Jayary Newsletter # 80

Ilvala and Vatapi

So this Ilvala is actually a pretty reasonable daitya. He wants a son as powerful as Indra, and to be frank, no one can blame him. Indra is known to rub out his rivals, chief among whom are the daityas. In that ancient world, children are insurance against all kinds of enemies: space and time if you're a rishi, Indra if you're a daitya and your next door neighbour if you're a village chieftain. Children protect you in this world and the next.

Don't Ilvala and Agastya problems mirror each other? Agastya has tapasya but he doesn't have money, while Ilvala has money but not enough tapasya. If only the two of them had met each other a few years ago! Agastya would have taken from Vishwamitra's book and created an Indra like progeny for Ilvala and Ilvala in turn would have provided as many beds and mattresses as Agastya and Lopamudra desired.

If only. Ilvala couldn't find a rishi or a brahmin with the aukatto create an Indraino and the miffed daitya king decides to kill all visiting brahmins in frustration. That works out well for Ilvala, but what about Vatapi? Why does he assent to be turned into a goat, killed and resurrected? I wouldn't want my head chopped off even if I knew I was coming back in one piece a few hours later. Why not ask Vatapi to take the form of a dragon and make him swallow the visiting brahmin or burn him to a cinder?


So here's the story so far: Agastya needs money for a down payment on his house. Despite the outward glory, every king he approaches for a loan is broke. Ilvala is the only ruler with extra cash. Ilvala is still smarting at the brahmin genus for not providing an Indra-like son.

Ilvala resorts to killing them off one by one by an incredibly complicated procedure: turning his brother into a goat, slaughtering and feeding that goat to visiting brahmins and recalling that goat from the dead after it's made its way to the guest's stomach. As a much later wag would say: "what an idea sirji."

Agastya isn't just another brahmin though. He's a maharishi. After eating a meal of goat curry, Agastya rubs his stomach in satisfaction. When Ilvala calls for his brother, nothing happens. No tearing of guts, no splattered blood. Nothing. Agastya looks at Ilvala and says "he's been digested you know, there's no reconstituting him."

I am thinking thermodynamically here: that chewing and swallowing a goat is still within the ambit of reversible processes, but digestion introduces so much entropy that even a daitya king can't reverse the transformation. The second law is the mother of all gods.

Having acidified Vatapi, Agastya turns to Ilvala with a sly smile: "what about that loan we were talking about before we sat down to eat?" It's got to be the most outrageous request that a pauper has ever made to his banker.

A Warm Bed

Amazingly, Agastya's brazen request works: Ilvala is willing to furnish a loan at very low interest rates. So low that it might be considered a gift rather than a loan. Why the change of heart? How can Ilvala forgive his brother's killer?

Some of Ilvala's generosity must be due to fear. After all, a rishi who can digest a daitya has to have other fearsome powers. You don't want to mess with kind of tapasya. Or perhaps Ilvala was renewing his desire for an Indra like child; surely Agastya had the power to bestow such a son on him.

The gold-endowed, daitya digested Agastya goes back to Lopamudra. The entire trip didn't take him that long - perhaps it took place in dream time, for the Jaya says the riches were transported back to Agastya's ashram in the twinkling of an eye. The house and bed desired by Lopamudra must have been constructed in the next twinkle while Agastya is still walking from the parking lot to the house.

Lopamudra welcomes Agastya to his house with a seductive whisper "the time has come; beget a son upon me!" Ever the rishi, Agastya responds back with a choice: "do you want ten thousand sons or one son who's the equivalent of ten thousand?" Isn't that a no-brainer? Who would want ten thousand sons? Unsurprisingly, Lopamudra opts for one son.

Agastya leaves for the forest soon after Lopamudra is declared pregnant and with that exit, we will also leave Agastya and Lopamudra and transfer our affections back to Yudhisthira for a moment.