BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


by Carlo de Fornaro


Whose shadow is 'immortality, whose shadow is death !

—Rig Veda.

'IVE thousand Kalpas ago, the Devas and their archenemies the Asuras declared a truce. During several Kalpas they had been battling tenaciously and bitterly for a sip of the Amrita, that godly drink which gave immortality, health and power, which had the strength of Yama, was as inebriating as the Infinite, and more blissful than Nirvana.

Now, when the victorious Devas reached the haunt of the Ghandarves, who watched over the Amrita, they learned to their great consternation that not a single drop was left; and that the great Indra and Varuna having surreptitiously imbibed more than was good for them, were consequently, royally tipsy, and were to be found drowsing in the cool shadow of the Himalayas.

They determined to chastise these arrogant Rulers and devised several penalties ; but they soon saw the futility of their rage ; how could they inflict any bodily harm on immortals, to say nothing of killing them ?

According to the suggestion of the great serpent Sesha the only vengeance worthy and capable of affecting them was the stealing of the secret of the Amrita, which at this period had been tasted by two gods only.

As they could not obtain the secret by violence, they resorted to cunning, and after careful planning, one of the Devas approached Indra, who was

lying indecorously prostrate, while the others were peeping from behind some rocks.

" O Incomparable Indra, I humbly bring Thee a message from Indrani!" He shook him gently, repeating the phrase.

" My wife . . . yes . . . and what may it be ? " ... mumbled Indra, glancing with half closed eye-lids at the Deva.

" She begs Thee to repeat the recipe for the concoction of the Amrita and wishes Thee to hasten, she being in great need of it."

"Amrita . . . oh, yes," slowly uttered Indra. " Churn the great Ocean . . . with Mount Man- dara . . . use also . . . Sesha . . . and sing . . . sing . . . Amrita . . . Amri . . . Am ..." and the rest was murmured in sleep.

But the Devas were well satisfied and prepared themselves for the prodigious task. However, something had been overlooked, for they discovered that it took twice their number to churn the great Ocean.


-tt-U J J.tfJ J ! - J

Am. ri. la Am.ri -ta Anv.ri -ta

That is the reason they offered a truce to the Asuras, who willingly accepted on condition that they, too, should taste of the Amrita.

Thereupon they used Mount Mandara as a churning stick, wrapping round it, rope like, the great serpent Sesha. They moved the Mount to and fro, whirling it vertiginously, the Devas pulling at the serpent's tail and the Asuras at its head, and churned and churned, while the Ocean seethed and foamed and thundered and sputtered egre- giously, uproariously, as the great Sesha went back

and forth and as they intoned in a sing-song : t-

" Amrita . . . Amrita . . . Amrita. . . ! "

" Whose shadow is Immortality, " Whose shadow is Death ! " Give us thy powerful draught " To encircle the Infinite ! "Amrita . . . Amrita . . . Amrita!" Then they stopped for a rest, mopping their brows and watching the result of their labors. The Ocean had now dwindled almost to shal-

lowness; they let it ferment until they were to drink, still chanting monotonously : " Amrita . . . Amrita . . . Amrita. . . ! "

They lay prone shoulder to shoulder in a wide ellipse, the Devas on one side, the Asuras on the other, and drank and drank, to their fullest capacity, slowly, voluptuously, lulling themselves to sleep.

When Indra had slept his due, he was surprised by the all-pervading silence, which seemed to him abnormal and strange, and he was wondering what mischief the Devas and Asuras might be up to, as they had stopped quarrelling.

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