“Sister, what brings you to Naga Loka?” asked Padmavati
Instructing the guards to release me with her imperative glance, the two bowed down to me and left.
I approached her and hugged her warmly. She reciprocated the same.
“It is difficult to reach here, sister. No wonder only a few human beings know the route although it is hidden in such plain sight.”
She smilingly replied “Yes, humans are not allowed here. Exceptions are the Siddhas and Bhairavas. The whole Nagalok is being guarded by father’s expansion Hathkeshwar bhairav.. I last saw you coming here when Vasudeva was at the end of his avatar period and again you came here. Is there something important, sister?”
She tried to pierce through me to see what was bothering me through her glance.
“Sister” I said “can we talk somehwere in private? I don’t think this is an appropriate place.”
She gave me a serious nod and examining the surroundings through her serpent eyes, held my hand and whisphered to me “Ok, come with me.”
As we were walking sown through the crevices of Nagalok, I noticed like before, there were no direct sources of sunlight in the entire loka. The whole city was illuminated by fire lamps and torches. Despite this, the entire underground city was well architectured and layed out. Its design reminded me of a yantra but I couldn’t remember what it was. As we were walking through the narrow passageways of the caves, creepers obstructed most of the path which were being sorted out by my sister with her fire torch.
As we went to the inner city, I saw Nagas preparing for some ceremony. As I was observing their actions, I was greeted by someone unexpected but obvious.
“What bringsssssss Devi Kissssshori here?” asked a hissing voice. It gave me an annoyed look but I smiled for the sake of courtesy.
“What are you doing here, Takshaka?” asked Padmavati, serious. “Don’t you have to be with the Nagas to prepare for the ceremony?”
“I ssshould assssk you the ssssssame, Devi Manassssa” replied Takshaka, in a taunting tone. “Or isssss your sssisssterrr more important to you than the ceremony?”
‘Don’t cross your boundaries, Takshak” replied Padmavati. Her eyes, dazzling red with fury just going to erupt anytime. Noticing what might happen next, I interrupted.
“Takshak, perhaps you didn’t forget what Dhananjaya did to you? I can do much worse if you don’t leave at once.”
He frowned at me and left.
Padmavati took me to her secluded area and closed the door of the cave. She offered me a seat and asked “Now tell me what brings you here?”
I got up from my seat and looking at her reluctantly I asked “Padma, actually I want the VENOM”
She was shocked. She got up and came to me, held my right elbow gave it a jolt and made me look at her eye.
“Tell me Kishori, why do you need Halahal all of a sudden? Last time when you asked for it was the time when you decided…”
She gave me an angry concerned glance. Pacifying her, I replied “ Didi Padma, I am not going to do it soon but yes, I have considered it. But the reason I need Halahal is not for that, there is something else that I want to do and for that I need it.”
“And may I know the reason?” she asked.
“You have to trust me with it, Didi” I replied looking into her eyes “and besides” I continued,”this time it is not only just me but our brother asks for it.”
She paused for a moment and then replied with a sigh,”So the time has really come.”
“Yes, Padmavati. Now can you..” I looked at her asking for it and she nodded, sad. She opened her palms together, upwards and with tantric mantric siddhi that father had bestowed her with, manifested the chalice of Halahal. The dark blue, almost black, thick liquid with fumes raising which was contained by the Akashik shield. This was the same Halahal which came out during the Samudra Manthan and father contained it in his Vishuddhi and became Neelkanth. The effects of the Halahal were detrimental even for him. If Maa would not have supported him then things could have gone wrong. Later when Didi Padma could not see Father’s pain, she sucked the entire Halahal out of Father and contained it in her. But because she had Halahal now, it was not safe for other beings which would be around her so father asked her to move into Nagaloka so that the beings of the Mrityu Loka could be safe from the ill effects of the most deadly venom.
She handed me the chalice and said,”Sister, be careful. You are taking it into the Mrityu Loka. If in case, the venom spreads, it could annihilate the entire planet in a matter of moments. Even the Devas are not immune to its toxicity.”
“I know, sister. Besides the planet is already growing through a lot of upheaval. But they have no idea what is going to come next if they don’t amend themselves now.”
I put the Halahal away and took her hand and said,”Padma”
“Yes, Kishori” she replied, glancing, confused.
“Very soon we would be needing your help.”
“Is it something that I should be worried about?” She asked, concerned.
“Not for now” I said smiling.
“How is he and how are the others?” She asked.
“They are alright. Kumari went to Vaikuntha and Bhrata sent me here to procure the Halahal. I think Bhrata is planning something but he is not telling us.”
“It is a trait that he got from father. Moreover, plans which are revealed before they are fulfilled are never fulfilled. You have to learn this skill, sister.”
“I know, Padma. But I am glad he is there to do it for us.”
Before she could say something more, there was a knock on the door. As she opened, the guards were there.
“It is ready, Devi Manasa. Everyone is waiting for you.”The guards said bowing down to her.
“Ok, you go. We will be there.”
The guards bowed down again and left. She turned to me and said,”Come with me.”
She held my hand and took me to the very place where the preparations were going on. All the Nagas were there and also Takshak. She went to her throne and from there she addressed,”My dear Nagas. The time has come. Let the ceremony begin but before that I want to introduce you all to a very special being. She is the daughter of our very Ishtadeva, my sister, Devi Kishori.”
As she pointed her hand towards me, the whole crowd glanced. Suddenly I was the center of attention. I looked at Padma, a little embarrassed.
“Come up here, sister” she said smiling.
The crowd paved the way and I walked up noticing the glances of Nagas which were on me. I walked up the stairs and stood beside my sister. She continued.
“You may not know her but now you should. She is to be revered in the same way as you all revere me. Previously too, she has aided us many times for the protection of this Nagaloka and still now she is doing so without making a noise.”
As she said so, all the Nagas started hailing for me. I folded my hands in namaskar and asked them to stop. I said,”Oh Nagas, from time immemorial you have played an integral part for the well being of the existence and aided humans in their spiritual upliftment. Naga Vasuki adorns father and without you all, many aspects of life cannot function properly in this universe. Hence, I will always be indebted to you all. I offer my obeisances to you.”
They started hailing once again more loudly. One of them said,”Devi Kishori, being the daughter of our Ishta, Shiva, you are already our object of reverence yet you treat us with the same reverence. This only highlights your divinity. Isn’t it so, my fellow Nagas?”
Everyone started nodding in unison. Another one from the crowd said,”It is true and hence we will always be in your aid, Devi. Like we do to Devi Manasa, we will follow your orders too. Just summon us when you need us and we will be there.” Everyone nodded in unison and started murmuring in acceptance.
I said,”I am grateful, my dear Nagas. By accepting me as one of your own, you all have once again showed why father adores you all so much.”
They all started hailing once again. As I looked at my sister, she was smiling with satisfaction. She looked at me and raised her eyebrows, grinning. I looked away, embarrassed. She stopped the crowd and signalled everyone to commence with the ceremony. The ceremony started. At first, the abhishek of the Shiva linga was done. After that, sister presided over her throne and they started worshipping her. Why would not they? This was the very day when she got established as a deity among the humans and made the whole clan of Nagas proud. From milk, curd, honey to scented water, she was worshipped with 26 offerings. I too participated in the ritual. As I adorned her with ornaments and clothes, she looked majestic. Ghee lamps were lit and aartis were offered. She took her divine four handed form.
On her upper left hand lay a pink lotus and on the upper right, Brahma kamal, the white lotus. On the lower left, she held a Naga and her lower right was placed in the form of benediction. A white swan accompanied her with serpents all over.
Overwhelmed by her grandeur I asked everyone to hail in her name. “All hail Devi Manasa” I said and they all followed. As we bowed down, she said with her divine voice,”Oh Kishori, I am pleased with your offerings and humbleness. As a deity, you have earned my benediction. Ask for anything.”
I said folding hands in namaskar and bowing down to her feet,”Oh Devi, you are the divine manifestation of Parashakti yourself. What can I ask from you as you have already graced me by having me as your sister.”
With a tangible smile on her radiant divine face, she replied,”Devi Kishori, I am also glad that you are my sister but as a deity I must grant my devotees something otherwise the decorum of a deity won’t be maintained so ask.”
“If that is so Devi then give me anything that you thing would be appropriate for me” I replied in reverence.
“So be it.” As she said so, she looked at the Naga which was coiled around her lower left hand. As she signalled it, it uncoiled itself from her hand, slithered down and came to me.
“Open your hands, Kishori” she said with a gentle smile on her face.
I did and the serpent coiled itself around and transformed into a Paash, a whip.
“Kishori, I present you the Nagpaash, the most dangerous weapon of the Nagas. The one who is under the Nagpaash cannot free oneself until Garuda himself comes to his rescue. I present it to you as a symbol of goodwill from the Nagaloka. I hope it will come in your aid.”
I took the Paash and touched it on my forehead as a sign of reverence and then tucked it around the side of my waistlet. She continued.
“When you want to conjure the Nagpaash in the mrityuloka, just obtain a whip and consecrate it and then invoke the Nagpaash. It will imbibe itself in that whip.”
“I thank you Devi for your generous present. It will surely aid me in my future endeavours. However, I must return to Bhrata. He is alone, handling the body. I don’t want to make him wait.”
“So be it. Takshak” Takshak came up front joining her hands in namaskar. “Escort Devi Kishori out of Nagaloka” and he obliged.
Before parting, she came to her ordinary form and hugged me. I hugged her tight. “We will meet soon, sister.” I said hugging her tight. “Yes, we will, definitely.” She reciprocated the same.
As I came out to the entrance and wast just about to leave, Takshak said,”Be careful, Devi Kisssshoori, they are looking for you.”
“Who?” I turned back and asked, curiously staring at him.
“The Daityassss. Lassst time when they came here sssearching, Devi Manassssa made them return from the entrance.”
“Do you know why were they searching for me?”
As Takshak replied, his words struck me like a lightning bolt which made everything from the past back in front of my eyes. He said,”They were here looking for you under the orders imparted by their guru, SSSSSShukracharya.”