The Separation

The Hindu Mythology has been famous for its tales of love and separations. Various Gods, Demi-Gods, kings, and mortals have had beautiful love stories which would either end in a tearful reunion or a life-long separation. Vedic texts and famous epics of Hindu mythology are filled with such tales and various reasons are given for the ending of each and every story, each being a catalyst to an important event.

Dyaus and Prithvi Dyaus Pitr literally translated into ‘Sky Father’ is the oldest deity of the Vedic Hindu texts especially mentioned in the Rig-Veda, he is the father heaven or simply the sky who is the consort of Prithvi Mata literally translated into ‘Mother Earth’. Dyaus and Prithvi are regarded as the First gods who are the progenitors or parents of the second generation of gods. In archaic Hindu texts, Dyaus and Prithvi were one single entity named as ‘DyavaPrithvi’. The Rig-Veda mentions that mortal life emerged by the procreation of Dyaus (Sky) and Prithvi (Earth), where Dyaus impregnated Prithvi in the form of rains. From their union were born three children who were the second generation of gods; Indra (the future king of gods and the god of rains), Agni (the god of fire) and Usha (the goddess of dawn), their union also resulted in the subsequent growth of flora and fauna.

But with the appearance of their children especially Indra whose ambitions lead him to usurp the title of his father and become the king of gods and the lord of heaven, originally Dyaus was the lord of heaven as he is also referred to as the Father Heaven but the growing ambitions of his son Indra who was the god of Rains leads to a separation between Dyaus and Prithvi (the Sky and Earth) thus from being a single entity the two got separated to never meet again.

Vishwamitra and Meneka Vishwamitra was an ancient Chandravanshi King who was known as ‘Kaushik’. Due to a conflict with sage Vashistha, he renounces his kingdom and performs various penances to become a greater Brahmarishi than Vashistha. The story of Vishwamitra and Meneka is narrated in the Balkanda of Valmiki Ramayana, Indra frightened by the Tapasya of Vishwamitra, decides to test him. He sends Meneka who was a beautiful nymph in the court of Indra in heaven, she pursues Vishwamitra to marry him and the sage mesmerized by her beauty falls in love with her and the two get married.

They live together for 10 years and from their union is born Shakuntala whose story is narrated in the epic Mahabharata, when Vishwamitra discovers the truth and realises that due to Meneka he wasted 10 years of his Tapasya, he curses her that the beauty she used as a tool to pursue him and is so proud of she won’t be able to possess it in her next birth. Meneka is heartbroken as she was truly in love with Vishwamitra and he goes away abandoning her and their child, being an Apsara (heavenly nymph) she could not take the child with her to the heaven and thus leaves her behind in the forest where the baby girl is founded by another sage called ‘Kanva’ who raises her as his own. Thus the relationship of Vishwamitra and Meneka ends in a terrible way making us realize that any relationship that begins with a lie will never last.

Nal and Damyanti The story of Nal and Damyanti is found in the Vana Parva book of the Mahabharata it was narrated to Yudhisthir by a sage called Brihadasva, Nal was the king of Nishada kingdom and Damyanti was the princess of Vidarbha Kingdom. One day Nal encounters a beautiful swan in his palace garden and mesmerised by its beauty Nal praises it but to his surprise the swan speaks to him and tells him about the beautiful princess of Vidharbha called Damyanti listening about her beauty the Nishada king falls in love with her and asks the swan to go to Damyanti and tell her about him. The swan then flies to the Vidharbha kingdom where he sings to Damyanti the praises of the young, courageous and handsome Nishada king called Nal, listening about him Damyanti too falls in love with him. Soon the Vidharbha king announces the swayamvaar of his beloved daughter and all suitable kings and princes are invited since Damyanti was famed for her beauty even the gods desired her and were sent the invitations to the swayamvaar.

But soon all the gods discover that Damyanti is already in love with Nal and thus decide to trick her to see whether she was truly in love with him or not, they assume the form of Nal and ask her to find out the real Nal amongst them, Damyanti succeeds in garlanding the real Nal and the reason she gives is that she recognised Nal by looking into his eyes, the gods are impressed by Damyanti’s wittiness and bless the couple’s marriage. While returning from their marriage all the gods meet the deity Kali (the deity of degradation and depravity) and inform him that the swayamvaar was over and Damyanti chose Nal as her consort, this angers kali and he decides to wreak vengeance on the couple. He gets this opportunity after a few years when Pushkara who was Nal’s brother invites him for the game of dice, Nal had a weakness which was gambling and taking the advantage of that Kali helps Pushkara in the game and prompts Nal to gamble away his wealth and kingdom.

Seeing the outcome of the game, Damyanti sends her children away to her father’s kingdom and the two of them leave for their exile. Nal requests Damyanti to return to her father as he believes he was the one who had to suffer the hardships of the exile since he had lost control over himself and gambled away everything but she refuses to leave her husband’s side and accompanies him to the forest for their exile, they encounter various hardships and one day Nal overpowered with grief seeing his beloved wife face such terrible hardships and sleeping on the coarse ground of forest leaves her behind to embark the rest of the journey alone. When Damyanti wakes up and finds that her husband has left her she is heartbroken but she decides to find him instead of returning to her father’s kingdom.

She roamed the forests aimlessly searching for her beloved and her longing to meet Nal turned into lunacy and once while looking for him in a village she was attacked by the villagers who pelted stones at her thinking she was a witch due to her unkempt hair and terrible condition. She reached the kingdom of chedi where the queen accepted her as the Sainadhri (hairdresser). Nal too roamed around the forest where he encounters a serpent who requests Nal to help him and when he does so the serpent ends up biting him which turns Nal into an ugly creature and informs him that this incident was long prophesied and this disguise will help him in hiding and when the right time comes he will turn back to normal.

Thus Nal goes to Ayodhya and becomes the royal cook of king Rituparna, years pass by and one-day Damyanti’s brothers visit chedi and on encountering their sister working as the Sainadhri of the queen are moved to tears, they compel her to return to Vidharbha. Once in Vidharbha Damyanti decides to take the help of her father and brothers to organise a fake swayamvaar in order to lure Nal out of his hiding, since Damyanti was considered the most beautiful women at that time all the kings accept the swayamvaar invitation and the king of Ayodhya too goes for the swayamvaar with Nal as his charioteer , when Damyanti hears that king Rituparna of Ayodhya has refused to eat the royal food laid out to him and insists on eating the food cooked by his charioteer Damyanti decides to pay a visit to the charioteer and on tasting the food she is convinced that it is her husband Nal since he too had a penchant for cooking but she is shocked to discover a dark, short and deformed man as compared to the fair, tall and handsome Nal. She decides to make him reveal his true identity; she asks him why does a dutiful man want to send his wife back to her father’s kingdom? To which he answers, the one who has gambled away his wealth and kingdom and cannot provide his beloved with the life she was promised to at the time of their marriage. This makes Damyanti realize that it was truly her husband Nal and he is freed from the curse and returns to his original appearance and the two are finally united after years of struggles, separation, and hardships. Nal with the help of his in-laws and the king of Ayodhya attacks his brother Pushkara and wins his kingdom back.

Thus these stories of love and separation from our texts aren’t only romantic enough to move the reader but also teaches various lessons, making us realise various aspects of love and life like the story of Dyaus and Prithvi speaks to us about the separation of two of the most primordial forces to bring forth the new generation, never to be able to meet again. The story of Vishwamitra and Meneka speaks to us about the beginning of a relationship with lies which will never have a positive outcome and the result of it is borne by the child who is abandoned by both the parents and finally the story of Nal and Damyanti which speaks of love transcending over all the hardships and negativities eventually resulting in a happy ending.