Updated: Nov 26, 2021
Ep.2: Your Wish is my Command
The golden rays of the sun seeped through the huge panelled windows, brightening up the room with a warm glow. Ratnamala got up from her bed and took a look at the bright morning outside. The clouds parted to reveal the sun god, who had ascended his chariot with his horses marching ahead, shimmering golden dust on everything they passed by. The clouds and meadows, mountains and valleys had a crimson glow around them. The golden disc seemed to be rising higher and higher as she let herself get engrossed by the melodious notes of the birds all around. Suddenly she got distracted by the noise outside her room. She detached herself from the window, leading herself towards the doorway and stretched her neck out to see what all the commotion was about. There were people everywhere, busy lifting, carrying, supervising and decorating the place. She heard her mother’s voice, instructing and directing people. She followed the voice to find herself standing at the entrance of the kitchen, which was swarming with men and women cooking a variety of dishes. As the flavourful aroma filled up the air, she ran out to the balcony to look out at the long line of people waiting to pay respect to her father and accept his offerings. Then she remembered. Today was the day her father was performing the Asvamedha Sacrifice to proclaim his victory over the three worlds and give away gifts to everyone who approached him.
Ratnamala was the daughter of Mahabali, who was the son of Veerochana and the grandson of Prahlad, born in the clan of Asuras. He was a very generous and benevolent king and his subjects were prosperous under his rule. He had due respect for the Gods and his fame spread throughout the seven worlds. His popularity was a matter of concern for the Devas.
Ratnamala returned to her room. She was already late. She decked herself up with vibrant colours and precious ornaments with the help of her maids to suit the occasion. She inspected herself in her the mirror and was happy with the smiling face looking back at her. Ready for the occasion, she walked out of her room to join her mother and help supervise the workers. As she approached, the queen took her hand and they both walked towards the courtyard where her father was handing out presents to the people gathered. The brahmins were showering blessings upon him as they happily collected their gifts. Men and women were singing and dancing with joy. Ratnamala was overwhelmed seeing the proceedings. As she looked on, her gaze fell on a small brahmin boy at a distance. The entire place was effulgent with the glow radiating from his body. Her heart was filled with an unexplainable joy, and it felt like she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. She wanted to take a closer look at the new brahmin boy at their door. He was dark and his skin was as smooth as conch. His lotus face gleamed with shimmering shark shaped earrings dangling off of his ears. He had a heavenly look, with armlets and bangles on his hands, ankle bells on his feet, a decorated headgear, a belt around his waist and the sacred thread around his chest. She turned to her friend with an inquiring look. A smile flashed across her friend’s lips. She came closer and whispered in her ears, “O my dear Ratnamala! The cute little brahmin boy you are enquiring about is Vamanadev, the than the son of Aditi and Kashyapa. There was so much jubilation when he was born. All the sages gathered to perform his sacred thread ceremony. The Sun God chanted the gayatri mantra, Vrihaspati offered him the sacred thread, Sage Kashyap gave him the straw belt, Mother Earth gave the deer skin and the Moon gave him the brahma danda, the rod he holds. His mother Aditi gave him the loin cloth and the Lord of heavens gave him the umbrella. Lord Brahma offered him the waterpot that he is carrying, Mother Saraswati gifted him the string of beads and the seven sages offered him Kusa grass. The bowl he holds was given by Kuvera for begging alms and Maa Bhagavati, the consort of Lord Shiva gave him his first alms.”
As the boy advanced toward her father, she also took a step forward to get a better look at him. The boy wore a yellow garment and was pressing the earth with each step he took. It seemed as if the earth was bowing down at his feet. She wasn’t able to tear her eyes off of him and stood there motionless. Everything paled in his brilliance as he entered the sacrificial arena. She saw her father’s gaze fixed on him and she immediately knew he would surely give away anything Vamanadev would ask. Her mother carried a golden pitcher of water to wash his feet. Ratnamala wanted to be in his presence forever. If only she could have him as her son, she would never have to part with him. She could look at his sweet face and hold him close for as long as she wanted.
Her father bowed down before him and asked, “O brahmin! We are grateful to you for coming. This sacrifice is complete because of your presence. Please ask me anything you desire. I will fulfil your wish.” Vamanadev hesitated. Her father asked again, “I will give you everything you wish for. Money, jewels, villages, cows, elephants, horses, anything. Vamanadev replied, “All I wish for is a strip of land covering three paces of my feet.” Her father was clearly disappointed at this humble request. His eyes ran through the small built physique of the brahmin boy and he said, “I could grant you an island and all you ask for is three paces of land?” The boy replied, “O noble soul! A brahmin asks for charity only according to his needs. A person who doesn’t have control over his desires cannot be happy even with the three worlds. Three paces of land is all I need.” Her father laughed and said, “Then you will have your wish fulfilled.” As this conversation was going on she could sense that their Guru Sukracharya was uncomfortable with the whole ordeal. He took a few quick strides towards her father and stopped him from granting Vamanadev’s wish. He had a feeling something was very wrong. For all he knew, this boy might even be Vishnu, coming here to rob them off their empire. However, her father was amused, and assured that he would never go back on his words. “Once promised, Bali, the grandson of Prahlad, will give the brahmin whatever he has asked for.” It all happened in an instant. Ratnamala hadn’t envisaged that the situation could turn around so quickly. Sukracharya, furious with rage, cursed her father. Everyone around immediately became tensed. Her father, determined to fulfil the brahmin’s wish, now turned towards Vamanadev. Ratnamala was pleased to see a smile on the little boy’s face.
But to everyone’s surprise, the small brahmin boy began to grow. He grew bigger and bigger and bigger. He grew so big that he covered the vast expanse of space. Ratnamala stood shocked, with her wide eyes looking at his giant form. Her father was in awe, realizing that the entire creation rested in the gigantic body of the brahmin boy. His Guru Sukracharya was right. The boy was none other than the supreme absolute Lord Vishnu. It took a while for Ratnamala to get a grasp on everything that was going on around her. Her big eyes were now teeming with anger. She couldn’t fathom how such a treacherous plan could be envisaged by such a charming person. She couldn’t understand why Vishnu would want to trick her father, who was such a great devotee. She watched helplessly as Vamanadev took his first step. His foot covered the entire world, sky and all the directions. Then, with his second step, he covered all the upper planetary system. By now, Ratnamala was fuming with rage. There was no place left and Vamanadev asked, “You promised me three steps of land. I have covered all that was yours in two steps. Where should I place my third step?” Her father hesitated for a moment. Ratnamala’s eyes blackened as her face contorted with rage. But her father didn’t swerve. He knelt down with a smile, placed his head near Vamanadev’s feet and said, “I’m not afraid of losing my kingdom or of any suffering. Any punishment given by you, O Lord, is a reward in itself. I request you to kindly put your third foot on my head and make me yours.” Her father’s act was the ultimate act of surrender. Vamanadev was pleased and blessed him, saying, “You never gave up your dharma and did not deviate from the truth. So in the next cycle, you will be the Indra and remain under my protection. Till that time, you shall remain in Sutala.” Saying this, he pressed the head of her father down with his feet. Ratnamala had never felt so helpless before. She was deceived. She let out a bellowing cry and threw herself on the floor. Furious with overwhelming rage, she thought to herself, “If I had a son as pretentious and sinister as this boy, I would poison and kill him at the very first instant.”
“Jaha mun karai, jaha mun kahai, jaha mun chintai mane
Jagatara karta parama ishwara januchhanti pratikshyane”
All that I do, all that I say, all the thoughts pass in this mind of mine
The controller of the Universe, the absolute supreme, is aware of them everytime.
- Bhaktakabi Madhusudan Rao, Odia poet
The Sun was up. The first rays of the morning touched the rivers and the trees in the forest as if they were breathing life into them. It was time for her to wake up. King Kansa wanted to meet her soon. She got herself up and started on her way to the stream nearby, wondering why he wanted to see her. He must have been in grave danger. She peered in to the water to meet her reflection shimmering back at her from the surface. Looking back at her was the image of a quite huge and fierce demoness with big, red eyes, long, gnarly fingernails and lengthy, black tresses of hair. She laughed out loud, thinking about how frightened people got when they came face to face with her! She was proud of her ability to infuse fear in the hearts and minds of humans. The water rippled as she exhaled. She looked on. Her skin smoothened, long nails became shorter, her eyes took the shape of lotus petals. She had an incredible talent to disguise herself and take the form of anyone she wishes.
Putana, the demoness was adept at killing infants and babies. Kansa had full faith in her expertise and employed her when there was a need to get rid of an enemy.
Putana was right. Arriving at the palace, she was greeted by an agitated Kansa pacing the hall with his hands clasped behind him. On seeing her, he heaved a sigh of relief and came running up to her as if he had found the solution to many sleepless nights of worry. The demoness was anxious to find out the reason behind his worry but didn’t have to wait long. “I need your help, Putana.” King Kansa blurted out. “I have been warned that the eighth son of my sister Devaki will kill me. I have already imprisoned her and Vasudeva and kept them right in front of my eyes. I have even killed all the six sons born to him. Her seventh child was wasted and surprisingly, her eighth child turned out to be a girl. When I tried to kill the infant, she took off from my arms and transformed into the eight-armed form of Goddess Durga. Dressed in shining garments and dazzling jewels, she looked so terrible and divine at the same time. She gave me a look of contempt and pity at me and said, “Foolish Kansa, there is no force on Heaven and earth that can kill me. So how can you, wretched creature? Even if you could, you would have gained nothing by killing me. For your slayer is already born! And one day he will come in search of you and kill you!” Ever since then, her roaring laughter has been resonating in my ears and this prophecy has been haunting my dreams. What if her words turn out to be true? Kansa turned to her, anxiety etched on every line of his face and said shakily, “You have to go to Gokul and find out where my enemy is hiding. Once you find out, don’t spare him. Kill him then and there.”
Putana was dismayed. She thought King Kansa had summoned her to deliver something really important which would be a matter of grave concern. But killing an infant was an everyday job. She could do it easily. Nevertheless, she bowed down before her king and promised to finish the work entrusted upon her in no time. She led herself out and stood outside the palace, planning her next step. She rose up into the sky and spread her limbs, flying like a huge bird. She kept her head down, scanning every area she covered, looking for a boy born a few days ago. As she reached Gokul, she realised that the task in hand was not so easy as she had envisioned. There were so many new born babies. How was she going to find out the enemy of her king? Then she hit upon a bright idea. Lowering herself onto the ground, she turned herself into a gorgeous damsel with large eyes, long black hair adorned with jasmine flowers, narrow waist and beautiful breasts. Anointing her breasts with poison, she hatched a plan to find a way to breastfeed the infant and kill him with the deadly poison smeared on her breasts. When she entered the village, she could hear everyone talking about the divine beauty of the child that Yashoda had given birth to. Everyone was rushing to Nanda and Yashoda’s abode to catch a glimpse of his heavenly charm. She knew that house was her destination. She slowly walked towards Nanda Maharaja’s place, smiling attractively and casting her glance at everyone she passed by. Everyone who saw her was mesmerised by her beauty. They whispered that she must be the goddess of fortune, come down to take a look at baby Krishna. Everyone gave way to her when she walked with her swan like gait. She went inside the house, straight into Nanda Maharaja’s room and saw the baby sleeping in his bed. His radiance illuminated the whole room. She understood immediately that he was no ordinary kid. The child, on seeing her closed his eyes. She smiled and went near the cradle, lifted him up and placed him on her lap. Her eyes fell on two women in the room. They must be his mother Yashoda and Rohini, the wife of Vasudeva. But they were looking at her in awe. She was confident of her illusory skills. She acted like an affectionate mother, eager to breastfeed Yashoda’s child. Mother Yashoda and Rohini were so enraptured by her beauty that they silently allowed her to, unaware of how dangerous she was! She took a look at the baby’s attractive face and placed her breast on his mouth to suck. She knew that in no time, the boy would start wriggling in pain as the deadly venom would soon seep into his bloodstream, killing him in an instant. She waited patiently until the gurgling little baby would soon fall lifeless and still on her lap, but suddenly she felt a sharp jolt of pain pass through her chest and looked down. What? The baby was smiling at her, while continuing to suck on her breasts. Her pain became unbearable. She tried to detach the baby to get a breath. But the baby wouldn’t let her go. She looked at his face again. Why did the face look familiar? As she looked closely, she saw in the dark face the face of a brahmin boy, with a sacred thread across his chest, holding an umbrella and a waterpot. “Vamanadev!”, she exclaimed. Then the whole episode flashed infront of her.
Yes, it was she who was Ratnamala in her earlier birth, the daughter of the mighty king Mahabali. This innocent little baby was none other than the charming brahmin boy, Vamanadev, Lord Vishnu’s incarnate, who had walked into her father’s Ashwamedha Yagna. She had been so drawn to him that she nurtured a desire to have him as her son. But as the event unfolded and she came to realise the true intent of Vamanadev’s visit to her father’s sacrificial altar, she became so furious that she told herself that if she ever had a son with such a nefarious intent, she would put an end to him instantly. The Lord was aware of every wish of hers. He was now angry because in this birth, as Putana, she had put an end to so many lives of infants. The time had arrived to punish her for the crimes she has committed. Putana began to cry and pleaded with him to leave her, not to torture her anymore. But Krishna began to kick her with his little legs and he suck the life out of her. Putana let out a piercing scream as her giant, lifeless body fell like a log of wood. The falling down of her body sounded like thunderbolts and smashed everything in a twelve mile radius.
The villagers came running and were shocked to see such a gigantic body. They were horrified and started looking for Krishna. To their relief, they saw Krishna paying on the chest of the demoness. They picked him up and danced with joy. Then the villagers along with Nanda Maharaja assembled around the body. To dispose it off, they cut her body parts and burnt them in fire. But when her body was burnt, a sweet aroma filled the entire place.
Although Putana came with the intent to kill Krishna, but since she had offered her breastmilk like a mother, she was granted the highest place by the Lord, the position of his Mother. Putana attained Moksha, she was liberated.
putana loka balaghni, raksasi rudhirasana
jighamsayapi haraye stanam dattvapa sad gatim
kim punah shraddhaya bhaktya krishnaya paramatmane
yachhan priyatamam kim nu raktastan mataro yatha
- Srimad Bhagavatam
Putana, who hankered for blood of infants and came to kill Krishna with that intent. But she attained a supreme position because she had offered her breast to the Lord. So, how elevated will they be who genuinely love him!
Image Credit: Eila Sahu