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   Religious Fasts
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Religious Fasts

(The devotees who keep the fast on Wednesdays take their meals once a day, generally in the afternoon. The use of green articles is preferred. The fast is observed in the name of Lord Shiva. It is believed that it promotes happiness in life and deepens love between husband and wife. The devotees listen to this story before breaking the fast. Wednesday is also connected with Planet Mercury.)

Once there was a newly-wed. On a Sunday, he went to his father-in-law's house to take his wife with him. It was the first time after marriage.
He was welcomed by the in-laws and was provided with best food and bedding. His wife's friends cut jokes with him. He enjoyed their jokes and conversation. He forgot the outside world as he enjoyed the hospitality offered to him by his wife's younger brother and sisters.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in other pastimes. It was now Wednesday. He told his mother-in-law, "I have an urgent piece of work today. You send your daughter with me immediately."

"But today is Wednesday. Mercury is not favourable to girls on Wednesday. It is considered inauspicious sending daughters in their in-laws’ house. I shall not send my daughter today," said the mother-in-law."

"I care a fig for the Mercury. He cannot harm Wednesday is very favourable for the businessmen like me. I have also very urgent piece of work at home," said the son-in-law.

The mother-in-law said, "You came here on Sunday. Monday was your hospitality day. The guest should enjoy only one day's hospitality. You have over-stayed. This is not our fault. How could we ask you to go away on Tuesday? It was for you to decide. Now, please go tomorrow for heaven's sake."

The son-in-law was adamant. He insisted on leaving the same day. The in-laws read his mood and agreed to send their daughter with him.

They arranged a chariot for the couple. Soon, the couple reached near a township. The girl was thirsty. She said to her husband, "I am very thirsty. Please arrange some cold water for me."

The husband agreed and went towards the township. Another youngman resembling her husband brought water for her. She could not distinguish between the two. She took him for her husband and had a good chat with him.

In the meanwhile, her real husband appeared on the scene. He was surprised to see his wife chatting and cutting jokes with someone else. He was annoyed at her conduct. The wife also felt bemused when she saw the like of her husband standing with a water pot in his hand.

Both the males quarrelled among themselves and claimed the lady as their wife. Incidentally a constable came there and wanted to know what the matter was. He said to the lady, "Who is your real husband?"

The lady said, "I am in a fix myself. They resemble each other so much."

The real husband felt sorry. He remembered his mother-in-law's words.

The constable took them to the king and told the whole story. The king asked his minister to administer justice.

The minister said to the constable, "It is late evening. Lock them up in separate cells. Arrange strict night watch. I will give my judgement tomorrow."

All the three were locked up in separate cells. It was dead of night. Mercury had a sound sleep. The real husband was very restless. He was repentant. He uttered loudly, "1 am suffering for my pride and disobedience to my in-laws. Oh God, forgive me this time."

The guards were marking all these utterings. The next morning the minister sent for the guards. The guards related one of the youngmen's behaviour.

The minister said, "The man who had a restless night is the real husband. His wife should be restored to him. He should be freed. Produce the second person in my court."

The guards went to the prison cell. They set free the real husband and his wife. They were happy to be together again.

The guards went to the other youngman. His cell was empty though locked from outside. They reported the matter to the minister. He was astonished to know that the cell was empty though locked from outside. He went to the senior minister and related the whole story.

The senior minister smiled and said, "The missing prisoner is Mercury. Mercury rules on Wednesdays. This man challenged Mercury's authority. He felt offended and disguised himself as her husband to teach him a lesson. Today is Thursday. Jupiter rules on Thursdays. Mercury disappeared exactly at sunrise. Don't be afraid. The guards are not at fault."

The king was happy over his minister's judgement. The husband and wife reached home and related the whole story to their near and dear ones.

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