| Spoiler Alert!
Warning! This page contains spoilers for Aru Shah and the Song of Death.
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|“||You think what happened in the Khandava Forest was unfair, and maybe it was. It goes to show you that, as with Jaya and Vijaya, bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Sometimes life isn't fair—but that doesn't mean things happen without a reason. We just don't always know what the reason is. The world is inscrutable. It doesn't owe you answers. You should only concern yourself with doing your duty.||”|
–Agni, Aru Shah and the Song of Death
Jaya and Vijaya (pronounced: "JAY-uh" and "vee-JAY-uh") are the two gatekeepers of the abode of Vishnu.
One day, Jaya and Vijaya refused to let the four Kumaras, a group of powerful sages, in to see Vishnu. That was because Vishnu was sleeping and the gatekeepers thought the four looked like children, they didn't know who they really were. After they were told to get going, the sages cursed the two to lose their divinity and be born as mortals on Earth, they said Vishnu was available for his devotees any time. Having seen his gatekeepers horrified, Vishnu appeared and gave them a choice: either they take seven births on Earth as pious devotees of Vishnu, or three births as his sworn enemies. Once those lives are completed, they could return to being his gatekeepers. The two chose the shorter option as they couldn't bear the thought of staying away from Vishnu for so long.
Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha
In their first lives, Jaya and Vijaya were respectively born as Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, two brother asuras who were the sons of Diti and Kashyapa. Hiranyaksha kidnapped the earth goddess, Prithvi (also known as Bhūmi), and hid her under the ocean. He was slayed by Varaha, the third incarnation of Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu, having heard what happened to his brother, performed a penance for Lord Brahma and gained a boon. He asked for invincibility, more specifically he didn't want to be killed at daytime or nighttime; indoors or outdoors; by man or by beast; and by no weapon. Indra and the other devas attacked his home in his absence. A sage named Narada protected Hiranyakashipu's wife, Kayadhu, resulting in her son, named Prahlad who wasn't born at the time, being affected by the transcendental instructions of the sage. Prahlad grew up to be a devoted follower of Vishnu and did not go along with his father's plans, his father got so angry he tries to kill him, but Vishnu protected him every time. Eventually, Prahlad refused to see his father as all powerful as he claims to be, Hiranyakashipu points to a nearby pillar and asks if "his Vishnu" is in it. Prahlad responds saying "He was, He is and He will be." So Hiranyakashipu angrily smashes the pillar, and out came Narasimha, the fourth incarnation of Vishnu who was three parts of all things that cannot kill Hiranyakashipu. Since it was at twilight (neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), Narasimha put the asura on his thighs (neither earth nor space) and used his nails (neither animate nor inanimate) to disembowel and kill Hiranyakashipu.
Ravana and Kumbhakarna
In their second lives, they were born as Ravana and his demon brother, Kumbhakarna, these incarnations were considered their most famous lives. Ravana was the ten-headed demon king whom kidnapped the wife of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, and started a war. Ravana needed Kumbhakarna's help in the war, so he woke him up by having one thousand elephants walk over him. After unsuccessfully trying to talk Ravana out of this, Kumbhakarna devastated Rama's army and even kidnapped Rama's ally, Sugriva, only to eventually be killed by the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. Rama then went on to defeat Ravana and save both Sita and Sugriva.
Shishupala and Dantavakra
In their third and final lives, Jaya and Vijaya were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra, nephews of Kunti but cousins to each other. Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, swore to Shishupala's mother that he would tolerate a maximum of one hundred insults from him each day without retaliating. But when Shishupala was invited to the coronation of Yudhishthira, he barged in and denounced Krishna as a fraud. This was his one hundred and first insult and everyone, including the Pandavas and the Kauravas, wanted him dead so Krishna beheaded him.
Dantavakra attempted to avenge Shishupala when Krishna was on his way to Dwaraka after the Rajasuya sacrifice but was killed in a mace-duel. With all three lives finished, Jaya and Vijaya reentered Vishnu's sacred realm.
When Aru Shah questioned Agni why the original Pandavas burned down the Khandava Forest to feed him, which resulted in the deaths of Takshaka's family even though they didn't do anything wrong, he told them about Jaya and Vijaya. Aru didn't think living like humans was so bad until Mini remembered the allergies, politics, death, illness and reality TV shows. She and Aiden Acharya agreed that no one would want to be enemies of Vishnu, but Aru and Brynne Rao agreed that they should just get it over with. Upon hearing the rest of the story, Aru remembered that her mother once told her that sometimes villains can do heroic things and heroes can do villainous things. But she didn't know what it meant to be one or the other, her head began to hurt when thinking about how Ravana's sister, Surpanakha had stolen the bow and arrow of Kamadeva. When Agni explained further, Aru didn't understand even a little, but the god of fire said that if she did then she'd be omniscient, which is apparently a real headache.
- When Agni tells the tale of Jaya and Vijaya, he mistakenly said they had to take four births as Vishnu's sworn enemies instead of three. This error was corrected in the glossary.
- Some versions and adaptions of the myth extend the potential births as pious devotees. They can range from fourteen to as much as one hundred.
- The name Hiranyaksha translates into "golden-eyed" while Hiranyakashipu translates into "clothed in gold." Kumbhakarna means pot-eared in Sankrit. Shishupala was named for "protector of child" and Dantavakra translates to "the one with crooked teeth".
- Aru Shah and the Song of Death, Glossary
- Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes, Glossary
- Myths and Legends: An Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings by Philip Wilkinson