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III

THE TUESDAY STORY

ONCE upon a time there was a town called Atpat.[1] In it there lived a bania who had no son. Every day a religious mendicant used to come to his house and call out, "Alms! Alms! In the name of God, give me alms." But when the bania's wife offered him alms he refused them, because she had no children. She told her husband, who advised her to play a trick on the mendicant. She hid behind her door, and as he called out "Alms! alms!" she slipped a gold piece into his wallet. But the mendicant caught her and became very angry. He cursed her and told her that she would always remain without any children. She was terrified and fell at his feet and begged for forgiveness. Then he pitied her and said, "Tell your husband to put on blue clothes, mount a blue horse, and ride into the jungle. He should ride on until he meets a horse. He should then dismount and dig in the ground. He will in the end come to a temple to Parwati. He must pray to her and she will bestow a child on him." When her husband came back she told him what had happened. So he at once put on blue clothes, mounted a blue horse, and rode into the forest. He met the horse, dismounted, and began digging. At last he discovered a temple to Parwati, all of gold, with diamond pillars and a spire made of rubies. Inside was a statue of the goddess, and to it he prayed, saying, "I have houses and cottages, cattle and horses, money and goods of all kinds, but I am very sad because I have no son." The goddess pitied him and asked, "Which will you have, a son who will be good but will die young, or a son who will live long but will be born blind?" The poor bania became greatly perplexed, but at last said, "I choose a son who will be good but will die young." The goddess said, "Very well. Step behind me. There you will find an image of Ganpati. Behind it is a mango tree. Climb upon Ganpati's stomach and pick one mango. Go home and give it to your wife to eat, and your wish will be gratified." Parwati then disappeared. The bania climbed upon Ganpati's stomach and ate as many mangoes as he could. He next filled a large bundle full of mangoes and stepped down. But when he reached the ground he found that there was only one mango in the bundle. He climbed up again and refilled his bundle, but when he stepped down he again found only one mango. This happened three or four times. At last Ganpati got very sore and angry with having his stomach trampled on. So he shouted out, "One mango is all you'll get. So be off home!" The bania was frightened out of his wits and galloped home with his one mango. His wife ate it, and in nine months she presented her husband with a son. When the little boy was eight years old his sacred thread was put on, and his mother said, "It is time to think of his marriage." But the bania said, "I dare not marry him unless he first makes a pilgrimage to Benares." His maternal uncle agreed to take the little boy to Benares.

So off they started together, and some days later the uncle and nephew halted at a village where some little girls were playing. One of the little girls said to the other, "You are nothing but a wretched little widow." But the other little girl said, "Oh no! there are never any widows in our family. Mother worships Parwati and so I can never be a widow." The uncle heard this, and thought that if his nephew could only marry a little girl who could not become a widow, he would not die young. So he began to think how he could bring about the marriage. Now it so happened that the little girl was to be married that day. But in the morning the boy to whom she was betrothed fell ill. Her parents were in great trouble, but at last they thought that, rather than postpone the wedding and disappoint all the guests, it would be better to marry their little daughter to the first traveller who passed through the village. So they went to the rest-house to inquire if any one was there. There they found the uncle and nephew, and they married their little girl to the latter that very evening when the cows were homing. They drew on the wall a picture of Shiva and Parwati, and they put the children to bed beneath it. Parwati appeared to the little girl in her sleep. The goddess said, "My child, a snake will come to bite your husband: give it milk to drink. Then put near it a new earthen jar. When the snake has finished drinking, it will enter the earthen jar. Then at once pull off your bodice and stuff it into the jar's mouth. Next morning give the jar to your mother." Next evening everything happened as Parwati had said. The snake came to bite her husband as he slept. But the little girl offered it milk, which it drank. After drinking, it curled itself up inside the earthen jar, and, the moment it did so, the little girl slipped off her bodice and stuffed it into the mouth of the jar. Next morning her husband gave her a ring, and she in exchange gave him a sweet-dish, and he and his uncle continued their journey to Benares. When they had gone, the little girl gave the earthen jar with the snake inside it to her mother. The mother took out the bodice, but instead of a snake a garland lay inside, and

Deccan Nursery Tales 045.jpg
"IT CURLED ITSELF UP INSIDE THE EARTHEN JAR."

the mother put it round her little daughter's neck. Some weeks passed, but neither uncle nor nephew returned. So the little girl's parents grew anxious. The sick boy who was to have been her husband recovered, but she could no longer marry him, and the boy whom she had married had gone away and might never return. In despair the parents built a house, in which they entertained every traveller who passed by, hoping that sooner or later one of the travellers would prove to be their daughter's husband. To all of them the mother gave water; the daughter washed their feet; her brother gave them sandal-wood paste; and her father gave them betel-nut. But it was all in vain; none of the travellers' fingers fitted the ring given to the little girl by her husband, nor could any of them produce the sweet-dish which she had given him in exchange.

In the meantime the uncle and nephew had reached Benares and had given large sums in charity, and had visited all the holy places and had received the blessings of all the Brahmans. One day the little boy fainted. And in a dream he saw the messenger of Yama, the god of death, come close to him as if to carry him off. Next he saw the goddess Parwati come to his rescue and, after a struggle, drive away Yama's messenger. When the boy woke up he told the dream to his uncle. The latter was overjoyed because he felt certain that now the boy would no longer die young. He told his nephew to get ready, and next day they left Benares. On their way home they passed by the village where the nephew had been married. As they were having breakfast near the village tank, a maid-servant invited them to come to the house which the girl's parents had built for the reception of travellers. At first the uncle declined, but when a palki was sent for them, he and his nephew entered it. When the little girl began to wash her husband's feet, she recognised him. She tried on the ring, which fitted his finger, and he in turn showed her the sweet-dish which she had given him. The parents were as pleased as possible, and they sent a messenger to invite the boy's parents. They came, and the boy's mother threw herself at her daughter-in-law's feet and thanked her for saving her son. Then there was a great feast and everybody was very happy indeed, and at the end they all worshipped Parwati,[2] so she became as pleased as everybody else.

  1. All these stories take place in Atpat town. This literally means "City Splendid." But in the tales it is simply a fabulous city.
  2. Although Tuesday is really the day of Mara, Mangal, this tale by a popular error connects the day with Mangalgauri or Parwati, Shiva's wife.