I shall worship you only with my left hand

In India there lived a merchant named Chand who was quite rich. He had six boats, and in these six boats he carried his merchandise. He also had six sons who all worked in their father’s business.

Chand was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Every day he used to pray to Lord Shiva most devotedly and soulfully. After many years Lord Shiva was extremely pleased with him and gave him a special boon, the boon of immortality on earth. Needless to say, Chand was delighted to get this boon.

One day Chand’s wife went to the river Gangur to bathe. On her way back she saw many people enjoying a special festival at the house of one of her neighbours. She went inside the house and there she saw a small statue of the goddess Manasha, the snake-goddess. All the people were devotedly worshipping that particular goddess. When Chand’s wife asked why they were so fond of this goddess, the mother of the family told her that they had become extremely rich by worshipping Manasha. The statue had come from the river Gangur, and her two sons had become rich by worshipping the goddess who was represented by this particular statue.

Chand’s wife knew that her husband was not as rich as these two brothers, so she begged them to give her a statue of exactly the same type. In a few days they made a mould and gave her a statue just like theirs. She was so happy to get the statue, and she immediately brought it home and started worshipping the goddess Manasha so that her husband could become as rich as their neighbours. But when Chand saw what she was doing, instead of becoming happy, he became furious.

He said, "I have been praying to Lord Shiva for years and years! He is so kind to me that he has given me the boon of immortality. Now how can I worship somebody else? I don’t need this goddess.” Then he kicked the statue of Manasha, and it smashed to pieces. His wife was extremely shocked, and his six sons were very unhappy and frightened because their father had shown such disrespect to a goddess.

The goddess Manasha was so angry that she cursed Chand. Her curse was that she would take away all his children and all his possessions and make him an ordinary mortal again. One day Manasha took human form as a most beautiful woman. When Chand saw this beautiful woman, he was tempted. When earthly temptation entered into him, Manasha was able to take away the boon that he had received from Lord Shiva. Now Chand became mortal once again and could easily be killed by the goddess or by any human being.

In the course of time, Manasha started fulfilling the rest of her curse. One day when Chand was sailing to a distant city, three of his boats capsized and sank. Three of Chand’s sons who were on the boats died, along with the crew members. That was the first serious misfortune. A few months later, he went with his remaining sons on a business trip. This time there was a serious hurricane. In this terrible storm Chand’s remaining three boats sank, his last three sons died and all the rest of his wealth was lost.

Chand himself was about to drown in this hurricane because he swallowed so much water, but the goddess Manasha, who was watching everything, said to herself, “If he dies now, then my objective will not be fulfilled. I want him to worship me. If he dies, then he will not be able to worship me. I have to keep him alive, but how am I going to do it?” Then she caused a lotus plant with a few blooms on it to appear right in front of him.

When Chand touched the lotus, he immediately thought of the goddess Manasha, because Manasha is also known as Lotus. But Chand was too angry with Manasha to take any help from her at all. He thought, “Manasha is the cause of all my suffering. I will not take help even from a lotus plant.” But already the goddess had been able to give him strength through the lotus, and with greatest difficulty he reached the shore and came out of the water.

For three days Chand could get nothing to eat. He became so weak that he could hardly walk. Finally, on the third day he came to a friend’s place. The friend gave him something to eat, but when he heard Chand’s story he said, “Compromise. Pray to this goddess. Then she will not create any more suffering for you.”

Chand said, “No, that I will not do.”

It took Chand several months to return home on foot. There he saw his wife fondling a little baby. It was his own child, a seventh son. Chand said, “That means the curse is now removed. Otherwise, how could I have a son now? This child must be a sign of prosperity.” So Chand gave the child the name Laksmindar, “one who is blessed by the goddess of prosperity.”

Over the years Laksmindar attained maturity, and Chand found a most beautiful wife for him. The girl’s name was Behula. Chand was once again very happy with his little family.

Then, early one morning, Behula suddenly started screaming and crying. Chand and his wife ran to her and there they saw that their only son was dead. He had been bitten by a snake. After so many years the snake-goddess had taken the form of a snake and killed their last son.

According to Indian tradition, if somebody dies of snake-bite, then he cannot be cremated. His body has to be thrown into the water or put on a raft or a small boat. Then the boat can carry his body wherever it will. Behula was so devoted to Laksmindar that she said, “I am not going to allow him to be thrown into the river. He is dead, true, but I cannot leave him. I don’t need my parents or my father-in-law and mother-in-law. I need only my beloved husband.” So, with Laksmindar’s dead body, Behula entered into the boat and floated away to an unknown destination. Behula was praying constantly to Lord Shiva. She said, “Lord Shiva, my father-in-law has worshipped you so devotedly for years and years. Can you not do anything for his son? Will this be his fate?”

Lord Shiva heard her soulful prayer and came out of his long trance. He commanded the goddess Manasha to give back Chand’s sons and all his wealth. The other cosmic gods also requested the same thing. But the goddess prayed to Lord Shiva for a boon. She wanted Chand to worship her at least once. Only then, she said, would she give back his wealth, his ships and all his children.

Lord Shiva said, “Only once? All right, I shall grant your boon.” Then Lord Shiva said to Behula, “Go and beg your father-in-law to worship Manasha just once,” and he took the boat which was carrying her back to where it had started from.

Behula went to Chand and said, “You are unbearably proud. That is why this has happened. You did not want to worship the snake-goddess; you only wanted to worship Lord Shiva. Now can you not worship her only once? Then you will get back all your beloved sons, your ships, your wealth, everything. Can you not worship her just once?”

Chand said, “No, I will never surrender.”

Behula said, “Have you no affection for your sons? Have you never loved your dear ones, your children, your wife?”

He said, “Yes, I did love my children. I loved all my sons.”

“Then where is your affection gone?” she asked.

“It still remains,” said Chand, “But now competition is going on between affection and pride.”

“Your pride has won,” said Behula. “You did not care as much for the members of your family as you cared for your own pride. Otherwise you would have surrendered to the goddess long ago and worshipped her to save your sons.”

Chand said, “You are right. Now let me surrender to affection. Let affection win. Let me just get back my children, my ships and my wealth. Then I will worship Manasha.”

Behula was extremely happy. She spoke to Lord Shiva, and Lord Shiva spoke to Manasha. The goddess agreed to give back everything to Chand.

Now Chand had to worship her, but his pride was still strong. He said to himself, “I used my right hand to worship Lord Shiva, so I will never use my right hand to worship this goddess. It will be a real insult to Lord Shiva, so I will never do it. I will use my left hand. I promised that I would worship her once, but I didn’t say I would use my right hand.”

Manasha became furious because, according to Indian tradition, the right hand is always used for worship, if not both hands, but Chand wanted to worship her only with his left hand. In India we are very fastidious about the right hand and the left hand. When you place a flower or candle on the shrine, when you do arati, when you put a sacred mark on your forehead, always it has to be done with the right hand. Everything sacred has to be touched with the right hand. Manasha said, “You promised that you would worship me. It is well understood that you have to worship with your right hand, not with your left hand. Two hands are not necessary, but at least you should use your right hand.”

But Chand had got back all his sons and all his possessions, and Lord Shiva was once again protecting him, so he worshipped Manasha with his left hand only. Lord Shiva again gave the boon of immortality not only to Chand but also to his daughter-in-law Behula.

Even now it is said that if you want to worship the goddess Manasha, you can do it with your left hand. All other gods and goddesses have to be worshipped either with both hands or with the right hand.