Text by Anil Chitrakar

The story of Bhasmasura teaches us that greed and lust can lead to self-destruction. Bhasmasura turned himself into ashes, in the pursuit of Mohini.

We notice people who are relatively more destructive than others all around us.  They are trouble makers who start false rumors, they seek a lot of attention all the time, they never return things they borrow, and if they do, not in a very good condition. There are also individuals who people dare not challenge very easily. They demand to be put in charge and they destroy the things they were supposed to make better. In our heritage such an individual is called Bhasmasura. In Hindu mythology, the gods are referred to as devas and the demons as asuras. Bhasmasura was an asura. Bhasma literally means ashes or to turn something into ashes.  Combine bhasma and asura and we have the term Bhasmasura – one who can touch someone or something on the head and turn it into ashes immediately.

Have you met someone like that? You hand over anything to these people and the moment you turn away everything is broken and ashes are all over the floor.  Many Nepalis will argue that this is exactly what has happened again and again to so many government owned corporations. The electric trolley bus, the Hetauda–Kathmandu ropeway, the Janakpur Rail, Nepal Airlines, Singha Durbar and even the Narayanhity Palace (now museum) are examples of this. The good thing is we also know people who are exactly the opposite. They take up a business, hotel, company, airlines and just about anything and make it better.

Bhasmasura was a devotee of Shiva and was granted a boon after a long period of penance. Bhasmasura wanted to be immortal but Shiva was not able to meet this wish. Bhasmasura then asked for the power to turn anyone he touched on the head into ashes. Shiva agreed and gave him the boon. Bhasmasura was really happy and decided to destroy Shiva himself so that he could get Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Shiva then had to flee from Bhasmasura. Does this remind you of all the people we vote for and the political appointments made that come to destroy us? Remember how Apple fired Steve Jobs? As the myth goes, Shiva was terrified and rushed to Vishnu for help.

Vishnu had many “avatars” and one of them was the beautiful and attractive Mohini who was able to distract Bhasmasura from Shiva and Parbati. Bhasmasura fell for Mohini and asked her to marry him. Mohini put forth a condition for their marriage – that Bhasmasura follow her exact dancing steps so that she could see how good a dancer he was. The two started dancing in synchronized steps. The myth says this dance went on for a very long time. Bhasmasura wanted Mohini so much that he began to lose himself in the act of pleasing her. Mohini, seeing the right opportunity, posed with her hand on her head and Bhasmasura did the same. He turned to ashes instantly. As we all know, the corrupt get greedy and they begin to fall in love with money and power and ultimately go on the path of self-destruction. These heritage tales sound so familiar and are as relevant in the present day as they have always been.