Monday, July 16, 2012

Episode 25: The Great Sacrifice

In this feature, we outline the chapters of The Legend of Ponnivala as we've laid them out in the animated and print series. The sub-story descriptions are those that occur in each episode, and are drawn from our Teacher's Handbook.

The two warrior-brothers of Ponnivala lie sick. They are cured after humbling themselves before the palace she-dog. Coming to the heroes’ aid, the dog attacks, weakens the boar but leaves the final death-spear throw to her masters. The forest hunters seek revenge in a huge battle. The heroes win, however their time on earth is now up. They gift their lives to Lord Shiva.

A Big Apology that Yields Results

The kings now sends for the forgotten dog. When she is found and brought to the war camp the younger king offers her his apology. She volunteers to help and asks her two Lords to go and wait with their great boar spear at the top of a huge rock. The little dog then finds the great boar, challenges it, chews on its ears, bites it with poisoned fangs and generally weakens it greatly. As a consequence the huge boar runs in pain and distress toward the high rock. The little dog rides along on the boar's tail.

The Boar is Killed and The Meat Divided Into Shares

Jumping off the boar’s tail the little dog advises the heroes to throw their spear now for the final kill. The weapon hits its target and the great boar dies, but not before it calls out to the hunter's little sister in its distress. The hunters declare war. Lord Vishnu himself descends from heaven to lead their army. But just as these fighters advance towards the heroes Lord Vishnu asks them to pause and wait for him Then he approaches the heroes in the disguise of a washerman. They have now butchered the boar and divided the meat into seven portions in preparation for a ritual feast. But the washerman begs for a small piece of the sacrifice. The elder hero (when his brother has stepped away from the scene), offers the leftover boar’s head to the washerman instead. Lord Vishnu drags the head away.

The Heroes Die In A Heroic And Sacrificial Way

No sooner does the washerman leave than Vishnu is back leading his army of hunter-warriors. Very soon the two groups meet and start to fight. But the younger brother soon turns to his powerful assistant with a question. “How can these guys keep coming and coming? We have killed so many!” he comments with exasperation. Then Vishnu does something significant. He creates a vision such that the young twin can suddenly see hundreds of fighting hunters emerging. one after the other one, from the Lord’s right palm. This shows the hero that Vishnu himself has “created” the entire war. It is his play, his illusion. The hero draws his sword against Vishnu but the power of the god freezes him in his tracks. The Lord then asks the twins to spend one last heroic moment fighting their enemies. Both join in briefly and together they kill a few more challengers. Then, weary of battle, the two men go to wash the blood off their swords by wading into a nearby river. At that moment Lord Vishnu (hidden in the branches of a tree) shoots the younger twin's protective chest thread off with a freshly made flower-arrow. Both heroes now recognize that this is Lord Vishnu's private sign to them. that the time allocated by the gods for their lives on earth is almost over. Accepting this message, the two heroes and their loyal assistant all commit heroic suicides on a hillock overlooking the river bank. The two brothers fall forward, the younger one first, each on his own battle sword. The assistant follows suit, but uses a pointed tree branch instead, since does not carry a sword of his own.

Lord Vishnu Takes The Heroes’Spirits Up To Heaven

Lord Vishnu soon arrives on the hillock where the heroes have died. He now takes the spirit lives of these three men back to heaven in a tiny golden box. There he presents all three to the great god Shiva. And reminds him of the bargain made long ago. When he brought the lives of the heroes back, Shiva was to return his conch shell, and also a sacred powder box. Shiva makes the exchange graciously. Back on earth, the loyal little sister sees that the signs of her brother's well being have changed (the coconut has broken open, the jasmine flowers have wilted, the sandalwood powder has dried up, the water in the pot has disappeared and the burning wick of the little lamp has gone out) She knows that her two brothers are now dead. Saddened and horrified she wonders what to do.

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