The beauty industry is flourishing like never before. The unquenchable desire for retaining youthfulness at all costs serves as fuel to this business. Which one of us would like to grow old, feeble and finally die? Most of us do not even like the idea of ageing gracefully. We use every trick in the book and even invoke cosmetic surgery to retain our good looks against all odds. In the process, we forget that we are at loggerheads with Nature and are fighting a losing battle.
Human vanity and longing for immortality is not a modern disease. The Ramayana records one such tale.
Trishanku the king of solar dynasty was an extremely good ruler and incredibly handsome.
He was besotted with his looks. He was acutely aware of the fact that when living beings died, mortal remains are either disposed of or biodegraded. He could not bear to part with his beautiful body. He yearned to reach heaven physically.
He approached his preceptor Vasishta to help him realise his desire. The sage turned down the request citing that no one can go against the law of Nature. Death invariably spelt the parting of the Atma and the Shareera. But Trishanku was not the one to take no for an answer. He was foolhardy enough to request the sons of Vasishta to fulfill his wish.
The young men were disgusted with the narcissist streak in the king which made him sideline the counsel of his guru. Therefore, they cursed him to become a Chandaala. Accordingly, Trishanku lost his divine looks and turned him into a dismal sight with disheveled looks. The distressed king was dethroned. He roamed like a mad man caught in the web of his own designs.
The horrible experience taught him little. The foolish king hoped to realise his dreams by cashing in on the ego conflict that existed between sage Vishwamitra and sage Vasishta. Vishwamitra promised the ostracised king that the latter would be duly sent to heaven in his new unflattering form. The sage’s eagerness to not let go of an opportunity to settle scores with his rival crippled his intellect. He quite forgot that laws of nature were not to be meddled with.
He conducted a special Yagna to send Trishanku to heaven. The ascent of the ugly king was arrested by Indra and the other gods. But Vishwamitra was not the one to take a beating quietly. He used all his spiritual powers to create a parallel heaven to the forsaken king.
Even today, when people find themselves suffering a prolonged life or refuse to accept that external beauty is only skin deep they consider themselves to be in Trishanku Swarga.