The story of a Great sage

From our archives

S. Rajagopal, aged 16, Bangalore – 16.

Agasthya was a great and mighty sage. He possessed yogic powers which were cultivated through deep penance and austerity. Many kings and princes worshipped him. One such king was the raja of Vidharbha. This raja was childless, and sought  Agasthya’s  help.

“I would like to have a child,” he told the rishi. “Please grant me one.”

Taking pity on him. Agasthya blessed him with a girl child.

But on one condition.

“When the girl comes of age,” said the rishi, “You must give her in marriage to me.”

The raja agreed.

A girl child was born to the raja of Vidharbha. He named her Lopamudra. She grew up to be a beautiful maiden.

True to his word, the raja gave Lopamudra in marriage to Agasthya. They lived happily together for many years. But as the day went by, Lopamudra who had been brought up amidst riches began to feel that the hermitage was not the place for her.

So she told Agasthya, “you are a householder now. You must give me the comforts of a good home. Only then will I be happy.”

Agasthya listened to her words and was pensive.

“Go to the rajas whose kingdoms lie around Vidharbha,” said Lopamudra. “Ask them to provide you with some wealth to live the life of a householder. As one who lives the life of penance, you can ask alms of them.”

At last her persuasion won over him, and Agasthya agreed to do as she asked.

Agasthya travelled to the courts of each of the rajas who ruled in the tiny kingdoms around Vidharbha.

But the reply he got from each of them was the same.

“Our people are poor, and the royal coffers have just enough to feed them for a year. However, I cannot  refuse you, a great sage. Pray, take all the wealth you want from our coffers.”

Agasthya listened to their requests and knew that he could not do that. He could not beg from the rajas who were poorly off themselves. So he continued on his quest till he reached the palace of the wicked asura, IIlvalu.

IIvalu and his brother Vatapi hated all brahmanas. They worked together to kill as many as they could. They would invite an unsuspecting Brahmana to a feast. After turning Vatapi into a goat, he would be killed and cooked into a tasty dish.

Then, he would be served to the respected guest.

After the brahmana had eaten to his fill, Ilvalu would chant some mantra and call Vatapi.  Vatapi, now revived to life by the power of the mantra, would tear open the stomach of the guest and come out. The brahmana would thus be dead, another victim of foul play.

The same trick was played on Agasthya too. After Agasthya had eaten to his fill. Ilvalu chanted the mantra and asked Vatapi to come out.

But Agasthya only smiled and rubbing his stomach lightly said, “O Vatapi! Be digested in my stomach.”

And lo! There was no response from Vatapi. Ilavalu kept chanting the mantra, desperately, hoping Vatapi would come out. Still there was no response. Ilvaiu fell at Agasthya’s  feet saying, “O great sage! Forgive me. Ask me for anything you want and it is yours!”

Thus did Agasthya bring wealth for Lopamudra.

(Gokulam/January 93)

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