Saturday, November 19, 2011

Physical Transformation in Hindu Scriptures

There are many stories of physical transformation in our Hindu scriptures, some of them are given here.

Story of Apaalaa
Apaalaa of the Rig Ved. Apaalaa's story comes in the form of a verse composed at least 4,000 years ago by the most conservative estimates. The story goes like this that Apaalaa was not a very pretty woman. She was even rejected by her husband on the basis of her ugliness. She had coarse and ugly skin, a skin disease perhaps. One day, while walking in the woods, she picked up a plant and chewed on it. She did not know that it was the magical Som plant whose juice is very much liked by Devtaa (semi-gods). The extraction of its juice between her teeth caught the attention of Indra, king of the gods, who loves Som juice. So he appeared before her and offered her a boon. She asked him "Make me beautiful.". So, Indra pulled her through the hole of his chariot wheel three times causing her coarse skin to slough and she emerged radiant and beautiful, with very soft skin and a great beauty. Her sloughed skin turned into a hedgehog, an alligator and a chameleon, which is why they have coarse skin.

Story of Kaalee
Similar stories of physical transformation occur in Pauraanik stories that were written almost 3,000 years after the Rig Ved. In one story, Shiv laughs at Shakti because she is dark or Kaalee. So the goddess bathes in the river Yamunaa and emerges radiant, and comes to be known as Gauree, the fair one. The river acquires the dark complexion of the goddess and so comes to be known as Kaalindee. Later she became the wife of Krishn.

Story of Maharshi Chyavan
Another ancient story I can remember of Maharshi Chyavan. In  those days Raajaa Sharyaati used to rule the Earth. Once he came for hunting and camped in a forest. Near their camp was the hermitage of Maharshi Chyavan. At that time he was in Samaadhi state. Since he was sitting their for long time many ants made their house (anthill) around his body. Only two holes were there at the place of his eyes. Sharyaati has beautiful daughter Sukanyaa who came there with her friends wandering in the forest. Her friends went here and there, she remained alone and she saw an anthill in the forest. She got curious and came near the anthill. She did not know what was in the anthill. She saw two holes in it. Curiosity sake she peeped in those holes and found something shining inside. She took a straw and put it in those holes. Rishi's eyes were pierced and blood oozed out of those holes. She got frightened and came back to her camp. Later she had to pay a heavy price for this act - she had to marry that blind old Rishi.

Considering her fate she served him well for some time. later Ashwinee Kumaar, pleased with her devotion to her husband, helped her in regaining his eyes and youth. They asked him to take a dip in a tank and as he rose from the water, he became young and handsome and could see. Read his full story at Maharshi Chyavan.

Story of Maharshi Saubhari
This Maharshi transformed himself into a young handsome youth to marry Raajaa Maandhaataa's daughter. When Saubhari asked Maandhaataa to marry one of his 50 daughters, seeing his old age, the King said - "We give equal right to our daughters, so if any of them will like you, I will marry her to you." The King sent him to his daughters' palace with guards and asked them to bring the news. Saubhari Rishi got agreed and went to the princesses' palace. After reaching there he transformed himself into a handsome youth and met all of them. Now all princesses wanted to marry him. The guards informed the King this amazing news. Maandhaataa got very sad to hear this, but had to marry all of them to him. Since he was not satisfied with the Rishi and loved his daughters very much, later he went to see his daughters with his queen.

Seeing 50 gracious palaces in the hermitage of the Rishi, he thought that he had come to a wrong place, that one of his daughters came out from one of those palaces and called him, "Father". They went to her and asked her whether she was happy with the  Muni. She praise him a lot and then said - "But I am sad for my sisters, because Muni lives with me only all the time. They must be abusing me that Muni loves me very much and does not go to them at all. I do not know when does he go to them, because he lives with me all the time" Maandhaataa got happy as well sad hearing all this from his daughter.

Then they went to their other daughter expecting to hear that Muni loves only our one sister and never comes to me, but when they went to their other daughter, they heard the same what their first daughter said to them. And even the third daughter said the same. Maandhaataa smiled and greeted Muni in his heart. Of course he went to Muni also to meet him. There he saw a young handsome man, not an old Rishi. He greeted him, thanked him and came back to his city smilingly and satisfied.

Story of Kubjaa
There is a story comes in in the Bhaagavat Puraan. When Balaraam and Krishn go to Mathuraa on the invitation of Kans, wandering over Mathuraa's streets, they find an ugly bent woman Trivikra or Kubjaa. She used to prepare Chandan and other pastes for Kans and that time was taking that paste to Kans' palace. Krishn asked her to give some Chandan paste to Him also. She felt obliged and gave some Chandan paste to Krishn. In return of that Chandan paste, Krishn just touched her chin and lifted it a little that made her back straighten and beautiful.

Story of  Kaaraikal Ammaiyar
While the transformation of ugliness into beauty brings about erotic and household bliss, the transformation of beauty into ugliness is seen as critical for spiritual bliss. This is the story of Karaikal Ammaiyar, a Tamil female saint, who makes herself ugly so that she does not have to contend with the lustful desires of her husband and other men and she can focus on her devotion to Shiv. In the Puraan, Shiv is described as a handsome god, who smears his body with ash so that people realize that more valuable than the body is the soul within the body.

There is a clear shift in attitude towards body from Rig Ved times to the Pauraanik period. In the Rig Ved, the body and its beauty and fertility were celebrated. In later times, this celebration was balanced by a reminder of the mortality of flesh and the limitations of desire.

Sushma Gupta


  1. Stories about the ancient great women and men transformed themselves according to the desired and required situation happily and with satisfaction.In individualistic society of the modern times does not want to change even a little, transformation is simply impossible---- that is how we live with miseries and discontentment...

  2. Yes Sir,
    You are right. People themselves do not want to change, but they expect others to change for them.... there are only very few people who change for others. My regards to them...