Monday, March 5, 2007

Rsyasrunga – the rainmaker

Sage Lomasa told the story of Rsyasrunga to the Pandavas when they reached the hermitage of sage Kasyapa during their pilgrimage. Rsyasrunga was actually born to Kasyapa, but, brought up by sage Vibhandaka. Vibhandaka was very strict with his son and never let him out of the surroundings of the hermitage. He was made to spend all his time in meditation right from his young days. Because of this, Rsyasrunga had not met any one other than his father, let alone any from the fair sex.

No rain in king Lomapada’s land

The story unfolds with the great king of Anga by name Lomapada. The king, once, happened to offend some Brahmins who lived in the palace to perform the rituals. The whole community of Brahmins was enraged by the king’s behaviour and left the palace en bloc in protest. The king did not take them seriously at that time.

(But, nature has its own ways to punish the guilty and reward the worthy). Lord Indra was not too pleased with the king as he was not getting his fare share from the rituals (Yajnas). He showed his displeasure by holding back rain in the entire Anga land. Famine set in and the king was worried. He consulted his ministers. They told him. “Lord Indra must be placated as soon as possible. We must get a capable Brahmin to performe the Yajna rituals. There is none as competent as Rsyasrunga for the purpose. But, it will not be easy to get the young sage as his father would never let him out his hermitage”.

Rsyasrunga to make rains

The king heard various suggestions on getting the young Rsyasrunga to the palace. The young sage was innocent of the ways of the world. But, how was one to get him past the watchful eyes of his father, the formidable Vibhandaka? The king offered rich rewards for those who accomplished the task. Many were tempted to try, but, did not dare to provoke the old sage, Vibhandaka.

There was an old courtesan in the palace who was willing to try. There was a stream that flowed through the Anga territory and passed by the hermitage of Vibhandaka. The old courtesan set forth to the forest in a canoe with a team of her young apprentices and made a secret camp near the hermitage. Within a couple of days the young ladies took note of the movements of the elder sage. He, normally, completed his morning rituals and then went out in search of food and materials for the next day’s sacrificial rites.

A handsome guest at the hermitage

The very next day Rshyasrunga found a young ascetic coming in the direction of his hermitage. His father had just gone out. So, the young sage undertook the task of receiving the visitor. He had never met someone who attracted his eyes so much. The visitor must surely have reached very high levels of meditation to appear so radiant and captivating. “His” matted hair was extraordinarily long. Rshyasrunga enjoyed the very smell that filled the air wherever the visitor stood. The visitor wore scanty clothes of extra nice material and moved gracefully towards the hermitage. Rshyasrunga thought that the visitor would have years of meditation to achieve such unusual powers to attract his heart.

He addressed the visitor. “Who are you and where is your hermitage? There is something special about you. Tell me more bout you and your people.”

The visitor, the young courtesan, did not try to contradict the words of praise from the young sage. She only told her host about the strange ways of her lot. They did not greet one another by bowing or prostrating. They embraced the other person and even made contact with one another’s lips. She demonstrated her special way of greeting by hugging Rshyasrunga. She also planted a gentle kiss on the young Rishi’s (sage’s) mouth. Rshyasrunga felt happiness which he had never before experienced. He was drawn to the visitor in a way that he never felt before.
The young courtesan spent time singing and dancing before the sage. She made sure that Rshyasrunga was completely won over by her charms. Then, she took leave promising to return soon to take him to her ‘hermitage’.

Vibhandaka returns

When the elder sage returned he found his son in a totally different mood. He appeared lost in thoughts and had even forgotten to perform his daily chores. Rshyasrunga told his father about the special visitor and how he was impressed by ‘his’ looks and accomplishments. Vibhandaka felt that there was some evil force at play. It could be some devil dressed as a saint who came to distract his son’s penances. He warned his son not to receive any such unwelcome visitors in future.

The elder sage left next morning as usual for his normal duties. He did not forget to warn his son to be extra watchful.

The young courtesan came back to Rshyasrunga soon after that. She agreed to take Rshyasrunga to her ‘hermitage’ as promised. The very sight of the special visitor made Rshyasrunga forget the warning words of his father. The young courtesan lead her eager host to the waiting canoe in which her accomplices were waiting. They rowed the canoe fast to the palace of king Lomapada. It is said that the moment Rshyasrunga set foot on the land of Anga rain started pouring down. The king was very pleased. He received his young visitor with deep reverence and offered him all the hospitality that was due for such a high ranking ascetic. The king had already made elaborate arrangements for a grand Yajna. He requested the young sage to start the ritual at his earliest convenience.

The king knew that the old sage would come looking for his son. So, rest houses were set up all along the way with all arrangements for offering hospitality to the sage.

As expected, Vibhandaka was worried when he found his son missing. He meditated for a while and learnt from his sixth sense that his son had been taken away to the king of Anga. So, he immediately started for the palace of Lomapada in an angry mood.

But, he was pleased with the hospitality he received along the way. He learnt about king Lomapada and why the king wanted his son in the palace. He mentally pardoned the underhand ways of the king in drawing his son to the palace.

The sage, finally, reached the palace. He was greeted by his son and the king, himself. He was pleased to hear that his son brought the much needed rain to the land of Anga.
Lomapada made his ultimate move to appease the old sage. He brought his daughter, Santha to Vibhandaka and offered her as wife to young Rsyasrunga. Vibhandaka was very pleased with the gesture and found the young princess a suitable bride for his son.

The story ends with the successful completion of the Yajna ritual and the happy marriage of the princess with the young sage, Rsyasrunga.

We return to Arshajnanam briefly and get back here for more stories.