As the Sun’s champion concluded his remarks, the king led the court in murmuring appreciation for this masterful presentation. It then fell to the Moon’s advocate to make his case for our sky’s other luminary. This aesthetes eyes shone with stag-like loftiness in his sensitive, expressive, compelling face. He spoke with feeling: “Your opinion is no doubt sagacious, 0 Sun-worshipper, but the Moon’s power is truly beyond conception.
“The Moon is the mind of all, the lord of the senses and the emotions, and those who worship him assiduously lose their diseases and become happy. Among the nakshatras (the lunar constellations of the Vedic zodiac) the Moon is God incarnate in lunar form, and his esteem is magnified because Shiva, the lord of Mount Kailash, wears the crescent Moon on His forehead. Some say that this makes the Moon a one-eighth incarnation of the exalted Lord Shiva.
“Lord of the night, the Moon schedules rituals and is a haven for the ancestors. Those who worship the gods and the ancestors, and drink Soma at Soma sacrifices, assuredly go to the Moon when they depart from this world. The Vedas declare that ‘the Moon is none other than King Soma, the food of the gods.’ Whenever a sacrifice is completed, the essence of its offerings goes up to the Moon. As the lord of plants and their growth, the Moon pours the nectar of Soma into the world’s vegetation, that it may be nourished and that it may nourish others. The Moon is the master of the world’s water, and rules the salty taste; he controls the tides, and stores and actuates the rain.
“The Moon shines with the dazzling whiteness of yogurt, conchshell or dew, and all foods grow due to his light. He is fair, youthful, fortunate, and watery, and his body waxes and wanes. Peaceable and auspicious in nature and appearance, he has a slim but round body with lovely limbs, and is intelligent, sweet and soft of speech, lovely-eyed, and wise. He wears white clothes and white flowers, his metal is bronze or silver, and his gem pearl. The Moon has a Kapha-Vata constitution, and tends to be fickle. He loves to wander, and is a Vaishya by nature. He rules the blood in the body, and because he is of the nature of semen he is passion-filled. Whoever seeks sexual satisfaction should worship the Moon.
“Lord of (he northwest, of Monday, and of the constellation Cancer, the Moon is called the Golden-Gleaming Drop in the Sky (Indu), the Luminous (Chandra), the Night-Creator, the Cool-Rayed, the Snow-Maker, the Chief among Brahmanas, the Hare-Signed, Soma, Husband of the Nakshatras, and the Doe-Eyed. Because everyone loves him he is called Friend of the World. The Sun’s Sushumna ray develops the Moon day by day during the half of the month that the Moon waxes and makes it complete on the day of the Full Moon. While the Sun’s rays are scorching, the Moon’s beams soothe, cool, and nourish. Thereafter, the gods drink Soma from the Moon during the dark half of the fortnight, while the forefathers drink that Soma on the New Moon day. The Moon, who is of the nature of Soma, was born from the tears of joy which flowed from Atri Rishi, a mind-born son of Brahma.”
“Be so kind as to recount the story of Lord Moons birth,” requested the king, pleasantly.
“It is thanks to Anasuya (‘non-spiteful’), the wondrous wife of Atri Rishi, that the Moon took birth in our world. The chief gods of the universe tried to test her purity by coming to her as guests and impudently demanding that she feed them naked. When thus challenged, that intelligent woman changed those puissant gods into tiny babies and, removing her own clothes, nursed them from her own breasts before returning them to adult status. Immensely pleased and impressed with Anasuya, these cosmic lords blessed her to enjoy unprecedented children. Thanks to Shiva’s blessing the incredibly irascible Durvasas Rishi was born. Vishnu’s blessing resulted in the birth of Dattatreya, that immortal being who is the first Aghori in the world.
“Brahma’s boon caused the Moon’s birth in this way: the Rishi Atri stood with his arms upraised without moving or even blinking for three thousand years. Then, when his body became thoroughly perfused with Soma, he himself became Soma, and rose up into the sky. The Soma juice filled him so full that he overflowed, and Soma oozed from his eyes, filling the heavens with luminosity. The goddesses of the ten directions gathered to receive that Soma into their collective womb, but they could not hold it for very long. The fetus then dropped to the ground and assumed the form of the Moon, whereupon Brahma placed him in a chariot. The Moon was then worshipped by all the celestials. He later married all twenty-seven nakshatras, beginning with Krittika, and this was almost his undoing,” the pundit concluded suggestively.
“Please do explain,” his majesty prompted, as if on cue.
“Although he had twenty-seven wives,” the Moon’s champion continued, “all of whom were sisters, the Moon preferred the one of them named Rohini, and remained always with her in her mansion. Anyone who looked up into the skies in those days would have seen the Moon forever full, each night, stationary in the sky in the constellation of Rohini.
“The Moon’s other twenty-six wives were not at all pleased with this state of affairs, for they too wanted to enjoy regular sport with their husband, and they pleaded with him to visit each of them as well. When the Moon in his great infatuation ignored all their entreaties, they ran crying to their father, the Patriarch Daksha, who twice in high dudgeon warned his son-in-law to behave.
“On the third complaint Daksha lost his temper and cursed the Moon with consumption. Day by day he waned, losing his glow and his juice. No sacrifice could cure him. All the world’s plants stopped growing, and soon, bereft of nourishment, all living things developed consumption. The celestials, alarmed at the possibility that all life on Earth would succumb to this wasting disease, then interceded for the Moon, and Daksha was mollified somewhat by this supplication. Daksha promised that dwindling globe that if he behaved himself he would be free of consumption for half of each month. Chastened, the Moon now waxes and wanes as he visits each wife once a month, for one day and one night at a time.
“We on Earth, 0 King,” the pundit went on, grasping this opportunity to moralize, “must always remember this story of Lord Moon. When we play favorites with those we have sworn to regard with an equal eye, we open ourselves to malediction. Also, those who overindulge in sexual intercourse lay themselves open to the frightful malady of consumption, a malady which first appeared in the world on the occasion of Daksha’s curse of the Moon.”
“Is it not true,” intruded King Vikrama, “that the Patriarch Daksha, the grandfather of the Twelve Adityas, had to suffer because of this reckless curse?”
“Indeed, 0 King,” replied the expert. “Every action produces a reaction, as sure as night follows day. When Daksha dared to insult another of his sons-in-law, the omnipotent Lord Shiva, he lost his life, and was reborn only through the intercession of King Moon.”
“Tell me how he came to be reborn,” directed the king.
“The great King Prithu was the great-grandfather of ten sons who were known collectively as the Praceiases (‘the mindful ones’). These boys acted and lived so similarly to one another that they were as if knit together. When their father commanded them to multiply they took recourse to the ocean, which is ruled by King Moon, to perform penance for ten thousand years. Their penance was so successful that they received the boon of a wife whose son’s offspring would fill the earth.
“When the ten Pracetases emerged from the sea after succeeding at their long penance, they were infuriated to see how the earths surface was utterly enshrouded by giant trees that seemed to rise up to the heavens themselves. Their rage emerged from their faces in the form of fire and wind, which began to incinerate those trees. Seeing the forests consumed, the Moon, in his role as ruler and therefore protector of the plants, had to step in and protect his subjects, the trees, when they were in such danger.
“When the Moon arrived on the scene he began to assuage the anger of the Pracetases, telling them, This wanton destruction of vegetation is going to obstruct you in your task of peopling the world. Besides, you are now the rulers of all, including the trees; how can you then destroy them? They are helpless; they cannot retaliate. Make peace with the trees that remain, so that you and they will both prosper, and then acccept as your wife this noble girl Lotus Eye, the daughter of the trees.”‘
“The daughter of the trees?” queried KingVikrama.
‘Lotus Eye, your majesty, was the daughter of the Rishi Kandu and the Apsaras Pramlocha (‘to go down, sink’). Pramlocha dropped down to Earth from the celestial regions on a mission from Indra, the king of the gods, to disturb Kandus austerities. She disturbed them so well that she soon became pregnant by him. After giving birth Pramlocha abandoned her baby girl and returned to heaven, and the baby was adopted and brought up by the tree-deities. When Lotus Eye would cry for milk Lord Moon, the king of vegetation, would let her suck Soma from his finger.
“When King Moon proposed this alliance, the remaining trees, whose fear was incalculable, gladly gave their daughter in marriage to the Pracetases. Since in nature and conduct all ten Pracetases behaved as one individual, and since the girl was willing to accept them as one individual, both sides agreed and, after the marriage, a son was born. This son was the Daksha of old, reincarnated.”
“Hmmm,” observed the king sagaciously.
The pundit continued: “Because of Daksha’s curse the Moon had no issue by Daksha’s twenty-seven daughters, but he did have four sons by another wife, named Manohara (‘Mind-Robber’). The eldest of these was Varchas, who took birth on Earth at the time of the Great War of the Mahabharata as that warrior of unprecedented power named Abhimanyu.
“Another son of the Moon was the planet Mercury, he of gargantuan intelligence, and his story, 0 King, shall soon be told. In the Moons lineage, through his son Mercury, innumerable kings and warriors of great valor have been born, including the greatest of them all, God incarnate on this Earth, Perfection Personified (Purnatmaka Purushottama), the Protector of the Cows, the Beloved of the Milkmaids: Lord Krishna Himself, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
“This Shri Krishna, a true scion of the lunar race, causes everyone who remembers Him to experience limitless bliss. I offer my obeisance to this Moon who, like his illustrious descendant, pours coolness onto the world, and creates ecstasy.”