Tuesday, 13 September 2011

How A Nymph Became A Fish

King Uparichara of Chedi, who had to go into the forest to get hold of a deer for his father, had to keep himself away from his wife, Girika, for a long time, and he was sad. A she-fish, who saw his sad face, took pity on him. She gave birth to a boy and a girl. She was actually a nymph.

When Sage Suta narrated the story, the hermits listening to his narration wanted to know how a nymph had turned a fish.
Suta told them: A nymph called Adrika was bathing in the Yamuna. She saw a Brahmin taking a dip. Suddenly she felt like being naughty. She swam towards the Brahmin under the water and pulled his legs.

The Brahmin got the shock of his life and cried in horror. Adrika was amused. She giggled.

The Brahmin understood that someone was making fun of him. "You'll become a fish!" he cursed her.
Adrika realised the danger. She apologised to the Brahmin. He softened. "You'll be free from your curse after you have given birth to a human boy and a human girl," said the Brahmin. Adrika since then lived in the river as a fish.

One day this fish was caught by a fisherman. Oncutting it, he was baffled to discover two infants inside. He carried them to the king. The king took the boy. The fisherman kept the girl. She was named Matsyagandhi. Adrika, liberated from her curse, now returned to her home in heaven.

In the fisherman's house, Matsyagandhi grew up into a beautiful damsel. One day Sage Parashara came there to cross the river. The fisherman was busy. Matsyagandhi plied the boat for Parashara, who had never seen a beauty like Matsyagandhi. He kept on gazing at her. Without taking notice of the sage's attraction, she kept on rowing.

It was a fine day. The scenery along the river-bank was charming. Sweet was the breeze. Birds sang as they flew across the river. Matsyagandhi was humming a song as she plied the boat. By and by the boat reached the middle of the river.

Matsyagandhi, suddenly grew conscious of the fact that the sage was gazing at her. She looked at the sage and smiled.

Parashara confessed that he had been enamoured of Matsyagandhi. She felt embarrassed and told him that she was the daughter of a mere fisherman, whereas he was a famous sage. It would not be proper for Parashara  to be fascinated by her. But Parashara, out of his love for Matsyagandhi, gave her two boons. On account of living amidst fish, she smelled like a fish. Parashara's boon made it possible for her to smell like a flower. Secondly, Parashara blessed her saying she would give birth to his son.

Soon thereafter the two parted. Matsyagandhi carried the sage's child although she remained a virgin.

The boy was none other than Vyasa. The infant Vyasa told his mother, "I must hurry into the forest for beginning my tapas, but whenever you would remember me, I would come back to meet you."
And nothing could induce the boy to give up his aim.

Vyasa became a celebrated sage. It was he who classified and edited the Vedas. He also wrote some Puranas and compiled many more. He is known to everybody as the author of the Mahabharata. His disciples, too, became famous. Some of them were Sumanta, Jaimini, Pylo, Vaisampayan, Asit, Devala, and his own son Sukadev. Matsyagandhi later came to be called Satyavati. She continued to live with her fosterfather.

One day King Shantanu, while hunting near the river, saw Satyavati. It was spring. The trees and creepers abounded in flowers. Satyavati herself looked no different from a blooming flower. King Shantanu desired to marry her. Her foster-father agreed to the proposal.
The hermits, who were listening to this narration from Suta, interrupted him. "O Learned One, we're much pleased to hear what you said about the birth of Vyasa. But how could Shantanu, a scion of the famous Kuru dynasty, marry a fisherman's daughter? Wasn't he already married? Wasn't Bhishma his son?"

Suta resumed: In olden days there was a king named Mahavisa. Through his Yajna and offerings, he had befriended Indra, the king of gods. As a result, he could visit heaven whenever he liked.

Once Mahavisa got a chance to pay a visit to Brahma along with the gods. At that time Ganga, too, was present before Brahma. Mahavisa was much attracted towards Ganga. Soon it became clear that she, too, was feeling attracted towards the king.

Brahma could understand their minds. "Go to the earth and lead your lives as a human couple," said Brahma. Ganga was not happy with this order, but there was nothing she could do about it. A son was born to Maharisa. He came to be known as King Pratip of the Puru dynasty.

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