The Devotee

In a particular village, there lived a juggler called Ganga. During part of the year, he used to go around neighbouring towns and entertain the villagers with his jugglery. He would stand in the public place and collect people around him.” his funny talk. Then he would give his performance.

Ganga showed all his tricks at each one of his performances. He never kept anything in reserve. He would exhibit body contortions, play with several balls and then with knives. At the end of the show, he would take whatever was given.

Ganga was the best juggler of those parts. Yet what he earned by his art could not provide him with two square meals daily. He was always poor.

“Even if I live on like this till the end,” he would say to himself, “I will not complain. There’s the Mother to make me happy, at least in the other world.”

In Ganga’s native village, there was a temple of Durga. All the towns around looked upon Her with great faith and devotion. During the Dasara, several villages combined to perform Durga worship on a grand scale. Wherever Ganga might be, he was bound to return to his town to witness the Nine-day Worship.

Ganga was getting old. Though his jugglery was as good as ever, his income dwindled. This was not to be wondered at because every villager for several miles around had witnessed Ganga’s jugglery hundreds of times. There was no more novelty in it.

As he began to get less and less happiness in this world, he began to dream about, and believe in, the other world more and more. He began to spend less time wandering and more of it in the temple yard.

One year, Dasara was at hand. Everybody in the village appeared to be busy with preparations for the worship of Mother Durga. Vegetables and corn were arriving in carts for the mass feasts. Pandals were being erected and decorated in the temple yard.

Seeing all these activities, Ganga was beside himself with joy. “Good people!” he thought. “No wonder the Mother is kind to them! Imagine the holiness of the Brahmans who recite the prayers!”

Thinking in this vein, Ganga became sad. “What am I doing to please the Mother?” he asked, sighing. “There are the musicians and those who sing bhajans. They all serve the Mother one way or another, including the cooks and servers at the mass feasts. Unfortunately me, I alone do nothing!”

Soon the festival started. For nine whole days, the temple was like a heaven on earth. Ganga, who witnessed the festival from beginning to end, began to regret his inability to do anything to please the Mother. On the last day of the celebrations, a fine idea occurred to him, and he became happy.

That night everyone departed from the temple after worship of the goddess. The pujari returned to the temple to see if there were any more gifts to take home. The moment he opened the temple door, he saw a strange sight. There was the goddess half buried in the Kum-kum and flowers, and before She was Ganga doing his juggler’s acts with his balls and swords!

The pujari ran to the Trustee of the temple and said, “Sir, come and see what Ganga is doing in the temple!”

“What is he doing?” the Trustee asked anxiously.

“He is juggling in front of the image,” the pujari replied. “He is off his mind.”

“Go and fetch the village elders,” the Trustee told the pujari. Then he started for the temple alone. He pushed the door of the temple and peeped in. A shock of thrill ran through his body.

For inside the temple, he saw Ganga lying down asleep. His head was in the lap of Goddess Durga. She was fanning the juggler with one hand and the other, holding the end of her sari and wiping the sweat off his face!

Where the image should have been, there was no image at all.

The Trustee fell prostrate near the door and began to recite a prayer. He was still in the same posture when the pujari returned with some Brahmans and elders. “What is up, sir ?” they asked. “What happened!”

The Trustee got up. All of them entered the temple. The image was in its usual place, and Ganga lay on the floor in a deep sleep. The Trustee told the others what he had seen, but, of course, they could not believe him. But in the pile of Kum-kum, there was a distinct footprint of the goddess. The end of the sari was found to be wet with sweat.

“Ah, we are all false devotees!” the Trustee said. “The only devoted child of the Mother is Ganga alone!”

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