Tales from Indian Mythology
Retold by Vasu Gangapalli
Once upon a time, long, long ago, beyond the mountains, Bakasura, a ferocious giant lived in a cave. Whenever he was hungry, he used to come down to the villages and take away men, women, and cattle and eat them up. The King tried to fight the giant with a big army. But Bakasura was very strong. He defeated the King and his army. The King fled to save his life, so the people had to face the giant.
The villagers then decided to make peace with him. Bakasura agreed not to come down from the mountain if they sent him every day a cart-load of cooked food, along with fruits, vegetables and a human being. Bakasura used to eat cart-load of food, the bullocks, and the human being as well. The villagers had kept their promise. They chose one person from every house each day, and that person used to go along with the cart-load of food.
Meanwhile, the Pandavas and their mother, Kunti, wandered about the country in disguise. After some time, they decided to go to a place called Ekachakra. It took the Pandavas quite some time to reach the place. But when they did they felt that it was well worth the trouble. It was one of the most charming places they had ever been to. They had disguised themselves as Brahmin scholars.
A local scholar readily gave them shelter, asking them to treat his house as their own. Like proper scholars the Pandavas spent all day studying scriptures.
They went to beg for their food after sunset. When they brought it home to Kunti, she divided it into two equal parts. She would share one part with her four sons and would give the other to Bheema!
One morning Kunti sent her sons to the forest to gather firewood. She was even more surprised when she heard the entire family crying their heart out. They were speaking so loudly that she could clearly hear them.
‘We should have left this place long back; even I had told you the same. But you didn’t listen to me then,’ The scholar said, ‘You told me that one should not leave one’s ancestral home. Now, see what has happened to us! What could we do now?’
‘How on earth would I know that it would happen?’ The wife said, sobbing her heart out, ‘I was confident that the king would kill the beast.’
‘The king is not bothered about our danger,’ said the scholar, ‘I’m not afraid to die, but I just can’t imagine how you would take care of the children and bring them up on your own.’
‘I can’t let you die when it’s my fault. I should have listened to you then,’ His wife cried, ‘I would face the beast instead of you.’
‘No, Mother, You can’t do that!’ The little daughter said, ‘Everyone needs you, especially my little brother. So I would go instead of you.’
‘No, no. We can’t let you do that!’ Her parents cried together. The little boy was too young to say anything, so he remained silent with a puzzled look on his face.
Kunti decided to find out what was wrong.
‘What is this beast you are talking of? And why should anyone die?’ Kunti asked.
‘It’s Bakasura, the terrible giant who lives on the hilltop. We have to supply him with the food everyday without fail,’ the scholar replied, ‘He eats two buffaloes and a person with every meal. And every family in turn has to send him food. And what’s really terrible is the family must also find the man or woman whom he would eat along with his meal. If we don’t do it he has threatened to come down and eat us all.’
‘And today, it is our turn today to send him food and we don’t know what we’re going to do?’ the scholar’s wife said.
‘Is that all?’ said Kunti smiling at them, ‘well, you don’t need to worry about it anymore. None of you need to go to the giant. I would send one of my sons to take his food today.’
‘Oh no!’ the scholar cried, ‘You are our guests. We can’t let you sacrifice your son on behalf of us. Bakasura would surely kill your son.’
‘My son, Bheem is very strong and I’m sure he is the right match to this so called Bakasura.’ said Kunti, ‘I would go and see if he has returned from the forest by now.’
When the Pandavas returned back, Kunti told them the story.
‘Yes, mother,’ Bheem said, after she concluded her tale, ‘I would go and teach that wretched Bakasura a nice lesson.’
‘I am sure that you can do it!’ Yudhishthira said, ‘Also it is our duty to help these people who have been so good to us.’
‘Would you like me to come along with you, Brother Bheem?’ Arjuna asked.
‘Not required, brother,’ Bheem said, ‘I would take care of him myself. Mother, please tell them that I’m ready to go.’
By the time Bheem crossed the forest and reached the hilltop carrying the heavy load of food on the cart, it was well past noon. Bakasura had waited eagerly for his food to arrive and he fell asleep waiting for it. Bheem saw the cave at some distance, and he heard snoring sound coming from it. The sound was a combination of earthquake and thunderstorm put together.
‘O,Bhakasura!’ Bheem cried at the top of his voice, ‘Come and get your lunch!’
As Bakasura was in deep sleep, he could not hear him.
‘O,Bhakasura! If you don’t come fast I’m going to eat it all, I warn you! I’m feeling very hungry right now.’ Bheem cried again at the top of his voice.
But even such a loud call didn’t wake him. Bakasura continued to snore.
‘Very well, then! Don’t say that I didn’t warn you,’ Bheema said and started eating the food. There was fish, meat, rice, dal, vegetables, and a variety of mouth-watering sweets. It was a long time since Bheema had tasted such a lavish and delicious meal. He filled his tummy merrily.
Just then something happened. Though Bheema’s loud call hadn’t awakened Bakasura, the smell of food did the trick. Bakasura sat up with a yawn and opened his eyes.
He let out a wild snarl of rage when he saw a man eating his food with great relish. He fell on Bheema with a wild leap knocking him on the back.
‘O, Bakasura, so you’re up at last’ said Bheema, quite unruffled, ‘don’t disturb me while I am having my food.’
This enraged Bakasura all the more. How dare an ordinary man could speak to him like this? He slapped and kicked and pounded and punched with all his might. But it didn’t seem to have any effect on Bheema who continued to eat peacefully.
‘Hold on, Bakasura, let me finish my meal in peace. Let us settle our scores afterwards.’
‘Settle scores! Me, the great Bakasura! How dare you! Don’t you know how the entire Ekachakra trembles at the mention of my name? Do you know how strong I am?’
‘No, I don’t. Let me wash my hands first and then we’ll see,’ Bheem said, swallowing the last banana, and throwing away its skin.
Bakasura let out another blood-curdling yell at him and pulled up a tree to bash up Bheem.
Bheem pulled up another and faced him, with a board smile on his face.
Then followed a huge battle between them. They kept pulling up one tree after another until there were none left and still they continued fighting. Bakasura was indeed very strong and it was not easy to defeat him. He huffed and he puffed and let out wild yells all the time. Bheem, on the other hand, was quite unruffled and didn’t seem to get tired at all. Bakasura lifted a huge rock and threw at Bheem. Bheem caught it with his hands as if it was a ball, and threw it back at him.
Finally they came down to wrestling and kept throwing each other down.
Bheem threw him up like a ball and threw him so high that when he fell down with a huge thud every single bone in his body was broken to bits. At last he killed the giant. The giant lay like a huge hill.
‘There! That will teach you not to eat men ever in your life!’ Bheem said, walking away.
The other beasts in the forest were watching the fight with great interest. When they saw what had happened to the mighty Bakasura they trembled like leaves in a storm.
‘If any of you dare to bother the people of Ekachakra you too will meet with the same fate.’ Bheem said, as he left the place.
That evening there was great rejoicing in the city of Ekachakra. There was feasting and merry-making, crackers and lights. And every one came and thanked Bheem for his courage and Kunti for having sent him. Everyone was happy because Bakusura would never trouble any one again.