by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222
This page describes the Story of Taladhvaja included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).
The phantom husband of Nārada. Once Nārada became a woman and a king called Tāladhvaja married her (Devī Purāṇa). It was to show how the mind is covered with illusion that Mahāviṣṇu made Nārada into a woman.
Once Nārada went to Mahāviṣṇu and asked him about the secret of life. Mahāviṣṇu said that there was nothing called life and life exists because of Māyā the illusion of the mind. Nārada insisted that he should see 'Māyā' (illusion) and so Viṣṇu started from Vaikuṇṭha with Nārada on the back of Garuḍa.
Crossing forests, rivers, cities, lakes, villages and mountains they reached Kanyākubja. There they saw a beautiful lake. Garuḍa landed and Viṣṇu and Nārada got down. They walked along the shore of the lake for some time and then they sat beneath a tree for some time. After some time Mahāviṣṇu asked Nārada to take a bath in the lake. Pleased at this command Nārada placed his violin and deer-hide on the shore and after first washing his face and feet and doing 'ācamana' with Kuśa grass in his hand stepped into the water for his bath. Mahāviṣṇu stood near the violin and deer-hide of Nārada and Nārada dipped himself in the water. What a surprise! Nārada was changed into a woman of great beauty. She had no memory of her previous birth and getting herself on to the shore she stood there watching the surroundings there. Then a king called Tāladhvaja came on horse-back that way. He addressed the beautiful woman as Saubhāgyasundarī and started talking with her. Within hours they got married and Tāladhvaja took her to his palace and spent the honey-moon there happily. Twelve years went by and Saubhāgyasundarī became pregnant. In due course she got a son named Vīravarmā. After another two years she got another son named Sudharmā. Thus she delivered a son every two years for twentyfour years becoming the mother of twelve sons. After some time she bore eight more sons also. When all the twenty sons came of age they were married according to the custom and in due course those sons also got sons. Thus Tāladhvaja and Saubhāgyasundarī became the heads of a large family of children and grand-children and lived happily. One day a king from a far-off place with a great army suddenly came and surrounded Kanyākubja. In the fight that ensued most of the sons and grand-sons of Saubhāgyasundarī were killed. The king fled from the battlefield and came to the palace. Saubhāgyasundarī was in great distress and when the enemies left the battlefield she secretly went there to have a last look at her sons and grandsons lying dead. The sight terrified her. They lay there without heads, hands or legs, eyes protruded, stomach cut open, intestines lying out and blood oozing out from everywhere. She fell to the ground and wept bitterly. Then Mahāviṣṇu came there disguised as an old brahmin and talked to her. He gave her instructions on some truths about life. Saubhāgyasundarī then called Tāladhvaja and they both went to the old lake and as instructed by the old brahmin Saubhāgyasundarī took a dip in the water. Lo! she became the old Nārada.
When Nārada got up from the lake Mahāviṣṇu was still standing near his violin and deer-skin smiling at him. The sight of Viṣṇu gave him knowledge of all that had happened. He stood there recounting in his memory how he had requested Viṣṇu to show him Māyā and how he had taken a bath in that lake and how he had spent a long period of married life ending in misery and how Viṣṇu had come to her in the form of an old brahmin when she had cried to him in agony and how the old brahmin had taken her and Tāladhvaja to the lake again and how he had become his old self again. He stood there still pondering over these when Viṣṇu called him and said "Come on Nārada, how slow you are. Finish your bath and come soon. What are you thinking about?" Tāladhvaja, however, was unmoved by any of these. He was puzzled to find a bearded Sannyāsī rising up from the place where his beautiful wife had dipped herself for a bath. He went to Nārada and asked "Oh best of sages, where is my wife who has just dipped herself in this same place? From where do you come?" Even before waiting to hear a reply from him the King began to make a hue and cry about the loss of his wife. Then Mahāviṣṇu went to him and consoled him by saying with illustrations that 'human ties are only ephemeral' and asked him to take a bath in the lake. Tāladhvaja after his bath became disgusted with life and after doing penance in the forests attained mokṣa. (8th Skandha, Devī Bhāgavata).