I am possibly the last generation that grew up with an oral tradition. Our grandmothers, and parents, would tell us stories from the puranas, the epics, and of sages and saints, to inculcate values. I am not quite sure that we, as children, saw them as value systems, they were just good stories. As we grew up, we imbibed those values, and those became the bedrock of our lives – the theist and the atheists in the family.
Among the stories we heard, were why we observe certain days as ‘auspicious’. And, since today is akshaya Tritiya , it seems apt that i put some of my more favourite stories’ down.
The Goddess of Grains and food, Annapurna, manifested herself on this day. As kids we were told, that if we waste food, Annapurna would be sad, and go to the banks of the river and cry. And when she cried, the waters from the rains would dry up, there would be drought. The thought of a goddess crying was so traumatic, that, i don’t think any of us (siblings or cousins) wasted food.
The other story, that has stuck in mind, was that of the Akshaya Patram. The Pandavas receive it as a gift, and it gave enough food for the six exiled members. And, given it’s nature, it would give food till the point that Draupadi, after feeding her husbands, ate. Once Durvasa (the sage with anger control issues) turns up with his followers at the Pandavas doorstep, after Draupadi has eaten, and demands to be fed. Durvasa was prodded by the Kauravas to make the visit. Food is over. And, there is no possibility of food for so many being made ready, in the time taken for the the rishis to perform their ablutions before the meal. Draupadi calls out to her friend Krishna (and I use the friend specifically, because that was the nature of their relationship). Krishna appears, and tells Draupadi he is hungry, and she should bring the Akshaya Patram. He finds a single morsel of grain stuck to the vessel. He eats that left over morsel with immense satisfaction. And, the hunger of the world is sated. Durvasa and his disciples go away, without returning to the Pandavas abode, because their hunger is sated. It was another set of lessons – the first was on the importance of a single morsel of food. The second, that for God, even a single morsel of leftover food, given by those who love him, was as important as all the feast and riches that you could offer.
The story of Sudama and his offering of poha, to Krishna, is another story we heard. We were told, God does not expect great offerings. The poorest person’s offerings, with all devotion and love, is as great (if not greater) than the greatest riches on earth. Even today, while we boil milk, or make food, or eat food – we utter ‘brahmarpanam‘ (we offer to the universe, what we take from it). I still get goosebumps when i read the story of Sudama and Krishna, and the sheer simplicity of faith and love.
And, the final story is from the life of Adi Shankara (and we are followers of this tradition in Hinduism). The story goes that Adi Shankara is out begging for food (as mendicants did). Bhavati bhiksham dehi, he would say before each house, and the lady of the house would give alms (food) that would sustain him for one more day. One day, he goes to the door of a really poor woman, who has nothing, except old nellika (amla). Cringing with embarrassment she offers that to him. He is so awed by her generosity, legend has it, that he composed the Kanakadhara stotram, right there. The roof opens up and showers riches in the form of golden nellis (amlas) on the woman.
This is MS singing the Kanakadhara stotram
i wonder what kind of stories we will tell to generations that come, about Akshaya Tritiya . Will we tell them about conservation, not wasting, sharing, and thanks giving, or will it become associated for ever with marketeers and sales.
In the Hindu tradition that i was brought up in, Akshaya Tritiya is about sharing, about giving, about thanking the universe for it’s bounty. Somewhere, that has gotten lost in the ‘buy gold’ and consume. I think, as a matter of principle (and just to be cussed), i will not buy anything today 🙂
btw, this post was brought about by this