The Rishi And The Brahman

: Deccan Nursery Tales

Once upon a time there was a town called Atpat. In it there lived a

Brahman. For many years he lived happily and cultivated his fields of

rice and grain. But one day his wife gave up the observances imposed

on her, and, as a result, the whole house was stained by her conduct,

and pollution hung like a black cloud over it. Her husband should

have driven her out, but he had not the heart to do so. So he, too,

incurred th
blame of his wife's sin. In course of time they died,

and, as a punishment for their wickedness, the husband became in his

next life a bullock, and the wife became a dog. But the gods so far

relented as to find them a home in the house of their only son.

Now the son was a very pious man, who never failed in his religious

rites. He worshipped the gods, gave memorial honours to his dead

father, and welcomed to his house every Brahman who passed by. One

year, on the anniversary of his father's death, he told his wife

to prepare a milk-pudding in honour of the dead, and announced that

he would invite Brahmans to partake of it. The wife was as pious as

her husband and never failed to obey his commands. So she made a big

milk-pudding, and she boiled vegetables and stewed fruits. But just as

she had finished and was about to invite her husband and his Brahman

guests to begin their feast, the dog saw that a snake had entered the

grain-jar, which had not been properly shut, and that it had left its

poisonous trail all over the grain from which the milk-pudding had been

prepared. The dog at once realised that, if the Brahmans who had been

invited to the memorial feast ate the poisoned grain, they would die,

and that the sin of Brahman murder would be incurred by the host,

her son. So she suddenly rushed up and put her foot right into the

middle of the milk-pudding. The son's wife was very angry. She threw

a red-hot coal at the dog with such skill that it dropped on to the

middle of her back and burnt a big hole in it. Then the son's wife

cooked a fresh milk-pudding and fed the Brahmans. But she was so

cross with the dog that she would not give her the smallest possible

scrap. So the poor dog remained hungry all day. When night fell she

went to the bullock who had been her husband and began to howl as

loudly as she could. The bullock asked her what the matter was. She

told him how she had seen that a snake had poisoned the grain, and

how, to prevent the Brahmans dying and her son incurring the sin of

their death, she had put her paw into the middle of the milk-pudding;

how her daughter-in-law had been angry and had burnt a hole in her

back with a live coal, and how her back hurt so that she did not know

what to do. The bullock answered, "You are suffering for the pollution

with which you darkened our house in a former life, and, because I

let you remain in the house and touched you, I too am suffering, and

I have become a bullock. Only to-day my son fastened me to his plough,

tied up my mouth, and beat me, I too have, like you, had nothing to eat

all day. Thus all my son's memorial services are useless." Now the son

happened to be passing by the stable and heard this conversation. He

at once fetched the bullock some grass and the dog some food, and he

brought them both water to drink; and then he went to bed very sad at

heart. Next morning he got up early and went into a dark forest until

at last he came to the hermitage of a rishi. He prostrated himself

before the rishi, who asked him why he was so sad. The Brahman's son

said, "I am sad because my father has been born again as a bullock

and my mother as a dog. Pray tell me how I can get their release," The

rishi said, "There is only one way to help them. You must worship the

seven sages who have their home in the Great Bear." [20] And he told

the Brahman's son the ceremonies which he should observe, and how he

should worship the seven sages continually every month of Bhadrapad, or

September, for seven years. The Brahman's son obeyed the rishi, and at

the end of the seven years a fiery chariot came down from heaven. The

bullock suddenly became a handsome man, and the dog became a handsome

woman. They both seated themselves in the chariot and were carried off

to live with the sages who have their home for ever in the Great Bear.