MATSYA BY SUNDARI VENKATRAMAN
EXCERPT FROM MATSYA
At the time that we begin the story of Matsya, one kalpa was coming to an end and by now, the tired Brahma was yawning away as his day was finishing too. The lord with four heads, all with long white beards, golden crowns perched on snowy white hair, each facing in a different direction, was finding it difficult to keep his eyes open. He turned to look at his consort Saraswati and wasn’t really surprised to see that she had kept her veena aside and had slid into a deep sleep as she lay on the soft back of her swan which was also snoring away softly.
From his residence at Brahmaloka, he turned his attention towards Devaloka—on another sphere altogether—where the devas lived and was greeted by total silence. The space around him had become dark. Maybe it was time for him to go to sleep too. The exhausted Brahma, despite his ability to see in all directions, didn’t notice the Asura Hayagriva who was eyeing him from far away Earth.
Hayagriva, the asura with the head of a horse and the body of a man, was built like a small mountain. He was over twenty-five feet tall, with wide and well-muscled shoulders, his arms and legs strong and muscular, even more so than a horse’s. With his thick, dark mane swaying in the gentle breeze, Hayagriva stood there, his arms akimbo, avidly watching the creator, hoping to get something out of Brahma when the latter was in the throes of deep sleep.
The brilliant blue sky was greying by the minute as twilight was taking over rapidly around Brahma’s abode that was positioned way above the Earth, while Hayagriva was standing close to where we have the north pole today, keeping an eye on the creator with the help of his mystical powers. Yes, the asuras who were evil, also had powers of mysticism, same as the devas. The only difference was that they were mortal unlike the immortal Demi-Gods.
Hayagriva’s waiting didn’t go waste. As gentle snores emanated from Brahma, out jumped the four Vedas from his nostrils. It was not as if they all slid out at one go. But then, Hayagriva was patient. He had waited for this moment since a couple of thousand years. First came the Rig Veda. Hayagriva pounced on it with agility and swallowed it up whole, confident that no one could prise it from him now that it was sitting tight in his abdomen.
By now, Brahma was snoring a bit louder and quite rhythmically too. A few human years passed before the Yajur Veda slid out noiselessly. Hayagriva was wide awake unlike the creator and smiled broadly as he stood right below to catch the second Veda in both his hands. It took him but a few seconds to send it down his throat to settle down next to the first Veda.
Two more years went by before Sama Veda fell down with a thud. Yes, by now, even Hayagriva had fallen sleep. But the whirring sound of the Veda falling down through the air just before it touched the Earth woke him up. He galloped across on all fours and picked up the Veda from where it was lying on the Earth’s surface to swallow it up whole, almost choking on it as his throat was all dried up due to the deep sleep that he had woken up from. He quickly turned around and dipped his mouth into the sea, gulping down a few litres of water before the third Veda wound its way into his stomach. The sea close to that area contained fresh water due the melting of the icebergs and hence helped quench the asura’s thirst only too well.
The completely refreshed Hayagriva was grinning by now. There was just one more Veda that he needed to collect before he could take off. Then would follow what could only be called unadulterated entertainment! Let the Trimurti try to resurrect the next kalpa without the Vedas that were the very basis of orderly life for human beings. Hayagriva couldn’t wait to share his success with the other rakshasas. They would all be so happy with what he had done and will definitely make him their lord and master.
Just then he remembered all those apsaras in the court of Lord Indra. Hayagriva laughed softly, careful not to wake up the sleeping creator, too excited at the thought of having the heavenly beauties for his playmates. What a life!
He didn’t have to wait very long before the last one, Atharvana Veda, slid out of Brahma’s nostril. The alert Hayagriva caught it with alacrity, his laughter loud and triumphant now, not really caring if he woke the sleeping Brahma. Pushing the fourth Veda into his mouth, Hayagriva took to the air, flying far away from there, hoping to find a hiding place for the next thousand years. He knew that it wouldn’t be long before one of the Holy Trinity would come chasing after him to retrieve the Vedas. The chances were high that it would be Lord Vishnu since he was the one who helped preserve everything in the universe.
Hayagriva flew around the Earth a few times before deciding that the oceans were the place that would keep him safe and out of sight. Being a mayavi with fantastic magical powers that most of the rakshasas were endowed with, Hayagriva could breathe in water. There was no dearth of food either since the seas teemed with creatures both big and small. He tilted on his head and took a dive when he came across the biggest body of water that he could see from the air—the area that is known as the Pacific Ocean nowadays—and went deep within before he touched bottom.
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