Narada Muni – Scholar, Space Traveller and Positively Mischievous Saint

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Srimad Bhagavatham, Mahatmyam, Chapter One Sloka 21: Edyapi Brahma..

Translation: Though Narada Muni received the knowledge of Srimad Bhagavatham from his father Brahma, it was the Sanaka Munis who advised Narada on the procedure for saptaha (narration of Srimad Bhagavatham in seven days) and the fruits (divine benefits) thereof. 

In Mahatmyam or the foreword, Narada Muni is described as the son of Brahma. But we have also seen that the first creation of Brahma was the Sanat Kumaras, followed by the Prajapatis who are legendary agents of creation, working as gods or sages, who appear in every cycle of creation-maintenance-destruction (manvantara). Their numbers vary between seven, ten, sixteen or twenty-one.

So, where does Narada fit in? This shall be discussed in the next sloka.

Srimad Bhagawatham, Mahatmyam, Chapter One Sloka 22: Shounakovacha..

Translation:  Shounaka had a doubt. How did Narada listen and partake of the advice of Sanaka Munis in seven days when he (Narada) constantly wanders in the universe never spending time in one place. Where did Narada listen to the advice of Sanaka Munis? 

Who is Narada and why does he keep wandering? 

Shounaka’s doubt is genuine. How can Narada Muni, who cannot stay in one place, listen to Srimad Bhagawatham for seven days? There are many stories on why the Muni could not stay in one place for long. But coming back to the seven-day question, the plausible explanations is this: what we consider as seven days need not be Narada Muni’s seven days. The muni was a celestial saint capable of  travelling across the universe. It is well established in science that time and space are totally different in outer space and does not obey the laws of that we know of. Hence, Narada muni could have listened to Srimad Bhagwatham in a time frame that would SEEM to be seven days to us on earth. 

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Narada

But who is Narada Muni (sometimes referred as Dev Rishi Narad) ? He is a mysterious saint who keeps popping up in various puranas. There are numerous stories on Narada Muni. One says that the is the son of Brahma and a devotee of Lord Vishnu; another says he was the son of a maidservant who served learned saints during Chaturmas (the rainy season when saints avoid travelling for two reasons – inclement weather, and, more importantly, the rainy season is the time when life propagates. So, while travelling, some of the plant sprouts and insects may get destroyed. Hence, nature should be left alone during this period). 

Whatever be the stories, Narada was considered to be the first journalist, rather a mischievous journalist, who was adept in spotting injustice and trouble well ahead and settling them by gift-wrapping his words very innocuously or through songs (he was also the first balladeer capable of narrating stories through crisp poems that have a rustic flavour) because he was dealing with gods, saints, devas and asuras. It was only after Narada left that the gods and others would realise the full portent of his words or ballads. He was like a lit matchstick to a heap of gunpowder – one small spark was enough. 

Narada was also a master in using gossip to unsettle status quo or a potential wrong-doing. But he was never malicious or harboured a bad intent. In fact, in Vishnupurana it is said: “Naram nar samuham Kalahena dhyati Khandayatiti.” The one who is a fomenter of disputes among people is Narada. But he is never malicious or vengeful and never has any vested interest. He works for the ultimate good.

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Take the example of a demon called Jalandar. Samudra, or the ocean, gave birth to a mighty demon called Jalandar. Goddess Lakshmi was also the daughter of Samudra and hence harboured a soft corner for her brother. Jalandhar grew up to become a cruel king and forced Indra and Devas to vacate their chairs in Swarga. Vishnu remained neutral not wanting to hurt his wife Lakshmi. 

Narada Muni had a clever solution. One day, he met Jalandar who had by then become a pompous king who nursed a big ego and told him that Lord Shiva’s riches and powers were by far the most superior and that his wife Parvati was the prettiest woman in the Universe. That was enough to spur Jalandhar into action. He started pursuing Parvati and picked a war with Lord Shiva. Finally. Jalandhar faced Shiva in a battle and the latter slit his throat by a fiery chakra. 

Who else could device such a clever plan except Narada. 

Though he looks playful and funny at times, Narada Muni’s personality is quite complex. He can also become serious and wise. As per the mythology, he was the righthand man of Lord Vishnu executing complex tasks. Some texts say he was the creation of the Supreme Brahman Himself. 

In Indian texts, Narada travels to distant worlds and realms carrying a khartal and tambura. 

He had mastery of the six Angas: pronunciation, grammar, prosody, terms, religious rites and astronomy. All celestial beings worshiped him for his knowledge. He could swiftly interpret different texts and had a very powerful memory that he could recall in seconds. He possessed knowledge of this whole universe and everything surrounding it. He knew about the six sciences of treaty, war, military campaigns, maintenance of posts against the enemy and strategies of ambushes and reserves. He was a thorough master of every branch of learning. 

Despite all this he is hardly worshipped. Probably he was one of the early ones who shunned fan following! He is not worshipped as he is never in one place for more than a couple of minutes; he is also not known to grant boons. Narada temples are few, most prominent being, Sri Narada Muni Temple at Chigateri in Karnataka. 

Narada Muni is such a complex personality that it would take reams to describe him. In next part, we shall see why he is constantly on the move and never at one place for more than a couple of minutes.

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