This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Mahātmya

Prologue

In the third chapter of Śiva Mahāpurāṇa Mahātmya, Sūta agrees to tell this story to Śaunaka as he is among the foremost of the devotees of Lord Śiva besides being well versed in the Vedas. In this story Śrī Sūta shows the merciful Śiva who can forgive even the most heinous misdeeds of fallen souls like Cañculā. Cañculā and her husband had fallen into very bad ways by completely ignoring marriage vows and indulging in adultery, prostitution and love for another who is not the spouse. Yet there was a window of mercy always open for repentance, and Cañculā grabbed it.

Bāṣkala Village

1600sIn a village named Bāṣkala lived some very sinful people who had neither dharma nor any faith in the Vedas. These evil Bāṣkala residents were wicked, of harsh behaviour, unfortunate and wielded weapons. They misbehaved with the spouses of others and were like wild animals. Completely unaware of jñāna (spiritual knowledge), vairāgya (renunciation) and dharma which brings good fortune to the community, they listened to stories of their own escapades and misdeeds in glee. Devoid of wisdom and being evil minded, they lived like the animals they maintained in their farms.

Adharma has entrenched itself in the village and even the people of other varṇa (castes) that inhabited Bāṣkala village ignored their own dharma and adopted evil and cruel ways of a degraded life which led them to constantly engage in worldly pleasures. The women of the village were crooked and mischievously went everywhere. Always intent on sinful desires and of degraded character, they were unchaste, of bad conduct and were averse to anything noble.

Commentary

Do not inhabit a country where you are not respected, cannot earn your livelihood, have no friends, or cannot acquire knowledge. Do not stay for a single day where there are not these five persons: (a) a wealthy man, (b) a brāhmaṇa well versed in vedic knowledge, (c) a king, (d) a river and (e) a physician. Wise men should never go into a country where there are no means of earning one’s livelihood, where the people have no dread of anybody, have no sense of shame, no intelligence, or a charitable disposition.Chānakya PaṇḍitaChānakya Nīti Śāstra, Chapter-1, Śloka 8-10

Adulterous Binduga

A brāhmaṇa named Binduga of the vilest and degraded character also lived in Bāṣkala. That wicked soul followed a degraded path even though he was blessed with a beautiful wife. Overpowered by passion he became the husband of a prostitute1वेश्यापति (veśyāpati) literally means the lord, controller or husband of a prostitute. Since one does not really control the prostitute, although it may seem so, the person is completely overcome with passion.. Ignoring and discarding his wife, he had physical union with the prostitute. Gradually he started spending more time with the prostitute and completely ignored his beautiful wife Cañculā.

Cañculā was very careful not to become a victim of passion and tried her utmost to keep away from the glances of other men in the village. But gradually her boisterous virility increased and the onslaught of her passions became unbearable and she fell from her virtuous conduct.

Women Grinding Corn -India Ancient and Modern-1867

Commentary

Women have hunger two-fold, shyness four-fold, daring six-fold, and lust eight-fold as compared to men.Chānakya PaṇḍitaChānakya Nīti Śāstra, Chapter-1, Śloka 17

Chānakya nīti teaches that the torment of passion is eight ties stronger for women in her prime than for men. It is difficult to blame Cañculā alone for her conduct as her passion was normal for any married lady. She expected to have union with her husband and bear children, as would any other girl. This topic of being ignored by husband has come up many times in various purāṇa and time and again, the men who have ignored their spouses, have been placed under various curses. Of particular importance is the curse on Chandra, the moon-god, for ignoring his 26 wives in favour of Rohiṇī and the redemption due to Lord Śiva.

Fall of Cañculā

When Binduga found Cañculā in union with a stranger with great lust, he was enraged and rushed and grabbed her. The deceitful lover immediately ran away from the scene leaving Cañculā to deal with the fury of Binduga who beat her and boxed her while scolding her. Finally he tied her up.

That episode ended but it made Cañculā more degraded as she lost all shame and fear of her husband and started moving freely with other men. After a few days, she confronted her husband and asked, “Why have you been visiting that prostitute everyday while discarding me, your young, chaste, youthful and legally wedded wife who was so devoted to you? I am young, beautiful and am full of passions. What would be my state without the company of my husband? I remain upset without union with you.”

Hearing these words, the degraded Binduga struck upon an idea and told her, “Being full of passion, all that you say is true. Let me share my thoughts which is for the welfare of both of us and which will make you fearless and free from doubts. From now on, you are free to enjoy the company of your lovers without hesitation provided you receive money for the love-sport. You give me that money so that I can continue to visit that prostitute. In this way both of us will be happy and our ends will be met.”

Cañculā was delighted to hear these words coming from her husband as it allowed her to meet her lovers. Both husband and wife had this insane understanding which led them into very evil path of life full of sins and sorrow to follow.

Commentary

A wicked spouse, a false friend, a saucy servant and living in a house infested by a serpent in it are nothing but death.Chānakya PaṇḍitaChānakya Nīti Śāstra, Chapter-1, Śloka 4

Save your riches for hard times, save your wife at the cost of your riches, but invariably always save your soul even at the sacrifice of wife and riches.Chānakya PaṇḍitaChānakya Nīti Śāstra, Chapter-1, Śloka 5

naraka_burmese_art

Binduga Rebirth

Both Binduga an Cañculā were thus engrossed in their evil ways. And after many years, Binduga of evil mind, the husband of the vṛṣalī died and was dragged to narka. The stupid and wicked brāhmaṇa, after having great pain and suffering in Naraka was reborn as a piśāca in the Vindhya mountains.

Commentary

वृषली (vṛṣalī) refers to a woman of fallen caste. It can refer to both the prostitute as well as to Cañculā, who by this time had fallen from her chastity and taken to lowly ways. This word also refers to an unmarried girl during menstruation signifying her impurity. In jyotiṣa this is the negative impact of ‘Mars’ which causes great burning and hence, cleansing as well in women. It can also refer to a barren woman (Mars afflicting dharma) or the mother of a still-born child (Saturn affliction in dharma). Most translators have rightfully taken this to mean the prostitute as Cañculā did have children, but the parentage was questionable as she never cohabited with her husband.
पिशाच (piśāca) refers to a class of beings having a yellowish appearance. Most scholars equate the to be demons like Asura as they prefer the darkness or Rākṣasa as they are violent beings. They are also said to be fond of flesh as derived from the word पिशित (piśita) meaning flesh which has been cut up or prepared or any flesh or meat. They are a personification of the ‘dark fire’ or some very strong infra-red electromagnetic radiation. They are the children of Krodha (personified anger) and have excessive fondness for quarrelling all the time.

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References   [ + ]

1. वेश्यापति (veśyāpati) literally means the lord, controller or husband of a prostitute. Since one does not really control the prostitute, although it may seem so, the person is completely overcome with passion.