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Parwati And The Beggar-man

from Deccan Nursery Tales





Once upon a time there was a town called Atpat. In It there lived
a Brahman. He had seven daughters, and when they had reached a
marriageable age he asked them who would arrange their marriages
and bring them handsome husbands and make their fortunes. The six
eldest daughters said, "Papa, Papa, you of course. You will arrange
our marriages and bring us handsome husbands and make our fortunes
for us." But the youngest daughter was a naughty little girl. She
got into a temper all about nothing, and she stamped her foot, and
she turned her back on her father and said, "I will arrange my own
marriage, and I will get a handsome husband for myself, and I will
make my fortune myself." The Brahman was very angry with her, and so
how do you think he punished her? He first searched about and found
six rich and handsome boys. Then he married them with great pomp and
display to his six eldest daughters. But the youngest girl he gave in
marriage to a miserable beggar-man. You never saw such a beggar-man
as he was! There was not a spot on his skin that was not black with
leprosy, and his feet and hands had rotted right off. If you had seen
him you would have said, "If that beggar-man does not die to-day
he will certainly die to-morrow. For he cannot possibly live any
longer!" When the marriage was celebrated, the little girl's mother
filled her lap with pulse and then handed her over to the beggar-man
to see what sort of fortune would be hers. But in a few days the
beggar-man died. His corpse was taken to the burning-ground, and
his little widow followed it. But when his relatives wanted to burn
the body, she forbade them and told them to go away. For she said,
"My fortune is still to come, whatever it may be." They all got round
her and tried to persuade her that there was no use in her staying by
the corpse, but she would not mind what they said. At last they were
quite tired out and went home, leaving her in the burning-ground. When
they had gone she took her husband's corpse on to her lap. Then she
prayed to the god Shiva and said:


"My parents disown me. O why was I born
Both as orphan and widow to live all forlorn?"


As she prayed, she put the pulse which her mother had put into her
lap grain by grain in the dead man's mouth. Then she sat there crying
until midnight. Now it happened that on that very night Shiva and
Parwati were in their chariot driving through the air over that very
place. Parwati said suddenly to her husband, "I hear a woman crying,
let us go and see what it is." The god Shiva drove his chariot down to
earth. He and Parwati got out and saw the Brahman's youngest daughter
crying. They asked her what the reason was, and she told them. Then
Parwati pitied her and said, "Your aunt has acquired great merit by
her piety and devotions. You go to her and get her to give you all
her merit and so you will bring your husband back to life." The god
Shiva and Parwati then mounted on their chariot and disappeared. Next
morning the little widow left her husband's body, went to her aunt's
house and begged her to give her all the merit which she had acquired,
and told her the cause of the request. The aunt was very good and
gave her all her own merit. The little widow then went back to the
burning-ground and with its aid brought her husband back to life. But
this time he was no longer a beggar-man black with leprosy and with
feet and hands that had rotted away. He was a beautiful young man
with well-shaped feet and a beautiful fair skin, and the little widow
took her husband back to her father's house. "Papa, Papa," she said,
"you turned me out, but the gods have brought me back, and good fortune
came to me without your bringing it." The father was too frightened
of Parwati to say anything, so he held his peace. And the little girl
and her husband, the beggar-man, lived happily ever afterwards.





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