Ancient Sanskrit tale of Vedic sages translated, retold and illustrated by U. Mahesh Prabhu
A long time ago, in the dense forest of Vindhyas, there lived giant who was gifted with a special power to assume any form at his will. As fancy as it may sound, the giant was apparently disgusted with his life. He desired to put an end to it. However, there was a problem.
Whenever he tried to commit suicide, he had to assume his own original form. That was the law. In his own form, he was so tall and strong that a jump from a hilltop meant hopping down from a veranda. The water of the deepest river proved inadequate for him to take a dip.
As days passed, his disgust for life increased. He wept and howled. But that only scared away the beasts and birds.
One day he came across a rishi who happened to be meditating. Without caring for consequences, he awakens the rishi from his trance and narrates his sorrow.
On listening to the giant, the rishi retrospect for a while before saying, “I can understand your pain. The age of giants is over. I wonder if there would be even half a dozen giants left in all the forests and hills of the world. But, I can see from my intuition that you are blessed with a long life. All I can do is to let you take birth as some other creature. Until the end of that life – which will cover the remaining span of your life as a giant – this way you won’t feel so desolate and disgusted. Tell me whether you would like to be born as an elephant, or a lion, or a tiger, or a human being.”
“What do you suggest, wise sire?” asked the giant to the rishi.
“Take a human birth. The human beings are the foremost of all creatures,” said the rishi.
The giant said that he would like to go and live in the human society for some days before taking a final decision. The sage approved of the idea.
The giant took a human form and reached a town whose chieftain was famous for his heroism. One day when this chieftain was roaming about in the outskirts of the town, the giant greeted him and said, “The people speak so much about your valor! Are you really that brave?”
“Brave? Haha! It is a pity that there are no giants these days. That is why I cannot get a chance to crush them and win the glory of another Vikramaditya,” he boasted.
Instantly, to the chieftain’s horror, the giant assumed his real form and commanded him to walk around him thrice with hands folded and to bow down to him.
The chief guard shivered like a cat in the rain and did as commanded.
“So, this is what you humans call valor!” remarked the giant before leaving.
Soon he reached another town. Assuming the form of a charming young man, he met a wealthy merchant. He knew that the merchant was looking for an eligible young man to marry his daughter.
“I am poor, but I am of your caste and I am quite educated. Will you give your daughter in marriage to me?” he asked.
“Not to a poor man,” said the merchant, adding “I love my daughter so much that I will give her only to a prince.”
“Really?” roared out the giant as he assumed his real form.
“I understand that your ship is sailing in the sea. I’m going to sink it,” said the giant.
“Please, giant sire, I agree to your proposal,” faltered out the merchant.
“Haha!” laughed the giant while leaving. “This is the extent of your love for your daughter!”
He walked, looking an ordinary man, to another part of the town. Before a landlord’s house, there was a gathering. Some singers were singing devotional songs while the landlord, his eyes closed, sat chanting Lord’s name.
After the session was over and people dispersed, the disgusted giant went closer to the landlord and said, “You have chanted the Lord’s praise, so long. Would you mind once abusing him?”
“How dare you propose such a grotesque thing to a sincere devotee like me? Can I utter a word of abuse against the Lord even for my life?” shouted the landlord.
The giant assumed his original form. “If you don’t abuse the Lord, I am going to choke you!” he said bringing his fearful hands nearer to the landlord’s throat.
“I’ll abuse the Lord, I’ll abuse the Lord, I’m at your command!” shrieked the landlord in panic.
The giant laughed. “This is the extent of human devotion!” he murmured and left the town.
Straight he returned to his forest and stood before the rishi.
As the sage looked up affectionately, the giant said, “Revered sir, my trip to the human localities proved quite disappointing.” He then narrated his experiences at length.
“So, my child, what would you like to become?” asked the rishi.
“Well, grant me human life!” said the giant.
“Are you sure?” asked the rishi, smilingly.
“Yes, because the human beings, despite their shortcomings, are never tired of life. They always build new hopes, new dreams, and new expectations. As a human being, I will not feel bored with life. Besides….” The giant paused.
“What is besides, my child?” queried the rishi.
“It is only among humans that rishis like you are possible.” replied the giant.