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Religious Fasts

(Shani's Affliction)

(This story is also related to Saturday fast. People eat parched grams on this day to keep off the influence of Saturn. They massage their bodies with mustard oil and also give oil in donation.)

Once the seven gods, the lords of the seven days of the week, were having exchange of wit for their amusement. Rahu and Ketu also joined the company. Rahu and Ketu posed a question-who is the most powerful god among us all? They could not decide this issue by themselves. They went to Lord Indra for his adjudication.
Lord Indra equally found himself in a fix. He thought if he gave judgement in favour of one, others would be displeased with him. He said, "Respected gods, I am just one among equals How can I decide this complicated issue? I cannot give an impartial judgement. Better go to planet earth. Vir Vikramaditya rules over there. He is very logical, judicious and righteous. Accordingly, they went to King Vikramaditya.

King Vikramaditya gave due respect to them and begged for any service. They told him about their mission. Though it was a difficult task, Vikramaditya being a dutiful king accepted it gracefully. Vikramaditya decided that he would not pronounce his verdict directly. He therefore arranged seven beautiful thrones. These thrones were made of gold, silver, bronze, brass, tin, zinc, mica and iron respectively. The gold throne was placed at number one and the iron one at the end. Vikramaditya requested the seven gods to grace the throne of their own choice, Sun was in the gold chair while Saturn occupied the iron chair.

When the seven gods were in the chairs of their ownchoice, king Vikramaditya said, "You may please decide your own rank now according to the order to your throne. I have not thrust my judgement upon you."

Saturn could see now through the clever judgement of Vikramaditya. He stood up and said, "King Vikramaditya, you have ranked me the lowest among the seven gods. You do not realise my power. Sun can stay on a zodiac or 'Rashi' for one month and two and a quarter part of a day, Mars for one and a half months and Jupitor for thirteen months. Mercury and Venus can reign a zodiac for one month only. The Rahu and Ketu move in opposite directions and pass through a zodiac in eighteen months only. It is only I who can reign a zodiac from two and a half years to seven and a half years. Even powerful gods tremble at my sight. When I was angry with Rama, he got exile instead of a throne. Ravana's family was destroyed by me when I ruled over his zodiac. Now be prepared. It is your turn."

After a short time, inauspicious period of seven and a half years was occupied by Saturn on king Vikramaditya's zodiac. He visited Vikramaditya's capital as a horse trader. He had very attractive black horses with him. When the king came to know about the strange horses, he sent for the Ashavapaal (groom) to buy a best horse for him. The groom selected one horse.

The king was so pleased to see the horse. He could not resist himself from riding it and giving it a kick. He had hardly gone on the horse for a few seconds when it disappeared in the air with a great speed. In no time, the king found himself all alone in a deep and thick forest. He loitered here and there, but of no avail. He then met a cowboy. The cowboy arranged some water for the king and helped him quench his thirst. The king gave him his golden ring.

The king ultimately reached a nearby city and met a respectable businessman. The businessman felt pity on him and arranged food for him. He earned high profits by the grace of Saturn and took 'king' as a lucky visitor and kept him as a head cashier.

Next day the businessman took him to his house. The 'king' saw a precious necklace hanging by a peg. For his great surprise he also saw the peg swallowing the necklace. He could not explain it to the businessman. The businessman took him for a thief and presented him before the court. The court ordered that the king's hands and feet be cut with one stroke of a sword. An executor carried out these orders.

The 'king' was now without hands and feet. A 'Teli' (oil seed crusher) felt pity on him and brought him to his house. He dressed the 'king's' wounds and made him capable of driving the bullocks around the grinding machine with loud voice.

Time passed on. The inauspicious period of seven and a half years was about to be over. The 'king' thought of singing the Malhar Raga on a rainy day. His powerful voice broke the silence of the night. The princess was thrilled to hear the song in her bedroom. She got fascinated towards the singer.

The princess sent her personal attendant to know about the singer. The attendant was told that the singer was a help to the Teli and without hands and feet. Even then she decided that she would marry that man or would remain unmarried throughout her life. She conveyed her decision to her parents. The parents resented the decision. To register her protest, she put on ordinary clothes and moved to a special chamber or Kopa Bhawan and lay down on an ordinary carpet. The king and the queen ultimately bowed before the princess's decision and said, "If such is your fate, we are reconciled to it."

The king sent for the Teli and said, "Arrange for the marriage of this handicapped help of yours with the princess."

The Teli did not believe his ears and took it as a joke. The king resented his behaviour and said, "Do not take it as a joke. This is our final decision."

On an auspicious day, the princess's marriage with that handicapped person was solemnised. That was the last inauspicious day of the king.

It was a honeymoon night. At mid-night, the king had a small nap; Saturn visited the king in his dream and said, "You ranked me the lowest among the gods. You have undergone enough sufferings for your misjudgement."

The king begged his pardon and said, "Please do not inflict such sufferings in future on anyone as you have inflicted upon me." The Saturn accepted the king's request and disappeared.

The king opened his eyes and, to his great surprise, found his hands and feet in proper shape. The princess's joy knew no bounds when she saw her husband in perfect shape. Next day, the king also felt as much happy. And when the king came to know that his son-in-law was no one else but king Vikramaditya himself, he was overwhelmed with joy and praised his stars.

The businessman got this news and felt guilty over his behaviour towards Vikramaditya. He invited him for dinner.

King Vikramaditya said, "I shall dine in the same room where the peg swallowed your precious necklace." The businessman agreed and arranged the dinner in that room.

When the invitees were dining, they saw to their great surprise that the precious necklace was slowly emerging from the same peg. The businessman was so much overwhelmed at this sight that he, too, decided to marry off his daughter to Vikramaditya.

King Vikramaditya returned to his kingdom. He and his two queens were received with full warmth by the subjects.

The king asked his courtiers to make a proclamation by the beat of drum that Saturn is not less powerful than any other god and that they should keep fast on Saturday as a mark of honour of Saturn. Also, they should feed the ants, both in the morning and evening.

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