In the forest to the south of Vindhyas, lived two demon brothers: Atapi and Vatapi. They had magical powers and were in fact, cannibals as if their only job were to eat human beings. Every day, Atapi invites a tired and hungry traveler through the forest to have some food and trick them to rest in his cottage with great hospitality. He would cook his brother Vatapi into a sumptuous meal, which the guest cannot avoid eating in this lifetime, so they eat and there ends their life too. Atapi calls, “Vatapi! Come out!”. Vatapi, back to his conformation, rips open the stomach of the victim and comes out. Falling prey to these demons’ high-ended cottage service, the travelers become their prey-of-the-day.

Once the traveler is dead, all his valuables now belong to Atapi and Vatapi. This drill followed for many days and the demons grew richer. People were afraid to take the forest route. It was very tiring for travelers to take a long route around the forest. Word spread in the air and it reached the powerful sage Agastya. One day it so happened that they had an awfully bad bargain. Yes! The brave sage Agastya took this dreaded forest route. Atapi was delighted to see a traveler through his territory after a good long time. Greedy demon invited the sage to his cottage. The sage readily agreed. As usual, Vatapi was cooked into a delicious meal for sage Agastya.

The mystic sage ate the meal without any hitch, but he was aware of what was going on. He relished the food, then slowly ran his hand on to his tummy and said softly, “Vatapi jirno bavah!”. Unaware that his game was up, Atapi called his brother, “Vatapi! Come out!”. Nothing happened. He called again, little louder this time, “Vatapi! Come out!”. Nothing happened again. Alarmed Atapi shouted his lungs out, “Vatapi! Come out man!”. Vatapi did not turn up. “Where will Vatapi come from? He got digested! Well, I guess you didn’t hear me”, said the sage with a grin. Furious Atapi tried to attack sage Agastya but the sage burnt him to ashes with his powers from penance. Now the demon-street of the forest is free from these demon brothers. Everyone went through the forest happily ever after.

We all, grow up aware of how evil hovered on the other side of life, and brutality on the underside of humanity. Does the word sapiens in Homo sapiens fully describe our species? We are as violent as we are smart. May be, that is why we are the only Homo genus left and is why we are successful in dominating our planet. We know the dawn and we know the dusk. We are capable doing terrible things of varying scales, but also asking ourselves contemplatively and creatively how that is. 

Let us awaken the Sage Agastya or self-consciousness in us, to burn evils everywhere, starting from the one within (Vatapi) and the one without (Atapi)!

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