Gods and sages in Hindu mythology are never beyond reproach because their loves also have betrayals and heartbreaks in equal measure. One such story is that of Kacha and Devayani…
The quest for eternity is, well, eternal, and we come across this trope often in mythologies and literatures of all cultures. We read stories of heroes who set out on perilous journeys to discover fountains of youth or uncover secrets to immortality. What is ambrosia for the Greeks, peaches of everlasting life for the Chinese, is amrita for the Indians.
Our gods enjoy life and youth endlessly, thanks to that nectar of the oceans. But this is a story of a time before the samudra manthan, when the devas couldn’t really take life for granted. In fact, this assurance lay with their constant adversaries, the asuras. For it was Shukracharya, the guru (teacher) of the asuras, who knew the secret of the mrita sanjeevani – the formula of bringing the dead back to life. With this ace up their sleeve, there was very little to stop their march towards triloka domination. The devas were worried…
Desperate to learn this secret, the devas and their guru, Brihaspati, entrusted his son, Kacha, to go on what we shall call Mission Sanjeevani. Now it would be more interesting if things were undercover, but then that would make a bad example of the ‘principal ka beta’, no? So Kacha went to Shukracharya, introduced himself as his arch rival and old friend’s son, promised to serve him for one thousand years and implored him to accept him as his student. Pleased with Kacha’s forthrightness and humility, Shukracharya relented.
Killing the spy
Time passed, and good boy Kacha became the star pupil at Vrishaparva ashrama. But daddy Shukracharya wasn’t the only one with a fondness for him. His daughter, the beautiful Devayani, too had lost her heart to this handsome Brahmin bloke. However, things were not to remain peaceable. After about 500 years (slow pokes!), the asuras found out about Kacha’s real purpose, and were rightfully furious. They plotted to kill the ‘spy’, and most action thrillers would be hard pressed to match the goriness of their methods.
The first time, when Kacha was away grazing the animals, the asuras killed him, cut up his body and fed them to the wolves. When Kacha did not return, Devayani suspected foul play and asked daddy dearest to use his powers to bring the man of her dreams back. She even threatened to kill herself if she wasn’t reunited with the love of her life. Shukracharya complied. When he breathed life back into Kacha, all pieces of his body tore open from the wolves’ stomachs and rejoined to make him whole and alive again.
How it backfired
Devayani was overjoyed. But the asuras did not give up. They tried to assassinate Kacha again, only to be thwarted by their teacher. The third time, the asuras thought of a plan they knew could not fail. They killed Kacha yet again, burnt his body and mixed the ashes with wine. They then got Shukracharya to drink the wine. When Devayani smelt mischief again and repeated her request to her father, Kacha revealed his dilemma from within Shukracharya’s stomach. Having the sanjeevani work would mean killing his guru, and that would mean incurring the greatest of sins.
Impressed with Kacha’s sense of duty and honesty, Shukracharya taught Kacha the life giving formula. He asked Kacha to emerge from his body and then use the mantra to revive him. Kacha obeyed his master and finally became privy to the coveted vidya.
Bro-zoned in paradise
An elated Devayani chose this moment of jubilation to profess her love to Kacha and expressed her desire to marry him. But Kacha cruelly turned her down. His reason? Having spent time in Shukracharya’s stomach had made his guru like his father, and hence Devayani like his sister. And he couldn’t marry his sister.
Umm, what? Now, we were always taught that it was inside a mother’s body that a baby was carried and not a father’s, but what do we know? Anything’s possible for our gods and sages. Like missiles, plastic surgery, and test tube babies, right?
So Kacha took off happily with his Sanjeevani mantra, leaving a heartbroken Devayani behind. Not one to take her rejection lightly, Devayani gave Kacha a curse as a parting gift. She said that he would never be able to use this precious mantra he had spent so many years trying to get. Kacha felt it unfair and cursed her back that no brahmin would marry her. Of course Kacha taught the secret to other devas and of course Devayani married a king eventually, but this episode of one-sided love is altogether too familiar in the world around us. Unrequited love and the consequent heartache are deserving of some sympathy, but no more.
Don’t force it!
Bear in mind people, that even a proverbial paradise is not free from bro-zoning, (sis-zoning in this case)! As with gods, so with men. You cannot force your affections on people who are simply not interested in you. No matter how true or deep your love, it cannot and should not be thrust upon the unwilling. The Bollywood idiom does not work, and even saving someone’s life does not obligate them to love you back. So take your love where it might be reciprocated and not where the object of your affection has to fend you off with a rakhi.