The South-Western Indian state of Maharashtra has a rich history of folk tales related to every day of the week. Every day is reserved for a ritual to a specific deity. These rites are believed to bring emotional and financial prosperity to the devotees. This folk tale talks about the sampat vrata, or the special ritual observed on Friday. As part of this ritual, the devotee recites a story.
Once upon a time, a poor brahmin lived in a town. The brahmin could hardly make two ends meet. One day, his wife visited their neighbor and bemoaned her poverty. The neighbor advised her to observe the sampat vrata every Friday. The brahmin’s wife was to begin the vrata from any Friday in the month of Shrawan. The fasting woman was to invite five married women, wash their feet, apply kumkum to their foreheads, and offer them milk and sugar. She was to then give them roasted grams as prasadam, or divine offering. If she did this for one year, Goddess Lakshmi would bless her with affluence. The brahmin’s wife began observing the sampat vrata. However, they still remained poor.
Coincidentally, the brahmin’s brother-in-law was a rich man, who lived in the same town. He led a luxurious life in his mansion. He once even performed the Sahasrabhojana, a ritual that involved feeding a thousand brahmins for a whole week. The brother-in-law and his wife invited everyone in town but the brahmin’s wife and her children. When she learned about the ceremony, she wanted to attend the ceremony. However, her husband did not allow her to. She convinced her husband by telling him that she didn’t need an invitation to visit her brother’s place. Saying so, she went to the ceremony with her children.
At her brother’s house, everyone was dressed in expensive clothes, which contrasted with the simple clothes worn by the brahmin’s wife and children. Dressed in a rich Paithani saree and golden ornaments, the sister-in-law moved about chatting with the guests. However, she paid no attention to her husband’s uninvited sister and her kids. When the brahmin’s wife sat down for food, her sister-in-law openly insulted her by asking if she was even invited to the ceremony. Undeterred, she dropped by at their house the following day as well. Even though her children were reluctant to be there, she took them along anyway.
On the third day, the sister-in-law lashed out at her and then even complained to her husband. The unfeeling brother chased his sister and her kids out of his house, saying that he was ashamed to have them there. Heartbroken, the sister went back to her house.
The brahmin’s wife observed the Friday ritual sincerely until Goddess Lakshmi blessed her. Her husband’s business picked up and they began to lead a prosperous life.
One day, the brahmin’s wife invited her brother and sister-in-law for the Lakshmi Pooja. Feeling humbled, they invited the sister and her family for dinner to their house. The brahmin’s wife wore luxurious clothes and gold ornaments to her brother’s. There, the sister’s family had the most delicious meal of their lives. However, she did not even touch the food. When her sister-in-law inquired as to why she wasn’t eating, she asked her to bring a plate. The brahmin’s wife emptied all her gold ornaments into that plate.
The brahmin’s wife then served food to them. Puzzled, her brother and his wife asked why she did so. She then explained that they hadn’t invited her, but her expensive clothes and jewelry. The brother and his wife felt ashamed of their actions and begged for her forgiveness.
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Kalai is passionate about reading and reinterpreting folk tales from all over the country. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more about her.