Play of ‘Maya’: The Story of Narada Maharshi

Narada Maharshi and Veda Vyasa exchanged their own experiences about the play of ‘Maha Maya’or ‘Prakriti’(The Great Illusion) in the Hermitage  of Vyasa on the banks of River Saraswati. Vyasa narrated in passing about the incidents relevant to his family as to how his father was enticed with his mother viz.Parashara Maharshi and  Satyavati a fisher woman; how his mother Satyavati insisted to sleep with his dead younger brother to beget children to uphold the family royalty; how he himself got tempted with an Apsara called Ghritachi and gave birth to Suka Muni; how intensely he loved his son and wanted him to become a house holder; how frustrated was he till Janaka as ‘Videha’(Body-less) was able to become a Grihasti; how elated  that he felt when finally his son agreed tobe a Grihasti and finally how distraught  his son attained Salvation!

It was then the turn of Narada to narrate his autobiography and how Maha Maya had influnced his own life. Narada (‘Nara’ stands for knowledge and ‘Da’stands for Giver or Provider) is popular as a ‘Loka Sanchari’or a Universal Tourist. He is also popular as ‘Kalaha Priya’ or as an instigator but his end-objective would always be for ‘Loka Kalyana’ or for Universal Benefit. Even at the time of generation as a Manasika Putra or Mind-Born son of Brahma, Narada was engulfed with Maya as Brahma asked the son to become a house-holder and procreate progeny but Narada refused flatly; he said : would there be a fool to leave the outstanding nectar of service to Krishna and take to the drink of poison called Samsara! Brahma was terribly disappointed and visibly angry especially since the earlier brothers of Narada viz. Sanaka-Sanandana-Sanatana and Sanat Kumaras also politely refused to become ‘Grihasties’ and Narada’s reaction was more assertive disregard of his consideration to a father!  Brahma then cursed Narada to become a yogi; a quixotic, glibly and dreamy person  with frivolous nature; as an indulger in ‘Shringar’(Romance) and Music; a Veena Player, a talkative wanderer; as the son of a servant maid, and after repeated births finally he would return to Brahma and become a Supreme Gyani! Narada was taken aback by such lashing of curses from Brahma and having requested the father to bless him to be a Jatismara or with memory of previous births and a  staunch devotee of Narayana, gave a return curse to Brahma too that he would not be worshipped in the entire Universe by way of Srotra, Kavacha, Mantra , Puja, Vrata or Agni Homa for the next three Kalpas!

Narada was reborn as a Gandharva Prince named Upabarhana -literally meaning  as one with Devotion. He was married to fifty daughters of another Gandharva King and the eldest of his wives was Malavati an illustrious Pativrata. He however had a flimsy fancy for Rambha and for this indiscretion Brahma cursed him to terminate his life by the yogic of death; thush he practised Yoga by breaking Six Chakras (Muladhara, Swadhistana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha and Agjna) and Sixteen Nadis (Ida, Sushumna, Medha, Pingala, Praanahaarini, Sarva Jnanaprada, Manah Samyamani, Vishuddha, Niruddha, Vayasancharini, Jnana jrumbharana karini, Sarva Pranahara and Punarjeevanakarini) and died the Yoga way! Malavati got furious that on a flimsy cause of fancying Rambha, Brahma gave the disproportionte penalty of death to Narada and protested to Devas and Tri Murtis that she woul immolate in Homagni. Vishnu realised how powerful a curse of Maha Pativrata like Malavati could be and assumed the form of a Brahmana Vidyarthi enquring of  Malavati whether  the death of her husband was due to physical nature and if so he could be revived by the means of Ayurved; or else if the death was due to Yoga, then too there would be ways of reviving him the Yoga way! As the death was due to Yoga, the Brahmana boy prayed to Agni and the jatharagini of the Gandharva was kindled; Kama Deva gave back to the latter’s desires and aspirations; Vayu gave back his breathing; Surya restored his eye-sight; Vani his powerof speech; Dharma revived his Gyan and Brahma and Vishnu revived the Gandhrava Narada finally.

Another episode of Narada’s life related to Daksha Prajapati’s curse to him to become a Grihasti or a house holder as Narada instructed  the Prajapati’s progeny of Haryasvas  to avoid Samsara or family life. Narada and a Devarshi Parvata undertook a journey to Bhuloka once and due to rainy season halted at King Sanjaya  as their valued guest. The King asked his unmarried daughter Damayanti to supervise the daily needs of  the Rishis for their worship. In course of time Narada developed a fancy for Damayanti since their common interest was music. Parvata Maharshi noticed visible change in Narada and the Princess and confronted Narada who confirmed his longing for the Princess. Parvata Maharshi got annoyed, cursed Narada to get  a monkey face and left the Kingdom out of disgust. Meanwhile Damayanti- Narada romance prospered as both were lovers of music. Damayanti argued that Kinnaras had  horse faces too but were music experts par excellence; having convinced  her parents thus she married Narada. After a few years  Parvata Maharshi paid a visit to the Kingdom and finding that Narada- Damayanti couple were happy, withdrew the curse of Narada’s monkey face as the couple was happy. Such was the impact of Brahma’s curse to Narada that he should be a Grihasti and no longer a Brahmachari.

Yet another Story of Narada was about his womanhood! Lord Vishnu and Narada were exchanging views about the impact of Maya and indirectly mentioned that he saved himself from it excepting that he was cursed by Brahma and Daksha and had problems. Vishnu asked for his vehicle Garuda and  suggested to Narada to go for a drive across the sky. He stopped Garuda at the City of Kannouj and desired that he and Narada could refresh bathing in a Lake. Narada kept his clothes, Kamandalu,  and Veena on the banks of the Lake and dipped first in the water. The moment he dipped and came out, Narada turned into a charming and youthful maiden not knowing his memory and identity. Vishnu quietly slipped out along with Narada’s personal belongings and disappeared. Meanwhile, King of Kannauj arrived at the Lake for a swim and was overwhelmed with the outstanding beauty of the woman (Narada) and asked her antecedents; she did not know but the took her to his Capital and married her as per Vedic tradition and named her Sowbhagya Sundari. The King declared her as the Principal Queen and their marital life was a total success and gave birth to twelve sons. But as there was a terrible war all the sons were killed and the Queen and King reached a lake to observe the obsequies of the sons and the Queen too had a dip in the Sarovara and she emerged from the water as Narada! Such was the power of Maha Maya that Vishnu taught to Narada who learnt its impact the hard way!  The Basic Laws prescribed by Maha Maya Bhagavati as enforced by  the Trinity and their deputies and the actions are as per the mix of their Actions are performed as per their Gunas in various  proportions as per their ‘Prarabdha’ or fate ! That was the lesson for Narada! 

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