Growing up on a steady diet of ‘Amar Chithra Katha’ and ‘Chandamama’, I was always intrigued by the character of Narada, his buttery eloquence, his perpetual nosing into others affairs, his insatiable curiosity,his gossip mongering, his devotion to Lord Vishnu and his ability to travel to all the three worlds at the speed of ‘mano vega’ ,’the speed of thought’.
The agony laced anticipation of his hosts who could never turn him away, considering his scholarly achievements and his closeness to the higher ups- the trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma and their unhappy hosting of narada is fun to read about.
Narada, however desrves some credit for being the first journalist ever ‘yours truly, reporting from all the three worlds viz The Swarga Loka, the heavens, The Earth and the Patala Loka or the nether world’. He is also an expert in communication and management and has with his timely intervention and sage counsel benefited many.
Here’s a story of Narada advising the king Barvis, an adaptation from Cherkil Govindankutty Nair’s Kuttikalude Shreemad Bhagavatham.
Once upon a time there was a king by name Puranjan who had a friend, who neither had any name nor any identity. The king did not bother about this friend as he was in search of a better life and managed to reach a city. Amidst the city, he saw a beautiful palace and in the garden of that beautiful palace was a beautiful woman who welcomed the king endearingly. Intoxicated by her beauty, the king inquired who she was. The woman said that she did not know who she was but was waiting for a true lover and has found the same in the king. The king was elated and he led a happy life in the palace with his wife now called Puranjani.The beautiful palace in which they lived had 9 doors, 2 below and 7 above. The palace was guarded by a fierce five-hooded serpent called Prajagaran.
Puranjan got what he wanted but in the process of seeking pleasures he was enslaved by them and lost what was dear to him, his identity, his personality, he was a mere slave to his wife.The couple led a blissful life and often went out for trips and tours on their chariot which had 5 horses(representing the 5 senses), thus making their lives more pleasurable.
Once when the king returned home after hunting in the wild, he was shocked to see his palace enveloped in a pall of gloom. He asked for his wife and was told that she has retired to the anger room where she was lying on the floor with her hair astray and devoid of any ornaments.
The worried king rushed to his wife,embraced her, consoled her and promised never to leave her alone. The couple lived for 100 years and had 1100 sons and 110 daughters who were married off at an appropriate time.
While living in such prosperity, their palace was attacked by a Gandharva called Chandavegan. Though the five-hooded serpent,Prajagaran tried his best, a lady called Kala Kanyaka along with her siblings burnt the entire city of Puranjan to ashes. Puranjan died craving for his wife. Even when he was dying he could not think of his friend,the one who had no name or identity.
In his next birth Puranjan was born as a princess, Vaidharbi. Vaidharbi grew up to be married to a man of values and morals called Malayadwajan. They had 2 children and having completed the duties of grihasthashrama the couple decided to retire to a forest for a more peaceful life. Malayadwajan, however did not live long and upon his death, consumed by sorrow, the lady, Vaidharbhi too wanted to kill herself. When she was about to jump into the funeral pyre, a brahmana, stopped her crying,’ Hey, remember you are neither man nor woman. In your last birth you never remembered me but in this birth you have lived an austere life and hence you can join me in heaven.’
Narada further explained the characters of this strange story. Puranjan is nothing but ‘life’, his friend being the ‘supreme power or almighty’. The serpent guarding the life is ‘prana’ or ‘life breath’. The palace with nine doors is the human body and the lady Puranjani is ‘intelligence’. In the pursuit of pleasures the true friend who has neither , name nor identity, ‘the supreme power’ was forgotten. The gandharva called ‘Chandavegan’ is time and his friends are the days. The attack of the gandharva represents old age. The lady called ‘kala kanyaka’ stans for the ills of old age. Her siblings are the fears and diseases associated with it. When time and old age attacks, the body guarded by serpent of prana crumbles and puranjan i.e life ends. Puranjan is able to meet the lotus feet of god only when he pursues the path of dharma in his next birth as Vaidharbi.
Impressed by Narada’s sage counsel, the king Barvis puts an end to his futile search for glory through the many sacrifices and decides to go the forest for penance.
Thus ends the rather long story as told by Sage Narada, the naughty, some times wise and some times cunning sage.