Friday, November 23, 2007

Balarama’s Pilgrimage (Part 2)

Trita’s well

Balarama’s pilgrimage took him next to a holy well along the banks of the river Saraswati. VaiSampaayana narrated the story behind the place as requested by Janamejaya. These stories are worth reading as they tell us a great deal about the rich cultural traditions of the land.

Sage Trita

Sage Goutama was a seer of Rigvedic period. He had three sons (besides others). They were called Ekata, Dwita and Trita. All the three had performed long years of hard penance and thus attained great fame. Sage Goutama, highly pleased with their achievements, went to heaven in due course.

The kings who used to worship sage Goutama for his austerities now turned to his noble sons for guidance. Trita was the best among the three, both in his Vedic knowledge and in its application to rituals.

The Brahmins, generally, remained poor without any worldly possessions. They made a living through the rewards they received for performing various rituals. One day the three brothers decided to perform a Yajna ritual. They approached kings and other rich people who used to patronize sage Gautama . A great ceremony was held at the end of which the three received generous gifts of cattle and other wealth.

Trita and his two brothers were on their way back after the successful completion of the ceremony. They had to pass through a dense forest on their way home. In the midst of the thick forest a wolf chased them. Trita ran for his life and fell down in a deep well. Both Ekta and Dwita were lucky to escape. Trita cried out loudly for help. His brothers heard him. But, they thought. “Let Trita look after himself. Without him, we can enjoy his share of the gifts. If he escapes, he is capable of earning gifts like with his knowledge of Vedas.

A Yajna from the bottom of well

Meanwhile, Trita was left to his fate in the deep well. Only the gods would help him. The sage wanted to pray in his special way, performing a Yajna. But, he was in the bottom of a well. The Yajna needed the special “soma” creeper. The juice extracted from it, considered to be a divine wine, was the essential offering to the gods. He also needed ghee to be offered into fire .What to do?

Trita thought of a plan. He found a wild creeper hanging down into the well. He imagined that to be “soma”. He crushed the creeper on the boulders in the well and extracted “soma”. The water in the well was his special ghee. He created fire in his imagination. Then, he started chanting the relevant Vedic texts and performing his imaginary Yajna. Only his extreme devotion was real.

The gods appear

Such Yajnas have the share of the offerings earmarked for the important gods. The gods appear personally and receive them. That is the custom and that determines the success of the Yajna. If correctly done, the gods get the message by the ripple it creates in heaven. If the gods delay, both heaven and earth are heated by the mantras chanted at the Yajna. The participants consume what is left over of the “soma” and earn enough merit to go to heaven.

Soon, the gods in heaven sensed Trita’s Yajna. They said. “Trita is performing his Yajna in his special way. We better go and partake of our share of the offerings. Else, he may even create new gods to replace us and make the offerings to them. He is so powerful.

So, the gods came down and accepted the “soma”. They said. “We are very pleased with your Yajna. What boons can we offer you?”

Trita said. “First, I want to get out of this well first. Then, let the water of this well turn sacred. Those who drink this water should get the same effect as drinking the “soma”.

The gods blessed him accordingly. Suddenly, river Saraswati gushed from underneath the well and carried the sage up the well in the thrust of its current. The sage looked around. His brothers had disappeared with the gifts. So, he uttered a curse on his brothers. “You have been greedy like a wolf. May you two and your children turn into wolves”.

It is said that the curse of the sage took immediate effect. The progeny of the two sages has been roaming the surface of earth as wolves from that day.

The water of the well turned sacred. Pilgrims have been visiting the well and drinking its water ever since. Balarama drank the well water and offered various gifts to Brahmins and to the poor. He, then, proceeded ahead with his entourage.

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