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Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Story of Sukanya from Mahabharatha

Sukanya is a story adapted from the Mahabharatha. Inspite of being innocent she had to face a lot of troubles in life, but overcame everything and lived happily.
The story
Vaivasvata Manu was the son of the Sun God and the originator of the Solar Dynasty. His heir was the learned King Sharyati. Sharyati had a daughter who was the paragon of beauty. She was appropriately named Sukanya meaning beautiful girl. Once the king went for a hunt taking his family with him. In the evening they camped near the hermitage of Sage Chyavana.
Chyavana had been meditating for a long time. Termites had built a nest around his body, which was teeming with newborn insects. Only his eyes and nostrils were exposed. In the dark of the evening the eyes shone like glow worms. Sukanya's curiosity was aroused and she playfully poked the bright spots with a twig in order to draw out the glowworms. To her horror she blinded the sage. Chyavana was in a rage. He threatened to curse the king, his family and his kingdom. Sharyati pleaded that his daughter had committed this heinous deed out of ignorance and not out of malice. He begged forgiveness. When nothing worked, he gave his daughter in marriage to the sage to placate him.
Thus the barely nubile Sukanya became the aged Chyavana's wife. Chyavana was not only old but was ugly as well. Ages of meditating in the open had discoloured and disfigured his body. He was the definitely not any woman's dream husband. But Sukanya was a girl of good breeding. She knew that she had erred and was prepared to pay the price. Instead of raving and ranting she set about her duties conscientiously and with a smile on her lips. The sage too realised that life was not easy for his young bride. He demanded little of her and gave her plenty of space. This was not difficult because he meditated for months at a stretch, without eating or sleeping.
After completing her morning chores Sukanya would go to a secluded spot at a lake near the hermitage. There she would bathe in the calm and cool water for a few hours. Only during these very private moments would she sometimes dwell upon what might have been had she not blinded the sage. A youthful passion burned in her and the cold water enveloping her body quelled the heat. Once when she broke out of such a reverie she saw two handsome lads, identical twins, staring at her.
The Ashwini twins, Dasra and Nasatya were sons of the Sun God, but born at a time when their mother was in the form of a mare. "Ashwa" is the Sanskrit word for horse. From their mother they had inherited fleetness of foot and from their father dazzling beauty. They spent their time speeding around earth in search of merriment. One day they saw a young and beautiful maiden relaxing in the limpid waters of a lake, her eyes closed in a pleasurable daydream. They sat on the bank watching her and waiting for her to come out of her reverie.

When Sukanya met their gaze they asked her how her father had allowed her to bathe naked in the river without any female escort. They wanted to meet her father so as to put forward the proposal that she be married to one of them. When she informed them that she was already married they were astounded. On being asked she told them that she was married to Chyavana. The Ashwini twins had a good laugh. "What pleasure can that old disfigured hermit give you?" they scoffed, "I bet you are yet a virgin. Come run away with us and you will have the time of your life."
Sukanya candidly informed them that she was extremely happy with Chyavana and had no intention of running away with them or anyone else. The twins continued to watch her for a while, their minds working out a plot, and then they put forward the following proposal. "We can make your husband youthful like us but he will be identical to us. You will then have to choose one from the three of us. If you happen to choose him then good for you, else you will spend your life with one of us."
Sukanya said that she would have to consult her husband. The twins agreed. Sukanya hurried out of the water, wrapped her clothes around her wet body and went to the hermitage. Some time later she returned with Chyavana. "My husband has given his consent to your proposal," she told them.
The twins asked the sage to step into the lake. The three of them dipped themselves below the surface. When they emerged, the sage was identical to Dasra and Nasatya. Sukanya asked all three to come a little closer. The three marched forward in unison. No sooner had they taken a few steps on the shore, Sukanya pointed to the sage and said, "I choose him."
The twins were amazed at the alacrity with which Sukanya had made her choice. They had expected her to dither because there was no mark to differentiate Chyavana from them. They looked back and saw only one pair of footprints on the wet sand emerging from the lake, that of Chyavana. The twins being of the race of demi-Gods did not leave footprints.
The twins realised that the sage had hoodwinked them. He had known all along that Sukanya would be able to identify him because of the footprints. But they were a sporting pair. There would be other places and other maidens. They sought the sage's blessings and went their way. Sukanya and Chyavana lived happily ever after.

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