There are many tales in Puranas where god Vishnu explains the concept of maya to the wandering mendicant Narada. In each of those tales Vishnu puts Narada through different experiences of life to make him understand the ultimate grip of maya that overwhelms the human mind. In this story, Vishnu yet again gives a lesson in maya, this time by making Narada experience the female body, and what it mean to be a woman.
Once Narada, came to visit Vishnu, while he was making love to Lakshmi. Watching Narada enter the room, Lakshmi hastily left the room. Narada asked Vishnu – “ Oh supreme God! Why did you stop making love? I am an ascetic who is in complete control of senses. I have conquered maya… You need not have stopped making love midway, for I have no desires left for this world.”
Hearing Narada’s words, Vishnu smiled and said “Oh Narada, you should not have bragged to have conquered maya. I have not done so. Nor have Brahma or Shiva or the sages. No one can conquer maya. You yourself get bewitched by the music you play on the vina- ( a string instrument)’. Bewildered Narada asks Vishnu “ My lord , then why don’t you explain me what is maya?’
Vishnu takes him to near pond and makes him enter the water. When Narada emerges out of water he turns in to a beautiful woman. Vishnu takes away his vina and deer-skin and quietly leaves the place.
King Taldhvaja, who was passing by the stream, sees this beautiful young maiden soaked in water. The King instantly falls in love and marries the maiden and makes her his queen. Years pass by, and the couple has many sons and even grandsons and the queen is living a happy contended life. One day a war breaks out with the neighbouring kingdom and King Taldhvaja, his sons, and grandsons all are killed. The old queen is left alone to fend her life. She comes to the battle field, in great grief and pain. Crying loudly she appeals to gods to free her from the misery that has fallen upon her.
Watching the queen cry, Vishnu appears before her in the form of a Brahman and leads the old woman to a pond and asks her to dip herself in the water. The old woman enters the pond, and when she comes out of the pond she emerges as Narada.
Vishnu assumes his true form before Narada and asks “Narada! I hope at least this time you have understood the meaning of maya?”
Story collected by : Vidya Kamat
Text Source: Tamil Temple Myths by David Dean Shulman
Location: Pan India
Image source: wikipedia