“Kishori! Oh, Kishori! Where are you?” shouted  Khem.

The shade of the Kalpavriksha, the moon at its cusp, glittering its moonbeams in the still water of the Manasarovar where the couplet swam together, quacking their way towards me. It was mesmerizing and enchanting. It was the time of Ritu Sandhi, the time of transition from autumn to winter, hence, the breeze was getting a bit chilling.  Although Kailash would receive a heavy amount of snowfall throughout the year, it still felt welcoming during the summer months when I could play with the Ganas by the banks of  Bhagirathi and my aunt would comfort me in her soothing waters.

But now, Maa didn’t allow me to go anywhere far, on my own as she was concerned about my well-being. She warned that during this time, the yakshas and the daityas roamed freely and it was not safe for me. Though father had no enmity with anyone, he saw everyone as equal and didn’t discriminate even for his family, he was equally revered by every sect of beings in the world. But this lost sense of discrimination troubled Maa. She said daityas couldn’t be trusted and hence, like my maternal uncle, was careful of their every move.

And in many ways, her concern was real too. For daityas, she had to bear the pain of separation from my eldest brother, Skand, and when they met, they were again separated due to the increasing attacks in the south by the daityas and my brother had to leave to protect the territory from invasions. So, she suggested that I stay near the Manasarovar and play with the ganas, and if necessary, take brother Vinayak with me. While brother Kartikeya was skilled in combat and taught me different tactics to make the enemy succumb to me, brother Vinayak worked on my personality and intellect so that I can make the enemy succumb to my whims without having a bloodbath because he believed that if the enemy can be defeated without any force, why to resort to any violence.

While brother Kartikeya transmitted the teachings of our father, brother Vinayak taught me what our maternal uncle, Hari, had taught him. As for father, he stayed in deep states of samadhi throughout the year and woke occasionally when there was a significant event which required his interference.

“I am here, Khem” I shouted.

“Why are you sitting here Kishori? Come, mata is calling you. We should head back.”

“Please, one more muhurta. The view is enchanting plus I can sleep here, on this rock, under the tapestry of the starry night. You can call your friends to guard me while I sleep.  So Maa won’t have any problem.” I replied, feeling lazy.

“Mata said you would give the same excuse” replied Nat as he approached from the side. ” So she also asked us to remind you that like your brother Vinayak, you have a Kapha Prakriti, so there is a high amount of chance that you can catch a cold.”

I made a puffed face, showing my discontent.

“Now come with us,” said Khem.

As I was leaving, the two golden swans came running by and started quacking and patting my legs with their ruffled golden feathers.

“I know what you need from me. Wait for a moment.”

I opened my palms, closed my eyes, and used the Bhuta Vidya, the skill of having control over the elements of nature, taught by Maa, and manifested a bowl containing milk. As I was going to put it on the ground, it slipped from my hand and fell into the shallow water. I quickly picked it up but till then, the milk got completely mixed with the water from the lake and all that was left was a mixture.

“Pardon me, Rajhamsas. I couldn’t provide you a pure set.”

They blinked their eyes and started sipping from the bowl. Astonishingly, all that was left in the bowl was the water, no milk. I bowed down to them and left for the cave.

As I was heading up the forest, the ground shook. An avalanche and it was approaching us.  Again with the help of Bhuta Vidya, I changed the elemental nature of the coming avalanche into that of a mist. So instead of an avalanche, we got an approaching mist that swept through us.

“Don’t be afraid when I am with you guys” I said to them, smirking.

Khem said to Nat, trying to whisper, “Sometimes I feel that she is here for our protection, not vice versa.”

“I heard that,” I said.

“Can you please shut up, Khem! We are here to convince her to come with us and you are fuelling her confidence. Now if she runs away, you will be answerable to Mata, not me.”

“Don’t worry, you guys,” I said. “I won’t let you guys get into trouble for my mischiefs.”

“See, our Kishori is so understanding,” said Khem, scolding Nat. “She won’t do anything that will cause trouble for us.”

“I heard that Khem. No need to repeat it again” replied Nat, irritated.

“But why was there an Avalanche during this time,” asked Khem, shocked.

Tears starting pouring from my eyes as for a daughter, it was as clear as day. “Father has woken up from his Samadhi” I screamed with joy.

“But this is not the time when he usually wakes up,” said Khem, confused.

“I don’t know. That’s what I am going to find out.” Saying, I ran, ran as fast as my legs could take me. I reached the top where my father sat in his samadhi like a rock and gradually the snow, covered him as the days passed by.

“Father, where are you?” I searched for him but he was nowhere to be found. The tiger skin on the rock laid empty by its owner. The cusped moon laid its moonbeams on the tiger skin and it glowed, emanating its own radiance. As if it was calling me.

I sat on it in Ardha Siddhasana as father taught me and meditated on him, trying to find his whereabouts and I got lost. When I regained my consciousness, I could feel the lashes of the waves. When I opened my eyes, I was sitting on a rock, on the river bank. The water was as black as Amavasya. I stood up and looked everywhere. When I was going towards the forest adjacent to the river, a voice from the back called me. I looked back to find a woman with, dark complexion but a body as radiant as the glowing Sun.

She said, with folded hands,” It’s my honor that I could witness the image of Uma Maheshwar standing on my banks.”

“Who are you Devi and how do you know me?” I asked, confused.

“I am Kalindi, daughter of Bhanu, sister of Yama, the god of death and now, a river. The people here, also know me by the name of Yamuna.”

“Pranam Devi Kalindi,” I replied with folded hands, reciprocating the courtesy that she exhibited.

“What brings you here, Devi Kishori?”

“Actually I was meditating on my father and suddenly I got here, not knowing how. Could help me?”

“Definitely!” She said, smiling. “Bholenath just changed his attire and went inside the Nidhivan.”

“Nidhivan?” I asked, confused. “And why did father changed his attire. I heard that the only time he changed his attire was when he came to my mother’s wedding.”

She chuckled and replied,” Then you would also be very surprised to know that the attire he chose is of a gopi, a milkmaid.”

“What but why?” I asked, my confusion went up. My father would transform himself into a gopi and get inside a forest was out of my grasp.

She added,” Since you are already a girl, you can go inside and find out for yourself.”

I headed into the forest, as I got deeper into it, a melodious tune started to paralyse me. It felt that I was again going back on my mother’s comforting lap. I went ahead and found a handsome being, laying on the ground, unconscious. I ran towards him and gave his body a little shake. He gained consciousness, sat up, and asked,” Who are you, Devi?”

“I am Kishori. Who are you, Dev? And what happened?”

“I am Kamdev, the god of lust, and attraction. I was in my realm when I sensed a terrible attraction that was powerful even to succumb me and I ran after it, to experience, something that even lust can’t compete with. I am the one who attracts living beings towards each other to fulfill the process of reproduction. But this has happened for the first time that I am terribly attracted to something or someone but couldn’t get across. When I came here, I was just going to enter when I got struck by some energy and lost my consciousness. When I opened my eyes, I saw you sitting beside me.”

“But why couldn’t you get through? Come, we will try again.”

“No,” he said. “I can’t withstand another jolt. Better I sit here and regain my health. You go ahead.”

I offered my obeisances and went ahead. As I got closer and closer, the level of bliss and ecstasy kept on multiplying with each step put forward but there was still no sign of him. After some time, I saw someone, sitting on the ground, meditating. As I got closer, I was surprised.

“Mami! You, here, meditating.” I gave her a call but she didn’t respond. I was just about to touch her when someone stopped me from back by placing a hand on my shoulder.

“Kishori,” said Kalindi. “Don’t disturb Mahadevi. She is doing Tapasya.”

“Tapasya for what?” I asked, more confused.

“To become eligible to get inside,” said Kalindi, smiling.

” But what eligibility  does Mahalakshmi need, that she is doing Tapasya, here?”

She held my hands and replied with a smile, “Inside this barricade of trees, Mahaprabhu is transacting with his most confidential devotees, by playing the tune of surrender, on which, all his devotees are doing the dance of life. For any living being, the most intense experience happens when they are aligned with life and can dance on its tune. For devotees, their life is their object of devotion, who, in this case, is Sri Vasudev. So, they are dancing and experiencing the ecstasy of devotion.”

“Then why did Mahalakshmi couldn’t get in but my father could?” I asked.

“A devotee is someone who doesn’t have an identity of one’s own. He/ She just identifies with his/her object of devotion. There is no ‘I’ as such, no right over his/her object of devotion. But Mahadevi, being Madhusudhan’s wife, had a subtle sense of ego, that Mahaprabhu belonged to her exclusively, which goes against the element of devotion. So, she couldn’t enter. So, now she is doing Tapasya so that she could transcend the ego and get into the mode of devotion and can enter. As for Adideva, he has always been a devotee, and as a devotee, he was entitled to give a final exam before he was brought in.”

“An exam for my father?” I asked, shocked.

“Yes” smiled Kalindi. “His exam was that he would only be allowed inside if he became a gopi and he obliged immediately. He came to my shores, took a dip and I dressed him into a gopi.”

“But why female only?” I asked.

“Not female but feminine. Devotion is a quality of the feminine and your father is the embodiment of masculinity. So, to transact with Vasudev, he had to awaken her feminine aspect  and he did it gracefully and now he is enjoying along with other gopis.”

“And what about Kamadev? Why he couldn’t enter?”

She giggled and then replied,’ Kishori, you are very silly. Kama is limited only to the physical aspect of life. How can he enter into the transaction of something that transcends the physical. Moreover, Kama can’t be at a place where Kamantaka, the destroyer of lust, your father, is present.”

“Oh, I see.”

“So” She said, smiling.  “Should we go inside?” She asked me.

“I can go inside?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes. Since you are a girl, you haven’t lost the innocence that is required in devotion and Govind doesn’t refuse someone who is recommended by her most confidential associates.”

“But who will recommend me?'”

“I will.” She replied. ” I have observed your conduct and from that I can see that you are eligible to enter. So shall we go inside now?”

I thought for some time and then replied, ” I think I am not yet eligible to enter as I don’t have any sense of devotion towards Vasudev nor do I understand what devotion means. Its better I earn it first like Mami and then enter.”

Hearing my reply, she chuckled and then said,” My silly girl, devotion can only be experienced through grace. Either of the Bhagwan or of his devotees.”

“Then bless me Devi,” I said, bowing down to her. “Bless me so that I can also experience this nectar of devotion.”

She took me up and said, keeping her hand on my head,” I bless you Kishori. I bless you so that you know what devotion is and  I also bless you to become Rasabihari’s  most confidential associates in the future. My blessings are always with you.”

“Dhanyawad Devi. I am very grateful to you.” I bowed down and touched her feet.

I stood up and asked,” Now give me permission to depart. Maa must be very worried. Nat and Khem would probably be in much trouble as Maa would have sent a search party everywhere looking for me. I must get going.”

“Wait” she said. “How will you go? Do you know your way back?”

“No,” I said feeling a little embarrassed.

“Don’t worry,” she said, smiling. “Close your eyes.”

I closed my eyes and said to her, “How will closing my eyes help me?”

When I opened, I was surprised to find myself sitting back again on the tiger skin. I was looking here and there to comprehend what has just happened when Nat and Khem running towards me.

“Kishori, you should have waited for us.” said Nat. “By the way, where is Bholenath?” Khem asked.

“How long was I gone?” I asked, worried. “Did Maa scold you guys for not having me for a long time?”

“Long time,” said Khem, surprised. “You just came here moments ahead of us, that’s all. We just followed you here.” said Nat.

I was utterly confused now. I was just comprehending what had happened when Nat interrupted me and said, “Now let’s move towards the cave. Mata will be waiting for us.”

We headed towards the entrance where Maa was standing, waiting for me. I ran towards her and she took me on her lap and kissed me. I kissed her back and she asked,”Dear, did you enjoy the scenery?”

I replied, grinning, “Very much, Maa. Very much.”

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Subham Kumar Paul

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