THE SHAPE-SHIFTING SERPENTS’ CHOICE
It starts with a wanton boy searching for his great evil-destiny.
It starts with the hunch of loyalty.
It starts with serpents where they shouldn’t be at all, due to evil humans.
Once, long ago, a boy named Aarav, who grew up reading stories related to demons, angles, and shape-shifting snakes, traveled from Mumbai. He was an arrogant boy, full of cruelty and ambition, and what he wanted more than anything was the Naag Mani (a much more valuable than diamond).
The priests say Lord Shiva, a god within the Trimurti that includes gods Brahma and Vishnu, known as the destroyer, created the Naag from the best parts of serpent and man, and they had the ability to change from one to the other. The Naag Mani was the Naag’s jewel, their heart, but it was stolen by wanton and greedy demonic Asuras (demons) named Kaal and Andhkaar. While rushing to their palace to protect themselves from the serpent, Asuras lost the Naag Mani in the surrounded jungles of Lord Shiva’s home, Mount Kailash.
Kaal and Andhkaar returned with their demon force of thousands of Asuras to snatch the Naag Mani from Lord Shiva … the war was waged between the Gods and the demons upon the appearance of Lord Shiva’s son and the Senapati (Warlord) of all gods, Kartikeya, in the battlefield with other gods.
The Gods won the day, and Lord Shiva hid the Naag Mani in a place where neither man nor Asura could reach, and set two serpents to guard it. This was the prize Aarav sought. This was what drove him from Mumbai to the slopes of the Himalayas: cut, bruised, dressed in tatters, warmed only by the fire of his greed.
In a beautiful Full Moon night, Ichchhadhari Naag (Male shape-shifting serpent) Kushal and Ichchhadhari Naagin (Female shape-shifting serpent) Nandini were swamped in love as their first day of being shape-shifting serpent dawned after completing Lord Shiva’s Tapasya (a spiritual discipline that includes deep meditation, austerity & moderation, self-discipline, and efforts to reach self-realization) for 100 years.
Kushal and Nandini were the new guards of the Naag Mani Lord Shiva hid in the Himalayas a million of years ago. In these millions of years, many evils and humans had tried to pilfer the Naag Mani, but they were killed by the guards of the Naag Mani.
The book, A Tale of Ichchhadhari Naag, helped Aarav to reach the Naag Mani hidden in a temple of Lord Shiva located somewhere in the Himalayas where Kushal and Nandini were dancing being dawned in their love.
Aarav stood quietly behind an Apple tree, took out a pistol from his trench coat, and pointed at the serpents.
As the serpents transformed to snakes while dancing and rolled over one another, Aarav pressed the trigger. Bullet went across Kushal making a hole in his body.
Half-transformed: human body from the top, and snake from below the chest, Kushal was completely lain on the ground. Next to him, Nandini transformed as the human from top to bottom, sobbing in pain as Kushal’s breathes were tapering, laid Kushal’s head on her lap.
Nandini could have used Naag Mani to heal Kushal’s wounds, but it was against the law as the guards of the Naag Mani. And by using the Naag Mani, they would have become the hunt of Lord Shiva’s wrath.
“Promise me. You’ll always protect the Naag Mani,” spluttered Kushal, “You’ll never let any evildoer have the Naag Mani. Promise me.”
Nandini promised Kushal to protect the Naag Mani ’til her last breath. Slowly, Kushal’s strength faded, and he closed his eyes forever.
Nandini, turned red in a fury, stood high with wet eyes to find the murderer.
Aarav peered in open land, expecting himself as a strong and brave man who could trounce any woman. He strode toward Nandini to threaten her to bestow the Naag Mani to him.
Nandini turned her bottom half to snake’s body, picked up Aarav in the tail, and bashed him to the ground again and again.
Aarav’s gun slithered from his tight grip and disappeared in the bushes.
Nandini rose Aarav parallel to her face, very near to her, tightly gripped in the tail, to end his life through her fatal poison.
Bright yellow light streamed a few feet away from Nandini that blurred her vision and turned her back to the lady from top to bottom. Aarav, untied from Nandini’s tail, toppled next to the dead body of Kushal.
After a few seconds, when the light disappeared, Nandini saw Lord Shiva standing in front of her, widening his chest, bracing his Trident on the ground, with an adorable smile on his face. And Aarav wasn’t there anymore.
Nandini bowed to Lord Shiva.
“You bedazzled me with your loyalty. Ask me for anything you want to have.”
Nandini could have asked for the immortality or the great power, but Kushal was her heart, jewel, heaven; without him, her life was like hell.
Lord Shiva prized her with Kushal’s life for her honesty and loyalty.
Kushal was filled with joy seeing Lord Shiva naturally in front of him. Kushal bowed to Lord Shiva and thanked him for granting him new life.
“I had to grant you a new life for your and Nandini’s devotion upon me. Ask me for something else. For your loyalty and devotion, I would boon you with one more wish of your choice.”
“It’ll be our felicity to serve you as one of your ganas,” enunciated Kushal and Nandini in unison.
* * *
It ends with a wanton boy meeting his destiny.
It ends with an act of loyalty.
It ends with love and devotion.
Ganas: attendants of Lord Shiva.
Ichchhadhari Naag: Male shape-shifting serpent.
Ichchhadhari Naagin: Female shape-shifting serpent.
Naag Mani: a much more valuable than diamond.
Trimurti: a three-face figure known as the divine Trimurti that includes from right Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva.
Tapasya: a spiritual discipline that includes deep meditation, austerity & moderation, self-discipline, and efforts to reach self-realization.
Tathastu: a divine spell used by gods in Hindu mythologies to complete the wish of their devotees.