Saraswati’s Tale: The Fire Ritual

30 Days of Devotion
Day 4: Favorite Myths

I was married to the Grandfather once, the creator god Brahma. (He’s called the Grandfather, in case you didn’t know). Now, the Grandfather is…well, I’ll let you figure that out.

One day, a very, very long time ago, The Grandfather was going to hold a fire ritual. He needed my presence at this oh-so-important ritual, because I am his wife, and his ritual partner. He was a very silly man, don’t you think, to require my presence when I had better things to do?

Anyway, I was getting ready (I had to look my best for this oh-so-important fire ritual). The silly little man kept sending messengers to fetch me, even though I had plenty of time. Silly little man! I sent them away. “I will be on time,” I told them to say. “Do not start without me.” But of course, Grandfather didn’t listen (did he ever?).

Once I was ready, I gathered my veena and my mala and my texts, and set out on the back of my trusty hamsa. On the way, one of my women came to me on the road. “I’m so sorry my lady! You won’t believe what has happened. He has taken another wife for the ritual! Oh dear…”

Oh dear. Oh dear.

Needless to say, I was not happy when I arrived. The new “wife” was a milkmaid his men had dragged into the whole affair. The poor dear was quite petrified, and in any case had no idea what to do at this oh-so-stupid farce.

All the gods were there, even Shiva and Vishnu. Their wives, I could see, had taken their time and hadn’t been made to rush! Oh my, I was quite annoyed. And there was my dear husband, looking quite the fool with this poor milkmaid girl half his age and twice his beauty. She was not terribly unlike me, I must admit.

“Dear husband, I am here right on time, but I see you have started early?”

The yakshas and gandharvas gasped as one, and the apsarases ran for cover. My husband too, had at least enough sense to not defend himself. He immediately came forth with folded hands and offered his apologies. If it had stopped there, things would have been fine. Unfortunately, Shiva couldn’t contain his laughter, and my husband is a rather prideful man…

He broke off from his apologies. “I did summon you.”

“I came on time,” I reminded him. And as I looked over the assembly, my eyes landed on the milkmaid. Her face was red and her eyes were bloodshot. When she saw me, she hid her face and began to shake with fear. Oh, that was what angered me! The poor child had not asked to be dragged into this.

“You have assembled all our friends and family for this ritual,” I said to Grandfather. “If it was so important for it to be done correctly, why didn’t you wait for me?”

I approached the milkmaid and took her gently in my arms. “Dear child, what is your name?”

“It’s not important, Your Ladyship,” she whispered.

“She’s just a milkmaid.” My husband shrugged and smiled nervously. “Really, please don’t get the wrong idea!”

Shiva and Vishnu were both at this point doubled over with laughter. It was such as shame really. I was going to have to be the one to ruin my husband’s oh-so-serious ceremony of a farce.

I stroked the milkmaid’s hair. “Dear child, you are very important. You are apparently far more important than me. So, won’t you tell me: are you angry at the Grandfather for bringing you in like this?”

She looked up at me, tears pouring down her face as I enveloped her with my energy. As her fear melted away, she looked over at the Grandfather. There was fire in her eyes enough to make Shiva himself stop with his laughter.

“That makes two of us,” I said, as my gaze too fell upon Grandfather.

Of course, once the seriousness of the situation was impressed upon Vishnu, he took it upon himself to act as peacemaker. “Dear Saraswati, please don’t be angry with Brahma. This was a very important ritual, and he was simply worried…”

“ENOUGH!” And Vishnu fell back.

“You were so occupied with your own role in this ritual, Grandfather, that you have made a farce of it. I don’t think you should be trusted with the rituals from now on.”

No one will worship you ever again.” And I knew my words to be true.

“Saraswati!” Shiva cried.

“And you!” I said, turning on Shiva. “Your austerities will in the end mean nothing. You will have a wife and love her more than yourself, and you will lose her and grieve for her like a mortal man.” And I knew my words to be true.

“…and you!” Now it was Vishnu’s turn “You will be made to leave the heavens and walk as a mortal. You will suffer as a mortal. You will die as a mortal.” And I knew my words to be true.

Then I turned to the milkmaid. “You!” I said, and my rage melted away as she smiled. “What is your name?”

“Gayatri,” she replied.

I smiled in return. “To you, I will teach the most sacred of all mantras, and it shall be called the Gayatri mantra.”

And my words were true.

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