Varsneya

Illustration: Ritoparna Hazra

The word ‘Varsneya’ had many references in Puranic scripts. Here are some of them.

  1. Varsneya was a charioteer of the king of Nisadha of Nala. He later became the charioteer of King Rituparna in Ayodhya.
  2. Varsneya is another name for Vishnu.
  3. Varsneya is also the name of an ancient country. The King of Varsneya was among those that brought presents to Yudishthira’s Rajasuya Yagya.

Bheema – The Strongest Pandava

Illustration: Subhash Tendle

Everyone knows Bheema was the strongest of the Pandavas but did you know his immense strength was gifted to him?

Back when they were kids, Bheema’s cousin Duryodhana, who was jealous of him, poisoned his food in a bid to get rid of him. Unaware, Bheema ate the food and fell unconscious. Duryodhana then tied him up with a rope and threw him into the waters of the Ganga. Bheema sank down to the river bed and reached the kingdom of the Nagas.

Illustration: Subhash Tendle

Seeing the boy, the Nagas immediately attacked him. Thankfully for Bheema, their poison acted as an antidote, waking him up and giving him the energy to repel their attack. Flummoxed by the young Pandava beating back his armies, the Naga king, Vasuki, decided to end Bheema once and for all. Thankfully, Kunti’s grandfather, Aryaka, who served in Vasuki’s army, recognized his great grandson and stopped Vasuki from finishing him off. On learning Bheema’s parentage, Vasuki blessed him with the strength of a thousand elephants.

Read the full story in ‘The Pandava Princes’, now available on the ACK Comics app as well as all major e-tail platforms.

What’s Kartik Purnima All About?

Kartik Purnima is not the Diwali of the mortals but of the gods. That’s why it’s also called Deva-Deepawali. Here’s the story of the origin of this festival.

The sons of Tarakasura undertook severe penance to please Brahma. When Brahma appeared before them, they asked for immortality. But as Brahma could not grant such a boon, the trio instead asked for divine kingdoms for each of them, heavenly cities that could be destroyed only by a single arrow. So the celestial architect, Maya, was called, and he built three cities made of iron, silver and gold for the brothers.

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

The three brothers soon became consumed with pride with their near-indestructible strongholds and felt unstoppable. Slowly, they started causing havoc in the heavens. Finally, Shiva agreed to help the devas kill the asuras. With the Earth as his chariot, Mount Meru as the bow, the serpent king Vasuki as the bowstring, and Vishnu himself as the arrow, Shiva waited for the three space cities to align in a straight line. At the opportune moment, he let loose his arrow and Tripura was destroyed in a flash. Overjoyed, the devas declared the day as Deva-Deepawali, the Diwali of the gods!

On Kartik Purnima, we also celebrate the birthdays of Vishnu’s Matsya avatar, the personification of the tulsi plant, Vrinda, and Shiva’s warrior son, Kartikeya.

Yoga and Indian Mythology

Yoga has been an integral part of Indian tradition, insomuch that many asanas have their names attributed to characters from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas. Let’s take a look at the Indian mythology’s yoga connections.

Hanumanasana

Hanumanasana is a posture of full splits named after Hanuman. He had been gifted the unique ability to leap across any distance from Vayu, the wind god.

Natarajasana

The Natarajasana is named after Nataraja or Shiva, the god of dance. The lifting of the leg in this asana emulates one of Nataraja’s stances in his divine dance.

Marichyasana

Marichyasana is named after Sage Marichi. As the story goes, Marichi returned from the forest one day and his wife Dharmavrata began to wash his feet. Just then, his father Brahma arrived and Dharmavrata turned to greet him. Enraged by her action, Marichi cursed her to turn into stone.

Virabhadrasana

Virabhadrasana is named after Virabhadra who rose from a lock of Shiva’s hair. Shiva was furious when he heard of Sati’s death. He created Virabhadra and Bhadrakali to destroy Daksha’s yagna and teach him a lesson for his pride.

Posture 1: Symbolises Virabhadra coming up from the Yagna with a sword in hand.
Posture 2: Symbolises Virabhadra ready to strike with his sword.
Posture 3: Symbolises Virabhadra lifting his sword and using it to behead Daksha.

Maya’s Many Modes

Maya or illusion constantly blinds us through three modes, which are sattva (purity), rajas (passion) and tamas (destruction). Stuck in the rut, we forget the highest truth that is He is immortal and He alone is the truth.

Oceans In Mythology

Since antiquity, oceans have been an integral part of our stories. From the epic tales of Rama and Vishnu to the legends of Saraswati and Hanuman, oceans have played a major part in our Puranas. Here are some such stories and incidents. 

Saraswati deposits Vadavagni into the ocean 

A long time ago, a war was waged between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas of the world. The destruction resulted in the birth of Vadavagni, an all-consuming fire that lay waste to everything in its way. Troubled by the havoc wreaked on earth, the gods turned to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva decided it would be best to request goddess Saraswati to deposit the Vadavagni in the vast ocean. When he approached Saraswati, the goddess replied she wouldn’t be able to accomplish this in her current form. So Shiva asked her to take the form of a river. Just like Ganga originated from Shiva’s hair, she originated from the Plaksha, the sacred fig tree. She flowed north towards Pushkar and then turned west where she came to be known as Nanda. Then she turned north again and flowed into the ocean and released the fire, saving the earth from turning into ashes. 

Read Amar Chitra Katha’s Saraswati to find out why she was called Nanda. It is available on the ACK Comics app, and on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others.

The Churning of the Ocean

The timeless tale of the churning of the ocean is very famous. The story goes like this. Lord Indra insults sage Durvasa, an incarnation of Shiva. Durvasa curses him for his folly, causing all the gods to slowly start losing their power. The asuras take advantage of this and attack the gods, who seek refuge in Lord Brahma, who in turn calls upon Vishnu for help. Vishnu asks the gods to make peace with the demons and invite them to extract the nectar of immortality from the ocean. Agreeing to the gods’ proposal, the gods and demons start churning the ocean milk together. They take the assistance from mount Mandara, which acts as a rod, and Vasuki, the king of snakes, who acts as a rope. Slowly, the elixir is obtained, along with a lethal byproduct, an intoxicant that is consumed by Lord Shiva. However, with the nectar now up for grabs, the gods and demons get into a terrible fight, with the demons getting their hands on the nectar through their relatively increased strength.. Unfortunately for the asuras, Vishnu shows up, disguised as Mohini, the most beautiful woman in the three worlds, and tempts them into giving away the amrita. He then serves it to the gods, restoring their power and making them immortal.

Read the entire story in Amar Chitra Katha’s The Churning Of The Ocean. It is available on the ACK Comics app, and on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others. 

Hanuman Flies Across The Ocean 

In the Ramayana, when Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the king of Lanka, Rama’s army sets on the mission to find Sita. Hanuman, Angada, and Jambavaan head south until they reach the ocean. The come across the vulture king, Sampati, who tells them that if they are to reach Sita, they will have to leap across the ocean to Lanka. Only Hanuman was capable of covering such distance in a single bound. However, before Hanuman can make the jump, a huge mountain called Mainaka appears and blocks his path, asking him to wait for a while. Hanuman politely refuses and leaps towards Lanka. As he sails across the sky, a horrible sea monster called Surasa surfaces, with her jaws wide open. Surasa was actually a goddess in disguise, sent by the gods to test Hanuman. She tells Hanuman that if he can only pass through her mouth, if he can escape her powerful jaws. Hanuman counters, saying he doesn’t think her jaws will beagle to contain him. Then, Hanuman starts to make himself bigger and bigger. Accordingly, Surasa also keeps stretching her jaws wider and wider. Then, in a flash, before Surasa can react, Hanuman makes himself tiny, and crosses through her widespread jaws in a flash!

Our ACK Junior title ‘Hanuman’s Leap to Lanka’ is the perfect way to retell this story to kids between ages 3 and 6. It is available on the ACK Comics app, and on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others.

Rama Requests The Ocean For Help 

During the beginning of Yuddha Kand, when Rama and his army begin their journey to Lanka, they find themselves in a fix, because of the lack of access across the ocean to the island kingdom. Rama decides to make a plea to Sagara, the god of the oceans, to help them, and meditates and prays for three days. However, Sagara doesn’t respond. When Rama’s patience reaches its peak, he starts to attack the ocean itself, shooting flaming arrows into it. He then starts to mount his Brahmastra on his bow, prepared to shoot. A terrified Sagara appears before Rama and tells him that water can’t turn solid for them to pass as it is bound by the laws of nature and cannot change for anybody. The ocean god, however, provides an alternate solution. He tells the Ayodhya prince that if Rama’s army were to build a bridge across the ocean with stones that bore Rama’s name, Sagara would ensure the stones would float and he would personally bear the weight of Rama’s entire army, allowing them to cross the ocean. 

If you haven’t read Valmiki’s Ramayana, you can read all six volumes together, either through our ACK Comics app, or via print editions available on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others.

Arunasura and Brahmari

Do you know the story of the near-immortal demon, Arunasura, and his conflict with the Goddess Brahmari? Even though he became more powerful than most gods and goddesses, Brahmari was able to vanquish him in moments, that too without any celestial weapons or magical mantras. Read on to find out how.

Brahma grants a boon 

The demon Aruna meditated for hundreds of years. His penance was so severe that he only lived on a few drops of water every day. Lord Brahma feared that if he didn’t pay head to Aruna’s penance, Aruna’s power might destroy the universe. Ultimately, he gave in and granted Arunasura a boon. Aruna wished that he could be immortal. 

Lord Brahma said that nobody can be immortal, and hence he cannot grant him this wish. Aruna thought to just tweak the boon a little to tease Brahma. He said, “Grant that I cannot be killed by any god, demon, animal, man or woman. May no four-legged or two-legged creature be a match for me. May no weapon be able to harm me.” Brahma smiled to himself, knowing that Aruna was unaware that this boon did mean he was mortal. He granted Aruna his wish and disappeared. 

Extremely proud of having his wish granted, Aruna became fearless and consumed with pride. He considered himself to be invincible. He wreaked havoc in the three worlds. He didn’t even leave the devas alone, harassing gods and goddesses who then sought refuge under Lord Brahma. When Indra questioned Brahma about granting the boon, Brahma replied that all that is born must die. He consoled Indra that Aruna shall be destroyed soon. Indra wasn’t satisified. Looking at the restless Indra, Brahma suggested they go to Vishnu for counsel.

Illustration: Rajib Das

The gods seek refuge 

At Vaikuntha, Vishnu was also very concerned about the speed at which Aruna was devastating the three worlds. He suggested that they all should assemble at Kailasha, Shiva’s abode. Shiva told them that Aruna was blessed and protected by goddess Gayatri. As long as he was under her shelter, nobody could harm him. The legendary guru Brihaspati was requested to make an attempt to get Aruna to forsake Gayatri Devi. Although he agreed to try, he also asked the other gods to pray to the supreme goddess, the embodiment of female energy, Shakti. She was the only one who could rescue them now. 

Meanwhile, Guru Brihaspati reached Gayatri Devi’s ashram and teased Aruna by equating Aruna with the other sages. Aruna couldn’t take this. After all, he considered himself to be the most powerful of all. Brihaspati explained that sages live under the protection of gods by chanting mantras and so does Aruna. “After all, you do chant the Gayatri mantra every day, don’t you?”, teased the guru. Aruna got furious and said that he didn’t need anybody’s grace. Just as Brihaspati had hoped, Aruna’s pride made him forsake the goddess. 

Shakti is pleased

Pleased with the devotion of the gods, goddess Shakti appeared as goddess Brahmari, the goddess of black bees. The gods asked Brahmari for protection but reminded her of Arunasura’s boon. Brahmari was well aware of the blessing granted to him. She said that she needed no army or weapon to kill him. She assured them that it would be his last day today. 

Illustration: Rajib Das

When Brahmari reached Arunasura’s kingdom, she summoned the demon. Aruna didn’t take her seriously. He asked his general to take a small army and deal with her. Little did Aruna know that Brahmari was in no mood to waste time. She destroyed his small army in the blink of an eye. Arunasura got furious and appeared in front of Brahmari with his armour on. With all his pride he said, “You don’t stand a chance against me. I cannot be killed by a man, let alone a woman. Bring your army. They cannot even touch me.” 

Brahmari smirked, “You better take a closer look at my army.” She raised her hands and in a split second, there was a downpour of bees and hornets. The sky darkened. The earth trembled. Nobody could stand the buzzing of her army.

Illustration: Rajib Das

Her army stung Aruna and he was destroyed in minutes. True to the boon, Aruna was not destroyed by god, demon, animal, man or woman, nor was his destroyer four-legged or two-legged. They were six-legged insects, tinier than his little finger but more powerful in the end!

Read the full story in ‘Shakti’, now available on the ACK Comics app as well as major e-tail platforms.

 

The God of Auspicious Beginnings

Illustration: C.M.Vitankar

If you are have taken part in Hindu rituals and prayers, you would have noticed that, on every occasion, the first offering is made to the adorable elephant god, Ganesha. He is remembered before the commencement of any new venture or ritual. Ganesha is regarded as the god of auspicious beginnings. But do you know why Ganesha is always the first god that offerings are made to? There is not one but two reasons for this. 

The Birth of Ganesha

One day, before Parvati goes in for a bath, she posts Shiva’s attendant, Nandi, at the door, instructing him to not let anyone enter. However, when Shiva comes along, Nandi doesn’t stop him, wondering how she can stop someone from entering his own home. Furious, Parvati decides to create an attendant who is loyal only to her. From the saffron paste of her body, she moulds a boy and blesses him with life. She is so overwhelmed by her creation, she sees the boy as her own son. 

Later, Parvati orders her son to not let anybody into the palace while is she having a bath. When Shiva shows up, the boy stops the god from entering, true to his mother’s word. Shiva, enraged by the boy’s actions, wages a full-blown war with the boy, eventually cutting off his head. When Parvati learns this, she is inconsolable. She orders Shiva to bring her child back to life, threatening the future of all the three worlds otherwise. As per Brahma’s advice, Shiva sends his armies northwards, telling them to bring back the head of the first creature they see. Accordingly, the head of an elephant is brought back, which he places on the boy’s neck. Lord Brahma blesses him with life, and names him Ganesha. Ganesha is then blessed with many weapons and powers. It is at this time that Shiva proclaims Ganesha as the lord of new beginnings, with the power to remove all obstacles from the path of success.

Illustration: C.M.Vitankar

The Celestial Race 

One day, when a group of holy men were conducting a puja, each god started boasting as to who the offering would be made to first. Soon it turned into an ugly argument.

With the debate reaching a deadlock, Narada intervenes and asks the gods to seek Shiva’s help. Shiva decides to determine the most important god through a celestial race. The quickest to finish three full rounds of the world would be the winner and thus, gain authority over every offering ever. 

All the gods start off in a tearing hurry to complete the race. Meanwhile, Ganesha is busy devouring laddus. When his mother Parvati asks him the reason for his absence from the race, Ganesha smiles and said he is yet to begin. The other gods finish one round and start on the second, while Ganesha continues to eat laddus. As the other gods head out on the third round, Ganesha walks to where Shiva and Parvati are seated, folds his hands, and takes not three but seven rounds of his parents.

Illustration: Arijit Dutta Choudhary

 When asked to explain his actions, Ganesha replies that his parents are not just his world but his entire universe! Pleased by his wit and admiration, Shiva declares him the winner, and the other gods have no choice but to bow down to the elephant god’s quick thinking! 

So the next time you offer laddus to tubby Ganesha, do whisper in his ears that you know the reason why he is always first!

The Story of Meenakshi

Meenakshi was an incarnation of the goddess Parvati, a form she took because of a boon she granted to her devotee, Vidyavati. Pleased with Vidyavati’s penance, Parvati agreed to be born as her daughter in Vidyavati’s next life.

And thus, Meenakshi came to be the daughter of Madurai’s king  Malayadhwajan and queen Kanchanamala, who was Vidyavati reborn. The royal couple could not have children for years and finally, as a solution, they performed a special yajna. At the yajna, Meenakshi emerged from the sacred flames as a three year old girl.

Although the king had wanted a son, he accepted Meenakshi without hesitation, after hearing a voice that told him that to bring her up like a prince. She was destined to rule as a Pandian queen and would bring glory to his name.

After Malayadhwajan passed on, Meenakshi was crowned queen and she began to take out military expeditions to expand her father’s kingdom. On one such expedition to Mount Kalinga, she came head to head with Shiva himself. It had been prophesied that Meenakshi would instantly be able to recognise her future husband, which is exactly what happened when she laid eyes on Shiva. Within eight days, Shiva came to Madurai as Lord Sundareswar where they were to be united in matrimony.

Illustration: Durgesh Velhal

This celestial wedding witnessed a huge gathering of gods and goddesses in attendance, with Lord Vishnu, who was also Meenakshi’s brother, conducting the ceremony.

Every year, a grand celebration is held at the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai commemorating the holy union of the goddess Meenakshi Amma and Lord Sundareswarar.

Read more about Meenakshi and other Hindu goddesses in Amar Chitra Katha’s ‘Shakti’, available on the Amar Chitra Katha app, as well as Amazon, Flipkart, and other major e-tailers.

How Kubera Learnt Humility

In mythology, Kubera is the god of wealth. Proud of his immense fortune, he decides to throw a lavish party to celebrate it and invites all the gods and goddesses. All of them come to his party, appreciate it, and bless him. However, Kubera isn’t satisfied with this. He decides to invite Shiva and Parvati as well, who are considered the deities of the deities, the most supreme of them all. However, they politely decline his invitation, instead offering to send their son, Ganesha, albeit on one condition – Ganesha will get to eat to his heart’s content. 

 

On reaching the palace, Kubera lays out a lavish dinner for his young guest. To his surprise, Ganesha eats it all and asks for more. Ganesha soon begins to eat his way through Kubera’s entire pantry. Seeing that his coffers can’t keep pace with Ganesha’s appetite, Kubera begs Ganesha to stop. Ganesh gets furious at this and orders him to keep his promise. 

Kubera runs to seek Shiva’s help. Shiva tells him that Ganesha is still hungry because Kubera fed him with pride. Shiva gives him a bowl of puffed rice and asks Kubera to feed this to Ganesha with humility and love. Kubera takes the bowl, and offers it to Ganesha, with a heartfelt apology. Ganesha accepts the meal and the apology, and is finally satisfied with his meal. And that’s how Kubera learnt a lesson in humility from the elephant god!

Buy the beautifully illustrated ACK Junior “Ganesh and Kubera” for the full story: