PART 1 –The Ascent of the Asura
It was the hour before the Gods awoke. It was that hour of night which is the darkest, the hour when the powers of evil are at their strongest.
Brahma, the creator stirred in his meditative reverie. In some distant world, someone was repeatedly chanting his name- he had been doing so for the past thousand years. Brahma sighed- an asura, no doubt, practicing severe austerities.
Brahma looked around, The Devas had slipped into a life of easy contentment. The call of the asura became louder, Brahma could not put him off longer. As he prepared to descend into the nether worlds, Brahma knew exactly what was going to happen. The wheels of karma and destiny were already in motion.
It had not been easy- standing on one leg, subjecting his body to intense heat and cold, with not even as much as a thought about food or water, but Tarakasur persisted. It would only be a matter of time before Brahma appeared in front of him.
“Open your eyes, son”
Tarakasur smiled. He had not been wrong. Lord Brahma was indeed standing in front of him.
Tarakasur made a perfunctory bow, and waited confidently. He knew what Brahmaji’s next words would be.
“You are worthy of a boon, Tarakasur. What is it that you seek?” asked Brahma, fully aware what Tarakasur’s answer would be.
“Invincibility and immortality” replied the asura, confidently
“The first one, I grant you, but not your second demand. Mortals cannot be immortal, Tarakasur. Whoever is born must eventually….” Brahma ‘s voice trailed off.
He realized the futility of trying to explain the subtle intricacies of life and death to an asura- that too one who had been fasting for thousand years.
But Tarakasur was quick to latch on. “In that case, Oh Lord, let me be killed by the son born to Shiva and his wife” he said.
“Tathastu” replied Brahma.
On his way back, Brahma admitted to himself that Tarakasur had indeed chosen well. Ever since Sati had left him, Shiva had assumed the form of Dakshinamoorthy- facing the direction South, the abode of Yama, where his beloved Sati had gone. Renouncing everything that represents the sansarik world, Shiva had lost himself in yogic meditation. He had become a complete mauni - the embodiment of silence. His abode was the icy, inhospitable Kailash, now even more desolate, since the disappearance of Shiva’s Shakti .
There was as much chance of Shiva marrying and begetting a son , thought Brahma wryly, as there was of Tarakasur doing good in the world.
Not unsurprisingly, Tarakasur, after trouncing the kings of bhu- lok and the patal lok, soon reached the gates of Swarga leading a huge army. The devas, immersed in the intoxicating effects of Varuni and the apsaras, were caught unawares and preferred to flee rather than face the asuric onslaught.
A vacant throne awaited Tarakasur at Indra’s durbar which he occupied promptly, declaring himself the ruler of three worlds. All of swarga’s delights – the wine, the music and the dancers were now at his service, which after years of abstinence, Tarakasur found irresistible.
Meanwhile, unceremoniously shunted out of their homes, and finding themselves at the receiving end of the asuras’ harassment, the devas, led by Indra approached Brahma with their woes.
“None of us can stand up to him, Oh Lord. If his atrocities continue, the three worlds will perish. Who is going to be the one to vanquish Tarakasur, Brahma Dev? asked Indra.
“The son of Shiva and his wife” replied Brahma, somberly.
“The son of who?” sputtered Indra.
“Shiva and his wife” repeated Brahma.
“But how is it going to be possible …Now that Sati has immolated herself….” interjected Varuna
“Sati has been reborn as Himavan and Mena Devi’s daughter” replied Brahma.” If all goes well she will succeed in winning Shiva’s affections and he will accept her as his consort.
“And till then?” questioned Indra.
It was Devi Saraswati who spoke.“Engage yourself in prayer, penance and tapasya. Every sincere prayer is heard, every sincere call answered.”
Indra and his companions began doing as instructed.
Meanwhile Prakriti’s bounty was overflowing at Himavan’s palace where the Adi Shakti incarnate, Parvati was growing up. In course of time Devarishi Narada visited Himavan’s palace and like any concerned mother, Mena Devi sked him about her daughter’s marriage and future husband. Narada, studied the lines on Parvati’s palm and hinted that Parvati’s future was linked with Kailashapati Shiva.
As he was leaving the palace, Parvati cornered him and requested him to initiate her in the sacred panchakshari mantra. Narada whispered the mystic five syllabled mantra “Om namah Sivaya” into Parvati’s right ear as if giving her deeksha. Every fibre in her body tingled with joy as she repeated the sacred chant.