I would like to start with a disclaimer akin to the one which appears before any movies starts. I did not start the blog as a religious or mythological exercise. Having said so, there are times when you travel, the history of the place or a quirky story attached to it, adds a special flavor to the monument you are visiting. Rather than looking at it through the eyes of a “been there, done that” traveler, adding a dash of mythology, I feel, increases the aura of the place!
So the story goes…..
There was a terrible demon called Banasura who was troubling everyone on Earth. He performed intense penance and asked for immortality from Brahma. When Brahma expressed his inability to grant such a boon, he instead asked Banasura to choose a manner of his death. Banasura wished that if he had to die, he would do so only at the hands of a virgin.
With a sense of over confidence regarding his own immortality, he started harassing the people even worse than before. Unable to bear the pain, people appealed to Lord Vishnu to help them. On the God’s command, they performed a yagna so powerful that the Goddess Parashakti agreed to come down to the earth as Punyakshi to annihilate the demon.
Punyakshi was a woman of extraordinary intelligence and capabilities. She lived in the Southern parts of India long long ago. She had such immense power of perception that she was considered as an oracle by the society. Akin to how Mirabai worshiped Krishna, Punyakshi developed a deep love for Lord Shiva and resolved to marry him and none other.
While meditating in Mount Kailash, the Lord came to know of her devotion and was moved. He started his journey down south to meet this courageous young woman and marry her. When the news of this reached the people around, they were worried because they would lose their mentor and guide when she went back with Shiva. The devas and Narada were scared that if the wedding would take place, then there would be no one to kill Banasura. Hence, they tried hard to dissuade Shiva from reaching Punyakshi. But Shiva and Punyakshi were determined.
So, the Chieftain of the village, asked for an impossible kind of bride price- a sugarcane stick without the rings, a betel leaf without veins and a coconut without eyes. As nothing was impossible for Shiva, he could materialize all the three without a bat of an eyelid.
Becoming even more desperate, Narada plotted. He scheduled the marriage to happen before sunrise, citing that if the cock crows, then the time would be inauspicious for their union. Punyakshi, secure in the belief that Shiva would definitely reach her, prepared for the wedding with happiness and anticipation. But the elders of the village, egged by Narada, conspired against them and lit a hill of camphor on fire. The blaze was so bright that the village rooster confused it to be daybreak and crowed ahead of time.
Punyakshi got so upset that Shiva had failed her,that she left the place and went to the southernmost part of the land and stood there heartbroken and crying. She is now called the Goddess Kanyakumari, who waits eternally in the place, which bears her name. Learning this, Banasura tried proposing marriage to her. When she refused, he tried to force her hand resulting in a fierce battle, which ultimately killed Banasura. Peace prevailed on Earth.
Meanwhile, Shiva, who was equally upset about his failure, drove himself into a state of despair. He climbed the Vellaingiri mountains and meditated for a long length of time before retreating back to Mount Kailash.
These mountains are now aptly called “South Kailash”.
Sometimes, it is difficult to ascertain where fact ends and fiction begins. There are so many such stories in our mythology which tread the delicate balance, and add to the mystery. Many are convinced that at the heart of a mythological story is an event that occurred very very long ago. Hence, in Hindu mythology, these texts are called “Itihasas”, or history.
For me, knowing a story and visiting the place have a special charm of its own. Just imagining a land hundreds if not thousand years ago, where Gods and supposedly immortal creatures existed gives me goose bumps.
Visiting the Vellaingiri mountains was one such feeling. Compounded by the magnificent, awe inspiring and majestic bust of Shiva (or Adi yogi, as he is called there), right in the middle of a circular mountain range, green, lush and covered with clouds.
Just before daybreak, when you see the thick grey clouds, heavy with rain, passing silently behind the huge bust of Shiva, sway involuntarily to the rhythmic chants emerging from a small temple close by, hear the howling wind and feel the light drizzle of rain on your face when you look up at the statue, the feeling is surreal.
This is one of those moments where time seems to stand still and you feel one with nature and its elements. Fact or fiction, travel surely gives you such near perfect moments to enjoy!
Have you ever had an experience like this??