Of ashes and lives…

On the banks of the river Yamunā, lies a place named Brahmasthala (the abode of Brahmins). There lived a Brahmin named Agnisvāmin (the lord of Agni), and he had spent his whole life mastering the Vedas. He had a beautiful daughter named Mandāravatī. They say that when she was born, Brahma himself felt that the apsaras in swarga were nothing in front of his new creation.

She grew up into an even more beautiful lady, and thee young Brahmins came all the way from Kānyakubja, in order to ask her hand in marriage. Now, the three appeared equal in all aspects – physical, mental and spiritual, and also in accomplishments.

They each met Agnisvāmin separately, and each wanted to marry her, and also said that they would rather sacrifice their lives, than to see her married to any of the other two.

This presented a conundrum to the father, who then decided to keep her unmarried rather than marrying her off and being the cause of the death of the other two. And so Mandāravatī remained unmarried, and the three Brahmins remained in Brahmasthala, their eyes transfixed on her moon-like radiance, much like the Chakora bird, that lives it’s life merely to look at the moon..

In an unfortunate turn of events, Mandāravatī suddenly contracted a high fever, and it did not subside for two days.

The vaidyas (doctors) tried to save her, but were unsuccessful, She died on the third day.

The three young Brahmins, grief-stricken, carried her body to the cremation ground on the banks of the Ganga, and cremated her on the same day. They were unable to overcome their grief, and so the first of them built a hut right there, and made her ashes as his bed. He spent his days begging for alms. The second took her asthi (remains) and started on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas. The third became a sanyasi, and started to travel all through Bharatvarshā.

During his travels, he reached a village named Vajraloka. He was invited into the house of a Brahmin, who received him with all due honors and served him water. They were just preparing to sit down to eat, when a child began to cry in the adjoining room. It cried and cried, and would not stop in spite of all the efforts of the lady of the house to calm it down.

Infuriated, she took the child in her arms and threw it into the fire!

The child was reduced to ashes in a few moments. The young Brahmin, horrified at this unexpected turn of events, exclaimed “This is not the behavior of humans, but of rākshasas! Forget about eating a morsel, I will not stay here for another minute, for even breathing the air here will be a sin!”

The Brahmin host stopped him, and said “O young sanyasi, wait! I have mastered the art of Mritasanjeevini – bringing the dead back to life. Witness the power of my mantras, the results of which are visible immediately!”

He then took a book from the shelf, opened it and recited a few mantras from it, and then sprinkled some holy water from the Ganga on the ashes…and miraculously – the child rose from those ashes – alive and well!

The young Brahmin visitor was then calmed down and made to have some food and water. They all then retired for the night.

When the hosts were fast asleep, the young Brahmin woke up, took the book from the shelf, and slowly sneaked out of the house. He was determined to restore his loved one to life, and so traveled days and nights without stopping, and finally reached the cremation ground where Mandāravatī had been cremated.

The same time, the second Brahmin arrived there as well. He had gone on the pilgrimage to the upper areas of the Ganga, and the Himalayas. The third Brahmin was already present, in his hut that he had built over her ashes.

The one with the book said “Let’s remove this hut first, so that I can raise Mandāravatī from the ashes with the power of the secret mantras in this book…”

The three did so, and the young Brahmin sat beside her ashes and started chanting the mantras. He then took some Gangajal (holy water) and sprinkled it on those ashes, and lo and behold! There stood Mandāravatī, resplendent as the day when they had first seen her. It seemed that she was even more beautiful than before, her body shining like gold, having passed her trial through fire.

When the three saw her thus, their passions were rekindled, and each wanted her for himself.

The first said ” She is mine, for she was resurrected to life, by the powers of my mantras.”

The second said “She is mine, for her coming ack to life is a result of the prayers that I offered at all the holy places that I carried her remains to…”

The third said “She is mine, because I preserved her ashes, and she was brought to life as a result of my dedicated tapasya.”

Now I have a question for you. Who should Mandāravatī take as her husband? Tell me, o wise king. Remember, if you know the answer, and don’t tell me the truth, your head will burst into a hundred pieces!

King Vikram replied…

Read the conclusion here!

To read more such stories, read the वेतालपञ्चविंशति (Vetāla Panchavimshati) at its dedicated page here. See you tomorrow!