- Religion and Philosophy
Funny short story from Hindu Mythology
What one eats
Could disagree with one.
Once, two rakshasas, or demons, Ilwala and Vatapi, conjured up a novel method of killing the sages who passed through their forest. Ilwala nursed a hatred of sages ever since one of them had refused to bestow a boon the demon requested of him. Ilwala had asked for a son as powerful as Indra, the king of the gods, but the sage snubbed him instead. “In your dreams! Now get out of my way, you stupid demon, before I turn you into a serpent!”
Then these brothers cooked up an evil way to take revenge. Those days, sages were not necessarily vegetarians, and Ilwala, disguised as a woodsman would invite passing sages into his hut for a meal of freshly cooked mutton. After the meal, as Ilwala poured out water from a bowl to help the well-fed guest wash his hands, he would shout, “Come out, Vatapi!” Vatapi would emerge from the sage’s stomach, tearing it open and killing the unlucky guest in the process.
You see, Ilwala and Vatapi had hidden talents. Vatapi could magically transform himself into a goat, and Ilwala was a good cook. This “Come out, Vatapi,” was the signal used by Ilwala to get his brother to do the honours and kill the guest. These horrible hosts kept doing this till they used up all the sages of the forest and had to practise their gruesome practical joke on visiting ascetics who were from places too far away to have heard this post-prandial prank. Dandakaranya became a perfect example of a place where every prospect except the people pleases.
When killable sages grew few and far between, the bloodthirsty brothers decided to expand their operations and move southwards. Just as they were discussing this, Vatapi spotted a short, stout sage waddling past. With a whoop of joy, the two began their well-practised act. Vatapi assumed his goat-form, and Ilwala rushed to their prospective victim.
“O revered Sir!” Ilwala said, with folded hands and bowed head, “Won’t you honour this humble hut by having lunch with me? I would consider myself a hundred times blessed if you are kind enough to agree!”
The short sage stopped, patted his potbelly, and asked cheerfully, “What’s cooking?” “Little do you know,” thought Ilwala to himself, but said to the sage, “Mutton, Sir. You must taste it and tell me what you think of it!”
“Mutton?” asked the sage, licking his lips, “If it’s mutton, consider yourself blessed already! I have a weakness for mutton.”
“Then please be seated on this deerskin, revered Sir.” Ilwala went to the open-air kitchen he had built behind the house. The fat goat was fast converted into a sumptuous spread of mutton delicacies. The sage’s stomach made impatient noises as the mouth-watering aroma of cooked meat, that wafted in from the kitchen, kept tickling his nose.
“Is it ready yet?”
“In a jiffy, Holy One,” said Ilwala and rushed in to serve the sage, a jiffy later.
The hungry sage silently ate almost half the food in front of him before he remembered his social obligations. He had to express appreciation of what was served. “Mmmm,” he said, “Delicious!” The second half of the lunch was a leisurely relishing of each mouthful, punctuated by many ‘mmm’s and slurps.
After the meal, the disguised demon took his victim outside the hut and poured water for the sage to wash his hands. This was the moment Ilwala had been waiting for!
“Come out, Vatapi!” he cried. The sage clutched his stomach and gave vent to a big burp that shook the local birds off the trees.
“Your brother Vatapi has been digested,” he said, “Vatapi Jeernapi!” and waddled off into the forest, chuckling.
That was the great sage Agastya, whose capacity to digest anything is known to all the three worlds.
After his brother got digested like that, the reformed demon stuck to cooking healthy food. He made up for his crimes by cooking up great feasts for sages who passed that way. It was difficult with the reputation he earned, but Agastya put in a word for him.
However, the sage asked everybody to turn vegetarian, like he did. He said it wasn’t good for their health!