The Mother Divine
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Sri Pannalal Dhar
Once upon a time there lived a Brahmin in a village with his wife and their only daughter. Though poor in worldly possessions he was well known for piety. He was also endowed with all the milk of human kindness.

Sarvamangala, their daughter grew into a paragon of beauty and was so named as the one who does or brings all good. She grew into a beautiful damsel of such charming manner that she soon became the apple of the eye of the entire village. The Brahmin eked out a meagre pittance by reading scriptures to the devotees of Mother Goddess. His wife ably assisted by Sarvamangala, managed the household and somehow kept the wolf from the door.

The fame of their daughter’s beauty soon spread far and wide and reached the ear of the landlord of the neighbouring village. He came to see her and was at once captivated by her overwhelming beauty and charmed by the sweet manner. He sought her hand for the sake of his only son and made the formal proposal. The Brahmin gladly accepted the proposal and gave her in marriage to the landlord's son. On marriage she left for her husband's home.

Sarvamangala gone, the sorrows of the Brahmin knew no bounds. The more his heart mourned her absence, the more he gave himself up to reading the scriptures and sought solace in worshipping Mother Goddess.

Time passed and the annual Durga Puja was in the offing. The Brahmin resolved to celebrate the Durga Puja in his home. But his wife said, "How do you propose to foot the bill?" The Brahmin smiled and replied, "Mother Durga is mother to all-the rich as well as the poor. I may be my mother's poor son but I intend to invoke Her to my house in my own humble way." His wife said, "Since you must then be it so.”

The Brahmin took an eight anna bit and giving it to the village potter said, "Brother, take this bit and be good enough to make an image of Mother Durga for me." The potter looked astonished at the face of the Brahmin and then at the eight anna bit and burst out laughing. An image for eight annas, how ridiculous, he said and laughed all the more. But the Brah¬min was calm and serene and he said, to the potter, "Brother potter, what makes you laugh? The eight anna bit? Well, I am but a poor son of Mother Goddess and can only offer flowers at Her Lotus feet, and for that eight anna image will suffice.” He added “humble that I am and humbler are my offerings, I do not need and I cannot afford to have a costlier image.” The village potter who laughed a while ago was now moved by the supreme faith of the Brahmin and volunteered to make the image gratis. But the Brahmin would not listen and thrust the eight anna bit into his palm.

In due time the village potter delivered a beautiful image to the Brahmin. The latter’s joy knew no bounds but alas! His joy was not to last long. His wife fell ill and chances of her early recovery became remote. The puja runs for several days continuously and covers performances of varied and multifarious rituals which must conform strictly to minute scriptural details. Obviously the ailing wife of the Brahmin would not be available to assist the Brahmin in performing the required rituals. So she said to her husband, “Listen, my lord! Since I am too sick to be of any use, you should better go and fetch Sarvamangala.”

The suggestion was good the Brahmin pondered but then hesitated. Rich that the landlord was, would he let Sarvamangala come home with him? The Brahmin thought and was in two minds. But his wife insisting all the time, he at last decided to go to the house of the landlord and on arriving there proposed to take Sarvamangala home.

But the landlord would not concede to his request and he refused. Much dejected at refusal, the Brahmin turned homeward alone. As he walked, his whole body stooped forward, overburdened with grief. His eyes blinded with tears, he hobbled towards home. Hardly had he walked halfway than he heard a sweet voice calling him from behind, “Father, father, and look I have come.” Straightening himself the Brahmin looked back, and lo! He beheld Sarvamangala hurrying to catch up with him. At last she reached him panting and said, “Father I have come. I entreated of my mother-in-law and she allowed me to accompany you home. So stop crying now, father dear.” So saying, she gently wiped out the tears from his face and made him sit down under the shade of a tree and rest for a while. The Brahmin’s face was now all smile and both got up and walked home.

The puja came. Preparations completed, the Brahmin invoked the Mother. The whole place lit up with brilliance. Sarvamangala seemed to dazzle and illumine the whole place. The two days of the puja passed without any incident. On the third day it is customary to arrange for a community feast. But the Brahmin would not as he could not afford. But Sarvamangala would not listen and invited the whole village to the feast. The villagers came in force and on seeing them the Brahmin stood aghast. He had, that day, offered to mother Durga only a bucket full of rice and pulses cooked together, how could he feed the entire village with that? So in despair he retreated to the puja room and lay prostrate at the feet of the image praying – “Ma, Ma, save me Ma, save me.” Some time passed in this way when he heard the sweet voice of Sarvamangala by his side saying, “Father dear, please get up now, cry not, and just see how I feed them all.” So saying, Sarvamangala took the bowl of rice and pulses and went out. But the Brahmin would not get up. He began knocking his head against the floor in utter despair.

Suddenly he heard terrific shouts from outside, renting the sky, “Durga Mata ki jai.” As he somehow dragged himself out, he saw to his utter amazement files of men, women and children streaming out of his compound fully fed and flattered, praising the Brahmin and wishing all the best. The Brahmin stood dazed against the door when came Sarvamangala and said, “Father dear look! Half the bucket is still full.”

“But how could it be?” the Brahmin asked in frank disbelief. Sarvamangala replied, “There is to be no rice but, father dear! Look in for yourself." The Brahmin looked in and saw the bucket half-full still. The Brahmin again went in and lay prostrate at the feet of the image. For he thought, this miracle could be made possible only by the grace of Mother Durga.

The last day of the Puja came. On this day the Brahmin offered curd and sweets to Mother Durga. But he saw to his horror Sarvamangala entering the room and eating the curd and sweets. The Brahmin remonstrated and Sarvamangala left the room in a hurry. The Brahmin arranged for curd and sweets and offered the same again. Sarvamangala came in again and hungrily ate the same. The Brahmin could no longer keep his temper in check and angrily rebuked her hard and asked her to leave. Sarvamangala was hurt to the quick and sobbingly said to the Brahmin. "Father dear I had no food these days. I became hungry and ate these up. But now that you abuse me and ask me to go away, I am departing." So saying Sarvamangala left his house. The Brahmin went after her to dissuade her from leaving the house but she was not to be found.

The Puja having ended, the Brahmin’s heart pined for his daughter. She had left alone and he must see that she had reached home safe. So he left for the landlord’s place. When Sarvamangala appeared before him, he became apologetic and said, “I rebuked you as you caused obstruction to the Puja – I should not have been so rude to you, fasted as you had.” Sarvamangala listened to all he had to say, and exclaimed, “But father, I was here all these days of the puja – I did not accompany you home. Whom have you rebuked father!”

The Brahmin at first did not believe his ears at what he heard. When he believed he realized. Goddess Durga had come to his house in the guise of his dear daughter and eaten the curd and the sweets offered and it was Goddess Durga he had rebuked. His whole body began to shake, his eyes became brimful with tears, and his tongue muttered “Ma– Ma– Ma.”