The Panchatantra – Story 39

MOUSE MADE MOUSE AGAIN

On the banks of the Ganges, where it flows down from giant masses of rock with a deafening noise which frightens the fish, where the river is covered with white foam and waves are unceasing, there was a hermitage. In that hermitage there were several sages who were engaged in pious readings and recitations and sacrifices, who drank only the pure water of the river, ate only roots, bulbs and green leaves, and wore only the barks of trees. The head of the hermitage was Yagnavalkva. One day, he finished his bath in the river and was about to return when a hawk above his head dropped on him a female baby mouse.

The gentle sage, moved by pity, put it on a banyan leaf and bathed again to purify himself from the touch of this animal. He then transformed the mouse into a tiny female baby by the power of his austerities and took her to the hermitage and said to his childless wife, “My dear, take this baby, tend her as if she were born from your own womb, and bring her up with every care/ She accordingly brought up the baby most carefully and affectionately. When the girl became twelve years old, Yagnavalkya’s wife said to her husband, “Dearest, why are you not bestirring yourself? Your daughter’s marriage is overdue”. He replied, ‘Darling, you are right. She has now attained the age prescribed in our Sastras for marriage. She has learnt how to keep her body clean with proper ablutions, music has been taught to her, she is an adept at cooking, and she has been initiated into the mysteries of learning.

Now is the time to seek out a suitable bridegroom for her. Marriages have to be entered into with persons of equal wealth and birth. The seven things to be considered in marriage are family, character, relations, learning, wealth,, physical fitness and age. Wise men can only look to these things. The rest are too uncertain to be considered. So, if the girl is agreeable to it, I shall call the sun and marry her to him.’ His wife said, ‘ What harm is there? Do so,’ So the sage sent for the sun. The sun came and asked, ‘ Venerable sir, why have you called me?’ He replied, ‘Here is my daughter. Kindly marry her., Then, turning to his daughter, he said, ‘ Daughter, what do you say to the idea of your marrying this god who lights the three worlds(Earth, Heaven, and nether regions)?”. She replied, ‘Father, he is too hot. I do not therefore like him. Please send for a greater one than he”.

Hearing this, the sage asked the sun, ‘ Who is greater than you?’ The sun replied, “The cloud is greater than I. If he covers me, I am completely hidden and rendered invisible”. The sage sent for the cloud and asked his daughter, ‘Child, shall I give you in marriage to this powerful being?’ She replied, ‘He is black and very moist. Ascertain from him who is more powerful than he and give me to him.’ The sage asked the cloud, ‘ Is there any one greater than you?’ The cloud replied, ‘Yes, the air is greater than I for he is making me fly about from place to place.’ The sage then called the air and said to his daughter, ‘Child, I shall give you to this being.’ She replied, ‘Father, he is very fickle and undependable. So get me some one more powerful than he.’ The sage asked the air, ‘Is there any one greater than you?’ The air replied, ‘The mountain is far stronger than I, for my best efforts to move him fail miserably.’ 

So the sage sent for the mountain and said to his daughter, ‘ Child, shall I give you in marriage to him?’ She replied, ‘Father, he is hard-hearted and is also motionless like a pillar despite the sight of my great beauty. Give me to another.’ The sage asked the mountain, ‘Is there any greater than you?’ He replied, ‘The mouse is more powerful than I, for he burrows holes in my sides.’ The sage sent for the mouse and asked his daughter, ‘Child, shall I give you in marriage to him ?’ She saw the mouse, a sense of kinship and same caste overwhelmed her, she had horripilation(the erection of hairs on the skin due to cold, fear, or excitement), and she said shyly to her father, ‘Father, make me into a mouse and give me in marriage to him. I shall discharge all the duties of the household when happily married to him.’ The sage made the maiden a mouse again by the power of his austerity and gave her in marriage to the mouse. 

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