The Nectar of Milk
By Nandita Bose
The gods were very worried. Man was no longer worshipping them – not making offerings. Some gods were so angry that they were now making Man suffer from either eating too much or too little; moreover whatever food they ate made them slowly fall ill. Worse – medicines were no longer available, for trees were vanishing and the cattle becoming extinct with the birds and bees. Without the lighting of fires in homes and altars clouds were not forming. Without clouds, there were no rains. There was an urgent conference of the gods presided over by Shiva and Vishnu. Man was very dear to them – their children. Man had to be saved. Mother Earth was crying out hoarsely for the soil was so parched she had no tears to show.
After conferring the gods came to the decision that the only way was to supply Man with pure Milk. Who can do so? Only the heavenly cow – Mother-Kapila
Kapila was resting with her son Manorath below the heavenly tree Kalpataru. The gods sent their two messengers the ever-alert Kaga-crow and the wise Pechu-owl to mother Kapila to plead their case. But the request made Kapila shocked. She stamped her foot and shook her horns.
“Why should you go away from this paradise – from Swarga? Look at my son, his horns have not yet appeared. If I go down to Earth then I know what will happen. Man will abuse and insult me, separate me from my son, will not keep milk for him – forcefully squeeze away the last drop. Then again, if I fail to produce the right amount of milk they will throw me out of the shed and get me ready for their dining table. Cowshed? They will not keep it clean, steal our food, the farmers will whip all the members of our family, fit our eyes with blinders and make us work and sweat. At night the roar of the tiger and the buzz of mosquitoes will not let us sleep. No. No. No. I will not go!’
The two heavenly birds flew away in fear.
The two gods Shiva and Vishnu did not know what to do. They sought the help of their powerful wives – Shiva’s consort Parvati and Vishnu’s beloved Lakshmi. Mother Parvati knew how to give orders but Lakshmi won the day with her gentle persuasion. Finally, Shiva had the last word.
Shiva said, “oh mother-Kapila – go down – tonight is a holy night – there is no moon – it is the month of Kartick – the lagna is a holy moment. I promise to go down with you every year to see that you and your family are well cared for.”
Kapila looked fearfully at the enveloping darkness. She did not know the way. How will she find the way? Just then on Mother Parvati’s order, a troop of fireflies began dancing ahead of Kapila showing the way down to Earth.
But the following year Shiva lost his way. The fireflies had all gone off to light the nests of weaver-birds as lamps on this holy night. Seeing Shiva stumbling around on his massive bull Nandi, Kapila called out to the villagers and they at once got busy lighting oil lamps to show the way to Shiva.
Shiva was pleased with what he saw. The cowherds were throwing away their sticks as they danced in circles. The shed was spick and span. Kapila’s family sported garlands around their necks and horns. They were decorated with colourful designs made from rice paste mixed with choicest herbs and roots. And not only them – due love and affection in the same way was showered on the goats, sheep, dogs and cats on this holy night of Deepavali – the Festival of Lights known locally as Banda Parav in this small village of Bengal where the soil is rich and red.- Total nr. of readings: 298 Copyright © The author  All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the author except for personal use.
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