Screaming like a mother who is terrified of losing her offspring she ran towards the Hridaya Guha. It was becoming difficult for me to catch up with her. It was as there was something terrible which had happened which we had no idea about but which drove Sari berserk.
“Sari” I called in exasperation. “Wait for me” as I followed the steep steps to the cave. Her cry for Kumari didn’t stop at all.
As we approached the entrance of the cave, I found Sari, still, like she was petrified, spectating something horrific
“What happened Sari?” I asked as I turned her face towards me.
Eyes red with constant tears of pain and despair mixed with rage and hopelessness dripping down and wetting her entire pink angavastram, she slowly pointed her right index finger towards something that shook me from the very core.
A dark figure woman, sitting on one side of the cave, hair long and tangled, without any ornaments or aesthetics, draped in a white angavastram, pale as if life was sucked out of her, still and without any exuberance.
“Kumari” I could only utter a few syllables after which the vocal cords were petrified with horror. Sari ran and picked Kumari up and placed her on the lap, she remained a living dead, without any signs of life or expressions. Sari continued wailing while caressing Kumari’s face, hair, head, entire body while looking for any signs of injury but deep down we all knew what had happened.
I closed my eyes in pain, tears washing my cheeks and turning into tiny pellets of ice before they could touch the ground.
“Bhrata” I called out sobbing “Where are you? I am confused and horrified. Please show yourself up.”
But still there was no sign of him.
“She didn’t deserve to face it all by herself, Kishori” Sari said, looking at me, sobbing, and then again looking at Kumari, caressing her numb face, patting Kumari’s face with her Angavastram. “We should have been by her.”
I sat on the other side, sobbing, wiping Sari’s tears, held her hand,”Sari, look at me. We must find Bhrata. Only he can brief us about what has happened.”
Sari looked down, confused with rage and agony and replied while staring at me,”Sakha should have informed us that this would happen before sending us to Manidweepa. If t would have known that this would happen so fast, I would have never left by Kumari’s side.”
“Do you know what day is today, Sakhi?”
We looked around and found ourselves sitting near the Yagyavedi where Bhrata was offering his fire sacrifice. It was if we were teleported to his side without moving an unch.
“Margashirsha Shukla Purnima” Sari replied, still carrying numb Kumari on her lap.
“Correct” replied Bhrata while focusing on performing the fire oblations. “And when did you leave?”he asked.
“I am not n a mood for humour, Sakha”replied Sari in an agitated tone.
“Me neither” replied Bhrata. The yagya fire was blazing bright while lighting his camphor tone face.
I was oscillating to and fro between the conversations. I have never seen Sari so imperative and assertive before.
“Today” She replied.
“Yes and No’ replied Bhrata putting the fire oblations.
“What do you mean?” I asked confused.
“It was today that you left but it has been an year now” Bhrata replied.
We are dumbstruck by his words. The crackling sound of the samidha in the fire pit was drilling my eardrums.
“An year?” Sari and I replied in unison. “What do you mean? We just left a few Prahars ago.” Replied Sari.
“Time runs differently in Manidweepa” replied Bhrata in a neutral tone. “You thought you went for a few hours while a complete year has passed in Bhuloka. I started this anushthan in hope that you would arrive with the ingredients that are essential for the final sacrifice (purnahuti) in order for its culmination. Did you?” Bhrata stopped while staring at us.
Sari and I looked at each other and nodded at him in acceptance. Sari took out the garland that was bestowed upon her by Shreemata and I, the khadaga that Kamesh had offered me.
We placed it on the big sacrificial plate that was placed adjacent to the firepit. Bhrata picked up the plates and while chanting out loud the Maha Shodaskshari mantra, offered the plates into the yagya. Immediately, a whirlpool of Sarvagni erupted out of the pit from which, a radiant flag manifested. Glowing with the radiance of thousand rising suns, the flag emanated the opulence of Mahadevi. The flag slowly fell into the lap of Bhrata and the yagya fire vanished from the pit, leaving no smoke or ash as residue. Bhrata held the flag in his right hand, the flag still radiating, but instead now, with the radiance of 1000 moonbeams.
“We have completed our final stage of the plan, Sakhi, Kishori and my dear Kumari” Bhrata said overwhelmed with what we had just overcomed.
“Sakha, but Kumari” Sari still sobbing and showing Kumari’s numb emotionless body to Bhrata, hoping if he could do something about it.
Bhrata seriously nodded and came and sat near Kumari’s.
“Kumari” he silently said “Remember dear sister, when I asked you about conducting the anushthan, you said to me with full assurance that no matter, whatever it takes Bhrata, your anushthan will be completed . But who would have fathomed that you would pay the price with your Saubhagya.”
We looked at Kumari, still no motion but we were hoping that she was listening to every bit Bhrata was saying.
Bhrata continued,” You are our exuberance, our Shree, Srinilaya Kumari. Living far from Shreemaa for so many eons, you were the one who never let me miss her because her opulence, her radiance, her temperament, resided in you. Look what have you done to yourself. The concern for your love was so deep that in order to protect his life, you severed your ties with him happily and accepted widowhood. I know the fate was near as the curse would have to take its effect on you but sister, you didn’t even think to inform all of us before taking such a huge decision by yourself. Look at Sari, look at kishori, look at me, Kumari. Are we not close enough to know about the pain that you so intimately experienced or you don’t think us to be eligible enough that we could support you or at least be part of your suffering? You know how much it pains me to see you in the attire of a widow. Look at Sari, she is unable to stop her wailing. Look at Kishori, her tears are rolling out of her cheeks like rivers forming glacioers. What answer would I provide to Mata Lakshmi? What answer would I provide to Sri Hari? Will I be able to look into their eyes and say to them that I couldn’t take care of my sister, their daughter?”
Sari and I again looked for signs in Kumari’s face while Bhrata continued,” Sister, remember that day, when you and Kishori were being crowned as a Goddess, you halted the ceremony and instead chose to accompany me and Sari. You shun off your position of being a goddess to help me and Sari. How would Sari forgive herself? How would I forgive myself that because of us you had to go through so much suffering. The one you loved, although has no idea of the price that you paid but what about us? Why do we have to go through so much? Do you love us enough to put us through such atrocious scene? And I can’t even console you, sister. Do you know why? Because without being a Devi, you accepted all the mishaps that Devis have to go through which makes me proud that I happen to be your brother. I know my words are reaching you sister. You numbed yourself so that my anushthan could go unhindered while Sari and Kishori could complete the final phase of the plan. Look, we have completed it and this flag is the sign of what we have achieved. You went through a lot during this interval and your sacrifice is what paved the way that we have the flag now, Kumari. Look at it.”
Bhrata slowly opened Kumari’s wrinkled right hand which was once so supple and tender that even the divine lotus of Brahmaloka would feel harsh if compared, and placed the flag on her palm.
Bhrata continued,”Kumari, do you know what your name signifies? Ku means negative and Mari means the one who kills. You inspire others to kill the negativity in them so that they could embody the divine in themselves. How would we be able to inspire others when our sister, who happens to be the goddess of divine inspiration is herself uninspired, unmotivated, lifeless, without any Shree? How will Sari and Kishori be inspired enough to go through their fate of curses. And, moreover, how would I b e able to go on without you, sister? All this would go in vain. Come back, sister, come back, we need you. It is okay to wail in pain. It is okay to cry your heart out. Don’t hold yourself to the standard of being a Devi so high that it kills your very essence, that it kills the ‘koumarya’ in Kumari. You are not suited for Vaidhavya/widowhood, sister. Your numbness will bring Avidya around the whole existence. Mausi Jyeshtha/Dhoomavati wuill dominate and Shree won’t be found anywhere. It will ultimately lead to total universal annihilation. Please come back, please come back.”
Tears started dropping from his cheeks finally. The Bhrata, whom I have never seen crying was crying for the first time for Kumari. But it led to something which put a ray of hope in us. Tears started rolling from the lifeless face of Kumari. Slowly dripping which resulted in sobbing and then she burst out wailing, hugging Sari tightly and crying her heart out in pain and despair. We all started crying. Sari kissed her forehead while they still continued crying, Sari saiid while still choking with the mishap,”Promise me Kumari, promise me sister. You wont ever shun us away while you go through such a thing ever again. If such a thing ever even tries to occur, I swear in the name of Govind, I will destroy the entire universe, and will dismantle the destiny if it even comes to that.”
Kumari nodded as she continued wailing on Sari’s lap.
“Wail Kumari, wail. Wail your heart out” Bhrata said while caressing her head.
I looked at them smiling, tears still falling from my cheeks. I came and sat beside Bhrata, hugging him and forming a semi centric quad.
Caressing Kumari’s forehead while she relaxed to sobbing, Bhrata said,”Sometimes being a devi is not about what you can do, it is about what you are not willing to do despite knowing what the consequences can be and having the power to change it for good. It is over, Kumari. The curse has been lifted for good. The journey which started with Sari and Kishori, finally ended with you. Now you all rest as I will make sure that you all are well revered and respected.”
Wiping my tears I asked,”What do you mean, Bhrata?”
Bhrata looked at all of us and replied with a faint smile,”From now, I am taking the reigns back. You all wanted that I should take control back and with this phase of the plan completed, the time has finally come. I will now finally come to the front and start the process of establishing Shrimata in Bhuloka.”
“But how will that commence, Sakha?” Sari asked wiping out her tears.
“With this”. Pointing towards the flag that he put in Kumari’s hand, he continued,”This dhwaja you are seeing is the very personal Shree Dhwaja of Maa. I was waiting for it to start with the expansion process.”
“Expansion process?” Kumari asked wiping her tears.
“Yes, dear sister, expansion process. As there is Vrindavan in Bhuloka which is the replica of Goloka from where Sari is. As there is Jagannath Puri, which is the replica of Vaikuntha, from where you are, Kumari. As there is Kailash which is the replica of Divya Kailash from where Kishori is. In the same way, this flag is the foundation of the very kingdom which will be the replica of Manidweepa from where I come. I have waited and waited for kalpas for this dream to manifest and it is finally here.”
“But Bhrata, what will be the name of this city?” Asked Kumari.
“Dear sister, the sacrifice you made for this dream is priceless. I will always be indebted to you. And to honour your divinity, I am naming this kingdom as Shreepuram.”
His voice echoed through the entire environment. As he held the flag, we stood up and joined him in hoisting the flag on the ground of Manasvan, the forest adjacent to the Hridaya Guha. As we hoisted it, the moon had already disappeared and had already paved the way for the sun to peek from the horizon. As the sun rose slowly, the flag emanated with the radiance as if 1000 suns have risen from the depths of tamas.
“Now what is our next phase,Sakha?” Sari asked him on our behalf.
He smirked and replied with an assertive tone,”Digvijaya Ashwamedha Yagya”