Happenings on Paarai Medu
June 3, 2010 1 Comment
This is the third and the last (for now) Krishna story for children, purely fictional.
Part 1: One day, in Gokul…
The sun had taken leave for the day and darkness had not set in yet. Krishna and his Saka’s were returning from the fields, the cattle following them contently. Even the jingle of the bells around their necks was muted.
‘Krishna, it’s the same thing every day – take the cattle to the hills in the morning, let them loose, play, rest for a while, play again, herd them together and return before dark.’ said a saka.
‘Subala, nothing, not even a rock, is the same from one moment to the next!’
‘Sometimes, you talk in riddles as if you know it all.’
Visala, another saka, spoke up: ‘I know what you are saying, Subala. We usually go to the hills on the east. Tomorrow, let us go to that paarai medu (a mound of rocks) to the west. Is that alright, Krishna? We’ve never been there even once.’
Krishna had an amused look on his face: ‘Why not, Visala? It’s time.’
Subala interjected: ‘There you go again. It’s time for what?’
Krishna deflected it with ‘Never mind, we’ll go there tomorrow.’
’Visala, I hope there’re no wild animals out there,’ inquired a nervous Subala.
Visala laughed out: ‘None that I’ve heard of, us excluded. No lurking demons there. No dangers. Lots of guava tress with delicious fruits. And, of course, stacks of big rocks. Full of places to play hide and seek behind those boulders, I guess. It’ll be fun.’
Subala thought he saw a twinkle in Krishna’s eyes when the latter concurred, ‘Yes, sure, it’s going to be fun!’
Part 2: The following day…
They had reached paarai medu. At the foot of the medu, there were a couple of huge banyan trees providing ample shade for the boys and the animals to rest and more. The boys had fun, shrieking and swinging from the dropping roots of the banyans. From the foot, the ground sloped up gently, covered with lush grass, interspersed with guava trees. The cattle lazed around feeding on the grass, occasionally breaking out to rub their backs against the tree trunks or to go down to the shade of the banyan tree or to the thin gurgling stream of water that flowed down out of nowhere to quench their thirst. The boys plucked ripe guavas with their long hook-ended sticks. There were other juicy wild-berries also to be had.
A couple of hours passed by before they were inevitably drawn to the outcrop of the big boulders, spread out – some precariously balanced – in the large middle of the mound. On a cloudy day, the rocks had not heated up under the sun. The nooks and niches and crannies and crevices provided excellent play-ground for hours of foxy hide and seek. When they had enough of it, there were narrow pathways between the boulders to explore deeper into the formation. Wild bushes filled up the intervening ground, sheltering furry squirrels. Occasionally a plump rabbit was sighted scurrying across from one patch to another.
All of a sudden a loud call-out rose up above the babble: ‘Come here, Come here. See this. It’s wonderful, beautiful!’ The boys stopped in their stride and looked around for the source of the ecstatic invitation. The enraptured voice continued to guide the eager boys through the interstices. When the boys reached the spot, they found themselves in an enchantingly beautiful garden of lotus ponds, blooming roses and fragrant jasmine. The tree branches bowed with the weight of fruits. Koels let out mellifluous musical notes. Peacocks flared out their iridescent plumage. An out-of-the-world sight!
As they stood spell-bound taking in what was laid out before them, a sudden tremor shook them out of their awe. Before they realized what hit them, the tremor had ceased as suddenly as it had occurred. It was like a shrug of some malevolent giant. As they gathered their wits about them, a boy at the back cried out: ’We’re trapped. The way-out is blocked.’ Only then they noticed that a boulder had slipped down blocking their only exit – the path that had served as their entry as well. The garden was hemmed in on all sides by huge boulders save the path of entry which too was barred now.
Visala reassured: ‘Nothing to worry. We’ll make one stand on another’s shoulders like we get to the handi’s back home and reach over the top.’
The ‘logical’ Mitra was quick to prick the balloon: ‘These are too big to to climb over. There are not enough of us to put together a gopuram formation.’
Not to be put down so easily, Visala came up with: ‘See those vines, they’re tough. We can use them like ropes and climb up.’
Subala: ‘Dear Visala, what would you tie the rope to, at the top? How would it hold up for us to climb?’
The idea-a-minute Visala was stymied.
‘I want to go home,’ cried a small boy.
Some tried pushing out the boulder only to retreat with: ‘We can’t even nudge these – they’re massive.’
Finally, they collected around Krishna and chorused: ‘Krishna, what will we do now? We’re boxed in here. Do something to get us out.’
Krishna: ‘If you can’t find a way, how can I? I’m smaller than most of you!’
‘You’ve always got us out of trouble. If anyone can do it, it is you, Krishna.’
‘Mm…mm, let me think…OK, I got it. We all should…’
‘Tell us, Krishna, what would you like us to do?’
‘Well, let us pray…pray to the King of Mountains, the Himalaya, the abode of Gods. I’m sure he would help us get out of this jam.’
‘He would? He’s so far up north. He would hear our prayers? We know lots of stories about him.’
‘Surely, if we pray with our heart and soul. He’ll give us the strength. Now let us sit down here in this patch of grass, close our eyes, fold our hands and pray to him silently. You would know when to open your eyes.’
So, they all sat down and prayed.
Part 3: Centuries before Krishna was born…
The hunting party of King Bhoopal, chasing a deer herd in the deep forest, came upon the Sage Sowmithra’s ashram. The King dismounted and walked in with a swagger that was unbecoming in the precincts of an ashram. The hugely built Sage was sitting in a lotus posture under a tree in deep meditation unmindful of the King’s presence. The King inquired if those deer came from the Sage’s ashram. He should send some to the palace kitchen from time to time. When the Sage was silent, the arrogant King taunted him on what were the deer fed on that they were so plump. The Sage was still undisturbed. The irritated King poked at the Sage’s tuft of hair tied on the top of his head with the point of his sword and asked if the Sage also lived off the deer meat that he looked massive like a hill.
The disturbed Sage opened his eyes and saw the King teasing him with the sword in his hand. His calm eyes slowly turned bloodshot and emitted blistering heat that the sword fell from the King’s hand. The Sage looked at him and uttered a curse: ‘You fool, go away before you’re burnt into ashes. You provoked a rishi who had not offended you in any way, quite unlike a king and more like an asura. For that folly, you’ll turn into a hill to be trodden over and humbled under the hooves of grazing cattle and the feet of cowherds. And as a hill, your proclivity to hurt and harm others would be severely curtailed. ’
Only then the gravity of the situation struck the King. He fell at the feet of the Sage and pleaded for mercy. The Sage expressed his inability to revoke a curse already spelt out and his act deserved the punishment. Thereupon the King inquired how and when would he be redeemed from the curse. The Sage said: ‘Hey, King Bhoopal, you will have to wait patiently outside Gokul until Giridhara is born; you’ll receive your redemption at his feet. And try to be good to people if you can while you’re there. Now you may go and spend just this day with your people – you’ll be gone before the sunrise tomorrow.’
Part 4: Back at the paarai medu
Shilasura was mighty pleased with himself on accomplishing the difficult task for his friend Kamsa. It was a heaven-sent (hell-sent?) opportunity that had presented itself. All it needed was a little shrug that rolled a boulder into blocking the exit and trapping Krishna. No shouts or screams would carry to the outside. No one would ever know the whereabouts of the boys. They would simply perish inside the enchanted garden.
The asura’s brief spell of self-congratulation was interrupted by the sound of melodious notes played on a flute. When he looked in the direction of the sound, he was at once disturbed and nonplussed at what he saw – Krishna was on the free side, backing on the blocking boulder and relaxedly playing on his flute. How did this boy climb over from entrapment? There were no tell-tale signs explaining the same. But then there was no time to be wasted on investigation. It called for some quick thinking and quicker response.
So, in a wink, there was another tremor that shook the medu and everything standing on it. Among other things, the blocking boulder, shaken loose, began listing on top of Krishna to crush him. It was an amazing sight even for the Gods in their Heavens to see the little lad, in a display of Himalayan strength, arrest the fall of the boulder with the mere flute sticking out from his outstretched hands above the head. The partially listed boulder seemed to weigh on him like a bale of cotton. He then gingerly withdrew himself to safety from under the boulder allowing it to fall freely to the ground with a great thud. There upon he bent his leg back at the knee and administered a powerful kick, in the manner of a giant killer, to the boulder that lay like a mammoth elephant dead. Wondrously the boulder cracked up and crumbled as if it was pounded and pulverized by a giant hammer unseen, to a huge heap of fine gravel and was blown away by a sudden gust of wind. In its place now stood King Bhoopal redeemed from the curse of the Sage Sowmithra. He bowed before Krishna and prayed for his mercy and blessings before ascending to the Heavens.
All this commotion brought the boys out of their trance. They were delighted to see their exit cleared of impediments and a smiling Krishna calling them out. From down the slope the menacing boulders now looked benignly awe-inspiring. With enough excitement to fill many days, they did not wait until sunset to return home with their cattle.