In the kingdom of Danavas, Darika was known for his ferocious temper and for the boon of immortality that he had wrested from the great Brahma after a long and arduous penance. Brahma had granted Darika the boon that no god or man would be able to kill him and that every drop of his blood that fell to the ground would lead to the birth of hundreds of Darikas. He could be slayed only by a woman.
Born to Darumathy, Darika grew extremely arrogant in his power and attacked the Devas. He entered Devalok and then stormed into Kailasa. Shiv was furious and to bring about his end created Bhadrakali from his third eye (it is said she incarnated from his eye on a Tuesday afternoon). Bhadrakali set about her mission as soon as she was born, with the leader of forest ghosts and spirits, Vetalam in tow, she attacked the demon and beheaded him. And as the blood dripped off his torso, she licked it before it could fall on to the ground.
However, even after Darika was killed, Bhadrakali’s thirst for blood was not appeased and she went on a killing spree. The gods ran to Shiva for help. He tried to convince her to stop but when everything failed, he lay down on the ground and said, “Daughter dance upon my naked body and release your anger.” That worked and Bhadrakali’s terrifying rampage came to an end as did the reign of Darika.
In another version, Bhadrakali failed to kill Darika in her first attempt and so she approached his wife Manodari who knew the secret mantra that Brahma has given her husband. Bhadrakali tricked her into revealing the mantra and went into the battlefield, but when Manodari found out, she obtained a bucket of Parvati’s sweat and threw it on Bhadrakali at which she was instantly covered with sores all over her body. Shiva then created a being out of his earwax called Ghantakarnan who licked the sores off her body, however he was too embarrassed to lick her face and hence Bhadrakali’s face is still marked with spots (like a small pox infestation).
This story is performed and sung as Darikavadham (the legend of Darika’s killing) in various parts of Kerala as an offering to the goddess Bhagavathy. In later years, the worship of Bhadrakali has been merged with that of Bhagavathy.
STORY COLLECTED BY: Arundhuti Dasgupta
SOURCE: South Asian Folklore, An Encyclopaedia; Edited by Margaret Mills, Peter Claus and Sarah Diamond
LOCATION: Tamil Nadu
The Sindhi community and has an interesting myth which involves the Vedic god, Varuna, the god of the oceans. While many of the present day Sindhis either follow the Hindu mainstream deities or the Sikh religion, on the day of Cheti Chand, they remember their patron saint, Jhulelal.
It is said that around the 10th Century AD, the Turkish invaders were imposing their might and right on the Hindus by forcing them to convert to Islam, in the region of the Sapta-sindhu, the land of seven rivers. Among them was a tyrannical ruler called Mirk Shah who issued a dictat that all the Hindus should embrace Islam. The people of the region (Sindh, now in present day Pakistan) went to the banks of the river Sindhu and prayed continuously for forty days to the Varuna. On the fortieth day, they heard a voice which said that the Lord would take a human form (avatar) and be born to one Ratanchand Lohana and his wife, Devaki. The boy would be their saviour. Soon a child was born to the Lohanas, who was named Uderolal (one who came from the waters). When the child was placed in the cradle, the cradle started rocking itself and thus he came to be popularly known as Jhulelal.
During his birth and thereafter while he was growing up, there are many stories that highlight a number of miracles performed by him. All these miracles only reinforced in the minds of the people and the rulers that this was no ordinary child. Mirk Shah, in the meantime while had patiently been waiting for the ‘saviour’ who was supposed to bail out the Hindus from forceful conversion, as he wanted to give a fair chance to the people, much against the wishes of the clergy. Jhulelal’s fame had reached Shah and some of his people had also claimed to have witnessed some of his miracles.
Soon Jhulelal and Mirk Shah came face to face and Jhulelal and tried to convince Shah that who he called Allah was none other than who the Hindus called Ishwar and the two were one. Mirk Shah however did not give up till he was threatened by a miracle. It is said that when Jhulelal tried to convince him about the oneness of the religion, Mirk Shah ordered the arrest of Jhulelal in court. As soon as he did, waters gushed into the court from nowhere drowning all those who were present. They threatened to do the same to Mirk Shah too. At the same time, there was fire all around. Mirk Shah was surprised and scared to see what had just happened and begged for mercy. No sooner had he done that, the waters receded and the fire was extinguished.
After this, Jhulelal was worshipped by both the Hindus and the Muslims and it is said that when he died, to commemorate the site of his death, a structure was built, one side of which is a Hindu Samadhi and the other side is a Muslim Dargah – a rare symbol of the unification or the oneness of the two religions. In 1356, a shrine was built around his tomb, in present day Sehwan, in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Cheti Chand is the birth day of Jhulelal, who has come to be known as the patron saint of the Sindhis and a messiah of communal harmony. His shrine is thronged by people of both the communities every Thursday and on the occasion of Urs celebration.
The iconography of Jhulelal depicts him as an old man sitting atop a ‘pala’ fish (a fish which swims against the tide, again symbolic of Jhulelal’s going against the powers-that-be of the times). Since Jhulelal was considered to be the human form of Varuna, the depiction of fish (again a marine life) is not too far-fetched. Also since the civilization and the culture thrived on the banks of the Sindhu River, association of Lord Varuna can be explained. The popular depiction of Jhulelal being old and elderly could be to grant him a sense of acceptance amongst the people of the times as old was always associated with wisdom, though in the myth, there is a mention that Jhulelal grew up quite faster than what mortals did.
STORY COLLECTED BY: UTKARSH PATEL
LOCATION: SINDH, PAKISTAN
TEXT SOURCE: Contemporary Hinduism – By P. Pratap Kumar
Shirnathji is the presiding deity of Nathdwara and is popular with the Vaishnav community in Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is commonly believed that the Vaishnav and Mother Goddess cults do not see eye to eye. However we were surprised to spot the painting at the temple of Bahucharaji –
On enquiring, we were told the following myth:
Legend has it that the famous devotee of Bahucharaji, Bhakt Vallabh Bhatt once visited Nathdwara to worship Nathdhish (as Srinathji was known then). When the doors of the temple opened, Bhatt hailed the god by saying – “Jai Bahuchara ma”! On hearing this, the temple folk and the assembled Vaishnavs were agitated, and severely beat him up and kept him in solitary confinement.
In the middle of the night, Bahucharaji came with a plate of food to Bhatt to feed him. Bhatt declined to have the food and said that he would not have his food till he sees her image in the idol of Nathdhish. Bahucharaji promised him that he would see this the next morning.
Early the next day, Bhatt went to the temple and waited along with the rest of the crowd that had gathered for the morning darshan. As the temple doors opened everybody was shocked to see, that Nathdhish was wearing a nose-ring, ‘payal’ or anklets in his legs and had a ‘chunadi’, a veiled cloth worn by women, over his head. His hands were in a position to clap as in the traditional garba.
Realisation dawned on the assembled devotees who apologised to Bhatt. From that day onwards, Nathdhish is referred as Srinathji, ‘Sri’ standing for the goddess Srishakti.
Story collected by: Utkarsh Patel
Source: Temple priest
Location: Nathdwara, Gujarat
During a recent visit to Faridabad, Haryana I saw a temple which was called “Maharaja Agrasen ka Mandir” — the temple of Maharaja Agrasen. It wasn’t a typical temple structure and there weren’t too many people around it at the time. Besides the temple was closed at that time and although the name had piqued my curiosity, I had to be content with looking at it from the outside. I enquired from the people who were standing around about Maharaja Agrasen and then intrigued by the story they told me, spoke to some people from the village nearby. From the bits and pieces and a few fragments here and there, this is what I got.
Maharaja Agrasen was a Suryavanshi King (of the solar lineage), who ruled during the Dwapar Yuga, which according to the current times would be approximately more than 5000 years ago. He was the first born of King Ballabha of Pratapnagar and was supposed to have been married to Princess Madhavi who was a Nagvanshi (the Naaga clan). The marriage had brought two very powerful clans of the time together. Madhavi had selected Agrasen in a swayamvar.
It is said that in the swayamvar, Lord Indra too was present and was infatuated by Madhavi’s beauty. But Madhavi angered Indra by choosing Agrasen. So jealous was the king of all gods that he decided to withhold rain from the kingdom of Pratapnagar which led to a famine like situation.
King Agrasen decided to wage war and since he was on the right side of Dharma, Indra and his mighty forces were soon vanquished. Indra then sought the help of Narada to settle the matter amicably. And it was decided that normalcy would be restored if Indra declared Agrasen to be a righteous and a religious ruler who would wage a war against even gods for the welfare of his subjects.
After this, Agrasen decided to propitiate Shiva who was soon pleased by his penance. Shiva then advised him to propitiate Mahalakshmi, who too was pleased with the penance. She appeared and blessed Agrasen and suggested that he give up the role of a King and change his caste to Vaishya, the business community and found a new kingdom and she would bless all his people. King Agrasen, then gave up his Kshatriya-hood and became a Vaishya.
Agrasen was a very compassionate person and the happiness of his subjects was his prime concern. He conducted many yagna’s for the well-being of his people and once during the well-known 18 maha-yagna’s, during an Ashwamedha Yagna, he saw a horse being forcibly pulled to the sacrificial altar. The pathetic plight of the animal saddened him and it was decreed from then on that there would be no more animal sacrifices in Agrasen’s kingdom. He became a champion of Ahimsa and was of the opinion that prosperity could not be brought at the cost of death of animals.
He later divided his kingdom amongst his 18 children, and named the 18 gotra’s after the gurus of each of his sons. Some of these are Mittal, Bansal, Goyal, Jindal, Tayal, Bindal, amongst others. Finally the most important aspect of this legendary king is that the present day Agarwal community traces their origins from Agrasen. In Delhi, one can see Agrasen ki Baoli, which is supposed to have been built during the Mahabharat epic times and later rebuilt by the Agrawal community in memory of their ancestor, Maharaja Agrasen.
Story collected by: Utkarsh Patel
Location: Faridabad, Haryana
Tags: Agrasan, Agarwal, Agrasen ki Baoli, Shiva, Indra, Suryavanshi, Queen Madhavi
The story below is a composite; I first heard it from a colleague who heard it from his father. It was added to by a young boy from Ayodhya who had just turned 21. He is employed by a cab company in New Delhi and said that he had heard it from his grandfather. The story belongs to a time when India was yet to be carved up into different states and thus belongs to many regions – if we had to place it within a framework, the story would be from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. But the devi temple where this lore is still sung is in Maihar, Madhya Pradesh.
There once lived two brothers — two warriors to be more precise — who none could defeat. They are immortals and live among us even today and some say that they have become one in death but others say that they are still two people. Whatever be the real story, the truth is that they are the most favoured devotees of Maihar Devi who does not accept the offerings from anyone – not from the priests, not from the big people of the village or country, not anyone at all – before Alha and Udal have offered their prayers, lit the diya and done the aarti. Such is the power of their bhakti.
When Alha and Udal lived there was no one in whole world who dared challenge them in a sword fight. The saying was that ‘talwar bhi unse haar man gayi’ (even the sword accepted defeat at their prowess and courage). They fought against kings and were the most renowned fighters in their region. Even Prithviraj Chouhan was no match for them. They were generals in the army of Raja Parimal of Chandel (Rajasthan) and one day Prithviraj Chauhan decided that he had to establish his supremacy over all the kings of the region and went to battle against Chandel. The brothers fought like lions and in the process, Udal was wounded which angered Alha so much that he ravaged the entire army and managed to bring Prithviraj Chauhan to his knees. As he was about to cut off his head, the Devi appeared and told him that he should spare the life of the man in front of him because he would change the lives of many people from his tribe. Alha who had drawn his sword out by then bowed to the devi’s wishes and cut off his own head instead. For this sacrifice – the biggest sacrifice of all according to our tradition – Alha and his brother were made immortal. And today it is said that in the temple of the devi which is at Maihar, when the doors open at 4 in the morning, a lamp is lit, there are fresh flowers at her feet and the water has been filled in the bowl beside her. The brothers have offered their prayers because without their offering, the devi will not accept anything from the anybody else.
Story collected by: Arundhuti Dasgupta
Text Source: (For stories of Alha,Udal) Rethinking India’s Oral and Classical Epics: Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims, and Dalits