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Paradise of indulgence

Devdutt PattanaikShiva’s realm is Kailasa, a stony mountain covered with snow, where there are no pastures, still Shiva’s bull is happy. There is a tiger there, the mount of Shiva’s consort, Shakti, still Shiva’s bull is not afraid. The snake around Shiva’s neck does not chase Ganesha’s rat and does not get chased by Kartikeya’s peacock. There is no fear of death in Kailasa, so no hunger, no predator, no prey, no chase. This is the realm of yoga, where Lakshmi does not matter.

Indra’s realm is Amravati, the abode of the Devas, where the Asparas dance, the Gandharvas sing, and Sura flows, where there is the wish-fulfilling tree Kalpataru, the wish-fulfilling gem, Chintamani, and the wish-fulfilling cow, Kamadhenu. There is no fear of death here either, for Indra has consumed Amrita, nectar of immortality.


Illustration/ Devdutt Pattanaik

This is the realm of bhoga or pleasure, where all desires are realised without any effort: where Lakshmi comes when summoned. Yoga demands inner transformation, the churning of inner mental fire, tapa, through the practice of tapasya, to outgrow hunger. It is a solitary activity. Bhoga demands no inner transformation, just the churning of outer fire, agni, through the practice of yagna. Needless to say, people prefer bhoga to yoga, yagna to tapasya. That is why Amravati is referred to as Swarga, paradise. The purpose of human enterprise is to achieve Swarga on earth. 

This desire expresses itself in many household rituals of Hinduism. During the festival of Pongal, people of Tamil Nadu boil milk in pots till it overflows. During Gudi Padva, in Maharashtra, pots are perched upside down atop staffs to simulate divine pots showering sweets and silks into the household. During Vishu, in Kerala, the matriarch of the household ensures that the first thing every member of the household sees is his or her own reflection in a mirror surrounded by grain and gold. During Annakoot festivals of temples, vast quantities of food are heaped in the shape of mountains before the deity. Presence of abundant food and fun makes us feel closer to Swarga.

Both Shiva and Indra are immortal. Shiva’s immortality is achieved by tapasya. Kama is sacrificed during tapasya. Indra’s immortality is achieved through yagna that is fuelled by Kama. And his greatest yagna is the churning of the ocean of milk that yields him the Amrita, the nectar of immortality. Along with Amrita comes Halahal, a poison that threatens to destroy the whole world. Indra wants to consume Amrita but is unable to handle Halahal. He offers it to Shiva who drinks and digests it, much to Indra’s delight.  Along with Amrita also comes the eternal enmity of their half-brothers, the Asuras. Denied a share of Amrita, they remain mortal giving the Devas an unfair advantage over them. Like Shiva, they perform tapasya – but only to get power with which they can defeat Devas, and lay claim to the treasures of Swarga. 

The Devas fight back, with the help of Vishnu, reclaim their treasures. But the defeated Asuras always come back, thanks to the Sanjivani Vidya they get from Shiva. They may not be immortal but they can always come back to life. So Amravati, the land of bhoga, is always under siege. Immortal Indra can never enjoy Lakshmi in peace. So it is with human success.

The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at devdutt@devdutt.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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