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Vishnu Establishes the Law

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:24 PM
Bhoopati: Vishnu-Varaha, the guardian of the earth-goddess Bhoodevi

Varaha Saves Bhoodevi 

The earth-goddess Bhoodevi floated on the sea, warmed by the sun, cooled by the rain. She always looked towards the sky, her back to the demons, and smiled at the gods. Feeling slighted, Hiranyaksha, lord of the netherworld, dragged her down to his infernal kingdom under the sea and sought to make her his queen. To rescue her, Vishnu turned into Varaha, a gigantic boar. Tail raised, hairs erect, he plunged into the sea and ripped through the waters until he reached the ocean floor where he found the earth-goddess in the clutches of the demon-king. Varaha gored Hiranyaksha to death. Then with a triumphant snort, he placed Bhoodevi on his mighty tusks and carried her back to the surface of the sea. Bhoodevi accepted Vishnu as her consort: trees and plants were their children. Vishnu became the guardian of earth.

Vena's Ingratitude Man and woman found food, clothing and shelter in the bountiful arms of Bhoodevi and expressed their gratitude through rituals, yagnas, vratas and pujas. But many saw no point in thanking the earth. "The earth is man's servant," said Vena under whose leadership mankind abandoned all rituals and began wrenching out the wealth of the earth-goddess

Death of Vena

Varaha: Vishnu as the mighty boar raising the earth-goddess Bhoodevi from the ocean floorWise men decried this ingratitude. They begged Vena and his followers to change their ways. "Beware the wrath of Vishnu," said the sages. "What Vishnu? Who is he? Where is he? There is no Vishnu, there is no god. There is only man who worships himself with offerings of pleasure," said Vena. Unable to tolerate Vena's callousness, the sages rose in revolt. They cursed and killed Vena.

Bhoodevi's Wrath

Despite Vena's death, the exploitation of earth continued.

Disgusted by the impudence of man and his insatiable greed Bhoodevi withheld her bounty: seeds did not sprout, plants did not grow, trees bore no flower or fruit. The earth became barren.

With no offerings or sacrifices, even the gods and the demons faced starvation. There was misery in the three worlds.

Purification of Vena's Body

Without food, there was despair and anarchy.

 A leader was needed, someone who would make peace with Bhoodevi and restore order.

Everyone wondered where such a man could be found. "In Vena himself," informed the sapta-rishis, the seven celestial seers.

The seers procured Vena's lifeless body and began rubbing its thigh vigorously till Vena's corrupt nature emerged from within in the form of a fierce demonic being that was driven into the darkness.

From the purified corpse the seers hoped to create the perfect king.

Birth of Prithu

Sages draw Prithu out of Vena's corpse
From the arms of Vena's dead body, the sapta-rishis drew out a strong and handsome youth called Prithu. Celestial spirits, gods, demons, birds and beasts gathered around to witness this unique birth. In Prithu, they saw the spirit of Vishnu. The celestial bow Sharanga fell from the heavens into Prithu's hand as soon as he was born, investing him with universal dominion.

Prithu Chases Bhoodevi

Prithu, the first consecrated king of mankind, found his subjects hungry and miserable.

Moved by their plight, Prithu begged Bhoodevi to have pity on them and give them food. She refused. Prithu threatened the earth-goddess with dire consequences if she did not release her wealth.

Bhoodevi did not give in. Instead, taking the form of a cow, she ran away.

Enraged by her defiance, Prithu mounted his chariot and followed Bhoodevi, pursuing her to the four corners of the world, determined to subjugate her.

Cowherd of the Cosmic Cow

Varaha fighting Hiranyaksha 
Prithu raised his celestial bow to shoot a deadly missile at the stubborn earth-cow.

"I am the cosmic cow; my udders nourish life. If you kill me, you will destroy everything that exists," said Bhoodevi.
"I do not wish to kill you," explained Prithu. "I only want you to feed mankind."

"Why should I feed those who abuse me?"

"No one will abuse you ever again. I will make sure everyone treats you with respect," promised Prithu. "I will be your guardian, your cowherd, Gopala."

Milking of the Earth

Prithu taught mankind agriculture, cattle rearing, mining and trade. He instituted the principle of prudent economics, artha, that supports human society without harming Nature.

Under Prithu's watchful eye, the wealth of the earth was milked wisely by man, gods, demons, sages, nagas, gandharvas, yakshas and every other celestial spirit.

In the earth-cow, mankind found sustenance, artists found inspiration, scholars found wisdom, priests found sacred chants, mystics found insights. The devas procured energising potions, the asuras obtained intoxicating drinks. Gandharvas found music, apsaras found beauty, vidyadharas found magic. Cattle got grass snakes got venom bees got honey.

Bhoodevi satisfied everyone's needs. She was worshipped and adored by all as Prithvi: the beloved of Prithu.

Bhoodevi's Fear

Prithu chasing the earth-cowThe three worlds thanked Vishnu for making peace with Bhoodevi.

But there was fear in the heart of the earth-goddess. "What if there is another Vena in the future?" she asked the lord.

"Fear not," said Vishnu. "I will institute dharma: laws that will guarantee your well being. Whenever these laws are broken I will descend upon earth to punish the transgressor."

Bull of Dharma

 From Vishnu's chest rose a bull. "Behold, the bull of dharma. Love, truth, discipline and compassion are its four limbs. So long as it stands upright, the world will survive," said the lord.

Brahma revealed, "Every time this bull of dharma loses a leg, an age will come to an end. The first age to come to an end will be the age of perfection, Krita-yuga. After this will come Treta and Dvapara yugas, periods of increasing corruption. Finally, when the bull stands on only one foot it will be the age of Kali, the age of materialism and spiritual blindness, at the end of which the floods of doom will engulf the earth."

Birth of Mandhata

In Krita-yuga, Vishnu descended upon earth as Mandhata, to teach mankind the ways of dharma.

Yuvanashva, king of the world, had many wives but no children. So the sages of earth gave him a pot of holy water, potent enough to give anyone a child. "Keep the pot under your bed for one night; at dawn let your favourite queen drink the water," said the sages.

The king kept the pot of water under his bed as he was told. But in the middle of the night, he woke up feeling thirsty and accidentally drank the sacred water.

As a result he became pregnant.

Nine months later, Yuvanashva experienced the pangs of labour. The gods descended from the heavens to deliver the child. They cut open the king's side and pulled it out.

"How will I, a man, nurse this child?" wondered Yuvanashva.

"I will feed it," said Indra, king of the gods, placing his divine finger that oozed milk in the child's mouth.

This child, born of a man, nursed by a god, was Mandhata — the best of kings.

Duties of Man

The Bull of DharmaMandhata defined the duties of every member of society based on dharma: brahmanas looked after the spiritual and intellectual needs of society; kshatriyas took care of its defence and administration; vaishyas ensured its material welfare; shudras through service and skill, supported its very foundations. No group, varna, dominated the world.

Said Mandhata, "Without dharma, etonomics and politics is corrupt, pleasure is vulgar, and the quest for salvation, escapism."

During Mandhata's reign every man performed his duty. Mankind respected the laws of society and the cycles of Nature to live in harmony with the world around.

It was a golden age.

Mandhata's Penance

Mandhata's virtue inspired the people of earth to lead virtuous lives filled with love, truth, discipline and compassion. Man's virtue pleased the gods who sprinkled rain and made the earth fertile.

One year the rains did not come. Indra, lord of the celestial realm, told Mandhata, "Someone in your land is not respecting dharma. I will let the rains fall only if you kill the culprit."

Gopala: keeper of the cosmic-cowMandhata refused to kill anyone. He said, "If one of my subjects is breaking the sacred law, it means that I, as king, have failed in my duty."

Mandhata punished himself: he fasted, walked on fire, slept on ice. Watching Mandhata suffer for their sake, those who had broken the sacred laws mended their ways.

Indra let the rains fall on earth.

Stages of Life

Having completed his duties as king and householder, Mandhata decided to renounce the world. "As part of samsara, I have fulfilled all my obligations. I have made good use of wealth and power and have enjoyed all the pleasures of life. Now, it is time to go beyond these material things. I seek moksha."

"Why now?" asked his people.

"In the first part of my life, as a bra hmachari, I prepared myself to live in this world; then I became a grihast hi, a householder and a responsible member of society. Now it is time to become a vanaprasthi, a forest-dweller, renounce the world to make way for the next generation. Only then can I become a sanyasi, free to liberate the spirit from the confines of the body, the limitations of the mind and the domination of the ego."

After crowning a worthy successor, Mandhata abandoned all contact with human society and returned whence he had come — to the heart of Vishnu.

Writer –Devdutt Pattanaik

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