Updated: Dec 12, 2020
“Let’s do a swap!”
I am sure, more than often, this thought must have crossed many minds. And, why not? What is more fun and exciting than switching places with your doppelganger and get rid of your own dull and mundane life? I reckon that is precisely why this idiom was fixed- “Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. And the best part is that no one would know that it is you. It’s like living someone else’s life but in your own skin!!!
“Doppelgangers” in fiction tales…
Most fiction writers are attracted to write stories on ‘twins’ and ‘doppelgangers’ for the basic roller-costar adventure that ensues in the story when a ‘swap’ happens. While the beginning of the story might seem very thrilling when the doppelgangers are busy enjoying the best parts of each other’s lives. It is only after the ‘dark secrets’ are revealed, which were until then left unsaid by the doppelgangers, both of them are pushed into the world of unknown.
The best fiction story that I can recall that revolves around the idea of “doppelgangers” is “The Prince and the Pauper” written by American author Mark Twain. The narrative is a perfect blend of adventure and drama.
A story of two young boys- Tom and Edward- born on the same day and identical in appearance. But their lives were poles apart. While Tom was a pauper born to an alcoholic man, Edward was born into a royal family and was next in line to the throne. Destiny fixed an abrupt meeting of the two boys and they decided to switch places with each other.
While it is very easy to grasp why Tom would have wanted to swap because he was lured to sheen of royalty. But what reason did Edward have to switch places with a street urchin? Sometimes, too much of anything could make one feel sick. Edward wanted to experience life outside the protected walls of the palace and away from the peering eyes of those preceptors who would constantly set rules for him.
Anyways, as it is said, “All that glitters is not gold”, the pleasant adventure soon turned out to be a nightmare for both the boys.
Existence of “doppelgangers” in Hindu Mythology…
Recently, I was reading the “Markandeya Purana” translated by Bibek Debroy. I came across a very interesting story of Samjna (pronounced as Samgya) who is the wife of Vaivasvat, the Sun God according to Hindu Mythology.
Story of Sun God and his wife
Samjna was happily married to the Sun God and has three children (two sons and a daughter) with the lord. However, many moons later, Samjna, was unable to tolerate the intense and scorching heat of the Sun God. It was almost like her skin was on fire. After a lot of deep thinking, she found a way to escape her husband’s heat. Samjna created a woman using her own shadow who looked exactly like Samjna. This doppelganger was called “Chhaya” which means “shadow”. Samjna instructed Chhaya to take her place while she went to meet her old father.
In due course of time, Samjna spent her time with her father while Chhaya portrayed the role of a faithful wife and a dutiful mother to Samjna’s three children. All was peaceful and the Sun God did not recognize Chhaya. The couple had three children (two sons and a daughter).
However, as time elapsed, Chhaya turned very selfish and loved her own children more than Samjna’s children. Samjna’s eldest son, however, forgave Chhaya but the second son did not. The second son began contemplating- how can a mother’s love distinguish between her own children? Unable to rein his surging fury, the son, kicked Chhaya on her chest. He even brought Chhaya’s self-seeking and partial behavior in the eye of the Sun God. Up in the arms, Chhaya too cursed the boy that the foot which he used to kick her will fall down.
The Sun God took matters into his own hands. He threatened Chhaya to tell him the whereabouts of his wife Samjna. Shivering like a soaked kitten, terrified of the consequences of Sun God’s curse, Chhaya immediately told the Sun God that Samjna had gone to visit her old father. And that she was only doing what Samjna had instructed her to do.
The Sun God left to bring his beloved wife back home. However, Samjna was not at her father’s house. Sun God did not give up. He went in search of his beloved, wandering around on the earth, searching every nook and corner…
Did the Sun God find his wife Samjna again? Did Samjna return to her husband happily?
What became of Chhaya and her children after the truth was revealed? Were they accepted by the Sun God? Were they given due respect of a wife and children?
Did the second son of samjna grow his foot back again?
I’ll leave you to find these answers.