Ego clashes of illustrious personalities

Puranas were replete with Stories of personality problems due to the inter-play of  Satvika- Rajasika- Tamasika ‘Gunas’ and indeed such clashes were common not only between Devas and Demons, Vamshas vs. Vamshas, Kings versus Kings of course, Maharshis versus Kings and Maharshis among Maharshis, let alone mutual quarrels caused due often  to non-issues and wasteful arguments. Glaring examples were Parashurama versus King Kartaveeryarjuna and the blood-shed that followed with Parashurama uprooting traces of Kshatriyas in a series of battles; and   King Nahusha and Agastya Muni as the King filled in a temporary vacancy of Indra,claimed Sach Devi as his wife and rushed to her by a Palanquin traditionally carried by Maharshis and kicked Agastya Muni to hurry up and the latter twisted the meaning of  the expression ‘Sarpa Sarpa’ (quick quick) as Maha Sarpa or a Python and threw Nahusha down to Mountain Valleys in Bhu Loka. The above instances were described in the above pages. Following are a few other examples of such personality clashes:

King Nimi Vs. Maharshi Vasishtha : King Nimi of Ikshwaku dynasty was extremely righteous desired to perform a Homa in the name of Bhagavati. The Raja Guru Vasishtha Muni agreed to be the Head Priest and conduct the Yaga. As all the preparations were ready just on the appointed time, Vasishtha Muni sent word that Indra Deva wished to perform a Yagna and thus the homa by the King be deferred to another date. King Nimi was furious and went ahead with his Yagna as scheduled in the absence of Vasishtha Muni. On return Vasishtha saw that the Homa was in the process and cursed  the King to drop dead and since the Sacrifice was not yet concluded, Nimi became a ‘Videha’ or body-less to enable the King to complete the ‘Purnaahuti’or the Grand Finale of the Yagna. Lord Yama Dharmaraja was pleased with the Yagna and gave him the option of entering the first Jeeva Body of Brihaspati or continuing the Videha Body and the King preferred to be ‘Videha’ or body-less.The King on his part gave a return curse to Vasishtha to die too and the latter prayed to Brahma Deva who was Vasishtha’s Manasa Putra. Brahma blessed  Vasishta to enter Mitravaruna’s  Jeeva Body  which was kept in tact; the earlier Mitravaruna was infatuated with Aprara Urvashi and two issues were born of whom one was Agasti who became an ascetic and the other was King Ikshwaku. Mitravaruna’s jiva body was still in tact even Brahma created Vasishtha; now the jeeva body of Vasishtha since dropped dead as a result of Nimi’s curse had entered the duplicate of Mitravaruna without any loss of original Vasishtha’s wisdom and radiance!

King Yayati Vs.Danava Guru Shukracharya: King Yayati married Shukracharya’s daughter Devayani and Sharmishtha the daughter of a Rakshasa. But Shukracharya was unhappy that Yayati married again and there were misunderstandings between the wives. Devayani complained to her father and Shukracharya cursed Yayati to become old and impotent. Yayati could have given a return ‘Shaap’ but  reconciled to the father-in-law’s  curse and requested him to pardon him. Danava Guru diluted the Shaap that if any of the King’s sons  was prepared to take over the old age of Yayati, then he might regain his youth back. The youngest son of Sharmishtha named Puru volunteered to lose his youth and let his father regain his youth. The fall out was that Yayati regained his youth and enjoyed life for thousand years and finally got vexed up and his ways of youth and returned it to Puru with the blessings of Puru’s redoubled youth!

Vasishtha Vs. Vishwamitra: Yet another instance of the display of  ‘Ahamkarra’ or intense Self-Image was in respect of the too powerful Munis. Vasishtha was the ‘Manasika Putra’ of Brahma while Vishwamitra a Kshatriya King Kaushika. The King visited Vasishtha’s Ashram and demanded Nandini the calf-daughter of Kamadhenu the Celestial Cow as the calf rightly belonged to him as the King and Vasishtha flatly refused and by his Yogic powers the King failed to possess Nandini. The provoked King performed such extreme tapasya that he possesed enormous mystic powers and was called a Rajarshi to start with and a Brahmarshi subsequently and carried his grudge and jealousy for Vasishtha always. King Trayaruni of Purukutsa Vamsha was advised by Guru Vasishtha to banish the Prince Satyavrata (Trishanku) from the Kingdom since the latter abducted a commoner bride from the wedding platform by force despite her defiance. Satyavrata moved out to the outskirts of the Kingdom and adoped the ways of living a Chandala. But he helped Vishwamitra’s wife and children by feeding them during a long spell of famine when the Brahmarshi went away for twelve years. But he served them cow meat to Vishwamitra’s family. Vasishtha cursed Satyavrata as Trishanka or on three counts viz.the latter abducted  a commoner’s bride, he adopted the way of life as a chandala and served the cow-meat to Vishwamitra Muni’s family. Yet, Trishanku was endeared by Vishwamitra and sought to send him to Swarga in human form and when Devas kicked him created Trishanku Swarga by using his Tapasya Phala. What was worse he harassed King Harischandra to such an extent that his son  died and wife became a desperate wretch. Vasishtha was fed up and cursed Vishwamitra to become a crane and in turn the latter cursed Vasishtha a Sarasa bird and both the birds quarrelled with each other for many years and Brahma had to intervene to relieve them of their mutual curses and bring about a rapproachment.

Yagnavalkya and Vaishampayana: The illustrious Yagnavalkya Rishi was the disciple of Sage Vaishampayana who taught Yajurveda to the former. The Guru and Sishya once had a heated argument about the interpretations of the Veda and the Guru demanded that whatever the Sishya learnt from him be vomitted in the form of digested food. As the vomit came out  some of the co-Students of the Guru assumed the forms of ‘Titthiris’ (partridges) and picked up the ‘Ucchishta’ or the remains of the vomitting and the same came to be titled as Taittiriya Samhita and the Yajurveda came to be called Krishna Yajur Veda. The disillusioned pupil Yagnavalkya decided not to approach a human Guru and prayed to Surya Deva to accept him as his Guru. Pleased by Yagnavalkya’s  penance, Surya descended in the form of a horse and disclosed a new form of Yajur Veda called as Shukla Yajur Veda not known to Vaishampayana too; the Shukla Yajur Veda or Vajasaneya (Vaaji being a horse) materialised from his manes; the Shukla Yajur Veda has the rhythm of a horse gallop! Surya Deva directed Yagnavalkya to approach Devi Sarawati also to sharpen the memory of the Maharshi. Pleased by his prayers, Saraswati gave the boon to Yagnavalkya of acquiring qualities of a unique and erudite scholar of unprecedented fame!

Prahlada Vs. Nara Narayana Maharshis: Some times misunderstandings erupt suddenly and unmindfully  leading to unhappy and even disastrous consequences on account of ego clashes. This happened even to King Prahlada a unique and unswerving Narayana Bhakta. As Hiranyakashipu was killed by Vishnu’s  incarnation of Narasimha Deva, King Prahlada was crowned and his governance was exactly opposite to that of his cruel father as it was highly virtuous and dedicated to Narayana. But the King came to know of a disgraceful incident  viz. a highly poisonous snake dragged Chyavana Maharshi’s feet while he was bathing in the Sacred River Narmada into Rasatala. King Prahlada came to know of the incident and apologised to the Muni profusely; during his dharmic discussions with the Muni, Prahlada requested as to which were the most Sacred Places of Bharata. Chyavana singled out Nimisha and he visited that Place at once. In the Nimisha Forests, Prahlada moved about looking prey of deers for his food and found a huge tree on which there were two pairs of ovesized bows and arrows hung and under the tree  there were two Munis in deep meditation. The King wondered  that it was ridiculous to see two Rishis seated on Mrighacharma or deer skin in deep meditation  and also sporting bows and arrows. Prahlada approached them and ridiculed them that they were neither Rishis nor warriors; Nara Narayanas were provoked and challenged the King. The mild fight with one arrow from Nara was met with five arrows from Prahlada. This led to a mighty battle; Nara overshadowed the Prithvi, Akaasha and Dishaas. Prahlada pulled up Brahmastra but Narayana released  Maheshwa-rastra. Prahlada was incensed and attacked Narayana with his mace. Narayana Muni rained flames from his eyes and Prithvi trembled and quakes caused heavy destruction.  Prahlada prayed to Bhagavan Vishnu and the latter appeared and cautioned the King that Narayana Muni was simply unconquerable on any battle front by Devas or Daityas. Vishnu further stated : ‘ As a matter of fact, I am  Narayana Maharshi myself’! Prahlada prostrated before Narayana Maharshi, renounced Kingship in favour of Andhakasura the son of Hiranyaksha the brother of Hiranyakashipu  and took over the Sacred Path of High Devotion.

Saraswati and Lakshmi Devis: Markandeya Purana in the Chapter related to ‘Kamakshi Vilasa’, there was a reference on how Mahendra and Brahma became victims of the ego-clash of  Devis Saraswati and Lakshmi. Motivated by her self-pride and arrogance, Sarasvati claimed that she was superior to Lakshmi as she was the Goddess of Learning in the whole Universe while Lakshmi claimed that she was the root cause of wealth and prosperity. Both the Devis approached Indra and the latter opined that Lashmi was not only the origin of ‘Bhoga Bhagyas’ but also the consort of Narayana. Saraswati was enraged at this reply, called Indra as characterless since he spoilt the purity of Ahalya Devi, that he was arrogant, schemy and partial minded; thus she cursed Mahendra to become an Elephant. Devi Lakshmi felt sorry that on account of her support to her he was victimised but since the curse of Saraswati was to be observed, Indra might descend from Swarga to Simhachala Kshetra in Bhuloka to pray homage to and seek permission from Narasimha Deva to enter Hari Kshetra in Kancheepura. Lakshmi further stated that in the form of an elephant he would meditate deeply and on entering the Hari Kshetra would  discover  two lizards on his back which actually were Brahmana boys who on instructions from their Guru were collecting wooden twigs for homams but were turned as lizards on account of shaap by one Yaksha since he was disturbed. Soon as the elephant entered Hari Kshetra, Indra recovered from Saraswati’s shaapa and the boys too got back their original forms and blessings from Indra. Vishwakarma the Celestial Builder who construtced the Varada Raja Kshetra in Kanchi arranged the two lizards -one made of gold and another of silver- as hung on a ceiling girder to the East of the Temple still by bestowing the boon of  prosperity by Lakshmi Devi once they are touched!

Continuing the narration of the ego-clash of Saraswati and Lakshmi, Markandeya referred to the claim of mutual superiority as both the Devis approached Brahma Deva for his opinion and he favoured Lakshmi instantly. Sarasvati was highly disappointed with Brahma and took away the ‘Danda’ or the Insignia that Vishnu once gave to enable Brahma to undertake Srishti or Creation of the ‘Charachara Jagat’. This action of Saraswati disabled Brahma to undertake further Srishti. He did not desire to entreat Saraswati to return the Emblem but he performed a massive and unparelleled Yagna at the Harikshetra; however Brahma did not ask Saraswati to participate the Yagna. The latter felt that she was bypassed and out of fury created a Maya Shakti which created huge flames to destroy the Yagna. But the saviour of Hari Kshetra Narayana arrested the hands of Maya. Saraswati took this as a challenge and released Kapalika Shakti but Vishnu in the form of Narasimka Deva destroyed the Shakti. Enraged by her discomfiture, Saraswati released Daityastra but Daityari Narayana disabled the Astra. Vagdevi then created a ‘Karaala Vadana Kalika’ but Vishnu materialised an Eight-Hand Maha Swarupa and suppressed the Kalika Devi by sitting heavy on her shoulders. Finally with all her powers being exhausted, Saraswati was humiliated and frustrated and took the Form of Pralaya Swarupi called Vegavati River with disastrous speed from Brahma loka down to Earth heading towards Hari Kshetra. Vishnu sensed the impending danger and decided to resort to her ‘manbhanga’ by his standing nude like a huge log of wood across the lightning flash of  gushing waters. Saraswati having visioned Narayan’s nudity felt ashamed and instead of facing him entered a ‘Bhu Bila’ or a big fissure of Earth  and escaped. Then the Yagna resumed without any hindrance and after the ‘Purnahuti’ Varaja Raja Swami manifested himself and handed over the Insignia to Brahma Deva to resume Srishti again. Such was the high drama that followed the ego-clash of Saraswati and Lakshmi Devis.

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at [email protected]