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The Power of Truth

Dear Readers,

It’s a long time since my last story…

Now, I bring to you, a folk tale from my own state, Tamilnadu.

Long long ago in the present state of Tamilnadu, there lived a young man by name Perumal. Perumal was extremely intelligent but very lazy and had fallen into bad company in his childhood. As a result he was an expert thief whose every word was a lie. He drank a lot and gambled and had all the bad habits of which he was not a wee bit ashamed.

Perumal’s parents had died when he was only three years old and he had been brought up by his paternal grandmother, the only person who was very fond of him and the only person whom he was very fond of. She loved her grandson so much that in spite of his having all the bad habits, she never reprimanded him.

On the back of her mind though, she was much worried about Perumal’s future especially with the recent taking over of the prince as the new king of their kingdom. The prince was known for his honesty, bravery and intelligence.

“What if my Perumal gets caught red handed one day?” the old lady used to worry. “What if he is given capital punishment by this new king?” The very thought sent chills down her spine. She had no one to look after her and could not imagine a life alone. She shuddered to think of her grandson spending his whole life behind bars or being banished to some distant land where he would have no one. In those days banishing one to some far off land or island was a common punishment.

“I will have to start reforming this boy” she thought to herself, knowing that this was not going to be an easy task at all. She pondered on this thought for a few days and one day after Perumal had come back to his house after way-laying and robbing some tourists, she slowly broached the topic. She talked of how important it was to give up all the bad habits and seek a proper job and live a normal life. She went on and on, while Perumal was listening half-heartedly. He knew that she was speaking with genuine love and concern for him and he could not bring himself to say a flat “No” to what she was saying.

As he was fighting a mental dilemma of what to counter her with, as if striking a deal, she said, “Well, my grandson, let us do things one at a time, okay? As a first step, you stop telling lies. You will speak only the truth from tomorrow, okay?”

Perumal was sort of relieved that she was ending her sermon, and with no other option, agreed to her condition.

Over the next few days, Perumal went about stealing and robbing as usual. The next day was a new moon day and the new king who was known for his bravery, decided to go for rounds in the city at night.

New moon nights were days of bonanza for Perumal as he could rob more due to the absence of moonlight. In those days electricity was unknown, and street lamps would be lit with oil and would go off once the oil was exhausted. So Perumal had started late at night and was roaming around deciding where to strike.

The king sporting a beard and a cloth covering his whole face except his eyes was coming on his horse and at the same time Perumal was also coming out of a bush nearby. The quick eye of the king caught Perumal and Perumal also saw him and hesitated for a moment as he was on a horse.

“Hey you!” shouted the king, dismounting from his horse, “who are you, where are you from and what are you doing in this late hour of the night huh?”

Perumal remembered his Grandma’s instruction on speaking the truth and said, “My name is Perumal and I am a robber. I live in the outskirts of this city and I am out for doing my work”.

The king was amused by this straightforward answer and decided to entertain himself. He said, “Well young man, if you want some real wealth, I can tell you where it is inside the palace and I can also show you the way in avoiding the security guards. Are you interested?” Perumal jumped at the idea. “Yes, yes, tell me” he said enthusiastically. The king took him behind the palace where there was a small trap door on the compound wall about which only the king knew.

“Go in through this door” he said pointing to the door. “Go around alongside the wall so that you will not be spotted by any one. When you reach the other side, there is a long rope hanging from a balcony. Climb up with the help of the rope and you will reach the window of the king’s chamber. Next to the King’s chamber there is a room with an almirah. You can take anything you want from there. Now go! I shall wait for you here”

Perumal also followed the instruction of the king and an expert robber he was, reached the room with ease. He opened the almirah and found some expensive clothes and pairs of sandals. He rummaged under them and found a box with three diamonds, nice and big, shining and sparkling. “Oh my luck! These would be worth so much of money” he thought. As he was going to take all the three, he stopped for a moment. “Will I need all the three? No, I think even one will fetch a large sum of money”.

With such thoughts crossing his mind, he finally kept one diamond back in the box and took the two diamonds. “I will give one to the fellow who helped me” he decided. He left the box open in the top shelf of the cupboard. The clothes and sandals which had also fallen down while he was rummaging the shelves, lay on the floor. The door of the almirah was left wide open.

He successfully came out unnoticed by the guards through the secret door and true to his word, the king was waiting in the same spot.

“Thank you my friend” said Perumal smiling at the king. “I found these… in a box in the almirah. Here, keep one for helping me” The king was pleasantly surprised at his magnanimity and asked him, “Were there only two diamonds in the box?”

Perumal, remembering his grandma’s instruction to speak truth and said “No, there were three of them. I thought of taking them all but then, thought that one was enough for me, but took another one for you and left one in the box”

The king took the diamond, thanked Perumal and said he had some urgent work and rode away. Perumal did not suspect anything and thanking his stars, went home.

The king, on reaching his chamber went to the room and checked the box and true, there was one diamond left. He left the things as they were.

Early in the morning, the maid who came to clean the room, saw the almirah open and many clothes and sandals fallen down. Shocked,she raised an alarm. She went and told the king who was in the next room that she suspected a theft.

The king acted surprised and called for his minister.

“Go and see what has been stolen from the almirah!” he ordered the minister as the minister went to check. He saw the open box kept on the top shelf with one diamond in it. He was aware of the three diamonds which had been gifted by another visiting king. He thought to himself, “What a fool the thief is! He has left one of the valuable diamonds behind!”

Now, this minister was not a man of integrity and another thought crossed his mind. “The King does not know what is stolen and so if I take this diamond and accuse the thief of stealing this diamond also, the king will not know. And if and when the thief is caught, the king will not believe him even if he tells the truth also, for the king will never believe a thief”.

Thinking so, he slowly looked around and there was no one to be seen. He quickly took the diamond and hid it in his belt.

He came rushing back to the king and said, “Your Highness! Nothing other than the three diamonds which were gifted to you, have been stolen. The thief should be flogged in public and banished from the country! Such audacity to rob from the king’s almirah! Hmph… The security guards should also be dismissed.”

“Did you see properly?” the king asked.”Is anything else missing?”

“Yes I did” lied the minister, ignorant of the king’s knowledge of the happening.

The king was seething with anger at the minister’s dishonesty knowing that it was he who had taken the third diamond. He called out to the guards.

“Go to the outskirts of the city and ask for a young man by name Perumal and bring him here right now!” he ordered.

The minister stood there not able to figure out what was happening.

In a short while, Perumal was brought in front of the king. He was terrified and stood before the king with his hands folded.

“Come on, narrate what happened yesterday night” commanded the king.

Perumal narrated the whole story truthfully without any hesitation.

The people around were surprised and the courtiers and minister had by now understood that the ‘man’ who Perumal told about was none other than the king.

The king loosened his cummerbund (a large cloth tied around the waist) and took out something and there it was, the second shining diamond!

“Search this minister!” the king ordered the guards. The minister was taken by surprise and the guards found the third diamond hidden between the cloth belt and the fold of his dhoti. The minister was shivering in fear.

“Well,” said the king, his eyes red with anger, “You had told me what punishment is to be given to the thief and the same shall be given to you! From today Perumal shall be my minister… till such time he speaks only the truth”

Perumal looked on with surprise and was overwhelmed at the luck which had come to him following his decision to speak the truth. With tears of joy, he thanked the king and promised to be truthful till he lived.

“Now, I want to tell another truth your highness!” he said to the king. “The truth is, everyone makes mistakes, just as I was living the life of a thief. Therefore everyone deserves a second chance. Hence it is my sincere advice that the punishment to the minister should be restricted to banishment for a few years. Let him be spared of the flogging. If he repents and changes, he can come back and it is for you to accept him or not”

The king agreed and Perumal became his able minister and lived a happy, truthful life thereafter.

Purandaradasa- Sangeeta Pitamaha

Dear Readers, it’s been over a month since my last story. Here I am once again, and this time I am going to narrate the story of Saint Purandaradasa. Before we go to the story, let us see some historical facts.

This saint lived in the period 1480 AD (or 84) to 1564 AD. He is believed to have born in a place called Purandaragadh near Pune (though latest research suggests that he was born in Karnataka at a place called Tirthahalli in Shivamogga district). He spent the last part of his life in Hampi just before the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Purandaradasa is considered to be one of the chief proponents of South Indian Classical music and has structured the basic exercises for learning of Carnatic music. He was a prolific composer of Bhakti literature and his songs were classified as Dasa Sahitya and they were woven around the Madhwa philosophy. But how did Purandaradasa become a saint? It is the story we are going to see.

Varadappa Nayaka was a reputed diamond merchant who lived with his wife Leelavathi. Though a great businessman, he sadly did not have the joy of having a child for many long years.

After many years of prayer to the Lord Sreenivasa of Tirupati, he was blessed with a baby boy whom he named Sreenivasa Nayaka. Sreenivasa Nayaka was given a good education and he gained proficiency in Kannada, Sanskrit and music. When he came of marriageable age (which was about 16 in those days), he was married to one Lakshmamma in accordance with his family customs. Lakshmamma was very pious and God fearing in addition to being very generous and charitable.

Years went by and Sreenivasa, by assisting his father at work, gained good knowledge of the business of diamonds and gemstones. When he was twenty years old, his parents passed away one after the other and he was left to inherit the huge diamond business built by his father. In due course, Sreenivasa and Lakshmamma were the proud parents of four children.

A shrewd businessman , as he was, Sreenivasa Nayaka managed the business very well and was in no time much more prosperous than his father was, and thereby came to be known as “Navakoti Narayana” literally meaning the Narayana owning nine crores worth of assets. But as his business empire grew, his humaneness shrunk in direct proportion and soon people were talking on how miserly he was. His nature was in total contrast to his wife’s nature. He would never part with one coin towards charity.

Though Lakshmamma knew about it and felt very bad, there was nothing she could do about this.

One day an elderly brahman from a nearby village wearing tattered clothes came to the shop of Sreenivasa.

On seeing him Sreenivasa knew that he had not come to buy or sell diamonds in his so but to seek alms.

As expected, the man slowly approached him and said, “Sir, I am planning to conduct the thread ceremony of my son and require some money for it. May I request you to please give me whatever financial help you can? I will certainly repay the amount”.

There was so much hesitation on the man’s face and shame felt by the man in seeking alms was very evident. He was genuinely poor and required help and it was apparent that he had no other way out.

Sreenivasa in his arrogance did not even look at him and said, “Is this the time to come and ask for alms? Can’t you see I am busy? Hmph… Come tomorrow”

The man with his head hung walked away without saying a word. He again came the next day. Sreenivasa pretended not to even see him and after a long time looked at him and told him the same answer as the previous day.

The man went back and kept coming back almost every day for nearly six months only to get the same reply from Sreenivasa.

When the man came next, Sreenivasa decided to tease him even more and took out a fake gold coin he used to play with, in his childhood and gave it to the man with a cynical smile and said, “I think this will be enough to meet your financial need. Now, go away from here and don’t come back again and disturb me”

The man knowing that it was a cheap coin was distraught at insult being added to injury, left the place with his head hung in shame and tears in his eyes.

As he was passing by Sreenivasa’s house in the next street, he saw Lakshmamma sitting in the verandah of the house cleaning some grain. She looked so graceful and divine like a goddess and her eyes were flowing with benevolence. The man did not know it was Sreenivasa’s wife and felt that she would certainly help him out. He hesitantly walked towards the house, the coin in hand.

Lakshmamma looked up and true to her nature, stood up and welcomed the man.

“Welcome Sir!” she said with a sweet smile. Not waiting for his reply, she quickly went into the house and came with a small pot of water for him to wash his legs.

“Please wash your legs and come in. It is so hot outside” she said.

The man whose mind was soothed by her words, washed his legs and went in. She offered him a seat served him with a glass of cool water and casually enquired about him since she knew he was not from this village.

The man, as though waiting to pour out his grief almost cried while narrating his tale of woe not knowing that the lady to whom he was speaking was the wife of the ‘villain’ he was talking about.

Lakshmamma though, realised that it was her husband he was talking about and was pained at the behaviour of her husband. She felt very distressed at the old man’s plight.

“I wish I could help you Sir!” she said with real concern in her voice. “I am only concerned at what my husband would say, as he is not here at the moment….”

The man understood her hesitation and said, “I appreciate your intention Amma, but is there not anything you can give me without asking your husband?”

Lakshmamma thought for a while and suddenly her face lit up. She removed her diamond nose ring.

“Don’t worry Sir, here is my diamond nose ring. This was given to me by my parents and so I can gift it to you. Please sell this and conduct your son’s thread ceremony”

The nose ring had eight diamonds in it.The man was taken by surprise at her generosity which seemed to have no bounds. He looked at her with reluctance. But she was insistent. Not able to refuse, the man took the ring and wrapped it carefully in a piece of cloth he had in his bag and thanking her profusely, left the place.

And where did he go to? Straight to Sreenivasa’s shop! Sreenivasa was examining some diamond and when he chanced to look up, he was surprised to see the same old man coming back but there was an air of confidence about him which puzzled Sreenivasa.

Before Sreenivasa could utter a word, the man said, “Sir, I have not come to beg you for money but to either pledge or sell this diamond ring”. So saying, he carefully pulled out the cloth packet and took out the dazzling diamond nose ring.

The moment Sreenivasa saw it, he recognised the ring. When he enquired about it, the man told him that a ‘noble hearted lady’ had gifted it to him. Knowing who the ‘noble hearted lady’ was, Sreenivasa took the ring and put it in the cash draw in a silver cup,locked the draw and stuffed the keys in the secret pocket in the fold of the dhoti in his waist.

He told the man, “This has to be valued and only then I can give money to you. It is lunch time now and I am going home for lunch. Wait here till I come back”. Seething with anger, he stomped out of the shop and rushed to his home, making the man wonder why he was so angry. The man settled down in the verandah of the shop waiting for Sreenivasa.

Back home, Sreenivasa’s suspicion was confirmed when he saw that the nose ring was missing on Lakshmamma’s nose. Lakshmamma also noticed that he was glancing at her nose and knew that she was in for big trouble.

“Lakshmamma,” he said in an angry voice, “Where is your nose ring huh?”

“Er…. mm… I….. I…. have removed it… since… I took oil bath today….” Her faltering speech in a trembling voice was enough to give her away.

“You are lying aren’t you??” shouted Sreenivasa, his eyes red with anger. “Go… and bring the nose ring from wherever you have kept it and show it to me now!”

Lakshmamma who had never ever lied in her life and who had always lived as per Sreenivasa’s whims and fancies was terrified at the thought of her fate when Sreenivasa would know the truth.

“It is better to die than to suffer this insult”, she thought to herself and went and stood in front of the altar in their house. She poured out some poison in a small silver cup and kept it in front of her favourite Lord Krishna. With her eyes tightly shut and tears streaming from the eyes, she was mentally pleading with Krishna to forgive her for the sin committed by her and telling him that she would repent for it by giving her life.

After a few minutes of this intense prayer, calming down, she took the cup of poison, ready to drink it and when she just lifted it near her chin, there was this sound ‘clink’. Something seemed to have fallen into the cup. The puzzled Lakshmamma looked into the cup and lo and behold! The nose ring was in the cup of poison gleaming. Startled and pleasantly surprised at this turn of events, Lakshmamma quickly controlled her emotions, thanking her Krishna profusely in her mind, took the ring out, washed it in water and wiped her tears and went to the hall to Sreenivasa who was waiting impatiently for the ring.

“Here it is!” said she, not daring to look into his eyes and dropped the ring on his extended palm.

Now it was Sreenivasa’s turn to be shocked. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the ring. It was the very same ring which he had locked in the cash draw half an hour back. Unwittingly his right hand was reaching the secret pocket in the folds of his dhoti to check for the keys and the keys were there intact. So where did this ring come from?

Bewildered beyond words, Sreenivasa, without saying a word literally ran back to his shop holding the ring tightly with his fist closed. As soon as he entered the shop, he tried to pull open the draw thinking that he might have forgotten to lock it. But it was locked. Taking out the keys with a trembling hand, he opened the draw and the jewel was missing. The cup was very much there but the ring was not.

Confused and almost mad at what was happening, Sreenivasa rushed home once again and Lakshmamma was anxiously waiting at the door.

Suddenly it struck to Sreenivasa, that this was not humanly possible. Visibly shocked for words, he stuttered and asked her, “Tell me, what is happening. Are you doing some magic??

Lakshmamma started sobbing and told him all that had happened. He was totally perplexed. This power of devotion or Bhakti of his wife was matchless! He could not bring himself to believe that the all-encompassing divinity was so submissive to her devotion.

And that one surreal moment was the trigger for the miserly Sreenivasa Nayaka to transform into a saint. Something changed in him suddenly. He was not the miserly diamond merchant anymore. He had realised that it was the Lord Krishna who was in each and every atom of this universe and the claims of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ were meaningless. He would give up everything of his and become the ‘Dasa’ (servant) of Hari, who was indeed the Lord of the Universe. He ran to the shop to fall at the feet of the man who he knew was Krishna but the man had vanished!

The very next day, he called his friends gave up all his wealth and belongings to them and left the place with his wife and family to live a saintly life travelling to the abodes of Lord Krishna, seeking alms by singing the glory of the Lord.

It is said that in his wanderings he met the saint Vyasatirtha who advocated Madhwacharya’s teachings and it is believed that he gave a formal initiation to him and bestowed him with the name “Purandaradasa”. Purandaradasa also travelled extensively through the length and breadth of the then Vijayanagara Empire. He was a contemporary of Saint Kanaka Dasa as well.

Purandaradasa, played a great role in systematizing Carnatic music, the way it is sung today. He introduced the Raga Mayamalavagoula as the basic scale for studying music at beginner’s level. He also brought in a series of graded lessons for the beginners which is followed even this day. In addition to this he also composed thousands of hymns on Lord Vishnu and many of his hymns are highly popular to this day. He used the phrase ‘Purandara Vitthala” as his signature in the hymns he composed.

In his last years, he settled at Hampi and sang in Emperor Krishnadeveraya’s durbar. He died at the age of eighty in 1564.

Being a student of music, I feel greatly honoured to narrate this story in my own words as I have heard it and may Lord Krishna bless us all!

The Legend of Holika Dahan

The festival of Holi was celebrated with much gaiety and fervour a few days ago, all over India. I am also happy to inform you that tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of this blog of mine, and to celebrate both, I bring to you the Legend of Holika Dahan which is done on the eve of Holi.

This legend is associated with Prahalad, the  youngest of the four sons of Hiranyakashipu. The story of Prahalad is present in the Srimad Bhagavatham (of which few stories are available in this blog) but  this legend associating him to the of Holika Dahan is not mentioned explicitly, though it mentions that Hiranyakashipu tried to burn him alive. However, this legend has come to stay as the reason for Holika Dahan, which symbolises victory over evil, and that is all matters.

Long long ago, the earth was ruled by an Asura king by name Hiranyakashipu. The story of who Hiranyakashipu was in his earlier life can be known by clicking this link.

Now, Hiranyakashipu had demonic qualities predominantly. His arrogant attitude and hatred towards the gods was furthered by his brother Hiranyaksha having been killed by the Lord Vishnu.  Driven by the single-minded thought of conquering the gods, he had done a lot of penance. His selfish motive of becoming the unchallenged monarch of the earth was achieved by this penance, and he had managed to get a strange boon of almost impossible death for himself.

Drunk with power and arrogance, knowing that nobody could kill him, his rule soon became a rule of terror, aggression and cruelty as he found joy in harassing all the living creatures. When he saw that all were frightened by him, his arrogance knew no bounds and he thought himself to be the God. He declared that he was indeed God and all should chant his name only.

There was no wonder that he was feared by all but there was one exception to this.

That one exception was his noble little son Prahalad. Prahalad, though very young was a spiritually advanced soul and strangely did not possess even a wee bit of demonic qualities. He was deeply attached to Lord Vishnu and firmly believed in Him. Hiranyakashipu did not attach much importance to his son’s attitude initially as he thought that he was influenced by Lord Vishnu’s devotees who may be meeting him in disguise. But as the boy was growing up, it pained Hiranyakashipu to see his son not mixing with boys of his age but preferring to meditate and pray all the time. He appointed special tutors Chanda and Amarka to educate Prahalad. He told them to isolate Prahalad and keep him at their home with them and see that he is not influenced by anyone else.

“Teach him all that is to be taught ” he said to the tutors. “And make him understand that I am GOD”, he would say, in a thundering voice. “If he has to chant, let him chant MY name”

The tutors nodded their heads, but in no time, found that Prahalad was not an ordinary child. He seemed to be knowing everything even before they taught him.

“Come on Prahalada, chant your father’s name”, they would say for which the boy, with a smile would appear to comply, but the chant would be “Om Namo Narayanaya”. The tutors could not punish the boy as he was the son of their king, but they tried to threaten him with punishment to make him comply to their instructions. They used the methods of ‘sama dana bedha’ as they tried their level best to make him chant his father’s name. But in return they would get to listen to a lecture by Prahalad, on the virtues of being devoted to Lord Narayana. In fact, the lecture would be so beautiful and convincing that they were afraid that their convictions would be wiped out by their interactions with him.

Their efforts though, went on continuously, but Prahalad always chanted the name of Lord Narayana. In fact, Prahalad created uncomfortable moments for them by chanting the name of Lord Narayana in front of his father when the father came on inspection when the classes were going on.

Initially, Hiranyakashipu found fault with the tutors for not prevailing upon his son, but soon understood that his son was a hard nut to crack.

He called for the tutors and asked them, “What do you think should be done to make this boy give up his stupid devotion to that wretched Narayana huh?”

The tutors said, “Your Majesty, we have tried the methods of Sama – telling him in a nice manner that he should only look upon you as God, Dana- enticing him with rewards to recite your name, Bedha – comparing him with the other children of his age who chant as they are taught to. However, your Majesty, we have not and cannot use the method of Danda which is punishment and only you can give him” They bowed their heads in fear of the ruthless king.

“Then punish him!” Hiranyakashipu roared.

“Come on! Let this child be trampled by elephants!”

The order was carried out, but when the elephants came near Prahalad who was in a trance-like state chanting the name of Narayana, the elephants could see only the Lord Narayana in his place and therefore, they bowed and moved away.

A furious Hiranyakashipu tried other methods such as throwing the child into the sea and hurtling him from atop a mountain cliff but the child came out unscathed always, thanks to his divine saviour.

Hiranyakashipu lost his patience. His son outwitting him with the help of his ‘God’  Narayana was unbearable. Just then he remembered his evil sister Holika. Holika had the boon of not getting burnt in the wildest of fires.

“Ha, now this boy cannot escape!” thought Hiranyakashipu. “I will ask Holika to keep him on her lap and enter fire so that he will be burnt alive and my sister can come out of the fire after that.”

He called for his sister who was ever obedient to him. She was already aware of the child’s ‘impudence’ in refusing to recite the name of her mighty brother.

“I am ready to do anything for you brother!” said Holika on hearing his order.

A huge pit was dug and piles of firewood were put in it. A hanging platform was fabricated over the pit and Holika sat on it with Prahalad on her lap. Prahalad shone like a full moon in the dark night. His lips were ever chanting the name of the all-pervading Narayana.

Hiranyakashipu, who had been driven to being so cruel to satisfy his ego, came to watch his son being burnt. The logs in the pit were lit and shortly the fire was raging. Initially it looked as if Holika was not hurt by the fire but suddenly she realised that the flames were happily licking her with great hunger. It was then, she remembered that the boon she had got was supposed to work only if she entered the fire alone.

“Haa… ha…. ha….” Holika screamed, writhing in agony as the fire was swallowing her. She was seated and could not get up as she would fall in the burning pit.  But the little child Prahalad, still remained calm and serene and strangely the flames were not touching him.

Hiranyakashipu stared in awe and disbelief.

Holika was totally burnt and suddenly there was a heavy downpour putting out the fire and Prahalad was saved yet again.

It is believed that the day on which Holika was burnt, is celebrated as Holika Dahan, banishing the negativity and bad thoughts as quickly as the fire consumed the evil Holika.  The next day Holi is celebrated with beautiful colours and sweets to usher in positive energy, good thoughts and joyful moments.

I will soon post the full story of Prahalad as it is narrated in the Bhagavatham.

Birbal Outwitted

It’s a long time since I wrote on Akbar and Birbal and so I am giving a short and sweet tale of Birbal’s sharp intelligence.

Once, there was some argument between Akbar and Birbal over some issue and Akbar shouted at Birbal and said, “Don’t ever show your face to me again!”. Poor Birbal did not retort as he walked out with a red face. Of course, Akbar did not mean it when he told Birbal not to show his face again, but Birbal, this time wanted to make the king realise that he could not shout at anyone just because he was wielding power, and so without informing anybody, he went away to live in hiding in a nearby village.

The next day Birbal did not turn up in the court. Akbar did not give much thought to it since he knew Birbal would be angry. “He will come tomorrow!” he said to himself, smiling. But Birbal did not turn up the next day as well, and the next and the next.

Akbar was worried and sent a messenger to Birbal’s home but the messenger brought a message that Birbal had gone away even without informing his family, which was indeed true. His family members were also anxious about his whereabouts but had not dared to ask the king, as Birbal had told them about the argument.

Now Akbar was more worried. He felt bad about having shouted so badly and now he found no way to get his favourite minister back. The courtiers who were jealous of Birbal were very happy. “Good riddance!!” they chuckled to themselves. “Now the king will ask us for suggestions instead of asking that cheeky Birbal” they thought. But Akbar was missing his intelligent friend badly and could not find a way to locate him. Somehow, it occurred to him that Birbal would not have gone away to a very far place.

Ten days passed and now Akbar was desperate to see Birbal’s face and hear his witty anecdotes. He thought for a long time and came up with an idea. After all he had been with Birbal for so many years and had imbibed some of Birbal’s qualities.

Few days later, there was an announcement in the city and the suburbs by the security guards. In those days, there were no newspapers or television or such media and announcements had to be made by persons in a loud voice, and to attract the attention of the people, they would usually come beating drums and stand in a public place and make the announcement.

“Dum dum dum dum”

“Hear O People of this kingdom!” said the man who was making the announcement in a loud voice. “Our Emperor, His Royal Highness Akbar Sultan has announced a competition for all. The winner of the competition will be given a hundred gold mohurs”

Now, ‘mohur’ was the name of the coins issued by various kings from the sixteenth century in India. A gold ‘mohur’ was the coin in gold and used to weigh about 10 to12 grams.

All the people gathered there were curious. “A hundred mohurs??” said one. “Then it must be very difficult task” said another. “What is the occasion for this competition?” asked yet another. At the same time, each one jostled with the other to come nearer the announcer and hear the details. When many had gathered around him, the announcer continued, beating his drum.

“Dum dumara dum dumara dum”

“The Emperor has announced that anyone who can walk one hundred metres in the sun and the shade at the same time will get one hundred mohurs. Whosoever wants to compete may come walking day after tomorrow and meet the emperor”

“Dum dumara dum dumara dum”

The people looked at each other puzzled. “Who can walk in the sun and shade at the same time? What sort of contest is this?” they murmured to themselves, looking disappointed that they could not get the prize announced by Akbar.

The crowd melted away as the announcer went to the next spot to announce the same contest.

On the appointed day Akbar was holding his court in the open courtyard under a makeshift pandal(shamiana), wondering if his idea to locate Birbal would work out. The court was almost over and it was going to be one o clock and Akbar was looking up now and then hoping that someone would take part in the contest and come to him.

Suddenly from afar, he saw a queer sight. A man was walking towards him, carrying a cot made of rope.(It is called ‘charpai’ in Hindi). As Akbar peered at him, the courtiers also turned around to see what had caught the attention of the emperor.

The man walked and came and stood in front of the pandal , in the sun but he was still holding the cot aloft with both his hands over his head. He seemed to be a very poor man as it was seen from his tattered clothing and bare feet.

To the puzzled emperor, he said in a weak voice, “Huzoor! I heard of the contest you had announced. I am very much in need of money and therefore I have participated in this”. The emperor and the onlookers were still puzzled when he continued, “Huzoor, look at me. I am in the sun and shade at the same time! Will you give me the promised prize??”

It was only then that all noticed that the sun was shining on him through the rope cot and therefore the shade of the rope was also falling on him.

Akbar was truly amused at this idea. But he knew that none other than Birbal could have thought of this and so he asked him, “Is it your idea or did any one else give you this idea? Tell the truth”.

The man replied “Huzoor, an elderly traveller has come two weeks back and is staying in my neighbour’s house in my village and when I was telling my friend about this contest, it was he who gave the idea, but anyway told me to take the prize money if I won, as he is well placed already it seems”

Akbar smiled to himself and said to the man “Well, you are the only contestant and I will give you the money for the smart idea, but I want to see the fellow who gave you this idea. So, go with my guard on horseback and bring that person here”

The man could not disobey and went with the guard and Akbar was waiting without even taking his food as he was eager to know if his idea was going to bring back Birbal to him. True to his expectation, in about half an hour the person returned with his ‘elderly traveller’ and the man was none other than Birbal!

The emperor was so happy to see Birbal again and gave him a warm hug much to the ire of the jealous courtiers. Birbal was also very happy to be back. Even though he had been upset when Akbar shouted at him, in his heart of hearts he was longing to come back.

“Now you have outwitted me Huzoor!” said Birbal beaming with happiness and the two were united once again.

Lord Nataraja at Konerirajapuram- The tallest Swayambu Murti.

In this New Year, “Arudra Darisanam”, the festival commemorating Lord Shiva’s incarnation as Lord Nataraja, falls on Jan 2nd,2018 and I thought it befitting to bring to you a lesser known legend of Lord Nataraja who resides in an equally lesser known place by name Konerirajapuram.

Konerirajapuram is a village in the Nagapattinam district of Tamilnadu, South India and lies between the two towns of Mayiladuthurai and Kumbakonam. This village houses a temple for Uma Maheswara (Lord Shiva) and in this temple is the Nataraja whose legend I am going to narrate.

The Cholas were mighty rulers in Tamil Nadu for the longest period and their fame rose to dizzying heights between 9th century CE to 11th century CE. Many famous temples were built at this time including the Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjavur by the emperor Raja Raja Chola and its replica at Gangai Konda Cholapuram by his son Rajendra Chola. It is very significant to note that the ladies of the royal family also had enough wealth at their disposal. The queens were mostly engaged in activities aimed at bringing the society together. Building temples and hospitals by the ladies of the royal families were common.

Many Chola queens had the title “Sembiyan Mahadevi”. However the title is generally taken to refer to the queen of the King Gandaraditya Chola, who was Raja Raja Chola’s uncle. He was deeply devoted to Lord Shiva and  his queen Sembiyan Mahadevi was instrumental in building many Shiva temples for over sixty years, as she was also an ardent devotee of the lord. This legend is said to have happened during her time.

King Gandaraditya Chola wanted a life size Nataraja ‘Murti’  with consort Sivakami to be made in the Uma Maheswara temple at Konerirajapuram. He wanted it to be very tall and instructed the sculptor to make it using ‘Panchaloha’.

‘Panchaloha’ as the name indicates is a mixture of Gold, Silver, Brass, Copper and Bronze and this mixture of metals is extensively used in making metallic idols even to this day. Usually such metal idols used to be in the range of two to four feet and making such a big ‘Murti’ as per the king’s wish was indeed a challenge for the sculptor.

The sculptor had built a shed inside the temple where he tried to execute this task but try as he might he always fell short of the king’s expectation, and three times the king had seen the ‘Murti’ and had rejected it outright.

One day on his usual visit to check the progress , the king got terribly annoyed that the sculptor was not being able to create the ‘Murti’ the way he had visualised it for so long.

“What is the use of your knowledge, if you are not able to execute my order? I think you are not focussed enough to do the job I have given you. I am terribly disappointed with you!” he shouted in anger. “I shall come again tomorrow evening and by that time if the ‘Murti’ has not been made as per my specifications, be ready for severe punishment!”

He stomped out of the place, his face, red with fury.

The sculptor was crestfallen. He was a person with great knowledge and greater commitment but somehow this time this ‘Murti’ was eluding him. And he shuddered at the thought of  punishment the day after. The images of his wife and young children and aged parents came to his mind’s eye and he was in tears thinking of what they would do without him. He was their life support.

He could not sleep a wink that night and the next day he again kept the huge pot on the stove to melt the metal for the last time. Overcome by tiredness and fear, he was mentally pleading with Lord Shiva. He was feeling helpless. He was doing his very best but somehow the king could not be satisfied.

“Why are you testing me thus, O Lord? What harm have I done to anyone to deserve punishment?” he asked the Lord. He sat down , leaning his back against the wall, closed his eyes and was lost in thought, tears rolling down his cheeks. He was sobbing silently and deep in his thought was the Lord Shiva. He did not realise it was past noon.

“We have walked a long way in the heat. May we have something to drink?” – The deep voice of a man woke him up with a start. There was a couple at the entrance of the shed, near the stove where the metal mixture had melted and was boiling. The couple looked divine, but the anger and frustration of the sculptor overshadowed his sense of hospitality. In a fit of rage, the sculptor said, “I don’t have any water here. All I have is the molten metal. Drink it if you want!” and rudely turned back.

In few seconds, he thought he heard the sound of someone gulping the liquid “glug glug glug glug…” and when he turned around, he was horrified to see the man and his wife drinking the molten liquid using two small containers which he had kept to pour the liquid in the mould. Instinctively he darted across to snatch the containers from them and lo and behold! They had turned into the ‘Murtis’ of Nataraja and his consort Sivakami and what beauties they were! The ‘Murti’ of the Lord was more than life size (about 7 to 8 feet- still it is the tallest Swayambu Nataraja in the world) and the ‘Murti’ of Sivakami was bewitchingly beautiful.

The sculptor was overjoyed and overwhelmed at this show of mercy of his beloved Lord and he prostrated before the ‘Murtis’ conveying his gratitude. They were so very life like including a mole under the left arm of Lord Nataraja. So full of awe, peace and joy, the sculptor awaited the arrival of the king.

Soon, he heard the guards announcing the arrival of the king and queen and this time, he enthusiastically went to welcome them. The king and queen looked at the ‘Murtis’ with astonishment and could not take their eyes off them. When the king asked the sculptor how he was able to make them, the sculptor, true to his nature, told him what had happened. The king did not believe him. He thought the sculptor was lying to him, and in a sudden fit of anger pulled out his sword to harm the sculptor when the tip of the sword hit the  leg of the Murti of Lord Nataraja and instantly blood started oozing out.

It was the turn of the king to be shocked and at that moment he realized his folly and sought forgiveness from the Lord and the sculptor. It is said that Gandaraditya had to endure some physical suffering as a result of his attitude towards the sculptor, but after continuous repentance by offering prayers to the Lord, he was cured.

The statue is still at the temple for us to see, with the mole on the left arm and the scar on the leg caused by the sword…. The world’s largest Swayambhu Nataraja.

Kaduveli Siddhar of Irumbai

Irumbai Maakaalam is a quaint village enroute Tindivanam (in Tamilnadu) from Pondicherry and the village houses an ancient temple of Lord Shiva by name Mahakaleshwar (or Maakaleshwar). The deity with the same name is in Ujjain in the North of India and in another temple near Kumbakonam also. This temple structure at Irumbai is said to have been built a thousand years ago by a Chola King, though the deity should have been existing from much earlier as it is a place mentioned in the songs of Sri Tirugnanasambandar, Sundarar and Pattinathar. It is listed as the 32nd of the  temples (Padal Petra Sthalam) identified where the Nayanmars have visited and sang hymns.

This is a story of a Siddha associated with this temple which I am going to narrate here.

About five hundred to six hundred years ago, there lived a Siddha in this area, now known to us as Kaduveli Siddhar.

Siddhars are Tamil saints or mystics who were devoted to Lord Shiva. They were well versed in advanced yogic practices and most of them knew the art of preserving their bodies for hundreds of years and thus lived long lives. The “Siddha” system of medicine is based on the formulations of herbs as written in the ancient texts by the Siddhars.

Now, this Siddha in our story was doing intense penance under a peepul tree near this temple of Lord Shiva known as Maakaleshwar.

His tapasya or meditation was so very intense that he was generating lot of heat from his body and the whole area surrounding the temple and the villages had become very dry with lakes drying up and there was no rain. The King who was ruling from a neighbouring place called Edayanchavadi was also worried since the threat of a famine loomed large.

The villagers could sense that the lack of rain was due to the intense meditation of the Siddha but they were afraid of waking him up from his meditation, fearing that he might curse him if awoken rudely. This news reached the King and he announced a reward for anyone who could successfully wake up the Siddha from his meditation.

There was a temple dancer in the village by name Valli and she also heard this announcement.

“Well, let me try” thought she. She started observing the Siddha day and night. He was sitting in padmasan (lotus pose) with his eyes closed all the time and was remaining so still that an anthill had started growing by his sides. She noted that occasionally he held out his palm, with eyes still closed and waited till a dry peepul leaf fell on his palm and when the leaf fell, he put it into his mouth and ate it, all the time his eyes closed. His only food was the occasional dry peepul leaf.

Valli got an idea. She prepared extremely thin paper-like rice appalams (chips) with salt in it and took them to the place where the Siddha was meditating. When he stretched out his palm to catch a falling leaf, she placed an appalam on his palm and he ate the same oblivious to the fact that someone was placing them on his palm.

This went on for a few weeks and the intake of salt brought in a change in the Siddha and he opened his eyes to see what was causing this distraction to his meditation. Valli, with a group of villagers, stood in front, her palms joined in obeisance to the Siddha. Seeing the devotion and humility in the eyes of Valli and the villagers, the Siddha did not get angry.

“What do you seek?” he asked with kindness.

The headman of the village came up and said in a pleading voice, “O Holy Sir, our villages have not seen rain for months together since you sat for meditation. Please be kind enough Sir and bless us with rains!”

The Siddha looked around at the sad faces of the crowd and said “So be it”. That very night it started raining heavily and the village got enough and more water. Meanwhile since the Siddha had no house to stay, Valli offered him shelter in the verandah of her house where he slept, prayed and ate the food given by the villagers and Valli.

The King came to know that the heavy rain had been due to the blessings of the Siddha and wanted to have a grand celebration for all his people. As a part of the celebration, he wanted to honour Valli for her role in getting the Siddha’s blessings and so he gave her an opportunity to perform her dance in the temple in the presence of his royal family. The temple has a large courtyard even today where dance performances are held.

On the appointed day, Valli very happily came forward and started her performance in front of Lord Shiva. The royal family and the Siddha were seated on special seats and there was a huge crowd of public curious to see who this Siddha was.

One song after another, Valli was dancing and the crowd was enthralled in the beauty of Valli’s dance with beautiful facial expressions and excellent footwork accompanied by the music performed by equally talented musicians who were singing and playing many instruments.

Suddenly the anklet of Valli’s left foot flew off and fell near the Siddha. The link of the anklet had been apparently loose. To the Siddha who was absorbed in the dance Valli appeared as Lord Nataraja himself. The sudden falling of the anklet was noticed by all and though the dance continued, the Siddha got up from where he was seated, picked up the anklet and went to Valli who was also confused as to why he was coming to her. She stopped the dance for a few seconds and he bowed down to tie the anklet to her foot. To him, the person in front was not Valli but the Lord Nataraja whose anklet had fallen and it was to Lord Nataraja that he was offering to tie the anklet.

When he bowed down, Valli and the whole crowd was aghast! This was blasphemy! A learned, aged Siddha bowing to a dancing girl and wanting to tie her anklet…..

Valli moved back step by step with the Siddha pleading with her to show her foot. And that also in a peculiar way… He was addressing her “My Lord, Lord of the Ponnambalam” and so on. (Ponnambalam refers to the temple of Lord Nataraja at Chidambaram). To him, she still appeared as Lord Nataraja.

“What cheap attitude!” someone muttered. “These days, cannot trust anybody…great Siddha he is, huh?” sneered someone else.

The sounds of muttering and mumbling grew and now people angrily commented openly at the Siddha pointing fingers at him and accusing him.

Suddenly the Siddha, who was in a state of bliss, realised that the people were jeering at him, and laughing at him mockingly. He understood the situation in a jiffy and became furious.

With the anklet in one hand he stomped to the sanctum of Maakaleswar, stood in front of him and addressing the Lord in a trance like state, said, “Oh Lord Shiva! You are a witness to what has happened here. You know that I saw your form of Nataraja in this girl who was dancing… but all these people here whose problem I solved by giving up my meditation have been so judgemental without knowing my connection with you. If what I am saying is true, please express your solidarity with me!”

As the crowd and the King watched, there was a deep rumbling sound and the Linga (form of Shiva) cracked into three pieces with shrapnel and dust flying from it falling far outside the temple.

The Siddha continued in an angry voice “The places upto which the dust from the Lingam have fallen shall not see rain again!”

He started to walk away from the temple when the King and the people realised the grave mistake they had committed and cursed themselves for their cheap thoughts. The King ran behind the Siddha and fell in front of him holding his feet and with tears in his eyes, repented for the bad happenings caused by his people.

“I will take on the punishment personally O Siddha Purusha! Please curse me instead. Please do not curse that there will be no rain. Please revoke your words O Holy man! I will give you whatever you seek, but please revoke your curse” he said.

The Siddha looked at him and was quiet for some time. Then he said “Well, I cannot revoke my curse but years later, people from foreign lands will come and settle here and then the place will be green again” Saying thus, the Siddha walked away not heeding to anybody’s pleading. The area became an arid land and the Siddha came to be known as “Kaduveli Siddhar”.

Legend has it that hundreds of years later when the Holy Mother came to Pondicherry as a disciple of Shri Aurobindo and people started coming from foreign lands, the Siddha’s words came true and the rains blessed the land again.

The temple at Irumbai is very well maintained and worth visiting and one can still see the Lingam which is split, which is held together by a copper wire.

This story was gathered by me when I visited this temple.

Hirakani Buruj – Tribute to a Great Mother!!

Just back from a trip from magnificent Maharashtra and so thought of dedicating this story to a brave woman of Maharashtra….

I had been to the Lohagad fort at Lonavala and found it not so simple to climb even in broad daylight with almost proper stairs, an inexperienced trekker that I am. It brought to my mind the story of Hirakani who scaled down the Raigad fort in pitch darkness and had the honour of having a watch tower built in her name by none other than Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had acquired the fort at Raigad and made it an impregnable fort. The fort was at the top of a very steep mountain. It was a marvellous fort which contained a city within it and nobody could enter or exit the fort without the knowledge and permission of the gatekeeper. The fort’s giant gates opened in the morning and people who were living on the foothills of the mountain could go into the fort and come out till the gates closed again at sunset. The gates would not be opened on any account till the next morning except on the word of the Chatrapati.

There was a lady by name Hirakani who made a living by selling milk to the residents of the fort. She lived in the foothills and maintained a few cows and selling milk was her occupation. She had a small baby who was looked after by her mother in law when she went to deliver milk. The mother in law was very old and could barely manage the baby during the day time. Hira’s husband worked in the army of Shivaji Maharaj and used to be at his place of duty on most days leaving Hira alone to manage the house and the baby.

One day as usual Hira milked her cows and carried the milk to the fort. On that particular day she had to help out with the delivery of a baby of one of her friends who lived in the fort. In those days, babies were born at home and the pregnant mothers were helped by other ladies to deliver the child. Hira was delayed there and by the time she started for home she realised that the sun was about to set. “Oh God”, she thought to herself. “It’s going to be sunset, and the doors of the fort will close. What will my child do if I cannot go home on time? He will be crying with hunger! I have to rush…”

Thinking thus, she ran to the gates and just at the moment she reached the gates, they were closing with a screeching sound and the next moment, the lock was sealed.

“Guard” cried Hira, “please open the door once so I can go out. My infant son will be hungry and waiting for me. I need to go home. Please open the door”

The guard looked at her with no emotion. With a cold look in his eyes he said “Sorry, I cannot go against the order of the Maharaj and it is his order that the doors closed once should be opened the next morning only. You have been coming here for the past so many years and not new to the rules. If you were in such a hurry you should have come earlier”

“Oh Bhaiyya, I am extremely sorry” pleaded Hira. “I did not realise that it was so late. In all these years have I ever come late on any day huh? Please open the doors just this once”. Hira’s eyes were full of tears at the thought of her infant child crying for her in hunger.

The guard did not even look at her face. With the same stony voice he repeated what he had said before. “Go and stay in any of your friend’s house and go in the morning. Now, don’t bother me again and again hmmph…”

Hira was helpless. All her thoughts were with her baby son whose smile on seeing her would make her forget all the troubles of the day. The very thought of that smiling face crying in hunger and anxiety at her absence was intolerable to her. And she was helpless…..

Hira ran back the way she had come. She was determined to get out of the fort come what may. She walked all along the boundary walls of the fort which was perched high on the mountain. At one particular point she noticed that there was no wall built. The portion of the mountain where the wall was missing was so steep and the vertical drop from that particular spot was so very deep with thorny bushes that no one would probably be able to climb up from there and get into the fort and therefore no wall had been built at that spot.

Hira looked down. The sun had set completely and it was pitch dark and she could see nothing but outlines of thorny branches sticking out from the shrubs on the mountain. The thought of her baby kept on lingering in her mind and she decided to climb down from the mountain by holding on to the thorny shrubs. She placed her empty milk cans slowly on the ground fearing that the slightest clanking noise would alert any soldier nearby. She looked around cautiously to see if any soldier was coming on patrol. Fortunately none were in sight.

In an instant, Hira had jumped over the edifice on the side of the mountain and caught hold of a thorny branch with one hand. The sharp thorns pierced her skin and her hand was bleeding. Her dress was caught in another thorny bush below. With great difficulty, she extricated her dress which tore at many places as she was sliding down on the depths of the mountainside, her hands groping in the dark to catch hold of the successive branches. Her arms, legs, face and body were terribly bruised and bleeding. Now and then, owls flew over her head with a “Whoosh” frightening her out of her wits but the image of her son’s face crying for her only increased her pace and within a short while she touched the ground. But the dangers had not ceased.

In front of her eyes, she could see, even in the dark, long snakes slithering around freely, rustling the leaves as they went in search of prey. The various sounds of the insects and the croaking of frogs with the occasional sound of the cane of the soldier patrolling made it very fearful. If she was caught, she would certainly be punished. Somehow, hiding behind bushes and trees, Hira made her way home. As she had expected, the child was crying uncontrollably and her mother in law was helpless as there was no way for her to find out why Hira had not returned from the fort.

The moment Hira called out to her baby, like magic, the crying stopped. Quickly washing her wounds, Hira carried her baby, spoke endearing words to him and fed him and soon the baby was gurgling with laughter, the one thing that made Hira forget all her ordeal that night. With her mind at rest, Hira slept peacefully cuddling her baby.

The next morning as usual, Hira milked the cows and set out to the fort to sell the milk.

The guard who was there in the evening had not gone yet. When he saw her he was aghast! How could a lady whom he had not allowed to go out of the fort come from outside?? The fort as far as he knew did not have any weak point anywhere. It had such high walls and where there was no wall the mountain was so steep that no one could scale it…
As she neared the gate, he stopped her.

“Halt” he said in a gruff voice, “where are you coming from huh? I had not allowed you to go out of the fort yesterday and did not see you going out today. So where are you coming from? Tell the truth”

Hira laughed. “Why are you frightening me thus with your gruff voice Bhaiyya?” she said feigning a frightened look. “I jumped out from the side of the fort where there is no wall and climbed down the mountain. Can you not see my bruises?” she said pointing to her bruised hands, face and shoulders.

The guard was shocked beyond words. “A milk vending woman scaling down the steep mountain? Impossible!!” he thought to himself and said again, “Now Hira, you know the punishment for telling lies don’t you? Come on tell me the truth or I shall have to take you to the presence of His Highness Chatrapatiji”

Hira got angry. “Why will I tell lies?” she asked him angrily, irritated that he was not believing her and also that she was getting late to deliver the milk. “You did not let me go in spite of my telling you that my baby would be waiting for me. So I jumped the wall and went home. I am also showing the bruises I suffered and still if you do not believe then do as you like. Now let me go!” she shouted.

“No way” said the guard. “Come with me immediately to the presence of our Maharaj and only then you will tell the truth it seems. Looks like you are destined to get punished today by His Highness. Hmm… how can I prevent what is written in your destiny?”

He did not realize the great reward destiny had for her, at that point.

Marching ahead with Hira in tow, soon enough the Guard ushered her into the presence of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the great ruler who was renowned for his sense of justice.

Shivaji Maharaj was perplexed on hearing the story told by the guard. He too did not think it was possible for a woman to do what Hira had done, but he could not disbelieve her too looking at the bruises sustained by her.

He thought for a while and said to her, “Well, show me from where you climbed down”.

Hira went to the place from where she had climbed down, followed by the King and the guard and on reaching the spot, pointed the place to the king. The king looked at her and said, “Well Hira, can you do that again now? Climb down now in front of me!”

Hira went near the edge of the rock and peered down. Seeing the steep fall made her dizzy. The sight of the thorny bushes crisscrossing, gave her goose bumps. For the first time she realized what a dangerous thing she had attempted. If she had slipped even once she would not have been alive now.

She looked at the King and the depth of the mountain again and again and suddenly realized she could not do what she dared to do the previous night.

Not able to look into the King’s eyes, with her eyes downcast she said, “Sorry Maharaj, I will not be able to do it now. I realize how deep and dangerous this side of the mountain is, only now. Yesterday, the motherly instinct in me and the anxiety to see my child who would be crying with hunger blinded me from seeing these dangers, but I have not lied to you Maharaj and therefore I am willing to accept whatever punishment you may deem fit for my action”

A moment of silence followed. Then the Maharaj spoke “Yes Hirakani. I have decided to punish you…”

Hirakani’s heart was beating fast.

“I am going to punish you by building a watch tower at this very spot”

Hirakani looked up surprised.

Shivaji Maharaj was smiling and continued, “You have displayed exemplary courage and motherly affection by risking your life. But, if an untrained woman like you can scale this dangerous mountain, it indicates that I have to be careful that trained soldiers of the enemy do not use this very route to come into my fort which all along I was thinking was impregnable… So, I am ordering a watch tower to be built here and it will be named after you, the Hirakani Buruj. Not a severe punishment I hope….”

Hira was relieved and conveyed her happiness to the king with folded hands bowing her head in respect.

And the tower which was built in honour of Hirakani came to be known as ‘Hirakani Buruj’ and is still seen at Raigad fort. The tower which reminds us of both Hirakani’s exemplary courage and the greatness and humility of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj!!

PS: The photo collage which is shown in this story is not that of Raigad fort but is of Lohagad fort.

Kadubu or Dubukku??


My dear readers, I am glad to inform you that my blog has completed four years and a hundred stories. My heartfelt thanks to all of you. Now, here is a folktale for you from Karnataka.

In olden days in a village in Karnataka there lived a lad by name Bhimanna. As his name suggested, he had taken after the legendary Pandava prince Bhima in eating food. He loved tasty food and would be ready to do anything to eat tasty food.

One day there was an invitation from his aunt in the neighbouring village asking him to join them in the feast to be held in their house on account of his uncle’s birthday. Bhimanna was overjoyed and begged his mother to let him go. The neighbouring village was three to four miles away and Bhimanna’s father had to go to some other place in his bullock cart on that particular day. Bhimanna was not willing to let go of the free offer though.

“I will walk and go mother” said he. “Aunt will feel bad if none of us go and so I will go on behalf our family. Please mother, pleeease…. Let me go”

“Bhimu, you have to cross the river Cauvery…”

“Don’t you worry mother. There is not much water now. I will wade through”

Bhimanna’s mother agreed reluctantly.

On the special day, Bhimanna got ready well on time and started walking. The thought of the tasty food in the feast made him walk very fast and he reached in no time. His aunt and uncle and all the family members welcomed him and he was made to sit down along with all the others to eat the feast. In olden days dining tables were not there. People squatted on the floor sitting in ‘sukhasan’ (cross legged) posture and huge banana leaves were placed in front of them and a variety of food items were served on the banana leaves. People had enough time to cook well and eat well too. Of course all the labour was manual and they had no machines for anything right from tilling the land to grinding flour to sweeping and mopping their houses. Therefore they had good exercise and their food digested in no time and they were very healthy in spite of eating a heavy meal every day, unlike in the present.

The food in the feast was very lavish and tasty but Bhimanna liked one particular dish which he had never tasted till then. It was a white dumpling like thing which was soft and when he bit a big chunk of it, the filling was so sweet and juicy, it was filled with jaggery and coconut. He gulped one and asked for one more. The second seemed to be even tastier. He ate four more to his heart’s content and made a mental note to tell his mother to make this. This was simply heavenly and he had not eaten it in his life!!

“Oh!” he thought to himself. “I did not ask the name of this” So he went to his aunt and asked her what the sweet was called.

“Kadubu” she said. “It’s called Kadubu”

“Kadubu, kadubu, kadubu, kadubu………” Bhimanna was memorising the name. He could not afford to forget the name as he had literally fallen in love with this wonderful sweet that he had planned to ask his mother to make it for him every day.

The time came for him to take leave of his aunt’s family and he wanted to ask her to give him some Kadubu to take home, but unfortunately, there was not even one left over for him to take home.

Disappointed, Bhimanna started for home. “Kadubu, kadubu, kadubu, kadubu, kadubu….” he was saying it like a mantra so that he did not forget. When he came to the river and was wading through it he failed to notice a small rock and tripped on it and “pachaaaaak” fell into the water. He was so shocked by his fall, and in that shock he had stopped chanting the ‘kadubu mantra’ and when he got up… Alas! He completely forgot the name of the dish.

He kept on thinking on what the name was but could not recollect the correct name. “Was it Kubudu? Or Dakubu? Or Baduku? Or Bakudu? Or…. Or….” He kept on wondering and suddenly seemed to remember, “Yes! It was Dubukku” he started chanting “Dubukku, dubukku, dubukku …..” till he reached home.

He ran to his mother and started “Amma, the feast was superb especially the Dubukku. Make some Dubukku for me please…”

“Dubukku? What Dubukku? I have not heard of anything in my life by name Dubukku” said the mother. Unfortunately she also did not relate the name to Kadubu.

“Amma, amma, what is this amma? You don’t know Dubukku? It was so very tasty, mmm… yummy, please make it for me amma”

“Chup” said the mother. “You have just eaten a full feast and you are asking for some weird dish which I do not know. Go and feed the cow, go!”

Bhimanna could not just forget the ‘Dubukku’. Every day he pestered his mother day in and day out asking her to make ‘dubukku’. His mother was getting more and more irritated hearing this ‘make dubukku’ mantra and Bhimanna never seemed tired of nagging his mother.

One particular day, Bhimanna’s mother was in a very bad mood from the morning since a cat had come into the kitchen in the night and upset the pot of curds and drank it all and in the morning, the iron bucket in the pulley (used to draw water from the well) had fallen into the well and the cow was refusing to be milked kicking anyone who went to milk it. “Such a bad day it has been oof…” she was murmuring when Bhimanna’s ‘dubukku pestering’ started.

He went on and on and on that she got so angry and gave him a hard slap on his cheek. “Now, don’t you irritate me with your dubukku any more hmph…” she scolded him. Poor Bhimanna was taken by surprise. His mother was generally never so angry and it had happened only one time before when he had got a sharp slap from her. The cheek pained and had turned red and Bhimanna was on the verge of crying.

Bhimanna’s mother had not meant to slap him and she realised in a moment that all this pent up anger was due to the various happenings in the morning. She felt sorry for the lad and turned around to see his cheek red and swollen and tears were rolling down his cheeks.

She felt sorry and called him, ‘Bhima, I am really sorry son, but…” She stared at his cheek and said “Oh God! Your cheek has swollen like a Kadubu!”

The mention of the word “kadubu” changed it all. Bhimanna sprang up, his eyes sparkling. As the mother was looking surprised, he shouted “Yes, Kadubu, kadubu, kadubu, that’s what I have been wanting. Amma, amma, please make sweet kadubu amma, please….”

The mother was so amused at how the word “kadubu” had worked like magic and at how her son was so fascinated with the humble Kadubu, and went about to prepare Kadubu for him.

“Now I will never forget the name of this sweet. Kadubu it is!” said Bhimanna triumphantly as he bit into his umpteenth Kadubu, and gobbling it down.

Will you ever forget the name ‘Kadubu’? You will not, will you???

One Hundred Hymns – The Story Of Abirami Pattar

My dear readers, this is the hundredth story in this blog of mine. I thank all of you who have been following all the stories encouraging me with your comments. I look forward to your continued patronage and the constructive comments.

For the hundredth story, I wanted a story which had some connection with the number hundred and by the time I decided upon the story I was pleasantly surprised with its coincidence with the period the incident has happened. This incident is said to have happened on the new moon day of the Tamil month of “Thai” which is from Mid-January to Mid-February. This year the new moon day of “Thai” falls on 27th January 2017. I see this coincidence as a blessing of the Supreme Power.

The first story of my blog being on Lord Shiva, it is only apt that the milestone of the hundredth story should be on Shakthi, the Mother of the Universe.

I am giving this time the story of an unusual saint, Abirami Pattar, who lived three hundred years back and has authored the Tamil literary work called “Abirami Anthaadhi” amongst various others.

Abirami Pattar was born as Subramanian in the late seventeenth century in a place called Tirukkadayur.
Tirukkadayur is in Tamilnadu and is the abode of Lord Shiva who is called Amritaghateswara and his consort Goddess Shakthi is called Abirami Amman. The name Abirami literally means ‘one whose beauty cannot be measured’.

Subramanian was a simple man in spite of being a learned scholar in the languages of Tamil and Sanskrit and in the science of astrology. He was a great devotee of the goddess Abirami. His devotion could not be classified as devotion in the sense known to us, as in going to the temple, praying for our needs and coming back. His devotion was completely different. He would go to the temple would be there for hours together gazing at the goddess as if in a trance. The goddess was everything to him. In her beautiful face, he saw the universe in its splendour, with all the living beings, the solar system, the planets, the sun, moon and the stars and was awe struck by this vision, so much so that he lost interest in worldly affairs as he strongly believed that the Goddess was the only eternal being. All other beings and things were transient and did not matter to him. He never spoke to anyone nor was bothered about the mundane things in life.

He would be dressed in an unkempt manner and stand for hours together in front of Her and not even recognise the presence of others nearby. Sometimes he saw the form of the Goddess in some women coming to worship and would go after them calling them, “Abirami, Abirami” till he was shooed away by them. Sometimes he would not move from in front of the Goddess even when it was time for closing the temple and those days he would be literally carried by a few people and thrown out of the temple. But there was no reaction from him except a smile and sometimes tears of joy in his eyes. People who observed his behaviour called him mad, weird, arrogant and stupid. These nicknames and criticism never bothered Subramanian as he was not at all in this world and the Goddess only was his world and he considered himself as Her son. Nobody and nothing existed beyond that.

The only person who was sympathetic to Subramanian and could to some extent understand his devotion to the Goddess was the temple priest who also happened to be a distant cousin of Subramanian. The priest would always feel pity for his cousin who in spite of being a scholar and astrologer was subject to such mockery because of his devotion. “Poor fellow”, the priest used to mutter to himself, “What is the use of such knowledge? It looks like he is destined to be mocked at throughout his lifetime. Hmmm.”

One day Subramanian came to the temple with an almanac in hand. It was the morning of the new moon day of the Tamil month of “Thai”. As was his practice he entered the sanctum of the Goddess Abirami. The face of the goddess, on that day, appeared to him, as luminous as the moon on the full moon day. Almost instantly he went into a deep state of meditation and he could see only brightness and brightness all around. As usual, he stood transfixed to the ground with his focus fully on the lotus face of Goddess Abirami.

The King at that time Raja Serfoji I Bhonsle (1675 -1728), also called Sarabhoji, the Maratha King who was ruling from Tanjavur, had gone for a ritual bath in the sea at Poompuhar, being the new moon day and after the early morning bath, was coming to Tirukkadayur to offer obeisance to the Lord and Goddess. It was an unscheduled visit by the King and so the messengers came running to the priest and informed about the King’s plan to visit the temple. The priest immediately became busy in making arrangements to welcome the King that he forgot about the presence of Subramanian in the sanctum of the Goddess.

Subramanian who was least disturbed by the flurry of activity around him was still sunk in the brightness exuded by the Goddess’s face which he alone was experiencing in his mind’s eye. He could see the brightness of the full moon and the goddess’s face even brighter than the full moon. With his eyes closed he was smiling away, in his own world.

Noticing the presence of Subramanian at the last moment, the priest rushed up to him and yelled, “Subramanian, get out of here! The King is coming for darshan. Get out, I say!” It was of no avail. The priest, scolding himself for not having sent out Subramanian earlier was about to shout at Subramanian once again, when he saw the security guards followed by the King entering the temple.

Not able to do anything, he rushed to the entrance to conduct the ceremonial welcome to the King and led him to the sanctum. The King entered the sanctum only to see someone else standing in front of the goddess with folded palms, muttering some prayer.

The priest got panicky and quickly tried to push aside Subramanian. “Subramanian,” he said in a low voice. “The King has arrived to see the Goddess. Please go out, move, move away!”

Not one word was heard by Subramanian. He was still in his own world. The King was furious.

“Who is this fellow?” the King roared, “who has the audacity to stand like a stone in front of me not even acknowledging my presence eh?”

Some of the people in the King’s entourage were already those who disliked Subramanian and having got an opportunity, they started complaining about him.

“He is a mad fellow your Majesty. He has a very unstable mind!” said one.

“He is also very very arrogant and haughty your Highness. He does not even look at us when we come to the temple!” said another.

“He is a maniac who chases women, O King” said another. “I have myself seen him run after women shouting ‘Abirami, Abirami’. The temple has become very unsafe for women coming to pray. It’s high time some action is taken on him”

“He is born in a noble caste but will eat anything if given to him in the name of the Goddess, your Highness. He is a shame to his community”, said yet another.

“He calls himself the son of Abirami, yet he does not know culture”. The complaints went on and on.
Hearing all these allegations on Subramanian, the priest could take it no more.

“Please listen to me your Highness. This person Subramanian is actually a good man and a learned scholar. He has mastered Tamil and Sanskrit languages and also is a very good astrologer. The only thing is that … er… he is … too much devoted to the Goddess here that he totally forgets himself when in her presence. I feel it is wrong to portray him as a maniac or arrogant fellow or mad man. Please pardon him for my sake!”

“Oh, astrologer, did you say? Hmmm. That’s why he is carrying an almanac I see. Let me see how good he is”

At that very precise moment Subramanian addressed the goddess and said in a voice audible to be heard by others, “O Mother Abirami! why is your face a thousand times brighter than the moon outside today? I am indeed lucky to soak in the brightness of your presence” He started muttering some hymns once again, when one of the ministers went near him and shook him by his shoulder.

An angry Subramanian opened his eyes and asked, “Who are you and why do you disturb me thus?”

The minister was taken aback and said, “You are asking who we are? Can you not see the King standing near you and are you so arrogant that you cannot even bow to him huh?”

“Whoever it is King or pauper, they are all same in the presence of my Mother”.

As he was about to close his eyes once again, the king’s voice boomed, “Look here Subramanian. You have insulted me and my entourage in front of the public. I hear you are a great astrologer but I just heard you praise the Goddess’s face as a ‘thousand times brighter than the moon today’.”

“Yes, you are right King” replied Subramanian. “Goddess Abirami’s face is a ten thousand times brighter than the full moon today”

“The full moon today? Hahahahaha….” the King’s thunderous laughter sounded frightful. “You call yourself an astrologer, you carry an almanac and you call a new moon day a full moon day hahahahaha…….”

“New moon day? “ Subramanian had a confused look on his face.

“Check the almanac you pundit” sneered the King. “Check and tell me what day is it today.”
Subramanian checked the almanac but started looking at the Goddess with a great confusion.

“So, this is the level of your knowledge of astrology…. You do not know the difference between the new moon day and full moon day. Hmmm. Shame on you! ” the King’s voice thundered.

Subramanian stood there like a rock, and was intently looking at the face of the Goddess, his voice murmuring, “It is the full moon day today, it is the full moon day today”.

The people in the king’s entourage and the minister were getting restless. Too much attention was being given to a mad fellow, they thought. The minister, irritated at the perceived stubbornness of Subramanian went ahead with his hand raised in a bid to physically push him out.

“Stop”, said the King. “I still have not finished my conversation with this fellow”. The minister, obeying the king stopped.

“Tell me Subramanian, do you still believe it is full moon day today?” the king asked.

“Yes, it is Maharaja. Not because I said so but because She has spoken through me. I am her son and a toy in her hands. I do not speak on my own accord. It is she who makes me speak and if she has said it is full moon day today, well, it is and there is no doubt” Subramanian said in a defiant tone.

The king was getting irritated at this defiance. “Oh! Is that so? You are blaming the Goddess for your ignorance heh? I suppose you must be doing this every time your astrology goes wrong?”

The crowd giggled and there were murmurs and whispers amongst them.

“I am not blaming the Goddess. I am just saying that whatever words I am made to utter by Her will, shall be the truth, truth and nothing else”

“Why do you go on taking Her name? Why don’t you accept what you said was wrong?”

“Why should I not take Her name? She is my mother and She is the eternal Mother and She can never be wrong.”

The king got really furious and said, “Look here man, it is your good fortune that I have not given you any punishment for your arrogance till now. Even now, you can ask forgiveness and get out of my sight!”

“Sire, this is my mother’s temple and only She has the right to tell me to go. I told you I am Her son and Her son alone, and I have not spoken anything wrong or untrue and whatever has been uttered by me are Her words.” Subramanian’s tone was becoming harsh.

The temple priest feared that the argument was going beyond limits and that some capital punishment may be imposed on his cousin and so he tried to intervene, but the enraged king brushed him aside and said to Subramanian, “You are so arrogant that you still maintain what you said was true because your Mother said so, then let me see if your mother can bring the full moon tonight. If the full moon appears, you are saved. If it does not then, you will have to pay with your life, for if I do not punish arrogant people like you, it will set a bad precedent!”

When all expected Subramanian to break down, hearing the king’s verdict, Subramanian spoke in a calm voice, “Oh King! Even as you have pronounced your decision, I still maintain that I have not spoken anything wrong as all my words are Hers and since you have challenged Her, I would like to fulfil a long cherished desire of mine to sing a hundred hymns on Her in the Anthaadhi format and I am sure you will see the moon before I finish my hundred hymns”

“What if the moon does not appear?”

“Well, then I will take it as her will to punish me through you and you can put me to death as I end my hundredth hymn.”

“Ok be ready for the punishment tonight” said the king as he walked out of the sanctum.
Subramanian’s mind was filled with divine ecstasy and unfathomable joy at the thought of his dream of singing the Anthaadhi going to come true.

The Anthaadhi, as the name suggests, meant that the end or the Anth of a hymn would be the beginning or the Aadhi of the next hymn. The ending word of one hymn and the starting word of the next hymn would be the same.

Soon the word spread in the town about the event which would take place that night. All the people were talking of only that in shocked tones. Some of them who hated Subramanian thought it was a good riddance, while some others were feeling pity and said, “After all, he is a mad fellow. Is it right to challenge a mad man?”

The temple priest was feeling very sad. He was in tears as he was very certain that Subramanian would not be able to meet the challenge posed by the king and he would be put to death.

Standing in front of the Goddess whom he prayed to every day, he was conversing with Her in his mind. “Oh Abirami! you are the embodiment of compassion. You are the mother of all the beings. Yet you allowed your son to get entangled in such a row that he cannot get out of it in any manner. He who comes and stands before you hours together every day with no thought of food or water is being punished thus? He who believes that you are the only eternal being and you are the life of the universe is going to be punished by his life being taken? This punishment will not only end the life of Subramanian, it will end the faith people have had on you all through the ages. Will you bring the moon tonight or will it be eternal darkness for Subramanian? Oh Mother, please show your mercy!”

As he was praying mentally with teary eyes, the ground outside the temple was being prepared for the punishment.
A large, deep pit was being dug and lots of firewood was put into it. On the two sides of the pit two high poles were erected by crisscrossing two sturdy logs. Another log on the top connected the poles. Two pulleys were attached to the connecting log and long ropes were attached to the pulleys and a platform was attached to the rope. The punishment was that the fire would be lit and Subramanian would sit on the platform which would initially be held very high by the soldiers holding the ropes. After each hymn, the ropes would be lowered by few inches and by the hundredth hymn, if the moon did not appear, the platform would be let into the fire pit with Subramanian.
By this time the word had spread to the nearby places about the event and people were seen hurrying from the surrounding villages to see what would happen.

The sun set and darkness began to engulf the place especially since it was a new moon day. Soon, the king arrived with his entourage and Subramanian was already there, as calm as ever.

As the king signalled, the guards led Subramanian to sit on the platform hanging by the ropes held by the soldiers. Once he was seated, the platform was drawn high and the logs set on fire.

In those days there was no electricity and the blazing fire in the pit was the only source of light and sure it was bright enough gobbling up logs of wood. All eyes were on Subramanian who was sitting so high on the platform, his eyes closed outwardly but totally focussed on his Mother, Goddess Abirami, in his mind’s eye.

Suddenly, in a majestic voice, Subramanian started with a hymn to propitiate Lord Ganesh, “Thaar amar konrayum”. He then went on to begin singing on the Mother with the first hymn, “Udikkinra senkadhir” meaning the rising rays of the sun. The majestic voice and confidence of Subramanian somehow shook the king’s belief that Subramanian would meet his punishment.

An unperturbed Subramanian went on and on and on. The hymns were sung one by one and the divine blessing was evident that the words came like a flow of a river adhering to the rules of ‘Anthaadhi’ and each hymn’s ending was the beginning of the next one. After each hymn, the soldiers lowered the platform a few inches.

Subramanian, unmindful of the lowering of the platform after each hymn and the sweltering heat of the burning logs beneath his platform had sung 77 hymns. Just as he finished the 78th, which was about the luminous face of the goddess with her diamond earrings, equal to the full moon, a miracle happened. Much to the awe of the king and all watching the event, a luminous figure of a divine goddess was seen rising from the horizon and as they watched shocked, the goddess removed her earring and flung it into the sky and the next moment the area was flooded with moonlight and the full moon was shining bright right in front of them. By this time the 79th hymn was over and the goddess vanished and all had happened in a matter of seconds. Now, the full moon was brighter than the burning logs!

The elated crowds cheered loudly in praise of Subramanian and hearing the sound Subramanian opened his eyes to see the moon in the sky and all the people bowing in the direction where the goddess had appeared. Subramanian with all modesty completed the hundred hymns as he had intended and sang one more hymn extolling the benefits of surrendering to the Goddess Abirami.

The King and his entourage did not know what to do and they stood ashamed of their arrogant behaviour earlier in the day. They sought forgiveness from Subramanian the King honoured Subramanian with lots of gifts and lands and gave him the title of “Abirami Pattar”.

“Henceforth you shall be known as ‘Abirami Pattar’, for you have proved that you are really the son of the Goddess Abirami” said the king.

The people and their king, on that day witnessed and understood the power of man’s unshakeable faith in Abirami,the supreme power, in whatever name we may call her.

This incident is celebrated in Tirukkadayur to this day.

The Brightest Son

Wishing all my readers a Very Happy Deepavali today!!! (29/10/2016)

Once upon a time in the ancient city of Varanasi, there lived a merchant by name Somayya. He was a very shrewd merchant and made good money by being very prudent in his dealings. Somayya had three sons Ganesh, Mahesh and Ramesh. He brought them up very well giving them the best of everything.

As years rolled by, Somayya was growing older and wanted any one of his sons to take up the business so that he could retire and go for pilgrimages which was his long cherished desire. Being a very shrewd merchant and having developed his business with great care, he wanted it to be given to the son who was the cleverest of them all.

One day he called them to his room and said “Sons, I have a wish to retire from my business and go for pilgrimages with your mother. I want one of you to take up this business which I have nurtured…”

Before he could complete, Ganesh said, “Well father, I am sure I am your choice for I am the eldest and have the first right to all that is yours”

Mahesh interrupted him. “Bhaiya, all the time, either you are favoured as the eldest or Ramesh is favoured as he is the youngest. This time I am not going to let it be so. I will take up father’s business”

A worried Somayya looked at Ramesh for he expected him also to say something but Ramesh said with a smile, “Father you are the best judge. Whatever decision you take, I will abide by it”

Somayya thought for a while. He did not want to take any decision based on seniority or rights, but wanted the cleverest of them to be given the chance.

“Well sons”, he said, “I know all the three of you are honest and sincere and will do any job with utmost sincerity. But in business, sincerity and integrity alone is not enough. You need to be sharp and shrewd and be able to read between lines. So I am going to give you three a test”

The sons looked at him with curiosity wondering what the test would be.

Somayya took out fifteen gold coins and gave five coins to each of them.

“Sons” he said, “There are three rooms in our house of equal size. I am giving you each five gold coins. By the next Monday, you have to buy something by which the room can be filled up, one room for each of you. Spend carefully and buy something which will be useful from the moment you bring it home. I am going on a business visit to the nearby village and will come back after a week”. He handed over the coins, five each, to the three of them.

The next few days were spent by the sons going to the market to see which item would be good enough to buy.
After a few days, Somayya returned late at night and was eager to see what had been bought by each of the sons.

“Ganesh, show us what you have brought and how much you spent on it” asked Somayya.

Ganesh proudly took them to his room and opened the room and there were heaps and heaps of cotton wool filling up the room. The floor was very dusty due to the dust in the cotton wool.

“Father”, he said. “A man can live without food but cannot live without cloth which protects his dignity. And so I bought cotton. I had to spend all the five coins to buy enough to fill the whole room up and also to bring this to our home. This cotton can be used to make clothes”

There was no reaction on Somayya’s face as he looked at Mahesh as if asking him to show what he had bought.

Mahesh happily led them to his room and when it was opened, it was full of wheat grains. Here again, there was lot
of dust and ants.

With great pride he looked at his father. “Father, you have always taught us the importance of Annadaan or feeding the poor as it is the greatest virtue. So, I bought all this wheat so that the poor can be fed. I had also to spend all the coins you gave me since I had to transport this to our home”, he said looking at him expectantly.

There was no reaction now also. Somayya looked at Ramesh who led them to his room. “Please wait outside” said he as he went in with a small bag in hand.

A minute later, he opened the room and they all eagerly barged in. The room was empty, but spotlessly clean and at one corner was an oil lamp illuminating the whole room with its bright light. In those days there was no electricity and people used oil lamps with cotton wicks to light up the house.

“Father” said Ramesh, “You had told us to buy something which would fill up the room and would be useful from the time it is brought home. You also said we should spend carefully. Keeping all this in mind, I bought this lamp. The light has filled up the room and driven the darkness away and so it is useful right away. I spent only one coin from what you gave and I brought it back in a small bag for which money or effort was not needed. Here are the four coins remaining”. Saying so, he took the coins and gave it to Somayya.

Somayya was overjoyed by the sharp-wittedness of Ramesh. Ganesh and Mahesh were equally stunned at the shrewdness of their younger brother. He had surpassed them by his cleverness and they also realised how good a listener he was. He had listened carefully to each and every word their father had said.

Somayya spoke now. “Sons, it is not enough if you are good, sincere and honest, which you all are and I am happy about. You need to be clever and shrewd and also know to interpret in the correct manner, what is being said, if you want to be a good businessman. I was looking for these traits in my successor and Ramesh has it all. Cotton or wheat cannot be used right from the time we buy it. Moreover you have spent all the money and physically also struggled to bring that home. And now, we have to spend more money and effort in sending the cotton and wheat for processing or selling it again. Now all the three of you know who is fit to take over my business…”

“Yes father” said Ganesh. “I agree, Ramesh is the best person to take over your business. I will take up the job of writing accounts in some shop in the city. Ramesh can run your business”

“I agree too” said Mahesh. “Ramesh can take over your business and I will also seek a job in some shop for an earning”.

Both knew that Ramesh was the best suited person but they were a little disappointed in their heart of hearts.

Ramesh spoke. “Ganesh Bhaiya, Mahesh Bhaiya”, he put his hands on both of their shoulders. “You have always loved me and taken care of me. I respect you both as much as I respect our father. I will go as per father’s wishes and take over the business, but not without the able support of both of you. Ganesh Bhaiya will be the accountant in our business and Mahesh Bhaiya will support me in running the show”

“And me?” asked Somayya.

“You are our guiding light father and we will see that you and mother take ample rest after slogging for our sake all these years, visit the places you want to visit and shower us with your blessings always”

Somayya’s wife who was listening to the conversation was shedding tears of joy!

After all what more joy do parents want than seeing their children being united and happy?

Like the light that lit up Ramesh’s room, let our lives be brightened by the light of joy and happiness, with the blessings of our elders and ancestors on this Deepavali day!!

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