Narada (नारदः)

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There has never been and never will be a sage that has so captivated the Indian religious imagination the way Narada has. He is referred to in innumerable places in the whole gamut of religious literature in the Upanishads, Puranas or mythology, Sutras or aphorisms, Smritis or religious codes of conduct, hymns, treatises on music, and commentaries. Stories referring to him are told and retold over and over again. Every Hindu, young and old, knows him, with Bis distinctive vina (a stringed musical instrument), #flower garland around his neck, and the constant uttering of 'Narayana, Narayana'.

Narada is depicted as an itinerant devotee, spreading God's name and glories among the rich and the OF, the pious and the vicious, the haughty and the lumble, kings and peasants; from gods and demi-gods demons, from the heavens to the nether worlds. He

alled a schemer, a thwarter of evil actions, a muni, isht maharshi, divine musician, and above all a god 09. He seems to be all-knowing and is a master of ir circumstance. Narada is best summed up by Shri Ramakrishna when he refers to 'sages such as Narada, who keep their bodies alive in order to bring spiritual light to others.

The numerous accounts regarding Narada have always frustrated scholars, who have tried to organize his biography sequentially into a coherent whole. But it is these contradictory and sometimes complementary accounts that lend so many colours to this remarkable sace. Moreover, the Indian mind does not find anything Inlarmonious. This is its speciality in the domain of religion.

There are various stories connected with Narada's birth, but this irregularity gets ironed out from the standpoint of reincarnation. The Puranas state that Narada was born from the lap of Brahma. He was told to perform his duty as a patriarch, but Narada refused. The reason was that, like the other first-borns, he was endowed with unobstructed knowledge, which naturally made him averse to getting entangled in worldliness.

Narada's wish to lead a celibate life was met with wrath. Brahma had been distressed when Sanaka, Banandana, Sanatkumara, and Sanatana, his four mind born sons, had left to become celibate hermits. Then he had to coerce the subsequent patriarchs to toe the line of duty. Narada's refusal made Brahma curse him thusi 'Your knowledge will temporarily be covered by lonorance. You will have to be reborn as a Gandharva temi divine musician) named Upabharana; then as son of a servant woman; and after that, once again as my son’.

image

Narada singing hymns in front of Lord Vishnu.

The curse took effect. Giving up his body, Narada wat born as Gandharva Chitraketu's son Upabharana. Even though he had been cursed to lose his knowledge, faint recollections turned his mind towards divine things. Brihaspati, the guru of the gods, had initiated him into the worship of Vishnu; he also became a musician par excellence and invented the stringed instrument called the vina. One day while he was meditating, fifty Gandharva daughters of Chitraratha were passing by. They fell instantly in love with him, and roused him with songs. Upabharana too fell in love and married all of them. Thus he lived, rearing a large family. When he knew the end was approaching, he spent his remaining years practising austerities and peacefully passed away.

Narada was next reborn as the son of a maidservant, employed in the house of a brahmin. It is said that the brahmin named him Narada, meaning the giver of water, because as soon as he was born there was a heavy rainfall, which brought relief to the drought affected land. Many itinerant saints and holy men used to frequent the brahmin's house, so the child Narada got the opportunity to serve them and listen to their discourses while eating their leftovers. This gradually purified his mind, made it one-pointed, and concentrated it on the Lord Hari.

One day his mother succumbed to a snakebite as she was on her way to milk cows. The little boy was now free. He left the brahmin's house and retired to the forest in order to perform spiritual disciplines. There he yearned, prayed, and became restless for God. His efforts bore fruit, and one day he received the glorious vision of God. This bliss that surged through Narada was immeasurable; but the next moment the vision disappeared, and Narada was thrown into the pits of despair.

Narada then heard God's voice: "Now that you have seen me, my child, you will not have this vision anymore-not in this life. Go about singing my glories and teaching people the path of devotion.' Consoled a bit, Narada raised himself from his grief and took up the lonely itinerant life of a devotee. Vina in hand, this little boy with bright eyes and a bright body travelled through villages, towns and cities, singing divine songs everywhere. He became a superb raconteur of religious lore. Thoughts of God were his only solace, so he became fully absorbed in them. Bliss replaced utter Sadness.

Thus the years passed. Narada became a perfect devotee of God. Towards the end, as Brahma's curse was gradually losing its power, he performed austerities on the banks of the sacred river Ganga and gave up his body. Brahma was happy to see his son again, but soon yot displeased when Narada repeated his refusal to take up the householder's life. Brahma asked, "Why are you 10 afraid of being a householder? Many householders have attained liberation. He further said, 'Shiva has Granted a boon to Maharshi Sanjaya's daughter Malati, that in this life she will marry you. Now, go: you will lie married to her at Badarikashrama in the presence of the great sages Nara and Narayana.'

Narada was reborn with divine looks, qualities, and knowledge. He grew up along with a rishi named Parvata. They were great friends, and decided to visit Various places of pilgrimage together. They made a pact never to hide their inmost thoughts from each other. If one transgressed, the other had the right to curse m. A bit fatigued in the course of their travels, they ided to spend the chaturmasya, the four monsoon months, in the first available place, which happened to be King Sanjaya's guest-house.

The king was overjoyed to have these two noble rishis as guests, and extended all his hospitality to them. He assigned his daughter Malati to be their hostess. Naturally, Narada and Malati fell in love with each other. Narada tried his best to hide this fact from Parvata, who, on becoming aware of it, cursed Narada and turned him into a monkey. The fury of the monkey knew no bounds: he in turn cursed Parvata to go to Yamaloka, hell, for a hundred years.

Malati's love for Narada was unshakable even though he had a monkey's body. This gave sleepless nights to the king and his subjects: A hundred years rolled by. When they were over, Parvata was released from Narada's curse. Parvata met Narada, and on being cordially received, revoked his curse. Narada obtained his previous body and lived happily with Malati.

Narada was born as Daksha Prajapati's son due to the latter's curse. Daksha had five thousand sons, known as Haryashvas. They were performing austerities prior to marriage. At the time, Narada was living as the son of Kashyapa. He became alarmed at the prospect of the overpopulation that would result if these five thousand men had children. He approached the Haryashvas, saying that they were mere children and that they ought to first explore the world to see if it held enough space to contain their progeny. The Haryashvas ran off in all directions to find that out. Space being infinite, they did not return.

Daksha then created the Shabalashvas, whom Narada tricked and sent them on a similar search. Daksha once again created five thousand sons, and Narada used his

old trick once again. Learning of what had happened, Daksha cursed Narada to wander without rest all over the universe, just like his sons. Some traditions say that Daksha cursed Narada to be born as his next son. Enumerating his powers, Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: 'Amongst the god-sages I am Narada.' Every work in religious literature makes a reference to him, so popular and lovable was his character. And the stories, however incongruous they may be, reflect his greatness, like the following one:

Narada was once born as a worm, and was crawling across a road. In the distance he noticed a chariot speeding towards him. Fear impelled him to hurry, trying to avoid the wheels. A king seated in the chariot noticed the worm's plight and laughed loudly. Safely out of the way, the worm spoke: 'There is mething ridiculous in my actions. In the soul's every Incarnation, that particular body becomes very dear to I Just as you love your body, so do I love mine.'

It was Narada who related the greatness of Shri Hama and inspired the first poet Valmiki to write the immortal epic called the Ramayana. This in turn has Inspired millions and millions of souls, and is still doing so.

This great rishi has been immortalized for all time come in the greatest book of all mankind, the Mahabharata. The numerous stories, discourses, and Heeds connected with Narada that its hundred thousand tantas contain have enriched this unparalleled and we inspiring religious masterpiece with additional colour.

Here is an interesting story about an encounter of anada with Hanuman. Both were great devotees of the Lord, and both were excellent musicians. Hanuman began singing a raga, tune, which had the effect of melting everything around, even the rock on which Narada had placed his famous vina. When the raga ended, the rock took on its original hardness, and in the process trapped the vina. Narada began singing in order to melt the rock to retrieve the vina, but failed even after much effort. Hanuman then sang and re-melted the rock. Narada was pleased and blessed Hanuman.

The concept of maya, which is much spoken of in all the scriptures, is extremely difficult and subtle to grasp. Narada once prayed to Shri Krishna to reveal how it operates. This story has been brilliantly retold by Swami Vivekananda in his lecture, 'Maya and Freedom'. Shri Krishna asked Narada to fetch for him some water to quench his thirst. Narada hurried away, and entering a distant village, came across a girl with whom he instantly fell in love. They married, had children, and lived happily. One day a heavy storm washed away and destroyed everything and everybody except Narada, who was wailing and grief-stricken over the loss. Shri Krishna came over to where he had fallen and inquired about the water he was to fetch and for which he had left half an hour before.

In a somewhat similar story in another Purana, Narada takes a dip in a pool, turns into a beautiful young woman, and forgets everything about his identity 'She' then marries a rishi and has many children. One day, while she is taking a dip in the same pool, the illusion breaks, Narada comes out just as he was before without a trace of memory about what had taken place. Again it was Shri Krishna who enlightened him

Narada was the paragon of yoga-bhakti, jnana, and karma-and is alluded to by quite a few religious books as either author, teacher, or inspirer. Because he is unquestionably the greatest devotee in all traditional literature, a treatise on devotion called the Narada Bhakti Sutras has long been popular among those who aspire to attain God through bhakti or devotion. On the other hand, the Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, which teaches jnana, is not so popular.

In the Chandogya Upanishad, which is a part of the Sama Veda, one comes across a story in which Narada approaches the great sage Sanatkumara, the mind-born son of Brahma, as a student. Sanatkumara inquired as to what he had learned elsewhere, and Narada replied, O venerable sir, I have read the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, history, mythology, grammar, rites of the Manes (ancestors), mathematics, the subject of natural disturbances, mineralogy, logic, ethics, etymology, ancillary knowledge concerning the Vedas, the science of elements, archery, astronomy, the science of serpents, and the fine arts. I know all of these. But even with all this knowledge, I am full of sorrow. O venerable one, please take me beyond Arrow' Sanatkumara then commences to instruct Parada in the knowledge of the Atman, which forms one of the most profound teachings of Vedanta.

A striking thing about this remarkable sage is that hilt presence is found in a vast religious literature thing from the ancient Vedas to contemporary Wings Ordinarily, given such a long period, any trayal of a personality undergoes many changes in

minds of different writers. But, incredibly, Narada's pletion has not suffered much. This shows how strong the original impression of him is. It is impossible to either improve it or tarnish it.

The central theme of Narada's life and mission was to raise the minds of living beings and direct them Godward-not only on the human plane of existence, but also on the divine, semi-divine and demonic planes. And all the stories related to him amply prove how admirably he performed his mission.