The Narada Purana (abridged)

2010 | 18,115 words

The Narada Purana (Nārada Purāṇa) is one of the major eighteen Mahapuranas, a genre of Hindu religious texts. It deals with the places of pilgrimages and features a dialogue between the sage Narada, and Sanatkumara. During the course of the dialogue between the two, Narada explains to Sanatkumara the major places of piligrimages, their location, ...

Yajnamali and Sumali

You will remember that Devamali had two sons named Yajnamali and Sumali. Yajnamali was the elder of the two.

Yajnamali divided whatever riches he had received from his father into two parts and gave one part to Sumali. But Sumali spent all his wealth on idle and evil pursuits. When his money was exhausted, he resorted to theft and robbery.

Yajnamali tried to restrain his brother. “Please mend your ways,” he told Sumali. “What you are doing is evil. Do not bring ill repute to our family.”

These words of advice only served to anger Sumali and he took up a sword to kill his borther. But the city-guards came and arrested Sumali before he could cause his brother any harm. Yajnamali used his good offices to free Sumali. He divided whatever riches he then possessed into two parts and gave one part to Sumali. As had happened earlier, Sumali again spent this money on evil and idle pursuits.

Sumali’s friends and associates were evil and outcasts. He was punished by the king and banished to the forest. When this happened, all his co-called friends deserted him.

Yajnamali was righteous. He associated with holy people, donated alms and dug ponds. Soon his wealth was also exhausted, being spent on all these good pursuits. Yajnamali retired to a temple of Vishnu and there spent his time in worshipping Vishnu.

By a curious quirk of fate, Yajnamali and Sumali died at the same time. A vimana arrived to take Yajnamali to heaven. While travelling in this wonderful vehicle, Yajnamali noticed that his brother was being taken to hell. Yama’s servants were beating Sumali and the poor fellow was suffering from hunger and thirst.

Yajnamali asked Vishnu’s companions, who had come to take him up to heaven, “How can my brother be freed of his sins?”

“Let us tell you your story,” replied the Companions. “In your earlier life you were born as a vaishya named Vishvambhara. You were evil and committed many sins. You were so evil that you deserted your parents and all your firends, in turn, deserted you. Once you were hungry and thirsty and sought refuge in a temple of Vishnu. Your feet were dirty and when you tried to clean them, part of the temple also got cleaned. This was a punya that was credited to your account. Since you had no food, you fasted throughout the night. And in the morning you died of snake-bite. But the little bit of punya was enough to ensure that you became devoted to Vishnu in your next life, when you were born as Yajnamali. So far as your brother is concerned, there is indeed a way to free him. Give him the punya that you had acquired as a result of cleaning part of the temple and your brother shall go free.”

Yajnamali did as he had been bidden. Yama’s servants immediately left Sumali and fled. A wonderful vimana came down to take Sumali as well to heaven. The two brothers were delighted to see each other. So great was Yajnamali’s punya that he did not have to be born again. But after spending some time in heaven. Sumali had to be born again. In his next life, he was devoted to Vishnu and performed only good deeds. Eventually, he too was freed.

Such is the wonderful punya that can be acquired from something so trivial as cleaning a tiny part of Vishnu’s temple.

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