Monday, December 21, 2015

[Short Story] The One who Stood against Shiva

The northern winds blew over the inn and creaked the door open. The cold breeze blew inside sending chills down Vinayak's spine. He shuddered and went to closed the door again. He gasped at the door, cursing his job. He was the inn-keeper of this family INN. It was started by his father and provided wayfarers a place to rest and have a hot meal on the highway. Vinayak glanced at the clock on the wall- it showed closed to midnight. No one is going to come here now. He sighed, no one will come here anymore, it was the coldest night. He might as well close down and go to sleep.
Just as he was about to lock the door, an old Sage stepped inside, "Room for one, please?"
Vinayaka rushed to the door and helped the Sage inside, "Please come in father, where are you going in such a cold night?"

The Sage could barely stand and was leaning on a wooden stick. His thin frame of body bends from the spine. The long flowing gray beard complimented the back and created an arc. Vinayak chuckled under his breath.

"Chaturmas begins today," the sage replied, placing his right hand on Vinayak's shoulder, "The four months when we sages do not travel. The environment becomes hostile. I was looking for a shelter."

"Feel free to stay in the inn for as long as you want, father," Vinayaka said, "Let me close the shutters for you. There is some hot Chai kept on the counter."

"Thank you, son, you have come to help me like the Vignaharta Vinayaka."
Vinayak smiled, "How do you know my name is Vinayak?"

The sage looked at the innkeeper, a mischievous smile under his beard, "That is a happy coincidence, I was talking about your namesake, the one with the face of an elephant, the one who is protected by Shakti and the only one who challenged Mahadev and survived, I was talking about Ganesh, the leader of Ganas of Kailash."

Vinayak had never heard of him before, on the highway, there are all sorts of storytellers but never the one who told the story of his name. "Tell me more, please."
And the sage started the story,

"The times in Chaturmas are harsh, it is an inauspicious time. The sun God starts his journey south, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. Just when people are tired of the harsh climate, comes forth the vigna-Vinayaka, the Vignaharta. Lord Ganesh leads people from darkness to the light, from harsh climate to the harvest season."

"Shiva, Mahadeva is an noble sage, he denies existence and destroys creation. He does not worry about the world, He is a world in His own sense. But His attitude is not good for a civilization, for life. For Shiva to support the civilization, he needs a companion. Shiva needs to open His eyes to see the pleasures of mortal skin and thus see the world we live in. Thus- it is told that just after the celebration of Rain God, the colorful festival of Holi, soaked in rain, Parvati, domestic form of Goddess Shakti asks Her husband, Shankar, the domestic form of Lord Shiva for a child.

"Why do we need children?" asks Shankar, "Producing children makes us mortal, makes us... human."

"But children is the only way to conquer death, it is a way where a marriage is consummated. It is the process when a soul touches a flesh," argues the clever Parvati.

"Why do we need flesh? Why not renounce the flesh and embrace the immortal soul?" replies Shankar, "Flesh is all about emotions and pain."

"But with pain, also comes pleasures. You cannot renounce both pain and pleasure. You have to embrace both. Life is all about dealing with death, the joy of birth, the sorrow of suffering and the celebration of success. You cannot enjoy life without the flesh."

The eternal hermit soaked in the bliss of the soul does not understand the argument. Life is but an eternal struggle between nurturing the soul and pleasing the flesh. Lord Shiva in His eternal bliss rejects the mortal pleasures while Goddess Shakti in Her mortal form and immortal rage accepts the pain and pleasure of the flesh ignoring the soul. Hence, it is said, that they both together form the perfect couple. One cannot live without another.

Not able to argue with her husband, Parvati decides to take matters in Her own hands. It is said that 16 Goddesses rule this world and Parvati has the power of each one of them. Filled with the joy of motherhood, Parvati makes a child out of the sand and blows life into it.

Thus, born is Vi Nayaka or Vinayaka, the one who that born without a man."

"Ganesh, thus born is exactly opposite of His father. While Mahadev is a hermit who rejects life, Ganesh indulges into lavish meals that celebrate life," the Sage smiles, "Little Ganesh defies His father very often but escapes punishment using clever tricks and smart words. But the first time, he did not survive."

"Goddess Parvati created Vinayak without the knowledge of Her husband. Creating life is an exhausting process, she asked the child to guard the door and went to take a bath. At that moment, Lord Shiva craving to see his wife walked towards Her chamber. He was surprised to see the young child playing near the gate. Ignoring the child, Lord Shiva walked into the bathing chamber calling for the wife.

"You cannot pass," said Vinayak stopping the Lord and quickly obstructing the path.

"What is your name, Son?" asked Lord Shiva.

"My name is Vinayak and I forbid you to enter this gate," Vinayak announced.

Lord Mahadev smiled and said, "And why cannot I pass, Vinayak?"

"My mother has forbidden anyone from entering this hall until she wishes, I cannot let you pass," said the Loyal Vinayak.

"Then inform your mother that I have arrived and she will allow me," said Mahadev.

"My mother has forbidden anyone from entering the chamber," said Vinayak, "That includes me too."

"This is a ridiculous conundrum," said Mahadev, "What if your orders are wrong and your mother wishes to see me now?"

"If that is her wish," said Vinayak, "She will tell me that. Until then, you can wait."

"But I wish to her now," said Mahadev, his temper growing, until this day no one had dared to stop him.

"You don't understand, do you? My mother does not wish to see anybody, She may wish to see someone afterward or not. It is her wish that matters right now, not yours."

Lord Shiva is known for his fierce temper. There are very few people in the world who have survived his temper. His blood boiled at the audacity of the young, ignorant child blocking his way. His eyes bloodshot and His hand raised, he boomed, 'VINAYAK. MOVE'. The voice shook the entire Kailash mountain. Ganas who were busy working their way on the mountain stopped. Nandi, the loyal Ox, rushed to the direction of the voice. Everything froze in their track. The birds flew away, animals rushed out of the mountain.

In all that commotion, no one but Lord Shiva heard the feeble voice of a young child, 'NO.' He was trying with all his might to raise the voice against Shiva.

The commotion was heard by Goddess Parvati inside Her bathing chamber. She hurried to get dressed and step outside to calm down her husband.

But she was too late, for the angry Mahadev had already shown His wrath on the poor child. When Goddess Parvati stepped outside the bathing chamber, she saw Her child lay headless at its gate. With tears in Her eyes, the noble Goddess hugged the cold, dead body of Her child. If there is one thing that is dangerous than the fury of Shiva, it is the fury of Parvati. Mahadev and Shakti are equally powerful but only because the Goddess chooses to be. Shakti is the most powerful sentient being in the universe who can create and destroy the reality in one single thought.
Tears in her eyes, blood curling, and temper raised, Parvati screams at Her husband, "You had to demonstrate your strength in front of a young child? A child that was following orders from his mother? You are the God of all Gods and you couldn't curb your male ego for some time? Why was it so much threat to you, that you had to behead him? You denounced flesh, you did not want to participate in the creation of a child, you worship the soul. So tell me Mahadev, tell me, what part of your soul justifies the killing of a child?"

In a moment of indecision, Mahadev had acted out of his character. He did not understand his decision. If you deny reality and mortality, how do you justify anger? A soul cannot have emotions. Why had he acted this way?

He looked at the head of the child lying motionless. He bend down and picked up the corpse and spoke, "A head once severed cannot be connected again. However, Vinayak will be born again, this time with a new head. Find me the head of a creature, given out of free will in the north direction from here," he ordered Nandi, "The soul will be preserved until we get the new flesh and he is born whole again. Vinayak followed his duty without any prejudice, fear and insecurity, he will be a great leader for my Gana and will also be known as Gan-esh," said Mahadev.

Mesmerized by the words of the Sage, Vinayak did not realize that time had passed. The old man was radiant telling the story, lost in its world, "Thus, Lord Ganesh was born. Nandi would later find an elephant who gave his head for free will. Ganesh was reborn with the head of an elephant and body of the boy. He would be the perfect balance between the soul and the flesh. Having a pure, unselfish and wise soul but still indulging in the pleasures of life. Ganesh was born to show the world, what was the perfect balance between the soul and flesh," concluded the old man.

Image: Hand-crafted statue of Ganesha by my partner, Deepika Kabe

Mythological fiction is aimed at rewriting the existing mythological stories from Hindu mythology in a completely new form. These stories are innovated using the creative liberties while keeping their existence form and message intact. The story is completely fictional.

Friday, December 11, 2015

[Short Story] Him

I received a request to write a story on the ever loving Krishna and I chose this. There are lot of things already said about Krishna, the controversial warrior-poet. He was a great leader, strategist and orator but he rarely drew the following like his predecessor Ram. He was cunning, manipulative and a fierce lover and a lot has been said about him in mainstream storytelling. But what happened in his enemies mind? How did other warriors saw him? Everyone feared him, some worshipped him, some hated him but no one could ignore him. 
This story is entirely fictional and creative adoption from the text of Jaya, that describes the Kurushetra war in detail. 

"We need to talk," Bhishma walked into the war room unannounced. No one had dared disrespect Duryodhana before in his own war room but this was Bhishma.

"I gather you got my message?" Duryodhana asked, "Come."

Bhishma looked at the audience that was gathered in the war room. Sitting in the circle were Duryodhana, Dushashana the two sons of Drutarashtra, to their left sat Dronacharya, the brahmin-warrior and his son Ashwathama, the evil king Jayandratha, the chiranjivi Kripa, the moral sworn enemy of Krishna, Kritavarma and finally, the slippery tongue Shakuni.

"You have quite a support group here," Bhishma said, "Duryodhana. What is the meaning of this?"
"We are at war, grandfather," Duryodhana said, "You heard them? This war is important for the Kuru clan. We have to win or the house of kuru will be gone in the hands of traitors and gamblers."

"Is that why you have send for me?" Bhishma asked.
"Who else than the master strategian to lead our vast army? We are preparing 11 akshauhini, all led by the admirable warriors and leaders of our time," Duryodhana pointed to the gathered people, "We need the greatest kshatriya there is to led us."

"Don't," Bhishma screamed, "Don't drag me into this. I do not want to take any sides in this petty feud. You are as dear to me as Bhima."
"Yes," Duryodhana said, "I knew that but I did not ask you about your personal opinions... grandfather. I merely ask you will you defend the kuru clan and the kingdom of hastinapura from external forces?"
"Don't," Bhishma said and took a deep breath, "It is my duty to protect this kingdom from its external forces..." he glanced at Shakuni, "...and internal. It is the code of a kshatriya warrior to not run away from a fight and I will fight."
Duryodhana grinned. With Karna and Bhishma fighting together, there was no chance for Pandavas to win.

"I will fight your battle Duryodhana," Bhishma said, "But do not make this the battle of the kingdom. I will fight with you but I will do it on my terms and you do not order me."

"Please grandfather," Duryodhana said, "I am your humble servant. Help us form the strategy."
Bhishma looked at the papers spread on the table. He studied them carefully and then looked at Jayandratha in horror, "This..."
"Yes, it was my idea," Jayandratha grinned, "The ultimate battle formation, the chakravyuva."
"This is a murder machine," Bhishma exclaimed, "You..." he looked at Dronacharya, "You approve of this?"
"I have to say it is ethically questionable," Dronacharya said, "But it can gain results."
"I do not care about the outcome," Bhishma got up from the table, "If you want me to lead this army, I have few rules..."
Duryodhana was annoyed at the sentence but he needed Bhishma on his side. The Pandavas were brave but they would never fight against Bhishma. He needed Bhishma.
"First rule," Bhishma said putting a feet down, "I am not going to be part of this murder. I won't use chakra vyuva till I lead the army."
"Second rule, I will lead the armies against the Pandava army only. I will not harm any of the Kaunteya."
"But..." Duryodhana exclaimed.
"This is how it will be," Bhishma said, "If you want me to lead your army, these are my rules."
"Fine," Duryodhana said giving in to the conditions.
"Good," Bhishma said, "So now then, give up these stupid murderous and barbaric plan and listen to some sound strategy. First," he pointed at Karna, "You will not battle while I am in the ground."
"This is unfair," Karna screamed.
"For these reasons only," Bhishma said, "You will not listen to my command and you also know that. You are way too powerful, almost my equal. If something happens to me, you can still win the war for Duryodhana."
"But father..." Duryodhana began.
"If we both are in the ground," Bhishma said, "We won't have a good chain of command, which is imperative for the battle," he glanced at Dronacharya. Dronacharya bowed his head, "Karna is valuable and learn to use your wild cards properly. Others are expendables."
"Second, I hear Krishna is in Hastinapura staying at Viduras house," Bhishma said.
"I know," Duryodhana said, "That milkman is in town to discuss peace. He has requested attendance tomorrow in full court."

"Good," Bhishma said, "This gives you a strategic advantage. If you cannot sign the peace treaty with him atleast treat him with respect and invite him for royal dinner tonight. We want Him on our side."

"Him!" Kritavarma exclaimed, "That milkman from the villages is not the leader of Yadav, not my leader. I can get you the yadava army to command, I have already gathered most of them on our side."

"You are a fool," Bhishma said to Duryodhana, completely ignoring Kritavarma, "to call that man only a milkman. He is the biggest strategist in the whole world, a brilliant leader and sound orator. He commands the greatest army of warriors called Narayani Sena but that army is not important. That Man can command a group of monkeys to bring down an entire civilization. Some people call him God, he can steer your way into the battle only by guiding your chariot. Whoever side he decides to choose, automatically wins the war," Bhishma said, "And as far as this murderous plan of your," he glanced at Jayandratha, "Krishna can break open the Chakravyuva too."

"Fine," Duryodhana said, "I will invite the milkman in the royal house. I will treat him like he was never treated before. He will dine with the royals today. I will get the Narayani Sena on our side."
"Do not act like a fool," Bhisma said, "We do not need his army, we need Him on our side. Duryodhan, if you want to win this battle you will listen to what I say."
"I have listened to you," Duryodhan replied, "It is your duty to lead the war and I respect your experience but do not forget, Bhishma Pitahma, I am still the king of this kingdom and I will expect the respect a king deserves. So do not tell me on how should I treat my guests, I will be talking to him on your request."

Duryodhana stormed out of the place followed by his commanders.

Only Dronacharya remained behind, "You knew," Dronacharya said, "Having Karna on the battlefield will give us a strong advantage. You do not wish to fight them do you?"
Bhishma smiled at the old teacher, "I wished for a lot of things, Dronacharya, but I do not wish to fight an unfair battle. Karna is powerful than all of us together, he will be valuable for you when I am defeated..." Dronacharya tried to speak, "Do not disturb me... when I am defeated, Pandavas will get an unfair advantage over Kauravas. Use Karna to level that advantage, give Duryodhana the fighting chance. Use your murderous plan to your advantage. I will be defeated, Dronacharya, for I am fighting against the Dharma but I am duty bound to this land. Kaurava army will be helpless them, do your duty Dronacharya, guide the Kauravas towards moksha."

"Only today's invitation will decide on whose side dharma is on," Dronacharya sighed, "Only He will decide."

Duryodhana did send the invitation to Krishna who politely refused to dine with the king. Enraged by this disrespect Duryodhana would have Krishna arrested in the court next morning. Krishna will escape and that singular moment will change the course of entire battle as we know it. 

Karna will enter the battle after the defeat of Bhishma and Dronacharya will implement Chakravyuva. Abhimanyu would be killed trying to break the formation and enraged Arjun will hunt down Jayandratha to avenge the blood of his son.

अस्तो मा सद् गमय तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय मृत्योन् मा अमृतं गमय्

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Have you read my book yet?
An epic adventure across space and time