Dambodhbhava meditated with just one single thought in his mind. He was invoking Surya with a specific intention. He wanted to conquer all the three worlds and become the all supreme King or God, if he so pleased. Surya observed the man meditating upon him. He could sense that there was something amiss about this hardcore penance. Sooner or later, he would have to appear in front of him and give him what he sought.
He finally bestowed his presence and appeared before Dambodhbhava. After the usual prostrations of prayer and blessings, Surya asked his devotee what he sought. The king looked at him slyly and said what was in mind. Immortality. Surya shook his head and said that he could not grant that particular boon but asked the king to choose anything else instead. This was the chance that Dambodhbhava was waiting for. He knew that immortality was not a boon that would be granted, and therefore his plan was entirely different.
He looked up at the sun-god and laid down the specific conditions of the boon he sought.
One - he had to be bestowed a thousand armors.
Two - the armors would be invincible to the extent that only a person who has undergone rigorous penance for a thousand years could break the armor and kill him.
And finally, three - whoever broke his armor, would fall dead the next instant.
This was a boon akin to immortality and Surya knew it. There was no choice but to grant it and ensure that down the years, someone would make the asura realize his folly.
Years passed and Dambodhbhava’s atrocities grew. He plundered kingdoms, and harassed everyone including the Devas, wreaking havoc in all the worlds. As his notoriety spread and fear ensued, people started calling him – Sahasrakavacha – the one with a thousand armors.
Murti looked at her sons. They were the very epitome of calm, unlike other children their age. More so, they were unlike any other children she had ever seen. Their actions mirrored each other as well as their thoughts. They had an innate sense of understanding and what one was thinking, the other would be doing it. They were but for all purposes one soul in two bodies. She could see them now, one practicing archery and the other meditating. She could sense their minds attuned to the same wavelength. They were preparing for what was coming their way. For their purpose on earth was far bigger than anything else. Her husband had made that mighty clear to her. And she was attuned to it too.
Nara, pulled back his bow string, locked in his arrow and glanced at his brother. As if he could sense his mother’s and brother’s eyes on him, Narayana, opened his eyes and looked at them. The brothers smiled in unison at their mother and went back to their actions.
News of course travelled fast, and it was not long before Dambodhbhava heard the story of the ascetic brothers and visited them. He sought them out in the dense forest and took in their appearances and the surroundings they were in. Looking at the sinewy sages, he haughtily invited them to a duel.
Narayana looked at Nara. This was the moment they were waiting for. Nara took up his arms and charged at Dambodhbhava, who was now in his true demonic form. The fight went on for a thousand years with neither of them yielding. At one point when it looked like Sahasrakavacha was getting the upper hand, Nara, took a swinging blow and the asura’s first armor broke. And with that, Nara dropped dead. Sahasrakavacha was astounded. More than Nara falling dead, he was stunned to see his armor break. As soon as Narayana saw Nara dead, he ran to him and whispered a mantra. And Nara woke up right as rain and steady on his feet.
Sahasrakavacha could not believe his eyes. If losing his first armor was a bolt out of the blue to him, this was nothing less of a shock. He understood then that the brothers had undertaken rigorous penance and received the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra as a boon from Lord Shiva. He understood the essence of the duel now. This time, Narayana took up his arms and Nara sat down to meditate.
Another thousand years. Another armor. Another resurrection.
This went on until there 999 armors broke. When the 999th armor broke and Nara fell dead, the demon king ran for refuge to the bestower of his boon - Surya.
Narayana soon revived Nara and the two sages gave chase to the king.
Surya stood in front of them with folded hands and told them that, the asura was his devotee and since he had sought asylum at his feet, he could not hand over Sahasrakavacha to the sages. Blinded with anger, the sages cursed Surya that he would be born as a human in the Dvapara Yuga. Surya agreed for he knew what lay ahead as did all the Gods in the pantheon.
Surya now looked at the young man, rushing towards the avatars of Narayana and Indra, the trails blazing beneath his chariot wheels. There were just a few hours left for sunset, and unfortunately what would be this soul’s last battle on earth.
Or maybe it was fortunate in a way. Who was to know?
[to be continued]