I must have heard this story tens of times from my mother’s grandmother (She was so loving, I used to declare to my mother that she was MY grandmother, not hers). The setting that surrounded her story-telling cannot be replicated now – the clear summer skies with millions of stars shining, the cool breeze and the cool beds covered with dot-less white sheets laid out in the terrace. And then we would take turns to keep our heads in her lap, and she would gently stroke us and take us to another world, on the mystic journey on the wings of her story.
Here is her version as I remember:
Banasur was a demon king. He wanted to become immortal, so he started worshipping Lord Shiv for a boon. Lord Shiv, known as the one quickly pleased (Ashutosh), appeared before Banasur and told him that Banasur could ask for anything except immortality. However, Banasur said that he would have nothing but immortality.
When Banasur would have no other boon, Lord Shiv asked him to choose any circumstances in which Banasur would die, and asked him to make it so unlikely that practically it would make him immortal. Banasur started thinking about such a condition. He knew that Lord Shiv held his Trishul (Trident), which was a Vajra. A Vajra is such a strong and powerful weapon that it cannot be broken by any other weapons. He also knew that the Vajras remained located in very different, far-flung places in the universe. So, Banasur asked the Lord Shiv that he would not die until three and a half Vajra got together. Lord Shiva granted the boon and disappeared. But before he went away, he gave a flag post to Banasur and told him that the day the flag post fell from the top of his palace, Banasur would know that his death is nearing.
Banasur put his royal flag on the post and placed it on the highest point of his palace. He had a daughter, Usha, who was actually a daughter of gods, but had to be born as a human due to a curse. When she was born to Banasur, it was announced that her husband would be instrumental in causing Banasur’s death. So Banasur had decided to lock her away into a solitary palace and surround her only by women so that she would never come into contact with a man. If this could be ensured, Banasur would never die.
Usha was living in her palace, and she had one very talented friend, Chitralekha.
One day, Usha saw a very handsome prince in her dream and fell in love with him. When she woke up, she realized that the dream was so life-like, that she had to find out if he existed, and where if so. She told Chitralekha about the dream. Chitralekha suggested that since he was a prince, it would not be very difficult to trace him – all they had to do was trace all the royal families. So, when Usha described how her prince looked, Chitralekha made some sketches. From what Usha shortlisted, Chitralekha knew it was someone from the Royals of Dwarika. So, she first made an image of Lord Krishna. Usha said that her prince resembled him, but was not quite the same. So, Chitralekha sketched Pradyumn, Krishna’s son. Usha said that her prince was younger – just their age. Now Chitralekha sketched Aniruddh, Pradyumn’s son and Krishna’s grandson. Usha confirmed that that was her prince.
How could they reach out and contact Aniruddh from their highly guarded palace?
The multitalented Chitralekha could fly, and she reassured Usha that she would bring Aniruddh to Usha. However, Dwarika was highly guarded and it was impossible to make an entry without being recognised and scrutinised, because the Sudarshan Chakra (lord Krishna’s weapon) was patrolling Dwarika each night. Chitralekha could enter the city only if the Chakra was halted for a while.
Chitralekha approached Narad, the sage who could go anywhere at will, and who was a very special kind of a change agent. She took him into confidence, enlisted him in the cause and requested him to engage Sudarshan in a dialogue for a short while. Narad was excited and he agreed.
So when the night fell, Chitralekha and Narad approached Dwarika. Narad was a very highly respected sage, and a favourite devotee of Vishnu, whose incarnation was Lord Krishna. So naturally, when Sudarshan detected an approach to the city periphery, he appeared before Narad, bowed to him and lamented that since he was on duty, he would not be able to extend hospitality to the sage. The sage empathised with Sudarshan, and appreciated his dedication, commitment and error-less performance.
While the two chatted, Chitralekha went to the palace, located Aniruddh’s quarter as per the tips given by Narad, airlifted him along with his bed, and returned to Usha. Since he was sleeping, the two decided to wait until he woke up. In the morning, the prince woke up, and was baffled at finding himself in totally new surroundings with two very beautiful ladies who seemed to be the only occupants of a palace. Usha introduced herself and told the prince about her dream. The two fell in love, this time not in the dream.
Next day, in Dwarika, everyone was panicked because Aniruddh was missing. His mother urged the mighty, Yadav clan leaders to find her son, among lot of taunts about the supposedly fail-proof security arrangements, and the reputation of Krishna and Pradyumn. The Yadavs sprang in to action and launched a country-wide search. Allies were alerted and the network of spies was ordered to send all intelligence they could.
Back in Usha’s palace, everything was in order except the flag post. Banasur had made it a part of his daily routine to check on the flag post. When he found it broken, he sent for reports from his guards, spies … but nothing unusual was found except that the Yadavs were charging out of Dwarika. Suddenly Banasur thought of Usha. So he called Usha’s maids. Those who helped Usha daily with her bath and dressing said that they had seen love marks on her body. But they had not seen anyone.
Banasur’s anger knew no limits and he stormed inside Usha’s palace, sure that she was with a man and that was the signal of his imminent fall because now the flag post had broken. When he found Usha and Aniruddh together in the palace, Banasur immediately asked his guards to tie him and take him for interrogation. Aniruddh was tied and taken away. Banasur did not know what to do with Usha, so for time being he left her under a more severe watch and left.
In the mean time, at Dwarika, Sudarshan was summoned and was asked to explain the lapse in the security. Sudarshan emphatically said that the only person to visit the city that night was Devarshi Narad. And Narad, after talking to him for a brief while, returned without entering Dwarika. So now, people requested Narad’s help – he had to know something.
Narad, after some cajoling told Krishna about the project Chitralekha had undertaken, but he said that he did not know the full story. All he said he knew, was that she was from Shonitpur. Now everyone knew that Shonitpur was the capital of the Demon king Banasur and if the Yadav prince was in Banasur’s city, he might not be expected to return on his own. So Yadav army formed and left immediately with the preparation for a battle. Krishna, upon arrival at Shonitpur, asked the king to allow Aniruddh safe passage, but Banasur did not agree. During the heated altercation, Yadavs came to know the full story, and according to the duty of the Kshatriyas, now they were responsible for the well-being of their prince’s bride also.
When Banasur refused to marry his daughter off to the Yadav prince, the war started, and soon got intensified. Banasur was also a great warrior – so in order to cut the long story short, Krishna threw his Chakra at him. Banasur was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, so he beseeched the lord to come and rescue him. Lord Shiva came and stopped the Chakra with his trident. Now these were both Vajras, and when they engaged themselves with each other, terrible heat was released and the two spit fire everywhere while they remained engaged up in the sky.
The heat and fire started taking their toll on the living beings on the ground. The common people requested Gods to intervene. But the rule was that only a Vajra can touch Vajras that are engaged in a battle. The search was launched for that kind of Vajra that could go to the sky and deal with the Chakra and the trident. Someone suggested taking help from Hanuman, the son of the Wind god and Anjani, because he had a body of Vajra. When approached, Hanuman agreed. He had in the past, made great leaps – towards the Sun in his childhood and then to Lanka. However, Hanuman said that one problem had to be solved yet. If Hanuman leapt to the sky and disengaged the two embattled Vajras, the might for which he had, he still needed to land on the earth. Now, the earth could not have tolerated three vajras falling from the sky, so if Hanuman landed without another Vajra, then the Chakra, the Trident and Hanuman –all would go to the Paataal – the underbelly of the earth from which there is no return.
Now someone suggested that Bheem, one of the five Paandav brothers, had half his body that was Vajra. So Bheem was also brought on the scene. Bheem now lay on the ground side-ways such that the Vajra side of his body faced the sky. Then Hanuman jumped and with all his might disengaged the two embattled Vajras, held them reverently and requested their destructive forces to be calm and landed on Bheem’s body.
At that moment three and a half Vajras were joined together and Banasur died of his own conditionality of the immortality boon. Lord Shiva was upset that his devotee died, but this was his own boon granted conditionally. Krishna and others pacified him by saying that Banasur had not used his invincibility for the good of the society and his people and had not allowed his daughter to go away with a man of her choice, with whom she was married by Gandharva ceremony in a secret way. Shiv also agreed now.
The entire retinue now went inside the city and the king’s palace, freed Aniruddh, and took the princess back to Dwarika with them. The gods returned to their abodes, and so did the remaining invitees.
Chitralekha went along with Usha. Usha and Aniruddh lived happily ever after…