Deccan Nursery Tales/The Monday Story



Once upon a time there was a town called Atpat. In it there lived a very saintly king. One day he formed the wish to fill the shrine of Shiva, the moon-god, with milk up to the ceiling. He consulted his chief minister, and the latter sent a crier through Atpat ordering, under terrible penalties, all the townspeople to bring every Monday all the milk in their houses and offer it to the god Shiva. The townspeople were frightened at the threatened punishments, and the next Monday they brought all the milk in Atpat to Shiva's shrine, not keeping a drop for their calves or even for their children. But although all the milk in Atpat was every Monday poured into Shiva's shrine, it yet did not become full to the ceiling. But one day an old woman came to the shrine. She had done all her housework. She had fed all the children and had bathed all her little daughters-in-law. Then she took a few drops of milk, a little sandal-wood paste, and a few flowers, and half-a-dozen grains of rice and went to worship at Shiva's shrine. She prayed to Shiva, "The little milk that I can offer is not likely to fill your shrine, seeing that all the milk offered by the king could not. Nevertheless I offer the milk with all my heart." She then got up and went back to her house. Then a strange thing happened. Directly the old woman turned her back, the shrine filled with milk right up to the ceiling. The priests ran and told the king, but none of them could say how it happened. The following Monday the king placed a soldier by the door; and again the old woman came and worshipped, and again the shrine filled with milk to the ceiling. The soldier ran and told the king, but could not explain the cause. The third Monday the king himself went and watched by the shrine. From his hiding-place he saw the old woman come up and noticed that the shrine filled with milk immediately after she had worshipped. He ran after her and caught her. The old woman begged the king to spare her life, and this he promised to do if she told the truth. She said, "O King! you ordered all the milk in Atpat to be brought to Shiva's shrine. But what was the result? All the calves began lowing and all the children began crying, because they could get no milk. And all the grown-up people were so worried by the noise that they did not know what to do. Shiva was displeased at this, so He would not let the shrine fill. This, therefore, is what you should do. Let the children and the calves have their milk. Then take whatever is over to the shrine, and it will at once fill up to the ceiling." The king let the old woman go, and had it proclaimed by beat of drum that the townspeople were to bring to the shrine on the following Monday only the milk remaining after the children and the calves had been fed. The townspeople were delighted. The children stopped crying and the calves stopped lowing, and all the milk left by them was brought to Shiva's shrine. The king prayed long and earnestly, and when he looked up he saw that the shrine was full right up to the ceiling. He gave the old woman a handsome present. And she went back to her home, and she did her housework, and then she bathed all her little daughters and all her little daughters-in-law.