Indian History is replete with father characters who influenced the course of history. On the occasion of Father’s Day (Sunday, 16th of June, 2013), now being celebrated not only in the West but in India as well, I wish to recall some of these fathers who gave a lesson for humanity for times to come.
The Indian epic Ramayana portrays Raja Dasharath of Ayodhya as a father who is forced to be separated from his beloved son because of having erroneously separated another son from his father, after he shot him down, believing him to be an elephant drinking water at a river. The rest is history. Circumstances arise, forcing him to send his son, Prince Ram, to exile, a wish that his obedient son fulfils willingly.
The Mahabharata tells the story of King Yayati. When his father-in-law, sage Shukracharya, hears of his secret second marriage, he curses him to premature old age. Horrified, Yayati pleads mercy. The sage allows him to regain his youth, provided there is someone willing to exchange his youth with him – an impossible task. Indeed, Yayati’s obedient son Puru agrees to exchange his youth with his old father. Yayati tastes the pleasures of youth once again, till he is totally satiated and then returns it to his son, saying there is no end to human desires – the more you fan them, the more they grow. The story is also symbolic of the younger generation totally submitting to the wishes of the older generation.
The three Fathers of Lakshmi
Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, apparently has not one but three fathers. Varuna, god of sea, Puloman, Asura of Patal, and Bhrigu, the sage who can see the future and bring fortune. Varuna gives Lakshmi away freely without resentment and so is blessed with abundance. Puloman resists giving away Lakshmi and keeps fighting with the Devas, who want to make Lakshmi their queen. Bhrigu rarely shares his secret and very selectively parts with his daughter. That is why for most humans Varuna is a generous god, worthy of worship, while Puloman is a demon and Bhrigu is the guru of demons.
Yes, Krishna was also a father, although most people know him on his own merit as one of the most charismatic avatars of Maha Vishnu. Krishna had 80 sons and 8 daughters from his eight prime queens. His most famous son is Pradyumna. Once, the asura Nikumbha abducted a Yadava princess named Bhanumati. The asura assumed the form of a giant bird and held the helpless female in his talons, darting across the skies. Krishna – along with Pradyumna – mounted a rescue effort by shooting arrows at him.
Shiva, as the father of Ganesha and Kartikeya, once found himself in a fix. Each son wanted to get married first. At last, Shiva said: Whoever travels to the ends of the earth and comes back first, will be married first. Kartikeya set out on his journey on a peacock. Meanwhile, the pot-bellied Ganesha stayed at home, knowing that he could not keep up with his energetic brother. He then cleverly decided to simply circle his mother Parvati seven times, then claimed that he had gone around the world seven times. Shiva was forced to accept his son’s logic.
Manu is considered the father of humanity. He saved mankind from the great flood with the help of a divine boat and Matsya, Vishnu’s avatar as a giant fish.
Hiranyakashipu was Prahlada’s father and he swore to kill his own son because he chose to be a devotee of Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried everything – from poisoning him, getting him trampled by elephants, putting him in a room full of venomous snakes. However, Prahlada’s faith paid off, with Vishnu appearing as Narasimha and killing his father.
Indra, the god of thunder, was Arjuna’s father. When he appeared as the son of Kuntī, his future greatness was proclaimed by air messages. Indra invited his son Arjuna to visit Indraloka, his heavenly planet, and there presented him with his vajra weapon.
In Hinduism, Chandra is a lunar deity as well as a graha. Chandra is also identified with Soma, the Vedic lunar deity. Chandra is described as young, beautiful, fair, two-armed and having in his hands a club and a lotus. He rides his chariot across the sky every night, pulled by ten white horses or an antelope. Chandra is the father of Buddh (planet Mercury).