Once upon a time, two little girls, Lalita and Usha, walked every day to an ancient temple located on top of a hill. An old man, who served as the temple priest, decorated the beautiful idol with the flowers Lalita and Usha brought. While talking to the old man, they would adoringly watch the way he adorned the goddess with flowers of all colors.

Every morning, while walking up the hill, they would jump and play hide-and-seek among the bushes that lined their way. Their loud singing sometimes woke doves up from their naps. Even a squirrel would flick its tail and chatter at these little girls, wondering how they dared to teach him how to play. Sometimes a yellow warbler would fly over their heads and marvel at how the colors of their frocks resembled the colors of its undercoat.

The pink, yellow, blue and purple flowers that embellished the way to the temple swayed elegantly in the morning breeze. It almost seemed as if they were whispering in unison for the girls to gather their blooms and offer them to the priest to decorate the temple deity atop the hill.

For their part, the two girls never failed to collect those kaleidoscopic flowers that stood high among the fluttering butterflies. Although the old temple priest had a poor eyesight, he could tell which flowers they were by simply feeling them. While decorating the goddess, he would talk to them about the flowers they brought. If they brought jasmines, God would grant them purity. If they brought roses, God would grant them love and peace in life.

Out of curiosity, Usha asked the priest what would she get if she were to offer lotus flowers? To this, the priest replied that, as the queen of all flowers, lotus represented devotion to God. Therefore, offering lotus flowers would take one closer to God and would help them become a better person. Hearing this, Usha was visibly excited. Lalita asked her if she knew where lotuses bloomed.

At first, Usha was hesitant to tell Lalita where she found the flower. However, it was not long before she told Lalita that the lotuses bloomed in the old pond near the mountain. Lalita immediately recalled that the pond belonged to her father. She did not want Usha to pluck the flowers from her father’s pond. Usha explained that no one went there and that all the lotus flowers bloomed and withered on a daily basis. Unhappy with the sudden turn of events, both girls walked home alone.

The next day, Usha went to the pond at daybreak. She felt happy, for the place seemed lonely and no one was there to pick the splendid lotuses. When streaks of early morning light penetrated through the dark sky, Usha could make out Lalita’s figure near the pond. She had a lotus flower in her hands. Disappointed, Usha hid from Lalita.

Unaware of Usha’s presence, Lalita started climbing the hill to get to the temple. Once there, she handed over the lotus flower to the priest. When the priest asked her if Usha had brought the flower, Lalita answered in the affirmative. She further requested the priest to offer the flower in Usha’s name.

Usha came out of her hiding spot and told the priest that it was actually Lalita who had brought the flower. Usha added that even though she had found the pond, the flowers belonged to Lalita.

The priest smiled at the innocence of the girls and told them that he will offer the flower in both their names. The old man assured them that they will grow up into better human beings. This brought a wide smile on the faces of Lalita and Usha. As always, the girls danced and sang on their way down the hill. The dove perched on the tree branch woke up from its morning sleep and cooed at them mockingly.

…now that you’re here

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Kalai Selvi, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Kalai

Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at kalai.muse@gmail.com to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and abridged from Pitara.