Trick or Treat

{Originally written for The Hindu thREAD } Photo from Pinterest Around this time, for the last few years, there has been a sharp...

{Originally written for The Hindu thREAD}

Photo from Pinterest

Around this time, for the last few years, there has been a sharp increase of people on my Facebook feed posting photos of themselves celebrating Halloween, dressed up as vampires, ghosts, T.Rajendar and other miscellaneous frightening characters. Now Halloween, for those who aren’t in the know, is a holiday that was once celebrated exclusively in the United States, and has now spread across the world, including India. Halloween involves putting on elaborate costumes of spooky characters in a bid to ward off ghosts and evil spirits, although I am yet to understand exactly how that works. If a ghost were to see you dressed as one, wouldn’t it just put it’s ghostly arm around you, as opposed to run away? That aside, it’s a fun holiday, in my opinion at the least - The premise is simple, and since everyone loves dressing up, there’s no real surprise as to why it’s so popular. 

What disappoints me when I see these photos though (apart from the fact that nobody invited me for any of these parties), is that people choose to be vampires, assorted ghosts and banshees as their “scary” alter egos. This is a joke, because ever since the Twilight series released and after multiple appearances in the Backstreet Boys’ music videos, vampires have long ceased to anything remotely close to scary or evil. Ghosts and banshees, on the other hand, have zero personality, and most people end up looking like either moving bedsheets or Shahnaz Hussain. 

It bothers me at a certain level that people from in and around India, choose these kinds of costumes when the country has such a rich history of demons. We are the land of Rakshasas and Rakshasis, Asuras and Asuris! Honestly, it’s downright disrespectful you’ve decided that you’re going to be a zombie for Halloween. From what I know, all zombies do is eat brains. The demons from our scriptures on the other hand are far more accomplished. You could be Hiranyakashipu, for example, the demon king who was so obsessed with himself that he was ready to kill his own son for not worshipping him. Why not be Ravana, the brutal ten headed king who conquered the three worlds, and sparked an epic war? You could be Hiranyaksha, the Asura who continuously beat and abused Mother Earth to the point where Vishnu had to take an avatar to fight a thousand year long battle with him. You could also be Kumbhakarna, the demon who plundered and then ate his enemies, like they were free mini samosas at an office meeting. These four demons made the Devas tremble and cower in fear, for they were the best and greatest of their times, rather, the worst. They also have something else in common - they were the result of an irreversible curse. 

If you have gone to a Vishnu temple, you would have definitely noticed the twin statues which flank the sanctum sanctorum. They look like Vishnu, with the conch, chakra, and mace but they also have fangs. They are Jaya, and Vijaya - the door keepers of Vishnu. They are also Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu, they are Ravana and Kumbhakarna, and they are Sishupala and Dhantavakra. 

How did this happen? The story goes that the sons of Brahma, called the Sanat Kumaras, who had great cosmic powers and bore the appearance of children, took a trip to Vaikunta, the heavenly city of Vishnu. They passed through six of the city’s gates with no trouble, only to be held in the last gate by Jaya and Vijaya, who were notably amused by these innocent looking infants seeking an audience with the Preserver of The Universe. Our Lord is sleeping, they had told the Sanat Kumaras. He will not be disturbed by little children. The Sanat Kumaras in turn, replied that Vishnu would always be there for his devotees, but were turned away by Jaya and Vijaya. Three times the Sanat Kumaras approached the door, and they were denied all three times on the same ground. Our Lord is sleeping, and He will not be disturbed by little children. The Sanat Kumaras had understandably lost all their patience by now,  and reacted the same way most of us do when we get unsolicited phone calls from loan agencies - they cursed. They cursed Jaya and Vijaya to lose their divine status as Vishnu’s door keepers and instead, be born on Earth and live a mortal life. 

Vishnu soon woke up, only to realise that the damage had already been done. He apologised profusely to the Sanat Kumaras, and felt great remorse for his two well meaning, and loyal doorkeepers, who were just doing their job. He could not lift the curse off of them, but he could modify it. He told them so, and gave them two choices - they could take seven births as an ardent devotee of Vishnu, or take three as terrible demons who will die a brutal death in His hands. Jaya and Vijaya, couldn’t bear the thought of being away from their Lord and master for seven births, and chose to take the short, but unpleasant route. 

Thus were born Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu, Ravana and Kumbhakarna, and Shishupala and  Dhantavakra. They were all  frightful looking: Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu were massive Asuras whose very sight shook the ground, Ravana had ten heads and Kumbhakarna was the size of a small village. Shishupala and Dhantavakra, both large, bulky and revolting, weren’t demons though. They were evil, but they were human, and their deaths were tame in comparison to their predecessors. It was said that Jaya’s and Vijaya’s powers gradually reduced with each birth they took, although I don’t whether it was because of the beating they got in their previous birth, or because they were in a great hurry to get back to their original jobs. When Jaya and Vijaya got back to Vaikunta though, they retained a souvenir from their time on the mortal realm - fangs. They have serene smiles on their faces, similar to that of their boss, Vishnu, but the fangs confirm their position in the temple. We don’t bless, they say. We guard. 

At the end of all this, an important question remains - who is the scariest of them all? The demons who who raided, plundered, took the Earth to the brink of extinction? Is it the doorkeepers themselves, for choosing these evil, cursed lives? Or is it the Sanat Kumaras, underneath whose infant faces lie curses which are capable of creating demons? I can’t tell for sure, but I’ll tell you who isn’t scary - some guy from Transylvania who can change into a bat. 

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  1. Beautiful write up! Couldnt stop laughing right till the end! All the very best for your future endeavours!! And yes, Happy Halloween!

  2. That was an informative write up, totally unexpected on Halloween! I am enlightened by ur gyan on jaya Vijaya story though I am pretty familiar with them as guards. And I cud not stop imagining shanaz Hussain looks for Halloween, lol!

  3. Good one differenciate beteween trick and treat, on this halloween.
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  4. :-) and the spammers are everywhere.

  5. How about Andhakaasura? Vritra? Shakataasura? Bakasura? The list of costume possibilities is endless! And thank you for this post!

  6. Baahahahahahah! T.R and Shahnaz Hussain! :D :D :D Well done, madame! _/\_

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