There was a priest who was very, very pious. Everybody loved him and adored him. He had so many divine qualities. He was extremely simple and honest. In every way he was so nice, and all the villagers were proud to have him as their priest. But, alas, his wife was not so divine. She always tried to compete with the other village women. The priest used to spend his days worshipping Mother Kali in the temple. But his wife would always harass him. She would insist that he had to buy her this or buy her that.
“How can I?” he used to say. “You know I am a simple man, a poor man. How can a priest be rich? I cannot afford the things you are asking for. We should pray to God instead of desiring material things. There is joy only in praying.”
The more the priest talked about the spiritual life, the more his wife would get angry. She did not want to hear his spiritual philosophy. The poor priest tried so hard to please her in other ways, but he could not fulfil her material desires.
One day this wife said to her husband, “I want you to bring me the necklace that Mother Kali is wearing. Since you cannot afford to buy me any jewellery, you have to bring me Mother Kali’s necklace.”
“That is blasphemy!” cried the priest. “How do you dare to ask for something so sacred? Alas, what have I done to deserve this kind of wife? How can I steal things from my dearest Mother Kali? First of all, I will not be able to steal from anybody, no matter who they are. How can you ask me to steal from Mother Kali’s neck? I will not do it. It is impossible.”
“You will not do it?” said the wife. “Then I am giving you two days to change your mind. In two days if you cannot bring me the necklace, I shall commit suicide.”
The priest had studied the Hindu shastras, and he knew that suicide is the worst possible crime against the soul. He was faced with a serious dilemma. How could he allow his wife to commit suicide? Again, how could he steal from his Mother Kali, who was his life-breath? He did not know how to solve the problem. So he went to the temple and in front of Mother Kali’s statue he began praying, “Mother Kali, save me! I have heard that suicide is the worst possible sin, and stealing is also a terrible crime. How can I take the precious jewellery from your neck just to please my wife?”
At that moment Mother Kali appeared before him and said, “You decide what to do, my son.”
Then the poor priest said, “In that case, the best thing is for me to die at your feet at this very moment. I will not be able to solve this problem. Please allow me to die at your feet.”
“No, no, you do not have to die,” said Mother Kali. “You can take my jewellery. All the ornaments that I have, you can remove and give to your wife.”
The priest was shocked. He said, “How can I do this terrible thing? What will people think of me?”
She said, “Nobody will think ill of you.”
All at once other cosmic gods and goddesses began appearing. They said to Mother Kali, “What are you doing? You are allowing this priest to desecrate your statue.”
Mother Kali said, “This is my decision. He is my most devoted devotee, so I want him to take my jewellery. I have sanctioned it. You have no right to find fault with him.” Mother Kali scolded all of them.
Then the cosmic gods and goddesses said, “All right. What can we do? But this priest is such a bad fellow.”
Mother Kali said, “He is not a bad fellow at all. He is in some serious trouble and I am trying to solve his problem. He is very devoted to me. I am very, very pleased with him.” Then she said to the priest, “My son, there will be one condition.”
He said, “Mother, any condition you wish to make, I am ready to accept because you are saving my life. Still I do not know how I will be able to show my face to anybody.”
Mother Kali said, “About that you do not have to worry. I want you to tell your wife that if my jewellery is worn for more than three days, then whoever is wearing it past the third day will die. One day, two days, even three days are fine. Nothing will happen. But on the fourth day, the person who is wearing it will die.”
The priest was mystified, but he had implicit faith in his Mother Kali. Very carefully he removed Mother Kali’s beautiful necklace and carried it home to his wife. She was overjoyed. Then he told his wife Mother Kali’s condition. The wife was now in serious trouble. She did not want to die in four days.
The priest said, “You wanted this necklace, so I have brought it for you. Now you have to decide what to do. I have played my role.”
The foolish wife began wearing Mother Kali’s necklace. Inwardly the priest was crying and crying, “It is blasphemy! O my Mother, O Supreme Goddess, my wife is wearing what is rightfully yours.” But then he would console himself by saying, “All right. My Mother has sanctioned it. What can I say?”
At night, when she slept, the wife did not wear the necklace. She kept it right near her bed. It happened that on the second night a thief was inspired to break into the priest’s house. The priest and his wife were fast asleep. The thief saw the necklace and stole it. He did not know that this necklace was from Mother Kali.
On his way home, the thief saw that the door to Mother Kali’s temple was slightly ajar. He wondered, “What is happening? Why should the door be open?” He entered into the temple and noticed that somebody was hiding behind Mother Kali’s statue. The thief crept behind the statue and found another thief lurking there. The first thief started striking the second thief. He said, “You have stolen something from Mother Kali, I am sure of it. Before, Mother Kali had a most beautiful necklace. You have stolen it!”
The second thief said, “No! I have not stolen anything!”
“You are hiding it somewhere,” screamed the first thief, and he started beating the fellow who was behind Mother Kali’s statue mercilessly.
As the two thieves were fighting, it became the third day. More than the third day, one could not wear Mother Kali’s necklace. On the fourth day something would happen.
When the priest arrived at the temple the following morning, the two thieves were still fighting. He saw them and he did not know what to do with them.
Mother Kali appeared to him and said, “Go home!”
The priest said, “Mother, I have not worshipped you. How can I go home?”
Mother Kali said, “No, no. Go, go, go! Come tomorrow.”
The following day the priest came and saw both the thieves lying dead. He said, “I know that my wife is responsible for these deaths. Mother Kali warned me that someone would die after the third day and this is what has happened. It is my fault for encouraging my wife.” Then he went and lay down between the two thieves and begged Mother Kali to take his life as well.
Mother Kali said, “Get up, get up! You are absolutely innocent. These two were very bad. That is why they are dead. You will find my necklace in the pocket of one of the thieves. Now you can put it around my neck again. It has done its job.”
The priest did as Mother Kali asked. Then he removed the bodies from the temple and gave them a proper cremation. Finally, with a heavy heart, he went home. Tears were streaming from his eyes.
His wife saw his condition and cried, “What has happened today?”
The priest said, “To please you, I stole Mother Kali’s necklace, and now two people have died as a result.” Then he narrated the whole story.
The wife was so ashamed. She said, “I will not do this kind of thing any more. I will be worthy of being your wife. From now on, I will live a very, very simple life. I will never ask you to buy me expensive things. I will be satisfied with whatever you bring for me. I will never break my promise. I will be your most faithful and most devoted wife.” And she did remain true to her word from that time on.