Nana! Nana! We are celebrating mythology month this March! Ain’t it fun?
It sure is. Today I have an even bigger surprise. I am going to pose a riddle for you from Bhagavata Purana. Are you up for it?
Bring it on, Nana!
There were two friends called Puranjara and Avignata who once went in search of a place to stay. Puranjara was a king in search of a kingdom. They found a kingdom with 9 entrances which seemed like a likely place to stay. Avignata stays outside and cautioned Puranjara to be careful. While Puranjara mulls over the place, an extraordinarily beautiful woman comes to receive him (with a snake on her head) and with ten people following her. Another snake follows the entire procession.
But, why the snakes?
Will you shut up and allow me to continue or will you keep interrupting?
Sorry Nana, got erm… carried away a bit.
Ok, ok. Now be quiet and have a listen,
Puranjara was smitten and immediately proposes to marry the woman. She accepts and when both are happily married, Avignata leaves the place with a cryptic message saying he will come back if Puranjara ever needs him. Puranjara and the woman lead a happy married life. In the midst of his familial happiness, Puranjara went hunting one day while she was sleeping. He climbs on a chariot with 5 horses and 2 wheels. A leader with his 10 men follow Puranjara for hunting. When his wife finds out, she is distressed. When Puranjara comes back, he promises her never to go hunting agan to avoid her displeasure.
As time passed, a new threat to Puranjara’s kingdom emerged. A Gandharva by the name of Chandavegan invades the kingdom with 360 men, half of whom are fair, while the other half are dark. Only one man called Prajagharan fights to defend the kingdom.
Puranjara and is wife finally die but are continuously born and reborn in the same place until Avignata one day comes back and leads them to a better place.
So, what do you make of this story?
Hardly fair, Nana. Too many characters and too vague a story!
Ah, I finally found your krptonite!
According to the Bhagavata Purana, the entire story is an euphemism. Puranjara represents the living soul, the beautiful woman represents his mind, the kingdom he found with 9 entrances was his body with nine openings for his senses such as 2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils, mouth, pelvis and his anus. The ten men following her are the ten Indriyas or the ten senses that allow us to interact with the external world and with ourselves. The snake on her head represents the five cognitive senses of the mind. Avignata represents the supreme god.
When Puranjara marries the woman a.k.a his mind and becomes infatuated with her, he moves away from Avignata. His hunting activities are an euphemism for his indulgences in various worldly pursuits with the two wheels of the chariot representing the good and the evil outcomes of his actions.
The Gandharva Chandavegan represents the passage of time with the 360 men half fair and remaining dark representing a year.
He finally attains salvation only when he turns back to Avignata after many births and rebirths.
Thanks Nana, you have whetted my interest for the Puranas now. Why don’t I read up and tell you a story every day this month?
Oh God! What have I unleashed?
This post was written in partnership with Kanika G as a part of the #NinaAndNana series.