Anasuya’s test

               Anasuya  (literal meaning ‘devoid of hatred or envy’) was the devoted wife of Rishi Atri, one of the seven ManasPutras of Brahma.  She was very beautiful and pious and had attained great spiritual powers. Once, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh decided to test her piety. They came to Atri Muni’s Ashram disguised as mendicants when Atri had been out for daily rituals. They said to Anasuya, “Bhiksham Dehi” (Give us food).  (Note that such visits are always in the absence of husbands – remember Ahalya and Gautam?)

               Anasuya paid her respect to them and started making preparations to serve them food (So far…so good).
(Now here comes the trickiest part) – The three Gods put the condition before her that they would receive alms from her only if she served them without any clothing on her. (Wow! An ideal Dharmasankat situation before her- damned if you comply, damned if you don’t…What’s the solution? Trust our lady to come up with the perfect solution to such a seemingly impossible problem at hand!)

               With her spiritual powers, she saw through them and realized that this was a test by the Trimurtis. She thought that if they returned hungry from her doors, she would lose her hard-earned spiritual powers. On the other hand, appearing naked before a man other than her husband would ruin her piety. So she turned Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh into infants...(Voila! and what do you think babies eat/drink?)… and calmly proceeded to nurse them after removing her clothes. This way, she protected her honor, satisfied her guests’ hunger and also kept the condition for feeding them intact. (Now this is what I call thinking out-of-the-box!)

               When Rishi Atri returned, he too knew soon that the babies were none other than the Trimurtis and so he bowed to them. The three Gods were also much pleased with the couple’s devotion and granted them a boon. Atri and Anasuya requested them to be born as their child. This is how Dattatreya (literal meaning ‘given son of Atri’) was born to Atri and Anasuya.

What I learnt from the above tale:

Firstly, I love this highly interesting tale as it shows the intellect of our Vedic women.

It also demonstrates the power of devotion and ‘tapas’ . Even Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh had to bow before the spiritual power of Anasuya.

It goes to show that the concept of God is not like that of some grim, bearded, old man sitting high up in the heavens meting out punishments to us mortals. It is someone who is our very own – sure we do get tested during trying times, but then we can ‘demand’ for favorable times too. 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Siddharth Deshpande
    May 04, 2012 @ 07:47:25

    while i understand your fascination with the out-of-the-box thinking, and the almost bollywood-esque all’s well that ends well nature of the story itself, i find it deeply disturbing (if i take the story at face value) that the “holy trinity” that we Hindus pray to as idols of propriety can ask a woman to demean herself in such a manner.

    Now i may be looking through the tinted glasses of our current culture and civilization, but such stories are part of the reasons that are driving me (someone who had been devout Hindu for the bulk of my life) away from Hinduism. Not towards any other religion, but away from religion itself.

    Now this is just my theory, and everyone is free to disagree, but many of these stories seem to me to be whitewashed versions of much darker tales; whitewashed to make them more palatable to the general public.

    Reply

    • indianinus
      May 14, 2012 @ 19:32:47

      Siddharth,
      I can understand your viewpoint and have myself seen some such stories. But I’m not the one to throw the baby out along with the bathwater. I like to understand the hidden philosophy behind each tale (and most of them do have some lessons to impart – I hope you agree at least on that). I like to follow Sri Ramakrishna’s teaching in this regard – ‘Be in the world like an ant. Take the sugar and discard the sand.’

      Reply

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