In Hindu mythology, the new yuga was started by Manu who was the son of Lord Surya, the Sun God. There is a very interesting story of his grandson, Nimi.
Once Nimi wanted to perform a particularly difficult yagna which could go on for many years. The yagna if successful would benefit Nimi’s people enormously.
However as Nimi continued with the preparations for the yagna, he realized that he had a serious problem. The yagna was not an ordinary yagna and he needed an exceptional powerful sage as the presiding priest for it.
Nimi searched everywhere and finally settled on Sage Vasishta to be the presiding sage.
Nimi went to Sage Vasishta and bowed before him. ‘Great Sage! I am performing a yagna for providing special offering to the Gods! Kindly preside over it!’
Vasishta frowned. ‘When are you going to start the yagna?’
‘As soon as possible sir!’ Nimi said surprised.
Vasishta’s face drooped. ‘I am afraid I cannot come now! You see, Indra, the king of the Devas is performing a yagna now! I have promised him that I would preside over his yagna! I cannot break my word to him!’
Nimi was silent as he studied the sage. He could wait for the sage to come back after the completion of Indra’s yagna. But Indra’s yagna could go for a very long time. The yagna is meant for the welfare of his people…Can he afford to wait for the sage?
Sage Vasishta was also thinking. The King has come to me first and he has come to me with all humility, love and respect. I cannot turn him back empty handed. I will go to his yagna immediately after I finish Indra’s yagna!
Neither said anything and both walked their ways…
Indra’s yagna went on for a long time and Sage Vasishta was happy, because he had finally completed the laborious and tedious yagna of Lord Indra.
As soon as Indra’s yagna was over, the first thought which occurred to Sage Vasishta was King Nimi’s request. He immediately set out to perform the yagna there.
On reaching Nimi’s kingdom, however, Sage Vasishta was in for a shock. King Nimi had already started the yagna with Sage Gautham as the presiding priest.
Sage Vasishta was fuming when he saw this. He felt that the King had deliberately insulted him by starting the yagna without him. In anger the sage cursed King Nimi. ‘You do not even have the courtesy for waiting for the sage whom you came to first! Such a man like you does not need a body! I curse you, King Nimi – you will be without a body.’
King Nimi was sleeping when Sage Vasishta had come to the palace and he knew nothing of the angry sage and the curse. However that did not prevent the curse from coming true. King Nimi’s spirit left the sleeping body.
King Nimi woke up with a start when he realized that something was different.
He looked down and saw his own lifeless body and his loving subjects surrounding it and weeping.
Confused he closed his eyes and meditated. The power of the King was considerable and he was able to divine what had gone wrong. He angrily realized that sage Vasishta had been unreasonable. Nimi was a king and was duty bound to do everything in his power for the benefit of his people. If he had waited for the sage, his people had to wait longer and as a king he could not allow that. I had acted correctly and the sage had cursed him for it.
Unable to control himself, the angry Nimi cursed Sage Vasishta back. ‘You are unreasonable! I had to perform the yagna for the well being of my people! You were wrong in expecting me to wait for you! Sage Vasishta, I curse you that you would also be without a body!’
The king had been a just and firm king and had considerable spiritual prowess. His words also came true and Sage Vasishta’s spirit left the body.
Sage Vasishta was again reborn, but however that is another story. This is the story of Nimi.
Nimi roamed around in the form of a spirit and immersed himself in the Brahman (the Force which runs within us all) And now that he was not bound by his body or his responsibilities, he found the true joy of being one with the Brahman. The king became more and more strong, spiritually. as he meditated continuously.
However King Nimi’s people were very unhappy. They could not believe that the king who had looked after them like a father was no more. They preserved the body of the King with oils and scents and continued the yagna with more vigour.
Once the yagna was completed the Gods came in for their offering. At that time the people presented their plea before the Gods. ‘Our King was the greatest king in the world! He performed this yagna for our benefit! It was because of the yagna that his lifeless body lies there…Please help us!’
‘What do you want?’ The Gods asked them.
‘Let the King’s spirit be reunited with the body! We want our king back!’
Pleased with the love of the people, the Gods agreed to the request.
Using their powers they summoned the King’s spirit and were about to put it back in the preserved body when the king yelled. ‘PLEASE NO! YOU CANNOT DO THAT!’
The Gods were surprised when the king looked at them with a forlorn expression. ‘I am now free! I do not wish to have any more bondage! Please do not put me back in the body! I wish to continue to be free and become part of the Brahman!’
‘Your people wish that you have to be with them! That is the reason we….’
Nimi looked at his people and memories of his subjects came to him, as if from another life. But he realized that these people genuinely loved him. He turned to the Gods and smiled at them. ‘If these people want me to be with them, I will! But not in the way they wish!’ The Gods looked surprised. ‘I have lived like a spirit for too long and I cannot be attached to a body! However I wish to be a part of my people! I wish to be in a spirit form with them always!’
The Gods granted this boon and even now Nimi is said to stay on the eyelids of people. It is said that people open and close their eyelids because Nimi stays there. In fact the time it takes to open and close the eyelids is called ‘Nimisha’ in Sanskrit.
However the story is not yet over.
Though Nimi’s people realized that their beloved king would always be with them, they realized that they needed a real king. Without a king they would not be able to fight the thieves and the bandits who repeatedly threatened to loot the kingdom. So they approached the sages for another remedy.
The sages looked at the King’s body and decided that the body itself could be used for creating another king. Using the powers of the mind, they churned the body of the dead king and from it a glowing person emerged.
The glowing man was named Kushadhwaja and was crowned as the king of the kingdom.
Kushadhwaja was just and firm and he kept his people very happy and prosperous. However Kushadhwaja was not known by this name.
Because he was born from a dead body, Kushadhwaja was known as Vaideha which in Sanskrit means son of the man without a body. And because Kushadhwaja was born without an actual father or mother he was called Janaka (The man without a progenitor). Kushadhwaja was also born from the churning of the mind and hence was called Miti.
It was in the line of Kushadhwaja that there was born another great king with complete spiritual awareness. Though his actual name was Siradhwaja, the king was better known by the name of his ancestor – Vaideha Janaka from Mithila the father of Sita….