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The Mythical Origins of Kashmir

Stories from the Nilmata Purana

- The Birth of Jalodbhava

 

by Dr.  Sushil Fotedar

 

It had been a very tough year for Lord Indra. The Asuras as usual had been breathing down his neck most of the time with random, fierce attacks on his kingdom, the Swarga-loka, from all the sides. But with God’s grace, or rather Bhagvan Vishnu’s kripa, he had been saved all the time and had been able to thwart their evil attempts to annex his kingdom. Now that there was relative peace, he had decided to take a break and go on a holiday with his dear wife, the ever beautiful madam Shachi. Many places came to his mind. He had, for example, a standing invitation from Lord Krishna himself to visit Go-loka, a beautiful place with its capital at the Spiritual Vrindavan  famous for its Maha-raasa parties which actually very few people really knew about but were considered to be the pinnacle of blissful experience by the lucky ones who had attended. However, after the hectic schedule back home, he was not game for a rather tiring kind of an experience. Even Bhagvan Shiva who normally is an unsocial kind of a guy, had opened the doors of Kailash Parbat for him and he was free to roam its snowy peaks the way he liked in the company of the ever lovable Lord Ganesha who was very eager to show him places riding on his beloved mouse. Ma Parvati had additionally promised to cook the most delicious, mouth-watering dishes for him and his dear wife; even a naive person could make out that She was a wonderful cook, looking at the excellent state of Ganesha’s health!  But then the place was cold and rather too grim to put him in a relaxed frame of mind which was what he needed the most at the moment. “So what about a cruise in dear Prabhu’s territory?”, he thought.  The Kshir-Saagar with its milky waters is a very tempting proposition any time of the year and additionally he would be able to pay obeisance to his mentor and savior, Bhagvan Vishnu, forever-relaxing on Shesha-Naaga in the company of mother Laxmi  with that beatific smile on that  lovable face of His.

“So dear Shachi, let us pack our bags and move. It is time to enjoy”, he said. “But where are we going?”, Shachi enquired. Lord Indra tried to look surprised. ” Oh, where else but the beautiful Kshir-Saagar, the most wonderful place in this universe. With our dear Bhagvan Vishnu and Ma Laxmi around, it will be a most pleasant experience. C’mon let us hurry,” he tried to rush things with a sweep of his hands.

But madam Shachi was not impressed. ”Oh no, not once again! We have been to Kshir-Saagar two times in the last two years. Please, let us go to some other place,” she said with a look of exasperation on her face,” Why can’t we explore some new, uncharted territory for a change?” And then she exclaimed in an excited tone, suddenly remembering something, ”What about Satidesha? My friends tell me that it is an exquisitely beautiful, virgin territory, as yet unexplored by even the most adventurous of the devatas. Some of them claim that in many respects it is even more charming than our own Swarga-loka.” Like a child now she became insistent,” Listen to me please, let us go to Satidesha. You will  feel rejuvenated, I assure you, and I will also feel happy.”

“Wait a minute,” Indra said and rushed to his study as something flashed through his mind.”What a coincidence!”, he wondered. It was only a few days back that the intrepid adventurer, the Muni of Munis, Rishi Kashyap, had given him a travelogue penned by him after his extensive tour of the Mother Earth and in the same he had mentioned something about this Satidesha. He found the book lying on the table and started going through its pages and lo, there it was, Satidesha, the place Shachi was talking about! He went back to the room Shachi was waiting in and both of them started to read the book together.

There are four Yugas, the book began, Krita, Treta, Dwapar and Kali. Seventy-one of such Chaturyugas constitute one Manvantara. After the completion of each Manvantara, the world comes to an end being drowned in a huge deluge. It is the Lord Mahadeva Himself who takes the form of this endless ocean. After some time, out of mercy for bound souls, the Goddess Sati assumes the form of a boat and the future Manu places all the seeds of creation in the boat which is then towed by Vishnu in the form of a fish. He then fastens it to the top of the mountain peak called Naubandhana and then vanishes from the scene. The Goddess Sati in the form of the boat now becomes the Mother Earth and on this earth, at its most beautiful spot a lake of clear, limpid waters comes into being. This is the Satidesha, six yojanas long and half of that in breadth, heart-enrapturing and  a wonderful sporting place fit for the gods.

In this Kalpa, the book continued, six such Manvantaras have already passed and the seventh one, the Vaivasvata Manvantara, has  started some time back. The Satidesha continues to be beautiful as ever, inhabited by the Nagas, a gentle tribe ruled by its king, the venerable Nila. Though it is arguably the most lovely place on earth, it is due to undergo some tremendous, cataclysmic changes in near future which will change its face forever. This chapter on the Satidesha ended rather cryptically, advising Lord Indra to visit the place at the earliest.“That is interesting”, Indra laughed and said to Shachi,” Okay then, let us fly down to Satidesha as soon as possible.” 

The flight to Satidesha, though a long one, was very comfortable and as they neared the place ,they were greeted by the sweet smell of roses ; when they looked around, a beautiful dawn had already set in  and then  they saw the lake itself, deep like the sky and bright with pink lotuses and clear water. It was definitely a treat for not only the eyes but all the senses. Quickly choosing one isolated spot on the banks of the lake, they decided to rest for some time before indulging in their sporting activities. Lord Indra simply could not resist falling asleep immediately surrounded as the place was, by the majestic Deodar trees.. The beautiful cool wind calmed his frayed nerves and feeling completely relaxed he went into deep sleep full of beautiful dreams.

When he got up from this refreshing nap, he found that Shachi had already gone into the lake and was having a bath. How beautiful she looked! Her thousand lotus-shaped eyes were looking all the more beautiful surrounded as she was by the pink lotuses in the lake water. He remembered how he had retrieved her from the clutches of her ruthless Asura father Puloman after killing him in mortal combat long time back and how thankful he was feeling for that. Desirous of jumping into the water himself now, he got up when he heard a rustling of leaves followed by some dirty grunting sounds behind in the woods. “ Who is that?” he shouted and looking back  was aghast to find an ugly-looking Daitya with red, fierce eyes looking passionately at Paulomi while drooling a large amount of spittle from the corners of his badly smelling mouth. “What the hell? Get lost before I kill you,” Lord Indra shouted, anger building up in his otherwise cool mind. He immediately recognized Sangraha the “durjaya”, difficult-to-conquer Asura, who had somehow managed to escape the last time he had killed and almost destroyed all the demons. But blinded as he was by Kama, the Daitya laughed an uproarious, raucous laughter and without caring for the king of devatas, jumped into the water and started swimming towards Aindri in a bid to kidnap her. Indra jumped after him and catching him by the scruff of his neck, dragged him back to the banks of the lake and hit him hard on the face. Meanwhile the devatas had collected in the skies as a fight-to-death ensued between the two. Oh, what a fierce fight it was! The earth shook and the skies trembled as the fight continued for days and then months. Nobody seemed to emerge victorious in this fight between equals. They fought with whatever was at hand, rocks, trees and what-have-you. As time passed, Indra started to feel the pinch of fatigue. Victory was nowhere in sight as the year neared its end when he suddenly remembered his dear Vajra. Collecting the remains of his fast-sapping energy, he called out for his beloved bolt and lo and behold, there it was! Holding it strongly in his hand he hit the Asura  hard on his head and there he dropped dead on the ground at once with just one stroke. Relieved, the devatas showered flower petals on their beloved king who now was visibly tired and drained of all energy. Looking at his dear wife Mahendri, he felt happy that he was able to safeguard her honour. The lady meanwhile was sitting under a Deodar tree weeping silently and remembering her six children, Jayanta, Midhusa, Nilambara, Rbhus, Rshaba and Sitragupta. The holiday was totally marred and she now beseeched her husband to take her back because the longing for her children was overwhelming her totally. “So be it,” Lord Indra thought, feeling sad that he was not able to give his wife what she wanted . Calling forth his magical powers he closed his eyes and in a wink willed his and Indrani’s flight back to Swarga-loka.

Dear folks, our story does not end here; it rather begins from this point on!

For unknown to everybody except Lord Hari himself, the Daitya Sangraha at the height of his passion while he was pursuing Shachi had ejaculated into the waters of the lake itself. The semen was now growing silently in the  lake and developing into a baby boy. What nasty, dark powers of attraction this growing life had! From the depths of Paatala it pulled out the dirtiest, wildest seeds of demonic flesh that formed its body. From the darkest interiors of Aakasha it sucked in the “shad-ripus”, the six enemies of “Kama”, ”Krodha”,”Lobha”, “Moha”, “Mada” and “Matsar” , that formed the foundation of his venomous mind and then on one of those cursed but apparently innocuous looking mornings, the child was delivered on the banks of the lake Satisar.

King Nila, the venerable, kind-hearted king of the Nagas was having his usual morning walk with his retinue following him at a respectable distance when he heard the cries of a baby in the distance. Rushing towards the waters, he located the naked but robust-looking child crying inconsolably. The soft heart of the gentle king melted and picking up the child he said,”Oh, who is the cruel mother of this unfortunate child ? How can one abandon one’s flesh and soul like that?” Seeing nobody around, he called his beloved queen and told her,”Now that nobody seems to own this child, as a king  I am duty-bound to adopt it and you being my beloved wife, I request you to take it with you and bring it up as our own.”

And as if out of some divinely-guided impulse, he added instinctively,” And let him be called Jalodbhava, the one born of the waters, for nothing else suits this unfortunate baby.”

Thus, ever so innocuously, started the turbulent journey of Jalodbhava who was destined to change the face of the beautiful Satidesha forever. …

The king of the Nagas, Kadruputra Nila was worried. On a tour of various places of pilgrimage with his father, Muni Kashyapa, he had avoided talking on this subject for long but it was no longer possible to side-track the issue, now that they were passing through Madradesha. The whole of the place, once teeming with Nagas, was a shadow of its old self. A centre of excellence, famous in the world for its artisans, it was now almost totally deserted. Houses were either half- burnt or dilapidated and there was no soul in sight for miles at length.

“Dear son”, Rishi Kashyapa said, looking surprised,” What has happened to Madradesha? What calamity has befallen the poor people of this state of yours? It seems as if a great tsunami has come and gone, killing all the people, as it were. Don’t you take care of your own subjects? This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Nila protested weakly, “But dad, it is not like that. I love my subjects immensely”, and then added in a rather meek manner, ”It is all about this foster son of mine, Jalodbhava, who has unfortunately become totally uncontrollable. He simply refuses to listen to me and does all kinds of horrible things the way he pleases.”

Rishi Kashyapa said, “But when I saw him ten years back, he was such a cute boy, so obedient and well-mannered. What happened since then?”

“Oh father, what shall I tell you?” Looking rather annoyed, he continued,” It has all to do with my venerable grand-dad, Brahma ji who dispenses boons ever so carelessly without considering the consequences.”

Muni Kashyap interrupted,” Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Please start from the beginning. I am getting rather confused.”

“Okay dad”, Nila began slowly, ”some years back. Jalodbhava decided to do tapasya standing in Satisar to please Brahma ji. Initially, I thought it was some kind of a teenage obsession but dad, what an intense tapasya it turned out to be! He continued for years standing in water through hot summers and cold winters, muttering mantras from some unknown tantras, and, believe me, Brahma ji had to appear.”

“So what happened after that”, Kashyap Muni had started getting interested.

King Nila continued,” Father, he asked for three boons from Brahma ji; firstly, that nobody should be able to kill him in water, second, that he should have magical powers and thirdly, that he should be endowed with immense prowess. And can you believe dad, dear grandpa granted him all the wishes and retired immediately to the comforts of Kshir-sagar without for a moment thinking as to what consequences it will have? Since then, Jalodbhava has run berserk, killing and eating hapless people as and when he pleases and when I protested, he ran away from home and now resides permanently in the Satisar lake itself. Though Madradesha has borne the brunt of his attacks, other places like Darvabhisara, Gandhara, Juhundara, Antargiri and Bahirgiri have also been rendered desolate due to his nefarious activities. Even the states of Shakas, the Khashas, the Tanganas and the Mandavas have seen his fierce attacks. I am at a loss to understand as to how this menace can be got rid of.” Beseeching his father, he then added in a rather pitiable tone,” Please Pitaji, help me to come out of this mess which, I confess, is partly of my own making.”

“No, this cannot be allowed to continue,” Kashyap Muni muttered to himself and then speaking loudly with a sense of urgency, waved his hand,” Come on, let us fly up to Kshir-sagar without wasting any further time and talk to my dear father Brahma ji. Narayana will also be there and, I assure you, we will find some way out.”

So the father-son duo flew past infinite universes and black holes in a wink, piercing the heart of the Time-Space continuum and reached Kshir-sagar. Narayana was as usual relaxing on Shesh Nag with that beatific smile on that beautiful face of His while Brahma ji with all his four heads was busy contemplating something. Ma Laxmi was attending to household chores because, incidentally, Ananta with his huge plough and Ishvara Himself had come to pay them a courtesy call.

“Nice to see you, dear Kashyap,” Narayana said, laughing uproariously and waking up Lord Brahma from his reverie, “Long time, no see! What is the matter? ‘Everything fine?”

“ Yes dear son, is everything fine?” Brahma ji added, looking rather worried as Kashyap Muni was not one to trouble anybody if the issue was not serious.

After bowing in courtesy with king Nila standing at a respectable distance, Rishi Kashyap came to the point straightaway and narrated the whole story to all of them.

Getting very angry, Vishnu ji got up from His seat quickly and told the Creator,” Dear friend, I saw it coming long time back. Anyway, send a word to Shankar Bhagvan for I will need His help and let us move to Satidesha immediately. It is going to be a hell of a fight. Please call all the Devatas and Devis too for they shall not see such a wonderful sight for a long time to come.”

So, in no time Narayana and Brahma ji, Ishvara and Ananta with his plough, and, of course, Kashyap Muni and king Nila reached Satidesha.

The sun and the moon were already eagerly waiting in the skies.

Shankar ji along with Parvati Maiyya came on Nandi, the divine bull.

Indra on hearing this and conscious of his role in the whole story, came there in the company of hosts of devatas.

Yama, Varuna, Kubera, Agni, Vayu, Vasus, Rudras, and the hosts of Maruts also came.

The holy rivers of Ganga mounted on a crocodile, Yamuna on a tortoise and Sarasvati on a buffalo also came rushing down from the heavens.

Other rivers like Narmada, Gandaki, Kaveri, etc. also came riding their respective vehicles.

Having entered Satidesha, Mahesh occupied the Naubandhana peak, Brahma took His stand on the Northern peak with all the devatas and Asuras whereas the Venerable Hari with his ever beatific smile stood at the vantage point, the southern peak, and with a booming voice which sends shivers down the spines of sinners, thundered,” O Jalodbhava, come here. Let us fight like true heroes and decide the fate of this Satidesha once for all. Come on, if you have the guts.”

But Jalodbhava was not one to be taken in by these exhortations and he did what he thought was best under the circumstances. He simply did not come out of the lake! For he knew that even Lord Hari was utterly helpless so long as he stayed under water because of the boon he had been given by the Creator Brahma Himself. Scratching his head, Lord Vishnu turned towards Ananta and ordered him, “Dear Balaram, this is the time for you to show your valour. Please lift your plough and break forth the Himalaya at once.”

Dressed in blue and wearing a diadem fastened with gold, worthy of worship, Ananta, possessing the lustre of full moon, expanded himself covering the earth and the heavens and terrifying the numerous demons around. With one stroke of his massive plough, he broke forth the Himalaya. Water gushed out of the lake at a tremendous pace creating a deafening noise which shook the hearts of all the beings in the universe and for once, the terrible demon, Jalodbhava, stood totally exposed.

But he was not one to be easily cowed down. Before Lord Hari could strike, Jalodbhava practised his magic and created darkness all around. The whole world was now immersed in pitch-black darkness. It was impossible for anybody to do anything under these circumstances. Shouting from the mountain-top, Bhagvan Vishnu said,” Dear friend Shankar, it is your turn now. Do something to save the situation.” The ever-serious Shambu smiled a little and with a flourish of His hands brought forth the sun and the moon. In a twinkling of the eye, the world was again filled with light and all the darkness destroyed.

Now, it was Lord Hari’s turn. By the power of Yoga, He assumed a second body and witnessed the fight from the other body. Oh, what a fierce fight it was! They fought bare-handed. They fought with trees and mountains in their massive hands and the fight continued and continued, and when it appeared that it was never going to end either way, Lord Vishnu pulled out His Sudarshana Chakra from nowhere and in the flash of a moment cut off the demon’s head with its help. The severed head rolled on to one side and the blood flowed towards what was left of the Satisar. Giving out a cry of victory, dear Narayana said, looking towards Lord Brahma and Shambu ji as the devatas started to shower flower petals from the heavens,” O best among beings, whoever shall see you after taking bath in this lake ,now called Kramasaara, shall without any delay go to heaven. I also order all the devatas and devis to leave their footprints on this beautiful piece of land so that it is made holy for all times to come.”

Now it was time to move back to Kshir-sagar. Packing His divine bags, He suddenly discovered that Sudarshan was missing. When calling out for him several times did not help, He wondered as to where His beloved weapon had gone and decided to wait for some more time. Suddenly, His eyes fell on Lord Shiva, His old friend. Sitting in Padma-asana on the Naubandhana peak, He had a mischievous smile on His face and then Prabhu understood it all. With an expression of mock irritation, He said,” Now, come on Shiva! Don’t try to act funny. Where have you hidden my dear Sudarshana? Please hand him over to me quickly. Laxmi is waiting back home very eagerly and I don’t want to be late for dinner. Come on dear, be quick!”

“Ha, Ha Ha!” Bhagvan Shambu laughed loudly as Parvati Ma looked on with amusement at this friendly exchange.” Your dear Sudarshana Chakra was so drunk on Jalodbhava’s blood that he had totally lost control over his senses and was wandering in all the three worlds without knowing what he was doing. It is with great difficulty that I caught hold of him and I am not going to part with him without receiving a gift from you. So come on, what do you have to offer ?”, Shiva continued the friendly banter.

Now, Lord Vishnu, who is an epitome of Divine Love, just could not resist this Nectar from overflowing His heart. In one swift motion, He pulled Bhagvan Shambu towards Himself and embraced Him. Smiling His eternally Divine Smile that fills His Bhaktas with bliss, He called Ma Parvati also to the same spot and then standing on the head of Jalodbhava erected a memorial in which all the three are represented and this became the holiest of the holy spots on that blessed earth.

Having established peace, the Trinity left for their respective abodes leaving Kashyap Muni in charge of the closing ceremonies. 

“So then”, the Muni of Munis pronounced, “ Dear Nagas, from now onwards, you will live peacefully with men whom I have ordered to come to this Desha.”

“But that can’t be! This is our land and we will not allow men to live here”, the Nagas protested.

“Yes, yes, this is our country, and we will not allow anybody else to settle here”, the shouts of rebellion grew louder,” Naga land is only for Nagas. No one else has a right here.”

Looking at this growing dissent, the otherwise calm Muni Kashyap became angry and shouted back,” Okay then, as you speak so audaciously without paying regard to my words so you shall have to dwell with the Pishachas now. You have yourselves brought this curse on you.” The wise king Nila who till then was busy with other formalities heard these angry words from afar and rushing towards his father fell on his feet beseeching him with humility,” Dear father, these subjects of mine are a bunch of incorrigible fools. They don’t understand who you are. Please forgive us, otherwise we will stand condemned till eternity.”

Having heard these modest words of the king, his son Nila, Kashyap Muni calmed down and said,” Fine then. As I cannot take my words totally back, I grant you that the terrible Pishachas will live only for six months a year with you and for the other six months you will live in the company of men. I will tell Kubera to send the respectable Nikumbha to keep these Pishachas under control during this period, as you know, they are otherwise a very violent people. This make-shift arrangement will continue for four Yugas and afterwards you will live only with men.”

Having said this, he continued, “This beautiful country which has been formed by draining the Satisar now needs to be named.” Calling Lord Narayana back one last time, he requested Him to bring down the curtains by naming the country according to what He felt best. Lord Narayana, who by now was feeling refreshed after taking a sumptuous dinner, readily complied and addressing the tribe of Nagas said,” This beautiful land is the result of the hard work and immense concern of my dear Prajapati Kashyap Muni and so, as he is also called “Ka”, the country shall be named Kashmir. Additionally, as water, also called “Ka” in the granthas, was drained by Balarama from this country, it is appropriate to call it Kashmir.”

“So be it! So be it!” everybody shouted in unison. The Gods left and the celebrations began.

Celebrations began and celebrations continued as Janardana had ordained. This is the land of happiness. This is the sporting- ground of the Gods. This is our dear Kashmir.

Yes, this is the sporting-ground of the Gods. This is our dear Kashmir. But then Lord Hari, why this new invasion of the Pishachas?

Why this pain and suffering once more?

Why this violence and dance of death once more?

Has an invisible Jalodbhava returned?

Where are you dear Hari?

Come and redeem us once more. We are waiting.

 

 

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