• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Story
  • Jabali : Parashuram (Rajsekhar Basu)
    translated from Bengali to English by Pradip Bhattacharya

    Vashishtha and the other sages, queens and patriarchs who had gone with Bharat to Chitrakut mountain had all tried in many ways to persuade Ramachandra to return to Ayodhya. But Rama, firm in his vow, remained unmoved. Ultimately, the great sage, maharshi Jabali spoke:

    Rama, you are too much of a simpleton. Let not your understanding get deluded like an ordinary man’s. A man takes birth alone and alone he perishes. Therefore, he who wallows in affection for parents is insane. Discarding the kingdom at your father’s request and taking shelter in inaccessible and dangerous forests is not your duty. Return to prosperous Ayodhya this instant. That city, like an abandoned wife in a single-braid, awaits you. There pass the days enjoying the kingdom and live in supreme happiness like Indra in the world of the gods. Dasharath is no one to you. He is a distinct being and so are you. Child, you are being ruined because of your own flawed intelligence. I am extremely worried about those who, discarding concrete goals, live only for religion. For, after suffering various tortures in this world they are utterly destroyed. People perform funeral obsequies offering food to departed ancestors. Now, this is unnecessary waste of food; for who has ever heard that dead persons can eat? Those scriptures that contain prescriptions for worshipping gods, sacrifices, donations, ascesis and other rituals, have been prepared by wise men only to keep people subjugated. Therefore, Rama, comprehend that there is nothing whatsoever as dharma for the after-life. Act on what is before you and engage yourself for what is to come. Bharat is requesting you. Following the unanimous advice, accept the responsibility of the kingdom.[2]

    Hearing Jabali’s words, Ramachandra, basing himself on knowledge of dharma, said:

    Rich-in-ascesis Sir, what you have said desiring my welfare is actually improper but seems to be duty. Your advice is anti-Vedic and you are an atheist fallen from dharma. Properly I condemn my father’s appointment of you as priest. As a Buddhist deserves the same punishment as a robber, so too should an atheist be punished. Therefore, discriminating people do not even speak to those atheists who are to be avoided as driven beyond the Vedic pale.

    Jabali meekly replied, “Rama, I am not atheist; nor am I voicing atheistic views. And it is not that there is nothing such as an after-life. Expediently, as the situation demands, I turn an atheist and after an interval become a believer. The time when it is necessary to become an atheist has come. For turning you back from the forest now I spoke thus and now, again, it is for pleasing you that I am withdrawing what I said.”

    That is all Ramayana has to say about Jabali. What is missing is given below.


    Maharshi Jabali returned to Ayodhya tired and morose. The entire journey he had had to pass in silence, the other sages practically shunning his company. Kharbat, Khallaat, Khaalit and some other rishis had not even refrained from pointedly mocking him from a distance.

    None of the Brahmins of Ayodhya respected Jabali. Only because King Dasharath himself was fond of him he had not had to face any insults so far. But now Jabali’s status had been demolished by Ramachandra. From the behaviour of the Brahmins travelling with him Jabali clearly understood that continuing to live in Ayodhya would be as impossible for him as for a fish to exist in hot oil.

    Jabali was not angry with Ramachandra at all; but he was somewhat anxious about Rama’s future. The lad was but twenty-seven years of age and not the slightest bit of worldly wisdom appeared to have germinated in him. Whatever the scripture-parroting professional court-pandits and the best of sages Vishvamitra-a doer of great deeds and many an escapade at one time-had taught him about dharma, the simpleton Ramachandra had soaked it all up as life’s supreme goal. That poor lad will have to face much trouble after this. Mulling over different thoughts like this Jabali returned to his ashram in Ayodhya.


    Jabali’s leaf-hut is on the bank of the Sarayu on the outskirts of the city. The day is waning. On one side of the clean courtyard smoothened with cow dung paste, under a jackfruit tree Jabali’s wife Hindralinee is cooking food for the night. The venison sent by the Nishad tribals living across the river has been barbecued on skewers. Once a few thick rice cakes have been baked, the cooking will be over. As she laid into the lump of maize-dough, all sorts of household worries passed through her mind. So many years had gone by but she had not looked upon a son’s face as yet. Her husband has neither fear of the hell named Put href="#_ftn3" name="_ftnref3" title=""> style='mso-special-character:footnote'>[3], nor any worry about getting fed in the next life. He is quite content with getting two regular meals every day. If adopting a child is suggested he says, “Where is the lack of a son? Whenever you wish, consider whosoever you fancy as your son.” What a way to talk! Had her husband been truly a man, Hindralinee would not have regretted so much. But he is quite distinct from all created beings and cannot get on with anyone. No wonder, behind his back people call him a heretic. No performance of the sandhya thrice, no chanting of mantras, no austerities, no tending the sacred fire; only infuriating people through arguments. Even such a person as Ramachandra has this Brahmin succeeded in infuriating. So long as Dasharath was alive there was no shortage of food and clothing. The old king was henpecked no doubt but his outlook was noble. Now only fate knows what the future has in store! Bharat is preoccupied with worshipping Ramachandra’s sandals in Nandigram. The minister Sumantra is now looking after the king’s work, but is extremely miserly. Used to reining in horses, it has become his habit to rein in everything. The scant stipend that is available from the palace is not enough to run the household these pricey days. Hindralinee had heard from her father that in Satya yuga, the golden age, a single cowrie would buy seven jars of genuine ghee made from fresh cow-butter; but in these unlucky Treta times only three jars are available, that too buffalo-ghee. Jabali has incurred some debts on account of ghee but does not have the means to repay. The wild paddy that had been stored is almost finished, the clothes are frayed, there is no income; and here Jabali is going on making more enemies. In her husband’s company Hindralinee, too, has become used to unseemly ways. The devout ladies of Ayodhya wrinkle their lips like sows on seeing her. Hindralinee cannot bear this any more. Today, after the meal, she will give her husband a bit of her mind.

    Outside the courtyard someone roared, “Hamho Jabaley, hamho!” Anxious Hindralinee saw ten or twelve diminutive sages standing at the entrance of the hut. Seeing their sparse whiskers and squat, pot-bellied bodies Hindralinee made out that they were the Balakhilya hermits.

    Hindralinee said, “O ascetics of mighty prowess, my husband is engrossed in meditation on the banks of Sarayu. He will return soon. Till then kindly be seated on the verandah of that hut and rest.”

    The leader of the Balakhilyas, the great ascetic Kharbat said, “Auspicious lady, that verandah of yours is three vitastis style='mso-footnote-id:ftn4' href="#_ftn4" name="_ftnref4" title=""> class=MsoFootnoteReference>[4] above the ground. We will not be able to negotiate it. Therefore, we shall take our seat in this courtyard itself; don’t you get flustered.”

    At that time, seated under a Jambu tree on Sarayu’s bank, Jabali was musing-in this human body, dependant on food and water, what combination of the five elements creates sound sense and how foolishness is born. Further, when the medicine of caning agitates the five elements in the body to throw out foolishness and sound sense dawns, is that a permanent state or not. Unable to resolve this complicated ontological puzzle despite all efforts, Jabali finally got up and returned to the ashram.

    Jabali said to the Balakhilyas, “Oho, how fortunate am I today that Kharbat, Khaalit and other great sages have gathered in my ashram! O munis class=MsoFootnoteReference>[5], is all well with you? Sacrifices are being performed without obstacles? Rishi-chomping rakshasas don’t cast greedy glances on you? Has that brown cow of yours calved? Royal guru Vashishtha has arranged adequate amounts of bovine-products title="">[6] for you?”
    Mahamuni Kharbat croaked like a bull-frog in deep tones, “Jabaley, be silent! We have not come here to enjoy your hospitality. Neck-deep are you sunk in sinful mire. We’ve come to save you. Fasting, Chandrayan and other penances are of no use for you. We shall purify you by fire in the Atharvan manner whereby you will achieve salvation. The burning chaff is ready; follow us.”

    Jabali said, “O Kharbat, who has sent you? The regent Bharat or royal guru Vashishtha? And why are you so anxious about my salvation? I am a totally harmless forest-dwelling old Brahmin who has never caused anyone harm. I haven’t even shared in the donations you receive. Instead of being so bothered for my next life, take pains over your present lives.”

    Then the highly irascible sage Khallaat neighed in quivering tones, “Hah you ascetic! You are an exceedingly wicked heretic and an atheist. Because you live here, this city of Ayodhya has become impure and virtuous Brahmins are agitated. We do not follow orders of either Bharat or Vashishtha. It is for protecting Brahminism that we have been created by Brahma. Do not waste words any more. Get ready.”

    Jabali said, “O Balakhilyas, I will not go voluntarily. Lift me by Brahmic energy!”

    Appraising Jabali’s sala-tree like huge body the Balakhilyas consulted among themselves for a while in low voices. Ultimately the toothless monk Khaalit quavered, “O Jabaley! If you are so terrified of entering fire then let it be. By way of substitute for penance hand over three baskets of sesame seed and hundred gold coins. We shall free you of sin by performing prescribed sacrifices.”

    Jabali said, “I don’t have a single cowrie-and even if I had I wouldn’t give it.”

    Kharbat, Khallaat and the other hermits cried out together, “O you worst of men! Then we curse you-hear! Witness moon, sun, stars; witness gods, manes, deities of all quarters, chanters of oblatory mantras”-

    Jabali said, “A distiller’s witness is a drunkard; a robber’s witness is a pickpocket. O Balakhilyas, you invoke the gods in vain. They won’t come. Rather, you had better summon ghosts and goblins.”

    Hindralinee said, “Aryaputra style='mso-special-character:footnote'>[7],noble sir, why are you arguing with these short-lived, half-grown, unseasonal pumpkins? Drive them away!”

    The Balakhilyas shouted, “Re re re re”-

    Jabali picked up the Balakhilyas one by one in his huge arms and dropped them-plonk, plonk-across the fencing of the courtyard.


    After the Balakhilyas had left, Jabali said, “Dearest, we should not live in Ayodhya any longer. There is no saying from what corner some mischief may come. Therefore, tomorrow itself at dawn we shall leave this ashram and go somewhere far off to a place free from disturbance.”

    The next day at dawn Jabali left Ayodhya with his wife. A few devoted Nishads went ahead with their meagre household items to show the way. Travelling over a month they crossed many habitations, hills, rivers, forests and finally arrived in a delightful valley at the foothills of the Himalayas on the banks of the river Shatadru.

    There Jabali built his leaf-hut and began living comfortably. The mountain-dwelling Kirat tribals were fascinated by his huge body, thick beard and sweet, kind behaviour and welcomed him with many sorts of presents. There Jabali remained immersed in investigating various types of abstruse ontological questions and in intervals diverted himself by fishing in the Shatadru river.

    The gods are famed as omniscient, but actually they too have to act depending on rumours like ordinary mortals; and as a result of this many unjust things happen in this world. Soon Indra, the king of the gods, received news that Jabali, the sage of mighty prowess, was engaged in stern ascesis on the banks of Shatadru river. What his purpose was could not be ascertained clearly as yet, but possibly he will not give up without attaining the station of Indra, Vishnu or some similar supreme status. Worried, the king of the gods ordered, “Call Urvashee!”

    Maatalee, his charioteer, came forward and with folded hands submitted, “O king of gods! Urvashee does not wish to descend to earth any more.”

    Indra said, “Hmm…she has become so spirited!”

    Devarshi Narad, the celestial sage, said, “It is the mortal poets who have swollen her head by singing her praises. Let her be for some time. After she has remained confined to Amaravati style='mso-special-character:footnote'>[8] for some time she will, on her own, apply for visiting the mortal world. Despatch some other apsara name="_ftnref9" title=""> style='mso-special-character:footnote'>[9]
    for Jabali.”

    Maatali said, “Menakaa[10] has gone to visit her daughter. The Ashvinikumars[11] will not let Tilottamaa venture outdoors for another three months. Alambushaa has sprained her foot and won’t be able to dance. The sage Ashtaavakra, annoyed with the gods, has become intractable and Rambhaa has gone to mollify him. Nagduttaa, Hemaa, Somaa and three hundred apsaras have been abducted by the king of Lanka, Ravan. Only Mishrakeshee and Ghritaachee are left.”

    Annoyed, Indra said, “Without informing me why are apsaras sent here and there? Mishrakeshee and Ghritaachee are getting on in years. They won’t be good for anything.”

    Narad said, “O Indra, don’t worry about that. Jabali’s no youth either. It is apsaras of the somewhat matronly variety who will be able to bring him to heel satisfactorily.”
    Indra said, “Mishrakeshee’s hair has gone grey; let her be. Arrange to despatch Ghritaachee. Provide her with a piece of fine Chinese silk and matching ornaments etc. Wind-god Vayu, blow gently. Moon-god Shashadhar, take a bath in Mandakini so that you shine brightly. Kandarpa, god of love, wear that cloudy raiment so that you aren’t turned to ashes again. Vasant, take along a hundred cuckoos with you.”

    Narad said, “And a hundred wild fowl. The sage is extremely partial to meat .”

    Indra said, “All right, take that along too. And ten jars of ghee, ten pots of curd, ten pitchers of molasses and other delectable food. Jabali’s meditation must be broken anyhow.”

    Completing all preparations, Ghritaachee set off on the mission to conquer Jabali.


    It was raining heavily in Jabali’s forest of ascesis. Becoming one with the mountain, clouds had formed a thick wall on the horizon. Shoals of fish swam about in the ochre waters of Shatadru. In the forest a great festival of croaking frog clans was going on round the clock.

    Just before evening Ghritaachee, with attendants in tow, arrived at Jabali’s ashram. There was not the slightest delay in mounting the offensive as, having undertaken many such enterprises in the past, they had become experts. In an instant clouds vanished, a soft southerly breeze began to blow, Shatadru’s current slackened to a musical flow, a full moon rose in the cloudless sky, all trees were bedecked with flowers, bees began humming, the frogs fell silent and hid in the pools.

    Rod in hand on the bank of Shatadru Jabali was concentrating on catching fish. Disturbed by the sudden change in natural order he began looking all around. Suddenly, poked by Vasant[12], the lord of seasons, the drowsy cuckoo clan began shrieking in distress. Startled, Jabali turned around and saw an enchantingly beautiful celestial maiden dancing with left hand on hip and right hand on chin.

    Wise Jabali quickly took in the entire situation. With a light laugh he said, “O lovely one, who are you and for what have you come to this inaccessible valley bereft of people? Stop your dancing. This river bank is extremely slippery and covered with pebbles. If you slip, those delicate bones of yours will not remain whole.”

    Shooting sidelong glances and rolling her eyes Ghritaachee said, “O best of rishis, I am Ghritaachee, courtesan of Svarga. I am besotted with you. Be pleased with me. All these things are yours alone. These jars of ghee, pots of curd, pitchers of molasses-all are yours. I too am yours. All that is mine-no, let that be…” With that, shy Ghritaachee stopped and lowered her eyes modestly.

    Jabali said, “O Kalyani, auspicious one, I am a poor, humble, old Brahmin. I have a wife too. Satisfying you is beyond my means. Therefore, return to Indra’s abode. Or, if you have developed a fascination for seers and rishis, proceed to Ayodhya. Kharbat, Khallaat and other sages live there. You will be able to twist anyone or as many of them as you wish round your little finger. And, in case you have higher ambitions, earn fame by subjugating Bhaargav, Durvaasaa, Kaushik and other great rishis of fiery ascetic prowess. Please let me be.”

    Ghritaachee said, “O Jabaley! You are utterly unromantic. Has the creator made that huge body of yours from dry wood? What’s the harm if you are poor and humble? I’ll bring you Kuber’s[13] wealth. Send off your housewife to Varanasi[14]. She must be a drooping hag. And cast your eyes but once on me-ever young, firm and rounded, flawless. Even Urvashee and Menakaa turn green with jealousy when they see me.”

    Laughing Jabali said, “ O lovely one, please don’t mind. Even you aren’t just a little girl. What are those lines I see peeping through the mask of pollen on your face? What are those shadows under your eyes? What are those gaps in your rows of teeth?”

    Angrily Ghritaachee said, “You fool, you must be night-blind, that’s why you are speaking like this. Owing to the strain of the journey my loveliness is not shining that brightly for the moment. Let morning come and after I have bathed applying milk-cream, just see, your head will spin.” Saying this Ghritaachee resumed dancing.

    Not too far away, from behind a deodar tree, Jabali’s wife had been watching everything. On Ghritaachee starting to dance for the second time she was unable to control herself. Broom in hand she rushed forward and applied a few blows on Ghritaachee’s back.

    At that Kandarp, Vasant, and southern breeze-everyone fled mightily terrified. The sky became overcast with rain clouds once again and the horizon grew dark. The cuckoo clan started dozing; the bees, utterly bewildered, started stinging one another; Shatadru’s waters swelled and the gleeful frog-clan resumed a terrible cacophony.

    Jabali said to his wife, “Beloved, steady! She is Svarga’s courtesan Ghritaachee and has come here at Indra’s command. She’s not to blame.”

    Hindralinee said, “You black-faced shameless hussy Ghenchi! Finding my husband a simpleton you dare to come to fool him? And, ho! You utterly shameless person-what happened to your senses that you were talking familiarly and in private with this cat-eyed witch of a bulging forehead?”

    Narrating all that had happened Jabali, with great difficulty, soothed his wife and told the weeping Ghritaachee, “Child, calm down. Once Hindralinee has rubbed some ingudee[15] oil on your back the pain will go. This night rest in my hut. Tomorrow return to Amaravati and conveying my greetings to Indra, king of the gods, thank him profusely for the ghee, curd, molasses etc.”

    Ghritaachee whined, “He will not even look at me. Alas! Such a calamity has never befallen me!”

    Jabali said, “You have nothing to fear. Inform the king of the gods that I don’t have the slightest desire for his seat. He can freely keep enjoying his kingdom of Svarga.”


    Hearing of Ghritaachee’s defeat Indra, king of the gods, said to Narad, “O Devarshi, celestial sage, what can be done now? Even after hearing that Jabali is not bothered about becoming Indra I am unable to be at rest. Popular gossip has it that this terrible rishi wishes to destroy even all the gods.”

    Narad said, “Purandar, don’t worry. I am taking necessary steps.”


    Coming to Sanak and other sages In Naimisha forest Narad asked, “O sages, the scriptures say that in the Satya Yug virtue had four legs, sin does not exist. But in this Treta Yug virtue is only three-legged and one leg of sin is also visible. Have you thought on why this is so?”

    The hermits said, “Amazing-this none of us have ever thought upon!”

    Narad said, “Then all your reciting of mantras, austerities, rituals and sacrifices are useless.” Saying this he departed on his wooden vehicle[16] to visit Brahmaa to weave another plot.

    The hermits, unable to find an answer to Narad’s question, summoned a great assembly. Various learned Brahmins assembled from the seven lands-Jambu, Plaksha, Shalmali, Plava etc.-in Naimisha. Maharshi Jabali, having been invited, arrived.

    Finally, after everyone had taken his seat, the chairman, Daksha Prajapati[17], said, “O pandits! In the Satya era virtue was four legged; now it has become three legged. Why this has happened and what is its remedy, if any of you are aware then reveal it.”

    Then Jaamadagnya[18] rishi, fiery as blazing fire, said, “O Prajapatey! This sinful souled Jabali is the root of all ills. The earth is burdened by his touch.”

    The assembled pandits said, “Right, right! We know this for long.”

    Jaamadagnya continued, “This Jabali is a perverted, heretical atheist. He has neither scripture nor doctrine. It is this heretic who tried to make Ramachandra fall from his dharma of sticking to his vow. It is this wicked man who has tortured the Balakhilyas. Even Purandar, king of the gods, has been made a laughing stock by this sinner. Unless he is killed virtue’s lost leg cannot be restored.”

    The pandits said, “We too were thinking exactly along these lines.”

    Daksha Prajapati said, “O Jabaley, speak truthfully whether you are an atheist or not. What is the path you follow and what is your scripture?”

    Jabali said, “O wise assembly, whether I am a believer or a non-believer I myself do not know. I let the gods be and do not bother them with my petty wants and complaints. Whatever slight intelligence the creator has given me, on the strength of that I carry on somehow. My path lies anywhere and everywhere; my doctrine is expediency, changing with change, human.”

    Daksha said, “I can’t make head or tail of your words.”

    Jabali said, “O goat-headed Daksha[19], do not try in vain to understand. I’m off now. Brahmins, may victory be yours!”

    Then a mighty hullabaloo arose in the assembly and the highly pious Brahmins were mad with anger. Some grabbed hold of Jabali. Jaamadagnya, raising his sharp axe, said, “I have annihilated the Kshatriya clans one and twenty times. This time I’ll get rid of this atheist.”

    Daksha of steady intellect said, “Stop, stop, what would you do-a weapon’s blow on a Brahmin’s body! Shame, shame, what will Manu[20] think! Rather, kill him by using poison.”

    So far Narad, the celestial sage, had been sitting unnoticed. Now, coming forward he said, “I have absolutely pure Chinese poison with me. If a mustard-seed’s amount is taken one achieves divine knowledge; two mustard-seed portions destroy intelligence; four portions give hellish torment and eight parts gift moksha[21]. Administer four portions to Jabali. Take care that the dose is not exceeded.”

    Dissolving the black poison brought from Mahachin[22] in water, it was forced down Jabali’s throat. Then, throwing him into a dense thicket, the pandits-knowing past present and future-said, “By now the heretic has reached Kumbheepaak.[23]”


    The Chinese poison began to make itself felt gradually in Jabali’s head. Often had Jabali drunk soma juice when invited to sacrifices. In early youth, in the company of princes, he had also tried out liquor from Gauda[24], beer and other drinks. In adolescence at his maternal uncle’s home he had, with his uncle Bhrigu, taken stolen foaming palm juice too. But such a tremendous intoxication he had never experienced before. All of Jabali’s limbs became numb, his palate grew parched, his eyes rolled upwards and he lost all consciousness of the external world.

    Suddenly Jabali felt that, anointed with blood-red sandal paste, wearing blood-red garlands, he was speeding southwards on a donkey-drawn chariot[25]. A tawny complexioned damsel[26] in blood-red garments was looking at him and laughing and a grotesque rakshashi[27] was driving his chariot. At length, crossing Vaitarini[28] he arrived at the gate of Yama’s city. There, Yama’s servants greeted him and took him to the Lord of Dharma.

    Yama said, “Jabaley, welcome! I have waiting for you for very long. I have made suitable arrangements for your after-life; now follow me. That tenebrous, windowless complex of fire-belching buildings you see in the distance is Raurav, where mean spirited sinners live. And this sky-kissing building with a coppery spire and a blood-red verandah running all around that you see in front, it is this that is Kumbheepaak. Respectable and noble persons stay here. It is here that your place has been assigned. Enter.”

    Then Dharmaraj Yama took Jabali into Kumbheepaak’s inner recesses. This hall extending for several yojans,[29] had a high ceiling, was filled with steam and reverberated with thunderous sound. On either side, atop flaming kilns, series of huge jars were arranged out of which white steam and howls were rising incessantly. Blue complexioned servants of Yama were opening the furnaces from time to time to throw in fuel. In the lurid light of the flames their faces glowed like meteors.

    Kritant[30] said, “O great sage, this huge silvern jar that you see covered with a net of bells, in it Nahush, Yayati, Dushyant[31] and other kings of great fame are being cooked thoroughly. Almost all of them have been purified; there is only some delay in Yayati’s case. In another three hours all of them, free from sin, will proceed to Amaravatee. That golden jar you see studded with lapis lazuli-in its boiling oil Indra and other gods take a dip from time to time. After Gautam’s curse[32], thousand-eyed Purandar had to spend a long time in this jar. From constant heating by fire its bottom is worn out. That ochre coloured massive jar you see surrounded with rudraaksha garlands, within it Bhaargav, Durvasa, Kaushik and other great rishis of fiery ascesis are being boiled.”

    Egged on by curiosity Jabali said, “O lord of virtue, Dharmaraj, kindly show me what is happening inside the jar.”

    On Dharmaraj’s command a Yama-servant took off the jar’s lid. Inserting a large wooden ladle into it Yama carefully took it out. With wet matted hair and whiskers and steaming bodies some rishis came up in it and, tearing at their sacred threads, began to shout curses, “O you hellish Yama-raj, if we have the slightest ascetic power left”-

    Upturning the ladle and quickly replacing the lid on the jar Yama said, “O Jabaley, much time is left before the toughness of these irascible sages disappears. Let them continue to stew for eight days more.”

    At this moment Kharbat, Khallaat, Khaalit entered Kumbheepaak’s core with long faces along with some messengers of Yama.

    Jabali said, “O brothers, why are you here? Is there scarcity of accommodation in Brahmaa’s abode?”

    Kharbat replied, “Jabaley, don’t bother us. We have come here on inspection.”

    At a sign from Yama the servants bound the three Balakhilyas together and cast them into a tiny jar full of a hot mixture of five cow-products[33]. Loud shrieks arose from the jar and with them abuse consigning Kritant’s forefathers to hell. Covering his ears the lord of Dharma moved away saying, “O great sage, the customs of this hell are extremely unpleasant. Only for protecting endangered earth do I have to do all this. However, I won’t waste your valuable time any more. Now I will perform what is my duty towards you. That sin which is consciously committed I can easily remove. But that which is done unknowingly is passed on through birth after birth and for purifying that it is necessary to be thrust into Kumbheepaak repeatedly. Whatever wrongs you have committed those you have done deliberately, out of weakness, but have never deceived yourself. Therefore I will be able to free you of sin easily and won’t torture you much.”

    Saying this, Kritant caught Jabali in a huge pair of pincers and threw him into a cauldron filled with hot oil. A sizzling hiss was heard.


    Suddenly the forest resounded to a thousand bird calls. The east crimsoned with rays of the new dawn. Regaining consciousness Jabali slowly raised his head from devoted Hindralinee’s lap and saw before him the grandsire of all worlds, Brahma, with a benign face, smiling pleasantly.

    Brahma said, “Child, I am pleased. Ask what boon you will.”

    Jabali said, “O four-faced one, enough! No boon please. Please push off and don’t mock.”

    Removing his palm-leaf mask Brahma said, “Jabaley, control your hurt self-esteem. Even if you don’t ask a boon, why should I give up? I too want something. O you independent, free-thinking, ascetic indifferent to fame, do not hide yourself in inaccessible forests any more. Preach your mantra among people. Whatever delusions you have, may they disappear. Remove the delusions of others. None will destroy you and may none be destroyed by you. O noble soul, gaining immortality may you continue, in age after age, among people after people, to free man’s mind from the boa of worldliness.”

    Jabali responded, “So be it!”

    [1] Pronounced “Jaabaali”

    [2] Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya kanda, Englished (??rephrase??) from Hemchandra Bhattacharya Bengali translation used in the original.

    [3] Pun is the hell to which son-less persons are consigned as they have none to offer them pinda (food) in the after life.

    [4] A Vitasti = 9 inches

    [5] Hermits

    [6] There is a sarcastic reference to cow dung here besides milk, curd, butter, ghee, urine.

    [7] A formal address for the husband, signifying “nobly born”.

    [8] Abode of the gods

    [9] Courtesans of the gods

    [10] Mother of Shakuntalaa and Pramadvaraa

    [11] Physicians of the gods

    [12] Spring

    [13] god of wealth

    [14] Benares, traditionally the refuge of widows and abandoned women

    [15] nut of the tree Terminalia Catappa

    [16] Narad’s vehicle is the wooden paddy-husking pedal

    [17] Brahma made him the overlord of all creatures. Daksha=dexterous; prajapati=lord of all

    [18] Parashurama, notorious for destroying Kshatriyas twentyone times

    [19] When Daksha’s yajna was destroyed by Shiva’s hordes, his head was replaced by a goat’s.

    [20] the lawgiver, author of Manu-samhita

    [21] liberation from rebirth

    [22] China

    [23] Pronounced “Kumbheepaak”, one of the worst hells

    [24] Bengal

    [25] The classic description of the journey to the nether world

    [26] Mrityu (death)

    [27] ogress

    [28] The river that the soul crosses after death

    [29] 1 yojan=4 miles

    [30] A name of Yama, meaning death

    [31] All great kings of the Lunar Dynasty. Nahush became king of the gods; his son Yayati is the archetype of lust Dushyant was the father of Bharat

    [32] For seducing Ahalya, Indra was cursed to bear thousand marks of the vulva on his body which were later turned into eyes.

    [33] milk, curd, ghee, urine and dung

    Published in Parabaas, April 15, 2004
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