Sunday, 10 November 2013

100. Stories of Sages Mandakarani and Agastya.

          After successfully convincing Seetha about his resolve vis-a-vis his protection of the sages by eliminating the oppressive rakshashas, Rama walked ahead happily followed by Seetha and Lakshmana deep into the Dandaka forest.
               In the evening they noticed a charming lake of about one yojana width fully overloaded with red and white lotuses, overspread with sporting elephants, and with waterfowls like saarasa birds, kaadamba birds, swans and with others kinds too. Out of the tranquil and enchanting waters of that lake came melodies of singing and playing of musical instruments. They could not, however, see any one singing or playing a musical instrument.
         Then Rama asked the sage Dharmabhrita whether he could throw any light on that strange phenomenon. The learned sage nodded and said "Oh, Rama, this is an all-time lake built by the ascetic power of the sage Mandakarni, known as Five Apsara Lake. Saint Mandakarni practiced rigorous ascesis for ten thousand years staying in the waters of this lake consuming air alone. Then all the gods were worried because they thought that the sage planned to replace one of them (but they could not fathom who exactly) and hence they discussed inter se on this issue. Accoding to the consensus arrived at that meeting five selected Apsaras were ordered to make the sage to give up his ascesis by employing any means they could think of. The five beauties succeeded in the task assigned to them, to wit those five celestial beauties had led that sage astray. 
            "The five apsaras became the wives of that sage, and for them he built a house in there, concealed inside that lake.
And they were gratifying that sage who turned his body as a youth with his power of asceticism. These musical sounds we hear are emerging out as played on their instruments, mingled with the tinkling of their ornaments, and mixed with their delightful singing of melodies." 
          While thanking the sage for this extraordinary information, Rama noticed a cluster of hermitages nearby, encircled with sacred grass, jute cloths, and also encompassed with Vedic solemness.  
          Rama with his wife and brother happily stayed for some time in that august cluster of hermitages duly venerated by the great saints residing there. Then the trio went to the hermitages of those sages with whom they stayed earlier, for another round. Rama stayed there for nearly ten months at some place, elsewhere for one year, at somewhere else for four months, and for five, and six months at elsewhere, even at somewhere else for more than a month, and for more than one and half months elsewhere.
         Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana thus spent ten years by staying with different groups of sages.
             Then they went to the hermitage of Sage Suteekshna again and resided there for some time. One day while chatting with the sage Suteekshna Rama became inquisitive and asked the sage  "Sir, I understand that the godly and eminent sage Agastya is residing in this forest. We very much like to see him and get his blessings. Unfortunately I do not know where exactly his hermitage is."
          Sage Suteekshna  replied "Oh, Raghava, I myself, was thinking of suggesting you to see that great sage. At four yojanas from this hermitage you will find on the southern side the hermitage of Agastya's brother. That hermitage is built on a plateau in a spectacular place of that forest which is adorned with many flowers and fruits, thickets of long pepper, and reechoed with the callings of various birds. There are diverse lakes that are receptacles for tranquil waters, that are teeming with swans and partridges, beautified with ruddy geese. I suggest that you stay there for a night.
           "On the next morning at one yojana beyond, taking the southward course on the side of the forest clump you will find Agastya's hermitage. Seetha and Lakshmana will enjoy those woodlands adorned with diverse pleasant trees, as the woodlands abounding with diverse trees will naturally be delightful.
              "If you are well determined to see that great sage Agastya, I suggest you start today itself." 
              Rama with his wife and brother started almost immediately. After trudging about four yojanas in the direction as indicated by the sage Suteekshna Rama noticed all the landmarks indicated by the sage Suteekshna about the hermitage of the sage Agastya's brother. He remarked 
"Lakashmana! I am sure that the hermitage we see there is the hermitage of Sage Agastya's brother. See thousands of trees are bowing under the weight of flowers and fruit on the pathway. Therefore that has to be the hermitage of Agastya's bother. Upraised by the wind the sour-smell of pippali fruits is suddenly coming closer from the forest.
             "See those well heaped heaps of firewood, and all over appearing is the sacred grass snipped at its top. From inside the hermitage in the midst of this forest the vertex of smoke from ritual fire is clearly visible as high as the vertex of a black rainy cloud.
             "Now I have absolutely no doubt that this hermitage definitely is that of Sage Agastya's brother. 
             "Lakshmana! Seetha! I just now remembered an amusing anecdote I have heard about the sage Agastya. Once upon a time two terribly cruel rakshasha brothers called Vaataapi and Ilvala were here together. They relished killing brahmans in a cruel way.  Disguising as a Bhraman and speaking like a brahman that Ilvala used to invite a Brahman for the purpose of obsequial ceremonies, where that Brahman was fed after the usual (fake) ceremony to appease their manes.
                   "Ilvala used to change his brother Vaataapi into a ram, cook that ram's meat into deliciously cooked food, and used to feed the Brahman according to obsequial rites and deeds. After that Brahman completed eating that ram's delicious meat, Ilvala would shout loudly, 'oh, Vaataapi, you may come out now.'  Vaataapi would then become a full live ram inside the stomach of the hapless brahman and lunge out bleating like a ram, tearing and rending the body of the Brahman. In this way they killed numerous brahmans and ate their raw flesh with enjoyment.
             "Sage Agastya decided to end this diabolical menace when he was invited by Ilvala. Agastya ate the delicious ram meat with enjoyment. When Ilvala called his brother to come out, Sage Agastya asked him whom he was calling. With a happy smile Ilvala said that he was calling his brother Vathaapi. Then the sage asked him 'Where is the energy for that ram shaped brother of yours to come out as I digested and sent him to Yama?'
                  "He looked at the sage sceptically. He called again and again his brother to come out. Only loud belch came out of the sage's mouth every time Ilvala's call for his brother. When Ilvala realised that his brother was really dead, he started furiously to assault the sage.
           "Sage Agastya killed him by his look."
           Along with the conclusion of the narration by Rama, day concluded too giving way to dusk. Worshipping sunset along with his brother as per custom, the trio entered that hermitage. The sage there received them well and all dined on tubers and fruits. Raghava and co. spent that night there and in the next morning Rama bid goodbye to the sage saying "Sir, we stayed in the night very comfortably. Please now allow us to leave. As I told you yesterday night I wish to proceed to see your mentor and elder brother Agastya."
The name of this brother of Agastya is Sudarshana. But he was always called and referred to as Agastya's brother. Agastya's brother gave them permission and the guests left for the hermitage of the sage Agastya.
            After a journey for about a yojana Rama remarked "Lakshmana! See those trees are appearing with velvety leaves, and the animals and birds appear unwearied. I therefore, guess that the hermitage of the sage Agastya is not very far from here. He got the name Agastya because he stopped the mountain.
           "And from the time the sage Agastya came to live in this quarter, the rakshashas calmed down and remained without feud. This very worthy southern quarter is known in the name of that godly saint Agastya and this remained unapproachable to the rakshashas with cruel deeds in mind.
            "As per his directive, Mt. Vindhya ceased to grow taller in order not to obstruct the path of the sun. It is no wonder that this glorious hermitage is adored by well-behaved animals and humans as well.
The name Agastya is derived from a famous act of this Sage. Mt. Meru was the highest peak on earth. By its nature it was growing everyday. After some period of time it became the first to be saluted by the rising sun in east every day. Jealous of this Mt. Meru, Mt. Vindhya started to rise to exceed the height of Mt. Meru, thereby obstructing the sun's path. It did achieve that in due course. Then the day changed for night and the travel of Sun and Moon, the performance of Vedic rituals, which are bound by the solar lunar movement, went topsy-turvy. Then all gods prayed Agastya to do something to decrease the height of Mt. Vindhya.  He agreed. Then Agastya accompanied by his wife came to Mt. Vindhya and requested the mountain "Oh, Mountain King Vindhya, I am going southward with my wife, and we are not able to climb this much height. Kindly lower yourself, so that we can go to the other side." Mt. Vindhya in deference to the sage immediately lowered his height, so that the old couple need not climb but just walk over him. Agastya and his wife on coming to the southern side of the mountain again requested Mt. Vindhya to be at this height only until they return. Mt. Vindhya readily agreed for that also, and it is lying like that even today. Because Agastya did not return to north Mt. Vindhya is still believed to be at that level. Thus the solar and lunar movements, seasons' revolve, Vedic calendars etc. were again put to normalcy. Thus the name Agastya(in Sanskrit), aga stha mountain, stopper, agam sthaasyati or, stabhnaati iti agastyaH. He is said to have played an important role in uplifting southern regions of India, namely Dravidian cultures. His wife is Lopaamudra, the saintly lady will be quoted in Lalitha Sahasra Naamaavali. The thousand name of Mother Universe.
End Comment.
             "He is highly esteemed by one and all in all the worlds, and for us when we approach him he will accord beneficence. Lakshmana, I wish to worship that great saint Agastya there in that hermitage, and thinking of spending the rest of our exile here only. There gods, gandharvas, siddhas, exalted sages and many others will be worshiping Agastya who is self-regulating self-disciplinary. A liar, savage, a deceiver, a torturer or some one with sinful behaviour cannot stay in his hermitage.
                 "There the gods, celestials, reptiles and birds live together wishing to worship the Absolute with self-discipline. There the best and great souls of accomplished ascesis rode to heavens by aircrafts similar to sun in resplendence, on relinquishing their mortal bodies here and on obtaining new bodies. There gods will endow the state of celestials or immortals, or many realms of divine living to those auspicious beings that worship them.
                  "We arrived at the threshold of the hermitage, oh, Soumitri, you enter firstly and submit to Sage Agastya about my arrival at this place along with Seetha."

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