Of rats and rulers

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A hungry, feeble furry rat
Eyed the ghee as it sat.
Glistening, fragrant, hot around the flame,
The rat longed for it all the same.
Stealing a slurp with the tip of his tongue,
Not long before the temple bell was rung.
The priests chanted away
Prayers and hymns to start their day.

Lord Shiva mused over all their desires,
The noble, the thieves, the honest, the liars.
“How I wish one would rekindle that flame!”,
Goddess Parvati sensed the beginnings of a game.
“I vow to bestow all three worlds to that one,
Reviving the lamp is all that needs to be done”.

Night descended upon the temple walls,
Soon the rats began roaming the halls.
The feeble, furry rat felt its stomach groan,
It scouted for crumbs all alone.
Once again it stood mesmerised,
The godly figures it curiously sized.
The aroma of the melting ghee
Made him as hungry as a rat could be.

It cared not as its whiskers got singed,
The feeble, furry rat happily binged.
Suddenly, it began to retreat,
No longer able to stand the heat
As the lamp lit up bright
Much to Goddess Parvati’s delight.

Lord Shiva looked at his wife incredulously,
“I can’t bestow the prize upon it, surely you agree?”
The goddess reminded Him the vow,
“You must fulfill your promise now.”

The rat with the singed whiskers
Woke up that morn amid whispers.
The ruler of the three worlds turned to flee,
But froze as they called him ‘Mahabali’.

About the post:

This poem draws from one of the beliefs about the origin of Mahabali, the benevolent Asura king who’s reign is considered to be a golden era for mankind. He is revered by the Malyali community and the festival of Onam celebrates his return among his subjects from the underworld, once, every year.

This tale in no way means to offend anyone or their religious sentiments and beliefs, I found this particular origin intriguing and hence my post. There will be more Onam related posts soon, there is another tale that I must share with you.

‘Ghee'(clarified butter) is used not only for cooking but pure ‘Ghee’ is used in lamps(diya) by most people in India, especially for prayers and rituals as it is considered to be sacred, a symbol of nourishment and healing.