Drumila flew to the top of the red mountain capped with spotless red rubies. Due to reflecting the dazzling white light pervading the skies of his world, the mountain was glowing red against the firmament, much like himself, for he, too, was of a reddish complexion.
Drumila lived in the world known as Atal – the first world below the Earth.
He looked up at its sky, in the direction of the zenith, expecting the illustrious form of his master, Shukracharya, to appear within its vast space, riding upon that gigantic crocodile he seemed to favor, but in vain. Only the Northern white light was visible in the sky.
A while ago, a servant had come thundering into Drumila’s private chambers and relayed the information that the master had contacted the mystic, Darshini, and was on his way to Vasant-puri, the city of daityas. Darshini, who preceded the late Daitya King – Drumila’s father – by birth, resided in private quarters in the city at the King’s expense, by virtue of her occult powers.
“Guru Shukra is on his way right now, the yogini says!” the servant had cried. “He shall reach within a short time and has said to look up to the skies!”
Following the advice, Drumila had set out of his residence at once, flying over palaces and houses, whose sparkling multi-colored walls were covered with gems and greenery. The city of Vasant-Puri, along with the valley it was built in, eternally experienced the season of spring. Nestled between the three peaks of ruby, sapphire and emerald, it was a delight to behold, from the sky as well as the ground.
Drumila sat down at the roots of the lone Fig tree, who adorned the peak of the red Ruby mountain like a lush, green crown and towered 200 yojan above him into the subterranean sky. He wondered if he should shake the tree with his arms, for after all, he had time to spend and his arms were itching from lack of exercise, but he thought better of it. The figs would fall on the great mountain, and would certainly roll down its great slopes towards the city, which lay at its foot. The fruits were round at the bottom and spotted with red dots in its green fleshy skin, and were at least 1/5th the size of the smallest house in Vasant-Puri. It would be a disaster, he thought, if those went rolling down the peak right now. All the more reason for them to boycott me as King.
And so he simply sat looking at the great fruits which were protected by the great green leaves from the Northern light. Just when he thought he was tired of looking at the broad, green leaves floating like great fans on the sky, he spotted movement beyond them in the sky.
He got up to take a closer look, and found that a fluid swishing figure, resembling very much that of a crocodile, was darting through air by dint of its mystic power. Sitting on its back was a man clad in white robes, directing his mount with a golden stick. He appeared like the white glowing moon atop the blackish reptile due his milky white complexion and effulgence.
Drumila ran out into the open from under the tree and cried into the air, “Maharaj!” As he watched, the crocodile flew closer, and landed at a run on the sparkling red plains of the Mountain that stretched in front of Drumila. The beast’s paws struck the mountain like claps of thunder as he hurtled towards him at an astonishing speed. Finally, it came to a halt not very far away from him and snorted heavily through its great nostrils.
The crocodile viewed him with particularly steady yellow eyes but Drumila ignored the beast. He turned his attention to the Guru of his race, instead, who alighted at once and beamed at him, his smile stretching all the way up to his ears.
Why is he smiling thus?
Drumila forgot the proper way of greeting his preceptor, which was falling at his feet like a rod. Why is he so jubilant? Surely, some great good has occurred!
“It is done!” Shukracharya thundered, thrusting his glowing golden stick into the air. “I found a place for you to settle!”
Drumila stood on the spot, lost for words.
“Maharaj! Why?” he exclaimed finally in the sanskrit that had evolved in the Netherworld.
“Why?” the guru repeated in an incredulous voice. “My dear young King, I don’t need the Yogini to tell me what is going on in your Kingdom. Your subjects, the daityas who reside within those walls, are growing confused and restless by the moment. Tell me, Drumila, have you not begun to spot insolence in them, the ones who live under your protection?”
“But they were always insolent,” Drumila said quietly.
“Never,” Shukracharya said at once, shaking his head. “They were cruel to each other and rough with their own relatives but never insolent to you, who gave them salvation. It’s not the same. That they disrupt yagyas, kill humans and speak harshly is natural to them. But till now they used to either look up to you or fear you. But it seems now they’re growing out of that, too.
“Ten years of the devatas have passed in the worlds above since the battle of Krouncha-dveep, where you defeated the King of gods and sent him fleeing upon his celestial elephant from those golden slopes. But the common daitya has forgotten about it all. They make trips to the Earth’s surface and cavort in gardens under the warmth of the sun or the cool rays of the moon, not having a care about their enemies, but they forget that all of this is made possible you alone; who drove the gods to the heavens like a pack of geese flying from a wolf. And now they see that light in the North,” he pointed over his crocodile to the white light in the horizon, “and they wonder if the naagas have grown any more powerful. Yes…even the best of your supporters have I caught wondering about the opulence of the naagas, which, I must admit, exceeds yours by far. They entertain fantasies of hauling off towards the North, drawn by that dazzling light which is a sign of the prowess of the great white serpent, Shankh.
“As your army’s unrest grows, so does the Queen’s hatred. Although being the one who installed you upon the throne, the Queen bears nothing but poison towards you, the child of her husband from a mere maid-servant. It is only a matter of time before her relatives arrive from the deep, dark underworlds, and collude with her to throw you out of the capital.”
Drumila looked up fiercely into his master’s eyes.
“Let her try!” he bellowed. “Me and my faithful servants are more than a match for anything she can bring – even if they be horrors from the darkest depths of creation!”
The master surveyed him patiently with half-closed eyes. “You may hold them off, dear Drumila, but for how long? The naagas breed like insects, producing a thousand offspring at once. And they grow with every revolution of the sun, until there is no space left inside their holes in the ground and they have to move to the mountaintops, with their bodies wrapped around its slopes. Even though you may survive their attack, your army will not. Do you want to lay waste to them?”
Drumila had no reply for this. It couldn’t be disputed; the naagas were almost indestructible.
“It is decided,” his master said abruptly. “I shall not see you dwindle away so miserably when a golden opportunity shines directly above your head! This is not the time to give in to pride or egoism. Let go of this land. There is nothing for you here! When I attain the powers to breach the celestial wall, we shall secure you a place in the heavens, in the very capital of the gods, Amaravati! But for now…you must live on the surface of the Earth. Fix your mind on this.”
Drumila looked at the shining red rock under their feet, reflecting their distorted figures on its rough surface.
“This place you talk of…is it safe?”
“Is it safe? My dear boy, it is the site of Shankara!” roared the master. “Hidden from the devatas, danavas and naagas alike, it is a wonderful island on the surface of the Earth, a secret divine place called Eshanya. You must go there at once and establish a city fit for the standard of your race. Take everyone who resides in this valley, or at least how many ever will follow.”
Drumila looked up at his master, whose matted locks of black hair were covered with dust and appeared like a beehive decorated with flowers.
“I…I don’t know, Maharaj. All my life I’ve lived here, where the air is fragrant and the sun doesn’t burn. I’m attached to the palace and its houses, where my mother used to live. And what of my subjects? How can they adjust upon the face of the Earth, which is inferior to this world in every way?”
Shukracharya scowled at him.
“You talk of your mother. She was killed by the Creator purposely when the battle raged above, on the island of Krouncha. How will you avenge her death? The Creator resides far beyond the world of the gods. You shall never, even in your dream, be able to reach him unless we breach that wall which surrounds Svarga-lok. Don’t you know? There is no other way.
“Your subjects will do well to adjust wherever you take them, for what other choice do they have? One must, at all costs, follow his King, if he wants to achieve happiness and a life free from disturbances. As for the Palace and these houses…they will pale in comparison to the new city we will build upon Earth. All these years we’ve been working towards our goal and I see among the stars that the time is close at hand. Listen to me,” his master implored in a deep voice and with such conviction that Drumila was forced to look upon his master’s middle-aged face. “Go to the surface and bide your time until I complete my tapasya. It may take me a hundred divine years or even a thousand, but I shall come to you with the powers and we shall breach that wall.”
Drumila looked at the determination in those deep, black eyes, and nodded.
“Very well,” Drumila said slowly. “Very well. Who will you consign the task of building the city?” He glanced at his capital below, at the city of wonders and unmatched beauty. Even though he’d asked the question, Drumila feared he already knew the answer.
“Muya,” the sage said, echoing his thought. “The surviving son of Diti will build you a city. I will request him to do so.”
Muya, one of the great Forefathers of the race of daityas, was the most expert architect in the lower seven worlds. Presently, he lived in the far East, in the city ruled by his son, Bala.
Drumila nodded and bowed his head, gladdened greatly by his master’s arrangements.
“Come, now,” the master said. “Let us fly to Vasant-puri.”
 Daityas didn’t follow any units of time – at least not ones of their own. Since neither the sun, moon nor the stars could be seen in the worlds below the Earth, they couldn’t possibly track time.
 1 yojan = 8 miles. 200 yojan = 1600 miles.
 The fire-rite in which offerings are made to the devatas (gods) through the agency of fire.
 Literally, the city of immortals.
CHAPTER 1: VENUS RIDES UPON A CELESTIAL CROCODILE.
A sage called Shukracharya emerged from the limpid waters of a lake upon the back of a giant crocodile named Damstra. Swiftly had they shot through the reservoir which connected two worlds, the sage and the crocodile, like a divine shaft released by Shambhu from the Underworld, and arrived on the secret island of Eshanya. Yet it was early, as far as their arrivals at the shores of the mysterious lake went, for the sun-globe was still visible in the sky and had not yet reddened the earthly firmament.
Churning his life airs, Shukracharya stoked the fires within his body and dried the water off his skin. Then he got down from the crocodile upon the golden banks of the lake and surveyed the forest around him.
It was not yet time for the ritual worship of his beloved deity, the four-handed idol of Nataraj, for Nataraj didn’t expect his services for one muhurt yet. Of course, idols normally didn’t expect anything, seeing as how they were made of gold, stone, wood or jewels (Shukra’s idol was made of jewels) but this one managed to express such things nevertheless, and more. Shukra believed it was more due to the mystic, divine power of the forest-island than his own devotion, but he was infinitely glad about it either way. Only, whenever Damstra, the crocodile, accompanied him to His sacred grove, did the deity remain lifeless. Otherwise He talked and laughed with Shukra in the most astonishing way.
Shukra looked to his left, the direction of South, a direction he’d never explored before, and found tall trees swaying silently in the distance. A cool breeze imbrued with sweet fragrances blew from the direction, as though beckoning him.
In the past Shukra had only ever ventured North – the direction of his deity in this forest. But, today, he looked south. There might be a grove of Champaka trees there…or a forest of Bilva, he thought, as he surveyed the tall swaying trees, whose flowers and leaves are respectively dear to Shankara.
He turned to the crocodile. “Damstra, stay here.”
The crocodile nodded his heavy, black head but Shukra continued to look upon him. “Last time I saw you holding one of the wild crocodiles in your jaws, as if you were ready to swallow it. Why do you do such things?”
The beast tossed its scaly head as if shaking it in denial. “I never wanted to do it, Maharaj. They took me to be an ordinary reptile like them and came to challenge me. I merely expanded my body and displayed my strength. Would you rather me sit still and do nothing? Your mount?”
“Of course not,” Shukra said at once. “You must defend yourself… I only ask that you don’t kill anything here, in this sacred place.”
“Of course, Maharaj,” the crocodile said.
“Very well. Rest awhile.”
The crocodile nodded and began to lumber away lazily on its four, bent legs.
Shukracharya gripped his golden stick firmly and began to walk towards the forest in the south, treading upon fine gravel in his wooden sandals. He passed Palash trees laden with startling red flowers and Kadamb trees, whose sweet fragrance hung heavy in the air, causing fat bumblebees to buzz lazily around him.
He must’ve walked for a long time, because when he turned back, the lake and the forest had disappeared from view. As he looked around he saw shrubs and standing plants growing in clusters. It was a most wonderful thing. Lost as he’d been in thoughts about Uma-Mahesvara, the Mother and Father of creation, Shukracharya had lost track of time and surroundings.
One should not wonder how such a thing can happen with great sages like Shukracharya. While dwelling on the enchanting forms of God, sometimes the sage’s senses stop perceiving the outer world altogether, just as a deplorable lusty man becomes blind to everything on the way to his lover’s house. Indeed, Shukracharya had been intoxicated with God at the time and he missed this great wonder.
But now he looked very carefully around him. Where trees had been at least a yojan near the lake, were mere shrubs and plants here.
What strange wonder is this? he thought. Everything is so small!
Shukra could have uprooted a tree with his two fingers by exerting only a bit of force. He looked closer and was still astonished further! Verily, surrounding him on all sides, were hills and mountains…only they were as high as his waist.
He could have sat upon them like a throne, or beat them to crumbling rocks with his stick.
But there was no mistaking it; Shukra had entered the dimension of the humans.
Currently, the age of Kuli was extant upon Earth. And the trees, mountains, rivers…verily, the Earth itself had reduced in size and stature, mimicking the dwarfing of humans, animals and other living beings. He’d entered such a wild country, unknown to god, demon, sage or mystic travelers.
He rejoiced in his heart, thanking his Lord, Nataraja, again and again. For long had he been searching for a site to establish a city for his disciples, the daityas, who lived in the under-world. And this island was perfect – for it opened into the human dimension.
The eternal Mahesvara, who resided under the Earth in the world of Vital, had told Shukra of the pass to this island, called Eshanya, from the Underworld. It was a purely confidential exchange, not known to even the most devoted attendants of the wild Lord. And so Shukracharya used to come up every 14th night of the Magha-Krishna-Paksa, the fortnight of the waning moon in the month of Magha, and worship Nataraja, the deity of Eshanya, personally.
And today, he’d found that it provided access to the human world – that too a region different from Bharat altogether!
Shukracharya turned on his heel at once and flew Northwards through the sky by virtue of his mystic power. Ahead of him he saw the forest of Eshanya again, covering the horizon and rising into the sky. Soon he found Damstra, too, lazing on the golden sands beside the lake, his black jaws wide open under the sun.
The crocodile snapped his mouth shut the moment he spotted Shukra and skipped to the edge of the waters, thrusting a volley of sand up into the air behind him with his legs.
“What’s the matter, Maharaj?” he shouted.
“Nothing, you stay there!”
Shukra continued flying North at the speed of wind until he reached the outskirts of the sacred grove. There he landed just before the entrance, which was flanked by massive Malati trees, and entered the woodlet quietly. It was completely shaded from the sunlight, except the altar in the middle where the divine deity stood.
Although a large Banyan tree, towering four yojan into the skies, sheltered Nataraj throughout the day, its thick branches and roots couldn’t stop the slant rays of the sun in the evening.
Shukracharya looked upon the deity, whose coral body was glowing yellow in the flood of sunlight. His limbs, studded with large rubies and diamonds, glittered in myriad shades of red and white against the dull, grey bark of the tree.
The idol of Nataraj was always in a state of tandav, the dance of destruction, with His left foot raised and His four hands carrying the fires of destruction, dumru, etc.
Shukracharya placed his stick on the side and prostrated before the idol on the soft ground. At once the deity brought His left foot down and stood ordinarily…or as ordinarily as Shankara could stand. The samvartaka fire blazed and cackled dangerously in His small hand, appearing like the sun reduced to a ball of divine fire.
“My dear Shukra,” Sri Nataraja said in a deep voice that rolled across the grove and sent all of Shukra’s body hair standing on their ends. “Rise up.”
“Maharaj,” Shukra said in a trembling voice, trying to contain the ecstasy he was feeling, with shivers running across his every limb. “I – I’ve found… I’ve found…”
Nataraj laughed sonorously, filling the divine grove with his thunderous sound. Shukra’s ears were thrilled beyond experience. Abandoning all reason, they turned towards the direction of the sound, eager to hear it more and more.
“My dear Shukra,” the eternal Lord said again in a sweet voice full of love. Shukracharya could barely stand now. His vision of the glowing deity was blurring, because of the tears welling up in his eyes. “I know what’s in your mind,” Nataraj said.
“You seek My permission to bring the daityas here; this site called Eshanya, from where the world of humans can be entered. At the same time, you are afraid that the demons will spoil My abode, which has been hidden for millions of years from all eyes.”
“Well, abandon all fear and bring them up, dear friend. I will at once create a site for them, within the soil of my own place, yet different from it at the same time. Although this grove and Myself will be accessible to you always, we will remain invisible to your disciples, the daityas. So bring them up, Bhargava, and let them flourish here, for I’ll tell you a secret which my servant has told me. The naagas are rising through the worlds. They plan to occupy all of the subterranean regions. Soon, Atal will be overcome by the serpents. Better you bring them here, than have them die out below. For even though he doesn’t look it, Drumila is My great devotee at heart. Let him flourish and abound here freely.”
Shukra heard all this with great attention and care and folded his hands in front of His Lord. “As You wish, Maharaj.”
With a heavy heart Shukra then turned around. Even though he was gladdened by his Lord’s wish, he was morose about leaving Him. Concentrating his mind and shaking off the remnants of divine ecstasy, Shukra flew towards the lake, where his crocodile lay. Without delay, he then waded through the waters of the lake once again and swam downwards, to the world of Atal.
 An epithet of Shiva, the deity of Universal destruction.
 The life breath which permeated the body and suspended the spirit-soul within it.
 A form of Lord Shankara.
 1 muhurt = 49 min.
 1 yojan = 6 miles.
 The last, and the worst, of the four ages of men.
 Another form/name of Shiva.
 1 yojan = 8 miles.
 Shiva was white in color in Person.
 A sound instrument which made sounds resembling those of the drum. Nataraj played the dumru during His work of destruction.
 The aforesaid fire of destruction.
 An epithet for the descendents of sage Bhrigu. For Shukra, it could be applied directly, however, seeing as how he was the son of Bhrigu.
 Vasuki, the high-Emperor of the naagas or giant serpents, eternally served Shankara in another, much smaller form, staying coiled around His neck as an ornament. Even though Vasuki was peace-loving and satisfied with whatever he had, the same couldn’t be said of his sons and relatives, the naag Kings spread across the lowest worlds of Creation.