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Blight of the ancient past

The writer's interpretation of a tale from Ramayana that speaks of a disease-causing organism that bears some similarity to the pandemic causing Coronavirus

Blight of the ancient past

'Yoga Vasishta', a philosophical text attributed to sage Valmiki, described a virus named 'Karkati' similar to Coronavirus or COVID-19, which attacks lungs, heart and liver, causing piercing pain and death. Lord Rama of Ikshvaku dynasty who desired to understand the real-life situations of his citizens before becoming king, wandered around his kingdom of Ayodha in disguise. He was disturbed by the sickness, old age, deaths, sorrows of his people. Later, he did not show any interest in his royal daily activities for many days. To answer his questions, Vasishta narrated a series of verses, which were later compiled as 'Yoga Vasishta'. Listening to them, Rama comes out of his depression.

One of the chapters of 'Yoga Vasishta', namely, the Utpatti Prakarana or creation order described the story of Karkati a 'Rakshasi' or demon known by two names Visoochika and Anyaayabaadhika, who lived on the northern slopes of the Himalayas. Vulcan eyed, collyrium dark, she looked like a mountain-size doll. She had a peculiar appetite that was never satisfied and was always worried about it.

One day Karkati thought of consuming all the people so that her hunger might be quenched. But was it proper to do so, she thought? As many of the people are protected by gods because of their worship and prayers, she did not possess the power to go against them. Hence, she decided to perform immense penance and become griefless with a concentrated mind. With this, she performed severe penance and Lord Brahma, the creator, appeared before her.

Karkati expressed the desire that, in order to assuage her ever-increasing hunger, she wanted to be transformed into the form of a 'Jeeva-Suchika', a living needle or pain causing virus who can enter into the bodies of all in the world and consume as much food as she required.

Brahma granted her the boon to become 'Visoochika' to afflict those who feed themselves on unwholesome food, who betake themselves to vicious courses, who are ignorant or ferocious and who live in unsanitary places. She shall afflict people with a disease related to the heart and lungs as well as related to spleen and others. She shall enter both 'Saguna' (Virtuous) and 'Nirguna' (Bad) people. But in the case of entry in 'Saguna' men, to remedy the above disease, the following mantra will have to be uttered:

'Oṃ hrāaṃ hreeṃ śrreeṃ rāma viṣṇuśaktaye namo bhagavatī viṣṇuśakti ehī | enāṃ hara hara daha daha hana hana paca paca matha matha utsādaya utsādaya dare kuru kuru svāhā| viṣūvacake tvaṃ himavantama ccha gaccha, jīvasāra candramaṇḍalama gatosī svāhā.'

(Oh Vishnu Sakti, fit to be worshipped, prostrations to you; please come here, take her, take her (Visoochika); burn her, burn her; kill her, kill her; cook her, cook her; churn her, churn her; destroy her, destroy her; drive her, drive her; Oh Visoochika, go away to the Himalayas; oh the essence of Jivas, you are off (or go to) the sphere of the moon).

The method to use this mantra is as follows- The reciter of the above mantra should get it written on the left hand (with the left hand of another reciter) and he should pass it (the left hand) over the body of the diseased person. Then he should contemplate upon Karkati, who is crushed with the pestle of the mantra and hence angry, as having departed for the Himalayas. Then he should regard the diseased person as bathing in the ambrosia of the moon and as free from diseases, mental or physical. Being pure and having duly performed Achamana (sipping water) with all his senses under perfect control, the person will destroy all 'Visoochikas' through the due performance of the above-mentioned means.

Visoochika was radiant and was subtle and was devoted to her own work. With her two-fold form of Suchika and Visoochika, the demoness roamed the world afflicting all the people. Visoochika had her numerous hiding places. Among them were: dust and dirt on the ground, unclean fingers, threads of cloth, within one's body in the muscles, dirty skin covered with dust, unclean furrows on the palms and on other parts of the body due to senility, places where flies abound, in the lustreless body, in places devoid of healthy trees, in people of filthy dress, people of unhealthy habits, in tree-stumps caused by deforestation in which flies breed, in puddles of stagnant water, in polluted water, in open sewers running in the middle of roads, in rest houses used by travellers and in those cities where there are many wild animals.

She wore dirty pieces of cloth thrown on the roads, sewn together and she roamed freely in the bodies of sick people. At some stage, Suchika got tired of her destructive activity. Cruelty was the nature of Suchika. Just as the needle keeps on swallowing the thread that passes through it, Suchika continued to claim her victims.

Known also as 'Jiva-Suchika' (living needle), she moved in all beings as the life-force with the help of Prana and Apana (air), subjecting the Jiva (living being) to sorrow, by causing terribly sharp pain (of gout, rheumatism) which makes one lose his mind. She entered into the feet (like a needle) and consumed blood. Like all wicked people, she rejoiced in others sorrow.

After living such life for many years, she bewailed her own self-inflicted misfortune: "Alas, where is the mountainous body and where is the form of a needle? Sometimes I fall into mud and filth, I am trampled upon by people. Alas, I am lost. I have no friends, no one takes pity upon me. I have no fixed abode, nor have I a body worth the name. I have surely lost my mind and my senses! I am never free, ever at the mercy of others. I am in the hands of others and do what they make me do. Who is now going to liberate me from this miserable existence of being smaller to a worm? Ah, when will I again be as large as a mountain and drink the blood of large beings? Let me become an ascetic again and perform penance as I did before."

She restarted penance, whose fire generated smoke from the crown of her head, and that too became another 'Suchika', a helpmate. Her shadow became yet another 'Suchika', yet another friend. At this time, she had gained direct knowledge of the supreme causeless cause of all by her own examination of the intelligence within her.

Brahma re-appeared and said: "The eternal world-order cannot be set aside. And it decrees that you should regain your previous body, live happily for a long time and then attain liberation. You will live an enlightened life, afflicting only the wicked and the sinful, and causing the least harm and that too only to appease your natural hunger." Thus, narrated Vasishta about the legend of Karkati to Rama.

Karkati, enters bodies of living bodies in the form of different viruses to cause acute pain in heart, lungs and liver like the different viruses. Almost all such viruses dwell in unclean places, where animals are slaughtered, infect unclean people, spread through air and hands, cause pain in the lungs, heart, etc. Like Karkati, who became fed-up with continuing in the form of 'Visoochika' and decided to regain her original form, the Coronavirus will also at some point of time get fed-up and vanish, leaving mankind happy and free from problems that they hitherto faced.

The writer is Chief Public Relations Officer to Chief Minister of Telangana. The views expressed are strictly personal

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