Sanjeevani: The Magical Herb

By Srinidhi Murthy

Sanjeevani, also known as Vishalya Karani, was a magical herb that grew on the peaks of Mount Gandhamadana. This herb saved Rama’s brother, Lakshmana, during their battle with Ravana. Read the story of how Hanuman brought this herb in time to save Lakshmana’s life. 

Ravana’s attack

During the final battle between the army of Ravana, the king of Lanka, and Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, Ravana hurled a spear at Lakshmana. Rama came forward to save his brother as he fell and drove away Ravana. Unfortunately, Lakshmana fell unconscious as the spear had already struck him before Rama’s arrival. The injury brought Lakshmana to the brink of death. Distressed, Rama asked Sushena, the Vanara physician, to save his brother’s life. Sushena examined him and declared that Lakshmana could still be saved with the magical herb called Vishalya Karani, or Sanjeevani, that was available on Mount Gandhamadana. He further added that the herb would need to be fetched before sunrise. However, soon Sushena revealed that it would take eighteen years for them to reach Gandhamadana. It seemed as though getting the herb was an impossible task and Rama and the army had lost hope for Lakshmana’s life. 

Script: Luis M. Fernandes; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar
Hanuman to the rescue

Suddenly, Hanuman stepped out of the crowd and promised to bring the herb before sunrise. Sushena instructed Hanuman to look for a golden creeper with blue flowers growing on either side of the river flowing down one of the peaks of Gandhamadana. After receiving Rama’s blessings, Hanuman increased his size and then, with one leap, rose high into the sky. As he flew, Ravana saw him from Lanka and immediately guessed that Hanuman was flying to get the magical herb. He was determined to stop Hanuman and ensure that Lakshmana could not be saved. 

The agreement 

Ravana summoned Kalanemi to defeat Hanuman. Kalanemi was a fearful monster-magician with four heads, eight eyes and eight arms. Ravana promised half of his kingdom to the monster if he succeeded in defeating Hanuman. Kalanemi was terrified at the thought of a battle with Hanuman. He reminded Ravana about Hanuman’s powers and added that he would be dead if he tried to destroy the son of Vayu. However, Ravana ignored his words and asked him to drown Hanuman in the river in Gandhamadana, as the river was home to a ferocious crocodile. Left with no choice, Kalanemi agreed to the task and quickly transported himself to Gandhamadana. There, he transformed himself into a hermit and created a hermitage. He then waited for Hanuman’s arrival.

Script: Luis M. Fernandes; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar
Kalanemi’s trick

When Hanuman arrived, he immediately paid his respect to the disguised Kalanemi and mentioned the purpose of his visit. Kalanemi asked him to go and bathe in the river. He promised Hanuman that if he bathed in the river, he wouldn’t feel thirsty for a whole year. When Hanuman agreed, Kalanemi was delighted at the thought of claiming his reward from Ravana. Soon, Hanuman saw a  crocodile approaching him to attack. He quickly caught hold of the reptile and flung it to the shore. To his surprise, a celestial dancer emerged in front of him. She explained that she was cursed by Indra to become a crocodile and decreed to live in the river till she was liberated by Hanuman. The celestial dancer also revealed the real identity of Kalanemi to Hanuman and advised him to be careful. Hanuman confronted Kalanemi upon his return and soon a fight ensued between them. Hanuman threw the rakshasa in the sky and he landed dead in Ravana’s court.

Script: Luis M. Fernandes; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar
Another hurdle

Ravana was disappointed by Kalanemi’s death. However, he wasted no time in planning his next move. Since he was the master of three worlds, he summoned Surya, the sun god, and ordered him to hasten the hour of his rise. Sometime later, Hanuman saw a rosy glow on the horizon, while he was still searching for the herb. To save Lakshmana, Hanuman decided to get hold of Surya’s chariot. The charioteer of Surya was shocked when he saw that the huge vanara had caught hold of the chariot and begun to whirl it around. Surya asked Hanuman the reason for stopping him. Hanuman explained his emergency and requested him not to rise before Lakshmana was restored to health. Surya sympathized with him but told Hanuman that he could not help him as he was under the orders of Ravana. Quick-witted Hanuman immediately asked Surya to lean forward and to hear out a secret. But when he did, Hanuman quickly embraced him in a tight hug, got bigger in size and held him in his arms. He then rushed back to Gandhamadana to continue his search for the herb.

A glorious return

Despite his efforts, Hanuman was not able to find the golden creeper with blue flowers that Sushena had mentioned. While he was wondering about the whereabouts of the herb, he saw some Gandharvas singing and dancing. Hanuman approached them and asked them about the Sanjeevani herb. He told them about the battle between Rama and Ravana and how the herb was essential for the Lakshmana’s survival. However, the Gandharvas informed him that they had never heard of anyone named Rama. Then they crowded around Hanuman and began to tease and torment him. Hanuman struck back at his tormentors, but chaos broke out among the Gandharvas due to the unexpected fight. Witnessing the chaos, Hanuman decided to continue his search, and not waste time-fighting. Unfortunately, try as he might, Hanuman could not find the herb. In the end, to save time, he decided to lift the whole mountain and take it with him to the camp.

Script: Luis M. Fernandes; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

After he reached,  Sushena himself went and gathered the plants he wanted from the mountain. He made a paste out of herbs and held it to Lakshamana’s nose. Soon, Lakshmana woke up from his unconscious state. After the completion of the mission, Hanuman restored the mountain to its original place and healed the wounded Gandharvas, with the same herb. When Hanuman returned, Rama asked him about the shining object under his arm. Hanuman told him the story of how he had imprisoned the sun in his arms. Upon Rama’s orders, he released Surya, sought his forgiveness and allowed him to rise again. Rama, Lakshmana and the entire army were grateful for Hanuman’s efforts in saving Lakshmana’s life. 

Read the complete Ramayana in our best-selling collection Valmiki’s Ramayana, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon and with other major e-tailers. 

The Parijata Tree

By Srinidhi Murthy

The Parijata tree emerged as one of the divine valuables during Samudra Manthan (the churning of the ocean). The celestial tree bore beautiful white flowers and had a divine fragrance. This tree was placed in Indra’s heavenly abode. Read the story of how Indra and Krishna fought for its possession.

Aditi’s earrings
Script: ACK Editorial Team; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Narakasura was a vicious asura who took pleasure in terrorising the inhabitants of all three worlds. He invaded heaven and drove Indra out of his abode. The asura also snatched Aditi’s earrings during one of these attacks. Indra approached Krishna for his help in defeating the evil asura. Krishna, along with his wife Satyabhama, rode on Garuda to confront Narakasura in his capital Pragjyotisha. After a fierce battle, he finally defeated Narakasura, with Satyabhama at his side.

Satyabhama’s disappointment
Script: ACK Editorial Team; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

After killing Narakasura, Krishna and Satyabhama visited heaven to return Aditi’s earrings. Indra welcomed them and thanked Krishna for killing Narakasura for him. Satyabhama, who had fought the asura with Krishna, felt slighted as she was ignored by Indra. She was also affected by the fact that Indra’s wife Shachi, did not arrive with him to welcome her. When Shachi arrived to take the couple to Aditi, Satyabhama noticed that both Shachi and Aditi ignored her contribution to Narakasura’s defeat and gave their full attention to Krishna. Though disappointed, Satyabhama ignored the slight and prepared herself to return to Dwaraka with Krishna.

Visiting Nandana

Seated on Garuda, Krishna and Satyabhama started their journey to Dwaraka. On their way, they landed at Nandana, Indra’s garden, to spend some time there. Satyabhama was impressed with the divine Parijata tree and decided to take the tree to Dwaraka. Suddenly, one of the guards approached them and prohibited both Krishna and Satyabhama from taking the tree as it belonged to Shachi. He added that taking the Parijata tree would infuriate Indra. Satyabhama was angry. She announced that nothing could stop Krishna, the slayer of Narakasura, from taking the tree. Terrified, the guard ran to Shachi, to report to Satyabhama.

Fight for the Parijata tree

Angered by Satyabhama’s words, Shachi asked Indra to stop them.  Indra marched to Nandana with his army. When Krishna and Satyabhama noticed the arrival of Indra with his army, they realised that he meant to fight them for the Parijata tree. Soon, a fight ensued between Krishna and Indra’s army. Krishna cut down their arrows faster than they were shot. Even Yama and Indra himself were no match for Krishna. Meanwhile, Garuda attacked Indra’s mount Airavata. The run of the startled elephant caused chaos in the celestial army and the army began to flee. Indra himself was all set to flee, but Krishna asked him to stop.  

Happy ending
Script: ACK Editorial Team; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Satyabhama said that since Indra was the Lord of the Celestials, he should not suffer humiliation. She then added that she started this fight to teach a lesson to Shachi as she deliberately ignored her part in the battle with Narakasura. Both Satyabhama and Krishna apologised to Indra and asked him to let the tree remain where it stood. Indra also apologised to the couple for fighting. He requested them to take Parijata to Dwaraka, as a symbol of their forgiveness. Krishna and Satyabhama flew to Dwarka on Garuda, carrying the celestial tree with them.

Read the comic book of the Prajita Tree by Amar Chitra Katha on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon, and more.

Ashwatthama’s Gem

By Srinidhi Murthy

According to the Mahabharata, Dronacharya was the teacher who trained both, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, in the art of warfare. He was married to Kripi, the sister of warrior Kripacharya. They both had a son, who was named Ashwatthama. Ashwatthama was born with a precious gem on his head. This gem made the wearer invincible. It eradicated hunger, thirst, disease as well as fear of weapons, robbers, rakshasas, nagas and even gods.

The Kurukshetra War between the Pandavas and the Kauravas ended with the death of Duryodhana, a close friend of Ashwatthama. Furthermore, Ashwatthama also lost his father, as Drona was killed through deception during the war. Enraged and grief-stricken, Ashwatthama entered the Pandava camp on the last night of the war, with the sole purpose of taking revenge. He killed warriors like Dhrishtadyumna, Shikhandi, Drupada and the five sons of Draupadi, while they were resting in their camp. Filled with rage and grief, Draupadi asked the Pandavas to bring her the precious jewel on Ashwatthama’s head to avenge the death of her sons.

Arjuna and Ashwatthama engaged in a terrible fight where they released Brahmashira, a powerful weapon, to destroy each other. The weapon had the potential to cause large-scale destruction and so, Vyasa and Narada intervened in their fight and asked both of them to withdraw their weapons. Both agreed to the wishes of the sages. Having obtained these weapons after severe austerities, Arjuna had the ability to withdraw his powerful celestial weapon. However, Ashwatthama could not do so, though he tried his best. Ashwatthama’s weapon was directed to destroy the future progeny of Pandavas. When he could not call back the weapon, he appealed to Vyasa for help. Vyasa then asked Ashwatthama to give the Pandavas his precious gem to compensate for his wicked act. However, Krishna intervened and declared that despite Ashwatthama’s weapon, the Pandava dynasty would continue through the unborn son of Abhimanyu and Uttara. 

Script: Margie Sastry; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

The crisis averted and the Pandavas returned to Draupadi with the precious gem. Ashwatthama retreated into the forest, filled with remorse. After being presented with the gem, Draupadi gifted it to Yudhishthira.

The Syamantaka Jewel

By Srinidhi Murthy

Syamantaka was a precious jewel that had the power to bring prosperity and end famine and war. However, its disappearance created trouble for Krishna himself. Here is the story of how Krishna found it and eventually cleared his name. 

A gift from the Sun god 
Script: Kamala Chandrakant; Illustration: H.S. Chavan

Prince Satrajit of Dwaraka was a devotee of Surya, the Sun God. One day, pleased with his devotion, Surya presented him with the Syamantaka jewel. When Satrajit rode back to Dwaraka, the people noticed that their prince was shining with a strange light. Wonderstruck, they all went to Krishna, who explained to them that it was due to the power of Syamantaka. He further added that the jewel had the power to end famine and war. In a few days, Satrajit noticed that the jewel also gave him eight measures of gold each morning. He installed Syamantaka in a temple and worshipped it daily.

Krishna’s visit

One day, Krishna visited Satrajit, who welcomed him warmly. Krishna praised the devotion of Satrajit, due to which he acquired such a precious jewel. Then, Krishna told Satrajit that since he had obtained enough gold, he should give the jewel to King Ugrasena as the jewel would be safer with a king. Satrajit immediately rejected Krishna’s suggestion and refused to part with the jewel. 

Syamantaka in Jambavan’s hands
Script: Kamala Chandrakant; Illustration: H.S. Chavan

A few days after this incident, Prasena, the brother of Satrajit, went on a hunt, wearing the Syamantaka. Unfortunately, he was killed by a lion and the lion took the jewel from Prasena. As the lion walked with the jewel, Jambavan, the king of bears, saw him. Jambavan saw the precious jewel and decided to present it to his son. He attacked the lion, killed it, and then presented the jewel to his dear son. 

Satrajit’s suspicion 

Meanwhile, at Dwaraka, Prasena’s absence created suspicion in Satrajit’s mind. He suspected that Krishna killed his brother to acquire the jewel. When Krishna learned about Satrajit’s suspicion, he became determined to clear his name. He immediately went to the forest with his men, to trace the location of Prasena. Krishna and his men soon found the dead body of Prasena and also noticed the lion’s marks on his body. The men then followed the footsteps of the lion and found it lying dead in front of a cave. Krishna asked his men to wait for him, as he went inside the cave all alone.

Krishna and Jambavan 
Script: Kamala Chandrakant; Illustration: H.S. Chavan

Krishna noticed that the jewel was in the hands of a small bear, who was Jambavan’s son. Though Krishna tried to take back the jewel without scaring the child, Jambavan’s son noticed him and cried loudly. Hearing the cries, Jambavan emerged to fight the stranger who had frightened his son. Krishna agreed to fight with a condition that the winner would take possession of the jewel. Soon, a fierce fight ensued between Krishna and Jambavan. Meanwhile, outside the cave, the men waited patiently for the return of Krishna, for the next twelve days. When Krishna did not return, they assumed he was dead and returned to Dwarka to convey the sad news to his parents and wife. 

Return of the Jewel

Inside the cave, Krishna and Jambavan fought for twenty-eight days. They fought with weapons, boulders and even uprooted trees. Jambavan, realizing the strength of Krishna, gave up the fight and surrendered himself to Krishna. Jambavan not only returned the jewel but also gave his daughter Jambavati in marriage to Krishna. As soon as they garlanded each other, Jambavati turned into a beautiful woman. Krishna returned to Dwaraka with the jewel and Jambavati. He returned the jewel to Satrajit, who apologized for doubting Krishna earlier. To make amends, Satrajit requested Krishna to accept his daughter Satyabhama as his wife. Krishan accepted his proposal and also asked Satrajit to give him yields of the gold.  Having proved his innocence, Krishna married Satyabhama in a joyous ceremony.

A new challenge
Script: Kamala Chandrakant; Illustration: H.S. Chavan

However, the disappointed suitors of Satyabhama – Akrura, Kritavarma, and Shatadhanwa – nursed thoughts of revenge on Satrajit. Shatadhanwa killed Satrajit without anyone’s knowledge and took possession of Syamantaka. In order to save himself from the wrath of Krishna, he approached Kritavarma and Akrura for help. When they refused to give him protection, he gave the jewel to Akrura and fled from Dwaraka. However, Krishna caught him and killed him when he tried to escape. A few days later, Akrura came to meet Krishna to give him the jewel. Krishna refused the jewel but asked Akura to declare that he had its possession, to clear the doubts from the minds of Dwaraka’s citizens. Having cleared all doubts and suspicions about his innocence, Krishna returned to his home to spend time with his family.

Read more stories of Krishna in our title Bhagavat, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Flipkart, Amazon, and other major e-tailers. 

Bheema Gets The Saugandhika Flowers

By Srinidhi Murthy

During the Pandavas’ stay in the forest, Draupadi chanced upon the beautiful Saugandhika flowers. The story of how Bheema got the flowers is a fascinating tale from the Mahabharata

Draupadi’s Wish
Script: Mihir Lal Mitra; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

During his twelve-year exile with his brothers and wife, Arjuna went away to perform penance to obtain celestial weapons from Indra and Lord Shiva. During this period, the four other Pandavas, along with Draupadi and Sage Lomasha decided to visit various places of pilgrimage. On their journey, they once reached the hermitage of Nara and Narayana. The inhabitants of the hermitage received them with due honour and the Pandavas spent some time in the hermitage in the hopes of seeing Arjuna there. One fine day, while walking in the forest with Bheema, Draupadi noticed an exquisite flower, which pleased her immensely. She asked Bheema to get more such flowers for her, as she wished to make a present with these flowers for Yudhishthira. Immediately, Bheema set out in search of the flowers with his bow, arrows, and mace. 

The Meeting
Script: Mihir Lal Mitra; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Bheema entered the Gandhamadana forest, which was full of beautiful trees, birds, animals, and streams. Due to the arrival of the mighty Pandava, all the animals and birds of the forest fled in fear. Soon, Bheema himself was brought to a halt, when he noticed that a monkey with a long tail was lying on the ground, blocking his way. Annoyed, Bheema roared loudly into the ears of the monkey. The monkey lazily turned around to face Bheema and in a low voice, asked Bheema about his identity. Bheema replied that he was the son of Pandu and Kunti and was born by the grace of Vayu, the Wind God. The monkey then told Bheema that he was too old and weak to move his own tail. He asked Bheema to move his tail to free his path. Bheema tried to lift the tail, but it would not budge. Growing frustrated, Bheema used all of his immense strength to move the monkey, but to no avail. He then realised that this was no ordinary monkey. Humbled, he accepted his defeat and asked the monkey to reveal his true identity. 

Kubera’s Garden
Script: Mihir Lal Mitra; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

The monkey revealed himself to be Hanuman. He embraced Bheema as his brother, as both of them were born by the grace of Vayu. Bheema realised that his fatigue had disappeared. With Hanuman’s blessings, Bheema was confident of conquering his enemies. Before their farewell, Hanuman instructed Bheema to go to the gardens of Kubera in the Saugandhika forest, where he could find the rare flowers Draupadi wanted. After a tearful parting, Bheema went ahead with his journey. He soon reached the lake in the Saugandhika forest. He saw the beautiful flowers growing in the lake and started collecting them, wanting to go back home as soon as possible. 

The Triumph 
Script: Mihir Lal Mitra; Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Feeling thirsty, Bheema bent down to drink water from the lake. In a flash, hundreds of rakshasas approached him. The rakshasas were the guards of the garden and they prohibited him from drinking water from the lake. They instructed him that nobody could take away the flowers without permission from Kubera.  After a heated exchange of words, a fight ensued between them, and Bheema killed several rakshasas. Others fled and informed Kubera about the fight. To their astonishment, Kubera asked them to return to their posts and allowed Bheema to take the flowers. Bheema returned with the rare celestial flowers and gifted them to Draupadi, who was overjoyed.

Read the story of the Pandavas in our title The Pandava Princes, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon, and other major e-tailers. 

Akshaya Patra: The Inexhaustible Source of Food

By Srinidhi Murthy

The Mahabharata tells the story of Akshaya Patra, a magical copper plate that is an inexhaustible source of food. This magical object was gifted by Surya to Yudhishthira, and it helped the Pandavas survive the harsh life during their exile.

A gift from Surya
Script: Sumona Roy, Illustrations: Dilip Kadam

When Pandavas and their wife, Draupadi, started their twelve-year exile, they were worried about how they were going to provide food for the sages that accompanied them into the forest. Sage Dhaumya suggested that Yudhishthira pray to Lord Surya, as he was the provider of food for all creatures. Upon the sage’s advice, Yudhishthira stood in the waters of Ganga, facing the sun, and prayed to the Surya, consuming nothing but air for several days. He prayed that Surya bestow food upon them all. Pleased by his devotion, Surya appeared before him. He gave Yudhishthira the Akshaya Patra – a copper plate that would remain full of food until Draupadi eats. Surya also blessed Yudhishthira and declared that his kingdom would be restored to him at the end of the fourteenth year.

 The inexhaustible source of food

On his return, Yudhishthira paid his respects to Dhaumya and gave the copper plate to Draupadi. Even though the food she cooked was scant, it soon grew large enough to fill the plate. The Pandavas first served their guests, then had their meals and only when Draupadi finished her own meal, did the plate finally become empty.  In the following years, the Pandavas and Draupadi performed many acts of charity and religious sacrifices. They welcomed many sages, who visited them in the forest. Draupadi used the Akshaya Patra to feed sages and guests. She also made sure she was the last one to eat the food.

Duryodhana’s plan
Script: Sumona Roy, Illustrations: Dilip Kadam

Duryodhana was filled with envy when he heard about the peaceful life his cousins were leading in their exile. He devised a plan to get the Pandavas in trouble by turning Sage Durvasa against them. One day Sage Durvasa, along with his hundred disciples, visited Duryodhana in his palace at Hastinapura. When he arrived, Duryodhana provided lavish hospitality for Durvasa and looked after his every need. Pleased with his service, Durvasa decided to grant him a boon. Making use of this opportunity, Duryodhana asked the sage to visit the Pandavas in the forest, along with his disciples, and seek Yudhishthira’s hospitality. However, he specified that Durvasa should arrive at their home only after Draupadi had finished her meal. Duryodhana knew that the sage was famed for his temper and thus was convinced that Durvasa would curse the Pandavas when they failed to feed him. 

Draupadi’s dilemma

Durvasa arrived with his disciples at Yudhishthira’s hermitage, after Draupadi had finished her meal. Yudhishthira welcomed the sage and his followers with due honour. Durvasa left with his followers to bathe in the nearby river, before their meal. In the meantime, Draupadi began to get worried looking at the number of guests they had. She had already finished her meal and the Akshaya Patra was empty. She knew she was in no position to prepare a large meal for Sage Durvasa and his hundred disciples. Draupadi, in her despair, prayed to Krishna, to save her from the sage’s wrath. 

Krishna to the rescue
Script: Sumona Roy, Illustrations: Dilip Kadam

Upon hearing Draupadi’s pleas, Krishna immediately appeared in front of her. Draupadi explained the problem to Krishna and after listening to the distressed Draupadi, Krishna asked her to bring him the Akshaya Patra. He noticed that a small piece of vegetable was still there on the plate. He took the small piece, and putting it in his mouth, proclaimed that all the souls of the universe would be satiated with it. 

Script: Sumona Roy, Illustrations: Dilip Kadam

Krishna immediately called Sahadeva and asked him to go to the sages to invite them for lunch. Meanwhile, Durvasa and his disciples who were bathing in the river, suddenly realised that they were not feeling hungry anymore. They felt as though they would not be able to eat even one morsel of food. The sages became worried, thinking that the Pandavas would be furious if they didn’t arrive for their meal. They decided to depart quietly, without informing the Pandavas. Thus, Krishna was able to avert a disaster and save the Pandavas and Draupadi once again. 

Read more interesting incidents from the Mahabharata in our collection Mahabarata, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Flipkart, and with other major e-tailers. 

Child Prodigies in Indian Mythology (Premium Content)

By Srinidhi Murthy

Indian Mythology has interesting stories of child prodigies, whose devotion and determination made it possible for them to reach new heights. Here are the fascinating legends of some such children who achieved seemingly impossible tasks. 

Ashtavakra

Ashtavakra was the son of Sage Kahoda and his wife Sujatha. One day, when Kahoda was teaching his disciples, he was interrupted by a voice that came from his wife’s womb. The voice corrected the chant that was mispronounced by Kahoda. Angered at being humiliated in front of his disciple, he cursed his unborn child to be born with eight deformities. As the date of his son’s birth approached, Kahoda went to King Janaka as he needed money for the birth of his child. Janaka told Kahoda that he would reward him if he defeated Bandhi. Bandhi was a scholar who remained undefeated in debates. The king also added that the sage would be drowned if he did not achieve success.

Unfortunately, Kahoda was no match for Bandhi and was defeated. Soon after this event, Sujatha delivered a son. The child was named Ashtavakra due to his eight deformities. When Ashtavakra reached the age of twelve, he wanted to avenge his father by defeating Bandhi. Seeing the confidence and intelligence of the boy, Janaka permitted him to have the debate with Bandhi. To everyone’s surprise, Bandhi was easily defeated by the boy.  Bandhi then revealed that he was the son of Varuna and that the true purpose of his challenge was to send sages from earth to perform a yagna for his father and not to drown them. Hearing this, the king and his courtiers rushed to the river where to their surprise, they saw all the sages emerge alive and well from the water. There, Ashtavakra had a joyous reunion with his father, who was overjoyed by his son’s success and cured his deformities.  

Script: Shailaja Ganguly, Malati Shenoy; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar
Dhruva

Dhruva was the son of King Uttanapada and his first wife Suneeti. Unfortunately, Uttanapada loved his second wife Suruchi more than his first wife and son. One day, Dhruva saw Uttama, the son of Queen Suruchi, sitting on his father’s lap. Filled with excitement, Dhruva ran toward his father to join his brother but Suruchi stopped him on his way and told him that he had no right to sit on his father’s lap. She also added that Dhruva should pray to Lord Narayana to be reborn as her son if he wanted to enjoy the same rights as Uttama. Hurt by the harsh words of his stepmother, Dhruva became determined to gain the favour of Lord Narayana. With his mother’s blessing, he reached Madhuvan forest and started his meditation by chanting the name of the Lord. Moved by the determination of Dhruva, Lord Narayana appeared before him.

Script: Shailaja Ganguly, Malati Shenoy; Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Narayana blessed Dhruva and told him that he would be a great king for 36,000 years and would have a permanent place in heaven. When Dhruva returned home, he was reunited with his joyful parents. A few years later, Uttanapada retired to the forest, after crowning Dhruva as the next king. The Dhruva Tara or the Pole Star is said to be Dhruva, in his place in heaven. 

Prahlad

Prahlad was the son of the asura Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu’s brother had been slain by Vishnu and hence, the asura wanted to destroy Vishnu and his devotees as revenge. He performed severe penances to gain the boon of immortality from Brahma. When Brahma appeared before him, Hiranyakashipu asked that he should not die either by man or beast, during the day or night, indoors or outdoors, on earth or in the sky. After gaining the boon, the asura invaded heaven and drove the gods out of their abode. He became extremely powerful and started wreaking havoc on earth as well as in heaven. However, to his great dismay, his son Prahlad grew up as a great devotee of Vishnu.

Script: Kamala Chandrakant; Illustration: Souren Roy

At first, Hiranyakashipu tried to change his son by instructing his teachers to change his mind. Days passed but Prahlad’s devotion towards Vishnu did not waver. Angered by his son’s insolence, Hiranyakashipu ordered his asuras to kill his Prahlad. The asuras tried to kill the child in many ways, but Prahlad remained unharmed by the blow of swords, the poison of serpents, blazing fire or the trample of mighty elephants. After his numerous failed attempts to kill his son, Hiranyakashipu called Prahlad and asked for his source of power. Prahlad calmly replied that Lord Vishnu was the source of his power. Angered by his words, Hiranyakashipu kicked the pillar and asked Vishnu to appear before him. Lord Vishnu emerged in the form of Narasimha, a half lion-half man.  In the twilight hour, Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu on the threshold of the courtroom. After the death of his father and with the blessings of Lord Vishnu, Prahlad ruled wisely and well for many years.

Nachiketa

Nachiketa was the son of Sage Vajashrava. He was sent to a gurukula at the age of eight, where he received his education. Soon, Nachiketa was called back by his father to assist him in his upcoming Vishvajit Sacrifice, wherein an individual gave away all his possessions. When he reached home, Nachiketa noticed that his father was giving away the sick and old cows he possessed as his sacrifice. Nachiketa realised that the sacrifice would not be completed properly with such offerings. He, therefore, asked his father to sacrifice him instead. The sage was irritated by Nachiketa mocking his offerings. When Nachiketa asked him who the sage would sacrifice his son to, Vajashrava angrily told Nachiketa that he would give him away to Yama, the god of Death. Although Vajashrava immediately regretted his words, Nachiketa set out to fulfil his father’s words. He reached the abode of Yama and waited for him there for three days.

Script: Subba Rao; Illustration: P. B. Kavadi

When Yama learnt that Nachiketa received no hospitality for three days, he offered him three boons to compensate for the mistake. As his first boon, Nachiketa asked Yama to grant his father peace of mind and happiness. In the second, he asked Yama to teach him a sacrifice that would grant him the ability to feel no hunger or thirst. Yama granted his two boons but was surprised when Nachiketa demanded that he reveal whether or not there is life after death, as his final boon. At first, Yama tried to offer other things to distract the boy but Nachiketa was keen only on getting an answer to his question. Seeing his determination, Yama felt obliged to answer the boy’s question. He explained that people who lived virtuous lives are able to realise their true selves, while those who chase pleasure get stuck in an endless cycle of rebirth. Yama then taught Nachiketa about the nature of the self and the correct manner of leading one’s life. Satisfied with his boons, Nachiketa returned home. As he grew older, many came to his hermitage to seek knowledge and guidance.

 

Mythical Birds in Legends and Puranas

By Komal Narwani and Kayva Gokhale

Hindu mythology is full of divine beings that are not always humans, and yet play an integral role in the stories of the Puranas as well as the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Folktales, regional mythologies and legends also have many such magical creatures, with fascinating origins and awe-inspiring powers. Here are some majestic birds that feature in Hindu mythology.

Garuda 
Illustration: C.M. Vitankar

Garuda, the divine eagle, is widely known as Vishnu’s mount. However, he is no ordinary vahana and is a powerful divine being capable of fantastic feats. The story of Garuda’s birth is an interesting one. According to some legends, Sage Kashyap conferred a boon to his wives Vinata and Kadru. While Kadru asked to be the mother of a thousand mighty snakes, Vinata asked for only two sons, who would surpass Kadru’s children in strength. Soon, a yagna was conducted to grant the wives their wishes. During the preparation of this yagna, the sages were angered by Lord Indra’s arrogance. They were determined to make Vinata’s son stronger than Indra, in order to humble him. Frightened, Indra requested Sage Kashyap to help him. The great sage then requested the others to change their decision. ‘Let the being you create be the Lord of all winged creatures’, he suggested instead. The sages agreed and that is how Garuda came to be born with tremendous strength, the ability to change his form at will as well as the ability to increase his size and soar across the blue skies. 

Navagunjara

This fascinating mythical being finds its mention in Oriya folklore based on the Mahabharata. It is believed that once when Arjuna was out hunting, he came across a creature beyond his imagination. It was made up of nine animals! This magnificent creature had the head of a rooster, the neck of a peacock, the hump of a bull, the waist of a lion, legs of a human, an elephant, a deer and a tiger, and with a snake as its tail. Though initially frightened of Navagunjara, Arjuna soon realised that such a being could only be a manifestation of the divine. Arjuna laid down his weapons and saluted the wondrous creature.

Hanshansali and Marangbonga
Illustration: Atula Siriwardane, Colour: Sachin Adhare

According to the Santhal tribe’s mythology, birds play an important role in the creation of the world. It is believed that when the Earth was covered with water, Marangbonga, the divine crow, was flying through the sky one day when he decided to create living creatures. He then created a pair of swans, called the Hanshansali, who became the first living beings on the earth. This swan couple eventually laid two eggs, out of which a man called Pilchuharam and a woman called Pilchuayo were born. These were the first humans for whom the earth was made habitable by the Gods. Thus, the crow and swans are seen as imperative for the beginning of mankind. 

Peacock, Crow and Swan 

Long ago, the king of Usheerabeeja, Marutta was performing a Mahesvarayajna. Many gods including Indra, Yama, Varuna and Kubera, were present at the yajna. Suddenly, Ravana, the king of Lanka, who had received the boon of near-invincibility from Brahma, arrived at the yajna. Scared of Ravana’s presence, all the demi-gods assumed the form of different animals and birds. Indra became a peacock, Yama transformed into a crow, Varuna took the form of a swan and Kubera turned into a chameleon. The animals had saved the demi-gods from Ravana’s wrath. Hence, when Ravana left the place, each of them blessed the animals and birds they took the form of. Indra made the peacock’s feathers iridescent. ​Yama gave crows the right to have Pitru Bali ​Rice/​Pinda, a ritual to leave food outside the house for the dead as an offering to Yama​. Varuna blessed the Swan with pure white colour. Kubera gifted the chameleon the capability to change its colour.

 Sampati and Jatayu

The great vultures, Sampati and Jatayu, were brothers. Both of them were fond of flying at dizzying heights. They would often fly up to meet their father, Aruna, the sun god’s charioteer. Although proud of his mighty sons, Aruna would advise them not to get too close to the sun god. Unfortunately, his advice went unheeded. One blazing afternoon, the two brothers unknowingly ended up flying extremely close to the sun. Their bodies were burning but Jatayu continued to fly higher. It was Sampati who noticed the sun god approaching them. Sampati flew over Jatayu and spread his wings wide to shield his brother. The flames ate up Sampati’s wings and he hurtled to the ground in pain, sacrificing himself for his beloved brother. 

Illustration: Arijit Dutta Chowdhury

Jatayu was the second son of Aruna, the sun god’s charioteer, and nephew of Garuda, the mount of Vishnu. He was the great vulture who dedicated his life to saving Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya, and his family. When Ravana, the king of Lanka, abducted Sita, the princess of Mithila and the wife of King Rama, during their exile. Jatayu was the first to notice. Upon hearing Sita’s cry for help, Jatayu speeded his way to face the deadly foe with all his might. Though Jatayu was a might vulture, his strength couldn’t match up to Ravana’s, who mercilessly cut off Jatayu’s wings and talons. Even after Jatayu was severely injured, he held on to life until he broke the terrible news about Sita’s abduction to Rama. He breathed his last only after uttering Sita’s location to Rama and Lakshmana. 

Gandaberunda and Sharabha
Illustration: Durgesh Velhal

When Vishnu descended to earth as Narasimha to destroy the evil king, Hiranyakashapu, he lost sight of his true purpose and started to wreak havoc on earth. Even the gods feared him and turned to Shiva for help. Shiva took the form of Sharabha, a half-bird and half-lion being. Sharabha tried to calm Narasimha under his wings but instead, got him furious. From his body emerged Gandaberdunda, a two-headed bird of unimaginable strength. The two divine beings fought a fierce battle that lasted for eighteen days. At the end of the eighteenth day, Gandaberunda stopped to look around. Realizing the enormous devastation the battle had caused, he spilt into two and Vishnu emerged from the centre of the fearsome beast. Shiva too resumed his form. The two returned to the heavenly abode and peace was restored.

Read about more such fascinating creatures in our title Divine Beings on the ACK Comics app!

3 Fascinating Legends Behind Holi

By Komal Narwani

Holi, the festival of colours, is a beautiful way to bid winter and celebrate the advent of spring. Almost every festival in India has interesting legends behind it. Here are some associated with the festival of Holi.

Prahlad and Holika
Script: Kamala Chandrakant, Illustration: Souren Roy

The most popular legend behind celebrating Holi is of Prahlad and Holika. Hiranyakashipu was a demon king who would command the people of his kingdom to worship him like a divine being. Afraid of his power, everybody obeyed his command except for his son, Prahlad. Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and refused to worship his father. Infuriated by his son’s disobedience, he attempted to history him numerous times in different ways. When all his attempts failed, he turned to his sister, Holika, for help.

Holika was blessed with immunity to fire so she decided to trick Prahlad into sitting in a bonfire with him. She thought that she would be safe and Prahlad would be down into ashes. While sitting on the bonfire, Prahlad chanted Vishnu’s name. Due to her evil intentions, Holika’s immunity vanished and she was burnt to death while Prahlad’s devotion saved him! This is the reason, the eve of Holi is celebrated by lighting pyre. This is called Holika Dahan. It symbolises the triumph of good over evil.

Radha and Krishna

According to a regional folktale of Vrindavan and Mathura, Holi is played in the spirit of the divine love of Radha and Krishna. Baby Krishna, once drank poisoned milk from the breast of a demon called Putana and acquired a dark blue colour. Later, he started complaining to his mother, Yashoda, about how his skin was so different from Radha’s. Yashoda playfully told him that he could colour Radha’s face and make their skin the same colour.

Krishna got enthralled by this idea and smudged the colour on Radha’s face. This is why the festival of Holi is associated with applying colours to the people you love.

Shiva and Sati

Another myth suggests Kamadeva’s sacrifice as the reason for Holi celebrations. Shiva’s consort, Sati immolated herself when she heard her father insulting her husband. Hearing about the demise of his beloved, Shiva gave up all the worldly pleasures and went into a deep meditation. Tarakasura, a demon, due to his penance, was granted a boon that no one except Lord Shiva’s son could kill him. Knowing that Shiva would never marry again, he started creating havoc in heaven and on earth. The gods turned to Kamadeva, the God of love, for help.

Script: Kamala Chandrakant, Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

In spite of knowing that he would invoke Shiva’s rage, Kamadeva agreed to help. He along with Goddess Parvati, the incarnation of Sati, went to Shiva because Parvati loved Shiva and wished to marry him. Kamadeva shot the cupid’s arrow at Shiva, which disturbed his meditation. In his anger, Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Kamadeva to ashes. However, the arrow did its magic and Shiva was besotted with Parvati.  Shiva and Parvati got married and gave birth to Kartikeya, who went on to defeat Tarakasura. After Shiva was told the reason for interrupting his meditation, he revived Kamadeva as an invisible spirit of love and spread him across the cosmos. Therefore, the eve of Holi is celebrated with a bonfire to remember Kamadeva’s sacrifice and the next day with colours to celebrate the bliss of love.

Krishna and Jarasandha

By Srinidhi Murthy

According to the Mahabharata, a long time ago, Magadha was ruled by a virtuous and powerful king named Brihadratha. He married the twin daughters of the king of Kashi, whom he loved equally. But the king had no sons with either of his wives and this thought troubled him the most. One day, Brihadratha learnt that an illustrious sage had arrived in his city. Hoping to get a solution for his problem, the king visited the sage with many gifts. 

The sage, after hearing about the king’s misery, closed his eyes for a while. To the surprise of everyone present, suddenly a mango fell in his lap. The sage gave the mango to the king and told him to give it to his wife. He told the king that upon eating the mango, his wife would obtain a son. Brihadratha loved both of his wives dearly and didn’t want to choose one among them. Hence, he divided the mango and gave half of it to both of them. 

Script: Kamala Chandrakant, Illustrations: Pratap Mulik

Soon, both queens were expecting a child. However, when the queens delivered, they had only half a baby each. Not knowing what to do, the midwives carried the two halves and left them in the backyard of the queens’ apartments. A few hours later, a rakshasi named Jara, passed by and saw the two halves of the baby. The demoness lived on flesh and blood and so she decided to join the halves to make them easier for her to carry.  The moment she joined the halves, the baby came to life and roared. Hearing the loud cry of the baby, the king, his wives and midwives came rushing to the scene. Jara, realising the baby was the son of the king, returned the baby to him. Brihadratha, overwhelmed with joy, announced that since Jara put his son together, he would be named in her honour. 

Script: Kamala Chandrakant, Illustrations: Pratap Mulik

Jarasandha grew up to become an able prince. Soon Brihadratha handed him the reins of the kingdom and retired to the forest with his wives. Jarasandha soon subdued almost all the kings of the territories adjoining his kingdom. He also got his daughters married to Kamsa, Krishna’s evil maternal uncle. When Krishna defeated Kamsa, Jarasandha was outraged at his daughters’ widowhood. He waged battles against Krishna constantly but was defeated each time. 

Meanwhile, the Pandavas acquired the kingdom of Indraprastha and Yudhishthira decided to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice. Krishna suggested that it was necessary for them to kill Jarasandha and release the kings under his control for the successful completion of the Rajasuya. Everyone was hesitant about their ability to kill the mighty king, but soon Bheema volunteered for the task, and set out to defeat Jarasandha with the help of Arjuna and Krishna. 

Script: Kamala Chandrakant, Illustrations: Pratap Mulik

The three of them left for Magadha, disguised as Brahmins. When they reached Jarasandha’s court, the king declared that he would give the Brahmins whatever they asked for. Immediately, Krishna asked him to combat Bheema, and revealed their real identities. Jarasandha agreed to the demand, confident in his victory. He and Bheema fought fiercely with each other in a duel for the next twenty-seven days. As they were both well-matched, neither of them were defeated. 

Script: Kamala Chandrakant, Illustrations: Pratap Mulik

Krishna knew the secret of Jarasandha’s birth and therefore, the key to his defeat. Before the duel, on the 28th day, Krishna picked up a twig and split it into two lengths in front of Bheema. The strongest Pandava understood Krishna’s signal. During the duel, he seized Jarasandha by the leg and threw him to the ground. He then tore the body of the king into two halves and threw the halves away from each other. The two halves joined by the demoness were thrown away in opposite directions by Bheema to bring an end to the mighty Jarasandha.

Read more tales of Krishna in our title Bhagavad, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon, Flipkart and other major e-tailers.