XANADU : an idyllic, exotic, luxurious place, and swargaloka situated on top of mount Meru, the home of the gods was just that. But there was a time, when Indra, the King of Gods, thought that swargaloka was not grand enough, not worthy enough of his greatness.
Once Indra, defeated the almost invincible demon Vritta. Flowers were showered on the victor. The Gandharvas sang songs in praise of him, the beautiful dancers of heaven danced in gay abandon, and all the thirty three crores of gods and goddesses paid their respect to the great Indra. Indra thought, ‘How great am I?’ He looked around swargaloka, this magical wondrous dwelling place of the Gods, and thought, ‘This place is not worthy of my status.’ So he called on Vishwakarma, the heavenly architect and asked him to make sweeping changes in his kingdom, swargaloka, so that it correctly reflected his glory. Vishwakarma went to work immediately, but every time he completed his work, Indra came up with more improvements. Specially for his own palace. There was no satisfying the king of Gods. Thousands of years had passed, and Indra still demanded further changes and additions to his palace. Vishwakarma, realized that both he and Indra were immortal, and this never ending work could go on for ever. So he went to Brahma, the creator and asked for help.
The next day, Indra came by to check on Vishwakarma’s work, when he saw a beautiful dark young boy, looking appreciatively at Indra’s palace. Indra asked the little boy, what brought him to the palace. The young boy said, ‘I have heard that you are building a palace, much greater than any other Indra has built, and I have come to see whether what I have heard is true.’
Indra smiled benevolently at the innocence of the child and said, ‘Í am Indra, king of gods, I am unique and there is no one like me.’The young boy, looked Indra in the eye and when he spoke, his voice boomed, ‘The lotus stalk grows from the naval of Vishnu, the lotus blooms, and on it sits a Brahma. When Brahma opens his eyes, a whole universe comes into being governed by an Indra and when he closes his eyes, the whole universe dissolves into nothingness. He opens his eyes again, another universe with its Indra comes into being… For three hundred and sixty Brahma years, Brahma, sits on his lotus blinking universes with their Indras in and out. Blink blink blink… Indra Indra Indra And that is just one universe. Consider the infinite number of universes out in space, each with its own lotus, each with its own Brahma, blinking away. Indras, Indras, Indras… There may be wise men who might agree to count the drops of water in the ocean or the grains of sand in the world, but no one will offer to count the Brahmas, let alone the Indras in creation.’
Indra was still digesting this bit of information, when the beautiful young boy started laughing. Indra asked him the reason for his mirth. The boy waved at the rows of ants marching in an endless line across Indra’s palace and said, ‘These are all former Indras, each one of them had karmically risen to be a god and then an Indra, then each oneslayed a Vritta and thought, ‘how great am I?’ and then each one became an ant all over again!
Indra felt much worse than an ant already, but just in case he had not got the point as yet. An old sage walks in on the duo, wearing just a waist band and carrying a parasol made from banana leaves. His hairy chest has clumps of hair and some bald spots. The young boy asks the sage, ‘who are you? Where are you from? Where is your home? And then gets a little personal, and asks, ‘what’s with the bald patches on your chest?’ And the sage answers, ‘I am a devotee of Vishnu. Life is too short and I don’t need a home, this banana leaf parasol is good enough protection for me. As for the clumps of hair and the bald patches on my chest, well every time an Indra dies, a hair falls off my chest. Half of my hairs have already fallen, and the rest will fall very soon. As I said, life is too short, why bother with building a house?’
Indra learns his lesson. The young beautiful boy turns into Vishnu and the old sage turns into Shiva. Brahma sits on his lotus on the edge of the world and smiles.