard the music of Veena. He saw a beautiful young lady. Unable to resist his infatuation, Shiva embraced her. At once a son was born. He was named SASTA (one who rules). He became a commander in Shiva’s army. At once the lady disappeared. Shiva realised that she was none else than Mohini, a form of Vishnu. He applauded her beauty and returned to Kailasha along with Parvati.

Thus the Divine Mother incarnated as Mohini and granted success of the activities of the celestials.

Excerpt from: Brahmanda Purana

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