Sundan and Upasundan loved each other so much that nothing could ever divide them. They were very ambitious too. They wanted to be the supreme rulers of the world. They wished that even some of the Gods should come and pay homage to them. Above all, they wanted that they should never die. But how could they manage that? They thought and thought over the matter and in the end they felt that they could attain their ambition only with the help of some God. But which God? Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva? Which one would be the easiest to please and would give them the blessings they sought. They talked about it. They decided that they would propitiate Lord Brahma, the God of Creation.
They made all arrangements to do tapas, or great meditation, to please God Brahma. They went into a thick jungle and started the tapas. They gave up all their comforts and remained in deep meditation for months.
Sundan and Upasundan: Tales From Indian Classics
Lord Indra was not happy at the tapas of the Asura brothers. He feared that were doing it with the intention of securing great powers from some higher Gods which might enable them to oust him from his kingdom. So Indra was wanted to stop the Asura brothers from continuing the tapas. He sent his courtesans and their attendants down to the jungle to try their best to disturb the Asuras in their tapas.
But Sundan and Upasundan were so determined that nothing could sway them from their prayers and meditation.
At last God Brahma was moved by the devotion and determination of the Asura brothers. He appeared before them and said, “I am very pleased with you for your great devotion and love for me. Please tell me in what way I can be of help to you”.
“We want a position like that of Lord Indra”, the brothers said.
“I am sorry that is not possible”, said Brahma. “Indra is one of the Gods and no one can aspire to his position. You can ask for some other favor.”
“We are disappointed,” said the brothers. “We cannot be satisfied with little things. Our ambition is to conquer the whole world. We have got the strength for that. You can give us one boon – that no God or man will be able to kill us. If at all we die, it shall be only at the hands of each other.” The brothers were sure that will never happen. They loved each other so much. They had no fear that there will ever by any differences between them.
“Your request is granted,” said Brahma. “You will not be killed by anybody expect by one another.”
The Asura brothers were very happy. They returned home and lived in prosperity and happiness. But after sometime they were bored by their peaceful life. They decided to wage war against other princes.
“We must first be the lord of all the world,” they said, “and then we must challenge Lord Indra himself. Why should he have all the privileges which he enjoys?”
Soon the Asura brothers started wars against other countries. They won all the wars, killed many kings, destroyed their capitals, looted all their wealth and carried away their beautiful women.
The Asura brothers became the undisputed rulers of the world. There was nobody to question their supremacy. Their word was law. They enjoyed absolute power. Then they planned to cross swords with some of the Gods. Lord Indra, who tried to stop their tapas, was their first choice. And they began preparing for an attack on him.
The people of the world and the Gods above were greatly worried about the Asura brothers. They were a terror to everybody, but nobody was strong enough to stand up against them.
Many of the Gods and saints approached Lord Brahma and complained about the misdeeds of Sundan and Upasundan. Brahma smiled and said, “I am not unaware of the deeds of the Asura brothers. Have a little patience. I shall try to rid the world of this evil.”
Lord Brahma thought deeply for a while and then with his powers he created the most beautiful woman ever. He named her Tilottama. She bowed before Brahma and asked, “My Lord, why have you created me? Have I got any special duty to do? I am ready to carry out your orders.” Brahma replied, “Tilottama, you are the most charming woman I have ever created and you can win the hearts of Gods and men alike, without much effort. Sundan and Upasundan are two Asura brothers. They are creating trouble all over the world and even heaven. I gave them a boom that they would never die at the hands of any man or God. They can be killed only by each other. But there is so much love between the brothers that neither come to any harm from the other. You are to go to them and create discord between them so that they will quarrel and kill each other.”
“Your orders will be carried out,” said Tilottama. When she was leaving she saw Lord Indra following her, charmed by her beauty. She told him that she would meet him on her return from her mission.
The Asura brothers were enjoying themselves by playing with hundreds of women in the garden. There was music and dancing. Tilottama appeared suddenly from behind a tree.
“Who is that?” asked Sundan.
“Who is that? I have not seen her before,” said Upasundan.
Tilottama went to the brothers and said, “I am Tilottama. I am touring some parts of the world. I was attacked by the sound of music here, so I just came in to have a look.”
“You are most welcome,” said the brothers together. “You can stay with us and we will give you whatever you want, money, jewels, costly costumes and hundreds of servants to look after your comforts.”
Give me a little time, let me think over the matter,” said Tilottama.
“What is there to think about?” said Sundan “I am the elder brother and you shall be my wife.”
“Let her decide for herself. Let her see who will be the better one to marry, you are me,” said Upasundan.
“Forget about the marriage for the present,” said Tilottama. “I am hungry, let me first have something to eat and then let me join the other ladies in their play.”
The Asura brothers ordered food for Tilottama. Hundreds of servants rushed in with various kinds of delicious food. Tilottama started to eat. She looked at the brothers and asked them to join her and they were only too decided to sit with her and eat. Tilottama was acting her part well. Each brother felt that the celestial beauty liked him better than the other. Each one was waiting for a chance to declare his love for her.
After taking food Tilottama joined the other ladies in dancing and singing and playing various kinds of games. All the while the Asura brothers were trying, separately, to draw her attention. Tilottama too wanted to meet them one by one. Then by chance she met the elder brother, Sundan.
Sundan said, “You are my love. I want to marry you. I shall give you whatever you want.”
Tilottama replied, “I like you very much, but your younger brother said that he loves me better.”
“Nonsense,” said Sundan. “He is a fool, he doesn’t know what he says.”
Give me a little time to think over your proposition,” said Tilottama, and moved away.
Upasundan now got a chance of meeting her.
“Tilottama, my dear, I love you so much that I want to marry you immediately.”
“I think I also like you much,” said Tilottama “but your brother will not like that. In fact, he has proposed to me and I told him about my interest in you. He was rather furious and assured me that he would have you out of the way.”
“He said that?” asked Upasundan. “Then tell him that you love me and me alone.”
“How can I do that,” said Tilottama. “You are equal in every way and you are both handsome. If I tell him that he may not believe me.”
“I shall make him believe you,” said Upasundan.
After some more singing and dancing, closely watched by the Asura brothers, Tilottama walked towards the palace, followed by them.
When they were all in the palace hall Sundan said to his brother, “I am happy to tell you, brother, that I am going to marry Tilottama.”
“Nonsense,” said Upasundan. “I am going to marry her and I have already asked her to marry me.”
“What right have you to ask her?” shouted Sundan. “I am your elder brother and you are to take orders from me.”
“We are brothers and we are equal,” said Upasundan.
“I am not going to give up Tilottama even for the sake of my brother.”
“You better think again. I have decided to marry her,” said Sundan.
“As long as I am alive, I will not allow anybody else to touch her. She is mine and I am hers.”
“I am strong enough to stop anybody from coming between me and Tilottama,” said the younger brother.
And both were ready for a fight.
“Do you want to fight for my sake?” said Tilottama, “It is true that you are nice princes, but I can not marry both of you. I would have liked to marry one of you, but you are quarreling. I better go back to Lord Indra, who told me once that he loved me. But I did not like him much then.”
Please don’t go to Indra, marry me,” said both the brothers at the same time.”
“Will you stop that silly talk,” asked each brother of the other.
“You shut up,” said Sundan.
“Then I shall make you shutup,” shouted Upasundan.
Angry words then led to a fight between them.
The fight was so fierce that is did not last long.
The brothers killed each other.
Tilottama had fulfilled her mission. She returned to Lord Brahma and told him of her success.
“I knew you could do that,” said Brahma, “and now Lord Indra is here to take you to his court. All good wishes to you.”