A Tale of the Two Murugas
“Hmph! No one respects intelligence in this class. Forget respect, I get kicked out for asking sensible questions!” Muruga grumbled. He was kneeling with his hands over his head, punished by Lord Brahma for disturbing the class. His knees, arms, and shoulders were aching.
The rooster on his flag spoke. “You’ve done no wrong, eh?”
“No, Soora! Lord Brahma was talking about how beautiful the sky, earth, and the entire universe were! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blowing his own trumpet rather than teaching. Everyone knows he is the Creator.”
“I wanted to end his self-praise. So, I asked him a question. A philosophical one! Not the boring technicalities of creation!”
“I asked him the meaning of the PranavaMantra. And you know what he said? That I was showing off! He said that just because I was able to kill an asura (you know he meant you, Soora) as a child doesn’t mean I know everything.”
“Is that wrong?”
“Isn’t it a teacher’s duty to clarify the students’ doubts?”
“Yes, but only genuine doubts. Not deal with students’ vanity.”
“I’m not vain. Just smarter than other students.” He hated sitting in boring classes when he could roam the heavens and earth riding on Mayil, his beloved peacock.
“And no Mayil also. Appa shouldn’t have grounded me like this. So what if I travel to the human world often? I enjoy going there.” His grumbling continued. “I saw another little hillock during my previous trip to Palani. You remember Palani, Soora? The hill I hid myself in anger when my brother Ganapathy won that fruit by treachery.”
“That was not treachery. He was smarter than you,” Soora crowed.
“Smart or lazy? The rules were clear. We were to go around the world thrice. The one to finish first would get the delicious fruit.”
“Yes! The world as you know it, remember? Ganapathy chose his parents as his world, circumbabulated them and won the fruit. Where’s the treachery in that?”
“The world is the world! The physical world. One cannot interpret anything any which way one wants. What about my interpretation then? I thought the competition for that wondrous fruit had to be challenging, not something as simple as going around my parents!”
“Ganapathy took it as a mental challenge. You took it as a physical one! He won his parents’ hearts. And the fruit was theirs to give.”
“Oh! Stop it, Soora. You’re on my side or what?”
“Always on your side, Muruga. You’re very clever, and sometimes, I worry about that.”
A sudden smile on Skanda’s face raised Soora’s worries. Oh dear! What is he thinking now? Lord Shiva has given me the responsibility of taking care of him. Maybe Lord Brahma is right. Not encountering failure may have made him vain. But he is also so cute.
Skanda’s voice broke Soora’s thoughts. “I don’t need Mayil. I can find one of those wandering portals leading to earth. I want a break from boring studies. Coming, Soora?”
“No! No! Skanda, those portals are dangerous and confusing. Only the wise can discern the safe ones. I’ve heard some of them can lead to places you cannot return from.”
“Aww, c’mon Soora. You were a powerful Asura in your last mortal birth. Have you forgotten the thrill of breaking rules?”
“I shudder to think of that time, Kartikeya. The only good thing that came out of those rebellious days is that at the end of my asura birth, you allowed me to become a rooster on your flag for eternity. I’m highly experienced in breaking rules. So, take my advice and don’t go there.”
Muruga turned a deaf ear to his pet rooster’s plea. He went in search of interworld portals. Soora followed him, begging him not to do anything rash.
Suddenly a portal appeared in front of them. Muruga shrieked gleefully.
“It’s as if the universe wants me to go,” he said and jumped in before Soora could even react. He was left with no choice but to jump in with the boy.
The two found themselves on top of a small hillock amidst some sparse bushes and a few sad looking, dying trees.
I hope Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati realise our absence and find us soon.
“What a crowd! This hillock was empty and serenely beautiful on my last visit. What happened now?” Muruga said as he saw hordes of humans in the valley below.
He was thrilled to see multiple stone replicas of himself, Mayil, and Soora on his flag adorning the walls of a beautiful, colourful structure.
“Uh-oh! Muruga, I think we have landed in the wrong place,” whispered Soora, fearfully. The wrong universe!
Kartikeya asked, “Where is that endless line of people leading to?”
“They are all coming to see me.” The voice came from behind them.
Kartikeya turned around (and so did Soora) and found a handsome man standing under a tree, dressed in silks and gold ornaments.
“Who are you?” Soora asked. There is a striking resemblance between him and Muruga.
“I am you,” replied the handsome man, looking at Kartikeya.
“What! Am I dead and looking at my soul?”
“Oh no! I am you and you are me and we both exist, just in different universes.”
Soora paled! My fear has come true! That was a multiversal portal.
“You’re right, Soora!”
Shiva! Shiva! He can read our minds!
“Yes, my dear friend, I can read minds. I’m an older version of you, Kartikeya. A more mature and less vain version. My universe’s humans have made tremendous technological advancements and the theory of multiple universes is the trending topic these days.” Muruga of the other universe had a kind smile as he saw his counterpart’s face turn ashen.
Soora said, “In our universe, the multiverse concept is a well-kept secret, and only the gods in the top echelons of power are aware of it.”
“Aah! I see. So, your humans are still humble?”
“You mean to say that growth and developments makes humans arrogant?” Soora asked.
“Well, I’m not sure about your humans or those of other universes. But here, they have become difficult. They have created a complex web of existential social and cultural structures and have got inextricably enmeshed in them. The desperation to get unmeshed from the mess has led to creating more layers into their system using religion, politics, materialism, seemingly convenient technology, complicated psychology, and more. The complexity is so deep that humans have forgotten simplicity. It’s a sad state indeed. We’ll just have to wait for Mother Nature to deal with it in her own way.”
The two Skandas and Soora walked towards the temple, invisible to the humans. People in the crowd were pushing, jostling one another in their efforts to reach the sanctum sanctorum. The younger god turned up his nose at the stench emanating from rotting rubbish piled all over.
“You know how this temple came into being?” The older Kartikeya asked.
“No, it hasn’t yet come up in our universe.”
“Here’s the story. Lord Brahma couldn’t answer a question of mine. He called me arrogant and sent me out of his class. I came here, hurt and angry. My father, Lord Shiva, came to console me. He asked me if I knew the answer to that question. And I explained it to him. He was so impressed with my answer that he decided to call me Swami and himself, my student. And that is why this place is called Swami Malai.”
The younger Kartikeya’s face turned crimson. “That’s uncannily similar to what I did and what I expected to happen, except I got onto the wrong portal.”
“I see. I wonder if you can get back to your universe.”
“Similar portals ought to be found in Mount Kailash of this universe, right?” Soora asked.
“That’s another story. People travelling to Kailash has increased. Humans have polluted that revered land too. Even if no one has ever reached its peak or entered our home, the valleys around the sacred mountain are almost always teeming with people. It was decided that multiversal portals there will be closed forever, lest humans fall in by mistake.”
“Oh dear! So, are we stuck here?” The younger Skanda teared up. I wish I had been less impulsive, less stubborn. There is so much still left to learn, and I was thinking I was invincible. How badly I behaved with Lord Brahma and the other elders. I want to go back home!
The older one said, “Don’t worry. Kailash of all universes is connected by a hot line. Let me check with Appa.”
He sat cross-legged, closed his eyes to connect with Lord Shiva telepathically. Soon, he opened his eyes with a reassuring smile.
“So, there’s a way out?” Soora asked enthusiastically.
“There is a permanent portal under the sea. But the place is now covered by an undersea structure built by humans. They call it Ithaa Undersea Restaurant.”
“What’s a restaurant?”
“It’s a place where they go to pay and eat. One of the earliest layers of complexity humans created into their social order. By the way, it costs a lot of money to eat at this particular restaurant.”
“If they’ve already built their structure there, how can we access the multiversal portal?” It was Soora’s question.
“Appa has told me the exact location. When we reach there, he will open it remotely.”
So, the three of them sailed through the sky, reached the island under which the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant was located. The entrance was a little hut in which was a flight of stairs leading down. It was nighttime and there was no one around.
An amazing sight greeted them at the end of the stairs. Moonlight seeped in giving the water around the man-made tunnel a beautiful glow. A variety of colourful sea creatures swam in the water, sharks, turtles, stingrays, fish, sea anemones, and more.
“Oh! How beautiful!” exclaimed the younger Kartikeya. Soora nodded mutely as he stared at the stunning scene.
The elder Muruga had gone on further. “Yeah, yeah. It’s beautiful. I only wish the humans leave the water world in peace. I hope they don’t wipe it out as they did the forest world. Now, keep moving, we’re almost there.”
Soon, they reached the end of the tunnel. The elder Muruga touched one of the floor tiles and said, “This is it. Both of you stand here. Appa will open the portal.”
Muruga and Soora took their positions. Shortly, they heard low rumbling, creaking sounds, like a gigantic, old door turning on its rusty hinges. Suddenly, out of the blue, they hurtled into empty space, and in an instant found themselves in their homes staring into the worried eyes of Shiva and Parvati.
Once his father realised his son and Soora were safe, the concern turned to anger.
“How dare you run off like that, Skanda? You think you’ve achieved something so great that you don’t need to follow rules like other students?” Parvati was also angry.
Muruga hung his head in shame. “I was wrong. I forgot my place in this universe. I’ve learned my lesson in humility, Appa. Please forgive me for my mistakes, Amma.”
Shiva and Parvati exchanged surprised glances. Maybe we should send him on such trips more often.
Muruga continued, “Like the other universe, here too there will be a Swami Malai except that it will be a lesson in humility I will learn from you, Appa, and from you, Lord Brahma.”
“And I hope we can pass on humility and simplicity lessons to our humans too,” finished Soora.
Swami – Lord
Amma, Appa – Mother, Father
Pranava mantra – the Om mantra, believed to be the primordial sound
Skanda, Kartikeya – other names of Muruga
Place: Ithaa Undersea Restaurant