Tirupati – The Abode of Lord Venkateshwara

By Srinidhi Murthy 

Set in the peaceful hills of Tirumala, the temple of Lord Venkateshwara Balaji or Vishnu, is one of the holiest places in the country. The story of why the Tirupati temple is so special is a fascinating one. 

Many years ago, a farmer heard a divine voice from an anthill. The farmer rushed to tell King Thondaiman about the voice. Upon investigation, King Thondaiman found an idol in the anthill and decided to build a temple to match its serenity and beauty. However, this story goes further back to the time when Lord Vishnu arrived on earth as Venkateshwara.

Script: Aruna Balakrishna Singh, Illustrations: Sundara Moorthy
The Departure of Lakshmi

After the end of Vishnu’s Krishna Avatar, he returned to live in Vaikuntha. Many sages decided to perform a yagna under the guidance of Sage Kashyapa. Following the advice of Narada, Sage Bhrigu was chosen to decide who among Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma would accept the final offerings of the yagna. To make this decision, Bhrigu decided to pay a visit to the gods at their abodes. However, Bhrigu was dissatisfied with the reception he received from Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. The sage expected more disrespect when he arrived at Vaikuntha. Hence, as soon as he reached, he struck Lord Vishnu on his chest. Vishnu, through his divine intuition, understood the anger of the sage and calmly washed his feet. As he did, he pinched the sole of Bhrigu’s foot, shutting the sage’s third eye which was located on his foot. This ended Bhrigu’s arrogance and he immediately realised his mistake. Humbled, Bhrigu requested Vishnu to accept the offerings of the yagna. However, when Bhrigu left, Vishnu realised that Lakshmi was upset. Upon asking her the cause of her distress, she told Vishnu that the sage had kicked his chest, that is, the place where Lakshmi resides. Hence, by letting Bhrigu kick his chest, Vishnu had allowed Lakshmi to be insulted. Not able to tolerate this insult, Lakshmi decided to leave Vaikuntha. 

Script: Aruna Balakrishna Singh, Illustrations: Sundara Moorthy
Vishnu and the Cowherd

Lakshmi then descended to the earth and started living there. Unable to live without Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu came to earth in search of her. He began meditating without food and water in an anthill. Seeing this, Lord Shiva and Brahma decided to help Vishnu. The two gods formed a plan with Narada and took the form of a cow and calf, respectively. They approached Goddess Lakshmi and Narada requested her to gift the animals to the Chola king. The king in turn gave the cow and calf to the queen. After a few days, the queen noticed that the animals were not yielding milk and accused the cowherd of stealing it. In order to prove his innocence and find out what happened to the milk, the cowherd followed the cow. He noticed the cow was giving all its milk to the anthill. Angry, he threw the axe at the cow, but to his horror, Lord Vishnu took the hit to protect the cow. The cowherd fainted due to the shock of what happened. When the king learnt about all this, he begged Lord Vishnu to forgive him for the consequences of his ignorance. Vishnu forgave him and told the King that he would be born as King Akasa Raja in his next birth.

The Gesture of Gandharva Princess

The wound inflicted on Lord Vishnu did not heal completely and he was left with a perceptible bald spot. Seeing the misery of Lord Vishnu, a Gandharva princess named Neela Devi, decided to help him. She cut off her lustrous hair and pressed it on Vishnu’s bald spot. Touched by her gesture, Vishnu decreed that whoever came to worship him would sacrifice their hair to her. Hence, even today, thousands of devotees offer their hair at Tirupati to clear Vishnu’s debt to Neela Devi.

Shrinivasa and Padmavati

As foretold by Lord Vishnu, the Chola king was reborn as Akasa Raja. Akasa Raja decided to perform a special yagna to obtain an heir. In preparation for this yagna, the king and queen were asked to till some fertile land. While doing so, they found a golden lotus box. They opened the box and found a baby girl in it. Akasa Raja named the child Padmavati as she was found resting on a golden lotus box. Unbeknownst to the king, Padmavati was an incarnation of Vedavati. In her previous birth, Vedavati wanted to marry Lord Vishnu, which is why she was reborn as Padmavati in this birth to fulfil her destiny. In the meantime, Vishnu was staying on earth as Shrinivasa, with his foster mother, Vakula Devi. One day, when Shrinivasa went hunting, he heard some cries for help. He saw an elephant chasing some young women, one among them was Padmavati. Shrinivasa subdued the elephant and chased it away. Shrinivasa and Padmavati took an instant liking to each other and fell in love.

Script: Aruna Balakrishna Singh, Illustrations: Sundara Moorthy
Marriage arranged

When Shrinivasa learnt about the identity of Padmavati, he went to his mother. Revealing that he was in fact, Lord Vishnu, he asked her to go to Akasa Raja to discuss marriage between him and Padmavati. Vakula Devi was sceptical about whether or not the king would believe the true identity of Shrinivasa.  Shrinivasa then disguised himself as an astrologer and went to the palace before his mother. He predicted that Padmavati would marry Lord Vishnu himself. Later, when Vakula Devi arrived with the proposal, Akasa Raja agreed immediately.

Wedding and Reunion
Script: Aruna Balakrishna Singh, Illustrations: Sundara Moorthy

The preparations for the grand wedding began. Shrinivasa approached Kubera, the lord of wealth, to lend him money for his wedding. In the presence of Lord Brahma, Shiva and others, Shrinivasa married Padmavati. They built a house like Vaikuntha and spent their days together happily. When Lakshmi heard about the marriage of Shrinivasa and Padmavati, she was furious and rushed to meet the Lord. When he saw the angry Goddess, Vishnu turned to stone. Brahma and Shiva decided to come to earth to soothe Lakshmi’s fury. Their explanations calmed the Goddess and she decided to live, where she always lived, in Vishnu’s chest. Padmavati settled down at Tiruchanur, offering boons to her devotees. A visit to Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati is incomplete without a visit to Tiruchanur temple.

Read more about the different destinations of India in our digital release Touring India, now available on the ACK Comics App and Kindle. 

Kubera’s Nine Treasures

By Komal Narwani 

In Hindu mythology, the demi-god Kubera is known as the god of wealth. Once the ruler of Lanka, he was overthrown by Ravana, his half-brother. He eventually settled in the city of Alaka in the Himalayas. In the scriptures, Alaka or Alakapuri is described as a splendid city blessed with abundance, much like the wealthy god’s personality.

Kubera is often depicted holding a bag of gold, symbolizing the enormous wealth he owns. Interestingly, he also owns nine priceless treasures. According to Amarakosha, a thesaurus written in Sanskrit by the ancient Indian scholar Amarasimha, Nidhi or Nidhana is a set of nine treasures possessed by Kubera. While not much is known about the Nidhi, it is believed that each of these has a guardian spirit associated with it. Let’s look at the Nidhi in brief.

  1. Padma 

The Padma translates to the lotus flower. However, this treasure is interpreted as a lake in the Himalayas containing precious minerals and gemstones. 

2. Mahapadma 

Just like the name signifies, Mahapadma is the great lotus flower, which symbolizes a lake double the size of Padma. Thus, it has double the number of minerals and gemstones than the Padma. 

3. Shankha 

The Shankha or conch is considered to be a sacred object, according to the scriptures. It holds significance in a lot of Puranic texts, including the Mahabharata. The mineral composition of a shankha, calcium, iron and magnesium, makes it even more precious. 

4. Makara 

While the literal translation of Makara is a crocodile, Amarakosha says it is also a synonym of Padmini, which means black antimony. The powdered form of antimony is a source of kohl. 

5. Kachchhapa 

The tortoise shell is considered auspicious. Its mineral composition makes it extremely valuable. Various accessories and artefacts have been designed from turtle shells in old times. However, the illegal trade of tortoise shells has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species since 1973. 

6. Kumud 

A tantalizing bright scarlet coloured mineral, cinnabar is one of the other treasures of Kubera. It is the brick-red form of mercury sulfide. This mineral is the source of vermillion which is used in several Indian rituals too.    

7. Kunda 

Kunda means the jasmine flower. However, this treasure is interpreted as arsenic, since the jasmine plant absorbs arsenic from the soil.  

8. Kharva 

The Kharva symbolizes cups and vessels baked in fire. 

9. Nila 

The gemstone sapphire is Nila. It is made up of the mineral corundum, a crystalline form of aluminium oxide. The blue gemstone is one of the most expensive jewels, even in the real world. 

 

Indra and Shachi

By Srinidhi Murthy

Indra and Shachi were the king and queen of the Devas. The loyalty and devotion shown by Shachi, helped Indra gain his kingdom back from Nahusha, the king who replaced him for a while.

Threat from Trishira

Indra lived peacefully with his wife Shachi in his celestial city, Amaravati. But their peace was soon destroyed with the birth of Trishiras. Trishiras was the son of Indra’s enemy, Tvashta. Tvastha vowed to make his son the king of the gods, at the time of his birth. Trishiras grew up to become strong-willed and powerful. He decided to perform severe penance to destroy Indra. When Indra heard about his intense penance, he sent the celestial maidens, the apsaras, to distract him and break his concentration. However, the apasaras could not tempt Trishiras. Indra, taking matters into his own hands, used his thunderbolt to kill Trishiras, when he was lost in prayer. Since Trishiras was a Brahmana, Indra had to perform severe penance to atone for killing him. 

Illustration: M.N. Nangare | Script: Lakshmi Seshadri
Revenge of Tvashta

Struck by grief at the death of his son, Tvashta performed a sacrifice and created an Asura named Vritra to avenge Trishiras. There was a terrible battle between Vritra and the Devas. Indra barely escaped and had to appeal to Vishnu for help. Vishnu advised Indra to make peace with Vritra for the time being. Vishnu also vowed to help Indra, when the right time arrives. Indra agreed and soon he made peace with Vritra. The latter, however, was sceptical. He, therefore, made Indra promise that Indra would not kill him with any weapon – wet or dry, of wood or stone. He also made Indra promise that he would not kill Vritra during the day or the night. One evening, Indra and Vritra were on a seashore. Indra saw his chance as it was neither day nor night. He prayed to Vishnu to help him to kill Vritra with the seafoam, which was not a weapon and was neither wet nor dry. Vishnu entered the foam and Indra immediately threw it at Vritra. The Asura could not withstand the power of Vishnu and was killed. 

Illustration: M.N. Nangare | Script: Lakshmi Seshadri
Arrival of Nahusha

Though Indra emerged successful in killing Vritra, he was ashamed to face the world as he had betrayed Vritra in the process. Indra ran away from his city and decided to hide where no one could find him. Without the king of gods, heaven and earth descended into darkness and chaos. The Devas met in a council and decided to appoint a suitable king to replace Indra. They selected Nahusha, the son of King Ayus, as the successor of Indra. Nahusha was a good and pious man. He accepted the invitation of the Devas to become their king. Nahusha was given the power and strength required to become the king of the Devas. Nahusha also had the power to obtain half of the strength of the person before his sight.

Illustration: M.N. Nangare | Script: Lakshmi Seshadri
Search for Indra

After Nahusha became the king of heavens, he started to enjoy all celestial pleasures. He became arrogant and conceited, treating everyone else with disrespect. The Devas were unhappy with this tyrannical behaviour but felt helpless against his powers. One day, Nahusha saw Shachi in the gardens and decided to make her his queen. The terrified Sachi took refuge at the abode of Sage Brihaspathi. Nahusha was infuriated and demanded that Shachi returns to Amravati. Sage Brihaspathi pacified Shachi and advised her to come up with a plan to find Indra. As per his advice, Sachi informed Nahusha to conduct a search for Indra. She promised to marry him if Indra was not found. The Devas once again appealed to Vishnu for help. Vishnu advised them to find Indra and make him perform an Ashwamedha to atone for the sin of killing Vritra by deceit. 

Illustration: M.N. Nangare | Script: Lakshmi Seshadri
The End of Nahusha

Devas found Indra after a long search and convinced him to fight Nahusha. Indra performed an Ashwamedha and came back to his city to confront Nahusha. However, upon seeing Nahusha’s power, Indra felt weak and ran away. The tearful Shachi prayed to Upashruti, the Goddess of the Night, for help. The goddess took Shachi to Indra, where they came up with a plan to defeat Nahusha. According to their plan, Shachi agreed to become Nahusha’s wife on the condition that he visit her in a palanquin carried by the seven sages. Nahusha was thrilled with the arrangement and he immediately ordered the palanquin to meet Shachi. Soon, the seven sages assembled and started to carry Nahusha to Shachi. However, the sages moved slowly much to the irritation of Nahusha. In his anger, he kicked Sage Agastya, who was holding the palanquin from the front. Furious, Agastya cursed Nahusha and transformed him into a snake. Now reduced to a mere snake, Nahusha was no threat to Indra, who came back to rule Amravati with his devoted queen, Shachi.  

Illustration: M.N. Nangare | Script: Lakshmi Seshadri

Read more such fascinating legends from the epics and Puranas on the ACK Comics app now! 

 

Vigraha

Illustration: Shrishti Tiwari

The word ‘Vigraha’ had many meanings in Puranic texts. Here are some of them:

  1. Kartikeya was presented with two attendants – Vigraha and Sangraha, by the ocean.
  2. The idols and images consecrated in places of worship are called vigrahas.
  3. Vigraha is one of the six qualities a king should possess. It is the quality of fighting in a war to ensure the welfare and safety of his kingdom.

Divine Weapons from Mythology

By Krithika Nair

Sanatan Shastra Vidya refers to an ancient science that describes the usage and workings of different weapons. Hindu mythology is host to an arsenal of divine weapons or divyastras. Each of these astras has a specific power – while some rained down arrows, some could cause winds and floods, while some others could even control the minds of the enemy. Let’s look at some of the most unique weapons found in the Puranas.

Vasishtha’s Brahmadanda
Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Brahmadanda is a weapon of self-defence, created by Brahma. It is only to be possessed by Brahmanas and its powers are dependent on its owner. The weapon is a rod capable of absorbing any incoming attack towards its owner. When Vishwamitra, in a fit of anger, unleashed the Brahmastra onto Vasishtha, it was his Brahmadanda that protected him from the lethal weapon.

Ravana’s Chandrahasa
Illustration: Pulak Biswas

Chandrahasa is a sword with a curved blade, representing the shape of a crescent moon. The name can be literally translated to mean ‘the laughter of the moon’. The sword was gifted to Ravana by Shiva, after Ravana sang praises of the god in repentance for his prideful act of lifting the mountain on which Shiva and Parvati were seated. The sword, however, came with a prophecy. If Ravana were to use it for any wrongful acts, the sword would return to Shiva, eventually leading to Ravana’s imminent death.

Barbarika’s Teen Baan

Barbarika was the son of Ghatotkacha and the grandson of Bheema and Hidimbi. He had received three undefeatable arrows, known as Teen Baan, from Shiva. The first arrow was a target marker; anything marked by this arrow would be destroyed when the third arrow was released. The second arrow was used to mark things that were to be saved; on the release of the third arrow, everything except the things marked by the second arrow would be destroyed. The arrows would also return to Barbarika’s quiver once their task was completed.

Indra’s Vajra
Illustration: C. M. Vitankar

Vajra is considered to be one of the strongest among all the divine weapons. Possessed by Indra, Vajra is depicted as a club-like weapon made out of bones. The weapon is said to possess both the strength of a diamond and the energy of a thunderbolt. The weapon was made out of the bones of Sage Dadhichi by Vishwamitra, the divine architect. The weapon was created to defeat the demon Vritra, who was blessed with a boon that made him immune to weapons made of wood and metals.

Parashurama’s Vidyudabhi
Illustration: Madhu Powle

Parashurama’s axe, Vidyudabhi, was a gift from Shiva. Shiva was also the one who taught Parashurama to wield the famed battle-axe, among other martial arts. It is believed that the warrior sage threw his axe towards the sea, which caused the sea to retreat in fear. The land that was given up by the sea now forms the western coast of India.

The Damaru

By Kayva Gokhale

The Damaru plays an important role in the Puranas and is one of the main markers in Shiva’s iconography.

Damaru
Illustration: Durgesh Vellhal
What is a Damaru?

A Damaru is a small,  hourglass-shaped drum that is most commonly associated with Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology. While it is unclear as to when exactly the Damaru originated, some sculptures of Shiva holding this drum have been dated back to the 10th century C.E. The Damaru also makes an appearance in the Tibetan practice of Tantric Buddhism after that.

This hourglass-shaped drum is generally carved from a solid block of wood with skinheads covering each opening. A piece of string with pellets at each end (or a leather cord with knotted ends) is tied to the waist of the Damaru. The player holds the waist of the Damaru in their hand and rotates their wrist to make the ends of the string hit the skinheads, thus producing a reverberating sound. 

One instrument, many interpretations

There have been various philosophical and spiritual interpretations of the Damaru in Hinduism. According to the most common interpretation, the Damaru is seen as a representation of yin and yang, since the shape of the Damaru symbolises the coming together of male and female procreative energies, with the top portion representing the lingam and the bottom portion representing the yoni.

Illustration: Durgesh Vellhal and Sanjay Valecha

Apart from that, the Damaru has been seen as a representation of the rhythm of the heartbeat. The alternately rising and falling sound of the Damaru is seen as mimicking the human heart, thus symbolising the energy and sound of life itself. On a larger level, the Damaru also represents the rhythm of the entire universe. According to Hindu beliefs, the universe is constantly being created, preserved and destroyed, and has a cyclical nature. The beats of the Damaru thus symbolise the continuous expansion and collapse of the universe.

The legends behind the Damaru 

While the interpretations of the Damaru are abundant, it is also the central aspect of several fascinating legends and folktales. One of the legends associated with the Damaru calls it crucial to the creation of the universe. It is said that before creation, when there was simply a void, the Damaru gave rise to the first nada or sound. Shiva then performed the Tandava to the beats of the Damaru, thus creating the universe.

Some other legends state that the Damaru is responsible for the creation of all music. According to these stories, the sound of the Damaru was passed on to Shiva’s son, Ganesha, who is known to be a proficient player of the Pakhawaj. Ganesha then added more rhythm and sound to the Damaru beats and that’s how music was born.

According to yet another story, the Damaru was the source of grammar and music in the universe. It is believed that when the universe was created, Saraswati’s veena produced the first nada i.e. sound. At that time, Shiva played his Damaru fourteen times and this gave birth to grammar and music. 

The language of the Damaru

There is one more story that links the Damaru to the creation of the rules of grammar. According to this legend, Panini, the Sanskrit grammarian, was a great devotee of Shiva in his youth. Wanting to be blessed with divine knowledge from Shiva, Panini began his penance. It is said that he was so deep into his meditation that he did not break his trance even when Shiva appeared before him. In order to get Panini’s attention, Shiva began to play his Damaru. The sound of the Damaru jolted Panini out of his trance, after which Panini bowed to the Lord and received his blessing. The sound of the Damaru however, was so powerful that it continued to resonate in Panini’s ears even after Shiva disappeared. Panini is then believed to have formulated the rules of Sanskrit grammar, syntax and morphology in fourteen verses all due to the Damaru’s sound. Panini’s work is known as the Maheshwara Sutrani today and is one of the most significant texts on linguistics. 

Fascinating folklore 

Apart from these legends explaining the role and significance of the Damaru, there is an interesting folktale involving the Damaru which highlights the importance of practice in one’s life. According to this tale, a village of farmers once offended Lord Indra, thus leading him to announce that the village would not receive rain for the next fourteen years. Upon hearing the pleas of the farmers of the village, Indra then amended his statement and declared that the village would receive rain only when Shiva played his Damaru. However, still wanting to teach the villagers a lesson, Indra went to Shiva and appealed to him not to play the Damaru for the next fourteen years – a request Shiva accepted immediately. Seeing all of this play out, the farmers turned hopeless and stopped working on their fields. However, one farmer out of them all continued to plough the field and plant seeds. Upon being questioned by the others, the farmer explained to them all that he did not wish to forget his skills and thus would continue to practice farming for the next fourteen years despite the absence of rain. Upon witnessing the scene, Parvati, impressed by the farmer, decided to help the villagers. She went to Shiva and insinuated that he would forget how to play the Damaru if he did not practice for fourteen long years. Shiva, now worried about losing his art, immediately began to practice his Damaru, causing Indra to adhere to his promise and restore rains upon the village.

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Ashwatthama: The Son of Drona

By Dheer Sanghi

Although not a central character in the Mahabharata, the story of Ashwatthama, Drona’s son, is a compelling one. Having access to powerful weapons and nearly being responsible for the deaths of millions, Ashwatthama was a warrior lacking maturity and forethought, with an inflated ego and an extremely hot head. 

Early Years

Born to Dronacharya and Kripi after many years of penance for a child, his birth was extraordinary. He came into the world neighing like a horse instead of crying. This ear-piercing noise was heard across the world, resulting in him being named Ashwatthama: ‘the sacred voice which relates to that of a horse.’ Accompanying his birth was a celestial voice proclaiming that Ashwatthama was blessed by Lord Shiva. Certainly blessed, the boy inexplicably had a ‘Mani’ (gem) on his forehead that protected him from evil spirits. 

Training with the Pandavas

Ashwatthama grew up poor until Drona was asked to teach the Pandavas and Kauravas the art of warfare. Ashwatthama learned alongside the princes and gained proficiency in battle. He had skill with the bow and arrow but was outshined by Arjun, whom Drona promised to make the greatest archer in the world. Arjun, as part of this promise, was given the knowledge of using the Brahmastra, a weapon strong enough to destroy the world. 

Unknown to others at the time, the Brahmastra wasn’t only given to Arjun. Overcome by affection for his son, Drona also imparted the knowledge to Ashwatthama, even after knowing of his impetuosity. Although Drona gave clear warnings to Ashwatthama, his ego only grew after this event, even trying, in vain, to get Krishna’s Sudarshan Chakra. His egotistical behaviour was not helped by the fact that he was crowned King of Southern Panchala.

The Kurukshetra War

Due to the position of his father, as well as his strong bond and friendship with Duryodhana, Ashwatthama was loyal to Hastinapur and fought on the side of the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war. On the tenth day of the war, Drona was made the supreme commander after Bhishma’s death. He promised to capture Yuddhisthira, to no avail. Nevertheless, Drona was too powerful to kill when armed so Krishna and the Pandavas devised a scheme to make him vulnerable. It was decided that Bheema would kill an elephant by the name Ashwatthama and then inform Drona that it was his son, Ashwatthama, who had died. The plan was successful and the grief-stricken Drona was soon killed in battle by Dhrishtadyumna, son of King Drupada.

Illustration: Dilip Kadam

The news of the Pandavas’ trickery and his father’s death angered Ashwatthama to the point where he invoked the celestial weapon Narayanastra even after warnings to only use it in dire circumstances. The clouds turned grey, and a howling sound filled the air. In the sky, one arrow for each Pandava soldier appeared, ready to strike down the whole army. Luckily, Krishna knew how the weapon worked and told all soldiers to drop all their arms as the Narayanastra only killed armed soldiers. The Astra passed by harmlessly. Since the weapon could only be fired once, the Pandavas were saved from defeat.

End of the War

Much later in the war, with Duryodhana on the brink of death and the Pandavas on the brink of victory, Ashwatthama planned to go down fighting trying to inflict as much pain on the Pandavas as possible. Along with the last three survivors on the Kaurava side (Kripa and Kritavarma), Ashwatthama planned to attack during the dead of night. Mercilessly killing many, including Dhristadyumna, Ashwatthama destroyed many notable warriors of the Pandava army. He also killed all of Draupadi’s sons, mistaking them for the Pandavas. 

Illustration: Dilip Kadam
Ashwatthama’s Fate

When the Pandavas saw the havoc wrecked in the morning, they were enraged and inconsolable. After finding out who was responsible, they tracked Ashwatthama and found him at sage Vyasa’s ashram. A battle ensued, ending with Ashwatthama trying to kill a pregnant Uttara, Arjun’s daughter-in-law, in order to end the Pandava lineage. Before any damage could be done, however, Krishna rushed to Ashwatthama and cursed him to an immortal life of endless misery as a leper with no means of escape.

According to some legends, Ashwatthama is still alive, in great pain, and suffering for committing the grave sin of attempting to kill an unborn baby. An egotistical, hotheaded, but skilled warrior, the story of Ashwatthama is a fascinating and tragic one.

Read the complete Mahabharata story in our Mahabharata collection, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Flipkart, Amazon and other major e-tailers. 

5 Lessons from the Mahabharata

By Krithika Nair and Ayushi Rakesh

 

Mahabharata, one of the longest epics in the world, is a lesson for life. There are many lessons worth imbibing in this great tale. The epic is full of inspiring characters like Bhishma, Drona, Karna, or even Ved Vyasa himself, who wrote the Mahabharata. Bhagavad Gita is an extension of the epic, which solely focuses on Krishna’s advice to Arjuna. So here are some lessons from the Mahabharata that we think are worth inculcating in our everyday life. 

Power of Friendship
Illustration: P.G. Sirur

The bond of friendship between Krishna and Arjuna made a journey of hardship endurable. Krishna had vowed not to fight in the Kurukshetra war, but his advice for Arjuna protected him more than any armour could. The pair represent the power of good companionship, under which even the most crushed spirit can brighten up and achieve the impossible. Arjuna was humiliated after he couldn’t defend the honour of his wife but Krishna never questioned his credibility. Instead, it was his support and encouragement that guided the Pandavas to victory. Such is the strength of true friendship.

Honouring one’s word

What happened at Duryodhana’s court was an unspeakable horror. Bhima, to avenge Draupadi’s dishonour, had promised her the blood of Dushasana for his misconduct. Even if there was a victor, both sides lost a lot in the war. It was their determination to fulfil their given word that kept them going and led them to succeed in their almost impossible-looking resolution.

Throughout the story, there are many instances where the fates of people had changed because of the word they had given. Be it Eklavya losing his thumb, and therefore, his future as an archer, or Drona swearing to fight against his own dear pupils on the other side, each character put their words above their personal interests and honoured the promises they made.

Perseverance
Illustration: Ram Waeerkar | Script: Kamala Chandrakant

Young Arjuna had the talent of archery which he was widely famous for. His brothers were equally good at it but the only difference between them and him was perseverance. Arjuna was dedicated and unswerving in his practice and staunchly focused on improving his skills. No amount of praise or fame as an archer made him lax in his practice. Due to his persevering nature, he could attain mastery of archery at such a young age, surpassing the talents of much older and experienced archers.

Duty

The Mahabharata teaches the valuable lesson of duty. Despite the bad hand that they had been dealt, the Pandavas took it in their stride and waited for their time. When it did arrive, Arjuna had a moment of conflict; the people behind enemy lines might have wronged his people, but they were still his family. It is here that Krishna teaches him to think beyond himself and his relationships and fulfil his duty as a warrior, without letting emotions cloud his judgement, that we all have to do things in life that we might not like or agree with, but it is our duty to perform these actions nonetheless.

Empathy
Illustration: Ram Waeerkar | Script: Kamala Chandrakant

Karna, the firstborn of Queen Kunti, was the son of Surya. He was disowned by his mother as she was unwed when he was born. Karna was adopted by Adhiratha, the chief charioteer of Hastinapura. Even when Karna was made the ruler of Anga, he was a people’s king, often mocked among other nobles due to his presumed lowly birth. This is why despite being on Kauravas’ side, he is still the most rational and empathetic character in the epic. He was a victim of circumstances due to the acts of Kunti, yet he had the heart to console her in her time of need. Even if he had no filial obligation to Kunti due to her abandonment, he promised her that she will always have five sons no matter what, by promising that he will only fight Arjuna and never kill the four others. Karna could empathize with his estranged family even after suffering insults all his life due to them, thus, highlighting his greatness. 

Read the complete Mahabharata story in our three-volume set collection Mahabharata, now available on the ACK Shop and with major retailers and e-tailers. 

Why does Ganesha love Modak?

By Kayva Gokhale

Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations aren’t complete without an offering of twenty-one Modaks to Lord Ganesha. This jaggery stuffed sweet is an integral part of who Ganesh is, even resulting in the nickname ‘Modakpriya’, meaning the one who loves Modaks. Hindu mythology has various stories on the creation of Modaks and their importance to Ganesha, but we’ll focus on two.

Design: ACK Design Team

The first folktale starts with Lord Ganesha’s maternal grandmother, Queen Menavati. In her love for her grandson, Queen Menavati would tirelessly make laddoos to feed Ganesh’s growing appetite. This was unsustainable, and as he grew older and bigger, the Queen realised it was impossible to prepare laddoos as quickly as Ganpati could gobble them down. She thought of an alternative – Modaks. Requiring less time to make, she could satisfy Lord Ganesha, who gleefully ate them. 

Illustration: Arjit Dutta Chowdhury

The second legend explains why twenty-one Modaks are offered during Ganesh Chaturthi. One day, Devi Anusuya called Lord Shiva, Parvati, and Ganesha for a meal, stating that the others would only be fed once baby Ganesha was content and full. However, Ganesha simply kept asking for more food! At the end of his meal, he was given a single sweet – the Modak. Interestingly, something happened after he swallowed it. Ganesha released a loud burp, a sign of satisfaction. Interestingly, as Ganesh burped, so did Lord Shiva; twenty-one times in fact. Parvati, stunned and curious as to what she had witnessed, asked Devi Anusuya for the recipe of the seemingly magical sweet. Upon learning what a Modak is, Parvati requested that all her son’s devotees offer exactly twenty-one Modaks to him, one for each burp Lord Shiva gave out.

Regardless of which story people choose to believe, the preparing, offering, and eating of Modaks during Ganesh Chaturthi is essential and super fun!

Read the stories of Ganesha in our special release Ekadanta. Now available on the ACK Comics App. 

Legends Behind Ganesha’s Tusk

By Kayva Gokhale

Ganesha, one of the most beloved gods in Hindu mythology, is also known as ‘Ekadanta’, the one with one tooth. Ganesha’s broken tusk is a very significant part of his iconography and there are multiple stories behind how he broke his tusk, all of which are as enthralling as they are varied. Here are some of the most popular legends behind Ganesha’s tusk, their sources ranging from the Mahabharata to the Brahmanda Purana. 

Ganesha, the Scribe
Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Perhaps the most well-known story about Ganesha’s tusk comes from the Mahabharata, with Ganesha acting as Vyasa’s scribe. It is believed that when Vyasa was composing the epic Mahabharata, he required a scribe who could write down the poem as fast as he could dictate it. Finding nobody that was capable of this task, Vyasa approached Ganesha and requested him to act as his scribe. Ganesha agreed, but on one condition: he demanded that Vyasa dictate the epic without any pauses. Vyasa, knowing that it would be hard to keep up with Ganesha’s speed, made a counter-condition that Ganesha must write only once he understood every word of what he was being told. Having agreed to Vyasa’s terms, Ganesha sat down to write the epic and as a marker of goodwill, broke off his tusk to use as a pen. Thus, the Mahabharata was composed with Vyasa dictating the long and complicated verses to Ganesha who had to slow down his writing speed to understand the words he was being told. In another version of this story, it is said that Ganesha started writing with an ordinary quill, which broke off in the middle of the dictation. Not wanting to stop to fetch a new quill, Ganesha simply broke off his tusk and continued writing with that instead. The tusk of Ganesha, hence, is significant in bringing to life one of the two most important epics to come out of India. 

Ganesha and the Moon
Illustration: Sundara Moorthy

According to one story, Ganesha’s broken tusk is the result of his conflict with the moon. According to the story, Ganesha was once invited to the abode of the moon for a feast. Ganesha, with his tremendous appetite, devoured the spread, especially indulging in his favourite modaks. After the meal was over, Ganesha left the moon’s palace on his vahaana, Mooshak. However, on the way, a snake appeared in their path startling Mooshak, who in his fright caused Ganesha to fall. As Ganesha fell down, his stomach burst open and all the modaks he had consumed tumbled out onto the ground. Ganesha then quickly collected the modaks and put them back into his stomach and tied the snake around his torso. Watching this from the sky, the moon burst into laughter. Angry at the moon’s laughter, Ganesha ripped off one of his tusks and flung it at the moon. He also cursed the moon to become invisible, to teach him a lesson in humility. As soon as the moon disappeared, the earth was plunged into total darkness. Worried about the moon’s disappearance, all the gods appealed to Ganesha to amend his curse. Ganesha softened his punishment and declared that the moon would wax and wane every fortnight, completely disappearing once a month. And thus, the moon waxes and wanes constantly, with its blemished surface still bearing the marks of Ganesha’s tusk. 

Parashurama’s wrath

In another popular legend, Ganesh’s tusk was broken off by Parashurama. According to this legend, Parashurama, the great devotee of Shiva, once visited Mount Kailash to seek Shiva’s blessing. However, Shiva was meditating at the time and had instructed Ganesha to turn away anyone that came to see him. Upon his father’s orders, Ganesha forbade Parashurama from entering Kailash, thus angering the sage greatly. In his rage, Parashurama threw his axe at Ganesha. Although Ganesha could have easily stopped the axe from harming him, he noticed that the axe was the same divine weapon that his father had gifted to Parashurama. Therefore, out of respect to Shiva and his divine axe, Ganesha refused to defend himself against the attack. The axe hit Ganesha’s tusk and broke it, thus making Ganesha ‘Ekadanta’. 

 

The Defeat of Gajamukha
Illustration: Ritoparna Hazra

The story of Gajamukha’s defeat at the hands of Ganesha is quite well known. It is said that the demon Gajamukha, attained great power through penance and then used his strength to harass the gods and sages. Upon finding themselves unable to defeat Gajamukha, the gods turned to Ganesha, who then vanquished Gajamukha. In many versions of this story, Ganesha broke off his own tusk to use as a weapon against Gajamukha. It is believed that Ganesha turned him into a mouse who became his vahaana Mooshak!

Read the stories of Ganesha in our special release Ekadanta. Now available on the ACK Comics App.