Chapter 182 — The Kadamba Tree Hermit Describes the Tapas of the Eight Brothers, Their Wives’ Austerities, and Durvasa’s Curse

The old hermit resumed and said:—

The goddess Gauri, of her own accord, lived on this same kadamba tree for a full ten years, then she left this tree of her own will in order to join her Lord Shiva on his left side. This young kadamba tree, blessed by the ambrosial touch of the goddess, never becomes old or fades or withers, but ever remains as fresh as a child in the lap of her mother.

After the goddess left this place, that great garden was converted to a common bush and was frequented only by woodmen who earned their livelihood by woodcutting. As for myself, know me to be the king of the country of Malwa. I have abdicated my kingdom and have become a refuge in this hermitage of holy ascetics. When I came to this place, I was honored by the inhabitants of this holy ashram. I made my home beneath this kadamba tree, where I have been in meditation ever since.

It was sometime ago that you, sage, came here with your seven brothers to practice religious austerities. You eight have lived here as holy devotees since that time, respected by all the resident devotees of this place. It came to pass in process of time that one of you left here for Srisailam Mountain, then the second went out to worship Lord Kartikeya in another place. The third left for Benares and the fourth to the Himalayas. Four remained here and employed themselves in rigorous austerities. 10 It was the earnest desire of each and everyone of you to become the sovereign lord of all the seven continents of the earth.

11 In the end, all succeeded and accomplished their objects of desire, which were all the same, by the grace and reward which they obtained from the respective god each worshipped who was pleased with the austerity of his particular devotee. 12 The brothers returned to their home while you were employed in meditation. After their enjoyment of the rewards of this earth in the golden age, they ascended to the highest heaven of Brahma.

13 O sage, your brothers, finding their respective gods favorable to them and willing to confer blessings, made the following request of the gods, saying, 14 “You gods! Make our seven brothers lords of the seven continents of the earth and let all our subjects be truthful and sincere, attached to the occupations of their respective orders.” 15 The gods who they adored gladly fulfilled their prayers and having assented to their request, disappeared and vanished in the open sky.

16 Afterwards, all the ascetics gathered here went to their respective homes and met death except this one who is now here. 17 Only I have been sitting alone, devoutly intent upon meditation. I have remained as motionless as a stone beneath this kadamba tree which is sacred to the goddess of speech. 18 Now as the seasons and years have been rolling over my devoted head, I have lived to see this forest broken and cut down by the woodmen who live in the outskirts of these trees. 19 They have spared only this unfading kadamba tree, which they made an object of their worship as the home of the goddess of speech, and me also whom they believe to be absorbed in rigorous meditation.

20 Now sirs, as you seem to have recently come to this place and bear the appearance of aged ascetics, I have told you all that I have come to know only through my meditation. 21 Rise then, you righteous men, and go to your native homes where you will meet your brothers in the circle of their family and friends. 22 You will find eight of your brothers remaining in their home and resembling the eight high minded Vasus sitting in the high heaven of Brahma.

Kundadanta speaking:—

23 After that great devotee had said his much, I interrupted him saying, “I have a great question about your wonderful story. Please explain it to me. 24 We know this earth is composed of only seven continents. Then how is it possible for eight brothers to be the lord of them all at the same time?

25 The kadamba ascetic said:—

What I have told you is not inconsistent. There are many things which seem inconsistent but become evident when they are explained. 26 These eight brothers, when they complete their periods of asceticism, will all become lords of the seven continents of the earth in their domestic circles. 27 All eight brothers will remain in their respective houses on the surface of the earth and there become the lords of the seven continents, in the manner as you shall now hear from me.

28 Every one of these eight brothers had a wife at home who was of unblemished character. They resembled the eight stars or planets of heavens in the brightness of their bodies. 29 After these eight brothers departed to conduct their protracted meditation abroad, their love-born wives became saddened at their separation, which is altogether intolerable to faithful wives. 30 In their great sorrow of spirit, they made painful austerities to the memory of their absent lords. They completed a hundred chandrayana vows and rites to the satisfaction of the goddess Parvati. 31 After each had performed her daily devotion to the goddess, she appeared invisibly to each separately in her inner apartments and spoke to her. 32 The goddess said, “O child, you have been fading away by your austerities, like a tender shoot under the scorching sun. Now accept this reward to your heart’s desire, both for yourself and also for your husband.”

33 Hearing the voice of the goddess of heaven, Lady Chirantika offered handfuls of flowers to Parvati and began to address her prayer to the goddess. 34 The reserved and close tongued lady uttered her words in a slow flattering voice flushed with joy. She addressed the heavenly goddess like a peacock accosts a rising cloud. 35 Chirantika said, “O goddess, as you bear eternal love for Shiva, the god of gods, such is the love I also bear to my husband. Make him immortal.”

36 The goddess replied, “Know, O good minded lady, that according the fixed decree of destiny, ever since the creation of the world, it is impossible to gain immortality. No devotion, austerity or charity can buy immortal life. Therefore ask for some other blessing.”

37 Chirantika said, “O goddess, if it is impossible to attain immortality, then grant this much, that he being dead, his soul may not depart beyond the confines of this his house. 38 When my husband’s body falls dead in this house, then grant me this reward that his departed soul may never depart from this place.”

39 “Be it so, O daughter, that your husband being gone to another world, you may still continue to be his beloved wife, even after his death.” 40 Saying so, the goddess Gauri remained silently in the air, as if the sound of clouds had stopped after indicating the welfare of the world. 41 After the goddess disappeared into the air, the husbands of these ladies returned from all sides, and after the lapse of some time the wives received their desired blessings. 42 Husbands were restored to their wives, brothers met each other, and friends and relatives conversed.

43 Now listen as I tell you about a wonderful event that happened to them at this time. It presented itself as an obstacle towards the achievement of their noble purpose. 44 While the brothers were employed in meditation, their parents went out with their wives to search for them. With sorrowful hearts they were wandering about the hermitages of saints. 45 Unmindful of their personal pains and pleasures, concerned only for the welfare of their sons, they intended to see the village of Kalapa which lay on their way. 46 Passing by the village of munis and saints, they saw a white man of short stature with grey and erect hairs on his head, his body smeared with ash. 47 Thinking he was ordinary old pilgrim, the parents forgot to do him due honor and let the dust of the ground they trod upon fly upon his sacred person.

This irritated the old sage, who spoke out in anger. 48 You great fool going on pilgrimage with your wife and daughters-in-law, you don’t respect me, Sage Durvasa. You neglect to do me due reverence. 49 For this act of your negligence, the rewards so dearly earned by your sons and daughters-in-law will go for nothing and the results will have a contrary effect.”

50 On hearing this curse the old parents and their daughters-in-law began to do him reverence, but the ancient sage disappeared and vanished in the air. 51 The parents and their daughters were greatly dismayed and disheartened. They returned home with sad faces.

52 Therefore I say, this was not the only strange thing, that each of the brothers reigned over the seven continents all at once. There were many other inequalities awaiting them as there are on all human wishes. These occurred as thickly one after the other as sores and ulcers grow on the throat. 53 There are as many oddities and vanities always occurring in the wishes and aerial castles of the empty mind, just as numberless portents and comets and meteors and unnatural sights are seen to appear in the empty sky.