“The fundamental cause of trouble in the world is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Long long ago deep into the heart of the Himalayas stood a beautiful tall tree. Evergreen and lush it stood mellowing down all the rest in comparison. The rest seem to fade away. Such was it's glorious beauty. The cynosure of all eyes it was praised by one and all who passed that way. Travelers, saints, village folks, birds and even animals. For all not only admired it's beauty but also rested in it's leafy shade throughout the year.
One day a singing minstrel who sang praises of Lord Vishnu passed that way. Finding the tree so lush and breathtakingly beautiful he stopped by the tree and admiring the tree said, " Oh Mighty tree how is it that when all the trees have suffered the wrath of Pavan, the God of wind you have not lost a single leaf ? Are you a relative or a friend of Pavan that here you are so full of splendor immune to his blasts?"
Ordinarily rude words like these can hurt and infuriate anyone but this singing minstrel was no ordinary being. He took intense pleasure in the misunderstanding and confusions between mortals and Gods. So unperturbed he proceeded onward his journey with his veena (musical instrument) in his hand reciting the praises of Lord Vishnu. All heard his songs of praise. The saints, the travelers, the village folks, the birds and animals. Bowing their heads in deep reverence they too joined in the chorus Narayan Narayan...
For they knew that the son of the creator Lord Brahma, the intelligent, energetic and extremely devoted to Lord Vishnu, the blessed celibate Narad Muni had just passed by. Considered to be Lord Vishnu's heart and mind they knew that something was about to happen for wherever Narad went he tried to establish Dharma and Karma (righteousness) and sometimes in trying to establish a balance major upheavals took place.
As for the singing minstrel who traveled the lokas (abodes of Gods) he walked straight to Swargaloka (Heaven) which was also the abode of the God of wind Pavan. He stood in front of Lord Pavan and bowed his head in mock distress.
With all his rhetoric he addressed Pavan and said, " My Lord, I have come to seek some enlightenment from you."
Pavan : "O! You all knowing one what is it that I can impart to you, for I possess nothing that You don't know."
Narad Muni : " Narayan Narayan !!, how can Lord say such words when there is a matter that has been irking me because it defiles your grace .
So please let me ask You. How is it that when Indra the lord of Rain , Yama the lord of death, Kubera the keeper of Wealth, Varuna the lord of the Sea all these Gods bow down to your power and acknowledge your supremacy as you seem to be more powerful than them, this small creature, this mortal, this tree has the audacity and arrogance to defile your name and power!!"
So saying this and still praising Lord Vishnu and chanting Narayan Narayan Narad Muni took a bow and went on his way.
Narad Muni's task was done for he had not come to seek answers. But now it was for Lord Pavan to take charge and give an appropriate answer.
He swept the Himalayas in complete rage destroying everything that came his way.
" Semul!!" he shouted with tremendous roar and thunder, " Just because my grandfather Lord Brahma once rested in your shade after his work got over I have spared you for all these centuries. And now you dare so much as to insult me and also defile my name. You ungrateful mortal ! I will make sure that you are punished properly. You now will never grow a single leaf again. Ever!!"
The tree undaunted by the rage of Lord Pavan retaliated with arrogance laced with anger, " Suit yourself ! I am not afraid of your barks that sound like that of a jackal. Do what you want for you can not even bend a single limb of mine ".
Lord Pavan then filled with intense anger ravaged the tree with rain, sleet, hail, snow, thunder and lightening. Fully spent of his wrath he stopped short to see the extent of the aftermath.
He saw the once full of splendor tree denuded of all it's glory. The head bent in shame begging for mercy. For by now the tree had realized that it's arrogance was dumbfounded and wrong.
Lord Pavan's anger had cooled off by now and in it's place some mercy was seeping in. So he proclaimed,
" I see that you have realized your mistake and so I forgive you. But I came to inflict punishment which I have done, you shall get back all that you have but you will no longer be an evergreen tree. Every year you shall have a fall which will remind you of your arrogance and thus should see you humbled." Thus saying Lord Pavan vanished.
The tree grew back it's branches and got back all it's foliage but from then on just before spring arrives it loses all it's glory. This has been happening for centuries now.
The punished tree as we know it is the Semul tree (silk cotton tree)
As kids we delighted in all mythological stories. Not for any other reason but for the simple fact that just like some of the Bollywood movies the stories hid in it's gamut barah masala terah swaad. Translated it should mean having twelve spices but thirteen tastes. Now i have no patience to enlist those twelve spices and thirteen tastes. And i am not sure if this story has all that jazz. But i'd like to mention here that although the tales having Rakshashaas (Demons) were the best which we heard with rapt attention chewing onto our nails till it hurt, it was those with the central character called Narad Muni which made us see the ultimate of what we defined as shrewd but blessed intelligence. Later thanks to that brilliant actor Mr Omkar Nath Dhar aka Jeevan and his Narayan Narayan Narad Muni with his veena, austere clothing, a garland of flowers round his neck and the lines on his head made with sandal paste symbolizing God Vishnu became an immortal character in our young impressionable minds.