Deva Rishi Narada – The Celestial Bard
Naaraam – Datadi-Iti = Narada.
The very name indicates that he is the “one who gives knowledge of the Supreme Brahman.” According to the Bhagavad Purana, to Him is attributed the 84 Sutras of the Philosophy of Devotion – or the Philosophy of Love for God, The Narada Bhakthi Sutra.
The persona of Narada, the Deva Rishi, is spread through out the eighteen major Puranas but out of these eighteen, the Brahmavaivarta Purana, is the epitome, which deals with Narada and his many exploits in full. This Purana has the essence of all the other Puranas and a reading of this Purana to the exclusion of others, grants blessings to those who desire fulfillment of their aspirations. And for those who desire liberation, a reading of this Purana gives Mukti or Moksha.
This Purana is called the Brahmavaivarta because in it Lord Krishna gives a complete account of Brahma. And to Brahma, Lord Krishna imparts the Knowledge of the text of this Purana, and Brahma passed on this knowledge to Lord Dharma, at Pushkara Tirtha. And Dharma passed it on to his son, Narayana, and from Narayana, it was passed to Sage Narada, who in turn imparted the knowledge to Vedavyasa. Vedavyasa, in turn instilled this knowledge in Maharishi Souti, on the banks of the river Ganga and Souti recounted this story to Sounaka and the other Rishis, in the naimisharanya forests.
This Purana is in four parts. The first part deals with the creation of Gods and men. The second part elaborates the nature of Gods and Goddesses and the ways in which they should be worshipped. The third part deals with the genesis of Lord Ganesha and his conversations with sage Brighu. Finally the fourth part deals with the exploits of Lord Krishna, his birth, his multifarious deeds and leela vinodhangals, each of which is a lesson for us the ordinary mortals, to imbibe.
I have not attempted even a synopsis of this Purana in this blog. It is a humongous project and beyond the ambit of this blog. However, for those interested, this Purana is a gold mine of information, on the myths of India.
The personality of Devarishi Narada is very familiar throughout the Puranas, as the Triloka Sanchari and the Trikala Gyani. He works everywhere as the friend, philosopher and guide to all his devotees, whether they are humans or devas. He considers it his bounden duty, nay his very job, to propagate the Path of Love, Love for Narayana and therefore he appears, of his own volition to guide his devotees on this earth. It is not necessary for us to invoke him. He is there for us, even if uninvited, and he makes his presence felt giving credence to the old adage saying the Interference of Naradar in any dispute will be beneficial to the victim in the end!!!
He helped Dhurva. Protected Prahlada’s Mother. Took upon him the arduous duty of advising Kamsa to kill the children of Devaki. And persuaded Ravana to get himself to entangle in the tail of Vali – to name a few of his escapades. But in all these, the ultimate victory was for the people who were on the side of Dharma.
According to the Narada Pancha Ratra, Narada was born of Brahma, as his Manasaputra, or Prajapathi, who had another four sons, in the Sanathkumaras. Brahma the Creator, himself taught the Spiritual Truth to his sons, the Sanatkumaras and the young Narada was initiated into Vedanta by his elder brothers. But in Narada, there was always a streak of Love for Mahavishnu and he abstained from marrying. Like Bishmapitamaha, he was a perpetual bachelor, a confirmed celibate and his vow of Brahmacharya is a corner store in Indian Vedic Lores. Narada was often described as a messenger and in this capacity he created quarrels and misunderstandings between friends and was often called a kalahapriya, one who gloated on others misunderstandings.
Brahma, the father once advised Narada his son, to get married and settle down in life after his Brahmacharya. Narada spurned this offer from his father and said that his father knew nothing and was a poor teacher, as he did not know that the only way to Moksha was constant devotion to Lord Krishna. Without realizing that he was addressing his son, Brahma cursed that Narada would be addicted to erotic delights. Unable to withstand this humiliation, Narada wept at the feet of his father and no sooner he regained his composure, he in turn cursed Brahma.
“You shall have incestuous relationship with your own daughter and for good measure you will not be worshiped by the devas and the others for three yugas. But after the three yugas are completed, you shall regain your old glory as you are worthy of worship by others”. Thus, Brahma received a thunderbolt, from his own Manasaputra.
However, he had several other natural births in the various lokas, depending upon his previous Vasanas. Natural, out of the union of a man and a woman. Once he was born as a Gandharva – a celestial being who is devoted to music, – but he was subjected to the carnal desires of the species of the devas. One of the consequences of his perennial desire for the enjoyment of the company of the opposite sex, was his wandering lust, the lust of a perpetual, handsome youth with beauty, completely devoted to the soul of divine music. Most probably, he was the first jet setter, for he travelled extensively and widely. Not just over our planet, but also to heaven and hell. To this end he carried a thumburu, or a Veena, and legend has it that the Veena was invented by him! The most perfect musical instrument the world has seen!! Credence must be given to his invention, because to this day, no other instrument can follow the singing of a human as faithfully as the Veena.
He was a victim of his own sensual desires and infatuations. Yet, he pursued diligently the propagation of divine music and made his devotees experience the joy and ecstasy of his music, which elevated them to a higher plane in their devotion to the Divine Principle- Narayana.
It is said, once he was filled with passion, while watching the dance of the Celestial Dancer Rambha. He was so head over heals in love with her, Brahma his father, ordered him to be born as a Sudra in the world of men. As he catapulted down to earth, he managed to gather the experiences of an earthling, to make him fit to live among the ordinary mortals. One reason, why he could empathize and sympathize with the travails of the humans living on earth – born out of passion and with a weakness for the flesh.
The Vishnu Purana says, that in this sojourn on Earth, Narada was born to Maharishi Kashyapa, who was the son of Maharishi Mareechi and a Sudra servant girl. However, the Bhagavata Purana regards him as an incarnate of Sriman Narayana.
But we have evidence in the Rg Veda that Narada was born to Maharishi Kanva, the seer who brought up Shakunthala in the forest and later married her off to Dhushyantha. Here also, the mother to Narada was a Sudra servant girl.
This is the perennial conflict. The paternity of the child. Both the Rg Veda and the Vishnu Purana concur that Narada’s human mother was a Sudra girl, but the paternity is in question. It is quite possible, that those were the matrilineal times, where the importance of the father was negligible!
This nameless woman, the Sudra mother of Narada, was a very pious and devout lady, who would attend to the needs of the visitors of the household where she was employed. The householder was in the habit of entertaining learned pundits and sages, in his house and once when a band of great rishis descended on his house for the Chathurmasya Vrata (Chathur = Four, Masya = Month, Vrata = Vow) it devolved on the head of the young Narada to serve them with devotion and piety. Such was his sincerity and devotion, the Rishis fed him from their meals. Thus he became purified and before their departure all the Rishis blessed him and he became knowledgeable.
At this point of time, nature seems to have been heartless. Narada became an orphan very soon after this experience with the Rishis. His Mother passed away and as is natural with most Rishis, Narada’s human father, who was more than ready to donate his Beejam, to procreate, deserted him when it came to owning his son, – he was not available, just not available.
In a way this was a blessing in disguise to Narada. Without the burden of looking after his mother at her old age, he became a free bird to move about the world singing the Glory of the Lord and spreading cheer and Hari’s Message everywhere.
We have an interesting anecdote in the Vayu Purana. When confronted by Daksha and his progeny, who were on the verge of multiplying their lineage, Narada warned them that they were foolish to embark upon multiplying their progeny without knowing whether the Earth was big enough to accommodate all their new born. And without knowing the size of the Earth how would they know whether they were over populating or under populating the Earth? It effectively put a stop to an increase of the bad elements from the house of Daksha. Furious at foiling his plans, Daksha cursed Narada. And as is usual, Narada put the onus of all his actions on Lord Krishna. (Sarvam Krishnarpanam Jagat.)
From the Mahabharatha we learn about Narada’s explanation, as to why Lord Yama, the Lord of Death was created by Brahma. When Brahma created the Universe and all beings in it, he found to his chagrin, that all of them were chiranjivis. None died, and very soon the Universe was over populated and out of pique at his inability to control the population, Brahma created a universal conflagration, where everything was destroyed.
At this Rudra, ( a manifestation of Lord Shiva) advised Brahma, that he should not destroy or create everything at one stroke. And so, Brahma created the personification of Death, in Lord Yama, who would extinguish individual lives at the appropriate times, in the normal course. That is why, till date death, does not come to all of us, at one time, but is staggered.
We all know, that Narada was a great scholar. A great lover of divine music. An expert dancer, who initiated this fine art. But how many of us know that he was immodest? Once in the presence of the Divine Principle, Lord Narayana, he boasted: “I always respect my elders, I have never spoken to others about secrets, I have read the Vedas studiously, I have practiced severe austerities, I have never uttered untruth, I have always been virtuous, I have always treated both friends and foes alike and I always adore the Divine”
And by these sayings he claimed his divine right to see the Divine Principle in person!
Even though there is no proof, some hymns of the Vedas are attributed to Narada. A treatise on law, the Naradiya Dharma Shastra, is believed to have been written by the celestial bard Narada. And the Mahabharatha to which I had alluded to earlier, confirms that Narada was also a close friend of the Pandavas whom he advised on matters – temporal and spiritual.
The Narada Bhakti Sutra begins with the line:
“athato bhaktim vyakhyasyamah:”
“Now, therefore, the doctrine of devotion (Bhakti) we shall expound.”
Even though this is the beginning of the Narada Bhakti Sutra, it is appropriate that I end my blog with the same saying. Because, when one is engaged in the Bhakti mode, it may range from doing puja, singing bhajans to meditation and yoga practice.
The choice is yours. You may choose that which is convenient and most suitable for you.
(Various sources, like the Puranas, the Bhagavatham, the Mahabharatha, the Ramayana, Narada Bhakti Sutra and others.)