A short story inspired by an Indian mythological story of Menaka and Vishwamitra.
Shakuntala, the daughter of Menaka and Vishwamitra had grown up and lived in the ashram of Kanva Rishi.
Indra had given special status to Menaka for her sacrifice in breaking the meditation of Vishwamitra. She went out of the way to safeguard Indra's and heaven's interest. She suffered physically and emotionally in her mission. While acting as the gods' agent, she fell in love with the Rishi and marrying him became the mother of a daughter.
Their love story became a tragedy when, knowing the truth that Menaka was an Apsara and came from heaven to break his meditation, Vishwamitra gave her a curse to remain separated from him forever.
She sometimes visited her daughter Shakuntala on earth. Indra had provided her a spaceship operated by Yakshas.
Once Menaka decided to visit Shakuntala. She came down to earth by the Yakshas driven vehicle.
Shakuntala and Menaka were glad to see each other. Rishi Kanva provided the best possible facility for Menaka's boarding and lodging. During Menaka's stay there Shakuntala stayed with her.
The demons and the gods had always been enemies. Their animosity had been worse from the time of sea churning. They felt cheated by the gods for using tricks in the distribution of the valuable things, which came off the sea as a result of churning. These things were called gems and included Menaka and the Elixir of life. The gods, along with some other gems took over Menaka and drank all the elixir, serving liquor to the demons instead of elixir. Gods were very particular not to allow a noble and brave King like Satyavrat to enter heaven while Demons would forcefully enter heaven and disturb the dwellers.
Demons were quite advanced in the technological field. The demon kings like Ravana and Kuber were more resourceful than humans and gods.
They possessed the magical and supernatural powers also.
Some of the Demons came to know of Menaka's visit. They kept surveillance on the sky of the Saptsindu as the Indian subcontinent was then known.
After a fortnight Menaka set out for the heaven in her spaceship along with its Yakshas crew.
The Menaka had occupied his special cabin.
At night the Demons chased Menaka's spaceship and attacked it. They used firearms and anti- spacecraft missiles. The crew members had fought back and shot the demons' craft, but finally got killed.
Menaka's sleep was interrupted by the sound of the firearms and the jolts she felt in the space ship, She came out of her cabin and found the dead bodies of the crew members and marks of the battle. The crew had fought back and perhaps damaged the enemy's craft, which was falling like a fireball toward the earth. It was creating various optical illusions while moving away from the Menaka's spaceship.
She wondered, "Why have the demons spared her?"
About 20 years ago
This was the time when the Varnashram system was not rigid. A person could change the Varna by his karmas. Similarly, by doing good deeds, performing yajna and observing austerities, one could switch over to a higher world.
The Brahma had provided that Anybody could reach, the position of Indra by doing penance. This was the greatest concern for Indra, the king of gods. He was always worried that if someone earns a higher number of punyas he could claim his throne. He was so alert that by a tantric yantra he programmed his throne in such a manner that if anybody's Punyas reached the level high enough to threaten his position, his throne would start swaying and he would know the threat. Other gods did not face any threat like this. If any human attained the level of a god he or she could be accommodated without displacing any god or goddess but Indira was the King, who was only one.
Vishwamitra had been doing meditation for many years in a deep forest. Indra kept watching on him. One day he felt a tremor in his throne. He knew Vishwamitra had been doing severe penance and he could be a danger for his position.
Now he was desperate to break Vishwamitra's meditation to save his position. He considered the ways to disturb him.
To attack a meditating Rishi would be immoral and bad karma. At night all the gods assembled in the Darbar and celestial nymphs Rambha, Menaka and Urvashi performed a beautiful dance. Watching that Indra got an Idea. He thought, "Who on earth could resist the charm of these beautiful nymphs. Why should I not use them for breaking the Rishi's meditation?
I, being a god, would be exercising my power to test him. Nobody would find fault with me for this."
After the dance program finished and the dancers left the court. Indra said to the gods, "Rishi Vishwamitra has been doing severe penance for many years in the forest. His power has increased so much that he could replace me a become your king."
Gods knew that Vishwamitra was a powerful king and he was obstinate and ambitious. There was a full chance of his claiming the throne of Indra. Vishwamitra had no such ambition. He aimed to become a Brahma Rishi.
The Gods said," Rajan, we should stop Vishwamitra from reaching that level."
Indira, "As I know him, he cannot be distracted by ordinary means. So I am thinking of taking the help of Kamadeva,
, Kamsdev said, "Rajan, I will definitely distract him, but a beautiful woman is also required to engage him so he does not return to meditation after a brief distraction. Vishwamitra has been doing this penance with great determination. We can understand by this that he was a strong Kshatriya King and now he has attained such a high spiritual level that any time lord Brahma can bless him with the Brahma Rishitva. I don't think he may be interested in the Indradeva's throne.
Indra said, "I know he aims to become as powerful as Vishvamitra but by any chance, if he claims my throne, I will have no other choice than to abdicate. Lord Vishnu helps us against Asuras but he will not help us against a Brahma Rishi."
Surya deva asked Indra, "Which woman do you plan to employ for this job."
Indra said, "No woman of earth can do this job. I am thinking of sending one of our Apsaras for this work."
Kamadeva intervened, "Rajan, I think Menaka is capable of achieving our object."
Chandradeva asked, "What makes you say so ?"
Kamadeva said, "She is a beautiful, intelligent and excellent dancer whose every mudra is expressive. She can arise the lust in a yogi by just eye contact."
Chandra dev got excited by the idea and wished that Menaka and Vishwamitra meet during nights in his presence in that part of the sky, wherefrom he could give them cool light and see how does Menaka break the meditation of Vishwamitra. He could not help smiling.
Indra knew the fickle nature of Chandra.
He addressed all, "I expect all gods to cooperate with Menaka as and when she requires any help."
The next morning Indra called Menaka to his palace.
He said to Menaka, "I need your help. The job is a tough one so before giving you an order I want to have your consent."
Menaka said, "Whatever may be the job for me your order is enough."
Indra said, "Well I will tell you the work. Rishi Vishwamitra has been in deep meditation for many years and reached a level of asceticism that in a few weeks he will be eligible for claiming my throne if he wishes so."
Menaka asked, "What is your order for me."
Indra said hesitatingly, "You have to break the meditation of the Rishi to reduce his ascetic power so he will not be a threat to my Kingship of heaven."
Menaka was happy that Indra considered her the best for the job. This was a befitting answer to Rambha and Urvashi, who were proud of their beauty, and was jealous of Menaka for some reason best known to them. Menaka considered it a privilege to get a chance to help the king.
She said to Indra Dev, "Rajan, I am ready."
Indra was, pleased. He took Menaka in his airplane and dropped her in the forest.
In the thick forest on the bank of the Malini river, Vishwamitra was sitting like a stone idol. His hair fell to his waist like coir ropes. He had a big mustache and long matted beard. He was thin but the body shape was indicating that he must be having a very strong physique earlier. His eyes were shut. His body was emitting a light forming his aura.
Menaka wished to see him in his original condition. She saw him and bowed to him to pay respect and secretly asking for his forgiveness in her heart.
Then she used her miraculous powers of a celestial dancer Apsara and transformed that part of the forest into a lush beautiful garden.
Other gods were watching over the region and waiting for Menaka's signal for any help.
Kamadeva was quite eager to shoot his arrow at Vishwamitra. Chandradeva was dying to see how Menaka would distract the Rishi.
He has received a few curses for his. relations and cheating a few women on earth. But he was unable to change himself completely.
Menaka wanted to go slow. She had developed the outcome of her deed. It was also possible that by distracting the Rishi she had to face his wrath. He might burn her to ashes or give her some horrible curse. She thought of earning some Punya by Serving him for a few days.
She stopped Kamdeva from any action for a few days.
She shunned the form of an Apsara and became a beautiful earthly woman. She took upon herself the responsibility of cleaning the area. She flew away from the birds who dropped their droplets on the Rishi. She brought water from the Malini river and slowly poured over the Rishi's head washing down the mud and dirt accumulated in years of sitting at one place oblivious of his physical comforts.
Thus, she started bathing the Rishi daily. She also kept fresh fruit before him. She sprinkled fragrant flowers around him.
Indra watched her sometimes from the sky. He understood Menaka was trying to stimulate the sense organs of the Rishi gradually. He appreciated Menaka's strategy.
She continued to serve Vishwamitra until the arrival of the spring season. Now she hinted the gods to do whatever they could to create a romantic atmosphere. They created beautiful weather for days and nights. Sun became a little less intense, Pavan the god of air blew a soothing breeze. Varun the god of water sprinkled some water in the form of mild rain. Moon created the magical moonlit night
On the full-moon day, Menaka applied 16 types of Makeup and transformed into an unparalleled beautiful damsel. She started dancing around the Rishi. The sound of her anklet bells broke the silence of the night forest.
Kamadeva was ready to shoot his arrow.
Menaka signaled Kamdeva to shoot the arrow. Kamadeva targeted the heart of the Rishi and shot his flowers' arrow, which hit the target. Rishis sense organs were aroused. His heart started beating normally. He opened his eyes and saw an extremely beautiful young lady was dancing around him. Menaka started dancing seductively even touching the Rishi and breathing into his ear. She smiled seductively looking into the eyes of the Rishi, who became almost mesmerized. He was filled with carnal desire and caught her hand. Menaka led him to a thick grove. They made love on a cold stone and the ground rolling over the dry leaves.
Menaka's successfully carried out the order of Indradev.
Vishwamitra was so happy and satisfied with the company of Menaka that he did not bother about the loss of Punya he suffered by breaking off his meditation. Menaka was also overwhelmed by the persona of the Rishi, who had been a powerful king and despite his meditation being broken still, he had the position of a Rajrishi. She felt genuine love for the Rishi.
Indradeva told her by telepathy to remain with Vishwamitra on earth for three years so that he could not resume his meditation.
Now she got the reason also to remain on earth for a few years more.
She could not understand, was this the effect of living on earth' she had an intense desire to have a family.
One day she proposed to the Rishi for marriage, which he happily accepted.
They married and after a year they were blessed with a daughter. She was named Shakuntala.
In love, it is difficult to tell a lie and it is more difficult to bear with a lie. We can not hide a truth forever it can reveal itself at any time. Menaka falling in genuine love with Vishwamita was having a compunction about cheating him to break his meditation. One day in an emotional moment She said to Vishvamitra, " I have to confess something to you." Vishwamitra asked, "Is that necessary?" Menaka said, " For my mental peace." Vishwamitra said, "Normally confession is about a pang of guilt. I hope you have not committed anything serious." Menaka, "It depends on how seriously you take it. I request your forgiveness." Vihwamitra said, "I have not asked you anything and I don't insist on anything," Menaka said, "Believe me I love you wholeheartedly." Vishwamitra, " I never doubted it." Menaka said, " Maharshi, I want to confess to you that I am an Apsara of heaven and Indradeva sent me to you to distract you and break your meditation as he was worried about your power, which was increasing day by day and he was afraid to lose his throne."t Vishwamitra was shocked and sad, He remained silent for a long time brooding over something. The Maharshi's silence was killing Menaka with suspense. She requested repeatedly from Vishamitra to forgive her. After a few hours, he could speak and he said seriously, " Do you have an idea about the harm you have done to me?. You have spoilt my 1000 years of Tapasya. For me getting the Braha Rishitva is the most important thing in my life. More than the family." Menaka shuddered but remained silent. Vishvamitra pronounced, " I am sorry but I curse you to remain separated from me for a full lifetime." It also dawned on Menaka she could not remain on earth forever. She had lived 10 years with Vishwamitra. Her time on earth was to finish that day. She had to go back to heaven. Another problem was Shakuntala was a human child so she was not eligible to live in heaven. Night Indra sent an aircraft. Menaka carried her daughter to Kanva Rishi's ashram and leaving her there flew back to heaven.
Kanva Rishi found Shakuntala playing with the birds. Kanva took her to Viswamitra' s ashram but Vishwamitra had left for Himalaya mountains for resuming Tapasya. His goal of becoming Brahama Rishi was yet to be achieved. This was the be-all and end-all of his life.
Kanva Rishi took upon him the responsibility of raising the girl child Shakuntala.
When Shakuntala grew up to understand the world by a small measure. Kanva Rishi told her about her father Vishamitra and mother Menaka. She felt angry with them both. She felt angry with Vishvamitra for cursing her mother for a crime of which both were equally guilty. She was angry with her mother Menaka for leaving her to live like an orphan but for Rishi Kanva, who tended her both like a mother and a father.
Gradually she let the bitterness go and forgive her parents.
Menaka by living on the earth as a woman, wife, and mother had acquired some human nature, which conflicted with heaven's culture.
Rambha, the queen of Apsaras and other Apsaras jeered at her for her humanlike behavior at times.
Rishi Vishvamitra again did severe penance for a few hundred years and again caused panic in the heart of Indra. He again wanted to stop him from progressing further.
He wanted to apply the same trick, which he played with the help of Menaka. But he could not use Menaka again.
He thought of sending Rambha this time to distract Vishvamitra.
Rambha was hesitant to go and she told Indra deva about this.
Indradeva instigated her by saying, "When Menaka can do this, you can do this better. You are the queen of Apsaras, more beautiful and experienced."
Finally, Rambha got ready and went to Vishvamitra but Rishi instead of getting attracted got angry and cursed her to become a stone idol and remain so for 1000 years.
Once again Vishvammitra's meditation was broken and he lost a big amount of power by cursing Rambha. He looked back on his life and realized his human frailties were a big hindrance in his path to becoming a Brahma Rishi. Besides doing penance he had to be free from his weaknesses like lust and anger. He felt sorry for Menaka and Rambha, who were executing the orders of their King Indradeva and he had given them disproportionately harsh curses.
He went higher on the Himalaya and restarted tougher penance for another 1000 years. Now he attained such a high level of asceticism that Indra desisted from playing any old trick. He went to him in the guise of a Brahaman and tested him. This time Vishwamitra was free from anger and lust.
Indra requested Brahmadeva to make him a Brahma Rishi.
Brahma was also pleased with his Tapasya and made him a Brahma Rishi.