I was reading an article on some international Yoga conference somewhere – and I remembered Meenanath, the yogi who once became susceptible to mortal sufferings and saved by his all-knowing all-pervading Yogi friends – according to a Bengali folktale.

Shiva the leader of the Yogis and his wife Parbati were discussing cycle of creation. The Goddess said, “Please do not listen to your Yogi disciples. Ganga and I – the inseparable duo became your wives. Let us have children, what is the use of all these Yoga and meditation if creation itself is at stake? Also tell your disciples to have families and live a life of fulfilment.”

Mahadeb answered, “I could tell them so, but they are free from desire, anger, greed or attachment; hence cannot be contained in a family.”

Goddess disagreed, “Even if one can overcome anger, greed and attachment, desire is the one of the six inherent human traits none can shun. Please permit me – I will invoke their lust only with a gaze through the corner of my eyes.”

Giving her a nod, Shiva called all his Siddha disciples from different parts of the world through meditation. All of them came – sat before Shiva while his wife served them food and water. Seeing her beauty, the image of her lustful glance on the water in the pitcher, everyone was besieged by an unspeakable yarning for love. None of them could help fantasising.

The Goddess came to know all the thoughts hidden in the minds of Siddhas. She gave boons to all of them fulfilling their desire of engaging with a pleasurable life on earth.

Meenanath started dreaming of company of a beautiful lady. “If I had such an exquisitely beautiful lady with me, I could spend entire night loving her” – he thought. The all-knowing Goddess understood his mind. She assured him, “Well – go to the land of bananas and be their King. You will have sixteen hundred gorgeous banana-ladies to give you company.”

Rato_Machhindranath_Temple,_Patan,_Lalitpur_02

Temple of Matsyendranath is in Nepal, but Bengal has a distinct story about him. (photo: Wikipedia)

As Meenanath reached the land of Bananas he saw numerous beautiful young women around. He felt an intense desire of making love with all of them. He started dreaming of a life of a gander surrounded by adoring geese in a lake.

True the moment he put his foot on the land, the banana women encircled him. His handsome look attracted all of them. Power of his meditative mind fascinated them. All of them showed interest in him; yet Mangala and Kamala were two articulate ladies who led the large group of them when they came to meet the Yogi sitting under a Banyan tree. All the ladies, determined to steal the Yogi’s heart dressed up elegantly. Their long hairs made beautiful long plaits – adorned with floral garlands these resembled lighting in the dark cloud in the sky. Their heavy breasts were adorned with precious gem-studded long chains. They were wearing lot of jewelleries on their hands and feet and waist. Their lustful glance at him mesmerised the Yogi. Sitting before him the leading duo started talking to him in a sweet insisting tone. They showed him their gorgeous breasts in pretext of moving their hands while talking with motivation. They touched his thighs while persuading him to live a life of luxury and pleasure leaving the life of the wandering ascetic. “We two sisters rule this land of sixteen hundred banana women. Marry all of us; be our king; we would love to worship you. The dress of the beggar you are wearing doesn’t suit you; let us bring you a kingly one. Please give the banana women the chance to fan you and carry your umbrella. Oblige us by sitting on our royal throne wearing royal dress.”

He was surprised seeing a kingdom being run by not a man but women. At their insistence, Meenanath forgot his spiritual purpose of life. Sixteen hundred women gave him a bath, dressed him, and led him to the royal throne holding the golden umbrella of grandeur. Taking the charge of the land he started ruling like a good king establishing good governance. On the other hand, gaining ownership of all beautiful women of the land he discovered the pleasure of sensual love. Day and night did not make a difference for the euphoric lover. He stayed inside the pleasure garden of his palace and went on enjoying lust and luxury forgetting his spiritual guide Shiva and everything he had learnt from him. In course of time, his first queen gives birth of his son.

With this, Shiva’s curse came as true. Along with his spiritual learning, he forgot also the secrets of creation and immortality that he had learnt in disguise of the fish once. Caught in the net of worldly desires, he became susceptible to mortal sorrows and pains. He was no longer capable of defending himself against aging, disease and death using the power of his spiritual learning. The once Siddha turned into a common mortal.

However his fellow-siddhas were determined to free him from the cobweb of mortalities. Kanapha met Gorakhnath, Meenanath’s once disciple to inform him about misery of Meenanath – “I saw him in a wretched condition. His skin is loose, he lost his teeth. Sitting in the women’s lap, he lost all his strength. You weak guru looks like a skeleton covered with skin losing all his power as well as consciousness. I went to Yama’s palace too. There I received information about threat to his life. He will live in this earth another three days only. Yama directed his emissaries to pick him up!”

They discussed the need of saving him. Goraksha rushed to Yama’s place first to save Meenanath. He scolded Yama for his atrocious intention of killing a Yogi who should be solely suffering due to his Guru’s curse, but never face the death like a mortal. His anger terrified Yama, especially when Yogi Gorakshanath threatened him to take him to Brahma to ensure his ruin. Yama showed him every paper on which Meenanath’s fate was written. Goraksha erased all lines that decided his Guru’s mortality and end of life. He left Yama’s palace issuing another warning. He sent an order to Viswakarma, the ironsmith of gods to make him a golden umbrella, golden stick and ornaments through Yama’s messengers, Langa and Mahalanga. Langa narrated every detail of the story to Viswakarma to make him understand the requirement. Finally, dressed in accessories suitable for a wealthy Brahmin, and having the messengers of Yama as own attendants Goraksha entered Bananaland. He succeeded in avoiding women with lot of effort, but as he entered King Meenanath’s court in disguise of a Brahmin, the king tried to get rid of him. Sixteen hundred women with weapons in hand attacked him – no man but the King was allowed inside.

Goraksha decided to cross-dress. Next day he entered the court in disguise of a beautiful court-dancer wearing a new dazzling dress and carrying a golden Mrudanga sent by Viswakarma.

Everyone in the court was convinced that the beautiful new lady would steal the heart of the king – he might even leave his queens for her. Meenanath’s queen Mangala tried to get rid of the dancer first with lump sum alms. Not being able to convince, she ordered the the guards to oust her from palace. But tenacious Goraksha began singing standing outside the palace – his voice and drum loud enough to reach the King’s ears – his lyrics telling the stories of their past life of spiritual quest and the death threat approaching Meenanath . Meenanath, though unable to remember anything, felt curious. He ordered to bring the dancer before him. As anticipated by all, he fell for the exquisite beauty of the new dancer and her art. He proposed to marry her. The once disciple in disguise started narrating the worthlessness of women’s love and uselessness of mortal desires through spiritual songs. The lyrics brought back the king’s memories, but the dancer’s calling him old angered him – “How dare you call me old? I will prove my vigour to be stronger than hundred young men together. Come here – I will undress you right here and show my strength.” – yelled fuming King as he got up from his seat. His disciple cooked up a story of being heartless Gorakhnath’s dancer wife. Meenanath apologized for own illicit attraction to disciple’s wife who he should have seen like own daughter. Delighted, he expressed desire to meet his past disciple, the singer-dancer started convincing the king to go with him. The queen and all courtiers understood the trickery of the dancer, but they could not prevent the tenacious effort of a yogi preaching the once Guru against his intension of spending life in worldly pleasure than spiritual penance. The King, still immersed in worldly desires, was not at all ready to pay heed. He started arguing even after knowing about death awaiting him. Goraksha was left with no other option but to apply his magical power to save his Guru. After much altercation and persistent appeals, application of force and show of supernatural skill by the disciple in disguise, Meenanath regained his memories of the days of spiritual ecstasy back. His restored knowledge of eternity helped him decide to go back to his monastic life along with his disciple leaving the luxury of kingship and company of women.

Thus the glorious Yogi Meenanath was finally saved from the trap of women and mortal life in banana kingdom. His yogi follower transformed all his precious women into bats to eliminate the chance of further provocation from them. The sanctity of spiritual knowledge once earned was thus restored.

© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018