Monday, October 16, 2006

The Tale of the Three Goddesses

In Greek Mythology, the prelude to the Trojan War sees three Goddesses - Hera, Athena and Aphrodite - arguing with each other as to who is the most beautiful. Unable to agree, they ask a shepherd-boy called Paris to adjudicate. Aphrodite succesfully bribes Paris to choose her, things snowball from hereon in, and eventually this petty dispute between the Goddesses results in the Trojan War.

It is instructive to compare the differences with a similar tale in Indian Mythology. One fine day, the three great Goddesses - Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati - are arguing with each other as to who is the most - wait for it - chaste. Unable to agree, they ask Narada, the great sage, to adjudicate.

Narada shocks the three vain Goddesses with his response. None of them, he replies. The most chaste woman is Anasuya. She resides in Dandaka forest in the second world, wife of the Rishi Atri, and though she is only human, she is more chaste than all the goddesses.

The Goddesses are shocked! Shocked! Unwilling to accept Narada's word, each of them returns home and pesters her husband - the great trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - to go and find out if Anasuya is really all that chaste. It's a strange invitation/request, and Brahma Vishnu Shiva, sensing potential domestic trouble, are understandably reluctant to acquiesce. But the Goddesses are adamant, and eventually the hen-pecked husbands submit to their wives' wishes, and go off to test the chastity of Anasuya.

Ladies, don't try this at home!