Narada Muni (Muni; the Sanskrit word for Sage) famous as the traveling musician and storyteller; preaching enlightening wisdom and news is a Vedic sage of the Hindu dharma (religion). In the ancient Vedic scripts, the Sanskrit word Narada translates to ‘deity who was invested by Brahma with the power of creation’. The religious texts adhere to him as one of the ten Manas- Putras; or the mind-sons or spirits (since he was born out of his mind rather than body) of Brahma. Also, he was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Depicted carrying a Khartal and Veena with the name ‘Mahathi’; he is generally regarded as one of the great masters of the ancient musical instrument. Khartal, an ancient instrument that derives its name from two Hindi words ‘Kara’ meaning hand and ‘tala’ meaning clapping is a wooden clapper that has discs or plates that produce a clinking sound when clapped together. The Veena is a classical multi-stringed chordophone of the Indian subcontinent that has a hollow body and two large resonating gourds under each end. It has four main strings which are melody type and three auxiliary drone strings. To play, the musician plucks the melody strings downwards.
He uses the two to accompany his singing of hymns, prayers, and mantras. Tales often depict him as a pure, elevated soul who glorifies Vishnu through his devotional songs, singing the names Hari (Sanskrit for Vishnu) and Narayana, and therein demonstrating Bhakti Yoga (which translates to, Spiritual Path or Practice). Arguably, the greatest book about love and devotion, The Narada Bhakti Sutra is attributed to him.
Narada is arguably ancient India’s most traveled sage with the ability to visit distant worlds and Lokas (the Sanskrit for Realms). He appears predominantly in a number of Hindu texts, notably the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, as well as in the epics of the Puranas.
In the historical tales, Narada Muni traversed the distant worlds and lokas singing the glories of the Lord to the alluring music of Veena. In one of many such tales, as described in the Bhagavata Purana; Lord Brahma suggested Narad Muni settle down and expand his lineage. However, Narad Muni refused to comply with his advice; clearly, he preferred to sing the glories of Lord along with the fascinating tune of Veena to getting attached to any worldly affair which infuriated Lord Brahma. Brahma, in turn, cursed him to lead the life of a Gandharva – a celestial Singer; for One Kalpa- a single day of Lord Brahma equalling to 432 million solar years.
Thus, it was the birth of Narada Muni among the demigods of Gandharvas (Angelic beings, as they are called) as Upa Barhana. Owing to the misconduct in a musical fest, where he missed a particular Raag or beat as he was distracted by the charm of the women around him, he was cursed to be born among the Sudras (the lowest among all earthly beings) by the demigods. The tales go on and tell us about how he was born as the son of a maid-servant (Sudra) of some particularly saintly priests (Brahmins). The priests, being pleased with both his and his mother’s service, blessed him by allowing him to eat some of their food (Prasadam), previously offered to their lord, Vishnu.
Gradually, he was treading on the path of Bhakti (meaning; devotional worship directed to one supreme deity, usually Vishnu) and for the rest of his life, Narada Muni focused on his devotion, meditation, and worship to Lord Vishnu. After his death, Vishnu then blessed him with the spiritual form of “Narada” as he eventually and widely became known. In many Hindu scriptures, Narada Muni is considered a Saktyavesa-avatara or partial-manifestation (avatar) of God, empowered to perform miraculous tasks on Lord Vishnu’s behalf.
He is famously known as the first ‘Journalist’ of the Earth and a divine messenger constantly wandering around in all three realms; heaven – Satya to Bhuvar loka, earth – Bhu loka, underworld – Atala to Patala loka, and he gives information to all, the Devas(Gods), the Rakshas(Demons) and the Men (Earthly beings).
Many stories and legends sing to the glory of Narada Muni; about his devotion and bhakti, humor and intellect, kindness and above all the Krishna Consciousness. One of many such tales is about the mindful transformation of Mrigari. Mrigari was a cruel hunter, he half-killed the animals and made them suffer to their death; such was his cruelty. Influenced by the prophecy of Narad Muni he changed his course and developed a compassion for animals; even the ants – as the stories go.
Lord Brahma was enlightened by Sri Krishna, who in turn rendered his knowledge to his Manas-Putra Narad Muni; and Narad Muni to his famous disciple Sri Veda Vyasa. The process is believed to have continued through a chain of successors to the present day; the tales tell.