After Jayadratha ascended the Sindhu throne, his father Vridhak-Shatra retired to Samantapancaka to spend his years in prayer and austerities to prepare for his afterlife. Before leaving for Kurukshetra, Jayadratha went to his father to receive blessings.

“If I fell, I pray I will meet a warrior’s death with sword in hand, so I can attain Indraloka.”

“Speak of victory, my dear son; not of death and defeat.”

After Jayadratha took his leave, his distraught father sank into deeper austerities. Vridhak-Shatra, who had already accumulated a vast store of merit, decided to fast unto death. He intensified his chants and suffered debilitating conditions; stood on one foot under a high waterfall. More than the freezing cold, the water pounding on his head threatened to kill him.

The old man’s determination moved Lord Shiva. The Destroyer manifested and said,

“O Vridhak-Shatra, you have already done well in life. After a short sojourn in Yamarajah’s abode, you are destined to reach Indraloka and live under the grace of Lord Indra. What for this severe test that threatens to summon Yama when your name has not appeared in his log?”

“O Supreme Destroyer, I have but only one son beget by a boon to carry my line. He has set off to join in the greatest war Bharata will ever host. His words have caused distraught. For he is ready to embrace Yama. What will come of my lineage? Give me a benediction and I shall live out my life; give it not and I shall continue with my journey started.”

Shiva would not allow a man to cross the veil before his time, as it would set off a ripple that will affect many people. He said,

“Say it, O Vridhak-Shatra, and it is yours.”

“I’ve consulted the stars and indeed, the omens are bad for my son. What manner of man will pluck the last flower and deny a tree its progeny? Woe to him. I seek satisfaction against such a man.”

“You seek vengeance, O Vridhak-Shatra. Such a path will exhaust all your merit and place you in debt; a debt you will have to redeem in Naraka Loka. Only the abode of Yama will invite you and even then, after you are cleansed, you will return to the Third. Indraloka’s doors will not open for you in this life and many lives to come.”

“I want the father of the man who will take my son’s head to suffer the pain, the fire that is already burning within me. In return, I’ll give up all my merits and condemn myself to the nether regions.”

“So be it, for the denizens of the cosmos enjoy full freedom of choice,” said Lord Shiva. “Speak your wish.”

“The man who drops my son, Jayadratha’s head, either by blade, point or hand, will himself suffer death by having his head burst into a hundred pieces; and his father will reap the rewards of his son’s act.”

Lord Shiva granted the benediction.

Vridhak-Shatra gasped. A long stream of golden light exited his navel. All joy and softness left his features. He heaved and clutched his chest as if his heart was about to burst. Thick greenish smoke appeared and swirled around his head. It circled the cross-legged rishi and entered his nose. Vridhak-Shatra’s eyes widened. Permanent dark rings appeared around his eyes. His already frail frame withered further and tightened into a hunched shadow of his former self; and he looked like a ghoul that inhabited graveyards.

*** Copyright @ 2022, Eric Alagan ***

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