In their fight with the Devas the Asuras had an advantage. They had on their side a great saint and teacher, Sukracharya, who knew the mantra or magic formula for bringing dead people back to life. He restored to life many Asuras who were killed in the battles against the Devas.
The Devas did not have anybody who knew that mantra. They went to their chief adviser, Brihaspati, and sought his help. But Brihaspati said, “I do not know science of giving life to the dead. Only Sukracharya knows it. Somebody from your side should go to him and stay with him as his student and learn the secret.”
“We have nobody with as to undertake such a difficult task. But we feel that the best choice for it is your own son, Kacha.”
Brihaspati thought for a while, then said, “Yes, let Kacha go.”
The Devas called Kacha and asked him if he could render them a service. They said, “Go to Sukracharya and be with him as his disciple for as long as is necessary to learn the science of raising the dead. Serve him with all devotion. You may also be friendly with Devayani, his beautiful daughter. That will help you in attaining your objective.” Kacha promised to do his best to fulfil his mission. He took leave of the Devas and went to Sukracharya’s hermitage.
The great sage received him with all kindness.
“O great teacher,” said Kacha, “I am Kacha, son of Brihaspati. I want to be your student. I am eager to gain knowledge at your feet.”
“You are the son of Brihaspati?” asked Sukracharya. “If so, what can I teach you that your father can’t. Anyway, you have come to me in search of knowledge. I shall be happy to help you in whatever way I can.”
“I shall be at your service from now on,” said Kacha.
“You need not do any heavy work here,” said Sukracharya. “You can help me in my prayers by bringing flowers from the jungle. You can also bring firewood for my sacrificial fire and you can look after my cows, take them out for feeding and bring them back when they are fed.”
“I shall try to do everything to your satisfaction,” said Kacha.
Thus, Kacha began to live with Sukracharya. Because of his keen devotion and good service he won the favour of Sukracharya. Kacha was young, handsome, and very intelligent and no wonder Devayani fell in love with him from the start. But Kacha was a student and he could not respond to her love. All the same Kacha liked her and considered her as a friend. He gathered flowers and fruits for her and helped her in her household duties. Sometimes they sang and danced together.
In the course of time the Asuras found out why Kacha was staying with Sukracharya. They did not want the secret of reviving dead people to be known to the Devas and, therefore, they decided to remove Kacha from Sukracharya’s hermitage for good. That could only be done by killing him.
One day when Kacha was taking his master’s cows to the jungle the Asuras waylaid him and killed him. But they had to do away with his body. They were afraid that Sukracharya might revive Kacha. So, they cut his body into pieces and gave the pieces to wolves and jackals.
In the evening Devayani was waiting for Kacha but the cows returned home without him. Devayani was upset. She went to her father and said, “The sun has set, the cows have returned home. Kacha has not come. He is either lost or dead. O father, bring Kacha back. I cannot live without him.”
Sukracharya considered for a while as to what could have happened to Kacha. He felt that was dead and said, “I shall bring back to life. What a little.” Then he silently said the secret mantra or magic formula.
At once Kacha appeared before the master. When Devayani asked him why he was late, he said, “The Asuras killed me, cut my body into pieces and felt the wolves and jackals with them. When the great saint, your father, summoned me, I came out of the wolves and jackals, tearing their bodies, and now I stand before you.”
Kacha continued to live with Sukracharya and Devayani. But the Asuras did not keep quiet. One day Kacha was in the jungle collecting flowers when the Asuras caught him. They killed him and grinding his body into a paste, they mixed it with the water of the ocean.
Devayani was again in despair when Kacha did not return from the jungle.
She told her father that she would not wish to live unless Kacha was brought back. Again Sukracharya with his magic spell brought Kacha back.
The Asuras were very disappointed at their failures. They though of a plan to dispose of Kacha in such a way that Sukracharya would never be able to bring him back to life.
The Asuras caught Kacha a third time. They killed him and burnt his body. They collected the ashes and mixed the ashes with the wine that Sukracharya drank.
When Kacha was missing again Devayani said to her father, “Father, Kacha went out to gather firewood but he has come back. Surely he is lost or dead.”
Sukracharya meditated for a while and said, “Yes, Kacha is dead and now it is difficult for me to bring him back to life. I am helpless now. Whenever I bring him back to life he is slain again. O Devayani, do not grieve, do not cry. You should not distress yourself for a mortal. Gods are aware of your beauty. Any one of them may propose to you.”
But Devayani said, “How can I not grieve for the death of one whom I love? He was handsome. He was great and he was young. No God will be like him. I will starve myself to death and follow him.”
Sukracharya was sorry for his daughter and angry with the Asuras who slew a disciple under his care. At Devayani’s request he began summoning Kacha back from death.
Kacha answered in a low voice from his stomach. “I am Kacha,” he said. “I was killed by the Asuras, who burnt my body and mixed the ashes with the wine that you have drunk. Be gentle to me, O my master. Consider me as your son as I am now part of you.”
Then Sukracharya said to Devayani, “What can I do now? Kacha is within me. Either I live or Kacha lives. Both of us cannot exist together hereafter.”
“If Kacha dies,” said Devayani, “I will not live, and if you die I also die.”
Then Sukracharya was in a fix. He said to Kacha, “Victory is yours. Since Devayani looks on you with such kindness, receive from me the magic mantra, or the secret of bringing back the dead to life. When you come out of me, try the mantra on my body.”
Then Sukracharya taught Kacha the secret mantra and asked him to come out of his stomach. Kacha appeared in all his brilliance, and saw his teacher lying dead. He immediately revived him with his newly learnt mantra.
Kacha then did homage to him, calling him father as he was now born out of him.
Kacha stayed for some time more and then sought the blessings of his master to return home.
Sukracharya gave Kacha permission to leave but Devayani, Seeing him about to depart, said to him, “Don’t go away. You know how I have loved you from the time you were a student. Now that you have finished your studies it is time you returned my love and married me.”
Kacha said, “I respect you very much. You are dearer then life to me. But you are my sister. Both of us came out of your father. All my love for you is a brother’s love for a sister.”
“You are great and I love you,” said Devayani. “Remember, my love for you saved you from death three times. Why did I do that if not for love? Don’t discard me. Accept me as your wife.”
“It is a sin if I agree to do what you say,” said Kacha. “We have spent happy days together as sister and brother. Let us continue that relationship. I can assure you that I cannot be tempted into sinning.” Devayani was so disappointed that she was angry and cursed him. “Since you have betrayed my trust, what you have learnt you will not be able to practise.”
Kacha said, “I refused you only because you are my sister. I don’t deserve your curse. You have done that because of your passion. You said that what I have learnt shall be useless, but I shall impart it to someone else and make it useful.”
In spite of Devayani’s pleadings, Kacha had to leave. Kacha was received by the Devas with great honour and was greeted by Lord Indra himself.
- Retold By: Savitri
- Illustrations By: Sukumar Chatterjee