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navagunjara

Arjuna bowed to the sun rising in the eastern sky as he prepared to commence his penance. The great war would take place soon and it was necessary for him to invoke the divine forces to acquire celestial weapons.

Just as he was about to close his eyes, he saw in the hazy distance, a figure unlike anything he had seen before!

His eyes grew wide in disbelief, as he focused on the creature that appeared before him. “Why! This is impossible!” he said to himself, standing up to take a closer look.

Arjuna pinched his wrist. Yes…He was certainly awake!

“Is this an illusion?” he wondered, unable to comprehend.

He closed his eyes and opened them after a few moments. The strange creature was still before him.

Awestruck and confounded, he stared at the beast in amazement. He could hear his heart pounding within his chest.

Having travelled widely, Arjuna had encountered every kind of creature there was to see. But what stood before him was an enigma.

This could not be real, the voice inside repeated, even as he rubbed his eyes in bewilderment.

The head of a rooster;

The neck of a peacock;

Hump of a camel;

How was this possible?

One leg of a tiger;

One leg of an elephant;

One leg of a deer;

How was this possible?

The waist of a lion;

Hand of a human;

Tail of a serpent;

How was this possible?

The Navagunjara was a composite of nine forms

A seasoned warrior, Arjuna’s instincts immediately took over. Swiftly taking up his bow, Arjuna pulled out an arrow and positioned himself to shoot at the strange creature. And as he focused with one eye on his target, as he had been trained to do, he noticed a budding lotus in the hand of the beast.

Arjuna paused and put down his bow. He could not understand. Was this strange creature something he ought to fear? Should he destroy the creature before it destroyed him? Or… was it harmless?

He could not tell.

“Remember dear Arjuna,” he could hear his wise friend Krishna’s words echoing in his ears. “There are infinite dimensions to the Truth. Don’t assume you know them all! No matter how much you know, there will always be something more to learn and understand!”

Arjuna fell to his knees and put aside his bow and arrow. And then he saw not a strange creature before him but Krishna himself! Arjuna bowed his head and closed his eyes, submitting to the voice of wisdom.

And in that humble moment, the great warrior realised a significant truth. With all the knowledge and skill that he had mastered, there was much in this world that he did not know. Much perhaps, that he may never know.

No matter how high the mountain, it cannot block out the sun!

The Navagunjara is a mythical creature composed of nine forms. It is a popular motif in Odiya folk art and literature. It finds mention in the Odiya Mahabharata written by Sarla Das.


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The Navagunjara is one amongst several hybrid creatures found in stories across the world. Want to know more about the Fantastic Mythical creatures of India? What do they symbollize? Check out this video I did for children during the Mumbai University Archeology Fest.

Comments(2)

    • rajat G

    • 2 months ago

    wonderfull story, n so apt for the times we live in, where we presume we know it all,

      • mallikaravikumar

      • 2 months ago

      Thank you. Yes…absolutely. This story seemed very appropriate for the times…and to remind ourselves that we can never know it all.

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