“The Universe is made of stories not of atoms” – Muriel Rukeyser
Storytelling – India’s oral heritage, I remember spending evenings with my grandmother listening to the many stories and I always wondered how she remembers so many of them. Not only my grandmother but also my aunts and other elder people in the family, if you sit with them they always have a story to tell or a riddle for you to solve. I used to love those times and still cherish them.
This story board in Ujjain reminded me of those days. This is the story of King Bhatruhari and Vikramaditya as told by Late Guru Peer of Nath Sampradaya who used to live in Bharthari Caves, Ujjain. By looking at it I can tell you he tried his best to translate it from Sanskrit, the reason why the grammar is displaced but I couldn’t help appreciate his efforts to tell the story in a foreign language so that today’s generation gets reminded of their heritage.
For those who find it tough to read it and understand, below is the story in simple english;
First story (The one in BLACK ink)
Bhartruhari was so much immersed in romance and sex, that he wrote 100 stanzas on ‘the art of romance and sex‘, now famously called ‘Shrungara Shataka‘. All the stanzas are on sensuality and sexual pleasure.
King Bhartruhari was obsessed with his youngest wife Pingala, she was beautiful and charming. Once king’s brother complained to the king about the affair of queen with king’s charioteer and advised him to banish her for the sake of the kingdom. King was too obsessed with her to heed to his brother, in fact when the queen heard of this from her sources, she manipulated the king and banished his brother from the kingdom
One day a yogi came to his court and presented the king with an apple, which he said would bless one with ‘youth and longevity‘ on eating (stories say that the ascetic got the apple as a boon from the gods and that the apple was from the Kalpavruksha- ‘wish fulfilling tree’).
The king wanted queen Pingala to have the apple, so that she would always look young for him.
Queen Pingala gave the apple to the charioteer. She wanted him to be young and strong.
The charioteer was in love with a prostitute, he gave her the apple to eat.
The prostitute thought ‘it would be better if someone deserving ate this‘, she always liked the king, he was noble and pious, his long living also meant the peace and stability of her kingdom, so she took the apple to the king and give it to him.
King Bhartuhari was surprised to see the apple with her, and enquired how she got it. She told him how she got it from the charioteer, king sent men to bring the charioteer, he told the king that he got it from the queen, and confessed of his affair with the queen.
Bhartruhari realized the fleeting nature of the pleasure from worldly objects, he wrote a poem about the incident which changed him in his Niti Shataka. (100 stanzas on Moral conduct)
“(She) whom on I contemplate, is not passionate for me, she loves another;
that whom she loves, loves another;
One whom he loves, loves another.
Refuse (disdain to) that woman, that man, Cupid, me.”
Deep Vairagya (dispassion) arose in him, he gave up the desire for his wife, realizing his mistake he brought his brother back and crowned him, renouncing the world he lived rest of his life as an ascetic. Bhartruhari wrote Niti-Shataka and Vairagya Shataka during his later years.
Second story (The one in RED ink)
On top of this casket he had placed the replica of a man made of delicious sweetmeats. As the devis enjoyed the hearty meal and were about to leave, one of them happened to glance at the special replica. She stayed back while the others left and tasted it.
She praised the tasty food and wondered aloud as to who could have kept the tasty human replica there. At that moment, Vikramaditya showed himself. Taken aback, the goddess asked him to express a wish. He said that she should never cross to this side of the river . Pleased by his courage, she agreed. The goddess was Bhukhi Mata and the king made a temple in her honour on the other side of the river. Since then, she never came to trouble the people of Ujjain and no more young men needed to be sacrificed!
Source: Bhukthi Mata story
DP Challenge: Heritage
My parents and grandparents too always have a story to tell like yours. You do wonder how they remember so many and all in great detail too. Maybe we will know when we are older 😀
The first story about King Bhartruhari was very intriguing – the apple came back to him in the end. It makes me think of ‘what goes round, comes around’. Sometimes what you say will go round – you never know what others will say to others about you. Secrets can be hard to keep too if you are too trusting.
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Yes, I wonder how they remember such details, and on that I think they were capable of using more percentage of their brains. Looks like we as human beings are devolving more than evolving, the current generation can hardly remember anything or has a attention span of a goldfish 🙂
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They were excellent! The themes of an apple that can bestow gifts if eaten, and the frequent sacrificing of young people, are themes in Western stories as well. I wonder if we got them from India a thousand thousand years ago?
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Such a great question. Maybe the significance of apples did originate from India. Interesting thought.
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Thank you, I wonder as well. Every story I hear I can always find a western and eastern version of it and vice versa 🙂