Chapter 02 – The Vasus are cursed

I have heard two stories. Not sure which one is true. What they do lead to , a curse. A Curse that would fall on Arjuna and my role in that curse. I am not talking about the curse now. That will come much later. I am now telling you about Bhishma, Arjuna’s Grandfather. This story is about Bhishma’s birth.

There was a king called Mahabhisha who was a just and noble king. One day he happened to be at a place where Lord Barhma was being respected and worshiped. Many had come there, and among them was Ganga, Queen of all rivers. What Ganga was wearing was a white cloth, shining brightly, decked in jewels of all color. Suddenly a gust of wind came, and Ganga’s garment slipped exposing hr bosom to all. Seeing this, the assembled women tried to help her, men kept their eyes closed. Mahabhisha was struck by her beauty and the sight of her naked body. He kept staring at her. Seeing this Brahma was angry. He cursed both the king and Ganga. He cursed them that both be born as mortals and live as husband and wife. If they ever quarreled with each other, they would be free of the curse.
Ganga had also seen the king stare at her. And she had not hated that. She could feel what the king felt. She approached the Vasus, the celestial beings. When she met them they looked very dejected and unhappy. When Ganga asked them the reason, they said that they had been cursed by the Sage Vashishtha. They had passed the sage’s abode and had walked past, without noticing him. Angry the sage had cursed them to be born as mortals.
Ganga and the Vasus made a pact. When Ganga would be born the earth, the Vasus would be born as her children. She would kill them as soon as they were born, and the curse would be relieved. Ganga had a condition. She could not be totally heartless and she wanted a child. The Vasus blessed her and said a child would be born, with the all the qualities of the celestials, but he will not have any children and he will stay unmarried.
The king was born as Shantanu who eventually married Ganga. They had seven sons and as soon as a son was born, Ganga would throw the baby in the river flowing by. She did that seven times and on the eighth time, she was rebuked and stopped by the king. Ganga took the new born child with her, and left – her curse being over.
I have heard another tale about Bhishma’s birth which I now tell. It is all the same about Mahabhisha and Ganga. How he saw Ganga’s garment get blown by the wind, and how they both were attracted to each other and also after being cursed by Brahma to be born as mortals, Ganga had met the Vasus.The eight vasus with their wives had been roaming around and come to Vashishtha’s ashram. They saw his cow tied there. One the Vasu’s wives wanted the cow to herself and compelled her husband to steal it for her. The Vasus were cursed to be born as humans. They pleaded with Vashishta who then said that the Vasu who had commited the actual act would have to stay in this earth for long, while the other would die as soon as they were born and would be relieved of the curse. Ganga agreed to be their mother on Earth. She said she would wed Shantanu and relieve them of the curse.

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I tell of this curse. I tell more. I open pages from my history and tell you. Tell you about my husband, his family, his birth. I will tell you about Bhishma. Also about the curse that would fall on my husband.

And some I turn some more pages of history.

 

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Travel or Mother Calls or Kolkata Taxi or Darshan

Taking a break from the story writing to talk about the small trip that I made today. Will get to the Mahabharata after this.

The plan for the trip had started a few days back when it was decided to go to Kalighat in Kolkata.

The problem here in Kolkata is commute. If I am on the road, alone, public commute works for me. All I would do hop onto buses, walk a bit, take the metro, use the Kolkata Auto and get to my destination. In this, parents were there along. So I needed a proper commute.

I had to book a radio taxi. That was a project by itself. The last time I had booked a taxi from WheelzIndia, the driver Rajive had taken us for a nice ride – literally. What would have been 50 kilometers ended up as 90 kilometers and so paying at 14 rupees a kilometers, I had to pay over 1200 rupees for a trip from Diamond City North Jessore Road, to Harish Mukherjee Road, to Dakshineshwar, back to Diamond City North.

When I made the taxi book online, I was a bit skeptical. I was afraid that the same driver would turn up. I had made the booking on Wednesday and yesterday, Thursday, I called to confirm my taxi booking. The help desk person informed me that I had called a different number, but he would make sure someone would call me back in 30 minutes. That was 10PM then. The call never came. What I was afraid of was, I would now have to call the taxi company the next morning to get my refund , and also make alternate arrangements for going out. Thankful, the taxi came. It was supposed to come at 7:35AM, it came at 7:15AM. About the refund, when I made the booking, I had to pay 175 as advance , the balance to be paid when I release the vehicle.

Even going out in the morning was debatable. My mum wanted to go in the evening and I wanted to go in the morning. Dad agreed to the morning trip so mum agreed. Her excuse was – she would have the maid come and clean up and she could leave home in peace. After all she was going to visit a temple.

There was another objective of going today. There was a Shivlinga that Mumwanted to immerse in the Ganges.

We left at 7:30AM sharp. The first trip was Kalighat. I took a look at the car dashboard. The last 2 digits on the milometer were 16. Which meant I could travel till was 66 and pay for extra kilometers after that.

AC on, no sweat inside the car, we reached Kalighat – we had covered about 18 kilometers from Diamond City North.

This time the visit was different. Everytime I go to Kalighat I have to tussle with the pandas. They will push against you, tell you to buy things, ask for money etc. This time I decided against the payment and got and started walking towards the main temple, slippers left in the car. We were at the gate just next to Nirmal Hridaya, Mother’s Theresa’s center.

While walking in, there were people pushing to sell things. One person said he would see flowers and sweets as offering to the holy Mother, another person said pay me 51 and I will take you right inside the sanctorum. Decided against paying anything to anyone and walked in with parents.

A slight walk off from the gate and we were inside. Pushed through the crowd, had a darshan.

The sight of Kali at Kalighat is always awesome. In that crowd, you suddenly see the Mother. A big face looking upto you. Grand. Beautiful. Serence. Black. Large eyes. Huge Tongue. That was all I could see. I had mother’s darshan.

Leaving Kalighat, on my way out, I had a glimpse of the Radha Krishna Temple closeby. A very small idol. I am not sure I had seen that earlier. Then I saw the Shiva Linga there. I had seen a Shiva temple, but this wasn’t the one.

Came out of the temple, and in the car. I told the driver about the Shiva temple. He knew about that. That was the Nakuleshwar Shiva Temple. It is outside the main Kalighat temple behind the Kalighat Police Station. This temple is a Swayambhu Shiva temple – there is no man made idol or Shiv linga there – the Shiv linga is a piece of rock, jutting from the earth.

After darshan of Shiva, we went off to DurgaBari.

This is a Durga Temple behind Ashutosh College. They call it 23 Palli Durga Mandir. The road on which this temple is, is called Harish Mukherjee Road. It has a huge Ashtadhatu (eight metals) Durga Idol. It is said , that once during a Durga Puja years back, when it was time to immerse the Durga in the river, there were tears in the eyes of the idol. It was taken as a sign that Ma wanted to stay and a Ashtadhatu idol of the mother was constructed, looking like the idol which had cried.

There is a huge jackfruit tree in the courtyard of the temple. Whenever I go there I see it laden with fruits. Its a strange tree, the jackfruit tree. The fruit does not grow on branches, but on the stem of the tree.

The ceiling of the main sitting area has pictures from the Ramayana. On the right side of the main Durga Idol is a small temple having Shri Krishna and Radha, and on the left is a Shiva temple, with a Shiva linga and a statue of Shiva.

This temple is usually not crowded and is a peaceful place to go to. I discovered one more thing. If one wants to explore Kolkata via public commute and wants to visit this temple, then the Jatis Das Metro is the closest Metro station. From the metro go towards Ashutosh College, and follow the lane and you are at the temple.

From this temple it was towards Dakshineshwar, the famous Kali Temple. Made more famous by Shri Ramakrishna.

Not sure if this was the best way to go, but we reached Dakshineshwar without much trouble. We went via Dunlop. No sure if it that is the best way to go.

Once there, the car went to the parking lot and we went , kept our slippers outside and entered the temple courtyard.

When you enter the courtyard, you have the twelve Shiva temples of the right, and the Radha Krishna and Kali temples on the left.

Photography of the idols is not prohibited but I managed to get a few pictures of the temple.

Dakshineshwar

Managed to get a good darshan of Kali. There was something today. Big queues. Later discovered, it was New Moon yesterday, an auspicious day to visit and see Ma Kali.

 

The twelve Shive Temples

The twelve Shive Temples

 

After seeing Ma and a few of the Shivas, I went to see the river Ganges, on whose bank the temple is built. A bathing ghat is built there. Throngs of people were taking dips in the river Ganges . I saw a banana tree there. The funny thing about the tree was no had plucked any fruits from the tree. So the tree had fruit in it which had ripened on the tree, and was drying away on the tree itself.

River Ganga

Banana Tree

 

 

From Dakshineshwar it was back home.

The 50 kilometers became 55 and I have to pay the balance plus 70 rupees for the extra kilometers.

It was a nice day, well spent.

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Chapter 01 – Ulupi

I am at the river bank. The banks of the river Iravati, the river named after the mother of the great Naga king Airavata. I dangle my feet in the water. My clothes are getting wet.  Oblivious I sit on the beach. Close by I see a friend, a companion play with her grandchildren. I see her. When I look at her, I both sad and happy. Happy for her. Happy that a friend is happy. I am also sad. Very Sad. My heart cries out. If all was fine, I would have had my son with me. Today he is not there. My husband is not with me. I sit here all alone.

My skin is wrinkled, my hair grey. I walk with a help of a stick. My people are there to fulfill all my wishes. Happiness around me. And I am sad.

I am old now. Feeble. An old queen. No longer a queen but still treated as one. My subjects have been good to me. They have been kind to me when I have been said, they have been beside me when I have needed them. Now I want to be alone.

Dusk approaches. Also time for the tide to come in. My companions pull off the bank of the river. It is now time to go home.

Home.

A home is one has laughter. One has family. One has someone who can be called one’s own.

My home is empty. I have servants. I have friends. No family.

I think of days gone by. When I close my eyes and think I feel I can still hear the laughter of my companions as they run around. Chasing me, Playing Hide and Seek. Dodging the guava trees, the banana groves, the mango trees, hiding behind bushes. Running in the water,playing on the river bank, trying to catch the small water insects.

I see myself steling flowers, stealing fruits, playing games. Growing up. The daughter of the king, I had many friends. My whole life was full of fun and laughter. I was at no loss.

I see three girls running , playing, happy oblivious of the future. One of them is the daughter of the Naga King, Kauravya. That is me, your unfortunate, Uloopi.

I had been named Uloopi as I had a beautiful face, I am told. When in the summer evenings, I would stand near the jasmine vine, wearing jasmine garlands, artists would throng to capture me on their canvas, poets would come for a glimpse of my beauty, to write about their princess.

I see my myself, being trained, educated. The best of the teachers coming to teach me. I grew up, skilled in letters and also war craft. I also learnt medicine. The art of the physicians fascinated me. They would pluck leaves from various plants, mix them together and people would get well after that.

I trained my self to be a medicine girl. I learnt the sciences from the greatest of the sages. It was expected that I learn that. My mother would tell me that all Naga people knew the science and I was no exception.

My quest for knowledge was big. I kept learning. Then I discovered the hidden texts. The science of Sanjivani. The way to bring the dead to life. This too was a science. I learnt of the plants to be collected, how to process them and how to use them.

Weapons were another fascination. I learnt how to wield a sword, how to hold a bow, how to shoot arrows. I practiced well.

Arts were taught to me. I learnt the veena, I learnt singing and I learnt dancing.

I was the only child. When I attained youth , I was married off to a naga king, in the clan of Takshaka.

Like many other women I went off to my husband’s home.

A day after my wedding , my husband had to go to a war.

He went and never returned alive.

I was a widow. A young widow.

I was young, my beauty with me, pining for love, pining for a male companion.

My life went, sometime in my husband’s land, in the kingdom of Takshashila, on the banks of the Iravati river, or sometimes in my father’s home.

I tried my attention to learning. I read a lot, learnt all I could, pining for that one person who would come in my life and free me, deliver me from my passion.

 

 

 

 

 

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