The Son of Death


Based on a mythological Tale
Retold by Vasu Gangapalli

Once upon a time, long, long ago, Yama, the lord of death fell in love with a woman from the planet earth. As you know, love is blind and it was the same case with Lord of death too. As he failed to realize the true nature of this woman with whom he was deeply in love with. Only after their marriage, did he come to know that she was not only a nagging lady, but cunning as well. She always found some silly reason or the other to pick a quarrel with him, whom everyone else feared.

Soon, they both had a son whom they named Yama Kumar. That seemed to be the only silver lining in other wise the gloominess that seemed to have descended in Lord Yama’s marital life. His wife did not teach Yama kumar anything as he started to grow up.

One night, Yama went to take the soul of an eight year old kid who was of his son’s age. Also he had quarrelled with his wife that evening before he left for his job. He reached the boy’s home with a disturbed mind. Seeing the boy sleeping peacefully beside his parents, brought tears to his eyes. He gently woke up the soul of the little boy.

‘Did you come to take me?’ The little boy asked Lord Yama, rubbing his eyes, while his body lay still beside his mother.

‘Yes…’ muttered Yama.

‘Can I take my parents along with me?’ The soul of the kid asked Yama, ‘I think they love me very much and it would break their heart when they realize that I’m gone forever!’

‘I’m afraid they can’t come along with us as their time isn’t up yet!’ Lord Yama replied sadly.

‘Okay,’ The kid said, ‘would I go to heaven at least?’

‘Well, that depends on your deeds, my little boy,’ Yama said.

Yama made the boy to sit on top of his bull and they both went to his kingdom which was above the planet earth.

‘My lord, there seems to be a small mistake,’ Chitragupth said, going through his ledger book, ‘You have brought eight year old Sajjan Kumar instead of bringing his neighbour Sajjan Kumar who is eight years old.’

‘Oh, my goodness!’ Lord Yama said, ‘I better drop him back before his parents wake up!’

For the first time, Lord Yama felt happy and silly at the same time.

‘Can I have a tour of heaven before I go back to my parents, please?’ The kid asked Yama.

‘Alright, I would seek Lord Indra’s permission and you can go there.’ Lord Yama replied.

So, the kid got a wonderful tour of heaven after Lord Yama got Indra’s permission. Later, Yama took him back to his home. He gently tucked him on the bed beside his mother. He bent down to kiss him on his forehead, before taking his leave.

Back home, Lord Yama’s quarrels continued with his nagging wife. Finally, he got feed up with her and went back to his kingdom.

‘I’m really glad that you are back, my lord,’ Chitragupth said, pleased to see him back, ‘by the way, where is your family?’

‘They are better off on planet earth,’ Lord Yama said, sitting down on his royal throne, ‘now, I realized how difficult it is to play a husband’s role when you have a wife who doesn’t understand you, forget getting love and affection!’

‘I agree, my lord,’ Chitragupth said, nodding his head in agreement. He too had a glimpse of her true nature before Yama married her. He had even warned Yama then, but he hadn’t listened to him then.

‘I should have listened to you then, Chitragupth,’ Lord Yama said remembering it, ‘B ut then only after burning our fingers do we realize how hot the fire is!’

‘Don’t you worry, my lord,’ Chitragupth said, ‘Look at the positive side, you have a son who could bring you back your lost joy.’

‘Yes, I’m hoping against the hope!’ Yama said, with a sigh.

Years went by; soon, Yama Kumar grew up into a young handsome man. However, he was not able to earn his living as he hadn’t learnt anything worthwhile when he grew up.

‘Chitragupth, I’m really worried about my son,’ Yama said.

‘I’ve an idea, my lord,’ Chitragupth said, ‘Why don’t you tell him learn medicine and he could become a physician.’

‘That’s a very good idea, Chitragupth!’ Yama said, very pleased.

So, that night, Lord Yama met his son on planet Earth and told him what was on his mind. Yama Kumar listened to his father, learnt medicine and became a physician.

‘I’m glad that you took my advice and have become a physician, my son,’ Yama said, ‘But bear one thing in your mind…’

‘What is it, father?’ Yama Kumar asked him.

‘Evey time you see me near a patient, you will know that the patient is going to die. You must refuse to treat that patient.’ Yama said.

‘Alright, father,’ Yama Kumar replied.

So, Yama Kumar started treating only the patients who were going to survive. He became very famous.

One day, the princess of that land fell ill. Many doctors from far and wide came to the kingdom to treat her, but they all failed. When Yama Kumar went to see her, he found his father, Lord Yama was there and realized that the princess was going to die. He pleaded and said;

‘Father, please don’t take the princess away, she is so young and beautiful.’

‘Son, I’ll have to fulfil my duty, but for your sake, I will take her after three days.’ Lord Yama said.

The princess slowly started recovering from her sickness in the presence of Yama Kumar. The king and queen were pleased to see their only daughter recover from her illness and she started to like Yama Kumar. He told her everything that had happened so far.

‘So your father is going to come back after three days to take me, right?’ The princess asked.

‘Yes, but I have a plan to save you from him.’ Yama Kumar told her.

‘Really? Do you like me so much?’ She asked.

‘Yes, very much!’ Yama Kumar replied.

‘But no one had defied him so far, right?’ She asked.

‘Well, don’t forget that I’m his son!’ Yama Kumar replied, smiling at her.

When Yama returned after three days to take her, Yama Kumar shouted at the top of his voice;

‘Mother, father is here, you can meet him now!’

Yama did not want to meet his wife, and on hearing this he was so scared that he ran away as fast as he could forgetting the very reason why he had come there!

The princess burst into peals of laughter witnessing what had just happened in front of her eyes.

So, Yama Kumar was able to save the princess’s life. The king was so pleased with him knowing what had happened that he gave his only daughter in marriage to him and they both lived happily after.

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A Mountain on a Finger

A Mountain on a Finger

Tales from Indian Mythology

Retold by Vasu Gangapalli

Once upon a time, long long ago, the people of Vrindavan worshipped Lord Indra, the God of rain. Lord Indra was very proud and arrogant person by nature, who stayed in heaven, and rode upon his majestic white elephant named Iravath. Lord Krishna decided to teach Indra a good lesson.

One day, he asked the people of Vrindavan to gather under a huge banyan tree.

‘My dear people of Vrindavan,’ Lord Krishna addressed them, ‘I want you all to stop worshiping Indra from today onwards.’

‘Oh, then, to whom should we pray instead, Krishna?’ They asked him, quite surprised.

‘I would like you all to worship Govardhan Mountain instead as his forest on which our livelihood depends.’ Lord Krishna replied.

‘We will do as you say!’ They said in unison. It brought a smile on Lord Krishna’s face.

The people of Vrindavan obeyed Lord Krishna and stopped worshiping Indra. Indra came to know about this, and was enraged.


‘How dare they do this to me!’ He cried at the top of his voice, which echoed in heaven, ‘I would teach these silly people a good lesson which they will never forget in their life time!’

So Indra decided to punish them. He called upon the clouds which were under his control.

‘I want you all to rain continuously over Vrindavan, and you won’t stop until I tell you too!’ He ordered them.

‘We’ll do that!’ They replied to his command.

It started to rain heavily in Vrindavan. The people were really terrified by the heavy rain and thought that it would destroy not only their crops, but their beautiful village as well. Worst of worst, they even feared that they all might die too. They all went to Lord Krishna and pleaded with him to rescue them and the Vrindavan.

‘My dear people, you need not worry, when I’m there!’ Lord Krishna replied, ‘Believe in me, and I will take care of you!’ He added smiling at them. His very smile lifted the worries from their troubled minds.

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Lord Krishna lifted the mountain Govardhan on his little finger of his left hand, while he held his favourite flute in his right hand. He held the entire mountain like an umbrella for seven days and seven nights over the people of Vrindavan. The entire village of Vrindavan came under the shelter of the huge mountain.

The clouds got tired and exhausted pouring down continuously on Vrindavan. Most of them returned back to Indra.

‘We give up! We can’t go on anymore!’ They all cried, defeated.

‘Why? What happened?’ Indra asked rather puzzled.

‘Lord Krishna has come to their rescue! We feel it’s futile to continue further. Please go and see for yourself.’ One of them replied.

Indra saw from his royal abode of heaven what was happening down in Vrindavan. He realised his mistake and was really ashamed of himself. He asked the remaining clouds to stop the rain immediately.

He went down to planet Earth and reached the village of Vrindavan on his feet.

‘Krishna, I seek your kind apology!’ He said, bowing down, ‘Please forgive me being proud and arrogant! ’

‘Indra, always remember that greatness comes from what good things you do to others, and not by what you feel about yourself!’ Lord Krishna replied, smiling at him.

‘Yes, my lord, I have learnt a good lesson.’ Indra said, smiling back at him.

Lord Krishna placed back mountain Govardhan back from where he had lifted it. The people of Vrindavan started praising Lord Krishna for his leela.

Bakasura

Bakasura

Tales from Indian Mythology

Retold by Vasu Gangapalli

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Bheem

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.

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‘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.

Lord Rama and the Squirrel

Lord Rama and the Squirrel

Tales from Indian Mythology

Retold by Vasu Gangapalli

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It was long, long ago, when Lord Rama wanted to cross the sea to reach Lanka, so that he could save Sita from Ravana’s clutches. Lord Rama sat down before the sea and prayed to the sea God, Samudra.

The sea God got impressed by his prayer, arose from the depths of the sea, and stood before Lord Rama and said,

‘O Rama! I’m impressed by your prayer. Please tell me, what could I do for you?’

‘O Samudra dev,’Lord Rama addressed him, ‘We would like to go to Lanka as we have to rescue and bring back Sita. Please provide us the way.’

‘Alright, I suggest you to build a bridge to cross the sea. I would ensure that it stays intact till you go and bring back Sita.’ Samudra replied.

‘Thank you, O Samudra dev,’Lord Rama replied, ‘I would now start building the bridge with the help of my people.’

Samudra vanished into the depths of the sea. The waves of the sea receded in the middle. Lord Rama and Lakshman shot arrows into the sea; they formed two lines and separated waves of the sea. Rama’s army of monkeys got busy building the bridge by placing boulders, rocks and stones in the sea. While they were busy doing this, a tiny squirrel who was having his nap, got disturbed. He peeked outside his tiny borrow in a large banyan tree near the sea shore. He kept staring at the proceedings for a while and he realized what they were doing. He climbed down his tree, deciding to help Rama.

He began picking sand and scattered twigs and scurried back and forth from the shore to the sea. Little by little, the tiny squirrel was able to gather an entire heap.

Lord Rama, who was watching the tiny squirrel in action, was really impressed by his dedication. Also the squirrel saw him watching him. Lord Rama smiled at the squirrel. The squirrel bowed his little head, bringing his two hands together in respect before the Load. Lord Rama bent down on his knees, picked by the tiny squirrel on his palm.

‘My dear friend,’ Lord Rama addressed the squirrel, ‘You may be small, but you are not insignificant!’

Then Lord Rama gently stroked the squirrel with his three fingers. Thus three lines were formed on his back. Lord Rama placed the squirrel back on the ground. The squirrel dashed back towards his tree. His friends and family were really impressed by his new look and admired him for helping Lord Rama. They too wished to be blessed by Lord Rama. On his advice, they too did the same thing what he had done.

The squirrel again went to Lord Rama and pleaded with folded hands.

‘O Rama, kindly bless my family and friends too. Let them too have your imprints on their backs!’

Lord Rama smiled at him, and had a glance at the other squirrels, who were waiting eagerly for his response.

Lord Rama picked up the squirrel on his palm, and stroked his back with his fingers once again. Immediately, three lines were formed on each and every squirrel over there.  They all bowed before the Lord in respect, before disappearing into their tiny dwellings.

Since then, it is believed that squirrels have three lines on their body.