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Page:Deccan Nursery Tales.djvu/158

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Brahman woman began to cry, until at last the hobgoblin's wife had pity on her and said, "Do not be afraid; walk a little way until you come to an altar to the god Shiva. Close by is a bel [1] tree; climb into it and hide among the branches. To-night the serpent-maidens from Patala and the wood-nymphs, together with a train of seven demon Asuras, [2] will come and worship at the altar. After making their offerings to the god, they will call out, "Is there any uninvited guest present to whom we can make a gift?" You must then call out in reply, "Yes, I am here." They will see you and question you, and you must tell them all your story." The poor Brahman woman agreed. She walked on until she came to the god Shiva's altar. She climbed into the branches of the bel tree. She remained there until midnight came. Suddenly the serpent-maidens from Patala and the wood-nymphs, accompanied by a

  1. A tree sacred to Shiva.
  2. The Asuras, who are now reckoned petty demons, had once upon a time a much higher position. They are the same as Ahura-Magda, the Jupiter of the Iranians. The latter, curiously enough, degraded the Devas or Hindu Gods to the subordinate place of demons. (Cf. Rawlinson's Bactria, page 21.)