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There’s a story about a sweet female mouse that enchants me. It brings to my heart more love for our dear mooshak, the vehicle of Sri Ganesha. The story is narrated in the Padma Purana in the context of Kartik Mahatmya. A version of the same is in Vishnu Dharmottar Purana.

In a temple of Lord Vishnu, there was a mouse female who used to eat the ghee from the extinguished ghee lamps which had been offered by devotees to the Lord. Of course, this one must be a meritorious mouse to make Vishnu temple her abode; she was not one of those street side riff-raff.

She would usually wait for the dark to have her food. The droppings and remnants of prasad and sometimes if the ghee lamp went out prematurely, the leftover ghee was lovely.  One day when she felt very hungry and couldn’t really wait too long, she tried to eat the ghee from a lamp which had just extinguished. But suddenly a cat appeared. She fled away out of fear with the wick in her mouth. The running made the flame of the lamp burn brightly. The cat let go partly taken aback by the flame and went away, the cotton wick however got stuck in her teeth.  Since the ghee wick had a flame and it burnt her lips, this female mouse started jumping in front of the Lord's idol. Imagine a beautiful mouse jumping high up and then down, again and again, with a flame in the mouth. Though it looked like a spectacle in that temple, it wasn’t at all a nice thing for the poor mouse. She suffered in this painful dance and breathed her last falling lifeless right at the feet of the Lord. But Lord Sri Vishnu sees everything with a compassionate eye, He felt that her jumping with a lit ghee wick in her mouth was His aarti. He decided to give her mukti and thus cast her in a female body of a human.

She was reborn as a daughter of the king of Vidarbha by name Litika and became the queen of the king of Kashi who was famous for lighting lamps in Kartik; she finally attained mukti.

What the female mouse did in the story or rather what transpired by way of religious merit appears accidental, inadvertent and fortuitous –the Sanskrit equivalent of it may be anaayaas, anaagata, sahasaa. We find similar mention of what we might for the time being call “accidental worship” by hunter Suswara (Lubdhaka in another version) doing the Mahashivaratri puja having lost his way in the forest and being reborn as king Chitrabhanu; woodcutter who ends up worshipping Lord Satyanarayana and is reborn as Sri Rama’s devotee Guha. Or degraded gambler, thief and womaniser Gunanidhi, who sneaked into the sanctum to steal food, where in front of Lord Shiva idol offerings were placed. The wick of the lamp had slipped into the oil and flame was about to flicker off. Gunanidhi quickly tore a strip off his kurta, dipped in oil, lit it and put it into the lamp to serve as substitute wick. He was however caught stealing the offerings and badly beaten which unfortunately resulted in his death. Nevertheless, for this service of the lamp, he was reborn as Kubera, the lord of Wealth.

The worship in all these episodes may seem accidental or inadvertent, but no worship is without merit. When we review the pages of history from the Puranas, we are able to establish a clear trail of virtue leading to worship.

Some may argue that the reason these legends attach a great merit even to the inadvertent worship is to ensure that God is worshipped in every possible way, and no one is inclined to let go of valuing any form of worship. This is indeed possible, but we should read in the divine lore more than the intent to allure or entice devotees to worship. Any scientific –minded person will vouch that what seems like a result of an inadvertent, often reckless action, is actually just a final knock upon something that is being worked on for long.

This month is auspicious Kartik masa because Kartikeya killed Tarakasura in this month. In this month, also known as Damodar Maas, fall important festival tithis such as Karva Chouth, Ahoi Ashtami, Dhanteras, Narak Chaturdashi, Lakshmi Puja, Govardhan Puja, Bhai Duj, Chhat Puja, Gopa Ashtami, Devautthan Ekadashi and Tulasi Vivaha.

Deep daan is an important part of Kartik Masa and brings great merit. In India, in not so remote past, one could see finery of thousands of lamps in temples throughout the month; there were lamps on the river banks, on surfaces of the open wells, on temple paths and public squares, in the rivers floating beautifully. Some of that lamp-lit festivity still carries on, especially on Diwali days. May our readers light as many lamps as possible in Kartik month and bring light into their lives.

~ Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)
Editor, The Mother