The Path – March 1892

SOME HINDU LEGENDS — J. S.

A ROMANCE OF SITA.

Perhaps in the whole range of moral allegories which honeycomb the ethical and religious literature of Hindustan there is nothing more elevating, more inspiring to the mind of the Hindu than the narrative of the recovery of Sita from the hands of the giant Ravanna, by Rama, as an incarnation of Vishnu the Deity Absolute.

It is said that in one of her past lives Sita was the only daughter of the great Rishi (Sage) Bhrigu, and then went by the name of Bhargavi. She passed the prime of her life in stern asceticism with a view to obtaining complete union with the Deity in her next incarnation. One day while she was walking alone in the forests, Ravanna the giant king of Lanka, (Ceylon), of the ancient race of giants mentioned in the Secret Doctrine, came upon her, and was so much ravished by her enchanting beauty that he wanted to make her his bride.

At this proposal Sita was so incensed that she, there and then, prepared a pyre into which she threw herself, uttering an indelible curse upon the giant that during his whole lifetime, which covered 150,000 years, he would not be able to touch a single woman, a curse which was literally fulfilled.

Bhargavi's curse worked itself out in a most wonderful manner.

Centuries upon centuries rolled away, and the giant Ravanna, the most long-lived of God's creatures, still ruled Lanka with an iron hand.

Lapped by the limpid waters of a lake in Southern India, there stood in its very midst a Lotus-flower whose sun-kissed bosom bore the noble form of a gentle being of angelic innocence. It was the daughter of Bhrigu come to life again in this strange watery cradle. A couple of fishermen who had been one morning angling on the margin of the lake brought the Lotus out. Admiring the glorious image of the sleeper inside, they took it to their King Ravanna, the monster who had cost Sita her life in her last incarnation. Astonished at the infant so peacefully reclining on the Lotus, the King called his soothsayers and asked them, as is customary with the Hindus, to consult the stars about the future of that mysterious being. On being informed that the girl was destined to bring ruin and desolation on him and his kingdom, Ravanna ordered that she be shut up in an air-tight box and drowned in the deep sea.

The future Sita remained for years a sojourner of the sea, till one day the furious waves washed the box ashore. The sands covered it and kept it long unseen by human eyes. Janaka, the king of Videhnagar, one morning, intent upon performing a sacrifice to the gods (yagna), came to the sea-shore with his retinue of priests and courtiers. In yagna it is very necessary that the ground should be consecrated before the ceremony. When the beach was being made ready, the share of a plough that was uplifting the ground struck against a hard substance, which being dug out turned out to be the well-secured box holding the woman who was to bring about the downfall of the house of Ravanna. Delighted with this acquisition, considered to be a god-send for his life, Janaka took the child home and brought her up as his own daughter. From her foster-father Janaka she received the patronymic Janaki. She was called Sita because she was first brought to light by a plough whose Sanskrit equivalent is Sita.

Valmiki relates that she was afterwards married to Rama, an incarnation of the Deity, was carried off to Lanka by Ravanna, and there kept by him in captivity. Rama then pursued the enemy to the Southern shore of India, and was helped by the monkey god, Hanuman, who made war with him against the giant, calling to his aid the elemental forces of Nature. Here Hanuman represents not only the ancient ape-like men of the early races, but also the elementals of all degrees of power. The armies arrived at Lanka, beseiged the place, and finally overthrew the giant, recovering Sita. In other words, the new cycle and the new race overcame the old and took their place.

VALMIKI, THE WRITER OF RAMAYANA.

In one of the wilds of India, a Brahmin youth of obscure parentage in a vagabond company used to waylay travelers, and lead a life remarkable for its lawlessness and avarice. For years the boy trafficked in unrighteousness, till one fine summer morning Narada, the messenger of the gods, the Mercury of the Aryans, with his tuneful lute ( Vina) hymning forth praises to Vishnu to kill the tedium of his march, came upon the brigand so early up for his daily human hunt. On being threatened with his life Narada remonstrated with the brigand to spare it, as his death would not give him any money, and asked the chief motive which led him to commit such crimes. On being told that he had a large family to maintain, which, as he could not do by fair means, he had to fall upon foul ones to keep them well fed and clothed, Narada begged him hard, before being put to the sword, to run to his own house and ask his wife and children, for whose sake he was heaping sins on his own head, if any one amongst them was willing to exchange with him the penalty of hanging which was inevitably destined for him at no distant date. Utterly dejected and downcast did the Brahmin return to Narada and complained most bitterly to him of the ingratitude of his own kith and kin for whom he had dipped his hands so deep in blood, since they cared not for him to desist though he should die. He fell upon his knees and requested the divine messenger to save his soul. Taking pity on his abandoned plight, Narada told him to sit under a banyan tree hard by and mutter incessantly the word MARA.

In the Canarese language this word means "a tree", and the illiterate youth, who had never heard the name of God until now, very soon, by repeated anagrams, began to pronounce Rama, Rama, the name of the Deity amongst the Hindus. For a thousand years, the legend runs, the Brahmin in his yoga trance kept the word Rama ceaselessly on his lips, at the end of which Narada once more happened to pass that very way, and found in his would-be murderer a regenerated ascetic whose body was altogether enveloped with white ants, Nearing him he recalled him from his trance and gave him the name of Valmiki, or he whose body was covered with Valmik or white ants. Inspired by him this Valmiki, the former highwayman, wrote that glorious monument of human genius held so sacred by the Hindus, the Ramayana, in which he recounts the love of God towards man, and how He tries to alleviate the sufferings and woes of Humanity.

Among other things the story is intended to show how the soul even of the most abandoned may be swayed, and how an impulse in the direction of a better life will lead to good Karma. The sage, whether appearing as Narada or not, knows how to touch the chord that shall vibrate so strongly as to change a life, as in this case he appealed to the bandit on a point that would show him how ungrateful were those for whom he did evil. And so, too, only by previous good Karma could this youth have met a benefactor in that life; thus all along the road we meet those who help us and those whom we must help. As we do not recognize them, the only way is to help everybody.

THE MUNGALGIRI TEMPLE.

About six miles from the town of Bezwada, the ancient Vijayawada so famous for the religious austerities of Nijaya or Arjuna, there is a high mountain called Mungalgiri. On the top there is a very celebrated temple whose chief wonder is that near its "Holy of the Holies" there is a small opening known as Narsihma Vakira, or the mouth of the God Narsimah, the Fourth Avatar of Vishnu. The votaries who come to the shrine are in the habit of bringing a potful of jaggery mixed with water, as a libation to the god. The contents are emptied by means of a conch shell into the small orifice just mentioned. Only just half of what is offered is taken in; the other half, even if poured, is not received, but thrown out as often as the conch throws it in. This is considered as a token of love and regard of the Deity towards helpless Humanity.

There is a perpendicular crevice in the same mount which is supposed to communicate with the Patala — known as the nether world by some and in Secret Doctrine identified with America.

In the Kreta Yuga this mountain was called Muktadari, or the Mount of Salvation; in the Treta Yuga, Jotadari, or the Mount of Protection; in Dwapara, Niladari, or the Blue Mount; and in Kali, the present age, it is known as Mungalgiri, or the Auspicious Mount.

The spire over the temple is some 1,320 feet high, and was built by a Raja named Venkatradari at a cost of 400,000 rupees in order to expiate the crime of murdering some robbers whom he had invited to his house really for that purpose but on the ostensible plea of hospitality.

India is a land of mysteries truly, but although many of these folk tales arise out of natural phenomena, they show the deeply-seated religious feeling of the race. Religion there enters indeed into everything. But these tales are not despicable, for many great writers of authority know that under the folk tales of all nations are concealed truths hidden from the materialist's gaze. Oil on the sea to still it was long held a superstition, but now nearly every well appointed ocean vessel is equipped with oil-bags to accomplish this end in accord with ancient "superstition".


The Path

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