Ancient Indian legends or the stories from our puranas are not mere stories for entertainment. Each story also illustrates an eternal truth or an important lesson. Some of the puranas like the Bhagvat purana attempt to illustrate the principles of upanishads and other philosphies for the easy understanding of the common man. The two prominent epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata take us into deeper inquiry with regard to not only finding meaning in life for an individual but also dealing with the complex social issues.
The stories of Jaya and Vijaya, as narrated in Bhagvat Purana and further elaborated in various other puranas, are really fascinating. Jaya and Vijaya are not only the gatekeepers of Lord Vishnu, but are also two of His closest devotees. Yet, in subsequent births they are the villains becoming fierce opponents of Lord Vishnu during some of His avatars. Jaya and Vijaya took birth as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in Satya yug, as Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Tretaya Yug and as Dantavakra and Shishupal in Dwapara Yug.
In some mystical texts of ancient origin, it is also stated that Jaya and Vijaya are not different from Lord Vishnu. Of course it seems strange. But the stories of Jaya and Vijaya are in line with the following statements from Upanishad and other mystic ancient literature:
“One become two and then many, and finally many dissolve into the one”
Good and evil always co-exist. The Chinese concept of co-existence of opposing forces as found in the writings of Lao Tzu and other Taoist philosophers also finds resonance here.
According to the Bhagavata Purana, once the four sons of Lord Brahma also known as Sanat Kumaras, went to meet Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntha Dham. The four sanat kumaras are Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumar. It is said that due to regular spiritual practices they looked like children. So the gatekeepers did not take them seriously. However, when they insisted that they be allowed to go inside without delay, Jaya and Vijaya told them that Lord Vishnu was taking rest and they have to wait till He wakes up. At this, the kumaras were enraged and told that Lord Vishnu is available all the time for their devotees. Further, the kumaras cursed the gatekeepers for their insolence so as to be born in the mortal world leaving their heavenly bode. Subsequently, the gatekeepers asked forgiveness of the kumaras and requested Lord Vishnu to waive off the curse. Lord Vishnu told that the curse of divine beings like the kumaras cannot be reverted. However, he wanted to commute the punishment. So He gave the gatekeepers two options – either to be born as His devotees for six births or as His enemies for three births. Jaya and Vijaya chose the latter as they thought the sooner they are re-untied with their master the better, even though they have to play the role of villains.
So in their first descent from heaven as mortal beings they were born as Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa. It happened in Satya Yuga.
The story of Hiranyakha
Rishi Kashyapa had two wives – Aditi and Diti. All the devas and other auspicious beings were born to Aditi while the demons in general, and Hiranyakha and Hiranyakashyapa in particular, were born to Diti. Hiranyakha, the elder one, was conceived during the evening time and stayed in the womb for one hundred years.
Hiranyakha, which means – one whose eyes are obsessed with gold. It signifies the greed for wealth and all worldly desires. The greedy and the lustful ultimately become tyrants and sadists. So it happened with Hiranakhya that he became a burden for the existence.
At his birth itself the universe was filled with inauspicious omens that scared the devas. They went to Lord Vishnu and sought protection. Lord Vishnu assured them that when the time was ripe he would descend to restore the balance.
Hiranyakha grew up to be a great devotee of Lord Brahma. The severity of his penances moved Lord Brahma. Knowing full well that boons given to this demon would only be misused, Lord Brahma had to give him boons which granted him immunity from being killed by any God, human or demon.
True to the predicament of the Gods, Hiranyakha started misusing his powers. Entering the sea, he started churning it with his waist. Varun Dev, the Lord of the Sea was upset. Yet the notoriety of Hiranyakha was so much that Varun Dev, instead of offering a fight, went to hide himself.
Narada Muni, the beloved of all Gods, demons and humans happened to pass by. He stopped for a chitchat with Hiranyakha. Hiranyakha asked Naradji if there was anyone now more powerful than him. “Yes”, said Naradji, “It is none other than Lord Vishnu.” Thus saying Narad muni disappeared instantly, without stopping to provide whereabouts of Lord Vishnu or any further information.
Hiranyakha started searching for Lord Vishnu everywhere he could go, but to no avail. Frustrated, he made the earth into a round ball and hid it in the cosmic ocean, so as to provoke Lord Vishnu to come to him.
The devas panicked and approached Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu took the form of a wild boar. It was his Varah avataar – the third one. Lord Vishnu took this Avataar so as not to transgress the boon given by Lord Brahma. There ensued a fierce fight between Lord Vishnu in his Varah Avtaar and the demon Hiranyakha. Finally Hiranyakha was killed and the earth was restored to its former glory.
The demonic mind set is that even after so much penance it asks for power and glory – the things that are transient. Neither does it rest in peace, nor does it allow others to have it. It seeks power and glory to torment others. In contrast, the person with divine mindset seeks love, beauty or truth. Even if it gets power, it is utilised for the benefit of the mankind.