There are three main characters to this article, Brihaspati, Chandra and Tara.
Let’s talk about Brihaspati first.
Mamta was the wife of rishi Usija, the elder brother of
Brihaspati. Brihaspati once felt the desire to make love to
Mamta. Mamta resisted by saying that she was already pregnant with Usija’s son
and there would not be any place for Brihaspati’s son, which she was bound to
conceive if he made love to her. She also went on to say, that the foetus was learning
Vedas and might not like another child in there, however, she added, that the
choice was his. Brihaspati could not control his desire and decided to make
love. At that moment, the foetus from inside tried to stop him by saying that
he had arrived there first and there was no space for another one and thus he
Brihaspati was now angry with the foetus that even at the stage of a foetus it tried to stop him, he cursed the foetus to enter into a stage of darkness. Thus the foetus was named Dirghatamas, the blind sage. But another child was also conceived and was named as Bharadvaja (the one born of two). (Incidentally, Bharadvaja was the father of Drona in the epic Mahabharata). Many later scholars have termed this ‘forced’ union as a rape; however, what is interesting to note is that Mamta doesn’t stop Brihaspati from making love to her on the grounds of impropriety. She only stops him, on the grounds that there wouldn’t be enough space for two foetus together. Does this hint at some sort of permissiveness in the then society?
This is similar to the Swetaketu myth, where Swetaketu observes another sage taking hold of his mother’s hand and taking her away with him. His father observes this and doesn’t say anything and later explains to Swetaketu that it was natural for both men and women to have more partners, as all other creations of God did! However, Swetaketu was upset by this state of ‘affairs’ and made a law that no woman would be allowed to take another man, if her husband loved her and provided for her, and if she did, then that would be a grave sin and the same for the men too. He felt that man was different from animals and as only he was endowed with the faculty of brain, which taught him the difference between culture and the lack of it. Thus, he could not behave like animals.
Brihaspati was a great sage and goes on to become the guru of the gods. With this background of Brihaspati, let us move on to the myth under discussion.
Let us now take up Tara and Chandra.
Tara was the beautiful, buxom and the young wife of Brihaspati. Once Tara visited the land of Chandra, the moon and both fell madly in love with each other. Tara
was so enamoured by the looks and his mastery in the skills of love-making that
she decided to stay back with Chandra. Brihaspati waited for her for some time
and then sent his disciple to get her back. When Tara didn’t return with the
disciple, Brihaspati himself went to fetch her from Chandra’s place.
Brihaspati apprised Chandra that it was evil to keep Tara with him as she was his wife and thus Chandra’s gurupatni (wife of guru) who is akin to a mother. Having sex with ones gurupatni was an act of sin and that he could curse him for such sin. Chandra laughed him away by saying that a man, who had no mastery over himself, couldn’t levy a curse on anybody, besides the fact that he had not forced Tara to stay with him. As regards adultery, Chandra mentioned that according to the Dharmashastras, there could be no impurity due to adultery, as she was chaste after every menstrual cycle!
Brihaspati had no answer to Chandra and went back, but couldn’t reconcile with the absence of his wife and was beginning to long for her. So he came back again after a few days, but this time he was stopped at the entrance by the gatekeepers of Chandra. This further infuriated Brihaspati and he shouted at Chandra from the gates saying, that if Chandra didn’t return his wife immediately, he would curse him and reduce him to ashes.
Chandra came out and ridiculed Brihaspati by saying that what would an old man like him do with such a beautiful woman like Tara, when he couldn’t even pleasure her appropriately? It was sad that men of scriptures had such beautiful wives when they had no idea how to satisfy them. He went on to challenge Brihaspati by saying that he could do whatever he wanted to and would not give Tara to him, unless of course she wanted to go all by herself.
An angry Brihaspati went to Lord Indra and sought his help in retrieving his wife. When Indra sent his emissary to seek the release of Tara, Chandra sent him back with a mouthful. Chandra’s contention was that if a woman willfully left her home to stay with another man, then what was the fault of the man she chose to stay with? Also, family bliss was dependent on both the husband and the wife being happy, but if the wife was not happy, then how can one ensure the happiness of the family?
Let me leave the readers with the above thought.
We will continue the rest of the story, tomorrow……till then keep thinking about Chandra’s contention…..