This is one of the strangest of all Indian myths I have ever come across. It also has some rather remarkable implications. The more one thinks about it the more one gets deeper into a perplexing and reflective state of affairs. I have not seen any dent on this in any of the classical texts. It seems to be either a bardic invention preserved in folk tales, or else part of the enormous amount of spiritual learning that was never trusted to paper but only transmitted from master to disciple. In either case it is unusual and startling enough. I am deliberately refraining from offering an analysis or explanation for this myth feeling that people should ponder its meaning by themselves.
Night, or so the story goes, had a great time during the regular periods of Brahma’s sleep. She had domain over the entire universe and was suitably pleased about it. When the day of creation began she was not unhappy either. For she still had large stretches of time dedicated exclusively to her and men found their deepest rest and refreshment when she spread herself out over the world. She even had tiny lamps set in the sky to watch over sleeping humanity in the starlight.
All would have been well were it not for the attitude of the sun. For at every dawn he would rush out in his fiery chariot and sweep across the sky in a blazing fury that gave Night no time to withdraw herself with grace and peacefulness. The fire of the sun and the hooves of the horses were rendering her garments scorched and tattered and Night was developing a sizzling anger at this cavalier treatment. Finally she could bear it no longer and one evening she refused to spread out her all-enveloping cloak. It was dusk but the sun could not set because Night refused to come out. He had to blaze away without rest and then travel across the sky for the whole day. A few days of this taxing schedule convinced him he was in big trouble too. On earth too men were collapsing all over the place because the restful sleep that night brings was denied to them.
Brahma the creator intervened. He asked night what her grouse was and what could be done to get her to resume active status as it were. Night poured out her complaints against the loutish behavior of the sun and expressed her firm determination not to put up with it any more. Not one more scorch mark was she going to endure. Brahma conceded she had a point but where was she to go. Night refused to stay any longer in the heavens as none of the gods had come to her help when she needed it. She demanded a place on the surface of the earth where the light of day would not harass her. This was impossible for the light reaches everywhere. She could not be housed in the Underworld either as she was sticking to her guns about the surface of the earth. Long ill treatment had soured her and she had become a formidable negative force, which none of the gods cared to go against.
Then Brahma smiled. Of course, there was a perfect place. He spoke thusly.
“Oh Night, you have endured much. We restore you to your pre-eminent position after dusk. You shall reign both within and without, visibly and invisibly. But since your disposition has soured there is only one place on the surface of the earth that can protect you from the rays of the sun who is the symbol of the truth and light. That is the heart of man. You shall lurk within the hearts of men during the day as they turn their backs on the light. You shall be the darkness within, released only when the sun sets.”
This was acceptable to all.
That is why the Shadow has power over men’s hearts even in the brightest light of truth.