Stories for Young and Old - as told by Dr. Svami Purna

stories will be added and changed periodically - the only 'permanent' one will be :  Savitri and the Banyan Tree



Narada's Desire

Times change – and so do cultures and customs. In the days of ancient India there was one event which brought excitement and expectationto the young men of the land – the announcement of a svayamvara, a groom-choosing ceremony.  A girl of marriageable age and often noble birth was about to select the man of her choice to become her husband.  Passing along the line of suitors, she would hang a garland around the neck of her chosen one.

There was Narada, close disciple and friend of Lord Vishnu.  Narada had become quite smitten with the charms of a young and very beautiful princess.  He had convinced himself that his only chance of happiness and fulfillment lay in marriage to this girl.  He wanted to do all he could to assure himself that she would chose him at her forthcoming svayamvara and so he appealed to Vishnu for help.  Knowing that Vishnu could make anything possible, he pleaded: “You are so very handsome, Lord; in fact you are truly beautiful.  I am not handsome like you … so could you lend me your appearance just for a few hours?  After that I am sure to be married to this girl of my dreams.  Then you can take it back and everyone will be happy.”

Narada was behaving like so many do when they appeal to the Almighty for whatever they think they need, adding “ …in whatever way possible, but hurry up, don’t delay!”  Rather than asking for divine guidance, he stated his request in ‘precise instructions’.

Vishnu knew that Narada had a wonderful and divine destiny to fulfill and that this girl had no place in his life; she would only bring him misery.  With this in mind, Vishnu said to his disciple. “Narada, don’t worry.  In whatever way I can, not only good, but the very best I will do for you.  I will take care of you, don’t worry.”

Narada was ecstatic.  He was sure the girl would choose him; they would get married and live happily ever after.  Confidently he went to the svayamvara and posed himself where the object of his affections was sure to see him in all his newly found glory.  He had no doubt that he was now by far the most handsome young man present and could not be denied.  At this moment the girl came along … and passed without as much as a glance in his direction.  Narada thought that surely she had not seen him.  He hurried to take a new position where she could not possibly fail to see his handsome countenance.  Again the young woman strode past as if he did not exist. Narada was perplexed. 

Meanwhile two guards of Vishnu’s were standing nearby who had witnessed the whole drama. When they saw Narada’s consternation, they approached him with a large mirror and held it before his face.  In shock and dismay Narada looked at his reflection and saw … a MONKEY’S FACE!  He reeled in confusion which quickly turned into intense anger.  Others were laughing and enjoying the humor of the situation, which Narada perceived as a cruel joke at his expense.  And he was furious.

At this point he turned on the two guards holding the mirror and cursed them, condemning them to a future life as demons.  Then he sought out Vishnu, and venting his anger he shouted:  “I curse you that you will be made to suffer in the love of a woman as I have done,” and fled from the presence of his master.  Later, when his anger began to subside, Narada’s sanity returned.  He knew that Vishnu would never betray him.  Emotionally spent, Narada returned to Vishnu to apologize.  “What I blunder I have done, Lord, that I cursed and doubted you. Please forgive me.”  Vishnu answered: “There is nothing to forgive.  In a way you have done a good thing for mankind.  Because of your ‘curse’ I am compelled to incarnate among humans.  So, it is alright.”

It is said that this incident led to Vishnu’s taking human form as Rama, King of Ayodhya and epitome of virtues, who was to become an example of perfect conduct in all situations and relationships of life.  Rama married Sita, the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila.  Sita was abducted by the demon King Ravana (formerly one of Vishnu’s guards, cursed by Narada) and Rama had to engage in a long and arduous battle to regain his wife … But that is another story, beautifully retold in the Ramayana, one of the two largest and most profound Indian epics.

It may be of interest that in the area once known as Mithila, in northeast India, the old custom of women proposing marriage to men has been kept alive to this very day.   


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